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.

Play Testing: Payoff Pitch Baseball

Last week I wrote up my purchase of Payoff Pitch Baseball as well as made some comments on how everything looked.

This week I cover an actual game play.

I have to say… it’s hard to feel that you’ll ever replace your old stand-bys, but in this case I would have to say that Payoff Pitch is definitely worth consideration. At the very least I think you may find it a nice addition to your collection of baseball games.

The Contestants

For starters, I am just all about randomizing things. So I used dice rolls to decide which league I would play from and which teams.

The contest from my 1994 set of cards ended up being the Toronto Blue Jays visiting the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.

I was a bit of a Jays fan in the late 80s and early (pre-strike) 90s, and just based on nostalgia I wanted to go with Dave Stewart as their starting pitcher, but he was so awful that year that I just couldn’t justify it. I ended up going with head-case Todd Stottlemyre, figuring that having him up against Roger Clemens would make for an interesting match between two extremely aggressive personality types.

The Jays lineup went White-cf, Alomar-2b, Olerud-dh, Molitor-1b, Carter-rf, Delgado-lf, Schofield-ss, Borders-c, Sprague-3b.

For the BoSox I went Nixon-cf, Greenwell-lf, Valentin-ss, Vaughn-1b, Brunansky-rf, Cooper-3b, Naehring-2b, Dawson-dh, Berryhill-c.

The game ended up an easy 5-0 win for Clemens and the Red Sox.

The Rocket tossed a 4-hit shutout, striking out 8 and walking 2 as I rolled up that TOUGH reading on Clemens’ card pretty frequently.

In fact, it wasn’t until the game was all tidied up that I actually took the time to count the chances on his card. 1 WHEELHOUSE, 2 DEFENSE, 3 BALLPARK, 9 PATIENT and 21 TOUGH. That’s a lot of potential strikeouts, and indeed Clemens struck out nearly 9 men per 9 innings in 1994, so that should come as no surprise.

The flow of the game was solid. I started a stopwatch right before the game’s first roll and paused it only when my younger daughter interrupted me in the bottom of the 3rd inning to ask me to put her to bed.

I had to do a few chart look-ups, but they amounted to things that appeared on just 3 pages. The range of things that could result from some of those charts are so finite that they could be easily memorized – in particular I’m speaking of the charts that govern base runner advancement.

Speaking of, that was one thing in the rules that I wasn’t completely clear on. I think, but am not certain, that base runners automatically take an extra base if the hit comes from the WHEELHOUSE section, only the minimum number of bases on the TOUGH and IN-PLAY sections, and have the possibility of taking an extra base if it comes from the PATIENT section. That’s how I played anyhow.

I also had to do a look-up in the rules to make sure I was doing things right when checking whether or not a double play occurred. Only after the 3rd time I checked to make sure I was doing it right did I realize it was spelled out in the charts, so there was no need to open up my rule book. I could’ve stuck with just my chart print-outs. But now that’s something I’ll know for next time.

All told, things went very smoothly. I could get a good feel for the game fairly quickly. In fact, a 4th inning that had 3 up, 3 down for both sides probably played out in less than a minute as I really got into the swing of things.

The final playing time for my first game ever? 25 minutes and 14 seconds. That included one pitcher change and also me taking about a minute to go through the BoSox roster and see if there was cause for any defensive substitutes.

By comparison, that same night I had a 10-7 slugfest in Strat-O-Matic which took 14 minutes and 52 seconds. That game included 4 pitching changes and 3 pinch hitters. The problem, I suppose, is the number of places your eyes need to look while playing. In Strat-O-Matic, a good 80% of the time you roll the dice, look in one location on a card and instantly know the play result. But in Payoff Pitch, even the simplest play requires a minimum of looking in two locations. (And it’s usually 3 or more.)

An APBA game the next morning that was a 6-1 final score took 16 minutes and 41 seconds. It included no pitching changes but did have 3 injuries. This may be an unfair comparison as I have most of the readings memorized with APBA – particular with the bases empty. I’m sure a first-time player of APBA would take much longer as they get used to what each Play Result Number stands for.

Still, there is some promise that I could eventually learn to play a game in about 20 minutes. Maybe that’s unrealistic. I don’t know… After all, I used only one reliever in the game, there were no injuries to handle, the game wasn’t particularly close so I wasn’t dealing with trying to get pinch-hitters and dealing with lefty/right match-ups, etc.

So that’s hard to know for sure. I will say with some confidence that I will revisit this game. The scope of the project I take on is sort of “to be determined”, but I want to play with this a bit more and see where it takes me once I get more familiar with the rules.

Game Summary

Top of the 1st – John Olerud walks and Paul Molitor singles with two out, but Roger Clemens strikes out Joe Carter to end the inning and pick up his first punch out.

Bottom of the 1st – Otis Nixon leads with a single, steals (of course!) and gets to third when Pat Borders’ throw sails into center field for an error. John Valentin’s ground out to second with one out brings Nixon home. Red Sox lead, 1-0.

Bottom of the 3rd – Andre Dawson walks, Damon Berryhill reaches on an error at third by Ed Sprague. With one out, Mike Greenwell doubles in a run. Valentin walks to load the bases and Mo Vaughn doubles in a pair. Todd Stottlemyre retires the next two on fly outs. Red Sox lead, 4-0.

Bottom of the 5th – Greenwell rolls a BALLPARK reading off of Stottlemyre’s card, gets the WHEELHOUSE and takes it deep into right field at Fenway Park for a solo homer. Red Sox lead, 5-0.

Top of the 7th – Clemens strikes out two men and has not allowed a hit since the 3rd. He has whiffed 5 men in the last 3 innings.

Bottom of the 7th – Dawson leads off with a WHEELHOUSE reading off of Stottlemyre’s card and crushes it. Not bad for a 40-year old. Red Sox lead, 6-0. (Technically I see in the rules I should have probably pulled Stott after that leadoff homer as it forced him into “Fatigued” territory, but I mistakenly thought the score was 5-0 at this point, not 6-0.)

Bottom of the 8th – Woody Williams relieves Stottlemyre and throws a 1-2-3 inning, striking out a pair.

Top of the 9th – Clemens goes for the shutout. Carter flies out to left. A young Carlos Delgado whiffs. Mike Huff pinch hits for Schofield and grounds out to Scott Cooper at third. Game over.


Toronto Blue Jays

Stottlemyre (L): 7 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO
Olerud: 1-for-3, BB

Boston Red Sox

Clemens (W): 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 SO
Greenwell: 2-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
Vaughn: 1-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI
Dawson: 1-for-2, HR, BB

Platinum Series Baseball: Rip-Off?

As I mentioned in my initial review of Platinum Series Baseball, it bore a very strong resemblance to Dynasty League Baseball, which had evolved from Pursue the Pennant.

I’m not the only one to take note.

My initial thought, in fact, was that maybe the guy who designed Dynasty had moved on to work for PSB and I just sort of went with that assumption.

Turns out? Not the case.

There has been, for many years, a freely available card game out there on the internet called IBL, which is essentially very much in line with the Dynasty/PtP model.

There have been some interesting developments over at the IBL web site that are worth checking out.

On the site, IBL game designer Sean Sweda posts the following:

Sometime in late March, after all work on the 2015 cards had been completed, I received an email asking whether I was affiliated with a company producing a game called Platinum Series Baseball. The reason I was asked is because the sample cards posted at their website looked very similar to the IBL cards. I explained that I had no business arrangement with the company producing the game and immediately began investigating.

After some digging around I discovered that not only were the card mock-ups similar to IBL cards, but the posted rules and charts for this game were almost entirely verbatim copies of IBL rules/charts from previously released seasons. It was also obvious from the extremely poor quality of the mock-ups and documentation that the people behind the game did not have a finished product. Given that the ethically challenged individuals behind this game had no qualms about violating U.S. Copyright Law or licensing terms, it was entirely possible that their business plan was to steal as much as possible.

Will be interesting to see how this plays out, as PSB has representatives going to town on the comment section of Sean’s site, threatening legal action.

Meanwhile, questions about where they drafted their rules from on PSB’s Facebook page are routinely deleted.

It’s pretty messy and I definitely regret purchasing from them. Sad story.

Review: Payoff Pitch Baseball

I’m not sure if it’s a problem yet, but I am starting to really enjoy collecting different games.

The problem, of course, is that the more you collect, the less likely you are to actually get any real gaming in.

In fact, as much as I’m starting to really enjoy collecting different games, I’m also assessing my current collection and wondering if it isn’t time to sell some seasons off.

For example, I probably have over 20 different sets of Strat-O-Matic Football now.

I’m developing more and more of a total distaste for the NFL (another story for another day) and have been wondering if it wouldn’t be better off for me to sell, say, all but 2 or 3 of those seasons and just focus on replays of those with whatever time I have left on Earth.

This is a preamble, of course. What I really want to do is review a new game I just picked up: Payoff Pitch Baseball.

I had seen some reviews of the game online and thought it looked interesting. So I went ahead and picked up a copy this past week. Let’s dive into it.


I got onto the Payoff Pitch website and placed an order for the game rules as well as the 1994 set of cards.

There were about a dozen seasons to pick from, all but two of which I already owned for other game companies and I wanted to grab something I didn’t own yet.

If you just want a feel for the game, there’s no need to feel pressured to buy a season yet. The order of the game includes a sample of 8 teams that you can play around with:

  • 2013 Boston Red Sox
  • 2013 Detroit Tigers
  • 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers
  • 2013 St. Louis Cardinals
  • 1991 Atlanta Braves
  • 1991 Minnesota Twins
  • 1954 New York Giants
  • 1954 Cleveland Indians

Within a minute, the PDF containing the rules and sample teams had arrived in my Inbox and I was able to peruse things.


Maybe 3 days later, a box arrived on my doorstep from USPS.

Inside were these two boxes, with cards from the 1994 season divided between them.

This part was a little confusing, as first I wasn’t sure why some cards were in the smaller box. Were they special cards, like “fringe” players or something?

They weren’t.

It just appeared that the cards were spread out a little funny and they didn’t all fit in the long box. In fact, you’ll get a lot more than the standard 27 men you get per team with Strat-O-Matic or 25 with APBA.

Instead, you’ll get about 35 cards per team, which means you’re even getting guys who may have only made two appearances, which is great if you’re the kind of person who’s into “as-played” replays.

The cards are on nice stock – not quite as stiff as an APBA card but more so than a Strat-O card. (Forgive me for the comparisons to those two games, but I think they’re probably the two most popular still, so I figure they are a good reference point.)

wpid-20150830_224203.jpgOne odd thing was the way the cards were distributed. It’s not like APBA, where you get the box and all the cards are arranged alphabetically by league, then alphabetically by team and then alphabetically by player. (This makes it pretty easy to pick up the cards and immediately put them into the Baltimore-A folder, then the Boston-A folder, etc.) And it’s not like Strat where you get three sheets (9 players per sheet) for each team so you can quickly tell “Yes, I got the Baltimore cards. Yes, I got the Boston cards.”

Instead, these are totally scattered and pretty randomly distributed.

So I spent a good 90 minutes arranging piles on a dining room table to make sure I could rubber-band together Baltimore, Boston, and so forth.

The Cards

Looking over the cards I found three basic types of cards – pitcher, batter and stadium cards.

Stadiums are essentially rated for how frequently they allow home runs against lefty and righty batters as well as variances among fielders in terms of getting to balls (range) and committing errors. In other words, a rangy fielder may be more likely to get to a ball in one stadium than another.

wpid-20150830_224214.jpgPitcher cards include basic stats along the bottom, as well as their “Per 9 IP” rates. They receive ratings to denote which Pitcher Batting Cards they use (Strat players will be used to this), how far they can get into a game before being susceptible to fatigue, how well they hold base runners, how good they are at inducing double plays, and their propensity for serving up wild pitches. Pitchers who strike out an absurd number of batters (think Aroldis Chapman, I imagine…) also have a special modifier to accommodate that.

Batter cards include basic stats as well, divided up into separate lines for numbers versus lefties and righties. This may annoy some gamers who want to see what a player’s overall batting average was, for example, instead of knowing what it was versus just a LHP or RHP. The game mechanics are pretty lefty/righty driven, but it still would be nice to see a “total” line in there. With so much data crammed onto the card, however, the game designer would have been forced to build a taller card. Cards are rated for how often they ground into double plays, how frequently (and how well) they steal bases, and base running.

wpid-20150830_224242.jpgIn addition, all cards are rated for fielding ability at whatever positions they played that year. Players receive a letter grade to denote their range (A is best, F is worst) and a number to denote how well they avoid errors (5 is best, 1 is worst). Outfielders and catchers also have special Arm ratings that can come into play.

Both player types are also have Injury ratings, with all players divided into one of three different buckets. I will say this bothered me a bit, as I looked at the Injury Charts and saw that there was basically no way to account for players who should never get injured. I was thinking, of course, of Cal Ripken, who played in all 112 games of the strike-shortened season for the Baltimore Orioles that year. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw his card had an Injury rating of “Normal”. Not even the best-possible “Durable” rating? I have a bad feeling that the game designer based things on a 162-game season, not pro-rating for the strike-shortened season. Maybe that “Normal” rating was appropriate if somebody played 112 games in a full 162-game season, but 112 out of 112 should sure warrant the best rating possible, right?

I digress.

wpid-20150830_224316.jpgAs you can see in this comparison shot, Payoff Pitch cards run a bit shorter than a Strat-O-Matic card. (I didn’t contain an APBA card here, but they are also shorter than those.) Cards are basic black on white and font size is plenty large and extremely readable. Using a white background with black font also really helps out with contrast. In short, you will have no trouble reading the results on these cards. (Ahem.) In addition, the PDF version has different colors on the pitcher cards to distinguish the various readings.

The Game Mechanics

If you’re into this hobby, you are probably familiar with two basic difference in how baseball games tend to be put together.

One, exemplified in games like Strat-O-Matic, is commonly referred to as a 50/50 system. You roll dice and based on that roll you either read a result off of the pitcher’s card or off of the batter’s card. It’s simple and it works fine. The drawback is that you feel no “interaction” between the cards. For example, if I bring in a relief pitcher to face a batter in a key situation and my roll comes up to be read off of the batter’s card, then I’m left feeling like “Well, what was the point of bringing that pitcher in? The play result would have been the same no matter who was pitching!” The obvious rebuttal is that the opposite is also true; had I rolled off the pitcher card, it would have been 100% dependent on who was throwing.

The other design approach is sometimes called a matrix system. In APBA, for example, you roll off of the batter’s card. After cross-referencing the result from the card in a rule book, you are occasionally instructed that a play result, for example, could be a ground out unless the pitcher has a particular code on his card, in which case it’s a strikeout.

This is just one example, but Replay Sports works similarly. Dice are tossed and, based on the roll, you check a number on both the pitcher and batter cards. Add them together, reference the sum total on a chart, and you get your result there. It takes a bit longer to play this way, but the advantage is that you really feel a true level of constant interaction between the pitcher and batter cards.

And you get the same feel from Payoff Pitch, though perhaps it plays a bit quicker than Replay.

The gamer tosses four dice – a pair of 6-sided dice and a pair of percentile (i.e. 10-sided) dice.

The 6-sided dice are added together, yielding a result between 2 and 12. This result is checked against the pitcher card, where you will see codes such as “WHEELHOUSE”, “PATIENT”, “TOUGH”, “IN-PLAY”, “BALLPARK” or “DEFENSE”.

This should give you a fairly intuitive feel for what is happening next. “Wheelhouse” means the ball was left in the batter’s wheel-house and he has a decent chance of picking up a hit, and possibly a homer. “Patient” means there’s a good chance the batter draws a walk. “Tough” means there’s a strong chance of a strikeout. “In-Play” means the ball is definitely put into play. It seems the game designed may have had some sense of “Three True Outcomes” here and is building the game engine around just that – homers, strikeouts and walks; if none of the above, the ball is in-play and pretty much anything can happen. “Ballpark” means it’s either going to be a “Wheelhouse” or “In-Play” result, based on the park you’re in. “Defense” means a fielder’s range or ability to avoid errors is going to be tested.

For some examples, out of the 36 combinations possible on the pitcher card, here were some totals for sample pitchers.

  • Andy Benes (SDP) – led NL in SO/9 – had 22 TOUGH chances
  • Zane Smith (PIT) – bottom of NL in SO/9 – had 8 TOUGH chances
  • Bret Saberhagen (NYM) – led NL in BB/9 – had 2 PATIENT chances
  • Darryl Kile (HOU) – bottom of NL in BB/9 – had 12 PATIENT chances
  • Greg Maddux (ATL) – led NL in HR/9 – had 1 WHEELHOUSE chances
  • Pete Smith (NYM) – bottom of NL in HR/9 – had 3 WHEELHOUSE chances

(Please don’t correct me on using “Per 9” stats here. They’re just quick to look up on and I realize the more appropriate method is to use “Per Batter Faced” rates. This is just the quick and dirty method.)

The percentile dice are used when checking the batter or stadium card. For example, if you get a WHEELHOUSE reading on the pitcher card, you check the batter card’s “WHEEL” section. Find the column appropriate for which hand the pitcher is throwing from, and see which range your percentile dice fall into. A roll of 00 means a Rare Play occurs. Anything else will yield a hit or out of some sort. Note that a batter can also hit a homer from the “WHEEL” section, can only walk from the “PATIENT” section, and can only whiff from the “TOUGH” section.

It is a bit peculiar to me that the game design only has it mattering whether the pitcher is LHP or RHP when reading from the batter card, but not the other way around. Seems that maybe the pitcher card should have also had separate columns for LHB and RHB – some pitchers, for example, are more likely to strike out batters from the same side as them or serve up more homers to opposite-handed batters. But they didn’t go that way here.

The Rule Book

The rule book reads very straight-forward. I didn’t find any typos or questionable grammar. The game flow is explained very neatly and also contains examples of how to read rolls and which charts should be consulted when appropriate.

The charts themselves were also simple to follow and made sense.

The only thing left to do was to dive into this thing and play test it. It looked simple enough, but what I am looking for in a baseball sim is something that plays in roughly 30 minutes. Accuracy of a game is something I almost blindly trust in; it’s not hard to build an accurate game. But what I really want is something where I can easily memorize things and get through a game fairly quickly. In my experience, I can get an APBA or Strat-O game down in well under 30 minutes, sometimes as few as 15-20 depending on how the rolls are going.

I wasn’t expecting 30 minutes my first time with the game. I knew there would be plenty of “Now, wait, where was that chart again?” moments while I learned the system. But I was hoping to come out of it with some hope.

Up Next: Play Testing

Strat-O-Matic: Which Pitcher Hitting Card Should I Use?

Here’s something I’ve seen pop up from time to time on social media and message boards for Strat-O-Matic Baseball. I’m paraphrasing, but it usually goes something like this:

I’m playing with a Basic only set of cards, but the pitcher cards don’t have individual fielding ratings on them.

I’m playing with a Basic only set of cards and the pitcher cards only have numbers 1-4 on them. These refer to the old set of Pitcher Hitting Cards which no longer exist.

I’m playing with a Basic only set of cards, but would like to use some ADV/SADV features, such as Wild Pitches and Balks.

Fear not!

About five years ago (and, wow, it may have been even longer) I used a download of the Lahman database and basically crunched some numbers to come up with some of the answers to these things.

Some of these things aren’t really complicated. One of them is and, as such, take it with a grain of salt.

Pitcher Hitting Cards

For the Pitcher’s Hitting Cards, I basically just took each season/league and found what that league’s overall rate was for hits per plate appearance. I also found the league’s overall home runs per plate appearance.

Then I looked at Pitcher Hitting Cards 6-8, as these are the ones that have HR readings on them.

Putting this information together, you can pretty much figure out the answer to the question “What is the minimum HR rate a pitcher needs to have had as a batter in order to qualify for one of these PHC cards?”

This tells you whether or not you’ll be using PHC #1-5 or PHC #6-8 for your pitcher’s hitting card.

You can also crunch the numbers from those cards (remembering that 50% of their plate appearances will come from an opponent’s pitcher card) and figure out what each card will bat given a particular season/league.

For example, PHC #1 has zero chances for hits on the card. So you know that all rolls off that card will result in a .000 batting average. But half the rolls will come off the opposing pitcher’s card. So if you’re in a season/league where the league average was .240, then you can pretty well figure out that the PHC #1 card will result in you getting roughly a .120 batting average.

The PHC #2 card has 6.2 hit chances out of 105 total at bat chances. (108 chances minus the 3 for the WALK chance on that card.) That’s good enough for a .059 batting average. Again, plugging that into an era where the league batting average is .240, the PHC #2 card will get you close to a .150 batting average.

And so forth.

Things get more complicated than this, of course, and Steve Barkan will just about have a grabber if you claim anything else, but this is a pretty good starting point.

I actually have a more complicated method that will get you the full gamut of pitcher hitting cards complete with the power (N/W) rating. So you could have a 1W or a 1N, for example. But this spreadsheet I’m including here is going to give you a pretty good jumping off point if you are playing a set that only provides a Basic side – for example, the Old-Timer teams.


This one was quite a bit more complicated, but let’s just say that I juggled a lot of numbers – the number of plays a pitcher made in the field per “fieldable” ball (i.e. balls in play), the number of errors they made, and so forth – compared it to the Basic Fielding Charts, and spat out a number.

Again, take it or leave it, but there was math involved.

Wild Pitches and Balks

These numbers came from… somewhere. It’s lost in time, but I think it may have come from Bruce Bundy’s formulas for calculating these things.

Anyhow, when I compare them to official cards, I believe they came out pretty much spot on.

I’ve occasionally used these even when playing with cards that are Basic side only. In other words, I’ll go ahead and do the pre-plate appearance roll of the d20 to see if I have to check for a wild pitch or balk.


As always, comments are welcome.

SOM Basic Pitcher Data