Friday, March 04, 2005

Cristian Guzman: Special OPS

Thoughts on MVP Baseball 2005, including how to turn Guzman (and, yes, even Inning-Endy Chavez) into a sabermetric demigod

As I've noted a couple of times, I picked up this EA Sports title a week ago today, because I really wanted . . . well, put it this way: I am as hyped up for baseball as Martha Stewart must be to return to her 182-acre estate.

I indicated that I would post my thoughts soon thereafter, but a week of illness has hampered my efforts both to play and to post on the game (and, worst of all, delayed my quest to experience the sheer beauty of XM Satellite Radio, a/k/a, "crack in baseball form"). But God invented antibiotics for a reason, and here I am again.

---First of all, congratulations to your Virtual Washington Nationals, who--- after losing two weekend games at Philly by the combined score of 12-4---claimed their first victory, a thrilling 5-2, 14-inning vanquishing of the phriggin' Phils. It was Tomo Okha's turn in the rotation, and he delivered an inspired performance over his seven innings---as memory serves, he allowed one run on six hits and two walks, while striking out eight batters---before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the eighth of a tight 2-1 contest. Joey Eischen couldn't preserve the lead in the bottom half, surrendering an opposite-field solo shot to Bobby Abreau.

From then on, it was sheer bullpen dominance. Virtual Charlie Manuel went "1970s closer" with Billy Wagner, hanging him out there was three incredible innings, and also mixed in Rheal Cormier and Tim Worrell. For the Nats, Eischen settled down and actually went a second inning, T.J. Tucker was spotless, Joe Horgan set down the Thome-Abreau duo, and Antonia Osuna Reborn (I don't believe he's in the game, so I recreated him by editing a generic player with a decidedly non-generic name like Tomohatsu Garcia) was gassin' 'em. The Nats broke through in the 14th, as pinch-hitter Jeffrey Hammonds led off with a single and, with runners at first and third, star of the game Jose "Don't make me get angry" Guillen singled Hammonds home. (Guillen had previously pounded the first Nats' homer, off Vicente Padilla.) Vinny Castilla chipped in an RBI single, and Nick Johnson lofted a sac fly. Chad Cordero made the lead stick. Ball game, as they say.

---Now, I won in large part because of fine-tuning made to the "game tuner," which will be the point of my review. You see, I love baseball, but I'm not a great baseball gamer. I think I peaked at "Baseball Stars," which, interestingly, is also when baseball games peaked, in my humble opinion. I just find most games (and joysticks) these days to be obscenely "busy" (and the players so life-like they lose the novelty of the old Nintendo days). Consequently, I'm not good at timing and hot'n'cold-based hitting systems, like MVP Baseball has. And I'm a "D-pad" kind of guy; these "analog sticks" have always freaked me out.

So, as I'm acclimating to the game, I am playing on "Pro" mode, which is the second out of four (in increasing difficulty) modes. And my hitting still kind of stinks. As a result, I've made two "tuning" adjustments in the gameplay mode:

a) I've decreased the computer's control a good deal (and mine, to some extent); and
b) I've upped my abilities to make contact and to hit with power (I was getting a lot of weak grounders to the middle infield otherwise).

I have two observations based on these changes:

1) The "gamer tuner" (or "game sliders mechanism," I guess, depending on who makes the game) is one of the greatest video games inventions since, well, the fights in "Blades of Steel."

The previous EA Sports title I purchased was NBA Live 2003, I suppose, and it was ridiculous. You played on one mode of difficulty, and the world was your oyster; you played on one higher, and the computer players summoned the Force in response to every pass you threw. But with a "game tuner," you can engineer the game in the manner you like. As reflected in my first adjustment, one criticism I have in baseball games is that everything the computer throws tends to be a strike. I like the play the game for at least some simulation of the real thing; thus, you've got to be able to work the count, look for your pitch, etc. (And the computer needs to have the opportunity to do this, too.) I don't relish 45-pitch complete games.

2) Cristian Guzman is freakin' awesome!

Well, I should clarify. Guzman's not that great in the game; he's probably a bit overrated, from what I can tell, but most players who make contact and run well are overrated by computer games---batting averages on balls in play tend to be inflated, in my experience, and it can be fairly simple to steal a base. But, make the above adjustments and place him in the most opportune spots in the order (in this game, Nos. 2 and 8---see below) and, as we might say about Esteban Loiaza: "WOW!"

I have played three league games in MVP Baseball (and played parts of several others, just toying around, scouting other teams/stadiums, getting my bearings), and Guzman has batted in the second and eighth spots in the order. (Vidro has also batted second, and Inning-Endy has also batted eighth.) It looks like the computer places exaggerated importance in these spots. Bat a guy second, and the computer will give into him (out of fear of the third spot); bat a guy eighth, and the computer will give nothing good to hit.

So here's the practical application: In the opener, I played Wilkerson in center, Sledge in left (in other words, no Endy), and Guzman hit eighth. Guzman had no official at-bats, as I recall (and it's been almost a week), drawing three walks. The computer treated Guzman as Don Zimmer treated Kevin Mitchell in the '89 NLCS: "Meh, let's just walk him." I was three-hit, so nothing of consequence happened offensively, except for Guzman's uber-Bonds OBP.

Well, in the game, Wilkerson just isn't rangy enough for center, and I don't feel like tuning my outfielders into Jesse Owens. So Endy got a start, batting eighth, in my second game; I gave Guzman the Frank Robinson Treatment and batted him second. (Vidro had collected 66.66666% of my hits in that spot in the opener, by the way.) Guzman saw little more than fastballs and dunked two singles in four at-bats. Trailing 8-0 in the top of the eighth, I gave in to the fact that I stink and boosted the power tuner; I rallied for four runs in the inning, and the stage was set for Guzman to become a star.

I kept Guzman in the second hole in the third game, the marathon. Wilkerson, who has gotten off to an abysmal start (inopportune "cold zones"; I find it hard to hit with him), batted third. Well, two things happened: Early in the game, Guzman hit the crud out of the ball, slamming a triple (guess it wasn't just the Metrodome) and scoring my first run and ripping a double to left. Then, the game realized (I guess) that Guzman's hot and Wilkerson's struggling, and the computer pitched around Guzman to get to Wilks. (And it worked.) All in all, Guzman was 3-for-4 with three walks.

Extra-base hits. Walks. Guzman is an OPS monster in this game so far!

(What is more, Endy hit eighth again. Guess what he's doing? That's right; he's walking a good deal. That's F-Robby's answer I guess: Hit him eighth and make sure a computer simulation pitches to him.)

Strategy by EA Sports!

Did you find the right combo of buttons to make Frank nap in the dugout yet?
Ice Hockey was way better than Blades of Steel. I think that's my favorite sports video game ever.
I've noticed that it's pretty easy to get Castilla and Johnson to jack balls into the stratosphere if you know how to hit with them right. I've got 9 homers through 12 games with Castilla and 7 for Johnson so far. In my season, I bat Terrmel Sledge (I just love saying his name) leadoff, and he rewarded me by hitting the Nats first home run, on the very first Nationals at-bat in Philly.

Playing the batting mini-game and home run challenge really pay off in learning to hit with players just right.
Just need more practice, I suppose. I haven't done the HR game yet. The hitting game is incredibly addictive, though.

And, Ryan, it's a matter of taste, of course, but there's no sweeter sound than [computerized voice] "Blades. Of. Steel" [cheesy sound effect] "Bing."
Also rad: "Double Dribble." Not the game, just the guy saying it when you started it.
Dwouble dwibble. Da da da da dum da!

And no one could beat DD's halftime show.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?