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THE TALK SHOW
Host: Glenn Guzzo
You can submit your question or insight on any Strat-O-Matic game to SOMTalkShow@aol.com. When you do, kindly include your name and town. Other gamers like to see that. And the display format below works better that way.
Reminder: Send us your “Great Moments in Strat” – your playing experiences that you just have to share.
 
CALLING FRANK GRANT
            Just a quick email to dovetail what was said in this month’s Talk Show...Hall of Famer Franklin Grant is not in ANY Hall of Fame set by SOM.  In communications I have had with SOM they feel that there is not enough historical data for Grant to get a card.  Curiously, there was enough data to get him into the Hall! Rooting for Grant to get into a set sometime!
Dave Alexander, SOM Player sine 1984
 
            Scott Simkus, who researched and was pivotal in the development of Strat-O-Matic’s Negro Leagues set, replies: “At the time, we only wanted to use players for whom we could calculate real lefty/righty splits. Frank Grant, who played in the 19th century, spending several seasons in the white minor leagues, didn’t meet this criteria. Looking back, I wish we’d included him. We could have cobbled together MLEs for his seasons in the International Association and come up with a credible profile for a Strat card, then used a boilerplate platoon split. But hindsight is 20/20. Perhaps Strat will include him in a future edition.”
 
 
Do You Take This Strat-O-Matic Fanatic? I Do
 
            I’m a long time Strat Baseball player, and have played something over 2,000 games, mostly as evening entertainment with my lovely wife, who obviously enjoys rolling the dice as well as I do. We generally play the Basic game, just because it’s quicker and simpler to enjoy while we’re watching baseball on TV at the same time.
             The one element about the Basic game I do not like, however, is the very simple stolen base chart. Now, I am aware that one of S-O-M’s competitors has an automatic stolen base feature on their cards, whereby if a certain dice number is rolled, the batter hits a single and then steals the next base. I like that feature, and so I devised a way of doing it with Strat cards, using a formula that assigns a number of dice-roll chances based on the hitter’s statistics and adding a stolen base to various singles or walks, etc.
            I personally enjoy using my system, and I feel it is much more realistic than the basic game chart, but it prompts me to ask whether Strat-O-Matic has ever considered, or would consider, adding such a feature to their Basic game cards?
Bruce Bergquist, Fort Collins CO
 
            You are making a lot of gamers envious describing a wife who shares a love of Strat-O-Matic. I got my wife started early – we played Strat a few times on our two-week honeymoon. We played the first three games without offensive and defensive strategy beyond pinch-hitting and relief pitching – and Donna won all three. She was convinced it was the greatest game ever! When we added steals, other base running, holding runners and bringing in the infield in, the tables turned. Now, 20 years later, she still brings up the time she benched 1967 Orlando Cepeda after he went 0-for-5 with strikeouts and double plays. Cepeda was the NL MVP that year and just about the entire Cardinals offense. And no, she didn’t have better results with Bobby Tolan at first base, but she loved having that power over players who don’t produce.
            We won’t see the method you like for stolen bases in Strat-O-Matic for a variety of reasons: 1) SOM’s innovations and adaptations occur in its Advanced/Super Advanced game (though, on rare occasions, SOM has added individual pitcher batting and fielding); 2) More than most competitors, Strat-O-Matic’s highly regarded play value emphasizes decisions the gamer can make to feel engaged like a real manager; 3) the system you describe is highly unrealistic – steals occur without regard to score/inning/outs and only upon certain singles (usually) or walks. Since the manager has no say in this, it is impossible to steal in key situations that call for it. And the team in the field has no defense, regardless of who is catching and pitching.
            I am going to give a strong personal defense of the Strat-O-Matic steal system. That might be expected here, but I have played other games that use the system you describe. While it’s certainly a matter of individual preference, I quickly scrapped that system. I could not tolerate getting my good runner at first, down a run, with two outs and a singles hitter at the plate – and not being able to call for the steal. Pinch-runners also have no stolen base value. Nor can a steal follow an error, a double or triple. There are no double steals. Worse, I’ve also seen games that automate the caught-stealing – single followed by a caught stealing. Yikes! Who said I wanted to steal when down six runs? Or with my cleanup hitter in Coors Field at the plate next? To cope with this, the game has to allow a cluster of exceptions or allow for gamer intervention beyond its statistical system – or the gamer has to adapt the game’s system. If that’s the solution, then we’re really back to making the decisions for ourselves anyway.
            We have options with Strat-O-Matic. The still-simple Advanced system allows the defense to hold runners and applies a deduction based on the catcher’s fielding rating. That’s no more complicated that trying to take extra bases with base runners. Some gamers who love the simple elegance of the Strat-O-Matic Basic game they grew up with compromise, playing “Modified Basic.” They pick a feature or three from the Advanced game – N/W power, pitcher endurance, e-ratings, outfield arms, individual bunt ratings and/or the Super Advanced steal system. The latter won’t work for you if you don’t want the decision-making, or if you don’t want the extra rolls. But the Super Advanced steal system is a terrific blend of a ballplayer’s steal frequency and his success rate, pitted against the opposing catcher and pitcher. I love the engagement, the drama of finding out if I get the good lead, the angst deciding whether to run anyway without the good lead in a desperate situation if my man has got a fighting chance, and the stats I get from using this system.
 
 
Thinking in the Clutch
 
            Could you give us a little information on the SOM clutch rule?  In reviewing the game’s various statistics reports, this rule makes a difference so rarely that it hardly seems worth the effort of having it part of the game.  In addition, since managers are well aware of these ratings, they often make nonsense moves (as far as real baseball is concerned) when facing players that have huge clutch ratings, such as Andre Beltre and Brandon Phillips in the current SOM season.  My understanding – I could be wrong – is that this rating is intended to provide more realistic individual RBI totals in SOM replay leagues.  As a result of all that, I am tempted to propose that it not be used in a draft league I have been in for several years, but hesitate to do so without knowing a little more about how the rule really works “behind the scenes.”
            I know that leagues can easily decide to not use this rule.  My question is exactly how this decision will affect the hitters, especially those with large clutch numbers.  I have to assume that hits on a player’s card are at least slightly adjusted to take into account his clutch rating.  If that is true, then the card readings will be slightly incorrect if the clutch rule is not used.  With a positive clutch, a batter will lose a few hits from his correct hit rating; with a negative clutch, batters will gain a few hits.  Obviously, when playing manually, the game includes no method to adjust for those differences if clutch ratings are not used.  But how about computer play?  Does the computer make any such adjustment if the league does not use clutch ratings?
            I do not believe the clutch ratings make much difference overall, but I would think that they do make a difference for players who have large ratings.  Can you provide any information on just how much difference it might make?
            One final note, I strongly support a change to pitcher preferences in the Computer Manager to limit relief pitchers to “rest of inning.”  That will limit a pitcher to a maximum of three outs, assuming he comes in with no outs, and perhaps to only one.  I have not done an analysis of Major League games, but I will bet you that more than half of relief appearances are for one or less innings.  SOM needs to bring that portion of the game up to date!
            Thanks very much for all the info.
Eric Johns
 
            I like your “rest of inning” suggestion and, like other suggestions made by gamers in this column, Strat-O-Matic’s Bob Winberry will add it to the gamer wish list he maintains.
 
            On clutch, Winberry answers that without using the Clutch ratings, “It will be a little less accurate.” He cites the Help File:
           
OTHER NOTES: Some leagues wish to play with just the ballpark option and not the clutch hitting system. Originally these options were developed to work together, and in previous versions of the game you could not toggle them individually. The option to toggle them independently is now available, however when doing this the statistical accuracy of the game will suffer slightly, perhaps a point or two on the batting average at most. Strat-O-Matic recommends that you use both ballpark and clutch hitting features together for maximum realism and statistical accuracy.
 
           
            Yes, I have seen gamers make moves involving clutch that would be unheard of in MLB – a bench guy with a solid plus clutch rating pinch-hitting for an everyday all-star. I’ve done it. But whatever system you prefer, keep at least these points in mind:
 
            Clutch ratings encourage more realistic lineups, placing low-RBI guys in low-RBI positions (like leadoff and second), where the clutch situations arrive significantly less often than for the No. 4-5 hitters. Before the clutch ratings, I once won the pennant with 1981 batting champ Carney Lansford (.336-4-52) hitting cleanup to get his SINGLE**-laden card to drive in well over 100 runs behind a high-on-base top of the order. Perfectly legit, but I’m thinking that Lansford, who batted cleanup exactly once for the 1981 Red Sox, wouldn’t be my No. 4 hitter with an updated card that included clutch ratings.
 
            Second, remember to evaluate a batter’s clutch value by calculating his remaining success chances, not just his +/- clutch factor. Clutch doesn’t change extra-base hits or walks. Even with a negative clutch, a great hitter such as Wade Boggs still will have a higher batting average and on-base percentage than many guys who go up in the clutch.
 
            Finally, while the number of times the clutch rating actually changes the outcome of an at-bat will be small for the individual batter, it can be much more significant for a team that is collectively weak or strong in the clutch. I was stuck one year with a draft team where almost every player lost a lot in the clutch. We struggled to score and finished below .500. Another year, I was blessed with nearly a full team of positive-clutch hitters. Platooning at six positions, we won 119 games – despite mediocre starting pitchers – many times on late comebacks by a lineup that was fearless in any situation.