Tuesday, June 21, 2011

NL North Season 16 Preview

NL North
Fargo found themselves back on top of this division once again last season after a year off from the title. 14 out of 15 ain't bad. They also found themselves in a fifth World Series as the NL champs only to come up short against a power house Nashville team. You would think based on that, that Fargo had an easy time of things last season in the North, but not so. Fargo didn't lock up the division until the final series of the season. The team in Trenton, a franchise that has never won the division, made a big push for the top spot in the North. Trenton put together an impressive season and nearly stopped Fargo's post season run before it even got started. Helena had a good season, but still finished third as they couldn't defend the franchise's first division title. It was however just the third time that they finished lower than second in the division. The franchise that was in Cleveland, now Iowa City, continued their run of embarrassment as the only team in Pine Tar history to never make the post season. The old ownership was forced to sell the team in the off season and new ownership has come in with the hopes of getting this team to the top in the future.

Fargo Wood Chippers
Season 15 record- 90-72(NL North Champs, NL Champs)
5 year record- 467-343

Offense- Average-10th(.265), OBP-8th(.331), Slg-8th(.423), Runs-9th(758), HR-7th(212), SB-16th(44)
Defense- Fielding %-9th(.983), Plus Plays-6th(57), Minus Plays-13th(65)
Pitching- ERA-4th(3.87), OAV-7th(.261), SO-2nd(1158), Saves-1st(53/70)

Key Additions-3B Dave Thompson(tr-Ana)
Key Losses-SS Tony Guerrero(tr-Hel), 1B Jamie May(tr-Ott), SP Ron Sweeney(FA)

So Fargo won the NLCS and went on to the World Series and lost to Nashville. They were just 1 step from winning it all. So what do they do to get them over the top? Well, I think they decided to go younger and rebuild. Management claimed that last season they thought they were a playoff contender but didn't think they were a World Series contender. The team was getting older though and needed a rebuild eventually. With all the players moving around from this franchise they are not likely to win the division this season. Management claims that they will rebuild as fast as possible. Last seasons remarkable run looks even more so when seeing how this team finished offensively. They were average at best. They look less than average this season, but they do have plenty of power. They aren't much of a running team, but they do have some speed if they choose to use it. The defense last season was also just average if not below average. They appear to be better than that, but not much better. The pitching was pretty good last season. I think they have a pretty good staff still. They have a few very good starters in Ontiveros, Sweeney, and Hayashi. The bullpen is still good as well. If this team can win games with the pitching, then they could be a playoff contender, but I don't think it will be enough. A return to the World Series likely will not happen and the playoffs may be a long shot as well.

Trenton Thunders
Season 15 record- 89-73
5 year record- 351-459

Offense- Average-14th(.260), OBP-13th(.322), Slg-13th(.395), Runs-11th(740), HR-13th(169), SB-2nd(250)
Defense- Fielding %-6th(.984), Plus Plays-4th(71), Minus Plays-3rd(26)
Pitching- ERA-7th(4.07), OAV-3rd(.249), SO-6th(1115), Saves-7th(45/60)

Key Additions-SP Bud Donnels(FA)
Key Losses-None

Trenton made a push last season in the division. They just missed the playoffs and it's been since season 7 that they have been there. The 89 wins last season was 3rd all time for this franchise. They could be on the verge of making the post season, or they could have just played was over their heads last season. Offensively this team was not very good last season. They did steal a lot of bases though, but they just didn't get on base enough. I think they actually hit worse than they are capable of. The team doesn't showcase much power potential, but they do have some contact hitters. I think they are closer to average than last season. The fielding was good last season. The overall fielding is good but they lack a real shortstop with range and glove. The defense will probably be just above average this season. The pitching was above average last season. They have a pretty good bullpen, but the rotation for this team isn't very good. It'll be interesting to see how they use the pitching staff since most of the pitchers have decent stamina, which allows them to be creative. This isn't an overly impressive team and I'm still not sure how good they really are. My guess is that they win around 80 games and miss out on the playoffs.

Helena Ass Hats
Season 15 record- 84-78
5 year record- 397-413

Offense- Average-7th(.267), OBP-12th(.326), Slg-3rd(.445), Runs-7th(764), HR-3rd(241), SB-6th(127)
Defense- Fielding %-10th(.982), Plus Plays-9th(54), Minus Plays-10th(44)
Pitching- ERA-5th(3.89), OAV-5th(.256), SO-4th(1125), Saves-1st(53/66)

Key Additions-3B/SS Tony Guerrero(tr-Fargo), SP Wayne Perez(tr-Sea), RP Carlos Flores(tr-Sea)
Key Losses-SS Ramon Martin(tr-CSP), SP Dock King(FA), SP Valerio Duran(FA)

Helena won this division a couple seasons ago and last season went backwards and fell to third. They dropped the win total by 8 games and looked to be falling behind in this division. They needed to make some moves to get back on track. Unfortunately they lost a couple good starting pitchers to free agency. They countered that by going out and trading for Perez and Flores to give the pitching staff a boost. The trade for Guerrero helps offensively and defensively as well. Last season the offense finished pretty average. They had plenty of power but that didn't help them get on base and score enough runs to be a top offense. They do have a good offense, but there isn't much contact hitting going on. They have some power and should score some runs. They add some speed to that on the bases. The defense last season was a bit below average. I think they are at least and average defense this year if not a bit above average. The pitching was this teams strength last season and really should be again. The rotation, even with the losses, is pretty good. They have some good relievers as well. They should once again be a real good pitching team. This team right now is my pick to win the division. They are the closest to being the most complete team in the division. I think they can win around 90 games and if the hitting does better than I expect, they could be one of the better teams in the NL.

Iowa City Hawkeyes
Season 15 record- 39-123
5 year record- 300-510

Offense- Average-15th(.252), OBP-16th(.307), Slg-16th(.362), Runs-16th(607), HR-15th(129), SB-8th(120)
Defense- Fielding %-15th(.979), Plus Plays-12th(38), Minus Plays-15th(83)
Pitching- ERA-16th(5.77), OAV-16th(.302), SO-16th(954), Saves-16th(28/49)

Key Additions-SP Clay Jeter(tr-Charlotte), RP Rondell Kirwan(Claimed), SP Wes Sanders(FA)
Key Losses-None

New ownership is in for this franchise. This will surely be an interesting rebuild for this franchise. The previous owner didn't do much for the franchise in building up the minors after all the losing. They didn't sign a top draft pick in the past few seasons and left this team dry. To be honest, I was shocked I could even find an owner to replace them. New ownership has claimed that there are no big expectations heading into this season. This team has only finished above 500 one time in team history and has never made the post season. Management isn't expecting that to change this season. The good thing for this team is that they only have $20 mil on the books for next season and $5.6 mil for the following two. That is nice for a rebuilding team. The offense last season was awful. I wouldn't expect too much of a change this season as they bring some young guys up, but they have to be better than last season. The fielding was bad as well. I actually think we will see improvement in this area. The team has some good fielders. I'd say they are better than average defensively. The same story holds true for the pitching last season. I think the pitching isn't really that bad and could finish out of the basement this season. I still don't think they are above average, but they aren't the worst. The story this season in Iowa City is rebuilding. Ownership is committed to it and there is no way to go but up for this franchise. How far up will depend on how the process goes over the next few seasons.

Fargo seems like they are always the team to beat in this division, but I think that has changed. They are going through a rebuild starting this season, but it doesn't appear to be a complete rebuild. They still have pieces there to challenge the other teams. Trenton had a really good season last season, but I think they over achieved and will find it hard to be where they were last season. Helena has made some changes to a good team and are expecting bigger things this season. It could be the franchises second division title this season. Iowa City is in full rebuild mode and are likely to not contend much.

1. Helena
2. Fargo
3. Trenton
4. Iowa City

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