We're about a quarter of the way through season 12 in World Alexander, and the season is playing out about how I predicted it would in the preseason preview. Here's a team-by-team rundown of how things are going:
1st place: Indianapolis Lancers - The Lancers are sitting in 1st place with a record of 33-10. They've been firing on all cylinders so far this season, as they lead the world in ERA (3.43) and OPS (.921). The key to their offensive success has been the resurgence of C Rudy Aldridge. While Aldridge was no slouch in seasons 9-11 (he did win the MVP award in season 10), his numbers were below his career average. His numbers have seen an uptick in season 12, though, as he's batting .395 with 18 HR and a 1.266 OPS. Randy Newman (.386), Damaso Moreno (.373), Orber Estalella (.341), Paul Benjamin (.347), and Eddie Sterns (.322) are all batting significantly higher than their career batting averages, so it's unlikely the Lancers will keep up their world-leading .310 team batting average. The success of the pitching staff has been led by SP David Lugo's 6-1 record and 1.74 ERA. He's backed up by a solid relief corps featuring rookie closer McKay White (11 for 12 saves, 1.17 ERA), Josias Pena (2.75 ERA), Pedro Santiago (2.25 ERA), and Vernon Peterson (3.00 ERA). The team ERA may not stay all the way down at 3.43, but it at least has the potential to as many of these players have staying power. Look for Indianapolis to continue their success in the 2nd quarter of the season unless a major injury or two occurs.
2nd place: Cleveland Redlegs: - The Redlegs are sitting 8 games behind the Lancers with a solid record of 25-18, good for a tie for 4th in the NL. The offense is 10th in the world with an .815 OPS and the pitching has been better than expected, as they're in 11th with a 4.19 ERA. The team's defense has also been a great strength, as they're tied for 3rd in the world with a .988 fielding percentage. Edwin Parker has performed up to his billing as the team's top hitter, posting a .283 BA with 19 HR, which is tied for 8th in the world. Sherman Nathan (.327 with 12 HR), Brent Morgan (.285 with 12 HR), Hiram Tyner (.284 with 9 HR), and Hank Jones (.323 with 3 HR) have all performed admirably as well. The starting rotation has been much better than expected, with Dennis Gray and Jimmie Sosa both posting ERA's around 3, and Francisco Castillo and Barney Uribe posting ERA's around 4. P.T. Jimenez has been dynamite at closer (12 for 13, 4.08 ERA, the 12 saves are an NL-high), and Derek Ramsay and Brant Parker have been fantastic in making sure the lead gets to Jimenez. Overall, I don't think the first quarter of the season could've gone much better for the Redlegs. Their pitching is performing much better than expected and their offense is above average as well. I don't foresee this level of success in the next 40 games, mainly because I don't think their rotation can keep up this level of success, particularly the bottom of the rotation. However, even with a slight falloff this team should have a good shot at the playoffs, and with a top of the rotation as solid as theirs has been, anything can happen.
3rd place: Baltimore mets - The mets are 1 game behind the Redlegs and 9 behind the Lancers at 24-19. The mets are 15th in the world with a 4.50 ERA and tied for 20th with a .775 OPS. Their current record places them in the final wild card spot if the season were to end today. Their best offensive performer has been superstar LF Clay Tanner, who is batting .325 with 18 HR. Tanner has been backed up by a solid supporting cast, including Stan Damon (.299 BA, 7 HR, 11 SB), Alex Rivera (.305 BA, 7 HR), and Alejandro Reyes (.281 BA, 7 HR). The key to the mets' pitching has been their 1-2-3 punch of Lance Coleman (3-0 with 1.96 ERA), Tony De La Vega (3-1 with 2.86 ERA), and Bartolo Montana (4-4 with 3.51 ERA). The bullpen has been led by closer Kevin Wood (7 for 7 saves, 2.00 ERA). I think the next 40 games should be pretty similar for the mets. Placido Pena has performed worse than should be expected, so his hopefully improved performance should be a boost for the mets. The bottom of their bullpen hasn't performed too well, but that is to be expected as it's a weakness of this team. When half the season is done, I think the mets will still find themselves in the thick of a playoff race.
4th place: Boston Red Sox - As expected, the rebuilding Red Sox have struggled. They are already 23 games behind the Lancers at 10-33. They're 29th with a .704 OPS and 28th with a 5.55 ERA. They are also dead last in fielding, with a .963 fielding percentage. This young squad is led at the plate by Rule V pick Juan Jimenez, who is batting .315 with 5 HR. Another Rule V pick, Ronald Roundtree, is tied for 2nd in the world with 18 SB (out of 20 attempts). On the pitching side of things, the Red Sox are struggling as well. Not a single pitcher has an ERA below 4. The rotation is led by waiver wire pickup Robb Cedeno (3-3 with 4.42 ERA and 1 shutout), Rule V draftee Luis Bonilla (1-5 with 4.44 ERA), and Rule V first overall pick Charles Zhang (1-4 with 4.64 ERA). Jorel Marshall has been the most consistent arm out of the bullpen (4.11 ERA). Most of the rest of the pitching has really struggled. I foresee a lot more of the same for the Red Sox in the 2nd quarter of the season. Some of the players may be underperforming at this time, but not by much. There just isn't a lot of talent at the ML level for this franchise at this time, as they're in the midst of a large scale rebuilding project.