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Brady: A look at an MLB sim

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With all major sporting leagues on suspension due to the coronavirus outbreak, fans and athletes alike have taken to the virtual world to get their fill of competition. NASCAR drivers have turned to iRacing to battle against each other for fun, from the comfort and safety of their own homes, while some gamblers have been laying down money on Madden 20 simulations, the most recent version of the NFL’s video game.

At The Sentinel, our sports department decided that with the MLB’s Opening Day being pushed back, we would run a simulation of our own, using the video game MLB The Show 20, for the entire 2020 season and write about what happened–with a focus on the Pirates and Phillies. Not only will the two Pennsylvania teams be looked at, but all of the major award winners, stat leaders and playoff results will be included.

This will not be a perfect simulation, however, as it will not take into account any previous injuries. Star pitchers like Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard who will miss the actual 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery will be healthy in the simulation, pitching for the Red Sox and Mets, respectively.

So, in a perfect world, with everyone healthy, let’s see what MLB The Show 20 predicts would have happened if Opening Day took place today:

In their first game of the season the Phillies topped the Marlins 2-0 behind a stellar performance from ace Aaron Nola, who threw a two-hit shutout while striking out six. Rhys Hoskins drove in both runs for Philadelphia, going 2-for-4 with a home run.

The Pirates got blown out by Tampa Bay, 8-3. Colin Moran drove in two for the Pirates in the eighth inning. Austin Meadows tortured his former team going 2-for-2 and driving in four runs for the Rays.

The Phillies came out of the gate hot, sweeping the Marlins and winning five straight. But, that hot streak drastically cooled off in April and the Phillies struggled mightily. Philadelphia went 7-18 in the month which brought their record to 12-19 on the young season. The Phillies were tied for fourth in the National League East with the Marlins.

In Pittsburgh, the Pirates were a bit of a surprise as they finished the first full month of the season a game over .500, sitting at fourth in the National League Central, with a record of 16-15.

Colin Moran hit .309 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs for the Bucs while young stud, Mitch Keller, was third in the NL with a 0.79 ERA.

Fast forward to the All-Star Break and both Pennsylvania teams failed to make any progress. The Pirates sat at 47-49 while the Phillies had a dreadful 37-59 first half.

A lone bright spot for Philadelphia was the return of Andrew McCutchen who missed most of 2019 with a torn ACL. The veteran hit .333 at the break with 17 homers and 49 RBIs. Bryce Harper had a low average, but managed to push runs across the plate. The $330-million man managed just a .246 average, hitting 15 home runs while driving in 44.

Newly acquired DiDi Gregorius and Zack Wheeler also contributed to the Phillies despite their lack of wins. Gregorious almost mirrored Harper, hitting .240, with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs. Wheeler threw to the tune of a 2.71 ERA, but managed just a 6-8 record.

The Pirates bullpen was their strong suit with Keone Kela leading the way. The Pirates’ closer had a 1.95 ERA with 23 saves. Kela’s first half earned him a spot on the All-Star roster and the Bucs’ bullpen leader closed out the All-Star Game as the National League won, 6-5. Robbie Erlin also made the ASG for the Pirates.

McCutchen was the Phillies’ lone representative in the Mid-Summer Classic as he was voted in as a reserve, coming in to play left field.

Up next was the trade deadline, and as many fans have expected them to do in real life, the Pirates sent their stars packing.

Pittsburgh sent Josh Bell to the Angels for Jo Adell and a player to be named later. Bell who had hit 24 home runs and driven in 46 at the break helped the Pirates land a potential five-tool player. Adell is ranked as the No.6 prospect in all of baseball and plays center field, using his speed and arm to be an great defender.

However, the pull for Colin Moran wasn’t as great. Despite his hot start, the Pirates sent Moran to the Red Sox for a AA pitching prospect.

The biggest splash around the league was when the Tampa Bay Rays traded 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell to the White Sox for slugger Edwin Encarnacion, future-ace Michael Kopech and Zack Collins.

From there, both Pennsylvania teams finished out the season playing .500 baseball. Even without Bell and Moran, the Pirates managed a respectable record, finishing fourth in the NL Central with a 76-86 record–10 games out of the Wild Card and 15 games behind the division-winning Cincinatti Reds.

After the trade deadline, Kela was the only Pirate who ranked in the Top-15 for any major stat category. The hard-throwing RHP finished seventh in saves, with 39 and an ERA of 1.95.

The Phillies improved slightly in the second half as they climbed into third in the NL East with a record of 78-84. Philadelphia ended the season 10 games out of the Wild Card and 11 games behind the division-winning Atlanta Braves.

However, the Phillies did have multiple players finish near the top of some major stat categories. In his bounce-back season, McCutchen lead the National League with 191 hits and 51 doubles. Jean Segura came in 11th in the NL with 172 hits and fourth with 30 steals. Closer David Robertson finished sixth with 41 saves.

In his first season with the Phillies, Zack Wheeler lead the NL in shutouts, with four. He also finished second with an ERA of 2.45. Wheeler went 15-9 record with 231 strikeouts.

Heading into the playoffs, the Brewers, led by MVP Christian Yelich, defeated the Padres in the NL Wild Card game. The newly-hated Houston Astros beat the Chicago White Sox in the AL Wild Card game.

In the division series, the Reds defeated the Braves in four games, the Los Angeles Dodgers topped the Brewers in four games, the Cleveland Indians beat the Oakland Athletics in a five-game series and the Astros swept the Red Sox.

Neither championship series was competitive as the Indians pounded the Astros in five games and the Reds pulled a major upset, sweeping the Dodgers en route to the World Series.

In a postseason version of the Ohio Cup, the Reds and Indians battled into a Game 7, where the Indians knocked off their cross-state rival to take home their first World Series title since 1948.

As previously mentioned, Yelich won his second MVP in three seasons, while Mike Trout won his second-straight AL MVP and fourth overall. Los Angeles Dodgers’ David Price won the NL Cy Young award with a 18-4 record and a 2.36 ERA, ending New York Met Jacob deGrom’s streak at two. deGrom finished in third place.

Former Pirate and current Tampa Bay Ray Charlie Morton took home the AL Cy Young with a 19-5 record and a 2.61 ERA. Monte Harrison won the NL Rookie of the Year for the Marlins, while Ramon Urias of the Baltimore Orioles took home the hardware for AL Rookie of the Year.

Bryce Harper was the only player for a Pennsylvania-based team that won any award, as he took home the Gold Glove for his defense in right field.

Overall, this simulation threw some curveballs at us in the sports department as we watched the chaos unfold. If the season were to have begun on time, we came to the consensus that the Phillies’ third place finish is about right, but their record would be better than 78-84.

For the Pirates, we considered a 76-86 record to be a shock, for the better. Unless the Pirates kept their stars and every single player played to their full potential, 10 games under .500 is an unlikely record–being too far out of reach.

There weren’t any big surprises in the major awards as Yelich and Trout should be MVP candidates for the foreseeable future. Morton and Price winning isn’t the most likely scenario, but isn’t totally unbelievable.

In the playoffs, the one thing that stood out to us the most were the two teams that won the pennant. For the Indians and Reds, making the playoffs isn’t out of the realm of possibility but nobody in the baseball community would have saw a World Series coming.

But, this is just a simulation. Nobody, including us at The Sentinel, should put too much stock in this simulation which had the Pirates overperforming, the Phillies underperforming and the Indians breaking the current second-longest championship drought in any sport. With all major sports on hold, running this simulation brought back a little bit of that Opening Day magic that we all tend to feel around this time of year.

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