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
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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