|BUILDING YOUR OWN TEAM
A very enjoyable part of Strat-O-Matic Computer Baseball is the ability to create your own team by drafting or through trades. Because Strat-O-Matic Computer Baseball simulates real-life baseball very closely, the decisions you have to make are like those real-life general managers must make, and the secrets to building a good team are the same as in real life. Thus, you should draw on your own knowledge of baseball and what you have seen successful teams do when choosing players.
In general, a well-balanced team has the best chance of success over a long season. Great players are wonderful to have (and when drafting take the best you can), but a team with good players at every position will usually outperform one that depends on one or two great players for victory. This was the secret of the great Oakland teams of the early 1970s, and is one reason for the success of the New York club in 1996.
In Strat-O-Matic baseball, everything matters, so look for good offense, good pitching, good defense, and a bench of players who can fill in at more than one position. Learn from observation: There is a reason the expansion team that went for offense (Colorado) made it to the playoffs before the expansion team that went for pitching (Florida): Even with great pitching, if your team doesn't score runs, it is going to lose! So look for players that will combine for a good attack day in and day out. You need:
One thing you should be sure to keep in mind to is the fact that about two-thirds of all major league players are right handed. Some players are pretty evenly balanced while others are very strong against one side or the other. Typically left-handed batters are good against right-handed pitchers and right-handed batters are good against left-handed pitchers. Of course the inverse is true as left-handed pitchers are usually better against left-handed batters, for example. But there are many exceptions to this rule (can you say "Tom Glavine"?) so you must study the players to find their individual tendencies. The bottom line is that you must build a lineup that can successfully hit both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. And your pitching staff should be constructed so that you can counteract your opposing manager's strategy. That means having a number of "looks" in your bullpen including "normal" and "reverse" lefties if possible. One final word of advice in this area- All other things being equal take the batter (or pitcher) who performs better against right-handed opponents because there are many more at-bats that come against righties in a typical season.
FIELDERS (also called "position players")
A leadoff hitter who will get on base often and runs the bases well, giving the batters behind him as many chances as possible to drive him in. Good basestealing is a plus, but on-base percentage is essential: Pete Rose was not much of a basestealer, but he was an aggressive baserunner who got on base often and scored often--he was a great leadoff batter.
A skilled batsman is usually wanted for the number two slot in the batting order. Look for someone who rarely hits into double plays, rarely strikes out, and is good at bunting and the hit-and-run. During a season, several games will come down your number two batter's ability to move baserunners into scoring position.
The number three batter is traditionally your best all-around hitter, although some managers will move a big home run hitter back to fourth or fifth in the batting order, even if he is the best hitter. Sometimes a great all-around hitter is batted first because of baserunning skills, as has been the case with Ricky Henderson. When creating your team, the number three hitter is probably the guy you want to acquire first--great hitters go fast in a draft. Look for a high batting average, a high slugging average, and strength in the clutch. Good speed is a plus. (Examples of great number three hitters are Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas.)
Number four is the power guy. You need a good power hitter, preferably one who hits home runs often. We're talking Albert Belle, Mark McGwire, Hank Aaron, and Lou Gehrig, here.
The first four batters are called the "first half of the order" and few managers have varied from the formula. However, managers disagree about what is best for the "second half of the order"--the fifth through eighth place hitters in leagues without the designated hitter, but the fifth through ninth place hitters in league with the DH.
Most teams look for another home run hitter, maybe not as reliable as the guy batting fourth, but still able to put thunder into the ball. Dave Kingman was a great number five hitter from this point of view. The batters that follow are arranged more-or-less by their batting averages, although teams often put the best power hitter left in the sixth slot.
Many teams like good "clutch" hitters to populate the middle of the batting order. One of the most frustrating things for a manager is to get men in scoring position only to have your five-hole hitter choke in the clutch. Players who get better in the clutch are an important and rare commodity.
Other teams try to put together a second "mini" top of the batting order: A good baserunner batting fifth (or sixth in leagues with the DH), a good bat handler next, and then a power hitter. This approach can weaken the middle of your lineup (the third, fourth, and fifth hitters) by moving a power hitter too far away from the high on-base guys in the first three slots.
While considering what you need for a good batting order, you also need to look for strong players by position. This is hard to do and is one reason why even great teams end up with two or three players who are no better than average.
In Strat-O-Matic Computer Baseball, as in real life, you need a good defensive catcher. Nearly every play begins with a ball being thrown toward the catcher and a poor defensive catcher can make hash out of your defense. Look for opposing runners to laugh as they take extra bases and steal third against a poor catcher. If the catcher is not only strong defensively but is a good hitter, too, snap him up!
First basemen are traditionally power hitters. If you have watched baseball for long you have likely seen many cases where even a great defensive first baseman has been replaced by a weak fielding but good hitting first baseman whenever a team can manage it. Great hitting with good defense is a plus, but there are only so many Mark McGwires in the world, and you will hear few fans complain about Frank Thomas's defense when they discuss his incredible hitting prowess.
Second basemen are traditionally good fielders. They and short stops anchor the defense for a team. Look for defense and a good bat handler, here, someone like Roberto Alomar. Many a second baseman has made a good number two hitter in a batting order.
Third basemen are often a balance between at least adequate defense and hitting. Many have been number five hitters in a lineup, although if you bat the likes of Molitor fifth, you should have the likes of Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx ahead of him!
Defense is thought to be essential in a short stop, even if his hitting stinks. Most batters are right handed, and most of them pull the ball; this means that short stops field more batted balls than other players. You want sure hands, here. If the short stop is a good hitter (Cal Ripken, Jr., for instance), then all the better. But short stops are usually the bottom hitters in a batting order.
Outfielders are often thought of as interchangeable, but this is not entirely true, even though outfielders often shuttle among left field, center field, and right field. Most teams look for defensive strength "up the middle," by which they mean the catcher, the second baseman, the short stop, and the center fielder. One reason there are historically fewer great hitting center fielders than great hitting left fielders and right fielders is that teams want a defensive leader in center field--a take charge guy with great range, and preferably (but not necessarily) a great arm. If you have crack at a great fielding center fielder who can hit well (Willie Mays, Tris Speaker, and their like) consider taking him right after you have selected the best hitter you can find for the third slot in your batting order.
Left and right fielders have traditionally been good hitters first and good fielders second--still, when the Strat-O-Matic baseball soars high and majestically to the outfield, you may find yourself hoping you have someone out there who can catch it! Try to make one of these fielders and leftie hitter, to help balance a lineup that probably features mostly righties. Great right fielders include the likes of Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, and they traditionally have very strong throwing arms (because baserunners are mostly running away from them, requiring very strong throws from right field to get them out). Great left fielders include Barry Bonds and Ricky Henderson. These players are often left-handed throwers, which means their gloves are on their right hands, facing the left field foul line, helping them (so the reasoning goes) to better catch fly balls pulled down the left field line.
Modern pitching is a complex matter, involving starters, relievers, and set-up men. Strong pitching is very important to a team's success, and you will need at least two outstanding starters if you hope to compete in a league. Look for five strong starters--guys who can go eight or more inning per outing. It is possible to go with only four starters, and in the heat of a pennant race in late some teams do, but pitchers wear out and need rest. If you want your starters strong in August, be sure to give them rest in May. A five pitcher starting rotation will give them that rest. In 1973, manager Yogi Berra on the New York National League club stuck to his rotation through thick and thin, and in a very tight race for the division title he had the strongest starting staff in the league--it made the difference between the championship they won and being just another also-ran.
Try to have both left-handed and right-handed starters, leaning more toward righties. Some of your opponents will have batting orders that feast on right handers, so you need one or two lefties to put them in their place. Others will feast on lefties, so have righties ready for them. If every team has had a chance to draft, then you are not likely to have many weak teams in your league, but check out Strat-O-Matic Computer Baseball's statistics as a season progresses. You may find that a particular opponent fares badly against left-handed or right-handed pitching; it would be nice to have a starter who takes advantage of that weakness.
In modern baseball, having at least one great relief pitcher is essential to a winning season. In their primes, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Finger, and Bruce Sutter shut down other teams, making an eighth inning lead an almost certain victory. Make a great reliever an early choice as you build your team, then try to acquire both lefty and righty relievers, for those special situations that arise during a game. Is there a great right handed hitter up and the bases are loaded and you have a lefty on the mound? You will want a good right handed reliever to go in and take down that hitter! (Of course, if the hitter is Frank Thomas, who hits right handers every bit as well as left handers, bring in the righty and then pray for rain.)
The set-up pitcher is the newest innovation in baseball strategy. Starters start games and are supposed to have good endurance; relievers go for only an inning or two and are used to close out ball games or to face a particular hitter. Set-up pitchers generally have moderate endurance, perhaps a few innings, and they come into games to bridge the gap between a starter taken out early and the reliever who would be burned out if used for too many innings. Set-up men don't get many wins, and they don't get many saves, but they hold leads until the closer can come in and finish the game. Guys like Burt Hooten have become essential for victory in big league baseball. Look for someone who is tough in the clutch, has a low earned run average, and can go for a moderate number of innings.