IBL Power Rankings: Week 4
By Chris Lazar
Three weeks into the 2023 season and the games have been – for the most part – tight, competitive, and unpredictable. The quality of play has been sloppy at times, but that is to be expected in a league with no “spring training”, and certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t been entertaining. This week, I will choose three words to describe each team’s current state, followed by an explanation. Let’s get right into it.
#8. Guelph Royals (1-7, Previous Week: 7)
Ship Is Sinking. After winning their opening game of the season in convincing fashion, the Royals have lost seven straight and things have continued to go downhill. This was supposed to be the week where they turn things around, with three games against the two teams below them in the standings coming into it. Now, they head into a four-game week which includes matchups against two of the top teams in the league, as well as the defending champions. If Guelph doesn’t fix their leaks quickly, they could be facing a similar fate to the Titanic.
#7. Brantford Red Sox (1-8, Previous Week: 8)
Losing Streak Snapped. Going back to last season, Brantford was riding a 23-game skid, having not won a game since July 13th of last year. Nearly a full year later, that skid ended with a hard fought 4-2 victory on Tuesday night in Guelph. Pitcher Daniel Howat got the save that night and has been excellent for the Red Sox, posting a 3.00 ERA and averaging over a strikeout per inning. Although the weekend was much of what we’ve been used to seeing from the Red Sox over the past couple of years, getting that first win must’ve been a good feeling for a team and a fanbase that has endured a lot recently.
#6. London Majors (4-4, Previous Week: 5)
Possible Championship Hangover? The Majors are currently middle of the pack in the standings, although they are 1-4 against teams besides the Brantford Red Sox, and have yet to beat a team in the top half of the standings. Defending champions have started slowly in the past and found a way to bounce back and repeat – the Barrie Baycats started 6-6 in one of their later championship seasons – so it’s not the end of the world for London, and they have earned some benefit of the doubt. The concern lies in what is happening around them, as it appears all the teams that they will be competing with for the title have improved from last year. No need to panic yet, but it’s about time the champs start to show their championship pedigree.
#5. Barrie Baycats (4-4, Previous Week: 6)
Three Outs Away. That’s how close the Baycats were to putting together a perfect week and knocking off the mighty Kitchener Panthers. With closer Chris Cox on the mound and a three-run lead, Barrie was fully in the driver’s seat, until they were reminded of a harsh reality – there are no safe leads at Jack Couch Park. A five-run ninth by the home team put a damper on what had been a great week, but the Cats should still feel good after sweeping their home-and-home series with Guelph and giving one of the top teams in the league everything they could handle. The bullpen is still concerning however, as they’ve blown multi-run leads late in two of their four losses.
#4. Hamilton Cardinals (5-3, Previous Week: 3)
Back and Forth. The good news for Hamilton is they haven’t lost back-to-back games yet this season. The bad news is they’ve only won back-to-back games once and have struggled to find consistency in their game. Their pitching staff looks excellent one game, and the next they give up double digits. They get clutch hitting one night, and the next they don’t. The schedule certainly hasn’t been kind to them either, as they are in a stretch where five out of six games are against either Kitchener or Toronto. Give them credit though as they’ve been able to keep their head above water through the adversity.
#3. Kitchener Panthers (6-2, Previous Week: 1)
These Guys Rake. It feels like a broken record at this point, but it is truly amazing what the Panthers offense has been able to do this season, scoring at least six runs in every game and double digits in all six of their wins. Last week wasn’t their finest, getting blown out by Toronto on Wednesday and losing third baseman Elliott Curtis to injury, before narrowly squeaking by Barrie Sunday afternoon. The pitching staff was viewed as a potential weakness coming into the season, and that was the case in the last three games, allowing 29 runs over that stretch. Putting it into perspective, they allowed 28 runs in their first five games combined. How they perform on the mound is something worth keeping an eye on going forward.
#2. Welland Jackfish (6-2, Previous Week: 4)
Fish Go Streaking. The hottest team in the league has won their last six straight, and they look like they’re picking up steam as they go. Ethan Hunt returned to the lineup Saturday after a stint in the Frontier League, and he made his presence felt immediately by launching a two-run blast on route to a 12-11 win over the Majors. His addition as well as the emergence of Hogan Brown at the top of the order have made the Jackfish lineup one of the deepest in the league, scoring 11 runs or more in each of their last four games.
#1. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-3, Previous Week: 2)
Train Keeps Chugging. Led by the conductor Johnathan Solazzo, the Maple Leafs sit atop the rankings for the second time this season. The first team to score over 100 runs, Toronto has slugged their way to seven wins, scoring at least five runs in each of their ten games. Having played the most games of any team so far, the Leafs have had to contend with a difficult schedule while trying to manage their pitchers’ workloads early in the year. If not for a couple of rough innings, they could be 9-1 right now. A core that has come up just short of the ultimate goal in the last two seasons, this club looks poised to take that next step in 2023.