THE REPLAY ZONE – JULY 2014
By Jeff Polman
July ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict. Check out “Ball Nuts”, my latest “fictionalized” replay book, which used the 1977 season.
SCORESHEETS AND STAT KEEPING
I’m often asked what methods I use to keep score and compile statistics for the thousand or so Strat games I play every year. The answer? No methods anyone else is likely to employ. Having begun my incessant game-playing over 45 years ago, back in the day when calculators weren’t invented yet and an Internet was something you might use to capture butterflies in an aviary, I’ve basically maintained some of the same archaic, often moldy record-keeping habits that baffle onlookers and simultaneously keep them from touching my Strat stuff. Here then, is a little guided tour of the home baseball grotto…
1. THE SCORESHEET BINDERS
Each season I replay is contained in a cheap three-ring binder notebook. I usually keep a week’s worth of games in these at a time before adding new college-ruled paper and moving the older games to a loose, upside-down pile of games on a far bookshelf. As far as the actual game-scoring goes, I never use official baseball score sheets when playing solo; I find the honeycomb of little boxes confusing and confining. Back in the mid-60s, when my older brother actually rolled more Strat games than me, he showed me a more linear way to score, using a simple piece of blank notebook paper, writing out the plays from left to right like on a standard sheet but dividing the innings with simple straight lines. Pitching changes are marked with squiggly lines, runner advancement with little 2s and 3s next to their at bat results, runs scored with little dots and RBIs with check marks off to the right.
This system works just peachy for normal 5-2 games, but get into a crazy slugfest with numerous lineup changes and base runners and the page can quickly look like Egyptian hieroglyphics. What I find is that when I’m suddenly in one of these type of games, I naturally start condensing the width of my result columns to prepare for more of them. Extra innings often spill over into the blank left column beside the hitters’ names. The important thing is that I’m able to decipher the sheet later when it comes to doing stats. Whatever works for you is really the best motto when it comes to game-scoring.
Anyway, the lower half of my far bookcase is now filled with a half dozen or so of these three-ring binders, each one stuffed with games from seasons I have yet to finish. I eventually throw out all the score sheets and keep the postseasons from years I do finish—although tossing any score sheet is never an easy thing to do.
2. THE DEAD SEA FIELDING SCROLLS
I’ve purchased at least three super advanced fielding charts, and in each instance, flagrant overuse has caused the corners to become frayed or curl up, the seams to tear and be repaired with Scotch tape, a handful of valuable error results and rare play descriptions to be lost forever. I’ve called my charts the Dead Sea Fielding Scrolls because they inevitably resemble ancient parchment, but after years of mockery from various league members I now choose to glorify their wretched condition. At the ECBA convention in Maryland last month, I carefully rolled and transported them eastward in a special nylon zippered pouch, which I then unsheathed in front of awestruck witnesses before my first game. It should also be said that I did have my previous charts laminated, and my excessive gameplay did them in, too. It just took a while longer.
3. THE SCHOOL NOTEBOOKS
For stat-keeping, I’ve at least made an attempt at joining the modern age, and keep my relevant numbers in a series of Excel files. I realize many of these antiquated systems would go away if I merely played Strat on the computer, but as I’ve mentioned before, I only use a Mac and prefer the physical dice-rolling experience, so manually inputting statistics after every day of play is the way I go.
That said, I’ve held onto one pencil-and-eraser tradition: keeping the league standings and “teams vs. teams” page in a thick spiral student notebook, to always have handy on the gaming table for quick reference. I enjoy the gritty challenge of inscribing the daily updates in and around eraser potholes and heat-curled page corners. Not to mention the ever-present dilemma of unchanged win or loss totals for streaking teams that can slowly vanish in a cloud of stray eraser dust over the course of ten days.
It used to be even more of a challenge. For years I kept stats for every team on its own notebook page, toxic eraser pits sometimes “leaking” through to a lower page—where I would suddenly discover Mickey Mantle’s “49” home run total next to someone like Chuck Cottier on the Senators. In the real olden days, batting averages would be generated using a nifty little publication of tables called Batting Averages at a Glance, (to be followed up by Earned Run Averages at a Glance) which Strat offered as an additional purchase. The marvelous invention of calculators put an end to that, and now my Excel file gives me OPS and WHIP, among other things, at the flick of a button.
In the digital age, all numerical baseball things have become much easier to keep track of, but when it comes to my Strat life, I prefer to retain some old school flavor.
Also, for what it’s worth, you will never see me buy a Kindle.