The final round of the Australia Baseball League looms upon us! And with that, I believe it is time we rank the teams in order of their competitive strength.
1. Adelaide Bite
I will put it this way. No one is going to knock this team off their perch. Josh Toles and Morgan Coombs lead the ABL in wins with nine and seven respectively.
Matthew Williams has also had a very strong season, sitting 3-2 for his win-loss with a 3.78 ERA.
When it comes playoff time, the Bite will simply start a game with Coombs, and finish it with Toles. Then start the second game with Williams and finish it with Toles. In theory, this guarantees the Bite two wins providing they have run support.
This round the Bite will be taking on the Melbourne Aces, who they are capable of sweeping 4-0, but I believe they will go in looking for nothing more than a split. This will give them some rest and put them in a good position for the week after.
2. Perth Heat
It will be a tough series for the Heat against Brisbane this weekend, but a mere 2-2 split will leave them second in the standings. They played absolutely amazing baseball in Canberra last weekend, scoring 45 runs in four games. That is 1.25 runs every inning for four games. If that isn’t called ‘the bats coming alive’, I don’t know what is.
Their pitching has also been solid, Mike McClendon has only dropped one game, with the lowest ERA and WHIP in the league. He basically guarantees the Heat a win every time he steps up to the mound. Coming off a shutout against Canberra, he will be raring to go this series.
Perth’s bullpen also pitched some quality innings, with reliever Scott Mitchinson recording two wins against Canberra.
3. Brisbane Bandits
Brisbane are an athletic, quick and strong team who have still not yet clinched a playoff berth. If they are swept by Perth (very unlikely), and the Blue Sox and Cavalry split, they will finish fifth. They will need to go into Perth with their bats alive after a 2-2 series against the Blue Sox.
Brisbane don’t really have a league leader in any batting or pitching statistics, but they always manage to put together strong performances as a team, with quality team at bats and bullpen support. They also play defence well, with Johnny Field leading the charge.
One problem for the Bandits is getting it done on the road, with a 7-11 road record. It isn’t terrible (see Melbourne Aces), but it isn’t enough to get the job done in a road playoff series, or a series like the one this weekend, with so much playoff implications.
4. Sydney Blue Sox
“Sydney are out.” – most ABL fans. Well I’m telling you, it’s not over yet. Sydney have a series against a struggling Canberra side, who were trampled by the Perth Heat in all areas last weekend.
Sydney split with the Brisbane Bandits, who are basically equal in ability.
All four of Sydney’s starters are ranked in the top 20 in the league for ERA and WHIP, and although only Luke Wilkins registers in the top five for these statistics, having a core group of starters like this is very important for the regular season.
However, one problem with not having a star pitcher in the ABL is the three game playoff series. Both Perth and Adelaide have two starters that would be able to mash these starters if Sydney were to meet up with them in a playoff match.
5. Canberra Cavalry
Canberra started the season strong, but it began to go downhill in the last few rounds. They had an awful weekend against Perth, giving up more earned runs then you would expect a team to do in maybe 8-10 games, not four.
Some shining lights in the Cavalry team that may help them pull through is second baseman Christian Lopes and catcher Jack Murphy (who could see some action with the Toronto Bluejays this season). But two position players putting in a big effort may just not cut it.
They will need a strong starting performance by Tim Atherton in one of their matches this weekend against Brisbane, and simply pray the rest of their starters and bullpen can hold.
6. Melbourne Aces
“May God save the Queen, because NOTHING will save the Melbourne Aces” – Goth Whitlam (probably).
It was another disappointing season for the Aces, who have the best ballpark, and the equal best commentary team in the league. Despite their .333 winning percentage, the coverage of the Aces on iiNET and ABL TV more than made up for their lacklustre performance, week in and week out.
They still didn’t manage to win a series on the road, nor have a winning home record, but Makoto Aiuchi and Cody Buckel came through quite well in the starting rotation.
Also, you can not forget about Kellin Deglan breaking the ABL home run record with three rounds to spare, but that simply won’t support a team who lack depth all the way through a season.
Hopefully next year will be a big year for the Melbourne side.