Pitching always seems to be a crucial part in making a deep run in Leroy and Jared made an effort to follow that trend this season. Coming into this season the lowest batting average by a team that made the Championship game was 0.390 by the 2016 Jager Corn Bombers, this year the Jager Corn Bombers finished at 0.375, the Bushleague Badgers finished at 0.368. Not only that the Jager Corn Bombers had 228 strikeouts from the plate, the Bushleague Badgers had 223, the two most strikeouts for any team in any year in the history of the league, with both making the Championship. Pitching was what got them to where they needed to go. The 2016 Badgers and 2017 Badgers both have top 5 finishes when it comes to team E.R.A. in the history of league. The 2017 Badgers finished with a 5.07 ERA and had 254 k’s which was 3rd most ever. They did it in 146 2/3 inning pitched throughout the year, as a team they have up only 232 hits being one of only 6 seasons of any franchise to accomplish more k’s than hits allowed. Let’s take a look at the roster.
The Bushleague Badgers had 3 guys on the roster from start to finish, but Jared cycled through 5 different guys in the four slot. They had the last pick in the first round, and first pick in the second round. He used the 7th overall pick on Jeremiah Wiltjer, and Sam Staal was selected with the 8th pick. The final pick in the draft went to Aaron Barnes who was traded for Neil Krooswyk before the season even started. After the first week Neil Krooswyk was dropped and Austin Warner was signed to the Badgers. Austin played a few weeks for the Badgers before he too was cut and sent to the Otters. Alex Friedman was signed and looked to be the main guy to finish the year until Jared made a last minute decision signing Luke Prince and dropping Alex a week before the regular season had ended.
Leroy has five “All Team” awards each year. All Pitching is made up of the top 5 pitchers of the season who qualify. All Batting is made up of the top 5 batters of the league who qualify. All Salary is made up of the top 5 skilled players of the league who qualify. All Iron is made up of the top 5 players with the most at bats and innings pitched. All Leroy, the most prestigious “Team” is the top 5 Rank players which takes both the Salary and Iron Rankings. Jared finally got his first All Iron Team this year to cap off making every All Player Teams at least once in his career. Jared didn’t have his best batting year to date, but he still was above average compared to the rest of the league. He hit 37 Homers, 64 RBI’s, and 58 runs which were all career highs, but did it in 189 at bats which is 75 more than any season to date. He also finished with 50 k’s which was double any year to date. He was able to keep his pitching numbers right where they have been the last two years even with pitching almost the same amount of innings as the last two years combined. His E.R.A. sat at 3.71, the third straight season he finished with a E.R.A. between 3.60 and 3.90. He threw 77 k’s in 42 innings, but blew his first save of his career this year.
Jeremiah Wiltjer was coming off a Championship season in his first year playing in Leroy. He had many skeptics about what he can do in a full year, and becoming a team’s #1 or #2 pitcher instead of being the #4 like he was on the Bombers. His batting took a step back as he had 42 hits in 140 at bats compared to 43 hits in just 103 at bats in 2016. He did hit 14 Homers this year and had 34 Rbi’s, and 26 runs all more than the previous year. His pitching was lights out most nights finishing with a 3.06 ERA and had 72 k’s in just 31 1/3 innings. He like Jared had his first blown save this season.
Sam Staal wasn’t projected to go as high as he did in the 2017 draft after the poor 2016 season, but Jared took a chance on him in with the 8th overall pick. Sam had twice as many hits as last year and 2 less k’s at the plate in 48 more at bats. He also had 42 runs scored, a career high for him. We may never see the 2014 Sam who led the league in homers and had a positive hit to k ratio, but we saw an improved Sam who made big plays including a walk off homer off the Sliders in the first round of the playoffs to help them get the Championship. His pitching was also a little improved from the previous year. He dropped his ERA from a 4.92 to 4.88 and his opponents’ batting average went from 0.380 to 0.340. He finished with 62 k’s a career high in 43 Innings pitched.
Luke Prince was a late signing to the Badgers and he played a pivotal role of them getting to the Championship. As the #4 on the team he hit 0.308 from the plate, but had some power hitting 9 homers in just 65 at bats. He finished with a 8.00 ERA and had 18 k’s in 12 inning of work from the mound. Although he would have a future in the league he looked disinterested in returning for another season, let’s all hope he changes his mind.
The Badgers were the hardest team to read in the offseason and even early in the 2017 year. Some had them making a run at the Championship and some had them finishing in the bottom of the standings. The commissioner himself said Jared was unable to get his team focused and motivated to make a deep run. He proved many wrong and the Badgers won big games to get to the Championship for the first time.