The cold weather is upon us and there will be no escaping it for the remainder of the JAL 15 season. As it stands currently, forecasts are showing temperatures of 34-32 degrees next Friday in Castle Rock, WA. Snowfall may also be a factor during the games at CRMS Field as there is a 70% chance of precipitation when the first pitches of the night are thrown at 7 pm.
In the JAL, we've been through this before... The last time (and only time) JAL games were played in these kind of winter conditions was JAL 11 (27 degrees & snow), in which the Fog won the championship. It was sloppy, it was defensive, and the Bay Area Fog championship outcome is still considered the biggest fluke in JAL history.
Extreme weather does contribute to the outcome of games in this league. There is no question...
Based on what we've seen before when winter weather strikes, here is a look at 4 teams we believe are either built to withstand the elements or could run into serious trouble because of it.
In the cold and snow there's a couple things you've gotta have: Hard fastballs and patient batting. Toutle has both.
When it's 70 degrees and sunny outside the Lynx are a very below average offensive team, but next Friday night don't be surprised if they get on base more than others. Toutle doesn't have the most talented hitters, but they play smart when up to bat. None routinely swing outside the zone looking to crush bombs, which is good because in these conditions balls will be more outside than usual. While other teams may get frustrated because they rely on "big play hits" offensively, Toutle will be fine because they already play "small ball" (get runners on slowly via contact hits/walks).
Defensively, when it's cold (and especially when it's snowing), accuracy gets harder. A great pitch to have in your repertoire is hard fastball that can slice through the air and flakes. Toutle's ace, Matthew Morton has that. In the field, Stephen Todd also won't be afraid to put his body on the turf and stop a single form becoming a double or triple... Something a lot of other fielders will avoid by bending over to try and stop a moving ball, especially if the ground has a layer of snow.
No good pitching is a problem, but in this weather you can get by if you have somebody that at least throws heat. Anaheim has neither. Pitchers Tyler Hudson and Zach Sheldon utilize the "slowball" style and it will not pay off. When it's dark and under the lights, tracking the ball as a hitter is more difficult than normal, so anything lofted in there is going to be absolute gold.
On the other side, offense will slow down in this weather, and that's the Storm's strength. Ironically, the "Storm" are much better off when the weather is nice out.
Yes, we know the Bambinos are a great team, but next Friday night we expect them to be even more so compared to everyone else and here's why...
Pitching is going to take it's toll on players. You can't necessarily get bundled up in layers if you're pitching because it will restrict your arms mobility. By about half way through everyone's 2nd game ace pitchers are going to feel a shiver and that will mess with their throws. But Cowlitz has 2 ace pitchers that can rotate games and stay warm in between.
Washougal Wrecking Crew
We know what you're thinking... The same thing is going to be said for Washougal because they also have 2 ace arms. Curvball! We actually think they'll struggle, and here's why...
The Crew's 2 aces are different than the Bambino's 2. Coleman tosses all junk, which may not bode well for him in the elements. It's hard enough to locate the strike zone in freezing weather, much less hit it with a 6-12 rise ball.
As for their other ace, Sean Guthrie throws a nice fastball, but don't forget that this season he's had to work on toning it down because his accuracy is sporadic. In these conditions, that could become more problematic. Don't be shocked if the Crew put a lot of runners on base via unforced errors in the form of walks with these 2.