The Applegate Paperclips captured their second world championship, upsetting the Chatfield Choo Choos in five games for the 2012 title.
In the league’s first season of expansion to 15 teams, Chatfield and Applegate each captured divisional crowns and earned a bye into the semifinals, but Chatfield went into the finals as a heavy favorite, having smacked the Paperclips around in 9 of their 10 regular-season games on its way to a spectacular 121-win season.
But after splitting the first two games in Chatfield, Applegate reeled off three consecutive victories at home to capture the crown. A staunch bullpen, in which six of their seven relievers posted 0.00 ERAs, and a 13-7 advantage in homers made the difference for Applegate. Sergio Santos, a middle reliever, allowed just 3 hits in 8 1/3 innings of work while striking out 12 to collect series MVP honors.
“Everything just came together,” said Paperclips manager Gary Kicinski. “Chatfield had a better team, but we managed to hit our split rolls when home run chances came up, and we were able to dent their dynamic bullpen. And on the other side, our bullpen was phenomenal. With every game a nail-biter, the bullpen performance proved to be key.”
Applegate advanced to the finals by defeating longtime rival Bismarck in five games, while Chatfield took six games to eliminate Margaritaville.
Bismarck had surprised Springfield in six games in a first-round series, while Margaritaville had turned back Savannah in five games in its first-round series.
Chatfield’s spectacular 121-win season included a perfect 20-0 mark in August. The Choo Choos outscored their opponents by 390 runs (940-530) and won their division by 38 games. In going with a four-man rotation, Chatfield had three 20-game winners: Doug Fister (27-5), Dan Haren (24-9) and Ian Kennedy (21-4).
Applegate (103) and Springfield (102) also cleared the 100-win mark in winning their divisions. Savannah just missed with 99 wins. Margaritaville notched 86, and Bismarck, with its first postseason appearance since 2003, getting in with 85 wins.
The Bombers’ Adrian Gonzalez led the league in hitting (.354), while Springfield’s Matt Kemp led in homers (51) and RBI (132). Fister captured not only the Cy Young Award but MVP honors as well, by one vote over Kemp, according to Strat’s computerized awards voting.
The four new expansion teams each finished with win totals in the 60s: Satellite Beach 69, English 62, Michigan 62 and Iowa 60. South Grand Prairie finished lower than all of them, with just 46 wins and 114 losses.