ABL Round Four: well, isn't this fun!
7 December 2017
What an interesting Round Three of the Australian Baseball League we just had. It rained, rained and rained just as predicted and mayhem ensued around the country.
We had shortened games, cancelled games, disrupted games and through it all, soaked and soggy fans took things with (mostly) good grace, even after some copped a dose of the dreaded international tiebreaker rules.
Let’s take a moment and say well done and thank you to all the volunteers, ground staff, supporters, players and officials who kept tarps in perpetual motion, stuck out interminable rain delays with limited info and worked to ensure that we shouldn’t need a week eleven added to the schedule. We salute you all!
The chaos from the weekend means the standings are all over the place. Brisbane are now third but have two games in their pocket. The only team with a complete book of 12 games is Adelaide, who are probably wishing they had two games in their pocket as well.
Last week’s stats are all over the place too – pitchers and fielders dealt with swirling winds and wet gear, hitters were either swinging into gales or had the wind on their shoulder. How do you take trends and impact from that? You don’t. I’m setting the stats aside. This week’s previews are heavily dependent on ‘the vibe’. Read on…
We’re keen to get your thoughts on what will happen in Week Four. Let us know on the Australian Baseball Alumni’s FACEBOOK page. To ridicule these previews, visit @AJMithen on Twitter. AJ Mithen can also be heard commenting on Australian Baseball League for ABC Grandstand (between 12.45 and 1.00 on Saturday).
CANBERRA CAVALRY versus MELBOURNE ACES (Narrabundah)
Game 1: Thursday 7.00 pm AEDST WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Friday 7.00 pm AEDST
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm AEDST
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm AEDST
Round Four gets underway in Canberra with the pick of this week’s matchups. Melbourne have won six of their last seven, Canberra have won seven from their last nine. Both sides are feeling good about life and with good reason.
Mark Hamburger flew into form in a big way after some early season ruffles. He gave up three hits in a complete game shutout - with two of those hits in the first inning. Josh Tols has picked up where he left off last year, being almost unhittable in the middle and late innings.
Melbourne are getting value again from their partnership with Japan’s Seibu Lions. Shunta Nakatsuta and Kona Takahashi are pitching brilliantly and catcher Tomoya Mori is starting to show signs of life with bat in hand. Can the Aces cover them after they leave? We’ll see. For now, let’s appreciate what’s in front of us.
Canberra have looked pretty good all season and will have confidence their bats can get to Melbourne’s quality pitching. The Cavs even have some good stuff of their own, which is unusual because Canberra’s pitching staff usually wait till around week seven to get it together.
David Kandilas and Jay Baum are hitting for fun and Buddy Reed is showing some class, but the Cavs will be looking for a bit more consistency from the likes of Cam Warner and Ryan Kalish to buttress the lineup against a quality opponent.
The Aces have three of the league’s top four strikeout merchants and we all know the Cavs do enjoy swinging some timber. Tune in to this weekend in Canberra any way you can!
Prediction: Split 2-2
This is a great matchup and it might well be 2017/18’s first split series. For the second straight week the Aces go against a potent lineup and the Cavs get to test the bats against some of the best pitching in the league. It will be interesting to see how Canberra goes about working its way through Melbourne’s defence.
Last week I underestimated Melbourne’s ability to create opportunity in tough circumstances - I’m not falling for that again.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Holloway Field)
Game 1: Friday 6.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 2: Saturday 3.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 3: Saturday 6.30 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
Game 4: Sunday 1.00 pm AEST WATCH LIVE
The suits at Chevron Island will be monitoring this series closely, tipped to become the highest viewed series in ABL history.
Taiwanese baseball fans will tune in to see Sydney’s Chih-Hsien Chiang and Brisbane’s Ngayaw Ake go swing for the fences. The Bandits this week also added Taiwanese national team pitcher Hung Wen Chen to the roster.
Here’s this week’s obvious statement: Brisbane wouldn’t be happy with their weekend in Melbourne. They led in two of the three games and their pitching was great in limiting the Aces to only eight runs for the series.
Usually that means the champs have done well, but stranding 22 runners in the Altona wilderness did their cause no help.
Sydney were swept by the Heat at home. After a game one rally fell just short, the Blue Sox pushed to an early lead in game three before collapsing and going down 7-4.
Sydney’s pitching stayed pretty solid throughout the weekend, but was done in by the long ball and errors at poorly chosen moments.
The Blue Sox staff is throwing well, keeping hits and walks down but just not getting support from the offence.
Brisbane will be hell bent on getting things back right in the world and it’s unlucky for this maddeningly inconsistent Blue Sox side that they’re the team who have to head north this week.
Prediction: Bandits sweep
The only thing that could stop the Bandits this week is some predicted rain – let’s hope for everyone’s sake that we get some uninterrupted ball.
One final point for the Blue Sox. We’re all loving ABL social media this season with all its banter and good natured humour. But when you load the bases, don’t tweet a .gif of Cuba’s Alfredo Despaigne hitting THAT grand slam off Lachlan Wells at the World Baseball Classic. For me and many, many others, that’s still a very raw wound.
PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (Barbagallo)
Game 1: Friday 7.00 pm AWST
Game 2: Saturday 4.00 pm AWST
Game 3: Saturday 7.00 pm AWST
Game 4: Sunday 11.00 am AWST WATCH LIVE
Aussie baseball had good news this week with Perth infielder Jess Williams and catcher Alex Hall signing with the Milwaukee Brewers.
These two are the latest of the 2017 u18s World Cup squad to sign on to an MLB club and I’d say I’m not alone in thinking there’s really good things in the pipeline for our younger Aussie baseballers.
After coming into this season with high expectations Adelaide find themselves 2-10 and bordering on cooked. There are some signs that their game is coming together, but too often the vital hit or out can’t be found.
Chris Adamson’s club are really struggling to get on base, let alone score, but there may be a small sliver of light this weekend as Perth’s otherwise solid pitching is walking an awful lot of batters, nearly twice as many as the Bite.
If Adelaide can maintain a disciplined eye and keep a bat on a shoulder (their batters lead the league in strikeouts), there might be a chance to get something done.
Perth head home after sweeping Sydney and are looking to consolidate a place in the top four. Much has been said of the form of imports Zac Law, Jake Fraley and Mike Brosseau but we shouldn’t overlook the quality output from Luke Hughes and Jess Williams, while Tim Kennelly has started his season like a house on fire.
Prediction: Perth sweep
When things go wrong for Adelaide, they’re going wrong quickly and they’re going wrong big time. They’ve stayed in contests for the most part, but when a game gets away they’re really struggling to pull it back under control.
Unfortunately for the Bite, Perth feel good, look good and are ready for a homestand that can set up a great position heading into the All Star break.