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!

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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.

With 20 games to go, so much to think about

Is it time to tweak our playoff format?

For the second year in a row, it appears the way the standings will fall that it will be more advantageous to finish sixth than fifth or even fourth.

The sixth seed (the third wild-card team) faces the division winner with the third-best record, which at this point looks to most certainly be a team with a losing record, barring a 16-win October from Dyersville or South Grand Prairie.  Plus, the winner of that series would then advance to a second-round matchup that avoids virtually assured top seed Margaritaville.

On the other hand, finishing fourth or fifth pits you against a team that performed similarly this season, and your prize for winning that series is a date with postseason favorite Margaritaville.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 81 59 .579
MARGARITAVILLE 92 48 .657
D’VILLE/SGP 65 75 .464
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 80 60 .571 +3
APPLEGATE 77 63 .550
TATOOINE 77 63 .550
SUPERIOR 75 65 .536 -2
BUSHWOOD 74 66 .529 -3
DESTIN 73 67 .521 -4

First things first though: OCTOBER! Races in two of our three divisions are still up for grabs. In the South, Dyersville and South Grand Prairie are tied for the lead, West Atlanta is two back and Savannah just four back. In the West, Boulder has opened up a four-game lead on Applegate and a six-game lead on Superior.

And there are six clubs in the thick of the wild-card race, with Springfield, Applegate and Tatooine currently holding down the three playoff spots, but Superior, Bushwood and Destin all one hot month away from claiming a berth.

Remember that the October schedule calls for intradivisional play. So Northbound wild-card contenders Tatooine and Bushwood both have to play Margaritaville and Superior, which currently hold the first- and third-best overall records.

Regardless, a potential scenario is unfolding where 9 of the 10 teams in the West and North could have a better final record than the champion of the South.

Should we tweak the playoff format going forward? Does division champion of our randomly drawn divisions matter, should we just take the six best records? Should we reseed matchups after the first round, so that the No. 1 seed would play the lowest remaining seed (possibly the sixth) instead of automatically the 4-5 winner?

Checking back on how last year’s sixth seed fared… No. 6 South Grand Prairie lost to No. 3 Springfield, and No. 5 Destin lost to No. 4 Boulder, so maybe it didn’t really matter.

Now then, as to whether it’s better to finish seventh than sixth… remember that our draft format gives all non-playoff teams an equal shot at the No. 1 overall pick. The first three picks are randomly drawn from the non-playoff teams, and then spots 4-9 are awarded in descending order of winning percentage.

Good luck to everyone down the stretch!

Doesn’t anybody want to win the South?

By most standards, the South Grand Prairie Warriors had a pretty crappy August. They lost three of their four series, chugged to an 8-12 finish, and now sport a less-than-spectacular 57-63 record.

Congrats, SGP! You’re in first place in the South!

West Atlanta dealt away Chris Sale before the season started to rebuild with Dansby Swanson. Dyersville has made three deals this season with an eye toward the future. They won 11 games in August — between them.

They are both one game out of first place.

Savannah’s best players play for Margaritaville. Yet the Scorpions are just two games out of first.

Such is life in the sad-sack South Division, where the top four teams boast the league’s 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th-best records, and one of them will make the playoffs.

At least it makes for an exciting race, in the same way that watching carnival bumper cars makes for an exciting race.

About the only league certainty with 40 games left to play is Margaritaville’s lock on the No. 1 overall seed, with 76 wins and a 9-game lead in the North.

And then there’s the West, also known as the anti-South, where the five teams racked up 61 wins in August (the South had 34), led by 15-win Applegate, which flipped the script on its 5-15 July to climb within two games of front-running Boulder, which won 13 games of its own. Satellite Beach notched 14 wins of its own to break through the .500 ceiling. Superior is running out of time to repeat its late-season surge of 2016, adding 10 wins but falling to eight games back of Boulder.

With lots of intra-division play on tap during the league’s final two months, just about anything still can happen. Here’s a look at the wild-card standings:

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 69 51 .575
MARGARITAVILLE 76 44 .633
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 57 63 .475
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 67 53 .558 +1
APPLEGATE 67 53 .558 +1
BUSHWOOD 66 54 .550
TATOOINE 65 55 .542 -1
SATELLITE BEACH 62 58 .517 -4
SUPERIOR 61 59 .508 -5
DESTIN 58 62 .483 -8

Springfield, Boulder advance to second round

The Springfield Isotopes and Boulder Tree Huggers have advanced to the league semifinals, ousting the South Grand Prairie Warriors and Destin Beach Bums, respectively.

No. 3 Springfield required six games in order to move on, while No. 4 Boulder recorded four straight wins after dropping a 14-inning opening game.

Next up: Springfield gets a rematch with No. 2 New New York, which earned a first-round bye with a Game 161 victory over Springfield; while Boulder challenges No. 1 seed Superior in a son-father matchup of John and Mike Renbarger.

Springfield advanced in one of the most exciting ways possible — a walkoff victory in the bottom of the ninth in front of the home fans, on back-to-back solo homers. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Davis and Stephen Vogt went deep consecutively to push the Isotopes into the next round. Springfield, managed by Dave LaMont, held a 6-4 edge over the Hypnotoads during the regular season, but New New York and rookie manager Jason Renbarger did win the single-game playoff that broke the tie for which team earned the first-round bye.

Boulder never trailed in Games 2-5 as Mike Trout went on a tear, eliminating the Beach Bums after manager Mark Gergel’s first playoff appearance.

West Division rivals Boulder and Superior hooked up 15 times during the regular season, with Superior holding a commanding 11-4 edge, including 4-1 dominations in both August and October. Based on managerial experience, Vegas oddsmakers like both the Titans and Isotopes to advance to the I-75 League’s 37th World Series.

Renbargers monopolize 2016 playoff berths

Chew on this: Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend a particular sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum, but only three out of five Renbargers in the I-75 League made the playoffs this year.

tridentOnly?

Compare that to the performance of the non-Renbargers in the league. There’s 10 non-Renbargers in the league, and only three of them (30%) made the playoffs. Ray would be proud.

The postseason qualifiers are set, though the playoff pairings are not, as October play brings an end to the 37th regular season of play in the I-75 League. And when the dust settled, here’s what we were left with:

Mike Renbarger’s Superior Titans, who by most accounts underperformed for the first five months of the season before going 45-15 over the final three months, captured the Westbound Division crown, league’s best record (101-59) and top seed in the playoffs.

Jason Renbarger’s New New York Hypnotoads, in their inaugural season no less, posted the best intradivision record of any team in the league (43-17) to reign supreme in the Southbound Division at 94-66. Thirty-five of those wins came against Savannah, West Atlanta and Dyersville.

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With 20 to go, what we know and what we don’t

With one month to play, here’s what we know and what we don’t about the I-75 League’s 37th season and the race for the postseason:

  • Superior has completed a season-long charge in the West and pulled into a tie with Boulder, setting up a mano-a-mano intradivisional photo finish. Both teams are tied for the league’s best record; whichever doesn’t win the division has a lock on one of the wild-card berths.
DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BTH/SUP 87 53 .621
SPRINGFIELD 83 57 .593
NEW NEW YORK 80 60 .571
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
BTH/SUP 87 53 .621 +11
DESTIN 77 63 .550 +1
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 76 64 .543
SATELLITE BEACH 75 65 .536 1
APPLEGATE 74 66 .529 2
  • Springfield is a lock to win the North, coasting into the final month with a 14-game lead.
  • New New York and rookie manager Jason Renbarger have a four-game lead to sweat out in the final month over South Grand Prairie.
  • Three games separate four teams in the battle royale for the final two playoff spots: Destin, which lost one game due to forfeit for Ryan Braun overuse, has 77 wins; South Grand Prairie 76, Satellite Beach 75 and Applegate 74.

An interesting twist to the playoff matchups would leave an easier path for a sixth seed (which would face the third seed, likely to be New New York or South Grand Prairie with a comparable record) than the fifth seed, which would face the loser of the West Division clash between Boulder and Superior.