IBL Power Rankings: Week 5

Photo by Brandon Taylor

Roughly one quarter of the way through the season, things continue to be tight across the IBL – second place Toronto and sixth place London are separated by only two and a half games. Offense has been the theme of the season, but it’s time to show the pitchers some love. Each team’s top pitcher will be highlighted as part of their recap.

#8. Brantford Red Sox (2-10, Previous Week: 7)

Brantford’s drop in the rankings is not an indictment of their play – they continue to show improvement week-to-week, highlighted by an 11-5 win in Kitchener Thursday night. Danny Howat has been extremely effective when used out of the bullpen, as three of his four relief appearances have been scoreless, with 15 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA. Among a pitching staff that has had its struggles, the Brantford native has been a bright spot.

#7. London Majors (4-6, Previous Week: 6)

It has not been an ideal start for the back-to-back champs. The skid continued with a pair of losses this week, and they’ve now lost six out of their seven games against teams above them in the rankings. The struggles become more concerning when you consider that they have allowed the fewest runs in the league, giving up 10 less runs than the next closest team. The pitching staff has been led by arguably the best Canadian pitcher in the IBL, veteran righty Owen Boon. He leads the league with 31 strikeouts and is tied for second in ERA. Unfortunately the Majors haven’t been able to help Boon with the bats, averaging only three runs per start. If they’re going to turn things around, they’ll need to start giving their ace some run support – he can’t do it all himself.

#6.  Guelph Royals (4-8, Previous Week: 8)

Busy week, but a much better one for the boys in blue. The Royals won three straight before dropping a Sunday afternoon Christie Pits affair, and their offensive resurgence should give fans a nice level of optimism going forward, scoring 34 runs in their last three games. Japanese product Yuki Narita has been the most effective import pitcher in 2023, leading all non-Canadians with a 3.98 ERA, striking out 11 and a half batters per nine innings. Guelph is headed into a tough stretch however, with two games against the smoking hot Welland Jackfish in the next five days. Time will tell if their recent success is a sign of things to come, or just a blip on the radar.

#5. Barrie Baycats (5-5, Previous Week: 5)

In the most respectful way possible, the Baycats have been the definition of average. They have scored nearly the same amount of runs as they’ve allowed, and won just as many games as they’ve lost. While average is how I’m choosing to describe the team, exceptional is a better word to describe the pitching – they currently boast the league’s best ERA. Juan Benitez’s return to the team has certainly given them a bump. In his two appearances, he has recorded the win in both, and only allowed two earned runs over 11 innings. With four games this week Barrie will have plenty of opportunity to find a direction, but if this season has taught us anything, a 2-2 week seems to be the most likely outcome.

#4. Kitchener Panthers (7-5, Previous Week: 3)

It’s been a tough go for the Panthers, as they’ve dropped three out of four and seeing their offense cool off in the process. After scoring over six runs in every game coming into this week, they failed to reach that number in all three of their losses. If there’s one positive to look at, Kitchener may have found their ace. Following a tough 2022 campaign, IBL Pitcher of the Week Christian Hauck is off to the best start of his seven year career, leading the league with a 2.20 ERA and averaging nearly a strikeout per inning. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as the team heads into arguably their toughest stretch of the year, with six of their next eight games on the road.

#3: Toronto Maple Leafs (8-5, Previous Week: 1)

The Leafs fall two spots after getting blown out twice this weekend before salvaging the weekend with a 14-10 victory over Guelph. Toronto has been going in the wrong direction the last couple of weeks, as after starting the season 5-1 they have lost four of their last seven games, giving up an average of 10 and a half runs during that stretch. Despite their struggles on the mound, Dominican starter Julian Valdez has been their best arm. While his ERA was inflated in his outing this week, he had a stellar performance against Kitchener just over a week ago where he picked up his first win, going five innings and allowing just one run. The pitching staff has a chance to get back on track, as this week’s slate sees them compete with the three lowest scoring teams in the league.

#2: Hamilton Cardinals (7-5, Previous Week: 4)

Sporting an offense that has put up at least 12 runs in three of their last five games, the Cardinals have found their stride offensively to go with a pitching staff that has been consistent all year. Another show of their consistency is they are the only team that hasn’t lost back-to-back games this season. A big part of their success has been IBL newcomer Logan Walters. The Tennessee native has three wins on the season, while not allowing a run in two of his four starts. He currently leads the team in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. The Cards have looked stronger than they have in years, and are well on their way to a winning season for the second time in almost two decades.

#1: Welland Jackfish (9-2, Previous Week: 2)

It’s only the second week of June, but there’s little doubt around who the top dog is right now. Riding a franchise high nine-game win streak, Welland has established themselves as the team to beat. They are dominating in every facet of the game, as it shows with them leading the league in run differential (+42). For the most part, the games haven’t been particularly close either – they’ve won each of their last four games by five runs or more. Dominican fireballer Deivy Mendez has continued to dominate the league, and is one of the most electric arms the IBL has seen in years. He’s recorded three saves with 14 strikeouts over eight innings, and has yet to allow a run during the regular season in his career. Time will tell if the Fish can keep rolling, but they are showing no signs of slowing down.