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NWLA Pitching, Too Good and Too Bad?

Written by - Posted 2016-07-28 11:34 in News

Guest post by Jack Shannon

While lurking through the NWLA Tournament’s Twitter mentions on the flight home from Columbus, I couldn’t help but see a number of outsiders criticizing the rules of the tournament. The main issue in their eyes: pitching. They complained that the pitching was too hard to hit and contained too many walks. I wouldn’t say either of those claims are all that controversial. I invited family to come watch the NWLA Tournament in 2013 and they left for a bar after a couple hours because they said it was the most boring form of wiffleball they’d ever seen. I don’t blame them (I mean, I do blame them for voluntarily giving up a weekend to go to Dublin, Ohio, but that’s neither here nor there), but I don’t think things are as bad as they seem.

But rather than dismiss these complaints out of hand, I think that we should look at some data and examine whether or not there is a legit grievance. I took NWLA data from the last 5 years and compared it to data from the last 5 years of the PWL. Since the PWL is a medium-pitch league (colloquially referred to as “Granny Pitch” in Southern Michigan), it should serve as a good proxy for what a “balanced” – i.e., good combinationn of pitching and hitting – format would look like.

Is NWLA Pitching Too Hard?

Let’s first examine the basic claim that it’s just too hard to hit NWLA pitching. Here are the 5 year averages from the PWL and NWLA Tournament for a selected number of basic hitting metrics. This should give a very simple look at pitching difficulty.

First, it does not appear that it is any more difficult to hit a home run in the NWLA than it is in the PWL. It’ll be claimed that the NWLA numbers are inflated in pool play when the best pitchers usually don’t pitch. But I’ll counter that by pointing out that half of the PWL teams don’t have serviceable pitchers at all. And as the all-time PWL home run king, I’ll fully admit that I racked up home runs against bad pitching. Bottom line: it is hard to hit good pitchers. Anecdotally, this year’s NWLA Tournament also saw 3 “elite” pitchers each give up home runs for the first time in their NWLA careers (Farkas, Harley, and Shannon).

The all-time batting average of .245 (note: the weighted average is actually .244 – in case someone wants to get picky with the methodology here) is not all that low. Sure, it’s decidedly lower than the .307 average of the PWL, but this is where I point out that we have a 27 mph speed limit. All of a sudden, that .307 average looks pretty pathetic, huh? The MLB league-wide batting average for the past 5 years averaged .253. “Are you seriously comparing wiffleball to the MLB?” Yes. If the NWLA wants to be seen as showcasing the best of the best in wiffleball, surely we can’t complain if our batting averages roughly mirror the MLB average, right? I mean, we are the best in the country at this “sport,” right? Right? RIGHT?!

NWLA players strike out in 43.8% of their at-bats compared to 30.2% in the PWL. I say again, the difference may seem large at first glance. But remember that we’re talking about 27 mph in the PWL, here. I imagine that if we bumped our speed limit up to 30 mph, strikeouts would rise fairly significantly. By the way, this is wiffleball – the ball was invented to move all over the place. A good pitcher is supposed to throw pitches that are hard to hit. There should be a lot of strikeouts in wiffleball. So I’m not sure the NWLA strikeout rate is anything to worry about. Go look at your bat on the bench.

Since we do not have walks in the PWL, I’m not going to even attempt to put that number in perspective. Someone with data from a league with walks will have to tackle that one.

Is NWLA Pitching Getting Better or Worse?

Let’s move onto the subject of whether NWLA pitching is getting harder or easier to hit.

At first glance, it’s easy to see two main trends: strikeouts are going up and home runs are going up. You would think those would head in opposite directions. More strikeouts would seem to imply harder pitching. Harder pitching would seem to imply less home runs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ is all I can say.

The walk rate has remained very steady at the 25%-28% range. I would’ve expected the walk numbers to decrease generally each year. For leagues like the PWL who don’t play fast-pitch, it would appear logical that they would get better at fast pitching the more they play. But apparently we need to practice more than the 3 hours a year we usually do. I will say that I don’t think the amount of walks is due to the fast-pitch style of play. We see soft-tossers have trouble hitting the board. At 47 feet, it’s not tremendously easy (although it’s not tremendously difficult, either) to keep a wiffleball on target. Any discussion on widening the strike zone or moving up the mound will just further drive up strikeout totals, lower batting averages, and increase whining.
When combining the walk data and the strike-out data, the downward trend of the batting averages seems obvious. The walk rate is remaining constant while the strike-out rate is climbing. And since everyone knows that you have a better chance of getting a hit when you put the ball in the play, that trend is about what you’d expect.

Overall, pitching is probably getting better each year. But the home run totals (and who they have been hit off of) are also proving that even the best pitchers in the tournament are not infallible.

Bottom Line (from a pitcher’s perspective)

“I know I’m gon get got. But I’m gon get mine more than I get got tho”

PWL Spring 2016 Award Ballot

Written by - Posted 2016-07-19 14:27 in News

Get your votes in players. The award ballot is LIVE!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW

We’ve Got Old Faces & New Faces, But We Probably Ain’t Getting One of the Top Four Places

Written by - Posted 2016-07-14 11:19 in News

The PWL has been a part of the NWLA tournament for every year of its existence. Yet, we’ve never played anything more than the spoiler role. Never quite as good as WSEM (except the time we eliminated them), OCWA (except the time we beat them), or TBW (we’re still trying to beat them). But never quite as bad as the team West Virginia or the Keg Crushers (until we lose to them this year).
So what’s different about 2016? Not much.

We have a new manager, though! Greg Hudson – who is the only person alive to manage a team to a playoff series victory over the greatest wiffleball franchise in history (do we need to say its name?). So he’s well-trained in the art of giant slaying. Can he equal or surpass Gallaway as a manager? One word answer – Yes. Greg can also play. Not saying Gallaway couldn’t – just ask him what his career batting average in the PWL is (is it above .300, Chris?) – but Greg provides a different level of athlete. Whereas Gallaway was a “my-way-or-the-highway” kind of a coach, Greg is much more receptive to player feedback and believes clubhouse culture is as important as on-field talent. We believe that those who drink together, clink together.

Other new faces include Colin Gannon, a wiffleball journeyman who has finally got the call to the big show. Gannon spent the majority of career racking up world series rings in the PWL, but he has never been able to parlay his PWL pitching success into NWLA success. In fact, in his first outing in the 2015 regionals, he set the NWLA record for walks allowed. Word out of PWL camp is that Gannon has found some consistency from the NWLA mound. His bat has shown signs of life against fast pitch, as well. While management is wary given his hitting performance in the PWL this year…who knows, maybe it is easier to hit Ryan Bush than a 27 MPH looper.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Dan Lockbaum is another new face for the PWL. Like Greg, he is one of the few people on Earth to have beaten the Barnburners. Dan was the main power source behind his team’s victory, hitting .428 with 3 ding dongs in the 2014 PWL World Series. He led the PWL in OBA in the 2016 regionals in NYC, and he’ll put both his bat and discerning eye to good use in Ohio. He’s also a great clubhouse fit in that you won’t find him arguing that we need a curfew in order to wake up rested (I can’t believe you did that, WSEM).

Then we have the old guard. The Shannon twins return determined to stamp themselves as the best set of brothers in wiffleball. Jack has the explicit goal of carrying over his perfect K’s per 6 from the regionals. Go ahead and homer off him, just don’t ground out. Jim believes he can be just as devastating as his brother on the mound. We have our doubts, but if he’s able to pitch decently well, PWL should be able to earn a Top 8 finish. Matt Gagnon makes a triumphant return after being left off the roster last year (in what has been described as a “f***boy of a managerial mistake”). His arm will be employed in pool play and if we need someone to draw a big walk against OCWA, we’ve got just the guy. Kevin Higman is set for his 5th year at NWLA. The God Particle will continue to pound pitching and play stellar defense while everyone at the tournament wonders, “how can he stand those guys he plays with?” Finally, we arrive at our secret weapon we showed off last year… Nick West The quintessential leadoff hitter with hands that would make Brooks Robinson blush. Nick will once again set the table for a top 5 hitting unit in the tournament.

So how can the PWL make the jump from pretender to contender? It all rests on the arm of Jim Shannon. The batting lineup is good enough to win the tournament. The ace of the staff has proven he can beat elite teams. But our #2 pitchers have never been the equality arms you see out of top 4 teams. Jim believes he has the goods this year. If not, we’ll be happy with our early exit, and you can find us at that bar by the highway with a pool and sand volleyball.

Guest post courtesy of Jack Shannon

NWLA 2016 - Regionals Recap

Written by - Posted 2016-07-08 11:57 in News

One of the inaugural eight teams of the NWLA tournament, largely because league founder and Wiffleball hero Chris Gallaway created and funded the tournament, Potomac Wiffleball League found itself in unfamiliar territory in 2016. Due to what can only be described as a piss poor performance in the double elimination tournament round in 2015, the PWL Nationals had to earn their trip to the annual tournament this year.

So PWL “trudged” up I-95 (in a cushy tour bus) to play in a regional tournament for the first time where the results mattered, in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, on the grounds where Babe Ruth used to drink beer, eat hot dogs, and play baseball, in that order. Thankfully, no one on the team is a Yankee fan so there’s that.

This was also the first tournament without Chris Gallaway managing the team. So leadership was entrusted to 2-time NWLA pitcher, Crawf-dog (Career 2-2, 8.20 ERA). Fortunately his managing skills far surpassed his pitching performances and the PWL Nationals posted their best ever offensive production at NWLA (.398, 10 HR) and secured a spot in Ohio. Of course most of the team is inspired by a steak dinner, but nonetheless, PWL will be back, attempting to do something they couldn’t under Gallaway – make a deep run in the double elimination tournament.

NWLA 2016 - Roster is Set

Written by - Posted 2016-07-08 11:53 in News

It’s official, the NWLA roster is set and the PWL Nationals are ready to make some noise in 2016.

The team has the strong core intact, minus one key loss – Stephen Crawford. “Crawf-dawg” will unfortunately be unable to attend to provide pitching depth for PWL. With that in mind, Commish Hudson kept an eye on players throughout the year to see their pitching techniques and how they might be utilized in a post-Gallaway managed team. Let’s go through the roster now.

• Kevin Higman
• Greg Hudson
• Jack Shannon
• Jim Shannon
• Colin Gannon
• Matt Gagnon
• Dan Lockbaum
• Nick West

You’ll notice there are two new faces on the team, Greg Hudson and Dan Lockbaum – both of the DC Twits. Each player will lend themselves to specific roles, Hudson doing pitching while Lockbaum handles the hitting. Higman and Hudson will handle the managerial duties.

PWL is coming off a strong showing in New York, finishing with some of the best hitting stats in the regionals. Now it’s a matter of if they can put it all together and make a run in Ohio.

As always, PWL will be sending a team to compete in the London Tournament nearby. Coming off great runs with Hudson as manager, they also look to make a deep run in a massive tournament.

The roster is dominated by 3 Wolfpack members, complimented by Nitto and Filides, both able to play any position and hit.

• Michael Burns
• Adriano DeSorrento
• Will McNally
• Jeff Nitto
• Alex Filides

2016 Spring World Series Champions: Dupont Circle Jerks

Written by - Posted 2016-06-14 14:40 in News

Congratulations to the Dupont Circle Jerks on winning the World Series this past Sunday.

The Jerks beat the Besley Bashers 2-0. Both teams were in the World Series for the first time in their franchise history.

Stay tuned for details regarding Summer season soon.

World Series Preview: Spring 2016

Written by - Posted 2016-06-09 10:50 in News

Quick recap on the DCS then on to a comprehensive World Series preview. If you haven’t RSVP’d for Sunday’s festivities please do so . Bring your families and friends, all are welcome and it’s free we just need to know how much food to order.

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The defending champs fell, but did anyone hear a sound? Swept quietly by the Besley Bashers the Wolfpack never really mounted a threat. You beat them by limiting base runners and hitting homers which is exactly what happened. Great performance by the entire Bashers squad, they were the better team Sunday.

Since we’re great at being wrong, we must acknowledge the Janitors coming within a game of a World Series berth. They held the Jerks to two hits and kept chugging around the bases for a walk off win in Game 2 before falling short in the rubber match. Great season, we look forward to seeing how they build on their surprising success. Now for the big show –

World Series – #1 Dupont Circle Jerks vs #3 Besley Bashers
*We had a different, more detailed breakdown until word got out that Matt Gagnon will miss the World Series

There have been three ace pitchers in the PWL this season, two of them faced off last week and in a perfect world we’d see another showdown for the title. Losing Matt Gagnon is a major blow to the Circle Jerks title hopes but let’s not engrave the trophy just yet.

How the Bashers win – Nitto is on, hitting the bottom of the board while the roster flexes its power at the plate. Top notch fielding and a true “next man up” mentality have the Bashers lifting the trophy to cap their first playoff run

How the Jerks win – Jim Shannon tees off on a less than perfect Nitto, Filides befuddles a Bashers lineup unfamiliar with facing him and Hamlett/Schwarting get the key hits and free outs behind the plate.

How we see it – The Bashers are prone to offensive slumps; it’s the pro and con of power hitting. All it takes is one swing but if the wind is blowing in or they get down and tighten up, can they manufacture runs other ways? Thing is, the Jerks are built in the same vein. The Filides pickup now not only looks genius but absolutely necessary. He provides great hitting to all parts of the field. They’ll need Jim Shannon to play like a Hall of Famer and get early leads to force the Bashers to perform under pressure.

Prediction – We’ll take the team with their ace on the mound, the Bashers take home their first title in three games.

RSVP TODAY!

Spring 2016 DCS Preview

Written by - Posted 2016-06-01 11:02 in News

DCS 1 – #1 Dupont Circle Jerks vs #4 Janitors
As mentioned, DCJ getting the one seed was huge. Assuming the NWLA regionals aren’t rained out they should handle the Janitors. No disrespect meant but there are three contenders this season and two of them are playing in the other series. The Jerks are loaded top to bottom. Could the Janitors keep balls in the park and squeak out with a few breaks? Sure, that’s why we play the game, but don’t bet the house on it.

Prediction – DCJ in 2 then stick around to root for the Bashers.

DCS 2 – #2 Wolfpack vs #3 Besley Bashers
Now this is a series. Teams split 2-2 in the regular season with three of those games decided by a single run. The Bashers no longer have holes in their lineup, brought back former All Star Alex Cohn and everyone can hit for power. Pitching behind Nitto is a huge concern but ROTY favorite Van Fechtmann has emerged serviceable in relief. The Wolfpack haven’t looked quite like themselves and lost a couple close games they would’ve won in the past. Their lefties need to put together some of those innings that drive opponents up a wall while Keeven and Adriano continue their resurgences at the plate. There are rumblings of them not having the entire pack this weekend but details have yet to emerge. Depending on who is there Sunday the lineup decisions could make or break this series, especially if the Bashers take Game 1.

Prediction – Wolfpack in a very close 3. They show up with something to prove for the first time since the Barnburners left, have loads of playoff success against Nitto and have experience in every type of close game. The Bashers will need the long ball and razor sharp fielding to win their playoff debut, both of which they’re capable of. Will be fun to watch.

Spring 2016 Regular Season Wrap Up

Written by - Posted 2016-05-25 16:20 in News

Spring 2016 regular season is a wrap, thanks everyone for making it a success. In reverse order of the standings we’re going to give our thoughts on the state of each team then get into playoff predictions.

*Master Batters – Did Dan Snyder run your draft? They immediately sprung for the Hall of Fame name without realizing he wouldn’t be around very much. Given what the Bashers did in the same draft this doomed their season from the get go. This is a veteran franchise that we expect to reload and maybe you know, not put someone’s kid in their lineup.

*DC Twits – We’re done with you, no more optimism or hope. What kind of team are you trying to be? The past couple of seasons have been a laughingstock of ploddingly inadequate base running, inconsistent hitting, fielding gaffes and general lack of an identity. There are pieces here but they don’t fit together, time to blow it up fellas.

*Janitors – Spirited run to the playoffs behind Iron Man Kirby’s hitting, decent pitching and beating the teams they needed to when they were less than full strength. That’s enough for a playoff berth this year and to build on moving forward. Nice work.

*Besley Bashers – When at full strength (meaning with Nitto) these guys beat everybody at least once. Lack of playoff experience is a slight concern but so far this season has gone about as well as they could’ve hoped. Will the team stick together or is this their only shot with their current lineup? We know offers will be made to the key free agents but nobody can say what this squad will look like in the summer.

*Wolfpack – Solid, not great, and certainly not up to expectations. Adriano gave up an alarming bunch of homers, Colin reverted back to his inconsistent self and they finally paid for their lack of power through the lineup. Didn’t Burns used to at least occasionally get past first on his own or are we imagining that? No lineup decision will shape the playoffs more than how this six man front is handled.

*Dupont Circle Jerks – The Jerks gradual ascension has them atop the league for the first time. From the final week at least their last minute addition of Filides looks brilliant and this team led almost every hitting category. Securing the one seed was huge not just for matchups but for them knowing they can beat any team in the league. Well done fellas, we tip our caps to you.

NWLA 2016 - Regionals?

Written by - Posted 2016-05-18 09:53 in News

If you think you might be, or if you think your addition to a team of PWL All Stars will make that team the best in the country, we want you to try out for the NWLA tournament. Yes…a tryout. We know, you don’t tryout anymore, but trust us, you want to for this.

This year is pretty important — thanks to the efforts of last year’s team, PWL is no longer guaranteed a spot in the tournament. Instead we must qualify at Regionals in NYC on June 4 You’ll be back in time for the playoffs on June 5th, don’t worry.

The fourth annual tournament, which was co-founded and is largely hosted by the PWL, will be July 15th through 17th. The PWL is one of sixteen leagues who will each send an all star team to represent their league in the National Tournament. The rules are a combination of rules used throughout the leagues. The tournament is fast pitch, with walks, and the field is the official 90 degree width like a traditional baseball field. (2 fielders and a pitcher are used to make up for the wider field.)

Roster changes might be made for the regionals that are different than the national tournament (if we make it there).

Tryouts for the team are open to all players who are on a roster for the Spring season. Interested players are encouraged to contact the Commissioner, Michael Burns, or Stephen Crawford, in advance to express interest.

NWLA Tryout/Practice
Sunday at 1:30p

The finalists will be narrowed down after the tryouts. The roster is up to eight players, however 10 might come to NYC.

PWL players who are not able to go to Ohio, are welcome to scrimmage during the tryout times if they’d like to join in. Especially if you’ve got an hour time slot open to kill and want to take some AB’s.

Players who are selected will have an all-expense paid trip, including travel, hotel and meals, to Columbus as well as the regional. In addition, each player will get home, away and alternate jerseys provided by the league.

Sign up for the tryouts today, email the Commish.