The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 3:  1969-70)

We’re two years in on our fanciful re-imagining of the actions and fortunes of three franchises in the opening years of the National League West. In these early stages of our scenario, the big story has been the Braves, but the Astros made something of a statement in 1969 as well.

              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
 1969    93   69  1    691  631    81   81  5    676  668    89   73  3    798  768

              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
 1969   105   57  1    762  597    94   68  2    726  611    90   72  3    794  752

Now we’re ready to find out what happens in year three.


The 1969-70 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Nov. 21, 1969: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Wayne Twitchell to the Seattle Pilots for pitcher Mike Marshall.

We like Twitchell, a long, lanky hard thrower, but he’s very young and raw and battling his control, still years away from the big leagues. Meanwhile Marshall is an intriguing ballplayer: a soon-to-be-27-year-old converted shortstop, a fine all-around athlete, who’s had splendid pitching success at every stop, minors and majors, until this past summer with the first-year expansion Pilots. Our Astros are in need of bullpen help right now, and we see Marshall as far more likely to be able to deliver it.

Dec. 2, 1969: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Jim Britton and catcher Don Johnson to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Larry Jaster.

Jaster is a “project” at this point: a soft-tossing young southpaw who did well with the Cardinals in 1966-67, but has since hit the skids. It’s worth this modest price to find out if he can be turned around.

Dec. 3, 1969: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder-first baseman Felipe Alou to the Oakland Athletics for pitcher Jim Nash.

The big, tall, hard-throwing Nash has been up and down in four years with the A’s. He isn’t yet 25, and is definitely worth the price of Alou, who’s had a wonderful run but was looking a bit toasty around the edges at the age of 34 in 1969.

Dec. 15, 1969: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Gerry Arrigo to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Angel Bravo.

Our Reds will take what we can get for Arrigo, who really went south in ’69.

The 1969-70 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 22, 1969: The Houston Astros sold pitcher Danny Coombs to the San Diego Padres.

After many, many chances in Houston, Coombs has definitively proven to be nothing special. But he’s still fairly young, and he’s a left-hander who can throw strikes. That’s a commodity worth shopping around before settling for a mere cash price.

Nov. 5, 1969: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher George Culver to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Ray Washburn.

As we’ve observed:

In an otherwise unremarkable swap of middling-good right-handers, the Cardinals gained a six-year advantage in age, as Washburn was 31 and Culver 25.

Our Reds will say no, thanks.

Dec. 4, 1969: The Houston Astros traded first baseman-outfielder Curt Blefary to the New York Yankees for first baseman-outfielder Joe Pepitone.

We don’t have Blefary, so no Pepi for us. As interesting as it would no doubt be.

Feb. 18, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Steve Mingori to the Cleveland Indians for infielder-outfielder Jay Ward.

Mingori is a second-tier prospect, but he’s a lefty who might make it as a reliever. We see no point in surrendering him for a proven minor league journeyman.

The 1969-70 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Oct., 1969: In a three-club deal, the Houston Astros traded outfielder Danny Walton to the Seattle Pilots and catcher Don Bryant to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Pilots sent outfielder Tommy Davis to the Phillies, and the Phillies sent catcher Mike Ryan and pitchers Jeff James and Al Raffo to the Astros.

In actuality, the Astros had made a Walton-for-Davis swap with the Pilots in August of ’69, but our Astros nixed that.

Here we can give Seattle (not for long!) what it wants, and also help meet the Phillies’ need for a first base/left field bat (in our scenario the Phils didn’t get Deron Johnson).

Walton is a very impressive young hitting prospect, but he’s one-dimensional, and we don’t see him as the type of athlete well-suited to Astrodome conditions. We’ll surrender him in exchange for a catching upgrade and more bullpen help.

Oct. 21, 1969: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Fred Gladding to the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Frank Vanzin and cash.

On this date, the Pirates actually traded the prospect Vanzin (okay, he’s really more like minor league roster filler) as part of a package to obtain Dave Giusti from St. Louis, but that won’t happen in this scenario. Our Astros aren’t giving up on Giusti, so the Pirates will have to settle for Gladding instead.

Oct. 22, 1969: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Wade Blasingame to the San Diego Padres.

The Padres don’t get Danny Coombs in this scenario, but our Reds will be happy to let them have the woefully struggling Blasingame instead.

Oct. 24, 1969: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Tony Cloninger to the California Angels.

Actually the Reds sold Mel Queen to the Angels on this date, but he had a pretty good year in triple-A in 1969 and our Reds see him with a better chance at success going forward than Cloninger.

Oct., 1969: The Cincinnati Reds sold infielder Gil Garrido to the Seattle Pilots.

And, the clearing of Cincinnati offseason roster space is complete.

Nov. 26, 1969: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Alex Johnson, infielder Chico Ruiz, and pitcher Paul Doyle to the California Angels for pitchers Jim McGlothlin, Pedro Borbon, and Vern Geishert, and cash.

This combines two deals the Angels actually made: they swapped the trio of pitchers to the Reds for Johnson and Ruiz, and they purchased Doyle from the Braves.

Our Astros will accommodate them. Johnson has done quite well for us, but with top-prospect rookie John Mayberry looking ready to crack the big league lineup, we think we can spare the bat, and McGlothlin will surely be of good use.

Nov., 1969: The Atlanta Braves traded infielder Van Kelly and cash to the Houston Astros for catcher Hal King.

In Houston, Bob Watson is coming along, and how many stout-hitting, poor-fielding catchers do we need?

Nov., 1969: The Atlanta Braves sold catcher John Bateman to the Montreal Expos.

Making room for King.

Nov., 1969: The Houston Astros sold pitcher Ken Johnson to the Montreal Expos.

Furthering the bullpen remodel.

Dec. 16, 1969: The Houston Astros traded pitchers Danny Coombs and Pat House to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder-first baseman Jim Beauchamp and cash.

The real-life deal was Dooley Womack along with House for Beauchamp. Our Astros will upgrade it from Womack to Coombs, our Reds will respond with some legal tender, and we’re done.

Jan., 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Ted Savage to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Larry Maxie.

Our Reds see more of a need for this minor league veteran right-handed pitching arm than this major league journeyman right-handed utility outfielder. Our Braves, vice-versa.

April, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Ted Abernathy to the Chicago Cubs for outfielder Don Young, pitcher Jesus Hernaiz, and cash.

On the verge of Opening Day, the veteran Abernathy is finally getting squeezed out of the Cincinnati bullpen.

April 5, 1970: The Atlanta Braves sold outfielder-first baseman Tommie Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Brewers actually purchased Ted Savage from the Reds. Our Braves will require them to settle for Hank’s little brother.

The 1970 season: Actual deals we will make

May 1, 1970: The Atlanta Braves signed pitcher Tom Kelley as a free agent.

This right-hander washed out with a sore arm in Cleveland, but he’s worth a minor league chance.

June 15, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Clyde Mashore to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Ty Cline.

The rookie Mashore is making zilch contribution from our bench, and the veteran Cline can be of more use.

July 5, 1970: The Atlanta Braves signed pitcher Steve Barber as a free agent.

He’s a long shot, but our bullpen is in no position to quibble.

The 1970 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 30, 1970: The Atlanta Braves signed pitcher Ron Kline as a free agent.

Okay, our bullpen is in a position to quibble this much.

June 23, 1970: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Mike Marshall to the Montreal Expos for outfielder Don Bosch.

The closer one looks at this one, the stranger it is:

This deal didn’t seem significant at the time; it was the sort of marginal transaction that receives little notice. Yet it would prove to be not only significant, but hugely regrettable for the Astros as Marshall blossomed into stardom in Montreal. And it made no sense at the time it was made.

In the first place, the deal represented a premature discard of the 27-year-old screwballer Marshall. It’s true that he’d struggled in four outings with the Astros in June of 1970, but before being called up that season Marshall had been brilliant in Triple-A, compiling a 1.60 ERA with great peripherals in 45 innings. It would seem that he warranted more than a four-game, five-inning big league trial to conclude that he should be scrapped.

And being scrapped is exactly what this was. Marshall’s career to this point had assuredly been up-and-down, but the 28-year-old Bosch’s trials had demonstrably proven that he was less than a major league-quality hitter: in 346 plate appearances with three different organizations, he’d posted a batting average of .164 (and an OPS+ of, get this, 29). Bosch was a good defensive center fielder, but at best he projected as a defensive replacement — and the Astros in 1970, with both Cesar Cedeño and Cesar Geronimo on the roster, were hardly in need of such a niche role player.

So this deal was an impulsive tossing away of Marshall in exchange for nothing useful; Bosch would hit .196 in 25 Triple-A games for the Houston organization in 1970, and never play another inning in the majors.

Our Astros will hold on to the kinesiologist.

June 23, 1970: The Atlanta Braves sold pitcher Milt Pappas to the Chicago Cubs.

The 31-year-old Pappas has gotten hit hard in a few bad early outings and banished to the bullpen, still working down the ugly ERA in June. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio remains a gleaming 25-to-7 in 36 innings. There is no reason to toss him on the scrap heap.

June 29, 1970: The Atlanta Braves purchased outfielder Jimmie Hall from the Chicago Cubs.

July 12, 1970: The Atlanta Braves purchased pitcher Don Cardwell from the New York Mets.

Uh, no, thanks.

Sep. 21, 1970: The Atlanta Braves sold pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm off waivers to the Chicago Cubs.

Whatever for? At the age of 47, Old Sarge isn’t what he used to be, but he’s still a fine reliever, and we don’t exactly have a surplus of those.

The 1970 season: Deals we will invoke

June 13, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher George Culver to the Houston Astros for pitchers Pedro Borbon and Vern Geishert.

June 13, 1970: The Houston Astros sold outfielder Jim Beauchamp to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Actually on this date, the Astros traded Beauchamp along with a minor league infielder to the Cardinals in exchange for Culver. In our scenario, the Reds will unload Culver (who’s struggling as a starter/long reliever) and our Astros will take him on (to see if he might perk up in a strictly-bullpen role), and the Redbirds get their man.

Like the real-life Astros, we’re moving Beauchamp to make room for that Cedeño kid.

July, 1970: The Atlanta Braves released infielder Bob Aspromonte.

Making room for young Darrell Evans, who looks to us as though he’s fully ready for the majors.

1970 season results

Braves

Coming off a runaway championship season, our roster adjustments have been few. We’ll replace Felipe Alou in center field with a platoon of youngster Mike Lum and veteran Ted Savage. Speedy rookie Ralph Garr will back up Rico Carty in left.

Hal King and rookie Bob Didier are taking over from John Bateman and Walt Hriniak as the catchers behind Joe Torre. And we’re introducing a couple of new arms in the back end of the bullpen.

However, the offseason brings a double dose of bad news to our pitching staff. First, ace reliever Cecil Upshaw suffers a bizarre injury, jumping up on a dare to reach an overhanging awning and snagging his finger, tearing ligaments and shelving him for the year. Then in spring training, starter Ron Reed breaks his collarbone and will be out until late June.

      1970 Atlanta Braves     Won 89    Lost 73    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age   G   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
1B-LF A. Shamsky*   28   122 403  58 117  18   2  14  62  51  35 .290 .372 .449 .821  115
  2B  F. Millan     26   142 590 104 183  25   5   2  41  35  23 .310 .347 .380 .727   91
  SS  D. Menke      29   154 562  95 175  26   4  19  77  85  80 .311 .397 .473 .870  128
  3B  C. Boyer      33   122 356  32  85  10   1  12  43  31  53 .239 .297 .374 .671   75
  RF  H. Aaron      36   150 516 112 154  26   1  38 123  74  63 .298 .385 .574 .958  149
  CF  M. Lum*       24   132 382  45  99  20   2  10  39  26  52 .259 .313 .401 .714   87
  LF  R. Carty      30   136 478  87 175  23   3  25 108  77  46 .366 .454 .584 1.037 171
 C-1B J. Torre      29   151 546  98 176  24   4  24 110  65  78 .322 .398 .513 .911  137

  OF  T. Savage     33   103 221  40  61   9   3  10  32  42  35 .276 .387 .480 .867  126
  OF  R. Garr*      24    86 227  36  70   9   1   2  21  13  29 .308 .341 .383 .725   91
  3B  D. Evans*     23    57 155  23  41   5   1   4  23  23  27 .265 .363 .387 .750   98
  IF  M. Martinez#  28    75 150  14  33   3   0   0  12  10  22 .220 .269 .240 .509   35
  C   H. King*      26    64 122  14  31   5   0   6  22  18  25 .254 .352 .443 .795  108
  C   B. Didier#    21    57 101   6  15   1   1   0   4   7   6 .149 .209 .178 .387    3
  1B  T. Francona*  36    66  88   6  20   3   0   1   9  11  20 .227 .311 .295 .606   61
  3B  B. Aspromonte 32    31  64   4  13   2   0   0   4   7   7 .203 .278 .234 .512   36

      Others                  59   9  20   5   1   0  11   7  10 .339 .386 .458 .843  121

      Pitchers               437  34  70   8   1   6  27  24 134 .160 .193 .224 .418   10

      Total                5457 817 1538 222  30 173 768 606 745 .282 .352 .429 .780  104

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     31    32  30   9  12  14   0 207 198 111  97   35   61  152 4.22  101
      P. Jarvis     29    36  27   8  14  10   1 203 189  86  79   16   58  141 3.50  122
      M. Pappas     31    32  23   7  13   9   0 181 178  76  66   20   44  105 3.28  130
      J. Nash       25    34  25   4  12   5   1 170 167  82  75   17   72  124 3.97  108
      G. Stone*     23    35  24   6  10   6   1 166 171  87  69   21   40  107 3.74  114
      D. Lemaster*  31    31  17   2   8   8   3 128 132  75  71   23   54   85 4.99   86
      R. Reed       27    21  12   4   6   5   1 108 110  53  51   12   31   56 4.25  100

      H. Wilhelm    47    53   0   0   6   4  22  82  73  33  31    8   42   68 3.40  125
      S. Barber*    32    27   2   0   2   3   4  49  48  24  22    4   22   31 4.04  106
      R. Kester     23    25   0   0   3   2   2  48  52  32  27    4   25   32 5.06   84
      B. Belinsky*  33    19   0   0   1   2   1  26  27  19  15    2   21   21 5.19   82
      G. Neibauer   25    17   0   0   1   3   1  28  28  19  18    1   18   17 5.79   74
      L. Jaster*    26    14   0   0   1   1   0  22  33  18  17    5    8    9 6.95   61

      Others                   2   0   0   1   0  13  13  10   8    2    6   11 5.54   77

      Total                  162  40  89  73 37 1431 1419 725 646 170  502  959 4.06  105

      *  Throws left

Our offense is again a powerhouse. Carty and shortstop Denis Menke both deliver career years with the bat. The ageless Hank Aaron is still brilliant, and Torre, displaying a new slim-hipped physique, produces his best year since 1966. As a team we tie for the league lead in OPS+.

And our pitching remains strong as well (Pappas leading the way with a resurgent second half), but not as strong as we need it to be. Ace Phil Niekro suffers a letdown season, his knuckler too often a gopher ball. Denny Lemaster slumps as well, and the absence of Upshaw is most strongly felt as our bullpen behind Wilhelm is weak.

We remain a good ballclub, but the magic of 1969 proves ephemeral.

Astros

Twenty-one-year-old John Mayberry, having rapidly dismantled the minor leagues, will be given the full shot as our first baseman. Deron Johnson, who ably handled first in 1969, will move out to left field, replacing the departed Alex Johnson.

Jim McGlothlin will join the starting rotation, allowing us to shift veteran Dave Giusti to the bullpen.

      1970 Houston Astros     Won 85    Lost 77    Finished 4th (tied)

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  21   120 379  49  86   8   4  15  42  63  80 .227 .341 .388 .729   99
  2B  J. Morgan*    26   144 548 102 147  28   9   8  52 102  55 .268 .380 .396 .776  113
  SS  H. Torres     24   111 304  25  76   8   5   2  27  16  42 .250 .284 .329 .613   67
  3B  D. Rader      25   156 576  80 145  25   3  25  87  57 102 .252 .320 .436 .756  104
  RF  R. Staub*     26   160 569 108 162  28   9  22  90 114  93 .285 .398 .482 .880  139
  CF  C. Cedeño     19    90 355  46 110  21   4   7  42  15  57 .310 .337 .451 .788  113
LF-CF J. Wynn       28   157 554  92 156  32   2  27  93 106  96 .282 .394 .493 .886  141
  C   J. Edwards*   32    93 229  23  52   8   2   4  25  27  31 .227 .309 .332 .641   75

1B-LF D. Johnson    31   128 372  47  99  20   3  13  58  47  87 .266 .346 .441 .787  114
SS-2B W. Woodward   27   120 317  28  70   8   4   1  20  24  24 .221 .277 .281 .557   53
 C-LF B. Watson     24    87 294  43  77  17   2  10  55  21  54 .262 .314 .435 .749  103
  IF  F. Stanley    22    69 161  11  35   4   2   0  14  19  38 .217 .299 .267 .566   56
  LF  N. Miller*    24    60 113  14  26   4   0   2  15  19  18 .230 .338 .319 .657   81
  C   M. Ryan       28    46 115  12  20   7   0   2   9  14  22 .174 .260 .287 .546   49
  OF  G. Geiger*    33    55  62   7  13   2   1   1   5   9  17 .210 .306 .323 .628   72
  C   M. Brumley*   31    18  33   3   8   2   0   0   4   4   5 .242 .324 .303 .627   73
  OF  J. Beauchamp  30    31  26   3   5   0   0   1   4   3   7 .192 .276 .308 .584   59

      Others                  69   9  18   4   0   1   7   5  15 .261 .299 .362 .661   80

      Pitchers               409  24  54   7   4   3  28  15 168 .133 .155 .188 .343   -7

      Total                5485 726 1359 233 54 144 677 680 1011 .248 .328 .389 .716   95

      *  Bats left

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      L. Dierker    23    37  36  17  16  13   1 270 263 124 116   31   82  191 3.87  101
      M. Cuellar*   33    36  36  19  18  11   0 268 265 127 113   22   63  181 3.79  103
      J. McGlothlin 26    35  29   4  13  11   0 190 173  78  69   11   77   90 3.27  120
      D. Wilson     25    29  27   3  11   7   0 184 188  92  80   15   66   94 3.91  100
      T. Griffin    22     9   9   1   1   5   0  49  45  31  31    5   34   33 5.69   69

      D. Giusti     30    66   1   0   8   4  22 103 101  40  35    5   37   85 3.06  128
      J. Ray        25    49   2   0   5   4   2  94  86  34  33   12   44   61 3.16  124
      J. DiLauro*   27    42   0   0   1   4   3  34  34  23  16    4   17   23 4.24   92
      R. Cook*      22    41   7   0   4   5   1  82  80  37  34    4   42   50 3.73  105
      G. Culver     26    28   0   0   3   3   1  41  40  15  14    1   19   28 3.07  127
      M. Marshall   27    22   6   1   3   5   2  67  59  33  25    5   32   37 3.36  116
      J. Bouton     31    16   3   0   1   2   0  29  33  24  21    3   11   18 6.52   60

      Others                   6   1   1   3   0  44  51  34  34    9   14   21 6.95   56

      Total                  162  46  85  77 22 1455 1418 692 621 127  538  912 3.84  102

      *  Throws left

We receive an early Christmas present in June, as 19-year-old flash Cesar Cedeño, tearing up triple-A to the tune of .373/.402/.691, gets promoted to the big club. We eagerly hand him the center field job and the lavish comparisons to a young Willie Mays are underway. To make room, Jim Wynn slides over to left field. Johnson becomes Mayberry’s backup at first base, and as Mayberry struggles to find consistency with the bat in his rookie year, Johnson sees more playing time there.

With Rusty Staub and Joe Morgan chipping in as well, our offensive core is highly productive. But none of our stars has his best year, and the persistent lineup sinkholes at shortstop and catcher (except when rookie Bob Watson is playing) leave us only a bit above league-average in OPS+.

The same result in ERA+ is achieved by our pitching staff. Giusti blossoms in his new role, and bolstered by the additions of Marshall and Culver, our bullpen is transformed from a weakness to a strength. But neither Larry Dierker nor Mike Cuellar, the twin aces of 1969, has quite such an easy time of it this year.

We’re a genuinely competitive ball club, but it’s a step back from the breakthrough success of last year. We realize we’ve still got work to do.

Reds

There isn’t much we can do to improve the league’s best lineup, but our farm system offers us a couple of ideas. Hotshot young rookie Bernie Carbo will compete with Mack Jones for the left field job, and hotshot young rookie Dave Concepcion will compete with Sonny Jackson for the shortstop job.

Otherwise all of our attention is focused on trying to improve the pitching. Retread Mel Queen, imports Danny Coombs and Larry Maxie, and rookie Steve Mingori will all get spots on the Opening Day roster to see if they can help.

      1970 Cincinnati Reds     Won 104    Lost 58    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  L. May        27   139 514  69 133  30   2  30  82  33 105 .259 .304 .500 .804  109
  2B  T. Helms      29   150 575  42 136  21   1   1  45  21  33 .237 .260 .282 .541   43
  SS  S. Jackson*   25    98 295  39  77  12   4   0  22  39  26 .261 .343 .329 .672   79
3B-1B T. Perez      28   158 587 107 186  28   6  40 129  83 134 .317 .401 .589 .990  158
  RF  P. Rose#      29   159 649 120 205  37   9  15  52  73  64 .316 .385 .470 .855  125
  CF  B. Tolan*     24   152 589 112 186  34   6  16  80  62  94 .316 .379 .475 .855  124
  LF  B. Carbo*     22   113 347  54 107  18   3  20  63  89  73 .308 .450 .550 1.001 163
C-O-1 J. Bench      22   158 605  97 177  35   4  45 148  54 102 .293 .344 .587 .931  141

  SS  D. Concepcion 22   101 265  36  69   6   3   1  19  23  45 .260 .321 .317 .638   69
1B-LF M. Jones*     31    72 136  20  31   5   2   7  18  28  40 .228 .378 .449 .826  118
  LF  H. McRae      24    67 149  15  37   5   1   7  19  13  21 .248 .311 .436 .747   95
  UT  J. Stewart#   31    81 148  19  40   4   2   2  11  12  19 .270 .323 .365 .688   82
  C   D. Ricketts#  34    45 107   7  27   4   0   0   9   5  13 .252 .281 .290 .570   51
  OF  A. Bravo*     27    43  43   6  11   0   1   0   3   6   9 .256 .327 .302 .629   68
  OF  T. Cline*     31    40  42   8  11   5   1   0   5   7   8 .262 .353 .429 .782  106
  OF  C. Mashore    25    24  18   2   2   1   0   0   1   2   5 .111 .200 .167 .367   -2

      Others                  24   2   5   2   0   0   0   2   5 .208 .269 .292 .561   48

      Pitchers               405  24  54   5   2   3  24  18 172 .133 .157 .178 .334  -12

      Total                5498 779 1494 252  47 187 730 570 968 .272 .337 .437 .774  103

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Nolan      22    37  37   4  18   7   0 251 226 102  91   25   96  181 3.26  128
      J. Merritt*   26    35  35  12  20  12   0 234 248 114 106   21   53  136 4.08  103
      D. Coombs*    28    35  27   5  14  10   0 188 188  87  72   13   76  105 3.45  122
      W. Simpson    21    21  21   8  11   2   0 141 100  58  47   12   65   95 3.00  140
      L. Maxie      29    29  11   1   4   3   0  82 100  46  42    8   35   65 4.61   91
      V. Geishert   24    10   9   1   3   3   0  61  85  43  37    8   11   34 5.46   77
      G. Culver     26    11   7   2   4   2   0  57  64  32  29    6   24   23 4.58   92
      J. Maloney    30     7   3   0   0   1   1  17  26  22  21    3   15    7 11.12  38

      W. Granger    26    67   0   0   6   4  35  85  79  33  25    5   27   38 2.65  158
      C. Carroll    29    65   0   0  10   4  16 104 104  38  30    4   27   63 2.60  161
      S. Mingori*   26    53   5   1   6   2   6 106  97  35  29    8   35   71 2.46  170
      M. Queen      28    34   3   0   4   4   0  60  66  32  32    5   28   46 4.80   87
      P. Borbon     23    12   1   0   0   2   0  17  21  15  13    2    6    6 6.88   61

      Others                   3   1   4   2   2  45  40  18  13    4   21   29 2.60  161

      Total                  162  35 104  58 60 1448 1444 675 587 124  519  899 3.65  115

      *  Throws left

The season has barely started before disaster strikes our beleaguered pitching staff: longtime ace Jim Maloney is felled by a ruptured Achilles tendon. In desperation, we call up 21-year-old Wayne Simpson, with a minor league record of 18-25 and a bad ERA.

And Simpson blazes through all expectations with lights-out effectiveness. It’s a symbol of a season in which everything seems to turn out for the best.

Catcher Johnny Bench, in his third full big league season at the age of 22, bursts into superstardom with a stunning 45-homer, 148-RBI MVP performance. Third baseman Tony Perez hits even better than that. Carbo is marvelous as well, and so are Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan.

Starting pitcher Gary Nolan, in his fourth full big league season at the age of 22, regains arm health and posts career highs in innings and wins. Though staff depth remains an issue, our pitching, anchored by a terrific bullpen, busts out of its two-year funk and is back among the league’s best.

Destructive hitting paired with stingy pitching (and for extra-good measure, a whopping 11-win Pythagorean overperformance) means runaway division title, achieved so convincingly that this ball club begins to be called “The Big Red Machine.”

Next time

Our Braves and our Reds have taken runaway turns. Can our Astros get in on that?

              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
 1969    93   69  1    691  631    81   81  5    676  668    89   73  3    798  768
 1970    76   86  5    736  772    79   83  4    744  763   102   60  1    775  681

              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
 1969   105   57  1    762  597    94   68  2    726  611    90   72  3    794  752
 1970    89   73  2    817  725    85   77 4T    726  692   104   58  1    779  675

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%.

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

These are the variances each team displayed in these years, that are 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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Comments

  1. ksw said...

    great piece.
    the atl/oak trade started as gonzalez for hunter.
    boy, hunter flamed out much as nash did, granted with a few years in the hopper.

  2. Philip said...

    Forgot about Mike Marshall’s brief stay in Texas. Guess that will make 1974 pretty interesting after all – 208 innings in relief is a big gap to fill.

    Can Hough, Zahn and Brewer do it, along with help from Albuquerque? We will see.

  3. BaconBall said...

    You have lost me. I do not even recall how Art Shamsky joined the Braves. He never played for the Braves in reality. Making changes that were never even contemplated, and not making others, seems like an exercise in futility. Why not take the rosters before expansion and make the trades between teams other than those made with the expansion teams for a more realistic result of what may have happened. For example, the Astros would still have Nate Colbert, whom they lost in the expansion draft, at first and would therefore not have traded for Curt Blefary. They would still have Rusty Staub and Mike Cuellar. Adjustments would have to be made for the Astros home park, the Dome. Obviously some of the ground balls Cuellar obtained in Baltimore, that were handled by the excellent infield, would get through for hits on the turf infield, so he would not been as effective. Same goes for Rusty Staub. He would not have had the power and not hit as many home runs. You just cannot import what Cueller and Staub did at other parks to Houston and expect the same result.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    “I am not sure of his methodology but I believe from reading his past articles that Steve does take into account ballpark effects.”

    That’s certainly true, park and league effects both, as a comparison of the stats of any player not playing for his actual team here will demonstrate.  I’m happy to explain the specific formulations employed for any particular player upon request.

    I will readily acknowledge, however, that any undertaking such as this incorporates more art than science.

  5. Philip said...

    BaconBall,

    I am not sure of his methodology but I believe from reading his past articles that Steve does take into account ballpark effects.

    Yes, playing without Robinson and Belanger behind him might have led Mike Cuellar to give up more singles to left field if pitching in the Dome. But it’s probably not as great as you suspect; there would also be fewer bad-hop and bunt singles, more foul ball outs. Ten again, that’s only half of his starts. He’d also be pitching in Wrigley instead of Comiskey, Shea instead of old Yankee Stadium, Parc Jarry instead of Fenway, etc.

    Cuellar would have likely been giving up fewer homeruns by virtue of making half of his starts in Houston. Perhaps. League effects have to be taken into account too, but both are measurable effects.

    There are different methods for determining park effects but they essentially look at the differences between what teams (and their opposition) did at home and on the road.

    One way could simply be to look at the differences for all pitchers (or just left-handed pitchers), ground ball outs, etc. in games between the Orioles and Royals from 1973 to 1975 (the period when both Royals Stadium had Astroturf and Robinson/Belanger were playing full time). You can’t just look at Cuellar’s since 27 innings pitched isn’t a big enough sample size.

    Looking at Robinson’s 1971 stats one can see he played 156 games at 3B, recording 131 putouts and 354 assists. Belanger recorded 280 putouts and 443 assists in 149 games. (Breakdowns even exist for balls caught in the air, assists to first, second, etc.) In a few hours time you could even break in down looking at only Mike Cuellar’s starts in games on grass and look at what hits he gave up and where they were (lf, cf, rf, etc) to determine the maximum amount of seeing-eye singles and EBX down the third base line.

    Another adjustment could be to take into account Cuellar specifically and his being a lefty (i.e. ratio of balls hit to the left side of the infield compared to other pitchers on the Orioles.

    As a team, the 1971 Astros third basemen recorded 120 putouts and 324 assists in 162 games; their shortstops had 302 and 523, respectively. Again, this can be broken down by splitting home/away stats to see the effect of Astroturf. And determining the maximum number of seeing-eye singles and EBX down the third base line.

    All this could yield a pretty good idea of what percentages of balls hit to the left side of the infield in the Dome might have gotten thru against Rader and Metzger as opposed to Robinson and Belanger with Cuellar on the mound.

    For further info on park effect adjustments see:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/parkadjust.shtml

    And:
    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/btf/scholars/furtado/articles/usingpf.htm

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