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!

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Clip Files for September

After bizarre swings of 5-15 in July and 15-5 in August, things evened out at 10-10 in September, giving Applegate 77 wins on the year. With four more wins in October, Applegate will post its sixth consecutive season with a winning record. … After Kyle Hendricks allowed just one hit in six innings en route to a 1-0 win in the series opener over Margaritaville, the Volcanoes proceeded to reel off four straight wins, outscoring the Clips 29-12. That outcome was responsible for the Clips being outscored 79-70 on the month. … Applegate stole 11 bases in September but also was caught 11 times. … Hyun-Soo Kim led the Clips in batting at .433.  Through 140 games he leads Applegate in hitting at .310. … Xander Bogaerts and Josh Donaldson each hit four homers as the Clips socked 22 for the month, holding opponents to 14. … Tyler Chatwood used up his remaining innings and suffered losses in all four starts, dropping to 11-13 on the year. … Andrew Miller went 2-0 with two saves in seven scoreless appearances. In nine innings of work, Miller allowed just two hits while fanning 11. … Reliever George Kontos, whose epic horrendous July (0-5, 11.88 ERA, 16 hits, eight walks in 8 1/3 innings) was a primary factor in the Clips’ 5-15 month, redeemed himself a bit with 10 scoreless innings in September. … The Clips carried an extra reliever in September and against Tatooine, six of the seven pitched scoreless ball, with Ken Giles the only one to allow runs. … Applegate pitchers have allowed just 121 homers, fewest in the league. … The Clips have fallen to 11th in batting average and 12th in homers, but still are fourth in the league in ERA and are are plus-71 in run differential.

Got notes like these on your team you’d like to see published? Email them by the fourth of the month.

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

Clip Files for August

Applegate’s Jekyll and Hyde season continued in August. A month after going 5-15, Applegate regrouped for a 15-5 month to thrust itself back into contention for the West Division crown with 40 games to play, sitting two games behind front-runner Boulder. …

Hendricks

Kyle Hendricks took a no-hitter into the ninth against New New York, surrendering a one-out double on a 1-8 roll to ninth-place hitter Tim Anderson to break up his chance at history. Hendricks walked two, struck out eight in raising his record to 12-4. … In the same series, after Applegate won the first four games, New New York’s Sonny Gray was twirling a perfect game against the Clips before being inexplicably pulled with one out and a 2-0 lead in the sixth. Jamie Garcia continued the perfecto through the seventh. But A.J. Ramos came on with six outs to go and walked Hunter Pence to ruin the perfect game, and with five outs to go gave up a single to Kole Calhoun to spoil the no-hit bid. New New York hung on for a 4-1 win to spoil Applegate’s bid for a sweep. … The Clips also went 4-1 vs. Destin and Savannah, plus 3-2 vs. South Grand Prairie. …

Tyler Glasnow took Stephen Strasburg’s No. 2 spot in the rotation for the month and got scorched by Savannah in his first as-played outing, coughing up 13 hits, nine walks and 14 runs. He went on to get three five-inning wins, never allowing more than three runs, to ‘lower’ his ERA for the month — and the season, since he’s used up all 23 of his innings — to 8.22. …  Applegate won all four of Hendricks’ starts, as the ace went 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA. … Six different pitchers recorded saves for a total of nine on the month. … Hard-righty Shawn Kelley appeared in 13 of the 20 August games. … Continue reading

Lava Flow for July

July saw the Volcanoes post their second consecutive 14-6 month, raising their record to a league-leading 63-37 after 100 games.  Offense continues to drive the Volcanoes, with 634 runs in their first 100 games (on-pace for 1014 runs on the season).  David Ortiz, Robinson Cano, Kris Bryant and Joey Votto continue to drive the Volcano offense, ranking 1-2-4-5 in Hal’s MVP voting.  Looking at the season record book, Margaritaville has a hand in dominating the “most runs 1-team” category – its opponents rank #’s 1, 2 and 3 (Tatooine scoring 26 runs against Marcus Stroman, Boulder scoring 20 runs against Stroman, and Savannah scoring 17 runs against Adam Wainwright).  At the trade deadline, the offending parties were rewarded with trades:  Stroman to Savannah for Jon Lester and Wainwright to New New York for Matt Moore.  The re-worked starting pitching should bolster the Volcanoes’ drive through August, September, October and into the playoffs.  The Volcanoes also “welcome home” Andrew Triggs, who was traded to Savannah in May after posting a 4-0 record but was unused by Savannah in June and July play.

In a surprising complement to their power bats (203 HRs), Volcano basestealers (primarily Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Ichiro Suzuki and Keon Broxton) are leading the league with an .828 efficiency (48 steals in 58 attempts).  This is partly driven by a conservative approach on hit-and-run attempts (only three on the season).  The Volcanoes have also been conservative in advancing on the basepaths, creating only two outs in 107 potential base-advance situations:

BRC BRA BRO Out %
Mar 107 35 2 1.9%
Sup 112 47 5 4.5%
Sgp 105 55 9 8.6%
Bol 91 38 8 8.8%
Sav 68 29 6 8.8%
Apl 95 38 10 10.5%
Tat 101 57 11 10.9%
Spr 91 42 10 11.0%
Nny 71 32 8 11.3%
Dye 91 35 11 12.1%
Des 81 31 11 13.6%
Bus 91 37 13 14.3%
Sat 103 32 15 14.6%
Bis 73 16 12 16.4%
Wat 76 34 13 17.1%

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Clip Files for July

Kontos

Revenge of Draft-Alyzer unleashed its fury on the Clips in July, hurtling them into a 5-15 death spiral following a 47-33 start to the season that was good for the second-best record in the league through 80 games. Now the Clips stand at 52-48 amidst a pile of other teams with similar records, pondering which club is the real Applegate. … While the offense stunk up the joint with a .233 average in July, it was reliever George Kontos who felt the wrath of Paperclip fans, as he managed to go 0-5 with an 11.88 ERA, allowing 16 hits (three of them homers) and eight walks in 8 1/3 innings. … Starter Tyler Chatwood fell back to earth and a few hundred yards below it with an 0-4, 6.45 month, after being saluted in this column in June for his 9-4, 3.28 start. … Springfield swept the Clips 5-0, with its studly pitching staff holding Applegate to just six extra-base hits in the entire series, as the Isotopes outhomered Applegate 10-1. … The Clips went 4-6 at home despite hitting .203 there, and 1-9 on the road despite hitting .259 there. … Ninth-place hitter Billy Hamilton hit .321 on the month, raising his season average to .283. … Hamilton leads the league in both sacrifice hits (39) and stolen bases (33) … Johnny Cueto leads the league’s starting pitchers in lowest home run rate, averaging 0.46 homers per nine innings. … Kyle Hendricks (0.76) and Drew Pomeranz (0.79) rank eighth and ninth. … Pomeranz also owns the league’s best opponents-batting-average-against value vs. LHBs at .165. … Applegate pitching has allowed just 89 homers for the year, the league’s best mark in that category. … The Clips have only one hit in 22 hit-and-run attempts.

Got notes like these on your team and want to see them on the league webpage? E-mail them to me by the 4th of the following month…

Boulder fortifies playoff run with deadline deals

The Boulder Tree Huggers were late to the trade deadline party but still left with the prettiest girls.

Underused slugging utility infielder Sean Rodriguez, slugging first-round pick shortstop Trevor Story and top-flight starting pitcher Aaron Sanchez will be joining the Tree Huggers in time for the 60-game sprint to the finish, acquired at the July 28 trade deadline following a month that saw Boulder climb into first place in the Westbound Division.

Boulder gave up lefty Alex Wood to Dyersville in exchange; Wood today, with somewhat limited innings, has the best OPS in baseball (.518) among starting pitchers. And to Destin it sent unused all-star outfielder Justin Upton, while also acquiring shutdown closer Kelvin Herrera (who only has 16 innings remaining).

“I wasn’t planning on making any trades,” said Head Hugger John Renbarger, “but with a little luck I feel I was able to really bolster my team for this year at the expense of the future.”

Five total deals were consummated on deadline night:

  • Boulder sends OF Michael Saunders, P Alex Wood and P Colin Rea to Dyersville for P Aaron Sanchez and SS Trevor Story.
  • Destin sends IF Sean Rodriguez and RP Kelvin Herrera to Boulder for OF Justin Upton and RP Fernando Abad.
  • New New York sends RP Jeremy Jeffress to Superior for P Matt Boyd.
  • Margaritaville sends P Adam Wainwright to New New York for P Matt Moore.
  • Destin sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to Bushwood for 3B Mike Moustakas.

The deals helped set the stage for a frantic turn for the homestretch, which sees nine teams sporting 50 wins or more and 12 of the league’s 15 teams still in the playoff hunt with 48 or more wins. Four of those nine teams reside in the Northbound Division, lead by the best-record-in-the-league Margaritaville VolScorpions. (All of the Volcanoes plus anybody who was worth a darn on the Savannah Scorpions this year.) Springfield, on the heels of a 15-win month, and muscling-up Bushwood (a 12-win June) are looking strong at 56 wins, and the rookie-managed Tatooine Rebels are in the hunt with 52 wins.

But the division with the tightest race is the Southbound, where West Atlanta, barely treading water at 51-49, holds a one-game lead over 50-50 Dyersville, which spent deadline deal night setting itself up for next season. Defending division champ South Grand Prairie lies in wait just one game back at 49-51.

In the Westbound Division, Boulder took advantage of Applegate’s 5-15 death spiral to leap into first place with 11 wins at 56-44. Superior also posted 11 wins to nudge above the .500 mark, one back of Applegate and five back of Boulder.

DIVISION LEADERS W L Pct. GB
BOULDER 56 44 .560
MARGARITAVILLE 63 37 .630
WEST ATLANTA 51 49 .510
WILD-CARD RACE W L Pct. GB
SPRINGFIELD 56 44 .560 +4
BUSHWOOD 56 44 .560 +4
TATOOINE 52 48 .520
APPLEGATE 52 48 .520
SUPERIOR 51 49 .510 -1
DYERSVILLE 50 50 .500 -2
S. GRAND PRAIRIE 49 51 .490 -3
DESTIN 49 51 .490 -3
SATELLITE BEACH 48 52 .480 -4
SAVANNAH 46 54 .460 -6