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Bizarro 2015 Mariners, Part 3: True to the Blue

One of the great perks of writing this blog is a preview copy of Out of the Park Baseball, now in its 16th edition. This is very much a plug for the baseball simulator because it is well-earned. OOTP 16 continues the upward trajectory of baseball's most robust simulation game. There is a learning curve because of all the options, but for a hardcore baseball geek, it is nirvana.

I downloaded my preview copy of OOTP 16 and naturally chose to take Jack Zduriencik's post with the 2015 Mariners to simulate the 2015 season. What unfolded is epic enough to split into three posts. This is the second post in the trilogy. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.

The season closed out without much drama. Standing pat at the trade deadline worked out just fine for me and my bizarro Mariners. The team went on some mini winning streaks, and in particular showed a good nose for beating up on the Angels in head-to-head match-ups down down the stretch. This opened up a lead in the division that ballooned into double digits!

In the end, my bizarro 2015 Mariners were the first team to clinch a playoff spot in baseball. In fact, the ended up with the best record in the big leagues, which was pretty surprising given that we finished 93-69. That's certainly a good record, but rarely good enough to top everyone. Before revealing what happened in the playoffs, here are what turned out to be some of the more entertaining storylines of the 2015 season:

Mike Zunino found his stroke again

The atrocious production of my catchers was laughable through the All-Star break. I sent Mike Zunino down to Tacoma when he was batting around .120 (not an exaggeration or typo). David Ross, whom I acquired, batted about .150. Thankfully, Zunino showed signs of life in Tacoma and he brought his rediscovered stroke with him back to Seattle when he got called back up in a desperation move to find some more offense. His season numbers left much to be desired, but he was worth about 1.0 WAR after the All-Star break. His finish was an underrated part of how the Mariners separated themselves in the AL West.

Ol' Lloyd knows how to work platoons

Seth Smith had a 3.0 WAR season, Dustin Ackley 2.0 WAR, and Justin Ruggiano 1.0 WAR despite missing a few months with an injury. McClendon's management of the pile of AAAA outfielders I gave him was nothing short of masterful. He mixed and matched and made a pretty decent outfield out of what shouldn't have been too much to work with on paper. By the end of the season McClendon was even mixing in Ackley in center field to get his bat in the lineup against good matchups.

The Jean Seguera trade was a disaster

Shockingly, Brad Miller lost some confidence when I acquired Jean Seguera. He regressed badly in the final few months of the year. Meanwhile, Seguera couldn't figure out how to adjust to life as a designated hitter. His OPS fell almost 100 points on the season after he came to Seattle, and obviously he wasn't contributing anything defensively. Thanks for pushing for a shortstop, Howard Lincoln. That worked out oh so well.

Brandon Morrow rises from the ashes

Brandon Morrow put together a second half for the ages. Lloyd McClendon installed him in the starting rotation from day one and that turned out to be one of his best decisions managing the team all year (you may recall me from part one dreading this choice). Morrow fired gem after gem after gem in the heat of the pennant race. When it was all said and done, Morrow ended up winning the American League ERA title. This is, at least in my opinion, the greatest storyline of this bizarro 2015 Mariners season. Remember when we all dreamed about Brandon Morrow and King Felix at the top of the M's rotation? And then Jack Zduriencik shipped Morrow away for Brandon League? Well, that wish came true in this bizarro 2015 season and it went better than anyone could have imagined. Brandon Morrow: claimed off waivers from the Padres on May 7, American League ERA champ on on October 6. Crazy.

The playoffs

Honestly, the playoffs could not have gone any worse, or at least been any more infuriating. The trouble started the day after the Mariners clinched their playoff berth. Kyle Seager came up injured with what turned out to be a broken hand. He would be gone for the next month, meaning he could possibly make it back for the World Series.

That wasn't enough though. I set my playoff roster, and then Robinson Cano woke up on the wrong side of the bed. He strained his back and was gone for a month, literally the rest of the playoffs before they had begun.

No Cano or Seager in a lineup that already struggled to score runs. Even worse, I could not make a substitution on my playoff roster for Cano because I was technically considered "mid series" even though the games hadn't started. So, I was also down to playing with 24 guys. The bench was a mess because I hadn't spent time building a ton of depth behind Cano and Seager. I had enough depth to cover one sort of comfortably, but not both at the same time. Jean Seguera got to play the field some, and Patrick Kivlehan got pressed into duty after struggling in Tacoma all year.

The Mariners faced the Red Sox in the first round, and fought hard despite such crippling injuries. They took the Red Sox all the way to game five before being defeated. In some ways that made the frustration even worse. Yes, the playoffs are a crapshoot, but it just wasn't fair getting dealt such an awful hand - and still, the team was so, so close to advancing. It's hard not to wonder what might have been with a more healthy team.

Then again, it feels so Seattle to have a team with some excitement and expectations tragically collapse. It felt like another example of OOTP 16's remarkably realistic simulation.

Boston didn't make it any further, so maybe the Mariners wouldn't have either. The Kansas City Royals took the Red Sox out in six games to advance to their second consecutive World Series. They faced the Dodgers, who finally found a way to make $200+ million transform into a championship.

Still, despite such bitter disdain at the end of my bizarro 2015 Mariners season, the OOTP 16 simulation got me fired up for what will happen in the real 2015 season. Baseball throws unexpected challenges and gifts left and right, and it's hard to remember those during spring training. It was fun watching the trials and tribulations of the the bizarro 2015 Mariners and we can only hope for similar drama and fun in the real 2015 season.

If you'll excuse me, it's time for me to start working on what's left of my 2015 team to get them ready for 2016. Howard Lincoln wants me to re-sign Brandon Morrow and he also thanked me profusely for getting a "top six" shortstop in Jean Seguera. My oh my...