Living in the future is great, isn’t it? Sure, we may not have the flying cars we were promised by so many movies, but at least technology has still given us plenty of cool things to toy around with and take for granted.
For example: Simulation games! You can do everything in these fake worlds, from mimicking a European truck driver to being a goat (the lowercase kind) to controlling the lives of an entire family and designing some horrifically ugly houses for them to live in. There’s no limit!
That fantastical world extends to sports, where enterprising minds have developed some awesome programs to allow you not just to play the games but to manage every aspect of the organization, top to bottom. This is the world of Out of the Park Baseball, an unbelievably deep and customizable baseball sim engine. This year, OOTP will turn 21, and we’re going to help celebrate that by creating an entirely new league within the game.
Here’s the premise: Members of TGP and friends/alumni were asked to take part in a 25-round draft. The draft pool was composed of every single individual Phillies player season from 1993 on through 2019. The goal was to create a team that could vanquish all the others, to find just the right mix of ‘90s mullets, ‘00s greats, and ‘10s diamonds in the rough that could capture the ultimate prize...which we still haven’t named yet. This is OOTPhight.
The draft rules were fairly simple and intentionally hazy. There were only a few things to abide by.
- Draft a season as if you were expecting their real-life stats that year to happen in the sim. This was often meant to distinguish starters from relievers (on innings) and regulars from bench players (on plate appearances), but the sim may allow for trickery with low IP totals and good rate stats to hold up for a full year. We’ll see! It’s a risk either way.
- Draft 25 players, with no more than 12 pitchers. We only had 1 violator, which feels like a success for us.
- Injuries will be disabled in this world (yay Roman Quinn!), but fatigue will be enabled, meaning bench and bullpen depth will play a key part later in the season.
- There will be no trades, free agent signings, or minor league rosters to pick from. No Injured List, DFAs, or releases. These rosters are set for the duration of this championship season.
The league is split into three divisions, with a unique playoff structure. Each owner also has the full scope of managerial options — pitcher hooks, defensive subs, depth charts, the works — available to them. More on all of that later. For now, let’s check out the teams and see what each owner had to say about their squad and strategy.
I had the first pick in this draft and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I had to have a Doc Halladay season. They were some of the statistically most dominant seasons in Phillies’ pitching history and with the first pick, I had my choice of whichever I wanted. From there, I had the thought of grabbing position scarcity (hence my early Realmuto choice), but then I thought: Why worry about positions? Just grab the most productive hitter/pitcher I needed at that time and then fill in the rest. My offense is a lot nice mix of power, on base ability and average. I really like how my bench looks, the Eisenreich pick perhaps my favorite one of all.
The rest of the rotation was a grab of underrated seasons that time has forgotten about. Go ahead — look at those numbers for Mulholland and Padilla. When looking at the bullpen, I wanted guys who could strike out hitters. That’s why you see a Jeremy Horst season in there (struck out 32% of hitters that year), as well a Seranthony Dominguez included.
I think this is a team that could do some damage in our simulation. There is a potential that my offense struggles, as well as the back end of the rotation, but I think I have the depth to counter any long stretches of ineffectiveness that might creep in.
After anchoring the rotation with Roy Halladay, I went to work filling it out with guys who had underrated seasons, as well as some personal favorites. My bullpen features five closers, and I just hope they’re all okay with reduced roles. As for the lineup, I have a solid mix of power and speed, and my outfield is an OBP machine.
Did I make a strange choice by taking three members of the 1995 team as opposed to just one member of 2011 version? Perhaps, but the 1995 team did have an excellent first half, while the 2011 team went into the tank in September. So maybe I’m just playing chess while everyone else is playing Connect Four.
My big goal was to target positions with scarcity that led to a first round Scott Rolen and second round Jim Thome. An early run on starting pitchers led to me reaching a little to flesh out a rotation. Next thing I knew all the good CF options were gone. The good news is that Roman Quinn can’t get injured in this bizarre universe. I was also dead set on not drafting any players I didn’t like. I do want to root for my team, after all.
My draft strategy was twofold. A) avoid drafting any scumbags that I would not want to root for, and B) draft players based on how I thought they would perform in OOTP, rather than how they did in their particular season. Flash-in-the-pan seasons are not likely to be as well rewarded by the game engine as down years by otherwise solid contributors. With injuries disabled, injury-shortened seasons by good players are not likely to be a problem. Thus, Roys Oswalt and Halladay, Darren Daulton and Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten. I also gambled on some “before they were good years” in Aaron Nola and Chase Utley. I think those are likely to be either steals or busts, nowhere in between.
I suspect I will have the best starting pitching and a solid bench, and am hopeful those can make up for what is likely to be a shaky bullpen and weaker than average lineup.
My first goal was to ensure the middle of the infield, which was why I went with Utley and Rollins seasons first. After that, I wanted to prioritize my starting rotation and the positions with little depth to them. While my rotation doesn’t have any “flashy” picks, I did get three 16-game winners and a fourth pitcher with 11 wins— I’m pretty happy about that, considering how many top pitchers were taken in the first two rounds of the draft. After finishing my rotation and my expected starting lineup, I mixed between filling my bench and filling my bullpen. I took a few risks in my bullpen, namely 2005 Aaron Fultz and 2002 Carlos Silva, but overall I think my team may surprise some people. Or they’ll completely tank, who knows? Either way, this was fun.
I also want to mention that somehow I managed to draft five players from the 2008 team, including my first three choices. While that was definitely not intentional (I was originally targeting both 2007 Hamels and 2010 Oswalt in round 3, thanks Dan and Henry!) I’m hoping that having 1/5 of my team from the only World Series Championship season in the past 27 years will bring me good luck.
Personally, I think my squad turned out pretty darn well.
The crown jewel of my draft was my rotation — which I was proud to curate, as starting pitching became slim pickings very, very quickly. However, there are a few durability concerns within my staff — 2014 Cliff Lee only started 13 games, and 2010 Happ was limited innings-wise, too. These particular cases are what spurred me to invest in 2016 Charlie Morton, who will serve as a long reliever/6th starter should stamina issues arise.
My lineup is also certifiably stacked from top to bottom — even without any MVP-earning seasons. I decided to take a more contact-prone approach to my offense, as I knew prime Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and other power bats would be very early picks — picks which I devoted to my rotation. That said, there’s some good power here. 2007 Ryan Howard’s 47 home runs are going to be the lynchpin of my offense, alongside 1998 Abreu and 2000 Scott Rolen. The speed of 2009 Victorino and 2012 Pierre is going to be huge, too, and I plan to use 2018 Wilson Ramos’ bat often.
My bullpen is fine. I have a shutdown closer in 2013 Papelbon, (gag) alongside some really great setup arms in 2017 Neris and 2007 Madson. Again, I took some durability risks with 2017 Arano, but surprisingly good years from 2017 Garcia and 2015 Gomez should remedy any shortcomings there.
I accidentally drafted 13 pitchers, which slipped by unnoticed until we were all finished picking players, so I’ll be the black sheep of the league and carry one extra arm in exchange for a shorter bench — which doesn’t bother me much.
I’m ecstatic to see how this team pans out. This league is something you’ll want to keep on your radar.
I had my first pick all lined up. I knew because of position scarcity that I could take him to somewhat counter balance missing out on some top flight Utley or Hamels seasons. Then Cormican decided to take Scott Rolen 1998 and ruined my entire draft strategy. After the best Cliff Lee and Chase Utley seasons went I was left with a previously unthinkable choice. Do I choose someone I irreparably can’t stand for the sake of winning this game? So I did it, I took the best Curt Schilling season in hopes that he will strike out literally everyone. I then had 16 picks to think about what I had done (and cry a little).
I still wound up with a great Rolen season, but was also able to stack the top of the rotation with some quality seasons from Cole Hamels and Aaron Nola who, combined with Schilling’s season, have 750 strikeouts between them. The rest of the draft I decided to get risky and hope some nearly half-seasons from Rhys Hoskins, Hunter Pence and Jayson Werth might extrapolate to sneaky good seasons since I couldn’t get an Abreu season. You might notice I have two Odubels on my team. Do I like it? Of course not, but after taking Schilling I gave up on liking all the players on my team for the sake of winning. Getting a 4+ WAR CFer 9th round should provide some crazy value. I’m not particularly crazy about my bullpen, but I wasn’t willing to go in on relievers when they started making a huge run in the early-middle rounds. I’m hoping they are steady enough to get by since my starters should be going deep into games.
Hey, Paul here. Liz’s team was selected on “auto-draft,” a best-player-available draft-by-committee in her absence. Life happens, after all.
I came into the draft with a couple of goals. I wanted a Scott Rolen season, I wanted a very good starting pitching season, first base was extremely shallow, and I could wait on an Abreu year. I was fine punting pitching and bench in the pursuit of a good offense. Taking Utley in the 1st wasn’t the plan, but 2017 was his best offensive year and my only chance at the best hitter of the era. The team went according to plan, with a second strategy of betting hard on traded years going undervalued appearing over time (in particular ‘02 Rolen and ‘00 Schilling fell). I think the offense will grind opposing pitchers up and the bullpen will backup my weaker starters. I don’t love rostering some real terrible human beings, but it was kind of unavoidable. It seems fitting this group of traders to the Phillies is going to crush other of our hometown favorites.
It is clear the goal is offense over pitching, so I filled out the offense with three nobodies in Ruiz, Burrell, and Victorino and then took near straight pitching the rest of the way. I am playing other Phillies teams so I wanted to make sure I had 3 lefties. The bench turned out surprisingly strong for picking it late, even with the novelty pick of Matt Stairs. Kyle Kendrick might just end up going in for the 4th inning of every Velasquez start (that is alternate timeline pick because his FIP was good and my infield defense should be excellent).
I love this team from a “can I win this thing” level, but I despise having taken a Schilling and Papelbon year and I really hope my clubhouse doesn’t implode. I am also slightly concerned the sim software is only going to give me partial season and not the full year for my #Traders. The rotation is admittedly two pitchers deep, but I have 3 closers in the bullpen and I don’t hate the set up guys. The real goal is to just grind opposing teams up like the mid 2000 lineups this squad is made of. Burrell, Abreu, Rolen, Utley, and Thome never shared a lineup together, but they will see approximately a billion pitches even against Lees, Halladays, and Hamels.
I think I’m going to be Sefcik
It didn’t take long to figure out that I had done less preparation for this than many of the other managers. Nevertheless, I entered the draft with three (or four?) loose goals.
First, I wanted to get a top-line starting pitcher which I did with Schilling’s 1998 season. I obviously would have preferred a Lee, Hamels, or Halladay all else being equal, but I felt that Schilling was the only one that made sense to take at that stage.
My second goal was to move early on positions I thought would be light on good seasons. Obviously third base is one of those and I think I got a little unlucky there with a run on Rolen seasons coming in right before my third pick. I ended up sitting back and taking Rolen’s rookie season. I also wanted an Abreu season and an Utley season, for obvious reasons. Also, beyond those two, 2nd base and RF haven’t been incredibly deep positions historically.
My third goal was to get my up-the-middle positions filled sooner rather than later. I grabbed 2006 Utley in the second round and then moved on Chooch 2010, Victorino 2008, and Rollins 2003 in rounds 6-8.
My last goal was to not overthink the later rounds and mostly remember some guys. Between Kevin Sefcik, Ricky Ledee, Desi Relaford, Heathcliff Slocumb, Yorkis Perez, and Mike Mimbs, I think I did a fairly good job there of filling out a competent bench and backend of the bullpen without expending too much effort.
Overall, I think my team will be strong offensively. The bullpen lacks the coveted “proven closer,” but I’m counting on OOTP agreeing that that’s not a real thing. The back of my rotation could be hairy as well, but hopefully the offense shows up on those days.
Looking back over the Phillies’ last 27 seasons all at once made one thing apparent — we’ve had a lot of really great hitting seasons, but far fewer high quality starting pitching seasons. So, after targeting some of the highest OBP seasons from Bobby Abreu and Ryan Howard (all hail OBP), I went after starting pitching, seeing that as one of the scarcest resources. That meant I wound up with weaker Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Carlos Ruiz seasons up the middle, but I was okay with that to get a good starting rotation top to bottom.
I picked 12th out of the 15 participants in the league, so most of the great Roy Halladay and Chase Utley seasons were taken by the time it got around to me. However, I felt good about starting my team off with 2009 Chase Utley, whose 8.2 fWAR was tied for the highest of his career that season. Good value there. Some of my favorite selections was getting 1993 Darren Daulton as my catcher and 2008 Brad Lidge as my closer. I’m also happy with my bullpen: featuring 2001 Jose Mesa and ‘93 Wild Thing Mitch Williams as my set-up men. I’ve got three strong lefties there (‘03 Dan Plesac and ‘93 David West) set to ravage left-handed hitters.
One area where I really screwed up was in the outfield. I loved getting 2019 Bryce Harper to play right field and 2001 Pat Burrell for left. But then I selected another Burrell season, 2004, as my 3rd outfielder, forgetting that I had already selected Burrell a few selections before. As a result, I didn’t realize I had no center fielder. So sure, I would have a bunch of homers and offensive production from that outfield, but every single ball to the gap would have been a double or triple. Pitchers would have hated me.
So I grabbed Ben Revere with my final pick to give me a center fielder and, unfortunately, I may have to start him. We’ll see how it goes.
Other than that monumental screw up in the outfield, I’m happy with my team.
While going into the draft with no specific strategy, I had some general goals, to try to focus on the up the middle positions while not falling too far behind the depth curve at any one position, and keep in mind positional scarcity.
With that in mind, and considering my draft position of 13th out of 15, I was fairly happy when J-Roll’s MVP ‘07 season fell to me in the first round. I also focused on OBP to the extent possible, which explains my picks of Abreu (2000, .416 OBP), Kruk (1993, .430 OBP) and Dykstra (1994, .404 OBP). I, like Matt, I didn’t want to be left without a Rolen, considering the underwhelming options the Phillies have run out there for the the last 30 years. I’m also happy to have last year’s abbreviated McCutchen season (and his .378 OBP) which has the benefit of giving me a better defense in left than anyone with a Burrell season there. There were a lot of Utley seasons, so I waited to fill out my starting 9 with his 2012 campaign. Bench wise I went with a solid PH/DH option in Jeremy Giambi (2002, .430 OBP), then focused on speed and defense subs with Freddy Galvis (‘16), Michael Bourn (‘07), and Roman Quinn (‘16).
Pitching was a mixed bag. By the time my second pick came around all of the assassin Halladay/Lee/Nola/Hamels seasons were already gone, so I went with ‘08 Hamels, because I did want an ace. I didn’t take another pitcher until the 7th round (‘95 Schilling), and as such am hoping to ride Hamels and Schilling as my big two, plus a solid bullpen (‘14 Papelbon, ‘15 Giles, ‘10 Lidge) to paper over the questionable back half of my rotation (‘04 Millwood, ‘99 Person, ‘04 Wolf). Also, making note of how left-handed most offenses are going to be here I made a later but concerted effort to add some solid LHP relief options in ‘12 Bastardo and ‘19 Morgan.
This squad is going to live and die by their offense and defense, which should be quite good, because the starting rotation ain’t great. If one of my back three starters falters there’s always long-man Fernando Valenzuela to come to the rescue!
My team is weird as hell, man.
Picking toward the back of the first round meant I was going to miss out on the most elite seasons, especially on the pitching side, so I took the opportunity to pick an Abreu season that may not be the best by OPS or OPS+, but was a 30 HR/40 SB season with a .428 OBP. That felt first-round quality.
After I landed a SP1, I wanted to jump the line on bullpen arms, and that eventually led me to grab ‘14 Giles and ‘04 Wagner, who should be awesome. Having to play Mayberry at 1B is a little awkward, but at least my offense is supported by what looks like a pretty good bench. I’m really not sure how much good my rotation is going to do, but the hope is that this offense can bludgeon its way to a bunch of 9-7 leads by the time the 7th inning rolls around and Wags/Giles can get to work.
Gotta give the fans their money’s worth.
I am known on the blog for my Pat Burrell fantasies. Now, thanks to this league, I have another: 2002 Pat Burrell comes into my clubhouse, ass dragging, the effects of a body-shott’d evening that began at the Irish Pub visible to all. I can’t possibly start him on a businessperson’s special. But I look around the clubhouse and - who’s this? Why, it’s a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed (natch) 2000 Pat Burrell, ready to bust his rump on this blazing, humid, 95-degree August day. The stench of ferile cat urine wafts in from the tunnel here at the Vet. I fill in the lineup card and spit in the bucket young Burrell will step in flailing at low outside breaking balls in the dirt. I scratch myself for a long time after that.
I am a sucker for narrative, of course, and as such entered this league and its draft with my proclivities fully realized, knowing I have entered a sabermetric knife fight with a fountain pen and a rhyming dictionary, as one does when you have a poetic bent. I wasn’t foolish - I know enough statistical underpinnings to generally know what I’m doing - look for FIP and OBP market inefficiencies here and there, figure where the franchise was deep and shallow, comparatively, try to game a little and read the tea leaves of what’s getting picked and what’s not. Drafting 16th, I kind of enjoyed the double-picks, and roster construction most rounds had me pick up a hitter and a pitcher, and I think I filled in my spots. I created a team that may not light the league on fire, but I expect they will be good-ish and fun as hell in the clubhouse. By September Santana should be swinging freely at Cliff Lee and his poker parties, and I fear deeply the tabs that Burrell, Papelbon, Victorino and Burnett will run up at the Taj Majal. They will not like one another. I will need a better Spanish language interpreter. I’ll forget to lift Santana for Pedro Feliz at third base late in the game and we’ll lose a game and Papelbon will be all butt-hurt. I don’t care.
In some seriousness, this exercise challenged my moral baseball sensibilities. Sure, it was easy to take a principled stand and let that towel-headed revanchist asswipe Schilling fall to other people. But then things got serious, I needed a fifth starter, and Burnett was kind of sitting there, and I had to swallow my 2009 World Series pain and take him. Again, doesn’t mean I have to like him. And it was wistful taking 2012 Victorino, one year before he wound up going absolutely “Awakenings” level bonkers in Boston. But I was too betrayed by Herrera to bring myself pick him, and as I could make a good argument with myself for how similar the years I was comparing, I was more at home with picking SHANF. I can only follow their Instagram accounts, but it just seems like Victorino likes baseball more.
The game is filled with regret, and this franchise doles it out like it’s an open-air market in Kensington. To illustrate this point with the Poetic Justice Leaguers: I didn’t deliberately do this, but my starters, with the exception of Burrell, are non-white. Because I was picking head-to-head seasons looking almost exclusively at numbers, this now interests me as a kind of counter-evidence to what I’ve suspected for a long time as a Phillies fan: nonwhite Phillies haven’t gotten as fair a shake in this organization. I suspect that’s getting better, but I don’t know. If Kingery doesn’t do much this year it won’t dissuade me from continuing to think these thoughts.
I felt the pain of a few players who had really good years on structurally flawed teams, like 2014. I confirmed my anti-Bowa bias from the early 2000s. And I wondered about the sport itself, as we collectively skewed toward picking players from the latter years, where statistical profiles are more in tune with what gets rewarded in fantasy leagues. (The 1990s Phillies also were, aside from the Brigadoon of 1993, redolent of ass, as the kids say.) The exercise fueled my wonder over whether the actual game of baseball is better. I do try my best to counter this trend to hike my pants over my navel when it comes to judging baseball as I age. I sure as hell don’t think it’s gotten more interesting. For this one, glorious virtual season, however, I can dream a little.
You’ll learn more about this league and its teams in the coming weeks. Games will kick off when the new version of the game, OOTP 21, drops later this month.