Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Statistics of Teddy Ballgame

I understand the statistical concept of APBA's baseball game that's represented on each of the player's cards. It's a simple, basic mathematical formula for the most part that allows replayers to get results in their various replays that are akin to real life.

There are 36 combination of dice rolls on each player's card. If a player hit .250 in real life, chances are he'll have nine numbers on his card that result in a hit. Nine is 25 percent of 36. On the same token, if the player tends to strike out more, as did Adam Dunn, Mark Reynolds or Reggie Jackson (Mr. October once struck out five times in one game), he will see a proliferation of “13s” — the strikeout result — on his card.

A home run hitter will have more “1s” on his card, or “5s” and “6s,” which are home runs at times with runners on base.

It all works out pretty well; the players usually perform closely to what they actually did for that particular season.

In the 1942 season I'm doing now, Ted Williams is batting over .400 in late May. His card reflects that type of season with plenty of hit numbers. But he began slowly. There are ebbs and flows in this game that have balanced his season's stats out. It's what makes APBA such a good game.

But then there are also anomalies that pop up and completely disregard the statistical aspect of the game. Some players, like in real life, get hot in the APBA game and play well above their average. Others cool off and don't have the numbers that they actually did in the real game.

I've seen this a lot. It's almost as if the game takes a life of its own. I've heard other replayers refer to it as “dice magic” for various players.

In my 1981 replay, for example, Richie Zisk of the Seattle Mariners played far above his actual stats for that season. It seemed like he was one of the greatest clutch hitters in baseball, albeit playing for a horrible team. In my replay, Seattle won only 55 or so games, but Zisk must have won at least 10 with game-winning hits — mostly with walk-off home runs. It happened enough for me to take notice.

The 1998 season I did, my first baseball replay with APBA, Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs. I think APBA should have included needles with performance enhancing drugs to juice up he and Barry Bonds and, in my replay Greg Vaughan, who hit 58 for the Padres during that season.

On the inverse, in my 1957 replay, Mickey Mantle was awful. In the real season that year, Mantle hit 34 home runs. In my game, he had 22. In the 1964 replay I did, Sandy Koufax couldn't buy a win for the L.A. Dodgers and he ended up with a record of something like 16-14. And in 1987, the entire Minnesota Twins team didn't play up to their potential, finishing second in the American League West Division 10 games behind Kansas City.

So, there are oddities in this game. But that's what makes it worth playing APBA. You don't want everyone to play exactly as they did in the real game. There'd be no surprises.

In the case of Ted Williams, I first thought he would be the 1942 season underachiever. Of course, Williams' underachievement is another player's career year. He began slowly, hitting in the low .300s for the first 20 or so games for the Red Sox. It was reflected in the standings as Boston quickly fell behind the American League-leading Yankees.

But, as I was giving up hope for Williams, he caught on fire. In his last 10 games, he has batted .415, driven in 13 runs and hit six home runs and now leads the AL with 10 homers. He also scored 11 runs and hit safely in nine of those 10 games.

We roll the dice and log the stats on the game sheet. For much of the time, our players perform as we expect them to based on what we see on their game cards. But then there are the times when someone gets hot and, like Teddy Ballgame, throw the statistics out and we just go along with the ride and watch what happens.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Extra Innings? Late, Again

It happened again today because of an extra-inning game.

I was late at an appointment because of my quirky rule that I never leave an APBA baseball replay game unfinished. If the game goes long because of high scoring or additional innings, so be it. I must finish it before I leave.

I wrote about this last August, surmising that the rule to finish a game before leaving was because my cat is suspected of making off with one of the dice left on the table during an unfinished game.

I’ve come in to work late because of long games, and I went to bed way too late during work nights because of marathon contests. Once, I had to finish a 23-inning game before I slumbered.

This time, because of an extra-inning game between St. Louis and Detroit in my 1942 APBA replay, I showed up late to help move two refrigerators with a friend.

I was on vacation from work. Most people travel to Disneyland or the Gulf Coast while on break. I move appliances.

I told my friend I’d be there by 1:30 p.m. today to switch out the refrigerators at his new business. I began rolling the Tigers-Browns game at about 1:15 p.m., thinking I could finish it in time to head to his business.

St. Louis took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first with no outs, and I thought the game would be a quick one. But Detroit scored runs in the fourth and fifth inning and then two more in the seventh, and the game was tied, 4-4, after nine innings.

Jack Wilson no-hit the Browns in the 11th and 12th innings, and Pete Appleton responded with three innings of no-hit ball for St. Louis.

I entered the 13th inning with the score still tied at 4 and the clock moving past the 1:30 p.m. mark. I feared I would receive a call from my friend’s wife telling me her husband tried to move the refrigerators on his own and was now in some clinic with serious back strain.

In the 13th inning, Detroit scored four runs and took a commanding 8-4 lead. I thought I would quickly end the game and head to my lifting job.

Instead, St. Louis responded with a barrage of hits. Tigers’ pitcher Johnny Gorsica gave up six hits in a row and St. Louis knotted the game at 8-8 before the Browns got their first out of the inning. Finally, with runners on first and second, Browns catcher Rick Ferrell, batting as a pinch hitter, blooped a single and George McQuinn scored. St. Louis scored five runs in the bottom of the 13th and won the game, 9-8.

I couldn’t leave a game like this hanging. These things take time, you know. I called my friend and found he was still waiting for me. I couldn’t really explain I was late because the Tigers’ pitching fell apart in the 13th. Instead, I mumbled something about the long check out line at the grocery store where I grabbed food earlier in the day. I guess it appeased him.

I arrived, albeit about 30 minutes later than planned; we moved the refrigerators. It turned out well. He got his refrigerators moved in his business, St. Louis won a great game and I, again, realized my obsession for this game is still strong and thriving.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Update: May 21, 1942

I’ve reached May 21, 1942, in my APBA baseball replay, which is a bit more than 20 percent completed, and I’m finding this is a really good season to play.

Like all replays, personalities of both the players and the teams are beginning to come out. For example, I’ve noticed that of the three DiMaggios who are playing this season, Vince, not Joe, is more valuable to his team. The Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t faring well, but they’d be a whole lot worse if Vince DiMaggio weren’t playing for them.

Dolph Camilli leads the Brooklyn Dodgers with nine home runs and Johnny Mize has clouted seven for the New York Giants so far.

I’d provide statistics for the big three: Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Stan Musial, but, alas, as I thought would happen, my computer crashed. It happens every time I keep stats. And, yes, I know all about thumb drives, et al. The problem is that I am using an antiquated computer program on an old iBook laptop computer. The program itself crashed. I think this particular program — Appleworks — was invented about the time Thomas Edison was playing with light bulb filaments.

I do know that Ted Williams walked three times against Cleveland on May 21, and ended a 21-game hitting streak. Musial was batting only about .230 when the computer program died and DiMaggio was batting about .270. If I’m rambunctious, I may do the three players’ stats by hand. I can trust my pen. I can’t count on any computer.

Here are the standings as of the end of play on May 21, 1942

W L   GB
New York 22 9 --
St. Louis 21 14 4
Washington 18 15 5
Detroit 19 18 6
Cleveland 14 19 9
Philadelphia 16 21 9
Boston 13 19 9.5
Chicago 13 21 10.5

W L     GB
Brooklyn 24 10    --
St. Louis 21 12 2.5
Cincinnati 18 16 6
Boston 18 18 7
New York 17 18 7.5
Pittsburgh 17 20 8.5
Chicago 15 19   9
Philadelphia 9 16 15.5

I’ve kept up a decent pace playing the games so far. I began this on April 14 and think I could finish this season’s replay by the end of the year. It’s not that I want to finish this quickly; this is an interesting season to play and I’m learning about players of this era for the first time. But, as always, there are more seasons ahead to play and there’s always something new to learn with this game.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father’s birthday and as I roll games in the 1942 APBA baseball replay I’m engaged in, I wonder at times if I’m playing any games that he may have listened to on the radio or attended in person.

My father was a huge New York Yankees fan, having grown up in east New Jersey. He, like other sports fans in the day, chose one of the New York teams to follow. He couldn’t stand the Brooklyn Dodgers and was indifferent to the New York Giants.

He often told me about listening to the games when he was young.

His favorite player was Joe DiMaggio, but he was also fond of Yogi Berra. He may have even listened on the radio to Babe Ruth when he was very young.

I am now at the age my father was when he had earned his PhD in music history and we moved to northern Minnesota where he taught college. Looking back, I don’t know how he did it. He was much older than most parents were when starting a family. How can you juggle a new job, a young child and an obsession for sports that had to take a back seat to life? 

Throw in the fact that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at about the age I am now. I couldn’t have done all that.

But he forged on, raising me the best he could. I was the only child; my mother later told me they had difficulties in having a child and I was considered a “miracle.” I look at it as my parents saw how I turned out and said, “No more.”

But in my dad’s earlier years, before I entered his life, he spent a lot of time with baseball. He told me he once attended a Yankees game and actually heard Yogi Berra retort to a heckler in the stands. He said Berra climbed fencing behind home plate to dislodge a foul ball caught in the wire. Some yelled, “Hey, Yogi. You look like a monkey up there.”

Yogi shot back, “Yeah, if I had a face like yours I’d be complete.”

I know in 1942, my father enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey and that’s where I think he may have heard some of the games I am currently replaying.

It’s an odd concept, but it’s also somewhat completing in a way, a full circle, if you will. As I roll the games for the Yankees, there was a chance he may have actually listened to the same exact game with his friends, or others stationed at the base. He may have slipped away on a furlough at some time and caught a game in person, seeing the players that I now see as APBA game cards; watching the plays that I see as dice rolls.

It’s his birthday today and I still miss him. He died in 1987, 26 years ago. I miss his baseball tales and I miss the security net parents provide no matter how old the child is. But as I play the games of this 1942 season, there is some comfort in the connection I still have with him.