With the Washington Nationals celebrating their 10th anniversary this year it's natural to take a look back at the last 10 years for DC's baseball club. That's what we started doing with the Every Nats Game's A Story series and I'm continuing now taking a page out of Jon Bois' book by creating the Nats Decade League. A league made up solely of each team from the Nationals' first decade of baseball.
Out of the Park allows you to import any historical season for a team into any league. Their rosters are pretty good, especially in trying to account for the fluidity of a historical roster, with injuries, trades and more. However, for our purposes I've made some changes. I want to see the best each year can offer, so I've set the 25 man rosters, rotations, bullpens and lineups myself. I also turned off injuries, so each team will be running out their best players nearly every night.
Each team's roster is below. Please direct any and all complaints to @nationals101 on Twitter.
A quick note here. Since Stephen Strasburg is far and away the best pitcher here, but also made the least starts, I compromised and added him midway through the season, replacing Stammen.
So these are our teams of wildly varying quality. Stacked up like this the early 2000s lineups don't look that bad. The problem is with their horrifying rotations and complete lack of depth, which doesn't affect them as much here. Before we get to the good stuff, I wanted to show you guys perhaps my favorite OOTP feature. They create a custom top 100 prospects list for every year you simulate. Here's the top ten for ours.
Now I should probably mention that I turned off the Minor Leagues, so this list is only MLB-guys who had prospect eligibility at the start of the year. That doesn't make it any less funny to see Elijah Dukes and Aaron Barrett being listed above the likes of Jordan Zimmermann and Drew Storen. No real purpose to this beyond it being nifty. I like nifty stuff.
And now the main event. Over the last couple weeks I've polled Nats fans on which team they thought would come out of this in first place. The results were as follows: 2014 (6),2013 (4), 2007 (1), 2005 (1), 2012 (1). I think the 2007 and 2005 guesses were in jest, which makes it unsurprising that 2012-2014 garnered all the real guesses. Although, I'm a bit surprised how many fewer guesses 2012 got, since that team won the most games with 98. Anyways, we now have some much needed context going forward
I'm going to break this down month-by-month to get a better picture of how the season went. I should note here that the 2014 season started on March 22 and I didn't notice until after the simulation started, so the game totals will be higher than expected.
Anyways, look at that start the 2012 Nationals got off to! A double digit lead already on the 2014 and 2013 squads. What might be most surprising for me is how far back the 2005 team is. They won the fourth most games in franchise history, but are 6.5 games behind the 100 loss 2009 team. It's still early though for our fictional friends.
Both the 2014 and 2013 Nationals are dominating opponents, but they're just no match for the might of the 2012 Nationals who so far seem to be running away with the crown. Their 3-4-5-6 of Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse and Ian Desmond are demolishing pitches and providing plenty of souvenirs for fans.
Fans of the 2010 Nationals were excited this month as rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg made his debut. Although exactly how excited they were is up in the air, since they have already seen the 2012-2014 versions of Stephen Strasburg. But that then leads to the age old question of whether or not a clone of a person is its own person.
While we're on the topic of clones I would like to note that this league has nine separate versions of Ryan Zimmerman, all of them third baseman. Could you think of a more boring person in the world to clone? Being in a room with nine Ryan Zimmermans sounds like the friendliest form of torture. And how sad must it be to be the ninth best Ryan Zimmerman? You know you can be better, there are eight separate versions of you proving that. Perhaps science has gone too far here.
All right, enough on the ethical and moral questions on cloning. We have a championship at stake here! The 2014 Nationals are making their move, closing in on the 2012 squad. The 2013 team, true to their historical selves, are looking like a disappointment. Stuck back in a tie for third way behind both the 2012 and 2014 squads. They're nearly as close to eighth place as they are to second.
Perhaps the most impressive team, for the wrong reasons, is 2008. Sure, their real counterparts lost 102 games. But this is a league with teams whose real counterparts lost 103,93,91 and 89 games. And yet they're a 6.5 games behind the penultimate team.
And we have our first 100 win team as September begins! Of course fans of the 2012 team don't have much time to celebrate as the 2014 squad have whittled down their lead to four games with 11 games to go.
However, both squads have made the playoffs. Another cool feature of OOTP is allowing you to make a custom playoff format, I decided that the first four teams in the division would make the playoffs. And that the playoffs will be two seven game divisional series, followed by a seven game World Series.
On the other hand, that only two teams have been eliminated from contention is a poor comment on the 2013 team. While 2012 and 2014 have ran away from the pack, 2013 is stuck punching well below its weight.
Penultimate Day of Regular Season
Well we have our playoff teams. The 2013 and 2011 squads were able to stave off the lesser teams to get spots in the playoffs.
But that isn't the real story here as the 2014 Nationals have managed to catch the 2012 Nationals and tie them with one game left to go. I wonder how the narratives work here, with each team essentially being made up of the same players. Clearly the two years younger version are chokers not-yet-ready for primetime, while the two years older version are now savvy, battle-tested veterans. Oh the difference two years can make!
Final Day of the Regular Season
And the 2014 clones win the pennant! The 2014 clones win the pennant! The 2014 clones win the pennant!
I guess now we know why the 2013 team struggled so much, they were still reeling from their epic collapse the year before that was also happening right then. Going 2-8 in their last ten games to lose the division has to hurt and the DC media probably killed them for it. That type of collapse is typically reserved for the Mets, but I guess these guys don't know who that is. Or do they? I created this and I honestly have no idea how it works.
The Divisional round was a joke. The 2014 squad won in five games, while 2012 swept their future selves, ending their nightmare of a season. In the World Series, the 2012 Nats found redemption, defeating their two years older foes in six games.
The victory parade must have been one hell of a time. I wonder if the other Nationals were allowed to attend or not. Or if they even could attend? Maybe the time paradox that allowed this to happen closed at the conclusion of the season. Again, who really knows? I'm sure the Doctor would waive off the question with a "wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey" response.
League Leaders and Award Winners
One last thing, another cool feature of Out of the Park, they calculate a bevy of statistics and name winners for all of the end of season awards. Let's look at the stats first, since you know how much I love stats.
As you can see offense was way up! Likely the effect of getting to face the terrible pitching staffs from 2006-2011. Also not surprising: nearly all of the pitching leaders were from 2012-14.
And now for the award winners. The Most Valuable Player award was given to Ryan Zimmerman from 2009, finishing ahead of Nick Johnson from 2006 and Adam Dunn from 2009. Meanwhile 2012 Gio Gonzalez snagged the Cy Young award, beating out the Jordan Zimmermanns of 2011 and 2014, tough break for him and/or them. The Rookie of the Year, defying the top prospects list, was Bryce Harper from 2012, with Wilson Ramos of 2011 and Ryan Zimmerman of 2006 finishing as finalists.
And with that we conclude our grand experiment. What did we learn? Absolutely nothing. Did we have fun? Probably not enough. Is Out of the Park 16 really cool? Yes. Will I get paid for that? I wish. Am I out of questions? No comment.