The Talk Show- February 2017

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.
Thanks for printing my on-the field-at-Wrigley story. I was also fascinated to read your story about the student who brought in the "Sealed With a KISS" page with your Detroit review. I remember thinking when we first discussed it and I mailed you a copy if anyone else would ever ask you about it. As I said before, anyone who is so important in the SOM world AND predicted big things for KISS over 40 years ago has my utmost admiration and respect!  
Can’t wait for those 2016 Cub cards – plus, my eyes popped when I saw the fielding ratings and saw that Kyle Schwarber was getting an additional player card (including his World Series stats, I’m assuming) instead of just being computer-only. 
Chris Bacchi
            Thanks a million, Chris, for sharing your experience and your respect. I am not “important” – I’m just a guy who has lived long enough to do a lot of fun things and who has had the chance to share some of the experience. That’s been fun, too.  Like Tom Hanks in the movie Cast Away, where he is stranded on a desert island with only a soccer ball to talk to, we all need to express ourselves and we all need an audience. The Talk Show is here for all of us.
            No doubt you have the Schwarber card by now and yes, his World Series stats drove most of his card. It follows a lively conversation at SOM about his inclusion in the card set and what that card would look like. But it stands to reason many gamers will replay that historic Series and it would not have been the same experience without Schwarber.
I saw a post recently about employing the defensive shift in advanced play but I’m still not sure how the above situation is presented on the players’ cards. Say a lefty hitter tends to hit to the right side of the field, but groundball outs are fielded equally between 2B and an out-of-position SS or 3B due to the shift. Which will the hitter card reflect, that he’s likely to hit it to the second baseman? Or will results of the card fully honor the fielders making the play over the course of a season? Is this more of an issue with pitching cards? I understand this is a complex issue and I was quite curious to know what Strat-O-Matic’s thoughts on it are
Also, and I’m sure many Cubs fans have asked, any chance a 1908 season would ever be in the works? If data from the time period is insufficient for advanced play, perhaps a basic-only set? Those pennant races would be a lot of fun to recreate.
Kevin, Queens, NY
            The X-chance distribution of fielding chances is unchanged. Long before defensive shifts became popular, Strat-O-Matic was taking note of which hitters were pull hitters and which were not, and this influenced the location of some out chances on their cards. So a lefty pull hitter might have more gb (B) chances to second base than a righty pull hitter would, and that would allow the lefty hitter’s teammate on base at second to move to third. It’s not true for all pull hitters, though, because those are the ones most likely to strike out, and strikeouts get priority for placement over other outs. Similarly, pitchers are identified as fly ball pitchers or ground ball pitchers, with the same limitation for strikeouts and other priority placements.
I’ve wondered for years now why Strat doesn’t change the outfielders’ error rating, to be more in line with the catcher’s error ratings.  Most outfield errors are due to poorly thrown balls, and not so much dropping fly balls. If you changed the outfield rating to both a standard error chart, plus a throwing % chance for errors (T 0-x) then not only would you have a truer outfield fielding error rating, but also the chance of a throwing error from an outfielder making a player make even more decisions.  Just seems it would be closer to real baseball.
Mark, Pleasant Hill, CA
            I would amend your assertion to say that most outfield errors occur on throws AND by fumbling hits that have already hit the ground, rather than dropped fly balls. For that reason, an outfield T-rating alone also would be missing something. Strat-O-Matic addressed both when it moved from the Advanced Fielding Chart, where all the outfield errors are two- and three-base errors, to the Super Advanced Fielding Chart, where many outfield errors add only one base. The Windows game also incorporates throwing errors.
            All wished-for items that appear in The Talk Show are read by Strat-O-Matic decision makers and added to gamers’ request lists. Director of Product Development Bob Winberry has emphasized often that when items are requested often enough Strat-O-Matic tries to provide them. The history of game improvements – often suggested first by gamers – supports that pledge.
This probably been the most-requested item in Strat.  Any chance of revising Net Play to more of a Windows-based interface for all your sports?  This means online play internet would be housed by Strat instead of the individual players. The game will use Windows as its functions within the confines of its games. Any chance, Glenn, we can see this in the foreseeable future?
Last, is it possible for a revised rare-play chart for baseball, an X Chart with rare plays for football, an updated rare-play chart for hockey and an X Chart for basketball?  Thanks again.
It would be nice that you followed up with SOM Fanatics II to your very popular book.  So much has happened since the first book
Earl Christensen, Orlando, FL
            Strat-O-Matic’s recent announcement about its work on Net Play opens the door for a system like the one you describe. Though he didn’t indicate that such a system is imminent, SOM Director of Product Development Bob Winberry says, “It’s something that might be possible in the future.”
Rare plays never have been as important to me as to others, though I did lose a no-hitter in the eighth inning on a rare play. They can be exciting, but I’ve been entertained pretty well by my imagination after such simple play results as “single and error,” a catcher’s throwing error or the outcome of an attempted home-run-robbing catch. Noting how many sports announcers were Strat-O-Matic players first, Hal Richman even attributed that to the game’s straight-forward play descriptions. As Richman explained it, the men who became announcers came up with their own descriptions fueled by imagination. Nonetheless, Strat-O-Matic expanded to rare plays in the past, and has added many lines of code for individual teams’ play-by-play, so your suggestion is consistent with ways the company has adapted. Could happen.
Dozens of gamers have suggested a sequel to Strat-O-Matic Fanatics. The evolution of the company and its audience is changing so rapidly that I think we need more time to understand cause-and-effect historical context. Book-length storytelling requires tension and resolution – how did things turn out?  But I would cherish your suggestions, and those of others, about what you would want to read in such a sequel.
AN APP FOR THAT           
Can Strat-O-Matic make an IPad app?  It’s an excuse to print money, really, and would extend Strat’s popularity in a VERY significant way.  I would suggest that you look at the success of GMT’s foray into tablet apps as a window on the possibilities.  People really want to play sports on an app, and Strat could deliver something way better than they could ever get from anyone else!  I realize that it’s a capital investment issue (no capital, no investment), but I figure that if GMT can score, and they are playing in the same end of the small business pool as Strat-O-Matic, then this is a real chance to score even bigger! Strat rocks!
Scott Jack, London, ON
            Since your letter arrived, you probably have heard that Strat-O-Matic is expanding into the app universe in several ways: An app to play in Baseball 365 online leagues, a card-viewer app with sortable databases, and a basic-game baseball helper that will make it easier to play away from home. This is surely just the beginning.
I’m a Steelers fan and so am a natural Pats hater but I was wondering if you’d consider releasing Tom Brady’s championship teams as a set from his five Super Bowl wins. As much as I don’t like them I think it would be cool to have all those teams and to see just how great those teams were; I’m sure there would be a lot of interest in the community for something like this with all the Patriots fans around the country.
Ryan, Fairfax VA
That’s a creative way to repackage teams Strat-O-Matic already has produced. We have not seen best-team collections from Strat-O-Matic since the olden days of Strat when it produced basic-only baseball teams and then six NFL teams from 1958-1965. We could say those were the golden days – it’s been about 50 years since then, and it hasn’t happened in any SOM sport once the game company began expanding its line of complete seasons. Gamers do buy multiple seasons to assemble their own best-teams sets for tournament-like play and Strat-O-Matic would not be eager to discourage that by cherry-picking the best teams from those seasons.
I did ask STRAT if there is any chance of the company producing "All-Time Franchises." Its response was, "not in the near future." As an example, and as a Bosox fan, I would love to see a starting line-up that looks like this:
LF-YAZ … CF-F.Lynn … RF-D.Evans
3B-W.Boggs … 2B-D.Pedroia … 1B-D.Ortiz
C-C.Fisk … SS-N.Garciaparra … DH-J.Rice
Starting Pitchers:
R.Clemens … P.Martinez … C.Young … L.Tiant … T.Wakefield
These sets could be sold for $3.50 instead of the usual $1.75, and the company could start with perhaps just one set of 12-teams … to see how they sell.
Frank Albidone, Ontario, Canada
Hello, Frank! – One of the really good guys in a hobby full of good people. I believe that such a set of players based on each player’s single best season would be extremely popular. However, I suspect that the game company would consider that those sales would be offset by the loss of full-season products that feature those all-time great players (e.g. 1927 Babe Ruth, 1968 Bob Gibson and Denny McLain, etc.). The alternative – ratings based on careers – is available now through Strat-O-Matic’s Hall of Fame, Baseball Heroes and Baseball Heroes II sets. Not all franchises could field a complete lineup, but a fair number can, including the Red Sox. From your list, only Pedroia (still active, and replaceable by Bobby Doerr) and Wakefield (replaceable by Dennis Eckersley) are unavailable. There’s a bench full of other former Red Sox players, too.
Just wondering if there is any possibility that Strat might consider changing some card patterns in the not-too-distant future?  We have seen the same patterns for 25+ years now and, frankly, many gamers and myself feel like they are getting old.  Case in point, here with the release of the 2016 season set, Yadier Molina was the Cardinals’ leading hitter so he will have the 1-4 pattern.  Meaning, of course, that I know what his card is going to look like.  Albert Pujols, from 2001 thru 2006, his card was pretty much the same every year – always that 1-4 pattern.  He looked the same every year.  It would really be nice if Strat would change patterns every so often or at least mix up some patterns. In this age of computers/programs/printer capabilities, it can’t be very difficult to make some changes.  A lot of gamers always talk about the anticipation of getting the new card sets (i.e, Christmas about six weeks late) yet to a lot of us that anticipation is greatly reduced because we already know what patterns players are getting as well as what that pattern will look like.
Mike Craney, Loogootee, IN
            To my mind, variety is great and I’d love to see the return of a favorite advanced-side batter pattern – the one with an automatic home run at 3-6 and resuming power at 2-5 and descending from there. Guys like 1930 Hack Wilson and 1979 Fred Lynn had those patterns. I recall that Eric Davis had such a pattern when he hit four home runs in a game against me. Yet, the card-pattern wish I hear most often comes asks for the return of older, MORE predictable card patterns on the basic side – when hitters had an uninterrupted column of hits from dice roll 4 through 10.
            Surely what you suggest is possible, but would it be worth it to re-design the print process often? That could defeat the time-saving advantage of computer programming. Few Major Leaguers have had the stable, team-leading stats that Albert Pujols compiled for a decade. He not only led his team each year, but his stats were very similar (in a nine-year period, he hit .327-.331 six times).
            Before I became familiar with the broader Strat-O-Matic community, I would say “a lot of us” and “almost everybody” wants this or prefers to play a certain way. Then, after discussing some of these things with Strat-O-Matic creator Hal Richman and conducting polls in the STRAT FAN magazine, I found that my assumptions often were not true and that my preferences were in the minority. In the past 25 years, I have heard complaints about advanced-side card patterns from three gamers, counting you. If that is representative, say, of 300 gamers, then that is a small minority of Strat gamers who are eager to get the new cards and thrilled to see them when they do.
Hi Glenn, I enjoy your Strat-O-Matic Pro Football podcasts with Tom and Dennis. I know you mentioned that, the way we play the game, via drafting teams, is not the norm, that the overwhelming majority play with stock teams. Still, we have come up with workarounds to make draft-League games more accurate.
As you know we can draft complete rosters on both sides of the ball. But what we can’t do is replicate the team defense cards. There are different ways to handle this. One would be everyone using the same card. So the commissioner will pick an average defense and every team will use that. Other leagues total the defensive ratings and then assign team cards based on the NFL club’s strength. While I may be playing as the Ironton tanks, my defense card belongs to the Minnesota Vikings.
I wonder if the company would consider creating generic defensive cards for draft leagues. They would review statistics for all 30 teams and create cards based on the 20th percentile, 40th percentile, 60th percentile, and 80th percentile and generate defensive cards with that data?
Michael Reeves
            Thanks for listening, Michael. I’m sure Tom and Dennis appreciate it, too, as they take a lot of care to prepare thoughtful questions on behalf of Strat-O-Matic’s most fanatic football fans. I enjoy those shows and being challenged that way.
            Just thinking through this and I hope I am not misreading your intent. I’m wondering why your league wouldn’t just identify the teams at those percentiles. Would four cards be enough for your league? If, instead, you mean non-existing team defenses that are, for instance, the 20th percentile of every stat – this team has 20th percentile run defense and 20th percentile pass defense, then I can see why you would seldom find such a team among the actual NFL squads. Very often, a team that gives up a lot of yards passing is successful team that is ahead a lot. A team that gives up few yards passing often has a poor run defense that doesn’t require its opponents to pass as often. Perhaps the answer could be 16 team defenses. Four would have a 20th percentile run defense – one with a 20th percentile pass D, a 40th percentile pass D, a 60th percentile pass D and a 80th percentile pass D. And so on.
I’ve been playing SOM baseball since 1973 and I would also like to see SOM recreate 1968 (the first year I followed baseball daily – I even have my Topps card collection from that year bought one-pack-a-day!) and 1972 (also GREAT pitching – which I love).
I have the H-O-F set in both the 2000 “collectable” and the new “playable” versions and I’ll definitely get the Heroes II set when released.  Therefore, I will need the Heroes I set to truly create one Super Set league in the future.
This year I’ve replayed 1977 (8 best teams in each league each getting one player and one pitcher as a draft pick. I play a 50-game schedule in my leagues to keep it manageable yet statistically significant).  KC defeated Houston in the World Series after the Astros beat the Phillies in a 1-game playoff to win the NL).
I have also played 1964 (6-team league w/ the draft rule, 50-game schedule): Yankees beat Milwaukee in 7 for the World Series and 1957 with Brooklyn beating the Yanks in 7.  Playing 1973 now; this was my first league ever played way back in 1974 but I wanted to replay it in my current 6-team format w/ the Super Advanced game.  I’m debating which league to play next as I like to switch up decades (and stars).  These years are selected, drafted and ready to play: 1954, 1965, 1998, 2001
Larry Wigbels
            When the book introducing Rotisserie Baseball was published, the author described a league member who looked first to the bottom of the box score, where the pitching summary is. I’m like that guy! With each passing year we’ve got to be closer to when we see 1968 in Super Advanced form, right?  Next year – the 50th anniversary of such historic pitching performances as Bob Gibson’s 1.1.2 ERA, Denny McLain’s 31 wins and Mickey Lolich’s three World Series wins – sounds like the ideal moment. Maybe that’s why 1968 was doing well in Strat-O-Matic’s recent online poll. We will have to wait to find out. Ahh, patience. We’re not good at that.
            Your gaming success can encourage the many other gamers I hear from who say they have trouble completing replays. Your mini-replays not only make the time investment manageable, but assure that you stay excited from start to completion. I think that’s the key: Choose a project that will keep you eager to play the next game, rather than feeling a sense of obligation.
In the December Talk Show under "LETTERS TO STRAT-O-CLAUS," Henry Roman suggested the need for older college football teams. I second that. I like the idea of using the older game versions, translating the card sets to computer teams. Also I like the idea of the best of each school, on season per school. But here is another suggestion.
In the ‘70s Sports Illustrated produced a game called "Bowl Bound." (It was a good game that I quite enjoyed for many years.) They approached 32 schools and asked for recommendations of the season each school thought was their best. Not all the teams chosen were of championship-caliber or undefeated. Later they added another set of pre-1980 teams [Note from Glenn Guzzo: Eventually, there was a third set of teams from 1979-88.] Here is a list of the teams of those first two sets.
1970 Air Force            1947 Michigan                             1966 Notre Dame             1940 Stanford
1966 Alabama             1969 Michigan                              1973 Notre Dame                 1970 Stanford
1978 Alabama             1952 Michigan State                        1964 Ohio State                   1959 Syracuse 
1975 Arizona State      1966 Michigan State              1968 Ohio State                  1966 Syracuse
1969 Arkansas             1960 Minnesota                     1955 Oklahoma                 1951 Tennessee
1977 Arkansas             1977 Kentucky                           1967 Oklahoma                1970 Tennessee
1945 Army                   1969 LSU                                       1969 Penn State               1969 Texas
1966 Army                   1961 Mississipi                              1973 Penn State                1977 Texas
1970 Dartmouth           1969 Missouri                                  1976 Pittsburgh                 1954 UCLA
1969 Florida                 1963 Navy                                   1964 Princeton            1965 UCLA
1968 Georgia                1970 Nebraska                              1966 Purdue                     1960 Washington   
1966 Georgia Tech       1971 Nebraska                             1967 USC                             1962 Wisconsin    
1951 Maryland             1970 Northwestern                           1972 USC                          1968 Yale           
Another option would have all National Champions, not including the ones already in the Great Teams set, and maybe teams that played in those "championship" games. I would also try to get as many different schools as possible included.
I have set up seasons with the best of 64 teams (8 conferences) from what is presently available. All the schools above and ones from the Great Teams set are included (such as Auburn, Florida State and Miami) but only one season from each team is used. I use a round-robin schedule within each conference (7 games each). Bowls are the only non-conference games. Each season ends with different results and no team tends to dominate its conference, although there are a few teams that struggle to get out of the cellar.
Bob Baur, Pittsburgh
            Your conferences sound like great fun and I hope you will share the outcome for the Great Moments in Strat column. Alas, yours and Henry Roman’s are among the relatively few comments here at The Talk Show concerning college football. So I’d wonder if Strat-O-Matic would make the investment in more historic teams. There are many I’d like to play.
            When Steve Reiter led Strat-O-Matic’s research for the college football Great Teams set, he concluded that the mostly one-dimensional, low-scoring teams prior to 1966 had no realistic chance to compete with later, more dynamic great teams. Indeed, Bowl Bound’s first 32-team set, which covered teams from 1960-1970, had only three heavy favorites: 1966 Michigan State, 1966 Notre Dame and 1967 USC. A win by any other team over those three was a thrilling upset. So, while 1945 Army (Davis and Blanchard), 1947 Michigan (Tom Harmon), 1955 Oklahoma (coached by Bud Wilkinson), 1959 Syracuse (Ernie Davis), and 1963 Navy (Roger Staubach) have some of the biggest names in college football history, they belong in their own group.
Strat-O-Matic should look into adding clutch pitching, which would work the same as the clutch hitting. This would make pitchers who give up a lot of baserunners but don’t have that high of an ERA give up fewer runs. Thanks for everything! Strat-O-Matic is the greatest baseball simulation game!
Andrew Horwath
            When I interviewed Hal Richman for the earliest issues of STRAT FAN, he revealed that some pitchers who had better seasons than their base stats suggest were adjusted. At the time, his example was Johnny Podres, the Dodgers lefty who frequently had winning records, and big-game success, without great WHIPs or the glittering ERA’s of his era (1950s and 1960s). The extreme Podres example is 1961, when he was 18-5 with a 3.74 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP after giving up 192 hits in 183 innings.  But he was a winner every season from 1959-64, and in several earlier seasons while only twice posting ERAs better than 3.10 and with only one WHIP below 1.27. We can identify other better-than-their-ERAs-look pitchers in the CERA (Composite ERA) stat found in the Bill James Handbook. Strat-O-Matic Baseball is a stats-driven game, but one of the many things that makes it so great is that the stats do not stand alone – there are other factors that drive performance and Strat-O-Matic works hard to honor them.
And, in fact, SOM has disclosed that it addresses clutch pitching as an option in its Windows game. This is from the Help file:
“This option implements the starting pitcher clutch system.  An internal clutch rating is determined for each starting pitcher based upon a number of factors including his "expected ERA" compared to his actual ERA.  During game play the system alters the results so that pitchers who pitch poorly in the clutch give up more of their hits with men in scoring position while pitchers who are good in the clutch give up more of their hits with the bases empty.  The total number of hits added and subtracted for each pitcher is computed so that their basic stats (hits to innings pitched) is not skewed. Every starting pitcher receives his own clutch rating individually computed to match his real-life ability.”