DMB News August 2006
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter
August 17 , 2006
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the fourth 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.
Topics for this issue:
I'm very happy to report that we have taken an important step to put ourselves in position to develop new features and products that were beyond our reach not too long ago.
A few weeks ago, we accepted an offer to merge Diamond Mind into Simnasium, the company that recently launched an exciting new online game around our simulation engine and our methods for rating players. The merger process was completed earlier this week, and Diamond Mind is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Simnasium.
What does this mean for the future?
In most respects, your experience with Diamond Mind won't change a bit. I will continue to be deeply involved in product development, player ratings and the other work I've always done. All of the Diamond Mind people (Luke Kraemer, Pat Morgan, and Jim Wheeler) are still here and every bit as committed to the Diamond Mind community as they've always been. As a team, we will continue to support and improve the game, we will continue to release new season disks, and we will continue to do the kind of baseball research that has set us apart from other game companies over the years.
In fact, if we had decided to keep this news to ourselves, there's a very good chance that nobody would notice that anything had changed. Our 800 number isn't changing. Pat will still answer the phone when you call. Luke and Jim will still answer your technical questions via email and the DMB forum. Our web site isn't going anywhere. Our 2006 Season Disk will be released at the usual time. And so on.
But we don't want to keep this to ourselves because we believe it is very good news for anyone who wants to see Diamond Mind's products reach their full potential.
In the past few years, as I've thought about where Diamond Mind needs to go and as I've watched various technologies evolve, I've come to realize that we couldn't get there from here by ourselves. We needed a new approach that allowed us to preserve all that's good about Diamond Mind while opening the doors to new opportunities.
With the addition of Simnasium's resources and people to Diamond Mind's existing capabilities, I believe we can enrich the gaming experience in new ways and do so more quickly than we could on our own.
Simnasium is based in Silicon Valley, which means they have ready access to people and companies that have mastered new technologies and platforms that we would be learning from scratch. And they have the financial and management resources to tackle projects that would be too large or too risky for a small company like ours.
As a result of this pooling of resources, the time I've been spending on the mundane administrative tasks that come with owning a business will be freed up for research and technical work.
I've been working with Dayne Myers, Simnasium's founder and CEO, for more than a year, and it was clear from the first time we talked that he had the same passion for baseball and the same commitment to customer service that have been cornerstones of Diamond Mind's approach from the beginning. As a result, I feel very comfortable teaming up with Dayne and his staff as we go forward.
As we make this transition, I've been reflecting on the major milestones in our history. The first commercial version of our game went on the market in 1987. In 1992, I quit my day job and started doing baseball work full time. In 1995, we ended our marketing relationship with Pursue the Pennant and started Diamond Mind. We added pitch-by-pitch in 1997, made the move to Windows in 2000, and added NetPlay in 2004.
Each of those milestones ushered in a new era for our game and the community of gamers who enjoy it. In the years ahead, I believe we'll look back on 2006 as the year of another important and successful transition, one that enabled us to leverage our skills with the resources of a passionate and compatible partner.
If you have questions, feel free to email us or post them on the Diamond Mind forum. We may not be able to answer all of them, but we'll do our best to respond to any concerns you may have and to share our thoughts about the future.
I want to take this opportunity to introduce Simnasium and myself to each of you and talk a bit about why we did this and where we're going. Some of you are already playing our Total Baseball game, which is powered by Diamond Mind.
As a long-time player of Diamond Mind and related online games, I can't overstate how much I love playing this game, a feeling shared by the rest of the Simnasium team.
Last year, as Tom and I began discussing my vision for Simnasium and what we'd like to do with Diamond Mind, my appreciation for the greatness of the game grew even more. Since then, the partnership between the two companies worked so well that it became apparent that we could do even more for both the Diamond Mind Baseball game and Simnasium Total Baseball by forging a closer relationship.
Among other things, by freeing Tom Tippett from managing the business side of things, we'd be able to turn him loose on enhancements to the game. After all, what's a better use of Tom's time -- accounting and marketing, or creating new features, versions, and player ratings for Diamond Mind, and thus by extension for Total Baseball?
For those of you who might be concerned about the future of Diamond Mind's PC-based game, I can tell you that the PC game is an essential part of our business. It powers Simnasium's current game and future versions that are already in development.
As a subsidiary of Simnasium, Diamond Mind will continue to produce, support and market the Diamond Mind Baseball game and related season disks. In many ways, the PC and online games are inseparable, and improvements will be added to both going forward. We can't guarantee that every enhancement will be added to every product, because some things make more sense in one environment or the other, but both product lines will benefit in their own ways.
The new All-time Greatest Players disk is the first example of the benefits of the Simnasium-Diamond Mind partnership. Although most of the player ratings work was done by Diamond Mind, Simnasium's online game provided the impetus to add a much larger number of players than we had originally planned, and their baseball staff made important contributions to the ratings process.
As an illustration about how passionate we are about Diamond Mind, I'd like to relate a story. (I'll avoid getting into details about how many hours we've spent playing –- that's embarrassing!)
When we were incorporating Diamond Mind's play-by-play commentary into Simnasium Total Baseball, I was "watching" a game. I had Don Drysdale working on a 2-0 shutout in a duel with Tom Seaver. Don got himself into a jam, runners on the corners with no out. He had just about worked his way out of it with a pop up and a strikeout and Seaver coming up to bat. "Whew!", I thought, "we're going to get out of this." Then came ...
The 1-1 pitch
Seaver hits a drive
deep to left
Goslin is at the wall
he looks up
Seaver with a 3-run homer
His 3rd home run of the year!
"NO WAY!!!" I screamed and jumped out of my chair. That's crazy! I was about to call Tom and complain, but I calmed down and looked up Seaver's real-life stats. When I saw that he hit 12 dingers in his career and twice hit 3 homers in a season, I sat back in my chair and thought, "Those Diamond Mind guys sure know their stuff. Man, I love this game!"
That's the way we all are here at Simnasium ... life-long baseball nuts who love Diamond Mind and baseball in general. We want to see the game grow and improve, and we think joining forces is the best way to do that for both the PC and online versions.
Your input will always be welcome –- as Simnasium's customers can attest, we share Diamond Mind's belief that customer feedback matters and that you are our best source of ideas and improvements. We look forward to continuing that tradition. This is not just a business to us, it's a labor of love.
Three weeks ago, we began shipping the 2006 edition of the All-time Greatest Players Disk. The first edition, which was released in 2003, was one of our most popular products ever, and one of the most fun for us to work on. This one is even better in many ways.
We've added more than 630 new players, bringing the total to 1760. Last time around, we didn't include anyone whose career fell mostly before 1894, but the 2006 edition includes stars from the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s.
We've also updated the stats and ratings for players who were active from 2003 to 2005 and relaxed the thresholds for earning a rating at a defensive position, so you'll see some existing players with an extra position or two.
The larger player pool allowed us to expand the number of teams from 32 to 48. But even more important than the number of teams is the identity of those teams.
In 2003, we were forced to combine certain franchises that did not have enough players to make an entire team. This time, we were able to create standalone teams for Toronto, Montreal, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Los Angeles (A), Baltimore, Oakland, and San Francisco.
Because of the new players and teams, we developed new manager profiles for every team, added ratings for 16 historical parks (all of which have images available for free download from our web site), updated the ratings for modern parks to reflect the 2003-2005 seasons, organized the teams into two leagues with four divisions, and created two new league schedules.
Even though this version is bigger and better than the 2003 edition, we're holding the price for new customers at $29.95. Registered owners of the 2003 edition can upgrade to the 2006 edition for $17.95.
We've had a longstanding policy of offering free upgrades to people who buy a product in the six months before a related upgrade is released, so anyone who bought the 2003 edition from us after January 1, 2006, can contact us to request a free upgrade.
NOTE: If you've already purchased your copy of the 2006 edition of the AGP disk, please visit our web site to download a patch that corrects a small number of error and passed ball ratings that were incorrectly set. We have corrected our master copy of this product, so new customers will receive the corrected version.
During the all-star break, ESPN.com published an article by Rob Neyer that put forward an all-time all-star team for each league along with Rob's reasons for choosing those players. ESPN asked us to simulate an all-star game between those two teams, using Rob's selections as the starters and filling out the benches and bullpens with his honorable mentions. That simulated all-star game was featured on ESPN.com on Monday, July 10th.
On July 20th, the New England Sports Network (NESN) aired a show called "What IF..." that was based around a Diamond Mind simulation of game seven of the 2003 series between New York and Boston. You might recall that as the game in which Boston manager Grady Little chose to leave a tiring Pedro Martinez on the mound to protect a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning.
In real-life, of course, New York rallied to tie the game before Aaron Boone won it in extra innings. Our task was to determine the most likely outcome in the event that Little had instead summoned Alan Embree from the bullpen to face Hideki Matsui.
NESN took our simulation results and crafted a highly-realistic game telecast using footage of other games between these two teams, commentary from the regular Red Sox announcers (Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy), new on-screen graphics, and a postgame show.
Over the years, we've done a bunch of simulation projects for major newspapers, magazines, web sites, and even a little television, but this was by far the most extensive involvement we've ever had in a television production. If you're interested, you can read more about it in an article on our web site called "Revisiting Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS".
Finally, in Dan Shaughnessy's August 10th Boston Globe column, he wrote about a visit to the home of John Henry, the principal owner of the Red Sox. Here's an excerpt in which Shaughnessy describes Mr. Henry's involvement with our game:
"He tells me of his passion for Diamond Mind Baseball. It's a computer game enabling him to recreate entire seasons using precise mathematical probabilities based on real data. The game allows him to make wild substitutions. True fantasy. He can put Babe Ruth on the 1929 Red Sox and see what would have happened. He can put Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson on the Red Sox of the 1950s and see how that would have worked out. John plays entire seasons on Diamond Mind. He started with 1927 and is working his way forward."
At it happened, I grew up as a fan of the American League during the time when the National League was dominating the All-Star games and was generally regarded as the stronger league.
It wasn't until later that I heard the terms Senior Circuit and Junior Circuit used in reference to the NL and AL, respectively. The Senior-Junior thing makes perfect sense given that the NL is 25 years older than its counterpart. But the terms also seemed to imply a certain superiority, not just seniority, for the NLers.
Two or three winters ago, we noticed that a significant amount of talent was shifting from the NL to the AL via trades and free agency. (I seem to recall writing about that, but I can't find it just now.) The next year, the talent flow seemed more balanced, but last winter saw another influx of talent to the AL.
During the work on the 2006 projections, we began to understand that the AL was becoming a noticeably stronger league than the NL, but we weren't yet at the point of being able to quantify that in any meaningful way.
That changed when a Diamond Mind customer asked us for advice with a little what-if scenario he wanted to run. He was wondering how the Cardinals would do in the AL Central and how the Royals would do in the NL Central if they changed places.
In addition to telling him how to set up that scenario using our 2006 Projection Disk, we decided to run some experiments of our own, and boy were we surprised!
We started by simulating the season 10 times with the customer's scenario, and lo and behold, the Cardinals struggled to an 83-79 record and a third-place finish in the AL Central. This was compared to a 95-67 record in our pre-season simulations using the real schedule. Meanwhile, a very bad KC team rose from a 62-100 record in the AL to a more respectable 74-88 in the NL.
Could the leagues really be that much different?
To learn more, we repeated the experiment with the other two divisions. When we swapped Boston with Philadelphia, the Red Sox ran away with the NL East while the Phillies struggled to stay ahead of Baltimore. When we had the Los Angeles teams trade places, the Angels won the NL West and the Dodgers finished last in the AL West.
The three experiments produced a swing of ten to twelve games in favor of the AL team that was moving to the other league. Ten games is a very big deal, so we immediately began to wonder whether that was a credible result.
This doesn't help us quantify things, but it's worth noting that the AL has dominated the two most talked about forms of inter-league play in the last decade, winning all but one all-star game (with one tie) and seven of the last ten World Series titles, including back-to-back sweeps in 2004 and 2005.
Of greater interest is the recent history of regular-season inter-league play. In 2004, the American League was 2 games over .500 against the NL. In 2005, it was 20 games over .500 against the NL. And in our 2006 simulations, that figure grew to 26 games. In other words, the clues were there, we just didn't pick up on them.
What does it mean for the AL to be 26 games over .500 against the NL? Instead of posting an aggregate record of 126-126 in those contests, the AL would be 139-113. Each AL team would go from an expectation of 9 wins to an expectation of 9.93 wins in those 18 games.
At the time, a gain of .93 wins didn't seem like a big deal. But when you stop to think about it, it really is.
An AL team plays 144 games within the league and 18 games against the NL. Put that team into the NL and it would now play 144 games against NL teams and 18 against the AL. It would get 8 times as many chances to play NL teams, so that gain of .93 wins per 18 games would grow to 7.4 wins in 144 games. And they'd be facing the stronger AL teams less often.
All of a sudden, a ten-game swing seems plausible, and the numbers were right in front of our eyes from the moment we finished our 2006 pre-season simulations. We just didn't notice until someone else came up with the idea to move St. Louis into the AL.
At the time we ran those experiments, the 2006 inter-league schedule had yet to be played. A few months later, when the AL was dominating the NL en route to a 154-98 inter-league record, the media was all over the story. Now everybody's saying that all of the best teams are in the AL.
If the season ended today, the Twins and Red Sox would be out of the playoffs despite being on pace to win about 94 games, while the Reds would be in the playoffs with a record that projects to 84-78. That's partly a function of parity in the NL, but it also reflects the fact that a bunch of wins migrated from the NL to the AL during inter-league play.
The actual 2006 inter-league results suggest an even larger difference between the leagues than our simulation results. That could be real or it could be a small-sample exaggeration. But if you take those results and combine them with 2004 and 2005 inter-league results, our pre-season simulations, our experiments, the AL's all-star game streak, and the fact that the NL hasn't won a World Series game since 2003, it's not a stretch to say that the AL is 10-12 games better right now.
How did that happen? A long time ago, Bill James wrote that teams that feel the need to get better will take steps to do so, while teams that don't will be complacent.
In recent years, AL teams have known they need to get better in order to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox, and they've been willing to spend money and make other changes to do that. Meanwhile, NL teams have had success without breaking the bank, and the Braves continued to win even while cutting their payroll.
Will this continue, and for how long? That's a good question.
To the extent that talent is moving to the AL in return for money (via free-agent signings and salary-driven trades), this can continue until the big-market NL teams decide to match their AL counterparts dollar for dollar.To the extent that mature talent is moving to the AL in return for great young prospects, the seeds for a future reversal may already be germinating in the NL farm systems.
We've made progress on both the version 9b patch and version 10 in recent months, but we're not yet ready to release the patch and we're not ready to begin talking about version 10 in any detail.
We had hoped to have the 9b patch done by now, but that project lost some momentum while we finished work on the All-time Greatest Players Disk and while we went through the very time-consuming process of joining with Simnasium.
Now that we have released the AGP disk and completed the union with Simnasium, all of the obstacles have been removed, and our top priority is the 9b patch. When the last few bits of work are finished, we'll spend a reasonable period of time field testing the patch and then make it generally available through our web site.If you wish to volunteer to help with the field testing, please email Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org. Not knowing how many volunteers will step up, we can't be sure that we'll be able to accommodate everyone, but we'll be grateful for any help that is offered.
- Jim Wheeler