Fantasy Fantasy Base Ball: The Aaron League

How do you make The Best even better?

I started The Mendoza League to specifically acknowledge an unsung player’s talents.
But how would a league work if it were catered to a player who was already great?

As sad as it is to see an actual Legend pass, there’s something to be said about how much more I know about Hank Aaron thanks to countless the in memoriam columns I’ve read over the weekend. In addition to getting more detail about how much he had to put up with off the field, I realized I’d never looked closely at his career statistics. And folx, Hank Aaron was good.

Otherwordly good.

People (understandably) love to focus on his home runs, but he earned that Hammerin’ moniker for whole lot more than just smackin’ some dingers. The man was absolutely stellar at absolutely everything.

What surprised me the most was that Aaron is still the all-time leader in total bases. Over the course of 23 years — and that doesn’t include the Negro Leagues, mind you — the man collected six thousand, eight hundred and fifty six (6,856) of ‘em.

For a little perspective, Stan Musial is in a distant 2nd place with 6,134.
The closest active player is 40 year-old Albert Pujols with 5,923, sitting behind Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

So, you know what? Out of alllll the things a Hank Aaron-centric fantasy base ball league could focus on, we’re going to highlight that seemingly untouchable record: Total bases.

But we’ll, you know, get weird about it.

The Aaron League

As a Fantasy commissioner, I’ve developed a love for cumulative statistics.
Percentages are a nice way to gauge efficiency, but a Rotisserie league lends itself to simply tracking how many times a player performs a specific task.

Total Bases (Singles + 2x Doubles + 3x Triples + 4x Home Runs) is a good place to start… but that only counts the times you reach base after making contact. In 1972, at the ripe young age of 38, Aaron was walked 92 freakin’ times in 545 plate appearances. So hell yeah we’re gonna count walks as well.

Being the completist that I am, we’ll throw HBP in there too, because hey: a base is a base. Over the course of his entire career, Aaron was somehow only beaned 32 times (with a season high of 4 in 1959) but like I said: I’m a completist.

And since Hank’s talents didn’t end when he dropped the bat, we’ll acknowledge how good he was at advancing bases by also counting steals.

Aaron never lead the league, but during the 1963 season he stole a career high 31 bases and was only caught five times. So for that season, based on this completely scientific metric, we’d add a net 26 Total Bases to his already league leading 370, bringing his total for the season to 396!

Fielder Scoring

That brings us to the official list of Aaron League offensive scoring:

  • Total Bases (Singles + 2x Doubles + 3x Triples + 4x Home Runs) +1 point

  • Walks +1 point

  • HBP +1 point

  • Steals +1 point

  • Caught Stealing -1 point

In this theoretical league, the best manager would be whoever has the best collection of players with the highest cumulative Aaron League rating.

Pitcher Scoring

While this is a a league purely honoring offensive prowess, I’d be remiss to not at least try and include pitchers. The best approach I could come up with would be to record statistics that are the exact opposite in hopes to to measure how good the man on the mound is at keeping people from accumulating bases. I’d be hard pressed to figure out the right way to build a pitching staff around these, but hey — good thing this is all theoretical!

  • Total Bases -1

  • Strikeouts +1

  • Walks -1

  • Steals allowed -1

  • Pickoffs +1

It seems like Batter Ground into Double Plays might be a good factor to include here, but I’ve found it’s cleaner to balance the number of pitching/batting stats.

Hank Aaron’s most Aaron Leaguey Season

In order to get the full picture, let’s look at Aaron’s “best” season:

In 1959, Aaron had a league (and career) high 400 Total Bases. When you factor in his 51 walks, 8 stolen bases (with 100% success rate!), and 4 HBP, that brings his Aaron League total score to 471!

Great Googly Moogly!

2020 Aaron League Leaders

2020 was obviously a huge anomaly, but let’s take a look at who the most valuable Aaron League players would be according to their cumulative score based on last year’s 60 games:

  1. Freddie Freeman — ATL (187)

  2. Marcell Ozuna — ATL (183)

  3. José Ramirez — CLE (174)

  4. Jose Abreu — CWS (169)

    Trea Turner — WSH (169)

Kinda nice how the league based on the all-time greatest Brave is led by two Braves!
In my “professional” opinion, base ball is fun and weird and good.