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

Commish

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May, 2021

Chapter Two Recap

Before this season began, I promised you all that 2021 would be completely unpredictable and entertaining. Are you not entertained?!

As I type, the Great Lakes Sphinx, Chicago Black Sox, and Las Vegas Flamingos own the three best records in the BDBL. The Akron Ryche are eight games under .500. The Kansas Law Dogs are ten games under .500. And the Los Altos Undertakers and Salem Cowtippers are in second place. If you saw any of that coming, please buy me a lottery ticket immediately.

Players of the Chapter

The Great Lakes Sphinx enjoyed an historic chapter (story below), so it only seems fitting that the EL Hitter of the Chapter should be a Sphinx. Scott Romonosky's $18 million investment two winters ago, Christian Yelich, has earned his keep. In Chapter Two, Yelich hit .404/.496/.626, with a league-leading 31.8 runs created. I'd like to give an honorable mention to Kansas' Nick Martini, who hit a whopping .434/.478/.554 for the chapter, simply because it's so random. Nick Martini??

On the Ozzie League side, Bear Country's J.D. Martinez (another winter, 2020, free agent investment) led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.414/.458/.838) as well as homers (14), RBI's (44), runs scored (29), hits (46), and runs created (41.3). The top three batting average leaders in the OL were all members of the Jamboree, and yet Bear Country managed a record of just 15-13 for the chapter.

The Highland Freedom own a last-place record in the ultra-competitive Wilkie Division. They also own the EL Pitcher of the Chapter, Lucas Giolito. Giolito went a perfect 5-0 in Chapter Two, and led the EL in ERA (1.13) and all three triple-slash categories (.146/.209/.182). For the season, he is 8-1 with a 2.32 ERA, which puts him near the top of the list to start the all-star game after our next chapter.

The OL Pitcher of the Chapter also went 5-0 and led the OL in ERA and all three triple-slash categories. After a rocky first chapter (to say the least), Los Altos ace Gerrit Cole bounced back in a huge way in Chapter Two: 5-0, 1.13 ERA, .165/.216/.245 against. That performance lowered -- lowered! -- his ERA for the season to 4.90!

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: The Trade

Twenty years ago, controversial trades were all too common in the BDBL. Today, they are a rare exception. Our VORP rule, combined with our franchise player rule, along with several other rules that were put in place to deter lopsided trading, all resulted in the desired outcome. For the past several glorious years, the BDBL was relatively controversy-free -- at least, in terms of lopsided trades. That peaceful streak came to an abrupt end five weeks ago when Jim Doyle (the Godfather of Lopsided Trades) made a deal with Scott Romonosky of the Great Lakes Sphinx that significantly disrupted at least two pennant races.

Several factors make this trade more controversial than most:

1. Doyle essentially dropped out of a division race that his team was favored to win. He was trailing in the McGowan Division by five games when he decided to "cut his losses." Of course, since then, the tables have turned and the Joplin Miners now own sole possession of first place. Their miraculous turnaround, however, was accomplished with the help of Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, and Carlos Santana -- three players they no longer own as of now.

2. The overwhelming amount of talent that changed hands in this trade was incredibly unusual, to say the least, and will make a significant impact in the Eck League this season -- and likely well into the postseason. We don't normally see a top-ten starting pitcher and TWO 830+ OPS hitters involved in the same trade. If our VORP rule remained intact this year, it is likely that this trade could not have been made.

3. Normally, any ONE of the three players that were traded by Doyle would have fetched an enormous amount of future value in return. Instead, Joplin received three late-blooming young players and a rookie -- all of whom may or may not have any future value. They aren't bad players by anyone's standards, but their future value is heavily-dependent on their 2021 MLB performance.

4. When a team trades for low-level prospects that are years away from the big leagues, then it doesn't matter when that trade is made within a chapter. If, however, that team is trading for players that they hope will deliver instant value the very next season, then it makes no sense whatsoever not to wait until the very end of the chapter to pull the trigger. Anything can happen in six weeks. The smart choice would be to wait as long as possible and remove as much of that uncertainty as possible. Unfortunately, smart choices are not a Doyle hallmark.

5. Normally, if you are trading a player with as much impact as Kershaw, Donaldson, or Santana (never mind all three!), it would be wise to let people know they're available, so that you can collect the highest bids. Not only didn't Doyle let anyone know those three players were available, but I doubt that anyone could have guessed that they would be!

The bottom line is this: if Doyle had simply waited until the end of Chapter Two to make this trade, it is almost certain that he wouldn't have made it at all. Since this trade was made, Doyle has spent the past several weeks scrambling to plug the holes created by this deal. He replaced his two big bats with Khris Davis and Lorenzo Cain, and replaced Kershaw with Madison Bumgarner and James Paxton -- all of which cost his team players that could have future value.

Davis is having an exceptional year (.280/.330/.611, with 18 home runs), although he is moving from a home ballpark with a home run factor of 101 to one with a factor of 76. Cain (.266/.326/.407) is having a decent year, but is no Santana or Donaldson. Combined, Joplin lost a little more than 14 runs created by swapping Santana and Donaldson for Davis and Cain. That's a roughly 40-run difference (or about four wins) over the course of a full season. Paxton (3-4, 4.85 ERA in 55+ IP) and Bumgarner (4-6, 4.05 ERA in 80 IP) are both decent mid-rotation starting pitchers, but neither is the ace that Kershaw (6-3, 3.07 ERA in 85 IP) was for Joplin.

Just to recap, Doyle began this 2021 season by trading away his two top prospects and spending an outrageous amount of money on aging veterans in the auction in an effort to "go for broke." Then, just seven weeks into the season, he flipped that script 180-degrees and traded his three most marketable players in order to "cut his losses." Then, a couple weeks later, he did another 180 and desperately tried to repair the damage he caused by trading away even more of his future in exchange for immediate value.

If you got whiplash just from reading that paragraph, imagine what it must be like to be a Joplin fan.

Story #2: The Confounding Riddle of the Sphinx

The beneficiaries of The Trade managed to post the league's best record (22-6) in Chapter Two before Kershaw, Donaldson, and Santana have even arrived! Those 22 wins rank somewhere among the best performances that any team has ever posted in a single chapter. The Sphinx led the entire BDBL in runs differential (+59) and runs scored (160) in Chapter Two. Only the Joplin Miners (95) allowed fewer runs than Great Lakes (101).

Bear in mind that all of the above happened while the ace of the Great Lakes starting rotation, Mike Minor, has posted a 6.24 ERA this season! Minor, Steven Matz, and Masahiro Tanaka have started 30 games for the Sphinx this season, and own a combined record of 8-8, with an ERA of 5.11. How the hell does a team own the best record in the BDBL with three-fifths of a starting rotation like that?

The answer, apparently, is a bullpen that rescues the starting rotation on a consistent basis and an offense that makes run prevention irrelevant. No one would ever mistake Michael Feliz (4.05 projection ERA), Chaz Roe (3.97), or Kyle Keller (3.96) for a bullpen ace, and yet those three have combined for an 8-1 record and a microscopic 1.26 ERA in over 71 innings. Add Trevor Rogers (4.31 projection ERA, 2-1, 2.22 ERA in 28+ IP in the BDBL) and apparently this is what a stellar bullpen looks like.

Add to the bullpen the incredibly unlikely over-performance of Jake Arrieta (4-1, 3.51 ERA in 48+ IP) and the short-usage superstardom of Sean Manaea (5-1, 2.91 ERA in 55+ IP), and that apparently gives Great Lakes enough pitching to deliver a league-best record. Now, with Clayton Kershaw on board, the Sphinx finally have a legitimate ace -- even though, apparently, they don't need one!

Next, let's talk about the offense. Great Lakes currently ranks #2 in runs scored (behind the Chicago Black Sox) and are hitting .252/.331/.437 as a team. Those triple-slash numbers don't look all that impressive until you realize that the BDBL average this season is just .244/.312/.419!

Great Lakes' Hitter of the Chapter, Yelich, is batting an astounding .370/.456/.603 for the season. He managed to create more than 50 runs in just two chapters despite hitting only seven home runs! Charlie Blackmon (.242/.297/.489, 15 HR) is once again ignoring the ballpark factors feature of Diamond Mind Baseball. He's on pace to hit 48 home runs this season, which would dwarf his projected total of 27. Hell, in just two chapters, he's already hit over half as many homers as his projected total! The recently-traded Ty France (.262/.333/.477, 12 HR) ranks third on the Great Lakes team in runs created. The rest of the lineup is filled with bench-warmers like Josh Rojas, Roughned Odor, Justin Smoak (also dealt in The Trade), Trent Grisham, and Luis Urias.

Okay, remove Yelich from the Great Lakes lineup. Over half of the lineup consists of Josh Rojas, Roughned Odor, Justin Smoak, Trent Grisham, and Luis Urias. Does this look like the second-best run-scoring offensive juggernaut in the league?

Just to recap, the Great Lakes Sphinx own the best record in the BDBL despite a bullpen that doesn't look like a championship-caliber bullpen, a starting rotation filled with sub-par journeymen, and a lineup that includes exactly one above-average hitter.

I don't get it. I really, really, don't.

Going forward, France will be replaced in the lineup with Josh Donaldson. Given France's over-performance, this isn't as much of an upgrade as it should be. However, swapping Smoak (.226/.375/.368) for Carlos Santana (.286/.382/.509) will be a major upgrade. Needless to say, Kershaw will likely continue where Manaea left off. If the Sphinx can somehow post the best record in the BDBL with these clowns, imagine what they can do after adding two all-star bats and an ace!

Story #3: Salem's Epic Collapse

The Cowtippers looked so dominant in Chapter One that it appeared they would easily run away with the division. (At least, Jim Doyle must have thought so, given how quickly he raised the white flag.) Fast-forward one chapter and Salem went from an 18-10 division leader to a 12-16 also-ran.

The Salem offense, which hit just .233/.293/.417 as a team in Chapter Two, with an average of only 4.4 runs per game, was largely to blame for that collapse, but don't discount the epic collapse of Max Scherzer. One chapter ago, the Co-Pitcher of the Chapter posted a microscopic 0.81 ERA, with just 29 hits allowed in 44+ innings. One chapter later, that same exact pitcher, using the same exact player card, and the same exact software, posted an ERA of 5.50, with 37 hits allowed in 36 innings. He also went 1-4 in seven games (five starts) and coughed up EIGHT home runs. So, is Scherzer an ace or a useless turd? According to the geniuses behind Diamond Mind Baseball, the answer is apparently both!

The entire Cowtippers team choked in Chapter Two despite the addition of Kurt Suzuki last chapter, who has hit .257/.296/.431 -- leaps and bounds better than Salem's catching tandem of Chapter One. More offensive help is on the way, in the form of second baseman Kolten Wong, but none of it will matter if the heart of Salem's lineup continues to have difficulty reaching base. Shohei Ohtani (.300), Andrew Benintendi (.309), Rafael Devers (.275), and Christian Walker (.256) are all posting OBP's 30 points or more below their projected rates.

Had it not been for The Trade, Salem would be in major trouble. As it stands, all they need to do is settle somewhere between their Chapter One and Chapter Two records.

Story #4: The .600...Flamingos?

The only predictable part about this season is that it would be so unpredictable. Perhaps nothing could have been more unexpected this season than the Las Vegas Flamingos owning the best record in the Ozzie League one-third of the way through this season, and yet here we are.

Vegas owns a .607 record after two chapters of play, and owns a comfortable six-game lead over the South Loop Furies. The Furies own a .500 record, and trail in the OL wildcard race by just four games...yet, GM Bart Chinn has evidently thrown in the towel. By trading Madison Bumgarner to the Joplin Miners, Chinn has signaled that he's effectively quit the race for the Benes Division title, leaving Las Vegas free and clear to run away with the division.

There is one important caveat to all of the above: the Flamingos have been outscored by their opponents this year! Of the four teams in the Benes Division, only the Akron Ryche (+9) have outscored their opponents. Vegas is at -5 after two chapters of play, and own a mind-numbing Pythagorean differential of +7! The reason for all of this is an astounding record of 14-5 in one-run games. You would think this is something that wouldn't be sustainable, and yet I wrote the same thing last chapter, and Vegas proceeded to go 7-5 in one-run games in Chapter Two, including two one-run wins against my very own Salem Cowtippers!

How can this story end, other than a division title for the Las Vegas Flamingos? South Loop just quit the race. The Ravenswood Infidels quit that same race long ago. That leaves only the division- (and OL-) champion Akron Ryche as the lone contenders in the Benes Division. Akron "improved" to 14-14 in Chapter Two after a disastrous 10-18 showing in Chapter One. They have more than enough time to get into this race, but they are now looking at a double-digit (10-game) deficit in the division. We've seen teams overcome such a deficit before. It could happen again.

Story #5: No One Ever Really Dies

Listen, we all saw The Emperor get tossed over the railing and fall down that bottomless pit to his death at the end of Return of the Jedi. We all saw it. But then Disney came along and proceeded to gaslight the entire Star Wars fandom by claiming that never happened. All because that asswipe Rian Johnson decided to kill off the bad guy in the previous movie, leaving the franchise without a villain. C'mon, man.

Johnson's only goal as director, evidently, was to subvert expectations. Perhaps Rian Johnson is actually directing this year's BDBL season. It would explain so much, wouldn't it? If that were true, then at least we could blame him for the return of the BDBL's own Emperor, Tom DiStefano. As it stands, it appears only I am to blame for that.

The Allentown Ridgebacks currently sit atop Jim Doyle's pointless and redundant "Power Ranking" by virtue of their league-best +66 runs differential. They are one of only three teams in the BDBL that has scored 300 or more runs after two chapters of play. They also own the OL's third-best ERA despite a starting rotation that, up until this past chapter, included the likes of Kevin Gausman, Joe Musgrove, JA Happ, and the hollowed-out shell of Corey Kluber.

This past chapter, of course, The Emperor added Chris Sale (2-1, 2.49 ERA as a Ridgeback) in a deal with the Ravenswood Infidels that, in light of The Trade, now looks like a gross over-payment. Despite his mediocre projection, Gausman (4-0, 2.33 ERA in 27 IP) is having a phenomenal season. He owes almost all of his success to this strange anomaly:

vs. RH, proj: .260/.311/.414
vs. RH, BDBL: .164/.176/.269

What strange bug in the software could possibly explain how a pitcher could surrender an OPS that is over 300 points lower than his projected OPS? Only the geniuses behind Diamond Mind Baseball know the answer to that riddle.

Unlike the performance of Allentown's pitchers, their offensive dominance is no surprise. Aaron Judge (.304/.406/.613), George Springer (.283/.368/.509), Matt Olson (.265/.336/.525), and Giancarlo Stanton (.269/.324/.622) are all doing exactly what we thought they would.

Meanwhile, the second-place Los Altos Undertakers (boy, does that sound strange!) are trailing closely behind in the Griffin Division race. They own the third-best record in the Ozzie League, and trail just one game behind Allentown in that race.

Their problem, all season, has been pitching. The Undertakers rank just ninth in the OL in ERA. Their starters have contributed only 23 quality starts -- the third-lowest total in the Ozzie. As mentioned above, Gerrit Cole finally turned his season around, but Shane Bieber (3-6, 6.72 ERA in 72+ IP!) continues to inexplicably struggle. He posted a 6.44 ERA in Chapter Two and allowed 10 homers in only 36+ innings. Compare his numbers against right-handers to Gausman's:

vs. RH, proj: .230/.261/.373
vs. RH, BDBL: .324/.343/.553

Regression eventually came for Cole. Will it come for Bieber as well?

Story #6: The Wild Wilkie Division

Unless I am forgetting something, Adam Miner is the first person to ever take over a first-place team in the BDBL mid-season. He was welcomed into the league on March 26th after former owner Don Swearingen disappeared. At the time, the Saints owned an 18-10 record, which led the Wilkie Division by three games. With the robot manager still at the helm, the Saints went 14-14 in Chapter Two, and were outscored by seven runs.

The Niagara Locks, who went an astounding 9-19 in Chapter One, and were outscored by nearly 50 runs in that chapter, rebounded to an 18-10 record in Chapter Two, and outscored their opponents by nearly 40 runs.

The Highland Freedom, who also went 9-19 in Chapter One, and were outscored by 36 runs, went 16-12 in Chapter Two, and outscored their opponents by nearly 30 runs.

Lastly, the South Carolina Sea Cats went 15-13 with a +30 runs differential in Chapter One, and then fell to 12-16 in Chapter Two (-18 differential.)

Will the real Saints/Locks/Sea Cats/Freedom please stand up?! I mean...these are the same exact teams, two chapters apart, and yet each and every one of them had two completely polar-opposite chapters!

As it currently stands, all four teams are separated by seven games, making this the most competitive division in the BDBL. The Saints still lead by five games, but the other three teams are hardly out of the race. Only the Freedom has labeled 2021 as a rebuilding year.

Miner is the only GM in this group that has made a significant trade so far. The Saints added Willie Calhoun (.267/.315/.452) to the lineup, and Colin Poche (4.70 ERA in 30+ IP) and Jake Diekman (5.79 ERA in 18+) to the bullpen in a deal with the division-rival Highland Freedom. Carolina also added Alex Wood (0-3, 4.63 ERA in 23+ IP) from the Kansas Law Dogs this past chapter.

Where this race goes from here is anyone's guess. Throw all four team names into a hat and draw them out at random. The actual order in which these teams will finish seems just as random.

Story #7: From White Flag to Checkered Flag

John Gill famously waved the white flag long before the 2021 season began. His team defiantly un-waved that flag in Chapter One by posting a 21-7 record with the BDBL's best runs differential (+63). They weren't nearly as defiant in Chapter Two, going just 14-14 while getting out-scored by their opponents. Fortunately for Black Sox fans (those poor bastards), no one else in the Hrbek Division performed any better.

One-third of the way through the 2021 season, Chicago owns a comfortable seven-game lead ahead of the Charlotte Mustangs and a double-digit lead over the Cleveland Rocks and lowly Myrtle Beach Hitmen. The Black Sox lead the BDBL in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and home runs. The completely depleted Chicago pitching staff ranks near the bottom of the league in ERA (4.44), but that is hardly an issue given the performance of the offense.

Story #8: Trader Joe

In his first season at the helm of the Lake Norman Monsters franchise, Joe Demski is pulling out all the stops to remain competitive in the highly-competitive Griffin Division. Demski made four trades this past chapter in an effort to bolster his team as we head toward the second half of the season.

Yasiel Puig (.288/.357/.388) will soon replace someone named Yonathan Daza (.222/.243/.319) in the Lake Norman lineup. Adam Eaton (.284/.376/.418) and Asdrubal Cabrera (.253/.293/.421) will also wedge themselves into that lineup somewhere. The biggest addition is (or should be) Manny Machado (hitting just .209/.264/.424!), who will presumably take over for Paul DeJong (.198/.293/.346).

The Monsters also added Ken Giles (7.71 ERA!) in a deal with the Kansas Law Dogs, in the hope that he turns his season around in a radical way.

While the .500 South Loop Furies are bailing out of their race, and the .625 Chicago Black Sox are winning in spite of their preseason intentions, and the .554 Joplin Miners can't figure out whether they're coming or going, it's refreshing to see a last-place team make such bold moves to become more competitive.

The Monsters are only two games below .500. They have two teams ahead of them in the division that own two of the three best records in the Ozzie League. It seems like a long shot for Lake Norman to gain enough ground in that race for the second-place finish they'd need to win the wildcard. But at least they're taking a shot!