1901 APBA: New Board Strikeout Ratings

As an addendum to an earlier post, I understand that some folks wouldn’t be terribly keen on changing pitcher grades.

This is particularly true for those who think that pitchers can “pitch to the score” (despite evidence to the contrary) and therefore the pitcher win statistic is somehow meaningful.

Those folks believe a 20-10, 4.50 ERA pitcher who throws for a team that scores 5 runs per game deserves an A while a 15-10, 2.50 pitcher who throws for a team that scores 2 runs per game doesn’t.

Obviously you can figure out where I stand on that.

But I digress.

At the simplest, I’d recommend making the following changes to strikeout ratings for the 1901 APBA cards when bringing them over to the newest board version:

  • National League
    • Chesbro – add (Y)
    • Dinneen – add (Y)
    • T. Hughes – replace (Y) with (X)
    • Leever – add (Y)
    • Pittinger – add (Y)
    • Tannehill – add (Y)
    • Townsend – add (Y)
    • Waddell – replace (Y) with (X)
    • Willis – add (Y)
  • American League
    • Garvin – add (Y)
    • Patten – add (Y)
    • Young – add (Y)

This is to account for the fact that when the 1901 cards were issued, A pitchers earned about 1 strikeout per game because of PRN 9 rolls with the Bases Empty.

That’s no longer the case with the new boards and we need to find those strikeouts somewhere.

An A is roughly equivalent to a (Y) and an A(Y) is roughly equivalent to an (X).

Among pitchers who saw significant playing time, the cards as issued had 2 A(Y), 6 A without a (Y), and 4 non-A (Y) pitchers in the NL. That boiled down to needing to find a place to assign 2 (X) and 10 (Y) ratings.

Keeping their (Y) were W. Donovan, Hahn, Mathewson and White.

You may notice one additional (Y) in there and that’s Townsend, who had decent strikeout rates but is the #5 starter for the Phillies. He’s not likely to get a whole lot of appearances and throwing him a (Y) seems acceptable here.

Over in the AL, there was 1 A&C and 2 A pitchers with no (Y) ratings. So we basically needed to find place for 3 (Y) ratings.

That was easy enough as we distributed them out to the 3 pitchers with the best strikeout rates – Garvin, Young and Patten.


1901 APBA Baseball: Re-Grade

I’ve dove back into a replay of the 1901 season using APBA Baseball.

I have a long, horrible history with this project.

I tried to do it once and quickly found something was amiss with the cards.

For example, of the 32 pitchers who are members of the 4-man rotations in the National League, 29 have a (Z) and 1 has a (W).

How can 29 of them have a (Z)?

Only 6 of the 32 NL starting pitchers have a (Y), while none of the 32 American League pitchers have a strikeout rating.

I entered every result of every card into a spreadsheet, weighting them by their plate appearances that season and I couldn’t find any way that strikeout totals would come anywhere close to historically accurate.

So I set off on an adventure of re-grading and re-rating every card from that set based on an elaborate set of equations using the card data.

However, it was only recently that a thought occurred to me.

I’d been trying to play these cards with the latest set of boards.

The 1901 set was issued in 1988, before things like (ZZ), (K) or (R) ratings had been issued.

And, more to the point, when this set was published, the board included Strikeout readings for some pitchers on those hits that get taken away due to being an A or B pitcher.

Oh dear…

So, for example, my concern about a guy like Christy Mathewson not being able to come anywhere near his real-life strikeout rates with only a (Y) on his card were somewhat unfounded. After all, by my math, that’s good for maybe one extra strikeout per game.

But giving him a Strikeout with the Bases Empty when a batter rolls up a Play Result Number of 9? That’s good for another additional strikeout per game.

So now I realize that him being an A with a (Y) was actually good for about 2 extra strikeouts per game over a pitcher who was neither an A nor a (Y).

Given the National League average that year was 3.8 strikeouts per 9 innings and Matty whiffed 5.9 per 9 innings – a difference of 2.1 – that suddenly seemed pretty valid.

In short, I started replaying the season by “retro-fitting” my current boards so that they more closely resemble the boards at the time that the 1901 card set was first released.

(You can find PDF files online that document the history of APBA board changes to accomplish this.)

And, as low-fidelity as APBA can be, I’ve been enjoying it so far. I’ve rolled about 35 games and it’s been fun.

However, there are a few things that have still been bothering me.

Guys like Rube Waddell (6.2 SO/9) and Tom Hughes (6.6 SO/9) had higher strikeout ratings than Mathewson that season, but they are both B(Y)(Z) pitchers.

As B pitchers, they don’t get the benefit of strikeouts on a PRN of 9 with the Bases Empty, so even though their strikeout rates were noticeably higher that that of Mathewson, they will actually strikeout fewer batters than him.

My obsessive compulsive tendencies over these games started to kick in.

As I have been rolling these games and comparing my sim rates to historical rates, they’re really not all that far off.

So I know that as a whole there are probably a fairly correct number of (Y), (Z) and (W) ratings out there.

But where I’d still find a point of contention is how they are distributed.

So I got to work.

I plugged every carded pitcher into a spreadsheet, calculating how many total batters faced are given to each grade and each rating.

For the purpose of bringing these ratings over to the modern board, an A pitcher was the equivalent of a (Y). An A(Y) was the equivalent of an (X).

Doing this, I came up with the National League having 2,851 Batters Faced allocated to an (X) – this was contributed by Mathewson and “Wild Bill” Donovan, each of whom are A(Y) pitchers in the original set. 11,784 Batters Faced belong to (Y) pitchers.

Then I re-distributed everything.

By a point of example, I sorted all carded pitchers by strikeout rate (strikeouts per batters faced). I started giving out (X) ratings until I had given them out to 2,851 totals Batters Faced. Then I gave out (Y) ratings until I had given out some type of rating to a total of 14,635 Batters Faced – this is 2,851 plus 11,784 from above.

So what I did was just try and ensure that the chances of a plate appearance being affected by a pitcher grade, strikeout rating or control rating were no different than before.

All I did was move things around.

One other note about this – the re-distribution didn’t penalize pitchers with small sample sizes. Much like the newly issued sets of cards from the APBA Game Company, these formulas are assuming that you will use pitchers close to their historical usage. So a pitcher could get an A even if he only made one appearance. It’s expected that the re-player won’t cheat the system and use this guy as a regular member of the rotation.

Okay, that’s the backdrop. What changed?

Well, surprisingly little. I’ll call some things out alphabetically as I go through the list.

Name Old New Notes
Jack Chesbro A(Z) A(Y)(Z) A touch above league average in K/9
Roger Denzer D(Z) B(Z) Close to league average ERA in 62 IP
Bill Dinneen B(Z) B(Y)(Z) A touch above league average in K/9
Ed Doheny C(Z) B(Z) Close to league average ERA in 150 IP
Jack Harper B(Z) C(Z) ERA was 29th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Tom Hughes B(Y)(Z) B(X)(Z) Led league with 6.6 SO/9
Brickyard Kennedy D(Z) B(Z) Nice 110 ERA+ in 85 IP
Bob Lawson D(W) B(W) 110 ERA+ in 46 IP
Sam Leever C(Z) B(Y)(Z) Finished 10th in ERA and 9th in SO/9 but had just 20 GS
Gene McCann D B Right around league average ERA but just 34 IP
Mike O’Neill D(Z) A(Z) 1.32 ERA in 41 IP
Togie Pittinger B(Z) B(Y)(Z) A touch above league average in K/9
Ed Poole D C Only 80 IP, but really only slightly below average in ERA
Jack Powell B(Z) D(Z) ERA was 26th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Jesse Tannehill A(Z) A(Y)(Z) A touch above league average in K/9
Happy Townsend C C(Y) A touch above league average in K/9
George Van Haltren D(W) A(W) 3.00 ERA in 6 IP
Rube Waddell B(Y)(Z) B(X)(Z) 6.2 SO/9 was 2nd best in NL
Vic Willis A(Z) A(Y)(Z) Above league-average strikeout rate

Now, how about the AL, where we originally had 1 A&C, 2 A and no strikeout ratings?

Remember from above that I am converting this to the equivalent of 3 full-time (Y) pitchers.

Name Old New Notes
Bill Bernhard C(Z) D(Z) 17 Wins but ERA was 32nd out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Pete Dowling C D ERA was 28th out of 34 qualifying pitchers. On the cusp here.
Jack Dunn D B ERA was just better league average but only 60 IP
Chick Fraser B C Another downgrade for Philly. ERA worse than league average.
Ned Garvin B B(Y) League-best strikeout rate deserves one of the (Y) ratings
Clark Griffith A(Z) B(Z) 4th-best ERA in the league, but if we’re only giving out 3 As or better…
Bill Hart D C 3.77 ERA was only 0.08 worse than league average.
Zaza Harvey D B ERA was a little better than league average in 92 IP
Ed High D(Z) B(Z) 3.50 ERA is better than average. 18 IP.
Watty Lee C(Z) D(Z) ERA was 31st out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Ted Lewis B(Z) C(Z) ERA a touch better than league average, but no world-beater
Jack McAleese D D(Z) Walked 1 of 17 batters he faced.
Harry McNeal D D(Z) BB rate in line with other full-time pitchers who have a Z
Fred Mitchell D C In 109 IP, his ERA was barely worse than league average
Jerry Nops D(Z) C(Z) ERA was 26th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Frank Owen D C ERA not great, but not bad enough for a D
Casey Patten C C(Y)(Z) 3rd best strikeout rate in the AL deserves one of the Y ratings
Wiley Piatt D C ERA was 27th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
George Prentiss D A(W) 1.80 ERA and 5.4 BB/9 in just 10 IP
Bill Reidy C(Z) D(Z) ERA was 29th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Crazy Schmit D(W) A(W) 1.99 ERA in just 23 IP
John Skopec D(W) B(W) 111 ERA+ in 68 IP
Tully Sparks C B ERA was 13th out of 34 qualifying pitchers
Snake Wiltse C(Z) B(Z) ERA just a touch better than league average
Joe Yeager B(Z) A(Z) 3rd best ERA in the league makes him deserving of one of the 2 A grades
Cy Young A&C(Z) A&C(Y)(Z) Led league in ERA and was a very close 2nd in strikeout rate

So I hope some folks find that interesting.

Honestly, I’m this far into my replay already that I will probably just stick with things as they are.

But as I get into this a little further, I’ll be interested to see a few things in particular from the top 4 pitchers on each staff:

  • Tom Hughes and Rube Waddell should easily simulate to be the top 2 strikeout rates in the National League. But with B(Y) readings as-carded, will they even make the top 5?
  • How badly will Jack Harper and Jack Powell over-perform? Because they sure don’t seem to warrant B grades.
  • How badly will Sam Leever under-perform?
  • Will the top 3 strikeout leaders in the American League resemble real life or will the 3 A pitchers dominate it despite two of them ranking 14th and 16th that season?

Been a While

Just checking in with an update.

Been laying a bit lower as of late, though I have been plenty busy in the hobby.

Here are all the projects I am currently logging time on…

  • 1984 MLB
    • A 64-game replay using all 26 teams, played with Strat-O-Matic Cards & Dice. I started this towards the beginning of 2016 and it is nearing completion. I’ve rolled 774 of the 832 games in the regular season schedule, which is good for 93% of the project. Hoped to get it done by year’s end and that won’t happen, but it’s still good progress.
  • 1901 MLB
    • A full season replay using APBA Cards & Dice. This is early going, but I still re-visit it from time to time.
  • 2004 NFL
    • A full season replay using Strat-O-Matic Cards & Dice. Just started this this fall and, gotta’ say, pleasantly surprised. Thought it would take too long to roll games and I’d lose interest, but the opposite has happened. I’m half-way through Week 2 of the season and sometimes would rather roll these games than the 1984 MLB project, but I don’t want to flake on that thing. It’s so close to wrapping up, that I just have to hammer away.
  • 1966 NFL
    • A team replay of the Green Bay Packers using Strat-O-Matic PC. I’m off to a 3-0 start with one amazing come-from-behind victory in there. Enjoying it.
  • 1997-98 NBA
    • A replay of the postseason using Strat-O-Matic Cards & Dice. Haven’t played this since last winter and need to get back into it. So far I had played 2 games for each team in the postseason.
  • 2012-13 NHL
    • A full season replay using Strat-O-Matic Cards & Dice. This is going way too slow. Again, other projects seem to get in the way, but I really enjoy Strat Hockey.

And this doesn’t include other projects I intend to be running right now…  I’d like to get another team replay using Diamond Mind Baseball going. I’d like to get a team replay using Strat-O-Matic Basketball for PC going. I’ve got some other things that I’ve been play-testing that I’d like to dive into more.

There’s just not enough time to get to it all.

I may be stretching myself a bit thin with all of these projects!

Hope everybody is finding time for everything.

Strat-O-Matic Baseball: Basic Hit By Pitch

This came up on the Strat Fan Forums recently, so I thought I’d dive into it.

The question came from a forum user (and I’m paraphrasing here) – How do I incorporate Hit By Pitch into the Basic version of the game?

For those who don’t know, Strat-O-Matic Baseball cards have two sides – one for use if playing the Basic version of the game, and a flip side if playing either the Advanced or Super Advanced versions.

One quirk about the Basic side is that it gives no chances for a batter to be hit by a pitch.

I’ve never quite understood why that was left out. My hunch was that, when the game was first being created, HBP stats were not readily available and so they were simply left out of the game. When the Advanced version of the game was created, however, that HBP data was available and so it was added at that point. However, re-doing the formulas to “retrofit” the Basic sides of cards wasn’t worth the effort, so it continued to be left out.

Again, that is all just a hunch. I don’t work for the game company and that’s pure conjecture. I still maintain it would be really easy to start adding it to the Basic side of the batter cards and really wish they would, but given that it really only affects a handful of batters in a typical season, I can see where it wouldn’t be high on the company’s priority list. Particularly when fewer and fewer folks play the cards and dice version of the game.

In short, there’s no really easy way to convert the Basic side over to allow for chances of being hit by a pitch.

All the formulas to calculate chances on the Basic side of the card discount Plate Appearances in which the batter was hit by a pitch.

When you calculate how many chances at a Walk the Basic side of the card will have, for example, you are going to use unintentional walks as the numerator of your Walk rate, and the denominator will factor things in like total plate appearances but it will not include intentional walks and it will also not include times hit by a pitch.

That right there is the crucial point to make. Because if you now want to include chances for being hit by a pitch, you’d need to re-calculate everything else on the Basic side of the card – WALK, STRIKEOUT, SINGLE, DOUBLE, TRIPLE, HOMERUN, GB() A.

If you convert some WALK readings to HIT BY PITCH, that’s not really accomplishing anything. You’re not correcting the high-HBP guy who’s getting short-changed on his OBP as it is. You’re only changing how he got to first, not improving his chances.

And if you add some new HIT BY PITCH chances to the Basic side of his card, you’re throwing off how accurate the player’s Batting Average will be.

The only way that you can really pull it off, then, is to do a roll before the plate appearance.  In other words, roll first to see if the batter is hit by a pitch and, if he isn’t, resolve the plate appearance as you normally would.

If you ask me, it’s freaking tedious. Believe me. I tried it. Then I came to realize “What am I doing? The whole point of playing Basic was to try to speed games along? This isn’t doing that!!!”

If you’re interested, however, the trick I used was basically this…  (And you could use a spreadsheet to really speed this along and get all the numbers for any particular season in less than a minute.)

Take the player’s Plate Appearances (PA) and their times Hit By Pitch (HBP).  Use 400 * HBP / PA to get their “HBP Chance”.

Before each plate appearance, roll d20. If the roll is a 1, that means the batter might have gotten hit by the pitch. Roll d20 again and if the roll is less than or equal to that number you got above, they were hit by a pitch.

You might recognize this as being pretty similar to the way Wild Pitches, Balks and Passed Balls are implemented in the Advanced versions of the game.  So if rolling a 1 to advance to the check seems confusing, then change it to a 20. Whatever makes sense for you.

So let’s take 1966 Orlando Cepeda, for example. He had 563 PA and had 14 HBP. Using 400 * 14 / 563 gets you 9.95, so he would draw a HBP on a roll of 1-10.

1966 Carl Yastrzemski, however, had 1 HBP in 680 PA, so 400 * 1 / 680 is 0.59, meaning he gets hit only on a roll of 1.

If you’re into marking your cards, you could always pencil this in on the Basic side of the card.

Anyhow, it will give you the accuracy you’re looking for. It’s a lot more accurate than looking at the HBP chances from the Advanced side of the card and then converting over some of the Basic readings to add in HBP.

Happy New Year.

Game Winning Drive – 1985 Update 1

I made a previous post related to Downey Games’ Game Winning Drive and wanted to give an update on things.

Through four weeks of the 1985 NFL season, teams are averaging 20.6 points per game – a bit under the 21.5 that happened historically.

AFC Central: The Steelers and Browns are each 3-1, with Pittsburgh having the advantage of having taken a head-to-head game.
AFC East: The Jets are a perfect 4-0 with the Dolphins behind them at 3-1. The Patriots – losers of the Super Bowl that season – are off to a 1-3 start.
AFC West: The Seahawks are also 4-0, while the Broncos and Raiders are 3-1.

NFC Central: The Bears and Lions are each 4-0. They don’t meet until week 10.
NFC East: The Giants are 3-1 while the Washington football club and Cowboys are each 2-2.
NFC West: The 49ers lead with a 3-1 mark and the Rams are 2-2.

No sense in trying to figure out the Wild Card teams with this mess. In the AFC there are four non-division-leading teams who are 3-1 while in the NFC, the #2 Wild Card could go to one of five 2-2 teams. That’s a lot of calculating.

I’ll try to bring another update here when we get to the half-way point.

As for my feel of the game? On the positive side, you can get a game set up and played in 10-15 minutes, easy. But on the negative side, I find myself missing some details of a game, such as the scoring plays and some basic statistics.

I don’t imagine it would be too hard to come up with charts you could use to add those in, but then your game would maybe take more like 20-30 minutes and I’d feel the urge to start tracking stats, which would add even more time.

So maybe it’s best to just leave well enough alone!

The Trouble With Game Winning Drive

A couple of months ago I saw a YouTube video on Downey Games’ Game Winning Drive.

GWD is what you might call a quick simulation game.  In about 10 minutes, you can roll up an entire football game, ending up with a final score and certain basic team statistics (rushing touchdowns, passing touchdowns, field goals, interceptions and fumbles lost).

It doesn’t do individual statistics, although it’s not too difficult to rig something up if you want to know who, for example, scored a particular touchdown.

That’s not really the point of the game engine, of course.  The point is to allow you to roll up an entire week’s worth of NFL games in 3-4 hours and therefore make it plausible to simulate an entire season over the course of a few weeks or month.

I was taken with the idea and found it pretty interesting, so I went ahead and picked up a copy.  An e-book version of the game is only $10 for a season, which isn’t shabby.  For $15 you can get a printed copy delivered to your door front along with the four 6-sided dice required to play the game. I have enough dice lying around, so I didn’t really need that.

I got to rolling games from the season I purchased (1985) and about 8 games in started noticing something peculiar. My games were, in general, running pretty high in the scoring department.

The historical season averaged 21.5 points per team-game and I was just a hair over 24.

That’s not colossally larger, but it’s noticeable.

As I do with pretty much every card & dice game I’ve ever purchased, I started to reverse engineer the game and try to figure out what the hell might be going on.

At this point, I’ll need to offer a quick breakdown of the game.

A game is broken down into 20 possessions.  So, generally speaking, each team gets 10 per game.

For each possession, you roll four dice.  Two of the dice are used to determine whether a team records a Score or a Turnover.  The other two dice are then used to break down either that Score (Run TD, Pass TD or Field Goal) or Turnover (Fumble Lost, Interception, Punt or Missed Field Goal).

Pretty simple.

I started taking a guess at how they might come up with the range of rolls required for the Score rating for each team and went through things.

Example #1: Atlanta

In 1985, they scored 14 rushing touchdowns, 13 passing touchdowns and 24 field goals.  So my math figured the following: 16 games multiplied by 10 possessions per game equals 160 total possessions for the season.  14 rushing touchdowns plus 13 passing touchdowns plus 24 field goals equals 51 scores in those 160 possessions. 51 divided by 160 is 0.31875.  Multiply that by the 36 combinations you get from rolling a pair of 6-sided dice and you get 11.475, so you might guess that their range for Score is from 11 to 25. And, in fact, that’s what the official season book reads. Eureka!

Just guessing a little more, I’m looking at 14 rushing touchdowns divided by the 51 total scores for a total of (roughly) 0.2745, multiplying that again by 36 to get to 9.88 and guessing that the “TD Run” listing within score will list 11-24. What do you know? It does! And, similarly, 13 passing touchdowns divided by 51 total scores, multiplying by 36 to get to 9.18 and I’m guessing there will be 9 total “TD Pass” listings on their card. Again, there was.

I repeated this process with 3 other teams just to take a guess at how they were doing things and every time came up correct. So I think we’ve got that.

So why are game scores running high?  That seems correct.

Here’s the problem.  It’s something I haven’t pointed out about the rules yet.

If a team recovers a fumble or intercepts the opponent, they get a +6 bonus towards their Score range for the ensuing roll.  In other words, instead of Atlanta needing a roll of 11-25 to score, they instead need a roll of 11-35.

Atlanta’s defense had 34 turnovers in 1985 – more than 2 per game.

So, in an average game of GWD, Atlanta will have 8 possessions where they score on an 11-25 and 2 where they score on an 11-35.  Instead of averaging 11/36 on their chance to Score per possession (as they should), they instead average 12.2/36, an increase of 11%.

(Not coincidentally, I’m also running about 12% over right now…)

So while the game engine itself is pretty solid for what it’s trying to accomplish, there is a flaw in the way the charts are put together.  They don’t factor in the “+6” bonus when coming off of a turnover.

If, in Atlanta’s example, we change their Score range from 11-25 to 11-24, they now have 8 possessions per game with 10/36 chance of scoring and 2 with a 16/36 chance of scoring, that comes out to an average of 11.2/36, which is more what we want.

I went ahead and plugged everything into a spreadsheet and verified that my guess at the Score reading was correct in 100% of the cases.

For most teams, it turned out where you’d have to adjust their Score range down just 1 chance.  For example, instead of 11-25 they should be 11-24. Instead of 11-31 they should be 11-26.

Some teams that had an extraordinary number of turnovers, however, like that vaunted Bears’ defense, should be adjusted from an 11-35 to an 11-33.  They’re going to get over 3 scoring chances off of turnovers per game.

All told from the 1985 season, 20 teams were adjusted down 1 chance and 8 were adjusted down 2 chances.

If folks are interested in this kind of work, I’m more than happy to post the spreadsheet so you can do the same with re-calculating other seasons.

It’s a neat game engine and I rather like the game itself for what it is.

It just has a few things that it didn’t consider.

Time to zero out my scoreboard and standings and start all over again.

APBA in Chicago, Fall 2015

This past weekend I attended my 3rd APBA event in the past 13 months.

It’s not always easy to make these things, but I’ve been trying to get to a couple of them each year just to get out there and roll some dice head-to-head.

This time around, organizer Doug Schuyler had a few nice wrinkles that were added from the last time.

For one, it seems we always get done really early so rather than just having a scheduled 5-game season followed by side games if you didn’t make the playoffs. So this time we went with 10 games.

So much better! Yes, if you fell behind early, it could be a drag to roll that last game or two. But from what I saw of the 22 teams who made it to the event, the divisions were all so tight that nearly everybody was still in the race up to the end. And, if not, you probably had a chance to play spoiler or at least be involved in a game that had playoff implications.

Secondly, Doug had a themed event, which I really appreciated. This time around he asked everybody to select a team from the 1970s or 1980s.

I was a bit of a Toronto Blue Jays fan from 1986 up until the strike of 1994. (The reasons for this are weird, but related to sport simulations. Maybe I’ll tell the tale some day.) Anyhow, I originally thought of the 1984 Chicago Cubs. Then I thought of the ’84 Tigers. And then I thought I’d have to take a Jays’ team from that era.

Ending up selecting the 1987 squad – a team that led the AL East for most of the season before losing seven straight games to close out the season, finishing in 2nd place.

My prior two picks at these events were the 1946 Boston Red Sox and 1990 Oakland Athletics, so if you’ve noticed that I have a tendency to not pick teams that have won it in the past, you’d be right. To me, it’s not so fun to take a team we already had as a winner in the past. I want to see if we can take them somewhere else. A past World Series winner has already proven their worth. There’s nowhere to go but down with that team, so let’s try and elevate somebody else.

I left beautiful Madison, Wisconsin about 30 minutes before sunrise. It’s one of my favorite times of day. I’m not necessarily a morning person, but I’m definitely not a night person, so watching the sun climb and the cloud cover break is always sort of a reinvigorating sight for me. I headed out in 30 degrees, sunny weather, picked up a large coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts (light on the cream and sugar) and headed down some back roads to make my way to Grayslake, Illinois.

In the spirit of these events, I even used dice to randomly select which CDs in the car would get played on the drive to/from:

  • Madonna, “Rebel Heart” (2015) – Why did I hate this the first time I listened to it? For what it is (hyper-produced, voice-corrected dance-pop) it’s actually pretty solid.
  • Foo Fighters, “Sonic Highways” (2014) – One of their worst albums, but has a few nice tunes and comes in at a tidy 42 minutes.
  • Allison Moorer, “Down to Believing” (2015) – Her Southern drawl makes my ears happy. Best album she’s had in a while.
  • King’s X, “XV” (2008) – Saw them live in 2008 with my wife, carrying our older daughter at about 7 months pregnancy. Good time.
  • U2, “Songs of Innocence” (2014) – Again, not their finest hour, but still has a few nice tunes and was good accompaniment for the final dark hour driving home.

So how did the games go?

1979 Baltimore Orioles

’87 Blue Jays 5, ’79 Orioles 4
The O’s took the quick lead in game 1, but Cecil Fielder’s 3-run homer in the 4th gave me a 3-1 lead. A sac fly by pinch-hitter Jesse Barfield and RBI single by Tony Fernandez in the 7th opened up a 5-1 lead and Jimmy Key rolled along. That is, until the bottom of the 9th. After the first two batters went down, Lowenstein pinch-hit with a single, May hit a two-run homer and Roenicke made it back-to-back shots and we were now up one. Smith pinch-hit (another single) before Dempsey popped to catcher Ernie Whitt. Whitt, along with George Bell and Rick Leach each had three hits in the win.
Record: 1-0
WP: Key (1-0)
HR: Fielder (1st)

’87 Blue Jays 7, ’79 Orioles 2
Game 2 got ugly quickly as we batted around against “El Presidente” Dennis Martinez in a 6-run 1st. Fred McGriff led off the bottom of the inning with a homer, Rance Mulliniks had a 2-run tater, and Whitt had a 3-run shot. Game stabilized from there, but it was basically over in the 1st.
Record: 2-0
WP: Clancy (1-0)
HR: McGriff (1st), Mulliniks (1st), Whitt (1st), Bell (1st)

1981 New York Yankees (1-1)

’87 Blue Jays 10, ’81 Yankees 4
I enjoy playing this kid from Kentucky who has come up to the last two events. I seem to get some good breaks against him and this game was no exception. Once again, the Jays got a big inning – this time a 7-run 2nd inning in which 11 men were sent to the plate against “Big Daddy” Rick Reuschel. Three homers in that inning and 2 more in the 6th after the Yanks had cut it to a 7-4 lead. My guy Dave Stieb went 5 innings for the win before Mark Eichhorn and Jeff Musselman threw 1-hit ball for the final 4 shutout innings. A 3-0 start and 10 homers already! I had to be feeling good so far.
Record: 3-0
WP: Stieb (1-0)
HR: McGriff-2 (3rd), Mulliniks (2nd), Moseby (1st), Bell (2nd)

’81 Yankees 6, ’87 Blue Jays 5
Well you knew you couldn’t run the table at an event like this where every team is pretty great. We took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st, but Bobby Murcer hit a 3-run homer in the 3rd to give New York the lead and Graig Nettles’ 2-run shot in the 5th extended things. We trailed 6-2 before Fielder’s 3-run homer in the 7th made it a one-run game, but Frazier and Gossage retired 8 straight out of the ‘pen to shut the game down.
Record: 3-1
LP: Cerutti (0-1)
HR: Fielder (2nd)

1989 Oakland Athletics (3-1)

’87 Blue Jays 4, ’89 Athletics 2
Both the ’89 and ’87 A’s were in my division and having used the ’90 A’s at the last one of these events, I admit I was feeling a bit of Oakland fatigue. But at least we got to play “Pastor Rich” who is a fun guy to manage against. For 8 innings, Dave Stewart absolutely had my number, allowing just 3 hits and taking a 2-0 shutout into the 9th. When Pastor Rich went to Dennis Eckersley for the save, I said “You can’t take out Stew! He’s got the shutout going! He’s gonna’ be pissed!” Well Eck retired the first two batters quickly. And then… Lloyd Moseby walked and Fielder homered to tie it up. Leach singles and Whitt? Another 2-run homer. I stuck with Key for the 9th and he worked around a 2-out double by Jose Canseco to get the win. Don’t mess with a hot pitcher! :-)
Record: 4-1
WP: Key (2-0)
HR: Fielder (3rd), Whitt (2nd)

’89 Athletics 3, ’87 Blue Jays 1
Rance Mulliniks got a solo homer against Mike Moore in the 7th, but it was basically all A’s as I managed just 3 hits in the contest. Canseco had a pair of homers for the A’s in a split series that left both our teams at 4-2.
Record: 4-2
LP: Clancy (1-1)
HR: Mulliniks (3rd)

From here, my older brother Shawn and I headed over to Emil’s downtown for a bite to eat. I think we were the only guys who went here as all the other participants went to a different place to eat. It wasn’t for an effort to not socialize, but more that the other place was a burger joint and we were trying to find something a bit “lighter”. Not sure that I succeeded, but whatever… Grabbed a coffee to caffeinate myself and try to ease some respiratory issues I’ve been having for the last week since an over-extended bike ride around Madison lakes while sucking in cold air the weekend before. Local shop (“Something Brewing”) which I always prefer over chains, so that was nice. Not a bad cup of joe. Then back to close this out.

At this point, the ’87 Jays and ’89 Athletics were each 4-2, while the ’87 Athletics and ’86 Angels were 2-2, the ’81 Yankees 2-3 and ’79 Orioles 1-4. So we were in a good position, but there was plenty of baseball left to roll.

1987 Oakland Athletics (2-2)

’87 Athletics 9, ’87 Blue Jays 7
Generally speaking, 7 runs is enough to win a game. But not this time around. We had tied the game up twice earlier, making it 2-2 in the 2nd and 3-3 in the top of the 6th. But in the bottom of that inning, the wheels fell off as Stieb allowed a run and Eichhorn allowed 5 more. Reggie Jackson’s 3-run shot gave the A’s a 9-3 lead and, though we did make it interesting, we couldn’t catch up. With men on the corners and 1 out in the 9th, Moseby grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 DP. Three more homers for the team, but a 2nd straight loss had us only 4-3 and things were starting to look bad.
Record: 4-3
LP: Stieb (1-1)
HR: Leach (1st), Moseby (2nd), Fielder (4th)

’87 Athletics 6, ’87 Blue Jays 0
Then things got even worse. Steve Ontiveros fired a 4-hit shutout, retiring the final 12 men in a row. Three straight losses and back to .500. It didn’t look really good at this point.
Record: 4-4
LP: Cerutti (0-2)
HR: none

1986 California Angels (3-3)

’87 Blue Jays 10, ’86 Angels 3
Things got a little turned around here again. Against the ’87 A’s, who had played fewer games, I had to use my #3 and 4 starters against his #1 and 2. In this series, the situation was reversed – I had my #1 and 2 against his #3 and 4. Probably need to avoid this happening again, because it can really mess things up. I mean, in my situation it all kind of balanced out. But for other teams? Maybe not. Anyhow, the offense went ape-shit again, pounding out a merciless 17 hits against Kirk McCaskill and a quartet of relievers. Fernandez and Whitt had three hits a piece and Key went the distance again to improve to 3-0. One more game that we’d really need to win to have any shot.
Record: 5-4
WP: Key (3-0)
HR: Mulliniks (4th)

’87 Blue Jays 3, ’86 Angels 1
It was a tight one, but we got the much-needed season-ending win over John Candelaria. A 1-1 tie was snapped in the bottom of the 6th when Mulliniks doubled and then scored on an RBI single by Fielder. With two out, Whitt padded the lead with another RBI single. The A’s put a man on and in the 8th and 9th but couldn’t get anything going as closer Tom Henke picked up his one and only save on the day. In fact, he’s make just 2 appearances in my 12 games. Things just weren’t all that close, generally speaking.
Record: 6-4
WP: Clancy (2-1)
HR: none

At this point, these were the standings.

'89 Athletics  5-3
'87 BLUE JAYS  6-4
'87 Athletics  4-4
'81 Yankees    4-4

With all this going on, there was nothing to do but “scoreboard watch” and hover over folks’ shoulders.

First the ’81 Yankees defeated the ’89 Athletics. Hooray!

'87 BLUE JAYS  6-4
'89 Athletics  5-4
'81 Yankees    5-4
'87 Athletics  4-4

Then the ’87 Athletics swept the ’79 Orioles. Boo…

'87 Athletics  6-4
'87 BLUE JAYS  6-4
'89 Athletics  5-4
'81 Yankees    5-4

Since the ’87 A’s swept me, that left me in a position where the best I could do was get 2nd place in the division – good enough to advance me to the playoffs.

If it was me and the ’81 Yankees in a tie, I won by virtue of having a better run differential in my games against them. If it was me and the ’89 Athletics, it would be a coin flip – we split our series and had the same run differential head-to-head.

Pastor Rich and his ’89 A’s ended up winning, which made the final standings go this way:

'87 Athletics  6-4
'87 BLUE JAYS  6-4
'89 Athletics  6-4

Now, again, the rules called for a coin flip, but that didn’t seem very fun. The two National League divisions were still pretty well behind, so we had some free time. We decided that it would be more fun to play a one-game playoff to decide the #2 seed out of our division.

We rolled to decide who would be home team – Rich won it.

Dave Stieb would be up against Bob Welch and that gave me a disadvantage but who the hell knows, right? Crazy things can happen!

And, sure enough, they did.

George Bell hit a solo homer to give me a 1-0 lead in the 1st. And in the 2nd, Ernie Whitt and Tony Fernandez each hit 2-run homers and I had an improbable 5-0 lead early on.

Meanwhile, Stieb somehow retired the first 7 men he faced and took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the 6th before we turned it over to the bullpen.

Then insurance runs came in bunches. Lloyd Moseby – 2-run homer. Whitt – another 2-run homer. Bell – another homer, this time a 3-run shot in the 9th.

It was a brutal 14-1 win.

Record: 7-4
LP: Stieb (2-1)
HR: Bell-2 (4th), Whitt-2 (4th), Fernandez (1st), McGriff (4th), Moseby (3rd)

This would end up being the last win, as we went out very quietly in the playoffs, losing 1-0 to the 1972 Oakland Athletics as Catfish Hunter fired a masterful 1-hitter against us. (He tossed a no-hitter against my brother earlier in the day.)

All in all, though, it was a great day. It was incredibly fun to play with a team that meant something to me growing up, and all those homers were just insane to witness. Couldn’t believe it.

Here’s the stat recap.

In 12 games, we popped off 25 HR. 5 different players had 4 HR each.

McGriff: .196, 4 HR, 4 2B, 16 SO
Fernandez: .208, HR
Bell: .314, 4 HR, 4 2B, 11 RBI, .979 OPS
Mulliniks: .292, 4 HR, 4 2B, 10 RBI, .983 OPS
Moseby: .279, 3 HR, 8 2B, 9 BB, .415 OBP, .674 SLG, 1.090 OPS
Fielder: .211, 4 HR, 11 RBI
Leach: .390, HR, 5 2B, 444 OBP, 1.030 OPS
Whitt: .304, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .950 OPS
Liriano: .261, 4 SB

My bench, which I thought would be a strength, went just 3-for-25.

Key: 3-1, 2.57
Clancy: 2-1, 2.35
Stieb: 2-1, 5.28
Cerutti: 0-2, 7.59

The bullpen went 23 IP with a 2.74 ERA, though I used my closer (Henke) in only 2 game. He notched his only save in the 10th game of divisional play.