The Talk Show – December 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.
            I just wanted to congratulate you for developing Baseball Daily.  It is among the most terrific and clever products Strat-O-Matic has even invented.  I’ve been playing Strat-O-Matic baseball since 1962, and my eyes have been opened wide to a whole new set of possibilities in ways to use the game with this baseball product.  I’m ready to sign up for next year’s version already, and I can’t wait for the possibility for historic versions to be released (1962?).  Thanks.
David Alan Weinstein
            As you suggest, David, the possibilities are endless – all the more now that Strat-O-Matic Baseball 2017 will add Baseball Daily draft-league play to the Windows game. Traditional SOM play or Baseball Daily, stock-team replays or draft leagues, one team or many – if gamers embrace Baseball Daily as well as the product deserves, perhaps retro seasons or other sports could be added. A good many Strat-O-Matic features began with latest-season baseball and expanded in just that way.
            Are there any optional rules in Strat basketball for the Hack-A-Shaq, the Hack-a-Whoever? Is it banned? What is Strat’s take on this?
Derek Oxenreider
            Strat-O-Matic rules don’t provide for designating which player will be fouled intentionally, nor to do so only when you know who is to take the shot. So that option doesn’t exist in the computer game. However, whether the target is Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Andre Drummond or some other big guy whose field-goal percentage is higher than his free-throw percentage, there is nothing to prevent a board gamer from adopting a custom rule.
            Today I took out a book from a local library called “A Game of Inches” from 2006 by Peter Morris. Lo and behold, as I am reading the acknowledgements of people that helped him there you are! It looks like a spectacular book.  I thought “Managing To Win” was great!  The DVD is a terrific companion piece to your book (Strat-O-Matic Fanatics).  I think SOM’s marketers should offer a package deal!
            Was waiting all off season to ask this since we now know: is Adam Eaton the first player in SOM history to go from a 4 to a 1 (albeit at different positions) in consecutive seasons?
            As a Cub fan for 46 years, I am obviously enjoying the heck out of this season. I attended a charity even with my brother-in-law at Wrigley – the special part about it was you were allowed to bring a glove and ball and play catch on the field!
Chris Bacchi, Woodridge, IL
            Your finding my name in the Morris book reminds me of an episode from one of the journalism classes I taught at the University of North Florida. A student brought in a photocopy of a page from “Sealed with a KISS,” the book authored by the wife of Kiss drummer Peter Criss. It contained a review I did of Kiss’ first concert in Detroit, in which I told the readers of my first newspaper, the weekly Dearborn Times-Herald, “These guys cannot miss.” The book was published more than 30 years after my review, so I told my students that while they were unlikely to live forever, if they wrote well enough, their words might.
            Speaking of nostalgia, Eaton is not the first to go from 4 to 1, though, as you suspect, that’s a rare occurrence. The guy who comes immediately to mind is Steve Garvey, who was a 1b-4 in 1973, and a 1b-1 in 1974. I’m sure there are others, but rather than invest days in research, let’s hear from other gamers who can cite examples.
            Ahh, playing ball on a big-league field. Growing up in suburban Detroit, the guys I played ball with every summer day talked about that all the time – “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this at Tiger Stadium?”  I think that may have fueled our passion for playing Strat-O-Matic almost every day, too: Next best thing! Glad our dream came true for you.
            I was so glad to see the announcement of Heroes II and to see my favorite pitcher growing up, Mel Stottlemyre, on the list. After a little research, I think the #1 player left off the list was Jimmie Wynn, ranked in WAR as the #17 best centerfielder, as well as having the #13 best peak for a centerfielder.  I was surprised not to see Prince Fielder and Juan Gonzalez, but it appears that their defensive numbers kept them from having higher WAR scores. As I scanned the WAR totals by position, it became obvious that WAR may have been the #1 resource used in determining which players to include.
            I was hoping to see Heinie Groh, ranked as the #24 third baseman (Matt Williams is #28 and made the list; Madlock is #36 from the first series) and Hippo Vaughn, the #39 best left-handed starter (but with a higher WAR than Blue, Cliff Lee, Brecheen, Valenzuela, McDowell … well, you get the drift … sounds like the type of data people use when supporting Hall of Fame arguments.  I also wished I saw Phillippe & Leever, both of whom pitched for the Pirates between 1900 – 1910 (Leever shows a higher WAR than Messersmith & Pascual); they both had great winning percentages and appeared in 2 World Series.
            The surprises were players included who i did not think warranted the cut: e.g., Furcal, Turk Farrell, Zambrano, Radke, Bailey, L. Jackson, Newsom.
            In conclusion, they were mostly excellent selections.  I still say there’s a lack of catchers from the earlier part of the 20th century (e.g., J. Wilson, S. O’Neill, Kling, D. McGuire), although their WAR/offense was not high.
Larry Kapit, Coral Springs, FL
            Based on comments in online forums and elsewhere, this Heroes set is exciting many gamers who already are anticipating combining these players with Heroes I and Hall of Fame players. My experience combining Heroes I, Hall of Fame and Negro League Stars into 22 teams was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had playing solitaire Strat-O-Matic – and that’s saying something.
            It’s as natural to debate a Heroes roster as it is to debate who should be in the Hall of Fame. Since WAR (Wins Above Replacement) considers season norms and ballpark effects, it’s an important indicator – but only one of the factors that determine who goes into a Heroes set. Wynn would have been worthy. But on WAR exclusively, there’s no way Ennis’ best seven seasons beat Callison’s, and no way Fielder gets into this set, even on his offensive WAR alone.
            While Strat-O-Matic never has divulged its card-making formulas, it’s worthwhile knowing this in the context of Heroes: At this time, data is insufficient for players whose core seasons were before 1920. Vaughn, Phillippe, Leever and the catchers you’d like were not considered for that reason.
            I would like to know your thoughts on combining the 2016 Hockey Heroes set with the 2005 All-Time Greats set. I am setting up my league using your original 8-team format as a starting point. Here’s what I have come up with so far (using 3 forward lines + 2 D pairings for my starting lineups):
Total # of teams = 11
Original Six Era = 7 teams (Bruins, Blackhawks, Rangers, Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Canadiens pre-1960, Canadiens post-1960)
Expansion Era = 4 teams (‘60s Expansion East, ‘60s Expansion West, ‘70s Expansion, WHA Expansion)
‘60s Expansion East = Pittsburgh + Philadelphia + Buffalo
‘60s Expansion West = Los Angeles + St. Louis + Minnesota/Dallas + Vancouver
‘70S Expansion = NY Islanders + Calgary/Atlanta + Washington + New Jersey
WHA Expansion = Edmonton + Winnipeg/Phoenix + Quebec/Colorado + Hartford/Carolina
            There are a handful of ‘90s expansion team players that I am reassigning based on their playing history – Alfredsson to DET, Selanne to WPG, Kariya to STL, St.Louis to NYR. I also assigned Kharlamov & Tretiak to the ‘70s expansion team in keeping with the ‘72 Summit Series! Then there are some natural adjustments in order to balance teams – Roy to COL, Belfour to DAL, Fetisov to NJ, MacInnis to STL, Murphy & Mullen to PIT, etc.
            I’m considering a 12th team consisting of an amateur all-star team. However, I’m not sure if it will throw off the competitive balance that I’m trying to achieve, as some of the cards are simply too strong.
 Bill Adams, Burlington, ON
            I also am dividing the players from those two sets into 12 teams — it seems that many of us are! You look to be off to a fine start and I’d say your method is as good as anyone’s. I like your idea of a WHA group — I don’t have that. I have your first seven teams from the Original Six (but am ditching most of the pre-WWII Hall of Famers, other than my Old Montreal team, and including expansion-era players with their Original Six franchises). From the expansion era I have a Canada team (players from Canadian franchises not already on Montreal or Toronto), a Europe team (with Tretiak, the KLM line and a line of Federov centering Bure and Mogilny), and teams labeled Northeast, Southeast and West.
More Great Teams
            It’s my, what I believe to be, annual SOM college football questions/requests.  Given how great the game of college football is and the great past teams/players, has SOM given any thought to expanding their release of older seasons/teams for the computer?  I am itching to play some teams from seasons that pre-date their first release of the 2004 season.  Would they consider great teams of each decade or each school?  I’m thinking they could pick a certain number of teams from a particular decade and pick one school from that era that was that school’s best.  Obviously the set could not contain of the great teams of the past they have produced, but it would be cool to play teams from the ‘80s like 84 BC/85 Iowa/87 LSU/80 UNC etc.  Or maybe a great Nebraska/Oklahoma/USC teams that didn’t win a National Championship but maybe had one loss. Maybe they could release the sets they produced in the mid ‘80s (86-88?) on the computer, updating the cards to their current format and process.
Anything would be great, if you ask me.
Henry Roman, Omaha, NE
            I’d be all for that, Henry, and I think many college football fans would be, too. It’s quite a chore to produce realistic past teams – each team’s schedule and era require analysis and statistical adjustment, not to mention the inconsistent information available the further we go back in time.  For those of us who lived through those decades, such team sets would be dreams come true. However, Strat-O-Matic has found that its customers want to play the entire schedule of their favorite teams, which suggests that full seasons – even more challenging to produce – would do better in the SOM marketplace that selected great teams.
Better Pitchers
            Just a quick note to say I love The Talk Show on the Strat web site, and I share your appreciation of great pitching and a hope of a 1968 season re-creation!  Keep the good writing coming.
Doug Feldmann, Villa Hills, KY
            Thanks, Doug!  Hal Richman always has been wary of 1968 because Strat players love offense more than pitching. But 1968 has historically great pitchers – Denny McLain is still the last to win 30 (31-6 that year) and Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA is still the best post-Dead Ball performance.  Updating 1968 and 1962 also would give us the missing links for continuous Super Advanced seasons from 1957 to 1971.
Old Baseball Season Rosters, New Interface
            Since I purchased SOM Baseball for Windows, I have played it every day. I have purchased seasons from 1901-1925 and I will get every single one. It will take some time, but that will happen. I love old-time baseball as well as modern day baseball and I have posted replays of games on the SOM Baseball Facebook page.
            I would like to see a more user-friendly user-interface for the game, the ability to drag and drop the player positions on the field, and maybe, update the look of the player cards on the screen since they look so computerized. Make them look like the actual cards, make it where we can change the font of the player cards also or something. Playing SOM is fun because I get to see the die rolls and the play pan out on the player card. What other features will you put into the Windows game? I would love to see what more you can do.
Robert, Pompano Beach, FL
            Hopefully you took advantage of Strat-O-Matic’s buy-three-rosters-get-one-free sale, Robert. You are experiencing a unique period in baseball history. If you aren’t already an expert on the players of that era, by the time you are done you will be among the most knowledgeable of all Strat gamers. 
            Check and the Strat-O-Matic News (in January) for details on the improvements for Strat-O-Matic Baseball 2017. New features are added every year and your requests will be added to the customer wish lists that Bob Winberry maintains.
Pitchers and Catchers
            I’d like to suggest two areas that could be improved in the Strat baseball game.  Both of these would definitely be fine-tuning, because I must admit that I enjoy the game as is.  But I think these rules would add a little realism to the game, and I imagine they could be optional rules, especially for those that play with dice and have enough rules to keep in mind already!
1.        I realize that top pitchers will sometimes start with only three days of rest.  This, however, is not often done, because they will be a little less effective as they start their first game on three days of rest, even less so if they start a second game on three days of rest, and etc.  This was clearly shown in the most recent Major League playoffs, both for starters going on three days of rest, as well as relievers trying to pitch excessive innings too many days in a row.  To the best of my knowledge, for * starting pitchers, this is not taken into account.  Without too much trouble, couldn’t this be accounted for in Strat, at least if a pitcher tries to string together starts twice or more on three days of rest.  I imagine this would most often come up in playoff series, but those are the games that count the most!
2.       Catchers’ fielding is simply not as important in Strat as it is in the real world.  Those that “work well” with pitchers or do a better job of framing pitches do not get credit in Strat.  The fielding rating of 1 to 5 has to do with passed balls, saving wild pitches, catching foul balls, and getting to nubbers in front of the plate in time to throw out a batter.  Again, couldn’t Strat look at a team’s ERA and compare it to ERA when a particular catcher is in the game and produce an appropriate adjustment when that catcher is in the game?  Or maybe some other stat needs to be used for such an adjustment?  Catchers that catch only a particular starting pitcher might need some special attention, of course.  But I think an adjustment such as this would add much to the Strat catcher’s importance, much more in line with his actual importance in the Major Leagues.
            Thanks for all you do for the game!
 Eric Johns
            These are keen observations, Eric. For the pitchers, you can do as you please in the board game – disallow three-day rests, reduce the endurance ratings, or specify that a guy is pitching weak under the conditions that merit it.  In the Windows game, you can edit the player to remove his asterisk or change his endurance rating.
            Good catchers get another boost when using the blocking-the-plate option. A separate rating based on catcher ERA could be a stronger influence. You are also correct that there are some complexities in making that work, including the effect on how certain pitchers would have to be rated.
Hearing Aids
            I have one wish list item, which may be a request that only I would make.  Do you think the game company ever would consider adding an option that would replicate the old DOS computer version 2 sound effects for dice and splits and add those version 2 simple play results (while keeping HD ballpark photos, animation and the card image option)? 
Kevin Hennessy, St. Paul, MN
            Only you have made this request, as far as I know, Kevin. It’s pretty unusual that older technology is superior. It very well may be that modern sound software won’t replicate the DOS sounds. But Bob Winberry has your suggestion now anyway.