I posted this message on the Tabletop Sports Forum on Delphi Forums and thought I would cross-post it here since it's relevant.
There have been people asking about tabletop stats-based baseball games on Delphi Forums and their merits and Inside Pitch from Inside Sports Games has come up more than once in the discussion. Recently, in a post about the reasons I play different baseball games, I compared playing a game of IP to savoring a fine wine (or a great meal). It takes me a bit longer to play and I insist on playing cards and dice even though I've moved to computer on pretty much everything else, but it's worth every minute. So, I decided last night that the next IP game I played (in my new 1978 replay), I would take notes on some of the unique things I appreciate about Inside Pitch that I don't see or get or appreciate as much from other baseball games. I hope people find something of interest in this essay, my goal is that it might be as helpful to some as some of the YouTube videos have been to me on various games.
I am not doing a play by play replay of the game I played, which was between 1978 Baltimore Orioles and 1978 Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day, April 8th, 1978. Rather, I will just point out the sort of unique features of Inside Pitch and how they affected the outcome of the game as it goes along.
Some background first. If you haven't heard, Inside Pitch's game design is based on a baseball analytics theory called DIPS (Defense Independent Pitching Statistics). Basically, the idea is that pitchers only control those things they can directly affect, which is strikeouts, walks, home runs, groundball/flyball tendencies. Pretty much everything else is up to the batter, the fielding defense and the ballpark. (Pitchers can also affect the frequency of stolen base attempts and some other minor things.) The game reflects this by having you roll on the pitcher's card first. If it's one of the outcomes the pitcher controls, you never even go to the batter's card. Otherwise, you will either go to the batter's card or the ballpark card to get the outcome of the play. (Every ballpark gets its own card.)
Fielding and defense has every player with separate Range and Error ratings. Outfielders and Catchers also have Arm ratings and Shortstops and Second Basemen have Double Play Pivot ratings (ability to turn the double play).
I am going to note that paradoxically, I hate ballpark effects and lefty/righty splits in most games. I usually feel like they are tacked-on afterthoughts or klunky or too complicated. In Inside Pitch, I love how both these factors are implemented. Ballpark effects and left/right splits are more smoothly implemented for me in this game. Players don't feel like total split personalities or Jeykll and Hydes for L/R effects like they do in some other games with L/R effects.
?Before the game starts, we can "scout" some factors that are going to have some impact on the game besides ERAs and batting averages.
•The Ballpark. Today's game is taking place in Milwaukee's County Stadium. It's easier to hit home runs here (5/36 chances on the ballpark card to get a HR chance for a batter) but harder for batters to draw walks (-4 on all batters Walk ratings). If the two teams were playing in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, there would be less home run chances (just 1/18 chance of HR chance for batters) and more strikeouts (+4 to all batters Strikeout ratings).
•Baltimore's terrible infield defense for this game. Eventually, in 1978, the Orioles would end up with Eddie Murray at 1B, Rich Dauer at 2B, Mark Belanger at SS, and Doug DeCinces at 3B. THAT infield is pretty good. But on Opening Day, Dauer is the DH, Lee May is playing 1B, DeCinces is at 2B and Murray at 3B. They are all HORRIBLE at these positions, with the worst Range ratings and the worst Error ratings. When they move to their regular positions, they'll be great (DeCinces and Murray .997 fielding at 3B and 1B respectively.) and thankfully, Belanger is in the right spot! He is one of the BEST shortstops with great range and few errors. In the outfield, the Orioles are much better with Gary Roenicke, Carlos Lopez and Al Bumbry.
•The Brewers are pretty average on defense with maybe only Gorman Thomas poor range in centerfield being an issue.
•On the mound is Jerry Augustine for the Brewers, who is a flyball/groundball mix and Mike Flanagan, a groundball pitcher (which is NOT a good thing with the Orioles infield defense in this game!)
•Lee May triples in a run in the top of the 1st for the Orioles. May only hit one triple all of 1978 and here he hits one in his first game, so is that a bad sign that this game is off statistically? Let's see. First off, looking at his card, May can only triple off left-handers, which is what Augustine is. His chance of getting that triple comes down to: 1) facing a left-hander 2) getting a ?7, ?8, ?9 result off his card (a 1/12 chance) and 3) rolling a 9 or 10 out of 20 when checking his ?H range against left handers. In real 1978, he had 188 AB against lefties (hitting his one triple off lefty Shane Rawley of the Mariners) with one triple. Checking his percentages above from his card, his chances for hitting a triple against a left hander are right on. In 188 AB he should have just a shade over 1 triple against lefties.
•Bottom of the first. Paul Molitor singles, Don Money up at bat. In Inside Pitch, on base situations can be controlled with a strategy roll to determine when players will attempt steals, call a hit and run play or bunt. In this case, the first strategy roll calls for Money to bunt, something I would NEVER do if it was totally in my control. My replays in other games tend to have way too few bunts, I'm sure. Money is a great bunter with a Bunt rating of 5 and successfully bunts Molitor to 2nd.
•On the next strategy roll, Molitor attempts to steal third base. (His Stealing attempt rating cut in half for being on second minus 1 for Flanagan's Hold rating succeeds with a roll of a 2.) His Steal success rating is 14 minus one from Flanagan's card and minus one for Rick Dempsey's Arm rating =12 out of 20, I roll 11 for a successful steal!
•Now with Molitor on third with one out after successful bunt and successful steal, Sal Bando skies a ball to the outfield on a Range play. Range plays in IP are great because you can't just look at a batter's card (or ballpark card or pitcher's card) and say, "Oh that's always a hit" or "Oh that's always an out" because Range plays can turn what would normally be hits into outs and what normally would be outs into hits, depending on the fielding player's Range rating. Anyway, Baltimore's OF being decent, they make the out, but a d6 roll is lower than Bando's Sacrifice Fly rating so Molitor scores on a Sacrifice Fly. (If the roll had been better than Bando's SF rating, Molitor STILL might have scored but then it would have come down to Molitor's baserunning speed and Al Bumbry's Arm rating.)
•Augustine serves up a possible home run ball to Rick Dempsey, who hit six home runs in 441 ABs in 1978. I roll a 7, which is a Home Run for Dempsey against left handers, but would not have been a home run if Augustine had been a righty. In 1978, in real life, Dempsey hit 3 home runs against lefties and 3 against righties. Against righties, it was one home run every 100 AB. But against lefties, he hits one every 45 ABs.
•In the bottom of the 2nd, Sixto Lezcano gets a S+8 result off the ball park card which is a single with a chance to turn into a double, depending on a) Lezcano's baserunning speed =3 and b) Bumby's Arm rating +1 (he has decent range, but not a great arm). I roll a 4 and Lezcano gets a double which would have been a single if it had been hit to Lopez in right field instead.
•As above, where it mattered on where the single was hit to determine if it was a double or not, IP gives you where the ball was hit on ALL hits and outs, and they can all have an effect. Cecil Cooper, who is up next, singles to 1st base and Lezcano has to hold at third. If Cooper's single had been an infield single up the middle (towards pitcher, 2nd, SS), Lezcano would have made it home from second base.
•A bit later, Larry Hisle sends a screaming liner towards shortstop with bases loaded. Belanger, with his top Range rating, stabs it out of the sky for the third out. If that liner had gone to ANY other O's infielder, it would have been a single with multiple runs scored.
•Eddie Murray gets a EG? result off the pitcher. That's a possible error on a ground ball play only. There is a grounder which goes to Don Money. His range is OK, but we're testing his error range here and he doesn't make many at 3rd, so it's an out and not an error.
•Lezcano singles to centerfield on a Range Play. I roll a 4 which is a single against Bumbry's range of 3. If he had hit it to LF or RF, that single would have been an out.
•Cooper homers and Flanagan has reached his PULL rating, an optional rating that I use that says a pitcher has to be pulled if he allows a certain combination of hits, runs and walks. In Flanagan's case, that's 13 and Cooper's homer puts him over the top. In a case of art imitating life, in the real game, Flanagan gets pulled after just 2.2 innings and one short of the same amount of runs, hits and walks! He gets hammered in both the real game and this one.
•Tom Stoddard comes in to relieve. He has Tired rating of 11 batters faced, and a PULL Rating of 7, so you can tell he is a middle reliever. A Tired/Pull rating of 6/4 or 5/3 indicates more of a short relief guy.
•Augustine ends up hitting his pull rating too. The score is 6-5 Brewers after 3 1/2 innings. (The real game score was 11-3, 14 runs scored. The replay ends up 8-6, 14 runs scored.)
•Bottom of the 4th is my FIRST scoreless inning of this game!
•With a runner on first, Cooper grounds a ball to 2nd base. Cooper has a Ground into Double Play rating of 2 + 1 for pitcher Stoddard's GDP tendency and +1 for Mark Belanger's double play pivot rating. I roll a 4, which is a double play here, but could have been a force at 2nd with another pitcher or another shortstop.
•With a runner on first, Stoddard has a chance to strikeout Paul Molitor, but there is a -1 to strikeouts here at County Stadium that turns a sure K into a chance for Molitor to swing away. Molitor singles to shortstop, which holds the runner on first at second because of the baserunner's speed rating and where the single was hit.
•Runners on 2nd and 3rd, Don Money singles to right field and Lenn Sakata on 2nd tries for home. A throw on the runner advancement chart gets a six which means Carlos Lopez guns down Sakata at home trying to score.
•Al Bumbry rolls a split result on his card, which would be a fly out to left field against lefty starter, Jerry Augustine. But since he's facing righty reliever, Bill Castro, it's a double to right field instead. HOWEVER, as noted above, IF this had been a Range Play, then the fly out against the lefty could have turned into a double, and the double against the righty could have turned into a fly out!
•With runners on base, Lenn Sakata gets a E? play, which is a possible error. He hits a grounder to second. I roll a 10 out of 20 for the error roll. Against THIS Baltimore infield, any possible error for 1st, 2nd or 3rd basemen is going to be an error so Sakata gets on and runs score. When Baltimore gets their regular infield in place later in the season, an error roll of 10 would not be an error for ANY of their infielders. Defense matters so much in this game. In IP, more than any other game, I am much more inclined to make late game defensive substitutions because of error and range plays. (All those things the pitcher's CAN'T control.)
There are some other things that happened in the game, but these are the highlights of the notes I took that I think put Inside Pitch in its own universe of baseball games.
Hope that was enlightening as to why I enjoy this game a lot.
Very good review. I've played baseball boardgames dating back to Statis-Pro in the late 70s. Others along the way have included Strat and Pursue the Pennant/Dynasty League. Against that background, IP has become my favorite baseball replay game. One of my favorite aspects is the DIPS approach, which does away with the 50/50 approach to batters and pitcher cards used in Strat. While the baserunning rules can be occasionally confusing, I find this game seems to do the best job of capturing the nuances of the different players.
What is the logic of a ballpark effect to increase/decrease walks and strikeouts? How is that attributed to the ballpark? Even if a park had less K's than the rest of the league, can you really say it is because of where the game was played? Every park has the same distance from mound to plate and the same strike zone.
Very curious what others think.
I like everything I have read about this game otherwise.
parks do have quite an effect on strikeouts and walks based on the background behind the pitcher. many parks have dark centerfield areas designed specifically to help the batter pick up the ball quicker. if you've got a stadium with seats in the batter's view (directly behind the pitcher), it might take them a split second longer to pick up the ball with the visual noise behind.