By Evan Sibbet
As manager John Cronin entered his second year at the helm of the HRL Dodgers, he knew changes would come. John knew losing key free agents Shandy, Old Yeller, and Hardball would be a tough pill to swallow, and an even harder replacement. In December of 2016, John reached out to Evan of team Combat Wiffle and offered some spots on the team. Late acquisition Dream would prove to be a costly roster spot as his year didn’t quite pan out. Opening day featured Epstein, HPV, Cheerio, Dream, and the noobs Oh Billy, Evan, and Ian. After a promising start to the year the team faded a bit, and Fez joined to pick up the slack that Oh Billy and Dream left behind. At the All Star break the team was in a good place behind the Kardinals. HPV was going to represent the Dodgers in the All Star game.
The team finished the year out at 24-12 with key victories over the Kards (x3), Rays, and Yankees (x2). In heartbreaking fashion the Dodgers did not receive the Eagan 3 seed, and so they would take to Wifflepalooza as the 1 seed. After clutch hitting and pitching performances from Evan and Epstein, the Dodgers were headed to the Playoffs as the Eagan 4 seed. A date with the 1 seeded Reds was on tap.
After a grueling 3 game series, the Dodgers came out on top and bested legend Dr. Suess, Nightmare, and former Dodger Shandy. The playoff team comprising of Epstein, Cheerio, and rookie Evan were on to the Eagan Championship series, in a best of 5 with the Kardinals.
The clutch hitting continued early in game one where the Dodgers exploded for 3 first inning runs, but later cooled off. After two games the series was tied at a game apiece. Considering missing All Star HPV, dominant hitter Fez, and the HRL’s best fielder in Ian, the Dodgers were making a very improbable run. The Dodgers took game three behind Epstein’s pitching and clutch hitting from Cheerio and Evan. The luck ran out in game 5 as the series was tied at two apiece. A 3-3 extra inning walk off loss exited the Dodgers from the playoffs just one win away from the World Series.
Immediately after the loss, the team released Oh Billy and Dream from the roster, to make room for a new free agent. After talks with big name free agents such as Eagan MVP Box, nothing came to fruition. As the period for free agency opened, the Dodgers signed Jack Lehman, Cheerios older brother, as the seventh roster spot. He played a role in the Dodgers playoff magic in 2017, and we expect to see a great year from him. Evan won Rookie of the year nominations from the HRL and nationally. College seemed to decimate the team at the end of 2017, but in 2018 the band of brothers will be back together. A roster of Ian, Evan, Fez, HPV, Epstein, Cheerio, and Jack will be a tough out in 2018.
With almost all of the current Dodgers having at least one or two years of playoff wiffle ball experience, expectations are high for the 2018 campaign.
- The most athletic member of the HRL, Ian is poised for a breakout year in year 2. He came up big with 2 HR’s in Wifflepalooza and made every play in the field. He will often lead off in the lineup with his ability to reach base and speed on the base paths. He looks to build on a .209 avg and retain his stellar .352 OBP. We know he will be making gems in the field each game, but his impact at the plate will be the story to watch for him in 2018. A .275 avg could land him his first All Star appearance.
- Evan started the 2017 year cold but finished hot. He looks to get his .289 avg above .300 this year and crank 20+ homers in the 2 spot. His ability to drive in runs via the long ball is valuable. He will be second in the pitching rotation, as his fastball and slider look to fool batters all year. A 10-5 pitching record wasn’t ideal, but almost 8 K’s per game wasn’t terrible for his rookie year. He looks to make his first All Star team and continue his playoff dominance in 2018.
- The Dodgers best batter may be Fez. The rookie in 2017 came in halfway through and still managed to crank 10 homers in just 68 AB’s. His insane .338 avg and .430 OBP may drop this year coming off a major surgery, but when Fez is ready to go, he may be the best HR threat in the HRL. He also will be around for playoff time this year. Watch out.
- 2017 All Star selection HPV looks to continue on a hot year. He played most of 2017 as the 3-4 spot in the order. He is a great 1-2 punch with Fez, and it will be hard to imagine he doesn’t explode for 25+ homers this year. He stepped up huge as the third rotational pitcher in 2017 going 4-2 in his outings. His ERA may not be the prettiest but he gets the job done. He could return to the All Star game in 2018, and bring a few teammates with him. His success may determine just how far the Dodgers go in 2018.
- Epstein, the manager, and unquestioned leader of the team is poised to become the league's best pitcher. Along with Suess and Mippey, John posted an ERA of sub 1 and had a record of 8-2. There is no doubt that nasty pitches will propel the Dodgers far, and he will take the Ace spot. His bat came alive in the playoffs, but this year he looks to be a steady force throughout the season in the batter box. He will be the opening day pitcher and will matchup with teams’ ace all year long. Now hopefully his mower still works on that long Eagan grass.
- Cheerio is a bit of a mystery to all his opponents. In 2017, clutch was his middle name, and a few key victories can be credited directly to his clutch hitting. His .194 avg will increase this year, as he looks to build on a superb playoff streak. He gets the majority of his hits off of the better pitchers the HRL has to offer such as Box, Suess, and Boom. For the Dodgers to bring home the hardware in 2018, Cheerio must be even more clutch.
- Jack is the rookie and noob of the Dodgers. Jack will come in and day one make an impact. Being the oldest member of the Dodgers by a couple years, he will have a good IQ for the game, and his passion for the game is unquestioned. We could see him and HPV split time as the 3 spot in the pitching rotation. A 4 man rotation would be huge. Look for Jack to be a huge boost at the back half of the lineup, and contribute just as much as all other Dodgers.
2016 record: 23-12
2017 record: 24-12
Eagan Cy Young Case: Epstein: 2017 was the year he came into his own, and took over the ace spot. Look for John to pitch about 12 games and post a sub 1 ERA, with 10k’s per game.
Eagan Fielder of the Year Case: Ian was not voted into his first All Star game in 2017, but everyone who knows the game knows his greatness. Numerable web gems were credited to Ian in his rookie year, and he may just rob a few home runs this year and drink a few beers.
Eagan MVP Case: Who knows the impact his surgery will have on him, but when he comes back he will be dominant. If Fez can hit 30+ homers and post a .330 avg there's nothing more to say. If Fez can develop into a pitcher before August, he will have it all.
Eagan Rookie of the Year Case: Jack has never played competitive wiffle ball before, but his softball background has him in a good place. If he hits for .250 and contributes on the mound you have your 2018 rookie of the year.