FEATURE
The Doctor Is In: Predictions for the Second Round of the TNBL Playoffs
Which teams will survive the Clash of Titans?
by DR. STEVEN CRENTIST

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Boston Red Sox

Both Pittsburgh and Boston have some fantastic hitters albeit with different styles. Boston definitely has more power but man can Pittsburgh hit and run. Pittsburgh also led the league in batting average and finished seventh in on-base percentage. The middle-infield of SS Sergio Gonzalez and 2B Juan Ocampo is perhaps one of the best defensive pairings in the league, and both can hit, as well. Center field is a bit of a question for the Pirates at this point, but Alex Pena can at least play acceptable defense there, although he won’t provide much value with the bat. Almost every starter on Boston can hit a home run in any at-bat. They get on base well, too, so most of those homers aren’t just solo shots. I’d say the lineups are close, but perhaps Pittsburgh’s lineup wins out due to better defense.

I think pitching determines who wins this one. Pittsburgh definitely has the superior rotation, with Katagiri and Sharp being the best starters across the two teams. Boston’s bullpen is much deeper than Pittsburgh’s and is downright scary. However, I am not sure that in this case it’s enough to counter the opposing starters. Tony Torres is a borderline ace, but Rios-Clow-Ayers are all mid-rotation options at best.

It’s a really tight matchup, but I think Pittsburgh takes this one on the strength of their starting pitching and defense.

Pittsburgh Wins 4-3

Myrtle Beach Mermen vs. Vinson Emperors

This may be the hardest matchup to judge. Both of these teams are storied franchises in the TNBL. Myrtle Beach has the most postseason success (going to three straight World Series and winning one) and Vinson has been consistently the best regular season. Since the start of the league the Emperors have consistently put up at least 99 wins.

I’d say that Emperors have the better lineup by a hair. Myrtle Beach has more home runs and led the league in extra base hits, but Vinson’s lineup had hit a higher average, got on base at a higher percentage, and have a better defense. I do have to credit both teams for making good moves at the deadline to bolster their lineups. Watch out for Myrtle Beach players Cruz Macia and Jose Acevedo to play with a chip on their shoulders against the team that traded them.

Both teams have good bullpens but Vinson really distinguishes itself with studs like Karl Denis and, of course, the great Cory Cooper. But, you just can’t mention Myrtle Beach without talking about it’s consistently great starting rotation. Carlos Mateo is the greatest pitcher in the history of the league and Angel Garcia finally has his mojo back. Carlos Lacayo also had a great season for them. Vinson has an extremely solid rotation and there are few teams who could best him in that category; Myrtle Beach is one of them. I’ve written more than I planned to but this matchup will be very very good.

The season matchup goes 5-2 in favor of MB, which is ultimately another reason why i give the nod to Myrtle beach in this insanely close matchup.

Myrtle Beach wins 4-3

Cloud City Sky Pirates vs. Brooklyn Patsies

I am picking the upset here. I think we will see something similar to what we saw in the 2032 Playoffs, wherein the Birmingham Barons (then the Buffalo Wild Wings) swept the Sky Pirates in the World Series. Last offseason, like the offseason before it, Cloud City traded a large package of beloved players for some new faces. It’s worked in the past, but I think they went a little too far this team.

Since losing Magallanes, Pak, Slicock, and Ocampo the Cloud City offense has lost some of its luster. With the exception of Ban-Ki Jun (who may be suspended the first two games of the series), all the Cloud City Batters have had down years. And the replacements they brought in have not been very good. CC still has a great offense, but it doesn’t have the passion or spark that Brooklyn's has. Arroyo, Moncayo, Kubis, and Mailman Jr. (we of course remember his father who played one year in the league) are all terrific batters. These four, as well as Avita and Solis, were also all members of the Cloud City organization at some point. I am not sure how these players will move their arms with all the chips on their shoulders. But they will, and they will win the series for Brooklyn.

Pitching wise the advantage is Cloud City, but outside of Gonzalez and Bi, the CC pitchers have been a tad inconsistent this season. Brooklyn just has to contain their opponents somewhat and let their hitters go wild.

Brooklyn's catcher Mel Moncayo and Will Gross (the GM of Cloud City) have traded barbs in the media leading up to this matchup. Gross is quoted as saying “I should never have traded for that bum in the first place”, while Moncayo is determined to make him eat those words.

Brooklyn Wins 4-2

Birmingham Barons vs. Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati is a well-rounded team. They finished this season 3rd in runs scored and 4th in runs against. The rotation lacks a true star, although that hasn’t stopped them yet. Whether the Reds can keep winning when Matthew Traylor starts is the biggest question going into this series. Traylor is an absurd 21-5 through 33 starts, even with his worse-than-average 4.37 FIP. The Reds have one of the best bullpens in the league, finishing second in bullpen ERA behind only the Barons. Neither of these teams will give up a lead in a close game, so the series will most likely come down to how the starting rotations perform. The Cincinnati offense, led by C Miguel Pena, can consistently get on base and has no problem hitting long balls. Pena hit 46 homers this season while maintaining a .332 batting average, and Ki-nam Yi and Ed Barragan hit 29+ themselves.

Birmingham is only two years removed from winning it all on the strength of their rotation, and not much has changed since then. They still have World Series MVP Kouchiro Imamura from that Championship team, and Kelby Fowlow has emerged as a legitimate ace alongside him. Josh Berry and Leo Netro might have regressed a bit in the past two years, but they still round out one of the best rotations in the game. If that wasn’t enough pitching for you, the Barons also have the best bullpen in the league. Antonio de Leon is one of the best closers in the game, and the Barons have no problem leaving him on the mound for multiple innings. Daniel Purcell and Oscar Alvarez could close for most teams. On Birmingham, they’re merely setup men in what might be the best late-innings combination in the league. Any lead the Barons have past the seventh inning is almost a guaranteed win. The Baron offense isn’t the best in the league, but boy can they hit homers. RF Alex Martinez hit 48 this season by himself, with 1B Roberto Prado adding 31 of his own. This series will most likely come down to how many home runs the Barons can hit. They won’t manufacture a lot of runs, but they won’t give up many either. One or two well-timed homers per game will likely see the Barons through to the next round.

The Reds offense is clearly better than the Barons, but Birmingham’s rotation and lights-out bullpen will end up being too much for Cincinnati.

Birmingham Wins 4-2