2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

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aaronweiner
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2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by aaronweiner » Sun Aug 26, 2018 1:11 pm

While feeling a little self-serving creating a preview for my own series, I didn't see a lot of volunteers. :)

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Rockville Pikemen (103-59) vs. California Crusaders (98-64)


Previously in the playoffs:

The Pikemen got a first round bye, then proceeded to knock out the New Orleans Crawdads in five and the Brooklyn Robins in six. It's just their second year in the playoffs since 2027 and their first pennant winner since 2020. The Crusaders had to go the distance with defending champion San Fernando, then knock out a tough Calgary team in six games in the Cartwright. California is making their eighth playoff appearance in nine years, and 11 in the past 13 seasons, but they haven't been to a Landis since 2024.



Overview:

The Landis Memorial Series between California and Rockville is a bit of a rarity. We often joke about the playoff randomizer, but there's more than a little truth to this idea: the 2035 Landis is the first series between #1 seeds in the playoffs since 2022, when the Atlantic City Gamblers defeated the Brooklyn Robins in seven games to win their only modern title. Rockville has been the most successful team in the league over the past two seasons, winning 103 games this season and 99 games last year, while California has a string of winning seasons dating all the way back to 2023, now 13 seasons long. So this has to be considered a bit of a heavyweight fight; the upstart Pikemen against the entrenched Crusaders.




Pitching:

California still has that ballpark that suppresses offenses more than just about any other ballpark in the league, but while their home-road splits are notable, they're hardly disqualifying. The Crusaders had a 4-flat ERA on the road compared to their absurd home ERA of just above 3 flat. Like Brooklyn in the last round, California relies heavily on left-handed starters, as only Cisco Morales is a righty in their rotation. This strategy plays directly into their ballpark: California is one of the surprisingly easier places for a lefty batter to hit a homer, yet their top three starters are groundball-throwing lefties. This gives California a bit of a home-field advantage in any series. California's bullpen ERA was also easily tops in the BBA, and their defense was outstanding this season, so the Crusaders are a force to be reckoned with on the mound.

Rockville's pitching staff is hardly chopped liver, though. Solidly second in the JL in runs allowed and ERA, the Pikemen allowed the third lowest amount of walks and third lowest amount of home runs this season. Led by superstar starters Arthur Dempster and Enrique Gomez, the Rockville rotation also includes Andre Georges and Dan Cannon. Georges might be benched in this series, as the matchup might actually dictate Georges not starting in the series. Rockville also has one of the league's top closers in Fernando Marquez, who has followed up last year's calamity in the playoffs with six saves in six tries and a win in Rockville's clinching Game 6. They also have two of the better lefty specialists in the game in Mario Efremov and Derrick Falter, so they're prepared for tough situations as well. If the Rockville pitching staff can keep the ball in the ballpark in this series, it's going to go a long way towards a BBA title.


Hitting:

California, as mentioned, plays directly into their home ballpark strengths, an advantage that's not likely to aid them well against the Pikemen on the road. The Crusaders have sold out almost entirely to lefty power hitters: their .246 team batting average was 12th, their OBP was 10th, and they scored the 9th most runs in the FL (though the actual output was about as close to 4th place as 11th place), but they hit 265 home runs, third best in the Frick. However, Rockville is one of the toughest places in the BBA to hit a home run, while their ballpark amplifies batting average - a bad matchup for this crew. Probable future Hall of Famer Fernando Moreno heads the group, and if you include the two-headed catcher position as one position, the Crusaders had six players hit at least 24 homer this season and another three in double digits. The Crusaders also stole 227 bases this year at a very high 80.2% rate, and they'll no doubt be eager to test the arm of Rockville's Francisco Flores.

Rockville's offensive profile is the polar opposite of California's group. The Pikemen finished 13th in the JL in home runs, with less than one per game, and just eighth in extra-base hits. However, the Pikemen were easily first in the league in batting average again, hitting .292 as a team and finishing fourth in OPS as a result. The number wasn't overwhelmingly surprising as the Pikemen play in a park that enhances batting average and depresses home runs production. Rookie DH Manuel Marino, who's coming off back-to-back series MVPs, will be huge in this series, as he's Rockville's top right handed hitter, and rookie Chip Puckett should also be huge. However, unlike some teams, Rockville's biggest lefty hitters don't have huge holes against lefties: JL OBP champ Lorenzo Palacios, 35-homer man Mario Guerrer, and catcher Francisco Flores can all hit lefties, and the lineup has solid balance, with rookie Larry Blake, solid bench player Cristo Coronado, .280 hitter Santiago Morales, and former Hawaii starter Julio Torror all solid against lefty pitching.



Overall:

This is likely to be a hotly contested series. It will be interesting to see if Rockville makes good on their threat to go three-man, though lefty Dan Cannon should be very useful in shutting down the California lefty power machine and will likely throw two games regardless. No doubt the difficulty for Rockville would be in watching Georges, who has legitimate holes against lefty power hitting, throw in California in Game 4. The matchup issues that California present to a lot of teams also isn't quite as imposing on Rockville's hitters, while Rockville appears fairly prepared to handle the matchup issues that the Crusaders present. It's going to come down to this question: can California's hitters knock them over the wall? If they can, they're going to win this one. If not, Rockville should come away with it. That's the kind of question where nobody really likes to try to project a final result, but here it goes anyway:


Prediction: Rockville in 7.

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Re: 2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by scottsdale_joe » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:05 pm

Well done.
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Re: 2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by Ted » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:48 pm

Good summary. It'll be tough for me. The last two rounds were much better matchups.
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Re: 2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by Ted » Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:49 pm

Also, as Offie mentioned, while I've been in the playoffs a ton, prior to this year I had exactly one series (opening round) win to my name since that 2024 Landis.
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Re: 2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by aaronweiner » Sun Aug 26, 2018 6:54 pm

Ted wrote:
Sun Aug 26, 2018 4:49 pm
Also, as Offie mentioned, while I've been in the playoffs a ton, prior to this year I had exactly one series (opening round) win to my name since that 2024 Landis.
So this is a bit of a breakthrough for both of us. Very cool.

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Re: 2035 Landis Memorial Preview: California vs. Rockville

Post by Joshua Biddle » Sun Aug 26, 2018 8:38 pm

Good preview.

Really was a good matchup between two top notch teams.
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