The Drop 100 for 2018: #10 - #1
The Drop 100 is based on on field performance in 2018 unrestricted pitch speed, competitive wiffleball games. Please read the Overview article for more detailed background on how the list was compiled, what it covers, and lessons learned.
Freaky Franchise, Palisades Giants
Key Stats: 14 IP | 0 R | 3 H | 9 BB | 36 K [NWLA Tournament] 20 IP | 2 R | 8 H | 9 BB | 50 K | 519 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season] | 10 IP | 1 R | 4 H | 3 BB | 25 K [Palisades Playoffs]
The tall righty from Rochester had an incredible year on the carpet. In Palisades WBL, the Giants made a shrewd offseason trade to acquire Bush and although it didn’t pay immediate dividends – Bush appeared sporadically for the Giants during the early months of the season – the move eventually proved huge. Bush was able to provide relief for Giants’ ace Ryan McElrath late in the season and finished with 20 innings of two-run wiffleball in that league’s regular season. Those numbers alone would have been enough to push the trade into the win column, but Bush wasn’t done. Ryan’s 3rd inning 2-run bomb in game #2 of the Palisades playoff semi-finals against the Royals got the Giants through to the finals. With Ryan McElrath hurting, Bush took the ball in the finals against the Padres and allowed just one run over ten innings to give his team their second straight Palisades title.
At the NWLA Tournament in July, Bush was virtually un-hittable and did not allow a run in 14 innings. Ryan settled things down in relief for Freaky Franchise against the eventual tournament champions WILL Waves in an early round robin game before shutting down both BWBL Breaker Boys and the Gus Skibee led SWBL Cardinals in a pair of complete game shutouts. At the Texas Open, Bush picked up one of Freaky Franchise’s pool play wins before dropping a play-in game to the OBombers. Bush is a seasoned pro who has played – and succeeded – all over the place the last five years. That was certainly the case in 2018 as he was the only pitcher to enjoy success in a clean ball environment (NWLA Tournament), a mixed-ball environment (Palisades), and a cut ball environment (Fast Plastic). Bush has power to spare but had a down hitting year in Palisades and only average offensive outputs at the NWLA Tournament and Fast Plastic.
Golden Sticks, Phenoms, Palisades Pirates
Moments before pitching a semi-final game against the Giants at the Fast Plastic Texas Open, a headphone wearing Josh Pagano could be found jogging around the complex as he prepared both mind and body for the upcoming challenge. That unparalleled focus and commitment is a big part of why Pagano is one of the sport’s greats. Preparing for major games is nothing new to the multi-time National Champion and the best big game player in the sport. Josh came up with big hit after big hit at the Texas Open including 3-game winning hits in games decided by a single run. Pagano pitched the Phenoms past ERL and the Giants before running out of gas in the finals.
Josh took home the Most Valuable Player award at the National Wiffle event in Tennessee, thanks in large part to his tournament winning home run. He played only two games for the Palisades Pirates as a fill-in but raked to the tune of a .588/.588/1.294 slash line (no need for walks when you hit like that!). The fact that Pagano ranks this highly in relatively few fast pitch games played compared to his peers is a testament to his generational talent.
ERL, Palisades White Sox
Key Stats: 53 IP | 16 H | 2 R | 129 K | 26 BB | 1,367 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season] 18 IP | 3 H | 2 R | 51 K | 8 BB | 637 ERA+ [Mid Atlantic regular Season]
Dan Whitener had the best ERA in Palisades WBL in 2018 at a miniscule 0.19 (per 5 IP). The next best ERA – which belonged to Dave Wegerzn - was 0.45. Whitener threw ten more innings during the Palisades regular season than Wegerzen and in terms of run prevention, was more than 2x better. That is how far ahead of the rest of the pack Dan was relative to his Palisades pitching peers. The hard-thrower established himself as one of the sport’s best pitchers last year and - frightening as it might be for opposing hitters - has likely not yet maxed out his potential.
Whitener very well may have been the hardest thrower in competitive wiffleball over the last year, but he was more than just velocity. A pitcher for the Division II Chowan University Hawks, Dan’s baseball pitching experience was evident in the way he attacked his wiffleball opponents. He utilized a plus change up when needed to keep hitters off balance. Some hard throwers tend to trade some movement for velocity - naturally, the ball has less time to traverse a vertical or horizontal plane when it is traveling at top speeds - but that was not the case for Dan. What makes him so hard to square up on is not velocity or even his ability to go off speed, but the fact that he is throwing pitches with ridiculous movement at unprecedented speeds. When his riser was working right in 2018, it combined the vertical and horizontal movement of a top shelf riser with almost unparalleled velocity. When Dan was on, the best hitting approach was often to guess middle of the plate and hope that the bat would find the ball.
BWC, Palisades Cardinals
Key Stats: 67 AB | 20 H | 9 XBH | 16 BB | 144 OPS+ | 44 2/3 IP | 4 R | 10 H | 106 K | 577 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season]
Dave Wegerzn made a bid to keep the Palisades Rookie of the Year award within the family this past summer. A year after brother Ty took home that particular piece of hardware, Dave put together a tremendous inaugural season in that league. Wegerzn was the only player to finish in the top five in both ERA and OPS (among players with two or more games), finishing 2nd in ERA and 5th in OPS. The veteran player thrived on both sides of the ball to an extent few other players did.
Wegerzn has the build of a power hitter and certainly did plenty of extra base damage in Palisades. His .343 ISO placed in the top ten and 9 of his 16 hits resulted in extra bases. He was far from a one-dimensional power threat, however, as his .299 batting average and .434 OBP (19% walk rate) attest. On the other side of the fence, Dave was one of the tougher players to make solid contact against in Palisades. His 64% strikeout rate ranks fifth and opponents hit a minuscule .071 against him in 2018 (lowest in the regular season). Along those same lines, Wegerzn was only one of two pitchers with significant innings thrown in Palisades – the other being Brian DiNapoli – that did not allow a single home run during the year. His ability to limit contact and suppress almost any sort of hard contact more than covered for his average-ish walk rate, one of his only shortcomings – if you can call it that – on either side of the ball.
Key Stats: 72 IP | 5 R | 26 H | 26 BB | 192 K | 1,019 ERA+ | 157 PA | .301/.484/.690 | 11 HR | 157 OPS+ [Mid Atlantic]
A 2nd generation wiffler, “Red” broke out in a big way in the fast pitch scene in ’18. Chris had already established himself as an upper tier Yard League player before having an MVP calibre season in Mid Atlantic this past year. Sarno struggled some on the carpet at the MAW Winter Classic in February but his top end stuff shined through nonetheless. Once the calendar flipped over to the spring, the struggles were few and far between. He had monster seasons on both sides of the ball and led the Stompers to their second straight Mid Atlantic title. His defining moments came at MAW’s May 5th and August 18th tournaments. At the former, Red pitched all 25 innings for his team and carried the offense en route to a tournament title. At the latter, Red out dueled the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick during a nine-inning championship game and hit game winning home runs against the WILL Waves and the Lemon Heads.
Chris combines above average velocity with a strong feel for pitching. At the plate he is a bit of a guess or feel hitter, but that works thanks to his quick swing and natural power. His only significant deficiency during the year was an occasional lack of command, which was on display at the fourth Mid Atlantic tournament and the first inning of his lone Texas Open start against the OBombers. Otherwise, Red was a dual threat the entire season and if not for Connor Young, would have clearly been the best player in Mid Atlantic last season.
On a percentage basis there was nobody better with a wiffleball in his hand in 2018 than Sean Steffy. The indomitable righthander threw roughly 30 innings in fast pitch competition last year and allowed just a single run – a run scoring triple in the semi-finals of the Fast Plastic Texas Open. A year after being named the Texas Open MVP, Sean took home the tournament’s pitching award thanks to winning all three elimination round games for C4 on their way to a repeat title. His Fast Plastic performance followed up 15 scoreless innings at MAW’s June event, which included out dueling Dan Whitener – likely Sean’s main competition for a hypothetical “pitcher of the year” award – over ten innings in that day’s title game.
The owner of the sport’s most recognizable face, name (and nickname) proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is also one of the sport’s best competitors. While his right arm is his bread and butter, Sean had a knack in 2018 for getting the big hit at the highest leverage moment, including a solo home run in the quarterfinals of the Texas Open to move C4 past the OBombers. For the past two seasons, when the spotlight has been aimed right at him and the moments have been at their most intense, Sean has risen to the occasion and solidified himself as one of the sport’s best.
Palisades Padres, Phenoms, Stompers
Key Stats: 106 AB | 32 H | 7 XBH | 40 BB | 27% walk rate | 128 OPS+ | 46 IP | 8 R | 27 H | 4 BB | 113 K | 299 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season] 30 AB | 8 H | 4 XBH |15 IP | 3 R | 14 H | 33 K [Palisades Playoffs] 82 AB | 26 H | 9 XBH | 23 BB | 136 OPS+ | 43 IP |11 R | 18 H |10 BB | 119 K | 277 ERA+ [Mid Atlantic]
One of the game’s most consistent and well-rounded players over the past decade had another superlative season in 2018. There is a lot that can be written about Jordan Robles’ season, but let’s start by shining a light on what a strike-throwing machine he was. During the Palisades regular season, Jordan walked a microscopic 4 of 170 batters faced. That’s a 2.3% walk rate, which was nearly a third lower than the next best rate in the league. Robles walked less than one-half batter per five innings (0.44 BB/5 IP). No other pitcher in Palisades allowed less than one walk per regulation game. He allowed free passes at a slightly higher rate in Mid Atlantic – possibly due to the differences in ball/strike count – but nonetheless walked just 6% of total batters faced. Jordan – who says it was his dad who instilled in him early the importance of throwing strikes – saw to it that batters would have to earn their runs off him. While some pitchers opt for command in lieu of strikeout stuff, that was not at all the case for Jordan. He struck out 66.47% of the batters he faced during the Palisades season, which was just two-tenths of a percentage point behind Ryan Bush and his teammate, K-Von, for best in the league. Between Palisades and Mid Atlantic, for every walk Robles allowed he struck out 16 ½ batters. With that combination of control and power, he forced opposing offenses to beat him.
Jordan was stingy in handing out walks but was more than willing to take as many as opposing pitchers wanted to give him. He walked at a 27% clip during the Palisades regular season, which turned his very good .302 batting average into an outstanding .493 OBP. Robles got off to a relatively slow start to the year at the plate in both Palisades and Mid Atlantic but more than erased that as the summer went along. In terms of team accomplishments, Jordan partnered with the McElrath brothers to win the Mid Atlantic Winter Classic in February, was an enormous factor in the Stompers winning a second straight Mid Atlantic Championship, he fueled the Padres to a second-place finish in the regular season and post-season in Palisades, and helped the Phenoms to a runner up finish at the Fast Plastic tournament.
Palisades Brewers, ERL
Key Stats: 79 1/3 IP | 7 R | 9.3% walk rate | 68% K rate | 800 ERA+ | 176 AB | .324/.380/.519 | 133 OPS+ [Mid Atlantic] 77 1/3 IP | 19 R | 8% walk rate | 55% K rate | 211 ERA+ | 100 AB | 5 HR |104 OPS+ [Palisades Regular Season]
If there was fast pitch competitive wiffleball being played in the northeast in 2018 not only was Connor Young likely there, chances are he was pitching a bunch of games, too. Connor amassed an incredible 156 2/3 innings pitched just between Palisades and Mid Atlantic this spring and summer. With the innings he threw at the MAW Winter Classic, Fast Plastic Texas Open, and several other fast pitch tournaments he competed in this past year, Young eclipsed the 200-inning mark in unrestricted pitch speed competition alone. These weren’t empty innings, either; Young pitched in – and won – many big games throughout the year. He led a two-man ERL team to a tournament title at MAW’s August 4th event, rescued the Palisades Brewers as an early-season free agent addition, won a couple of independent fast pitch tournaments, and was a sixth inning Josh Pagano homerun away from going a perfect 3-0 at the Fast Plastic Texas Open. A young veteran at 22 years old, Connor is an astute pitcher who knows how to add and subtract not only during a game but also throughout a tournament. His rubber arm is a gift, but he didn’t take it for granted in 2018 and handled his heavy workload as pragmatically as possible.
No matter the venue, Connor stuck to his free-swinging ways and walked in just 8% of his plate appearances in both Mid Atlantic and Palisades. He made up for the lack of walks, however, by making a lot of contact. Connor batted .324 and .250 in MAW and Palisades, respectively, and made outs on balls put into play in 30% of his at bats in both organizations. No matter the organization, Connor swung a lot and put the ball into play a lot. Between his crouched stance and slim build, Connor doesn’t look like a power hitter, but he hits like one. His smooth left-handed swing generates nice and easy power, which added up to a .300 ISO in Mid Atlantic and a .200 ISO in Palisades.
C4, Palisades Expos
Key Stats: 117 AB | 38 H | 8 2B | 3 3B | 10 HR | 20 BB | .325/.423/.701 | 151 OPS+ | 14 GS | 68 1/3 IP | 16 R | 10% walk rate | 50% K Rate | 222 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season] 37 AB | 7 H | 3 HR | 11 BB [Palisades Playoffs]
What did Ty Wegerzn do for an encore to a 2017 season in which he was named the Palisades ROY and helped pitch his team to a Fast Plastic title? Have an MVP caliber season in Palisades and help his team to a second straight Fast Plastic championship, of course. For the second straight year, Ty put up monster numbers on both sides of the ball and further staked his claim as one of the sports’ very best two-way players. For his efforts, Ty was recognized by Fast Plastic as their Player of the Year, a recognition he is certainly deserving of.
Ty was the Expos go-to pitcher all season long and into the post-season, where he tossed all 25-innings for the team. Even while shouldering such a heavy load, Wegerzn still managed to keep opposing teams off the board with a regular season ERA that ranked 11th best in the league. At the Fast Plastic Texas Open, Ty led C4 through pool play for a second straight year with a 3-1 record. A hard thrower that generally goes right after hitters, Ty was as consistent of a pitcher as there was in unrestricted pitch speed wiffleball. At the plate, Ty’s 21 extra base hits during the Palisades regular season tied him for first with Ryan McElrath while his .325 batting average trailed just Brian DiNapoli and Kenny Rodgers, Jr. among Palisades regulars. Ty swung a big bat in the Palisades’ playoffs and had a big offensive tournament in Texas which was instrumental in C4 capturing their second straight Fast Plastic title.
Key Stats: 132 AB | 39 H | 6 2B | 4 3B | 11 HR | 42 BB | .295/.466/.652 | 150 OPS+ | 13 GS | 69 IP | 20 R | 7% walk rate | 50% K rate | 179 ERA+ [Palisades Regular Season] 10 IP | 1 R | 65% K rate [Palisades Playoffs] 11 IP | 3 R | 51% K rate | 260 ERA+ | 53 AB |18 H | 10 XBH | 6 BB | 168 OPS+ [Mid Atlantic]
Ryan’s 2018 began with him tossing 8 scoreless innings against Ben Stant, Rob Longiaru, and Chris Sarnowski to win the Mid Atlantic Winter Classic and ended with him coming within one run of pitching his team into the finals of the Fast Plastic Texas Open. In between he led his Giants to a Mid Atlantic tournament championship, the Palisades regular season title, and the 2018 Palisades Championship. While Ryan certainly did not accomplish those feats alone, he was undoubtedly the Giants’ driving force and their key to victory in every single one. His ability to produce at a consistently high level whether early in a season or late in a big tournament, made him stand out.
Ryan doesn’t necessarily blow folks away with his stuff, but he is a pitcher’s pitcher. He utilizes a combination pause-and-hitch in his delivery for added deception and hides the ball from the batter extremely well. Throughout the year, Ryan succeeded by mixing his pitches – which essentially run the gambit – and keeping hitters guessing. While he gains another weapon – a sweeping non-scuffed slider – when pitching out of the bucket in Palisades, he was just as effective this past year when throwing a single ball. Ryan showed plus movement on most of his pitches which made up for his more average-ish velocity. On offense Ryan is an all-around threat. As his line from the Palisades regular season clearly shows, he is as well-rounded as they come matching a near .300 batting average with a 24% walk rate and a .357 ISO. His tall, slightly open batting stance mirrors his unorthodox windup but generated legitimate power all year. His 21 extra base hits during the Palisades regular season were tied for most alongside Ty Wegerzn and his 11 home runs led the league.
Battling through injuries at the Texas Open, Ryan pitched the Giants into the semi-finals with a pair of Sunday victories while helping himself out at the plate throughout the tournament. For his efforts, Ryan was named to the all-tournament team – another accolade to add to a season full of them. Remarkably, a third/fourth place finish in the year’s most competitive and stacked tournament was his low finish for the year. Ryan’s season stands on the strength of the numbers alone, but his ability to consistently push his team over the hump – and in some respects, to overachieve – undoubtedly adds to its impressiveness.