The British baseball season doesn’t stop for an All-Star break, but with the North American version rapidly approaching it’s a good time to take a step back and reflect on which teams are catching the eye in our domestic leagues.
Full standings, results, fixtures and reports can be found on the British Baseball Federation website.
All details included in this article are as they were recorded on the BBF website on the morning of Tuesday 4 July.
Birmingham and Norwich remain unbeaten
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There are two teams that remain unbeaten in the BBF leagues.
Birmingham Bandits won both games of a double-header against Leicester Blue Sox on 25 June to improve their Double-A Central win-loss record to 16-0 before going into two free weekends. They’ll resume their league campaign on 16 July with a home double-header against Stourbridge Titans, who they have deafeated four times so far at a combined score of 46-6. If they come through that unscathed they will have two away double-headers against Long Eaton Storm and Milton Keynes Bucks respectively before a final home twin-set against the Blue Sox.
Norwich Iceni, newcomers to the BBF leagues this year, won 15-3 on Sunday at Finsbury Park against London Musketeers to make it nine in a row. They will be favourites to make it a perfect 10 this Sunday in a home game against the 1-7 Tonbridge Bobcats, with four league games to follow in an attempt to go 14-0 in their debut season.
Elsewhere, Richmond Knights started the Triple-A season 12-0 before losing their unbeaten record on 11 June in a narrow 10-9 loss to Taunton Tigers. They avenged that straight away by winning the second game of the double-header 21-11 and whilst London Mammoths also got the better of them this past Sunday, the Knights are clearly a force to be reckoned with this season.
The most dominant teams
So far this season Single-A games have averaged approximately 32 combined runs, Double-A South 24 runs, Double-A Central and NBL 18 runs and Triple-A South 16 runs.
If we want to compare teams across the leagues one of the best simple measures is run differential, that is the team stat that looks at offence and defence by subtracting the total runs allowed from the total runs scored.
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It’s quite possible, and not uncommon, for a team to be ahead of another in the standings despite having a worse run differential (take a look at the Minnesota Twins in MLB who, prior to Wednesday’s games, were posting a winning record of 43-40 despite having a minus 54 run differential). That generally means they are not blowing the opposition away, and often winning an unusually high number of close games.
Teams with the highest positive run differentials are generally those that are consistently winning well and so the fact that the top six teams are the current six BBF division leaders suggests all are worthy of their lofty positions (accepting, as always with British baseball stats, that we’re only dealing with a small number of games).
You can see that Birmingham’s pitching is being incredibly stingy in allowing just a touch above 3 runs per game, whilst Norwich’s batting lineup is dishing out plenty of punishment on Single-A hurlers.
Honourable mentions should go to Double-A Herts Hawks who have scored the most runs so far of any team (206) and Single-A London Musketeers who have the highest runs scored per game mark at 22 (note that the top 9 teams, and 11 of the top 13, in this category are in Single-A, reflecting the free-scoring nature of games at that level).
Teams looking to improve
Much as we should avoid being negative, it’s only fair to look at the bottom end of the run differential chart too.
There are a few unsightly runs allowed per game figures among this group and it likely will contain some newcomer pitchers and more than a few liberties being taken on the bases.
The line that stands out for me is the NBL’s Herts Falcons. Clearly they are up against the toughest competition and the NBL can be a harsh environment when things aren’t going your way. The Falcons are 5-13 and whilst they are certainly conceding more runs than they’d like, what’s really hurting them so far is the relatively low number of runs they are scoring.
Another thing that we can look at when comparing the leagues is how competitive each division is based on the gap between the best run differential and the worst. The idea being, the smaller the difference, the closer the competition is.
|Div||Best run diff||Worst run diff||Difference
This is only a quick guide and far from the full story, but nonetheless it’s interesting to see Triple-A coming out as the closest using this measure. I’ve added Double-A combined (as the other divisions all represent a single level of play) and they produce the widest difference, suggesting there’s a broader range of ability in this level of play, which would make sense with it being the level up from the lowest rank.
Finally, let’s take a closer look at the top-tier of British baseball.
The Mets are once again proving to be a formidable side and they are doing so by leading the way on both sides of the ball.
Reigning NBL champions the Mustangs have been close to them when it comes to keeping runs off the board though, with their 6.08 runs allowed per game being the fifth best mark in the BBF, one behind the Mets. Southampton have some games in hand on both the Mets and the Capitals so we’ll see if they can keep that up, whilst improving their run scoring, over the next few weeks.