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.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
DYERSVILLE 62 38 .620
BOULDER 61 39 .610
SATELLITE BEACH 59 41 .590
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
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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World Champion Scorpions show young’uns how it’s done

The Savannah-Margaritaville alliance captured its third consecutive World Championship…

Hey now, don’t start with that stuff again.

OK, sorry. Lemme start over.

A whole bunch of fresh faces dominated the 2019 I-75 League playoff field, but when the dust settled, it was one of our league managers who’s been here since Day One who persevered in our 40th year.

Steve Hart skippered his fifth-seeded Savannah Scorpions to the World Series title in six games over third-seeded Tatooine and third-year manager Nick Calderon, giving Hart his fifth World Series crown and the Scorpions their second. Only Dave and Mike Renbarger, both with six, have more World Series champion plaques on their mantle.

Savannah’s last World Series crown came in 2010, when Hart’s heroes hammered Hickory in five games, and the club was led by the likes of Ryan Zimmerman (37 homers, 111 RBIs), Josh Johnson (18-6, 3.54) and Joe Nathan (45 saves, 2.42 ERA).

This year’s playoff field featured five teams who had failed to make the playoffs in 2018, plus the lone returning playoff participant in the Scorpions. Savannah’s entrance into this year’s playoffs was hardly assured, as all-World right fielder Mookie Betts was performing like a mere mortal through 100 games, and Savannah was on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, trailing Margaritaville for the sixth and final playoff spot with a record of 53-47 following a 9-11 July.

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With 60 games to play, expect a whole new look to postseason field

So about that “playing for next year” strategy… it seems like it might actually work.

If you look at last year’s final standings and compare them to the current league standing, we are witnessing a near-total overhaul of the league’s power elite.

At the 100-game mark, all three division leaders are enjoying worst-to-first seasons. Boulder has 62 wins at the 100-game mark after amassing just 50 all of last season. New New York had the worst record in league history last year with 124 losses, more than the 1962 New York Mets, but now has 61 wins and a five-game lead. Tatooine won just 60 games in bringing up the rear of the Northbound Division; the Rebels already have 56 wins this year.

And the leaders in the wild-card race are Satellite Beach, which had a good year last year but missed the playoffs; and Dyersville, which missed the playoffs as well but that was on account of a Game 161 tiebreaker loss.

So the current top five teams record-wise were not in last year’s playoffs. The team holding down the sixth spot, Margaritaville, obviously was, capping off its second straight 106-win season by repeating as World Series champions. This year, at the moment, the Savannah Scorpions and Applegate Paperclips are hot on the Volcanoes’ heels (just one game back with 60 to play), while Superior trails by three and South Grand Prairie by six.

If you look at run differential though, it seems the success of Margaritaville (-25) and Applegate (-45) could be smoke and mirrors; Savannah (+32) and Superior (+10) both have significantly better marks in this category.

Of course, the other wild card in the wild-card pursuit is the potential shifts in balance of power as teams face the July 28 trade deadline. Teams will not only be jockeying for position to get into the playoffs, but also trying to position themselves for the run at the crown.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 62 38 .620
NEW NEW YORK 61 39 .610
TATOOINE 56 44 .560
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SATELLITE BEACH 57 43 .570 +3
DYERSVILLE 56 44 .560 +2
MARGARITAVILLE 54 46 .540
SAVANNAH 53 47 .530 -1
APPLEGATE 53 47 .530 -1
SUPERIOR 51 49 .510 -3
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 48 52 .480 -6

Margaritaville repeats as I-75 League World Champs

The turning point came in the seventh inning of Game Four.

To that point, Applegate had taken a 2-1 lead in the series and was up 3-0 through six innings. The Paperclips were nine outs away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead. Starter Kyle Hendricks had allowed just one hit over six shutout innings.

Then, the dam broke.

Joey Votto singled and Justin Turner homered, cutting Applegate’s lead to 3-2 and bringing Hendricks’ night to a sudden close. Lefty Justin Wilson came on to face Charlie Blackmon, but Blackmon singled. Righty Fernando Rodney spelled Wilson and retired Gary Sanchez and Domingo Santana, but allowed Blackmon to steal second. The Clips decided no more messin’ around and called on lefty ace Andrew Miller to face Robinson Cano, but Cano laced a game-tying single. The very next batter, Francisco Lindor, blasted a two-run homer and in the blink of an eye, the Clips were down 5-3. Margaritaville had stifled the Clips’ momentum.

That inning ignited a Volcanic eruption that saw Margaritaville score 11 runs in Game Five (an 11-5 win), seven runs in Game Six (an 8-7 loss in 11 innings) and 10 runs in the decisive Game Seven, a 10-2 anticlimactic blowout that gave Margaritaville its second World Championship in a row.

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Clips to employ ‘secret weapons’ in desperate bid to upend Volcanoes

It’s Applegate vs. Margaritaville for the 2018 I-75 League World Championship, coined by some as “The Mismatch of the Century.”

No. 2 seeded Applegate fought back its longtime rivals, the sixth-seeded Bushwood Gophers, taking four out of five Pennant Series games to advance, while the top-seeded Volcanoes mashed No. 4 seeded Superior in five games as well, outscoring the Titans 37-14, to earn a chance to defend their league title.

But while record-wise, a matchup pitting a 106-win team against a 101-win team might seem like a juicy duel, Applegate Manager Gary Kicinski reiterated a midseason sentiment: “We have no chance. At least — not employing conventional weapons.”

Kicinski noted that since the trading deadline, the Volcanoes are 14-1 against the Paperclips and Titans, the teams with the second- and third-best records in the league. Margaritaville swept the Clips in a five-game series in September, the Titans in a five-game series in August, and just concluded the four-out-of-five playoff landslide against Superior. “They have future Hall of Famers up and down their lineup. They have the best of the players they drafted, and the best of the players Savannah drafted. It’s like one against two.”

But, all is not lost. By receiving special dispensation from the league commissioner, the Clips were able to make a pair of offseason off-the-books trades to acquire the key components they’ll need in order to have any chance at all of not getting their doors blown off.

Applegate has acquired Manager Dave Renbarger from the Bushwood Gophers in exchange for a bag of chocolate donuts, and manager Jason Renbarger from the New New York Hypnotoads in exchange for naming rights to something that is More More Sensible.

Dave Renbarger guided the Gophers to an improbable 11-4 record against Margaritaville this season, while Jason Renbarger skippered the worst team the planet has ever seen, one that went a historically bad 36-124, to a 3-2 series win over the Volcanoes in July. Dave will be in the third-base coaching box during the World Championship for Applegate and Jason will coach first.

“We know that John McMillan will manage his club differently against us in the postseason than he did against those teams during the regular season,” Kicinski said. “All of his top players will be active and the rules are different in the postseason.

“But if some of that Dave and Jason karma doesn’t rub off on us… we have no chance.”

Take that, millennials: Veteran managers fill Final Four slots

The Canadian Football League plays for the Grey Cup. Given the four teams still alive in this year’s I-75 League playoffs, should we be calling our trophy “The Greybeard Cup”?

Four managers with a zillion years of experience remain alive in pursuit of our 39th championship, after original franchise managers Dave and Mike Renbarger piloted their clubs to five-game series victories in the Division Series round of play.

Dave’s Bushwood Gophers, who survived a Game 161 tiebreaker with Dyersville to earn the sixth seed and a shot at No. 3 seed South Grand Prairie, rode a pair of victories from ace Justin Verlander to advancement. Mike’s Superior Titans came in with the No. 4 seed and dispatched Savannah in five games, after the Scorpions had lost their own division-title-tiebreaker Game 161 with South Grand Prairie to settle for the fifth seed.

That sets up semifinal rounds featuring:

  • #6 Bushwood vs. #2 Applegate
  • #4 Superior vs. #1 Margaritaville

In addition to Dave and Mike Renbarger being two of the league’s five managers who remain in the league from its 1980 debut, they are tied with six league World Championships earned in 39 years. Applegate’s Gary Kicinski, who is another of those five, although he did take a four-year hiatus, has three World Championships to his credit and is looking for a fourth. Margaritaville’s John McMillan has been in the league 16 years and is the defending champion with consecutive 106-win seasons on his resume.

In the Bushwood-South Grand Prairie tussle, the Gophers prevailed twice in matchups featuring Verlander and Warriors ace Max Scherzer, once in a blowout (Game One, 11-1) and once in a nail-biter (Game Four, 1-0). Verlander went 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA. Jesse Winker provided the offensive support, hitting .636 with four homers and a double. The Warriors’ only win came in Game Two by a 4-3 count.

Superior too rode some studly starting pitching to its series victory as Cory Kluber pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout in Game One (3-0) and went the distance again in the Game Five clincher, a 6-3 win. Bryce Harper hit .563 in the series with two homers, three doubles, six walks and seven RBIs. Savannah’s win came in a Game Three matchup of lefties, thanks to great bullpen work in relief of James Paxton and a four-run rally in the seventh for a 6-5 win.

Bushwood and Applegate split their 10 regular-season games, while Margaritaville had its way with Superior, winning eight out of 10.

Margaritaville duplicates 106-win total; Game 161s settle two playoff berths

The Big Prize was long-ago largely settled, that being league best record and No. 1 playoff seed, which Margaritaville sewed up awhile ago.

But there was plenty of drama elsewhere as the I-75 League wrapped up its 39th season and set the stage for playoff clashes:

  • Bushwood and Dyersville finished tied for the final playoff spot when the Treblemakers exploded for a 15-win October to match the Gophers’ 88-win total. But Bushwood captured the playoff game 5-3 thanks to 6 2/3 hitless bullpen innings, ending Dyersville’s season and allowing Bushwood to claim the No. 6 playoff seed.
  • Savannah and South Grand Prairie tied for the Southbound Division title at 90-70, resulting in a one-game playoff, won by the Warriors 4-1, as Max Scherzer and two relievers held the Scorpions to three hits. SGP was awarded the division crown and a No. 3 seed, while Savannah settled for a No. 5 seed.
  • In the Westbound Division, Applegate won 4-out-of-5 against Superior and went on to a 15-win month. The Clips needed almost all of those wins as Superior went 12-3 in its remaining games to finish just three back of the Paperclips. Superior collected a No. 4 seed and division champ Applegate, by virtue of its 101 wins, secured the division crown and first-round bye.

Margaritaville racked up 106 wins for the second year in a row and will use its first-round by to await the winner of No. 5 Savannah vs. No. 4 Superior.

Applegate will take on the winner of No. 6 Bushwood vs. No. 3 South Grand Prairie.

At the other end of the spectrum, the New New York Hypnotoads set a futility record with a three-win October that resulted in a 36-124 record, obliterating the league record of 114 losses and even topping the modern major league loss record of 120 set by the 1962 New York Mets.

Superior’s Avisail Garcia won the league batting title at .349. South Grand Prairie’s Giancarlo Stanton clubbed 61 homers and drove in 141 runs to win both of those titles.

Bismarck’s Zack Greinke was the league’s only 20-game winner; he finished second in the ERA race to Superior’s Corey Kluber (2.39). Destin’s Chris Sale whiffed 301 to win the strikeout title.

Three games separates six teams in furious battle for one final playoff spot

It’s the final month of the 2018 season, and while the race for the No. 1 playoff seed was long ago sewn up, the fight for the No. 6 seed has turned into a dogfight the likes of which the league has seldom seen in its 39-year history.

Aided by the ruling of two forfeits following the discovery of player limit abuse in September, our October showdown features six teams  — West Atlanta, Bushwood, Satellite Beach, Destin, Dyersville and Bismarck — separated by three games in contention for the final postseason berth.

Additionally, Superior sliced Applegate’s lead in the Westbound Division to just one game and Savannah’s lead over South Grand Prairie stands at two games in the Southbound Division.

After 140-game statistics were submitted, it was discovered that Satellite Beach’s Miguel Sano and Austin Jackson had already exceeded their player limits for the year by 16 and 21 at-bats, respectively. The Brawlers were assessed two forfeits for their infraction, dropping their win total from 76 (which would have left them holding the final playoff berth going into October) to 74, one game behind wild-card spot.

Sano and Jackson exceeded their at-bat totals by 16 and 21 respectively in series against Dyersville and East Cobb. Dyersville was awarded one forfeit victory, boosting its win total from 72 to 73 and strengthening the Treblemakers’ playoff hopes. East Cobb was not awarded a forfeit, however, as the Juice squeezed a few too many at-bats out of J.D. Martinez and Miguel Rojas that they weren’t entitled to — 3 and 14, respectively. This occurred in series against Satellite Beach and South Grand Prairie. East Cobb thus was deemed to have offset its gain vs. Satellite Beach with its infraction. South Grand Prairie was awarded a forfeit victory, giving the Warriors a more comfortable hold on the fifth playoff spot, and nudging them to within two games of the division lead. Further penalties could be dished out at the end of the season in accordance with the league penalty structure.

September also saw the Bismarck Bombers thrust themselves into postseason consideration with a 13-7 month, while West Atlanta’s 14-6 month enabled the Crush to tie the Gophers for the final playoff spot if the season ended today.

And so, with intradivisional play across the board in October, division crowns are at stake in two of the three divisions, and two wild-card spots are virtually up for grabs.

With 107 losses, New New York needs 13 losses to tie the New York Mets’ futility record of 120 losses set in 1962. The league record of 114, set by South Grand Prairie in 2012, is easily within reach.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 93 47 .664
APPLEGATE 86 54 .614
SAVANNAH 81 59 .579
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 85 55 .607 +10
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 79 61 .564 +4
W. ATLANTA 75 65 .536
BUSHWOOD 75 65 .536
SATELLITE BEACH 74 66 .529 -1
DESTIN 74 66 .529 -1
DYERSVILLE 73 67 .521 -2
BISMARCK 72 68 .514 -3

Worse Than the ’62 Mets? Hypnotoads Practically a Lock

After a 3-17 August, the New New York Hypnotoads are on pace to post a 160-game record for futility that will eclipse that of the 1962 New York Mets, considered the worst team of the Modern Era.

Those Mets went 40-120 (.250) and finished 60 1/2 games out of first place.

The Hyp-no-wins stand 26-94 (.217), and already have been eliminated from divisional championship consideration at 42 games behind. They need to go 15-25 in order to finish ahead of the Mets, which seems extraordinarily unlikely considering they haven’t won more than five games in a month all year.

The top of the Southbound Division remains infinitely more interesting, as the reluctant Scorpions keep winning games despite the efforts of their front office to dismantle the team. Savannah and South Grand Prairie are deadlocked at 68-52 with 40 games to play. That tandem also holds down the third and final wild-card position at this point.

At 81-39 and with a 17-game lead, Margaritaville is making a mockery of the Northbound Division “race.” After limping to a four-win August, last-place Tatooine carries a “tragic” number of 2 into September play — any combination of Margaritaville wins or Tatooine losses adding up to 2 will eliminate the Rebels from the divisional title race. And if you’re curious, Margaritaville needs to go 35-5 to attain 116 wins and match baseball’s regular-season record, held by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners.

Then there’s the Westbound Division, where Applegate has posted double-digit win totals each month this season and Superior weathered a winless series against Margaritaville in August to cling to a three-game deficit behind the Paperclips. But in September it’s the Clips’ turn to likely get bludgeoned by the Volcanorpions. Superior does hold down the first wild-card spot, followed by division mate Satellite Beach.

Last-place Boulder is a whopping 35 games back of Applegate but did post a 10-win August to leap from 30 wins to 40 wins — although four of those wins came at the expense of New New Yuck.

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 81 39 .675
APPLEGATE 75 45 .625
SAVANNAH 68 52 .567
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 68 52 .567
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 72 48 .600 +4
SATELLITE BEACH 69 51 .575 +1
SAV/SGP 68 52 .567
BUSHWOOD 64 56 .533 -4
DESTIN 63 57 .525 -5
DYT/WATL 61 59 .508 -7

With 60 games to go — is there any point?

We imagine the conversation that changed everything went something like this…

Ring, ring.

GRID: “Hello, hi Steve!”

HART: “How did you know it was me?”

GRID: “You’re calling me on the direct hotline we established last year after the David Ortiz trade…”

HART: “Oh yeah, that’s right. I understand you’re making Mookie Betts available and I want to make an offer.”

GRID: “I’ve been expecting your call! And I accept!”

HART: “Wait, you haven’t even heard what I’m offering.”

GRID: “I know based on our last six trades in 20 months that you will make me an offer that I will find acceptable.”

WILD-CARD STANDINGS

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
MARGARITAVILLE 66 34 .660
APPLEGATE 62 38 .620
SAVANNAH 56 44 .560
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 61 39 .610 +6
SATELLITE BEACH 58 42 .580 +3
SGP/DBB 55 45 .550
WEST ATLANTA 54 46 .540 -1
BUSHWOOD 52 48 .520 -3
BISMARCK 50 50 .500 -5

HART: “Thank you for those kind words. So I want to offer you Charlie Blackmon…”

GRID: “Charlie Blackmon, perennial .300 hitter, reigning NL batting champion, for Betts? I accept! Pleasure dealing with—”

HART: “Hold on. I’m also offering Rhys Hoskins…”

GRID: “Hoskins, eh? No. 18 pick overall in this year’s draft? Guy with the 18-homer in 170 at-bat season and 1.014 OPS card? Hmm…. I like Hoskins but because he’s limited I think I’ll take Blackmon.”

HART: “You don’t understand — they’re both in the deal.”

GRID: “Both? I get Blackmon and the 25-year-old Hoskins? Currently with 21 homers and fifth in the NL with 70 RBIs? I accept.”

HART: “Hold on, I’m not done. I’m also including Michael Fulmer in the deal.”

GRID: “Michael Fulmer? He has one of the top starting pitcher cards this year! He was eighth in the majors in 2017 with a .644 OPS. He had a 1.15 WHIP last year. He’s better than any starting pitcher on my staff. He’s in the deal too??? I accept! I accept!” Continue reading

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.

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.

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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.

Continue reading

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.

West could claim 4 of 6 playoff spots

With 40 games to go, the very real possibility exists that all three wild-card playoff teams could come from the West Division.

Superior, on the heels of a 17-win month, has vaulted to the top of the wild-card pack and sliced two wins off of Boulder’s lead in the division. It looked like Superior might even knock more off that lead, but Boulder’s month-closing sweep of New New York allowed it to maintain a moderately comfortable lead.

Satellite Beach holds down the second wild-card spot, winning 13 games in August, and then comes a three-way tie for the third and final spot: Destin and Applegate from the West, and South Grand Prairie from the South — all at 65-55.

Springfield has opened up a comfortable nine-game lead in the North Division, and New New York continues to hang on to a precarious three-game lead over the Warriors. The Hypnotoads have several key players running on fumes — relief pitchers Felipe Rivero and Joaquin Benoit have 3 and 7 innings left respectively; slugger Chris Colabello is down to 25 ABs.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 76 44 .633
NEW NEW YORK 68 52 .567
SPRINGFIELD 68 52 .567
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SUPERIOR 73 47 .608 +8
SATELLITE BEACH 69 51 .575 +4
DESTIN 65 55 .542
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 65 55 .542
APPLEGATE 65 55 .542

Only one of the teams tied for the third playoff spot will make the playoffs. Current head-to-head records:

Applegate-Destin are 5-5 with a series to play in October.
Applegate-South Grand Prairie are 5-5.
Destin leads South Grand Prairie 3-2 with a series to play in September.

Six deserving teams for six playoff spots

Funny how these things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

Six teams with winning records. All six make the playoffs.

Nine teams with losing records. All nine miss the playoffs.

Two teams from each division are in. Three teams from each division are out.

Six quality teams qualified for the postseason, with Chatfield (103 wins), Applegate (97) and Springfield (94) winning their divisions, and Bushwood (97), Bismarck (89) and Savannah (87) earning wild-card spots.

The playoff pairings feature fourth-seeded Bushwood against fifth-seeded Bismarck, with the winner challenging Chatfield; and third-seeded Springfield squaring off against division rival and sixth-seeded Savannah, with the winner invading Applegate.

When your sixth seed heads into the playoffs with 87 wins, you know you have a strong field. (In recent years, teams have made the playoffs with as few as 83.) But not all six clubs come into the playoffs with the same head of steam.

Stock up: Applegate, 17-3 in October and owner of the league’s best record in the second half at 59-21, and a 28-12 record in one-run games. …  Bismarck, with 15 wins in October after 11 and 13 in its two previous months. Continue reading

What’s at stake in final month?

Is there drama to be had in the final month of our 36th season?

Not an awful lot, to be truthful.

Division races: Chatfield has an insurmountable 11-game lead in the West, Applegate has stretched its lead to six in the North, and Springfield has padded its margin over Savannah to four.

Wild-card race: Bushwood has a lock on one spot, up by 11, and Savannah looks pretty good with a four-win advantage. That leaves Bismarck hoping to fend off Superior for the third wild-card spot, with a three-win advantage going into October.

First-round bye: Chatfield also has effectively wrapped up one spot, and Springfield pulled two games ahead of Applegate with its 14-win September.

No. 1 overall draft choice: Hickory is in danger of blowing its shot at having the most balls in the draft lottery, recording just 10 losses in September. Margaritaville is making a late charge with a whopping 17 losses in September, and thanks to that forfeit loss earlier in the season, is now tied with Wisconsin with 84 losses, just two behind Hickory’s 86.

October means intradivisional play, so anything can still happen, but there will be lots of scoreboard-watching, so managers are urged to update the “Input Results” file (responsibility of the Game Five home team manager) as soon as series conclude.

 

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
CHATFIELD 94 46 .671
SPRINGFIELD 82 58 .586
APPLEGATE 80 60 .571
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
BUSHWOOD 83 57 .593 +11
SAVANNAH 78 62 .557 +4
BISMARCK 74 66 .529
SUPERIOR 71 69 .507 3