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MLB Showdown 3: Roster Building--Offense

Today I continue my series on MLB showdown with a look at offensive players. Previously, I gave a 101 level look at the game, and then explained roster construction for pitchers.

MLB showdown is a baseball simulation card game. You collect the cards, assemble rosters, and play pretend baseball games using a 20 sided die. It was made by Wizards of the Coast, and ran from 2000-2005. There's still a small active community of players today. It was one of the things that firmed my interested in baseball, and helped teach me about the nuances and analytics of the game.

A couple of reminders about how the game is played:

Pitchers have control numbers, and hitters have on base. You roll and add to a pitcher's control number. If that beats the hitter's on base, then the pitcher has the advantage. If tied or hitter's on base is better, then advantage goes to the hitter. You roll the die again and play off of the results card to determine the outcome. Then essentially just play normal baseball rules. Hit and walks means runners, and rounding the bases means runs. There are variants for defense, speed, double plays, stealing bases, and so on.

I'm working on a series about roster construction. Part 1 is here. A couple of reminders about how rosters are constructed: you have a 5000 point limit to bring 20 players onto your roster. You have a 4 man rotation, and a 9 man starting lineup, 8 position players and one possible DH. You then can add position players onto your bench for 20% of their point cost. Usually you wind up constructing a 3 man bench, or 4 if playing NL rules with no DH. With these guidelines in place, it means you can typically spend an average of 325 points per starting position player. This sets up for multiple strategies.

You can assemble a ridiculous pitching staff and then a weaker offense, or vice versa. You can have a well balanced team of middle of the road players, or go top heavy/bottom heavy with really good and really bad players. Much like a real salary cap, you have to stay under 5000 points. I've got an assortment of different cards which I'll be referencing for my explanations. Feel free to scroll through them as you read.

As you can guess, when assembling your lineup you'll need 8 position players, playing each spot on the baseball diamond. Each hitter has a position or positions listed on their card, and there's a +# on it to show how good defensively they are. You have to fill each on field position with someone qualified to play it, so you can't just have 8 outfielders playing all over the diamond. So you'll be assembling a team that balances offense, defense, covers all the positions, and is under the point cap.

Typically, a player's value is directly related to their point value. The higher the points, the better the player. But much like real baseball, no two players are equal, and each one has their pros and cons. As an acting general manager, you need to assemble a winning team that fits withing the restrictions of points and positions. You can make a team that has a focus on speed, defense, on base, or slugging, or a team that balances all those out and is well rounded. It's up to you!

Good hitters and good fields exist at nearly every position. There are certain pros and cons.

Catchers: Their defense is ranked in "arm" as in only trying to throw out stealing runners. Showdown isn't advanced enough to realize that most players steal bases off the pitcher, not the catcher. Higher arm=more difficult to steal. Players are ranked with speeds A (20), B (15) and C (10). When attempting a steal, you roll the dice and add it to the catcher's arm. A Good defensive catcher like Castillo has a 50% chance of throwing out a speed A player (arm of 10 plus the roll). Widger is much worse, since his arm is only 4. That speed A runner would then have a 80% chance of stealing successfully.

First Base: is traditionally offense first and true here as well. Their defense ranks will only be 0 or +1. Additionally, you can play someone out of position at first for a -2 defensive score. First basemen will rank from bad to great. Some of the best hitters in the game play there.

Second Base and Shortstop are basically the same in this game. Defense scores will rank from 0 to 5. Traditionally there are weaker hitters and better fielders in these spots. But there are some solid hitters with good defense you can find: Barry Larkin, Alex Rodriguez, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Omar Vizquel.

Third Base: Defense can range from 0 to 3. It's a lot like first base, in terms of offensive players you'll find there. But with that higher range of defense you can get more two way value than at first.

Outfield: MLB showdown will categorize outfielders in 3 separate positions. There is OF, where the player can play any outfield spot with equal defense, CF/LF/RF, where a player typically adds more value in center than at the corners, and LF/RF, where a player just adds defense to the two corner outfield spots. You need to have someone as either an OF or CF to play the centerfield spot. You can't put a corner OF there. OF defensive ranks will range from 0 to 3. The corners are traditionally more offensively minded, where CF is more defensive. Typically.

It's worth nothing there are multi positional players, who you can slot in where ever you want, as long as it's listed on their card. There are also DHs, who play 1B with a -1 fielding score. Defense matters at times. for infielders, you can turn double plays by rolling and adding the defense score of all 4 infielders to the roll to be the hitter's speed. So having a good SS and 2B with +5 each and corner IFs with +0s would give you a 10 and essentially a 50% chance of turning a double play against a speed A hitter. OF defense matters for runners taking extra bases on hits or sac flies, where total OF defense gets added to a roll to beat player speed.

Now that all of that explaining is out of the way, feel free to take a look at all the players I listed. I'll explain why each player is potentially a good fit for a team or not. While there are positives and negatives to each player, some players are just naturally a better fit between the benefits they offer and the cost of points.

Chris Widger: I am not a fan. His arm is low (only +4), and is on base is 7. He's got some pop, hitting a home run 15% of the time with advantage, but that doesn't really outweigh the mediocre OB. At 210, there are better uses of points.

Alberto Castillo: I love Castillo. For only 130 points, you get a +10 arm (one of the best in the game), and an OB of 7. He's basically a singles hitting defensive first catcher, but at just 130 points, that's a bargain.

Greg Norton: Norton is decent, but I can find better deals. His OB of 8 is decent, and he's got a little pop too. But no defense doesn't really do any favors. At 240 points, he's not a bad pick, but you can do much better.

Mark Grace: Chicago Cub favorite Mark Grace is decent. He'd be a great player at any other position, but the lack of power hurts for a first baseman. He's only 300 points, and has a OB of 9, which is good. Plus he's got a 25% chance of extra bases, which is good. He's a little bit of a square peg for a round hole because of the lack of power, but the lower point cost makes him useful for certain rosters.

Craig Biggio: Biggio is a solid card. At 350 points, he's only slightly over my average. +3 defense is good for the position, and he's got a solid OB 9 plus A class speed. And some power similar to Grace. If you look closely, he's essentially a 2B playing Mark Grace with better speed and defense.

Bill Mueller: One of my favorite cards. For only 220 points, you get a top notch fielding 3B who's got an on base of 9. Switch hitter too. He's got a lack of power, but at that cost, he's a great bottom of the order hitter for most teams. Love this card.

Jeff Huson: He's decent for the cost. The OB 7 is a bit low, and he's got no power. But he's got position eligibility at both 2B and SS, and both are a good +4. He's also got speed A. He's a useful bench player, and not a bad starter either if you are looking to save a few points to put towards a masher.

Garrett Anderson: He's decent. Some of the best OF defense you'll find, and decent power. The OB 7 is a bit low from him being super useful, but at 250, it's not a steep cost. He's essentially a 7-9 hitter in showdown.

Willie McGee: I included him so you had an example of a spot filler. The OB 6 is terrible, and he's got no glove. He can play all 3 OF positions. The only real upside is that he only costs 50 points. The OB of 6 means that with a pitcher with a control of 5, McGee has a 5% chance of getting the advantage. A lower control pitcher of 2 gives him just a 20% chance of advantage, where a OB 9 would have a 35% chance. He's a spot filling points saver.

Tim Salmon: He's a decent card. OB 8, 15% chance of homer run, and LF/RF+1. At 290 points, he's not exactly a bargain, but he's not a bad card. There are better options out there, as there's going to be someone out there with either better defense or better OB for the same point cost.

Steve Finley: This is an intriguing card. The OB 7 is low for a 350 point player. But he does have 25% power as when he's got the advantage 16-20 are home runs. The OF of +2 is very useful as well. I wouldn't normally play him because the OB 7 is just too little for 350 points, but he's still got use.

Derek Bell: Another example of a backup OF. The terrible 6 OB makes him a liability. But he does have some power and defense for 140 points. He's also a speed A player. he's got some use, but there are better options available.

So that's a look at building a roster with position players. Up next, I start building my dream team


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