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Simming the 2021 season with Out of the Park Baseball

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It’s a pleasant surprise!

MLB: Washington Nationals at Boston Red Sox Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

We are exactly one day away from the 2021 season actually kicking off with real life games that count. To celebrate, we’re going to be talking about some fake life games that do not count. It is time for our annual Out of the Park Baseball simulation of the 2021 season. First, a note I make every year off the bat. Number one, this is not an ad, but I will throw out a recommendation for OOTP, which is annually my favorite game. I will also add that every year there is one or two people who complain about this and don’t get the purpose. If that’s you, I say: Not everything has to be for everyone. I won’t be offended if you skip this.

Alright, with that out of the way, a quick primer. For those unfamiliar, OOTP is a text-based simulation game with the most realistic rosters and rules and outcomes of all of the baseball games out there. Last year, for what it’s worth, it predicted the Red Sox would win 68 games in a normally-scheduled season. They ended up on a 65-win pace over a full season. So, pretty good. No spoilers, but a little hint: This year is better.

Preseason

  • OOTP has their own preseason projections before you do the real sim. In these projections they foresee a very tough American League East in which the Red Sox finish fourth while winning 82 games. That still put them 14 games out of the division lead, though, and eight games out of third place.
  • Their farm system is ranked 15th in baseball in this game, though some of the specific player rankings differ from the real world. Jeter Downs is the top prospect and 29th in the game. Their other top 100 prospects are: Bryan Mata (57th), Triston Casas (58th), and Tanner Houck (89th).
  • As far as the Opening Day roster goes, there were only a couple changes. For one, Ryan Brasier and Eduardo Rodriguez were healthy, so they’re on the roster. Darwinzon Hernandez and Tanner Houck get squeezed off the roster in this sim to start the year. Additionally, Michael Chavis makes the roster over Franchy Cordero, with Kiké Hernández starting in left and Christian Arroyo at second.

April

  • The Red Sox got off to a good start on the season, going 17-10 through the month of April. That was the best record in the division through that point, putting them a game and a half above the second-place Yankees.
  • It was Xander Bogaerts leading the way for Boston at the plate in April as he hit .330/.419/.700 with nine home runs, a performance good enough to have him named Player of the Month in April. Rafael Devers was not too far behind, hitting .324/.372/.638 with eight homers.
  • On the mound, Eduardo Rodriguez led the rotation with a 4.10 ERA (117 ERA+) over six starts. He and Nathan Eovaldi were the only starters with an above-average ERA on the month. In the bullpen, Matt Barnes, Hirokazu Sawamura and Houck (who was called up early to pitch in relief) all dominated.
  • It was a somewhat quiet month for transactions, but they did make a signing early in April to bring in Logan Morrison for some reason. It worked out to some extent, though, because J.D. Martinez went down with an ankle injury a few days later that put him on the shelf for five weeks.
Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

May

  • May was not quite as good of a month for the Red Sox, as they went just 12-15 on the month, bringing their overall record to 29-25. The good news is the rest of the division scuffled through May as well, so Boston remained atop the AL East with a one-game lead over the Yankees with the Rays just a half game behind them, and then Toronto just a game behind Tampa.
  • Bogaerts continued to carry the Red Sox as most of the rest of the team played average-at-best baseball this month. The shortstop wasn’t a repeat Player of the Month, but he hit .333/.411/.645 with seven more homers. Christian Vázquez also had a nice month, hitting .315/.370/.562 with five homers.
  • On the mound, it was actually Adam Ottavino leading the way in terms of WAR. He was a little mediocre in April, but he allowed one run in 10 23 innings in May with 17 strikeouts and two walks. Rodriguez and Barnes also continued to throw well in the second month of the year.
  • The Red Sox had a ton of injury luck in May, and even better: Chris Sale started his rehab at the end of the month with an eye toward making his return in early-June.

June

  • Boston got back on track with a good month of June, going 17-10 just as they did in April, putting their overall record at 46-35. The rest of the division failed to keep pace, and the Red Sox ended the month with a three-game edge over the second-place Yankees.
  • With Bogaerts being good instead of great in June, it was Devers stepping up to lead the way this month. The third baseman was a monster at the plate in June, hitting .374/.409/.738 with nine home runs and a 191 OPS+ that was the best single-month mark on the team to this point. Also of note on offense: Jeter Downs was now playing every day at second base, and in June he hit .360/.408/.618 with five home runs, good enough to make him June’s AL Rookie of the Month.
  • Sale did indeed make it back in early June, starting five games in the month and picking up immediately looking like prime Sale. He pitched to a 1.86 ERA in June. Rodriguez helped form a dynamic one-two punch with a 2.55 ERA pitching behind Sale.
  • The Red Sox did get some bad injury luck this month, losing Martín Pérez (who had been largely ineffective anyway) for a couple of weeks, Garrett Richards (who was also a bit below average) for about six weeks, and then suffering the big blow of the season, losing Bogaerts for a month to a sprained ankle.

July

  • Despite the loss of their best player, the Red Sox managed to stay afloat in the month of July. They finished the month with a solid 15-12 record, putting their overall mark at 61-47. The rest of the division continued to be surprisingly mediocre, too, with the Yankees staying 2 12 games back.
  • Bogaerts missed most of the month, but he did come back for the final week or so and was immediately great with a 231 OPS+ in 11 games. In his absence, Arroyo was playing a lot of shortstop and had a wild 208 OPS+ in 22 games, hitting .393/.480/.714.
  • On the mound, Garrett Whitlock made his way into the rotation on a full-time basis, first taking over for the injured Pérez in June. In July, he led the way, pitching to a 1.97 ERA over five starts, helping to make up for a sliding Sale who pitched to a 5.51 ERA in the month.
  • In the draft, with the fourth overall pick the Red Sox selected Matt McLain, an infielder from UCLA. In real life, he’s currently considered a mid-first round selection.
  • The Red Sox surprisingly stayed pat at the deadline, which I think is the first time I’ve ever seen that in one of these season preview sims. They did lose Morrison for six weeks in early July, but he had been largely ineffective anyway and he’d be released before his injury time was even over. The big injury of the month was with Martinez, who was once again on the shelf for over a month, this time with a hip strain.

August

  • The Red Sox had another rough month right after standing pat at the deadline, presumably causing a ruckus in fake world fandom. They went 12-14 in August, bringing their overall record to 73-61. Any outrage was subdued, though, by the AL East continuing to be underwhelming. They still remained 2 12 games up on the Yankees through all of this.
  • Offensively, there really were no standouts for the Red Sox, though the lineup wasn’t why they scuffled. They had four players with signficant playing time with an OPS+ of at least 120, and three more who were above-average.
  • On the pitching side, Sale bounced back with another big month, posting a 2.40 ERA, but the rest of the staff suffered. Rodriguez and Whitlock had solidified their standing as the two and three starters in the rotation, but they both had ERA’s over 5.50 in August.
  • The Red Sox avoided any injuries on the major-league roster in the month of August. Their big move was calling up Noah Song for the month of September, just a month after he returned to action from his military assignment. He’d be slotted for a relief role.

September

  • The Red Sox finished off the season on a solid note, going 15-13 to put their overall record at 88-74. They had to sweat things out a bit at the end of the season with the Yankees getting to within one game and the season coming down to its final day, but the Red Sox won when they needed to, winning the division despite not even getting to 90 wins.
  • Rafael Devers caught fire over the final portion of the season, putting up a 149 OPS+ in September and hitting two homers in the final three games of the season in October. Thanks in large part to Bogaerts’s time on the IL, Devers was the team’s MVP by WAR, finishing with 7.0 WAR to Bogaerts’s 6.1.
  • On the mound, Sale was once again by far the staff’s best pitcher, pitching to a 3.27 ERA over six starts to help make up for Rodriguez and Whitlock scuffling once again. In the bullpen, meanwhile, Darwinzon Hernandez finally got a chance at a consistent role after bouncing between Boston and Worcester all year, and he didn’t allow a run in September.

Playoffs/Postseason

  • The Red Sox would face the Angels in the Divisional Series, but that’s where the run ended. Boston took the first game before dropping the next two, but then took Game Four to force a loser-goes-home Game Five. Sale got the start for the Red Sox, but he got lit up as the Angels scored eight in the second inning en route to a blowout win. Still, all in all, I think we’d take the Red Sox losing in the Divisional Round this year.
  • The Angels ended up going to the World Series, in fact. They met the Padres there and the two went to Game Seven. It was tied at one in the bottom of the ninth when old friend Daniel Bard gave up a two-out walk-off homer to Victor Caratini to win the World Series for San Diego.
  • For award season, Vázquez won a Gold Glove while Bogaerts won a Silver Slugger. Meanwhile, Downs finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, Devers finished third in MVP voting, and Bogaerts finished fifth.
  • The Rookies of the Year were Alex Kirilloff and Cristian Pache. The Cy Youngs were Lucas Giolito and Walker Buehler. The MVPs were Alex Bregman and Fernando Tatís Jr.

Here are the final MLB standings as well as total stats for the Red Sox.