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A screen capture for a Strat-O-Matic simulated game posted on the website boardgamegeek.com.

No Delay for Opening Day in Strat-O-Matic Baseball League

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — Xander Bogaerts will have a chance to lead his team back to the playoffs.

Aaron Judge will continue his assault on the home-run record book.
 
There will be a baseball season in 2020. And it will open sometime in early April.
 
At least in Cheshire it will.
 
For more than four decades, the World Baseball League has used Strat-O-Matic Baseball to bring the game home for brothers Jeff and Matt Chaput and a group of friends who have tested their baseball IQs against one another and fate to see who is the best at managing a virtual team of very real Major Leaguers.
 
Strat-O-Matic, which began in 1961, combines the statistics of current players with the laws of probability to see how teams formed and managed by players will do head-to-head night in and night out. The model, which predates the advent of personal computers, began as a game played with cards giving the stats for each player and dice to see how at-bats would turn out when Player A met Pitcher B in a hypothetical game.
 
"Back [in 1977], it was strictly a board game with dice," Matt Chaput said recently. "Now today because everyone has jobs and families, there's a computer version. The computer came into play in the mid-'90s.
 
"For the first 18 or 20 years, we'd play face to face, basically when everyone could get together. With lives changing and families and all that, it was perfect timing to switch to computers. Now, we just have to get together a few times a year: draft day, and we try to get together at least once a month and do trade talk."
 
And then in the fall, the group gets together for the playoffs because those games usually involve real-time management decisions by the players.
 
Currently, the league has 14 such managers, including the sons of the Chaput brothers, who are carrying the tradition to the next generation.
 
Throughout the regular season, the managers submit their lineups for each game to Jeff Chaput, who runs the simulations on his computer. After a couple of minutes, he has box scores for each game — usually seven, though teams do get "off nights" — and updated season standings and stats for the managers to view.
 
In the post-season, the process is a little different.
 
"When we get to the playoffs, the managers will get together and play out the game, Matt Chaput said. "The system lets you start from the first inning or you can start from the fifth inning. You let the computer play up to the fifth and it stops and you go from there.
 
"We can usually get through a series on a given night, starting in the sixth."
 
And even without the experience of making manual decisions from at-bat to at-bat, the WBL managers have significant control over their teams.
 
"There's a manager's preference sheet that most of the owners are working on right now to get to Jeff," manager Armand Gladu said. "That sheet says how you want to manage your team — like do you want to be aggressive with bunting or conservative with hit and run, stealing, running the bases.
 
"For batters, you can use things like: Never pinch-hit for this guy or replace him with a defensive sub late, avoid lefty/righty match-ups for certain pitches or certain batters."
 
"You can have a starting pitcher like Gerrit Cole, who you want to leave in until he absolutely has to come out or if there's another guy who you may want to take out early," Matt Chaput said.
 
You also have to be realistic. Strat-O-Matic won't let you throw an ace reliever every night.
 
"For the pitchers, part of the profile is they track how many innings they'd go and whether they'd be tired," Gladu said. "If a reliever has been used multiple days in a row, he will be designated as tired, and when you allow the computer to simulate the game, it won't use him.
 
"If you're manually coaching and he's fatigued, you might be able to bring him in, but he won't perform as well. And if he's completely tired, it won't even let you bring him in."
 
The game allows managers to build a four-man pitching rotation with a fifth starter worked in every third or fourth time through, Gladu said. Come the playoffs, you can typically get away with a three-man rotation on the mound.
 
"You're pretty much held to how it's done in real life," he said. "You can't over-leverage them."
 
Because Strat-O-Matic dates back to the early '60s, it also predates the computer-age Rotisserie or fantasy leagues that began to spring up in the 1980s. With fantasy leagues — whether baseball, football or any pro sport — owners assemble teams of current pros and compete head-to-head based on the pro athletes' performance in the current season. If you "own" Mookie Betts on your fantasy team and he goes 3-for-4 in a game you're watching, he also will go 3-for-4 for your team in the fantasy league game that night. 
 
In that respect, Strat-O-Matic is a different fan experience. The live games you watch have no impact on how "your" players will produce in the games your Strat-O-Matic team plays. Everything is based on the stats for the last full season — 2019 for the teams currently being assembled.
 
Chaput and Gladu said they don't miss the immediacy of using stats from real-world games contemporaneous with the games their teams play in the virtual world.
 
"I would say you don't miss it because you just know that's not part of it," Gladu said. "I certainly have, and a bunch of the guys in the league have, played ESPN Fantasy Baseball. But we know with the [Strat-O-Matic] game, you're not going to get that.
 
"I don't believe to any degree Strat-O-Matic has built that into their game, to leverage what's happening in real life. Someone can have a great season this year, but if they didn't have a great season last year, it's not likely to be reflected. But, again, it's a simulation, so we've had people who under-performed from the way they performed in real life the year before. It's not without chance."
 
"Chance" but by no means random. In 2018, Strat-O-Matic's simulation correctly projected a five-game win for the Boston Red Sox against the Dodgers in the World Series. According to the company's website, its correct predictions included, "Boston's Game 1 win with Clayton Kershaw's early exit, LA's Game 2 lead erased by J.D. Martinez and Boston's series' clinching Game 5 win built by homers from Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and a Red Sox player getting the team's first playoff two-home run game since Rico Petrocelli in 1967."
 
Matt Chaput said, in his experience, the Strat-O-Matic simulations echo real-world results in a way that Rotisserie leagues cannot.
 
"I think the group thinks this is a lot more fun," he said. "When it comes to fantasy, it's kind of luck of the draw what happens to your team that night. This way, the team is built on last year's real statistics. We think it's more realistic.
 
"Some of our records reflect that. We have records for home runs in a season, and it was 70 like Barry Bonds. We've never had a 30-win season for a pitcher. We might have a 100-win team here or there. I think the record was 114 wins."
 
There have been two 116-win games in Major League Baseball history.
 
The World Baseball League's results are more like the real world now than when the local Strat-O-Matic league started because in 2020, using a computer, the teams can play a full 162-game schedule.
 
Gladu, who started playing in the league around 1981 (with a six-year hiatus while he served in the Navy), said he remembered playing 60-game seasons when games required players to be in the same place to roll the dice.
 
This year, the managers may just choose to "play out" a few regular-season games face-to-face rather than wait until the playoffs to take the reins from the computer … at least in April and May.
 
"I wouldn't be surprised if that happens because there's not a lot else to do at this point if you really like sports," Gladu said. "Most of the guys who play like to watch baseball or hockey, and that's not there at this point.
 
"Depending on how long this goes on, we could end up at Jeff's house watching the games play out. I would not be surprised if we all end up there."

Tags: baseball,   board games,   

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Hoosac Valley Students Learn Composting for Gardening Program

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

Lindsay McGinnis is teaching students about the benefits of composting. Their lunch leftovers will help create nutrient-rich soil for planting.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — When Hoosac Valley High School students return to school it will be time to start planting to support the Cornerstone Grown Project farm-to-school program.
 
In the weeks leading up to school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hoosac Valley was ramping up its composting program. Teacher and program organizer Lindsay McGinnis had her eyes set on the spring.
 
"We want kids to be more environmentally conscious but also to see that everything is connected," she said. "There is a community connection but also environmentally things are connected."
 
Last year, the school received a $25,000 grant from the Henry P. Kendall Foundation to help roll out the program that ties in several departments, classes, and organizations.
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