But “Darren Daulton’s Tragic Illness” Wouldn’t Have Been the Same

Simpsons fans are, almost by definition, excessively nerdy. Not only are there legions of losers like me who can recite every episode from memory (okay, let’s be honest, every episode up until about 2000 or so, because after that…) the show acknowledges this consistently pokes fun at such fans with characters like Comic Book Guy and their regular nerd characters:

Marge: [hearing modem noises] Ooh, what’s wrong with this phone? it’s
        making crazy noises.
Nerd 2: [contemptuously] Those “crazy noises” are computer signals.
Nerd 3: Yeah.  Some guys at MIT are sending us reasons why Captain
        Picard is better than Captain Kirk.
Nerd 1: Hah!  They’re outta their minds.

Baseball statisticians are also pretty nerdy, accused by many of sucking the fun out of the beloved game by reducing it to spreadsheets, charts, and fancy stats like “WAR” and “VORP”.  Of course, while outsiders call them “nerds” as an insult, most take it as a compliment.

Yet it takes a special kind of nerd (and I say that as lovingly as possible) to combine the two, and the blog “Masters of WAR” has done just that. You remember the Simpsons softball episode, don’t you? Not only did it help spawn this blog’s name, but if you’re between the ages of 20-35 you can almost assuredly rattle off the 9 members of the lineup and what felled 8 of them. If you’ve read that sentence and you’re not thinking something along the lines of “England’s greatest Prime Minister was Lord Palmerston!” then you most likely led a horribly closeted childhood.

But even if you do know that episode, what you likely haven’t thought about was… did Mr. Burns and Smithers choose the right lineup sabremetrically? “Masters of WAR” says no, position-by-position:

Catcher: Mike Scioscia

“Will…I…be…able…to…play…softball…tomorrow?”

“No, Mr. Scioscia. At this time tomorrow you’ll barely be able to breathe.”

Scioscia retired after the 1992 season, a season in which he had just a .260 wOBA. Rally pegged him as a -0.9 WAR player, hardly good enough to be a mercenary on a company softball team.

And he certainly couldn’t use the radiation excuse for his dropoff in performance.

The better option for the team would have been Darren Daulton. He posted a career-high .402 wOBA with the Phillies and had a 7.4 WAR in what was easily the best year of his career.

To be fair, Daulton was coming off a -0.3 WAR 1991 season. A safer bet would have been Mickey Tettleton, who was coming of a 5.2 WAR season in 1991. However, he fell to 3.0 WAR in 1992, over four wins below Daulton.

[Wins lost: 8.3]

Here’s what the lineup should have been, based on 1992 WAR:
C) Darren Daulton
1B) Frank Thomas
2B) Ryne Sandberg
SS) Barry Larkin
3B) Gary Sheffield/Robin Ventura
LF) Barry Bonds
CF) Andy Van Slyke
RF) Larry Walker

I could actually see Bonds playing the Darryl Strawberry nemesis role, and Larry Walker might actually get caught up in helping save a woman from a fire. But imagine Andy Van Slyke with gigantism or Ryne Sandberg being booked for 6 life sentences? Frank Thomas probably would have decked Mr. Burns if he was chastised for hair grooming.

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