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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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September, 2021

Chapter Five Recap

Here we go. Down the home stretch. Buckle-up, boys.

Whether you have thoroughly enjoyed this completely nonsensical oddball season, or whether you can't wait for it to end, there is good news: Chapter Six is about to begin! There are several races worth watching over the next six weeks, and it's quite possible that we could see one, two, or even three teams eke into the playoffs during the closing moments of the 2021 season.

Only one division race is realistically up-for-grabs. In the McGowan Division, the Joplin Miners have done everything possible to hand the division to the Salem Cowtippers over the past two chapters, but the 'Tippers simply refuse to accept their generosity. With 28 games remaining, Salem trails Joplin by just two games.

Both the OL and EL wildcard spots are up-for-grabs. In the OL, both the Bear Country Jamboree (one game) and Cowtippers (three games) are within striking distance of the fading (and flag-waving??) Los Altos Undertakers. In the EL, the Buckingham Sovereigns hold a slim and shaky one-game lead over those scary Cleveland Rocks.

For those who haven't checked out completely, Chapter Six promises to be a wild ride to the very end.

Players of the Chapter

One division race that is definitely not up-for-grabs is the Benes Division, where the Las Vegas Flamingos are tied with the Great Lakes Sphinx with the largest division lead (15 games) in the BDBL. One big reason for that lead is the team's first franchise player, Francisco Lindor. Now playing in his sixth season with Vegas, Lindor has had a somewhat disappointing season up until Chapter Five. He seems to have caught fire at just the right time. He hit .342/.407/.586 for the chapter, with 25 runs scored and 25.1 runs created.

Our EL Hitter of the Chapter is Josh Rojas.

Wait, what? Josh Rojas?? Yes, Josh Rojas. Yet another example of how the Great Lakes Sphinx have completely defied expectations in 2021. Rojas hit just .262/.332/.426 on the disk, with a middling OPS split of 734/768. Needless to say, he's surpassed those numbers by leaps and bounds in this 2021 season. He's currently hitting .301/.374/.512 for the season, and hit .367/.444/.615 in Chapter Five, with 30.2 runs created (second only to Alex Bregman.) Rojas posted a .437 OPS in the MLB 2020 season, but has caught fire in 2021, hitting .269/.346/.428 (774 OPS). Maybe Diamond Mind can see into the future?

Framber Valdez went 0-1 in Chapter Five, and was completely crushed by the Bear Country Jamboree in one of his three Chapter Five starts, allowing five runs on eleven hits in just six innings of work. Yet, somehow, he ended up leading the OL in ERA (2.12) in Chapter Five, and finished among the top-seven in all three triple-slash categories (.183/.274/.294). Given that, it's hard not to name him as the OLPOTC. He could be the first POTC in history without a win.

Mike Montgomery posted a 4.40 ERA on the projection disk, with more hits allowed than innings, and craptastic OPS splits of 745/755. So, how the hell is he now 5-0 on the season, with a 2.85 ERA through 60 innings, and sparkling splits of 442/702? Beats me. I have given up trying to make sense of this season. Monty went 4-0 for the Rocks in Chapter Five, with a 2.55 ERA, while holding opponents to a .156/.237/.328 batting line. He led the league in batting average and OBP allowed.

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: Joplin Stumbles...and So Does Salem

The McGowan Division race between the Joplin Miners and Salem Cowtippers has been completely absurd from the very beginning of this season. Salem jumped out to such an early lead, finishing Chapter One five games ahead of Joplin, that then-GM Jim Doyle decided to "cut his losses" and trade away several of his best players (which completely disrupted several EL races in the process.)

Joplin (18-10) and Salem (12-16) switched places in Chapter Two, prompting Doyle to go "all-in" on the 2021 season, trading away his franchise's entire future, in an effort to "go for broke." Joplin then watched their one-game lead grow to four games by the all-star break.

Meanwhile, the Cowtippers simply stopped playing like a competitive baseball team. Inexplicably, they went just 38-38 over their next three chapters after dominating Chapter One. Doyle continued to add to his arsenal by trading away the very last remaining bits of future value from his roster. Salem reluctantly made a few deals as well, adding several arms and bats in an effort to give the team a much-needed kick in the ass.

That kick in the ass evidently missed its mark. Salem wrapped up Chapter Five with the same winning percentage they had over the previous three chapters: 14-14. Joplin stumbled badly in the chapter, going just 12-16, but Salem failed to take advantage. That failure was highlighted in giant neon lettering when the Cowtippers lost three of four to Joplin in their head-to-head matchup in Chapter Five -- at home in Sam Adams Stadium.

The next time these two teams face each other, Joplin will have a new manager, thanks to Doyle wearing out his welcome several times over. After a thirteen-year absence, founding father Billy "Baseball" Romaniello was welcomed back to the BDBL as the (perhaps temporary) manager of the Joplin franchise -- which just happens to be Billy's former franchise. As Romaniello was never able to experience postseason play during his 13-year tenure in the league, he will have plenty of motivation to win. Beating me to get there will only be icing on the cake. And Billy loves cake.

Story #2: Los Altos Stumbles...But Not Bear Country!

Speaking of rivalries that date back to youth, the Paulson/Clemm rivalry now ranks #2 in longevity only to the Glander/Romaniello rivalry (which dates all the way back to 1982, back when Paulson and Clemm were still in diapers.) That Griffin Division rivalry heated up in a big way last chapter, when Paulson's Undertakers stumbled badly with a 13-15 record, while Clemm's Jamboree went a league-best (tied) 17-11. Los Altos was actually outscored by their opponents in Chapter Five (-5), while the Jamboree posted the best runs differential (+43) in the Ozzie League.

The biggest reason for the Los Altos collapse was their pitching. The Undertakers posted a whopping 4.85 ERA in Chapter Five, managed to save only eight games, and allowed more home runs than any other team in the OL aside from the Darien Blue Wave. The Big Three of their starting rotation all performed well enough: Gerrit Cole (3.55 ERA in 38 IP), Shane Bieber (3.40 in 47+), and David Price (3.58 in 27+). Believe it or not, it was the vaunted and famed Los Altos BULLPEN that actually cost them the chapter.

Seranthony Dominguez (17.05 ERA in 6+ IP), Zack Britton (10.29 in 7), and Josh James (8.44 in 16) went 0-4 combined, with three blown saves. Number four starter Caleb Smith, normally reliable, went 1-2 with a 6.98 ERA in five starts. Spot-starter Dustin May also went 1-2, with a 5.48 ERA. Combined, those five pitchers managed to allow over half of the team's total earned runs for the chapter. In just 29+ innings, Smith allowed ELEVEN home runs -- an average of 3.3 per nine!

The two teams split their four-game Chapter Five matchup at Bear Country. The Jamboree also split with Salem, Joplin, and Ravenswood. They beat up on the lowly Darien Blue Wave and Lake Norman Monsters, and surprisingly won three of four from the first-place Allentown Ridgebacks as well.

Los Altos owns the home-field advantage in their fourth and final head-to-head series in Chapter Six -- which will presumably be played during the final days of the regular season. The Undertakers and Jamboree play five of the same opponents in Chapter Six. In the other two series, Bear Country will face Akron and Las Vegas, while the Undertakers will face Joplin and Darien.

Los Altos owns a slim one-game lead over the Jamboree in the wildcard race, and a lead of three games over Salem. Unless something bizarre happens (which is always possible), this race could be decided during the final game of the 2021 season.

UPDATE! I was in the middle of writing this column when Jeff Paulson dropped a bombshell on the league. When he recently wrote on the league forum that his team "just isn't good enough to make noise in the playoffs," I wrote it off as typical Humblejeff reverse psychology. But then, at the final free agent deadline of the season, Jeff released Mac Williamson (.262/.314/.595 overall, with a .963 OPS vs. LH), Ryan Braun (.291/.355/.500 overall, with a .902 OPS vs. RH), Derek Dietrich (.281/.351/.528 overall, with a .955 OPS vs. LH), Yoshi Tsutsugo (.268/.343/.492 overall, with 801/846 splits), and David Price (7-5, 3.49 ERA in 116 IP.) The team that currently leads the wildcard with only one chapter remaining just released several key players with one chapter to go!

What gives? Is Paulson handing his best friend a spot in the playoffs that he doesn't want? Has he lost his mojo? Is he playing 4-D chess while the rest of us are playing checkers? Does he no longer care about winning? Does he secretly believe his team is so strong, they can win without four major hitters and their team leader in ERA? Is Paulson trying to show us that he can win with both hands tied behind his back?

Whatever the case may be, this is an unprecedented decision at this late point in the season.

Story #3: Don't Call Them the Buckingham Badgers

It has been quite a season for Tony Badger and his Buckingham Sovereigns. This season began with Badger bidding a BDBL-record $26 million to re-sign Mike Trout and losing that record bid to the Darien Blue Wave. Heartbroken, Badger used all of that money to sign Taylor Rogers, Jorge Soler, Aaron Hicks, and Charlie Morton instead. And it could not have worked out better for him. Not only have those guys carried the Sovereigns to the postseason, but Badger dodged a bullet with Trout's injury-shortened 2021 MLB season.

After a mediocre first chapter, the Sovereigns took the EL wildcard lead with a 17-11 Chapter Two. That momentum carried into Chapter Three, and Buckingham's lead grew to a seemingly-comfortable four games over the Cleveland Rocks by the all-star break.

Cleveland managed to whittle that lead down to three games in Chapter Four. Then, in Chapter Five, the wheels fell off the Buckingham bandwagon. The Sovereigns went just 13-15 in Chapter Five, while the Rocks went 15-13, cutting that lead to just one game.

What happened? Well, for starters, Buckingham stopped hitting. The Sovereigns ranked fifth in the EL in runs scored heading into this past chapter, but scored just 114 runs in Chapter Five -- tied for the second-lowest total. To be fair, Cleveland didn't hit much better. They scored just 136 runs last chapter -- eighth-best in the EL.

The big difference was pitching. Cleveland ranked #2 in the EL in ERA in Chapter Five (3.79), while Buckingham ranked near the bottom at 4.91. Heading into Chapter Five, the Sovereigns led the entire Eck League in ERA (3.76), with Cleveland ranked #2 (3.99). The most glaring reasons for that crash were Morton (0-3, 9.82 ERA in four Ch.5 starts), Jeff Hoffman (0-3, 6.11 ERA in four starts), Miguel Yajure (0-2, 5.74 ERA in three starts), and the bullpen arms of Trey Wingenter (8.25 ERA in 12 IP) and Chris Martin (6.55 ERA in 11 IP).

Cleveland won their Chapter Five series against Buckingham, three games to one. That was the final head-to-head matchup between these two teams. In Chapter Six, both teams will face Charlotte, Carolina, Chicago, Myrtle Beach, and South Philly. Buckingham will also face Great Lakes, Kansas, and South Philly (combined winning percentage of .510). Cleveland will also face Charlotte, Myrtle Beach, and Chicago (.487). Although it looks like a tougher schedule for Buckingham, the Sovereigns own a .574 winning percentage against their Chapter Six opponents, while Cleveland has played only .485 ball against theirs.