Keepin’ It Real—Late 1940’s–Early 1950’s

6/5/19

Keepin’ It Real—Late 1940’s–Early 1950’s

This is a historical league, and “we” (that is, some of our GMs, myself included) believe that if you’re going to play in a 1940’s league, you should manage your team like it’s the 1940’s, not the 2010’s. We believe that the league is more fun if everyone is on the same page on this.

I read a lot about baseball history and I like to look at stats, so I know a little bit about the differences between the strategies of different eras, but I am by no means an expert on baseball history. If anyone finds any inaccuracies in the following, please let me know.

Managing the roster

Platooning

Platooning, in vogue in the ‘Teens and early ‘Twenties, had all but died out by the ‘Thirties, but it started to come back into fashion in the early 1950’s. Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel, who had been a platoon player in the 1920’s, platooned like a madman, and since he was winning the World Series every year, other managers began to follow suit.

If you’re platooning right now, you’re a little ahead of the real-life curve, but not too much ahead. I platoon a little in this league. Not much, but enough that it would be hypocritical of me to ask you not to.

Managing the pitching staff

Size of the pitching staff/rotation

Teams carried about nine or ten pitchers at this time. The number of doubleheaders was at an all-time high; with teams sometimes going through stretches of, say, eight games in six days without a day off, they needed at least six or seven pitchers who could start. Really, almost all pitchers could start; most pitchers at this time started and relieved.

We have about half as many doubleheaders as they did in real life at this time. It’s very rare that we have them real close together, although it happens occasionally. In real life at this time, doubleheaders would bunch up and back-to-back doubleheaders were not at all uncommon. Since that rarely happens in this league, you probably could get by with having just eight or nine pitchers at a time on your active roster.

See also here.

Pitch counts

I may be wrong, but I don’t think any managers at this time paid attention to how many pitches a pitcher was throwing. I’m pretty sure the concept of pitch counts didn’t even exist. A manager at this time would have believed he should be able to tell when a pitcher was losing effectiveness; he would have seen it as part of his job. He wouldn’t have thought he needed a pitch count to tell him what he was supposed to be able to see with his own eyes.

I don’t use pitch counts in any of the OOTP leagues I’m in. In my two historical leagues, my teams get lots of complete games, and in the modern leagues I’ve been in, they get very few. OOTP has era modifiers (which are set by the commissioner) which adjust the behavior of the computer managers according to the era. The A.I. “knows” how long starters should go. It doesn’t need pitch counts to tell it when a pitcher is tired.

Relief roles

There was no such thing as a “closer” at this time, nor a “set-up man”, nor a “specialist”. I’m not sure if the term “stopper” was used, but teams that had a relief ace (some didn’t) would use that ace basically the way OOTP uses a “stopper”, which means he would basically come into any close game when the starter was out. If the team was up by a run or two, down by a run or two, or tied, the stopper would come in. Any other situation called for either a “middle reliever” or a “long reliever”.

The practice of bringing in a lefty to face a left-handed batter, then bringing in a righty to face a right-handed batter, then bringing in a lefty to face a left-handed batter absolutely did not exist. Nobody would have used pitchers in this way at this time. Relievers, when they were used at all, usually finished the inning, if not the game. Teams didn’t carry enough pitchers to bring pitchers in to face one batter.

I’m not going to mandate that you can’t assign your relievers the roles of “closer”, “set-up”, or “specialist”, but be aware that if you are, you’re definitely not managing your 1940’s/1950’s team like a 1940’s/1950’s manager. Frankly, I wish OOTP would make those designations unavailable during eras when they didn’t exist.

In-game strategy

Sacrifice bunts

The rate at which teams laid down sacrifice bunts was much higher in the ’40’s and ’50’s than it is today. Sabermetrics hasn’t quite killed the sacrifice bunt, but it’s certainly torn it a new one. I won’t ask you to bunt with the same wild abandon that teams did back then, but I will ask you not to move the “Sacrifice Bunt” slider all the way to “Never” in your strategy settings. “Never” is ridiculous—it shouldn’t even be an option. There are pitchers batting in this league, for corn’s sake. You can move it all the way to the second lowest setting if you really want to keep the bunts down to the bare minimum. That will probably limit your bunting to only pitchers, and only in totally obvious bunting situations.

Stolen bases

Stolen bases at this time were historically low, but… “low” does not mean “zero”, or anything close to zero. Again, this is an area where I believe OOTP really screwed up; they’ve allowed a strategy setting that is completely unrealistic. If you slide your “Stealing Bases” strategy setting all the way to “Never”, you’ll get, guess what, no stolen bases for the season (or maybe one or two at the most). Well, pardon my Swahili, but that’s balderdash. No team in baseball history has ever stolen zero bases, or one, or two. The lowest total ever for a team is 13, by the 1957 Washington Senators. I ask that everyone go no lower than the second lowest setting for stealing bases. Thank you.

More essays

Home