I am not immune to self indulgence. Once a year, I whip off the covers of my simulation league set 11 years in the past. It was originally founded by the Astros resident Rasputin, Kevin Goldstein and still includes other baseball giants. It’s not just a sim league, it’s a sim league with cachet.
Before you run away, let’s pause to set some expectations. No, you won’t be able to use this information to win your 2019 fantasy league. However, if you were watching baseball back in 2008, you might enjoy reacquainting yourself with some forgotten names.
It’s a 20 team keeper league. We use a software called Diamond Mind Baseball (DMB) to simulate a full season and playoffs. Essentially, we’re playing a dynasty league where we already know how the players performed. Now we just need to manage them into the right spots.
It’s not so different from how we play normal fantasy baseball. We already mostly know which names are and aren’t good. So we let some humans bearing those names simulate stats for us.
The league does have one interesting wrinkle. We call it “gruntling.” To keep a player, he must be gruntled. And to gruntle a player, they must accrued 80 percent* of their real world plate appearances (for hitters) or batters faced (for pitchers). This is so you can’t just stash future talent at no cost. If you want Anibal Sanchez’s saucy 2019 season, first you have to feel the pain. A LOT of it.
*There are allowances for injuries. Yes, we have injuries. They’re woefully common.
I’m excited. It’s 2008 and for the first time since joining the league prior to the 2005 season, my team is competitive. I’ve been building for this season ever since I took over a roster bearing Troy Glaus, Milton Bradley, and CC Sabathia. The last three seasons were spent building a juggernaut. My home park is Coors Field.
I don’t know why I still have Atchison except that he doesn’t play until 2010 so I don’t have to do anything to gruntle him. He’s legit good in 2011 and 2012.
Catchers in the past also sucked. Napoli is actually good, but he only has 274 plate appearances. The others range from 10th to 20th best at the position. It’s important to roster enough catchers to make it through the season while accounting for injuries.
Only Napoli and maybe Blanco will be kept.
This turned out to be one of two patchwork positions. The 2008 season is the year DeRosa was mysteriously excellent. Branyan posts a ludicrous 1.029 OPS versus right-handed pitchers (and goes 0-for-14 against southpaws). Tatis has good hitting stats, terribad defense, and a clutch setting called “terror.” Basically, he drives in RISP like a bandit. He’ll be my primary pinch hitter.
He comes to the plate 704 times so I don’t need anybody else. He’s my leadoff man and an on base machine.
Rather than roster an actual good shortstop, I decided to make a Frankenstein monster. It may not look like it, but this amalgamation is easily a top five performer at the position. Miles has that “terror” setting – which I swear is globally rare, although it’s common on my team. Santiago and Nomah have over a 1.000 OPS versus left-handed pitchers. Harris and Eckstein are super utility. If all goes to plan, they will barely play.
Seven players – all mentioned above – also have third base eligibility and thus can back up Glaus. He’s another guy who’s a terror in the clutch. Soak it up, this is basically his last hurrah.
Dukes probably won’t escape my reserve roster. He’s a backup pinch hitter to Tatis, offering the same offensive stats and terrible defense. No clutch terrors though. Besides, Dukes hit 16 home runs for me in 190 plate appearances last year (2007), so I couldn’t just cut him loose. He earned this spot!
Bradley is my cleanup hitter with a 1.127 OPS against left-handed pitching, .929 OPS versus righties, and more terror. He’s a bad defender, but my pitchers will get over it. This is Ludwick’s go year. He hit 37 home runs in St. Louis. How many will he hit at Coors Field? Werth posted a 1.020 OPS against southpaws, but he’s merely average against righties. Unfortunately, he’s the only outfielder I must gruntle which means finding 386 plate appearances for him.
Damon has good numbers against righties. Kapler scorches lefties.
Sabathia was the top pitcher in 2008, although our sim season won’t play that way. Sim leagues are notoriously tough on left-handed pitchers. Clayton Kershaw (2008 is his debut year!) will probably only be a top 10 or 15 pitcher in his peak seasons. The rest of my five man rotation all rates top 20 at the position. Shields used to be good! Sweet Erv was dealing way back then. Greinke goes nuts in 2009. Nolasco… well… let’s just say I have a theory that DMB more closely approximates xFIP than ERA.
As for Cook, he’s a solid performer in 2008 despite taking his real world reps at Coors Field. He’s only there in case two pitchers hit the disabled list at the same time.
This is my shining achievement. My bullpen was a disaster zone when I took over this team. Some of these guys, like Robertson, League, Grilli, Oviedo, and Mujica, don’t offer much in terms of instant gratification. Only Oviedo is outright bad in 2008 so I should be able to gruntle them all. I may have trouble finding reps for Oviedo. Camp has solid future seasons, but I won’t sweat getting him gruntled. Delcarmen is now or never.
Who remembers Devine’s one ridiculous season? Guess which year it happened…
I won’t need to add relievers for awhile with Papelbon, Street, Robertson, Wilson, and Motte anchoring the bullpen – to say nothing of Grilli, League, and Mujica. You may forget, but elite relievers used to be pretty rare.
Anything less than a World Series berth would be a massive disappointment. While my pitching staff will transfer long into the future, I’ll sadly lose most of my offense after this season. Of those I keep, only Werth, Napoli, and Roberts will have future value.
The 2009 campaign might be a lost cause if I can’t fill gaps at first, shortstop, third, and two outfield spots. It’s Roberts’ last hurrah too so I might as well cash him in on the trade market. For now, I have a season to simulate!