As you guys know, the RSL is 20 seasons old this year. It's been a pretty good run so far. Here's hoping for 20 more.
There have been a number of changes to the league since it's inception. I think change is good. I think real world sports leagues are, much to their ultimate detriment, resistant to change. They cling to nebulous ideals like tradition and history instead of seriously considering things that can make things better, fairer, more competitive.
We're free from a lot of those burdens. We've seen the league go from 20 teams and four divisions, to 24 teams and six divisions, and then no divisions. We've seen teams move, rebrand...we've given interleague a shot and removed it again.
There are a couple things in the near future that I'd like to kind of condense into one post, to give you all an idea of my current assessment of the league, where it stands, and where I'd like to see it move.
#1: We're moving to OOTP13
The results of the poll are heartening - nearly everybody already owns, or was/is planning to purchase the new version of the game. I think the upgrade is necessary for the league to grow, and - unlike OOTP12 - there seem to be legitimate improvements for online leagues therein. I would very much like to upgrade for the 2028 season, which means the date of conversion would be Opening Day.
For those of you who were not planning on getting the new version of the game, but want to remain in the league, I am sorry that I am "making" you make the purchase. As one method of potential discount, I suggest trying to find another league member who is willing to split the cost with you (each game license allows two active installations). If you're planning on using the program from only one machine, that second installation is no use to you and you can use it to defray the cost of the game overall.
#2: A move to three sims per week is likely
Probably not the most popular change in the world. I do not have a problem simming four times per week, far from it. However, I think there is something to be said for easing off the gas pedal just slightly. We've run 20 seasons in 5 years, which is a pretty good pace. Currently at our rate of 4 sims per week, each regular season takes about 7 weeks to complete. With 3 sims per week, it would take about 9 weeks to complete. I don't think 2 extra weeks is too much of a detriment - in fact, I think it's actually a positive.
For one, I have - at times - been concerned with how quickly we blow through parts of a season. Early season storylines are lost to the breakneck speed of the rest of the year. There is very little time to savor your position, and too quickly we've gone through the next two weeks. With a bit more breathing room I think we'd see more discussion, decisions, panic...just by slightly drawing things out a bit I think we'd breath a bit of life into each season, however counter-intuitive that may sound.
Additionally, we were all four years younger when this league started, and we are all four years older now. As most of us know, the more years that go by, the less free time you tend to find yourself with. I don't want to feel like I'm putting any undue pressure on anybody by running through the seasons at our current speed. If you've got a busy weekend you may end up missing two sims and not getting an export out for Tuesday's sim and suddenly you feel like you can't keep up with the league and maybe you should consider dropping out...I don't want the pace of the league to be a detriment to anybody at any time, and even though I don't have any HARD evidence that it IS a detriment currently, there are times when I see possible signs that it may be.
We would likely lose the Sunday night sim, giving us a Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday schedule.
#3: Rookie League gets the axe
I'll be removing all Rookie League teams, likely as early as next season. No players will be removed, obviously, but the minor leagues will consist of AAA, AA, and A. The Rookie League is completely expendable and serves no real purpose except file size inflation.
#4: Draft reduction
The length of the first-year player draft will be reduced from 10 rounds to 7 rounds. Not a huge change, but even with the elimination of one of the minor league levels there are too many players coming into the universe overall. There are something like 500+ free agents just hanging around doing nothing. This is 70 players per year we can remove from the equation.
#5: Talent Levels
This...is probably the most difficult part of running an OOTP league, and it's the one I stay most involved in keeping track of. It's still very tough to keep proper perspective on the big picture when trying to maintain an "ideal" talent level within the league. Currently I would rate the league talent levels as follows:
Starting Pitching: Healthy - top flight talent is rare & valuable but not an absolute sure thing, low-end talent is necessary for most teams but capable of surprises.
Relief Pitching: Totally FUBAR - way, way, way too many top-flight relievers. Chalk this up to me spending too much time with inadequate knowledge of pitcher development and oversight of simple things like "50 IP means less injury chances compared to 200 IP." The talent level for relief pitchers will need some curbing in coming drafts.
Catchers: Healthy - very tough to land a good hitting catcher, but this is by design.
First Base: Adequate but getting healthier - Three or four seasons ago I started removing every 1B that OOTP created in the draft. I feel that first basemen should not be created, but rather they should be the guys who just can't cut it in the infield or outfield or behind the plate. For a while 1B was clogged with passable players, which led to the early retirement/banishment of still-solid aging players. There is still the occasional 1B-Only player in the draft, but this change has helped create a healthier environment and should continue this way going forward.
Infield: Adequate but getting healthier - Top level talent is fine, however for a while it was a bit too simple to fill out your infield with decent bats or, failing that, with plus defenders. It is a bit harder doing so now, and will continue that way by design.
Outfield: A bit wonky. I think Centerfield is ok, since it should be and is currently one of if not the hardest position to find someone to fill. I think the corner positions are far too clogged with solid players. Again, top-end talent is where it should be, but it appears far too easy to find capable talent in the outfield. This will be adjusted in upcoming drafts.
Why put all this here? I want you guys to know how I am currently evaluating the league. If I had to sum it up, I would say it is a bit too overcrowded with "ok" talent. Last year's draft was one of the deepest ever (inexplicably...because that certainly was not my intention, but again things can get a bit muddled when you have 250 players to edit).
So, please don't freak out if subsequent drafts seem more shallow...I think there a few areas of adjustment to be made.
#6: Playoff Format
Ok, many of you know that if I had my way the playoffs every year would be only one round long. I'm a big fan of the old school format where the team on top of the league after the regular season goes to the World Series. That said, I do understand the benefit of having more teams in the playoffs since this is a fake online league.
I think our current playoff system is fine, but I would like to (as I did previously) push for a new format in the first round. I think the 2H/3A/2H system sucks, and is unfair to the teams who finish #1 and #2. I think a first round system of 2A/5H is much better. The win difference between #1 and #4, for example, is sometimes as much as 15-20 games, I don't think this format is uncalled for.
There will probably be a new poll up on this in a few days.
#7: Live from New York
OOTP13 has an intriguing new feature called Real Time Simulation Mode. It allows your solo league to run in the background in real time, simulating each game pitch-by-pitch according to the time of day. There are a number of different speeds you can use, and it's a very nifty addition (and a step in a very cool direction).
Right away, I put my mind to work trying to figure out a way that we could possibly feature this in the RSL. Really, the Real Time Sim mode is designed for solo leagues, since there's no way to automatically update anything connected with an online league. However, as we've done in the past, it is possible to set up a broadcast of my screen...which means it may be possible to basically broadcast this to everybody.
In conjunction with the program xsplit and the site Twitch TV, I could conceivably begin a real-time sim at 8 AM each morning, broadcasting the application as it runs the games. You'd see the screen that looks much like this:
Running at a speed of factor 20, one week would finish running in about 8 hour and 30 minutes. Which would mean I could come home and upload the file at the same time as always. If you're not interested in the real-time sim, then you can download the new file at the same time as always. And otherwise, you can whittle away the hours at work keeping tabs on what's happening in that day's sim.
There needs to be further experimentation on this, but it's something I'd really like to do if possible.
Now, keep in mind that none of the above points are set in stone. I just wanted to fill you all in on where I think the league is at and where I'd like the league to go in the near future.