This year, for the first time in OCWA history, I can honestly say that any team could win the championship. With such tight matchups and small room for error, each game could come down to one pitch or one swing of the bat. In anticipation of Saturday's action, I thought it would be a good idea to write about what the keys to victory for each team may be. I like to call these - The Playoff X-Factors.
1. Pavlov's Dawgs X-Factor: The Bats
The Dawgs will be without staff ace Ari Knill on Saturday, and the effects of his pitching cannot be ignored. With Knill on the mound this season, the Dawgs went 11-7 while allowing just 2 runs per game. When Chainzz or Byun are pitching, they are 1-4 and allow just over 5 runs per game. The Dawgs bats are going to have to come alive if the offense that averages 2.7 runs per game wants to win any games without Knill on the mound.
2. B.E.E.R.S. X-Factor: Regression
Roeder and Coyk had their first losing season ever in 2018, but I'd argue that it had nothing to do with skill. If you look at the numbers, you can see just how unlucky this team has been. Not only did the B.E.E.R.S. lead the league in runs scored, but they also had the best overall run differential. If you use Bill James' handy win expectation formula, you'll notice that a team with these numbers should have gone 13-7, a full FOUR wins better than what actually happened. I'd argue that if the B.E.E.R.S. keep doing what they've been doing, positive regression could lead them to the three-peat.
3. Freaky Franchise X-Factor: Bush's Offense
To say Ryan Bush is having a down year at the plate would be a huge understatement. Only a year removed from averaging over 3 home runs per game, Bush has taken an absolute nosedive down to just 0.57 home runs per game. With a pitching staff that has allowed the most runs in the league in 2018, Bush needs to start hitting for some power if the Franchise wants any chance of taking home the title.
4. Fire Frogs X-Factor: Consistency
There's not really much to say about a team that hasn't lost this year. Regis is a top tier pitcher and the two-man lineup of him and Mike Anderson is a force to be reckoned with. If the Frogs can keep doing what they've been doing, they could easily be crowned 2018 OCWA Champions.
5. Caledonia Crush X-Factor: Pitching
Ever since they came into the league, the Crush have had Regis pitch just about every single inning of every single game they've ever played. This meant that Cody and Eli (or whoever else they had as the third) only had to worry about hitting and fielding. The last tournament was the first since the Caledonia boys split into two teams, and the effects were very apparent. The bats were still there and Cody was still an animal in the field, but the pitching just wasn't up to par. If they can get their pitching locked down, the Crush can compete with anyone.
6. Papa Jack's X-Factor: Beating teams not named the Dawgs
Papa Jack's 2018 record versus Pavlov's Dawgs: 3-1
Papa Jack's 2018 record versus all other playoff teams: 2-7
If the Jacks got to play the Dawgs in every round of the playoffs, I'd say they'd be the favorite. Unfortunately for them, there are four other teams in the field and the Dawgs are on the other side of the bracket. If you were paying any attention to our last tournament, you saw that the Jacks made a run to the finals before ultimately losing via walk-off home run. The Jacks won 4 games en route to the finals appearance, and 3 of those wins came against... the Dawgs.
It's shaping up to be a beautiful day for the playoffs. Be sure to follow along on Twitter and Periscope to stay up to date on all the action!