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    Wednesday, May 17, 2017

    Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 3

    Out of the Park Baseball allowed me to try their latest release, Out of the Park Baseball 18. For this year’s edition of my review, I wanted to do something different: a multi-part attempt to build a championship core for a rebuilding team to get them to the playoffs. In Part 1, I added Mike Trout to this year’s San Diego Padres and watched them go 68-94. In Part 2, I added Trout and Chris Sale and watched the team miss the second Wild Card in the last week of the season, finishing 83-78. What would my third go-around bring?

    ATTEMPT 3: 2017-B

    As the start of the season rolled around in the 2017-B timeline, the San Diego Padres made a series of shocking moves. On a single day, they managed to trade Manuel Margot for Mike Trout, Jered Weaver for Chris Sale, and Erick Aybar for Manny Machado. Fans didn't question this stroke of good luck, as it considerably brightened their outlook on the coming year.

    Opening Day was a 4-1 loss to Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, with the new acquisitions putting up some mediocre performances. Trout went 2-4 with 2 singles, Machado went 0-3, and Sale gave up 4 runs on 5 hits (2 home runs) and 4 walks with 5 strikeouts in 7.0 innings.

    We end the first month just above .500, at 14-13. That puts us in third place, just three games behind the NL West-leading Diamondbacks and a half-game behind the second place Dodgers. That feels a little disappointing, but it is two games ahead of where the Machado-less Padres of 2017-A were at this point, and they turned okay.*

    *And in a representation of the variance that occurs within any baseball season, it also means that we're six games ahead of the Sale-and-Machado-less Padres of 2017, and three games ahead of the Trout-Sale-and-Machado-less Padres of real-world 2017 were at the end of April.

    Mike Trout is doing his usual Mike-Trout-esque things, hitting .302/.407/.615 (a 185 OPS+) with 7 homers. Chris Sale is only kind of doing Chris-Sale-type things, though (44 K, 2.98 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3.25 FIP in 42.1 IP), and Manny Machado is decidedly un-Manny-Machado-like (.240/.339/.310, 86 OPS+; mediocre fielding stats, although he's playing shortstop now). We also don't really have the backup we did in 2017-A; Yangervis Solarte is playing decently, but not one else is really stepping up yet.

    Monday, May 15, 2017

    Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 2

    Out of the Park Baseball once again gave me the chance to try the newest version of their game, Out of the Park Baseball 18. I decided that, this year, I would run a more comprehensive simulation than it years’ past: I would take the roster of a tanking team (namely, the San Diego Padres) and slowly add star players until the team made it to the postseason.

    In Part 1, the team got an infusion of Mike Trout in center field, but it wound up not being enough; the team lost 94 games, coming nowhere near playoff baseball. Clearly, one man wouldn’t be enough to turn this team into a powerhouse. But what about two men? Enjoy these dispatches from the alternate timeline, 2017-A:

    ATTEMPT 2: 2017-A

    Okay, so the best position player of today wouldn't be enough to bump the Padres up to playoff status. What about the best pitcher on top of that?

    There was just one problem with that: if my goal was to take the Padres to the playoffs, taking Clayton Kershaw directly from a division rival would have double the effect of just adding a great pitcher. I'd be directly harming someone standing right in the way of my goal. So at this point, I basically decided that I would have to limit myself to taking only the best AL players, as even players from other NL teams would still make my path to the Wild Card easier.

    And so, that's how I wound up adding both Mike Trout and Chris Sale to the 2017-A San Diego Padres. After once again sending Manuel Margot to the Angels, I followed that up by sending Jered Weaver to Boston. They probably won't notice the difference, right?

    Monday, May 8, 2017

    Out of the Park Baseball 18: Trying to Build a Playoff-Caliber Core, Part 1

    Once again this year, I was given a chance to try this year’s edition of Out of the Park Baseball (Out of the Park Baseball 18) and review it in some way. For those who are unaware, Out of the Park Baseball is a simulation game, meaning it focuses on the managerial and front office side of the game. But even that is underselling it; it's the most complete experience a baseball fan could want in this regard. You can simulate the current season into the future, or start from any historical season in history, or even generate an entirely fictitious league.

    In the past, I’ve used the game’s amazing simulation abilities to run some scenarios of various levels of craziness; this year, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction though. Something equally as impossible as putting Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, and Kevin Brown on the same team in their prime. Rather than getting deep into one scenario, I want to instead use it to re-run the same scenario many times, each time tweaking things and recording the results. The basis of this thought experiment is simple: every now and then, I'll sit and think about various "cores" of good teams, specifically things like how good the best stars on a team need to be, or how many of them a team needs.*

    *For one example of some of this, see my ramblings on Lou Piniella and the Mariners from when he was on the Veterans Committee Hall of Fame ballot this past offseason.

    In practical terms: I'm going to take the 2017 Padres*, and I'm going to add Mike Trout and see if they make the playoffs.** If they don't, I'll go back to the start of 2017 and add a second amazing player; if they don't make it that time, start the process over a third time, and so on.

    *While they aren't the worst team in the majors right now, I settled on this example before the season. It just took me a while to carve out the free time to play, at which point it was too late to switch. Either way, it's hard to argue that a team looked more in it to tank in 2017 than San Diego.

    **Some may argue that this isn’t too different than the 2017 Angels. I’m not sure I could argue against that claim too vigorously.

    Without further ado, here is the first part of my grand experiment for this year: