User Interview: Schwarze

Q&A with noted SimLeague Baseball user Schwarze

We recently contacted noted SimLeague Baseball user Schwarze to discuss SimLeague baseball, OAV+, the WIS Championship, poker, King Kelly, more poker, Strat-O-Matic, the 1891 Roger Conner and actuarial science.

WIS

Who is Schwarze?

Schwarze

My name is Jeff Schwarze. I'm 42 years old, 6'2" and 180 pounds. I am married and have two kids (Brian 13, Katie 10). I graduated from University of Illinois in 1987 with a B.S. in Actuarial Science. I am an Actuarial Associate for a software development company in Chicago. My hobbies include poker, fantasy sports, playing and coaching basketball. I have a very competitive and addictive personality and when I find something I like to do, I do go overboard trying to be the best at it. My wife wishes they had some kind of competition for helping around the house, so I could be good at that too.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Schwarze

One of the national fantasy baseball contests that I participate in has a forum, and one of the guys started a WIS theme league and recruited some of us to join. Despite drafting a team that lost 120+ games, I was instantly addicted.

WIS

What was your initial reaction to our site and our games?

Schwarze

I have played other simulation games but what I really liked about your game was the low cost and the fact that there were three games per day.

WIS

Which SimLeagues or Dynasty games have you played?

Schwarze

SimLeagues:
Baseball (250+ teams)
Basketball (27 teams)
Football (4 teams)

Dynasty:
College Basketball (1 year)

WIS

Which do you prefer?

Schwarze

Clearly baseball is the best. I like the fact that once you draft your team and get your lineup and rotation set up, you can let everything run its course without a bunch of changes. I tried basketball and had some success, but never put in the time to figure out all the game-to-game intricacies that the veterans know about. I just couldn't get into football as much, but may give it another try soon.

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Schwarze

Right now, poker is #1. Last year, I played in my first ever WSOP Event (Event #22, $1,500 NLHE) and finished in the money (118th out of 2000+ players). I will eventually play in the WSOP Main Event, but I'm not ready to plunk down $10,000 of my own money yet. I also have been playing basketball competitively for over 20 years. Despite most of my teammates being in their 40's, we still win 80-90% of our games. I also coach basketball. I love working with the kids.

WIS

What is your favorite sports moment?

Schwarze

That would've been a tough choice had you asked me that a year ago. As a White Sox fan, I'd have to pick the final out in Game #4 of last year's World Series. A close second is Illinois' unbelievable comeback victory over Arizona in last year's NCAA tournament. There are a bunch of Chicago Bulls moments that I could add as well (i.e., Jordan's flu game, Kerr's winning shot, Jordan's 3-pointers game).

WIS

What is your favorite WIS moment?

Schwarze

I don't think I have a favorite moment as in a single game or anything like that. I'm proud of many accomplishments. I am proud that I've been able to say that I've been able to put up pretty decent win-loss totals, playoff appearances and championships without ever playing in open leagues. Of all 250+ teams I've ever played, only once did I enter a team in an open league. Ironically, the team won 95 games, but didn't make the playoffs - this was before the wildcard.

Actually, what I really am proud of the most is the fact that I typically get a very strong response on almost all of the theme leagues I create. Most fill within a day or two. The WIS Championship pulled in 96 owners in under a week.

WIS

Who are your favorite teams of all-time?

Schwarze

- 2004-05 Illinois Fighting Illini Basketball team
- 2005 Chicago White Sox
- All the Chicago Bulls championship teams

WIS

Did you play any sports growing up?

Schwarze

I played four years of high school football. Unfortunately, I played wide receiver for a team that passed less frequently than Nebraska did in the 80's and 90's. I wasn't good enough to make the high school basketball team. A big regret is that I never got a chance to play organized baseball. I always had to spend a month in California during the summer (to visit my dad) and as a result, was never able to play Little League baseball. I'm still convinced that had I been given a chance to play organized baseball at a young age, I might have actually been good enough to play in the pros (of course, who doesn't think like that).

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Schwarze

My favorite players as a kid include Fran Tarkenton (NFL), Rod Carew (baseball) and Magic Johnson (basketball). Didn't start following the NBA until Magic started playing.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Schwarze

Old/retired guys: Frank Thomas (baseball), Jerry Rice (NFL), Michael Jordan (NBA)

Young guys: Marvin Harrison (NFL), Kevin Garnett (NBA). I don't have a favorite baseball player right now. I root for whomever I have on my fantasy teams.

WIS

Build your all-time baseball dream team:

Schwarze

C: Bill Dickey
1B: Lou Gehrig
2B: Rogers Hornsby
3B: Mike Schmidt
SS: Honus Wagner
OF: Babe Ruth
OF: Ted Williams
OF: Stan Musial
RHP: Walter Johnson
LHP: Lefty Grove

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

Schwarze

Is poker considered a sport? If so, I would like to make the final table of a major poker tournament.

WIS

Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion (do not have to be sports related)?

Schwarze

Doesn't have to be about sports? Are you kidding? If we're not talking about sports, then I'm not at that table. I love talking baseball history, especially in the early years, so I would get the following players together and listen to their stories: King Kelly, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Buck O'Neil (representing the Negro Leagues) and Jackie Robinson.

WIS

If you could be commissioner of any league, which sport would it be and what would you do to change the game?

Schwarze

Ideally, I'd like to make baseball more like football with respect to salary caps and the parity you see each year in the NFL. But I don't think that will happen because the player's union is too powerful. More realistically, if I were the commissioner of the NFL, I would immediately reduce the number of pre-season games to two and make the regular season 18 weeks long.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of our website?

Schwarze

I like the simplicity and ease of use. One click and I can see the results for all my teams. Another click and I can check out standings, a third click and I am ready to make changes.

WIS

Least favorite?

Schwarze

The "Stat Machine." Does anybody ever use this? It's not very user friendly and it looks like a huge waste of resources.

WIS

Having played primarily in baseball, do you prefer open or theme leagues? If you prefer theme leagues, which types are your favorite and why?

Schwarze

Clearly I prefer theme leagues. I like to have restrictions placed on my roster choices. I especially like themes that do one of three things:

(1) Test some kind of theory or nuance in the sim - for example, I played in a theme that tested what's more important - range or fielding?

(2) Replay some part of history to determine which team is the best - for example, franchise themes, twist themes, single-season themes.

(3) Force everybody to use players that don't normally get used - for example, the "Fat, Drunk & Stupid" theme league forces us to use very poor fielders, awful hitters and/or terrible pitchers.

And all theme leagues I join must have some type of challenge to them. Either there must be some research involved and/or the salary cap must be set so there are some difficult choices to be made.

WIS

In SimLeague baseball, what is your general strategy for building teams?

Schwarze

Wow, the answer to this question has changed quite a bit over the years as you've made changes to the sim engine. I used to typically start with solid pitching. I would always spend 55%-60% on pitchers with low HR/9+ and OAV+. I would almost always be among the top three teams in ERA. But now, it seems like you can win with real cheap pitching. I always take "A" range fielders with only a few B's sprinkled in. I never draft "C" range fielders unless the rules dictate it. Fielding rating isn't as important and I have no problems using players with fielding ratings below "B" as long as their range is good. Players with high walk totals (Stanky, Bishop, Joost, Yost) are relatively cheap and if surrounded by some power, your team can score runs in bunches. High % SBs used to be a good bargain, but not any more. We are now in the WIS era of walk, walk, 3-run HR.

WIS

What is the most important thing to keep in mind while drafting?

Schwarze

Normalization is everything. Don't fall in love with 1960's pitchers and 1930's hitters just because their stats look great. The reason why cheap pitching is winning is because pitchers from high-offensive years (i.e., 1894) are relative bargains despite their seemingly bad stats. You still need to draft a great defense (i.e., range) to make all of this work.

WIS

How do you go about setting your lineups and pitching?

Schwarze

Lineup: Walks at the top of the order, power in the middle, any weak offensive players at the bottom. Just recently, I had a team finish last in batting average, but first in runs scored. They won 98 games.

Rotation: I usually go by order of IP. Although I will sometimes start a 200K pitcher in game 1, set my bullpen on rest and let him take a beating (with the help of a few 200K mop-up guys). Then in game 2, my relievers are all 100% and my starters seem to bounce back a little quicker for their next start.

WIS

How do you approach setting tendencies (advanced settings) and pitch counts?

Schwarze

Unless I am short on relievers, I typically go 100-110 on the pitch count. I usually only draft 1000 innings for my SPs, so I need to keep them fresh. For relievers, it depends on innings, but I usually go 30-35 on any given reliever, maybe 20-25 on my closer if he has < 60 IP. If I have a RP with 100+ IP, then I'll go 40-45 pitches. For hitting tendencies, I use the suggested settings, except I change my SB frequency. Anybody with < 67% real-life SB rate, I put on zero. It's been proven that 67% is the breakeven point. Anything less costs you in the long run. I set all my good hitters to "0" on bunting and 99% of my pitchers to a "5" on bunting.

WIS

Do you make transactions (call-ups/demotions, trades, waiver wire, etc.) during the season to try and separate yourself from others? Why or why not?

Schwarze

Waiver wire: N/A. Don't play in open leagues. Most theme leagues don't use WW.

Trades: Very rarely. I prefer the players I drafted. I don't care if they started out slowly.

AAA: When allowed by theme rules, yes, I try them out, mostly just the pitchers though, just as mop-up guys.

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams?

Schwarze

Yes, but these favorites change as the sim engine and salaries change. Currently, I like those cheap high walk batters mentioned before. At pitcher, I love using a 3-man rotation. Some of my favorites include Dazzy Vance, Dolf Luque, Eppa Rixey, Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Nolan Ryan.

WIS

What one feature in SimLeague Baseball would you add?

Schwarze

More stats. Specifically, lefty/righty splits and home/road splits.

WIS

Do you spend much time in the forums? Why or why not?

Schwarze

Yes, quite a bit. I like to keep an eye on the theme leagues. Many of the theme leagues that I run use the forum to summarize results, standings, etc. Also, for newbies, you can learn quite a bit on how to draft better teams by keeping up-to-date on the forums.

WIS

What would other users be surprised to know about you?

Schwarze

I don't know how many Start-O-Matic baseball players there are out there. Before my kids were born, I used to play S-O-M competitively. From 1982 thru 1993, I played in cash tournaments all over the country. In fact, I finished in 2nd place in the 1992 Table Baseball Association World Championships in New Orleans. I won $2,000 (first place was $10,000). I was the original creator of the TBA Draft Guide. I haven't really played S-O-M since 1993 though. The WIS simleagues has filled that void.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

Schwarze

Boy, I could get in trouble if I leave somebody off. In no particular order, tracyr, JohnGPF, ronthegenius, Whiteslave, shaybee, calhoop, ballantine, mildnhazy, kujayhawk, sford, jnewfry, eddiedzen, PennQuaker, dan6768, Oli35, thejuice6, hagebono, burnelr, and I'm sure there are others I am forgetting.

I'll add a special mention to aec4 a.k.a. Anthony. Although, he doesn't play as much as he used to, he developed www.wissearch.net, which is a fantastic search utility and the main reason I have had so much success in this game. Many of the users who have been around a while remember what WIS' old search engine was like. Without wissearch, I probably would've quit playing a long time ago. I do commend WIS on improving their search engine though.

WIS

What would you tell new users to the site who want to get the most out of what WhatIfSports.com has to offer?

Schwarze

Read the forums for advice. Play in some open leagues, try different strategies, and once you achieve some success, join some theme leagues.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position and how much would you cost?

Schwarze

Baseball. I would play 1B, but would not be a prototypical power hitter. My stats line would look like this:

550 AB, 160 hits, 28 doubles, 14 triples, 7 homeruns, 110 walks, 52 strikeouts, 35 steals, 8 caught stealing, 88 speed rating, .291 average, .409 on base percentage, .431 slugging. A- range, C fielding. Similar player = 1891 Roger Conner. Salary about $6.5 million

User Profile

LoginID: schwarze
Name:Jeff Schwarze
Age: 42
Location:Carol Stream, IL
Occupation:Actuary
Favorite Sport(s):Baseball
Favorite Team(s):White Sox, Bulls
Favorite Sports Memory:White Sox winning the 2005 World Series
Member Since:December, 2001

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