The 2016-17 ABL season has reached its halfway point and as many predicted prior to opening weekend last month, it’s the new and improved Melbourne Aces sitting atop the standings.


The worst performing team through the first six ABL seasons, the Aces are yet to win a championship and have made just two postseason appearances, the last of which was back in 2011-12. However, holding a four game lead with 20 to play, and six games clear in playoff position, it would take a collapse of the most dramatic kind for the Aces to miss out on February action this time round.

The key behind the Aces’ success thus far has undoubtedly been its pitching staff, which has, quite incredibly, allowed just 49 runs in 20 games. Combined, the staff is working to a 2.47 ERA, significantly better that the second-best pitching staff in the League, the Adelaide Bite (10-10), working to a 4.30 ERA.

The two stars, Japanese import Keisuke Honda (4-0, 29.2 IP, 1.21 ERA) and former big-leaguer Mark Hamburger (3-0, 1.82 ERA, 34.2 IP), have been so dominant they’re almost assuring the Aces of at least two wins of the four-game series’ each weekend. While closer Josh Tols (1-1, 0.79 ERA, 11.1 IP) has also been impressive, picking up a win and two saves. With veteran big-leaguer and world champion Jeremy Guthrie set to arrive this week, the strength of the staff is only set to improve.

Offensively, Ronald Acuna has excelled, producing a .375/.446/.556 slash through 72 at bats. The speedy outfielder has also swiped 13 bases, knocked in 13, and left the yard twice. Outfielder Roman Collins (.338/.407/.563, 11 RBI, 3 HR) and infielder Mike Walker (.333/.455/.635, 15 RBI, 4 HR) have each started the season in fine form also. Allan de san Miguel (.238/.351/.524, 16 RBI, 5 HR) has also been productive.

With 20 games remaining, a mere .500 return down the stretch would see the Aces finish 25-15, which is almost certain to secure a postseason berth. It would also require the second-placed Canberra Cavalry to go 15-5 for the Aces to be knocked out of top spot and receiving an automatic pass into the Championship Series. With 12 of the Cavalry’s last 20 games on the road, 15 wins would seem highly unlikely.

After Thursday’s All-Star Game at Melbourne Ballpark, the Aces next face the Sydney Blue Sox on the road over the New Year weekend.

Image credit: Australian Baseball League