Friday, April 25, 2008

Li'l Brakke, On the Road to the Show

I decided to skip over the franchise mode of MLB '08: The Show and start a Road to the Show player instead. (If you're unfamiliar with this, you create your own ballplayer and start him out in the minor in an attempt to build him up to a major league hall of famer.) I decided to go with a starting pitcher in the Tigers organization and I proceeded to play through all of spring training in a single evening. (Playing out each of my appearances without skipping any.)

Li'l Brakke (like Li'l Penny, only totally different) had a decent spring for the big league club considering he has no skill whatsoever and has a fastball that tops out around 84mph. (I don't like that you have to -apparently- build up your velocity from scratch. I don't think a lot of future fireballers start out in the minors struggling to hit 85mph on the radar gun.) I think I finished out the spring with about a 4.xx ERA. I gave up a metric ton of hits, but relatively few runs all considered and my strikeout to walk ratio was insanely good given my lack of control. (Something like 15:3.)

Once spring training was done I signed a one year deal to be a middle reliever for Detroit's AA club, the Erie Seawolves. At this point the game starts giving you goals to meet in terms of training your player up, like improving your fielding ability. This is done using points accumulated for being successful when playing in games. (Having a low ERA or inducing a double play, for example.) In roughly five appearances I've been having quite a bit of success, including a 2.11 ERA and continued success striking guys out despite not having any pitch velocity to speak of. (I've got a killer 12-6 curve, though, and it's been a monster strikeout pitch.)

You also get emails from your manager that let you know what he thinks about your play and you have the ability to take career actions like retire or complain about your position on the club. I had the option to complain about not being a starter, but I decided to be the patient rookie that I am. In my final game last night I was called in to start the top of the eight inning of a tied ballgame. Five innings later, having not allowed in a run, Erie pulled the game out and I had a glowing email from my manager informing me that I was going to get a shot in the starting rotation. Oh happy day!

Needless to say, I'm enamored with the Road to the Show mode in this game. It's my first experience with it (having not played MLB '07) and it's a wicked amount of fun so far. I was amazed at how much pressure I felt as a middle reliever to come into a game and keep guys in scoring position from making it home. In one game I was called in to a close game with the bases loaded and only one out. I proceeded to strike out the next two hitters and get out of the inning, which had me on my feet cheering Li'l Brakke on. The experience has actually given me newfound respect for the guys with the thankless job of middle relief.

More impressions to come.