One of the things we tend to love about baseball is when the game breaks, and a player ends up doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. Don Mattingly playing second base to finish off the Pine Tar Game, Randy Johnson manning left field on a double switch, Skip Schumaker firing fastballs that would make Tommy Milone jealous: these are the images of incongruity and improvisation that stick to us. We wait for the situations not because we want our heroes to fail, necessarily, but because throwing them out of their element makes them resemble us, just for a moment.
But why wait for the planets to align in real life, when we can simulate our dreams right now?
Thus I began this mad, stupid experiment. The premise is simple: using everyone’s favorite realistic baseball simulation, Out of the Park 2015, I created teams of baseball players by cloning a single player until they filled the active roster, and set them against each other in 162 games of gory combat. The results exceeded my wildest expectations.
The four teams in the CBL (Clone Baseball League) are:
• The Adam Dunns
• The Dee Gordons
• The Bartolo Colons
• The Koji Ueharas
I chose Adam Dunn because, when I started this project a couple of weeks ago, I never imagined that Dunn would be a gigantic jerk and pitch for the first time after fourteen years. I chose Dee Gordon because I’m an idiot and didn’t think of Jose Altuve until it was too late. I chose Bartolo Colon because I’m not completely an idiot. And I chose Koji Uehara because I like Koji Uehara. Each of the four teams has a strength: power, speed, stamina, and stuff, respectively, and I wanted to see which would win out. In a perfect world, they might form a delicate balance. It was not a perfect world.
In terms of methodology, I kept all four players at their original, OOTP-assigned ratings, only guessing what I thought the hitters’ fastballs would clock in at. I locked the rosters at 25 because it would take too long to populate a minor league system, and I didn’t want the computer to sneak some unauthorized eighteen year-old Cuban onto the club to use as fresh legs. I assigned each homunculi a position, set five starters and a closer, and designated the rest as middle relievers. Then I lit the fuse and backed away.
The first piece of news was Dee Gordon getting five hits on Opening Day; not bad. In fact, all the teams seemed to be doing okay except the Colons, who were struggling badly. But then, on April 12, I saw my first ill omen (click for box score). Right fielder Adam Dunn went 5 for 6 with three walks, two homers, and 12 RBI. 13 Dee Gordons pitched, with the starter throwing 65 pitches of 8-run, 1.1 inning ball.
But it was only a skirmish heralding April 20, where the Dunns returned and beat the Gordons by a score of 164 to 12 (boxscore). The game began at 7:05 EST, with a paid attendance of 30,861; no word on how many remained after the final pitch at 4:26 the following morning. The Dunns went up to the plate as a team 230 times. They set more single-game records than I care to count, including 29 runs scored (by two players), 24 walks (also two), and 25 RBI. The final Dee Gordon, abandoned on the mound by his disqualified teammates, pitched the final 3.1 innings and gave up 86 earned runs on 58 walks and 37 hits, for a total of 476 pitches.
This would crush the spirit of most players, but not Dee Gordon(s). They came back and beat the Colons the next night, 6-4.
The Colons had it rough. They didn’t win a series until the end of April, and before long they began peppering my inbox with retirement announcements at the end of the year. By October every position player had called it quits except the first baseman, theoretically due to the strain of exercise, although the Colons weren’t actually any worse at fielding than the Dunns or the Ueharas. Instead, it was their pitching that failed them: the Colons starters, facing nine pitchers, nine shortstops and nine Adam Dunns, only managed an ERA of 7.80, barely better than the Dunns themselves.
As the season plodded onward, it became a two-team race between the Adam Dunns and the surprising Koji Ueharas. The Ueharas, by committing to a sixteen-man bullpen, were able to rotate out pitchers without overworking them, and their health played a huge factor. Meanwhile, they proved capable hitters, slapping out singles past stationary fielders three at a time to score runs.
Without a doubt, however, the saddest storyline of the season belongs to Dee P. Gordon, who returned from a month-long injury to take the mound on August 8 and pitched every single inning of the final 37 games of the season. His stat line reads like the end of a Poe short story (click to embiggen):
Because Out of the Park isn’t programmed to allow forfeitures, the Gordons were frozen with exactly nine unbroken players left on their roster, and thus there was no one to save Dee P. from his fate. That he even won four games (one a 51-50 nailbiter) is kind of amazing. The lowlight was definitely October 2, when a certainly hollow, cadaverous Gordon threw 944 pitches in a 164-16 loss, in which he somehow played both pitcher and first base. His game score was -813.
Over those final two months, Gordon suffered the following injuries: a torn labrum, a herniated disc, a sore wrist, biceps tendinitis, a forearm strain, two damaged elbow ligaments, two mild hamstring strains, a sore ankle, a sore forearm, acute elbow soreness, a sort thumb, a strained hamstring, a wild calf strain, an intercostal strain, and a tired arm.
The day after the season ended, and roster restrictions were lifted, Out of the Park destroyed the painting in Dee P. Gordon’s attic, and he immediately suffered a back spasms that shelved him for the next 19 months. The insanity and the peeling of his own skin were not included in the diagnosis. The game listed his morale as “unhappy”.
The Ueharas, behind their 4.18 ERA (league average, counting Gordons dead and otherwise, was 13.82), actually beat out the Dunns for the pennant by a single game. They also took a commanding 3-1 lead in the World Series, including an amazing three-hit effort by a trio of Ueharas. But then in Game 5 the Dunns made a miraculous comeback with three in the ninth, carried the momentum through game 6 and busted through the Uehara bullpen to win the final game, 12-10 (box score), and claim the World Championship. Their $312,000,000 payroll had all been worth it.
In terms of awards, Dee Gordons won the Gold Glove at every position except center field, which went to Adam Dunn. Koji Uehara won the Cy Young with a 5.7 WAR season, going 22-5 with a 6.11 ERA.And in a mild upset, shortstop Adam D. Dunn won the MVP award over right fielder Adam G. Dunn, who had three more wins above replacement level. The nerds, somehow, lost again.
Enjoy Adam G. Dunn’s final stat line:
The Clone Baseball League was a certified success. I was somewhat disappointed in the lack of poor fielding; the game translated each player’s poor defensive skill into terrible range, rather than hilarious gaffes. (Shortstop Adam Dunn, who led the league in errors with 73, lazily edged the real major league postwar record of 51 by Roy Smalley.) This led to inflated BABIPs (.424 league average) and thus .350-hitting pitchers. And thanks to the die rolls, we had no Clint Barmes-style injuries or 100-game hitting streaks.
Still, it gave us Adam Dunn, Gold Glove-winning center fielder, and that’s enough. Thank you, OOTP.
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