A lot of my time is dedicated to playing in a simulation baseball league to which I am a co-founder (established in 1999) and a proud (and active) member to this day. The league is run on ‘Diamond Mind Baseball’, the preeminent baseball simulation software which uses the player’s current stats (from previous full MLB season) and using the advanced game engine produces results for games and a season.
I know there are a lot of simulation players out there, and more specifically a lot of DMB users and I have decided to construct a ‘Top 50 Most Valuable Simulation Players’ list for your enjoyment. This will be similar to the extremely popular ‘Fangraphs Top 50 Trade Assets’ but I will tailor the list to the needs to simulation baseball players and more specifically to the parameters and setup of my particular league as it a fairly standard type of league.
My league has 16 teams (divided into 2 Leagues and 4 divisions of 4 teams), 40 players per roster and is set to the current ‘NL’ era (or atmosphere for stats, so it uses the NL team batting average, E.R.A and runs/game etc). If I have lost you, sorry, a simple explanation is that we are the owners/GMs of ‘fake’ teams that play an entire season and postseason using the most advanced ‘simulation’ software on the market.
If you have never played in one, I highly recommend it, it forces you to become totally enamoured with the game of baseball when you are in a league like this and in turn you learn a ton about the game and it’s players as with 640 total players combined on our rosters, you need to know more than just the top 25-30 players in the game, you even need to know relief pitchers, backup infielders and a healthy knowledge of prospects is a must.
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There are a lot of different aspects that DMB uses to churn out the results, and this list will be comprised of players who I feel are most valuable to the DMB world and not necessarily just the major leagues. This list will be similar to the Fangraphs lists however this is not based on salary at all as our league has no salary cap or any vesting interest in what a player makes per season. Age is going to play a factor but this list will not contain many pure prospects (think Mike Stanton) as we have a steep amount of drops at season’s end so production in the next 2-3 seasons is vital and will be a major factor in the overall rankings. Youth is preferred of course, but if a player is still in or entering his prime he will still be ranked accordingly (think Pujols, Halladay).
Here are some of the factors I have taken into account based on my knowledge and experience with DMB:
–Position, position, position: Just like in real life, there is a huge premium placed on the catcher, shortstop, centre field and second base positions – not only for defense sake but there just aren’t as many solid players to fill those spots league wide. This isn’t to say I will take Craig Counsell over Mark Teixeira but one has to factor in positional value (and scarcity) as well as the offensive contributions.
–Defense: DMB assigns a ‘defensive range’ rating (from PR to EX) and defense plays a big overall role in team success and keeping your pitcher’s ERAs as low as possible. Like in real life, solid defenders are preferable to the stone handed fielders so don’t expect to see Adam Dunn on this list!
–Versatility: if defense is important, than versatility is huge as the more positions a player is rated the more valuable he is for the season, as long as he isn’t rated poor at most of them. Also, players cannot play out of position in most leagues and are heavily penalized if one’s that allows this.
–Park factors: DMB places an emphasis on home ballpark for the players, so a pitcher who is solid at Coors Field is going to be more effective than if he pitched at PetCo – Ditto for hitters, but reversed, of course.
–Handedness: For pitchers it is more beneficial to be right-handed as a southpaw can face a super stacked line-up of all righty hitters who have incredible splits vs. Lefties. For hitters, I give a slight advantage to lefties (or switch hitters) as the league is normally loaded with right handed starters (for the above reason) who historically are tougher versus righties.
–Age: younger is preferred, but as we discussed players entering or in their primes are welcome additions to many rosters as you just want immediate productivity. With no salary cap or salary structure in most leagues, there is no worry about arbitration, free agency or ‘super two statuses’. Again, this doesn’t mean I am going to take Tim Hudson over Felix Hernandez regardless of how good a season Huddy is currently having, age has to be factored in.
–Other general nuances: over the years I have noticed ground ball pitchers with solid HR rates (i.e., low) tend to ‘sim’ better than the norm, and low-ish average/high on-base hitters tend to fare better than a high average/medium OBP hitter. Kevin Youkilis will likely sim better than say Delmon Young as the low BB hitter is at the mercy of his BABIP, just like real life. Some teams/owners might value a certain player or position more than another, just another factor that a list cannot totally encapsulate, plus this is for fun and entertainment also!
An everyday player is preferred over a pitcher, and a starting pitcher is preferred to a reliever (duh) so only one relief pitcher made the cut, and his future potentially lies in the starting rotation. Pitchers are extremely volatile and injury prone and only eleven total pitchers made the Top 50 and one has recently been scheduled for TJ surgery and has effectively wiped out his entire 2011 season, lending even more credence to the above stated rule of thumb regarding the value of everyday position players.
There are of course many other factors that may come into play in a given season and some leagues might have different settings, rules that could affect a player’s overall value (like a strict salary system) but without further ado, here is the 2011 Simulation Baseball’s 50 Most Valuable Assets, starting with the also-rans, players who were just left off the list.
There were a ton of great players who didn’t make the final cut and I could name 100s of players I like, here is a highlight of a few of the more interesting names left off:
SP Stephen Strasburg – though the phrase “Tommy John” doesn’t cause a massive coronary as it used to, the fact remains Strasburg will be going under the knife and will miss all of 2011 and who knows if he will be the same pitcher he was prior to this injury. His injury has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the season in 2010, and I actually had my rankings finalized prior to his injury and he was close to cracking the top ten – what a shame. Here’s hoping for a speedy and solid recovery.
SP Clay Buchholz – I still do not fully trust that Clay has ‘arrived’ despite a gaudy ERA (2.21) as his K rate has dropped again (has dropped every season in the bigs) to a pedestrian 6.2 K/9, his BABIP is unsustainable (.260) and his xFIP sits at a rather ordinary 4.19. Still, nice to see he has finally put it all together for the BoSox in 2010.
SP CC Sabathia – close, but his falling K rate and being a southpaw was the deciding factor, plus better options to choose from.
SS Jose Reyes – Another guy who must prove he can stay healthy and regain that patience he was starting to show at the plate, his declining defense and BB rate are worrisome however he is still young-ish and the position of shortstop is in sad shape.
RF Jay Bruce – Too many solid OFers to choose from, Bruce must continue to improve, but the power potential seems to be scratching the surface, hard to ignore minor league numbers and overall talent level.
1B Prince Fielder– tons of talent, but he plays an even easier position to fill (1B).
C Victor Martinez – yeah, catcher is that weak – and he is barely a catcher anymore.
3B Alex Rodriguez – what would a list be without A’Rod, however, given the better options ahead of him at 3B, his declining power production, his age and wonky hip A’Rod finds himself on the outside looking in.