SimSeason: Taking the 2015 Yankees for a test drive

Following a big league team around the country means that you tend to encounter a lot of down time in airports, hotels and on trains. One of my favorite ways to pass those hours has been getting lost in various incarnations of the Out of the Park Baseball series. It’s a ridiculously detailed simulation that puts you in the general manager’s chair of any team, overseeing all operations of the club.

OOTP 16 was released this month for PC and Mac, and for the first time, it contains a MLB.com license to use actual team logos and stadiums. For fun, and because I’m apparently a huge nerd, I’ve run a simulation of the Yankees’ 2015 season to see one possible outcome of the next six to seven months.

Some ground rules: I ran the sim in Commissioner Mode and set injuries to ‘Normal.’ Trades have been disabled to prevent the AI from moving players all over the league, so our ‘Brian Cashman’ will be unable to tweak the roster at the Trade Deadline. Teams can promote and demote the guys who are currently within their own system, and that’s it. (When you play the game, you can try it differently.)

The AI will manage the team during games, but whenever possible, ‘Joe Girardi’ will be instructed to stick as close to the Opening Day lineup as he can. As far as promoting players, we’ll operate conservatively if at all possible. I’ve also clicked the box that says I ‘Cannot Be Fired’ from my role as GM and manager. Hooray!

Here is the Yankees’ projected Opening Day lineup:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Carlos Beltran RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

We made a few guesses to fill out the Yankees’ roster: John Ryan Murphy is the backup catcher (Austin Romine cleared waivers and went to Triple-A), Adam Warren is the fifth starter and the final two bullpen spots go to Chasen Shreve and Chase Whitley. Dellin Betances is the closer, Andrew Miller gets the eighth inning setup role. Brendan Ryan and Didi Gregorius will platoon at shortstop.

On the morning of Opening Day, Hal Steinbrenner sends me an e-mail that says the Yankees should at least reach the playoffs. Got it.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched the Yankees to a 7-2 Opening Day win in our simulation of the 2015 season.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched the Yankees to a 7-2 Opening Day win in our simulation of the 2015 season, then received a six-game suspension after hitting Mike Napoli of the Red Sox in his next start.

Opening Day, April 6: Yankees 7, Blue Jays 2
Things are off to a good start as Masahiro Tanaka pitched eight innings of two-run, eight-hit ball. Brian McCann stroked three hits, including a second-inning two-run homer, as the Yankees trounced the Blue Jays in front of a crowd of 52,197 in The Bronx.

Didi Gregorius went 4-for-4 in his Yankee debut, Brett Gardner drove in three runs and Dellin Betances struck out Justin Smoak to end the game. Then John Sterling bellowed in the radio booth and all was well within the Yankee universe.

On we go into April…

Following the Welcome Home Dinner on April 7, Alex Rodriguez hit his first homer, a two-run shot off Drew Hutchison in the Yanks’ 7-2 win over Toronto on April 8 … The Yanks completed a season-opening sweep of the Blue Jays behind CC Sabathia’s seven innings of one-run ball April 9. Dellin Betances notched his first save. … They lost their first game on April 10, 5-4 to Boston, as Clay Buchholz out-pitched Nathan Eovaldi … The rivalry is alive: Tanaka and Mike Napoli were slammed with six-game suspensions for a benches-clearing incident in the first inning on April 11. The Yankees won the game anyway, 6-3, behind A-Rod’s two homers – one off Eduardo Rodriguez and one off Junichi Tazawa (No. 656 and 657, if we’re counting) …

Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch in an extra-inning loss to the Orioles on April 14 and sustained a bruised wrist. It was serious enough to knock him out for two weeks, so Jose Pirela was called up. … Nathan Eovaldi allowed seven runs to the Orioles and was knocked out in the third inning on April 15. Larry Rothschild said he’s working on some things. … A-Rod had a five-hit game to support Adam Warren’s strong outing in a 3-1 win over the Rays April 17. Rodriguez is hitting .412 … The Yanks lost an April 20 heartbreaker in Detroit, 6-5, as Ian Kinsler singles home the winning run in the 10th off Chase Whitley. Injury to insult: Jacoby Ellsbury strained his hamstring in the loss and was placed on the DL. The Yankees summoned Rob Refsnyder from Triple-A. … Michael Pineda dominated the Mets over 7 2/3 scoreless innings on April 24, striking out nine … Brian McCann homered twice to back a very strong Tanaka in a 6-1 rout of Tampa Bay on April 28.

Checking in… May 1, 2015
BostonHello from high above Copley Square in Boston on this sunny Friday morning. Here’s what we know so far: the Yankees begin May with an 11-11 (.500) record, two games behind the Red Sox and holding second place in the AL East. Michael Pineda is 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts, leading the team with 34 strikeouts. Alex Rodriguez leads the team with five homers, while Brian McCann is batting .310 with four homers and 13 RBIs. The Didi Gregorius and Jacoby Ellsbury injuries are an ever-present reminder that this lineup has to be ready to change on the fly.

Dellin Betances has been terrific, locking down his first six saves and he has yet to give up a run. It turns out, we were worried about nothing in Spring Training. That said, Stephen Drew’s good spring didn’t translate into the year; he’s hitting .123. The Yanks are sixth in the AL with 22 homers, so they’ve got that part figured out, yet they rank 14th in runs scored (78) and average (.233). The starters ERA ranks 12th at 4.99, but the bullpen is the best in the AL (2.22).

Tomorrow: May and June!

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