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.

The 2017 Non-Mock Draft: The Times, They Are A-Changin’

The 2017 I-75 League draft is going to feel like quite a comedown from the 2016 draft’s cavalcade of elite prospects. Years from now we’ll look back with minds blown that the same draft produced Correa, Lindor, Bryant, Syndergaard, Russell, CSeager, Schwarber, Buxton and more.

No such luck this time around. There’s prospects available, but the drool factor is significantly drier. Still, the draft will carry intrigue for one particular reason.

Have you been paying attention to the offensive trend in baseball? Suddenly, the long ball is back. The 2016 ML season saw 5,610 homers crushed. That’s 700 more than 2015 (4,909) and 1,424 more than 2014 (4,186)!!! That’s a 34% increase in two years!

Fangraphs.com noted that at second base, an all-time high of 15 players hit 20 or more homers. In the previous four years combined, there were only 12 20-home run seasons at that position. It happened at shortstop too: 15 players with 20-plus homers. Old record: Nine, in 2009.

That 5,610 homer total is the second-most in baseball history. (Record: 5,693 in 2000.) Overall, 111 players hit 20+homers in 2016. The year before? It was 64.

What’s this mean to our league?

By now you know: There’s no defense for the long ball. You can have a great pitcher that allowed 0 homers; if the other guy rolls on his hitter’s card, there’s nothing you can do about it. Except try to keep up with it. Ballpark selection can only minimize the damage. And you can’t pitch around a slugger if the lineup is full of sluggers. Take that 111 figure and divide it among 15 teams. That’s an average of 7.4. If you don’t have 7-8 hitters in your lineup who can mash 20 homers, then you better draft some.

With that, we present our postseason non-mock draft. It’s not a mock draft because we are not attempting to assign players to teams. These are just our picks for the 15 best players available in the draft. The list comes with a presumption that Lucas Giolito of the Nationals (age 22) and Tyler Glasnow of the Pirates (age 23), two of the best starting pitching prospects, will not get cards. Giolito had 21 1/3 innings and Glasnow 23. Last year, Cleveland’s Kyle Crockett (17 2/3 innings) and Seattle’s Charlie Furbush (22 innings) both got cards — but they were relief pitchers, and LOOGYs at that. With fewer games played, we don’t think Giolito and Glasnow will be so lucky. But if they do, they’d be on this list, with Giolito in the top five and Glasnow in the bottom five tier, even with unusable cards.

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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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Refer to this post next September/October: The 14 bonus unlimited players

Here are your 14 2016 players who failed to get 550 at-bats, but will still be unlimited in the 2017 I-75 League season because they managed 600 or more plate appearances:

Mike Trout of Boulder (549 ABs but 681 PAs). Precisely the kind of guy for whom this rule was implemented. Hit .315, OPS .991.

Chris Carter, free agent (549, 644). Tied for sixth in MLB with 41 homer, but guh, hit .222. Second in MLB with, guh, 206 Ks.

Hanley Ramirez of Boulder (549, 620). 30 homers and .286 average.

Brad Miller of Savannah (548, 601). A shortstop with 30 homers. Yes, Brad Miller hit 30 homers. Previous career high: 11.

Cesar Hernandez of Michigan (547, 622). Switch-hitting second baseman who hit .294. Eleven triples tied for the MLB lead. 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.

Five teams bunched within two games of three wild-card spots with 60 games to play

Start spreading the news. 

They’re leaving today.

They want to be a part of it.

New, New York, New New York. 

They want to wake up. In a pennant race. That never sleeps. 

And find they’re A No. 1. Top of the South. A No. 1. 

The expansion New New York Hypnotoads, on the strength of a league-best 14-6 July, have surged into first place in the South Division and are threatening to make the playoffs in their first year. At 58-42 overall, NNY has the league’s second-best record, thanks in part to an 18-7 record in its own division (5-0 vs. Dyersville, 4-1 vs. West Atlanta, 6-4 vs. South Grand Prairie and 3-2 vs. Savannah).

The Hypnotoads join Boulder and Springfield as the division leaders at the 100-game mark, but just behind them in the wild-card race are five teams bunched just two games apart. With the trade deadline looming, any deals made have the chance to impact that race even more than in a typical year. Here’s the wild-card standings with 60 games to go:

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 61 39 .610
NEW NEW YORK 58 42 .580
SPRINGFIELD 57 43 .570
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
DESTIN 56 44 .560
SUPERIOR 56 44 .560
SATELLITE BEACH 56 44 .560
S.GRAND PRAIRIE 55 45 .550 1
APPLEGATE 54 46 .540 2
MARGARITAVILLE 51 49 .510 5
SAVANNAH 47 53 .450 9
BUSHWOOD 47 53 .470 9