Week 4 Recap: Playoff picture starting to take shape

Episode 5

Another week of action and another week shaping up how the Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente is heading towards the end of its 2018-2019 regular season.

This past week, we saw the four teams really start to shape and define what the rest of the season is going to look like. With the Mayagüez Indians finally clicking on all cylinders, taking a commanding lead of 1st place, while the Caguas Criollos find themselves still in the bottom of the standings, digging itself in a deeper whole. Santurce Crabbers and the Carolina Giants keep battling for 2nd and 3rd place.

With only 15 games left in the season, these teams need to start taking control of their performances and be more consistent since there is not much breathing room left to sort things out. Let’s see how week 4 of the 2018-2019 season shaped up to be.

 

Leading Off: Carolina Giants

The Giants started to lose steam in week 4, where they were able to catch some wings against the Criollos and Crabbers but were drastically outmatched by the Indians in both of the 2 gamed played in week 4.

They finished the week with a sounding defeat against the Criollos (who are dealing with their own issues) to a score of 19-5 on Sunday. Previously to the Caguas defeat, the Giants were outscored by their opponents 23 to 12 runs scored. The loss to the Criollos bloated those numbers to 42 runs given up vs 17 runs scored by the Giants offense.

Pitching continues to be another area of weakness for this team. If this sounds repetitive, well it is because the Giants haven’t been able to fix the gaps in this department. Of all the action we’ve seen so far this season, week 2 was the best performance output where both pitching and offense was getting the wins for the Giants. Since then, the team has not been able to recapture that momentum and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Criollos switch out places in the standings with them.

The key issue for the Giants pitching continues to be their bullpen, who are not able to hold up the performance of their starting pitching and giving up so many runs late in the game, preventing an opportunity for the offense to get back into the game.

The Giants looked and performed outmatched by Mayagüez and Caguas, because despite their own issues, either their offense or pitching has been able to keep them at float at times.

Carolina cannot continue to let great outings by their starting pitchers go to waste. Gage Hinsz continues to give solid outings just to see it go to waste when the bullpen is brought in. But there is a bright spot with in the bullpen and that remains on the closer, Giovanni Soto. Soto continues to be the reliable go to guy to close out games and was able to secure two saves this past week.

Other contributors keeping Carolina in the picture are Wilfredo Rodriguez and Isan Diaz, both pushing in 3 RBI each in week 4.

The Giants went 2-3 in their win/loss record for week 4, but with an overall record of 10 wins and 11 losses and tied with Santurce for 2nd/3rd place in the standings; four games behind the Mayagüez Indians.

 

Next on Deck: Caguas Criollos

The perplexing case of the Criollos continues through week 4. Prior to Sundays knockout punch to the Carolina Giants, the Criollos were barely showing any signs of life.

The Criollos went 1-3 in their win/loss record for week 4, and prior to Sunday, only managed to score 3 runs in the previous 4 games of the week. Their opponents outscored them 11 to 3 runs, so Sunday’s performance was some way to balance things out.

This team continues to struggle offensively, having a weekly batting average of .236 (week 4), and who went 3 for 23 with RISP, leaving 30 runners on base. So even though Sunday we basically saw the Hulk version of this team, that game cannot erase what we saw earlier in the week.

Yes, it was a resounding win against the Giants and a must needed morale booster. But the Criollos still find themselves 6 games behind first place and trailing both the Giants and Crabbers by two games. I don’t want to overlook Sunday’s win, but I have seen this team struggle under all kinds of situations throughout the season, and do not think that Sunday’s 19-5 win will overcome these struggles from previous weeks.

It’s hard to watch a dominating team like Caguas struggle the way they do, but hopefully they figure something out with the last 15 games of the season. This is still a team leading the league in all major batting categories, who has 3 players within the top 5 leaders in individual batting titles, but the issue continues to come from the mound.

Zach Hedges has been the only dominating arm on this team and his efforts continue to go to waste due to the sluggish offense or a bullpen who keeps bleeding runs. It is getting harder for this team to remain competitive against the rest of the league, and it is looking more of a possibility that this team will not have an opportunity to make the playoffs to defend their championship title.

Key contributors this past week was Jancarlos Cintron who brought in 2 of the 3 runs prior to Sunday, and David Vidal who pushed in 7 RBIs on his own in the 19-5 win against Carolina.

 

Batting Clean Up: Santurce Crabbers

What can I say about the Crabbers that I haven’t said before? Well, for the first time this season, they no longer hold my recognition of being the team with the most stable and consistent squad.

Their ups and downs from week 3 continued through week 4. Santurce finds itself basically in the same place, in the middle of the pack, that it has been for most of the season. Sure, it was able to capture 1st place a few times this season, but it hasn’t been able to take full control of these opportunities and usually loses any advantage within a game or two.

Unlike previous flat production weeks that lead to wins, week 4 saw a significant drop in output on both pitching and offensive ends of the team. The Crabbers were outscored 16 to 11 runs scores having a weekly batting average of just .199 and turning only 3 of 35 RISP opportunities (leaving 32 runners on base).

So while they seemed to be the most stable and rounded team early in the season, Santurce found a way to plateau from week 2 and continue a declining trend in week 4. On the pitching end, that’s where we seem more positive news with excellent outs by Fernando Cabrera and Fernando Cruz (two of the top 5 ERA leaders in the league). The overall pitching staff has the 2nd best ERA in the league (2.74), with the second least number of runs given up which goes to show that the offense is the pulling its weight.

From consistent and stable to consistently stale. That is basically what Santurce has become after week 4 of competition. If it continues to slow down in production, it might be jeopardizing a long run in the playoffs, but I’m not ready to write them off completely at this time.

Key contributors for the Crabbers in week 4: Jan Hernandez, Fernando Cabrera and Fernando Cruz.

 

Closing Out: Mayagüez Indians

Mayagüez was finally able to get all of its gears churning in the right direction and what a turn around this team has made in week 4.

Not only did it keep it’s pitching on track, reclaiming the top spot in team ERA across the league, the Indians offense finally came back to life and not just for a game or two. The team finished out week 4 on a six-game winning streak and looking for more heading towards week 5.

Breaking down the offensive performance, the Indians never batted below .303 in the entire week. It outscored its opponents 32 to 7; the best run difference by this team in its entire season. The Indians went 22 for 54 with RISP, leaving 46 runners on base.

A high number, but they have a better RISP conversion rate in week 4 than the other 3 teams. Caguas has the second best RISP conversation rate of the week at 27% while Mayagüez’s rate was at 41%. A lot of numbers to say that the Mayagüez Indians dominated their opponents in week 4.

The Indians pitching staff was stellar this week, only giving up 7 runs, the most of which came from games against Carolina (3) and Santurce (3). The Indians now lead the league in team ERA (2.67), with the least number of runs given up, most strikeouts, and 2nd in least number of walks surrendered.

Alex Romero continues to provide quality outings for Mayagüez with an overall 1.93 ERA and who went 5.2 IP without surrendering any runs in 5 hits given up. Not too far behind him is Jonathan Sanchez who went for 5.1 IP in his outing without giving any runs and with an overall 0.57 ERA.

There were many hitters to pick from for this week’s key contributors highlight but the performance from Jay Gonzalez (3 RBIs, 2 triples, 1 double, 6 runs) and Yariel Gonzalez (4 RBI) stood out the most. Supporting those efforts are Rey Navarro, who has made a significant change since being traded to the Indians, and Henry Ramos.

Rey Navarro was able to go from .107/.167/.107 with the Caguas Criollos to hitting .370/.414/.407 since joining the Indians a week and a half ago. An enormous turn around, but something Mayagüez was expecting Navarro was capable of when it decided to trade from him.

If Mayagüez continues to perform the way it has in week 4, they are a sure ticket not only for the playoffs, but the championship title. The Indians are in pursuit of their 19th championship title, the last which came in 2014.

 

At the end of week 4 this is how the standings look like:

Team

W

L

GB

1.       Mayagüez Indians

14

7

2.       Santurce Crabbers

10

11

4.0

3.       Carolina Giants

10

11

4.0

4.       Caguas Criollos

8

13

6.0

 

Team Batting (BA/OBP/SLG):

1.       Caguas Criollos

2.       Mayagüez Indians

3.       Santurce Crabbers

4.       Carolina Giants

 

Team ERA:

1.       Mayagüez Indians (2.67)

2.       Santurce Crabbers (2.74)

3.       Caguas Criollos (4.87)

4.       Carolina Giants (5.17)

 

Individual Batting Leaders:

·       Jack Lopez (CAG): .393/.452/.554

·       Kennys Vargas (MAY): .375/.507/.536

·       Vimael Machin (CAG): .354/.468/.538

 

Individual ERA Leaders:

1.       Fernando Cabrera (CAG): 1.38 (26 IP)

2.       Zach Hedges (CAG): 1.37 (19.2 IP)

3.       Gage Hinsz (CAR): 1.42 (19.0 IP)

4.       Alex Romero (MAY): 1.93 (18.2 IP)

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