Report Cards: Team by Team Analysis
West Coast Waves
Standing: 2-4, 4th in NC
On paper, the Waves are still within playoff reach of the 3rd place underdogs (who sit 3-2), but in terms of the eye test, most would agree catching the u-dogs would be a miracle feat. In reality, staying even remotely in the hunt down the stretch means the Waves will have overachieved this season considering they were pre-season projected to be the NC's worst team and started the season with an 0-3 record.
The Good: Anthony Nusbaum seems to have transformed himself into - dare we say - a solid pitcher for the time being and rookie AJ Moore is putting up good batting numbers (particularly instant offense stats such as HR's and RBI's). As long as those two keep growing, the Waves should be able to put together a formidable playoff-level team next season if the Storm's draft pick this offseason (that the waves own and is projected to be the #1 pick) pans out into something special.
The Bad: The excitement mentioned above about Nusbaum and Moore is based off of one day's worth of work (the Aug. 25th gameday). It's yet to be seen if either can sustain that level of play. Also, outside of those two guys the Waves run into player reliability issues with the rest of their roster.
Standing: 3-2, 3rd in AC
The Express are in position to get back to the playoffs after missing out for the first time ever last season, but don't expect their standing to change much. So far this season they've taken care of business against the teams they should (Cobras, Storm, Wrecking crew), but haven't beaten a "good" team yet (lost to Bambinos and Bison).
The Good: Somehow this team has transformed itself into being more dangerous offensively than the juggernaut defensive team we've all grown accustomed to since JAL 12. Josh Burckhardt is having an MVP caliber season with the stick and Kyle Godinho is only trailing his RBI total by 4 runs (43, 39).
The Bad: At some point Kyle Godinho is going to need to knuckle down and pitch lights out again for them to realistically have a chance at winning the title. For most of last season and so far this season Godinho has been noticeably holding back to avoid arm strain. Aside from beating the Rapids in 18 pitches last season, he hasn't blown us away on a consistent game-to-game basis since JAL 16. He'll be forced to throw at a full 100% effort for multiple games in the playoffs, but wether or not his arm is conditioned for that when the time comes is debatable at this point.
Standing: 3-2, 2nd in AC
The Bambinos still get a crack at the Sasquatches (4-0) who they trail for the American Conf. 1 seed, so a first round playoff bye is still within reach -- and even though this squad is oozing with talent, their grueling additional remaining schedule of underdogs and Lynx yields us from saying the B's will "for sure" make the postseason.
The Good: This team has never been more stacked offensively, and that includes their JAL 13 title team and JAL 15 undefeated regular season group. Colton Titus also looked dominate in their most recent game, even though it was a 0-2 loss to the Rapids.
The Bad: They've yet to all click at the same time. Every time the offense has produced at least 9 runs, the defense has also allowed at least 9 runs. When Colton Titus finally had a dominate no-hit, 2-run game (vs CR) they still managed to lose 0-2.
Longview Wrecking Crew
Standing: 1-4, 6th in AC
The Crew more resemble a team with a 2-3 record than their 1-4 mark, but they will have a chance to make it up with games against bottom half teams Lawmen, Cobras and Storm. They're too far back to realistically make the playoffs, but will likely finish better than their 1-7 pre-season projection.
The Good: Everyone on the team is batting as good or better than expected and Marcus Deyo, although he struggled at times, has proved himself to be someone that, with experience, can be a good P1. This team seems to have put as good of pieces in the right places as it could have during the offseason.
The Bad: Although seemingly on the rise, the Wrecking Crew could run into a standstill if Deyo doesn't get become an all-star level pitcher. Why? Well the defense would effectively remain mediocre at best and the veteran play making bats of Halverson, Fish and Deyo have all probably hit the peaks of their careers. A lot rides on the development of Deyo's arm for this team's future.
Standing: 5-1, 2nd in NC
The Bison will have a shot to take 1st place and earn themselves a bye to the NC Finals when they take on the Rapids (5-0) during the final gameday of the season in November.
The Good: The Bison have already far exceeded expectations and can thus continue to playing with house money and a chip on their shoulder as we've been seeing. Every player is doing their part to produce efficient numbers and a spark of flash on both sides of the ball.
The Bad: Their 2-way star, Eric Dorland, is still a rookie after all. Time and time again in this league we've seen even the best rookies look like such at one point or another (such as Trevor Goforth down the stretch of last season). He hasn't had a "sub-par" game yet and odds are he eventually will before JAL 18 is over.
Standing: 0-5. 6th in NC
Along with 5 other TBD teams, the Storm's JAL 18 season will end prior to the postseason. Perhaps at this point you'd consider maybe they'd purposely tank to ensure the #1 pick, but unfortunately they don't even possess their own golden draft pick for this offseason (Waves have it).
The Good: Eric Williamson isn't a player to build around, but his quality batting and fielding are very nice role pieces already on the shelf to help a star player should this team ever get one. Rivera earned himself the P1 job after the Storm's last gameday and the upgrade from Bunn will at least keep the Storm more competitive in their final 3 games. Eric Keele is still out there, somewhere, too...
The Bad: The Storm appear stubborn about the future of this roster (no trade talks, no mid-season signings) and hell-bent on Eric Keele eventually being their star player. Management really needs to wake up, smell the 0-5 record, look at the stat lines, look at how many games Keele has ever played in (zero), look at the fact that they don't even have a draft pick this offseason and start getting aggressive in the free agent/trade market. The state of this franchise is ugly.
San Francisco Cobras
Standing: 1-4, 5th in NC
Though the Cobras have winnable games remaining (Wrecking Crew, Storm, Lawmen), a 3-0 finish likely still wouldn't be enough to make the playoffs. At this point, the team will focus all it's attention on Erik Titus' pitching development down the stretch of the season and essentially try to get him groomed up and ready to have a big JAL 19 campaign.
The Good: The offense is by no means an "amazing" lineup, but it's good enough to get the job -- even go deep -- behind a top tier pitcher (like it did with Connor Vermilyea for several seasons). At pitcher, Erik Titus can go stride for stride with anyone when he's in a rhythm and given that he's not yet even graduated high school, his upside is very high. Most of all, this is a decorated franchise that expects to win, can draw players to it and historically doesn't stay bad for very long.
The Bad: The Cobras have never been this bad and aren't set up in this offseason's draft to likely pick as high as they should be (have Lawmen's pick and don't have their own). As a result, this team's future (at least into next season) continues to ride on wether or not Erik Titus can become consistently good and grow out of the "2 runs allowed one game, 20 the next" pitcher he's been.
Castle Rock Rapids
Standing: 5-0, 1st in NC
As well as the Rapids have played, there's still work to do. They've yet to face the Bison or the underdogs and still must play the Lynx as well.
The Good: The Rapids have arguably the game's best fielder, pitcher and collective batting lineup. They literally have everything and then some. Consider that Troy Flanagan, Dereck Anderson and Jeter Larson haven't all three even been on the field together yet this season.. In fact, Flanagan and Larson, the two pillars of this era for the franchise, haven't played together yet this season! Oh and by the way, Ty Johnson, who may we remind you hit the game winning HR in route to the Rapids JAL 16 title and was the team's best batter in the playoffs last season, hasn't even suited up for a single game yet this season... This team is just, ...Wow! We suspect there's a chance that on December 22 this group may be anointed as the best team in JAL history.
The Bad: The NC has never been this tough at the top. Even if the Rapids are as good as we think, getting past the underdogs, Bison, or potentially both if they don't get the 1 seed (bye) is going to be a battle.
Standing: 1-2, 4th in AC
Lawmen have played fewer games than anyone to this point and thus still have plenty of opportunity to make a postseason surge.
The Good: Moving Shea Thomas out of the pitching circle in favor of Daniel Furman is the right move for now. Thomas' command has been off this season and it'll be good to get all his energy focused on batting, considering he's one of their best hitters and that the team has struggled to produce sufficient scoring. Furman has five full games to grow and is a spark this team could use as they're behind in the playoff race.
The Bad: Furman may be able to take the Lawmen to greener pastures than Thomas, but it likely won't happen over night. Even if it does, the team is batting a lousy .151. Who manages to win at that clip?
Standing: 1-3, 5th in AC
Plagued by the absence of Matthew Morton for 2 early games, the Lynx rebounded with a win and a loss in his return and will defend their title to the death down the stretch, even though a return trip to the playoffs looks doubtful.
The Good: Morton gives the Lynx a chance to win every game. He rarely gets blown out when pitching and Ethan Perdue gives him quality support offensively. Connor Quintano impressed analysts in his rookie debut last gameday and will be another complimentary addition to the way this team is built around Morton.
The Bad: For whatever reason, the roles players on the Lynx perform so much better when Morton is on the field, but unfortunately it may be too late. Even if the Lynx were to win out, a 5-3 record may not be good enough to secure a bottom playoff seed.
Green Mountain Sasquatches
Standing: 4-0, 1st in AC
From worst to first? It seems like the S-quatch have a real good chance of doing so in season three of this franchise overhaul project.
The Good: Ethan Erickson and Scott Coleman are playing as good as they ever have and are doing so in unison. With the way Erickson gets on base (.690 OBP) and Coleman is driving runs home (.709 SLG) offensively, to the way Coleman is pitching lights out (3.68 ERA) and has the defending Fielding Crown winner, Erickson, backing him up, it's beautiful to watch. They may be the best duo-tandem in the game right now.
The Bad: As has always been the case with Coleman, stamina is an area of concern. The Sasquatches need the AC 1 seed badly because the probability of Coleman working through 3 playoff games on the same day and pitching well enough by the third game to win are slim. Coleman has also never hit the ball this well in his career, so the S-quatches offensive production thus far may not sustain itself. Lastly, the S-quatch lack depth at every position and consequently have little margin for error when it comes to Erickson and Coleman needing to keep playing at a high level.
Ubbelohde Hill underdogs
Standing: 3-2, 3rd in NC
So long as they don't implode, the u-dogs should make the playoffs. As it pertains to seeding, getting the 1 seed would be a stretch, so look for the team to be back in the NC Semifinals again this season.
The Good: Trevor Goforth can throw with the best of them and doesn't wear out easy despite being pretty much an exclusive fastball pitcher. Brock Johnson's leadership keeps the machine clicking and most of all this team's motivation to be great is through the roof because of, yeah, "the curse." Connor Vermilyea provided great pitching insurance early on to keep the team from having a disastrous start, and should be able to get the bat going soon enough.
The Bad: With the curse comes extra inspiration, but also media attention and it has turned the underdogs into a very glitz and glamorized franchise since getting good again over the last couple seasons. There's a lot of pressure on these guys and trust us, they can feel it. Connor Vermilyea is struggling to hit the ball at an efficient margin so far, and so offense continues to be a problem for the time being.