Previewing and Projecting the World Cup
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Posted by Paul on March 10, 2014 | Short Link

WorldCupTrophyWith less than four months to go before the World Cup begins, speculation is heating up. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world and it captures the attention and imagination of fans all across the globe. It’s only natural that there are already various modes in place for simulating, predicting, and even playing out World Cup action.

If you’re looking for plausible predictions for the upcoming tournament, there are numerous online programs available that will predict outcomes and plot potential match-ups. The ESPN World Cup bracket simulator will predict Group Stages and fill out the knockout-phase bracket for you. However, Telegraph takes things a step further, and provides a program that not only lets fans pick group winners and runners-up, but also allows you to input a prediction for each individual match!

Later this spring we’ll have a report on available tabletop simulations, but in the meantime here is a breakdown of some console and pc gaming options:

The reliable EA Sports masterpiece FIFA 14 is the most obvious example, offering a console soccer experience that lets you play out any international scenario you could possibly imagine. Also, many have been pleasantly surprised by PES 2014 as a console alternative.

However, simpler options exist as well. Smartphone app markets are filled with soccer games of various degrees of sophistication and difficulty, and at the Betfair Arcade, you can even find World Cup-themed slot machines! In particular, the World Cup Heroes 2 game puts a playful spin on international soccer tournament action for those who like to get a gambling fix now and then.

While predicting the brackets and playing around with the various gaming options can be great fun for fans, many people like to get their hands on legitimate projections and simulations handled this close to the event. And in today’s sports world of advanced statistics and complex analytic programs, these simulations are growing more accurate than ever before.

One of the clearest examples of who to follow online is at Bloomberg Sports, where advanced analytic practices are used to determine each country’s chances of advancing through each level of the tournament. Here’s a look at how the Bloomberg Sports projections play out.

Group A

According to Bloomberg (and everyone else on planet Earth), Brazil has a 100% probability of advancing from Group A. Mexico is likeliest to come in second, at 43.6%. Croatia has a 38.3% chance to advance, with Cameroon the underdog at 18.1%. These projections are in line with popular opinion.

Neymar, Fred, Oscar, Hulk, Julio Cesar and this star studded squad looks to win a SIXTH World Cup trophy for the host Brazilians
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Something for Free: Quick-Play Soccer Sim from Crankshaw Sports Stats
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Posted by Paul on March 7, 2014 | Short Link

[This picture of Seattle Sounders and USMNT captain Clint Dempsey doesn't have anything to do with anything, except that I'm testing out the new Getty Images "embed" feature for royalty-free images.]

There’s an older lady who works in my office who is fond of saying, “You don’t get nothing for free in life,” and “if it seems too good to be true, that’s because it is.” But I’ll tell you the truth, I believe those old adages less and less as our society has and continues to change in the internet age.

For tabletop-sports gamers, we are living in a golden age of access to games – including many that are free. I’ve been planning for months to publish a list of all the free games in which it is worth investing time.* Over on the delphi forums there is a thread about “the best free games” that is going strong right now. If you have or know of any you’d like to contribute, please let us know in that thread or the comments here.

*Oh – that’s what it costs, doesn’t it? Time. A valuable commodity, to be sure, which gets even more valuable and precious to me as I get older.

One brand-spanking new totally free game that I’m in love with right now is a quick-play Excel-based soccer game from Crankshaw Sports that is based on the old (also free) “Mean Mark’s EPL Challenge 2012” card & dice soccer sim. Because this new free game is Excel-based, it means no software download (assuming you have Excel or a compatible spreadsheet program), and it requires no time at all to learn and/or play.

I mean that literally. It takes no time at all to play. It’s a stat generator, but it generates a whole games’ worth of stats – and a complete game play-by-play! – instantly, with a click of F9.

click on the image to view the Lineups screen at full size.  Actual playing time is considered by the spreadsheet as it chooses ineups automatically.

click on the image to view the Lineups screen at full size. The game chooses lineups & bench based on actual playing time.

The stats are complete and accurate, the play-by-play adds real color to the game, the interface is totally dummy-proof, and there is no setup, installation, or tech stuff to worry about with your computer. It’s a brilliant game.

And it’s free.

The game does lack any kind of management features. Because the computer does everything, you get to do nothing. It’s a lot like spending Saturday with your kids and then reading the day’s recaps in the newspaper Sunday morning. However, for those of us who are taking on full-season replays and don’t exactly want to play every single game on the league’s schedule, this game is a god-send.

This Arsenal-v-West Brom match saw 5 goals.  Crankshaw's game generates a whole game's complete stats with literally one push of a button.

This Arsenal-v-West Brom match saw 5 goals. Crankshaw’s game generates a whole game’s complete stats with literally one push of a button. Click to see at full-size.

The game commentary is the icing on the cake for this little gem. The entire game’s narrative is generated with the game stats, so you can (as I do) go to the commentary sheet before checking the stats and scroll down one line at a time to get the sense of “watching” the game unfold. It’s a layer of detail and chrome that isn’t provided by any other quick-play soccer game I know.

The commentary screen offers the  ability to "follow along" as a match progresses, as you scroll down to read the full narrative.  Click to see at full size.

The commentary screen offers the ability to “follow along” as a match progresses, as you scroll down to read the full narrative. Click to see at full size.

I’d love to see an update to this game in the future that adds some level of managerial control: choosing lineups would be nice. The ability to watch the game unfold one roll at a time would be great. Having full control over substitutions would be brilliant.

In the meantime, there’s an old lady in my office I need to talk to. The world has changed and these days, there are a few things that you can get for free.

As of today, the following league seasons are available FREE:

  • English Premier League 2012-2013
  • Spain La Liga 2012-2013
  • Italy Serie A 2012-2013
  • Germany Bundesliga 2012-2013
  • France Ligue 1 2012-2013
  • USA Major League Soccer 2013
  • Puig’s arm versus Trout’s speed versus Instant Replay
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    Posted by Paul on March 6, 2014 | Short Link

    3/6/14: Yasiel Puig fires to Hanley Ramirez, who nabs Mike Trout at the plate on Trout’s attempt at an inside-the-park homer. The call is reviewed by the new instant replay rule, and upheld!

    *panic attack begins*


    *faints, with contented smile*

    APBA Soccer 2.0
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    Posted by Paul on March 5, 2014 | Short Link

    The most recent set of APBA Soccer cards to be released is the 2012-13 season of Italy’s Serie A. This is the first set to feature the newest innovation for the game: Individual Defense Ratings.

    That little number after the position is the Individual Defense Rating.  What does it mean? [pic courtesy of Will Kolodzie]

    That little number after the position is the Individual Defense Rating. What does it mean? [click to enlarge - pic courtesy of Will Kolodzie]

    We don’t know exactly how the new ratings will be used in conjunction with the game, but it is exciting to see that the company has heard our appeals for this feature and has made an effort to appease fans of the game.

    The most recent announcement regarding the game came in the APBA newsletter of January 21st.

    Two Italian League Series A sets are now available:
    The 2009-10 Series A is now available as cards instead of a perforated sheets. This 557 card set is $44.
    A new set being offered is 2012-13 Series A. This set has individual player defensive ratings. The next version of the soccer game will have an optional individual player defensive system. This set with 622 is $46.

    [emphasis mine]

    With the recent releases of new versions of APBA’s Baseball and Football games, the release of a new version of the Soccer game makes sense. In fact, I spoke with APBA CEO John Herson in an unpublished interview in November, 2011 where he indicated that a new, sturdier game box was in the works, and in an interview published February 2, 2012, he gave to Tom Nelshoppen and The APBA Blog the following details about the forthcoming release of the game:

    The soccer game has just about sold through for the second time. The third version will be redone. The box will be a two piece box roughly 11 by 17. The game box artwork will change slightly. The soccer pitch will be the size of a Monopoly board with similar game board backing. The game chart booklet will be 11 by 17. The booklet will have white background with black printing. The teams in the game will be updated to 2010-11 teams. Eventually all the APBA games will have the same size and type of packaging.

    It remains to be seen if the release adheres to the specifics outlined above, but there is no doubt that those APBA Soccer fanatics among us (and there are still some of us out there) are anxiously awaiting APBA Soccer 2.0.

    Baseball Movies Available for Streaming

    Posted by Paul on February 8, 2014 | Short Link

    On lazy weekend afternoons in the spring, I like to watch baseball movies. Here is a list of a few full movies available to stream online. The films on YouTube are free to anyone, Netflix requires a monthly subscription.

    The Jackie Robinson Story starring Jackie Robinson as himself is available to stream in its entirety on YouTube

    The Jackie Robinson Story starring Jackie Robinson as himself is available to stream in its entirety on YouTube

    1. Soul of the Game (1996)
    2. The Jackie Robinson Story (1950)
    3. Bingo Long Travelling All Stars and Motor Kings(1976)
    4. Angels in the Outfield (1994)

    10. Up for Grabs (2009) – The absurd true story of the legal battle over Barry Bonds’ record setting 73rd home run ball.

    9. Headin’ Home (1920) – The “true story” of baseball great Babe Ruth; Ruth plays himself.

    8. Boys of Summer (2010) – Documentary film on the subject of Curacao’s little league team that competed in the LL World Series seven consecutive years.

    7. The Perfect Game (2009) – Dramatization of the story of Monterrey, Mexico’s 1957 Little League World Series team.

    In the spirit of Hoosiers, We Are Marshall, The Perfect Game tells the story of a Little League team from Monterrey, Mexico.

    In the spirit of Hoosiers and We Are Marshall, The Perfect Game tells the story of a Little League team from Monterrey, Mexico.

    6. Knuckleball! (2012) – A documentary about baseball’s most interesting pitch. Tim Wakefield‘s career is studied.

    5. ESPN 30 for 30: Silly Little Game (2010) – The true story of how the invention of “Rotisserie” Baseball led to the billion dollar fantasy sports industry.

    4. Bull Durham (1988) – You just got lesson number one: don’t think; it can only hurt the ball club.

    3. Ballplayer – Pelotero (2011) – Two top baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic face fierce competition and corruption as they chase their big league dreams.

    2. ESPN 30 for 30: Little Big Men (2010) – The 1982 Kirkland, Washington Little League team captured hearts and inspired a nation.

    1. Ken Burns: Baseball (1996) – The celebrated documentarian Ken Burns gives us a nineteen-hour documentary on the history of the sport. Required viewing for every fan.

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