The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 1: 1967-68)

We’ve undertaken triple-franchise virtual scenarios re-imagining the American League East Division, as well as the NL East, in the late 1960s-early 1970s period. This time we’ll turn our spotlight to a third contemporary theater of competition.

The choice of the Houston Astros as one of our contestants should be rather obvious, given that, as we’ve already explored, the Astros in these years operated one of the all-time great talent-export operations. And if that dynamic is a major focus, then it becomes clear that the Cincinnati Reds need to be included, as well, since they were such a great beneficiary of the Houstonian generosity in the seismic Joe Morgan trade of Nov., 1971.

Our decision to go with the Atlanta Braves to complete this trio may seem less obvious, but it was in these years that veteran General Manager Paul Richards executed a long string of highly questionable transactions and left the franchise in mid-1972 in far worse shape than when he’d taken over in mid-1966.

And it was a big trade between the Braves and Astros that took place in October of 1967 that will compel us to begin this exercise at that point rather than following the 1968 season. So this one will be a great big ol’ nine-parter.

Here’s the status at which we join each franchise:
{exp:list_maker}The Braves, featuring an abundantly talented roster core including the ever-brilliant Hank Aaron, are frustrated at having dropped to 77-85 and seventh place in 1967, their first losing year since 1952.
The Astros, with an impressive expansion-team foundation laid by Richards, seemed to be on the rise in 1966, but are also now frustrated, having dropped back to ninth in ’67 with the pitching staff falling apart.
The Reds, having been burned by the “oops” Frank Robinson trade and fallen to the second division in 1966, came back encouragingly in ’67 to 87-75, in fourth place, led by strong young pitching. {/exp:list_maker}Let the imaginary journey begin!

The 1967-68 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 20, 1967: The Cincinnati Reds traded players to be named later to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Ron Tompkins. (On Nov. 21, 1967, the Reds sent outfielder Floyd Robinson and pitcher Darrell Osteen to the Athletics, completing the deal.)

Tompkins is a fairly interesting prospect. Our Reds aren’t sure why Charlie Finley’s A’s are willing to surrender him for this meager price, but we don’t see the downside.

Nov. 21, 1967: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder-infielder Tommy Harper to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Fred Whitfield, pitcher George Culver, and outfielder Bob Raudman.

The multi-talented Harper has had a pretty good run in Cincinnati, but he’s never developed into the star it seemed he would, and on the heels of an injury-marred 1967 season, like actual Reds’ GM Bob Howsam, we’ll decide we have better left field options going forward. Whitfield and Culver project as useful role players; Raudman is a spare part who can be stashed in Triple-A.

Nov. 29, 1967: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Sammy Ellis to the California Angels for pitchers Bill Kelso and Jorge Rubio.

And as Howsam did, we’ll happily take this offering in exchange for the once-exciting-but-now-struggling Ellis before it’s too late.

Dec. 7, 1967: The Atlanta Braves traded third baseman Bobby Cox to the New York Yankees for catcher Bob Tillman and pitcher Dale Roberts.

We’re surprised we can get much of anything in return for the minor league journeyman Cox. As it did to the Wizard of Waxahachie, this package of a backup catcher with some power, plus a grade-B pitching prospect, seems more than fair to us.

The 1967-68 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 8, 1967: The Atlanta Braves traded shortstop Denis Menke and pitcher Denny Lemaster to the Houston Astros for shortstop Sonny Jackson and first baseman Chuck Harrison.

All righty then, here we go

The intense, highly intelligent Paul Richards had taken over as Atlanta GM in mid-1966, and with the Braves finishing a disappointing seventh in ’67, the Wizard of Waxahachie was quick to take action …

The logic of [this] deal is clear, if not its wisdom. Richards wasn’t satisfied with Menke, who was an “offense first” mode of shortstop, a good hitter with limited range in the field. He preferred the style of Jackson, whom Richards had signed and developed when he was running the Houston operation: Jackson was just 23, a little guy with vastly more speed than Menke.

But following a fine rookie year in 1966, Jackson had slumped with the bat in ’67, and moreover, in the field he had great range but was highly error-prone, having committed 37 in ’66 and 35 in ’67, most in the majors both years. It wasn’t at all clear that on balance he was better than Menke. And the other half of the deal was a complete mismatch: Lemaster was a solid starter, while Harrison was a marginal talent, who would be farmed out by the Braves.

Suffice to say, though it pains our Astros to hear it, our Braves aren’t interested.

Nov. 8, 1967: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Art Shamsky to the New York Mets for infielder Bob Johnson.

The normally sharp-trading Howsam committed a head-scratcher here:

This one made little sense at the time. Johnson was a useful ballplayer, one of the best-hitting utility infielders of his (or any other) era. But a utility infielder was all Johnson was, and moreover he would be 32 years old for the 1968 season, while the power-hitting Shamsky would be 26. And while Shamsky had performed poorly in 1967, he’d been so spectacular in a limited role in 1966 that it seemed premature to be exchanging him for someone with so much less future potential.

Jan. 11, 1968: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Dick Simpson to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Alex Johnson.

It makes sense to take an interest in this Johnson. He’d been a flop in two seasons in St. Louis after being predicted for stardom, but he’s still just 25 years old. It would be a good idea to pick him up at a bargain price.

But our Reds don’t think Simpson is a bargain price. He’s another toolsy guy once predicted for stardom, and he’s half a year younger than Johnson. Moreover, he hasn’t flopped in two seasons in Cincinnati; he’s just gathered dust on the bench. We think it’s time to give him an opportunity to play and find out what he can do.

Feb. 8, 1968: The Cincinnati Reds traded catcher Johnny Edwards to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Pat Corrales and infielder Jimy Williams.

Once a first-rate catcher, Edwards has put together back-to-back dismal years with the bat. But he’s still a strong defender, and we think as a veteran he’ll offer more than the journeyman Corrales as the backup to mega-prospect Johnny Bench.

Feb. 9, 1968: The Houston Astros traded first baseman Tommy Murray and outfielder Levi Brown to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder-first baseman Lee Thomas.

Murray and Brown are token prospects. But still, unlike actual Houston GM Spec Richardson, our Astros, realistically still a long way from contention, see no point in picking up an over-30 has-been like Thomas.

April 1, 1968: The Atlanta Braves purchased pitcher Stu Miller from the Baltimore Orioles.

And our Braves, much as we’ve always liked Miller, just can’t find roster room for this veteran.

The 1967-68 season: Deals we will invoke

Oct. 8, 1967: The Houston Astros traded catcher John Bateman to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Woody Woodward.

The Astros had force-fed Bateman at the major league level and waited through a long period of struggle before he finally blossomed with the bat in 1966. But he’s thoroughly regressed in ’67, and our Astros have run out of patience.

Our Braves see his power as an asset worth granting a fresh opportunity within the Launching Pad environment of Fulton County Stadium. Our Astros see Woodward, a solid-fielding and light-hitting middle infielder, as fair payment.

Oct. 10, 1967: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielders Mack Jones and Jim Beauchamp and pitchers Jay Ritchie and Ramon Hernandez to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder-outfielder Deron Johnson and outfielder Art Shamsky.

The actual trade made on this date was Jones, Beauchamp, and Ritchie for Johnson alone. We see that as another giveaway by Richards.

So our Braves and Reds will make the deal square by sending the impressive-but-inconsistent young bat of Shamsky along with Johnson to Atlanta, and tossing in an extra marginal reliever to go Cincinnati’s way.

Jan. 11, 1968: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Ron Davis to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Alex Johnson.

Since the Cardinals can’t get Dick Simpson in exchange for Johnson, we’re confident they’d accept our Astros’ offer instead, since they would actually trade Simpson for Davis in mid-1968. Davis is a good defensive outfielder (which Johnson is certainly not) and he delivered a solid year with the bat in 1967, but he projects as no more than a fourth outfielder. Despite Johnson’s splotchy track record, in our circumstance we prefer taking a chance on his upside.

Jan., 1968: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Mike Page to the Houston Astros for pitcher Bo Belinsky.

Our Braves have a need for another lefty bullpen arm, and so, what the heck, why not find out what the always-interesting Bo might have to offer? Our Astros already have been there and done that.

Jan., 1968: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Dave Eilers and infielder Leon McFadden to the Cincinnati Reds for pitchers Bob Lee and Jack Baldschun.

And our Astros are in a position to find out if either one of these former ace firemen have anything left.

Feb., 1968: The Houston Astros purchased catcher Merritt Ranew from the California Angels.

We have an opening for a lefty-batting third-string catcher.

March, 1968: The Atlanta Braves sold catcher Bob Tillman to the Minnesota Twins.

Alas, Tillman won’t make our Braves’ cut. It’s plausible that the Twins would take him, given that the No. 2 catcher they actually went with in 1968 was a lowly Rule 5 draftee.

April 2, 1968: The Houston Astros released pitcher John Buzhardt.

Not making the team.

April 3, 1968: The Houston Astros traded first baseman Tommy Murray, outfielder Levi Brown, and cash to the Washington Senators for first baseman Dick Nen.

In reality, the Senators sold Nen to the Cubs on this date. In our scenario, the Cubs still have Lee Thomas to back up Ernie Banks at first base. So we’ll give Washington the minor league roster filler we didn’t trade for Thomas, plus toss in a little cash to get Nen, who’s never hit much but he brings a good glove.

The 1968 season: Actual deals we will make

July 29, 1968: The Atlanta Braves purchased infielder Wayne Causey from the California Angels.

Plugging the roster vacancy created by the season-ending broken hand sustained by third baseman Clete Boyer.

The 1968 season: Actual deals we will not make

May 3, 1968: The Atlanta Braves sold catcher Del Bates to the Baltimore Orioles.

Bates has won our third-string catching job; we aren’t dumping him off.

June 15, 1968: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Ron Davis to the St. Louis Cardinals for outfielder Dick Simpson and pitcher Hal Gilson.

Our Astros already traded Davis to St. Louis.

The 1968 season: Deals we will invoke

April 17, 1968: The Houston Astros signed catcher Johnny Stephenson as a free agent.

April 17, 1968: The Houston Astros released catcher Merritt Ranew.

Stephenson, released by the Cubs, is suddenly available. Although he isn’t much, he’s younger and likely better than Ranew.

June 11, 1968: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Milt Pappas to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Clay Carroll and Tony Cloninger.

The actual deal included Bob Johnson and Ted Davidson going to Atlanta along with Pappas, and Woody Woodward coming back the other way. We’ll simplify it.

The motivation remains as it actually was: Pappas, Carroll, and Cloninger are all struggling (indeed, in our scenario Cloninger has been demoted to Triple-A), and both sides think a change of scenery couldn’t hurt.

June 14, 1968: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Ramon Hernandez and cash to the Houston Astros for pitcher Wade Blasingame.

A couple of young southpaws struggling big time. See “scenery, change of.”

1968 season results

Braves

Before the season even starts, we receive a blow of bad news: heavy-hitting left fielder Rico Carty has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and will miss the entire season. This creates a particular opportunity for newly-acquired Art Shamsky.

At second base, young Felix Millan will be given his first full-season starting chance. Rookie right-hander Ron Reed makes the pitching staff as a spot starter/long reliever, and Belinsky also wins a job in the bullpen.

      1968 Atlanta Braves     Won 86    Lost 76    Finished 3rd

 Pos  Player        Age   G   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
1B-3B D. Johnson    29   127 342  27  71  11   1   8  34  35  79 .208 .285 .316 .600   80
  2B  F. Millan     24   149 570  51 165  22   2   1  33  22  26 .289 .314 .340 .654   96
  SS  D. Menke      27   150 542  58 137  23   4   9  50  66  85 .253 .335 .360 .695  109
  3B  C. Boyer      31    71 273  20  62   7   2   4  18  16  32 .227 .275 .311 .586   76
  RF  H. Aaron      34   160 606  86 174  33   4  29  88  64  62 .287 .354 .498 .852  153
  CF  F. Alou       33   160 662  74 210  37   5  11  58  48  56 .317 .365 .438 .803  140
  LF  A. Shamsky*   26   116 345  33  80  13   4  14  43  22  61 .232 .285 .414 .700  108
 C-1B J. Torre      27   115 424  47 115  11   2  10  57  34  72 .271 .332 .377 .709  112

1B-LF T. Francona*  34   122 346  33  99  13   1   2  40  51  45 .286 .375 .347 .722  118
  UT  T. Aaron      28    88 226  19  54   8   2   1  16  17  30 .239 .290 .305 .595   79
  OF  M. Lum*       22   102 186  20  41   6   2   2  12  11  28 .220 .270 .306 .576   73
  IF  M. Martinez#  26    75 178  17  40   2   2   0   5  13  15 .225 .276 .258 .534   61
  C   J. Bateman    27    74 175  16  42   9   0   3  15  11  26 .240 .283 .343 .626   87
  IF  G. Garrido    27    58  99   9  20   1   0   0   2   3   6 .202 .219 .212 .431   30
  C   D. Bates*     28    37  65   5  13   2   0   1   4   4  18 .200 .268 .277 .545   64
  IF  W. Causey*    31    16  37   3   4   0   1   1   3   0   4 .108 .103 .243 .346    1
  C   W. Hriniak*   25     9  26   0   9   0   0   0   2   0   3 .346 .346 .346 .692  108
  3B  M. de la Hoz  29     2   5   0   1   0   0   0   0   0   1 .200 .200 .200 .400   20

      Others                  12   3   4   0   0   0   0   1   1 .333 .385 .333 .718  117

      Pitchers               404  17  49   4   0   3  22  18 152 .121 .144 .153 .298  -11

      Total                5523 538 1390 202  32  99 502 436 802 .252 .305 .354 .659   97

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     29    37  34  15  15  11   2 257 228  83  74   16   45  140 2.59  117
      P. Jarvis     27    34  34  14  17  11   0 256 202  82  74   15   50  157 2.60  116
      D. Lemaster*  29    33  32   7  11  14   0 224 225  82  72   15   71  144 2.89  105
      K. Johnson    35    31  16   1   5   7   1 135 145  58  52   10   25   57 3.47   87
      R. Reed       25    29  13   3   8   6   1 121 110  50  43    5   29   70 3.20   95
      M. Pappas     29    22  19   3  11   7   0 121 111  36  32    8   22   75 2.38  127
      D. Kelley*    28    25   9   1   2   3   1  78  69  29  24    3   36   58 2.77  109

      C. Upshaw     25    52   0   0   8   6  14 117  98  41  32    6   24   74 2.46  123
      C. Raymond    31    36   0   0   4   5  11  60  56  21  19    4   18   37 2.85  106
      B. Belinsky*  31    25   3   0   3   4   1  59  48  29  23    3   33   54 3.51   86
      C. Carroll    27    10   0   0   0   1   0  22  26  15  12    1    6   10 4.91   62

      Others                   3   0   2   1   0  26  23   9   9    2    8   18 3.12   97

      Total                  163  44  86  76 31 1476 1341 535 466  88  367  894 2.84  107

      *  Throws left

We encounter numerous setbacks. Clete Boyer’s season is largely ruined by injuries. Deron Johnson, expected to settle in as a power bat at first base, slumps all year long. Star catcher Joe Torre is nagged by various hurts and delivers far less than his normal production.

But the roster proves resilient. Veteran utilityman Tito Francona picks up nicely for Johnson. Shamsky, though troubled by a chronic sore back, does all right. Though this club hits for less power than traditional Braves’ lineups, with Hank Aaron and Felipe Alou on hand to lead the way, our offense, taking Year of the Pitcher conditions into proper account, isn’t bad.

And our pitching is quite good. Phil Niekro, Pat Jarvis, and Denny Lemaster are a solid front three, and Pappas, arriving in June, makes it a solid front four. Young Cecil Upshaw steps forward as a reliable bullpen ace, and the staff overall is fourth in the league in ERA+.

Aided by a five-win overperformance against Pythag, we come in comfortably in the first division, not a serious contender, but distinctly improved over 1967. We have to be pleased.

Astros

Looking to regroup from the 1967 stall, we organize around our central core of outstanding homegrown young stars: center fielder Jim Wynn, right fielder Rusty Staub, second baseman Joe Morgan, and pitcher Don Wilson. We’re counting on a bounceback from 23-year-old third-year shortstop Sonny Jackson and development from 21-year-old starting pitcher Larry Dierker.

Our only significant veterans are 30-year-old third baseman Bob Aspromonte and 31-year-old starting pitcher Mike Cuellar. Generally, the rest of the roster is given over to kids, and to “projects.”

      1968 Houston Astros     Won 68    Lost 94    Finished 10th

 Pos  Player        Age   G   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  D. Nen*       28    81 232  19  51   5   3   4  25  19  40 .220 .273 .319 .592   80
  2B  J. Gotay      29    85 264  21  67   7   0   2  19  10  34 .254 .284 .303 .587   79
  SS  S. Jackson*   23   105 358  40  82   7   3   0  19  23  33 .229 .277 .265 .542   66
3B-1B D. Rader      23   118 400  46 107  19   5   7  53  37  61 .268 .326 .393 .718  118
RF-1B R. Staub*     24   161 591  71 172  37   1   6  60  73  57 .291 .370 .387 .757  131
  CF  J. Wynn       26   156 542  84 146  23   5  26  74  90 131 .269 .373 .474 .847  157
  LF  A. Johnson    25   134 482  54 143  24   7   1  51  22  56 .297 .329 .382 .710  116
  C   D. Adlesh     24    99 288  18  58   4   2   4  18  21  84 .201 .258 .271 .529   61

  UT  B. Aspromonte 30   118 368  23  83   8   2   1  41  31  51 .226 .282 .266 .549   68
2B-SS W. Woodward   25   118 362  32  84  11   1   0  23  26  59 .232 .285 .268 .553   69
SS-2B H. Torres     22    85 233  14  51   6   1   0  10   8  33 .219 .239 .253 .492   50
  1B  C. Harrison   27    73 209  20  41   4   2   7  21  21  27 .196 .270 .335 .605   83
  OF  N. Miller*    22    79 171  24  40  12   1   4  19  14  33 .234 .294 .386 .680  106
  C   R. Brand      28    61 145  12  31   3   0   0   6  13  16 .214 .282 .234 .517   59
  C   J. Stephenson* 27   60 155  12  30   4   1   2  13   2  18 .194 .208 .271 .479   45
  UT  J. Herrera    26    36 100   9  24   5   0   0   7   4  12 .240 .257 .290 .547   66
  2B  J. Morgan*    24    10  20   6   5   0   1   0   0   7   4 .250 .444 .350 .794  144
  C   M. Ranew*     30     2   5   0   1   0   0   0   0   1   1 .200 .333 .200 .533   66

      Others                  66   4   9   2   0   0   4   3  23 .136 .183 .167 .350    7

      Pitchers               414  21  66   6   0   2  29   7 153 .160 .170 .190 .360   10

      Total                5405 516 1291 187  35  66 479 432 926 .239 .294 .323 .617   88

      *  Bats left


      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      D. Giusti     28    37  34  12  12  14   1 251 226  95  89   15   67  186 3.19   93
      L. Dierker    21    32  32  10  12  15   0 234 206  95  86   14   89  161 3.31   90
      D. Wilson     23    33  30   9  13  15   0 209 187  85  76    9   70  175 3.27   91
      M. Cuellar*   31    28  24  11   8  11   1 171 152  60  52    8   45  133 2.74  109
      H. Reed       31    23  19   4   5   9   0 128 149  75  65    9   37   76 4.57   65

      T. Dukes      25    50   0   0   2   3   5  66  78  40  32    4   34   45 4.36   68
      P. House*     27    43   0   0   2   4   3  54  59  33  30    2   16   29 5.00   60
      J. Ray        23    41  11   2   5   6   1 135 112  46  44   10   40  115 2.93  102
      D. Coombs*    26    40  11   1   5   8   1 110 130  53  43    2   34   58 3.52   85
      S. Shea       25    30   0   0   4   4   5  35  27  14  13    0   11   15 3.34   89
      J. Baldschun  31    18   1   0   0   4   2  29  34  19  16    3   11   24 4.97   60
      B. Lee        30    15   0   0   0   1   1  22  24  12  12    1   12   11 4.91   61
      F. Gladding   32     7   0   0   0   0   2   4   8   7   7    0    3    2 15.75  19

      Total                  162  49  68  94 22 1448 1392 634 565  77  469 1030 3.51   85

      *  Throws left

Less than a week into the season, Morgan’s knee is torn up when Tommie Agee bowls him over breaking up a double play. Our dynamic young second baseman is lost for the year, and his future hangs as a question mark. Thus, one of our precious strengths is immediately transformed into one of our many problems.

There are some bright spots. Wynn and Staub are terrific. Doug Rader, in his first full year, strides forward and supplants Aspromonte at third base. And Alex Johnson delivers the breakout season we were hoping for, grabbing and holding the left field job.

But mostly things don’t go so well. Jackson continues to struggle and is bothered with a bad knee of his own. The spots in the lineup that don’t hit—which is half of them—really don’t hit, even by 1968 standards. And our pitching, while not quite the disaster it was in 1967, remains the league’s worst staff.

So we find ourselves dragging all the way down to last place for the first time in our seven-year existence, surpassed even by the lowly Mets. It is a bad year in Houston.

Reds

We’re feeling quite optimistic. We’re delighted to host the full rookie season of sensational catching prospect Johnny Bench. We’re looking forward to the first full-year alignment of impressive young power hitters Tony Perez at third base and Lee May at first, ready to drive in our proven table-setting outfield stars Pete Rose and Vada Pinson.

And all of this rides on the foundation of our splendid young pitching staff. Fronted by hard-throwing right-handers Gary Nolan, Jim Maloney, and Mel Queen, they’re ably supported by the solid veteran starter Pappas and a top-notch bullpen including veteran submariner Ted Abernathy and young fastballer Billy McCool.

      1968 Cincinnati Reds     Won 81    Lost 81    Finished 5th

 Pos  Player        Age   G   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
1B-LF L. May        25   146 559  76 162  32   1  22  78  34 100 .290 .336 .469 .804  134
  2B  T. Helms      27   127 507  34 146  28   2   2  46  12  27 .288 .304 .363 .667   95
  SS  L. Cardenas   29   137 452  44 106  13   2   7  40  36  83 .235 .289 .319 .607   78
  3B  T. Perez      26   160 625  91 176  25   7  18  90  51  92 .282 .338 .430 .768  124
RF-CF P. Rose#      27   149 626  92 210  42   6  10  48  56  76 .335 .390 .470 .860  151
  CF  V. Pinson*    29   130 499  59 135  29   6   5  47  32  59 .271 .308 .383 .691  102
LF-CF M. Jones*     29   124 351  59  89  14   2  15  50  43  68 .254 .344 .433 .777  127
  C   J. Bench      20   146 508  59 140  36   2  14  72  28  86 .276 .311 .437 .748  117

LF-RF J. Beauchamp  28    95 257  33  65   8   1  10  35  23  67 .253 .318 .409 .727  112
  OF  D. Simpson    24    85 233  33  48   6   1   8  19  26  83 .206 .294 .343 .638   87
  IF  C. Ruiz#      29    85 185  20  49   4   1   0  12  17  25 .265 .319 .297 .616   82
  1B  F. Whitfield* 30    87 171  15  44   8   0   6  31   9  29 .257 .302 .409 .712  107
  C   J. Edwards*   30    43 115   9  27   5   0   2  17   6  11 .235 .266 .330 .597   74
 1B-C D. Pavletich  29    46  98  11  28   3   1   2  11   8  23 .286 .345 .398 .743  118
  UT  L. McFadden   24    58  91   6  21   2   0   0   3   6  19 .231 .280 .253 .533   57
  UT  R. Conde      33     5   6   1   1   0   0   0   1   0   0 .167 .167 .167 .333   -2

      Others                  51   1  10   1   0   0   2   4  14 .196 .250 .216 .466   38

      Pitchers               388  28  53   8   1   4  18  23 144 .137 .170 .193 .364    7

      Total                5722 671 1510 264 33 125 620 414 1006 .264 .313 .387 .700  104

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Culver     24    42  35   5  11  16   2 226 229  95  81    8   84  114 3.23   98
      J. Maloney    28    33  32   8  16  10   0 207 183 100  83   17   80  181 3.61   88
      G. Arrigo*    27    36  31   5  12  10   0 205 181  84  76   13   77  140 3.34   95
      G. Nolan      20    23  22   4   9   4   0 150 105  48  40   10   49  111 2.40  132
      M. Pappas     29    15  11   0   2   5   0  63  70  41  39    9   10   43 5.57   57
      T. Cloninger  27     9   9   1   1   2   0  46  41  25  21    4   24   33 4.11   77
      M. Queen      26     5   4   0   0   2   0  18  25  15  12    7    6   20 6.00   53

      T. Abernathy  35    78   0   0  10   7  13 135 111  43  37    9   55   64 2.47  128
      D. Nottebart  32    45   0   0   2   4   3  69  79  32  30    5   24   54 3.91   81
      C. Carroll    27    42   8   1   7   7  13 122 107  38  34    4   31   58 2.51  126
      B. Kelso      28    37   1   0   4   2   1  58  61  30  27    7   18   42 4.19   75
      B. McCool*    23    30   4   0   3   4   2  51  59  35  28    4   41   30 4.94   64
      J. Ritchie    31    28   2   0   2   3   0  57  68  32  29    7   13   32 4.58   69
      D. McGinn*    24    21   0   0   0   2   1  23  23  11  11    2   17   26 4.30   73
      R. Hernandez* 27    12   0   0   0   0   0  14  21  14  14    1    1    5 9.00   35
      W. Blasingame* 24   11   1   0   1   1   1  18  23  10  10    2    5   11 5.00   63
      T. Davidson*  28     4   0   0   0   0   0   7  10   5   5    2    4    3 6.43   49

      Others                   3   1   1   2   0  19  19  11   9    2   10   15 4.26   74

      Total                  163  25  81  81 36 1488 1415 669 586 113  549  982 3.54   89

      *  Throws left

It’s the best of years, and it’s the worst of years.

Virtually all of the great news—and there’s lots of it—takes place in the offensive half of the inning, and virtually all of the terrible news—and there’s also plenty of that—takes place in the other.

Our hitting, which had been a problem in 1967 (ninth in the league in OPS+), vaults all the way up to the league’s best this year, led by the dynamic Rose. But that pitching staff, best the league by a wide margin in ’67, is plagued by sore arms and general ineffectiveness, and thuds all the way down to ninth in ERA+.

It adds up to a wild and crazy ride to a break-even result. Not at all what we were expecting.

Next time

We’ll see how our teams address their challenges amid the activity of the league’s expansion draft and the realignment of all three franchises into the brand-new National League West Division.

              Braves:  Actual           Astros:  Actual            Reds:  Actual
 Year     W    L Pos    RS   RA     W    L Pos    RS   RA     W    L Pos    RS   RA
 1968    81   81  5    514  549    72   90 10    510  588    83   79  4    690  673

              Braves:  Virtual          Astros:  Virtual           Reds:  Virtual
 Year     W    L Pos    RS   RA     W    L Pos    RS   RA     W    L Pos    RS   RA
 1968    86   76  3    538  535    68   94 10    516  634    81   81  5    671  669

References & Resources
I’ve introduced a new methodological feature here that wasn’t used in previous counterfactual scenarios.

In the past, each team’s runs scored total was determined simply by calculating the Runs Created based on the team’s aggregate batting stats, and going with that. However, just as teams normally vary somewhat from their projected Pythagorean won-lost records, they also normally vary somewhat from their Runs Created total.

(Indeed, while it isn’t completely consistent in this regard, the variance from Runs Created tends to be slightly in the positive direction: in the 27 team-seasons included in this particular exercise—that is, each Atlanta, Houston, and Cincinnati team through the nine seasons from 1968 through 1976—the average actual team outscored its Runs Created projection by 4.3 percent.

So, just as we incorporate each team’s actual variance from its Pythagorean record in these exercises, we’ll now also incorporate each team’s actual variance from its Runs Created total.

These are the variances each team displayed in these years, which will be factored into the team runs scored calculations:

1968: Braves -7.7%, Astros +5.6%, Reds -1.0%
1969: Braves +7.3%, Astros +12.1%, Reds +4.0%
1970: Braves +1.1%, Astros +5.4%, Reds -2.3%
1971: Braves -0.9%, Astros +6.6%, Reds +1.4%
1972: Braves -2.3%, Astros +7.8%, Reds +11.0%
1973: Braves +0.9%, Astros +8.4%, Reds +8.8%
1974: Braves +6.1%, Astros +0.8%, Reds +6.3%
1975: Braves +1.4%, Astros +8.3%, Reds +9.2%
1976: Braves +11.7%, Astros +4.5%, Reds +1.5%

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« Previous: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 14, Vol. I
Next: AL Central: State of the division at midseason »

Comments

  1. James T in MA said...

    God, I love these things.  If I were ever in Las Vegas and walked by Pete Rose, I would love to discuss the previous one involving the Reds or this one with Pete.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    Thanks so much for the kind words.  These pieces are a distinctly nerdy labor of love.

  3. BaconBall said...

    I have always wondered what would have happened to the Astros if there had been no expansion in ‘69. They would have had Nate Colbert at first and therefore would not have traded Mike Cuellar. The other poor trade was the infamous Rusty Staub for Jesus Alou. I realize Cuellar would not have been the pitcher he was in Baltimore, with infield grass and, arguably,the best defensive infield in MLB, his stats would not have been as gaudy, but he would have taken many innings from far lesser pitchers. It may have been worse for Rusty Staub because of the negative effect of batting in the Dome. Yet I believe the addition of these players would have had the Astros in contention in ’69. Imagine what if the two expansion teams had met in the LCS?

  4. Philip said...

    Looks to be yet another entertaining alternative history scenario.

    My first thought is will anyone be able to stop the Dodgers from rolling off what would be a then-record of six straight division titles (1973-1978).

    But with Sparky Anderson at the helm of the Big Red Machine anything could happen and the Reds in the mid-70s were stocked with talent in Indianapolis.

    Also, the ramifications of this scenario bring up some tantalizing thoughts that go beyond even the period Steve is looking at.

    Does a potential World Series victory over the Yankees in 1976 have Los Angeles re-signing skipper Walt Alston to another one-year contract for 1977?

    Does Tommy Lasorda take over for the fired Gene Mauch in Montreal and eventually win pennants there that eluding Dick Williams?

    Does Williams, without a job in 1977, take over for the fired Billy Martin in 1978? He was, after all, the manager The Boss really wanted, so much so that his initial contract to manage the Yankees in 1974 was ruled void by the commissioner’s office.

    And does Williams style, the complete opposite of Bob Lemon, rub the Yankees the wrong way and seal their fate, allowing Boston to not only capture the division crown but end a 60-year World Championship drought when the beat the Dodgers in the World Series?

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