Friday, March 29, 2013

NL West Season 23 Preview

This division made improvements last season. Seattle won over 100 games for the second time in team history, but failed in the post season. After winning the World Series in season 21, they came back strong during the regular season in season 22, but failed to even make the World Series, losing to the eventual champion Iowa City in the NLCS. Colorado Springs made a 21 game improvement last season and ended an 8 season playoff drought. They showed that they are a team on the way up and should be challenging for the division title soon. Albuquerque made a 27 game improvement last season. While they don't look like they are ready to make a push for the division title, they do look like it won't be long before they will. Oklahoma City was the only team in the division to win less games last season than the previous season. They dropped 3 more games last season. This is a team that needs a shot in the arm. They were on the way up, but for the past few seasons have been heading back down.

Seattle Strikers
Average.2635Fielding %.9873ERA2.821
Home Runs16312Double Plays32213Opp. Avg..2161
Ops.7336+ Plays841Strike Outs11544
Runs7694- Plays214Saves591

Season 20 Record: 106-56(NL West Champ)
Last 5 Seasons: 474-336

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for 1B JoJo Frandsen
Signed SP Alex Romano
Signed RP Babe LaRocca
Signed RP Bill Walker

Offense-Surprisingly, Seattle was near the top of the league offensively last season. That's been rare for this team. The addition of Frandsen should boost it even more this season. Benny Navarro put up solid numbers again in homers and RBI's. He set a career high in runs with 150 which is a big reason the Strikers offense improved. Veteran, Corky Whitehead continued to be an on-base machine, posting a .304 Avg. and a .374 OBP. If Seattle can add some more speed to this team, that will create a more dynamic offense, making them a top tier offensive team.

Defense- The Strikers continued their tradition of strong defense last season, finishing among the best in the NL with a .987 fielding percentage. Willis Foster collected some new hardware by winning the Gold Glove at third base. In my Opinion this team has one of the best infields in Pine Tar. Frandsen, Navarro, Alcantara and Foster, two Gold Glovers. It's a surprise this team didn't have more double plays with Alcantara at short.  Seattle will be virtually fielding  the same team as last year so the defense should continue to be strong.

Pitching- Seattle set the all-time team ERA record last season with a 2.82. It's not surprising when you look at there rotation. This team had four great starters last season with Rucker, Banks, Guerrero, Rivera. Miguel Rivera finally put i together with a 2.75 ERA and a career high 16-5 record. The bullpen was phenomenal finishing with 59 saves. 49 of those saves came from veteran George Eaton. Eaton converted 49 out of 50 chances, pure dominance. Seattle suffered a blow losing annual Cy Young contender, John Rucker.   Rucker has been the ace of this staff for years and was a huge part in their championship run.

Projection- Overall, the Seattle Strikers will contend for a championship this season. Ghutton improved the offense with Frandsen and the defense will be on par with the best. The lose of Rucker will cause this team to lose a few more games. The playoff rotation used to be the best in the league, now their beatable. That's where Seattle could struggle the most. Season 23 will be the 6th season in a row Seattle has claimed the NL West crown. If the Strikers get home field in the playoffs, they can win it all again.

Owner Interview-
Questions from around the league-Why did you become Commish? What do you like and dislike the most about the role? What's the one thing owners don't realize about being a commish? Seattle has been dominate due to great pitching, why trade Rucker?  Lastly, it only took you a season or two to get Seattle into first place and hold it for 11 of the last 13 seasons, what has been the key to your success? Last season you won the 2nd most games in Seattle history, what was the key? You won the world series the season before, what was different about this team? In the last 12 seasons, you've won 10 times and finished 2nd twice, what do you think has led to the long term success? Just 1 season removed from world series champs, is your team set up to make another run again? With the long term success you've sustained, how do you go about building your team, what's the part you value the most and also the most overrated aspect of the game to you? Explain why the blog here in Pine Tar has to be one of the best, if not the best, blogs in HBD?

ghutton9-I'm not really sure why I became the commish. I remember after domisgod left that I sent him a tc telling him I was interested, but he gave it to someone else. That following season, the person he gave it to said he didn't really have the time for it and passed it on to me. I've always loved running leagues of any sort since I was a young kid, from wiffle ball leagues, to nerf 2 hand touch football and even created my own dice football game and ran that league for 15 years before interest died down. The thing I like most out of the role is getting to know each owner in the league. The thing I like the least, is having to replace owners mid season. It's annoying having to send in a ticket for an owner that disappeared and then having to wait a whole week to replace them. It usually happens at the worst time too. People don't realize that a commish doesn't really have too much power. We are basically here to fill the league.
         Why trade Rucker? He is getting older and I seen an opportunity to add a young player that had my style of offense, speed and on base abilities. For every season I wait, his price tag drops. I also feel like I have the pitching depth to off set his loss. My team set the leagues single season ERA record last season. Losing him at worst adds a run a game allowed, which is still really good. Fingers crossed. I was able to get Seattle into first place so quick due to luck. Actually, my second season in the league, my team wasn't very good and I posted on the message board asking for advice. Someone mentioned that if they were in Seattle they would add range in the outfield and good gloves at most positions. So that's what I focused on and still do. The key to last season was depth. I had good players already in place, but the depth allowed me to sit tired players and bring in quality backups. My World Series Champ had a better 1-2 in the rotation. When I lost Valbuena it hurt my ability in a series. I still had good pitchers, but not shutdown like Rucker and Valbuena were that season. I needed more luck last season and didn't get it. I think my team will be really good this season, but we aren't set up to win a World Series. I knew this before I traded Rucker. I'm more focused on how I can get this team to that position within the next 5 seasons. I'm going to try to rebuild while being competitive and I think I have the pieces in place to do that. I build my teams around pitching, defense, speed and hitters with a good eye. In Seattle, even the best splits and contact won't result in a good average, but the park can not affect a players ability to draw walks and steal bases. A good defense can help an average pitching staff and good pitching with a good defense can be lethal. The most over rated aspect of this game is potential. I hate rebuilding and stocking up prospects because too many things can happen to derail them. I've had great prospects that never panned out due to injuries. Another thing that is right up there with it is Advanced Scouting. If you don't have 20 mil in it then you might as well have 0. My early seasons in this game seen me burned many times due to this. Until I figured out how to judge a prospects potential without it, I was getting burned over and over again.
          I put a lot into the blog. I feel like it is what makes this world unique. Other worlds have their special rules and turn up their noses to owners without good success, but I don't think that makes a world interesting. When I watch MLB, it's because I know the players and become invested in those players. I like the blog because it brings everyone closer to the game. You get to know players that you otherwise wouldn't. You get to see how other teams are run. You get to know a little about the other owners. Basically it allows everyone to not only be a part of this world, but to actually feel like they are a part of it. With the help of bobswagger91 and Arfy over the past few seasons, we've been able to add to it and make it more fun. Then last season we had quite a few owners help and that made it even better. I am also really loving these interviews this season. I look forward to each owners answers every time I send out a tc and can't wait to add it to the blog. I have some things I'd like to add this season, so hopefully we can keep up the reputation of having a great blog.

Colorado Springs Night Watchmen
Average.2634Fielding %.98213ERA3.927
Home Runs2034Double Plays3835Opp. Avg..26411
Ops..7583+ Plays4013Strike Outs11712
Runs8162- Plays4212Saves487

Season 20 Record: 87-75(Wild Card)
Last 5 Seasons: 360-450

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for SS Teddy Lemon
Traded for C Julio Palmeiro
Signed OF Cam Stubbs

Offense-Colorado Springs had a really good offense last season. Some people may not realize this, but Colorado Springs is not an offensive park. It is fairly balanced if not slightly a pitchers park. It's often confused with the ML Colorado Rockies, who are in Denver. This team has some pretty good hitters in the lineup for this season. Juan Perez is one of the best in the league at getting on base. King Ashburn is a rising star and can hit and steal some bases. Providing power for this team will be Julio Palmeiro, Chad Williams, Pedro Reyes and Brian Lowrie. Overall Colorado Springs has a pretty good offense with some solid depth. They should be near the top again this season.

Defense-This is an area that the Night Watchmen struggled last season. They traded for Teddy Lemon to upgrade at shortstop, but his abilities are on the lower end of what makes a good shortstop. King Ashburn provides decent range in centerfield, but his glove is also on the lower end for his position. This defense should rank near the bottom again this season unless they find a better defensive option at shortstop.

Pitching-The pitching was slightly above average last season. They didn't really address this in the off season. The rotation features Orlando Nieves, Patrick Wilson, Christian Park and Ismael Diaz. All four are good pitchers, but none of them are a true ace. Coming out of the bullpen is Alberto Blasco, who is a really good closer. Setting things up for him is Willis Phillips, who could be in for a breakout season. This pitching staff is solid. What I see is an above average group.

Projection-Colorado Springs made significant improvement last season and look to be continuing on the path up. They have a really good offense and a deep pitching staff. The defensive weakness hurts them though. After ending an 8 season post season drought last season, this team looks poised to make another run at a post season berth. They should contend for the division title, but if nothing else will contend for the wild card.

Owner Interview-
ME-This is season 23 for you. That's pretty impressive. Give me a little background on why and how you became a part of Pine Tar. I know things haven't been looking good for the Night Watchmen for a while, but last season they made some big improvements. What happened that put this team into contention and back into the post season? Is this success going to continue into this season? I know you've made a couple of trades and signed a nice OF in the off season. In those trades you traded away some key pieces from last season. How do you feel about the return you got? Are there any prospects coming through your system that we should be watching for and who are they? Give me a goal for this season.

toe64-I dabbled in some Gridiron and Hoops Dynasty before being asked to join HBD. Loved the idea of getting in on a league from Season 1 so the success and failure of my team is all on me. Early success in the first 13 seasons and then an 8 season drought with nobody to blame but myself. Last season's success was driven by draft picks finally coming into their own, especially pitchers. I lost SS Rafael Chavez to free agency, so needed to fill that hole but didn't see anything in FA that appealed to me. Also, wanted a better "pitch calling" catcher to help my improved pitching staff get even better. The Juice had what I was looking for in SS Teddy Lemon and C Julio Palmeiro and the price was right. I'll miss CF Jamie Ramsey and P Lon Curtis but believe I have got those spots covered. I may have only bought Lemon for one season but we'll see how he does. A WS ring might change his mind and I have SS Keith Williamson in AAA on the verge of making his ML debut so there is a method to the madness. Goals? Isn't everyone's to win the World Series? I'm no different. It will start with un-seating the Seattle dynasty so get ready! The Night Watchmen are on patrol!

Albuquerque Komodo Dragons
Average.2653Fielding %.97715ERA4.5813
Home Runs15613Double Plays4021Opp. Avg..27515
Ops..7257+ Plays834Strike Outs107013
Runs7209- Plays3611Saves3714

Season 20 Record: 74-88
Last 5 Seasons:  345-465

Key Off Season Moves
Selected OF Bronson Bapitst in Rule V Draft
Signed 3B Daryl Bonham
Signed SP Miguel Quinones
Signed SS Rafael Chavez
Signed C Yovani Guerrero
Signed SP Edgar Santana

Offense-Offensively Albuquerque was solid last season. They had a really good batting average, but didn't hit many homers and were around league average at scoring runs. The additions of Bonham, Chavez, and Guerrero will only improve the offense. This team is going to hit. They could use a bit more power other than Bert Heiserman, but that shouldn't hold back the offense. They have guys that can hit for average, draw plenty of walks, hit for a little bit of power and steal some bases. I think the offense will improve and can be considered an upper half of the NL talent.

Defense-The fielding was awful last season. They did have some good range with the plus plays, but they couldn't glove the ball very well. My guess is that Rafael Chavez is the teams starting shortstop and his talents are at the bottom end of shortstops. Daryl Robertson was the defensive replacement last season, and he could be really good. Geoff Saturria was this teams second baseman last season and he's pretty good for that spot. He's won a couple gold gloves and could challenge for another. Ernie Borders is the centerfielder and he has really good range and an average glove, but a great arm for the position. Really, they have solid gloves everywhere on the field except shortstop. I can't imagine they finish at the bottom again. They are at worst an average defense and I'm more likely to believe they are above average.

Pitching-The Komodo Dragons were in the bottom half of the NL in pitching last season. They added Santana, and Quinones for this season to help bolster the rotation. Harry Guerrero is a good starter and Julio Cordero is coming off a pretty good season. They will need all of them to have good seasons, but they are mostly just average starters that can eat up innings. This team needs an ace. The bullpen is average. Marvin Bere is a solid closer and I like Vasco Nunez as a setup man. I just don't see much else on the staff that stands out though. This is an average to below pitching staff.

Projection-This team is coming along nicely. They've been making improvements and this season should continue to do so. The offense is looking good and the defense should be much improved, but the pitching is holding them back. My guess is that Albuquerque is still another season away from competing, but should come close to the .500 mark this season. If a lot of things go right then they could make a wild card push, but the NL wild card is going to be a tough race this season.

Owner Interview-
ME-Well this is season 4 for you. Last season was a big improvement for Albuquerque. You were pretty active in free agency. Is this the year that the team makes a move in the division? Is the building process of this team going as expected? Do you have any big time prospects that we should be aware of that will be making an impact soon? What can we expect this season out of the Komodo Dragons? What is your goal for this season?

csudak-1) Last year we were only 7 games under .500, so the goal this year is win more than we lose. Competing with Seattle could be tough, as they have a stranglehold on the division. 2) When I took over the minors were empty and the ML team was aging. I've tried to stock up the minors with better overall talent and rid some bad contracts. This was the first offseason we spent some cash. 3) We don't have any real studs, but there are a couple of potential allstars. CF Vicente Palmeiro made the jump from rookie to AAA and had a solid season. With one more year at AAA we expect him to impact the ML club very soon. 4) Realistically we are hoping to crack the .500, but alot will depend on how our pitching comes around. If we are in contention for a WC spot, a mid-season trade might be in order.

Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs
Average.24515Fielding %.9857ERA4.2811
Home Runs12916Double Plays4022Opp. Avg..2608
Ops..68016+ Plays649Strike Outs102715
Runs59416- Plays3410Saves439

Season 20 Record: 61-101
Last 5 Seasons: 337-473

Key Off Season Moves
Selected Wilfredo Navarre in the Rule V Draft
Signed 1B Ron Hartley
Signed C Brett Coscarart

Offense-The Prairie Dogs finished at the bottom of the league offensively last season. They really needed to upgrade every aspect of the offense. While I think the additions will help them, I just don't think it will help enough. Carlos Zorrilla is a great young player that put up outstanding numbers last season. He's the type of player that you can build a team around. John Satou is another really good young player. These two are a pair that Oklahoma City can start to install pieces around and make the foundation of a successful offense out of. Right now the offense isn't very good though and I see them finishing near the bottom of the league again.

Defense-The defense for this squad was pretty average last season. Trey Shuck is really the teams only option at shortstop and he could use more range. He has an average glove though and a really good arm. Zorilla is the centerfielder, but he doesn't have much range. He does have the glove for the position though. This team looks like an average to just below average defense heading into the season.

Pitching-The pitching was slightly below average last season. Rick Owens is the ace of the staff and he fills the role nicely. Juan Ramirez has been used in relief in the past, but he's got the makings of a solid starter. Rey Perry could also be a solid back end of the rotation starter. In the bullpen Brent Beam is a solid closer but not spectacular. Besides him there isn't a lot of help in the pen. Overall this staff is pretty average.

Projection-Oklahoma City has some players that are really good, but the depth behind those guys just isn't there. This team has some pieces to build around, but they aren't ready to compete yet. This team will struggle to stick around in an improving division.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well usually you give me the run down on your team, but I haven't seen it yet this season. So how are you feeling about your team? It seemed like you were on the way up back in season 19, but these last few seasons have been a disappointment. What happened? Change of plans, injuries, things just didn't work out? Who are some of the future stars of this organization? What should we expect to see with the Prairie Dogs this season?

brentcnb-The Oklahoma City club enters its 11th season under the direction of brentcnb, and sadly, the organization has progressed little under the present owner's supervision. Unfortunately, due to some rather pronounced weaknesses in the team assembled for Season 23, it appears that the Prairie Dogs appear destined for a 3rd or 4th place finish in the division. Pitching is the strength of the team, while offense and fielding, remain below average. The owner is attemptimg to improve the team defensively, only time will tell if the efforts bear fruit.

First, I want to thank bobswagger91 for doing the review for my team. It's tough to write something up about your team. The thing is, I think I still have the team to beat in this division. The loss of Rucker will hurt some, but the rest of the staff wasn't a bunch of average pitchers. The offense is improved and the defense is still tough. Colorado Springs continues to get better and should challenge for the division crown this season. If the defense was better then I'd probably pick them to take the division. Albuquerque is a team on the move up and should finish better than last season. I just don't think they have the team in place to contend yet. Oklahoma City will continue to rebuild this season, but they do have some pieces in place now that should start helping soon.

1. Seattle Strikers
2. Colorado Springs Night Watchmen
3. Albuquerque Komodo Dragons
4. Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NL South Season 23 Preview

I must say, this division has become one of the toughest in Pine Tar. They combined for 365 wins last season. Leading the way was Houston with 101 wins and taking a first round post season bye. This franchise at one time dominated this division, but it had been 6 seasons since they won the division until last season. They had a let down in the post season after losing a tough series with Iowa City, the eventual world champ. Louisville has looked like a team ready to take the top spot over the past 4 seasons, but they just haven't got there. With 95 wins they were left 6 games out of first last season. This franchise is itching for it's first division title since season 1. Charlotte has finished the past couple seasons right around .500. After 5 straight division titles, Jackson took a step back last season and finished at the bottom of the division as the only team under .500.

Houston Roughnecks
Average.2731Fielding %.9881ERA3.714
Home Runs2201Double Plays29615Opp. Avg..2445
Ops..7801+ Plays833Strike Outs11186
Runs8731- Plays171Saves582

Season 20 record- 101-61(NL South Champ)
Last 5 seasons- 420-390

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for SP Alex Martis
Traded for IF Julian Prieto
Signed C Barney Taft
Signed OF Elijah Martin
Signed 2B Ruben Pelaez

Offense-All I can say is wow. This team was a force offensively in the NL last season. They hit, hit for power, scored runs, and even stole bases. They had a great offense. Add in Barney Taft, Julain Prieto, Elijah Martin and Ruben Pelaez to that mix and this team is going to be tough to stop. Carl Esposito is the leagues reigning MVP and he has the talent around him to help make a push for another one. Houston will likely have the best offense in the NL again.

Defense-To add to the great offense, Houston even boasted one of the best defenses in the league. This season they have a good defense as well, but I feel like they lack the reliable glove at shortstop. Prieto has great range and a decent arm, but he lacks the glove to be great. I'm not sure this is the best defense in the league, but they are still pretty good.

Pitching-The pitching also ranked near the top of the league last season. A great defense can aid solid pitching and I think that is what happens in Houston. I think ownership feels the same as they went out and added a true ace in Alex Martis. Carlos Nieto is a pretty good #2 guy and Walter Heredia is a top notch #3. The rotation is looking pretty tough right now. The bullpen features a few good arms as well. Juan Sierra was a pretty good closer last season and he's young and will hold down this role for quite some time. Torey Urbina, Desi Alverez and Jimmy Griffiths are pretty good setup men and should shut down opponents until Sierra comes in to close it down.

Projection-I know that this is a tough division and it's going to be hard to put my pick on any team, but this team is tough. They were tough last season and they only got better in the off season. The addition of Martis could be what propels this team to the league championship this season.

Owner Interview-
ME-Well, you won what is likely the hardest division in Pine Tar last season, in what was your first season here. Did you really expect your team to be so good? Then you had a disappointing post season loss. Can you still be happy about last seasons success after that? In the off season you shook things up a bit Did you fill the holes that you thought needed filled? What kind of holes did a 101 win team have? What can we expect this season? Any one area of the team you are waiting to see how things go and any area you feel really good about?

bagwellbuff-"I did think we had a chance to be very good last season, but I admit I was pleasantly surprised with the bottom of our rotation and the bullpen. Also, Juan Sierra and Wolf Dodd were languishing in the minor leagues and we thought they both had a chance to be good and both were. Iowa was a team of destiny, but still the loss in the first round to them was disappointing for us, it is not a result of which we can be satisfied. No, the season was not a failure for a 101 win team and the playoffs are a crap shoot, but certainly it's given us a determination to go farther. That's been our goal the entire offseason. As good as our pitching was last year, we felt we needed a dominant top-of-the-rotation guy to get us further in the playoffs and we feel we got our man in Alex Martis. Of course, we hated to part with Wolf Dodd, but you have to give to get. Otherwise, we didn't actually plan to fill "holes," but we did part with some guys that gave us good service last season, but may have reached their peak. I look for us to hit with even more power than last year, though our overall team BA may not be quite as high. I'd be ecstatic with a few less wins in the regular season, but to go a lot further past the first round in the playoffs and I think those expectations are reasonable. But as you said, this is the toughest division in an overall tough world, so to win the division, it may take over 100 wins. And no, while we may have been the poster boys last season for getting a bye and getting stale, I'll still take the bye anytime. But of course, we've got to earn it. We look great on paper, but no championship was ever won on paper. Let's play the games."

Louisville ARF ARF ARF ARF's
Average.2712Fielding %.9864ERA3.453
Home Runs1998Double Plays3577Opp. Avg..2423
Ops..7622+ Plays805Strike Outs11305
Runs7525- Plays192Saves4311

Season 20- 95-67(Wild Card)
Last 5 seasons- 435-375

Key Off Season Moves
Signed 3B Jared Glynn
Re Signed Roland Sweeney
Signed C Jorge Renteria
Promoted RP Pat Chen

Offense-Louisville was near the top of the league offensively last season. They only finished near the middle of the league in homers and needed help there. The addition of Jared Glynn will be huge for this team. He is an MVP caliber player and could be a real difference maker. I like the addition of Renteria as well, even though he's only a part time player at this stage of his career. The mid season addition of Eddie Delahanty last season will also help Louisville with a full season in their lineup. You also can't overlook Vic Rijo, who had a phenomenal season hitting a .333 with a .434 OBP. This offense is dangerous. They will be right up there with Houston this season.

Defense-The defense was top 5 last season. They had good gloves and good range. Victor Ramsey is a gold glove caliber shortstop. Heck, this team has 3 gold glove caliber shortstop options. Daric Hines plays a really good secondbase. I believe Delahanty will be in centerfield, but I'd prefer someone with better range there. Overall, this is a really good defense that should rank in the top 5 again this season.

Pitching-This team finished near the top of the league in pitching also last season. Featuring a rotation of Bret O'Leary, Al Manto, Clay Vernon, Ariel Mateo, and Roland Sweeney, the team plans on bringing up Geronimo Estrada to be this teams ace. It was a good rotation without him, but should be great with him. The bullpen isn't quite as the rotation, but it is solid and that's all you need when you have a shut down rotation. This pitching staff is really good, especially with a dynamit defense behind them.

Projection-This is tough. Houston has a great team, but so does Louisville. These two monsters will battle it out for most of the season for the division. Louisville will find themselves in the post season one way or another. It's so hard to make a prediction in this division, but I'm saying Louisville will be around 100 wins at the end of this season.

Owner Interview-
ME-Wow, 8 seasons. I didn't realize you've been in Pine Tar for that long now. You've been a huge help in Pine Tar with filling openings, promoting us in the forums and helping on the blog. What to you makes Pine Tar fun and different from ordinary HBD worlds? Is there anything that you think could be added to make it even better here? On to your team. You started out with Louisville for 3 seasons rebuilding them and molding them into a team that could win down the road. Well it's down the road now and your team has established itself as one of the top teams in the NL. What do you feel like needs to happen to become the NL Champ? As usual, you continued to add big names in the off season by dropping a lot of cash. Is that the plan, or does it just happen that way? You aren't afraid to spend for what you need for sure. Did you fill the holes? What can we expect this season? Are there any players coming up through the system that are going to help put you over the top? It will be an unsuccessful season if you don't reach what goal? 

Arfy-I guess more than anything Glenn, I just recognize the fact that you are willing to spend so much time on this league(More than any other commish I have seen), that I want to help contribute to make this league the best out there. I am constantly racking my brain with ideas to try and get more people involved with our blog without making it a ton of work.
One thing I have decided in this game is that when I feel I have a chance to compete for a title. I'm not going to hold anything back. I try not to run my franchise like a revolving door, always getting younger talent. I simply try to acquire the best talent possible. I don't care how much I might have to spend. My objective is simple. A title.
These 5 game playoff series are brutal. You need some luck, that's for sure. But one of my final good luck charms are going to be called into action 20 games into the season, as I will be ready to call up young phenom pitcher Geronimo Estrada. We will then move Bret O'Leary to the bullpen or trade him, depending on what is offered to us. We feel we have improved on our biggest weakness last season and are ready for anything. If we don't at least win the NL, it will be a dissapointment. I'm not going to say it will be easy as their is a ton of talent in the NL. Houston, Iowa City and Seattle should be right there. We also have teams like Jacksonville and Jackson who are always in the mix. I'll just work on making this team the best it can be, and hope things fall our way.

Charlotte Knights
Average.2606Fielding %.98410ERA4.018
Home Runs2103Double Plays33911Opp. Avg..2547
Ops..7544+ Plays677Strike Outs11118
Runs8133- Plays5614Saves486

Season 20 record- 81-81
Last 5 seasons- 432-378

Key Off Season Moves
Signed OF Alan Wilson to extension
Signed SS Bernie Wolf
Signed SP Charles Hayashi
Signed SP Karim Ontiveros
Signed C Tony Olmeda

Offense-Charlotte ranked near the top of the NL last season offensively. They had good hitting, power and speed. Any team that can feature a player like Rico Tatis is going to be good offensively. The guy can do it all. When you add players like Alan Wilson, Alexander Williamson, Tony Olemeda, P.T. Rosa and Victor Alexander to the mix, then you have a really good lineup. In any other division this could be the best lineup in the division, but in the NL South they can only challenge for that distinction. Overall, this is a really good offense and part of the reason this is such a tough division.

Defense-The defense was this teams achilles heel last season. They were just below average. The signing of Bernie Wolf gives them a good shortstop. Alejandro Flores is a solid backup option as well. PT Rosa makes for a great thirdbaseman. Pedro Pascual should make a good centerfielder with good range and a decent glove. I feel like Wolf improves the defense from last season, but they only are just above average now.

Pitching-This staff was really average last season. The ownership really focused on that in the off season. The additions of Ontiveros and Hayashi should lock down the top of the rotation. Felipe Ramos is a really good #3 starter. Willie Crawford is a good back end of the rotation pitcher. The bullpen is solid, but not great. I like Esteban Avila, Ruben Molina and Raul Santiago, but none of them are dominant. This could be an area of weakness. The pitching as a whole is good, but not great.

Projection-Charlotte should have a pretty good team this season. I'm not sure they can compete for the division title, but they should stay in the race all season. The offense is right up there with the rest of the division, but the defense and pitching are a notch below. If anything they will really be in the hunt for a wild card spot.

Owner Interview-
ME-Welcome to Pine Tar. I've been in NCAA II with you for the past 4 seasons and have seen that you're a pretty good owner that knows what he's doing. What led you to this team? As you can see they are in a pretty tough division.
joekendall-Yes, we are in a tough division. The competition makes this team a great opportunity. If we can survive the rigors of our division, I believe it will give us the needed help to survive in the playoffs.
 ME-Is the plan to compete this season, or are you going to be shaping the team this season into what you want?
joekendall-Management has decided to try and compete this season. We signed the top two SP so we feel they will help us to a division win.
 ME-What can we expect to see this season from Charlotte?
joekendall-With the additions of two SP and a C, we feel we are poised for a playoff birth if not the division. The back part of our rotation and our bullpen could be better. Our hitters should do well and the defense should be solid.
 ME-Is there anything that you aren't sure about with this team?
joekendall- Definitely the back part of the rotation and bullpen. We will see if it can be addressed through trades.
ME-Is there any part of this team that you think is a real strength? 
joekendall- I definitely think the top part of our rotation will do well.
ME-Are there any players coming up in the system that are going to be real good in the future? 
joekendall- Brian Berkman - If Berkman continues to develop well, he should be a gold glove CF that can steal a 100 bases a year.
ME-Give me a goal for this season?
joekendall-The owner feels like we should make the playoffs at a minimum. If we don't, I may lose my job.

Jackson Juggernauts
Average.24712Fielding %.9848ERA3.755
Home Runs17611Double Plays3528Opp. Avg..2434
Ops..69414+ Plays832Strike Outs11613
Runs66113- Plays225Saves524

Season 20 record- 78-84
Last 5 seasons- 488-322

Key Off Season Moves
Signed SP Bobby Ray Ingram to extension
Signed C Richie Allen
Signed RP Vladimir Galarraga
Promoted OF Virgil Hannity

Offense-The offense was what let this team down last season. The finished as a below average offense. The loss of Jared Glynn didn't help with that. I really like the promotion of Virgil Hannity though. He could turn out to be pretty good for them. The key to the offense this season is Jeff Moore, Scott Harvey, and Alex Velez. Those are 3 pretty good hitters in the lineup. I don't think that Jackson is as bad as they were last season, but they aren't a great offensive team. This team is about average offensively.

Defense-Jackson featured an average defense last season. They did show some good range finishing near the top in plus plays and minus plays. Adam McCorley is a one time gold glove shortstop and if he can hit enough to play every day then he will instantly make the defense better. Last season he was relegated to a reserve role. Scott Harvey is a gold glove centerfielder with great range and glove. Really, this defense is pretty good. I expect them to finish in the top 5 of the NL this season.

Pitching-This team has some pretty good pitchers in the rotation. I think the biggest off season move the team made was extending Bobby Ray Ingram through season 27. He's not the ace, but they need to keep the rotation intact. With Ingram, Rube Clark, Raymond Dewitt, Dusty Lindsey and Aubrey Simmons, the Juggernauts have a pretty good rotation. Stevie Murray is a pretty good closer and Pasqual Sosa is a pretty solid setup man. This team has a pretty good pitching staff and this is the teams strength.

Projection-I think last season was just a strange season for this team. They are better than what they showed and should improve this season. I expect them to be battling it out with the other three teams in the South for most of the season. This is a really tough division though, so I'm not sure they win the division crown. The best bet for Jackson is battling for a wild card.

Owner Interview
ME-Jackson has been a Juggernaut for quite some time now. Last season was quite a bit of a let down for the franchise though. What went wrong? Was it just a blip on the radar or is the team starting down the rebuilding path? There is still plenty of talent on the team. What can we expect out of this season? Do you have a personal goal in mind? Give me your personal opinion on this teams strength and weakness.

bobbyj7-Our hitting was a bit down last season but pitching was as good as it was the previous year. The competition in the division was much better and will remain so this season. I expect that. We'll see how it goes.

I really don't want to predict this division. Each team is really good and could likely win some of the other divisions in the league. Houston is in win now mode and did a lot to improve an already really good team. The same can be said for Louisville. Neither team accepted an early elimination as success last season and both have their sights on a bigger prize. Charlotte can't be overlooked. They have a pretty good team as well and should push Louisville and Houston. They are built like a playoff team and will be tough to keep out of the top spot in the division. Jackson is a season removed from winning the division and still have a good team. They aren't going anywhere. We could see 4 teams with 90+ wins this season. It'll be a battle of who blinks first. I'm just going to predict last seasons finish.

1. Houston
2. Louisville
3. Charlotte
4. Jackson