The First Sabermetric Baseball Simulation was NOT Strat O Matic


Joe Posnanski is one of the best baseball and sabermetric writers. He recently wrote
a new blog post “Things I learned from Strat-O-Matic”, but what might Joe have
learned playing Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball?

Back in the spring of 1985 (this is the 30th Anniversary), Pursue the Pennant debuted
as the “First Sabermetric Baseball Simulation”. Yes, SOM and APBA were the first
baseball board games, but they were designed decades before the baseball world was
enlightened by the sabermetric teachings found in Bill James Baseball Abstracts and
John Thorn and Pete Palmer’s book “The Hidden Game”. When I designed Pursue the
Pennant from 1981-1984, Bill James had just come out with his first Baseball Abstract.
My goal was to design the first sabermetric baseball simulation that incorporated as
many of Bill James insights as possible.

Fenway Park ball park chart

Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball are most well known for their
detailed ball park effects. Joe’s Lesson #3 is that “Ball Parks matter”. Those new
SOM diamond symbols that were introduced in 1986 were a clumsy knee jerk reaction
by SOM to Pursue the Pennant’s ball park effects. In Glenn Guzzo’s Strat-O-Matic
Fanatics book he devotes part of a chapter to Pursue the Pennant and even SOM game
designer Hal Richman acknowledges that Pursue the Pennant is a more realistic game
than Strat-O-Matic. DYNASTY League Baseball has seven different outfield locations
for “Deep Drive” results. Play results are determined in feet so a 340 foot drive down
the left field line at Fenway Park is a HR into Green Monster seats. “Robbed?” results
can occur depending on the wall height and the range rating of the outfielder. Deep
Drives off the Green Monster in left field are often singles that can be stretched into
doubles. In the deep triangle area in right-center a drive of 420-425 feet is a triple.

Weather effects also impact the ball park effects. The DYNASTY League Baseball
Weather charts use actual weather bureau data by region, month and day/night to
determine sky/temperature and wind direction and speed (Can you tell I love the
Weather Channel?). In the Summer months at Wrigley Field the wind often blows out.
When the wind is blowing out at 20-29 mph Deep Drives get a +20 foot boost to
distance traveled, which often makes the difference between a “HR into the basket” or
a ball caught on the warning track.

Pursue the Pennant was also the first simulation to incorporate foul territory, hitter
background visibility and infield surface conditions.

Joe’s Lesson #1 “You really need a defensive short stop with range” and states “but I
would argue that the thing that Hal got right before almost anyone else was how
baseball defense works.” Defensive range has always been difficult to measure, but
Bill James enlightened us about range factor and now we have other defensive metrics
like John Dewan’s Fielding Bible +/- which equates to defensive runs saved. Well here
is where SOM gets defensive range wrong Joe. SOM only has four grades 1-4 for rating
range. In 2014 Tulowitzki is rated “1” range in SOM (best rating possible). This means
on a historical scale Tulo’s 2014 range was as good as Ozzie Smith’s in his best years
according to SOM. Tulowitzki wasn’t even the ss with the best defensive range in
2014 (7 defensive runs saved compared to Andrelton Simmons 28). DYNASTY League
Baseball graded out Tulowitzki with “B” range in 2014.

2014Tulo

DYNASTY League Baseball has defensive range ratings from A+ to F which gives eight possible range ratings and a far more realistic defensive spectrum with all defensive ratings in DYNASTY League Baseball based on a historical scale.

Then there is the visualization and different types of range plays. In SOM you go to an obtuse “X” chart. In DYNASTY League Baseball you go to a “Range” chart that has slow roller, smash up the middle, hot liner, high chopper, deep into the hole, drilled down the line range plays. All of the range plays have different outcomes that could be play results like diving stop, bang bang play and gets thru and further divided into different surfaces for grass and artificial turf.

Joe’s Lesson #4 “Clutch hitting is baloney”. First off, I am well aware of “The Hidden Game’s” study of clutch hitting and trying to determine if it is a skill. I am not sure that is the right question. The right question should be “Do hitters change their approach in a clutch situation – especially in high leverage clutch situations such as when there are RSP/2 outs? I am convinced a few players in a given season are able to change their approach with RSP/2 outs. Part of this is being able to “quiet the mind” and often this is a learned approach that some of the games greatest hitters have developed over time. Case in point is Paul Molitor.

In Paul’s final season in 1998 he hit .393 with a SLG of .536 with RSP/2. In reverse order here is Molitor’s BA and SLG with RSP/2 preceded by Age/Season:

41 1998 .393/.536
40 1997 .257/.378
39 1996 .354/.512
38 1995 .250/.250
37 1994 .340/.547
36 1993: .367/.494
35 1992: .279/.361
34 1991: .338/.529
33 1990: .341/.477
32 1989: .302/.453
31 1988: .300/.350
30 1987 .383/.617
29 1986 .400/.540
28 1985 .278/.333
27 1984 .333/.333 (small sample size – injured with only 6 AB)
26 1983 .200/.262
25 1982 .299/.469
24 1981 .250/.438
23 1980 .235/.324
22 1979 .243/.392
21 1978 .259/.481

Around age 29 Molitor started to figure out how to approach RSP/2 situations
differently. With the exception of 1997 (injured) and 1995 (strike in which he was
heavily involved and distracted as one of the union heads involved in negotiations
with the owners) he not only hit well in those situations, but thrived. Compare this
with ages 21-28 when he struggled with RSP/2.

DYNASTY League Baseball was the first simulation to categorize elite clutch hitting
performances in a given season and display their impact on overall runs scored and
wins.

DYNASTY League Baseball was also the first simulation to identify the three most
important situations for pitchers and those unique pitchers that thrive in those
situations. Pitching out of a jam and the JAM rating are awarded to those pitchers
who demonstrate pitching extremely well with RSP/2 outs. Pitchers who rarely give up
a lead off walk are awarded to OFF ratings – Curt Schilling and Adam Wainwright are
great examples of pitchers who understand how important it is not to allow a lead off
walk. Jim Palmer never gave up a grand slam HR and it is pitchers like him that are
awarded the ON rating for reducing the ratio of HR allowed with runners on base
compare to HR allowed with the bases empty.

I am just scratching the surface and the DYNASTY League Baseball game design page
goes into more detail on all the realistic nuances, but my point is that if you really
want to learn about baseball nuances from a sabermetric view point, DYNASTY League
Baseball “the leader in realism” is the answer to the question.

So Joe, when is our DYNASTY League Baseball Online game match-up?

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25 comments

  1. padresprophet

    Hi Mike,

     

    Wow! BEST article I've read on subject. What timing–I just obtained "Hidden Game of BB" yesterday!

     

    I regret never coming across PTP the BOARD game. First played PTP PC in 1987. Exc. 

     

    I only play SOM Online now b/c I only have an Ipad. Must fix my laptop to rejoin DY ASAP. 

     

    I've long maintained DY is better than SOM for so many unique ratings. DY is superior b/c it's more CONTEMPORARY. 🙂

     

    Michael Ross  

    M P R Enterprises

       

    Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    • Mike Cieslinski

      Great to hear you enjoyed Mike! Yes, need to get that PC fixed, DYNASTY League Baseball will run on your iPad with the remote desktop app Splashtop, but you still need a PC to run it remotely.

  2. Thomas

    And yet only a small fraction choose your OVERPRICED game over Strat…..so go ahead and wine some more, put some more classless posts to get pub for your game, but when people see your ridiculous pricing , they just go away. I haven’t heard sour grapes like that from a game inventor before, which is comical.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      Wrong. At retail Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball have sold at a rate of 90 games per month at Games by James compared to 60 games a month for SOM. Online version sales have been increasing at a rate of 50%. Pricing is about value. A Mercedes Benz is not priced the same as a Volkswagon. It is not sour grapes it is the truth. The dialog between SOM and Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball has been going on for 30 years with journalists getting comments from both sides and is nothing new.

  3. James

    Mike, your website for the board version of the game is horrible. I like what you have done with the new online version although I don’t care to play it for price versus OOTP. I tried the interface and it’s clunky and slow and not a smooth as OOTP.

    Also: Pursue the Pennant and Dynasty while designed by you are two different games! Separate them on BBG. Those that collect and play PTP don’t need to constantly find DYNASTY stuff. I agree that DYNASTY improved on aspects of PTP. I choose to play PTP over DYNASTY. I also collect PTP. You do a great job getting your product in the news and I wish you all the success but these were two separate products.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      The old website is being phased out and the new Ticket Window store will appear soon on the new site as well. As far as the interface for the Online version, 100% of the people really like it and that percentage is now down to 99.999%. There is a catalog of screen shots http://www.operationsports.com/media/757/dynasty-league-baseball-online/?page=1

      As far as comparisons to OOTP, OOTP is a solitaire stand alone game whereas DYNASTY League Baseball is a multi-player game designed for leagues.

      Board Game Geek decided to combine the Pursue the Pennant and DYNASTY League Baseball listing because they use the same game engine, game mechanics and are by the same designer. Thank you and great to hear you are enjoying the game!

  4. Will Kolodzie

    Umm. No. The “like” was a result of my phone in my pants pocket and in no way reflects that I agree with the article or support someone with such self-serving behavior. PLEASE DO NOT USE MY NAME AGAIN.

    The following, however, is my statement on the matter.

    Mike Cieslinski of Dynasty Baseball is a man of poor character and decorum. He recently used my name as a means to support his lies and distortions about Hal Richman, Strat-O-Matic owner and founder. Cieslinski claims that there is a passage in Guzzo’s “Strat-O-Matic Fanatics” where Richman says Pursue the Pennant was a more realistic game than Strat-O-Matic. Richman never made such a statement. The actual Richman quote on page 160 in the Guzzo book is as follows: ”It was an embellishment of our game, but it did do certain realistic things that our game did not do.” Cieslinski has poor comprehension skills or he is lying for his own self-serving ends.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      The fact of the matter is that this is not the only time Hal Richman has said Pursue the Pennant is more realistic than Strat-O-Matic. In a feature story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch Aron Kahn reported on page 4D “Richman acknowledged that Pursue the Pennant is a more realistic game than Strat-O-Matic, but said it isn’t as enjoyable because it is too complex.” I am just using actual quotes – there is no distortion or lies and whether or not you meant to click LIKE you in fact did it.

  5. castaluccio

    Love it! So-called ‘clutch hitters’ obviously are those players who are able to concentrate better in those situations. Yogi Berra, generally a .280 hitter, tended to hit .300+ during those game defining ABs. Joe Gordon was another player whose BA would be around .260 to .270, but higher in so-called ‘clutch” ABs. Derek Jeter is another one.Then there are the .300+ hitters who ‘disappear’ during the playoffs.
    I believe it comes down to the ability to put everything else aside, staying within yourself, and concentrate at the task at hand (driving home that runner in scoring position; getting on base to extend the inning; hitting one out to tie or win the game) So-called ‘clutch hitters’ seem to get ‘zoned in’ just as dominant closers seem to be able to do. Bases loaded, no body out, and the batting team does not score. That is being in the zone. No matter how good your stuff, you have to execute (throw strikes with a purpose).

  6. Will Kolodzie

    1. I DO NOT like the post. I removed the like as soon as I saw it.
    2. You quoted Glenn Guzzo’s book inaccurately. You can argue all you want but what you said about the Guzzo book is not true.
    3. You used my name without permission. Please do not do so again.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      The point I made that “Richman acknowledged that Pursue the Pennant is a more realistic game than Strat-O-Matic” is in fact true from more than one source. I apologize for using your name without permission, but everything in Facebook is in fact public so your LIKE was not some kind of secret.

  7. Will Kolodzie

    No, the point is that you quoted the Guzzo book inaccurately. You also seem to have a comprehension issue. Doing “certain” things is not the same as “everything.” The actual Richman quote on page 160 in the Guzzo book is as follows: ”It was an embellishment of our game, but it did do certain realistic things that our game did not do.” I am waiting for your retraction about the Guzzo book.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      If you read my blog post carefully I did not quote SOM Fanatics, but did use the quote from the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch which I double checked, have a hard copy of and does quote Hal Richman verbatim. Here is the sentence: In Glenn Guzzo’s book he devotes part of a chapter to Pursue the Pennant and even SOM game designer Hal Richman acknowledges that Pursue the Pennant is a more realistic game than Strat-O-Matic.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      Did you read what I said Will? I never quoted SOM Fanatics or attempted to. My only reference was that Guzzo devotes part of a chapter to Pursue the Pennant. The quote that I used was from the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch.

  8. Will Kolodzie

    And I am giving you the Hal Richman quote about your game. That is the statement from SOM on your game. The Guzzo book is the official story of the company. Anything you think you have in terms of a Richman quote is not as accurate or as definitive as what appears in the Guzzo book. Again, this is what Hal Richman thinks about PTP: ”It was an embellishment of our game, but it did do certain realistic things that our game did not do.”

    • Mike Cieslinski

      That isn’t how journalism works Will. You can’t decide which source or quote you want to use. The fact is Hal Richman was quoted by the St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch Aron Kahn reported on page 4D “Richman acknowledged that Pursue the Pennant is a more realistic game than Strat-O-Matic, but said it isn’t as enjoyable because it is too complex.”

  9. Bill Priester

    I enjoy a variety of baseball cards and dice simulation games (have been playing Strat since the 1970’s and Pursue the Pennant/Dynasty League since the late 1980’s) and actually assist in the carding of new card sets (Ball Park Baseball). Bill James actually played Ball Park Baseball when he was at Kansas University (they actually had a restaurant devoted towards playing the game. Mr. James was in an actual Ball Park Baseball league back then. Arguments can be made as to the claim of “the first sabermetric game” as Ball Park Baseball has been sold commercially since 1971.

  10. Ryan Hughes

    Can you provide a link to the St. Paul Pioneer story you keep referring too? I am curious about the context of the article because this blog seems to be rather self serving and as Will Kolodzie already pointed out you seem to use quotes liberally and out of full context. Thanks.

    • Mike Cieslinski

      The St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch story was the feature section cover story on October 11, 1987. Award winning journalist Aron Kahn and photographer RJ Hinkle both flew out to Milwaukee to do the feature. The title on page 1 is PLAY BALL! If you really want the Twins to win you can manager them yourself in a game called Pursue the Pennant. The feature continues on page 4D with a photo of investor Jim Gantner and I playing a game on the dugout at Milwaukee County Stadium. I do not have a link – only a hard copy.

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