This Video Game Is So Good Even MLB Managers Turn to It For Help
"Out of the Park Baseball" is such a realistic simulator that multiple MLB managers have turned to it for guidance with in-game decisions
It’s no secret that, like us mere mortals, many professional athletes are avid gamers. Some have even openly discussed concerns about video-game addiction among the stars. But this type of behavior could have its benefits on real-life fields of play. At least one baseball simulator has gotten so sophisticatedly good that multiple MLB managers have turned to it for guidance with in-game personnel moves and other situational decisions.
“I think it’s a useful tool, first and foremost, to get to know the roster,” San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler told The Athletic recently about “Out of the Park Baseball,” a popular, hyper-realistic baseball simulator, licensed by MLB. Kapler explained that in the past OOTP Baseball, as it’s colloquially called, has informed “how we would use the roster as a coaching staff and how we viewed the roster as individuals, and it prompted discussion around some late-game, in-game strategy.”
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In 2020, when the pandemic put Major League Baseball play on pause, Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli loaded up some OOTP simulations to, as The Athletic reported at the time, stay “sharp.”
“It’s more real than unreal, I’ll tell you that,” Baldelli said about the online game in 2020. “It’s very realistic the way that things come up. It’s one thing to have a discussion and look at information on a page and try to get into it, but it’s another thing when you’re watching it unfold in front of your eyes…And talking through it, just as you would in the dugout, that’s gold.”
The game’s chief marketing office, Rich Grisham, told the publication he’s met with representatives of about half of MLB’s clubs, who’ve shown varying levels of interest in the game’s potential benefits. Still, “from running through scenarios to using OOTP’s simulations, teams have found ways to incorporate a video game into their increasingly complex processes,” wrote The Athletic.
MLB likes the game so much that they used it to run 1,000 simulations of the 2023 season and published the results on its official website. The Los Angeles Dodgers faced off with the defending champion Houston Astros in the most-played World Series of OOTP’s simulations. The Dodgers were victorious in 60% of those matchups.
OOTP also predicted Jacob deGrom and Kris Bryant would return to form, and Aaron Judge would again lead the American League in home runs. (Maybe place some corresponding bets on those guys?)
“What we knew then [in 2020, when Kapler was first exposed to the game] and what I’m even more confident in now is that the game has more capability than even we used it for,” Kapler told The Athletic in his recent interview. “It’s just an awesome simulator. And that’s what these games are designed to do: Simulate what might happen in the game and remind how random the game can be at times, and let you go back in and get a ton of reps. I think it’s a great tool for any coach or manager. And it’s fun.”
Maybe the age-old question of whether or not some fans — who have a history of criticizing managerial performances, not to mention those of players — are so sports-astute they could effectively manage a pro team has some water. Two MLB offseasons ago I was missing baseball so much that, even though I hadn’t picked up a video game controller in well over a decade, I bought an XBox and populated it with that year’s iteration of “MLB: The Show.” The game play was too challenging for my then-42-year-old eyes and fingers (they’ve gotta make these games easier, dammit!), but my addictive personality showed up when I dove into franchise mode. I built my hometown New York Mets into a dynasty (multiple World Series wins across six seasons) and then, for an even greater challenge, tried out my general-manager chops on the lowest-ranked team in the game, the Baltimore Orioles.
After three seasons at the helm of the O’s, I had them in position to dominate, long-term, with a full rotation of starting pitchers at or under the age of 22 with ratings of 80 or more. (Right now, 28-year-old Framber Valdez, who finished fifth in the AL’s Cy Young vote last year, has a rating of 87.) My lineup included Pete Alonso and Trevor Story among other sluggers because I was so shrewd in building a cost-efficient pitching staff.
Then, my XBox failed to save the game after I went through an entire offseason of personnel moves. It shook me from a weeklong haze where pretty much all I thought about was “The Show.” I returned the XBox and the game to Best Buy for a full refund, so that I could return to normal.
But my addiction claimed another victim. In telling my friend Brian about my exploits as “Mets GM,” he bought the game, too, building an expansion-team powerhouse (which he tried to give such a filthy logo the game wouldn’t permit it) in Nashville. For a couple weeks he couldn’t be pulled away from the game either, and at one point I remember asking him, “Am I crazy or do you also feel like more MLB organizations can build themselves up as effectively?” He said maybe it’s not quite as easy as it is in the video game, but probably not as hard as they make it out to be in real life, either.
Perhaps we’re not far away from an actual general manager crediting “Out of the Park Baseball” with helping lead his franchise to those kinds of results. We’re already getting field managers saying it is.
Looks like the newest version is on sale today…
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