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PostPosted: Sun Mar 17, 2019 2:38 am 
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Have Borealis Gone All In?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

July 31, 2028: Palm Springs, California - Just when you thought Aurora couldn't possibly make another trade this season, their Boy Wonder GM strode to the podium to address the press for the second time today - this time a mere few hours before the mid-day trade deadline and nary an hour after his previous trip.

After having announced a deal that brought veteran right-hander Bartolo Esquivel to The Front Range, Will Topham addressed the crowd, informing them that Aurora wasn't quite done preping for the stretch drive.

"Contrary to the way things may seem from many of the trades we have consummated over the past two months, we have not viewed this season as a lost cause - even if we are 16-games behind the Evas." Topham began, callously ignoring their closer, more intimate rivals, Bakersfield, "It isn't how you get to the finish line, it's what you do when you get there. Our goal, as it always has, is the Rodriguez Cup." The soft murmur through the crowd sat in anticipation of what exactly the GM was about to announce.

"To that means," he continued, "I'd like to formally announce that the Borealis have struck a deal with the Calzones - a deal our old pal 'Trader' Matt would have been proud of." referring to the long-time GM of the San Antonio Calzones of Laredo, with whom Will Topham had struck many an intriguing - and sometimes controversial, deal "We have agreed to send 'Onion', Miguel Torres, Roberto Rodriguez and Teruo Ine to Laredo, in exchange for Bob Burns." A buzz radiated through the room "We've also traded between us draft picks - our first, their second, which will simply be a matter of trading places around the Supplemental round."

The collection of reporters got loud. No one expected another deal from Aurora - much less for another pitcher. Hitting is what the team needed. The press wanted answers. "We would have preferred Mercer - and may have stood pat if we had landed him. When we lost out, it was simply the case of nothing on the market, hitter-wise, that interested us; that was the right fit." numerous heads shook in understanding of the truth behind this message. Aurora did seem to go all out on Mercer, but leaks from the Duluth press suggest that Aurora's ask, in addition to 'Jasper' was too much. "We won four titles in five years with the fundamentals - pitching and defense. We believe we can do that again - no matter how many home runs other teams may hit on that journey." I'd suggest that that was, perhaps, a not-so-subtle jab at their rivals in the Far East.

Defensively, Aurora can do only so much. The acquisition of Derrick Dwyer should help some - and based on the 'eye test', it already has. In 13 games at second since his arrival, Dwyer has committed no errors and been involved in 10 DP. Pablo Medrano has 8 errors on the year at second. Britt isn't playing defense as well as he did when he was younger, and Torres could be better, but hopefully Dwyers range improvement over Medrano will help take some pressure off Torres.

No, it's the pitching that this deal - and the previous one this morning, has brought to the table. "Burns, like Esquivel, has a friendly contract situation - he is going into his second arbitration year, so we maintain a semblance of control beyond this year." Translation: neither are stretch drive rentals. As, I might add, is Dwyer, who has one last arbitration year. This is a point not worth overlooking. We can conclusively state that the team options on Provost and Rivera are officially off the table, and the $50M they'll save - less the $8.5M buyout on Provost's contract, will hopefully cover these arbitration deals, maybe some extensions, and perhaps a free agent that hits the ball deeper than the warning track.

Burns will be an interesting addition to the club. Up until last season, he had been used as a starter by the Calzones. After a mid-season call-up in 2024, Bob made 84 starts and was just 28-27 with a 2.76 ERA, for a mostly struggling San Antonio team. The last season and thus far this one, Burns has pitched in the 'pen - often in the closer role and is 8-7, with a 2.11 ERA. He had 19 saves last year and 19 already this year. So... he's the consummate swingman. He has 3 blown saves last year in 62 appearances and is perfect thus far. One will assume that his immediate future with the Borealis will be back to the 'pen, where his devastating 100-mph fastball just adds more power to the Borealis staff. He's never been a very long-winded guy, so that looks to be a good fit. With 'Onion' Castro and Felix Pena shipped out with today's trades, the two weak-links, statistically this year, are gone. And if you ask the coaching staff, it was good riddance with Pena, who they would say - sometimes not so subtly, was a bit of an... an... this is a family blog.

Burns will depend mostly on his fastball, and mix in an above average change to keep hitters honest. Where he tends to get in trouble is with his slider - which at times looks outstanding, until he leaves it too far out in front of the plate. After the press conference, in the clubhouse, there was a distinct buzz over the arrival of both Esquivel and Burns. 'Terror' and Velasquez may have looked a little apprehensive - both knowing that their roles may change, but acknowledging that the teams pitching staff just went from strong (both the Starters and the bullpen are 3rd in ERA in the SL) to stronger. Mike Britt, the longest tenured member of the teams told me, "I remember, sometime before he died, Mike Topham had said to me as we sat in the dugout before a game, 'That old adage, you can't have enough quality pitching? I believe in my heart that there is not truer concept in baseball than that.' For as long as I've been here, that has been the case."

I evaluated the numerous trades this season and a major theme was building towards the future - well, this deal gave some of that future promise away for the now. 18-year old Guatemalan Roberto Rodriguez was an international find, just this year, and had thrown three starts at Mokule'ia and... poof, gone - despite the high promise John Donohue's staff had for him. Miguel Torres was last years top pick, 32nd overall, and in 14 starts last year in Hawaii, he posted a 2.06 ERA, an 8-3 record and 108 K and 40 BB. This year he was moved straight to Gatineau, where he's 6-6 with a 3.45 ERA, 125 K and 64 BB. Despite what seem to be backwards numbers, scouts attribute that to the jump in level and he was, as Donohue put it, 'on course for 2030-31.' We'll have to keep an eye on San Antonio to see how that pans out. Teruo Ine is a speedy outfielder with above average defensive skills, whose bat may be best serve as a 4th or 5th outfielder - except he has shown some pretty good pop. In 2026 he hit 12 HRs at AA, and last year, split between AA and AAA, he hit 17, and this year he already has 14. The 57th overall pick in 2023 could be a sleeper in this trade.

Juan Castro came to Aurora in a trade with Palm Springs at the Winter Meetings and started the year like gang-busters! After missing virtually all of last season and a good portion of the offseason with a torn elbow ligament, there were grumblings that he had just reached his conditioning level, and that he'd be stronger next year. Well, in a pennant race, sometimes, there is no next year. It's plain to see that for Aurora, not only were they bringing in a fresher, younger arm (Burns is 29 by the time the PEC comes along), but it also becomes a salary trade that is almost a wash - if not just slightly helping out Aurora's bulging payroll.

Will this be enough to tip the scales? Will good pitching beat good hitting - as it historically has? Aurora better hope so. They've invested a lot of time, energy and resources into improving the one part of the team that, arguably, didn't need improving. As they say, 'there's more then one way to skin a cat'. Let us hope that this skinned cat doesn't end up like Huck Finn's -

'Whatcha got in the bag, Huck?'

'Dead cat'.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2019 8:06 pm 
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Pitching Leads Surging Borealis
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

August 14, 2028: Reno, Nevada - Aurora's trade deadline moves have seemed to pay off for the club - though to finally evaluate this definitively, they'll need to do better than playing 6-games with K-zoo - even if they sweep those six games - in definitive manner.

In sweeping the home-and-home 6-gamer from the Badgers, Aurora's pitchers would throw 31-consecutive innings of shut-out ball - a 4-0 featuring 6, 5-hit innings from 'Tugboat', a 12-0 game where Bartolo Esquivel would go the distance, surrendering just 5-hits on 8 K, and 1-0 game where 'Chief' pitched into the 8th allowing just 4-hits. Not to be outdone, John Turner pitched into the 7th with 3-hit, shut out ball to start the series, and finishing the series with 6-innings of 3-hit ball (a 2-out, 2-run homer being his only blemish).

And that was just the Starters. Bob Burns threw 3-scoreless innings over 2 appearances, Ditto Dan Feld over 4.2 IP, and both Ron Latour and Arturo Velasquez were scoreless if their combined 4.2 IP. All in all, Esquivel (2 GS, 16 IP, 1.12 ERA, 14 K and 2 BB and Burns ( 7 IP, 6 K, 1 R) have been as advertised when acquired at the trade deadline.

Thanks to the sweep - and some fortuitous results (Bakersfield losing 4 or 6 to Neo-Tokyo), Aurora has bolted out to a 5-game lead over Bakersfield in the Desert Hills, has moved back ahead of Fargo in the race for the #2 seed and Shin Seiki's shockingly losing 5 of 6 to Duluth has allowed Aurora to close the gap between to 11. It's still an unlikihood that they will catch the Evil Evas, but getting it to a single-digit difference would build confidence.

Speaking of trades, almost an afterthought in the 'Fudd' deal, Howard Joyce made his Aurora debut as the team promoted him after finally sending slumping hard Ricardo Zamora back to AAA. He would go 2-6 in a pair of starts. The big star of the week was OF Nick Heath, whose 9-23 with a pair of 2B and a pair of homers. For the season, Heath - who was expected to be nothing more than a fourth outfielder, is hitting .315 in 276 ABs, with 5 HR and 18 SB; Stats that helped send Zamora up the road to Thornton.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:56 pm 
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Happy to see Bartolo doing well over there!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 8:25 pm 
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Borealis Clicking at Right Time?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

August 28, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - Bakersfield has held the Desert Hills lead a solid part of the season - from May 7 through July 28 (ironically) the Bears held or were tied for all but a one week stretch. But as the Borealis' Boy Wonder GM celebrated his 35th birthday (and we do appreciate he's no longer a 'boy'), plotting his Trade Deadline moves, Aurora moved ahead of the Bears, and as the teams meet at the start of last week, Aurora held a 5-game lead - and the Bears held all the pressure. Pressure of the fact that anything short of a series win was potentially a death knell.

At the trade deadline, Aurora sat with a precarious 2-game lead as they swung deals soul with their eyes on strengthening the pitching. In came Bartol Esquivel. In came Bob Burns. "There's no way we can put a band-aid on our power differential with Shin Seiki," the GM said "but we can make a strong pitching staff stronger - that's the only reasonable move for us." This was, of course, after losing out on the 'Jasper' lottery. Meanwhile, the Bears - already touting one of the best pitching staffs in the SL, went after bats to shore up what was one of the weakest offenses in all of the PEBA. In came 'Merlin' Ricks and Steve Hooper. In came Alex Bothwell. The question on everyones mind as Esquivel faced off against Fred Womak - was Aurora's strengthened pitching up to the task of Bakersfield's improved offense.

You be the judge. In the opener, Bartolo pitched into the 7th, allowing no runs on 2 hits, 2 walks with 10 K. Burns followed him retiring all four hitters he faced. Throw in the efforts of those acquired shortly before the deadline: Arturo Velasquez (7 IP, 2 run on 7 hits, 1 BB and 7 K in game 3), and Mike Monroe (who finished up for Arturo with 2.1 IP, 2 hits and 2 K) and the 'cavalry' posted 17.1 innings with just 2 runs scored and 20 K.

Conversely, 'Red Hook' was uncharacteristically (against Aurora) just 3-14, Ricks 2-13 and Hooper 3-11, with a single homer (Hooper) and 3 RBI. The Bears as a team managed just 4 XBH while hitting just .157. As a team they struck out 46 times with only 6 walks drawn, While Aurora hit .277 with just 14 K and 10 BB against the Bears vaunted pitching (In all fairness, Neil Maes threw 8-shut out innings, and Womak's 2-0 loss was the result of 2 unearned runs).

Highlights from the series include:
- In game 1, a 2-out error by Rudy Brown proceeded a 2-run double by Gabe McIntyre, giving Esquivel his 3rd win in four appearances for Aurora. John Gray earned his 38th save. Howard Joyce (who came in the early season 'Fudd' deal) was 2 for 3 and has his early Aurora career average up to .412, as he continues to get playing time - and performing, after the demotion of Ricardo Zamora.
- in game 2, Neil Maes was... well, Neil Maes, holding Aurora to 3 hits - two off the bat of rookie Jose Torres. 'Chief' Nieves was equally good (6.2 IP, 4 H, 7 K and a walk), save a 2-run homer he surrendered to Hooper.
- Velasquez got the call, on a hunch by manager Kata Hayagawa, over 'Terror' Diaz, and as noted above, Arturo pitched well - as did the eschewed Diaz, who finished the game with two, nearly perfect, innings. This game was essentially over after Aurora scored 6 in the 2nd inning (5 singles, a walk, an error and double). Seven of Aurora's starters had 2-or more hits (Flores had 3 - two being doubles) in a 10-2 win.
- Not to be overlooked, but another 'new pitcher' in the stable - but only new seeing he was a free agent signing during the offseason, John Turner pitched into the 6th with just 4 hits and a run, with 7 K. Aurora would score 6 runs late to turn a 1-1 game into a 7-2 win, with Tomas Flores driving in 3 of the 6 runs.

Aurora would entertain Duluth after dispatching the Bears, and when it comes to game 1 of that series, all we can say is... stuff happens. 'Tugboat' would allow 7 runs on 7 hits. Bryan Bedell, on the other hand, has Aurora's number. In two starts that bookended a month, he pitched 17 innings, allowed 6 hits and no runs. Go back a start further and he threw 5.2 innings with 2 hits and a run. Go figure.

Esquivel would continue to impress, as he held his former team to 2 runs over 8 innings, to win his 4th game with Aurora. In 5 starts he has gone 36.2 innings and allowed just 4 runs (0.76 ERA) with 37 K and just 9 BB. Mike Britt would hit his 24th homer of the year in an 8-2 win. Britt would hit two more homers in the series finale (#26 and #340 of his career) and Carlisle would hit his 24th in support of Nieves' 14th win.

With the solid week's performance, Aurora has upped their lead on the Bears to 7 games, and they've regained home field over Fargo in the race for the #2 seed.

As the schedule rolls into September in the coming days, Aurora has made one roster move to get an extra catcher on the post-season roster. Jorge Alonso, hitting a paltry .224 at AAA, was rostered in an effort to provide flexibility, line-up-wise. With both Castro and Gutierrez hitting over .280, the Borealis want the flexibility to use one as the DH - should that be a consideration. And as we move forward, games with Okinawa and Neo-Tokyo, loom. Neither have been kind to Aurora, though with Bothwell and Carpenter (to Crystal Lake) gone, the Shisa may not be so daunting, offensively.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:15 pm 
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This is rambly... but hopefully fun...

My mind is full of rabbit holes that I tend to go down and Bartolo Esquivel was the inspiration for the latest one. Esquivel was my #8 overall pick in the 2018 draft. I had high hopes for him but traded him and Gerardo Soto for Clayton Lewis... a trade I don't regret at all. Esquivel's success this year with Aurora was what I envisioned, although he's ultimately been a little less than that. He's had a fine career, averaging about 3 WAR per full season of play, but only been an All-Star once. It's really hard to be a regular All-Star as a starting pitcher!

Gerardo Soto was a 9th round draft pick in my first draft, 2013, when I drafted Carlos Avila #6 overall. I mentioned him recently in a thread about players who never made the majors and ultimately wiped from the record books. Love that my 9th round pick was better than my #6 overall pick...

Anyway... that led me to taking a look at Christian Murdoch, who I suspect no one but Mike remembers. He was my 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft and unlike Avila, did make the majors. I traded Murdoch to the Manchester Maulers who traded him on to Aurora. Murdoch was a high velocity guy who my scout was high on enough that I had him listed slightly behind Avery Carson on my draft list that year (I don't actually remember that... I still have the list). Carson went #2 overall. I should point out that I didn't have any player with a signing demand over $2 million on my list, as I didn't have the money for them, so guys like C Lorenzo Amador (Badger!) and SP Carlos Fernandez weren't on it. Those guys have the most batting and pitching WAR, respectively, from the draft. It wasn't strong on top end talent from a career WAR perspective, but there are some players who put up some great numbers at times. There was one player who went 30/30 for four consecutive seasons, including a 40/40 year.

Back to Murdoch, I didn't remember much about his career. I knew he made it to the PEBA with Aurora. I don't recall him being very good, which is true, but he did have one season that was particularly notable. In 2019 he started 29 games for the Borealis and went 12-9 with a 3.75 ERA en route to 4.0 WAR. He even had a game in which he struck out 17 batters... all of them Badgers! Aurora went on to win the PEC and he would experience that again 2 years later, albeit in a much reduced role. The thing that caught my eye about this, though, is that Murdoch had 4.0 WAR that year and 4.5 WAR in his career. That's 89% of his WAR from one season, and sure enough, that's the highest percentage of career pitching WAR from one season by any PEBA pitcher who's appeared in 3 seasons (this may make Stat of the Day someday...). This is all PEBA specific...

Highest % of Career Pitching WAR from One Season (min 3 PEBA seasons):
1. 89% Christian Murdoch, with 4.0 in 2019, 4.5 overall
2. 77% Shunsuke Takayama, with 3.4 in 2018, 4.4 overall (came over to the PEBA in 2018 at age 36 from the LRS, where he was consistently good - did have 5 seasons in PEBA)
3. 72% Randolph Teague, with 3.9 in 2018, 5.4 overall (another Connecticut guy!)
4. 70% Leon Rivera, with 3.9 in 2012, 5.6 overall
5. 69% Dave McAllister, with 3.4 in 2016, 4.9 overall (#5 overall pick in 2012)

San Juan's closer Jose Gomez is the player highest on this list who's put up his best year this year. His 3.7 WAR so far this year is 68% of his career total.

Now, some of these players put up another decent year of WAR but had some negative WAR years that balanced those out. So I got to wondering who had the highest difference between their top WAR season and their second best WAR season. Again, limited to pitchers who appeared in 3 seasons. On this list, Murdoch drops to 4th.

Highest Difference of Pitching WAR from Best Season to 2nd Best Season (min 3 PEBA seasons, 4.0 career pitching WAR):
1. 4.4 - Ichiyo Ito, with 5 WAR in 2010 and 0.6 WAR in 2009. Never heard of this guy!
2. 4.3 - Augusto Peralta, with 4.6 WAR in 2014 and 0.3 WAR in 2015.
3. 4.0 - Bob Burns, with 7.0 WAR in 2023 and 3.0 in 2028. (This year is Burns' second best year... and brings us full circle to Aurora again!)
4. 3.4 - Christian Murdoch, with 4.0 WAR in 2019 and 0.6 in 2020
5. 3.3 - Noboru Imai, with 3.6 WAR this year for Fargo. In his 2nd full season, he leads the division leading Dinosaurs in wins.

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Last edited by Badgers on Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 5:54 pm 
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Apologies if this is hijacking the thread now, but I figured I should post the batter lists, too.

Highest % of Career Batting WAR from One Season (min 3 PEBA seasons, 4 career WAR):
1. 104% Roberto Garcia, with 4.5 this year, and -0.2 coming into it... New Orleans is finally getting the 1st round draft pick production they hoped for
2. 94% Hiroshige Takeda, with 4.8 in 2024, 5.0 overall (another LRS guy in his 3rd PEBA season, which came AFTER he couldn't get a job for a year!)
3. 90% Eugene Baker, with 4.0 in 2021, 4.4 overall (led the league in runs, recently picked up by Crystal Lake)
4. 87% Albert Rishworth, with 4.6 in 2012, 5.3 overall (10 seasons, mostly with Canton)
5. 86% Frank King, with 3.8 in 2013, 4.4 overall (led the league in doubles)

Incidentally, the last three of these guys all had their big year for the Longshoremen.

Highest Difference of Batting WAR from Best Season to 2nd Best Season (min 3 PEBA seasons):
1. 4.8 - Jeff Patterson, with 8.3 WAR in 2007 and 3.5 in 2012 (his 229 hits is still the PEBA record, 135 runs is second all time)
2. 4.3 - Jose Trujillo, with 4.1 in 2010 and -0.2 in 2011 (old guy who left the Winter Leagues for PEBA at 35. Wasn't on the other list due to the career WAR requirement)
3. 4.2 - Kenny Michael, with 5.7 in 2015, 1.5 in 2017 (another Canton guy, who led the league in HBP both years)
4. 3.9 - Roberto Garcia (see above), with 4.5 this year and 0.5 each of the past two seasons.
5. 3.8 - Roberto Martinez, with 3.8 this year and 0.0 in 2026 (back to Aurora... "Fudd" wasn't able to crack the Borealis lineup but is getting a chance in Toyama to show what he can do)

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 03, 2019 8:20 pm 
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That's amazing Frank - and I do remember Christian Murdoch very well! He came to The Front Range from Manchester in the Anastasio Lopez deal (who is currently still pitching in Yuma). Lopez did great for Aurora, and as you point out, Murdoch was frustrating.

And I love those full circle deals - Lopez, was originally drafted by Florida, was traded to the Calzones, who traded him to Yuma (for David Goode, amongst others), Yuma traded him to Manchester, who traded him to Aurora (for En-gao and Bobby Watson, primarily) and then back to Yuma (for 'Gunner', who now finds himself on waivers with WV)... phew - Just as bad as Esquivel - who started this whole conversation!!!

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:08 pm 
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No Lead Safe for the Borealis?
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

September 25, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - What a difference a month will do. On August 28, with 30 games left in the season, the Borealis sat atop the Desert Hills with what was beginning to feel an insurmountable 8-game lead. By the off day on September 7, the Bears had clipped a couple of games from that lead and then proceeded to win 12-games in a row while Aurora posted a decent 7-5 mark and see that 8-game lead evaporate over a 3-week period to but a game. Over the past weekend, Aurora managed to up the lead back to 3-games after the Bears lost 2 of 3 at Duluth.

The past, nearly, 4-weeks have proven to be a greater challenge than they would have hoped - after causing through August with an 18-8 record on the morning of August 29. Then, suddenly, inexplicably, someone stepped on the clutch and threw the car into reverse. Atilio Gaivo - yup, don't feel bad, we hadn't heard of him either, had Aurora off-balance with an excellent change-up - holding to Aurora to 4 hits and a run into the 6th as Aurora would lose 2-1 to Okinawa, and the next day 'Tugboat' would struggle - a theme for the month, allowing 6 runs in 3 IP for another loss to end August.

During this nearly month-long run, Aurora's starters who had a 2.84 ERA on the morning of the 29th of August, have since posted a 4.73 - nearly 2-runs per game more! Considering the team was scoring 4-runs a game before and 4.8 since, that difference in starting pitching becomes a worrisome issue. Oh, John Turner has held up his end of the bargain - he's 3-2, with a 2.70 ERA - his two losses being that 2-1 loss to Okinawa and a 3-2 loss to Neo-Tokyo. Rob Imhoff, who is back from AAA to try and prove once more that he can stay healthy (latest Vegas odds put that at 6-1), also has pitched well - he's 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA. Fortunately for Aurora, the two pitchers who've pitched the best in the past month are the two pitchers leading off this final week of the season in critical starts against the (fill-in-the-blank with a shocking superlative) 'Gnats - who will have the top of their rotation lined up against Aurora.

Meanwhile.... Randy Smith (1-2, 5.13), Bartolo Esquivel (1-3, 7.52) and to a lesser extent, Luis Nieves (0-2, 4.15) have all struggled - as had Arturo Velasquez, who with 2 GS and 2 relief appearances has a 5.74; to put Velasquez' number in perspective, he has two saves with two 3-inning, 1-hit (each) outings. His two starts he were at a 9.31 ERA. What's up with the starters? Well, nothing like seeing your OAVE balloon from .227 to .302 and your WHIP from 1.07 to 1.35. That's a lot of extra hits and a lot of extra runs as a result as the starting rotations ERA nearly double during that 24-game span.

Which is a bad time to have that happen, because the offense wasn't all that bad. With a .281 average and scoring nearly 5-runs a game, Aurora should have been more successful. 6 of those 12 losses were by 2-or fewer runs. They were shut-out 3 times. 3-times the bullpen let a late lead slip away - including yesterday's 4-3, 12-inning loss at Canton with Noriyuki Sugahara's 3-run, walk-off homer.

And so we head into the last week of the season on the heels of a rough stretch, against a Sandgnats club that is 15-7 in September - despite losing 2 of 3 earlier in the month to Aurora - and the 'Gnats have something to play for: the division title over in the Great Lakes. Tied with Fargo, Crystal Lake will finish with Palm Springs, while Fargo entertains Reno before heading to Neo-Tokyo for what they hope will be a division winning series and a wild card preview. In theory, Fargo still could earn the 2-seed, but that would require a total implosion by Aurora. After the 'Gnats, Aurora finishes at home against the Yumans.

Meanwhile... Let's not sleep on those Bears, who with some luck can turn their own 16-6 September into a division title or wild card as they finish with Toyama and K-zoo - two teams they have throttled already this past month. Who knows what tie-breakers may be needed, but between Aurora and Bakersfield; Crystal Lake and Fargo - and then the inter-divisional combinations, there is the potential for 4 different tie scenarios in the SL, involving both the Desert Hills, Great Lakes and the second Wild Card. And when you look at the match-ups in that first series of the week - Aurora-Crystal Lake are really playing for their playoff lives; especially the 'Gnats, whose tied position with Fargo is far, far more tenuous than Aurora's 3-game lead on Bakersfield.

Que the spoilers - as the Yumans, Badgers, Codgers and Akira look to spoil someones dreams on the last weekend of the season. Cover your eyes and pray...

And don't even think at looking at the IL, or your eyes are sure to bleed...

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 3:51 pm 
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Wow - Aurora has had a roller coaster month. Weird thing with the starting pitching blowing up like that. Hopefully the ship has been righted! Tonight’s sim should really be something!

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 5:33 pm 
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Really looking forward to the sim. I feel bad for Bartolo! He had such a great start to the season.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:04 pm 
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Warriors wrote:
Really looking forward to the sim. I feel bad for Bartolo! He had such a great start to the season.

So weird... Must be something in the water...

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 4:16 pm 
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Congrats on winning the division, Mike! We stormed through September but just couldn't catch up. The Bears will have to exact their vengeance in the playoffs and on an ongoing, annual basis.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2019 6:35 pm 
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Aurora Eeks Out DH Crown
by Ray D. Enzé, NLN baseball blogger

October 2, 2028: Aurora, Colorado - Aurora entered the last week of the season with a 3-game lead on Bakersfield. The Bears finished the year with a strong 5-1 mark - sweeping Toyama and taking 2 of 3 from Yuma, putting a world of pressure on the Borealis to likewise finish the year strongly. A season finishing series with Yuma at Northern Lights provided half that need (on paper, at least), but the key would be the week's opening series with Crystal Lake - fighting for their own division crown - and playoff lives.

The 'Gnats would take game 1, 7-4, despite 'Nitro' MacCowan giving up a pair of runs in the first couple of innings - Domingo Gutierrez' 5th homer of the year in the second spotting Aurora the 2-0 lead, but Imhoff and 'Terror' would each surrender a run, and then Ron Latour would have one of his worst outings of the year at the absolute worst time. Over the course of his 61 outings on the season, he gave up runs in only 11 games - a remarkable feat, and in two of those he gave up more than 2 - and this was one of them, as in only a third of an inning he allowed 4 as he earned his 6th loss on the season. More importantly, coupled with a Bear win at YUM!, the division lead was cut to 2.

Aurora would storm back in game 2 as Mike Britt's 29th homer would be part of the 4-runs Aurora would touch Tony Cuellar for, but 'Big Whiskey's homer was all they would need as John Turner would have his second best outing of the year - which is saying a lot, when he went 8.1 IP and allowed just a hit (way back in April, his second start was a complete game 1-hitter against Neo-Tokyo). In winning his 14th game (against 6 losses), turner struck out 8, walked 2 and finished the year with a PEBA-leading 0.85 WHIP. The story of this game was the near miss at history, as Turner carried a no-hitter into the 9th, and after getting the first out, he would walk Larry Frawley - frustratingly as the look on his face suggested he felt he had been squeezed. Ed Brown would work a 2-2 count before he looped one towards Paul Carlisle - who dove, but could only short hop the ball for the 'Gnats only hit. That would be all for Turner. Arturo Velasquez would come in and provide Crystal Lake some hope, walking his first batter, to load the bases before striking out Valdez and getting Allen Wells to fly out to end the game - and keep Aurora's lead over the Bears at 2, after their second win of their series with the Win-D's.

Game three was an Instant Classic. When you look back on this season, and the fates of Aurora, Crystal Lake, Fargo and Bakersfield, this one game could arguably decided both the Desert Hills and Great Lakes - Bakersfield and Fargo had one on the day. A Crystal Lake win would put both divisions at a single game deficit with three to play. and Aurora win would put both divisions at a 2-game bulge - yes, with three to play, 2-games is a bulge. Neither the 'Gnats nor the Borealis wanted to lose this game - and they would play on and on into the night. It would be nearly 1 am in the morning, long after 'Tugboat' left after 8, 4-hit innings in which he allowed a single run - thanks to three of those hits in the second. And much longer after Dan McNeill left in the 7th, also with just a run allowed on 5-hits - Tomas Flores' 14th homer of the year, tying the game at 1. The game would become a game of bullpen attrition - Gray, Latour, Mike Monroe throwing 3 scoreless innings, Lagerveld and finally Velasquez - and ditto Crystal Lake, with a nod to former-Borealis, 'Sleepy' Kuhn, who threw 4-scoreless innings. How long this game might have gone? Who knows, but a walk to Flores and an errant pick-off throw by Edgar Merriman put Carlisle in position to win the game - and he bounced one up the middle, and with Ramirez playing deep to guard against Carlisle's power, he had no chance to throw out the speedy Flores - and Aurora would take the series and maintain their two game lead in the division.

Yuma came to town with Aurora having a firm grasp of what they needed to accomplish - win two or see the Bears lose a game. Aurora would do their part behind Bartolo Esquivel's 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R performance (and Bob Burn's 2-inning, 5 K effort). Backing up the fine pitching was one of Aurora's most explosive days. 'Big Whiskey' hit #30... Paul Carlisle hit two homers to also reach #30. Jose Torres hit his 22nd and 'Fido' Castro hit #15. The Bears would also win, beating Kalamazoo, assuring Aurora no worse than a tie for the division.

'Chief' Nieves took the mound in game 2 and for the fourth straight game, Aurora got excellent work out of their starter. Nieves would go 8-innings and allow just a run on 6-hits. Jose Torres would hit his 23rd with 2-out in the second to give Aurora the early lead, but Yuma would tie it in the 7th with a 2-out RBI single from Steve Arnold. Aurora came right back - Nick Heath would have a lead-off single and 'Fido' a go-ahead RBI double and that would be it for the scoring, as Aurora would win, 2-1 - and they would clinch the title, 30 minutes before word came in that the Badger had beaten the Bears, upping the division lead to 3, with just the final game of the season left.

The Borealis were once again division champs - for the 8th season in a row and 9th in 10 seasons; back to the start of their four Rodriguez Cups in 5 years. This years division crown (and playoff spot) was an odd journey - filled with inconsistent play across the board - and yet there was enough consistency to offset the poor play of other groups. Be it the starters or the 'pen, the offense or the defense, this team seemed to manage, and down the stretch, it was the unit that has long been this team's hallmark - the starters, that brought home the division title.

With that, the Borealis are set to host Fargo in the Divisional Series - a team Aurora went 10-6 against during the regular season, and a team that on paper looks to be a pretty good match-up - if you want exciting baseball. More on that in my next posting. Meanwhile we await the results of the Bakersfield/Neo-Tokyo Wild Card match, with the winner to face the Evil Evas... The Bears and Akira split their 12-games this year... Bakersfield was 4-8 v. Shin Seiki, despite a 2.42 ERA... Neo-Tokyo actually fared well against the Evas - 8-8 on the year...

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2019 6:41 pm 
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Enjoyed the write-up. What a game! I'm a big fan of Aurora pitching in general, even with the uncomfortable drama with Nieves a couple years ago. Was keen on Flores before the trade deadline, so I'm happy for his heroics. And of course always pleased to see Bartolo perform.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2019 6:45 pm 
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Warriors wrote:
Enjoyed the write-up. What a game! I'm a big fan of Aurora pitching in general, even with the uncomfortable drama with Nieves a couple years ago. Was keen on Flores before the trade deadline, so I'm happy for his heroics. And of course always pleased to see Bartolo perform.

All three former-Warriors - There's a history of deals between the two teams, one of Aurora's more frequent trade partners...

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