MLB Showdown 2012

UPDATE 2: Here is a google doc which contains the set. It’s not perfect, but it’s playable. We may continue to adjust certain players who might have typos or whatever. And there’s an issue with the google excel thinking that certain numbers are actually dates, but you should be able to tell what it’s supposed to say. I’ve just made my first team, actually. Here’s the link–everyone should be able to view but not edit. If you do have suggestions or questions or problems, comment here on the blog!

UPDATE: Posting the 2012 batters now. They are not perfect… there’s a general downward adjustment I’d like to make, meaning that I think the batters are just too good across the board. That was hard to do without the pitchers, which my brother is still working on. But, it’s definitely interesting to look at how they turned out. If I could write a script that would crawl the web for pictures of each player, I would… but until then making individual cards for every player would take way too long. If you do want to play I suggest you look through the table (it’s excel, so it’s sortable; the three sets are tabs on the bottom, and you can sort by position if you use the numbered column where catcher = 2, 1b = 3, etc), find the players you want on your team, and then you can design your own cards if you like, or just write down the stats on a piece of paper, or whatever.  (And yes I know certain players are way too good. David Ortiz for example! All the guys who were below 500 PAs, I think, ended up in the Trading Deadline or Pennant Run sets, so they have smaller sample sizes and there are some guys who are way too good in there.)

Remember also that I used Bsr from instead of SB for speed score, which is why guys like Josh Hamilton ended up with speed A. It’s far more common in showdown to use speed to take extra bases, and Bsr is an inclusive stat that covers both stealing bases and taking extra bases on a hit. Hopefully pitchers will be on their way before too long.


2012 Showdown Batters

I never played Pokémon. But that doesn’t mean I missed out on the turn-of-the-century card-gaming craze.

No, instead of Squirtle, Charizard, and Nidoking, I played with Ripken, A-Rod, and Jeter. In place of hapless Magikarp I had punchless Pokey Reese; I dreamed of tracking down a rare Mike Schmidt, not Mew.

I was an avid player of MLB Showdown, a baseball card game that ran from 2000 to 2005. I followed the game through its four ages–2000-2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004-5, and posted regularly on forums at, first as tarheelballa007 (ugh), then as Here Goes Nothing (much better). Within a small circle of friends, I probably played two hundred games of Showdown between 2002 and 2006, and sporadically thereafter. Though the game was very popular at its peak, it was discontinued in 2005, and today I wonder whether I might be the only person on earth with this beleaguered card game on his or her mind tonight.

The game is relatively simple, and mimics baseball in that it features individual competition masquerading as team sport. Play is advanced through pitcher-batter confrontations, each of which includes two rolls of a twenty-sided die. If the defensive team’s roll (the pitch), plus the pitcher’s control number (between 0 and 6), is greater than the batter’s On-Base Number (in early forms of the game, from 5 to 11; later on, from 8 to 16), then the offensive team’s roll (which will determine the result of the at-bat–e.g., a walk, single, fly-out, etc) will use the pitcher’s chart (which is advantageous for the defensive team). If the pitch+control is less than the On-Base Number, then the offensive team’s roll (the swing) will use the batter’s chart, which is much more advantageous for the hitter. In all, the pitcher usually gets the advantage–but if the hitter gets the advantage, watch out.

An example:

Let’s say Greg Maddux was facing Mike Lowell. (This was before Lowell’s best seasons; hence a fairly weak card. Maddux, on the other hand, has a fairly good card, though not excellent.) The player on defense would roll. Let’s say he rolls a 14. It would be the pitcher’s advantage. The player on offense would roll. Let’s say he rolls a 16. That would be a single–you have to look on the pitcher’s chart, since it was the pitcher’s advantage. The importance of advantage is illustrated by considering what would have happened if the pitcher rolled a 2. Advantage would have gone to the batter (tie goes to the offense, always), and a 16 would have been a double rather than a single.

So, how is this game not just mere chance? Well, chance plays a very significant role. But there are two elements that require skilled decision-making. One element takes place before the game: team construction. You must field a team that fulfills all requirements (four starting pitchers, a player at every position, and the sum of all points must be less than 5000). How an individual fills their team reveals a lot about their thinking. Do they value defense and speed, or on-base and power? Do they load up on pitching, or do they favor having a strong lineup? In this regard, the game resembles fantasy baseball. The player acts in the capacity of general manager.

The other element of decision-making takes place in-game: the play of strategy cards. Strategy cards are drawn throughout the game and have various effects when played. Individuals construct their deck of strategy cards in accordance with the makeup of their team. For example, if a player has many left-handed pitchers, he may want to put a lot of cards that benefit left-handed pitchers in his deck (most strategy cards can only be played at specific junctures, for example, at the beginning of an inning). The player acts in the capacity of manager.

I am explaining all this because I recently undertook the task of renovating this product to reflect new statistical knowledge about baseball, with the goal of producing a set of cards based upon the 2012 season. Much has changed since MLB Showdown was last produced. The past two AL Cy Young winners hadn’t even entered the league in 2005 (okay, Verlander had, but he was Rookie of the Year in 2006). Josh Hamilton was still out of baseball. It was a very different landscape.

So far I’ve finished with the hitters, about 300 in all. You’ll see them soon. Pitchers are on their way as well, with the help of my brother.

  1. Chris said:

    I was cleaning out my old nightstand in my parents house and came across my old set of MLB showdown cards. Wondering what ever happened to them I google searched and ran across this posting… Great work. I remember spending countless (ok maybe 3 in all) summers as a young teenager playing game after game with my neighborgood buddies in someone’s garage. I really miss the great concept of this game and feel that if marketed correctly could really succeed today. Anyways I hope you shoot a follow up with the modern day cards you’re creating. I’m curious what you come up with. I still watch a game and wonder “hmm what would his home run roll be?”

  2. Yes! I’ll post the file now, if I can figure it out.

    I agree that the game could be successful now. With the rise of sabermetrics and fantasy baseball people are really into quantifying the game, and Showdown offers a fairly concrete way of doing that.

    It’s my understanding that Wizards of the Coast pulled the game not so much because it was unprofitable or anything but rather because of a change in the way that MLB licensed things around 2005. There was a big flap in the baseball card world because MLB (or MLBPA, not sure) made a change in licensing that led to everyone but Topps and Upper Deck going out of business, or something like that. I believe Showdown was part of that attrition.

  3. Steve said:

    I loved mlb showdown back in the day and came saw this post recently, Its awesome to see new cards made up, did ur brother ever finish the pitchers for this set?

    • I’m bugging him to finish it soon! I think he’s got a bit of a perfectionist streak about him.

      • And, I’ll post them as soon as he does finish them.

  4. Graig said:

    Just curious what you did to figure out OB. I actually made (calculated) some cards (the 2012 Oakland A’s), and used an algorithm to figure out all the values, wondering if you did the same or not

    • I just sorted all the batters in my pool by OBP then used a range I’d drawn up to assign values. I did some math to figure out whether each range was realistic (ie against a league average pitcher, aka +4 1-16, how often would an OB 14, 1-6 get on base?) and then assigned them. One of the tough things is when to make someone an OB 11, 1-5 vs OB 12, 1-6, etc. That math took a while I recall, and I’m not sure I got that part right. Some choices were admittedly arbitrary/consciously done to mirror past showdown conventions, but I also tried to make it accurate. I think in general the batters are probably slightly too good, but the only way to find out is to play!

    • ALSO–I’d be curious to see your set, are they posted anywhere?

  5. Entire set is up now! Play away!
    ALSO–I may be adding a wrinkle where instead of points, you have the option of playing using the players’ actual contract values. You’d get a league-average salary cap and have to do the best you can with that–but I’d have to make some kind of rules about how many league-min players you can have, so that you don’t just take Trout and Harper and guys like that.

  6. Jason said:

    If anyone has any 2000-2001 MLB Showdown cards they would like to give away or sell I am interested Email me please. Thanks

  7. Andy said:

    I actually have made a few of my own cards over the last year. Instead of basing their stats off 1 year though, I took their career average minus their worst season. Usually their rookie or injured season. The formula I used for OB was the batters career on base percentage. Then decided their out numbers (1-5, 1-6 etc) based on their batting average.

  8. Andy said:

    Also, I haven’t had the time to do it in depth, but I added a few cards that actually had values VS RHP and VS LHP. Some players would have a 13 on base VS RHP but against a LHP it would be closer to 9-10.

    • I have considered doing something similar–a “platoon” icon which would bring down stats against same-handed opponents (or the opposite). But hey, that’s awesome! You should totally post ’em somewheres.

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