December 1, 2021

SHL National Originals: Originals Teams Bucking Offensive Trend of Rest of League

February 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

What happens when the best hitters in baseball history face off against the best pitchers?  If the early returns from the SHL are to be believed, the offense will edge out the pitching except in the case of the National Originals Division.

Early league results had the league runs per game over the 5.0 mark — a number rarely approached in the Modern Era — and only recently did the average runs per game dip below to the current league average of 4.9.  Don’t tell the National Originals pitchers and defense that offense has trumped defense because that just isn’t the case there.  All four National Originals teams rank amongst the top 10 stingiest teams in runs allowed with the Cubs (3.9 runs/game) in 4th, Phillies (4.0 runs/game) in 5th, Giants (4.2 runs/game) in 6th and Braves (4.3 runs/game) in 9th.

Strong team performances have also been capped by some excellent individual performances.  For the division-leading Phillies, both Steve Carlton and Grover Cleveland Alexander own identical 6-1 records.  The second-place Giants have one of the most impressive bullpens and both Joe McGinnity (1-0, 1.08 ERA) and Amos Rusie (2-0, 1.33 ERA) recently stepped into the rotation due to injuries and subpar performances to turn in impressive winning outings.  The Cubs are five back of the Phillies and only one game above .500 but don’t blame their pitching especially Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown.  Brown is 5-2 with a 2.09 ERA in eight starts including seven quality starts and three complete games.  Despite their current place in the National Originals cellar, the Braves are only one game below .500 and starter Greg Maddux is a perfect 4-0 with the fifth-best ERA in the SHL at 2.09 in six starts.

With only six games separating first and last place, this division is a long way away from decided and based on early trends, it’s the arms and not the bats that will decide who is crowned the National Originals champion.

McCovey and his A-May-zing Month (So Far):  With the division leading Phillies cooling, the Giants (17-14) were in prime position to make up some ground this month.  Unfortunately, an injury to Rube Marquard and poor performances by Barry Bonds (hitting .097 in May), Christy Mathewson (0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in two May starts) and Carl Hubbell (0-2 with a 10.45 ERA in two May starts) has kept the club from making up any ground on the division leaders.

One player who can’t be blamed for poor play is Giants first baseman Willie McCovey.  In nine May games, McCovey is 15-for-36 with three doubles, five homers and 12 RBI.  McCovey has been perfect with the glove all year playing error-free ball.  His recent home run barrage has pushed him into the log jam at the top of the SHL for the home run crown.  Eight of McCovey’s 10 homers have come on the road but that could change with the club heading back to San Francisco for a 14-day, 11-game home stand starting on May 15 and ending with a three-game set against the division-leading Phillies on May 26-28.

“Lights Out” for Lidge:  It was bound to happen… Brad Lidge blew a save in a Phillies (21-10) uniform.  While Major League Baseball’s Lidge has never blown a save as a Phillie, Lidge the SHL Phillie blew three consecutive save opportunities and was sent to Scranton after a horrendous three game stretch where he went 0-3 and allowed 13 runs (10 earned) on six hits and five walks in just 1-2/3 innings pitched.  Lidge’s season ERA skyrocketed to 12.54 before the Phils pulled the plug on him and replaced him with closer Billy Wagner.  Wagner notched a save in his first appearance on Monday in a 6-5 win over the Cubs and it is expected that Wagner will hold on to the role permanently.

In addition to Lidge’s struggles, third baseman Mike Schmidt also cooled off after a hot April and went 4-for-27 (.148) without an RBI in nine games in May.  Unlike Lidge, Schmidt has yet to be given a day off even though the Phillies have Dick Allen (9-for-17, two doubles, three homers, six RBI, seven runs scored) on the bench and Scott Rolen tearing it up in the Minors.  Tough to argue with the team’s decision to stick with the Hall of Famer but it’s a situation that might warrant a closer watch should the Phillies and Schmidt continue to run cold.

Cubs Lose Key Series to Division Leaders and Key Game in “Battle of the Ol’ Petes”:  Things looked like they were moving in the right direction as the Cubs (16-15) won a 1-0 pitcher’s duel behind an impressive two-hit shutout tossed by Lon Warneke at Wrigley to move the Cubs within three games of the division leaders and ahead of the Giants for second place.  The next day though, the Phillies turned the tide behind a dominating one-hit performance by Steve Carlton as the Phillies evened up the series with a 5-0 win.

In the rubber match of the three-game set, the rotations lined up for a unique match-up with Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Phillies facing Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Cubs.  After the first two games of the series, the fans expected a pitching duel for the ages but young “Ol’ Pete” of the Phillies was not able to cooperate early on as the Cubs plated five runs in six innings against him.  Cruising along, old “Ol’ Pete” of the Cubs (with an assist from the Chicago defense) came unglued in the seventh allowing five runs on a two-out walk, four two-out hits and two two-out errors.

Despite Alexander’s rough seventh, “Alexander the Great” took the hill for the eighth and gave up a triple to Billy Hamilton and a double to Richie Ashburn before finally settling down and finishing out the inning but the 6-5 deficit could not be overcome in the eighth or ninth and the Cubs’ Alexander took the loss and fell to 3-4 on the season.

One-Done:  The Braves (15-16) might be sitting at the bottom of the National Originals division but their current spot in the division is largely due to their inability to win the close ones.  Through 31 games, the Braves have already been involved in a staggering 15 one-run games and are 6-9 in the closely contested battles.  Only the Royals who are an even more devastating 4-12 in contests decided by one-run have more one-run losses than the Braves.  Their ninth one-run loss of the season came against the Dodgers on May 2 when Gene Garber blew a save opportunity allowing a bases loaded, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth to Mike Piazza to lose 3-2.  Then, the Braves were shut out 3-0 and 2-0 by the Pirates on consecutive days to drop them two games below .500.  Since then, they have rebounded slightly, winning three out of five but need to find a way to win the close ones if they expect to climb back into the National Originals race.

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