Host: Glenn Guzzo
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Playing a Fine Tune with Baseball Ratings
            Have been an avid Strat player and follower for over 37 years, I have loved the newer ruling changes and features over the years including ball park homers and hitting, individual pitcher holds and especially rare plays. They only thing, a real MLB game has more rare plays than we can achieve by just rolling the 5s on X charts. There should be more and more different ones, especially for us fanatical-looking- for-real- play fans.
            Your game is by far the best at achieving accuracy in your replay seasons of the past. However, such happenings as Rod Carew stealing home 7 out of 7 times in 1969, Greg Maddux surrendering only 4 homers in 202 innings in 1994 and Dennis Eckersley’s 4 walks allowed in 1990 are impossible to achieve. Rather than having the thought, “Maybe it can happen in a replay or not,” try something like this as a special rule, as you now do with your infielders who now make a ridiculously low amount of errors in a season. For Carew stealing home, have him achieve a lead, like a roll of 4 while on 3rd. If he does, he scores or his chance is 1-19. Make on Maddux’s card a HR chance ONLY on his card like a roll of 6-2. You have your % charts on how often that roll can happen in a season and adjust according. All homers rolled on batters cards are just singles … same with Eckersley’s walks … only a walk on his card like a 6-2 is liable … all walks rolled on batters’ cards are foul outs to 3rd or 1st like a horseshoe-hit chance in failed clutch hitting.
            Love your game, keep up the good work, would love to see the replay seasons of 1968, 1969 and 1970 redone into the super advanced format also sometime this decade. These were some of your 1st and I know I join many others wishing to see these upgraded. These were some of baseball golden years.
Randy Gesicki, Independence, OH

            On rare occasions, Strat-O-Matic has created new rules because of extreme performances, such as the Rodman Rule for rebounding in basketball. In computer baseball, the Max Rule option for “Improve Statistical Accuracy” attempts to address situations such as Eckersley’s walks. But mostly, Strat-O-Matic has earned its popularity by combining statistical accuracy and ease of play. When the two are in conflict, what Hal Richman refers to as “Play Value” tends to get the benefit of the doubt. The exceptions are in the Super Advanced rule options.
            Potentially, the techniques you suggest could be added. Before SOM does such a thing, it has to consider the unintended consequences. I can think of several:
            1) Are we so concerned with Maddux’ home-run rate that we want to create game situations where the home-run chance for Barry Bonds is the same as for Edgar Renteria?
            2) Similarly for Maddux and Eckersley, do we want the pinch-hitter’s power or walk ability to be irrelevant? What happens to the WALK roll on such a batter – just roll over (and over) until we get another result? Unless we stipulated that such re-rolls had to come from the batter card, the adjustment would force many more rolls onto Maddux’ card and further distort the batter stats. Unless we stipulated that repeat WALK rolls would result in a WALK after all, we could have a tedious disruption of the play flow.
            3) While your suggestions might give Maddux and Eckersley their desired replay results, do these rules apply in other formats – draft leagues, franchise all-stars, or great-teams tournaments? If not, what happens to the special results on their cards?
            4) Of all your suggestions, I like the one for Carew best, because it doesn’t affect the card readings. But if we are going to apply special provisions for Carew, Maddux and Eckersley, do we apply similar rules for all batters and pitchers who either achieve historical lows or are more routinely beyond the statistical range for that season? Do we need special results for Kenley Jansen’s pitching strikeouts, Joe Sewell’s batting strikeouts, pitchers who allowed extremely few doubles or triples, batters who hit into no double plays? This can become a long list of adjustments.
            I am usually in favor of play innovations that add accuracy and realism if they don’t add too much complexity or play time. I have created some myself and Strat-O-Matic has addressed a variety of issues that we called attention to when I published STRAT FAN in the 1990s. I think you have tried to do just that. But I think it’s fair to conclude that overcoming the consequences listed above (and possibly others) would add many rules and card results to meet the demands of relatively few gamers. For those like you who give this level of detail supreme priority, I encourage you to adopt your own innovations.  
Playing Smart Defense in the NHL
            I am replaying the 2010-2011 hockey season and I have noticed that defensemen don’t seem to affect the forwards enough. It seems to me it would be more realistic, for example, if a defenseman is coming out of his zone and forwards are forechecking you should consult the forward’s defensive rating instead of the opposite defenseman, and if the forward is coming out of the zone the defenseman rating should be consulted; the same with rebounds, and penetration and the centers should match up with each other. Does this make sense?                                    
Andrew, Cincinnati
            Many devoted board-game hockey gamers switch the assignments, matching the Left Defenseman against the Right Wing and the Right Defenseman against the Left Wing, because those are the most common assignments in NHL attacking zones. Strat-O-Matic’s Super Advanced rules, which are the norm in the computer game and an option in the board game, don’t go that far, but do allow for defenseman-vs.-forward assignments.
More NFL History From Strat-O-Matic
            Does S-O-M have any plans to release post-1981 football seasons in CD mode? Specifically, I am hoping for 1982, 1993 and 1994 to create some projects.

Roger, Manassas, VA
            Good news: 1993 is on its way this summer. From the form of your question, I assume you are aware SOM already has released 1983 through 1986, 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1996 as well as all seasons 1998-present and many pre-1981 seasons.
Too Much Juice from Pitcher Squeezes
            I believe I can make a strong case that the bunting ratings, in concert with the bunt results charts, are unrealistic at the higher end. I hope that you can bring this to the table and see what can be done.
            Case in point: I was down one in the bottom of the 11th in a recent game, and the first two guys walked. Jimmy Rollins was up (a B bunter), followed by my reliever. I was out of pinch hitters. What to do? A sacrifice by Rollins (men to 2nd and 3rd), then a safety squeeze by any of my four starting pitchers left on the bench (all are rated A). Mission accomplished. I won in 15 innings.
            A couple of thoughts: “A” ratings are given out too easily to pitchers, given that their number of bunts are low and in relatively non-pressure situations. Should an A on a sacrifice translate to a 50+ % chance to be successful on a safety squeeze? Second, if a team sees a pitcher come in to pinch hit in that situation, the first baseman is going to stationed about 25 feet from home plate, and the 3rd basemen is going to be hard-charging in the same way. There’s no way this pitcher has a 50+ % chance to be successful – everyone in the park knows what is coming. No way is an “adjusted B” squeeze chart result representative of his chance of success.
            I’ve used this “double bunt” strategy countless times to tie or win a game. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this occur in real life more than a couple of times in all these years.             I think an A bunt rating ought to be reserved for especially good hitters, not pitchers. Not quite in the way that a “1” fielding rating is only given to special players maybe, but in the same general realm.
Clay Grant, Atlanta
            Once, before pitchers had individual bunt ratings, the pitcher’s hitting cards rated them as C bunters. But we’ve had individual ratings for many years, and it’s important to have data rather than impressions or anecdotes to make a persuasive case for any broad ratings change.
            The small amount of data I have isn’t conclusive enough to be helpful. The complete replays still on my computer – for the 1951 NL and 1956 AL – were played manually with me managing one team each game and the computer handling the other. The replay stats show that the computer and I bunted more than the real teams did with pitchers and not as often with position players. My teams scored more, but even with all the extra pitcher bunts, and more aggressive use of the squeeze play, pitchers drove in only a few more runs.
            The following data comes from and from my replays:
1951 NL
            Real teams sacrificed successfully 621 times and pitchers had 183 of those, about 30 percent of the sacs. In the replay, pitchers had 450 of the 732 sacrifices, about 61 percent.
            Real teams had successful squeeze plays only 11 times (for all batters). I had 52 (out of 87 attempts). NL pitchers drove in 177 runs; in my replay they drove home 212. That’s an average of five more successful squeezes per team and 4.4 more pitcher RBIs per team. Overall scoring was up by 176 runs, 22 per team.
            With 20-20 hindsight (bunt ratings and batting performance) telling me which players should bunt, position players bunted successfully 80 percent of the time and pitchers did so 79 percent.
1956 AL
            Real teams sacrificed successfully 601 times and pitchers had 201 of those, 33 percent of the sacs. In the replay, pitchers had 433 of the 711 sacrifices, about 60 percent.
            Real teams had successful squeeze plays 42 times (for all batters). I had 33 (out of 67 tries). NL pitchers drove in 248 runs; in my replay they drove home 261. That’s an average of one less successful squeeze per team and 1.6 more pitcher RBIs per team. Overall scoring was up by 267 runs, 33.4 per team.
            Position players bunted successfully 80 percent of their replay attempts. Pitchers did so at 74 percent.
Conclusion: Other than saying I benefit from the hindsight of the ratings to score more and that I bunt much more aggressively with pitchers than real managers, there’s not enough data here to conclude much. Maybe the success rate is high, I don’t know. But that also would benefit from hindsight. The 1956 replay doesn’t suggest that pitchers are exploiting an unfair advantage in squeeze opportunities. The 1951 replay offers more evidence that they are, but the real ‘51 NL managers seem to have avoided squeezes across the board and the consequences of my much-more-frequent squeezes produced a marginal increase in runs, worth, on average, a half-win per team.