Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A league finished, and lessons learned

It took a bit more than a year. The first of 226 games was played on Jan. 23, 2010, and the last was played on Feb. 2, 2011.

I started playing each game with the cards and dice; I ended the season playing the games almost completely on the computer, but still keeping score and the stats by hand. I filled one spiral notebook and about half of another with scoresheets.

I am not surprised that the best teams came out of the Hall of Fame set. Even with 20-man rosters, the depth difference was obvious, particularly in the pitching staffs. No NeL team had more than four Cooperstown inductees on their staff.

What did surprise me was how well the Teddys -- selected from the 1901-1920 era -- did. I had expected that the lack of long ball power would beat them down. Instead, the lineup hit better than .300, the pitching was pretty good -- and got better at the end, when Pete Alexander and Christy Mathewson stopped getting rocked -- and they wound up with the best record and an easy win in the championship series.

And they were a fun team for me to manage. This would be no surprise to those who were in the old Free Press strat league: I am, as a table manager, more akin to Walter Alston or Gene Mauch than to Earl Weaver or Joe McCarthy. I like the bunt, the hit-and-run, making moves.

The Franklins were a better team than the Garfields, but I enjoyed the Garfields more.

This was more a hitters league than I expected. Babe Ruth hit 22 homers in 45 games; that's 80, 81 in a 162-game season, and it came against better-than-average pitching. Probably he wouldn't hit 80 homers if the league went a real-life distance, but still -- there were as many qualifying hitters with a .420 average (extraordinary accomplishment) and qualifying pitchers with ERAs below 3.00 (good but not extraordinary). The hitters ruled.

What comes next? Well, I have Version 16 of the game on order, along with the 2010 Hall of Fame set.

I am probably going to run a small league to test a couple of questions with the computer game, in particular the question of how the computer will handle pitchers coded only to start but used in relief. I have a couple of ideas for longer leagues, but time is an issue. If it took me more than a year to work through 226 games, how long would it take to do a six-team league at 154 games apiece?

I'm not done playing Strat by any means. When I start my next league, I'll be recording it here again. And it will be sooner rather than later.

LCS, Game 5: Teddys 10, Crawfords 4

Teddys win series four games to one

WP: Mathewson (2-0)
LP: Day (1-1)
HR: Sisler (1), Santop (1), Charleston (2)


On the brink of elimination, the Crawfords took a 1-0 lead in the second and a 3-2 lead in the fourth. Leon Day had held the Teddys to three hits through six innings.

And then the Teddys did what they had done so often during the season: String base hits together.

Sam Crawford singled. Home Run Baker doubled. With the infield in, Day got Roger Bresnahan and pinch-hitter George Sisler on grounders. But then Ty Cobb singled home both runners, and the Teddys led 4-3.

Eppa Rixey threw a scoreless bottom of the seventh. Day got the first two men in the top of the eighth. And then:

Crawford tripled. Baker singled him home. Bresnahan singled. Sisler, who had remained in the game in a triple switch, homered. And the Teddys had an 8-3 lead.

Joe McGinnity allowed a run in the bottom of the inning. But in the top of the ninth, Honus Wagner doubled, Nap Lajoie tripled (his second three-bagger of the game) and Baker singled. Eight runs in three innings.

Louis Santop had three RBIs for the Crawfords. The Teddys got two runs scored apiece from Wagner, Lajoie, Crawford and Baker.

Christy Mathewson allowed three runs in six innings for his second win of the series. But the series MVP goes to Cobb, who went 8-for-19 with six RBIs and seven runs scored, hit a pair of homers and played crucial roles in two comeback wins.

LCS Game 4: Teddys 8, Crawfords 0

Teddys lead series 3-1

WP: Alexander (1-0)
LP: Foster (0-2)
HR: Baker (1)


Pete Alexander's three-hit shutout was backed by 14 hits for the Teddys, who have now outscored the Crawfords this series 35-14.

Home Run Baker lived up to his nickname with a second-inning solo shot that opened the scoring. The score remained 1-0 through five innings, but the Teddys dinged Crawfords ace Bill Foster for two runs in the sixth and three more in the eighth before tacking on two more off Verdell Mathis in the top of the ninth.

Honus Wagner drove in four runs with a triple, double and single. Eddie Collins also went 3-for-5, scoring twice and gathering a pair of doubles.

Alexander struck out nine and walked two in the Teddys' second shutout of the series. The author of the first one, Christy Mathewson, will try to wrap up the series in Game 5.

LCS, Game 3: Teddys 7, Crawfords 4 (11 innings)

Teddys lead series 2-1

WP: Bender (1-0)
LP: Streeter (0-1)
Save: Joss (1)
HR: Charleston (1), Cobb (2), Wright (1)


The potentially pivotal Game 3 had several turning points, but perhaps none more significant than the injury to Crawfords starter Bullet Joe Rogan.

Rogan had tossed four scoreless frames, allowing just two hits, but he had to depart after striking out to end the bottom of the fourth. Chet Brewer inherited a 4-0 lead, built on a pair of two-run homers (Oscar Charleston in the first inning, Wild Bill Wright in the fourth) and tossed a scoreless frame himself in the fifth.

But Ty Cobb hit a two-run homer in the sixth, and the Teddys added another run when Louis Santop booted Nap Lajoie's nibbler. Brewer and Roosevelt Davis maintained the 4-3 lead into the ninth, but the Teddys tied it on five straight singles -- being held to just one run because two men were thrown out on the bases.

Sam Streeter and Chief Bender kept the game tied at four into the 11th, when the Teddys got a pinch hit single from Bobby Wallace, a single from Cobb, a sac fly from Eddie Collins, a single from Honus Wagner and a game-breaking triple from Tris Speaker. (Wallace, a mere 1-for-15 in the regular season, is 2-for-2 as a pinch hitter in this series.) Addie Joss, who had no saves in the regular season, nailed this one down with a perfect bottom of the 11th.

Three Finger Brown went eight innings, allowing four runs and 10 hits. Cobb was 4-for-6 with three RBIs and two runs.

Addendum: Behind 2-1 in the series, and with their bullpen hard-worked after short starts by Bill Foster and Rogan, and with Ted Trent a poor matchup against the left-handed Teddys, the Crawfords will shorten their rotation to Foster-Leon Day-Rogan and have Trent available in the pen. So Game 4 will match Pete Alexander and Foster.

LCS, Game 2: Crawfords 10, Teddys 8

Series even at one game apiece.

WP: Day (1-0)
LP: McGinnity (0-1)
Save: Streeter (1)
HR: Cobb (1), Beckwith (1)

It was a game of base hits, runs and crooked numbers. While the Teddys kept it close, the Crawfords led almost the entire game.

The key segment came in the fourth and fifth innings. The Crawfords rang up four runs against Rube Waddell in the top half of the fourth, aided by a Nap Lajoie error and a pair of stolen bases by Oscar Charleston and Bill Wright. John Beckwith and Sammy T. Hughes each contributed two-RBI hits. The Teddys responded with three runs in the bottom of the inning, tying the score at 5.

In the process, Sam Crawford was injured. Since Shoeless Joe Jackson was going to have to replace him in the outfield anyway, he was used to pinch-hit for Waddell (and got a RBI single). With Crawford's spot due third in the fifth, the Teddys opted to send Iron Man McGinnity, their weakest reliever, out for the top half of the inning.

It didn't work. Beckwith hit a three-run homer, and the Teddys never caught up. They came close repeatedly; Hughes twice robbed Ty Cobb of hits with men in scoring position.

Leon Day, back in the starting rotation for the Crawfords after spending much of the season in the bullpen, wasn't all that effective; he allowed seven runs, all earned, on 13 hits in 6.6 innings. Sam Streeter got the last seven outs for the save, allowing a run in the ninth.

Beckwith had five RBIs and three runs scored for the Crawfords, and Hughes drove in three. For the Teddys, Roger Bresnahan was 3-for-3 with a walk and a HBP.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

LCS, Game 1: Teddys 12, Crawfords 0

Teddys lead series 1-0.

WP: Mathewson (1-0)
LP: B. Foster (0-1)

On one hand, Christy Mathewson threw a six-hit shutout, striking out nine and inducing four double play grounders.

On the other side, Bill Foster allowed seven runs (six earned) in the first two innings.

It was that kind of game for the Crawfords, who used two members of their regular starting rotation in relief. Ted Trent allowed three runs in two innings; Chet Brewer held the Teddys scoreless for two innings.

Nap Lajoie went 4-for-5 for the Teddys, driving in three runs and scoring three. Sam Crawford also drove in three on three hits, including a triple. Eddie Collins was 5-for-5, all singles, with two runs and two RBIs. Crawford and Home Run Baker were the only Teddys who didn't score.

League Championship Series preview

The Crawfords will take switch up their rotation for the LCS.

Bill Foster will still start Game One, but Leon Day will move from bullpen duties back to the rotation and take Game Two. Bullet Joe Rogan remains in the No. 3 slot, and Ted Trent drops to Game 4. Chet Brewer is in the bullpen.

The Teddys will continue to follow their rotation. Because of their one-game playoff, it will be Christy Mathewson, Rube Waddell, Three Finger Brown and Pete Alexander.

Best of seven series. First two games at Teddys, then three at Crawfords (as needed), finishing if necessary at Teddys.