Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marvin Miller Dies at 95

Marvin Miller (1917-2012)

Marvin Miller, the father of free agency in baseball, died today at the age of 95. For those unfamiliar with baseball's labor history, I'm including below the history of baseball labor relations that we published 7 years ago (with some updates as part of our efforts to provide more realistic historical labor relations in Baseball Mogul 2014).

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Worst Front Office Move Ever?

Babe Ruth (1918)
Babe Ruth (1918)
It's not hard for most people to come up with a list of "dumb front office moves" in the history of baseball. Here are 10 off the top of my head:
  • #10. Philadelphia Phillies trade Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus. (1982)
  • #9. The Cincinnati Reds trade Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas. (1965)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

National League's Best Pitching Staff

Billy Beane
"My job is to get us to the playoffs. Everything after that is fucking luck." - Billy Beane

Billy Beane was pretty much right. Over the course of a 162-game season, the best teams tend to make it to the playoffs. But in a short series, it's much more likely that the weaker team will advance.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

1992 Dream Team vs. 2012 Team USA

Kobe Bryant just announced that the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team could beat the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team (more commonly known at the Dream Team).

Michael Jordan's response: "I just laughed".

For some bizarre reason, there is no baseball today. So I'm going to break down the Dream Team vs. Team USA matchup.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dickey's "Angry Knuckleball" Added To Baseball Mogul 2013

Photo by MG_4618 on Flickr (Creative Commons license)
Thanks to R.A. Dickey's recent success, we're adding a 3rd type of knuckleball to Baseball Mogul.

The game already had a "Knuckleball" and "Slow Knuckler" as options (Wakefield throws both of these). We also of course have a knuckle curve, but that isn't actually a knuckleball. With Dickey having a Cy Young season throwing what some have called a "Power Knuckleball", we're taking a close look at the physics behind this pitch and adding it to the game.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baseball Contract Analysis

We've been going through contract and salary data, in order to improve the artificial intelligence in Baseball Mogul 2013 and future versions.

Contract Lengths for Major League Baseball Players (n = 516)
We examined the 516 players on Major League 40-Man Rosters (as of opening day) that had reached either arbitration or free agency. The first fact worth noting is that the vast majority (84%) of all player contracts are between 1 and 3 years. The longer deals get all the headlines, but the shorter deals dominate team rosters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Windows Screen Resolutions (and Operating Systems)

Baseball Mogul 2013 in a 640x480 window
Just an update for game designers and web designers, since it can be hard to find all of this information in one place. The following is a list of the most popular screen resolutions for Windows machines:

Resolution Share Width Height Ratio Type
1366x768 20.8% 1366 768 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
1024x768 17.5% 1024 768 1.33 Video (4:3)
1280x800 12.1% 1280 800 1.60 Widescreen (8:5)
1280x1024 7.0% 1280 1024 1.25 Video (5:4)
1440x900 6.4% 1440 900 1.60 Widescreen (8:5)
1920x1080 5.6% 1920 1080 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
1600x900 4.1% 1600 900 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
1680x1050 3.6% 1680 1050 1.60 Widescreen (8:5)
768x1024 2.4% 768 1024 0.75 Vertical (3:4)
1360x768 2.4% 1360 768 1.77 Widescreen (16:9)
1024x600 2.2% 1024 600 1.71 Widescreen (5:3)
1280x720 1.6% 1280 720 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
1280x768 1.5% 1280 768 1.67 Widescreen (5:3)
1152x864 1.4% 1152 864 1.33 Video (4:3)
1920x1200 1.1% 1920 1200 1.60 Widescreen (8:5)
800x600 0.9% 800 600 1.33 Video (4:3)
1280x960 0.7% 1280 960 1.33 Video (4:3)
1093x614 0.6% 1093 614 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
2560x1440 0.4% 2560 1440 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
1311x737 0.4% 1311 737 1.78 Widescreen (16:9)
Other 7.5%

Some facts to take away:
  • "1024 x 768" is no longer the most common screen resolution.
  • About 96% of Windows machines have a width of 1024 pixels or more.
  • About 75% of Windows machines have a width of 1200 pixels or more.
  • About 65% of screens are now "widescreen". That is, they have an aspect ratio closer to the new High Definition format (16:9) than the old Low Definition format (4:3). 
  • A significant share of monitors (probably 3-5%) are being used vertically.
And here's the operating system breakdown (among Windows machines):

Windows 7 Windows Vista Windows XP
Game Players 69.6% 12.6% 17.8%
Classrooms 62.8% 4.9% 32.3%
Installed Base 50.6%11.3% 38.1%
Average 61.0% 9.6% 29.4%

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Baseball Mogul's Simulation Engine

If you're a fan of the Baseball Mogul series, you might be wondering why, after 17 years, I chose this year to fully rewrite the simulation engine.

Well, first, some history:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pythagoras Explained

Pythagoras of Samos, mathematician and philosopher, died about 2500 years ago. Nevertheless, his name is familiar to baseball fans. The "Pythagorean Expectation", invented by Bill James in the 1980s, predicts a team's winning percentage from runs scored and runs allowed. Despite the intimidating name, Pythagorean win expectations can now be found on mainstream sites like ESPN and MLB.com.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Baseball Mogul 2013 - Version 15.07

We have just released Version 15.07 of Baseball Mogul 2013. This is an update to Version 15.00 (which was launched on April 3rd). Simply put, if you were waiting to make sure the bugs were worked out of the initial release, this is the version to buy:

  1. Fixes a crash bug that was occurring when viewing Scouting Reports for certain players.
  2. Fixes a bug where a called strike sometimes didn't count on hit-and-run (or run-and-hit) plays.
  3. Fixes calculation of season and career WAR ("Wins Above Replacement").
  4. Includes year-by-year lefty-righty stats for every player going back to 1950 (alas, Retrosheet doesn't have complete data before that).
  5. Improves manager AI and pitcher usage patterns.
If you already bought Baseball Mogul 2013, download and run this file to automatically upgrade to Version 15.07.

Happy simming!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kickstarter Project

Just a quick plug for a very cool project I'm working on with some friends (for October, when the weather is great and my brain isn't knee-deep in baseball code).

Live-action gaming is one of the world's most maligned hobbies. But my experience is that getting out into the woods with other people and killing zombies in the middle of the night is a lot less dorky than sitting at home alone playing World of Warcraft.

Please pass this link along to anyone who might be interested (in New England, or willing to drive).

Role Models (a very funny movie)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Win Expectancy (Baseball Mogul)

Another new feature for Baseball Mogul 2013 is that all the game logs now show Win Expectancy after each play.

Win Expectancy is the chance that a team has of winning the game, based on the inning, score, outs and runners on base. In the case of the Baseball Mogul game recaps, the Win Expectancy for the home team is shown after each play.

Here's an example from the 9th inning of a game I just played in Play-By-Play mode:

At the top of this screen shot, the home team (Washington) is leading the game 4-3, at the start of the 9th inning. In this situation in the current run-scoring environment, this gives the home team an 87.2% chance to win the game.

Then the Washington pitcher walks the leadoff man (Sanchez), dropping their win chance by 9.6% (to 77.6%).

When John Buck doubles down the right field line, the game is tied and the Marlins have the go-ahead run on second base. The biggest play of the inning is when Jose Reyes singles with two outs to knocks in the (eventual) winning run. By the end of the inning, the Marlins are ahead 5-4 and the Nationals chance of winning the game has dropped to 17.4%.

In the bottom of the 9th, Washington's chances just get worse. The leadoff hitter (Marrero) strikes out, dropping their win chance below 10%.

At the end of the game, their chance to win has dropped to 0.0%. (This is self-evident, but it shows that the math adds up).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strike Zone Heat Maps (Baseball Mogul)

As I mentioned here, this is the year that Baseball Mogul went from being a random number generator (like Strat-O-Matic or previous computer sports games) to becoming a true physics-based simulation of each pitch. However, it's difficult to determine if our model is realistic without having a way to visualize the results. So, I added heat maps to Baseball Mogul 2013, plus the functionality to record data for every single pitch.

Ideally, we should see the same patterns in our data that we see in Major League Baseball. For example, we know from actual pitch data that BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) varies by pitch location:
Heat map by Dave Allen
This heat map is for right-handed batters only, with a view from behind the catcher. Imagine the batter standing to the left of the strike zone.

As you can see, BABIP is slightly higher in the lower part of the strike zone, because low pitches lead to more ground balls, and ground balls turn into hits a bit more often than fly balls.

And, the "hot zone" for BABIP tilts. That is, on low pitches, the highest BABIP occurs just inside the middle of the plate. On higher pitches, this region is a bit farther away from the batter.

This prime hitting zone tilts at this angle because the sweet spot of the bat passes through the strike zone roughly along this line. With the bat (and arms) pivoting on the batter's shoulder, it's easier to reach the high outside corner with the heart of the bat than it is to reach the high inside corner. So, with Baseball Mogul, I modeled the bat moving through the strike zone, by assigning different coeffecients of restitution to each point on the bat. The coefficient of restitution (COR) reflects how quickly the ball comes off the bat at each spot. It can be represented as a parabolic function along the length of the hitting surface, with the COR peaking at the bat's sweet spot.

I hope I didn't lose you with the technical jargon. Simply put, once this COR model is added to the simulation, we should see results that look somewhat like real life. So here's the same heat map from one season of Baseball Mogul:

Heat map by Baseball Mogul 2013

I honestly didn't expect it would look that good. As with the first heat map, BABIP is highest from the middle of the plate down to the bottom edge. And, we see the same tilt: on low pitches, the batter is more likely to hit the ball solidly if it's over the inner half of the plate. As the pitch moves up in the strike zone, BABIP improves as the pitch moves toward the outer half.

Very cool. I'm really looking forward to using these heat maps to continue to dig into the new simulation engine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pitch Tracking and the "Charts" Tab (Baseball Mogul)

Baseball Mogul 2013 now tracks and records every single pitch of your simulation. Pitch type, speed, location, result. etc.

In conjunction with this, we have now added a 'Charts' tab to every player's Scouting Report:

The above chart was created by simulating from the 2012 season through 2025. It shows BABIP (Batting Average On Balls In Play) for all lefties that Strasborg faced.

You can also limit the search to certain pitch types (fastballs, sliders, etc.) and situations (2 outs, RISP, "close and late"). For example, here's Jason Heyward's Slugging Percentage on just fastballs:

Finally, you can limit the search to at-bats against one team or one specific player, such as Dustin Pedroia versus the Yankees from 2012 through 2020:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Baseball Mogul 2013: Under The Hood, Part 2

For years, people have been asking for direct access to the Baseball Mogul database. Many of them want to be able to build mods that read and parse the data.

For example, Mizerak created a very cool app called the Box Score Parser that sifted through multiple seasons of box scores in order to derive data that can be easily viewed inside Baseball Mogul. Unfortunately, he had to use box scores because they were one of the only things saved in a human-readable form.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Baseball Mogul 2013: Under The Hood, Part 1

When I first wrote Baseball Mogul, it simulated each game by simulating the result of each plate appearance. This isn't unusual. This is how Strat-O-Matic works. This is how other computer games work. This is even the method I used when writing my very first baseball simulation, using paper and dice, back in 1976.

But the thing is, baseball isn't played with paper and dice. It's played inside televisions. And the game on television isn't determined by comparing player stats and generating a random number. It's determined pitch-by-pitch. Each pitch has a velocity, a spin direction (and magnitude), and the location where it crosses the plate.

Photo by Wall Street Journal

So, for Baseball Mogul 2013, I rewrote the entire simulation engine to calculate:
  1. The velocity and path of each pitch (similar to that recorded by PITCHf/x).
  2. The timing and velocity of the bat swing.
  3. The plane of the bat swing (and the location of its sweet spot).
  4. The angle and velocity of the hit that results from the above.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Zombies Attack ... Morons

The Walking Dead is dumb. The premise is dumb. The writing is dumb. And the characters are especially dumb.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Worst Call In Super Bowl History

Photo by Ed Yourdon
I realize that it's hyberbolic to call today's safety call the worst in 46 Super Bowls. But somebody needs to do it. Right now, there are thousands of people out there Googling "worst super bowl call ever", and they need to be able to find something.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Super Bowl MVP Predictions

Photo by Keith Allison
As mentioned on Sunday, we used Football Mogul to predicts the results of Super Bowl XLVI by simulating the game 100,000 times. We also recorded the MVP of each game.

Odds are that it will go to a quarterback. But there's a 48.7% chance of someone else taking home the MVP trophy.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Football Mogul Predicts Super Bowl XLVI

It's that time of year again. Another Super Bowl between the Giants and Pats. To predict the result, we used Football Mogul to simulate the game 100,000 times.
Note: this year's version of Football Mogul is 100% free. No time limits. No strings attached. Please download it. :)
Bottom line: Pats have a 60.78% chance of winning. The most likely score is 31-27.

Here are the average results for each team:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The NFL's "Worst" Pass Defenses

In tonight's 45-7 drubbing of the Broncos by the Patriots, I have to admit that the 2nd half was pretty boring.

Here's what I did see that was interesting:

CBS put up a graphic showing that the best teams in the NFL this year also had the worst pass defenses. This wasn't the first time I had seen this stat trotted out as "proof" that the Packers, Saints and Pats have horrible pass defenses.

WonLostPass Yards
Allowed Per Game
NFL Rank
Green Bay Packers
151301.2 32nd 
New England Patriots
13 3 283.0 31st
New Orleans Saints
11 5 266.7 30th

Well ... duh.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Changing Team Names (Miami Marlins)

Some people have been asking how to change the 'Florida Marlins' to the 'Miami Marlins' for the 2012 season in Baseball Mogul.
  1. On the League Menu, choose 'League Editor'.