How Many Altuves?

Length in Feet:

Number of Jose Altuves:

*Note: Number of Jose Altuves is Official Standard Listed Altuves (OSLA). Actual Number of Jose Altuves may vary.

OOTP 20: A Review

We're back for our annual review of the latest version of Out of the Park Baseball and, as cliche as it sounds, this game really does get better every year. There are a handful of really impressive new features this year, in addition to the usual improvements surrounding the graphics, sim accuracy, and AI decision making. This season, for the first time ever, you have the ability to start a new game at any point during the real MLB season and have up-to-date rosters, standings, stats, and ratings that have evolved since the beginning of the season. Also new this year is the ability to employ the opener-follower strategy with your pitching staff without having to manage every game of the season to prevent your AI manager from screwing it up. Finally, the Perfect Game mode has really been expanded after its successful release late in the life cycle of OOTP 19.

I try to dig into a different feature of the game every year, and I was tempted to go with Perfect Game this time, but ultimately decided to put together a tournament of the best Astros teams of all time to see how they would stack up against each other. I took the top 8 Astros seasons, as determined by pythagorean record, and set them up in with a first round, double round-robin followed by two best of seven rounds. Our contestants are, in chronological order, 1981, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2015, 2017, and 2018.

Right off the bat the entire tournament was completely flipped against my expectations, as three of the top four teams failed to make it out of the first round. No teams went undefeated or winless, but the 2018, 2017, 1999, and 2015 squads are already done.

The next round saw both "home" teams prevail, though in very different fashions. 2003 breezed past 1994 with a sweep, while 1998 had to grind out a thrilling 7 game series against 1981.

Our thrilling tourney wrapped up with the 2003 squad finishing their steamrolling of the rest of Astros history, sweeping 1998 in a series that saw an average of over 15 total runs scored per game.

On Hall of Fame Voting

Last night we found out the latest group of players to be elevated to Hall of Fame status, as voted by the BaseBall Writers Association of America. Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, and Mariano Rivera will be inducted in Cooperstown this July, joining Lee Smith and Harold Baines, who were elected in December by the Today’s Game Era Committee. Rivera goes in as the first ever unanimous selection.

In more Astros-related news, both Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman dropped off the ballot after just one year, receiving 4 and 5 votes, respectively. Former Astros Legend Rick Ankiel received 0 votes.

I’ve noticed a few trends in voting recently that I think may be worth discussing, and I think Rivera, Oswalt, and Berkman are great examples of these trends. In particular, increased voter transparency and the internet “hive mind” have changed the way the voters have approached their ballots.

As mentioned earlier, Mariano Rivera is the first ever inductee to be elected unanimously. I’ve seen many negative reactions to this news, not because anyone thinks Mo’s not worthy of induction, but because they think there should have been others before him, whether it be Griffey or Maddux or Ripken or whoever else. The BBWAA didn’t start releasing public ballots until 2012, though some people online have been tracking votes at least as far back as 2009, most famously Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs). As these votes became public, voters started receiving massive amounts of… let’s call it negative feedback… if their ballots didn’t include whichever candidates The Internet decided were most worthy of votes that year. Prior to Rivera, Griffey was the closest to unanimous in 2016, with just 3 voters leaving him off their ballots. However, all 308 ballots (out of 440 total ballots cast) that were made public according to Thibodaux’s tracker included Griffey. As a matter of fact, every single inductee since 2014 has received a higher percentage of votes on public ballots than on ballots that are kept private, with the exception of Trevor Hoffman.

While this transparency and public discourse has helped push some candidates over the line (Bagwell, Raines, and Edgar Martinez, especially) I believe it has also led to some candidates dropping off the ballot much earlier than they would have in the past. While this is harder to quantify and prove, because less attention is paid to the down-ballot candidates, Berkman and Oswalt are examples of the type of players who used to get a few honorary votes in the past. Voters would often do this to acknowledge that, while not Hall-worthy, players like this were good enough, long enough, to be worthy of some further recognition. Often these votes would be cast by writers who had covered the team(s) these players had been on or who had played against them often, as division rivals or playoff foes. For example, one of the two public votes for Berkman was Rene Cardenas, a Spanish language broadcaster who has been connected to the Astros off and on since 1961. Both public voters for Oswalt are similar, with one coming from Cardenas and the other from former Astros beat writer Jose de Jesus Ortiz. It used to be far more common for players like Berkman and Oswalt to make it to at least their second ballot. For example, Bernie Williams, Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela and Willie McGee all made it to a second ballot because they were good but not great and had been fan favorites. However, voters are now reluctant to give players these throw-away votes, especially if they make their votes public. The ridicule from the armchair voters online is too much. In fact, every single player who has dropped off the ballot since 2013 had a higher vote percentage among private votes as opposed to those made public, with the exception of Jim Edmonds in 2016 (I’m excluding Garret Anderson, whose only vote was on a public ballot.)

I don’t know if these trends are good or bad. Honestly, I don’t think they need to be either. At the end of the day, those players who are obvious Hall of Famers are getting in. And, other than some head scratchers from the various after-ballot committees in Cooperstown, those who are obviously not Hall of Famers are not getting in.  

OOTP 19: Review

Anyone who has followed me here for a while knows how much I love the Out of the Park Baseball series. I've played every version since 12, and I'm always excited when news about the next iteration starts to come out. The OOTP team works relentlessly to constantly improve their product year after year, and this year's is no different.

As always, OOTP 19 offers an extremely robust sim engine, detailed rosters for every level of professional baseball, including many foreign and independent leagues, and the most in depth options for controlling your baseball universe of any sim out there. This year they've greatly enhanced the visuals of the in-game action. I'll be honest, I never paid much attention to the 3D renderings when I play, but this year I really took notice. The graphics and player actions are much smoother and really add to the feeling of real baseball taking place, instead of just numbers in a spreadsheet (not that I've ever complained! As an accountant by day, I love numbers and spreadsheets.)

They've also revamped the scouting system, offering a more detailed look at each player, both present ability and projected. It can now also handle two way players better, just in time for players like Shohei Otani to debut!

Another enhanced feature is tournament play. You can create stand alone, one-time tournaments that include any historical teams you want.

And those are just the improvements that jump out at you at first glance. There are myriad smaller improvements that you stumble across as you play. I've seen some users talk about players who have spiritual awakenings and start questioning how baseball fits into their view of the universe!

Now, for the fun part. As an Astros fan, the first thing I do is a quick sim of the upcoming season. Let's see how they do this year. I'll be playing the role of GM, and I'll just sit back and let A.J. Hinch lead us to another World Series parade.

Ouch. Just seven games into the season and Charlie F. Morton hits the dl with a torn triceps. He'll likely be out until at least the All-Star break, so let's hope the Astros pitching depth can step up. Thankfully James Hoyt is ready to join the squad after starting the season on the shelf, while Collin McHugh slides back into the rotation.

We made it through the rest of the month unscathed, thankfully. On May 7th, Houston is 21-15, 1st in the AL West with a 1.5 game lead over the Angels. The Astros again have the league's best offense, while the pitching is struggling a bit. Altuve's hitting .386 so far and Correa's leading the league with 36 RBI. Cole and Verlander are a formidable 1-2 punch, as both are in the top 3 in ERA and strikeouts. McCullers in particular is struggling with a 7.16 ERA and only Brad Peacock and Tony Sipp in the bullpen have an ERA under 4. And Peacock just hit the dl with a strained forearm. For the second year in a row, Francis Martes is called upon to bolster an injured major league staff. For those Astros fans who had a chuckle about Sipp just now, he's appeared in 14 games but only has 4.1 innings pitched. Hinch is being VERY cautious with letting Tony face anyone other than lefties, I guess.

At the end of May, not much has changed. The offense is still steamrolling the league, while the pitching staff is struggling behind Verlander and Cole, though the bullpen has improved. Joe Smith and Martes have ERAs below 4 now, so that's good. Altuve managed to raise his average this month, and is now hitting .388! This could be worth keeping an eye on. The Astros are 31-27 but have opened their lead up to 3.5 games. The A's are 2nd, while the Angels and Mariners are tied just a half game behind them.

With their 1st round pick in the draft, the Astros select high school shortstop Osiris Johnson from Encinal HS in Alameda, CA.

More bad news for the pitching staff, as Will Harris was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff on June 13th. He'll be out for the rest of the season. David Paulino will join the Astros staff in his place.

At the end of June, the Astros are 49-36, still in 1st place in the AL West, 2.5 games above the surprising Oakland A's. The Angels and Mariners have fallen off, and the Rangers are bringing up the rear, 29-55 and 19.5 games back. Altuve is no longer leading the league in batting average, having slipped to hitting "just" .341. However, an Astros player is still atop the leader board, as Yulieski Gurriel is hitting .352. Gerrit Cole won Pitcher of the Month honors after going 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA in June. Lance McCullers has lowered his ERA to 5.00 after the horrible first month, but is still 7-3 on the strength of the Houston offense.

Charlie Morton suffered a setback in his injury recovery. He's undergone surgery and will miss the remainder of the year.

Jon Singleton's suspension has ended, and he has been released by the Astros.

All-Star rosters were announced on July 15th. Jose Altuve, Yulieski Gurriel, and Carlos Correa are named starters, and are joined on the roster by Brian McCann, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Josh Reddick. If you ask me, Derek Fisher was robbed (that's meant to be funny, but Fisher IS hitting .293/.395/.527.) Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander also make the team. Nine All-Stars, not too shabby. Reddick is named All-Star MVP after hitting a 3 run homer in the 8th to put the game away for good as the AL wins 8-2.

At the break, ten Astros hitters have double-digit home run totals already. This is ridiculous. The team is on pace for 257 homers, just 7 shy of the record in a season by one team. Gerrit Cole is leading the league in ERA and wins, and is just 10 strikeouts behind teammate Justin Verlander for the league lead.

Despite desperately needing bullpen help, the Astros stood pat at the trade deadline. (I blew right past the deadline while I was simming.)

At the end of July, Houston is 69-40 and is running away with the division now, opening up a 12 game lead over Oakland. The Astros went 20-4 for the month. Altuve is named Player of the Month for July after hitting .406 with 7 homers. He's back on top of the league in batting average, up to .355, with Gurriel second at .347. Correa is the first player to 100 RBI. Best offense, pitchers struggling except Cole and Verlander, yadda yadda yadda. Ken Giles didn't allow a run all month, so that's cool.

Wow, this is getting to be a long post.

August 14th, Bregman goes down for 6 weeks with plantar fascitis. Hopefully he'll be ready to go for the playoffs. J.D. Davis has a hip strain in Fresno, so Tony Kemp gets the call. Marwin takes over as the starter at 3rd.

Want to see how the rest of the season plays out? Get your copy of OOTP19 and try it out for yourself!