Thursday, December 09, 2010

Sierra Nevada Goldens Jump Out to Copper Division Lead

After winning the BRASS Copper Division crown in 2090, the Sierra Nevada Goldens are on their way to repeat as division champs in 2101. At the season’s midway point, and three winning months in the books, Sierra Nevada has a (46-38) record and holds an 8-game lead over the rival SoCal Knights (38-46) and a 9-game lead over the 3rd place Duluth-Superior Dukes (37-47). The Goldens are not on pace to match the magical 102-win season of 2090, but they have been pretty competitive to this point earning a series win in 8 of 12 chances versus the Gold League. The Goldens have held at least a tie for 1st in the Copper for all but 3 days since May 1st.

Sierra Nevada lost some key players from the 2090 roster as long-in-the-tooth veterans Jermaine Dye, Jason Giambi, and Edgar Renteria were bid farewell. Along with current infielders Adam Dunn and Dan Uggla, this core took the powerhouse San Jose Scorpions to 7-Games in last year’s Divisional Playoff Series. Looking to avenge last season’s heartbreaking playoff series after taking a 3-Games to None lead, the Goldens have gotten a bit younger and speedier. Rookie of the Year candidate Elvis Andrus is having an outstanding start to the season batting 2nd in the lineup. In 75 games, he is hitting .298 to lead the team, has scored 41 runs, and stolen 20 of 27 bases while exhibiting great range at 2B. The Goldens filled a lingering hole in CF with an off-season trade when they acquired Curtis Granderson. While leading off, Granderson is having a great season to date. From the leadoff spot, he has a respectable .371 OBP with 46 Runs and .290 BA, 11 HR, 31 RBI. After a slow start to the season, Adam Dunn & Dan Uggla heated up a bit in June in the #3 & #4 spots in the order. With a combined 40-Doubles, 29 HR’s, and 100 RBI thus far, the manager expects them to start thumping homers at a higher clip as the season enters the dog days. Perhaps the MVP of the team so far is another player acquired via off-season trade, J.D. Drew. The right fielder has batted in the 5-hole all season and has produced with some nice numbers, .287 BA, 15 HR, 52 RBI. The trio of Dunn, Uggla, and Drew figure to be a formidable bunch in the heart of the order for the rest of the season and it will be fun to see of any of them can reach 35-40 HR’s by the end of the season. Another key offensive contributor had been youngster David Murphy who has had a breakout season in the outfield with a .289 BA, 13 HR, 38 RBI.

The Goldens have had a pretty successful season so far with the bat, scoring just enough to win close games. While they have only been shutout twice and scored only 1 run on three occasions, most games have been very tight with 4, 5, or 6 runs being scored from each side. Sierra Nevada is 14-5 in one-run games and 9-1 in extra-innings in 2101. With both the starters and bullpen both putting up nearly identical ERA’s of about 4.17, the late-inning guys have been getting the job done most consistently. Heath Bell 2-0, 8 SV, 1.91 ERA and Carlos Marmol 3-1, 10 SV, 3.66 ERA have been slamming the door closed on the opposition with the game on the line. As for the starters, Josh Beckett leads the staff with 8 Wins thanks to the best run support of all the starters, but a disappointing 4.78 ERA, 4 losses, and a whopping 19 HR’s allowed. Offseason trade acquisition Jason Marquis has been even better than his 7-3 record would indicate with a 2.40 ERA despite calling Great American Ballpark home. Young lefty Brian Anderson may also be earning some attention in the Rookie of the Year chase while he sports a 7-5 record with a 3.51 ERA in his 17 starts.

The Sierra Nevada Goldens will be looking for some improvement offensively from the likes of Yadier Molina, Mike Lowell, and Ryan Theriot as the season goes on. If they can heat up, along with Dunn and Uggla, Sierra Nevada should be hoisting its 2nd Copper Division Championship in as many seasons in a few short months.