On Saturday, I introduced my suggestion for a community time-waster during the lockout: Baseball Mogul 2018. Baseball Mogul is a baseball franchise simulator. Since it’s a few versions old, the 2018 version is free, which makes it ideal for what we’re doing here. Anyone with a computer can play along.
I plan to start with the 2000 season and run the Cardinals the way that I, not Walt Jocketty or John Mozeliak would – applying modern analytics to a roster built a quarter-century ago. I probably won’t be able to replicate the actual success of the 2000s era (simulations tend to even out highs and lows) but I can have fun trying!
If you want to play along or at least understand the rules that I’m going to play with, check out the introductory article. On to the season!
Setting Franchise Expenses
The biggest difference between the 2000 Cardinals and today’s baseball is the emphasis on the farm system and scouting. I’m throwing serious money into both. The Medical staff, too, because injuries can wreck a season in this game.
Entering the 2000 season, the game has the Cardinals ranked 16th in Farm System, 17th in Scouting, and 13th in Medical Staff. I’m bumping all of that up. $5.25M goes into the farm system. $5.5M scouting. $3.25M into medical. That ranks 4th in the farm and scouting and 6th in medical.
That puts me in a $4M hole for the season in projected revenue vs. expenses. I’ll have to make up for that somewhere else. The change, though, is vital as the 2000 Cards relied on expected production from veteran talent. I have to move them toward a draft and development model. My scouting and farm need to be top-notch. In the long run, it will pay off in the budget.
Pre-Season Roster Evaluation - Offense
The 2000 lineup is excellent. But old. Here’s how I set it up based on who is available:
You’ll notice one huge change right away. Despite not having any minor league time, Albert Pujols is already a 55/80 rated player. On a development-oriented team, that’s a player that needs to be in the lineup. So does Drew, who starts on Baseball Mogul’s bench.
Bumping them into the lineup sends vet starters in Lankford and Davis to the bench. That’s an expensive use of resources that needs to be addressed.
Meanwhile, the infield looks great everywhere except catcher. McGwire, Tatis, and Renteria are set. I plan to platoon Polanco and Vina to start the season and see who performs better. Then there’s Marrero and Matheny, who just isn’t going to cut it. Good thing I have some tradable assets!
Pre-Season Roster Evaluation – Pitching
Like the offense, the pitching is made up of proven vets that the club hopes will provide proven production. It also has two very interesting pieces on the farm: Adam Wainwright and Dan Haren are both 45/80 players before they’ve had one professional inning. Anthony Reyes and Chris Narveson both have high upside futures as well, but let’s just say I don’t believe in their future as strongly as I do Waino and Haren.
That’s a good mix of vets to try to win now and a bright future. Here’s how I ordered everything:
Area of improvement? The game doesn’t like Dave Veres. It does like Kiko Calero. That fits my developmental focus. Calero goes to the closer role. I know from experience that bullpens are extremely volatile in this game, so if I can grab a reliable, high leverage reliever to slide into the mix in a trade involving the outfielders, it would be a good idea.
We start at the beginning of Spring Training so there’s still time to make a few trades! I ran through a few fake trade options and discovered that Eric Davis has no real value. Lankford has some.
Here’s the deal, though. With every mock trade I try, one name always comes up: Jim Edmonds. Everyone wants him. And why not? He has a 70/75 grade.
With that info in hand, I went hunting for young, cost-controlled catchers and some pitching depth. I came up with two options that interested me:
Option 1: Lankford + Stephenson + Duncan for Pierzynski + Mays
This deal makes a lot of sense. Pierzynski has a “very good starter” 60-futures rating based primarily on his defense. Mays is a rotation-ready young SP. It costs me expendable parts – Stephenson – and a quality prospect with a 70 futures grade.
Option 2: Edmonds + Stephenson + Lankford + Nelson for Petrick + Holliday + Taveras
This trade is nuts. Petrick looks like he might be the best young catcher in this game with a 75 futures score. He’s at 60 right now, meaning he’s a ready-to-go All-Star if my scouts are trustworthy. Then there’s Holliday, with the huge 75 futures score who looks about one season away, with his 45 current rating. Taveras should be solid depth. The cost is steep – Edmonds AND Lankford, plus Stephenson and a prospect. Yikes.
What to do?
I go with option 2, of course! Yes, it means missing out on prime Jim Edmonds. But I get to enter 2021 with 75+ futures ratings from Drew, Pujols, Petrick, Holliday, Wainwright, and Haren. Plus an unbelievable supporting cast, including Renteria, Kile, and Morris.
After the trade, I revise my starting lineup, sliding Eric Davis in for Lankford and Drew in at center. Pujols stays in left. Holliday goes to AAA. Petrick takes over at C. I keep Matheny and Marrero because no one wants them on the trade market. Taveras heads to middle relief.
Alan Benes slides into the rotation for Stephenson. I bump Haren and Wainwright up to AAA to fit their present rankings. I wouldn’t be afraid to throw them into the rotation in the case of injury.
That’s the best I can do. Let’s sim the season!
First Quarter: 21-19, 7 games behind the Pirates (27-11)
I lost Eric Davis in mid-April for about a month. I subbed in Holliday, who crushed the ball all spring and was doing very well in AAA. His first promotion didn’t go well, but at least I got him a taste of the majors.
The pitching staff was hit and miss. So far Kile and Hentgen have been problems; both have ERAs over 5.00. The bullpen is holding on well enough.
Surely the Pirates won’t be able to keep this up? Right? Surely!
Amateur Draft (Highlights): I’ll admit, I drafted for names…
1. Grady Sizemore
2. J.A. Happ
3. Jonathan Sanchez
4. Andre Ethier
All-Star Break: 43-38, 1 game behind the Pirates (44-37)
Halfway into the season, the offense seems to be settling in. Pujols isn’t Pujols yet but he has an OPS of around .820. Petrick is doing very well, with a .264/.353/.408 slash line. Drew has a .869 OPS and 18 HRs at the break. McGwire is healthy and bombing.
The pitching staff is showing cracks. Kile and Hentgen have only gotten worse. I don’t know why they suck in this game. Alan Benes is ok but I’m considering subbing in Wainwright, who has an ERA below 1.00 in AAA. I’ll wait as long as I can. The bullpen is holding its own; Calero is exceptional so far.
Trade Deadline: 54-48, 4 games behind the Pirates (58-44)
July didn’t go particularly well but I’m close enough to make a move. That move has to be at SP. Right now Morris (70/75 rating) and Andy Benes (65) are holding their own. Kile (60) and Hentgen (55) continue to get worse and Alan Benes (45) is replacement level.
Meanwhile, both Wainwright and Haren are performing exceptionally well down in Memphis. But it would be nice to leave them there in the case of an injury.
Let’s see what trades I can work:
Option 1: Randy Johnson (60) for Anthony Reyes (45/75), John Rodriguez (45/60), and Chris Duncan (45/65)
Option 2: Juan Guzman (60) for Pat Hengten (55), and Chris Duncan (45/65)
Before you all jump on the Randy Johnson for Reyes deal, notice that 60 rating for Johnson and the 75-upside for Reyes, who is performing well in AA. In the real world, Johnson stays a Cy Young contender into his 40s, and Reyes flames out. In Baseball Mogul world? It’s concerning to me that Johnson is already down to a 60 in his age 36 seasons.
Better is the Hentgen for Guzman deal, where I exchange a vet starter who’s performing well for one who isn’t. I also gain a year of control – Guzman doesn’t become an FA until after the 2002 season. I make the deal.
Regular Season: 91-71, first place NL Central, 9 games up on the Pirates
On Aug. 29 I took over 1st place, tied with the Pirates and .5 game above the Reds. On Sept. 7, I lost Matt Morris for three months. Good thing I got Guzman! I lost him 20 days later. Gotta put more $ in the medical staff next season.
It didn’t matter, though, because the Reds and Pirates were pretenders. I lapped them in the end, taking the division by 9 games.
What carried me to such a good end to the season? Albert Pujols, of course! He finished with a .298/.382/.503 line! Brilliant.
On to the playoffs with my now depleted rotation, where I’ll lose 3-0 to the Giants in the Divisional Round. During the Divisional Round, I lost Fernando Tatis for 242 days. Ouch.
2000 Season Final Stats
With the first season in the book, here are the final stat lines for the offense and pitching staff.
Significant pending free agents: Shawon Dunston, Eduardo Perez, Mike Matheny, Andy Benes, Alan Benes, Scott Radinsky, Dave Veres.
How did I do? Let me know in the comments! What would you try to do heading into 2021? Seems like I’m poised to build a young powerhouse, but the pitching might need some work with Benes, Radinsky, and Veres all heading for free agency.