Players of the Chapter
The 2019 season has not gone as
expected for the Charlotte Mustangs. With only one chapter remaining,
the preseason favorites to win the Hrbek Division still trail in their division by six games behind the surprising Chicago Black Sox. They also trail the
Great Lakes Sphinx by three games in the all-important second wildcard
race. They did, however, make up some ground in Chapter Five by going
18-10, which was a better record than every other team in the Eck League
aside from Kansas. A big reason for that surge was the performance of
their new right fielder, Christian Yelich. The EL Hitter of the Chapter
hit .412/.477/.728 and led the league with 40.1 runs created.
In the Ozzie League, the Los Altos
Undertakers continued to absolutely embarrass the competition. They led
the entire BDBL with 21 wins thanks in large part to the performance of
former Quad-A journeyman Jesus Aguilar. Aguilar hit a mind-numbing .409/.477/.860 (yes, .860
and led the league with 13 home runs, 28 runs scored, and 36.9 runs
created. The Chapter Five OL Hitter of the Chapter is the odds-on
favorite to win the OL MVP award, as he's hitting .348/.414/.716 overall, with
44 homers, 124 RBI's, and 123.8 runs created...with one full chapter left to play!
Believe it or not, if Aguilar does win
the MVP, it will be the first time in league history a Los Altos
Undertaker has won that award. 2,200 franchise wins, 14 division titles,
four BDBL championship trophies...and zero MVP's. Gotta love baseball!
Aguilar's teammate, Gerrit Cole,
enjoyed a productive chapter as well. He went a perfect 4-0 with a 2.76
ERA, and held opponents to a .170/.261/.255 batting line. The OL Pitcher
of the Chapter is one win away from becoming a 20-game winner for the
second time in his career, and first since 2016. Unlike past Undertakers
teams, which featured three or four 20-game winners in the same
rotation, Cole will be the only 20-game winner on this year's club. In
fact, Los Altos may finish this season with only two double-digit
On the Eck side, no pitcher was better
than Kansas' Luis Severino in Chapter Five. Sevvy went 4-0 on the
chapter and led the Procrastination League in ERA (1.03) and all
three triple-slash categories (.104/.142/.174). In 35 innings, he
allowed just 12 hits and 5 walks.
Top Stories of the
Story #1: Six Teams, Four Playoff Spots
With one chapter remaining, there are
still four playoff spots up for grabs -- all in the Eck League. Just
four games separate the St. Louis Apostles and Southern Cal Slyme in the
Wilkie Division. Charlotte trails Chicago by six games in the Hrbek
Division. The Slyme and Great Lakes Sphinx currently own the two
wildcard spots, with Charlotte (4 GB) and the Buckingham Badgers (5 GB)
trailing closely behind.
Of those six teams, the Sphinx and
Mustangs made the greatest gains in Chapter Five, each going 18-10 on
the chapter. The other four teams kept close pace, however, with
Chicago, Southern Cal, and St. Louis winning 16 games, and Buckingham
How this plays out may depend on the
strength of the remaining schedule. Here's what that looks like for the
six teams in question:
It's an uphill battle for the Sphinx,
who are clinging to a slim one-game lead for the second wildcard. The
Sovereigns have the furthest to go in this race, and face the
second-toughest schedule moving forward. On the flip side it looks as
though it's all downhill coasting for the Black Sox, whose six-game
cushion makes them look like more of a lock than any of the other five
Another factor is momentum. Which teams
have performed better most recently? Here are their records since the
The only EL team with a better
second-half record than Buckingham is the team they've been chasing all
season: the Kansas Law Dogs (.635). If we stretch one chapter further,
the teams with the best winning percentages since the beginning of
Chapter Three (beside Kansas) are Great Lakes and Chicago (both .592),
and St. Louis (.566).
Lastly, usage is always a major factor
at this time of year. Given that we are 86% of the way through the
season, here are some of the critical players who will be limited in
usage in Chapter Six:
Buckingham: Mike Trout (92%),
Miguel Andujar (91%), Jay Bruce (96%), Marwin Gonzalez (93%), Patrick
Charlotte: Jose Altuve (93%),
Kyle Hendricks (90%), Corey Knebel (99%), Nick Pivetta (93%)
Chicago: Madison Bumgarner (92%)
Great Lakes: Trevor Bauer
(105%), Kyle Crick (suspended), Mike Fiers (101%), Hector Neris (99%),
David Price (90%), C.C. Sabathia (96%)
St. Louis: Yasmani Grandal
(suspended), J.D. Martinez (95%), Tommy Pham (102%), Anthony Rendon
(102%), Adam Frazier (suspended), Dellin Betances (103%), Brad Boxberger
(100%), Zach Britton (103%), Johnny Cueto (109%), Jacob deGrom (99%),
Edwin Diaz (90%), Chad Green (96%), David Hernandez (107%), James Paxton
(98%), Noah Syndergaard (105%)
Southern Cal: Lorenzo Cain
(99%), Eugenio Suarez (94%), Carl Edwards (94%), Jameson Taillon (96%)
Suddenly, the Wilkie Division race just
got a lot more interesting! How on earth will St. Louis have enough
usage to get through the season? They will have to play most of their
last chapter without their biggest, most important, players. Southern
Cal will be without some of their best players as well, but not nearly
to the same extent.
Despite Buckingham's outstanding
performance of late, they begin the chapter with the largest deficit in
the standings, the toughest schedule moving forward, and will have some
major usage issues on top of it all. Of the six teams in question, they
look like the longest of the longshots.
My prediction: Southern Cal wins the
Wilkie, Chicago wins the Hrbek, and Great Lakes and St. Louis win the
two wildcard spots.
Story #2: The Most Important 21-Inning Game
On the Ozzie League side, there really
isn't much left to discuss. Los Altos has already clinched their 14th
division title. Salem leads the McGowan Division by a dozen games and
sports a magic number of 17. Akron's magic number is down to 15, and
they lead Ravenswood by a whopping 14 games. The Joplin Miners' wildcard
lead is now in double-digits, and Ravenswood's lead for the second
wildcard is nearly the same. There is really only one "race" remaining
in the Ozzie League. Which brings me to September 1st.
On that fateful morning, the Cowtippers and
Undertakers played a four-game series with potentially massive
implications. Thanks to a four-game sweep of the Undertakers in Chapter
Four, Salem went into that Chapter Five series with a 5-3 advantage in
head-to-head games against Los Altos.
Why was that important? Because the two
teams were nearly matched in winning percentage heading into that
series. Should they tie for wins at the end of this season, head-to-head
record is the first tie-breaker to decide which team earns the #1 seed
in the playoffs. Given the new two-team wildcard rule, having that #1
seed is more advantageous than ever before.
Los Altos won two of the first three
games in that series, but Salem held a comfortable four-run lead
heading into the ninth. At that moment, it looked as though Salem would
be a lock to win the season head-to-head match-up. Not only that, but it
would have put the Cowtippers only one game behind the Undertakers in
wins heading into the final chapter of the season.
A funny thing happened in that ninth
inning, though. With a four-run lead, Salem handed the ball to their
best reliever, Oliver Perez. Any pitcher in the game is capable of
preserving a four-run lead, but Salem took no chances and
handed the game over to their very best reliever.
Willians Astudillo greeted Perez with a
seemingly-harmless base hit up the middle. Matt Kemp then struck out. Just two outs away
from losing the game, the #7 hitter in the Los Altos lineup, pinch
hitter Kevin Kiermaier, singled. Another pinch hitter, Brock Holt, also
singled to load the bases. That brought Shin-Soo Choo to the plate,
representing the tying run of the game.
With Perez owning the lefty-on-lefty
advantage, he quickly jumped out to a 1-2 count on Choo. The crowd rose
to their feet in anticipation for out number two coming on an inevitable
strikeout. Instead, Choo leaned into the next pitch and took it off his
shoulder. That forced in a run. With Perez apparently coming apart at
the seams, Ryan Brasier began frantically warming up in Salem's bullpen.
The next batter was also a left-hander.
No matter, though. Matt Carpenter lined a base hit down the left field
line on the first pitch out of Perez's hand. Kiermaier scored. Holt
scored. And the tying run of the game, Choo, advanced to third.
Perez was yanked out of the game and
given a swift kick in the ass on his way to the showers. The so-called
best pitcher in the game had just surrendered FOUR singles while
recording just one out. Still, Salem held out hope. Brasier is as
dominant against right-handers as Perez is against lefties. Los Altos,
however, countered with left-handed pinch hitter Nick Martini, who
walked to load the bases.
That brought the always-dangerous Jesus
Aguilar to the plate. Once again, Salem held the platoon advantage
against the right-handed slugger. A double-play ground ball would end
the game and give Salem the tie-breaking advantage. Instead, Aguilar jumped on
the first pitch he saw, launched it into left field, and Choo jogged
home on the sac fly.
For the next ELEVEN INNINGS, neither
Salem nor Los Altos scored a single run. Los Altos received shockingly
good performances from Josh James (4 IP, 1 H, 0 R) and Jace Fry (3 IP, 1
H, 0 R). Salem received an even more shocking performance from Mike
Montgomery, who tossed six shutout innings of relief against a
Finally, in the 21st inning, Montgomery
ran out of gas. He had thrown over 115 pitches heading into that inning,
but with no other options on the roster, Salem had no choice but to
stick with him. Predictably, the Los Altos offense finally came alive
that inning and scored seven runs en route to a 12-6 laugher win.
That win gave Los Altos a three-win
cushion over Salem heading into the final chapter. With the head-to-head
record now even, the second tie-breaker would be runs differential,
where Salem currently owns a slim 218-205 advantage. Thanks to this
ridiculous 21-inning game, that #1 seed may not be decided until the
final days of the season.