The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 7:  1973-74)

We’ve completed six lengths of this counterfactual course:

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/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-6-1972-73/

              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

Despite not being favored with the services of a certain superstar second baseman, our Reds have been able to remain a persistent thorn in our formidable Astros’ side. Meanwhile our Braves have fallen short of contention two years in a row.

The 1973-74 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 31, 1973: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Jerry Reuss to the Pittsburgh Pirates for catcher Milt May.

As we expected he would, Reuss is proving to be a fine young starter. But May is two years younger still than Reuss, and shows every sign of becoming a star catcher. Given that we (like the real-life Astros) have a weakness behind the plate, this one’s a no-brainer.

Dec. 3, 1973: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Ron Schueler to the Philadelphia Phillies for pitcher Barry Lersch and infielder Craig Robinson.

Like the real-life Braves, our infield defense can use some shoring up. Robinson brings no bat at all, but he’s a good defensive middle infielder. Lersch is basically the same middling-okay pitcher as Schueler, just a few years older. It’s a fair exchange.

March 26, 1974: The Atlanta Braves purchased pitcher Buzz Capra from the New York Mets.

The 26-year-old Capra hasn’t established himself at the big league level, but his minor league numbers are impressive. Like the actual Braves, we won’t talk the Mets out of their impatience.

March 26, 1974: The Atlanta Braves traded infielder-outfielder Chuck Goggin to the Boston Red Sox for catcher Vic Correll.

Correll is a minor league journeyman with some pop in his bat. We can give him a chance as a backup catcher.

The 1973-74 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Nov. 3, 1973: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Cecil Upshaw to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Jerry Johnson.

Don’t have Upshaw, don’t want Johnson.

Dec. 4, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Ross Grimsley and catcher Wally Williams to the Baltimore Orioles for outfielder Merv Rettenmund, infielder Junior Kennedy, and catcher Bill Wood.

Despite his inconsistency with the bat, the all-around talented Rettenmund is definitely attractive. But at 30 years old, he isn’t attractive enough to command the price of Grimsley, already fully established as a successful starting pitcher at the age of 23.

Dec. 6, 1973: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Jim Wynn to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Claude Osteen and Dave Culpepper.

In his early 30s now, Wynn’s days as a top star appear to be behind him, but he still offers a broad range of serious skill. As much as we like Osteen, he’s two years older than Wynn, and the veteran southpaw’s combination of heavy mileage and shrinking strikeout rate suggests to us that Wynn is likely to deliver the better future. We’ll pass.

Feb. 18, 1974: The Houston Astros traded pitcher Pat Darcy and cash to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Denis Menke.

Our Reds don’t have Menke, and our Astros aren’t interested in him.

March 19, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds purchased first baseman-outfielder Terry Crowley from the Texas Rangers.

March 28, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased outfielder Ollie Brown from the California Angels.

April 1, 1974: The Atlanta Braves selected outfielder Ivan Murrell off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

None of our clubs has a spot for these utilitymen.

The 1973-74 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Nov. 9, 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Bobby Tolan and pitcher Will McEnaney to the San Diego Padres for pitcher Clay Kirby.

The actual deal was Tolan and Dave Tomlin for Kirby, but the Padres would surely have accepted McEnaney instead.

Dec. 3, 1973: The Houston Astros traded infielder Gary Sutherland and cash to the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Fred Scherman.

The real trade was Sutherland and reliever Jim Ray for Scherman and cash. Our Astros no longer have Ray, but the Tigers would no doubt have settled for this swap of journeymen.

Dec. 4, 1973: The Atlanta Braves purchased first baseman-outfielder Bob Beall from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Actually the Braves traded minor league utility infielder Gil Garrido for Beall, but that was obviously the most token of payments, given that Garrido was 32 years old and the Phillies would release him in the spring, ending his career. Our Braves no longer have Garrido, but if the Phils were willing to trade Beall for Garrido, they would certainly be willing to sell him for cash.

Why they’re so ready to unload Beall is a mystery. He’s a 25-year-old switch-hitter without much power, but with a decent glove and off-the-charts OBPs all the way up the minor league chain. We’ll take him.

Dec., 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder-first baseman Dan Driessen to the Houston Astros for outfielder Cesar Geronimo.

Our Reds have a center field opportunity for the defensively gifted Geronimo that our Astros don’t. The sweet-swinging young Driessen is a fair price.

Dec., 1973: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Johnny Briggs to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Wilbur Howard and cash.

Actually the Astros would trade a couple of minor league pitchers to the Brewers for the speedy switch-hitting Howard in the spring of 1974. Our ‘stros are willing to part with Briggs to get him, given that we’ve just acquired Driessen (who will fill Briggs’s role), and we can use Howard to replace Geronimo as the backup center fielder.

March, 1974: The Houston Astros sold infielder Phil Gagliano to the Oakland Athletics.

March, 1974: The Atlanta Braves released infielder Denis Menke.

March, 1974: The Atlanta Braves sold infielder Leo Foster to the New York Yankees.

March 28, 1974: The Houston Astros sold catcher Johnny Edwards to the Boston Red Sox.

April 1, 1974: The Atlanta Braves released pitcher Milt Pappas.

They fail to make our final cuts.

The 1974 season: Actual deals we will not make

May 16, 1974: The Atlanta Braves purchased pitcher Lew Krausse from the Oakland Athletics.

We have no need for him.

The 1974 season: Deals we will invoke

May 15, 1974: The Atlanta Braves released catcher Dick Dietz.

With Bob Stinson returning from the Disabled List, we have to decide which backup catcher has to go. Despite his still-potent offense, the 32-year-old Dietz draws the short straw, as he’s a defensive liability at this point.

Aug. 5, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds sold outfielder Richie Scheinblum to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Aug. 5, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds purchased first baseman-outfielder Frank Tepedino from the New York Yankees.

Scheinblum’s slump this year is of the strain that can be lethal to careers.

1974 season results

Braves

We haven’t made any major changes this off-season. To the bench we’re adding outfielder George Foster (who returned from the minors and put on a power show in September of ’73), infielder Craig Robinson, and catcher Vic Correll. To the bullpen we’re adding Barry Lersch and Buzz Capra.

      1974 Atlanta Braves     Won 99    Lost 63    Finished 1st (tied)

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Torre      33   143 503  59 141  26   0  15  65  63  84 .280 .367 .421 .788  117
2B-1B D. Johnson    31   133 431  55 108  17   0  14  59  71  56 .251 .355 .387 .742  105
  SS  J. Mason*     23   152 440  48 112  18   6   6  42  40  87 .255 .309 .364 .673   85
  3B  D. Evans*     27   160 571 107 137  21   3  25  83 126  88 .240 .379 .419 .797  120
RF-LF R. Garr*      28   143 606  94 214  24  17  11  57  28  52 .353 .378 .503 .882  142
CF-RF D. Baker      25   149 574  87 147  35   0  20  71  71  87 .256 .334 .422 .755  107
  LF  H. Aaron      40   112 340  51  91  16   0  20  71  39  29 .268 .340 .491 .831  127
  C   V. Correll    28    73 202  21  48  15   1   4  29  21  38 .238 .316 .381 .697   92

  OF  G. Foster     25   106 276  36  73  16   0   9  41  31  54 .264 .343 .420 .763  110
  C   J. Oates*     28    84 194  16  42   7   0   1  14  15  16 .216 .263 .268 .531   47
OF-1B M. Lum*       28    71 181  27  41   6   1   5  23  21  26 .227 .307 .354 .661   82
  C   B. Stinson#   28    71 169  17  35   5   0   3  14  25  29 .207 .308 .290 .598   66
  IF  F. Stanley    26    97 167  12  35   5   0   0  10  19  23 .210 .289 .240 .529   47
SS-2B C. Robinson   25    73 151  18  33   1   2   0   8   9  20 .219 .256 .252 .508   40
  CF  R. Office*    21    66 124  15  29   8   1   2  13   7  16 .234 .271 .363 .634   74
RF-LF A. Kosco      32    55 102  12  22   5   0   2  14  10  21 .216 .278 .324 .602   66
  C   D. Dietz      32    11  20   3   5   1   0   0   2   6   4 .250 .407 .300 .707   98

      Others                  27   7   7   0   0   0   2   5   4 .259 .364 .259 .623   74

      Pitchers               403  22  57   4   0   1  23  22 120 .142 .171 .159 .330   -9

      Total                5481 707 1377 230  31 138 641 629 854 .251 .325 .380 .705   94

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     35    41  39  18  21  12   1 302 249  91  80   19   88  195 2.38  159
      C. Morton     30    38  34   6  15   9   0 220 231  86  75    8   72   92 3.07  124
      B. Capra      26    39  27  11  16   7   1 217 163  67  55   13   84  137 2.28  166
      F. Norman*    31    35  26   8  11  11   0 186 168  76  70   19   70  144 3.39  112
      P. Dobson     32    39  18   4  11   7   2 141 141  54  48   11   42   94 3.06  124
      L. Gura*      26    22  14   3   6   5   1 102  91  34  30    8   22   66 2.65  143
      G. Gentry     27     3   1   0   0   0   0   7   4   1   1    1    2    0 1.29  295

      D. Tomlin*    25    58   0   0   4   1   7  71  62  27  25    5   35   49 3.17  120
      J. Niekro     29    51   1   0   8   2   5  78  67  26  23    7   33   61 2.65  143
      B. Lersch     29    37   1   0   3   2   1  58  59  23  22    6   19   31 3.41  111
      R. Harrison   28    30   0   0   2   3   4  42  44  20  19    3   18   17 4.07   93
      M. Leon       24    17   1   0   2   4   2  38  34  11  11    3    7   19 2.61  145

      Others                   1   0   0   0   0  16  18  12  10    1    7    9 5.63   67

      Total                  163  50  99  63 24 1478 1331 528 469 104  499  914 2.86  133

      *  Throws left

Hank Aaron makes short work of breaking the 714 barrier, taking care of it within his first three games. But at the age of 40, he’s able to deliver just 20 homers over the course of the season, his least prolific total since his rookie year two decades ago.

He isn’t the only one finding it more difficult to go yard. Home run production is distinctly down across both leagues, with a less lively ball the evident culprit. But even within that context, our power output is meaningfully reduced. None of our big boppers from last year hit with their same authority. Speedy leadoff man Ralph Garr delivers a career year at .353 with 17 triples, but behind him we experience a lot of rallies dying on warning tracks. MLB’s best-hitting team of 1973 comes in at no better than league-average this time around.

But, does our pitching staff step up to the challenge, or what? Phil Niekro starts at the top with a superb year, leading the league in complete games, innings, and wins. But he’s edged out for the ERA title by Capra, who muscles his way into the starting rotation as the league’s toughest pitcher to hit. Behind those stars is a bounty of depth, starting, relieving, right-handed, left-handed, you name it, we’ve got it and it’s nasty. Our team ERA+ of 133 isn’t just the best in the league, or the best in the major leagues of 1974, it’s the best since the legendary Cleveland Indians staff of 1954.

In short, it’s historically great run prevention. It’s such great run prevention that even with our so-so run production, we earn a Pythagorean record of 104-58.

However, we’re unable to perform to that projection. In fact, we fall five crucial wins short of it.

Astros

The key move we’ve undertaken is the installation of Milt May behind the plate. To offset the departure of Jerry Reuss from the starting rotation, we’re anticipating the return of Larry Dierker from injury, as well as the development of young J.R. Richard.

In spring training, Dierker demonstrates that he is indeed throwing very well. With that, we determine that fellow right-hander Ken Forsch, who’s flirted with success as a starter but been unable to sustain it, will move to the bullpen full time to support veteran ace reliever Dave Giusti.

      1974 Houston Astros     Won 91    Lost 71    Finished 4th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  25   126 427  63  94  12   1  20  66  89  72 .220 .361 .393 .754  116
  2B  J. Morgan*    30   149 512 101 149  32   3  20  60 118  71 .291 .423 .482 .905  159
  SS  R. Metzger#   26   114 343  32  87  11   6   0  18  22  44 .254 .287 .321 .608   74
  3B  D. Rader      29   152 533  61 137  27   3  17  81  60 131 .257 .334 .415 .749  114
  RF  R. Staub*     30   147 533  68 139  22   2  16  71  71  39 .261 .346 .400 .746  113
  CF  C. Cedeño     23   160 610  93 164  29   5  26 105  64 103 .269 .337 .461 .798  127
  LF  J. Wynn       32   143 494  87 136  17   5  27  63  97  99 .275 .386 .494 .880  151
  C   M. May*       23   127 405  52 117  17   4   7  59  39  33 .289 .347 .402 .749  114

SS-2B M. Perez      28    85 224  20  55  10   3   1  17  15  28 .246 .291 .330 .621   78
OF-1B D. Driessen*  22    75 188  23  52   9   2   3  22  19  26 .277 .340 .394 .733  110
 1B-C C. Johnson    26    75 137  19  31   3   1   8  21  26  36 .226 .351 .438 .789  125
  UT  J. Youngblood 22    69 116  13  26   5   1   3  11  17  26 .224 .326 .362 .688   97
  C   B. Didier#    25    39  97   5  17   3   0   1   5   9  11 .175 .257 .237 .494   42
  IF  L. Milbourne# 23    75  91  18  24   1   1   0   6   7   9 .264 .313 .297 .610   75
  OF  W. Howard#    25    64  89  13  19   3   0   2   4   4  14 .213 .247 .315 .562   60
  C   S. Jutze      28    26  56   4  14   1   0   0   4   5   7 .250 .297 .268 .565   63
  PH  M. Easler*    23    15  15   0   1   0   0   0   0   0   5 .067 .067 .067 .133  -62

      Others                  36   4  11   1   0   0   2   5   3 .306 .381 .333 .714  106

      Pitchers               390  26  71  15   4   5  33   6 142 .182 .182 .278 .460   31

      Total                5296 702 1344 218  41 156 648 673 899 .254 .334 .399 .733  109

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      M. Cuellar*   37    34  34  16  19   8   0 242 234  99  85   13   81  107 3.16  110
      L. Dierker    27    33  33   7  12  10   0 224 189  76  72   18   82  150 2.89  120
      D. Wilson     29    33  27   5  12  12   0 205 170  80  70   16  100  112 3.07  113
      D. Roberts*   29    34  30   8  11  11   1 204 216  83  77    6   65   72 3.40  102
      T. Griffin    26    34  17   4  10   6   0 141 132  63  53    9   59   75 3.38  103
      J. Richard    24    23  17   3   6   6   0 127 118  62  53    7   75   83 3.76   92

      K. Forsch     27    63   0   0   9   6  10  93  87  33  28    3   33   44 2.71  128
      D. Giusti     34    61   2   0   6   5  12  95  90  39  34    2   36   49 3.22  108
      F. Scherman*  29    45   0   0   2   4   3  52  56  27  23    4   22   31 3.98   87
      J. Grzenda*   37    31   0   0   2   3   0  37  52  25  24    5   14   21 5.84   59

      Others                   2   0   2   0   0  31  28  14  12    2   16   19 3.48  100

      Total                  162  43  91  71 26 1451 1372 601 531  85  583  763 3.29  105

      *  Throws left

The good news is that just about every player steps right up and performs as positively expected, amply filling every role. Joe Morgan delivers his third straight monster superstar year. Jim Wynn bounces back with another superb season of his own. Forsch is good, and Dierker is terrific.

The only real disappointment is that 25-year-old star John Mayberry unexpectedly finds himself slump-ridden. But even with that he’s a productive hitter, and moreover we have not one but two productive bats backing him up, in Cliff Johnson and Dan Driessen. A semi-disappointment is 23-year-old star Cesar Cedeño’s batting average, just so-so after back-to-back years at .320, but he remains in every other respect a brilliant all-around performer.

We lead the major leagues in team home runs while playing half our games in the Astrodome, a tremendous feat. As measured by OPS+, our offense is the best in baseball. Our pitching staff doesn’t hit that standard, but it comes in as well above average.

Yet somehow the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Our Pythagorean record is 93-69, which itself wouldn’t come close to winning this extraordinarily competitive division, and by underperforming against that by two wins we find ourselves dropping to fourth place. It’s an excruciatingly frustrating year in Houston.

Reds

The defending champs haven’t done much adjustment, but a little. Bobby Tolan and Dan Driessen are gone from the outfield, where Cesar Geronimo is now set to work as the center field backup to a full season of Ken Griffey. Hard-throwing right-hander Clay Kirby joins the starting rotation.

      1974 Cincinnati Reds     Won 99   Lost 63    Finished 1st (tied)

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  T. Perez      32   158 596  85 158  28   2  28  96  61 112 .265 .331 .460 .791  121
  2B  T. Helms      33   137 452  35 127  21   1   6  55  24  26 .281 .315 .372 .687   93
  SS  D. Concepcion 26   160 594  74 167  25   1  14  77  44  79 .281 .332 .397 .730  105
  3B  P. Rose#      33   163 652 108 185  45   7   3  50 106  54 .284 .384 .388 .772  118
  RF  B. Carbo*     26   117 338  47  81  16   2  10  50  67  90 .240 .370 .388 .757  114
  CF  C. Geronimo*  26   150 474  76 133  17   8   7  51  46  96 .281 .342 .395 .736  107
LF-1B B. Watson     28   128 426  57 129  16   3  11  66  52  47 .303 .377 .432 .809  128
 C-OF J. Bench      26   160 621 113 174  38   2  33 116  80  90 .280 .363 .507 .870  143

  OF  K. Griffey*   24   131 389  56 103  14   8   6  32  42  73 .265 .339 .388 .728  105
  OF  D. Hahn       25    93 162  17  39   7   1   2  16  17  18 .241 .308 .333 .641   81
2B-SS E. Crosby*    25    62 137  16  33   4   2   0  12  10  17 .241 .288 .299 .587   66
LF-RF R. Scheinblum 31    57 109   8  18   2   0   0   6  10  10 .165 .235 .183 .419   19
  C   H. King*      30    63  86  10  16   3   0   3  12  15  23 .186 .304 .326 .630   77
  UT  R. McKinney   27    61  82   8  18   4   1   1  12  11  17 .220 .309 .329 .638   80
  C   M. Ryan       32    28  49   3   7   1   0   0   2   6  20 .143 .232 .163 .395   13
1B-LF F. Tepedino*  26    26  28   2   6   1   0   0   3   1   2 .214 .233 .250 .483   36

      Others                  33   3   8   1   0   1   5   2   5 .242 .278 .364 .641   80

      Pitchers               403  31  63   5   0   1  28  19 134 .156 .178 .176 .354    0

      Total                5631 749 1465 248  38 126 689 613 913 .260 .330 .385 .715  101

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      R. Grimsley*  24    36  35  13  18  11   0 251 236 101  88   17   68  151 3.16  111
      D. Gullett*   23    36  35  10  17  11   0 243 201  93  82   22   88  183 3.04  115
      C. Kirby      26    32  31   6  11   8   0 208 187  86  75   13   82  145 3.25  108
      R. Cleveland  26    27  18   5   9   8   0 147 149  75  63   10   48   77 3.86   91
      J. Bibby      29    25  20   3  10   7   0 132 123  69  64    7   58   93 4.36   80
      R. Reed       31    23  11   1   6   3   0  93  80  32  28    4   19   42 2.71  129
      R. Nelson     30    12   8   0   3   3   1  57  43  22  20    4   23   30 3.16  111

      P. Borbon     27    66   0   0   8   5  12 111 104  42  39    9   26   43 3.16  111
      C. Carroll    33    56   1   0  11   4   6  91  85  23  21    3   27   42 2.08  169
      T. Hall*      26    40   1   0   3   1   1  64  54  32  29    9   30   48 4.08   86
      R. Eastwick   23    17   2   0   1   2   2  40  38  20  16    3   14   27 3.60   97
      D. Baney      27     7   0   0   1   0   0  14  17   9   8    1    6    4 5.14   68

      Others                   1   0   1   0   0  14  14  10   8    2    7    7 5.14   68

      Total                  163  38  99  63 22 1465 1331 614 541 104  496  892 3.32  105

      *  Throws left

Geronimo hits surprisingly well, and over the course of the season noses ahead of Griffey in center field. But that’s largely it for surprises. As with the Astros, ours is a year in which just about every player comes through with a nice, solid performance.

And unlike the Astros, our various smoothly-functioning parts slide together with maximum efficiency. Moreover, keeping the everything-coming-up-roses theme going, we exceed our Pythagorean projection by two wins, delivering a 99-63 regulation-season record.

That results in a flat-footed tie with Atlanta for the top spot in the NL West. We won’t venture a guess as to which team would emerge victorious in the one-game playoff, but it might be worth noting that the Braves would bring a seven-win Pythagorean advantage to the showdown.

Next time

Is Atlanta for real? How will Houston regroup? And can anything derail the Big Red Machine?

              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
 1974    88   74  3    661  563    81   81  4    653  632    98   64  2    776  631

              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
 1974    99   63 1T    707  528    91   71  4    702  601    99   63 1T    749  614

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. Steve Treder said...

    “Question for Steve re: the NL West race.

    How’d the Dodgers finish up? In real-life, Los Angeles was 102-60, four games ahead of the Reds. Sure, the loss of Wynn would have hurt. But then as I hinted at earlier, the Dodgers may not have even made such a trade had they known lefty Tommy John would be out for the year on July 17th.”

    In my scenario, I’d think it most likely that the Dodgers, unable to get Wynn, would have instead traded Osteen to the Orioles for Merv Rettenmund.  Because the Orioles were unable to get Ross Grimsley from our Reds, and would take Osteen as their consolation southpaw starter.

    Rettenmund presented a similar general skillset to Wynn’s, though obviously without Wynn’s exceptional power.  And Rettenmund had a much better arm.  I think Al Campanis would have done that.  I would have.

    If we assume that, then the Dodgers would have sufferred just about this much with Rettenmund in CF in 1974 in place of Wynn:  6 wins.  I estimate that by comparing Wynn’s 1974 Fangraphs WAR of 8.1 in 656 PAs with Rettenmund’s 0.7 in 252 PAs (or 1.8 projected to 656 PAs).

    That puts the Dodgers at about 96-66, in 3rd place.

  2. Philip said...

    “Rettenmund presented a similar general skillset to Wynn’s, though obviously without Wynn’s exceptional power.  And Rettenmund had a much better arm.  I think Al Campanis would have done that.  I would have.”

    Osteen for Rettenmund. That’s certainly reasonable, knowing you’d have Doug Rau to replace Osteen in the rotation.

    The only quibble I’d have with that is it appears the two deals (Marshall/Wynn) were linked and that it was so because the Dodgers were looking for a slugger as well as a reliever.

    The Dodgers apparently went forward with the Davis deal (who was unhappy in Los Angeles, had just gotten a divorce and OK’d it after the Expos’ Jim Fanning agreed to meet his contract demands) only after knowing the Wynn deal could be completed. Campanis had been concerned with Jim Brewer’s back problems and Marshall had let known his desire to be traded out of Montreal to a team with better defensive support.

    So I think the question becomes not one of would you trade Osteen for Rettenmund but would you essentially trade Davis and Osteen for Marshall and Rettenmund if you were looking for both a solid reliever and a power hitter?

    According to the (Middletown) Daily Sentinel, Al Campanis had been trying to get Wynn for three years, after a conversation with the Houston slugger on a Palm Springs golf course in which Wynn said he wished he could be playing for an organization like the Dodgers.

    “I couldn’t believe it,” Campanis told the UPI in May 1974. “He hit one 70 yards farther than mine and I thought I had a pretty good drive. I knew he could hit a baseball, but this was plain ridiculous. The drive he hit that day merely added to my conviction that here was a little guy with much more power than a lot of the big ones.”

    The Mets apparently were also interested in acquiring Wynn but refused to part with pitcher George Stone.

    I suppose it comes down to the Dodgers having to decide what was their greater need:

    * acquiring a top reliever as an insurance policy for Jim Brewer’s back problems

    OR

    * acquiring a power hitter after the club hit only 110 HRs in 1973 compared to the (real-life/alternate) Astros (134/150), Braves (206/233) and Reds (137/117).

    Personally, for the Dodgers perspective I’d have a greater interest in Smith if the Red Sox didn’t ask for too much. And from the Red Sox standpoint in 1973, I’d much rather go after Messersmith than Wise.

    In fact, the Dodgers actually might have lost more ground than you speculated as the three clubs in the study won 22 more games than they did in real-life.

    That’s probably worth about one extra win each for the clubs against the Dodgers, which brings Los Angeles down to 99 before even accounting for the difference between Wynn and a replacement for him in center field.

    But, again, the Rettenmund scenario is certainly a reasonable one.

    But that also creates more intrigue. If the Dodgers don’t make a deal to acquire Smith and the Red Sox turn down the Cardinals offer as inadequate (no Carbo), then perhaps Boston ups the ante to Cleveland.

    So instead of Reggie Smith and Ken Tatum being traded to St. Louis for Rick Wise and Bernie Carbo, Boston sends Smith and picher Ken Tatum to Cleveland for Gaylord Perry.

    The Lakeland Ledger, 10/24/73, had Pattin going to Cleveland in a package deal for Perry. I suspect the offer to the Indians for Perry might have included outfielder Ben Oglivie along with Pattin (who the Red Sox were disappointed in).

    (The Indians were indeed after an outfielder; they eventually acquired George Hendrick from the A’s in March 1974.)

    When Cleveland turned the Red Sox down, Oglivie was then sent to Detroit for backup infielder Dick McAuliffe and Pattin to KC for Dick Drago. Two days later the Smith deal with St. Louis was finalized.

    Trying to move Smith and finding St. Louis coming up short, the Red Sox could have simply increased their offer to the Indians to get it done.

    So instead of Boston having Wise and Carbo in 1974, they’d have Perry (21-13, 2.52 w/ Cle) and Oglivie. And a division title.

    (Or, granted, might the Yankees surprisingly squeak in, thus possibly preserving Bill Virdon’s job for the whole 1975 season?)

    Either way, the O’s don’t hang onto first. Osteen in 1974 just wasn’t as effective for Baltimore as Grimsley would have been.

    And Perry certainly makes the difference in 1977, as the Red Sox win the AL East.

  3. gdc said...

    Strange how you have all those Atlanta starters with multiple relief appearances…lot of extra inning games?  Of course if P. Niekro pitches every 4th and you shuffle the others to pitch an average of every fifth there might be some guys expecting a long stretch when they will slip an extra day and be available in relief.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    “Strange how you have all those Atlanta starters with multiple relief appearances…lot of extra inning games?”

    It’s strange from the modern vantage point, but that’s the way things were done in those days.

    Niekro in 1974 actually had, as presented here, 39 starts and 2 relief appearances.  Capra actually had, as presented here, 27 starts and 12 relief appearances.  Norman actually had, as presented here, 26 starts adn 9 relief appearances.  The modern lockstep regular rotation and strict starter/reliever segregation was yet to be developed.

  5. Paul G. said...

    As to the playoff winner, both teams would be going all out so neither would be able to line-up their staffs for the post season.  Atlanta’s starting pitching is so deep that they should have a good to very good pitcher on the mound regardless.  Cincinnati might be stuck with a less than ideal option.  How many games would there have been between the end of the regularly scheduled season and the playoff?

  6. Steve Treder said...

    “How many games would there have been between the end of the regularly scheduled season and the playoff?”

    The regular season ended on Wednesday, Oct. 2.  The NLCS began on Saturday, Oct. 5.  No time for anything more than a single-game divisional playoff.

  7. Paul G. said...

    As expected.  So its either send out the guy on his normal rest or start someone on short rest and hope he’s better.

    What would make this all the more awesome is the Reds and Braves finished the season by facing each other in a two game set in Atlanta.  As an added bonus, Houston played Cincinnati and then Atlanta in its two series before finale, letting our third team attempt to play spoiler.

  8. Philip said...

    ‘‘Dec., 1973: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder-first baseman Dan Driessen to the Houston Astros for outfielder Cesar Geronimo.’‘

    Certainly feasible. Tony Perez, at 32, was still going strong and the Reds had a top notch farm system in the 70s. The Reds eventually gave Driessen the first base job in 1977 after they traded Perez and Will McEnaney to the Expos for Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray.

    Cincinnati was in need of a left-handed starter to replace Don Gullett, who signed with the Yankees as a free agent. But in this alternate version of history with Grimsley, perhaps the situation isn’t as dire. (Although I suspect G.M. Steve Treder and about 99% of Cincinnati fans would have simply signed Gullett and made it all mute.)

    Still, come 1977 the Reds could either keep Perez around for several more years or have young Dave Revering (who spent 3 years at Indianapolis waiting for a chance) take over.

    In Steve’s ahistorical account, Pete Rose was moved to third base earlier than he actually wise (which was 1975). So there’s no need for this possible trade that the Reds turned down in December 1974.

    The Yankees were after Perez, after Chris Chambliss put up unimpressive numbers in his first year in New York: 243/282/343 with 6 homeruns in 400 ABs.

    What was nearly incomprehensible was how they intended to ‘‘solve’’ the problem.

    They were going to trade Roy White to the Expos to acquire Bob Bailey and then ship both Bob Bailey and Graig Nettles to Cincinnati for Perez.

    Unfortunately, for Dodgers, Red Sox and Orioles, the Reds turned down the Yankees’ offer saying, “Sure, we’re looking for a third baseman but the only one we’d trade Perez straight up for is Sal Bando and he’s not available.” (Beaver County Times – Dec 7, 1974)

    (Interesting to note that at the same winter meetings, the Yankees offered White to the Expos for either Mike Torrez or Steve Renko. And the Phillies turned down Charlie Finley’s offer of Reggie Jackson for Mike Schmidt and Dave Cash while the Orioles turned down an offer of Jackson for Ross Grimsley and Bobby Grich.)

    Question for Steve re: the NL West race.

    How’d the Dodgers finish up? In real-life, Los Angeles was 102-60, four games ahead of the Reds. Sure, the loss of Wynn would have hurt. But then as I hinted at earlier, the Dodgers may not have even made such a trade had they known lefty Tommy John would be out for the year on July 17th.

    Those replacing John in the Dodgers rotation simply did not do an adequate job. Los Angeles was 3-4 in Al Downing’s starts after TJ’s injury and 3-6 in games started by Geoff Zahn. (The Dodgers had been 17-5 in TJ’s 22 starts).

    So, if the Astros turn down the Dodgers’ offer of Osteen for Wynn, what might Al Campanis do? Perhaps nothing.

    On December 5, 1973, the Dodgers had traded center fielder Willie Davis to the Expos for reliever Mike Marshall. The next day they clinched the NL West by trading Osteen and a minor league pitcher to Houston for Wynn. The deals weren’t a coincidence.

    According to the Montreal Gazette (12/3/73), Gene Mauch said that the Dodgers wanted to make certain they were covered in CF before trading away Davis and he points out that a deal looked set for Wynn.

    Steve’s alternate timeline does have Marshall on the Expos in 1974. But with Wynn not available, would the Dodgers have really parted with Davis?

    Davis hit 295/322/427 with 25 SB and 12 HRs, scoring 86 runs and driving in 89 with Montreal. he was obviously far from finished and could have given the Dodgers a decent year.

    Keeping Davis and Osteen means perhaps Doug Rau starts the season in the bullpen, along with Jim Brewer, Charlie Hough and Al Downing (who had actually lost his spot in the rotation to Rau).

    They’d have had the same four-man rotation as 1973: Don Sutton, Andy Messersmith, Claude Osteen and Tommy John. When John gets hurt, perhaps it’s Rau who takes his spot (winning a few games that Downing and Zahn lost).

    The other option is that Osteen could still be shopped around for another center fielder. The 33-year old lefty was 16-11, with 12 CG in 33 starts and an ERA of 3.30 (stats that were important at the time).

    So who else might have been available?

    On December 7, 1973, the Phillies sold outfielder Cesar Tovar to the Rangers. Surely, if the Dodgers still make the trade for Marshall they could have picked up Tovar. His 74 numbers: 292/354/377 with only 4 HRs.

  9. Philip said...

    OR….

    That dang Butterfly Effect strikes again.

    Since Steve has the Reds keeping Bernie Carbo, the Cardinals haven’t acquired him. So they can turn around and trade him and Rick Wise to the Red Sox on October 26, 1973 for Reggie Smith and pitcher Ken Tatum.

    If the Dodgers, with excess starting pitching, really wanted to acquire an outfielder to replacing the aging 3-Dog, might they have called up the Red Sox and offered Osteen and say reserve infielders Lee Lacy and Rick Auerbach for Smith? Smith’s 1974 numbers with StL: 309/389/528 with 23 HRs and 100 RBIs. But Osteen is 6 years older than Wise and is a lefty (keeping in mind Fenway Park). Do the Dodgers have any right-handed starting pitchers comparable to Wise in terms of age and 1973 stats (16-12, 14 CG in 34 GS, 3.37 ERA)? Yes: Don Sutton and Andy Messersmith.

    In 1973, Sutton was the ace of the staff, going 18-10, 14 CG in 33 GS, with a 2.43 ERA. But Messermith, the 1974 Cy Young winner, went 14-10 in 1973, 10 CG in 33 GS and a 2.70 ERA.

    If the Dodgers pulled the trigger on a Messersmith/Lacy/Auerbach deal to Boston after acquiring Marshall for Davis, they’d then have Smith in CF in 1974 instead of Wynn. And a rotation of Sutton, John, Osteen and Rau for 1974, with Downing and Zahn filling in for TJ (just as they actually did) when John gets hurt. The Dodgers farm system was strong enough to replace Lacy and Auerbach (DeJesus, Royster).

    Too much to the Red Sox? Well, certainly the Royals would have gladly taken Claude Osteen for Lou Piniella. All the Yankees offered was 37-year old Lindy McDaniel. The Yankees also purchased Elliott Maddox from the Rangers, certainly a deal Los Angeles could have done, too.

    But the Dodgers were looking for a powerful left-handed bat (Reggie Smith was a switch-hitter, so even better) who could replace Davis, thus allowing them to trade for Mike Marshall.

    The Red Sox had been looking for a strong right-handed starter. Their number one target was apparently Gaylord Perry, but they couldn’t swing a deal with the Indians and instead got Cleveland (Reggie, that is) in another deal with St. Louis and also purchased Juan Marichal’s contract.

    (Marty Pattin was to go to Cleveland in a package deal for Gaylord Perry but Boston got turned down and therefore shipped Pattin off to KC for Dick Drago.)

    The Expos were being patient; it was the Dodgers who were after Marshall (though Pittsburgh also expressed interest).

    Though the Wynn deal was done in December, talks almost always start weeks or months ahead of time. With the Astros clearly not interested in either Osteen nor in trading Wynn, Campanis would have been looking earlier and elsewhere for a replacement for Davis. And the Red Sox had made it clear Smith was available as the slugger had asked for a trade.

  10. Philip said...

    “The regular season ended on Wednesday, Oct. 2.  The NLCS began on Saturday, Oct. 5.  No time for anything more than a single-game divisional playoff.”

    The first NL division playoff game was in 1980 (Hou at LA). Under Steve’s ahistorical account of 1974, it then happens six years earlier and with different clubs.

    Don’t have a Blue Book for that year, but I assume a coin toss would have determined location and the game almost certainly would have been played on October 3, as neither club had any makeup games to play.

    If the game was played in Atlanta, probably a day game, it would have been a comfortable 64 degrees with only a slight breeze averaging 4 knots. At Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati it would have been about 57 at game time with a breeze of about 3 knots. No rain worries in either city.

    The Pirates would have hosted the winner for games on Saturday and Sunday, October 5 and 6th, before the best of three LCS changed locations for all remaining games of the series. The skies would have been fine in either Atlanta or Cincinnati for the rest of the LCS.

    However, if Steve’s roster changes allowed the Cardinals to make up their game and a half deficit and win the NL East outright, St. Louis had rain/drizzle and thunderstorms on October 5, but apparently not enough precipitation to cause a delay. And Busch Stadium had Astroturf.

  11. Paul G. said...

    Tom Hill: Your comment and Steve’s reply were submitted to Part 6.  This is Part 7.  You are looking in the wrong place.

  12. Philip said...

    ‘‘before the best of three LCS changed locations for all remaining games of the series.’‘

    Meant to say “best of five”

    Steve, got to thinking again about the Wtnn/Osteen/ Rettenmund….

    As you said, exchanging Wynn for Rettenmund might be worth 6 wins, bringing the Dodgers down to 96.

    You also calculated Atlanta, Cincinnati and Houston winning 22 more games (combined) that their actual record. As I said, some of those wins would have been at the expense of the Dodgers, so naturally Los Angeles would have won fewer games even before taking into account not having Jimmy Wynn. Probably 3 games there. That would then have the Dodgers down to 93 wins.

    On the other hand, those 22 extra wins that the Braves, Reds and Astros isn’t a simple exchange of taking the other 9 NL teams down a total of 22 wins. Almost certainly, the extra losses for the other 9 teams combined will ***exceed*** 22. The difference would be picked up by some of the clubs not too adversely effected, like the Dodgers and perhaps the Pirates, and cushion the impact of the Atl-Cin-Hou improvement against them in head-to-head matchups.

    For example, if the negated trades really hit the Mets hard, they would drop not only a couple extra games against Atl-Cin-Hou, but also lose an extra game to mayube the Dodgers, Pirates, etc.

    I know some people may say it evens out, but it truly doesn’t. First, there could be a club or two who still score and give up the same amount of runs. On the face of it, that might make one assume they’d therefore have the same record. But if that club is San Francisco or San Diego, they’re playing 54 games against three division foes now stronger than before. That actually would adversely impact their run production and pitching and should cause them to score less, give up more runs, and win less often.

    Another team, perhaps the Mets, might be so adversely impacted that they actually lose extra games not only to Atl-Cin-Hou but to other NL clubs as well.

    One could use TPW or WAR to calculate adjusted wins totals of the other nine clubs, keeping in mind the unbalanced schedule. But it, of course, can be quite time consuming.

  13. Philip said...

    Example:
    Using TPW…

    AL 1976
    Reggie Jackson had a +3.5 TPW for Baltimore. Taking away 3.5 wins from the Orioles 88 gets them down to 84.5.

    But those 3.5 wins also have to go somewhere. Simply adjusting for the unbalanced schedule would give an extra 0.39 win to each of the other 5 ALE clubs and an extra 0.26 win to each of the 6 ALW clubs. [An even more accurate assignment would look at either an opponent’s predicable winning percentage against that of the adjusted O’s or at their actual winning percentage vs. the O’s that year.]

    If one allots Reggie Jackson’s playing time in Oakland to be that of Don Baylor’s, then the A’s get 4.1 extra wins. That in turn costs Baltimore 0.31 wins (and each other ALE club). The ALW clubs take a 0.46 win hit (CWS take a 0.44 hit).

    So removing Jackson from the Orioles doesn’t just cost them 3.5 wins, it also costs them 0.31 wins in head-to-head vs Oakland, making that a total of 3.81 wins.

    Adjustments would then be made in a similar fashion for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez and Ken Holtzman switching clubs. In Holtzman’s case, this has a ripple effect on the huge mid-season Orioles/Yankees trade.

    One also needs to adjust playing time for some players who would pick up the slack if a team didn’t have enough GS for pitchers, PAs for shortstops, etc. One could also use Bill James MLE formula to promote minor leaguers or use future major league experience or a even blend of the two.

    Back to Rettenmund and Wynn in 1974.

    If TPW was used instead of WAR, Wynn was +4.1 in 1974 in 656 PAs. Rettenmund had a TPW of -0.4 in 252 PA.

    If Rettenmund is assigned all of Wynn’s playing time that pro-rates out to a -1.0. The difference for the Dodgers would be -5 wins. (Steve had a -6 win difference for the Dodgers using WAR as the basis for calculating the difference)

    But it’s also quite possible that Joe Ferguson gains some of that playing time. Especially as Merv’s hitting dropped from 259/349/438 on June 1st to 216/337/332 by the end of the season – with no home runs since May 28th. (Ferguson was hitting 281/405/438 on June 1st and 264/389/447 on July 2nd). Would Walt Alston really have kept playing Rettenmund if Merv wasn’t even hitting his weight? Very unlikely.

    Moving Crawford to CF (or, less likely, Buckner – even before his ankle and knee problems) for a few two dozen extra games after the All-Star break, allows Ferguson to play a corner outfield position (he did start 28 games in RF that year – and who hasn’t seen that film of him jumping in front of Wynn to catch a fly ball and throw out Sal Bando on a perfect throw to the plate in the World Series?)

    Rettenmund still comes in games later as a defensive replacement. But if Ferguson picks up just 100 extra PA at the expense of Rettenmund, that changes his TPW from +1.8 to a 2.2 and changes Rettenmund from -1.0 to -0.9. That gains the Dodgers an extra 0.5 wins.

    But, that’s still not enough to make up the deficit against Steve’s alternate Braves or Reds.

    However, if the Dodgers had swung a deal that sent Andy Messersmith to Boston for Reggie Smith, tossing in Lee Lacy, Rich Auerbach or Jerry Roysters, losing Messersmith would have cost them 3.9 wins.

    Smith was a 3.3 in 598 PA; that pro-rates out to 3.6 with all of Wynn’s playing time. That’s a difference of -0.5 in CF.

    On the mound, Osteen would have replaced Messersmith. In 21 starts and 131 1/3 IP (and 2 relief appearances that amounted to 7 IP), Osteen had a -0.2 TPW. (for simplicity’s sake let’s ignore the two starts with St. Louis where got hammered and only pitched 5 2/3 in GS and 17 IP in relief).

    Messersmith made 39 starts for the Dodgers. Osteen had made 33 in 1973. So there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t match that. Pro-rating the -0.2 TPW to 33 GS gives us -0.3.

    Let’s give Geoff Zahn the shortfall of the 6 GS; he had a TPW of 1.3 in 10 GS (63 1/3 IP; 1.85 ERA) and 11 in relief (16 1/3; 2.76 ERA).

    Ignoring that Zahn was a better starter than reliever, let’s use his TPW of 1.3 as the basis before adjusting for IP. We’ll assume he has an extra 40 IP in those 6 extra starts, giving him a total of 119 2/3. The adjusted TPW becomes a +2.0.

    There would also be some minor bullpen time to adjust, Osteen (217 IP) and Zahn (extra 40 IP) not going quite as deep as Messersmith (292 1/3 IP), although Osteen probably picks up more IP as he won’t be pulled as often for a PH as he was with the real-life Astros (he also threw 237 in 1973, so he’s also capable of doing it).

  14. Philip said...

    Considering the Dodgers bullpen was excellent (and not just Mike Marshall), we’d could expect to slightly add to their existing positive TPW.

    But even if not:

    -4.1 Never acquiring Wynn
    -3.9 Trading away Messersmith
    -0.3 Keeping Osteen, who takes Messermith’s spot
    +0.7 Six extra GS for Zahn
    +3.6 Acquiring Smith
    ——
    -4.0

    That would give the Dodgers 98 wins instead of 102.

    (Given the Dodgers farm system depth, for simplicity I’m assuming the loss of Lacy or Auerbach or Royster won’t change things)

    That’s better than Steve’s proposed Rettenmund deal (which is -5 wins using TPW for same-method comparison).

    [And, without number-crunching, I suspect also better than keeping Willie Davis.]

    Perhaps that extra bullpen time for Jim Brewer before he goes on the DL in July makes the margin even closer.

    Another thing is that the Dodgers wrapped up the division on October first with a win in the 2nd of a three-game season-ending series at the Astrodome, Don Sutton beating J.R. Richard. The Dodgers won the rubber match too.

    I wonder what the rules would have been then for settling a three-way tie?

    The Dodgers will look better in 1975 with Smith instead of Wynn in the outfield, but the loss of Messersmith stings now that TJ is hurt. They also won’t have Wynn (and perhaps Lacy and Royster) to offer to Atlanta for Dusty Baker when the season ends (which Steve’s Braves would wisely have turned down anyway).

    As spring training approaches for 1976, the Dodgers anticipate an outfield (l to r) of Buckner, Smith and Crawford. When Lopes gets hurt in spring training, the Dodgers regret having traded AAA second baseman Bob Randall to the Twins for Danny Walton two days before Christmas.

    If this Dodgers team reacts the same way as they did in real-life then they trade Crawford to St. Louis for Ted Sizemore on March 2nd, resulting in an outfield of Buckner-Smith-Hale (instead of the real-life one of Buckner-Baker-Hale/Ferguson).

    But come June 15, they won’t be trading Joe Ferguson for Reggie Smith. Thus, they’ll probably be keeping Ferguson for the remainder of the 1976 season. They could still end up making the Buckner/DeJesus for Monday trade, but might take a second look at the potential Buckner/Russell for Otis/Patek deal that was nearly done. Either way, the Dodgers don’t look to be as strong in 1977, unless they put together a different package for the Cubs.

    Rumors were that Chicago wanted DeJesus, Doug Rau and Lee Lacy, and that the Dodgers balked when the Cubs wanted another pitcher as well). Since Buckner initially wasn’t going to be traded to acquire Monday, but likely still would be moved because of his ankle issues, then the Dodgers might have caved to the Cubs demands and then made the deal with KC.

    This gives LA in 1977 an infield of Cey-Patek-Lopes-Garvey with an outfield of Otis-Monday-Smith.

    The Butterly Effect of a Smith/Messersmith deal in the fall of 1973 is that the Red Sox, of course, go on to win the 1975 World Series in 6 games. Owner Tom Yawkey then has no qualms of throwing plenty of money at Messersmith. There’s also no

    The Orioles, having failed to acquire Grimsley from the Reds and not having Mike Cuellar (he’s in Houston), ink lefty Dave McNally to a reasonable contract extension. He’s never traded to Montreal for Mike Torrez and Ken Singleton.

    Therefore, there’s no Messersmith/McNally arbitration cases in the fall of 1975 to kick-start free agency.

  15. Philip said...

    No early free agency means the A’s and Orioles don’t exchange free-agents to be (Jackson/Baylor).

    The O’s are weaker offensively in 1976 and beyond without Singleton. The A’s stay together.

    The Yankees can’t even acquire Doyle Alexander mid-season in 1976, since they don’t have Holtzman to make that block-buster trade, although the teams still exchange back-up catchers (and Scott McGregor later comes up as a Yankee).

    The Red Sox, feeling generous after their victory parade, make that trade with the Angels and take Mickey Scott for Roger Moret. (Steve’s Braves won’t looking for a left-handed reliever for 1976 and they don’t have Tom House to give to Boston anyway)

    The Angels then swing the deal (they thought they had all set in place in reality) with Milwaukee, sending Moret and Mickey Rivers to the Brewers for Boomer Scott.

    The Angels then break off talks with Gabe Paul about Bobby Bonds and no longer have Rivers to send to New York anyway. Unable to land Figgy to replace Doc, the Yankees can’t acquire Willie Randolph from Pittsburgh, who resume talks with Minnesota, Los Angeles and Kansas City. The Yankees first season back in their remodeled stadium is a disappointing one.

    World Champion Rico Petrocelli retires after safely hitting in all six World Series games.

    After the Red Sox acquire Ferguson Jenkins from Texas, they get a surprise call from Charlie Finley inquiring about the pitcher and take him up on his one-on-one offer of Sal Bando.

    With Torrez still in Montreal, he’s not later pitching to Bucky ******* Dent in any 1978 ALE playoff game. And without Reggie, the Yankees finish well behind Boston anyway in 1977 and 1978. (Not to mention that Dent and Goose Gossage are still in Chicago).

    Billy Martin still has a huge argument with Reggie on a nationally televised game on June 18, 1977, only it occurs at Comiskey Park while Martin’s managing the visiting A’s.

    Bottom-line? With the supposed Babe Ruth curse broken with Fisk’s famous shot clanging off the left field foul pole, the Red Sox roll off four straight championships.

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