So way, way back in this crazy-long series, I talked to you about Out of the Park Baseball. For those that don’t remember and don’t want to click through, OOTP is a long-running baseball simulation series. It’s got a full partnership with MLB, so you get all the players, all the teams, etc. (I mean, you can customize it, but you don’t have to.) While I set up a expanded league with no interleague play and no DH, I also decided recently that it might be interesting to see what the season would look like if I simulated it with the program. I know, some folks are doing this at The Athletic and at Baseball Reference, but this won’t be anything nearly as good and professional as those.
I set the ground rules that I’m the GM, not the manager. So lineups, rotation, etc. was set by computer Mike Shildt. This will be pretty important as you’ll see in a bit. I left myself only the roster moves in case of injury. Then I simulated through the end of May and took notes. Here’s what happened in this Earth-19 or whatever you wish to call it. Spoilers: it’s not pretty.
The Cards got off on the wrong foot right out of the gate, losing 7-0 to the Reds on Opening Day. It was bad early, as Jack Flaherty left in the fourth having given up six earned runs. The club mustered only two hits, one by Tyler O’Neill, one by Dexter Fowler. I can only imagine what OOTP-Twitter was like after that one.
This simulated squad picked up their first win in Game 3, avoiding an opening sweep. Paul Goldschmidt had four hits, including two doubles, and Dakota Hudson made it into the seventh while allowing just two earned runs. In the generated power rankings, the Cardinals ranked 21st.
Things got better after that for a while. They went into Milwaukee and swept the Brewers, then did the same to the Orioles in the home opener series. However, in the last game against Baltimore Harrison Bader tore his labrum, putting him on the IL for five weeks. With the minor league season not having started yet, I decided against promoting Dylan Carlson and instead brought up Justin Williams. The Cardinals were two games up and things were looking sunny. Austin Gomber outdueled Clayton Kershaw to start a series with the Dodgers (well, not really–Gomber gave up four runs in four innings, Kershaw four in six, but the Cards got the win) but then the clouds started rolling in.
The next day, Flaherty went one inning against LA before leaving with elbow inflammation, something that put him on the IL for six weeks. St. Louis won that game 12-1 (pasting Walker Buehler for five runs in 2.1 innings) mainly due to a 4-4 game from Paul DeJong, who cracked his second homer of the season in the third, but the damage was done. I went ahead and promoted Genesis Cabrera…..or so I thought.
Turns out, as I found out later when I went to demote him, I had just moved Cabrera to the 40-man roster (where he should have been anyway) instead of the active 26-man roster. So for the next few weeks, I unknowingly had the club running one man down. It’s like Mike Matheny was back at the helm. Whether that was all the reason or not, the wheels started to come off.
The Cards lost the next night against the Dodgers, snapping their nine game winning streak, then lost again the next day to split the series. Then they got swept by the Cubs (including a 16-0 beatdown when Gomber allowed six runs in 1.2 innings and saw Brad Miller–yes, Brad, not Andrew–give up three runs in the seventh) and, in the last game of that series, lost Adam Wainwright to a torn meniscus, meaning he’d be out for four months. Pitchers were dropping left and right! I promoted Daniel Ponce de Leon to cover Waino’s spot. At this time the power rankings had them 15th, but then they went and got swept by the Dodgers out in LA.
They finally got a win to break the eight game losing skis at Colorado as O’Neill got four hits and drove in three and Kolten Wong had three hits, including a home run. After that, Andrew Miller and Miles Mikolas were ready to be activated, so I did so and demoted Gomber (and found out about my error with Cabrera). Brett Cecil also came off the IL and I decided to give him a last shot before casting him off into the free agent pool.
One of the fun things about OOTP is occasionally you get messages from the players. On April 19, as the Cards wind up taking two of three from the Rockies, I got one from Brad Miller. Mr. Miller was upset with his playing time and doesn’t think he’s a role player. Which, man, I don’t know what you thought you were signing up for. If you thought you were going to be more than a bench bat, you gotta get a better line of communication with your agent.
Oh, and Marcell Ozuna was player of the week around this time. Just for what it’s worth.
On April 24, I got my first trade proposal. Toronto wanted to send Derek Fisher to the Cardinals. OK, I don’t know that it makes a big splash here, but who do they want? Oh, only John Brebbia and Dylan Carlson. I’ll pass.
At the end of April, the Cardinals sit four games under .500 (14-18) and in last place, though just 3 1/2 out of first. Wong led the team in batting average at .318, DeJong and O’Neill both had five homers, and O’Neill had 24 RBI. Carlos Martinez had a 3.05 ERA, three wins, and 39 strikeouts. The rotation, at least at that time, was Martinez, Mikolas, Hudson, Kwang-Hyun Kim, and Alex Reyes, who was sporting a 1.82 ERA and maybe starting to be that pitcher we thought he would be. Even more surprising? In his first six innings, Brett Cecil had a 1.50 ERA and six strikeouts.
Also, apparently Shildt called up Tony La Russa, because he was batting the pitcher eighth and Molina ninth.
On the farm, Carlson was slashing .237/.341/.434 with four homers in Memphis. Not the overall game you’d hope to see at this time, but it’s something. Overall, the Cards were sitting 22nd in the power rankings.
May started off well as they took two of three from Milwaukee. Unfortunately, they followed that up by getting swept by the Padres in St. Louis. One step forward, two steps back. They took a series from the Mets (and put six runs up on Jacob deGrom), but Cecil tweaked something and was day-to-day. He’d dropped his ERA to 1.00 in nine innings so, remarkably, you could say you hoped he wouldn’t be out long. Really, crazy stuff here.
Also around that time, Nolan Gorman was named the Texas League Player of the Week because he hit .344 with five homers and 10 RBI over that span. That’s great! He must be tearing up the league…..oh, for the season (counting that week) it’s .212 with eight homers. Maybe not so much.
The Cards stay at 22nd in the power rankings.
Harrison Bader returned after that series with the Mets, so I sent out Austin Dean who had made the roster out of spring training but hadn’t done much with the job. The next day, I get a note that Flaherty had a setback and it’s unclear when he’d return. The season just keeps getting better!
After taking two of three from Pittsburgh, I get another trade offer. This time it’s from the Mets, who must have been impressed enough with the pitchers they did see that they thought they’d ask about one they didn’t, offering Yoenis Cespedes (currently sitting in their minors) and minor league shortstop Shervyan Newton for Dakota Hudson. That didn’t really inspire me much either, especially looking at the numbers, so we rejected that as well.
Down on the farm, Luken Baker had a five hit game for Palm Beach on May 15. For the season, he’s hitting .315 with five homers and probably needs to head up to Springfield.
Three days later, Wieters had a “dislocated finger” and is day-to-day. No word on where Molina was when Wieters was injured. St. Louis slips another spot to 23rd in the power rankings.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. On May 22, Molina gets his 2000th hit against the Diamondbacks at Busch Stadium. I think the ovation is still going on.
Most of May really isn’t too bad for the Cards. They took four of five series in the middle part of the month and the one they didn’t was a four-gamer they split. On May 23rd, while the Cards are winning two of three from Arizona, I get a trade offer from Kansas City, wanting to send second baseman Jose Marquez for Kodi Whitley. I didn’t take this one either, but at least it was at least in the ballpark of possibility.
After expecting Flaherty to be gone for a while, on May 25 he’s ready to return. I put John Gant, who had a 6+ ERA, on waivers, but that didn’t clear room as quickly as I’d like so I demoted Ryan Helsley, who was also scuffling.
Player of the week? Marcell Ozuna again. Apparently Atlanta really suits him. The Cards are up to 18th on the power rankings and are looking to climb. Unfortunately, they drop both series against the Braves and Pirates to end the month at 27-33, seven games behind the division leading….Reds? Really? They are also 1.5 games behind the Brewers for fourth.
If you are wondering how the hitting and pitching stats look, here you go. At the end of June, we’ll run the next month and see if there is some Cardinal Devil Magic to be had.