DMB News January 2006

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Diamond Mind Email Newsletter

January 24, 2006
Written by Tom Tippett

Welcome to the first edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2006. 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.

If you don't wish to receive these messages in the future, please send an email response with the subject line "unsubscribe". We'll immediately remove your email address from the list. And if you know someone who would like to subscribe to this newsletter, we'll be happy to add them to the mailing list if they send us an email message with the subject line "subscribe" and their name and street address in the body of the message.

Topics for this issue:

2006 Projection Disk
2006 Bill James Handbook
In the pipeline
Unlikely homeruns

2006 Projection Disk

We're now taking advance orders for the 2006 Projection Disk, which is scheduled to begin shipping on March 9th. It will include more than 1600 players and will be released in both version 8 and version 9 formats.

Anyone who buys the 2006 Projection Disk prior to March 31st will receive two editions of the disk -- the March 9th edition and a free update in early April that reflects the opening day rosters and events from the remainder of spring training. After March 31st, you'll receive only the April edition.

After the first disk is issued, we'll create a few new players if some long shots make the opening day rosters, and we'll update the rosters and manager profiles to reflect late player moves. But we don't plan to make any changes that would affect the performance of players included in the March edition.

2006 Bill James Handbook

Don't forget to order your copy of the 2006 Bill James Handbook. The regular edition is only $17.95 and the convenient lays-flat-on-your-desk spiral-bound edition is just $21.95. Hardly a day goes by when we don't reach for the Handbook as part of our work.

Among the many great features are career registers for every active player, including minor-league stats for players with little big-league experience; complete 2005 fielding statistics; expanded pitcher stats that include hitting, fielding, and holding runners; park factors and rankings; left/right splits for all batters and pitchers; conventional and sabermetric leader boards; team standings, augmented by many team performance splits; and team rankings for batting, pitching and fielding.

NOTE: Because of the added weight, first-class and air mail shipping rates are not available for orders including this book. Priority Mail and Overnight shipping rates are available.

In the pipeline

Since the last newsletter, most of our time and energy has gone into the 2005 Season Disk and the 2006 Projection Disk, but we've also made a lot of progress on several other season disk projects.

The 1973 Classic Past Season has been updated to include real-life transactions and/or game-by-game lineups. We have a little more testing to do, but we expect this updated season to begin shipping by the end of January. Several other CPS updates are underway and should begin shipping next month. Details will be announced in a few weeks.

We've also made a lot of headway on our update to the All-time Greatest Players Disk. As we've noted in this space in the past, we're in the process of adding several hundred players to the disk and updating the ratings and stats to reflect the real-life seasons that have been completed since the first edition of the AGP was released.

Unlikely homeruns

Ask even the most casual baseball fan the question, "Who are the worst hitters in the game?", and they'll quickly respond, "Pitchers, of course."

The numbers bear that out. In 2005, pitchers batted .146 as a group, and they didn't exactly tear things up in categories other than batting average. They doubled only once every 47 atbats and needed almost 300 atbats per triple. They struck out more than ten times for every walk. When they made contact, they hit the ball on the ground far more often than did position players.

In the midst of this ineptitude, however, pitchers managed to bang out 21 homeruns. That's not an impressive rate, to be sure. It's only one every 269 atbats, a rate that is 88% below the norm for non-pitchers. But it's still 21 homers from the worst hitters in the game.

I can already hear the skeptics saying, "Yeah, but there are a handful of good-hitting pitchers out there, and maybe they account for most of those 21 homers." Maybe. Or maybe not.

One of them was hit by Mike Hampton, a very-good hitting pitcher who entered 2005 with 14 career homers in 639 atbats, though 10 of those were in his two seasons with the Rockies. Livan Hernandez, another good-hitting pitcher, clouted two homers in 2005 to push his career total to 7 in 564 atbats. Six other homers were notched by pitchers who came into the season with a career homerun rate that fell somewhere between the norm for position players and the norm for pitchers.

In other words, 9 of the 21 homers were hit by guys who had previously shown a bit more power than the average hitter. Greg Maddux hit one, too, giving him five for his career, though his previous rate of one every 333 atbats was actually below average for pitchers. The other 11 were chalked up by guys who had never hit one before.

Why are we writing about this now?

Because the topic that won't die has popped up on the DMB forum again. Every year or two, we find ourselves responding to someone who wonders why players who never homered in real life can sometimes hit one out in a DMB game.

The gamers who raise this question appear to believe that never means never. Their view is that if something never happened in a real-life season, it should not be allowed to happen in a simulation involving players from that season.

We disagree.

Reason number one is that it would change how you manage a game. If you were facing a hitter with no real-life homers, and you knew that we rate these players so that they have no chance of hitting one out, you could take advantage of that knowledge when choosing tactics. Real-life managers don't have that luxury. They know that a homerun is very unlikely but not impossible.

Reason number two is that just because something didn't happen in a particular season doesn't mean that it couldn't happen if that season was played over again.

Consider Scott Podsednik. In 568 plate appearances during the 2005 regular season, he had no homers and only one triple. On that basis, some gamers would say that we should rate Podsednik so that he could never hit a homer and have very little chance to triple. And, yet, in 49 postseason atbats Podsednik had 2 homers and 3 triples. If we had simulated the playoffs based on his 2005 regular season stats and a rating method that made it impossible for him to go over those numbers, what he actually did in real life would have been impossible in DMB.

And consider the pitchers we wrote about earlier. There were 229 pitchers who (a) had at least one atbat prior to 2005, (b) had never homered before 2005, and (c) had at least one atbat in 2005. These players combined for 15034 homerless atbats through 2004. In 2005, they hit 11 balls out of the park.

Those are real-life examples, but we can also construct a hypothetical scenario that illustrates this point.

Suppose you've got 100 position players who would normally be expected to hit 2 homers per season. And let's suppose that by chance, in one particular season, 20 of them don't hit any, 20 hit one, 20 hit two, 20 hit three, and 20 hit four. That's an average of 2 per player, just as you would expect.

Now suppose these 100 guys play another season with no changes in their innate ability or the conditions in which they play. By definition, all of them go into that second season with the expectation of hitting two homers. It doesn't matter that some are coming off a zero-homer season and others are coming off a four-homer campaign.

Chances are the 20 guys who hit zero the first year would hit a total of 40 the second year. Forty homers by guys who didn't hit any the season before might seem like a lot to some people, but by definition, it's right on the money for this population of players.

When a guy hits zero in real life, we can't tell whether he really had no chance to hit a homer or whether he had some chance but just didn't happen to hit any, perhaps because he was unlucky enough to hit his deepest balls in the most spacious parks or just didn't play enough to get that first one. We believe the latter is true far more often than the former.

Now suppose you had 100 guys rated to hit 20 homers each. Let's assume that in one particular season, 20 of them hit 18, 20 of them hit 19, and so on up to 22. Just like our pool of two-homer players, 20% of them come in two below the target, 20% come in two above the target.

Nobody would think twice about this. Nobody would look at a guy who hit 20 homers in real-life and be shocked if he hit 22 in a simulated season. So why should we be surprised when a guy with zero hits two in a replay?

Some of the least likely real-life homeruns occur when the situation is most favorable. Perhaps you've got a homer-prone pitcher on the mound and the wind is blowing out in a homer-friendly park. In fact, five of the pitchers who notched their first career homers in 2005 hit those bombs in Cincinnati or Arizona, two of the NL's top homerun parks.

On occasion, you're going to encounter favorable circumstances in your DMB games, too, and sometimes a guy is going to do something he's never done before. Maybe he always had it in him but just hadn't shown it yet, or maybe the situation was so favorable that he was able to do something he wouldn't otherwise be able to do.

That's why we decided to allow all players to have at least some chance of hitting a homer in DMB games, even if the probability is very low.

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