Instead of a conventional review, I decided to write a narrative of my experience. I feel like it will highlight why this is an amazing management game for those new to the series.
The season was over half over, and I was sitting at .500, 9 games out of first. My team should be better!
I begin a quest to find out what the problem is. If you are not familiar with baseball statistics, I suggest you keep this glossary handy.
Baseball is really trying to understand and manage statistical probability. That is why they play 162 games in the MLB. My team could just be unlucky, but I think it is something else.
I start by examining my pitching.
I could live with a bullpen ERA of 3.93 if only my starters were performing better. It is hard to win consistently with only a run differential of +16 on the season.
So I take a closer look at my pitchers. My starting five should not be this bad. I start by looking at the worst starter statistically. Charlie Morton has a 6.41 ERA with nearly 100 innings pitched.
Charlie is 33 years old, and has a career ERA of 4.72. He is getting up there in age, but looking at previous seasons, pitchers do not typically fall off a cliff this fast. However, he did suffer an injury and miss most of last year, so that could be a contributing factor.
Morton gives up way to many hits. Either he is unlucky, or there is a problem. I file this information away for later.
Next I take a look at my second highest ERA, Mike Fiers, 5.53. His strikeout numbers are a little down, but the rest of his numbers are fairly good, so I’m not too worried about him. With a BABIP of .281, the rest of his numbers should come down eventually. I hope.
Then I move on to my top two starters. My number two, Collin McHugh leads the crew in ERA at 3.79 and my Ace, Dallas Keuchel is not far behind with 4.02. Both still are fairly high.
I do have a few youngsters from AAA that I could call up. Their numbers are great but if I jump the gun on them, it could hurt their potential development.
While looking at Keuchel, I notice that he also allows way too many hits, but the rest of his numbers don’t look too bad.
This is when I notice that he has an extreme ground ball tendency. Of course! Keuchel is a sinker ball pitcher! Care to guess who my only other sinkerballer is? That is right, Morton.
Things are starting to take shape.
Sorting my starters by FIP, (Fielder Independent Pitching) I see that Keuchel is my best pitcher and Morton is sitting right next to McHugh.
It is possible that my pitchers just got off to a bad start. BABIP can be tied to luck, and often normalizes over a season.
However, perhaps pitching is not my problem. Defense can go a long way in aiding or hindering a pitcher’s statistics.
I see that Bregman has the most errors on my team. Actually, he leads the league in errors. His fielding percentage being better would certainly help my team out, but I don’t think this is the problem.
My SS and 2B see a lot of ground balls, and their combined Zone Rating(ZR) is 2.1. That’s fairly good. Bregman has a ZR of -.4, but my first baseman is in the sewer with -5.1.
Zone Rating isn’t everything. Though, when combined with Bregman’s errors, it certainly isn’t helping my pitchers.
Perhaps my infield is not generating enough offense to make up for their poor defense. My 1B, Gurriel, is putting up very good offensive numbers. More than enough to overcome a poor defense. Gurriel is aging, and my prospects in the farm system don’t look very good.
A potential long term option could be teaching another prospect to play first base, if I have more depth in the farm system at another position. I’ll need to do something about that, but not now.
Bregman is struggling offensively. He is only 23, but with the ratings given by my scout, he should be at the major league level. Bregman does hit much better versus lefties.
I think I will look for an old, left handed, third baseman. Then I could platoon Bregman versus lefties and keep the old guy around for this season until Bregman develops more.
I will have to be careful though. I don’t have much room on the budget for next year and need to leave some room.
There are some contracts I want to extend and probably some free agents I’ll want to pickup in the off-season.
I searched for several guys that could fit the spot, but I would have to give up too much. Nobody seemed interested in prospects. I cannot gut my pitching staff for a platoon 3B.
If the season continues and it appears I may not make the playoffs, I may just try something desperate. I could probably get one of the trades to work by giving up a SP, and bringing up someone from AAA that may or may not be ready.
It is a risky idea, but may be necessary. Hopefully, losing teams will be looking to offload talent for prospects close to the trade deadline.
For now, it seems I must play the wait and see game. I’ve still got quite a lot of work to do, but this is where the narrative must end.
Out of the Park Baseball 18 simulates everything. Each player has ratings assigned based on his real life history. As time progresses, new rookies are assigned random ratings and players develop based on their potential.
By default, you do not know what these ratings are. You can see what your scout thinks of a player. You can see past statistics. Other than that, you don’t really know if the world is over-estimating a player’s potential or not.
So, as a manager, you set up your lineups, and then hit play.
It is possible to manage every game yourself. You get various options with each batter, then the game simulates in front of you.
The game has a 3D model and text to play out the result of the simulation.
Results are determined by player ratings. For example, a batter with a good eye is better able to discern the pitch type and location.
That type of player is more likely to hold off swinging at balls and will get more walks.
This also means the batter will see more favorable counts and be able to sit on a fastball to drive out of the park.
Managing every game is fun, but the real strength of OOTP is long term play. You can choose to simulate any number of games. The game can also be set to auto-pause under certain circumstances. Such as when a player is injured and out for over X days.
Every pitch of every at-bat is still simulated (see above), but you get through a season a lot faster. As General Manager, this is where some of the best features remain.
Scouting, drafting rookies, and managing player contracts are just a few of the fun things available.
Out of the Park Baseball 18 does not have traditional online play as you may be used to (unless you are used to this series).
Online play works in much the same way as described above. The difference is, as a GM, you export your changes to a server. The commissioner then downloads those files to his computer and advances the simulation a set number of days, typically 7. Then the commish exports back to the server.
Now, each GM downloads the results, makes changes, and exports back to the server.
Most leagues have a strict schedule. For example, the commissioner advances 7 days every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This lets each GM know when he needs to export to the server and when he can download a new copy of the league and make changes.
It is a little unconventional, but it works out very nicely. OOTP is developed by a small company to a relatively small audience. They don’t have the money to fund servers for everyone.
I’ve played OOTP for many years, and been in several online leagues. The game is great by itself, but best when you are managing against a group of other humans.
I played in leagues with just my brothers before and the rest of the teams were AI. Even that was amazing. You don’t need to play with a bunch of strangers if you don’t want to, but it is great fun.
If you cannot setup a league yourself, fear not! For a small monthly fee, there are people that set this up for you. I’ve used All Sim Baseball in the past and was very happy.
I should also mention that should you be so lucky as to live with another management fan, you can play this game locally, signing into different profiles in-game.
As long as you want to play baseball, you can do anything you desire. You can play in any number of leagues.
You can play in a purely fictional league with fictional players. You can relocate teams, change uniforms, logos, or ballparks.
You can play as only a GM, only as a manager or play as both.
My personal favorite is Historical. You can do a true historical recreation or one with some more random where Babe Ruth can enter the rookie draft in 1970 with Barry Bonds. You can turn off all ratings and rely only on stats. Or you can turn off scouting and have perfectly accurate ratings with zero guesswork.
The league norms can also be altered. You can go back to 4 man rotations, turn off injuries, reduce usage of closers or alter the number of home runs per year and pretend to be in the dead ball era.
You can truly create any type of league you desire.
The multiplayer portion of Out of the Park Baseball 18 does take a little extra work. It feels out of date that a commissioner needs to set up a server to play online.
However, it does not really get in the way of the game. The game is really at its best when playing in an online league. Even if you only play solo, Out of the Park Baseball 18 is management at its finest.
Baseball is a sport that always has you guessing. Is my player really bad or just unlucky? Is he getting old? Is it just a bad year? Should I bench him or let him play through? Did a prior injury effect his true ability?
Most of the time, statistics normalize by the end of the season, but you don’t really know what the end result will be. This results in a lot of second guessing as you try and break down the problem.
With so many different places to second guess yourself, it is tough to know the right answer. This is the defining element that makes a great management game.
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