Jimmy Furtado is the President of Baseball Think Factory, one of the leading sabermetric Baseball sites, and also the Commissioner of the 18 team Whalehead League that plays using DYNASTY League Baseball Online.
Q: DYNASTY League Baseball and its predecessor Pursue the Pennant are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. How did you originally find out about Pursue the Pennant and what are your recollections of playing the original Board game version?
Jimmy Furtado: In my life I have played countless baseball games. I started with Ethan Allen’s All-Star Baseball and then tried every game I could find. I eventually settled on SOM and played that for a number of years, including in a few leagues with some of my friends. Shortly after getting out of the Air Force, I found PtP advertised in a magazine. The description appealed to me. I purchased the game and fell in love. The game play descriptions and assorted wild plays made the game seem more lifelike. The results of dice rolls weren’t just basic outcomes (1B, runners advance two bases) they were nuanced happenings (1B to short, just past his outstretched glove). Random plays, like having an outfielder steal a home run or having a HBP turn into a brawl, just made the experience feel more real.
Q: What are your favorite aspects of gameplay in DYNASTY League Baseball Online?
Jimmy Furtado: My two favorite things about the online game are the live play-by-play and the automatic calculation of player statistics. Not having to compile stats and being able to see updated league leaders right after you play makes the game more like real MLB. After a series I can login to the league’s web site and see the whole league’s stats, including league leaders, right away. That’s pretty cool. The ability to view a game live is also very cool, especially down the stretch and in the post-season. One thing I learned playing simulation games is, the more people who personally see an event, the more real it becomes. When people witness a player hitting a go-ahead homer to win a World Series, they are part of the experience. With that, shared events become part of the history and lore of the league. For example, when my league was just starting out we were all young men with a lot of free time. One year a bunch of people gathered to watch my playoff series. I was down three games to two and behind one run with two outs and a runner on first in the 9th inning of game six. My opponent rolled the dice. A potential home run down the right field was the result. When I picked up the dice, I knew that, if I roll a 15 or higher (out of 100), I would win the game and force a game seven. If I roll 14 or lower, my season was over. I must admit I was feeling pretty good as I tossed the dice on the table. My emotions changed, though, when a one came up on the tens die as the ones die slowly spun around and around. Finally the die flipped and stopped. 14, game and season was over. First, stunned silence. Riotous laughter followed. The thing is, that story still comes up for discussion twenty years later. It does because, as I mentioned above, it was a shared experience. Had I been alone with my opponent, only he and I would remember it. With the computer game, having that shared experience is even easier. My league has members all around the county. In the last two World Series each game was viewed with about 15+ members following live. As a result every managerial choice, every bad hop that turned into a run and every pivotal moment was something debated and discussed within the group following each game (and sometimes months later) – just as if it really happened -. This aspect of the game makes the experience far more enjoyable.
Q: Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball have always been known for their high level of realism incorporating many subtle nuances of baseball that Bill James first popularized in his Baseball Abstracts. What realistic aspects of DYNASTY League Baseball separate it from other Baseball simulations including the player rating process?
Jimmy Furtado: Over the years Mike Cieslinski has written quite a bit about the process he uses to rate players and how the game works. I also have been able to spend some time talking to him about his process of rating players. I have learned that he painstakingly rates every player in various categories. He blends together cutting-edge statistical analysis and traditional scouting techniques. That’s why, although I occasionally disagree with his ratings on individual players, I respect and appreciate the end results. I believe his player rating are the best available. The game itself is very well designed. It does an excellent job of realistically recreating MLB baseball. It has some great touches. Ball parks matter. A pitcher’s ground ball/ flyball tendency matters. Whether the batter is a pull or spray hitter matters. If a shortstop is better at turning the double play, it matters. If a pitcher is homer prone, it matters. Ball Parks matter. A team playing in Fenway will give up doubles off the wall. A catcher’s ability to call a game and frame pitchers matters. If I take all these realistic factors into account and build my team accordingly, I have an advantage. If I ignore them and bring a homer-friendly pitcher into Coors Field, for example, I will pay the penalty. In other words, team building in Dynasty League Baseball is much more realistic than other games. I also like having the card numbers and game engine open and available to me. Being a person with a sabermetric bent, I like being able to analyze and compare player cards. If a game player is so inclined, he can calculate how many runs created and wins a player’s card is worth. I do it myself, using an updated version of my own eXtrapolated Runs/ Wins (http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/btf/scholars/furtado/articles/IntroducingXR.htm) It’s not required, though. Most of the guys in my league don’t get down into the nitty-gritty numbers and still win. For people like me, however, it’s a great feature.
Q: You are the Commissioner of the Whalehead League, a draft league that plays via DYNASTY League Baseball Online. Tell us about the league, its players and the appeal of playing friends and co-workers with DYNASTY League Baseball online?
Jimmy Furtado: My league was originally formed in 1989. It operated 20 consecutive seasons before disbanding in 2009. I recreated the league in 2013, when the online version debuted. When I created the league, my friends and I were young, carefree guys without many responsibilities. We spent a lot of time together talking baseball. We often disagreed on the moves of our favorite teams. Playing in a fantasy league was a natural extension of those debates. By playing a game, I told my friends, we could put our theories into practice and get bragging rights by proving who really knew what he was talking about. The league played head-to-head. We started with seven original members and grew to as many as 16. As enjoyable as the league was, over time, it became increasing more difficult to find the time to play. Kids’ teams need coaching. More responsibility got piled on at work. Spouses needed us to cut the grass. Discretionary time became scarce. Eventually it grew impossible to play face-to-face. Finally we tried to transition to a computer-based league, but the coordination of distributing league files was just too much for many members. Ultimately the league disbanded without completing a single computer-based season. We all missed playing and the connection it provided, however. The league was more than just a competition. It was a mechanism to keep in contact with friends and relatives. We all missed it and my long-time members kept bugging me to restart the league. When I saw DLB online debut, I figured it was worth a try. Most of the old members rejoined and I added a few new ones via DLB Facebook group and from my web site, BaseballThinkFactory.org. We just recently concluded our second season. We now have 18 members, most who live in Massachusetts. Other members live in England, Florida, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Tennessee. We coordinate using a Facebook group. The draft is conducted live. Some members fly in to attend. Other remote members participate using Google Hangout. It’s a very competitive league with a lot of personal interaction and trash talking. We are all enjoying it immensely.
Q: From a Commissioner’s standpoint, why did you choose DYNASTY League Baseball Online rather than trying to run a league using a stand alone game like Strat-O-Matic or Diamond Mind Baseball?
Jimmy Furtado: As a commissioner of a league, making sure people are playing on time is big. DLB makes that task pretty easy. To see where the league stands, I log into the league page and can quickly see everybody’s current status. If the teams haven’t played their games in the allotted time, I can autoplay them with the computer. That really keeps the games moving without requiring me to spend a bunch of time tracking things. Not having to process and distribute current rosters is a real time saver as well. With DLB Online, I can process a trade and all team rosters are done. When a manager options a player off his roster and recalls another player, he does it himself. I don’t have to get involved. The other games required me to collect, process, and distribute files, which is time consuming.