The Talk Show – October 2008


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.



Help for the Ultimate What-If Projects


            I have played SOM baseball since the 1975 season and started playing football, hockey, and basketball shortly after. I play all four sports on the computer now, but still love playing face to face with the cards bests.  One feature I have always wished for, and I see as possible with the computer games now, is the ability to quickly sort players by factors like their home states or towns, and the colleges they played for. I have played some great all-star basketball tournaments with former North Carolina stars playing former UCLA stars. In hockey, I would love to easily sort players by home country or even Canadian region and hold tournaments based on this. Does anyone else sort players this way for a change of pace with cards or computer rosters? I greatly enjoy your SOM work.

Patrick Hannah, Coleraine, MN

            I know lots of gamers who do assemble these projects. Some of them actually play the games afterwards – though they invariably say the research and drafting was the part that was most fun. I have done the country-of-origin sorting in hockey and the college sorting in pro basketball and football. In basketball, the team made of players with no college experience – LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and friends – was the best of all.


            With nearly half a decade of Strat-O-Matic history behind us, the game company would be looking at a massive project to include all the biographical information you’d like – and why stop there? Birthdates, heights and other data would be next on the request list. It’s probably too much to ask. But it might be a project for the gaming community to assemble these lists for gamers who want to do these sorts, but lack the time to do the research. We could build the database, starting with the names of all rated players and gradually add the biographical info. Who wants to get it started?



 Those Pesky Customers

            I’ve got three questions. I hope you might know the answers!

                        In 1971 Jerry DaVanon played 11 games at shortstop (nine starts, 74 innings) for the Baltimore Orioles, yet he does not have a rating for SS on either his card or in the computer game.  Has the company issued any sort of rating for him since the set’s release?

            Is the company aware that 1911 Frank Chance (CHN) has an injury on the basic side of his card, but none on his advanced side?  In the computer game, this leads to Chance being an “Iron Man,” which is quite remarkable for a man who refused to move his head out of the way of pitched balls and was repeatedly beaned.  Gamers will probably want to tinker with this card image if they’ve got the computer game.

            What do you think of a “Sort” command for the computer game?  Say you’ve moved players around in a particular league, traded them amongst various teams, but then you’d like to not only reset the league but put the players back with their original teams.  If there were a “Sort Players” command, the computer would look at each player’s three-letter team code, then automatically move him back to the team with the same three-letter code.  (If there were no team with the same code as the player, the player could be moved to the Free Agent file.)

            As someone who has gone from playing the game as a child to now running his own small company, I must say I have developed a large amount of sympathy for Hal Richman and his employees.  It’s of course gratifying to know that your product and services are valued by the public, but I can imagine a degree of frustration when so many of your customers clamor with their feedback and demand that such-and-such be done to improve the game.  I am guilty of doing the same thing; years ago I wrote a letter to the Review, impatiently insisting that SOM make an effort to reprint the cards for past season sets.  I have to give credit to SOM for patiently listening to all of us gamers over the years, and as far as I can see they do it with remarkably good humor.

P. Sean Bramble, Dazaifu, Japan

P.S. – Read your book and found it very well done indeed!

            Always good to hear from you, Sean. When I published STRAT FAN, you were one of two subscribers in Japan. We had scattered subscribers in Italy, Germany and England, as well as Puerto Rico and Nepal. Strat-O-Matic has an international following.


            DaVanon should be rated at SS (I wouldn’t hesitate to make him a 4e88 based on his .840 fielding percentage, the worst in ’74 among shortstops with at least 10 games). Chance, who played only 87 games in 1911, should have an advanced injury to match his basic one.


            As for the demands, I can relate! After my letter in the Review was published in the 1980s, Hal Richman told me that, if he was a drinker, it would have driven him to drink! I had called for such things as individual fielding and bunting ratings for pitchers and perhaps even a 1-5 scale for fielders instead of 1-4, to create a true average rating. I’m sure the list was longer than that, but the point is – Strat-O-Matic does listen and the record shows that many customer ideas make it into the games sooner or later. Your sort-function proposal sounds like the thing Strat-O-Matic has been willing to do in the past.



His Pilgrimage East


            After 40 consecutive years as a customer, I visited the Long Island area.  And, so, of course, I made the pilgrimage to the Strat building.  It felt very much like the first time I went to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, way back in the early ‘70s.  Long before expansion, back then, the HOF was just a single, unimpressive old building, much like our beloved Strat HQ, but it didn’t matter.  It felt like a religious experience then, and it felt like one today.


            Unfortunately, Hal was away on vacation, (which I knew before going) but I got to see our Mecca, met the lovely and talented Rita, and picked up an extra V13 for my laptop.  And, of course, got a great picture, suitable for framing!


Jim Beauchemin, Altamont NY

            Congratulations, Jimbo. The Strat-O-Matic building is a bit like Aladdin’s lamp, to extend the Mecca/Middle Eastern metaphor further. It’s rather the old lamp compared to the new, yet it is a wonder of legend and treasure. The SOM personnel are a bit like the lamp’s genie, making wishes come true. The back room of the building is a Cave of Wonders: Stacks of game boxes; a display case full of teams, ready for shipping; bags of dice and game parts. They might as well be stacks of gold and mounds of precious jewels. 


On Closer Inspection

            There is confusion on my part as to what the computer is doing regarding closers.

I understand that the game defines certain relief pitchers as closers, but our computer league wants to be able to use the best reliever they have in that role, and not just the player rated as the best closer. How do we define this in the rule selections in the computer game?


            I have also noticed that the game does not automatically go the predetermined closer in a closer situation. For example, I have a pitcher like Soria or Moylan selected as the closer on my team, but in a one-run game that pitcher is often NOT brought out to pitch the 9th inning.  What am I doing wrong?


Mike, Modesto, CA


            You have options, Mike. If you want to use closers without regard to SOM’s pre-conditions for closer rules, go to the main screen, select Options and then Rules, and click “Do Not Use Closer Rules.” Then you are free to use setup pitchers as closers.


            If you want the computer to pay stricter adherence to your closer selections, use the Super Hal Bullpen feature. Read the instructions in the Help file carefully on this one. With Super Hal, you can go as far as to force your preferred closer into the game, though Hal will pay attention to pre-game fatigue. But the way Super Hal works, you set a priority list for relievers in various inning/score situations, including closer situations.


            If you don’t do these things, Hal will observe fatigue, season-long use and batter-pitcher match-ups. Your computer manager will select your designated closer most often, but not exclusively, depending on these factors.




            A few of us started a play-by-mail Strat league last year and we’re in year two right now.  We’ve reached a point of contention because HAL seems to be invoking very odd and unbelievable trends on a regular basis, leading others to believe that HAL’s results are not random and instead prone to themes and trends.  I can find no option like this in the game, but it really does seem like there is some sort of element to the game that invokes HAL’s themes, kind of like a video game that tends to keep games close.  Do you know anything about this?


Greg Detter


            Some Super Hal “Max Rules” override normal outcomes. Turn them off if you don’t want such results as robbing a player of a home run, fewer line outs and more base-running decisions (instead of automatic one-base and two-base advances). Definitely turn off “Improve Statistical Accuracy” if you don’t want the game to moderate results when a player is approaching landmark statistics (such as hitting .400 or 70 home runs) late in the season. Definitely turn off “Correct Board Game Excesses” if you don’t want the game to re-roll (invisibly) after walks against ultra-low-walk pitchers, strikeouts for ultra-low-strikeout hitters and such. Definitely turn off “Home Field Advantage” if you don’t want the changes that will produce.


            If you have done these things, and examined the other checked boxes in the Max Rules box, there is no need to worry about the computer game’s randomness. The gamers who have auto-played dozens, even hundreds, of replays, have validated that. If computer HAL was trying to rig the outcome, then the outcomes wouldn’t vary according to statistical probability. But they do. We see it in pennant-race outcomes and individual performances.


            Finally, when you see the unusual in your game play, remember that Major League Baseball produces the unusual every season. Consider 2007, when the a team as ordinary as the Colorado Rockies won them all down the stretch and made the World Series. Consider Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs or getting 120 intentional walks. If these things happened in Strat-O-Matic first, some would cry, “How unrealistic!” There are countless examples.



Old Pass Rush Chart Needed


            Can someone out there forward the OLD SOM Football pass rush X chart? I can’t replay my old (1970s) football cards without it. Thanks.

Todd Soronen, 1776 E. Lancaster Ave #230, Paoli, PA 19301


            Good luck, Todd. My guess: You will have your chart soon. We have a generous gaming community.      



Lefty Voodoo


            I was wondering if you felt there is a "lefty bias" in Strat keeper leagues. I’m in two keeper computer leagues and in both of them LH starters routinely under-perform their stats. The reason for this is that managers find right-hand batters with "fluke" cards, who OPS really well against lefties. In real life, a guy like this might have 300 ABs and maybe half of them will be against lefties. What happens in our leagues though, is that managers use all 300 of these ABs exclusively against LHP and these players subsequently outperform their cards by a wide margin. As a result, LH starters, no matter how good they are, become devalued, which is basically the complete opposite of real life. Have you ever heard of Strat leagues that not only limit a player’s usage to his real life ABs but also to his real life ABs against both left and right handed pitchers? Do you think the computer game could keep track of usage % vs. left/right in a user-friendly manner? What are your thoughts on the subject of the lefty bias?


Steve Schuster, Wichita, KS (playing for 12 years and counting)


            The computer game does track lefty-righty usage by individual player. Look for it under Statistics / Team Stats / Lefty-righty.


            In my extensive experience with this, and the experience of others I have discussed it with, excellent lefty pitchers do very well in large draft leagues that use almost all the cards. They will struggle more, and disproportionately, in smaller All-Star leagues – for the reasons you mention. Once, the so-called “lefty bias” was stronger. But a decade ago, Strat-O-Matic changed the formula for lefty-bashing hitters who did so in few at-bats, especially if that performance was at odds with their historical record vs. lefties.


            The really important thing to remember: The further your league departs from reality, the further you can expect the statistics to vary from normal expectations. You are creating an artificial environment that places some players in far more favorable conditions, and some in far worse. This happens in many ways: the defense behind a pitcher, the lineup protection for a batter, the ballparks’ effect on pitcher and batter. Smaller leagues is one more deviation – a significant one.








Pitcher Injuries


            In basic board game play, it does not seem that pitchers are exposed to the same injury probabilities as batters are.  This is especially true for pitchers in the NL since they are often pinch hit for or offer themselves up for a sacrifice bunt (thereby negating the chance of an injury).  Is there a more realistic way to expose pitchers to an injury result

comparable to that of a batter?  I would like my replays to pick up realistic results without having to determine rest, as I use the injury system to account for that.  Any other ideas on the rest / injury subject are appreciated.


            One other question: If a pitcher is injured say 10 games, should that count as 10 starts or should it be 10 games in a team’s schedule?


Scott Fiscus, Shelton, CT


            This topic has been covered in detail in Talk Shows this year. Take a look at previous installments, which include gamer innovations. In short, you can get the pitcher frequency you want a variety of ways, including considering every 6-12 roll as an injury to the pitcher on the mound. Also see the comments in the item below.


            The injury duration is in games. You could innovate on that, too, if you want longer injuries, which probably would be more realistic in the case of starting pitchers. But note that losing up to 15 starts is a half season for most starters, while it is less than one-tenth of the season for batters.




Negro Leaguers Can be Played with SOM Seasons


            I understand ‘24 is the next card baseball game coming out, and the Negro League set is coming out about the same time.  My question is this:  Will the Negro League cards be compatible with ‘24?  In other words, will it possible to “integrate” ‘24 in some fashion?


            Second, I saw your recent comment about the next year after ‘24 and agree that a pre-War, post-War and ‘70s alternating release makes sense.  However, I hope that whoever makes The Big Decision looks at pennant races in both leagues – or at least the possibility of races, if they didn’t happen in real life.  Right now I’m playing 1955, and although I’m only 25 games into the season, it’s clear nobody’s going to catch the Dodgers.  Having played Strat since ‘66, I know real play sometimes doesn’t translate to cards and dice – my old seasons are littered with champions that settled for second place or worse.  But if Strat starts with a season having close races, there’s a good chance for sustained interest till the end. 


            Finally, I agree with Jesus Diaz’s triple-six injury system for pitchers.  I’ve been using something similar for about five years.  With my system, I roll the 20-sided die after a triple-six roll, and the results vary according to the pitcher:  1-5 for a 4-day starter, 1-8 for a four-day starter, 1-10 for a reliever, and so forth.  Granted, with nine batters in the lineup, pitchers have nine chances to get hurt, but using the 20-sided die reduces those odds.  Also, under the old card system, I could go through entire seasons without a pitcher getting hurt, whereas in real life, they’re fairly fragile.


            How did I start in Strat?  The same as everyone else: A simple card game first, then the spinner game, graduating to Avalon Hill’s decent but static baseball game, and then Strat-O-Matic after seeing an ad in The Sporting News.  Never turned back.


Jim Poole, Cobleskill, NY


            Yes, the Negro League ratings will be compatible with other Strat-O-Matic sets. Strat-O-Matic anticipates gamers will want to play the Negro Leaguers with and/or against the players in the 2001 Hall of Fame set. But the new ratings will be fully compatible with other basic sets and super-advanced card sets, too. If you are integrating, keep in mind that some of the Negro League stars played primarily in the Dead Ball era prior to 1920 and others played in the 1920s, 1930s and/or the 1940s. We’ll get enough Negro Leaguers to complete four to six all-star teams, so we’ll have the option to form our own Negro League.


            Now that Strat-O-Matic has re-created 17 seasons (counting 1924) prior to the first full set in 1962, and has updated a dozen more, we can recognize three primary motivators that drive the decisions on what seasons to produce:

n      Great pennant races: 1956, 1950, 1930 and others meet this test.


n      Seasons with extraordinary history: The 1927 Yankees and 1955 Dodgers fit that description. So does the 1941 season, when Ted Williams batted .406 and Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 straight games.


n      “Bridge” seasons that complete a string of consecutive seasons. When we get 1958, that will be the primary reason. The 1960 season was another in this group.


            I think we also can see that a great pennant race is the No. 1 consideration, after the very practical factor of having the necessary data. For a long time, missing data prevented pre-1920 seasons. That reason still obstructs re-creating 1908 and its twin great pennant races. If great pennant races were not the next priority, we’d probably already have one of the late 1930s seasons when the Yankees dominated, and 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.