Getting the Most out of Absolute Baseball Part III

Getting the Most out of Absolute Baseball Part III

As I continue to write this series, I will go to the next part; How to improve your players. Let’s look at how to build your roster.

Building Your Roster

One of the things you are going to want to do is to make a list of all your players and their abilities. At the beginning of the season players who have not played will have no averages so the only numbers you can work with are the abilities.

Here is the Excel spreadsheet I used for my team.

I wrote down all the abilities in a table for all the players. I applied conditional formatting in Excel to get a feel for the their range of abilities.

Set Your Line Up

Once you have your guys in a spreadsheet and you can look at them, you can start to set your line up based upon batting skills. I should point out that you do want to give some consideration to defensive abilities so all positions on the field are filled in. Having said that, here are some approaches.

Traditional Power / Long ball.

A traditional way to set a lineup is to put speedy guys with good contact up front, with power hitters in the 3 and 4 slots, followed by your next best batters in descending order until you get to the pitcher.

With this approach you are looking to get guys on base then hit homers or extra base hits to drive them in. You are stealing to get into scoring position to make things happen. Not a lot of trickiness here.

This means you want guys with good eyes (they walk), followed by clutch power hitters (guys who hit well with runners in scoring position).

Small Ball

What you really want are guys with high on base percentage. Similar to above, but you are putting guys with high batting skill behind them. You will run a lot of bunts, and hit and run plays. You may actually put your best hitters at the top so they get on base then you sacrifice the guys behind them to execute the plays.

Player Improvement Strategy

With 1440 possible points, and given that each BAND is 30 points, this means you can make a maximum of 48 ability letter band improvements. In other words, if a player starts with a B and you want to make him an A, assuming you are starting from 151 you can make 48 improvements like this.

Since it takes 5 letters to go from E to S – you can only improve 9 skills from E to S. Not players, individual skills.

And this is the TOTAL season.

So this leaves you a couple of options.

  1. Focus on making your better players better.
  2. Try to nerf your bad players so they are not so horrible.

For this tutorial I am experimenting with focusing on a single skill to measure the change it makes in the players’ performance.

Power Through It

If you are trying to build up player stats, you just start simulating games and let the CPU manage. You will get 10 points for every win, 7 for every tie, and 5 points for a loss. Then you can add those points to your players’ abilities. A 144 games is a lot of games. It’s the same problem I have with most baseball games. It is an enormous time commitment. Like the real baseball season I can’t really believe people play 162 professional games plus spring training.

LeftSideFly

But Keep Some Balance

After the first month, my first four batters were pretty monstrous. Yet, I started to lose games. Why? Because I had neglected my pitching. I can’t tell if the other teams are getting better as I play through the season but my primary mechanism for playing has changed.

When I started I was focusing on simulating managing individual games. But to effectively manage individual games you need to know something about your players.

So I poured a lot of effort into learning about the skill system. Once I realized I could improve my players that became my focus.

I then simulated a full month worth of games to build my top 4 hitters into monsters. Sure enough, batting averages went up, but like I said the losses started to mount. It is a statistical oddity of baseball that you can have 3 or 4 players with very high batting averages all in a row and still not produce many runs.

Why? Because if they only get a hit 3 out of 10 times, who is to say those 3 hits will all occur in a row?

What Do you Want To Get Out of It?

The real question is this, what do you want to get out of a baseball simulator?

What I really like about Absolute Baseball is that it is not about trading players. It is about managing games and developing players. There is no way you can develop everyone in every skill. So you have to choose. Which skills are the most important for the way you want to manage your baseball team.

And that is the heart of every great simulator, great choices that feel like the kinds of choices you would have to make in real life. If you can be in that frame of mind, then you get to practice and you can learn.

Conclusion

Absolute Baseball is a fun and inexpensive Baseball Simulator that lets you focus on game management. There is some player development, but the game itself does a poor job of helping you study the players and their stats. You are better off loading this data into your own spreadsheet.

Still, as a manager, I found this game fun without being too serious and I could keep my head in the game as it were. I hope this additional information helps you get the most out of Absolute Baseball.

I Use This: How To Break In a Baseball Glove Fast

How To Break In a Baseball Glove Fast

Wouldn’t it be great if your young son or daughter could effortless catch a baseball?  Wouldn’t it be nice if they could catch with confidence, stepping into each throw and grabbing the ball out of the air and enveloping it in the web of their glove?  If you want your young player to catch like this, then they will need a glove that is well broken in.  In this post, I will share with you my experience in how to break in a baseball glove fast.  It worked for me every time, I believe it will for you too.

There are lots of ways to break in new gloves, but there is one way in particular that I have found to be super effective for breaking in a new baseball glove for young kids.  In this article I will show you how to break in a baseball glove fast, the right way, so your young player gets the most out of it.   A well broken in glove is perhaps the most important tool your child will need to learn to play catch with confidence.

There are three keys to breaking in a youth baseball mitt.

  1. Choosing the right kind of glove
  2. Using the right kind of glove conditioner
  3. Flexing and Fitting the glove for maximum “catch-ability”

A Glove Like Butter

To begin with, we need to know what kind of finished glove we are after.  Different positions use different gloves.  What’s more different ages, expect different things from their gloves as well.  Catchers obviously use a different glove than everyone else, but so does a first baseman.  At the high school level infield mitts are different from outfield mitts. This can all be very confusing to parents.

What we are after is a general purpose all around glove that feels soft as a fleece blanket when it’s finished. It is thick enough to protect the player’s hand, but soft enough to envelope the ball and “absorb” the ball.

The final result is a glove that is so easy to close, it is not fighting the player.  This gives him more confidence in his  ability to catch the ball.  This is what young kids need.  They need to be able to catch effortlessly, every time.

Note: At higher levels, you may hear just the opposite.  For example, high school middle infielders are taught to keep their gloves ridged like a paddle.  They rarely close their glove, trapping the ball in there like a marble in a bowl.  Outfielders in contrast use HUGE gloves, ones that are soft and designed to be like fishing nets.  This is often confusing for parents.  Here we are focused on what young kids need.  When they get older they can deal with that level of specialization.  For now we need to keep it simple.  A small, soft glove the kids don’t need to fight to close.  That is our goal.

Choosing the Right Kind of Glove

Typically, as I pointed out infield mitts are small and hard, outfield mitts are large and soft. For the youth baseball player, we are looking for two key attributes when we pick a glove. We want the right size glove, and we want the right material for quick break in.

Picking the Right Size

What we want for the youth player is a small soft mitt. We want a mitt that is just a little larger than their natural hand.  This is typically a 10 1/2 inch glove.

Why? Because most youth players are trying to transition from “grabbing” the ball with the palm of their hands, much like you or I would grab the hand rail on a boat, to catching the ball between their thumb and index finger. The web of a glove resides between the thumb and index finger and believe it or not, this is not the most natural place to try and catch something.  By choosing a smaller mitt, it is easier for the player to see the ball going into their glove the right way.

Pick a larger mitt and they lose sight of the ball, but more importantly they lose the feel for it as well. This “blindsiding” can lead to confidence problems and ultimately stifle a player’s development as they try to protect themselves when the ball passes out of their sight into their oversized mitt.

 

It is much easier, safer, and more fun to track the ball all the way into the mitt.

Glove Material

Now I have some sad news for you. No matter how good the glove is you pick, your little player will grow out of it in a year. You are lucky if a glove will last more than a season. With that in mind, it does not make a lot of sense to buy an expensive glove. What’s more, we don’t have to worry so much about what we do with the glove. This is good because the process I will show you will definitely shorten the life of the glove.

I find that the best gloves for youth sports are the Mizuno Prospect gloves with the Power Close technology. I have never had one of these gloves wear out. The Power Close is nothing more than a notch cut in the palm of the glove making the glove much easier to close.

Mizuno Power Close

However, another excellent and inexpensive choice is the Wilson EZ Catch synthetic youth gloves with the oversized basket. While synthetic gloves can feel a little cheesy, they break in incredibly fast producing a soft, supple mitt that is the Venus fly trap of mitts.

 

Once you have your mitt selected, it is time to break it in.

Glove Conditioner

The very best glove conditioner I have found for this process is Hot Glove Treatment.

It is essentially a custom mix of shaving cream, designed to bake for a few minutes in the oven.  The combination of heat and lanolins in the foam (skin softeners)  accelerates softening the vinyl or leather.

The instructions are on the can, but essentially  you warm the oven.  Then put a dish towel on a cookie sheet.  Next smear the foam all over the glove coating it completely. And finally you bake it in the oven for 4 minutes.  Then voila! Your glove is now soft as butter when it comes out.  It is also hot as a fresh boiled egg so be careful!

Forming the Glove

Once the glove comes out of the oven, here is the important part. You flex the glove like you would not believe. I even turn mine inside out inverting the pocket (not the part where the fingers go – the part where the ball goes! )

You rub in the remaining of the white foam into the glove material while you careful flex it open and closed, loosening up the leather and feeling the glove move freely.

Don’t put your hand into the mitt until it has safely cooled down!

After the glove is cooled, I repeat this process 2-3 more times (for a total of 3 or 4 runs).

Review

Just as a quick review, here are the steps:

  1. Make sure the glove is clean.
  2. Smear the glove with Hot Glove Treatment, coating it white
  3. Bake it in the oven, the  recommended number of minutes
  4. Being careful of the heat, take the freshly baked glove and flex it virtually every way you can conceive of

Finishing Up

After the last pass of loosening up the glove, I would wrap a softball inside the glove and wrap the pinky over the thumb. This creates a large pocket inside the glove and gives it a bowl shape which is more likely to direct a bouncing ball back into the pocket.

Nothing kicks a ball out of a glove faster than a flat pocket. People who don’t put a ball in their glove are ruining their gloves faster than baking them in the oven in my experience.

I have wrapped my glove with a belt, or with cellophane wrap. Anything to hold it together. I usually leave it overnight, but in truth it is ready to go immediately upon cool down. I have gone out and played catch with a glove like this as soon as it cooled enough for me to safely put my hand inside.

Summary

And that is it. If you pick the right size glove, one that is small like an infield mitt, then we can break it in to be soft like an outfield mitt, your young player will have a much easier time catching baseballs thrown to him (or her).

If the glove closes effortlessly, and it is easy for the player to track the ball into the pocket of the glove they are going to catch more balls and develop more confidence in their playing ability.

True Story: My oldest son got his nickname Spider, because when he was 6 years old, he was the only player on his team who could catch a fly ball. Spiders catch flies.

It worked for us, I hope your success is even better.

Getting the Most Out of Absolute Baseball

I have been playing around with Absolute Baseball and documenting what it does. It turns out the game is pretty useful for playing around with different game situations as a manager. Over the next several posts, I will try to explain how to get the most out of this game.

absolute_baseball_cover_large.jpg

Developing Your Team

One aspect of all these baseball games is that players have abilities or skills, but they also have performance. Finding out, which abilities or skills most contribute to the performance, is the trick. For example, I have two players on my ABS team that would seem to be similar in skill and ability according to the ranking system. However, one is batting 137 and the other is batting 600. I even have a player that on every level should be a zero yet he’s hitting 189 and a much “better” player is hitting 50. That’s right 0.050. He’s 1 for 20. Not a productive player.

I assume that not all abilities (as ABS calls them) are weighted equally. In other words, some skills must contribute more than others to a player’s batting average and on base percentage. That is one area where ABS is quite weak. The stats. This seems strange given that baseball is so stats driven – however User interface screens are expensive to develop and I think they put more emphasis on game graphics than lots and lots of pages of tables of numbers.

AbsoluteBaseball-BatterUp

Of course I’d like both. This makes ABS an interesting contrast to iOOTP where it is ALL about the stats, and there are not game graphics to speak of. iOOTP takes advantage of the fact that baseball is made for radio. Reading a text description has much the same effect. You can easily imagine the action then return to thinking about the strategy.

So, Camera back on ABS.

The Skill Scale

Players can be graded on a scale from A-E with S being Special. The bands are 30 points each. So going from worst to first we have:

E – 60-90, Not very good

D – 91-120, Poor

C – 121-150, Average

B – 151-180, Good

A – 181-210, Great

S – 211-240, Special

So our goal is to get the right skills as high as we can.

Weighing the Abilities

Every time you win a game, you get 10 development points. A tie gives you 7. I don’t remember what you get for a loss but I am sure I will find out. So my plan is to simulate a whole slew of games, emphasis different abilities with different players and then watch their batting averages change.

But if you look at the table above what you can see is that it can take a lot of games to raise a single skill to 211, especially if the player starts with an E level.

LeftSideFly

One Question: I wonder if the scale is linear or if they really are bands. It is probably linear. So there is little difference between a 210 and a 211 (A vs. S with a 1 skill point spread), but a big difference between a 181 and a 211 (A vs. S with a 30 skill point spread)?

Next Post: Getting the Most Out of Absolute Baseball Part II

 

 

Great Baseball Games: Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express Review

One of the things I try to do is to get kids to play baseball games. I don’t mean the sport of baseball. I mean any kind of board, video, or table top game that will help them get a better view of baseball. There are lots of great baseball themed games out there. One of the classics is called Strat-O-Matic Baseball. In this post I am going to talk about the much smaller, more manageable Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express.

Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express

What is it?

Strat-O-Matic is a turn based strategy game that uses cards and dice. It allows two players to simulate a full 162 game season of baseball. The simulation is said to be so accurate you can replay classic seasons from the past and produce similar outcomes. Strat-O-Matic really brings the “stats” of baseball to life.

So what is Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express? SOM Baseball Extress is a smaller bite size version of Granddaddy Strat-O-Matic. You get two “All Star” teams instead of the full 30 team league.

What is a turn based strategy game?

Monopoly is a turn based strategy game. Players take turns, roll dice to determine outcomes, and collect cards and accumulate points (dollars) to determine a winner. Strat-O-Matic follows the same basic principles only with a baseball theme. You select your lineup from a pool of superstar player cards, then you take turns, rolling dice to determine the outcomes of each at bat. The structure of the game very closely resembles a baseball game.

What Makes It Fun?

This is perhaps the best simulation of baseball available in the sense that you are able to make the kinds of decisions you imagine managers make during a real game. You can steal bases, you can bunt, you can intentionally walk batters.

Batter vs Pitcher

But what really makes it fun is the pitcher / batter battle. SOM’s game designers realize that in any at bat there is a winner and a loser. Someone wrestles for control of the outcome. So they roll one 6 sided dice to determine whose actions will determine the results of the at bat.

1–3: The batter controls the outcome

4–6: The pitcher controls the outcome

That does not mean the batter always gets a hit when he controls the outcome, or the pitcher always gets an out when he controls the outcome. That is why you then roll two more dice to figure out what happens. Nevertheless, Strat-O-Matic does an amazing job of using real baseball statistics to determine the likely outcomes depending upon the player. An ace like Justin Verlander is much more likely to get outs than your average pitcher. And if Albert Pujols wins control of the at bat, chances are he will get a hit. But not always.

Conclusion

In the end I find Strat-O-Matic Baseball Express fun because it feels like a baseball game. You can even use a real scorecard to track results. It’s just another way to immerse yourself in the game that is baseball.

Control Your Email With MailBox App

I don’t know about you but, staying on top of my email was impossible, until I downloaded MailBox App.  With MailBox app and a bluetooth keyboard, I was finally able to get to the mythical Inbox Zero.  Check it out.

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