With baseball on indefinite hiatus, we here at Yahoo Sports MLB decided to have a little fun. We can’t watch real baseball on TV, but we can still play it … with a twist. We’ve decided to run some experiments using “MLB The Show 20” to simulate some unique baseball scenarios. This concept is lovingly inspired by Jon Bois’ Breaking Madden series. We’re calling our version “Living in Sim.”
The people over at “MLB The Show 20” either can’t — or don’t want to — help me. I can’t say I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m just thankful they didn’t laugh in my face when I told them I was planning to create a full 26-man roster of nothing but Mike Trouts. It’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s up there.
By the time their email comes back, I’m already days into this experiment and have yet to simulate a single game. I’ve suspected for at least a day that this project is cursed, and that the video game is actively sabotaging me. The email only sends me further down a darker path.
It all started with a simple question: Can Mike Trout really do it all? Trout is easily the best player of his generation, and could go down as the best to ever play the game at the end of his career. If anyone could use the power to clone himself 25 times and field a team entirely made of himself, it’s Mike Trout.
Maybe with a team full of himself, Trout will get the Los Angeles Angels back to the playoffs and make the deep postseason run Trout deserves.
The task: Make a team full of Mike Trouts, ______, profit?
I knew going into this project that it would be more labor-intensive than my previous attempts at running simulations in “The Show.” This would require me to copy Trout’s stats 25 times before I could actually play a game. I was hopelessly naive about how difficult that would be.
I find out just what I’m in for immediately, as Trout doesn’t have any pitching stats. This is the first time I start to think the game doesn’t want me to do this. While position players can be used as pitchers in “MLB The Show 20,” position players don’t have pitching stats in the game. I don’t know the numbers for Trout’s pitching stamina, hits per nine innings or fastball control. I don’t even know what pitches Trout can throw.
The plan: Scout virtual Mike Trout to make this work
That part is solvable, at least. If I can insert Trout into a game as a pitcher, I can get a sense for some of his stats. If “MLB The Show 20” isn’t going to provide Trout’s stats, I’m going to do the next best thing: I’m going to scout virtual Mike Trout as a pitcher.
It takes multiple attempts, and a bevy of four-letter words before I realize the realness of “The Show” is preventing me from getting this done. The game adheres to real-life rules, including soon-to-be-enacted ones — meaning Trout cannot enter a game as a pitcher unless the Angels are up by six runs.
After a number of frustrating failures, I finally make it happen. Virtual Mike Trout has two pitches, a four-seam fastball that can hit 87 mph and a 73 mph changeup. He can last 2-3 innings before getting tired. This gives me valuable info I can use.
To figure out the rest, however, I’m going to have to take some educated guesses. It’s at this point I email the fine people at “MLB The Show 20” to see if they can offer me any help or guidance. After a few days, they nicely tell me I’m on my own. At least they didn’t tell me to never email them again. I can take solace in that.
My solution to this issue involves taking the average stats from other players to create an “accurate” version of virtual Mike Trout as a pitcher. For stamina, I decide Trout is similar to a Josh Hader. For the harder stats to figure out, I split the difference between the worst pitcher I can find — a 48 overall Brian Keller — and Tampa Bay Rays two-way player Brendan McKay. Pitching Trout will be better than Keller, but not as good as McKay, who was at least partially drafted for his skills on the mound.
This isn’t a perfect plan, but it’s something. The real-life data on position players pitching is spotty. The ones who have pitched at least a few times in recent years have ERAs ranging from 3.60 to 18.56, but it’s tough to know how much we can rely on those numbers considering they often pitch in games that aren’t competitive.
With that in mind, here’s my best guess at Mike Trout’s numbers as a pitcher:
• Stamina: 38
• Pitching clutch: 90
• H/9: 40
• HR/9: 43
• K/9: 45
• BB/9: 52
• Velocity: 44
• Control: 59
• Break: 54
• Velocity: 0
• Control: 45
• Break: 49
These are subjective — and probably wrong — but I guessed them with the best of my ability. You’ll notice that Trout’s pitching clutch is a 90. I carried that number over from his batting ability. I figure Trout may be a terrible pitcher, but the ability to not be rattled by pressure applies to all scenarios.
Overall, he registers as a 55 overall as a pitcher. That rating increases to 60 overall when I input Trout’s hitting stats.
With that figured out, I start creating Trout clones. Welcome to the Angels, Mike Trout A, Mike Trout B and Mike Trout C. I get all the way to Mike Trout S before “The Show” tells me I can’t create any more players.
At this point, I consider giving up. I’ve spent literal days trying to figure out Trout’s stats. If I can’t make 26 Trouts, what’s the point?
But the game doesn’t know how stubborn I am. In an ingenious twist, I realize that while I can’t create more Trouts, I can edit a couple current Angels and give them Trout’s stats. Hansel Robles isn’t really Hansel Robles any longer. He’s Hansel Robles with Mike Trout’s pitching stats. I am determined to not let “The Show” beat me.
Finally, I do it. We’ve created an entire team of Trout’s. The simulation hasn’t even begun and I’m exhausted. Did you know Mike Trout has a 90 contact rating against righties? Because that number will be burned into my mind for the rest of my life.
The season begins: Something is very, very wrong
“The Show” actually feels pretty good about this. The All Trouts rank as the 9th-best team in the game. The team ranks first in every single team category — contact, power, speed, defense — except pitching, where it ranks dead last. It took me multiple days to create the f---ing Colorado Rockies.
As depressing as that is, I can’t let it bother me. I can finally simulate the season. This is what I’ve been building toward.
It takes fives games for me to realize something is very, very wrong. The All Trouts go winless in March. Game 1 is lost 18-4, Game 2 is lost 22-5 and Game 3 is lost 27-8. By the end of the month, the team already has a -88 run differential. “The Show” believes the Angels are the 5th-best team in the league.
Once the team hits 0-10, I have to take a closer look at what’s going on. A quick glance at the box score reveals a major red flag: The team isn’t using any relievers. For whatever reason, “The Show” is letting every Mike Trout starting pitcher throw a complete game. It’s doing this despite the fact that every Mike Trout starting pitcher is built to throw only 2-3 innings at a time. The game knows I played god and it is pissed.
I decide to quick manage a game to see what in the world is going on. I “manage” the team to an 8-7 win. I manage the game normally, subbing in relievers when my starter is tired.
This seems to fix things. The computer starts using relievers the next two games (two more losses). Then, inexplicably, the computer reverts back to its previous methods and forces my Mike Trout starters to always throw complete games.
I have no explanation for this. I triple check my settings to make sure this isn’t my fault. I quick manage another game in May to see what happens. The results are exactly the same. The computer uses relievers for two more games and then stops. The game knows Mike Trout the pitcher is an abomination. This is the game’s way of punishing my little crime against humanity.
There’s another strange thing I notice: The box scores are completely messed up. Here’s how I know:
Mike Trout N heads into a start with 67 innings pitched, 41 walks, 73 strikeouts, a 27.00 ERA, a 4.66 WHIP, 271 hits allowed, 201 earned runs and 40 home runs. It’s May 16, by the way.
The opposing team defeats Mike Trout N handily, scoring 39 runs. The box score, however, tells a completely different story. According to it, Mike Trout N pitched nine innings, gave up 37 hits, 10 walks and only 1 earned run. When I check Mike Trout N’s stat page away from the box score, he’s now allowed 240 earned runs on the season.
This is the moment where I realize I have broken “MLB The Show 20.” The game refuses to make pitching changes and won’t record stats accurately. It just throwing its hands in the air and telling me, “You made this mess, pal. I’m not cleaning it up.”
With the game completely broken, I simulate through the rest of the season. I know that it looks like I don’t value my time — I did make 25 extra Mike Trouts, after all — but I do, and I’m not going to quick manage every single game.
The season ends: This is a catastrophe and we learned nothing
The year is over, and the All Trouts went 14-148.
This would normally be the place where I pontificate about what we learned and try to justify playing video games as work, but I can’t do that here. If there’s a silver lining in this, it’s that we have some absurd end-of-season stats to reflect upon. Here are some of the best:
• The All Trouts went on a 50-game losing streak between May and July
• That losing streak included a winless month of June
• The team lost a game 68-10
• The team finished 87 games out of first
• “The Show” believes the All Trouts are the 8th-best team in the game despite all that
When I started this experiment, I expected the Angels to have a dominant offense, and that was the case. The team finished first or second in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, RBI, home runs, runs scored and batting average. The team also hit 476 home runs, shattering the Minnesota Twins’ record of 307, which the team set in 2019.
But what I didn’t anticipate was how much the team’s awful pitching would impact the entire division. Seattle Mariners outfielder Carlos González won the batting title with a .395 average. Houston Astros outfielder George Springer finished second at .393. Yordan Álvarez batted .378, with 59 home runs, and won the MVP award in the American League.
Our ineptitude on the mound led to the entire division turning into an unstoppable force. Every single AL West team broke the record for the most runs scored in a single season. The New York Yankees set that record with 1,067 runs scored in 1931. Every club in the division — including the Mariners — surpassed it. The same thing happened with the single season RBI record. Of the 27 offensive award finalists in the AL — Silver Slugger, MVP, etc. — 24 came from the AL West.
As expected, the pitching was abysmal. The All Trouts finished dead last with a 29.69 ERA, 5,472 hits allowed, 4,584 runs allowed, 4,554 earned runs, 863 home runs and 1,203 walks. The team ended the season with a -3,215 run differential.
There was nothing to be learned from this miserable experiment. Something dark and terrible happened here, and “The Show” wanted no part of it. It will be months before I can scrub away the pain and anguish of this nightmare, and, even then, there are some wounds that never fully heal. I hope we never speak of this again.
Previously in this series
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