First Half Reflections
Posted June 3, 2011
With the PBL regular season almost at the halfway point it is time to reflect on the first half. The standings look nothing like any of the pundits would have predicted. So far the league has experienced parody that it has not seen in years that should make for an exciting second half playoff race as every team is still very much in the thick of it. It has also seen scores soar to pre wood bat levels. Some might point to the absence of some of the past seasons elite pitchers for the offensive surge, the bad weather that limited spring training, or the fact that hitters have now had a few seasons to adjust to the wood bats. Whatever the case the new offensive orientated league has created some exciting, albeit long, games and a logjam in the standings.
1. Leduc Milleteers 5-1
After a stumble in their first game the Milleteers quickly righted the ship and have sailed to the top of the standings. It hasn’t been easy for them however as the pitching staff has had some uncharacteristic struggles after the retirement of Scott Peterson and the work commitments of Ryan Walker. So far the team ERA has soared as they have been trying to find some rotation mates for number one starter Steven Pahl. The team has also struggled to find even nine players on a lot of nights, something they have not had to deal with since their inaugural season. The bullpen has been pretty good and the defense has been outstanding most of the year and has kept them in games, but it is the surprising offense that has got them to where they are. Historically the team has always been near the bottom in runs scored, but this year they lead the league. The team is batting 0.342 as a whole as the lineup has been hitting from top to bottom. The offense will have to continue to produce while the pitching staff sorts itself out if the Milleteers want a shot at another first place finish.
2. Ryley Rebels 4-2
As expected the powerful Rebels are near the top of the standings. What is unexpected is that they are doing it with the league’s best pitching and defense as they have the best runs against so far this season. Of course the Rebel offense is scoring runs in bunches (averaging 8 a game) as it always does. It is no surprise then that they are fighting for first place. They are still having some trouble pulling out low scoring, close games as their two losses point out. This could pose a problem as the season wears on as other teams pitching and defenses start to find their groove. Another concern is the absence on the mound of their best pitcher in 2009 Dylan Solberg as he looks to still be battling some arm issues.
3. Bardo Athletics 3-4
Most would have picked the Athletics as a playoff team, but most would be surprised that they would be under 0.500. After a busy off season in which they added both youthful athleticism and pitching it looked like the Athletics would be poised for a run at home field advantage in the playoffs. They have had a tough time finding the right lineup chemistry so far and up and down performances have seen them struggle this year. They have also beat themselves a few times as bad defense has cost them a few games late this season. The biggest surprise might be their struggles at home as the comfy confines of the Bardo Fair Grounds is usually a boon to the home side. With all that championship experience you would expect the team to be able to turn it around and challenge for another title, but if they don’t do it soon they could find themselves on the outside looking in come playoff time as they sit only a half game away from the league basement.
4. Camrose Roadrunners 3-4
Someone could of made a pretty penny in Vegas if they had laid down some cake on the Roadrunners to be in a playoff spot come the halfway point. After the the Tofield Lakers decided to pull up stakes and head to Camrose most predicted that despite getting to play in a better facility and getting to focus on just playing ball that the team would continue its long playoff drought. After getting blown out a few times early in the year the team has tightened up defensively and rode some good pitching performances to victory, including two great outings from team leader Josh Banack, who has to be getting some All Star considerations. The Roadrunners have struggled on offense as they are the lowest scoring team in the league, but with the exception of two bad games have done a wonderful job of shutting down the opposition with good pitching and defense. It remains to be seen if the Roadrunners can keep this up all season long, but so far this looks like the team with the best shot in years in to finally reach the playoffs.
5. Holden Blue Jays 3-5
No one saw this coming. After a strong first season back in the PBL that saw them come up one game short of making the finals the Jays have struggled this year with virtually the same cast of characters. They got off on the right foot beating the defending champs in the season opener, but it has been a struggle since. One problem is they are finding different ways to lose as one game they will lose a boat race, the next a pitcher’s duel. Another even bigger problem is their inability to win on the road as they are 0-3 to start the year. To make matters worse, 5 of their remaining 7 games are on the road so they better figure out how to win there in a hurry. Call it a sophomore jinx or maybe the league has figured them out, but the Jays will need to make some adjustments if the want to recapture the success they had last season.
6. Armena Royals 2-4
After a last place finish last season many picked the Royals to bring up the rear again this season. After losing their top pitcher to the Battle River League, having no home diamond due to renovations, and seemingly having more players on the DL than their active roster, it is no surprise that the Royals are in last place. The surprising thing however is that they sit only a half game out of a playoff spot and have already matched their win total from last year as they have got two big wins from youngster Ian Shurbaniuk on the mound. Offensively the Royals have been decent as they have averaged over six runs a game. The problem has been the defense as errors have plagued them all year. A return to health from some of their walking wounded and an improved defense will be the keys to a playoff run.
Posted on June 3, 2011 by Jason Buzzell