Players of the Chapter
Don't look now, but Southern Cal's
Jameson Taillon is enjoying one of the best seasons of any pitcher in
league history. He is now 10-1 on the season after only two chapters of
play and leads the Eck League in ERA at 1.71. Last chapter, he went 5-1
with a league-leading 1.64 ERA. He also led the EL in all three slash
categories: .182/.236/.260. He allowed five runs (all earned) in six
innings to the South Carolina Sea Cats last chapter. In his five other
starts, he allowed just three runs over 38 innings (a 0.71 ERA.)
Jim Doyle famously paid $16 million to
Chris Sale this past winter in the desperate hope that he would bring
another division (and league) title to the Joplin Miners. Joplin fans
were understandably disappointed when Sale failed to win a single game
in Chapter One despite posting a 1.87 ERA. He made up for that lost
opportunity by going 6-1 in Chapter Two, with a 1.81 ERA, and a
.153/.233/.280 opponents average. Doyle has already depleted half of
Sale's usage in his attempt to keep pace with the Cowtippers. He used
Sale in a grand total of eleven games last chapter. Sale started six
games, saved two others in relief, and earned the win in two other
Doyle paid big bucks to add Sale to his
roster, but Mookie Betts came with the gift package left by Anthony
Peburn. Betts is our OL Hitter of the Chapter after hitting
.339/.411/.732 in Chapter Two, with a league-leading 11 homers, 26
RBI's, and 34.9 runs created.
Chicago's Bryce Harper got off to a bit
of a slow start (.241/.370/.414 in Chapter One), but really picked up
the pace in Chapter Two, batting .358/.496/.758, with 10 home runs and a
league-leading 30 runs scored, 29 RBI's, and 39.4 runs created. Where
would the Black Sox be without Harper? Second place, most likely.
Top Stories of the
Story #1: Charlotte Wins the Yelich
The Charlotte Mustangs have had a very
odd season so far. They rank #2 in the patented Jim Doyle Power Ranking
thanks to their +79 runs differential. That differential is nearly
double that of the Chicago Black Sox, and yet the 'Stangs trail the 'Sox
by one game after two chapters of play.
Charlotte is underperforming their
Pythagorean projection by a league-leading six games, thanks in large
part to their abysmal 5-12 record in one-run games. Manager Tony Chamra
believes that record is reflective of his team's inability to hit in the
clutch. This belief led to the acquisition of Yelich, who came at the
expense of two of Charlotte's top prospects.
Yelich was on his way to an MVP-caliber
season with Kansas City. To date, he is hitting .324/.438/.621 on the
season, with 13 home runs, 53.8 runs created, and a perfect 9-for-9 in
the stolen base department. He will more than likely take Albert
Almora's spot in the everyday lineup. Almora is batting .306/.338/.387
against lefties and .295/.361/.420 against righties, both from the
leadoff spot. Those are respectable numbers, so while Yelich is without
doubt an upgrade, he isn't as much of an upgrade as he would have been
for some other teams.
Given their freakish underperformance
in one-run games, and the likely regression we will see over the next
four chapters, the Mustangs were likely to win their division without
Yelich. Adding Yelich seems to seal the deal and provide added insurance
against the dreaded one-game wildcard playoff. Given the seeming
inevitability of the division title, Yelich's acquisition only really
matters in the Tournament of Randomness at the end of the season.
Charlotte sacrificed a top-20 prospect and a hot-hitting youngster for a
better chance of winning that tournament. If Chamra wins his second
trophy, it will have been worthwhile. If not...
Story #2: Break Up the Rocks?
The Cleveland Rocks received a grand
total of zero votes to win their division in preseason polling. They
went just 9-19 in Chapter One, which seemed to validate the league's
opinion. But then, in a shocking twist, the Rocks somehow won 17 games
in Chapter Two and pulled themselves within five games of first place!
Cleveland posted a 4.95 ERA in Chapter
Two, which should give you some idea how they managed to win 17 games.
Cleveland's offense simply pounded their competition. They scored seven
or more runs in ten of their 28 games, and won all ten of them. Melky
Cabrera (really??) hit .393/.400/.500 on the chapter. Alex Gordon hit
.376/.414/.581 and led the team with 22.7 runs created. Welington
Castillo (seriously) hit .310/.396/.667 and clobbered five home runs in
42 at-bats. Luke Voit crushed four homers in 41 AB's, and Gleyber Torres
and Trevor Story added eight and seven homers, respectively.
Cleveland clubbed 41 homers as a team
in Chapter Two and ranked fourth in the EL with 151 runs scored. I
wouldn't expect a repeat performance going forward.
Story #3: SoCal Holds On Tight
The Wilkie Division was supposed to
have been an easy lay-up for the defending-champion St. Louis Apostles.
They were the unanimous choice to win the division in preseason polling,
and were called "the closest thing we have to a superteam" on this very
page in February. Yet, one-third of the way into the 2019 season, it's
the Southern Cal Slyme who still cling to first place.
On the heels of their surprising 20-8
Chapter One performance, the Slyme went 17-11 in Chapter Two -- one game
better than St. Louis. Neither team's offense has been scoring a ton of
runs, so their performances have been almost entirely driven by their
pitching. As mentioned above, SoCal's ace, Jameson Taillon, is now a
remarkable 10-1 on the season. Aside from him, the rest of the rotation
has been a disappointment -- particularly Zack Greinke, who cost this
team $9.5 million this past winter. To date, he owns a mediocre 4.30 ERA
and 6-3 record. Sean Manaea (6-3, 4.91) has been even more of a
The bulk of the Slyme's pitching
performance has been carried by their bullpen. Edwin Jackson (1-1, 2.18
ERA in 33 IP) has been a revelation. Raisel Iglesias (4-1, 2.42 ERA,
with a team-leading 14 saves) has managed to avoid the longball so far
(with only three allowed in 22+ innings.) Adam Conley (0-1, 1.93 ERA in
18+ IP) has also pitched well out of the 'pen.
SoCal GM Bob Sylvester added Keone Kela
(0-1, 1.69 ERA in 21+ IP) from the Cleveland Rocks last week, which
should give the bullpen an extra boost down the stretch. The Apostles
have hardly struggled this season. They own the third-best record in the
Eck League, and own the same Pythagorean difference (+5) as SoCal. Both
teams are playing at their peak performance. For now, it looks as though
this race could be decided in the final weeks of the season.
Story #4: Invasion of the Superteams
2019 was supposed to be the year
without a superteam, and yet, as I type, there are no fewer than SEVEN
teams that are on pace to win 100+ games. The Kansas Law Dogs were not
supposed to be this good. They weren't even picked to win their division
in preseason polling, and yet they have already wrapped it up with a
double-digit lead over the supposed favorites, the Buckingham
Sovereigns. Kansas not only leads the BDBL in wins (sharing the top spot
with Los Altos), but also runs differential (+82).
Los Altos is on pace to win 111 games,
which, ridiculously enough, would be only their seventh-highest total in
franchise history. Salem (37-19), Southern Cal (37-19), Akron (36-20),
Joplin (35-21), and St. Louis (35-21) are all on pace to win 100+ games
The BDBL had five 100+ win teams in
2001, 2002, and 2014. We have never had six -- never mind seven. This
could be an historic season of superteams after all.
Story #5: Winter Is Coming
We may only be one-third of the way
through the 2019 season, but two teams have already begun to prepare for
the winter of 2020. After a disappointing 23-33 start, the Kansas City
Boulevards have already waved the white flag. Their trade of Yelich eats
up most of their VORP cap. Just after the trading deadline, the South
Loop Furies (also 23-33) announced that their entire roster was on the
trading block. With seven superteams on pace to win 100+ games, and with
the newfangled wildcard mucking up the works, how many more teams will
join them in the coming chapter or two?
In most years, Yelich would be the
greatest trading chit of the season. This year, however, we could see
quite a few others on the trading block with as much, or nearly as much,
potential impact as Yelich.
The South Carolina Sea Cats are
currently sporting the same record (23-33) as the Boulevards and Furies.
If they drop out of the race, expect Matt Scherzer (in the final year of
his contract) to become the next sweepstakes prize.
The Sovereigns and Great Lakes Sphinx
are both 11 games behind in the Higuera Division, and would tie for the
second EL wildcard if the season ended today. If the Sovereigns decide
they don't want any part of back-to-back one-game playoffs, would they
put Mike Trout on the block? He has only one year remaining on his
contract after this year, so his trade value will never be greater.
Likewise, if the Sphinx decide they want to avoid that one-game playoff,
they could put Giancarlo Stanton (in the last year of his contract) on
the block. As quiet as the league seems to be this year, things could
get very interesting very quickly.