Saturday, December 27, 2008

Minnesota New Day Rising

The Twins League is underway (though perhaps with a Prince soundtrack rather than the Posies song quoted in the title).  Ten teams, basically in three time periods: the Killebrew era when the Twins had very good teams that couldn't quite beat better teams (like the Koufax Dodgers or the '69-'70 Orioles); the Puckett era when the Twins had decent teams with unbeatable home field advantage and regularly defeated better teams (Whitey Herzog nods sadly); the Johan Santana teams of recent vintage who mostly couldn't quite get out of the first round of the playoffs.

The 1970 team are the current representatives in the Cloverland Leagues.   About 20 games in out of 162, it's too close to call and far, far too early.  I guess I'd bet on 1965 as the best of these teams, but that doesn't always translate into success.  Still, if I have to guess a winner...

Meanwhile, the 1970 Orioles still are the leaders after roughly 25 games, but the 1979 edition has been on a tear and have closed to a half-game back.  Again way too early for real prognostication, but it may end up closer than I'd expected...

Monday, December 22, 2008

And from the Polo Grounds...

After a pretty close race, the 1911 New York Giants fought off the 1912, 1913, 1904, and 1905 editions of the 'Jints to win their qualification league and represent the New York Giants franchise.

The final standings at the top:

W L Pct. GB
1911 89 60 .597 -
1913 88 64 .579 2.5
1904 87 65 .572 3.5
1912 87 65 .572 3.5

Despite winning the World Series in a 4-game sweep, the 1954 Giants finished in 20th (that'd be last), 28.5 games back.

The hitting categories were mostly led by teams from the 1920s and 1930s, as one might expect, save for Jack Doyle of the 1894 squad sitting atop the batting average and obp categories and  just missing a .400 season (.399).  Mel Ott (1934) led in slugging and runs created, Rogers Hornsby (1927) in runs scored, George Kelly (1922) in RBI, and Bobby Thomson (1951) hit 33 shots heard 'round Kings Contrivance to edge out Ott (1936) and lead in home runs.

Pitching statistics were biased by the 1894 team, who had two pitchers starting 70%+ of their games in real life.  Those two pitchers (Amos Rusie and Jouett Meekin) both topped 30 wins.  Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson took up 4 slots in the top 10 winners and top 10 ERA, with the 1905 edition performing best: 29-10 (3rd in wins, 2nd in win pct., 1st in ERA, 4th in strikeouts).  

The 1911 team didn't have many statistical leaders, but managed to grind out the pennant by being among the team leaders in batting and pitching.  In reality they lost the World Series to the Philadelphia Athletics.  

The Orioles league has stalled out a bit (naturally, since I'm actually trying to manage one of the teams instead of letting the computer do all the work).  Not sure if the next all-computer league will be Oakland or Minnesota...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Giants after 90, Orioles after 20

The decision of who will right to represent the New York Giants is currently looking like it'll go down to the end. A bit over 90 games are finished, with roughly 60 to go. Five of the 20 teams are within a half-game of the top:

Team W L Pct. GB
1913 52 38 .578 -
1904 53 39 .576 -
1922 53 39 .576 -
1905 52 39 .571 0.5
1912 52 39 .571 0.5

Meanwhile, in Charm City things are a bit more separated, though it's still early:
Team W L Pct. GB
1970 15 5 .750 -
1969 12 6 .667 2.0
1960 12 7 .632 2.5
1997 10 7 .588 3.5

It seems unlikely the 1970 team will be able to keep up that pace, but there's nothing weird about them being atop the standings...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Giant Steps

About 40% of the way through for the New York Giants league. The dead ball era teams continue their dominance, with the 1904 club leading the pack followed by the 1911, 1905, and 1912 teams all within 2 games.

Jack Doyle of the 1894 team is pacing the league with a remarkable (and way over his head) .457 average. Bill Terry's excellent .407 is second but obviously overshadowed. Bobby Thomson and Mel Ott are leading in home runs.

Christy Mathewson of various vintages is filling the pitching leaderboards, with the 1905 version at 12-1 and the 1913 version leading in ERA with 1.37.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

O's and Jints Update

Just a short one for now. The Orioles League has gotten through about two weeks of play, and the 1970 team is in the lead at a blistering 10-1. My 1966ers were barely a speed bump in their way, though they did force late inning heroics by Paul Blair of 1970 at least once. There's a bit of a bunch up behind the leaders and needless to say it's early yet.

I've gotten a bit further for the New York Giants QL. There the 1904 and 1905 teams lead the pack. Again, it's early yet. But I'll note that the current Cloverland League representatives are the 1970 Orioles and the 1905 Giants. It's rare for teams to be able to defend their places, with only the 1906 Cubs, 1927 Yankees, and 1976 Reds having done so so far (and I punted the Yanks for the 1939 edition in part just to do something different and since they'd finished "close enough"...).

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dog Days

Alas, the playoff hopes of my real-life favorites are quickly dimming. I also have been too swamped to get too much done in the APBA leagues. I've started the Orioles QL, managing the 1966 edition. I'll post an update on that league once I've gotten through 10 games (right now it's at 7). I haven't started up the NY Giants at all.

But I figured I'd mark the Rays' clinching of a winning season by officially bumping the 1937 Santo Dominigo Dragones in their favor. With 83 wins and 28 games to play, it seems likely they'll reach 90 wins with no trouble and a .500 record would net them 97. While having the Dragones meant including Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson and other greats in the Cloverland Leagues fun, my general philosophy for the simulation means I should include the team that I have a hope of including at their real relative strength instead of the one with kludged stats. The only real kind of debate would be whether holding off on Tampa Bay until Season 5 might allow a better TB team to be represented, but I can always have a runoff or something if it ends up being useful. But for now, congratulations to Scott Kazmir, Evan Longoria, Carlos Peña and the rest.

The Brewers present another problem. If the 2008 team is worthy, they could either be stuck in the AL as a non-DH team (since the majority of their seasons were as an AL franchise) or included in the NL (since they would have had this season as an NL team) with the AL version removed, or (gulp) treated as separate teams and included twice (though I don't like that option at all). If treated as an NL team, that would bump the 1896 Orioles and open space in the AL for... well, I guess the Dragones again.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

National Heroes

The Washington Nationals Qual League (that'd be the version of the team that moved to Minnesota in 1961) has finished. The 1924 and 1930 teams battled most of the season, with the World Champs opening up a slender lead in the closing weeks...

And then losing it at the very end. As with the Pirates, there were 3-4 rainout makeups to close the season, and it was over the course of those games that the 1930 edition overtook the 1924 team.

The 1930 Nationals finished 2nd in real life to the equally-defunct Philadelphia Athletics, also represented in the Cloverland Leagues. They join a surprising number of 2nd-place teams in a league that ostensibly has the best of each franchise. However, they had the 3rd-most wins in Washington history and the best Pythagorean record of any Washington team, so this result doesn't strain credulity. They were led by Hall of Famer Sam Rice and also had Hall of Famers Joe Cronin and Heinie Manush, trading away HoFer Goose Goslin early in the season. Fittingly for a team managed by Walter Johnson, however, their team strength was pitching. Ironically, in the Qualification League, the 1930 team won via their bats.

Next up: The New York Giants and actually starting the Baltimore Orioles QL.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Surprise in Steel City

It came down to the last day, but the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates will be moving on to Season 4. They finished hot, winning 2/3 of their last 50 games while the 1901 edition played merely OK (.550 over their last 50 games, only about .500 in their last 35). The end of the season saw a slew of rainout make-ups, and the 1960 team finished early, one behind in the loss column but one ahead in wins. Needing to win one game to clinch a tie, the 1901 team instead dropped both of their last make-ups...

So for the first time since I began, Pittsburgh will be represented by a group other than Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, and their dynasty of the aughts. Given their status as reigning NL East champions, this is also something of a shock. Instead it'll be Roberto Clemente, Vern Law (20-5 in the QL), and Bill Mazeroski.

The Washington Nationals (AL) Qualification League has begun play, with 8 teams from 1912 to 1945. I might put my money on the 1933 team, though the current representatives from 1925 are also a relatively safe bet. Meanwhile, given the play of Tampa Bay and Milwaukee in real life, the odds of an alteration to current expansion plans is certainly a going concern...

Friday, July 11, 2008

50 More Games Gone...

The top of the Pirates League remains the same, though there's been some mixing below that upper crust. The 1901 team still leads, winning at a .646 clip. Bonds and the 1991 Pirates have dropped off the pace from 2nd to 3rd, while the 1960 Pirates are hanging in there, merely 4 games back. Meanwhile, the 1970 team has dropped 2/3 of their games since the last update and now sits in last place, with the 1975 and 1972 teams joining them in freefall. Meanwhile, the 1893 edition has picked up the pace as their best pitchers have been taking the mound more often.

Fred Clarke of 1903 continues to blister the ball, batting .380, but has fallen to 3rd in batting behind 1901's Ginger Beaumont and 1927's Paul Waner, who's up at .407. We'll see if he keeps it up all season. Willie Stargell from 1971 now has the HR lead by himself (25), with two other Stargells, Robertson, and Dr. Strangeglove Dick Stuart rounding out the top 5. Fred Killen of 1893 has 17 wins and leads the league in strikeouts, while Jesse Tannehill from 1902 leads in ERA (1.91).

I'd have to think the 1901 squad would continue their pace and make it to Season 4. The 1960 Pirates were good, but not _that_ good. On the other hand, they only need to get lucky...

Friday, June 27, 2008

50 Games Gone in the Steel City

Eighteen teams are vying to represent the Pirates franchise during Season 4. I've gotten through 50 games (out of 136, IIRC). To update all my loyal followers, here's what the top of the standings looks like:

Team W L Pct. GB
1901 35 14 .714 -
1991 32 18 .640 3.5
1960 30 19 .612 5
1909 29 21 .580 6.5
1902 28 22 .560 7.5
1972 26 24 .520 9.5
1975 26 24 .520 9.5
1970 25 25 .500 10.5

I was expecting the 1902 team to be the winners, there's still plenty of time left. The 1991 team is certainly hanging in there, though...

In terms of individual leaders, Fred Clarke of 1903 is leading with a .392 average, Bob Robertson from 1970 and Willie Stargell from 1971 both have 12 home runs, and Jake Beckley form 1893 has 56 RBI. On the pitching side, Vern Law and Bob Friend of the 1960 team and Deacon Phillipe from 1901 all have 8 wins. Ed Brandt from 1938 has an ERA of 1.13 (though he's unlikely to get enough innings over the whole season to qualify), and 1902's Jack Chesbro leads with 60 strikeouts.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Royals Treatment and Incoming Pirates

Congratulations to the 1977 Kansas City Royals, which will (eventually) represent the franchise in Season 4 of the Cloverland Leagues. They ended up crushing their rivals in a four-team league, going 100-56 and 24.5 games ahead of the second-place 1978 edition.

Next up: A truly massive 18-team Pittsburgh Pirates QL. The participants range from an 1893 team that featured Connie Mack as a player, through the Honus Wagner years, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell years all the way down to teams with a young Barry Bonds. My guess is that the 1902 team, current NL East champions, will take it and return for Season 4.

I also may start trying to get the Baltimore Orioles QL underway. I plan to manage one of those teams, though, and I'm having a hard time picking...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Photo Finish (and a reshoot)

The Royals Qualification League reached a finish, with the top three teams extremely tightly bunched:

W L Pct. GB
KC 1978 92 70 .568 -
KC 1976 91 71 .562 1
KC 1977 91 71 .562 1

The three teams were also closely matched to one another, within 2 games of .500 over 36 games played. Statistically, they were also very close in ERA and fielding, though the 1977 team scored significantly more runs than their rivals... They also were much better in real life.

So, I figured I'd run it all again, this time with just those three teams and the incumbent 1985 team, which finished fifth (though only a half-game out of fourth). I'm roughly halfway through there, and they're not bunched. So I'm confident there will be a clear-cut Best Royals Team. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

KC Update

Things have been poking along slowly around the Pleasure Grounds, but the Royals Qualification League has slowly been moving forward. With about 6 weeks of game time to go, the top of the standings look like:

Team W L Pct. GB
KC 1977 73 55 .570 -
KC 1976 71 54 .568 .5
KC 1978 72 55 .567 .5
KC 1985 70 55 .560 1.5
KC 1984 65 64 .504 8.5

The 1980 team is further back, but it at least seems clear that the mid-late 70s teams were the best in Royals history. Not that this is a surprise.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Good Morning Baltimore!

I'm going to run most of the qualification leagues with all computer managers, which'll speed things up. But for two of the leagues I'm interested enough to actually manage one team for myself: the Red Sox and the Orioles. Since the local boys aren't going to threaten this year, it seems safe enough to do them first (I'd just as soon hold off on Boston since there's the chance the 2008 team will be the "best-ever" team, though i dearly hope they're not).

I've got 14 teams lined up for the Orioles League, split into two divisions: 6 in the pre-DH division, 8 in the DH division. As with the other QLs, there are basically three types of teams: pennant winners/playoff teams, close misses, and good teams that may or may not have come _that_ close but represent an otherwise absent era. The Orioles were excellent for most of the 70s and early 80s, with a brief late 90s renaissance. In addition, there are 4 teams included from the 1960s-- the 1969 team (famous for losing to the Mets), the 1966 World Series winners, and two near-miss teams, 1960 and 1964. I left out the 1996 wild-card winners since they clearly don't match up and (perhaps more to the point), it'd be a _lot_ more work to include them than other teams since I'd have to enter all their players in by hand.

I haven't totally decided, but I'm leaning toward managing either the 1966 or 1979 teams.

In other QL news, at about the 1/3 mark, the 1985 Royals hold a slim lead over the 1980 team, with 1978 and 1977 close behind. The 1985 Royals are the current Cloverland League representative.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Season Zero

While I've played a few seasons now with Baseball for Windows (ironically using Virtual PC on my Apple), the very first season was with a Strat-O-Matic card set. I've been thinking of it as Season Zero.

I started it not long after the 1981 baseball strike, when I bought my Strat-O-Matic set. The setup seemed reasonable to me, 11-year-old that I was when I started: use the original 16 teams and play out a season. Unfortunately, given the limitations of the available card sets (and my losing track), I ended up with the Milwaukee Braves instead of the Boston Braves. I also had to settle for the 1940 Reds and the 1950 Phillies instead of the Big Red Machine or the 1980 Philadelphia World Series winners...

I set up an 84-game schedule, and I kept stats by hand. It took years, but luckily I didn't have much of a life (I was, after all, 11-14). I also didn't necessarily follow all the rules: I was too lazy to reshuffle the 40-card deck after every draw, which I'd do for a truly random number. So that got a bit biased. I also didn't necessarily use the "right" lineups, and I'd often turn a good part-time hitter into a full-timer (Fred McNeely, '24 Nationals-- I'm looking at you). But eventually I got through it all.

The '27 Yankees ran away with the American League, leaving the '31 A's in the dust. The '53 Brooklyn Dodgers tussled with those underdog Reds and Phils all season, finally pulling it out by one game over Cincinnati and two over Philadelphia. The Yanks defeated Brooklyn in six games. Lou Gehrig was the MVP for the AL. I don't remember the NL winner, Rip Collins of the '34 Cardinals, perhaps?

These teams and this setup provided the basis for Season 1, though with the software I was able to substitute in a Boston Braves team and also get the Big Red Machine and... well, whatever you'd call the 1980 Phillies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Milwaukee's Best

During the no doubt too-long interim between Season 3 and Season 4, everything does not cease. No, indeed! I've been starting to run qualification leagues (for lack of a better term) to try and objectively (sort of) determine which teams get to represent the franchises. The expansion teams have already been figured out, as seen in an earlier post. The first of the currently-in franchises to go through a QL are the Milwaukee Braves.

The Braves were a good team through most of their sojourn in Milwaukee, and an excellent team for much of the time. In their 14 or so years between Boston and Atlanta, they won two pennants and one World Series, and tied for first place one more time (losing in a playoff), never finishing under .500. I picked 6 teams for this league, the pennant winners ('57 and '58) and near miss team ('59), and a set of second-place teams ('53, '56, and '60).

And to my surprise, it was the 1953 team that won it. I ran the league twice through 140-game seasons, with them winning once running away and once in a squeaker. In real life they finished a poor second to a juggernaut Brooklyn team, but with 92 wins. Their Pythagorean record was slightly better (93-61), even with the 1957 and 1958 pennant winners.

But in some kind of reverse Ewing Theory, the 1953 team is the only one without Hank Aaron. They did have big seasons from Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn, however.

The Kansas City Royals qualification league is now underway. My breath is somewhat bated.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

MVP Awards

Unlike the Cy Young awards, the MVP awards came out a bit surprisingly, particularly in the AL. I don't know if "real life" voters would have gone this way, but the differences in VORP were too big to ignore...

NL- Dolph Camilli: This was a two-man race much of the year, Camilli vs. Barry Bonds. Dolph led the NL in VORP and was at or near the top in most of the more traditional categories-- 2nd in batting average (.335, Ginger Beaumont led at .339), 2nd in slugging average (.633, Bonds was at .662), leading in on-base percentage (.442) and RBI (127, tied with Hank Aaron). He also hit 37 home runs (4th, Bonds led with 50). By most sabermetric measures Camilli and Bonds were equals, so the tie-breaker was the pennant race where Dolph led Brooklyn to a close 2nd place finish vs. the 6th place finish San Francisco had.

AL- George Sisler: I'm actually as surprised as you are. Of course, you're probably me if you're reading this. :) Albert Belle had a truly monstrous first half, and was a critical part of an Indians team that needed every contribution they got to eke out a division title over the Mariners, an ALCS win over the Yankees, and a 7-game Cloverland Series championship over the Cubs. Plus, he had 62 home runs and 138 RBI! Still, he placed a surprisingly low 5th in VORP. Of those ahead of him, Tris Speaker edged him out in VORP by placing well in many categories. Better yet were a pair of Philadelphia Athletics who put in huge years: Jimmy Foxx was 5th in slugging (.601, Belle led with .698), 4th in OBP (.423), and also in the top 10 in runs, RBI, doubles and triples. Al Simmons was better yet, finishing 2nd in batting (.374) and slugging (.674), leading the league in RBI (149), tied for third in triples (21, Gardner and Goslin led the league with 22) and in the top 10 in runs, OBP, runs, hits, and home runs. Any other year, Simmons would have been the winner.

But this season George Sisler hit .434. Now, I know there's some amount of disbelief that needs to be suspended here. And I know there's no way in the world Sisler hits .434 against the competition he had. Nobody has ever hit .434 for real even facing awful teams. But there it is- he hit .434 and given that and his other statistics (4th in slugging, 1st in OBP, leading in hits, top 10 in runs, RBI, and stolen bases), and that he led in VORP by 20 runs I don't see any rational way to deny he had the best season of anyone. Cleveland fans may argue, but I think the logic is irrefutable. So congratulations to the Browns fans!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cy Young Awards

Naturally, statistics are kept in the Cloverland Leagues. And naturally, awards are given. However, I get the only vote. :) I actually went to the trouble of determining VORP for all the players, and rely pretty heavily on that statistic, though I'm willing to use other info as appropriate. The Cy Young awards for the Cloverland Leagues this season have two relatively obvious winners.

AL: Lefty Grove. While the Philadelphia Athletics had a disappointing season (under .500 and tied for last in the AL Classic Division) Grove provided a bright spot, leading the league in wins (22), ERA (2.40), and shutouts (6, tied with the Yankees' Red Ruffing) while coming in second in strikouts and leading Philadelphia in saves. Baltimore's Jim Palmer was quite close, also winning 20 games with a better winning percentage and more quality starts, along with pitching in a pennant race, but Grove's across the board excellence gained him the nod.

NL: Ed Reulbach. Unlike Grove, Reulbach did not lead a lot of categories-- Kid Nichols (among others) had many more starts and unsuprisingly racked up the counting stats (Nichols led the league with 27, Don Sutton led the league in strikeouts). Reulbach did, however, run away with the ERA crown, finishing with 1.41 in 243 innings, nearly 2 runs better than the league average. He also finished second in shutouts (6, Mordecai Brown led the league with 8) and held opponents to a .164 batting average, way below the league average of .243 and by far the best for pitchers over 100 innings let alone over 200 innings. He held opponents to an average of 5 hits per game and allowed an astonishing 0.04 home runs per game, the league leader by a factor of 5. He pitched 6 two-hitters and a 1-hitter, single-handedly accounting for half of the Cubs number of two-hitters or better. Although not taken into account for these purposes, Reulbach continued to excel in the postseason, finishing 5-0 with 5 quality starts in 5 tries and an ERA of 0.63 as the Cubs almost won the Series. There was no particularly strong competition for this award, Brown was second in VORP but was only the second-best pitcher on the Cubs...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

One curse ended/One curse continued: Game 7

Cleveland! Chicago! Game 7!

Two of the greatest teams in baseball history face off to determine the winner of the Cloverland League championship. Neither won the World Series in reality, each franchise represents the longest championship drought in their league.

Taking the hill for the Indians was El Presidente, Dennis Martinez, while the Cubs countered with Jack Pfiester. The Jake was packed and raucous as "Hometown Hero" Bob Feller, a member of the 1948 champion Indians, threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Hall of Famer Earl Averill.

As has been the pattern through the series, the pitchers worked quickly through the first three innings. The Cubs broke through in the top of the 4th as the Peerless Leader, Frank Chance, manufactured a run on a single and stolen base, moving to third on a ground out and scoring on another ground out.

Pfiester looked like he would make that run count, retiring Cleveland without a run through the 5th. The sixth inning began with trouble, as Tony Peña doubled. The next three batters all hit the ball hard, climaxed by Carlos Baerga's clout to deep left, but all went at fielders save Baerga's (on which Slagle made a brilliant play, stealing a homer). Pfiester escaped the 6th with a 1-0 lead, but perhaps the Indians were catching up with him? The answer came after Martinez pitched a scoreless 7th.

AL MVP candidate Albert Belle had been having a pretty quiet series, but led off the 7th with a double. Jim Thome, whose series had been even more quiet, followed that up with an RBI double, and as quickly as that the Cubs lead was gone. After a strike out of Eddie Murray, and an intentional walk to the ubiquitous Manny Ramirez, pinch hitter Herbert Perry hit a comebacker to Pfiester that was just too slow to be a double play, extending the inning. Pinch hitter Sandy Alomar took advantage, singling to center and scoring Thome. 2-1 Cleveland. Carl Lundgren ended the inning without further damage, but Chicago, 6 outs away from winning the championship, was now 6 outs away from losing it.

Dennis Martinez gave way in the 8th after allowing only three hits and the one run to the Cubs. Assenmacher and Plunk shut down Chicago in the top of the 8th, the rapidly-heating Thome added an insurance run in the form of a homer off of Lundgren.

The Cleveland crowd went wild as Jose Mesa took the mound in search of his third save, to close out the Series. Unfortunately for them, this was Jose Mesa. Sheckard led off with a single and took second on fielder's indifference. With one out Chance walked, now representing the tying run with Steinfeldt and Schulte coming up. Mesa bore down, however and retired both, Schulte's popup to Baerga sealing the deal and making the 1995 Cleveland Indians the champions of the Cloverland League's Third Season.