Out Of The Park, Again

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If it’s the baseball season, I can probably be found at night immersed in a little computer program called Out Of The Park Baseball. It is a baseball simulation of enormous depth created by German developer Markus Heinsohn, with the 18th version (known amongst fans as OOTP 18) just having been released a few weeks ago. The game is so popular, owners and players have been known to play it, and it’s even been used in schools to teach business economics.

With each new version comes new bells and whistles. When version 17 came out last year, it added a minor league historical database along with the major leaguers so you could get a more accurate account of what the baseball world looked like in a given year. This year’s improvement added the Negro Leagues, setting up what-if scenarios that now included baseball not having a color barrier prior to 1947. But that’s just ONE thing you can do. You can even play the standard game and manage or be a general manager of teams in the modern MLB, the minors, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, or beyond. Wherever you want to go, OOTP can likely take you there.

My personal favorite enterprise the last few seasons have been the ability to have players debut randomly. For instance, what if Evan Longoria played in the first decade of the 20th century as opposed to the 21st, or if Clayton Kershaw pitched back then, when starting pitchers usually went the full nine innings?

There’s a lot less you can do as oppose to what you can do, including the ability to create fictional leagues and structures within and play commissioner, proprietor, and God. It’s not just a sim but a baseball laboratory any fan would enjoy.

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Spreadsheet Baseball, Revisited

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Carlton Fisk gesturing at a ball he hit to stay fair during Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. The ball indeed stayed fair that October 11th evening, giving Boston a 7-6 win in 12 innings. The following night, the Reds took the final and decisive 7th Game.

A little less than four years ago, I did a post about Out Of The Baseball, a baseball simulation that I kill a lot of time playing. The 17th version of the game has been released for about a month now, chock full of more bells and whistles. What I said back then about OOTP I say again now: there’s less in this game that you cannot do as opposed to what you can do.

One of the new improvements to the sim is that you can take any two teams dating back to 1901 and put them in a series against each other. Eager to test out this new part of the game, I did a 1975 World Series replay, which many consider to be the best World Series of all time. Following real life conditions, Boston was the home team for series, and as was the case that season, I did not use the designated hitter for the entire series per the rules of that year’s series.

The first six games weren’t much to right home about, as each team took three games. In fact, each team took the game that was taken in the real life series. (Boston winning games 1,4, and 6, Cincinnati winning 2,3, and 5.) The sixth game, in real life a classic contest, was an 11-4 rout by Boston to even the series.

The seventh game was one of the best games I’ve ever seen playing OOTP these past few years, although I was watching the computer manage both teams. Boston built an 8-0 with 4 runs in the first two innings apiece, knocking Reds starter Jack Billingham out of the box. The Reds then catch fire, scoring 5 in the fifth and 2 in the 6th, now trailing 8-7. It then looked like the Reds had petered out, as the Red Sox kept them off the board in the 7th, 8th, and were an out, then a strike away in the ninth from winning.

With Joe Morgan up with a 3-2 count and two outs and nobody on, he hammered a Dick Drago pitch down the right field line, and it’s LONG gone into the Boston night for a home run. The game is now an 8-8 tie, the Reds completing their comeback to tie the game being down 8-0 after two. The game stays that way through the 9th, 10th, and 11th.

Much like the real life sixth game, the deciding frame would be the 12th inning. After Bill “Spaceman” Lee killed off a Reds rally in the top of the 12th by inducing Ken Griffey Sr. to fly out to left, Clay Carroll took the mound. After Tim Blackwell walked, Carlton Fisk and Fred Lynn hit back to back singles to load the bases. Dwight Evans came up to bat, and promptly drilled the first pitch for a line drive base hit to right to win the game and series, 9-8.

What a (simulated) game it was.

Trading The Franchise?

Evan Longoria, currently with the Tampa Bay Rays. Could he be going elsewhere?
Evan Longoria, currently with the Tampa Bay Rays. Could he be going elsewhere?

More and more, I’m seeing talk of Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays being traded to another MLB club due to declining abilities.

If you look at things statistically, such talk is balderdash…for now.

When I watch the Rays, I usually have the computer on playing a simulation called Out Of The Park Baseball, which I have talked about before. To analogize OOTP wouldn’t be fair to it really, but let me attempt it. It is basically the history of baseball on a giant spreadsheet with infinite ways to modify it.

Playing OOTP, for me the key statistic to look at is called WAR, which is short of Wins Above Replacement. When I play the sim against the computer, I look at players below 0 in WAR once the season is at least 25% over with, and I trade only those people during the course of the season. A good GM in OOTP and in MLB strives to find players who can give them an upgrade in WAR, and players who are cost effective to acquire based on WAR. For example, if a player has a 5 WAR rating makes $25-million a year, and if another player has a 3 WAR making $7-million a year, it is more cost effective to take the latter player when available. You want good players at good bargain prices.

During the past two seasons, Evan’s WAR slipped from 6.2 playing 160 games in 2013 to 3.3 playing all 162 games in 2014. He has a 2.5 rating playing 93 of the team’s 95 games so far, so that projects to 4.3 if he plays every game the rest of the year if his stats continue as they have.

While Longoria’s stats are improving from last year in terms of WAR, people forget that he made $6-million two years ago when his WAR was at 6.3. He makes $11-million this season, so if his 4.3 WAR stat for this year verifies, he becomes nearly three times less cost effective as he was two seasons ago if you divide his salary by his WAR.

Should the Rays get rid of Evan now? NO. Who are the Rays going to get a third to replace him at his caliber under Tampa Bay’s present economic conditions?

Should the Rays consider it once the season ends? YES. The off-season will give them a lot more time to mull things over, whereas the rush to the trade deadline at the end of this month might trigger a bad decision.

Board Games Never Bored Me

When I was in high school, I loved board games that revolved around sports. Whenever basketball, baseball, and football season started, I’d already raise the money to get Street and Smith’s previews from mowing the lawns. Some kids were into comic books, I’d read Street and Smith’s.

Some kids got a car for their 16th birthday, while I got a copy of Statis Pro Football for mine. It’s all I wanted, really.

I’d go off and play the games by myself, while my friends looked at me oddly, wondering what I was doing with all that time I wasn’t with them.

I was a baseball board gaming nut, too. Sher-co Baseball was my first foray into simulated balls and strikes, but the game was a little too simple for me. One of my classmates at Largo High told me about something called Pursue The Pennant, and I got hooked right away. I’d have my own “Top Ten League” where I’d put cards in a cowboy hat and picked random teams, assuring that top hitters and top pitchers were also included in it.

Love for these simulations has lasted to this very day. OOTP (Out of the Park Baseball) version 15 (a prior version of which I talked about back in 2012) goes on in the background as I type this post up. It’s never a bad thing to have a hobby, you just have to make sure your hobbies don’t control your life too much.