(GAME DATE – Sep. 30, 2019) — The Toronto Nomads will make their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season, and only their 4th since the modern Bull League era began in 1995, after a photo finish to the 2019 season, an 88-74 record placing them 2nd in the LL East.
The Nomads tied the Ohio Oxen, but end up in the 2nd wild card due to their lower run differential of +5, compared to the Oxen’s +8, and will therefore face first overall seed, the Minneapolis Ravens, who took the LL West pennant with a 100-62 record.
The Nomads had a storybook finish, after early expectations had them predicted to finish around .500 in the expanded 162-game season this year. They led all teams in winning 1-run games, with an impressive 36-22 record, demonstrating a remarkable bullpen backing a top of the Lake League pitching rotation, featuring Knuckles Malone as its #1.
Malone took a Triple Crown, finishing with a best-in-LL 22 wins, 2.59 ERA, and 264 strikeouts. It was the first Triple Crown since Hall of Famer Ricky Terrazas won it in 2012 with the Montreal Metros. Malone is a favorite to win a 2nd Sandy Koufax Award.
The Nomads shored up their weak offense by adding Calgary Inferno LF Jan Conch, and he went on to collect 22 home runs and 66 RBIs, while batting .308 in a Nomads uniform after his May 30th trade. Another important addition was 3B Alex Romero, who added another 14 HR and 55 RBI after an mid-May trade with Milwaukee. 1B Brian Chambliss exploded this season, his first full year in Toronto after a 2018 trade with Detroit. Chambliss scored 73 runs, hit 26 homers, and batted in 74 more runs, while hitting.285, and crafting on OPS of .948.
But even with those three solid offensive players, the team won mainly on the backs of its pitchers, and defense. The Ravens, on the other hand, had both pitching and batting by bucket loads all season, including two 42-HR hitters, Chris Zahn and Evandro Cerigo (both of whome tied for 2nd in the league in HRs), and 3 more batters with 20 or more home runs. Only the Ohio Oxen hit more homers than the Ravens, and no other LL team scored more runs overall.
The Ravens rotation, led by Ricky Rodriguez, Pete Sharpe, and Aaron Miller, were devastating to LL batters all season. The 1-2-3 combo of starters combined for 53 wins, and just 21 losses, almost 500 strikeouts, and a combined ERA of just 3.81.
But interestingly, Toronto held their own all season against the Ravens, with a winning record by a slim margin of 8-6. The Nomads have been weaker on the road, and with the Ravens holding the better record, the first round best-of-5 will advantage the Ravens.
Knuckles Malone should see the first start against Ricky Rodriguez in what is shaping up to be a classic playoff pitcher’s battle.