DMB News February 2003

Diamond Mind Email Newsletter

February 20, 2003
Written by Tom Tippett

Welcome to the first edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter for the year 2003. 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:

2003 Projection Disk
Winter mailing
Upgraded Past Seasons (1986, 1987, 1954)
Version 9 update
Park-specific plays
Enhancement requests
2002 team reviews
Foul territory

2003 Projection Disk

Our 2002 projections served us (and hopefully those of you who bought the disk last spring) quite well.

As most of you know, each spring we use the projection disk to simulate the season before it starts. Last year's projections were our best since we began doing this in 1998, as measured by the average difference in projected-versus-actual team wins. Our projected team standings "won" the predictions contest that runs each year for its staff and contributors and ranked 5th in accuracy among the 45 predictions we culled from newspapers, magazines, and web sites. And both of the Diamond Mind staffers who played fantasy baseball last summer won their respective leagues.

Even though it was a very good year, we're going to try to do even better in 2003. We expanded our license for minor-league stats to include left/right splits and catcher throwing statistics, and we're increasing the size of our player pool to include more prospects.

A few details:

- our target for shipping the projection disk is Wednesday, March 12th - it will be available only in version 8 format.

- anyone who buys the 2003 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.

Winter mailing

In the past, we announced the availability of the projection disk in a letter or postcard that was mailed to all registered owners of the game.

Today, with more than half of our customers subscribed to this newsletter and well over half of all orders are being placed through our web store, sending mail to everyone seems like a substantial waste of paper. Instead, we are sending a postcard (with an order form on the back) only to customers who are not already receiving this newsletter.

We realize that some of you may wish to order by mail even though you won't be receiving that postcard. If so, you can call us (800-400-4803) to request an order form or use the printable order form on our web site.

Upgraded Past Seasons (1986, 1987, 1954) now available

For each of the 1986 and 1987 Deluxe Past Seasons, we have added a complete set of player transactions (trades, disabled list moves, promotions, demotions, suspensions and more) and actual starting lineups for every game in the schedule.

The 1954 Classic Past Season now includes games started by position, updated park factors based on a review of all boxscores, updated range and other ratings, and updated manager profiles that reflect the games started by position information.

If you are a registered owners of these season disks, you may be eligible for free upgrades or special upgrade prices. (Season disk upgrade policies)

Version 9 update

We have been working hard on the new features and other improvements that will appear in our upcoming version 9 upgrade, and while we're not yet ready to announce a target ship date, we are ready to BEGIN telling you about the new features. I emphasize the word BEGIN because this is only a partial list of the things we expect to add in version 9.

Our free upgrade period has been in effect since October 1, 2002. Anyone who has purchased version 8 or upgraded to version 8 since that date will receive a free upgrade to version 9 when it is ready.

We've created a version 9 area on our web site that will become the primary place where we announce and explain our version 9 plans. We recommend that you visit that area from time to time. On the web site, we can provide more details, including screen shots where appropriate, than we have space for here.

Without further ado, here is a partial list of the enhancements that are already finished, almost finished, or planned for version 9:

Direct internet play support. In version 9, you can play games head-to-head over the internet without using a third-party product like NetMeeting. We've played games successfully on our office LAN and using different combinations of dial-up and DSL lines. It's fast and flexible. (See our web site for a much more detailed description.)

Encyclopedia. We're also nearing completion on a powerful new encyclopedia function that will enable you to store and report on the results of multiple DMB seasons.

Customizable play-by-play font. In version 9, you'll be able to choose any font family and size for the play-by-play commentary.

Expanded play-by-play. We have improved our play-by-play in several ways. Our engine now shows much more awareness of game situations, prior game events, and relevant statistics. We've added a very large amount of new text to our play-by-play library. And we've begun adding park-specific plays to that library.

Report groups. In version 9, you will be able to create groups of reports that can be generated with a single command.

Expanded HTML support. Additional HTML support combined with the ability to generate groups of reports will make it a lot easier to create web sites for your DMB leagues.

Game log. In addition to the boxscores and play-by-play scoresheets that have always been part of our game, version 9 adds a textual game log similar to those you see on major web sites today.

As was stated before, this is a partial list, and we'll be adding to the version 9 area of the web site as we go forward.

Park-specific plays

We feel we can do a good job of coming up with descriptive plays that reflect the distinct characteristics of many ballparks. But we're convinced that we can do an even better job with your help, so we've created a form on our web site that you can use to suggest new plays that we could add to our library. At the moment, we're most interested in park-specific plays, but you can use this form to submit plays of all types.

Enhancement requests

Our web site now has a form that you can use to request new or improved features. Over the years, we've received a lot of great ideas and suggestions from our customers, and we're always interested in hearing about new ideas.

To save time, both for you and for us, please consider the following before submitting a request through that page:

- we maintain a database of enhancement requests that we use to plan our new releases. If you've made a suggestion (by phone, mail, or email) in the past ten years, it's already in our database, so there's little to be gained by submitting the same request a second time.

- sooner is better than later. While it's much too late for us to add anything big to the version 9 schedule, it's never too late to make small improvements. The sooner we know about an idea, the sooner we can incorporate it into our thinking.

The submission form on our web site has a few more guidelines, but these two are the most important.

2002 team reviews

We decided not to do a full-blown series of team reviews for the 2002 season. Last time we took on the task of writing comments for every team and every player, it took more than 300 hours work to do the entire series. We chose to spend that time adding direct internet support and other new version 9 features.

But most of the time is in the writing, not the assembly of the data, so rather than do nothing at all, we created team reviews with just the data.

For each team, you'll find a capsule summary showing projected versus actual performance (runs for and against, wins, standing) plus offensive and defensive team efficiency measures. Those indicators together with the projected and actual stats for every player will give you some insight into what happened last year and what might be in store for the 2003 season.

Foul territory

At a recent meeting of the Boston chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), someone asked our invited speaker (Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe) about the impact of the two rows of seats that are being added to Fenway Park this year.

The question reminded me that I had done some relevant analysis during the 1988 World Series. That year, the A's squared off against the Dodgers in a pair of parks known for their vast amounts of foul territory. So I decided to update my work and see how the parks compare today.

From 1999 to 2002, play-by-play data from STATS Inc. show that there were an average of 138 foul outs per park per season, 121 on foul popups and 17 on foul fly balls. (For simplicity, I'll refer to them as foul outs, but the numbers include a small number of playable foul balls that were dropped for errors.)

As expected, Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum topped the charts with 186 per year and Dodger Stadium was next with 178 per season. It came as no surprise to find that Fenway was last in the majors with only 5 foul fly balls per season, since there is almost no foul territory in the deeper portions of either foul line. I was surprised, however, to find that Fenway Park was right around the average on foul popups with 124 per season.

Two new rows of seats were added last year, too, though only in the areas near the dugouts, and they may have had an effect. Fenway saw an average of 128 foul popups from 1999 to 2001 but only 111 in 2002. It's hard to know whether the decrease is directly related to the new seats or just a random fluctuation, but let's assume that it was related.

As far as I know, the club is taking the rows that were added last year and extending them. Let's suppose this makes foul territory 10-15% smaller than it was last year. If so, we might see another decrease of 15-20 caught foul popups over a span of 81 home games.

If 20 more foul popups find the seats this year, how much of a difference will that make? Those batters are still going to be retired two-thirds of the time, so the net effect might be another six baserunners in 81 games, or about one a month. And that's the total for both teams.

Of course, the first time the Red Sox lose a game because a foul ball dropped into the new seats and that hitter launches a game-winning homer on the next pitch, someone will complain about the greedy owners who couldn't leave the park the way it was. But it's the same for both teams, and I wonder if anyone will applaud this change when the Sox win a game this way.