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Sydney 2018/19 season preview
Is this the year the Blue Sox go all the way?
11/06/2018 9:09 PM ET

Sydney remained in playoff contention deep into the 2017/2018 season but a 3-14 record in January proved costly as they missed out on fourth spot.

The Blue Sox instead sat idle at the pointy end of an ABL season for a third-straight year.

Sydney fans will be hoping that streak ends this season and the Sox front office has made moves to ensure it does.

MLB experienced shortstop Gift Ngoepe will link up with Sydney and the Sox have also added former Canberra catcher Jack Murphy and Brisbane pitcher Alessandro Maestri.

Reliver Tyler Herr returns to the fold as part of a beefed-up pitching staff which ranked last in the ABL for ERA last season.

Sydney's fans want success but will this be the year they get it?


The Vitals

Last season: 13-27 (fifth)

Manager: Tony Harris


Three up, three down

1. Finishing the job

The Sox stranded 296 runners on base last season, second to only Perth.

It marked the second season in a row Sydney had plenty of opportunity to put runs on the board but struggled to deliver.

During the 2016/17 season the Sox left a league-high 313 runners on base.

If Sydney can take its chances this season a playoff spot could be its reward.


2. Beating the big boys

As we alluded to in Sydney's burning questions piece last week, the Sox had serious issues against the league's best last summer.

Sydney was a combined 3-21 against top-three teams Brisbane, Perth and Canberra.

Two of those rivals - Brisbane and Canberra - are alongside the Sox in the newly formed North-East Division.

They will play 16 of their 40 games against the Bandits and Cavs and need to win at least half to be a playoff contender.


3. Pitching woes

Sydney's pitching finished with a league-worst 7.01 ERA.

Combined with the ability to drive runs home it made life tough for the Sox.

Sydney was dealt some bad luck through injuries which tested its depth.

Starter Trevor Foss missed a chunk of the season and Josh Guyer missed basically all of it.

The Sox were scored to dig deep and struggled to keeps runs to a minimum.

In January they allowed 8.8 runs per nine innings.


What's different?

Sydney has bolstered its pitching ahead of the new season.

Tyler Herr returns after time with Canberra and the Sox have also added Shogo Nakashima, Garrett Granitz, Zack Jones, Alessandro Maestri, Nick Fanti, Kiho Yun and Lo Chia-jen.

With a full season from Todd van Steensel and hopefully fit and firing Josh Guyer it gives Sydney's pitching staff a whole new look.

Infielder Josh Dean is also set to return, adding valuable experience.

Shortstop Gift Ngoepe brings an X-factor and is solid defensively.


The case for

Sydney has stocked up on pitchers after allowing far too many runs last season and brought in proven ABL contributors and high-level experience across the board.

Catcher Jack Murphy was always reliable in Canberra and 33-year-old Alessandro Maestri put together a 3.25 ERA with the Bandits in 2011/12.

Maestri and right-hander Shogo Nakashima have played NPB and Kiho Yun was with the KBO's Hanwha Eagles for six seasons.

Reliever Lo Chia-jen and Shen Hao-wei have CPBL experience and Gift Ngoepe at MLB level.


The case against

The Sox have added pitching depth but does it match the calibre division rivals Brisbane and Canberra bring to the table?

Sydney also lacks outfield depth ahead of filling its final few roster spots.

But perhaps the biggest issue is the Sox recent struggles against the Bandits and Cavs.

If they fail to turn around their fortunes against their new divisional rivals it will make securing a playoff berth a difficult task.


Home opener

vs Geelong-Korea at Blacktown International Sportspark, November 15 at 7.00pm local time. Get your tickets here!


This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.