Players of the Chapter
The Myrtle Beach Hitmen have gotten off
to a rough start in their new division. They finished their first
chapter in the Eck League with an abysmal 9-19 record, and yet one
pitcher accounted for one-third of their wins. Jeremy Hellickson not
only led the Eck League with a microscopic 0.63 ERA (2 ER in 28+ IP),
but he also led the league in all three triple-slash categories:
.118/.188/.194. He allowed only 15 batters to reach base, struck out 24,
and held left-handed batters to a -- get this -- .034 batting average
(1-for-29). He is easily our EL Pitcher of the Chapter.
Hellickson's Ozzie League counterpart
also plays for a team that switched leagues this winter. Like Hellickson,
Akron's Robbie Ray was death to left-handers in Chapter One. In fact,
like Hellickson, he allowed only one hit to lefties the entire chapter
(in 18 AB), giving him a sparkling triple-slash line of .056/.056/.056
against southpaws. He also went 2-0 and finished third in the OL with a
1.74 ERA. He is our OL Pitcher of the Chapter.
Where would the Southern Cal Slyme have
been in Chapter One if not for the contribution of their winter trade
acquisition from the Salem Cowtippers, Eugenio Suarez? Suarez led the EL
in batting (.361) and RBI's (28),finished second in runs created (27.7),
and third in OBP (.413) and slugging (.639). We sure could have used his
bat in Salem.
The OL Hitter of the Chapter came to
the Los Altos Undertakers last year in one of their "rebuilding" trades
with the Bear Country Jamboree. In that deal, the Jamboree ended up with
Kenley Jansen and Logan Forsythe while Los Altos welcomed Jesus Aguilar
and two others. All Aguilar did for Los Altos last chapter was hit
.379/.466/.821 with a league-leading 11 homers, 33 RBI's, and 35.6 runs
Top Stories of the
Story #1: The Surprising SoCal Slyme
In preseason polling, the SoCal Slyme
received a grand total of zero votes to win their division. Yet, 28
games into the season, the Slyme sit atop the Wilkie Division with a
20-8 record, one game ahead of the division-favorite St. Louis Apostles.
How did that happen?
A big factor in SoCal's Chapter One
success was their astounding 11-1 record against teams from their own
division. The Slyme swept both the Niagara Locks and South Carolina Sea
Cats, and went 3-1 against the Apostles. In half of those twelve
intradivisional games, SoCal held their opponents to one run or less.
If there was one person who carried the
Slyme throughout the chapter, it was middle reliever Edwin Jackson.
Jackson tossed 20 innings and posted a miniscule 0.45 ERA. More
importantly, he recorded more than three outs in eight of his eleven
Of course we should expect some
regression in Jackson's performance, but the Slyme are legitimate
contenders in the Wilkie Division. They have outscored their opponents
by 29 runs so far this season, which vastly exceeds St. Louis'
differential of nine. St. Louis will improve as the season progresses,
but don't expect the Slyme to quietly fade away.
Story #2: Pitching and Defense in Kansas
Through their first 28 games of the
season, the Kansas pitching staff has posted a 2.29 team ERA. They have
allowed an average of just 6.7 hits per nine and an OPS of only .608 --
14 points lower than the next-lowest total. Their defense has held
opponents to a BABIP of just .246, which is 45 points below the league
Thanks to their stellar pitching and
defense, Kansas closed out Chapter One tied with Los Altos for the best
record in the BDBL at 21-7. They went an astounding 15-1 at home and
only 6-6 on the road. This, despite the fact that their lefty-friendly
ballpark would seem to hurt their all-righty pitching staff. In fact,
not a single pitch was thrown by a left-hander for the Law Dogs in
Corey Kluber (5-0, 1.68 ERA in 53+ IP)
was the ace we all expected him to be. John Gant (1-1, 1.25 in 21+),
Mitch Keller (3-1, 2.37 in 30+), Jake Junis (2-2, 2.52 in 25), and Luis
Severino (4-1, 2.56 in 45+) filled out the rest of a very strong, and
very unlikely, starting rotation.
Logic suggests that the Kansas pitching
staff can't keep this pace for much longer. For one chapter, however,
the Law Dogs are the most dominant team in the BDBL with a
league-leading runs differential of 51. With the Buckingham Sovereigns
nipping at their heels at only four games back, the road ahead will not
be easy, but at least Kansas got a head start.
Story #3: Break Up the Ryche
It hasn't taken long for the Akron
Ryche to settle into their new home in the beleaguered Benes Division.
Twenty-eight games into the season, Akron owns a 19-9 record and a very
comfortable five-game cushion. The only team that holds a more
comfortable lead is, of course, the Los Altos Undertakers.
At 43 runs, Akron owns the
fourth-greatest runs differential in the BDBL, behind only the Law Dogs
(51), Joplin Miners (48), and Charlotte Mustangs (46). That differential
is driven mostly by an offense that ranks third in the BDBL in runs
scored (154). Akron pounded their opponents into submission in Chapter
One, scoring eight or more runs eight times.
Their offensive output came from some
unlikely sources. Starling Marte (.361/.397/.676) batted 84 points
higher than his MLB average, posted an OPS 204 points higher against
lefties than his MLB number, and hit nearly half as many home runs (9)
in the first chapter as he hit all of the last MLB season (20). Jesse
Winker (.408/.500/.694) and David Dahl (.405/.435/.643) combined to hit
well above .400 (.407) in 91 at-bats. Kolten Wong (.305/.364/.661) hit
56 points higher than his MLB average and also clubbed half as many
homers (4) as he did all of last MLB season (9).
Oh, and Ronald "Not Meh" Acuna began
his BDBL career by hitting .303/.396/.553 in his first 24 games.
Story #4: So Much For That "Rebuilding Era"
It was fun while it lasted. The Los
Altos Undertakers gave the BDBL a break of one whole year before they
began their next long streak of dominance. Los Altos tied for the best
record in the league last chapter at 21-7, scored more runs than all but
one other team in the BDBL, outscored their opponents by 31 runs, and
own the largest lead in their division at seven games. Good for them.
Story #5: The Always-Wacky Hrbek Division
For the first time in years, it seems,
the Chicago Black Sox posted a record above .500 in the first chapter.
They currently share first place with the Charlotte Mustangs despite the
fact that Chicago's runs differential (7) is nowhere near Charlotte's
The reason for this, of course, is
always the teams' records in one-run games. Chicago played only five
one-run games in Chapter One and went 2-3. Charlotte went 2-7. These
things tend to even out over the course of a full season, to the point
where the one-run record usually matches a team's overall record. But
Charlotte's one-run woes seem to stem
from the fact that they scored an average of only 2.4 runs in those
games. In the games where Charlotte scored at least four runs, they went
13-3. It's not as if run-scoring is a problem for Charlotte in general.
After all, they lead the entire BDBL in runs scored (165). More than
likely, their one-run record is a temporary aberration.
As for Chicago, they have also had few
problems scoring runs this year. Their problem, so far, has been on the
mound. Only four other teams in the BDBL have allowed more runs than
Chicago -- and those four teams finished Chapter One with an average of
20 losses. The Black Sox have allowed more hits than innings, and their
defense has allowed a .315 average on balls in play -- well above the
.291 league average.
All signs point to an improvement for
Charlotte in Chapter Two and a decline for Chicago. But I've been wrong
Story #6: Salem's Shitty Offense
The Cowtippers managed to win 19 games
in Chapter One despite the fact that they hit just .217/.304/.396 as a
team. Five players in the Salem lineup amassed more than 50 at-bats in
Chapter One and hit below .200 for the chapter. Another, Rafael Devers,
hit .158 in 38 at-bats. And still another, rookie "sensation" Shohei
Ohtani, hit just -- get this -- .087/.160/.130 in his 23-AB BDBL debut.
He managed all of TWO hits in 23 AB's, failed to score or drive in a
single run, struck out six times, and was caught stealing in his only
attempt. On the plus side, he did contribute a respectable 3.60 ERA in
15 innings on the mound.
Salem rode the strength of their
patchwork pitching staff, which held its opponents to two or fewer runs
ten times in twenty-eight games. Salem's bullpen was particularly
dominant. Ryan Brasier, Pedro Strop, Jonathan Holder, and Taylor Rogers
combined to post an ERA of just 0.84 in 53+ innings. Trevor Cahill (3-0,
1.24 ERA in 29 IP), Clay Buchholz (3-0, 1.33 in 20+), and Stephen
Strasburg (1-1, 2.08 in 26) were particularly good in the starting
rotation. On the flip side, Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 7.41 in 17) was
supposed to be the rotation's ace, but failed miserably.
Salem scored two or fewer runs in
roughly one-third of their Chapter One games. A few more runs crossing
the plate would have been a great deal of help in staving off the Joplin
Miners. Instead, as it stands, Joplin sits just two games behind in the
McGowan Division, with a much higher runs differential (48) than Salem's
For the second year in a row, Joplin
received some head-scratching performances along their path to success.
Little Jose Iglesias batted just .269/.310/.389 in the big leagues a
year ago, but is hitting .341/.383/.523 in the BDBL, with nearly as many
home runs (3) in 24 games as he hit all of last MLB season (5). Ronald
Torreyes -- who Jim Doyle couldn't even name correctly during the draft
-- is hitting .440/.423/.600 in 25 at-bats. Freddie Freeman
(.325/.412/.479) is hitting better in a ballpark that severely
suppresses left-handed hitting than he did in the hitter-friendly
Atlanta park last year.
Joplin won 17 games last chapter
despite the fact that Chris Sale went 0-1 in his five starts. If that
doesn't send a chill up your spine, I don't know what would.