With the snow almost gone and the diamonds drying up it is almost time for the teams of the PBL to take to the field, they way they have done for over a century. With the nail biting end to last year's regular season and exciting playoffs, enthusiasm for the league was at an all time high. A fall meeting and the possibility of unprecedented expansion kept the momentum going. It seems to have fizzled a bit as in the end the league will stay at six teams, with the Holden Blue Jays in and the Camrose Roadrunners out. With the defending regular season champion Roadrunners out the race for playoffs should be exciting as at least one new team will be going to the big dance this year. Despite the uncertainty that comes along with senior baseball as you cannot be sure who is going to show up game to game, let alone what the roster is going to look like a month before the season. Despite this pundits just can't resist the temptations to try and predict the season's outcomes as if they end up being right, they are geniuses. If they are wrong they just simply hope that nobody remembers their predictions and they can keep on thinking they are great sports minds. Here is my attempt at predicting the way the season will unfold.
1. 12-3 With the team that the Milleteers have had the most trouble with in the regular
season sitting out this year they should be favoured. The Milleteers have gone
2-5 against the Roadrunners the last two seasons and 25-10 against the rest of the teams in the league. With the core of the team returning this could be the year that the squad can get that 100 dollar prize, barring a championship hangover.
2. 11-4 Despite finishing up below 0.500 last year the Rebels were a team that no one
wanted to face as they had a some power pitching that could shut teams down and some power hitting that could blow teams out. If they can find some consistency it could be scary for the rest of the league. They have added some free agent arms that should be good for an improved record, but they will have to figure out a way to win those close games against the Milleteers. To do that they will need to do a better job of shutting down the running game and cut down on the strikeouts at the plate if they want homefield advantage.
3. 10-5 No one can argue the success the Athletics have had in the playoffs the last half
decade but they have been inconsistent in the regular season. After finishing below 0.500 last year, and being the oldest team in the league, a 3 game improvement might seem like a tall order, but if you look in between the lines at such things as a +27 run differential and a deep and experienced pitching staff, it doesn't seem that far-fetched. With a potent offense and the big game experience the A's should find themselves in the post season again this year. They will need to find a way to beat their young, hungry rivals from Ryley and the defending champs from Leduc to gain home field advantage.
4. 5-10 Here is where it starts to get interesting as the remaining teams all have big
questions to answer. The Royals get the nod for the last playoff spot as they were
a little more consistent last year. They have some promising youngsters to go along with some All Star hold overs from the championship years. The big question is whether or not All Star pitcher Joel Boettger will comeback and commit to his old squad. If they can get seven or eight starts out of him they will be a lock for the playoffs. If not then it could be tough sledding as there was a precipitous drop off between him and the rest of the pitching staff last season. If thats the case first year manager Jason Buzzell could have his hands full trying to steer his young squad toward a playoff birth.
5. 4-11 Another team with huge question marks. Which team will show up this year? The
one that started last season looking like the PBL incarnation of the Detroit Lions as they got off to an 0-10 start. Or the team that finished the season winning three of their last four, including wins over the Roadrunners and the Rebels. With some promising young talent that seemed to figure out how to win at the end of last season this could finally be the year that the Lakers end the playoff drought. It is important that they get off to a good start so that they will be playing for more than just pride come July.
6. 3-12 Obviously this is just a total guess as it is pretty tough to judge what an
expansion team is going to do, especially if you have never seen them play.
By most accounts they are a young team, so one would have to think that they might
find the jump to senior ball a little tough at first as they will be playing against men, some of whom have been playing in this league longer than some of the youngsters have been alive. That being said, Holden does have some history in the league as they have won championships in the past, so they could surprise and be strong right away. The 3-12 record is just based on a whim as I expect them to be in tough, but competitive, much like another young expansion team that made the jump from midgets. Once that team from Armena got some seasoning and added a few veterans they went on to have just a little success, and I am sure Holden wouldn't mind following that template.