Friday, February 27, 2009

American League Power Rankings

This first entry is a little longer than what you can expect from here on out, since there is a lot to catch up on. To build a little suspense, we'll begin each Ranking with the worst and work our way up to first. Tradition be damned.

16. Hartford Ascension
Record: 29-57 (.337)
Expected Winning %: .320

The Good: The Big League club hasn't given Hartford fans reason to celebrate, but 20 year-old Dominican slugger Cristobal Jacquez continues to terrorize minor league pitching. With 40 HR, 96 RBI, and a robust 1.185 OPS through 73 AAA games, might the S9 International Free Agent earn a second- half cup of coffee? To this point, he's been rushed through the minors, but for good cause- he could be an impact bat in the majors right now. Also, this team sure can hustle. Its ratio of 161 SB to only 21 CS is by far the best in Ryan.

The Bad: Where to begin? The negatives are countless, but these two are most "impressive": 1) The club ranks 2nd-to-last in batting average and home runs, despite playing half its games in a bandbox. 2) A comparison of actual and expected winning percentages reveals that Hartford may actually be slightly lucky to have won 29 games.

The Outlook: Surprisingly, a run at the division title is not completely out of the question. A weak AL East leaves this club only 12 games out with half a season to go and 20 games remaining against division rivals.

15. Houston Colt .45s
Record: 31-55 (.360)
Expected Winning %: .369

The Good: This team can knock the ball around. Led by all-world shortstop Albert Frazier, the Colt .45s are fourth in AL team batting. And like the Ascension, this team flies around the basepaths, having swiped 103 bags in 129 attempts. Is this a trend among last- place teams?

The Bad: Clearly, this team's been left for dead, although its owner occasionally checks in. Pitchers are consistently run out on 0(0) fatigue, and the result is a Ryan-worst 7.04 team ERA. Right- handed setup man Calvin O'Donnell has probably been pitching with detached elbow ligaments, as evidenced by his 16.26 ERA, 3.20 WHIP, and .430 OAV in 64 appearances. Worst of all, he is owed $9 million more through season 14. Yikes.

The Verdict: Replace the owner.

14. Washington D.C. Old School Warriors
Record: 32-54 (.372)
Expected Winning %: .344

The Good: Kudos to Warriors owner mjdolloff for making a difficult call: cutting ties with The Dude. This could not have been easy due to Reed's sex appeal among women 18-34 in the metro- D.C. market and his stature as a Ryan legend. But it says here D.C. made the correct decision in dealing Reed before he substantially declined in ratings. Reed will contribute mightily to the Burros, but the Warriors simply did not have the other pieces to contend during his useful life. His $13.3 million come off the books for seasons 12 and 13, and this franchise can focus on rebuilding.

The Bad: The Warriors' pitching staff sports the worst road ERA, WHIP, and OAV in Ryan. They've also unleashed the most wild pitches in the American League. Particularly putrid is Chad Goldman, the 26-year old lefty whose knuckle-curve doesn't knuckle. In 17 starts, Goldman's struggled to a 4-8 record, 7.00 ERA, 1.96 WHIP, and .317 OAV.

The Ugly: Darrell Williamson. Man that guy's fugly.

13. San Francisco HitchHikers
Record: 36-50 (.419)
Expected Winning %: .402

The Good: In 144 at- bats this season, HitchHikers RF Pedro Rodriguez has finally proven himself to be a passable major league hitter. This must offer some consolation to HitchHikers owmership, who signed Rodriguez to a 5- year, $26 million contract prior to last season, only to watch him struggle to the tune of .195/4 HR/17 RBI in 200 major league at- bats.

The Bad: Location, location, location. HitchHikers pitchers have walked a Ryan- worst 411 batters this season. Rule 5 draftee Orber Park is the most egregious offender, having issued 61 free passes in 69+ innings. There is also a severe power outage in San Fran. The HitchHikers' 83 HR is by far the lowest total in the AL.

The Lesson: It's obvious HitchHikers owner rydart25 is learning patience and how to evaluate HBD talent. After pulling the trigger on 20 trades last season (his first), he has participated in just two S11 trades.

12. Las Vegas Gamble
Record: 39-47 (.453)
Expected Winning %: .424

The Good: Vegas is home to two of the AL's most proficient base stealers in Hugh Prokopec (50 SBs) and Del Prieto (44).

The Bad: That extra base means nothing if there's no one to drive 'em home. The Gamble are hitting an AL-worst .255.

The Payroll:
No surprise here that a team from Vegas loves to spend- management earmarked $94 million for player payroll, and have already committed $67 million in S12 salaries. In the land of $3 buffets, the fans will surely demand more bang for their buck.

11. Loui
sville Loud Mouths
Record: 37-49 (.430)
Expected Winning %: .438

The Good: Freddie Reynolds is on his way to an astounding eighth consecutive season of 50+ home runs, averaging one every 10.11 ABs for his career. Not only is he Ryan's all- time Home Run King at 582, but this 29 year- old with a with a 99 makeup rating could conceivably crack 1,000. A quick search of the forums didn't turn up anything on all-time interworld leaders, but one would think Reynolds could end up near the top of that list.

The Bad: 37 year- old pitcher Mark Swift, Lousville's prize free- agent acquisition, hasn't exactly set the world on fire: 3-9/6.29 ERA/1.61 WHIP in 17 starts. The $6 million lefty has shed 4 ratings points off his bread-and-butter forkball since S10 spring training, but he remains under contract through next season. A move to the bullpen might be imminent, or things could get ugly.

The Record: Although the Loud Mouths' record is slightly worse than Vegas', this team deserves a higher ranking due to its higher expected winning percentage and a 5-2 head-to-head advantage vs. the Gamble. Also, no team ever enjoys playing against a lineup that features an impact hitter like Reynolds.

10. Charlotte Winstons
Record: 37-49 (.430)
Expected Winning %: .506

The Good: A significant disparity between its actual and expected winning percentages probably means the Winstons are due for a positive correction in the second half. This team is loaded with hitters than can hit the long ball- nine guys have 10 or more homers.

The Bad: These hitters aren't a versatile bunch. The Winstons' m.o. is play for the 3-run homer. They rank near the bottom of the AL in team batting and OBP, and lead the league in whiffs. This is not a exactly a winning approach, as playoff contenders generally have the arms to combat the long ball. If Charlotte is serious about contending in future seasons, they should get some players who can manufacture.

The Injury: Losing star Closer Paul Bell to season- ending Tommy John surgery may have sealed this club's fate early on, but now the primary concern should be getting him back to full health. The injury cost Bell 2 ratings points in stamina, 6 in control, 6 vL/5 vR, 11 in velocity, 6 in his fastball and 7 in his curve. Time to jack up the training and injury budgets.

9. Fargo Fevola's
Record: 38-48 (.442)
Expected Winning %: .443

The Good: In only his second HBD season, Fargo owner themagicman1 has made a respectable showing in arguably Ryan's toughest division. 25 year- old flamethrower Wade Hammonds has been a revelation since his acquisition from division rival New York, saving four games while sporting a 2.15 ERA/1.05 WHIP/.207 OAV.

The Bad: Fargo probably overestimated DH Max Ibarra's value in free-agency, when it signed the part- time slugger to a 3- year, $6.3 million contract this offseason. At this point in his career, a 51 DUR rating ensures Ibarra is nothing more than a glorified pinch hitter, despite his impressive eye and splits.

The Future: Questionable first round pick SP Felipe Melendez has struggled early in his pro career. It looks like control might always be a problem for this young righty.

8. Burlington Ice Storm
Record: 40-46 (.465)
Expected Winning %: .503

The Good: Despite a sub-.500 record, Burlington sits only two games back of AL East leader Durham. And things are looking up: the Ice Storm's expected winning percentage indicates this team is due for a second- half surge. After a recovery from shoulder tendinitis and a move to an extreme pitcher's park, 33 year- old Ace Lucas Neagle is enjoying a career year.

The Bad: Q: What's the easiest way to score runs in the cavernous Mustain Stadium? A: Hit a weak ground ball to the left side of the infield. The Ice Storm have committed a Ryan- worst 82 errors this season; SS Steven Jenner and 3B Rolando Johnson have combined for 48 miscues. Jenner's limited range probably makes him better suited for the hot corner, while Johnson should probably move out to right. In Burlington, runs are at a premium, so defense should be a top priority.

The Need for Speed: Burlington's early season goal of acquiring a speedster has gone unfulfilled, and the team has resigned itself to playing station-to-station baseball. Its 14 stolen bases are by far the lowest total in Ryan.

7. Durham Bulls
Record: 42-44 (.488)
Expected Winning %: .498

The Good: The Bulls are the antithesis of division rival Burlington. In an extreme hitters' park, Durham is built for the long ball. Burlington can keep their sloppy fielders; Durham leads the AL in fielding and double plays. Rose to Blanco to Hume: the New Tinker to Evers to Chance?

The Bad: The reason Durham has turned so many double plays is because there's an endless slew of baserunners. Bulls pitchers have issued 366 free passes, more than any other first- place team in Ryan.

The Legacy: Crash Davis and the gang would be proud of this bunch- a collection of gritty vets who may punch a ticket to the playoffs despite a losing record. It ain't pretty, but it's Hollywood.

6. Toledo Holy
Record: 49-37 (.570)
Expected Winning %: .586

The Good: This team has taken a giant step forward since last season, when it finished 69-93 and 43 games out of first. Still, Holy management appears to have conceded it's still a few years away from truly competing with division rivals Madison and New York. Why else would the roster be in a perpetual state of flux? Toledo is constantly searching for young, almost-ready talent, and though its approach has cost them a few W's, it bodes well for the future- they currently boast one of the most stacked farm systems in Ryan.

The Bad: Toledo's young hitters can afford to be a little more patient at the dish: the team is currently last in the AL in Walks and Pitches Per Plate Appearance.

The Genesis: It's a little known fact this team was given its name by a dyslexic sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain- Dealer newspaper.


5. Oklahoma City Chickens
Record: 51-35 (.593)
Expected Winning %: .602

The Good: The Chickens are one of the hottest teams in Ryan right now. After a 23-22 start, the Defending Champs have managed a 28-13 rally, including 13 wins in its last 16 games. This team once again leads the league in bombs by a comfortable margin.

The Bad: This isn't a well- rounded offensive team. They can slug, but their .272 BA/.339 OBP are actually below the league average. Compare this to last season's championship squad, which hit .295/.368, and it's apparent Oklahoma City misses Don Perry and Dennis Gilbert more than anticipated. Most of the team's recent success is attributable to its soft schedule: the past 16 games have included series against Hartford, Vegas, Fargo, and Durham.

The Burning Question: Can OKC repeat? To do so, they'll need to win more consistently against the AL's elite. They are a combined 9-10 vs. teams that occupy the next four spots. An upcoming tilt with Gilbert and the McCoys will go a long way toward determining how much this team has lost from last season.

4. Kansas City McCoys
Record: 57-29 (.663)
Expected Winning %: .623

The Good: The real McCoys come to play in the clutch. Kansas City is 10-6 in one-run games, and 4-1 in extra innings. Early this season in hostile territory, KC took two of three from Wichita. Kansas City is also home to two of the league's top three leaders in batting average: David Seanez and Eric Ford. George Harding (.372) would lead the league if he qualified.

The Bad: The McCoys' expected winning percentage indicates that they might be playing a little over their heads right now, but the good news is there's no legitimate threat for that final wildcard spot. LF Al Astacio has inexplicably mediocre numbers this season, despite a solid career and outstanding ratings. He'd better pick it up soon, or else he and his reasonable contract might become bait for pitching help at the deadline.

The 'Stache: The Count of Monte Cristi is chasing a historical triple crown, and it's too bad he doesn't have a more appreciative owner. You never hear about the guy. He currently leads the league in HR and RBI, and stands .015 points behind AVG leader Dennis Heiserman, who barely meets the minimum AB requirement. If Heiserman fails to qualify, would raucous consider purposefully depressing Ford's average so that Seanez could take the crown? Stay tuned.

3. New York Bombers
Record: 58-28 (.674)
Expected Winning %: .671

The Good: This is a very balanced club that can do a number of things well. Versatility is paramount in the playoffs, and New York has it in spades. With the addition of Carlos Feliz, the Bombers can now slug it out in smaller parks, if need be. But that doesn't mean they've abandoned their tried-and-true pitching, defense, and moneyball approach. This team is 2nd in the league in pitching and defense, and it still gets to first base more often than a high school quarterback.

The Bad: It's unclear whether the Bombers can beat Madison. The division rivals met early this season, and Madison summarily swept the boys from the Bronx. This may have precipitated the Feliz trade, but since they haven't met since, it's unclear what impact the acquisition will have. The two teams will meet again in a four- game home and home after the All Star break.

The Hall of Famers:
36 year-old SP Philip Baxter moved across town after an injury-riddled S10 to dispel notions that he's washed up: 10-2/2.49/1.13. 35 year-old 1B/OF Trenidad Beltran can still hit (.306/.406/.438), but is merely a shell of his old self.

2. Madison Massa's
Record: 59-27 (.686)
Expected Winning %: .662

The Good: The Massa's are an offensive dynamo. They are the AL leaders in Runs, Average, OBP, and SLG. They are top- three in HR and Walks. And for good measure, they've swiped 98 bags and only been caught 15 times. They may have the best bullpen in the AL- only 19 of 66 inherited runners have scored (28.8%) and they have converted 30 of 36 save opportunities (83.3%). And this is after they traded Stan Mason.

The Bad: On paper, this team is virtually flawless. But just as Madison owns New York this season, Wichita owns Madison. The two teams met for a three- game series, and Wichita swept away the Massa's.

The 40-40 Threat: For 10 seasons, Madison fans have patiently waited for RF Casey Kaline to break the 40/40 barrier. He's made a legitimate run every season, including a 39 HR/47 SB campaign in S7. This season looks like his best (and maybe last) shot, as he currently stands at 20 HR and 22 SB with half a season to go.

1. Wichita Sizzlers
Record: 62-24 (.721)
Expected Winning %: .731

The Good: Timothy Garcia, Timothy Garcia, Timothy Garcia.

The Bad: Not a whole lot.

The Man: Timothy Garcia.

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