Since the 2020 MLB regular season is on hold for reasons we are all plenty aware of, the great folks at Baseball-Reference have been simulating the season since Opening Day on March 26.
Using Out of the Park Baseball 21 — a full-featured simulator — BR has constructed player pages, standings, and daily scores for the 2020 season, giving all of us baseball fans something to follow… even if it’s not real. The best part?… there are no injuries, so no need to worry about Freddie Freeman’s elbow or Mike Soroka’s shoulder!
The site updates the simulated league every day around noon, and since the Braves have now completed their first ten games of the season, this seems like an excellent point to start some kind of periodic “check-in.” Starting today, I plan on writing about the Braves’ simulated season, posting a recap after every ten games.
The coronavirus outbreak may have taken away real-life Braves baseball, but at least there’s still a way to follow our favorite team online. Here’s the rundown from Week 1 (March 26 – April 5):
Schedule / Results
5-5 overall record / 2nd in NL East (2 GB)
- 3/26: L, 8-1 @ ARZ (Soroka vs. Ray)
- 3/27: L, 3-2 @ ARZ (Fried vs. MadBum)
- 3/28: W, 9-3 @ ARZ (Folty vs. Gallen)
- 3/29: L, 7-2 @ ARZ (Wilson vs. Weaver)
- 3/30: L, 2-1 @ SDP (Wright vs. Lucchesi)
- 3/31: W, 3-0 @ SDP (Soroka vs. Richards)
- 4/01: W, 5-4 @ SDP (Fried vs. Paddack)
- 4/03: L, 4-3 vs. MIA (Urena vs. Folty)
- 4/04: W, 8-3 vs. MIA (Alcantara vs. Wilson)
- 4/05: W, 6-3 vs. MIA (Hernandez vs. Wright)
NL East Standings
- Marlins: 7-3
- Braves: 5-5
- Nationals: 4-5
- Mets: 4-5
- Phillies: 2-8
The Braves took one on the chin for their Opening Day game a couple of Thursdays ago, getting routed 8-1 by Christian Walker and the D-Backs. Soroka’s first OD start didn’t go as planned, and by the 5th inning, he was in the showers, having allowed four runs on seven hits.
The significant takeaway from Opening Day, though, was the actual Braves’ starting lineup.
Both Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley rode the pine, as Adeiny Hechavarría and Johan Camargo started at shortstop and third base, respectively. And so far, one of those surprising moves by the simulator has worked out rather well for the Braves, given Camargo is slashing .294/.333/.529 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI through 9 starts. Hechavarría, on the other hand, had a decent start but has since cooled off (.194 AVG / 9 G). Regardless, I’m still sort of disappointed that neither Swanson nor Riley has been involved much yet (even though the former has performed well when given a chance, tallying 2 hits in 4 at-bats).
The other takeaway offensively for the Braves has been Freddie Freeman, owner of a 6-for-34 hitting-slump at the moment (.176 AVG). Perhaps in sim land, his elbow is giving him some trouble, or maybe this is just a slow start, but hopefully, the hits will start coming soon.
Another bit of a concern (as much as there can be through 10 games of a season that’s not even real) has been Ronald Acuna’s streakiness. Through the Braves’ first ten games, Acuna leads the team in strikeouts (15) and is hitting just .237. The only thing that’s saving him right now is the long ball, as he’s also tied for the most homers on the team (3). It’s driving me crazy seeing the simulator bat Acuna cleanup… EVERY SINGLE GAME. I will be contacting Baseball-Reference soon.
All-in-all, this Braves offense has been all Ozzie Albies up to this point, as the 5-foot-8 second baseman looks like a man on a mission, slashing .429/.442/.833 with 3 bombs, 4 doubles and 3 triples to go along with 7 RBI (second, behind Acuna’s 10 RBI). He’s also 3-for-6 in stolen bases, suggesting the simulator could very well have Albies pegged for a 20/20 season in 2020.
As alluded to above, Camargo is playing (simming) well, and surprisingly Ender Inciarte is hitting .279 with a couple of steals. So right now, the team has primarily been led by those three guys, with occasional XBHs from Acuna and Marcell Ozuna (.212 AVG).
At the opposite end of the spectrum, offensively, Freeman has to be the biggest disappointment among the every-day regulars. The only semi-regular player hitting worse than him right now is Tyler Flowers, who has started only five games thus far and is hitting .111.
The pitching has by far been the most interesting aspect of this simulation, though. As mentioned above, Soroka was hit pretty hard on Opening Day, but he bounced back in his second start by tossing a complete-game shutout against the Padres. So far, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year and Cy Young candidate has a 2.77 ERA through his first 13 innings.
Then there’s Kyle Wright, who has posted back-to-back quality starts. He leads the team in strikeouts (15) and has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings pitched, which you’d think would be the best mark on the team… but that title goes to none other than Bryse “The Bulldog” Wilson, who’s currently carrying a 0.77 ERA as a member of the Braves’ starting rotation.
The strong starting pitching doesn’t quite end there, though. Max Fried is hanging in there with a 2.38 ERA with a quality-start of his own, plus ten strikeouts in 11.1 innings thus far.
I’m assuming the simulator is aware of Cole Hamels’ injury, considering he’s nowhere on the Braves’ team page at this point. I’m not sure if the program has some kind of baked-in timeline for IL stints or if it’s something that’s done manually, but hopefully, Hamels is inserted into the simulation at least when he’s expected back in real life (around May or so).
Also, Felix Hernandez is missing from the simulation. Because of Wright and Wilson, the Braves’ starting staff currently consists of five pitchers, but it would be nice to see how King Felix fares in the simulated season… you know, since we’ve yet to watch him pitch in a regular-season game in a Braves’ uni.
The same goes for Sean Newcomb. He’s nowhere to be found thus far, either.
In the bullpen, 32-year-old lefty and native of my hometown (Huntsville, AL), Grant Dayton, has been tough as nails. He has gotten into three games so far (5.1 IP) and already has nine strikeouts. Chris Martin has been just as dominant. He hasn’t allowed a run yet, having tossed four shutout innings so far and struck out four.
Really, everyone except perhaps Shane Greene (15.43 ERA) and Darren O’Day (6.75 ERA) has pitched quite well out of the ‘pen. Will Smith has two saves and hasn’t allowed a single run; Mark Melancon has pitched four scoreless frames; and even A.J. Minter is having an excellent start to what’s hopefully a year of redemption, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings. All good.
That’s it for this round of ten games. Be sure to check back again soon for the next round, as I hope to continue these throughout the year… as long as the season is suspended in real life. It has definitely been odd not having some sort of game to recap or a storyline to discuss pertaining to the actual season, but with a realistic simulation such as this we can at least pretend there’s Braves baseball every day.
Week 1 Top Hitters
- Albies, 2B
.429 AVG, 1.275 OPS, 3 HR, 3 SB
- Camargo, 3B
.294 AVG, .863 OPS, 2 HR, 5 RBI
- Acuna, OF
.237 AVG, .744 OPS, 3 HR, 10 RBI
Week 1 Top Pitchers
- Wright, RHP
2 starts, 12 IP, 1-1, 1.50 ERA, 15 K, 4 BB
- Wilson, RHP
2 starts, 11.2 IP, 1-1, 0.77 ERA, 13 K, 4 BB
- Fried, LHP
2 starts, 11.1 IP, 1-1, 2.38 ERA, 10 K, 6 BB