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