By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES, Dec 31 — Surprise Matanzas (13-7) and perennial contender Villa Clara (14-6) are atop their respective divisions in the Cuban Baseball League at the close of 2011, with just under a fourth of the 96-game season completed.
Matanzas – a usual candidate for the cellar – leads Cienfuegos (12-9) by 1.5 games in the West. Meanwhile, Villa Clara leads another long shot, Holguin (16-8), by percentage points in the East, with last season’s league’s runner-up champs, Ciego de Avila (14-8) only one game back.
Pinar del Rio (12-13), the defending league champions, are 3.5 games back in the West, behind Industriales, the darling of the Cuban capital, who are 2.5 behind Matanzas.
Leading the league in batting is Aldemis Diaz (Villa Clara) with an .464 average. Jose Miguel Fernandez (Matanzas) is second with .449, followed by Yosvani Alarcon (Las Tunas) at .438. Five other hitters are at .400 or above.
Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus) and Hector Olivera (Santiago de Cuba) lead the league in homers with eight each followed by Rusney Castillo (Ciego de Avila), Alexander Malleta (Industriales) and Yosvani Peraza (Pinar del Rio) with seven each.
The RBI department is led by Yulieski Gourriel (33), followed by Alfredo Despaigne of Granma and Alexzander Malleta with 25 each. Yunier Mendoza (Sancti Spiritus) and Yoilan Cerce (Guantanamo) lead with 22 runs scored.
Among pitchers, Yander Guevara (Ciego de Avila) and Roberto Carrillo (Villa Clara) lead with 4-0 records. Duniel Ibarra of Cienfuegos leads the league with nine saves.
In ERA, Jorge Alberto Martinez (Matanzas) has a near perfect 0.27 mark in 33.2 innings. Pablo Millan Fernandez (Holguin) is second with 1.38, followed by Yamuier Sanchez (Santiago de Cuba) with 1.57.
A full schedule of games is on tap for Tuesday, January 3. One of the most interesting series has Cienfuegos visiting Matanzas in a match-up of the Western Division’s top two teams. Sancti Spiritus will be in the capital to play Industriales.
For the season schedule and the full statistics on the Cuban baseball league visit Baseballdecuba.com