By: Jay Blue
Blue Jays From Away
On the eve of the 2017 regular season starting for the Toronto Blue Jays, we’re all giddy in anticipation of the coming “real” (as opposed to “fake”) baseball action. I took a look at how the Jays might do, as simulated by my favourite baseball management simulation game, Out of the Park Baseball. This year’s edition, OOTP 18, came out last week and we’ve been simulating through a season with the Toronto Blue Jays and, I’m afraid to say, the results were not particularly hopeful.
I started with the game’s Opening Day rosters. Now, of course, these aren’t the actual Opening Day rosters and the makers of OOTP 18 are going to do an update shortly after the season begins with the finalized Opening Day rosters. This meant that Devon Travis, who was not expected to be healthy enough to start the season with the club, started on the DL. Aside from that, and maybe a couple of pitching things (including the presence of Mike Bolsinger on the 25-man roster), I didn’t change anything.
Rowdy Tellez apparently made the 25-man roster but he got injured quickly and spent the rest of the year in the minors until rosters expanded. I even kept the minor league system as originally set up. When playing the Blue Jays in other games, I’ve spent far too many hours getting the MiL club right, even editing some players to reflect their real talent. Basically, I just went with the game as it was “out of the box.”
The simulated Blue Jays went 11-14 in April so it wasn’t exactly a good start to the season, landing us in fourth place in the division being the Yankees who led with a 13-10 record. Highlights were Troy Tulowitzki’s five-hit game, and a cycle for Lourdes Gurriel in Buffalo. The injury bug bit early with a lot of day-to-day injuries. Saltalamacchia and Russell Martin both had nagging injuries while Donaldson twisted his ankle.
Aaron Sanchez, Darwin Barney, Justin Smoak and Rowdy Tellez all had minor injuries with Tellez going on the DL. J.P. Howell was hurt worse, getting some inflammation in his elbow and missing 2-3 months. Benefiting from the injuries at the major league level were Ryan Tepera, Raffy Lopez and Dalton Pompey who got calls up to the majors.
May was our worst month as we went 11-17 and dropped to last in the AL East, 7 1/2 games back of the Red Sox who were 29-23 to our 22-31. The injuries kept coming with Jose Bautista going on the DL for a couple of weeks, Kevin Pillar missing 2-3 months with a bone bruise on his knee, Donaldson being day-to-day for six days, Steve Pearce being hurt for a few weeks and Russell Martin having another minor injury.
The big blow was that Aaron Sanchez was diagnosed with rotator cuff inflammation and missed 2-3 months. What did that mean? It gave Harold Ramirez a few games in the majors, Ezequiel Carrera, who started in the minors, came up for Pillar and Mat Latos came up for Sanchez. We place Jarrod Saltalamacchia on waivers when Raffy Lopez was hitting much better as a backup (eventually releasing Salty) and, to make room for Devon Travis’s return from the DL, Ryan Goins was DFA’ed. Another piece of bad news was that Sean Reid-Foley needed Tommy John surgery in May, so that kind of sucked.
The big news in May was that we were tired of Melvin Upton’s lacklustre hitting and traded him for Matt Adams, who would, hopefully, replace Justin Smoak’s poor hitting at first.
On the bright side, Josh Donaldson earned a Player of the Week award in May.
In June, we turned things around a bit, going 14-12 but we were still in last place in the division 11 games behind the Red Sox. June was also the draft month and we drafted Nick Pratto, a high school first baseman, and Jake Latz, a college pitcher with our two first round picks (thanks to Edwin’s departure).
**Here’s a little “game review”: I found that the draft pool was very deep on position players but very shallow for pitchers. I’m hoping this isn’t a perennial thing for the game because, if it is, it’s going to lead to leagues that are very hitting dominated when simulations get 10 years or so into the future.**
Another side note: Edwin didn’t have a great season, hitting .235/.333/.454 with a 107 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR with 35 home runs and 104 RBI with the Indians.
The good news: Marcus Stroman won the Pitcher of the Month award for the AL in June while Richard Urena had a Player of the Week. Juan Kelly was the MVP of the Florida State League All-Star Game.
In June, Ryan Tepera wasn’t getting it done so we brought up Glenn Sparkman from Buffalo (while the game does model the Rule 5 draft fairly well, it seems like it doesn’t recognize the Rule 5 picks in the opening rosters). When Howell returned from injury at the end of the month, Sparkman went back to Buffalo.
July was the club’s best month, as we had a 16-11 record and were now just 9 1/2 games back of Boston and had moved our record to 52-54. Josh Donaldson was voted into the All-Star Game and was our only representative. The bad news was our hitting. At the All-Star Break, we were dead last in the AL in batting average, 14th in OBP and 11th in SLG, ranking 11th in runs scored. On the pitching side, we were 10th in ERA but 3rd in starters’ ERA and 14th in bullpen ERA.
In early July, Francisco Liriano tore his UCL and was done for the year. Danny Barnes came up and Darrell Ceciliani took the place of Steve Pearce who went on the 10-day DL with a shoulder strain.
In July, a couple of our draft picks had big months. Billy Cooke earned the Player of the Week award for a big week in the GCL which earned the outfielder a promotion to the Northwest League. Another draftee, Roderick Bynum won the Northwest League Player of the Month Award for July. Richard Urena also had a Player of the Week award for New Hampshire, earning him a promotion to Buffalo.
Things continued to go well in August despite two of our five starters being out with injury. We went 15-13 but things weren’t going any better in the standings for us. Notable injuries were to Aaron Sanchez, who was still in Buffalo on rehab, had a mild calf strain. Joe Smith was day to day for a few days due to forearm soreness but was injured worse, day-to-day for four weeks, at the end of the month. Justin Smoak and Jose Bautista also had mild day-to-day injuries.
Kevin Pillar and Steve Pearce returned from injuries in August but Pillar was injured again at the end of the month, bringing Dalton Pompey back. The Joe Smith injury brought Ryan Tepera back to Toronto.
Ryan McBroom went on a huge run in August, putting up a 29-game hit streak, and winning an Eastern League Player of the Week award. Billy Cooke took the Northwest League’s Player of the Month while Josh Donaldson had his second Player of the Week Award in August.
In September we were in “play-the-kids” mode, literally just playing out the string. We went 13-15 the rest of the way, finishing at 80-82, despite a decent chase to finish at .500. When rosters expanded, Rowdy Tellez, Blake McFarland, Matt Dermody, Glenn Sparkman, Casey Lawrence and Lourdes Gurriel were promoted. Aaron Sanchez had another injury, finishing his year for him.
Rowdy finished his minor league season with a Player of the Week award in Buffalo and Devon Travis won an AL Player of the Week award for the Blue Jays.
You can see the final lines above but I’ll point out the ones that really stood out:
Kendrys – Morales hit only .243/.296/.426 with 22 home runs and 72 RBI for a 0.0 WAR
Tulo – Tulo hit just .235/.300/.438 but contributed 33 home runs for a 3.2 WAR
JD – Donaldson was out star again with 7.9 WAR and a .290/.380/.546 line, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 104.
Jose – Bautista returned to form, despite hitting just .226. He had a .362 OBP and 528 slugging, leading the club with 47 home runs (second in the AL behind Chris Davis).
Russell – Martin didn’t hit much, hitting .218/.333/.382 with 16 home runs.
Pearce – was a big disappointment, contributing -.18 WAR with a .192/.274/.361 slash line.
Pillar – He only played 57 games and had a .243/.275/.341 slash line.
Devo – Travis had a good, solid year, contributing 3.4 WAR with a .281/.324/.484 slash line, hitting 23 home runs in just 119 games.
Lourdes – Gurriel made the most of his big league time, hitting .320/.355/.450 in 24 games.
Melvin – Upton didn’t get a hit in 16 at-bats, getting himself traded.
Matt Adams – was also a disappointment, hitting .227/.270/.406 with 11 home runs.
Smoak – Smoak wasn’t horrible, particularly after reclaiming the starting 1B job from Adams, hitting .234/.326/.449 with 18 home runs.
Sanchez – Sanchez was excellent when healthy with a 3.57 ERA and 1.16 WHIP
Stroman – StroShow went 16-8 with a 3.70 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, posting a 3.3 WAR in 33 starts
Estrada – Marco was 13-12 with a 3.96 ERA and 1.10 WHIP
Happ – J.A. didn’t follow up his 20-win season by even making double digits. He was 9-11 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.30 WHIP
Liriano – He made 17 starts before hitting the shelf and had a 4.29 ERA and 1.55 WHIP
Casey Lawrence was a nice surprise, posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 29 2/3 innings
Osuna – Roberto had 33 saves with a 4.05 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, striking out 84 in 66 2/3 innings
Grilli wasn’t nearly as effective, posting a 4.64 ERA and 1.24 WHIP
Biagini had a sophomore slump with an ERA near 5.00
Joe Smith wasn’t good with a 5.29 ERA but J.P. Howell had a 3.20 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, making him the most effective reliever overall
Danny Barnes had a 2.49 ERA in 25 1/3 innings, striking out 37
What do you think? Are the Blue Jays doomed to follow through with the OOTP18 prediction?