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MLB showdown 2: Roster Construction

I'm back to show off more of my new favorite card game, MLB showdown. Part of the appeal of the game is that you can collect cards and build an ultimate roster, essentially allowing you to be a GM in addition to being an in- game manager. Today I want to show you how building a roster works. I'll look at pitching first, then have a second article on hitters.

In case you missed my first write up on MLB Showdown, I'll go over the basics of the game. You collect baseball cards of different players, assemble a team and play simulated baseball games. The games are decided by players and random chance, in the form of a 20 sided dice. Players will have a control (pitchers) or on base (hitters), and results charts. You roll the dice to determine who has the advantage. If the roll+pitcher's control is lower than the hitter's on base, then the hitter has the advantage, and you roll a second time off the hitter's card for results. If the roll+ pitcher's control is higher than the hitter's on base, then you roll a second time off the pitcher's results card. The results roll determines if the hitter got a single, struck out, etc.

On each MLB showdown card, each player has a point value. This operates essentially as a player's salary, and there's a cap for building your roster. That way you can't just load up your roster with every single All Star and call it a day. Player points will range from 10 up to 600, 10 being bad, 600 being HOF quality. When building your roster, you need to balance player stats with cost. This forces you to get clever and make tough decisions.

The listed roster rules are as follows:

• 5000 point salary cap

• 20 man rosters: with 4 man rotations

• Field a full lineup of 9 position players, then the remaining 7 spots can be divided between bench and bullpen.

• Bench player's point values only cost 20% of their listed total, but bench players cannot enter into the game before the 7th inning.

These rules force you to shake out out your rosters in certain ways. Bench players are cheaper, and relievers point values typically range between 100-200 (since they can't pitch as many innings as a SP). All that considered, you can essentially average 325 points per starting position player and starting pitcher, and have 775 points leftover for bullpen and bench. From there, you can perform different strategies in building your rosters. You can try adhering to the 325 point per player average, or you can get a better more expensive player, than counter balance him with a worse one. What you do want to do is find players who are of good value. Since you've got limited resources with the 5000 point limit, you need to weight the pros with the cons. Here's a smattering of cards so you get a feel for what each player is worth. Remember, in this game, you roll a 20 sided die, so each number is essentially a 5% chance. Pitchers can throw beyond their limit, but at a reduced control of 1 per inning over.

First, a look at starting pitchers. You can generally rank their quality by their point values. But that's a rule of thumb. Much like real GMs, you have to dig deeper. Reynolds is the best, and Arrojo is the worst. 470 points for Reynolds makes him a top of the line SP, but not a full on ace. Rapp and Nagy are both middle of the rotation, Arrojo is bottom. The two key statistics to discern the differences. Higher control is better. The higher the outs go on the results portion of the card is better. From there, other stats to consider are the on base results: a pitcher like Rapp who gives up walks and singles might considered to be better than Nagy, who gives up singles and doubles. Then there's IP, which determine how late into a game a SP can typically go. Higher obviously better.

Control is most important, because that determines if you are rolling for a result off the pitcher's chart or the hitter's chart. If the pitcher gets control, you can see that he's got a 75%-90% chance of getting an out. But he has to get control. Rapp has a 20% higher chance of getting control over Arrojo. But when the pitcher has control, Arrojo has a 90% chance of making the out, where Rapp is 75%.

The different results play into it as well too. Pitchers who give up more walks (As opposed to singles, doubles, and home runs) will typically give up less runs. Pitchers with a greater range of GB outs on their charts can get more double plays, where FB outs means potential for sacrifice flies.

To sum it all up, I typically rank pitcher quality in this order: Higher control, higher outs, higher IP, less hits, more ground balls, and more strikeouts. Then balance it all out with points. For the above players, I wouldn't take all of them in a heartbeat.

• Reynolds is overpriced. Control is too low for a 470 point pitcher. He gets outs up to 17 (85% when having the advantage) and gets a ton of grounders. Usually you can get control 4 or 5 pitchers for that kind of money. 7 IP is good, but not worth the premium cost.

• Nagy is decent He's 150 points cheaper than Reynolds, and has same control. There's 1 less IP, and 1 less out slot (5%). But to save 150 points, he becomes a decent middle of the rotation bargain.

• Rapp. I like him. Control 4, Outs to 15 is reasonable. He gets a ton of ground outs, and doesn't give up extra base hits. The IP is a bit low, but there are strategy cards that you can use to counteract that.

• Arrojo. I would not use. The control 0 is a problem, but my main reason is that there are cheaper pitchers available with a control 0. There's better bargain basement pitchers if looking for a cheaper 4th starter.

Now onto Relievers. I've got 4 guys to show, 2 of whom I'd use, the other 2 not so much. See if you can guess which ones.

So right off the bat, notice the reduced points and IP for these RPs. They can't throw as many innings as starters, so their points cost are reduced by nearly 70%. Other than that, they are pretty similar in terms of control and results. Per each player:

• Wakefield is a rare 2 IP RP, essentially making him a long reliever. Hence the higher points than other players. He's got similar stats as Plesac, but that 2nd IP has value. Control 4 and outs 1-15 is decent. His on card GB out rate of 15% is a bit low, and the 25% fly ball rate is high.

• Graves is a closer, which is essentially an honorary title in this game. Certain strategy cards are for closers only, but otherwise he's just a normal RP. He's decent, with a solid control, outs up through 16, and only 10% chance of a hitter getting a single when Graves gets the advantage.

• Petkovsek is a decent RP. The control of 3 is a tad low, but that's balanced with outs 1-17. he doesn't get a lot of strikeouts, but gets decent ground balls, and low fly balls.

• Plesac is interesting, because despite his control 4 and outs 1-15, he's got the lowest point cost. It's largely due to his tiny 10% GB rate, and his 20% hit rate (singles and doubles 17-20). He's essentially a guy you wouldn't bring into an unclean inning.

So which two would I take? Graves and Plesac. Not Wakefield and Petkovsek. Why?

Graves is a solid closer and not terribly expensive. Control of 4 is good, not great, but I like how he can get ground ball outs, and not give up very many hits, and no extra base hits. He wouldn't be my final choice for closer, but he's a decent option.

Plesac is a bargain at 90 points with a control of 4. The ground balls are too few, but the strikeout numbers are decent. He's good for essentially a non-critical 6th or 7th inning. Ideally he wouldn't come in with runners on base. But he is a decent bargain.

Wakefield is too expensive. When pitchers go over their inning limit, they are "tired" and lose 1 off their control. Wakefield could be worth 3 decent innings. I just don't like the low ground ball and strikeout numbers and high fly balls. He gives up too many base runners for him to be worth the higher point total, IMO.

Petkovsek is decent, but I don't like control 3 or lower RPs. There are control 6 RPs available for 150-200, or essentially for just 50 more points than Petkovsek. yeah, their out totals won't be as high as 1-17, but the pitcher needs to get the advantage for that chart to count. In the alter innings, I want my pitcher to control the game, as a matter of personal preference. I'd get heartburn with a low control pitcher coming in with runners on, when one hit can decide the game right then. Petrovsek isn't a bad option at the cost, but I know I can do better.

That's part 2 of who knows on MLB Showdown. Next comes offense, then my ideal roster.


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