Guest post written by Colin Gannon
If the smell of Parliaments, stale beer, and day-old fried food didn’t already give it away, I’m here to report that the PWL has returned to the friendly confines of the Springfield Moose Lodge. A few contenders have emerged from the pack through two weeks of play, while several teams have yet to awaken from their winter-long slumber. Let’s break down where each team stands through a third of the season.
-Pitching, hitting and the ability to field a team full of adults continue to elude the Master Batters. There are (limited) signs of life, though, as Jim McElhatton has jumped out to a 3 homer start, good for third in the league.
-*Dupont Circle Jerks’* newcomer Brett Bigler, considered a slightly above-average hitter in the Freaky Franchise league in upstate New York, seems to have immediately become one of the 5 or 10 best hitters in the league early in his PWL debut. What this portends for the PWL’s already glim chances in the NWLA remains to be seen, but uhh, it can’t be great. Still, the Jerks look like a team that’s a player away from true championship contention as they defend their title without hired gun Jim Shannon.
-Where do we even begin with the Twits? Through the first third of the season the squad has combined for a lone double as their sole extra-base hit. Couple that statistic with Hudson’s choice of sweatpants, and this iteration of the once-proud Twits looks more like the cast of HBO’s ‘Girls’ than the one that scored a colossal World Series upset over the Barnburners three years ago. That title now feels like a distant memory (we can’t count their victory in the inaugural Fall Tournament last year until there’s any proof whatsoever that the tournament actually happened). Their lackluster performance so far this year leads many to believe that the once power-hungry duo of league commissioner Greg Hudson and commissioner-elect Stephen Crawford have since grown complacent. A truly sad end to an inspiring underdog story.
-The Old Town Barrel Bruisers (better known as the Cross-Fit Dudes) have stumbled out to a slightly disappointing 2-4 start, although there are signs of life as this group learns the intricacies of the game. Skipper Jerry Hill has put together an impressive .405/.568/.973 slash line early on after debuting in the tournament that may or may not have happened last fall. Couple that with the play of equally physically imposing Ryan Doeppel and it’s not hard to see signs of a competitive squad if you squint hard enough. Speaking of squinting hard enough, it may appear on the surface that the Bruisers have violated the unwritten rule of not identifying themselves through the use of a team uniform, but if one looks closely, you’ll notice that every article of clothing they wear dons the Gold’s Gym logo. Did they mention they do cross-fit?
- After reaching the postseason in 2 of the previous 3 seasons (seriously, look it up), the Janitors have proven worthy of their moniker once again. Led by PWL iron man Kirby Valladeres, the Janitors have started off their 2017 campaign by scoring 7 runs in 6 games- shockingly, half of which came off of three solo home runs off of Blandsford Barnburners ace Colin Gannon. Despite hitting 4 homers as a group, they sit next-to-last in slugging percentage, just above the homer-less Twits. They’re also either dead last or second-to-last in ERA, OBA, K/6, and HIP. Every team seems to run into the dreaded “Year from Hell” if they stick around long enough (see: Blandsford Barnburners spring 2010, DC Twits spring 2016, and Superman’s Wheelchair spring 2014), and this just might be what we’re seeing from the Janitors. Unfortunately the schedule doesn’t figure to get any easier as their next three are against the defending-champion DuPont Circle Jerks and the Barnburners twice. Unless they can replicate their offensive magic against the likes of Gannon and Jerks pitcher John Hamlett, they’ll need to make sure to turn out the basement light when they’re done sweeping up.
-Which leads us to the two teams that seem to have distanced themselves from the pack early on. We’ll start with the “new” Strike Force, led by mercurial if not totally bored/going through a mid-life crisis manager/ace Adriano DeSorrento (now on his 3rd self-created team each outfitted with logos, uniforms and Twitter accounts, and that doesn’t include the immediately-defunct Jungle Jims). The Strike Force have ridden an early offensive breakout from Jeff Nitto to go along with DeSorrento’s usual wizardry on the mound. They’ll need to find ways to get regular contributions from a third player, however, with a rotating cast that includes Nick West (pulling his usual week-by-week disappearing act), Matthew Curtin (described by DeSorrento as the league-average player the WAR stat is based on) and Nick’s cousin, who after his week 2 debut Adriano may or may not be, but totally is, figuring out a way to convince that the season was cancelled and refund his registration fee. Still, a core foursome of DeSorrento, Nitto, West, and Curtin should be enough to get them to the World Series barring unforeseen and untimely absences from multiple players. They’re currently leading the PWL in slugging and OPS, and are tied for the league lead in homers. On the mound, arguably no team can match the 1-2 punch of DeSorrento and Nitto in a playoff series, where offensive stats seem to disappear (they’re already at an all-time low now, as S.F. is currently second in the PWL in runs per game at an explosive 2.6). Their ultimate fate, however, may rely on “the best ability” (availability), as the 4th seed in the playoffs figures to be much weaker than the 3rd seed. As we saw last season when the 3rd-seeded Besley Bashers shocked the #2 Wolfpack (leading to the franchise’s ultimate demise), while the top-seeded Jerks cruised to a round one victory against the overmatched Janitors…seeds matter. The difference between the 1 and the 2 seeds then was a controversial home run off the bat of then-Jerk Jim Shannon, and this year who is able to physically show up to the Moose Lodge for the Strike Force’s matchups against the Blandsford Barnburners will figure just as crucially as that home run.
-And finally we arrive at the Barnburners Their .380/.690/1.070 slash line is the lowest it’s been since the infamous Hangover Season of 2010 referenced above, but instead of rolling over and puking on the Gravelly Point grass, they’re puking on themselves with runners on base. Through 5 games this year, they’ve left a total of 24 men on, hitting a paltry .306 in such situations. What’s more, none of their 6 home runs have come with men on base. Clustering hits together is arguably the most challenging aspect when it comes to scoring runs, so when you’re not supplementing that with the 2 or 3-run blasts that the Barnburners have become world famous for, it’s going to lead to the low offensive totals we’re seeing. It could be much worse, however. The Barnburners have leaned on the unlikeliest of starts from Colin Gannon, whose league-leading .542 batting average is almost 300 points higher than his .254 average from his six previous seasons. It’s difficult to determine what’s more shocking-those embarrassing offensive figures from a player once considered to be building a case for the HOF, or the unprecedented numbers he’s putting up this year. Unprecedented is the key word here, as it obviously remains to be seen if he can maintain a level anywhere near where he is today. In Gannon’s favor though is that he’ll have two more opportunities to feast on each of the Janitors and Twits, who he’s a combined 8-11 with 2 homers, 2 doubles and 4 RBI against this season. On the mound Gannon’s produced somewhat mixed results given his track record. He leads the league with 38 K’s, but has given up 3 homers already (all against the typically offensively-challenged Janitors). It’s business as usual for HOF slugger Jim Shannon, whose 4 league-leading homers and 1.481 OPS are right in line with his career averages. They’ll need contributions elsewhere, however, as Ty Fletcher and Jake Tomko have stumbled out of the gates to the tune of a .245 average in 49 combined plate appearances. Look for those numbers to improve as Gannon comes back down to earth as the season progresses, however. Their lengthy track records suggest improvements are coming. Also coming are reinforcements in the shape of the Barnburners other twin Hall-of-Famer Jack Shannon, who is rumored to make his season debut at the Lodge this weekend. Pitching depth may be a minor concern for the championship aspirations for
this group (they always have been; see game 1 of the Spring 2015 World Series), as Ty Fletcher was ejected after facing 5 Janitors in his start on Sunday. Former ace Jake Tomko has been kept in the stable so far as he eases himself back from a 5 year absence, but he figures to get a crack at the rotation as they prepare for the stretch run. Expect the Barnburners to cruise through the regular season and snag the top-seed for the playoffs, but also keep an eye on their lack of reliable pitching depth and timely hitting as they strive towards their 7th World Series title.
TLDR: The Barnburners and Strike Force look to be on a collision course for a heavyweight battle for the title, while the DuPont Circle Jerks hope that the combination of their early-season power surge coupled with some untimely wedding hangovers push them into the championship conversation. Elsewhere, we’re keeping an eye on the Barrel Bruisers potential to become a threat as they learn the rigors of the game and the Twits’ potential to spiral into dysfunction as Crawford’s checking account goes through more withdrawals than a Glebe Road crack addict.
Guest post written by Colin Gannon