DTBL Sim: Mid-Season Review

May 8th, 2020 by Kevin

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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.

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