Which Superhero Would Be Best at Baseball? A Scientific Study: Part 2, the Results
If you missed last Thursday’s post, let me quickly get you up to speed: In order to answer the eternal question “Which superhero would be best at baseball?”, I created a hyper-detailed simulation league populated by 100 of the biggest comic book characters going. Go back and read part one if you want to know how the rosters were constructed and powers ported into the game.
The biggest criticisms of part one had to do with how I constructed the X-Men team. Some objected to Beast’s relatively poor fielding (emphasis on relatively, as many ballplayers, superhero or otherwise, would look Miguel Cabrera-esque surrounded by people who move at the speed of sound). Others rightly pointed out that I vastly overrated Professor X’s telekinetic abilities, and thus his potential as an R.A. Dickey-type knuckleballer.
I’ve decided to remedy these problems in true comic book fashion, by hastily retconning the incongruous aspects and designating them part of a parallel universe. Comics and baseball stats are similar in this implicit emphasis on possible worlds. Just as Matt Wieters reached the Hall of Fame in 999 out of 1,000 PECOTA simulations, so to did Supergirl likely live on 51 of DC’s 52 parallel Earths.
Since the Charles Xavier of Earth-1610 could lift a Sentinel with his mind, I’m fittingly designating this simulation the MLB of Earth-1610. Here’s how baseball existed on that wondrous parallel Earth.
The World Series
When we left off last week, I simulated opening day, in which the X-Men defeated the Justice League 2-1 in a 10-inning pitcher’s duel. After that game, I honestly thought the extreme fielding capabilities of flying superhumans might turn this league into a low-run environment.
Boy was I wrong! The league average ERA turned out to be 5.43. The only team with an ERA below 5.00 was the telepath-heavy X-Men staff at 4.21. The league average OPS was .812. Turns out being able to climb walls to rob home runs and teleport for triple plays didn’t matter with a huge amount of walks and stratosphere-breaking home runs recorded by each team.
To prove how easily the runs came (and cut to the chase), here’s the final game of the season, in which the Justice League’s offensive juggernaut (.906 team OPS) out-slugged the X-Men by a football score:
The Justice League broke a 10-10 tie with 10 more runs in the final three fames, led by Superman who was a single short of the cycle to go along with two walks and 6 RBIs. (And check out that strong relief work by the two dead Robins.)
Weirdly enough, the World Series started with a similar 10-0 drubbing by the X-Men. Colossus hit 2 home runs and Emma Frost cooled off (ha ha ha) the league’s hottest offense with a complete game shutout. Even in that game, though, Superman got on base in all four of his plate appearances, leading to the obvious big reveal …
The Leaderboard (and the big answer)
Unsurprisingly, the answer to the original question — “Which superhero would be best at baseball?” — is resoundingly Superman. Here’s a spreadsheet of the individuals results, sorted by Wins Above Replacement. Click the tab at the bottom to view the pitchers’ WAR leaders too.
For historical context, here’s how these superhero’s seasons stack up against selected all-time great seasons:
- Superman (2013) — 20.3 WAR
- Martian Manhunter (2013) — 14.8 WAR
- Babe Ruth (1923) — 14.0 WAR
- Carl Yastrezemski (1967) — 12.4 WAR
- Barry Bonds (2001) — 11.9 WAR
Had Wonder Woman stayed healthy for a full 162, she likely would have cracked the all-time top ten. But a separated shoulder caused her to miss almost the entire month of September, not a tremendously surprising injury given her outfit.
On the pitching side, no one would even cracked the top-5 best MLB seasons, but two were in the neighborhood:
- Walter Johnson (1913) — 14.6 WAR
- Cy Young (1892) — 14.1 WAR
- Doc Gooden (1985) — 12.1 WAR
- Captain America (2013) — 11.2 WAR
- Professor X (2013) — 11.0 WAR
Since the league wasn’t integrated then, Walter Johnson definitely never faced the quality of hitter Doc Gooden did. But Gooden’s league didn’t have any mutants in it, so maybe Captain America really is the greatest pitcher of all time.
Here’s some other notable statistical achievements:
- Thor had the most homers at 65, followed by Avengers teammate Hulk at 62.
- The Hulk led in isolated power (ISO) with a monster .371. Does that make Bruce Banner this league’s Chris Davis, or is Chris Davis MLB’s Hulk?
- Powergirl was the Jimmy Rollins of the league, leading in triples (26) and mixing in 28 home runs, 36 doubles, and 67 steals.
- The Flash (Wally West) was unsurprisingly the superhero-answer to Rickey Henderson with 137 steals.
- The race for second-most SBs turned out to be much more interesting. High-flying Superman (122) tied speedster Quicksilver (122) and barely edged teleporter Nightcrawler (121). A contrast in styles!
- On the pitching side, Hawkeye showed Ben Sheets-esque precision (10.19 K/BB), but threw the ball as straight as an arrow, as 41 home runs-allowed ballooned his ERA.
- Despite blowing opening day, Booster Gold lead the league with 30 saves, largely a product of his team.
- As usual, Batman didn’t let being human keep him down: 19-7 with a 3.64 ERA, 241 Ks, and 7 complete games.
To round out the individual achievement section, here are your Gold Glove winners:
- Pitcher: Obsidian (JSA)
- Catcher: Hyperion (Avengers)
- First baseman: Captain Marvel (JLA)
- Second baseman: Hepzibah (X-Men)
- Third baseman: Citizen Steel (JSA)
- Shortstop: Superman (JLA)
- Leftfield: Ms. Marvel (Avengers)
- Centerfield: The Flash (JLA)
- Rightfield: Thor (Avengers)
Superman’s MVP season
So how good exactly was the Man of Steel? How’s .430/.541/.780 for sabermetric porn?
In five playoff games, he went 15-21 with 3 dingers and a perfect 14-14 stealing bases.
On top of all that, he added a +11.1 UZR at shortstop. That’s not exactly Andrelton Simmons-level, but hey, everyone’s got their kryptonite.
The Standings (and the Hulk’s big comeback)
Looks like the readers predicted this one correctly:
The big upset, here, of course, is that the X-Men, not the Avengers, advanced to the finals against the Justice League. The blame for that disappointment can be placed at the feet of the Avengers’ bullpen, which imploded to the tune of a 7.93 ERA.
Patriot, coming off a 50-game drug suspension for using Mutant Growth Hormone in Young Avengers issue #7, couldn’t keep the ball in the strike zone and walked more than he struck out.
Luke Cage, penciled-in at closer, similarly struggled with command against some extremely patient competition and blew 9 of 36 save opportunities.
The bullpen’s lapses were especially frustrating in June, as the team went 10-16 despite Thor’s best month at the plate (1.287 OPS).
Miraculously, however, Samuel L. Jackson’s supergroup gave the mutants a last-minute run for their money by going an astounding 21-7 in the months of September and October. That run would serve as enduring proof of one of baseball’s oldest sayings — “Hulk smash” — as the big guy characteristically raised his game under extreme pressure, batting .381/.412/.971 with 15 HRs and 4 triples (!!) in September.
For kicks, I simulated one more season into the future and the Avengers emerged as the legitimate contender to the Justice League. The Avengers forced a World Series Game 7, which went into thrilling extra innings and featured Thor dropping the hammer from right field by throwing out the potential walk-off run in the form of Superman at home plate. Can it really be called a “bang-bang play” if both the throw and runner break the sound barrier?
The second season then ended in an almost-perfect fashion. With two outs, down two, and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eleventh, Wonder Woman hit a walk-off triple, giving her the winning RBI, Batman the pitching win, and Superman the game-winning run.
DC Comics’ holy trinity combines to give the company a slight edge of their Marvel rivals. Sounds familiar.
As a DC guy, I’m going to go out on top, but the fun doesn’t have to stop for you. Below is the rosters for download. Combine it with Out of the Park Baseball (now half off) and you can play and expand my league for yourself.