Nick Schaefer *
While the standings - dictated by wins and losses - are ultimately all that matters at the end of the Mid Atlantic tournament season, during the season they may not always tell the full story. Player absences, a difficult strength of schedule, and plain old bad luck can muddy the waters mid year. “The Rise” power rankings goes beyond the current standings to gauge which five teams should be considered the favorites at season’s end and which team(s) are ready to crash the party at a moment’s notice.
At the midway mark of the season, sorting out the top 5 teams in MAW is getting messy . . . but a good kind of messy. The competition has been so evenly stacked that choosing between the first and third team – or the fifth and ninth teams – is no easy task. There has yet to be a repeat winner in three tournaments. Each team has had their ups and downs and we are still waiting to see if any team will break away from the pack. There was some significant movement in the rankings this edition and with the way things have gone we could very easily see a major shakeup next edition as well.
1. ERL (2)
11-4 | 2 Top 4 finishes | +19 run differential
A pool play exit for ERL feels like a major disappointment just because expectations for the team are – rightfully so – sky high. However, even the most talented squads are not immune from catching a team or two at an inopportune time. ERL ran into a pair of hot teams in Ridley Park, dropping 1-0 games to both of the tournament finalists (Meats and Stompers) in pool play which ultimately cost them the tournament. While four losses through three tournaments are a bit more than we might have expected from this group, they are still playing as well as any team in MAW and carry the greatest upside.
2. NY Meats (3)
8-2 | 2 Top 4 finishes | +13 run differential
The Meats have yet to be defeated in pool play this year and much of the credit for that goes to Jimmy Cole. Cole is a perfect 6-0 when pitching pool play and has helped his own cause with his work at the plate, particularly at the Opening Day Tournament. The Meats avenged their tough Opening Day semi-finals loss to ERL by taking them down in pool play in Ridley Park. Having had already beaten the Stompers on Opening Day, the Meats now hold wins over both teams they’ve lost to in 2019. The Meats are the proud owners of the highest winning percentage in Mid Atlantic so far this season (.800) and the pitching trio of Cole-Bush-VonSleusingen has arguably been the best of any team’s this year. If the Meats competed at all three tournaments thus far and played as well as they did at the two they did play in, it would be impossible to argue against them for the top spot.
3. Shortballs (1)
10-5 | 2 Top 4 Finishes | +33 run differential
Even more so than ERL, the Shortballs’ disappointing record in Ridley Park tells only half the story. There is no way to completely sugarcoat an 0-4 tournament, but it might be the best played 0’fer we will see this season. The Shortballs lost by one run on a walk off homerun, dropped two 0-0 total base games, and dropped another game 1-0. The only real difference between the Shortballs on June 1st and the Shortballs of April and May was their inability to manufacture runs. A few hits at key moments and their tournament looks a whole lot different. The Shortballs will need to get the bats going again to remain in the top tier as the season enters the back stretch.
4. Stompers (NR)
7-6 | 1 Top 4 Finish | +15 run differential
Obviously, the Stompers’ 5-1 record and 1st place finish in Ridley Park has a lot to do with them going from also-rans to a top five team but the foundation was laid before then. The Stompers entered the June 1st tournament as the only team outside the top 5 in the Power Rankings to have a positive run differential (+4). The team’s 2-5 record through the first two tournaments was not indicative of their play, they just needed some better fortune in the run distribution department. The Stompers got that in Ridley and coupled with better play on both sides of the ball they showed just the kind of force they can be. In beating ATF, ERL, the Juggernauts, and the Meats on the way to the title on June 1st, the Stompers took down four of the five positive run differential teams in MAW, with only the Shortballs missing.
5. Longballs (5)
7-7 | 2 Top 4 finishes | -28 run differential
Don’t let the Longballs unimpressive run differential (mainly earned in one blowout against the Lemonheads in May) fool you – they have been one of the most consistent teams in MAW this season. The only other team to finish top 5 or better in all three tournaments this year is ERL. Also, like ERL, the Longballs have succeeded despite not being able to execute their ideal pitching plan as of yet. If the team is able to get through a pool play round with Tommy Loftus completely fresh, they will be difficult to defeat.
* Paul Cooke contributed to this article.