Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Offense vs. Defense

Dave Cameron at FanGraphs writes about the Blue Jays adding Tulo to a lineup that already scores the most runs: "There are no diminishing returns to scoring more runs; there is no point on offense to where the marginal value of a run scored is worth less than preventing a run from being allowed on defense."

This is an excellent article with lots of research, so I hate to nitpick. But the above statement isn't true. For any team that scores more runs that it allows (which includes pretty much every team that makes the playoffs), preventing a run is more valuable than scoring an additional run.

It's because of the Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball, which states that the ratio of a team's wins to losses corresponds to the ratio of their runs scored to runs allowed (actually, to the SQUARE of these numbers, but that's not essential to this analysis).

Take a team that's on pace to score 600 runs and allow 550 runs. Their ratio of wins to losses should be (600 x 600) : (550 x 550) or 3600:3025. Or, to put it another way, their winning percentage should be:

(600 x 600) / (600 x 600) + (550 x 550) = .543
(that's a record of 88-74 over a 162-game season)

Let's imagine they have a choice to add a hitter that will give them 50 extra runs, or add a pitcher than will prevent 50 runs.

After adding the hitter, they score 650 runs but still allow 550. Their new projected winning percentage is:

(650 x 650) / ((650 x 650) + (550 x 550)) = .583 (94 wins)

After adding the pitcher, they still score 600 runs but now they allow only 500. Their new projected winning percentage is:

(600 x 600) / ((600 x 600) + (500 x 500)) = .590 (96 wins).

That's a difference of two wins. This may not sound like a lot, but the difference between making the playoffs and going home has averaged just 1.5 games in the American League over the last 4 seasons.

The interesting thing about this fact is that it doesn't matter if you are a great offensive team or a mediocre one. As long as you are a good team, one that scores more runs than it allows, it's always more valuable to prevent a run than to score a run.

And ... for fans of the Red Sox or Phillies ... the reverse is also true. If you are allowing more runs than you are scoring, you will improve your team more by adding offense than by adding the equivalent amount of defense.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MLB licensing and the First Amendment

Fans often ask how Baseball Mogul is able to use team names and player names without securing a license with either the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) or Major League Baseball (MLB). As this topic of discussion has come up again over at Steam, I am re-posting the information here.

Under United States law, fantasy sports games and computer games have a right to use team and player names and statistics, protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and no license is required to enjoy this right.

This right was unambiguously upheld in the case of C.B.C. Distribution v. Major League Baseball (United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, 2006).

The judges ruled unanimously "that the First Amendment applies to fantasy baseball games, so that even if the players and teams did have a right of publicity in their names and playing records, game developers and publishers would have a free speech right to use them".

Major League Baseball appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but were denied a writ of certiori, leaving the 8th District Court's ruling as the law of the land.

I am not a lawyer. I just know that we have followed that ruling for the last 9 years, and our own legal counsel strongly affirms that we are well within the law.

Why does FIFA still exist?

I know the one reason why the NFL still exists -- because they own the team names. Roger Goodell can make a complete fool of himself as the CEO of a non-profit corporation and still take home more money than 2,800 Wal-Mart employees, because he gets paid by 32 billionnaires who own the rights to the 32 very popular team logos.

Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski could go start a new league and take all the players with them. But they would be playing for the New England Regulars or the Boston Minutemen. I could argue that the players would eventually win out -- that the fan base would switch from watching scrubs in NFL uniforms to star players on teams with new names (in new stadiums, in many cases). But it's a heavy lift and a huge risk for hundreds of players who worked all their lives just to get to the NFL.

The same is true for the MLB, NBA and NHL. You can't succesfully form a players' league because, at the end of the day, fans root for laundry.

But FIFA ... I don't get why they still exist. They don't own any teams or stadiums. They don't own "world cup" and they don't even control the Laws of the Game (that responsibility falls to the International Football Association Board).

And the logos that they own the trademarks to look like they could have been designed by a 7th grader:


Without FIFA, you can still have the World Cup and the European Championship every four years. Brazil and Germany and England would all still have national teams. The Premier League and La Liga and the Bundesliga would all continue without a hitch (and they could even stop worrying about the 2022 World Cup taking a huge chunk out of their seasons). Many fans of Arsenal and Barcelona and Man-U probably wouldn't even notice if FIFA just disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow.

Unlike the NFL, which sets up a struggle between the teams and the players, soccer's constant battle is one with the teams, players and countries all aligned against FIFA's mismanagement, corruption and ridiculous sexism.

I don't get it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Baseball Mogul Diamond: Head-To-Head Records

I just got an email from a customer suggesting that we show head-to-head records between each team during the season. Well, Baseball Mogul already does that (and we've made some improvements with Baseball Mogul Diamond). So here's a quick primer for anyone who wasn't aware of the "Head-To-Head" button on the Calendar Screen:

Near the top of the Calendar Screen is a rectangle with the words "Head-To-Head". It doesn't really look like a button, but it is.

Clicking the button brings up the head-to-head records for every team, divided by league (and with a section for "Interleague Play", if applicable). An example of just the National League is shown here:

My team (the Cubs) are shown in blue. Our record against Cincinnati was 5-14. We went 4-2 against Colorado, 2-5 versus the Dodgers, and so on.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Baseball Mogul’s League Builder Feature

Although we are busy working on Baseball Mogul Diamond, we often get questions asking about existing features in Baseball Mogul. I got an email yesterday asking if it was possible to "combine teams from different years".

It is possible. It's called the "League Builder" and it's one of the primary ways you can customize your league. The League Builder lets you build a league with any team from the 1901 season through the present day. To access this feature, you first must choose to “Start a New Game” in Baseball Mogul. Then select “Custom” (as shown below):

After selecting the “Custom” option, you will be prompted with four more choices to build a league. Choose the “League Builder”:

The League Builder consists of a dialog box that lets you select any season and any team from that season. Then click "Add Team >>" to add that team to your league.

Continue until your league is complete. You can use teams from all different years, or have a few from the same year. You can even pick 30 different years from the same franchise, letting you test which year was the best team for any select organization, like this:

The League Builder supports leagues as small as four or as large as thirty. When you finish selecting the teams of your choosing, click “Done” and the league will finish setting up, after which you’ll be able to play with or against your favorite teams of all time from year to year.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Baseball Mogul Diamond: The "Skip" Button

Baseball Mogul gives you multiple ways to manage players in the last year of their contract (including those eligible for arbitration). The easiest way is to select "Expiring Contracts" in the Sortable Stats Dialog (on the Team Menu):

Then open the player's Scouting Report and click the "Negotiate" button:

However, if you still have expiring contracts at the end of the season, the game will force you to sign or release each of your players. This is frustrating, because you have to decide (for example) whether to sign Jon Lester before you know how much Felix Doubront is going to ask for in arbitration.

So ... we are adding a "Skip" button for Baseball Mogul Diamond.

It's a small feature, but for folks (like me) who wait until the end of the year to deal with expiring contracts, it makes it easier to keep your best players and still stay within your payroll budget.

Monday, January 19, 2015

9 Random Thoughts On Deflategate

1. Even though it rhymes, "deflategate" is a boring name. We should call it "ballgate".

2. The NFL requires that balls be inflated to a pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. If you inflate a ball to 13.0 psi in an 85-degree room and then take it outdoors on a 50-degree day, the pressure will drop below 12.2 psi.

3. Aaron Rodgers claims that the refs themselves actually take air out of the balls. Weird.

4. The rule specifies that the refs check the balls exactly two hours and fifteen minutes before the game. As shown above, a team could inflate the balls with hot air and just let them deflate. This would appear to not violate the rules, although one could argue that it violates the spirit of the rules.

5. "The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications" and "the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game." In other words, if the balls weren't properly inflated at halftime, any blame should fall on the Referee.

6. Troy Aikman has officially lost it, as proven by his absurd claim that "deflategate" is a more serious offense than "bountygate".

7. During the press conference on ESPN, Belichick came across as somewhat credible. However, when I listen to just the audio, I can hear serious stress in his voice. If I had to bet, I'd put my money on "Bill is lying". I don't think he ordered it, but he is so detail-oriented that I'm sure he was aware of the possibility that his staff might be doing something like this on a regular basis.

8. Nevertheless, I think it's unlikely we'll find any hard evidence against Brady or Belichick.

9. Regardless of how this turns out, the NFL should reduce the amount of air in the ball anyway. This would do three things:
  • Increase receptions and interceptions (and decrease incompletions). This would increase offense and scoring, and also increase the excitement and drama that comes from interceptions and pick sixes. These are all good things.
  • Decrease fumbles. If fumbles went down by 40%, we would see teams shifting away from "average running backs who rarely fumble" (like BenJarvus Green-Ellis) and back towards dynamic superstars (like Barry Sanders). Again, this is good for the game.
  • Decrease field goals. Flatter balls are harder to kick. The NFL has been bending themselves in knots trying to cut down on field goals, from changing where to put the ball after a missed field goal to fucking up the overtime rules. It would be much easier to just deflate the balls a bit.