What if I told you that the MLB season was happening in real-time? What if I told you that in the midst of all this, the Seattle Mariners were leading their division into the month of June? You probably wouldn’t believe me, and for good reason; however, Sports Reference has made it possible
Sports Reference is a culmination of several different sites detailing statistics from the four major American sports: baseball as well as soccer and the college basketball and football realms. They’re widely regarded as the premier place to collect statistics, and I use them whenever I want to know something.
The baseball-reference section of the database has decided that with the cancellation of the MLB season, they would hold a simulated season in accordance with the official schedule of the 2020 season. They accomplished this through the Out of the Park Simulator, which has been polished over the last 21 editions to be the best in the business in terms of a simulated baseball experience.
With all that out of the way, the rest is simple. Every game that was scheduled was to be simulated, and every box score was collected and recorded on baseball-reference for all to see. Even the player and team pages have a section devoted to the 2020 simulated season. It’s as if the games were actually going on today.
The fun with simulations is that you never know if they produce what’s supposed to happen, which was demonstrated by the AL West division. In recent years, it’s been a one-horse race, as the Houston Astros consistently proved better than everyone else, with the Oakland Athletics having splashes of brilliance. However, the division is led by a Seattle Mariners, a team that had quite literally zero expectations coming into the year. The A’s are just half a game back and the Astros are only two games back. The Los Angeles Angels trail by 4.5 games and the Texas Rangers have the worst record in baseball, which is moderately surprising considering their relatively decent roster.
What makes it more bizarre is how average the Mariners seem to be in terms of their performance thus far. Only two qualified hitters sport a .300 batting average, those being second baseman Dee Gordon at .307 and newly acquired center fielder Kevil Pillar at .301. For reference, Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies leads the league at .376 and the top 10 is rounded out with Washington’s Adam Eaton at .327. The home run leader is designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach at 16, who doesn’t even break the top 10. Of course, Pete Alonso of the New York Mets holds the current top spot at 22. Shed Long’s 45 RBIs tie him for ninth and Mallex Smith’s 30 stolen bases is 10 higher than second place, but those are really the only notables on offense.
Pitching isn’t much better. Marco Gonzales is still the number one starter with a 2.95 earned run average. Yusei Kikuchi has improved off last year but is still just average, with the other three starters being worse. Taijuan Walker and Carl Edwards Jr. are the only two relievers below a 3.00 ERA, at 2.45 and 1.66 respectively. Yusei Kikuchi leads the team with 76 strikeouts, well below reaching the 10th place on the league leaderboards (93).
It’s likely the reason the Mariners are so high is just their dazzling consistency in regards to scoring. No matter how it happens, they put across at least four runs in a vast majority of their games. They’re good at taking easy wins off weaker opponents and winning crucial games against division opponents. Their combined record against Houston and Oakland, their top competitors, is 14-5. Kikuchi and Gonzales both grind out innings really well, allowing minimal damage.
It’s almost bittersweet that the season isn’t happening if this is what Mariner fans were missing out on. Who knows if reality would have played out differently, but for now we can take solace in the simulated success of the 2020 Seattle Mariners.