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Breaking the Show: The Pitcher-Hitters All-Star Game

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We have reached the mid-point of our alternate universe where every player possesses the offensive chops of Johnny Cueto. The cream has risen to the top, and MLB 15: The Show has skimmed it and packaged it for us in this All-Star Weekend showdown.

Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks ago, you, the reader, were left hanging in a chilling suspense. As a quick refresher, I edited every player in the game so that he possessed the offensive attributes of an average pitcher (Johnny Cueto). Adjustments were made for handedness so that platoon advantages would be preserved. The results, although intended and anticipated, were staggering. In the first inning of the first game of the season, Mark Reynolds was laying down sacrifice bunts. Runs are as scarce as they ever have been and, god-willing, ever will be.

After watching compelling 12-inning games in which one total run was scored and 8 hits were accumulated, our collective soul yearned for more deader-than-dead-ball era baseball in which small-ball is the name of the game and the occurrence of an error feels like a necessary, but by no means sufficient, condition for run scoring. That is the kind of baseball for which our hearts cry.

THE LINEUPS

In this edition of Breaking the Show--part two of what will be a three, maybe four, part series--we celebrate the heroes of this experiment with the annual mid-summer classic: The All-Star Game. Let's introduce our starting lineups, bearing in mind that these players, in the judgement of fans, aka The Show's CPU, have delivered the most impressive first halves in the league. This is as good as it gets in our Everybody Hits (Like A Pitcher) world:

Observe that a full 12 of our 18 All Star game starters are hitting below the Mendoza Line. And they're not doing it Astros-style either where they make up for infrequent contact by hitting massive dingers whenever they do connect. At the All-Star Break, the league leader in home runs in Erick Aybar with three. They are all just hitting really poorly, so stop trying to convince yourself otherwise.

The random assortment of players on these rosters indicates that our attribute manipulation was effective. Adrian Gonzalez has been reduced to the level of Darwin Barney. Mike Trout, despite being in perfect health, failed to make the cut. The gap between the haves and have-nots of baseball has been eliminated not by taking from the haves and giving to the have-nots, but by taking everything away from everyone. Baseball resides in a collective Hooverville.

Since hitting and pitching occupy opposing sides of a zero-sum game, the ineptitude of our hitters means that pitchers will be quite good. Looking at our starters in this contest adds support to that hypothesis:

Because I didn't alter pitching-related attributes, the pitchers you will see in this game are similar to the ones you will likely see in the real-world All Star Game. The hierarchy largely remains the same, but the rising tide of offensive ineptitude has lifted the ships of all pitchers.

THE GAME

The game started out as one might expect, both All Star offenses were held hitless through four innings of play. After sitting through the 12-inning, 1-run Phillies-Braves snooze-fest three weeks ago, I was starting to dread what I had created. If I wanted every game to end 1-0, I should have just played FIFA.

But then, the light broke through the morning clouds. The Show does not allow one to simply passively observe the goings-on of a simulated game; it requires the user to, at the very least, manage one of the teams. I chose to manage the NL and made the decision to put Drew Storen in the game to pitch the fifth inning. On the second pitch he threw, Alcides Escobar got the scoring started:

Solid contact? Not really. If we had StatCast in The Show, I suspect it would allow us to point out a low exit velocity on that home run. Real, 2015 Giancarlo Stanton is not walking into the batters' box in this game. Far from being hit out of stadia, these home runs usually struggle to clear the wall. If the camera were to focus on Escobar during the flight of that home run, we would likely see him engaging in the sort of wild ineffectual gestures often observed in amateur bowlers attempting to direct the ball to go where they were unable to direct it through their own skill.

That mammoth, 355' blast was the only scoring we would see until the 7th inning, when, with the bases loaded and two outs, AL manager Ned Yost called on George Kottaras to pinch hit for starting catcher Carlos Corporan. (Yes, that sentence was a strange to write as it is to read) It proved a prescient move as Kottaras roped a double to right field to clear the bases.

I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it's the result of watching over an hour of this slop offense, but that looked and sounded like real hit. That crack of the bat was of the particular quality for which Ruben Amaro longs. It has been years since he heard a crack of that crispness and thud. With that double, George Kottaras has made at least one man truly, primally, happy.

All-Star Sam Fuld was next up and wasn't about to give the viewer a chance to think such things as "Sam Fuld is an All Star!? What kind of world do we live in?" or "This is stupid. I shall no longer subject myself to this game." In defiance of such potential slander, Fuld rewarded Kottaras for his sonorous double:

Was our man Arismendy Alcantara a little slow to the ball there? Sure. But don't let that take away from Kottaras, a man with Johnny Cueto's wheels, busting his ass to score from second on a relatively routine single. Even in All-Star games--especially this All Star Game--the little things matter and for that, we will never again doubt Kottaras's worthiness of the honor of being an All Star.

While the AL offense was humming, having now put up 5 runs on the NL, the National League was struggling to do anything, recording only two hits through 6 innings. American League pitchers were inducing weak contact, or, more often, no contact. When they weren't striking out, National League hitters were hitting dribblers. Matt Holliday got a perfect pitch, squares it up, takes a powerful-looking swing, and...

Allstar holliday dribbler

Yeeeaaaah. That's kind of what happens when everyone hits like Johnny Cueto.

Next I called on the player I am going to name the MVP of this All Star game: Matt Pagnozzi. Entering play, I had not even heard of Matt Pagnozzi. A quick internet search reveals that Pagnozzi, a 32 year-old, is currently a catcher splitting time between the AA and AAA levels of the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization. Over 5 years, he has seen a total of 105 major league plate appearances in 43 games. He owns a career OPS+ of 77.

In short, Matt Pagnozzi has not and will never be an All-Star, but in this game he is one of the best three catchers in the National League according to the simulated fans of MLB 15: The Show. In his career, he has recorded 25 hits, including one home run and two doubles. There's no way he gets a hit here against the best the American League has to offer.

Will you look at that! Matt Pagnozzi has just hit himself a double in the 2015 All-Star game. We, the fans and viewers of these simulations, are forced to suffer through interminable displays of offensive incompetence, but, while we complain and fall asleep in front of the television, dreams are coming true. Matt Pagnozzi, 32 year-old organizational depth catcher, is not only an All Star, but has recorded a double in an All Star game. All tales need a hero, and Matt Pagnozzi is the hero of our tale. Important work is being done here. You are welcome Matt Pagnozzi!

THE RESULTS

The American League handily won this game, but, on further inspection, it is clear that all players not named Matt Pagnozzi lost. I present you with the cumulative pitching line for each teams:

Hits Walks Strikeouts
AL Pitchers 3 4 14
NL Pitchers 7 5 16

Lordy those are some strikeouts. Hitters struck out 3 times as often as they recorded a hit in this All Star contest. However, there wwas also a surprising number of walks especially considering that National League starter Clayton Kershaw entered the game having issued only three walks in nearly 150 innings of pitching. Is it possible the distinction "All Star hitter" strikes fear into the hearts of pitchers? Certainly a question for further research.

The final score was 5-0 in favor of the American League. The five runs scored by the AL, after a quick glance through some results on the season to this point, seems to have tied the highest offensive output by a team this season. This allows us to present a hypothesis to test with science over the course of the rest of the season: 5 runs is the most a team of pitcher-hitters can possibly score.

We have witnessed history, maybe:

Music: "I Have Lost My Dreams" by Dar Williams.