Last week, on what ends up being one of the best days every spring, the newest version of Out of the Park Baseball was released. If you’ve never played, it is a text-based sim game in which you can take over a roster — rosters can be current-day rosters, historical rosters or fictional rosters — as a general manager, manager or both and build everything. It is the best baseball game by far in terms of attention to detail and really getting down to the nitty gritty with roster building. I like it a lot is what I’m saying. For the last couple of years here I’ve run a simulation of the upcoming season following the release of the newest OOTP, so it seemed like time to do it again. For what it’s worth, last year the game had the Red Sox finishing with 88 wins and getting knocked out in the ALDS. Not bad! Let’s see what it has in store this year.
So, a few things here since this is a game and the very early versions of the game. They will continue to provide updates to fix some mistakes (for example, in the initial release they had J.D. Martinez on a one-year contract for the minimum salary, though that was fixed by the time I did this sim). In this case, they have both Drew Pomeranz healthy to start the year. It’s understandable since he was hurt in camp. They also have Rusney Castillo on the Opening Day roster, luxury tax be damned.
Not too much happened before the season started in the sim (the sim starts on March 10), which isn’t too surprising. The Red Sox did make a relatively significant trade, though. Ownership is not happy with the catching situation in this game (contrary to real life considering the real life Red Sox just gave Christian Vazquez a contract extension). Because of this, the team traded Sandy Leon and Cole Brannen to the Indians for Yan Gomes. The hell, fake Dave Dombrowski?
Prior to every season, this game also has their own projections for how the season will play out and also ranks every farm system. The Red Sox are projected to win 94 games and win the division by one game over the Yankees. OOTP is also higher on the Red Sox farm system than real life evaluators, ranking them 17th in baseball. They have Tanner Houck is the system’s top prospect and the 39th best in the game. Jason Groome comes in at 45 and Michael Chavis comes in at 55.
So, once the season got started things got a little weird right off the bat. First, an Indy ball pitcher named Jairo Labourt, who the team signed right before Opening Day, got hurt for a few weeks. Then, Dustin Pedroia came back from injury very early on April 2. Steven Wright returned shortly after that, and the team designated Brian Johnson for assignment to make room. Then, in a move that makes no sense and reminds us that this is a video game, they immediately designated Wright for assignment. Unsurprisingly, both players were claimed on waivers. Eduardo Rodriguez was the next to come back from injury, and to make room for him they designated Heath Hembree for assignment and he cleared waivers. Finally, Marco Hernandez was brought back from the disabled list and optioned to Pawtucket.
In terms of performance, it wasn’t a great month. The Red Sox went 13-16 in April thanks to some bad pitching. Chris Sale was great, but every other starting pitcher had an ERA of at least 4.00. J.D. Martinez led a solid performance by the offense while Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia all posted OPS+’s below 60.
Don’t worry, the rest of the season wasn’t as weird or busy as April was. There was one big roster move this month, though it didn’t involve an injury. Instead, the Red Sox extended Jackie Bradley Jr. on a four-year deal worth just over $42 million. The fourth year was a player option, though, so it potentially only bought out one free agent year. The team also signed Tony Zych, a free agent reliever, to a one-year, $4 million deal and immediately put him in the big-league bullpen.
On the field, it was a better month for the team as they went 16-11. They were now two games over .500 for the year, but trailing the division-leading Rays by 6.5 games. The good news is that Mookie and Bogaerts were on fire and the offense in general was good. The bad news is the pitching has sucked pretty much all year aside from Sale.
June was another relatively quiet month in terms of transactions, though there were two stories to follow. One was Eduardo Nuñez asking for a trade because he wasn’t getting playing time. The other was the draft, and the Red Sox made an interesting pick. They selected left-handed pitcher Steve Hajjar who is from North Andover and attends Central Catholic. I’m not sure where he’s projected to go in real life, but I can tell you he’s committed to the University of Michigan.
On the field, it was another rough month in which the team went 12-14. They were now just a game above .500 and had fallen 7.5 back in the division, which was now led by Toronto. Benintendi had really struggled over the past couple of months, but pitching was still the main culprit. The good news is that David Price had turned his season around and he dropped his ERA by more than a full run, now sitting at 3.30.
This is generally the time of year in which things start to get pretty wild in the OOTP sims, what with it being the trade deadline and all. That wasn’t the case this time around, though, as the Red Sox stood pat at the deadline. With no injuries coming up either, the biggest news story was Yan Gomes asking for a trade. That preseason deal didn’t go so well. The Red Sox also announced they were retiring number 99 for Manny Ramirez, which is interesting because he never wore 99 for the Red Sox. Boston also had two All Stars in David Price and Chris Sale.
The reason Dombrowski didn’t make a trade was because his team started to heat up just a little bit this month. They didn’t go crazy or anything, but they at least finished above .500 with a 14-12 month. They were now 56-53 on the year but now 11.5 back in the division. Fortunately, they were only two games behind Seattle for the second wildcard spot.
It seems the team got some confidence with Dombrowski keeping the squad together rather than making changes at the deadline. The Red Sox took off in August going 21-5 and upping their overall record to 77-58. Bogaerts in particular got red hot and finished the month as the team’s best hitter for the season. That was the first time all year that someone other than Martinez was the best hitter on the roster. Drew Pomeranz was also heating up a bit to give the Red Sox three strong pitchers in the rotation. The bad news is that Pedroia, Sale and Rodriguez all went on the disabled list during the month, but all three were projected to be back by the middle of September. Heading into the final month they were 5.5 being Toronto in the division but six up on Seattle for the wildcard. They were also tied with the Yankees in second place in the AL East.
The Red Sox did not choke down the stretch under first-year manager Alex Cora, finishing the season with an 18-9 month. They ended the year with 95 wins thanks to a monstrous second half and they overtook the Blue Jays on the second-to-last day of the season to end up as the division champs. We might all have heart attacks if this is how things end up playing out in the regular season, but the end result is pretty good. The Indians and Astros won the other divisions with the Yankees and Blue Jays making the Wildcard Game. The NL Division winners were the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers with the Nationals and Cardinals in the Wildcard Game.
Unfortunately, things continued to be like the last couple of years for the Red Sox, winning the division but getting bounced in the first round of the postseason. They made it much more interesting this time, pushing the Indians to five games but they couldn’t make it through the deciding game. Sale was the culprit here, allowing eight runs in two innings after dominating Game One. The good news is the Red Sox keep winning an extra game every year, so they’ll be ALCS bound in 2019! The Indians went on to win the World Series over the Dodgers in seven games.
Don’t worry, I didn’t sim the entire offseason. I just wanted to see if any Red Sox players won any awards. Chris Sale did win the ERA title, but he once again finished second in Cy Young voting behind Corey Kluber. Mookie Betts won a Gold Glove and J.D. Martinez won a Silver Slugger. Most interesting, though, was that they signed Betts to a six-year extension worth $104 million with an opt-out after the third year.