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Simulating the 2020 Mets: Starting the season, playing the first three games

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Using OOTP, I’m going to attempt to simulate a hypothetical full 2020 Mets season.

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St Louis Cardinals v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The fine folks over at OOTP had reached out to us—and a bunch of other baseball sites—coming into the 2020 season, offering to send a copy of their management and simulation game to have some fun with and write about in ways that we saw fit. Now that we’re in a reality in which there is definitely not going to be a full season of baseball this year, if there’s a season at all, it seemed like it’d be silly to pass up the opportunity to play the game.

The goal here for me is to handle all of the operations of running these simulated Mets, including GM and managerial duties. At least for now, I’ve played through each of the six games actively as the Mets’ managers, making all lineup decisions, substitutions, strategical moves, and—of course—pitching changes. If you subscribe to the Athletic, you might have seen Aaron Gleeman doing this with the 2020 Twins, and a tip of the cap goes to him for influencing the presentation of this series.

I’m hoping to post once or twice a week about a new chunk of games. I’m undecided on pacing, as simply playing along with the pace of games as they were supposed to be scheduled might end up overlapping with a shortened real life season, which would probably crater any interest in continuing this series. Perhaps I’ll play through the season at a faster pace on my end and break things up as evenly as possible for the posts, basing that on whether or not the 2020 season ever gets underway in real life.

Whatever the case, here’s the roster I set for Opening Day for these Mets:

Pitchers

  • Jacob deGrom
  • Noah Syndergaard
  • Marcus Stroman
  • Steven Matz
  • Michael Wacha
  • Edwin Diaz
  • Seth Lugo
  • Justin Wilson
  • Dellin Betances
  • Jeruys Familia
  • Brad Brach
  • Robert Gsellman
  • Rick Porcello

That’s thirteen pitchers, as I’ve taken that 26th spot that was suppsoed to be implemented to begin this season and used it on the pitching side. At least on paper, with Syndergaard not injured in this alternate reality, my plan is more or less to piggyback Wacha and Porcello, trying to minimize the bullpen’s workload every fifth game. Wacha will start, ideally get through four innings, maybe five if he’s cruising, and the goal is to get Porcello through the rest of the game if at all possible. And since I’m not the real life Mets and wasn’t the one who gave Porcello $10 million for one year, I don’t care that this is his role. Odds are that someone will get hurt and he’ll end up in a regular rotation eventually.

Catchers

  • Wilson Ramos
  • Rene Rivera

It’s the hand I’ve been dealt with the catching situation, but there are definitely worse ones out there across the league.

Infielders

  • Pete Alonso
  • Robinson Cano
  • Amed Rosario
  • Jeff McNeil
  • Dominic Smith
  • Matt Adams
  • Luis Guillorme

What if they made the whole team out of first basemen? But hey, Smith is probably going to play the outfield more often than the infield on this roster, and Adams might even get some playing time out there or at first if Alonso needs a breather. Having his bat off the bench seemed worth it to me given the dearth of other options for offense there. Looking ahead, the game starts this season with incredible Jed Lowrie optimism, listing him at 4 weeks of injury time left.

Outfielders

  • J.D. Davis
  • Brandon Nimmo
  • Michael Conforto
  • Jake Marisnick

This aligns with what the real life outfield very likely would’ve been had the season started on time. Maybe the Mets would have brought another outfielder north if one of the players trying to make the team out of spring training had really impressed. The plan is for Davis, Nimmo, and Conforto to play as often as possible here, with Marisnick really being limited.

And here are my lineups, which aren’t set in stone but are what I’ve entered into the game as my default lineups to start the year.


With that roster in place, here are the expectations being placed on me by simulated ownership:

Those are fairly aggressive expectations given how the Mets have typically entered a season over, well, their entire existence.


March 26, Game 1: Mets 8, Nationals 4

First, if you haven’t played OOTP, here’s what the in-game interface looks like:

Naturally, Jacob deGrom gets the Opening Day start for my Mets. Although he gives up one run in the top of the second inning when Asdrubal Cabrera scores on a double play, he allows nothing else in his six innings of work, which took him 93 pitches. He strikes out eight and walks just one, giving up five hits along the way.

The game turns in the Mets’ favor in the bottom of the second, with deGrom singling home a run before Michael Conforto hits a bases-clearing double to make it 4-1. The score stays the same until the bottom of the eighth, when the Mets beat up on the Nationals’ bullpen. J.D. Davis leads off with a solo home run, Wilson Ramos scores later in the inning on a fielder’s choice, and Jeff McNeil caps the inning off with a two-run home run to make it 8-1.

Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson combined to keep the Nationals from scoring in the seventh and eighth innings, though it’s worth noting Lugo had to leave the game early with what turned out to be a mild hamstring strain. With a much larger lead, I turn to Brad Brach instead of Edwin Diaz for the ninth. He gets rocked, giving up three runs on three hits, but he strikes out two and completes the inning to wrap up yet another Opening Day win for the Mets.


March 27

With the day off, I reach out to Matt Harvey and offer him a contract for one year that’ll pay him $1.5 million if he’s on the major league roster. He accepts. I’ll probably call him up within the next couple of weeks and see how he does in the bullpen.


March 28, Game 2: Mets 2, Nationals 1 (10)

This one is much more of a nail-biter than the first game of the year. Healthy Noah Synderagaard goes seven scoreless innings, strikes out six, walks one, gives up five hits, and uses just 87 pitches to do so. Dellin Betances makes his Mets debut with a quick scoreless inning, handing a 1-0 lead—established when Michael Conforto drove in a run with a single off Stephen Strasburg in the third inning—over to Edwin Diaz.

And in his season debut, Diaz gives up a home run to Eric Thames, the first batter he faces. He sets down the next three batters in order, but ugh, he’s off to a start that feels a lot like 2019. Fortunately, Jeurys Familia throws a scoreless tenth inning, allowing the Mets to win on a walk-off sac fly by Pete Alonso in the bottom of that inning. These Mets are now 2-0 to start the season.

Oh, the bad news: Michael Conforto had to leave the game after being hit in the head with a pitch. There’s no initial diagnosis on his injury, but I place him on the injured list the following morning and call up Eduardo Nunez. Is he really going to play the outfield for me? Maybe! Does this screw up my ideal lineup? Significantly! Is Jake Marisnick getting regular playing time now? Yep!


March 29, Game 3: Mets 3, Nationals 2

Marcus Stroman gives up a run in the first but settles in fairly nicely, keeping Washington off the board in the second through fourth innings before giving up one more in the fifth. The Mets had scored three in the bottom of the first thanks to extreme Natitude, with the first run scoring on an error and the second on a passed ball. Wilson Ramos hits a sac fly later in that inning, and it turns out that run ends up being the deciding one in the game.

Stroman goes six innings in total with six strikeouts and two walks. Justin Wilson pitches the seventh and eighth, strikes out three, gives up one hit, and doesn’t walk anybody. And coming off the frightening first outing for Diaz, I turn to Betances, who strikes out two batters and only needs 12 pitches to save the game.

The Mets are off to a great start, having swept the defending World Series champions. The starting pitching has been great, and aside from a couple of shaky outings, the bullpen hasn’t looked so bad. Oh and we still haven’t heard what exactly is up with Conforto.


Linda’s take: The Mets made a curious move in the offseason and hired Chris McShane to be both their manager and their general manager. This is a rarity in baseball, and when the Marlins made GM Dan Jennings their manager in 2015 the team achieved little success. The Mets are hoping for a different fate, and owner Fred Wilpon is expecting a winning season out of his rookie manager/GM.

McShane’s tenure as skipper got off to a good start when his team finished off a sweep of the Nationals to open the season. He perhaps got a bit lucky on Opening Day when he pulled Jacob deGrom after only six innings, but with a big enough lead there was no need to push the ace this early in the season.

The injury to Conforto will challenge the depth of this team considering he acquired no real outfielders besides Jake Marisnick and now it is likely both Dominic Smith and Matt Adams will see playing time in left which is far from ideal.

The real stunner was McShane’s first move as GM when he offered Matt Harvey a contract. Perhaps even more shocking was that the former star accepted, but this is a good low risk, high reward move that could pay off well for this team should Harvey recapture some of The Dark Knight magic.

Overall, McShane has deftly managed both jobs well, but the season is still young and the first major injury could put his skills to the test.