Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Long Island Ducks: Atlantic League Playoff Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

*  2016  *

Freedom Division Series

This year's Freedom Division series opens Tuesday evening, and features the first-half champion York Revolution facing off against the second-half champ Sugar Land Skeeters.  The series opens in Sugar Land, then shifts to York for games three through five (if necessary).
  • Finishing the season with the league's second most victories, York last won back-to-back Atlantic League titles in 2010-2011.
  • Two short years after Sugar Land's founding, the Skeeters were swept in the 2014 A.L. championship series by the Lancaster Barnstormers.

Liberty Division Series

FLOCK at the GATES..!!

Long Island Ducks
Somerset Patriots
TD Bank Ballpark
Bridgewater, N.J.

On Wednesday, old time rivals resume hostilities when the defending Atlantic League champion and this year's second-half Liberty Division winner Somerset Patriots host the first-half champ Long Island Ducks.
  • Finishing the regular season with the league's best record, the Somerset Patriots are chasing their seventh ever Atlantic League championship.  They've also lost four championship series along the way.
  • After losing to York in the 2011 championship series, the Ducks rebounded to win back-to-back titles in 2012-13, then failed to qualify for the 2014 post-season.  They were then eliminated in the first round of last year's playoffs.

Overall Record
Patriots  77-63
Ducks    72-68

These rivals last faced off on August 11, with Somerset gaining a 7-4 victory at Bethpage Ballpark.   

However, these teams could not be more evenly matched.  The Ducks and Patriots met 20 times in the regular season, with each claiming ten victories.  

The Patriots opened the regular season by sweeping four games from the Ducks.  But despite posting a 7-3 first-half record against Long Island, it was the Flock that would capture the first-half crown.  

In an ironic reversal of fortune, the Ducks kicked off the second-half with a three game sweep of the Patriots, en route to a 7-3 record over Somerset.  However, Somerset ensured themselves the opportunity of defending their league title by capturing the Liberty Division second-half flag.

If only marginally, Somerset seemingly enters these playoffs the hotter club.  The Patriots posted an 11-8 record in September, but finished 5-5 over their last ten games of the season.  Long Island posted an 8-10 record in September, but finished 6-4 over their final ten games.

The Patriots seemingly own a slight offensive advantage over the Ducks.  Long Island's pitching, however, seems to enjoy the edge over that of Somerset's.

At The Plate

Team Slash
  • SOM - .272/.349/.401
  • LID - .270/.334/.388
  • SOM - 694
  • LID - 635
Home Runs
  • SOM - 116
  • LID - 84
Total Bases
  • SOM - 1,933
  • LID - 1,808
Stolen Bases
  • SOM - 166
  • LID - 124

Long Island's MVP candidate Fehlandt Lentini is the only Atlantic League player to score over 100 runs this season.  He additionally leads the circuit in total hits and doubles, places second in stolen bases, fifth in both batting average and RBI, and leads the Ducks with a .455 slugging average.

With a .321 batting average, the Ducks Delta Cleary Jr. ranks third.  Aharon Eggelston batted .310 and Eric Farris batted .301 this season for the Patriots.  Eggelston is fifth in the League with a .388 OBP, while Ruben Gotay ranks ninth and leads the Ducks with a .372 mark.

Anthony Vega is sixth in the league with 75 runs scored, while Somerset's Farris and Eggelston are ranked seventh and tenth respectively.

The Patriots' David Vidal is second in the league with 26 home runs.  Anthony Vega leads the Ducks with eleven, while catcher Mike Blanke has ten.  Fehlandt Lentini, however, leads either team with a .455 slugging average, while Carlos Guzman leads Somerset with a .408 mark.

Bryan LaHair leads the Patriots and ranks second in the league with 86 RBI.  For Long Island, Fehlandt Lentini drove in 75 runs, and Cody Puckett is sixth with 73 RBI.

Ducks outfielder Lew Ford spent considerable time on the disabled list this season due to a strained hamstring, but is expected to be a regular starter during the playoffs.  Originally injured on May 28, he remained out through June 24.  After just five games back, he was sidelined again on June 30 through August 23.  Ford finally returned to action on August 24, and has remained on the field since.

On The Mound

  • SOM - 3.90
  • LID - 3.87
  • SOM - 1.29
  • LID - 1.33
Average Against
  • SOM - .256
  • LID - .256
Slugging Against
  • SOM - .392
  • LID - .382
  • SOM - 1,080
  • LID - 1,084
Base on Balls
  • SOM - 361
  • LID - 394

There's a good reason why the Ducks finished the second-half in last place with a 32-38 record.  The month of July took a ruinous toll on their pitching staff.  The contracts of Mark Blackmar, Jack Snodgrass, Darin Downs, Bruce Kern, and others, were all purchased away.

Mainstay John Brownell remains, giving the Ducks a fighting chance.  The usually reliable Bobby Blevins endured a rough season.  The Ducks will instead be looking to Matt Larkins, Jarrett Leverett, Daniel Hererra, and Nick Struck to get them through.

Long Island batters will be opposed by Will Oliver, Nik Turley, the familiar Shaun Garceau, and perhaps Efrain Nieves.

Patriots closer Jon Hunton led the Atlantic League with 37 saves, while posting a 3.76 ERA over 50.1 innings pitched.  Ducks closer Todd Coffey registered 27 saves with a 3.08 ERA over 44 innings pitched.

The best of five series shifts to Long Island's Bethpage Ballpark for games three through five (if necessary).

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