DMB News May 2006
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter
May 19 , 2006
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the third 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
Diamond Mind on the web -- Simnasium Total Baseball
Diamond Mind on the web -- STATS Diamond Legends
STATS versus Simnasium
Tech tip -- hosting NetPlay games
In the pipeline
An early look at the 2006 season
The update to the 2006 Projection Disk began shipping a month ago. This update reflects various roster moves and injury reports that took place during March. A handful of new players were created when they surprised us by making their opening day rosters.
It's our biggest projection disk ever, with over 1800 players, including hundreds of top minor-league prospects who have a chance to make an impact, or at least get some big-league playing time for the first time, in 2006.
We are very happy to report that Jim Wheeler is joining the Diamond Mind staff as a full-time employee. Jim has never been an employee of our company, but he has been part of the Diamond Mind family for a very long time as one of the primary developers of our Classic Past Seasons collection.
With Jim on board, we will be able to tackle many projects that have been in our plans for some time. He'll begin by helping us finish off the new All-time Greatest Players Disk.
In addition, Jim will help us support the Simnasium and STATS games, support Diamond Mind customers, accelerate the process of updating our Classic Past Seasons, upgrade Classic seasons from the 1960s and 1970s to Deluxe status using the play-by-play data from Retrosheet, and create new Classic Past Seasons for 1901 through 1926.
These products won't materialize overnight, of course, but we're excited about the prospect of enhancing and adding to our past season collection in the coming months and years, and we're delighted to have Jim as a full-time member of our team.
Last month, a new company called Simnasium launched Total Baseball, an exciting new web-based simulation game built around Diamond Mind technology, and they're making a special introductory offer to Diamond Mind customers.
As the owner of a team in a Total Baseball league, you'll have the opportunity to draft players from a pool of over 3500 historical players; set up and manage your pitching rotation, bullpen, saved lineups, and depth charts; and coax your team through the season and into the postseason.
The games are simulated using a custom version of the Diamond Mind Baseball engine and player ratings created by Diamond Mind. A full range of game accounts (boxscores, game logs, and the play-by-play commentary) and statistical reports will keep you up to date on all the action.
Simnasium offers a wide variety of options for customizing leagues, such as choosing the salary cap, weekly revenue, league rules, era of play, and league settings.
All Diamond Mind customers will receive a special introductory offer of one free team credit to try Simnasium Total Baseball, a buy-one-get-one-free promotion, and a $10 credit toward the first purchase.
To claim your free team, go to www.simnasium.com and register with the user name of your choice, then email REFERRAL@simnasium.com with “Diamond Mind Offer” in the subject line and your new Simnasium user name in the text of the email. The Simnasium Support Team will credit your account with the free team. Later, if you choose to buy a team to take advantage of the other aspects of the offer, email the support team again.
This offer expires on June 30, 2006. To be eligible, you must be a registered owner of Diamond Mind Baseball. If you participated in the Simnasium Beta test or received a free team via another offer, you are not eligible for a free team, but you are still eligible for the other elements of this promotion.
Don't forget that you can also take advantage of Diamond Mind technology by playing Diamond Legends from STATS LLC.
Designed jointly by Bill James, STATS, and Diamond Mind, this game has been entertaining baseball fans since 1992. Since then, it has been updated several times with more players, new game features, an expanded web interface, and new league options.
You can draft from a pool of nearly 4000 players, set up your manager profiles and manipulate them as the season progresses, use your weekly revenue to upgrade your roster and position your team for the stretch drive, and stay up to date through an extensive set of statistical reports and game accounts. The games are simulated using a custom version of the Diamond Mind Baseball engine.
Standard and custom leagues are available, and STATS (www.stats.com) recently launched a new Head-to-Head Tournament option.
Someone is bound to ask us which is better, STATS Diamond Legends or Simnasium Total Baseball. That's your call. Either one could be best for you, depending on what you're looking for in a web-based simulation league. Both of these partners are important to us, and both will receive our full support.
The most common reason why some gamers are unable to host NetPlay games is that their computer connects to the internet through a router that has a firewall blocking NetPlay connections. Most routers are fairly easy to configure for NetPlay hosting by a feature typically called Port Forwarding. This allows Diamond Mind NetPlay messages to pass through the firewall while still blocking all other unwanted Internet traffic.
No two routers are alike when it comes to port forwarding. To learn how to configure your router, a great resource can be found at http://www.portforward.com/routers.htm, which has documentation on approximately 1,000 routers.
After you select your router, you will be presented a list of common Internet games and applications. Scroll down to the section labeled "D" and click on the entry for "Diamond Mind Baseball". That will bring up directions on how to configure your router for Diamond Mind NetPlay traffic.
If those directions aren't enough to get you going, feel free to contact us for support.
Regular readers of these newsletters have noticed that recent editions have included less talk about new products than usual. There's a reason for that, and I'd like to try to catch up on that now.
One of the biggest challenges faced by any small company is balancing the short run with the long run. There is always too much to do, and it's usually easiest to focus on what's right in front of your nose, which often means fighting fires and dealing with short-term issues.
Sometimes, however, it's important to take a step back and lay the foundation for the future. Last summer, we made the decision to shift some of our resources toward projects that won't produce immediate results but, we believe, will be in the best long-term interest of the Diamond Mind community.
We haven't been able to tell you about these initiatives because we've been subject to confidentiality agreements. With the release of the Simnasium Total Baseball game, we can now speak freely about that project, but there are others that will have to stay under wraps until the appropriate time.
A good deal of this work involves taking greater advantage of the internet. Our first step down that path was the relationship with STATS that led to the web-based Diamond Legends game in the 1990s. The second was the release of the NetPlay feature in version 9 that allows DMB owners to play head to head over the net. More recently, we have worked with Simnasium to help launch their new game and with STATS on improvements to Diamond Legends.
How has this affected the other projects we had been working on?
First, when we first decided to upgrade our All-time Greatest Players Disk, our goals were limited to adding a few new players and incorporating the two big-league seasons that had been completed since the first AGP disk was released. Later, customer feedback suggested that it would be better to take time to add roughly 200 more players.
Shortly after that decision was made, we began to work with Simnasium to develop career/peak-period ratings for thousands of players. Many of those players don't qualify as all-time-greats, but some do, and we chose to expand the scope of the AGP update once again.
As a result, the new AGP disk will include at least 600 new players, enough to take the number of teams from 32 to 48. With the ratings work behind us, we're now choosing the new players, organizing them into teams, and creating manager profiles. Our goal is to ship this product before the All-Star break, if not sooner.
Second, our work on the version 9b patch has been stretched out. We're not happy about that. Our hope was to get this done much sooner, and I take full responsibility for the delay. We've never stopped working on that project, and other members of the DMB team have done their part, but there are a few key things that I need to take care of before we're ready to start beta testing this update. We'll do our best to finish those things off very soon.
Third, although we haven't talked about the details, we have been doing a lot of work on version 10 of Diamond Mind Baseball. We know that some of you are looking for details on features and a projected ship date. We're not ready for that yet, but we do want to assure you that version 10 is very much in our plans and that we anticipate the addition of a couple of big ideas and a whole lot of smaller improvements across most areas of the product.
Finally, we have released a number of updated season disks in the past year. That work is ongoing and will only accelerate in the future. As we noted earlier in this newsletter, we now plan to add many new Classic Past Seasons and upgrade our existing past seasons at a more rapid rate.
I started this section by talking about the challenge of balancing the short-run and the long-run. Another challenge faced by all companies is finding the best way to serve a diverse community of customers.
In the Diamond Mind community, there are league members and solitaire players, fans of current seasons and past seasons, people who want us to develop dead ball era seasons and others who couldn't care less about that era, folks who love our projection disks and folks who only want to play with stats and ratings from completed seasons, and so on.
Unfortunately, we cannot do everything all at once without spending a lot more money than we take in, so we have to do our best to find a sustainable long-term plan that balances the short term and the long term and gives everyone at least some of what they want.
We wish we could tell you everything we're working on now, but we can't do that. We will, however, endeavor to keep you posted on everything we can talk about.
We're at the quarter pole in the 2006 season, and it seems like a good time to take a quick look at some predictions and how the real season is tracking against our projections.
As usual, we have compiled a database of predicted team standings, and it's always fun to see what people think before the season starts. Our database currently consists of 51 predictions -- 49 culled from newspapers, magazines, and web sites plus our own simulations and a consensus vote of SABR members.
In the AL East, the expected order of finish is NY-Bos-Tor-Bal-TB, with about 70% of the predictions having the Yankees in first, one brave soul (Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe) picking the Blue Jays, and everyone else picking the Red Sox over New York. Thirteen predictions have Toronto ahead of Boston, but most think the Jays haven't improved enough to crack the top two. Two people actually have Toronto in 4th, behind Baltimore. About 70% have the Orioles fourth, with the other 30% believing they'll finish behind Tampa Bay. Nobody has picked Tampa Bay to finish higher than fourth.
The AL Central predictions were split between the mainstream and the hard core sabermetric community. The mainstream loves the White Sox, while folks like us and Baseball Prospectus see the 2005 team as having overachieved and the 2006 squad as vulnerable. We were among a very small minority that saw the Twins as favorites because of what appeared to be a great pitching staff. Most had the Twins in third. Believe it or not, three people picked Detroit to finish last (behind the woeful Royals) while only one had them as high as second. The consensus of these 51 picks was Chi-Cle-Min-Det-KC.
The AL West consensus was Oak-LA-Tex-Sea, but it was a close call at the top. Oakland had almost twice as many first-place votes as LA, but four had the A's in third place and two even had them in the basement. A very small minority (including us) had Texas second, but most put them in third with Seattle in the cellar.
In the NL East, the Braves are the consensus pick to continue their division-winning streak, but the Mets got a lot of support, too. Again, there's a split between the mainstream, which won't pick anyone other than Atlanta until the Braves actually fail, and the sabermetric community, which seems to put more weight on the Braves' flaws. These predictions see an Atl-NY-Phi-Was-Flo finish, with the vast majority (but not everyone) picking the Marlins last and only one person (Jonah Keri of Baseball Prospectus) picking the Phillies to win the division.
The Cardinals came closest to being a unanimous pick to win their division, but still fell two votes short of perfection. Lindy's picked the Cubs first and St. Louis second, while Keith Woolner of Baseball Prospectus went with Milwaukee and Houston in the top two spots. The next three spots were closely bunched, with the Astros having a slight edge over the Brewers and the Cubs. The Reds were picked by a majority to finish last, but Pittsburgh got their share of last-place picks as well. As a result, this group sees a StL-Hou-Mil-Chi-Pit-Cin finish.
In the NL West, things seem to be wide open. Four of the five teams were picked to win the division by at least one prognosticator. The Rockies were picked last by most, fourth by most of the rest, third once, and second once. In fact, every team was picked in every spot at least once, with only the Dodgers (never picked last) and the Rockies (never picked first) as exceptions. Overall, the consensus is LA-SF-SD-Ari-Col.
Now that we know what people were thinking two months ago, let's take a look at how the season is unfolding so far. From this point on, we'll focus mainly on how the actual results (through May 14) have compared with our preseason simulations.
Scoring is up slightly. It was much higher in the first two weeks of the season but has been trending down since. At this point, scoring is up 2.8% versus our projections and 5.9% versus the average for the entire 2005 real-life season.
Roughly one-third of the teams have posted run margins very close to our projections, where very close means no more than a dozen runs, or slightly more than one win. For example, the Dodgers had scored 13 more runs and allowed 1 more run than expected, for a net gain of 12 runs.
Oddly, many of these teams have actual records that are above or below their projected records because they've diverged from their pythagorean marks. For example, Cleveland has scored 39 more runs than expected and allowed 42 more runs than expected, for a net loss of 3 runs. We projected a run margin of +91 for the season. After 38 games, we would expect them to be at +21 now. They're actually at +18, which would normally produce a 21-17 record through 38 games. But they're actually four games under .500, at 17-21, despite outscoring their opponents.
More than half the teams are within 3 games of the pace they set in our preseason simulations, and that fraction would rise to more than 2/3 if we included teams that fall outside that range only because of pythagorean variations. We'll take the rest of this space to focus on teams that have significantly over- or under-performed so far.
The Tigers are the big surprise. They've been better on both sides of the ball, but 80% of their gains have been in preventing runs. There's nothing special about the walk and strikeout rates of their pitchers, but balls in play have done very little damage. Homeruns allowed are down, and their defense is leading the league in turning batted balls into outs.
We were among those who were surprised when the White Sox ranked only fourth in the AL in runs allowed in our simulations. After all, they rode pitching and defense to a world title only a few months ago. To date, they're allowing runs at exactly the projected rate, but their offense has been 3-4 wins better than expected and they're an additional two wins ahead of their pythagorean record.
In the NL West, Arizona and Colorado are tracking well against our projected offensive numbers, but both teams have allowed about 30 fewer runs. The Giants have been about 25 runs worse on both sides of the ball.
The Cubs are the most disappointing team in baseball relative to our projections. That's partly because they've been without Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Derrek Lee. But that's not the entire story. Aramis Ramirez and Juan Pierre haven't been hitting, and nobody has stepped up to fill in for the missing players.
The next most disappointing team has been the Twins, who have been the mirror image of the Tigers. Both teams are slightly ahead on runs scored, but while the Tigers have allowed 49 fewer runs, the Twins have allowed 52 more. Traditionally a very good defensive team, Minnesota is last in the majors in turning batted balls into outs, but I don't think it's the defense. Their starting pitchers are walking more guys, getting fewer strikeouts, and allowing a lot more homers, so it stands to reason that they're also presenting their defense with a lot of very tough chances.Wrapping up, Oakland, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh are each about two wins worse on both offense and defense.