The Talk Show – December 2015

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.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see SOM finally give the super-advanced treatment to the 1982 season.  My beloved Orioles finally won it all in 1983, but it is 1982 that shines brightest for me still.  My two favorite teams, the Orioles and the Dodgers, led by my two favorite pitchers, Jim Palmer and Fernando Valenzuela, came charging down the stretch to play on the last day of the season for their respective divisional titles, while I watched both games that Sunday during my 16th birthday party.  And … they both lost, with the Orioles’ defeat sending my grandfather’s hero, Earl Weaver, into what we all thought was retirement.  Maybe it’s not exactly Bob Creamer in Baseball in ‘41, but it certainly burned home within me the idea that baseball can and will disappoint – that all glory is indeed fleeting.
P. Sean Bramble, Laurel, MD
Great pennant races, a seven-game World Series, awesome seasons from future Hall of Famers Robin Yount, Rickey Henderson and more … Strat-O-Matic’s first upgrade of a 1980s season is sure to be a hit.
I wonder if the company is considering any ways to reflect the proliferation of defensive shifts that have made their way into baseball over the last few seasons. Perhaps a bunt/hit option, when the third baseman has moved over to cover the shortstop position? Or, a new rule specifically governing shifts that adjusts the range factors in certain situations on “X” chart plays (third basemen drop one or two on their range factors because of the added ground to cover, while shortstops, and second basemen gain one, due to their being stationed closer together on the hitters’ “strong” side)? Maybe even an adjustment for the right fielder, since the second baseman is now covering much of the short right field territory?
A number of hitters have occasionally dropped a bunt down the vacated third base line for the cheap – almost a “gimme” – hit.  Left-handed batters who are adept at poking the ball the other way have new opportunities opened up. That’s all specifically due to a change in defensive alignment that the manager chooses to make, just like infield/corners in, or holding a runner, or even bringing the outfield in late in a game with the potential winning run on third.
Lots of questions, but the various shifts have really changed the game.
Jeff Woodhouse, Seattle
There’s no doubt that defensive shifts are used often, with increasing frequency and have played a major role in declining batting averages. But there’s the rub: While some players foil the shift, overall averages decline. I love this mid-season quote from then-Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly:
  “Let’s get this straight: These guys aren’t that good as far as being able to hit  the ball wherever they want whenever they want. The ball goes in certain  places. You’re playing percentages. It’s been going on for a long time. It’s  getting more aggressive now. There are going to be times when they hit the  ball where you’re not. If guys were that good, they wouldn’t be striking out in  astronomical numbers. They’d be putting the ball in play wherever they wanted  to, and the commissioner wouldn’t be talking about banning shifts.”
With most Strat-O-Matic rule options, the risk and reward are relatively equal. But if new rules produce accurate results, the decision to shift would be automatic in most situations – of course you shift for this guy; of course you don’t for that guy – and then it wouldn’t be a strategy at all.
Perhaps this could be accomplished as clutch hitting is now: Overall, averages in the clutch go down and some players are more vulnerable than others. So a Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira, for example, would lose singles when the shift is on. However, while clutch situations engage automatically, a shift is a managerial option, and there would be no shift against batters who can exploit it – unless something happens with defensive ratings, bunt ratings or pitcher-card results to accentuate the risk-reward equation.
As you say, an interesting matter worth additional thought.
I am in week thirteen of a 1995 NFL replay (I first became introduced to Strat with a selector set I think in 1968 or ‘69 and then bought and conducted a full season replay of the 1970 Merger season). I noted almost across the board my QB INT % are low by at least a full percentage in the 1995 replay. I may be answering my own question, but I thought about it and am possibly attributing this to no double teaming of receivers and perhaps more flat passes than long passes. If that is the case, who has some solo ideas on how often to double-team receivers in solitaire play?
Barry Eisenstat
As a quick look at the quarterback passing cards demonstrate, without double-teams, interception rates go down. Yes, some gamers tweak their solo play-calling systems to incorporate double teams. In most of the systems I have seen, a fourth six-sided die determines whether the No. 1 receiver or No. 2 receiver is double-teamed, or whether there is no double-team. In more-obvious passing situations, the likelihood of a double-team increases. That approach also is used to Key the No. 1 back. Such systems keep the offensive coach guessing and from over-using the stars.
My two sons and I participate in a fantasy draft at our church each year. This year our draft was after church. We were laughing before the draft about a second-round pick a couple years ago where a newcomer drafted Charles Johnson by mistake in place of Calvin Johnson. Not quite the same production at WR. Then this time, sure enough, a newcomer in the second round takes Tim Tebow, saying he heard the Eagles really like how he’s doing. Yikes! But since we were in church, maybe he went one round too late!
Jason, Lebanon, TN
Good story. Reminds me of a startup draft for 1980 Strat-O-Matic Baseball when, with every player available except the half dozen guys already picked, a newbie manager chose Gene Richards, who had hit .301 and was a 1-17 runner and AA stealer – but who also was a 4 to go with his 4 home runs. The hooting from other managers was merciless and I think it shamed the newbie out of the hobby. I wonder if he’s a fantasy-league player today.