Strong starting pitching by Mike Soroka and Max Fried, along with some timely hitting have allowed the Atlanta Braves to open the season 2-1.
While we wait for the coronavirus to lift and allow us to get back to our normal lives, we wish this was a headline in today’s paper. In fact, right now, the idea of any ballgame right now would be a winner. Unfortunately, we will have to continue to wait on the real thing — but that’s not the case at the Strat-O-Matic game company, where it is simulating the 2020 schedule every day.
For those of you unfamiliar with Strat-O-Matic, it was the most realistic sports games of my youth. Baseball, football, basketball and hockey, the company from Glen Head, New York, which was founded in 1961, was able to capture the sports fan’s imagination by recreating a realistic game using the stats from players in Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA and NHL and allowing the game player to be the manager or coach of the team.
My friends and I would play the board game with the dice, player cards and the realistic strategic graphs for hours. As a Cleveland Indians fan, the team that I liked was not very good in the early 1980s, but we did have some players like “Super” Joe Charboneau, Andre Thornton and Rick Manning. A few years later, we got Cory Snyder, Brooke Jacoby and Greg Swindell. It would be another decade until the Indians hit their stride.
My friends however, would play as the Braves with Dale Murphy, Bob Horner and Phil Niekro. We tried to play a complete 162-game schedule for the 1982 season, but it was something we could never accomplish. The game we played, like all Strat-O-Matic games, was a simulation based on strategy. We picked the players, built the batting order and determined the pitching rotation. That year, the Indians would have finished right around their actual 78-84 record and the Braves would have likely finished right around the 89-73 and won the National League West.
As the years went by, Start-O-Matic branched out into digital games. Now, it’s computers are doing the same thing my friends tried to do, play 162-game schedule, by simulating the 2020 season.
Each day at 2 p.m. the game company is running the simulations of that days schedule at its website strat-o-matic.com. In addition, it prints out that day’s box score along with a four paragraph recap of the game. So far, the Braves are off to a good start.
On Thursday, when Atlanta opened the season at Arizona, the Braves beat the Diamondbacks 5-3. Soroka had 10 strikeouts in five innings, but finished with a no-decision. Will Smith picked up the victory in relief when Johan Camargo hit a two-run home run in the ninth for the victory.
The Opening Day lineup was the following — Ronald Acuna hitting first playing center field, Ozzie Albies at second and Freddie Freeman at first. Batting cleanup and in left field was newly signed Marcel Ozuna, followed by new catcher Travis D’Arnaud and right fielder Adam Duvall. Former Marietta High School standout Dansby Swanson started at shortstop and was followed by Adeiny Hechavarria at third, with Soroka in the nine spot.
Friday, Fried pitched six innings, allowing one run and striking out nine. He earned the win as the Braves won 3-1.
Acuna had a pair of hits, as did D’Arnaud. Swanson had an RBI single in the first, which proved to be the game-winning run.
Saturday, Mike Foltynewicz hit the first bump in the road. He gave up five runs on nine hits in four innings as the Braves lost 8-5. Ozuna did hit his first home run of the year and Duvall continued his good start with two hits including a double and drove in two.
Other players of note in the Major Leagues includes Red Sox second baseman Michael Chavis. The former Sprayberry standout went 4-for-4 against Toronto on Friday and followed that with a 2-for-5 effort that included a double and an RBI. Through three games he is hitting .462.
On Saturday, former Walton star Carter Kieboom got his first start of the season at third base for the Washington Nationals. He went 1-for-4.
Former Kell standout Adam Morgan pitched a perfect inning of relief on Thursday and he came back with two shutout innings and four strikeouts on Saturday.
The Braves currently don’t have any players among the league leaders, but that doesn’t matter if they keep winning. They go for three wins in four games in the opening series on Sunday.
Let’s just hope they can get the upper hand on the Diamondbacks for real when the season finally gets started, and that can’t be soon enough. Simulations and board games are nice, but getting to watch major league players do it for real will be a whole lot better.