Miami Marlins Season Preview: Ichthyomancy is Back!

If you'd like to avoid being as sad as Jose Reyes is here, you had best play Ichthyomancy! Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Now that we are done going over the intricacies of the Miami Marlins' projections, I wanted to go a little more into what you should expect to see here on Fish Stripes and how you can get involved. One definite way that you can get involved in the site is to play along with the best Marlins prediction contest in the blogosphere, the venerable Ichthyomancy!

What is Ichthyomancy and how does it work? Well, some of you may be familiar with the old form of Ichthyomancy that Craig ran here while he was in charge, and the truth is that the 2012 version of Ichthyomancy is not all that different. We will make a few changes to what things you will be predicting, but basically the format will be very similar. Let's discuss what the game will be.

The Premise

The premise of the game is the same as it was back then. I'll let former contributor GameFish explain.

Ichthyomancy, according to the site dictionary, is "divination by the heads or the entrails of fishes." Which, lets face it, doesn't leave you a whole lot more clued in than you were before we busted out the Merriam Webster. To break it down further, ichthyomancy is a bloody, gutsy, fishy ritual by which you gain insight into the future. In laymen's terms, it's the FUNNEST sports prediction game of all time! (We realize "funnest" isn't really a word, but if it were, it would fit here.)

Now, if you're not so much into divination, witchcraft and the like, or you simply prefer to leave entrails to fishmongers, fear not. Ichthyomancy is not typically played the creepy way by 99.999% of FishStripers. (Though with as many times as LadyFish has won, we're sort of starting to wonder about her...)

Ichthy is simply a fun contest in which FishStripers make predictions about upcoming games, in hopes of becoming the Ichthyomancy World Champion, and winning a pretty sweet prize.

Of course, that isn't the part that says much. But the part that does say enough is when she describes the parts of the game. And the parts of the game have been retained to a degree. Let's delve inside the new Ichthyomancy game.

New Format, Same As the Old Format

Here are the three parts of the old format, as GameFish describes.

1. Attendance - Pretty simple. Predict the number of fans who will be in attendance at the game. Obviously, you'll want to aim a little low for weeknight home games, and higher when the Yankees or Red Sox are in town for interleague play. Only one attendance point will be awarded per night, obviously to the person who comes closest to the exact attendance number.

In the spirit of the game, this part will remain unchanged for 2012. We will award two points for the one player who most closely predicts the exact attendance number as posted by different outlets. I have yet to choose what outlet we will use, but I suspect something from MLB.com will do. Again, you need to most closely predict the attendance, whether you go over or not. The person with the closest guess gets awarded that game's attendance point. You will not get points for guessing over the official seating capacity (37,442 for Marlins Park, you'll have to look it up in other places).

2. Player of the game - Pick one player who you believe will contribute the most to the game. Since this is a Marlins site, only Marlins players will be earning a point. We'll award points for a maximum of three players per game, and no points will be awarded in the event of a blowout loss.

This aspect of the game will change slightly. You will still be picking the Player of the Game, and that player will still have to be a Marlin. However, this will not be subjectively decided by the authors here as it was before. We will only award points for the player with the most Win Probability Added (WPA) as calculated by FanGraphs.

What is Win Probability Added? I will let Steve Slowinski of FanGraphs explain.

Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures this difference by measuring how individual players affect their team’s win expectancy on a per-play basis.

Essentially, we are taking the change in win probability from the beginning of a play to the next play and attributing it to that pitcher and hitter. That means that the context matters; if Giancarlo Stanton hits a solo home run in the ninth inning of a tied game, that is going to be worth a lot more WPA than a solo home run in the first inning of a tied game. This measures the in-game impact of a certain player's outcome or play, and that is what we want to represent a "Player of the Game" denotion.

So how does this tie into Ichthyomancy? Well, we will award points for anyone who predicts the Marlin with the most WPA at the end of the game as measured by FanGraphs. If the player with the most WPA is a middle reliever or bench player, we will also reward points for readers who predicted the highest starter WPA, whether it was the game's starting pitcher or any of the starting position players. Again, anyone who makes a correct prediction gets a point for this.

Finally, as mentioned above, there will be a "minimum impact" cutoff for awarding points. If the largest WPA ends up being under .100 WPA, no points will be awarded. This mirrors the "no points for blowout losses" clause.

3. Above and beyond pick - Here's where ichthy gets fun! Your final pick will predict something else that will happen during the game. Do you think Stanton will hit three home runs before the seventh inning? Think JJ will pitch a complete game shutout? Make that pick. And if it happens, you'll look like a psychic to your fellow FishStripers, and you'll also get some points out of the deal. The more detailed and imaginative you get with your AAB pick, the more points you will be awarded if it actually happens. Then again, the more detailed you get, the less likely it is to happen. (But don't get cute. If you pick "JJ 4+ IP" or "Hanley 2+ AB" that is clearly NOT above and beyond. You won't be awarded points for something that is very obviously going to happen during the game.)

The third pick will also remain the same, with some caveats. In particular, we will cap the maximum points earned at three (3) points; even if you make the most outlandish predictions, the most you will get is three points. This is the most subjective part of the game, and all decisions on points will be made by me. The Above and Beyond Picks are where you can really separate yourself from the big boys, so it is worth getting creative and seeing if you cannot earn those extra points and pull ahead of your fellow Ichthyomancers!

How Do You Play?

So you know what to predict, now how do you play? It is as simple as it always has been. Prior to every Marlins game, we will post the live game thread with a variety of information on the upcoming game. This will usually be done three hours before the game is scheduled to begin. When the live game thread goes up, it is your turn to submit your Ichthyomancy picks! The format for submissions will be as follows:

- On the title line of the comment, submit your attendance selection

- On the first line in the body of the comments, submit your player of the game selection. Full names please.

- On the next line, submit your Above and Beyond Pick. List the player first, followed by a colon, and finally the pick. Again, refer to players with full names.

Once completed, it will look something like this:

22000
Giancarlo Stanton
Hanley Ramirez: 3 doubles

It is as simple as that! After the game, we will have a game recap posted within either six hours or the following morning. You will see the official results of the attendance and player of the game results, so you can follow along with that information. We will post the results of Ichthyomancy the following day, with a spreadsheet with all players and a top five list on the front page in one of the sidebar widgets. We will do this for every Marlins game and maybe even for some special occasions (aka All-Star Game, Home Run Derby). Tune in for every Marlins game, submit your selections, and the winner at the end of the year gets a prize which will almost certainly include one of the awesome Ichthyomancy T-shirts on sale at the Fish Stripes T-shirt Store!

Sounds like fun? Have any questions? Ask them here, and we will discuss! I am hoping that this season will be the most exciting Ichthyomancy race yet!

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