Year in Review
Anyone who plays fantasy sports dreams
of having the perfect season. What is a perfect season? Well, it goes
without saying that you can't have a perfect season without winning the
league championship. A perfect season would also include something to
establish the team's legacy by setting league records that will stand
the test of time. If people are still referring to your team as the
"greatest ever" a decade from now, then it's fair to say that you've had
a perfect season. By any measurement, Jeff Paulson has just experienced a perfect season.
The 2016 Los Altos Undertakers won
their twelfth division title in eighteen seasons, extending their own BDBL
record. They won the
league championship for the second year in a row and third time overall. They set a new BDBL
record with 128 wins, which is a record that is very unlikely to ever be
broken. They outscored their competition by 437 runs, breaking yet
another long-held BDBL record. They went 12-3 in the playoffs, and outscored their
playoffs opponents 69-45. In total, the 2016 Los Altos Undertakers won
a mind-numbing 140 games. That, my friends, is total dominance.
As if that weren't enough, the
Undertakers also demolished another long-held and highly-coveted
all-time BDBL record. On July 3rd, Los Altos defeated the New York
Giants by one run. That win put them ahead of the Salem Cowtippers on
the all-time wins list. Salem had held the top spot in the all-time wins
ranking for ten straight years, but now trail the Undertakers by a
whopping 38 games. It may take another decade for anyone to catch up
to Los Altos.
For the second time in league history,
the Los Altos starting rotation included three 20-game winners: Chris
Sale (24-5, 3.23 ERA in 223 IP, 320 K), Gerrit Cole (21-7, 2.90 in 220+,
203 K), and Chris Archer (21-4, 2.39 in 229+, 289 K). As usual, the Los Altos bullpen
was jam-packed with an endless array of closers. Offensively, winter free agent signing
Michael Brantley (.355/.423/.563, 62 doubles, 130.6 RC) won the OL
batting title and led the team in runs created. Considered to be a
health risk at the time of his signing, Brantley helped his team by
logging just 43 plate appearances in MLB '16, which will allow the team
to release him this winter without penalty. Brantley was surrounded in
the lineup by plenty of high-caliber bats including Justin Turner
(.343/.413/.631, 28 HR), Stephen Vogt (.297/.363/.492), Jason Heyward
(.290/.360/.450), Jose Bautista (.271/.374/.592, 41 HR), Anthony Rizzo
(.261/.361/.505, 31 HR), and Nolan Arenado (.253/.288/.516, 42 HR, 116
The Undertakers were the overwhelming
favorites to win the Ozzie League title, and they wasted no time
establishing their dominance this season. They went 21-7 in the first
chapter, and by the end of two chapters had opened up a 14-game lead in
their division. Their momentum only accelerated as the season
progressed. They posted a .788 winning percentage in the first half of
the season and .813 in the second half. And they accomplished this
without making a single trade after Chapter One.
"Arrieta and Keuchel alone would
make any team a top world series contender...add one of the best
bullpens in BDBL history, a very good lineup and a strong 3/4 SPs
and WOW. I'd put our odds around 15 or 20%. Hope to at least make it
exciting enough for it to be really fun for both of us. I'm going to
manage like an absolute lunatic."
Sylvester, November 6
The 2016 St. Louis Apostles were an
underwhelming division champion. They limped into the postseason having
played .500 ball in the second half of the season. Their place at the
table appeared to be set only because the other teams in the Person
Division were so awful. Facing a Kansas Law Dogs team in the EL Division
Series that had come within one win of tying the old BDBL record, the
Apostles were as much of an underdog as any team in BDBL history had
ever been. Yet, they managed to not only defeat the heavily-favored Law Dogs,
but the 109-game-winning Great Lakes Sphinx as well. They then won more
games against the Los Altos Undertakers in a postseason series than four
other opponents had managed over the past two seasons.
The 2016 season began in the same way
as so many other seasons in the history of the St. Louis franchise: with
a buttload of trades. Bobby Sylvester made eight trades in the
preseason, which included thirty-seven players. In an eight-player deal
with the Salem Cowtippers, St. Louis acquired Chris Coghlan
(.236/.308/.419), Luis Valbuena (.197/.306/.405), and Freddie Freeman
(.240/.324/.426) -- all of whom would disappoint during the regular
season, but play key roles in the postseason.
In another trade with the Southern Cal
Slyme, the Apostles added Andrew McCutchen (.281/.362/.501, 32 HR, 118.3
RC). Then, in a trade made just before Opening Day, Sylvester added
Jung-Ho Kang (.285/.349/.438) from the Flagstaff Outlaws in exchange for
a young pitcher (Daniel Norris.)
Young Sylvester wasn't done dealing
just yet. At the Chapter Two deadline, he pulled off a blockbuster
ten-player deal in which he added ace Noah Syndergaard (11-5, 4.25 ERA
in 137+ IP for St. Louis). At the Chapter Three deadline, he shipped
another young pitcher, Jake Odorizzi, off to Ravenswood in exchange for
his 2017 shortstop, Trevor Story. Then, at the final trading deadline,
he added David Wright, who would only play a role in the playoffs due to
his suspension from overuse.
The Apostles slugged their way to the
division title. Only the Chicago Black Sox hit more home runs than St.
Louis' 225. J.D. Martinez (.289/.347/.567) led the way with 44 longballs.
McCutchen (32) and Yoenis Cespedes (.288/.319/.531, 30 HR) also reached
the magical 30-homer mark. The team's big winter free agent signing at a
salary of $13 million, Buster Posey, hit .303/.356/.446 on the season,
with 17 homers and 83.4 runs created.
St. Louis went just 10-18 in the final
chapter of the season. Even the Southern California Slyme, who wrapped
up the season with 117 losses, managed to win more games than St. Louis
in that chapter. Yet, the other teams in the division had fallen so far
behind that the Apostles ended up winning their seventh division title
by a comfortable nine-game margin.
"The teams with the best records
in the Ozzie League are Los Altos (21-7) and New Milford (20-8).
Raise your hand if you didn't see that coming. Both teams are the
only teams in the Ozzie League that have outscored their competition
by more than three runs. (How is that even possible?)...New Milford
has outscored their competition by a whopping 60 runs, and Los Altos
finishes the chapter at +54. Project those margins out to a full
160-game season, and we're looking at two teams in the same league
outscoring their opponents by more than 340 runs. That has never
happened in this league in seventeen years...Needless to say, an
OLCS matchup between Los Altos and New Milford seems a foregone
-- Chapter One
Review, March 15
Although the Ozzie League pennant races
were a foregone conclusion before the season even began, there was
plenty of excitement in New Milford this season as history was made and
records were shattered. When New Milford won game #100 in their final
series of the season, they became the first team in history to win 100+
games five seasons in a row. In late September, when New Milford
officially clinched the McGowan Division title, they became the first
franchise in league history to win six division titles in a row.
On October 13th, New Milford's
long-time ace Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher in BDBL history
to throw a perfect game. It was the third no-hitter in which Kershaw was
involved. In Chapter Six, Kershaw won his 20th game of the season. In
doing so, he broke Randy Johnson's league record by winning 20+ games
five seasons in a row.
With all three of the other teams in
the McGowan Division taking the year off to rebuild, the 2016 season was
a walk in the park for New Milford. They got off to a 20-8 start in
Chapter One and never had a reason to look over their shoulders from
that point on.
Little changed in New Milford in 2016.
For the sixth year in a row, they led the Ozzie League in batting
average on balls in play. They won 60+ games at home for the fourth time
in the past five years. As usual, several Blazers hitters performed
extraordinarily well compared to their MLB statistics. No one
exemplified that overperformance better than Shin-Soo Choo, who hit
.324/.402/.568 overall, compared to his .276/.375/.463 MLB performance.
David Peralta (.335/.387/.567) bested his MLB OPS by 61 points. Mookie
Betts (.310/.355/.502) topped his MLB OPS by 37 points. Matt Carpenter
(.287/.390/.512) gained 25 points in OBP alone.
On the mound, Kershaw (22-8, 2.76 ERA
in 251+ IP, 312 K's) dominated as always, and set a new personal record
for strikeouts. 2015 acquisition Masahiro Tanaka (10-5, 2.97 in 157+)
was very good in limited usage. Winter free agent signings Hisashi
Iwakuma (15-4, 3.12 in 141+) and Adam Warren (10-9, 3.33 in 135+) proved
to be worth every penny spent on them. And closer Francisco Rodriguez
(3-2, 0.87 ERA in 62 IP, with 34 saves) had a remarkable season,
allowing only 50 baserunners while whiffing 66 batters.
The New Milford Blazers won just 645
games in their first ten seasons in the BDBL. In the last eight seasons,
they've won 818 games. It has been the most remarkable turnaround in
league history, and there doesn't seem to be any end to this dynasty.
"The costly addition of Arrieta
transformed the Law Dogs from a surefire division winner to a
ridiculously over-stacked superteam. Kansas has topped 100 wins in
four different seasons, with a high of 106 in 2012. I predict they
will shatter that record in 2016. The new team ERA record that Los
Altos broke last season could also be in jeopardy. This pitching
staff has the potential of becoming the greatest the league has ever
seen, and this offense is capable of scoring 750 runs. Put the two
together, and you have a team that will likely run away with this
division before the end of the second chapter."
-- Season Preview,
Kansas Law Dogs GM Chris Luhning had a
very busy offseason. He made nine trades over the winter, jettisoned a
boatload of salary, and strengthened a starting lineup and rotation that
already looked very strong on paper. High-priced sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Gonzalez were shipped away for spare parts.
Adrian Gonzalez was acquired and then immediately flipped (along with
several prospects) for Carlos Carrasco (17-7, 3.38 ERA in 197 IP, 230
Adrian Beltre and Curtis Granderson
were acquired and flipped for Clay Buchholz and Wil Myers
(.325/.411/.506 in 166 AB). Buchholz was then flipped (along with Kelvin
Herrera) for Jeurys Familia and Austin Jackson (who was then flipped
again.) After all of that flipping, wheeling, and dealing, the Law Dogs
were left with a budget of more than $30 million to spend on free
The first of their purchases was Ben
Zobrist, who hit .293/.374/.446 with 83.7 runs created. Four days later,
Luhning outbid the Chicago Black Sox and signed Jake Arrieta to an $18
million salary. (A salary that is now owned by Chicago.) Asdrubal
Cabrera (.304/.351/.532) was signed the same day for only $2 million.
Arrieta (23-7, 2.31 ERA in 249 IP, 247 K) had an outstanding season.
Combined with Dallas Keuchel (24-8, 2.71 in 248+) the Law Dogs owned the
most dominant one-two punch in the Eck League. Carrasco and Francisco
Liriano (19-6, 3.70 in 197) nearly gave Kansas an unprecedented four
Offensively, Zobrist, Cabrera, and
Myers were added to a lineup that was already stacked with sluggers
Lorenzo Cain (.344/.399/.534, 43 doubles, 19 HR), Nelson Cruz
(.344/.406/.568, 36 HR, 141 RBI's), Eric Hosmer (.328/.383/.497, 45
doubles), Christian Yelich (.309/.393/.403), and Salvador Perez
(.305/.330/.496, 23 HR). Cain won the EL batting title by mere
percentage points ahead of his teammate Cruz. Three different Kansas
hitters reached 200 hits on the season. The Law Dogs offense led the Eck
League in runs scored, hits, doubles, batting average, on-base
percentage, and slugging percentage.
"The Sphinx have an impressive lineup, but I don't
see how a team can compete on offense alone. Of course, I wrote the
same thing about this team two years ago (minus the compliment of
their offense), and they went out and won a wild card. So what do I
Season Preview, January
As impressive as the Law Dogs were in
2016, they had to scratch and claw all the way to the finish line in
order to capture the division title, as the surprising Great Lakes
Sphinx nipped at their heels every step of the way. Great Lakes GM Scott
Romonosky built a formidable offense during the winter with one key
acquisition. In his first trade of the winter, he acquired Collin McHugh
(along with a throw-in) from the Undertakers in exchange for Joe Panik.
Three weeks later, he flipped McHugh to the Flagstaff Outlaws, along
with George Springer and Jung-Ho Kang. In return, the Sphinx received
the player who would carry them to the franchise's first 100-win season.
Josh Donaldson hit .330/.388/.633 on
the season. He led the Sphinx in OBP, slugging, hits, doubles (46), home
runs (47), runs scored (127), RBI's (133), and runs created (149.7).
Other than Manny Machado (.326/.385/.526, 30 HR, 124 RC), no other
Sphinx batter contributed more than 70 runs created. (And only two
others contributed more than 60.)
Recent Sphinx franchise history is
filled with odd pitching performances that vastly differ from
expectations, and 2016 was no exception. No pitcher
exemplified that tradition better than Buchholz, who posted a 3.26 ERA
in MLB, but went 10-1 with a 1.67 ERA for Great Lakes and earned a spot
on the all-star team. Trevor Bauer (13-6, 2.63 ERA in 178 IP) bested his
MLB ERA by nearly two full runs. Nate Eovaldi (14-3, 3.18 in 164+) beat
his MLB ERA by a full run. In the bullpen, Keon Kela (7-1, 1.59 in 39+),
Clayton Richard (4-2, 2.08 in 47+), and Kelvin Herrera (6-3, 2.36 in 61,
22 saves) were pleasant surprises.
The Sphinx and Law Dogs battled
back-and-forth throughout the entire season. Great Lakes took the early
lead, going 20-8 in Chapter One to take a two-game lead over Kansas. At
the end of two chapters, the two teams were tied with a record of 38-18.
The Sphinx then recaptured their lead and held a two-game advantage over
Kansas at the all-star break.
Romonosky and Luhning loaded up at the
all-star break in preparation for the stretch run. Romonosky added
starter Shelby Miller (3-4, 4.09 ERA in 92+ for Great Lakes) to his
rotation, and Luhning added Brandon Crawford (.212/.270/.403) to his
lineup. Neither player fulfilled his lofty expectations.
The Law Dogs picked up momentum in the
second half. They went 20-4 to start the half, while Great Lakes posted
a record of just 15-9. They continued that momentum into Chapter Five,
going 21-7, with Great Lakes trailing close behind at 19-9. Heading into
the final chapter, Kansas had opened their division lead to five games.
They continued matching win-for-win in the final chapter, with Kansas
edging Great Lakes, 19-18. In the end, the Law Dogs clinched their
seventh division title with a remarkable 115 wins, and Great Lakes
clinched their third wild card in the past six seasons, and won a
franchise-record 109 games.
"If there has ever been a
franchise in worse shape than the 2016 Giants, I am hard-pressed to
think of it. John Duel left the Padawans franchise in better shape
than the current Giants. Barack Obama will leave the US in better
shape when he leaves office than Jim Doyle has left the Giants. You
get the point."
-- Season Preview,
Perhaps the most bizarre decision of
2016 took place on the very first day of the completion of our first
auction lot. On that day, the New York Giants emerged with the winning
bids for free agents Joey Votto (at $12.5 million) and Adam Lind ($5.5
million.) Not only were both players qualified at only the first base
position, but both were locked into three-year, no-trade, "Type-H"
contracts. For a team that had no prayer of competing in 2016, the
decision to sign either player was a real head-scratcher. But then,
we've grown accustomed to scratching our heads when it comes to the
Those two signings left the Giants with
18 open roster spots on their 35-man roster, and only $6.6 million
remaining to fill those spots. At that point, they had no starting
rotation, no bullpen, and no starting lineup except for Votto and Lind
(who would be forced to play out of position.)
Unsurprisingly, the Giants finished in third place with a record of
66-94. It marked the SEVENTEENTH year in a row that New York finished
below .500, and the twelfth year that they lost at least 90 games.
As bad as the 2016 Giants were,
however, they weren't the worst team in their division. The Las Vegas
Flamingos limped from beginning to end and finished with a record of
59-101. In eighteen seasons, Vegas has now finished below .500 twelve
times. The Mississippi Meatballs (more on them below) also finished
below .500 (71-89), and were outscored by more than 100 runs. That left
only one team standing in the Benes Division.
Ravenswood Infidels GM Brian Potrafka
made his biggest move of the 2016 season before the 2015 World Series
had ended. In a five-player trade with the Salem Cowtippers, he acquired
ace starter Max Scherzer and closer Joaquim Soria. Scherzer turned in a
Cy Young-worthy performance, going 18-8 with a 2.65 ERA in 251 innings.
He led the Ozzie League in lowest opponents' batting average and on-base
percentage, lowest hits per nine and walks per nine, and finished among
the top four in ERA, strikeouts, and opponents' slugging percentage.
That one move was enough to establish
Ravenswood as the clear favorite in their extremely weak division. In
preseason polling, the Infidels were the unanimous selection to win
their division. They wasted no time proving the pundits right. Although
they went just 15-13 in the first chapter, it was enough to open up a
three-game lead in the division. By the all-star break, that lead had
grown to five games despite the fact that they were only playing .500
no players of significance during the season, yet the Infidels greatly
improved in the second half of the season. They won more games
after the all-star break, and outscored their opponents by more runs,
than any team in the Ozzie League aside from Los Altos. They wrapped up the
season with an 18-10 Chapter Six and hoped to carry that momentum into
the playoffs where they would face the formidable Undertakers.
"Just a reminder - Wil
Middlebrows should be a Meatball, signed @1.1M through 2018 (hence
why the Meatballs have only 100k picks)."
-- Nic Weiss,
Who knew that this one accounting error
would cause so much trouble?
On January 17th, former Mississippi
Meatballs owner Nic Weiss mentioned that one of his players, Wil
Middlebrooks, was incorrectly listed on the Cutdown Day form as being
released. Nic had marked Middlebrooks as "release" on the form, although
technically he should have had to pay a penalty, as Middlebrooks was
still under contract.
Buried in a four-page thread for
Cutdown Day commentary, Weiss mentioned that there must have been an
error in his Cutdown Day form, as there was no option listed to keep
Middlebrooks, but only to release or sign him. He chose to release him,
although it wasn't clear whether he intended to pay the penalty to do
There were several opportunities to
correct that error. Prior to Cutdown Day, Tony Chamra posted his annual
"Cutdown Day Roster Check" thread, where Middlebrooks was mistakenly
listed as an option-year-expired player. The Cutdown Day form itself
includes a bottom-line summary of salary and number of players that
Weiss should have noticed was off by Middlebrooks' salary. Following
Cutdown Day, I updated the disk and rosters and asked all owners to
double-check their rosters to ensure everything was correct. The Draft
Day Central page lists each team's available cap and roster space, which
every owner was asked to double-check.
Despite all of the opportunities to
correct this error, it remained outstanding until January 17th. That is
when the Middlebrooks issue was brought to my attention. I considered
everything that had happened up to that date and, although Weiss had
more than ample opportunities to correct this mistake, it was the
league's mistake as well. So, reluctantly, I agreed to put Middlebrooks
back on the Mississippi roster. Because the Meatballs had finished their
draft, this meant that their final pick of the draft, Sam Tuiavalala,
would have to be released to make room for Middlebrooks.
On January 22nd, nine minutes after the
trading deadline, Bobby Sylvester of the St. Louis Apostles announced a
ten-player trade with the Meatballs, which included Tuiavalala. I noted
that the trade would have to be restructured, as Tuiavalala didn't
belong to Mississippi. At this point, several violations of the rulebook
- Mississippi drafted more players
than were allowed.
- Mississippi spent more money than
was allowed (as Middlebrooks' salary, which wasn't counted, pushed
them over the cap.) This had a trickle-down effect on the bidding
for Jhonny Peralta, among others.
- The trade wasn't announced until
nine minutes after the deadline, and wasn't confirmed until several
- This trade violated the
often-violated rule prohibiting the trading of draft picks.
There were numerous reasons why the
trade could not be retroactively approved (not the least of which is
that there was no precedent of doing so.) Yet, Weiss protested,
insisting that the trade be allowed through the "best interest" clause
of our rulebook (which doesn't exist.) "This is going to cost me an entire chapter," he
The next day, Weiss announced his
resignation from the BDBL. He left behind an eight-year legacy that
includes a career record of 575-649 (.470), three division titles, and a
long list of controversies.
A week after his resignation, Bart
Chinn was announced as the new owner of the Mississippi franchise. Even
though he is a demented Socialist, he's turned out okay.
"Cleveland continues to win on
the strength of their pitching and defense. Only the Undertakers and
Blazers have allowed fewer runs than Cleveland this season. The
question is whether pitching and defense alone will be able to
maintain that cushion in the second half of the season."
-- Chapter Three
Although the Chicago Black Sox were
picked to win the division in my Season Preview, the league predicted
the Cleveland Rocks would win by a tally of 9-4. In the early going, it
appeared that the league knew better than I did. Cleveland jumped out to
a 17-11 start in Chapter One, while the Black Sox trailed three games
behind at 14-14. By the end of two chapters, Cleveland's lead over
Chicago had grown to eight games. At the midway point of the season,
they still maintained a comfortable five-game margin.
Cleveland GM Mike Stein went all-in
during the free agent auction and wagered an $18 million bet on ace
pitcher Zack Greinke. That bet paid off -- for one year, at least.
Greinke went 21-9 for the Rocks, with a league-leading 2.25 ERA, and 202
strikeouts in 244+ innings. He was added to a starting rotation that
already included Cy Young candidates Corey Kluber (14-11, 3.92 ERA in
225 IP, 284 K) and Jacob deGrom (13-8, 2.44 in 210, with 236 K). With
Zach Britton (5-4, 1.88 in 67) and Mark Melancon (2-4, 3.18 in 65, 40 SV)
heading a stacked bullpen, it seemed as though Cleveland could win a
division title with their pitching alone.
Chicago Black Sox GM John Gill went in
the opposite direction, adding Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria
(.286/.343/.456), and Carlos Beltran (.309/.364/.531, 96.6 RC) to a
lineup that already included reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper
(.325/.426/.702), Ian Kinsler (.312/.357/.447), Andrelton Simmons
(.304/.362/.399), Kyle Shwarber (.273/.359/.498), and Justin Bour
(.247/.324/.514). Harper would lead the Eck League in slugging (.702),
home runs (57), RBI's (144), runs scored (136), doubles (47), extra base
hits (104), walks (101), and runs created (172.3).
Near the conclusion of the second
chapter, the Black Sox were trailing Cleveland by five games in the
division standings. That is when Gill decided to make his big move. In
an eight-player trade with the Salem Cowtippers, the Black Sox acquired
Kris Bryant and Ryan Madson in exchange for Rodriguez and a pair of
A-list prospects (Miguel Sano and Andrew Benintendi.) Bryant hit
.287/.407/.470 with 73.4 runs created over the next four chapters.
Madson went 2-1 with a 2.56 ERA in 38+ innings out of the Chicago
At around that same time, several of
Chicago's struggling hitters suddenly came to life. Simmons hit
.353/.409/.452 down the stretch. Harper hit .349/.445/.760. Kinsler went
on a .325/.371/.456 tear. Incredibly, Harper created more runs (128.8)
during his final four chapters than all but three other EL players
created over the entire season!
Chicago went a division-leading 15-9 in
their first chapter after the trade. They led the Hrbek Division again
in Chapter Four with a 19-5 record. At the end of four chapters,
Cleveland's lead had been reduced to one game. Chicago then took the
lead in Chapter Five, going 15-13 while Cleveland went just 13-15.
The Rocks fought all the way to the
end, and went 19-9 over their final chapter. Chicago, however, fared a
smidge better at 21-7. In their final head-to-head series of the
season, Cleveland took three out of four from Chicago, but in the end it
wasn't enough. The Black Sox had won their seventh Hrbek Division title
by a margin of three games.
After a one-year hiatus, BDBL Weekend
was resurrected in 2016. A total of seven members of the BDBL gathered
in Pittsburgh during the second week of July to see a pair of games
between the Pirates and the eventual world champion Chicago Cubs. Making
the event extra special was the attendance by BDBL Weekend rookie Mike
Ranney and a surprise appearance by founding member D.J. Shepard. I'm
proud to say that I have now personally met nineteen owners in the BDBL.
We all had a great time talking
baseball and politics, eating a ton of unhealthy food, drinking gallons
of beer, and witnessing two terrific ballgames. Earlier in the year,
Ryan and I met Greg Newgard in Arizona for what has become an annual
spring training tradition. We plan to do it again in 2017, and all are
invited to share the experience.
"The 2016 Jamboree are clearly
not going to compete for a playoffs spot, which begs the question as
to why they aren't in full rebuilding mode. Fielder, Young, and
Ramos are all free agents at the end of this season. Why weren't
they traded this winter? Why sign two expensive Type H free agents
(Braun and Murphy) when the best they will do for the franchise is
cost the team a little less in penalty money at the end of the
season? Finally, why use a third round draft pick (the sixth overall
in that round) to add a 41-year-old pitcher whose greatest asset is
filling usage? Why, why, why?"
-- Season Preview,
Boy, is my face red. On paper, the Bear
Country Jamboree didn't look like a contender. In terms of runs scored
and prevented, the Jamboree shouldn't have been competitive in 2016. In
reality, however, this team somehow managed to finish the regular season
tied atop the OL wild card race. It was the first time since 2000 that
two teams tied for the final playoffs spot.
Bear Country set a new BDBL record this
season by finishing with a Pythagorean difference of +16. They won
sixteen more games than expected thanks in part to a 34-21 record in
one-run games. They ranked just sixth in the OL in runs scored (with
only two more than the lowly New York Giants) and eighth in runs
Despite all of that, the Jamboree got
off to an 18-10 start in Chapter One. They fell to 12-16 in Chapter Two,
and rebounded in Chapter Three, to carry a three-game lead in the wild
card race into the all-star break.
Meanwhile, the Flagstaff Outlaws
stumbled out of the gate, and went 12-16 in both Chapters One and Two.
They turned it all around in Chapter Three, going 19-5, which tied the
Undertakers for most wins in the chapter.
The Jamboree maintained their three
game lead at the conclusion of Chapter Four. With the next-best team in
the OL trailing nine games behind the Outlaws, it was a two-team race
down the stretch. Flagstaff loaded up at the final trading deadline by
adding sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Chris Colabello to the lineup. Bear
Country pulled off the biggest blockbuster of the season, adding both
David Price and Garrett Richards to their starting rotation.
The two teams continued to jockey for
position in Chapter Five. On October 20th, the Outlaws were swept in a
crucial series against the Undertakers -- which earned Jeff Paulson a
six-pack of beer from Matt Clemm. That put the Outlaws two games behind
in the standings. The season then came down to the final series of the
season: a head-to-head match between Flagstaff and Bear Country. With a
one-game lead, the Jamboree merely needed a split in order to earn the
Flagstaff managed to win the first
three games, defeating both of Bear Country's newly-acquired aces. One
more win for the Outlaws, and they would win the wild card outright.
Game Four was tied at a score of 2-2 heading into the sixth inning. Bear
Country ace Matt Harvey then stepped to the plate and crushed a pitch
from Alex Wood to put his team on top, 3-2. The Jamboree managed to hold
on to that lead and won by a score of 5-4, forcing a one-game playoff to
determine the wild card winner.
Game #161 of the season was a match
between Harvey and Lackey. The lead changed hands several times
throughout the game. Flagstaff went into the ninth inning with a 9-6
lead and handed the ball to their closer, Luke Gregerson, to slam the
door. Instead, Bear Country's offense made some noise with an infield
single, a double by Brian Dozier, and a base hit by Daniel Murphy.
Dioner Navarro then stepped to the plate with two outs and the tying run
in scoring position. He sent a long fly ball down the left field line
that ended up in the glove of left fielder Ben Paulson. The Flagstaff
Outlaws were heading to the postseason.
"We seem to have entered an era
of the never-ending dynasty. Los Altos is now the number-one ranked
team in the playoffs two years in a row, and are making their sixth
playoffs appearance in the last eight seasons. The New Milford
Blazers have now been in the postseason mix in seven of the past
eight seasons. The Kansas Law Dogs have played November baseball in
six of the past eight seasons. And this is the fourth appearance by
the Chicago Black Sox in the past five years...Anything can happen
in the Tournament of Randomness, but it will take an upset of
historical proportions to avoid a repeat of 2015."
There was no bigger mismatch in the
postseason this year than the EL Division Series matchup between the
Kansas Law Dogs and St. Louis Apostles. The Law Dogs won 115 games and
outscored their opponents by 343 runs. St. Louis won just 82 games and
outscored their opponents by only 31 runs. No one expected the Apostles
to put up much of a fight, and yet they managed to pull off one of the
greatest upsets in league history.
After losing Game One, St. Louis
managed to tie the series with a 4-2 win in Game Two which was
highlighted by three shutout innings from the Apostles bullpen. St.
Louis then took the lead in Game Three, winning by a score of 7-6
despite the fact that their starting pitcher, Carlos Rodon, was blasted
for six runs on eleven hits in just three innings. Once again, the St.
Louis bullpen stepped up with six shutout innings, and Mychal Givens
(who was hardly used during the regular season) earned his second win of
Kansas tied the series with a 3-1 win
in Game Four, and then took the lead with a 3-0 shutout in Game Five.
With his back against the wall, St. Louis manager Bobby Sylvester
employed his trademark unconventional managerial style in Game Six,
pulling starter Carlos Martinez out of the game after only one inning.
EIGHT different pitchers -- including three starters -- allowed just two
runs to score over the final eight innings, and the Apostles managed to
force a Game Seven.
Sylvester flipped the script once
again, sending Martinez to the hill for the second game in a row. He
responded with four innings of shutout pitching. The parade of relievers
then began. St. Louis carried a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, and
then expanded that lead by scoring two runs in the eighth and two more
in the ninth. The vaunted Kansas offense managed to score only one run
in the ninth. Givens walked away with his third win of the series, and
the Apostles wriggled away with the upset victory.
On the other side of the Eck League,
two Chicago-area teams faced off. The Great Lakes Sphinx won a
franchise-record 109 games, but had to settle for the wild card thanks
to Kansas' phenomenal season. They faced a Chicago Black Sox squad that
carried the momentum of a 21-7 final chapter into the postseason.
With the series tied at two wins
apiece, Chicago handed the ball to their ace, Madison Bumgarner, in Game
Five. He allowed two runs in a complete-game five-hit effort, but it
wasn't good enough. Trevor Bauer and three Great Lakes relievers
combined to hold Chicago to just one unearned run. After that pitcher's
duel, Game Six was a slugfest. Chicago scored eight runs on three home
runs, but again, it wasn't enough. Great Lakes managed ten runs on three
homers, and stifled a ninth inning Chicago rally, sending the Sphinx to
the EL Championship Series for the second time in franchise history.
After winning 128 games during the
regular season, the Los Altos Undertakers were expected to cruise into
the World Series with little effort. Their OLDS opponents, however, made
them sweat a little. Ravenswood tied the series with a narrow 2-1
victory in Game Two. Los Altos recaptured the lead with another one-run
win (5-4) in Game Three. The Infidels managed to score only two runs the
rest of the series, as the Los Altos pitching staff shut them down. In
the end, the Undertakers cruised to victory in five games.
The New Milford Blazers cruised to
their victory as well, sweeping all four games of their Division Series
against the Flagstaff Outlaws. New Milford's relentless offense
completely overwhelmed Flagstaff's pitching. The Blazers scored a
whopping 37 runs in the four games -- an average of more than nine per
game. That set the stage for their inevitable matchup against the
Undertakers in the OLCS.
It was the second year in a row these
two teams faced each other in the OLCS, and the third time in the past
six seasons. Los Altos won all three series, and the result of this one
would be more of the same. In an anticlimactic slaughter, the
Undertakers took all four games in relatively easy fashion. New
Milford's offense, which had made mincemeat of the Outlaws in the
previous series, were rendered impotent by the legendary Los Altos
pitching staff. The Blazers hit just .209/.279/.276 in those four games,
scored just six runs, and hit only one home run. For the fourth time in
league history, the Undertakers headed to the BDBL World Series.
After their underdog victory in the
ELDS, the Apostles were expected to face another tough battle against
the Sphinx. Instead, they managed to topple another highly-favored
opponent with ease. Once again, Bobby Sylvester used his bullpen to its
maximum benefit. Game One starter Noah Syndergaard was pulled after only
five innings, and the Apostles bullpen tossed four shutout innings en
route to a 4-2 win.
In Game Two, St. Louis starter Taylor
Jungmann was pulled with one out in the fourth inning. Again, the St.
Louis bullpen stepped up and didn't allow a run the rest of the way. The
Apostles cruised to an easy 8-2 win. Carlos Martinez was allowed to
stretch it out to six innings in Game Three. This time, the Apostles
bullpen blew the lead, but their offense then regained it in the bottom
half of the eighth, and St. Louis won by a 5-3 score. They then capped
the series with a 7-4 win in Game Four, which set for them the
impossible task of defeating yet another highly-favored opponent.
Sylvester continued to employ his
unorthodox strategy in the World Series by pulling his starter,
Martinez, after only two innings in Game One. A team of seven relievers
held the Undertakers to just two runs the rest of the way. St Louis
scored seven runs in the top of the ninth to turn the game into a
The Apostles managed to carry a 4-4 tie
into the ninth inning of Game Two, but Aroldis Chapman gave up a
walk-off home run to Josh Phegley, which tied the series. The Sylvester
Strategy then came into play once again in Game Three, as Jungmann was
pulled with two outs in the third inning. Five St. Louis relievers
allowed one run the rest of the way, and the Apostles managed to tie the
series once again with a 5-1 victory.
Chris Archer and the Los Altos bullpen
shut down the St. Louis attack in Game Four, and the series was tied
once again after an easy 4-0 win. The slumbering Los Altos offense
finally awoke in Game Five, as they scored a dozen runs on a dozen hits.
Their 12-5 win put them one win away from the championship. Sylvester
then tried his trick one last time in Game Six, yanking Jungmann with
two outs in the second inning, and handing the ball to Chapman. This
time, it backfired. Chapman allowed four runs to score, putting the game
out of reach. Los Altos walked away with the win and the trophy.
For Jeff Paulson, it is his third BDBL
trophy, and second in a row. Paul Marazita and Tom DiStefano are the
only other owners in BDBL history to win more than two BDBL
championships. One more, and Paulson will be tied with Marazita in that
category. Two more, and he will tie DiStefano.
As always, I'd like to thank the BDBL's
true commissioner, Greg Newgard, for all the time and effort he puts
into this league. I'd also like to thank Tony Chamra for the work that
he does with our schedule and tracking our contracts. Thanks to Anthony
Peabrain for owning the most despicable task in the league: usage.
Thanks to Jeff Paulson for coordinating our in-season drafts. Many
thanks to those of you who attended BDBL Weekend, and for those who
contribute to the league in other ways.
It's hard to believe, but we are
rapidly approaching the 20th anniversary of this league. I cannot
imagine spending those twenty years with a better group of people. I
wish you all a happy holiday, and may the Gods of Random Dice Rolls
shine upon you in 2017.