Lava Flow for July

The Volcanoes posted 10 wins and 10 losses in June play against a schedule that matched the Volcanoes against division leaders Superior, Satellite Beach and Boulder. The July schedule was supposed to break more favorably for the Volanoes, as only Applegate had a winning record entering July play. As the first series played, Margaritaville’s 4-1 series victory against the Clips raised hopes for a winning July. Those hopes were quickly dashed with a 1-4 series against SGP, followed by a 2-3 series against West Atlanta and a 3-2 series against New New York. When July’s dust had settled, the Volcanoes’ 10 wins and 10 losses replicated their June score, landing them in third place in the I-75 League’s Northbound Division.

The game of the month was the first game of the SGP series. With the Warriors starting lefty Bret Anderson, the Volcanoes were hoping for some offensive fireworks from their “big 5” of Rhys Hoskins (.347 RC vs lefties) / Kris Bryant (.461) / Jordan Luplow (.615) / Mitch Garver (.570) and Wilmer Flores (.340). It was the Warriors who struck first with a 2-run shot from Josh Donaldson against Volcano starter Brandon Woodruff in the top of the 3rd inning. Anderson held the Volcanoes to solo runs in the 3rd and 4th innings, and after 7 innings the score was handed to the bullpens tied at 2-2. Joc Pederson’s pinch-hit HR in the bottom of the 8th gave the Volcanoes a 3-2 lead, and a save opportunity for Daniel Hudson. Hudson quickly blew the save, giving up a double and two walks to load bases with no outs. A cf(x) chance to Christian Yelich (e5) ended up with a 2-base error and a 4-3 Warrior lead. Hudson did limit the damage to those 2 runs, but the save opportunity was now Brad Hand’s. Hand retired the first two batters: Luis Arraez and Charlie Blackmon. Down to their last out, Tim Anderson converted a bp HR chance (4-2 roll, 9 split) to send the game to extra innings. The Warriors loaded the bases against Rowan Wick, but with two outs a Mike Tauchman ground out couldn’t convert any of the runners into runs. In the bottom of the 10th inning, a Joey Votto single and Bryant double put runners at second and third with one out for Pederson. Having gone through 4 pinch-hitters, the Volcanoes were forced to let the lefty-challenged Pederson bat against the lefty bullpen ace Hand. Pederson delivered with a 6-5 single from Hand’s card, and the Volcanoes walked off with a 5-4 win.

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Teams ride hot months to playoff slots with 60 games to play

With 60 games to go, the 2020 postseason lineup is beginning to crystallize even as the race for the final spots remains tight. And the teams that might end up having the most to say about that lineup might be the ones who are already essentially out of it.

It’s been the year of The Big Month, including recently in July, when Satellite Beach used a 16-win month to leapfrog both Bushwood and Margaritaville in the Northbound Division. Before that it was Dyersville (15) and Savannah (14) in June, Boulder (14) in May, Superior (17), Boulder (14) and Margaritaville (14) in April, and Greendale (15) and Applegate (14) in March.


DYERSVILLE 62 38 .620
BOULDER 61 39 .610
SUPERIOR 58 42 .580 +3
BUSHWOOD 58 42 .580 +3
GREENDALE 55 45 .550
MARGARITAVILLE 54 46 .540 -1
SAVANNAH 52 48 .520 -3
APPLEGATE 50 50 .500 -5
DESTIN 50 50 .500 -5
BISMARCK 47 53 .470 -8

On several of those occasions, contenders have padded their victory total by taking advantage of scheduling quirks that enabled them to draw two or even three of the four teams in the league that are either rebuilding or struggling — South Grand Prairie, West Atlanta, New New York and Tatooine. Superior hit the trifecta during its 17-win April, as did Margaritaville with its 14 wins; Savannah did it in June with 14. Boulder and Dyersville double-dipped in April and May, Greendale and Applegate did it in March.  With two of those teams in the same division (West Atlanta and South Grand Prairie), such scheduling is inevitable.

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Gopher Holes for July

The Gophers enjoyed their best month of the season in July, going 13-7 and winning all four series. The post-month celebration was muted, however, for two reasons. First, Bushwood surrendered first place in the rugged Southbound Division, as Satellite Beach posted a sparkling 16-4 July slate to move two games ahead of the Gophers. Second, the Gophers pulled off an unprecedented and frustrating trifecta, losing the final game of three July series in walk-off fashion

In a scheduling quirk, Bushwood played three road series in July: at West Atlanta, Boulder and Dyersville. The Gophers could do no wrong in the first four games against the Crush, winning them all by an overall score of 30-10. But West Atlanta rose from the mat in the ninth inning to take the finale in dramatic fashion, tying the scored at 5 with a one-out solo homer by Pete Alonso, and then winning it when Cavan Biggio followed a Carson Kelly walk with another homer. Co-closer Brandon Workman gave up both homers, and a bizarre trend was started.

The Gophers’ next series at Boulder ended in equally frustrating fashion. Leading up to the finale, the Gophers enjoyed lusty hitting and solid pitching to take 3 of 4 from the mighty Huggers with relative ease, outscoring Boulder 25-13. The finale was an epic battle that was was still tied 3-3 entering the bottom of the 12th. Workman was again on the mound and Jorge Soler jumped on a pitch for another walk-off, two-run blast.

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Trade deadline pushed back; decision on 2021 format deferred

League managers meet via Zoom on July 7, 2020.

At the league’s first-ever midsummer meeting conducted by Zoom, I-75 League managers wrestled with two issues affecting this season and next.

First, by unanimous acclaim, this year’s trade deadline will be extended beyond the end of July to the end of August. A potential trade-a-thon deadline would be Saturday, Aug. 29.

Second, managers debated the merits on two courses of action for the 2021 season:

  1. Put our retention league on hold and play a one-off season, resuming the retention league in the calendar year 2022 with cards based on 2021 play; or
  2. Continue the league format with cards that Strat would presumably generate, using a multiplier to allow us to play a 160-game season.

After voicing pros and cons on both approaches, a straw vote revealed the league was nearly equally divided on the topic, with just a slight edge to those in the camp favoring a one-off season. Two managers were unable to participate.

Ultimately it was decided that there are too many unknowns right now with whether MLB will get in a full 60-game season or even start its season. But by agreeing to push back the trade deadline by a month regardless of MLB’s real-life situation, we have bought ourselves some time. We decided to schedule a followup Zoom call for the night of Sunday, July 26, to discuss further.

One idea put forth was creating a small “protected roster” of players who sit out MLB 2020 (because of coronavirus or opt-out) that would allow franchises to keep players without them counting against their retention roster. Another was, even if we choose to go with a one-off season in 2021, to hold a rookie draft anyway in March of 2021.

Managers are encouraged to think through these topics and be prepared to discuss them further July 26 when hopefully MLB’s situation will have crystalized.

Thanks to everyone for the great turnout, as 13 of our 15 managers were able to participate!

Gopher Holes for June

As provided by Dave Renbarger

After winning just three of their first 12 games of the month, the Gophers seemed to be falling out of the race with June play winding down.  But the boys from Bushwood did a dramatic about-face, ending the month with an eight-game win streak to climb into first place in the bunched-up Northbound standings.  Their 11-9 June slate left the Gophers at 45-35 at the halfway point, one game ahead of the Volcanoes, two up on the Brawlers and four ahead of the Bums.

First up in June were the Brawlers in a much-anticipated matchup of Northbound contenders.  Satellite Beach answered the challenge with a 3-2 series win, claiming the middle three games by a cumulative score of 20-3.  The Gophers, behind ace Justin Verlander, won the opener 7-1 and the finale 8-4.

A road trip to Savannah followed, but Steve Hart was not a gracious host as his Scorps won 4 of 5.  Only an 11-9 Bushwood triumph in Game 4 prevented a sweep.  Verlander made two strong starts again but came up on the short end of 3-1 and 4-3 decisions.

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Clip Files for June

The Clips got off to a horrible start in June, going 3-7 vs. Bismarck and New New York, but somehow righted the ship and went 3-2 at Superior and 4-1 at Greendale to pull out a 10-10 month. … Bismarck played wiffleball with Applegate servings, going 4-1 on the strength of 20 homers that powered 36 runs. And that included a meager one-run, one-homer, two-hit effort in Game One, so the bulk of the bashing came in the next four victories. Marcus Semien hit five homers, Gleyber Torres four (three in one game), and Yasiel Puig and Eugenio Suarez three each. Eduardo Escobar carried the Clips with a .474 average, while Brian Goodwin finally earned his keep with two homers and a .400 average. Yuli Gurriel busted out of a season-long power slump with three homers. But Jonathan Villar started all five games and went 0-for-17. Patrick Corbin struck out 14 in a complete-game effort — but coughed up 15 hits (six homers), 5 walks and 10 runs as well. … Applegate failed to get well in its other home series vs. New New York, falling in three out of five games. Both teams scored 27 runs and the Clips had 14 homers to New New York’s nine (paced by Josh Bell with five) but the Hypnotoads outhit the Clips 50-44. … Jason Castro, who runs 1-9, collected an inside-the-park homer on a LF (x) roll to J.D. Martinez for one of his three homers in the series. Castro has yet to ground into a double play this year. … Gurriel also had three longballs. … Bell scored eight runs and drove in eight after being given his first chance in the starting lineup against lefties. … New New York mashed three consecutive homers off of Mike Fiers in Game Two as the Clips inexplicably let an 8-2 lead get away with a five-run NNY sixth inning. … Yolmer Sanchez reached base in four of his six plate appearances against the Clips, earning two walks, a single and a double. …

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Lava Flow for June

As provided by John McMillan

In April 1945, the American Navy bombarded the island of Okinawa with 44,825 shells, 22,500 mortar rounds and 32,000 rockets.

In June 2020 the Margaritaville Volcanoes launched their own barrage of offensive firepower, scoring 152 runs in 20 games (a pace for 1,216 runs over 160 games).  The biggest gun in the Margaritaville arsenal continued to be Chris Yelich, who batted 28 for 67 (.418 avg) with 7 walks (.480 obp) and 10 HR’s (.925 slg) scoring 18 runs and driving in 21.  Charlie Blackmon’s bat came alive in June play, with a .382 batting average producing 18 rbi’s, as did Gary Sanchez’s with his 8 HR’s producing 17 rbi’s.  As a team, the Volcanoes posted a .312 avg and 50 HR’s in June play.  All of that offense could only produce a .500 record of 10 wins and 10 losses.   The Volcanoes posted records of 4-1 against Bismarck, 3-2 against Superior, 2-3 against Satellite Beach, and 1-4 against Boulder.  Volcano pitchers posted a 6.00 era, allowing a scary 53 HR’s in June play.  On a historical note, the Americans suffered over 82,000 casualties in the battle of Okinawa.

The game of the month was the June 14 matchup against the Satellite Beach Brawlers.  In the bottom of the first inning, Sanchez followed a Brock Holt double and walks to Yelich and Kris Bryant with a bases-clearing grand slam HR (2-4 roll, straight HR shot) off Brawlers starter Frankie Montas.  In the bottom of the third, Sanchez followed a Blackmon double with a HR on another 2-4 roll.  In the bottom of the 5th, Bryant led off with a double, and Brawler manager Steve Nieroda issued an intentional walk to Blackmon which Sanchez followed by connecting on a bp HR on a 3-4 roll and 10 split.  In the bottom of the 7th, Sanchez hit his 4th HR of the game on a 2-5 roll (straight HR shot).  The bottom of the 8th saw Sanchez with a chance at a 5 HR game, but his 6-9 roll could only produce a ss (x) chance.  Sanchez ended his day 4 for 5 with 4 HR’s and 10 rbi’s.  For the game, the Volcanoes produced 17 runs on 15 hits and 6 HR’s.   Continue reading

Gopher Holes for May

The Gophers broke even in May, but the 10-10 slate was somewhat disappointing given the fact that the month began with a 4-1 road series victory over red-hot Superior.  Alas, that big victory was followed with identical 2-3 outcomes vs. Margaritaville, vs. SGP and at Destin.  When the dust settled, the Gophers were tied with the Volcanoes atop the Northbound Division with a 34-26 record after three months, one game ahead of Satellite Beach.

Ace Justin Verlander keyed the triumph over the Titans, notching victories in Games 1 and 5.  Yu Darvish bested Jose Berrios in Game 3, and reverse righty reliever Chase Anderson got his first start of the season in Game 4 and delivered a 6-2 victory.

Verlander opened the big series against Margaritaville with a 5-4 victory and Darvish followed with a 6-2 triumph in Game 3.  But the Gophers fell short in the last two games, losing an 11-inning heartbreaker in Game 4 and dropping a 6-3 decision in the finale behind struggling No. 5 starter Trevor Bauer.

Next up were the struggling Warriors, who arrived in Bushwood with a 9-31 record but managed to change their luck.  To be honest, the 2-3 outcome for the Gophers could easily have been 0-5.  Both of the Gophers’ victories came on walk-off homers.  Howie Kendrick connected off Raisel Iglsias to lead off the 13th inning of Game 3 to give Bushwood a 4-3 victory.  Iglesias was victimized again the very next game, when the Gophers erased a 7-5 deficit in the ninth inning to steal a victory.  Eric Sogard started the rally with a one-out solo homer to make it 7-6.  Buster Posey was hit by the next pitch and Yoan Moncada launched the next one over the fence, triggered a huge celebration at home plate.  Unfortunately, Bauer was up again for Game 5, and the Gophers suffered a 10-4 loss in the rubber game.

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Clip Files for May

Applegate struggled through a 9-11 month, going 2-3 at home vs. Savannah and then embarking on a three-series road trip through Millennial Canyon, going 1-4 in Boulder, 3-2 in Dyersville and 3-2 in Tatooine. After also going 9-11 in April, it marks the first time since March/April of 2015 that Applegate has had two consecutive losing months. … The Clips entered the month with a 9-2 record against left-handed pitchers, but exited with a 12-7 record, thanks largely to that 1-4 slate against Boulder in which the Tree Huggers lined up five consecutive southpaws. Boulder won the first four games of that series, holding Applegate to 10 runs; the Clips finally prevailed in a 6-3 win in Game Five. The Clips hit just .194 against the lefty-laden lads from Boulder and allowed a team ERA of 5.44. Boulder hit .306 and clubbed 10 homers. Stephen Strasburg pitched well in Game Three, holding a 3-1 lead going to the seventh, but Boulder got homers from Jorge Soler in the seventh and Roberto Perez in the eight to tie it, and back-to-back doubles by Mike Trout and Rafael Devers to win it in the ninth. …

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Lava Flow for May

In May play, the Volcanoes posted 12 “up” and 8 “down” to push their season record to 34-26. The Volcanoes took 4 out of 5 from the Scorpions, 3 out of 5 from the Gophers and Zealots, and 2 out of 5 from the Treblemakers. The Volcanoes start June in a first-place tie in the Northbound Division.

The biggest batting star in May play for the Volcanoes was Christian Yelich, who batted 24 for 69 (.348 BA) with 15 walks (.471 OBP), 10 HR’s (.812 SLG) producing 17 runs and 21 RBI’s. Yelich’s hot start in Mar/ Apr / May (2nd in Batting Average at .363, 1st in HR’s with 24, 3rd in RBI’s with 53, 1st in OPS with 1.370) has him leading the mythical Strat MVP voting (Yelich, 384 points, Arenado 369 pts). Yelich’s 3-HR / 6-RBI game on May 13 against Dyersville was a big part of helping Shane Bieber prevail over Aaron Nola by a score of 9-5. May also saw Joey Votto “turn back the clock” with a 22 for 67 month (.328 BA) with 10 walks (.423 OBP), 4 HR’s (.537 SLG) producing 15 runs and 7 RBI’s. More surprisingly, Votto tied for the team lead with 4 stolen bases in May play. Among pitchers, Daniel Hudson continued to allow hits (12 in 11.2 IP), but not runs (1.54 ERA). Brandon Woodruff and Domingo German were given the month off to regenerate usage, replaced in the starting lineup by John Means and Lucas Sims. Means posted a 1-0 record with a 3.14 era in 14.1 innings across his 3 May starts, while Sims was 2-0 with a 3.15 era on his 4 May starts. Continue reading

Lava Flow for April

After a slow start in March play — eight wins and 12 losses — the Volcanoes rebounded in April play, posting 14 wins against six losses.  The Volcanoes scored 122 runs in both March and April games, with the improvement in April play being driven largely by run prevention — allowing 133 runs in March and 91 runs in April.  By opponent in April, the Volcanoes went 2-3 against the Destin Beach Bums, and 4-1 against the Tatooine Rebels, South Grand Prairie Warriors and West Atlanta Crush.  Individual batting stars in April play were Francisco Lindor with eight HRs and 16 RBIs, Mitch Garver with six HRs and 16 RBIs, Joey Votto with a .380 OBP and 18 runs scored.  Pitching stars were Julio Urias, posting a 0.00 ERA and three saves in his five appearances, Kenley Jansen with a 1-0 record, two saves and one win in 15 IP, and Mike Minor going 1-0 in five starts against a 2.17 ERA.

The “Game of the Month” was the April 12 matchup hosting Destin.  The Volcanoes had lost Game One of the series and a loss in Game Two would drop them six games below .500.  The Bums scored a run in the top of the second without benefit of a hit with a walk, HBP, walk and ground out against Minor.  Minor departed after four innings and two trips through the lefty-masher-loaded Bums lineup.  Rowan Wick, Urias and Daniel Hudson combined for a great bullpen outing, continuing to shut down the Bums.  However, Jeff Samardzija’s seven scoreless innings, and Max Fried and Stefan Crichton’s scoreless 8th inning, pushed the Volcanoes into a 1-0 deficit in the bottom of the 9th.  Mark Gergel brought in closer Carlos Martinez, who allowed a leadoff ballpark single to Luis Arraez (6-10 roll, 15 split), followed by a walkoff ballpark homer to Garver (2-5 roll, 9 split).  Through 40 games, Garver has hit three walkoff homers for the Volcanoes.  I wanted to post a video of Garver hitting a walkoff homer, but in 2019 Garver hit zero walkoff homers for the Twins.

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Gopher Holes for April

The Gophers logged 12 more wins in April following a 12-8 March to reach the quarter pole of the season at 24-16, good for a first-place tie in the competitive Southbound Division.  Ace Justin Verlander displayed his Cy Young form all month, going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in four April starts, recording 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.  JV was particularly hard on the Treblemakers, logging 15 strikeouts in a 5-2 victory in Game 1 and then flirting with a no-hitter in a 14-3 laugher in Game 5.  Verlander lost the no-no when Javy Baez homered with two outs in the seventh inning.  In 1983, Don Sutton tossed the only no-hitter in the 41-year history of the Vlasic/Bushwood franchise.

Not to be outdone, No. 5 starter Spencer Turnbull actually posted a lower ERA than Verlander for April, going 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA over three starts. … Reliever Ryan Pressly was impressive in his first action of the season, going 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 13 high-leverage innings. … The debut of lefty long man Nick Ramirez, however, was less than scintillating:  12.86 ERA over 7 innings. … Likewise, No. 2 starter Yu Darvish had a rough month:  1-2 in four starts with an even 9.00 ERA (18 runs in 18 innings).  The hard thrower gave up eight homers in the month and is on pace to allow 60 for the year.

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Clip Files for April

In slumping to 9-11 in April, Applegate surrendered 49 homers in 20 games. 49!!! That included 17 in a five-game set with West Atlanta, which somehow the Clips won 3-2 anyway. The Clips countered with just 29 of their own after launching 44 in March. Josh Bell clubbed eight homers and drove in 19 runs. The Clips still outhit their opponents in April 196-175 but were outscored 111-106. … Jonathan Villar was finally caught stealing — on a botched hit-and-run play. He’s still 13-out-of-14. … 33-homer hitter Yuli Gurriel has played all 40 games and has two homers. … Outfielder Brian Goodwin went 30-3-18 in real life in 434 at-bats last year. In his first 88 at-bats he has mustered 3-0-0. … The Clips jumped out to 3-0 leads against both West Atlanta and Satellite Beach, but dropped Games 4 and 5 in both series to walk away with 3-2 wins.  West Atlanta pounded out more extra-base hits (25) than singles in the series. Dansby Swanson, Marcell Ozuna and Jonathan Schoop lead the homer parade with three each for the Crush. … Felipe Vazquez was particularly tough on the Clips for Satellite Beach, hurling seven innings, allowing two hits, no runs and fanning eight. … Applegate fell 3-2 to Bushwood in a series that took five days to play — on purpose. The two managers agreed to play one game a night across five consecutive nights. All five games were tight affairs, with the Clips again losing both Games 4 and 5. Two of the games went 10 innings, including the Game Five tiebreaker that swung in Bushwood’s favor. Gurriel had four hits, including the walkoff winner in the 10th inning of Game Three. …  The Gophers held the Clips to 17 runs while scoring 21. … Applegate managed to outscore Destin 34-32 and hit .330 as a team while losing four out of five, stranding 45 runners. Destin won three close games (4-2, 3-2 and 7-6), and the teams traded blowout wins (Destin 15-2 and Applegate 22-3). … The Clips had only five homers in that series, three off Marco Gonzales in the blowout win. The Clips torched Gonzales for 23 hits in 8 innings pitched. Destin had 10 homers while hitting .299. The Beach Bums roughed up Stephen Strasburg for 10 hits, three homers and nine runs in four innings of work.

If there’s no MLB season, what’s that mean for us?

It may only be April, but we’re 40 games into our 41st season, a season that we are fortunate to have launched with our draft and convention in South Florida just days before the coronavirus began severely impacting everyday life.

Almost all professional, college and high school sports began shutting down about six weeks ago, and it remains unclear when major league baseball will come back to life. There is talk of shortened seasons, season played with no fans, seasons played in Arizona, seasons played in Arizona/Florida, but all are fraught with problems. New York and California and Chicago, baseball’s biggest markets, certainly do not seem ready to welcome gatherings of 10 or more anytime soon. Players do not want to abandon their families and play all year in 100-degree heat in Arizona. You’ll need a minor league feeder system for injuries; where are those teams supposed to play? And you can bet the minute one player contracts the virus the entire league will shut down again.

If somehow there is a shortened season, the I-75 League life will go one. We simply extrapolate stats out to a full 162-game season as we’ve done in strike-shortened years of the past. With less than 162 games, there will be an abundance of crazy cards.

But, consider for a moment, what would we do if there is no MLB season whatsover — as I personally believe will happen? How do we play a 2021 I-75 League season with no 2020 cards to base it on? It’s time to start pondering that possibility sooner rather than later, because it could affect moves that current I-75 teams make or don’t make in the next three months.

Let’s consider some options:

OPTION 1: The continuation rule. This is the easiest course of action. We continue to play our 2021 season based on the 2019 cards. There would be no December cutdown to 18 players, no March 2021 draft. Perhaps no 2021 convention? We simply play two consecutive years with the 2019 cards. If nothing else it would be interesting to see if “replaying” the 2020 season turns out the same way in 2021. After 2021 we resume with cutdowns and a 2022 draft. Continue reading

Applegate Draft Recap

Normally, the Clips are big advocates of drafting a potential franchise player whenever those few-and-far-between chances come along. Heading into the 2020 draft with the fifth pick, the Clips knew there was potential for one of the Super Four — Vlad Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., Yordan Alvarez or Pete Alonso — to fall to them at No. 5.

But having spent much of the offseason in deep analysis about the Clips’ roster, as well as fairly thorough analysis of the rosters around the league, the Applegate hierarchy determined it had a pretty strong contending club on its hands, including a quartet of 30-home run hitters.

With a fairly set lineup and a starting pitching rotation that offered plentiful innings if not top-to-bottom quality, Applegate decided on an “all-in” strategy for 2020 that became fairly obvious with its Feb. 29 trade when it acquired this-year upgrades from Tatooine in lefty starter Patrick Corbin and outfielder Adam Eaton, while sacrificing former Cy Young winner Blake Snell and former first-round draft pick Andrew Benintendi.

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Bum Wrap for March

As submitted by Mark Gergel and Ken Crawford

We went 13-7, yay! This, despite:

  • Prized draft pick Eloy Jimenez and his .966 OPS against RHP being inactive during the month (reported late to camp and not in playing shape)
  • Ronald Acuna hiting a whopping .157 with a .528 OPS (.280 and .883 in 2019)
  • Mike Moustakas hitting a less than impressive .195 (.254 in 2019)
  • Slugger Nelson Cruz hitting hit a pedestrian .239 (.311 in 2019)
  • Gerrit Cole contributing a 0.6 WAR versus his expected 8.8 (paid for everyone’s meals/drinks all month though)
  • Tommy Pham, last year’s MVP for the Bums, earning just 18 total AB (oblique strain)
  • Against RHP, we proudly fielded an all-3-rated infield and a 3-rated CF to back them up
  • Winning just one of five games against Greendale as Acuna hit .100 (2-for-20) and Cruz hit .056 (1-for-18).

Our draft picks contributed at a much higher than expected level (Bryan Reynolds, Jeff Samardzija, Cole Calhoun, Christian Walker, Hunter Dozier) and clearly we drew some lucky rolls/breaks along the way.

Destin crushed West Atlanta 5-0, tattooed the Rebels 4-1 and bombed Bismarck 3-2 in its other three series.

Lava Flow for March

As submitted by John McMillan

After an exciting offseason in Margaritaville, March led to an exciting draft and opening month of play for the Volcanoes. While the 2017 and 2018 seasons produced a pair of championships, they also left bare the Volcanoes’ starting pitching cupboard. Spring 2019 saw the Volcanoes staring at a starting rotation of Ervin Santana, Andrew Cashner, Cole Hamels, Michael Fulmer and Dinelson Lamet. This quintet combined to pitch 378 IP in MLB in 2019, with no pitcher posting an OPS allowed of less than .720. Conceding that future championships were not going to come out of these arms, the Volcanoes committed to a pitching rebuild, netting Luis Castillo in trade and Shane Bieber and Brandon Woodruff in draft. Winning the 2020 draft lottery allowed some further consolidation, packaging that pick with prime OF prospects to land Christian Yelich in trade.

The 2020 draft saw the Volcanoes enter Tampa without a first-round pick. Waiting until pick #20 before calling out a pick, the deadly-accurate Draftalyzer would have to search for value remaining on the draft table. A significant surprise was Luis Arraez dropping in the draft. His combination of age (23) and bat-to-ball skills (92% contact rate) was enough to push Arraez to #9 on the Draftalyzer pre-draft ranking.

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Clip Files for March

Applegate charged from the gate with a 14-6 record in March, powered by catcher Willson Contreras’ .500 batting average and eight homers in 46 at-bats. Contreras also drove in 20 runs, helping to offset the team-low .160 batting average of fellow backstop Jason Castro. Stephen Strasburg was studly too, going 3-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, with his only loss being a 1-0 decision to New New York. Leadoff man Jonathan Villar racked up 91 at-bats, hit .286 with six homers and stole a league-high 10 bases without being caught. Xander Bogaerts hit .321, cracking 11 doubles and scoring 23 runs, league-leading numbers in both categories.

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Gopher Holes for March

As submitted by Dave Renbarger

Buster Posey’s three-year home run drought is over.

The Gophers’ veteran catcher, who last homered in October of 2018, finally connected again after 421 homerless at-bats.  Even better, it was a lucky shot (homer 1-2, flyout 3-20, split roll 2).  Best of all, it was a game-winner, a two-run blast in the fourth inning vs. Bismarck’s Mike Clevinger that broke a 4-4 tie in Bushwood’s 6-5 victory.

It was a decent month overall for Posey, who slumped miserably for the entire 2019 season, and a good start for the Gophers as well.  Posey, who hit a puny .188 with a .484 OPS last year, is currently sporting marks of .285 and .742 for 2020.  And the Gophers checked in at 12-8 for March, good for second place in the Northbound behind the front-running Brawlers.

Bushwood and Savannah opened their 41st season as I-75 rivals with a face-to-face series at Draft HQ, and the Scorps claimed a 3-2 series victory.  But the Gophers’ fortunes improved under the netplay format, going 3-2 vs. the Huggers, then 4-1 at Tatooine and then 3-2 at Bismarck to round out the month.

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Gopher Holes: Draft Recap

The proud owners of four of the first 29 picks in the draft, the Gophers were hoping to make a big haul in the 2020 I-75 Mail League draft and shore up several problem areas.  In the final analysis, it was mission accomplished.

Specifically, the Gophers had their own picks in the first and second rounds (No. 4 and No. 23) plus Boulder’s first two picks (No. 14 and No. 29), acquired in the Jacob deGrom blockbuster deal with the Huggers in December.  So the plan entering the draft was to snag a difference-making young slugger (such as Pete Alonso) at No. 4, the best pitchers available at No. 14 and No. 23 and the best value on the board at No. 29.

The first surprise came early, when Yordan Alvarez slipped to No. 4.  (I probably should have anticipated this, but was pretty sure that Vlad Guerrero, Fernando Tatis and Alvarez would go 1-2-3.)  I had Alvarez ranked slightly ahead of Alonso but still coveted Alonso as an everyday player who is slightly more proven with a promising future.  I hemmed and hawed, even expending an early timeout, before settling on Yordan.  Hope he’s not a half-season, sign-stealing flash in the pan.

My twin targets for No. 14 (best pitcher available) were superstar reliever Liam Hendriks and gifted but limited starter Frankie Montas.  Alas, Hendriks went to the Clips at No. 9 followed by Montas to the Brawlers at No. 10, and I was ill-prepared with no ready-made choice as Plan C.  Another first-round mini-crisis.

I decided to pivot away from a pitcher. Continue reading