>Top 10/ Bottom 5 NABCL (after 125 games)
1. Sacramento Terrible Two’s (NL/ 81-41/ Last Ranking #1)
What to say about the Terrible Two’s? They are the defending champions, they have the best record in baseball, they lead the majors in all major Team Pitching categories, they have the lead MVP candidate in Otis Pavlov, 3 Cy Young candidates in Albert Boone, Alex Schmidt, and Fausto Bennett, and the leading Rookie of the Year candidate in Randy Dellucci. And after all that, they have given up the least runs in all of baseball and have scored the 3rd most runs in the NL. They have won 7 in a row and just swept their last series versus NL South leading Memphis with Otis Pavlov, Mitchell Drew, and Brandon Nixon all resting. Some have doubted they can repeat, but right now they have to be the favorite.
2. Los Angeles Robin’s (AL/ 74-50/ Last Ranking #7)
The Robin’s have been one of the more dominant teams in the AL in recent years and have been steadily moving up the rankings. Their 495 runs against are second only to Sacramento as they have been known for their dominant pitching for a long time. The scary thing about this team is their record could be almost 10 games better. They are 19-20 in 1-run games and 6-7 in extra innings. A few close wins the other way and they could easily have the best record in the game. The bottom line is that with their pitching they will be almost impossible to beat in a short series. They have to be the favorite to come out of the AL.
3. Anaheim Natural Disasters (AL/ 72-53/ Last Ranking unranked)
How was this team unranked in the last poll? Their bulletin board must be overflowing with material. They are only 2 ½ games behind Los Angeles in the AL West and as great as Chicago is in the NL, Anaheim has scored more runs and given up less. Their expected winning percentage is 1000th of a point higher than the Robin’s’. They win at home and on the road, although the road isn’t quite as friendly to them as it is to Los Angeles. This is a playoff team, and the race for the AL West is going to come down to the final series of the season.
4. Chicago Beast (NL/ 78-47/ Last Ranking #2)
Chicago continues to roll along and they are in the middle of a 6-game winning streak. They are tied for the 2nd most wins at home in all of baseball and have had control of the NL North for a while now. Will this cost them in the playoffs as they coast to the finish line? Not with young phenom and MVP candidate B.C. Parent crushing baseballs daily. This is one of the best players in the game already, and he is only 25-years old. A potent offense and a solid pitching staff will get them to the playoffs for the sixth time, but will it get them to the World Series for the second time?
5. Trenton Thrashers (NL/ 79-45/ Last Ranking #6)
What to do with the Trenton Thrashers? On paper they look like they could be the favorites to win it all. They are 18-3 against the NL East, 41-23 at home, 38-22 on the road, and are +180 in run differential. But to say they are streaky is an understatement. The Thrashers started the year winning 19 of 20 and 14 in a row. They have had a 7-game winning streak and have won 6 in a row twice. But they have also lost 5 in a row to Chicago and Seattle, and 6 in a row to Portland and Memphis. At times they seem to fall apart against the better teams in the league and beat up on the lower rung squads. Time will tell as they have widened the gap to 13-games over second place Kansas City and should cruise into the playoffs. More importantly, they hold only a 1-game lead over Chicago for the 2nd First Round Bye in the NL, and the importance of this can’t be understated.
6. Jacksonville Jackals (AL/ 70-54/ Last Ranking #8)
How do they do it? Smoke and mirrors? Maybe? They have a Cy Young candidate, Kareem Freeman (who has won 13 games), but he is a setup guy in the bullpen. Their offense ranks in the middle to bottom half of the AL in most major categories outside of On Base Percentage, but they continue to hold off El Paso in the AL South. Ray Riley is a potent bat but he is only hitting .251 for the year. Their two best pitchers (Gary Stephenson and Sammy Bennett) both have ERA’s at 4.00+. What is the bottom line, they have won the South 6 of the 7 years in the NABCL, finished 2nd in the other year, and have a World Series appearance. Looking at it again, the real question becomes, is ebby really Billy Beane?
7. Portland Jacks (NL/ 68-56/ Last Ranking unranked)
This is another team with a great history. They were the only team to make the playoffs each of the first four years of the NABCL, and they have never finished below 2nd place. They have been mostly known for their great pitching, which is still very good, but their offense has become a “Moneyball” magnet by leading the NL in OBP. Whatever works right? Vinny Barber has become an MVP candidate and Benito Pichardo and Tony Soriano will push 40 hr’s each by years end. The problem the Jacks will encounter is the tough NL West. Not only Sacramento, but they are clinging to the 2nd Wild Card by only 2 games over division mate Salem. It will be a close race to the end of the season.
8. Boston Colonials (AL/ 69-56/ Last Ranking unranked)
The Colonials are arguably the premiere offense in the AL. They lead the league in Hits, AVG, OBP, RBI, and are 2nd in Runs, and 2B. Their issues arise with their middle of the pack pitching numbers. But hey, they are in the “slug it out” AL so they fit right in. What do they get for their efforts, a divisional battle with 1st place Norfolk (1/2 game behind)? They are great on the road (37-28) and could easily run away with the division if they could improve on their average home mark (32-28). All in all, this should be a playoff team whether it is by the division or the Wild Card. You may ask, “how is Norfolk ahead of Boston in the standings but not ranked?” Norfolk is slightly worse at home (32-32), are 3-7 in their last 10, and have a lower expected winning percentage (.520) compared to Boston’s (.556).
9. Memphis Maniax (NL/ 73-52/ Last Ranking #3)
This is a very good team, in 1st place by 4 games, has a genuine MVP candidate in Phil Rubel, and they dropped 6 spots in the pole? How is that possible? Simply put, they went cold at the wrong time (3-7 in their last 10). Are they better than the #9 ranking? Yes, but they just faced off in a series against Sacramento and were swept. Obviously Sacramento is a quality team, but to win the NL Pennant you will have to go through the Two’s and the Maniax simply didn’t put up a fight, which puts a lack of confidence in the voters. Can they win the Pennant? Absolutely. Phil Rubel is a documented Two killer and they have given the reigning champs fits most times. Believe me, nobody wants to draw Memphis in the playoffs. They are still getting plenty of Vegas money and could easily reach the World Series.
10. Salem Timberhawks (NL/ 66-58/ Last Ranking #28)
This was easily the biggest mover in the rankings but also the most difficult pick. Who were the contenders for the coveted #10 spot (and why did they fall short)? Kansas City (simply not playing well enough and getting old at key positions), Helena (-23 run differential), New Britain (27-34 record at home), Norfolk (3-7 last 10), El Paso (30-33 record at home). Why did Salem get the nod, two words, Lenny Singleton. He is a freak of nature and although he may not win the Cy Young award this year, he is cut from a completely different cloth. He is the pitcher we all want our pitchers to become.
Dropped Out: New Britain, Norfolk, Kansas City, and El Paso.
28. Scranton Screwballs (NL/ 48-76/ Last Ranking unranked)
What has happened to this proud franchise? The franchise that won the season 2 World Series and finished 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 7 years coming into this season? They are in the middle of an 8-game losing streak and have scored a mere 490 runs (the only worse team being the rebuilding Wichita ‘weed). What’s the good news? There is help on the way, as their minor league records show. AAA=71-54/ AA=75-50/Hi A=75-50/ Lo A=68-57/ we wont talk about the rookie league, but you get the point.
29. Pawtucket Patriots (AL/ 41-83/ Last Ranking #31)
Summed up: 6-15 versus the division/ 9-24 in 1-run games/ 2-7 in extra innings/ run differential of -169. Positives: played well in interleague play and moved up 2 spots in the rankings.
30. Iowa City Shuckers (AL/ 47-78/ Last Ranking unranked)
Summed up: 8-13 versus the division/ run differential of -256
Positives: 19-14 in 1-run games/ 6-3 in extra innings
31. Las Vegas Muckers (AL/ 48-77/ Last Ranking #30)
Summed up: 8-13 versus the division/ run differential of -249
Positives: 18-8 in 1-run games/3-2 in extra innings
32. Wichita ‘weed (NL/24-101/ Last Ranking #32)
Summed up: 4-17 versus the division/ 9-19 in 1-run games/ run differential -336
Positives: oldave is a committed owner who has stuck with this team, renewed it already for next season, and is determined to turn it into a winner. This is what makes the NABCL the best league in all of HBD, the best owners in the business. Oldave is a class act and a great competitor. Also, it looks as if he will beat the projected win total of 30 predicted during the pre-season.
Climbed Out: Salem and Colorado Springs.