The Talk Show – December 2014

Host: Glenn Guzzo
You can submit your question or insight on any Strat-O-Matic game to 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.
            Hey, Glenn … just wondering why Strat is so secretive about what next re-created season they are coming out with in Baseball? I know in times past they have let it out much earlier than December. I also know that as long as it takes Strat to develop these seasons, they know which one is going to be offered. Why not release what it is? Why so secret? … I think the survey taken earlier in the year indicated that 1969 was the most popular. Could that be the next season?
Mark Bender
            We Strat gamers never have been described as patient. Even so, it has been SOM’s practice not to promote new products until it is sure it can deliver. As you know by now, SOM will be releasing both 1969 and 1953 when the 2014 season is ready. And I think that’s your answer about why the announcement came later this year. At one point, SOM was unsure which classic season would be next – then decided to offer both.
            I’ve always been a huge Strat fan, and was introduced to the game by my father. He’s written in several times to the Talk Show, and we are currently replaying 1938, integrating with Negro League players. Reading the most recent Talk Show, I saw that another reader asked about the next past season on the horizon. Obviously, that can’t be announced in the Talk Show, but I was a bit puzzled to see 1953 as an option, or as a “good bet” to be the next season. 
            I understand that including 1953 would give Strat every consecutive season from 1953 to the present. However, I don’t really see how that year would be too appealing, given that some major stars (Willie Mays, Don Newcombe, and only a partial Ted Williams season) would be absent from the set. Neither pennant race is particularly close, either.
            I suppose I would take this as an opportunity to voice my support for 1947. I’ve always found this to be the most interesting year not yet released: Ted Williams with his second Triple Crown, yet controversially losing the MVP to Joe DiMaggio, the Giants setting a record with 221 home runs, brilliant pitching seasons from Feller, Newhouser, Branca, Spahn, and Blackwell, and a vulnerable Dodgers team that may see trouble from the Cardinals and Braves. This doesn’t even mention that the biggest event is that it’s the year Jackie Robinson integrated baseball. Finally, this season should have special meaning to Strat in that it is the first year that Hal Richman re-created. A rookie year for Jackie and Hal sounds terrific.
            As my father and I replay the same season (he’ll play the American League for a time, while I play the National League, and then we’ll switch), we’ve become big fans of the older seasons, specifically integrating older years with the Negro League set (one of the best products Strat has ever released, I believe) as well as adding players from previous years who would be eligible (adding Monte Irvin and Luke Easter from previous games into 1941, for example). 
            Perhaps our interests on past seasons are different from other users; while many players may look for great individual teams to play in a tournament style with teams from other years, my father and I play complete seasons, with an eye on close pennant races and second division teams that are interesting and can hold their own against the league heavyweights.
            Are there polls to vote on options for the next release? If so, when and where are they available on the Strat site? I was also curious if there was ever a print on-demand option for a card option of a series that wasn’t readily available. I thought we had seen that at some point on the site, but I may be mistaken. 
            Again, I love Strat, and didn’t mean this as a criticism, but more a clarification on how these seasons are requested. I realize this is just a couple of gamers’ opinions, but thought it was worth mentioning and asking about how past seasons are chosen. Always a fan.
Nate Poole
            You are right that 1947 would be a historically significant season, and Hal Richman often has been interested in doing just that with his classic seasons. And now that 1953 is on its way, only 1946, 1947, 1949 and 1952 remain among post-World War II seasons never created by Strat-O-Matic.
            Fans favoring 1953 surely considered its value in sequence, as you pointed out. Some retro leagues progress year by year. The stronger influence probably was the potent 1953 Dodgers, one of the most popular teams in SOM’s single-sided Old-timer Great teams. Plenty of gamers play greatest-teams tournaments and they have long craved those Dodgers in Advanced/Super Advanced format.
            Still, the lack of close pennant races surely made ’53 late in the re-creation cycle. And now 1947 will compete with the popular updates of 1970s seasons. I’m pretty sure we’ll see more past-season opinion polls on, but gamers vote with their dollars, too, and the ‘70s releases have sold better than pre-1960 sets.
            Hi, Glenn. Do you know how far back S-O-M is going with the hockey card sets?  I know we currently have from 1953-54 forward plus 1950-51 and 1946-47.  Is the goal all of the Original Six seasons or might they go further back?  Thanks.

Bill Donnelly, Indio, CA
            Hi, Bill. Without official word, I think we can expect SOM to complete the ‘50s; perhaps all the post-World War II seasons. I also know that my friend Tim Comely, who researched and rated Original Six seasons for STRAT FAN before he began doing so for Strat-O-Matic, would love to do a pre-War season. But that was a very different NHL (when defensemen couldn’t cross center ice!) and even the Fifties represent a pre-television NHL that wasn’t widely watched. Pre-War hockey might bring us first-ever best-season cards for Howie Morenz, Eddie Shore, Joe Malone, George Hainesworth and other all-time greats, but it would be more of a game-making experiment than it would answer gamer demand.
            I know that a great deal of effort goes into the creation of past seasons to promote statistical accuracy.  My question is does the game pay similar attention to the creation of realistic manger tendencies and substitutions in past season disks.  In past season replays I have noticed the steal and relief pitcher tendencies appear to be the same for many of the managers.  Curious to learn what effort is made in this regard.
            Another brief question – what is the logic of computer selections in Draft-O-Matic – is it programmed to select just the best player or is there logic infilling positions and depth?  Also what logic is programmed to approve trades with computer managed teams.
Paul M. Cohen
            While many manager-tendency settings will look similar, there are differences in each season, reflecting which teams had more-reliable closers and which teams relied more on small ball. You will notice more dramatic differences when examining the settings from different eras. I don’t think the settings reflect precise statistical analysis – that is, something like a team that sacrifices this percentage of time gets this setting, or a team with this multiple of relief appearances vs. starts gets that setting. But I’ve found that the pre-set tendencies are true to the nature of each team.
            If you play around a bit with Draft-O-Matic, as I have done, you will discover that the program wants to fill the positions with starters and backups and will try, even in early draft rounds, to establish lefty-righty balance. So it’s not always best-player-available after Round One.
            I have a very simple question but have received conflicting answers from Facebook groups devoted to Strat-O-Matic. The question is whether one can use cards from say the 1930s (hitting era) versus the 1960s (pitching era) and expect a relatively realistic outcome. Or say the 1927 Yankees (hitting era) playing the 1967 St. Louis Cardinals (pitching era).  Are Strat-O-Matic cards designed to play across eras?  Or should they be played only against other teams from their era, or even season, for realistic results?
            Some people say they can, others say they cannot. One individual even claimed that in his experience the most realistic results, when playing across eras, is through the basic version rather than advanced or super-advanced. 
            I have played across eras and have found teams like the 1927 Yankees, 1934 Cardinals, and especially the 1948 Cleveland Indians difficult to beat.  Especially when playing against 1960s teams.  Is that because they were better teams or because the lack of pitching made those teams great?  In other words, would those hitters be able to attain the same results against today’s pitchers?  Would that be reflected when playing cards of that era versus today’s cards?   
            Does it make any sense, other than having fun, to have tournaments across eras for realistic assessments of teams? By the way, I am only examining the Card and Dice version. You seem to be the expert with experience and knowledge about the game.
Constantine Kostarakis, Montreal
            Absolutely Strat-O-Matic can be used for cross-era play! By “normalizing” the ratings from each season, SOM reflects the relative dominance of any team. Thus, a dominant team from a season in one era can be a worthy challenge to a dominant team in another era.
            A couple caveats, however. Errors were more common the further you we go back before World War II. Dead Ball teams hit few homers, stole a lot of bases, but were thrown out trying to steal much more often than today. So playing the 1911 A’s against the 1989 A’s will reflect some era biases that will put one team or another at an advantage. Generally, power is more valuable than stolen bases, especially lower-percentage stealing. Durable starting pitchers are more dominant, but a versatile bullpen can create match-up advantages unavailable to pre-1960s teams. When Strat-O-Matic created its Hall of Fame sets, it used another layer of normalization that made those Old-timer error ratings more proportional to current day and also adjusted for power. You won’t get those adjustments playing the ’27 Yankees against the ’98 Yankees. For that reason, the view that the Basic game might be a purer test has merit.
            I’m glad you cited the 1948 Indians. It’s my view that this great team, like the 1957 Braves, is overlooked in most discussions of all-time great teams. Sure, the ’27 Yankees should be tough to beat – many consider them the best team ever. No game can settle the question definitively of how well Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig, Mathewson and other old-timers would do against Mays, Aaron, Banks and Koufax, or against Brett, Frank Thomas, Jeter and Maddux, but playing it out with Strat-O-Matic is going to give us additional evidence for the debate.