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

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