The baseball season won’t be starting as planned Thursday, with the Rays-Pirates game at the Trop and 14 others postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Strat-O-Matic simulation gaming company is stepping in, planning to play out the season as scheduled and post daily results, statistics and even “key game highlights” on Strat-O-Matic.com.
“Like all baseball fans, we are disappointed that the season won’t be starting on time," founder Hal Richman said, “but we hope this day-by-day simulation will provide a fun, viable substitute for the time being."
Adults of a certain age will remember Strat-O-Matic as a board game using individual player cards with columns of potential outcomes of at-bats based on the players’ career performances, which are numbered. It was all keyed by the randomness of rolling three dice and occasionally a fourth 20-sided die.
The people playing the game are the managers, so the bulk of the strategy is in setting the lineups and dictating moves during the action.
“The basic game of Strat-O-Matic is still the same as it was in the ‘60s," company research director and master card-maker John Garcia said.
The old-school board game is still available, and quite popular, and includes cards for select seasons and a new Negro Leagues set available for play.
A computerized version, called the Windows Game, will be used for the 2020 simulation, with stats from Baseball Daily digital cards for each player, which are updated projections going into this season and, under normal circumstances, would be after each game. Plus, the Windows version can play out any season since 1871.
“It’s basically the board game on the computer," Garcia said. “Obviously it’s a lot more complex with the options that are available. … And it allows you to play out seasons a lot faster than you can with the board games."
Garcia said Strat-O-Matic officials will put together lineups and play the games as they think the teams would, with projected lineups vs. left- and right-handed starters, and factoring in actual injuries. (For example, Chris Sale won’t pitch for Boston.) They also are soliciting input from fans via social media on some decisions and from reporters.
Asked for an opening day lineup vs. ex-Ray Chris Archer, I sorted through some of the matchup options as I thought manager Kevin Cash would and came up with this:
B. Lowe 2B
“The Rays are going to be a fun team," Garcia said.
Richman was 11 when he first invented the game in 1948 in the bedroom of his Great Neck, N.Y., home, and kept at it through his college days at Bucknell to produce the first season game in 1962.
The company now also produces basketball, football and hockey games in both board and digital versions, and has a fantasy baseball game. But its base product is the daily baseball game, and the one it hopes provides some entertainment during the pandemic shutdown.
“When there’s no baseball, Strat-O-Matic is here," Garcia said.