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El Sitio Web del Deporte Nacional de Cuba
Cuban Baseball League at Mid-Season







By Daniel de Malas

Especial for BaseballdeCuba.com

Febrero 14, 2012

The curtain fell this week on the first half of the 2011-2012 Cuban Baseball Season, without a doubt one of the most competitive of all time in Cuba. Here’s a look at some of the best and worst of each team after 48 games played.

The close races in both the Eastern and Western Divisions have 13 teams within 9.5 games of the team with the most wins. Thus at this point it’s far too risky to predict which will be the eight teams (four in each division) that will make the playoffs.

Three key players during the first half of the season. From left to right RHP from Artemisa Yadier Pedroso, leader in SO of the season, Granma's outfielder Alfredo Despaigne who is leading the season in HRs, RBIs and Slugging Percentage, and RHP Ismel Jiménez from Sancti Spíritus, who leads the tournament in wins.
The well attended stadiums testify to the fans enthusiasm. In Las Tunas, for example, 29,500 fans showed up for their three game series against Industriales at the beginning of this week. In the capital, the Latinoamericano stadium has hosted 337,718 fans in 26 games, which should easily surpass a half million in the regular season and maybe reach seven figures if Industriales makes the playoffs.

Statistics at the half way point

Villa Clara is the team with the most wins (31-16) while Isla de la Juventud has the worst record at (15-33). The team with the best record at home is Las Tunas (17-7) while Granma is tops on the road with an identical (17-7).

Villa Clara leads in team batting (.309) and in pitching (3.17 ERA), they also lead in doubles. Artemisa pitchers lead in strikeouts with (.338) but are worst hitters (.231). Isla de la Juventud has the highest team ERA, a whopping (5.80) and is the team with the least amount of home runs with 12.

Matanzas and Metropolitanos are the best defensive teams with a (.983) and (.981) percentage respectively. Industriales leads in runs scored with 296 (6.2 per game) as well as in slugging (.479) and in On-base plus slugging at (.873).

The stats show how Lazaro Vargas’s Industriales (leaders in the West) are playing for the hit; they’ve only bunted for a sacrifice four times.

The following is the best and worst team-by-team during the first half of the season.

Artemisa (17-30): Yadier Pedroso (6-4, 2.77 ERA and 89 strikeouts) and Jose Angel Garcia (0-0, 1.78 ERA, 36 K) are the standouts. Meanwhile, Jonder Martinez (1-7, 5.29, 48) and Yulieski Gonzalez (3-6, 4.87, 46) have been way below par. This team has no batter whose stats are worth mentioning.

Camaguey (19-29): Catcher Lednier Ricardo (.359, 3 HR and 17 RBIs) and shortstop Alexander Ayala (.351, 8, 28) are the top hitters. On the mound, Vicyoandry Odelin (3-3, 4.12, 30) is having a mediocre season as is outfielder Dariel Alvarez (.265, 4, 22).

Ciego de Avila (28-21): The team started off with quiet bats except for Rusney Castillo (.333, 12 HR, 45 RBIs) as slugger Yoelvis Fiss is only (.218, 3, 10). Lefty Maikel Folch was given his walking papers leaving Vladimir Garcia (5-5, 2.39, 70) and Yadir Rabi (2-3, 2.89, 18) to head the staff.

Cienfuegos (25-23): Forget about the 13 saves by Duniel Ibarra (0-4, 4.18, 19) as he is having his worst season, since a reliever with those stats and who opposing batters hit for .331, can’t be given much credit. Norberto Gonzalez (6-3, 3.42, 36) is once again the ace of the staff. Jose Dariel Abreu (.359, 15, 43) and Yoelvis Leyva (.353, 0, 25) lead the Elephants in hitting.

Granma (25-23): Alfredo Despaigne is entering into the discussion of who is the best batter in Cuban history. He is having another big season (.340, 20, 55), with a good chance to break the lead records for homeruns and RBIs (33 and 111). Yordanis Samon (.337, 5, 37) is another standout batter for Granma. The return of pitcher Ciro Silvino Licea (3-1, 4.85, 14) hasn’t been as hoped, while Alberto Soto (6-5, 4.27, 47) also had a mediocre first half.

Guantanamo (24-24): Giorvis Duvergel (.259, 6, 27) is not the mainstay as in other years and Dalier Hinojosa (3-3, 5.35, 39) is also having a poor season and the team’s pitching problems cannot be resolved only by Jose Luis Moulin (3-4, 2.70, 29) and Frank Navarro (5-6, 4-07, 42).

Holguin (25-23): Pablo Millan Fernandez (5-2, 1.44, 36) is the league leader at this moment and has fooled batters of all teams. Raimar Navarro (6-3, 3.38, 33) is also having a big season. The batters are led by Yordan Manduley (.407, 2, 27) and Yeison Pacheco (.330, 7, 26).

Isla de la Juventud (15-33): Michel Enriquez (278, 2, 13) has only played in 16 games on a team where Luis Castro (302, 3, 20) is the only player over .300. Wilber Perez (1-8, 5.20, 65) and Carlos Manuel Puente (0-8, 8.13, 8) are a burden for a pitching staff that only has one star, Danni Aguilera (3-3, 1.93, 22).

Industriales (29-18): The big blue team leads the West thanks to the bats of Rudy Reyes (.354, 5, 32), Serguey Perez (.326, 8, 37), Irait Chirino (.354, 4, 32) and Alexander Malleta (.289, 10, 45) while Lisban Correa (.305, 11, 36) has taken over the starting catcher position from Frank Camilo Morejon (.250, 0, 2). Nonetheless the only pitcher having an exceptional season is Odrisamer Despaigne (7-3, 1.96, 79).

Las Tunas (28-19): is led by a trio of pitchers, Yoelkis Cruz (8-3, 3.21, 55), Dael Mejias (68-19-4, 3.43, 25) and Yudiel Rodriguez (6-3, 3.64, 44) and with the bats of Daniel Castro (.345, 8, 40) and Alexander Guerrero (.289, 9, 26) managed to finish the first half of the season in second place in the East.

Matanzas (27-20): after leading the better part of the season fell to second place. They are led by Jose Miguel Fernandez (.381, 5, 24) and Guillermo Heredia (.348, 5, 22) and pitchers Jorge Alberto Martinez (5-1, 1.60, 43) Yohan Hernandez (8-1, 3.00, 38) and Felix Fuentes (1-3, 1.67, 18). Another factor that could help the team make it to the playoffs is the return of veteran Yoandy Garlobo, (.385, 2,6) in his first 10 games.

Mayabeque (16-31): Is led by Ernesto Molinet (.368, 5, 19) and Ariel Miranda (2-5, 2.60, 44) with not much more to report.

Metropolitanos (22-26): has excellent fielding and is led by Roberto Carlos Ramirez (.376, 3, 32), Stayler Hernandez (.312, 8, 31) and Jorge Luis Barcelan (.312, 8, 29), but in general has a weak pitching staff, with the only bright spot being Maikel Hidalgo (3-1, 2.95, 14).

Pinar del Rio (25-24): Vladimir Baños (7-3, 2.78, 55) and Julio Alfredo Martinez (4-5, 2.96, 41) have kept the team afloat, but last year’s league champs need more than the bats of Yosvani Peraza (.323, 13, 30) and Lorenzo Quintana (.315, 3, 22).

Santiago de Cuba (26-18): The aging Santiago continues to shine, this time led by Hector Olivera (.306, 14, 29), Edilse Silva (.337, 10, 40), Alexei Bell (.310, 8, 28) and Rolando Meriño (285, 8, 31). The pitching staff is led by Yaumier Sanchez (5-1, 1.73, 38) and Danny Betancourt (5-3, 2.89, 42).

Sancti Spiritus (22-26): The saying that Sancti Spiritus “always starts off poorly”, could also end poorly. As usual the productive offense is led by the bats of Yulieski Gourriel (.302, 14, 47), Frederich Cepeda (.305, 7, 31), Yunier Mendoza (.360, 3, 26) and Yenier Bello (.282, 9, 31). The other bright spot is the exceptional year of Ismel Jimenez (9-3, 2.66, 75). However the pitiful defense (they lead the league in errors with 67) and other game factors are not delivering the wins.

Villa Clara (31-16): has a team superior to that in several years, backed by the solid pitching of Alain Sanchez (5-0, 1.66, 36), Robelio Carrillo (5-2, 2.10, 26), Yasmani Hernandez (3-0, 2.91, 24), Freddy Asiel Alvarez (4-2, 2-93, 28) and Yolexis Ulacia (3-0, 2.91, 24). At the plate, Andy Zamora (.388, 2, 22) is having a great year as are Aledmis Diaz (,385, 6, 26), Ariel Borrero (.364, 2, 25) and Yuniet Perez (.343, 4, 31). VC shapes up as the toughest team in the league, at least on paper.

All Star Game (February 19)

Hats off to the idea for the fans voting for the players on the All Star teams, showing that if it’s the fans who decide many names will be forgotten while new ones will be born.

It has been a season with a lot of home team support for each squad, especially from Matanzas fans who are deserving of being the host of this year’s All Star Game. Another positive factor has been the day’s rest between series that has benefitted the front line pitchers who have contributed more to their teams.

The worst was some of the selections for the All Star Game beginning with the omission of Alexander Malleta (much better than Molinet and Mendoza), the inclusion of Ediasbel Arruebarruena (Cienfuegos) (.259, 2, 7), inferior to Orlando Acebey (Sancti Spiritus) (.284, 2, 14), Yamil Rivalta (Industriales) (.316, 0, 9), Luis Alberto Valdez (Pinar del Rio) (.259, 2, 9) or Michael Gonzalez (Mayabeque) (.260, 1, 18) and the most ridiculous idea proposing Frank Madam (Camaguey) as the starting pitcher for the East since he has not started in any of the 18 games in which he has pitched.

And to end I’ll comment on the specialization of the pitchers. Only three teams had four starters that only served in that roll while five teams had three starters and the rest (9 teams) didn’t have more than two pitchers that haven’t been used as relievers. Granma is the extreme with only Ciro Silvino being used exclusively as a starter.



Daniel de Malas es columnista en Español del sitio www.baseballdecuba.com. De Malas también escribe en su blog personal www.swingcompleto.blogspot.com y ejerce en nuestro sitio su labor junto al reconocido escritor norteamericano y columnista en Inglés, Peter C. Bjarkman y un colectivo de autores que incluye al escritor Fernando Rodríguez, los periodistas Jesús S. Valmaña, Yasel Porto y Ray Otero.