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Big Daddy Baseball League

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


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April, 2021

Chapter One Recap

Players of the Chapter

Before the 2021 season began, it had the potential to be the most interesting, unpredictable, and fun season we have played in many years. So far, it has not disappointed.

I'm too lazy to look it up, but it is probably safe to say that we have never had a season in which two pitchers from the same team posted a sub-1.00 ERA in the same chapter. Yet, that is what we have now with the Salem Cowtippers, who own the co-Pitchers of the Chapter in Max Scherzer (4-2, 0.81 ERA) and Stephen Strasburg (4-0, 0.88 ERA.) The fact that Scherzer somehow lost two games while posting a sub-1.00 ERA is a story in itself. Strasburg, who is playing in his final season under contract, led the Ozzie League in all three triple-slash categories: .148/.180/.197. The slacker Scherzer limited opponents to .182/.228/.252.

The success of the South Carolina Sea Cats this season, following nine consecutive sub-.500 seasons, is one of the many fun stories unfolding this year. A good deal of their success in Chapter One was due to their ace, Blake Snell, who is our EL Pitcher of the Chapter. Snell led the EL in wins (4-0), ERA (1.25), and all three triple-slash categories (.116/.183/.231).

The Joplin Miners didn't exactly tear it up in Chapter One, but they got their $10.5 million worth from Marcus Semien. The OL Hitter of the Chapter hit .348/.432/.635, and led the OL in hits, extra base hits, and runs created. In fact, he created nearly 30-percent of Joplin's entire team total. Incredibly, he was the only Miner that posted an OPS above .800 in Chapter One.

It probably goes without saying that the Chicago Black Sox were the biggest story in Chapter One. They completely dominated the league, offensively. In fact, four Black Sox hitters top the on-base leader board at the moment. Chicago owns the league leader in average, on-base, slugging, home runs, runs scored, RBI's, and runs created. The EL Hitter of the Chapter could easily be Anthony Rizzo (league leader in runs created), Kyle Schwarber (leading in OPS, slugging, home runs, and RBI's), or even Will Myers (.375/.438/.575.) But I will go with the most surprising producer in the Chicago lineup, Gavin Lux. Lux hit .398/.470/.693 for the chapter, nearly leading the league in all three categories. He ranks among the top five in runs scored, runs created, and OPS. As if Chicago didn't already have enough sluggers in their lineup, Lux seemingly came out of nowhere to top them all.

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: John Gill, the Real-Life Rachel Phelps

It is no surprise to learn that John Gill is an all-or-nothing kind of guy. Throughout his BDBL career, Gill has often been among the first to throw in the towel on the current season and begin rebuilding for the future. It wasn't entirely shocking, then, when he announced on November 9th that he was throwing in the towel on the 2021 season, despite owning an offense that was practically guaranteed to score 900 runs and a pitching staff that could have easily carried the team into the postseason.

Nevertheless, on that fateful day in November, Gill posted the names of Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman, Shane Bieber, and Eloy Jimenez on the Selling forum. By the end of the winter trading season, all but Kershaw were traded away. Then, just before Opening Day, Kershaw, too, was dealt in exchange for future considerations. After announcing that trade, Gill wrote: "If I thought I would win my division, I would not have traded Kershaw."

Well, well, well.

One chapter into the season, guess who owns the best record in the BDBL and the largest (seven games!) lead in any division?

The Black Sox not only finished the first chapter with a league-best 21-7 record (most likely the best start in Chicago franchise history), but also lead the BDBL by outscoring their opponents by 63 runs -- nearly double the total of the next-best team. As expected, Chicago's offense is clobbering the ball. Their 181 runs scored is a whopping 17-percent higher than any other team in the league. They are hitting .278/.363/.509 as a team. Their 57 home runs is matched only by the Los Altos Undertakers. Their .872 team OPS also leads the entire BDBL by a wide margin.

With an offense like that, it seems as though Chicago doesn't even need a pitching staff. Yet, their 3.94 team ERA, surprisingly enough, ranks among the top ten in the BDBL, and is the fourth-lowest in the Eck League. The team seems to hardly miss Bieber and Kershaw. Ervin Santana (2.49 ERA), Dallas Keuchel (2.61), Ian Anderson (2.92), and Gio Gonzalez (3.30) are all doing quite well in their absence.

Of course, there is no way to know how well Chicago would be doing had they kept Bieber and Kershaw. Hell, maybe they would have gone 28-0! Or maybe this offense is so good that it doesn't matter. One thing is certain: John Gill is now in the market for a starting pitcher.

Story #2: The Saints Go Marching On

While Bobby Sylvester's new team limps along with the BDBL's worst record (tied at 9-19 with the Niagara Locks), his old team, now headed by Don Swearingen, owns sole possession of first place in the Wilkie Division with the second-best record (18-10, tied with Salem) in the league. Swearingen disappeared from the BDBL, and didn't even manage his team in the first chapter, and yet the Saints own a three-game lead over the South Carolina Sea Cats, who happen to have outscored their opponents by the same exact number of runs (30).

Pitching has carried Carolina so far this season. They allowed the fewest runs in the Eck League in Chapter One and own the lowest ERA (3.52) in that division. Carolina pitchers are striking out nearly a dozen batters per nine on average. Rookie Luis Patino (1-0, 0.82 ERA) owns a Scherzer/Strasburg-like ERA over his first 22 innings in the BDBL. The bullpen has been absolutely dominant, led by Chad Green (0.39 ERA in 23 IP), Raisel Iglesias (1.04 in 8+), Diego Castillo (1.08 in 8+), and Giovani Gallegos (2.41 in 18+).

Incredibly, the Carolina pitching staff has been the best in the Eck League despite the fact that their ace, Noah Syndergaard, is sporting an 0-4 record and 5.71 ERA, and their closer, Edwin Diaz, owns a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings. A pair or relievers, Green and Diaz, are tied for the team lead in wins, with four.

The Saints went a remarkable 5-0 in extra inning games this chapter, and were 6-2 in one-run games. They will need to keep winning those tight games, because the Sea Cats are nipping at their heels. Just three games behind, South Carolina has scored more runs than every other team in the BDBL, save two (Chicago and Los Altos.) They are hitting .254/.335/.463 as a team, with 49 home runs (second only to those same two teams.)

While the Saints were perhaps a bit lucky in Chapter One, the Sea Cats were a bit unlucky. They went just 3-5 in one-run games and 3-2 in extra innings. As you might assume, relief pitching was to blame for most of that bad luck. Luke Jackson posted a 7.11 ERA in 12+ innings out of the bullpen, and managed to lose three games in relief (no easy feat.) These things have a way of correcting themselves over a 160-game marathon.

Anything can happen from here on out. Carolina's ownership is up in the air. A new owner could take over a first-place team and ride that momentum into the postseason. Either the Saints or Sea Cats could swing a big trade that completely changes the fate of this season. It sure would be fun to see Tony DeCastro play some meaningful games in the second half, wouldn't it?

Story #3: Return of The Emperor

If you felt a great disturbance at 8:20am on March 10th, as if a million voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced, you weren't alone. Tom "The Emperor" DiStefano, five-time BDBL champion, slammed his foot down hard on the necks of the BDBL when he added Chris Sale and Matt Carpenter through a trade with the Ravenswood Infidels.

Through one chapter of play, the Ridgebacks are sporting a 15-13 record, tied with the Bear Country Jamboree for second place in the Griffin Division, and only one game behind the Undertakers. Don't be fooled by that record, though. Allentown has outscored their opponents by more runs than Los Altos at this point. With Sale and Carpenter now on board, the Undertakers' one-game lead looks mighty slim.

Los Altos is somehow winning despite the fact that their ace, Gerrit Cole, is just 2-3 with a 9.08 ERA, and their second ace, Shane Bieber (2-4, 7.00 ERA) isn't much better. As usual -- as always -- the Los Altos bullpen is carrying the team on their backs. Zack Britton and Emmanuel Clase have yet to allow a single run through 21 innings of relief. Seth Lugo has eight saves in twelve games. On the starting side, ageless wonder David Price (3-0, 1.96 ERA) and Caleb Smith (0-0, 2.84) are picking up the slack from Cole and Bieber.

The Bear Country Jamboree have scored as many runs (114) as they have allowed. They are hanging in the race largely due to Aroldis Chapman (9 saves in 11+ innings, and yet to allow a run) and the surprising Ryan Yarbrough (3-2, 1.07 ERA in 33+ IP.) Chapman is one of the few real closers in the league this year, so his performance is legit. Yarbrough...not so much.

DiStefano left the BDBL just as Paulson began his three-year domination of the league. One more trophy, and Paulson will tie DiStefano and have a legitimate claim as the undisputed GOAT of the BDBL. Should DiStefano beat Paulson in his own division, in only his second year back in the league, then all bets are off. Which one is truly the GOAT? It sure will be fun to find out!

Story #4: Vegas Goes All-In

You may not know this, but John Bochicchio is a bit of a gambler. Just prior to the trading deadline, Johnny Bo took a trip to his local watering hole and pulled the trigger on a trade with the Darien Blue Wave that sends Eddie Rosario and Ty Buttrey to Vegas in exchange for top prospects Jordyn Adams and Heliot Ramos. In other words, J.B. went all-in.

As I type, the Flamingos lead the Benes Division with a 17-11 record, but there are a couple of very important caveats to that. First, their lead is only one slim game ahead of the surprising South Loop Furies. Second, Vegas won over 60-percent of their Chapter One games despite being outscored by 22 runs. After 28 games, their Pythagorean difference is an astounding +5!

How did that happen? Check this out: Vegas went 7-0 in one-run games! The Flamingos owned a seventh-inning lead 19 times in those 28 games (tied with only Chicago) and won 17 of those games (topped only by Chicago.) When they lost, they lost big. Six of their eleven losses were by five or more runs. When they won, they barely won. In addition to those seven one-run wins, Vegas won four games by two runs. Needless to say, it will be very difficult to maintain these trends.

Where does Rosario fit into this equation? The Flamingos Chapter One outfield consisted of Andrew McCutchen (.291/.349/.456) in left, Jason Kipnis (.308/.353/.410) in center, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. (.185/.341/.446) in right. Those three currently rank #3, #4, and #5 on the team in runs created. Which one sits to make way for Rosario, who is rated at all three outfield positions? Given that he currently owns an OPS lower than all three, maybe nowhere? It doesn't even make sense to platoon him with any of those three, given that he bats left-handed (as do Kipnis and Bradley.) McCutchen (.271/.317/.424) is handling right-handers well enough to leave him alone. In the end, it doesn't seem like much of an upgrade -- especially given the exorbitant cost!

Meanwhile, South Loop (+10) owns the best runs differential in the division. They are scoring a ton of runs, but also allowing a ton. Most of that blame lies with the bullpen. Alan Mills and Ryne Stanek have allowed 22 runs in a little more than 21 innings, combined. If any team should have been bidding hard for Liam Hendriks, it should have been South Loop. Tony Watson (0.96 ERA, 7 saves, in 9+ IP) and Buck Farmer (1.17 ERA in 15+) have been carrying the bullpen, but that doesn't seem sustainable.

Ravenswood (12-16) has already dropped out of the race by selling Sale, Carpenter, and Hendriks. The division's (and Ozzie League's) defending champion, Akron, is weirdly wallowing in last-place with a 10-18 record, despite scoring more runs than every other team in the league except Los Altos. Akron's pitching has been absolutely horrendous. They rank near the bottom of the OL with a 5.00 ERA, and their 152 runs allowed is the same number as Darien's (who aren't exactly known for their pitching.)

A lot can happen over the next five chapters. I would expect Vegas to fall back to earth as those one-run games become tougher to win. I would also expect Akron to rebound at some point. The only team not in this division race is the one that purposely exited from it.

Story #5: Those Stingy Cowtippers

As I mentioned at the top, I don't think that we've ever seen a chapter where two starting pitchers from the same team posted a sub-1.00 ERA. Sub-1.00 ERA's simply don't happen that often -- never mind twice in one chapter, and twice on one team. Scherzer and Strasburg aren't the only two noteworthy starters in the Salem rotation, however. On January 30th, Sonny Gray became only the second pitcher in BDBL history to pitch a perfect game. He was also the first Salem pitcher to throw a no-hitter. He finished the chapter with a 3-0 record and 1.95 ERA (plus three saves.) Jon Gray (not related) went 1-1 on the chapter with a 1.72 ERA in 31+ innings. And, just for good measure, number five starter Framber Valdez went 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 22+ innings.

If not for Shohei Ohtani's one start, the Salem Cowtippers would have finished Chapter One with every game started by a pitcher with a sub-2.00 ERA!

It obviously won't last forever, but for now, if the Cowtippers pitching staff were a single pitcher, he would be a unanimous choice for Cy Young: 258+ IP, 195 H, 21 HR, 86 BB, 308 K. Salem's 2.44 team ERA is a whopping 80 points lower than the next-best ERA in the league (Joplin's 3.24.) Salem has allowed only 80 runs this season -- 18 fewer than any other team. In fact, the North Carolina Iron Spider Pigs have allowed more than twice as many runs as Salem!

Story #6: The Riddle of the Sphinx

I don't get it. I just don't get it. I say it every year, and I'll say it again and again, it seems. I just don't get how on earth the Great Lakes Sphinx win so many games. I predicted a third place finish for them this year, and had them pegged for no more than 80 wins. Yet, here we are, one-sixth of the way through the season, and Great Lakes owns the best record (17-11) in the Higuera Division by two games. Meanwhile, the team that I picked to win the division, Kansas, is currently in dead-last-place.

What happened?

Well, for starters, Great Lakes has been a little lucky. Their Pythagorean difference of +3 is second only to the ridiculously lucky Flamingos. They have only outscored their opponents by five runs, but their 8-3 record in one-run games tipped the scales in their favor. They also somehow managed to win six games in which they were trailing in the seventh inning. (That's twice as many wins as the next-best team in that situation.)

They're getting some otherworldly performances from some very unlikely heroes like Adam Duvall (.364/.440/.591), Ty France (.295/.359/.571), and someone named Kyle Keller (3-0, 1.35 ERA in 20 IP.) It's probably safe to assume those three will fall back to earth at some point.

Meanwhile, what's up with Kansas? Well, their "closer", Ken Giles, is sporting a 7.27 ERA at the moment. Joe Kelly (8.22 in 7+) is even worse. And don't even look at Mark Melancon's numbers. You won't believe them. And the two-time reigning Cy Young, Jacob deGrom, is just 3-2 so far, with a mediocre 3.75 ERA.

South Philly owns the best runs differential (+13) in the division. Their bad luck in one-run games (3-6) should correct itself over time. Their offense has scored only one run fewer than the vaunted Great Lakes lineup, and they own a higher team OPS (.755 to .748). Their biggest issue has been serving up the gopherball. Only the Cleveland Rocks (53) have allowed more home runs than the Gritty (50) in the Eck League this season.

The main culprit for that? None other than Justin Verlander: 10 HR allowed in 38 IP. South Philly's $21 million winter investment is now 0-5 with a 5.92 ERA on the season.

Sticking with the Higuera Division, the Trout-less Buckingham Soveigns are currently four games ahead of the division-favorite Law Dogs, and only three games behind the division leaders. This, despite the fact that they have only scored 104 runs so far this year -- a total that ranks 23rd out of 24 teams in the BDBL. As a team, they are hitting just .224/.283/.390.

Despite their lack of offense, the Sovereigns own a .500 record thanks to the pitching of guys like Kyle Freeland (3-1, 2.06 ERA in 35 IP) and a bullpen duo of Taylor Rogers and Brett Martin that has yet to allow a single run in nearly 23 innings of relief.

If I were to predict that the Great Lakes Sphinx will fall back to earth and will not win this division, would you hold me to it? Eventually, that prediction will come true...right?