Every year, I put hundreds of hours into MLB the Show, because when baseball isn’t on the only thing to do is to play a simulation of baseball. Between the months of November and March is when I usually rack up the most hours, but I get sizable play early in each release cycle.
My favorite game mode is definitely Franchise, because you can sort of run each MLB club to your standards. Trades, scouting, free agency, coaching, training, et al, the list goes on.
With the new game having been released on March 27th (or March 23rd for you early access players out there!), now’s as good a time as any to see how the new simulation matrix handles the 2018 season, because it’s about as much an indicator of success as spring training records and stats (in other words, spring training numbers almost never mean much of anything).
Couple of ground rules for my simulation of the 2018 season:
- I manually put on injuries to players who are expected to miss at least a week of the regular season at present. I had to make up what their injury was sometimes, because the game cannot factor for a player who is halfway recovered from elbow surgery.
- I did not touch any of the rosters, their attributes, lineups, rotations, or anything.
The AL East race was out and hopping right from the get-go. The Orioles led the division at the end of the month, going 20-10 for the first segment of the season. Shortly behind were the Red Sox (17-12), Yankees (16-14), Blue Jays (16-14), and languishing in last, the Rays (10-18). Two trades happened: Cory Spangenberg from the Padres to the Orioles for Tim Beckham, and Clint Frazier from the Yankees to the Orioles for Dylan Bundy. Wow.
I didn’t keep an exact number for this, but Chris Sale had one of the worst months I’ve ever seen Chris Sale have, and his ERA for a good part of the month was above 7. It was very concerning, to say the least.
The Orioles being in first did not last long at all. After the trade of Dylan Bundy, their rotation kind of fell apart, and Spangenberg just couldn’t click with the offense. So instead of maintaining their grip, the Red Sox launched into first place (37-20), with the Yankees (36-21) predictably joining them at the top of the division. The Orioles (32-26) and Blue Jays (29-27) fell back, and the Rays (19-36) have already begun thinking about next year.
Chris Sale, thankfully, did not continue to have an ERA of 7+, and came back to regular Chris Sale numbers. Perhaps his plan to be more rested for October will actually work. In the month of May, the Red Sox got busy. They acquired Javy Guerra from the Marlins in exchange for a bland catching prospect, who I’m just going to pretend is Austin Rei or something, because the minor league roster set isn’t out yet. That wasn’t all they did, however, as they also acquired Tanner Roark from the Nationals in exchange for Tzu-Wei Lin. The two players removed from the active roster to bring in the two were Joe Kelly (who was the worst RP on the team at the time), and Steven Wright.
There were several minor trades, but one in particular of consequence is the trade of Josh Harrison from the Pirates to the Yankees, in exchange for Miguel Andujar.
This month was probably the best overall showing for the Red Sox as a whole, as their offense began to click to a high level, and their pitching finally showed up and was all healthy at once. The Red Sox finished the month at 55-29, ahead of the Yankees (49-33), Blue Jays (46-36), and free-falling Orioles (44-41). The Rays, as expected, are at 30-52, and trying really hard to be the worst team in baseball, and are presently only a game out from being so.
The Red Sox continued to be an active team in the trade market, as Nick Markakis was dealt to them in exchange for a SP prospect of no note whatsoever. For this article, I’m going to assume it was Trey Ball, because I can. With Markakis in Boston, Brock Holt gets sent down to the minor leagues after a mediocre showing at the plate.
The Red Sox ran away with the division this month, furthering their lead. From top to bottom: Red Sox (74-36), Yankees (65-42), Orioles (57-52), Blue Jays (54-52), and Rays (43-64). As of this moment, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball, and are cruising into the playoffs.
A zillion trades happened, because it’s July. Almost none of these moves end up being all that important, as most of the acquiring teams end up narrowly missing the playoffs or getting very little from their new player. The Red Sox bring in Raul/Adalberto Mondesi from the Royals in exchange for an outfield prospect (I can’t name one that would be enough for Mondesi, so maybe we deal multiple players, I don’t know). They also acquire Brandon McCarthy from the Braves in exchange for Sam Travis, who was actually hitting really well at AAA. I didn’t look at his end of season stats in Atlanta. I predict they were good.
The National League won the All-Star Game 4-3, due to a 3 run 7th inning, that was fueled by a Kris Bryant home run. Bryant won the MVP honors, and the Red Sox didn’t play all that much. The five Red Sox players at the game were David Price, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel, J.D. Martinez, and Mookie Betts.
OK, I’m an idiot, and I forgot to actually look at the standings in August because the Red Sox kept losing, because it was August. All I know is that the Sox were bad enough in August that the Yankees caught up, and the division was super close between the two of them.
September was a thriller with neither team really wanting to leave the division’s fates in the hands of no-name prospects, or call ups. The final divisional standings stood at:
- Red Sox (103-59)
- Yankees (102-60)
- Blue Jays (83-79)
- Orioles (82-80)
- Rays (64-98)
The entire league was kind of wacky. There were five teams that won 100 games (the Sox, Yankees, Indians, Cubs, and Rockies), but only one that lost 100 (the Padres). About 1/3rd of the league had between 70 and 79 wins, and most teams were fairly mediocre, with 14 above .500. The AL East had 4 .500 teams, with only the NL West matching them.
The playoff teams ranked as follows:
- Indians (104-58)
- Red Sox (103-59)
- Astros (89-73)
- Yankees (102-60)
- Blue Jays (83-79)
Yes, a team that almost missed being .500 was the final AL Playoff team. The team that was just behind them in the rankings list was the Orioles, so the AL East had four of the best 6 teams in the American League. Go figure, but we’re still a weak division, if you believe some people.
The National League’s playoff teams:
The article would be a mile long if I listed every stat and award winner, so I’ll leave the list to things I found important:
- J.D. Martinez rakes. In his first season, he hit .298, with 40 HR, and 118 RBI.
- Xander Bogaerts is the best contact hitter on the team. He leads the team in hits and batting average (.310 hitter).
- Rafael Devers is apparently a .300 hitter who only hits 20 HRs all season.
- Blake Swihart takes the main catching job from Christian Vazquez, who forces Sandy Leon into the minor leagues.
- The entire team from top to bottom hits extremely well: they end up being first in team batting average, second in on base percentage, 8th in HRs, 2nd in runs scored, and 1st (!) in stolen bases somehow.
- The pitching is magnificent post-April. Chris Sale ends up 21-7, with a 2.85 ERA, and 253 strikeouts in 240 innings pitched. Maybe he’ll win the Cy Young this time, since he was super strong at the end of the year.
- The worst pitcher in the rotation by year’s end is Eduardo Rodriguez, who “only” manages a 3.65 ERA. The bullpen is fantastic, and the only pitcher in the pen with an ERA above 3 is Tyler Thornburg (3.89).
- Chris Sale is the only 20-game winner in the AL (the NL has Tyler Anderson who wins 20). J.D. Martinez ends up 4th in MLB in HRs, behind Joey Votto, Nelson Cruz, and Nolan Arenado.
Playoffs and Conclusion
The Red Sox lost to the Astros, 3-1 in the ALDS. Yeah, not very fun. The reasoning behind it was awful pitching. David Price was bad, Chris Sale was bad, and so was Drew Pomeranz. Heath Hembree gave up about 9 runs in .2 innings as well, so that was bad too. Eduardo Rodriguez was the only SP not to lose terribly, and his 1.50 ERA remains the sole bright spot of the Red Sox post-season.
The Nationals end up beating the Indians in the World Series, sweeping them. This makes Bryce Harper happy enough that he actually re-signs the first day of the off-season, for 31 million annually over the next 7 years.
To end things on a positive note though, the Red Sox do extend Chris Sale, to the price of 9/278.5. Small price to pay, I guess. Oh, and he still doesn’t win the Cy Young. Corey Kluber does, again (with less wins, a higher ERA, and less strikeouts). No, I’m not bitter. You are.