Crunch time for five as season resumes
While league-leading Melbourne Aces appear overwhelming odds-on for a top three finish – and a berth in the Australian Baseball League Championship Series – the destiny of five other clubs is still very much in the balance when ABL Round Six commences on Thursday evening.
Beefed up on the hill to balance the loss of key players, Melbourne (15-5) comes off a sweep over Sydney Blue Sox (9-11), with which it will re-engage at Blacktown Sportspark in a vital series for the Sox, while fourth-placed Brisbane Bandits (9-11) will play host to Adelaide Bite (10-10) in another pivotal fixture for clubs who made it through to the final weekend last time.
Languishing in the cellar – and to have any chance of post-season action - Perth Heat (6-14) will need to mirror its win-loss ratio in the second half season, starting with its home series against second-placed Canberra Cavalry (11-9), which was too good for the Heat at Narrabundah a fortnight ago.
Any baseball aficionado with even a basic insight into statistical analysis would have drawn reasonable conclusions about where their club is situated after the halfway point of the season.
In three of the previous Australian Baseball League seasons, the third-placed team posted a winning record of over .500. While it was a three-way go for third spot back in the 2011/12 season – at .444 apiece – the third qualified finalist in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 clocked in at just minimally under the fifty-fifty mark.
To extrapolate from those historical trends is pretty simple.
Already at 15-5, Melbourne Aces would probably need to win only five of their last twenty games to make the playoffs. That would be an unlikely turnaround, given the quality of current and projected club playing personnel – including proven performers returning to cover the loss of livewire Ronald Acuna and the pre-Christmas Japanese players.
Conversely, for the four-time champion Perth to make the playoffs, the Heat would have to win something like fourteen of its last twenty games.
For Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney, the task will be somewhat less onerous, although each of those four will be shooting for at least three series wins from five to come - while trusting that the Aces can come unstuck on a couple of occasions.
Should Melbourne continue its freewheeling form at the top of the table, then a .500 winning percentage may be somewhat less than is required by the other five clubs each slugging it out for a shot at a post-season berth.
Intriguing times to come for the Australian Baseball League this season. While Round Six may tell us plenty, we should expect the race to the post-season to still be in doubt for another few weeks.
From the broader perspective – notwithstanding the rivalry and supporter engagement within and between clubs – let us continue to enjoy the quality of the baseball contests and the excellence of the individual playing performances produced by our imported players and our legion of outstanding established and emerging home-grown superstars as Australia prepares for the World Baseball Classic in March of 2017.
WEEK SIX AUSTRALIAN BASEBALL LEAGUE PREVIEW
29 December 2016
The Australian Baseball League returns after the Christmas break, with a week which looks to set the tone for the second half on the season.
BRISBANE BANDITS versus ADELAIDE BITE (Holloway Field)
The Adelaide Bite head to Brisbane with a game separating the sides in the standings. Neither side has found their footing throughout the season, with the pair combining for a 10-10 record through their last 20 games. The acquisition of Ty'Relle Harris and David Rodriguez will breathe fresh life into the Bandits as they look to defend their title.
Thursday 29 December, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Friday 30 December, 6.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Saturday 31 December, 3.30 AEST WATCH LIVE
Sarurday 31 December, 6.30 AEST LISTEN
SYDNEY BLUE SOX versus MELBOURNE ACES (Blacktown International Sportspark)
There weren't many in ABL circles who had the Melbourne Aces at 15-5 at the halfway point of the season. On the contrary, the Sydney Blue Sox have struggled by their own expectations, limping to a 9-11 record and sitting in 5th position. The Aces have looked unstoppable over the last month, but the departure of Ronald Acuna will hit the squad hard.
Sydney to continue their home form and hold the Aces to a split.
Thursday 29 December, 7.30 AEDST
Friday 30 December, 7.3o AEDST
Saturday 31 December, 6.30 AEDST
Sunday 1 January, 1.00 AEDST WATCH LIVE
PERTH HEAT versus CANBERRA CAVALRY (Barbagallo Ballpark)
A 6-14 Perth Heat squad is an anomaly in the Australian Baseball League. They host the Canberra Cavalry, who will be looking to close the gap on the league leading Aces. Perth's 3-5 record in two series at home this season looks strong compared to the 2-6 mark the Cavalry have set away from home in the same period. This series is going to be all about maintaining momentum, something that both teams have struggled with throughout the year.
All square in the west.
Thursday 29 December, 7.00 AWST LISTEN
Friday 30 December, 7.00 AWST WATCH LIVE
Saturday 31 December 1.00 AWST LISTEN
Saturday 31 December 4.00 AWST LISTEN