What's a "simulated" baseball game?

Answers to your questions about the news.
June 22 2005 6:24 PM

What's a "Simulated" Baseball Game?

Fantasy baseball, for real.

Pitcher Mark Prior of the Chicago Cubs threw a "simulated game" on Tuesday, his second since he injured his elbow last month. His teammate Kerry Wood is also working to recover from a recent injury; Prior has joked that he and Wood are now fine candidates for the "Simulated Hall of Fame." What's a "simulated game"?

It's an informal scrimmage that allows an injured pitcher to test his arm. Simulated games take place at the stadium, with two or three hitters taking turns in live at-bats against a pair of pitchers. (It may happen that both pitchers are recovering from injuries, but most of the time a healthy teammate or coach is recruited for the exercise.) There are rarely any players out in the field, and there's no umpire behind home plate. Either the bullpen catcher or the pitching coach will call balls and strikes and determine what "happens" when one of the hitters puts the ball in play. If it's a hard line drive, they might say it's a "hit"; a weak grounder would be deemed an "out."

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Advertisement

When Prior gave up a hit in one of his simulated starts, he had to pitch to the next hitter as if there were someone on base—from the stretch, perhaps. He'd continue to face the same few batters until three "outs" were recorded. At the end of a simulated half-inning, Prior would head to the dugout and wait until the other pitcher recorded three outs.

Simulated games rarely last for more than three or four innings. Sometimes stats are kept on the simulated runs and hits, but the more important figure is how many pitches were thrown. An injured player who makes a good showing in a simulated game and demonstrates that his arm has recovered might then be sent to the minor leagues for a tuneup start, or he might return to the team right away.

Some pitching coaches and trainers use recorded stadium sounds to make the simulated games more realistic. For a recent simulated start, Cleveland's Kevin Millwood faced fellow Indians in the replica jerseys of an opposing team—the hitters even imitated the batting stances of the players whose names they wore.

In general, players will swing away during simulated at-bats, but in Prior's game on Tuesday, the designated hitters were asked to test his fielding with a few bunts. Hitters tend not to take these plate appearances too seriously, but in one documented case, an infielder with the Cleveland Indians threw his helmet onto the field in frustration—after getting called out on simulated strikes. The "umpire" who called him out was the team's head groundskeeper.

Explainer thanks Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, John Zajc of the Society for American Baseball Research, and reader Bradley Johannsen for asking the question. 

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

How Canada’s Shooting Tragedies Have Shaped Its Gun Control Politics

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.