MLB 2020 season simulation: Royals, Astros continue shocking trends; Yankees lose key player
Here's how the regular season's ninth week played out in Out of the Park 21
Major League Baseball was supposed to launch the 2020 regular season nine weeks ago, on March 26. The spread of the novel coronavirus, however, forced MLB to delay Opening Day to some unknowable future date that is dependent on the effectiveness of the containment strategies imposed across the country in recent months and how negotiations go between the players union and the league.
Because we could all use a distraction these days, we've decided to pass time by simulating the season on Out of the Park Baseball 21. Along the way, we'll be providing updates on what's happening in our fictional league, similar to what we did on Opening Day.
With that in mind, here are the would-be standings and five developments to be mindful of from the week that was (and wasn't).
1. Yankees lose Tanaka
If the Yankees are to chase down the Rays and win the American League East, they'll have to do it without veteran starter Masahiro Tanaka. He suffered a torn flexor recently that will cause him to miss the rest of the year. Tanaka hadn't performed well overall, with a 5.80 ERA over his first 10 starts. Still, the Yankees would rather have him than not. New York has promoted Rony Garcia to take Tanaka's spot in the rotation for the time being.
2. Royals continue to surprise
It's relatively early, but who would've thought that the Royals would have a 30-23 record and would be situated in a tie for second place in the American League Central? Kansas City's fans should enjoy it while it lasts, because a deeper dive suggests their success thus far is of the smoke-and-mirrors variety. The Royals rank third in the AL in runs scored, yet ninth or worse in batting average, on-base percentage, and wOBA. They've also hit only the 13th most home runs in the AL, and their pitching staff is anything but spectacular. In other words, the Royals seem primed to slip in the standings as the year progresses.
3. Moncada flirts with .400
If someone is going to hit .400 this season, it seems like Yoan Moncada is the best bet. He's batting .380 thus far, some 23 points higher than runner-up Buster Posey. Moncada also leads the majors in on-base percentage and slugging, giving him the slash-line triple crown. That isn't as celebrated as the traditional triple crown — average, homers, and runs batted in — but it's arguably a more impressive accomplishment since it's based on rates and not counting stats.
4. Astros remain in last
We haven't checked in on the Astros in a few weeks, but, as you can see above, they're still in last place. The Astros are more than six games behind the fourth-place Mariners, which is an unexpected development. Part of the problem is that Josh James and Lance McCullers Jr. rank second and third in the majors in walks. It's tough to have a lot of success when two of your starters are handing out free passes left and right. The Astros are learning that the hard way.
5. Dodgers extend Wood
The Dodgers inked left-hander Alex Wood to a four-year extension worth more than $25 million. The move came as a surprise, given Wood's track record and durability concerns, yet the Dodgers are evidently confident he can keep up his performance to date. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 2.73 ERA and has struck out five times as many batters as he's walked.
Hitting performance of the week
This week's top offensive game was produced by Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger. He went 2 for 2 with a pair of home runs, four runs batted in, and three walks against the Yankees. Haniger scored three times himself as part of a 9-6 Mariners victory. He wasn't the only player to hit two home runs in that game, by the way, as Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez slugged his fifth and sixth as well.
Pitching performance of the week
Clayton Kershaw turned in a dandy outing against Cleveland this week. He threw eight one-run frames, permitting three hits, no walks, and striking out eight batters in a winning effort. Kershaw is 11 starts into a fantastic season, as he's accumulated a 2.59 ERA and a 12.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It's about time to start thinking about who'll make the All-Star Game, and he seems like a real candidate to start the Midsummer Classic.