We’re well into Spring Training now, and that means a couple things. First off, baseball season is almost here, which we can all agree is a great thing. But the second thing is that one of my personal favorite sports games, MLB: The Show, just released their latest iteration.
As an avid sports video game fan, I spend plenty of time with games like The Show and NBA 2k. Because I’m a nerd, the simulation aspect of these games appeals to me quite a bit. As such, I thought it would be interesting to see how the virtual Red Sox fared this year, both ratings-wise and across a simulated season. After some quality conversation on Twitter about the subject, I decided it would be a column worth writing.
A few notes: I used ZiPS projected starting lineup and pitching rotation and selected the bench and bullpen myself. For simplicity’s sake, the injuries to David Ortiz and Stephen Drew were not taken into account. For those of you unfamiliar with The Show, all ratings are scored between 1 and 99, with 99 being the best. If you’re wondering why I don’t mention prospects, it’s because they aren’t added to the game until they play in the major leagues, so unfortunately, that means no Xander Bogaerts just yet.
Also, don’t expect any particularly advanced analysis of how the players perform this season. The Show has a pretty strange definition of “advanced stats.”
Anyways, here we go.
ZiPS Projected Starting Lineup:
1 – Jacoby Ellsbury: 94 overall
The Show more or less nailed Jacoby Ellsbury this year. He’s a threat to run with a lofty 93 speed, and a solid fielder (89) with a lacking arm (57). He’s got solid contact (84 vs RHP, 76 vs LHP) and middling power (64 vs RHP, 42 vs LHP) that likely won’t quite reach his 32-bomb performance from 2011.
There’s one enormous “but” here though, and that’s this: he has 98 durability. 98! Out of 100! He played 74 games in 2012 and 18 in 2010. I don’t think I have to explain what’s wrong here.
2 – Dustin Pedroia: 98
Yeah, he’s Pedroia. He’s the second-best 2B in the game after Robinson Cano who landed one of a whopping 17 total 99 overall ratings this season. His ratings fall about where you’d expect, with one exception – his fielding came out to only an 87. For a guy who is probably the best fielding second baseman in the major leagues, it seems like he’s being sold short.
Maybe I’m just picking nits, though.
3 – David Ortiz: 91
Apparently, The Show doesn’t believe in Ortiz’s newfound dominance against lefties. His ratings still suffer dramatically against LHP (68 contact, 64 power) despite a .320/.377/.608 mark against them this past season. It’s been a general theme of The Show’s to decide on a player’s platoon splits and never, ever change them, so I shouldn’t really be surprised. But man, it’s still annoying.
A fun note: Ortiz has a speed rating of seven. Finding players slower than Papi is a good way to kill half an hour.
4 – Mike Napoli: 89
Virtual Mike Napoli is going to be a lot of fun. He can’t hit for contact worth anything (63 vs RHP, 54 vs LHP), but his power is absolutely insane (85 vs RHP, 93 vs LHP). He can’t field at first (65) or do really anything besides hit the ball really hard, but none of this is surprising about Napoli. Just go out there and slug; it’ll be a good time.
5 – Shane Victorino: 85
On the surface, it would look like the game is quite high on Victorino, but further analysis tells me it might not be that far off. His platoon splits are dramatic (50 contact, 39 power vs RHP; 79 contact, 58 power vs LHP), but he’s a great fielder (85 fielding, 87 arm) and baserunner (84 speed). He’s also got a higher durability rating than Pedroia (90 vs 86), because who knows why?
6 – Will Middlebrooks: 80
The one thing that drives me nuts is that The Show stubbornly refuses to give Will Middlebrooks an A potential rating. That B he’s been stuck with since his call-up is infuriating. It’s the same as Mauro Gomez!
Regardless, WMB will hit about what you’d expect, and the game did a good job capturing his current lack of plate discipline (54 vision, 31 discipline). I did think they were a little harsh on his defense at a 57, which is dramatically lower than Kevin Youkilis’ at third base. Youk has EIGHTY FREAKING FIVE in that category.
7 – Stephen Drew: 76
Drew won’t offer much offensively, with 68/51 contact and 46/47 power splits, and his defense is merely average at a 69. If I weren’t sticking to realistic lineups, Ciriaco would almost certainly be here instead.
8 – Jonny Gomes: 79
He has 82 contact and 69 power versus lefties, which is what he exists to do. So in other words, he’s pretty much perfect. Apparently he’s a better fielder in left than WMB is at third, though, because he has a fielding rating of 59. Huh.
9 – Jarrod Saltalamacchia: 82
Credit where credit is due, the game did a good job with Salty. He won’t hit for any semblance of contact (53/38), but his power is great (78/62) and his defense will get the job done (81 fielding, 83 arm). He also has a B potential, because apparently his ceiling is comparable to that of Will Middlebrooks.
David Ross: 79
The fielding is too low (57), but he’s a decent bat and not somebody you’d regret plugging into your lineup if Salty needed a day off.
Pedro Ciriaco: 80
As I mentioned above, Ciriaco is ridiculous this year. He has 79/73 contact splits and 75 speed. I like him as much as the next guy, but he’s simply not this good. Yeesh.
Daniel Nava: 65
I almost always nab Nava late in fantasy drafts simply because I like the guy, but his only semi-desirable asset this year is a 65 contact vs RHP and a 74 plate discipline. He’s just the best option as a reserve outfielder currently listed on the Sox roster.
Mauro Gomez: 60
Same. Potential. As. Will. Middlebrooks.
ZiPS Projected Pitching Rotation:
1 – Jon Lester: 89
The first thing you need to know is that Daniel Bard was the team’s top starting pitcher for the ENTIRETY of last season in The Show, so literally anything would be an improvement here.
Luckily, they did a decent job this season. While Lester is predictably a little bit worse than he’s been in the past, he still has 90 stamina and a 74 K/9 that will make him an asset. Also, his break rating is an 88, which will be super nice when I want to confuse the crap out of my friends with breaking pitches.
2 – Clay Buchholz: 85
The game likes Dempster just a little bit more than Buchholz this season, and while I disagree, it’s not all that worth arguing. Buchholz’s ratings are also pretty much spot-on, and his best attribute will be a 90 stamina that allows you to save your bullpen a bit. He may not simulate as the Sox best pitcher, but he’ll be helpful.
3 – Ryan Dempster: 87
He has a break rating of 92! Breaking pitches for days!
Dempster might very well be the most fun Sox pitcher to use this season, despite a 63 in velocity. He has 87 stamina, 71 K/9, and that crazy 92 break, which should lead to some solid perfomances.
4 – Felix Doubront: 82
The game actually penciled in Franklin Morales for this spot, and it inexplicably likes him just a little bit more with an 83 overall rating. Regardless, Felix leads the Sox with a 76 K/9 and he matched Dempster’s 92 break rating, which should lead to some fun at-bats, but his 77 stamina is predictably somewhat weak, and will limit his performance.
5 – John Lackey: 80
This is so, so generous.
Lackey has 88 stamina, 71 BB/9, 67 HR/9, and 87 break. He won’t be a fun pitcher to use, but by the numbers, he should be a decent performer. Certainly, much better than Real Lackey, at least.
CL – Joel Hanrahan: 95
To put it simply, Hanrahan is just absurd. He has 84 H/9, 90 K/9, 94 velocity, and 98 break. If you need a pitcher to confound your friends with, look no further.
SU – Koji Uehara: 88
My personal favorite bullpen addition for the Sox came out very well this year. His only real weakness is the long ball (44 HR/9), but his 90 control and 96 break will lead to some fun with that splitter of his.
Also, for whatever it’s worth, he’s an exceptional fielder by pitcher standards with a 65 rating in that category. For some reason, the Show believes every pitcher is a hack in the field, but Koji is apparently an exception.
SU – Junichi Tazawa: 84
The CPU had Craig Breslow in the second set-up spot, but I made the executive decision to hand it to Tazawa instead based off the sheer absurdity of his ratings. We’re talking 70 H/9, 70 K/9, 85 BB/9, 72 HR/9, 73 “clutch,” 77 control, 63 velocity, and 77 break. He doesn’t have any holes. Sign me up.
There were some tough cuts on the bullpen front – most notably Franklin Morales – but I ultimately settled on these four. Bailey’s ratings are equally as good as Tazawa’s, although 69 durability is naturally concerning. Bard is still a freak, with 86 velocity and 99 break. Breslow is a solid lefty specialist, and Aceves is the versatile long man we all love and hate.
Well, we didn’t make the playoffs. The Virtual Red Sox compiled an 88-74 season and finished in second place behind the 90-win Blue Jays in the AL East, but the AL West was simply too good, as the Rangers (107-55), Angels (96-66), and Athletics (91-71) all secured playoff berths.
David Ortiz led the team in batting average (.303) and hits (180), Mike Napoli went nuts (.285/.367/.536, 37 homers), and Ellsbury hit 26 homers and stole 30 bases. On the rough side, Jonny Gomes lost his battle with the Mendoza Line, hitting only .194, and made up for it by slugging only .308. Stephen Drew went .225/.312/.315 and Shane Victorino went .245/.302/.420.
The pitching was… weird. Clay Buchholz was (contrary to my previous statement) the team’s best pitcher, with a 3.66 ERA, 213.2 IP, and 14 wins. Felix Doubront led the team in strikeouts… with 126. Upon further examination, only Steven Strasburg broke the 200-strikeout mark, so I’m going to guess you won’t be getting altogether realistic pitching stats in most of your Franchises (although Derek Holland did pitch 11 complete games. Somehow.) The game hated Dempster this season, as he posted the highest ERA of the Sox staff – 5.59. The good news is only one bullpen pitcher had an ERA of higher than 4.00, and that was Aceves with 5.52. Hanrahan saved 57 freaking games.
So there you have it. This told me… well, nothing really, but it was fun. The Show is definitely geared toward offense this year, and it produces almost Steroid Era stats. While it might not lead to the most realistic of simulations, it should be a fun gameplay experience. At any rate, I’ll leave you guys with the end-of-season awards, for fun:
World Series: Texas (4) over Washington (2)
(Holy crap, this game isn’t realistic at all.)
Categories: Andrew Bailey Boston Red Sox Clay Buchholz Daniel Bard Daniel Nava David Ortiz Dustin Pedroia Felix Doubront Franklin Morales Jacoby Ellsbury Jon Lester Jose Iglesias Junichi Tazawa Kevin Youkilis Koji Uehara Mauro Gomez Mike Napoli MLB 13: The Show Ryan Dempster Stephen Drew Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogearts