Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fallout Boy

The Common Man wrote last week about his love of Balboni and of his induction into and fascination with the Strat-o-Matic realm. It inspired him to throw a couple of teams together and play a game or two. The terms were simple, The Common Man simply had to find each player interesting. Perhaps they were very good. Perhaps terrible. Perhaps still active or recently retired. Perhaps they end up on The Common Man's television these days, bloviating about the game they used to play. Or perhaps, like Balboni, they were just fun. Each team had 22 man rosters (with three starting pitchers each, since The Common Man didn't know how many of these he'd end up wanting to play), but only the starting nine hit for either team. Here's how they were constructed:

The visiting team
1992 Pat Listach, 2B (.290/.352/.349
1992 Deion Sanders, RF (.304/.346/.495)
1990 Harold Baines, DH (.284/.378/.441)
1992 Matt Williams, 3B (.227/.286/.384)
1990 Eric Anthony, LF (.192/.279/.351
1992 Brian Harper, C (.307/.343/.410)
1992 Sammy Sosa, CF (.260/.317/.393)
1990 Steve Balboni, 1B (.192/.291/.406, of course he made the cut)
1990 Ozzie Guillen, SS (.279/.312/.341)

1990 Nolan Ryan, SP (13-9, 3.44, 137 H, 74 BB, 232 K in 204 IP)

The home team
1992 Paul Molitor, DH (.320/.389/.461)
1990 Robbie Alomar, SS (.287/.340/.381)
1990 Ken Griffey, Jr., CF (.300/.366/.481)
1990 Kevin Maas, 1B (.252/.367/.535)
1990 Gary Sheffield, 3B (.294/.350/.421)
1992 Shane Mack, LF (.315/.394/.467)
1992 Mickey Tettleton, C (.238/.379/.469)
1990 Rob Deer, RF (.209/.313/.432)
1990 Jose Oquendo, 2B (.252/.350/.316)

1990 John Smoltz, SP (14-11, 3.85, 206 H, 90 BB, 170 K, in 231.3 IP)

It looked like it should be a bloodbath. Smoltz's team clearly had the offensive advantage, and was not terrible in the field either, with Griffey, Mack, Deer, Sheffield, and Oquendo. But, of course, baseball is a funny game, and Strat-o-Matic can be even funnier. Nolan Ryan pitched a 2-hit shutout and won 3-0, striking out 11 and walking 6. And of those 11, only one was Rob Deer (Mack and Maas went down three times each, and Tettleton twice). Ryan's dominance shouldn't be that big of a surprise, as he was facing a lineup that was prone to the K, and he was the ultimate strikeout pitcher.

Smoltz's shortcoming was the longball in this contest, as he surrendered a solo shot each to Baines and to Balboni (long live Steve Balboni!). Balboni's was particularly surprising, given his troubles against RHP. But a 5-4 roll meant that Smoltz was vulnerable, and the 20-sided die did not roll his way.

Smoltz did manage to strike out 12 batters in eight innings, before giving way to Nasty Boy and mouth-breather Rob Dibble (circa 1990), who struck out the side in the 9th (four of the victorious visiting team's 15 K's were from Sosa).

The second game featured the same lineups, with 1990 Oil Can Boyd going for the visitors (10-6, 2.93, 164 H, 52, BB, 113 K in 190.7 IP) and 1990 Greg Maddux (15-15, 3.46, 242 H, 71 BB, 144 K in 237 IP) for the homers. It has always struck The Common Man that Strat-o-Matic (and Diamond Mind, for that matter) perpetually undervalues certain pitchers for reasons that defy comprehension. As he replayed the late 1920s and early 1930s, for instance, on DMB, Lefty Grove consistently underperformed his real stats. Maddux similarly seems to struggle in Strat-o-Matic, perhaps because his pinpoint control and ability to generate weak contact is mitigated by the hitters' cards he is forced up against. Because of the nature of Strat-o-Matic, pitchers are just as likely to affect the outcome of an at bat as a hitter (because the odds of the results being drawn from the pitcher and hitter cards is split evenly). But perhaps certain pitchers are more likely to control the outcome of hitters' at bats than others, particularly those with pinpoint control and wicked movement, like Maddux.

Or maybe it's all been the luck of the roll. The Common Man would be interested in hearing what others' experiences are with the Mad Dog.

In this game, true to form, Maddux struggled, walking 4 and scattering seven hits through seven innings, but only let in three runs. Oil Can, on the other hand, was beaten around Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, giving up five runs in five innings of work.

Anyway, The Common Man has no idea when and if he'll play more of these games. But as these things tend to go, The Common Man will undoubtedly get his inner 13-year old up and make a couple more squads to battle on the basement floor (much to the amusement of The Uncommon Wife, who descended the stairs to find her husband sitting cross-legged on the floor, hunched over a board and a mess of cards, rolling some dice and keeping score like he was at the Metrodome. She ascended them laughing hysterically, after he told her Steve Balboni had just hit a home run, but that Nolan Ryan pitched a two-hitter.). He realizes that you may have no real interest in this phenomenon (too bad for you). But as long as the results were fresh and the outcomes interesting (and real games haven't started yet), he thought he'd share that his discussion last week has manifested itself in strange and peculiar ways. Now The Common Man promises to leave you alone about fictional baseball games being played in his house. Instead, he'll bring back some of the more interesting cards he finds, now and again, in an effort to highlight the very great, very bad, and otherwise noteworthy players in the box. And if you have any interesting cards to share, feel free to scan them in and send them The Common Man's way via the email address to the right. He'll be happy to pass along your finds to the rest of the class.

1 comment:

BillP said...

Good stuff.

I still have 1994 and 1997, and whatever of 1992 I didn't give to you, at home. I'm sure there's some fun stuff I can pass along if I can figure out how to make our scanner go.

That definitely is the fundamental weakness with strat -- if you've got Barry Bonds against Greg Maddux, what you've really got is 50% Bonds vs. a league average pitcher + 50% Maddux vs. a league average hitter. Maddux probably gets hurt the most by this, since he's both an extreme control pitcher (not so much in 1990, but for most of his career) and an extreme groundball pitcher, and yet 50% of the time (on a roll of 1-3) there's nothing at all he can do to prevent either the walk or the HR. I always thought that they should have put pitchers' GB and control ratings on there, and have spots on the hitters card where you have to roll the 20-sided die to figure out whether THAT pitcher would've given up that [walk/HR]. Seems like kind of a no-brainer, actually.

The frustrating thing is that DMB, despite claiming that they have this totally different and more advanced system, doesn't seem to do it any better...I've come to realize that if you have a RHP who dominated LHB in real life, he'll still get bombed by a good LHB about half the time...