User Interview: skunk206 From WhatIfSports.com image

User Interview: skunk206

Q&A with skunk206

SimLeague Baseball player and Windy City resident skunk206 is the subject of our User Interview. A WhatIfSports.com member since 2000 and an SLB regular since 2007, skunk206 has compiled nearly 50,000 wins and 81 championships, plus another 14 TOC championships. In this Q&A, skunk206 discusses his strategy for building teams, his favorite players to use and the man behind the username.

skunk206 SimLeague Baseball Overall Records
Seasons Record Playoff Record Championships
50249,317-33,824 (59.3%)1,753-1,561 (52.9%)81

skunk206 Tournament of Champions Records
Appearances Record Finals Championships
126886-616 (59.0%)2214

WIS: Who is skunk206?

skunk206: I'm 31 years old and currently living in downtown Chicago. I work in the financial aid office of a university but I'm strongly considering a career change and maybe a move to a warmer climate. I'm not married and don't have any kids, though those are things I think I'm ready to move on to when the time comes. At the moment I live with a 7-year-old Schipperke mix named Roxie who is just about the laziest dog I've ever seen.

WIS: How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

skunk206: I first joined the site so long ago, in November 2000, that honestly I don't even remember how I found out about it. I used to simulate the '85 Bears or some of the great Bulls teams of the 90's against the other all-time greats to see how they stacked up. I wasn't even aware of Sim Leagues until 2007. Bill Simmons mentioned the site in one of his Page 2 articles on ESPN's website around that time and it piqued my interest again. I logged in and saw a promotion for a free full-season SLB team so I built my club with such immortals as Ed Siever, Josh Towers, Rance Mulliniks, and Otis Nixon. I spent way too much on bench hitters like Dwayne Hosey and I think my first closer was Bryan Harvey. I read the forums and figured out some of my mistakes (like learning HR/9 was a thing) and used the waiver wire to fix a few errors. That first team finished 81-81, but I knew I could do better so I bought another team. They finished 96-66 and lost in Game 7 of the LCS. I got my first playoff credits to make my third team cheaper so after that I was hooked.

WIS: What are some noteworthy events that have occurred in your life since you joined WhatIfSports.com more than 13 years ago?

skunk206: Has it really been that long already? Probably the most important in terms of where I'm at right now was going back to school and finishing my bachelor's degree in 2009. But it's been so long since I first joined the site that in the time since I've gained a brother-in-law and sister-in-law and now four nieces and nephews, one of whom is now a teenager. More recently, I got LASIK eye surgery about six months ago and I'm loving not having glasses anymore. It's expensive, but worth it.

WIS: Have you played SimLeague Baseball consistently since discovering the game?

skunk206: Yes, I've played consistently since 2007 when I built my first team. At my peak I probably had about 20 or so teams running at once, but lately I've been comfortably in the 6-12 range.

WIS: What are some of your interests and hobbies?

skunk206: Besides SLB, I also play fantasy baseball and football. My main fantasy league is a 22-team auction league based out of Flint, Michigan that has been around since 1989. I joined in 2003. We now have owners from as far out as Canada and Nebraska. It's a tough league and it goes deep, where even middle relievers carry a lot of value. Outside of fantasy sports, I still play the real thing. These days it's just rec league soccer and 12-inch softball though, with an occasional round of golf. I've run four marathons and would like to do another this year to help keep myself in better shape. I also really enjoy stories of all kinds and getting lost in a different world for a while, so television, movies, and books are interests of mine. I've had my own idea for a novel floating around in my head for well over a decade, and I've actually written a lot of notes and even some scraps of what could possibly appear in a finalized version, but really it's more of a hobby or diversion and not likely something I'll ever sit down to actually write.

WIS: Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion?

skunk206:

  • My Grandpa Harold. He died in 1969, thirteen years before I was even born, and I'd like to meet him.
  • JRR Tolkien. Just to ask him where it all came from.
  • Sam Thompson. To ask my favorite SIM player what baseball was like in the 19th century.
  • Masaharu Morimoto. So we can have some awesome food at this discussion.
  • Instead of a 5th person I want to invite the band Sigur Rós.

My favorite author, favorite band, favorite TV chef, favorite SIM player, and a grandparent I never had the chance to meet. That sounds like an interesting day.

WIS: Did you play any sports growing up?

skunk206: I did a little bit of everything growing up. Baseball, basketball, football, soccer, cross-country, tennis, swimming, golf, street hockey, and other lesser games I'm forgetting. By the time I got to high school soccer was my best sport so that's what I concentrated on.

Mark Grace First baseman Mark Grace was one of skunk206's favorite players growing up. Grace was a three-time All-Star with the Chicago Cubs and won a World Series in 2001 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

WIS: Who are your favorite all-time players?

skunk206: As a Cubs fan my favorite hometown player growing up was Mark Grace. I also liked Bobby Bonilla since I got to meet him and get an autographed ball during his brief time with the White Sox, and I was also a fan of Will Clark. As a natural righty, I taught myself to switch-hit so I could be like Grace and Clark and Bonilla. In my later years I haven't had as many favorites of individual players. I loved Carlos Zambrano's fire and had him on my fantasy baseball team for a number of years, but that changed when he really started to get out of control. I also liked Aramis Ramirez a lot and had him on my fantasy team for a number of seasons. Of the current Cubs, I'm rooting for Anthony Rizzo to emerge as a possible All-Star quality first baseman.

WIS: Do you have any sports-related items on your bucket list that you have not yet done?

skunk206: So far in my life I have been lucky enough and/or dumb enough to spend the money to have witnessed some great sporting events. When the Bears went to the Super Bowl after the 2005 season, my brother and I bought tickets and went down to Miami for the game. I can't imagine witnessing another single play more exciting than when Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. We were up in the 400-level seats and surrounded by other Bears fans. The noise was unbelievable.

By a stroke of luck I got to go to Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS, the game after the Bartman game that everyone remembers. The Cubs lost, but I've never felt such energy in Wrigley. I also saw Game 2 of the 2005 ALCS, the controversial dropped third strike game. I've been to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and I was in old County Stadium in Milwaukee the day Nolan Ryan won his 300th career game against the Brewers. I got to go to the 2003 MLB All-Star game and had left-field bleacher seats for the Home Run Derby (didn't catch a ball though). I've seen a World Cup game in 1994 and Ajax versus Feyenoord in Amsterdam.

I've had a full bucket-list worth of experiences already, but I guess if I was making a true bucket list of things I haven't seen or done yet, actually being in the stadium to see the Bears WIN a Super Bowl would probably be #1. I'd love to see a Cubs World Series game in Wrigley someday, but another item that would definitely go on the list is a summer MLB ballpark tour. To see a game in all 30 stadiums in the same season would be just incredible.

WIS: What is your favorite WIS moment?

skunk206: I once had two teams play each other in a TOC final, so that was cool. Having the chance to talk to pfattkatt about WIS and life in general was another favorite moment. Keep on truckin', Pfatty. We lost one of the good guys when he passed. There's other favorite moments, like checking in on the morning of a TOC win and seeing the large bank of reward points is always fun. I'd have to say one of my all-time favorites though was the Champions League a long long time ago which was the miami_tilt2 challenge. For those who don't know, miami_tilt2 was a very successful owner. He played 46 seasons and won 23 championships, still good for 2nd place on the all-time Titles/Teams Owned list. But, miami_tilt2 was very cocky and arrogant about how good he was, so a number of owners who were tired of listening to him challenged him to play in a Champs League, believing he couldn't stand up to quality competition (he had previously feasted on OLs by using only cookie teams). He accepted, and I ended up playing in that league to see what all the fuss was about. I got placed into his division with my team MXC Fort Lauderdale Lean, which was clearly a shot at the Miami Tilt moniker. We won 98 games and finished 8 ahead of the "master" who missed the playoffs entirely. That was a satisfying season because by that time I had become a pretty good SIM player but really had no reputation, even if the Lean lost in the 1st round of the playoffs. I don't know that we've heard from miami_tilt2 since...

WIS: Do you have any favorite SimLeague Baseball theme or progressive leagues?

skunk206: I'm a long-term regular in CLWECW's 24 Extreme Theme leagues (both $120M and $140M), Donburgh's Exclusive Ownership league, jballot's 25 Random Seasons league, and TBill7's King of the Hill league (formerly the Free Speech league, and before that the Cerone Cup). Some of these I've played nearly 20 seasons. I also run my Non-Invitational league and we're in season 19 currently. I finally joined my first progressive league in 2013, italyprof's Space Age Progressive league that started with 1946. We've had our growing pains but I think we've come to a reasonable solution for moving forward, and we're finishing up our third season now.

WIS: What is your general strategy for building teams in SimLeague Baseball? Do you draw on the influence or philosophy of any actual general managers or managers?

skunk206: When I first started playing SLB, the Oakland A's "Moneyball" strategy was still a debated topic in popular baseball culture, so my first instinct when starting out was to look for high OBP and market inefficiencies as a way of testing out the theory for myself. As this is generally a strategy that does work in the SIM, that's why I had early success. The idea of looking for market inefficiencies is still what I mostly do today. HR cost more than 2B and 3B. Good defense costs more. So I try to find hitters that have the best balance of offense without sacrificing too much defense but still keeping total salary low. So that has shaped my general strategy in building offenses.

My typical strategy in leagues with few restrictions on player selection is to put together the best possible pitching staff I can for the cap, and spend close to half my budget on pitching. Low OAV, HR/9, and BB/9 guys. I don't do anything fancy with pitching. Offense is a little different. My general strategy is high AVG guys with lots of 2B and 3B, low K/100 and high speed scores when possible (70+). I'll sacrifice on defense to get better offensive numbers, and I don't really care about normalization all that much, and whether a guy's stats normalize "up" or "down". I'll almost always set Hit and Run and Baserunning Aggressiveness to 4 and just let my guys make contact and run, hopefully two and three bases at a time. At my peak my teams would consistently be in the top 4 in runs scored and 2B and 3B, but in the bottom 4 in both HR and SB. Lately I've been adding more SB ability into my offenses, but mostly just letting them run against weaker catcher arms.

Of course, in leagues with player restrictions I just let the theme dictate player selection. In leagues with modern pitchers I'll draft more HR power because there's a greater chance it will be effective. In leagues that favor deadballers I stick with my high AVG and 2B/3B strategy. I generally try to have more LHB in the lineup as there are more RH starting pitchers.

Sam Thompson and Ed Delahanty The Philadelphia Phillies/Quakers pose for a team portrait in 1889. Sam Thompson (front row, center) and Ed Delahanty (middle row, third from left) are both members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

WIS: You've won nearly 60 percent of your TOC games and boast 13 championships. To what do you credit your TOC success?

skunk206: I play a lot of leagues, and when you play a lot of leagues, they can't all be interesting or creative or restrictive themes. This means I play in a lot of open-style leagues without many draft rules, so when teams like that get into TOCs, they have a natural advantage over other teams that weren't able to spend their money as efficiently. So volume and just the type of leagues I play a lot have helped. Luck is also a big factor in TOC success. You may get an early round matchup against a progressive league team or gimmick league team and get an easy win, but as you advance the competition definitely gets more difficult as the weaker teams are generally weeded out, and you have to win 5 consecutive series to win it all. Sometimes, the difference between winning and losing really is just luck. I've been down 2-0 in the first round and that team has gone on to win the TOC and I've had some teams start 9-0 that got swept out of the semis and watched the finals from the stands.

WIS: What is the Non-Invitational?

skunk206: At one time I had this idea that I would invite all the top owners I knew and had competed against to form one Super League of SLB Hall of Famers, an invitation-only, no holds barred death match. Just a league with an incredibly challenging gauntlet of ownership and no player restrictions so everyone could bring their best strategy. I thought it would be fun for some reason. But then I realized a few things. One, I started making a list of the owners I wanted to invite and couldn't come up with 23 more. Two, I played a wide variety of salary caps and there was just no way I could attract the kind of ownership I had in mind for just one salary cap. If it was too low, the high cap guys wouldn't play. If it was too high, the low- and mid-cap guys wouldn't play. So finally I just said forget it and built an "open", no restrictions league at $120M and decided to let anybody join who wanted to. Calling it the Non-Invitational gave it the cheap allure of being exclusive even though it wasn't, and was my homage to the failed idea of having an actual invitational. And the name just stuck. In the end, I got what I wanted anyway. I think the playoffs of the first season had owners with a collective 600+ SLB championships. And the Wall of Champions for the past 18 seasons is an impressive list of names. The league does attract a high-quality group of owners each season.

WIS: Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams?

skunk206: My favorite player by far is 1895 Sam Thompson, but I play caps from $100M up to $255M, so guys I use frequently will change depending on how much money I have available. However, on the pitching side, '95 Maddux appears on quite a few of my teams, and at high caps I often use a Tandem 3A/3B of Maddux and 2000 Pedro Martinez behind a couple 300-400 IP deadballers like Walter Johnson, Ed Walsh, Pete Alexander, Addie Joss, or Christy Mathewson. At one point I played a lot of leagues around $120M and my favorite OF was Thompson, 1927 Harry Heilmann, and 1900 Honus Wagner. Bad range but fantastic run production from the 3-4-5 slots. I like 2011 Jose Reyes combined with a low-salary fatigue replacement to hit 7th in the $110M-$140M range. I've actually had that season of Reyes beat out 1921 Rogers Hornsby in AVG, RBI, OBP, and SLG in a $140M league before. It hasn't been uncommon for him to top 100 RBI out of the 7th spot in the lineup, with 30+ steals and solid defense. I like 1885 Dan Brouthers at 1B, 1988 Wade Boggs at 3B, and Joe Jackson has a range of great seasons available in the OF. I don't often set a closer, but 1967 Cisco Carlos is typically the guy I use in that role, and I like having 1918 Fred Toney as an innings-eating long/swing-man who doesn't cost a ton.

WIS: Are there any 2013 players you've had the chance to use?

skunk206: Yes, I've used Tanner Roark in the $100M-$120M range and been happy with the results as a Setup B. Clayton Kershaw has also been good in that cap range. I've used Greg Holland a few times and Louis Coleman once. But the most common 2013 player is easily Koji Uehara at higher caps.

WIS: Do you make transactions during the season to try and separate yourself from others?

skunk206: No, at least not in the sense that I will drop an "underperforming" player for another. In some leagues with AAA you can draft $200K scrubs and then waive them once the season starts and have enough money to add another RP or something, and I do that, but as a rule I never use the waiver wire otherwise.

WIS: How much time do you spend on your SimLeague Baseball teams? How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?

skunk206: I'd say over the length of a day, I probably spend about 30 minutes total looking at box scores, adjusting line-ups or bullpens, and just managing my teams in general. I will typically micromanage a team through the DAMP-effect period just to keep bullpen or bench player usage in check, but really I don't need to spend a lot of time on my teams. To be competitive, it really is up to the individual owner. I don't think you need to spend a lot of time on your actual team to be competitive as long as you've drafted well, but for new players starting out I think you do need to be able to spend a lot of time early on reading the forums and learning how the game actually works. It is not real baseball, and those new players who come to the game expecting that every .300 hitter they draft will hit .300 are going to be tremendously disappointed.

WIS: If you were to give one piece of advice to a new user, what would it be?

skunk206: Read the forums. Learn how the game works. Try to avoid asking "How do I win?" because there are a number of people on the site who spent a lot of time and money figuring that out for themselves and don't want to just give the answers away. But never be afraid to ask "How does the game work?" or to seek advice from veteran owners. Many of us will share some insights when asked. Also, understand that this is not real baseball and "realism" is not to be expected. This is a numbers game dressed up in a familiar context of MLB, but it is not MLB. That's more than one piece of advice, but I think it's all useful to know.

WIS: What is your favorite aspect of SimLeague Baseball?

skunk206: I love how much I've been able to learn about players and eras I never thought about before SLB. Guys like Addie Joss, Roger Connor, Sam Thompson, Ed Delahanty, Billy Hamilton, Dan Brouthers and thousands of others truly were some of the greatest of all-time, yet to casual fans they are virtually forgotten by history. At least in this little slice of the universe, these players aren't only remembered, but revered.

WIS: Least favorite?

skunk206: The almost complete lack of attention this game and its most loyal players have received for literally years now. We were promised a big 2012 update. It's now 2014 and still nothing is imminent. And really since the last major update (was it 2009?) we've hardly had much communication at all from admin about the direction of SLB or WIS in general. It used to be Tom would respond directly and rather quickly to people's questions in the SLB forums and the Suggestions forum specifically. Now we're lucky to get a "sorry guys, we've been busy" post once or twice a year it seems. Even if the news isn't good, we just want to know what's going on. Maybe once every few weeks just a quick update about what's on the horizon would be nice.

Editor's Note: A significant SimLeague Baseball update is in the works for 2014.

WIS: What is one feature you want to see implemented in a future update?

skunk206: First, I'd like for there to actually BE a future update. I'd like to be able to sort the Team Rankings page by real life stats as well as the SIM stats. It would be great to be able to see which owner drafted the highest team AVG or the lowest team WHIP and how that translates into the SIM performance of that team. That's what the SIM is really about, trying to build the best team on paper given the salary restrictions. Let us see who the best teams on paper actually are without having to look at each team's profile individually.

WIS: Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

skunk206: This is the part that feels like an Oscars speech. I know I can't recognize everybody so I hope not to offend anyone I might forget, but over the years and various salary caps I've had (mostly) friendly rivalries or enjoyed the competition against mensu1954 (and his horde of limey zombies led by Festus Haggen in a bikini), skonley, elbirdo, boundsjordan, WaitNSee, vtspirits (we battle it out in the AL West of the King of the Hill league each season), dougpalm (and his magpie band of freedom fighters), TBill7, and ligapelota (from my old OL days and now at different caps). I should also recognize flakfizer and his devotion to truly unique and challenging themes from my old Choose Your Own Theme league. And pfattkatt.

WIS: If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position, and what would you be rated?

skunk206: Well if I compare my 12-inch softball prowess to MLBers, I'd probably profile as a high-AVG, low-BB, low-K, good defense, good speed, noodle-armed outfielder with XBH power but little else. Like 1939 Bob Elliott.

skunk206: There's also one other thing I want to mention, as I get asked about it on occasion. As many have noticed, I use the letters MXC in front of all of my team names. The letters themselves were the abbreviated title of the TV show (that used to be on Spike TV, I think) called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge. In the show, a group of comedians dubbed funny voice-overs over the actual footage of a crazy Japanese game show called Takeshi's Castle or something like that. At one point my brother had about a half-dozen episodes of the show on his DVR, and we watched them in a long marathon viewing, just dying laughing the whole time. Soon after he invited me into a fantasy football league he was in so as a joke between us I named my team MXC Man Marbles after a particularly funny comment from the show. That team won the Super Bowl of the fantasy league so the MXC part just stuck as a kind of good luck symbol.

WIS: We thank skunk206 for sharing with WhatIfSports.com and the SimLeague Baseball community.


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