Erasing the New York Mets current struggles is no easy task, but I’m willing to take a shot at it using the preeminent baseball simulation on the market — “MLB The Show 18.”
Infuriating. That’s the best word I can think of to describe watching the Mets these last few weeks.
We were spoiled by their 11-1 start and like many other deluded fans, I thought we were witnessing the emergence of the next great New York Mets team. But the Mets regressed to a more extreme level than any of us could imagine. Now, all we have is a barely .500 team that is staring up at its rivals from fourth place.
So where do we go from here? How does this team get its mojo back and start playing relevant baseball again?
If you will allow me, I’d like to put on my GM cap here. From the moment I loaded MVP Baseball 2004 into my original Xbox, I have been obsessed with the science of building teams. Nothing has brought me more pleasure over the years than mixing it up in franchise mode, challenging myself to put together a championship contender through trades and free agency. I love baseball sims and while they may not always paint the most accurate picture, they still do an excellent job of illustrating potential.
MLB The Show 18 is the most advanced baseball sim we have to date. The PlayStation-only title has held a vice grip on the baseball video game market and even though they have seemingly created a monopoly on the sport, the quality of the game has not diminished over the year.
I joined their contingent of loyal fans back in 2010 when I purchased a PS3 along with MLB 10: The Show. Safe to say I have been hooked ever since. And since we have this awesome tool at our disposal, I will take matters into my own hands.
Using only five moves, the goal is to take the Mets from where they are now and turn them into a playoff team. With more time and effort, I could completely overhaul the roster and create a powerhouse, but why make things easy for myself. Before we can dive in, it’s important to lay out some ground rules. So let’s get started.
Unlike the NBA 2K franchise, MLB The Show does not have a “Start Today” feature in its franchise mode and as a result, there is no way to start a franchise with their current record and stats. For the purpose of this exercise, each simulation will start on day one of the regular season.
As for day to day activities, we will let the computer handle it. Because of injuries and other factors, the lineup and pitching rotation is bound to be continually reset even after making changes, therefore there is no point to micromanage these aspects.
Players that are not a part of the MLBPA do not appear in the game. Because of this, we do not have access to any minor leaguers that have never played in a major league game. To compensate, the computer generates fictional players to populate the farm system. From time to time, some of these fictional minor leaguers possess better ratings than real players. To make sure the real players are ranked accordingly in the organization, any fictional players with higher ratings will either be released or swapped elsewhere. Also, for the purpose of trades made to improve the Mets, I will try to deal in real players only.
Any players that are out for the season will be released. Franchise mode gives you a clean slate, so Travis d’Arnaud and Rafael Montero, for example, are available. To avoid them muddling the simulation, cutting them loose makes the most sense.
Injuries are a part of baseball, so if they occur over the course of this experiment then we will just let them ride.
And of course, “no force trades.”
Creating a Baseline
Every experiment needs a control. In order to validate our results, we have to set a baseline to compare against. For the sake of this endeavor, I cleaned up the Mets roster to the best of my ability and conducted ten 10 simulations.
Relatively speaking, 10 simulations are not nearly a large enough sample size to take to the bank. It’s Tuesday night and I’m hoping to run this column tomorrow, so we will have to make due.
What we arrive at is an average win total just shy of 80 wins and just north of 82 losses. Three of the 10 simulations resulted in Wild Card appearances.
Undervalued and Overvalued Players
Nobody is perfect and the team at SCEA tend to do a good job of assigning player ratings. However, like anything that is open to interpretation, there are bound to be disagreements and yes, I have quite a few. At the very top of the list is Jose Reyes. The game has him rated as an 83 which is an absolute travesty. Reyes is on the last leg of his career and should by no means rated as the best infielder on the roster. A number in the low 70s would probably better suit Reyes who at best is a utility man.
On the other side of the spectrum, the game doesn’t do Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto any justice. Nimmo, who has emerged as a dependable major league outfielder with an aptitude for getting on base at a high clip, it certainly more valuable than his 65 rating illustrates. Conforto may be out of his natural position at center field, but he is serviceable at the position and is arguably the most complete hitter on this roster and should be rated higher than 75.
Zack Wheeler, Jason Vargas, and Tomas Nido to the Miami Marlins for J.T. Realmuto
Let me preface this by saying this trade would never fly in the real world. Although after the Giancarlo Stanton trade, I wouldn’t put anything past the Marlins. The Mets desperately need an upgrade at catcher and acquiring J.T. Realmuto represents the best case scenario. Devin Mesoraco is only a band-aid on the real problem. As for Zack Wheeler, sell while he’s hot because who knows how long this stability will last. Getting rid of Jason Vargas in any capacity would instantly make this team better as well.
Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes, and Kevin Plawecki to the San Francisco Giants for Andrew McCutchen, Jeff Samardzija, and Derek Law
This is an opportunity for the Mets to get a mulligan on the potential Brandon Nimmo-Andrew McCutchen trade that never came to fruition over the Winter. Nimmo has come a long way, proving his value in Spring Training and the early part of the season. But at this moment in time, Andrew McCutchen is the more valuable player. If the Mets are going all in on this team, then a declining McCutchen makes more sense then Nimmo filling in intermittently off the bench. Bringing Jeff Samardzija into the equation would primarily be a move to eat innings. Samardzija has never really lived up to his sky-high potential but is still a valuable back of the rotation arm (**arguably my biggest gripe with this game is the speed rating of Jeff Samardzija. The guy was an absolute stud at wide receiver for Notre Dame. If he had turned pro in football, he very well may have been a first-round pick. His speed should be a respectable number, but year after year he winds up as one of the slowest players in the game**). Adding a hard thrower like Derek Law would serve the purpose of bolstering the bullpen even more. The Mets are a team that struggles with bullpen consistency, so it never hurts to bring a new, proven arm into the equation.
Move Jay Bruce to First Base, Seth Lugo to the Starting Rotation
I truly believe Jay Bruce can be one of the most valuable bats on this team, but his fielding has seriously begun to decline. Watching him labor around in the outfield can be painful at times. He’s taken plenty of reps at first and has a natural aptitude and feel for the position. It may be time for a permanent move which is why it is worthwhile to explore this digitally. As for Seth Lugo, he has been remarkable out of the bullpen. It is no easy feat to do what he’s done, especially since he’s been pitching hurt for almost two seasons now. In real life, the Mets are taking an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with his role in the bullpen, but with the struggles, the starting rotation has dealt with, maybe it’s time to give Lugo a shot.
Gavin Cecchini and Devin Mesoraco to the Chicago White Sox for Nate Jones
Nate Jones is a premium bullpen arm rotting on the Chicago White Sox right now. You can never have enough strong relievers and the Amazins’ should take note of what their crosstown counterparts have done over in the Bronx. The Yankees’ bullpen is nothing short of remarkable and creates a prolific advantage day in and day out. All they have to do is count on six innings from each of their starters. Cecchini is expendable in this case because this simulation doesn’t account for the long term. With Realmuto on the roster now, it makes Mesoraco expendable.
Robert Gsellman, Hansel Robles, and Jose Lobaton to the San Diego Padres for Austin Hedges
With Mesoraco thrown into the Nate Jones deal, I’m not exactly comfortable with Jose Lobaton being the primary backup catcher on this roster. Hedges is not rated well as a batter in this game but is one of the best rated defensive catchers in The Show. Even though pitch framing and other defensive intangibles aren’t major factors, the catching defense still plays a paramount role in the success of teams in franchise mode.
The good news is that we accomplished our goal. The moves in question added approximately seven wins to this ball club and added two playoff appearances. It wasn’t enough to usurp the Washington Nationals in first place, but it certainly feels like enough to get the Mets back on track and hopefully into baseball’s promised land.