Yankees: An Alternate History, an OOTP Experiment
By Ryan Doyle
The Yankees Alternate History simulation begins in 1903
OOTP doesn’t expect much from the Highlanders in their inaugural season. The preseason prediction report has the Highlanders finishing the season with a 62-78 record, 24 games back of the Boston Americans.
New York doesn’t have a pitcher or hitter of note in the “Top Hitters/Pitchers” section of the report, even with multiple future Hall of Famers on the roster.
In reality, New York defied expectations and finished with a 72-62 record behind a consistent pitching staff of Chesbro, Griffith and Jesse Tannehill. OOTP’s algorithm doesn’t see the Highlanders even sniffing that success.
All was going right for the Highlanders for the first four games of the season. New York made easy work of the Washington Senators, sweeping them in a four-game series to kick off the 1903 season.
Then, the wheels fell off. The Highlanders would lose their next nine games. The season was a wrap after that.
New York’s rotation was one of the worst in all of baseball. They ranked last in the American league in staff ERA (3.56) and in the bottom half of the league in walks allowed (333), hits allowed (1344) and opponent batting average (.276).
New York would also bow out of the season by losing 10 straight. Overall it was a disappointing inaugural season for New York City’s newest attraction. Let me rephrase: “Attraction” probably isn’t the right word to describe the 1903 OOTP Highlanders.
The lone bright spot? The Highlanders led the league in stolen bases. Look at this Yankees fan accepting moral victories. This truly is a bizarro world.
Final record: 56-84
Performances of note
A pair of National League defectors before the 1903 season, Chesbro and Tannehill are the two players of note and for opposite reasons.
Chesbro had his worst professional season in New York. He posted a 4.25 ERA with a brutal 11-21 record. Without Chesbro at his best, the Highlanders would have no shot at success. With him at his worst, the team found themselves at the bottom of the league.
Tannehill, on the other hand, was New York’s best pitcher this season. He led the team in wins (19), ERA (2.83) and WAR (8.0). For those interested in advanced analytics for the 1903 season, he was also the team-leader in FIP and ERA+.
OOTP expects the Yankees to finish with a 69-85 record in 1904, which would be a notable 13-win improvement from a season ago. Jack Chesbro was also noted as one of the league’s top pitchers after having a horrid 1903 campaign.
An important note, 1904 was the season real-life Chesbro broke the AL wins record with 41.
The difference a year can make. One year after the Highlanders were one of the worst teams in the sport, they witnessed a 20-win improvement, finishing the season with a 76-78 record. New York was still a distant 21 games from the pennant, but after a disastrous first season in the Big Apple, the team bounced back in a big way.
Virtual baseball saw a noticeable drop off in hitting statistics, with Nap Lajoie leading the league with a .319 average. He hit .387 the year prior. Still, the Highlanders rotation was much improved, posting a 2.48 team ERA.
Final record: 76-78
Performances of note
After struggling in his first season in New York, Chesbro answered with a phenomenal 1904 campaign. He posted a 1.96 ERA while leading the league with 50 appearances, 43 starts and 390 innings pitched. It may be the Dead Ball Era, but Chesbro didn’t give up a single home run on the year as well.
At the plate, future Hall of Famer Willie Keeler set a Major League record with a six-hit game and finished second in the AL with a .303 batting average. Meanwhile, mid-season trade acquisition Patsy Dougherty hit .296, the fourth-best AL mark, mashed 9 home runs (how times have changed) and finished second in the AL with 77 RBI.