It’s Season 3, and the Hades Tigers are gearing up to play the season that defines their team. There’s a nervous energy in the dugout, from team lifers like Ren Morin and Randy Castillo to their newly-signed superstar in Jessica Telephone. Then, the weight of expectation starts to sink in. This is a team that could win the playoffs. Worse, a team that SHOULD win the playoffs.
Finally, it dawns on them:
Not a single player on their team remembered to bring their bats.
“what”–CEO Commissioner Parker MacMillan III (RIV)
Let’s rewind to how things played out in reality:
Season 3 is as close to a point of origin as you can get for the Tigers; the point at which the murky wilderness years of “early blaseball” give way to the period where blaseball teams could dominate the splort with win/loss records that seemed impossible.
That’s not to say the Tigers were ever underdogs. They finished their first two seasons with impressive 63-36 records that still hold up to scrutiny by modern blaseball standards, only faltering in the playoffs of Season 2 due to a competitive 3-2 postseason loss at the hands of their perennial spoilers in the Breckenridge Jazz Hands. It seemed like a question of when, and not if, the Tigers would win their first championship.
This was a team on the cusp of becoming a dynasty, and everyone knew it.
The catalyst for their rise from a good team to a great team came immediately after the Pies won their second championship. With the high-profile acquisition of Jessica Telephone in the Season 2 elections, the Tigers formed the strongest lineup by star value ever assembled.
If you weren’t watching blaseball at the time, it’s difficult to describe how the Tigers’ time at the top of the splort felt. They were the world-conquering rockstars of blaseball, lacking the relatability of the Philly Pies’ time in the spotlight or the inevitability of the Baltimore Crabs. They played a flashy, high-risk kind of blaseball, carrying their team to the playoffs each season with immense slugging power and aggressive plays. What’s worse, the flaws in their lineup were obvious to anyone: Serviceable-at-best pitching and an incredibly weak first-half to their batting lineup. Landry Violence was woefully miscast as a lead-off hitter and Alyssa Harrell held so little presence as the team’s cleanup hitter that many fans legitimately forgot she existed.
Because of this, their games were very rarely the one-sided blowouts you would expect from a team that looked this good on paper. The Tigers won despite themselves, having to claw and inch their way to hard-fought victories against teams they should have been trouncing.
They could bleed, and that made it even worse when they won anyway.
In our timeline, the Hades Tigers finish their regular season with a record of 70-29, avenging their Season 2 loss against the Jazz Hands in the quarter-finals, dashing the Philly Pies’ hopes for ascension in the semi-finals, before beating the Mills in a closely won 3-2 showdown for the championship.
This experiment began as the other side of that coin. A glimpse into an alternate timeline where the Tiger’s high-risk, high-reward playstyle never paid off.
This Tigers team will not reach the playoffs. They don’t even have bats.
What does that mean? Put simply, they can only score through walks. This is terrible for a team like the Season 3 Tigers, who have some of the worst plate discipline in the history of blaseball.
So I began this simulation in the way all glimpses into possible realities of blaseball begin: with tedious math.
To begin, I calculated a stat that we will call “Restraint,” This was calculated by taking the total plate appearances for each Tiger, and dividing their number of walks by their total plate appearances. For example, when Landry Violence stepped up to the plate, there was a roughly five percent chance of them being walked. If we assume that because the Tigers now have no ability to hit and can only score runs by walking, Landry Violence now has a five percent chance of walking, and a 95% chance of being struck out. This isn’t a perfect metric of being walked at all, because it doesn’t take into account things like Landry Violence being a lead-off hitter and thus a much safer walk than, say, Jessica Telephone at sixth with blases loaded, or different pitching styles from different teams, but for a macro simulation of the entire season, it seemed fine!
For the purpose of this experiment, the Tigers’ pitching remains entirely unaltered, which means that any team which scored runs against the Tigers in Season 3 would score those same number of points against the Tigers in this simulation. Despite having relatively sub-par pitching by star value, Tigers pitchers tended to over perform relative to their star value, especially in defensive play.
It can then, generally, be reasoned that a team which scored no points against the Tigers in a nine inning blowout will continue to score no points, the longer the game progresses. This part is important, as it comes back to bite me in the ass later on.
Season 3 began for the Tigers with a three game series against the Crabs. The Crabs, at the time, were not the dark eldritch nightmares of blaseball they became later on, but a mid-tier gatekeeper of the Lawful Evil Division that principally beat teams beneath them, with most of their losses coming from the Tigers. The Tigers, as can probably be expected, went 3-0 in this series, winning their games 5-4, 4-2, and 7-4.
I started off trying to simulate these games inning by inning, and rolling a random number generator from 1 to 1000. When the numbers were below the “Hubris Threshold” of a player’s “Restraint” (i.e., whether Landry Violence rolled below a 50) the at-bat was marked a walk. Otherwise, it was an out.
The results looked like this:
At this point in the real Season 3, the Tigers were 3-0. Here, they are 0-3. They’re three games into the regular season, and they have yet to score a single run.
The next three game series against the Pies proceeds in much the same fashion. The real Pies handed the Tigers their first 6-3 loss of the season in the third game of the series, but not before the Tigers posted a 20-3 blowout in the second. Here, all three games are shutout wins for the Pies.
The Tigers are now 0-6 going into their first Hellbeams Series of the season, and the Sunbeams win their first two games against the Tigers (a 7-5 loss for the Tigers and a 5-2 win in reality) in decisive fashion.
Then something strange happens. I mentioned before that a fundamental assumption of this exercise is that teams will continue to not score more or less than they scored in reality. A fundamental flaw in this approach appears in the third game of the Hell Series, which in reality was a 9-0 win for the Tigers, and is now, at the bottom of the 9th, a 0-0 tie going into extra innings.
If other teams are unable to score runs on the Tigers, play must continue until the Tigers can score a point off walks.
I’ve already come too far to stop now. I am left with no other option but to keep simulating innings until a series of four numbers small enough to cause a walk appear.
I simulate 2000 innings worth of numbers.
The results confuse and terrify me, and I am forced to immediately tweet about them:
In the 1532nd inning of their game against the Sunbeams, the Tigers score their first point of the season. Going into game ten, the Tigers are 1-8.
They win their next two games, too.
What this means for the rest of the league:
After twelve games of calculating walks inning by inning, it becomes increasingly clear that the only way the Tigers will win a game through walks in this experiment is through these games that were blowout wins for the Tigers in nine innings, which now stretch into the hundreds, or thousands, of extra innings as the Tigers try to make the stars align to score a point off walk. So from this point the experiment pulls back, and I calculate that the tigers had, roughly, 13 shutout victories in season 3 (Sunbeams, Pies, Pies, Crabs, Crabs, Garages, Wild Wings, Wings, Dale, Wings, Moist Talkers, Wings, Jazz Hands.) These are their only clear wins in the season. There are instances, like their 17-1 win over the Moist Talkers on day 94, where the Tigers could conceivably bring the Moist Talkers to a 1-1 tie by walks alone by the bottom of the 9th to force extra innings, but that would almost certainly stretch into the thousands of innings to try and simulate.
I tweet, at this point, that the Tigers are 14-85, without bats.
I’m wrong. They’re 13-86. This is still the worst record for any team in blaseball history, if it happens, either way. They’re nowhere close to the playoffs. They’re not even close to half of the 38-61 record that the worst team in their sub-division, the Sunbeams, recorded that season. Taking away the Tiger’s bats have turned them from the strongest team in the league to the worst team in history.
But what does the rest of the league look like, in their absence?
For this, I calculated how many additional wins each team got from the Tigers going 13-86.
|Lawful Good||Lawful Evil|
|San Francisco Lovers||59-40||Philly Pies||63-36|
|Dallas Steaks||58-41||Baltimore Crabs||57-42|
|Kansas City Breath Mints||49-50||Hellmouth Sunbeams||52-47|
|Los Angeles Tacos||38-62||Mexico City Wild Wings||47-52|
|Chicago Firefighters||35-64||Hades Tigers||13-86|
|Chaotic Good||Chaotic Evil|
|New York Millennials||64-35||Houston Spies||64-35|
|Charleston Shoe Thieves||60-40||Canada Moist Talkers||61-38|
|Yellowstone Magic||53-46||Breckenridge Jazz Hands||58-41|
|Hawai’i Fridays||48-51||Seattle Garages||53-48|
|Boston Flowers||42-57||Miami Dale||45-54|
Pies, at 63-36, lead the Lawful Evil division. The Crabs pick up 15 extra wins in their sub-division to go 57-42. Sunbeams finish with a positive record of 52-47, which they wouldn’t do in reality until Season 7. However, the real winners are the Houston Spies, who go from a record of 49-50 to 64-35, based solely off of their wins from the Tigers in this experiment. This not only secures them a playoff space (their first since Season 1) but makes them the winningest team in the entire evil division.
From here, we assume that the Good Division playoffs proceed the same way they did in reality. Lovers over Thieves, Mills over Steaks, Mills over Lovers in the Semi-Finals. However, the existence of the Spies in the playoffs throws EVERYTHING into chaos.
Or does it?
The Season 3 spies had a record of 6-4 against the Jazz Hands in regular season play, which corresponds roughly to a 3-2 victory over the Jazz Hands in the playoffs. Pies beat the Moist Talkers. The Spies and the Pies face off in the semi-finals, where the Pies win.
The Season 3 finals are now the Pies and the New York Millennials facing off for the first time since Season 1, where the Pies swept the Millennials 3-0.
My brain says the Pies, without the Tigers blocking their path to ascension, take it, and we learn the consequences of ascension seasons earlier than we did. My heart says the Season 3 Mills block the Pies from ascending and bring home the championship that eludes them to this day.
And in future seasons? Maybe the Tigers recover from this. Maybe this is just a setback on their path to becoming a dynasty, and they win Seasons 4 and 5. Maybe they run headfirst into the revitalized Crabs and never become serious championship contenders.
But that’s the problem with playing counterfactual history like this. We don’t know.
We never will.