Editor’s note: When Ethan Novak hung up his keyboard earlier this offseason to focus on grad school, we were all the lesser for it. I made him a promise that one of our most cherished ideas would make it into an article. This week, I fulfill that promise. Sorry.
Ever since he entered the Mariners organization, Dan Vogelbach’s role has been in limbo. His limited defense and baserunning has made the organization wary of trusting him to hit his way into production at the MLB level, leaving Vogey to continue churning through AAA pitching for two straight years. This year Daniel Vogelbach once again finds himself in a relatable position to any job applicant, boasting a resume that just might be good enough, in a market flush with similar candidates. It’s hard out here for a Large Adult Son.
But that’s the Old World, and we’re here to build a New World. A Better World. A world with 25 Vogdors, and wouldn’t you know it - they all got the job. We’re going to substitute the Mariners’ entire 2017 roster with 25 Dan Vogelbachs, and see how it goes.
Note: Ever since beginning this project, I’ve had this song stuck in my head, substituting the words “25 Dan Vogelbachs,” of course. I invite you to listen along as you read.
To pull this feat off, I turned to the wonderful game that is Out of the Park Baseball 18 (OOTP). For those of you unfamiliar, OOTP is the best professional baseball simulator out there, and the depth of options is truly stunning. It does not allow you to actually embody the players themselves a la MLB The Show, MVP Baseball, or other baseball games, but I’m more interested in how a computer manages to fathom this experiment anyways.
Step One: Creating the Clones
One of the cruelest features of recent OOTP games is that their algorithms have allowed the game to attempt to render images of MLB players based on a series of data sets. Few players are treated kindly, but as I ventured in to clone Vogey, I discovered his depiction was rudely more hobgoblin than man.
I made 24 exact clones of our mecha-Vogey, one for every position on the active roster, and then created a “control” clone who would remain in Tacoma to keep anyone from getting suspicious. Additionally, I cut down the injury probability for each pitcher clone to the lowest possible level and, anticipating they might struggle to generate outs, bumped their stamina to the max as well. That would prove important.
To make space, all other players on the Mariners 25-man roster had to be removed. This experiment holds the integrity of the simulation above all else, meaning, unfortunately, I couldn’t just release the players and allow Robinson Canó or James Paxton to take their talents to another team and tip the scales. They had to be eliminated permanently.
With all other competitors “retired” the roster was set.
The Seattle Mariners entered the season with the endorsement of a cloning program the likes of which the world had never seen, a league-lowest payroll of $19,672,900, and an unorthodox plan. Still, team owner Howard Lincoln emailed me on April 2nd, 2017, to inform me he expected a team with over a .500 record.
I was curious to see what OOTP’s projection system would peg them at. And so I waited. And waited. And waited.
We’ll see about that one, Howie.
Tomorrow: Part Two! Will the Mariners’ miserable opening stretch of 2017 fare better in our simulation? I’ve got a sneak preview that might give you a hint!