OOTP 15 improves on the already spectacular franchise

OOTP 15 start screen

You might remember a review of Out of the Park Baseball 14 from about a year ago. For those who don’t, OOTP is a powerful baseball simulation game that provides a fully customized experience. If you like the management aspects of The Show, but think that actually playing the games takes too long*, OOTP can scratch that itch.

* From what I’ve read, The Show is much more manageable this year due to a number of new features. It’s also apparently not impossible to score runs in The Show 14. Too bad this is the year I decided not to buy it.

For a full treatment of OOTP, please click the link above and read last year’s review. There are also some great points in the comments from long-time OOTP players. The beauty of OOTP is that the engine largely stays the same from year-to-year. Yet there are always changes that make the newest version better than the previous.

3D Live Simulation

OOTP 15 3D play

If, for some reason, you would like to watch and manage one of your games, OOTP has a new feature to make it more worthwhile. You can actually watch the game in 3D mode. It might not be my bag — I want to plow through seasons and see the fruits of my labor — but OOTP has at least made the sim process interesting.

I imagine in a few years they’ll have actual 3D player models to stand on the 3D field. A few years after that, actual pitches and swings. For now we have this. It’s not the most compelling feature, but it certainly beats the old watching method, if you prefer to play the dramatic games rather than just hit the sim button.

All sorts of leagues

OOTP 15 Leagues

You don’t have to play starting at the 2014 MLB season. You can start from many historical points, which is part of what makes this game stand out. It’s pretty fun to start a historical team and sim like crazy.

You can also create a completely custom fictional league, even with fictional players. Have ideas for different rules? You can implement them. If you want to play with an international league — Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Cuba, Netherlands, Italy — you can do that, too.

The ratings system

One thing I love about OOTP is the ratings system. When you set up a new league, make sure that scouting is on. You’ll have to hire a scouting director, and the strength of your scouting director will determine how well you evaluate players.

For instance, your scouting director might rate a guy as having five-star potential, but the default ratings might have him as two-stars. If you have a great scout, you might have a diamond in the rough on your hands. But your scout can be wrong. To me this is one of the most realistic aspects of the game.

You can, if you’re so inclined, eschew the star rating and put guys on the 20-80 scale. It’s not for me, but it might give you some granularity you don’t get with the 10-point system (half stars).

The ratings seem to be stronger this year, too. There are a number of ratings, both actual and potential, that underlie a player’s star rating. It’s a lot of information to process, but it ultimately makes the game satisfying.

Strongest suggestion: make trades hard

If you leave trades at the default setting, they’re far too easy. There is just no way the Pirates would deal a healthy Jamison Taillon for Jeff Samardzija and a three-star prospect. Yet that’s what happened during the first year of my first franchise. It’s almost like MVP 2004: if you make enough trades, you can get a team full of four- and five-star prospects and players.

If you bump up the trade difficulty one setting, you’ll have a much more difficult time trading. That makes it more realistic. If you have a poorly performing reliever on a one-year contract, you won’t get any offers for him. That’s the way it should be. Teams just don’t do that; otherwise maybe the Mets could have traded Kyle Farnsworth. It also means that you can’t go plucking top prospects from teams. They don’t trade them unless there’s a need and it makes sense for them.

iOOTP 2014

OOTP #TANAK

I also got a chance to check out iOOTP, the stripped-down iOS version of the game. For $5 you could do a lot worse. It gives you the most basic version of the game. There is no minor league system, just a list of 20 to 30 minor leaguers who you can call up and send down at will. They develop, but they don’t play any games while in the minors.

I find the interface a bit obnoxious, but that’s because I’m used to the desktop version. You have to tap through a few screens to edit your lineups. In fact, the entire problem with the UI is the sheer number of times you have to tap the screen. But other than that, it’s a nice alternative if you’d rather just lay on the couch and sim some seasons.

Where you can get it

Head over to OOTP Developments website to pick up a copy of OOTP 15 for Windows, Mac, or Linux. It costs $39.99, so less than a copy of The Show. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself engaged in OOTP for far longer than I am with The Show or any other console baseball game.

You can get iOOTP 2014 from iTunes. Again, it’s $5. Not bad at all.

Book Review: Facing Mariano Rivera

Facing Mariano RiveraWe had a full year to gush over Mariano Rivera‘s greatness. It didn’t seem like long enough. And it still feels wrong that he’s not closing the door this year.

During that year we saw fans show their appreciation. Teams honored Mo with ceremony after ceremony, paying tribute with gifts as though he were an ancient king. Most pervasively, we saw the media stumble over themselves to gush about Mo.

His peers talked about his greatness, but it felt as though we didn’t hear enough of their stories. What did it feel like to stand there in the batter’s box against Rivera?

We get answers in the recently published book, Facing Mariano Rivera, edited by David Fischer. It contains stories of nearly 100 opponents who faced Rivera. (It also contains contributions from guys like Paul O’Neill, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and other teammates who never faced him, plus a number of pitchers and managers.) If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to stand in the box and know what pitch is coming, and still not be able to hit it, this book will help get you there.

There is, to be sure, plenty of fluff praise for Rivera, the standard praise of his composure and class. But nearly every player says one thing that really stands out, that helps you more fully understand the opponents’ mindsets when they faced Rivera – with the game close enough for him to be in there, but still seemingly out of reach.

Here are two of my favorite excerpts:

Tim Salmon

Salmon debuted in 1992, when I was 10, thus at the very peak of my baseball card collecting phase. We all chased after his rookie card, and I’m fairly certain that we all had at least one. It really is no surprise that baseball cards lost all value when internet commerce was even in its infancy.

In his fourth season, Salmon accomplished something that at the time was insignificant. He recorded the first hit off of Mariano Rivera. He in fact recorded two that day, including a double. In his third at-bat he walked, which ended Mariano’s day. That was in 1995, when Rivera was still a starter.

In 13 at-bats after that, including postseason, Salmon went 0 for 13.

A lot of closers grunt and snort and spit, they scowl at you, and throw the ball under your chin, trying to intimidate you, which makes you want to bear down and beat them all the more. Mariano was never like that on the mound. He was pleasant; his demeanor was disarming, it was life facing an old friend. I think that works to his advantage. Hitters don’t have that extra motivation you might have against guys you despite who are flaunting their stuff and pointing to the sky and talking trash.

Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Mo faced 1,013 different hitters during his career. Who was the toughest of them all? When asked last spring, Mo didn’t hesitate when he answered.

The toughest – and thank God he retired – (former Mariners DH) Edgar Martinez. Oh my God. I think every pitcher will say that, because this man was tough. Great man, though – respected the game, did what he had to do for his team. That’s what you appreciate about players, when a player come and do what is right for the game of baseball, for his team and teammates.

Martinez must have traumatized Mo when the latter was a rookie in 1995. In 7 PA he went 6 for 7 with two homers, a double, and a walk. Even when Mo was Mo in 1996, Martinez went 2 for 2 with two doubles. After that Martinez went 3 for 10 with three walks, two intentional. He was on an 0 for 6 slide against Rivera before he singled on August 14, 2004, the last time the two faced each other.

Just how badly did Mo want to beat Martines?

I think what makes him great is his command and his location; knowing where to throw the pitch. A good example is when I faced him in the 2000 American League Championship Series. I made the last out of the game. He got me out with a sinker inside. I never remember him throwing me a sinker before. that was the first tim I ever saw a sinker from him. He knew when to change his plan, when to go with something completely new, something different that you’re not expecting.

If you’re missing Mariano, and I sure am, this book is a nice little reminder of the greatness we witnessed night in and night out for so many seasons. You can flip around and read stories at random. I’ve been trying to find as many current players as possible, reading their stories when the Yankees face them this year.

Hardcover price: $17.71 – Click here to buy it on Amazon
Kindle version: $11.99 – Click here to buy it and start reading right now

There is something of a graphical element, since the book contains breakdowns of every hitter’s at-bats against Mo, so the hardcover might be better. But if you’re using Kindle on a tablet, it should render just fine.

2013 Midseason Review: Grade F’s

We’ve spent some time dissecting the team’s performance through the first half of the year. Mike wrote about the A’s, the B’s, and the C’s while I covered the D’s. Let’s wrap this up with the F’s and incompletes.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Every championship-caliber team has a group of individuals who go above and beyond, who perform incredible feats in incredible moments. These are the players who carry the team on their shoulders through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the players listed in this post are not those guys!

No, instead we’re going to discuss the “F” team. These are the retreads. These are the players that we, as fans, wish we did not have to watch on a daily basis. These guys are the ones who make us cringe, curse, and grind our teeth for three hours or so a night on a daily basis.

The Shortstops
Ah, yes, the shortstops. Jayson Nix. Alberto Gonzalez. Luis Cruz. Reid Brignac. Eduardo Nunez*. You’ve all been awful. For simplicity’s sake, let’s refer to the old table.

2013 NYY SS

It’s sad, really. The Yankees shortstops have collectively posted a .241 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (-1.2 fWAR). Relative to the rest of the league, this production (or lack there of) is ranked second worst in all of baseball.

While power is certainly a bit of a rarity from the shortstop position, it is both saddening and mildly surprising (at least to me) that this group, together, has only managed two (!) homeruns thus far. Hell, even the Marlins have three (though to be fair, the Cardinals and the White Sox both have one, and the Rangers none). I think, more than anything, what this tell us is a) how fortunate the Yankees are to have had Derek Jeter all these years, and b) how even a super-star in decline (like Derek Jeter or A-Rod perhaps) can still be a really preferable option to the alternative much of the time.

If the Yankees expect to reach the playoffs, they’ll need more from these guys, plain and simple. We’re not talking Troy Tulowitzki production (though that would be okay too), they just can’t be well-below replacement level. Right now, the shortstop position is a black hole in the lineup and it’s noticeable.

* I was a little torn about whether Nunez belonged in the “Grade F” group or with the “Incompletes.”  At the end of the day I chose to throw him in with this lot which is probably a bit unfair. Nunez had a really great opportunity to prove his valuable to the team early on when it became obvious that Jeter would not be available for much of the year, and simply has not capitalized on his opportunity. Anyway you look at it, Nunez’ season has to be deemed a disappointment thus far. Of course, if you feel it’s unfair to give him a letter grade given his limited playing time, that’s fine too.

The Third Basemen

2013 NYY 3B

Next stop on the depressing infield tour is third base. It’s ugly. Really ugly. The good news is that the Yankees third basemen ranked higher relative to the league than their shortstop counterparts. The bad news is it’s not by much. They rank fourth worst in all of baseball with only the Twins, Blue Jays, and Brewers trailing. The group has managed to hit six home runs collectively (over 625 plate appearances) and has batted to a .219/.279/.295 (.256 wOBA, 56 wRC+) line. They haven’t taken many walks (6.2 BB%) though they have struck out at fair pace (25.8 K%), and as already mentioned, power has been a scarcity.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The culprits hear are pretty obvious. Kevin Youkilis was the super non-durable (and super desperate) backup plan to Alex Rodriguez. Even prior to his back injury, which ultimately sidelined him for the year, he looked pretty shot. He was getting an awful lot of weak ground outs down the third base line.  His patented patience never really surfaced and he basically looked uncomfortable at the plate from moment one. I suppose if you’re generous you can give him a pass if you want to call his season “incomplete” too. I’m not that generous though. He’s getting an “F” in my book.

From there you can talk about Nix, who really has been used way more than he probably should be in an ideal scenario. Frankly, he was getting exposed out there. He’s an adequate fill in on occasion, but he’s not a starter. If the Yankees keep throwing him out their day in and day out, they should expect below replacement level production. As for Adams, I wrote a while back that we should temper our expectations. Well, our expectations certainly have been tempered. After an impressive hot streak following his big league arrival, he’s basically looked lost at the plate for months. There was a pretty clear reason why was he was optioned to AAA.

Austin Romine
I hate seeing the young guys come up and struggle even though they do it most of the time. I mean, it has to be tough making the transition. After a lifetime of hard work, a prolonged stay in the Majors simply doesn’t pan out for many. For others, it’s a precious window that closes quickly. Very few stick around for an extended period of time, and even fewer make a big impact. That’s not to say Romine won’t enjoy a successful MLB career, but he’s had a pretty rough start.

At this point, Romine has batted .160/.182./.213 (.176 wOBA, 0 wRC+) and has been worth -0.4 fWAR.  He’s taken basically no walks (1.3 BB%) and has struck out 22.8% of the time. This includes zero home runs. Of course, he’s only had 79 plate appearances. Joe Girardi‘s been unable to play Romine because he’s been awful in limited opportunities. It seems like this has probably been fairly detrimental to Austin’s confidence (and the team’s confidence in him). Romine, on the other hand, really hasn’t been able to bounce back because he rides the bench almost full-time. On the plus side, when he is in the game, he puts forth solid defense for the most part.

When I think about Romine’s predicament, I ultimately arrive at one point: the Yankees were not adequately prepared at catcher, and Romine was probably not ready to be a big leaguer when he was brought up. He missed substantial time during his minor league development due to back injuries in 2011 and 2012, and really never had the chance to progress at a typical pace. He was thrown onto the big league roster when Francisco Cervelli went down, and backup catcher Chris Stewart became the primary backstop. Maybe we should be apologists for Romine. Maybe we shouldn’t be. Either way, he’s been pretty abysmal through the first half.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Joba Chamberlain
It appears as though the Joba Chamberlain saga is finally coming to a rather inglorious end. The once heralded prospect turned elite setup reliever, turned failed starter, turned back into not-quite-so-elite reliever will likely be gone by the trade deadline, or if not, most certainly by the off-season. Although Joba spent some time this season on the disabled list with a strained oblique, there were no massive setbacks to deal with like Tommy John surgery or an ankle dislocation.

As for Joba’s pitching stats, they speak for themselves (negatively). Through 22.1 innings pitched, he’s produced a 5.24 ERA (5.03 FIP). Joba’s strikeout rates are definitely respectable, as they generally are (8.87 K/9), but he’s given up way more walks (4.3 BB/9) than normal. He’s also seemed way more prone to the long ball (1.61 HR/9) than he has in the past. While I’m sure Joba wasn’t delighted about losing his eighth inning gig to David Robertson a couple seasons ago, I’m sure he’s been pretty disheartened this year about losing the seventh inning job as well. In fact, he’s no longer really being used in any high leverage situations, mostly just mop up duty at this point. Instead of responding to the challenge positively, Chamberlain has taken a step backward. As David Cone noted on Sunday afternoon’s brutal loss to the Twins, he looks like isn’t throwing with any conviction.

I do believe Joba is a better pitcher than what we’ve seen this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned things around in the second half whether with NY or somewhere else altogether. Not to bludgeon a dead horse much further, I also believe the Yankees have mishandled Joba for a few years now, which in turn has hindered him to some degree. Ultimately though, Chamberlain needs to be accountable for his production, which has been pretty lousy. Basically, this seems like a sad ending to what otherwise could have been a promising career in pinstripes. In any event, I think the relationship between Joba and the organization has soured, which is a shame.  Such is life.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Incompletes
Mike and I were originally thinking of dedicating a separate article to the walking wounded. This includes Derek Jeter (ankle, quad), Mark Teixeira (wrist), Curtis Granderson (forearm, hand), A-Rod (hip), and Cervelli (hand, elbow). What is there really to say though? Injuries have decimated this team.

Would the Yankees be six games back out of first place if these guys weren’t all injured? Maybe. I have to believe though they’d be much more formidable. I suppose it’s appropriate to throw Zoilo Almonte into the mix as well. While he’s been a breath of fresh air offensively with all the quality at bats, he hasn’t been around all that long. After a torrid start, he’s since cooled somewhat, and who knows what he’ll happen from here (though if I had to guess, I’d say he’ll turn back into the AAAA guy I expected).

The team could have absorbed extended injuries to one or two of these guys perhaps. Having them all out basically all season has been a nightmare though. Who knows how long Jeter will be sidelined with this most recent setback, or whether A-Rod will face a big suspension. Granderson’s basically a non entity at this point. All we do know is that the guys who have been brought on board to supplement the production of these big names aren’t getting it done. While we can’t grade these players on game performance, I think we can say it’s been a very disappointing season for them (and the team) in terms of injuries.

OOTP Baseball provides armchair GMs an outlet

OOTP1

(click all images for larger views)

Since my birthday falls a few weeks after Opening Day, I’m frequently treated to early baseball-related gifts. My parents, for instance, renew my MLB.tv subscription every year in early March. My future wife, since she works at a video game store, pre-orders me MLB The Show. While I’ve gotten plenty of use out of MLB.tv this year, the copy of The Show has collected plenty of dust. As of this writing I haven’t played it in at least a month, probably more.

A friend of mine puts it best when he says, “Baseball and video games but not baseball video games.” I might have disagreed a few years ago, but in the recent past I’ve grown tired of The Show. The games take forever to play, and it takes a certain endurance to get through a season. Even then, once you do get through a season the off-season stuff — the stuff that nerdy baseball fans like me are supposed to enjoy — is full of flaws. There is little joy in building a team in The Show.

For years I’d heard about a computer-based baseball simulation engine called Out Of The Park Baseball. I never bought it, though, mostly because I already had The Show or the 2K game or MVP. Why spend money on a second baseball video game, especially one where you can’t actually play the games? Yet the curiosity always lingered. So last year, seeking a way to kill time before bed, I bought a version for my iPad. It definitely kept me occupied in times of boredom, so when the folks at OOTP offered me a review copy of their full computer-based program this year I jumped on the opportunity.

What baseball fans will love about OOTP is its attention to detail. You take charge of a major league franchise and are tasked with managing its entire system, from the majors down to an international complex. Each team’s owner has a personality, which affects budgets and other concerns. In other words, you have guidelines within which you must operate, just as a real-life GM would. The result is a game that should keep armchair GMs satisfied for hours on end.

Complete rosters

OOTP2

MLB The Show is practical with its rosters. Each organization has a major league team and two minor league levels, with a reserve of players dubbed A-level. That’s fine and good, since the emphasis in The Show is actual gameplay. In OOTP you take charge of hundreds of players at every level of the minors, and the minor league levels are quite accurate. You’ll have a AAA, AA, A+, A, short-season A, and Rookie ball teams (though there doesn’t appear to be much of a differentiation between A+ and A).

Throughout the season you’ll have to promote and demote these players, accounting for their performances, their morales, and their potentials. If that seems like a gargantuan task, it certainly is. Thankfully, you can also modify your settings and let the computer take over many of those tasks. Letting the computer take care of the day-to-day lineups at both the MLB and minor league levels will save you plenty of time and frustration. As long as you control who is on the roster, that’s usually enough.

Subjective ratings

OOTP rates its players on what amounts to a scale of 1 to 10, representing their rating with stars. Half a star is really a rating of 1, and five stars is a rating of 10. Each player has both an actual talent rating and a potential rating. Both are subject to change at any time, which is pretty realistic. After all, a player with a 10 potential who doesn’t pan out will see his potential decline. But a player with a two-star actual rating and a 10-star potential could be a future star.

What stands out in OOTP is the subjectiveness of the ratings. Each team has a scouting director, and ratings are based on that specific person. You can toggle between your scouting director’s ratings and OOTP’s internal ratings, but it’s not as though OOTP’s ratings are the “true” ratings. This essentially means that your scouting director is the most important aspect of your organization. Find a good one and you’ll uncover hidden gems around the league and trade for them on the cheap. Employ a poor one and you’ll grow frustrated that your five-star potential player is hitting .200 in AA.

Personnel and front office

OOTP3

Just as in the bigs, you have to hire coaching staffs at every level of the minors. These coaches all have different ability ratings: teach hitting, teach pitching, and teach fielding, in addition to handle veterans, handle rookies, and handle players. Pick the wrong personnel and you can ruin player development and performance. Given the long process of finding personnel actually interested in working for your minor league teams, this can be maddening. (See nitpicks below.)

While you don’t do everything a GM does, you do have full control of baseball operations. This means setting scouting budgets, working within your given budget, and keeping tabs on basically every aspect of the organization. And make no mistake: just because you win doesn’t mean your owner will increase your budget. For two straights seasons my owner had expectations of a mere winning record. In both seasons I made the playoffs. The results? Budget increases of under $200,000.

On the franchise level you can also set your team strategy. This includes overview stuff, like favoring prospects or veterans, offense or defense, etc. You can also set strategy for nearly every aspect of in-game play. This goes into ridiculous detail, letting you set strategy for innings 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9 in nine different trailing or leading scenarios. Want a manager that plays it by the SABR book? You can make sure that he does that at every juncture.

(Almost) Realistic trade engine

In many sports video games, you can trade quantity for quality. Throw in enough mediocre players and a team will trade you a star. Anyone who played MVP 2004 knows this; you can assemble an All-Star team in that game with little effort by trading two or three meh players for Albert Pujols. In OOTP there is still a level of quantity for quality, but it’s not nearly as egregious.

There is no way you can get a four-star player, for instance, without including a three-star player or a five-star prospect. Even then, you’ll have to throw in more. One feature I love is the “make this work now” button. Click it, and the computer will run through your roster and find players the computer will accept. But don’t expect that to be some scrub. Almost always it will be a player of high ability or potential, at least in the computer’s eyes. Every once in a while you might get lucky and they’ll choose a player that they like but your scouting director does not.

You can also choose to shop around your players. That searches the league and finds one-to-one offers for the player. In very few instances will you find a good deal here, but it’s a quality starting point. It at least shows what teams might be interested, and the kinds of players they’re willing to sacrifice. Just don’t try to pry a four-star starter from a team in win-now mode, or try to dump an expensive player on a team in rebuilding mode. The computer takes that into account, too.

Draft and international free agents

The OOTP engine handles the MLB draft and international signing period pretty accurately. In early June you’ll draft from the created pool of amateur talent. Each player has a certain bonus demand, sometimes slot but more often a quite higher number. Teams have to work within their draft pool budgets, and players tend not to sign unless you meet their demands.

The international process can be a huge pain in the ass. Again, you’re dealing with your scouting director’s subjective ratings, and very few of the available players have high potential (both from your scouting director and OOTP’s ratings). That means a ton of teams compete for the top talent, almost always pushing the top players’ bonuses above your international budget. And yes, there are penalties for exceeding your pool, so if you make that big signing this year you’re limited the next year.

(Not to mention, you’ll get weeks of emails letting you know that another team made a better offer. So you go in and top that offer, only to be notified a day later that you have to increase it again. This goes on for weeks, sometimes into mid-August.)

Reports galore

At almost any time you can get a report on any aspect of your franchise or league. Looking for the top minor league systems? That’s an easy option in the league menu. You can go quite further, though, and assess the strength of each team’s system. The report takes seriously three minutes to generate, but it lets you know where every team ranks at every position.

The two most useful reports, in my mind, are the Minor League Report and the Player Development Report. The former runs through all of your minor league rosters and provides quick-take stats and notes. The notes let you know if a player is over his head or due for promotion. The latter lets you know about changes in your players’ abilities and potentials. It comes out a few times a year, and it can be a frustrating experience. No one wants to see their five-star first-round draft pick drop to a four-star potential. But it’s better to know that and have a better understanding of your organization.

Realistic injuries

OOTP4

I needn’t pontificate on injuries to Yankees fans. In the past two years in particular we’ve seen nearly every starter on both sides of the ball land on the disabled list.* Chances are you won’t see every starter on your OOTP team hit the DL, but if my experience is any indication you will have to deal with at least a dozen DL trips every year. In many instances those will be 60-day DL trips, and if they occur in late in the year they certainly can wrap around into the next season.

* Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, Nick Swisher, and Ichiro Suzuki are the only starters of consequence who avoided the DL in the last two years. Swisher, if I remember correctly, missed some time with nagging injuries last year. Phil Hughes did technically start this season on the DL, though he didn’t really miss a start. Note, too, that only two of those players have spent all of 2012 and 2013 with the Yanks.

In my second season two starters required Tommy John surgery. The worst injury, though, I blame on my future wife. One moment she was playfully mocking me for “playing with my ones and zeroes team.” The next moment my ace starter went down with a torn something or other, putting him out nine months — meaning the playoffs and a sizable chunk of the following season.

Nitpicks

A game with such attention to detail sets a perhaps unrealistic level of expectations. There are a number of small quarrels I’ve had with the game playing through my three seasons. Clearly they weren’t deal breakers for me, but I’d have enjoyed it a bit more if I had these little features.

Lineup and rotation suggestions. If you want to get through some seasons and rebuild a team, you pretty much have to let the computer set your daily lineups and pitching rotation. It’s not a big deal for the most part. The computer tends to put your best hitters in the middle of the lineup. Yet there are some instances when I want to bench a certain player, or swap pitchers in the rotation and bullpen. But as long as the computer controls those aspects, you can’t do that. That means you have to either deal with the computer’s lineups, or else control lineups and rotations manually, which will slow down your season.

Computer trade proposals. It’s great that the computer can initiate a trade with you. Ideally, it opens up opportunities to improve your roster. But the computer proposes the most outlandish trades. They’re all incredibly one-sided, to the point where you don’t even want to negotiate. No, I won’t trade you two five-star prospects for your three-star third baseman making $15 million per season.

Minor league personnel. Need to fill your short-season A hitting coach position? Good luck. It doesn’t appear that the available personnel is listed in any particular order, so you never know which coaches aren’t willing to work for that particular level — and the lower the level the smaller the pool of willing coaches. You have to click five or six times to see if the coach is even willing, so it can be incredibly frustrating to find coaches for all of your teams.

Ridiculous detail

This review already sits at over 2,000 words, and I could probably go on for another 6,000 describing every aspect of the game. Honestly, 2,000 words is a few too many, but I feel strongly enough about OOTP that I’ll let it stand. The overall notion is that the game brings ridiculous, and mostly accurate, detail to the game. You’re in control to a degree I’ve never seen from any baseball simulation engine.

The attention to detail can be straining at times. You’ll spend a lot of time tinkering when you really just want to get on with your season. And if you’re like me, you’ll have to put down the game for a week because you’re just tired of so much control. But if you’re like me you’ll also come back to the game after that week away. It’s just too addictive.

You can buy OOTP Baseball 14 for Windows, Mac, or Linux. It costs $39.99.

MLB At Bat on iPad means baseball on my TV

Just because apps share a name does not mean they are equals. Last week I reviewed MLB At Bat for Android and came away thoroughly impressed. Yet that app has a few differences from its iPhone and iPad counterparts. Since I use an iPad and not an iPhone, I figure reviewing the iPad app is a bit more appropriate. It represents another win for MLB Advanced Media.

Gameday

AtBatGameday

The most prominent feature of MLB At Bat for iPad is Gameday. When you open the app you go to that screen by default. When there are no games playing you’ll see a rundown of the previous day’s scores on top, with the first game recap in the middle of the screen.

Here you can read the game story from each team, right from their MLB.com beat writers. You can check the box, the play-by-play, and watch video highlights. Each player’s name is clickable, so you can pull up a quick player card with his numbers from that game, plus a few select splits.

One thing I’ve always liked about Gameday in iPad is how they use the real home stadium in the background. And by real, I mean the rendered version from the MLB The Show video game. You don’t get accurate representations of each individual batter, which would be a neat effect. But overall it’s a neat little feauture.

When live there is perhaps no better Gameday interface. You can view lineups, box scores, play-by-play (including scoring plays), and more right from the Gameday interface. It also gives you the pitch-by-pitch breakdown of the current at-bat.

My only complaint here is that there is no way to check the play-by-play in the archive. MLB has generally cut out pitch-by-pitch Gameday breakdowns in all formats, which is a shame.

Stats

AtBatStats

As you might imagine, the stats interface is a bit more robust on a tablet than it is on a smartphone. Since there is more screen real estate they can afford to provide more than the basics. When you click on the stats tab you’ll go right to the 2013 MLB player batting leaders. It might not be the FanGrapsh leader board, but it’s also not the archaic stats pages we’ve seen in the past.

It contains your typical counting stats, plus triple slash stats and OPS. It would be super nice to have OPS+ in there, therefore turning it into something like Baseball Reference. But all considered, this isn’t half bad. Sorting is as easy as tapping the stat at the top of the screen.

Click on a player’s name and you’ll go not to a new screen, but to a pop-up. That’s nice, because it keeps you on the stats screen. The player card has a quick summary of biographical information, a small stats screen that contains just AB, HR, RBI, AVG, and OBP, plus fantasy news.

There are a few ways you can manipulate the results, beyond sorting by clicking. You can toggle between player stats and team stats by clicking at the top of the page. You can also filter by position and league. Looking for a different season, or perhaps spring training and postseason stats? You can click on the Timeframe tab and find those. Again, it’s not what we expect given the huge stats databases on the web. But it’s much better than in years past.

News

AtBatNews

The news section is either redesigned for 2013, or else I never checked it in 2012. It’s actually a great interface, resembling tablet aggregation apps like Flipboard and Zite. It defaults to general MLB news, and you can flip through multiple pages of the day’s top stories. Click the MLB News tab at the top of the page and you can select team-specific feeds — with your favorite team on top, of course.

I have to say that the new interface has me using the News feature much more often than I have in the past (considering I never used it last year). Since I use Zite and Flipboard often, the interface is familiar and welcome. The stories are laid out in traditional columns, too, making the reading even easier.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the news section is clickable video. If you see the play button, you can click it and the video will play right inside the news section. You can go full screen with another touch — the video will automatically minimize when it’s done, leaving you back at the news screen. I’m genuinely excited for this news app this year.

MLB.tv

AtBatGame

Yes, you can hook up your MLB.tv account to At Bat for iPad. In fact, I can’t imagine having At Bat without my MLB.tv account. Tablets are simply wonderful for streaming video. MLBAM has clearly prioritized streaming video, and has improved the quality of its feeds in recent years. The feed on the At Bat app is especially awesome, because it doesn’t use Flash. Honestly, the continued use of Flash for desktop streaming makes me never want to use it. We can only hope they adopt an HTML5 web streaming standard for 2014.

When you play your video you’ll have to overlay options. The first is for box score and play-by-play, which you can show and hide by dragging from the right side of the screen. The second sits atop the screen, filling otherwise black space. It’s the day’s scoreboard. You can use this to switch among any number of games. It gives you the base-out situation and score, so you can flip to any game at its most intense.

What has become an essential accessory for At Bat on my iPad is Apple TV. Yes, you can access MLB.tv from it, but that’s not the best use. If you have an Apple TV, you’ll notice a little triangle in the controls panel. Click that and you can send the feed right to your TV. As you might expect, it looks superb on plasma TVs and other HDTVs. It always amazes me a little that we can stream high-quality video on our TVs. It’s truly a sight to behold.

The advantage of using the iPad over the Apple TV interface, of course, is navigation. It’s just easier to flip between games on your iPad, given the scoreboard controls. At just $99 for the Apple TV unit, I’m not going to complain much about price.

As with the Android version, MLB At Bat for iPad is free to download, but requires a $20 subscription to access its features. MLB.tv premium runs $120 for the year, and is a must-have for baseball fans.