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slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish

Commish

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November, 2018

2018 Playoffs Preview

Back in February, when the optimism of a brand new season was still running high, I opined on this page that 2018 would be the first season in years in which there were no "superteams" and no clear favorite to win it all. In retrospect, it's hard to believe I was so delusional. The Flagstaff Outlaws appear to be as much of a "Team of Destiny" as the 2000 Zoots, the 2003 Ridgebacks, the 2006 Mustangs, the 2011 Fire Ants, or any of the recent Undertakers championship teams. The Outlaws won 14 more games than any other team in the BDBL. The last time that happened...well, actually, that has never happened before. The 2016 Undertakers came closest to that feat with 13 more wins than the next-best team -- and we all know how that season ended.

That said, we have seen Teams of Destiny collapse in the postseason before. Remember the 2008 SoCal Slyme? Or the 2012 Ridgebacks? Or, hell, just take your pick of any Salem team from the past twenty years. We don't call it the "Tournament of Randomness" for nothing. Anything can happen in the postseason, which is why we bother playing it in the first place.

Team

W-L RS RA DIFF Home Road OPS OPS vL OPS vR ERA Opp OPS OPS vL OPS vR
115-45 842 543 299 60-20 55-25 .823 .804 .830 3.12 .651 .653 .649
86-74 747 751 -4 43-37 43-37 .738 .737 .739 4.20 .741 .782 .710

Not only did the Outlaws lead the entire BDBL in wins, they also led in fewest runs allowed, runs differential, on-base percentage, walks, OPS against right-handed pitching, ERA, saves, strikeouts, fewest hits allowed, lowest OPS allowed, lowest batting average on balls in play, quality starts (by a whopping 25 above the nearest competitor), lowest percentage of inherited runs allowed, fielding percentage, wins at home, wins on the road, wins against right-handed pitching (by 14), wins when leading or tied after seven innings (105!), one-run wins (by 10), and extra-inning wins.

In other words, the Outlaws kinda-sorta dominated in 2018.

We all knew Flagstaff would clobber the ball. Paul Goldschmidt (.297/.390/.530, 32 HR, 126.6 RC) has been a franchise mainstay seemingly forever. Aaron Judge's BDBL rookie season (.270/.402/.573, 46 HR, 140.7 RC) was every bit as impressive as his MLB debut. George Springer (.298/.383/.559, 39 HR, 129.8 RC) continued his ascent into the BDBL's elite. Khris Davis (.263/.351/.586, 41 HR, 89.4 RC), Travis Shaw (.263/.336/.449 21 HR, 72.5 RC), and Elvis Andrus (.283/.316/.459, 22 HR, 87.6 RC) filled out the heart of this relentless lineup. Those six players combined for 201 home runs and 646.6 runs created -- both of which are greater numbers than four different TEAMS managed to amass this season.

Flagstaff officially reached "Superteam" status when they acquired Chris Sale (25-4, 2.85 ERA, 345 K in 234 IP) in a trade last winter. He and Zack Greinke (22-6, 2.64 ERA in 221+ IP) combined for a mind-boggling 62 quality starts out of 74 total starts (84%.) Alex Wood (15-5, 2.71 ERA in 166 IP) and Michael Wacha (12-4, 3.55 ERA in 180 IP) filled out the back end of the rotation.

The bullpen was led by another winter acquisition, Blake Parker, who led the entire BDBL in saves (53) and compiled a 2.49 ERA in 72+ innings. He was backed by setup men Nick Goody (1.53 ERA in 59 IP), Matt Albers (2.13 in 25+), Ryan Buchter (2.14 in 63), and Jacob McGee (2.28 in 55+). All told, the Flagstaff bullpen blew just 17 saves all season. Only five games were lost when leading after seven innings, and only ten were lost when tied after seven. Flagstaff's remarkable 40-18 record in one-run games is a testament to the strength of their bullpen.

It's a shame that Diamond Mind doesn't include more extensive defensive metrics, because it would be very interesting to see how the 2018 Outlaws stack up against historically great BDBL defenses. We know that the Flagstaff infield includes two Ex gloves and one Vg. We know their outfield features two Vg gloves in the outfield (and a third when Daniel Nava is in the lineup.) What we don't know is how many runs that defense has saved this season compared to the average BDBL team.

What we do know is that Flagstaff led the BDBL in fielding percentage (.988) and committed only 75 errors (8 fewer than any other team.) We also know they led the BDBL with the lowest average (.261) on balls in play, which is usually a pretty good measurement of defensive excellence.

The South Loop Furies are the only team to make the playoffs in 2018 despite being outscored by their opponents. South Loop ranked in the middle of the pack in runs scored (fifth) and ERA (sixth), posted a lower team OBP (.317) and slugging percentage (.422) than the OL league average, and managed only 38 quality starts in 160 games (a league-worst 23.7%.) To put that into perspective, both Chris Sale (32) and Zack Greinke (30) had nearly as many quality starts in 2018 as the entire Furies pitching staff.

If you had to point to one area where the Furies excelled in 2018, it would be their bullpen. Alex Colome managed to win 11 games out of the bullpen and posted a 2.89 ERA in 65+ innings. Pat Neshek, Carl Edwards, Luis Garcia, Jose Ramirez, and Tony Zych (household names, all) racked up another 21 wins combined in relief. Roughly half of this team's 86 wins, in fact, were recorded by their bullpen.

There isn't much to write about the starting rotation. Chase Anderson went 9-6 with a 2.71 ERA in 149+ innings. The other five starters on this roster posted a 5.05 ERA in over 700 innings. Anderson was the only South Loop starter with a winning record.

Offensively, the team leader in runs created (Eduardo Nunez, at 84.8) would rank sixth in that category if he were a member of the Outlaws. Nunez (.326/.353/.479), Starlin Castro (.310/.352/.489, and exempt from the OLDS), Lorenzo Cain (.285/.346/.405), Mike Zunino (.282/.355/.540), Nick Castellanos (.232/.282/.422), and Aaron Hicks (.275/.367/.509) combined for 458.4 runs created. The top six hitters in the Flagstaff lineup combined for over 650. 'Nuff said?

Despite how lopsided the matchup looks on paper, South Loop managed to go 7-5 against the Outlaws this season. In fact, they were the only team in the league with a winning record against Flagstaff! For whatever reason, Flagstaff's offense was completely stymied by South Loop's pitching. They scored five runs in one of their seven losses, but just seven runs in the other six. The Outlaws were shut out only five times all season, and South Loop did it twice!

The regular season demonstrates why they say "anything can happen in a short series." If the Furies repeat what they did during the regular season, we could have the greatest upset in league history on our hands. But instead, I'm going to say...

Prediction: Flagstaff in five.

Team

W-L RS RA DIFF Home Road OPS OPS vL OPS vR ERA Opp OPS OPS vL OPS vR
101-59 892 665 227 51-29 50-30 .829 .928 .800 3.73 .701 .701 .701
88-72 836 803 33 39-41 49-31 .795 .834 .784 4.65 .771 .748 .785

Charlotte GM Tony Chamra spent a whopping $22.5 million on two hitters last winter in an effort to bolster an offense that scored over 850 runs in 2017, but lost two of their best hitters (D.J. LeMahieu and Hanley Ramirez) to free agency. Jose Altuve (.360/.418/.562, 148 RC) certainly earned his pay, but Anthony Rizzo (.248/.355/.408, 88.7 RC) struggled from the very beginning. Despite Rizzo's disappointing performance, however, the Mustangs led the entire BDBL in runs scored (892), hits, slugging percentage, and OPS vs. left-handers (a whopping .928!)

Altuve looks like the no-brainer team MVP until you take a look at Corey Dickerson's numbers: .353/.393/.620, 60 doubles, 30 HR, 143.9 RC. I'd say it's a toss-up. Rookie Alex Bregman (.304/.380/.482, 104.1 RC) and veteran Adrian Beltre (.290/.347/.503, 67.8 RC) also enjoyed stellar seasons. Likewise, Jackie Bradley, Jr. far surpassed his MLB performance with a .272/.331/.487 batting line, 24 home runs, and 77.8 runs created.

On the pitching side, Michael Fulmer went just 12-10 despite a 2.60 ERA in 179+ innings. Kyle Hendricks went 13-2 with a similarly-stellar 2.79 ERA. The difference? Fulmer was backed by an average of 4.6 runs of support, while Hendricks benefited from 6.2 runs per game. Julio Teheran (19-5, 3.34 ERA in 164+ IP) and Jose Berrios (10-7, 4.05) formed the back end of a solid starting rotation.

In the bullpen, closer duties were shared by Ken Giles (1.85 ERA in 68 IP, 25 SV) and Corey Knebel (3.00 in 69, with 14 SV). Anthony Swarzak (2.69 in 73+) served as the main setup guy. The pitching staff was backed not only by the league's top offense, but by a defense that included two Ex gloves (and one Vg) in the infield and up to three Vg gloves in the outfield.

For as long as I live, I will never understand how the Great Lakes Sphinx win so many games every year without starting pitching. I was raised to believe starting pitching was somewhat important to the game of baseball, and yet the Sphinx defy all natural laws of the game each and every year. Six different pitchers started at least 24 games for the Sphinx in 2018. Their ERA's ranged from a "low" of 4.24 (Brad Peacock) to a high of 6.44 (James Shields), with two pitchers in the 5.00 range (C.C. Sabathia and Mike Fiers) and two over 6.00 (Shields and Trevor Bauer.) Combined, those six starting pitchers went 47-57 with a 5.40 ERA...and yet Great Lakes won 88 games and reached the postseason. Go figure.

The Great Lakes offense consists of two words: Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton had one of the greatest seasons in modern BDBL history in 2018. He hit 73 home runs, which is the second-highest total in league history (David Ortiz's 79 homers in 2007 are #1.) He drove in 148 runs, which is the highest total since 2011. He created 151.9 runs, which led the entire BDBL. He also led the BDBL in slugging (.678), runs scored (136), extra base hits (101), isolated power (.388), and total bases (432).

He had some help in the lineup from Josh Donaldson (.293/.381/.633, 45 HR, 113.1 RC), Hanley Ramirez (.290/.349/.565, 36 HR, 92.7 RC), and Manny Machado (.270/.328/.463, 26 HR, 83.7 RC.) Veterans Matt Holliday (.315/.378/.592 in 130 AB), Adam Jones (.307/.354/.458 in 192 AB), and Josh Reddick (.313/.356/.423 in 482 AB) also had quality seasons at the plate.

Charlotte dominated Great Lakes during the regular season, going 8-4 and outscoring them 85-53. Charlotte scored double-digits in three of their wins (and nine in another) and shut out the Sphinx three times. The Mustangs led the BDBL in OPS against left-handers, and Great Lakes' starting rotation includes two of them in Perez and Sabathia. Charlotte hit over 220 home runs as a team and the Sphinx allowed a whopping 236 homers this year. Only three pitching staffs allowed more longballs than Great Lakes this season.

Charlotte also enjoyed the best home-field record (51-29) in the Eck League, and will enjoy the home field advantage throughout the Eck League playoffs. In other words, this is not a favorable matchup for the Sphinx.

Prediction: Charlotte in four.

Team

W-L RS RA DIFF Home Road OPS OPS vL OPS vR ERA Opp OPS OPS vL OPS vR
99-61 836 572 264 60-20 55-25 .785 .745 .805 3.23 .663 .665 .661
95-65 790 664 126 49-31 46-34 .777 .724 .797 3.89 .703 .741 .680

It took nineteen years for Jim Doyle to finally finish a season with a .500 record. All it took for him to accomplish this feat was to quit the league and rejoin to take over a franchise that had won its division seven years in a row. The Miners finished only one win away from winning 100 games for the seventh year in a row -- a feat that may never be repeated if the BDBL lives for another two decades. Anthony Peburn's legacy is abandoning a team that was so good, even Jim Doyle could succeed with it. That is pretty impressive.

The Miners finished the season with a higher runs differential than every other team in the BDBL except for Flagstaff. Yet, they won "only" 99 games -- the fourth-highest total in the league. This discrepancy shows in their Pythagorean differential of -10, which was the greatest discrepancy in the league this year. Joplin may be the only team in league history to win as many as 99 games and yet have a losing record (22-23) in one-run games.

One of the lasting mysteries of the 2018 BDBL season is how the hell Charlie Blackmon hit 43 home runs while batting left-handed in a ballpark that cuts left-handed home runs in HALF compared to his MLB home park, which adds 13% to left-handed homers. Blackmon (.314/.381/.578 overall) wasn't the only left-handed hitter in the Joplin lineup who enjoyed great success despite his home ballpark. Matt (or is it Chris?) Carpenter (.248/.357/.500) also hit more home runs (26) for Joplin than he did in MLB (23). It was almost as if ballpark factors weren't a factor for the 2018 Miners.

In addition to Blackmon and Carpenter, Buster Posey (.347/.398/.486), Jedd Lowrie (.280/.356/.459), and Carlos Santana (.264/.352/.410) also enjoyed stellar years at the plate. The one Miner who oddly struggled from the beginning to the end was Mookie Betts (.245/.324/.420), who was all but useless against right-handers (.231/.305/.400).

Joplin's pitching relied heavily on their bullpen. Matt Bowman somehow managed to post an ERA that was over 2.5 runs lower (1.28) than it was in MLB (3.99). His BDBL numbers against left-handers (.109/.188/.163) didn't even remotely resemble his MLB numbers (.242/.286/.337). In roughly the same number of at-bats, he allowed 13 fewer hits to left-handers in the BDBL than he did in MLB. Craig Kimbrel (1.41 ERA in 63+ IP, with 34 saves), on the other hand, was almost exactly as good in the BDBL as he was in MLB.

The rotation was led by winter acquisition Justin Verlander (18-9, 3.10 ERA in 221 IP.) Oddly enough, Clayton Kershaw (14-10, 3.21 ERA in 187+ IP) had his worst BDBL season to date, with an ERA a full run higher than his MLB ERA. Likewise, Charlie Morton (7-9, 4.53 ERA in 145 IP) was a big disappointment compared to his MLB performance. Is it possible Joplin's ballpark factors were mixed up with some other ballpark?

I was interested to see who Doyle would choose to pitch Games Three and Four. Late-season pick-up Jake Arrieta (5-1, 3.62 ERA in 74+ IP for Joplin) was a good bet for one of those starts. The other was a toss-up between the strangely-effective Matt Garza (7-2, 3.56 ERA), the mediocre Masahiro Tanaka (12-9, 3.98 ERA in 192+ IP), and Morton. In the end, Doyle went with the pitcher who was least effective all season, Morton.

The Kansas City Boulevards may have just barely eked their way into the playoffs, but that is only because of the division in which they played. The Griffin Division was the only division in league history where all four teams finished above .500. Kansas City went just 19-29 in divisional play, while the second-place wildcard team (Salem) went 33-15 against their McGowan division rivals. In other words, the Boulevards went a remarkable 76-36 (.679) against teams outside of their division. That winning percentage is topped only by the Outlaws in the entire BDBL.

A good deal of Kansas City's success in 2018 is owed to their performance against right-handed pitching. KC won 70 games against right-handers (second only to Flagstaff in the BDBL) and hit .277/.340/.457 against them (the fourth-highest OPS against righties in the OL.) A trio of lefties -- Ezequiel Carrera (.376/.418/.564 overall, in 133 AB), Robinson Cano (.338/.392/.570), and Eric Hosmer -- all posted a 1.000+ OPS against righties this year. They will come in handy, as three of the four Joplin starters are right-handed.

On the pitching side, Kansas City's four starters posted weirdly-identical win/loss and ERA lines this season: Aaron Nola (12-8, 3.65 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (12-6, 3.76), Zach Godley (15-9, 3.79), and Jhoulys Chacin (13-5, 3.62). JA Happ (3-1, 3.50 ERA in 36 IP as a Boulevard) is also available for the postseason. Given Joplin's 50-point OPS advantage against right-handed pitching, we will likely see lefties Happ and Keuchel as two of the four Division Series starters.

Likewise, lefty relievers Alex Claudio (2.01 ERA in 71+ IP) and Felipe Rivero (2.01 in 71+) will be very valuable in the late innings. Rivero (.104/.200/.104) was particularly devastating against lefties, and could be used to keep Blackmon and Carpenter in check. Late-season acquisition Wei-Yin Chen (1.54 ERA in 11+ IP for KC) is another lefty bullpen arm that can be used. On the right side, Dave Mengden (1.55 ERA in 40+ IP), Joe Kelly (2.51 in 61) and Ryan Madson (2.38 in 56+) give the bullpen a ton of depth, and give manager Scot Zook a lot of late-game options.

KC got the better of Joplin by a tally of 7-5 during the regular season. They took three out of four at home in their first meeting of the season and then split their other two series together. For what it's worth, Kansas City won four out of the six games at home, and lost five out of six in Joplin. With Joplin holding the home field advantage in this series, that could be significant.

Anthony Peburn often overstated the importance of having home field advantage in a best-of-seven series. Unless the series goes seven games, there is no advantage. If it goes five games, the "visiting" team actually holds the advantage of playing three games at home. I have to admit, a part of me wishes to see Doyle win it all this year, as that would probably cause Peburn to jump off a bridge. I just don't see it happening, though.

Prediction: Kansas City in five.

Team

W-L RS RA DIFF Home Road OPS OPS vL OPS vR ERA Opp OPS OPS vL OPS vR
100-60 880 721 159 46-34 54-26 .807 .763 .822 4.15 .742 .725 .754
90-70 851 770 81 47-33 43-37 .793 .813 .787 4.37 .723 .747 .707

The last (and only) time Tony Badger has taken a team to the BDBL postseason was in 2007. That year, his New Hope Badgers rode the coattails of David Ortiz's legendary season, which was arguably the greatest offensive season in league history. Ortiz's 79 home runs and 205 RBI's remain single-season records to this day. That year, the Badgers surprised the heavily-favored Los Altos Undertakers by sweeping them out of the OL Division Series. They then eked out a seven-game series victory against the Ravenswood Infidels in the OLCS to advance to the World Series, which was won by the Kansas Law Dogs in five games.

Like that 2007 team, the 2018 Buckingham Sovereigns thrived on pounding their opponents into submission offensively. Buckingham ranked #2 in the Eck League (behind only Charlotte) in runs scored, hit .265/.339/.468 as a team, led the league with 594 walks, and ranked #2 (again to Charlotte) in doubles. They also topped the Eck League in OPS against right-handed pitching.

For the sixth year in a row, the offensive star for this franchise was Mike Trout (.311/.431/.642, 36 HR, 121 R, 104 RBI, 131.5 RC). Despite being limited to just 141 games and 447 at-bats, Trout led the team in runs created. Logan Morrison (.278/.376/.606, 44 HR, 125.9 RC) led the team in home runs and RBI's. Chapter Two pickup Justin Upton (.295/.388/.598, 38 HR for Buckingham) hit 44 home runs overall, and created 129.5 runs. Marwin Gonzalez (.324/.375/.540) led the team in batting and added 35 doubles and 24 homers. Evan Longoria (.269/.312/.458) led the team with 43 doubles and hit 23 homers. Chapter Four acquisition Jay Bruce (.269/.354/.541 for the Sovereigns) managed to hit 20 home runs for his new team in only two chapters. Overall, the Badgers offense included four players with 35+ home runs, and three with over 40.

On the pitching side, Lance Lynn (20-4, 3.17 ERA in 198+ IP) finished tied for the EL lead in wins and ranked #3 in ERA. He was the only Buckingham starter to post an ERA below 4.40 this season. Doug Fister (8-3, 4.47 ERA) posted the next-lowest ERA in the starting rotation, but is limited to seven innings in the Division Series. Tyler Chatwood (11-10, 4.50 ERA in 160 IP) and Marco Estrada (13-11, 4.75 in 195+) will fill out the Buckingham rotation, with lefty Jon Lester (10-7, 4.84 ERA) wisely getting the series off against the lefty-mashing Apostles.

Unfortunately for Buckingham, their best relief pitcher -- by far -- is left-hander Chris Rusin (1.64 ERA in 87+ IP). Although he held his own against righties this season (.201/.243/.266), St. Louis has no ordinary lineup against lefties. The Sovereigns will need to rely on righties Trevor Rosenthal (3.16 ERA, 19 SV in 31+ IP for Buckingham) and Jim Johnson (5.43 ERA, 19 SV in 56+ IP) to do the late-game heavy lifting.

Back in February, I wrote on this page (in big, bold, capital letters): "DON'T THROW ANY LEFTIES AGAINST ST. LOUIS!!" The league took my advice, for the most part. Only two teams in the BDBL faced fewer left-handers than the Apostles. Oddly enough, though, St. Louis wasn't nearly as devastating against southpaws as their MLB numbers suggested they would be. They hit "just" .265/.340/.473 against left-handers, which gave them an .813 OPS that ranked sixth in the BDBL.

Given that Buckingham's Division Series roster includes only one lefty (Rusin), the Apostles' lefty-mashing ability will hardly be a factor. Luckily for them, eight different hitters posted an .800-plus OPS against right-handers this season. Chief among them was Chapter Five pickup Lucas Duda, who hit .241/.334/.585 against righties overall, with 29 homers in 316 at-bats. J.D. Martinez (.265/.328/.602), Yasiel Puig (.296/.349/.558), Zack Cozart (.311/.391/.514), Yonder Alonso (.278/.374/.492), and Jose Martinez (.301/.361/.473) also mashed righties as well.

As of press time, St. Louis manager Bobby Sylvester has yet to name his Division Series roster, so we can only speculate what he will do with his starting rotation. Chad Green (6-2, 1.32 ERA in 75 IP) was his most effective starter during the regular season, but cannot start in the postseason. Dinelson Lamet (10-6, 4.02 ERA in 125+ IP) owned the second-lowest ERA among starters on the Apostles roster, but is limited to nine innings.

St. Louis' third-ranked starter (in terms of ERA), Buck Farmer, is also not eligible to start. Neither is their fourth-ranked starter, David Price, who missed the cutoff by 1/3 of an inning. And neither is fifth-ranked starter, Carlos Rodon. That leaves Rich Hill (4.60 ERA in 146+ IP), the weirdly ineffective Jacob deGrom (5.12 ERA in 221+ IP), and the horrendous Kevin Gausman (7.01 ERA in 140 IP) as the only possible options to fill out the rotation.

Needless to say, the Apostles will almost certainly be "bullpenning" this postseason. That means Green (Ex endurance as a reliever) will be brought into the game very early, along with Keone Kela (1.73 ERA in 41+ IP), Jose LeClerc (2.39 ERA in 49 IP), Noah Syndergaard (2.45 ERA in 33 IP), Brandon Morrow (3.02 ERA in 47+ IP), Arodys Vizcaino (3.90 ERA in 62+), Dellin Betances (4.29 in 35+), and Edwin Diaz (4.25 in 72).

St. Louis took eight of their twelve head-to-head matchups against Buckingham this season. In fact, St. Louis and the Great Lakes Sphinx were the only two teams to post a winning record against the Sovereigns this year. Buckingham posted the best record on the road in the Eck League, and managed to win three out of six on the road against St. Louis. For whatever reason, they struggled at home, winning just once in six games.

Half of their twelve matchups were decided by just one run. Despite the fact that St. Louis posted a sub-.500 record in one-run games this year, they managed to win three of those six games.

Prediction: St. Louis in seven.


Remaining predictions:

  • Flagstaff over Kansas City in seven.
  • St. Louis over Charlotte in a seven-game upset.
  • Flagstaff over St. Louis in five.