The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 6:  1972-73)

This imaginary journey has completed five seasons so far:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-1-1967-68/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-2-1968-69/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-3-1969-70/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-4-1970-71/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-5-1971-72/

              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
 1972    70   84  4    628  730    84   69  2    708  636    95   59  1    707  557

              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
 1972    76   78  4    652  676    98   55  1    759  565    95   59  2    694  554

Our Braves and our Reds each took a turn at the top, but our Astros have since stepped forward to achieve back-to-back NL West Division titles. Could we be witnessing the creation of a Houstonian dynasty?

The 1972-73 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Nov. 28, 1972: The Houston Astros traded infielders Ray Busse and Bobby Fenwick to the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Skip Jutze and infielder Milt Ramirez.

In the triple-A American Association in 1972, Busse hit .207. In the same league, Jutze hit .324. We’ll go for that.

Nov. 30, 1972: The Atlanta Braves traded catcher Earl Williams and infielder Taylor Duncan to the Baltimore Orioles for pitchers Pat Dobson and Roric Harrison, second baseman Dave Johnson, and catcher Johnny Oates.

We don’t immediately say “yes” to this one. It requires some pondering, because we don’t like the idea of being in the position of kicking ourselves for having let this Williams kid get away before entering his prime years. His bat is the kind that doesn’t come along very often.

But, thinking it through, Williams is one-dimensional. While he’s gamely strapped on the catcher’s gear, it’s clear that he’s never going to be anything but lousy defensively back there. That means we’re going to have to be moving him to first base as soon as it opens up, and that meaningfully inhibits his value.

And the Orioles are offering up a huge package of talent here. We decide that it’s just too much to pass up.

Dec. 1, 1972: The Atlanta Braves traded second baseman Felix Millan and pitcher George Stone to the New York Mets for pitchers Gary Gentry and Danny Frisella.

In reality this trade was made in early November, but we turned down the Mets’ offer at that point because we hadn’t yet acquired Dave Johnson. With him now on board, this one is a go.

Millan has been a peach in Georgia, in his slap-hitting sweet-fielding way. But he missed 30 games to nagging injuries in 1972, while his batting average took a dip. So, as did the real-life Braves, we’ll take a chance instead on the fortunes of the hard-throwing and hot-tempered young Gentry, who’s never broken out as the star it seemed he might become.

Dec. 1, 1972: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Jim Merritt to the Texas Rangers for catcher Hal King and infielder Jim Driscoll.

After several years as a workhorse innings-eater, Merritt has fallen all the way to being hit hard in triple-A in 1972. This is an attractive offer.

Feb. 28, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Pat Jarvis to the Montreal Expos for pitcher Carl Morton.

Both of these right-handers were excellent in 1970 but have struggled since. The reason we prefer Morton is that he’s three years younger than Jarvis.

March 27, 1973: The Atlanta Braves purchased catcher Dick Dietz from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He’s brutal defensively, but Dietz brings a serious bat. With Earl Williams no longer in our catching picture, we’ve got room to work this guy into it.

The 1972-73 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Nov. 27, 1972: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Rich Chiles and pitcher Buddy Harris to the New York Mets for outfielder Tommie Agee.

Even at this bargain price, we don’t have a spot for Agee at this point in his career.

Nov. 30, 1972: The Cincinnati Reds purchased outfielder Larry Stahl from the San Diego Padres.

No need for this journeyman.

March 26, 1973: The Houston Astros sold pitcher George Culver to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

We’ve still got room for him in our bullpen.

March 28, 1973: The Houston Astros sold catcher Bob Stinson to the Montreal Expos.

Our Astros don’t have Stinson. Our Braves do, and we aren’t selling this switch-hitting catcher.

April 4, 1973: The Houston Astros purchased infielder Hector Torres from the Montreal Expos.

No, gracias.

The 1972-73 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Nov. 2, 1972: The Cincinnati Reds traded infielder-outfielder Kurt Bevacqua to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Mike Hedlund.

The Royals actually made this swap with Cleveland. Since we’ve still got Bevacqua, we’ll oblige them.

The right-hander Hedlund has been up and down in Kansas City, but he’s still young, we’ve got question marks at the back end of our rotation, and Bevacqua is a replaceable bench part.

Nov. 24, 1972: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder-first baseman Matty Alou to the New York Yankees for pitcher Rob Gardner and a player to be named later. (On Dec. 1, 1972, the Yankees sent infielder-outfielder Rich McKinney to the Reds, completing the deal.)

And it was actually the Oakland A’s making this deal with the Yankees. Alou did well enough for us this past year, but he isn’t getting any younger, and we like both Gardner and McKinney. The versatile McKinney, in fact, is an obvious replacement for Bevacqua.

Nov. 30, 1972: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Hal McRae and pitcher Milt Wilcox to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder Richie Scheinblum and pitcher Roger Nelson.

The actual trade was McRae and Wayne Simpson for Scheinblum and Nelson, but we think it’s highly plausible that Kansas City GM Cedric Tallis would be satisfied with Wilcox instead. In either case, this deal would work out amazingly well for Tallis, a Grand Master at the art of trading, but there’s no way one could expect the actual Reds, or ours, to turn it down at the time.

Dec., 1972: In a three-club deal, the Cincinnati Reds sent outfielder George Foster and pitcher Dave Tomlin to the Atlanta Braves, and infielder-outfielder Joel Youngblood to the Houston Astros. The Braves sent outfielder Oscar Brown to the Reds, and shortstop Marty Perez and pitcher Joe Hoerner to the Astros. The Astros sent catcher-outfielder Bob Watson to the Reds.

To summarize:

Reds: Foster, Tomlin, and Youngblood for Watson and Brown

At the age of 23, Foster encountered a truly bad year in ’72, so the key for Cincinnati is the offensive upgrade to Watson.

Braves: Perez, Hoerner, and Brown for Foster and Tomlin

Our Braves are willing to take a chance on Foster while we get younger in the bullpen. We aren’t surrendering a whole lot here.

Astros: Watson for Perez, Hoerner, and Youngblood

We love Watson, but he just isn’t defensively capable of making it as a full-time catcher, and that’s the only place we have room for him. Moreover, we have Cliff Johnson, a very similar type, coming along behind Watson, so this seems a good time to go to market. We gain a capable partner for Roger Metzger at shortstop, possible bullpen help, and a multi-talented prospect.

Dec., 1972: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Rico Carty and infielder Larvell Blanks to the Texas Rangers for infielder Jim Mason and pitcher Jim Panther.

The actual deal was Carty-for-Panther, straight up. Given the introduction of the Designated Hitter rule in the American League, that was a ridiculous price for Braves’ GM Eddie Robinson to accept, as Carty would seem born to DH.

Our Braves will extract fair compensation from the Rangers. We even it out with the inclusion of the young infielders: Mason, even younger than Blanks by a year, is far ahead of Blanks in development, especially with the glove.

Jan., 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded catcher Mike Ryan and pitcher Larry Jaster to the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Mel Behney.

Behney is a so-so prospect, but he’s a left-hander, so you never know. Our Reds will expend him to get a new backup for Mr. Bench.

Jan., 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded first baseman Andre Thornton to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Larry Gura.

We like Thornton very much, but he’s stuck behind Joe Torre. The Cubs actually traded Joe Pepitone for Thornton in the spring of ’73. We don’t want Pepi, but it’s plausible they would give up the soft-tossing young southpaw Gura to get Thornton.

March 26, 1973: The Atlanta Braves sold pitcher Cecil Upshaw to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers actually bought George Culver from the Astros on this date. In our scenario, he isn’t available, but Upshaw is.

March 27, 1973: The Atlanta Braves sold catcher Paul Casanova to the Philadelphia Phillies.

We’ll go with Dick Dietz instead.

March 27, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Mel Behney to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Andy Kosco and infielder Phil Gagliano.

In reality the Red Sox made this deal with Cincinnati. It’s a quite generous price for Behney, and our Braves will readily accept it.

March 28, 1973: The Houston Astros traded infielder-outfielder Jim Stewart and pitcher Bob Cluck to the Atlanta Braves for infielder Phil Gagliano and cash.

And our Braves will pivot and leverage Gagliano to net a lefty bullpen candidate.

The 1973 season: Actual deals we will make

May 24, 1973: The Atlanta Braves purchased infielder-outfielder Chuck Goggin from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Why not? This 27-year-old switch-hitting handyman will supplant the 34-year-old switch-hitting handyman Jim Stewart.

June 7, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds signed pitcher Dick Baney as a free agent.

Triple-A roster filler probably, but you never know.

July 27, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Ed Sprague and a player to be named later to the St. Louis Cardinals for infielder Ed Crosby and catcher Gene Dusan. (On Sep. 30, 1973, the Reds sent first baseman Roe Skidmore to the Cardinals, completing the deal.)

As were the actual Reds, we’re responding to the season-ending injury sustained by Dave Concepcion.

Aug. 7, 1973: The Atlanta Braves selected pitcher Joe Niekro off waivers from the Detroit Tigers.

As did the actual Braves, we have room in our bullpen to give Phil’s kid brother a try.

Aug. 29, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Jim McGlothlin to the Chicago White Sox for a player to be named later. (On Oct. 2, 1973, the White Sox sent pitcher Steve Kealey to the Reds, completing the deal.)

When the hard times have come for McGlothlin, they have meant serious business.

The 1973 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 22, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Cecil Upshaw to the Houston Astros for outfielder Norm Miller.

May 14, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded catcher Bob Didier to the Detroit Tigers for catcher Gene Lamont.

May 22, 1973: The Houston Astros traded catcher Larry Howard to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Tom Heierle.

No dice for any of these.

June 7, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Pat Dobson to the New York Yankees for first baseman Frank Tepedino, outfielder Wayne Nordhagen, and players to be named later. (On Aug. 15, 1973, the Yankees sent pitcher Dave Cheadle to the Braves, and on Sep. 5, 1973, the Yankees sent pitcher Al Closter to the Braves, completing the deal.)

And definitely no dice for this one. Yes, Dobson is unexpectedly struggling, but we’re not about to dump for spare parts a 31-year-old pitcher with his track record after just 12 games and 57 innings.

June 15, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Richie Scheinblum to the California Angels for players to be named later. (On June 19, 1973, the Angels sent pitchers Terry Wilshusen and Thor Skogan to the Reds, completing the deal.)

Nor will our Reds dump for spare parts a 30-year-old outfielder who put up a 140 OPS+ last year after just 29 games and 65 plate appearances.

July 8, 1973: The Houston Astros purchased pitcher Juan Pizarro from the Chicago Cubs.

Aug. 18, 1973: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Tommie Agee to the St. Louis Cardinals for infielder Dave Campbell and cash.

Nope.

The 1973 season: Deals we will invoke

April 29, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Danny Frisella to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Dan McGinn and cash.

Frisella has encountered arm trouble this spring and opened the season on the DL. He’s ready to be activated now, but we’ve gathered sufficient depth on our staff that we just don’t have room for him at this point. We’ll stash the lefty McGinn in triple-A.

June 6, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Mike Hedlund and cash to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Jim Bibby.

The big, tall, hard-throwing right-hander Bibby has spent years battling his control and doesn’t appear to be winning at this point. In real life on this date the Cardinals dumped him to Texas for token payment.

Our Reds are grappling with back-end-of-the-rotation headaches, and don’t see the downside at giving Bibby an opportunity. We won’t let the Cards pass him through National League waivers, and we’ll offer them up a price at least the equal of what they were willing to take from the Rangers.

June 8, 1973: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Steve Mingori to the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Mike Jackson.

Actually it was Cleveland swapping Mingori to the Royals for this marginality. Mingori, so good in 1970-71, has really hit the skids since then. (In Kansas City, Mingori would put it back together and prosper as a situational lefty until 1979. Oh well.)

June 12, 1973: In a three-club deal, the Cincinnati Reds sent outfielder Gene Locklear, pitcher Mike Johnson, and cash to the San Diego Padres. The Padres sent pitcher Fred Norman to the Atlanta Braves, and the Braves sent pitcher Ron Reed to the Reds.

The actual deal was just between the Reds and the Padres, with Cincinnati taking the southpaw Norman. But our Braves need a left-handed starter, and our Reds need a righty, so we’ll toss in Reed.

June 15, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Rob Gardner and outfielder Oscar Brown to the New York Mets for outfielder Don Hahn.

All three of these players are in triple-A at this point. In real life, the Mets would promote Hahn to the big club at about this time, but in our scenario they still have Tommie Agee (who was hitting pretty well as of June in ’73) on their roster. It’s plausible they’d accept this offer for Hahn, who has previously spent considerable time in the majors and proven out as a good-field no-hit utility type.

Our Reds are willing to bring him in because incumbent center fielder Bobby Tolan is mired in a dreadful slump, and his backup Sonny Jackson isn’t hitting a lick either.

June 15, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds sold outfielder-infielder Sonny Jackson to the California Angels.

Thus Hahn replaces Jackson on the Cincinnati roster.

July 16, 1973: The Houston Astros sold catcher-outfielder Carl Taylor to the Kansas City Royals.

Making room for a big kid named Cliff Johnson.

July 18, 1973: The Houston Astros sold pitcher Joe Hoerner to the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals actually bought Hoerner from the Braves.

July 18, 1973: The Houston Astros purchased pitcher Joe Grzenda from the New York Yankees.

Replacing Hoerner.

July 25, 1973: The Houston Astros sold pitcher George Culver to the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Phillies actually bought Culver from the Dodgers. Our Astros are clearing space for Larry Dierker, returning from a long stint on the DL.

1973 season results

Braves

Following our poor 1972 showing, we’ve had a very busy off-season. We’re featuring a new look in the middle infield, with Johnson replacing Millan at second base, and Jim Mason having the inside track on the shortstop job. Behind the plate, Johnny Oates and Dick Dietz replace Earl Williams and Paul Casanova.

But it’s on the mound that we’ve been the most ambitious. The majority of the staff has been overturned. Right-handers Pat Dobson and Gary Gentry will join the starting rotation, and righty Carl Morton and rookie lefty Larry Gura will compete for starts as well. Right-hander Roric Harrison and another rookie southpaw, Dave Tomlin, are in the bullpen.

      1973 Atlanta Braves     Won 85    Lost 76    Finished 4th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Torre      32   141 519  67 150  17   1  19  80  62  79 .289 .374 .435 .810  117
  2B  D. Johnson    30   157 559  88 151  25   0  43  99  81  93 .270 .370 .546 .916  143
  SS  J. Mason*     22   129 430  43  94  14   4   7  41  43  85 .219 .284 .319 .602   62
  3B  D. Evans*     26   161 595 120 167  25   8  41 100 124 104 .281 .401 .556 .957  155
RF-LF R. Garr*      27   128 462  75 144  26   4   9  45  15  39 .312 .332 .444 .776  107
  CF  D. Baker      24   159 604 106 174  29   4  21  94  67  72 .288 .359 .454 .812  117
  LF  H. Aaron      39   120 392  88 118  12   1  40  96  68  51 .301 .402 .643 1.045 177
  C   J. Oates*     27    88 290  26  72   5   0   4  24  20  28 .248 .294 .307 .601   62

OF-1B M. Lum*       27    92 257  39  74  13   3   8  39  19  46 .288 .339 .455 .794  112
RF-LF A. Kosco      31    82 219  33  61  10   0  16  40  20  45 .279 .332 .543 .875  132
  C   B. Stinson#   27    82 201  24  53   9   1   7  25  31  30 .264 .366 .423 .789  112
SS-2B F. Stanley    25    82 173  20  37   4   1   2  12  23  34 .214 .300 .283 .584   58
 C-1B D. Dietz      31    83 139  24  41   8   1   3  24  49  25 .295 .471 .432 .903  145
  IF  D. Menke      32    70  92  16  17   3   0   2  10  24  23 .185 .350 .283 .633   72
  UT  C. Goggin#    27    64  90  18  26   5   0   0   7   9  19 .289 .350 .344 .694   88
  C   F. Velazquez  35    15  23   2   8   1   0   0   3   1   3 .348 .375 .391 .766  107
  UT  J. Stewart#   34    14  13   0   1   0   0   0   1   1   4 .077 .143 .077 .220  -39

      Others                  67   9  16   5   0   5   9   5  14 .239 .288 .537 .825  117

      Pitchers               432  23  56   8   0   6  30  14 150 .130 .150 .190 .340   -9

      Total                5557 821 1460 219  28 233 779 676 944 .263 .341 .438 .779  108

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     34    42  30   9  14  10   4 245 214 103  90   21   89  131 3.31  121
      C. Morton     29    38  30   8  14   8   0 213 210  93  79   14   59   94 3.34  120
      F. Norman*    30    24  24   7  13   5   0 166 139  80  71   23   72  114 3.85  104
      P. Dobson     31    34  23   4   9  10   2 160 180  92  82   21   42   80 4.61   87
      M. Pappas     34    30  19   1   8   6   0 130 151  65  60   15   33   40 4.15   96
      G. Gentry     26    16  14   3   4   5   1  87  74  37  33    7   35   42 3.41  117
      R. Reed       30    13   9   2   2   5   0  67  64  33  29    4   19   37 3.90  102

      R. Harrison   26    51   3   0   4   6  12  93  84  39  38    6   55   91 3.68  109
      R. Schueler   25    48   5   1   6   5   5 103  96  52  47   10   41   70 4.11   97
      D. Tomlin*    24    41   0   0   3   6   8  59  57  32  29    9   28   42 4.42   90
      L. Gura*      25    38   4   0   4   5   3  77  93  46  40   10   20   56 4.68   85
      J. Niekro     28    20   0   0   2   3   3  24  23  11  11    2   11   12 4.13   97
      B. Cluck*     27     8   0   0   1   1   1  13  17   9   7    2    5    8 4.77   84
      M. Leon       23     6   0   0   1   0   0  14  15   9   8    3    5    9 5.14   78

      Others                   1   0   0   1   1  10  14   8   8    2    5    5 7.20   55

      Total                  162  35  85  76 40 1461 1431 709 632 149  519  831 3.89  102

      *  Throws left

Wow.

The performance of our offense is just astounding. Leading the way in his implacable drive to surpass Babe Ruth’s iconic record, Hank Aaron clouts 40 home runs (in 392 at-bats!) and hits for a .387 second-half batting average. Darrell Evans bursts into stardom with 41 bombs of his own, and Dave Johnson shocks everyone by belting 43. We set a National League record with 233 team homers while scoring the most runs of any team in franchise history since 1899, when we were still the Beaneaters.

And our revamped pitching staff is also improved, but there we still have a few problems. Dobson disappoints, Gentry sits out the second half with a sore arm, and Milt Pappas looks suddenly and finally over the hill. A strong comeback year from Carl Morton isn’t enough to lift our team ERA+ to more than slightly above league-average.

Still, the great run production yields a 92-win Pythagorean record. We deeply underperform against that, and despite all the loud action, we finish a distant fourth.

Astros

With back-to-back division championships under our belt, we’ve seen no need for major changes. Bob Watson is departed, and several new faces are on the bench, but essentially we’re going again with our proven formula.

Spring training brings some bad news, as Larry Dierker injures his pitching shoulder and will be lost for most of the season. This creates an opportunity for flamethrowing rookie J.R. Richard.

      1973 Houston Astros     Won 96    Lost 66    Finished 2nd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  24   152 510  96 135  20   2  25 110 122  82 .265 .406 .459 .865  141
  2B  J. Morgan*    29   157 576 116 175  36   3  24  82 109  59 .304 .414 .502 .916  154
  SS  R. Metzger#   25   123 348  33  87   7   8   1  23  23  42 .250 .293 .325 .618   72
  3B  D. Rader      28   154 574  65 146  26   0  21 103  46  97 .254 .309 .409 .718   99
  RF  R. Staub*     29   152 585  94 166  37   2  13  84  72  54 .284 .363 .421 .783  118
  CF  C. Cedeño     22   139 525  99 168  35   2  25  81  41  79 .320 .375 .537 .912  152
  LF  J. Wynn       31   127 407  74  90  12   5  17  46  78  86 .221 .348 .400 .748  108
  C   J. Edwards*   35    79 250  24  61  10   2   5  27  19  23 .244 .297 .360 .657   83

  SS  M. Perez      27    94 251  25  61   8   4   3  26  24  32 .243 .303 .343 .645   80
  OF  C. Geronimo*  25   113 216  23  46   9   2   3  20  14  49 .213 .261 .315 .575   60
  C   S. Jutze      27    75 185  12  41   4   0   0  12  13  25 .222 .270 .243 .513   44
  LF  J. Briggs*    29    79 169  26  43   7   4   6  21  29  30 .254 .363 .450 .813  126
  C   B. Didier#    24    60 139  11  39   5   1   1  13  10  14 .281 .318 .353 .671   87
  UT  P. Gagliano   31    63  69   8  21   2   0   0   7  12  15 .304 .402 .333 .736  108
 C-1B C. Johnson    25    34  69  12  18   4   0   4  15   5  20 .261 .338 .493 .830  129
  UT  C. Taylor     29    35  48   6  10   2   0   0   5  10   8 .208 .333 .250 .583   65

      Others                  25   4   4   1   0   0   0   3   6 .160 .250 .200 .450   27

      Pitchers               431  23  58  12   1   2  24   8 174 .135 .140 .181 .321  -11

      Total                5377 751 1369 237  36 150 699 638 895 .255 .331 .396 .727  102

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      M. Cuellar*   36    34  34  15  17  10   0 240 249  99  85   19   72  134 3.19  113
      D. Wilson     28    37  32  10  12  14   1 239 187  94  85   21   92  149 3.20  113
      J. Reuss*     24    41  27   8  15   9   0 223 212  93  88   13   94  147 3.55  102
      D. Roberts*   28    39  24   8  15   7   0 199 206  69  60   11   50   98 2.71  133
      K. Forsch     26    46  17   5   9   8   3 161 155  78  72   13   59  122 4.02   90
      J. Richard    23    24  16   3   6   5   0 112 103  73  64    5   61  119 5.14   70
      T. Griffin    25    25  10   3   4   4   0  75  59  36  33    7   35   54 3.96   91

      D. Giusti     33    64   0   0   9   2  23  89  81  26  23    7   33   58 2.33  155
      G. Culver     29    25   0   0   4   2   1  38  40  13  13    4   19   20 3.08  117
      J. Hoerner*   36    20   0   0   2   2   2  13  17   8   8    0    4   10 5.54   65
      J. Grzenda*   36    18   0   0   2   2   2  25  20   9   8    3   12   16 2.88  125
      L. Dierker    26    11   2   0   1   1   0  22  22  11  10    2   10   14 4.09   88
      S. Mingori*   29     5   0   0   0   0   0  12  10   8   8    3   10    4 6.00   60

      Others                   0   0   0   0   1  14  15   8   8    1    8    9 5.14   70

      Total                  162  52  96  66 33 1462 1376 625 565 109  559  954 3.48  104

      *  Throws left

The formula generally delivers as expected. Joe Morgan is better than ever, and with Cesar Cedeño and John Mayberry in the middle of the order, our run production is again robust. However, Jim Wynn and Rusty Staub aren’t at their best, and we don’t repeat the spectacular offensive of 1972.

But even with the loss of Dierker, and Richard struggling to fill the void, our pitching overall is improved. It’s just a deep, solid staff.

We’re a terrific team once again, hitting our Pythagorean projection of 96-66 right on the nose. This year, however, that isn’t good enough to take the division.

Reds

We had an outstanding ball club last year, with just a couple of flaws. Looking to beef up the bats at corner outfield and off the bench, Hal McRae, Matty Alou, George Foster, and Ted Uhlaender are gone; replacing them are Bob Watson, Richie Scheinblum, and rookie Gene Locklear, with power-hitting Hal King added as a third catcher who can pinch hit.

Imported to shore up the pitching are right-handers Roger Nelson and Mike Hedlund.

      1973 Cincinnati Reds     Won 103   Lost 59    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  T. Perez      31   151 564  83 177  33   3  27  99  74 117 .314 .393 .527 .919  159
  2B  T. Helms      32   146 543  54 153  28   2   4  68  33  22 .282 .318 .363 .681   93
  SS  D. Concepcion 25    89 328  43  94  18   3   8  46  21  55 .287 .325 .433 .758  113
  3B  P. Rose#      32   160 680 115 230  36   8   5  64  65  42 .338 .400 .437 .837  137
  RF  B. Carbo*     25   111 308  54  86  18   0   8  49  58  53 .279 .391 .416 .806  129
CF-RF B. Tolan*     27   123 411  52  85  13   2   8  39  24  61 .207 .249 .307 .555   57
LF-1B B. Watson     27   132 382  58 114  16   2  11  66  56  50 .298 .390 .437 .827  134
 C-OF J. Bench      25   152 557  91 141  17   3  25 100  83  83 .253 .344 .429 .773  118

LF-RF R. Scheinblum 30   127 425  74 134  18   5   6  59  70  45 .315 .410 .424 .833  137
  SS  D. Chaney#    25   105 227  27  41   7   1   0  16  26  50 .181 .259 .220 .479   37
  CF  D. Hahn       24    62 131  14  29   5   0   1  15  10  23 .221 .269 .282 .551   57
OF-1B D. Driessen*  21    51 122  16  35   5   1   1  20   7  13 .287 .331 .369 .700   98
  C   H. King*      29    48  84  12  17   1   0   6  17  10  20 .202 .292 .429 .720  102
  C   M. Ryan       31    33  81   8  18   1   2   1   8   7  21 .222 .272 .321 .593   68
  CF  K. Griffey*   23    25  86  19  33   5   1   3  14   6  10 .384 .424 .570 .994  180
  UT  S. Jackson*   28    29  69  10  14   2   1   0   4   8   4 .203 .282 .261 .543   55
  UT  R. McKinney   26    48  65   9  16   3   0   1   9   7   4 .246 .319 .338 .658   87
  LF  G. Locklear*  23    29  57   9  12   1   0   1   6   6   9 .211 .297 .281 .578   65
  SS  E. Crosby*    24    36  51   4  11   1   1   0   4   7  12 .216 .333 .275 .608   74

      Pitchers               400  29  63   5   2   1  20  17 148 .158 .178 .188 .365    4

      Total                5571 781 1503 233  37 117 723 595 842 .270 .337 .388 .725  105

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      R. Grimsley*  23    38  36   8  14   9   1 242 245  96  87   24   68   90 3.24  106
      D. Gullett*   22    45  30   7  19   7   2 228 198  95  89   24   69  153 3.51   97
      R. Cleveland  25    32  32   6  15   8   0 224 199  79  70   15   59  119 2.81  122
      J. Bibby      28    26  19   6  12   5   1 150  97  53  50   11   86  142 3.00  114
      J. McGlothlin 29    24   9   0   3   3   0  63  91  52  47   13   23   18 6.71   51
      R. Nelson     29    14   8   1   3   2   0  55  49  25  21    4   24   17 3.44  100
      M. Hedlund    26     8   7   1   2   2   0  47  64  33  31    6   16   22 5.94   58
      R. Reed       30     7   6   1   1   4   1  32  50  26  20    2    8   19 5.63   61
      G. Nolan      25     2   2   0   0   1   0  10   6   4   4    1    7    3 3.60   95

      P. Borbon     26    80   0   0  11   4  16 121 137  33  29    4   35   60 2.16  159
      T. Hall*      25    54   7   0   8   5  10 104  74  43  40   13   48   96 3.46   99
      C. Carroll    32    53   5   0   8   8  15  93 111  47  38    5   34   41 3.68   93
      S. Blateric   29    45   0   0   5   0   4  69  74  32  27    4   22   46 3.52   97
      D. Baney      26    11   1   0   2   1   2  31  26  10  10    1    6   17 2.90  118
      E. Sprague    27     3   0   0   0   0   0   4   4   2   2    0    2    2 4.50   76

      Total                  162  30 103  59 52 1473 1425 630 565 127  507  845 3.45   99

      *  Throws left

Our pitching depth is sorely tested, as ace Gary Nolan misses virtually the whole season to arm trouble, and Nelson is out for much of it. Hedlund and Jim McGlothlin are terrible, and Ron Reed, brought in at the trade deadline, gets hit hard before encountering his own season-ending injury.

The nothing-to-lose June acquisition of Jim Bibby proves to be the lifesaver, as at the age of 28 he finally manages to (mostly) find the strike zone, and is nearly unhittable. Our strong bullpen and good work from starters Ross Grimsley, Don Gullett, and Reggie Cleveland ensure that despite the problems, overall the staff is roughly league-average.

And our offense is excellent, being outhit only by the Braves. All the incoming bats except Locklear’s thrive, and when he’s traded away and replaced by rookie Dan Driessen, yet another potent bat arrives. They support familiar stars Pete Rose, Tony Perez, and Johnny Bench. Young shortstop Dave Concepcion finally blossoms at the plate. Our emergent center field hole is splendidly plugged in late August with the promotion of rookie Ken Griffey, who proceeds to hit .384 down the stretch.

It’s a ball club that seems always able to find the solution. Even Pythagoras smiles upon us with a five-win overperformance, and the flag is ours by a comfortable margin.

Next time

Will the Reds repeat, or will the Astros sustain a dynasty after all? And will the Braves return to contention?

              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
 1972    70   84  4    628  730    84   69  2    708  636    95   59  1    707  557
 1973    76   85  5    799  774    82   80  4    681  672    99   63  1    741  621

              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
 1972    76   78  4    652  676    98   55  1    759  565    95   59  2    694  554
 1973    85   76  4    821  709    96   66  2    751  625   103   59  1    781  630

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. Paul G. said...

    So George Foster does not play this year, or at least not enough to be included in the Braves stats?  (He only played 17 games in real life for the Reds and did well in that limited time.)

  2. Steve Treder said...

    Regarding Foster, yes, the Braves farm him out (as did the actual Reds) for most of the year (in this case, Andy Kosco beats him out for the RHB backup OF role).  He isn’t recalled until September (as in reality), at which point he slugs the snot out of the ball (his stats are included in the “Others” line).

  3. Steve M said...

    Love these series…now how about one for my beloved Cubs..as in not trading Thornton, Madlock, Gura, Hooten and North away and having them when Trillo, Sutter, Reuschel and later Kingman arrive. How does that make the late 70’s Cubs look. The about 10 years later not letting Maddux, Moyer and Palmeiro go, along with a few others like Eckersley, Lee Smith, Willie Hernandez (how’s that for a ‘pen). Anyway, whoever is next, I can’t wait.

  4. Philip said...

    Wow. George Foster in Atlanta?

    That’s going to make ‘76 really interesting.

    This also shows the depth of the Reds organization in the mid 70s; that they could still pull off pennants in 73, 75 and 76 (if they do) without Morgan, Foster & Geronimo.

    Doug Flynn will be available later at second once Helms is done and Driessen could end up in LF or RF, enabling the club to keep a still very effective Tony Perez until he’s ready to retire.

    It will also be interesting to see what happens to Joaquin Andujar.

    Steve M said:

    ‘‘Love these series…now how about one for my beloved Cubs..as in not trading Thornton…’‘

    The Cubs problems that you bring up of the late 1970s can be traced to Bill Buckner injuring his knee trying to steal a base against the Giants in April 1975.

    The Butterfly Effect:

    Buckner played hurt, especially after bench outfielder Tom Paciorek also got injured in the same game after replacing Buckner! The Dodgers even called up slugger Charlie Manual from AAA (yes, that Charlie Manual).

    (Traded away Burt Hooton wasn’t so bad; it was that they gave up on Geoff Zahn so soon thereafter).

    L.A. was also without Tommy John for the full season and SS Bill Russell was having the worse year of his career (also playing hurt).

    Still, the Dodgers managed to hang close to the Reds – they were only 2 GB at close of play on 6/22 – until Cincy completed their 41-9 run and eventually put the division away by 20.

    Had the Dodgers tossed in the towel and sat Buckner down for the rest of the season, he quite possibly would have returned fully healthy for 76 instead of hobbling around in LF with reckless abandon.

    Ah, yes. What does all this have to do with the Cubs you say?

    Chicago compounded the issue on 10/28/75 by trading the aging but still capable SS Don Kessinger to the Cardinals for reliever Mike Garman and a player to be named later (Bobby Hrapmann).

    G.M. John Holland apparently thought Kelleher would be able to replace Kessinger and Garman was somehow needed to shore up a bullpen that ranked 3rd in the N.L. in saves despite the club’s ‘winning’ pct. of .463.

    Then on 5/17/76, new General Manager E.R. Saltwell gives up on young Andy Thornton, who had broken his wrist in 75 and got off to a slow start in 76, sending the slugger to Montreal for Larry Biittner and Steve Renko.

    So now the Cubs have huge holes at short and first.

    They’ve downgraded from Kessinger and his 26 doubles and 10 triples in 1975 to Kelleher and his .270 slugging pct in 1976 with 13 total XBH.

    Thornton, who was hitting .200 and with but 2 homeruns at the time of the trade, would hit at least 26 homeruns in each of his next three seasons. In other words, sort of what he did in 1975 when healthy (18 homeruns in 372 AB, .293 ba, .516 slg). That was replaced in 1976 with Pete LaCock, catcher George Mitterwald, center fielder Rick Monday, pinch hitter Champ Summers and Biitner all taking turns at first.

    Thus needing a shortstop the Cubs turned to the Dodgers for help. The Dodgers wanting a left-handed slugger and an outfielder and a right handed reliever cut a deal: Buckner, minor league pitcher Jeff Albert and AAA shortstop Ivan DeJesus to the Cubs for Monday and Garman on 1/11/77. Los Angeles then moved Dusty Baker from CF to LF to make the spot for Monday.

    The Cubs, filling the holes they had dug at first and short, now had dug themselves another one: this time in center.

    So on 2/11/77, the Cubs traded third baseman Bill Madlock with infielder Rob Sperring to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Bobby Murcer, third baseman Steve Ontiveros and minor leaguer pitcher Andy Muhlstock.

    Actually, this wasn’t as bad a trade as it might seem. Murcer popped 27 HRs and Ontiveros hit .299, with as much power as Madlock and was better defensively.

    The Cubs went from:

    1B Thornton
    SS Kessinger
    3B Madlock
    CF Monday
    RP Garman

    to

    1B Buckner
    SS DeJesus
    3B Ontiveros
    CF Murcer

    But if Buckner hadn’t injured his ankle that April day in 1975 against the Giants, he’d likely be in the Hall of Fame today.

    As for the later bubbling by the Cubs brass (Sutter, Reuschel, Eck, etc.), picking up Cey and Sandberg did nearly get the club a pennant in 1984.

    As discussed in an earlier post, free agency makes it difficult to speculate past 1976.

    But in a baseball world that retains the reverse clause through at least 1981, I don’t see how the Cubs could have made a serious challenge to the Pirates, Phillies or Expos.

    If the Pirates, Angels and Indians hadn’t given the Yankees a pennant in 1976, Gabe Paul might have turned to Chicago to find its shortstop and center fielder. How about after the 1975 season ends, the Cubs send Monday and Kessinger to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds?

    At one point the Cubs and O’s were talking Monday for Grimsley, so why not swap him for Bonds?

  5. Steve M said...

    Phillip said…a lot but..Very long winded way of saying what..exactly. The effect has nothing to do with Buckner hurting his leg. If they don’t trade Thornton, they don’t need, nor want Buckner. They keep Monday and find a SS somewhere as DeJesus was not much more than average. Murcer and Ontiveros were good..for 1 year..3 years later Onti is out of baseball altogether and Murcer is relegated to part-time and let go in 2.

    In 1978 Thornton had an OPS+ of 151, Madlock had one of 144..Monday’s was 128 and King Kong got to 132 and Gross, Vail and Thompson make a platoon of about 130 in right. Who else in the league stacks those kind of bats together? Yes they need a SS, and a catcher..but with a little smarter GM and Hooten, reuschel, Burris and Sutter..who knows?

  6. Philip said...

    Steve M wrote
    “Very long winded way of saying what..exactly.”

    Had Buckner not gotten hurt, the Dodgers wouldn’t have been trying to trade him. They couldn’t move him to first; Steve Garvey was now well established there.

    So they needed either someone to play left to replace Buckner or someone to play center (thereby shifting Dusty Baker to left).

    You’re correct that the Cubs shouldn’t have traded Thornton and, had they been a bit patient, they wouldn’t have gone shopping for Buckner.

    But they did trade Thornton and Buckner was now available. That caused the Cubs tp constantly creating a new hole trying to fill another.

    ‘‘They keep Monday and find a SS somewhere as DeJesus was not much more than average.’‘

    Monday, after coming to L.A., would have his own injury problems. Yes, he had a OPS+ of 128 in 1978 … but he was in the starting lineup in only 95 games (after 112 in 1977, when he had the worst year of his career).

    Assuming the same injuries, the Cubs would have soon been shopping for a center fielder had they kept Monday. And another reason why Monday was traded was because he was seeking a multi-year deal.

    There wasn’t exactly a glut of shortstops were were ‘‘more than average.’’ But, who knows. Maybe the Cubs could have landed Bucky Dent.

    I think you’re over-estimating Hooton’s value a bit. Yes, he was a darn good pitcher. I saw him pitch quite a lot. But Zahn could have been nearly as effective in his place had the Cubs not given up on him. Still, keeping either would have benefited the club.

    Trading Sutter after 1980, of course, was idiotic.

    But try to remember why Madlock got traded. Wrigley was a cheap, old son of a gun.

    Sutter made $225,000 in 1979, leading the league in saves with 37 and with a 2.22 ERA. He wanted a raise; the Cubs refused. So in arbritration he sought $700,000. The Cubs offered $350,000. Guess who won?

    Ticked they had to pay a young pitcher so much money, the sent him to St. Louis a year later.

    As for Madlock, he had just won back-to-back batting titles. And what were the Cubs offering him: $100,000 for 1977. (He made $80,000 in 1976).

    What did Wrigley have to say about his star third baseman in January 1977?

    Wrigley told the Associated Press he would trade Madlock “if another team is foolish enough to have him” and that such a trade would improve team morale.

    “Most of the players resent very much the kind of player who comes in and bleeds the company hollow and doesn’t leave anything for them.”

    “He was the National League batting champion two years and and was the National League batting champion last year, but what’s he going to do this year? That’s the question.”

    “When these players are impossible to deal with I’d rather let someone else have them.”

    Madlock told the Chicago Tribune, “My bags are packed. If the Cubs don’t think I’m worth it, fine. They can send me on. I’d be stupid to sign for $105,000 or $110,000.”

    The Giants would sign Madlock at $1.3 million total for five years in less than 24 hours after the trade.

    The Cubs paid Ontiveros $20,000.

    Murcer, on the other hand, signed a new contract with the Cubs before the 1977 season started (he had made $175,000 with the Giants). The five-year deal paid him $1.6 million over five seasons, making him the highest paid Cub player in history up to that time.

    So, go figure.

    As for Greg Gross, you can’t get him and keep Trillo, too. They were traded for each other.

    As for Kingman, he was signed in November 1977 as a free agent at $225,000 year for five years with a $250,000 bonus (up from either $72,000 or $95,000 that he made with the Mets in 1977).

  7. Philip said...

    Steve M wrote
    “but with a little smarter GM and Hooten, reuschel, Burris and Sutter..who knows?”

    Your point is worth exploring in more depth. I’ll take a shot. Let’s see if the Cubs can win the division in 78 with what they had in 76, the farm, a few minor trades & signing King Kong.

    Let’s start with them keeping Hooton, Madlock, Monday and Thornton. This means Wrigley is going to have to sell a lot more gum to pay Madlock and Monday or lose them.

    They had only traded Jerry Morales after signing Kingman. But with Monday in CF & not acquiring Greg Gross (letting your alternate Cubs keep Trillo instead), Morales stays and it’s the aging Jose Cardenal who is gone, traded to Philly for Manny Seoane.

    Since they had gotten Dave Rader in the Morales deal, no Rader in 78 means they tender an offer to George Mitterwald, just in case Larry Cox and Tim Blackwell can’t handle the job (and they can’t). Mitterwald resigns and remains the starting C.

    Here’s the club I believe you essentially hadin mind for 78 with perhaps a few, but minor, unexpected adjustments:

    1B Thornton (33HR, 99 RC w/ Cle)
    2B Trillo
    SS [presumably Kelleher, .253, 10 RC in 106 PA]
    3B Madlock
    LF Kingman
    CF Monday
    RF Morales (.239, 43 RC w/ StL)
    C Mitterwald
    SP R. Reuschel (35 GS, 3.41)
    SP Hooton (32 GS, 2.71 w/ LA)
    SP Burris (32 GS, 4.75)
    SP Krukow (20 GS, 3.91)
    SP Lamp (36 GS, 3.29)
    SP Fryman (9 GS, 5.14 b/f traded to Expos)
    RP Sutter (27 saves, 64 GP, 3.18)
    RP Moore (4 saves, 71 GP, 1 GS, 4.11)

    Buckner hit .323 with 59 RC in 470 PA but is better defensively than Thornton. Buckner is -0.2 TPW. Thornton at +3.3 with 617 PA. Biittner was -1.4 with 374 PAs. Take away all of Buckner’s and about 1/3 of Bittner’s playing time and give it to Thornton. DIFF = +4.0. i.e. Cubs GAIN 4 wins.

    Kelleher TPW was -0.5. Pro-rated that out, giving him DeJesus’ PA and he’s about -3.5. De Jesus had -0.2 TPW. DIFF = -3.3. Cubs DROP 3 extra games.

    Madlock comes in at +3.5. He’d have essentially negated the need for Ontiveros (-1.0) and Rodney Scott (-0.4). And let’s assume the Cubs then sell Pete Broberg to someone, perhaps the A’s (they got had Scott from Oakland for him). DIFF = 4.9. Cubs GAIN 5 wins.

    Morales was -2.6 TPW in 499 PA w/ StL. Gross was -1.2 w/ the Cubs in 390 PA. Assuming Mike Vail is still acquired off waivers, his playing time is then cut about in half. So his -0.3 TPW becomes a -0.1. DIFF = -1.2. Cubs DROP an extra game.

    Rader was -1.6 TPW, catching 114 games and 348 PAs. Cox spent some time on the DL. Mitterwald became a free agent after 1977 and signed with Seattle but never played another game in the majors. Mitterwald did hit 9 HRs and was the primary catcher in 1977, not Steve Swisher. So our alternate Cubs keep him around one more year. Mitterwald was a -0.7 in 1977 with 382 PAs. Rader was -1.6 with 348 PAs. DIFF = 0.9. Cubs GAIN a win.

    With Hooton, they probably wouldn’t have purchased Dave Roberts from Detroit (20 GS, 5.26). Hooton is worth 2.2 TPW. Roberts at -1.3. Krukow is worth 0.6; he pitched 138 innings, all but 10 in a starting role. But Krukow won’t get any extra starts; the Cubs just don’t bother trading for Holtzman (-1.2) from the Yankees for a player to be named later (Ron Davis). DIFF = 4.7. Cubs GAIN 5 wins.

    TEAM NET = 11 WINS

    Their record of 79-83 is transformed into 90-72. That’s what it took the Phillies to actually win the division.

    However, a much more detailed analysis results in the Cubs winning the division by a game or two.

    The Giants lose extra games, so do the Dodgers. Someone has to win those games. So the Cubs probably exceed 90, although the Phillies do too.

    The difference, however, is that one or two of those extra Cubs victories comes at the expense of Philadelphia.

    So, there you are Steve. I stand corrected. As you speculated, the Cubs could very well have been a surprise division winner in 1978.

    Moving along…

    Hooton and Reuschel then win the first two games of the LCS. But Don Sutton throws a masterpiece in game 3 and Steve Garvey hits a 2-run, 9th inning shot to win game 4 and tie the series. Game 5 will decide who plays the Red Sox or Royals.

    (There’s no one-game playoff in the AL East because Holtzman isn’t traded to the Cubs as he loses a game or two the Yankees otherwise would have won).

  8. Philip said...

    But there’s still a Butterfly Effect to this, too.

    Turned down by the Cubs in their attempt to acquire Hooton, the Dodgers cave to Andy Messersmith’s contract demands and sign him to a three-year, no-trade deal in June 1975. Two months later the Expos release the retired Dave McNally in August 1975.

    Without the two test cases for the reserve clause, free agency is delayed for at least another year.

    One by one, players still not signed for the 1976 season come up with agreements. The Reds resign Don Gullett and Charlie Finley inks Reggie Jackson to a new five-year deal at close to $300,000 per year and retains most of his other players.

    Peeved at Sal Bando saying Al Dark shouldn’t have been fired, Finley offers him to the Red Sox for Ferguson Jenkins after reminding the press that Bando once said Dark “couldn’t manage a meat market.” Boston accepts, after Rico Petrocelli decides to retire.

    Boston also agrees to accept Mickey Scott from the Angels for Roger Moret. The next day, the Angels send Moret (who the Brewers wanted to close the deal) and Mickey Rivers to Milwaukee for Boomer Scott.

    The Yankees then call off talks with the Pirates for Willie Randolph, as they are unable to get a pitcher of Ed Figueroa’s caliber to replace Doc Medich.

    The Pirates then intensify their attempts to get Bert Blyleven from the Twins. They won’t be losing Richie Hebner to the Phillies as a free agent, so they won’t give away the farm to acquire Phil Garner from Oakland to play third base. As such, Pittsburgh might be an even stronger contender in the NL East in 1978 than they actually were.

    There are still a few holdouts in 1976, but Billy Smith and Tim Nordbrook are given their unconditional release before they get a chance to go to arbritration.

    And Kingman, a holdout in 1978 spring training? He ultimately accepts the Mets multi-year deal at $190,000/year, which nearly doubles his 1977 salary, rather than face the prospect of a legal 20% pay cut.

    Now if only the Cubs had traded Hooton…

  9. Philip said...

    minor correction:
    Also need to account for Monday replacing Murcer.

    Monday’s TPW was +0.5 in 397 PA.
    Murcer’s TPW was -0.5 in 585 PA.

    Restore Biittner’s and Vail’s playing time back to their actual stats.

    That’s brings Biittner back to a -1.4 from a -1.0 and Vail back to -0.3 from -0.1.

    Change to team total is: +0.4

  10. Tom Hill said...

    I enjoy these series very much.  I like examining an “alternate take” on how to “engineer” a team. The Astros’ trade of Watson seems problematic.  1) Reds are a strong division rival: why should Astros help them?  2) Related, why help Reds without acquiring a key player themselves?  Spare parts (Hoerner, M Perez, Youngblood) don’t help the Astros much.  I could see Astros trading an older player (Staub or Briggs) to Reds for spare parts, rather than Watson.  Also, I could see where Reds might prefer a LH hitter over a RH hitter, as Reds already have RHBs Bench & T Perez.  Astros can keep the younger RHB Watson, which balances out their lineup.

  11. Steve Treder said...

    “The Astros’ trade of Watson seems problematic.  1) Reds are a strong division rival: why should Astros help them?  2) Related, why help Reds without acquiring a key player themselves?  Spare parts (Hoerner, M Perez, Youngblood) don’t help the Astros much.”

    Very fair questions.  Please bear in mind that it might be possible that yours truly commits an error in judgment once in a while, just like real-life GMs.

    That acknowledged, I would offer a couple of points in explanation of the trade.  In real life, Watson had established himself as the Astros’ full-time regular left fielder, and indeed had blossomed as a star in 1972.  But in this scenario, blocked in left field by Jim Wynn, Watson hasn’t been able to crack the regular staring lineup.  He’s still just a good utility player in this world, without as much market value as the real-life Watson would have had.  Our Reds didn’t envision Watson as their regular LF, but instead just saw him as one of the guys to work into their outfield rotation.

    The second point is that Youngblood, while clearly still a year or two away from the majors, was an outstanding-looking prospect at this point.  In 1972, in double-A at the age of 20, he’d hit .290 (the league hit .242!) with good power and 13 steals, and he’d demonstrated the capacity to play SS, 2B, and 3B (not well yet, but he could play them) along with OF.  He projected as a potential star hitter, with the defensive flexibility as a bonus.

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