Can you envision the Yankees upsetting the Astros in the playoffs? How about the Red Sox missing the playoffs altogether? How about the Mets winding up below .500?
If you can, you have company … in the form of a computer program.
A young man named Andrew Reicin, who has been helping me out with some research this summer, recently suggested that he run a simulation of the rest of the season on a program called Out of the Park Baseball 22 that is officially licensed by Major League Baseball. The only question was when to do it. We first contemplated the All-Star break, but I was pretty swamped that week, to be honest, and the more we discussed it, the more we realized the value of trying this exercise shortly after the trade deadline.
So on Wednesday, with the freshest data and roster information available, Andrew ran the rest of the 2021 on this game. The formula for each player invokes a blend of a scouting report plus statistics from this season and the two prior, with a diminishing percentage the further back you go. The “season” took about an hour to unfold.
Someone else could run the simulation with identical information and ingredients and emerge with drastically different results; you’re playing the odds. Think of this as a companion piece to Mike Vaccaro’s recent Strat-O-Matic Subway Series. Here’s what Andrew’s simulation produced:
- The Yankees went 92-70, capturing the first American League wild card, finishing five games behind the AL East-leading Rays (97-65). The Blue Jays (91-71) nabbed the second AL wild card, with the Red Sox falling out of the playoffs to 87-75.
- In the AL wild-card game, the Yankees prevailed at Yankee Stadium over the Jays, and then they upset the Astros in the AL Division Series, three games to two. They fell short to the White Sox in a seven-game ALCS.
- The Mets, meanwhile, sunk to 78-84, even with Jacob deGrom returning from the injured list to lift his wins above replacement to 5.6 (he currently stands at 5.0). The Braves won the National League East with a modest 83-79 mark, while Joe Girardi’s Phillies wound up at 80-82.
- The Padres ousted the Giants in the NL wild-card game, then did the same to the Dodgers in the NL Division Series, only to lose to the Brewers in the NLCS.
- Your World Series champion: Tony La Russa’s White Sox over the Brewers, themselves in their first Fall Classic since 1982, 4-2.
- Vladimir Guerrero outslugged Shohei Ohtani, 49-48, to win the major-league home-run crown, with the Yankees’ Joey Gallo finishing third at 45.
- The Brewers’ Corbin Burnes and the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole shared the big-league strikeout crown, with 251, edging the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler (250).
Now we’ll let the real thing play out…and we’ll see how close it approaches the simulation’s vision.
— This week’s Pop Quiz question came from the late Jan Bottone of Wellesley, Mass.: A 1982 episode of the sitcom “One Day at a Time” mentions a legendary Yankees player who was already in the Hall of Fame at the time of airing. Name the player.
– The latest edition of Pinstripe Pod, our Yankees podcast, features me as a guest. Nevertheless, you should listen to it.
– Your Pop Quiz answer is Yogi Berra. If you have a tidbit that connects baseball with popular culture, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.