UPDATE: I’ve determined I should be able to broadcast a computer simulated game featuring the MASNCommenter Nats vs. The Mets in an “Opening Day” Tilt. I will post the link here and on twitter. Should be a 1:05 start.
I am new to the world of Playstation, but I got one around Thanksgiving and I do enjoy it. As a baseball and video game fan, I’ve been anxiously waiting for MLB The Show to debut its 2015 edition, which did indeed “drop” on Tuesday. I’ve never played this game before and, frankly, I’m terrible at it.
Like with most baseball games you can play whole seasons at a time, or even set yourself up as the GM of a franchise and build your team from the ground up. I was iffy on whether I wanted to start that particular campaign last night, but a thought occurred to me:
There is a whole cottage industry of video game simulations being used to demonstrate theoretical concepts in sports. Breaking Madden being king amongst them. Routinely, as a blogger and a baseball fan, folks ask me “well, what about…” or “what if…”.
Some ideas are crazier than others, and there is perhaps no greater repository of don’t-know-it-all Nats thoughts than those archived by @MASNCommenter. We profiled MC last year, who faithfully copies the comments section of fans on the MASN Facebook page, generally the crazy/insane/overly emotional/poorly spelled ones. James O’Hara wrote a piece theorizing what a Nats team might be like if we made many of the trades proposed in tweets.
So here I am: Holding back the real bullpen and bench preview posts until the dust settles a bit more, a week away from baseball starting, I have this video game I am terrible at…why not turn to the experts for help?
So, yes. I created the 2015 season for the Washington Nationals in MLB the Show 15. I then proceeded to put together the most MASNCommenter 25-man roster I could. My plan is to then simulate the whole season (I won’t be playing the games, just telling the computer to play itself) and see how the Nats do.
What Kind of Roster Does MASNCommenter Like?
When I solicited help from twitter, I got one answer over and over. MASNCommenter would clone 25 Steve Lombardozzis and field them all. Sadly, the game won’t let me do that.
To be sure, there is no one correct “MASNCommenter” team. For every person who wants to make “Strasburg the closer” there are two more who want to just “Trade him for Prospects.” So, simply combing the tweets for examples of what to do wouldn’t really be fruitful.
Instead, I had to ask myself something more along the lines of “what is the Platonic Ideal of a MASNCommenter Nats team?” What captures the spirt of what irks MASNCommenter about current Nats players? What do they look for in players we don’t have?
I think its fair to say that MASNCommenter has an affinity for the gritty player. The work-a-day, punch the clock, regular joe ballplayer. A guy that may be short on talent but big on heart. You can tell most of these players are good because they come through in clutch moments, or at least in moments that fans remember from that one time they saw them in spring training. Players that MC likes have a remarkable ability to make the most out of one or two moments out of a sea of bad play. They also have tons of personality, a good nickname, or a clever gimmick.
MASNCommenter is not a fan of players that don’t reach their potential. These players have lots of talent and everything handed to them and, sure, their stats are good, but they aren’t winners. They tend to be head cases, or worse, they don’t play the game the right way. This ruins clubhouse chemistry, affects the team, and can make even talented clubs lose in the playoffs. If only these jerks were off the team, they would win it all.
Constructing The Roster
Looking at the Nationals roster, I needed to do some tweaking. I set the game up so it would let me make whatever trades I wanted to make. Trying to get all the players I wanted, despite how easy MC makes it sound, is much tougher than it looks. I could have made some better attempts at getting “prospects” but since the 2015 team is playing for this year, and I wasn’t trying to build a franchise for the future, this seemed like a forgivable offense. Our test is just how good MC’s team can be this year.
Below, I’ve organized the roster by position, including notes as to how they were acquired. For what its worth, I sent this along to the real MASNCommenter tweeter, who approved of my choices.
Jordan Zimmermann: He’s the ace of this staff now, and is rightfully at the top of the list. He’s finally getting the credit he is due. No more slaps in the face for old JZ, now let’s just sign him to a contract!
Tanner Roark: Do I even have to explain? Of course, I did better than just start Roark and have Max sit the bench, I traded Max for…
Madison Bumgarner: I traded for this proven winner, just like the Commenter wanted. And I even managed to save a little on the deal.
Doug Fister: I don’t think MASNCommenter has a problem with Doug Fister anymore. Plus, as you’ll see below, I fixed their one problem with him.
Taylor Jordan: MC likes it when guys get chances. I assume they are the same people who suggest “taking a flier” in a draft cuz why not. Sports legends are built on fliers, and chances, and plucky little bastards that could when everyone else said they couldn’t. We need to stop trying to be like the Yankees and develop some of our own guys. Plus, he has the name Jordan so he is probably good.
C- Kurt Suzuki: Look, I know you wanted me to trade Ramos and Zim for Posey and starters. But I want you to know, I convinced the Nats to get over their ego and admit they should have resigned Suzuki. In fact, we traded Wilson Ramos and Sandy Leon for Kurt Suzuki, that’s how good Kurt Suzuki is.
1B Adam LaRoche: You’re darn right we got the Duck Commander back. Trading LaRoche was a total mistake. He likes country music and hits the ball hard and we heard he is good at Defense. Plus I traded some guy named Stewart for him that no one cares about.
1B Michael Morse: This team has not been right since 2012 when we got rid of our best clubhouse DJ. What’s more important, is that to get Morse back all we had to was trade the most overpaid, oldest bum on the team. Sure, you might have thought that Jayson Werth was cool, but let’s be honest. His contract was way too big anyway, and you need Morse anyway. Anyway. Morse will platoon with LaRoche, and sometimes in OF.
2B Asdrubal Cabrera: Great nickname, filled in at a crucial time last year: Why get rid of him? He played great and sometimes he can play SS if need be. Which is good, cuz I have to talk to you about something.
SS Anthony Rendon: First off, don’t panic. I know what you’re saying. Where is Desmond? Well, he wasn’t playing for the love of the team so I traded him for AssCab. Look, we need players that are ready to play the right way, and a lot of players could learn a lot from just watching Rendon and how he plays. I’ve moved him to SS because…
3B Steve Lombardozzi: I traded to get the messiah back. Lombo, Lambardozzi You ready for this? Escobar and Espinosa for Lombo and Jose Tabata. Crushed it. Absolutely destroyed that trade. Third Base is no longer the hot corner, it’s the sandbox cuz of all the grit.
First, you gotta know something. I cut Bryce Harper and Denard Span outright. Harper is overrated, obviously, doesn’t play the right way, opens his mouth too much, is disrespectful, doesn’t play the right way, is a head case, and doesn’t play the right way. Look it up, I’ll wait.
Span was cut because the computer kept putting him ahead of all the new outfielders I was trying to put on the team. So, he was kind of making it about himself. Sorry, D.
LF Tyler Moore: T-Mo, Moore Power, Tyler, Country. He’s handsome and hits the ball hard. He’s got great nicknames. He just needs a chance. Well, now he is getting one.
CF Michael Taylor: Cheaper than Span, young, needs a chance. He’s a great fit.
RF Roger Bernadina: SHAAAAAAARK!!!!
For the bullpen, I moved Gio Gonzalez to the role of LOOGY, traded Drew Storen (that bum) to get Tyler Clippard back, and made Stephen Strasburg the closer. This accomplishes a few things. First, it puts some big stars in their place and makes them check their ego, allows some headcases to figure some things out, and gets Storen off the team. Everyone knows that Strasburg is talented but not an Ace, so the bullpen might do him some good. These ideas are universally lauded by MASNCommenters. The rest of the bullpen, I dunno, no one seems to care about. So I just left in Casey Janssen, Craig Stammen, Matt Thornton and Aaron Barrett.
Ryan Zimmerman, who I think MC-fans agree is great and can play lots of positions, but is also terrible and needs to be traded. I can’t bear to do that, so he’s on the bench where he can hopefully teach the youngsters how its done. Also, Jose Lobaton is back there cuz he is so good, Kevin Frandsen with the veteran leadership and “no wrong pipe,” and Jeff Kobernus, because he is the next Lombo style hitter.
So How Did They Do?
With the roster set, I was ready for the regular season. I set the rotation (JZ, Roark, MadBum, Fister, T. Jordan) and the Lineup (Lombo, Taylor, Rendon, LaRoche/Morse (Lefty/Righty), T-MO, AssCab, Shark, Suzuki, Pitcher) and told the computer to play itself to see who wins (so the fact I stink at this game doesn’t matter). The game would simulated the whole season.
When there was an injury, I let the computer auto fix the rotation/lineup/roster as need be. When the season was over, I recorded some data and reset the season and did it all again.
I did this 10 times for the MC Washington Nationals. Just to be clear, this isn’t 10 seasons of the Nats. I replayed the same season over and over ten times.
Then, I did the exact same thing, but with the Nationals actual roster. I figure they can be the control group. The point of MC isn’t whether they can put together a good team, but whether they can out do the Nats and Mike Rizzo like they say they can.
Also, I didn’t worry about injuries to guys like Span, Rendon, etc. for the simulations. If they happened in the season, that was handled by the computer. But I figure the comparison should be between what the Nats want vs. what MC wants. Here are two tables showing the results:
The table above is season by season results for each team. The table below gives you some key summary statistics.
Each season featured lots of day to day injuries, and at least one or two 1-2 months injuries. 6 month injuries also happened in a handful of seasons. Sometimes teams persevered (the Season 2 MC Nats had no Morse for basically the whole year), and sometimes healthy teams failed (like most of the MC teams).
I think that the game overestimated how good both teams would be, and that might be some built in confirmation bias of video games. I’d bet there is some incentive in there that makes it so *your* team does a little better no matter what.
That said, I think the gap is about exactly right-I think the MASNCommenter team would, on average, cost you 15 wins a season.
What’s more striking is that this is probably a good year for the MASNCommenter team to be fielded. The East is weak, and winning the division could go to a middling team, for sure. There is no comparison, however, between “the plucky Nats that sure are a feel good story defying the odds and making the playoffs!” and the comparative juggernaut that is the team as currently constructed.
Ask yourself: Do you want a 40% chance of making the playoffs, or a 40% chance of winning the World Series?
I think though that MASNCommenter probably still likes its team better. It has grit, passion, etc. and they all play the right way. Players got chances, and they’ll probably grow if you keep developing them, etc. They probably also targeted a few new pariahs on the team, which is always nice when you want to vent on social media in a comment section somewhere.
In conclusion: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.