The Talk Show – February 2016

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.
Since blocking the plate is no longer legal, will Strat-O-Matic change those plays to replay reviews? They could be based on the percent of out or safe calls overturned the previous season. This could be used on all baserunning situations. The only situation that might not qualify is steals because overturned calls are already part of the cards. The same goes for out or hit calls although if another adjustment could be made to account for overturned calls (like robbing homeruns and ballpark singles) it would add excitement and frustration to the game. 
Kevin Frick, Bremen, IN 
Interesting idea; there could be a variety of safe/out, fair/foul rare plays that would add drama. I would regard the “blocking the plate” rule less literally. It’s really a way to achieve a stronger distinction between the best and worst receivers because some 1-rated catchers are less potent throwers than some 3- and 4-rated catchers. In Strat-O-Matic, most of the better receivers’ contributions show up in teammates’ ratings – great pitcher handling, game-calling, strike-stealing through pitch-framing, even easier defensive plays when batters make softer contact. Thanks to the blocking-the-plate rule, I have seen games decided by the difference between a 2-rated catcher and a 3.
         I have been an avid SOM baseball player since 1966. I’ve played thousands of games using the super advanced computer version, max rules, etc. I thoroughly enjoy the Hall of Fame and Baseball Heroes games with two exceptions. Baseball Reference has Bill Dahlen listed as one of the top shortstops of all time. His fielding percentage and range factor were both above league average. Yet, SOM has him at SS-3e56. That seems unreasonable. Also, Babe Adams was undoubtedly a great pitcher, possibly even of Hall of Fame caliber. According to his card though, he could be the greatest pitcher of all time. That seems unlikely. His card outclasses even the cards of contemporaries such as Pete Alexander, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, and other Hall of Famers. Were these two examples meant to be?
                                                                                          Robert A. Best, Eatonville, WA
The Dahlen fielding ratings should be changed, per Steve Barkan, who oversaw those ratings when the Baseball Heroes set was created. A shortstop primarily for most of his career, Dahlen originally was rated 3b-1, 2b-2 and ss-3 as his No. 1, 2 and 3 positions, respectively. Barkan reports that Dahlen should have these ratings: ss-2e31, 3b-3e37, 2b-3e56. If you have the computer roster you can use the Update Player function of the computer game to make these changes.
Adams’ 194-140 career record is strong, but short of wins to be certain HOF quality. However, in looking at his card, we are talking mostly about on-base average against. The HOF and Heroes sets rate players on their seven best seasons. Adams led the NL in WHIP five times, once at 0.896 and the next year at 0.981. Six of his seven best years had WHIPS no higher than 1.081. If SOM used Adams’ 1909 season, when he was 12-3, 1.11 with a WHIP of 0.854 as his seventh season, then 1.081 was his worst, and maybe those seven do compete to be the best of all-time. Alexander, Johnson, Mathewson and Young had so many big-win seasons, that it’s difficult to be confident which seven SOM used for them. But at a glance, it looks like Adams’ seven best WHIPs are better than Young, possibly better than Alexander, and even or nearly so compared to Mathewson. Johnson probably has the edge over all of them. But I’m not attempting to normalize those WHIPs against league average, and doing so separately for walks and batting average, as Strat-O-Matic does.
Are you seeing any consensus of opinion as to the new football rules? The league I’m in seems to be split 50-50. Some hate it; some love it. I think the average run is down a bit but then in my replay league (using the computer as a coach) the run average seems higher than real life. I think that’s because the coaching engine hasn’t been changed.
Bill Ferguson
From here, it looks like the new rules gained strongly in popularity as coaches became more familiar with them. On run/pass stats, Strat-O-Matic’s Bob Winberry reports: “Actually the run/pass call ratio is accounted for in the computer manager. The game automatically shifts the percentages of those calls when using the new rules. In our testing we did not see higher running averages but of course a lot of that depends on when the runs are called (the percentage of time in traditional running situations vs. in passing situations). Of course, draft leagues could potentially throw things off even more.”
I suspect that I am like most other SOM players that begin every baseball game with the thought that maybe this game is “the game,” meaning the first no-hitter or, even better yet, a perfect game! And, like most all of us, the dice kill that hope by the 2nd or 3rd or maybe 7th inning. Well, after over 2000 games stretching back to 2004, the dice finally granted my wish! Gary Peters of the 1969 White Sox throws (rolls) not only a no-hitter but a perfect game against the 1969 Oakland Athletics! 2 for the price of 1! It is amazing how exciting it was and how absolutely thrilled I was, carrying my score sheet around the house to show my wife. While it was only my first, I am curious how many no-hitters/perfect games other SOM fanatics have rolled. If you have yet to experience one, hang in there, and begin each game with that hope – you just never know! Ya gotta love Strat-O-Matic!
Bob Siefken, Bishop CA
P.S. in 80 games since, nothing even close!
Congratulations, Bob! Other gamers with the same wish will appreciate your encouragement. Gary Peters may have been one of those pitchers who benefited disproportionately by spending most his career in the pitchers’ era of 1963-69, but he was so good for most of that time that he is a Strat favorite of guys like me, who were in our formative SOM years then.
Many gamers wait a long time for their first no-hitter, and each time it happens it’s among their greatest thrills. No-hitters are rare in the big leagues, too. In the 115 Major League seasons since 1901, there have been only 292 hitters and an extremely scarce 23 perfect games. That’s one no-hitter per 650-plus games. For the gamer who plays 162 games a year, that’s one every four years. For the gamer who plays less, well, it easily could be quite a bit longer. And still … those rare no-hitters are a common topic in our Great Moments column, which shows that when we add all the games a bunch of us play, we get those no-hitters after all. I have played more Strat-O-Matic baseball games than I can count – easily more than 10,000 – and I am probably pretty close to that one-per-650-game average (with only two perfect games) and more than a handful of equally memorable one-hitters that were no-hitters through eight innings. Play enough Strat and you’ll see everything momentous that has happened in the big leagues. And some of those things took 100 years to happen in the Majors!
Did you have a book, booklet, or paper that discussed strategies, for drafting and playing a Strat team? I remember about 10 years or more ago I bought a copy of a book that was about 40-60 pages. The book discussed different strategies, and the one I remember was draft the best right handed starting pitcher, with your next pick draft the best starting right handed pitcher. I have tried to figure out who wrote the book (booklet) for the last two years, and I cannot find anyone that has any idea.
James “Brett” Pritchard, Springdale, AR 72762
I am unfamiliar with the book you mention, unless it was by the guys from Canada who advertised in STRAT FAN, the magazine I published from 1991-99. I regret that I can’t remember the group’s name. Various other entities have produced draft guides over the years (John Lamanna, SOMWorld, Stratogists and Terry Dell, to name just a few). STRAT FAN contained many articles and ads concerning draft strategies. The current Strat Tournament Players Club has a wonderful tool for conducting mock drafts based on where eligible players have been drafted in their tournaments, which usually attract top managers. I’m probably leaving out more draft experts than I am identifying.
Draft strategies will differ according to several variables: Size of the league, size of the player pool, whether it’s a year rich in pitchers or hitters, whether your league uses a salary cap, whether it’s a one-year league or a keeper league, which ballpark you are drafting for (if any) and your personal playing style.
College Football: Any plans for different seasons/teams from Strat? Or are they going to continue to roll out the latest season each year. I would love to get older teams aside from the ‘Great Teams’ they put out a few years ago.
Henry Roman, Omaha, NE
I am a 12-year member of the TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly, the Gator Bowl) Committee in Jacksonville, and an avid fan of college football. That includes scouting several games a year for the bowl selection subcommittee. So you don’t have to sell me on historic teams, conferences or seasons. For seasons, 2003, 1969 and 1966 were especially controversial about which team was the true national champion, so they’d be good choices, among many others.
The 32-team Great Teams set had teams back to 1966. That seems to be a statistical dividing line in the way the game was played. There’s room for another Great Teams set. We have ’66 Michigan State and Notre Dame in that set but not ’66 Alabama. We have ’69 Texas, but not ’69 Arkansas and Penn State. We could have fun with 2003 LSU, Oklahoma and USC, Herschel Walker’s ’80 Georgia national champs, Ohio State’s flamboyant undefeated 1968 national champions and many more.
However, I don’t think that any of Strat-O-Matic’s various attempts to attract a deep customer base for college football has paid off to the extent that it justifies more of the company’s development time and money. College sports gamers and the companies that try to cater to them are both frustrated. While the aggregate national interest is huge, the vast majority of fans are more intensely interested locally and regionally. In fact, TV ratings for this year’s NCAA championship game between Alabama and Clemson – a really good game involving the only undefeated team in the nation – were down because both teams were from the Southeast. Ratings were up sharply in the Southeast and down sharply in other regions. The implication for simulations: A couple of conferences or a modest selection of best teams won’t generate nearly enough business. Most any fan wants to play his team’s entire schedule. To do the power conferences, you have to do all the mid-majors – all 128 FBS teams – a big job (about 12,000 players) at a higher cost than the 32-team NFL (about 1,700 players). 
No other game company has had overwhelming success doing college football, either – to the frustration of gamers such as you and me.
Have there been any discussions within Strat-O-Matic to make available past basketball seasons for us card and dice players? I think there are two options that would work.
Option 1 – Follow the SOM Hockey past-seasons model by reprinting 6 carded teams and then providing a download file containing the rest of the teams that we could print offline.
Option 2 – Provide a download file that contains all the teams that could be taken to Kinko’s for reprint.
Option 2 seems to make most business sense for SOM. No worries about printing too many sets and it’s a pay-as-you-go model. For gamers, it’s a lot easier to cut out 12 players per team versus 30 hockey players per team. Thoughts? I would love to start replaying some 1980s teams via card and dice.
Mike Butts, St. Charles, Mo
This is a tougher case than it seems, Mike. Because of the print programs used, hockey is the only one that can be done via your Option 1. Option 2 could work, but several other game companies that have tried .pdf files to conserve costs have reversed course. When they switched from cards to print files, sales waned for a very understandable reason: It likely will cost the customer more to get the files, use card stock and ink to print them, then either spend the hours cutting them or hiring Kinko’s to do it. It’s faster and cheaper to get cards in the mail – more exciting to get the package that way, too! The matter is more extreme for Strat-O-Matic cards, which are two sided. Customers would need duplex printers or have the very tedious and frustrating experience of running each sheet twice, hoping they’ve got them all lined up evenly for the scissors job to come. Some gamers love the DIY approach, but not enough of them.
The more satisfying solution, in my view, is for Strat-O-Matic to offer print-on-demand services. The game company would like to do so, but has been frustrated in finding a cost-effective way to do so that would be reasonable both for the customer and the company.
In the meantime, there is a secondary market for those 1980s sets, though it can be pricey to get Strat-O-Matic fans to part with these sold-out sets.
I am wondering if you and Jeff Polman would mind weighing in on a radical method of playing the cards and dice version of Strat baseball. I have been doing it for a few years now and I would appreciate it if you would give me your thoughts.
Dice vs. Playing Cards
Playing my Strat baseball, a few years ago I abandoned the dice for a radical playing cards idea. I have never looked back. Instead of dice, I have purchased several decks of standard playing cards and marked them as follows:
I began with the white die roll of one and wrote out all the possible combinations onto the playing cards.
one 1-2
two 1-3s
three 1-4s
four 1-5s
five 1-6s
six 1-7s
five 1-8s
four 1-9s
three 1-10s
two 1-11s
one 1-12
I did the same for the other five white dice possibilities, arriving at the total of 216 possibilities. I then duplicated this so as to arrive at the total of 432 cards to put into a card shoe (that is all it will hold).
I then proceed to play my games by using up all the 432 cards before putting them into a card shuffler and doing it all over again. I am assured of using every possibility the exact number of times that they should occur in any given stretch of 432 at bats. I will get two (and only two) 3-2s in such a stretch. And I will get twelve 6-7s – no more and no less – in the same stretch.
The traditional dice gamer may roll a 5-9 much more or much less than the eight times that would be predicted during any stretch of 432 plate appearances. I believe my results are even closer to the major league stats achieved by the MLB players in my leagues. And I believe that, by doubling the number of playing cards used to 432 from 216, I have eliminated the possibility of “card counting” that might otherwise occur.
If I am right in saying that an average game in my solitaire draft league yields about 72 plate appearances, I can play an entire three-game series using half the cards in my card shoe (ie. 72 times 3 = 216). A best-of-seven playoff series that is decided in six games would use up all 432 cards in my card shoe, thus ensuring total equality of chances for both teams.
Dan Reed, Three Hills, Alberta, Canada
I marvel at gamers’ resourcefulness in making the hobby just right for them. The appeal of this system is easy to sense. Once shuffled, the cards would give you lightning-fast results. That’s especially appealing for solitaire play. For heavy users who might play 12 or more solo games in a day, dice rolling can be a bit wearying. Not to mention the aggravation of chasing errant dice all over the floor. Though casinos never get near the end of the six-deck shoes before reshuffling, you have the equivalent of eight 52-card decks, so I think you are right about card counting. You might also be right about the statistical precision. I’d love to see the results of an as-played replay.
Others will prefer dice for several reasons. First, with every dice roll there is exactly the right percentage chance that the 5-9 will come up. Once you have drawn your first card, those odds change. Second, there’s nothing like dice for head-to-head play: Can’t beat the drama of waiting for the last die to turn over after the others. Finally, there’s the tactile feel of the dice in hand – the sense of self-control that drawing the top card can’t match. The self-control is an illusion, but it’s a powerful one.
I’ve never bought a past season before but I was absolutely giddy when I heard about 1969. And it hasn’t disappointed! I’m wondering about your specific thoughts, and I’m sure you’ve heard from other gamers. I would guess that it may be the most popular season in SOM’s history?
Chris Bacchi
All right – who put you up to this, Chris? My affection for ’69 is well-known and I can get pretty long-winded describing my enthusiasm. I’ll try to be more concise this time. After the endlessly fascinating 1964 with its eight or more legit pennant contenders, 1969 is my favorite historic season. The debut season for four franchises, the start of division play and the Amazin’ Mets’ first World Series makes ’69 seriously historic. Because the Orioles lost the Series, that team is one of the most underrated teams in history. As in other expansion years, but doubly so this time because there were four expansion teams instead of the usual two (and in both leagues), the legit stars of the day often have their best seasons. Tom Seaver, Pete Rose, Willie McCovey, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Phil Niekro and Tony Perez all qualify. McCovey has an awesome home-run race with Hank Aaron. It’s the best ever for such other stars as Mike Cuellar, Frank Howard, Rico Petrocelli, Boog Powell, Bobby Bonds, Lee May, Larry Dierker and more. So many other stars had great seasons even if ’69 wasn’t their best ever. And in ’69, we’re not yet in a DH season. What’s not to love?