Greg Nims tells me that making the SL playoffs is simple. All you have to do is win every series 3-2. That almost happened during my first time through the league, since I beat Keith, Steve, Greg, Joe and Bob 3-2. I lost to Graham 2-3, and down the stretch I managed to Schlitz Chris 4-1 and then get Schiltzed myself by Ken. All of that leaves me at 22-18, only 4 games over .500 at the break.
In the first 40 games, Griswold outscored its opponents 233-167. This 66 run differential is 30 runs better than Austin had through the first 40 games of 2000, and Austin sat at 28-12 after 40 games. What a piss-poor manager I must be.
Of course, this Griswold Rust team is somewhat different than the 2000 T-Birds. Chris built last year's President's Cup winner around offense first, whereas the Rust are built around pitching first. If my offense clicks, the game can easily become a blowout. This explains, in part, my 15 complete games in the first 40. If my offense fails to click, I seem to either lose or win close games. In my end of the first 40 series against Ken, which involved the league's most prolific offense (240 runs in 40 games, just edging out Joe's team with 239 runs) against the league's best pitching staff (167 runs allowed in 40 games, with no one else in the league below 200), the scores of the games were 5-4, 2-1, 5-3 and 3-0 in Ken's favor and 5-0 in my favor. I was able to keep the games close, but a couple blown 9th inning leads prevented a 3-2 series win for Griswold. I like to think that Todd Pearl* will stop blowing saves at some point. If he does, I like to think that the winning percentage will only improve. I have a relatively under-utilized bullpen, one that will hopefully be able to step up if my starters, some of whom are statistically "over-performing" early, happen to falter. (Don't tell them I said they were overperforming).
So the highlight of the first 40 games has been the pitching staff, with all five starters among the top 10 in the league in ERA. My fifth starter, Brad Radke, has a 2.23 era after 8 starts. You gotta like that. But what if I suggested that my pitching staff was underperforming just a little as a whole? Or maybe was just a little backwards, with the starters so far ahead of the relievers. Scott Strickland has been solid out of the bullpen, as has Trevor Hoffman. However, I would be interested to know whether any other SL team has 4 relievers who have the 4 highest ERAs on the pitching staff. Todd Pearl* is a 17Z(H) who has the highest BB/9 and HR/9 on the team. Of course, he frequently is asked to face the best the other team has to offer, but come on Meat! You are killing me! (Pearl's rebuttal: Why's he calling me Meat? I'm the one driving a Porsche.)
On the offensive side, I seem to be overachieving a little. I have scored 233 runs in 40 games, putting me in among the best offenses in the league. (The top-scoring teams are bunched very closely together, with BRF (240 runs) being chased by Valhalla (239), Bridgeport (238) and Griswold and Golden (both with 233 runs)). Jason Giambi has been about everything I could have hoped he would be (11.6 RC/G), and Everett, Higginson and Veres have all been very solid. Plus, it is easy to like Geoff Jenkins, who hits a dong every 10 or so PAs and strikes out every 3 or so PAs. He never leaves you guessing.
If my understanding of APBA-ball is correct, Deivi Cruz may end up being a better performer than Furcal, who I thought was the better player when I drafted him. In the same way, I am hoping that Armando Rios will be better than Gabe Kapler was though 40 games. I need a lot of games out of what is an admittedly thin bench, so I need 2000 supersubs Rios and Shumpert to step up now that they have joined the fold.
Whatever happens over the long haul, I have truly enjoyed the first 40 games of my second season. I love the companionship and conversation as much as the competition. Don't get me wrong, however. In the words of the immortal Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh: "I love winning, man. It's like.....better than losing."