The Fantasy Baseball Hall of Fame (FBHOF.com) and WhatIfSports.com have partnered on a project to determine the best All-Star teams of the Fantasy Era. The FBHOF recently developed a fantasy player rating system to enshrine the greats of Fantasy Baseball history. These ratings were used as the basis for determining the best players of each year from 1980 through 2007. These players are our All-Stars. Rosters were turned over to WhatIfSports who simulated hundreds of games to determine which of these squads was best Ďon the fieldí.
We all love sports arguments, especially great baseball debates of our generation Ė Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez, the 1998 New York Yankees or the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, or even the validity of Jim Rice as a Hall-of-Famer. The controversy of each topic is a large part of what makes sports so exciting to follow.
The same is true for fantasy sports. Each year hundreds of publications derive their own ranked lists and let us know who they think should be drafted where and when. As fans, we suck it all in and literally canít get enough. One area that has yet to be explored is looking at past fantasy years to take stock on who the greats were. Determining which players contributed most to their fantasy ownerís success is a valid (and fascinating) question that FBHOF attempted to answer through a rigorous evaluation system that assigns points based upon:
- How well the player performed relative to the entire league
- How well the player performed relative to peers at his position
- The level of competition in the specific year
Once each player-season is rated, itís a simple exercise to develop rosters and recreate yearly All-Star teams. Using the standard fantasy baseball scoring system (AVG, R, HR, RBI, SB & W, WHIP, K, ERA, Sv) and standard roster construction (14 batters, 9 pitchers) 644 All-Stars were. Here is a summary of the rosters, and here are each playerís detailed statistics.
Independent from the WhatIfSports simulation results, the FBHOF determined individual team rankings based upon the total FBHOF score amongst the 23 All-Stars.
We liked the 1997 squad the best, though the 1998 year is arguably just as good. The strength of this team is in the starting pitching (ranked 1st of the 28 teams), catching (ranked 2nd) and, to a certain extent, the outfielders (ranked 4th). One of the basic principles in a fantasy baseball draft is to follow the strikeouts. Generally, great strikeout pitchers eventually turn out great results, and in í97, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling averaged over 300 strikeouts among them. This is quite incredible and a feat that hasnít been duplicated in baseball history.
Rounding out the starting rotation was Greg Maddux, (19 W, 0.95 WHIP, 2.20 ERA) who had a fine year, and a somewhat surprising result from Darryl Kile (19 W, 1.18 WHIP, 2.57 ERA). Five of the six starters are Fantasy Baseball Hall-of-Famers.
The two best catchers of the fantasy era Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez combined to bat .320 with 216 R, 75 HR, 237 RBI and 27 stolen bases in their fourth and last joint appearance on an All-Star team.
The outfield had everything. Tony Gwynn batted .372; Ken Griffey Jr. smacked 56 HR while driving in 147; and Barry Bonds almost went 40/40, falling 3 stolen bases short. Most importantly though, was Larry Walker, who had the best fantasy season in the history of the sport. His numbers are jaw dropping - .366 AVG, 143 R, 49 HR, 130 RBI, and 33 SB Ė a fantasy season for the ages.
Other Notes on the All-Star Teams
- The 1998 team featured eight Fantasy Baseball Hall-of-Famers, including all six members of the starting rotation.
- The 2005 infield of Albert Pujols (.330, 129 R, 41 HR, 117 RBI), Alfonso Soriano (36 HR, 30 SB), Alex Rodriguez (48 HR, 130 RBI), Michael Young (.331 AVG), Derrek Lee (.335 AVG, 47 HR) and Chone Figgins (62 SB) ranks best all time.
- Prefer closers? 1983 is your year. The names do not conjure up memories of the best seasons ever, but from a fantasy standpoint Dan Quisenberry, Jesse Orosco and Al Holland delivered over 340 innings of 0.99 WHIP, 1.88 ERA baseball, along with 26 wins and 87 saves.
- From a modern day perspective where one inning saves remain the rule, 2003 ranks highest thanks to Eric Gagne, Keith Foulke and Billy Wagner, who combined to record a WHIP of just 0.82 and an ERA of 1.69. They also averaged 47 saves and 110 strikeouts.
- 1981ís outfield ranks finest. In a strike shortened season Andre Dawson was on pace for a 30/30 campaign, Rickey Henderson to score 118 R with 74 SB, Dwight Evans and George Foster averaged 100/30/100 and Tim Raines had a shot at 100 Stolen Bases.
- From a player standpoint, Barry Bonds leads the charge with a record 14 All-Star appearances. Roger Clemens had 11, and Henderson, Randy Johnson, Maddux, Piazza, and Alex Rodriguez had 10 a piece.
Over 9,000 games were simulated, with each of the 28 teams facing off against each competitor 12 times. Much like the FBHOF scoring results, the late 1990s reigned supreme in the simulations. Adjusting the W-L record to approximate a 162 games schedule, below are the team records:
As expected, there were several significant differences between the pre-simulation FBHOF rankings and the WhatIfSports results. After all, fantasy baseball considers just 5 statistics each for batter and pitcher, and starts a full 23 men at all times.
- The FBHOF didnít much care for the 2006 squad, ranking them 25th overall while WhatIfSports gave them 85 wins and a ranking of 10th. The difference is likely due to the simulations ability to sit fringe All-Stars. Additionally, in real baseball having a #1 starter such as Johan Santana (19 W, 1.00 WHIP, 2.77 ERA, 245 K) is a boon to any starting rotation. In Fantasy, heís just one of six starters and when your last is Bronson Arroyo (14 W, 3.29 ERA) the rotation isnít as impressive. In fact, the 2006 starting rotation ranks dead last for fantasy purposes.
- On the other end of the spectrum, WhatIfSports didnít particularly care for many of the early 1980s teams. 1982 and 1983 rank, on average, 10th by FBHOF standards and 27th in the simulation results.
- The 2001 team offense scored 6.0 runs per game, easily the best mark and considerably better than the league average of 4.8. Itís no surprise either. The starting lineup had nine Fantasy Baseball Hall-of-Famers Ė Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Piazza, Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa and Walker.
- The best simulated pitching staff was the 2005 team led by Chris Carpenter. This is a bit of a surprise as by fantasy standards, no pitcher was considered excellent. Looking under the hood a bit, however, we find that all six starters had real life ERAís fewer than 3.00, a serious accomplishment in the offensive minded 2000s.
Summarizing the results into levels of confidence:
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