One of the fun things you can do with Out of the Park Baseball 17, is go back and look at any season you like and see how it could have ended differently. One season that stands out in my memory, as a younger Blue Jays fan, was 1986. In 1985, the Jays made the playoff for the first time. 1986 I thought was going to be our year.
The Toronto Blue Jays' 1986 season was one that saw the team struggle early before finally breaking above .500 with a win on June 17. A nine-game winning streak in late August pushed them to 74-58 on the year, and the club was 85-69 on September 26, but seven losses in their final eight games left them in fourth place, 9.5 games behind the division-winning Boston Red Sox. (No doubt you know what lay in store for the Red Sox in the World Series that year.)
That year, Tony Fernandez racked up 213 hits, making him the first Blue Jay with over 200 in a season, and Jesse Barfield topped the American League with 40 home runs. Jimmy Key and Jim Clancy led the starting rotation with 14 wins each and Tom Henke notched 27 saves. Reliever Mark Eichhorn was 14-10 with 10 saves out of the bullpen.
While the Blue Jays were an offensive powerhouse that year, placing second in the AL in runs, hits, and doubles, fifth in home runs, and fourth in batting average, they were average on the pitching mound, finishing seventh in ERA and ninth in hits allowed, although they were third in strikeouts and second in shutouts and saves.
But could that team have done even better? That's the question we set out to answer when we simmed the 1986 season four times with Out of the Park Baseball 17, a management game that lets you run any team, past or present, and guide it through unlimited seasons of championship chasing.
OOTP offers many options for historical replays, so we set up these sims so player ratings were optimized for a single season, rather than an ongoing career, which produces better results with a one-off experiment like this one.
We also set up the first two sims so the teams employed the lineups they actually used that year, and we enabled historical transactions, which meant trades, injuries, and minor league promotions and demotions reflected reality. However, we turned that option off for the third and fourth sims, just to see what might happen if the AI had a little more leeway when running teams.
Here's how the Blue Jays performed:
Sim 1 (with historical lineups and transactions)
The Blue Jays finished 94-68, four games behind the Yankees, who lost the ALCS in six games to the Angels. On the National League side, the Mets downed the Giants in six games, but they were swept by California in the World Series. Real life goat Donnie Moore was 0-0 with three saves, a 2.35 ERA, and a 0.39 WHIP in the simulated playoffs.
Here's how the Jays fared in sim 1. As a team, they were largely in line with their real life results, although Jesse Barfield hit 32 dingers, eight short of Kirk Gibson's league-leading 40.
Sim 2 (with historical lineups and transactions)
The Blue Jays fared much worse the second time, ending the season 82-80, 25 games behind the Tigers, who won the ALCS over 95-game winner California in six games. In the NL, the 104-58 Mets blew a 3-2 NLCS lead to the 107-55 Astros, who downed Detroit in six in the World Series.
Here's a look at the Blue Jays' second sim. George Bell topped the AL with 48 home runs and 143 RBI while Jimmy Key notched a 20-9 record with a 3.16 ERA.
Sim 3 (without historical lineups and transactions)
The Blue Jays put together their best performance yet, finishing 97-65, but they ended the season five games behind the Tigers, who lost the ALCS in six games to the 91-71 Angels. In the National League, the Mets won 99 games, but that wasn't enough to catch the Expos, who racked up 105 wins and faced the 100-62 Giants in the NLCS. The Giants prevailed in seven but lost a five-game World Series to the Angels.
Here are the results of the Blue Jays' third sim. Jesse Barfield hit 45 home runs to lead the AL and set the pace for a potent hitting attack, but Toronto's starters had a 4.69 ERA, which proved to be their Achilles heel despite 17 wins each from Jim Clancy, Doyle Alexander, and Dave Stieb.
Sim 4 (without historical lineups and transactions)
Looks like the fourth time was the charm: The Blue Jays ended the year with a 108-54 record, 11 games ahead of the second-place Yankees. Unfortunately, they lost a six-game ALCS to the Angels (103-59). They won the first two games but lost the next four, three of them by one run. The Jays tried to mount late-inning comebacks in those three one-run losses but were stymied at the end each time by Angels closer Donnie Moore, who posted three saves and a 0.00 ERA in the series.
In the National League, the Mets won 112 games and faced the 94-68 Astros in the NLCS. They took a 3-1 series lead but lost in seven games, and Houston went on to down the Angels in five games in the World Series. In Game 5, a bit of the real 1986 season slipped through as Donnie Moore surrendered a two-out, two-run home run by Alan Ashby in the bottom of the ninth inning for a walk-off, championship-winning hit.
Here's a look at the Blue Jays' fourth sim. Everything came together on offense and defense for the team, but as everyone knows, anything can happen in the playoffs.
Editor's note: We invited Out of the Park Developments to write a story about the Blue Jays' 1986 season using their simulation software. This is not a paid advertisement.