These hitters will know no limits in 2019

Every year a select group of hitters fall short of the magic “550” at-bat number to qualify as unlimited, but they nonetheless earn unlimited status by virtue of attaining 600 plate appearances. Here are those players for the 2019 I-75 League season (source: Baseball-Reference.com):

  1. Matt Chapman, 3B, Applegate (547 ABs but 616 PA): A fortuitous draft pick for the Paperclips, given that injuries limited current 3B Josh Donaldson to 187 at-bats.
  2. Stephen Piscotty, OF, New New York (546 / 605): Good season with 41 doubles and 27 homers, plus an .822 OPS for Year Two of the Hypnotoad Rebuild.
  3. George Springer, OF, Bushwood (544 / 620): Comparatively a down year for Springer but still a solid contributor.
  4. Michael Conforto, OF, Dyersville (543 / 638): Hit a career high in homers with 28, but a .243 average helped drag his OPS below .800.
  5. Lorenzo Cain, OF, Superior (539 / 620): After career highs in steals (30) and on-base percentage (.395), expect Cain to be a fixture atop the Superior lineup for 160 games.
  6. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Tatooine (538 / 619): Switch-hitter is just 24 and still developing, hitting .224; Rebels can afford to let him develop with a stacked lineup and other options at third base.
  7. Chris Taylor, OF/2B/SS, Margaritaville (536 / 604): Versatility will remain valuable but lost 75 points on his OPS compared to 2017 (.850 to .775).
  8. Justin Upton, OF, Destin (533 / 613): Not counting his rookie year, Upton had a career low in doubles (18) but still hit 30 homers. Posted .807 OPS, but that was 94 points lower than last year’s career-high .901.
  9. Max Kepler, OF, Dyersville (532 / 611): Posted numbers very similar to 2017 (.319 / .408 / .427), but we’re guessing Dyersville was hoping for a breakout year.
  10. Brett Gardner, OF, Superior (530 / 609): Not counting his rookie year, Gardner posted career lows in on-base percentage (.322) and OPS (.690) and only swiped 16 bases.
  11. Jason Kipnis, OF/2B, Tatooine (530 / 601): If the Rebels were counting on a bounce-back year from Kipnis, they didn’t get it. He pretty much posted the same meager numbers as 2017. Rebels will have better options.
  12. Eugenio Suarez, 3B, Bismarck (527/ 606): Breakout year for Suarez with career highs in most key offensive categories, including homers (34), slugging (.526) and OPS (.892).
  13. Mookie Betts, OF, Savannah (520 / 614): Rumored to have had a pretty good year.
  14. Joey Votto, 1B, Margaritaville (503 / 623): Got his usual 100 walks and plus-.400 OBP, but dipped to just 12 homers.
  15. Mike Trout, OF, Boulder (471 / 608): The ultimate beneficiary of this rule, Trout played in just 140 games for the Angels, but can put a career-high and league-best OPS (1.088) to use every single game for the Tree Huggers.
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Clip Files for September

Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz

The Clips accepted their anticipate fate to start the month, enduring a 5-0 beatdown at the hands of Margaritaville, but managed to go 11-4 against their other opponents (4-1s vs. Boulder and Satellite Beach and 3-2 vs. Tatooine) to post their seventh consecutive double-digit win total month at 11-9. … The Clips now stand 86-54, ensuring their seventh straight season with a winning record, the longest such active streak in the league. … After the Margaritaville whitewash, the Clips won their first four games against both Boulder and Satellite Beach before suffering Game Five losses to ruin the chance at sweeps. Then the Clips won the first three against Tatooine before dropping the last two. … Drew Pomeranz lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth in the opening game against Satellite Beach, as Jose Altuve landed on a HR 1-4, flyout 5-20 chance and picked a 2. In the very next game, Jhoulys Chacin held the Brawlers hitless until one out in the seventh as well. … Satellite Beach was held to 30 hits in the series, scoring seven runs in Game Three but being limited to one or two runs in each of the other four games. … Pomeranz went 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA on the month, allowing just 14 hits in 25 1/3 innings. … Applegate’s series win over Boulder was highlighted by a Game Four comeback from a 4-1 deficit in the late innings, scoring two in the eighth and two in the ninth. Down 4-3 with two outs in the ninth, the Clips’ Jose Martinez lashed a two-run double on a DO 1-12, flyout 13-20 roll to drive in what proved to be the tying and winning runs. … Martinez was also a hero in Game Four against Satellite Beach, hitting a walkoff homer in the ninth off the first pitch thrown by Brawler reliever Anthony Swarzak. … Xander Bogaerts led the Clips’ offense in September at .338 while smacking nine doubles. … Aaron Judge scored 17 runs but drove in just five while hitting .200 and only two homers. He stands at 34 for the year and needs 18 homers in his final 20 games to tie his real-life total of 52. … By 0.01, Applegate leaped ahead of Margaritaville into first place in the team ERA standings after 140 games, 3.96 to 3.97.

Gopher Holes for September

The Gophers enter the final month of the season taking dead aim at one of the two remaining wild-card playoff berths, but it won’t be an easy chore with six other teams still very much in the running.

Coming off an 11-win September that featured a 4-1 series victory over front-running Margaritaville and a 3-2 triumph over the contending Beach Bums, it was the cellar-dwelling Hypnotoads and Tree Huggers who prevented the Gophers from making a real move in the standings.

First it was middle nephew Jason who guided the lowly Toads to a 3-2 series victory over Uncle Dave, posting solid victories in Games 2-4 while limiting the Gophers to just five runs in the three middle games. Then eldest nephew John opened Bushwood’s final series of the month with three narrow victories. Fearing a season-wrecking sweep, the Gophers needed a game-winning two-run homer from Joey Gallo with two outs in the ninth inning to salvage Game 4, then squeaked out another 4-3 triumph in the finale to avert disaster, conclude a thrilling series and earn a winning month.

Of course, the highlight of the month was the four wins vs. Margaritaville that only served to slow down Grid’s march to the division title. Jacob deGrom got things off on the right foot against the slugging Volcanoes, twirling a phenomenal two-hit shutout in Game 1, while notching 12 strikeouts. Parker Bridwell and Taijuan Walker continued to hold the Volcanoes in check (with great assistance from the bullpen) in subsequent 4-2 and 4-3 victories. In a sensational pitchers duel between Dinelson Limet and Yu Darvish, the Gophers lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 4. In the finale, Bushwood rallied from an early 5-0 deficit to post a thrilling 6-5 victory, with Paul Dejong‘s two-run double in the seventh providing the winning runs.

Likewise, the series vs. the Bums included some rare feats, including three 10-inning games in a row, the Gophers blowing a 8-1 lead in the eighth inning of a 9-8 loss and the never-before-seen-or-heard-of accomplishment of blowing an 11-run lead in the eighth inning and then getting up off the mat to win it in 10, 13-12. (Yes, that all really did happen in this series, and if you don’t believe me, then just ask Mark Gergel.)

Believe it or not, the exact same bullpen that gave up zero runs in 19 innings vs. Margaritaville turned around and gave up 15 runs in 19.1 innings vs. the Bums. Go figure.

As a result, the Gophers find themselves in the middle of a group of seven teams contending for the final two wild-card spots. With the loser of the Westbound Division race between Applegate and Superior pretty much assured the first wild card, the following teams all remain in the hunt for the two other wild cards entering October play. They are: South Grand Prairie (78 wins), Satellite Beach (76), West Atlanta (75), Bushwood (75), Destin (74), Bismarck (72) and Dyersville (72). SGP is also still within striking distance (three games) of front-running Savannah in the Southbound.

Though facing dwindling usage situations at several positions, the Gophers look forward to the challenge of the October slate, featuring the Volcanoes again along with division foes Bismarck, East Cobb and Tatooine. “It’s October, and it’s all hands on deck,” said Gophers skipper Dave Renbarger. “The way I look at it, the playoffs have already started. It’s win or go home starting right now.”

Gopher Holes for August

After their 4-16 fiasco in July, the Gophers bounced back with 12 much-needed wins in August to rekindle wild-card hopes in Bushwood.  Those hopes, however, will require a big finish by the Gophers in September and October, as Bushwood enters the final two months four games behind the wild-card threshold in a multi-team race.

Nonetheless, optimism returned to Bushwood in August, primarily on the strength of a 5-0 sweep of Tatooine and a 4-1 outcome vs West Atlanta.  Series vs. Satellite Beach (1-4) and Superior (2-3) did little to help the Gophers’ cause.

Bushwood’s bats were booming against the Rebels, with the Gophers scoring 45 runs in the sweep.  The only close game was a 6-5 10-inning affair.  Against the Crush, the script was flipped as all five games were decided by one run and the Gophers won four of them despite scoring just 16 total runs in the series.  The only loss was a 1-0 setback that saw Luis Severino outduel Yu Darvish.

For the season, the Gophers have enjoyed near-flawless defense at the key positions of second base and shortstop.  Dustin Pedroia (1e4) and Scooter Gennett (3e13) have committed a grand total of two errors at second (one apiece).  At short, Paul DeJong (3e17) and Adeiny Hechavarria (1e7) have divided playing time almost equally and combined for just eight miscues (six by DeJong).

In reviewing the 2018 draft board, it could be concluded that the Gophers went 5-for-5 on their first five choices last March, based on the 120-game stats.  Top pick Ryan Zimmerman (No. 13 overall) has 36 homers and 96 RBIs to rank among the league leaders in both categories.  Next came DeJong (at No. 35 the first of Bushwood’s three third-round selections), and the shortstop is hitting .332 with 21 homers and 62 RBIs.  Catcher Austin Barnes came next at No. 39 and has been a perfect complement to Buster Posey behind the plate, hitting .265 with a .384 OBA.  The Gophers snagged reliever Yusmeiro Petit next at No. 43, and the righty has become one of the best closers in the league with 18 saves and a 2.24 ERA.  Finally, Gennett somehow fell to the Gophers in the fifth round at No. 69 overall.  Scooter is hitting .307 with 15 homers for Bushwood this year while leading the NL in real-life hitting for the Reds.

September looms as a critical month for the Gophers, who certainly need a winning record to remain in the hunt.  And things started off on the wrong foot as the cellar-dwelling Hypnotoads just took 3 of 5 from Bushwood in early September play.  The front-running Volcanoes, the wild-card contending Bums and the rebuilding Tree Huggers round out the slate for the month.

Lava Flow for August

In August play the Volcanoes matched their July record, reposting a 1- win month.  The Volcanoes were dominant against the Titans (5-0 record), very good against West Atlanta (4-1 record) and took series victories against Destin and East Cobb (3-2 against each).  A significant improvement for the Volcanoes in August play was their record against left-handed starters.  From March through July, the Volcanoes posted a record of 13-11 against lefties.  After adding Justin Turner, Charlie Blackmon and Rhys Hoskins at the trade deadline the Volcanoes were a sparkling 6-1 against lefty starters in August play.  Batting stars in August play were Justin Turner (.352 avg, 15 RBIs), Chris Taylor (5 HR’s, 16 RBIs) and Kris Bryant (.436 OBP, 18 runs scored).  Stepping down to #2 in the batting order (with Kris Bryant now manning the leadoff slot), Joey Votto led the Volcanoes in August with 18 RBIs.  The starting pitching was strong in August play, with Ervin Santana, Andrew Cashner and Michael Fulmer each posting 3-1 records, and Brandon McCarthy returning from a 3-month vacation to post a 4-0 record.  For the season, McCarthy has allowed 30 runs in 66 IP – with 10 runs allowed in one disastrous April start against the Hypnotoads (that team again!).

Emphasizing the “team” nature of this season, for a team that leads the league in home runs and runs, the Volcanoes do not have a player in the top 5 in either home runs or runs batted in, and for a team that leads the league in fewest runs allowed and wins, the Volcanoes do not have a pitcher in the top 5 in either ERA or in wins.

In September play, the Volcanoes face three road series, visiting Bushwood, Applegate and Dyersville while the Bombers of Bismarck make their first visit of the season to Margaritaville.  The Volcanoes are 10-10 in 2018 play against these teams, taking 3-2 series victories against Dyersville and Bismarck while posting 2-3 series losses against Applegate and Bushwood.

Clip Files for August

Applegate went 13-7 in August to push its record to 75-45, outscoring its opponents 111-77 and outhomering them 35-21. … At 75-45, the Clips’ win percentage is exactly what it would be predicted by Bill James’ wins predicted formula, based on its runs scored and runs allowed. … In August Applegate had the same number of homers as it did doubles. Aaron Judge smacked seven homers, scored 17 runs and drove in 15 while hitting just .187. Willson Contreras also drove in 15 runs, but he did it in 44 at-bats compared to Judge’s 75. Josh Donaldson chipped in with six homers in 41 at-bats, including three in one game. Neil Walker hit .390 on the month and leads the Clips’ regulars in batting at .309 on the season. He hit .400 vs. Savannah and .455 vs. Destin. … Ken Giles and Luis Garcia were bullpen workhorses, with each hurling 17 1/3 innings. … A five-game sweep of New New York keyed the profitable month; in that series the Clips outscored the Hypnotoads 43-19 and outhomered them 13-5 while hitting .315. … But against South Grand Prairie, which presents matchup problems for the Clips, Applegate scored just 14 runs on 33 hits (.191) as the Warriors took a 3-2 series win. The two wins came in Game One on a 12th-inning walkoff homer by Brian Dozier, and in Game Three thanks to some late lightning off Max Scherzer by Judge, Donaldson and Dozier. … The Clips improved their stunning record against lefties to 24-4 (.857). … Judge is now up to 32 homers on the year but needs 20 homers in the last two months to tie his real-life 52 for the Yankees last year.  Judge is slugging just .454 (was .627 for the Yankees) and Strat calculates his WAR at 3.4; it was 9.5 for the Yankees. … Every one of the Clips’ starting pitchers has an impressive record: Drew Pomeranz (8-3), Jhoulys Chacin (8-2), Stephen Strasburg (10-4), Jimmy Nelson (9-3) and Kyle Hendricks (8-5), but the Clips’ vaunted bullpen has an unexplainable 23 losses, second-most in the league behind New New York (26). Lefty ace Andrew Miller and closer Blake Parker are tied for the team high in losses with five each. … Chacin is 8-2 but lugging a 5.21 ERA, as his ERA has never recovered from a 15-run beatdown at the hands of Savannah in May. He has only one loss since then, coming this month to South Grand Prairie. … Applegate’s team ERA of 3.94 leads the league through 120 games, just a smidge better than Margaritavlle at 3.95. Applegate has given up the fewest homers in the league at 126. Meanwhile, offensively the Clips have bashed 200 homers, trailing only Margaritaville in that category (at 201). … As a team, Applegate has drawn 543 walks, which is 66 more than the second-place Volcanoes.

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