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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Out of the Park Baseball 11: Royals Win!

The kind people at OOTP Development passed along the most recent version of the baseball simulator, Out of the Park Baseball 11.  Although I'm by no means an experienced gamer, OOTP has piqued my curiosity on several occasions over the years and their product continues to get better and better, mainly by taking into account a range of variables which actually resembles the game of baseball.  For instance, OOTP simulates not only the major-league season, but a complete minor-league season as well, including a draft.  You can track the progress of Pedro Alvarez, Desmond Jennings, and Stephen Strasburg, or (in manager mode) you can eviscerate your farm system via a deadline deal in an effort to make a run at the pennant.  It tracks a wide variety of situational statistics and advanced metrics, not just the "baseball card" numbers.  Another OOTP's advantage is its late release date (mid-April), which means it comes with actual Opening Day rosters already in place.  Jim Edmonds is on the Brewers, Nate Robertson's on the Marlins, and Elijah Dukes is in the free agent pool.

You can entertain yourself with the OOTP software in many ways, including taking over a franchise and attempting to build it into a dynasty on a game-by-game basis; however, I focused on OOTP's aptitude for predicting performances in the 2010 season.  In a matter of three clicks, you can simulate the entire season. I performed this three-click sequence 25 times.  In the coming days I'll take a look at results at the outcomes for player awards, league leaders, and some blue-chip rookies, but today I'll give you the OOTP answer to the most interesting question: Who will win the 2010 World Series?

Nobody will be surprised to find that, according to OOTP, there are only three contenders in the AL East, with the Yankees being the clear favorites (56%).  The Rays fared next best (28%).  Both the Yankees and Rays made the playoffs more often than they didn't, once you factored in Wild Card appearances, with the Yankees playing October baseball 88% of the time and the Rays making the postseason 64% of the time.

The division winner in the East averaged 102 wins, with the Yankees winning as many as 111 games in one iteration.

The Twins are heavily favored (60%) in the AL Central, despite the absence of Joe Nathan.  Somewhat surprisingly the Indians fared rather well, taking the division 20% of the time, while the Chicago White Sox, considered a legitimate contender by most pundits (myself included), failed in each of their 25 attempts to reach October.

87 was the average total for division winners in the central, with only one season resulting in a 100-win club (Twins).  20% of the time the division winner had a record under .500, including one season when the Twins reached October with a mere 77 wins.

In what many expect to be the tightest division in baseball, the Mariners dominated OOTP competition, taking the AL West 64% of the time.  The Angels continue their trend of bad simulation showings, winning the division just once in 25 tries, and in that season it required a Joe Saunders win over the Rangers in Game 163 just to get them to 82 victories.

Generally, however, it took at least 92 wins to capture the western division, with both the Mariners and Rangers eclipsing the 100-win plateau on one occasion.

The dominance of the AL East franchises was on display once again as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays took the Wild Card 88% of the time, with only the Rangers able to sneak past them on rare occasions.  The Wild Card was harder to win than either of the other AL divisions, as it took an average of 94 wins to advance.

The Phillies are favored in the NL East, but only by a hair over the Braves.  Both teams made the playoffs upwards of 50% of the time, including their Wild Card appearances.  Surprisingly, neither the Mets nor the Marlins made a single run at the division, but the Nationals squeaked through on two occasions, buoyed by an Adam Dunn MVP campaign, a Cristian Guzman batting title, and a pair of Ian Desmond Rookie of the Year awards.

The Phillies won 100+ twice, but it generally took about 93 wins to top the NL East.

The Cardinals would appear to have the easiest path to the postseason, as they took home the NL Central crown 76% of the time.  Some surprisingly, it was the Astros, and not the Cubs, Brewers, or Reds that represented the biggest threat.  The division title generally took 94 wins, an average aided by three 100-win seasons, all by the Cardinals, including a 113-win campaign, which was the best tally of any team in the 25 seasons I simulated.

The NL West was the only division that saw five different winners, though the Rockies are clear favorites, winning as many as 100 games on three occasions.  The average division winner tallied 93 victories.

Unlike in the AL, where only four teams shared Wild Card hopes, the NL had nine different franchises advance in that fashion.

All told here is the playoff likelihood for each franchise, based on my OOTP simulations:

Yankees 88%
Cardinals 80%
Rockies 68%
Phillies 64%
Mariners 64%
Rays 64%
Twins 60%
Braves 56%
Red Sox 36%
Dodgers 32%
Rangers 28%
Reds 24%
Giants 24%
Indians 20%
Astros 16%
Athletics 16%
Royals 12%
Padres 12%
Nationals 12%
Diamondbacks 8%
Tigers 8%
Angels 4%
Brewers 4%

(Goose Eggs)
White Sox
Blue Jays

The OOTP simulator backs up the ambitions of young darkhorse teams like the Reds, Rangers, and Athletics.  However, fans of the Mets, Cubs, White Sox, Tigers, Angels, and Marlins, all considered borderline contenders this preseason, should be very scared by these results.

We all know that the playoffs can be a bit of a crapshoot, but in OOTP, the cream seemed to consistently rise to the top.  While darkhorse teams frequently made the postseason, they rarely advanced, so that the AL and NL pennant-winning tallies looked like this:

Yankees 32%
Rays 24%
Mariners 20%
Twins 8%
Red Sox 4%
Royals 4%
Athletics 4%
Rangers 4%

Phillies 36%
Braves 20%
Rockies 12%
Cardinals 12%
Reds 8%
Astros 4%
Giants 4%
Nationals 4%

The East is strongly favored on both sides, as the Phillies and Braves represented the senior circuit 56% of the time, while it was equally likely to see either the Yankees or Rays coming out of the AL.  In the National League, it seems next to impossible that somebody other than the Phillies, Braves, Rockies, and Cardinals will pick up the pennant.  This shouldn't be too surprising, considering one of those four teams has represented the senior circuit in each of the past four seasons.

Championship likelihoods looks like this:

Yankees 20%
Phillies 20%
Cardinals 12%
Rays 12%
Braves 8%
Rockies 8%
Mariners 8%
Red Sox 4%
Royals 4%
Rangers 4%

A rematch of last year's World Series is highly likely, with the outcome seriously in doubt.

The one major outlier here was the Kansas City Royals, who were able to squeak into the postseason as the NL Central champion on three occasions and once road their Ace all the way to the World Series.  Here's what needs to happen, according to OOTP, for the Royals to be the 2010 Champs.

First, and most obviously, Zack Greinke needs to repeat his '09 dominance, or something like it.  On their way to the postseason, he won his second Cy Young, netting 21 victories with a 3.12 ERA and, most impressively, eight complete games.  Gil Meche (14-7, 3.95 ERA) and Brian Bannister (12-11, 4.38 ERA) followed him with solid campaigns.

On offense, Billy Butler and Alberto Callaspo led the way.  Callaspo won a batting title with his .332 average and also chipped in 11 HR and 90 RBI.  Butler led the league in doubles (51) and raked at a .305 clip with 23 HR and 118 RBI.  Behind them Alex Gordon (.234, 24 HR, 85 RBI) and Rick Ankiel (.294, 22 HR, 81 RBI) also turned in very strong seasons.

Even so, the Royals only made the postseason by two games (with only 84 wins).  Greinke proceeded to win a pair of games in the ALDS against the Rays and two more against the surprising Athletics, who knocked off the Red Sox on their way to the ALCS.  He then won three in a seven-game World Series against...the Astros?

Yes, the Royals benefitted not only from a Gibson-esque performance from Greinke, but a relatively weak path, as this iteration also marked the sold appearance of the Astros in the World Series and one of only two appearances by the Athletics in the ALCS.

I guess anything is possible.

Next I'll look at OOTP's predictions for awards season...

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