OOTP Brewers: Season Wrap-UpBen Clemenson November 4, 2020 at 3:00 pm

It’s been a while since we updated the OOTP Brewers, my experiment with crowd-managing a team in an online Out Of The Park Baseball league. We did just okay; our 83-79 record was good for second in the NL Central, but didn’t come close to yielding a Wild Card slot — too bad we didn’t have this year’s expanded playoffs system.

What lessons can we learn from the season? First, our pitching depth was severely tested, in a way that suggests we should focus more heavily on cultivating Triple-A talent in the future. Corbin Burnes, Brett Anderson, Jeff Samardzija (a mid-season acquisition), Alex Claudio, Tim Hill, and Devin Williams all ended the season on the 60-day disabled list, and Josh Lindblom missed three months early on. We withstood the storm somewhat by acquiring Kevin Gausman, but he’s headed into free agency this offseason — more pitching depth feels like an absolute necessity.

Additionally, this season showcased one of the Brewers roster’s biggest weaknesses: a lack of secondary difference-makers behind Christian Yelich. Keston Hiura and Brock Holt hit decently well, but Hiura also missed time, and Lorenzo Cain was alternately injured and ineffective before finally missing the last two months of the season. When Yelich went down for eight weeks, the offense simply had no driving force.

Unlike the starting pitching, that’s not an easy contingency to plan for. When a team with Milwaukee’s payroll signs a star to a long-term deal, they don’t have a lot of recourse in case of injury or ineffectiveness. We did sign Hiura to an extension this year, but that can only go so far. As Yelich goes, so will go the Brewers, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

With that in mind, I have two priorities for the offseason: acquire a major-league starting pitcher and hunt the waiver wire and Rule 5 draft for pitchers who can start the season as relievers but double as back-of-rotation depth in the event of injury. The Brewers roster simply didn’t have enough pitching to withstand this year’s injury bug, and I’d like to avoid that going forward.

Of course, the entire season wasn’t about the Brewers. Ten teams made the playoffs in this league, and it was a pretty wild field. The NL had its fair share of chalk — you’ll hardly be surprised to know that the Dodgers won their division — but it also featured one notable upstart. The Pirates finished second in the NL and won the Central, paced by a devastating pitching staff (first in the NL in starting pitching ERA, fourth in overall pitching WAR) and an offense bolstered by a midseason addition of Marcus Semien.

In the AL, the Cleveland Indians were the cream of the crop. They won 104 games behind their own lights-out pitching staff. Shane Bieber was phenomenal — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — and also managed 242.2 innings due to careful planning and OOTP’s more forgiving fatigue settings. He struck out 281 batters, narrowly edging Jack Flaherty’s own ridiculous season for the league lead. Francisco Lindor turned in a vintage season — 8.9 WAR thanks to a 146 wRC+ and brilliant defense.

The Indians nearly fell in the division series, surviving in five games over the Mike Trout-led Angels. They faced off against the Rays in the ALCS, while the powerhouse Pirates (I guess?) swept their series and the Braves, who had shockingly collapsed to second in the NL East after a commanding lead earlier on, beat Philadelphia in the Wild Card game and then swept the Dodgers out of the NLDS, a 2019 Nats-esque path.

The ALCS was full of twists and turns. The Rays stormed out to a 3-1 lead behind Blake Snell and a dominant bullpen. When Snell came back to pitch Game 5, the Rays had a chance to clinch — but the Indians shut Tampa Bay out to win 1-0. Then they beat Tyler Glasnow in Game 6, beat Yonny Chirinos in a 6-2 Game 7, and made Tampa Bay’s win-now trade of Wander Franco (for cost-controlled pieces from Philadelphia) feel even worse than it already did.

In the National League, the Pirates took care of business better than Tampa Bay. After amassing a 3-1 lead of their own, they too lost Game 5; Mike Soroka pitched a gem to keep hope alive. The Pirates held serve in Game 6, however, and it was time for a wonderfully weird World Series: Pittsburgh against Cleveland, two franchises with lengthy playoff droughts and tortured fan bases.

The John Perrotto-led Pirates lined up their pitching staff the way they wanted it: Chris Archer, Mitch Keller, Sean Manaea (part of the Semien deal), and Joe Musgrove. The Chad Young-helmed Indians weren’t so lucky; their comeback against Tampa Bay dropped Bieber to fourth in the rotation, with Aaron Civale, Carlos Carrasco, and Logan Allen taking the first three games.

Naturally, it was never close. Led by deadline acquisition (and ALCS MVP) Tommy Pham and Carlos Santana, Cleveland beat the Pirates soundly. They put up a five-spot on Archer, seven runs in three-plus innings on Keller, and another seven in only 1.2 innings against Manaea. Their 30-run barrage in the first three games of the World Series made the rest of the process fairly anti-climactic. A 4-1 victory in Game 4 closed out the series for Cleveland’s first title since 1948.

That’s the last of my OOTP updates for the 2020 season, but it’s not the end of this league. League commissioner Brad Johnson will be continuing it into 2021, and I’ll be crowd-managing a team again, though with far less frequent updates. On that note: we’re looking for players! Think you can out-manage the FanGraphs hive mind as well as a bevy of other baseball personalities and OOTP sharks? Try your luck!

At the moment, we’re looking to fill six teams: the Yankees, Rockies, Cardinals, Twins, Marlins, and one mystery team. The requirements aren’t onerous: you have to own a copy of Out Of The Park Baseball 21, and you have to be willing to manage a team, which requires daily-ish checks during the regular season, maybe 10 minutes most days but with occasional longer sessions for planning. The rest is handled for you — down to a generously provided server by host StatsPlus. If you’re interested, contact Brad on Twitter (@BaseballATeam), or reach out to me either here or on Twitter (@_Ben_Clemens).

I had a blast working with everyone this year to do our best to bring Milwaukee to the playoffs. I can’t wait to run it back next year — hopefully with a few members of the FanGraphs community challenging our crowd team in the NL Central.
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