Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Head-to-Head Stats in Baseball Mogul

When I posted some news last week about Baseball Mogul Diamond, one of the responses was a request to add "hitter/pitcher results vs. each pitcher/hitter and hitter/pitcher results vs. each team".

As it turns out, we've been tracking player-vs-player and player-vs-team results since 2007. So here's some info in case you didn't know how to access this feature:

1. On the charts tab in the Scouting Report, click on the gray box that shows what is currently being displayed (batting average, 2 outs, etc.) and you will get a dialog box that lets you choose vs-player or vs-team:

2. Stats by each team's lineup versus the other team's pitchers are shown at game start (when selecting a starter or adjusting the lineup). For example, this screen shot shows a player comparing the career performance of two pitchers against the Yankees:

3. During game play, head-to-head stats are shown under the batter's scouting report.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Baseball Mogul Diamond

Last week, I promised some news about Baseball Mogul to our newsletter subscribers. I haven't been able to pull together any screenshots, but I can let you know about some new developments, with more information to come over the next 3 months.

We're changing the name, sort of.

In early 1998, we launched a game called Baseball Mogul 99 (instead of the more accurate "Baseball Mogul 98"). This numbering scheme was chosen by our publisher, and matched other sports games, but it has since led to confusion because "Baseball Mogul 2015" includes rosters for 2014, with player stats through 2013.

So, the next version, including stats through the 2014 season, will not be called Baseball Mogul 2016. It will be called Baseball Mogul Diamond. The logic behind this name is that we have four notable areas of new features:

(1B) Rule 5 Draft / 40-Man Roster

Every December, the league conducts the Rule 5 Draft, giving teams the chance to acquire certain players from other organizations, if that team hasn't protected that player by putting him on their 40-man roster. (The 40-man roster also has other implications, such as affecting when a player acquires "options".)

Baseball Mogul Diamond now tracks each team's 40-man roster, and we are currently implementing the Rule 5 Draft.

(2B) New Roster Rules

Baseball Mogul Diamond includes up-to-date roster rules and regulations, matching those set out by the most recent collective bargaining agreement (CBA), such as:

Players can now be traded after the trading deadline, if they go "through waivers". This means that all the teams not involved in the trade are given the right to claim the player, if they are willing to take on that player's salary.

(That's the short summary. The real rules are more complicated and take into account each team's record and which league they are in, and limit the number of times that a player may be put on waivers in each month.)

Free Agent Compensation
When teams lose players to free agency (after giving that player a "qualifying offer") they are entitled to additional picks in next amateur draft as compensation.

When any player is first placed on any team's 40-man roster, he receives three "options". Each option gives his team the right to remove him from the 40-man roster in order to send him to the minors (including the right to call him up and send him down multiple times in the same season). When a player is "out of options", he must pass through waivers anytime he is sent down.

Many of you don't want these roster rules to slow down game play or make it more complicated. So, we have added a new "Roster Rules" dialog that lets you customize this feature.

(3B) Improved Simulation Model

Specifically, we have worked on three main areas:

Hitter/Pitcher Characteristics
Baseball Mogul already tracks the type, location and result of every pitch, making it possible to create charts like this:

For Baseball Mogul Diamond, you can edit each player's "hot" and "cold" zones (and we are trying to incorporate eight years of PITCHf/x data, so that we have the actual hitting and pitching strengths and tendencies for most of the current active players).

In-Game Results
We have added more uncommon plays to the simulation engine, to better reflect baseball's the variety and unpredictability.

Improved Aging Model
This includes many small changes, but the most visible is the fact that players now move "down the defensive spectrum" as they age. Bill James first defined the defensive spectrum in the 1980s, creating a list of positions from the least difficult (on the left) to the most difficult (on the right):

The best offensive players are usually found closer to the left side of the spectrum. (Note that before about 1930, 3B was actually between CF and SS).

As players age, they tend to move from the more difficult defensive positions (on the right) to the least difficult (on the left). For example:

  • Rod Carew played 2B until age 29, then moved to 1B.
  • Craig Biggio was drafted as a catcher, but moved to 2B at age 24 and moved the outfield at age 36.
  • David Ortiz started his career at 1B, then slowly shifted from being a DH in about 15% of his games to starting at DH 97% of the time.
  • etc.

(Home) New General Manager AI (Artificial Intelligence)

To bring it all "home", we're rewriting the general manager AI so that computer-controlled teams draft, sign, re-sign, release and trade players more realistically. The "Tradezilla" engine had some flaws that needed to be fixed, and the AI had other weaknesses. For example, it was common for a team to sign (or trade for) a star player, only to let him rot on the bench because the team already had a great player at that position. Teams also have serious problems with cash and salary management, among other things.

So ... the new roster rules described above required that we create much more comprehensive GM AI, and has also allowed us to fix existing problems. As many of you have noted, the addition of the roster rules solved some of the problems for us. For example, the 40-man roster and Rule 5 Draft help prevent a team from warehousing talented players in the minors.

Other Features

We have some other items in the works, but we aren't yet sure if they will be ready for prime time. It's also worth noting that we will still include updated stats and rosters, even though we don't have a season number in the game's title.

Stay tuned for more info!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Miss You, Jonas Gray

As a Patriots fan, I loved watching Jonas Gray overpower the Colts in Indianapolis. On Sunday, Gray become the first running back since the Great Depression to rush for as many touchdowns as the rest of the league combined.

However, as a Patriots fan, I already miss Jonas Gray. That's because I know that he won't be here for long. Unlike Tom Brady, he's not going to retire in a Patriot's uniform. Bill Belichick doesn't keep running backs around for long (unless he can use them in the passing game, like Shane Vereen or Kevin Faulk).

Remember LeGarrette Blount? Of course you do. He also ran for four touchdowns in one game, also against the Colts. In the playoffs! Two months later he signed with the Steelers.

Belichick feels, perhaps correctly, that today's running game is about power blocking and play-calling, not about star running backs. This means that he can pick Jonas Gray off the scrap heap and turn him into a star. Belichick also knows that running backs get old fast. Put these two facts together and it means that we probably won't be seeing Jonas Gray in a Patriots uniform next year.

Jonas, I miss you already!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Failed Fielder's Choice"

Looking for some feedback on official scoring. Imagine the following:

Play #1:
No outs. Lorenzo Cain on 1B. Eric Hosmer batting.
Jed Lowrie fields a ground ball in the hole and appears to have enough time to get Hosmer out at 1B.
Instead, Lowrie throws to 2B to successfully force out the lead runner.

The above is a "fielder's choice". Section 10.00 of the MLB rules is pretty clear about how the above situation is scored.

Play #2:
No outs. Lorenzo Cain on 1B. Eric Hosmer batting.
Jed Lowrie fields a ground ball in the hole and appears to have enough time to get Hosmer out at 1B.
Instead, Lowrie throws to 2B in an attempt to keep the runner out of scoring position. But the throw is late and everybody is safe.

I often refer to this as a "failed fielder's choice" to avoid confusion with the result of Play #1.

Play #2 is also a fielder's choice because Section 2.00 states: "FIELDER'S CHOICE is the act of a fielder who handles a fair grounder and, instead of throwing to first base to put out the batter-runner, throws to another base in an attempt to put out a preceding runner."

It also can't be recorded as a hit. Rule 10.05(b)(4): "The official scorer shall not credit a base hit when a ... fielder fails in an attempt to put out a preceding runner and, in the scorer's judgment, the batter-runner could have been put out at first base"

Therefore, I believe the following to be true:

1) The shortstop is NOT charged with an error.
2) The batter is credited with an at-bat.
3) The batter is NOT credited with a hit.
4) The pitcher is credited with a batter faced (and an "opponent at bat", such as for calculating "opponent batting average").
5) The pitcher is not credited with a "hit allowed".
6) The pitcher IS credited with a "ground ball out" (as used in the calculation of "GO/AO").

(I realize some of these aren't official stats, but I'm hoping to find some agreement about non-official stats.)

However, imagine the following:

Play #3:
No outs. Bases empty. Jeff Samardzija walks Lorenzo Cain.
Fernando Abad relieves Samardzija.
Eric Hosmer batting.
Jed Lowrie fields a ground ball in the hole and appears to have enough time to get Hosmer out at 1B.
Lowrie throws to 2B in an attempt to keep the runner out of scoring position. But the throw is late and everybody is safe.
Billy Butler hits a 3-run homer.

My interpretation:
Cain is charged to Samardzija as an earned run.
Hosmer and Butler are charged to Abad as earned runs.
(If Cain had been successfully forced out, Hosmer would be charged to Samardzija.)

So ... Abad gets credit for a ground out, and then gets tagged with an earned run for the guy who "grounded out".

Is this correct?



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Football Mogul 15: Player Photos

FYI, here's a sneak peak at the new player photos in Football Mogul 15 (available September 5th).

Last year we had about 800 photos. This year we have 1,425.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Football Mogul 15 Launches September 5th

Football Mogul 15 will go on sale at SportsMogul.com on September 5th, the day after the start of the NFL season.

Leading up to the release, here's an example of the new Scouting Report:

The big change in this year's version is a switch from a stat-based simulation engine to one based on ratings. For example, in the past, you could pretty much only compare receivers according to their "Receiving" rating -- which was based primarily on projected Receiving Yards for the upcoming season.

This year, we have 26 different ratings for each player, with the ability to edit the ratings directly (instead of trying to get the desired results by editing stats).

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fixing the NBA Draft

On May 20th, almost three million people tuned in to watch the NBA Draft Lottery. That's right -- more people watched this year's NBA Draft Lottery than have attended Miami Heat games since they signed LeBron James.

The draft lottery consists of twelve ping-pong balls getting pulled from a spinning plastic drum. But the really pathetic thing is that we don't even get to see the balls bounce around. The ping-pong balls are drawn off-camera, and then the results are put in an envelope. And then three million Americans turn on their TV to watch the envelopes get opened.

It's like bingo, but worse. It's like waiting for your grandmother to go play bingo. Then, when she gets home, asking her what happened. As an American, that makes me sad. We have nothing better to do than watch a TV show that reveals, second-hand, the results of "Bingo For Billionaires".

The good news is that we can fix it. We don't have to allocate draft picks like a church pastor calling out bingo numbers. We can replace the NBA Draft Lottery with the NBA Draft Tournament.

The NBA Draft Tournament

Instead of putting all 14 non-playoff teams into a big bucket and playing bingo, we put all 14 teams into a single-elimination tournament bracket. All the excitement of March Madness, but with the future of your favorite NBA team resting in the balance.

Here's how it works:

1) Divide the 14 non-playoff teams into two brackets containing 7 teams each (one bracket for each conference).

2) In each bracket, the teams with the most regular-season wins play each other in a 1-game playoff. The loser goes home and the winner advances to play the team with the next best regular-season record.

3) Continue until you have one winner from each conference. These two teams play for the #1 pick.

4) Award the remaining picks according to how far each team advanced in the NBA Draft Tournament.

For example, these are what the brackets would have been for the 2014 NBA Draft Tournament:

Western Conference
Eastern Conference
Game #1
Phoenix Suns (48-34)
Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42)
Game #2
New York Knicks (37-45)
Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49)
Game #3
Winner of Game #1 (above)
  Denver Nuggets (36-46)
Game #4
Winner of Game #2 (above)
Detroit Pistons (29-53)
Game #5
Winner of Game #3 (above)
 New Orleans Pelicans (33-49)
Game #6
Winner of Game #4 (above)
Boston Celtics (25-57)
Game #7
Winner of Game #5 (above)
 Sacramento Kings (28-54)
Game #8
Winner of Game #6 (above)
Orlando Magic (23-59)
Game #9
Winner of Game #7 (above)
Los Angeles Lakers (27-55)
Game #10
Winner of Game #8 (above)
Philadelphia 76ers (19-63)
Game #11
Winner of Game #9 (above)
 Utah Jazz (25-57)
Game #12
Winner of Game #10 (above)
Milwaukee Bucks (15-67)
Championship Game
Winner of Game #11
Winner of Game #12

But Is It "Fair"?

This tournament model has the advantage of maintaining the "integrity" of current system. In other words, the worst teams still have the best chance to earn the #1 pick. But they actually have to earn it -- on the basketball court.

This table shows the chance of each team getting the #1 pick using this tournament format, compared to the chance currently given to them by the NBA in the lottery:

Lottery Tournament Western Conference Eastern Conference Tournament Lottery
0.5% 0.6%Suns (48-34) Knicks (37-45) 0.7% 0.7%
0.6% 0.6%Timberwolves (40-42) Cavaliers (33-49) 0.8% 1.7%
0.8% 1.0%  Nuggets (36-46) Pistons (29-53) 1.5% 2.8%
1.1% 2.3% Pelicans (33-49) Celtics (25-57) 2.9% 10.3%
4.3% 4.4%Kings (28-54) Magic (23-59) 6.6% 15.6%
6.3% 10.7%Lakers (27-55) 76ers (19-63) 13.6% 19.9%
10.4% 24.3%Jazz (25-57) Bucks (15-67) 29.4% 25.0%

The End of Tanking?

Because the tournament format requires that you actually win at least 2 games in order to win the #1 pick, tanking is discouraged. A bad record gives you a better position in the tournament, but you still need a team good enough to win.