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2002 Atlanta Braves, 2005 St.Louis Cardinals, 2011 Philadelphia Phillies and 2017 Houston Astros Auction

For this auction we are going to deconstruct four great 100+ win teams from the last 20 years to create 3 new teams! Usually the number of real teams is the same as the number of Sim teams, but I was curious to see how adding an extra team would affect the bidding, let’s find out!

2002 Atlanta Braves: The strength of this Braves team was clearly their pitching, they led all MLB teams with an impressive 3.13 ERA, outpacing the 2nd place San Francisco Giants by a wide margin (3.54). The pitching had to be good because this team’s hitting was below league average. They registered a .741 OPS, which was only good for 17th place among MLB teams, they had the same rank in home runs.

Although not a superlative hitting team overall, they did have three outstanding contributors in Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield.


Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and Greg Maddux were the big three in the starting rotation, they were supported by a strong bullpen, highlighted by John Smoltz who saved 55 games that year and three other relievers with ERAs under 2.00!

2005 St.Louis Cardinals: In 2005, the Cardinals did not win the World Series, but they were clearly the best team in baseball. The Word Series determines who the best team was in a particular number of games, sometimes the actual best team wins the playoff tournament that culminates in the World Series, sometimes they don’t. In my mind, the best team is determined by who wins the most games during the regular season and/or had the best Run Differential, the 2005 Cardinals check off both of those boxes. They were the only team to win 100 games in 2005 and their Run Differential of +171 tops that year’s World Series Champ, the Chicago White Sox by 75 runs!

That hefty Run Differential was generated by an MLB leading ERA of 3.49 and an offense that although not dominant, did rank in the top 10 in OPS, clocking in at #9 with a mark of .762. The key contributors were Albert Pujols and Jim Edmonds. In 2005 Pujols produced one of his best seasons, hitting 41 home runs and finishing with an OPS of 1.039, one of his 8 seasons with an OPS over 1.000! Edmonds complemented Albert nicely, chipping in with 29 homers and a .918 OPS.

Chris Carpenter was the ace of the pitching staff, winning 21 games, throwing 7 complete games and 4 shutouts on the strength of a 2.83 ERA. He also struct out 213 batters, the only time he eclipsed 200 Ks in his career. Mark Mulder (3.64 ERA) and Jeff Suppan (3.57 ERA) provided support for Carpenter and Jason Isringahusen took care of things in the 9th inning, collecting 39 saves.

2011 Philadelphia Phillies: This time the St.Louis Cardinals did win the World Series, except in 2011 they were NOT the best team in baseball, the Phillies were! The Phillies led all teams with 102 victories and were 2nd in Run Differential (+184) to the New York Yankees (+210). In many ways, this team was an analog of the 2002 Braves, they led MLB in ERA with an impressive 3.02 mark, but their OPS (.717) was below the league average of .720 and placed them 15th among all teams.

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels formed a formidable threesome, all three had ERAs below 3.00, and Halladay and Lee both struck out over 200 batters (Hamels came close with 194 Ks). Ryan Madsen saved 32 games out of the bullpen to round out an exceptionally consistent pitching staff. The highest ERA among their top 10 pitchers was 3.69!

Although the offense was below league average, the Phillies didn’t have many black holes in their lineup (defined as an OPS below .700). Of the 13 players with 200 or more at bats, only 3 had an OPS below .700. Ryan Howard was the centerpiece of the offense, swatting 33 home runs and driving in 116 runs. Shane Victorino was the other key cog in the offense, generating double figures in doubles, triples and home runs (27/16/17)!

2017 Houston Astros: The Astros were one of three dominant 100+ win teams in 2017, joining the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unlike the first 3 teams comprising this auction, the Astros did not have dominant pitching, ranking 11th in ERA, with a mark of 4.12. Within that mediocre pitching they did have some quality performers – Dallas Keuchel had a 2.90 ERA in 145 innings, Ken Giles had a 2.30 ERA on his way to saving 34 games and Chris Devenski, contributed 81 relief innings to the tune of a 2.68 ERA.

When the pitching is not dominant, you have to compensate with outstanding hitting, and that’s exactly what the Astros delivered. Their .823 OPS was first among all teams, comfortably outpacing #2 Cleveland (.788), and they bashed 238 home runs, second only to the Yankees (241). The lineup was obviously strong top to bottom, but the star of the show was Jose Altuve, the Houston second baseman led MLB with a .346 Batting Average on his way to the American League MVP award!

The Auction: We did no waste any time in nominating the best hitter in the auction, Albert Pujols was purchased by GM Scott Courlander for $32. Scott typically does a nice job in building his teams around a solid hitting core, so it appeared he was going to follow a familiar path.

The 2nd best hitter by my estimation goes off the board with lot #3 as GM Steve Andrusko buys the services of Jose Altuve for $26. Steve then goes on a spending spree and proceeds to but 7 of the next 8 players! Steve buys the top 3 pitchers, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Chris Carpenter for a combined $73, then for good measure buys Greg Maddux for $19. Those aggressive pitching acquisitions would prove pivotal in determining the outcome of this auction.

I tried to keep up with Steve by purchasing the next best three SPs Tom Glavine, Dallas Keuchel and Cole Hamels (all three for $49) together with the best RPs – Ken Giles, Jason Inringhausen, Darren Holmes, Mike Remlinger and Chris Hammond (all five for $36)

Meanwhile GM Scott Courlander mysteriously went into hibernation after his initial splurge with the purchase of Albert Pujols. After 42 players were off the board, Scott had only made 9 purchases, then he did not make another purchase until lot 55 when he purchased Chase Utley for $4. At that point he was in a dominant auction position in terms of remaining auction capital, he had $92, Steve had $14 and I had $3, the problem was that the remaining available talent was less than his remaining capital, meaning he would likely leave auction dollars unspent!

Eventhough Steve Andrusko spent the most on pitching ($138), he did a superb job of acquiring enough hitting to support his aces. Besides Altuve, he aquired Ryan Howard, Alex Bregman and Gary Sheffield and he added Jimmy Rollins with pick #50 for $10.

My team was very balanced, I did not spend more than $19 for any player, but in retrospect, I should have probably challenged Steve for one of his ace pitchers.

Scott fell victim to being too conservative, and although he supported Pujols nicely with Chipper Jones, George Springer and Andruw Jones, he could not overcome the fact that he left $52 unspent (a Sim Auction record!)

Below are the first 10 players purchased, you can click HERE for the complete sequence of the auction and the prices paid, you’ll also be able to see the composition of all the teams.

The World Series: Besides Steve Andrusko’s superior starting pitching he also smartly purchased most of the speedsters in the auction, when all was set and done he ended up with the top 6 players on the stolen base leader board. My team and Steve’s team were actually very similar, my team had good starting pitching and stellar relief pitching, a combined 2.90 ERA, compared to 2.69 for Steve’s team. My hitting was actually better than Steve’s team (.818 OPS vs. .773 OPS). The difference maker was the speed Steve purchased, there were a combined 355 stolen bases in this simulation, Steve’s team had 274 of them!

Congratulations to Steve Andrusko, he had an outstanding auction and rode his aces and speedsters to a World Series sweep – well done! For a complete statistical recap of the four seasons, click HERE.

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