Jan 13 2059: 2058 recap: Bearcats ride league’s top two pitchers to clinch championship - by Eric83 on March 10th, 2023
After 2nd place finishes in 5 of the last 6 seasons, the Bearcats were able to seal the deal in 2058. The 92 wins were the team’s best at Level III or higher. Brentwood will now return to II.2 for the first time under manager Dave Blair and try to advance to Legends for the first time in franchise history.
Reece Worthington (20-13, 3.39 ERA, 264 K, 286 IP) once again fulfilled his role as franchise anchor, earning an unprecedented 7th Cy Young award. The 31-year-old was as good as ever, setting career highs in strikeouts and innings pitched. He led the league in both categories, as well as wins and POTG awards, and finished 7th in ERA. But as dominant as Worthington was, arguably teammate Wendell Fuller (19-7, 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 21/30 QS) was even better. The southpaw led the league in both ERA and WHIP, and was 2nd in wins and POTG awards. Despite starting the season in the bullpen, he finished 3rd in the league in innings pitched. Voters were clearly torn but seemed to reward Worthington’s additional 8 starts and 60 IP, as he narrowly won the Cy Young by a measure of 35-33.
When you have the league’s top two pitchers, the rest of the pitching staff may feel inconsequential. But the instability of the rest of the rotation did contribute to the team’s slow start. Riva (5.62 ERA, 18 GS) and Nishimoto (6.55 ERA, 21 GS) were both dreadful and were eventually removed from the rotation. Herrera (2.61 ERA, .188 BAA, 16 GS) was added to the rotation midseason and became a reliable 3rd starter. Davila (4.81 ERA, 26 GS) was uninspiring but at least chewed up innings to keep the ball out of the bullpen, which also was inconsistent. Closer Versalles had a franchise record 54 saves, but also frustrated with 17 blown saves and a middling 4.15 ERA. All told, nine pitchers started at least 3 games for Brentwood.
Pitching garnered most of the buzz, as the team’s offense was deep, consistently productive, but largely unspectacular. Catcher Chris O’Connell (.301, 86 R, 77 RBI, 21 SB) earned his 2nd All-League award. And 25-year-old All-Star Haruto Yoshida (.284/.384/.470, 15 HR, 99 R, 80 RBI, 38 SB) continued to show why he is expected to be the franchise cornerstone for the next generation. 24-year-old Aaron Lucero (.832 OPS) also earned his 1st All-Star appearance, giving the two a couple young batters to build the team around. The team’s stellar defense was also quietly instrumental to the team’s success. The team’s 64 errors were the fewest in franchise history.
Jan 13 2058: 2057 recap: Worthington wins 6th Cy Young as Bearcats finish 2nd yet again - by Eric83 on December 23rd, 2022
In what’s become an annual tradition, the Brentwood Bearcats once again were carried by All-Universe pitcher Reece Worthington to a close-but-not-really-that-close 2nd place division finish. It’s the 5th time in the last 6 years that the Bearcats were runners-up and the 6th time in 8 seasons that Worthington finished as the league’s top pitcher. Overall, Brentwood finished with a strong 87-73 record, 4 games out of first.
Outside of Worthington (16-8, 3.12 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 21/29 QS) the pitching rotation never found consistency. 10 players started at least one game, and the bullpen was especially vulnerable. The team added 34-year old Davila (7/11 QS, 3.50 ERA) late in the season to help shore up the rotation, but it remains to be seen if he will return next year. Riva has shown promise but was wildly inconsistent. Herrera, Fuller and Jean all posted ERAs at or above 5. The team’s biggest hope is that top pitching prospect Chris Nishimoto lives up to his hype and can be a key contributor going forward. The 22-year old remains raw but had success (3-2, 3.69 ERA) in his brief professional exposure, finishing 3rd in Rookie Pitcher of the Year voting, despite only pitching 46 innings across 11 appearances (5 starts).
As many of the team’s long-time position players took reduced roles, a host of younger unproven players had surprisingly good production. 29-year old Tad Bianco was plugged into the lineup as the everyday 3B for the first time in his career primarily for his defensive skills, but he maximized the opportunity and earned his first All-Star nomination (.320/.360/.463, .823 OPS). A pair of 28-year olds – Jimmy "The Greek" Terry (.296/.353/.471, 15 HR, 75 RBI) and Roy “Rogers” Hardin (.276/.383/.460, 37 SB) - also made their 1st All-Star appearances. 31-year old Chris O’Connell (.330 AVG, .850 OPS, 15 HR, 85 RBI, 32 SB) has probably already solidified his status as the franchise’s best non-drafted player, and improved his AVG and OPS for the 6th straight year since the Bearcats nabbed him off the waiver wire. In addition to his offensive production, he also threw out 50% would-be base stealers this season. Veterans Wallace (.263/.374/.520) and Duarte (.286/.369/.503) also deserve honorable mentions for performing above expectations this year.
But all of those performances pale in comparison to the excitement generated by 23-year old sensation Haruto Yoshida, who took a major step forward in his sophomore season (.793 OPS, 20 HR, 98 RBI, 102 R, 27 SB). Defensively, last year's #1 draft pick transitioned from a DH role as a rookie to the team’s full-time second baseman, a position he is expected to hold for the next decade. Offensively, Yoshida led the team in runs and RBIs and finished 2nd in doubles and homers. His star power was in full display in a May game against Wailuku in which he finished with 3 HR, 10 RBI and 6 runs scored.
Draft update: 2nd round draftee Jorge Rodriquez looks like he could be the heir apparent to O’Connell behind the plate, but otherwise the latest draft class generated little excitement. Most notably, the team already cut its 1st round pick and didn’t draft any promising pitchers.
Looking ahead: The Bearcats’ success will heavily rely on Worthington dominating once again next season and also the development of rising superstars Nishimoto and Yoshida. But what might be most important is getting repeat performances from some of this year’s surprising offensive leaders and other unproven players. After an offseason in which the team's position players had an astonishing 49 skill drops, it's become increasingly clear that the time is now for next generation of Bearcat players to come in and contribute. With the right does of development and luck, perhaps they can do what the last generation hasn't done over the last eight seasons and claim a championship trophy.
Jan 13 2057: 2056 recap: After hot start, Bearcats fall short of promotion - by Eric83 on October 10th, 2022
For much of the season the Brentwood Bearcats looked like a team destined for promotion. On June 30, the team was 67-41 and had a nine-game conference lead over eventual champion Novi Doubledays. That’s when Novi started to surge and Brentwood started showing signs of weakness. The last 40 games became especially critical, as the Bearcats went 16-24 and lost their conference lead for good.
Despite the disappointing finish, several bright spots emerged.
Ace Reece Worthington won his 5th Cy Young award after leading the league in wins, strikeouts, innings, complete games and POTG awards. He also finished in the top 5 in ERA and WHIP. Worthington headlined a strong starting rotation that led the league in quality starts. Versailles led the league in saves, although he struggled down the stretch and the bullpen was generally considered a weakness throughout the year.
Many of the team’s position player veterans had breakout seasons, relishing playing in League III.3 after six grueling seasons facing II.2 pitching. Nathan Logan and Dwight Colley, who have been fixtures in the Bearcat infield for more than a decade, each had bounce back seasons as their careers reach its twilight stage. Logan (.326/.377/.491) earned his 3rd career All-League honor. Colley (.292/.370/.422) had his highest batting average in 8 years and was named an All-Star for the 3rd time. Fellow 33-year old Anthony Wallace (.302/.400/.592) had career highs in nearly every offensive category including 22 HR, 71 RBI and a .993 OPS. Catcher Chris O’Connell captured his first All-League award, with a team-leading 91 RBI to go along with a .301 AVG and 34 stolen bases. O’Connell has improved his AVG and OPS in each of the last 4 seasons.
Although every player mentioned above is in his 30s, and the franchise’ minor league system has been considered weak for years, the team’s long-term future did get a major boost. The team’s 1st round draft pick, 22-year old Haruto Yoshida, is their first ever 16-POT player. Yoshida was immediately promoted to the big leagues, playing DH most games. He likely will take over Colley’s 2B duties next season and could lock down that position for the next decade. Yoshida’s taking a major step in his sophomore campaign, as well as management’s ability to find replacements for some of the team’s aging stars, will be key as the Bearcats begin the new year once again with promotion as its goal.
Jan 13 2056: Becerra retiring after 21 years as Brentwood manager - by Eric83 on July 22nd, 2022
Omar Becerra announced today that he will be retiring from baseball after 30 years in the big leagues. “Buddy” Becerra, as he has been known around the Bearcat clubhouse over the last two decades, has been the team’s only manager since the franchise’s inaugural season in Brentwood in 2035. In his time in West LA, the 67-year-old Becerra accumulated a 1,722-1,638 record in regular season play, 277 Cup wins, 6 conference championships, and 2 league titles.
“I can’t think of anyone who would have been a better fit to help build this team from the ground up than Buddy,” owner Eric83 said. “He changed the culture from Day 1, and developed a team that became competitive year in and year out. On behalf of the entire Bearcat family, I can’t thank Buddy enough for the contributions he’s made to this franchise and the community and wish him all the best in retirement.”
Not to overlook a dominant 110-win campaign in League VI early in his tenure, Becerra’s most success probably came from 2046-2049 when the team won three division titles in four years to reach League II.2 for the first time. The Bearcats have been a fixture in that league for the last six seasons, but was not able to make the leap to Legends. His best chance came in 2052, when the team finished three games out of first place. Brentwood followed that up with an 88-win season and #11 ranking in 2053 but was a distant second in the standings, as they did again in 2054. After a slow start to the 2055 season, ownership made the difficult decision that the team had probably peaked and started cutting some higher priced vets to clear playing time for younger players.
In a separate press conference Eric83 revealed 38-year-old Dave Blair as the next skipper. Blair may have his work cut out for him during his first manager experience. The core position players from the recent Becerra era are nearing retirement age themselves and the minor league system looks thin. Outside of 4-time Cy Young winner Reece Worthington, the team is devoid of star power to build around. Blair will have some big shoes to fill, but based on ownership's loyalty to their managers over the last 21 years, if Blair steps up to the challenge we may continue to see him at the Bear Cave for a very long time.
Jan 13 2052: 2051 recap: Worthington wins 2nd straight Cy Young - by Eric83 on September 20th, 2021
For the second year in a row, Royce Worthington took home League II.2’s top pitching honor, narrowing beating out Dayton’s Villarreal. The 25-year old phenom led the league in wins (18) and strikeouts (204), while posting the league’s second-best ERA (2.79) and WHIP (1.074). All four categories were career highs.
Worthington’s dominance proved necessary to help the Bearcats overcome a dreadful start to the season. By mid-June the team was sitting in last place with a 19-34 record, putting relegation as a serious possibility. The team went 58-39 over the next few months to finish safely in fourth place.
-Rui Omi broke out in his fourth season, earning his first All-Star nomination. The former 1st round pick was among league leaders in AVG (.298), SLG (.564) and OPS (.875), while adding career highs in several power categories (23 HR, 86 RBI, 46 2B) to go along with 22 stolen bases.
-Billy Ray “Bread” Crum earned his first All-Conference award and 2nd straight All-Star appearance, showcasing a tantalizing blend of speed (41 SB, 15 triples), power (53 doubles, 16 HR, 88 RBI) at the top of the lineup. His 107 runs scored were 2nd in the league.
-Father Time caught up with Toshiya Miura without warning, as the former ace had a career worst 16 losses and 5.24 ERA. An All-Star as recently as 2050, the team now needs to come to grips with the possibility that Miura’s is no more than a bottom of the rotation pitcher going forward.
-As a stark contrast, the ageless wonder Juan Mireles had another typically consistent season, and was the team’s second best starter (13-9, 4.12 ERA, 17/33 QS). After 15 years with the franchise, the former 1st round pick is expected to announce his retirement prior to the start of the 2052 season.
Looking ahead: The Bearcats have finished in 4th place and far from contention in both of their seasons in II.2, and appear to be "stuck". Most of the team's offensive players are in their primes, but collectively have only brought middle-of-the-pack production. Considering the team's AAA system is lacking star power, there is little motivation for the team to tear things down to get more playing time for youngsters. For the team to make a step forward they will likely have to heavily rely on the waiver market in 2052, particularly to find veteran help for the rotation, which remains a major question mark after Worthington.