Players of the Chapter
There was a lot of chuckling and
chortling two winters ago when the Salem Cowtippers were "forced" to go
Type H on free agent Mark Canha. Canha responded to those guffaws by
racking up a .267/.393/.495 batting line in 2022, with 28 homers and
119.5 runs created. He even received an MVP vote for his work. Canha has
continued to rake in 2023. Our OL Hitter of the Chapter slashed
.333/.429/.604 in Chapter One, and created 25 runs (second to
Cleveland's Paul Goldschmidt's 26.3.)
Blacksburg teammates George Springer
(24.7) and Aaron Judge (24.1) ranked #1 and #2 in the Eck League in runs
created in Chapter One. Springer also ranks among the top ten in batting
average (.348), OBP (.406) and slugging (.527), so we'll give the POC
award to him this time. As for Judge, it's surprising to see that he has
hit "only" eight home runs so far, in a home ballpark that benefits
right-handed power hitters even more so than Yankee Stadium. I can't
help but think that Judge will win a POC at some point this year.
Ravenswood starter Ross Stripling went
a perfect 5-0 in Chapter One, but his teammate, Alek Manoah, is our OL
Pitcher of the Chapter. Manoah led the league with a 0.94 ERA and
finished among the top-seven in opponents BA (.170), OBP (.270), and SLG
(.220). Not bad for a guy who was Ravenswood's last pick (in Round #7)
in the 2019 farm draft! That was an impressive draft for GM Brian
Potrafka. In addition to Manoah, he also selected Vidal Brujan, Josh
Jung, Nick Lodolo, and Daniel Espino -- all top-100 prospects at some
Some guys come out of absolutely
nowhere to make a huge impact in the game. Two years ago, Shane
McClanahan ranked #111 in our annual BDBL Farm Report. The year before
that, he ranked #106. In the previous two years, he wasn't even ranked.
Yet, all of a sudden, overnight, he has become one of the top pitchers
in baseball. The South Philly ace is our EL POC after he went 4-1 with a
2.43 ERA, and held opponents to a .194/.300/.326 batting line.
Top Stories of the
Story #1: Skiz Makes a Statement
The Ravenswood Infidels received little
respect from the BDBL punditry this winter. In my Preseason Preview, I
predicted they would finish in last-place in their division. In league
polling, the Infidels did not receive a single vote to win the Benes
Division. Yet, one chapter into this season, Ravenswood not only leads
their division by two games, but they own the second-best record in the
entire BDBL at 19-9. How did we all get it so wrong?
My assessment of the Infidels in the
preseason was that they didn't have enough offense to compete, and did
not have enough pitching -- especially in the bullpen. My point about
Ravenswood's offense has looked accurate so far. They scored only 111
runs in Chapter One, which ranks tenth in a league of twelve. That's an
average of just 4.0 runs per game. And that happened while Stone Garrett
(who barely qualifies with 84 PAs in MLB last year) was used as a
full-time player. He ranks second on this team in runs created, but he's
now nearly done for the season.
A team that scores so few runs, and yet
wins so many games, must have a tremendous pitching staff. That fact
checks out so far. Ravenswood ranks #3 in the OL with a 2.75 ERA. Their
bullpen has saved 13 games in 17 opportunities. They have allowed just
17% of inherited runners to score (well below the league average of
Alek Manoah was the OL Pitcher of the
Chapter. Ross Stripling went a perfect 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA. Lance Lynn
posted a 2.21 ERA in 20+ innings, and Sonny Gray posted a sub-3.00 ERA
in 24+ innings. Relievers Will Vest, Alex Lange, and Taylor Rogers
allowed just two runs to score in nearly 30 innings combined.
All of the above seems unsustainable.
The offense is bound to improve a bit, but this pitching staff simply
can't sustain this pace for an entire season. Ravenswood went 7-3 in
one-run games, leading to a Pythagorian difference of +2. Regression is
coming. It has to.
To the surprise of everyone -- but
especially D.J. Shepard -- the division-favorite Akron Ryche finished
Chapter One with a mediocre .500 record. They somehow managed to be
outscored by their opponents by four runs. The Las Vegas Flamingos, who
were my pick to win the OL wildcard, are already done for the season.
They finished the first chapter with a league-worst 6-22 record! The
South Carolina Sea Cats allowed just 75 runs in the chapter -- by far
the lowest total in the league -- which propelled them to a 17-11
None of this seems sustainable!
Ravenswood has to fall back to earth. Akron has to rise in the
standings. South Carolina's pitching is great, but this great?
And Vegas can't possibly be this bad. What a whacky chapter it was in
the Benes Division!
Story #2: Hitman Underperform
The Myrtle Beach Hitmen were not only
the overwhelming favorites to win the Hrbek Division (receiving 11 of 13
votes in preseason polling), but were also the favorites to win the Eck
League title. After one chapter of play, however, the Hitmen are
trailing by two games in the division, looking up at the Charlotte
As expected, the Hitmen offense put a
ton of runs on the board. They lead the Eck League with 145 runs scored.
Only two teams in the entire BDBL (Darien and Florida) have scored more
so far. Myrtle Beach also allowed only 94 runs, which is the
second-lowest total in the Eck League. Their runs differential of +51
leads the Eck League. So...what's the problem?
Simply put, it seems the Hitmen ran
into a bit of bad luck. They played seven one-run games and lost five of
them. They also played three extra-inning games and lost all three.
After only 28 games, the Hitmen already own a Pythagorian difference of
minus-4! Needless to say, luck changes over time, and it's likely that
the Hitmen will be fine in the long run.
The Mustangs have been a bit of a
surprise. They own the best record (18-10) in the Eck League, and are
tied for #2 in runs differential (+30). The big story out of Charlotte
is the performance of Luis Arreaz. The dude has been hitting a mile over
his head so far. He is slashing .421/.464/.605 on the season, which is
nowhere near his MLB slash line of .316/.375/.420. He has already hit
one-quarter as many home runs as he hit all of last year. He also owns a
.955 OPS against lefties, which is nowhere near his .685 MLB OPS.
Rookie Julio Rodriguez (.306/.356/.496)
has been every bit as good as his hype suggested. Juan Soto
(.263/.417/.474), Manny Margot (.297/.366/.446), and Yuli Gurriel
(.333/.381/.667) have also been key contributors. The Charlotte bullpen
trio of Dan Hudson, Collin McHugh, and Evan Phillips has allowed a grand
total of two runs in 41+ innings. Absolutely insane.
Story #3: Surf's Up in Darien
No one is surprised to see the Darien
Blue Wave in first place in the McGowan Division. They were the
overwhelming favorites to win the division in preseason polling, and
they have fulfilled those expectations -- and then some. Darien co-owns
the title of Best Record in the BDBL with the Los Altos Undertakers.
They have outscored their opponents by more runs (86) than any other
team in the league. If they keep up with that pace, they'll outscore
their opponents by 486 runs -- which would blow the league record out of
The Blue Wave have scored 22 more runs
than any other team in the BDBL. They have hit 13 more home runs than
any other team. We all expected Mike Trout and Yordan F'ing Alvarez to
carry this entire offense, but no one in his right mind expected Ha-Seong
Kim (.296/.373/.439) and Cal Raleigh (.231/.333/.641) to create more
runs than Alvarez at this point in the season. Anthony Rizzo
(.239/.349/.534) and Carlos Santana (.241/.322/.468) are also playing so
far over their heads they barely resemble their real-life versions.
Darien's bullpen was expected to be
outstanding, and it's been ever better than that. Jonathan Hernandez,
Tim Hill, Bryan Abreu, and Brusdar Graterol have pitched 28 innings
combined and have allowed just two runs. Four other Darien relievers own
an ERA under 2.50. Part-time starters Matt Manning, George Kirby, and
Garrett Whitlock (who pitched only 271 innings combined last year) have
posted a combined ERA of 1.56 in over 34 innings, with a perfect 5-0
Things are so ridiculous in Darien
right now that six of their twenty wins were decided by eight or more
runs. They won Chapter One games by scores like 15-1, 10-0, 11-2, and
11-2. In contrast, their division rivals, the Florida Mulligans, lost
one game in which they scored 13 runs, were beaten by Darien by a score
of 16-8, and lost to Ravenswood by a score of 10-2.
Florida has scored the second-most runs
in the BDBL, and owns the league's best on-base percentage (.351), and
yet went just 16-12 in Chapter One thanks to the most bizarre team-wide
pitching collapse I've ever seen in 25 years. The Mulligans allowed more
runs in Chapter One than every other team in the Ozzie League except
two. Their team ERA of 4.94 ranks ninth in the OL, and is virtually tied
with the Flagstaff Peaks, who no one picked to win anything in 2023.
Florida's Chapter One pitching stats
make zero sense when compared side-by-side with their MLB stats. Framber
Valdez (5.71), Luis Garcia (6.23), J.P. Sears (6.75), and Ranger Suarez
(8.56) all sport an ERA that is at least three runs higher than the ERA
they posted in MLB. Valdez, who allowed an average of 7.4 hits per nine
in MLB, has allowed more hits (52) than innings (41). Garcia, who
allowed just 2.7 walks per nine in MLB, has allowed 5.7 per nine in the
BDBL. Suarez, who allowed just 15 home runs in 155+ innings in MLB, has
already allowed nearly half (7) that total in Chapter One.
You have to believe regression will
happen with both Darien and Florida as we move forward. Right?
Story #4: All Tied in the Wilkie
The Wilkie Division is currently the
only division in the league with three teams playing above .500. Lake
Norman and Niagara are tied at 17-11, and D.C. trails by two games at
15-13. The greatest surprise of the three are the D.C. Memorials, who I
predicted on this page would finish in last-place in this division.
Instead, they are two games above .500 and have outscored their
opponents. Hmm. Weird!
In my Preseason Preview, I called
D.C.'s lineup the weakest in the league outside of the Virginia
Sovereigns. The Sovereigns have scored only 86 runs this season, while
the Memorials have scored 123. The reason is that several Memorials
hitters are playing way above their heads. Ildemaro Vargas (1.474), Jake
McCarthy (.988), Rafael Ortega (.895), and Ryan McKenna (.878) are all
sporting OPS's that are over 200 points higher than their MLB OPS's. It
seems reasonable to expect some regression there.
The Niagara Locks were expected to
score a shit-ton of runs as they always do. What has been somewhat
surprising is that their pitching staff has kept run-scoring to enough
of a minimum that the Locks have a chance to win. Niagara's 3.78 team
ERA ranks a respectable fifth in the Eck League. Niagara pitchers have
allowed fewer hits than innings, and have kept home runs from sailing
over the fence at a surprising rate.
The least-surprising performance in
this division has been by the Lake Norman Monsters. They have outscored
their opponents by 30 runs, which is nearly four times D.C.'s
differential and fifteen times Niagara's. They own the second-best team
OBP (.334) in the Eck League, and the league's third-best ERA (3.24).
They are basically performing exactly how the league punditry expected
in the preseason.
My guess is that the Monsters will
begin to separate from the pack in Chapter Two. The most shocking part
about the first chapter was the way in which the Memorials completely
dominated their divisional competition. D.C. went an astounding 10-2
against their division, while Lake Norman (5-7) and Niagara (7-5) merely
floated along for the ride. I suspect that this will change over the
next several divisional series.
Story #5: No Surprises in Los Altos
The Los Altos Undertakers allowed just
79 runs in Chapter One. Only the Sea Cats (75) allowed fewer than that.
The Sea Cats (2.46) and Undertakers (2.60) are ranked one and two in the
league in ERA. Los Altos owns the co-lead with Darien for the most wins,
and has outscored their opponents by more runs (56) than every other
team in the BDBL except for Darien. In other words, nothing about the
Los Altos Undertakers has been surprising so far.
The only surprising development to come
from the Griffin Division is the 17-11 start by the Cleveland Rocks.
Cleveland wasn't supposed to be competitive this season. They didn't
receive a single vote to win this division in preseason polling, and I
predicted they would finish in third place in my Preseason Preview.
Cleveland's pitching staff is among the best in the league, but, as I
pointed out in my preview, teams generally can't win with pitching
alone. They must have some semblance of an offense, and the only
above-average hitter on the Cleveland squad is the guy they blew most of
their spending money to acquire, Paul Goldschmidt.
As I mentioned in that preview, both
the Cleveland Rocks and South Carolina Sea Cats appear to be conducting
the same experiment with outstanding pitching and no offense whatsoever.
After one chapter of play, it appears that experiment has been a
success. Both Cleveland and South Carolina are sporting identical 17-11
records. Both teams have scored exactly 113 runs. Cleveland has allowed
only 91 runs, while South Carolina has allowed a ridiculously-low 75
As expected, Cleveland's offense has
been terrible. Their .318 team OBP is below league-average, as is their
.395 slugging percentage. Goldschmidt (.302/.400/.566) has done as much
as he can to carry the entire team on his back. The shocking performance
of Nick Gordon (.342/.391/.470) has been the real difference-maker. He
hit just .272/.316/.427 in the big leagues last year. His Chapter One
performance is a head-shaker.
Can the Rocks and Sea Cats continue to
enjoy success without any offense? Is run-scoring over-rated? Or is this
just a random burp in the machine? I guess we'll find out.
Story #6: Battle of the Luhnings
The Luhning brothers are enjoying an
epic battle right now in the Higuera Division. The younger Luhning
currently owns a slim one-game lead over his big brother, Chris. J.D.'s
South Philly Gritty is winning with stifling pitching and defense.
Chris' Kansas Law Dogs are winning with crushing offense. In
head-to-head play, the two teams split their series in Chapter One. The
Gritty eked out seven wins in one-run games, while the Law Dogs staged
four come-from-behind wins.
The Gritty lead the Eck League with a
3.06 team ERA. Their starting rotation includes our EL Pitcher of the
Chapter, McClanahan, but he was hardly the only contributor in Chapter
One. Adrian Sampson (3-0, 0.98 ERA in 27+ IP) was unhittable in Chapter
One. Kyle Wright (1-2, 2.78 in 45+) was outstanding, although his
won-loss record doesn't show it. J.T. Brubaker and Andre Pallante tossed
35 innings combined, and allowed just three earned runs (a 0.77 ERA.)
The Law Dogs rank among the top-three
in the EL in OBP, OPS, and RC/27. They also lead the entire BDBL with 61
doubles. The infamous Ty France leads the team in runs created, and
slashed .369/.389/.563 for the chapter. Salvador Perez (.326/.340/.609),
Randy Arozarena (.279/.345/.423), and Jazz Chisholm (.275/.362/.725)
also enjoyed a big chapter.
The division rivalries between family
and friends have made this a fun BDBL season so far -- and there are
still five chapters to go!