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Contender or Pretender? Judging Boarderline Teams


Washougal Wrecking Crew (2-1, 3rd in AC)

1. vs Bambinos: Loss 7-8

2. vs Rapids: Win 9-0

3. vs Lynx: Win 6-4 (6 innings)

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4. vs Express: TBD

5. vs Mafia: TBD

6. vs Fog: TBD

If Washougal was in the National Conference instead of the American this would not be a discussion. The answer would be yes, they are a title contender. But because the Wrecking Crew will have to get through both the Express and the Bambinos we have no choice but to consider them as a "cusp" team. Since expanding into the league in JAL 13 the team has done nothing but trend upward and improve. This season seems to be the same. Dual ace pitcher Sean Guthrie has more control of his fastball than before, and the other 3 role players have remained solid. New to the bunch is rookie Scott Coleman, as we all know. His pitching not only gives this team depth defensively, but is a totally different style from Guthrie, as Coleman throws heavy junk. Not only does the Crew have depth, they have variety. Offensively someone has to step up. Aaron Deister is top 10-15 batter, but with a 5-person lineup that's nowhere near enough. Washougal needs another bat that can produce "instant scoring," i.e. a home run hitter. In the franchise's 3 seasons they've been efficient batters that get on base with walks, and singles/doubles. Statistically that's great, but it has never - and will continue not to - get it done vs the Express and Bambinos. Right now, there's just no evidence there's a legit 2nd batting threat on the roster that will emerge in time.

VERDICT: PRETENDER

West Coast Waves (1-2, 3rd in NC)

1. vs Cobras: Loss 2-12 (2 innings)

2. vs Express: Loss 8-24

3. vs underdogs: Win 10-0 (1 inning)

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4. vs Bison

5. vs Storm

6. vs Rapids

The first half of the season for the Waves was.... interesting, without their two best players Adam Clark and Mason Klingberg. But, the Waves took care of business winning 1 game, which sounds weird because normally that would be horrible. The reality is that all the preseason hype about them as an outside favorite to win the NC is gone... For the regular season at least. That though, doesn't matter to them, and frankly shouldn't to anyone. In the end, the only thing that really matters is how far you go. If the Waves can just hang on and make the playoffs they're not somebody you want to play. What's bad news for the Waves right now is that in the preseason there was a lot of clamor about their "great depth" at pitcher behind Clark that will "serve them well in the postseason." Honestly though, that hasn't panned out with Nusbaum's and Lane Traver's struggles to throw effectively in their first 3 games and Keith Bunn (another relief pitcher they had) getting cut. The best option right now looks like just tossing out Clark every inning and running his arm into the ground. That's a problem. Overall, the batting on this team is good and if Clark is in the zone they can beat anyone in the NC. The Waves might be getting taken for granted right now, but they're dangerous and have the talent to get to the Cup this season, despite the slow start.

VERDICT: CONTENDER

Columbia Bison (3-0, 2nd in NC)

1. vs Lynx: Win 13-3 (2 innings)

2. vs Storm: Win 14-11

3. vs Rapids: Win 11-6

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4. vs Waves

5. vs Cobras

6. vs underdogs

There's a reason the Bison are receiving so much attention with their 3-0 start.... Nobody can believe it's true. When you look at their wins though.... When you really look at them.... It's fair to be skeptical. The Lynx are 0-3, the Storm are 0-3, and the Rapids are 1-2, and had backup Jordan Halverson pitching in that game. Nobody's saying the Bison didn't earn those wins, we're just saying how hard were they, really, to be earned? Next up the Bison have the Waves (at full strength) and the Cobras. Those two matchups will tell us everything we need to know. Offensively the Bison can score (which is a first since about JAL 9) and adding Mikel Skreen back to the team a few weeks ago will go a long ways, as he is a quality hitter. Pitching-wise, Erik Titus is definitely the right guy to be building around, but he might still be a season or 2 away from becoming a truly elite player. It will take his A-game for the Bison to beat the best teams, and with no quality relief pitchers on the roster behind him that makes asking him to pitch A-game after A-game a big favor... Especially given that he's only 15 years old. Right now Columbia is exciting, but they're a season away still...

VERDICT: PRETENDER


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