Friday, December 4, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League West

Today, we move to our penultimate division in the Retired Number Quiz series, the AL West. In stark contrast with the Central divisions, four-fifths of the teams in the AL West are expansion teams, making them the overall youngest division.* Still, I think there are a lot of solid options here. And if you missed any of the previous pieces, so far, there’s the AL East (quiz, article), the NL East (quiz, article), the AL Central (quiz, article), and the NL Central (quiz, article).

*Technically, all three expansion teams in the NL West are newer than any AL West team, but the age of the Giants and Dodgers leaves the AL West with the lower average age. I guess that means the NL West is younger by median, but either way, they still cover more history.

You can try the AL West quiz HERE before coming back here to read the full breakdown. As a refresher, players must have worn a uniform number for at least three seasons, and this quiz covers the entire history of the franchise. For bonus answers, there are five A’s; one who failed to reach the three-year minimum, and four players from the Oakland era of the team, since two-thirds of the list is from before their move out to California.

As usual, good luck!


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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League Central

We’re now in the back half of this trip through the league. Having covered the AL East (quiz, article), the NL East (quiz, article), and the AL Central (quiz, article), we now move on to the next division, the NL Central. As I mentioned last time, the two Central divisions have the oldest teams on average, which makes things a little more difficult. But I still don’t find this one on the whole to be as tough as the AL Central; their NL Central counterparts just don’t feel like they’ve picked over their retired number options quite as thoroughly.

When you’re ready, you can play the quiz HERE, then return after you’re finished to learn more about the answers. As a reminder, players must have worn a uniform number on the team in question for at least three seasons. Since none of these teams have moved, the only bonus answer this time is a Hall of Famer for the Reds who didn’t reach that three-year minimum.

Have fun!


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Friday, November 27, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League Central

Following the AL East (Quiz, Article) and NL East (Quiz, Article), we continue westward, today tackling the American League Central’s five teams. I personally think this is the hardest one of the batch, although maybe that’s just because the ALC has historically been the division I’ve followed the least closely (for whatever reason). Still, there is some logic to that too, I think: the two Central divisions are both four-fifths original-sixteen teams teams (every other division has at least two expansion teams), and their only newer teams were still some of the older ones at that (the Brewers and Royals both date back to 1969, the third wave of expansion). But even on top of that, I think the AL Central teams have generally felt just a little more thorough in their number retirements than other teams? However you’d quantify that.

If you’re ready, you can take the quiz HERE before reading on to learn more about the specific players involved. Remember that to make the quiz, players must have worn a uniform number on the team question for at least three questions (that actually came up a lot in this division, but more on that in the article…). And for those hunting bonus answers, your goal this time is four Minnesota Twins players (plus four more players who didn't reach the three-year minimum, spread across the Indians, White Sox, and Twins-Senators, although those answers are a little more difficult).

Good luck!


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Monday, November 23, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The National League East

Part two of my retired number quizzes is out, this one featuring the NL East teams! The quiz can be found here, with an article explaining the results (and including spoilers) included after the break. If you’re looking for part one, featuring the AL East teams, the quiz can be found here and the article can be found here.

(Also, like last time, players must have worn a uniform on said team for three or more seasons to qualify. And as far as bonus answers go, for those searching, the Braves and Nationals each have three focusing on their days in Atlanta and Washington, respectively.

Good luck!



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Friday, November 20, 2020

Retired Number Quiz Series: The American League East

As I mentioned last time, I’m going to be publishing a series of articles and Sporcle quizzes over the next few weeks where I’ll look at the top players (by Wins Above Replacement) in each team’s history who do not have a retired number. If you want to try the quiz before reading the full piece, that can be found here. Once you’ve tried that, be sure to come back and read the full piece below, with a team-by-team analysis.

(Please note that to make the list, players must have worn a number with the team for at least three seasons. Also of note: the quiz contains one bonus Baltimore Oriole answer, to account for a St. Louis Brown appearing in their top six players.)

Happy guessing!


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Monday, November 16, 2020

New Trivia Series Announcement: Best Players Without a Retired Number, by Team

In my most recent bout of Sporcle Quiz Making during the playoffs, I decided to try and make more Retired Number quizzes as well. There wasn't really a rush to publish them, though; playoff quizzes would be timely to run during the postseason or immediately after, but retired numbers aren't really tied to any one section of the year. 

So... I decided, why not make an offseason mini-series about it? It will help fill the slow offseason months in the time between the World Series and Hall of Fame voting (especially since I'm anticipating a slow free agent market this winter). 

But like with anything related to Retired Numbers, I found myself struggling to be brief. There's so much interesting trivia, data, and backstory to it all. So, I decided to make it into a pair of mini-series, one a set of quizzes and one a series of short articles expanding upon the material further. So, over the next few weeks, I'll be going division by division looking at a simple question: who are the best players in each team's history without retired numbers? 

For the sake of simplicity, I'll be going by just Baseball-Reference's version of WAR, and only value accrued with the team. Each team will have six players listed, since that a) will give me a good, round 30 answers per quiz and article; b) was generally where I found notability to start trailing off, give or take. And for added bonus answers, I’ll also include hidden answers for players who qualified for the most modern incarnation of each franchise (so for example, if three of the A’s six top players came from their time as the Philadelphia A’s, I’ll also include three extra answers of the best players when limited to just the Oakland era); all of that will be expanded upon in the articles as well.

In any case, with all of this out of the way, I should be able to jump right in once the series actually starts in earnest. Hopefully, it's something for all of you to look forward to in the second half of November!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

2020 World Series Trivia: Best Active Players Without a World Series

With the conclusion of the 2020 World Series, it is once again time for the yearly Best Active Players Without a World Series quiz. There were some big names crossed off the list this year, which we will cover after the break below. Also, I published several quizzes throughout the World Series (they were a good thing to focus on between innings and during pitching changes!), which I've also included below:


Best Players Without a World Series, 2020 Edition
World Series with an Expansion Team

Friday, October 16, 2020

New Sporcle Quiz: 2010s World Series Trivia

It’s been a while since I did a Sporcle quiz that wasn’t related to my yearly “Best Players Without a World Series” tradition, but I had inspiration recently. Going back through my earliest quizzes, I found one that I had totally forgotten about: 2000s World Series Trivia. And upon remembering it and replaying it, I realized that I could do a follow-up. 

So here it is: 2010s World Series Trivia. Go give it a try! And like normal, it’s been added to my Sporcle Quizzes page here. And as a new thing, I finally got organized and started playlists for some of my Playoffs and Retired Number quizzes; if you have a Sporcle account and want to be updated when new things come out, you can follow those. Because this may have given me a few more ideas to try out…

I’m not sure if the Best Players Without a World Series quizzes should get their own playlist or go on my existing playoffs playlist; I’m leaning towards the former right now, and will probably make a decision when the new one comes out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The 2020 Astros Look to Follow a Tradition of Slow-Starting Pennant Winners

(Also up over at The Crawfish Boxes)

One thing I mentioned in my ALCS Prediction is that, while the Rays had a better 2020 season than the Astros, and are more than likely the better team this year, that doesn’t quite mean as much as it seems. Obviously, short series in baseball are already much more random than they are in other sports (see, for instance, the 2006, 83-win Cardinals upsetting teams with 88, 97, and 95 wins). But the other part of the issue is that the Astros likely aren’t as bad as their record indicated, and the shortened season likely helps obscure that. 

Yes, the Astros finished the abbreviated 2020 season with a losing record, at 29-31. On the other hand, there’s a reason most seasons go longer than 60 games. In fact, if they win the ALCS, the Astros would make for the third straight pennant winner who didn’t have a winning record through the first 60 games of the season, after the 2019 Nationals and 2018 Dodgers.

In fact, since 2000, seven out of the forty teams to appear in the World Series carried a .500 record or worse at the 60-game mark, with a quarter of the 2010s pennant winners in that club. I wanted to look a little more at that bunch of teams, and how their full season unfolded for a sense of what might have been. Those teams in question are (all stats from Baseball-Reference):


Year         Team             W L     Final W Final L WS Result

2019         Nationals   27 33     93         69         W

2018         Dodgers       30 30     92         71         L

2014         Royals        29 31     89         73         L

2012         Tigers         28 32     88         74         L

2007         Rockies       29 31     90         73         L

2005         Astros        25 35     89         73         L

2003         Marlins        27 33     91        71        W


The actual World Series results of this group aren’t necessarily ideal, but then again, two World Series wins in seven chances is better than not making it at all. Either way, the 2020 Astros are pretty comfortably within this group’s range, well ahead of the 25-35 2005 Astros. And they’re tied for second with the 2014 Royals and 2007 Rockies, and just a hair behind the 2018 Dodgers, who needed a 4-game win streak just to reach .500. Those Dodgers would immediately lose their next game, and they had only one day above .500 until game 63.

Which brings me to the next question: what did the path to the pennant look like for those teams? And how does this year’s Astros team compare? 

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Annual Playoff Trivia Bonanza, 2020 Edition (Plus Thoughts on the Expanded Postseason)

I wasn’t sure whether to do my annual playoff trivia article before or after the expanded, sixteen-team Wild Card round. I know it’s officially counted as one, but it still feels weird. Then again, I’m still not totally sold on the ten-team playoff structure, and think it could be improved

And given that, you can probably tell that I am especially unhappy with Rob Manfred’s desires to keep expanded playoffs around into 2021 and beyond. I mean, obviously, if I think the current system still needs work, I would want them to focus on fixing that before moving on to bigger and better things. 

But it does go beyond that as well. The MLB season is long for a reason: there is a lot of randomness in baseball, and it takes a lot of games to get to know who’s better. Expanding the playoffs makes sense in a shortened, 60-game season, given that World Series and Pennant winners aren’t even always winning through their first 60 games (last year’s champion the Nationals are an especially famous example, going 27-33 in their first 60, but even going back another year adds the 2018 Dodgers, who were a mediocre 30-30 and in third place by that point). 

Obviously, the World Series winner isn’t always the true “best” team, given the randomness and short series that finish out the year, but everything is a balancing act between reward and excitement. I already think five teams is pushing things a little too much, but if more teams start getting added, we’ll be regularly seeing some mediocre squads in October. And because baseball is much more random and the rounds the new format adds are shorter and shorter, there's a good chance that those mediocre teams go far. And this isn't even getting into how an expanded playoff picture would further disincentivize teams from acquiring good players and building solid rosters-why try for 95 wins when 85 wins gets you a ticket to the postseason, especially if it's at all similar to what those 95-win teams are getting.

That was a long sidetrack, but I think you get the point. Anyway, in the end, I decided to wait until now and focus on the final eight teams, but I did at a small look at the expanded sixteen-team set as well. So with that all out of the way, let's look at this year's playoff trivia:



DROUGHTS

It’s probably not too much of a surprise, but the average and median drought of teams in the playoff this year is a little lower than last year, but not too out of line with the previous two or three years.

Year         Average     Median
2020 24.25     24
2019 25.7             26
2018 24.5             24.5
2017 28.3             25.5
2016 39.9             31.5
2015 37             29.5
2014 23.9             27.5
2013 24.2             23.5
2012 22.1             22.5
2011 19.375     12
 
 

Granted, it’s not like this year’s batch of teams has been wildly successful. The A’s, Braves, and Dodgers are all sitting on winless streaks of twenty-five years or more, and the Rays haven’t won in their twenty-three years of existence. The Marlins, Yankees, and Astros are the only teams here with a title since 2000, and the Yankees and Marlins won theirs prior to the 2010s. 

It’s just that usually, there’s more high-end droughts to pull these numbers up a little more. This year, it’s just the Padres repping the historic droughts. The Indians and Brewers had similarly long streaks going, but both were of course ousted in the Wild Card rounds. Those two getting knocked out were a big part of why the expanded, sixteen-team field had a slight advantage in overall drought length over the DS round.

Year         Average     Median
2020 27             26


Of course, given the number of historic droughts that ended in the past decade (the Giants, Cubs, Astros, and Nationals all saw 50+-year droughts end in the 2010s, with the Cubs’ of course topping out at 107 years), we probably won’t see these numbers returning to their peak for several years. Right now, the only other team with an active drought of over 50 years (besides, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and San Diego) is the Texas Rangers, so there just aren’t as many permutations we can make to match, say, the 2015 or 2016 postseasons. The Pirates and Mariners will join those four before the decade’s end if they don’t win in the 2020s, and the Orioles and Tigers will be close to joining that mark, but it obviously isn’t quite where we were in 2010 or 2015. And even at the high-end, the Indians are still a decade and a half away from matching the Curse of the Bambino, let alone either Chicago team’s titleless streak. 

Last World Series Win
Padres: Never (founded 1969)
Athletics: 1989
Dodgers: 1988
Braves: 1995
Rays: Never (founded 1998)
Marlins: 2003
Yankees: 2009
Astros: 2017



PLAYERS WITHOUT A WORLD SERIES

Like normal, there will be a full Sporcle quiz about the Best Players by WAR without a World Series after the postseason is totally over. As such, I'll include a full accounting of players on the list playing this October later in this post as part of a separate spoiler section, and instead focus on the quantity of players on each remaining team here.

This year's list includes fifty-seven players (plus a pair of internationally active ones), going all the way down to 110th place on Baseball-Reference's active leaderboard. The Nationals last year did an exceptional job of clearing out names on this list, and no one in 2020 quite measures up to that. However, every team does have at least one player who made it.

One: Marlins, Padres, Rays
Two: Astros, Athletics
Three: Braves, Dodgers
Four: Yankees

And if you were wondering about the eight teams that were already knocked out, they broke down like this:

Zero: Blue Jays
One: Cardinals, Reds
Two: Brewers, Twins
Three: Cubs, White Sox
Four: Indians



EXPANSION TEAMS

Things looked pretty decent at the start of the expanded postseason, with six of the final sixteen teams being expansion franchises. But the newer teams had a pretty good showing in the Wild Card round, going 4-2 (with one of those two losses being the Blue Jays at the hands of the Rays). Between the Rays, Padres, Marlins, and Astros, we have a good chance at our third-ever all-expansion team World Series, following up on 2015 and 2019.

Not only that, but the expansion teams are evenly distributed in the Division Series round, with each matchup pairing an original team with a new one (Braves-Marlins, Dodgers-Padres, Yankees-Rays, A’s-Astros). That means there’s also a decent chance of an all-expansion Championship Series. That’s happened a little more often than the World Series, but not much more. By my count, there are only five such instances: 1982 (Brewers-Angels), 1985, 2015 (both Royals-Blue Jays), 1986 (Mets-Astros), and 2007 (Rockies-Diamondbacks). Apparently, prior to the last half-decade, the mid-1980s were the prior golden age for expansion team playoff success.



UNIQUE MATCHUPS

Every single remaining NL team has played the Yankees in the World Series. The Marlins and Padres have each only made the World Series twice, and they both have played the Yankees in one of them (1998 and 2003). The Yankees’ reach in this category is just incredible when you break it down: they’ve played all eight original NL teams at least twice, and four of the seven expansion teams. The only ones they haven’t played against in the World Series have a combined two NL Pennants between them (the Nationals and Rockies have one each, while the Brewers’ lone pennant is from their time as an AL team).

So yeah, if you want a ton of new options in this category, your first option is always to root for the not-Yankees. But in spite of that, a majority of the remaining possible World Series matchups would be occurring for the first time. The Dodgers have faced everyone but the Rays, the Braves and A’s have faced the non-expansion teams, but everything else would be new. The only team the Rays have previously faced in the last round didn’t make the postseason this year, while the Marlins, Padres, and Astros are missing half of their former final foes (the non-Yankees and non-Dodgers opponents, obviously). 

Technically, we could have seen some interesting pre-league swap World Series and Championship Series reunions (Astros-White Sox ALDS would have been a rematch of the 2005 series, Cardinals Brewers would have been the 1982 Series, Cardinals-Astros would have been the 2004 and 2005 NLCS), but all of those chances died in the Wild Card round. The Astros did play the Braves, Dodgers, and Padres in previous Division Series, though.

Unique Matchups
Rays-Braves
Rays-Marlins
Rays-Dodgers
Rays-Padres
Athletics-Marlins
Athletics-Padres
Astros-Braves
Astros-Marlins
Astros-Padres

One Time
Yankees-Marlins (2003)
Yankees-Padres (1998)
Athletics-Braves (1914)
Astros-Dodgers (2017)

Multiple Times
Athletics-Dodgers (1974, 1988)
Yankees-Braves (1957, 1958, 1996, 1999)
Yankees-Dodgers (1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1981)



BEST PLAYERS WITHOUT A WORLD SERIES, BY TEAM (SPOILERS)

Friday, August 21, 2020

Team Hall of Fame Snubs vs. Team Hall Median, Part 2

A few years ago, I covered an interesting hypothetical question: Which team would be better, a team of median Hall of Famers, or a team of the biggest Hall snubs? I encourage you to go check it out, in part because I feel like the setup was interesting, but also to give a bit of background for what I want to do today.

I sort of randomly stumbled upon that article while looking for a reference for something else, but had fun looking back at it. And I couldn’t help but noticed that a good chunk of Team Snub had actually made it into Cooperstown in the seven-plus years since I wrote it. So I couldn’t help but wonder, if I updated it for 2020, would Team Snub still stack up so well against the Hall of Fame Median?

First, as a brief refresher, here was the 2013 edition of Team Snub:
C-Mike Piazza
1B-Jeff Bagwell
2B-Bobby Grich
3B-Graig Nettles
SS-Alan Trammell
LF-Barry Bonds
CF-Kenny Lofton
RF-Larry Walker
DH-Mark McGwire
Bench-Ted Simmons, Craig Biggio, Ken Boyer, Tim Raines, Shoeless Joe Jackson
Rotation-Roger Clemens
Curt Schilling
Kevin Brown
Rick Reuschel
Luis Tiant
Swing Men-Tommy John, David Cone, Eddie Cicotte
Relievers-Lee Smith, Dan Quisenberry, John Hiller

Since then, Piazza, Bagwell, Trammell, Biggio, Smith, Raines, and most recently, Walker and Simmons, have all found their way into the Hall of Fame, and thus, no longer qualify for the team. So that’s almost a third of the team we’ll need to replace, plus we have seven years’ worth of new candidates to evaluate, so we should be seeing a good amount of turnover.

Monday, July 20, 2020

All-Time Lineups by Jersey Number

The other day, Mike Petriello at MLB.com ran a fun article on the most productive uniform numbers ever. It’s pretty comprehensive, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out. And sure, it’s technically not Retired Numbers, but it’s still right up my alley. So I wanted to build off of Petriello’s idea: what’s the best lineup you could make just by picking players who wore the same number?

Generally, I tried to keep it simple: players should have worn a number of a plurality of their career, if not an outright majority. I also tried to keep things to a basic level, so we’ll be using just a starting nine with a designated hitter (to help account for some positional overlap). With that, let’s dive in:

Friday, June 19, 2020

Astros Dream Draft Fantasy Tournament

Over at The Crawfish Boxes, we're making the best of a bad situation by running an All-Time Astros Fantasy Draft and Tournament. We held a draft where every player in franchise history (with two or more seasons on the team) was eligible, and we tried to make the best team possible. The best team was up for discussion, fan voting, and Out of the Park simulations. The full series is over there and still in progress, but I wanted to re-post my team here, as well as my reasoning:

Baseball Video Game Recommendation: Super Mega Baseball 3




(This post is also up over at The Crawfish Boxes and Out of Left Field, since it's both baseball and video games.)

I think there’s a real art to making fun, arcade-y baseball video games. Maybe it’s because my first baseball video game was Backyard Baseball. Maybe it’s because I can sometimes get a little intense with more in-depth simulations, like Out of the Park Baseball (although it also does fill a different niche as a game, coming more from the management simulation side of things). Some of it is probably experience in my younger days that some “official” games relied on carrying MLB’s license to move units rather than actually fun gameplay; when you’re designing things as a game first rather than a marketing opportunity, you have to be sure the game is fun enough to stand on its own without official MLB names and logos. For instance, both Backyard Baseball and Out of the Park began without official licenses, making use of fictional players and teams in their initial entries.

And on top of that, there’s an added difficulty in making games that are not just fun, but also intuitive to pick up and play for most people; there are a lot of things going on in baseball, and sometimes, in trying to adapt every single aspect for fidelity, you end up with a complicated heap of systems for the player to memorize before they feel like they have a handle on things. Backyard Baseball was great at this for a while; growing up, I could even sometimes get my dad to play it, when more official and complex titles would frustrate him.

Of course, with Backyard Baseball more or less dead as a series, and Out of the Park doing something different entirely, I had been looking for something to fill this void. MLB’s recent video game efforts have been extremely lackluster, in all honesty. Most of their attempts at easy-to-pick-up-and-play baseball games have left a lot to be desired. MLB: The Show is a solid series, but still on the more complicated side of things, and even that has been a Playstation exclusive for the better part of a decade, leaving a lot of people (myself included, since I’ve usually focused on Nintendo systems and PC) totally out of luck. Which is why I was really excited to find the Super Mega Baseball series a few years ago.

From Canadian-based developer Metalhead SoftwareSuper Mega Baseball was released in late 2014 to high acclaim; the sequel, Super Mega Baseball 2, came out in 2018. And the newest version, Super Mega Baseball 3 released just last month (currently available on Steam and all three major consoles-I’ve been playing the Switch version, thanks to a review copy from the developers); both sequels have been similarly well-received.

And for good reason! I’ve been playing since the first one, which was fun but also clearly a first try at the subject. The modes were a little bare-bones, and the look had style but lacked polish. But what it absolutely had, though, was a smoothness to the play, which has held through to every sequel. It felt like the game was designed from the question “What would be the most natural way for a video game to imitate baseball?”, rather than “What’s everything that can happen in a baseball game, and then what buttons do we assign each of those to?”. That’s a small difference, but it absolutely comes through when you’re playing the games.

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Next Retired Number for Each Team

We are days away from the first Retired Number of the 2020 season.

Or at least, we would be. The Rockies were set to honor recent Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker with the team’s second-ever retired number (#33) on April 19. Obviously, that’s not happening now, but the 2020 season was looking to be a pretty big year for retired numbers, with six on the slate. I don’t see any reason those won’t happen when things do return to normal, but it is a delay nonetheless.

With no active baseball season to write about, I’ve seen a few more people than normal talking about uniform numbers and such. It makes sense, as the topic is pretty universal, full of interesting history, and not time sensitive. But while I’ve written about them pretty often and extensively, I realized that I haven’t put down comprehensive predictions on who will be next in that regard since my really big series.

So let’s do that; after all, there have been a big change of the overall scope of things since I wrapped that up, with 35 players being honored since my final piece in the Retired Numbers Series (not even counting the additions that happened during the writing process, with teams that I had already covered). This won’t be anywhere as in-depth as that series, but I still want to see what’s changed in the meantime.

One interesting thing I’ve noticed as of especially late was teams going through their backlog of candidates, so to speak. Arguably, there were some things hinting in that direction, with the Mariners retiring #11 for Edgar Martinez in 2017 and the Giants honoring Barry Bonds’s #25 in 2018. They were somewhat jumping the gun, since both players were on the ballots, and usually teams like to wait for actual induction. And maybe Alan Trammell (#3) and Jack Morris (#47) helped move the needle as well, with the Tigers retiring their numbers years after they retired in 2018, following both getting inducted into the Hall by the Veterans Committee that year.

But 2020 has a number of candidates who combined both aspects, with Dave Stewart (#34, A’s), Jerry Koosman (#36, Mets), Will Clark (#22, Giants), and Lou Whitaker (#1, Tigers) all finally getting their numbers retired years after hanging up the spikes and without a Hall induction to their names (yet). I’m not sure what in particular led to each of those (Whitaker in particular seemed like he would have made sense a few years ago with his longtime teammates Trammell and Morris, but maybe they were holding off to see how he fared in this year’s Veterans balloting).

But it feels like that could happen for just about anyone, so I’ll try and throw out one “backlog” candidate each team could surprise us with as well.