UMEBA Midseason Preview

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UMEBA Midseason Preview

Post by stormfall » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:38 pm

UMEBA Midseason Preview

As the pennant races in the BBA start to heat up (as soon as any other teams get within a series sweep of first place, that is), it can be easy to forget about a completely different race, where halfway across the world, a collection of 500 local prospects, former organizational pieces, and the odd veteran stud-by-default are now entering the United Middle Eastern Baseball Association's second half. As the eventual former GM of the Bucharest franchise, I think now - one week after an inaugural All-Star Game classic - is as good a time as any to explain where its eight teams stand.

Let's begin with the Bart League, whose teams are challenging a long-established theory of the game.

1st Place: Manama Na - W-L: 27-16 (.628) - Post ASG: 4-2 - AVG: .249 (1st) - ERA: 3.90 (4th) - GB: -
The old adage that "good pitching will beat good hitting" may be considered gospel in some baseball circles, but certainly not in the Bart League. Case in point: the Manama Na, who overcame a league-worst pitching staff to open up a comfortable three-game lead by August 11. Manama's offense this year has been paced by its ability to drop a Moreno on their opponents whenever they feel like it. Few Bart League pitchers can contend with Claudio's combination of speed and power (7 HR, 5 SB) and Christian's barrage of base hits (37 to lead the Bart). The Na do have some bright spots on the other side of the ball, especially surprise shutdown man Leonardo Radini (1.42 ERA, 0.79 WHIP), starter Iván López (0.91 WHIP), and local boy Steve Waleed (37 K, 3 SV), a virtual unknown until UMEBA tryouts this year. Manama's offensive talents and rapidly improving pitching staff make it anything but a pushover at the top of the Bart League.

2nd Place: Cairo Chariot Archers BC - W-L: 24-19 (.558) - Post ASG: 3-3 - AVG: 2.48 (2nd) - ERA: 3.60 (3rd) - GB: 3.0
This team has talent sprinkled throughout its roster. Pitchers facing Cairo should be warned not to look directly at the middle of the Cairo batting order - the sight of catcher Ernesto Ruíz (.366/.388/.500, 11 2B) batting behind Gerardo Herrera (.356/.398/.663, 17 XBH) can have some shocking effects on anyone's ERA. As dangerous as it is for teams to pitch against the Chariot Archers, however, it's worse when they have to get up to bat. Four-fifths of Cairo's rotation has an ERA under 2.50, highlighted by Abel Gibson (1.93 ERA, 37 K) and the team's 2.68 mark for starters is tops in the UMEBA by a huge margin. If teams can break through the Chariot Archers' dominant rotation, however, they're rewarded by facing the Cairo bullpen, whose 5.32 ERA can turn the path to closer Hikaru Sakurai (1.59 ERA, 7 SV) into a multi-inning crapshoot. If Cairo can plug up some of the holes in its bullpen and in the bottom third of the batting order, it's not hard to see them pushing Manama all the way for the league title.

3rd Place: Baghdad Bombers - W-L: 20-23 (.465) - Post ASG: 2-4 - Avg: .224 (3rd) - ERA - 3.43 (2nd) - GB: 7.0
This team is a curious case to say the least. Although they have some talented hitters like Jack Hankey (.376/.436/.518), Aurelio Aybar (5 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR), and homegrown Ed Naif (.510 SLG, 4 3B, currently on the reserve roster for some reason), they also have a seriously inept bottom half of the lineup - no one below the 5-hole is safely over the Mendoza Line), highlighted by a uniquely inexplicable decision to make defensive/baserunning specialist Maximiano Encourados (.126 AVG, .404 OPS, 34 K) the starting shortstop for almost the entire season. These baffling offensive inconsistencies have been somewhat mitigated by Bomber pitching, including a no longer questionable bullpen-by-committee that's given up the fewest runs in the Bart League, powered by Middle Eastern arms like Stanley Meyer (1.53 ERA), Malcolm Rodgers (23 K), and Qutaybah bin Mufeed (2.13 ERA, 3 SV). If Baghdad can sort out their lineup, they have the strength on the other end to claw their way back into contention.

4th Place: Istanbul Bosphorus - W-L: 15-28 (.349) - Post ASG: 3-3 - Avg: .214 (4th) - ERA: 3.36 (1st) - GB: 12.0
A near total opposite of the Manama Na, Istanbul's sputtering offense has dragged them into the Bart League cellar. Despite the presence of sluggers like Michael Starr (.363/.404/.615, 6 HR) and quality midseason pickups like Lonnie McGreer (.481 SLG, 15 RBI), swinging catastrophes like Jeff Robinson and Lou Griffin (.401 and .373 OPS, respectively) continue to fester at the bottom of the lineup. Unfortunately, Istanbul's issues at the plate can divert too much attention from their pitching staff. A recent rotation shakeup gives the Bosphorus an experienced front five, led by Manny Lopez (2.33 ERA), while sending quality pitchers like Chris Long (3.13 ERA, 8 K/BB) to provide much-needed relief. This season may be a bit of a lost cause for Istanbul, but developing players like two-way talent Kunz Schuck (2-5 AB, 5.87 ERA) give them some hope for the future.

Let's move on to the Bancroft League, the offense-heavier circuit headlined by a potential powerhouse club.

1st Place: Beirut - W-L: 31-12 (.721) - Post ASG: 2-4 - Avg: .274 (2nd) - ERA: 3.59 (1st) - GB: 0
Beirut may have stumbled a bit recently, dropping their first two series after the All-Star Break (including one against league doormats Mumbai), but make no mistake - they're still the team to beat in the Bancroft. Beirut's imposing lineup, with threats like Carlos Soto (.361/.427/.567) and Dave Molina (9 HR), is so stacked that even players like local hero Mal Ellison (.759 SLG, 9 HR) can find themselves on the outside looking in. The Beirut starting rotation isn't much easier on opponents. Workhorse R.J. Hughes (44.1 IP, 7.9 K/9) headlines an impressive starting group that even pitchers like Middle Eastern ace Nawaf bin Ammar (2.95 ERA, 38 K) can't crack. This team's greatest - and possibly only - weakness is its bullpen, owners of an alarming 5.14 ERA and a league-worst 8 blown saves. Despite their late-game struggles, the Beirut juggernaut remains well above the pack, and it's difficult to see any of the other three Bancroft League teams catching up.

2nd Place: Bucharest - W-L: 23-20 (.535) - Post ASG: 3-3 - Avg: .278 (1st) - ERA: 4.73 (3rd) - GB: 8.0
Bucharest is a team on the bubble, with the potential to go either way. Like many other teams in the UMEBA, the Bucharest lineup is a mixture of stars and scrubs, where tandem sluggers Mike Román (.400/.441/.600) and Juan Solís (.394/.500/.586) share the plate with one-tool players like Barry Buckner (9 SB, .604 OPS) and Artie Brooks (.391 OBP, .321 SLG). The talent in the middle of the lineup is enough for Bucharest to power a league-leading offense, but no one would use that word to describe their pitching staff. Just like Bucharest hitters, Bucharest pitchers have also put up numbers at both ends of the talent spectrum - pitchers like Miguel Acosta (1.17 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) and Brian Cramer (12.74 ERA, 2.0 HR/9) sit next to each other in the starting rotation. The bullpen is just as much of a mixed bag, best demonstrated by closer Juan Valenzuela (14.8 K/9, 7.1 BB/9, 6 SV, 5.14 ERA). There's no way to tell what's going to happen to Bucharest during the second half of the season, but it's certainly going to be entertaining.

3rd Place: Jerusalem Hebrew Hammers - W-L: 20-23 (.465) - Post ASG: 4-2 - Avg: .259 (3rd) - ERA: 3.60 (2nd) - GB: 11.0
All eyes on the Hebrew Hammers. The Jerusalem lineup is top-to-bottom dangerous, with speed demon Hyung-on Ch’oe (.413 OBP, 10 SB) complementing six hitters slugging .500 or higher - including Roberto Pérez (.950 OPS), Chester Owens (.339 AVG, 6 HR), and August pickup Jack Bates, whose stats through his first week of UMEBA play (.577/.645/.692) are inflated enough to float down Broadway in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. When the Hebrew Hammers aren't holding bats in their hands, however, they become slightly less threatening. Behind ace Ramón Suárez (6-0, 2.12 ERA, .210 BAA), the Jerusalem rotation is still full of question marks, as is the bullpen behind middle reliever Marc Nelson (1.33 ERA, 0.74 WHIP) and setup man Pedro Pérez (1.04 ERA). Only the second half of the season will tell if Jerusalem's new acquisitions are for real and can pull the Hebrew Hammers into the race, or if they'll fall back to earth, landing alongside Jerusalem's aspirations for the Bancroft League title.

4th Place: Mumbai Bicycle Club - W-L: 12-31 (.279) - Post ASG: 3-3 - Avg: .244 (4th) - ERA: 5.87 (4th) - GB: 19.0
There's no easy way to say this. The 2037 Mumbai Bicycle Club is a team with holes up and down the roster, a pitching staff that defies explanation, and a brutal estrangement from contention. The presence of a few quality hitters like Jeff Mason (.389/.442/.642) and Alberto Ríos (.615 SLG, 5 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR) can't hide the offensive red flags - number 5 hitter José Romero (.322 SLG) in a key run-producing position, Garrett Barnett (.597 OPS) batting as high as sixth in the order, Juan Arévalo (.493 OPS, .141 AVG) batting at all - but it at least provides a welcome distraction from Mumbai pitching. Salvador Gonzáles (2-4, 4.24 ERA) is the closest thing to an ace on the Bicycle Club, doing his part to keep Mumbai starters' group ERA down to an even 6, while the Bicycle Club bullpen contains a few gems - closer Lyndon Rosebotham (1.32 ERA, 5 SV) and Middle Eastern righties Gerald Daniels (2.75 ERA) and high-nineties flamethrower Nuh Baha al-Din (39 K, 12.2 K/9, 2.20 ERA) - Mumbai's first-half pitching stats make you wonder whether the rest of the staff was just a group of macaque monkeys that stole the keys to the bullpen cart. There are signs of hope in Mumbai - just yesterday, the Bicycle Club finished taking two out of three against first-place Beirut, their first series win since June - but there's a long way to go before the Mumbai Bicycle Club can consider itself a contender for first place in the Bancroft League.

Of course, the eight teams currently contesting the UMEBA season's second half have very little in common with the teams that started its first half two months ago. Free agents have been signed, rosters have been turned upside down, and a wave of ownership changes will have an immense effect on the way these teams operate. Realistically, every one of the eight teams slugging it out in the Bart and Bancroft has a chance of collapsing and crashing out of contention - or catching fire and sweeping through the playoffs to claim the inaugural United Middle Eastern Baseball Association title. The only way to know which teams will meet which fate, members of the BBA, is to follow the league for yourselves as it rushes through a monthlong pennant chase to an outcome that no one has seen before.
Last edited by stormfall on Thu Jan 31, 2019 2:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: UMEBA Midseason Preview

Post by usnspecialist » Thu Jan 31, 2019 1:54 pm

Love the preview. I'm sure some of the guys who have been in the BBA for a few years are stunned to see I (as the Manama caretaker) have a pitching staff that performs over their talent level. O wait...
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Re: UMEBA Midseason Preview

Post by Ted » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:19 pm

Regarding Encourados at short, I thought the exact same thing when I took over as GM. Then I looked at my other options and left him in. :bag:
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Re: UMEBA Midseason Preview

Post by ae37jr » Thu Jan 31, 2019 5:24 pm

For anyone that has never done it, the foreign leagues are really hard as far as team building goes. If you need a SS, you can't just go out and get one. 99.9% of the free agents either demand too much or simply don't want to play for you. You kind of get stuck with a bunch of guys and have to make the best of it. It's very common to have to try to cram 3-4 DH's in your lineup because they hit night and day better then your other options.
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Re: UMEBA Midseason Preview

Post by bschr682 » Sat Feb 02, 2019 7:06 pm

Bates wasn't really a pickup. The stupid AI just had him rotting on the reserve roster for some reason. I fixed that immediately along with bringing up Kit Kat to be our SS.

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