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Vol. II, Issue #4 - October 2014

** Extreme Ballparking - Chuck Tinkler **

(Now this is what we are talking about -- Chuck is a member of our newsletter and came
forward with this great article to share with all our members.  We bet you will be hearing
more from this Strat brother in future issues, so stay tuned ..............................  )

(Bio on Chuck:  Chuck is from the Long Beach area of California and has been playing Strat-O-Matic off-and on for about 25 years. He currently plays in two leagues, Polo Grounds Baseball and the Bigs Winter League. His Strat interests include finding slick ways to cause a team to outperform expectations and irritating his league mates by talking lots of smack about it.  Chuck is always likes to chat about Strat, Hal settings and ballpark dimensions in particular, so feel free to email him with questions or comments related to this article -- his email is listed at the end of this amazin' article = thank you Chuck!!)    

Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter, member Chuck Tinkler writes an article about SOM Baseball Ball Parks
Extreme Ballparking

Figuring out what ballpark dimensions to choose is as perplexing of a task as there is for us Strat GM's.

We want our hitters to rake and our pitchers to dominate, but we can't have both! At least, one can't be helped without hurting the other. And even when we do decide one way or the other, how do we know that our choice won't end up helping our opponent more than ourselves? There are so many factors at play sometimes that it seems impossible to really make sense of it all. While knowing the exact right situation for every team in every circumstance is impossible, there are certainly general trends and strategies that do apply across the board and are definitely worth considering. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at just what a choice of ballpark might do (or not do) for your ballclub.

Back in the early 1990's, I played in a league with Joe Sheehan (he was with Baseball Prospectus, is on ESPN every now and again, does lots of baseball stuff). Surprisingly, his team wasn't all that good, but he probably wasn't taking things all that seriously. Anyways, he made a comment one time though about ballparks that went something like, "Oh yeah, it's really not that difficult. You get a team filled of hitters with diamonds (ballpark homeruns), pitchers without diamonds, move to Colorado, and that's it". This was said during the steroid era and before Coors brought in a humidor. It was a time when Coors was a guaranteed homer-to-19 ballpark and the league was filled with guys with diamonds all over their cards. Back then this was much more of an obtainable outcome than it is now. Most of us have probably thought this same thing at some point, but in this conversation what I think he was really getting at was this: Ballparks are the only control that we have over what the cards contain. And with that power should we squeeze every last stinking drop of advantage we can out of it.  

There are two extremes really for us Strat GM's. We'll call them "Coors" and the "Astrodome". For our purposes, we'll say Coors is 1 - 19 all around and the Astrodome is 1 - 1 all around (singles and homeruns). By picking one of the extremes and creating a team best-suited for it, what we are doing is creating an environment that our opponent is not nearly as likely to benefit from as we are. If we look across our leagues, very few teams will have gone completely in one direction or the other, therefore it is highly unlikely that someone will have the right combination of players to come into this extreme environment and derive greater benefit from it. By going full blast the one way or other, we are increasing the value of certain attributes and decreasing the value of others.

The trick of course then is getting a team full of guys with those desirable attributes. Before delving into what such a team would look like, consider this: a run scored in the Astrodome is worth more than a run scored at Coors. This make take a minute to sink in, but if you think about it, it's true. We'd be better off hitting a grand slam in the first inning in the Astrodome than we would at Coors. If we were to take this and apply it to player's values, players then have different values in different places. Furthermore, if a run is worth more in the Astrodome than in Coors, then allowing a run in the Astrodome is more detrimental than allowing one in Coors. A player who is poor defensively then is less valuable in the Astrodome and one who is great defensively is worth more there. And so on it goes through each attribute. Each attribute varies in worth depending upon the circumstances where this attribute will be utilized.  

It goes without saying that we always want to score more than we allow in any environment. That's the nature of the game. But because these environments affect attributes the way they do, the response is to focus our resources towards either scoring runs or stopping them from being scored, ie, we want to pick the way we are going to stretch our run differentials and max it out. We want to use Coors to manufacture a ridiculous amount of runs and use the Astrodome to help us stop runs from being scored. We want to emphasize the advantages that these extreme environments offer to the fullest extent possible. We want to take our limited resources and invest them in such a way as to take the utmost advantage from this environment we've chosen to reside in. Our resources are "limited" because we don't have the option of having a Tulo at every position. At least if we did, it wouldnít matter what park we played in. What we do have is a roster full of guys with certain strengths and certain weaknesses. Our goal with our ballpark then is to put these players in the environment that emphasizes their strengths, hides their weaknesses, and in the end sneaks wins away from our opponents.

Babe Ruth in Coors. It'd be ridiculous, wouldn't it? What would he hit, like 70 or 80 homeruns each year? What about a lineup full of Babe Ruths? That would be insane! What it would be is an offense that couldn't possibly be bested in that environment. And that's what we are after - an environment in which we will have the advantage 100% of the time. The same is true for the Astrodome. A rotation full of Clayton Kershaws in the Astrodome could effectively be the same thing. Whereas Coors amplifies the Babe's ability to hit homeruns, the Astrodome amplifies Kershaw's ability to stop runs from scoring. What we are doing by going the extreme route and selecting Coors is challenging our opponents to outscore us.

By choosing the Astrodome, we are challenging our opponents to try to score on us. And because winning by 1 run or 20 runs doesnít matter, all we have to do is create an environment that will help us have more runs (even just 1 more) when the last out is recorded. If Team Astrodome wins 2 - 1, it counts the exact same as Team Coors winning 14 - 10. The entirety of the trick then is using our ballparks to help bring about this outcome - us having more runs than our opponents when the game comes to an end. Bringing that about doesn't require a lineup full of Babe Ruths, but does require a team full of guys that are designed in a way to thrive in the environment they are being placed in.

To create the environment that favors our teams involves many factors beyond those discussed already. First off, the Astrodome team has to allow just the 1 run and  find a way to score 2. In other words, playing in the Astrodome requires a defense to support the pitching and an offense that can score at least some in that environment. Equally, the team at Coors must have decent enough pitching and defense to keep the opposition to scoring just the 10 runs. And to that end, the teams must be built in a way that matches the environment in which they play. It is critical that Team Astrodome has a high batting average. This team also needs very strong defense to support the pitching - a triple past the leftfielder in this environment can be devastating. The Coors team on the other hand needs to pitch just well enough and play just enough defense to allow for the offense to muscle its way past the opposition. Hitting in all forms should be the focal point for Team Coors with on-base and slugging being at the top of the list. Team Astrodome wants high average, slick fielding, speedy guys; Team Coors wants a decent pitching staff (skewed towards low diamonds and high GBA's), a great bullpen (it's cheap), decent defenders, and hitters with tons of diamonds. Homerun hitters in the Astrodome are fine as are great defenders in Coors, but only if they have their highly needed attributes in place first.  

An Adam Dunn kind of guy would have some decent value in Coors but is beyond worthless in the Astrodome. The balls that would get by him and low batting average would hurt the team far more than the few homeruns he would hit would help. A similar situation would exist for an Ichiro-type guy in Coors. His defense (what's another hit at Coors?) and speed (who wants to steal there?) lose value and his lack of power becomes a glaring weakness. Ichiro wouldn't be a Dunn-type disaster by any means, but he wouldn't be close to bringing the greatest return on the resources that have been taken up to have him. Itís for reasons such as these though that opponents whose team aren't well suited for these environments can be made to suffer. The opponent who plants the Big Donkey in LF in the Astrodome just gave the Astros a huge jump towards getting the 2 runs they need to win the game. If the ball is hit to him and he gives up a double, that could very easily be the ballgame.

Not only that, but in Strat, missed ballpark homeruns aren't doubles, or anything positive, they are OUTS. So not only is Dunn a total bust in the outfield, not only is he going to hit maybe half the homeruns here that he might elsewhere, but all those diamonds that he worked so hard to get now benefit the opposition. Now those diamonds actually help the opponent. So not only does the ballpark then have the ability to boost our player's values, it has the ability to hamper the opponent's players who are unsuited for it. Through ballparks then we have the ability to turn our opponent's card values against them. Most teams are way more dependent upon homeruns for scoring than they know and using a ballpark to take these runs away can be a huge advantage for the rightly prepared home team.  

There are of course road games. But because most teams have mid-range, 50/50ish ballparks, setting the team to one extreme or the other might not be felt that strongly in other parks. The solution of course would be to keep enough variety on the bench to help adjust to other environments and/or have core guys that can make the transition between environments. Where these teams could really struggle though is playing in each other's parks, ie, the Astros in Coors and vice versa. Comparing the two, Team Coors almost certainly would have a much harder time in the Astrodome than the opposite. Whereas Team Astrodome could use batting average and on-base to score at Coors Field, Team Coors, missing diamond after diamond, would have a much harder time overcoming what their mediocre defense and pitching would allow in the Astrodome. If you've ever played in or against someone in these type of environments you know that itís a heck of a lot harder to plate 3 runs of a Kershaw-type guy than out-score someone in the madhouse that is Coors. If the game has a slant then this is what it would be - the properly placed team in a pitcher's park can cut through a league like a hot knife through butter.

The question though that teams most often find themselves asking goes something like "What's the best park for my team? or "How should I adjust my park for the team I have?". But the questions that we really want answered is "How do I use my ballpark to work to the greatest extent in my favor?". The solution is to not pick or adjust a park to fit the team, but to fit or adjust the team to the park. If the team has been created first, without paying much of any attention to the park, then its highly unlikely that the right collection of guys will be in place for really taking advantage of things, regardless of the dimensions. Some players will benefit, some will suffer, and in the end it the whole thing will be just an opportunity lost. But by picking the strategy, matching it with the right park, then bringing in players that best match the system, a team can turn their home-field into a significant advantage to be gained, 81+ times a year. 

Chuck Tinker 

(NOTES from the Wolfman: We want to thank Chuck for this most interesting article about ballparks as he makes some very good points to consider when trying to get your team to perform at its best in all the different parks.  Also the life of this newsletter is through a co-creation via the editing team and its members and we are always open to consider to share good and thoughtful articles from our members. So thank you Charles for becoming a new contributor.  Chuck is waiting to chat with you: chucktinkler@yahoo.com )


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Contained inside this exciting issue of Ultimate Strat Baseball Newsletter:
(to view the various interviews, articles, columns and special sections click on the links {underlined}
and this will take you to the appropriate webpage)


  INTERVIEW  with JEFF FLEISCHMAN, Commissioner of GUSSOMO, the oldest league.

  INTERVIEW with BILLY SAMPLE, ex-MLB player from 1978-1986 returns with more to tell!

  INTERVIEW with MARK HEIL, the creator of SOMers, an on-line SOM forum

  SOM BASEBALL ONLINE REPORT with WOLFMAN SHAPIRO PART II -- editor of "The Ultimate Strat Newsletter" and 2012 CBA Champion, the "Wolfman" explores a whole new world of playing the SOM Baseball game through the online gaming system which Strat-o-matic Offers. In 2001/2002, Strat-o-matic agreed with The Sporting News to offer a version of their game which could be played completely on-line using a web browser. In 2012, SOM told full charge of this system and there is a whole community now of people who are involved in all type of draft leagues including a unique style of holding tournaments. In this issue, "Wolfman" shares his experiences and what he learned in participating in his first league via the Barnstormers tournament, one of the largest SOM Baseball Tournaments on the planet which challenges you to the upmost. And finally he introduces you to another veteran player of this style of play who has a lot to share should you decide (if you are not already active) play in this version of SOM baseball.  To view this two part report, click on the links of the articles to read shown below:

ARTICLE: How Did the Wolfman do in his 1st Season? (Barnstormers Tournament)

INTERVIEW with MESQUITON (D. Merzenich), Experienced Online SOM Baseball Player

  COMMISSIONER's CORNER with MARC WASSERMAN -- commissioner of the Cyber Baseball Association (CBA) continues his column about what it is like to be a League Commissioner. In this
he focuses upon what happens in various leagues in October when the leagues begin their playoffs to discover their league champions, quite interesting to read how the leagues do this.

  RECOMMEND ON-LINE SOM RESOURCES -- On-line Strat-o-matic and Baseball related websites
that offer amazing information, special tools and products to improve your game play that we strongly recommend. In most cases, we have had personal contact with these sources who agree with the principle to work together and help promote each other.

  BOOKS TO DIE FOR and Become a BASEBALL GURU -- This page is specifically about special books we are finding that either will expand your insights about the game of Baseball, help you in the creation of your current league teams or with your replays and learn more about the Strat-o-matic Baseball Game and Game Company's history.  We have a special arrangement with Acta Sports, who is a publisher of a number of great baseball books (including Bill James Handbooks) to offer for our members a 10% discount. We will continue to add more books to this page in the future as we uncover other gems our members should know about.


Contact Us for Questions or Submissions:

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