The DEL help pages merely tell you how to accomplish certain tasks needed to run your team. This advice page attempts to go beyond those basic necessities, and explores what players and coaching decisions you need to run a good team. You will also find helpful information in the pro or college advice pages. Be aware that this does not take the place of the standard help files; you will be just as hard-pressed if you know how to scout but don't know the mechanics required to free agent bids as if the reverse were true.
My hope is that the information here will help you learn DEL baseball more quickly, and hopefully enjoy your first seasons more. However, you should not expect to make the playoffs instantly, as it takes time to get a feel for scouting and coaching, acquire the players you want, and have the team "gel".
A caveat for this tutorial is that much of what is contained is one veteran coach's opinion rather than absolute fact. Part of this is because of the trial-and-error nature of learning to coach; part is because different coaching philosophies result in different "optimal" players as well as different coaching strategies. This tutorial tries to show some of the options that are present; undoubtedly other valid options have been omitted (and will be filled in over time).
What Makes a Good Player
Notes on Roster Composition
How to Build a Team (rookie coach advice)
This section is intended to aid in scouting. These notes are intended to give you a feel for what abilities are needed for what positions; if you get hopelessly confused, the player ratings ("A" through "F" letter grades shown after the abilities) are not great, but are also not a horrible thing to fall back on.
Successful DEL coaches look primarly at the player abilities rather than their stats when scouting. While there is some "hidden" information in the abilities (real abilities are on a scale of 0-100 rather than 0-10, so you don't know if somebody with a "6" is really a 6.0 or a 6.9), this is still a much better scouting tool than the player's stats. A better player should have better stats, of course, but better stats can also result from good luck, how the player was used, or teammate skills.
Infielders: Everyone wants players who can hit the long ball, so you need some players that have high Co and high Pw. Sometimes however you may have to make a tradeoff between hitting and defense, since you can't always get high-offense/high-defense players at every position (due to budget restrictions or player availability). The key defensive positions are 2B and SS: you want high Df, good Sp, and good Ar here (ranked in order of decreasing importance). At 1B and 3B you can get away with someone who is a poor fielder because the ball is not hit to them as often. It is certainly worthwhile to sub for poor defenders in the late innings, so I try to have a great defender on the bench if one of my starters doesn't have a good glove.
Outfielders: The same offense/defense tradeoff can happen here. If you end up with limited defensive options, put your best defender in CF (high Df, high Sp, good Ar). As with infielders, make sure to sub for poor defenders in the late innings.
As a side note, let me assure you that you can indeed win with speed/defense, so don't undersell those players. You probably don't want an entire team full of defensive specialists though. Also see the discussion below about field dimensions.
Catchers: Similar to position players, but the key defensive ability is Ar not Df. Ar is not only the ability to throw out potential basestealers, it is also a means of deterring them in the first place. (This is why you should judge a catcher's defensive effectiveness based on the number of steals allowed rather than the percentage of stealers he throws out.) Do not underestimate the importance of a good defensive catcher! Either make sure that your starting catcher also has good Ar, or pick up a catcher with high Ar that you can use as a defensive sub (i.e., their name appears above the starting catcher's name on the defensive sub list). Note that catchers are more susceptible to injuries than are other position players; durability is thus more important for them.
One last note about position player abilities in general: you want players with as high a Dr as you can get and yet still have good/great abilities in hitting/fielding. Why? Because Dr affects the likelihood of a player getting injured. If you load up with players with low Dr, you could end up having to find a bunch of subs throughout the season. That said, it is better to have players with good contact and poor durability than the reverse.
Starting Pitchers: Of course you need starters who have high Cn and Ar, but you also want starters who have a high Dr because that will allow them to pitch deeper into the game without tiring as much. That said, a durability of 0 does not mean that somebody is incapable of starting. A pitcher with Cn and Ar of 10 but durability of 0 may be only capable of throwing 6 innings, but at least he pitches better over those innings than would a pitcher with Cn and Ar of 0 but durability of 10.
I use a five-man rotation. It seems to work well since it usually allows the starters to become fully rested prior to their next start. However, I have seen teams use 4-man rotations where the starters are never at 100% rest prior to a start. Note that there is a significant difference, since the warm-up before a start (which is the same regardless of how much rest the pitcher had) counts against the pitcher's rest. Thus, if a 5-man rotation averages 7 innings per start, a comparable 4-man rotation will average below 5.6 innings per start. This places a heavier burden on the bullpen, particularly the long relievers, but it can also work. The tradeoff may come down to how good is your 5th starter, and how good are your long relievers. If these guys are scrubs just filling a roster spot, you probably want to minimize the amount of time that you have them on the mound (though it's not entirely clear that it's better to go to long relievers in nearly every game rather than using a long reliever as your 5th starter). The baseball season is a marathon, but it still isn't worth throwing away 32 starts on a guy who can't get the job done. My advice is to start the season with 2-3 'extra' starting pitchers (i.e., 7-8 total) -- guys with high durability who you think will also be effective pitchers. If you need them, you have them; if not, you still have them and they can still play a role in the bullpen.
Relievers: If they're not a starting pitcher, then they're a reliever. Everyone in the bullpen should have a job, often more than one. My top setup man is usually my #2 closer. My top long reliever is usually my #2 setup man. I tend to put my most-experienced/most-talented pitchers in the top slots and fill in the remainder with the leftovers. The bottom slot under long relief is the mop-up man if you're getting blown out, so I usually choose either someone who has fallen out of favor but who can throw a lot of innings (high Dr), or a rookie-type who needs the work -- but not someone who I expect to also use as a closer or setup man. Same for the spot-starter: this is usually one of my long relievers, either a rookie-type or someone who has wound up in my doghouse. Don't underestimate the importance of Dr for relievers, since it will allow them to pitch in consecutive games at a higher rest level more often. But don't choose Dr over Cl, Cn, and Ar for your top setup and closer slots, as it is certainly more important to get players out when you're pitching than it is to pitch frequently but not get anyone out.
To give specific help in terms of scouting, I have developed the following player prototypes. Each player is given 34 "points" of skills, the average for players in DEL baseball. The points are then distributed according to my estimate of relative importance. "Imp" is my estimate of the relative importance of having a good player at the position (on a scale of 0 to 10).
These values will be adjusted for positions, of course. At 2B, SS, and CF, there is more importance on defense and less importance on hitting; at 1B, LF, and RF the reverse is true.
Pos Dr Ds Sp Co Pw Df Ar Cn Imp
C 2 5 4 10 5 2 6 0 10
IF 1 5 5 9 5 6 3 0 10
OF 1 5 6 10 5 5 2 0 10
SP 6 3 2 2 1 2 10 10 10
RP 0 5 1 0 0 2 9 9 5
Player prototypes will also vary based on the type of team you want to build. A defense-heavy team will emphasize great pitching and defensively minded players, a small-ball team will emphasize speed and contact hitting, and a power-hitting team will emphasize contact and power.
You are required to carry 2 catchers, 2 IFs, 2 OFs, 10 pitchers, and 1 player at each of the fielding positions (1B, 2B, 3B, SS, RF, CF, LF) on the major league roster. That adds up to 23 players. You are only allowed 25 players total at the major league level, so that leaves very little wiggle-room. However, you can still use these two slots to optimize your strategy, take advantage of your strengths, and/or minimize your weaknesses. Lately I have been carrying 2 extra pitchers throughout much of the regular season. This allows greater flexibility in the bullpen, and also allows me to juggle the rotation for DEL Cup play if I so choose. However, in the past I have run platoon situations in the field, so that would be one of the extra players that I carried instead. This is also the place where you can carry a one-dimensional specialist, such as a pinch hitter extraordinaire (no glove), or a defensive wizard (no bat). With only 2 slots open there isn't really any wrong way to fill them other than not filling them at all.
Where the flexibility comes in for a major league team is by judicious use of the minor league roster. I usually have 2-3 pitchers and 2-3 position players on my minor league team who are almost ready to step in at the major league level in case of injury or if someone just can't get the job done. That way I probably won't have to worry about signing any free agents during the season. These guys could be on minor league salary or someone I signed for cheap, either way I'm not paying them very much (unless they are youngsters who I am not quite ready to bring up to the major leagues, but who I've already signed to a long-term contract -- I subscribe to the theory that it is better for young players to play nearly every day in the minors than to ride the pine in the majors, even if I've already signed them to a long-term contract). However, if I were to suffer a season-ending injury to a key player, or had a player who was becoming a liability at a key position, and the minor leaguers weren't ready (or failed in a brief tryout), I wouldn't hesitate to sign a free agent to fill in. As for bringing up minor leaguers before they have used up their full minor league contract eligibility, I am loathe to do so unless it's an emergency; otherwise I will make the decision early in the season so that I can get optimal use out of them.
Aside from emergency replacements, however, your minor league is your farm team and should be treated as such. You aren't trying to win the most minor league games, you are trying to stockpile future major league players. So you need to keep in mind exactly who is going to be major league quality and who isn't. A 27 year old on your minor roster is probably wasting space - you should cut him and grab a rookie instead. The youngest players are at a strong disadvantage in many of the abilities, and won't be able to play top quality ball until they are 23 or so. This is whay the minor league roster is for, not some 33 year old who just missed making the team.
Building a Team
So... You've taken over a team filled with scrubs. Where to start? Contrary to common wisdom, I don't recommend spending all of your effort the first season in getting one or two super starting pitchers. Even the best starting pitchers playing in front of the best defenses average only about 7 innings per start and one start every fifth game. Thus their effectiveness over the long term is no more than that of a position player. (Note, this isn't true in the college leagues, where four-man rotations are quite common.) If you go to the postseason, you use less pitchers; however you probably aren't going to make it your first year. The advice below is designed to get your team respectable quickly, while at the same time building a core of players you can build a great team around.
The best advice is to first focus on getting solid players at all eight positions, a 5-man pitching rotation ranging from slightly better than solid to slightly worse, and a couple good relievers (to be used for setup and closing). Remember that a $10 million superstar and a $0.1 million minor leaguer will combine for the same batting average as a pair of decent $1 million starters. This isn't like basketball, where you can tell one player to take most of the shots. Also remember that a great-hitting, great-defending shortstop plus a poor-hitting, poor-defending first baseman have the same combined effectiveness as a poor-hitting, great-defending shortstop plus a great-hitting, poor-defending first baseman, even though the first combination will cost you a lot more. So my advice, in terms of position players, is to stock up on low-priced players who are good at either defense or batting, but not necessarily both.
After this is accomplished, fill out the rest of your roster will serviceable players. You may want to use your utility IF and OF positions to stock one good hitter with poor defense and one poor hitter with good defense. The first can be used for pinch hitting and the second for defensive substitutions. With these first two steps, you should have a solid, respectable team.
After the core of your team is put together, you can start looking at bringing in some stars. Since you already have good hitters at positions that don't field many balls, now is the time to get all-around stars for CF, SS, 2B, and C (and perhaps LF). At the same time, you should start thinking about getting a pair of great starting pitchers. The rationale is that the primary advantage of two great pitchers is that they can pitch most of your postseason games; however you won't be in the postseason until you get a solid core and a few stars at key positions.
Unless you are platooning, the most common technique of handling postions and defensive assignments is to have one player per position at the specific position (1B, 2B, SS, 3B, RF, CF, and LF) and all others at the utility positions (IF and OF). This is because a player with a specific position plays that position better than anyone else but plays other positions worse than anyone else. Thus, while it would be permissible to have a general reserve infielder listed at SS, that would be a disadvantage 3/4 of the time and an advantage only 1/4 of the time. So, on a typical team player at each specific position is set as the starter for that position, and the IFs and OFs are used as the reserves.
Setting batting orders is something more of an art than a science. There are two clear-cut facts to consider. First is that the #1 batter will bat more than anyone else on the roster, and the #9 batter will bat less than anyone else. What this means is that, in general, you want your best hitters batting first, and your worst hitters batting last. Second, the only thing you control in detail is the order of the batters in the first inning. So you should order the top of your order in the way you want them to hit. Of course, there are no guarentees that any of them will get on, but this is your one chance at batting strategy so you should do your best job. So the first thing that needs to happen is that someone gets on base. The leadoff (#1) batter is someone you just want to get on base; this is measured by his on base percentage. Speed helps as well; a walk or single plus a steal puts him in scoring position. After that you want your best hitter, in terms of ability to get a man in second home and get on base himself. Traditionally, the fourth and/or fifth batters are power hitters, since they will commonly face the situation of one man on base and two outs.
Based upon the abilities of your players, and your personal preferences, I suggest making a fundamental decision on whether yours will be an offense-oriented or defense-oriented team prior to training camp. This is so that you can choose the dimensions of your outfield for the season (you cannot change the field dimensions once the season has begun). I'm partial to playing "little ball": I prefer hitters who are speedy, get on base frequently, and can play good defense. Therefore I set my outfield dimensions to the largest allowable; since my players are not skilled at hitting home runs anyway, I can try to cut down on my opponents' ability to hit them. However, if you dig the long ball, and want to try to out-slug your opponents, bring those fences in and watch the runs pile up.
Most of the situation options follow accordingly. If you have a bunch of speedy hitters, set the steal and aggressive baserunning options high. Of course, this is a tradeoff since it means that all of your players end up running more often, not just the most talented ones. (Note that, for any setting, the faster runners will be more aggressive than the slower ones; thus setting steal to high probably doesn't tell your 0-speed guy to steal.) If you are playing for the big inning, don't set the bunt and baserunning options very high because you'll be giving up some outs.
Above all, I would suggest "don't panic". I've done my share of panicking when the team went into a tailspin. Changing coaching options, demoting players, signing free agents, changing player positions mid-season - you name it I've done it, often all in one sitting. As I said, a DEL baseball season is a marathon. There will be ups and downs. Certainly, make changes as you see fit, but also allow time for them to take effect and to see the results against a variety of opponents. Just because you got swept by the defending World Series champs doesn't necessarily mean that you have a terrible team. Just because the pitcher you signed as your ace has been lit up in consecutive starts doesn't necessarily mean he's a hack. By the same token, it's hard to get great results if you just put your team on autopilot on Opening Day and never make a change the rest of the season. The key is to learn how to react accordingly rather than just reacting, and to keep your long-term strategies (i.e., player development and your budget situation) in mind even when making short-term decisions (such as signing free agents).
written by Jay Schlegel
additional suggestions by Andy Dolphin