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1981 Baseball Season APBA Draft

Although Sim Auctions are the ultimate challenge, they do require a dedicated block of time which is often hard to find. On the other hand, Drafts are more accessible since they can be completed over a span of time and don’t require constant attention. For it’s inaugural draft, Baseball Sim Auctions selected the 1981 season.

The 1981 season was curtailed due to a player’s strike. Fortunately, thanks to APBA we’ll find out just how awesome Mike Schmidt and Nolan Ryan could have been had they been allowed to play a full season in 1981, instead of just 108 games!

The primary motivation for the strike was the owner’s insistence that teams who lose players to free agency get a compensation draft pick from the signing team and a player off the roster of the signing team. The players were never going to agree to such a ridiculous demand, so they walked out after the games on June 11 and play did not resume until August 10.

When the season resumed MLB decided to split the seasons in half with the winners from the pre and post strike periods meeting in Divisional Series and the winners going to the League Championship Series.

The final result of this radical rearrangement did not work out well, since there was one team, the Cincinnati Reds, who did not have the best record in their division in either the first or the second half, but had the best overall record when the halves were combined (they had the best overall record in all of baseball, 66-42) yet they did not make the playoffs. The St. Louis Cardinals (59-43), had the second-best overall record in the NL and also did not make the playoffs. Why MLB decided to go with this split season scenario is a mystery and another example of the damage done to the 1981 season.

I’ve always been mystified by the combative nature of most negotiations, if you know that a situation has to eventually be resolved (a labor strike, an argument, a war, etc.) why prolong the event and the agony with absurd demands and offers that are not in good faith? Why does it seem like human beings always have to go to the brink of an abyss before there is a resolution?

1981 APBA Draft

The 1981 Draft was constructed with 24 teams (no leagues or divisions) – each team will play every other team 7 times resulting in a 161 game season to determine the best squad. The rosters for 8 of the teams were selected by live General Managers, the remaining 16 teams were compiled by the computer APBA General Manager. Below is a recap of the first 10 selections in round #1.

Click HERE to view all the rounds and players selected.

1. Los Angeles White Sox – GM Derek Bain selects Mike Schmidt – no surprise here, Schmidt was the clear #1 choice.
2. New York Expos – GM Steven Jackson selects Dwight Evans – after Schmidt the choices for hitters become more subjective, but it’s hard to argue with Evans, besides having the 2nd best OPS among full time hitters, you gotta love that 3 defense and 39 arm!
3. Houston Cardinals – with the 3rd pick, GM Brendan Bain selected Rickey Henderson, securing arguably the best lead-off hitter in the draft.

4. Texas Athletics– with pick #4, GM Scott Courlander selected “The Hawk” Andre Dawson, a .918 OPS and the 3/35 defense/arm combo made Dawson an easy choice in the 4th slot.

5. Oakland Rangers – GM Andy Palomino opted for pitching with the 5th pick, making Steve McCatty the first hurler selected. GM Palomino had McCatty, Steve Carlton and Nolan Ryan rated similarly, but opted to go with McCatty over Ryan based on the extra innings pitched by McCatty.

6. St.Louis Astros – with the 6th pick, GM Steve Andrusko selected Steve Carlton, no surprise there, after McCatty went #5, Carlton was soon to follow.
7. Chicago Dodgers – with Carlton and McCatty of the board, GM Michael Danes grabs Nolan Ryan with the 7th pick, Ryan had the highest APBA grade among all SPs, great pick by GM Danes!
8. Montreal Yankees – this was the first selection by an APBA GM, solid choice going with the top rated relief pitcher, Rollie Fingers (Grade 24!)
9. Boston Brewers – player #9 was also an APBA GM pick, also opting for a relief pitcher, this time Rick Camp. This I would argue was the first bad pick of the draft, Camp was terrific in 1981 (Grade 18 in 76 innings) – but with this pick you had several SPs and quality hitters that would have made a better options at slot #9.

10. Milwaukee Red Sox – GM Rod Humphrey makes the last live GM selection of the first round, electing to go with starting pitcher Dave Stieb. Excellent choice by GM Humphrey as Stieb was unquestionably a top 10 SP. Extrapolated to a 161 game season, Stieb should give the Red Sox approximately 272 quality innings.

Draft Analysis: Of the 80 players selected in the first 10 rounds by the live General Managers, 34 were pitchers (43% of the total players selected) of those pitchers, 29 were SPs. Contrast the approach of the live GMs with the APBA computer GMs and you see a difference in Draft strategy, the APBA GMs selected 88 pitchers in the first 10 rounds (55% of the total players selected), of those, 38 were relief pitchers compared to only 5 RPs selected by the live GMs.

The 8 live General Managers prioritized hitting in the first 1/3 of the Draft, which was probably the correct strategy, since the league OPS in 1981 was the lowest in the decade of the 1980’s (.689) coupled with the fact that the ERA was also the lowest of the 1980’s (3.58) – meaning there was a lot more quality pitching available compared to hitting. Additionally, the live GMs appeared to properly value relief pitchers, while the APBA GMs overvalued RPs.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Well, we wanted to find out what Mike Schmidt would have done if he had played a full season, and he did not disappoint. Schmidt’s OPS was over 1.000 in every season that was simulated, in five of the seasons he hit 50 or more Home Runs, including a 61 HR season, that same season he drove in 167 runs! And to top it all off, he averaged 30 stolen bases -phenomenal!

CY YOUNG AWARD: The Cy Young award had many worthy candidates, but Nolan Ryan would not be denied. Ryan finished with the 2nd best ERA, including three seasons under 2.00, punctuated by a stellar 1.47 ERA in Season #10.

World Series Results: To determine the GM that drafted the best team, we conducted a World Series in which the first team to win four seasons would be crowned champion (each season simulation would be a proxy for a World Series game).

GM Derek Bain’s Los Angeles White Sox won the first season behind 51 home runs from Mike Schmidt and 102 stolen bases from Tim Raines. Michael Danes’s Chicago Dodgers squad gave a strong showing by winning seasons 5 & 8 (both seasons powered by a dominant Nolan Ryan performance- 21-7, 2.01 ERA and 23-7, 2.32 ERA). Andy Palomino’s Oakland Raiders won season 2 & 4, including a record 119 victories in season #4! Meanwhile, GM Scott Courlander and his Texas Athletics won seasons 3, 6 and 7, all in dominant fashion, putting him just one season away from the championship.

After 8 seasons, the tally was – Texas Athletics 3 wins, Oakland Rangers 2 wins, Chicago Dodgers 2 wins and the Los Angeles White Sox 1 win. In season #9 Andy Palomino’s Rangers came roaring back with a convincing 105 win season, setting up potentially the final simulation. In the 10th simulation, both the Oakland Rangers and the Chicago Dodgers had great seasons (104 wins each) but Scott Courlander’s Athletics would not be denied, winning a whopping 111 games on his way to the championship!

The Rangers, White Sox, Dodgers and Athletics proved to be the best 4 teams in the Draft, congratulations to Scott Courlander for his World Series victory and a big thank you to all the GMs who participated – I think we all had a great time finding out what could have been if the players had played a full season in 1981.

Below are the Top 10 hitting and pitching seasons, click HERE for a full summary of all the seasons, teams and player statistics.


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