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OOTP 19 - Historical Simulations Discuss historical simulations and their results in this forum.

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Old 01-16-2019, 06:34 PM   #1
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The Dick Howser Challenge (dare you try it?)

Anyone ever tried the Dick Howser Challenge? Oh, you haven't heard of the Dick Howser Challenge? Ok, Imma tell you about it. In 1985, the Kansas City Royals somehow won the World Series. We accept this as history now and we think, "Yeah, Saberhagen, George Brett, Balboni ... no big deal, they won it, blah blah blah." ...... Nobody ever gives Howser any credit. Poor dude died less than 2 years after winning that World Series. Anyway, to appreciate how stupendously miraculous Howser's 1985 achievement was (yes, even with Brett in peak form), just try replicating it in OOTP. It CAN'T be done. Especially in Challenge Mode. Like, if you can get this team to finish higher than third in AL West, you're a genius. Logic defies how this squad of truly terrible hitters, with a decent young rotation and a terrifyingly inconsistent bullpen, somehow overcame all the odds and won the freaking World Series. In OOTP, it's really super difficult to replicate. It's right up there with brain surgery, but at least brain surgery is possible. To take on the Dick Howser challenge is to admit you have a giant ago, and also to put it seriously at risk. You will wheel and deal and gnash your teeth and, most likely, give up. Dare you try it?
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Old 01-17-2019, 03:53 PM   #2
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Anyone ever tried the Dick Howser Challenge? Oh, you haven't heard of the Dick Howser Challenge? Ok, Imma tell you about it. In 1985, the Kansas City Royals somehow won the World Series. We accept this as history now and we think, "Yeah, Saberhagen, George Brett, Balboni ... no big deal, they won it, blah blah blah." ...... Nobody ever gives Howser any credit. Poor dude died less than 2 years after winning that World Series. Anyway, to appreciate how stupendously miraculous Howser's 1985 achievement was (yes, even with Brett in peak form), just try replicating it in OOTP. It CAN'T be done. Especially in Challenge Mode. Like, if you can get this team to finish higher than third in AL West, you're a genius. Logic defies how this squad of truly terrible hitters, with a decent young rotation and a terrifyingly inconsistent bullpen, somehow overcame all the odds and won the freaking World Series. In OOTP, it's really super difficult to replicate. It's right up there with brain surgery, but at least brain surgery is possible. To take on the Dick Howser challenge is to admit you have a giant ago, and also to put it seriously at risk. You will wheel and deal and gnash your teeth and, most likely, give up. Dare you try it?
Upvoted even though 16-year old me was bawling his eyes out when Jim Sundberg's triple went off the top of the fencing at the top of the RF wall at Excruciating Stadium. And no, I am not bold enough to try it.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:35 PM   #3
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I was the same age as you then. But I was a Royals fan. I kept waiting for them to just lose already and let me off the hook, but instead they provided maximum stress and maximum elation.

The stress can be rediscovered by taking the challenge. The elation? Probably not.

To try the Dick Howser Challenge, especially as Blue Jays fan, is to be reminded time and again how superior that Toronto squad really was. In fact, KC's regular-season schedule (both in 85 and in the game) begins with a 3-game homestand against those Blue Jays.
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Old 01-17-2019, 07:57 PM   #4
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Also ... I have a peculiar memory of some poor drunk guy who tumbled out of the stands and passed out just up the first-base line. It was like the ninth inning of Game Seven; Royals were already up 6-1, and they had to halt play to deal with that guy.
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Old 01-18-2019, 03:35 PM   #5
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I was the same age as you then. But I was a Royals fan. I kept waiting for them to just lose already and let me off the hook, but instead they provided maximum stress and maximum elation.

The stress can be rediscovered by taking the challenge. The elation? Probably not.

To try the Dick Howser Challenge, especially as Blue Jays fan, is to be reminded time and again how superior that Toronto squad really was. In fact, KC's regular-season schedule (both in 85 and in the game) begins with a 3-game homestand against those Blue Jays.
You may disagree, but I think the post-trade deadline 2015 Blue Jays should've had the advantage in that ALCS, not as much as 1985, but still should've had the advantage. A lot of those Royals guys were homegrown though, and that can make a huge difference when it gets down to brass tacks. That's two you owe us.

EDIT: Also, the Royals advanced scouting was tremendous, and their high contact rate was probably more conducive to winning in the postseason.
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Old 01-18-2019, 03:40 PM   #6
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Also ... I have a peculiar memory of some poor drunk guy who tumbled out of the stands and passed out just up the first-base line. It was like the ninth inning of Game Seven; Royals were already up 6-1, and they had to halt play to deal with that guy.
I wouldn't doubt it. There have been some stupid incidents up here over the years with people who either cannot handle their alcohol, or have taken out a second mortgage while at the ballpark in order to have, way, way, waaay too much of the stuff. It was getting so bad when the team was good that I didn't attend a single game in 2017 and 2018.
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Old 01-18-2019, 07:54 PM   #7
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You may disagree, but I think the post-trade deadline 2015 Blue Jays should've had the advantage in that ALCS, not as much as 1985, but still should've had the advantage. A lot of those Royals guys were homegrown though, and that can make a huge difference when it gets down to brass tacks. That's two you owe us.

EDIT: Also, the Royals advanced scouting was tremendous, and their high contact rate was probably more conducive to winning in the postseason.
Nobody wanted to play that Blue Jays team in 2015. They got hot sometime in July and they could rake. Then they picked up David Price and Troy Tulowitski. I remember they played a barnburner of a game at Kauffman Stadium on the last day before the All-Star Break -- KC ran out to a big lead, then the Jays came all the way back in a 7-run inning, but KC ultimately won. I thought, God, I don't wanna face them in the playoffs. But they stayed hot and even threatened KC for home-field advantage.

Then they had that emotional, stirring playoff series win over the Rangers (the bat flip, the crazy clinching game) and they looked even more like a team of destiny. I only hoped KC's postseason experience from the previous year + HFA would make the difference, and it did. Price didn't learn how to pitch in the postseason until ... oh, four months ago. And Toronto's other young starters weren't yet quite seasoned enough.

But let me tell you something: I think the 1985 Blue Jays could have taken down the 2015 Royals. I think the 1985 & 1987 Jays teams were at least as strong as the 1992 team that won it all. They just had some bad luck.

Nothing touches that post-trade deadline 1993 team, though. The 93 Jays lineup is one of the five best lineups a World Series team has had since 1970. Rickey Henderson, Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Jon Olerud, Paul Molitor, Tony Fernandez, Pat Borders & Ed Sprague ... it's no wonder the Phillies pitching staff fell apart in that World Series.
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Old 01-19-2019, 03:08 PM   #8
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Nobody wanted to play that Blue Jays team in 2015. They got hot sometime in July and they could rake. Then they picked up David Price and Troy Tulowitski. I remember they played a barnburner of a game at Kauffman Stadium on the last day before the All-Star Break -- KC ran out to a big lead, then the Jays came all the way back in a 7-run inning, but KC ultimately won. I thought, God, I don't wanna face them in the playoffs. But they stayed hot and even threatened KC for home-field advantage.

Then they had that emotional, stirring playoff series win over the Rangers (the bat flip, the crazy clinching game) and they looked even more like a team of destiny. I only hoped KC's postseason experience from the previous year + HFA would make the difference, and it did. Price didn't learn how to pitch in the postseason until ... oh, four months ago. And Toronto's other young starters weren't yet quite seasoned enough.

But let me tell you something: I think the 1985 Blue Jays could have taken down the 2015 Royals. I think the 1985 & 1987 Jays teams were at least as strong as the 1992 team that won it all. They just had some bad luck.

Nothing touches that post-trade deadline 1993 team, though. The 93 Jays lineup is one of the five best lineups a World Series team has had since 1970. Rickey Henderson, Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Jon Olerud, Paul Molitor, Tony Fernandez, Pat Borders & Ed Sprague ... it's no wonder the Phillies pitching staff fell apart in that World Series.
By Pythagorean W-L% (which has its faults, but I think can be more of an indicator of team strength than the actual win-loss record), here are the top ten Blue Jays teams of all-time:

1) 2015 Blue Jays, .628
2) 1985 Blue Jays, .615
3) 1987 Blue Jays, .614
4) 2008 Blue Jays, .572
5) 1990 Blue Jays, .568
6) 1992 Blue Jays, .561
7) 2016 Blue Jays, .560
8) 1993 Blue Jays, .560
9) 1989 Blue Jays, .553
10) 1988 Blue Jays, .552

That 2008 team is the biggest shocker, but JP Ricciardi put together an incredibly strong defensive team that year (the only team in MLB with fewer than 4 RA/G in fact), and the pitching benefited hugely. In fact it's the second best team in franchise history in fewest RA/G behind that amazing 1985 team that you're talking about. The 2008 team finished 4th in the AL East. Screw the AL East. Sooo tough.

The placing of the World Series teams is interesting. They were absolute powerhouses in terms of star power, but the regular season results were not what you might expect. The postseason results completely made up for it though. Seven of these teams are Pat Gillick built teams, AA built two of them (though Atkins was in charge for the second one), and as discussed above, Ricciardi had the other one.

Now the top ten Royals teams in this category:

1) 1977 Royals, .605
2) 1978 Royals, .572
3) 1980 Royals, .570
4) 1976 Royals, .570
5) 2015 Royals, .555
6) 1982 Royals, .541
7) 1975 Royals, .541
8) 1989 Royals, .538
9) 1988 Royals, .538
10) 1994 Royals, .535

That George Brett led team of the late seventies/early eighties was some kind of awesome, wasn't it? Damn Yankees! A down year in 1979 I suppose?

The 1985 Royals were 12th at .533, while the 2014 Royals were 15th at .519. 8 of the top 9 teams came during George Brett's time as a Royal. Sounds about right. It's surprising that the Saberhagen Royals were only able to sneak two teams into the top ten, and they just made it. Look about right to you, or do you think some other teams should be there?
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Tickled to death by their importance...

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It's been a pleasure doing business with you"

- RIP Gord Downie (The Tragically Hip) February 6th, 1964 - October 17th, 2017
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Old 01-21-2019, 05:01 PM   #9
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By Pythagorean W-L% (which has its faults, but I think can be more of an indicator of team strength than the actual win-loss record), here are the top ten Blue Jays teams of all-time:

1) 2015 Blue Jays, .628
2) 1985 Blue Jays, .615
3) 1987 Blue Jays, .614
4) 2008 Blue Jays, .572
5) 1990 Blue Jays, .568
6) 1992 Blue Jays, .561
7) 2016 Blue Jays, .560
8) 1993 Blue Jays, .560
9) 1989 Blue Jays, .553
10) 1988 Blue Jays, .552

That 2008 team is the biggest shocker, but JP Ricciardi put together an incredibly strong defensive team that year (the only team in MLB with fewer than 4 RA/G in fact), and the pitching benefited hugely. In fact it's the second best team in franchise history in fewest RA/G behind that amazing 1985 team that you're talking about. The 2008 team finished 4th in the AL East. Screw the AL East. Sooo tough.

The placing of the World Series teams is interesting. They were absolute powerhouses in terms of star power, but the regular season results were not what you might expect. The postseason results completely made up for it though. Seven of these teams are Pat Gillick built teams, AA built two of them (though Atkins was in charge for the second one), and as discussed above, Ricciardi had the other one.

Now the top ten Royals teams in this category:

1) 1977 Royals, .605
2) 1978 Royals, .572
3) 1980 Royals, .570
4) 1976 Royals, .570
5) 2015 Royals, .555
6) 1982 Royals, .541
7) 1975 Royals, .541
8) 1989 Royals, .538
9) 1988 Royals, .538
10) 1994 Royals, .535

That George Brett led team of the late seventies/early eighties was some kind of awesome, wasn't it? Damn Yankees! A down year in 1979 I suppose?

The 1985 Royals were 12th at .533, while the 2014 Royals were 15th at .519. 8 of the top 9 teams came during George Brett's time as a Royal. Sounds about right. It's surprising that the Saberhagen Royals were only able to sneak two teams into the top ten, and they just made it. Look about right to you, or do you think some other teams should be there?


That was marvelous work you did. I was surprised to see the 2015 Blue Jays topping the 1985 team by the pythagorean metric, but after giving it more thought, it makes sense. The 2015 Jays were more offensively explosive, especially after they got hot in mid-summer. That means they won more games by bigger margins and scored more runs even in the games they lost. In fact, the 2015 Jays scored 140 or so more runs than the 1985 Jays did.

It's difficult to account for the different eras they played in. I certainly do not contend that better baseball was being played in the mid-1980s (I don't believe it myself), but it was different. Teams valued contact hitting and spray hitters more than in recent years. Starting pitchers went longer. A pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 was considered quite mediocre. The 1985 Blue Jays could certainly score, but their strength was their solidity, their ability to wear teams down with consistently strong pitching, a talented and versatile lineup that had power, speed, lefty-righty-switch hit variations galore, and a perfect mix of vets and rising young talent.

In fact, I'd contend the 1985 Blue Jays were a lot like the 2015 Royals, and perhaps even better at what they both tried to do. The 2015 Royals tried to keep games close until they could jump out to a lead and then choke teams out with their bullpen. The 85 Blue Jays had an excellent rotation (Stieb, Key, Alexander, Clancy) and the best bullpen in baseball. They didn't blow teams out as much as the 2015 Jays did, but had more plug-&-play options for pulling out close games. This shows up in the numbers: The 2015 Jays were 15-28 in 1-run games and 6-8 in extra innings, but 37-12 in games decided by 5 runs or more. /// The 1985 Jays were 26-21 in 1-run games, 12-5 in extra inning contests, and 30-10 in games decided by 5 runs or more, showing they certainly could dominate.

The 1993 Blue Jays were not as impressive on paper over an entire season as either the 1985, 2015 or 1987 Blue Jays. The starting pitching especially fell off quite a bit from the year before. But they had an intangible quality: They knew how to win when they had to win. The 1987 Jays lost their last seven games of the regular season and handed the title to Detroit. The 1993 Jays lost their slim division lead in a 6-game losing streak in early September, but then they put their collective foot down and won 16 of the next 18, then trimmed the Sox and Phillies in the post season. That's the value of veteran leadership.

It's not surprising the George Brett-led Royals teams had the best run of success. But it wasn't all Brett. Back then, the Royals had a billionaire owner in Ewing Kaufmann who didn't mind losing money to put a winner on the field. Kaufmann aged, then died, and GM John Schuerholtz left to build a dynasty in Atlanta. The new braintrust in KC cared more about cutting expenses and maximizing profits; they figured loyal Royals fans would come out even for mediocre baseball, so they spent nearly two decades shipping off top talent (Cone, Damon, Dye, Beltran, Greinke, etc) or losing it in free agency.

The 1977 Royals are the gold standard for KC fans, even though they're not one of the four teams KC got into the World Series. That's the best team KC ever put on the field. The 1985 and 2014 Royals got super lucky at the right time. The 2015 team was great, but felt a bit mechanical or over-engineered. The 1980 team rolled through a weak AL West, then caught some key breaks against the Yankees in the playoffs (before losing to the Phillies in the WS). But, oh that 1977 team. They were young, gritty, brawling upstarts who didn't just go toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Red Sox of the AL East, but also had to beat out strong seasons from Texas, Chicago and Minnesota that year. That team didn't really heat up until after the all-star break, then they really floored it in the late summer, winning 24 out of 25 games during one stretch from late August to mid September. That team looked so ready to knock the Yankees off their perch, and they almost did it, but the bullpen blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game Five.

Nothing in your post surprised me more than the high placing of the 2008 Blue Jays. I remember them being decent that year, but there was so much hullabaloo about Tampa Bay that summer, it kinda drowned everything else out. Alex Rios had a banger of a season (47 doubles!) and Roy Halladay was in good form. The rest of that pitching staff, though, was a who's who of 'who's that?' If that team had one more big hitter and one more solid starter, they might have seriously challenged the Rays.
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Old 01-22-2019, 12:03 AM   #10
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That was marvelous work you did. I was surprised to see the 2015 Blue Jays topping the 1985 team by the pythagorean metric, but after giving it more thought, it makes sense. The 2015 Jays were more offensively explosive, especially after they got hot in mid-summer. That means they won more games by bigger margins and scored more runs even in the games they lost. In fact, the 2015 Jays scored 140 or so more runs than the 1985 Jays did.

It's difficult to account for the different eras they played in. I certainly do not contend that better baseball was being played in the mid-1980s (I don't believe it myself), but it was different. Teams valued contact hitting and spray hitters more than in recent years. Starting pitchers went longer. A pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 was considered quite mediocre. The 1985 Blue Jays could certainly score, but their strength was their solidity, their ability to wear teams down with consistently strong pitching, a talented and versatile lineup that had power, speed, lefty-righty-switch hit variations galore, and a perfect mix of vets and rising young talent.

In fact, I'd contend the 1985 Blue Jays were a lot like the 2015 Royals, and perhaps even better at what they both tried to do. The 2015 Royals tried to keep games close until they could jump out to a lead and then choke teams out with their bullpen. The 85 Blue Jays had an excellent rotation (Stieb, Key, Alexander, Clancy) and the best bullpen in baseball. They didn't blow teams out as much as the 2015 Jays did, but had more plug-&-play options for pulling out close games. This shows up in the numbers: The 2015 Jays were 15-28 in 1-run games and 6-8 in extra innings, but 37-12 in games decided by 5 runs or more. /// The 1985 Jays were 26-21 in 1-run games, 12-5 in extra inning contests, and 30-10 in games decided by 5 runs or more, showing they certainly could dominate.

The 1993 Blue Jays were not as impressive on paper over an entire season as either the 1985, 2015 or 1987 Blue Jays. The starting pitching especially fell off quite a bit from the year before. But they had an intangible quality: They knew how to win when they had to win. The 1987 Jays lost their last seven games of the regular season and handed the title to Detroit. The 1993 Jays lost their slim division lead in a 6-game losing streak in early September, but then they put their collective foot down and won 16 of the next 18, then trimmed the Sox and Phillies in the post season. That's the value of veteran leadership.

It's not surprising the George Brett-led Royals teams had the best run of success. But it wasn't all Brett. Back then, the Royals had a billionaire owner in Ewing Kaufmann who didn't mind losing money to put a winner on the field. Kaufmann aged, then died, and GM John Schuerholtz left to build a dynasty in Atlanta. The new braintrust in KC cared more about cutting expenses and maximizing profits; they figured loyal Royals fans would come out even for mediocre baseball, so they spent nearly two decades shipping off top talent (Cone, Damon, Dye, Beltran, Greinke, etc) or losing it in free agency.

The 1977 Royals are the gold standard for KC fans, even though they're not one of the four teams KC got into the World Series. That's the best team KC ever put on the field. The 1985 and 2014 Royals got super lucky at the right time. The 2015 team was great, but felt a bit mechanical or over-engineered. The 1980 team rolled through a weak AL West, then caught some key breaks against the Yankees in the playoffs (before losing to the Phillies in the WS). But, oh that 1977 team. They were young, gritty, brawling upstarts who didn't just go toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Red Sox of the AL East, but also had to beat out strong seasons from Texas, Chicago and Minnesota that year. That team didn't really heat up until after the all-star break, then they really floored it in the late summer, winning 24 out of 25 games during one stretch from late August to mid September. That team looked so ready to knock the Yankees off their perch, and they almost did it, but the bullpen blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game Five.

Nothing in your post surprised me more than the high placing of the 2008 Blue Jays. I remember them being decent that year, but there was so much hullabaloo about Tampa Bay that summer, it kinda drowned everything else out. Alex Rios had a banger of a season (47 doubles!) and Roy Halladay was in good form. The rest of that pitching staff, though, was a who's who of 'who's that?' If that team had one more big hitter and one more solid starter, they might have seriously challenged the Rays.
Yeah, that 2008 team blew me away too. A dominant starter and three solid starters gave them depth in the rotation (obviously Halladay at the top, with solid contributions from Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, and A.J. Burnett) along with a quartet of lefty relievers in Scott Downs (who was completely filthy that year), Jesse Carlson, B.J. Ryan, and Brian Tallet (Carlson and Tallet were absolutely found money), with excellent contributions in limited innings from Brandon League and Brian Wolfe. Amongst the position players Rios (as you noted) was spectacular. Marco Scutaro had the first of two unexpectedly great seasons in Toronto (still one of my favourite all-time Blue Jays). Scott Rolen was on the decline, but still put up a very good season at the hot corner. Joe Inglett was an absolute revelation, as he came out of nowhere to have a career year, while playing every position except P and 1B. He never played 1B in his career, but he would make an appearance as a P in 2010 for the Brewers. Lyle Overbay, while not a great hitter, provided very good defense at 1B. Vernon Wells was great with the bat, but clearly should've been moved out of CF in favour of Rios, and Rod Barajas and Gregg Zaun combined to form a surprisingly good catching tandem.

It was one of those teams that outside of Halladay, Rios, and possibly Scutaro (defensive wizard that year primarily at SS, 2B, and 3B) had no contributors in the superstar category, but plenty of solid (and some extremely surprising) contributions up and down the roster, which after all is what teams need in order to compete. They were just overmatched in that behemoth of a division (Tampa 97-65, Boston 95-67, New York 89-73, and Toronto 86-76...ugh). For the second time in his managerial career, Cito Gaston (ver 2.0) provided a huge boost to a team that was seemingly dead in the water after taking over in late June (1989 being the other year after taking over for Jimy Williams) under John Gibbons (ver 1.0).

My favourite memory from that year came in Cito Gaston's first game back in Pittsburgh. There were two outs in the home half of the seventh inning when Nyjer Morgan hit an absolute screamer of a line drive back through the box that caromed off Roy Halladay's head, and into the glove of Scott Rolen for the third out. We all thought he was dead, but Halladay sprang to his feet, and you could see him mouth the words "Did we get the out?". Obviously he was removed from the game for pre-cautionary reasons, but five days (four games) later, there he was taking his turn in the rotation without missing a start against the Reds in Toronto. He wasn't very Halladay-like that night, but at least he was still alive. What. The. Hell?

That's one of many moments in his illustrious career that made us realize that he was no mere mortal, and is the inspiration to this day for my avatar, which I stole from a Blue Jays' blog that I used to post on. The blog was dissolved long ago and has seen a few iterations since its dissolution, but a ragtag bunch of us have migrated over to another blog that we all absolutely love, so I guess in that way, the original blog lives on.

Other moments that stand out on the eve of his induction to Cooperstown?...May 31, 2007. Halladay pitches on May 10, 2007, and in between the two starts has an appendectomy, so he probably came back a bit quickly. The opponent is the White Sox' Mark Buehrle, and the two go toe to toe in a classic pitchers duel. Buehrle gives up two hits, with no walks and six strikeouts in a CG...and loses (therefore an 8-inning CG), throwing 91 pitches. Halladay throws seven shutout innings allowing six hits (one double, five singles) with no walks and seven strikeouts (throwing 96 pitches). Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo shut the White Sox down the rest of the way allowing just one walk and one strikeout combined. Final score: 2-0 Blue Jays on HR by Aaron Hill and Frank Thomas. Game time: 1 hour and 50 minutes. Final team LOB: White Sox 4, Blue Jays 0. With RISP: White Sox 0 for 4, Blue Jays 0 for 0. I would not have believed it if I hadn't been watching it, but I watched it incredulously, having had an appendectomy less than four years earlier.

Then there was the second start of his career on September 27, 1998 against the Tigers. As he entered the ninth inning that day, all that stood between him and perfection was a 5th inning lead-off ground ball fielding error by 2B Felipe Crespo that allowed current MLBPA head Tony Clark to reach second. That's it. Current Phillies manager Gabe Kapler lined out to LF for the first out. Pinch hitter Paul Bako grounded out Crespo to Kevin Witt (last home game of the year, so all the regulars were long gone) for the second out. Pinch hitter Bobby Higginson was the next hitter, and he took the first pitch out to deep LF to break up the no-no and the shutout with one out to get. Full credit to Halladay for not losing his mind, and retiring Frank Catalanotto for the final out of the 95 pitch CG, 2-1 victory. Time of game: 1 hour and 45 minutes. Detroit team LOB: 1, Toronto team LOB: 5. Detroit with RISP: 0 for 3, Toronto with RISP: 0 for 0. All the runs scored on longballs by Alex Gonzalez, Shawn Green, and that prick Higginson. The kicker was that my mother (who knows nothing about baseball) went to the game with a friend who had amazing front row seats for it. She could not possibly have understood what was happening, and what came within an eyelash of happening.

Then there was the agony of 2000. A 10.64 ERA in 67.2 IP in 19 G and 13 GS. It got worse. Following spring training in 2001, he was busted all the way down to A-ball, and became a huge project for Mel Queen. Queen completely broke him down. They chucked out his over the top delivery, and went with the three quarters arm slot that everyone is now so familiar with. Also, I believe it was Halladay's wife Brandy, who stumbled across Harvey Dorfman's "The ABCs of pitching" in a discount bin at a book store. Between the tinkering with arm angles, the book, and Halladay's insane work ethic, his career not only came back from the dead. It became a HoF career.

He was recalled on July 2nd, 2001, and...things got off to a horrible start as he was shelled by the Red Sox for 6 runs in 2.1 IP in relief of Esteban Loaiza, who had given up 5 runs in 0.1 IP. His heart must've sank after that savage 16-4 beat down. Five days later, he got the start against the Expos, and finished the year going 5-3, with a 2.71 ERA in 16 GS including that one the rest of the way. To get a HoF career out of a career that was almost destroyed before it could get started is remarkable. Use whatever metric you want to measure pitchers between 2001 and 2011, and invariably you'll find that Halladay was the best and nobody else was all that close in that time frame. Johan Santana hung with him for about five of those eleven seasons (Santana was better than Halladay between 2004 and 2008 I think), and then, like the teammates that tried to keep up with his in between starts routine (mentioned below), Santana fell away, while Halladay kept on truckin'.

I'm sure I could find other examples in a Blue Jays uniform, but the perfect game in 2010 for the Phillies is another one. Then of course in the first exposure to the postseason of his career, he goes out and no-hits the Reds. There are no words. Only sadness that he won't be there to enjoy with his family what he worked so hard for. His work ethic speaks for itself. Seemingly every season, some young buck or newcomer would claim they were going to keep up with his routine all season, and invariably they would collapse and cry uncle a short distance into the season.

Wow that turned into a novel didn't it? Hyperbole? Absolutely, but here in Blue Jay fandom we feel entitled to a little hyperbole given the horrible end to his life. I can't imagine how his family feels on the eve of the Cooperstown call. Ugh.

Speaking of his family, his son Braden (who looks so much like him) pitched a 1-2-3 inning against the Jays for the Canadian National Team in Spring Training, 2018. Granted it was only Spring Training, but despite that...Absolute chills. Ok...Really...That's it...I promise.

EDIT: Sorry to get so off topic. Such a bittersweet time to be a Blue Jays fan I guess.
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Old 01-23-2019, 07:44 PM   #11
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Yeah, that 2008 team blew me away too. A dominant starter and three solid starters gave them depth in the rotation (obviously Halladay at the top, with solid contributions from Shaun Marcum, Jesse Litsch, and A.J. Burnett) along with a quartet of lefty relievers in Scott Downs (who was completely filthy that year), Jesse Carlson, B.J. Ryan, and Brian Tallet (Carlson and Tallet were absolutely found money), with excellent contributions in limited innings from Brandon League and Brian Wolfe. Amongst the position players Rios (as you noted) was spectacular. Marco Scutaro had the first of two unexpectedly great seasons in Toronto (still one of my favourite all-time Blue Jays). Scott Rolen was on the decline, but still put up a very good season at the hot corner. Joe Inglett was an absolute revelation, as he came out of nowhere to have a career year, while playing every position except P and 1B. He never played 1B in his career, but he would make an appearance as a P in 2010 for the Brewers. Lyle Overbay, while not a great hitter, provided very good defense at 1B. Vernon Wells was great with the bat, but clearly should've been moved out of CF in favour of Rios, and Rod Barajas and Gregg Zaun combined to form a surprisingly good catching tandem.

It was one of those teams that outside of Halladay, Rios, and possibly Scutaro (defensive wizard that year primarily at SS, 2B, and 3B) had no contributors in the superstar category, but plenty of solid (and some extremely surprising) contributions up and down the roster, which after all is what teams need in order to compete. They were just overmatched in that behemoth of a division (Tampa 97-65, Boston 95-67, New York 89-73, and Toronto 86-76...ugh). For the second time in his managerial career, Cito Gaston (ver 2.0) provided a huge boost to a team that was seemingly dead in the water after taking over in late June (1989 being the other year after taking over for Jimy Williams) under John Gibbons (ver 1.0).

My favourite memory from that year came in Cito Gaston's first game back in Pittsburgh. There were two outs in the home half of the seventh inning when Nyjer Morgan hit an absolute screamer of a line drive back through the box that caromed off Roy Halladay's head, and into the glove of Scott Rolen for the third out. We all thought he was dead, but Halladay sprang to his feet, and you could see him mouth the words "Did we get the out?". Obviously he was removed from the game for pre-cautionary reasons, but five days (four games) later, there he was taking his turn in the rotation without missing a start against the Reds in Toronto. He wasn't very Halladay-like that night, but at least he was still alive. What. The. Hell?

That's one of many moments in his illustrious career that made us realize that he was no mere mortal, and is the inspiration to this day for my avatar, which I stole from a Blue Jays' blog that I used to post on. The blog was dissolved long ago and has seen a few iterations since its dissolution, but a ragtag bunch of us have migrated over to another blog that we all absolutely love, so I guess in that way, the original blog lives on.

Other moments that stand out on the eve of his induction to Cooperstown?...May 31, 2007. Halladay pitches on May 10, 2007, and in between the two starts has an appendectomy, so he probably came back a bit quickly. The opponent is the White Sox' Mark Buehrle, and the two go toe to toe in a classic pitchers duel. Buehrle gives up two hits, with no walks and six strikeouts in a CG...and loses (therefore an 8-inning CG), throwing 91 pitches. Halladay throws seven shutout innings allowing six hits (one double, five singles) with no walks and seven strikeouts (throwing 96 pitches). Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo shut the White Sox down the rest of the way allowing just one walk and one strikeout combined. Final score: 2-0 Blue Jays on HR by Aaron Hill and Frank Thomas. Game time: 1 hour and 50 minutes. Final team LOB: White Sox 4, Blue Jays 0. With RISP: White Sox 0 for 4, Blue Jays 0 for 0. I would not have believed it if I hadn't been watching it, but I watched it incredulously, having had an appendectomy less than four years earlier.

Then there was the second start of his career on September 27, 1998 against the Tigers. As he entered the ninth inning that day, all that stood between him and perfection was a 5th inning lead-off ground ball fielding error by 2B Felipe Crespo that allowed current MLBPA head Tony Clark to reach second. That's it. Current Phillies manager Gabe Kapler lined out to LF for the first out. Pinch hitter Paul Bako grounded out Crespo to Kevin Witt (last home game of the year, so all the regulars were long gone) for the second out. Pinch hitter Bobby Higginson was the next hitter, and he took the first pitch out to deep LF to break up the no-no and the shutout with one out to get. Full credit to Halladay for not losing his mind, and retiring Frank Catalanotto for the final out of the 95 pitch CG, 2-1 victory. Time of game: 1 hour and 45 minutes. Detroit team LOB: 1, Toronto team LOB: 5. Detroit with RISP: 0 for 3, Toronto with RISP: 0 for 0. All the runs scored on longballs by Alex Gonzalez, Shawn Green, and that prick Higginson. The kicker was that my mother (who knows nothing about baseball) went to the game with a friend who had amazing front row seats for it. She could not possibly have understood what was happening, and what came within an eyelash of happening.

Then there was the agony of 2000. A 10.64 ERA in 67.2 IP in 19 G and 13 GS. It got worse. Following spring training in 2001, he was busted all the way down to A-ball, and became a huge project for Mel Queen. Queen completely broke him down. They chucked out his over the top delivery, and went with the three quarters arm slot that everyone is now so familiar with. Also, I believe it was Halladay's wife Brandy, who stumbled across Harvey Dorfman's "The ABCs of pitching" in a discount bin at a book store. Between the tinkering with arm angles, the book, and Halladay's insane work ethic, his career not only came back from the dead. It became a HoF career.

He was recalled on July 2nd, 2001, and...things got off to a horrible start as he was shelled by the Red Sox for 6 runs in 2.1 IP in relief of Esteban Loaiza, who had given up 5 runs in 0.1 IP. His heart must've sank after that savage 16-4 beat down. Five days later, he got the start against the Expos, and finished the year going 5-3, with a 2.71 ERA in 16 GS including that one the rest of the way. To get a HoF career out of a career that was almost destroyed before it could get started is remarkable. Use whatever metric you want to measure pitchers between 2001 and 2011, and invariably you'll find that Halladay was the best and nobody else was all that close in that time frame. Johan Santana hung with him for about five of those eleven seasons (Santana was better than Halladay between 2004 and 2008 I think), and then, like the teammates that tried to keep up with his in between starts routine (mentioned below), Santana fell away, while Halladay kept on truckin'.

I'm sure I could find other examples in a Blue Jays uniform, but the perfect game in 2010 for the Phillies is another one. Then of course in the first exposure to the postseason of his career, he goes out and no-hits the Reds. There are no words. Only sadness that he won't be there to enjoy with his family what he worked so hard for. His work ethic speaks for itself. Seemingly every season, some young buck or newcomer would claim they were going to keep up with his routine all season, and invariably they would collapse and cry uncle a short distance into the season.

Wow that turned into a novel didn't it? Hyperbole? Absolutely, but here in Blue Jay fandom we feel entitled to a little hyperbole given the horrible end to his life. I can't imagine how his family feels on the eve of the Cooperstown call. Ugh.

Speaking of his family, his son Braden (who looks so much like him) pitched a 1-2-3 inning against the Jays for the Canadian National Team in Spring Training, 2018. Granted it was only Spring Training, but despite that...Absolute chills. Ok...Really...That's it...I promise.

EDIT: Sorry to get so off topic. Such a bittersweet time to be a Blue Jays fan I guess.
==============================

I always admired Roy Halladay as a pitcher. I wish I had followed him more closely when the chance was there, because just reading your post, I feel like I missed out. I do remember his no-hitter in 1998, strangely, and that's who he always was to me; 'that guy who tossed a no-no in his second ever MLB start.' I remember him being consistently good, year after year, and a regular guy highlighted on ESPN's Sportscenter. I vaguely remember him going to the Phillies in 2011 and thinking that made them practically a lock for the World Series that year.

The OOTP/Perfect Team weekly YouTube show "This Week In Perfect Team" did a whole thing about Halladay last night after he got inducted in the HOF. The host of the show is himself from Toronto, and he got choked up a little talking about how Halladay was his favorite player. Few people remember how Halladay's career was almost permanently derailed after a disastrous season in 2000. But he responded by getting deep into sports psychology and re-invented himself as an even better pitcher. He then went on to help a lot of other MLB pitchers who were struggling, but he always did it quietly and behind the scenes.

I know John Smoltz kinda pioneered the whole sports psychology thing in the early 1990s; he used to get made fun of for it back then, because his personal psychologist would go to the games that he pitched and keep an eye on him. That was a big deal in the hyper-macho world of MLB back then. Halladay did the same thing and was a better pitcher for it.

It's a shame Halladay didn't get to play on a championship team. He came close with the Phillies, but they didn't ultimately get back to the Series after acquiring him. Not his fault, for sure; the Phils just didn't have the magic behind them anymore.
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Old 01-26-2019, 05:37 AM   #12
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As a Yankees fan, I can say that those 1970s-early 80s Royals teams were terrifyng. They never stayed dead.


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That was marvelous work you did. I was surprised to see the 2015 Blue Jays topping the 1985 team by the pythagorean metric, but after giving it more thought, it makes sense. The 2015 Jays were more offensively explosive, especially after they got hot in mid-summer. That means they won more games by bigger margins and scored more runs even in the games they lost. In fact, the 2015 Jays scored 140 or so more runs than the 1985 Jays did.

It's difficult to account for the different eras they played in. I certainly do not contend that better baseball was being played in the mid-1980s (I don't believe it myself), but it was different. Teams valued contact hitting and spray hitters more than in recent years. Starting pitchers went longer. A pitcher with an ERA over 4.00 was considered quite mediocre. The 1985 Blue Jays could certainly score, but their strength was their solidity, their ability to wear teams down with consistently strong pitching, a talented and versatile lineup that had power, speed, lefty-righty-switch hit variations galore, and a perfect mix of vets and rising young talent.

In fact, I'd contend the 1985 Blue Jays were a lot like the 2015 Royals, and perhaps even better at what they both tried to do. The 2015 Royals tried to keep games close until they could jump out to a lead and then choke teams out with their bullpen. The 85 Blue Jays had an excellent rotation (Stieb, Key, Alexander, Clancy) and the best bullpen in baseball. They didn't blow teams out as much as the 2015 Jays did, but had more plug-&-play options for pulling out close games. This shows up in the numbers: The 2015 Jays were 15-28 in 1-run games and 6-8 in extra innings, but 37-12 in games decided by 5 runs or more. /// The 1985 Jays were 26-21 in 1-run games, 12-5 in extra inning contests, and 30-10 in games decided by 5 runs or more, showing they certainly could dominate.

The 1993 Blue Jays were not as impressive on paper over an entire season as either the 1985, 2015 or 1987 Blue Jays. The starting pitching especially fell off quite a bit from the year before. But they had an intangible quality: They knew how to win when they had to win. The 1987 Jays lost their last seven games of the regular season and handed the title to Detroit. The 1993 Jays lost their slim division lead in a 6-game losing streak in early September, but then they put their collective foot down and won 16 of the next 18, then trimmed the Sox and Phillies in the post season. That's the value of veteran leadership.

It's not surprising the George Brett-led Royals teams had the best run of success. But it wasn't all Brett. Back then, the Royals had a billionaire owner in Ewing Kaufmann who didn't mind losing money to put a winner on the field. Kaufmann aged, then died, and GM John Schuerholtz left to build a dynasty in Atlanta. The new braintrust in KC cared more about cutting expenses and maximizing profits; they figured loyal Royals fans would come out even for mediocre baseball, so they spent nearly two decades shipping off top talent (Cone, Damon, Dye, Beltran, Greinke, etc) or losing it in free agency.

The 1977 Royals are the gold standard for KC fans, even though they're not one of the four teams KC got into the World Series. That's the best team KC ever put on the field. The 1985 and 2014 Royals got super lucky at the right time. The 2015 team was great, but felt a bit mechanical or over-engineered. The 1980 team rolled through a weak AL West, then caught some key breaks against the Yankees in the playoffs (before losing to the Phillies in the WS). But, oh that 1977 team. They were young, gritty, brawling upstarts who didn't just go toe-to-toe with the Yankees and Red Sox of the AL East, but also had to beat out strong seasons from Texas, Chicago and Minnesota that year. That team didn't really heat up until after the all-star break, then they really floored it in the late summer, winning 24 out of 25 games during one stretch from late August to mid September. That team looked so ready to knock the Yankees off their perch, and they almost did it, but the bullpen blew a lead in the ninth inning of Game Five.

Nothing in your post surprised me more than the high placing of the 2008 Blue Jays. I remember them being decent that year, but there was so much hullabaloo about Tampa Bay that summer, it kinda drowned everything else out. Alex Rios had a banger of a season (47 doubles!) and Roy Halladay was in good form. The rest of that pitching staff, though, was a who's who of 'who's that?' If that team had one more big hitter and one more solid starter, they might have seriously challenged the Rays.
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Old 01-26-2019, 10:12 PM   #13
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As a Yankees fan, I can say that those 1970s-early 80s Royals teams were terrifyng. They never stayed dead.
The ALCS battles between the Royals and Yankees, especially in 1976 and 1977, were all-time classics. It's true, the Royals wouldn't "stay dead" -- they always had just a little bit more fight left in them -- but those Yankee teams were clutch. They won both of those series by scoring in the ninth inning of the fifth (and deciding) game.

The 1978 and 1980 series were less close, but both had their unforgettable moments as well.

In OOTP, I've replayed the 1977 and 1978 Royals several times each. The Yankees give them fits even in OOTP. The righty-lefty combos the Yankees had just made them a tough matchup for those KC teams.
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Old 02-08-2019, 04:35 PM   #14
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Is Don F'ing Dekinger in your sim? That's the only way this ever going to really work.
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Old 02-12-2019, 10:54 AM   #15
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Is Don F'ing Dekinger in your sim? That's the only way this ever going to really work.
The Don Dekinger incident occurred in Game Six of the World Series.

I can't even win the AL West in an OOTP sim of the 1985 Royals. I've tried it over a dozen times.

This is why it is called The Dick Howser Challenge.

It's a sim for real men. It ain't no pink tea. Sissies and mollycoddles better stay out.

It is, however, extremely easy to get to the World Series in a sim of the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals. I've tried that one three times; I won the W.S. all three times.

That one is called the Whitey Herzog Pleasure Cruise.
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Old 03-01-2019, 12:29 PM   #16
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As a STL Cardinals fan I refuse to recognize there was a WS in 1985. HA! Your points are valid and I've played that WS in OOTP (with and without Vince Coleman) and the Royals don't win. Ever. I've also played the ALCS and they don't beat Tor. and neither do the Cardinals. I won't take the Houser challenge, but I like the idea.
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Old 03-07-2019, 10:28 PM   #17
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As a STL Cardinals fan I refuse to recognize there was a WS in 1985. HA! Your points are valid and I've played that WS in OOTP (with and without Vince Coleman) and the Royals don't win. Ever. I've also played the ALCS and they don't beat Tor. and neither do the Cardinals. I won't take the Houser challenge, but I like the idea.
When I sim the 1985 Cardinals, I have fun. I love all the switch hitters, the speed, the solid defense. And the pitching is really good too.

When I sim the 1985 Royals, I get stressed. The lineup is full of holes. Everybody except George Brett strikes out and/or pops out too much. The "vaunted" young pitching staff of Saberhagen, Liebrandt, Jackson, Gubicza & Black is capable of putting nice streaks together but is mostly inconsistent. The bullpen is iffy.

And then, of course, OOTP has to throw injuries into the equation too.

I'll take the Dick Howser Challenge at least once every year. I'll never know how he got these Royals to play as well as they did in real life.
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Old 03-08-2019, 12:03 PM   #18
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This is pretty intriguing. I might give it a try.

When you look at the club, I notice two things:
Their bench is terrible for a WS team. Orta, Moreno and Quirk are the only guys who hit even a little. And Orta was a never played a game in the field from 1985 on. Quirk was pretty much a late-season callup.

The bullpen too, outside of Quiz is pretty bad too. Beckwith was okay. Farr was good (and historically we know he was a very good reliever), but he only pitched 24 innings in relief.
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Old 03-09-2019, 12:32 PM   #19
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Single Season ratings, Challenge Mode, man it was bad. Didn't make any trades but grabbed a few people off the waiver wire. Forgot to include real minor leaguers so I at least had some backups.

82-79, tied for second place with the A's. Texas won the division. Mind you, the Royals were 19 games under .500 on June 16 (21-40).
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Old 03-09-2019, 02:23 PM   #20
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Now I am trying Career ratings (Orta can now play LF) with full minors. I made some trades, but made sure not to move key players.

I dealt Chris Jelic and Mike Cole for Jerry Mumphry and Craig Reynolds. Then I moved Butch Davis at the end of spring for Ed Romero.

Willie Wilson was injured for a month, so I shipped Chito Martinez and Dave Leeper for Mark Davidson. Off waivers, I picked up Mike LaValliere, Rob Deer and Mel Hall.

4.5 games back going into September. My rotation is decimated, it's Saberhagen, Black, Farr Ricky Rojas and Melido Perez at the moment. My outfield is currently Seitzer, Davidson and Hall because of injuries.

Finished 82-79 again, 5 games back tied for second with Seattle and California. ChiSox won the division.

Balboni managed to hit 50 home runs though, and Saberhagen led the league in ERA.

For the curious, the waiver pickups of LaValliere, Deer and Hall were total busts (really in backup roles). Mumphry was aiming to be an excellent alternative to Motley, but he went down for the year in April/May. Davidson ended up being an excellent pickup to fill in, eventually becoming the starting RF and CF when Wilson was down. Craig Reynolds was leagues better than the guys the Royals threw out at SS during 1985.
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