DTBL Sim: Mid-Season Review

May 8th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
We’ve reached the exact mid-point of the 2020 DTBL Sim regular season.  81 games down, 81 to go.  I thought I would use this milestone as an opportunity to review what we’ve seen so far.  Overall, I’m very pleased with the results.  I’ve enjoyed looking through the box scores each day and even occasionally playing out a game in front of me in OOTP.  It had been my only way of getting my baseball fix, until this week when ESPN starting airing live Korea Baseball Organization games.  Normally, I would have absolutely no interest in the KBO.  But there is nothing normal about our current way of life and I’ve been grateful to have been able to watch live baseball games.  Anyway, back to the DTBL sim.  I’m going to go over some general league-wide trends and then will do a quick review of each team’s performance thus far.

First, a little bit about how OOTP sims work, that goes beyond anything I described before the season started.  When a league is created in OOTP, it uses a set of league modifiers to influence the outcomes of the game sim engine.  Basically, this is a set of statistical outcomes that are expected throughout the course of the full season.  The primary set of numbers are:  AB, H, 2B, 3B, HR, BB, HBP, K and BABIP.  From those numbers, an expected triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) is computed.  I used the game’s default settings for its MLB universe, which I believe are primarily based on the 2019 season.  The resulting expected triple slash line for this league is .252/.325/.435, which is nearly identical to 2019 MLB’s .252/.323/.435.  There are also modifiers for things like groundball rate, pitcher stamina, base-running and defensive rates.  But I’m not totally sure I understand how all of those work, so I’m definitely not going to get into that here.  To sum it all up though, these modifiers are used by the sim engine to influence the results such that over the course of the full season, you should expect to see the league wide results come close to these numbers.  This means that the complete results are based on these modifiers, not the cumulative quality of the players within the game.  So a league filled with nothing but Mike Trout level hitters would produce relatively similar offensive results as a league filled with nothing but slap-hitters.  Thus, it is players’ quality relative to their peers within this sim that influences how they perform in this game, not how they actually perform in a real MLB universe.  So it is safe to assume that *most* players will produce worse stat lines in this sim compared to the MLB sim I am concurrently running since there are far more lower quality players in the MLB sim.

Getting back to that expected slash line of .252/.323/.435, you may wonder, how is that looking so far?  Well, as of today, the league-wide slash line is .248/.320/.429.  Of course, these numbers change daily and I know the league average was over .250 fairly recently.  So these results are pretty much in line with what I would expect.  But there is one stat that is a bit out of whack right now which is having an effect on other numbers as well:  strike out rate.  The current K% is 25.6%, which is pretty significantly higher than 2019 MLB’s record-breaking mark of 23.0%.  I noticed very early on that strikeouts were well above what I expected and it hasn’t really come down much since.  So this is something I will continue to monitor.  I expect the rate will eventually drop a bit, but at this point, I’m not certain.  Maybe there is something about the composition of this league full of power pitchers, with plenty of hitters who strike out a ton as well, that is causing the game to succumb to more than expected strikeouts.  But I’m not really sure.  I believe this is the primary culprit for scoring being down a bit from what I expected as well.  Teams are averaging 4.7 runs per game, which is a little lower than MLB’s 4.8 in 2019.  Not a huge difference though, so I don’t consider this to be a problem.  Nor do I consider the strikeout rate to be a problem either.  More of a curiosity.

As for the DTBL teams, it has been quite an unexpected season thus far.  First place is currently held by the Demigods, who of course finished dead last in our league a season ago.  It has been a tight race all season though.  At least half of the teams have held first place at some point.  All ten teams have winning percentages that fall between .400 and .600, so there are no extraordinarily great or terrible teams.  Even the teams at the bottom of the standings could get right back into the playoff mix with a hot streak.  As a reminder, the top four teams will make the playoffs.  Currently, those spots are occupied by the Demigods, Mavericks, Choppers and Kings.  But the other six teams are all within eight games of the Kings.  Let’s go team-by-team to see how things are progressing.  I’ll go in the order of the current standings.

Demigods (48-33, 1st place) – Definitely the surprise of the league so far.  They are currently riding a six game winning streak and are 14-5 in June.  It has been a combination of good hitting and pitching as they rank 3rd and 2nd in runs scored and allowed.  Francisco Lindor is making a strong MVP case, second in the league in WAR at 3.4.  He is hitting .300 with a dozen homers and stolen bases.  The pitching staff has been solid, pretty much from top to bottom.  Corey Kluber leads the league with 11 wins (2 more than any other pitcher), but actually has the highest ERA of the rotation (4.71).  German Marquez and Aaron Nola have been great as well.

Mavericks (46-35, 2nd place, 2 GB) – Statistically speaking, the Mavericks have probably been the league’s best team to date.  They have the best pythag record, based on run difference.  They are second in runs scored and easily lead the way in fewest runs allowed and an impressive 3.74 staff ERA.  After getting off to a bit of a slow start, Mike Trout has resumed his usual status as the Mavericks best player with a 3.3 WAR.  Javy Baez and Manny Machado have each slugged 17 homers.  Jack Flaherty might be the front-runner for the Cy Young award.  He comfortably leads the league in ERA at 2.18 and is also the leader in strikeouts (137).  One question mark entering the season was how their very young bullpen would hold up.  So far, so good.  A.J. Puk, Dustin May and Michael Kopech have all been outstanding.

Choppers (45-36, 3rd place, 3 GB) – After the Demigods, the Choppers have been the next most pleasant surprise.  They have held the top spot in the standings on several occasions.  If you have ever wondered how a team would play in Coors Field if it were located somewhere closer to sea level, this might be your answer.  The Choppers have the league’s best offense, using the spacious outfield of their home park to lead the league in batting average and extra base hits despite being in the bottom half in home runs.  They have scored 34 more runs than any other team.  Pete Alonso and Anthony Rizzo have been the offensive stars.  The guy who has really been a surprise is Harrison Bader, who has 15 home runs and a respectable .252 average despite an alarming 124 strikeouts.  The pitching staff has held its own as well.  A healthy Chris Sale and Shane Bieber have anchored the staff.

Kings (42-39, 4th place, 6 GB) – The final playoff spot is currently occupied by the two-time defending champs.  It has been a roller coaster season for the Kings who are now trying to steady the ship after a spectacular March and April, followed by a terrible May.  The offense has been a microcosm of the actual Kings results the past couple years:  a whole lot of Mookie Betts and not much else.  Betts leads the league in WAR (4.0), AVG (.337), SLG (.580), OPS (.967), 2B (28), RBI (57) and a couple other categories.  The only other Kings hitter who has been having a notably decent season is Marcus Semien.  The pitching staff has been pretty good, but not great.  Max Scherzer was awesome for the first month or so, but has been struggling a bit of late.  Justin Verlander has been disappointing.  Lance McCullers has probably been the second best Kings pitcher.

Beanballers (41-40, 5th place, 7 GB) – The Beanballers have been steadily hovering around .500, keeping themselves in close striking distance of a playoff spot.  Jorge Soler is tied for the league lead in home runs with 20 and Trea Turner leads the way with 17 stolen bases.  Yoan Moncada and Nolan Arenado have been their best overall players, with Moncada moved over to his former position of second base to allow Arenado to man the hot corner.  Hyun-Jin Ryu has led the way on the pitching side, putting up numbers similar to his first half of 2019.  He has a 2.46 ERA and a WHIP below 1.0.  The Beanballers rank in the middle of almost every significant statistical category, both hitting and pitching.  A very average team, you could say, to this point.

Cougars (39-42, 6th place, 9 GB) – At one point, it was the Cougars who were the league’s biggest surprise.  But they have fallen on hard times of late, having lost eight straight and 17 out of 22.  They do still lead the league in home runs, but that lead has been shrinking as well.  Gleyber Torres has been their best player.  He leads the way among seven players with double digit home runs.  But it has been an all-or-nothing season for many of their hitters, including Kris Bryant who has a disappointing .211 average to go along with 16 bombs.  The pitching staff has been the bigger problem lately.  Blake Snell has been great (7-3, 2.62 ERA), but has gotten little help.  Sonny Gray did win Pitcher of the Month in May though.  Closer Nick Anderson is the only pitcher besides Snell with an ERA under 4.

Darkhorses (37-44, 7th place-T, 11 GB) – The Darkhorses, on the other hand, have been trending up.  They got off to a disappointing start and found themselves in last place at times in April and May.  But they have now won six of their last seven series as the offense has sparked the improvement.  Eight of their nine regular starters have reached double digit home runs.  While no player has numbers that pop out, it has been a solid group effort.  Alex Bregman has 17 home runs and Brandon Lowe leads the team in WAR (2.2).  If they can get Christian Yelich back on track (.237, 1.2 WAR), this offense could be very dangerous in the second half.  The pitching staff, particularly the rotation, has been disappointing.  All of the starters, besides Patrick Corbin, have ERAs north of 5.0.  That includes Jacob deGrom, who shockingly has an ERA of 5.05.  Perhaps he has been a tad unlucky though as his FIP sits at 4.23.  The Darkhorses do not appear to be a very good defensive team, which probably isn’t helping those pitching numbers.

Komodos (37-44, 7th place-T, 11 GB) – It has been a rough season for the Komodos offense.  They rank dead last in almost every offensive category.  They are averaging a half run per game fewer than the next worst team.  Cody Bellinger has pretty much been the lone offensive bright spot, but even he might be considered a slight disappointment with just 11 homers for a player who you might expect to be a MVP candidate.  Fortunately for the Komodos, the pitching staff has been solid, allowing them to stay afloat.  Jose Quintana has been their ace with a 3.31 ERA.  Anibal Sanchez has surprisingly strong numbers too, leading the team with nine wins.  The bullpen has been very good as well.

Moonshiners (36-45, 9th place, 12 GB) – The Moonshiners are just now starting to climb out of the hole that their pitching staff put them into early on this season.  The stats don’t paint a pretty picture here as the Moonshiners rank ninth in runs scored and last in runs allowed.  But things have been getting a little better.  The 5.05 team ERA is pretty bad, but is better than it was a couple weeks ago.  The rotation has been a big problem.  40% of it consists of pitchers with ERAs over 6.00.  Opening Day starter Charlie Morton had arguably been the worst pitcher in the league until a few weeks ago.  Now he has some competition with a few of his teammates.  On a positive note, Kyle Hendricks has been solid and steady.  This is probably the league’s worst defensive team, which also hurts the pitching numbers and the WAR totals for the hitters.  The team leader in WAR among position players is Rafael Devers at 1.6.

Jackalope (34-47, 10th place, 14 GB) – Easy to say when referring to the last place team, but the Jackalope have been the biggest disappointment so far.  While maybe not one of the favorites, on paper, this looked like it could be a playoff team.  To be fair, they have been a bit unlucky with their record falling four games below the pythag mark.  But they just haven’t been consistent enough on the mound or at the plate.  That’s not to say it has all been bad though.  Ronald Acuna has been one of the best players in the league, on pace to challenge the 30/30 mark with 14 home runs and 15 steals.  Giancarlo Stanton is tied for the league lead with 20 home runs.  None of their pitchers have stood out though and Gerrit Cole has been notably disappointing with just five wins and a 4.91 ERA.  It has been a brutal June for the Jackalope as they are currently on a five game skid and have a 3-16 record in the month.  They’ll need to get that turned around soon to get back into the playoff hunt.

We’ll get the second half of the season started tonight.  We’re on pace to wrap up right around the time the MLB season could get started, under the most optimistic forecasts as of now, in early July.  But I can easily adjust the pace of the sims as the schedule dictates.  I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.  All the best to you.  And I hope you are enjoying this small distraction.

Filling the Baseball Void

March 22nd, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
First off, I hope you and your families are all doing well during these difficult times. The COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt affected us all, changing the way we go about our daily lives. While there are far more important things to worry about right now, the cessation of all sports has left a pretty gaping hole in my daily routine. That’s exacerbated by the fact that I suddenly have a whole lot of free time on my hands. So I’ve come up with a plan to try and help fill that void.

This Thursday was supposed to be MLB Opening Day and the start of our league’s season. Since that has been delayed indefinitely, I have a plan to occupy some of that time before baseball returns. I am going to set up and simulate two separate seasons within the Out of the Park Baseball game. For those of you unfamiliar with OOTP, it is probably the best baseball simulation game ever created. I can’t even begin to describe all of the features and customization options available in the game, so I’ll recommend checking out their website if you are interested in learning more.  The latest version of the game was just released a few days ago.  I’ve been playing it practically non-stop since.  While I have bought every version of the game the past 15 years or so, I’ve been a very casual player the past decade, usually not purchasing the game until it is time to set up the DTBL All-Star Game each summer.  But this year will be much different.  I’ve already gotten my money’s worth, and then some.  Enough of this infomercial for OOTP though.  Let’s get to my plan.

As I stated above, I am going to simulate two separate seasons within OOTP.  One is going to be a simulation of a real life MLB universe and the second will be configured for the DTBL.  I am inviting all of you to participate in the DTBL sim, if you so desire.  But first, let me describe the MLB sim.

I am going to create a full MLB universe in OOTP, including all 30 MLB teams and their full minor league affiliates.  This is one of the default out-of-the-box options in OOTP.  It has a full roster set of real players with ratings that reflect their skills to an incredibly accurate degree.  I will keep pretty much all of the default settings in the game, which mimic MLB rules and regulations.  To give myself a little more to do, I am going to take full control of the White Sox organization while the other 29 teams will be AI controlled.  There will be trades, injuries, suspensions, promotions, demotions… you name it.  I will sim one day at a time, creating results for all of the games that were originally scheduled to occur on the given day.  So that means on Thursday, I will sim the games that were supposed to happen on MLB Opening Day.  I will then upload the results to our website so you can peruse all the reports, check out box scores, game logs, transaction logs, or whatever else might be of interest to you.  Curious how your favorite team and players did on a given day?  It will all be there.  I intend to continue this daily routine up until whenever the real MLB season begins.  At that time, I may continue the league at my own leisure, but will stop publicly reporting the results.

The second sim is probably going to be of more interest to you.  I am going to create a DTBL game that is going to have each of our ten teams, more or less with our actual rosters.  The teams will have a full 162 game schedule in which they play the other nine teams 18 times each.  At the conclusion of the regular season, the top four teams will make the playoffs and play best-of-7 Semi-Finals before a best-of-7 World Series.  Normally, I’d prefer to limit the post-season to just two teams in a ten team league.  But since this is just for fun, I might as well keep more teams involved as long as possible.  And there is no actual prize for the simulation champion.

I’ve already done most of the setup for this league.  I created the teams and set up an initial draft to place the players on the correct teams.  As soon as our real draft wraps up, I will complete this process.  Rosters are going to be 32 players:  a 26 man active roster and a six player reserve roster.  The reason why I decided to go beyond the 28 players that each of us will have at the conclusion of the real draft is because most teams are going to need more pitchers to fill a regular staff.  My assumption is that most teams will go with a 13 pitcher staff, which is probably a couple more pitchers than most of you will have at the conclusion of our draft.  Once the 28 players have been assigned to their proper teams, I’m going to turn on auto-draft and let the AI fill out the rest.  I will create a backup before doing this though in case the AI doesn’t pick mostly pitchers as I expect.  In that case, I’ll come up with some other mechanism to fill the rosters.

I will begin simming the games for this league on Thursday as well.  However, I intend to sim two days off the schedule at a time, as opposed to just one in the MLB sim.  Once a firm MLB Opening Day has been set, I’ll adjust this schedule so that the season is completed before Opening Day.  There will be a few other differences in the DTBL sim.  Injuries will be disabled.  So yes, Chris Sale and Luis Severino will be good-to-go for this season.  I will disable AI roster moves, including trades, signings, promotions and demotions.  Essentially, the team rosters will remain static throughout the season, unless you decide to make changes to your own roster.

Yes, you will have an opportunity to participate, if you so desire.  First of all, if any of you happen to have OOTP or are thinking about purchasing it, please let me know ASAP.  I can configure the game to make this an online league, which would allow you to take full control of your roster, including every minute detail right down to in-game strategy.  I haven’t participated in an OOTP online league in a very long time and have never run one myself, so I’ll need to research this a bit, which is why I’d appreciate a quick response if you want to participate in this manner.  But you do not need OOTP to be a part of this sim.  At any time throughout the season, you can email me with changes you would like made to your roster:  signing free agents, promoting to/from the reserve roster, changes to lineups/depth charts/pitching staff roles.  The degree to which you wish to participate is completely up to you.  In fact, if you just want to let the AI handle it all, that will be just fine.  To reiterate though, I will be disabling AI roster moves.  So if you choose not to participate, the 26 player roster that you begin the season with will remain in tact for the duration of the season.  No roster moves made throughout this process will have any impact on your real DTBL roster.

My current plan is to post the results of both sims to the website around 9 p.m. EDT each evening.  There will be links to the main page for each league on the front page of this website.  Those URLs shouldn’t change, so feel free to bookmark them and check them whenever you wish.  I will also be tweeting links (@DTBL_Kevin) when the pages have been updated and perhaps occasionally chiming in with some of the highlights, using hashtag #DTBL2020Sim.  Maybe I’ll even write an occasional blog post to recap the action, if I’m really bored.

This project has given me something to look forward to.  It is not much of a replacement for real baseball games, but it will suffice for now.  Let’s play ball!

A Family Affair

March 10th, 2020 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
Trivia time!  What do Fernando Tatis, Vladimir Guerrero, Dante Bichette and Craig Biggio all have in common?  If you guessed that they all hit at least .290 with 15+ home runs for their respective DTBL teams in 1999, you are correct!  Oh, and they also all have sons who were selected in the first 15 picks of the 2020 DTBL Draft.  This league has been around long enough that we had already seen a few sons of former DTBL players become second generation league members.  But in the previous instances, the fathers only had a cup of coffee in this league at the tail end of their careers.  This four-some is different.  All four compiled multiple strong seasons in the league and all but Tatis were among the league’s best players in its first 10-15 years.

Interestingly, it is the least accomplished father of those four whose son enters the league with the highest acclaim.  The Demigods selected the do-it-all shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. with the first pick in the draft.  Tatis hit .317 with 22 homers and 16 stolen bases in a MLB rookie campaign that was cut short by injury.  Provided he has a full year of solid health in 2020, it isn’t unreasonable to think he could be the second straight #1 draft pick to post a 30/30 season in his DTBL rookie year.  The Demigods will turn to Tatis to help put their miserable 2019 behind them.  Keep in mind that prior to last year, this is a team that finished in the top half of the standings in five straight seasons.  Tatis has the talent to lift them back up to their recent historic norms.

While Tatis was spectacular last year, he probably wouldn’t have won the NL Rookie of the Year award even if he had stayed healthy.  Not with Pete Alonso breaking the MLB all-time rookie record for home runs.  Alonso slugged 53 homers, which would have led the DTBL by four had he been in the league a year ago.  His 120 RBIs would have been fourth best in the league.  He was worthy of the second overall pick in the draft on his own merit, but he also happens to be an ideal fit for the Choppers who finished next to last in home runs and RBIs and dead last in total batting points a year ago.  This is the third straight year the Choppers have used their first pick on an infielder.  Alonso figures to have the biggest impact of them all.

The Komodos made it consecutive 2019 MLB Rookie of the Year winners when they selected Astros outfielder/DH Yordan Alvarez with the third pick.  Alvarez crashed the AL rookie party that was supposed to be all about a couple guys that will be covered below.  He hit .317 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs despite not making his debut until June.  Had he been in the majors from the jump like Alonso, perhaps he too could have challenged the rookie home run record.  Alvarez is currently sidelined with a knee issue.  But assuming that doesn’t keep him out of action too long, he figures to be one of the league’s top sluggers.  He will join Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, Nelson Cruz and Jose Ramirez to form what could be a sneaky great Komodos offense.

Sneaky great is also an appropriate way of describing Keston Hiura’s young MLB career.  The Jackalope tabbed the Brewers second baseman with the fourth pick.  In 84 games, Hiura managed to hit .303 with 19 homers and nine stolen bases.  Extrapolate those numbers out to a full season and you could have the makings of a stud at a very weak offensive position.  The Jackalope have had one of the league’s best infields for a while now, but Hiura injects it with a needed shot of youth.  The spring is not off to a great start from a health perspective for the Jackalope.  Hiura could help cure much of what ails them, however.

Only one player selected in the first round won’t be making his DTBL debut this season.  Lucas Giolito was signed as a free agent by the Mavericks late in the 2017 season and was subsequently released prior to 2018, when the Mavericks picked him up again in the seventh round of the draft.  But he was released again by the Mavericks that May and had such a poor season that he got dropped from the league last year.  2019 Giolito was basically a brand new pitcher, making the All-Star team and compiling a Cy Young campaign resume.  The pitcher the Cougars drafted with the fifth pick this year really doesn’t resemble the one who pitched for the Mavericks.  In ’19, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, won 14 games and struck out an impressive 228 batters in 177 innings.  The Cougars pitching staff prevented them from being serious contenders a year ago.  Giolito could help change that.

A year ago, it seemed like a near certainty that I would be writing about Vladimir Guerrero Jr. being the first player taken in the 2020 draft.  Not that some of these other guys weren’t highly touted prospects, but Guerrero was at a different level.  His MLB debut became a must-see event, unlike any player I can recall since Bryce Harper.  That incredible, and probably unfair, level of hype made his 2019 season seem a little underwhelming.  He hit .272 with “only” 15 homers.  Here’s another number that is equally relevant though:  21.  That’s the age Guerrero will turn next week.  What Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto have done in their teens/very early 20s just isn’t normal.  Struggling to get your footing in the big leagues like Guerrero did *is* normal.  I have it on good authority that the Moonshiners were shocked and thrilled to grab him with the sixth pick in this draft.  If Vladito does in fact reach his potential, we’ll all look back on this pick and wonder how it came to be.

The Mavericks were also probably quite surprised about the availability of their first round pick.  They selected slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez with the seventh pick.  Much of what I wrote about Guerrero applies to Jimenez as well, although he is a little older and did wind up posting pretty solid numbers thanks to a strong finish to the 2019 season.  31 home runs and 79 RBIs are impressive totals for a rookie and could be viewed as the floor of what to expect from here on out.  He seems a good bet to improve on the .267 average too.  Assuming good health, the Mavericks outfield is absolutely ridiculous.  Mike Trout, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Nick Castellanos and now Jimenez.  The rest of the roster ain’t too shabby either.

The Beanballers first official selection as a member of the DTBL was another flashy young shortstop who is the son of a former DTBL player, Bo Bichette.  Bichette has the fewest big league games under his belt of this first round group, but he made his short stint in the big leagues count.  In just 46 games, he hit .311 with 11 homers.  While not directly fantasy relevant, he also had 18 doubles.  So the extra base power appears to be legit.  With a new league member, it is hard to predict what the draft strategy might be.  In this case, it looks like the Beanballers went with the best young talent available, because shortstop was not a position of need with Trea Turner and Amed Rosario already on the roster.  You can’t go wrong with a middle infielder with huge upside though.  Bichette joins a roster with plenty of talent, so it will be interesting to see how the Beanballers do on their maiden voyage.

Seven of the first eight selections were hitters.  We finally saw a rookie pitcher go off the board when the Darkhorses selected Chris Paddack at #9.  While still at the very beginning of his career, Paddack already has an advanced repertoire, which he used to compile some gaudy numbers in 2019.  His sub 1.00 WHIP and 3.33 ERA were pretty incredible for a first season in the majors.  This selection made all the sense in the world for the Darkhorses, who have fallen a little short of the champion Kings the past two seasons because they didn’t have quite enough pitching.  Paddack will join Jacob deGrom, Patrick Corbin and Jose Berrios in a rotation that seems quite capable of closing that gap and claiming their first DTBL title in 10 years.

The Kings probably would have drafted any of the nine players selected ahead of them if they had fallen to the last slot in the first round.  Instead, they settled for a pitcher with very intriguing stuff, but also one who missed half of the 2019 campaign with a PED suspension.  Athletics hurler Frankie Montas was the final pick of the first round of the 2020 DTBL Draft.  Before the suspension, Montas was electric.  He struck out more than a batter per inning with a 2.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.  While starting pitching has been the Kings strength in their recent championship runs, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer aren’t getting any younger.  So they will turn to Montas as a potential ace in waiting.  In the meantime, he will join those guys in a rather formidable rotation.

A quick note on one second round selection referenced up top:  the Cougars selected second baseman Cavan Biggio with the 15th overall pick.  This connection is intriguing since Cavan’s father Craig was also a second baseman on the first two Cougars championship squads and was an all-time great for both the Cougars and Choppers.

After a bit of a slow start, we’ve hit our stride the past few days and are now on a great pace.  We should have plenty of time between the conclusion of the draft and Opening Day.  Keep up the good work!

DTBL Best of the Decade

December 31st, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
The 2010s marked a decisive change from the first decade of this millennium in the DTBL.  The previous decade saw two teams dominate the landscape with the Kings opening it up with four straight titles from 2000-2003 and the Darkhorses doing the same from 2007-2010.  This decade, half of the franchises won at least one championship and only the 2019 Kings were able to successfully defend a title.  The 2010s started with arguably the craziest season in league history as the Darkhorses and Naturals became the first co-champions.  Two years later, the Naturals were involved in another epic finish as they just barely edged out three other teams to win another title.  The second half of the decade belonged to the Kings, as they have now won three of the past four championships.

As we enter a new decade, it is time to take a look back at the past 10 years in the DTBL.  Here are some of the best teams and players of the 2010s.

Franchise of the Decade:  Kevin’s Kings

It was a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Kings in the 2010s.  In 2013, they were able to put an end to their ten year title drought, barely edging out the Mavericks for the fifth championship in franchise history.  The remainder of the decade was pretty crazy for them.  Three times, they finished in the bottom half of the standings, including a dreadful last place finish in 2015 and a ninth place finish in 2017.  But they somehow managed to turn each of those poor years into a championship run the following year.  All told, they won four championships in the decade, the most of any franchise.  They weren’t the most consistent franchise, but titles are what matter most and nobody had more of them than the Kings.  The clear second choice for this honor would be the Naturals who won three titles, all coming in the same years the Giants won the World Series (2010, 2012, 2014).

Team of the Decade:  2015 Jay’s Jackalope

The Jackalope made their championships count.  Both of their title winning seasons were among the most impressive this league has ever seen.  It is difficult to compare teams from different seasons since so much of fantasy success is relative to the competition.  So simply going with the team with the most standings points doesn’t necessarily make them better than title winning teams from other years.  What sets apart the 2015 Jackalope, and their 2011 squad too for that matter, was the manner in which they dominated the rest of the league.  They won the league by a record breaking 19 points over the Mavericks.  The Jackalope offense was led by MVP winner Josh Donaldson and runner-up Paul Goldschmidt.  Meanwhile, Jake Arrieta led the pitching staff and won both the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young awards, giving the Jackalope a clean sweep of the three major awards.  The year started with the Jackalope making some major March trades, dealing away franchise icons Albert Pujols, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke.  But in return, they acquired Josh Donaldson, Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon, all of whom continue to reap benefits for them today.  It was one of the most impressive roster shake-ups we’ve ever seen.  Honorable mention in this category could go to a bunch of different teams.  Certainly the 2011 Jackalope who also won the league by double digits, the 2014 Naturals who set the record for most total points (89), the 2019 Kings who successfully defended their title with a much stronger season in the follow-up, and the 2017 Mavericks who finally cashed in a championship to go along with their historically dominant pitching staff for much of the decade.

Player of the Decade:  Mike Trout, Mavericks (2012-2019)

This was about as easy of a decision as you will find.  Mike Trout has been in the DTBL for eight seasons now.  In all eight seasons he has made the All-Star team and received MVP votes.  Shockingly, he only has one MVP award to his name so far.  But he has finished in the top five of that vote six times, including each of his first five seasons.  He also won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012.  In the 2010s, he led all DTBL players in PAR (71.0) by more than 20 points.  His decade ranks in the five offensive categories:  .308 average (5th), 280 home runs (3rd), 736 runs batted in (14th), 882 runs scored (1st), 195 stolen bases (7th).  Keep in mind that many players had a two year head start over him in the counting categories.  In 2015, his worst season according to PAR, he hit .299 with 41 home runs.  A second round pick by the Mavericks in 2012, Trout holds the franchise career record in homers, runs and stolen bases and is second in RBI.  Nobody else really garnered any consideration for this honor, but let’s just say Paul Goldschmidt was the runner-up.

Pitcher of the Decade:  Clayton Kershaw, Mavericks (2010-2019)

This was a pretty easy choice too, and yes, it is another Maverick.  In the 2010s, Clayton Kershaw won a pair of Cy Young awards, finished in the top four for that award seven straight years and made seven DTBL All-Star teams.  His numbers during the four year stretch of 2013-2016 were downright silly, posting ERAs below 2.00 in three of those years.  He won the Cy Young in 2013 and 2014 with ERAs of 1.83 and 1.77.  He posted a double digit PAR for seven straight seasons (2011-2017).  For the decade, his 2.30 ERA and 0.961 WHIP were easily the best among qualified starting pitchers.  His 154 wins ranked third as did his 2,131 strikeouts.  Somehow, the Mavericks nabbed him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft.  He is the franchise leader among starting pitchers in every relevant category.  Two other pitchers had similarly great decades:  the Kings veteran duo of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.  But unlike those two, Kershaw was an elite performer for the entire decade.  Scherzer didn’t really reach that level until 2013 and Verlander had some down years in the middle of the decade.

 

Now let’s move onto the All-Decade players.  I’ve selected 46 players and split them into first and second teams.  Unlike the honors I’ve bestowed above, these selections were mostly objective.  I went with the players who accumulated the highest PAR in the decade, with exceptions at two positions:  catcher and relief pitcher.  Because even some above average performers at those positions have trouble accumulating positive PAR, I didn’t want to ding players for longevity in which some negative PAR years may have dragged their total down.  Also, I didn’t want to reward a few closers who have had just a couple great years, enough to put them near the top of the PAR leaderboard.  So I looked at the full set of numbers to make my decisions at those two positions.  For players who changed positions throughout the course of the decade, they were classified at whichever position they appeared in the most seasons.  Without further ado, here are 46 of the best players from the 2010s.

 

First Team All-Decade

C – Victor Martinez (Naturals ’10-’15, Mavericks ’16, Kings ’17):  .301 AVG, 115 HR, 504 RBI, 389 R, 5 SB, 10.8 PAR

C – Buster Posey (Demigods ’11-’19):  .302 AVG, 118 HR, 590 RBI, 521 R, 23 SB, 4.8 PAR

1B – Paul Goldschmidt (Jackalope ’12-’19):  .294 AVG, 235 HR, 781 RBI, 778 R, 123 SB, 51.0 PAR

2B – Jose Altuve (Demigods ’12-’19):  .316 AVG, 125 HR, 514 RBI, 693 R, 240 SB, 43.0 PAR

3B – Nolan Arenado (Naturals ’14-’19):  .298 AVG, 215 HR, 677 RBI, 574 R, 13 SB, 42.2 PAR

SS – Francisco Lindor (Demigods ’16-’19):  .284 AVG, 115 HR, 327 RBI, 423 R, 81 SB, 28.3 PAR

1B/3B – Miguel Cabrera (Naturals ’10-’18, Mavericks ’19):  .317 AVG, 265 HR, 928 RBI, 783 R, 14 SB, 43.2 PAR

2B/SS – Robinson Cano (Kings ’10-’19):  .302 AVG, 227 HR, 851 RBI, 791 R, 34 SB, 38.4 PAR

OF – Mike Trout (Mavericks ’12-’19):  .308 AVG, 280 HR, 736 RBI, 882 R, 195 SB, 71.0 PAR

OF – Nelson Cruz (Mavericks ’10-’11, Gators ’12-’17, Komodos ’18-’19):  .283 AVG, 338 HR, 941 RBI, 761 R, 49 SB, 47.6 PAR

OF – Mookie Betts (Kings ’15-’19):  .302 AVG, 134 HR, 447 RBI, 575 R, 116 SB, 41.3 PAR

OF – Andrew McCutchen (Naturals ’10-’17, Choppers ’18-’19):  .286 AVG, 219 HR, 763 RBI, 864 R, 165 SB, 40.7 PAR

OF – Ryan Braun (Jackalope ’10-’19):  .295 AVG, 236 HR, 796 RBI, 753 R, 164 SB, 40.3 PAR

DH – Edwin Encarnacion (Jackalope ’10, Naturals ’11, Mavericks ’12-’14, Darkhorses ’15-’19):  .265 AVG, 307 HR, 883 RBI, 752 R, 39 SB, 42.3 PAR

SP – Clayton Kershaw (Mavericks ’10-’19):  2.30 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 154 W, 0 SV, 2,131 K, 112.6 PAR

SP – Max Scherzer (Jackalope ’10, Kings ’10-’19):  3.07 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 155 W, 0 SV, 2,348 K, 98.3 PAR

SP – Justin Verlander (Kings ’10-’19):  3.10 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 159 W, 0 SV, 2,210 K, 95.5 PAR

SP – Zack Greinke (Jackalope ’10, Naturals ’11-’14, Moonshiners ’15-’19):  3.21 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 152 W, 0 SV, 1,852 K, 75.1 PAR

SP – Chris Sale (Naturals ’11, Choppers ’12-’19):  3.05 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 102 W, 6 SV, 1,907 K, 68.9 PAR

RP – Craig Kimbrel (Choppers ’11-’19):  2.14 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 27 W, 344 SV, 855 K, 34.6 PAR

RP – Kenley Jansen (Mavericks ’11-’19):  2.35 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 29 W, 295 SV, 827 K, 32.1 PAR

RP – Aroldis Chapman (Mavericks ’11, ’15-’17, Jackalope ’12-’14, Komodos ’18-’19):  2.28 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 27 W, 271 SV, 796 K, 27.2 PAR

RP – Jonathan Papelbon (Kings ’10-’15, Jackalope ’15-’16):  2.86 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 27 W, 217 SV, 462 K, 8.8 PAR

 

Second Team All-Decade

C – Yadier Molina (Choppers ’10-’16, Cougars ’17-’19):  .289 AVG, 120 HR, 645 RBI, 500 R, 53 SB, -0.1 PAR

C – J.T. Realmuto (Darkhorses ’16-’19):  .282 AVG, 73 HR, 266 RBI, 290 R, 32 SB, 5.6 PAR

1B – Joey Votto (Naturals ’10-’19):  .306 AVG, 229 HR, 745 RBI, 825 R, 66 SB, 38.2 PAR

2B – Ian Kinsler (Moonshiners ’10-’16, Jackalope ’17-’18):  .268 AVG, 163 HR, 609 RBI, 835 R, 148 SB, 28.5 PAR

3B – Adrian Beltre (Choppers ’10-’18):  .307 AVG, 226 HR, 781 RBI, 691 R, 10 SB, 34.9 PAR

SS – Trea Turner (Naturals ’16-’19):  .292 AVG, 60 HR, 199 RBI, 306 R, 145 SB, 28.1 PAR

1B/3B – Freddie Freeman (Demigods ’12-’19):  .296 AVG, 199 HR, 698 RBI, 699 R, 39 SB, 36.2 PAR

2B/SS – Brian Dozier (Moonshiners ’14-’19):  .245 AVG, 157 HR, 437 RBI, 521 R, 77 SB, 22.2 PAR

OF – Charlie Blackmon (Cougars ’15-’19):  .309 AVG, 142 HR, 389 RBI, 561 R, 87 SB, 37.3 PAR

OF – Bryce Harper (Darkhorses ’13-’19):  .278 AVG, 197 HR, 576 RBI, 607 R, 70 SB, 35.1 PAR

OF – Christian Yelich (Darkhorses ’14-’19):  .304 AVG, 134 HR, 481 RBI, 550 R, 111 SB, 34.8 PAR

OF – Giancarlo Stanton (Jackalope ’11-’19):  .268 AVG, 278 HR, 701 RBI, 627 R, 36 SB, 34.4 PAR

OF – Carlos Gonzalez (Kings ’10-’17):  .293 AVG, 197 HR, 648 RBI, 638 R, 97 SB, 33.7 PAR

DH – Albert Pujols (Jackalope ’10-’14, Mavericks ’15, ’18, Choppers ’16-’17, Darkhorses ’18):  .272 AVG, 250 HR, 813 RBI, 630 R, 49 SB, 34.6 PAR

SP – David Price (Naturals ’10-’18, Komodos ’19):  3.29 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 134 W, 0 SV, 1,804 K, 62.4 PAR

SP – Madison Bumgarner (Cougars ’11-’19):  3.16 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 111 W, 0 SV, 1,664 K, 59.9 PAR

SP – Felix Hernandez (Jackalope ’10-’14, ’18, Moonshiners ’15-’17):  3.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 104 W, 0 SV, 1,595 K, 52.1 PAR

SP – Jon Lester (Naturals ’10-’12, Choppers ’13-’19):  3.56 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 144 W, 0 SV, 1,773 K, 51.0 PAR

SP – Corey Kluber (Demigods ’14-’19):  2.94 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 83 W, 0 SV, 1,238 K, 50.9 PAR

RP – Francisco Rodriguez (Moonshiners ’10-’11, Mavericks ’12, Naturals ’14, Kings ’15-’17):  3.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 23 W, 181 SV, 407 K, 7.0 PAR

RP – Greg Holland (Gators ’12-’13, Naturals ’13-’17, Komodos ’18, Mavericks ’19):  3.06 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 14 W, 198 SV, 428 K, 4.5 PAR

RP – David Robertson (Cougars ’12-’19):  2.93 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 31 W, 127 SV, 515 K, 8.1 PAR

RP – Roberto Osuna (Moonshiners ’16-’19):  2.80 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 13 W, 134 SV, 270 K, 13.8 PAR

 

I thought about writing a short blurb for each player above, but decided that would take far too much time.  Here are a couple links to leaderboards for the decade, for your perusal:

Batters

Pitchers

Feel free to chime in below if you feel some player(s) were snubbed.  What an amazing decade it was in the DTBL.  Here’s to the 2020s being just as great.  Happy New Year!

Yelich Wins Stacked MVP Race

November 27th, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
Not since 2005 have we seen three different players hit 40+ homers and steal 15+ bases in a single season.  In that season 14 years ago, Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols all reached those milestones.  2019 saw fewer league-wide stolen bases than any previous season since the league expanded to eight teams in 1996.  Despite a historic lack of steals, three players managed to swipe at least 15 bags while slugging over 40 home runs.  Two of them actually doubled that stolen base mark with 30+.  Ronald Acuna, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich all had seasons that were among the most valuable this league has seen in recent times.  But only one of them could win the league’s MVP award.  In an extremely competitive vote, Darkhorses outfielder Christian Yelich is the 2019 DTBL Most Valuable Player.

Yelich suffered a broken kneecap injury in early September that cost him an opportunity to reach all sorts of unprecedented milestones.  Yet despite missing the last several weeks of the season, he still managed to post numbers every bit as good as any player in recent memory.  He hit .329 with 44 home runs and 30 stolen bases, all three marks were among the top five in the league.  His 100 runs scored and 97 runs batted in were quite impressive as well, considering the missed time in September.  He is one of only six players in league history to have hit 40+ homers with 30+ steals and a batting average over .300.  Among those six, the only player to post a higher batting average was Larry Walker in 1997 (.366) and he benefited from playing half his games in Denver.  Yelich produced a 12.0 Batting PAR season, the third highest since 2005, just barely trailing Acuna this year and 2007 Alex Rodriguez.  Had he remained healthy, it is probably safe to assume he would have claimed the top spot on that list.

Yelich has been an excellent player his entire career.  But it was an offseason trade from Miami to Milwaukee prior to the 2018 season that seemed to push him to a new level.  He has now posted two consecutive MVP caliber seasons since joining the Brew Crew, winning the NL MVP in 2018 and finishing second for that award in the DTBL a year ago.  A third round pick by the Darkhorses in 2014, Yelich has been a fixture in their outfield since.  He has a career batting average of .304 with 134 home runs and 111 stolen bases.  He will only need a couple more seasons like the previous two to catch Matt Holliday and Hanley Ramirez as the best player in franchise history.  Shockingly, this year was the first time he was named to a DTBL All-Star team.  But he made his first appearance a memorable one, slugging a grand slam to lead the National Division to victory and was thus named the game’s MVP.  His special two year run has also vaulted the Darkhorses into championship contention.  The Darkhorses have finished runner-up to the Kings the past two years and have had the league’s best offense both seasons, in large part because of Yelich.  They have finished in the top half of the standings every year since Yelich’s rookie campaign and appear primed to make another run next season.

The vote for the MVP award was as competitive as any we’ve seen in recent years.  With three players having historically strong years, this isn’t too surprising.  Yelich only received four of the ten first place votes.  But what ultimately decided things in his favor was receiving second place votes on all of the other six ballots.  That computed to 82 total points, 11 ahead of Acuna.  The Jackalope outfielder, and Rookie of the Year recipient, also received four first place votes, but only three seconds.  Curiously, he was left off one ballot entirely.  That alone didn’t cost him the award though since he finished more than 10 points behind Yelich.  As a reminder from the ROY post, Acuna set a new high water mark for Batting PAR since 2005.  Komodos first baseman Bellinger was a top three choice on all ten ballots, but only two of them were first place nods.  The NL MVP had impressive five category totals in his own right, but fell a bit short of Yelich and Acuna in steals.  Bellinger finished third with 62 points.  I only have the full award voting results dating back to 2005, but this is the first time since then that three different players have received at least 60 points in the MVP vote.  Needless to say, there was a bit of a gap after those three.  Coming in fourth was the AL MVP and perennial DTBL MVP candidate, Mavericks outfielder Mike Trout.  Amazingly, Trout has now been an All-Star and a MVP vote recipient in every season of his DTBL career, which dates back to 2012.  And perhaps even more amazing, he has only won this award once, in 2014.  His consistent greatness should never be ignored.  He has posted a Batting PAR of at least 7.6 every season of his career.  Trout appeared on nine of the ten ballots and accumulated 21 points.  There was a tie for fifth place between a couple of slugging third basemen:  Moonshiners’ Rafael Devers and Jacklope’s Anthony Rendon.  They finished with eight points each.

Click here to view the full voting results.

That concludes the 2019 DTBL awards announcements.  Usually, this MVP post is my final one of the year.  But that will not be the case this year.  With the decade about to end next month, I plan on doing some sort of 2010s decade recap in December.  At the very least, it will include an All-Decade Team and perhaps a look at the league’s best teams over the past 10 years as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Verlander Back on Top

November 25th, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
The current decade began with Justin Verlander as one of the best pitchers in baseball. A few years later, he appeared to be a pitcher in decline. Not surprising for someone who was on the wrong side of 30. But then in 2016, he began to return to his old form. By the time he was traded from Detroit to Houston in 2017, he was basically back to being one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. That late career resurgence was taken to a new level in 2019. This year, he recorded a career high in strikeouts and won over 20 games for the first time since 2011. The longtime Kings right-hander was a major contributor to the team winning their second consecutive DTBL Championship. Justin Verlander is the 2019 DTBL Cy Young award winner.

The 2019 season saw DTBL pitchers compile a 3.87 ERA, the highest cumulative ERA since 2006.  Despite the improved offensive environment in baseball, Verlander managed to compile one of the best seasons of his career.  His 2.58 ERA was fourth best in the league.  But he was the league leader in WHIP (0.80) and wins (21).  He struck out exactly 300 batters, a career high.  Only his Astros teammate Gerrit Cole topped him in whiffs.  His 17.3 Pitching PAR is a new record (among seasons that have been calculated).  In fact, Cole’s 16.4 also surpassed the old record, previously held by… Verlander in 2011.  Verlander and Cole became just the fourth and fifth DTBL pitchers to record 20+ wins and 300+ strikeouts in a season, joining Pedro Martinez (1999), Randy Johnson (2001, 2002) and Curt Schilling (2002).  Verlander’s 0.80 WHIP is the second lowest among qualified pitchers in league history, trailing just Martinez’s ridiculous 2000 season (0.74).  He clearly had one of the greatest pitching seasons this league has ever seen.

To the best of my knowledge, Verlander has set a record for longest gap between Cy Young wins.  He is a second time winner, also receiving the award in 2011.  That 2011 campaign is the only other on his resume that could possibly be compared favorably to 2019, though he did finish third for the award just last season as well.  Originally drafted by the Demigods in 2007, he was dropped by them following a very rough 2008 season.  The Kings selected him in the third round in 2009 and have been reaping the benefits ever since.  Although they also came close to dropping him following his mediocre 2014 and 2015 seasons.  All told, he is a six time All-Star and now a two time Cy Young winner.  His case for one of the top pitchers in DTBL history is an easy one to make.  Earlier this season, he became just the fifth pitcher to reach the 200 win plateau and currently sits tied with Tom Glavine for fourth all-time.  He is third on the career strikeout leaderboard.  With a decent season in 2020, he should move up to second, trailing only Randy Johnson.  And he has a pretty good chance of joining Johnson as the only DTBL pitchers to record 3,000 strikeouts.  Speaking of Johnson, the Big Unit is the only pitcher ahead of Verlander on the Kings all-time wins and strikeouts lists as well. Verlander has now been a key piece of three different Kings title winning squads (2013, 2018, 2019).

As expected, this Cy Young race turned into a two way battle between Astros teammates.  Verlander and Cole were the only two pitchers to receive first place votes.  Verlander grabbed seven of them and was placed second on the other three ballots for a total of 91 points.  The Jackalope’s Cole probably would have won this award had he put up his same numbers any other season.  He ever so slightly trailed Verlander in wins, WHIP and PAR.  But he had a slightly lower ERA and 26 more strikeouts.  He received three first place votes and six seconds.  That garnered him 77 points, putting him significantly ahead of everyone but Verlander.  This shook out similarly to the AL Cy Young race where Verlander also edged Cole.  On the other hand, the two time defending NL Cy Young award winner, Darkhorses righty Jacob deGrom, is still looking for his first DTBL Cy Young.  He led the league in ERA (2.25), but trailed Verlander and Cole in the other categories.  DeGrom was the majority choice for third place, receiving six of those votes and a point total of 42.  Coming in fourth was another veteran pitcher who had arguably the best season of his career.  The Mavericks’ Stephen Strasburg recorded a career high 18 wins and 251 strikeouts before cementing his status as an elite postseason pitcher as he helped the Nats win the World Series.  Strasburg received one second place vote and appeared on all ten ballots, finishing with 26 points.  Those were the four pitchers who appeared on every ballot, but the fifth place finisher received significant support as well.  Moonshiners veteran Zack Greinke has experienced a bit of a career resurgence in his own right.  He had his best season since 2015.  Greinke appeared on eight ballots and tallied 14 points.  So three of the top five finishers completed the season as members of the Astros rotation.  And building off a year-long theme of veteran starters leading the way, four of these five pitchers are over 30 years old and none are younger than 29.

Click here to view the full voting results.

You can expect the Most Valuable Player award winner to be announced on Wednesday. That figures to be an extremely competitive race as three players, in particular, have incredibly strong cases to be made for the honor.

Acuna Bursts Onto Scene

November 19th, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
Ronald Acuna had one of the best rookie seasons in DTBL history. Actually, let’s revise that. He had one of the best seasons in DTBL history, regardless of age or experience. The fact that he was in his first year in the league only highlights what a special talent he is. The first pick in this year’s draft lived up to the hype and then some. He nearly became the third player in league history to compile a 40/40 HR/SB season. He did manage to rack up the highest single season PAR of any offensive player that has been calculated to date (since 2005). The Jackalope outfielder stood well above a very strong rookie class. Unsurprisingly, Ronald Acuna was the unanimous choice for the 2019 DTBL Rookie of the Year award.

A late season injury may have cost Acuna an opportunity to become the league’s third 40/40 player. He hit 41 home runs and stole 37 bases, finishing sixth and second in the league in those categories. He wasn’t too shabby in the other three categories either. He had a .280 average with 127 runs scored (3rd in league) and 101 RBI. The last player to have a line of at least .280/35/35/100/100 was Matt Kemp in 2011. So it has been quite a while since we’ve seen a five category performance like the one Acuna put up in 2019. As mentioned, his 12.15 Batting PAR is the highest we’ve seen since 2005. He just barely edged out Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger in that stat. So those three players figure to be the top contenders for the MVP award. The last player to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards was Ryan Howard in 2006. We will soon see if Acuna can change that.

The Jackalope had a pretty easy choice when they selected Acuna with the first pick back in March. But they could not have possibly expected the pick to pay off so handsomely in the first season. Acuna was largely responsible for the Jackalope nearly doubling their 2018 batting point total this season (13 to 25). He and Anthony Rendon were easily the squad’s two best hitters. Acuna led the team in homers, steals and runs. The Jackalope have been fielding an impressive infield for quite some time. Should Giancarlo Stanton return to health next year, he and Acuna will make for a fearsome duo in the outfield as well. Interestingly, four of the past five Rookie of the Year winners have been members of either the Jackalope or Cougars. Jake Arrieta won the award for the Jackalope in 2015.

The ease by which Acuna won this award should not diminish the strength of the rookie class as a whole. But he did receive all ten first place votes and is the third straight unanimous winner, the fourth in the past five years. Finishing second was another young phenom outfielder, who also finished second to Acuna in the NL Rookie of the Year vote last year, the Mavericks’ Juan Soto. Soto’s age 20 season was absolutely brilliant and culminated in a World Series title. Soto wasn’t quite the stolen base threat that Acuna was, but was similar in all of the other categories, hitting 34 homers with 110 runs scored and batted in. He received seven second place votes, appeared on all ten ballots and compiled 58 points. That total narrowly edged out Choppers pitcher Shane Bieber. Bieber led all rookie pitchers in wins (15) and strikeouts (259). Of the top four finishers for this award, he was the only one who wasn’t a top draft choice. A third round selection, he may have been the steal of this year’s draft. Bieber was also on all ten ballots, including three second place and six third place votes. He finished four points behind Soto. Picked between Acuna and Soto in the draft, Komodos pitcher Walker Buehler had an impressive debut season as well. Buehler had very similar numbers to Bieber, but fell a little short in strikeouts. He received a pair of third place votes and finished with 25 points. Those four guys have very bright futures ahead of them. But maybe the most interesting rookie on this list is the guy who finished fifth. 30 year old Eduardo Escobar has had a nice career. But until the past couple years, he was a bit of a fantasy baseball afterthought. He finally got his chance in the DTBL this year and proceeded to slug 35 homers. Not bad for an eighth round pick. Escobar appeared on six ballots and accumulated 10 points. Although they didn’t appear on many ballots, I think it is also worth mentioning that Cougars second baseman Gleyber Torres and Mavericks pitcher Jack Flaherty also had great rookie seasons. That pair, along with Acuna, Soto and Buehler meant that there weren’t many bad picks in the first round this year.

Click here to view the full voting results.

I’m hoping to announce the Cy Young award winner later this week (probably Thursday), with the Most Valuable Player announcement to come early next week. Both of those awards figure to be more competitive than this one was.

Kings Retain Their Crown

October 12th, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images

The 2018 Kings were a very flawed team that rode a couple superstars to best a weak field and won a league championship.  2019 was a much different story.  The improved Darkhorses had one of the best offensive seasons in league history.  In order to beat them, the Kings needed a lot more than one or two guys to carry the offensive load.  And they got just that.  But once again, it was an untouchable pitching staff that ultimately led the charge.  For the first time since 2010 when the Darkhorses finished off their four-peat, sharing the league title with the Naturals, a team was able to successfully defend their title.  For the eighth time in franchise history, Kevin’s Kings are the Dream Team Baseball League champions.

The Kings got off to a bit of a slow start, finding themselves in the middle of the pack for most of the first two months.  But by early June, they had claimed first place and rarely gave it up after that.  The Darkhorses were right on their tail most of the way, but the Kings grabbed first for good on August 17.  Much like last year, it was pretty much a two horse race between the Kings and Darkhorses.  But unlike last year, it was a race between two very strong teams.  The 77 points the Darkhorses accumulated would have been enough to win the league the previous three seasons.  The Kings finished with 84 points, which is the highest total since the Jackalope juggernaut of 2015.  Obviously, it takes a well-rounded team to rack up a point total like that.

Mookie Betts was basically the lone offensive star for the 2018 Kings.  He was great again this year, but had plenty of help.  Without looking it up, I bet you wouldn’t have been able to name the Kings leader in batting PAR this season.  The answer:  Jonathan Villar.  Villar has long been an underappreciated fantasy performer, but he took things to a whole new level this season.  He led the league with 40 stolen bases, hit a career high 24 home runs and even managed to score 111 runs on a terrible Orioles team.  He is the first DTBL player to put up a 20/40 season since Carlos Gomez in 2013.  Villar’s 8.2 PAR led the Kings squad, but a couple other guys were right behind him.  Betts wasn’t quite the same player he was in ’18 when he claimed the league’s MVP award, but he was still pretty darn good.  He hit 29 homers while stealing 16 bags and led the league in runs scored, despite missing some time with nagging injuries.  Besides Villar, perhaps the most surprising offensive star for the Kings was Marcus Semien.  He set career highs pretty much across the board, hitting 33 homers with 92 RBIs and 123 runs.  His 7.2 PAR more than tripled his previous high water mark.  Interestingly, Villar and Semien were both back half of the draft selections by the Kings in 2018.  It took a while, but those picks have paid off in a big way.  There were other sneakily impressive players for the Kings offense.  Matt Olson and Trey Mancini slugged 30+ homers.  It was the overall quality of depth that the Kings had which made this a much improved group.

But let’s not get too carried away gushing about the Kings offense.  Because in the end, it was once again the pitching staff that won them the championship.  Until the very last few days of the season, it appeared they were going to pull off something no team has ever done:  finishing first in all five pitching categories.  But the Mavericks snatched the ERA crown from them at the last minute and the Kings had to settle for 49 pitching points.  That ties them with the 2011 Jackalope for most total pitching points.

Once again drawing comparisons to the 2018 team, the Kings pitching staff was anchored by two long time veteran members of their squad:  Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.  An injury derailed Scherzer from repeating his ’18 Cy Young campaign, but Verlander more than picked up the slack.  He led the league in pitching PAR at 17.3, barely edging out his Astros teammate Gerrit Cole.  Both Verlander and Cole topped Verlander’s previous league record 16.4 mark in 2011 (among seasons I’ve calculated).  Verlander won a league high 21 and also bested all starting pitchers with a 0.80 WHIP.  He reached 300 strikeouts in his final outing of the season, only trailing Cole in that category.  Meanwhile, Scherzer wasn’t able to accumulate similarly impressive numbers in the counting categories, but he did still post a 2.92 ERA with 243 strikeouts in just 172 innings.  Verlander and Scherzer had a little more help this year.  Most notably, Eduardo Rodriguez had an under-the-radar great year.  He won 18 games for the Kings, striking out 204 batters.  Zack Wheeler was a solid addition to the rotation too.

The Kings bullpen was a surprising strength for the club as well.  It should be noted that saves were way down across the league this season.  Active DTBL players accumulated 728 of them, which is the lowest total since the league expanded to 10 teams in 1998.  So it didn’t take as much as usual to win the saves category.  But the Kings did it convincingly, racking up 104 of them.  Will Smith led the way with 34.  Sean Doolittle and Hector Nerris pitched in 29 and 25 respectively.  In the end, this bullpen didn’t feature outstanding peripherals.  But they were very good in the category that matters most for relief pitchers in fantasy baseball.

The Kings made plenty of solid draft picks and free agent signings this year to plug holes in the roster.  But in the end, it was improved performances from a bunch of their keepers who led the way to this championship.  With their eighth DTBL Championship, the Kings have now doubled their closest competition, the Darkhorses and Naturals, for most titles in league history.  Unlike the previous version, this 2019 team will be remembered as one of their better squads.

So now we are will into October and another off-season has begun for our league.  I will prepare for the awards voting and announcements in the near future.  But until then, enjoy the rest of the MLB Postseason!

Kings vs. Darkhorses Again?

September 2nd, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
Entering September of 2018, the Kings held a slim four point lead over the Darkhorses.  They would briefly relinquish that lead, but ultimately managed to win the DTBL Championship.  This year, the Kings once again held a four point lead over the Darkhorses heading into the season’s final month.  It is a pretty similar situation with these two seemingly the best bets to win it all.  The margin over the rest of the league is actually a little larger this year though.  As of today, the Mavericks find themselves almost 20 points behind the Kings with exactly four weeks to go.  That’s not completely insurmountable, but they will definitely need some help from both of the top two teams to make up some of that ground.

The Kings and Darkhorses both appear to be slightly better versions of the 2018 editions of themselves.  The Kings still have the league’s best pitching staff.  But this year, they have held the top spot in all five pitching categories for a good portion of the season.  The offense is not as good, but only two other teams have more batting points.  On the other hand, the Darkhorses once again have the league’s best offense.  But this year, no other team is even close.  They have 48 batting points and appear to be close to a lock to win four of the five batting categories (all but stolen bases).  And their pitching staff is pretty good too.  Like Kings hitters, Darkhorses pitchers rank third in total points.

It is really hard to handicap this race, because unlike last year, these two teams have been neck-and-neck pretty much all season.  Neither has had an extended period of poor play.  Both teams are relatively healthy heading into the final four weeks as well.  The Darkhorses are looking for their fifth league title, but first since 2010, while the Kings are seeking their record extending eighth league crown.  It should be a fascinating race.

Here are the award winners for August of 2019.

Batters of the Week:

Week 20 (8/5 – 8/11) – Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
Week 21 (8/12 – 8/18) – Gleyber Torres, Cougars
Week 22 (8/19 – 8/25) – Anthony Rendon, Jackalope
Week 23 (8/26 – 9/1) – Eugenio Suarez, Cougars

Pitchers of the Week:

Week 20 (8/5 – 8/11) – Mike Minor, Naturals
Week 21 (8/12 – 8/18) – Jack Flaherty, Mavericks
Week 22 (8/19 – 8/25) – Dallas Keuchel, Darkhorses
Week 23 (8/26 – 9/1) – Justin Verlander, Kings

The Batters of the Week in August featured four players having monster seasons.  Ronald Acuna and Gleyber Torres have both already reached 30 home runs in their DTBL rookie campaigns.  Anthony Rendon also surpassed that mark in the past week.  And then there is Eugenio Suarez who hit his 40th (!!!) home run of the season yesterday.  As usual, the pitching award winners are a bunch of veterans still going strong, with youngster Jack Flaherty crashing the party.  Justin Verlander locked up the weekly award by pitching his third career no-hitter yesterday.  Because that happened on September 1 though, it didn’t help his cause for winning another Pitcher of the Month award.

Batter of the Month:

Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
.270 AVG, 11 HR, 27 RBI, 23 R, 6 SB, 3.26 PAR

Pitcher of the Month:

Mike Clevinger, Naturals
1.96 ERA, 1.064 WHIP, 5 W, 0 SV, 51 K, 3.06 PAR

Last week, to the best of my knowledge, Ronald Acuna became just the second player to reach the 30/30 HR/SB club in his DTBL rookie campaign.  I don’t have a particularly easy way to confirm this, but I did a Baseball Reference Play Index search looking for 30/30 seasons since 1993 in a player’s first two MLB seasons and the only other result was Mike Trout in 2012.  So I feel pretty confident about this assertion.  Acuna currently has 36 home runs and 33 stolen bases with four weeks to go in the season.  He has a great shot at becoming the league’s fourth 40/40 player.  It once looked like a two horse race between Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich for the league MVP award, but Acuna is very much in the thick of that race now, in addition to Rookie of the Year.  As strong as his August was, three other players nearly snatched this award from him:  Demigods outfielder J.D. Martinez and the Nationals dynamic duo of Mavericks outfielder Juan Soto (also a DTBL rookie) and Jackalope third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Finally, we have someone who isn’t a grizzled veteran winning the Pitcher of the Month award.  Mike Clevinger was a late bloomer, but is in just his second DTBL season with the Naturals.  At 28, he is easily the youngest to win this award so far in 2019.  Despite losing about two months due to an injury, he has still managed to compile a nice stat line for the season.  Half of his 10 wins came in August though.  He led the league in August strikeouts with 51.  For what it’s worth, he would not have won this award had Jack Flaherty’s first start of the month been as an active member of the Mavericks rotation.  Despite that start not counting, Flaherty still finished third for the award.  The runner-up was the Cougars’ Sonny Gray who is having a very nice career resurgence this summer.

Moose, Mo and More

August 7th, 2019 by Kevin

Embed from Getty Images
A few times in recent years, I have taken the opportunity to write about the DTBL careers of a set of players recently inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Well, I think I might as well go ahead and make it an annual tradition for my July recap article.  Our league has reached a level of longevity such that virtually every player inducted into the Hall had a significant impact on this league as well.

On July 21, six players were honored in Cooperstown, New York.  All six are DTBL alums and at least three would be sure fire Hall-of-Famers in this league as well, if such a thing existed.  The six honorees were:  Harold Baines, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera and Lee Smith.  Here is a review of their DTBL careers, going in alphabetical order.

Harold Baines was one of the more controversial selections in recent years, chosen by the Veterans Committee after never receiving much support during his time on the Baseball Writers Association ballot.  Personally, I find arguments over players who *are* selected to be tiresome.  More time should be spent arguing about players who are left out rather than trying to diminish those selected.  Baines was an excellent player, and a personal favorite of mine.  That said, he was probably the least accomplished DTBL player of this group with his prime years coming well before this league started.  He was drafted by the Gators in the inaugural draft of 1993 and spent five seasons with them as their primary designated hitter and was a member of their 1995 championship team.  He then spent his final two seasons as a part time player on a couple expansion teams:  the Angels in 1998 and the Moonshiners inaugural season of 1999.  Baines hit at least .290 in every season except his last one.  All told, he compiled an impressive .303 career batting average with 81 home runs.

The late Roy Halladay was a major part of the modern pitching evolution of the late 2000s and early 2010s when power pitchers started to rule the day.  He spent his entire DTBL career with the Jackalope and litters their career leaderboard.  His run from 2008 to 2011 was just about as good as it gets over a four year span.  In every one of those years, he struck out over 200 with ERAs below 3.00 and at least 17 wins.  He won the DTBL Cy Young Award in 2010 and finished third in 2008 and 2011.  On three occasions, he won 20+ games (2003, 2008, 2010).  In his 12 year career, he racked up 177 victories, which ranks 10th in league history and third among players who debuted after 2000, behind Justin Verlander and C.C. Sabathia.  Halladay is the Jackalope franchise career leader in wins and innings pitched and trails only Felix Hernandez in strikeouts.  His 75.8 Pitching PAR also leads the way, by a margin that will only increase when I get around to calculating the numbers from his first three seasons.  The Jackalope selected Halladay in the fourth round of the 2002 Draft.  I would say that pick worked out pretty well for them.  He was a critical piece of their first championship squad in 2011.

As designated hitters go, nobody has ever been as good for as long as Edgar Martinez.  Interestingly enough though, he actually got his start in this league as a third baseman for three years, even though DH was an official position in our league in those days.  While he could certainly hit for power, his carrying tool was his ability to hit for average.  His career mark of .316 ranks ninth in league history.  But he hit over .320 for six consecutive seasons from 1995 through 2000.  Martinez debuted for the Kings in 1993 and then played for the expansion Metros in 1994 before settling in with the Cougars for the remainder of his career (1995 through 2004).  Unfortunately, my transaction records are a little scattered from the 90s, so I don’t recall exactly how he made those team jumps.  I do know that the Cougars must have cut him loose after his typically solid 1998 season though because they then reacquired him with their first round pick in 1999.  I think expansion draft rules that year may have played a part.  But anyway, the Cougars managed to hang onto him and he continued to hit for them for years to come.  He won a DTBL Championship with the Cougars in 1996.  He is their career batting average leader at .317.  For his DTBL career, Martinez also hit 239 home runs with 956 RBI.  He topped 100 RBI in five different seasons.  There have been few pure hitters better than Edgar Martinez in the past quarter century.

Justin Verlander needs just two more wins to reach 200 for his DTBL career.  When he does that, he will become just the fifth player in league history to reach that mark.  The other four are now all Hall-of-Famers, thanks to the recent induction of Mike Mussina.  Had I not just looked it up, I don’t think I would have remembered or guessed that Mussina finished his career just one win shy of the league’s all time leader, Greg Maddux.  Mussina won 239 games despite never compiling 20 in a single season.  He won exactly 20 for the first and only time in his final season of 2008, but was an in-season free agent signing by the Moonshiners that year and only compiled 16 wins for them.  But he posted double digit wins in an impressive 15 of 16 DTBL seasons.  In addition to all the wins, he also ranks fifth in league history with 2,576 strikeouts and pitched more innings than every pitcher not named Maddux.  They are the only two to record over 3,000 DTBL innings.  Mussina was drafted by the Kings in 1993 and spent two seasons with them before being part of one of the league’s first blockbuster trades during the 1995 Draft.  Unfortunately, as covered earlier, my transaction records from those days are rather lacking, so I don’t have the complete details.  But I do recall it being a huge deal.  Anyway, it certainly worked out for the Choppers who retained his services for the next 13 seasons.  He and Greg Maddux top pretty much all of the Choppers career pitching numbers.  That duo were a big reason why the Choppers won league titles in 1997 and 1999.  While he might not be at the top of your mind when you think of the all-time great pitchers, he should be.  Mike Mussina was one of the best pitchers in DTBL history.

Mariano Rivera was the first player to ever be unanimously selected for the Hall of Fame.  His case for enshrinement was pretty impeccable.  Obviously, that would be true of his DTBL career as well.  His 643 career saves is an incredible 83 more than any other pitcher has accumulated.  I doubt anyone will come close to that total anytime soon.  He topped 30 saves in 15 of his 17 seasons, with injuries cutting short the two seasons in which he failed to reach that total.  Even in his final season of 2013, he managed to rack up 44 saves.  His career high save total came in 2004 with 53 and he reached 50 in 2001 as well.  But it wasn’t just the saves.  His 2.02 ERA and 0.973 WHIP are both easily the lowest in league history among pitchers with at least 800 innings pitched.  He had so many seasons with a sub 2.00 ERA and 40+ saves that it is basically impossible to pick a career best season.  486 of Rivera’s saves came with the Cougars who drafted him in the first round of 1997, coming right off the heals of their third championship in four years.  He remained with the Cougars all the way until 2009, when they traded him to the Mavericks for Mike Lowell, not the best trade the Cougars have ever made.  Rivera had a productive season and a half for the Mavericks before he was traded again during the 2011 Draft to the Choppers in exchange for a second round pick which would become Starlin Castro.  Rivera’s final two seasons were with the Choppers where he continued to be one of the best relievers in baseball.  Oddly enough, Rivera never won a DTBL Championship while winning five World Series titles with the Yankees.  Mariano Rivera rode one pitch, a nasty cutter, to a Hall of Fame career.  He is the greatest relief pitcher in MLB and DTBL history.

Finally, we have Lee Smith, the third former Thunder Chopper of this class.  Like Baines, he was selected by the Veterans Committee and compiled most of his Hall of Fame numbers before this league started.  That said, his DTBL career was short, but productive.  He was an inaugural DTBL Draft selection of the Choppers in 1993.  He saved 114 games for the Choppers in 1993 through 1995, which still puts him fourth in franchise history in that category.  His 33 saves in the strike shortened 1994 season led the league.  Through the first three seasons of this league’s history, Smith held the all-time saves lead.  Obviously that didn’t hold up very long though as he didn’t record a save in his final DTBL season of 1996.  While he bounced around a whole bunch of MLB teams in the latter stages of his career, he did not pitch for any DTBL team besides the Choppers.  One of the original fireballing closers, Lee Smith is a worthy Hall of Famer.

On to the awards for July 2019.

Batters of the Week:

Week 15 (7/1 – 7/7) – Yulieski Gurriel, Demigods
Week 16 (7/11 – 7/14) – Josh Donaldson, Jackalope
Week 17 (7/15 – 7/21) – Ronald Acuna, Jackalope
Week 18 (7/22 – 7/28) – Nelson Cruz, Komodos
Week 19 (7/29 – 8/4) – Starling Marte, Komodos

Pitchers of the Week:

Week 15 (7/1 – 7/7) – Aaron Nola, Demigods
Week 16 (7/11 – 7/14) – Mike Soroka, Mavericks
Week 17 (7/15 – 7/21) – Clayton Kershaw, Mavericks
Week 18 (7/22 – 7/28) – Stephen Strasburg, Mavericks
Week 19 (7/29 – 8/4) – Justin Verlander, Kings

July was a good month for Braves players and Mavericks pitchers, as three of each won weekly awards.  Braves and Jackalope teammates Josh Donaldson and Ronald Acuna took the Batter of the Week honors surrounding the All-Star break.  Two other DTBL teammates won the award the following couple weeks as Komodos sluggers Nelson Cruz and Starling Marte finished the month with a bang.  The Mavericks pitching staff has been heating up as of late.  60% of their rotation claimed a weekly honor in July with Mike Soroka, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg all continuing to pitch extremely well.  Two of the players listed above parlayed their strong weeks into a full month of excellence in July.

Batter of the Month:

Yulieski Gurriel, Demigods
.398 AVG, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 18 R, 0 SB, 3.26 PAR

Pitcher of the Month:

Stephen Strasburg, Mavericks
1.14 ERA, 0.916 WHIP, 5 W, 0 SV, 44 K, 3.21 PAR

Yulieski Gurriel has been a solid big league hitter for some time now.  But one thing that has kept him from being discussed among the elite players in the game is a relative lack of power at a position where big home run totals are expected.  Entering this season, his career high for homers was 18 in 2017.  Entering July, he was on his typically pedestrian pace with just eight dingers.  But then he went and hit 12 in a span of 18 games and has already smashed his career high mark.  In addition to the dozen July home runs, he also came just short of hitting .400 for the month (.398).  Despite those gaudy numbers, he won this award by the slimmest of margins over Moonshiners third baseman Rafael Devers, who has basically been on fire for three straight months now.  Nobody else was close to Gurriel or Devers.

It is genarally a good sign for a pitcher when he allows fewer earned runs than he knocks in at the plate in any given game.  In July, Stephen Strasburg pulled that trick for the entire month!  He surrendered just four earned runs while compiling a 1.14 ERA and added six RBIs to help his own cause while at the plate.  Strasburg continues the trend of veteran pitchers winning this monthly pitching honor.  But at 31 years old, he is actually the youngest pitcher to win this award in 2019.  He was a comfortable winner, but two other pitchers who had a great run in July were Astros righties Justin Verlander (Kings) and Gerrit Cole (Jackalope).  With the addition of Zack Greinke to their rotation, it would appear the Astros are well armed for another World Series run.

A reminder that the DTBL trade deadline is coming up next week:  Thursday, August 15.  Trades must be accepted by both parties by midnight on the 15th, even though trades consummated between the 12th and 15th won’t be processed until the following Monday.