My version of fantasy baseball – part 3, the season

In part 1 I introduced this concept and in part 2 I determined my Opening Day team. But to answer the question regarding how such a team would do gave me a lot of trouble, and took a different turn than I expected.

Initially I believed I could use a simple WAR calculator to see just how well my players would do and use that guide to determine the team’s fate. Yet to figure those factors out I would need to calculate a player’s OPS and slugging percentage as well as a pitcher’s ERA. So my first order of business was determining about how many plate appearances each player would get; thus, I made a matrix covering the nine starting positions and also determined how many starts and relief appearances each pitcher would make. From there I calculated the rest of the statistics based on the players’ real-life numbers and some overall averages.

Using my team’s starting lineup and their WAR, this is the comparison to the Orioles 2018 lineup.

2019 WARSotW teamPos.Baltimore2018 WAR
1.5A. WynnsCC. Joseph0.3
2.0T. Mancini1BC. Davis-2.8
2.3J. Schoop2BJ. Schoop1.3*
1.5P. FlorimonSSM. Machado2.9*
7.5M. Machado3BR. Nunez1.2*
0.4DelmonicoLFT. Mancini-0.1
1.5C. MullinsCFA. Jones0.2
-0.3L.J. HoesRFJ. Rickard0.4
0.9C. WalkerDHM. Trumbo0.3
2.9E. RodriguezSPD. Bundy0.1
2.7Z. DaviesSPA. Cashner0.6
3.1D. BundySPA. Cobb1.1
0.9S. BraultSPK. Gausman2.2*
1.0P. BridwellSPD. Hess0.7
0.8Z. BrittonCLB. Brach0*
1.1J. HaderRPM. Castro1.3
1.3M. GivensRPM. Wright-0.1
0.8HernandezRPM. Givens1
-0.8E. GamboaRPT. Scott-0.1
31.1Total WARPos.Total WAR10.5

But the one thing about WAR is that it’s a relatively inexact science. Still, using the simple WAR calculators for pitchers and batters, I came up with a team WAR of 32.3 for my mythical 40-man roster. That turns out to be 21 wins better than the 2018 Orioles (meaning 68 wins) and nearly 25 fewer wins than the Red Sox, which would compute to an above break-even season with 83 wins. To me, that was a little too much of a range.

So I tried a different way. Since I had figured out most of the main batting stats in order to define OPS and slugging percentage for the hitters, I decided to treat the pitchers the same way and figure out the batting stats against them. Once I had those numbers, I pored over about two decades’ worth of team batting stats to determine the closest parallels to runs scored based on average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS, numbers which I averaged together to determine projected totals of runs scored and runs allowed, which then allowed me to figure out a Pythagorean win-loss record that’s relatively accurate – most teams finish within a few games of their Pythagorean record.

On that basis, my team would finish with a surprisingly good record of 72-90. I say surprisingly because it would finish near the bottom of both the batting and pitching rankings; then again, these align well with the rankings of the 2018 American League teams as five teams finished with fewer than 72 wins and this team generally laid in the bottom third statistically. Presumably it would be a rather strong bullpen that carries my team if they get an early lead.

One other thing all this calculation allowed me to do was change the roster somewhat. (This was reflected in the posts as I did the statistics before the second post where I selected the team.) In one instance, Christian Walker was not a full-time DH but was ticketed for AAA – however, in figuring out his season he had a bat that was too good to send down in comparison to my outfielders – so he stayed. And since his real-life MLB experience has mostly come as a pinch-hitter he’s a natural DH. Other players got more starts than originally envisioned because they were the best player I could put out there despite not being “established.” I also took the propensity for injuries into account so several of my players missed time on the “disabled list” and others were “called up” to replace them. For example, Pedro Florimon has been an injury magnet the last few seasons so in my mythical campaign he missed some time, enabling Manny Machado to slide over to short and placing utility players at third. Players who are well short of a full season are usually considered to be injured for a portion of it.

So I have not only answered my question, but I’ve also created a projected set of statistics (set in pretty much the same fashion as Baseball Reference lays out statistics) for each player based on a weighted formula of previous seasons and levels – thus, a guy who played at AAA a lot has his numbers adjusted a few ticks lower where appropriate. Raw rookies took a bit of a pounding from this, but if I continue to update these numbers they will settle in closer to their eventual MLB norms. It also gives me the fun of seeing how numbers will compare to real life as 2019 progresses.

(One note: for players who have retired I simply used their previous 4 active seasons, disregarding the layoff factor. It was as if they were still playing.)

This was a very fun and challenging exercise – but since I still have the numbers I could do it again for next spring as new players join the SotWHoF. It will actually be easier since I gave the now-retired players a courtesy cup of coffee (maybe a latte in a couple cases) in this mythical season but won’t feel the need to in 2020, unless I get in a positional pinch. (For example: if Michael Ohlman doesn’t find a team this year I still need him as a third catcher unless a guy like onetime SotW Wynston Sawyer gets the call.)

But consider this as you watch the 2019 season unfold and see how bad my projections are: at least free agency won’t break up this team! Thanks for playing along.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 2, the team

As I mentioned in part 1, the roster of the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame is now a 40-man roster, much like those the actual teams hold this time of year as they tweak their squads for spring training.

By rule, any player on a team’s 40-man roster gets an automatic invitation to the major league squad’s spring training – so, in theory, a “spring training” for this squad is set insofar as invitees. They would just have a hard time with having intrasquad games due to shortages at some positions and no “minor league camp.” That fact inspired me to do a little research from my SotW Tracker as to how many guys would be at each minor league level if I had such a camp comprised of squads made up of the highest level each played after being selected. (We know 40 made the Show, but how many got to AAA, AA, and so forth?)

So I broke this down by season of first selection, meaning the first squad of 22 from 2006 would be assigned as follows, with subsequent seasons afterward:

  • 2006 (22 players) 4 MLB, 4 AAA, 3 AA, 7 A+, 4 A
  • 2007 (19 players) 2 MLB, 3 AAA, 7 AA, 5 A+, 2 A
  • 2008 (22 players) 5 MLB, 3 AAA, 6 AA, 5 A+, 3 A
  • 2009 (18 players) 5 MLB, 3 AAA, 3 AA, 4 A+, 3 A
  • 2010 (16 players) 1 MLB, 2 AAA, 4 AA, 6 A+, 3 A
  • 2011 (18 players) 4 MLB, 5 AAA, 5 AA, 3 A+, 1 A
  • 2012 (18 players) 5 MLB, 6 AAA, 3 AA, 4 A+
  • 2013 (18 players) 3 MLB, 2 AAA, 6 AA, 5 A+, 2 A
  • 2014 (21 players) 6 MLB, 7 AAA, 5 AA, 3 A+
  • 2015 (19 players) 3 MLB, 1 AAA, 4 AA, 9 A+, 2 A
  • 2016 (20 players) 2 MLB, 3 AAA, 6 AA, 7 A+, 2 A
  • 2017 (7 players) 1 AAA, 1 AA, 4 A+, 1 A
  • 2018 (9 players) 2 A+, 7 A

So out of the entire group of 227 players there would be 40 in the major league camp and 187 in the minor league camp – ironically, 40 have made AAA as well, with 53 advancing to AA, 64 to advanced-A, and 30 not progressing past Delmarva’s level. Suffice to say there are enough guys in camp, and several have a shot at cracking the real Oriole roster in 2019.

As for my top 40, let’s break them down by general position:

Pitchers (20): Pedro Beato (R), Brad Bergesen (R), Steven Brault (L), Parker Bridwell (R), Zach Britton (L), Dylan Bundy (R), Zach Clark (R), Scott Copeland (R), Stefan Crichton (R), Zach Davies (R), Oliver Drake (R), Eddie Gamboa (R), Mychal Givens (R), Josh Hader (L), Donnie Hart (L), David Hernandez (R), John Means (L), Ryan Meisinger (R), Eduardo Rodriguez (L), Jimmy Yacabonis (R)

Catchers (3): Michael Ohlman (R), Chance Sisco (L), Austin Wynns (R)

Infielders (9): Ryan Adams (R), Blake Davis (L), Pedro Florimon (S), Manny Machado (R), Joe Mahoney (L), Jonathan Schoop (R), Brandon Snyder (R), Christian Walker (R), Steve Wilkerson (S)

Outfielders (8): Matt Angle (L), Xavier Avery (L), Nicky Delmonico (L), LJ Hoes (R), Kyle Hudson (L), Ty Kelly (S), Trey Mancini (R), Cedric Mullins (S)

Breaking the squad down further, we have several pitchers who would vie for the starting rotation and a number destined for the bullpen. Looking for a starting role would be Brad Bergesen, Parker Bridwell, Dylan Bundy, Scott Copeland, Zach Davies, and Eduardo Rodriguez – maybe not the greatest starting rotation, but on this fantasy team all they would have to do is get to a loaded bullpen (in real life) with the likes of Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Josh Hader, and David Hernandez as the back end.

Around the infield, you have guys who can chip in at multiple positions based on their big league experience, with Manny Machado an obvious candidate as he’s played both third base and shortstop. Brandon Snyder has played both corner positions, and Steve Wilkerson split time between second and third. Meanwhile Ty Kelly and Trey Mancini provide flexibility as well – listed as outfielders, Kelly also has time at second and third while Mancini came up as a first baseman and still played enough there to qualify: my criteria was having at least 10% of appearances at a position.

Based on the track records, the 25-man roster, starting lineup, rotation, and bullpen could begin to take shape. The team I would likely “take north” would end up as follows:

Starting rotation: Eduardo Rodriguez, Zach Davies, Dylan Bundy, Steven Brault (listed as a reliever, but pitched much of his career as a starter), and Parker Bridwell. Scott Copeland is optioned to AAA.

Bullpen: Closer is Zach Britton, 8th inning is Josh Hader, 7th inning belongs to Mychal Givens, and David Hernandez is the additional arm for these situations. Eddie Gamboa and Jimmy Yacabonis can provide length, and Donnie Hart is the designated LOOGY. Oliver Drake is first man up at AAA for the bullpen, with Ryan Meisinger next up. The JIC guys shipped to AAA would be Pedro Beato and Stefan Crichton (as 7th/8th inning guys), John Means (as a AAA starter and potential long man), and Brad Bergesen and Zach Clark (as flex pitchers).

Catchers: Austin Wynns would be the starter, but Chance Sisco would get his share of appearances as well. Michael Ohlman would be waiting in the AAA wings.

Infielders: The six I take north – some are no-brainers, but there is also fill needed. Trey Mancini (originally listed as an outfielder based on his predominant position) is going to be my first baseman on this team, and Brandon Snyder will be the backup corner infielder (who can also play in the outfield.) Jonathan Schoop takes second base, but that leaves me a dilemma: should I play Manny Machado at short or third? Seeing no good third base prospects at the moment, Manny gets the hot corner and Pedro Florimon takes short. It leaves me Steve Wilkerson as another utility guy who, if he were good enough at third, could move Machado to where he wants to be. It also helps that Florimon and Wilkerson are switch-hitters as there are no left-handed hitters around the infield. And while Christian Walker is nominally a first baseman, the intention of putting him on the roster is more to be a full-time designated hitter.

It’s odd to platoon at second base, but on this fantasy team Ryan Adams and Blake Davis would do so at AAA. Joe Mahoney could hold down first base at AAA, waiting for his chance.

Outfielders: With Mancini shifted to the infield, it leaves an opportunity for someone else to make the 25-man roster. I need four out of the remaining eight outfielders to fill the squad. Starting from right field around to left would be L.J. Hoes, Cedric Mullins, and Nicky Delmonico, and I would take Ty Kelly (another utility player) as another left-handed bat for backup. Xavier Avery is first up from AAA, while Matt Angle and Kyle Hudson would be the other AAA guys in waiting.

So this could be the batting order on Opening Day. We’ll assume this is an American League team with a designated hitter. They’ll send out Eduardo Rodriguez as their Opening Day starter. Behind him would be:

  1. Cedric Mullins, cf
  2. Trey Mancini, 1b
  3. Manny Machado, 3b
  4. Jonathan Schoop, 2b
  5. Nicky Delmonico, lf
  6. Christian Walker, dh
  7. L.J. Hoes, rf
  8. Austin Wynns, c
  9. Pedro Florimon, ss

The bench would be Chance Sisco (L) as my backup catcher and Brandon Snyder (R), Ty Kelly (S), and Steve Wilkerson (S) as utility players who can cover pretty much anything but shortstop – but Manny Machado could slide over in a pinch and he pretty much plays every game.

In the last installment, I “play out” the season.

My version of fantasy baseball – part 1, the introduction

I sort of warned you about this back when I inducted the Class of 2018 into the Shorebird of the Week Hall of Fame. Membership in that body has reached the magic number of forty, and given the facts that the Hot Stove League is well underway and people always like to speculate about how they would build a team… well, now I have a team, of sorts.

Of course, there are a fair share of guys in my Hall of Fame who aren’t involved as players anymore, but the beauty of the intersection of fantasy baseball with sabermetrics is that people are able to compare performances over time. I’m not going to get too fussy with this exercise, for its goal is to speculate how a team made up of SotWHoF players would do in a regular season and (in my opinion) the best way to do this is to compile the player’s WAR (wins above replacement) statistics. Every player in the SotWHoF has these, although those who are still active maintain a fluid WAR rating that will change as their career progresses.

Wins above replacement is a complex formula that determines how much impact a player has on his team’s fortunes. A MVP-type player would have a seasonal WAR of 8 to 10, meaning his presence on the team assures the squad eight to ten more wins than the average replacement. Take two extreme examples of 2018 teams: in the left column are the world champion Boston Red Sox (108-54 during the regular season) and on the right are the woeful Orioles (47-115).

2018 WARBostonPos.Baltimore2018 WAR
-0.5S. LeonCC. Joseph0.3
0.9M. Moreland1BC. Davis-2.8
-1.1E. Nunez2BJ. Schoop1.3*
3.8X. BogaertsSSM. Machado2.9*
0R. Devers3BR. Nunez1.2*
3.9BenintendiLFT. Mancini-0.1
2.1J. BradleyCFA. Jones0.2
10.9M. BettsRFJ. Rickard0.4
6.4J.D. MartinezDHM. Trumbo0.3
3.3R. PorcelloSPD. Bundy0.1
4.4D. PriceSPA. Cashner0.6
6.9C. SaleSPA. Cobb1.1
3E. RodriguezSPK. Gausman2.2*
0.8*N. EovaldiSPD. Hess0.7
2.3C. KimbrelCLB. Brach0*
1.7H. VelazquezRPM. Castro1.3
0.5J. KellyRPM. Wright-0.1
1.1M. BarnesRPM. Givens1
0.5H. HembreeRPT. Scott-0.1
50.9Total WARPos.Total WAR10.5

(*) Totals with Boston or Baltimore only.

As you can see, while a few individual players held the Red Sox back in terms of not being better than a theoretical player replacing him from the minor leagues, there were also several who put up All-Star and MVP-caliber seasons (with 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts leading the way.) On the flip side, the Orioles had a batch of players who were hardly better than minor league players and one much worse – Chris Davis, we’re looking at you. And once the key players for Baltimore were traded away, their replacements couldn’t even achieve the passable numbers put up by those who were traded – bear in mind that there are perhaps 25-35 players not listed who were bench players, minor league callups, and so forth. Some would accrue more wins above their replacements and others would lose ground – those listed above are just the primary starters and most-used bullpen pieces. Adding in the other 25 Red Sox players increases their WAR total by 6.1 wins above replacement for a team total of 57, while adding in the other 37 (!) Oriole players gains them o.8 WAR for a total of 11.3.

So now you have an idea of the parameters I’m going to use for this exercise. Next week I’m going to re-introduce you to this 40-man roster and speculate on how it would work if put together in fantasy life.