Dave saw a trend that led to playoff berths and tried to emulate it. Since 1996, the first season where we have stats like this, no team that finished in the top 2 in team ERA was denied a post-season appearance. Until Griswold won the ERA title but lost the Frank Division. Sorry about the results, Dave, but I do admire the attention you are paying to our history.
In SL 96, Dan Casper's Smoka Tokas surprised a lot of people by getting to within two games of Ken's Hanrahans and nearly earning a playoff spot. But it shouldn't have been too surprising, as Dan finished 3rd in ERA (trailing playoff teams Oz and Yuma, 0.18 off the leader), while Ken finished last in the 7 team league in that category.
In SL 97, we welcomed a young, svelte, Ken Caminiti-lookalike named Steve Swinea into the league, and while his anemic offense was last in the league in runs scored, APBA legend Steve kept himself in games in his rookie season with a 4.21 team ERA ... though his heart skipped some beats while losing 90 games. Steve's 4.21 ERA was good for 3rd in the league (trailing playoff teams South Syrinx and Mystic, 0.32 off the leader).
In SL 98, 4 teams finished under 4.00, and all 4 made the playoffs (Harrison, Pullman, Manhattan, and Grand Junction, with 3.48 leading the league). Not too surprisingly, the top 3 in ERA all won their divisions, while the 4th won the wild card by 6 games over Bob's Chan Ho's, who Greg beat in ERA 3.74 to 4.01.
In SL 99, the 5 teams with the best records again finished 1-5 in team ERA, though Ken's Windy City team, despite a better record than Joe and an ERA 0.30 better, was denied a playoff berth, mainly due to being in the wrong division. Liverpool and Barstow had the best and 3rd best records, and finish in a virtual ERA title tie at 3.95.
In SL 2000, Dave's first, again the top 5 in team ERA had the 5 best records, led by Steve, now looking more like Balboni than Caminiti, and his Yips's 4.37 ERA. Bob, 4th in ERA, finished better than my Red Devils (4.78 to 4.82), but lost the Frank Division by 3 games.
Dave chose pitching as a priority in the 2001 draft, paying an especially high price for pitchers with good walks/9 numbers. The staff included Brown (1st round, 16 Z), Pearl* (3rd, 17*Z), Wells (4th, 10Z), Livan (5th, 10Z), Trevor (6th, 13*Z), and Swindell (8th, 13*Z). At that point, 8 rounds in, the only offense he had was Giambi and Everett, some good building blocks, but not on par with most of the other offenses that were out there. To Dave's credit, he was pretty prudent from that point on with how he went after hitting, aggressive but not at the cost of sacrificing complementary pitchers, like Pettitte (10th, 10), Strickland (13th, 14Z*), and Karsay (17th, 11*Z). When the draft was complete, I thought Dave had achieved a decent balance, and had one of the best staffs, certainly the best control staff. But when play began, Dave didn't come out as strong as some others -- I think his pen came out of the gate pretty rotten. Dave righted things during his late season palooza, but as we know, lost to Joe in game 162, losing the Frank Division after Joe had just been handled by Ken earlier in the day.
The easy answer to why Dave couldn't convert his title into a playoff spot is bad luck. Dave's pythagorean says he was expected to win 87 games, the same as what President's Cup winner Greg was expected to win. So that means Dave had bad luck, supposedly. Anyone who watched Todd Pearl* during the Dave-a-Palooza might agree, and his numbers support that ... 5-13, 4.34, 16 dongs allowed, and despite 19 saves, he blew the second most saves in the league. An ineffective closer suggests that close games were going toward the opposition, and the high run differential points to blow outs more in Dave's favor.
Of course, Dave wasn't all that bad in one run games (19-21) ... but he was atrocious in extra-inning games (4-15). Furthermore, if you look at Dave's scoring distribution, you see that he was great for innings 1-6, but the late innings were where he had problems:
Inn 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ext R RUST Runs 118 99 112 107 98 115 100 74 44 11 878 OppR 127 86 73 82 85 89 94 76 70 29 811
Here are some additional stats to ponder:
ERA W L PCT S G GSCG IP H R ER HR SO BBHBWPBK LH 4.93 8 9 .471 0 32 32 4 166.1 188 104 91 33 130 55 4 1 0 DW 4.57 7 14 .333 0 32 32 9 185.0 201 100 94 40 122 42 6 5 1
One issue I have is Dave's use of Wells and Livan, his 4th and 5th selections. In context of the rest of the league, they had good numbers (sans Wells's winning percentage and home runs allowed). Granted with Brown throwing almost 9 innings per start, and with a 6 man relief staff, you look for ways to use those relievers in the non-Brown starts. But why take Wells at 4 if you are going to pitch him just 5.78 innings per start, or Livan 3 selections later in the 5th round if you are going to only let him go 5.20 innings per start? Or I should pose the opposite question, why do you invest so highly in relievers if you've just invested in a bunch of top of the line starters? This is sort of the opposite of what I was saying about Graham -- where he pitched his scrubs too long -- if you invest so highly in a starter, unless the guy is proving to be completely ineffective like Clemens and Mussina did for Bob and I in 2001, you aren't managing appropriately, at least appropriately as far as the GM is concerned. Or the GM didn't draft appropriately to Dave's managing style.
But the Wells-Livan issue is nitpicking. Dave's only pitching problem was occasional bullpen underperformance. Maybe he could have passed on a Wells or a Livan or even a Trevor and grabbed another solid hitter. Or not. Maybe he could have passed on one of those guys with the excellent periferals for a different kind of pitcher. Or not. Maybe he could have passed on one of the early round starters who didn't average 6th innings for a better reliever. Or not. Maybe offensively, Dave didn't play small ball at the end of the game as well as others, and it cost him in close games, especially the extra-inning games. That's purely conjecture ... regardless of why Dave wasn't as successful as the other teams who won the ERA title, I think the point I want to emphasize is that Dave was successful in 2001 even if he didn't make the playoffs, just as all the other teams, except maybe the Bohunks, that have had low ERAs were successful in the past.
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