By Jim Sullivan
You may remember this…
|George Pratt||5 – 2|
|Quencher||4 – 1|
|The Warehouse||8 – 1|
|Paramount||12 – 1|
|Telegraph Hill||25 – 1|
|Bulldogs||40 – 1|
|Stats||75 – 1|
|B.A. Joes||100 – 1|
Those were the odds I set, and which were published here, at the beginning of the playoffs, for winning the M Street Softball League championship. As it turned out, they were mostly correct. The teams with the lower odds have won all but one of the playoff series to this point. The only upset saw The Warehouse beating Quencher (which was personally vexing to me, since I’m a member of Quencher!) The finals begin Monday and the best-of-seven series will pit Shenanigans against Sonny’s Pirates. Now it’s time to review things and handicap that series.
Before anything else is said, it should be noted that both teams are loaded with talent. The possibility of this going to a seventh game is by no means a longshot. Whatever the outcome, I expect it to be exciting and well worth watching.
Sonny’s beat The Bulldogs and The George Pratt Club to get here. They didn’t lose a game in either series. Shenanigans beat Telegraph Hill and The Warehouse. They went 5 and 1 to get the job done. Combine the playoff and regular season marks? Sonny’s went 19 and 2, Shenanigans 20 and 2.
In the only meeting between the two teams during the regular season, Sonnny’s won a 4 – 3 decision
Both sides have some of the best hurlers in the league on their respective rosters. For Shenanigans, it’s Mike Hoadley, Sammy Acevedo, and Nicky French (with Mark Dion and Al Martin in reserve if disaster strikes.) For Sonny’s, it’s Jim “Country” Pinkston, Joe Venuti, and the living legend, John Gregorio (although John has been on the DL.) Should Sonny’s need another to throw, Joe Burke is available. It’s awfully tough to give an edge to one staff here. If we have to come up with an answer based on numbers, here are the staff ERA for both:
Shenanigans – 1.83
Sonny’s – 2.72
That’s the entire staff, though, and not just the guys likely to be the starters in this round. Break it down to the top three from Shenanigans and the top two from Sonny’s, and this is what you get…
Shenanigans – 1.60
Sonny’s – 2.23
Closer – both round to two - but edge still goes to Shenanigans.
If we take it one step further, and go to the individuals involved, we see this…
Hoadley – 1.48
Acevedo – 1.58
Pinkston – 1.59
French – 1.71
Venuti – 2.67
Hell of a statement about the spectacular pitchers in this series when Joey Venuti’s 2.67 looks high in comparison to the other four! Important thing to note here is that Pinkston, individually, is so close to all three of his opponents, either plus a slight bit or minus a slight bit, it’s basically a wash. And Venuti was the winning pitcher in the regular season game, over Acevedo.
I’ll give the pitching edge to Shenanigans, overall, but it’s slight. They allow fewer baserunners on average. A big strength they have is the ability to go three deep, keep changing things up more often than Sonny’s, but if Gregorio is available to throw a bit, and on his old form, that may be negated.
Much of any pitching staff’s ERA is dependent on the defense. Which team is stronger defensively? That’s a hard one to quantify with numbers. This isn’t MLB where you can consult such things as fielding percentages and range factor. Mostly, you have to go with what you’ve seen from each team. And both teams have some superb defensive players. CF Charlie Conners and SS Steve Couturier, of Sonny’s, are hard to beat. They’re defensive all-stars in anyone’s book. Steve Stalcup, the infielder from Shenanigans, is a killer glove. There are others, from both teams, who are truly solid. I can also think of one or two from both squads who might be a bit shakier than their counterparts on the other side, but it isn’t a matter of anyone having an outright cement glove. Again, I’m going to give the slight edge to Shenanigans, but if you have a different opinion, I won’t get all bent out of shape.
The hitting is the most interesting part of the equation, to me. Sonny’s has a clear edge in overall power (79 to 45 in extra-base hits, 27 to 16 in HR). And they also hit for a higher average (.467 to .405). However, in the stat that is the most important, runs scored, Shenanigans leads, 219 – 207. Some of that goes to Shenanigans’ patience (92 to 71 lead in walks), but it also speaks for their ability to come through in the clutch. Also, I think they tend to make their outs more productive than Sonny’s does. In some ways, it’s sort of like the old American League – National League thing in baseball, where the American League played for the three-run homer, while the NL went more for small ball.
Sonny’s is more likely to come up with the lightning bolt that kills you quick, while Shenanigans keeps cutting you until you bleed to death from the accumulation of wounds.
Despite the run differential, I’m saying edge to Sonny’s. In a series with such magnificent pitching, they need fewer mistakes to take advantage than Shenanigans does. I’m not saying Shenanigans’ pitchers will positively give them those mistakes, but they need fewer of them. The key will be if Sonny’s limits the ways Shenanigans’ batters take advantage of the small ball style. No walks, no productive outs. I think the pitching of Shenanigans plays more into Sonny’s hitting style than vice-versa. Again, as with the other pieces, it’s not a huge edge.
Prediction? No. I can easily see this going either way. I don’t stand to gain anything by making a prediction, except maybe a few enemies (and I personally like most of the players on both teams and I think they like me, so why screw with that?) What I’ll do, though, is the same thing I did for the playoffs overall. I’ll tell you what I think the betting line would be if Las Vegas were interested in M Street.
That is, bet 115 to make 100 on Shenanigans, or bet 100 to make 105 on Sonny’s.
Whatever happens, I’ll be there for every game. I’m really looking forward to this series. I think it will be tense, exciting, and full of drama, some of the best softball we’ve ever seen in this league.