The Roar
The Roar


Rights and wrongs for the 2016-17 ABLCS contenders

29th January, 2017

The Australian Baseball League postseason is set, and it’s the Adelaide Bite and Brisbane Bandits playing off for a spot in the ABL Championship Series against the Melbourne Aces.

Adelaide and Brisbane will play the three-game preliminary final series across February 3-5, with the winner headed to Melbourne Ballpark for the three-game ABLCS from February 8-12.

It’s very early in the week and a lot could change, but here’s your first look at what each club faces on the way to the ABLCS.

1. Melbourne Aces

January record: 9-7
The Aces locked in a home ABLCS with a clear lead at the top of the ladder.

What needs to go right?
The Aces’ league-leading defence has shown some cracks lately, but their pitching quality and ability to keep their opposition muted is unmatched in 2016-17.

They need their defence to lead the way. If they continue to squeeze opposition attacks, it will take something special to beat them.

What can go wrong?
Their usually unhittable starting pitcher Mark Hamburger could get knocked around. Sure, the chances of this seem remote and his form this year makes this an almost insulting suggestion, but this is baseball and there’s always a chance.

A more realistic concern for Aces fans is that their side has quietly lost seven of their last ten games, a run of bad form hidden by their massive lead at the top of the table. Can they just turn it on for the postseason against an in-form opponent?


2. Adelaide Bite

January record: 11-5
Adelaide secured second spot with a 3-1 series win over the Sydney Blue Sox.

What needs to go right?
The Bite finished second for good reason. Statistically, they have the second best defence in the ABL matched with the second best attack, a good blend of quality pitching and hitting.

Jordan Cowan, Marcus Greene Junior, Angus Roeger and Mitch Dening are all swinging the bat well at the right time. If that form continues, there will be many runs scored.

What can go wrong?
The Bite’s pitching could struggle to hold back the pressure that Brisbane will bring. There’s no doubt Adelaide will feel confident they can take it to the Aces, but they need to get through week one against Brisbane, a rematch of last year’s ABLCS which they lost 2-0.

This year the Bandits and Bite are split 4-4. If Adelaide’s defence can’t stand up, that means big trouble in a three-game series.

3. Brisbane Bandits

January record: 10-6
Brisbane went to Canberra for a ‘win-and-you’re-in’ battle, which they won comprehensively 3-1.


What needs to go right?
It sounds simple, but if the Bandits want any shot at repeating last year’s Championship, their relievers need to lift significantly.

The Bandits’ pitching has struggled all season, with the biggest issues coming from their bullpen. Brisbane have the worst ERA in the league (5.10), have given up the most runs (207) and have been taken for 44 home runs in their 39 games.

It’s a conundrum. Brisbane have quality pitching at the start of games and they have the ABL’s best closer in Ryan Searle, but it’s what happens in between their efforts that is the problem. Manager David Nilsson has been juggling his crew all year to try and find a good mix.

What can go wrong?
The Bandits are a team of extremes – sure, they have the ABL’s worst defensive numbers, but they are also the league’s heaviest scorers. The Bandits are first in runs scored (by a mile), runs batted in (by a mile), home runs and on-base percentage. There’s a cluster of hitters in great form but a standout is catcher David Rodriguez, the Tampa Bay Rays prospect hitting an incredible .442 since joining the Bandits during January.

The reigning Claxton Shield holders can’t afford to be tied down – because it’s not likely their pitching can bail them out.

What do you think folks – what are your rights and wrongs for the 2016-17 ABL Postseason contenders?