Playoff Preview -Through 1st Round
1 - New Orleans Voodoo
2 - Los Angeles Dodger of Sarasota
3 - Wichita Force (eliminated)
4 - Chicago (eliminated)
5 - San Francisco Seals
6 - Scottsdale Gunners
The National League has been dominated al season by a three powerhouse teams - New Orleans, LA and San Francisco. Only the NL North had a competitive division race, and the two tops teams Fargo and Chicago struggled to play .500 ball.
The playoffs look like they are going to hold to form. Chicago and Wichita are out. Chicago’s “reward” for winning the NL North was a first round match-up with San Francisco. Chicago won the first two games, by SF’s pitching took over in the final three games and they advance. Wichita, with the #3 seed, drew #6 seed Scottsdale in round one, and in another 5-game series Scottsdale moves to round 2. So of the 4 NL teams left, New Orleans is the only team NOT from the NL West.
Here’s how the teams ranked entering the playoffs:
New Orleans - #1 - runs scored, #1 avg., #1 opp. runs, #3 era, #1 fielding %
LA - #2 - runs scored, #6 avg., #2 opp. runs, #2 era, #3 fielding %
Wichita (eliminated) - #6 - runs scored, #5 avg., #4 opp. runs, #4 era, #2 fielding %
Chicago (eliminated) - #7 - runs scored, #4 avg., #9 opp. runs, #9 era, #4 fielding %
San Francisco - #5 - runs scored, #9 avg., #3 opp. runs, #1 era, #10 fielding %
Scottsdale - #3 - runs scored, #3 avg., #6 opp. runs, #8 era, #11 fielding %
New Orleans looks like the favorite and deserving of their #1 seed. New Orleans pitchers won league-wide pitcher of the week honors 4 times - Maeda (2), Jamison and Tavarez, and they had two players of the week - Gonzalez and Yoshii. They have 8 NL All-Stars - Maeda, Gonzaga, Cummings and Tavarez from the pitching staff, and Ramirez, Cambers, Gonzalez and Peters. This is a great team, and their season success 113 wins - is no fluke.
LA is the number 2 seed, and they are likewise, an excellent team. They are one season removed from back-to-back WS titles. They have deep and excellent pitching, put up excellent offensive numbers in a VERY tough home park for hitters. Watch out for their pitching staff, though. Cora and Brew lead a rotation and bullpen that can lock down opposing bats, and if their pitching gets on a roll, they could very well pose a real threat to New Orleans. Key players - Cora (SP), Brew (CL), Dixon (SS) and Gonzalez (RF), Ross (1B) and Franco (3B).
San Francisco has - I think - the best overall pitching in our league. There simply isn’t a better rotation than theirs: Jones 23-6, 1.97 ERA (the likely NL Cy Young winner), Tucker 15-8, 3.06 ERA, Matos 15-4, 3.65 ERA, Mattingly 12-9, 3.27 ERA and Leary 12-9, 3.59 ERA. Then Rogers closes things down, and he’s a stud - 40/51 SV/OPP. 2.55 ERA. If San Francisco’s pitching gets hot, I wold not be surprised to see them beat New Orleans and advance to the WS.
Scottsdale is the #6 seed and the third team from the NL West remaining in teh NL playoffs. They edged Wichita in a 5-game series, but they will have their hands full with LA in the division series. That said, Scottsdale is a dangerous team. They played in a hitter friendly park, so their hitter’s numbers might be easy to dismiss. But - this is a terrific hitting team with power from the top through the bottom of the order - six hiiters with 23+ HR and 80+ RBI’s. Hughes 48 HR, 124 RBI’s, Saez 38 HR, 102 RBI’s and Hernandez 45 HR, 124 RBI’s (a leading NL ROY candidate) form a tremendous 3-4-5 in that order, and they can beat anybody on the strength of these bats. The pitching is not bad, either. Woods is a 16-game winner, and Calderon finished 2nd in the NL Fireman of the Year standings. A series win against LA would be a big upset, but it’s not impossible.
Chicago Style Pizza (eliminated)
Charlotte Knights (eliminated)
Cheyenne is the defending WS Champion, and they won 120 games to dominate the AL. Charlotte won a tight division battle with 87 wins (advanced on tie-breaker), but every other AL team had at least 97 wins.
As expected, the two play-in series went 5 games each. Cleveland knocked Charlotte out of the playoffs and Charleston beat Chicago in a mild upset.
Here’s how the teams ranked entering the playoffs:
Cheyenne - #2 - runs scored, #2 avg., #1 opp. runs, #1 era, #6 fielding %
Florida - #4 - runs scored, #5 avg., #2 opp. runs, #2 era, #5 fielding %
Chicago (eliminated) - #5 - runs scored, #6 avg., #3 opp. runs, #5 era, #3 fielding %
Charlotte (eliminated) - #10 - runs scored, #8 avg., #6 opp. runs, #7 era, #2 fielding %
Cleveland - #6 - runs scored, #3 avg., #4 opp. runs, #3 era, #7 fielding %
Charleston - #3 - runs scored, #4 avg., #5 opp. runs, #4 era, #12 fielding %
Cheyenne looks like the best team in the whole league, and I don’t see a serious challenger to them in the AL playoff field. Cheyenne has great pitching, with a rotation that nearly matches San Francisco’s: Williams 23-4, 2.46 ERA (Cy Young winner?), Frias 24-5, 3.47 ERA, Thomas 18-9, 4.38 ERA & Bruske 16-6, 3.73 ERA. McMasters is a dominant closer - 56/62 SV/OPP, 1.37 ERA. Leads don’t get away from this great team. The offense is just as good. Two players on this team I really like are JD Jackson (LF) (130 Runs, 224 Hits, 84 XBH, `23 RBI’s, .328/.385/.540) and Estrella (SS)(IMHO - he’s the best position player in the entire Mattingly World)(138 Runs, 23 HR, 87 RI’s, 43 SB, .287/.419/.454) Then there’s Torres - 38 HR and 129 RBI’s. Tis team should roll over the rest of the AL playoff field, and probably won’t get pushed until the WS. Of course, we’ll see about that!
Florida has another great individual player - Zhou (37 HR, 146 RBI’s) a player of the week winner. They won 101 games, so this is a solid team, and they earned their #2 seeding. The strength of the team is its pitching, and they have a very good top three to the rotation: Perry 22-5, 3.34 ERA, Meyer 19-5 3.53 ERA & Robbins 15-4, 2.74 ERA anchor a very good staff. McConnell closes, and he converted 89% of his chances - 34/38, 3.02 ERA. This team - if the top three pitchers - can hold Cheyenne down, might be a challenger to Cheyenne.
Cleveland is an interesting team. They are a wild card team with 99 wins, so they can’t be taken lightly. But there really isn’t a major standout on the team. They have a solid, well-balanced rotation: Davis 16-6, 2.81 ERA, Terraro 13-6, 3.09 ERA, Hayes 12-9, 3.13 ERA, Michaels 14-4, 3.87 ERA and McGee 11-5, 3.74 ERA. This rotation won’t scare anyone, but they have been really good over the 162-game season. The issue I see, is that in the playoffs, you rally need an “ace” or two, especially given the match-ups tey will face. The offense is very similar. There isn’t a big stud you have to shut down, nor are there lots of great bats. But there are several good hitters lead by Mathews, 31 HR, 116 RBI’s, .306/..409/.526. Beyond him, there aren’t any stars, but they do feature 5 hitters with 20+ HR’s. That said, this could be a tough team in a long series.
Charleston is the 4th wild card team still standing - in fact - all 4 WC teams are still alive! This is a team I see as a real dangerous AL team, and maybe the one with the best shot at beating Cheyenne. They have a good pair of starting pitchers: Delgado 22-5, 2.12 ERA (AL Cy Young winner?) & Peters 18-9, 3.74 ERA. If Delgado can win his games, they only need to take two more to advance. That’s possible. Charles also has an offense built around three big-time sluggers: Hammond 51 HR, 126 RBI’s, Mota 41 HR, 97 RBI’s (low durability limited him to 134 games) and Webb 41 HR, 109 RBI’s. This is the sort of team - a couple of big pitchers and some hitters who can carry a team, that can be real trouble for a higher seeded club.