By the Numbers: 2018 /r/Baseball Trade Deadline Game

Trade Deadline
Published in
5 min readJul 26, 2018

Last week, /r/Baseball had it’s fourth annual trade deadline game, and it was the largest one yet. Though trades wrapped up last Friday, members of all the various baseball subreddits will be participating in their new communities until the end of the week. I took some time to break down the numbers of the 2018 game, and did some post-mortem analysis of how the game evolved this year.

This year there were 1549 accounts registered for the game. Per sub, this looks like:

Number of users enrolled in the 2018 TDG by subreddit

The New York teams had the highest registration totals (surprise, surprise), and Florida’s fish teams had the lowest, which, it’s hard to run a computer in the ocean, so I get it.

A broad overview of the karma brought to this year’s game:

Total comment karma: 39,309,229
Total post karma: 9,680,728
Total karma: 48,989,957
Average karma per user: 31,957
Median karma per user: 7,523

An interesting note here is that the mean and median karma are so different. This is heavily influenced by outliers. There were 9 users each with more than 500,000 total karma, and the max single user karma was 843,675.

Visualizing the spread of the user’s karma (note the log scale),

User karma spread by subreddit

Summing the users up, you can see what the overall sub karma breakdown is at the start of the game.

Total karma of registered users by subreddit

The Rays had, by far, the least amount of karma to work with. /r/Mariners, despite being 9th in enrollment, was 2nd in total karma. /r/LetsGoFish also benefitted from some high karma users — despite being second to last in registered users, they were middle of the pack in karma.

To help visualize this, we can look at the mean karma per user.

Average karma per user by subreddit

As noted before, /r/LetsGoFish benefitted heavily from a very high average karma per user. The Brewers sub, despite being in the upper third in enrollment were second to last in total karma, and the source of that is very clear here as well.

Before we get to the results of the game, one last fun thing to look at is the number of no-trade clauses (NTCs) each team has.

Number of no-trade Clauses to each team

By far, the Yankees received the most NTCs. The next bar in the plot is for players who didn’t submit a NTC, which mean people are either apathetic or just trying to play the game the right way, either of which I can respect. Interestingly, the rest of the top 5 are all large market teams, and you see many pairs of rivals in the top 10 — Yankees and Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers, Cardinals and Cubs. We can also build a matrix showing the percent of users from each sub that requested NTCs to other subs

Percent of users submitting NTCs to each sub

Here, the rivalries are very apparent. Pretty much every dark square represents a divisional rivalry. Additionally, the number of people who didn’t submit a NTC seems to be pretty uniform. For fun, you can also check against last year’s game and see how they changed over a year.

Getting into the game, over the course of 5 days, 454 trades were completed, moving every user involved at least once. Here’s how things evolved.

Final count of users by subreddit

Both New York subs managed to stay very high in user count, but were dethroned by /r/Cardinals for most overall users. Interestingly, the Cardinals subreddit didn’t pick up many players, only increasing their user count by 5, but the New York subs both ended with far fewer than they began with. Looking instead at the change in users over the course of the game,

Change in users over the course of the 2018 TDG

both the Yankees and Mets appear on the negative side of the charts. /r/Rockies and /r/Orioles managed to end with the same number of users they started with, and /r/CHICubs hemorrhaged players all week, apparently. This metric isn’t 100% fair though, since some subreddits started with more users than others, it’s easier for them to lose or gain players. So, if we normalize this to the number of original users, we get the following distribution.

Percent change in number of users

This plot was incredibly striking to me. /r/LetsGoFish managed to nearly double their number of users, starting with 15 and ending with 29. It seems their manager went in trying to leverage their high karma users for high return.

Looking at the final karma breakdown,

Final karma of users by subreddit

The Yankees moved from third overall to first, and the Cardinals moved from 5th to 2nd. Despite the large change in number of users, /r/CHICubs ends 6th highest in karma. /r/TampaBayRays and /r/Brewers both started and ended in the last two spots respectively.

Next, normalizing this distribution to final number of users

Final average karma per user

The game plan of /r/CHICubs manager is super clear, although they ended with 44 fewer players, they jumped from 13th to 1st in terms of average karma per user. /r/SFGiants also did similar, jumping from 26th to 3rd.

Change in karma per user by subreddit

In fact, if we look at the change in the average karma per user, it looks like the Giants manager in fact did a spectacular job at flipping assets for high karma users.

To wrap things up, that plot, to me, illustrates the game in an interesting way. Since there’s really no metric of “winning,” managers are free to choose their own approach. In this, you see a foil between the smaller subreddits, trading high-karma assets for lots of low karma prospects evidenced by the Marlins and Reds subreddits. Larger subreddits, like the Cubs or Giants, are fortunate enough to be able to flip their assets for superstars, and as such, the game in a very real way actually parallels well to the true baseball Trade Deadline.

Looking forward to next year!

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