DMB News February 2002

Diamond Mind Email Newsletter

February 21, 2002
Written by Tom Tippett

Welcome to the first edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2002. 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 website.

Topics for this issue:

2002 Projection Disk
ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball
Updated help file available
New article on web site
2001 team reviews
Park images for 1978-1999
Printable order form now on web site
Pitcher hitting in version 8

2002 Projection Disk

We have begun work on the 2002 Projection Disk, and our target for shipping it is Tuesday, March 12th. We plan to ship this disk only in version 8 format.

Anyone who buys the 2002 Projection Disk prior to March 31st will receive two editions of the disk -- the March 12th 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.

There won't be any way to merge the April updates into the first disk, however, so if you start a league or a season preplay with the first disk, you'll have three choices when the update comes out -- start over with the updated disk, keep going with the first disk without making any changes, or manually integrate the updates into the first disk and continue.

After the first disk is issued, we may need to create a few new players if some long shots make the opening day rosters, and we'll be updating 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 any players included in the March edition.

ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball, in conjunction with STATS Inc., recently added ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball to their lineup of fantasy baseball products, and Diamond Mind is proud to be supplying the simulation technology used in that game.

Your challenge is to assemble a winning roster from a pool of about 4000 of the best players in history and then guide that team through a 162-game season against 11 other franchises.

After your team is drafted, you'll set up a manager profile with your starting rotation, bullpen assignments, starting lineups against left- and right-handed pitching, platoons, defensive subs, and manager tendencies.

The games are simulated using a custom version of the Diamond Mind Baseball game. Your team plays three games a day, six days a week, so the regular season lasts nine weeks. Two weeks of postseason play determine the league champion.

Your budget is $50 million, but superstars command salaries close to $10 million, so you can't just load up on great players. Instead, you'll have to use your baseball knowledge to put together a strong mix of stars, solid regulars, and role players.

Full career stats for all players are readily available on the ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball web site, so you don't need to have an encyclopedia in your head to do well in this game.

And you can easily follow your team's progress, because ESPN Classic Fantasy Baseball presents boxscores and a ton of statistics through a collection of easy-to-access web pages.

Player performance is based on career stats and ratings that were developed by Bill James with help from Diamond Mind and STATS Inc.

Updated Help file available

We recently updated the version 8 Help file to correct a few typos and include a new tutorial on the various ways you can set up leagues in Diamond Mind Baseball.

If you are already comfortable with using the Organizer to (a) move teams, players, eras, and parks from one database to another and (b) assemble those items into a new league or organization, it's probably not worth the effort to download the updated Help file.

But if you're new to the game or have been looking for some guidance on these features of the game, the updated Help file is available as a free download from our web site.

Many thanks to Mark Travis for his work on the new tutorial.

New article on web site

While researching the 1978 through 1981 seasons last year, we came across some fascinating stories about the business of baseball during that period. Our most recent article, Winters of Discontent, tells some of those stories and relates them to the turmoil of the past three months.

2001 team reviews

We decided not to do a full-blown series of team reviews for the 2001 season. Last year, it took more than 300 hours work to do the entire series, and this year we're investing that time in other projects that will create new features and new products that we'll be releasing in the next year.

But most of the time is in the writing, not the assembly of the data, so rather than do nothing at all, we have created team reviews with the projected and actual statistics and no commentary.

Our current plan is to resume doing full team reviews next winter.

Update on park images for 1978-1999

In our December newsletter, we mentioned that we are working on more than 30 new park images that would extend our coverage to include all stadiums used from 1978 to 1999 and that these images would be available for free download from our web site sometime during the offseason.

We're making good progress and expect to be able to add those images to the site within the next 3 weeks.

Printable order form now on web site

If you prefer to order by mail and you don't have a current order form handy, you can now print one from our web site. To do so, click on Order on the banner at the top of our home page, and when the How to Order page appears, click on Printable order form.

Pitcher hitting in version 8

Prior to version 8, Diamond Mind Baseball used a somewhat simplified model for pitcher hitting. In those earlier editions, there were a limited number of categories that a pitcher could be assigned to for hitting purposes, and those categories determined how well a pitcher would hit.

The improved model in version 8 provides each pitcher with his own set of batting ratings, enabling us to more accurately reflect the ability of some of the better-hitting pitchers and to provide a full set of ratings for old-time players who routinely pitched and played a position during the same season.

This new approach is indeed more accurate, but it also increases the possibility that managers in Diamond Mind leagues might try to take advantage of 20/20 hindsight and regularly use good-hitting pitchers as pinch hitters, even though they were never or rarely used this way in real life.

Before you try this yourself, be aware that we do some aggressive smoothing when we generate the ratings that govern the hitting performance of pitchers. If a pitcher goes 2-for-3 with a homerun (that's a .667 average and a slugging percentage of 1.667), we don't rate him to perform at anywhere near that level. He gets credit for hitting well in those three plate appearances, so he's rated better than the average pitcher, but he doesn't suddenly become a great hitter based on those three atbats. So DMB managers cannot abuse the game by taking advantage of statistical flukes like this.

On the other hand, when a starting pitcher (like Mike Hampton in 2001) has a terrific offensive year and sustains that performance over 80 or 100 atbats, our system does rate him to be a very good hitter, one who would be valuable as a pinch hitter. As a result, Diamond Mind leagues may wish to consider adopting rules to limit the pinch hitting appearances for pitchers like Hampton.

There's no way to know whether Hampton would have continued to slug .582 if he'd been given 100 pinch hitting opportunities between starts, as some Diamond Mind manager might do. His real-life manager didn't see this as a sure way to get an edge -- in 2001, he was used as a pinch hitter only three times and was 0-for-2 with a walk in that role. But he will be a good pinch hitting candidate in DMB leagues. And, of course, if he's not in Coors Field in your league, he's not likely to match his real-life numbers anyway.

Nevertheless, we suggest that leagues take some time to think about whether to permit frequent pinch hitting by pitchers who were not used that way in real life. Perhaps pitchers should be subject to the same playing time limits you place on hitters in your league. Whatever you decide, it may help prevent some controversy and hard feelings if you discuss this issue now instead of waiting until your season is underway.