Out of the Park Baseball has dominated the baseball simulation genre over the past few years. OOTP 15 shows how the game continues to grow, and is now one of the most comprehensive, sophisticated, sports management sim games out there.
While soccer management games dominate the genre, the amount of baseball management games out there is limited. OOTP is by far more in-depth than anything available for baseball.
It’s certainly not a game for everyone. The amount of information, and the amount of tasks to perform can be overwhelming. It’s a game on the opposite side of the spectrum from the pickup-and-play nature of the new RBI Baseball—a game enjoyable for different reasons. The functions are so much like taking over the role of a team’s general manager that at times it can even feel like work.
The great thing about the game is that there are settings that allow you to enjoy it at your own comfort level. You can act strictly as a GM only, or set certain tasks for the computer to perform. When I took over the reigns as Blue Jays GM, I set manager John Gibbons to control lineups and rotations, as well as player promotions and demotions. These are two time consuming tasks, and I wanted to get a full season in before this review.
Having Gibbons in full control of these aspects did create some interesting results. Erik Kratz started over Dioner Navarro on a regular basis, which caused Navarro to voice his displeasure over the situation. And with Kratz hitting below .200, I made a trade in mid-May sending him away for Eric Sogard. Maybe just by coincidence, but I managed my biggest win streak of the season, winning 12 straight in May.
What’s great about OOTP is the dynamic world that exists. A couple owners passed away during the season, and by consequence, their sons took over, each with their own set of philosophies regarding spending, and tolerance for failure. The surrounding city can change. Toronto grew as a market according to a research study. Even league rules can change from year to year if you’ve allowed this setting. This can be anything from the length of the waiver period, to expansion, team relocation, and changes to the DH rule.
There were plenty of firings during and after the season. Texas fired Ron Washington and their GM Jon Daniels on May 17th because the Rangers sat last in the division. Since I had a vacancy in the Scouting Director position, I signed Daniels to fill the role. There is a massive pool of staff, some former players, each able to sign to various coaching positions within your organization, and work their way up through the ranks over the years.
The waiver wire is something you can keep an eye on every day. In the GM’s office, I was alerted early on of an interesting player on waivers: Dylan Bundy. I thought he’d be yanked back, but to my surprise, I landed him. He was out most of the year due to injury (players can have set backs in recovery), but was a definite asset ready to be a big part of the future. Worth noting, the Orioles finished last with Showalter fired by season’s end.
Like any sports sim, trades are a big part of the action. My biggest came near the all-star break. Only a few games back of the wild card, I wanted to make a push. Dickey had a record of 8-9, and an ERA of 5.12. Seattle was looking to dump Dustin Ackley, so I negotiated the deal. I included Dickey, Anthony Alford, and, gulp, Marcus Stroman, in return for Hisashi Iwakuma (at the time 8-2, 3.22 ERA), and Ackley. It was a short term solution, hoping Iwakuma would get me enough wins to sneak into that wild card. In the end, it blew up in my face. After one start Iwakuma suffered a shoulder injury, putting him out for 7 weeks. One week later I lost Ackley for 7 weeks as well.
The season finished with the Jays fourth in the division with a mere 84 wins, well out of the playoffs. But the season expectations were to play .500 ball, and in that sense, the season was a success.
There were some bright spots despite the mediocrity. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion finished first and second in the league in both home runs and RBIs. Bautista and Rasmus became all-stars. Reyes had a 20 game hit streak. Liam Hendriks found his way into the revolving door rotation, and came out of nowhere finishing the season 14-8, 3.88 ERA.
There’s a great deal regarding player development, pitchers can gain or lose velocity during the year, players can improve in certain positions, even overall potential can change.
In game, game day play for OOTP is looking to improve from past years, but it isn’t quite ready yet. The developers have been upfront about the 3D feature not being ready for release, and will need work during the year. It will be nice to have, but this isn’t the focus of the game anyway.
I’d like to see more regarding the ability to interact with the media. Other sports sims have allowed this, such as calling out players, or praising them. While there is news regarding managers and players interacting with the media, it would be fun to be a part of this.
I only scratched the surface regarding how comprehensive the game is. You can create leagues, add leagues from around the world, set rules, or play in historical time periods. There’s drafts (with picks sometimes holding out), arbitration, international player signings, and scouting tools to find exactly what you’re looking at. For stat junkies there’s BABIP, WAR, OPS, and various splits. If you prefer, you can start your career with some minor league team and work your way to the majors.
The interface is a little smoother than in previous years. The Manager’s Office screen, shown above, provides an overview with windows that can be modified to show different content from around the league.
For those who pre-ordered, OOTP 15 is available April 18th. The official release is only a few days later on April 21st. If you’re interested in these types of games, it is worth checking out. I am sure you can do better than my 84 wins with the Jays.