Thursday, November 5, 2015

Hardball Dynasty: The Primer

That's what she said
For all the new owners out there, here's a primer that should hopefully help with the learning curve.  Tips, tricks, and/or explanations will given for the following topics:

 a. Budgets
 b. Minor League Players
 c. Rule 5 Draft Exposure
 d. Arbitration
 e. Contracts
 f. Demotions
 g. Spring Training
 a. Player Evaluation
 b. Right Field Defensive Glitch
 c. 20-Day Minor League "Trick"
 d. 60-Day DL Medical Trick
 e. International Free Agency
 a. Prospect Development / Promotions

On day 1, set your player budget by determining what your players will cost.  For the others:

Training is probably the most important category to max out (to $20m), followed by medical.  Training allows your older players to regress slower, and medical allows your players to heal faster.  Medical is also important for the “60-Day DL Medical Trick” mentioned in II-d.  After those, in order to be economical, you should choose either HS or college scouting, but not both.  International Scouting and Prospect go hand-in-hand.  Only invest in either if you plan on acquiring high priced international free agents (IFAs, see II-e.).  Otherwise leave an appropriate amount in prospect to cover your draft costs ($9-$10m at most if you have the 1st overall pick).  Filling out your coaches rarely costs more than $8-$9m.  Advanced scouting is usually a waste of money, so set it to $0m.  For more information, see II-a, Player Evaluation.

Minor League Players
On day 2 of the season, you should avoid free-agency be resigning any major league players you plan on keeping.  But it’s important to remember to resign all of your minor league players as well. 

Rule 5 Draft Exposure
Also on day 2 of the season you should go through your roster and add all of your important prospects to the 40 man that are exposed to the Rule 5 Draft.  Minor league prospects become exposed to the Rule 5 draft on their 4th Pro Year, which you can find listed on their player card.  There will also be a red symbol next to their name on the "Edit Rosters" page. 

Handling arbitration is the one of the biggest mistakes I see new owners make.  If you do everything correctly, you can control your prospect for 11 Major League seasons.   How you handle arbitration is a big part of that.  Here’s how arbitration works:  once a player hits 3 ML Years (again found on their player card) they go to first year arbitration.  A player can go to arbitration 3 times: at 3 ML Years (1st), 4 ML Years (2nd), and 5 ML Years (3rd).  First year arbitration is cheap, with 2nd year and 3rd year arbitration costs rising exponentially.

The trick to arbitration is simple; in order to maximize the player’s years on your team and minimize his costs, take your player to arbitration twice, namely first and second year arbitration (3 ML and 4 ML Years).   For third year arbitration (5 ML Years), avoid arbitration and instead sign your player to a long-term contract (at a maximum of 5 years).  Many owners will sign their players to long-term contracts at first-year arbitration.  Not only are you losing 2 years of control of the player, you’re spending far more money than you should.  Speaking of contracts…

(Credit to MikeT23)  When you open up the “Long Term Contracts” page…

Season - This is the actual season salary that you would like to offer the player. Season 1 refers to the first season in which the player is not already under contract with your franchise. So, if the player is currently arbitration eligible and has not gone through an arbitration hearing, season 1 means this current season. If the player is in the final year of his contract with your team and will soon become a free agent, season 1 indicates the next Hardball Dynasty season.  Also, in a…

2 Year Contract - no season can comprise more than 60% of the total value of the contract
3 Year Contract - no season can comprise more than 40% of the total value of the contract
4 Year Contract - no season can comprise more than 30% of the total value of the contract
5 Year Contract - no season can comprise more than 25% or less than 10% of the total value of the contract 

There is a maximum allowable offer of $20m for any season. The minimum for any season is the minimum annual salary at that level. For the big leagues, this is $325K. To change the offer for any season, please click in the box next to the season and enter an integer value. For a 3-year contract, you must enter in values for the first three seasons, but you may leave seasons 4 and 5 blank. The total value of the contract will appear at the bottom of the page. 

I would also add a bonus up to $10m is allowed and will be part of the first season’s contract and is paid immediately in full when the contract begins. The bonus does not factor into the percentages above.  Here’s an example 4-year contract:

Bonus:  $8m
Season 1:  $4m
Season 2:  $4m
Season 3:  $6m
Season 4:  $6m  
Season 5:  --
Total Value:  $28m  

The total value of the contract is $28m, but the most allowed per season is $6m because you take the total value amount minus the bonus ($28-$8=$20m), and multiply that by 30% (per the rules above).  This would be considered a legitimate contract.

In general, you never want to demote any player, a prospect or one in the Major Leagues.  But sometimes it's necessary to fill out a roster.  In general, when you demote a player, he takes a giant hit in his ratings, in the form of a demotion penalty.  That's permanent, and the player will never get those ratings back, even with a promotion.  There's one way around this.  Do all of your demotions BEFORE Spring Training begins.  Do that, and you'll never get a penalty.  Speaking of Spring Training...

Spring Training
Tip: Always play your best prospects in spring training.  The number of at-bats they get or innings they pitch doesn't matter, the number of games they play does.


Player Evaluation 
This is definitely the most important aspect of Hardball. 

I'm going to go through all the important ratings, but first let's talk about projections for prospects.  You get projections from 3 different places: draft projections from your draft scouting (College/HS), IFA projections from your International Scouting, or player projections from your Advanced Scouting.  Unless you have around $16m+ budgeted in one or more of these categories, your scouting is useless.  Players commonly fall short or surpass the numbers your scouting projects by wide margins.  Instead rely on the player's current numbers and how far along they are in development to make an educated guess regarding the type of player they will become.  For more information on prospect development, see III-a, Prospect Development / Promotions.

Onto the ratings.  Again, for Major League players, we're only concerned with their "current" ratingsI'm going to go through all the important ratings for hitters and pitchers.  A quick note - the Overall Rating is basically worthless.  It's merely a number generated from the rest of the ratings on a player profile.  We won't be covering it and you generally shouldn't consider it when assessing player value*.

*Obvious exception - If a player is 90+ overall, there's basically little chance he's anything but very good.
Hitters - Defense 
Defense for a hitter is broken down to A. Range (RA), B. Glove (GL), C. Arm Strength (AS), D. Arm Accuracy (AA), and for catchers, E. Pitch Calling (PC).  The most important positions on the field to have strong defense are SS, 2b, CF, 3b, probably in that order.  Here are the average ratings for each position:
Big League Averages
C 10 30 75 75 50
1B 40 40 40 40 0
2B 80 75 55 65 0
3B 65 70 75 70 0
SS 80 85 85 85 0
LF 55 55 50 50 0
CF 85 85 60 65 0
RF 65 50 70 65 0

Ideally your SS has at least those ratings, if not much better.  If there's one position to sacrifice hitting for defense, that's the one.  For catchers, 70+ pitch calling is optimal.

NoteNever play a lefty at 2b, SS, or 3b.  It doesn't end well.

Hitters - Offense
The important Offensive ratings for a hitter are:
I. Contact (CON) - The ability to make contact and not strike out.  Probably the least important hitting rating.
J. Power (PWR) - The ability to hit Home Runs. 
L. Vs. Left-Handed Pitching (vL) - The ability to hit left-handed pitching.
R. Vs. Right-Handed Pitching (vR) - The ability to hit right-handed pitching.  This is the most important hitting rating.
Y. Batting Eye (EYE) - The ability to draw walks.  Generally the second most important rating.

Gauging hitters offensive ability can be tricky, but here's a general guide:
60 Contact / 60 Power / 60 vL / 60 vR / 60 Eye = AAAA player
65 Contact / 65 Power / 65 vL / 65 vR / 65 Eye = Average Major League player
70 Contact / 70 Power / 70 vL / 70 vR / 70 Eye = All-Star player

Hitters - Miscellaneous
Additional important ratings:
F. Durability (DUR) - 90+ durability for most positions will mean they can play 162 games without getting tired.
G. Health (HLTH) - Obviously.  Same for hitters and pitchers.
H. Speed / Z. Baserunning (BR) - For stealing bases, these go together.  If those two numbers can add to 150+, the player should be able to steal bases.


Important pitcher ratings, many of which work in tandem:
J. Stamina (ST) / F. Durability (DUR) - Essentially how many pitches a player can throw, and how quickly he can recover.  These two ratings work in tandem because a pitcher with 70 Stamina and 30 DUR, and another pitcher with 30 Stamina and 70 DUR will both be able to throw around 200 innings in a yearOf course the difference is one is a starter and the other is a reliever.  When looking for starters, ideally you want at least 65-70+ Stamina and 20+ Durability.
K. Control (CTL) / L. Vs. Left-Handed Batting (vL) / R. Vs. Right-Handed Batting (vR) - The pitcher's ability to control the pitches, and their effectiveness vs. left-handed and right-handed batters.  The vR is the most important pitcher rating.  As a general rule I like to add these 3 categories up together.  Anything over 210 total points has All-Star potential.
Y. Velocity (VEL)  / Z. Groundball/Flyball (G/F) - I don't know why, but if you add these up, you want at least 107 points combined.  Don't ask.
P. Pitch 1-5 Rating (P1-P5) Pitches 75-80+ are ideal, but generally pitches in the 60's and up are viable.  I like to look at the top two pitches.  If a pitcher's top two pitches can sum to 150+, the player usually has good pitches.  Also as a general rule, pitch 1 is more important than pitch 2, and so on.

In order to accurately assess a pitcher, you have to look at all of the above ratings as a whole.  For instance, a player that has weak pitches but a great CTL/vL/vR will still be a great pitcher.  The opposite is also true.  However, much like hitting, the vR is still the most important rating.  Pitchers with a vR lower than 60 generally aren't successful regardless of their other ratings.

Right Field Defensive Glitch 
Very simple with this one: defense almost doesn't matter in right field.  It's probably a glitch.  Put a guy with 70 range or one with 0 range, and the defensive difference will be borderline negligible.  There will be more negative plays and more errors, but if he can hit, go for it.  If you want your right fielder to be able to throw runners out, you'll still need someone with a strong arm.  But don't worry too much about range or glove.  So feel free to stick that mashing C/DH in RF.

20-Day Minor League "Trick"
Remember when I said if you do everything correctly, you can control your prospect for 11 Major League seasons?  Well this “trick” helps you get there.  First off, it’s not really a trick; it’s an actual rule in actual baseball.  It famously happened to Kris Bryant on the Cubs this year.  But many owners don’t know or utilize it.  When I discussed arbitration, I said a player hits his first year arbitration once 3 ML Years is found on his player card.  Using this “trick” will get you another season before that player hits the 3 ML Year mark.  This “trick” will only be used when you have a prospect in the minors that you plan on bringing up to the Majors for the season.

On every player card you can hover your mouse over the number listed next to “ML Years.”  Something should pop up that says “ML Service Time:” followed by a number.  The number before the “.” is the years, the number after is the days.  For most prospects that number will be 0.000, as in 0 years and 0 days, because they’ve never played in the majors.  

Here’s the “trick”:  At the start of a regular season, if you keep your prospect in the minor leagues for an extra 20 Minor League* days before you promote him to the Majors, he’ll earn an entire extra year of ML service time at the salary minimum.  I say days because every day counts, off days included.  

Well, what does that mean?  Normally, if you bring up a prospect immediately at the start of the season, he’ll have 0.000 ML service time.  The following season he’ll have 1.000, then 2.000, then 3.000.  At 3 ML Years, he’ll go to arbitration.  Arbitration means the player’s cost start to rise dramatically.  Using this “trick,” that same prospect will have 0.000 days in the first year, then around 0.150 in the second year, then 1.150, 2.150, and finally 3.150.  See how it took 5 years instead of 4 to get to "3 ML Years?"  You’ve just bought yourself an extra year of control before arbitration.  And at a minimum salary to boot.

Extra note here: If your prospect happened to play a few days in the majors in a previous season but is back in the minors and ready to be promoted at the start of a new season, he will have accrued those days.  Let’s say he played 9 days in the Majors in a previous season.  His ML Service Time will look like this: 0.009.  Don’t worry; this “trick” can still work.  All you do is add 20+9 and bring your prospect up to the Majors after 29 Minor League days have passed.    

*You can count the number of minor league days by going to World--->Schedules---->League Schedule.  From there set the "View" to "Entire Season," and the "Level" to "AAA."  Once that pops up, just count every day that's occurred! 

60-Day DL Medical Trick
Injuries suck.  But they happen.  Good news is there's a way to minimize the damage.  Here's how it works:  First thing, make sure your medical budget is high.  Higher the better.  Next, wait for a player to get hurt.  The trick here is the player must be injured for somewhere around 13-30 days.  It doesn't generally work far outside of that range.  Normally a player with a 15 day injury would go on a the 15-Day DL.  But let's say you can afford missing him for a longer period of time.  Put him on the 60-Day DL instead.  The benefits will be noticeable.  First off, his injury recovery will actually be a recovery.  Most of the time the 15-Day DL doesn't generate any injury recovery at all.  Secondly, the player on the 60-Day DL will get not one, but two injury recoveries.  Yes that's right, a second injury recovery, usually as powerful as the first.  In many cases, using this trick, players can come off the 60-Day DL with ratings better than they ever were before the injury.

International Free Agency 
More of a tip here, but the best players in IFA usually go in the $20-$35m range.  That money comes out of the Prospect budget.  So be prepared to pay if you play.  With the new format, your international scouting is very important.  It's now all you have to rely on when choosing the best prospects.


Prospect Development / Promotions 
From my experience, here's how to handle a prospect's development.  When you draft a player or acquire one from IFA, put the player in Rookie Ball.  Let him play the entire season at that level.  Play him at the hardest defensive position you think he could potentially handle.  Then during the Major League NLCS/ALCS, promote him to the next level.  Do that every year until you feel he's ready for the Major Leagues.  As a general rule players tend to develop with a pattern of diminishing returns each year until they eventually stop developing around their 4th Pro Year*.  Officially currents and projections become the same at age 27.

Just like spring training, the more games your prospect plays, the betterOnce again, don't worry about innings or at-bats.  Better coaches can produce a tiny extra boost, but instead of rushing a prospect to a high level with a good coach, just make sure to have good coaches at every level.

*Rushing a player to the Majors too soon could halt their development. 

Exception:  If you draft/IFA an older player (say 20-24), starting him in HiA or AA is acceptable.  Then I would still follow the same rules above. 

Exception 2: If you sign an IFA before Rookie Ball starts, put him in LoA.