Rob Linker is a 28-year-old father of two in Flint, Mich., and on a typical day he is working in the business administration and sales office of a manufacturing company, rooting for his Tigers to survive the American League Central race, and seeing the future.
He found MLB PrePlay in 2012.
Thousands of Major League Baseball fans have downloaded the predictive game for free since its recent release by MLB.com as the latest in a string of popular apps. Entering Friday, Linker's Tigers were in second place while he ranked sixth overall in the MLB PrePlay community. Score points like him by correctly predicting the outcome of every play and make pregame picks days in advance up to the start of any game, because Nationals ace Gio Gonzalez will try on Saturday to become the season's first 20-game winner and you can call that one now.
"I'm on an 8-to-5 schedule most of the time, so I can casually play during the day sometimes and get into the game at night when I can really get into the game," Linker said in an email. "Right now I'm currently sixth in the overall standings; I was as high as third, but I had a week where I wasn't able to play much."
In the first game of the Tigers' most recent series against Oakland, Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs and a sacrifice fly for a total of six RBIs. Linker called both homers and the sac fly. The game keeps your record as proof, and bragging is all part of the fun.
How much do you have to play? It is entirely up to you. Chris Carpenter was to make his much-anticipated season debut for the Cardinals on Friday afternoon, and it was a way to actually feel like you are part of that game itself, making fast decisions on literally every at-bat if you want to go that far. Many of the MLB PrePlay users try to cover an entire docket, easily going from game to game, building their points and hoping not to miss any of the rapid-fire picks as games progress.
"It's a way for fans who love the game to truly immerse themselves in the game and show off their baseball knowledge -- or pure luck," Linker said. "If a fan is sitting and watching/listening to a game intensely, he or she might as well have the app open and click along. Or even if you're doing some housework and aren't paying much attention to the game, you can still use the alerts of the app to just try to score points. You're rewarded by playing as much as possible and by your baseball knowledge, so it's kind of for everyone and anyone, casual fans or fanatics.
"I personally like the pregame predictions the best because I like being able to say I knew this game would end this way or that I called that final score. Not to mention they're free points when you can't follow the game or you want to follow a different game."
You can start by going to the Upcoming Games column, and then going through the standard pregame picks. MLB PrePlay asks you to predict a final score, and various starting pitcher data such as how many innings they will last, and how many hits, walks, strikeouts and earned runs they will register. Imagine how cool it would have been to have predicted Matt Cain's or Felix Hernandez's perfect games, and having this app as evidence to show those who doubted you.
"I'm crazy about stats," Linker said. "So, as I'm doing my pregame predictions I'll look at the matchups for the given day, a pitchers ERA, WHIP, K/IP, what he's done versus the opponent (if he has faced them), and how he's fared over the last few games.
"The in-game guesses are different because an in-depth user will look at the situation that is present to make an educated guess to build the streak multiplier, score high (by guessing double, triple, home run or sacrifice), and keep up the percentage of right guesses. But, when playing along with one's local or favorite team, it's easy to develop a bias and pick in that team's favor. I try to play the numbers and score high when I can concentrate on the game."
Indeed, picking throughout a game that includes your favorite team can take some getting used to, especially if you predict with your brain instead of your heart. But let's say you're a Reds fan who just watched your team become the first team to clinch a postseason berth this season. On the way to that big moment on Thursday, you might have predicted in your pregame selections that Reds starter Johnny Cueto would go six scoreless innings and win his 18th decision.
You would have been correct, making the day doubly delicious.
Then maybe you would have clicked the "Brag" icon and jumped into a chat room just to remind everyone that life as a Reds fan is good these days. If you are a Nationals fan, maybe you were doing the same Thursday after your club clinched its first postseason appearance since moving to Washington in 2005.
"Fans are fans, everyone's favorite team is the best and the opponent is going to lose, egos run amok as always, there are annoying people but there are also some very nice people in the community right now," Linker said. "MLB PrePlay does a great job of monitoring the chat boards of the game and has a filter in place to keep the conversation clean for the kids who also play the game, and there are a lot. The moderators chat with the users, which adds to the experience."
With the addition of a second Wild Card in 2012, it is probably safe to say more fans than ever have a vested interest in how the final days of the regular season shake out. With MLB PrePlay, you have an even bigger stake in the days and plays to come.