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2/26/2018

The next new feature: Player Rank.... huh?? Read on...


There are three significant changes I had planned for early this year, and the first one already launched (the catcher’s arm rating changes). The next one I want to discuss is called “Rank”. As most of you know, Pennant Chase is a 100% stats-driven sim. The “ratings” we do use, such as “arm” or “speed” are calculated based on real stats (and thus are NOT intended to be a reflection of the player’s real-life athletic ability, but rather another statistic to drive sim results).

So why would I be introducing a new stat called “Rank”? Well, here are the main problems I’m hoping this will solve:
  1. New players to PC often struggle to understand which players perform well and which don’t in various leagues. (Note - this is not designed to replace good ol’ research, because that will always be the best way to understand the game.)


  2. Commissioners forget to set their stat-adjustment levels. Leagues are able to use what is called “stat adjust” if they are finding the sim is creating too much or too little offensive. This can happen when a league’s player pool isn’t producing realistic results. The problem is, many custom leagues forget to properly adjust this. Also, the current formula uses batting average and something nonsensical for pitchers which is their IP minus their HA (IP-HA).


  3. Leagues that span a wide range of eras (like the All-Time Greats Auto Leagues) can disproportionately value some stats. It’s hard for someone like Clayton Kershaw, who is clearly one of the All-Time Greats and arguably top-ten from a statistical standpoint, to stand apart from the likes of Walter Johnson, Ed Walsh, Christy Mathewson, etc. in an ATG league.

Before I dive into “how” these problems could be fixed, let’s explain what “Rank” is. It’s a number between 0-100. Using the key stats, like AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, WHIP, H/9, SO/9, etc., the system will “rank” every player in the league and give them a number. (Hitters, SPs and RPs are all ranked separately.) Because this rank is relative to the league, exactly 10% of hitters will be ranked in the 90s, 10% in the 80s and so on. The same goes for SPs and RPs.

So what the heck does this number mean and what is it used for? Well, it’s intended to let people know, generally, how to value players in that league. A newbie who drafts a bunch of modern-day players in an ATG league and doesn’t understand why his team is awful, would at least be able to see his lineup is littered with a bunch of moderately-ranked players and maybe start to understand how to play the game better.

This number can also be incredibly valuable throughout Pennant Chase to improve many areas of the game, such as:
  1. The logic to determine the Supplemental Draft order in Auto Leagues, which everyone complains about now.

  2. The logic in balancing the players offered to each team in the Auto Draft to begin with.

  3. The logic when the CPU has to draft a player for a user, such as in the draft room or Daily Drafts.

  4. The logic in determining the No Drop list.

  5. The logic for player contract demands.

As you can see, there are a lot of areas where this could potentially improve aspects of the game. Right now, all of the above are flawed because they all, in some way, use stats that don’t really matter in the sim, like Pitcher Wins or RBIs (and yes, please go read Keith Law’s new book if you question why those stats mean nothing to a baseball sim!).

I want to reiterate though, the “Rank” is NOT any kind of guarantee. Someone ranked “92” could regularly play worse in Pennant Chase than someone ranked “81” (but the idea/hope is that a “92” probably won’t play worse than, say, a “65” on a regular basis). The sim logic is not changing, the “Rank” is just there to give you an idea of how a player might perform. Good old research is still your friend - you’ll learn a lot about a player by checking his history and verifying how he plays across other leagues.

“Rank” also doesn’t consider many important factors like speed, defense, on fire or what type of power hitter a player is (homers vs. doubles, etc.). So it’s always going to be up to the user to know the game and make the critical analysis of each player. But what I’ve found is happening in many leagues is that it’s becoming impossible to know who is the cream of the crop. This is typically because as leagues grow or run progression, the stats start to vary wildly from player to player. In addition, since many commissioners don’t change their stat adjustments levels as the league evolves, the sim starts to throw the results out of whack.

What’s exciting to me about this change is that across eras, the sim can have a better understanding of which stats matter. Let’s look at the rank in a typical ATG league. (Remember, these numbers are fluid - they are based on the competition in the league and thus change if user’s change stat years, so they aren’t going to be identical across all leagues.)

The hitters probably won’t be too surprising:

99 Rogers Hornsby
99 Ted Williams
98 Babe Ruth
96 Lou Gehrig
96 Harry Heilmann
95 Nap Lajoie
95 Barry Bonds
95 George Brett
95 Ty Cobb
95 Arky Vaughan
95 Larry Walker
94 Lefty O’Doul
94 Todd Helton
94 Babe Herman

I could go on, but these guys should all look familiar. Does this mean Heilmann is better or more valuable in Pennant Chase than Barry Bonds? Of course not. This is just a guide, to let someone know, hey, maybe consider this guy you never heard of over Gary Sheffield, who you probably have heard of.

Of note, Frank Thomas and Norm Cash are 92, and Edgar Martinez is a 90. This is exciting to me, possibly adding more value to guys that should have been given credit in ATG. Also, Albert Belle, Wade Boggs, Carlos Delgado, Jason Giambi, Paul O’Neill and Albert Pujols are all 87.

As I scan the list, I don’t see anyone who’s obviously getting punished. What this might do is slightly lower the value of some of the slappy high-average outfielders like Sam Crawford or Jesse Burkett, but frankly, I think it’s a good change to see the likes of Sammy Sosa, Miguel Cabrera or Albert Pujols ranked higher.

Pitching is going to be more interesting. You can essentially order your pitchers by rank, divide it by the number of teams, and find the “aces” of your league. Here’s a sample ATG list:

98 Pedro Martinez
95 Clayton Kershaw
92 Sandy Koufax
91 Luis Tiant
89 Jake Arrieta
88 Dave McNally
87 JR Richard
87 Zack Greinke
86 Bob Gibson
86 Dutch Leonard
86 Walter Johnson
86 Ed Walsh

That’s a slightly surprising list for those who are familiar with ATG leagues. But it’s honestly a better list than what you’d find in the leagues today. Arrieta and Greinke posted some of the absolute best seasons in MLB history recently. Yes, offense was down when they did it, but that is beside the point. Pedro and Kershaw are generally considered among the best ever for what they have accomplished. And you still have your sprinkle of stars across eras such as Gibson, Big Train, Tiant, etc.

Here’s the next rung. In essence, your “#2” starters:

84 Mike Scott
83 Johan Santana
83 Greg Maddux
83 Russ Ford
82 Pete Alexander
80 Justin Verlander
78 Roger Nelson
78 Babe Adams
77 Vida Blue
75 M. Brown
75 Don Sutton
75 Felix Hernandez

A few names you might have expected in the first list show up, like Alexander, Ford and Blue. But we’re splitting hairs here, to be a #2 in ATG league means you’re one of the top 24 all-time. You also have a few oddities like Roger Nelson or Dutch Leonard or Babe Adams, but that is part of the game, which is based on single-season stats - these guys had one amazing season, and thus I have no problem with their ranks.

Now, it’s not perfect, but that’s also part of the game. Guys like Nolan Ryan (54) or Randy Johnson (59) are punished, mostly because they walked guys - but that’s always been the case in ATG - if you were a pitcher with a lot of walks, and you’re facing batters who know how to draw a walk, you’re not going to rank all that well in ATG. To be clear, they both are in the top 50% which is still very good - worth a rotation spot for sure. Just don’t expect them to be your ace.

This does not solve for all cross-era issues. Steve Carlton, for example, has some of the best WAR of all time. Why? His stats were great for his day, but are not “amazing” historically. WAR gets really messy because someone who wasn’t that great could have a great WAR simply because he played during a time when there were not many great players at his position.

What does this mean for the value of my players?

The value of your players really shouldn’t change much if at all - the sim still uses their stats to produce the results. In some outlier cases, you will likely see a high ranked player perform more consistently than he has. Greinke is a great example - he’s been fairly hit and miss across ATG. Kershaw is another great example. On the offensive side, Frank Thomas could be another example. I would expect these guys to go slightly up in value.

When does this happen and what is the impact to my custom league?

I will give everyone a head’s up like I did with the arm change. I don’t have an exact date yet. But, unlike the arm change, this will impact ALL leagues at once, including custom leagues. What’s going to happen is all custom leagues will be set to consider anyone above an “85” a “great” player. Commissioners will then have to adjust that as desired the same way they do today on the “Adjust Stat Levels” page. The Commish Tools page is going to remind commissioners every 90 days to monitor their levels. You are still in control, but it’s highly suggested you keep an eye on it.

The “Adjust Stat Levels” page will continue to give you recommendations and also give you an idea if your player pool is too big or too small based on the number of teams. Generally, your suggested levels should be around 90, which means there are enough players for each team to have one “ace” pitcher and about three “great” hitters.

Wow, that was a lot to take in. Feel free to open the discussion on the boards. I’m guessing this will spark some questions.

P.S. The third big announcement will be all about defense!

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