The virtual 1958-68 Giants, Reds, and Cardinals (Part 4: 1960-61)

We’ve completed three seasons of our triangular hypothetical:

1957-58
1958-59
1959-60

Last time, we saw the Giants extending success, the Reds distinctly failing to do the same, and the Cardinals doing all right but not good enough. Will 1961 introduce any new turns in the road?

           Giants:  Actual             Reds:  Actual               Cardinals:  Actual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    80   74   3   727  698      76   78   4   695  623      72   82   5T  619  704
 1959    83   71   3   705  613      74   80   5T  764  738      71   83   7   641  725
 1960    79   75   5   671  631      67   87   6   640  692      86   68   3   639  616

           Giants:  Virtual            Reds:  Virtual              Cardinals:  Virtual
 Year     W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    83   71   2   747  692      73   81   5   683  637      77   77   4   640  677
 1959    87   67   1T  737  615      87   67   1T  802  662      84   70   4   725  685
 1960    93   61   1   709  561      76   78   6   705  666      86   68   4   661  632

The 1960-61 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 15, 1960: The Cincinnati Reds traded catcher Dutch Dotterer to the Kansas City Athletics for catcher Danny Kravitz.

Because, other things being equal, it’s nice to have your backup catcher hit left-handed.

Dec. 15, 1960: The Cincinnati Reds traded shortstop Roy McMillan to the Milwaukee Braves for pitchers Joey Jay and Juan Pizarro.

Well, then. This one can only be understood as one-half of a bold ploy by the Braves to instantly reconstruct their middle infield, as they were also trading center fielder Bill Bruton, along with three other useful players, to Detroit in exchange for second baseman Frank Bolling. Here’s how we summed it up in the Blockbusters series:

With the decline of both second baseman Red Schoendienst and shortstop Johnny Logan, and the Braves’ frustrating second-place finishes in both 1959 and ’60, Milwaukee GM John McHale decided it was time to stop fooling around and get himself a new first-class double play combination. That he did: Bolling and McMillan were both terrific with the glove, and Bolling wasn’t a bad hitter.

But McHale sure expended a lot of talent to get them, and it would turn out to be one of those cases of solving one problem while creating others.

Indeed, it was a double-overpayment by Milwaukee. Neither Jay nor Pizarro, somewhat buried behind the Braves’ big front three of Warren Spahn, Lew Burdette, and Bob Buhl, had quite broken through yet, but both were among the more promising young pitching talents in the game. Our Reds, as in reality, will be happy to accommodate Milwaukee’s gamble, particularly since we have a young shortstop, Leo Cardenas, who looks ready to take over in place of the veteran McMillan.

Jan. 25, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Joe Nuxhall to the Kansas City Athletics for pitchers John Briggs and John Tsitouris.

We like Nuxhall, but we have young lefty Claude Osteen looking ready for the majors, and along with Pizarro now in the mix, we’ve got more than enough southpaws on hand. Briggs and Tsitouris are mid-grade right-handed prospects.

Feb. 24, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds sold catcher Frank House to the Baltimore Orioles.

While having a left-handed backup catcher is nice, you don’t need too many, and with Kravitz on hand we’ll let go of House.

April 10, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals sold pitcher Ron Kline to the Los Angeles Angels.

After his lousy season in 1960, Kline isn’t going to make our staff this spring.

The 1960-61 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 11, 1960: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Leon Wagner, pitcher Cal Browning, a player to be named later, and cash to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for pitcher Al Cicotte. (On Jan. 26, 1961, the Cardinals sent outfielder Ellis Burton to the Maple Leafs, completing the deal.)

Wait, what? The Cardinals traded all that to get Al Cicotte, a well-traveled 31-year-old journeyman right-hander?

Granted, Cicotte has surprised with a terrific year in triple-A in 1960 (16-7 with a 1.79 ERA in 201 innings), but on the basis of his track record, he sure doesn’t seem to be worth that much. Our Cards won’t bite.

Oct. 31, 1960: The San Francisco Giants traded shortstop Andre Rodgers to the Milwaukee Braves for infielder Alvin Dark.

The actual Giants had never been comfortable with the big-bodied Rodgers, dwelling on his weaknesses and dismissing his strengths, and never just letting him settle in and play. Here they compounded the miscalculation by expending him in order to acquire the veteran Dark for the purpose of naming him manager, despite the fact that Dark had never managed at any level.

Our Giants will do no such thing.

Dec. 3, 1960: The San Francisco Giants traded outfielder Willie Kirkland and pitcher Johnny Antonelli to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Harvey Kuenn.

This one as well was mostly a function of San Francisco’s frustration. This time it was with the not-quite-27-year-old Kirkland, whom they’d expected to develop into a star, but it just wasn’t happening. Antonelli, the long-time staff ace, had distinctly declined at the age of 30 in 1960, and though his days as a regular starter appeared through, he might have a nice run as a reliever ahead.

Kuenn, for his part, had long been a terrific hitter for average, but though he was just turning 30, had noticeably slowed down in 1960, and was, shall we say, never known for his dedication to healthy conditioning habits. All in all the Giants were betting quite a lot that Kuenn’s decline phase wasn’t about to get underway.

Our Giants won’t take that action, and we’ll accept Kirkland as the good supporting player that he’s been.

Dec. 14, 1960: The Cincinnati Reds sold catcher Joe Azcue to the Milwaukee Braves.

One fails to grasp any purpose in Cincinnati’s unloading of this 21-year-old catching prospect who’d progressed nicely through their system.

Dec. 15, 1960: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitchers Cal McLish and Juan Pizarro to the Chicago White Sox for third baseman Gene Freese.

One can understand newly-arrived Cincinnati GM Bill DeWitt’s logic here, as he had a hole at third base and Freese had established himself as a productive young power hitter.

But it was a high price in pitching talent to pay, and our version of the Reds has no third base hole, since we didn’t trade away Don Hoak. So we’ll pass on Freese, and give the hard-throwing young Pizarro an opportunity.

March 15, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals signed second baseman Red Schoendienst as a free agent.

We’d love to welcome this longtime St. Louis star, recently released by the Braves, back into our organization to finish his career. But we don’t have roster room for him. Hopefully he’ll agree to be a coach.

The 1960-61 offseason: Actual deals we will invoke

Dec. 3, 1960: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Don Rudolph and cash to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Lou Johnson.

We just don’t have a spot for the soft-tossing southpaw Rudolph, and it’s plausible that the Cubs would have more interest in him than they were showing in the longtime minor leaguer Johnson, who hadn’t hit well when Chicago gave him a bit of a big league chance in 1960. Our Reds will allow Sweet Lou to compete for a bench role.

Dec. 15, 1960: The San Francisco Giants traded outfielders Felipe Alou and Manny Mota, pitchers Eddie Fisher and Dick LeMay, and third baseman Jim Davenport to the St. Louis Cardinals for third baseman Ken Boyer.

Yes, you read that correctly: our Cardinals will surrender their hugely popular and productive star third baseman, the local Missouri boy, the team captain, the one and only Ken Boyer. And our Giants will commit the enormous package of talent necessary to pry him loose.

The explanation for this megabombshell starts with our candid assessment of the St. Louis situation. Though our annual win totals have crept upward from 1958 through 1960, we’ve still not climbed past fourth place, and we just don’t see the essential structure of this ball club with a championship in its future. Heaven knows we don’t mean to blame Boyer for this: he’s wonderful in every regard. But there isn’t enough talent capital supporting him, especially not in the offensive half of the inning.

Stan Musial has settled in as a productive part-timer, but that’s all he is, and for how long can he sustain that? Bill White is developing into an outstanding all-around first baseman, but he isn’t a serious power producer. Larry Jackson is a highly reliable workhorse, but not a true stopper. We just don’t see a plausible scenario in which this foundation yields any pennants.

And though we certainly understand that the St. Louis fanbase will be apoplectic at the news of this transaction, we’re firmly of the opinion that at the end of the day, what drives the popularity of a ball club is its win total, and especially its achievement of championships. Our time horizon is three to five years, and within that window we think we’re more likely to hoist that flag having made this deal. And we believe that once that flag is hoisted, few fans will still be kvetching about the Ken Boyer trade.

This deals hurts St Louis a lot at third base, of course. But the slick-fielding Davenport isn’t chopped liver. And this deal helps St. Louis significantly in the outfield and on the mound. We’re ready to suffer some downside in 1961 and perhaps ’62, but the further we look forward, the more we see this exchange balancing in the Cardinals’ favor.

As for our Giants, we understand that as a sheer talent comparison, in the long run we’re giving more than we’re getting in this five-for-one. But we also understand that talent only yields value when it can be exploited, and we doubt we have the lineup space to fully exploit Alou or Davenport, and probably won’t even have a spot for Mota. We love Fisher and like LeMay, but we’re fortunate enough to have such a bounty of young pitching talent on hand that if anyone can afford to give them up, we can.

And Boyer fits just perfectly into our world. His presence allows us to move Orlando Cepeda back out to left field, dramatically improving our defense and allowing Cepeda to relax and focus on his hitting. We see the almost-30-year-old Boyer as likely to deliver at least two or three more peak-level seasons before he begins to decline, and his peak is so robust that he could be a good player even as he declines.

In short, it’s a case of our Cardinals looking honestly around the corner, and our Giants going all in to maximize their impact at the top of the success cycle. These franchises are hooking up (if you’ll pardon the expression) for mutual benefit.

Dec. 16, 1960: The St. Louis Cardinals traded catcher Smoky Burgess and pitchers Curt Simmons and Chuck Stobbs to the Pittsburgh Pirates for pitcher Al Jackson, second baseman Julian Javier, and catcher Carl Sawatski.

And here our Cardinals decide that in for a penny, in for a pound in the rebuilding effort. Earlier in the year, the Pirates had been willing to offer Javier for Wilmer Mizell, and we’d turned them down. But since he’s still available, and with the Boyer deal we’ve committed to getting younger, we’ll work something out with Pittsburgh now.

We still won’t surrender the just-turned-30-year-old lefty Mizell, but instead offer the soon-to-be-32-year-old lefty Simmons, who was so surprisingly lights-out for us in 1960, but in whom we still don’t have long-term confidence. (Simmons will prove our judgment wrong.) We’ll also allow the Pirates to significantly upgrade their left-handed hitting catcher, plus put the additional southpaw Stobbs in their bullpen.

For that we’ll take Javier, who will compete for our second base job with Don Blasingame, who was less than impressive in 1960. We’ll also take the crafty young left-hander Jackson, whom the Pirates have never really appreciated despite fine work in triple-A.

March 31, 1961: The San Francisco Giants traded infielder Eddie Bressoud to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Seth Morehead.

Actually on this date, the Cubs traded the journeyman southpaw Morehead to Milwaukee for Andre Rodgers. Our Giants certainly aren’t doing that, but we will give up the utilityman Bressoud.

April 1, 1961: The San Francisco Giants traded outfielder Leon Wagner to the Los Angeles Angels for outfielder Jim McAnany and cash.

(Actually on this date the Angels traded McAnany to the Cubs for Lou Johnson. Two weeks later Los Angeles would flip Johnson to Toronto in exchange for Wagner.)

The sweet-swinging Wagner hasn’t developed as our Giants thought he would, and now rookie Matty Alou is beating him out for the backup outfield spot. So we’re ready to exchange Daddy Wags for McAnany, who’ll never hit like Wagner but plays far better defense, and we’ll place him in triple-A as injury insurance.

April, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals sold outfielder Walt Moryn to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Consistent with our youth movement, we won’t leave roster room for this 35-year-old veteran.

The 1961 season: Actual deals we will make

May 10, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds traded infielder Jim Baumer to the Detroit Tigers for first baseman Dick Gernert.

We’ll have the 32-year-old Gernert take over the role the 38-year-old Walt Dropo has been filling.

May 16, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder-first baseman Duke Carmel to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Joe Koppe.

Our Cardinals have given the toolsy Carmel another chance this spring, but again he isn’t hitting his weight, and he won’t make the cut. We’ll park the journeyman Koppe in triple-A instead.

June 19, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals sold shortstop Joe Koppe to the Los Angeles Angels for $1,000.

A lousy thousand bucks? Really? Well, Koppe has hit just .219 in the minors, so, whatever.

The 1961 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 27, 1961: The San Francisco Giants traded second baseman Don Blasingame, catcher Bob Schmidt, and a player to be named later to the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Ed Bailey. (On May 13, 1961, the Giants sent pitcher Sherman Jones to the Reds, completing the deal.)

Blasingame had fallen far short of expectations in San Francisco, and the Reds were searching for a second baseman, so the teams connected. But in our scenario, the Giants don’t have Blasingame, and moreover our Reds, with Johnny Temple still on hand, have second base reasonably covered. So our Reds will hang on to the power-hitting backstop Bailey.

May 30, 1961: The St. Louis Cardinals traded infielder Daryl Spencer to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Carl Warwick and infielder Bob Lillis.

Our Cardinals don’t have Spencer; our Giants still do. But our Giants have no interest in this offering from L.A.

July 21, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Orlando Peña and cash to the Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League for pitcher Ken Johnson.

The actual Reds left Peña to the minors in 1960-61, for no persuasive reason. We’ve been making good use of him in the majors, and will have no interest in this swap.

Aug. 14, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds purchased catcher Darrell Johnson from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nor will our Reds, with Bailey still in the fold, have any interest in this marginality.

Sep. 16, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Claude Osteen to the Washington Senators for a player to be named later and cash. (On Nov. 28, 1961, the Senators sent pitcher Dave Sisler to the Reds, completing the deal.)

We’ve explored what a bizarre move this was by Cincinnati. Suffice to say that in the long history of trades, few have been sillier than this one.

Our Reds won’t go anywhere near there. Instead, we’ll just give the 22-year-old southpaw Osteen an honest chance to pitch in the major leagues.

The 1961 season: Deals we will invoke

May 13, 1961: The San Francisco Giants traded pitcher Sherman Jones to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Mike Cuellar.

Giving our Reds the second-line pitcher they actually accepted from the Giants on this date as the PTBNL from the Bailey deal, and giving our Giants a chance to try out the slender young junkballing lefty Cuellar, who’s washed out in Cincinnati.

July 3, 1961: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Johnny Klippstein to the Washington Senators.

He’s having a bad year, and we’ll promote Jones to take his spot.

July 4, 1961: The San Francisco Giants sold pitcher Johnny Antonelli to the Milwaukee Braves.

The Braves actually purchased Antonelli from Cleveland on this date. His implosion from elite-ace status since 1959 has been shockingly sudden, and at the age of 31 it has to be acknowledged that he’s looking like, well, roadkill. (Though the Braves might say: remember Curt Simmons!)

1961 season results

Giants

The single huge move, of course, is the installation of Boyer and third, and the resulting shift of Cepeda back to left. Otherwise the roster changes are small: the departed Felipe’s younger brother Matty backing up in the outfield, and fellow rookies Jose Pagan taking over as the primary utility infielder, and Tom Haller joining the catching corps.

1961 San Francisco Giants     Won 88    Lost 66    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  W. McCovey*    23  141 507 101 137  19   4  30  71  64  92 .270 .354 .501 .855  127
  2B  D. Spencer     32  112 319  41  76  12   0  10  33  45  52 .238 .336 .370 .706   90
  SS  A. Rodgers     26  136 496  67 127  31   2  12  44  58 110 .256 .333 .399 .732   96
  3B  K. Boyer       30  153 617 111 195  25   7  23  83  74  92 .316 .387 .491 .878  135
  RF  W. Kirkland*   27  146 525  63 137  23   6  26  88  43  83 .261 .312 .476 .788  108
  CF  W. Mays        30  154 572 132 176  32   3  40 119  81  77 .308 .393 .584 .977  159
LF-1B O. Cepeda      23  152 585 107 182  28   4  46 137  39  91 .311 .362 .609 .970  155
  C   B. Schmidt     28   73 182  14  36   5   0   5  19  15  31 .198 .255 .308 .563   51

2B-SS J. Pagan       26   99 217  19  54   8   1   3  20  15  24 .249 .295 .336 .632   70
  C   T. Haller*     24   77 169  18  31   4   3   5  16  26  44 .183 .295 .331 .626   68
  C   H. Landrith*   31   81 148  19  35   7   0   4  13  23  15 .236 .322 .365 .687   85
  UT  D. Phillips*   29   72 123  16  27   3   1   3  13  19  17 .220 .324 .333 .657   78
  OF  M. Alou*       22   73 133  27  40   5   1   4  11   9  13 .301 .340 .444 .784  109
  UT  H. Bright      31   54  92   9  22   3   0   2   9   9  13 .239 .304 .337 .641   72
  LF  B. Nieman      34   45  82   5  30   7   0   2  16   6   7 .366 .409 .524 .933  149

      Others                  84  10  22   4   1   2   7   7  15 .262 .323 .405 .727   94

      Pitchers               402  28  67   9   0   3  23  22 109 .167 .195 .211 .406    9

      Total                 5253 787 1394 225 33 220 722 555 885 .265 .333 .446 .780  108

      *  Bats left

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      M. McCormick*  22   40  35  13  14  15   0 250 235  99  89   33   75  163 3.20  120
      J. Sanford     32   38  33   6  13   8   0 217 203 114 102   22   87  112 4.23   91
      J. Marichal    23   29  27   9  13   9   0 185 183  88  80   24   48  124 3.89   99
      E. Broglio     25   29  26   7  10   9   0 175 156  81  69   17   75  113 3.55  108
      S. Jones       35   37  16   2   7   7   1 115 120  64  57   11   52   96 4.46   86

      S. Miller      33   63   0   0  14   5  18 122  95  41  36    4   37   89 2.66  145
      B. O'Dell*     28   46  14   4   7   5   3 130 132  63  52   10   33  110 3.60  107
      F. Funk        24   44   0   0   4   3   5  72  61  26  25    7   22   55 3.13  123
      B. Bolin       22   19   0   0   1   1   3  24  19  10   9    3   19   24 3.38  114
      J. Antonelli*  31   17   2   0   1   1   0  36  49  25  24    5   13   20 6.00   64
      M. Cuellar*    24   14   1   0   0   1   0  20  25  14  11    3    7   12 4.95   78
      S. Morehead*   26   12   0   0   1   0   0  15  16  11  11    4    7   13 6.60   58

      Others                   1   0   3   2   1  28  26  12  11    3   12   15 3.54  109

      Total                  155  41  88  66 31 1389 1320 648 576 146  487  946 3.73  103

      * Throws left

Boyer is marvelous, and even though our two primary catchers seem to be competing for who can slump the worst, overall this offense is the knockout-punching heavyweight we anticipated. Cepeda steps forward to join Willie Mays in superstar-hitter status, as our Murderer’s Row comes within a single home run of tying the National League record for big flies.

Alas, our pitching, the strength of the club in 1959-60, encounters some problems this time around. Stu Miller steps forward with a terrific ace reliever performance, but all the rest of the staff regresses to one degree or another. Our pitching is still pretty good, but that’s all.

Thus not only are we unable to build upon our 93-victory, pennant-winning form of 1960, we drop back to 88-66, and second place. Indeed, a very distant second place.

Reds

We’re making just one important change to the starting lineup: the rookie Cardenas replacing McMillan at shortstop. A minor alteration is a position shift: Frank Robinson, with his throwing arm healed, returns to right field, so Tony Gonzalez slides over to left, and Wally Moon is back to first base.

The big issue is on the pitching staff, where Jay and Pizarro are available to compete for starting assignments.

1961 Cincinnati Reds     Won 106    Lost 48    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  W. Moon*       31  134 463  84 140  28   2  21  92  90  82 .302 .411 .508 .919  141
2B-LF C. Flood       23  132 335  57 105  15   5   2  22  36  33 .313 .378 .406 .784  107
  SS  L. Cardenas    22  138 485  60 140  32   3  10  64  36  88 .289 .334 .429 .763  100
  3B  D. Hoak        33  145 503  77 149  27   5  16  77  70  52 .296 .381 .465 .846  122
  RF  F. Robinson    25  153 545 124 176  32   7  37 130  71  64 .323 .404 .611 1.015 163
  CF  V. Pinson*     22  154 607 107 208  34   8  16  91  39  63 .343 .376 .504 .880  130
  LF  T. Gonzalez*   24  123 339  56 100  14   5  13  57  41  47 .295 .373 .481 .854  123
  C   E. Bailey*     30  108 315  39  79  11   1  11  47  37  40 .251 .330 .397 .726   91

 C-LF G. Oliver      26  103 261  48  71   9   0  18  54  43  63 .272 .376 .513 .890  132
2B-3B J. Temple      33   97 259  39  72  12   2   2  16  27  21 .278 .340 .363 .703   86
  LF  J. Lynch*      30   96 181  36  57  13   2  13  55  27  25 .315 .405 .6241.029  167
  IF  A. Grammas     35   64 113  16  23   7   1   0  14  13  14 .204 .280 .283 .563   49
  OF  L. Johnson     26   61 113  20  27   4   3   2  13   7  15 .239 .296 .381 .677   77
  C   J. Zimmerman   26   51 102   5  20   2   0   0   6   5  12 .196 .236 .216 .452   21
  1B  D. Gernert     32   40  63   4  19   1   0   0   7   7   9 .302 .361 .317 .679   81

      Others                  59   7  11   2   0   0   3   7  15 .186 .269 .220 .489   31

      Pitchers               415  34  64  13   1   1  25  15 132 .154 .180 .198 .378    0

      Total                 5158 813 1461 256 45 162 773 571 775 .283 .352 .445 .797  109

      *  Bats left

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      J. O'Toole*    24   39  35  10  20   7   2 240 217  95  82   15   88  170 3.08  133
      J. Jay         25   34  34  13  22   8   0 235 205  97  91   23   87  150 3.49  117
      B. Purkey      31   36  34  12  17  10   1 234 232 111  96   25   48  111 3.69  111
      J. Pizarro*    24   39  25  12  15   6   4 195 172  81  71   18   80  188 3.28  125
      H. Haddix*     35   34  11   2   8   3   3 104 103  49  44    9   27   69 3.81  107

      L. Arroyo*     34   57   0   0  11   4  27  89  65  28  23    4   34   68 2.33  176
      O. Peña        27   41   2   0   4   3   6  70  78  35  29    6   14   44 3.73  110
      C. Osteen*     21   23   3   0   3   1   0  53  50  28  25    5   25   35 4.25   96
      J. Klippstein  33   21   0   0   1   2   2  36  44  33  29    8   19   23 7.25   56
      S. Jones       26   12   1   0   1   0   1  28  26  16  14    3   14   16 4.50   91
      J. Hook        24   11   3   0   1   1   0  32  42  28  27    7   11   18 7.59   54
      D. Stenhouse   27   10   4   0   1   1   0  29  28  16  13    2   13   16 4.03  101

      Others                   2   0   2   2   0  24  22  12  11    3   13   14 4.13   99

      Total                  154  49 106  48 46 1369 1284 629 555 128  473  922 3.65  112

      * Throws left

Over the many decades of baseball history, there have been a few instances of teams having a season in which everything of significance works out perfectly. It’s very rare, but once in a great while, it happens.
This is one of those precious times.

Dang near everybody has a real good year. From established stars Robinson, Moon, Vada Pinson, and Don Hoak on down, virtually every role is amply filled.

Curt Flood reinvents his batting approach, foregoing the power game to focus on up-the-middle contact, and emerges as a high-average hitter, wrestling the second base job away from the still-effective veteran Temple. The power bats on the bench, Jerry Lynch and Gene Oliver, both hit up a fearsome storm.

Jay and Pizarro both blossom into stardom, as does sophomore Jim O’Toole. Luis Arroyo is wicked out of the bullpen, and so not only is our hitting the best in the league, so is our pitching.

And so old Uncle Pythagoras decides to join the bacchanalia of positive outcomes, allowing our Reds to surpass our projected wins by a whopping margin of 10. We capture 106 victories, the most by any National League team in a non-wartime season since 1907, and far and away the most in Cincinnati franchise history. This is, quite simply, the best baseball season in this town since, oh, 1869.

And it invites us to wonder just how this Reds powerhouse might have fared in the World Series. In reality, the less-than-overwhelming Cincinnati team that squared off against the “Dial M for Murder” Yankees got blown away. This bunch might have given those Bombers a mighty challenge.

Cardinals

There are changes everywhere as we seek to reconstruct this ball club into one both younger and more multi-faceted. The center field job is Alou’s to lose, as is third base for Davenport, while Javier is going to be at least a platoon partner with Blasingame at second base. Sawatski steps in as the lefty-hitting catcher. Fisher, Jackson, and rookie Bob Miller will get serious opportunities as starters.

1961 St. Louis Cardinals     Won 72    Lost 82    Finished 6th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  B. White*      27  153 591  85 169  28  11  20  94  64  84 .286 .353 .472 .825  108
  2B  J. Javier      24   99 334  44  92  11   2   2  31  22  39 .275 .320 .338 .658   68
  SS  D. Schofield#  26  140 480  76 122  15   4   3  35  77  84 .254 .351 .321 .672   74
  3B  J. Davenport   27  137 436  64 129  31   5  14  68  44  66 .296 .349 .486 .835  110
  RF  J. Cunningham* 29  118 354  66 101  12   2   8  44  58  35 .285 .400 .398 .798  105
CF-RF F. Alou        26  137 498  71 150  26   1  24  68  30  50 .301 .340 .502 .842  112
  LF  S. Musial*     40  123 372  44 107  22   4  15  72  52  35 .288 .371 .489 .860  118
  C   C. Sawatski*   33   86 174  23  52   8   0  10  33  25  17 .299 .385 .517 .902  128

 C-OF G. Green       28   99 291  40  85  14   3  17  53  25  57 .292 .346 .536 .882  121
  IF  E. Kasko       29   84 235  32  65  12   1   1  15  14  19 .277 .319 .349 .668   71
  2B  D. Blasingame* 29   82 226  31  52   9   2   1  12  18  20 .230 .283 .301 .584   49
  OF  C. James       23   72 181  20  48  10   1   3  25   9  28 .265 .301 .381 .682   73
  C   H. Smith       30   45 125   6  31   4   1   0  10  11  12 .248 .303 .296 .599   54
  C   J. Schaffer    25   57 102  10  25   5   0   1  11   5  20 .245 .279 .324 .603   53
  OF  D. Landrum*    25   71 100  10  19   4   0   1   6   7  19 .190 .245 .260 .505   29
  OF  J. Hickman     24   34  93  10  19   3   0   2  10   9  24 .204 .279 .301 .580   48
  OF  E. Burton#     24   34  77  10  12   1   0   3  11  11  21 .156 .264 .286 .549   40
  3B  E. Olivares    22   21  30   2   5   0   0   0   1   0   4 .167 .161 .167 .328  -16

      Others                  96  10  20   3   0   1  10  11  16 .208 .290 .271 .561   44

      Pitchers               426  35  78  15   4   3  35  25 130 .183 .216 .259 .474   21

      Total                 5221 689 1381 233 41 129 644 517 780 .264 .328 .399 .727   85

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      L. Jackson     30   33  28  12  13  12   0 211 203 102  88   20   56  113 3.75  118
      B. Gibson      25   31  27  10  12  13   1 203 178  90  74   13  112  161 3.28  135
      A. Jackson*    25   34  28   8   7  10   0 198 210  99  82   19   50  142 3.73  119
      E. Fisher      24   28  23   5   6   9   0 160 184  91  77   25   38   87 4.33  103
      R. Sadecki*    20   16  16   7   6   6   0 112  98  52  46   14   51   57 3.70  120
      W. Mizell*     30   25  17   2   5   9   0 100 125  70  62   21   30   37 5.58   80
      B. Miller      22   34  12   0   1   6   1  99 109  64  55   10   54   56 5.00   89

      J. Brosnan     31   53   0   0   9   5  10  80  82  38  29    7   17   40 3.26  136
      L. McDaniel    25   49   0   0   8   5   8  85 104  52  45   10   28   60 4.76   93
      H. Nunn        25   24   0   0   1   2   0  38  37  20  16    0   23   26 3.79  117
      M. Bridges*    30   13   0   0   0   1   0  21  28  23  20    4   10   17 8.57   52

      Others                   4   1   4   4   2  62  49  23  23    7   24   41 3.34  133

      Total                  155  45  72  82 22 1369 1407 724 617 150  493  837 4.06  109

      * Throws left

The good news seems to outweigh the bad. We’re delighted with Alou’s development, and surprised and delighted with Davenport’s to boot. The powerful hitting of catchers Sawatski and Gene Green is another pleasant surprise.

Fisher does okay. But Jackson and sophomore right-hander Bob Gibson both emerge as real-deal major league starters. We call up 20-year-old lefty Ray Sadecki in mid-season, and he thrives too. Though Mizell, McDaniel, and Miller all struggle, our pitching comes through as a genuine and significant strength.

But our offense, without a core slugging star, remains below average. Our expectations for this season were realistic, anticipating somewhere around a .500 finish. We fall a bit short of that, dropping to sixth. No doubt our fans are in a foul mood, but keeping our eyes on the prize, we assess this year as a strategic sidestep, a difficult but necessary and decisive pivot toward a potentially positive direction.

Next time

We’ll see what our Giants can do, reeling from the out-of-the-blue butt-kicking they’ve just received from the Reds. And we’ll also monitor the progress of our rebuilding Cardinals.

          Giants:  Actual             Reds:  Actual               Cardinals:  Actual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    80   74  3    727  698      76   78  4    695  623      72   82  5T   619  704
 1959    83   71  3    705  613      74   80  5T   764  738      71   83  7    641  725
 1960    79   75  5    671  631      67   87  6    640  692      86   68  3    639  616
 1961    85   69  3    773  655      93   61  1    710  653      80   74  5    703  668

          Giants:  Virtual            Reds:  Virtual              Cardinals:  Virtual
 Year    W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA       W    L  Pos   RS   RA
 1958    83   71  2T   747  692      73   81  5    683  637      77   77  4    640  677
 1959    87   67  1T   737  615      87   67  1T   802  662      84   70  4    725  685
 1960    93   61  1    709  561      76   78  6    705  666      86   68  4    661  632
 1961    88   66  2    787  648     106   48  1    813  629      72   82  6    689  724
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Comments

  1. Steve Treder said...

    Short answer:  anyone but Alvin Dark!  Who proved to be a less-than-satisfactory manager; the Giants won the pennant in 1962 despite Dark’s work, not because of it.

    Longer answer:  I think the Giants’ firing of Bill Rigney in mid-1960 was entirely pointless.  I see no reason why Rigney shouldn’t have been the Giants’ manager in 1961 and beyond.

  2. BobDD said...

    I was looking at the Giants hitters and wondering about the lineup.  Who hits leadoff?  2nd?  They have a bunch of 3-6 lineup types and the middle infielders both have #8 hitter stats.  3-6 is apparently Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, Kirkland.  With Boyer’s lower RBIs I guess you have him either 1 or 2 – care to share your lineup?

  3. Steve Treder said...

    Very good and interesting question.  My guess is that these Giants wouldn’t have a single set order, but it would have varied depending on who was hot and who wasn’t, whether the opposing starter was lefty or righty, and so on.  But the one I’ve imagined as most typical would be:

    1.  Boyer, 3b
    2.  McCovey, 1b
    3.  Mays, cf
    4.  Cepeda, lf
    5.  Kirkland, rf
    6.  Spencer, 2b
    7.  Schmidt or Haller, c
    8.  Rodgers, ss
    9.  pitcher

    Boyer obviously wasn’t a classic leadoff type, but he was an excellent hitter for average and just real good at getting on base generally, plus he ran quite well.  And McCovey did bat second for the actual Giants fairly often in the early 1960s.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    I distinctly recall listening on the radio with my family a “Giants Clubhouse” postgame interview with McCovey in 1966, following a game in which he’d legged out a triple (he hit a career-high six triples that year).

    The interviewer (it probably was Lon Simmons) noted that McCovey demonstrated pretty good wheels on that one.  And McCovey’s reply, in his inimitable Alabama drawl, was as follows:

    “Well, it takes me a while to get going, but once I get going I can really move!”

    My mom just cracked up laughing.  That became her favorite line for about the next year.  (And hearing my mom try to talk like Willie McCovey was hysterical in itself.)

    The truth is that before his knees went bad, and he became quite possibly the slowest major league baseball player in history, McCovey wasn’t slow.  He wasn’t fast, and certainly wasn’t quick, but just as he said, once he got the entire package of ridiculously long arms and legs going in the same direction, he could cover some ground.

  5. BobDD said...

    A very interesting trade, cuz SL got the best of the deal, but it would have kicked SF power into overdrive making it worth it.  Then with Jim Ray Hart coming in ‘63, Boyer could have moved Kirkland out or SF could have got lucky and traded him before he fell off the cliff.

    You also had Flood at 2B and that could have been a good fit for all we know.  I’ve always thought that Aaron should have been 2B to get more value, and that if he wasn’t on same team as Mathews, ending up at 3B would have been very natural; he certainly had the ability.

    I like these virtual series, but having three teams together and inter-trading gets tricky.  BTW I was in SoCal when Wagner got traded there and he was famous in the area beyond his playing ability – born to be a celebrity you might say.

  6. Steve Treder said...

    Yeah, Wagner had a clothing store in LA.  “Buy your rags from Daddy Wags!”  It’s possible there might have been someone along the way who met Leon Wagner and didn’t like him, but extremely unlikely.

  7. Rick Cooper said...

    Steve,

    I am just now jumping into your series of articles having just discovered HT (mea culpa). I was curious what route you are taking to develop the statistics for each of the players? If you mentioned it earlier, I apologize for missing it, but I am intrigued.

    Cheers,
    Rick Cooper

  8. Steve Treder said...

    Rick,

    Very fair question.  There isn’t anything especially scientific about it:  I simply do my best to make whatever adjustments to actual stats are warranted by park effects, the impact of facing a different opponent in a small percentage of games, and different playing time/role.  Also, when having a guy play in the majors who actually played in the minors, I do my best to estimate his major league equivalencies.

    I have rough percentage rules of thumb for all these things I’ve developed over many years, but I never just go with the formulaic figure if it doesn’t seem realistic.  The overriding intention is to get it as plausibly realistic as possible.

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