The 2nd annual Christmas party is here and gone. And it was a blast. It was great to see so many guys back in town excited for the league. My purpose for this post is twofold. To recap 2016, and to give my expectations for 2017. Both at the national scene and in Leroy. So here we go.
This draft was special for me. This will be our fourth year as a legit league and for me it will be the first as an owner. I could have been an owner every year the league has been in existence however each year I opted not to. I just enjoyed playing the game without the pressure or expectations as an owner. However, starting last year my role for Leroy began to expand and so did my desire to make our league as a whole last in the long haul. Nationals was such a thrill for me. It was awesome to be a part of a successful team there and to get to meet all the other great leagues out there. That was the catalyst for my interest and ownership of responsibility in the league to spike. I began to play in tournaments through a league called ORWBL. Which is a slow pitch league out of southern Indiana. I was able to promote LWA and garner interest to the point of recruiting a possible 4-8 players for next year. For our league specifically I saw where I had been lacking in leadership and began to take hold of that position more seriously. I began to show up more frequently, and help with field maintenance, and event coordination for the golf outing and nationals. And this year I’m stepping up as an owner to hopefully continue the trend of doing more for the league.
That’s enough about last year here are my predictions for 2017. First I will break down each team and where I think they will stand.
1. Bushleague Badgers- As much as I hate giving my brother credit at all, he drafted a damn good team. They don’t have any elite pitching meaning top 5 pitchers, but what I love about this team is that they have 2 maybe 3 guys that will be top 10 in the league in both pitching and hitting. And there aren’t many teams in the league that can boast those credentials. Their strength will rely on consistency and chemistry. Besides Jared with his bat, they don’t have talent that will overwhelm you but they are flat out, without debate, solid. And you will have to go out and beat them, they won’t give games away. On top of that I know Jared is looking to sign a free agent in place of Aaron Barnes, so that may help his cause too. To me their biggest weakness comes in a lack of having a game changing pitcher. The thing that keeps me from solidifying them as the surefire number 1 team is that it’s a tossup between Jared or Jeremiah on who you throw first. You don’t have a pitcher here that you give the ball to and know that they will be lockdown. So I cautiously put them #1 overall.
2. Lake County Liners- I took big gambles this draft. I will admit that. This is why I can’t place myself number 1 overall. However, I do feel that if the chips fall where I hope they will that we will have a season close to what Brett did with the Bombers last year. I bring Jon Gibson who at his best is a top 3 player in this league. A 1-2 punch in the batting order for us is scary for any opposing pitcher. Austin Gibson will be the determining factor between a championship and a semifinal exit. I will sign someone else in free agency, hopefully a consistent and decently talented player. Despite Austin’s deficiencies last year he displayed great velocity on the mound that is rare amongst pitchers. If we can harness that, it will be very effective at 48 feet. Our strength will come from hitting and fielding. Besides Kevin we pose in my opinion the 3 best fielders in the game, also we will flat out put runs on the board. Our weakness will potentially be our 3-4 pitchers. We have an ace in myself, but because of the big question marks in Austin and my free Agent we will be second as of right now.
3. Dutch Ovens- I really like this team. And Kyle drafted similar to how I drafted. Based on hitting. Its no secret that pitching numbers will be down this year because of the move to 48. And if Jack shows up, this will be the best hitting team in Leroy. But this move also hurts the ovens. Matt was dirty from 42 last year, but on many occasions vocalized his inability to throw from 48. Kyle is a good not great pitcher but should be hitter of the year. And I have no idea if we will see Jack for 2 games or 20 this year. I will say this, if Matt can find consistency at 48 and Jack can do the same then this team is number 1 overall. Greg is a sneaky 3rd rounder in that he will draw a lot of walks and have a high OBP. Again though, Greg is a huge question mark on the mound. Overall this team’s strengths will be leadership from Kyle and the bats. They will put up 10+ runs against the bottom 3 teams in our league so it won’t matter how many they give up. However, against teams like the bombers, liners, or badgers, their deficiencies on the mound may show.
4. Jager Corn Bombers- It’s so hard to make predictions when you have 4 teams so close like our top 4, but I have the bombers falling and here is why. Pitching wise they could pose the top team ERA again in the league. Brett should win Cy young this year, and Erik will be a top 5 pitcher. But Van Vuren and Kyle Reynhout are two huge question marks at the end of that rotation. And this pitching staff looks similar to my team in the liners, but the reason I have us ranked higher is in our ability to hit. And this in my opinion will be the biggest struggle for the bombers this season. IF the bombers have an off pitching night, can their bats support them enough to bring them 6-10 runs. And from what I see I don’t think so. What I do love about this team though is that they have the biggest steal in the third round for hitting. Watch Kyle Reynhout slide into Leroy top 10 for hitting this year. He needs the rest of the team to follow suit.
5. Fantastic Four- I know I’m going to get a lot of slack about this pick going so low, but here’s why. Kevin and Sitter will be a good 1-2. But I’m sorry the bottom 2 for Fantastic is not good. Fiene had a dirty pitch at 42 that was slow enough to throw timing off, but at 48 that will be exposed for homers. And Mosel is a solid player and can throw strikes but his bat leaves a lot to be desired. Vroegh and Sitter will have to have All-Leroy seasons to make a championship, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. A lot is going to depend on their ability to make up for the 3-4 guys in their rotation.
6. H-Town Huskies- First year owner Neil Krooswyk selects an interesting team. Robby when present is a force to be reckoned with and Neil’s bat is no joke either. Tim Wiltjer is poised to have a breakout year if he can throw enough strikes at 48. Neil drafted specialists and that can be hit or miss. Olthoff can hit a little bit and is a great texter, but can’t throw on the mound. Neil is a top 10 hitter but struggle from the mound. Robby is a top 5 hitter but struggles from the mound at times. All in all this team could be a top 3 team with the bats this year. But the will be throwing pitch to hit a lot, and that is going to result in some major mound issues. I could see this team moving into the top 3 if Neil can sign his rumored free agent stud. If not I don’t see them making it out of the first round.
7. Big Unit Bashers- Grant will have a better year than last year. No doubt in my mind. However, he has a lot to overcome as an owner. Unfortunately last year created a negative persona around playing for his team and his players will have to overcome that. I’m excited to see what Marty does this year. He could be an all- Leroy selection. And Mike Fiene is a bat to be reckoned with. Zuidema is going to struggle from 48 but he can hit too. This team has the potential to be in the top 5, but for me they need to prove it. This is team is last simply because of the debacle that was last year. Grant has to prove that he can be a good owner and lead his team in the right way, and if he does which I know he can his team will be a good team.
Preseason All Leroy Team
1. Brett Detmar
2. Caleb Jonkman
3. Jon Gibson
4. Jared Jonkman
5. Matt Dykstra/Kyle Jansma/Andrew Sitter
All Batting Team
1. Kyle Jansma
2. Jon Gibson
3. Caleb Jonkman
4. Jared Jonkman
5. Matt Dykstra
All Pitching Team
1. Brett Detmar
2. Caleb Jonkman
3. Andrew Sitter
4. Erik Detmar
5. Marty Rasala
Most Improved: Austin Gibson
Rookie of the Year: Marty Rasala
Manager of the Year: Jared Jonkman
I’m not going to make championship or playoff predictions because there are too many question marks. We have too big a rules change from 48, and too many free agents coming to definitively have a clear picture of where things will play out. This is where I feel things will play out after the draft.
For my last segment I will be breaking down nationals. Very simply, I feel we are a top 4 team in the country. People may think I am crazy but I don’t. We have two top 10 pitchers in Brett and Myself and potentially a third in Erik. On top of this fact, we only had 2 of our best hitters at nationals last year. Two more potent bats and we beat kalamazoo. If we can pitch the ball and hit the way I know we can we are a top four team. It’s a slim chance but if we can add Jack Shannon to the mix as well, I really like our chances.
So for everyone who read this, thank you and I’m excited for another year of Leroy wiffleball.