In previous installments of this series, I've asked some important questions. What if Bryan Shaw pitched every single inning for the Indians? What if we clone Bryan Shaw until he filled every single roster spot in the league?
Now, I'd like to ask the most interesting one yet: what would happen if Bryan Shaw took the most powerful PEDs known to man? It would pretty much have to be the Super Soldier Serum that Steve Rogers takes; this is what turns him into Captain America. Unfortunately only one pure dose of this was ever made because of Nazi tomfoolery, so our best bet is some kind of Hyrda knockoff.
Let's take a look at Shaw before he wanders past an alleyway and feels a thick bag envelope his head, his world reduced to a sweet chemical smell and shouts of "HAIL HYDRA!"
Honestly, I think this sells Shaw a little bit short. "Fortunately" for this particular fictional Shaw, he'll be strapped to a chair injected with a chemical, and bombarded with Vita-rays, giving him the most powerful capabilities possible while still remaining human.
Let's take a quick look at some of the tweaks to Shaw's physique.
That's a bit more imposing. Where does his velocity sit after the experiment?
Well, I imagine he might have some control problems with that kind of heater! Everyone knows that Hydra's version of the serum isn't quite perfect since a Nazi killed Dr. Erskine before he could finish writing it out, so ——
Uh. Hail Hydra?
For comparison's sake, OOTP puts Clayton Kershaw in between 150-200 for almost all of these stats, with a 94 MPH heater.
Now that we know what sort of physical gifts Shaw now possess, we should take a second to review the original overview screen. Just how good does our head scout think that Bryan Shaw is now?
I think he can probably handle the big leagues.
Because Shaw has the kind of stamina that would allow him to finish a marathon while pulling a bus full of schoolchildren, I've set the rotation to always start the highest-rested pitcher. One last note — this simulation is done with the rosters as they existed at the beginning of the season, along with the same injury assumptions.
Opening day against Boston goes well enough: Shaw tosses a 7-0 complete game shutout.
One thing I'm a little bit disappointed in is the ability to tell which of Shaw's dozen or so pitches he is throwing at any given time. I'd like to know, for example, if the game thinks he would be more effective sticking to four or five pitches rather than throwing seemingly at random from all of the options the game can provide. This pales in comparison to my true complaint: I'm unable to make Shaw a switch-pitcher.
By the All-Star break, here are some of the numbers that Shaw tallies. Some of the other interesting stats to note:
- 7 complete game shutouts
- Pitcher of the month for the American League every single month.
- 4,374,215 All-Star votes, one million more votes than either Trout or Kershaw, the next two highest vote-getters.
- The Indians signed him to a 7-year, $164,800,000 extension at the end of May.
- Corey Kluber tore his rotator cuff on 6/05 after starting the year on track to best his 2014 effort.
- The Indians led the division with a 55-34 record at the break.
By the end of the season, Shaw does better than normal Shaw did against a league of only Shaws. The Indians cruise to the best record in baseball, enjoying 5+ WAR seasons from Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Tyler Naquin (This game seems to love Naquin). Somehow, Shaw lost the pitcher of the month award to Chris Sale in September. Maybe simulated award voters get tired of picking the same guy all of the time, too.
Things go about the way you would expect with an outfield like that.
Shaw wins the Cy Young without any difficulty, but I can't help wondering if this isn't the best showcase for his unique talents. If only there were a way to take a physically enhanced pitcher and stick him in a time period when teams regularly leaned on one starter for most of its games!
Ladies and gentleman, meet Old Timey Bryan Shaw, starting pitcher for the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
Here's what it took to set this up:
First, I asked OOTP to create a historical league for the year 1899. It has a fairly accurate list of players, but unfortunately it is not complete. It also doesn't slot players onto teams to begin the year, but forces the user to run a fantasy draft. The alternate option — researching several different sources and editing .csv files in order to create accurate lineups for every team in the league — just wasn't going to happen. So I improvised. Why not let the draft happen, and then edit the players that end up on the Spiders so that their talents match the real-life counterparts? OOTP allows you to edit players and generate their attributes based on a stat line. If you punch in the number of at-bats, doubles, dingers, and so on, it will auto-populate the in-game talent stats of that player so that he is capable of those numbers, on average.
The trick is that it bases these numbers on the modern game. Fortunately, Baseball Reference allows us to see neutralized batting stats, giving a nice prediction of what Dick Harley or Cy Young would do in today's game. So, in theory, entering these numbers for each player's counterpart on the real 1899 team and then asking the game to generate the player's skill level should give us the most accurate simulation of the Spiders possible. It took about an hour to punch it all in. Once I finished it up, I decided that I didn't like the names all that much, so I went through and updated those accordingly. Ladies and Gentleman, meet your 1899 Cleveland Let's Go Tribe Spiders.
I apologize if you didn't make the team; I used the masthead and then the first couple of names from a recent game thread. To make sure that the game simulated the Spiders as accurately and awful as possible, I ran through an entire season with our delightful roster. I gutted the team's financials to make sure they didn't make any trades or sign any free agents. Remember, the reality of the team is that the owners intentionally gutted the team by stealing all of the good players and sending them to the other team that they owned, the St. Louis Browns. As such, it doesn't reflect the atrocity of reality to let the simulated team try to improve.
How did things end up? Well, we're really bad, guys.
I made a couple of adjustments to make the Spiders a little bit worse, while also fixing some of the oddities. For example, while baseball was a different game in 1899, I don't think teams needed four catchers. I then prepared the Time Machine for Bryan Shaw. This did take quite a bit of tinkering in the excel files, but after a couple of failed attempts I managed to slip him onto the roster.
I also maxed out his batting attributes in the process. There's no DH in 1899, after all.
During the course of the simulation I spent a bit more time curating it than I normally would. Because this version of Bryan Shaw comes from the future and like the Terminator suffers from almost no fatigue, I forced the game to pitch him pretty much every other game. It was not uncommon to see this kind of workload throughout the season. I watched the statistics pile up and once again felt kind of awful for the way I treat OOTP. It shouldn't have to deal with numbers like this. Here's where the worst team in the history of baseball finished after I added Super Soldier Bryan Shaw to the roster:
Just by comparing the record from the previous simulation, it appears that Bryan Shaw was worth about 50 wins to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. The rest of the in-game statistics corroborate this. I want to warn you, the following numbers are gruesome and should not be shown to children.
Here's what Bryan Shaw contributed on the mound, and here's what he did at the plate. Shaw obviously led all pitchers in WAR, but among hitters he trailed only Nap Lajoie, Bill Dahlen, and Jimmy Collins, despite having only a 266 plate appearances. OOTP counts pitcher and hitter WAR separately, so if we add them together we come to 50.9 WAR. In other words, Shaw provided about as much value to the 1899 Spiders as Cole Hamels has in his entire career.
It's worth showing the end of the year pitching leaderboard just to put it in context:
Hey, at least I led the league in something.
To top it all off, Shaw even threw a perfect game on August 8th. He also hit a single and drew two walks, one of which drove in a run. Classic Bryan. Morbid curiosity got the better of me, so I went ahead and let the game simulate for a while in the background just to see what would happen if we left poor Bryan Shaw in the past. The game thinks highly of him, so I wanted to see how well it would take care of him.
He played until age 45, finally hanging up the cleats in 1919. During his illustrious career, Shaw reached six and won four World Series with Cleveland. He won league MVP every single year from 1899 to 1918. Strangely, he only made the all-star game twice. I like to imagine that the citizens of this simulated baseball world just agreed that if someone always wins the MVP award, it's kind of pointless to make them pitch a random inning in July. He threw three perfect games and two additional no-hitters.
Here are his career numbers as a pitcher and hitter:
So that's quite a career. 560.3 WAR. His 166 home runs are also the 2nd most all-time as of his retirement. I think he deserves his own wing in Cooperstown, and he will probably go on to be the Governor of Ohio.
My one regret is that the AI managers won't start him every single time he's at 100% rest. If I had the patience to sit and manually insert him for every game, I'm willing to bet that an 800 WAR career is possible. I'm also curious how he might fare alternating each day as pitcher and DH.
For now, Bryan Shaw settles into a quiet retirement in the past. He'll need the rest; who knows what kind of crazy adventure awaits him next?