Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Season 31 World Series

The final two have emerged in Ichiro. AL South champs Louisville had some trudging to do in the playoffs to get to this point. It took two decisive game 5 victories over Philly and Chicago to set up a series with this season's Cinderella story, San Francisco. They fell behind 2-1 in the 7 game series and the trepidation was palpable in the gateway to the south. That is when they strung together three straight victories to secure the franchises first World Series appearance. Boise, the NL North champs had a first round bye and survived a scare by the depleted Salt Lake City Moguls in the DCS. Against Syracuse in the LCS, they split the first two games at home, but took control of the series by winning the first two in Syracuse and won the series in 6. This is Boise's second World Series in the last 3 seasons. They are hoping for better luck this time around.

This series could be a slugfest. We have two of the top offensive teams in their respective leagues facing off against each other. Each lineup showcases a MVP candidate complemented by other more than capable hitters. For the Sluggers, it's their star 2B Flash Shea that paces their offense. Shea topped his fantastic rookie campaign, in which he won ROY and MVP, with an even better sophomore season. Batting .353 with 38 HR and 132 RBI, he also stole 49 bases. What's most impressive is his plate discipline. He walked a whopping 144 times compared to only 39 strikeouts.  Augie Cosby and Daryl Bollea hit 44 and 39 HR respectively and the rest of their lineup is no cake walk either. Boise starters can expect to be throwing a lot of pitches and not making it too deep into ballgames. For the Louisville rotation, Tim Ojeda and Jimmy Erdos will be looked up to contain Boise bats enough and give their bullpen a chance to hang on for victories. 

Trenidad Maduro is already a star and one of Ichiro's best hitters. The HR and RBI King hit 54 HR this year to go along with 154 RBI. His .301 average is not too shabby either. When Carl Cammack is your second best hitter, you know you're doing something right. Much like the Sluggers lineup, Boise is full of guys who can do damage. Each team's catchers will have their arms tested with aggressive baserunning. Louisville stole 212 bases, good for 3rd in the AL, while Boise stole 187, good for 4th in the NL. It will be interesting to see how Boise sets up their rotation for the series. Ron Goldschmidt is the ace of the staff and put together another solid season in Boise. Their bullpen may have the edge over Louisville with Horacio Chavez  as the closer. I get the feeling that could be important in this series.  

This series could come down to managerial decisions and how lineups and staffs are used. I also think the defensive edge the Sluggers have at Catcher could prove to be important. Its a toss up here as far as predicting it. Toughest one I have had to make in the playoffs and I can't quite gauge what each owner will do. Each team plays as well on the road as they do at home, so even though Boise has home field advantage, I am not sure it is much of one. Being a NL owner I am pulling for Boise, but my money is on Louisville in 7.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Season 31 League Championship Series
Back in season 26, the Syracuse Marshals made an unbelievable run to the NLCS. They won a weak division with only 81 wins and upset a couple of favorites before finally falling to Florida in the Championship Series. Five seasons later, it is happening again. This time in the AL with the Begonias, who defeated offensive juggernaut Tampa Bay in the Play In Series and then knocked out the team with the best regular season record in all of baseball, the New York Flying Squirrels. Regardless of how you think it has happened, it is quite impressive. Now they face off against the Sluggers. Louisville has gone on a heck of a ride so far in the playoffs. A first round win that feature them and Philly going five and Louisville prevailing by winning games 1, 3 & 5. The Division series saw them fall behind 2-1, but win the final to against Chicago. It has been some much needed playoff experience for the young Sluggers, and they look primed to move on. Louisville in 6.
Boise has snuck by Salt Lake City twice now. First for the division title, and now to move to the NLCS. When the Mountain Hawk offense is going, they can beat anybody. They face a tough challenge ahead in the Syracuse Marshals. The Marshals have made it look easy to this point. A three game sweep of division rival New Britain, followed by another three game sweep of Austin. My early favorite in the playoffs was Syracuse and I am going to continue riding them. Syracuse in 6.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Season 31 Division Championship Series Preview

With their shocking upset of Tampa Bay in the Division Play In Series, San Francisco has set themselves up for a date with Ichiro's best Regular Season team. New York won 14 more games than anybody else this season, and it is no surprise why. With a young, but already top tier offense (897 Runs, 3rd AL) and the AL's best pitching staff (4.01 ERA), their run differential was +204. One less than Austin for best in the majors. The scariest thing about them is that they are for the most part young and have every chance to improve upon this season. Two of their offensive stalwarts, Dale Franco and AL MVP candidate Dwight Cook are only 23 years old. Ace Henry Grace is in the midst of his prime and won a whopping 26 games this season. As is number two man Jermaine Gonzales who would be an ace on most staffs. The pitching will make the difference in this series. I have a hard time seeing San Fran pull a rabbit out of the hat again, and will struggle to score runs. I have to give them one game though and  predict New York in 4.

This series promises to be more exciting than the other AL matchup. One team is the superior pitching team, while the other the superior offensive team. Generally, rule of thumb is to take the pitching, which Chicago has. SP Bruce Ochoa  is one of the the best in Ichiro. Alfredo Wilfredo is nearly a lock for AL Fireman of the Year, and leads are almost guaranteed late in games for Chicago. The difference in this series is that the Sluggers' offense is by far more superior than the Cubs offense and the Sluggers pitching may have under-performed a little in the regular season, making it a little closer in that department. Louisville in 4.

Division rivals face off in this series. Boise outlasted the Moguls to win the division, but just barely. You could argue that the only reason that happened was because of a rash of injuries suffered by Salt Lake towards the end of the season. The most devastating part of the injuries, is that it hit the pitching staff the hardest. If healthy, I believe the Moguls pitching could compete with the prolific offense of the Mountain Hawks. The reality is, they are not, and the likes of Trenidad Maduro should power past the depleted Salt Lake City staff. Boise in 4. 

Is this the year Austin makes it to the World Series? After a slow start to begin the season, the Powers ended up in usual form by the time it was all said and done. Ray Boesch is once again a favorite for NL CY Young and the offense is paced by All-Stars Trevor Parker and Kevin Redmond. Syracuse looked solid in their first round sweep of a formidable foe in New Britain. On paper I go with with Austin, but my gut instinct goes with Syracuse in 5.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Ichiro Season 31
Division Play In Series

Well, it is not too often that a team wins their division with only a .500 record. That is exactly what San Francisco did in the weak AL West. This is the first playoff appearance for the Begonias after a four season drought, and I am sure it has come as an unexpected surprise for for most in Begonia Nation. The Cinderella story will end here, and it may not be pretty. Tampa is stacked on the offensive end, and with eight consecutive playoff appearances including 3 World Series appearances with two titles, they have a ton of playoff experience. San Fran's pitching is not good enough to contend in this series. Tampa sweeps San Francisco and has a tough matchup ahead vs. New York.

The Sluggers have the best player in the game in Flash Shea and overall a pretty potent lineup. Louisville finally snapped an eleven year playoff drought by winning a tough AL South division. The future is bright, but pitching and defense will be a detriment to their playoffs chances this season. Where as Louisville may be a bit one-sided, the Trappers are one of the more balanced teams in the AL. The bullpen is iffy, and if the Louisville fire power has a chance late in games, there could be some frustrated Trapper fans out there. This series goes five and I give the edge to Louisville and there offense over Philly and their questionable bullpen. Chicago will be the next opponent for the winner in this series.

Tacoma is another team to snap a playoff drought. Nine seasons it lasted, and their Method, pitching and defense. The best pitching in the NL and they do it without any high profile guys. The formula may be little different, but the Method have been effective. Their matchup is against the injury riddled Moguls, who enter their third straight postseason. Salt Lake's pitching is depleted, no doubt about that, and its their rotation and bullpen. They still may have enough to win, if their offense can get on base and keep the pressure on the tough Method pitching and defense. This series is a toss up, only because Tacoma offense is lacking. Granted they play half their games in pitcher friendly Cheney Stadium, they still struggled on the road offensively. Going against my instinct here and taking the Moguls in five. Boise is the next opponent for whoever wins.

This series will be fun. The season series was split between the division rivals and Syracuse barely outlasted New Britain to win the division. Both teams are pretty well balanced, however the Marshals may hold a slight advantage in most departments. If the series comes down to the late innings I will give the Bombadiers the advantage, however, I think Syracuse positions themselves to sneak through this round and set themselves up for World Series run. They are perhaps, the most well balanced team in this first round. Syracuse in four games and a trip to Austin.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

             Season 31 - Best Player By Position

St. Louis Rovers
6'2'' 213lbs R/R

Catcher was one of the more difficult positions to pick. In the end I went with Bennett and here is why. In Pasqual, you have an above average player when it comes to hitting, fielding and the handling of the staff. Yeah, you can find better in each individual category, but you won't find one more balanced.

First Base 
Mexico City Barrachos
6'1'' 218lbs L/L

This 28-year old offensive minded first baseman has already made his mark in the World of Ichiro. Every season he is in the MVP discussion and already has two of them to his name. The Season 23 ROY has five all-star game nods along with five Silver Slugger awards in his first 7 seasons. Not bad for a player at a position full of big bats.

Second Base
Louisville Sluggers
5'9'' 172lbs R/R 

A player like this only comes around every once in a great while. We are talking about a guy who is a no doubter for best player at his position (if not the whole World) and hasn't even completed his second season. What did he do in his first season? Only win ROY and MVP. Already the best hitter in the world in terms of contact and plate discipline, with plenty of pop to go along with it. Once he is on the base paths he can tear things up with his good speed and instincts. Louisville hit the jackpot with this guy. He arguably has the best name in the game as well.
Syracuse Marshals
6'3'' 180lbs R/R

Shortstop being another position that defense is incredibly important, a good glove is a must here. Beltran possesses just that along with one of the better bats at his position. With four All-Star games and a Silver Slugger already to his credit, his career just seems now to be taking off. Wouldn't be surprised if he wins a Gold Glove or two before it's all said and done. 

Third Base
Las Vegas Hangovers
6'0'' 178lbs L/R 

This 32-year old's seat amongst the elite third baseman may come to an end sooner rather than later, but he is still arguably the best at his position. He has made seven All-Star games, including this year's AS MVP, has six Silver Sluggers, a gold glove, two World Series Rings and a League MVP. Certainly one of the best third baseman of this generation.

 Left Field
New Britain Bombadiers
6'0'' 208lbs S/R

McMichael is something else when it comes to hitting. If Shea is the best, this guy is a close second. Like Flash, Allen won ROY and MVP in his first season. Oh yeah, and a Silver Slugger. Since then he has added a couple All-Star visits along with two more Silver Sluggers. Did I mention he is only 23? If McMichael and Shea are the future, the future is here now.

Center Fielder
St. Louis Rovers 
6'4'' 191lbs L/L   

Even though he may not be the best fielding center fielder in the game, his bat puts him at the top of my list. After a couple injury riddled seasons he has returned to his former self. A patient hitter, he waits for his pitch, and if he gets it, he crushes it. That was on display in last seasons HR Derby in which he won. His glove work in the field isn't all that bad either.

Right Fielder
Jacksonville Cubbies
6'0'' 208lbs L/L

Right field was a tough one to pick. I go with rivers because of his consistency at the plate over his career. In Season 29, he stocked his trophy case with an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger and League MVP. Not the best fielder, but he does have a good arm. Some young bucks are set to try and knock him off of this perch, but Sean will continue to be one of the best hitting right fielders.

Starting Pitcher
Trenton Hazmats
6'2" 214lbs R/R

Gave a look at Ray Boesch here, but in the end I went with Delgado with confidence. Possibly the toughest matchup for right handed hitters in the World, it is amazing what he can do with only one plus-pitch. His track record is what is most impressive. He has made an All-Star team in each of his nine seasons and has two Cy Young Awards. Will more than likely pick up a couple more.

Closing Pitcher
Chicago Cubs
6'2'' 202lbs R/R

What this guy has done as a closer is incredible. With 260+ saves in six seasons, he closes out around 90% of his opportunities. Equally effective against lefties as he is righties. This season marks his fourth staright 40 save season. He will will win a Fireman of the Year award soon if not this season.