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"Up and Down the ATL"

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ATL Report On Yin & Yang

Part 1 of 3

by "Scoops" Mibble
All Time League Freelance Sports Reporter

Here at the 60-Game mark I've taken a look at some of the yin and yang of the league, the leaders and the losers, the power hitters and the fundamentalists, this and that. The stuff that makes the ATL world go 'round.

Keokuk WesternsHavana LeonesFor instance, I noticed Keokuk and San Francisco have finally lifted their bats over that infamous Mendoza Line, the Westerns clock in at an ATL low with a team batting average of .213. The Seals aren't far ahead at .221, but for both it's an improvement over what they were 30 games ago. On the obverse we have Havana still leading the league, but in synchronistic fashion we find that they have dropped below that magic Hall of Fame Line, .300, and are now sitting atop the heap with a .292 team batting average. Just as Keokuk has had San Fran, Havana has Newark. Newark rides shotgun with Havana, toting a .284 team batting average -- 19 points ahead of the closest rivals (Homestead & Cincinnati). Havana still has the only qualifying .400 hitter, Alejandro Oms, who has started that inevitable slide downwards since coming back from injury. He sits exactly at the .400 mark at this writing, but has been as high as the .440's. The entire starting Havana lineup is at or above .300 except for Tony Perez, who has 'dropped' to .294. But to see how fragile the Havana team is, one has only to note that during Oms' injury the Leones were 4-13 and fell out of first place in the South Division and are 5 1/2 games back of Cincinnati. On the other side, Keokuk doesn't have a regular who can hit .275 -- Turkey Stearnes can only put claim to .274 at this point, and he is there alone on that team. Even still, Keokuk is but three games back of Toronto in the North Division, and the Seals lead their Union League Pacific Division by three games. If you ever needed an example to prove hitting is not the most important aspect of baseball -- this is it.

Montreal RoyalesWashington NationalsMy eye wanders a bit, and then is caught by that unmistakeable glitter of power, the home run. Montreal has the right royale mark of 100 long balls to lead the ATL by a full 20. That ain't no joke when you lead the league in any category by a full 20%, and having it be that most noticeable of all stats is indeed something that deserves closer attention. Yes, a lot has to be laid at the doorstep of Parc Jarry, where 3.7 HR per Game are hit, 1.6 by the Visitor. But even though the wind has been kind to the longballers in Montreal, let us not take away from this monumental feat by not giving the batters their due. Reggie Jackson leads the lineup and is second in the Legends League with 19 taters. He also probably leads the league in trade offers, but he's not going anywhere just yet. Mike Schmidt follows him with 15 homers, then Mike Piazza with 14, Alex Rodriguez with 12 and Joe Gordon (who's just been put on The Block) at 10. Mark McGwire had 16 home runs for Montreal before he was traded away to Toronto, and the rest of the club totals out with 14. But to have a true measure of how this towers over the rest of the league, let's take a gander at the other end of the spectrum where we find the Nationals of Washington with 33 total dingers for the team. The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas, has 10 homers for Washington. Nobody else on the team rises above 4. Of course Griffith Stadium has held them back in this department, but like Parc Jarry not all the blame can be laid on one factor. In fact, Griffith is not the last in the ATL in HR per Park; Forbes Field has that distinction and is followed by League Park, then Griffith. Hmm, we should also mention that both Montreal and Washington are in last place of their respective divisions. Once again an example that an expertise in hitting, or lack of it, this time home runs, is not a prerequisite for winning the division.

Homestead GraysChicago White SoxEnough of that, one can only gorge on long ball deserts for so long before it turns into a monotonous boredom. Homestead makes it exciting by leading the ATL in stolen bases, with 71. Cool Papa Bell leads the Grays and the Legends league, with 34 swipes in 46 attempts. He's not alone, however, and Willie Wells comes in second on the team, and third in the Legends League with 15 thefts in 22 tries. Homesteader Sammy Hughes comes in with 8 for 9 in the larceny department, and there are 10 other Grays with at least one stolen base. In perfect bookending fashion the White Sox of Chicago peer across the great divide at Homestead's 71 SB with 17 of their own. ChiSoxer Dick Lundy leads his club with 8. The Pale Hose show the other cheek in base thefts in more ways than one. They don't believe others should be swiping them either. Led by Roy Campanella and his able backup Ray Schalk, the Sox have thrown out 31 of 51 baserunners, and picked another 6 off base. They are easily the best in the entire ATL at this aspect, and while the Homestead crowd is not exactly at the far opposite end, they are in the lower bottom third with 19 caught from 57 attempts. We will note here that the White Sox are indeed in first place in their Union League Continental Division, while the Grays are in third place of the Legends League South Division.

New York MetsSan Francisco SealsExcitement comes in many forms, and nobody can deny some of the most exciting plays are defensive in nature: the outfield assist and the doubleplay being two in point. I can say I am surprised at the low frequency of double plays in this league so far. At 60 games the team double plays range from a low of 24 for Washington, to a high of 46 for the New York Mets. The ATL average is 39, which seems to me to be quite low considering all the excellent keystone combos in this league. Perhaps it is the exceptional baserunning skills the players in this league also display, or perhaps it is just a statistical anomoly that will work itself out over the course of the season. That other defensive gem, the long arm of the outfielder snatching victory out of defeat is indeed one of the most exciting plays in baseball. Joltin' Joe DiMaggio of the San Francisco Seals leads all outfielders with 9 assists -- which is as much or more than several teams have with all their outfielders combined. You would think opponents would have learned by now not to run on DiMaggio. The Seals lead the ATL with 26 outfield assists. Contrast that with Tokyo, the low team, with 5 assists, the league average of 12 assists, and Orix, the second place team, with 18. Eleven of those Seals assists, however, were made by outfielders since traded away. We will see if the Seals can remain on top in this category on the strength of Joe DiMaggio's arm. As well, we will see if they can remain in the lead of the Union League Pacific Division, and whether or not the Mets can make up ground from their second place vantage point in the Legends League East Division.

That concludes the first part of this series, in the next I'll take a look at pitching, which is the indefinable central half of the main 90% of the game . . . or something like that.