Clip Files for May

Shawn Kelley

In going 11-9, Applegate outscored its May foes 92-62 despite being outhomered 22-20. Hard righty reliever Shawn Kelley was a workhorse in a month that saw a lot of righty-leaning lineups, hurling 17 innings and notching three saves. Fifth starter Tyler Chatwood went 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA and No. 1 starter Kyle Hendricks went 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA. Yasmany Tomas hit .396 in May with four homers and 13 RBIs. Josh Donaldson hit . 308 with five homers and 19 RBIs. … The Clips are 13-17 at home (where they have been outhomered 46-27) but 21-9 on the road (where they have outhomered their foes 30-17). … 10 of Applegate’s first 60 games have gone extra innings; the club is 4-6. … Byron Buxton hit .037 in May, striking out 16 times in 27 at-bats. … The Clips are giving up a ridiculous number of hits on gb 2B (x) rolls. Neil Walker and Greg Garcia, both 3s at the position, recorded outs on only 12 of 22 2B(x) rolls in May, and for the year now they are a combined 48 outs in 73 2B(x) rolls, just 66%. … Centerfielder Billy Hamilton, a 1e5, has committed four errors already. … Kole Calhoun, who hit 18 homers for the Angels last year in real life batting largely in front of Mike Trout, finally hit his first homer of the year for Applegate in the club’s 59th game rolled, despite having started every game. … Hamilton has 31 sacrifice hits. The major league record is 67. …

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…

Gopher Holes for March

Martin Prado

In going 8-12, Bushwood lost Game 1 of all four series, which made it seem like they were playing catch-up all month long. … In Game 1 against Springfield, the Topes set the tone by putting up five first-inning runs against Verlander in an eventual 6-5 loss. More misery followed as Springfield won the next three games by narrow margins before the Gophers averted the sweep with a 9-1 victory against lefty Dallas Keuchel. … Both of Bushwood’s victories against Dyersville came in extra innings, with the go-ahead runs in each scoring on a squeeze bunt by Kevin Kiermaier. In the series against the Treblemakers, the Gophers hit .196 and failed to homer. … Verlander got two starts against Applegate, but Bushwood lost both games. The Gophers’ other victory over a lefty came in a 12-2 game against the Clips’ Drew Pomeranz. … After Ian Kennedy dropped the opener against SGP, the Gophers prevailed in three of the next four games, all tight contests … Martin Prado hit an even .500 for the month (21 for 42) … Albert Pujols hit just .200 but provided 7 homers and 14 RBIs. … Third-round pick Jeremy Hellickson went 2-1 with a 2.63 ERA in four solid starts.

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…

The Trade That Changed Everything spices up 2017 draft

Years from now, if Andrew Benintendi and Dansby Swanson have become superstars, teams like New New York, West Atlanta, Tatooine, Applegate, Savannah and Dyersville will look back at The Trade That Changed Everything the day before the draft. And either thank their lucky stars or wonder what might have been.

Andrew Benintendi

West Atlanta manager Jeff Richards and Tatooine manager Nick Calderon, early arrivals to the 38th annual I-75 League convention, were enjoying an Atlanta-Boston exhibition game where hotshot Red Sox prospect Benintendi was in the midst of a 4-for-4 day that featured two doubles, an RBI single and a solo homer that prompted a standing ovation in the Braves’ home park.

At that point, Tatooine owned the second overall pick, and was thought to be interested in Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer as its choice, with New New York counting on taking Braves shortstop Swanson with the third pick, and Applegate playing its cards close to the vest, but secretly intending to take Benintendi.

Dansby Swanson

But Tatooine was hurting for pitching. West Atlanta was enamored with Swanson. The sun was blazing down on the seats on the third-base side of the field, and West Atlanta had a hot idea: White Sox lefty ace Chris Sale for Tatooine’s No. 2 pick overall. Calderon pondered, then pounced, knowing there were no established starting pitchers the likes of Sale available in the draft.

The reverberations began almost immediately, as text messages flew fast and furious across the country. Most impacted: New New York’s Jason Renbarger, who was devoid of shortstops and had traded up to the No. 3 pick in the hope of landing Swanson, believing catcher Gary Sanchez would go No. 1 to Margaritaville and a starting pitcher No. 2 to Tatooine.

But the Trade Changed Everything. Now after Sanchez and Swanson, a lot of unknowns. What would New New York do? It still had a hole at shortstop, and Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story was an option, as well as Fulmer, and Benintendi. Benintendi was secretly coveted by Applegate at No. 4 and openly by Savannah at No. 5, and the Scorpions cooked up a contingency deal with Dyersville that had originally seemed like a sure thing — it would go through as long as Benintendi and Fulmer were taken or about to be taken, and Contreras was available — and suddenly was up in the air.  Continue reading

Meet new manager Nick Calderon

nickIn the photo, that’s him on the left.

Your left. As you’re looking at the photo.

Nick, from Superior, Colo., becomes the latest manager to join the league who wasn’t even born yet when the league started in 1980. His Tatooine Rebels replace the Michigan Moneyballers in the North Division for the 2017 season, as manager Ken Crawford bowed out after five seasons.

A self-proclaimed culture nerd, especially video games, comics, sci fi, Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars, Nick is also a huge baseball fan, so even though this will mark his first experience with Strat-O-Matic, he’s got a strong handle on baseball strategy from a fan’s standpoint.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Nick grew up a Dodgers fan, a passion that has stuck with him even after moving to Colorado five years ago to work for Ball Aerospace, where he met Mike and John Renbarger.

“My junior high school had a program with Dodgers Stadium that allowed honor roll students to pass out freebies at the stadium,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I was able to attend quite a few games this way — and get my dad and brother into the games. My love for baseball has not dwindled since.”

Nick’s team name is a nod to Luke Skywalker’s home planet. The exact pronunciation of “Tatooine” is the subject of some debate, but it rhymes with “tangerine.” Some say “TAH-too-een,” some say “tah-TWEEN.”

Best to just call them the Rebels.

Nick is single, but engaged to Lorena Medina, who will be accompanying Nick on his inaugural Strat Draft visit four weeks from now.  For more on Nick, see his managerial profile.

The eerie connections of Jose Fernandez, Yordano Ventura to Hickory, Dyersville

Coming off a 12-6 season with a 2.19 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, as well as Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, Jose Fernandez was a hot candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the I-75 League’s 2014 draft. Mike Wilson wanted Jose Fernandez to anchor his rebuilding Hickory franchise’s pitching staff, but he feared Fernandez wouldn’t last until his fourth overall pick.

Destin had that top pick, and Wilson dangled third baseman Evan Longoria, as well as picks No. 4 and 204, and Destin manager Mark Gergel agreed to surrender the overall No. 1 pick, plus No. 40 and No. 152.

RIP, Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura

RIP, Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura

But Wilson wasn’t done with scooping up young fireballers; with the 54th pick overall that year, he also drafted Yordano Ventura, who in only 15 innings in 2013 had dropped jaws with a fastball with wicked movement that was hitting 100 mph.

Hernandez’s injury struggles, as well as some unexpectedly poor performances from other expected rebuilding blocks like Wil Myers (taken No. 3 overall by Hickory in 2014), outfielder Marcell Ozuna (taken No. 40 overall by Hickory in 2014) and outfielder Gregory Polanco (No. 3 overall in 2015) stalled Hickory’s rebuilding effort, and Wilson bowed out of the league following the 2015 season.

With two other clubs dropping out of the league and three new clubs joining for 2016, both Fernandez and Ventura were exposed in the dispersal draft, and Dyersville manager Ryan Renbarger, after considering his options, decided on a long-term strategy, opting for youth in his selections and counting on a down-the-road payoff. After selecting A.J. Pollock and Troy Tulowitzki with his first two picks, Renbarger followed that up with two young arms that he hoped would be the rotation foundation for the next decade: Fernandez with his third pick, Ventura with his fourth.

Fernandez, as you no doubt are aware, was killed in a boating accident in Miami Sept. 25 at age 24. And on Sunday, Ventura, just 25, was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

While the loss of a player to a Strat team can’t compare to the emotions the Marlins felt over Fernandez or the Kansas City Royals over Ventura, Strat managers still build up a connection to their stars, rooting for them in real life so they’ll do well on their Strat teams.

Continue reading

This Just In

Keep your pants on.

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Superior caps spectacular surge with record-tying sixth world championship!

Displaying a finishing kick that would make Usain Bolt proud, the Superior Titans and Manager Mike Renbarger completed their late-summer and autumn dominance of the league with their franchise record-tying sixth world championship, fending off the Springfield Isotopes in six games to walk off with top honors as we concluded the 37th season of play in the I-75 league.

Walk off they did, as catcher A.J. Ellis broke a 2-2 tie with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against Springfield ace Clayton Kershaw by nailing a ballpark homer chance on just 1-4 odds, shooting a 2.

A 3-9 ballpark HR roll off Clayton Kershaw, featuring a '2' roll on 1-4 chances, provided the walkoff winning margin.

A 3-9 ballpark HR roll off Clayton Kershaw, featuring a ‘2’ roll on 1-4 chances, provided the walkoff winning margin.

The victory gave Superior its third straight win in the series, as it had to battle back from a 2-1 deficit, much as it had to shake some early-season doldrums when it failed to deliver on some pretty high preseason expectations. Despite a superstar-laden lineup that included reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper, plus Miguel Cabrera and Anthony Rizzo, Superior was plodding along with a good-but-not-great 56 wins after 100 games, which at the time landed the Titans in the middle of the competitive Westbound Division, five games off the pace set by John Renbarger’s Boulder Tree Huggers.

Then the Titans caught fire, reeling off 17 wins in August and 14 in September to climb into a first-place tie, and end up winning the division by a seven-game margin following a 14-win October. Superior’s 101 regular-season wins earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

A six-game victory over those Tree Huggers in the semifinals lifted Superior into the finals against Dave LaMont’s Isotopes, who were vying for their first World Championship in their 19th year in the league. Continue reading