On Monday, I received further indication that baseball season is nearly upon us. After several months of meaningless and not-so-meaningless Spring Training news -- thinking of Yu Darvish related to the latter -- the next installment of Out of the Park Baseball launched, called OOTP 16.
In case you're not familiar with the OOTP series of games, it's a fully-featured baseball simulator that provides an unreal level of customization that has to be seen to be believed. This year, the package gets even sweeter. OOTP has official licensing from Major League Baseball, meaning they can use all league logos, team logos, historical logos and uniforms, and even a good chunk of minor league logos.
If you've ever found yourself wishing you could be in the shoes of the general manager, manager, or both, but never had the patience to actually get into the baseball world and work your way up the ladder, then you've finally got your chance. In OOTP 16, you can take control of your favorite team. If you're on this site, there's a better-than-decent chance that it's the Rangers. You can get a quick start by taking control just prior to the 2015 season, guiding your team through the gauntlet of 162 games while also managing the finances, player personnel, and clubhouse chemistry.
Furthermore, due to a partnership with Baseball Prospectus, OOTP has access to a full database of both traditional and advanced statistics, allowing you to take whichever path you choose to build a ball club to your liking. If you want to find out how players like Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, and Prince Fielder bounce back from 2014, you can do so. You can simulate the games if you'd like, or if you're really ambitious, you can manage games on a pitch-by-pitch basis, giving you a true sense of what it might be like to call the shots.
Beyond playing the 2015 season and beyond, OOTP 16 also offers the ability to play any historical season between 1871 and 2014. You can create fictional leagues with your all-time favorite players. If you've ever wanted to find out what a Babe Ruth at-bat against Clayton Kershaw might look like, knock yourself out.
It could be that you don't like the direction the Rangers took after the 2012 season. Did you want Mike Napoli back? Not a fan of the Prince Fielder acquisition? Well, you can go back and change things to how you'd have liked to see them done and give yourself a glimpse of what might have happened if you were allowed to be in charge.
Perhaps one of the most impressive features I've come across is complete scouting grades for each and every player. There are even descriptions for each player, telling you what kind of clubhouse presence that player is perceived to have. For example, Adrian Beltre:
I don't necessarily agree with the personality type, but the various grades definitely give you a sense of the kind of detail the game has.
Have you ever wanted the Rangers to sign anyone, everyone, and everything in between? What about trades? Do you like holding onto prospects, or would you rather cash in for Major League talent? If you turn on Commissioner Mode, you can do just that.
Commissioner Mode allows you to do literally whatever you want. Want to trade Mitch Moreland for Mike Trout and also have the Angels pay Trout's salary? That's a thing you can do. Sure, it's fun for awhile, but only to give yourself a way to get familiar with the game. To get the full experience, I'd highly recommend turning this option off and forcing yourself to operate within the constraints of a budget as well as the open market.
If you're really dead set against sitting in front of a computer to play, the great news is that OOTP Developments also launched MLB Manager 2015 for Android and iOS this week. While not as fully-featured as OOTP 16, it's still something you can play while you're bored, while you're at work, in the bathroom, or wherever it is that you normally do your mobile gaming.
I can't speak too much for MLB Manager just yet, as I just downloaded it last night, but if it's even 25% of the game OOTP 16 is, I'm sure I'll find myself addicted.
If you're not too keen on the idea of sitting and playing against statistics, a computer, or whatever you want to call it, it's important to note that OOTP offers a multiplayer feature.
If you're like me, you've found at times that fantasy baseball just hasn't evolved enough with the introduction of advanced metrics, and that leads to some players being more valuable than they would be in real-life, and vice-versa. With OOTP, you can create or join an online league and have the results be based more on actual wins and losses as opposed to "points" that come from various statistical categories. Sure, the statistics are still important, but more as a tool for evaluating future transactions, not as the basis for your success or failure. You may lose friendships over this game if you and your friends are all super-competitive. Nonetheless, it can be addicting.
In the past few days, I've found myself bouncing around between several different games, both re-familiarizing myself with the platform, as well as playing with history. Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I went back and re-played the 2011 season as the Rangers. As it turns out, I didn't fare as well as I thought I would, finishing 2nd in the AL West (with 87 wins) to the Athletics (who had 88 wins) and missing the playoffs completely.
Had I made it that far, I'd have loved to have seen what might happen if Endy Chavez goes out to RF in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 6 instead of Nelson Cruz. Then again, I'm not so sure any of us really want to know the answer to that one.
Tonight (Friday) at 8 PM Central, ESPN producer Steve Katsoulis will be doing a live demo with the OOTP staff on their Twitch channel. It's a great opportunity to familiarize yourself with exactly what OOTP 16 is and what it stands for.
OOTP 16 is a heavily data-driven game, and with that in mind, it's certainly not a game for everyone. However, if you find yourself consistently fascinated with the ever-evolving baseball climate and the statistics and math that drive it, there's a good chance you'll find yourself immersed in the expansive universe of what is easily the best baseball simulator on the market.
If so, you can find a link to the game on the left sidebar of this site, or at this link. The game sells at a cost of $39.99, but it'll be one of the better and more entertaining uses of $40 you could probably find for the next 6-8 months. Just don't kill the ball club, and as always, go Rangers!