Saturday, January 19, 2008

Go Browns!

Viva El Birdos is probably my favorite site on the whole world-wide interweb. It's without a doubt the best Cardinals' related site out there and I usually visit everyday. If you're a Cardinals' fan and don't know about VEB, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Anyway, VEB is running a simulated tournament involving every team in Cardinals' history that has won a championship. Every team that has won a World Series, a pennant, or a division championship is in (sorry, 2001 Cardinals-your "co-championship" doesn't cut it). The coolest thing about this is that they're including the Four Time Champions. The 1885-1888 Browns now have a chance to prove themselves to modern Cards' fans. And I really believe that they're going to do well.

It's a complicated bracket involving twenty-five teams. The 1886 Browns, due to their World Series victory over the Chicagos, get a two round bye and are in the final sixteen. The 1885 Browns are totally getting jobbed (because, let's face it, they won the 1885 Series and should be counted with the rest of St. Louis' World Series winners) and have to play a play-in series to make the final sixteen. The 1887 and 1888 Browns have to win two play-in series to make the final sixteen.

That's a tough row to hoe for the 1887 and 1888 Browns. If I did my cypherin' correctly, they have to win six series against some stiff competition to win the whole thing. In the first round, the 87 Browns have the 1996 Cards and the 88 Browns take on the 1987 Cardinals (which might just be my favorite Cards team of all time). Currently, the 87 Browns are up one game to nothing and the 88 Browns split their first two games. You want to know how tough this tournament is going to be? If the 87 Browns win their series, they get the 1985 Cards in round two. If the 88 Browns win, the 2004 Cards are waiting. Good luck with that.

The 1886 Browns are actually sitting in pretty good shape. They're currently seeded third and, in the round of sixteen, should get one of the weakest teams in the field (they're going to re-seed the field in the round of sixteen based on winning percentage).

The problem is that the 19th century teams are operating under some handicaps. The tournament is being played under modern baseball rules and that should dampen the offensive production of the Four Time Champions. At the same time as the computer adjusts the Browns' offense to the modern era, it doesn't adjust their defense. Just imagine the 1888 Browns taking the field at an astro-turfed Busch Stadium against the 87 Cards without gloves. In game one of that series, as an example of what we can expect, Arlie Latham made three errors (he also had four hits, three stolen bases, three runs scored, and was player of the game).

But the biggest handicap that the Browns are going to be working under is the way the computer views Dave Foutz and Bob Caruthers. For 1887, the computer considers Foutz and Caruthers to be outfielders rather than pitchers. So Silver King and Nat Hudson are going to have to carry the pitching load for the Browns. If the computer made the proper adjustments so that Foutz, Caruthers, and King split time on the mound and divided outfield playing time among O'Neill, Welch, Foutz, and Caruthers then the 1887 Browns would be very tough to beat. The computer is punishing the Browns because Foutz and Caruthers were complete baseball players and it is unable to adjust for differences between the 19th century game and the modern game.

It's going to be an interesting tournament. You can follow it day by day at VEB or you can visit Cardinal70's VEB All-Time Sim Tournament page for a more comprehensive view.

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