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Old 09-17-2018, 07:39 PM   #181
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August 15-17 vs MIAMI
A playoff team three years running, this year's Marlins squad turned a fast start into a mediocre June and a subpar July and August to fall well out of first in the East. Now at 57-60 and 9 games behind the Rays, their hitting has dried up (12th), while the pitching is at least decent (8th). Well, the rotation has been serviceable, led by the usually terrific Levi Brady, but the bullpen has been a rotting corpse, last in the AL. Losing all-star 3B Sergio Torres has stifled the attack, and while Sergio has terrorized NL pitchers to a .294/35/87 line, his replacement, Kyle Satchell, is batting ninth and noodling along at .248/6/22. Well played, Miami.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (10-5, 3.80) / Mike Messinger (14-3, 2.74) / Rob Hart (10-9, 4.29)
MIA pitchers: Corey Downes (9-7, 5.00) / Levi Brady (6-10, 5.35) / Jake Marker (10-8, 4.59)

#120: LOSS 2-3 ... Jones goes 8, giving up 3 hits and 1 run, but the usually reliable Yaung cracks with a 2-run HR in the 9th...blaurgh
#121: WIN 7-2 ... 2 HR for Cannon, Hart's 20th HR, and a 4 hitter (through 7.1) with 11 K for Messinger...Yaung gets the night off
#122: WIN 11-1 ... 3-hit, 14-K shutout for Hart...Wright cracks his 30th HR, and Masuda adds 3 H and 2 RBI

Nice offensive display after that game 1 meltdown.... Messinger (219 K) and Hart (217) are already having top ten Islander seasons for strikeouts. As in, 9th and 10th place. Hart has the team record with 255 K from last year, when he just shaded Ken Clark's 254 whiffs from 2037.... ELSEWHERE: Oakland, at 70-51, would be leading four of the five other divisions, instead of being 15.5 games out.... St Louis, at 74-47, has the largest division lead, at 19 games over Cincinati. Last year, the NL Central was probably the best division in baseball, top to (near-)bottom. This year, the second place Reds are 54-65 and would be in last place in three of the other divisions.... And file this under All Is Right With The World Again: the Red Sox are in last place and the clubhouse is feuding. Only one player likes manager Kris Harvey, and that's journeyman OF Randy "He gets along with everyone" Cooper.


August 19-21 vs TAMPA BAY
The AL East division leader, at 66-52, and playing well across the board: 5th in offense, 3rd in pitching, and a +93 run differential. A decade of futility gave way to a 91-win season last year, and they're on pace for that again this go-round. No true standouts statistically-speaking on offense, but three batters have topped 20 HR, and three more are in double figures, for a balanced attack.

HAW pitchers: Taylor Barnett (4-0, 3.54) / Ryuma Sato (9-4, 4.20) / Eric Jones (10-5, 3.67)
TBR pitchers: Gabe Ray (9-10, 4.33) / Roman Berndt (7-9, 5.36) / Tony Zuniga (7-2, 2.50)

#123: WIN 3-2 ... Barnett is tonight's story, allowing 7 H and 2 R through 8 IP...CF Klein, batting .330, gets injured, diagnosis pending
#124: WIN 9-1 ... Sato bumps up his game with a 12-K effort...Cannon doubles and triples home a couple runs, and Groff goes 4-for-5 with 3 RBI and a pair of HR
#125: WIN 8-6 ... Wright is the hero here, 3-for-3, 2B, HR, 3 RBI...2 H each for Groff, Masuda, and Cannon...Jones is off, but the offense bails him out

This is quite an impressive roll right now, as we dismantle a hot team this time around.... Klein's injury is just dtd, minimal effect; but he'll get some time off anyway, with Gooding starting and Klein coming in for defense late, for the next week.... ELSEWHERE: Loving some tight division races right now: in the AL Central, the White Sox--who haven't sniffed the playoffs since 2030--are up by a 1/2 game on the Twins and Indians, by 2 over the Tigers, and 2 1/2 on the Brewers; the NL West is a three-way dead heat between the Padres, Outlaws, and Pioneers, with the Dodgers just 2 out; and in the NL East, Brooklyn has a 1/2 lead on Philly, and 2 games over the Mets and Eagles. Tampa's lost 5 straight now, but still has a 3 game lead over the Blue Jays. And, last, Hawaii and St Louis are way ahead in their divisions.


August 23-25 @ BALTIMORE
Nine games over .500 after a horrible April, and they're still 62-63; but just 5.5 games out of first in this tight division. Hitting has been solid, 2nd in runs, 1st in HR. Pitching hasn't been as trusty, but it's still 9th overall with the 6th best rotation. Stud OF Cesar Alvarenga is having a great season (.355/37/118), and DH Rafael Flores has 31 HR, C Arturo Sena 29. They've also already lost four starting pitchers for the season, so it'll be worth watching to see if the pitching can hold up.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (15-3, 2.67) / Rob Hart (11-9, 4.11) / Taylor Barnett (5-0, 3.25)
BAL pitchers: Mo Grant (5-3, 5.33) / Jeremy Stines (7-12, 4.95) / Edwin Torres (2-3, 4.03)

#126: WIN 18-1 ... 21 H, 6 2B, 3 HR...3 RBI for Robertson and Masuda, 4 for Wright and Rich...Mess is pulled with one out in the 9th, just because
#127: LOSS 3-8 ... Hart is chased after four, as the O's pound 3 HR and never trail
#128: WIN 5-2 ... Groff's 3-run shot in the 8th breaks open a close game, and Barnett yields just 4 hits over 8 innings, fanning 8

I get worried when we toss up a couple touchdowns on a team that we've used up our offense for a while, but no worries here.... A couple of little injuries, with RP Archila sitting for a couple days, Groff tweaking an ankle (very minor), and Simmons nursing a sore arm. Only Simmons will sit for a bit; Canning will probably start, although I might get rookie Ospina a few more than the 4 AB he's gotten so far in his first call-up.... ELSEWHERE: How's this for a fun game: Cleveland's Bryan Altier gave up a hit to the second Angel he faced, then let no other batter get to first, winning a 1-0 game. How did his counterpart do? LA's Greg Langworthy tossed a no-hitter. And lost. The Indians got an unearned run on a walk, a fielder's choice, an error, and another fielder's choice. Altier was the day's 3rd star; Langworthy got bupkis.... Baltimore now has FIVE starting pitchers on the season-ending DL.


August 26-28 vs OAKLAND
The A's 74-53 record would have them leading four of baseball's six divisions. Instead, they're 16.5 games out of first; but they're six up on the second place AL wild card team. Once again they're a team that doesn't dominate you in any one statistic, but they're solidly top ten in nearly every category (except team defense). Offense is 5th, pitching is 6th, with a +68 run differential. Every starter has hit double figures in HR, yet the team is just 9th in the AL. Solid, unspectacular. Except for Vinny Vargas, having his usual great season: .349/42/103. Rookie pitcher Jim Schwartz has given up just one run in his first two big league starts (16.2 innings).

HAW pitchers: Ryuma Sato (10-4, 4.05) / Eric Jones (11-5, 3.67) / Mike Messinger (16-3, 2.60)
OAK pitchers: Jim Schwartz (1-0, 0.54) / Mike Wiater (15-5, 3.29) / Francisco Pantaleon (13-7, 4.07)

#129: WIN 11-10 ... we hit 2 HR, Oakland hits 5...Groff's 2-run double in the 8th is the winner, after the pen tries to give it all back, yielding 4 runs in the 9th
#130: LOSS 0-6 ... a rare shutout, as we're one-hit by Wiater...Jones has a rough night, including 5 BB in 5 IP
#131: LOSS 0-3 ... two in a row, so not so rare then...we get more hits, but no breaks...rare loss this season for Mess

Well that's not cool. Still, 15.5 up on the A's. Now we go on the road for six against Seattle and Texas.... Everyone gets a day off, then we get back on it.... ELSEWHERE: Oakland's Vinny Vargas leads baseball with 45 HR, a new career high for him. Seattle's Mike Wapner has 41, the third time he's hit that many.... Three AL batters are hitting .355, one at .354. Two players are tied for the NL lead at .354.... Richmond ace Rafael Maldonado keeps mowing 'em down: 13-6, 2.55 ERA, league-leading 244 K and 9.0 WAR. At 70-59, Richmond could be leading three other divisions, but they're currently in 4th in the NL East.


August 30-31 @ SEATTLE
A rare two-game series, wrapping up the month against the somewhat-resurgent Mariners. The M's are 70-62, well behind us, but currently in the second wild card spot, albeit 7.5 games behind the "front-running" A's. Fifth in runs, while 2nd in AVG and OBP; pitching is 9th, with a solid rotation and a struggling bullpen. Mike Wapner is in the running for his second MVP trophy, at .340/41/106 and leading AL batters in WAR. 2B Alex Cruz has been an excellent sidekick, at .322/29/80.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (11-10, 4.28) / Taylor Barnett (6-0, 2.86)
SEA pitchers: Greg Sowa (5-9, 5.67) / Sean Easter (12-5, 4.34)

#132: LOSS 4-9 ... Groff hits his 30th HR...Hart has his second straight rough outing, lasting 6 IP this time but giving up 4 runs...some bad relief here too
#133: WIN 10-0 ... six-hit shutout for Barnett, ending a small losing streak here...early HR for Wright and Masuda build a lead, 5 runs late quashes Seattle's hopes

That last game gave me some relief, after our fist little losing streak in some time.... Cannon, Wright, and Groff have reached the 30 HR mark, and Cannon has 103 RBI.... Simmons hitting has cooled off somewhat, but he's still at .339 and one of five regulars over the .300 mark.... AAA Santa Barbara is having a great season, 74-45, while AA Lewiston has been even better: 81-46.... ELSEWHERE: heading into the last month of the season, and there are still four excellent divisional races. Take a gander:
AL East: 1. TOR / 2. TBR (0.5 GB) / 3. BAL (4)
AL Central: 1. CLE / 2. MIN (2) and CHW (2) / 4. MIL (4) / 5. DET (4.5)
NL East: 1. PHI / 2. BKN (1) / 3. NYM (1.5) / 4. RICH (4.5)
NL West: 1. AUS / 2. LAD (0.5) / 3. SD (1) and POR (1) / 5. ARI (4.5)

Tight.


......

TL;DR Version: 9-5 here, even with that 3-game losing streak tossed in. Fingers crossed: things are still heading in the right direction, with good hitting, good pitching, and no back-breaking injuries. With my AAA and AA teams likely headed to their own playoffs, I probably won't raid them for players after the 9/1 roster expansion. Maybe a pitcher, maybe a couple of batters.
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Old 09-20-2018, 08:20 PM   #182
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September roster expansion, and we call up just a few guys as AAA Santa Barbara is vying for their own championship. Corey Vannoy, last year's backup catcher, gets the call after hitting .328 for the Surf. OF Dillon Ritter gets his first call; the 2042 1st round pick was batting .355 in AAA. And we add a 12th pitcher, bringing up RP Danny Fernandez for his second stint in the bigs. He made one appearance earlier, going 4 innings in relief and giving up two runs. SS Rich Stoneback comes off the DL in two weeks, so he'll be back for the playoffs. And SP Malik Chaney will probably get one more start late in the month, getting a chance to bring his ERA down below 10.

Finally, SP Taylor Barnett earns AL pitcher and rookie of the month nods, for going 6-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 45 innings. Sure, his rebuilt elbow might explode again at any moment, but he's making the most of whatever time he has left.

September 1-4 @ TEXAS
The Rangers never recovered from a 5-24 May, and have slid to the bottom of the division with a 50-82 record. Still hitting, with the 10th best offense (and 6th in AVG, 7th in OBP), but pitching has been truly terrible. An AL-worst 810 runs against, and with a combined starter's ERA of 6.62. Two of their season-long starters have ERA over 7, including Mark Metz, rolling with an almost incredible 8.77. Manager T.J. Chism has gone 32-50 since replacing the fired Drew Saylor (who was 18-31), so there's been no turnaround under new management.

HAW pitchers: Ryuma Sato (11-4, 4.17) / Eric Jones (11-6, 3.83) / Mike Messinger (16-4, 2.63) / Rob Hart (11-11, 4.33)
TEX pitchers: Pedro Cabrera (6-16, 7.72) / John Fox (11-10, 4.29) / Mark Metz (6-13, 8.77) / Justin Darrisaw (debut)

#134: WIN 12-2 ... 4-for-5 for Simmons, with his annual HR...we hang 10 on Cabrera, putting his ERA over 8 as well. You're welcome
#135: WIN 9-4 ... Cannon's 2-run shot breaks open a 3-3 tie, and we add 4 more the next inning to run away with it
#136: LOSS 1-5 ... of course Metz throws a gem against us, holding us to 3 hits...Mess gives up 5 in the first, never recovers...moving on
#137: WIN 8-0 ... one-hitter for Hart, fanning 10...Groff with 2 HR, reaches 100 RBI for the 6th time in his career

Well, that's what happens when you make fun of the other team: their worst player goes out and humiliates you. Still, three wins against the hapless Rangers, so we move on.... We get a day off after this series, and have just two more over the last four weeks of the season.... ELSEWHERE: Baltimore is 69-68, just four games out of first in the East, and two games out of a wild card spot. That they're competitive at all with five starting pitchers out for the season is amazing. Only one of their current starters has over 100 IP this season.... New Orleans has recovered somewhat after their horrible last-place standing through early summer. Actually, they're just 61-76, but that's good for third in the NL Central, just behind Cincy for second. This division had three playoff teams a couple seasons ago, but only St Louis is playing like a pro team this year.... The AL division races have widened a bit since my last report, but two NL races are still tight: in the East, NY is a half game up on Brooklyn and Philly; in the West, LA has the same lead over Austin, and 1 over San Diego, 3 over Portland.


September 6-8 vs NEW YORK YANKEES
The first of our final three series outside the division. NY looked promising early, starting 14-8 in April; since then they're 18 games under .500, and sport a last-place 62-74 mark. Hitting is just 16th overall, with only SS Steve Boozer (at .271) hitting over .260. OF Tony Flores has 37 HR, hoping to top 40 for the fourth straight season. And in one of my favorite continuing storylines, Man-of-Glass Daizo Yonamine now has his 12th injury of the season (14 counting training camp). He's combined for 152 games in his two seasons in New York.

HAW pitchers: Taylor Barnett (7-0, 2.38) / Ryuma Sato (12-4, 4.13) / Eric Jones (12-6, 3.83)
NYY pitchers: Jimmy Porreca (9-13, 5.71) / Jarrod Kearns (10-7, 4.76) / Michael Bartlow (11-6, 3.66)

#138: WIN 8-4 ... 3rd inning GRAND SLAM for Cannon stakes us to a 5-0 lead...Barnett is just okay, but gets his 8th win...division is clinched
#139: WIN 5-4 ... Groff's 2-run HR in the 5th caps a comeback win...Sato is junk, but Stanley throws 4 scoreless relief innings for the win
#140: WIN 16-1 ... GRAND SLAMS for Wright and Hart, each sparking 7-run innings...16 runs out of 20 runners on base: pretty good ratio

Always good to sweep last place teams; it's a sign that all is right with the world.... We clinch the playoffs in that second game, and our magic number for the division is now 6.... Stoneback suffers a setback in his recovery, and his return time is now listed as unknown.... ELSEWHERE: Cleveland's Zach Gioeli tosses a one-hitter against Tampa Bay, but loses anyway on a throwing error by 2B Andrew Taylor. His opponent, Jeff Caraway, also tossed a one-hitter. Gioeli leads baseball with 18 wins, and is currently the only thing standing between Mike Messinger and a pitching triple crown.... No change in any division leads, and all the races listed above are still close. Plus, Cleveland leads Minny by just 3 games. Oakland has a 7.5 game lead in the wild card race, with four teams separated by just 2.5 game for the second.


September 9-11 @ TORONTO
It's been a comeback season for the Jays after three years in the 70-win wilderness. At 72-66, a half game up on Tampa, with MLB currently giving them a 57% chance to make the playoffs. Twenty-one of their remaining 24 games are at home, a frankly incredible stat (and they're +10 at home, 35-25, and under .500 on the road). Hitting is just 13th, but they're 4th in HR, led by CF Tim Manske with 35 and C Roger Morales with 30. Having six batters on the DL hasn't helped their overall numbers. Pitching is 3rd best, without any dominant performances, although Daniel Becker has had a significantly better season than nominal ace Joe Erkel.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (16-5, 2.80) / Rob Hart (12-11, 4.13) / Taylor Barnett (8-0, 2.59)
TOR pitchers: Joe Erkel (8-10, 4.96) / Matt Knowlton (7-8, 4.56) / Daniel Becker (12-6, 3.71)

#141: WIN 4-3 ... win #100 comes courtesy of Klein's solo 14th-inning HR...Mess is stout, but can't buy a win, probably seeing 20 wins slipping away...Groff hurt dtd
#142: WIN 8-5 ... 3 hits and 4 RBI for Robertson, and HR for Masuda, approaching 100 RBI himself...just 5.2 IP for Hart, but he gets the win...RP Dan Brown hurt
#143: WIN 8-3 ... Cannon reaches 40 HR, and everyone gets a hit tonight...another win for Barnett, complete game

Cannon is in his 5th MLB season and has hit 40 HR in four of them.... Brown is out for six weeks; I'm hoping we last long enough in the playoffs for him to pitch for us, as he's been money all season.... Messinger has slowed a bit and is still stuck at 16 wins. He's still got an outside chance to become our 2nd 20-game winner, after Leon Casillas won 22 in 2039.... Masuda has 97 RBI, and is close to being our 3rd batter to reach 100. Wright's production has dipped lately, but at 93 RBI he has a chance as well.... ELSEWHERE: Toronto has now dropped 7 straight, falling into a tie for 2nd with Baltimore, a half game behind Tampa. Austin has gotten hot and has a 1.5 game lead over the Dodgers.... Austin's Sam Thompson hurls his 2nd career no-hitter, fanning 11 in an 8-0 win over Washington. This is the 5th no-hitter of the season, the second tossed against the Nationals.... Oakland's Vinny Vargas had a big power series against the Yankees, and reached 50 HR for the first time.... Texas is the first team officially eliminated from playoff consideration, and with just 54 wins they have a 5 game lead on next June's #1 overall draft pick (over Pittsburgh).


September 13-15 @ BOSTON
Right in the thick of things into early summer, a terrible July and a so-so August dropped them from the playoff race. They're still just 5.5 games out, but haven't shown any signs yet of coming back. Hitting is 5th, but pitching is next-to-last, and is the big reason they sit in 5th place. C Lance Powell has been the team MVP, with solid seasons from 1B Jordan Shields (on the DL), DH Danny Greenwald, and SS Chris Beyer. Rookie OF Joel Page, called up at the beginning of the month, is hitting .476 in his first 5 big league games.

HAW pitchers: Ryuma Sato (12-4, 4.24) / Eric Jones (13-6, 3.70) / Mike Messinger (16-5, 2.78)
BOS pitchers: Robby Liantonio (10-11, 4.76) / Fernando Alameda (8-10, 5.91) / Brian Burke (2-2, 4.35)

#144: WIN 9-6 ... 20th HR for Masuda...3 H each for Simmons and Rich, who also hit his 37th double
#145: WIN 11-2 ... 3 hits each for four guys, and 2 more doubles for Rich...Groff with his 35th HR...Jones walks 5 (vs 1 K) and gives up 9 H in 7.2 IP, but wins anyway
#146: WIN 8-7 ... Mess gets roughed up early, but Masuda's 3-run HR in the 9th wins it...4.1 solid innings in relief for Fernandez, first MLB win

Another surprising sweep, and now a 10-game winning streak.... 100 RBI for Masuda; Wright with 95, and I'm pulling for him to be the 4th to get to 100 for us.... Oh, and we clinch the division, on the same day St Louis clinches theirs. Potential World Series match-up? We'll have to see.... ELSEWHERE: Brooklyn and NY swapped 1st place a couple times this series; just 1/2 game separates them.... Richmond's Serio Torres is the first in the NL to reach 40 HR, the fifth time he's reached that mark. His teammate Rafael Maldonado reached 10 WAR, and is currently tied for 1st in wins, leads in strikeouts, and is 2nd in ERA. Hawaii's Mike Messinger is close in the AL as well: 3rd in wins, 2nd in ERA, 1st in strikeouts.

......

TL;DR Version: Well, I guess a 12-1 stretch this late in the season is pretty good, huh. Four more wins and we'll top our team record of 108 wins. Groff is over his knee soreness, but RP Dan Brown is out for the rest of the regular season, and will miss at least the first round of the playoffs. I'll have to decide if I'll activate him anyway and put him on the roster, even if he can't pitch for a while. He's been solid all season, so I want him around if possible. Sixteen games left in the season, and I'm hoping we stay healthy, and want to get a few individuals over the top for some individual stats.
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Old 09-22-2018, 10:52 AM   #183
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September 16-18 vs LA ANGELS
Another lost season for that other LA team. Although they've been better, at 8-4 this month. Hitting is 16th, pitching 14th. SS Juan Rodriquez leads the AL with a .360 average, and 3B Tony Mendoza has a .299/30/93 line. But they still haven't surrounded those two cornerstone talents with a real lineup. Only C Tony Luarca and rookie CF Emmanuel Garcia (hitting just .241 but still growing at age 20) look to have real futures. For a team in the midst of their 9th straight losing season, their system is only ranked 26th, which doesn't exactly bode well for the near future.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (13-11, 4.19) / Taylor Barnett (9-0, 2.65) / Ryuma Sato (13-4, 4.20)
LAA pitchers: Khalil Smith (10-11, 5.78) / Alex Diaz (8-0, 3.39) / Bob Tranchida (5-11, 6.69)

#147: WIN 4-3 ... 2 HR for Masuda, but it's JHart's solo shot in the 12th that wins it...8 IP for RHart, 11 K
#148: WIN 9-3 ... Six HR for the gang, 2 each for Groff, Cannon, and Wright...6 IP for Barnett, who doesn't earn a win for once
#149: WIN 13-2 ... strong 7 IP for Sato, and a 3-run HR (and an injury) for Robertson...100 RBI for Wright

Thirteen wins in a row, 108 on the season. Crazy.... Robertson strains a hamstring on the bases, will be dtd for a week. He'll sit more than he'll play in order to be fresh for the playoffs.... Simmons and Groff have gotten hot again, and are 1st and 2nd in AL batting right now.... ELSEWHERE: Pittsburgh has been bad all season, but decides right now to fire manager E.J. Shanks. He's replace by long-time minor league pitching coach Nathan Culp. This is Culp's first managerial role anywhere.... LA's Rodriquez has 207 hits. Several others have a chance to reach 200: Oakland's Vargas (198), and Austin's Roberto Miranda (197).... Zach Gioeli has 19 wins, is probably the only pitcher with a chance to reach 20. Oakland's Mike Wiater has 17.

PLAYOFF WATCH: (minus the AL West and NL Central, divisions already decided)
AL East: Tampa Bay 77 wins; Baltimore 76 (2.5 behind); Miami 75 (3); Toronto 74 (3.5)
AL Central: Cleveland 77 wins; Minnesota 75 (2)
NL East: Brooklyn 84 wins; New York 84 (1/2); Philadelphia 79 (3); Richmond 79 (4.5)
NL West: Austin 78 wins; LA 77 (1.5); San Diego 75 (3); Portland 73 (5)


September 19-21 vs TEXAS
Only one team hasn't yet reached 60 wins, and it's Texas. Nothing has changed since we played them a couple weeks ago. They've dropped perennial leadoff guy Gabriel Gallegos to the 8th spot for some reason. Punishment? Former Islander prospect David Rivera has had a decent season at 1B, .265/11/68, but with a limited upside he's probably not in the long-term plans. Speaking of which, their system is ranked just 31st, with only one player in the top 100. Their top two prospects are starting pitchers, both in AA, and both probably almost as good as anyone they're trotting out to the mound right now. Still, it's probably best not to expose them to this big league horrowshow just yet.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (14-6, 3.59) / Mike Messinger (16-5, 2.95) / Rob Hart (13-11, 4.12)
TEX pitchers: Pedro Cabrera (7-18, 7.51) / Mark Metz (8-14, 8.09) / Thomas Cannaday (3-4, 5.86)

#150: WIN 11-0 ... why Jones is pulled with 2 outs in the 9th, again I must ask wtf...14 hits, 7 for extras, including Wright's 39th HR
#151: WIN 6-2 ... Mess again can't buy a win, as we score 5 late to pull this one out...40th HR for Wright, congrats!
#152: LOSS 1-7 ... good start for Texas' Cannaday, and bad pitching all-around from Hart and Stanley

The streak ends at 15 games. Time to start a new one.... No new injuries, which is really the main thing.... Four batters with 100 RBI, two with 40 HR and Groff closing in at 37.... ELSEWHERE: Somehow I've missed that there is a real two-way player in our midst: Seattle RP Steve Mellon has made 36 appearances with 47 IP, earning 1.3 WAR. He looks good enough to start, too. He's also made 27 starts at DH, slashing .291/.336/.453 in 117 AB, and just had a 5-hit game against Houston. Cleveland's OF Dave Von Eschen pitched in AA last year, but hasn't taken the mound in AAA or for the Indians this year.... KC is having a disappointing 67-83 season, and just fired 4th year manager Dom Duggan, probably the reddest of all the red-ass coaches in baseball. No word yet on his replacement.

PLAYOFF WATCH: Tampa and Baltimore tied for first, Toronto 1.5 back, Miami 2.5; Cleveland up by 3 over Minnesota; Brooklyn 1.5 over NY; Austin 1/2 over LA, 2 over San Diego.


September 22-25 @ OAKLAND
Having just clinched a wild card spot, they're headed for the playoffs for the 8th time in the last 9 seasons. They've won 90+ games six times during that run. Offense is 3rd, pitching is 3rd, and once again Vinny Vargas (.354/53/130) is an MVP candidate. At 91-60, they'd be leading four of the five other divisions, and not in a position to suffer through the agonizing one-game wild card playoff. Mike Wiater has won a career-high 18 games, has a chance to reach 20.

HAW pitchers: Taylor Barnett (9-0, 2.68) / Ryuma Sato (14-4, 4.14) / Eric Jones (15-6, 3.44) / Mike Messinger (16-5, 2.95)
OAK pitchers: Ricky Hose (14-10, 4.86) / Justin Moore (debut) / Jim Schwartz (3-0, 2.70) / Mike Wiater (18-6, 3.22)

#153: LOSS 4-5 ... bullpen costs Barnett the win, giving up 2 late...3 more HR, including 2 for Wright, one for Cannon
#154: LOSS 3-6 ... not the kind of streak I had in mind, guys...bad start for Sato, probably convincing me to put him in the pen for the playoffs
#155: WIN 4-2 ... 8 IP for Jones, making it hard for me to see letting him go this off-season...2 H, 2 RBI for Robertson
#156: LOSS 2-14 ... oof, hangover time...worst start for Messinger this season...ugly all-around

I guess we were overdue for this kind of series. Had to be against the A's, didn't it. Probably Messinger's final start of the regular season, tbh.... Stoneback is off the DL, maybe he can get his average up to .200. Or maybe even .150.... ELSEWHERE: Twenty wins for Cleveland's Zach Gioeli, 19 for Oakland's Mike Wiater.... 30-year-old SS Heriberto Martinez has retired due to concussions. A career .245 hitter, he had a true power bat, accumulating 275 in his 10-year career. He was a 2-time all-star, and won a Gold Glove in 2041. He had 38.7 WAR in his shortened career. And was apparently a major d*ckhead.

PLAYOFF WATCH: Tampa Bay by 1.5 over Miami, 2 over Baltimore, 3.5 over the slipping Jays; Cleveland is 1 up on Minnesota; Brooklyn has extended their lead to 3.5 over New York, 5 over Philly; injury-plagued Austin is 1.5 up on LA, 2 over San Diego. Oakland's 94 wins would have them on top of every other division now.


September 26-28 @ HOUSTON
A 78-78 record may not look like much, but it's a small victory for this sorry franchise. Batting is struggling, at 14th, but pitching is 2nd. The Russo/Gonzales 1-2 punch in the rotation has been solid, and 1B Bruce Calhoon has had another quietly strong year (.312/34/104).

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (13-12, 4.20) / Taylor Barnett (9-0, 2.81) / Ryuma Sato (14-5, 4.31)
HOU pitchers: Ryan Crawley (15-10, 4.31) / Mike Huddleston (1-0, 6.14) / Jay Russo (11-8, 3.64)

#157: WIN 13-5 ... 2 more HR for Wright...40th double for Rich...four steals too...good comeback start for Hart, gets his 14th win
#158: LOSS 2-3 ... the pen kills Barnett again, giving up all 3 runs in the 9th...only 9200 fans witness this one
#159: LOSS 2-3 ... another one hung on the pen: solo HR in the 9th and 11th lose tonight

Ugh, not the way I want the season to end here.... Simmons hitting .354, five points ahead of LA's Juan Rodriquez.... Haven't fully decided yet, but will probably rest, or at least pitch-limit, Messinger and Hart for the last two starts of the season.... ELSEWHERE: Brooklyn clinches a playoff spot, their 3rd post-season appearance ever.... Ranger starter Pedro Cabrera has given up 54 HR, Dodgers starter Francisco Manzano is right behind, at 53.

PLAYOFF WATCH: Heading into the final series of the season, Tampa Bay is 1.5 up on Baltimore, 2 on Miami and 2.5 on Toronto; Cleveland and Minnesota are tied; Brooklyn by 3.5 over NY (who also just clinched a playoff spot); Austin sweating a 1 game lead over LA, 3 over San Diego.


September 30, October 1-2 @ SEATTLE
With an 84-75 record, they're on the inside track to the second wild card spot; if they can do it, it'll be their first playoff appearance since 2038. Pretty good across the board, at 6th in offense, 9th in pitching. OF Mike Wapner is stroking it again this year, at .329/43/126, and 1st in AL batter WAR with 8.7. Two-way guy Steve Mellon is hitting .301 in 136 AB, but is out of the lineup as he's been moved into the rotation.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (16-6, 3.39) / Mike Messinger (16-6, 3.23) / Malik Chaney (0-0, 14.40)
SEA pitchers: Sean Easter (13-8, 4.44) / Steve Mellon (4-7, 3.90) / Leo Zamorano (8-11 5.37)

#160: LOSS 3-4 ... c'mon now...Jones has his mild stuff tonight, giving up all 4 runs and fanning just 1 over 7 IP...sigh
Playoffs: Tampa takes two from Miami, Baltimore beats Toronto: losers eliminated; Cleveland wins, Minny loses; Brooklyn and NY win, Robins clinch division; Austin beats LA, knocks out San Diego
#161: WIN 10-2 ... Stanley starts for some reason, and actually tosses a complete game win...WTH folks...4 RBI for Masuda, 4 H and 2 RBI for Cannon
Playoffs: Tampa and Baltimore win, TB clinches division; Cleveland wins, Minny loses, eliminated; Philly clinches 2nd wild card; LA beats Austin, one game back
#162: WIN 6-3 ... wtf, now Ramirez makes a start instead of Chaney...Simmons goes 0-for-2, now has to sweat out Oakland's game to see who wins the batting crown
Playoffs: Baltimore loses, allows Seattle to take 2nd wild card; LA beats Austin, will meet for a one-game decider

Odd choices for the pitching staff; I thought I had taken care of these odd rotation decisions at the end of the season. Annoying as all hell.... Simmons claims the AL batting crown in his rookie season, finishing at .350. Fantastic! Cannon finishes 2nd in RBI, with 134; Groff has a solid all-around season: 6th in AVG, 2nd in OBP, 4th in OPS, 3rd in WAR, 2nd in runs, and 4th in OPS+ and WOBA.... Santa Barbara drops the AAA championships to Salt Lake, while Lewiston wins the AA crown.... ELSEWHERE: lots of exciting results over these three days. Tampa and Cleveland finally take their divisions, and Minny and Baltimore can't match Seattle's 85 wins for the second AL wild card spot. The NL East proves strong, as Brooklyn takes the division and NY and Philly grab the wild cards. And we get the terror and angst of a one-game "Win-and-you're-in" playoff for the NL West, LA vs Austin: And the winner of the NL West is-----Los Angeles. Yes, the evil empire keeps rolling along, making their fourth straight playoff appearance, and looking for their 3rd World Series crown in the last 7 seasons. Great.

......

TL;DR Version: A 10-6 stretch to close out the season. It's not quite like winning 15 in a row, but it's not bad either. Now to see what we can do in the playoffs. We'll either cap off a great season, or become another in a long line of great regular season teams that couldn't wrap up a championship. I should note that our previous best years--two 108-win seasons--resulted in zero titles. Nothing to worry about tho, right?
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Old 09-28-2018, 08:42 PM   #184
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PLAYOFFS 2044

In the NL Wildcard, the Mets ride a 3-run first to a 3-1 win over the Phillies. In the AL, Oakland is upset by the scrappy Mariners 6-2, coming back with 4 runs in the 8th, to advance to the next round. New York gets St Louis in the division series, while Seattle gets to play us.

As for us, due to injuries we're rolling with only ten pitchers on the playoff roster. To start, we'll go with a four-man rotation, dropping Ryuma Sato into long relief. Although we were first in pitching for most of the season, we didn't look so hot late. Messinger has been cold, Hart has been back-and-forth, and Barnett has been pitching well but hasn't bought a win in two weeks. Jones was consistent in September, and actually ended up with the same number of wins as Messinger, who was the best pitcher in the AL for much of the year. The pen has been solid, but did blow a few games late down the stretch. Having said all that, all of our hitters are healthy and playing well, so if we can keep hitting, we should be good.

DIVISION ROUND

Game One: Seattle (Sean Easter, 14-8 4.37) @ Hawaii (Mike Messinger, 16-6 3.23) Messinger was cold down the stretch and...struggled again tonight, leaving the game early after giving up a raft of hits. Still, we're up 5-2 in the top of the 6th, until reliever Pat Stanley gives up a 2-run HR to John Fry and another run to boot, tying the game. We go back in front in the bottom half, but Fry strikes again in the 7th, driving in a run as the M's go back up, 7-6. Groff comes up big in the 8th with a 2-run triple, and we're looking good. But closer YT Yaung just flat-out blows up in the 9th, giving up four hits, a walk, and a 2-run HR to Aaron Harrison. Five hits for Groff, but no pitching at all tonight. Seattle leads series 1-0

Brooklyn beats LA while St Louis shuts outs the Mets, to take 1-0 leads. Cards pitcher Kasey Sikkema throws a 2-hitter. In the AL, Tampa Bay four-hits the Indians to take an early lead.

Game Two: Seattle (Steve Mellon, 4-8 5.06) @ Hawaii (Rob Hart, 14-12 4.21) Mike Wapner stakes Seattle to a 1st-inning 1-0 lead with a solo shot, but a Cannon RBI single and Wright's 3-run HR answer in the bottom half. We add five more in the 5th, thanks mostly to JHart's 3-run blast. Three more hits in the 6th bring home two more runs, and we take a relatively easy 11-2 win, and I get to breathe a little easier. For now. Rob Hart goes the distance, giving up four hits and fanning 12. Series tied 1-1

Tony Moreno singles home Mike Blough in the 11th as the Robins go up 2-0 on the Dodgers; St Louis shuts out the Mets again, this time on a six-hitter by Ken Clark. Tampa Bay scores 3 in the 9th, and wins it in the 10th, 4-3, to take their own 2-0 lead over the Indians.

Game Three: Hawaii (Taylor Barnett, 9-0 2.56) @ Seattle (Rob Sczesny, 12-13 5.19) Down 1-0 early, Groff's 2-run shot in the 3rd gives us the lead. We give it right back, as Wapner hits his own 2-run blast in the bottom of the inning. We tie it in the 6th, but once again can't hold it. In for Barnett, Pat Stanley cracks again, giving up a 2-run home run to Enrique Antunez, and Wapner hits his 2nd of the night against Ramon Archila later in the same inning. We can't put anyone else on, and just like that we're a game away from wasting the season. Final score is 6-4. Seattle leads series 2-1

Brooklyn scores 4 in the 7th, and holds off a furious Dodgers rally to win 7-6 and sweep LA. St Louis finally allows the Mets to score, but scores four late runs to eliminate the New Yorkers 5-3. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, Tampa completes their own sweep, scoring 3 in the 7th and 3 more in the 9th to take a 10-6 game three win to douse Cleveland.

Game Four: Hawaii (Eric Jones, 16-7 3.45) @ Seattle (Greg Sowa, 9-10 5.44) Backs against the wall. This one is tight early, as the teams trade runs in the 2nd. We take the lead on Cannon's 3-run homer, but give one back on Aaron Harrison's RBI double in the bottom half. A couple of singles and some small ball give the M's another run, and our lead is 4-3 after four. Rob Rich extends that with a solo blast in the 7th, and Josh Robertson ends things with a 3-run line shot into the stands in the 8th. We add one more to make the final score 9-3, and it's back home for a one game winner-take-all match. Series tied 2-2

Game Five: Seattle (Sean Easter, 0-0 9.00) @ Hawaii (Mike Messinger, 0-0 6.75) Can Messinger rediscover the groove he was in for most of the season? Can we count on our bullpen in the most clutch game of the year? Well, Mess is not sharp early, giving up a walk and hitting a batter in the top of the first. A strikeout manages to end things without costing a run. In our half, Easter is also wild early, giving up a pair of walks and a couple of hits to give us an early lead, and it's 3-0 after one. Messinger then strikes out seven over the next three innings, on his way to fanning 13 for the game. Oh, and he also gives up just three hits and zero runs, and we cruise to a 3-0 shutout and put one series behind us. That was tough, but we'll take the win regardless of difficulty. Hawaii WINS series 3-2

......

LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

Winner of 86 games, and the division by two games, Tampa Bay comes to town with a trip to the World Series on the line. The Rays were 6th in offense and in pitching, with a +71 run differential. Their defense was subpar, and they didn't hit too many home runs, 12th in the league. No qualified regulars hit .300, but three topped .290, and their 3-4 hitters--Chris Goldthwait and Vance Wise--combined for 64 HR and 207 RBI. Catcher William Antonio hit .344, but has been injured for nearly two months, and his return date is unknown. Bill Casas and Jeff Caraway lead a veteran rotation that was 5th in regular season ERA.

Game One: Tampa Bay (Bill Casas, 1-0 0.00) @ Hawaii (Rob Hart, 1-0 2.00) Wise gets things off on the wrong foot--from my perspective--with a 2-run homer in the first. Cannon gets one back with a solo shot in the 4th, then comes up again in the 5th to hit a 2-run double, and we take a 3-2 lead that we won't relinquish. We plate four in the 7th, with Wright hitting a 3-run shot and JHart a solo one. Tampa adds two in the 9th, but it's too little too late. Final score 7-4. RHart fans 14, breaking Messinger's team record set in game five of the Seattle series. Hawaii leads series 1-0

NL series: St Louis remains undefeated in the post-season, as Kasey Sikkema throws a strong seven innings and the Cards take a 1-0 series lead with a 4-2 win out of the box.

Game Two: Tampa Bay (Jeff Caraway, 0-0 4.76) @ Hawaii (Taylor Barnett, 0-0 4.50) Barnett's charmed season probably ended tonight, as he leaves after two with an injury. Ryuma Sato comes in, and he's pretty sharp through the next 4.1 innings, fanning six and giving up just two hits. Sadly, one of those was a solo blast to Frank Acevedo, and we can't get anyone around the bases, managing just five hits versus 13 strikeouts. Final score 1-0 Seattle. Series tied 1-1

NL series: St Louis remains blessed, countering Brooklyn's 11th inning run with two of their own. The Cards are now halfway to their first Series appearance since 2015.

Game Three: Hawaii (Eric Jones, 1-0 1.50) @ Tampa Bay (Gabe Ray, 0-0 13.50) Groff doubles home a run in the first, and a Simmons single in the fourth add another one. A lovely mix of walks and hits manage to bring home four more Islander runners in the sixth, and we're up 6-0. We give up one in the 6th and another in the 8th, but that's it. Jones is sharp, with his usual quiet efficiency, giving up just four hits and a run through 7 innings. Final score 6-2. Hawaii leads series 2-1

NL series: The Cards stake themselves to a 6-2 lead through five, but the Robins finally break the hex the St Loo has held over everyone in the playoffs by scoring four runs late, including two home runs by Victor Sanchez, and winning it in the final frame. St Louis leads series 2-1.

Game Four: Hawaii (Mike Messinger, 1-0 2.70) @ Tampa Bay (Roman Berndt, 0-0 0.00) A solo home run puts the Rays up 1-0 in the second, and a Simmons double in the fifth ties it up. Hits prove hard to come by, as Berndt and Mess combine to give up just 9 hits through eight innings, and we go to the final frame tied at 1. A scoreless 9th sends this one into extras. We can't manage anything in the 10th, and closer YT Yaung proves volatile again, giving up a lead-off home run to Brian Murphy, and we're tied again. Messinger fans 14. Series tied 2-2

NL series: Brooklyn fans got their money's worth, as this one goes into extra innings. The teams combine for just 16 hits, with the crucial one coming in the bottom of the 14th: Brooklyn RF Bobby Morano's solo HR. Both series are now tied at two games.

Game Five: Hawaii (Rob Hart, 2-0 3.12) @ Tampa Bay (Bill Casas, 1-1 1.98) JHart's solo shot and three other hits plate two runs in the 2nd. We add one in each of the next three inning, while RHart amazingly gives up three solo home runs in the 4th inning. We make that 5-3 lead hold up, adding one more in the 9th since we can't seem to count on Yaung to close things. But this time he does, and we take this one 6-3. Two triples with a run and RBI for Simmons. Hawaii leads series 3-2

NL series: The offenses finally show up, as the teams combine for 20 runs, 28 hits, and 8 home runs. Brooklyn goes up 5-0 early, gives up 5, then gets one back in the 6th. Brooklyn leads 6-4 heading into the 8th, but the Cards plate four to build a solid-seeming 9-6 lead. Brooklyn gets one back in the 8th, then two more in the 9th to once again head to extras. The Robins then send their fans into delirium by scoring twice in the 10th, and they're a game away from their second Series visit in four seasons.

Game Six: Tampa Bay (Jeff Caraway, 1-0 2.25) @ Hawaii (Taylor Barnett, 0-0 3.38) Barnett, obviously, did not blow out his elbow again, instead suffering from a brief bout of back spasms. Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the 5th, we turn a hit batter, an error, a wild pitch, and a single into two runs to take a 3-1 lead. And although he only flied out, that inning saw Jim Klein work Bill Casas into a 12-pitch at bat. Anyway...Vance Wise strikes again, with a 2-run homer in the 6th to tie things up. It stays that way into the 10th. Yaung gives up another run, this time on a 10th-inning single, but we keep things alive on Groff's RBI triple. Then, with Rob Rich on second, Josh Robertson singles him home and IT'S OVER! We're headed back to the World Series, with a chance to put a cap on our excellent regular season and become the first repeat champs since Baltimore won in '28 and '29. Final score 5-4. Hawaii WINS series 4-2

NL series: With no tomorrow, St Louis strikes early, building a 5-0 lead through five. Brooklyn claws three back, but the Cards put it away with two of their own in the bottom of the frame. As it should, this thrilling series is headed to a seventh game.

NL series: Jeremy Dunklee's 3-run HR in the third gives the Cards an early lead, but Brooklyn evens things up with a run in the 6th and two more in the 7th. And then...four singles and three walks are used to maximum efficiency by the Cards, scoring six runs and salting away the series at home. Final score 9-3, and they win an exciting seven-game series. Off to the World Series for the first time in three decades.

......

Next up: World Series time!
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Old 09-30-2018, 12:24 PM   #185
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2044 WORLD SERIES

It's down to this. We get the rare World Series with the two best teams from the regular season. St Louis won 97 games and was in charge of the NL Central since late June. True, they were the only team in the Central with a winning record and won the division by 20 games, but they never wavered or faltered. Like us, this is a well-balanced team: 5th in offense, 2nd best pitching. Batting was low (11th) but they're a patient bunch, witnessed by finishing 4th in OBP despite those lower averages. They're not as healthy as we are, with six players on the DL. Most won't really be missed, except for SP D.C. Weltman (13-9, 3.82, 233 IP). Of note is half of their playoff rotation are lefthanded--Kasey Sikkema and Tommy Dahlen--which is a rarity in today's game. The Cards also feature three former Islanders, all with crucial roles: 1B Jeremy Dunklee (.307/23/68), C Alexis Mercedes (.231/18/60), and SP Ken Clark (10-12, 4.66, 227 K in 183 IP). They've made the playoffs each of the last four seasons, and are in their first World Series since 2015, when they beat the Red Sox in six.

Game One: St Louis (Kasey Sikkema, 2-0 3.38) @ Hawaii (Mike Messinger, 1-0 2.11) In a scoreless game, 4th inning, Cards matinee idol Steve Rutledge cracks a double that brings home Dunklee, and it's 1-0 bad guys. A Ryan Stadler single plates Rutledge, and it's 2-0. Three more innings pass without excitement, and as the Islanders come up in the 8th, they had recorded just three hits, all singles. Then...Joseph Hart doubles, goes to third on a JJ Simmons sac bunt (!), and scores on Mario Burgeno's sac fly. Sikkema is pulled for reliever Curt Nichols, who proceeds to give up a single, a walk, another walk, and then a lazy fly ball off the bat of Sen Masuda that just keeps going...and lands in the right field stands for a GRAND SLAM. Another walk and two more singles brings one more run home, and by the time the Cards come to bat in the 9th, their 2-0 lead was a 6-2 deficit. A leadoff homer by Andrew Crisp quieted Isles fans for a moment, but YT Yaung shows up tonight and shuts the door on any comeback. Final score Islanders 6, Cards 3. Hawaii leads series 1-0

Game Two: St Louis (Tommy Dahlen, 0-0 2.57) @ Hawaii (Rob Hart, 3-0 3.28) For the second game, the Cards open the scoring with runs in the 4th. This time, Rutledge doubles and then scores on a Stadler single. Stadler in turn scores on a Crisp single, and it's 2-0 Cards. This time, we return the favor earlier. JJ Simmons leads off the 6th with a single, then comes all the way around on a Burgeno double. Two outs later, Groff singles the catcher home, and it's tied. Next batter, Masuda, strikes again: this time a double into right, and Groff trots home with the go-ahead run. And then...we close the door. Rob Hart goes seven innings, and while he scatters ten hits, he fans twelve Cardinal batters. Rich Ramirez takes over in the 8th and fans two more, and then Yaung has an easy 1-2-3 9th. Final score Islanders 3, Cards 2. Hawaii leads series 2-0

Game Three: Hawaii (Taylor Barnett, 0-0 3.60) @ St Louis (Ken Clark, 2-0 1.33) The offenses wake up for the first time in the series, as the teams combine for 25 hits and 17 runs. St Louis scores in the first, third, fifth, and sixth innings, and we reply in the second, fourth, and fifth. Unfortunately, by then we're down 9-4, and despite adding four more runs late, we can't bring just one more home, and the Cards are back in the series. Home teams haven't yet lost in the series, and Taylor Barnett suffers his first official big league loss. Final score Cards 9, Islanders 8. Hawaii leads series 2-1

Game Four: Hawaii (Eric Jones, 2-0 1.38) @ St Louis (Jacob Wood, 0-0 4.05) St Louis strikes first yet again, with pitcher Wood singling home a run in the 5th. We get that and more back in the 6th, however, with Masuda driving home Groff, and then Cannon clearing them both with a 2-run shot into the left field seats. Ruthless efficiency is the order of the day in our half of the 7th, as singles, walks, and an error put seven consecutive runners on base. A sac fly and another single keep things gong, and by the time the third out is recorded we've added four more runs to the total, making the score 7-1. The Cards don't just roll over, however. We go through three pitchers in the bottom of the 7th, as the Cards turn four hits and a walk into four runs of their own. Robertson's solo blast in the 8th adds an insurance run, and the Ramirez-Yaung combo closes the door over the final two innings. Final score Islanders 8, Cards 5. Hawaii leads series 3-1

Game Five: Hawaii (Mike Messinger, 1-0 2.36) @ St Louis (Kasey Sikkema, 2-0 2.73) Another tight game, separated by one run. The Cards take advantage of a sloppy Messinger to score four runs over the first five innings, while not allowing us anything. That changes in the 6th, with doubles by Masuda and Cannon scoring three Islanders. A couple of singles plate another Card runner, making it 5-3 after six. Masuda comes up big again in the 8th, blasting a deep 2-run homer in the 8th, and we're all square heading into the Cardinal half of the frame. The "bad cop" bullpen shows up for us this time, however, as Pat Stanley gives up a single, walk, and a double to score Erik Morgan for the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning, run. We get runners on in the 9th, but can't come up clutch and the series goes back to Hawaii. Final score St Louis 6, Hawaii 5. Hawaii leads series 3-2

Game Six: St Louis (Ken Clark, 2-0 2.52) @ Hawaii (Rob Hart, 4-0 3.13) This one is just never close. RHart is trash tonight, and the Cards are up 10-1 before our offense gets on track with a meaningless three runs in the 7th, making this at least look somewhat respectable. Now it's down to a winner-take-all game seven, something I really wanted to avoid. Sigh. Final score Cards 10, Islanders 4. Series tied 3-3

Game Seven: St Louis (Jacob Wood, 0-1 5.68) @ Hawaii (Taylor Barnett, 0-1 5.49) Game seven. Winner take all. Neither team has its ace--or even its number two guy--on the mound. St Louis starter Jacob Wood is 33, a Cardinals lifer who's played parts of nine seasons with the team, but never been able to fully stick. Our guy is Taylor Barnett, 25, a former first round pick with a rebuilt elbow. Who will come out on top? Suffice it to say that neither guy sees the game out, neither gets a decision, and that this game was probably the wildest one of a wild and back-and-forth series. St Louis gets it started early, with Rutledge hitting a solo 1st-inning home run. In our half, Robertson starts off with a double and scores on Klein's single. Groff singles, and then a ground out and a sac fly bring home two more runs. Hawaii 3-1 after just one inning. The Cards add one right away in the second, with a couple of hits and a fielder's choice. In our half, three pitches equals three groundouts. After two, Hawaii 3-2. Both teams put runners on over the next three innings, but nobody scores: after five, it's still Hawaii 3-2. In the top of the sixth, with two outs and two runners on, back-to-back singles bring home two more Cardinals runners, and St Louis retakes the lead, 4-3. This is Barnett's last inning. Our half, runner on first with two outs, and Cannon doubles to the right-center gap, scoring the runner. Wood is removed, but Justin Wright smacks a single that scores Cannon. After six innings, we've retaken the lead, 5-4. Seventh inning, each side puts a runner on, but can't get him past first: no scoring. In the top of the eighth, with one out, a runner on first, and Ramon Archila pitching, Dennis Gaetano smacks his second HR of the series, and the Cards have the lead again. A walk and a double score another run before a strikeout ends the threat, but the damage had been done: St Louis leads 7-5 as we head to the bottom of the penultimate inning. St Louis brings in 47-save closer Curt Nichols, and he needs just ten pitches to hold us scoreless and take it to the final inning. The ninth nearly becomes an ugly disaster: a walk and a single puts runners on the corners. Another walk loads the bases. A bloop single brings one run home, and it's a three run lead for the visitors. With the bases loaded and no outs, our fate appears to turn: two grounders to short ends up with two runners thrown out at home, and then Missouri hero Steve Rutledge strikes out looking. Somehow, we get out of the inning giving up just one run. Still, it's 8-5 bad guys, and just three outs between us and a long off-season. Ninth inning: Wright works a full count but flies out; JHart goes 2-2, then raps a single up the middle; likewise for Simmons. Rob Rich then bloops one that drops just over the shortstop's head, and it's bases loaded with one out. Robertson's up, and with the count 1-1 he cracks a long fly ball into left, and it's...it's...caught at the track. Still, JHart scores, and it's 8-6 Cardinals with runners on the corners and two outs. Now it's up to Ashton Gooding, our super-utility player who went from 23 home runs a year ago to hitting just .168 with only 2 long balls this year. Two runners on, two outs, game seven, bottom of the ninth, facing probably the best NL closer this year. Dream stuff, yes? YES. With the count 1-0, Gooding becomes the latest Islander to be guaranteed free drinks for life at any bar in Honolulu: a 393 foot line shot into the right-center stands. A walk-off three-run home run, and we come back from an 8-5 deficit to break some Midwestern hearts. BACK-TO-BACK WORLD CHAMPIONS!

......

Wow, was that exciting. A little too exciting for this old guy's heart, to be honest. In the end, we won thanks to our old stand-by: hitting. Five regulars topped .300, and only Jim Klein (.192) slumped. Even Masuda, while hitting just .222, managed to drive in 13 runs. As for the pitching, Messinger and RHart were up and down, Barnett struggled early but held his own in game seven, and Eric Jones just might be earning a contract extension after all. Ryuma Sato got some long relief work, and was hit hard routinely. And as much as I dogged the bullpen again and again, the Ramirez-Yaung duo combined for 9.2 scoreless innings in the Series. Ramirez also whiffed 12 in his 5.2 innings. Our win was definitely a team effort, without any noticeable standouts; which is probably why the Series MVP went to St Louis 2B/DH Dennis Gaetano, who went .464/2/7, and nearly won the whole thing with his late game seven home run. He can have it; I'll take the big trophy.

The off-season will bring the usual array of decisions: who will stay, who will go, what will our budget be, what does free agency hold, etc etc. With our estimated salaries escalating by $16M (139 to 157 mill), and our budget extremely unlikely to rise that much, I can pretty much guarantee that our lineup next year will have some new faces, and some familiar ones will have new homes.

......

But before we get to our busy off-season, here's a run-down on the post-season awards:

AL Gold Gloves -- no Islanders; RJ Hernandez (MIN 2B) wins his 3rd; second consecutive wins for Josh Toombs (MIL 3B) and Danny Baca (CHW 1B)
NL Gold Gloves -- 5th win for Alex Castillo (PHI SS), 3rd at short; 2nd straight for ex-Islander Danny Holguin (BRO 3B)
AL Hoyt Wilhelm -- YT Yaung didn't lead the AL in saves, but his 1.03 WHIP, 2.76 ERA, and 103 K in 75 IP were good enough to sweep the voting
NL Hoyt Wilhelm -- Arizona's Brad Schmitt (1.78 ERA, 38 saves, 109 K) receive 26 votes to take his first trophy; Brooklyn's Oscar Flores came in 2nd with nearly identical stats
AL Silver Sluggers -- our team approach to league-best hitting nets us just one trophy, to 3B Adam Groff. It's his 6th. Vinny Vargas also wins his sixth.
NL Silver Sluggers -- fifth win for Chris White (BRO 2B), and fourth for Luis Mendez (CHC CF)
AL Rookie of the Year -- no surprise, as AL batting champ JJ Simmons claims the title. CF Jim Klein came in 2nd, SP Ryuma Sato 3rd, and SP Taylor Barnett 6th
NL Rookie of the Year -- Austin OF Phil Imel (.333/38/118) sweeps the voting, with Washington teammates Kevin Mazurowski and Jesse Erickson tying for second
AL Manager of the Year -- our own Pat Wilson claims his 5th win, shocking no one
NL Manager of the Year -- 7-year Phillies pilot Felix Osorio claims his first award, somehow beating out Cardinals 97-win skipper Andrea de Santis
AL Cy Young -- Cleveland's Zach Gioeli (21-7, 2.57) won all the votes for his first award; Mike Messinger came in 2nd, and Rob Hart and Eric Jones also received votes
NL Cy Young -- Richmond's Rafael Maldonado (16-8, 2.51, 11.4 WAR) won his 2nd trophy; Mets ace Mike Garfield (16-8, 3.02) received 2 first place votes
AL MVP -- I had hope for Groff, but it's Oakland's Vinny Vargas (.346/54/133) who takes his 2nd consecutive trophy; Groff fininshed 4th; five other Islanders got votes
NL MVP -- Rafael Maldonado takes home the MVP, sweeping the two big NL trophies; he did the same in 2041

......

Next up: Off-season
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Old 10-21-2018, 02:06 PM   #186
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Back from break! Family visits and real-life sports got in the way. Now that my NHL team sucks again, I can get back to what's really important.

......

2044-45 OFF-SEASON, PART ONE

Before the MLB arbitrators can get their pencils sharpened, we get two bombs dropped on us. RF John Cannon (.301/47/134) and 2B Josh Robertson (.334/20/83) both void the remaining years on their contracts. Cannon, 28, came over in the deal that saw us part with Mel Carrillo, and had a simply dominant power year. He's willing to talk, but wants an 8-year deal worth $22.6M per. Robertson, 29, was the 2nd pick in our very first draft and has been our starting 2B for seven years. This one feels personal, although I know it's just money. He wants more security than Cannon, asking for a 9-year contract worth $18.4M per season. So...after talking it over with the bean counters and the coaching staff, I send this message to each player's agent: "We'll miss you and wish good luck in the future. And good luck getting those numbers."

Two other players had their team options picked up. 1B/DH Sen Masuda (.295/26/116) was extended for $6M, and SP Eric Jones (16-7, 3.45) for $9.3M. Masuda is 30, Jones 28.

Finally, DH Justin Wright (.272/44/111) is a pending free agent, and wants an escalating 3-year deal worth $11.1M per season. He did strike out 188 times, but was a crucial part of the middle part of the lineup that combined for a HR per game this past season. I'm not sure what I'll do with him.

Owner Alexis Pagan drops in with his annual list of looney-bin suggestions. He's delighted with the championship, happy we made money, and absolutely ecstatic that our stolen bases improved to 4th in the league. Stolen bases! For next year he wants: Upgrade at catcher No. I'm happy with Rob Rich, and you should be too; End with a balance of $18M Shrug. Playoffs will help with this; Build a top-7 farm system MLB says we're currently 8th, but a lot of players will graduate off that list. This will take some work; Build a dynasty Three World Series trophies in six years. What is that then? He does, however, give me an extra $4M to play with next year; finally I get to finish my in-office wet bar. Maybe I'll have money left over for a window too.

And then there's manager Pat Wilson, who just won his fourth Manager of the Year award. This is a contract year for Pat, and he tells me he wants $2.3M for each of the next four years to stay on board. I counter with $1.6, a 300K raise over his current salary, and he turns me down. I let him walk. Given that tight budgets and expensive big leaguers have had me cutting my development and scouting budgets in recent years, being able to drop over a million from the coaching staff payroll is a boon. To replace him, we promote four-year bench coach Clarence Whitney. He's got good relationships with our current players, and has an excellent rep for developing youngsters. He's been in our system for a decade, managing in AAA for six years before his promotion. Before that, he had helmed the Padres for two seasons (2026-27) and the White Sox for four (2031-34), to no great success at either place. He also won two championships in Korea, way back in the '20s. He's 48, and has been coaching for more than half his life.

......

Arbitration Day! We have ten players eligible for the annual battle of wits, but I eliminate two before we even start. RP Zack Randolph, 31, makes $1.7M and has spent some time on the big club for parts of four of the last five seasons (all of 2044 in AAA). He stunk in AAA last year, and we have better, cheaper, and younger options. Super-sub Ashton Gooding, who hit 23 HR two years ago but slumped to 2 HR and a .168 AVG, also won't be back. He's still capable everywhere in the field, and did basically win the World Series with that walk-off HR in game 7, so this is how I repay him.

The other eight are SP Mike Messinger ($13.8M estimate), CL YT Yaung (4.6M), OF Joseph Hart (3.6M), SP Pete Morrow (2.2M), RP Dan Brown (1.1), SP Jonathan Murray (a crazy-low 750K), RP Ramon Archila (750K), and C Mario Burgueno (700K). I'm surprised Murray's estimate is so low, but if these numbers hold--and they won't, they never do--that's $27.5M in salaries right there. Only Hart is estimated to get a large raise, from 500K.

I also decide to make qualifying offers to Robertson, Cannon, and Wright. Each for 13M. If I had to guess, I'd say Wright will take his but Robertson and Cannon will not. I will likely not pursue them in free agency, as I have...other plans. And finally, backup IF/OF John Canning (.246/1/16) is our only other non-minor-league free agent. He wants only a small bump (950K to 1.2M) but I'm going to pass.

AND THE RESULTS ARE IN: Mess gets $13.75M, Yaung 5.25M, JHart 4.25M, Morrow 2.75M, Brown 1.375M, and Murray, Archila, and Burgueno 750K. So we didn't lose big, and estimates were actually pretty close to the final results: $30.5M in salaries as opposed to $27.5M from above. I can live with all that. One thing I did get wrong is that Wright declines the qualifying offer; unsurprisingly, so do Cannon and Robertson. This all means I need to find a new DH, 2B, and RF. And try to replace over 100 HR.

......

Three teams have new managers. From above, we promoted Clarence Whitney. Washington hired long-time (25 years) minor-league coach Maarten Mulder, a fairly vanilla selection, and one the majority of players already dislike. Texas breaks the bank and hires our old skipper, Pat Wilson, to a four-year deal worth $1.11M per annum. Or, OVER A MILLION LESS THAN HE WANTED FROM ME. I am filled with loathing and wish to do nothing else but keep the Rangers in the basement for as long as I can.

Oddly, of the ten international free agents that MLB trumpets in a press release, three have already been signed by big league clubs before I can even make an offer. How is that fair, I ask you? Luckily for me, none of those three look like future stars. The best of this bunch is probably Japanese OF Kaz Kawakami, 28, who looks capable of regularly hitting .275 with 25-30 HR. Not bad, but not what I'm after. Interestingly, I also come across a catcher named Ken Carter in the general free agent pool. Carter, 34, has spent 14 seasons in Korea, where he has racked up 11 MVP nods, 12 Platinum Stick trophies, and 5 championships. He's hit 520 HR and earned 124 WAR over that time. He was never drafted into MLB, and started playing in Korea at age 21. Someone will sign him for $10M+ and get maybe two 40 HR seasons out of him before he declines for good.

......

With our pending free agent losses I make a move to shore up a hole, plus a couple of futures trades:

First, we send SP Ryuma Sato, P Gastone Sarretti (AAA last year), and prospect P Chris Carter to Cincinnati for 3B/OF Kyle Crowl. Crowl has been Cincy's regular 3B for the last three seasons, but will move to the outfield since Adam Groff isn't going anywhere yet. He had a career year in 2042, batting .299/41/108 with 6.8 WAR, but slumped to just .241/25/83 last season. He's 28 and will earn $7.9M for one more year. He'll probably move to left, shuffling Joseph Hart (better arm) over to right. Sato was decent enough for me last year and did toss that no-hitter in April, but was entering the last year of his contract, and with some guys coming up from the farm, I wanted to get cheaper somewhere. Sarretti and Carter were requested additions, and ones I could part with.

Next comes a pure futures deal. I made a big pitch to acquire a guy I wanted to draft last summer, but who went too early for me. I pry away 22-year-old knuckleballer Shamar Jackson from the Giants, along with OF Kenny Welch, for four prospects: OF Dillon Ritter, 1B Matt Knable, and P Sergio Gil and Jesus Chavolla. Jackson looks like a future 2/3 starter, with nice stuff, movement, and an excellent knuckler, which I love. Welch has some power potential, and might hit for average too. He's an immobile fielder, however. We gave up a lot: Ritter doesn't have much power, but looks like a perennial .300 hitter; Knable, 20, was a 2042 4th rounder who projects as an above average hitter across the board; Gil has four developed pitches, will have excellent stuff but will struggle with control; Chavolla was my 3rd rated pitching prospect, decent across the board and with good intangibles. Everybody gets something here.

Third, we acquire OF Danny Sipos from the Mets for prospect pitcher Jim Perry. Sipos is a slightly-above-average hitter, and a good fielder with a big arm. He'll start in AAA as we've lost a few guys there in the off-season. Perry, 25, will push for a relief spot with the Mets, with good stuff and two good pitches.

Finally, we get promising prospect OF Nate Flygare from the Marlins for OF Dave White and Andy Armontrout, and IF Justin Schlitz. Flygare looks like a nice contact hitter who won't strike out, a good baserunner, and a good-enough fielder. Little power, tho. Armontrout was a 3rd round pick who wasn't going anywhere fast for us, and projects as a solid AAA player with a shot to develop beyond that. White, 29, had 154 AB over several seasons with us, has some power and is good in the field, but needed to move on. Schlitz was a requested add-in, a so-so hitter but an excellent middle infielder. Flygare becomes one of the few right-handed outfield batters in our upper system right now.

......

The 2044 Winter Meetings get underway in Miami. No blockbuster deals, but there were a total of fourteen deals over the four days. We made no further trades. Lots of big signings, however, before and during the meetings, such as...

...Milwaukee signs SP Jay Russo (112-90, 55.3 WAR) from the Astros, for $122M over 5 years;
...San Diego adds to an already top-notch rotation, adding D.J. Breland (138-91, 45.3 WAR) for $72M over 4 years.
...Washington swipes another former Astro, signing SS Francisco Villon for $113M over 5 years.
...we almost traded for SP Scott Kopetsky (104-81, 38.9 WAR) last deadline day, and now he'll face us this season, signing with the Twins for $82M over 5 years.
...Philly overpays for 25-HR first baseman Manny Baca, $110M for 5 years.
...and of course we can now start our annual LA DODGERS BULLPEN FREE AGENCY EXTRAVAGANZA WATCH by announcing two signings: Manny Gomez ($7M/1 season) and Juan Lopez ($7.26/3 seasons). Both are closers, but both can't actually be closers, which adds to the fun.
...Oakland signs a new closer, inking Tim Friddle (349 career saves) for $21M over 2 years.
...our former backup C Guillermo Diaz just cashed in with Richmond: a 7-year deal worth $8.2M per year. Seems like a lot of dough for a decent-enough, 2.5-to-3-WAR player with a lifetime .237 average, but hey it's not my money.

......

Next up: Pitchers and catchers are reporting shortly, and Spring Training shortly after that. Next post I'll look at the state of the team heading into camp. And more. More!
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Old 12-26-2018, 02:14 PM   #187
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FINAL SPRING REVIEW AND SEASON PREVIEW

We finished Spring Training 17-13; not bad, but we ended on a sour 5-game losing streak. On a better note, we suffered no major injuries, with only backup IF Edward Ospina on the season-opening DL. He was vying for the utility middle IF role but will be out until early May. He'll probably go to AAA when healthy, unless otherise needed. The only other injured player is RP Brad Hake, whom we acquired from Boston in '43. He's been injured since last May, and won't pitch again until June at the earliest, so he's not someone we counted on anyway. Otherwise, most guys did pretty well in ST, with only a couple of starting pitchers and regular batters having slow starts. We also had about nine relievers who threw exceptionally well, so there will be some disgruntled guys starting the year in AAA.

Around the league, Philly led the way with 20 wins, Seattle had 19. Portland brought up the rear with just 9 wins. No other major signings occurred from my last report, although the Reds signed SS Jordan Cruz to a 2-year deal; no big issue, except that Cruz, with 2766 career Ks, needs just seven more to pass Giancarlo Stanton for third all-time. He'll still be over 1000 behind the career leader, Miguel Sano, however.

......

Roster Preview, 2045 Season

Year 12 of Hawaii Islanders baseball will kick off with what looks like, to me at least, another strong roster. MLB has other ideas, of course; telling me that, for instance, that catcher Rob Rich ranks as the 32nd (of 36) best starting catcher in the game. Which explains why I'm getting trade offers every week for a new catcher. Also, 2/3 of my outfield ranks in the 20s, but that also means nothing to me. And once again we're going with an 11-man pitching staff, which worked well for me last year. (I bumped up pitcher stamina a notch last spring, as I was tired of seeing starting pitchers getting devalued; I like what I saw, although I haven't delved deeply into the stats, tbh.)

Coaches
One of our biggest changes will be in the dugout, where four-year Bench Coach Clarence Whitney has been elevated to Manager. This is his third go-round as an MLB manager, after less-than-successful stints with the Padres and White Sox. Third time lucky, though, right? Whitney replaces former head guy Pat Wilson, who takes over the helm for the Texas Rangers. They've been a bad team for a long time now; it will be interesting to see just how much of a difference a quality manager will make for them. Elsewhere, Matt Sargent remains as pitching coach (the only one in franchise history), and Adam Engel returns for his second year as hitting coach. The new Bench Coach is David Schuknecht, who has been managing in the organization since 2035, and managed in AA last season.

Batters
C Rob Rich, 24, LH, 2044 stats: .273/6/64, 41 2b, 1.3 WAR. MLB may not like him, but he turned in a steady rookie season at the plate and was solid behind it. If he makes the pitching staff better, then whatever he hits is okay with me. Prankster and popular guy in the clubhouse.

C Mario Burgeno, 28, RH, 2044 stats: .214/7/17 in 159 AB. Former Islander prospect whom we lost to the Oakland system for a few years, but re-signed as a free agent last spring. Strictly backup material, but hits well enough--with more pop than Rich--and is a decent receiver. Is happy to be here.

1B Senichi Masuda, 30, RH, 2044 stats: .295/26/116, 3.1 WAR. Hugely popular locally, and has a knack in recent years for coming up huge in late- and post-season games. Streaky hitter, but has powered 94 dingers in his three seasons here. Hard worker, quiet, and also walks enough to have a nice-looking OBP too.

1B/DH Jonathan Klump, 24, LH, 2044 stats: .263/7/17 in 99 AB (.339 with 23 HR in AAA also). Big power hitter who figures to just murder RH pitching. Lefties tho...are a big weak spot, and will keep him out of the everyday lineup. He'll split time at DH (and as a spare 1B) with the next guy, until one of them takes over for good. A little in-season competition is a good thing, right?

1B/DH Chris Sanborn, 22, LH, 2044 stats: .279/15/53, .333/11/40 in AA. Has risen from Short A ball at the start of 2043 to the big leagues two years later. A lefty like Klump, but has better splits against LH pitching (but still not great). A sparkplug who looks like another in a nice line of powerful 1B hitters in club history.

2B J.J. Simmons, 22, RH, 2044 stats: .350/1/49, 44 2b, 5.1 WAR. Took home a nice trifecta of AL ROY, AL batting crown, and World Series champ. Where does he go from there? Mostly played SS last year, with Stoneback in and out of the lineup and struggling to hit. This year he'll start at second; his arm is way too good for that position, however, so he may actually end up back at short or even third, especially if Groff ages into being a liability in the field. Probably good for an annual home run, and is speedy but doesn't actually run much. Quiet and steady.

IF Edward Ospina, 25, RH, 2044 stats: .280/11/40 in 246 AB at AAA (.179 in 28 Hawaii AB). Starts the season on the DL. Has some power, and won't strike out much, but that's about it at the plate for him. Can fly on the bases, which makes his utter lack of range in the field a complete mystery. But has a sticky glove, strong arm, and is great on the DP. Has better OF range, so that makes him more useful. I want him to push Little for playing time once he's healthy.

3B Adam Groff, 31, LH, 2044 stats: .338/37/118, 23 SB, 7.4 WAR. Our franchise all-timer. Beloved by fans, hugely paid, and if he can stay reasonably healthy for the rest of his long-term contract, could close in on some nice career stats one day. Has earned 58.6 career WAR so far. Losing range at third, so I might have to make a decision about his future position sooner rather than later.

IF Aaron Little, 26, RH, 2044 stats: .219/5/20, 137 AB, 0 WAR. Slumped badly at the plate down the stretch, but has enough versatility and pop to his bat to remain useful...for now. Corner infielder, but has juuuust enough ability to fill in at second or the corner OF spots as well. Another poor year at the plate, however, and we'll be looking for better options.

SS Rich Stoneback, 27, RH, 2044 stats: .148/1/7 in 88 AB (plus .397 in a AAA conditioning stint). We need a huge comeback season from the guy who earned 7.6 WAR with Portland in 2043. Slumped early, got hurt a few times, and never did regain his footing. Still, his ratings look good, he's a plus fielder, and he's happy to be here. He'll get every chance to lock down his place at short. Hit .318 in camp, a good sign.

OF Nate Flygare, 24, RH, 2044 stats: .339/25/75 in AAA Lincoln. Second player here (after Sanborn) making his MLB debut. Not a star anywhere, but has no glaring weaknesses either. Arm strength isn't the greatest, which keeps him out of playing RF. Solid contact, won't strike out, and has very little platoon-split disparity. Solid role player.

OF Joseph Hart, 25, LH, 2044 stats: .288/24/86, 20 SB, 3.4 WAR. Probably outhit his ratings last year, but he's greatly helped by a good eye and by cutting down his strikeouts (from 100 as a rookie to 67 last year). Made the all-star team; made just one error in LF too. Will start in left, but can play all three positions in a pinch.

OF Jim Klein, 25, RH, 2044 stats: .328/11/71, 31 2B, 25 SB, 3.6 WAR. Like Simmons, had an outstanding rookie season. Can run, hit, throw, and field. Not much power, and won't walk much. Is not quite rangy enough to be a gold glove winner in center, but gives us our first solid CF in several seasons. Hopefully, he'll be here for a long while.

OF Kyle Crowl, 29, RH, 2044 stats: .241/25/83 with Cincinnati. Hit 41 HR and earned 6.8 WAR for the Reds in 2042, but has declined each of the last two seasons. We'll be expecting (hoping?) for a return to previous form. Will make $7.9M, so another slumpy year will not bode well for his future in Hawaii. Hit okay in the spring, but with no power or XBH.

OF Glenn Heath, 22, LH, 2044 stats: .320/30/107 across AA and AAA. The third of our rookie debuts on this squad. Probably won't ever hit 30 HR in the bigs, but has enough pop to reach 20 if he gets regular playing time. Sees himself as a starter, which is good, but my scouts don't like his contact potential. Still, has a great arm, and will take a lot of walks (118 last year). Canadian, and is well-liked, so that's one stereotype we've met.


Pitchers
SP Mike Messinger, 22, RH, 2044 stats: 16-6, 3.23, 214 IP, 269 K, 8.9 WAR. Absolutely huge season in 2044, improving in pretty much every personal statistical category. Can he do it again? Probably not, but he's got the tools to be a solid 5-6 WAR pitcher year-in and year-out. Will start the year as our clear-cut ace of the staff.

SP Rob Hart, 28, RH, 2044 stats: 14-12, 4.21, 216 IP, 272 K, 2.7 WAR. Was up and down most of the year, but his 4.21 ERA was still better than league average. Goes through periods where he can't get anyone out, but he's had three decent-to-good seasons in a row now, so maybe that's behind him? Scouts say he hasn't lost any velocity or placement, so as long as he can still strike guys out, he'll be useful. Signed through 2048, at a reasonable $16M contract.

SP Jonathan Murray, 27, LH, 2044 stats: 8-2, 4.25, 97 IP, 86 K, 0.6 WAR. Got hurt in mid-summer, but came back in time to help out the playoff run. Won 15 games in 2043, and is our top lefty in the rotation. Keeps the ball down, and has five really high-quality pitches. With a solid infield behind him, should be a solid contributor once again this year, if he's healthy.

SP Taylor Barnett, 26, LH, 2044 stats: 9-0, 2.56, 88 IP, 58 K, 1.4 WAR (9 starts in AAA too). Last season's feel-good story: a former first round draft pick who's career was nearly derailed by two serious arm injuries. If his rebuilt limb can hold up, he could supplant Murray as our go-to lefty. Not the greatest stuff, but rides a well-place fastball and four other quality pitches to keep batters guessing. Probably took the league by surprise last year, so the jury is definitely still out. Struggled in the spring, too. Which means nothing, absolutely nothing...

SP Eric Jones, 28, LH, 2044 stats: 16-7, 3.45, 214 IP, 134 K, 4.1 WAR. Real underdog here, who gets by on sharp movement and a lot of groundball outs. Came off a truly subpar 2043 season to toss a career-high IP, and his best ERA since 2039. Has never been a strikeout pitcher, but fools 'em with a nifty fastball/slider/change combo.

RP Ramon Archila, 33, RH, 2044 stats: 3-2, 2 SV, 3.83, 42 IP, 49 K. Finally gave him a real shot last year after he seemed stuck in our system for four seasons. Never complained, and was a quality middle inning and setup man all summer and fall. Hard thrower and a team leader. Final year of team control on his contract, so he may be expendable after this year, given his age and the number of prospetive bullpen arms in AAA right now.

RP Dan Brown, 24, RH, 2044 stats: 8-0, 1 SV, 2.75, 69 IP, 83 K, 1.4 WAR. Wants to be a starter, but his curveball has never developed and someone will have to tell him that he'll be confined to the pen. Has enough stuff to be considered a closer one day, but for now has the chops to be a quality setup guy. Can top 100 with his fastball, and keeps it down, down, down too.

RP Hisami Masuda, 30, LH, 2044 stats: 5-1, 2 SV, 3.30, 30 IP, 44 K. Throws almost as hard as Brown, and has probably the best control of anyoneon the staff (2.7 BB/9 last year). Rookie last year, and signed for two more seasons. Keeps to himself, but doesn't make trouble. Keep getting guys out, and you'll have no trouble with me, either.

RP Rick Ramirez, 25, RH, 2044 stats: 3-4, 2 SV, 2.72, 53 IP, 72 K, 1.5 WAR. Future closer, and was drafted in the first round in 2041 with that in mind. Has some of the best stuff in the game, with a fantastic fastball/slider combination. Keeps the ball down too, giving up just 3 HR last year. Is gonna get paid after this year, so watch this space.

RP Pat Stanley, 31, LH, 2044 stats: 6-1, 3 SV, 3.25, 91 IP, 77 K. Not the hardest thrower, but is so consistent and throws so many strikes that he has become a serious inning-eater (having tossed nearly 400 IP over the last 4 seasons). I keep thinking he's going to price himself off of the team, like so many relievers do in this game, but he's still affordable and is now signed through 2047. As long as he gets guys out, he'll be here.

CL Yong-taek Yaung, 30, RH, 2044 stats: 7-6, 36 SV, 2.76, 75 IP, 103 K, 1.8 WAR. Was named the AL's best reliever last season, with a fine 12.4 K/9 rate. Cut his walks in half from 2043, but his HR against nearly doubled. He's been fantastic for us over his three seasons, but this is his final contract year. Even if he's great again this year, the decision to keep or lose him for 2046 is probably going to be my biggest consideration this off-season. Is making $5.25M this year, so it'll be interesting to see what he thinks he's worth for his next deal...

......

2045 Season Predictions, Courtesy MLB
MLB likes our chances this year, saying we'll finish with 104 wins, best in baseball. The second best record? Oakland. Expect another battle to the finish for the AL West crown this year. MLB also says we'll have AL-best hitting and pitching...so, it's nowhere but down from here, right? Fun facts: six AL teams are predicted to score 800+ runs, while zero NL teams get the nod; meanwhile, our "Al-best" pitching would be 10th in the NL, all other things being equal.

A bit more... All AL West teams not named Hawaii or Oakland are predicted to finish below .500...Baltimore and Detroit get the nods to win their respective AL divisions, while in the NL it's Philly, New Orleans, and Austin expected to top theirs. Only the Yankees, Rangers, and Diamondbacks figure to win fewer than 70 games, while the White Sox (74 wins predicted) figure to have baseball's worst pitching staff, giving up 30 more runs than their closest "competitor"...Baltimore comes in as the weakest division winner, with just 84 games, while the NL East and Central divisions look to have four teams each with winning seasons.

Let's get this started...
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Old 12-29-2018, 03:23 PM   #188
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We open the 2045 season with 25 games in April, starting with three series against Central Division opponents. We'll have one series against every Central Div team by May 1. Home/road breakdown is 15/10. AAA, AA, and A clubs all start their seasons in the next few days and weeks.

April 3-5 vs MILWAUKEE
The Brewers made noise in the off-season on both sides of the free agent ledger. While they declined to re-sign HR king Colby Sandu and productive 4-WAR CF Jesus Esparza, they added a raft of talent to make up for those two losses. They started by signing two CF: slick-fielding Jorge Ortega (currently on the DL) and 29-HR hitter Chris O'Brien. They then brought in catcher Steve Arthurs and his 22 HR from Richmond, and added the big prize from the International fold by inking RF Kaz Kawakami from Japan. Kaz isn't a great fielder but he does have the potential to be a yearly .300 hitter with 30 HR. Finally, they added former Astros ace (and regular Islander-killer) Jay Russo to top off their rotation. Russo, 33, has just 112 wins playing for a usually-terrbile Houston org, but a few more healthy years should see him top 3000 K and 70 WAR, enough for decent HoF consideration. A dangerous team, this one; MLB says they'll win 86 games and sneak into a wild card spot, which would be their first post-season appearance since 2041, and only the 11th in franchise history.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (16-6, 3.23) / Rob Hart (14-12, 4.21) / Jonathan Murray (8-2, 4.25)
MIL pitchers: Jay Russo (11-8, 3.62) / Greg Sipes (5-9, 7.29) / Dan Tuff (10-17, 5.34)

#1 ... LOSS 3-4 ... strong start for Mess, but the bullpen turns a 3-0 lead into a loss...2 H / 2 RBI, including a HR, for Masuda
#2 ... WIN 4-2 ... just six hits, but four runs...HR for Masuda and Stoneback...RHart goes 8, fans 13, while Yaung atones for his Game 1 fade
#3 ... LOSS 7-8 ... another lead goes begging, as the pen blows a 7-2 advantage in the late innings...Kyle Crowl hits a significant HR in the 4th

Blech, not a great start.... Hitting woke up some, starting pitching was fine, but the bullpen is off to a very rocky start. Guys, get it together: there are plenty of arms waiting in AAA for a phone call.... Crowl's HR was "significant" in that it will be his only HR as an Islander, as I made two big moves on an off day, one dating back to the end of Spring Training. First, we re-signed free agent John Cannon, who went .301/47/134 for us last year, and at a discount too (1.5M less than he made last year). As he is a significantly better hitter than Crowl, and earning over a million bucks less, that made Crowl expendable. Turns out the only team with any budget space (!!!) was the Pirates, so we reached an amicable decision: Crowl and prospect OFs Ryan Hamman and Cole Sahyoun went east, while we get OF Brent Prime and prospect OF Cameron Daley. Daley is the key for us, a 21-year-old currently in AA who could be a starting CF one day. Prime was the Pirates current CF, can run and field but can't hit, and makes nearly $4M. He'll likely be waived and sent to AAA if no one claims him.... ELSEWHERE: Cleveland signed reigning AL home run champ Colby Sandu at a crazy discount, just 2.5M for this season. Sandu has hit 151 HR over the last three seasons, while batting .295, so he's not one-dimensional. He wanted over 16M at the start of free agency.... Otherwise, a bunch of shutouts, some multi-HR games, and four teams (Portland, Yankees, Cubs, and Cards) start the season 0-3.


April 7-9 vs CLEVELAND
Won 84 games last year, sneaking into the playoffs, but to my eye didn't do much to improve upon their 2044 edition. They did just sign Colby Sandu (see above), but otherwise... They swapped out a retiring 3B (who hit .167) for a reject from the Yankees who hits .260 with no power; they benched last year's catcher for a 27-year-old second-year player; they added a 31-year-old starting pitcher with 49 career starts; and added a closer who has never closed. Maybe they'll surprise, who knows. Probably my favorite thing about them is their hitting coach, an Illinois native named F­rat Rahim. Anyway, MLB says they'll win 77 games, but they do feature a very good 1-2 pitching punch, of reigning Cy Young winner Zach Gioeli (who registered a shutout in his first start this year) and 24-year-old Jeremy Hughes (still searching for traction in his 5th year with the Indians).

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (16-7, 3.45) / Taylor Barnett (9-0, 2.56) / Mike Messinger (0-0, 2.84)
CLE pitchers: Michael Bartlow (12-10, 4.03) / Bryan Altier (10-12, 4.81) / Zach Gioeli (1-0, 0.00)

#4 ... LOSS 4-6 ... we pound out 16 hits, including 8 doubles, and only bring home four runs...Jones yields 12 hits in his six innings
#5 ... WIN 3-2 ... with one swing, Masuda doubles home 3 runs in the 8th and wins it all by himself...Barnett leaves after just one inning, uh oh
#6 ... WIN 5-4 ... a Klump RBI double in the 8th and two more runs in the 9th win this one...3 hits for Cannon, and 8 K for Mess in just 5 IP

Very fine margins so far this season: 4 one-run games, 2 decided by two runs.... Barnett's diagnosis is biceps tendinitis (no elbow, phew). He'll miss five weeks. I call up Pete Morrow to take his place. Morrow was a solid swingman in 2043, but had an ERA over 5 in just 31 IP last year, and spent most of the season in AAA. He makes our third lefty in the rotation; if he doesn't cut it, I'll try a righty or two after him.... ELSEWHERE: Nobody is winless, but a lot of teams are stuck at 1-5. Philly is looking sweet right now, the only team at 6-0.... Three players are averaging a HR a game right now. Let's see who manages to get closest to 162 HR this year.... The #1 prospect in baseball is KC pitcher Ryan Phillips. What's odd (and what makes him not the best prospect) is that he's 25, has tossed just 26 big league IP, and is an all-stuff-no-movement flyball pitcher. The #2 guy is a more likely suspect: Cincy's Cris Frias, 19, a future starting pitcher who's only drawback right now looks to be marginal control. The top hitter is Washington OF Kris Warner, 22, a former #1 overall pick (and a bad one, imho), who can hit doubles all day but is just okay everywhere else. The kind of guy who helps your team win, but doesn't drive the bus. Plus, he has crazy eyes. Scary crazy.


April 10-12 vs CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Off to a 3-3 start but picked to finish last in the division by MLB, thanks to what they say is a terrible pitching staff. On paper, at least, they don't look that horrific. They have three new starting pitchers, including former Zephyr Joe Ingram, who could've been an all-time great if he just didn't throw ruler-straight fastballs. Their closer is untested, and the bullpen looks meh. But again, nothing that says "expansion team cruddiness" here. They also signed Japanese league great Ken Carter for 7M, but he's 34 and isn't going to lead a rebuild. Plus, it's hilarious that he's taking playing time away from 37M-dollar-man (yes, that's his annual salary) Dan Starr, who I guess will DH now. I'm not sure why a team with a lot of holes in their lineup would invest all that dough in two 34-year-old catchers, but maybe it'll work out in the end. Also, four of their better prospects have last names of Dick, Rock, Johncock, and Stroker. You can't make this stuff up.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (1-0, 2.25) / Jonathan Murray (0-0, 4.26) / Eric Jones (0-1, 7.50)
CHW pitchers: Rodolfo Romo (0-0, 3.68) / Bryan Crider (0-1, 2.57) / Roy McCabe (0-0, 3.86)

#7 ... WIN 6-5 ... 15 more K for RHart, but he gives up 5 runs in 6.2 IP...Stoneback now hitting .391, and Cannon (1) and Masuda (3) homer...Yaung hurt, pending
#8 ... WIN 3-2 ... 15 (!) hits and runners in every inning, but few runs...still, a win is a win...8.2 IP for Murray, and a Masuda HR in the 11th ends it
#9 ... WIN 9-5 ... two more HR for Masuda, and #4 for Stoneback too...Jones goes 6, gives up 5 R...Ramirez fans 5 in 2 IP for the save

Finally a win by more than a run. Plus, SWEEP!.... Masuda has 6 HR, but only two other batters have hit one out.... Yaung gets hurt, and we're still waiting for his diagnosis.... ELSEWHERE: Philly still paces the league at 8-1, Angels are the AL best at 7-2.... 9 HR for Oakland's Vinny Vargas and Phillies Alex Castillo.... Yankees are 1-8, Arizona is 1-7.


April 13-16 @ OAKLAND
Another season of rivalry with Oakland looms; both team sport 6-3 in these early days. They've worked back-to-back 99-win seasons, and most of those teams is back. They have a new catcher (Manuel Vigil, who should be better than Edgar Cantu's .196 from last year), and two rookies -- DH/3B Ryan Walton has power to hit 30-35 HR, and pitcher Justin Moore is currently in the pen but looks like a future #2 starter. Superstar Vinny Vargas has 9 HR in 9 games. Can he reach 100, if not 162? Stay tuned. Manager Robert Woodard is in his 14th year at the helm, and should reach 1200 wins this season.

HAW pitchers: Pete Morrow (debut) / Mike Messinger (0-0, 3.97) / Rob Hart (1-0, 4.30) / Jonathan Murray (0-0, 3.00)
OAK pitchers: Ricky Hose (0-1, 12.71) / Mike Wiater (1-0, 1.35) / Francisco Pantaleon (2-0, 1.26) / Jesus Claros (1-0, 3.75)

#10: WIN 8-5 ... Klein's 2-run double sparks a 4-run 4th, and Groff finally connects for his first HR...2 H, 2 RBI for Simmons, back to hitting over .300
#11: LOSS 3-4 ... Mess gives up all 4 runs in just 5 IP, and we outhit them 9-5 but can't push across enough runs
#12: WIN 13-11 ... RHart is trash (4 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 8 BB) but 19 hits and a pair of 2-run HR from Cannon do the job
#13: LOSS 3-5 ... we score 3 late runs, but again leave too many runners on board to win

Ok, we'll call it a draw.... Some old-time hockey here with runs a-plenty and some seriously questionable pitching, from both sides.... More significantly is the injury news re YT Yaung: bad shoulder, 7 months. So the time is now for future closer Rick Ramirez, and we call up Alex Salazar from AAA to fill-in. He promptly pitches 4.1 solid innings in the opening double-header of the series, so hooray for him so far.... ELSEWHERE: Montreal rookie David Salguero makes his second career MLB start a good one, tossing a no-hitter against the Cardinals.... Yankees man-of-glass Daizo Yonanime hasn't played yet this year, and will miss another couple weeks after his latest injury setback.... Philly keeps winning, running their record to 11-1, while the Yankees keep losing, now 2-10.

......

TL;DR Version: An 8-5 start, with the usual mix of plusses and minuses to start the season: we're scoring and hitting, but giving up runs in bunches. The bullpen has been good, however, often making up for some weak starting pitching. Twelve more games this month.
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Old 01-27-2019, 07:45 PM   #189
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April 17-19 @ LA ANGELS
The lads from Our Lady of Perpetual Rebuilding (zero winning seasons in the last ten) may have finally figured it out. Sitting at 9-3 and on top of the division, their hitting, pitching, and defense are all top ten in the league. What? It's only been 12 games you say? Pfft. This is LA: optimism is always in the air. Either way, this is mostly the same team that won just 72 games last year, so maybe it IS just too early to tell. They did go out and sign 1B Jason Eastep away from Washington; Eastep hit 44 HR two years ago, but is trying now to prove that he's not washed up already at 27. They also added defense-first LF Alex Perez from KC, but he's hitting just .172 and batting last, so his jury is still way, way out. And top SP Leonardo Vigil is injured again (he hasn't topped 125 IP since '42); they'll need him healthy if they're going to prove this hot start is no fluke. Manager Miguel Rodriguez did very little in his 8+ years with the Yankees, but was a game over .500 last year after taking over in late June. MLB has their prospects ranked 26th, and I believe it: #1 guy Arturo Sosa is an SP with HUGE stuff, but almost no movement to speak of, and is a flyball pitcher. Uh oh.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (1-1, 7.50) / Pete Morrow (1-0, 3.60) / Mike Messinger (0-1, 4.96)
LAA pitchers: Greg Langworthy (2-0, 5.27) / Steve Means (debut) / Khalil Smith (2-0, 2.81)

#14: WIN 8-7 ... we stake a big lead early, then hold on for dear life...everyone gets a hit, 13 in total...four scoreless relief innings, so that's nice
#15: WIN 8-2 ... 3-for-4 with 2 RBI for Klump, and 2 RBI for Rich (5 in the series now), plus a 2-run shot from Groff...6.1 innings from Morrow, giving the pen a break
#16: WIN 7-4 ... finally a solid start for Mess, going 8 and giving up just 3 H and 2 R...everyone but Masuda gets a hit, ending his 19-game streak

Nice that we deflated LA's early-season funsies a bit. It's what we do.... We're first in AVG and OBP, and now 2nd in runs for (94). Better pitching in this series has our run diff up to +18.... Three guys are batting over .350, and Adam Groff is at .343. Only Jim Klein (.233) isn't having any fun at the plate.... ELSEWHERE: Philly is still running at a league-best clip, now up to 12-3. Division mates Atlanta are right behind them at 11-4. News flash: the Yankees still suck, at 2-13, while Portland is operating at an unhealthy 3-11.... Recent signee Colby Sandu just popped 3 dingers in the Indians last game, and is now on a 65-HR pace. I wouldn't bet against him.


April 21-23 @ MINNESOTA
A consistently decent (only 2 losing seasons in the last 12) franchise, but with no titles to show for it. Their 8-7 start to 2045 has been powered by league-best pitching, but hindered by near-bottom hitting. Career .300 hitters Jason McColl and Dave Holbrook are having hot starts, but longtime stars Peanuts Carter and Paul Foster are definitely not. Favorite name: the definitely-not-a-fake-name pitching coach, Joe Flattery.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (1-0, 6.75) / Jonathan Murray (0-1, 3.97) / Eric Jones (1-1, 9.00)
MIN pitchers: Scott Kopetsky (3-0, 1.16) / Jonathan Esparza (1-0, 2.14) / Andy Goeser (2-0, 1.64)

#17: LOSS 2-3 ... a 2-HR, 3-run 2nd is the killer...RHart is otherwise strong through 8, giving up just 5 hits, fanning 9...just six hits for the good guys
#18: WIN 4-3 ... Stoneback's 2-run triple highlights our 3-run 7th...3 hits for JHart, and Ramirez earns his 4th save as the new closer
#19: LOSS 3-7 ... Jones is strong until a lousy 7th, and takes the loss...3 hits for Simmons, now batting .385

Disappointing series, but Minny's stronger pitching is the main difference. Too bad we helped their offense get a bit healthier tho.... Not much else to say just now.


April 25-27 vs KANSAS CITY
Of late, this team wins 90+ games every three years, meaning they're due this year. However, an 8-10 start featuring near-bottom pitching (although the 5th best AL offense) is not the way to go about it. They made quite a splash in the winter, signing slugger (41 HR last year) Luis Mendez from the Cubs, Seattle all-timer Mike Wapner, and former 60-HR guy Nate Johnson from the Mets. And the offense has been pretty good so far, as mentioned above, and they're 3rd in the AL in home runs. But they left their sub-par pitching staff largely alone, only inking a couple of relievers and a 2-WAR starter (Chris Larimer from SD). Maybe it'll work out; after all, they do have a raft of pitching talent bubbling up in AAA. But those guys are all at least a year away...

HAW pitchers: Pete Morrow (2-0, 2.38) / Mike Messinger (1-1, 4.44) / Rob Hart (1-1, 5.74)
KCR pitchers: Marcus Richardson (0-0, 6.16) / Eddy Llamas (0-2, 7.84) / Chris Larimer (0-1, 5.94)

#20: LOSS 3-11 ... Morrow gets shelled but somehow stays in for five awful innings...we manage just 7 hits against a struggling starter. Great start to this series.
#21: LOSS 0-5 ... a sleepy pitchers duel until a 3-run 9th seals it for the bad guys...juts 4 hits for each team, our pitchers generously donate six walks to the cause
#22: LOSS 1-3 ... well congrats to us then...Simmons gets moved to leadoff and responds with 2 hits, and RHart fans 10, but no one else shows up

Ugh. I guess KC pitching is waking up after all, huh. Just 17 hits across these three games, with no HR.... Suddenly we've lost five of six, and four straight. Too early to get worried though, yes?.... ELSEWHERE: Giants pitcher Mike Fields tosses the league's 2nd no-hitter this season, a 2-0 win over the Mets. He becomes the third Giants pitcher to toss a no-no this dynasty, after Clayton Blackburn in 2018 and Daryll Evans in 2034.... Philly keeps rolling, now 17-4, and two games ahead of the almost-as-good Braves. The Yankees still suck, at 5-16.... Montreal's lost six straight, dropping to 8-14 and last in the NL Central.


April 28-30 vs DETROIT
The always-good Tigers are at it again so far, leading the AL Central at 13-8, with the 3rd best hitting and league-best OBP. Pitching has been a horrow show, to where they're actually sporting a -6 run differential. Hopefully we can take advantage, but if we hit like we did against KC, no chance. 2B Sean West is particularly hot, at .356/10/19. Detroit has actually missed the playoffs the last two seasons, but look to be rebounding nicely this go-round.

HAW pitchers: Jonathan Murray (0-1, 4.13) / Eric Jones (1-2, 8.49) / Pete Morrow (2-1, 5.51)
DET pitchers: T.J. Carroll (1-0, 4.33) / Frank Renteria (0-1, 13.50) / Travis Heumann (2-0, 3.20)

#23: WIN 5-2 ... only 8 hits for us, but half went for extras, and we added five walks...Murray leaves in the sixth with an injury, diagnosis pending
#24: LOSS 4-6 ... wind blowing out, yielding six HR, but sadly four for the goons...this one goes 13, and their pen outlasts ours
#25: LOSS 4-5 ... still slumping...just 7 hits, 3 each for Rich and Cannon, one for everyone else

Sigh. Not the best way to end the month. Going to have to massage the lineup now, and possibly swap out a couple relievers, try to put a charge into the team.... No trades yet, no big moves.... SP Jonathan Murray has a tweaked back, and is dtd for 1-2 weeks, but with no apparent effect to his pitching. He'll make his next start, and we'll reevaluate.... ELSEWHERE: Seattle works pitcher Miguel Moreno for a 12-inning complete game, tossing 154 pitches. He'll need two weeks off now, according to his agent.... Philly 19-5, Atlanta 17-7. Class of the league, and should be a fun division to watch all season.... Detroit's Sean West, thanks to some soft Hawaiian dinner-roll pitching, now leads the AL with 13 HR and a 1.409 OPS. He's also earned 2.3 WAR this month.

......

TL;DR Version: A 3-7 finish gives us a 13-12 opening month. Not quite where we want to be. Hitting has slumped, but we're still 2nd in AVG, 4th in OBP. But those runners aren't scoring, as we're just 11th in runs scored. Pitching has slowly gotten better, as we're now 7th in runs against. The starters, tho, have the 12th-ranked ERA, so they've got to step it up.
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Old 01-27-2019, 07:47 PM   #190
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May 1-3 vs HOUSTON
Optimism reigned in Houston last year, as the team reached .500 for just the second time in two decades. And then...they let their staff ace and four regulars go to free agency. So far this season, that turnover is showing, and not in a good way. At 10-16, last in the division, the 'Stros are sporting the league's worst pitching and 16th-ranked offense. So the answer is: can we get our sputtering offense healthy over these three games?

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (1-2, 4.11) / Rob Hart (1-2, 5.29) / Jonathan Murray (1-1, 3.74)
HOU pitchers: Dan Dronet (2-2, 4.50) / Tony Arballo (0-5, 7.76) / Chris Harris (1-3, 3.45)

#26: LOSS 0-3 ... well, not healthy yet...just six hits, three for Groff alone...Mess tosses a nice game, but takes the loss anyway
#27: WIN 18-8 ... that came out of nowhere...20 H, 4 HR, Masuda breaks his long HR slump and Klump hits his first of the season...Stanley goes to 5-0 in relief
#28: WIN 5-4 ... 10th HR for Masuda, 4th for Groff, and Murray's back holds up enough to last 7 innings...Ramirez earns the save by fanning the side in the 9th

We probably got lucky in that third game, as Houston starter Chris Harris was pulled with back spasms after retiring the first seven Islanders of the game. We'll take it.... A couple of good games and our run diff is positive again (was -1 heading into these games) and we're 8th in runs scored.... Cannon gets dropped to the 7th spot, as he's hitting just .250 with only 1 HR in the last two weeks.... ELSEWHERE: Tigers SP T.J. Carroll fanned 18 Chicago batters, the most Ks in a game since Cleveland's Dave Gonzalez whiffed 19 Tigers in 2037.... Atlanta has caught Philly, as both have 20-7 records.... The Yankees, at 6-21, and the White Sox at 9-19, are the only teams without double figures in wins.... Defending NL Cy Young winner Rafael Maldonado (RIC) continues to dominate hitters: 5-0, 1.14 ERA, 72 K in 47.1 IP.


May 4-7 vs TEXAS
At 14-14, the Rangers are next-to-last in the division, but still just four games out of first. Like us, they're putting on runners (7th in AVG, OBP), but not scoring them (12th in runs). Also, dead last in HR, with 27 in 28 games. Pitching is 7th in runs, but the ERAs are generally pretty subpar. They are also led by our former manager, Pat Wilson, in his first season after 11 years with us.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (1-2, 7.28) / Pete Morrow (2-2, 5.33) / Mike Messinger (1-3, 3.99) / Rob Hart (1-2, 6.16)
TEX pitchers: Lorenzo Rangel (1-3, 5.40) / Luis Otero (3-0, 6.53) / Phil Eckert (2-2, 5.08) / Roberto Castaneda (2-0, 1.53)

#29: LOSS 7-10 ... Jones' bad April extends into May, giving up 7 in 4.1 IP...3 H for Simmons, which is good, but only 1 hit for the middle of the order, which is not
#30: LOSS 3-9 ... just five hits, and our starting pitching is trash again...we're down 7-0 before any of our guys even reach 2nd base
#31: WIN 5-2 ... finally, some pitching...Mess whiffs 13 in 7.1 IP...12 hits and a couple of timely HR spark the win
#32: WIN 3-0 ... HUUGE: a 2-hit, 16-K (a new team record) complete game for RHart...9 hits among 8 batters, but it's enough

The tale of this series is our Jekyll-and-Hyde starting pitching. Hart's gem was his 26th career complete game, now 1st for us, and 7th shutout. He's 2nd on that list, behind the great Leon Casillas.... CF Jim Klein started the season batting 2nd, but his .219 average dropped him into 8th spot, and now he's being platooned with Nate Flygare. He's back to hitting. 257, but isn't doing much with the few hits he is getting, either.... ELSEWHERE: Philly 23-8, Atlanta 21-9. Seattle is 20-10, the only other team with 20+ wins.... Yankees are 7-23, and Pittsburgh has lost 9 straight.... Angels SS Juan Rodriquez, the POM for April, is the last batter at .400, just a point above that mark.... Philly's Alex Castillo leads the NL with 16 HR, the only player in double figures in that league. Castillo also leads all of baseball with 3.4 WAR.


May 8-11 @ SEATTLE
Big test here, a four-spot against the division leaders, at 20-10. Hitting has been mediocre--11th in runs, 12th in AVG--but pitching is league best. Their starters ERA leads the AL, and team defensive efficiency is also #1. I'm happy to say that SP Steve Mellon is still the league's best two-way player, also making 15 starts at DH, although he's only hitting .239 with no home runs. (He hit .298 in 191 AB last year.) Ian Hunter has been a .300 hitting backup OF for the past two years, but he's struggling (.219, 1 HR) to replace all-everything OF Mike Wapner so far.

HAW pitchers: Jonathan Murray (2-1, 3.98) / Eric Jones (1-3, 8.21) / Pete Morrow (2-3, 6.53) / Mike Messinger (2-3, 3.55)
SEA pitchers: Miguel Moreno (4-1, 1.08) / Brett McGee (3-1, 2.35) / Greg Sowa (3-1, 4.91) / Steve Mellon (2-2, 4.35)

#33: LOSS 1-6 ... sad offense is back, with just 6 hits...Murray is bad again, his back isn't getting better, and he may just need to be DLed
#34: LOSS 3-6 ... sailing along great until a 5-run 6th blows out the tires...just 7 hits...Jones is terrible again, but his ERA drops below 8, so yippee
#35: LOSS 1-8 ... nothing to see here, keep moving
#36: WIN 9-4 ... Mess isn't his best self (although he fans 9), but the big guns show up for once and we stake a 5-0 lead early and ride it out to avoid the sweep

Hard to believe we were 10-5 once, hitting everything in sight and getting good-enough pitching. Since then, 8-13, runs aren't coming, and it's anyone's guess is that night's SP will be worth a damn.... That one win keeps us at .500 at least.... Made a few roster moves: 1B/DH Chris Sanborn (.239) was sent down, IF/OF Edward Ospina called up. Ospina doesn't have Sanborn's power, but as Sanborn had only 2 HR, what does that matter. RP Ramon Archila (4.98 ERA) also goes down, and RP Ben Willard (2.53, 6 SV in AAA) gets his first big league callup. Also, Hisami Masuda and his 8.44 ERA move out of the setup role, and Alex Salazar (2.76 in 16 IP) gets his shot.... ELSEWHERE: Atlanta slipped a bit, down to 22-12, but Philly has won six in a row to move to 27-8. And the Yankees finally put together a few wins to reach the 10-win mark, in their 34th game of the season.... Seattle's Miguel Moreno, fresh off his 1-run complete game win over Hawaii, leads all of baseball with a 1.07 ERA.


May 12-14 vs CINCINNATI
Interleague play is here! Uh, woo. The NL Central is down this year, with no teams over .500. The Reds are 17-19, in 2nd place and a half game behind New Orleans. Seventh in runs scored, and 8th in runs against, so they're not terrible. Although the bullpen hasn't been good, 16th in the NL. They do lead the NL in steals, with 24, which tells you how little teams run these days. And strikeout master Jordan Cruz keeps landing on his feet, getting a 2-year deal with these guys; at least he's hitting .250, which is 49 points higher than his career average, and he's closing in on 3000 career strikeouts. If he were a pitcher, he'd be a Hall of Fame candidate...

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (2-2, 4.98) / Ryan Ratliff (debut) / Eric Jones (1-4, 7.94)
CIN pitchers: Juan Valdez (4-2, 3.08) / Ryuma Sato (3-2, 3.00) / Tony Vazquez (1-1, 2.25)

#37: LOSS 1-3 ... four shutout innings from our pen is the best result here...just five hits, so it's back to the drawing board
#38: LOSS 6-7 ... back-and-forth game, which the pen blows by giving up two late runs...13 hits this time
#39: WIN 11-2 ... Jones saves his job for now with a solid 8 IP effort...3 H for Groff, trying to work his way back to .300...Masuda with his weekly HR

Again, we salvage a near-sweep with a last-game effort. Not great, guys.... Somehow we're still 2nd in AVG, 3rd in OBP. But we're 9th in runs, and down to 16th in HR.... Jonathan Murray went on the DL to work out his back issues, and Ryan Ratliff gets the callup, his first MLB opportunity. He was okay in his first start.... ELSEWHERE: Atlanta (23-14) keeps slipping and has been passed by Seattle (27-11) for the league's 2nd best record, but Philly keeps rolling, now at 30-9.... LAA's Juan Rodriquez has rebounded from a slow start to the month, and is now hitting .411, leading baseball. His 3.4 WAR is tied with Phils SS Alex Castillo for league-best as well.... Cincy (thanks to us!) is now the only NL Central team at .500, as they're up to 20-20. Sigh.

......

TL;DR Version: A 6-8 start to May has us a game below .500, at 19-20, and exactly even in run diff (193 to 193). The surface hitting numbers look okay at least (except no power), but we're not plating runs. And with subpar starting pitching, we're constantly behind the eight ball, and our hitting hasn't been dynamic enough to engineer any late-inning runs. Still, we're not out of things, and it is just mid-May.
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Old 02-03-2019, 08:38 PM   #191
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May 16-18 vs MONTREAL
Struggling along at 14-25, last in the NL Central, but most of their "surface" numbers suggest they're better than that. Mid-pack in offense, but bottom third in pitching, with a near-bottom bullpen. Bad defense too. And a -30 run differential. Okay, maybe ALL their numbers look pretty bad, come to think of it. Only one regular is batting over .265, and that's journeyman catcher Brett Monize, who at .297 is hitting nearly 40 points over his career average. They're also near rock-bottom in home runs too. This series could get ugly. For whom, I'm not sure. But betting the over on ugly is a sure thing.

HAW pitchers: Pete Morrow (2-4, 6.75) / Mike Messinger (3-3, 3.68) / Rob Hart (2-3, 5.02)
MTL pitchers: John De Jong (0-2, 2.74) / David Salguero (3-3, 3.24) / Jun-hyuk Au (3-5, 4.61)

#40: WIN 5-4 ... we're outhit and outplayed except for our 4-run 4th, so I'LL TAKE THE WIN THANK YOU...Masuda hits his weekly HR early, this time
#41: WIN 9-7 ... Mess is a mess, Ramirez nearly blows it, but 12 hits and 4 HR power us through...Stoneback (2 HR) and JHart (3-for-4, HR) are the stars
#42: LOSS 2-4 ... RHart is roughed up early, then settles down but we can't get any runs...just six hits...at least the pen was better, with four shutout innings

Better here, although I would've loved a sweep. We're still at .500, 21-21 overall, and not where I want us to be at the quarter pole.... We showed a little more power this series, which is nice. The starting pitching wasn't any better, so there's always something.... Small-ish roster move: we signed former Islander OF Travis McArthur to a minor league contract and put him on the roster, sending OF Glenn Heath down. Heath wasn't hitting in his backup role, but still has a future if he can harness his big bat.... ELSEWHERE: Philly now at 31-10, while Seattle is still in 2nd overall at 29-11.... Angels slugger Juan Rodriquez is getting even hotter, is in a triple crown winning position at .426/14/42.... White Sox pitcher Bryan Crider is following up his 2044 season of -1.3 WAR and 6.35 ERA with an improved 5.36 ERA and -1.0 WAR. Oh, and 19 HR allowed in 48 IP.


May 19-21 @ ST LOUIS
As we struggle to reach and stay over .500, the good news for us is that the visiting Cardinals are 18-23 and feature one of the worst offenses in the NL right now. The team is batting .218 and they have a -24 run differential. The bad news for us, and our own sputtering offense, is the Cards 8th-ranked pitching, and that our own rotation for this series features our three worst pitchers, at least at this moment. So who knows what the next three days bring. We also welcome back three former Islanders stars: 1B Jeremy Dunklee, who is currently on the DL; C Alexis Mercedes, who is batting .256, 2nd best on the team; and SP Ken Clark, who we are still paying for (through 2046 too). And finally, there must be a weird one-day circus in town, as we play one game on the 19th, take a day off, and then play a double header on the 21st. Okay.

HAW pitchers: Ryan Ratliff (0-0, 5.40) / Eric Jones (2-4, 6.89) / Jonathan Murray (2-2, 4.24)
STL pitchers: Jeremy DeMedeiros (1-3, 2.98) / Jacob Wood (4-2, 3.02) / Jeff Sullivan (0-1, 3.43)

#43: WIN 13-4 ... finally an explosion...20 hits, although 15 are singles...4 hits for Simmons and Masuda, and 5 H and 8 K in 7 IP for Ratliff
#44: LOSS 4-5 ... Jones gets hit hard early, but we lose it in the 9th when Ramirez gives up an RBI triple...we walk six batters as well
#45: LOSS 5-6 ... another last inning blowup, this time losing with a 5-3 lead...Ramirez again is the goat, and suddenly STL looks relevant again

Well, at least now the bullpen is playing as poorly as the rest of the team now.... One big win kept our run diff in the positive, but we're now 10 games out of first.... SP Jonathan Murray came off the DL and took Morrow's start in the third game. He went five decent innings, but was irrelevant by the end.... With Morrow's demotion to the pen, Eric Jones could be next, as I'm almost out of patience with him.... RP Ben Willard tweaked his shoulder, and is on the DL for two weeks. He has a 1.42 ERA in 6.1 IP.... ELSEWHERE: No one's hitting .400 right now, but a trio of Phillies fill out the top five NL batters, lead by 3B Miguel Reyes at .386.... Speaking of the Phils, they cooled to 6-4 in their last ten, but are still at a league-best 32-12. Seattle is still hot, and just a game behind that mark. And the Yankees have been more respectable (5-5) of late, but continue to bring up the rear at 14-29 on the season.... Former Isle Mel Carrillo, packed off to Austin in the John Cannon trade, is injured again. He missed all of last year after his leg fell off in camp, and lasted just 7 games in April before getting hurt again. He's in AAA, rehabbing.


May 23-25 vs TORONTO
Another chance to start our redemption tour against another struggling team. The Jays are 20-25, held above the East basement by the awful Yankees. They're 5th in runs scored, and hit well and for power. Pitching has been super sketchy, tho, only 14th in the AL, and featuring an AL-next-to-last bullpen ERA of 5.78. SP Khalil Palmer has 9 starts on the mound, as well as 19 starts at DH, where he's batting .250 with a pair of home runs. A trio of Jays have cracked the 10 HR mark, something I thought would've been reachable for our guys too, but noooo....

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (3-3, 4.39) / Rob Hart (2-4, 5.21) / Ryan Ratliff (1-0, 4.50)
TOR pitchers: Daniel Becker (5-0, 3.65) / Luis Burgos (5-2, 3.33) / Khalil Palmer (5-3, 5.92)

#46: LOSS 4-8 ... Mess leaves in the 3rd, and the pen gives up 5 HR and 6 R. That's efficiency, that is...2 hits and 3 RBI for Klein
#47: WIN 9-7 ... fun fact: over 8 innings, we got one hit and zero runs. In the 5th alone, we got 6 hits and 9 runs...this team is trying to kill me
#48: WIN 4-2 ... Ratliff stops the hurt with 7 fine innings, and Ramirez closes one out for the first time in over a week...only 6 hits, but why quibble

This series boiled down to one quality inning of offense (a 9-run 5th in the second game), and one quality start (Ryan Ratliff in the third game). Otherwise, we look like trash. No power, few hits, mediocre starting pitching, and a bullpen that has leaked so much oil it's sounding like the tin woodsman. And somehow we won two out of three. Shrugs.... I tweaked the lineup, moving Klein back up to 2nd, Simmons to leadoff, and Stoneback to 5th. Cannon isn't hitting, so he's dropped to 8th. Thing is, the higher I move Simmons up the lineup, the worse he hits. He's a combined .234 batting 1st or 2nd; but he's at .449 batting 8th. Argh.... ELSEWHERE: Six straight wins for Miami has vaulted them to first in the AL East, while three in a row for the Reds makes them the only team over .500 in the NL Central, at 25-23.... Probably my favorite MLB name right now has to be Cubs catcher Lawrence Lawrence. His nickname is also "Lawrence," which I don't remember doing, but I must have. Right? Surely.


May 26-28 @ BOSTON
Currently 27-20 and a game and a half behind the Marlins for first place. Seventh in runs scored, and 5th in OBP, which makes no sense when matched with their 16th-ranked batting average. Pitching has been good (6th in runs), but the starters (12th in ERA) are getting bested by the bullpen (3rd). Pretty good considering six pitchers are currently on the DL. Manager Kris Harvey has been at the helm since 2029, and is so low-key that the coaches take turns poking at him every other inning to make sure he's still breathing. Oh, and the clubhouse is unhappy. True fact: there has never been a happy clubhouse in Boston in this game, but at least they're not feuding. Yet.

HAW pitchers: Eric "Short Leash" Jones (2-4, 6.79) / Jonathan Murray (2-2, 4.18) / Mike "Save Us" Messinger (3-3, 4.53)
BOS pitchers: Octavio Corona (4-1, 2.75) / Joe Koval (3-3, 4.08) / Norman Redelius (3-2, 7.04)

#49: WIN 7-3 ... four hits equals four runs in the 14th, ending a tight thriller in the wee hours...eight shutout innings for the pen, so I'm happy for the next five minutes
#50: LOSS 6-7 ... another blown lead, with Stanley taking the loss from the pen...although, to be fair, Murray was ragdolled for six innings by the Sox
#51: WIN 12-2 ... everyone gets a hit, even the pinch hitters (although zero walks)...Groff shows up (finally!) with 2 HR, and Mess whiffs ten in 7 IP

Never was pretty, but I'll take it. We're now 26-25, tied for 2nd place with Oakland and Texas, all of us nine games behind Seattle.... What did I say about Simmons not liking the top of the order? I dropped him back to 8th, and he went 8-for-16 this series. I boosted Cannon to the top slot (sure, why not?) and he responded with five hits and his first home run of the month. Remember, he hit 47 dingers last season.... The pen was a bit better, and still has the 3rd best ERA in the AL, but the rotation is way off that, in 15th place with a 5.22 number.... ELSEWHERE: We dabbled at signing SP Scott Kopetsky this off-season, but he wanted $23M so we backed off. Instead, he signed with Minnesota for $16M (hmmm) and so far this year the 34-year-old is 8-1 with a 1.92 ERA.... Yankees OF Daizo "Band Aid" Yonamine has recorded three injuries so far this year. Which may sound unlucky, but it's a far cry from the SIXTEEN he suffered last year, and even off the pace of the seven he suffered the year before that. I don't know how he's still alive.... Reds SS Jordan Cruz is really harshing my mellow by 1) hitting more than 40 points above his career .201 average, and 2) sustaining a K-to-H ratio of 1.63, where his career rate is 2.03. I really want him to reach 3000.


May 29-31 @ MIAMI
First in the East by 1.5 over the Red Sox, they're doing it all with pitching. Hitting? Nah, who needs it: 16th in runs, 17th in AVG and OBP. But the staff? First in runs again, best bullpen, third ranked rotation. AND they have four pitchers on the DL. Top prospect Jason "Mangia Mangia!" Mangiaracina has just been moved into the rotation, and sports a 1.42 ERA. Great, we'll get to face him too. 1B Trey Joslin paces the team with 14 HR, but is hitting a weak .192, while cleanup batter Ricky Beard has just 4 HR but is hitting .328.

HAW pitchers: Rob Hart (3-4, 5.40) / Ryan Ratliff (2-0, 3.79) / Eric "Who Knows" Jones (2-4, 6.56)
MIA pitchers: Corey Downes (3-4, 4.26) / Matt Rubin (5-4, 2.61) / Jason Mangiaracina (1-1, 1.42)

#52: WIN 4-2 ... Masuda's 2-run HR, a rare thing these days, gave us the lead for good...2 more hits for Simmons, and a solid 8 IP for RHart...Groff hurt dtd
#53: WIN 7-2 ... Ratliff is good, but leaves in the 6th holding his arm...doubles by Cannon and Masuda spark a 5-run 7th that breaks open a close game
#54: WIN 8-7 ... hits for everyone to complete a shocking series sweep...Jones stinks again, but 18 papers over a wealth of sins...4 RBI for Klump

Woah, I did not see that coming. Hits, home runs, solid starting pitching (not Jones, of course). Where did this come from? Shh, don't ask.... Simmons' AVG has jumped 22 points since I moved him back to the 8th spot. I guess if he can win a batting title from that spot, I should've just left him there, huh.... Ratliff has a dead arm and will miss a week. I won't DL him, so his next start will probably go to Morrow, if I must. Groff has a dtd foot injury, but I'm going to keep plyaying him. I'll probably give Little a couple of starts at third, just to rest the old man every now and then, over these next 10 days.... ELSEWHERE: Houston pitcher Dale Hinxman, a 26-year-old with just 12 big league relief appearances (from 2043), made his first appearance of the season a good one: a complete game shutout of the first place Tigers. Hinxman is definitely not a prospect, however, so this might be his career highlight. Congrats, kiddo.... Philly is heating up again, and is now 38-14, a full seven games ahead of the Braves, the largest division lead in the game right now. San Fran, the White Sox, and the Yanks are the only teams to have not reached the 20-win plateau.... Somehow our own Sen Masuda is leading the AL with 17 HR and 50 RBI. I---I had no idea. How?

......

TL;DR Version: A nice 10-5 stretch to close out May, putting us at 29-25 and in 2nd in the division. We're six games behind Seattle, two ahead of Texas, three over Oakland. The bats finally started to wake up over those last two series. I put a guy who hit 47 HR last season into leadoff, and dropped the defending AL batting champ into the 8th spot. Both started hitting again. The Science of Baseball, everyone! Anyway, we're now 1/3 of the way through the season, and on pace for 87 wins. Not great, but better than where we were a couple of weeks ago. Let's keep up the momentum!
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Old 02-07-2019, 07:06 PM   #192
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June brings 28 games, just 12 at home. We start with a ten-spot against divisinal rivals, then head out for another round of Interleague Play, before finishing off with 8 more divisional games, and one game (start of a series continuing into July) against the Yankees. Most of the teams we play this month have losing records, so if we can't keep righting the ship after these 30 days, we have no chance to keep our playoff streak alive.

June 1-4 @ HOUSTON
I documented this team's 2045 struggles last month. They're still down and out, at 22-33, last in the West. But what's worse is that this is a franchise in serious trouble, too. Last in payroll, last in budget, poor fan loyalty, and almost no fan interest. They sold 9200 season tickets last year, but only 5800 this year, a 36% drop! Home attendance is a measly 13K, they've lost nearly $50M combined the last three seasons, and projections show they'll hemmorhage another 20M+ this year. Wow. Just, wow. Oh, and they're the only team currently with a feuding clubhouse, with reports of "clubhouse fights" making the news. The only really good thing is that they have one of the brightest young future pitching stars in the game (Alejandro Gonzales, just off the DL), a wicked closer (Alex Mahoney), and the 2nd ranked prospect pool in MLB.

HAW pitchers: Jonathan Murray (2-2, 4.32) / Mike Messinger (4-3, 4.31) / Rob Hart (4-4, 5.05) / Alex Salazar (1-0, 2.21)
HOU pitchers: Ryan Crawley (2-6, 5.09) / Dan Dronet (4-5, 4.46) / Tony Arballo (2-8, 6.75) / Dale Hinxman (1-0, 0.00)

#55: WIN 8-3 ... down 3-1, three straight RBI singles in the 4th plate 4 runs, and 3 more in the 8th put it away...Stoneback goes 0-for-1, 4 walks, 3 runs
#56: WIN 10-5 ... Masuda walks 4 times tonight, and another slew of RBI singles in the 8th and 9th bring home 6 runs for the comeback win...3 RBI for Simmons
#57: WIN 9-2 ... Groff goes 5-for-5, 2 HR, 4 RBI, just like old times...3 more hits for Simmons...RHart tosses a complete game, fans 9, yields just 5 hits
#58: LOSS 2-6 ... booooo...just 8 hits, and only 5 after a 2-run first inning...Salazar fills in for injured Ratliff, but does not fare well

Final game notwithstanding, a solid series for us. Better pitching, lots of hits, and even some home runs (still 16th in the AL in that category, tho). We're back to 1st in offense, and +42 in runs.... Ryan Ratliff and his zombie arm missed a start, but should be good to go for his next go-round.... ELSEWHERE: Philly is the first to reach 40 wins, now sitting at 41-15. At the other end, with the Yankees playing better (6-4 of late), the White Sox remain the only guys stuck below the 20-win barrier, at 19-37.... As stats begin to normalize, after hot and cold starts, now only one pitcher has an ERA below 2: Seattle's Miguel Moreno, at 1.57. No one has reached 20 HR yet, but NYY's Tony Flores has had a couple of hot series and now sits at 19. The 29-year-old is now just 7 HR away from 300 for his career.


June 6-7 @ LA ANGELS
A winning April gave way to a poor (11-18) May and a current record of 26-31, fifth in the division. Offense has been adequate, 8th in the AL, but pitching is 14th in runs, with a next-to-last rotation ERA. SS Juan Rodriquez, 26, has established himself as one of the best players in the game, with consecutive seasons of .348/42/130 and .345/33/118, and 200+ hits each season. He's batting .368 with 16 HR this year. He'll be a free agent this fall, and you'd think if LA were serious about becoming a contender, they'd make it a priority to re-sign him. But then again this is also a team that entered a rebuilding phase with two catcher older than 35, and kept them both around for years. So he's probably a goner.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (2-4, 6.51) / Jonathan Murray (3-2, 4.27)
LAA pitchers: Leonardo Vigil (1-4, 4.23) / Greg Langworthy (4-3, 6.61)

#59: WIN 15-9 ... we break open a 7-6 game with three straight 3-run innings...17 hits, 7 walks...3 hits for Groff, Masuda, and 5 RBI for the latter
#60: WIN 3-1 ... Stoneback's 2-run HR in the 4th is the key hit, and Rich adds 3 singles and an RBI...Murray leaves in the 2nd, and the pen gives up 10 hits, but just 1 run

And with that, we've won 9 of 10 and sit at 34-26, 2.5 in back of Seattle. Feels better than we did a few weeks ago, and it's been largely due to our hitting. Yes, pitching and defense are crucial, but AL baseball is still mostly about hitting, and when we hit, we win. We're 1st in runs, AVG, and OBP, so we've been getting guys on and getting them home. Keep it going.... Murray's diagnosis is pending; if he's out long term, I will probably bring Taylor Barnett up from his rehab stint. Santa Barbara (31-14) has been getting a lot of quality pitching--including the recently-demoted Pete Morrow--but Barnett is first on the list.... Jones got the win in that first game, but his ERA went up to 6.94. His BABIP is an astounding .366, so I'm not sure if it's just bad luck or what. His other numbers (K and BB per 9) are trending down and up, but not at an alarming rate..... ELSEWHERE: 43 wins now for Philadelphia, and they have the enviable triple crown of #1 pitching, hitting, and team defense. The White Sox still have not cracked the 20-win barrier, sitting at 19-39.... Detroit's Matt Anderson leads active players with 439 career HR, 53rd all-time. Minnesota's Paul Foster is next with 399 (69th), and NYY's Carlos Valencia is next at 397 (73rd).


June 8-11 vs OAKLAND
They're ba-ack. While we've regained our footing, the A's are still looking for theirs. Our nemeses* are 30-31, 7 games out of first and 4.5 games behind us. Pitching has been the bugaboo this year, as they're still hitting (5th in runs and OBP, 4th in HR). The staff ERA sits 12th in the AL, and perhaps this decline is best exemplified by the turn that long-time vet Ricky Hose has taken: after 11 productive years in the A's rotation, he lurched through April with 4 starts and a 10+ ERA; moved the pen for May, he finished that month with an ERA approaching 20. The June scouting report was not kind to him, and in his final contract year it's sad to say the writing may be on the wall for El Hozo. Oh, and Vinny Vargas blahblahblah still hitting blahblahblah scorching at .352/17/42 etc.

* - although given that we lead 8-1 in division titles and 3-0 in World Series wins, perhaps it's better to say that we are THEIR nemeses.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (4-3, 4.35) / Rob Hart (5-4, 4.71) / Ryan Ratliff (3-0, 3.28) / Eric Jones (3-4, 6.94)
OAK pitchers: Jaysen Moss (0-1, 3.63) / Jim Schwartz (4-5, 5.28) / Mike Wiater (7-2, 3.14) / Jesus Claros (3-3, 2.82)

#61: WIN 6-5 ... 3-for-4 and a HR for Little in a spot start, and 2 HR for Stoneback, including the walk-off winner in the 13th...4 IP for "closer" Ramirez: OLD SCHOOL
#62: WIN 10-8 ... singles for all! Six of them (plus a few walks) lead to a 5-run 8th that wins this one...RHart with all the stats: 7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 2 HR
#63: LOSS 7-11 ... pitching? Where? 25 hits, 6 HR, and runs runs runs...three more hits for Simmons, plus 2 errors (3 this series alone)
#64: WIN 2-0 ... Jones confounds me with a five-hitter complete game...plus, 3 H for Cannon, bringing his average up over .250 again

That last game was like a spoonful of sorbet after a gluttonous meal. That it was pitched by Jones makes it damn near miraculous, as he had both feet and most of his body out the door. Sure, keep tugging at my heart like that, Eric.... Speaking of heart-tugs, we get the report on Jonathan Murray, and it's a doozy: radial nerve decompression, 10 months. Goodbye 2045, goodbye spring training 2046, etc. As promised, Taylor Barnett gets the call and will make his second start of the season; let's hope for more than 1 inning of work this time around.... ELSEWHERE: Philly is hot again, winning 8 of 10 and now sports a lovely 46-17 record. Meanwhile, the White Sox won a game, finally reaching the 20 win mark (20-42 for the season).... Former Islander SP Ryuma Sato--remember him? He who tossed our 2nd franchise no-hitter in April, then got traded in the off-season? Good times--is having a nice season in Cincy so far: 11 starts, 7-3, 3-40 ERA. Of course, he started hot for us too, then saw his ERA balloon by over a run during August, and was out of the rotation by the playoffs.... Some MLB-leading stats: 4.2 WAR (Juan Rodriquez, LAA), 22 HR (Tony Flores, NYY), 1.55 ERA (Miguel Moreno, SEA), 130 K (Rafael Maldonado, RIC), 21 SV (Sam Berisford, PHI).


June 12-14 @ NEW ORLEANS
Our fellow expansionists had a nice May (17-12), getting back over .500 (hey, 33-32 counts), and in 2nd in the NL Central. Hitting has been a chore, where they're 12th in runs and 17th in AVG. Pitching has, as usual, been their rock: 4th in runs against, with the 5th best rotation ERA and 2nd best bullpen. Only Nate "The Creeper" Schleicher has an SP ERA over 3.7, and closer Drew Falconbury--a one-time best-in-the-league starter--has transformed himself into a quality closer, with 15 saves, a 1.93 ERA, and a 29-5 K-BB ratio. Pitching, in fact, is so ingrained in this franchise, that eight of their top nine prospects are starting pitchers, and the lowest one still looks like a fringe MLBer at worst. Impressive. Still, they either need to trade for hitting, or get their guys to come around, if they're going to get past Cincy and into the playoffs. Top hitters Juan Rodriguez and Dan Martin, for example, combined for 73 HR last year, but have just 8 apiece this season.

HAW pitchers: Taylor Barnett (0-0, 0.00) / Mike Messinger (4-3, 4.42) / Rob Hart (5-4, 4.64)
NOZ pitchers: Danny Ruiz (8-3, 3.57) / Steve Jenson (5-4, 3.73) / Nate Schleicher (0-1, 4.50)

#65: WIN 8-7 ... McArthur's 10th-inning double wins the game...Barnett scrapes around (5 H, 3 ER, 0 K, 4 BB) through 5 IP, but at least he stays healthy
#66: WIN 3-0 ... 9 K over 8 IP for Mess, and a pair of singles in the 7th completes the scoring...Groff homers, but then gets hurt, diagnosis pending
#67: WIN 2-0 ... back-to-back! RHart goes the distance, giving up 7 H and fanning 6...Stoneback's 2-run shot in the 6th is all the scoring in this one

Sweepsville! And two shutouts to boot. Hart's gives him 8 for his career, one behind Leon Casillas in franchise history.... Groff is diagnosed with a concussion, but he seems to have a thick skull and won't miss any time. Phew.... These wins give us a 40-27 record, just a half game behind Seattle now (40-26).... Reliever Pat Stanley leads the team with 8 wins.... Messinger's agent just informed me that our ace is willing to discuss contract terms: the 29-year-old wants $264M over 9 years, with a player option for the final season. LOLWUT.... ELSEWHERE: The White Sox are still stuck on 20 wins, paired with 45 losses.... Meanwhile Philly keeps winning, now 6 in a row, for a 49-17 record.... Padres ace Gary Florence is having a nice comeback season (injury-plagued years of 24, 11, and 14 starts of late), tossing a 3-hit shutout. My favorite stat: he has 111 K against just 13 BB. Which is, really, worse than his numbers for last season, where he has 111 K versus just SIX walks, in 96 IP.

......

TL;DR Version: A really solid 11-2 run has put us right back near the top of the division, just a half game behind the slowing Mariners. We won games all kinds of ways this stretch, scoring a ton when our pitching failed, but also getting some really nice outings from our roller-coaster rotation. We did lose SP Jonathan Murray for the season, but hopefully the return of Taylor Barnett will offset that. And if Eric Jones has put his horrid April/May combo behind him, then maybe I can say--or whisper, so the Fates don't hear--that our rotation may be sorted? Anyway, fifteen games in fifteen days to close out the month and put us just past the halfway mark on the season.
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Old 02-10-2019, 06:47 PM   #193
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2045 DRAFT and SYSTEM OVERVIEW

Draft time! The most exciting 15 minutes in sports! Exciting, that is, until you get past the early rounds and realize you're trying to maitain interest in selecting guys whose future resume highlights will include "Eastern League Good Neighbor Award" certificates. Harsh? Yes. Reality? Yeah. Still, there is at least some talent at the top of the board, so let's enjoy that fun quarter hour. For our part, we'll be picking at the end of the 1st round, but we also have two supplemental picks, giving us three selections in the first 47 picks. I'm sure they'll all pay off in 3-5 years. (They'd better.)

......

Texas had the first overall pick--for the first time this century--and took college pitcher Josh Hohn. Control will be his biggest issue, but otherwise looks like a future 1 or 2 starter, and could be in the bigs by this time next year. The Yankees went next, and took OF Chris Hinrichs. He's fast, has some power, and great range in CF. He'll run down everthing hit near him...but has no idea what to do after that. A serious reach here at #2. Pittsburgh went third, and had to feel blessed that SS Phil Laybolt fell to them: solid hitting ceilings, speed and baserunning prowess, and already stud defensive numbers at five positions. Plus intangibles to burn, so if he surpasses his batting projections, he could be a legit superstar. Rounding out the top five were two pitchers: the Angels took starter Dane Dean, while the Expos took reliever Rene Casaus. Both look to be decent but unspectacular regulars one day.

Sleeper pick: Cincy taking closer Quinn Driscoll at #11 looks nice, as he's got huge potential, but it's hard to get excited about closers. So I'll go with Baltimore's SP Rich Davis at #20. Like most young pitchers, he has control issues, but I think he's already better than all of the ten SP (other than Hohn at #1) taken above him. That includes the other Orioles first round pick, Jerry Montez, who was taken two spots ahead of Davis.

Major Reach: I've already mentioned the Yankees taking Hinrichs. To that I'll add Portland's #16 pick of OF Dan Politz, who combines average hitting ceilings with low intangibles. He's speedy and can play all across the outfield, but a low work ethic guy with moderate ceilings? And one who currently isn't exactly tearing up average college pitching? No thanks.

......

A look at the Top of the Pops, or, your Islanders Stars of Tomorrow:

Rnd 1, 27th overall: P Josh Frederick, 22, North Carolina. Decent pitching ceilings, with three pitches including an elite changeup. But he looks better as an outfielder, with excellent range and arm. Bit undisciplined as a hitter, but otherwise has great potential here. Nice grab at the bottom of the round.

Supplemental, 38th overall: P Jonathan Ashton, 18, high school. Better stuff than Frederick, but needs to work on movement and control. If he gets there, will be a solid middle-rotation starter. Four pitches. Intangibles could push him over the top; let's hope so.

Supplemental, 47th overall: SS Bob Goodloe, 21, Texas A&M. Future captain-type, which won't hurt his development. Just fair as a batter, but could develop into a nice starting pitcher instead. If not, he's a very solid fielder, as an IF or OF. Arm will keep him out of becoming a big-league SS or RF, but that's it. (Ironic then that he could become a pitcher instead.) Drafted by Baltimore in 2042 but went to college instead, didn't draw draft attention until this year, apparently.

Rnd 2, 81st overall: OF Jerry Cappuccilli, 22, Sacramento St. Good contact and gap hitter and a decent if not outstanding fielder. Work ethic may push him beyond his current ceilings, but even if not he looks like at least a #4 OF. Like Goodloe, was drafted in 2042 (by the Cubs), went to school instead and was ignored for three years.

Rnd 3, 121st overall: P Jaden Daniels, 21, Central Florida. Looks like 2/3 of a good pitcher (whither control?) and 3/5 of a good hitter (no power, no discipline). Has plus speed, excellent range and defense in the outfield, so could be moved to center or right. Or...has lots of stamina, holds runners, already has three nice pitches and keeps the ball down, so could stay a pitcher. Or...maybe has a chance to be our first real two-way big leaguer?

Rnd 4, 158th overall: P Jeff Black, 19, high school. Lefty, groundballer. High school starter, but lack of third pitch will make him a pro reliever. Another high INT/WE guy, so could become more than the current sum of his parts. Six-foot-three, nicknamed "Flea."

Rnd 5, 194th overall: P Jaheim Mwaura, 19, high school. Typical of the guys you're looking at by the 5th round: some good stuff, some noticeable holes. Might have enough to become a starter, but as a sidearmer already showing some L/R splits, seems more suited for middle relief. High intangibles? You know it.

Best of the rest: A lot of meh. Although I do like that 13th rounder Kevin Kemper has defensive ratings at every position save catcher and pitcher. Make up your mind, bud.

......

MLB has our prospect pool ranked 8th, with five players in the top 100, three in the top 50. All five, imho, deserve to be there; and although none of them look like future superstars, they do look like solid contributors. Here's the rundown:

#1: 3B Dante Padilla, 21, 11th ranked by MLB. Eureka (A), .143 in 14 AB. Projects as a solid power hitter and 3B with a gun of an arm; frankly it's approaching put-up-or-shut-up time for Dante. He hit for zilch over a month in short R ball last year, and hasn't yet looked good after a recent call-up to A this year. My scouts raised his ceilings in their latest report, so it's still too early to call him a dud. But no average and little power so far has to be a little concerning. Scouting discovery, 2041.

#2: P Shamar Jackson, 22, 37th ranked. Lewiston (AA), 3 starts, 2-0 and a 3.57 ERA. Knuckleballer, big clubhouse guy, and thinks he should be in the bigs already. His pitches are already there, but needs to get a handle on his control (6.1 BB/9 this year) before I even want to move him to AAA. Still, if he keeps developing, he could be in the mix for the rotation as early as next spring. Trade with SF, 2044.

#3: IF Manny Rangel, 24, 42nd ranked. Santa Barbara (AAA), .269/11/36 in 43 GP, 167 AB. Currently playing short, but has a noodle arm so is better suited for second. Cuban, in his first year in North America. Has no speed, and his contact projects only a bit above average. Should get a taste of MLB, in September at least, before I make a longer term decision on him. International FA signing, 2044.

#4: P Olimpio le Coq, 19, 54th ranked. International complex. Love his name, and will be extremely disappointed if he doesn't fully develop. Definitely starter material, but I would like his movement to be better to make him truly effective. Wicked curve/change combo, with a nifty fastball backing those up. Brazilian. International FA signing, 2044.

#5: P Ryan Ratliff, 25, 93rd ranked. Hawaii, 3-0, 3.28 ERA, 4 starts. Four AAA starts also. Injury replacement who has, so far at least, definitely cemented a place in the rotation. Excellent control (5 BB in 24.2 IP), and solid stuff for a short (5'11") guy. Trade with WSH, 2043.

#6: OF Kenny Welch, 22, 113th ranked. Santa Barbara (AAA), .224/7/24 in 156 AB. Jumped from A to AAA this year, and his batting is starting to come around after a slow start. Has solid contact/gap/power potential, and is a decent fielder with a big, big arm. But he's slow, slow, slow, and won't catch up to much in the field. So he'll get paired with a rangy CF, or be trade bait one day. Trade with SF, 2044.

Others of note:
1B Eric Griffin, 20: will hit short A this summer; really solid power potential; 1st rounder in 2043.
OF Cameron Daley, 21: hitting well in AA; solid contact hitter-in-waiting, nice fielder but probably limited to LF; fan fave.
1B Roberto Navarette, 17: still in the intl. complex; is it too early to peg him as a 40 HR guy? Probably, but I can dream.
SP Alex Paredes, 17: last year's #3 prospect has dropped off the map, and now no longer look like anything but an A/AA pitcher. Ah well.
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Old 02-16-2019, 09:44 PM   #194
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June 16-18 @ CHICAGO CUBS
A solid team as recently as 2042 that has backslid of late, the Cubs are sinking in the standings, down to 26-39 and fifth place. Hitting (16th) and pitching (13th) are well below average, with no one really standing out. 1B Bruce Calhoon was brought in from Houston this winter, and is well off his usual 35+ HR pace, with just 12 (and also hitting .258, about 45 points below his career average). Japanese import John Baldwin has been their ace for three seasons, but is 3-6 with a 4.68 ERA, and has a pending injury diagnosis as of this writing. The one saving grace in the rotation has been former Rule 5 pickup Aaron Maloy (6-3, 3.59), in just his first year as a starter. Not helping is the fact that they also have seven players on the DL. Oh, and we finally get to see catcher Lawrence "Lawrence" Lawrence play.

HAW pitchers: Ryan Ratliff (3-1, 4.08) / Eric Jones (4-4, 6.16) / Taylor Barnett (0-0, 4.50)
CHC pitchers: Keith Carrey (0-2, 7.94) / Ronnie Storie (3-4, 4.41) / Jake Marker (2-7, 4.87)

#68: WIN 5-1 ... pretty nice 7 IP for Ratliff, giving up 2 hits and fanning 7...Masuda quietly reaches 20 HR, and Klump hits his 2nd pinch-HR in less than a week
#69: WIN 5-2 ... second sharp outing in a row for Jones (7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R)...Masuda with 2 doubles and 3 RBI, and Klein goes 3-for-4...Simmons stays hot with 2 more hits
#70: LOSS 2-5 ... Groff collects 3 hits including a solo HR, but he's about the only offense tonight...another rough start for Barnett, yet to find his footing after his injury

Groff had his 22-game hitting streak (longest in MLB this season) ended in that first game. Time to start another one.... Barnett has yet to hit his stride after finishing his rehab stint. Hopefully he can figure it out, but if not there are a couple guys in AAA tearing it up right now: Pete Morrow has thrown well since his demotion, and Mike Pearson is 7-0 for the Surf. Even holdover Malik Chaney, who hasn't impressed in a couple of brief big league stints, could get a call.... Seattle stays a half game ahead of us, with 27 losses to our 28.... ELSEWHERE: Seattle ace Miguel Moreno is still working that sub-2 ERA, now at 1.60 through 112 IP and 14 starts.... The Angels may still be a below-.500 team, but 1B Jason Eastep has gotten hot and now has 69 RBI in 69 games. Really hoping someone manages to top that magical 162 RBI pace.... Philly has lost three straight, but still sits atop the league at 49-20. The Chisox are still scraping bottom, at 22-46.


June 19-21 vs PITTSBURGH
Interleague Play winds up with a homestand against the last place Pirates. Like the Cubs, not much is working for them right now: 14th in offense, 16th in pitching, and 14th in team defense. Five players are on the DL, including one of my favorites, OF Aaron Riches. Riches has somehow turned an ability to hit home runs (28 per 162 games) and nothing else (.199 career average) into a nine-year career. Former Islanders Andy Sanchez and Kyle Crowl are regulars here. Sanchez, in RF, leads off but is hitting just .247; while Crowl, whom we traded after Opening Day this year, is somehow playing at short. He's a capable RF, an okay 3B, but not great at short. He's not the worst, but he is one of just a few regular SS with an RF below 4 and a negative ZR. I dunno either. In other bad news, their prospects rank 35th (out of 36), with zero players in the top 100.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (5-3, 4.00) / Rob Hart (6-4, 4.20) / Ryan Ratliff (4-1, 3.28)
PIT pitchers: Mark Guest (4-6, 3.93) / Riley Krupp (3-6 4.75) / Chris Liles (3-4, 4.29)

#71: WIN 2-1 ... 12 K and just 4 H over 8 for Mess...Cannon wakes up a bit with a HR, but is still struggling along at .248 and only 7 HR
#72: WIN 8-1 .. RHart outdoes Mess, with a 13 K complete game...another HR for Cannon, who goes 3-for-3 tonight...
#73: WIN 3-2 ... Klein's 11th-inning single is the winner...2 more hits for Cannon, who raised his average 13 points in this series...Ratliff excellent through 7 (5 H, 8 K)

Who doesn't love a sweep, huh? I said at the start of June that we needed to make noise this month against a weak slate of teams, and have we ever done that: 16-3 this month. And now we're in first place, as Seattle lost two out of three. KEEP IT UP.... Rob Hart has 139 K, leading the AL.... Top prospect Dante Padilla is still trying to find his bat: .186 in 59 AB at A ball.... ELSEWHERE: A sweep gives Philly 52 wins on the season.... Yanks bomber Tony Flores leads baseball with 26 HR.... SD's Gary Florence just tossed a 10-inning shutout to give him 4.7 WAR on the season, tops in baseball. Four NL pitchers are working on seasons of 9+ WAR. Angels star Juan Rodriquez is the best WAR-ful batter, at 4.6, and still leads baseball with a .368 average.


June 22-25 vs LA ANGELS
Despite a 33-39 record, and likely another season of barely treading water, there are some bright spots here. They've sorted out their hitting, now 5th in runs and 4th in average. Juan Rodriquez has been the best hitter in the AL this season, and the 2-4 lineup order of Tony Mendoza, Rodriquez, and Jason Eastep has combined for 59 HR and 182 RBI. The rest of the lineup has...27 HR, however. Pitching is 16th in runs against, tho, and outside of the young Bob Tranchida, the rotation hasn't been productive at all.

HAW pitchers: Eric Jones (5-4, 5.75) / Taylor Barnett (0-1, 5.25) / Mike Messinger (6-3, 3.74) / Rob Hart (7-4, 3.93)
LAA pitchers: Leonardo Vigil (1-6, 4.89) / Greg Langworthy (5-4, 5.61) / Khalil Smith (5-5, 4.82) / Bob Tranchida (5-1, 3.99)

#74: WIN 4-2 ... 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R for Jones, making three straight decent starts now...2-run HR for Masuda in the first...RP Willard hurt, diagnosis pending
#75: WIN 4-1 ... 2 HR for Stoneback, now 18 on the year...first good start for Barnett: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 7 K
#76: WIN 11-3 ... a 4th inning GRAND SLAM for Klump is the first big blow, followed up by a 5-run 7th to put this one away...3 H, 3 RBI for Groff...Mess fans 11
#77: WIN 7-1 ... 15 K complete game for RHart...2 doubles, 4 RBI for Rob Rich, batting .300 now...Cannon's 2-run HR in the 8th puts this one out of reach

Second straight sweep, and it puts us to 21 games over .500 and now 4.5 games up on Seattle. The sweep drops the Angels into last in the division.... Problems have arisen with negotiations with first round pick Josh Frederick. Yippee. More forthcoming.... RP Ben Willard strains his triceps; just a dtd injury, but as his throwing is affected, I put him on the DL. Nick Kramer gets the callup, his first to the show.... ELSEWHERE: Cleveland's Bryan Altier hit Chisox batter Steve Richards with his third pitch of the game, then set down the next 27 batters without allowing a runner. A no-hitter! But so, so close to a perfect game. Third no-hitter tossed this season.... We may just have broken the Pirates in that last series: they've now lost 11 straight, falling to 26-49 and last in the NL Central.... Yanks OF Tony Flores stays hot, with 4 more HR giving him 29 on the year, and now 303 in his career. He's now 7th on the Yankees all-time list, 14 behind A-Rod.


June 26-29 @ TEXAS
Our second series against Texas and former long-time Islanders skipper Pat Wilson. The Rangers are 36-39, with a 9-12 June putting them just under the .500 mark. Fourteenth in runs, and 11th in runs against, with a -30 run differential, so the record may not quite represent some of the issues with this team. OF Corey Turner is having his usual solid year (.303/12/44), as is Callum Hewitt (.278/10/47). But they rank 16th in home runs, meaning they're not generating many easy runs. The rotation hasn't been great shakes, but outside of the ludicrously bad Pedro Cabrera, no one stands out in a truly horrific way. They do steal bases tho--52, good for 3rd in the AL--so that's gotta count for something.

HAW pitchers: Ryan Ratliff (4-1, 3.16) / Eric Jones (6-4, 5.57) / Taylor Barnett (1-1, 3.60) / Mike Messinger (7-3, 3.66)
TEX pitchers: Lorenzo Rangel (2-6, 5.45) / Phil Eckert (4-5, 4.97) / Thomas Cannaday (3-5, 4.57) / Pedro Cabrera (0-6, 11.97)

#78: LOSS 7-8 ... teams combine for 7 HR, including Rich with a go-ahead shot in the 10th, but also a 2-run winning blast from Texas in the bottom half
#79: WIN 7-6 ... another crazy extra innings tilt: 4 runs for us in the 11th, and 3 for them...phew...4 RBI for Klump...7 4-hit innings for Jones, but the pen is leaky
#80: WIN 13-2 ... backups go 7-for-15 tonight, with 3 HR...Barnett injured again, leaves in the second. Diagnosis pending...Stanley gets his 9th win
#81: WIN 3-0 ... 4-for-4 and a dtd injury for Groff...10 K over 8.1 IP for Messinger

Generally a good series, with only some bullpen wonkiness to mar things. CL Ramirez has 17 saves, but does seem to go through periodic back-to-back game blowups, like he did here, blowing two saves and losing the first game.... Barnett's injury is dtd, for five days. He may not miss a start. Groff likewise has a dtd injury, for a week. He'll still play.... ELSEWHERE: Tampa RF Vance Wise has ridden a .441 month to leading the AL batting race: .367 vs .364 for LAA's Rodriquez. Detroit's Matt Anderson has taken right to the AL after 12 years in the NL: batting .359/20/48, and closing in on 2400 career hits.... In the NL, Richmond's Faustino Whitton leads Atlanta's Justin Doss by one point, .333 to .332. Former Islander first round pick Dillon Ritter--traded this winter--is third at .315.... All six teams in the NL East are over .500. The last place Mets are 40-39, which would put them 4 games out in the Central and 4.5 games out in the West.


June 30 vs NY YANKEES
Once again languishing in the AL East basement, at 33-46. Hard to believe these are THE YANKEES: 32nd in attendance, no fan interest, and the 22nd ranked team budget. They actually did go out and spend this off-season, as six lineup regulars are new to the team this season. That's brought them at least to 10th in runs, and 5th in average, so runners are getting on base. They also brought in a few new pitchers, but that--so far, at least--has failed: 18th in runs against, with the worst bullpen and next-to-last rotation ERAs. Team defense is league worst, too. Three of their top six prospects, all pitchers, are on the big league club already, and actually not performing too badly. Someone needs to come in here, clean house, and bring this club back to prominence. It won't be me, but someone...

HAW pitcher: Rob Hart (8-4, 3.70)
NYY pitcher: Brian Whitney (7-3, 5.08)

#82: WIN 5-1 ... another CG for RHart, including 14 K...HR (19) and 3 RBI for Stoneback, and a solo shot for backup C Burgueno

First game of the series, with two more to start of July.... We finish the month at 53-29, after a crazy 24-4 June. Six game lead on Seattle now.... All six of our minor league teams are now active, and all six are over .500. Okay, so the two rookie ball teams--Athens and Boone--are only 1-0, but it still counts.

......

TL;DR Version: You may get a bigger kick out of reading about a team's struggles and how a GM navigates them. But from my end, I'll take a 24-win month. Obviously a 24-4 record PROBABLY isn't sustainable for the rest of the season, but wouldn't that be fun... Seattle going 12-16 this month obviously helped, too, as we're now 6 games ahead of them. And 11.5 up on the A's.

Now that we're at the halfway mark of the season, here are some notable league leaders: NYY Tony Flores has 29 HR, with LAA Jason Eastep just behind at 27; LAA Juan Rodriquez has earned 5.0 WAR; CLE Zach Gioeli and CIN Juan Valdez have 11 wins, and four other pitchers have 10; HAW Rob Hart has 167 strikeouts; SD Gary Florence has earned 5.3 pitching WAR, 2.3 in June alone (and a 48-to-2 K-to-BB ratio); Philly has won 55 games, HAW has 53.
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Old 02-21-2019, 08:27 PM   #195
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July! The heart and the heat of the season, now that we're just past the halfway mark. The month brings 24 games--and only nine at home--what with the All-Star break and three other off days. We don't see any divisional rivals until late in the month, after a stretch of series against East and Central teams. And in other news...

...International Free Agents are here, and as we spent nearly $8M last year, we can't spend more than 500K on any one player this time around. So that's a bit limiting, as only two players are asking for bonuses under that number. So we offer Panamanian OF Francisco Salcedo his ask, and hope to sign at least someone. Salcedo rates as a below average hitter, and a slow but capable fielder. High intangibles are a bonus, so maybe he can pan out. If we sign him that is. Otherwise, there are some crazy numbers going around: catcher Mike Elizondo, an okay-looking hitter right now, wants $11M. Right. Given unlimited resources, there are only a couple players who look like gambles right now, so I don't feel we're missing anything due to our money constraints.

...Aaaand we are unable to sign our first round draft pick, Josh Frederick. He wants a $2.2M bonus, and owner Pagan has put the kibosh on offering anyone more than slot this year. I'm...annoyed to say the least. I purposefully went high on him and low on other picks, so we could make a run at his admittedly high bonus demand. We'll get a supplemental pick, so that's something, but I'm going to read Pagan the riot act...because that will definitely matter in this case.

......

July 2-3 vs NY YANKEES
Final two games of the series, finishing off from last month. We won the first yesterday.

HAW pitchers: Ryan Ratliff (4-1, 3.94) / Eric Jones (6-4, 5.36)
NYY pitchers: Tim Pinksen (4-6, 6.90) / Phil Avery (4-8, 4.30)

#83: LOSS 1-10 ... oof...no big innings, as the Yanks score in seven different frames...20 hits too...Stoneback pops his 20th HR, to no avail
#84: WIN 12-9 ... Klump's 3-run shot in the 1st and Masuda GRAND SLAM in an eight-run 8th are the winners tonight...bad start for Jones

Some real quality pitching there, guys.... Hitting is still tops, with four regulars above .300 and two more over .290. Home runs are down (10th in the league), but we're getting on and scoring those guys.... Still amused that middle reliever Pat Stanley is still on pace to win 19 games this year.... ELSEWHERE: Tony Flores (NYY) is the first to 30 HR.... Richmond has lost 5 straight, meaning that now there's one team in the NL East with a losing record.


July 4-6 vs TAMPA BAY
After treading water through May, a 19-10 month of June has put the Rays to 46-36 and a couple games behind the Red Sox in the East. Sixth in runs for, and 3rd in runs against, so they're getting it done at both ends. RF Vance Wise is having a helluva season so far: .363/25/67, and 2nd in the AL batting race. Two other regulars have topped 20 HR, and 1B Chris Goldthwait just had a 23-game hit streak snapped. Third year manager Tony Bajoczky has yet to have a losing season at the helm.

HAW pitchers: Taylor Barnett (1-1, 4.15) / Mike Messinger (8-3, 3.38) / Rob Hart (9-4, 3.50)
TBR pitchers: Tony Zuniga (4-5, 4.86) / Gabe Ray (8-4, 4.23) / Bill Casas (5-7, 3.75)

#85: LOSS 4-12 ... take out the 5th inning, and we win this one 4-2...we're only outhit 11-9, but throw in 9 walks and a couple of errors, and yeah
#86: WIN 6-2 ... 3 H and 2 RBI for Klump, and a 2-run HR from Stoneback...6 IP and 5 BB for Mess, but it's good enough...Klein hurt, diagnosis pending
#87: WIN 4-2 ... 3 more hits for Klump, and Cannon's 3rd-inning HR gives us a lead we don't relinquish...8 IP for RHart, 13 K, 10th win of the season

So after thinking (ok, hoping) that our rotation was set, we're getting seriously supbar stuff now from the 3-5 spots, now that Ratliff has lost his way of late. Jones is still up and down, and Barnett is showing that his magic from last season may have run out.... Jim Klein is out for three weeks with a hamstring strain. Glenn Heath (.333 in AAA) is back up, hoping to improve on his .167 effort from April. Nate Flygare, not as capable a hitter as Heath but a much better fielder, gets the first crack at Klein's CF role. He'll also bat second for now, as he's batting .282 with a decent OBP. Get on base, score runs, Nate. That's all.... ELSEWHERE: Philly's lost four straight, meaning they're stuck at 56 wins, tied with Hawaii. Detroit, Cincy, and the Dodgers have also reached 50 wins. The White Sox are still toiling away at 26 wins, the only team under 31 wins.... And from the No Surprise At All Dept., Yankees clumsy oaf Daizo Yonimine is injured yet again, only this time for the season, with a broken kneecap.... Pedro Cabrera has made 41 starts for the Rangers over the last two seasons, with these results: 7-29, 8.33 ERA, 246 IP, 332 H, 84 HR, -1.2 WAR. Holy crap.


July 7-9 @ BALTIMORE
Still waiting for a breakout this year, at 43-42 and five games out of the division lead. Seventh in runs scored, and 2nd in average, and five hitters in double figures in HR. OF Cesar Alvarenga is having his usual terrific year, at .336/22/73, and catcher Arturo Sena has 20 HR. Pitching, however, has been a struggle: 13th in runs against, with the worst rotation ERA in the AL, at 5.30. Lefty Jeremy Stines has been pretty good (stats below), but the other regulars have ERA from 5 to nearly 9. So, not good. Manager Nestor Corredor is in his 10th year, and somehow keeps going despite never really doing anything year-in, year-out.

HAW pitchers: Ryan Ratliff (4-2, 4.75) / Eric Jones (6-4, 5.79) / Taylor Barnett (1-2, 6.07)
BAL pitchers: Jeremy Stines (8-4, 3.78) / Roman Berndt (5-6, 6.17) / Hugo Tirado (2-4, 8.93)

#88: LOSS 1-5 ... 2 HR for Alvarenga, which is all they needed...Ratliff continues to struggle, 4 ER in 6 IP
#89: LOSS 6-7 ... Jones is, yes, trash again: 12 H over 4 IP, gives up all the runs too...3 hits, with a double and a HR, for Stoneback
#90: WIN 10-5 ... Masuda carries this one, with 2 HR and 8 RBI...3 more hits for Stoneback, but Groff goes 0-for-Baltimore

At least we didn't get swept. As I said, the bottom of the rotation is a mess right now, and something's gonna have to give.... We head into the All-Star break 57-33, 8 games up on Seattle.... All-Star lineups are announced, and two Islanders make the list: Adam Groff is the starting 3B (his 8th appearance), and SP Rob Hart (1st timer!) will get a sacrificial inning along the way.... Well it took just two sentences for me to decide on some pitching changes. After his start, Ratliff went down to AAA so that Brad Hake, finishing his rehab, could come up for a couple of games without needing to hit waivers. After the series, I sent Hake and Taylor Barnett back down, and called up Ratliff and Pete Morrow. Morrow had a tragic 5.50 ERA early in the season for us, but was rolling along at 4-2 for Santa Barbara.... ELSEWHERE: At the Break, Angels SS Juan Rodriquez leads all batters with a .368 average, with Tampa's Vance Wise just behind at .366. Richmond's Faustino Whitton leads the NL at .345. Yanks big gun Tony Flores leads everyone with 31 HR, while the Dodgers Bill Duce paces the NL with 26, and with a 4.3 WAR. Cincy's Juan "Grinder" Valdez leads with 12 wins, and Seattle's Miguel Moreno is juuuust holding on to the sterling sub-2-ERA mark, at 1.99.... Baltimore, Tampa, and Detroit lead the AL with 3 All-Star nods apiece. Philadelphia gets 4 NL spots, while Cincy and Arizona nab three each.

2045 All-Star Game: The AL takes this year's tilt, hosted by the Tigers at Comerica Park. A 5-run 4th inning, with HR by Boston's Lance Powell and Baltimore's Cesar Alvarenga, makes the difference in the 6-5 final. Rob Hart pitched the 3rd inning, and while he fanned two batters, he also gave up a solo HR to Philly OF Dan Larson. Adam Groff went six innings at third, going 1-for-3 with a solo HR of his own.


July 14-16 @ CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Sox fans have to hope the bottom is coming along soon, because they're experiencing another futile year on the south side. After a few years of improvement, things took a step back in '43 and have continued to regress, and hard, ever since. Currently they're 28-59, and in comfortable possession of next year's #1 overall pick. Hitting is league worst across the board (AVG, OBP, HR, runs, etc), while pitching is 12th in runs. To add to the general sense of gloom, they went and spent serious dough on 35-year-old catcher Ken Carter--who was the unchallenged hero of Korean baseball, but is still 35--while already paying their long-time regular catcher, Dan Starr, $37M per season. Starr, who hit 43 HR last year, now sits on the bench while they peddle out a replacement batting .221 and a DH hitting .223. Also, SP Roy McCabe is competing hard for a "Why is He still Here?" award, with a 1-11 record. One good note: the 5th ranked prospect pool, including three guys in the top 30.

HAW pitchers: Mike Messinger (9-3, 3.36) / Rob Hart (10-4, 3.43) / Ryan Ratliff (4-3, 4.88)
CHW pitchers: Joe Ingram (2-8, 5.36) / Chris Wead (1-2, 4.63) / Rodolfo Romo (6-5, 3.71)

#91: LOSS 6-7 ... 4 hits and 4 RBI for Cannon, but some cranky pitching and an injury to Messinger ruins my day...ugh
#92: LOSS 1-3 ... seriously now...RHart gives up just three hits, including a 2-run 1st inning blast from Dan Starr...wtf guys
#93: LOSS 2-3 ... sure

If this were hockey I'd bag skate the lot. A sweep? To THESE GUYS? You're all fired.... RP Ben Willard comes off the DL, so we return Nick Kramer to AAA to make room for him. Kramer was pretty good in his 9 IP, so he'll be back, especially if Hisami Masuda continues to stink.... ELSEWHERE: Totally unnoticed by me, the Dodgers (booooo) have put together a 29-10 run since June 1, to open up an 11-game lead over the Padres. Looks like having a $40M bullpen can help, huh.... Cincy's Juan Valdez leads the majors with 13 wins, giving him 123 career wins in nine years, usually with mediocre or run-of-the-mill clubs. He's earned 38.9 career WAR, with few accolades, fans 200+ every year, and never gets hurt. The Reds are paying him $26.8M, but he's been worth it.

......

TL;DR Version: Well that's a garbage way to wrap up what had been a pretty good stretch for us. What was a fantastic June has given way to a 4-7 start in July. Hitting has gone cold, and pitching has been even worse. We're a week-plus away from getting CF Jim Klein back from the DL, which will help: he's a sparkplug guy, even though his hitting doesn't look great on paper (.287, just 3 HR), he gets on base and is great in the field. Not sure yet what I'm going to do about some pitching help. We've got some potentially tradeable assets on the farm, but with an owner not willing to spend the big bucks--his mid-season review reamed me out for not making him any money over the first half--I can't go out and add a big money starter from a crap team. Ergh.
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