Warning: I’m in the process of revamping this rulebook. Please contact the Commissioner for rules information.
Table of Contents
- Roster Rules
- Eligibility to Sign Contracts
- Rookie Draft
- Annual Selection of Players (Rule 5 Draft)
- Whalehead Economics
- Rating Updates
- Changing GM Jobs
- Incentive Point System (IP$)
- Winter Leagues
- Winter Meetings
- Franchise Relocation
- Trading with AI Teams
- Trading Recently Drafted Players
- Minor League Schedules
- Playoff Format
- Team Market Values
- Special Roster Rules
- WLB Ownership System
- Miscellaneous Rules
Rule 1 – Introduction
The Whalehead League was created over thirty years ago as a test of real-life baseball knowledge. With that goal in mind, we incorporate as much realism as possible.
Moving to OOTP was a huge step in that regard. Things that used to be handled outside the game are now self-contained within OOTP’s game engine.
OOTP isn’t perfect for our purposes, however, so we tweak some things to better align the game with our goals.
1.1 – League Type and Description
The Whalehead League is a standard, “shadow” MLB dynasty league. It has a standard MLB setup including five minor league levels (AAA/AA/A+/A/R). The league also has two Winter Leagues, Caribbean Winter League and Arizona Fall League.
The league closely shadows MLB player development, with some differences due to OOTP’s development engine and the league’s configuration.
Roster protection is in a dynasty format.
1.2 – A Short History
The league was formed in 1990 and has completed 30+ seasons. (There was a three-year hiatus between 2009-2011.) The league has used Pursue the Pennant, Strat-O-Matic, Dynasty League Baseball, and, starting in 2018, OOTP Baseball as its simulation of choice.
There are still three original members and four other members with 20+ years of playing time. Another handful of owners are nearing 10 years of experience. For good measure, we added some new blood when we switched when we began using OOTP.
The league is comprised of hardcore, competitive, but friendly, baseball fans.
1.3 – Powers of the Commissioner
The Commissioner can act in the best interests of the league at any time, with any means at his disposal.
1.4 – Owner Responsibilities
There are seven base responsibilities involved with participation in the Whalehead League:
- Roster Management
- Lineup and Rotation Management
- Disabled List Management
- DFA Management
- Personnel Management
- Participation in Discord and Whaleheads.com
The Commissioner will contact GMs neglecting any of these responsibilities, but Incentive Point (IP$) penalties will be lost by GMs who neglect Exporting, Roster Management, and DFA Management responsibilities. Continued neglect could result in an additional IP$ penalty. Repeated violations can result in the forfeiture of your league membership.
Details of these seven responsibilities are found below:
Every GM should strive to export at least once every week (seven days) of the regular season sim and off-season, regardless of whether or not they have moves to make. To encourage this behavior, the league has implemented an Incentive Point System (IP$). GMs who regularly export will be rewarded with IP$ that can be converted to rewards that benefit their team.
An online export tracker is available to assist members. The Commissioner will provide notification, in Discord in the #wlb_schedule channel, of the league’s upcoming schedule. When a new league file is ready for download notification will be sent in the #lg_file_schedule channel.
Exports may be submitted at any time during a sim cycle. To avoid last-second hang-ups that may prevent you from exporting, all members are advised to send a “safety export” immediately upon importing a new league file. A more thorough export may be submitted later in the cycle. (Getting into the habit of sending a “safety export” is good practice.)
Members agree to contact the Commissioner if they will be unable to export each week. WLB members should recognize that timely exporting is the most basic and essential requirement of a smoothly running league. In turn, the Commissioner recognizes that life responsibilities/emergencies can and do occasionally conflict with the exporting process.
Unexcused and excused missed exports will be handled thusly:
Unexcused: If you fail to export for two consecutive weeks without explanation, you should expect a message from the Commissioner checking on your status.
Excused: To gain excused status (and still earn Incentive Points) you must contact the Commissioner at least a week sim in advance (unless it is a true emergency). Briefly explain why you will be unavailable for one or more weeks. Assuming the reason is valid (and most reasons will be accepted as valid), you will be excused from your exporting responsibilities. Members who will be absent for one or two weeks should also set the in-game AI for their teams’ affairs.
Excused absences are meant to be temporary in nature. Members who need to miss an extended period should contact the Commissioner directly.
Each sim, every GM will ensure the rosters of all teams of all levels meet player limits listed below:
As the WLB is meant to mimic real-life baseball conditions, teams are expected to have service-time appropriate rosters. Failure to meet these requirements will result in auto-assignment by the Commissioner (which may not be to your liking). Illegal players on rosters will result in a loss of IP$ as outlined in that section of the league rules.
GMs are expected to have all applicable lineups, rotations, and depth charts fully set up for each team within their organization while that team’s league is in season. Minimum requirements include:
- Appropriate batting orders completely filled out
- Depth charts that are reasonably set up to utilize all hitters on the roster
- At least 4 pitchers slotted as SP
- At least 5 pitchers slotted as RP
As leaving injured players on a roster increases the risk of injury to other players on the roster via overuse, GMs are expected to adjust for injuries (use the Disabled Lists as appropriate) and take other roster movements as needed.
If GMs choose to manage their line-ups, it’s important they keep up on the task between sims. If a GM is too busy or unavailable, turn the task over to your Bench Coach.
Disabled List Management
Players must be removed from the DL within three days (game) of returning to full health and serving their minimum DL stint. Note that the number associated with each DL (10/15 or 60-day) represents the minimum time the player must remain there, not the maximum.
Designated For Assignment List Management
Players will be placed on a team’s Designated For Assignment (DFA) list for one of three reasons:
- Demotions of a player from the 26-Man who has no option years remaining and has not previously cleared waivers.
- Attempts to remove a player from 40-Man who has not previously cleared waivers.
- All newly acquired players with major league contracts who have not been assigned are automatically placed on the DFA list.
Players who are designated for assignment may stay on the DFA list for up to 8 days during the regular season and off-season. GMs must assign, trade, or release a player before his allotted time on the list expires. Failure to do so will result in the player getting assigned to the AAA Roster (if there is room and the player accepts the assignment) or getting released by the Commissioner.
GMs are expected to keep all teams in their organizations fully staffed while in season. Any organization which is not fully staffed at the beginning of the season will be given a warning. Failure to have your organization fully staffed within 2 weeks (game days) following the warning will result in a $500k fine per open staff slot. The Assistant GM slot is the only slot that is not required to be filled.
Members are required to participate in several league events and functions. These include:
- Participating in the Rookie Draft
- Participating in the Winter Meetings
- Providing opinions or votes on Commissioner posted rules questions
- Participating on Discord and Whaleheads.com
The league also has several special events. Most special events are considered optional (the Rookie Draft being one exception). The Commissioner will spell out any participation requirements in advance of these events.
The league rewards GM participation using its Incentive Point System (IP$).
Rule 2 – Roster Rules
2.1 – Roster Limits
- Major League Club Limit – 40 players – No service limits
- Active Roster –
- 40 players between World Series and Opening Day
- 26 players from Opening Day through August
- 28 players in September
- Active Roster –
- Minor League Limits
- AAA – 28 players – 0-50 years old – No service limits
- AA – 28 players – No service limits
- A+ – High A – 30 players – 5 years service max
- A – Low A – 30 players – 4 years service max
- R – Rookie/Short Season – 35 players – 3 years service max
Counting the 15 40-Man players optioned to the minor leagues, we’ll have 151 minor leaguers.
Minor league roster limits are enforced all year.
2.2 – Roster Expansion
On September 1st of each year, the 40-Man Roster expands to 28 players.
2.3 – Playoff Rosters
Playoff roster eligibility is determined by OOTP. To be eligible for the playoff roster, a player must be on the 26-man major league roster or DL by the day prior to a league’s roster expansion. If less than 26 players are on a team’s active roster on the listed dates, the vacant roster spot(s) must also remain vacant during the playoffs. Roster moves cannot be made while a playoff series is in progress. Ineligible players on a playoff roster will be removed by the Commissioner. Their vacated roster spot may not be filled for the duration of the current playoff series.
2.4 – Playoff Injury Replacement Rules
- If a playoff-eligible player is injured between league roster expansion and the start of the playoffs, he may be replaced on the playoff roster by any playoff-eligible player.
- A player who is injured during the course of the playoffs may be replaced between series by any player who was on a roster in your organization prior to your league’s roster expansion.
Rule 3 – Eligibility to Sign Contracts
The player pool will consist of existing real MLB major and minor league players.
3.1 – Adding Free Agents
3.1.1 – Players with No Whalehead Experience
Players who Appear in the Real Majors
Players with no history in the WLB who appear in a real major league game will be added to our Free Agent List at the completion of the World Series. The Commissioner will provide a list of such players prior to their addition. (Players who have already been added to the existing draft pool will added via the draft.)
Posted International Professional Players
Players posted by real-world professional leagues will be immediately added to the free-agent list if either posted or are announced as unencombered free agents. If the player does not sign with an MLB team, the contract will be voided.
3.1.2 – Players with Whalehead Experience
Retired players who appear in a real major league game will be unretired at the completion of the World Series at the discretion of the Commissioner. (There is no reason to unretire players who don’t have value in the WLB, particularly players who were retired by the game engine.)
The Commissioner will provide a list of such players prior to their addition.
3.1.3 – Service Time Considerations
The service time for returning/unretired players will be their prior WLB service time.
3.2 – Removing/Retiring Players from the Player Pool
At the end of the year, after updating the ratings, I will retire/delete any player who doesn’t exist in the most recent OOTP season roster. Players listed as Free Agents in the most recent OOTP season roster will have their real-life status checked (time permitting). Those not on affiliated rosters will be removed. Players with playing time in our league will be retired. Players with no playing time in our major league will be deleted.
Players who retire in real MLB immediately retire in our league if the league is in the offseason. If inseason, he will be retired at the end of the year. If he returns to MLB, gets unretired in WLB, and missed a full WLB year, he comes back as a free agent regardless of his prior contract.
Any player who dies in real life immediately retires in our league.
As the Commissioner finds players whom he is absolutely certain are out of professional baseball in an affiliated league, the Commissioner will:
- immediately retire them, if 1) they have a history in our league and are free agents, or 2) they are rostered and the league is in the offseason (the period between the World Series and the start of Spring Training);
- immediately delete them, if they have no history in our major league;
- add them to a list of players to be retired at the end of the current season, if they are rostered and the league is in season (start of Spring Training until the World Series ends).
If there is a decent possibility a player might re-sign with a team, he will remain in the league.
3.3 – Players who are Retired by the Game Engine
Players who are retired by the game engine but are not retired in real life (Albert Pujols is one example) are handled on an individual basis.
If his team doesn’t want him back, he stays retired.
If his team wants him, I unretire him and return him to his previous contract status.
Players may be unretired once. If a player retires, I unretire him and he retires again, he stays retired.
3.4 Adding Players to our Player Pool
Info will be added here.
Rule 4 – Rookie Draft
OOTP’s Rookie Draft will be the primary mechanism to add new players to our player pool.
We will draft approximately 20 players during the draft, which will start around November 15th. The pool will be a mix of new minor league Top 30 prospects, top MLB Amateur Draft players (from the most recent MLB Draft), and top international prospects.
A tentative draft pool will be released in OOTP and StatPlus approximately one month before the draft. (The number of draft rounds may be adjusted due to a lack of eligible players.)
Top 30 Prospects & Top International Prospects
Any player with no history in our league and who is listed on preseason or midseason Top 30 Prospects Lists from Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, and Fangraphs (the list isn’t all-inclusive) will be eligible for the draft. 17+ year-old J2 players listed in these publications will also be eligible for the draft if they have a Baseball Reference ID.
As soon as this list is developed the Commissioner will provide the names of all players.
MLB Amateur Draft Players
After compiling the list of the Top 30 Prospects and recent top international prospects, the Commissioner will add sufficient players from the most recent MLB Rule 4 Draft to create a draft pool of 600 players.
Service Time Considerations
The service time for new players will be their MLB service time (professional service time, the OOTP information).
Order of Extra Draft picks (after each round)
- Prospect Promotion Incentives (PPI) picks
- Competitive Balance Picks
- Free Agent Compensation Picks
- Picks Purchased with Incentive Points (IP$)
Rule 5 – Annual Selection of Players (Rule 5 Draft)
The Rule 5 Draft will be conducted to coincide with the last day of the in-game Winter Meetings.
Starting in 2023, there will be two phases of the Rule 5 Draft: Major League and Minor League.
After the non-tender deadline, the Commissioner will expand the AAA Roster to 38 players. The Commissioner will provide a date for the deadline to add Rule 5 Eligible (as determined by OOTP) players to the 40-Man and AAA Rosters. GMs must add players to the respective rosters by the deadline to protect them from selection in particular phases.
Once the deadline is reached the Commissioner will provide a draft order (using the most recent Rule 4 Draft) and the number of maximum picks a team may select. The Draft order will be fixed. No trades or roster moves can add additional picks. Rule 5 picks may not be traded.
Major League Phase
Teams will have about 30 hours from the release of the draft order to prepare. At that point, a Live Draft using the Discord #draft channel will commence. Teams will have 60 minutes to make a selection once they are “on the clock” for the first round, 30 minutes for the second round, and 5 minutes for any other remaining rounds.
Teams who cannot live draft should provide the Commissioner with a detailed list of players it wants to pick using either OOTP’s draft list mechanism or via a written list sent to the Commissioner. The Commissioner will create such a list which he will pass along to another GM prior to accepting lists. He must draft from his submitted list.
Once a team passes (because it no longer has open slots or doesn’t want to draft additional players) it is out of the draft and may not return.
Players selected must remain on the Active Roster for the entire season or be sent back to their original teams. Additionally, all players must be on an Active Roster for a minimum of 90 days. Any days less than 90 will carry over until the next season during which time the player must be Active.
Minor League Phase
This Phase is a potential rule change for the 2024-2025 offseason. The Commissioner needs more time to study the implementation.
All Rule 5 Eligible players who are not protected on the 40-Man Roster OR the AAA Roster will be eligible for selection in the Minor League Phase. The draft order will be the most recent Rookie Draft order. Teams may only select as many players as open slots on the 38-Man AAA roster allow. There are no roster restrictions (which means you don’t have to keep these players on any particular roster).
The entire draft will be conducted using Draft Lists that must be sent to the Commissioner within 24 hours of the completion of the Major League Phase. (Only lists sent via Discord Direct Message will be accepted.) GMs are encouraged to add as much detail to their lists as necessary.
Teams may submit a combined list prior to the start of the Major League Phase. (The Commissioner MUST submit this combined list before the start of the Major League Phase.) Teams must be sure to differentiate which players it wants to select in the Major League Phase.
The Commissioner will develop a system by which the individual AI teams protect and select players.
The Commissioner will conduct the draft and update OOTP roster status.
Rule 6 – Whalehead Economics
Rule 7 – Rating Updates
The Whalehead League tethers the development of players to their real-life development.
Player game ratings get updated once a year, at the end of the Whalehead World Series.
7.1 – End of Season Update
All Whalehead Players
In 2022, after confirmation that the Live Start ratings impact both major league and minor league player ratings, we voted to update ALL PLAYERS using the Live Start ratings after the World Series.
The updates will include all player ratings in the export file, excluding fielding and league experience.
The Commissioner updates using a specialized Access database after making sure all players are linked properly (which is much easier after requiring all players to have bbrefminors_id in the WLB player pool).
7.2 – In-Game Development
Due to our update plan, OOTP’s in-game development has a different impact than typical OOTP leagues. Over the long haul, players’ values will closely shadow their real-life values.
Beginning with the 2022-2023 season, we update all players using the OOTP Live Update ratings after we complete our World Series, switch to the new game version, and start the off-season.
With this style of updating players from year to year, in-game development has no real impact for R-A-A+ players (who aren’t close to the majors). In-game development during our Winter Leagues and normal player development during Spring Training will still be important, however.
7.3 – Stamina Adjustments
One issue with our update plan the last two years was pitchers whose roles changed from starters to relievers weren’t having their stamina adjusted with the live stats updates. This led to too many real relievers being used as starters. To fix the issue I came up with a system to adjust the stamina based on pitches per game.
All players who meet the following criteria are adjusted.
Players are adjusted using the following formula:
=IF(PPG>40,45,IF(PPG>30,40,IF(PPG>20,35,IF(PPG>10,30,25)))) PPG = Pitchers/G
Internal stamina will be updated as follows:
The Basis for Stamina Update
7.4 – Injury Proneness Adjustments
All players whose Injury Proneness ratings in the game are different than the end-of-the-season OOTP ratings will have their underlying injury ratings updated to the MLB ratings. This is a boring manual task for the Commissioner.
A list of all updated players will be provided.
Rule 8 – Changing GM Jobs
A human GM may petition the Commissioner to change jobs in the Whalehead League at any time. All teams headed by AI GMs are considered available positions.
There is no set timeframe for a GM to change positions. The Commissioner will consider each request on a case-by-case basis. He will consider all prior interactions with the other franchise and the GM’s track record in the league in making his decision.
(One sure way to have your request denied will be to make a bunch of bad trades with your prospective new team before making the request. Another way will be a pattern of running teams into the ground and then changing jobs.)
Once a change is approved, the GM must sign a contract and remain in the position for a minimum of three years with his new team.
Rule 9 – Incentive Point System
The League rewards GM participation using its Incentive Points System (IP$)
Rule 10 – Winter Leagues
Rule 11 – Winter Meetings
Rule 12 – Franchise Relocation
We’ve always allowed teams to move to open markets. The moves have fostered competitive balance as weaker divisions invite stronger teams to move into their geographic area, which equalizes things quite a bit. With the combination of the OOTP’s economic system and the inclusion of AI-run franchises, the process is more complicated than with previous games we played. Despite the impediments, the Commissioner favors having a process available for franchise moves because, ultimately, it’s all about the actual humans having fun.
Teams may only move once every three years. Human teams must pay 75 IP$ to move their teams. Teams that aren’t active don’t earn incentive points, so they may not move.
Teams may only move to an open market.
Teams must announce the intention to move before the World Series ends.
Announcing a move before the playoffs will impact Fan Interest as outlined in WLB Economics. The benefit of announcing the move earlier is to lock in the market. The drawback is a loss of revenue in the current market. Ultimately, however, the early announcement gets balanced by an increase in revenue at the new location as season ticket sales increase.
Announcing a move during the playoffs triggers the following provision: Fan Interest will be reduced by 40% from the day of the change until the start of Spring Training. (This replicates the inability to promote the team for season ticket sales.) All other provisions stay the same.
Rule 13 – Realignment
The league will realign teams every three years based on the shortest travel schedule for all teams. The realignment will be set one year prior to the change (as of the start of Spring Training). The Commissioner will keep teams in their current league, when possible unless an equal number of teams request to swap leagues.
The realignment will take place at the completion of the 2023 World Series. It will then take place in 2026, 2029, 2032, etc. The 2023 realignment will be set after the World Series based on current teams.
Teams that move between the realignment assignment deadline and the implementation date will still be placed in the division assigned at the deadline.
Rule 14 – Trading
14.1 – Trading with AI Teams
Human GMs are allowed to trade with teams controlled by AI GMs.
The Trading Difficulty setting, which ranges between Easy and Hard, is set to three clicks from the middle toward Hard. Trading preference, which ranges between Veterans and Prospects, is set to the middle. These baseline settings get adjusted by particular AI GM ratings.
14.2 – Trading Recently Drafted Players
Recently Drafted Players may not be traded for one year.
Players lose rookie status with 75 days on a WLB roster, 130 PA, or 50 IP.
Rule 15 – Reserved
Rule 16 – Expansion
Rule 17 – Playoff Format
Rule 18 – Team Market Values
Rule 19 – Special Roster Rules
Rule 20 – WLB Ownership System
All Owners in the WLB are set to the same owner settings: 1) Tolerant, 2) Economizer, 3) Hands Off, and 4) Balanced.
In OOTP owners are rated for four factors:
|Patience||Controls how quick an owner is to fire you when your team is performing below the owner’s expectations|
|Fiscal Personality||Controls how your owner behaves regarding the team’s budget|
|Season Expectation||The owner’s expectations for the team in the current season|
|Opinion on Performance||The owner’s thoughts on how the human manager is performing so far|
I have turned off the impact of owners’ control of budgets and their ability to fire you. I have also set all owners to the following settings.
In OOTP you have your Budget and your Cash. Your Budget is based on the previous year’s revenue. Your Cash consists of any money you have leftover at the end of a season (after subtracting Expenses from Revenue), adding/subtracting Revenue sharing, and Cash from the Owner. If you have more than the Max Cash limit ($20 million in 2022), the owner takes that money as profit.
(If there isn’t a Max Cash limit, the extra money can lead to wild salary inflation as the players know how much money is available and up their salary demands accordingly.)
Rule 21 – Miscellaneous Rules
Qualifying Offers and Compensation
Compensation for a team that loses a player after offering the Qualifying Offer.
The team received revenue sharing AND the free agent signed for more than $50 million = Compensation after the 1st round.
All other situations = Compensation after 2nd round (after Comp Round Picks, like previous year’s draft picks who didn’t sign, if any).
Penalties for signing players with Qualifying Offer.
Teams that receive revenue sharing lose their third-highest selection in the following year’s Draft.
Teams that are Luxury Tax payors shall forfeit its second-highest and fifth-highest available selections in the next Rule 4 Draft, and it shall have its International Signing Bonus Pool for the next international signing period reduced by $1 million.
Teams that pay revenue sharing will lose their second-highest selection in the following year’s Draft. They also lose $500,000 from their International Bonus Pool.
If a team signs more players, they forfeit the next lowest pick.
StatsPlus Contract Restrictions
The days of offering players a team option and then a player option (and vice versa) are over. Going forward option years added to the end of contracts can only be all team options, all vesting options, or all player options.
Since the restriction is policed using StatPlus and not OOTP itself, it will still be possible to make those offers in OOTP. Don’t do it. If you do, the contract options will all be changed to Player Options AND the Buyout figures for each year will be increased by $2,000,000 each year.
Contracts previously given are grandfathered in.
Competitive Balance Picks
Starting for the 2023 Rookie Draft, Competitive Balance Picks will be awarded to the six lowest revenue teams and six smallest markets (as determined by the process outlined in the linked post).
2022 MLB CBA Rule Additions
Until such time that OOTP adds options to implement the 2022 MLB CBA Rules, the WLB will manually implement the following rules:
|Year||WLB Minimum Salary|
Infield Shifts are Banned
Service Time Manipulation
- The top two players in Rookie of the Year voting must receive at least a full year of service time, regardless of when they were called up.
- Teams that promote a player to the early season roster, so the player earns a full year (at least 172 days) of MLB service, will be eligible to receive a draft pick, if the player finishes first in the Rookie of the Year voting or Top 5 in MVP/Cy Young voting before he is eligible for arbitration. Only one pick per player may be received over the pre-Arb period. Multiple players may earn a team multiple picks.
- A player may be optioned to the minors no more than five times in one season.
Prospect Promotion Incentive
If a player who accrues a full year of service time in his rookie season (172 calendar days on the MLB roster) garners award consideration in any season prior to qualifying for arbitration, that player’s club receives a “prospect promotion incentive (PPI)” compensation in the form of a draft pick.
There are a few qualifications for a player to be eligible for his team to acquire PPI compensation:
- The player must enter the season with rookie eligibility and no more than 60 days of service.
- The player must be considered a preseason Top 100 prospect by BNN.
- The player cannot enter their rookie season as a foreign professional and the player cannot be signed to a Major League contract covering more than one playing season prior to making their Major League debut. (Essentially, this means a player must debut before signing an extension. In the past, this would disqualify players like Luis Robert, Evan White, and Eloy Jimenez.)
All PPI compensation will occur immediately following the end of the first round of the respective draft. Picks will be ordered by record (high to low).
Only one pick per player per season will be awarded. (So if a player wins Rookie of the Year and finishes as a Top 5 in MVP/Cy Young voting, the team only receives ONE pick.) Teams may, however, receive more than one pick if multiple players meet the criteria.
The Commissioner will provide a list of eligible players right after Opening Day.
Since this addition to the CBA is funded from a central fund, it will not be implemented until OOTP adds the systems.
Human Award Voting will be Eliminated
Since some of the rule additions are dependent on MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting, human GM award voting will be eliminated.