The regular season is complete and for the first time in franchise history, the Flytraps finish with a winning record, 89-73. Even better, the 'traps are in the playoffs, getting the second wild card spot. Despite a magic number of 1 with 4 games to play, it wasnt until the second to last game of the season until we clinched. Unfortunately, that only gave me the final game of the season to rest players -- and due to being in a tough playoff fight all the way until the end, 7 of my starting 9 position players have fatigue in the mid-90s -- but with the playoffs on the line, I cut my pitching staff down to my top 4 starters and I revoked all days off.
As for the numbers on the season, the team was led offensively by Virgil Rodriguez, who hit only .277, but had 48 HR, 39 SB (just missing 40/40), and drove in 139 runs. Rookie catcher Eric Murphy, one of two Flytrap on the ROTY ballot, hit .295 and had 40 HR and 95 RBI. Dennis Delaney, who began the season on the bench, played the entire second half of the season in centerfield, batting .331. Five other players had over 15 home runs for Cincinnati as well. First base, which was a problem for the team offensively all season, was finally solved after September callups, when last year's starter, Tony Stanley, played the final month and hit 9 home runs in that short time. Stanley gets rewarded with not only a playoff roster spot, but the job of starting first baseman in the playoffs.
The starting pitching was extremely good for the 'traps this season. Julio Fuentes is a Cy Young finalist again, having posted an 18-11 record with a 2.88 ERA. Johnnie Price won 17 games, Luther Rupe won 9, and Pete Thornton won 10. Finally, rookie Emmanuel Martin became the second Flytrap on the ROTY ballot, going 15-9 with a 4.03 ERA. Martin will get the third starter job in the playoffs behind Fuentes and Price.
In the bullpen, the biggest move of the season was trading for David Gandarilla when Fernando Pena, the big free agent signing to be our closer, blew up. Ganadrilla went 25 for 25 in save chances, while posting a 1.42 ERA. Simply put, he was unhittable. Veterans Arthur French and Shannon Shields were the keys to setup, each posting sub-4.00 ERAs.
For the playoffs, I cut my pitching staff down to 11 pitchers. I use 3 starters, 3 long relievers, 4 setup and a closer. If it looks like a starter wont be at 100% for a game, I will let one of the long relievers start (my 4th and 5th starters and my best long reliever from the season get the 3 long relief spots). Cutting down to 11 pitchers lets me add one extra position player. I will usually increase the Call Bullpen ratings for most of my pitchers so that they get pulled if they struggle. Finally, I make certain to turn the use of Player Rest off entirely - if I am losing, even badly, I ant the shot to come back...and if I am winning, I dont want to let up and blow the game with backups. I intend to win or lose in the postseason with my best 9 guys on the field. (I do still use defensive replacements though).
Playoffs start tomorrow, and I get a 103 win Columbus team that won my division in the first round. Winning this series would be a huge upset, but I hope that I can ride my starting pitching and get a couple big hits -- if so, who knows what will happen?