1880: All-Decade Team (LH)

Infielders

San Germán: C Eustacio González
1.028 OPS (1880 postseason)
The Atléticos bookended their decade with uniformly short playoff runs, one of which saw González—an offensive catcher whose tendency to swing at every pitch put only a slight dent in his overall hitting capacity—demonstrate an incredible capacity for clutch hitting in the torneo.

Humacao: C Gabriel Jiménez
+33.9 career ZR
Jiménez signed with the Grises at the age of 18, and was considered the #10 prospect in the entire Liga before he began a steady career as the greatest hitting catcher in Hostos, combining excellent contact numbers with sterling defense as he became the defensive captain Humacao badly needed.

Trujillo Alto: C Miguel Ramos
35/106, 17 RBI, 18 R (1878 postseason)
When the Macabeos achieved the impossible and reached the Campeonato Nacional in 1878, it was due in large part to Ramos’ sterling work in the regular season, which more than made up for his indifferent fielding. He continued that performance into the torneo, delivering twenty-six fearsome games at, and behind, the plate.

Yabucoa: 1B Carlos Luna
16.3 WAR
The Azucareros ended the decade by knocking off Las Piedras, the perennial division champions, by exactly one game. That was partly due to Luna, their elite corner infielder, who anchored both third and first base with capable fielding on top of adding a decent bat into an otherwise bleak lineup.

Guánica: 1B Roberto Quintana
87 BB / 67 SO (1.299 BB/SO)
Quintana was the perfect example of an 1870s infielder—abysmal fielding skills coupled with a bat decent enough that his team would not dare replace him. Given the dearth of good all-around infielders, the Amigos can hardly be blamed for thinking the shot Quintana provided to their offense outweighed his defensive woes.

Ponce: 1B Rodolfo Ordaz
1327 H
Ordaz was exactly the kind of hitter that made a team fearsome in the 1870s—dependable, disciplined, and contact-heavy enough that most opposing pitchers had reason to worry when he came up to bat. No one could be surprised when he won Hostos’ last batting title of the 1870s.

Culebra: 2B Armando “El Verdadero” Enríquez
19 HR
The Tortugas, placed in one of the most competitive divisions in la zarca, did a very good job of being a terrifying offense, leading the league in multiple categories almost every year of the decade. Enríquez was one of the anchors of this approach, his power numbers almost outweighed by his nightmarish fielding.

Cayey: 2B José Flores
96 BB
Among second basemen of the 1870s, drawing walks is a rare talent—something that undoubtedly made Flores much more valuable to the Toritos, whose two playoff runs did not give him much chance to shine. That’s unfortunate, since his solid hitting numbers were usually part of the reason they got there to begin with.

Utuado: 2B Luis Meléndez
230 SB
The Montañeses, like the Tortugas before them, had the curse of being a good team in an extremely competitive division. Men like Meléndez were a large part of the reason they get to the torneo in the first place, with hitting numbers that improved drastically as they got older coupled with surprising speed.

Naranjito: 2B Pedro “El Veneno” Sedillo
16 HR
The Changos have never been anyone’s idea of a perennial contender—achieving only a remarkably deep playoff run in 1873, as a wild card—but Sedillo’s power numbers were perhaps the one unalloyed bright spot for them in this decade, as he led the league in home runs twice.

Loíza: 2B Tomás Samayoa
.442 SLG, 216 2B, 38.0 WAR
The class of the Hostos league in this decade, Samayoa avoided the usual trap of being a one-dimensional first baseman by coupling some of the most consistent hitting numbers in the league with very capable fielding, a combination that ensured the Vejigantes made the playoffs nearly every year of the decade.

Quebradillas: SS Adrián Hernández
663 R
As the Piratas became a contender in yet another incredibly competitive division, Hernández was a huge part of his team’s success, captaining a capable defense and providing the kind of hitting power that not only led his team to the torneo seven times, but led them to five Series Interdivisionales and one league championship.

Bayamón: SS Alfredo “El Brujo” Griego
1000 H
How can you leave out a player who ended the decade with such a perfectly round number of hits? Though Griego’s antics between second and third probably cost the Vaqueros enough wins to keep them out of the torneo, his power numbers, especially in the early part of the decade, were the little excitement their fans could enjoy.

Isabela: SS Conrado “Tito” Durán
161 3B
In the era before the kind of full-power swing Durán had translated into home runs, incredible numbers of triples were the best he could ask for—and he delivered them again and again for the Gallitos, finding time to lead the league in hits, total bases, triples and runs batted in while building a stellar offensive résumé.

Vieques: SS David Dután
770 R
The Esqueletos were no one’s idea of a major contender during this decade, but they remained a dangerous team largely thanks to Dután, who led the league twice in wins above replacement with a combination of sterling defense, great hitting, and blinding speed on the basepaths.

Manatí: SS Gustavo Villanueva
118 BB / 75 SO (1.57 BB/SO), 5 hitting streaks 20 games or longer
In the Liga Hostos, even in this chaotic decade, most batters had trouble drawing more walks than they struck out—except for Villanueva, who made plate discipline look easy. While the Atenienses had only limited success in the decade, what they had relied heavily on Villanueva’s work at the plate.

Toa Baja: 3B Enrique Clemente
18 HR
In a different decade, a power hitting coach might have turned Clemente into a bona fide offensive weapon—but as it was, the Llaneros were lucky to get his breakout seasons in the later years of the decade, leading them to their only division title and an unexpectedly deep playoff run.

Sabana Grande: 3B Héctor Chávez
131 OPS+
The Petateros had nearly all of their division titles in this decade thanks to talents like Chávez, whose solid hitting and walking ability got him on base enough to be a decent running threat despite his limited speed and power—until the latter half of the decade, when his postseason presence, much like his team’s, began to wane.

Corozal: 3B Sergio “Volanochero” Limón
80.2 SB%
The Plataneros were a fixture of the torneo in the latter part of the decade—a feat they could not have achieved without Limón, who combined his terrifying speed on the basepaths with a two-handed swing that made him a surprisingly adept slugger, a rare double threat in the early part of the decade.

Outfielders

Barceloneta: LF Germán de la Torre
545 RBI
If anyone could have gotten the Marineros to more than four playoff appearances in the 1870s, it would have been de la Torre, whose gift for two-out RsBI translated into several years on the relevant leaderboard, and whose postseason OPS+ of 241 represented the most any of Barceloneta’s core did to extend their run.

Gurabo: LF Israel Rodríguez
.771 OPS
The Taínos had as dominant a decade as they could have without being one of the legendary constantes, a feat that—for at least half the decade—was due to Rodríguez’s power metrics, which gave him a home run title one year, an RsBI title another, and consistently kept him in the leaderboards for on-base and slugging.

Jayuya: LF Leonardo “La Furia” Morales
147 2B, 146 3B
La Furia’s plate discipline allowed him to wait for the pitch he really wanted—a skill that gave him the ability to lead the league in plenty of metrics, including hits, total bases (twice), triples (twice), slugging percentage (twice), on-base plus slugging, and isolated power, none of which, unfortunately, helped the Cerros, the inaugural Liga Nacional champion, head back to the torneo.

Guayama: LF Ofelio Villegas
1.231 BB/SO
The Brujos were one of the two teams in la zarca that least enjoyed the decade—but for its first few years, they at least had a decent bat anchoring their left field. Villegas, who retired in 1877 at the age of 41, gave his team everything he could over his six-year career, specializing in solid, dependable offense.

Barranquitas: LF Ricardo Quintero
666 H, +73.4 ZR
Quintero only got to be in three postseason games in the entire decade, and whiffed in most of them—which is highly unfortunate, because he was otherwise an incredible left fielder, recording several of the decade’s best defensive seasons while maintaining above-average numbers at the plate.

Fajardo: LF Roberto “El Nogete” Rodríguez
164 BB / 110 SO (1.49 BB/SO)
Rodríguez had an unenviable task: be a good hitter, in a pitching-friendly era, on a team whose division was extremely competitive. Nonetheless, throughout the decade, he helped the Cariduros punch five separate postseason tickets, with a mix of plate discipline and power that sowed fear in his opponents.

Aibonito: CF Jordán García
20.9 WAR
While García wouldn’t hit his stride until the next decade, the Polluelos certainly derived plenty of benefit from his work in the 1870s—including piling up a 78% stolen base rate and a 130 OPS+ in just five years, which, when coupled with his no-nonsense defense, gave his team a rock-solid presence in center field.

Mayagüez: RF Facundo Díaz
.419 SLG
The Capitanes benefited mightily from sharing a division with the Ingenieros and Fundadores—but Facundo Díaz made their dominance over those two teams especially overwhelming. In the early half of the decade, any team going up against Mayagüez most feared the moment he came up to bat.

Caguas: RF Jesús Seda
629 R
In the Liga Hostos, the Criollos were the original paper tiger—after three tickets to the torneo in the first half of the decade, they settled into mediocrity with alarming speed. Seda refused to join his teammates in that regard, remaining a solid defender and speedy runner well into his early thirties.

Rincón: RF Víctor Nieves
178 2B, 1.22 BB/SO
Any student of the Liga in this era knows exactly how bad the Ingenieros could be, but Nieves was the rare member of La Máquina who aspired to more than abject failure, putting up the kind of power numbers that suggested he did not feel like being lumped in with his less capable teammates.

Pitching Staff

Las Piedras: SP David Pérez
118-64, 1.97 ERA, 6.10 K/BB
While Ramón Ochoa did not lead the league himself in any metrics, his students—chief among them early-decade vet Leonel Jaramillo and his successor Pérez—proved him an incredible pitching coach through their success, especially as the later half of the 1870s brought a crop of power pitchers to the forefront of the league, among whom Pérez starred with the fastball-heavy, three-pitch arsenal that gave him a semi-permanent place on the Hostos pitching leaderboards.

Toa Alta: SP Eduardo “El Sedoso” Hernández
132 ERA+ (postseason)
It’s no secret that the Poetas made their mark on the postseason largely through their fearsome pitching rotations, built out of heroes like Ruiz, Landaverde, and Hernández, who relied on his splitter and pinpoint control to induce plenty of easy groundball outs from opposing teams. That gave the Poetas a nearly automatic postseason ticket every year, and Hernández proved himself a capable workhorse in the torneo too, forming a crucial part of both their championship teams.

San Sebastián: SP Gil Martorell
52.1 WAR
No one expected the Patrulleros—home of noted error machine Joaquín Nolasco in this decade—to ever have a winning record, but they managed two wild card berths in the 1870s, partly thanks to the pitching and fielding skill of their ace Martorell. Brought on late in the first season of the Liga, Martorell’s four-pitch, entirely offspeed repertory made him a reliable starter who rarely gave up huge hits and could pitch through almost any situation.

Adjuntas: SP José Herrera
198 ERA+ (postseason), 134 ERA+ (regular season)
After Herrera snuck his way to leading the league in earned run average in 1875 by pitching just over the qualifying number of innings, the rest of la zarca assumed it was a fluke. Three years later, Herrera and the Santos would spend a decent stretch of time proving them wrong. In 1878, Herrera posted a second career year, and he then formed part of two successive championship teams, absolutely confounding the best of Betances with his balanced four-pitch inventory.

Villalba: SP José Huerta
788 K, .252 BABIP, 21 SHO
The former #4 prospect in the entire league, Huerta found himself one of the few neutral-tendency pitchers in the groundball Liga of the early 1870s—and then saw his fastball go into style just as he was beginning to develop it into the lethal weapon it would become for opposing lineups. Huerta’s balanced style, joining a power fastball with a heavy splitter and two other emergency pitches, gave the Avancinos the ace they needed to remain a perennial wild card contender in the decade.

Florida: SP Medardo “Suavecito” González
13 SV, 2.56 FIP, 2.95 K/9
A former #4 prospect, González spent his first four years with the Mogotes working out of the bullpen, developing a slider-sinker tandem that gave him the ability to work his team out of holes before he was moved up to a regular starter. In that role, he gave the Mogotes the shot in the arm they would need to become a playoff team into the next decade, proving himself one of the last starters to rely entirely on off-speed, easy-out pitches.

Juana Díaz: SP Miguel Medina
275 / 364 CG (75.5 CG%)
Medina was something of an odd duck in the early half of the decade, as a pitcher who had both pinpoint control and a decent fastball in an era where slow rollers were the order of the day. In the early half of the decade, that gave him opportunities he could exploit for shutouts—but as power pitching grew prominent and batters learned to take advantage of it, the Reyes suddenly couldn’t ride Medina’s throwing heat to the torneo.

Carolina: RP César Martínez
28 SV, 150 ERA+, .244 BABIP
After a year as a starter for the Gigantes, Martínez landed firmly in the bullpen, from where he would become one of the few consistent relievers in the entire Liga Hostos. Though he retained his speed and control well into his late thirties, neither his fastball nor his curveball developed into enough of a weapon to be usable in a rotation, and the Gigantes mostly stuck to using him as a high-flying surprise on opposing lineups once they got used to the starter.

San Lorenzo: RP Roberto Oliveros
4.06 K/BB, 3.38 K/9
It’s an odd kind of pitcher whose high speed and control come coupled with a small, entirely off-speed repertory, but that’s what Oliveros had when he entered the league with the Cotorras, who released him soon enough and gave the Samaritanos a chance to snap up his services. Oliveros developed his cutter and knuckle curve into great strikeout pitches, enabling him to work out of the bullpen as one of the few relievers who could get a batter out without putting the ball in play.

Añasco: RP Víctor García
127 ERA+, 3.12 K/9
García, a former top-100 prospect for the Fundadores, ended the decade at twenty-seven topping out at ninety-two miles per hour, with surprisingly even metrics and a fastball-reliant arsenal that allowed him to finish plenty of games with a surprising strikeout or two.

Published by Gaceta de la LNP

A collection of journalists, analysts and other weirdos who specialize in discussing fictional Puerto Rican baseball.

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