Glenn Guzzo

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.

 

Returning to the Mound (Revisited)

Regarding the item The Strat-egist in the last Talk Show (regarding moving a pitcher to a fielding position, then back to the mound in the same game), two gamers supplemented my answer:

From Steve Braccini, Georgetown, TX: When you bring the pitcher back to the mound, he’s fatigued.

From Meredith Adkins, Ohio: The other restriction is the Major League rule that only allows a pitcher to return to the mound once in an inning. For example, Tekulve could go to left field and back to the mound, but if he goes to another position, he can’t go back to the mound until the next inning.

            The fatigue rule makes abundant sense in the Strat-O-Matic realm. Otherwise, the defensive manager could alternate pitchers all game, which has never occurred in Major League ball, as best I can recall. Without such a rule in Strat play, the position switch also could be used to avoid fatigue in the late innings. One hit from fatigue, just move the guy to first base, then bring him back to the mound the following inning. No historical simulation sports game is immune from hindsight manipulation, but Strat-O-Matic has worked hard to discourage extreme use of its games, especially with stock teams.

 

On the Brandon Bandwagon

 

I wondered your opinion on Brandon Phillips defense this season. He is the best fielding 2nd baseman I have ever seen. I didn't see Maz live, but have seen many other greats. This guy is amazing. He was robbed of the Gold Glove – Hudson missed the last month of the season. Please tell me Strato will give this kid a much deserved “1.” What do you think? He is better than Hudson with the leather, no doubt !

 Darrell in Waynesville, OH

 

            Your email arrived the same day that SOM posted its 2007 fielding ratings, which showed Phillips as a 1, for the first time. In Ohio, you see Phillips much more than I do. He’d have to be better than Robby Alomar for me to regard him as the best I’ve ever seen (I did see Maz on live TV a few times in his prime).

 

 

Why SOM Is Great for Cross-Era Play

 

I have a statistics question.  My sons and I play the board baseball game, almost always old seasons.  Sometimes we add players to sub-.500 teams to make really lousy teams more interesting to play.  We pick cards from other years to add to the game we’re playing.  We add medium-level guys – not Mays or Mantle but more like a Peanuts Lowry or Dave Kingman – and name them after one of us.  After all, who wouldn't want Jim Poole on his team?

 

My question:  I’m playing 1950 and have added a couple of players.  Will a hitter (or pitcher) from, say, 1968, match statistics-wise with a season like 1950 that’s more of a hitter’s year?  It seems to me that a player who hit .300 in 1968 would have a much different card than one who hit .300 in 1950 because the 68 card would have to mesh with pitchers whose ERAs are far lower than those in 50.  And the reverse would be true with pitchers, I would think. It seems to me the cards wouldn’t be the same because the game itself is half-hitting card, half-pitching card.  But I’m not a statistician or anything close.  Can you shed any light on this?

 

1950, by the way, is a great year to play, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys playing past seasons.  Great pennant races in both leagues.  And the lousy teams – remember, half your season is one crummy team playing another – are pretty interesting.  Good game.

Jim Poole, Cobleskill NY 

 

            The cards will not be the same. Strat-O-Matic normalizes a player’s statistics against the norms of his season, so Boston OF Carl Yastrzemski’s .301 in the 1968 American League (league average: 230) is much, much better than Boston OF Lance Richbourg’s .304 in the 1930 National League (league average: .303). The same is true of all other hitting and pitching “rate” statistics – extra-base hits, percentage of walks and strikeouts, and more.

            Not only does SOM consider the season, it compares each player’s stats to his competition – typically within that season, the statistical norms are different for each league. Moreover, since a batter does not face his own team’s pitching (and vice versa), each team has its own norms, reflecting strength of schedule. Finally, the norms also are calculated for lefty-righty matchups: lefty batters vs. lefty pitchers, lefty batters vs. righty pitchers, righty batters vs. righty pitchers and righty batters vs. lefty pitchers – for each league.

            Doing the ratings this way is key to Strat-O-Matic’s statistical integrity. It’s also why it takes SOM months to produce a new season. Whenever a game company starts churning out high volumes of seasons in rapid fashion, you can be confident that it is not normalizing stats. Without normalization, a season’s player ratings are only valid – if then – played against the competition of that season. But Strat-O-Matic’s normalization makes SOM great for playing the creative what-ifs that gamers like you are constantly devising.

            Even then, there are some limits to extreme statistics. How do you calculate how many homers a pitcher might have given up in 2007 if he gave up zero in 1911? Today’s 50-homer men likely would have hit many fewer under the conditions of 1911, but as few as AL leader Frank Baker’s 11 homers? Differing game conditions also dictated strategy and player usage, with strong impact on such statistics as stolen bases, strikeouts and innings pitched. The sport was different back then and so are the SOM cards that reflect the way the game was played. But Strat-O-Matic’s enduring appeal has much to do with gamers’ ability to make those comparisons, because of how SOM does its ratings.

 

           

Baseball Update Requests

 

Will Strat-O-Matic reprint the 1961 and 1962 baseball seasons in the 3 color format? These two seasons are as popular as any that Strat has produced. Also is 1958 around the corner?

Phil S, Passaic  NJ

 

These answers are usually speculation beyond what SOM already has revealed, but I have consistently speculated that 1961 and 1962 are probably fairly far down the list of SOM’s priorities. The company has to weigh how many gamers haven’t played ’61 and ’62 in their first two iterations (basic only, then basic/advanced) against demand for never-created seasons (like 1951 this year, 1924 next year and 1958 eventually (to complete SOM’s run from 1954 through present). Then there’s the 1970s seasons that have been released just once, albeit in the same format as the latest representations of ’61 and ’62.

Many of us who have played both ’61 and ’62 would enjoy seeing the Super-Advanced versions, but we also have other favorites higher on our wish lists.

 

 

Is there any chance that SOM will produce adds-on to the Hockey Hall of Famers set in the future? I know the set just came out a few years ago, but I think most gamers would like the chance to include Mark Messier and Ron Francis, as well as the other new Hall of Famers, in that set.

Jeff Gillespie, Conyers, GA

 

            The last Talk Show contained an answer that suggested it is too soon for a hockey HOF update set, because only five players not yet in the set have been inducted in the three-year interval.

 

Strike Three

Alan Maier of Enfield, CT asked about Strat listing a strikeout looking as compared to a swinging third strike.  In our league we have determined that all “tired dot” strikeouts on a pitcher’s card are strikeouts looking.  I’m not sure how statistically accurate it is, but it’s how we’ve been playing for years.

                                                                                              Rob Cornwell, St. Louis, MO

            Even without the stats, I’d expect that you have more “out-looking” Ks than actual, simply because some pitchers have dots after all their strikeouts. But for those lower-strikeout pitchers, maybe that’s not unrealistic. They don’t overpower hitters, but get the calls at the corners and the knees. In the absence of good numbers, your system is likely to be as enjoyable as any.

 

The Dark Side of Strat

It would be interesting to explore the stories of when the fellowship in Strat is replaced by showmanship.  There must be a plethora of stories regarding various leagues that folded under dubious or acrimonious situations.  I for one have experienced the venomous jealously of supposedly “trusted” friends who periodically include you in their baseball league as an expansion squad – essentially a doormat – until your team has become the class of the league. Then you have become intolerable and, you guessed it, something right out of the French Revolution – the guillotine is out and “off with your head!”  On to the next victim/sucker, so much for good friends. 

I mention this because I was in Glen Head several years back with one of those strategomaniacs and Hal Richman was fascinated by the story of an individual who threatened to fight both me and his brother because the competitive nature of the league had worn his nerves thin.  This included outright cheating off cards and holding the dice in a manner which seemed to produce a preferred dice roll for the team at the plate, if you know what I mean. Recently, another face-to-face league I was in with these individuals collapsed under similar circumstances as the league slowly dwindled due to the competitive nature of Strat. I thought it may be an interesting to explore stories about when competition loses perspective in Strat leagues gone bad or other underhanded maneuvers to insure victory. Curious about what you think.

Kong, Chicago, IL

Sounds like you need to read the chapters of my Strat-O-Matic Fanatics book in the segment titled “Love, Devotion and Surrender” – story after story about the passion for Strat-O-Matic. Some of these stories are heart-rending human interest. Some are hilarious. Some will make you shake your head. Sounds like you would be especially interested in Steve Napoli’s account of a league member caught using batting dice with only 1s, 2s, and 3s on the first die. What the league did to penalize him was inspired.

Your experience with the French Revolution leagues reminds me of a league where, over a period of years, a half dozen champions and runners-up quit in succession, all because of one jealous member’s behavior. He had the authority to manipulate divisional alignments, consistently did so to his advantage and therefore was always a contender. But each year he fell short of the championship and took out his despondency on those who fared better. Because Strat is played by competitive people whose strategy is important and whose dice rolls sometimes produce low-percentage (“lucky”) outcomes, emotions can be as interesting as the games. Playing for money is never necessary to keep interest high.

While I’ve never defaced a card (or an opponent) in anger, I’ve had my “attitude adjustments” during frustrating stretches. Those concentration losses usually extend the misfortune, so learning to accept bad outcomes is part of becoming an effective manager. I’ve seen this skill in Major League managers. After the wheels come off in a big inning, the good managers stay focused on what they have to do with a six-run deficit instead of dwelling on “woe-is-us” replays of misfortune. These managers always give their teams the best chance to win, even if that chance is small.

Eliminating cheating and unnecessary hard feelings is fairly easy in face-to-face play. Batter and pitcher cards ought to be displayed in full view of both players. Everyone misreads a card now and then. The player rolling the dice should ask if his opponent is set with all strategy moves before rolling. Dice should not be picked up until the play has been resolved to both players’ common understanding. At STAR Tournaments, where money is at stake, players must use dice towers to eliminate those “custom” rolls. Mail leagues require much more trust, but NetPlay is a solution.

If you play enough Strat, you’ll see it all – miracle victories and inexpressible defeats that turn you into a babbling idiot. Tough losses on long-shot rolls happen. My advice: Play hard to win every game, but get over it quickly when you lose. There’s another game to play as soon as you’re ready.    

 

NEVER ENOUGH PITCHING – INJURIES

Strat continues to improve its baseball game, i.e., robbing a home run, blocking the plate, etc. Still, I don't understand why position players, who are prone to injury, suffer so much compared to pitchers, especially frequently injured relievers, who never bat in DH leagues. Doesn’t Strat understand that not all leagues are played at 162 games or follow strict usage? Why doesn’t Strat include pitcher injury possibilties on its charts, i.e., a rare play resulting in possible injury, like it does for its position players? (Am I the first person to ask this question?) If you're a Cleveland fan, you will recall a few years ago the Indians used dozens of pitchers in a year. The 2007 Yankees used 12+ starters, I believe. Injuries are part of the game – just like balks. Pitchers do get hurt in the computer version. Just don't ask me how that happens.

Jesus Diaz, New York

            The injury system in the computer game also applies to the board game. In Super Advanced rules, pitchers have a high likelihood of injury – whenever an opposing batter rolls a 6-12. For a complete-game starting pitcher, that’s 40 exposures to injury per game, compared to four or five for each batter. Believe me, it works. I’m just finishing a retro league where my team endured six injuries to starting pitchers in 125 games (we turn off injuries in the final month of the 154-game season). All four of my rotation starters (and one spot starter) went down. One went on the 15-day DL twice. On two occasions, I had a pair of pitchers on the DL at the same time. It would have been much worse, but my rotation consisted entirely of heavy-inning pitchers who have some protection against injuries, per the Super Advanced charts you’ll find in the board games – a rule that also protects high-AB hitters. When you play with this system, your pitchers will appreciate double plays, outs on the bases and bunts – anything that reduces the number of batters faced who can roll a 6-12.