Intriguing opening to Australian Baseball League season

The Australian Baseball League season opens on Friday night, with four-game series scheduled for Melbourne Ballpark, Narrabundah in Canberra and Barbagallo Ballpark – home to double reigning champion Perth Heat.

 

While rosters were released just this week, we can be assured of a fascinating first round in which each of the six clubs will suit up new and relatively unknown internationals along with returning, established superstars and emerging local players.

 

Perth Heat may again be the league benchmark – although another five clubs are bound to have plenty to say about who will be holding the Claxton Shield aloft in early February.

 

WEEK ONE AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW

Xavier Player

22 October 2015

 

MELBOURNE ACES versus SYDNEY BLUE SOX (Melbourne Ballpark)

Friday 23 October, 7.30 AEDT
Saturday 24 October, 5.05 AEDT and 7.35 AEDT

Sunday 25 October, 1.05 AEDT

 

Last series – The Blue Sox finished 2014-15 with a split at home against the Canberra Cavalry, while the Aces were unceremoniously defeated by the Adelaide Bite 3-1.

 

What’s coming – The Blue Sox have a record of 4-1 in season openers, while the Aces are just 1-4. Furthering that, Sydney have a best season start of 4-0 (2010-11), while the Aces lone season opening win came on Elliot Biddle’s walk off shot on the Aces first night at Melbourne Ballpark against the Adelaide Bite in 2012-13.

 

Both sides come into the series feeling they have a lot to prove. For the Blue Sox it is their inability to pass the Preliminary Final hurdle and for the home side it is a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since they were beaten by the Heat in the 2011-12 Championship Series.

 

Both sides will enter Melbourne Ballpark on a high after preseason wins against lower tier opponents.

 

Pay attention to – This series will come down to pitching and who’s got it. A recurring feature of the Aces in the 2014-15 season was an inability for starters to reach the midpoint of the game, leading to an overworked bullpen. If the Aces can limit the work of their bullpen, they’re going to be a difficult side to beat this weekend.

 

Prediction – The Blue Sox are going to continue their hot form in season openers, moving to 5-1 all time. This will be the springboard for their first series win of the season as they take this series 3-1.

 

LINKS:

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE                                    BLUE SOX ROSTER

LIVE STREAMING                                                                 ACES ROSTER

CANBERRA CAVALRY versus BRISBANE BANDITS (Narrabundah)

Friday 23 October, 7.00 AEDT

Saturday 24 October, 4.00 AEDT and 7.00 AEDT

Sunday 25 October, 12.00 AEDT

 

Last series – The Cavalry dropped two crucial games against the Blue Sox, ultimately costing them a playoff spot. The same can be said for the Bandits, who went into the last weekend with an opportunity to make their first playoffs, but a poor showing against the Heat consigned them to another early exit.

 

What’s coming – This series has the hallmarks of a slugfest. At the best of times Narrabundah Ballpark is a hitter’s paradise and this weekend is shaping up to be no different. The return of Maxx Tissenbaum is a key acquisition for the Bandits after he was the top of the class last season with a .340 BA/.410 OBP / 9 HRs / 29 RBIs. Jack Murphy returns to the Cavalry as a local player after signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and will be looking to bolster his already impressive ABL career numbers. In three seasons with the Cavalry Murphy has put up a .321 BA / .380 OBP / 13 HRs / 88 RBIs and drawn and impressive 45 walks (including a season high 17 in 2014-15).

 

Pay attention to – Speed on the basepaths will go a long way to deciding the series. The Bandits had a big advantage over the Cavalry in this department in 2014, going 58-82 (.707) where Canberra had a higher percentage (.814) from substantially fewer attempts (22-27). 

 

Prediction – Brisbane have only ever won one season opener, however I don’t see a potential loss on Friday night stopping them getting the job done across the weekend. A split between these two teams, who are both going to be in playoff contention as we head towards the end of January.

 

LINKS:

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE                                        BANDITS ROSTER

LIVE STREAMING                                                                     CAVALRY ROSTER

PERTH HEAT versus ADELAIDE BITE (Barbagallo)

Friday 23 October, 7.05 AWST

Saturday 24 October, 4.05 AWST and 7.05 AWST

Sunday 25 October, 4.05 AWST

 

Last series – Adelaide had no trouble taking care of the Aces in their last regular season series, coasting to a 3-1 victory, a week before an ABLCS loss to who else but the Perth Heat. The Heat hosted Brisbane in the last weekend of regular season play and it was a sweep that set up the Heat for their dynasty-confirming fourth Claxton Shield in five years.

 

What’s coming – There’s no doubting that the Bite and Heat were the two best sides of the last campaign but questions remain as to if that is going to be the story this time around. History tells us that when we don’t see the Heat in the ABLCS it is going to be a unique event, but the other side of the coin tells us that the Bite haven’t won playoff series in back-to-back seasons. The pair set the bar high last season in runs scored (Perth 279, Adelaide 271) and hits (Perth 446, Adelaide 442) but the story for Adelaide was their timely use of the long ball. Sixty-two home runs will be a feat that will be tough to repeat.

 

Pay attention to – There’s going to be some fire between the two teams this season. The Bite had their chances in the ABLCS and couldn’t get the job done, while the Heat will feel like the loss in the first game was an anomaly featuring the most unlikely back-to-back-to-back home runs you’ll ever see.

 

Prediction – Both clubs will feel that this is the litmus test for their season. The Heat are 74-39 at home in the revamped ABL (.659 winning percentage) and there’s no signs that the outstanding record is going to drop off the radar any time soon. These are two quality clubs but it is near on impossible to go past the Heat at home and coming off another championship. The Heat to take the series 3-1.

 

LINKS:

AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE                                           BITE ROSTER

LIVE STREAMING                                                                        HEAT ROSTER

 

 

 

Image:   Australian Baseball Alumni

 

 

Image:   Australian Baseball Alumni

 

 

Image:   Australian Baseball Alumni