REVIEW: Baseball Mogul, Still Pretty Dang Addictive

Game: Baseball Mogul: Diamond Edition (website)
Platform: PC, Linux (via Wine)
Release Date: 2015
Metascore: n/a
TechGraphs score: 4.0 or 80 B-

General Reaction
A man, presumably speaking to his copy of Baseball Mogul, once wisely asked, “Why can’t I quit you?”

That question is as pertinent today as it was in seasons past. The Sport Moguls crew has dropped the annual naming convention (so no more Baseball Mogul 2014 or Baseball Mogul 2016 stuff). In its place, we have Baseball Mogul: Diamond Edition.

What’s different with the Diamond Edition? Well, not much, actually. I partly expected the name change would come with perhaps a major graphics or interface overhaul. Maybe they were going to simplify the game a little, or maybe add some complexities. Nope, not really. I spotted a few changes here and there from the previous version I played (that would be Baseball Mogul ’13, 96 A+)

This game is still, like, dumb levels of adddicting. If you like baseball simulation video games with large rosters and realistic aging curves, then Baseball Mogul is one great option in a field of just two choices.

Ratings

Graphics: 2.5 stars
I dinged the most recent version of OOTP on account of it’s graphics issues. That problem is more pronounced in Baseball Mogul. While neither this game nor OOTP try to entice users on graphics, it still matters that the interface looks very 1990s and the color scheme is pretty close to Eye Tuberculosis levels.

I guess the green is supposed to evoke thoughts of the Green Monster and other more classic ballparks, but it just feels like a Window 95 theme.

I guess the green is supposed to evoke thoughts of the Green Monster and other more classic ballparks, but it just feels like a Window 95 theme.

The in-game view is also a little weirder now. The picture of the field (at the top of the screen) is still like a photo of the field with a little computer-animated ball acting out each pitch.

But now the hitter in the middle of the screen is animated, as opposed to that ancient-looking GIF of a guy swinging a bat. The animated hitter doesn’t look bad or anything, it’s just one more example, though, of inconsistent aesthetics.

Concept & Game Modes: 4.5 stars
I’m addicted to this game without the need of online or multiplayer functionality. That said, these features seem like they should be standard in most modern games. Maybe there is a way to play online with Baseball Mogul? But it’s not very self-evident if there is.

I typically simulate my seasons a week at a time, checking my rosters each week to redistribute playing time, tweak the lineup order, check for injuries or healed players, and so on. But for users who want to see every game (which is occasionally me), you can play out every game as the manager or the player or the GM. And each of these modes is pretty fun.

Gameplay & Interface: 4.5 stars
The gameplay is really fun. It’s what makes the franchise not just viable, but delightful. One of the reasons I play it as much or more than OOTP is that I can get through seasons quickly and easily. Everything is just a few steps simplified, so I don’t have slog through a 30-round amateur draft (or feel guilty for changing it to a 10-round draft), or offer contracts to a dozen international amateur free agents every few days, or hire eight new pitching and hitting coaches for the minor leagues.

No, instead, I can build a strong farm system and sign a few major leaguers to relatively uncomplicated contracts and then simulate a whole season in under 30 minutes. Because, just as with real baseball, all I really care about is the stories of my players. Will this part-time scrub blossom into a starter this year? Will this prospect finally turn a corner and become an ace? Can this aging veteran make good for one more season?

In OOTP, we get less of this macro feel because the game offers so many micro elements to work on. In Baseball Mogul, we’re able to step back and look at the current/potential graphs of a 36-year-old Mike Trout and kind of bask in the story of his career.

The gameplay is pretty much 5 stars. The problem is that the interface is not 5 stars. I can customize my free agents screen, my draft screen, my sortable statistics screen (which I use frequently), but I still can’t tweak my lineup or pitching screens — the two screens I need more than any other. If I want to see wOBA, SB, and PA in the same screen as I set my lineup, tough beans. If I want to see IP, ERA, and DICE (which I guess is like the Walmart brand of FIP) on the same screen, tough beans.

There are some nifty new features, like being able to export a player’s stats as a CSV or tab-delimited file, but I’d trade that for a customizeable lineup/rotation screen any day.

Glitches: 4.0 stars
Does the game freeze or scramble your lineup or give the opponent four outs in an inning? No*. Not that I’ve seen. The game, from a debilitating-crash perspective, is bug free.

But there does appear to be a systematic problem with the latest version:

What good is a strong arm if it apparently has no correlation to stopping runners?

What good is a strong arm if it apparently has no correlation to stopping runners?

Not only does the catcher arm rating seem to be over inflated for most catchers, the arm ratings don’t seem to do a whole lot to defend against baserunners. And speaking of baserunners, why the heck are there so many fast guys now?

My first baseman stole 60+ bags in just 400 PA. I found a scrub third baseman, gave him 600 PA and he stole 116 bags.

My first baseman stole 60+ bags in just 400 PA. I found a scrub third baseman, gave him 600 PA and he stole 116 bags.

Those are just the speed ratings within my own organization. I only specifically targeted two of those guys for acquisition based on their speed. The rest just kind of appeared in my system after just pursuing the best players available.

And looking at the whole league, we can see speed is in abundance in the majors. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they felt previous speed distributions were too pessimistic about the speed of MLB players; or perhaps guys like Billy Hamilton, when given a 90 speed, were disproportionately fast.

All I know is that it’s been a long time since my franchise had a catcher that could climb above the 20% caught stealing rate.

Another minor glitch: Sometimes, for whatever reason, the popups for arbitration offers show 80 current / 75 potential — which is like 99% not the case. Baseball Mogul rarely, if ever, gives a potential rating lower than a current rating.

Here’s an 82/82, late-career Neil Walker showing up as an 80/75:

Yeah, there's something wrong when all of my arb-eligible guys are showing up as 80/75.

Yeah, there’s something wrong when all of my arb-eligible guys are showing up as 80/75.

When I open his player card, the numbers look as expected. But in the arb popup, something is wrong. Not really a big deal though.

*A word to Linux users: Don’t try to build a new stadium. It’s a one-way ticket to Crashville. Unfortunately, running the game through Wine means some things just won’t work. 🙁

Rosters: 4.5 stars
On the spectrum of realistic rosters, it goes: Crappy Facebook games or whatever, MLB the Show-type games, Baseball Mogul, then OOTP. Nothing beats OOTP’s super, ultra complete rosters — which even include actual players for the next-soonest MLB draft. But Baseball Mogul is close. The 2015 opening day rosters have a robust, though not complete, minor league system rich with actual prospects and Quad-A fodder.

Also, the historical rosters — which stretch back pretty much to the time of Moses — give this game enormous replay value.

See Also:

98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2015 (PC)
98 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2014 (PC)
97 A+ Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2013 (PC)
96 A+ Baseball Mogul ’13 (PC)
96 A+ MLB ’12 The Show (PS3)
86 B Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) 2016 (PC)
82 B- MVP Baseball 2003 (PC)
79 C+ MLB 2K12 (PS3, XBOX 360, Wii, PC, etc.)
74 C MLB Ballpark Empire (Facebook)



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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

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John Thomas
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John Thomas

Great Review. I have been a long time lurker to both OOTP, but am afraid to jump in because of the time commitment for each and everyday, so I might try Mogul. Another thought I had reading this, and the OOTP review, is do you think you should regrade the other versions of these games because at a quick glance it seems as if the two games have gotten considerably worse. What I am getting though is that you are holding them both to higher standards, especially with graphics, which make up a large chunk of the difference.

Just a penny for ’em

John Thomas
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John Thomas

Thanks for the replies guys.

Bradley, I appreciate that you at least thought of it, and for the suggestion.

Eric, I think my apprehension come not from the complexity of the information, but the amount of it. I actually love the idea of all the OOTP offers, but am afraid that it would take me about a week to complete one day, and that I wouldn’t be appreciating the full experience.

Eric F
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Eric F

John, 2 years ago I grabbed a copy of OOTP 14. It was the first real baseball sim of its kind that I have ever played. Yes it was a lot of information, and admittedly perhaps being a stat-nerd helped me feel right at home with the game. But for me, the interface was just really clean and friendly and easy to use, that I had no issues jumping right in. Now, I did assign some things to my Assistant GM to take care of, such as minor league FAs and coach signings, which is a great option that OOTP gives you in case you’re overwhelmed with all the tasks available.

I’ve never played Mogul, so I can’t say how much easier/harder that is to get into than OOTP, but I would say if you’ve been interested in OOTP, and are a reader of this site and fangraphs, you’re probably ready to jump in. The interface is nice and you don’t have to be responsible for anything you don’t want to do.

Paul G.
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Paul G.

Could Moses hit a curveball?