1/4 Post Review:Well, I didn't exactly get the preseason team reviews up, really that was a lot more work than I anticipated, but I thought I'd at least get a first quarter review posted. So, please enjoy!
AL North:1. Fargo - 19-17 .528%, expected .460
A. Playing much better than the expected
B. Fargo is pretty well built on SP. All five SP's should be pretty good by season's end with a couple of them showing as early All-Star contenders. Those are Benji Machado and Trenidad Diaz. The closer is solid, but the rest of the pen is a mess. The defense is strong at some spots, weak in others. Hector Pena is the only position player that warrants All-Star consideration at this time.
C. Overall, Fargo has the SP to keep them in most games, but the offense will struggle to keep up at times. They may have a lot of 5-4 or 4-3 type games so the defense and pen can't let them down late. If they do, look for the rest of the division of take advantage.
2. Toronto - 18-18 .500%, expected .464
A. The Thunderbolts are outpacing their expected win % as well
B. Toronto is built on pitching. The team WHIP is 1.23 and team ERA is 4.03, both very respectable #'s. They currently have 3 SP's who could demand All-Star considerations as well as the big FA signing, Alex Olivares, at closer. Defense is pretty solid as well, currently with a .983 FP and 8 + plays to just 2 - ones. Like Fargo, they'll need to get some help from the offense to make a push.
C. Overall I really like their pitching and defense and I think it's good enough to keep them in the race all season.
3. Cincinnati - 17-19 .472, expected - .488
A. The Consuls are playing pretty close to expected.
B. Their offense is currently the best of the division, averaging 5.53 runs/game. They've scored 40 more runs than anyone else in the division. They're paced by a couple of potential All-Stars in DH Dick Sadler and young SS Charley Litsch, playing in just his 3rd season. So, what's the problem? Well, it does seem to be pitching, as they've allowed 35 more runs than anyone else. Team ERA is 5.42 & only 2 pitchers have ERA's < 4.5. Their defense is fine. Team FP is .988 & they've made 12 + plays thus far. They've also kicked it around for 8 - plays, a team high.
C. Overall, the Consuls are playing a different game than their division mates, who appear to be more built on pitching. Considering they play in a hitter's park, it's pretty good strategy to attempt to bash the rest of the division into submission.
4. Philadelphia - 16-20, .444, expected - .477
A. The Cream Cheese are under performing so far
B. Like most of the division, they appear to be reliant on the team pitching and do not have much offense, but they are 2cd in the division in runs scored. Defense is a calling card, 17+ plays already against 5 - ones. FP is .987, so the Cream Cheese won't give many games away. Team ERA is > 4.5, but I'd expect that come down. SP Patrick Field is a potential All-Star as is Clinton Lilly, if he can get some run support to offset that 1-4 record, despite a 3.21 ERA. There's some good arms in the pen, but right now the closer's a bit of a mess. He needs to get on track if the Cream Cheese hope to make a run. There's a couple of potential All-Stars on the offense - most notably Kevin Gruber and Jimmie Mijares.
C. The Cream Cheese really needs their pitching to come around if they're going to make a run.
Overall - this is anyone's division. Just three games separate top to bottom and any of the four could pull away with it. You've got three teams that kind of mirror each other than you have Cincinnati who tries to out club everyone. Last season saw just a six game difference between the top three teams. I expect the division to play out this way, tight all the way. We'll revisit them at the All-Star break!
Tomorrow, stay tuned for the NL North!