As the playoffs approach - a quick preview of each team:
1-Richmond (115-47) - The top team in the AL leads the way with pitching. They allowed the fewest runs in the AL by a wide margin. The solid offense relies on speed, with a league-high 263 SBs and power (324 Hrs).
Key Player: 60-60 man Julio Nunez hit .330 while stealing 67 bags and pounding 62 HRs.
Weakness: Tough to find one on a team that won 115 games, plays good defense, and had their closer go 37-38 in save opportunities. Three starters did strike out 100+ times so we'll go with that.
History: 4th straight year in the playoffs but they've never been to the World Series.
4-Monterrey (89-73) - They rank 8th in the AL in runs scored, 7th in runs allowed, and 9th in fielding. At 211 their HR total was the 3rd lowest in the AL. How is this team the 4 seed? Creative managing and a non-traditional 3-man tandem rotation have meant wins.
Key Player: Catcher Carson Sherman leads the way with .325 average and 49 HRs.
Weakness: Closer Ned Rivera saved just 20 of 34 attempts and threw over 100 innings in 75 appearances
History: One of just a handful of franchises never to miss the playoffs, the the 'Quistas have made just 2 LCS and 1 WS appearances in 8 seasons.
5- Baltimore (99-63) - They're sortof like Richmond-light, with 326 HRs and 231 SBs to go with a staff that allowed the 2nd fewest runs in the AL.
Key Player: A trio of players hit 50+ HRs and drove in over 140 runs but ace hurler Rico Lecuona might be the key to the Homies hopes.
Weakness: Their baserunners have been caught stealing a league-high 142 times.
History: The franchise has missed the playoffs just 3 times in 8 years, but they've made it out of the division series just once, a season 2 trip to the World Series.
2- Salem (103-59) - This team trailed only Colorado in hitting .308 for the season. However, pitching and defense both ranked 8th in the AL. The offense defined balance with 9, count 'em 9 players hitting 20+ HRs.
Key Player: Free agent addition Carl Brooks was brought in to closer the door and he has, 49 of the 55 times he's been asked. Does the 35-year old have enough gas in the tank for the playoffs?
Weakness: Only Memphis had more - plays in the field and only Houston had fewer plus plays in the AL than this defense. They're also one of the worst in the league at throwing out base stealers.
History: Bossmao's boys have never lost the division and have made an AL-high 4 trips to the World Series. They've been there before.
3- Cincinnatti (96-66) - The Great Americans scored fewer runs than any other AL playoff team and only Monterrey slugged for a lower percentage. On the flip side, they finished 4th in the AL in runs allowed and posted a solid 67 quality starts. Seven players stole 20 bags or more.
Key Player: 33-year old Max Molina is the best starter on the staff (13-6 3.10 ERA), but he pitched into the 7th just 4 times on the year and has been battling a tired arm. Will he step up in the playoffs?
Weakness: They lack the offensive firepower of the rest of this bracket and will have to rely on gritty pitching, manufactured runs, and solid bullpen work to succeed.
History: After cincyredlegs took the franchise to its first playoff birth last year, he orchestrated the first division title in franchise history this year. A first playoff series win would be a great achievement.
6- Scranton (97-65) - This team of extremes has the most HR's, fewest SB's, and highest ERA of any team in the AL field. No doubt, the cast of the Office will be in the stands.
Key Player: C.C. Morgan hit .328 as a rookie but his biggest contribution in the playoffs might be made with his arm where he's led the Nittany Lions to the best CS% in the entire AL.
Weakness: The pitching staff has the highest walk rate of any in the AL playoffs and the hitters tied Cincy's for the most strikeouts of the playoffs teams.
History: Scranton set a franchise record for victories but finished just third in their division. This is their second appearance in the playoffs.
Scanton nips Cincy in a series that goes the distance. Monterrey proves scrappy but not enough to take down Baltimore. Powerful Richmond bests a surprising Scranton team to take the pennant.
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