1. Sacramento Terrible Twos (33-7) – NL West
The best pitching in the league by far and top notch hitting and fielding firmly place the Twos at the top. Yes, they are playing over their heads a bit – we don’t expect them to hold off Anaheim from the #1 spot all season – but this is a strong balanced roster and SMX is a smart and savvy owner. Watch out for a dip if Singleton returns to form further West though.
2. Anaheim Natural Disasters (29-11) – AL West
Our gut pick for #1 didn’t quite rule the numbers but we expect them to reach the pinnacle sooner than later. Harry Pena anchors one of the best staffs in the league and Tony Watanabe is having a big year. They are only second to Fargo in hitting and they are closing the pitching gap rapidly. Only the glovework is second tier. Anaheim is more than due to take the NABCL.
3. Fargo Roughriders (25-15) – AL North
The best hitting team in the land is surprisingly effective on the mound as well. (Let’s not talk about fielding, though.) Rudy Simms is running away with the AL MVP race (as a DH!) and the four-man rotation is working nicely. Still, the back end of the bullpen is a worry and we suspect that Fargo will give some back over the season.
4. San Antonio Missions (24-16) – NL South
Frazz and the Missions rely on strong pitching (4/5s of the rotation is excellent) and team speed. The bats are a bit above average too, but we think that the San Antonio success story has as much to do with playing in the weak NL South as the Missions’ hitters. Still, Frazz is a regular contender who, like zackaryl, is more than due.
5. Chicago Beast (23-17) – NL North
The Beast is just that: a beast, at least with the bats, where their adjusted stats put them neck and neck with Fargo for machismo bragging rights. The pitching has one or two bright spots but is only slightly above average. Fielding is not a strength at all. With Seattle coming up from behind, we expect the NL North to tighten and for the Beast to drop another peg or two. Still, bullet will contend all season.
6. Wichita ‘weed (23-17) – NL East
The ‘weed is like the Beast’s weaker brother. The bats aren’t quite as good but the pitching and fielding are a bit better than their neighbors to the North. But with a bullpen by committee and some expected inconsistency from the starters, we see a second half swoon for oldave and the gang, not dissimilar to last season. Trenton should catch ‘em soon.
7. Jacksonville Jackals (21-19) – AL South
The defending champs haven’t played very hungrily and it shows. The bats have been quieter than expected and they have definitely played down to their competition. Still, the pitching has been surprisingly strong given some free agent losses and they have good team speed and one of the best defenses in the league. They’ll be there in the end.
8. Portland Jacks (20-20) – NL West
Another underachiever, where one of the best pitching staffs in the game, buoyed by the best defense around, tries to keep dtrain in the game until the bats can warm up. The lineup is average but generally balanced and, with time, they should turn things around. Like the Jackals, the Jacks are too good to be this blah all season.
9. Seattle Salty Dogs (20-20) — NL North
No team was a bigger Top 10 surprise when we ran the numbers than the Dogs, so much so that we changed the algorithm and tried again, and they still made the cut. (Mediocrity, thy name is NABCL.) Seattle is all about pitching and Safeco Field. The batting is generally sub-par and the fielding is okay, not great. Don’t get too settled here, Donald.
10. New Britain Blockheads (21-19) – AL North
Verd and his ‘Heads desperately cling to the Top 10 status, thanks to a balanced attack of competent components that are more than adequate but not really great. Still, like Seattle, they shouldn’t get settled as they generally perform poorly in their division and that will catch up to them. It was nice that the gang took the wild card last season, but this could be a hangover year.
On the Cusp: Memphis Maniax, Trenton Thrashers, Los Angeles Robins, Richmond Poor Men, Iowa City Shuckers
28. New Orleans Crawdads (17-23) – NL South
Can’t hit, can’t field and the pitching – which is just average – can’t keep them in games to turn the ball over to Miguel Liriano, their best weapon. Tarasco is having aother nice year at first baseand Gary Quinn is having a career year, but it doesn’t look good for the ‘dads.
29. Charlotte Queen’s Men (15-25) – NL East
What the heck happened to the Men? After a major step forward last leg, they have reverted to form. We suspect that the bats are just cold and will start warming as we get closer to mid-year – Rob McConnell is starting to get loose and catcher Randall Perez is having a breakthrough season. And the pitching should improve a bit too, probably not enough for a true run, but enough to get out of the bottom 5. Still, a disappointing start for a team that thought they could contend this season
30. Louisville Legionnaires (16-24) – NL South
The Legionnaires are finally starting to hit – Bob Jenkins is having a break out year finally! – but the pitching remains a huge problem, with only Brian Lee holding his own as a starter. Still there are a couple of bright lights in the bullpen (alas, not a closer!) and we are hopeful that the meat of the order might carry Louisville out of the cellar.
31. El Paso Ultraviolence (13-27) – AL South
Reaper’s crew is nothing if not consistent: bottom 5 in hitting, in pitching and in fielding. Star Bump Boucher has underachieved all season long and only Larry Browne is pitching consistently well. The ‘violence have been heading downward for a couple of seasons now, but this is a going right off the cliff.
32. Boston Colonials (15-25) – AL East
Oh, how the mighty Randall has fallen! Saddled with the worst pitching in the league – and that is saying A LOT – the Colonials have no hope even with their overachieving bats (overachieving so far – they can’t stay this hot all season). Fenway is not this team’s friend. Joe May has been a bright light, but the tunnel these guys are in is mighty dark.
On the Cusp: Kansas City Baby Blue Soundcrew, Salem Gangbangers, Vancouver Loonies, San Diego Storm, Las Vegas Dust Devils