SteveMRyan's Blog

June 18, 2016

Picking a team for a tournament

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevemryan @ 4:42 am
Me (Braves Cap), Randy Coryer (Expos Cap) & Skeet Carr at the 2015 APBA Convention

Me (Braves Cap), Randy Coryer (Expos Cap) & Skeet Carr at the 2015 APBA Convention

I enjoy playing APBA Baseball and the highlight of my year for the past few years has been the APBA Convention in Alpharetta Georgia.  The rules are fairly simple and have changed slightly over the years but the goal for most of the players is to have fun while meeting old and new friends.  The game company posts the rules (here are the 2016 rules) well before the tournament so no surprises.  The only two changes I can think of are player limits (50AB or more for position players & 20IP or more for pitchers) and team pool (select from the 1950 season to the current past completed season, 2015 for this year) but those rules seem a bit redundant to me.  As Major League Baseball has grown more players play.  The length and value of contracts dictate the player’s health be considered in the long-term instead of the short-term.  So teams from the modern era don’t have a problem filling the 20 card roster used in the tournament.  Teams and players used in previous tournaments are eligible as long as they meet the minimum requirements unless they won a championship.  The company provides dice.  Many players bring lucky dice shakers or dice towers.  Some even wear lucky clothing as long as it smells fresh.

Me (Braves Cap) talking to the Great George Hines!

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall-of-Famer Brian Wells has written a very detailed article (available here) as well as an Excel Spreadsheet (also available here) detailing his proven process.  Who can argue with a two-time champion and Hall-of-Famer?  The purpose of this article is to describe how I like to pick my team because it works for me and I thought others might be interested.

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall of Famer Brian Wells

Two-time Champion and APBA Hall of Famer Brian Wells

My first point will be explaining why and how I like to play.  I have been a baseball fan since I watched my first baseball game or played in my first T-ball league when I was six or seven years old.  My first memories are of the 1972 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds.  I liked the Reds since then because they won that particular game and they were clean-cut like my dad.  Oakland had long hair and mustaches and gaudy green and gold uniforms with white shoes.  My first T-ball team was the Beetles and we had orange shirts with black letters and I had black cleats just like the Reds.  I have been a Reds fan ever since.  I grew up reading all the baseball history & biography books I could get my hands on and eventually ‘graduated’ to books that took a more analytical approach.  I learned the strategies that increased the chances of scoring and the strategies that reduced scoring opportunities.  So when I pick a team, I try to pick a team that suits my playing style.  For example, I don’t care much for stealing bases or the Hit & Run play so the 1985 Cardinals don’t really work for me but they are a very good team.

Steve Skoff and John Duke being inducted into the APBA Hall of Fame

Steve Skoff and John Duke being inducted into the APBA Hall of Fame

Next I look at how I construct my roster.  Tournament teams consists of 20 cards.  That means I have a ten player lineup (starting pitcher and eight positions plus designated hitter) and a ten player bench.  Most tournaments seem to prefer a three-man starting rotation so that leaves eight bench players.  Rules also dictate that injuries aren’t used and under no circumstances should a pitcher come to bat.  Therefore if a pinch-hitter enters the game then a defensive substitute becomes necessary.  I like to have a long reliever who would normally be the fourth starter for when a starters gets reduced and needs replacing.  Short relievers can only pitch one inning per game so I try to have at least three.  After the tenth inning all pitchers become a Grade C pitcher with no control letters and a fielding rating of one.  Since short relievers get a grade bump against their first batter (in the middle of an inning – if the batter hits from the same side from which the pitcher throws) one left-handed reliever helps but isn’t necessary.  I prefer to have at least two (one right-handed and one left-handed) pinch-hitters for my weakest hitters with defensive replacements.  I tend to use the strongest hitting lineup so defensive replacements are important for late innings.

Understand that APBA is not real baseball but a tabletop game using cards and dice.  Dice usage means there is chance or luck but the best strategy is to increase probabilities for success.  There are real baseball strategies that work.  Scoring runs increases the chances for winning and purposefully making outs decreases the chances for victory.  That said, if you play for one run or small ball then be satisfied to score one run or less.  I prefer the philosophy of Joe Sheehan (of the Joe Sheehan Newsletter) as he preaches, “Ball go far…team go far!”  A single roll of 66 with a Printed Result Number (PRN) of One – A Home Run – is a lot easier than stringing together a bunch of singles and doubles.  According to the Tango on Baseball website (Run Expectancy Matrix) sacrificing – if successful – reduces the chances for scoring as well as the expected runs so I abhor sacrificing.  I also trust the Game to produce realistic results so I make decisions based on real-life stats more than reading the cards.  While I haven’t won any tournaments, I have fun and my method works for me.

Games being played!

Games being played!

The same goes for stealing bases.  Since APBA Baseball Basic game handles stolen bases in the game engine I don’t worry about having a few speedsters over sluggers.  I try to remember to ‘Play it Safe” with my slow runners.  I prefer fast runners to slow but don’t change my roster to accommodate speed.  I do feel unless players steal bases at a rate of 85% or higher it is counter-productive to success.

I base my rosters and lineups on On-base Plus Slugging Pct (OPS).  Several years ago I took a WebEx course called Sabermetrics 101 through Boston University.  One of our assignments determined the correlation between various stats and winning baseball teams.  There were a few exceptions. but OPS was the most closely related stat to winning for successful teams.  As a result of that, I tend to order my lineups from top-to-bottom (for the most part) in order of OPS from highest to lowest.  I have gotten comments in the past about having power hitters at the top of my lineups but every time through the lineup will get that hitter up one more time and increase my chances of rolling a 66!

Defending 2014 Champion Paul Trinkle (Twins Jersey).  He secretly enjoyed when I genuflected in his presence.

Defending 2014 Champion Paul Trinkle (Twins Jersey). He secretly enjoyed when I genuflected in his presence.

When selecting teams strong pitching is a must.  In APBA stronger pitchers mainly cut the number of singles and walks.  Also baserunners don’t advance when a batter strikes out so I am not afraid of favorable strikeout ratings (KXY).  I try to select starters with good control (Z or ZZ) but I will choose an A over a BZ every time.  Choosing a B over a CZZ is a tougher choice because a ZZ reduces the bases empty walk.  So I choose the higher Pitching Grade, from A to D, and more favorable strikeout and control ratings (KXY, Z & ZZ over R & W) for my starters.  For my bullpen I also use the same priorities but if I have a W rated pitcher I focus on not using him with the bases loaded if at all.

I try to pick teams with decent rated fielders so the Team Fielding totals a One or close.  The APBA Convention Tournament uses the Advanced Fielding Option which rewards higher rated fielders.  Since all teams have a weakness I want a team strong in two-out-of three areas, Pitching and Hitting.  I don’t ignore defense but it isn’t a high priority.  Defense is between 5-15% of the action so I hope I don’t have a lot of bad luck on defense with error numbers.  As I said earlier, where available, I try to keep defensive substitutes available for weaker fielders late in the game.

The 2014 Finals with Sub-Manager Brian Wells v Skeet Carr

So once I choose my team, pick the players for my roster and set my lineup, I am ready to play.  I will pinch-hit toward the end of a close game or in a key spot if a big hit can blow a game open since I have defensive subs available.  I don’t Hit & Run or use the sacrifice strategy at all.  I just roll the dice and wait for good results.

In close games or if my pitcher’s Grade drops then I have to use my bullpen.  Usually I hope for complete games from my starting pitchers.  I will use my higher rated relievers against the better hitters which is usually toward the top of the order.  If I relieve toward the bottom of the order and the weaker hitters, then I will save my higher rated relievers for what I consider higher leverage spots.  If I have a starter get to the 25th out or later and he hits the showers then I will go straight to my best reliever.  I tend to view the opposite lineups in thirds and try to put my relievers in place to succeed.  I will try to relieve in spots where I can get favorable lefty-righty matchups.  But my main pitching strategy is to hope for a complete game from my starter.

1975 APBA Baseball Brochure

1989 APBA Baseball Brochure

I have a couple of tools I use to select my team.  My biggest tool is Excel.  I keep my Season Card Inventory on a spreadsheet.  When I use a team, instead of just having an ‘x’ marking a team I have, I will put the Grades and ratings of the top three starters for that team.  Also, in the Sabr101 class I learned a bit about MySQL.  I was able to set up a spreadsheet with all the players with 50 or more ABs and 20 or more IPed.  I have sorted this according to the last team a player played for because that is how APBA puts players on teams.  I have received some help the past couple of years updating my spreadsheet when Sean Lahman releases his DB.  I have forgotten some of the skills I had learned.  Once you display a skill, it isn’t necessarily yours to keep – Use it or lose it!

So that is how I pick my team for the APBA Convention.  Another key point – my wife is a Braves fan so I have used the 1998 Braves for the last three years.  I am a Reds Fan(!) but the Braves are one of my top four or five favorite teams so this isn’t a struggle.  I will be using the 1998 Braves again.  The Tournament is in Alpharetta (a suburb of north Atlanta) so maybe I can get a bit of a home-field advantage!


My Favorite Game



  1. I’m sorry, but that top picture clearly depicts Steve Bedrosian and Dick Williams (and some guy)! This was fun to read.

    Comment by coalblack — June 19, 2016 @ 6:54 am

    • You may be correct but that Steve guy has really let himself go!

      Comment by stevemryan — June 19, 2016 @ 7:53 pm

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