>The NABCL playoffs always feature some surprises, some disappointments, and some amazing performers – the Season 16 playoffs have been no different so far.
The ALCS matchup is a good one…that I am involved in, so here is a breakdown.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MATCHUP
The ALCS features the overall top seeded Seattle Emeralds (109-53) – piloted by caseroc, in his 2nd NABCL season – and the #3 seed in the AL, the Boston Colonials (97-65), led by yours truly – The Commish, Rick Randall, aka “randallball” – here from inception.
SEATTLE: Having won the division 7 straight times and 8 times overall (all in the last 9 seasons), this LCS appearance marks the 3rd in franchise history for Seattle (2nd consecutive). In season 13, former owner zackaryl lead the franchise to its only LCS victory (and on to its only WS title, as the Anaheim Natural Disasters). This season’s league-best 109 wins marks the 6th time in franchise history that they have eclipsed the 100 win plateau.
BOSTON: The return to franchise prominence by the Colonials reached a new high point this season as they won their 2nd straight AL East title (5th overall), and managed to win their 2nd and 3rd playoff series in franchise history (with the first coming last season) to make it to their first ALCS tilt. The 97 wins this season is a 34 game increase from just 2 short seasons ago and marks the 3rd highest win total overall.
SEATTLE: As the #1 seed in the AL, the Emeralds enjoyed a first round bye before drawing the always challenging Fargo Roughriders in the Division Championship Series. The series featured 1 dominant pitching performance and 1 strong offensive showing from each side in the first 4 games, which the two teams split. The deciding 5th game was a one-sided affair with Seattle using the home field advantage, a great pitching performance by Jesus Marrero, and a balanced offensive attack led by Harry Pelaez‘s 4 hits and 4 RBI as they cruised to a 10-1 victory and a series win.
The top playoff performers so far have been Pelaez (4 HR and 8 RBI), Lyle Hatcher (2 HR) and the always dangerous D’Angelo Ramirez (.879 OPS) on the offensive side, and Marrero (2.13 ERA in 2 starts) has led the pitching staff. Ramirez has also contributed 2 “+ plays” from his spot in CF.
BOSTON: The Colonials have been riding a red hot, powerful offense that has put up a mind blowing 27 HR and 48 XBH in its 9 playoff games. The best-of-five set in the Division Play-In Series versus Division mate Baltimore went the distance despite Boston outscoring the Squirrels by 15 runs (38-23). In the DCS against defending champs El Paso, the tone was set early as Boston clubbed 9 HR in pitcher friendly Citibank Ballpark and won the opener 19-4 on its way to a 3-1 series victory.
Top playoff performers for Boston have been…everyone with a bat. Seriously, 8 regulars have playoff OPSs of better than 1.000, and 9 Colonials have clubbed a HR, with 6 hitting 3 or more. RF Curt Sherman leads the way with 15 hits, 11 runs scored, a .469 AVG and a 1.416 OPS, and Jorge Sanchez has left the yard 6 times while driving in 12. On the hill, 20-game winner Vic Pena has gone 3-0 in his 3 starts while sporting a nifty 2.57 ERA.
SEATTLE: Pitching is first and foremost as Marrero, Wiki Gandarilla and Henry Sorrento all won 18 games and Felipe Redondo added 17, and Gandarilla (2.57) and Marrero (2.74) had the top two ERAs in the American League. 107 quality starts, all told, and a standout bullpen to boot.
That said, the Emeralds offense is nothing to sneeze at. D’Angelo Ramirez is the catalyst for the offense, and he put up 42 HR, 102 BB, 28 SB and a 1.012 OPS this season out of the leadoff spot. Seattle also had three 100+ RBI guys in their lineup: Harry Pelaez (117), Emil Springer (105) and 44 HR man Warren Collins (135).
BOSTON: Pena is a true #1, and the rotation works out nicely so that he could conceivably see 3 starts if the series should go the distance. The offense is really clicking right now, and if they can even come close to maintaining their torrid pace of 5+ XBH and 3 HR/game, you have to like Boston’s chances. Houston Gentry and Carlos Rios are top tier defenders at SS and CF, respectfully, and their contributions in the field may be a big key to this series.
A surprising stat is that only 3 teams had 3 SP in the top 16 in ERA in the AL this season: Seattle, obviously, El Paso, and Boston, surprisingly. Mo Carr (3.20, 9th) and Robb Howington (3.98, 16th) will have the 2nd and 3rd spots in the rotation, respectively, and they have to maintain their success against this tough Seattle lineup to give Boston a chance in the games that Pena doesn’t start.
SEATTLE: Seattle’s offense did fare better vs RHP than versus LHP this season, and they are likely to see a lot of lefty Vic Pena. The long man out of the pen – Jude Lindsey – is phenomenal (14 wins and 12 saves, 2.95 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in 164 2/3 IP), but the back end of the bullpen is human. Closer Frank Maddox converted on 36 of 40 save opps, but he also allowed 7 HR and posted a 4.97 ERA. Daryl Jefferies and Rex Trombley also posted high HR totals and have unimpressive K/9 numbers. If Boston can get into the pen, it could lead to blowouts.
BOSTON: Can the bullpen hold up? That really is the biggest question mark for the Colonials in this series. The bullpen held on in the regular season, allowing only 26.1% of inherited runners to score. Boston will lean heavily on Jim Sheets, Dennis Wanatabe and closer Max Ibanez in pressure situations late, and on Al Dougherty early if any of their starters get into trouble. Ibanez is always a heart attack type closer, but he has converted on 80.4% (135-168) of his save opps since coming to Boston.
The Boston hitters can certainly rake, but they aren’t always the most patient group – and Seattle pitching staff is filled with great control pitchers. If Boston gets behind and gets anxious, Seattle’s aces may have a field day nibbling and getting bites on balls out of the zone.
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? This series should tell us, as Boston’s powerful offense – which hit .288 in the regular season, good for 2nd best in the NABCL – tries to force its way through Seattle’s stingy pitching staff – which led the league with a 3.58 ERA and allowed a league low 8.30 hits/game.
Boston’s 3-6 hitters (Guillermo Ortiz, Sanchez, Bum Stocker and Sherman) are no doubt a powerful group, but the key for offensive success for the Colonials may lie with leadoff hitter Joshua Whitaker. Whitaker had a fantastic regular season (.334/.384/.553, 28 HR, 31 SB, 116 runs scored and a league best 204 hits) and the more he gets on base, the more chances the middle of the order has to hit two- or three-run HR instead of solo shots. Boston will not be able to out pitch Seattle in this series, so hanging some crooked numbers on the scoreboard is a necessity if they want to have a chance to win.
For Seattle, the key is going to be their offense – namely Warren Collins and Emil Springer. Collins and Springer hit behind Pelaez, and figure to see a lot of RBI opportunities with Ramirez, Hatcher and Pelaez on base. Their RH power has to show up for Seattle to get leads for their dominant pitching staff.
I fully expect this to be an epic battle that goes the distance, with Seattle holding off the underdog Boston team for a 4-3 weries win.