Spring arrives every year with baseball in tow, and trailing just behind that is a slew of new baseball video games. To my mind, there isn’t a better baseball game series out there than Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP). Rather than controlling the characters on the field, OOTP straps you into the GM’s chair or into the manager’s uniform and let’s you run the team (and league) however you’d like.
During the offseason, OOTP released a new mode of the game called Perfect Team. It’s similar to Ultimate Team in the FIFA Series. Players are tasked with putting the best possible unit on the field by collecting, buying, and selling cards of players from yesterday and today. By consistently improving and winning, teams rank up through a series of competitive leagues, all the way up to Perfect League. There is no promotion beyond this, though teams can be relegated back down.
One reason I enjoy this game mode more than versions in other sports is that while you can throw infinite money at the game and buy yourself nothing but legends, it’s definitely possible to compete without spending any money. You just need to pay attention. Cards are ranked from 40-100 overall, and in last year’s game I managed to keep a team in Perfect League that was entirely composed of players between 70 and 79 overall. Except for an exceptional Rookie Carlton Fisk card that I drew. How can you not play that card?
In this year’s edition of the game, I’ve decided to take a crack at building the best possible team out of players entirely from the Indians franchise. I plan on tinkering with the team throughout the year and seeing if I can eventually deliver a Perfect Team title to Let’s Go Tribe.
Building the initial roster
The Indians present an interesting challenge for this game mode. The top-heavy nature of the roster means that the 2019 Live cards available are either pretty expensive—Lindor and Ramirez are 100 overall, while Kluber and Bauer fetch fine prices themselves—or somewhat lackluster.
The long tradition of the team means that there are plenty of historical cards to choose from. These are rarer, so keeping an eye on the auction house will be important in growing the team.
My initial draw of 36 cards included exactly zero Indians players, so I decided to throw ten dollars at the game to jumpstart the roster. This earned me 12,500 “Perfect Points”, the currency by which cards are bought and sold. Points are either purchased or earned through in-game accomplishments, with the most impressive ones bringing home a nice bounty of points.
I did my best to put together a reasonable team with the funds available. As of right now, here is where the roster stands:
The historical cards are all based on a player’s specific year. This version of Carlos Baerga is based on his 1993 All-Star season, while Ray Chapman’s is based on his rookie year of 1913.
It’s not the greatest-looking team at the moment, and there are definitely better cards from my initial draw that I could be playing.
For now, we sit in the Entry Pool with 59 other teams while we wait for league placement Monday morning. It progresses into Iron League from there, and hopefully the rest of the way up the ladder: Bronze, Silver, Gold, Diamond, and Perfect.
My immediate goal is to just put together a competent team. The hitters are in pretty good shape for now, and with a few tweaks it should be enough offense to hang all the way up to Silver. The pitching will desperately need help. One new wrinkle this season is that the 2019 Live cards will improve or regress based on the player’s real-life performance. It’s yet to be seen exactly how this works, but Bieber is a card that I expect will be rated as a Diamond at some point. I also stashed away a Greg Allen, Tyler Naquin, and Jake Bauers as investments.
In order to build a team that competes as best as possible, we need to think a little differently than we would in real life. OOTP’s engine runs a certain way, and it values certain attributes differently depending on the position someone is playing. For example, Luis Aparicio’s bronze card became highly sought after in last season’s game because it had the highest overall defense at SS. This game engine loves elite defensive shortstops, so much so that I tend to prioritize that over everything else at the position. For now, we’re kind of stuck. CF and C are the other positions where defense is critical.
The affect that great defenders have at these positions goes beyond what the numbers for just those players say. My anecdotal experience suggests that pitchers perform much, much better with a great defense catcher at the plate, and elite defenders up the middle do the bulk of run prevention. This is only exacerbated when your strategy involves aggressive shifts.
At the plate, power is virtually meaningless to me. This isn’t because it doesn’t matter to the game, but rather because so many players overpay for it. By adjusting the home ballpark of your club to favor contact hitters with some gap power who (hopefully) avoid strikeouts and draw walks, you can put together an excellent offense while consistently ranking dead last in dingers. Right now there isn’t much point to tinkering with these things because we have few resources to hunt out players. Furthermore, the auction pool is still relatively small. Once things get cooking we’ll be looking for players like Omar Vizquel—elite defenders with high contact skills and competent on-base ability.
Why not just go for the Lindor and Ramirez cards, you say?
I mean. Look at that god damn card. I’d love to have it, but I’m not about to fork out forty bucks for it. I’m not sure it will ever make sense for us to pursue unless we get lucky drawing a pack and sell somebody like Ty Cobb for 300,000 points. We’re going to get the most bang for our buck by seeking out cards that fit our system and are undervalued for various reasons. Cards like 2014 Michael Brantley.
This is a card that we’ll be able to play every day for a while, and in Gold and possibly Diamond I expect it will still be valuable as a platoon bat. It cost me 1,100 points and usually goes for 1,200 right now.
Our Victor Martinez card is another good example.
He rates out at 80 overall at catcher defense, which is fine for now. This one ran us 3,250, but I’m happy to pay that for a card that’s probably only going to get more expensive as the year progresses. He’s also probably the best Indians catcher card currently in the game, with the possible exception of an 87 OVR Ray Fosse.
If we can track down an Indians card with exceptional defense and offense that is good enough against righties, we’ll be in business. Mike LaValliere would be great, for example, and is preposterously good for a 69 OVR card.
If only he were an Indian. This is a glorious, glorious card. We may have to keep our fingers crossed that Robert Perez starts mashing this season in order for us to have a well above-average defense catcher card. I believe he’s being snapped up for his defense by some already, as there are none available right now.
I’ll be back with an update not this coming Monday but the following. Since playoffs are on Sundays, this will let us recap the season-that-was for the Let’s Go Tribe Perfect Team.