Valley Leaguers in the Playoffs

In 2015, Daniel Murphy, at 30 years old, reached the first postseason of his career. He proceeded to go off, hitting 7 home runs in his first 9 playoff games, until he cooled off in the World Series against the Royals. He exploded with a stretch of power that he had not really shown in his career to that point. I just could hardly believe it as I posted video after video of Murph going deep. It was quite a bit of fun, to say the least.

So we have to ask the question: Who might be Daniel Murphy this year? (Besides Daniel himself, obviously!)

Here are the players you can catch while watching the major league playoffs, starting Tuesday night!

  • Brett Gardner, New York Yankees (New Market 2003-4): Brett played in 151 games for the wild-card winning Yanks, hitting 264/350/428, and setting career highs in hits, home runs, and slugging percentage. He’ll most likely be starting in left field Tuesday night against Minnesota.
  • Erik Kratz, Yankees (Waynesboro 2000, Harrisonburg 2001): Erik was sold from the Cleveland Indians to the Yankees on August 31st. He appeared in 4 games, and appeared at bat twice (and got a hit both times). I don’t think that Erik will be on the postseason roster, but you may catch a glimpse of him in the dugout….
  • Robby Scott, Boston Red Sox (Covington 2010): Robby is probably a long shot to make the postseason roster, but he did appear in 56 games during the season, going 2-1, 3.93, and holding lefties to a 129/236/323 slash line in 62 at-bats. He may be a lefty out of the pen to get one out at some point….
  • Will Harris, Houston Astros (Staunton 2003): Will has been on the disabled list some this year, but I believe he’s healthy now. He went 3-2, 3.05 in 44 1/3 innings, along with 51 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP.
  • Chris Devenski, Astros (Woodstock 2011): The Dragon will most assuredly get some crucial innings for the Astros. He went 8-5, 2.68 in 80 2/3 innings, struck out exactly 100 batters, and had a 0.94 WHIP in the regular season.
  • Tyler White, Astros (Haymarket 2010): This one will be fascinating. Tyler has very quietly raked since he returned to the Astros September 2nd. He hit 298/349/561 in 57 at-bats, good for a 149 OPS+. Will he be a bat off the bench?
  • Jon Jay, Chicago Cubs (Staunton 2004): Jay played in 140 games for the Cubbies, putting up a slash line of 297/376/377. He’ll see important time in the playoffs.
  • Tommy La Stella, Cubs (Haymarket 2009): I am expecting La Stella to be an important lefthanded bat off the bench for the defending champs. In 123 at-bats, he hit 293/395/480.
  • Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (Covington 2006-07): Jason has had what must have been a frustrating season because of injuries. He is supposed healthy now, though, and the Indians have played him in center field some in the last few weeks to get his bat in the lineup. Will he start in center in the playoffs? Jason hit 234/291/416 in 334 at-bats during the regular season.
  • Adam Liberatore, Los Angeles Dodgers (Waynesboro 2007-08): Adam has also struggled with injuries this season. He pitched in only 4 games for the Dodgers; therefore, I would not expect him to be active in the postseason.
  • Austin Adams, Washington Nationals (Staunton 2011): Austin made his MLB debut for the Nats on July 15th. He pitched in 5 games and struck out 7 batters in 4 innings, but he also walked 6. I doubt he’ll be on the postseason roster.
  • Daniel Murphy, Nats (Luray 2006): Daniel has put in another awesome campaign. In 143 games and 531 at-bats, he has scored 93 runs, hit 43 doubles (leading the league), 23 home runs, and driven in 93 runs. He has a 136 OPS+. He will be starting at second base as long as the Nationals are alive.
Daniel Murphy plyoff home run

Murphy with a playoff home run for the Mets in 2015


Which is the Most Successful Franchise?

I haven’t posted a holistic view of the Valley League franchises in a number of years, so it’s time.

Seven Valley League teams have been in the league since 2001: Covington, Front Royal, Harrisonburg, New Market, Staunton, Winchester, and Waynesboro. Woodstock joined in 2004, Strasburg in 2011, Charles Town/Purcellville in 2013, and Charlottesville in 2015. Several other teams were active in this time span: Luray, Haymarket/Aldie, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Rockbridge.

So which teams have the best winning percentage? Worst? Who has done the best in the playoffs? Won the most titles? The best overall?

Here’s the completely ridiculous idea. I decided to assign a point total to various achievements.

Here’s what I decided to call “Franchise Points:”

  • 1 point for a season finished at .500 or better
  • 1 point for 30+ regular season wins (sort of a bonus for a truly outstanding year)
  • 1 point for winning the regular season division title (or in the case of 2014, 2010, 2007, and 2006, winning the regular season pennant, since there were no divisions those years)
  • 1 point for losing in the first round of the playoffs (or you could call this a point for qualifying for the playoffs)
  • 2 points for losing in the semifinals
  • 3 points for losing in the finals
  • 5 points for winning the title (what we play for, obviously)

Got it? I know, it’s ridiculous, but it’s fun.

So let’s start with winning percentage, split into two sections- the “original” 7, and the rest…

 The “Original” 7 W L Pct
Harrisonburg 439 286 0.606
Winchester 401 326 0.552
Waynesboro 377 349 0.519
Staunton 374 349 0.517
New Market 363 362 0.501
Covington 338 385 0.467
Front Royal 338 388 0.466

I am not surprised at all that almost all of the teams are between .450 and .550 (roughly), but look at the Turks! They are an astounding 153 games over .500 in 17 years. Wow!

Not only are Staunton and Waynesboro close in proximity to each other, but their records are almost identical- they are only 3 wins apart.

Now the rest:

 The “Partials” W L Pct
Charlottesville 65 61 0.516
Luray 261 251 0.510
Purcellville/Charles Town 107 105 0.505
Strasburg 148 150 0.497
Fauquier 62 70 0.470
Aldie/Haymarket 222 256 0.464
Woodstock 250 351 0.416
Rockbridge 84 134 0.385
Loudoun 15 28 0.349 (2004)

It didn’t take the Tom Sox long to climb over .500, did it? Luray was very successful over its 12 years, and Strasburg and Purcellville are floating right around .500. Woodstock is 101 games under .500 in 13 years, but is still ahead of Rockbridge and Loudoun in winning percentage.

Now, let’s take a look at Franchise Points. We’ll split it into two groups again first, but because I have also averaged the number by how many seasons the team has existed, we’ll combine them in on last chart.

Team Franchise Points Avg
Winchester 52 3.06
Waynesboro 48 2.82
Harrisonburg 45 2.65
Covington 43 2.53
Staunton 34 2.00
New Market 34 2.00
Front Royal 25 1.47
  • Winchester: 6 division titles, won 3 championships (2001, 2003, 2004)
  • Waynesboro: 5 division titles, also 3 championships (2007, 2013, 2014)
  • Harrisonburg: 4 division titles, 1 championship (2012); oddly, the Turks have lost in the first round of the playoffs 12 times in the last 17 years, including the last 5 in a row
  • Covington: 3 division titles (but none since 2005), won two championships (2005, 2011)
  • Staunton: 3 division titles, 0 championships; the Braves made the finals in 2004, 2006, and 2015, but have not won a championship since 1999
  • New Market: 1 division title (2006), and one championship (2002)
  • Front Royal: 2 division titles (2009, 2015), 0 championships, one finals (2010); Cardinals won their only championship in 1986

The “partials:”

Team Franchise Points Avg
Strasburg 25 3.57
Luray 35 2.92
Charlottesville 8 2.67
Purcellville/Charles Town 10 2.00
Aldie/Haymarket 21 1.91
Rockbridge 5 1.00
Woodstock 11 0.79
Fauquier 2 0.67
Loudoun 0 0
  • Strasburg: 1 division title, 2 championships (2015, 2016). The Express did not make the playoffs in their inaugural season, and then went like this: lost in the 1st round, lost in finals, lost in semifinals, won title, won title, lost in finals
  • Luray: 3 division titles, 3 championships (2006, 2008, 2010)
  • Purcellville/Charles Town: 1 division title, 0 championships
  • Aldie/Haymarket: 1 division title (2010), 1 championship (2009)
  • Rockbridge: 0 division titles, 0 championships- Rapids made the finals in 2011
  • Woodstock: 1 division title (2013), but the River Bandits have not advanced to the finals yet as a franchise
  • Fauquier: in their 3 years of existence, the Gators did not win a division title or championship. They lost in the first round in 2008
  • Loudoun: the Rangers finished last in their only season

Let’s put them all together, what do you say?

Team Franchise Points Avg
Strasburg 25 3.57
Winchester 52 3.06
Luray 35 2.92
Waynesboro 48 2.82
Charlottesville 8 2.67
Harrisonburg 45 2.65
Covington 43 2.53
Staunton 34 2.00
New Market 34 2.00
Purcellville/Charles Town 10 2.00
Aldie/Haymarket 21 1.91
Front Royal 25 1.47
Rockbridge 5 1.00
Woodstock 11 0.79
Fauquier 2 0.67
Loudoun 0 0

What conclusions can we draw? Well, you can see the numbers for yourself. The Harrisonburg Turks are far and away the best regular season team, and with the flawed system of “Franchise Points,” Strasburg and Winchester have achieved the most.

So, what say you, Brilliant Reader?


Finals Game Three: Charlottesville 2, Strasburg 1

Many were expecting an easy Tom Sox coronation this evening, as the Strasburg Express were down to three available pitchers, but the announced crowd of 2,154 fans (incredible!) were treated to a nip-and-tuck game that could have gone either way.

Tied 1-1 since the 4th inning, and even though both teams had baserunners on almost every inning, it wasn’t until 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th, when Michael DeRenzi’s chopper up the middle eluded the grasp of shortstop Sean Scales, scoring league MVP Michael Wielansky, that the Tom Sox grabbed the lead for good.

Tom Sox’s Rick Spiers, who came in the game with the bases loaded in the 7th with Brandon Quaranta due up, pitched out of the initial jam (with a nifty play on a comebacker), and then pitched out of more trouble in the 9th, finally getting Jeffrey Butler to ground back to the mound to end it and send the Tom Sox faithful home happy.

The Express initially grabbed the lead with a run in the 3rd inning when Turner Buis reached on an error, went to third on another error, this time on a Quaranta batted ball, and scored on a Jake Perry single.

The Tom Sox answered back in the 4th, when Kyle Battle hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a balk, and scored on an error. That score stood, with tons of drama, until the 8th.

Spiers is the winning pitcher, while Quaranta, the last remaining pitcher for the Express, was saddled with the loss. The Tom Sox mustered just 6 hits, but walked 9 times. The Express were led by Tyler Halas’s and Turner Buis’s 2 hits apiece.

In their third year of existence, the Tom Sox won their first ever Jim Lineweaver trophy in a season that saw the team lead the rest of the league almost from day one. The team finished 32-10 in the regular season, and then went 6-1 in the playoffs. The team changed the title of their Facebook page very quickly after the game from “Charlottesville Tom Sox” to “2017 Valley Baseball League Champion Charlottesville Tom Sox.” Indeed they are.

Manager of the year Corey Hunt said after the game, “I’m just proud of my guys. From the first day they got here to the last out, they’ve worked hard, and come together as a group. It means a lot to them, coming here, away from home, playing 40-some odd games with some guys that you may not know… for me, selfishly, it’s been a great ride.”


Game Report: Charlottesville 11, Strasburg 5

Who’s up for a winner-take-all game 3 in Charlottesville?

The Tom Sox certainly are, as they scored early and often to blitz the Strasburg Express tonight in a must-win game 2 of the Valley League championship series by a score of 11-5 in Strasburg.

Charlottesville blitzed Express starter Zach Peek with 5 runs in the 2nd inning on 4 hits, 1 walk, and a Strasburg error. The big blow was a 2-run double hit down the left field line by Jack Barry (the question of fair or foul was discussed for quite a while).

The Express touched Tom Sox starter Justin Sorokowski for a run in the 4th without the benefit of a hit, using a hit-by-pitch (Sean Scales) and 3 walks. Tyler Halas walked to force in the run. Another run cut the lead to 5-2 in the 5th, when Brandon Quaranta juuust missed a grand slam, and ended up with a sacrifice fly to center field.

Michael Wielansky, who is an absurd 8-10 in the series, grabbed those two runs right back for the Sox with a 2-run, 2-out home run in the top of the 6th.

Strasburg added two runs in the 6th when Tyler Martin and Halas hit back-to-back solo shots to cut the lead to 7-4.

The Tom Sox kept scoring, though, adding 2 runs in each of the last two innings. Vinnie Pasquantino doubled home 2 in the 8th, and Bryce Windham and Wielansky each singled home a run in the 9th.

Strasburg scored one last run in the 9th on a Scales RBI groundout, scoring Philip Madonna.

Sean McCracken got the win with 5 solid relief innings, while Peek received the loss.

The teams will meet Monday night in Charlottesville for game 3, unless the rumored weather becomes a reality.


Game Report: Strasburg 9, Charlottesville 7

The storylines were obvious in this one. Strasburg is in their third straight finals, looking for a “three-peat,” and coming off an emotional walk-off victory last night against Winchester. Charlottesville is in their first finals, and riding a 12-game winning streak. Alas, that streak was to end in front of a large C-Ville crowd.

Strasburg struck first in the first inning, when Turner Buis led off with a single, Brandon Quaranta walked, and both were brought home on a 2-out single up the middle by Tyler Martin.

The big trouble for the South Division champs came in the 3rd, when Strasburg plated 5 runs on 5 hits, chasing starter Michael Dailey. The big blow was Martin’s 2-run double down the left field line, a “fair” call that so incensed Tom Sox pitching coach Sam Bashioum that he was tossed from the game. LT Struble followed the double with a safety squeeze to bring home Jacob Hirsh. Sebastiano Santorelli did the exact same thing, squeezing home Martin. Philip Madonna finished off the scoring with a single to score Struble.

Down by 7 in the 3rd, the Tom Sox got one back when Michael Wielansky ripped a double off the right field fence, and scored when Vinnie Pasquantino spun a double past Martin in left field.

The Express grabbed that one right back the next inning, though, when Brandon Quaranta did what Brandon Quaranta does- blast a home run onto the bank beyond the left field fence. 8-1 Strasburg.

League MVP Wielansky, doing his best to claw the Sox back into it, singled home Jake Allen with 2 outs in the 4th inning.

The Tom Sox made it a whole new ballgame the next inning, scoring 5 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, and an error. Ari Sechopoulos scored on an error on reliever Lawson Humphries, Michael DeRenzi doubled home Cole Migliorini, and Bryce Windham singled to score DeRenzi. After a Wielansky walk, Pasquantino doubled into left field to score Allen and Windham. Tyler Martin had a solid defensive effort on the slicing hit, cutting it off to hold Wielansky at third, which was a crucial play in the game. Reliever Jackson Ray struck out Jack Barry to end the threat.

The Express made it 9-7 in the 8th when Sean Scales singled, went to second in Quaranta’s 4th hit, a single, went to third when Jake Perry hit a deep fly ball to center, and scored when Jason Hirsh beat out an infield grounder, despite an excellent diving stop by Sechopoulos at first base.

The Tom Sox threatened in the 9th against Ray, when Windham walked with one out, and Wielansky notched his 5th hit with a ringing single up the middle. But Ray then got Pasquantino to hit a grounder to second baseman Struble, who tagged out Wielansky and threw to first to complete the difficult double play.

Ray earned the win with 4 1/3 shutout innings for the Express, while Michael Dailey received the loss. Wielansky led the Tom Sox with 5 hits, while Quaranta had 4 hits and 3 runs, and Martin had 3 hits and 4 RBIs.

The teams will meet again tomorrow night in Strasburg for game 2 of this best of three series!

Game Report: Strasburg 7, Winchester 5

As soon as Jake Perry made contact with Hunter Fillingim’s offering in the bottom of the 9th inning, Jay Neal and Kyle Gutshall started screaming in the press box.

They knew it before the ball even cleared the fence: Perry had just hit a walk-off three-run home run to send the Strasburg Express to their third straight Valley League finals.

“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” a wide-eyed Jake said after the game, while running his hand through his short-cropped hair. “I’m just so happy for Strasburg that we’re able to keep playing.”

Up to Perry’s swing, the story was Lorenzo Hampton and Jared Drayton for the Winchester Royals. Drayton held the mighty Express offense in check for 7 complete innings, getting the Royals within 6 outs of their first finals since 2012. He gave up 6 hits, 3 walks, 2 runs, and struck out 8.

Hampton just crushed the ball all night. He led off the Royal 2nd inning with a scorching ground ball to third for a single, went to second on a wild pitch, and eventually scored from third on an Alejandro Rivero fielder’s choice. In the 3rd, Hampton sent a ball over the Miller Honda sign in left center field for a 2-run home run, putting Winchester up 3-0. He also ripped a double down the left field line in the 5th, although that did not lead to any runs. (He also hit a foul ball hard- Lorenzo lined a foul into the Strasburg crowd in the 7th, whacking a fan in the leg. In a nice gesture, Lorenzo came over and checked in on the woman in the bottom of the inning, making sure she was ok.)

Perry hit his first home run in the 3rd inning after a Brandon Quaranta walk to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Royals tacked on 2 more in the 4th on a 2-run single up the middle by Seth Woodard to make the score 5-2.

After a half-hour lightning delay, the Express cut the lead to 5-3 in the 8th on a Tyler Martin RBI single, setting up Perry’s heroics in the 9th. In the fateful half inning, Philip Madonna led off with a single to left, went to second on a groundout, continued to 3rd base on a Sean Scales single, and scored on an error. This left Scales at second and Quaranta, who reached on the error, at first, with Perry about to launch his game winner.

Dylan Hall received the win for 2 1/3 shutout relief innings of Ben Dum, while Fillingim was saddled with the tough defeat.

Strasburg will travel to Charlottesville tonight for game one of the championship series, set to begin at 7 pm. (See you there!)

Pictures of the game will be posted to Facebook later this morning! (Video of Perry rounding the bases is already up)

Game Report: Charlottesville 3, Waynesboro 2

On a night when storms were threatening to the west, the storm that is the Charlottesville Tom Sox blew into Linco Park at Kate Collins Field with a chance to sweep the Waynesboro Generals and head to the finals.

The Generals struck first in the opening frame off Tom Sox starter Rick Spiers, when Malik Stephens flew around from first base on a throwing error by Tom Sox third baseman Jack Barry. The Tom Sox answered right back in the next frame off Waynesboro starter Daniel Tolano, when Barry led off with a single, stole second, and came home on a Kyle Battle single to right field.

The Tom Sox took the lead in the 5th on one big blow- a Cole Migliorini home run to right center field. It was even more impressive because of the field; Linco Park at Kate Collins Field suppresses home runs rather significantly (stay tuned after the season for ATVL’s Park Factors article).

Charlottesville touched Waynesboro reliever Patrick OShea for a run in the top of the 6th, when Vinnie Pasquantino singled, stole second, and scored on Battle’s third single on the day.

Down 3-1, the Generals struck back for a run with 2 outs, when James Cosentino singled, went to second on a Joseph Bellini single, and came home on yet another single, this one by Patrick Cromwell. Spiers struck out Dakota Robbins to end the threat.

The Generals had a one-out runner in the 8th, but a nifty pickoff move by Charlottesville reliever Bobby Hearn erased that issue.

The Waynesboro faithful stomped the bleachers and chanted for the home team in the 9th, but Hearn worked around a one-out hit-by-pitch and closed out the game with a sharp curveball to strike out Jason Bush, sending the Tom Sox to the finals for the first time in team history.

The defensive play of the game was turned in by Waynesboro’s left fielder, Reid Long, who laid out to steal a hit from Ari Sechopoulos in the top of the 8th inning.

The Tom Sox will now have at least two days off while they wait for the winner from the Northern Division. Game one of the finals will be in Charlottesville either on Friday or Saturday this week.