Margaritaville Volcanoes’ master plan comes full circle with World Championship

The Margaritaville Volcanoes’ six-game conquest of the Boulder Tree Huggers for the 2017 I-75 League World Series title brought closure to a multiyear reconstruction project that saw the Volcanoes intentionally descend into the abyss, only to rise to the top through shrewd trading and relentless prospecting.

The David Wright-led 2013 Volcanoes rolled to a division title and the league’s best record at 109-51, only to fall to the Bushwood Gophers in extra innings of Game Seven, leaving the Volcanoes in search of their first World Series crown. It wouldn’t come in 2014, as an 84-76 mark was good enough to make the playoffs but not enough to make the finals, when South Grand Prairie infamously came back from a 3-0 series deficit to defeat Chatfield for the crown.

Margaritaville signaled its intended direction early in the 2015 draft, acquiring the No. 12 overall pick from Boulder and snagging Mookie Betts, who at the time was 21 years old with only 189 big-league at-bats to his credit; and a still-developing slugging Khris Davis in the sixth round. The Volcanoes suffered through a 60-100 season in 2015, setting the stage for a furious rebuilding effort predicated on stockpiling young stars, aided and abetted by unwitting co-conspirators in the managerial ranks.

Manager John McMillan was among the many who recognized the unusually deep talent pool that the league waded into for the 2016 draft, and the Volcanoes made the most of their opportunity. In addition to owning the No. 3 overall pick and the first selection in each subsequent round, the Volcanoes pried the No. 2 overall pick from the hands of Satellite Beach, enabling Margaritaville to score Kris Bryant (No. 2 overall), Francisco Lindor (No. 3 overall), catcher Wilson Ramos (10th round) and pitcher Ervin Santana (14th round).

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Better predictor of I-75 success: Yahoo or Draftalyzer???

We won’t bury the lede here. Both did well.

The final 2016 Yahoo standings (which come with a big caveat — some teams were way better than others about keeping their rosters current and lineup slots filled than others — looked like this:

  1. Springfield. (Finished with league’s second-best record, 93 wins)
  2. Destin. (Tied for 6th playoff spot, lost play-in)
  3. Iowa. (Now Boulder, won West Division)
  4. Margaritaville (Finished with league’s best record)
  5. Michigan. (Now Tatooine, earned sixth playoff spot)
  6. Savannah. (Underperformed in W-L despite scoring and allowing same number of runs)

So of the top six finishers, Yahoo standings only misforecasted Destin, which lost a play-in game; and Savannah, which underperformed according to the predicted wins formula. And let us not forget that Savannah dealt away some key players, like beastly David Ortiz, who contributed to the 2016 Yahoo standings finish but did not contribute to the team’s 2017 Strat performance.

The remaining two teams that did make the playoffs finished 7th (Superior) and 9th (South Grand Prairie) in the Yahoo! standings. Ninth might seem low, but ninth was still the highest standings finish for any team in that South Division, which SGP won with a sub-.500 record.

Now looking at John McMillan’s Draftalyzer (see your March 8 in-box for the full details and analysis), this deadly-accurate predictor tool was off by no more than one standings position on 14 of the league’s 15 teams. It correctly forecast either four or five of the six playoff participants depending on how you interpret the South Division prediction order, which listed SGP on top but with fewer points than second-place Dyersville. And the other one it missed would have been Destin, which only fell short by virtue of that tiebreaker loss. It nailed the precise order of finish in the North Division and arguably did so in the South, if you look at the order and not Dyersville’s “current” value that was higher than SGP.

The only team that was more than one standings position off was Boulder, which won the West Division despite being evaluated as having the third-best current value in the West.

That’s a pretty deadly accurate analysis overall.

Next we’ll look at what the 2017 Yahoo standings tell us about the 2018 Strat league season.

Slugger Adam Wainwright provides ‘silver’ lining for Hypno-woes


New New York pitchers racked up 173 at-bats in 2017 as the team absorbed a 103-loss season, 37 more losses than in 2016.

That’s 173 at-bats more than Bushwood, Destin, Margaritaville, Satellite Beach and Springfield pitchers had combined. Those NNY pitchers hit just .133. But there’s reason for optimism in … wherever New New York is located.

Pitcher Adam Wainwright won a Silver Slugger award. Adam Wainwright is 36 years old. He had a 1.50 WHIP in 2017. He is two years past his expiration date. But will his bat (.262 average, .731 OPS) keep him with the Hypnotoads for 2018 as they ponder their retention list??? In a league that uses the DH?

Wainwright could be a valuable bat off the bench in a key at-bat-saving situation. He joins Jose Ramirez to form a pair of Silver Sluggers on the Hypnotoads, making New New York one of seven I-75 League clubs with two such honorees. The others are West Atlanta, Margaritaville, Destin, Bushwood, Savannah and South Grand Prairie.

Landing one Silver Slugger each was Applegate, Tatooine, Superior and Satellite Beach.

Four players — West Atlanta’s Eric Hosmer and Marcell Ozuna, South Grand Prairie’s Paul Goldschmidt and Savannah’s Nolan Arenado — have both Silver and Gold on their mantels, having won Gold Gloves in addition to their Silver Slugger.

Destin can brag that it made a deadline deal to land one of its Silver Sluggers in Justin Upton, stripping him from Boulder, which was blanked in the selections. Bismarck and Springfield also failed to rack up a Silver Slugger winner.

Pos. Player I-75 team Player I-75 team
1B Eric Hosmer WATL Paul Goldschmidt SGP
2B Jose Altuve SATB Daniel Murphy TAT
3B Jose Ramirez NNY Nolan Arenado SAV
SS Francisco Lindor MARG Corey Seager SUP
OF Aaron Judge APPL Marcell Ozuna WATL
OF Justin Upton DES Giancarlo Stanton SGP
OF George Springer BUSH Charlie Blackmon SAV
C Gary Sanchez MARG Buster Posey BUSH
DH, P Nelson Cruz DES Adam Wainwright NNY

For the Love of Glove: Here’s who owns the finest fielders

The Rawlings Gold Glove awards were announced Nov. 7. Here’s a look at I-75ers who have players who brought home the hardware, making those players likely to earn a 1 rating at their Gold Glove position when ratings come out in December. Once again voters failed to recognize any designated hitter.

Springfield and West Atlanta snagged three Gold Glovers each, while Bismarck, South Grand Prairie and Savannah landed two players each.

One player, catcher Martin Maldonado, is a free agent available to the highest bidder in the 2018 I-75 League draft.

Pos. Player I-75 team Player I-75 team
1B Eric Hosmer WATL Paul Goldschmidt SGP
2B Brian Dozier BOUL D.J. Lemahieu SGP
3B Evan Longoria WATL Nolan Arenado SAV
SS Andrelton Simmons SUP Brandon Crawford SPR
LF Alex Gordon SPR Marcell Ozuna WATL
CF Byron Buxton APPL Ender Inciarte SPR
RF Mookie Betts MARG Jason Heyward BSK
C Martin Maldonado FA Tucker Barnhart DYER
P Marcus Stroman SAV Zack Greinke BSK

Obtuse playoff pairings set

The 2017 six-team playoff field is set after Tatooine defeated Destin 3-2 in 11 innings in a Game 161 tiebreaker tilt.

The oddity of a division champion with a losing record results in a playoff matchup in which the team with the better record does not have the homefield advantage. The matchups:

No. 6 Tatooine (86-75) vs. No. 3 South Grand Prairie (78-82)
Winner takes on No. 2 Boulder (91-69)

No. 5 Superior (88-72) vs. No. 4 Springfield (93-67)
Winner takes on No. 1 Margaritaville (106-54)

The other oddity is fourth-seed Springfield entering the playoffs with a better record than second-seed, bye-earning Boulder. Instead it must duel with Superior, the league’s hottest team and the team it lost to for the World Series last year.

Eight of the 10 teams in the West and North Divisions posted better records than the playoff-bound Warriors, including three who didn’t make the playoffs.

Everyone starts the playoffs with a 0-0 record though, so watch this space for the exciting outcomes!

Game 161 to settle final playoff participant

Winning their last three consecutive do-or-die games in their season finale with Boulder, the Destin Beach Bums climbed to the 85-win mark, tying Tatooine for the sixth and final playoff spot, necessitating a Game 161 to determine who advances and who is done for the year.

Tatooine will host the game by virtue of its 8-2 season edge over Destin in head-to-head play. If Tatooine gets in, the Rebels will have earned a playoff berth in their first year in the league.

The other five participants are locked in:

No. 1 seed Margaritaville, winner of the Northbound Division with 106 wins. It’s Margaritaville’s first playoff appearance since 2014. The Volcanoes get a first-round bye.

No. 2 seed Boulder, winner of the Westbound Division with 91 wins. It’s Boulder’s first division championship and second straight playoff appearance. The Tree Huggers get a first-round bye.

No. 3 seed South Grand Prairie, winner of the Southbound Division with a 78-82 mark. It’s the second straight playoff appearance for SGP. The Warriors will play the winner of the Destin-Tatooine play-in game; the winner of that series takes on No. 2 seed Boulder.

No. 4 seed Springfield, which had the league’s second-best record at 93-67. It’s the third straight playoff appearance for Springfield. The Isotopes host No. 5 seed Superior in a rematch of the 2016 World Series participants, with the winner advancing to face No. 1 seed Margaritaville.

No. 5 seed Superior, defending World Series champs, who went 27-13 in the final two months to finish at 88-72. The Titans play Springfield, with the winner taking on the Volcanoes.

Falling short in the playoff pursuit was Applegate, which went 5-15 in October and stumbled home with 82 wins, and Bushwood, which went 9-11 in October and generally failed to capitalize on several player moves at the trade deadline, finishing with 83 wins.

SGP’s title marks the first time since the league went to divisional play that a team has won a division with a sub-.500 record.

Clip Files for October

By finishing 82-78, the Clips posted their sixth straight season with a winning record, the longest such active stretch in the league. Applegate’s catastrophic October knocked it from a position in which it was tied for the fifth playoff spot with 20 games left, to a finish 3 1/2 games behind the sixth-place seed. “You can’t expect to make the playoffs when you go 5-15 twice in the same year,” said Manager Gary Kicinski, referencing the matching disaster from July. The Clips had to resort to using long-reliever Jhoulys Chacin as their fifth starter in October, but after getting bombed in his first outing, Chacin came back to allow three earned runs or less in five innings or more in his other three starts, going 2-1 with a 4.66 ERA on the month. No, the problem was normally reliable Kyle Hendricks (0-3, 5.32), Johnny Cueto (0-4, 7.14) and Drew Pomeranz (0-2, 5.33) who gagged big time in October. … Josh Donaldson also was nowhere to be found when the team needed him most, hitting .160 on the month, which included an 0-for-Destin series (17 ABs). … The Clips got saves from eight different players this year. … Applegated ‘maxed out’ its IP limits on nine pitchers — Ryan Buchter, Tyler Chatwood, Johnny Cueto, Tyler Glasnow, Kyle Hendricks, George Kontos, Andrew Miller, Drew Pomeranz and Stephen Strasburg. It also wrung every AB out of Willson Contreras, Greg Garcia, Hunter Pence and Neil Walker. … Kole Calhoun had the most disappointing year among the position players, starting all 160 games but hitting just .229 (.271 in real life) with six homers (18 in real life). … Applegate’s fourth-best league ERA of 3.89 was not enough to offset an offense that progressively weakened over the year, finishing with a 13th-best .249 batting average and 13th-best home run total of 160. … Only three teams drew more walks than the Clips’ 582 though. … Billy Hamilton lead the league in stolen bases at 51 and finished tied for the league lead in sacrifice hits with Bismarck’s Alcides Escobar at 56. … In their final game of the year, with two outs in the ninth, the Clips sent Aaron Judge to the plate for his only AB of 2017, a symbolic gesture the fans recognized as a nod toward future possibilities. Judge, of course, struck out.