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Division Finals Game Previews and Picks

By JJ Eusay, 10/29/20, 10:00AM CDT


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.