The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 4:  1970-71)

We now have three seasons in our rear-view mirror as we counterfactually cruise into the early ’70s.

Two among our trio have enjoyed runaway division championships.

              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

Let’s find out what our three ball clubs now have in mind.

The 1970-71 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 12, 1970: The Houston Astros traded infielder Hector Torres to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Roger Metzger.

It isn’t clear why the Cubs wish to exchange a 23-year-old good-field-light-hit shortstop for a 25-year-old good-field-very-light-hit shortstop, but like the actual Astros we’ll just say, “Okay.”

Oct. 21, 1970: The Atlanta Braves traded catcher John Burns to the California Angels for infielder Marty Perez.

Nor is it obvious why the Angels wish to exchange a guy who projects as your garden-variety major league utility infielder for a guy who hit .178 as a backup catcher in his second year in double-A. Our Braves won’t try to talk them out of it.

Dec. 15, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Jim Maloney to the California Angels for pitcher Greg Garrett.

Maloney attempted to come back from his Achilles tendon injury in September, but was terribly ineffective. He’s been fragile for the past few years anyway, and like the real-life Reds, our version is thinking that the soon-to-be-24-year-old left-hander Garrett, who allowed just 5.8 hits per nine innings as a rookie in 1970, is likely to have the better future.

The 1970-71 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Nov. 30, 1970: The Atlanta Braves traded first baseman Hal Breeden to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

We didn’t give Wilhelm away in the first place.

Dec. 1, 1970: The Atlanta Braves traded infielder Bob Aspromonte to the New York Mets for pitcher Ron Herbel.

We no longer have Aspromonte, and aren’t especially interested in Herbel anyway.

April 1, 1971: The Cincinnati Reds signed pitcher Joe Gibbon as a free agent.

We don’t have a need for this veteran southpaw.

The 1970-71 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Dec. 1, 1970: The Cincinnati Reds traded catcher Danny Breeden and cash to the Chicago Cubs for catcher Jack Hiatt and first baseman-outfielder Willie Smith.

The Cubs actually sold Hiatt to the Astros, and traded Smith to the Reds for Breeden. Our Reds will be happy to tie it up for them in a package.

Jan., 1971: The Houston Astros traded first baseman-outfielder Deron Johnson and outfielder Norm Miller to the Philadelphia Phillies for outfielder Johnny Briggs and infielder-outfielder Rick Joseph.

We don’t know exactly why the Phillies have soured on the 27-year-old Briggs, but they have (they would actually dump him for token payment in April of ’71). Our Astros have no problem giving them substantial compensation.

March, 1971: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Tom House and cash to the Houston Astros for pitcher Mike Marshall.

Balancing the bullpen arms: our Braves need a righty, our Astros a lefty.

March, 1971: The Houston Astros traded shortstop Enzo Hernandez to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Jerry Nyman and cash.

The speedy but exceptionally light-hitting rookie Hernandez isn’t making our Astros roster.

April, 1971: The Atlanta Braves sold outfielder Ted Savage to the Milwaukee Brewers.

April, 1971: The Atlanta Braves sold first baseman Hal Breeden to the Chicago Cubs.

Final cuts.

The 1971 season: Actual deals we will make

April 16, 1971: The Atlanta Braves signed pitcher Luis Tiant as a free agent.

Why not? We’ll stick him in triple-A and see if El Tiante can find any new life in his arm. He’s still only 30 years old.

May 29, 1971: The Cincinnati Reds traded infielder Frank Duffy and pitcher Vern Geishert to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder George Foster.

Horace Stoneham made more than his share of pointless trades, but none moreso than this one. Our Reds will say, “Thank you!”

June 29, 1971: The Atlanta Braves released pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm.

At 48, he’s tried to make it back from a springtime knee injury, and it just doesn’t look like it’s happening.

The 1971 season: Actual deals we will not make

May 8, 1971: The Cincinnati Reds traded infielder Kurt Bevacqua to the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Buddy Bradford.

We like Bradford well enough, but Bevacqua’s capacity to play infield as well as outfield makes him a better fit for our bench.

May 15, 1971: The Atlanta Braves released pitcher Luis Tiant.

After just one month? We don’t see the point in that, and will continue his triple-A audition.

May 31, 1971: The Atlanta Braves purchased infielder Zoilo Versalles from Gomez Palacio of the Mexican League.

June 2, 1971: The Atlanta Braves released third baseman Clete Boyer.

This was the result of a feud between Boyer and Atlanta GM Paul Richards. We won’t indulge in such silliness.

The 1971 season: Deals we will invoke

May 13, 1971: The Cincinnati Reds sold outfielder Angel Bravo to the San Diego Padres.

Actually it was a trade of Bravo to the Padres for Al Ferrara. We’ve always loved Ferrara’s bat, but we don’t have roster room for either of them.

June 2, 1971: The Atlanta Braves sold pitcher Mike Marshall to the Montreal Expos.

In a battle between Marshall’s wicked stuff and his poor control, this spring the poor control has been winning. He’s going to have to be moved to make space for Hoyt Wilhelm coming off the Disabled List (and this isn’t going to end well for us).

July 8, 1971: The Cincinnati Reds released outfielder Mack Jones.

Mack the Knife has had a fine career, but the old bat speed just isn’t there any more.

1971 season results

Braves

If it weren’t for bad luck, Rico Carty would have none at all. In winter ball he tears up a knee, and so the 1970 major league batting champion—at .366, the highest average of any major leaguer since Ted Williams in 1957—will have to sit out his second full season in the past four.

Fortunately, we have a ready replacement in sophomore Ralph Garr. And we think rookie Dusty Baker is ready to take over in center field. Sophomore Darrell Evans will step ahead of veteran Clete Boyer as our primary third baseman.

This bounty of emerging young talent isn’t without its challenges. We have a tricky time trying to figure out how to fit rookie Earl Williams, who’s pulverized minor league pitching, into the lineup. He’s been a first baseman, a third baseman, and a corner outfielder in the minors; he isn’t a good fielder and the best place to put him would be first base.

But longtime star catcher Joe Torre is entering his thirties now, and in order to keep his booming bat in the lineup on a regular basis, it’s really time to be moving him to first. So, pondering it, we hit on the idea of converting Williams to catcher. We give him a crash course at the position in winter ball and in spring training, and he seems, well, not completely terrible back there. So we’ll give it a whirl in the regular season and hope that the big, strong young fellow generates more runs with his bat than he surrenders with his glove.

Good news on the pitching front is that top reliever Cecil Upshaw is returning from his finger injury; we’re hoping he’ll be able to regain his former touch and control.

      1971 Atlanta Braves     Won 91    Lost 71    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
 1B-C J. Torre      30   153 571  99 199  30   4  29 108  60  64 .349 .411 .567 .978  169
  2B  F. Millan     27   143 577  71 167  20   8   2  45  37  22 .289 .326 .362 .688   90
SS-2B D. Menke      30   146 475  52 121  26   2   3  48  59  70 .255 .333 .337 .670   86
  3B  D. Evans*     24   120 361  52  89  12   2  17  52  59  74 .247 .350 .432 .783  116
  RF  H. Aaron      37   139 495 105 162  22   3  47 118  71  58 .327 .410 .669 1.079 194
  CF  D. Baker      22   124 403  42 104  19   1   7  35  22  57 .258 .296 .362 .658   81
LF-RF R. Garr*      25   139 511  93 175  19   5   7  38  24  54 .342 .363 .440 .803  122
 C-1B E. Williams   22   123 398  51 101  11   1  26  70  33  65 .259 .321 .487 .809  121

  OF  M. Lum*       25   130 363  46  98  11   1  10  41  38  34 .270 .341 .388 .730  102
  SS  M. Perez      25    87 205  15  45   7   2   2  16  11  23 .220 .257 .302 .559   54
  3B  C. Boyer      34    82 191  18  43   4   1   7  25  15  25 .225 .276 .366 .643   77
  C   B. Didier#    22    76 155  10  34   4   1   0   5   6  17 .219 .234 .258 .492   36
  LF  A. Shamsky*   29    68 135  16  26   5   2   6  18  21  20 .193 .306 .393 .698   92
  C   H. King*      27    64 109   8  21   5   0   3  14  15  25 .193 .299 .321 .620   72
  IF  M. Martinez#  29    32  62   6  17   3   1   0   4   3   6 .274 .308 .355 .663   83
  OF  O. Brown      25    27  43   4   9   4   0   0   5   3   8 .209 .261 .302 .563   56

      Others                  31   2   4   0   0   1   3   0   4 .129 .125 .226 .351   -5

      Pitchers               440  23  63   6   0   0  17   9 135 .143 .157 .157 .313  -13

      Total                5525 713 1480 208  34 167 662 486 761 .268 .324 .409 .733  102

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     32    42  36  18  17  12   2 269 248 112  89   27   70  173 2.98  125
      M. Pappas     32    35  31  12  18  11   0 235 238  98  86   24   58   90 3.29  113
      R. Reed       28    32  29   7  12  11   0 200 197  94  82   22   49  118 3.69  101
      G. Stone*     24    27  24   4   7   7   0 173 186  80  69   19   35  110 3.59  104
      P. Jarvis     30    42  16   2   6  12   3 157 156  78  71   15   49   67 4.07   92
      J. Nash       26    21  12   1   4   4   1  92 117  59  54   12   37   46 5.28   71
      T. Kelley     27    11   8   2   5   2   0  57  56  22  19    3   28   25 3.00  124

      C. Upshaw     28    49   0   0  11   5  19  82  95  33  32    5   28   56 3.51  106
      D. Lemaster*  32    42   0   0   3   2   3  60  59  28  25    5   22   29 3.75   99
      S. Barber*    33    39   3   0   4   1   2  75  92  42  40    6   25   40 4.80   78
      M. Marshall   28    19   0   0   2   2   2  26  21  14  13    0   15   18 4.50   83
      L. Tiant      30    12   2   0   1   2   0  26  22  14  12    4   11   24 4.15   90
      H. Wilhelm    48     3   0   0   0   0   0   2   6   5   4    2    1    1 18.00  21

      Others                   1   0   1   0   1  21  14   5   5    3    9    6 2.14  174

      Total                  162  46  91  71 33 1475 1507 684 601 147  437  803 3.67  102

      *  Throws left

A whole lot of things go very, very well. Williams doesn’t (quite) embarrass himself behind the plate, handling most of the innings there, and hits 26 home runs and is runner-up Rookie of the Year. Torre, benefiting from the defensive relief, busts out a career year with the bat, leading the majors in batting average.

Speaking of career years, at the age of 37 Hank Aaron puts up career highs in homers, on-base percentage, slugging, (obviously) OPS, and OPS+. Wow.

Garr hits .342. The Evans/Boyer third base platoon combines for 24 homers and 74 walks. Phil Niekro rebounds to more genuinely ace-like form.

But, we have some problems. Upshaw is only so-so, not displaying his top form. And with Wilhelm hurt, our bullpen is not good, and the back end of our starting rotation is iffy as well. Neither the rookie Baker in center field nor veteran Denis Menke at shortstop hit as well as expected.

Based on run differential, we’re just a moderately good team. But we receive a Pythagorean windfall, coming in at seven wins above expectation. Alas, 91 wins leaves us just short of the division flag, in a photo finish.

Astros

We haven’t undertaken major changes. Johnny Briggs is replacing Deron Johnson as the backup first base/left field bat. Roger Metzger is replacing Hector Torres as Woody Woodward’s partner at shortstop. Tom House is replacing Mike Marshall in the bullpen.

We anticipate the key newcomer to be strike-throwing rookie right-hander Ken Forsch, who will compete for a spot in the starting rotation after compiling a 17-8 record with a 1.96 ERA at double-A and triple-A in 1970.

But mostly, we’re counting on improvement to result from continued development of our prize sophomores: 22-year-old first baseman John Mayberry and 20-year-old center fielder Cesar Cedeño.

      1971 Houston Astros     Won 92    Lost 70    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  22   138 449  50 108  10   4  19  55  61  84 .241 .337 .408 .744  113
  2B  J. Morgan*    27   160 583  96 149  27  11  13  56  88  52 .256 .345 .407 .752  116
  SS  R. Metzger#   23   100 281  29  64   7   6   0  13  21  26 .228 .283 .295 .579   67
  3B  D. Rader      26   135 484  51 118  21   4  12  62  40 112 .244 .301 .378 .680   94
  RF  R. Staub*     27   162 599  96 189  37   8  14  88  72  43 .316 .392 .474 .867  148
  CF  C. Cedeño     20   161 611  91 161  40   6  10  87  25 102 .264 .291 .398 .689   96
  LF  J. Wynn       29   111 323  29  65  13   0   6  36  44  51 .201 .298 .297 .596   72
  C   J. Edwards*   33    71 211  12  49   9   3   1  15  17  25 .232 .288 .318 .606   74

C-1-L B. Watson     25   123 421  44 119  15   3   8  57  36  63 .283 .340 .390 .729  109
  IF  W. Woodward   28   109 273  22  68   9   1   0  18  27  27 .249 .307 .289 .597   73
LF-1B J. Briggs*    27   108 238  31  63  13   1   7  30  42  50 .265 .372 .416 .788  126
  IF  F. Stanley    23    77 162  15  34   7   1   1  12  30  29 .210 .333 .284 .617   79
  C   M. Ryan       29    65 134   9  23   5   1   2   6  10  31 .172 .229 .269 .498   43
  C   L. Howard     26    47 116  10  26   5   0   3  19   8  29 .224 .270 .345 .615   76
  OF  C. Geronimo*  23    94  82  13  18   2   2   1   6   5  31 .220 .261 .329 .591   69
  LF  K. Lampard*   25     6  11   1   3   1   0   0   1   0   1 .273 .273 .364 .636   82

      Others                  54   4   9   4   0   0   6   3  14 .167 .203 .241 .444   27

      Pitchers               407  26  50   7   0   2  21  10 166 .122 .138 .152 .290  -17

      Total                5439 629 1316 232  51  99 588 539 936 .242 .309 .358 .666   91

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      D. Wilson     26    35  34  18  17   9   0 268 195  80  73   15   79  180 2.45  138
      M. Cuellar*   34    34  34  19  18  10   0 263 249 100  92   18   65  114 3.15  107
      K. Forsch     24    33  23   5   9   7   0 169 144  52  47    7   48  120 2.50  135
      L. Dierker    24    24  23   6  12   5   0 159 150  50  48    8   33   91 2.72  124
      J. McGlothlin 27    30  26   4   8  10   0 154 145  58  55    9   41   86 3.21  105
      R. Cook*      23    20   9   1   2   6   0  74  73  39  30    4   29   41 3.65   93
      S. Spinks     23     8   6   2   2   1   0  51  43  22  21    3   29   51 3.71   91
      J. Nyman*     28     6   3   0   0   2   0  17  21  11  10    2   10   13 5.29   64

      D. Giusti     31    58   0   0   5   7  24  86  79  30  27    4   31   55 2.83  120
      G. Culver     27    52   0   0   4   6   1  71  65  24  20    3   29   45 2.54  133
      J. Ray        26    47   0   0   8   3   1  73  51  19  16    2   23   36 1.97  171
      T. House*     24    42   0   0   4   2   1  53  69  21  18    5   15   42 3.06  111

      Others                   4   1   3   2   0  36  32  14  13    3   24   42 3.25  104

      Total                  162  56  92  70 27 1474 1316 520 470  83  456  916 2.87  118

      *  Throws left

We have a big problem, as our star 29-year-old left fielder Jim Wynn is in a fog of marital problems (indeed, his wife stabbed him with a kitchen knife in the winter); while he’s physically okay, he’s an emotional mess, and he suffers through a terrible season. That’s a blow to our offense, and as both Mayberry and Cedeño do all right but not great, our run production is below league-average.

But, by golly, does our pitching staff ever pick up the slack. Larry Dierker has a terrific first half before sitting out most of the second with an arm injury. Don Wilson bounces back from a disappointing 1970 showing, and steps up to join ever-steady veteran Mike Cuellar at the top of the rotation. Forsch is superb, and the bullpen, headed by Dave Giusti with splendid support from George Culver and Jim Ray, is outstanding.

It’s the best pitching in the league, without question. And that pitching carries us on its back to our first-ever championship. It gets really exciting, though, as we fall four wins shy of our Pythagorean projection, but we have enough in the tank to nip the Braves in a memorable race that also closely involves the Giants and Dodgers.

Reds

The mellow afterglow of our great 1970 performance is rudely interrupted in the winter, when star center fielder Bobby Tolan ruptures his Achilles tendon while playing basketball (Jim Maloney last year, now Tolan—what’s up with Achilles tendons and Cincinnati ballplayers?) and will miss the entire 1971 season. To deal with that, we’ll shift Pete Rose from right field to center, move Bernie Carbo from left to right, and give sophomore Hal McRae (who contributed nicely as Carbo’s platoon partner in 1970) first crack at the regular left field job.

Other than that, the only significant changes we’re anticipating are the introductions of two highly-touted rookie pitchers onto the staff: left-hander Don Gullett and righty Milt Wilcox.

      1971 Cincinnati Reds     Won 82   Lost 80    Finished 5th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  L. May        28   147 553  87 154  17   3  39 100  42 135 .278 .332 .532 .864  147
  2B  T. Helms      30   150 547  41 141  26   1   3  54  26  33 .258 .286 .325 .611   77
  SS  D. Concepcion 23   130 327  24  67   4   4   1  21  18  51 .205 .240 .251 .491   43
3B-1B T. Perez      29   158 609  74 164  22   3  25  93  51 120 .269 .325 .438 .764  120
  RF  B. Carbo*     23   125 379  43  84  24   1   7  30  69  71 .222 .344 .346 .689  101
  CF  P. Rose#      30   160 632  88 192  27   4  13  46  68  50 .304 .372 .421 .793  130
  LF  H. McRae      25   125 427  47 113  28   2  14  55  16  46 .265 .291 .438 .729  109
 C-OF J. Bench      23   149 562  82 134  19   2  27  63  49  83 .238 .299 .423 .722  107

SS-OF S. Jackson*   26    99 292  31  71  10   3   1  15  18  25 .243 .284 .308 .592   72
  OF  G. Foster     22    69 184  17  42   9   2   5  24  10  49 .228 .275 .380 .655   88
  C   J. Hiatt      28    41 104  10  27   4   1   1  11  20  26 .260 .378 .346 .724  112
  OF  T. Cline*     32    69  97  12  19   1   0   0   1  18  16 .196 .331 .206 .537   59
1B-LF M. Jones*     32    43  91  11  14   3   0   3   9  17  24 .154 .300 .286 .586   71
  UT  J. Stewart#   32    80  82   7  19   2   2   0   9   9  12 .232 .304 .305 .609   77
  UT  K. Bevacqua   24    46  74   7  16   3   0   2   8   2  16 .216 .231 .338 .569   63
  1B  W. Smith*     32    24  33   4   7   1   0   1   3   4  10 .212 .297 .333 .631   83
  SS  F. Duffy      24    13  16   0   3   1   0   0   1   1   2 .188 .235 .250 .485   41

      Others                  24   2   3   0   0   0   1   1   3 .125 .160 .125 .285  -16

      Pitchers               370  18  48   5   2   1  16  16 118 .129 .155 .160 .315   -8

      Total                5403 605 1318 206  30 143 560 455 890 .244 .301 .372 .673   94

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Nolan      23    35  35   9  12  15   0 245 208  91  86   12   59  146 3.16  104
      D. Gullett*   20    35  31   4  16   6   0 218 196  73  64   14   64  107 2.64  124
      M. Wilcox     21    34  18   3  10   9   1 145 140  52  47    9   42   74 2.92  112
      W. Simpson    22    22  21   1   4   7   0 117 106  66  62    9   77   61 4.77   69
      R. Grimsley*  21    17  17   4   7   5   0 107 101  45  43   10   29   45 3.62   90
      J. Merritt*   27    28  11   0   1  11   0 107 115  55  52   14   31   38 4.37   75
      D. Coombs*    29    19   7   0   2   4   0  58  81  45  40   10   25   37 6.21   53

      W. Granger    27    70   0   0   7   6  23 100  94  39  37    8   28   51 3.33   98
      S. Mingori*   27    54   0   0   3   2   8  57  33  10   9    2   22   45 1.42  230
      M. Queen      29    49  10   0   7   7   3 126 121  41  38   11   44   82 2.71  120
      C. Carroll    30    48   9   0  11   7  10 125 109  39  39    8   56   80 2.81  116

      Others                   3   1   2   1   0  41  41  20  16    5    9   25 3.51   93

      Total                  162  22  82  80 45 1446 1345 576 533 112  486  791 3.32   99

      *  Throws left

Well, then.

All the news isn’t bad. Gullett and Wilcox do splendidly. Lee May produces a career year, and Pete Rose is, well, Pete Rose.

But, boy oh boy, is there a lot of bad news. All three of our most productive 1970 bats—Tony Perez, Johnny Bench, and Bernie Carbo—nosedive. Dave Concepcion, who held his own at the plate as a rookie, struggles mightily this time around. Thus our offensive attack, the core strength of the ball club for the past three years, is rendered little more than league-average.

And our pitching can’t make up the difference. Jim Merritt, Danny Coombs, and Wayne Simpson, keys to our success a year ago, all implode. Greg Garrett is so hopelessly wild in spring training that he fails to even make the team. Our ever-strong bullpen is forced to carry too heavy a load.

We fall 22 wins short of our 1970 performance. It’s a huge letdown.

Next time

We hear rumors that the Reds and Astros might be talking about some kind of a trade …

              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
 1971    82   80  3    643  699    79   83 4T    585  567    79   83 4T    586  581

              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
 1971    91   71  2    713  684    92   70  1    629  520    82   80  5    605  576

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%

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: The all-decade team: the ‘60s
Next: The Roto Grotto: the enemy of your enemy is a good trade partner »

Comments

  1. Ted said...

    We hear rumors that the Reds and Astros might be talking about some kind of a trade…

    Ugh!  Here it comes, the Winter of 1971…

    November 29, 1971 – Traded Jack Billingham (SP), Denis Menke (1B), Joe Morgan (2B), Ed Armbrister (OF) and Cesar Geronimo (CF) to the Cincinnati Reds for Lee May (1B), Tommy Helms (2B) and Jimmy Stewart (SS)

    Dec 2 1971 – traded John Mayberry (1B) and Dave Grangaard (3B/SS) to the Kansas City Royals for Lance Clemons (RP) and Jim York (RP)

    Dec 3 1971 – traded Bill Greif (SP), Derrel Thomas (2B), and Mark Schaeffer (RP) to the San Diego Padres for Dave Arthur Roberts (SP)

    And just like that, the Astros are on the road to mediocrity.

    Well at least J.R. Richard will be in the Bigs soon…

  2. Philip said...

    Hmmmmm. El Tiante not in Boston? If I didn’t know better I’d suspect it was a Yankees plot.

    ‘‘May 15, 1971: The Atlanta Braves released pitcher Luis Tiant. After just one month? We don’t see the point in that, and will continue his triple-A audition.’‘

    That the Braves would released him after a month in AAA is no more crazy than him being released by the Minnesota Twins on March 31, 1971, thus making him a free agent to begin with.

    Tiant had a decent 1970 season with the Twins at age 29, going 7-3 in 17 starts (one year after going 9-20 with Cleveland). Baseball-Reference.com has his contract at $50,000 in 1970, with $48,000 due in 1971.

    Tiant had started the 1970 season at 6-0 when fractured his right scapula in a game against Milwaukee on May 28th and missed two months. When he came back in August he only lasted until the 7th inning in only two of his starts.

    The Dallas Morning News, in an article about pitcher Edwin Correa on Nov. 11, 1989, says that Tiant is ‘‘believed to be the only pitcher to come back from an injury similar’’ [to Correa’s].

    Clearly back in 1971, the Twins thought Tiant was done. They gave him a chance during spring training but released him on March 31, two days after the Cardinals got to him early in a 13-2 romp.

    The Sarasota Journal of Apr 1, 1971 says that Tiant was planning to make a tryout with Boston.

    Two weeks later, however, it was the Braves who signed Tiant to a 30-day trial minor league contract and assigned him to Richmond, their AAA team. But they released him on May 15, 1971 and the Red Sox signed him to a contract two days after that and assigned him to the their AAA team in Louisville.

    Both AAA clubs were in the International Association and the official stats for the league don’t give a breakdown between the two clubs.

    Tiant did apparently pitch in 5 games for Richmond and 4 games for the Colonels. But according to the SABR bio project, Tiant had 29 strikeouts and a 2.61 ERA with Louisville and was called up to Boston on June 3. Baseball-Reference.com has Tiant’s combined IL stats at 48 K’s in 54 IP and a season ERA of 4.17.

    According to the book ‘‘Game of My Life: Boston Red Sox’’ by Chaz Scoggins, how did Tiant pitch during his time with Richmond? Thirty-nine runner reached base in 23 innings and his ERA was 6.26.

    So it’s pretty conclusive that the Braves released him not only because of their concern about Tiant being able to comeback from an injury that no other pitcher had been able to, but moreover because he also got racked on the mound during that 30-day trial in Richmond and, like the Twins, they thought his performances that spring indicated he was done.

    For a team that would have the 3rd worse ERA in the N.L. that year, the Braves simply didn’t think Tiant was worth keeping around longer than the 30-day trial. Remember, this was before Sabermetrics took hold, so stats like W-L, ERA, IP, K’s and CG for starting pitchers were weighted heavily in the minds of baseball executives.

    But Red Sox minor league scout Lee Stange saw something he liked in watching Tiant pitch in Richmond and recommended to the brass they give him a shot.

    Tiant’s manager in Louisville? Darrell Johnson, who would skipper the Red Sox to the American League pennant in 1975, who also saw Tiant pitch with Richmond and also recommended the Red Sox sign him after the Braves released him.

    After Tiant pitched well with Louisville the Red Sox ultimately called him up to the majors.

    But Tiant then 1-7 in 21 games (10 starts) in Boston. He lost his first six starts and was eventually put in the bullpen by manager Eddie Kasko.

    The consensus again was that Tiant was done, but Kasko was felt otherwise. He stuck with Tiant after spring training in 1972, first putting him in the bullpen before placing him into the rotation. Tiant would end up leading the A.L. with an ERA of 1.91. If not for a players’ strike which help create a scheduling imbalance and leave the Red Sox just a half game behind the division-winning Tigers at season’s end, Tiant might have been pitching in the ALCS that.

    But I wouldn’t deny the Braves keeping Tiant without at least allowing them a small concession that makes more sense that keeping an injured pitcher whose career looks like it’s over.

    Let them sign Frank Duffy, their 3rd round pick in the 1966 amateur draft.

    For some reason, the Braves couldn’t ink him to a contract and he was selected the following year by Cincinnati in the 1st round (6th overall). Surely, Duffy would be an upgrade from Denis Menke in 1972 and the Braves are going to be needing a shortstop in 1973 anyway when Menke’s career is over.

    Duffy can fill that hole adequately for a few years until Ted Turner goes shopping in 1977 and gets Bucky Dent to agree to a $150,000/yr contract extension after sending Ken Henderson back to the White Sox, along with a couple of minor league pitchers and $300,000 in cash.

  3. Philip said...

    Heck, if Duffy holds out for more money, let the Braves keep their 1st round pick in the 1966 January Draft/Secondary Phase.

    Unlike Duffy, Tom Seaver actually did sign a contract with the Braves after they drafted him. But the Commissioner Eckert ruled Seaver ineligible because Seaver’s college team, USC, had played two exhibition games before he signed. Seaver’s father then threatened a lawsuit because Seaver lost his scholarship and amateur status and so Eckert arranged a lottery of teams willing to match Seaver’s $40,000 contract offer by the Braves. Only the Phillies, Indians and Mets were interested, with the Mets winning the four-team lottery.

    So let the Atlanta keep Seaver.

    This way Tom Seaver’s happy, Luis Tiant’s happy, the Braves are happy, the Red Sox are happy, and the Yankees, well… come 1977, Fred Stanley will be happy.

  4. gary said...

    Great stuff on Tiant….I, too, have wondered why Atlanta didn’t give him more than 30 days.  Your details help understand that sequence of decisions.

    It strikes me that the Rick Reushel situation in the 80s has some strong parallels.  Another accomplished right hander who had injuries…Pirates end up getting him for nothing.

  5. gary said...

    A little Joe Morgan tidbit I just discovered….he and Stargell knew each other as youngsters in Oakland, Stargell urged Pirates to sign Morgan(of course, Stargell was an unproven minor leaguer himself at the time so who’s listening to him?).  But can you imagine Joe Morgan on the Pirates teams of the 70s???  From Maz to Morgan….not bad

  6. Philip said...

    Ted, re: your trade rumor

    Of course in this alternate timeline Jack Billingham is still on the Montreal Expos.

    What’s amazing about the Houston/Cincy deal is how some newspaper headlines claimed the Astros got the best of the deal with the Reds.

    But Cincinnati manager Sparky Anderson knew what he was getting. He told the Associated Press, ‘‘Sure, we’re giving up power. [But] there’s a lot more to baseball than home runs. Morgan is the key man. I look for him to steal 50 bases.’‘

    In the next six years, Morgan swiped 58, 67, 58, 67, 60 and 49 (getting caught a total of only 73 times – a success rate of 83% – and was successful in 13 of 15 attempts in post-season play).

    In the same article (talking about his club’s acquisition of Rick Monday) Cubs manager Leo Durocher said, ‘‘The game has changed. With that Astroturf, if you can’t run, you are in trouble.’‘

    In his four years with Houston, Helms would steal a total of 10 bases (getting caught eight times).

  7. Philip said...

    Gary, yes, the Cubs sure did give up on Rick Reuschel too soon, letting him sign with the Pirates. (They did so in 1981, too, pocketing $400,000 and Doug Bird from the New York Yankees)

    Apparently, Reuschel was a decent base runner, too. I remember being perplexed at rookie manager Jim Leyland having Reuschel pinch-run after Johnny Ray led off with a double in extra innings against the Dodgers.

  8. Steve Treder said...

    The hard-throwing Lee’s entire career formed a nearly perfect parabola.  He knocked around the low minors in the Pirates’ organization through the mid-to-late ‘50s, walking the ballpark and getting his butt kicked.  Then, focusing more on pitching strictly in relief, he began to pull it together in the early ‘60s. 

    Then in 1963, at the age of 25, out of nowhere he suddenly uncorked a 20-2, 1.70 season at Class-A Batavia in the NYP League.  The Angels picked him up at a bargain-bin purchase price, and he blew American League hitters away out of the Los Angeles bullpen in 1964.

    He was nearly as effective in ‘65, then less so in ‘66.  Indeed his major league ERA+ figures were a perfectly neat cascade:  219 to 175 to 122 to 82 to 62 and gone.

  9. ksw said...

    thoroughly going away from your well thought out topic, look at at bob lee’s numbers for 1964 (angels).
    holy smokes.
    and people yip & yap about rivera.
    this guy was pitching from a high mound; pitchers park; generous strike zone.
    oh, that was rivera.
    lee was really freaking good, as a pitcher.
    if you get bored…
    i encourage your thought:
    the al (ny,chi,minn) from 1961 on.
    please keep writing.
    yeah, rivera could have hel lee’s jock strap.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *