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Big Daddy Baseball League

O F F I C I A L   S I T E   O F   T H E   B I G   D A D D Y   B A S E B A L L   L E A G U E
slant.gif (102 bytes) From the Desk of the Commish


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April, 2020

Chapter One Recap

Players of the Chapter

I drafted Rafael Devers as a skinny 16-year-old punk, way back in 2003, with my sixth pick of the midseason farm draft. In that same draft, I also selected Alex Bregman, Trea Turner, Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, and Derek Fisher. Of that group, Turner and Devers are the only two I managed to keep. The fact that I somehow refused the temptation to trade Devers is somewhat of a happy accident. Whether by design or accident, I am grateful to own the OL's Chapter One Hitter of the Chapter. Devers currently leads the OL in batting (.431), OBP (.488), slugging (.798), hits (47), runs (31), and runs created (43.6).

Xander Bogaerts was only 18 years old when Mike Ranney plucked him off the shelf in the midseason farm draft of 2011. At that time, Bogaerts had only played one season in the Dominican Summer League and a few months in the Low-A Sally League. Ranney saw enough from him at that time to make him his #1 pick. The EL Hitter of the Chapter, Bogaerts slashed .402/.453/.863 (leading the league in each slash) in Chapter One, with 13 homers (tied for the EL lead with three others), 26 ribbies, and a league-leading 15 doubles and 46.3 runs created.

The Bear Country Jamboree got off to a smoking-hot start to the 2020 season (more on that later), thanks in large part to their OL Pitcher of the Chapter, Luis Castillo. Castillo went a perfect 5-0 on the chapter, posted a .204/.292/.336 opponents batting line, and led the OL in ERA (1.63).

Buckingham's Lance Lynn is pitching in the final year of his contract after he was signed as a free agent in the 2018 auction at a $6.5 million price tag that now looks like a bargain. He went 4-2 on the chapter, with a league-leading 1.90 ERA, and held opponents to a .186/.222/.309 batting line.

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: Break Up the Bear!

The Bear Country Jamboree have lost 20+ games in Chapter One twice in franchise history, but have never won 20+ games to start a season until now. Yet, sadly, that still isn't good enough to earn a spot in first place in the Griffin Division!

The Jamboree didn't blow a single lead in Chapter One, and won three games where they were either tied or trailing after the seventh inning. They also went 5-2 in one-run games. You would think all of that would be reflective of their bullpen, and yet it was the performance of three starting pitchers that seemingly carried Bear Country in the first chapter. In addition to Castillo (see above), Frankie Montas (3-0, 2.22 ERA in 28+ IP) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-0, 2.31 in 39) dominated the first chapter. Together, those three pitchers went an astounding 12-0 with a 2.04 ERA in 106 innings. The rest of the Bear Country pitching staff posted a 5.28 ERA in 145 innings.

Needless to say, there will be lots of regression to the mean on both ends of the curve. Castillo will most likely stumble at some point, but John Means (1-2, 4.97 ERA in 29 IP) should rebound big-time. The biggest issue with the Jamboree pitching staff is usage. Montas, in particular, has already used up 30% of his MLB innings. The Jamboree will need a Montas-like replacement if they are to keep pace with Los Altos.

Of course, in a world where the Baseball Gods fairly distribute their magical fairy dust, the Undertakers pitching staff should expect some regression as well. David Price (4-0, 3.09 ERA in 32 IP) and Aaron Sanchez (4-0, 3.33 in 24+) pitched out of their minds in Chapter One. But also, Gerrit Cole (4-2, 4.08 in 46+) has yet to hit his stride.

The Griffin Division race is proving to be exciting so far. With the Benes Division up in the air (see below), it appears as though the OL wildcard race could be a nail-biter as well, which gives the race for the division added significance.

Story #2: Break Up the...Rocks??

We'll never know what the league consensus was for the Cleveland Rocks' odds of winning the Hrbek Division title, since I neglected to post the league polls for the first time in 21 years. (An error that no one seems to have missed.) On this page, however, I predicted a third-place finish for Cleveland, based on the level of competition in the division more so than the quality of the Rocks. One chapter into the season, it appears that Cleveland is capable of hanging with the big boys.

Cleveland wrapped up the first chapter with a 16-12 record, which is tied with the Chicago Black Sox atop the division. The EL defending-champion Charlotte Mustangs trail in third place with a record of 13-15, and the lowly Myrtle Beach Hitmen lag far behind with the league's worst record at 6-22.

At this point, it appears that Cleveland owes much of their success to plain old luck. They have been outscored by 15 runs this season, while Chicago has outscored their opponents by 36, and Charlotte has a +16 in the runs differential column. According to Pythagoras, Chicago should hold a two-game lead over Charlotte in first place, while Cleveland should be five games behind, with a record of just 12-16.

As you may suspect, the difference-maker so far this season has been the records in one-run games. Cleveland went 9-4 in those close games in Chapter One, while Chicago (5-3) and Charlotte (just 1-6!) weren't nearly as fortunate in the clutch.

When a team performs well in close games, the obvious conclusion is that their bullpen must have been the primary reason. That is the case with Cleveland, who have received strong performances from Yoan Lopez (11 IP, 1.64 ERA), Yusmeiro Petit (13+, 2.02), Joaquin Soria (14+, 2.45), and Nick Wittgren (12+, 2.84).

Cleveland's starters, aside from Justin Verlander and Miles Mikolas, have been horrendous. Mike Soroka, Reynaldo Lopez, Devin Smeltzer, and Brandon McKay are a combined 3-6 in 16 starts, with a 6.49 ERA in 56 innings. Their bullpen has carried the Rocks so far.

Meanwhile, Jose Berrios is 1-5, with a 6.64 ERA, for Charlotte, and Clayton Kershaw is 2-2, with a 6.75 ERA, for Chicago. In other words, it's early. Expect a lot of regression going forward.

Story #3: Skizm Goes All In

With J.T. Realmuto and Marcus Semien due to hit free agency in November, and with the Akron Ryche stumbling out of the gate, the decision to go "all-in" on the 2020 season seems like a no-brainer for Ravenswood GM Brian "Skizm" Potrafka. The Infidels wrapped up the first chapter with a mediocre 15-13 record, yet that is good enough for first place, as the Akron Ryche managed to go just 13-15. Las Vegas sits at 14-14, and South Loop went 12-16, so only three games separate the four Benes Division teams.

Weirdly enough, Vegas is the only team that outscored their opponents last chapter (+7.) Ravenswood was outscored by six runs, but were helped by a 4-1 record in one-run games. The Ryche, who were favored to win this division on this page back in January, are being outscored by only one run. Their main issue, so far, is getting on base. Their .290 team OBP is the lowest in the Ozzie League, and second-lowest in the entire BDBL. In fact, only four full-time Akron hitters have posted an OBP above .300. Ronald Acuna is batting a meager .234 with a pathetic .315 OBP. That should change in a hurry.

Ravenswood has scored a respectable number of runs (139, ranked #5 in the OL) despite hitting only 27 home runs as a team. Semien (29 RC) and Realmuto (24.7) are pretty much carrying the Infidels offense. Together, they have created well over one-third of the team's total runs.

The biggest problem in Ravenswood is their pitching. Their 4.96 ERA ranks eighth in the Ozzie League. Brett Anderson (1-2, 8.00 ERA in 27 IP) has been a horror show. Eduardo Rodriguez (2-3, 5.74 in 26+), Alex Young (2-4, 4.85 in 42+), and James Paxton (1-0, 4.64 in 21+) haven't been stellar, either. Out of the bullpen, Ross Stripling (1-0, 6.00 ERA in 12 IP) has been a huge disappointment.

To address these issues, Skizm made a series of blockbuster trades last chapter, which pretty much capped his VORP allowance for the year. Chris Sale (147+ IP, 3.31 ERA in MLB), Danny Duffy (130+, 4.35), Tyler Webb (55, 2.29), and Yimi Garcia (62+, 2.65) were added to the pitching staff. Charlie Blackmon (634 PA, .940/.940 splits) was added to the lineup.

Anderson, Rodriguez, Young, Paxton, and Stripling are all but guaranteed to improve, going forward. Adding these new arms to the mix will help in a big way. Blackmon likely takes the place of #8 hitter Lorenzo Cain, who is batting just .220/.313/.290 so far this season. With these trades, Ravenswood could conceivably add 40 additional runs of production on offense, and could save as many as 50 runs, defensively. Put the two together, and they picked up 90 runs of differential -- which could just be enough to win this division.

Story #4: Kumar Goes to St. Louis

Although some pundits are leaning toward Jack Leiter to go 1/1 in the 2021 MLB draft, that position has mostly been held by Kumar Rocker ever since he was a senior in high school. It's difficult to quibble with either pitcher deserving that spot, although there is a lot of time remaining on the clock before we get to the 2021 draft.

Buckingham Sovereigns GM Tony Badger shocked the BDBL establishment when he went off-script by shunning all of the Yankees prospects and selecting Rocker with his first pick of the midseason farm draft last year. It turned out that Rocker's time as a Sovereign was short-lived. Earlier this month, Badger traded Rocker to the St. Louis Apostles, along with Domingo German and Mike Tauchman (two Yankees!), in exchange for Franmil Reyes and Adam Wainwright.

The immediate implications are fairly minimal. The Sovereigns currently own a 15-13 third-place record in the Higuera Division, while the Apostles own an abysmal 12-16 third-place record in the Wilkie Division. Reyes (.257/.281/.468 so far) will be a full-time replacement for part-timer Tauchman (.253/.333/.429). Wainwright (1-1, 2.86 ERA in 34+ IP so far) was St. Louis' best pitcher in Chapter One, but is probably pitching way over his head. German (2-1, 4.50 in 34) probably won't help St. Louis much this year. On its face, it appears to be a slightly better deal for Buckingham in terms of 2020 impact.

What about the future? The Sovereigns receive a young player with a longer track record, so his future is easier to predict. Reyes will hit a ton of home runs. He will also strike out a lot, not get on base often enough, and play lousy defense. Tauchman and German have future upside value as well.

The big question is how much value Badger sacrificed by trading Kumar. It wouldn't exactly be the first time in league history in which a #1 overall MLB draft pick was traded. In fact, as best as I can tell, almost every one of the past twenty #1 overall draft picks was traded before he reached the Major Leagues. At the end of the day, I can't see Bobby ever regretting his trade of Franmil Reyes, but I could definitely see Badger kicking himself for trading Rocker.

Story #5: Great Scott!

Maybe Matt Clemm is right, and I simply don't know much about the game of baseball. How else could you explain the fact that every single year, year after year after year, I underestimate the Great Lakes Sphinx to such an embarrassing degree? A couple of months ago, on this very page, I stated that they looked like an 85-win team, at best. I wrote only two sentences about this team's strengths, and two paragraphs on their weaknesses. I said their defense was a mess. I said their best starting pitchers are mid-rotation, at best. I said they don't even have enough quality pitching to get through the season.

Yet, here we are, one chapter into the season, and guess which team owns the greatest runs differential in the BDBL? Go ahead, guess. Yes, that's right. The Great Lakes Mother-F'ing Sphinx!

How is this possible? Let's open up the hood and take a peek.

Only the Niagara Locks have scored more runs in the EL than the Sphinx this season. No team in the BDBL has hit more home runs than Great Lakes. It isn't even really close. The Sphinx have smashed 73 homers. Niagara ranks #2 with 66. Then there are a bunch of teams in the 50's. Manny Machado (13), Christian Yelich (11), and Kole Calhoun (10) all have double-digit homers already. D.J. LeMahieu (8) is close, and is also slashing a mind-melting .366/.418/.593.

On the pitching side, Great Lakes' team ERA is 4.12, which seems pretty crappy until you realize that the Eck League's total ERA at this moment is 5.02! The Buckingham Sovereigns are the only EL team with an ERA below 4.00! Mike Minor (5-1, 3.11 ERA in 46+ IP) and Mike "The Snitch" Fiers (3-2, 3.98 in 43) are carrying the starting rotation. In the bullpen, Hector Neris has yet to allow a single run in 13+ innings, and has yielded just four hits. Brad Peacock (2-0, 1.56 ERA in 17+ IP) has been a force out of the 'pen as well.

Once again, the Sphinx have surprised me. But with the Kansas Law Dogs nipping at their heels, one game behind, and the Buckingham Sovereigns not far behind (15-13, four games behind), there is still plenty of time for me to save face.

Story #8: California Dreamin'

I predicted that the Southern California Slyme would run away with the Wilkie Division this season. So far, so good. After one chapter of play, the Slyme sit comfortably in first place with a four-game lead over the Niagara Locks. That lead may not be as comfortable as it appears, however.

First, there is some luck involved in that equation. According to The Great Pythagoras, the Slyme should own a slim one-game lead, given their runs differentials. SoCal is slightly over-performing at this point, and Niagara is slightly under-performing.

Niagara currently leads the entire BDBL in runs scored, with 185. That is eight more than the next-best team (Salem.) Hitter of the Chapter Xander Bogaerts (.402/.453/.863) is hitting the crap out of the ball. So are Vlad Guerrero, Jr. (.319/.340/.500), Yandy Diaz (.311/.367.622), Jurickson Profar (.303/.343/.667), and Joey Gallo (.255/.402/.653).

Niagara's problem, as always, is pitching. It's just about impossible to win without good pitching. The Locks' 5.56 team ERA ranks #18 out of 24 teams in the BDBL. They rank #20 in opponents' OPS, #23 in hits allowed, and #17 in home runs allowed.

In contrast, SoCal offers a much more balanced attack. They rank fifth in the EL in runs scored, and fifth in runs allowed. Just imagine what Niagara could accomplish if they ever acquired any pitching whatsoever!

Story #7: Goodbye, Kyle; Hello, Jason

What a tangled web the BDBL can weave. Kyle Robinson came into this league in April of 2014. Robinson took over a franchise that had once belonged to Tony Chamra, who took a brief hiatus from the league in 2012. Chamra re-joined the BDBL the same year as Robinson, taking over the franchise once owned by Gene Patterson. Patterson abandoned his franchise that year in order to join forces with Tom DiStefano. Did you follow all of that?

Fast-forward six years. Tom DiStefano has made his shocking and triumphant return to the BDBL at the same time that Kyle Robinson began heading out the door. After several months of stalled attempts to regain his foothold in the BDBL, Robinson determined that it was time to take a break. Enter: Jason Gargac.

Jason has proven to be an outspoken contributor to our league forum, but unlike the previous owner of Tom's franchise, Jason seems to be able to have a civil conversation without flying off the handle. That makes him an asset already! His baseball acumen remains to be seen, but I'm confident that we chose the right guy for the job.