November 2013

A Realignment Revision for the Ultimate Simulated League 2.0

After thinking of the alignment mentioned for the new simulated league, the teams assigned to the NL East and those assigned to the AL Central will be flipped.

The geographic based alignments remain in place and are now as follows.

AL West: Twins, Brewers, Cubs, White Sox

AL Central: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, Cardinals

AL East:, Reds, Indians, Pirates, Tigers, Blue Jays

NL West: Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, Padres

NL Central, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals

NL East: Braves, Rays, Marlins, Astros, Rangers

Looking Back at the Ultimate Simulated Baseball League and Looking Ahead to a Second Simulation with a New Twist

This past spring, I created the ultimate simulated baseball league, using the facilities of WhatIfSports.com. The league was based on real life seasons for players who spent time in the big leagues, I would look at a player and decide which season was his most productive and assign him to the appropriate team. Some long time franchises had too many players to choose from, while more recent franchises were more difficult to put together. So for instance, while the best statistical season for Miguel Cabrera was 2012 in Detroit prior to this season, I used an earlier season for Cabrera as a Marlin, since the Tigers had other options that did not exist for the Marlins.

WIS allows you to set a salary cap, as each player is assigned a dollar value based on a total statistical profile which includes defensive ability. The league cap was $160 million and yes the teams with lots of historic star power came closest to this mark, think Yankees anyone? All teams had over $110 million in payroll value.

The divisional alignment was based on the 1998-2012 model and the schedule used was based on a balanced approach used from 1998-2000.

While the division races ended up somewhat predictable, there were some surprises. The Yankees were dominant in the AL East, the Red Sox came in second claiming the wild card berth. The Orioles had a very hot start but they fell off and were third, the Rays and Blue Jays had horrible seasons. In the AL Central, all but the Royals showed signs of potential success at various stages, the Indians ultimately took the division leaving the White Sox and Twins behind, the tigers did not do as well as I thought they might and though the Royals finished last, the KC grouping had a respectable mark. The AL West was as most would have expected dominated by the Athletics with their large number of historically great player seasons going back into the Philadelphia days, the angels, Rangers, and Mariners were all well off the pace.

IN the NL, the most entertaining race was in the NL Central, all but the Brewers were contending past the half way mark and with 40 games to play, the Cubs, Reds, Cardinals, and Astros were all very much part of the race. Ultimately the Reds would finish just behind the Cubs who claimed the division crown. IN the East, the Braves were the class of the division, but the Nationals team which had many former Montreal Expos players did surprisingly well and when all was said and done, the Nationals and Reds ended up tied for the wild card. The Giants took the west in relatively easy fashion, the dodgers never truly contended which was shocking, the Padres were respectable and the two expansion clubs of the 1990’s struggled.

The league was set up like actual baseball in terms of the DH, so AL teams clearly had more offensive power, none more so than the Yankees. Teams played in their current ballpark, which sent Babe Ruth to more than 80 homers, Gehrig finished second in all of the league. Bonds and McGwire mean while did not even lead the NL, that race was a battle that McGwire did almost win, but he was edged out by two players in homer happy venues, hack Wilson of the Cubs and shockingly Vinnie Castilla of the Rockies took the top two spots. Castillo hit 46 homers in 1998, he hit 55 in the simulated league, far out distancing the effort put up by 1997 Larry Walker, who fell short of his actual performance during that MVP 49 homer season.

Several pitchers had very dominant seasons, but none more so probably than Greg Maddux of the Braves and Luis tiant of the Indians, both with 23 wins. Russ, not Whity Ford had a huge season for the Yankees, though his other stats were not as impressive and many Yankees earned wins on the strength of a powerful offense with Mantle clearing the 50 homer mark in addition to what was previously mentioned by Ruth and Gehrig.

IN the playoffs, the Reds clubbed the Nationals in the wild card playoff, then after losing the first two games against the Braves, Cincinnati came back and took the next three to claim one of the division series in the NL. The Giants had their way in sweeping the Cubs in the other series, which resulted in a Giants matchup with the Reds for the NLCS.

IN the AL, the Indians knocked out the Red Sox, while the Yankees took out the Athletics though the Oakland bunch took game 1.

Ohio did not do well in either LCS as the Giants took out the Reds and the Yankees did likewise to the Indians. The World Series on paper and statistically speaking when looking at season performance appeared to be a Yankee cakewalk. But ultimately the Giants would prove to be the best, taking the series in six games and shutting down the power plant that was the New York offense.

Now the 2013 season is done and that means some new players are available who had career years better than before, or in the case of players like Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, a new kid broke in with huge success. So in the coming days, a new league will be ran to see what results we get. But this time, it will be different in some respects.

IN the old league, teams were restricted to players who only played a given season for a single franchise. So Gabe white in 2000 who had a very good year as a relief pitcher was not a potential pitcher for the Rockies, even though all but a couple innings were pitched in the Rockies uniform. This next league will relax that rule, so that players who had very productive seasons split between two franchises can be considered. However, they will only be used based on one portion of their performance, not the total record. So take Rick Sutcliff of 1984, he would clearly have a spot on the Cubs team, but only his Cubs portion of the season would be chosen using the WIS database, not his entire season including his starts with Cleveland, because not all of that record would have been compiled with the Cubs.

Other changes, the league will have a lower cap of $135 million, which will even the field a bit more for the expansion era franchises. But most significant, given that sadly MLB is moving toward the DH in both leagues it would appear, all teams will use the DH in this league. Most radicle though will be the alignment, as I will experiment with a geographical alignment, which I will now explain.

The WIS system still does not yet offer a system that has the 6 divisions of five teams each, but it does offer what we had from 1998-2012, two divisions of five teams in each league, a four team division in the AL and a six-team division in the NL. Using that setup, here is the geographical alignment that will be used in this second simulation.

The AL West will become the upper Midwest division, featuring the Twins, Brewers, Cubs, and White Sox. The AL Central will be the southern or sunbelt division, featuring the Rangers, Astros, Braves, Rays, and Marlins. The AL East will be what one might call a rust belt division, featuring the blue Jays, Tigers, Reds, Indians, and Pirates. The NL West will be the California league consisting of the Giants, Athletics, Dodgers, Angels, and Padres. The NL Central will be used as the northeast corridor division, featuring the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, and Nationals. The NL East will be home to what is left, the Mariners, diamondbacks, Rockies, Royals, and Cardinals.

In the coming days, I will post the complete rosters for each of the 30 teams and at some point in late November or early December, I will formally put the league together and begin the simulation. The championship team of the league will be decided just before real life spring training opens for the 2014 baseball season.

Some Major League Baseball Teams Must Rethink Their Radio contracts

Today, many fans of Major League Baseball enjoy coverage of their team any place, any time thanks to various media efforts that come with a certain amount of fees. Baseball fans can here the home broadcast of every game by purchasing a package from Sirius XM, generally about $15 monthly. The satellite service offers the visiting feed via its online site for a slightly larger fee. My preferred way is to pay the $19.95 yearly fee for access via the mobile platform using the MLB Game Day technology and I also purchase the similar Game Day Audio package for use on my laptop. This is certainly cheaper and offers the choice of every feed home or away and it includes the Spanish broadcasts as well. IN general, if I’m going to use a device to listen to a game here at home in rural western Wyoming, my laptop is by far the preferred method. ON certain occasions if I am out on the road with my wife, I’ll use our satellite radio to tune in a game, but since I’m the only one who is a baseball fan, I reserve that for moments when something very significant is going on, the pennant chase at the end of the season or if I get wind of a potential accomplishment such as a no-hitter. But as a former Texan and with a future move back to Texas on the horizon for our family, I wish that the two ball clubs in Texas were on stations with large coverage areas. If we end up in a city that lacks either a Rangers or Astros affiliate, it would be nice to be able to get the games on a powerful AM signal, something which is not possible for either team given current radio contracts.

The Rangers were always on a powerful AM station from the time the franchise arrived in 1972 through 2008, 23 years on WBAP and another 14 from 1995-2008 on KRLD. But then the club moved to mostly FM coverage in 2009 on KRLD-FM, only weekend games remained on the AM signal. Then in 2011, the team moved to KESN-FM, a station with a large signal but one that is tilted to the northern side of the DFW metro and beyond into southern Oklahoma. The signal is much better in southern Oklahoma than it is in the southern suburbs of the DFW metroplex. This contract is in place for at least one more season in 2014.

The Astros first 23 seasons were on weaker AM stations in Houston, mostly on KPRC which has a 5000 watt limited night time signal that can’t be heard much past the limits of greater Houston. The team finally moved on to Houston’s powerful KTRH which has a 50,000 watt signal that covers all of south and central Texas at night, with an eastern reach into most of Louisiana, and Mississippi, though it is not a clear channel like KRLD and WBAP. This arrangement lasted from 1985-1990, before the team moved back to KPRC from 1991-1995 and the stronger but not significant signal of KILT from 1996-1998. KILT can be received up and down the Texas coast and at times you can get it at night as far west as Austin, but it’s a hit and miss signal. The team returned to KTRH from 1999-2012, before moving to another weaker signal of KBME, which is comparable to KPRC in terms of night time reception.

Both these teams chose to move to stations that focused on the all sports audience, which means they reach the more hard core sports fan. But many fans who may not care to listen to sports radio all the time, get left out in the cold by the decisions both teams made to leave the more powerful news/talk oriented stations like the Rangers former homes on WBAP and KRLD and the Astros former home on KTRH.

What the teams forget in today’s make a buck at all costs effort, is that many fans still would like to have the freedom both in terms of costs and accessibility to listen to the radio broadcasts at any location without the need for access to the internet or a wireless/satellite signal. When fans just 35 miles outside the home city of the team cannot receive the local broadcasts, it makes one wonder what guides the decisions certain teams are making as it relates to their radio broadcasts. While the Rangers and Astros both have a fair number of network affiliates, most are all weaker stations and thus a second option for receiving the broadcast is not available for fans who are outside the range of these weaker AM or FM signals. But the two Texas teams are far from being the only ones who have committed such a disservice to their listening audience. Now, a look at the teams who get it and those who could improve what they offer.

A total of 13 teams are on very powerful stations that truly provide the best possible coverage area.

Orioles, WBAL-AM 1090, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Mariners, KIRO-AM 710, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

White Sox, WSCR-AM 670, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Indians, WTAM-AM 1100, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Yankees, WFAN-AM 660 starting in 2014, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Cubs, WGN-AM 720, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Reds, WLW-AM 700, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Rockies, KOA-AM 850, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Mets, WOR-AM 710 starting in 2014, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Phillies, WPHT-AM 1210, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Cardinals, KMOX-AM 1120, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Padres, XEPRS-am 1090, based across the Mexican border, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Giants, KNBR-AM 680, 50,000 watt clear channel signal.

Of these 13 teams, only the Padres, Giants, Yankees, Mariners, and White Sox are on stations that also primarily focus their programming in the all sports market.

A pair of AL East teams are on powerful stations but they are not clear channel and are limited in how far their signal is permitted to travel at night, despite being at 50,000 watts power.

Blue Jays, CJCL-AM 590.

Red Sox, WEEI-AM 850 and WEEI-FM 93.7.

Note that in Boston’s case, their AM 850 signal is not a clear channel because stations in Denver (the Rockies flagship) and Ixhuatlancillo, Mexico are given the clear channel allocations. Weaker stations on that frequency are also found in the eastern United States, including the Raleigh, North Carolina region.

Both teams are on all sports stations, both Boston and Toronto have more powerful stations that they could negotiate to serve as the flagship radio broadcaster. The best options for Toronto are either AM-740 CFFZM or AM-1010 CFRB, both clear channel signals. Boston’s clear channel option would be on AM-1030, WBZ.

A total of nine teams are on weaker AM stations or have moved to FM signals that have a smaller coverage area, though powerful AM clear channel frequencies are available. The Rangers as mentioned before are among these teams, with their FM KESN 103.3 broadcast on an all sports station, WBAP-AM 820 and KRLD-AM 1080 were both former flagships and both are clear channel frequencies with massive night time signals from the DFW region that would serve the club better. Below is information about the other eight clubs that could improve their local radio reach to a potential clear channel signal.

In 2013, the Twins moved to KTWN-FFM, previously the Twins were on either WCCO-AM 830 or KSTP-AM 1500, which just happen to both be clear channel stations in the twins cities.

The Tigers have spent more than a decade on WXYT which is a weaker AM signal on AM 1270, they are also on the sister station of WXYT at 93.7-FM. For a long time, the Tigers were on Detroit’s powerful WJR-AM 760 and if they moved back to that signal, fans around a huge part of the continent could hear their games at night.

The Athletics have historically never been on a powerful AM station, but they could try to move off of KGMZ at 95.7-FM, an all-sports station, to either the clear channel signal of KGO-AM 810 in San Francisco, or to the powerful though not clear channel coverage of KCBS-AM 740. KCBS signal is like that described of Houston’s KTRH on the same 740 frequency.

The Angels and Dodgers are both on weaker stations. The Angels are on both KSPN-AM 710 and KLAA-AM 830, both have 50,000 watt day signals but reduce power drastically at night to 20,000 on 830 and 10,000 on 710. The Dodgers flagship is on KLAC-AM 570, which broadcasts at just 5000 watts. Los Angeles has a pair of clear channel stations, the talk oriented KFI-AM 640 and the news oriented KNX-AM 1070.

The Pirates which were historically on the clear channel signal of KDKA-AM 1020 left that signal for FM coverage in 2006. Currently they are on the FM version of KDKA at 93.7.

The nationals made a similar move which took them off of the powerful 1500-AM signal in Washington which was at one time WTOP and now is home to WFED. Interestingly, WFED does broadcast some spring training games, but the Nat’s main station during the regular season is the 106.9 WJFK in Manassas, Virginia. The signal is not the best in metro Washington and coverage is not as strong outside DC to the north, in similar manner to what happens in the southern DFW suburbs with the Rangers FM broadcasts.

Then there are the Atlanta Braves, which boast a huge network but no significant night time signal. For a long time, WSB-AM 750 was the clear channel signal that carried Braves games until the end of 1991 and again starting in 1995 until the middle of the last decade. The Braves are on a pair of local FM stations and on the signal of WCNN which has a very weak night time signal on AM 680. A move to WSB would be very welcome news.

Of these nine teams, all but the Twins are on sports talk oriented stations, while the options for stations with powerful signals are in the news/talk arena.

Six teams are in markets that do not have a clear channel signal, those teams are the Astros as mentioned above, plus the Marlins, Rays, Diamondbacks, Royals, and Brewers. Houston has the option some day of returning to the 50,000 watt signal of KTRH, the Astros too are currently on a weaker all sports AM station. Such options do not exist for the other five teams on this list. Three, the Brewers, Rays, and Diamondbacks are all on very reliable stations that are all on the 620 frequency of the AM dial, WDAE Tampa, KTAR Phoenix, and WTMJ Milwaukee. The Rays and diamondbacks are on stations that are currently an all-sports format.

The Royals are on a similar station at KCSP just one slot down the dial at 610 AM. The Marlins are on one of Miami’s more powerful AM signals at AM 790 WAXY, WIOD-AM 610 while not quite as strong has a larger signal coverage area because of its frequency and transmitter configuration. The Marlins and royals are both on all sports stations. Interestingly, the Marlins are the only team which has a stronger signal for its Spanish flagship, as WAQI-AM 710 is much like KTRH and KCBS in its 50,000 watt coverage with a more limited night time directional coverage pattern. All other Spanish broadcasts are on weak local stations and a Spanish network does not exist on radio in most situations.

Another idea for teams to consider is to try and get network agreements on large AM night time signals in cities outside their local markets. The Astros in 1991-92 had most all of their night games on WOAI in San Antonio as an example. Stations like KOB Albuquerque, WHAS Louisville, WWL New Orleans, WOAI, WHO Des Moines, KFAB Omaha, WTB Charlotte, WTIC Hartford, KWKH Shreveport, WRVA Richmond, KSL Salt Lake City, KFAQ Tulsa, WLAC Nashville, KOKC Oklahoma City, WWKB Buffalo, KFBK Sacramento, and KXEL Waterloo could all be potential affiliates of Major League Baseball teams. The stations could even enter to agreements where only night time games were carried, which would maximize this potential coverage while giving those stations the ability to preserve their day time programming if they chose.

Above all else, baseball needs to be willing to maintain a connection with its broadcasting roots. Some teams are not available more than for a few games on free over the air TV and the current trend is taking even the radio broadcast and reducing the ability of fans in certain markets to have access to their favorite team over the airwaves. Fans should at least have the option to get these free broadcasts in the area designated as a team’s local broadcast zone. Otherwise, MLB should get rid of the broadcast territories all together.