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

Commish

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May, 2024

Chapter Two Recap

Players of the Chapter

Shohei Ohtani was such a massive disappointment in the BDBL last year that I was beginning to suspect this game doesn't like him. He hit just .231/.320/.410, with 20 homers last year -- all well below his MLB '22 numbers. As it turns out, though, this game does like him after all. He has been an absolute beast all season, and somehow managed to improve on his Chapter One performance this past chapter. He hit .352/.452/.790 in Chapter Two, and led the league with 12 homers and 38.7 runs created. He owns a .781 slugging percentage on the season and has already hit 22 homers. He is clearly our OL Hitter of the Chapter.

The South Philly Gritty opened up a comfortable four-game lead in their division thanks to a 16-12 performance in Chapter Two. A big part of that record was due to the EL Hitter of the Chapter's continued contribution to his team. Marcell Ozuna hit .340/.410/.709 in Chapter Two, with 11 homers and 30.9 runs created. Ozuna was drafted by Cleveland in 2022 at just $1 million in salary. He has become one of the better bargains in the league since then.

Speaking of bargains, Aaron Civale, and his paltry $2 million salary, carried the Flagstaff Peaks on his back in Chapter Two. The OL Pitcher of the Chapter led the league in all three triple-slash categories (.179/.240/.241) and also led in ERA (2.01). The bad news for Peaks fans is that he has exceeded half of his allowed usage after only two chapters.

Touki Toussaint posted a 4.97 ERA in MLB last year and walked nearly six batters per game. He also has a funny name. So, can someone please explain to me how he won our Chapter Two EL Pitcher of the Chapter award? He went a perfect 6-0 for the Chicago Black Sox, posted a microscopic 1.34 ERA, and ranked among the top three in all three triple-slash categories (.144/.285/.242). WTF??

Top Stories of the Chapter

Story #1: Chicago Fire

Speaking of the Black Sox, they were tied for first place heading into the final week of the chapter...and now sit a full seven games ahead of the North Carolina Iron Spider Pigs in the Hrbek Division. During that final week, the Sox swept West Chester and South Philly, while the Iron Spider Pigs were swept by Lake Norman and South Philly. The Black Sox ended up with a BDBL-best 21-7 record in Chapter Two -- seven games better than North Carolina's 14-14 showing.

The remarkable part about Chicago's Chapter Two record is that their newest slugger, Aaron Judge, hit just .243/.325/.459 in his Chicago debut. Bryce Harper (.337/.412/.723) and Matt Olson (.297/.376/.703) carried the offense, accounting for more than one-third of their team's total runs created.

Aside from Toussaint's bizarre performance, Chicago's starting pitchers were lit up pretty well in Chapter Two. Three of their five starters posted an ERA north of 5.80 last chapter. Thankfully for Chicago, their bullpen (and Toussaint) carried them the entire chapter. Jimmy Cordero, a 27th-round draft pick by Chicago this past winter, led the team with four saves and didn't allow a run in more than nine innings of relief.

North Carolina had a brutal schedule last chapter. Three of their seven opponents were division-winners. In Chapter Three, four of their six opponents are last-place teams. The Iron Pigs may be seven games out of first, but they're hardly out of the running. This past chapter, Pigs GM Ian Hartner added Jon Gray and Christopher Sanchez to his starting rotation, while Black Sox GM John Gill added Michael Wacha. I expect to see the gap between these two teams narrow a bit over the coming six weeks.

Story #2: All Tied Up in the Benes

One-third of the way into the season, the Akron Ryche and South Carolina Sea Cats are all tied up at the top of the Benes Division. I'm not sure that even Tony DeCastro saw this one coming. Akron has scored 30 more runs than South Carolina this year, and has allowed 15 fewer. Given that, you must think the identical records were the result of South Carolina performing much better than Akron in close contests. But no. Their records in one-run games are nearly identical: 10-10 for Akron, 12-10 for South Carolina.

Akron does own a -4 Pythagorean difference, while the Sea Cats sit at an even zero. Four more wins for Akron at this point in the season seems about right. What doesn't compute is South Carolina's continued dominance. In my preseason preview, I had them pegged to win between 72 and 78 games this year. They're currently on pace for 91. How the hell did I misjudge this team so badly?

In my preview, I wrote that the 'Cats don't have enough innings to get through the season, and would have to supplement from the free agent scrap heap. As I type, five Sea Cats pitchers have exceeded more than 50% of their usage already. Julio Teheran is at 70%. Joe Musgrove is at 65%. Those two will eventually need to be replaced in the starting rotation. Unless DeCastro makes a trade for a quality starter (or two or three), this team will get dragged down by those free agent replacements.

I also wrote in that preview that the Sea Cats offense is missing platoon partners for several hitters in their lineup. One of those positions was catcher. Yet, Gary Sanchez, who hit just .267/.304/.680 against lefties in MLB, is hitting a whopping .375/.366/.800 against southpaws in the BDBL! I also mentioned that no hitter in the South Carolina lineup owns an OPS north of .790. Right now, five Sea Cats own an OPS above .790.

Last chapter, I wrote that "it's difficult to see the Sea Cats gain any ground in this race." Then they proceeded to post a 16-12 record in Chapter Two against Akron's 14-14 record, which moved them into a tie for first. I'll go ahead and make the same prediction this chapter. Six weeks from now, Akron will be comfortably ahead in this race.

Story #3: Monster Battle in the Wilkie

The defending-EL-champion Lake Norman Monsters were supposed to run away with the Wilkie Division. In preseason polling, Lake Norman earned 11 of the 15 votes cast to win the division. They also earned 11 out of 13 votes to repeat as EL champions. 56 games into the season, however, the Monsters have a real battle on their hands. After both the Monsters and Highland Freedom went 19-9 in Chapter Two, the two teams are now only two games apart.

The Wilkie Division is almost as much of a bloodbath as the McGowan Division. Three teams in the Wilkie have 30 or more wins this year. The Freedom would be the division leader in either other Eck League division. The Niagara Locks own a .536 winning percentage and they're six games behind the second place team!

Monsters GM Joe Demski added a couple of bullpen arms this past chapter, while the Freedom front office decided to stand pat. Neither team really needs any additional help at this point. The Freedom and Monsters are the only two teams in the EL that have scored 300+ runs this season. The Freedom, Monsters, and Myrtle Beach Hitmen are the only three EL teams that have allowed fewer than 250 runs this year.

The Freedom have a tough schedule in Chapter Three. They will face off against the .600+ Florida Mulligans and Darien Blue Wave in addition to their divisional foes. The Monsters will face much easier opponents in the Ozzie League: the South Loop Furies, Las Vegas Flamingos, and West Chester Blooms. Thanks to that tougher schedule, I expect the Freedom could stumble a bit over the next chapter.

Story #4: Break Up the Mulligans?

After our pathetic first chapter, I made an early call that the 2024 season would be another lost season in Florida franchise history. Then my team made me look bad by winning 20 games in Chapter Two. Although it looks impressive on paper, it's mostly an illusion. We played five sub-.500 teams last chapter and went 15-5 against them. Next chapter, out of the six opponents we face, four of them own a .600+ winning percentage. Being in second place has been fun, but it won't last much longer.

As projected, the Mulligans offense has been phenomenal. We lead the entire BDBL with 340 runs scored, and rank #2 in home runs. The Mulligans (101) and Chicago Black Sox (112) are the only two teams in the BDBL with 100+ homers this year. What changed since Chapter One is that our team ERA went from 4.95 in Chapter One to a league-best 3.73 in Chapter Two. Again, that won't last.

The Darien Blue Wave went 19-9 in Chapter Two, but still couldn't catch the Mulligans or the Flagstaff Peaks. The Peaks currently enjoy a slim one-game lead over Florida and two games over Darien. Their +97 runs differential leads the entire BDBL. Their 3.67 team ERA ranks second only to Akron (3.49).

Neither Flagstaff nor Darien made a move trade-wise this past chapter. Flagstaff nearly reached their WAR quota with the Corbin Carroll trade last winter. After adding Trea Turner last chapter, they're just about done. Darien has been rumored to be involved in several trades involving big-name players, but has yet to pull the trigger. With Flagstaff, Florida, and Darien all playing each other head-to-head this chapter, Chapter Three may very well seal the fate of this division for the rest of the season.

Story #5: Furies Refuse to Die

Jeff Paulson may not have expected to run away with the Griffin Division this year, but he's pretty much alone on that island. Here we are, 35% of the way into our season, however, and those pesky South Loop Furies simply refuse to stop winning. They went 16-12 in Chapter Two, while the Los Altos Undertakers went 17-11. As a result, Los Altos is clinging to a two-game lead in the division as we head into Chapter Three.

The Los Altos offense stumbled big-time last chapter. They hit just .252/.323/.444 as a team, and scored just 130 runs -- fourth-fewest in the OL. Their pitching wasn't much better. Their 4.61 ERA in Chapter Two ranks 9th out of 12 OL teams. The Furies matched that 4.61 ERA, but scored 15 more runs than Los Altos.

Several South Loop players are having bizarre seasons completely out of character with their MLB performances. Pablo Reyes (.287/.339/.377 in MLB) is hitting .402/.458/.621 as a part-time player. Jose Trevino (.210/.257/.312 in MLB) is hitting .423/.444/.846 in part-time play. Is the game broken? What is happening here?

On the flip side, several Los Altos players are also having bizarre seasons completely out of character, but in the opposite way. Most notably, Shane Bieber owns a 6.22 ERA. These things have a way of correcting themselves over time, and there is plenty of time for that to happen.

Story #6: The Gritty Gritty

If the South Philly Gritty played in the McGowan Division, they'd be in last place. Thankfully for Gritty fans, they play in the Higuera, where first-place always seems to be up for grabs. The Gritty went 16-12 in Chapter Two, fending off the second-place Virginia Sovereigns, who went 15-13. South Loop now owns a comfortable four-game lead in the division despite owning the lowest runs differential (+18) of any first-place team in the BDBL.

South Philly GM J.D. Luhning made his big move just before the deadline, adding Clayton Kershaw from the Cleveland Rocks, along with Christian Yelich and Will Smith (the pitcher, not the catcher or slap-fighting actor.) Kershaw will provide a much-needed boost to a pitching staff that currently ranks 11th in the BDBL and fifth in the EL in ERA (4.45). He will likely steal his starts from Nick Martinez, who owns a 1-3 record and 5.53 ERA despite some decent MLB numbers.

The Sovereigns don't appear to be much of a threat at this point. They've outscored their opponents by only two runs this year, and own a sub-.500 record of 27-29. The Jacksonville Jackalopes (19-37, 12 GB) and Kansas Law Dogs (18-38, 13 GB) are already out of the playoffs picture. This is the Gritty's division to lose.