PLAYOFF FORMAT 2020
The playoff format for the 2020 season will look a little different this season. I have posted an explanation below. All games will be held at Spirit Park in Allen.
MINI Playoffs (Oct. 11th)
The "mini" playoffs is a single elimination tournament that is a play-in for the playoffs. The lowest 5 teams in each division will be placed into a bracket and seeded by overall division ranking. For example, the 5th place team in a Division will be the #1 seed in the mini playoffs. Seeds 2 and 3 will play each other with the winner advancing to the playoffs. Seeds 4 and 5 will play with the winner facing the 1 seed to advance to the playoffs. Two teams advance to the playoffs as seeds 5 and 6.
Playoffs Round 1 (Oct 18)
In the Playoffs, the top 2 seeds in each division will get a Bye into round 2 and not play on the first weekend. Seed 3 will play Seed 6 and Seed 4 will play Seed 5 in a best of three series.
Round 2 (Oct 25)
In round 2, the 1 seed will play the lowest seed that advances from round 1 and the 2 seed will play the higher seed in a best of three series.
Division Championship Series (Nov 1)
The 2 teams that advance from Round 2 will face off in a best of three series to determine who will play for the league championship.
League Championship Series (Nov 8)
The winners of their respective division championship series will face off in a best of three series to determine the league champion.
I have finally come out of mourning the season ending loss for my beloved Tigers squad to give everyone a preview of the Division Finals games Sunday. Let’s first congratulate the Muckdogs, Iron Pigs, Yard Goats and Bulls on being the last 4 teams standing. Best of luck this weekend.
*REMINDER- The All-Star Game will immediately follow the conclusion of the two games.
Handsome Captains Division Final
Spirit Park Allen- Field 1 8 AM (Game time temp upper 40’s/low 50’s Wind out of North at 15 MPH)
(4) Haas’s Bulls vs. (3) Samsel’s Yard Goats
Season Series: 1-1 (13-10 Bulls, 15-7 Goats)
Wind will be blowing in from LF/LCF
These two teams met in the first and last games of the season in Allen and split the series. With the colder temps and wind conditions in the forecast Sunday, this will shape up as a completely different type of game. The Bulls earned their spot by winning two series, all taking the full three games. They have had their backs against the wall twice and found a way to advance. The Goats also overcame some adversity by having to start the playoffs without their captain. Nevertheless, they earned they spot here by sweeping both their series without really being stressed. Something has to give here as two red hot teams will battle for a spot in the 2020 Finals.
The Bulls have ridden their young star Dalton Fallaw through the playoffs both offensively and defensively and their role players have done an amazing job in support. I would give you post season stats, but Bulls captain Cuddles is still celebrating his teams wins along with the Dodgers World Series victory. This could have a hangover effect on he and Craig Dyer. Something to keep an eye on. In all seriousness, the Bulls have found ways to win close games. They have gotten big hits throughout their lineup and huge late game defensive plays by a number of guys. Kendal Anthony has made some circus catches late in games that have proven to be deciding factors. Greg Hurst at SS and John Burke pitching makes them really strong up the middle and they are surrounding with very solid defenders elsewhere. Cuddles has done a fantastic job putting this team together and navigating the season and the playoffs to get them here. I have yet to pick against them in the playoffs, so lets see what happens here.
The Goats are one of those teams you look at on paper and think they look solid but not overwhelming. After losing Ben Enlow for a season ending injury, everyone thought they were toast. Captain Tyler Samsel has done a good job of holding that team together and adding pieces like last year’s rookie of the year Ari Loiben (One of my favorite teammates). If he did as good of a job putting in post season stats, I could back up his team’s performance with numbers but instead I will just use the eye test. With Tyler and Ari at the top of the order, you have two lefties with a TON of speed and hustle to stress a defense. Then you follow up with Daryl Drake who can hurt you with the long ball or drive those two guys in with singles. Solid Shalom vets like Tony Martin, Roy White and Matt Myers bring experience and high softball IQ that makes this squad even more dangerous. Nick Croce has been smashing the ball this season, probably from all of his ropes work in the gym (see his facebook page and navigate around the Trump posts and you will see the beast training mode). Losing Keith Dlott hurts but Tyler has plugged in solid subs. David Greer and Zak Edgerton have been killers in the middle of that lineup as well. We will see if they can keep it rolling.
Keys to Victory
Goats- Get those two speedsters on base and make the machine run. Stress out that defense and make the outfielders start being overly aggressive chasing runners. That will cause mistakes resulting in extra bases. Their strength is speed and they need to use it to create havoc. The MUST be smart against Burke and wait for their pitches and not hit his pitches. The wind will force the ball to be hit down and they have to use this to their advantage to keep their big bats in the park.
Bulls- With the wind conditions how they look to be, they will HAVE to tailor their approach to this. They have some good oppo hitters and will have to use that and keep the ball down. Burke will need to force their hitters to hit the ball up into that wind and out of the gaps. Outfielders have to stay discipline and hit cutoffs and not chase runners. Try to minimize the doubles and triples by playing them in and making them burn you into that wind. Make them play base to base and that increases your chances drastically. In playing the Goats this season, the one spot we were able to exploit them a little was pitching. It can get a little erratic, so make them pitch to you as the wind will make it a challenge.
My Pick: (Last week 2-2) This one will be really really tight. The wind changes the complexion of this game in my eyes. The Bulls has more pull hitters with power that it will affect than the Goats. However, Burke knows how to pitch in this situation and will minimize the damage. I think the Goats have too much speed and are built for conditions like this. I do not think they will cruise like weeks before, but I think they win. Goats in 3.
Goofball Captains Division Final
Spirit Park Allen- Field 2 8 AM (Wind blowing in from RF/RCF @ 15 MPH)
(4) Prim’s Muckdogs vs (1) Alford’s Iron Pigs
Season Series 1-1 (10-9 Muckdogs, 14-10 Iron Pigs)
These two split their season series with very tight games both played in Allen but in different weather conditions. The Muckdogs earned their way here with two rather quick easy victories over the Royals and Rangers and 3 of their 4 wins in run rule fashion. They have outscored opponents in the playoffs 74-42 and haven’t been tested or had their backs against the wall. Somewhat similar to the Goats path. They will be tested this week. The Pigs come in only having to win one series against the #6 seed Tigers and battling through three games for the win. They were pushed to the limit after seemingly on their way to an easy sweep after an 11-1 run rule in game one. Only to see the Tigers battle back and return the favor 15-5. They seized control of game 3 early and hung on to advance. This will be a battle with two of the top defenses in the league on what should be a defensive field. This will be a fun one.
Muckdogs Captain Brooke Prim (Yes Don she is the REAL captain) has done a phenomenal job keeping her team focused and playing together through the season and the playoffs. The first female captain in the league trying to make even more history by taking her team to the finals. It will be curious to see how she handles the pressure this week after being relatively stress free in the first two rounds. Let’s just hope she lets Donald sleep in the bed the night prior. I think there is an under the table deal that if they win it all, Don gets unlimited Call of Duty time. Just a hunch. Seriously though, I have picked this team to win each week because of how they are built. You have to give former captain Larry Goldstein some props, but Brooke has steered the ship through not so calm waters. That defense is stout as you can see from their run differential and they have proven they can score in bunches and win in all field conditions. There are a primed machine running on all cylinders right now. In four playoff games, Miguel Duron has been lights out, batting .857 with 6 bombs, while Donald is not far behind at .769 with 3 homers. Although Aaron Holmes is only hitting .500 in the playoffs, he is a huge threat at the top of that order setting the table. I also remember in 2010, when I played for the Rangers and we had lost one game the entire year, we met Larry Taub in the finals. We absolutely could not get the guy out and they beat us game 1 because of his performance. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury and changed that series that we ultimately won. This guys is a vet and can perform in these situations. They lose Weissman but pick up Joe Machado, who just last week went 6 for 8 with a HR against the Pigs so he will add more to that lineup. Another of my all time favorite teammates, Rick Halperin is huge at the bottom of the lineup getting it flipped. Pretty sure I won a shalom tournament with that guy as my leadoff hitter.
Although the Pigs won and advanced last week, they suffered what I feel is a major loss with Leo Cova going down to injury. Absolutely hate to see that happen to such an amazing guy and teammate. They picked up Derek Muck who is solid but will need to find a way to replace the offensive production Leo gave them along with his first base defense. Last week they wore us out at the top in games one and three turning singles into doubles and triples. They have very smart and opportunistic baserunners so you have to stay on your toes. They are rock solid everywhere defensively so you have to earn your runs against them. Captain Ryno is someone I have tremendous respect for, and I know he will have his guys focused and ready to go. Lots of experience on this team and a tight knit group.
Keys to Victory:
Muckdogs- Continue the torrid hitting and put up runs early. The first inning was what drove us against the Pigs last week. In the two losses, we allowed 4 and 6 in inning one. You have to limit them early and make the defensive plays on the routine outs they give you. They WILL make extra outs hurt so you can’t give them that. We were able to work 7 walks over 3 games so be patient and wait for your pitch. Be smart on the bases and always know who is taking the cut from the outfield before you send runners. Score early and lean on that defense to take you home.
Pigs: Close to the same recipe as last week against the Tigers. They have to weather the storm early and pitch them to their weaknesses. Force them to make defensive plays and stay relentless with that bottom. Stay focused and don’t scoreboard watch or worry about outscoring them. Remain steady and play seven full innings. Make their pitchers work and you will get some great pitches to hit and have to make them pay. You HAVE to keep them to singles and make them a station to station team. The long ball will hurt you so you have to navigate that. Most of the homers the Tigers hit were solo shots. This is what they have to do here.
My Pick: When I look at games like this, I have to go to the numbers. Not season numbers, but recent numbers. The ball should still fly to LF and LCF and the way the Muckdogs are clicking on offense they will put lots of pressure on the Pigs. Big difference is the Pigs have been pushed to the edge and responded as a group. They took a huge punch in the face by the Tigers and bounced right back. How will the Muckdogs face adversity? Will Miguel stay hot? When he is hot, he is one of the best hitters in the league. This is a tough one for me and I have gone back and forth. The experience factor wants me to take the Pigs, but the numbers direct me the other way. I have to go with my gut here. Too much offense on an offensive friendly field and a team smashing the ball right now. Muckdogs in 3.
Bonus Pick: All Star Game
This depends a lot on who actually plays and who is out. With the rosters as they were picked, I will pick Goofball Captains.
In case you saw some of the guys out at the fields Sunday wearing those awesome Shalom Softball hoodies and thought, "man how do I get one of those bad boys?", I have your answer!!!!
I will be placing an order on Friday evening. If you would like to order one, you can Venmo or PayPal me the money with your size and if you want name and number on the back. They run a size small so order accordingly. Pricing is as follows:
PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org (Send as Friends and Family)
Pigs in 3
Rangers in 3
Baby Jays in 2
Pirates in 3
Last Week: 6-3; YTD: 144-104
Goofball Captains Division Semi-Finals (Best of 3 series)
Weather Forecast- Temps in low to mid 50’s with Wind out of SE @ 13 mph
(6) Eusay’s Tigers vs (1) Alford’s Iron Pigs
8 AM- Spirit Park Allen Field 1 (Wind 13 mph out to LF/LCF)
Season Series- Pigs 2-0 (19-13, 22-13)
The Pigs took the season series by winning both games that were played in Plano in decisive fashion. Both matchups played out almost identically where we started fast, built a nice lead, then saw the Pigs rally for big wins. I think this series will be much closer than those previous contests. The Pigs earned the first seed by playing much more consistently over the course of the season and enjoyed a long break while we battled our way through the Mini’s and round one. A mid-season 4 game losing streak was really the only speed bump in the Pigs season, but they recovered nicely to finish the season strong. Our Tigers squad has battled the injury bug all season and rarely fielded our original twelve, but when we did we were undefeated. This will be a fun one to watch for sure.
The Pigs have an offensive lineup that is relentless from top to bottom and force you to play every out of every inning near perfect to beat them. They have a ton of softball IQ at the top of the lineup with Scott Lawrence (.654, 13 HR, 10 2B), Tommy Apligian (.506, 11 2B), Leo Cova (..610, 13 HR) and their Captain Ryan Alford (.695, 15 HR, 22 2B). The middle through the bottom is loaded with consistent hitters like Joe Beasley (.523), Brian Smallwood (.584) and Peter Hogan (.506) that stress a defense and create RBI opportunities for their top guys. Defensively, they are one of the best with Lawrence pitching, Alford running the infield and Tommy running the outfield. They will be down Brandon Alford and Chris Licurse but pick up two solid subs in Asher Feltman and Omar Gonzalez. Just look at their runs allowed total and that tells the story of this team. Solid defense and steady offense is a very tough nut to crack in the playoffs. As for the Tigers, I think we tout the best one through six hitters in the league and can make life very tough on pitchers. With four hitters batting over .600 and four hitters in double digits for homers, there is no secret what this team relies on. When we are clicking offensively, it can be something to watch. The battle has been having the right guys present to put the right defense on the field to compliment the offense. A roller-coaster season that saw injuries to some of the key players directly led to a spot in the mini playoffs. However, with all the firepower in the lineup its all about the “great 8” that makes this team click. I don’t mean #8, but rather the 8th round pick Andy Goodman. The impact that he has on our team when he has been there is just remarkable. He played only 14 games this season and in those games our record was 10-4. That means when he wasn’t there we were 4-8. That is a significant WAR I am certain. The impact he makes on the defense is the key, but his hitting has also been a solid anchor at the bottom of the lineup. He has yet to play against the Pigs this season and in the first game with the Pigs, we were without Ariel Rodriguez (.639, 12 HR) and Andy. Taylor Abrego (.692, 12 HR), Kelly Alexander (.570, 11 HR), Joe Exotic Machado (.610, 12 HR) and Carlos Moran (.536) drive the offense, while solid bats at the middle and bottom like Kevin Blake, Jeff Radanof and Ozzie Zurita make for a steady dose of hitting.
Keys to Victory:
Pigs- I am sure Ryno has all the info he needs. No need to add to that.
Tigers- We have to start fast like in past matchups, but it will take seven innings of near perfect defense to pull off the upset. I remember last season we came out of the mini playoffs and defeated the three seed and then the one seed eliminating them both from the playoffs. It took flawless defense and solid pitching and that is what is will take again. Ryno will have his boys ready to play and this will be a grind. We have the bats to take advantage of the conditions and use the long ball, but can’t fall in love with that and swing for the fences. Defense will win this series. Whoever plays it best wins.
My Pick: I have a ton of respect for Ryno and have tournament teammates on that team that I have been through battles with. I know they will come ready and bring a ton of experience and savvy, but I have a ton of confidence in our dugout. We have faced a lot of adversity this season that I feel brought us closer as a group. Now that we have all hands on deck, I think we are a different team. It will be a battle but I think an monumental upset is brewing. Tigers in 3
(4) Prim’s Muckdogs vs. (2) Kravitz’s Rangers
8 AM- Spirit Park Allen Field 2 (Wind blowing out all fields @ 13 mph)
Season Series- Split 1-1 (8-5 Rangers, 12-6 Dogs)
We finally get to see the Rangers in action after a long break and on a field that should be an absolute launching pad with wind blowing out. DO NOT park behind Field 2 Sunday. The Rangers and ROY candidate Ryan Richardson limped into the post season after coughing up first place with a 1-4 finish to the season. The offense sputtered a bit down the stretch and the defense wasn’t what it was all season. However, the break might actually do them good with time to regroup. I think they will be ready to roll. The Muckdogs manhandled the Royals, ousting them from the playoffs last week in two games and look primed for a long playoff run. They have the ability to lock teams down with the defense and to score runs in bunches regardless of weather conditions. For the Rangers, they ride the bat of Richardson (.785, 24 HR, 63 RBI) and protect him with Jon Kilburn (.600, 9 HR) and Kyle Kravitz (.427, 6 HR). Their team HR’s and Batting Avg. were in the top four in the league and they were number one in slugging while ranking 2nd in OPS and OBP. While the Muckdogs are ranked much lower in most of those categories offensively, they lean on their defense. Donald Prim (.683, 25 HR, 76 RBI) led the offense all year and is one of the best opposite field hitters in the league. He also mans LCF and runs the outfield very efficiently. Miguel Duron (.589, 12 HR) should be able to damage vehicles in LF after guys like rookie sensation Aaron Holmes (.600) set the table for him. The question is will defense be a factor with balls flying out of the park? Lots of run should be scored.
Keys to Victory
Rangers- They have to get back to the formula they had early in the season. When we played them late in the season they were very shaky throwing strikes and hitting consistently through the lineup. They have to get guys on for Richardson and let him eat. Regardless of who the Dogs pitch, they should see some good pitches and they have to take advantage. They HAVE to use the long ball to score runs because the Dogs defense is strong inside the boundaries. They have to make the routine plays on defense and keep Prim and Duron in the park and their chances to win go up dramatically.
Muckdogs- This one is pretty straight forward. Keep Richardson in the park. If they do this, they can lean on that lock down defense to carry them to the wins needed. They can’t allow the pressure the Rangers will put on them to rattle them and have to stay steady and confident. Apply consistent pressure on their defense and make them throw strikes and crack them.
My Pick: This is a tough one and I have gone back and forth. Is it possible for the two top seeds to go down in one week? When I look at this one the numbers say the Rangers win, but sometimes the stats are like bikini’s, they conceal more than they reveal. I think the Muckdogs are coming in on a roll and playing great ball while the Rangers will have to get back in the groove. This will be a high scoring series which would lead you to think Rangers. Nope. Muckdogs will flex their muscles and take this one. Muckdogs in 2
Handsome Captains Division Semi-Finals (Best of 3 series)
Weather Forecast- Temps in low to mid 50’s with Wind out of SE @ 13 mph
(4) Haas’ Bulls vs (1) Buhrow’s Baby Jays
8 AM- Spirit Park Allen Field 3 (Wind 13 mph out to RCF/RF)
Season Series- Jays 2-0 (7-5, 12-6)
The Jays took the season series by winning both games, one played on the exact field they will share this weekend. In earning the top seed, the Jays have enjoyed a long break to rest and heal up which the Bulls battled through a series with the River Bandits that took all three games to decide the winner. A walk off homer by Dalton Fallaw helped his team advance and get another shot at Buhrow’s squad. The Jays saw their season take a major turn and change the entire complexion of the division when they acquired Andrew Williams to replace John Howard. After starting the season with two losses, they went 19-5 the rest of the way to take the division by two games over the Pirates. The Bulls took more of a roller-coaster route with winning and losing streaks mixed in along the way. Nonetheless, here they both are going head to head for a spot in the Division Finals.
When you go into the numbers to look at these teams, you see many statistical categories where they are ranked very closely together. The Bulls were 2nd in the league in walks which could come into play here. As someone who played on Field 3 last week, I can testify that pitching in the wind in that direction is a challenge. The Jays lineup is anchored by Williams (.778, 19 HR, 68 RBI) and the Buhrow brothers Dylan and captain David along with Sam Cassell help set the table. The bottom of the line-up is very solid with sneaky good hitters like Art Rothenburg, Michael Barth and Andy Williams. They won’t blow you away offensively, but they are steady and will keep the pressure on you defensively for sure. The Bulls, on the other hand, have some bats that can frustrate a team on the right field in the right conditions. Last week they tortured the River Bandits on the right side of the field and you can bet they try to duplicate that with the conditions similar. Fallaw will look to continue his hot hitting in the post season (2 HR, 3 triples, 4 doubles, 7 RBI) and lead his team to a big upset.
Keys to Victory:
Jays- They have to get off to an early start and shake off the rust of the long break. Areas where a long layoff can hurt a team is pitching and hitting at the bottom of the lineup. These are both critical for them to advance. The Diamondbacks last season with Williams as captain was in a similar situation as the top seed and dropped two straight after a long layoff. I am sure he will use his experience to help Buhrow navigate this series. The bats around Andrew will have to be consistent and force them to pitch to him.
Bulls- I think to win this game they have to score early and often and force the Jays to go base to base and string hits together. They have one of the best pitchers in the league in John Burke and they will rely on him to get the ball hit where they want. Getting Hap Burden back this week will be a big factor. They MUST make the routine outs and avoid the big inning and get some double plays at the bottom of the order. Offensively, they need to use their strength of hitting to the right side and exploit the holes in the defense.
Before I make my pick, I will boast and say that I picked all winners correctly last week.
My Pick: I think this will be one of the tightest contests of the day. I just don’t like the long layoff and the field conditions working against the Jays. The Bulls will exploit that right side and Burke will work his magic. This one will be an upset with the #1 seed going down. BULLS IN 3
(3) Samsel’s Yard Goats vs. (2) Weinfeld’s Pirates
8 AM- Spirit Park Allen Field 4 (Wind blowing in from LF/LCF @ 13 mph)
Season Series- Pirates 2-0 (26-13, 10-7)
The Goats get their captain Tyler Samsel back this week after serving a one week suspension and he will be needed. They finished the regular season hot going 4-1, but hit some adversity when they had to play round 1 without their leader. Huge credit to the team and Matt Myers for stepping up and playing together to earn a win, just playing two games and dominating the Lugnuts. However, this will be a different challenge battling a stout Pirates team. The Buccos finished the last ten games of the season with an 8-2 record behind some air tight defense and great hitting. They are led by FOUR players that are hitting above .600. Brian Ortega (.741), Brandon Strull (.686), Tim Jamieson (.683) and Michael Thiele (.609) have been major catalysts for the offense the led the league in batting average, OBP, OPS and was second in slugging. This could cause major problems for the Goats, especially if they allow the bottom to flip that order often. Defensively, the ranked second in the league in runs allowed. This is a recipe for a championship. Last week the Goats scored 46 runs in 2 games without their captain so there isn’t reason to believe they can’t make this a game. One big note here is that the Goats are missing ROY candidate Zak Edgerton, Nick Croce and Keith Dlott but are picking up subs Larry Farin, Brian Allsbrook and Valentin Diaz. How will these parts fit in with the team chemistry? That will be a big factor in the outcome of this series.
Keys to Victory
Goats- Giving the Pirates extra out will be nearly impossible to overcome. They must use their speed to stress the defense to make some mistakes and manufacture some runs. They must make Thiele throw strikes and make him pay in the zone. With the wind conditions this will be a defensive game so all runs will be valuable. Baserunning needs to be smart and opportunistic. There are arms you can run on so they have to take advantage of that.
Pirates- Simple. Do what you have done all season. The wind conditions shouldn’t affect them a ton since they have many line drive hitters. The bottom of the lineup needs to put 2 or 3 hits together to get the lineup flipped. Don’t chase runners and just make them go base to base. Make it a short quick game and that works into their favor.
My Pick: I think the Pirates are just too well built to lose this series. Too many bats and rock solid defense. One of the best teams Weinfeld and Strull have put together and they should win this one easily. Pirates in 2
Round 2 of the 2020 Playoffs- 8 am Next Sunday in Allen- Best 2 of 3
Goofball Captain Divsion
#1 Alford's Iron Pigs vs. #6 Eusay's Tigers- Field 1
#2 Kravitz's Rangers vs. #4 Prim's Muckdogs- Field 2
Handsome Captain Division
#4 Haas' Bulls vs. #1 Buhrow's Baby Jays- Field 3
#3 Samsel's Yard Goats vs. #2 Weinfeld's Pirates- Field 4
Yard Goats in 3
Bulls in 3
Cubs in 3
Muckdogs in 3
Last Week: 4-1
Goofball Captains Division
P- Scott Lawrence- Iron Pigs
C- Jimmy Simeone- Rangers
1B- Leo Cova- Iron Pigs
2B- Kevin Knox- Braves
3B- Max Henry- Royals
SS- Taylor Abrego- Tigers
LF- Tim Kaminski- Braves
LCF- Ryan Richardson- Rangers
RCF- Aaron Homes- Muckdogs
RF- Joe Machado- Tigers
P- Jon Banta- Grasshoppers
IF- Lee McDonald- Cubs
IF- Brad Earls- Muckdogs
OF- Darius Wu- Dash
OF- Brian Osgood- Rangers
Handsome Captains Division
P- Sean Greeley- River Bandits
C- Larry Farin- Lugnuts
1B- Josh Winsor- Bulls
2B- Leonardo Quinones- Lugnuts
3B- Daryl Drake- Yard Goats
SS- Brian Ortega- Pirates
LF- Jordan Allsup- Astros
LCF- Justin Reed- Astros
RCF- Jason Niswonger- Lugnuts
RF- Tim Jamieson- Pirates
P- Michael Thiele- Pirates
IF- Greg Hurst- Bulls
IF- Nick Barr- Indians
OF- David Buhrow- Baby Jays
OF- Brandon Strull- Pirates
Round 1 Matchups
(5) Lachman’s Royals vs. (4) Prim’s Muckdogs
Season Series: 1-1 (13-7 Dogs; 12-10 Royals)
Field 4- 8 AM (Wind blowing in from CF/RCF 13 MPH)
These two teams will meet up on the very same field they did in their first meeting, a 13-7 win by the Muckdogs, looking quite a bit different. In what could be summed up as a roller coaster season with many loops, the Royals 2020 campaign has ultimately landed them right where they wanted to be, in the playoffs. Captain Larry Lachman has had to navigate a season ending injury to his top pick in the draft Matt Ruckel early in the season and each week was a sub fest. A tip of the cap for him getting his team here after dealing with all of that. And now, he is forced to field a team missing half of his players. Nonetheless, they have a team waiting for them that is rested and having won 4 of their last 5 games to earn a spot in the playoffs. The Prim’s have had their share of issues to deal with during the season, but have done an amazing job in their first season as husband/wife combo captain. (We all really know who calls the shots here Donald) The Muckdogs are a team built for a playoff run with their defense. They allowed the least runs in the division and did it by being rock solid in the middle outfield with Donald Prim and rookie phenom Aaron Holmes manning LCF and RCF respectively. The infield is strong as well with Greg Ritter as 3rd and Brad Earls at SS while vet Larry Taub locks down 2nd. Offensively, they aren’t a flashy squad, as they rank in the lower half in most statistical categories. However, they find ways to get runs home and then use their defense to shut you down. Prim (.683, 25 HR, 76 RBI) anchors that lineup and they have great table setters in Holmes, Ritter, Earls and Taub. They also have a very solid bottom with veteran playoff experience in Scott Sulzer, Robbie Franklin and Robert Reighter. On the flip side, the Royals finished 3rd in the league in team batting avg. and middle of the pack in homers. These numbers really don’t mean a ton since they are missing half of their squad so we have to look into the subs to get a read on this one. This week they secured the services of Tim Kaminski (Braves), Tim Jamieson (Pirates), Arevalo Gonzalez (sub list), Jason Murray (Astros), Donnie Holtmann (Pirates), and Jonathan Braun (Astros). Kaminski is a professional hitter and can hit it anywhere in any conditions and is a great pickup for this game. Jamieson adds to the power and is great protection for Max Henry. Arevalo will be a solid fill in at shortstop and help the defense. Holtmann and Braun are solid role players that hit well and field their positions well. All in all, Larry did a great job here and this should be a great matchup.
Keys to Victory:
Muckdogs: Just do what they do. Put up early runs and put the defensive clamps on. There will be lots of new guys playing together on the other side so the quicker you can get up on them, the more they will start pressing. Pitch to your strength and make their hitters hit into that stiff wind and elevate the ball. They MUST throw strikes consistently which will be huge with Carver out this week. This means Sulzer has to be on his game. Don’t chase the big inning and just string hits together. This is a defensive field and that is your strength so just use it.
Royals: They will have to catch lightning in a bottle here to win this matchup. With a strong win blowing in from CF/RCF, there will be opportunities to hit the ball out to LF. They MUST take advantage of this to score runs in bunches because they won’t be given many extra outs. In my opinion, the weakness you have to exploit is their pitching. Sulzer can get erratic and very frustrated. Make him throw strikes and when he does, make him pay. If you can get him out of the game and a change has to be made then Duron will take over. That works to their advantage and can change the whole complexion of the series. Patience is the key here.
My Pick: I just think the Dogs have been through too much together this season for a throw together team to come in and upset. Defense wins championships. Dogs in 2
(6) Eusay’s Tigers vs. (3) Nutts/McDonald’s Cubs
Season Series: 1-1 (16-7 Cubs; 18-13 Tigers)
Field 3- 8 AM (Wind blowing across from LF to RF 13 MPH)
Yes I am writing this preview, but I will try to be subjective and refer to the numbers to tell the story. Of course I will pick my team to win. No reverse jinx here!
Both of these teams finished the year strong with the Cubs winning 4 of their last 5 and Tigers winning 3 of their last 4. The Tigers battled the injury bug all season, with half of their players missing weeks due to some type of injury. When the full squad is together, they have yet to lose a game. Rookie star Taylor Abrego and myself missed the first meeting with the Cubs and Abrego missed the second tilt. The Tigers are a true Jekyll and Hyde team in the truest sense. There are some games where we come out and score tons of runs in an inning and put people away early like we did to the Muckdogs in game 1 and Astros. On the other hand, there are games when the bats go completely quiet and the defense resembles something from the Bad News Bears. With that said, I will put the offense we roll out there against any in the league and like my chances. The Tigers are near the top in most of the offensive categories. However, the Cubs are almost identical in some areas. Both teams tied for 2nd in homers with 57 and team batting average is only .04 different. The Cubs scored the most runs in the league this season with 360 in comparison to only 301 by the Tigers. Another big different is the Cubs allowed 317 runs while the Tigers allowed 335. This is a VERY evenly matched series and should be fun. Offensively the Tigers have four players with double digit homers this season and I am not one of them. Abrego (.692, 12 HR, 51 RBI), Ariel Rodriguez (.639, 12 HR, 40 RBI), Joe Machado (.610, 12 HR, 50 RBI) and Kelly Alexander (.570, 11 HR, 43 RBI) are a murderer’s row in the middle of that lineup sandwiched between myself (.725) and Carlos Moran (.536). Runs will be scored for sure and stress will be put on the opposing defense. The question here is will the defense hold up. The Cubs are built around rookie star Tanner Gandy (.655, 10 HR) and his blazing speed patrolling the outfield and hitting in that leadoff spot giving slugger Lee McDonald (.735, 23 HR, 69 RBI) plenty of RBI opportunities. Losing Lance Gandy early in the season hurt them defensively, but they have adjusted well with Joe Calvano subbing in for them. Aaron Nutt (.596) mans shortstop very well and is a very solid and crafty hitter protecting Lee in the lineup. Eric Clausen (.506) should have a great day hitting with that cross wind and the Allsbrooks are always tough outs. Going to come down to who makes the defensive plays in this one.
Keys to Victory
Cubs- Not going to tell you how to beat us. Sorry.
Tigers: MUST make their bottom beat you. Make the routine plays and make them play base to base and string hits together. Offensively, the ball MUST be kept down and out of the air and RF and RCF needs to be exploited. You cannot allow walks to the bottom of their order so they can do damage. Wind conditions should favor you here so take advantage. Bottom of the order is key and must avoid the double plays.
My Pick: This will be a tight contest and there will be lots of back and forth. If I were not playing and just watching, this would probably be the series I sit and watch. Which team makes the big defensive play and which team gets the key hit in a big situation will determine this. Tigers in 3.
Each week I will do a brief preview of each series along with my prediction of who I think will come out on top. This is my prediction only and means zero other than for entertainment purposes.
Round 1 Matchups
(6) Niswonger's Lugnuts vs. (3) Samsel's Yard Goats
Season series: Goats 2-0 (22-6; 12-11)
Field 1- 8AM (Wind blowing out to LF/LCF 13 mph)
This shapes up to be a very good matchup with conditions favorable to an offensive shootout. Although both teams finished in the bottom four in the league in homers, each squad has the bats to take advantage of the conditions. The Goats dominated the first game 22-6 in Allen on field 3 early in the season, but the Nuts lost a nailbiter on Field 2 later in the year 12-11. The Goats were tops in the league in runs scored, first in doubles and 5th in team batting average. They are led by Daryl Drake's .706 avg, 12 HR and 63 RBI and have some very valuable role players that make that offense click. Ari Loiben (.611) and savvy vet Tony Martin (.630) help anchor the top of the order while star rookie Zakary Edgerton (.512) and Nick Croce (.522) make the bottom the table setters and help flip that lineup back to the top. The big story here is how they deal with the loss of captain Tyler Samsel who is serving a one week suspension. Jordan Allsup will surely infuse some more power in the lineup as he led the Astros this season with 25 dingers. However, how will this affect them defensively as Samsel locked down SS all season. This will play a HUGE role in how this one ends up. As for the Lugnuts, they entered the mini playoffs as the 5 seed and won 2 games, outscoring their opponents 22-11, to earn a spot in the dance. They limped into the postseason, going 2-7 in their final 9 games but are peaking at the right time. Nothing real flashy for these guys, but have some solid vet leadership in their captain Jason Niswonger (.614), Matt Shwarts (.543) and Jon Simonson (.500). The Goats have to find out a way to get Larry Farin out as he finished the season with a .621 average, surely a career high for the wiley vet. With bats like Niswonger, Shwarts, Simonson, Brad Parr, Michael Cohen and Leo Quinones, they can make some serious noise with a wind blowing out. I think how the Goats navigate this is a huge key.
Keys to Victory:
Goats- Force their big bats to keep the ball down and in the park and make them play base to base. Be aggressive on the bases and use their speed to force the shaky defense of the Nuts to crack.
Nuts- Make the routine plays and avoid the defensive blow up inning. Wait for the right pitches and take advantage of their power to build a big lead early and make them chase.
My Pick: Goats in 3
(5) Greeley's River Bandits vs. Haas' Bulls
Season Series: Bandits 2-0 (24-6; 8-7)
Field 2- 8 AM (Wind blowing out to RF/RCF 13 MPH)
The Bulls were hard to read all season as they saw two four-game win streaks as well as a five game streak. However, sandwiched around that were losing streaks of 3 games twice. They ended the season ranked in the top 10 in extra base hits as the Bandits were next to last. Both teams were rated near the bottom in homers, but favorable wind conditions should help this. The team that is able to take advantage will have a great chance to advance. The Bulls ranked 2nd in walks but are going against Sean Greeley who doesn't allow many. This game will feature two of the best pitchers in the league, but how they navigate the wind conditions will be key. For the Bulls, everything rides on Greg Hurst (.675) and Craig Dyer (.512) setting the table for Dalton Fallaw (.675, 13 HR, 77 RBI) and Josh Winsor (.590, 16 HR, 60 RBI). Their bottom is very solid with John Burke (.453), Steve Haas (.527), Hap Burden (.565) and Michael Borque (.545). For the Bandits, in my opinion, they go how Ryan Driggers (.617, 23 HR, 69 RBI) goes. If Burke can navigate around him and get him up in favorable situations, it will be a major factor. He is protected by Troy Steele (.562) who only has 3 homers on the season, so we will see how captain Haas handles this. Should be a great matchup.
Keys to Victory:
Bulls: Carry over the solid defense they played most of the season and let John Burke do his thing. Don't get baited by the wind to swing for the fences and drive the ball to the gaps. Get an early lead and frustrate the Bandits pitcher.
Bandits: Consistently have baserunners on in front of Driggers and let him eat. The bottom of the lineup MUST get the lineup flipped and get them an extra at bat or two for them to win. Their defense isn't as strong as the Bulls, so they will need to score more run to make up for it.
My Pick: Bulls in 2