Home of the reigning Pine Tar world champion Houston Roughnecks. This has been one of the toughest divisions in Pine Tar for quite a while now, and last season gave them 3 World Titles in the past 7 seasons and 4 World Series appearances from the South. Houston won the NL title for a second straight season, but this time they took home the World Championship with a sweep of Durham. With an average of 100 victories and 3 division titles over the past 3 seasons, they are going to be tough to knock from the top of this division. Louisville tied for second in the division, but the tie breaker gave them the #1 wild card spot. It gave them their 4th post season berth in the past 6 seasons and the 6th in franchise history. They are still looking for their second division title and first since season 1. Texas took some steps forward last season and took home the second wild card spot. It ended a 4 season run without a post season berth. Now they will try to end an 11 season run without winning the division title. Jacksonville finished last in the division with a .500 record. That's rough. It was the second time in 3 seasons that they missed the playoffs. This teams days of sitting atop the division appear to be over for now, but they proved that they are still a team to deal with.
Season 24 record- 99-63(World Champ, NL South Champ)
Last 5 seasons- 473-337
Last season was huge for this franchise. It was their 5th World Series appearance and their 2nd title. With 99 wins this team paced the NL. Luckily for the fans in Houston, this ownership group isn't going to be satisfied with just one championship. They are shooting for a dynasty and have budgeted for it. That allowed them to make some signings to further improve the team with Raymond Simmons, and Rube Clark.
Offensively, Houston led the NL in runs scored with 198, was second in homers with 253, was above league average in steals with 122 and second in slugging with .442. That's all while hitting a .255 and having a .318 obp which were below the league average. They look pretty much the same this season. Ruben Pelaez is the top hitter on the team(.297 average, .379obp, 35 hr, 98 rbi). They re signed Barney Taft and brought back his .285 average, .365 obp and 28 homers. Carl Esposito is the man this offense revolves around(.274 average, .370 obp, 41 homers, 111 rbi, and 110 runs). The Roughnecks should once again have a top offense.
The Houston defense was stellar in season 24. They posted a .989 fielding pct, and 123 + plays to go with 12 - plays. They are led by gold glove shorstop Yusmeiro Julio and his 30 + plays. Paleaez is his double play partner at second and he's another great glove. At thirdbase is another gold glove in Julian Prieto. And in centerfield they feature another gold glover with Ugueth Gonzales. I'm going to call it like I see it and say that this team has a great defense. Likely the best in Pine Tar.
The pitching was also pretty good last season and now the additions of Simmons and Clark will add to that. With a team ERA of 3.73 and 1.28 WHIP, this franchise was above average. Alex Martis is a pretty good starter with his 13-6 record and 3.74 ERA, but his 168.2 innings aren't what you'd want from an ace. Diego Benitez went 13-4 with a 2.11 ERA, but he only posted 132.1 innings. The 2 new additions should help with that and really this team is deep enough to roll out a 6 man rotation and not be hurt by it. The feature bullpen arm is reigning Cy Young Juan Sierra who had 52 saves in 54 tries and posted a 1.40 ERA and .95 WHIP. Overall, this is a pretty strong pitching staff and could be among the top 5 in all of Pine Tar.
Louisville ARF ARF ARF ARF's
Season 24 record- 89-73
Last 5 seasons- 450-360
After ending their one season absence from the playoffs, the Arf's got back in with the #1 wild card last season. It has been a long time since they've won the division, but this team is surely in the upper class of the NL which has led to 4 post season appearances over the past 6 seasons. Unfortunately for them, they've been playing second fiddle to the division winner too often. Ownership has stated that they missed out on free agency but they've scrambled to make a few nice additions in Frank Buss, Allen Gruber, David Lind, and Enrique Morales. None are impact players, but each can help the team. With a budget set up to sign an impact player that they never got, this team has money to throw around if they need to add a piece or 2 during the season.
In season 24 the ARF's hit .262, with a .330 obp and a .385 slg. While they hit good, they didn't provide much power which led to them finish in the bottom half of the league in runs scored with 681. Gruber and Lind should help fix that problem. Adding them to Vic Rijo(.333 average, .402 obp, 35 homers, 101 RBI) and Jared Glynn(.268 average, .349 obp, 28 homers, 107 RBI) should add some extra run production. Omar Carrasco is the young star of the offense as he hit 34 homers, drove in 95 runs, stole 21 bases, while hitting a .290 with a .366 obp. This team has a good offense and I'd think they have to improve over last season. This is at the least a top 8 NL offense.
The defense was pretty solid last season as they finished with a .986 fielding pct and 69 + plays an 18 - plays. Those are above average numbers. They did lose their shortstop in the off season, but they have Alex Lyons, who should provide gold glove defense, but he doesn't hit very well. Victor Osoria is a slightly better hitter with a pretty good glove. Bernie Wolf is likely the best option at short, but his glove isn't as good as those two. That's not to say he can't play the position though. The team has quite a few good gloves around the diamond and should be as good as last season.
Their pitching was up among the best in the league last season. They finished with a 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and .378 opponent slugging. Each were pretty great numbers. The rotation is led by young star Geronimo Estrada, with his 14-7 record and 2.02 ERA and .99 WHIP in 240.1 innings. Those are Cy Young type numbers. Clay Vernon is a good top to mid rotation starter that's coming off of a season that seen him go 13-9 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Ariel Mateo and Al Manto round out a pretty good rotation in Louisville. The bullpen was led by Ed Rhodes and his 85 games pitched, 21 saves, 2.92 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. J.J. Brinkley is another good arm for them in the pen and he pitched 51 games with a 2.38 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. This overall is a really good pitching staff and should finish near the top of the league again this season.
Season 24 record- 89-73
Last 5 seasons- 418-391
It's truly amazing that this team made the playoffs last season. They went through an ownership change midway through the season and are now on their 4th owner in 4 seasons. Even through that, they've seen their win total increase in each of the past 3 seasons. That trend will be tough to continue, but the new owner has budgeted well to try. The biggest thing they did in the off season was signing extensions with P.T. Rosa and Felipe Ramos. Both are key pieces to the teams success. The also brought in Rheal Beck, Jesus Amezaga, and Felipe Lee through free agency. It sure looks like they are loading up for another post season run.
This team had a very average offense last season. They batted .255, with a .326 obp, .403 slg and 195 homers while scoring 677 runs. The only number far from league average was the runs scored, which were 29 runs below average. The loss of Rico Tatis does not help these numbers. They still have Alexander Williamson(.288 average, .358 obp, 36 homers, 77 RBI and 109 runs), and Alan Wilson(.287 average, .380 obp, 26 homers, 82 RBI, and 81 runs) to drive this offense though. The addition of Beck will at least ease the loss of Tatis a little. The offense isn't very deep though and they won't hit for a high average as a team. They do have some good power and guys that will draw some walks. Right now this team appears to be a little below average though.
The defense for this team was pretty good last season. They had a .986 fielding pct to go with 66 + plays and 19 - plays. They did lack a good shortstop though, which makes those numbers very surprising. Alejandro Flores could handle the full time job if asked, but he isn't much of a hitter. George Hocking is the returning shortstop and he won't hurt the team in the field, but he's not the ideal fielder though he is a better hitter than Flores. Birdie McNamara could play a really good centerfield for this team. Eddie Burns played a great centerfield last season though, but he could play shortstop or second base. Overall this team does have the gloves to be among the better defensive teams in the league, but the drop off on offense may be too much for them.
The pitching was right near the top of the NL last season. They had a 3.63 ERA, .380 opponent slugging and 1.26 WHIP. While the rotation isn't great, they do have a good group of pitchers. Charles Hayashi is a solid ace and he went 14-3 with a 2.41 ERA last season. Karim Ontiveros (12-11, 3.44) makes for a really good number 2. Felipe Ramos went 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA last season. Harry Guerrero and Billy Lloyd are really nice back of the rotation starters. The addition of Amezaga brings in a really good bullpen arm with his 286 career saves and 3.24 ERA. I expect Esteban Avila to bounce back from his disappointing last season. All around this is a pretty good pitching staff that should finish near the top of the league again.
Season 24 record- 81-81
Last 5 seasons- 448-362
The days of this team ruling the division appear to be over, but that doesn't mean that this team should be taken lightly. They still finished at .500 last season and are only 1 season removed from a post season berth. They appear to be lowering payroll while raising the scouting budgets which usually means rebuild time. They did however add 2 solid free agents this off season in Phil North and Miguel Mesa.
The Juggernauts offense was below average last season as they hit .252, with a .314 obp and .386 slg to go with 172 homers and 672 runs. Second year man Vic Romero may be the most lethal hitter the team has as he hit 16 homers and batted a .278 in only 255 at bats last season. Scott Harvey at age 32 is still a pretty good hitter as well as he hit 30 homers and a .271 average last season. The additions of Mesa and North will help them out as well. This team has some solid hitting and decent power to go with it. I could see them moving up offensively this season, but they don't rank among the best in the league.
Defensively this team was above average last season with a .985 fielding pct and 75 + plays to go with 26 - plays. They are led by one time gold glove shortstop Adam McCorley, who has the abilities to win another gold glove with great range and arm strength. Scott Harvey is a really good centerfielder with good range and glove as he's pulled in 3 gold gloves out there. They are solid at other positions, but this team will take a step back defensive after the loss of Alex Colome in the off season.
The pitching was below average last season. They had a 4.06 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP. The loss of ace Rube Clark is going to hurt this team. Dusty Lindsey still makes for a good ace though and he went 13-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.24 WHIP last season. Bobby Ray Ingram is still a good top of the rotation starter after going 14-12 with a 3.81 ERA last season. After those 2 the team has a bunch of average to below average pitchers. Nobody in the bullpen really stands out to me. This pitching staff appears that it will sink lower this season even with the 2 aces at the top of the rotation.
This is an extremely tough division. All 4 teams are usually really competitive and they've turned this into the best division in Pine Tar. At the top is Houston and they seem to have a stranglehold on the rest of the teams. They are the reigning world champs and the off season seen them improve. I think that makes them the favorite to win this division, if not another World title. Louisville just can't seem to get over the hump and take this division. They have a well rounded team that could put them right next to Houston atop the NL. They should at least make it interesting in this division. Texas has the pitching and defense to succeed and in any other division would look pretty good to win it. Not around here though. The offense just isn't up to par with the top teams and will likely hold them back from contending for the division title. I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a wild card spot though. Jackson has good hitting and good defense, but the overall pitching staff is going to be too tough to over come. It may be time that they go into full rebuild mode and start looking to the future.