The Drop 100 for 2018: Overview
The Drop 100 countdown for 2018 kicks off today (Thursday, 11/15) with players #100 through #66. Before diving into the list, here is a little introduction on the background for this project, how the list was compiled, and some general takeaways.
Weekending as a competitive, fast pitch wiffleball player can be a thankless hobby. Players often travel long distances for little to no money while placing serious and irreversible stress on their arms, all for the love of this great, quirky sport. The players – not anything else – are the backbone of the game. While a lack of historical footage makes it difficult to compare eras with any certainty, we are undoubtedly in an exciting time when it comes to the quality of competitive wifflers. One league has never had as much talent as Palisades WBL did in 2018. Thanks to social media, watching players from all over the country and all different styles of play has never been easier to do. The sheer amount of talent under 23 years old is staggering. When it comes to quality players, these are the good old days.
To that end, this website announced in July 2018 a Player of the Year Award to be given to the player the editor determined to be the best competitive wiffleball player in unrestricted pitch speed competition. In counting down to that award winner, The Drop will first reveal ninety-nine other players that impressed with their on-field performances from January 1, 2018 through October 15, 2018.
A player’s performance in unrestricted pitch speed, competitive wiffleball games were considered when compiling the list and determining the award winner. This means that performances in restricted pitch speed environments – either “medium pitch” or “slow pitch” – were not considered, which includes Golden Stick Yard League on down. That decision is in no way a commentary on the skill needed to succeed in those brands of wiffleball nor is it a reflection on the quality of players that compete in them. It is simply a mechanism to limit the scope and hopefully make more apples to apples comparisons. Not only is it difficult to compare players across those very different pitch speed environments but doing so would have been a logistical nightmare. Limiting the scope in that one small way was a necessity. In hindsight – and perhaps going forward – the range would ideally be limited further to allow for better direct comparisons. The trade off is this is a rather inclusive and eclectic group of players.
Players in any competitive, unrestricted pitch speed league or tournament (without respect to other rule differences) were considered for the list and the POTY award. Players were evaluated based on in-person scouting, video scouting, statistics, and on insights from their fellow players. Statistics for some organizations were not made publicly available. In those situations, players were evaluated based on available video and/or in-person scouting action which is less than ideal. Hopefully the players that are under ranked and over ranked due to an organization’s lack of statistics largely evens itself out throughout the list.
Only a player’s 2018 performance was to be considered. While this was the intent and every effort was made to uphold that requirement, it is not realistic to believe that a player’s track record – or lack thereof – did not unintentionally and subconsciously influence a ranking or two.
Players were evaluated on all aspects of the game including pitching, hitting, and defense. While the ability to contribute on both sides of the ball was a significant factor in the rankings, like any other criteria it was evaluated on a player-by-player basis. An excellent pitcher, for example, is not necessarily viewed less favorably than a player who was merely a “good” two-way contributor. As a rule of thumb, the very best players in any given year are going to be two-way players. A combined scouting and statistical approach was utilized.
When providing statistics for individual players, whereever possible one hitting stat (OPS) and one pitching stat (ERA) are represented relative to league/tournament average on a base-100 scale (OPS+ and ERA+, respectively). For example, a player with an ERA+ of 100 in one league/organization had an ERA that was exactly league/organization average. A pitcher with an ERA+ under 100 had a below league average ERA and vice versa. Since outputs can vary so widely from league to league based on both the quality of the competition and the run scoring environment (which itself can also be heavily influenced by gameplay rules), raw numbers can be misleading when attempting to compare players across organizations. ERA+ and OPS+ – while still imperfect – allow a player to be compared with his most direct peers.
A 150 OPS+ in one league can more impressive than a 150 OPS + in another league and that was considered when ranking the players. With a few exceptions, below league average players by ERA+ and OPS+ were not included on the list. Requiring a player to be above average on one side of the ball relative to the competition they faced is a relatively low bar for a list such as this and a reasonable requirement. All else being equal, diversity – recognizing a less known player who performed well above his average peer in a relatively less competitive league – was more important than recognizing a player who performed below his average peer in a relatively more competitive environment.
Lastly, how much a player played in 2018 factored heavily in the rankings for two reasons. The first is that the ability to perform at a consistently high-level over many games/days is an important attribute in any sport. It is the reason that one rarely sees a hitter with 115 games played in a season win a league MVP award in Major League Baseball even if he dominated the competition in those 115 games and was better than his peers on a percentage basis. A demonstrated ability to play at a high level over a long period of time is an important attribute. There is also a sample size issue. We might think we know that a certain player that played only five games in one tournament would perform just as well if he played in 20 games over four tournaments, but players were ranked on what they did, not what they likely would have done. The more a player competes, the easier it is to get comfortable that their performance was not heavily influenced by a lucky draw, a good day, or a particular set of rules. The difficulty for competitive wifflers is that there is not a ceiling in terms of number of games played as there is for a professional baseball player. A wiffleball player can play in 200 games a year if he so chooses, so defining what is “enough” games played was decidedly non-scientific in this project and evaluated on a case by case basis.
What this list is not is a list of the current best players in competitive, unrestricted pitch speed wiffleball. There are players towards the backend of the list or off the list completely who most would agree are more talented than some players on the list. The totality of their 2018 performances were not, however, deemed to have been better. A “true talent list” involves far more subjectivity and assumptions and is far more difficult to put together.
The list is also undoubtedly imperfect. There could be as many as fifty players not on the list who could be exchanged with players near the backend without much argument. There are players ranked in certain positions who would be ranked in slightly different positions if the list was redone tomorrow. All of that is a good thing – it means there are a lot of quality players around and competition is fierce. Particularly towards the back end of the list, players in every group of 5, 10, or even players 20 could be rearranged within those smaller groupings and it wouldn’t draw too much of an argument.While much effort and time was put into deciding the POTY and ranking all one hundred players, there is no pretense that the list was made with perfect knowledge.
Please feel free to leave comments either here on the website or on social media. We would appreciate any constructive comments or feedback.