DMB News July 2007
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter
July 20 , 2007
Welcome to the second edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2007. Through these newsletters, we will try to keep you up to date on the latest product and technical information about the Diamond Mind Baseball game, related player disks, and our ongoing baseball research efforts. Back issues are available on our web site, www.diamond-mind.com.
Topics for this issue:
Given some of the most recent posts on the DMB Forum, I thought it might be a good idea to provide some more information about how I got involved with Diamond Mind Baseball, our plans and goals for the company and the product and also to share the good news about the 9b patch.
I grew up near Youngstown, Ohio, about an hour from Pittsburgh, and was a die-hard Pirates fan. It sure was a good time to be a boy cheering on the Bucs...I started getting into baseball in 1971 (which turned out to be a fantastic year to start) and when the Pirates won the series for the second time in the 70’s in 1979, I actually felt like I was family.
Soon after becoming a baseball fan, I became enthralled with baseball simulation games. I started by playing Strat-o-Matic and eventually graduated to Earl Weaver Baseball when PCs came about. I started to sour on baseball with the strikes, and I swore off the game after the World Series was cancelled due to the lock-out in ’94. However, it would be a baseball simulation game that brought me back - a friend pushed me to play the Bill James Classic Baseball (BJCB) game in 1996, which used DMB as its sim engine. I was hooked again!
After leaving my last company, I considered a lot of different options but kept coming back to how much I enjoyed baseball simulations and how big an opportunity I thought there was in bringing sports simulation and other strategy games to a wider audience, and that’s when I decided to start Simnasium (now called Imagine Sports). In particular, I believed that many more sports fans would get into simulations if they were done right, and the internet provided ways to get those greater numbers of players than had existed before.
I knew from playing BJCB that the Diamond Mind engine is the most realistic baseball simulation, and I decided that we really needed DMB if we were to produce a great online baseball game. So, I called Tom, and we discussed our visions and opportunities for utilizing DMB and bringing it to a wider audience. We started with a license agreement.
During the design process for our online game, I played DMB over and over again and came to appreciate
even more what a truly great game it is. As you already know, the meticulous attention to detail and incredible baseball knowledge of Tom and the DMB team is evident throughout the game. I also realized that a lot more could be done with the game, and we set out to do just that.
After a very intense development process, the online version of DMB launched under the name "Total Baseball" in March 2006 to very good reviews. We believe the game offers an interesting variation on the PC game experience by allowing players to compete online against other players from around the world without the need to download software or rely on anyone to run the games. By automating the process, many more can enjoy DMB competing against others. We have been very happy with the feedback on the game to date. We have also been excited to see ESPN use DMB for a number of its feature stories in the last few months including its season preview and recent stories about the Hall of Fame, Jackie Robinson and Roger Clemens, as well as the big season preview, all of which generated significant interest in DMB.
Soon after we launched "Total Baseball," Tom and I both realized how well our teams were working together and that it would make good sense to merge our efforts. Tom was also becoming more busy with
non-DMB obligations, and joining forces would allow him to focus his DMB time exclusively on the aspects of the game he does best and, in fact, finds most rewarding (like refining the game engine) and leave the rest (marketing, operations, etc.) to us. Most importantly, as a combined entity we’d have more resources to devote to improving the game and bringing it to a broader audience.
But you should know that we are still working on improving the core PC Game. In fact, Tom and I agreed
that once he had transferred the business functions, our first priorities should be to get the 2006 season and 2007 projection disks out on time and get out the 9b patch. Since you all had waited so long for that patch, we also decided to add in some things that were planned for version 10, such as the play-by-play enhancements, at no charge. It’s just a little something extra to thank you for your patience.
I know there have been a lot of rumors on the message board forums about our plans for the offline and online versions of DMB. Let me start with by directly addressing the biggest concern:
We do not have any plans to discontinue the offline (PC) game.
Quite the contrary, actually...we are working on improving it.
First, we will be releasing the 2007 Season Disk in December and 2008 Projection Disk in the beginning of 2008. We will actually start taking pre-orders for the 2007 Season Disk and the 2008 Projection Disk before the end of the 2007 baseball season.
Second, we have already looked at making a lot of improvements to the core game play and user interface
in the PC version of DMB. Right now, we are figuring out how to best update the code base to make these changes possible.
Finally, we have added an additional tech support resource. David Pyke joins the team to help Luke Kraemer with tech support issues so that Luke will now have more time to work on improvements to DMB. (See Luke's article in this newsletter for more info on David's joining the team.)
I'm looking forward to a bright future for Diamond Mind Baseball!
In case you haven't heard...the 9c Patch is available now! Just go to www.diamond-mind.com to download the 9c patch.
NOTE: It is important that you complete any games in progress and have the DMB game shut down completely BEFORE you install the patch.
Enhancements in the version 9c patch:
- All of the play-by-play additions that were previously intended for version 10...this represents a 30-40% increase in an already large play-by-play library...also fixed all known play-by-play bugs
- A few minor modifications to allow DMB to run on Windows Vista
- Updated the Historical Era file to include recent seasons
- Updated the master player file (which is used when you're creating players) to include players who have made their big-league debuts and/or qualified for a DMB projection disk in recent seasons
- Altered the adjustments for players who are out of position, increasing the penalties for certain moves to more difficult positions and decreasing the penalties for certain moves (e.g. center field to a corner outfield spot) to easier positions
- Based on some new research, made a small adjustment to the fielding logic so the spread between range ratings is a little larger than before
- Made substantial changes to the computer manager's logic for relief pitching; the most significant difference is that it will now be more aggressive in going to the closer at the start of an inning even when a good starting pitcher is doing well and is not yet tired
- Improved the computer manager's logic for making double-switches
- Improved the computer manager's logic for choosing an emergency starter when the scheduled starter is injured
- Improved the computer manager's logic for choosing pinch hitters
- Improved computer manager's pinch hitting logic for certain game situations to put more emphasis on overall hitting ability and less emphasis on specific skills like hitting for average and getting on base
- Improved computer manager's pinch running logic for situations where a team's closer reaches base while protecting a lead...now refrains from replacing the closer with a runner when appropriate
- Improved computer manager's logic for putting a defensive team on the field after an offensive half inning when players were injured or replaced...when appropriate, the computer manager will give up the DH by moving him to a fielding position (at which he is rated) when necessary to avoid using another player out of position
- For relief pitchers who are making an emergency start, reduced their durability so it is much less likely that they will be able to pitch deep into the game
- Made minor modifications to the rates of WP and PB in different baserunner situations
- During migration, the relationship between teams and parks is now carried forward to the target database, the league schedule is reset, and the playing time limits are saved in the target manager profiles
- When importing a DMB season into the encyclopedia, a new option allows you to exclude boxscores and game-by-game stats in order to speed the process
- Overhauled the play-by-play commentary for ground ball plays where the managers are queried about running and throwing decisions...now provides better information about the likelihood of a double play and more suspense about the outcome of the play
Scoring bug fixes in version 9c patch:
- Corrected a problem with assigning earned runs after a play where a runner was picked off first and thrown out trying to steal second
- Improved the logic for assigning earned runs in certain multi-pitcher innings in which a relief pitcher gets a ground ball double play
- Corrected a problem with assigning earned runs when one or more runners scored on an inning-ending play where the batter was thrown out trying to take an extra base on his hit
- Corrected an inconsistency on certain plays when a fly ball is dropped for an error; previously, the game credited the hitter with an RBI and a SF but didn't treat the run as earned to the pitcher
- Corrected the logic for assigning earned runs when the lead runner is retired on a ground ball or bunt
- Stopped using the scoresheet notation POSB for stolen bases after a pickoff throw
Other bug fixes in version 9c patch:
- Corrected a problem in the leader boards where ties for the last displayed position were created by a new entry higher on the leaderboard
- Fixed a variety of minor bugs associated with certain reports and the reporting system in general
- Substantially reduced the frequency of errors on dropped throws by catchers - updated help system to correct a few typos and provide current contact info
- Modified computer manager logic to prevent relief pitchers from being used prior to a scheduled start (except in emergency situations)
- Corrected a problem in the leader boards where ties for the last displayed position were created by a new entry higher on the leaderboard
- Fixed a 9b NetPlay bug that occurred when the connecting manager tried to take a pitch in batter mode
Each year, when we're selecting the players who appear on the March edition of our Projection Disk, we strive to include everyone who is likely to show up on an opening day roster. When those rosters are finally revealed, I'm never happy when I see names that don't already appear on the disk.
To be fair, it may be unrealistic for us to bat 1.000 when picking those players. To do so would require that we cast a very wide net, perhaps wide enough to include 2500 or 3000 players instead of the 1800-plus we cover now, and it's not at all clear that adding hundreds of marginal players would add enough value to the disk to justify all the extra work.
There are many reasons why a player might not make our first cut. Someone can come out of retirement unexpectedly. A young player might be promoted all the way from the low minors based on a good spring. A well-traveled veteran who doesn't project to be good can snag a job based on experience and a top-flight attitude. A rash of injuries can temporarily open a roster spot for a replacement-level player.
Still, it's always a bit disheartening when we miss someone. In past years, we've generally found the need to add 6 to 12 players to the April update. This year it was a record total of 15, so we wondered whether this was just an anomaly or whether our selection methods were somehow lacking.
After further review, we've concluded that there were good reasons why most of these players were excluded. Here are their stories (stats through July 3):
Alberto Castillo, c, Bal -- This veteran backup catcher was promoted after starter Ramon Hernandez was placed on the disabled list. He didn't make the first disk because he's 37 years old and appeared to be well down the Boston depth chart before he was traded to Baltimore in late March. In the first half of the season, he batted .161 in 31 atbats.
Gustavo Molina, c, ChA -- Strictly a catch-and-throw guy who wasn't on our March disk because his bat didn't measure up. It took him seven years to reach AA and he didn't hit when he got there. His minor-league career OPS is .652, and it was worse in 2006 when he split time between AA and AAA. Molina was demoted after going 1 for 18 in the first six weeks of the season.
Josh Hamilton, of, Cin -- Perhaps the most intriguing story in the NL this year, Hamilton didn't make our first cut because his well-chronicled battle with addiction limited him to 55 relatively unsuccessful plate appearances over the past four seasons. But he had a great spring, he has a ton of talent, and he's been a significant contributor so far in 2007.
Alejandro De Aza, cf, Flo -- A speedy center fielder with a career minor-league OPS of .720 and only a half-season of experience above A ball, De Aza batted .354 in the Grapefruit League to snare the starter role at a position that was a major hole for the Marlins going into spring training. After two weeks, he was sitting near the .322 OBP we projected for him, but a stress fracture in his ankle has kept him off the field ever since.
Joakim Soria, rhr, KC -- Soria wasn't on our first disk because he did most of his recent work in Mexico. But he's off to a great start with the Royals, posting a 2.27 ERA in 32 relief appearances.
Joe Smith, rhr, NYN -- Smith is a legitimate prospect who was taken in the third round of the 2006 draft and is ranked 9th in the Mets system by Baseball America. We didn't include him on the March disk because he's so new to professional ball, having pitched 20 dominant innings in low-A and 13 unimpressive innings in AA last year. Like Soria, Smith got off to an excellent start in 2007, tossing 15 scoreless innings before allowing his first run in mid-May. Since then, however, his ERA has been in the fives.
Jay Marshall, lhr, Oak -- This soft-tossing side-arming lefty specialist posted a stunning 1.04 ERA in 62 relief innings in the high-A Carolina League last year. He's been successful throughout his minor-league career, but it took him four seasons just to get out of rookie ball. His lack of experience in the higher minors was the reason we left him off last time around. But the A's jumped him all the way to the big leagues, so they must be impressed with his sub-.400 career OPS allowed against lefties. In the majors, he's been getting lefties out (.617 OPS) but has been pounded by righties (.945 OPS) en route to a 5.60 ERA.
Don Kelly, if, Pit -- Kelly showed enough promise to make our projection disk in past seasons, but he didn't make the cut this time because his career stalled in the high minors and he's gotten a little old to retain his prospect status. His OPS in two AAA seasons is only .620, and this year he batted .154 in 26 atbats before being sent back down.
Brandan Morrow, rhr, Sea -- A very highly regarded prospect, Morrow was taken with the fifth overall pick in last year's amateur draft. The only question is the speed with which he has been promoted. Morrow logged only 16 pro innings last year, and while he was successful, he did walk 9 batters in those 16 innings. In 2007, he's been hard to hit (.236 average, .318 slugging) but has walked 33 in 31 innings.
Sean White, rhr, Sea -- Unlike Morrow, White is not a top prospect, but he does have over 400 innings of pro experience. Still, this was a puzzling choice, because White had a career ERA of 4.00, struggled at AA last year, and had never pitched in AAA. Evidently, he won the job because of a 1.59 spring ERA, but 5 walks and 6 strikeouts in 17 spring innings doesn't impress me much. Before going on the DL a few weeks ago, White's ERA was 7.03 in 24 innings.
Jamie Burke, c, Sea -- Like Castillo, Burke is a veteran backup catcher, but Burke has done most of his work in the high minors, while Castillo has logged over 1000 major-league atbats. Many teams lean toward defense when choosing a backup catcher, but Burke's more of an offensive threat than a catch-and-throw guy. To date, Burke has batted .385 in 52 atbats.
Gary Glover, rhs, TB -- Glover is a 30-year-old pitcher who missed all of 2006. Primarily a starter in the minors and reliever in the majors, Glover has posted career ERAs between 4.50 and 5.00 in both roles and pretty much at all levels. We didn't include him in March because he projected as a replacement-level pitcher. And he's performed at a replacement level with a 5.36 ERA in 42 relief innings.
Matt Kata, super sub, Tex -- You probably saw him first when he had a decent half-season for Arizona in 2003, but his major-league numbers declined slowly from there and he spent most of 2005 and all of 2006 in the minors. In recent seasons, he has added all three outfield positions to his former utility-infielder profile, and that versatility is his biggest asset today. Nevertheless, he was designated for assignment after batting .186 in 70 atbats, elected free agency, and then signed with the Pirates.
Levale Speigner, rhr, Was -- A marginal prospect who is ranked 29th in the Nationals system by Baseball America , Speigner has had a decent minor-league career, mostly in relief. He allowed 14 baserunners in his first 5 innings, settled down to produce a string of good results out of the pen, and then got crushed in six starts - 31 earned runs in 20 innings - to push his ERA to 8.78 at the mid-way point.
Jesus Flores, c, Was -- Flores is a legitimate prospect who is ranked 11th in his team's system by Baseball America and has belted 33 homers in 912 minor-league atbats. So why wasn't he on the March disk? Mainly because he's only 22 years old, and even though his defensive skills are impressive, it's extremely rare for a team to trust a major-league pitching staff to a young catcher with no experience above A ball. (Feel free to insert your own comment about whether the Nationals actually have a major-league pitching staff this year.) A .634 OPS indicates that he still has work to do offensively.
There you have it. Fifteen players who were left off the March disk because they didn't project to be good enough to win a job, didn't have enough experience at higher levels, or played in a foreign league.
With hindsight, we might have been able to make a case for including a couple of these guys, but in my view, none of them was a clear mistake given the information we had in late February.
I’d like to welcome David Pyke to the DMB Tech Support team! Some of you know David by his DMB Forum username of "diesel." David will be taking responsibility for DMB tech support issues so that I can spend more time working on enhancements to the Diamond Mind software. I’ll be working closely with David in his first month or so to train him on our procedures and be sure you receive the same level of service you are accustomed to. Accordingly, since David and I are on opposite sides of the country, please use email as your primary means of communication with us and as your first method of requesting support (firstname.lastname@example.org). This will ensure that your issues are handled in a timely manner. We understand that some issues are more pressing than that, so you can continue to use the 800 number (800-400-4803) when needed. Pat will direct the request to whoever is best suited to respond. I’ll still be involved in tech support, overseeing David’s work and working with him to solve any major issues that may come up.
Diamond Mind Featured in ESPN Headline Stories on the Return of Roger Clemens!
By Charles Wolfson & Luke Kraemer
ESPN asked Imagine Sports what we thought about the return of Roger Clemens and what impact he may have on the Yankees’ hopes of turning the season around. We ran the DMB simulation to produce likely outcomes, and ESPN featured the story on its home page on the day of the Rocket’s return!
You can find the article at http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2898563
- Jim Wheeler