2016 Opening Weekend Series: RC @ HB

Aside from the strong double entendre of their names, the Cox and Balls share a few more things in common than you might think. For starters, the founding captains of both teams had come off strong regular season finishes only to be eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. Chris Paquin (Holy Balls) and the Mattseals ended the 2012 season on a 12-6 run, only to be swiftly sent home by the Aces. Stephen Werner (Red Cox) and 2013 King Friday won 12 straight games to close out the regular season; then promptly they were sent packing by El Diablos. A second commonality is what the captains did in their first year with their team. The Holy Balls posted an 18-10 record when they debuted in 2013; that record is closely mirrored by the Red Cox inaugural 2015 season, finishing 17-11.

The Balls hot start to the 2015 season, an Opening Weekend sweep of El Diablos, was the first time a WSEM team was ever pushed to the #1 NWLA ranking. The Balls' reign at the top was short lived, however, as they were knocked out of the top-50 teams after being swept by the Cox in week 2 — a performance which sent the Cox to 3-1 and their first NWLA top-50 ranking. Both games of that first meeting were hard fought barnburners, ultimately being decided by walk-off singles to the left-side of the field after many scoring chances in earlier innings had vaporized.

The final line on their 2015 season series was a 3-1 advantage for the Cox, who outscored the Balls 7-4 over the four games. Neither team ever plated more than 3 runs against the other in a game — the Balls set that high water mark with their lone win. In fact, the average runs scored per game — by both teams combined — was only a meager 2.75.

2016 Opening Weekend Series: EL @ IS

El Diablos and the Islanders both joined WSEM in 2013. Historically speaking, the fighting chickens were the team finishing well above .500 (.750 in '13, .714 in '14), while the black-and-white pirates fell well short of that mark (.176 in '13, .143 in '14). However, 2015 saw both teams break in the other direction. El Diablos had their first sub-.500 finish; the Islanders jumped .300 point in the standings and made the playoffs for the first time.

2015 Opening Weekend:
We got a sharp taste of change right out of the gate in 2015. The Islanders opened up in surprising fashion, going 2-0 and piling up 19 RS against the Wolfpack. El Diablos on the other hand were swept in their Opening Day series by the Holy Balls, including a bitter extra innings defeat in the second game.

El Diablos bats proved superior in the higher scoring games, winning 8-3 and 11-7. Speaking of that 11-7 win, this was the teams' first meeting of the season and accounted for more than half the runs scored in the entire season series (18 of 33). The Islanders battled out two 1-run victories (their first ever against El Diablos) in a pair of pitchers duels for their part: 2-1 and 1-0.

2016 Opening Weekend Series: SY @ FS

Small World:
This series between the See Yas and Flying Squirrels pits one of WSEM's newest franchises against one its oldest, respectively. For the 2016 season the Squirrels have appointed the third captain in team history, Dylan Braden. This will be Braden's first stab at a captaincy. He has been around from the very beginning of WSEM just like the Squirrels, so it is fitting for such a storied franchise to now be in his veteran hands. On the visiting bench we have this image in reverse. Ryan Alexia broke into WSEM with the Flying Squirrels on Opening Day 2012 before forming the See Yas in 2015. It's a small wiffle world.

The Squirrels and See Yas both had a 6-run win against each other in 2015. Both teams also recorded a shut out win against the other in 2015. The See Yas' shut out victory came on a game-winning, ninth inning home run. The Squirrels' shut out victory was 3 runs better in regulation, giving them a 14-11 advantage in runs scored in the series.

Both teams are returning their number-one pitchers: Craig Skinner for the Squirrels, Stephen Farkas for the See Yas - two of only three pitchers to throw perfect games in 2015. Skinner's 2015 perfecto came in week one, game one, where he silenced the Ringler Division champion Aces. Farkas' perfecto came in week eight against the Garcia Division champion Wolfpack.

2016 Opening Weekend Series: WP @ WA

Our first announced Opening Weekend series for 2016 is the obvious one: Wolfpack at Wicked Aces. The 2015 division champions will clash to kick off the new season. We'll save the surprises for later.

New Regimes:
Holding the title of returning champion isn't the only thing the Aces and 'Pack have in common, either. Both teams reassigned their captaincy this offseason. Austin Bischoff has retaken the leadership role for the Aces after sitting out the 2015 season. Meanwhile, Greg Brannan takes the reins of the Wolfpack from his brother, Mark Brannan, in what will be his first foray as a WSEM team captain.

History is One-Sided:
Greg's first test with his team will be a big one. The Aces have thoroughly dominated the head-to-head series with the Wolfpack, going 6-0 over two seasons of play while outscoring the Wolfpack 65-5 in those games. In fact, the Austin-led Aces did not surrender a single run to the Wolfpack in 2014.

Last Opening:
Opening Weekend 2015 saw shaky starts by both teams. Wolfpack pitching struggled with their control and lost two games to the Islanders by a combined 15 runs. The Aces fared better overall, splitting their set with the Squirrels, but were on the wrong end of a perfect game in the first contest of the year.

Top 10 Pitchers All-Time in WSEM History (by David Castle)

10)Trey Jardine
0.82 ERA | 1.06 WHIP | 15.65 K/6 | 4.05 BB/6 | 3.86 K/BB
He’s only spent 2 years in WSEM, but he’s had 2 very solid, efficient years. Being the only elite lefty pitcher in WSEM, he gives hitters a different look at the dish which makes him so effective.
  9)Chris Paquin
3.07 ERA | 1.46 WHIP | 10.76 K/6 | 2.35 BB/6 | 4.58 K/BB
He’s had over 100 Ks every year he has pitched. What makes him so unique is that he gets guys out without throwing very hard at all. He’s very crafty and efficient. He struggled in 2015, but will rebound in 2016 without a doubt.
  8)RJ Fisher
0.60 ERA | 1.02 WHIP | 14.87 K/6 | 4.55 BB/6 | 3.27 K/BB
When he actually shows up to games, he can dominate. He probably throws the second fastest in the league, with a unique over the top release point, which makes him untouchable at times. I even heard he made a man bleed.
  7)Dennis Pearson
3.60 ERA | 2.06 WHIP | 15.75 K/6 | 9.99 BB/6 | 1.58 K/BB
In 2011 he had 233 strikeouts, a total that no one thought would ever be broken. He dominated WSEM in 2011 and 2012, but since then his accuracy has declined dramatically, making him a borderline #2 arm.
  6)Sam Hatt
1.18 ERA | 1.08 WHIP | 14.24 K/6 | 3.96 BB/6 | 3.59 K/BB
He won’t blow you away with heat, he just knows how to pitch. He has 2 perfect games to his name as well. Before the mound was moved back, his drop ball was nearly unhittable and possibly one of the nastiest pitches in WSEM history.
  5)Chandler Phillips
1.68 ERA | 1.36 WHIP | 14.80 K/6 | 6.35 BB/6 | 2.33 K/BB
A strikeout machine. He can duel with anyone in the league. He’s been plagued with poor accuracy at times, which actually helps him out more than you’d think. He has 634 career punch-outs and has improved his season total every year. He’s my pick for 2016 Clown Shu.
  4)Evan Bischoff
0.59 ERA | 0.68 WHIP | 14.09 K/6 | 2.00 BB/6 | 7.06 K/BB
If only he didn’t stand in his brother’s shadow. Evan has tallied up 4 very impressive years in WSEM, including one perfect game, but the most impressive feat is the fact that he’s only given up 15 runs in 4 years… hitters beware.
  3)Craig Skinner
0.58 ERA | 0.76 WHIP | 15.10 K/6 | 3.14 BB/6 | 4.81 K/BB
Despite his 3 career perfect games, he is often overlooked. He can deal with the best of them. Even though he hasn’t had much success on the national level, he has no problem carving up WSEM bats with relative ease… unless there’s rain.
  2)Stephen Farkas
0.30 ERA | 0.39 WHIP | 16.65 K/6 | 1.42 BB/6 | 11.72 K/BB
Possibly the best clean ball wiffleball pitcher… ever? He’s only been in the league for 2 years and has made a name for himself nationally. In that timespan he has FIVE perfect games, throwing 4 in 2014 alone. As long as he doesn’t blow out his arm (knock on wood), he’ll continue his dominance.
  1)Austin Bischoff
0.35 ERA | 0.79 WHIP | 16.49 K/6 | 3.79 BB/6 | 4.35 K/BB
The only reason I put him above Farkas is because he’s been around longer and dominant all along. He has 2 perfect games to his name and has a career 0.26 ERA to go along with a 0.78 WHIP, he didn’t play in 2015, but looks to come back with a vengeance in 2016.
Honorable Mention:
0.82 ERA | 1.00 WHIP | 15.00 K/6 | 4.00 BB/6 | 3.75 K/BB
1.86 ERA | 1.21 WHIP | 13.91 K/6 | 4.29 BB/6 | 3.24 K/BB
2.39 ERA | 1.53 WHIP | 13.89 K/6 | 5.90 BB/6 | 2.35 K/BB
1.43 ERA | 1.31 WHIP | 14.77 K/6 | 5.72 BB/6 | 2.58 K/BB
2.62 ERA | 1.53 WHIP | 14.32 K/6 | 6.74 BB/6 | 2.12 K/BB

Winter Meeting Policy Decisions and Notes

  1. New Strike Zone Size:  28" high x 20" wide, set 10" off the ground. New boards will be clear plexiglass with painted edges to better accommodate the view of cameras behind the plate.

  2. Defensive Alignment and Roster Size:  3 fielders behind the pitcher and 8-player rosters remain for the 2016 season. However, starting in 2017 max roster size will decrease to 6 players. The number of players needed to be playoff eligible will also decrease from 6 to 4 in 2017.

  3. Substitute players may only be fielded if 4 or less roster players are available for the game. This grants a team a full defensive complement plus 1 extra player to utilize.

  4. Oversight for Final Calls:  Initial calls still made by players in the game. If the call made on the field is disputed, then a majority decision of the crowd with a view of the play will make final call.

  5. Divisions will be realigned for the 2016 season. The Wolfpack and Wicked Aces will remain in Garcia and Ringler, respectively, but the remaining team spots will be randomly selected.

  6. A new form of dead ball zone will be tested at the second satellite tournament to address concerns raised over the number of 20' hits. No decision has been made to adopt this change during the season.
Bonus: Watch the post-meeting scrimmage played between the "Rebels" and the "Empire" in the Hart Plaza ampitheater here.