Abreu, Tatis Share MVP Award

November 23rd, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
A sixty game regular season didn’t afford players much of an opportunity to distinguish themselves from their peers.  Plenty of players made the most of the shortened schedule and had tremendous seasons.  But how do you determine which player was most valuable over such a short time frame?  It would appear the voters for the 2020 DTBL Most Valuable Player award had many different thoughts on that.  In quite possibly the most competitive award vote in league history, not one player received even half of the available points.  Five different guys received a first place tally and four others were ranked in the top three on at least one ballot.  A group of four players finished within four points of each other at the top of the results table.  And finally, two players tied for the ultimate prize.  Cougars first baseman Jose Abreu and Demigods shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. are the 2020 DTBL Co-Most Valuable Players.

Jose Abreu has been a steady force for the Cougars since 2015.  But prior to this year, he had never received so much as a single MVP vote and has never been named a DTBL All-Star.  This year, however, he was clearly among the league’s elite hitters.  He led the league with 60 RBI.  His 19 home runs trailed only Luke Voit.  He also hit .317 with 43 runs.  The batting average was easily a career high for Abreu and the pace he set in those counting stats would have been personal bests as well.  Being among the leaders in runs batted in is nothing new for Abreu though.  He finished second with 123 a year ago and has had at least 90 RBI in every season but one, prior to this season.  Abreu’s 4.4 Batting PAR ranked fourth in the league, which is an unusually low ranking for a MVP.  But the margins were so small that distinguishing between players based on that stat alone didn’t make a lot of sense this year.  He was just 0.2 points behind the leader (Tatis).

Abreu was selected by the Cougars with the first overall pick in the 2015 Draft.  By first overall pick standards, perhaps his career had been a slight disappointment prior to this year.  But he’s hardly been a bust.  He finished fourth for the Rookie of the Year award in 2015, following a strong first season.  His best full season was probably last year when he .284 with 33 homers and 123 RBI and a career high 5.4 PAR.  He almost certainly would have blown past that figure this year though with a full schedule.  He’s now finished with at least 4.0 PAR in four of his six DTBL seasons.  Abreu was a major reason why the Cougars finished second in the league in batting points.

In case you didn’t get a chance to read the Rookie of the Year article, here is a quick recap of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s season.  The first overall selection in this year’s draft lived up to the hype and then some.  Tatis led the league with 4.6 Batting PAR.  He hit .277 with 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases.  Only five players had more steals and only two hit more home runs than Tatis.  Nobody exceeded his total in both of those categories.  He also led the league with 50 runs scored.

While many players have come close in recent years, including Ronald Acuna last year, Tatis is the first player to win both the DTBL Rookie of the Year and DTBL Most Valuable Player in the same season since Ryan Howard in 2006.  Jake Arrieta had been the last person to win a pair of the three major awards, taking the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year in 2015.  While Tatis’ resume is quite impressive, he wasn’t a lock to be the top finishing Demigod in this vote.  First baseman Freddie Freeman also garnered strong support.  Tatis and Freeman were the primary reasons why the Demigods had the league’s most improved offense in 2020.

As a White Sox fan, I’m reluctant to even mention this, but Tatis and Abreu very easily could have been teammates.  However, the Sox dealt Tatis to San Diego for Big Game James Shields in 2016.  Oops.  I don’t think this is the first time that we have had co-MVPs.  In fact, I have a faint recollection of this happening in one of the league’s first couple seasons.  Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, my records are lacking on awards voting from the first decade of the league’s existence.  This data is likely sitting on an old hard drive that I still posses, so maybe I can fill in the blanks later.

The voting for this award was all over the map.  Abreu received the most first place votes with four, but didn’t garner any second or third place tallies and was entirely left off one ballot.  He accumulated a total of 49 points, which was matched by Tatis, but in a different fashion.  Tatis received three first place votes along with a pair of seconds.  But he was also left off two ballots.  Perhaps the top stealth candidate for this award was the guy who finished third.  Beanballers shortstop Trea Turner was not among the players strongly considered for the National League MVP award.  He was an extremely valuable fantasy player, however, racking up impressive totals in all five offensive categories.  Turner hit .335 with a dozen homers and a dozen stolen bases.  He scored 46 runs and knocked in 41.  His 4.4 Batting PAR was a smidge ahead of Abreu.  Turner only received one first place vote, but was the top choice for runner-up with three seconds.  He finished with 47 points, just two behind Abreu and Tatis.  Komodos third baseman Jose Ramirez was also just a flipped vote here or there away from winning this award.  Ramirez actually had nearly identical numbers to Tatis across the board, but with a slightly higher .292 average.  Ramirez received a single first place vote, two seconds and three thirds.  He finished with 45 points, just four behind the winners.  But wait, there was one more player who had a reasonable shot at being the MVP.  Demigods first baseman Freddie Freeman didn’t receive any first place votes, but was another popular choice on ballots.  He appeared on eight ballots for a total of 32 points.  Those were the five who appeared on a majority of ballots.  Kings outfielder Mookie Betts also received a first place nod as one of the three total votes given to him.  To add to the chaos of these results is another fascinating fact.  The champion Darkhorses easily led the league in batting points.  However, not one of their players were among the eleven players who received MVP votes.  Finally, this is the first time in Mike Trout’s illustrious career that he has not received a MVP vote.

Click here to view the full voting results.

And with that, official business for the 2020 DTBL season is complete.  It’s been a trying year for everybody.  I hope this league was a fun distraction for you at times this summer.  Let’s all hope for a return to normalcy in 2021.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Bieber Bests Choppers Teammate

November 20th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
When it came to elite pitchers, the Choppers had the market cornered in 2020.  This was an unexpected development, particularly after they lost their long time ace Chris Sale to Tommy John surgery back in the spring.  However, Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer more than picked up the slack.  They were the two most dominant pitchers in the league this season, which earned them the American League and National League Cy Young awards, which were announced last week.  While both pitchers had remarkable seasons, Bieber was the clear standout pitcher of 2020.  And because of that, he is the 2020 DTBL Cy Young award winner.

This race was basically a runaway right from the start.  Bieber put the league on notice with a scoreless, 14 strikeout performance on Opening Day.  In his second start, the strikeout total fell all they way to 13, but he pitched another eight scoreless innings.  He pitched a dozen times this season, never striking out fewer than eight hitters and without ever allowing more than three runs.  There was not one single dud in his entire season.  The end result was an absurd 1.63 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, eight wins and 122 strikeouts.  He led all qualified pitchers in ERA, wins and strikeouts.  The ERA is the third lowest single season total among qualified pitchers in league history.  Of course, that requires several caveats due to the shortened season, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.  His 7.7 PAR was nearly a point and a half higher than Bauer, the next closest pitcher.  That put him on pace to top Justin Verlander’s record 17.5 PAR last year over the course of a full season.  But again, caveats apply.  No matter how you slice it, Bieber was clearly the best pitcher in baseball in 2020.

This ends a lengthy streak of well established stars winning this award.  Bieber is just 25 years old and figures to be at the very beginning of his prime.  The Choppers selected him in the third round of the 2019 Draft.  His rookie season was quite impressive.  He led the Choppers in most pitching categories last year too.  He won 15 games with a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts.  That earned him third place in a loaded Rookie of the Year race.  Bieber also finished in sixth place for the Cy Young a year ago.  This year, he took his game to a new level, and in doing so, helped the Choppers improve their pitching output by a dozen points.  Bieber didn’t do it alone though.  Trevor Bauer finished second in the league in PAR and Brandon Woodruff had an impressive rookie campaign as well.  If Sale is able to come back healthy next year, the Choppers will have an envious rotation anchoring their squad.  My records only contain complete award data since 2005, so I’m not 100% certain about this, but I believe Bieber is the first Choppers pitcher to win the Cy Young award in at least 20 years.  Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina are the only other Choppers who may have won this award previously (I’m almost certain Maddux did at least once).  The Bieber/Bauer duo does bring back memories of the Choppers dominant staffs of the ’90s that featured Maddux and Mussina.  Perhaps they can help lead the team to their first championship since that era sometime soon.

Believe it or not, Bieber wasn’t a unanimous selection for this award.  He received top billing on nine of the ten ballots, but was placed second on the other.  Still, that’s a pretty impressive 97 total points, well clear of his Choppers teammate.  Bauer was overshadowed by Bieber, but he had fairly similar numbers across the board.  His WHIP was a league best 0.80 and he recorded exactly 100 strikeouts, one of only three pitchers to do so this year.  Bauer was a pretty clear second choice, finishing with seven second place votes and 64 total points.  There was actually a third pitcher who had ridiculous numbers that would have put him in line to win this award in a normal season, and that is Moonshiners veteran Yu Darvish.  Darvish was just slightly behind Bieber and Bauer in every category.  It was his best season since his DTBL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013.  After falling on some tough times, he is now fully healthy and among the game’s best pitchers again.  Darvish had one second place vote and seven thirds to finish with 45 points.  His Japanese countrymate Kenta Maeda finished fourth.  Maeda had his best DTBL season, highlighted by his 2.70 ERA and a miniscule 0.75 WHIP.  He was probably the most surprising name among the Cy Young contenders this year after spending several years flipping between the rotation and bullpen for the Dodgers.  He proved himself to be an elite starter for the Twins.  Maeda received 20 total points.  Finishing fifth was the consensus favorite for this award heading into the season, Jackalope ace Gerrit Cole.  Cole’s first season in the Bronx was a little bumpy.  But when it was all said and done, he still had a pretty impressive campaign.  It is hard to feel disappointed with a 2.84 ERA and sub 1.0 WHIP.  But the bar has been set awfully high for Cole after signing that massive deal with the Yankees last winter.  Cole received a second place vote and 17 total points.  Normally I stop the rundown after the top five, but I feel like I have to mention the guy who finished sixth since he was the only person to receive a first place vote besides Bieber.  Mavericks star lefty Clayton Kershaw had a nice bounce-back season in 2020, and apparently it impressed someone enough to give him a first place tally.  It was the only vote he received, however.

Click here to view the full voting results.

Fernando Tatis and Shane Bieber were unsurprising recipients of the year’s first two awards.  The final award, Most Valuable Player, figures to be a much more competitive vote.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to guarantee it.  I have tentatively planned on announcing that winner next Monday, November 23.

Tatis Takes Top Rookie Honor

November 17th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
For the second consecutive year, the first overall pick in the DTBL Draft immediately took the league by storm and became one of its best players.  Last year, it was Ronald Acuna who led the league in PAR and won the 2019 DTBL Rookie of the Year award.  The Demigods didn’t have a very difficult choice to make with the first pick of the draft back in March.  While it appeared to be a strong incoming class, there was only one player available who seemed to be a safe bet to carry a team in all five offensive categories.  The young shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. did just that.  Through much of the season, not only was Tatis the league’s best rookie, but also seemed a lock to win both of the coveted postseason awards for which he was eligible.  In a very decisive vote, Fernando Tatis Jr. has won the 2020 DTBL Rookie of the Year award.

Just like Acuna a year ago, Tatis led not only DTBL rookies, but all players in batting PAR.  He accumulated 4.6 PAR in the abbreviated 2020 season, which put him on pace to break Acuna’s record setting 11.4 PAR from last year.  Tatis was truly a five category star.  His power and speed combo produced 17 home runs and 11 stolen bases, joining Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts as the league’s only 15+ HR, 10+ SB players this year.  He led the league with 50 runs scored while knocking in 45.  His .277 average was solid as well, though he slipped down to that mark in the closing weeks.  Among rookie hitters, nobody was particularly close to him.  His PAR was more than twice that of the next best rookie hitter.  Now we will wait to see if Tatis is able to accomplish the MVP/ROY double, which Acuna just narrowly missed last season.

Tatis is the primary reason why the Demigods were in contention for their first DTBL title for much of the season.  They drifted back to a seventh place finish, but nearly doubled their batting point total (14 to 27), and moved into the top half of the league in batting points.  Tatis led the Demigods in home runs, runs and stolen bases.  He had nearly twice as many base thefts as any of his teammates.  He and Freddie Freeman gave the Demigods two of the best players in the league.  Freeman was recently named the National League MVP and figures to join Tatis in the discussion for that award in this league as well.  Tatis and Francisco Lindor give the Demigods an extremely enviable duo at shortstop that should help carry their offense to new heights in upcoming years.  Tatis is the Demigods’ first Rookie of the Year winner since Corey Kluber in 2014.

Despite Tatis’ nearly impeccable Rookie of the Year resume, the streak of consecutive unanimous winners of this award ended at three.  Tatis received nine of the ten first place votes, plus one second to finish with 97 points.  While the unanimous selection streak ended, the streak of runaway victories continues.  Tatis was the only player to appear on all ten ballots.  Finishing second was one of this year’s breakout stars, Jackalope pitcher Dinelson Lamet.  This was actually not Lamet’s first season in the DTBL.  However, he remained rookie eligible because he never appeared on the Naturals active roster in 2018 before succumbing to Tommy John surgery.  This year, Lamet struck out 93 in 69 innings with an impressive 2.09 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.  No rookie pitcher had more strikeouts.  Lamet received six second place votes for a total of 50 points.  Just behind him was another early draft pick of the Demigods, third round pitcher Max Fried.  Their second round pick Zac Gallen also received a vote, which means the Demigods really cashed in with their first three selections.  Fried had a miniscule 1.98 ERA and led rookies with six wins.  He appeared on nine ballots with one second and five third place votes for 41 points.  The fourth place finisher was a major contributor for the champion Darkhorses.  Their bullpen was the best in the league, by far, and Liam Hendriks was a big reason why.  Hendriks had 14 saves with a ridiculous 1.78 ERA and 0.67 WHIP.  He received the lone first place vote that didn’t go to Tatis, propelling him to 29 points.  This is the highest finish in the Rookie of the Year vote for a relief pitcher since Craig Kimbrel and John Axford finished second and third respectively in 2011.  Rounding out the top five is one of this season’s best free agent signings, outfielder Teoscar Hernandez.  Despite going undrafted, Hernandez was signed in time to accumulate a dozen homers for the Beanballers in just 140 at bats.  He received a second place vote and 12 total points.  In total, 11 different players appeared on at least one ballot.  So while there was a clear consensus for the top spot, many deserving players split the remaining votes.

Click here to view the full voting results.

Sorry I’m a little late with the start of these award announcements.  I usually like to do them about the same time as the MLB awards are announced.  But in my defense, I think MLB did theirs a week earlier than usual this year.  At any rate, the Cy Young award should be announced in a few days with MVP to follow either this weekend or early next week.

Darkhorses Dash To Title

September 29th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
2020 was supposed to be the year of chaos and unpredictability in baseball and this league.  To some degree, the former was true with multiple MLB teams missing week’s worth of games due to COVID-19 positive tests and having September schedules filled with 7-inning double headers.  Season ending injuries and opt-outs were more prevalent than ever.  But unpredictability?  Nah, not in this league.  Our pre-season projections saw the Jackalope and Darkhorses as the clear favorites to win the title in an abbreviated 60-game season.  While other teams made some noise at times, ultimately it came down to those two teams in the season’s final days.  In the end, it was the Darkhorses exorcising recent demons of close second place finishes.  For the fifth time in franchise history and the first time in exactly a decade, David’s Darkhorses are the Dream Team Baseball League Champions.

As I wrote about in the mid-season article, one thing I was most definitely not expecting in 2020 was for one team to have a stranglehold on first place.  However, amazingly, the Darkhorses never fell below second place at any point of the season after the Opening Weekend.  And they were in first place following all but two days of the final five weeks.  But it did get a little scary for them as one of the days in which the Jackalope overtook them for the top spot was on the final weekend, with just two days remaining.  With extremely thin margins in almost all categories, the consistent excellence from the Darkhorses was truly remarkable.

The Darkhorses are a deep team with very few, if any, obvious weaknesses.  This type of roster is going to be a contender in almost any type of season.  But perhaps they were uniquely built for this particular season even more than one might have realized.  While they did not suffer the same injury and opt-out carnage of some other squads, their depth was certainly challenged.  James Paxton missed most of the season with an arm injury.  Lorenzo Cain opted out after the first week.  Matt Chapman hit the injured list in early September.  Alex Bregman had an injury riddled campaign as well.  What is really impressive is how they were able to overcome very little production from some of the guys who had been their most important players in recent years, most notably reigning MVP Christian Yelich who scuffled to the tune of a .205 average.

So who picked up the slack?  A whole bunch of guys.  The Darkhorses easily led the league in batting points for the third straight year.  Despite that, they did not have any player finish in the top 15 in Batting PAR.  It was a total team effort.  Bryce Harper led the way with 2.7 PAR, so yes, he finally gets his ring.  Dansby Swanson had the best season of his career so far.  Brandon Lowe may have been the steal of this year’s draft.  The third round pick should receive Rookie of the Year consideration.  Xander Bogaerts and J.T. Realmuto were their usual steady selves.  Mike Yastrzemski was a great early season free agent signing.  Despite the lack of any apparent MVP candidates, the Darkhorses unquestionably had the best offensive depth in the league, with positive contributions from all 14 batting spots.

The Darkhorses have had a great offense for quite some time now.  What had previously held them back a bit was their pitching staff.  Technically, they only improved by 1/2 pitching point from last year.  But relative to the rest of the league, that was enough to get the job done.  They tied for the fourth most pitching points.  As usual, Jacob deGrom carried the rotation.  Maybe even more so than usual, actually.  He was their only starting pitcher to earn more than 1.0 PAR (4.5).  Last year’s second choice starter Patrick Corbin was actually quite disappointing this year.  Jose Berrios was the only other starter besides deGrom who lived up to expectations.  This wasn’t really a championship caliber starting staff.  But boy did the bullpen make up for that.  Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand, Taylor Rogers and Mark Melancon made up what was by far the best bullpen in the league.  Hendriks and Hand were the Darkhorses next two most valuable pitchers after deGrom, and were first and second in the league in PAR among relievers.  Hand led the league in saves with 16.  Hendriks was second with 14.  The Darkhorses absolutely blew away the rest of the league in saves.  They had 48 of them.  The margin between them and the second best Moonshiners (23) was almost as large as the Moonshiners save total (25).  So yes, the Darkhorses had nearly twice as many saves as another other team.  These four relievers were paramount to the Darkhorses success in the other pitching categories as well.

This season culminates an impressive three year run for the Darkhorses in which they finished in the top two spots in the standings.  The last time a team had a similar run of excellence was the Naturals in 2010-12.  This is the Darkhorses first championship since 2010, which was the year they actually shared the title with the Naturals, and was the final season of the Darkhorses’ four-peat.  Their five titles is second only to the Kings.  If you were to split the DTBL history in half, the Darkhorses would probably earn the distinction of the league’s best franchise in the second half having won five of those 14 championships.

This has been a trying year for all of us.  But I am extremely grateful that MLB was able to successfully complete this season, and thus so were we.  Let’s hope we are able to return to some semblance of normalcy by the time the 2021 baseball season begins.  In the meantime, I intend to enjoy the Postseason, which will get started in a matter of hours.  Congrats to David on a well-deserved championship!  Thanks to everybody else for making this a very enjoyable and competitive season.

One Month Down, One to Go

September 1st, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
If it feels like the 2020 baseball season just started, well, that’s basically true.  However, we’re also more than half way through the abbreviated 60 game slate.  I think we all entered this season ready to expect the unexpected, and that is pretty much what we have gotten.  Critical injuries, particularly to pitchers, have decimated rosters.  Multiple MLB teams have had week’s worth of games wiped out due to positive COVID-19 tests.  Seven inning doubleheaders and wacky extra inning rules have become a common occurrence.  The season has also had its good moments though, like the breakout of a new wave of stars, including the ones who will be covered below.

One thing I was expecting from this shortened season was chaos at the top of the standings.  But that really hasn’t proven to be the case… at least not yet.  The Darkhorses have been in first or second place every day of the season since the opening weekend and have held the top spot for almost two straight weeks now.  So, as has become an annual tradition, the Darkhorses are right in the thick of the race as we head into September.  But that’s about the only thing this season has in common with recent years.  No longer are the Kings their chief competition.  In fact, the Kings are one of probably three teams that have little to no shot at winning the title this year.  Their house of cards tumbled quickly when Justin Verlander was lost to an arm injury in the first week of the season.  The wildly underachieving Jackalope offense and Komodos pitching staff have left them as the other two teams with little hope for a championship season.  But everybody else should feel like they still have a shot.  The Cougars, Moonshiners and Demigods are having breakout years.  The Mavericks have overcome some tough pitching losses to remain in the thick of things.  The Beanballers have bounced back from a very slow start to get back into the conversation.  And the Choppers have amazingly had the best pitching staff in the league despite losing Chris Sale for the season this past spring.  The Darkhorses would seem to be the favorites, not only because of their current lead, but also because they are pretty healthy at the moment.  Of course, that could change in a hurry.

This will probably be the one and only Players of the Month article this season since I don’t usually bother with such things after September.  Usually following the first month of the season in April, the awards are based on stats accumulated in March in addition to April.  But this time, I elected not to include the July stats since there was over a week’s worth of games played in that month, compared to typically just a few days in March.  That said, the winners would have been the same even if I had included the July stats.  But the statlines below are August only.  As usual, these are completely based on highest PAR for the week and month.

Here are the award winners for July and August of 2020.

Batters of the Week:

Week 1 (7/23 – 7/26) – Nelson Cruz, Komodos
Week 2 (7/27 – 8/2) – Aaron Judge, Mavericks
Week 3 (8/3 – 8/9) – Fernando Tatis, Demigods
Week 4 (8/10 – 8/16) – Juan Soto, Mavericks
Week 5 (8/17 – 8/23) – Jose Abreu, Cougars
Week 6 (8/24 – 8/30) – Manny Machado, Mavericks

Pitchers of the Week:

Week 1 (7/23 – 7/26) – Shane Bieber, Choppers
Week 2 (7/27 – 8/2) – Shane Bieber, Choppers
Week 3 (8/3 – 8/9) – Frankie Montas, Kings
Week 4 (8/10 – 8/16) – Aaron Nola, Demigods
Week 5 (8/17 – 8/23) – Yu Darvish, Moonshiners
Week 6 (8/24 – 8/30) – Lucas Giolito, Cougars

Half of the Batter of the Week honors so far this season have gone to Mavericks hitters, and three different ones at that, displaying the depth of that roster.  While the game may be shifting younger and younger, particularly among position players, a few veterans are still going strong including 40 year old Nelson Cruz and 33 year old Jose Abreu, who is having his best season since his rookie campaign so far.  Due to the way pitching starts are scattered, it is extremely difficult for someone to win Pitcher of the Week two weeks in a row, but that’s exactly what Shane Bieber did to start the season.  Two of the three pitchers selected in the first round of the draft in March (Lucas Giolito and Frankie Montas) won weekly honors.  Giolito did so on the strength of the season’s first no-hitter.  Two players have really stood head and shoulders above their peers so far this season.  And they happen to be the Batter and Pitcher of the Month for August.

Batter of the Month:

Fernando Tatis, Demigods
.313 AVG, 11 HR, 24 RBI, 31 R, 4 SB, 3.10 PAR

Pitcher of the Month:

Shane Bieber, Choppers
1.63 ERA, 0.905 WHIP, 4 W, 0 SV, 57 K, 3.80 PAR

Fernando Tatis Jr. has almost single-handedly turned the Demigods from a historically weak team a year ago, the worst in franchise history, to a championship contender this season.  The first overall pick in the draft has lived up to the hype and then some.  He currently leads the league in PAR (by more than a full point), home runs, runs batted in and runs scored.  He is also hitting over .300 and has seven steals.  Ronald Acuna’s rookie season last year was among the best this league has ever seen, but Tatis is one-upping him this year, albeit he won’t come close to Acuna’s counting stat numbers due to the abbreviated season.  At the moment, Tatis would almost certainly win not only Rookie of the Year, but Most Valuable Player as well.  The Demigods do have some ground to make up as they remain slightly below average in batting points, but Tatis could certainly continue to push them up the standings.  Tatis won this award going away, but Mookie Betts and Jose Abreu were the closest competition.

What is amazing about those Shane Bieber August numbers above is that they don’t even include his first two starts of the season, which earned him weekly honors.  As mentioned above, the Choppers lead the league in pitching points despite not having the services of Chris Sale.  Bieber is the reason why.  He already has a two point lead in Pitching PAR with a ridiculous 1.20 ERA and a league leading 84 strikeouts in just 52 2/3 innings pitched.  Bieber is following up an impressive rookie season with an even better sophomore campaign.  The Choppers do have a tall hill to climb to get into the title chase due to a scuffling offense.  If they can improve upon that though, Bieber and the pitching staff are primed to keep them in the hunt.  Because two of Bieber’s best starts came in July, this particular award wasn’t a runaway.  Pitchers from opposite sides of Chicago, Moonshiners’ Yu Darvish and Cougars’ Lucas Giolito, came in second and third.

2020 Season Preview: Part IV

July 23rd, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
It’s Opening Day!  Nearly four months after the originally scheduled start of the 2020 season, we will finally be able to watch live baseball games that count, starting with the World Series Champion Nationals hosting Gerrit Cole and the Yankees.  While I’m disappointed I won’t be able to attend that game, I couldn’t be more excited to have baseball back.  Nobody knows what to expect out of this 60-game mad dash to October.  But I intend to enjoy every minute of it.  Or at least until the White Sox first excruciating loss.

This final 2020 DTBL preview article will cover the two teams projected to finish in the top two spots in the standings.  While I didn’t do extensive research to verify this, I believe these are the two teams that in recent years the annual projections tend to get the most wrong.  But in opposite directions.  The past two seasons, the Darkhorses were projected to finish in sixth and seventh places.  They actually finished in second both years.  Meanwhile, the Jackalope were picked to finish fourth and tied for first in ’18 and ’19, while ending up in tenth and seventh places those seasons.  So is it a good or bad sign for these teams to top the projections this year?  Time will tell.  The talent on both rosters should give them a leg up on most of the competition though.  Here are the teams projected to finish at the top of the standings.

David’s Darkhorses

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 3rd (1st)
  • Home Runs – 7th (1st)
  • Runs Batted In – 5th (1st)
  • Runs Scored – 1st (1st)
  • Stolen Bases – 6th (3rd)
  • Earned Run Average – 4th (5th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 3rd (7th)
  • Wins – 5th (4th)
  • Saves – 2nd (5th)
  • Strike Outs – 4th (5th)
  • Total Batting Points – 3rd-T (1st)
  • Total Pitching Points - 3rd (5th)
  • Total Points - 2nd (2nd)

Summary:

This is the 10 year anniversary of the last of the Darkhorses 4-peat championships.  While the franchise fell off a bit at the beginning of last decade, they have been a consistent title contender in recent years.  Last year, they had the best offense in the league, by a wide margin.  But a middle of the pack pitching staff prevented them from being able to keep up with the Kings.  Interestingly, these projections show their hitters taking a step back, but major improvement from the pitchers.  That league best offense from ’19 remains almost entirely intact.  There are several MVP candidates on this roster, including outfielders Christian Yelich and Bryce Harper, third baseman Alex Bregman, and if you consider positional value, catcher J.T. Realmuto should be on that list as well.  The Astros duo of George Springer and Michael Brantly round out a very solid outfield.  Xander Bogaerts, Josh Bell, Matt Chapman and newcomer Brandon Lowe complete an infield this is also well above average.  Really, there is no noticeable hole on the batting side of this roster.  The pitching staff received most of the attention in the draft, and could be a much improved group in 2020.  First round pick Chris Paddack joins a rotation that already has arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Jacob deGrom.  Jose Berrios and Patrick Corbin are solid mid-rotation pieces as well.  One player who should really benefit from the late start to the season is James Paxton, who would not have been healthy enough to pitch back in April, but should be good for a full season starting now.  The same could be said for reliever Corey Knebel, although his upside is limited in terms of saves.  Liam Hendriks, Brad Hand and Taylor Rogers form a very strong trio of closers that should put the Darkhorses near the top of the saves category.  If you think these projections might be a little light on the Darkhorses power potential, they probably should be viewed as the favorites to win it all this season.  No team enters the season with a more complete, and currently healthy roster.

Jay’s Jackalope

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 6th (10th)
  • Home Runs - 1st (5th)
  • Runs Batted In - 1st (3rd)
  • Runs Scored - 5th (8th)
  • Stolen Bases – 5th (4th)
  • Earned Run Average - 1st (7th)
  • WHIP Ratio - 2nd (5th)
  • Wins - 3rd (5th-T)
  • Saves – 8th (9th)
  • Strike Outs - 1st (7th)
  • Total Batting Points – 2nd (6th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 1st (7th)
  • Total Points - 1st (7th)

Summary:

These projections are a little shocking, especially on the pitching side of things.  As mentioned up top, the Jackalope have a recent history of not meeting expectations, at least those established by using this projection system.  So maybe being picked as the favorite for the second consecutive year isn’t a great thing.  The batting projections make some sense because this roster is loaded with good hitters.  Reigning Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up Ronald Acuna leads the way.  His five category prowess gives the Jackalope a solid base on which to build.  If healthy, Giancarlo Stanton is a nice second piece in the outfield.  Ryan Braun could be one of the top beneficiaries to the full time DH in the National League.  The Jackalope infield is solid all around, led by veterans Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Paul Goldschmidt.  First round pick Keston Hiura has exciting potential as well.  He could be the best pure hitter taken in the draft this year, despite not having as much acclaim as the players taken ahead of him.  Gary Sanchez remains one of the best offensive catchers in baseball.  There is a lot to like about the Jackalope’s offensive potential.  Where I think they may have a hard time reaching these projections is on the mound.  The methodology used to create these numbers may be inflating the pitching numbers a bit because of the lack of depth in the rotation.  With Luis Severino out for the year, the Jackalope only have five healthy starting pitchers entering the season.  So the gaudy numbers of Gerrit Cole aren’t weighed down by any depth pieces.  If the rotation stays completely healthy, they should be in good shape.  If not… well, things could get ugly.  Luis Castillo and Tyler Glasnow will be Cole’s sidekicks.  Dinelson Lamet was a nice addition to the rotation.  The bullpen is a concern.  Raisel Iglesias is the only closer with pretty good job security.  Sean Doolittle should get the bulk of the save opportunities early on though.  Clearly, the Jackalope have the talent needed to win the title despite four straight seasons in the bottom half of the league.  But I’m not sure I would anoint them as the favorites, as these projections do.

 

Now that we’ve taken a glance at all ten teams, it is time to post the full projected standings.  First, here are the numbers my spreadsheets spit out for this 60-game schedule:

And here is what my original 162-game projections looked like when I compiled them after the draft in late March. Keep in mind that these were computed using projections for some players who have since gotten hurt or opted out of the season:

Baseball is back! I hope you enjoy the start of the season.

2020 Season Preview: Part III

July 22nd, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
None of the remaining five teams, projected to finish in the top half of the standings, are huge surprises.  The three teams that will be covered in this installment of the 2020 DTBL season preview all finished in the top half of the standings last year as well.  Perhaps you will be a little surprised to see a couple of the teams below today rather than in tomorrow’s article covering the projected top two teams.  Regardless, we are now getting to teams that are a little more balanced than those covered previously, and might have more margin for error if they lose some players for extended periods of time this season.  The projected gap between these three teams is just four points in the standings, so the order in which they appear isn’t particularly meaningful.  These are teams that should have championship aspirations.  Here are the teams projected to finish third through fifth this season.

Mike’s Moonshiners

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 8th (9th)
  • Home Runs – 4th (6th)
  • Runs Batted In – 4th (6th)
  • Runs Scored – 9th (5th)
  • Stolen Bases - 10th (8th)
  • Earned Run Average – 3rd (4th)
  • WHIP Ratio - 1st (3rd)
  • Wins - 1st (3rd)
  • Saves – 5th (6th)
  • Strike Outs – 6th (2nd)
  • Total Batting Points – 9th (8th)
  • Total Pitching Points - 2nd (4th)
  • Total Points – 5th (5th)

Summary:

No team’s 2019 results and 2020 projections are a closer match than the Moonshiners.  Their pitching staff flew somewhat under the radar a year ago as a very solid group and could be even better this year.  Meanwhile, their offense still appears to be below average, but should be a little more powerful than the 2019 edition.  That power surge could come in the form of first round pick Vladimir Guerroro Jr, for whom these projections point towards a big second MLB season.  He joins an infield full of mashers, whose lack of defensive prowess is obviously a non-factor for the Moonshiners:  Miguel Sano, Rafael Devers, Max Muncy and Tim Anderson.  Devers could be a legitimate MVP candidate in a shortened season.  He and Guerrero give the Moonshiners elite potential that they have been lacking offensively in recent years.  The outfield is not so deep though.  Michael Conforto and Khris Davis lead that group.  The Moonshiners pitching staff is full of veterans with surprisingly high upside considering their age and experience.  Charlie Morton has been one of the most underrated pitchers in the league for several years now.  Yu Darvish seemed to return to his old, dominating self down the stretch last year.  Zack Greinke and Kyle Hendricks are steady and reliable as well.  But the huge wild card for the Moonshiners in 2020 is Shohei Ohtani, who will return to the mound for the first time since 2018 and the first time ever in this league.  The fact that he will only pitch once a week shouldn’t hurt his value too much as he figures to start just a couple fewer games than other starters who pitch all season.  It is hard to predict what the Moonshiners will get from their bullpen.  Edwin Diaz was brutal a year ago, but was the best reliever in baseball before that.  Roberto Osuna might not be ready to go on Opening Day, but figures to return soon after.  Jesus Luzardo is returning from COVID-19 and is an exciting possibility should he be part of the A’s rotation, as expected.  The Moonshiners are still looking for their first DTBL title and haven’t really been involved in a pennant race since 2012.  That could definitely change this year.

Kevin’s Kings

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 10th (8th)
  • Home Runs – 6th (3rd)
  • Runs Batted In – 8th (2nd)
  • Runs Scored – 3rd (2nd)
  • Stolen Bases - 4th (5th)
  • Earned Run Average – 5th (2nd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 4th (1st)
  • Wins – 2nd (1st)
  • Saves – 6th (1st)
  • Strike Outs – 2nd (1st)
  • Total Batting Points – 7th (3rd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 4th (1st)
  • Total Points – 4th (1st)

Summary:

Perhaps it is a bit surprising to see the two-time defending champions projected to drop down to fourth place.  But there are a number of reasons to expect a decline from the Kings this year, some of which aren’t even totally reflected in these numbers.  The Kings have won those recent titles despite not having a very deep roster.  The triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Mookie Betts have been largely responsible for the Kings recent success.  Scherzer and Verlander aren’t getting any younger and it is fair to wonder if their performance might start dropping off soon.  If so, it remains to be seen if they have others capable of picking up the slack.  Besides Betts, Marcus Semien was their next most important hitter a year ago.  He will be out to prove that wasn’t a fluke.  Matt Olson, Mike Moustakas, Rhys Hoskins and Jonathan Villar give the Kings a steady, if not exciting infield.  One player who the Kings could really use a big season from is Carlos Correa who has been nagged by injuries for a couple years now.  The outfield also contains some solid players with somewhat limited upside in David Dahl, Max Kepler and Oscar Mercado.  The catching duo of Will Smith and Sean Murphy is inexperienced, but quite interesting.  As usual, the Kings ability to remain a championship contender will depend on their veteran superstar pitchers.  They will hope Frankie Montas steps up to be the heir apparent to either Scherzer or Verlander.  Reacquiring Lance McCullers, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, could pay off as well.  And Zack Wheeler is still around, but there are questions regarding his availability this season with his wife due any day now.  The bullpen got quite a makeover despite leading the league in saves last year.  Hector Neris and Archie Bradley are the incumbents, and also the only safe bets to keep their closer jobs.  The Kings have enough pieces here to remain one of the better pitching teams in the league.  Expecting them to repeat last year’s 49 pitching point performance is probably unrealistic though.  And they might not have the bats needed to pick up the slack.  Defending a championship is never easy and the Kings will have an especially hard time doing so this year.

Marc’s Mavericks

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 1st (3rd)
  • Home Runs - 2nd (4th)
  • Runs Batted In - 3rd (5th)
  • Runs Scored - 2nd (4th)
  • Stolen Bases – 9th (10th)
  • Earned Run Average - 2nd (1st)
  • WHIP Ratio – 5th (2nd)
  • Wins – 8th (5th-T)
  • Saves – 7th (2nd-T)
  • Strike Outs – 8th (6th)
  • Total Batting Points – 1st (4th-T)
  • Total Pitching Points – 6th (3rd)
  • Total Points - 3rd (4th)

Summary:

Even though the Mavericks are projected to finish a spot higher than they did a year ago, this still feels like a fairly pessimistic outlook.  It is hard to imagine a pitching staff that features Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw finishing in the bottom half of the league in pitching points.  The batting projections should be worrisome to the rest of the league.  An offense that was already loaded with talent might be even better now.  It seems like most of the teams I have covered to this point have had pretty mediocre, or worse, outfield situations.  That could be because the Mavericks have been hoarding all of the superstar outfielders.  No team can match the Mavericks’ top three outfielders of Mike Trout, Juan Soto and Aaron Judge.  Nick Castellanos is pretty good too.  And now they are joined by first round pick Eloy Jimenez.  This truly feels like an embarrassment of riches.  The infield isn’t too shabby either with Manny Machado, Ozzie Albies and Javy Baez.  Perhaps the only concern the Mavericks have at the moment is a hole at catcher with Buster Posey opting out of the season.  But that should be pretty easy to fill.  As mentioned, their starting pitching is elite.  Flaherty was probably the best pitcher in baseball in the second half of 2019.  Strasburg was untouchable in October.  Kershaw still seems to have plenty in the tank too.  Then there are promising youngsters Mike Soroka and Dustin May, along with Julio Urias who should get a full season’s worth of starts for the first time in his career.  Their rotation depth did take a bit of a hit with Michael Kopech opting out.  The Mavericks don’t appear to have a great bullpen.  Kenley Jansen and Jose Leclerc are solid though.  And A.J. Puk could be a weapon, if his recent shoulder injury doesn’t wind up being too serious.  After a couple slightly disappointing seasons for the Mavericks, it would not be surprising to see these perennial contenders atop the standings again.

2020 Season Preview: Part II

July 21st, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
The first part of the 2020 DTBL season preview covered a pair of teams that were dealt serious blows to their 2020 aspirations many months ago.  But today, we’ll preview three teams that should probably feel pretty optimistic about their chances this season, for a variety of reasons.  First, a couple of these teams are projected to finish higher in the standings than they did a year ago.  All three appear to be relatively healthy heading into the season, despite some early COVID-19 scares.  With some exciting new faces on these rosters, gaping holes from a year ago have been filled as well.  While it may be hard to get fired up for a projected finish in the bottom half of the standings, these teams are absolutely championship contenders in a 60 game sprint.  Here are the teams projected to finish in sixth through eight places in the 2020 standings.

Dom’s Demigods

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 2nd (6th)
  • Home Runs – 10th (8th)
  • Runs Batted In – 7th (10th)
  • Runs Scored – 7th (10th)
  • Stolen Bases – 3rd (7th)
  • Earned Run Average – 8th (10th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 9th (10th)
  • Wins – 6th (10th)
  • Saves – 10th (10th)
  • Strike Outs – 3rd (10th)
  • Total Batting Points – 6th (9th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 8th (10th)
  • Total Points – 8th (10th)

Summary:

There is really no way to go but up for the Demigods after a disastrous 2019.  It was the worst season in franchise history, finishing dead last with just 19 standings points.  That season was an outlier in almost every respect.  They had finished in the top half of the standings the previous five years.  What had been one of the league’s best offenses just one year prior suddenly fell to ninth, and a consistently above average pitching staff managed to finish last in all five pitching categories.  So what will it take to return to their usual form?  Adding Fernando Tatis with the first overall pick in the draft should fix a lot of weaknesses.  He joins Francisco Lindor and Jose Altuve to make up what might be the best middle infield in the league.  So far, Freddie Freeman seems to have been the baseball player who suffered the worst symptoms from COVID-19.  Fortunately, he appears to be fully healthy now and should be ready to go soon.  Ketel Marte and Austin Meadows were among the few bright spots for the Demigods last year and should headline the outfield crew again.  Meadows is currently sidelined with coronavirus, but assuming he returns healthy, this group looks pretty decent too.  The projections show J.D. Martinez continuing to be an offensive force as well.  Pitching is where things get a little dicey.  Again, they can’t possibly be any worse than last year.  Aaron Nola is clearly the staff ace and Max Fried has exciting upside.  You just don’t know for sure what you are getting from anyone else.  Corey Kluber has been on the decline for a while and is now pitching in Texas.  Zac Gallen is an intriguing young arm though, and it will be interested to see how Kenta Maeda’s return to the rotation goes in Minnesota.  The Demigods will look to their bullpen to rack up a lot of strikeouts, but probably not many saves.  Nobody on the roster is a projected closer to start the season.  Josh James could be pretty interesting if he winds up in the Astros rotation.  Expect the Demigods to prove last year was an aberration.  If they get off to a hot start, 2019 will be quickly forgotten.

Kat’s Komodos

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 9th (5th)
  • Home Runs – 3rd (10th)
  • Runs Batted In – 2nd (8th)
  • Runs Scored – 6th (7th)
  • Stolen Bases - 2nd (1st)
  • Earned Run Average – 10th (6th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 8th (8th)
  • Wins – 7th (8th)
  • Saves – 3rd (7th)
  • Strike Outs – 9th (9th)
  • Total Batting Points – 3rd-T (7th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 9th (8th)
  • Total Points – 7th (8th)

Summary:

These batting projections for the Komodos are quite interesting.  A team that finished near the bottom of the league in the power categories (HR, RBI) last year is now expected to be among the league’s best.  And this is despite the fact that the only seemingly significant power addition to the roster was first round pick Yordan Alvarez.  Alvarez is indeed a major power addition, but this also may point to some underachieving from the roster in this regard last year.  Jose Ramirez definitely underachieved early last season, but returned to form in the second half.  He is one of the best power/speed players in all of baseball.  Cody Bellinger is one of the best players, period.  And then there are Joey Gallo and Nelson Cruz who also figure to be near the top of the leaderboard in the power categories.  So yeah, those projections actually make sense.  Maybe the one player who will be most important for the Komodos to improve upon last year’s numbers, by staying healthy, is shortstop Corey Seager.  Rougned Odor was a sneaky good add to the infield as well, according to these projections.  Like the Demigods though, the success of the Komodos this year will depend on what they get from their pitching staff.  It was basically a one man show in their 2019 rotation with Walker Buehler being the only one to accumulate a positive PAR.  While he is a capable ace, he’ll need some help this year.  Unfortunately, two of their other top starters, Jose Quintana and Jake Odorizzi, may not be ready to go on Opening Day (definitely not in Quintana’s case).  The rest of the rotation will be filled with steady, but not spectacular veterans.  The bullpen looks to be very good though.  Kirby Yates and Aroldis Chapman give the Komodos two of the top closers in the game.  Brandon Workman was a nice addition to provide them with three guys likely to earn a lot of saves this season.  Dating back to their days as the Gators, these two franchises haven’t finished higher than eighth place since 2010.  With an exciting offense to lean on, this could be the year that changes.

Kelly’s Cougars

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 7th (2nd)
  • Home Runs – 5th (2nd)
  • Runs Batted In – 9th (4th)
  • Runs Scored – 4th (3rd)
  • Stolen Bases – 7th (6th)
  • Earned Run Average – 6th (8th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 6th (9th)
  • Wins – 4th (9th)
  • Saves – 4th (8th)
  • Strike Outs – 5th (8th)
  • Total Batting Points – 8th (2nd)
  • Total Pitching Points – 5th (9th)
  • Total Points – 6th (6th)

Summary:

Now we come to what might be the most interesting set of projections in this entire series.  At first glance, a sixth place finish for a team that finished sixth last year doesn’t seem particularly notable.  But look at that category breakdown.  The Cougars surprised many be compiling the second most batting points in the league in 2019.  They were unable to remain competitive though because their pitching staff really let them down.  And now we are seeing the exact opposite in these projections.  The Cougars are the first team covered in this series that appears to have a pretty strong pitching staff.  Yet they are expected to be dragged down by the hitters that carried them a year ago.  Two players who likely won’t be responsible for a fall in batting points are middle infielders Gleyber Torres and Trevor Story.  Kris Bryant and Eugenio Suarez complete a pretty strong infield.  Where they may be a bit lacking in star power is in the outfield.  Tommy Pham has the highest PAR projection of that group, but that’s at a modest 1.1.  This is a veteran group as well, so there might be limited upside.  The pairing of Yadier Molina and Salvador Perez behind the plate should be pretty good though.  The pitching staff should easily lead the Cougars to more pitching points this year.  Lucas Giolito joins Blake Snell to form a great, and relatively young, top of the rotation.  Sonny Gray experienced a career resurgence last year in Cincinnati.  The Cougars will hope for the same from Madison Bumgarner who will now be pitching in Arizona.  The bullpen is pretty intriguing as well.  Alex Colome is the veteran closer in the group, but Nick Anderson is probably the most exciting member.  The peripheral numbers indicate that he has a chance to become one of the next great relievers in the league.  If Hansel Robles proves last year wasn’t a fluke, the Cougars could find themselves near the top of the league in saves.  There is a lot to like about this Cougars roster.  Some combination of last year’s offensive output and these healthy projections for the pitching staff would make the Cougars a darkhorse contender in 2020.

2020 Season Preview: Part I

July 20th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
We are now just days away from the start of the 2020 baseball season.  It has been nearly four long months since the season was originally scheduled to start and a whole lot has changed since.  From a DTBL perspective, we are about to start the most unpredictable season in league history.  For the first time since 1995, the league’s third season, the MLB regular season won’t be a full 162 games.  The ’94-’95 labor stoppage brought the ’94 season to a halt just past the 110 game mark for most teams and the ’95 season started late and featured 144 games per team.  2020 is going to be a whole different ballgame though, with just 60 regular season games scheduled per team.  I wouldn’t rule out any team from winning the league over such a short time frame.  And the margins within the statistical categories will be so small that teams will still be shifting several points on a nearly daily basis as the season draws to a close.

Last year, we reached the 60 game mark around June 4.  At that time, the Darkhorses were in first place, with the Kings 1 1/2 points behind.  While those two teams did go on to finish in the top two spots, what is most interesting about the standings from that date is that six teams were within 10 points of first place and still would have been very much alive for the championship if the season had ended at that time.  Expect that to happen this year as well.  A majority of the teams will be very much alive in the closing weeks of the season.

Besides the compact schedule, there are a bunch of other reasons why this figures to be the most unpredictable season in league history.  First, there is the very real and scary prospect of players continuing to contract COVID-19.  Hopefully the threat of that will be somewhat mitigated by the rigorous testing regime they are going through, but it would not be surprising to see many key players lose a significant chunk of their season if they test positive.  And then there are the players who have already opted out of playing this season and others could continue to do so as the season progresses.  Finally, with such a short ramp up period leading into the season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see injury rates increase this year as well.

So how do you go about predicting what is going to happen in such an unpredictable season?  Well, I’m going to stick to my usual method of previewing the season using projected stats and standings based on FanGraph’s Depth Charts projections, which combine ZiPS and Steamer projections and adjust for expected playing time.  I initially grabbed these projections back in early March and computed the standings after the draft was completed.  But it didn’t make sense to base my season projections on 162 game numbers, so I redid everything last week.  In the final article of this series, I will display the projected standings from both sets of numbers.  They are fairly similar, which makes sense since most players’ projections haven’t changed other than reducing their counting stat totals to about 37% of the original numbers.  But there are some players who now no longer have projections, including those who have suffered season ending injuries or opted out of the season in the past several months.

There are too many grains of salt to count with these projections.  So I’m really just using this as a basis to go over each team and remind you who is on each roster, and perhaps using the projections to form a general impression of each team’s strengths and weaknesses.  I stand by my comment above that I believe any of the ten teams could win the league this year.  But somebody has to be last in the projections.  Here are the two teams slated to finish in the bottom spots in the standings, who are both attempting to overcome huge blows to their pitching staffs.

Ben’s Beanballers

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 5th (4th)
  • Home Runs – 8th (7th)
  • Runs Batted In – 6th (7th)
  • Runs Scored – 8th (6th)
  • Stolen Bases - 1st (2nd)
  • Earned Run Average – 9th (3rd)
  • WHIP Ratio – 10th (4th)
  • Wins – 10th (2nd)
  • Saves – 9th (2nd-T)
  • Strike Outs – 10th (4th)
  • Total Batting Points – 5th (4th-T)
  • Total Pitching Points – 10th (2nd)
  • Total Points – 10th (3rd)

Summary:

The league newcomers are projected to finish last in their inaugural campaign.  That would be a disappointing result considering the roster they inherited from the Naturals finished in third place last year.  But this is not the same team by any stretch.  No team has been hit harder by roster losses since March than the Beanballers.  First, staff ace Noah Syndergaard was lost for the season due to Tommy John surgery.  And then one of the players who would have been counted on to pick up the slack, David Price, opted out of playing this season.  Price is the most fantasy relevant player to opt out so far.  That’s two huge losses to a pitching staff that had the second most points in the league in 2019, but is projected to have the fewest this year.  Without Syndergaard and Price, the Beanballers are going to need huge seasons from their remaining pitchers, most notably Mike Clevinger and Hyun-Jin Ryu.  The back of the rotation could be a problem though.  One wild card could be Carlos Martinez, who is expected to move into the Cardinals rotation and could provide a nice spark from a RP slot.  The bullpen does not figure to rack up many saves though.  Only Josh Hader enters the season as a likely closer.  While the pitching staff will need to significantly overachieve for the Beanballers to compete, the offense is more than capable.  Third baseman Nolan Arenado and shortstop Trea Turner have the best projections, but this is a deep group.  First round draft pick Bo Bichette adds another exciting option to their infield.  The outfield isn’t quite as impressive, but if one of last year’s biggest surprises, Jorge Soler, has another big year, the Beanballers figure to be in decent shape there too.  The one area where the Naturals are clearly among the league’s top teams is speed.  Turner, Bichette and Victor Robles lead a group that should be near the top of the stolen bases category.  For the Beanballers sake, hopefully the early roster casualties won’t continue to mount.  There is more than enough talent on this team to make this an exciting maiden voyage for the Beanballers.

Charlie’s Thunder Choppers

Category – Projected Rank (2019 Rank)

  • Batting Average – 4th (7th)
  • Home Runs – 9th (9th)
  • Runs Batted In – 10th (9th)
  • Runs Scored – 10th (9th)
  • Stolen Bases – 8th (9th)
  • Earned Run Average – 7th (9th)
  • WHIP Ratio – 7th (6th)
  • Wins – 9th (7th)
  • Saves – 1st (4th)
  • Strike Outs – 7th (3rd)
  • Total Batting Points – 10th (10th)
  • Total Pitching Points – 7th (6th)
  • Total Points - 9th (9th)

Summary:

The Choppers offense struggled mightily a year ago, which was largely why they fell all the way to ninth place, their worst finish in over a decade.  In the recently completed DTBL 2020 Sim, the Choppers actually led the league in runs scored.  But here we are with a projection for them to finish last in runs, RBI and total batting points.  Second overall draft pick Pete Alonso might be their best offensive player from day one.  There are a bunch of other guys who remain as question marks due to health entering this season.  Will Andrew McCutchen bounce back from his knee injury last year?  Will Anthony Rizzo’s back cause him to miss time?  Willie Calhoun and Lourdes Gurriel are also dealing with injuries at the moment and D.J. LeMahieu just returned from a positive COVID-19 test.  Things don’t look great for this offense entering the season, but hopefully this is just a short term blip.  On paper, the pitching staff looks much better.  But like the Beanballers, they are going to have to go through this season without their best pitcher.  Chris Sale succumbed to Tommy John surgery in March and won’t be available until sometime in 2021.  They do have some interesting alternatives though.  First, Shane Bieber and Trevor Bauer return to anchor the staff.  Second round draft pick Brandon Woodruff has a chance to be the best of the bunch.  And they took a late flier on intriguing rookie Mitch Keller.  The strength of the entire roster is the bullpen.  They are projected to lead the league in saves, with four guys slated to pick up a bulk of the opportunities for their MLB clubs:  Ken Giles, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Jimenez and Brandon Kintzler.  Despite these fairly bleak projections, I think the Choppers could be one of the teams that benefits the most from the shortened season, assuming the early health issues to their hitters don’t linger.  This is largely a veteran squad that could be uniquely qualified to handle whatever is thrown at them this year, more so than a team full of youngsters.  Also, the loss of Chris Sale is less catastrophic in a shortened season than it would have been over six months.

DTBL Sim: Mavericks Win Title

July 19th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
The Mavericks were clearly the best team in the DTBL 2020 Sim league, nearly from the start of the season to the finish.  Yes, they trailed the Demigods by a couple games at the mid-season mark, but the underlying numbers pointed to them being the better team.  That certainly manifested itself in the second half when the Mavericks cruised out in front and won the regular season title by seven games.  But in a couple best-of-seven series against solid teams, anything can happen.  Yet the Mavericks continued to exert their strength throughout the Postseason.  They topped the Demigods in six games in the Semi-Finals and then dominated the Choppers in the World Series, finishing them off in five games.  Marc’s Mavericks are the DTBL 2020 Sim Champions.

While it would have been tough to predict what to expect in such a sim league, the Mavericks winning it all is not a huge surprise.  What was surprising was the overall composition of the playoff field.  The Choppers and Demigods finished in ninth and tenth places in the DTBL in 2019.  They finished second and fourth in this league.  The Choppers numbers indicate that they may be better constructed for a real baseball setup than a fantasy league because they led the league in several areas that play no role in fantasy baseball.  They were #1 in all defensive metrics and in base running efficiency.  That said, they were a strong offensive team as well, leading the league in runs.  The Demigods were probably the league’s most overachieving team.  They rode that hot start to a playoff spot despite being below average in both run scored and runs allowed.  The fourth playoff qualifier, the Kings, were not a surprise postseason participant, but never really displayed any sort of dominance in this league.  They were simply an above average team in almost all aspects.

Then there were the Mavericks, who were rode a deep lineup and easily the league’s best pitching staff to the regular season and World Series championships.  They finished second in Batting WAR and first in Pitching WAR, by a wide margin.  Their 3.60 team ERA was basically 7/10 of a run better than the next best team.  On the individual player front, the leaderboards were loaded with Mavericks.  Juan Soto and Mike Trout finished second and third in both WAR (7.1/6.4) and OPS (.930/.897).  Jack Flaherty led the league in ERA (2.36), strikeouts (257) and Pitching WAR (5.9).  Stephen Strasburg was top three in those categories as well and won more games than any other pitcher (19).  No team could match the Mavericks lineup and rotation depth.  Aaron Judge and Javy Baez are pretty scary bottom third of the order hitters.  And I don’t think Clayton Kershaw would have been all the way down in the fourth spot of any other team’s rotation.

The Postseason played out to form with the favored teams winning all three series.  The Demigods did give the Mavericks a bit of a scare, winning Game 1 and forcing the series back to Maui where the Mavericks eventually finished it in an exciting Game 6 that went extra innings before Mike Trout hit a walk-off three run homer to send the Mavericks to the World Series.  The Kings/Choppers series also lasted six games and featured a couple wild ones.  The Choppers stole Game 2 by scoring six runs in the bottom of the 9th to shock the Kings 13-12.  Then they won a critical Game 4 by a score of 8-5 in 10 innings to tie up the series.  The Choppers would go on to win the next two to close out the series.  Bullpens struggled for both teams in this series, especially for the Kings.

The World Series was pretty one sided on the whole, but did end with a couple exciting games.  The Mavericks cruised to victories in the first three games, each of which featured Mavericks starting pitchers stifling the Choppers offense.  Jack Flaherty, Stephen Strasburg and Mike Soroka were nearly untouchable.  The Choppers showed some life in Game 4, putting up 11 runs which was eight more than they had scored in the previous three games combined.  But it was back to pitching domination in Game 5, this time by both teams with Flaherty and Chris Sale throwing nearly identical seven inning gems.  The game was scoreless until the ninth inning when Eloy Jimenez hit a three run homer.  The Choppers rallied in the bottom half, but only pushed across one run, so the Mavericks won the decisive game 3-1.  Jimenez’s huge Game 5 homer was his fourth of the series.  He was named World Series MVP.

Not surprisingly, the Mavericks were well represented among the full season award winners as well.  Jack Flaherty was the unanimous choice for the Cy Young award, with teammate Stephen Strasburg finishing second.  Kings outfielder Mookie Betts took the Most Valuable Player honor with the Mavericks trio of Juan Soto, Mike Trout and Flaherty all finishing in the top five as well.  Moonshiners LHP Brendan McKay might have been the most surprising star of the season.  He took home the Rookie of the Year award for his efforts.

I hope you enjoyed following along with this sim the past four months.  It was no substitute for the real thing, but it was nice to have some baseball to digest during these difficult times.  Fortunately, it appears we will have some real fantasy baseball (how about that oxymoron?) to follow starting later this week.  With that, I will be kicking off my 2020 DTBL season preview articles tomorrow.