Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald
Omaha Sluggers (NL) vs. Cleveland Steamers (AL)
Overview: This is a matchup of the defending champion and king of the hill Sluggers vs. the upstart and nearly universally reviled Steamers. Both teams are talented at all positions, otherwise they wouldn't be where they are currently sitting, four wins away from a world title. Sluggers owner yanks21 is shooting for his 3rd Cobb World title in 4 seasons, while Steamers owner pieo is looking for his first. The Sluggers are a veteran team at all positions, while the Steamers lineup and rotation is filled with rental veterans and promising young players.
Position by Position Analysis:
Catcher: The Sluggers C is Ralph Bradshaw, a defensive catcher and fine pitch caller who is also well rounded with the stick. He hasn't been hitting too well in the playoffs, only .231, but is masterfully directing the Sluggers rotation. The Steamers regular C is Mule Parker, a very talented defensive catcher, but completely anemic with the bat, as evidenced by his .158 average in the playoffs. Lars likes the C who can hit and field.
1B: Playing 1B for the Sluggers is hitting and OBP machine Josh Price. Price, who was injured for much of last seasons playoffs, is back with a vengeance, hitting .324 with 11 RBIs in the playoffs. For the Steamers big time slugger Brace Davey mans the bag, and has 4 HR's thus far in the playoffs, although he hasn't hit for much average. Lars thinks Price is the more complete player of the two, and more dangerous at the plate.
2B: Bill Norton is the regular 2B for the Sluggers, and has proved himself in the post season many times over, and is right up there again with a .304 average and some solid fielding to boot. Cory Gardner is capable for the Steamers, but isn't an all star like Norton.
SS: John Simpson is a defensive whiz for the Sluggers, who is a huge suprise at the plate this year with a .412 average in the playoffs, way beyond what anyone reasonably expected of him. Steamers SS Paul Roth is a player cut from the same mold as Simpson, and judging by their ratings and regular season stats, are virtually clones. Simpson's hot stick is what gives him the edge though.
3B: Veteran Ken Daniels moved from SS to 3B, and is a capable defensive player at the position. His usually acceptable bat has abandoned him in the playoffs however, as Daniels has only mustered a .208 batting average. Former Slugger Sammy Maduro is the 3B for the Steamers, and he is only having a slightly better time at the plate, hitting .214 in the post season. Their gloves are the same, and both of them are brutal at the plate currently, but Maduro's more of a threat to hit a homer and make the most of his one hit a game.
LF: For the Sluggers, it's triple crown winner Jose Barrios, and nothing more needs to be said. For the Steamers promising youngster Nick Weaver is the man, and is learning that the playoffs are different then the regular season, with a .234 BA in the post season. He'll get there, but he's no Barrios.
CF: Tomas Diaz is a fine CF for the Sluggers, he has great range, and hits well with some pop. His post season has been pretty decent thus far. For the Steamers Jose Gandarillas is as quality a player as Diaz, younger with better legs, and has been dynamite as a leadoff man for Cleveland this playoffs. Gandarillas' monster playoffs thus far gives him the edge.
RF: Albert Burnett is a solid RF for the Sluggers, but has been a disappointment this playoffs, only managing a .226 BA, 1HR, and 3 RBI in 40 ABs, not what Omaha expected of the young slugger. For the Steamers Al Rosario has been better, but not much, hitting .250 with 2 HR's and 6 RBI's. Both players are young and could turn it around, but Rosario seems to be adjusting a little better this post season.
Bench: Ryan Saberhagen is the main player off the bench for the Sluggers, and can capably fill in at most positions. The big strength is pinch hitter Fred McConnell, who even though he is in the twilight of a great career, can still get a hit when it counts the most. For the Steamers, not a single person off their bench has played a game in the playoffs, which tells Lars all he needs to know.
Rotation: For the Sluggers, it's Kazuhiro Ong, Ivan Canseco, Juan Moreno, and Clyde Ford. Ong could be renamed Cy Young, everyone is aware of that, but Canseco is very good, and Ford and Moreno fly under the radar of the top two pitchers but are very good as well. Truly this is one of the elite rotations in the game today, but you wouldn't know it by looking at their playoff numbers, which haven't been at all good. For the Steamers it's a 3 man rotation in the playoffs, elder statesman Flip Heathcott has gotten the most starts, but Ruben Gonzalez has been unhittable this post season, going 4-0 with a .95 WHIP. Former NL Cy Young David Rosado is the 3rd man in the rotation, but is having a playoffs to forget with a 0-3 record this post season. If Lars were going by the numbers he would choose the Sluggers, but Gonzalez and Heathcott are clearly the best performing pitchers of the post season in this bunch.
Bullpen: The Sluggers have been carried by their bullpen, and closer Bobby Flores has been unhittable, going 6 for 6 in saves with a 0.00 ERA and a .45 WHIP. The rest of the Sluggers bullpen hasn't been far behind and is having a memorable playoffs. For the Steamers Trevor Seelbach has carried the team, with a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings of playoff baseball. Russell Lewis and Larry Gross have also had very good postseasons. The rest of the bullpen is capable, but closer Tony Coomer is kind of scary, despite his 0.00 ERA thus far. Lars really can't find a clear edge in this one.
Conclusion: The Sluggers are a deeper team top to bottom, and despite the iffy nature of their starting rotation have more talent on thier team than do the Steamers. That being said the Steamers have taken out three straight 100 win division title teams to make the World Series, and should absolutely not be underestimated. Lars thinks that Ruben Gonzalez will carry the Steamers to a few wins, but ultimately the depth and hitting of the Sluggers will carry them through, especially if their rotation pitches like it is capable of.
Prediction: Sluggers in 6