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                     Running the Numbers  

                                                      by Dave Page



                            How Does Your Roster Fit Your Team?

             Wiffle ball has a lot of rules that you probably wouldn't see in many other sports.  How many

other sports would have a pool noodle on the playing surface ?   Probably not many.    One of the rules

that makes Wiffle ball unique is the number of players a team can play in a game.  Through the years,

I have played on three, four, five, and six man teams !  A six man team is rare, so in the article, I want

to focus on three, four, and five man teams.  All these roster designs have their positives and negatives.

              First, I want to start with a traditional four man roster.  This is a traditional roster because it

is the best thing for an average team.  A four man team can be made of mediocre hitters and fielders

and still be successful.  There aren't any true disadvantages to a four man roster.  You will have a full

field of defenders, and your hitters won't get cold waiting to hit.  Rosters consisting of four players are

perfect for the intermediate team.

              However, if you have three really good players, I mean superstars, a three man roster is the

way to go.  A three man team will give up a few extra runs, but if they are good enough fielders, the

damage will be limited.  The advantage of a three man roster comes at the plate.  More plate appearances

for really good hitters will, inevitably, lead to more runs...A LOT MORE RUNS.  All the great hitters in

our league get better with more at bats.  I don't want to call them streaky because they don't have bad

streaks, but they get in grooves.  If a great hitter has more at bats, it just gives them more of a chance

to get into a groove.  Once they are in a groove, they are likely to stay in that groove because they are

getting at bats at a high frequency, all due to having only three hitters in the lineup. 

               A problem that could arise is getting bases loaded and having to give up a runner (ghost runners

aren't allowed in our league - or rather don't count for scoring runs).  It usually isn't a worry for big time

hitters because home runs are so plentiful.  An overlooked advantage of a three man roster is having the

ability to have your best pitcher pitch a few extra innings if a game or two goes into extra innings.  It isn't

a huge deal, but every little bit helps.  Overall, I think three really good players should stick with three

men, unless they can get another player who is really good.  A mediocre fourth player will only hurt a

great three man core.  The advantage of having three great hitters in rhythm far outweighs the benefit of

having an extra fielder.

              The last roster option is a five man team.  This is a great roster for a beginner team.  Having another

fielder will only help.  A catcher who is alert is capable of getting a few extra outs in a three game series. 

It doesn't sound like a lot, but it makes a difference.  Also, the ability to rotate your fielders and pitchers is a

good thing.  Beginner pitchers usually go through a strike drought.  With a lot of roster options, these droughts

for a team can be kept to a minimum.  Poor fielding performances can also be kept to a minimum.  On offense,

beginning hitters are usually the opposite of great hitters.  They don't often get in home run grooves, but

they can get in slumps.  A five man lineup will space out the outs if a hitter is in a slump.

               Here is a table summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of each roster type.  It should be noted

that the roster types only work with the right players.   If three beginners played with a three man roster.....

I don't even want to think about what would happen.  It would just be a poor choice and should only be attempted

if it is to avoid a forfeit.   This can be turned the other way around, too.    If five really good players formed a

five man roster, their offense wouldn't be as potent.  Their defense would improve, but their offensive efficiency

would surely decrease.





Great Advantage

Small Disadvantage





Small Advantage

Small Advantage


                There is one final thing I want to talk about.  There are certain situations in which the number of players

on a roster can benefit or harm a team.  The following situations are assuming all other things are even.  Your opponent

doesn't hit a lot of home runs ?   Get another fielder out there to field grounders.  Your opponent hits a lot of home

runs? Chances are, they hit a lot of balls in the air.  Don't worry about an extra fielder.   A three man team should

be able to reach fly balls.  Focus on getting your hitters into a groove and get them more at bats. 

               There are countless other situations that could dictate what you want to do with your roster, but we don't

have time to dive into all of them.  For now, I hope this article makes you think about what type of a team you have,

and how the size of your roster will either increase or decrease your chance of winning the most games possible.


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   Comment : replies from the Commissioners are in orange
I want to thank Dave for this article.   He hit the nail right on the head.  The Legends have sampled all flavors listed above.  We found that 5, while providing a catcher, was just too long between bats and really kept us from getting "in the zone" and going on hitting tears.   Three, while fantastic for getting "in the zone" made fielding difficult - because balls (especially grounders) that would have been outs turn into base hits.   Additionally, getting on a streak can be a danger in itself.  After scoring 20+ runs a game for 3 games, you can be absolutely flat out pooped in that 3rd game - plus bats seem to come one after another - not giving you time to think things thru, resulting in base running and hitting errors.  Our team played all of 2012 with only 3, and while successful, have sworn not to repeat that experience.  You just don't enjoy it as much - no time to savor each bat - root for your team mates, put the stats down and collect your thoughts.  Four is a very good number - and one we intend to stick with. 
03/21/2013 21:09 - I'm a huge fan of the monkey picture haha. - david
03/23/2013 11:03 - No alert about this piece, but I liked it anyway.
03/24/2013 13:35 - the Goldilocks syndrome, 3's too small, 5's too many, 4's just right
03/24/2013 16:49 - good read during the 100's of commercials in March Madness###Mike

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