July 26, 2021

PureSim Baseball 4 Legs Out a Triple

April 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Last summer I got my hands on PureSim Baseball 3 and, for the most part, enjoyed it, although I found it to be lacking in certain areas. They say first impressions are important and when Babe Ruth belted only 24 and 25 home runs in 1920 and ’21, respectively, I was less than impressed. His total of 49 fell far short of the 113 he actually hit and left me wondering whether the game had a glitch or his power “outage” was just one of those things. So when I launched PureSim 4, I immediately replayed the 1920 and ’21 seasons to see if there was any improvement, and I was mostly thrilled with the results. Before we get into that, however, let’s start from the beginning.

PureSim 4 includes over 230 new features and tweaks, many of which add a new dynamic to the series. The first thing I noticed when launching the game was that 2011 projected Opening Day rosters were included, which was a nice touch. But because I’m more of a history buff, I ignored that and went back in time almost 100 years. One of my favorite features is the “Tru-Life Transactions Mode,” which takes the responsibility of drafting, trading, player releases and signing free agents out of your hands and puts it on the shoulders of your team’s automated general manager, who makes decisions based on real life transactions. PureSim 4 uses the Lahman Database created by friend and fellow Seamhead, Sean Lahman, and includes 90 years of transactions, dating all the way back to 1920. For guys like me who just like to replay old seasons, the Tru-Life Transactions mode is a blessing.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

To say the game is easy to set up and play would be an understatement; I was simulating seasons within 10 minutes of launching the program. After selecting from options that include the year in which I wanted to begin, whether or not I wanted to use real transactions and which player ratings scale I wanted to use, including two new ones—the 20-80 scale used by pro scouts and a 1-3 scale—I was taken to the association customization screen that included options for injuries, strict or age-based player fatigue, designated hitter usage, the size of my pitching rotation, modern closer usage, player development and whether or not I wanted to import players’ historical stats. Because I chose 1920, the settings were already appropriate to that era—no DH, four-man rotations, no closers (at least as defined by modern standards)—and I only had a couple of choices to make before starting.

As in last year’s PureSim 3 replay, the Cleveland Indians defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1920 World Series, while the Brooklyn Robins, the actual 1920 NL champs, fell flat. George Sisler led the American League in hitting at .385 and eight of the top 10 real life batting title contenders were among the simulated contenders. The NL average leaderboards weren’t quite as accurate, but it was enough so to be satisfying as Rogers Hornsby, Ross Youngs, Edd Roush and Zack Wheat finished in the top five just as they did in real life. Some stats were right on—Hi Myers led the senior circuit with 23 triples in a year in which he actually hit 22, and Babe Ruth ended up with 381 total bases as opposed to 388 in real life—while others were off—Cy Williams hit only seven home runs rather than the 15 he actually hit, Max Carey pilfered only 24 bases in a season in which he led the league with 52, and Ruth was the only AL slugger to hit more than 10 home runs when, in actuality, there were 11 with 10 or more.

Pitching stats were decent as well, especially considering the difficulty in capturing pitching accuracy as opposed to hitting. Carl Mays went 32-9 with a 2.21 ERA in a year in which he actually went 26-11 with a 3.06 and Wilbur Cooper went 26-12 with a 2.29 ERA in a year in which he actually went 24-15 with a 2.39 mark. Saves were accurate—the actual NL leader had six vs. eight in PureSim 4, while the actual AL leader had five vs. nine in the simulation—but innings pitched and games were way off, making me wonder if the pitcher usage engine needs to be tweaked. Though relievers appeared in more games in the simulated season than one would expect in 1920—Red Oldham appeared in 85 games in the simulation but only 39 in actuality and Dick Rudolph appeared in 80 games in the sim vs. only 18 in real life—starting pitchers racked up a lot more innings than they should have. In 1920 only one NL pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander, logged 350 or more innings, but in PureSim 4, 10 hurlers had at least 350 with the leader coming in at 395 2/3. When you consider that only 24 National League pitchers logged 350 or more innings in a single season in the 20th century, that’s not good.

The American League numbers were even more egregious, as Jim Bagby racked up 407 2/3 innings or 20.04% more than he actually pitched. The AL didn’t have as many 350-inning guys as the NL, but they had six who tossed more than 366 or one-third of the total number of 366+ inning seasons turned in by AL starters from 1901-1920. Only two pitchers recorded such seasons in the AL from 1907-1916—Big Ed Walsh, who did it five times, and Walter Johnson, who did it four—yet six accomplished the feat in one simulated season alone. In the spirit of fairness, these numbers are based on one replay and will most likely fluctuate over multiple replays, but it appears there’s a trend that has the AI relying too heavily on starting pitchers, and that’s something that needs to be fixed. Of course, players’ ratings can be edited by the end user so a little tweaking here and there may be all that’s needed for a more accurate pitching experience.

PureSim 4 almost made up for the pitching glitches, though, with an amazingly accurate representation of The Bambino in 1921. Below are his actual stats vs. his PureSim 4 stats:

Ruth 1921 G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K AVG OBA SLG OPS
Actual 152 540 177 204 44 16 59 171 145 81 .378 .512 .846 1.359
PureSim 4 152 575 157 226 59 14 59 169 132 81 .393 .508 .852 1.361

It doesn’t get much closer than that!

Next I played an entire career to see how that would go and I was impressed with those results as well. Going from 1974-1989, I played out Jim Rice’s career and he ended up with 353 homers, 1,267 RBIs and a .282 average, close enough to his actual career marks of 382/1,451/.298 to satisfy me. On the other hand, and I hate to keep harping on this, Bob Forsch, whose career also ran from 1974-1989, had way too many appearances and innings pitched. Apparently that’s an issue regardless of era and closer usage.

A few of the new features I was excited about affected trading, so I switched gears, turned off the Tru-Life transactions and dove into the new trading AI. Here’s how it’s described on Wolverine Studios’ PureSim Baseball 4 page:

  • New! – Totally re-built trade AI!
  • New! – New “TRU-Emotion” Trade-AI. If you continually attempt to pry a player away from an AI team via trade, after a while the AI will grow impatient with you. Ultimately it will take a player off the table for good, for the season (with you at least.) The AI will warn you when it is getting close to running out of patience, so if you see it start to indicate that it is frustrated, you best sweeten the pot quickly. The AI’s patience is directly related to the Trade AI slider. Note, the AI “remembers” all deals you have tried for a given player in a given season. When a new season begins, they’ll come in with a fresh attitude, so you have to wait until the next season to have any hope of getting the player.
  • New! – New difficulty slider for Trade AI (under “More Options” in options and utilities).

I liked the concept of the “TRU-Emotion” Trade AI and wondered how long it would take for me to get a GM to tell me what I could do with my lousy offers. I loaded up the 1975 season and went after Joe Morgan, who was on the verge of back-to-back NL MVPs. I didn’t realize it at the time but the difficulty slider was pretty low so it took more than 25 ridiculous offers before the Reds’ virtual GM got mad enough to pull Morgan off the table. Realizing that was too many, I loaded up the ’77 season, jacked the slider all the way up to 100 and went after Twins superstar Rod Carew. This time it took only five low-ball offers before the virtual GM hung up on me and told me to go away until next year. At first, I liked that it would be that challenging to negotiate deals with other teams. That was until I also noticed that the “greed factor” was also off the charts.

Making it more difficult to trade is a feature that could be a lot of fun if it was more realistic. Just for fun, I loaded the 1990 season and made an offer to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Barry Bonds that no GM in his right mind would have refused, but the PureSim GM is clearly insane, high, drunk or all of the above. Bonds enjoyed his first great season in 1990, belting 33 homers, stealing 52 bases and hitting .301 en route to his first of seven MVP awards, so I can understand the Pirates organization’s reluctance to part with him. I knew I’d have to come strong or go home, so I offered Roger Clemens in a straight-up deal. Clemens had already established himself as one of the game’s best hurlers and went on to post a 21-6 record with a stellar 1.93 ERA in 1990. Bonds was still mostly promise and potential before busting out that same season. Yet the computer GM told me I needed to offer more. Fine. I threw in up-and-coming 25-year-old stud outfielder Ellis Burks to sweeten the deal and was told to try again. Shaking my head in disbelief, I offered up 26-year-old two-time All-Star and 1988 MVP runner-up Mike Greenwell in a three-for-one deal and was told that not only was that STILL not enough but they were about to pull the plug on the whole thing.

Wow! I probably wouldn’t have parted with Clemens and Burks, let alone all three, but I kept going for the sake of the experiment and added 27-year-old second baseman Jody Reed, he of the 109 OPS+ and league-leading 45 doubles. Still no go and a warning that Bonds was about to be taken off the table. When I threw in five-time batting champion Wade Boggs in a last-ditch effort to acquire Bonds and was told that they were tired of talking to me and Bonds was no longer available, I had to laugh. The Pirates would have been getting a better third baseman and second baseman than they already had, a younger center fielder than Andy Van Slyke and one who was just as good, a left fielder that would have replaced Bonds in the lineup without embarrassing himself and an ace hurler to go along with Doug Drabek, and I was told to take a hike.

So I asked the computer GM to suggest a deal of his own and he came up with this doozy: Neal Heaton for Roger Clemens. Now maybe I don’t quite understand what the AI takes into account when evaluating trades but it offered me a 30-year-old journeyman pitcher with a career mark through 1990 of 73-92, and ERA of 4.35 and a K/9 of 4.1 for a 27-year-old future Hall of Famer (assuming the voters overlook the PED accusations) who was 116-51 through 1990 with an ERA of 2.89 and a K/9 of 8.5. Really? The game’s manual mentions that putting the slider all the way up to 100 increases the virtual GMs’ greed, but what’s the point if you can only satisfy it by parting with all-time greats for guys who’ve been forgotten by all but their parents? Just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things, I just offered the ’91 Pirates David Justice, Tom Glavine, Ron Gant and Steve Avery for Bonds and they kicked sand in my face. In fact, I could never wrest Bonds from Pittsburgh no matter which team I ran and how many quality players I offered.

I ratcheted it down to 50 and was able to “coerce” Seattles’ virtual GM to part with Ken Griffey Jr., and all I had to give up was David Justice, Ron Gant, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. To add insult to injury, Seattle’s HAL called it “a fair trade” (said the Dutch to the Indians) and couldn’t wait to sign on the dotted line. Taking it down to 40 would have gotten the Braves Griffey for Glavine and Smoltz, which is much more reasonable, although still a little steep for my taste. But I could at least see a deal like that being made or discussed. According to PureSim 4, 30 is recommended as “a good challenging default” so you might want to stick with that or else be prepared to part with more than you want when dealing with the virtual GMs in your league. Of course you could always force a trade if you get tired of dickering with an unreasonable computer AI.

Wade Boggs' player card (click to enlarge)

It looks like the reports generated by PureSim 4 haven’t changed much from last year’s version, at least aesthetically, but they’re fun to peruse and tell you everything you need to know so I doubt you’ll care much about the lack of eye candy. I like that Sabermetric reports are included—Wins Above Replacement, Extrapolated Runs, Defense Independent Pitching, Pitchers Component ERA, among others€”not to mention the add-in modules that include lists of franchise leaders, career achievements and milestones reached and soon to be reached, Hall of Fame career standards and other fun stuff. The almanac feature is a great way to keep track of your league’s history, the HTML reports remind me of the early days of Baseball-Reference.com, which is never a bad thing, and I thought it was a nifty idea to include Bill James’ “Favorite Toy” calculator that allows you to calculate the odds of a player reaching a milestone (Carl Mays, for example, had a 2.53% chance of winning 400 games as of the end of the 1921 season).

Player cards are visually appealing, easy to edit (if you’re so inclined) and contain enough information to leave you satisfied, including ratings in several categories, a defense chart that shows strengths and weaknesses in the field, and ratings and stats histories that show progress in chart form. You can even add a photo and say the player’s name to ensure correct pronunciation if you use the speech synthesizer, although I still think the synthesizer is a little creepy.

Lloyd Moseby takes Roger Clemens deep and sets off the fireworks display (click to enlarge)

The game play itself is fun to watch, even in this age of incredible graphics that make games of my childhood look like a sick joke. With a ball that gets thrown, hit, fielded and sometimes lost in the outfield seats for a home run, which results in a nice display of fireworks, it’s easy to follow the action. The crowd reacts accordingly, for the most part, and though it can’t match games designed for consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3, PureSim 4 is a far cry from the “good old days” when graphics were rudimentary at best and watching the action was akin to reading subtitles on a foreign film. The scrolling text is still present, don’t get me wrong, but the moving ball makes the experience more pleasurable, which made me realize how easily entertained I am (it doesn’t take much, folks). And if you don’t feel like managing and you’d prefer to just watch the action unfold, you can do that too, or you can quick sim each game and let the stats start to pile up. To simulate the 1920 and ’21 seasons, I used “unattended auto play” and it took less than 10 minutes to complete each season. When I replayed Jim Rice’s career it took only a few hours.

PureSim 4 has many more options and features and I encourage you to check them out. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, relatively accurate and easy-to-use baseball game, I recommend PureSim 4. I enjoyed playing it and appreciated that within minutes of downloading the product I was able to begin simulating and analyzing the results. Whether you’re a historical simulator like me or someone who enjoys playing in fictional leagues, PureSim 4 is at least a three-bagger, and with a few more tweaks here and there, could easily be a roundtripper when PureSim 5 is released down the road.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of the product being reviewed, but received no payment or other consideration for this review.

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