The eighth and final week of “The Greatest League” is in the books, so it’s time for our final check-in. Thanks if you’ve been with us from the beginning. Hopefully it was a fun distraction. For those just catching up now, the idea with this league was to take some the best individual fantasy seasons of the rotisserie era (1980-present) to come up with the ultimate fantasy baseball simulation. The league consisted of 20 teams with 25-man rosters and the universal designated hitter. The 162-game season was simmed out on WhatIfSports.com and the winner was determined by the 5x5 fantasy stats produced in those games.
For reference, here are the results from Week Seven. When we last left you, Seth Trachtman made a late-season push into third place. That race was the source of most of the drama during the final week. Without further ado, here’s how things played out in the end.
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First off, congratulations to Rudy Gamble from Razzball for winning this thing. The pitching did most of the heavy lifting, with the likes of 2000 Pedro Martinez, 1986 Mike Scott, 1981 Fernando Valenzuela, 1992 Dennis Martinez, and 1996 Mariano Rivera leading the way. Gamble’s team was just one of two teams with an ERA south of 5.00, Dave Shovein being the other. Gamble was tops in three out of the five pitching categories (Wins, ERA, WHIP), third in strikeouts, and tied for second in saves. All-around dominance.
Gamble was more middle-of-the-pack in the hitting categories (steals being the notable exception), but his pitching was so good that it didn’t matter. 1996 Brady Anderson led Gamble’s team with 40 homers while 1998 Bernie Williams posted team-bests with a .314 batting average and an .880 OPS.
Players on WhatIfSports.com have an allotted salary, though we didn’t use a salary cap for the purposes of this draft. We didn’t grasp until after the draft how much each team allotted to their rosters. In the end, Gamble invested the most and it showed in the final standings. As Matthew Pouliot posted within our group chat, those salaries do appear to have a general correlation to success in this league.
This wasn’t your typical fantasy league, but Rudy continues to show me why he’s one of the best fantasy players out there. He was also a huge help throughout the course of the draft, so I owe him a thanks as well.
While Gamble dominated the pitching side of things, our second-place finisher Brent Hershey had a more-balanced approach. He ranked fifth in the pitching categories and second in the hitting categories. 2003 Jason Schmidt was his rotation standout, posting a 4.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 223/66 K/BB ratio over 220 1/3 innings. He had seven players with at least 20 homers, led by 1998 Mark McGwire, who had 37 bombs. 2015 Bryce Harper was his best hitter, with a .295/.422/.532 batting line to go along with 36 homers, 122 RBI, and 139 runs scored. 1980 Willie Wilson also stood out on his roster, as he posted a .327 batting average with 230 hits and 66 stolen bases.
Our third-place finisher Andy Behrens (S.T. Loaf) was the other extreme from Gamble, doing most of his damage in the hitting categories. His team swiped an amazing 271 bases, including 52 from 2011 Jose Reyes, 55 from 2004 Ichiro Suzuki and 56 from 1997 Craig Biggio. Ichiro ended up tied with 2000 Todd Helton for the league-lead with 239 hits. 1987 Eric Davis posted a 33-homer, 35-steal campaign while 1994 Frank Thomas put up a team-best .998 OPS to go along with 38 homers and 138 RBI.
Final thoughts about my team:
My team was right near the top of the leaderboard for the bulk of the season before running out of gas at the end. Five teams were within 3.5 points of each other for third place, so the smallest differences had major consequences. My team was fairly well-balanced, which actually worked to my detriment. I didn’t dominate in any category. The lack of strikeout upside on my team really sunk me, which is something I should have seen coming with 1992 Doug Drabek (6.3 K/9) and 1989 Bret Saberhagen (6.6 K/9) in my rotation. Of course, Saberhagen helped my team in ERA and WHIP, so maybe it all evened out.
One of my big regrets about my lineup was how righty-heavy it was. I really didn't focus much on handedness when I was making my picks. It was certainly nice to get 27 homers and 36 steals from 1981 Andre Dawson, but he hit just .219/.281/.379 against right-handed pitching. If I could do it again, I would have shifted him into some sort of platoon with 2019 Jeff McNeil or 1983 Lloyd Moseby. Or I would have taken a left-handed hitting outfielder from the very beginning.
In my quest to build a balanced roster, I also passed over some memorable slugger seasons. 2004 Adrian Beltre (48) had the highest real-life home run total from the players I drafted. He ended up leading my team with 36 homers, but having a true elite slugger could have pushed me closer to the top of the leaderboard. One disappointment was my underwhelming .270 team batting average. It was a bit perplexing given that I didn’t draft a single player on my team who had anything lower than a .295 batting average in their real-life season. I can't complain too much, as there were plenty of oddities on other teams. I still don't know how 2018 Mike Trout batted .233/.358/.406 for the season.
Final individual pitching category leaders:
ERA: Greg Maddux (1995) - 2.65
WHIP: Greg Maddux (1995) - 0.92
Strikeouts: Pedro Martinez (2000) - 326
Saves: Three-way tie - Zach Britton (2016), Billy Wagner (1999), Eric Gagne (2003) - 34
Wins: Greg Maddux (1995) - 22
Final individual hitting category leaders:
Batting average: Todd Helton (2000) - .353
Home runs: Mike Schmidt (1981) - 51
RBI: Albert Belle (1994) - 170
Runs scored: Larry Walker (1997) - 144
Stolen bases: Tim Raines (1986) - 78
And while the primary objective was to win the league in 5x5 fantasy stats, here’s the final standings of the 162-game season simulation. We currently have a four-team playoff bracket going, but that's just for bragging rights.