What does the 2015 Major League Baseball season have in store for us? We simulated it with Out of the Park Baseball 16 to get a glimpse into what we might witness this year. We used the game's default settings and played in commissioner mode, which means we didn't run a team and instead simply watched the season unfold.
Out of the Park Baseball features the most sophisticated simulation engine of any baseball management game available, and it uses Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection system to produce the player ratings that feed the engine.
Here's how the season ended:
2015 looks to be a season of shake-ups in both leagues, as the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros both reversed their recent years of futility with playoff berths: Chicago posted a 91-71 record, just one game behind the division-winning St. Louis Cardinals, and Houston won their division at 88-74, three games ahead of the Oakland Athletics, who nabbed a Wild Card spot.
The Chicago Cubs rode a high-powered hitting attack that featured a Rookie of the Year performance from Kris Bryant (.259/.315/.469, with 30 HR and 84 RBI) and 27 home runs and 77 RBI from Jorge Soler (.237/.301/.429). Javier Baez batted between the two of them most of the season and smashed 33 home runs, with 97 RBI. Jon Lester anchored the rotation with a 15-6 record and a 2.72 ERA, but he went down with a season-ending injury on September 15.
The Houston Astros weren't on the same level offensively, despite picking up masher Chris Davis from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade (more on that later). Pitching was their strong suit, helped by another trade when they acquired Jhoulys Chacin from the Texas Rangers, who signed him on Opening Day. Chacin went 6-3 with a 3.63 ERA for Houston and won 12 games overall during the season. Collin McHugh led the club with 13 wins, but he was lost to Tommy John surgery on September 11.
The Tampa Bay Rays also featured a lackluster offense that was more than compensated for by overpowering pitching led by Matt Andriese (13-4, 2.55 ERA), Drew Smyly (12-10, 3.90 ERA), and Chris Archer (13-10, 3.15 ERA). Matt Moore returned in July and posted a 3-5 record, with a 4.09 ERA, but he pitched a no-hitter in the World Series. (More on that in a bit.)
Detroit managed to win their division despite dealing Victor Martinez to the New York Yankees and Justin Verlander to the St. Louis Cardinals. Their hitting suffered, but their pitching remained strong, with the rotation anchored by David Price and his 13-7 record, with a 3.70 ERA.
New York featured a more balanced attack, led on the offensive side by Martinez and his .302 batting average, with 22 home runs and 93 RBI, and on the pitching side by Masahiro Tanaka (16-7, 3.65 ERA). Dellin Betances saved 44 games, with a 6-7 record and a 2.62 ERA.
In the National League, the continued success of the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Los Angeles Dodgers wasn't a big surprise. Washington's starting pitching didn't miss the loss of Drew Storen for the season on June 4, nor their trade of Gio Gonzalez to St. Louis, as Stephen Strasburg (17-8, 2.08 ERA), Max Scherzer (15-7, 2.94 ERA), Jordan Zimmerman (12-13, 2.84 ERA), and Tanner Roark (11-3, 2.64 ERA) led the way.
The Atlanta Braves survived on pitching too, led by Shelby Miller (16-10, 3.69 ERA) and Craig Kimbrel's 46 saves, with a 1.67 ERA. St. Louis had stiff pitching too, thanks to Adam Wainright (14-12, 2.98 ERA), Michael Wacha (11-8, 3.07 ERA), and Gio Gonzalez (10-12, 3.44 ERA). Unfortunately, they lost Verlander for the season on July 24, after he went 6-3 with a 3.39 ERA for the team, proving that 2015 can be a bounce-back year for him.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were led on offense by Yasiel Puig and his .265 average, with 26 home runs and 97 RBI, while Clayton Kershaw went 17-7 with a 2.17 ERA. However, their pitching staff became a bit rag-tag after losing Zack Greinke (5-8, 3.66 ERA) on June 17 to Tommy John surgery, Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-1, 2.48 ERA) on June 9 to a torn rotator cuff, and Brett Anderson (2-2, 4.76 ERA) to a ruptured UCL on May 12. Brandon McCarthy posted a 10-9 record, with a 3.69 ERA, before missing all of August with elbow tendinitis – he was ineffective in a rehab start at AAA and closed the season in the bullpen.
The defending champion San Francisco Giants continued their "win it all in even years, miss the playoffs in odd years" trend with an 83-79 record, six games behind the Dodgers. Madison Bumgarner was 13-9 with a 3.05 ERA and Hunter Pence led the National League with a .305 average to go with his 15 home runs and 86 RBI, but they suffered from a power outage, as well as a rash of season-ending pitching injuries: Tim Lincecum (11-4, 2.74 ERA) tore the flexor tendon in his elbow on August 1, Tim Hudson (8-3, 2.99 ERA) was felled on September 11, and Jake Peavy (2-0, 0.67 ERA) suffered a partially torn UCL on April 25.
The first interesting trade of the year happened on April 12, as the Los Angeles Dodgers sent second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Texas Rangers for relief pitcher Shawn Tolleson and minor leaguer Rougned J. Odor, younger brother of the Rougned Odor currently on the Texas roster.
On May 5, that aforementioned Victor Martinez deal happened, as he went from Detroit to the New York Yankees in exchange for third baseman Chase Headley and a minor league pitcher. On May 15, Baltimore sent Chris Davis, a minor leaguer, and $3 million to Houston for Evan Gattis.
May 23 saw St. Louis make a pair of major pitching moves, shipping Mark Reynolds and a minor league pitcher to Washington for starter Gio Gonzalez and $3 million, and ending outfielder Jon Jay to Detroit for Justin Verlander, along with another $3 million. Two solid starters plus $6 million for the coffers: not bad.
The run up to the trading deadline was devoid of any major deals.
The season's biggest trades at a glance:
In the American League Wild Card play-in game, Oakland carried a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning against the New York Yankees, thanks to a sacrifice fly, a solo home run by Ike Davis, and a two-run blast by Ben Zobrist. All the runs scored against Masahiro Tanaka, while Oakland starter Sonny Gray seemed to be cruising to victory until he slammed into a pair of two-run home runs by Brian McCann and Ty Wigginton in the seventh. Gray gave way to the bullpen in the next inning, and a pair of run-scoring singles, along with a wild pitch with the bases loaded, sealed a 7-4 victory for New York.
The National League Wild Card play-in game had its own late-inning drama as Chicago led Atlanta, 4-3, heading into the top of the eighth inning. Justin De Fratus, acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies during the season, took over for Chicago and recorded a pair of strikeouts. Then on consecutive pitches he gave up a single to Kelly Johnson and a two-run home run by Nick Markakis. The Wrigley Field faithful were rewarded, though, as a two-run home run by Javier Baez in the bottom of the eighth proved to be the difference in the 6-5 victory.
In the Division Series round, the Detroit Tigers swept the resurgent Houston Astros, scoring 31 runs in the process, but the other series all went five games. Tampa Bay built a 2-0 lead against New York and saw it slip away before they nailed down Game 5 on Matt Andriese's second sparkling pitching performance of the series, which earned him the series MVP.
The Chicago Cubs took a 2-1 series lead against St. Louis, but a 9-1 shellacking sent the series to a fifth game in St. Louis, where Wade Davis, who they acquired from Kansas City in July, entered his second inning of work in the top of the tenth inning in a 1-1 game. Davis recorded a quick strike-out but walked Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo, who pulled off a double steal during Kris Bryant's strike-out.
Wild Card play-in game hero Baez then delivered a two-run single that chased Davis from the game. Brian Wilson, who St. Louis signed as a free agent in May, entered the game and allowed another run-scoring single, since Baez had reached second on a throw to home. Wilson struck out the next batter to end the inning, but St. Louis couldn't mount a rally in the bottom of the tenth inning and Chicago headed to the NLCS.
Chicago's opponent was Washington, who also had to go the full five games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Max Scherzer took the mound for the decisive Game 5 and tossed eight strong innings, allowing two runs, six hits, and one walk while striking out five batters in the 5-2 victory.
Both League Championship Series lacked drama, however, as Tampa Bay's dominant pitching shut down Detroit's hot bats in a sweep and the Washington Nationals spotted the Chicago Cubs a win in Game 1 and then won the next four, three of them by one run. Washington won on a walk-off hit in Game 2 and scored three runs in the top of the 13th inning in Game 5 to win, 6-3. De Fratus who almost threw away the Wild Card play-in game for Chicago, allowd two singles, a double, and a walk, and threw a run-scoring wild pitch, during that fateful inning.
In the World Series, featuring two teams who had never won it, Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 series lead at home on the strength of Andriese and Matt Moore, defeating Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer in the process. Tampa Bay won Game 1, 1-0, as they rode a first-inning sacrifice fly to victory.
Washington roared back with two wins on their home turf, surviving a top-of-the-ninth scare to win Game 4, 5-4. Game 6, however, belonged to Tampa Bay, 6-3, as Strasburg took his second loss of the series and Andriese and five relievers kept Washington in check.
Then there was Game 6 in Tampa Bay, won by the home team, 2-0. The contest was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Ben Paulsen led off with a triple and came home on Asdrubal Cabrera's single. Two batters later, Cabrera stole second and then came home on a single. Scherzer was the starter, and he ended up lasting five innings.
Tampa Bay's starter, Matt Moore, struck out 12 in the game and allowed six walks, but he tossed a no-hitter on 151 pitches. He didn't get into any jams until the top of the ninth, when he recorded two quick outs and then walked Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman in succession. Mark Reynolds worked a full count but went down swinging and the Tampa Bay Rays had their first World Series victory in franchise history.
Unsurprisingly, Moore earned World Series MVP honors. He had two starts in the series, tossing 15 innings and allowing five hits, nine walks, and one earned run (for a 0.60 ERA) while striking out 23 batters.
Despite his playoff struggles, Stephen Strasburg was dominant during the regular season, earning his MVP and Cy Young honors in the National League. Mike Trout took home MVP honors in the American League while Felix Hernandez was the Cy Young winner.
Kris Bryant was the unsurprising Rookie of the Year choice in the NL and Dalton Pompey had a breakout season to earn that honor in the AL.
Mike Matheny was an unsurprising Manager of the Year winner in the NL while skipper Kevin Cash was recognized for Tampa Bay's magical season in the AL.