1- Mexico City (119-43) - The Bandejos hit 36 more HR's than any other NL team and allowed 79 fewer runs than any other NL squad. That's how you win 119 games.
Key Player: The murderer's row of Alex Shibata, Jalal Rivera, and Del Gil each hit 50 HR's (exactly) this season.
Weakness: Only San Juan, Pittsburgh, and Memphis had fewer + plays in the NL. Ok, I'm stretching, they won 119 games, what should I say?
History: In the last 6 years, the Bandejos have won 3 division titles and 3 World Series. Oddly, the two have never occured in the same season. Will this be the year the division title jinx fails?
4- Burlington (74-88) - Only Sioux Falls had fewer - plays than the Bulldogs but finishing 4th from the bottom in runs scored and with the worst record ever to make the playoffs tags them as a longshot.
Key Player: The Bulldogs might start sub .500 pitchers in the first two games of the series, so slugger Miguel Gutierrez better come through against the Crownrificos.
Weakness: Closer Mateo Mairena was a stellar 32-36 in save opportunities, but the rest of the pen managed to blow 16 leads late in games.
History: This is a 3rd straight division title for the Bulldogs, but a first round matchup with defending champ San Juan followed by a potential date with the powerful Bandejos makes them the longest of longshots.
5- San Juan (103-59) - The Crownrificos are back to defend their WS title (their 3rd in 8 years). They've scored more runs than any NL team, but do so without running. If fact, no team stole fewer bases the San Juan's 63.
Key Player: A balanced offense saw 11 players hit double digit HRs, but Lenny Ohman will be counted on to make key starts after Cy Young candidate Phil Martin.
Weakness: This team plays awful defense. It's not that they make errors, it's that they just don't get to balls. They finshed ahead of only Memphis is + plus and - plays. Perhaps nowhere is the lack of range more apparent than in CF where Felix Turner lumbers around.
History: They've never missed the playoffs and have won 3 WS titles. Interestingly, they either win the WS or fail to get out of the Division Series, so there fate may decided early, particularly in a looming 2nd round matchup with arch-rival Mexico City.
2- Sioux Falls (99-63) - The Dakota are arguably the best fielding team in the playoffs and they can pitch too with Bartolo Gonzalez and Paul Rhodes forming a dominating 1-2 punch. However, the lineup doesn't exactly strike fear into opponents, finishing a middling 7th in the NL in runs scored. Only San Juan stole fewer bases.
Key Player: 3b Jesus Astacio had a breakout year. He must be a run producer in the playoffs for the Dakota to succeed.
Weakness: They just don't hit enough, primarily because the top of the order has lacked consistency and performance throughout the season.
History: The Dakota have won their division every year, but are just 1 for 4 in trips to the league championship series. In the past, the bullpen has failed in the post-season, will this year's acquisitions help break that trend?
3- Cheyenne (95-67) - The Seminoles hit just 176 HRs but managed to finish 4th in the NL in runs scored because they led the league in batting average and stole the 2nd most bases in the NL.
Key Player: C Bart Carlyle can dominate a game, especially if speed merchants Ichiro Kuo and Sherman Prince manage to reach base.
Weakness: The bullpen is a mess. "Closer" Adam Edwards boasts a 6.63 ERA and the team blew 23 saves this year.
History: Cheyenne is in the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years but they've yet to make an LCS. However, this is the first time they'll avoid the NL South powerhouses in rounds 1 and 2.
6- Helena (93-69) - Nobody topped the 96 quality starts of the Helena rotation. Will their 5th in the NL scoring offense be enough?
Key Player: Curtis James and Carl Prince, Helena's two young starters must keep the team in the game until their balanced but unintimidating offense can give them a chance.
Weakness: They don't like to walk and the team's .339 OBP is far and away the worst in the playoffs.
History: The Hound Dogs finally return to the playoffs after a 7-year abscense. Can they scratch the itch?
Fearless predictions: Burlington get's swept after almost deciding to forfeit their opening round series when more tickets are sold to Crownrifico hooligans than locan Burlingtonites for the home games. Cheyenne and Helena play a knock-down, drag-out series that turns on Cheyenne's ability to run on Helena's battery. The Seminoles sneak through on experience. Mexico City overcomes the division title jinx by eliminating San Juan but is stunned by Cheyenne in LCS.
HBD Ballpark Factors
3 weeks ago