The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros and Reds (Part 8:  1974-75)

Our imaginary journey has completed seven seasons:

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/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-7-1973-74/

              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

Our Braves haven’t always been good, but at their best they’ve been extremely good. Meanwhile our Reds have been (perhaps surprisingly) excellent, and our deeply-talented Astros have encountered frustration two years in a row.

The 1974-75 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Oct. 24, 1974: The Houston Astros purchased outfielder Jose Cruz from the St. Louis Cardinals.

We’ve puzzled over this St. Louis course of action:

The superbly all-around-talented Cruz had been an enigma: After breaking in wonderfully in mid-1971 and grabbing the starting center field job, he spent the next two seasons failing to hit well, and by 1974 he was no longer a first-stringer. But in the utility role in ’74, Cruz perked up and performed splendidly, his bat productive again.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea for the Cardinals to be dealing Cruz at this point. What was strange was the notion of just selling him for nominal cash, and moreover doing so in October, at the very outset of the trading season. If they were going to put Cruz on the market, why not shop him around, and find the best deal out there? Cruz was just 27, and if perhaps he wasn’t going to become the star it had seemed he would, he was certainly still looking like a highly useful asset. It’s inconceivable that this marginal offer from the Astros was the best the Cardinals could have yielded for this ballplayer.

Our Astros will just say, “Thank you.”

Oct. 25, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Roger Nelson to the Chicago White Sox.

After two frustratingly sore-armed years in Cincinnati, it’s time to go in a different direction.

Feb. 10, 1975: The Houston Astros signed pitcher Wayne Granger as a free agent.

He isn’t what he once was, but he’s worth a shot at a bullpen job.

April, 1975: The Atlanta Braves released second baseman Dave Johnson.

In just two seasons with Atlanta, Johnson has given us quite a ride. Acquired with the reputation as a guy with a pretty-good bat and an outstanding glove (three Gold Gloves, in fact), he stunned everyone by suddenly clouting 43 home runs in 1973. However, along with the newfound power was a newfound layer of girth around Johnson’s midsection. His fielding was negatively impacted, as Johnson led major league second basemen with 30 errors in ’73, about three times his normal figure.

In 1974 Johnson was yet chunkier. His hitting came back to earth, but his defense deteriorated further still, to such an extent that the actual Braves shifted him to first base in midseason. Our Braves, with Joe Torre at first, didn’t have that opening, and had to suffer with Johnson’s defensive limitations at second.

Clearly we need to do something, and have spent the offseason avidly shopping him around, but finding no takers. In spring training of ’75 he’s still carrying the extra weight, and we’re, well, fed up too. Johnson is interested in negotiating a deal to go play in Japan, and we’ll release him to that endeavor.

(The only difference between this transaction and reality is that the actual Braves waited until the first week of the regular season to release Johnson. We’ll cut him loose before Opening Day.)

The 1974-75 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 22, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Pat Osburn to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielder John Vukovich.

We have no interest in the profoundly weak-hitting Vukovich.

Nov. 2, 1974: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Hank Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Dave May and a player to be named later. (On Dec. 2, 1974, the Brewers sent pitcher Roger Alexander to the Braves, completing the deal.)

This transaction was apparently inspired by the 1972 Willie Mays deal between the Giants and Mets, in which San Francisco sent its aging and expensive demigod back “home” to New York to finish his career in front of the fans who’d cheered for him at the beginning.

With Aaron having achieved the breaking of Babe Ruth’s career home run record, the real-life Braves—who’d finished as high as second place just once in their nine years in Atlanta, and even with Aaron on board were poorly-attended—accepted this rather modest offer from the Brewers to let Hammerin’ Hank and his $240,000 annual salary take a couple of victory-lap seasons for Bud Selig in Milwaukee. (The Braves franchise would be sold a little over a year later.)

But our Braves have performed significantly better on the field than those Braves, indeed tying for the division championship in 1974. We don’t know what our attendance would be, but there’s no doubt it would be better than that of the actual team. We aren’t in the mode of jettisoning our marquee name. We want the great Aaron to complete his wondrous career as a Brave.

Nov. 8, 1974: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Danny Frisella to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Clarence Gaston.

We don’t have Frisella, and don’t want Gaston.

Dec. 3, 1974: The Atlanta Braves traded a player to be named later and cash to the Chicago White Sox for first baseman Dick Allen. (On May 15, 1975, the Braves sent catcher Jim Essian to the White Sox, completing the deal.)

This wasn’t exactly acquiring Allen, of course. It was acquiring the rights to attempt to persuade him to un-retire. Our Braves will decide that we don’t need the aggravation.

Dec. 3, 1974: The Houston Astros traded first baseman Lee May and outfielder Jay Schlueter to the Baltimore Orioles for infielder-outfielder Enos Cabell and second baseman Rob Andrews.

Our Astros never acquired May. Presumably it would be the Cardinals contemplating this Baltimore offer.

April 6, 1975: The Atlanta Braves sold pitcher Joe Niekro to the Houston Astros for $35,000 cash.

That isn’t chump change in 1975 dollars, but the younger Niekro has settled in nicely in Atlanta, and our Braves aren’t selling.

The 1974-75 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Oct. 27, 1974: The Atlanta Braves traded first baseman Joe Torre to the New York Mets for pitchers Ray Sadecki and Tommy Moore.

Actually it was the Cardinals making this deal with the Mets. We’ve loved Torre, but he’s no longer an elite hitter. And we need to make room at first base, because with the over-40 Hank Aaron still in the picture we’ll need to be letting him play first now. We’ll take the Mets’ offer.

Oct. 29, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Don Hahn to the New York Mets for infielder-outfielder Ken Boswell.

Actually the Mets traded Boswell to the Astros for outfielder Bob Gallagher. Hahn is better than Gallagher.

Nov. 2, 1974: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitchers Ron Reed and Pat Osburn and outfielder-first baseman Roger Freed to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Dave May and pitcher Ed Sprague.

The Brewers acquired Aaron not just to be a drawing card, but also to serve as their designated hitter, a spot which had been a problem for them in ’74. In our scenario, frustrated in that attempt, Milwaukee will expend May and a pitcher to get a better pitcher (as well as a pitching prospect we know they like) along with Freed, who’s defensively challenged but blasted 49 Triple-A home runs in fewer than 800 at-bats in 1973-74. That’s an excellent DH candidate.

Our Reds will accommodate them, since (a) we don’t have room for Freed, (b) Reed isn’t a major factor in our pitching plans, and (c) though May appears no longer up to the task as an everyday center fielder, has a skill set that could be handy coming off our bench.

Dec. 3, 1974: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Rusty Staub and pitchers Dave Roberts and Tom Griffin to the Detroit Tigers for pitchers Mickey Lolich and Woodie Fryman.

We know that the Tigers are open to the concept of a Lolich-for-Staub swap, since in actuality they would undertake just that with the Mets in December of 1975. And we also know they like Roberts, since they would acquire him from Houston that same month.

It makes sense for our Astros to move up the timeline by a year. Staub hasn’t hit with his old authority for the past couple of years, and we don’t like the idea of him attempting to cover our Astroturfed right field as he moves into his 30s. Moving him opens up the position for Dan Driessen.

Here we allow the rebuilding Tigers to get a lot younger on the mound, plus Staub’s bat. In exchange we get the two veteran southpaws, as in our frustration over coming up short in both 1973 and ’74, we’re going all in on win-now mode.

And, in any case, won’t the wide-load Lolich be quite the sight in his skin-tight rainbow-striped polyester doubleknit Astros uni?

March 31, 1975: In a three-club deal, the Atlanta Braves sent catcher Bob Stinson to the Kansas City Royals. The Royals sent a player to be named later to the Montreal Expos, and the Expos sent catcher Bill Plummer to the Braves. (On Dec. 22, 1975, the Royals sent infielder Rodney Scott to the Expos, completing the deal.)

In real life, Montreal traded Stinson to the Royals for PTBNL Scott. In our scenario, we’re assuming the Expos had Plummer on their roster instead of Stinson. Our Braves see the light-hitting Plummer’s defensive superiority as a better fit for our needs.

March, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Dave May to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder-first baseman Mike Lum.

Lum’s capability of handling first base as well as the outfield makes him a better fit for our Reds than May, while our Braves prefer May’s bat.

March, 1975: The Houston Astros sold outfielder Ed Armbrister to the Cincinnati Reds.

March, 1975: The Houston Astros sold pitcher Fred Scherman to the Montreal Expos.

March, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds sold pitcher Ed Sprague to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Applying finishing roster touches.

March, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Roric Harrison to the Cleveland Indians for infielder Rob Belloir and cash.

Actually the Indians would include Belloir as part of the package to acquire Harrison from Atlanta later in the spring of ’75. Our Braves don’t have a spot for Harrison on the Opening Day staff, so will take the Triple-A shortstop now.

The 1975 season: Actual deals we will make

April 9, 1975: The Houston Astros purchased infielder Jerry DaVanon from the Cleveland Indians.

As did the actual Astros, we’ll park this journeyman in Triple-A as injury insurance.

June 25, 1975: The Houston Astros traded outfielder Mike Easler to the St. Louis Cardinals for a player to be named later. (On Sept. 30, 1975, the Cardinals send pitcher Mike Barlow to the Astros, completing the deal.)

And like the actual Astros, we can’t find a place to hide the Hit Man’s glove.

The 1975 season: Actual deals we will not make

April 15, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Tom Hall to the New York Mets for pitcher Mac Scarce.

It’s true that Hall’s fastball velocity has steadily declined over the past couple of years, but we don’t see the point of this.

April 17, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Jimmy Freeman to the Baltimore Orioles for catcher-first baseman Earl Williams and cash.

It’s a vivid measure of just what a disappointment Williams has been in Baltimore that the O’s aren’t just dumping him for a sore-armed minor leaguer, but tossing in sweetener cash. Even at this bargain price, our Braves don’t know what we would do with Williams, whose future seemed so bright just a few years ago.

May 7, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded first baseman Dick Allen and catcher Johnny Oates to the Philadelphia Phillies for catcher Jim Essian, outfielder Barry Bonnell, and $150,000 cash.

Our Braves didn’t buy in to the Allen sweepstakes.

May 28, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Ron Reed and a player to be named later to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitchers Elias Sosa and Ray Sadecki. (On June 2, 1975, the Braves sent outfielder Wayne Nordhagen to the Cardinals, completing the deal.)

Our Braves no longer have Reed, and already have Sadecki.

June 11, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded infielder Craig Robinson to the San Francisco Giants for first baseman-third baseman Ed Goodson.

Our Braves don’t have a spot for Goodson.

The 1975 season: Deals we will invoke

Sept. 4, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Ray Sadecki to the Kansas City Royals for pitchers Al Autry and Norm Angelini.

In real life, Sadecki, Autry, and Angelini were exchanged on this date as players-to-be-named-later from an earlier deal in which the Braves acquired pitcher Bruce Dal Canton. We have no interest in Dal Canton, but we’ll take the prospects in return for the veteran Sadecki.

1975 season results

Braves

Our defensive set is shifted around this year. With Torre gone, Aaron moves from left field to first base (where his caddy will be rookie Bob Beall). Batting champ Ralph Garr slides over from right field to left, and George Foster will step in as the new regular right fielder. Replacing Johnson at second base is rookie Rod Gilbreath.

      1975 Atlanta Braves     Won 74    Lost 87    Finished 5th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  H. Aaron      41   130 418  41  95  12   2  14  54  67  46 .227 .331 .366 .697   92
  2B  R. Gilbreath  22   145 512  56 126  13   4   5  40  56  72 .246 .313 .316 .629   73
SS-2B F. Stanley    27   129 302  24  72   6   1   0  18  27  32 .238 .292 .265 .557   54
  3B  D. Evans*     28   156 567  83 138  22   2  22  74 105 106 .243 .360 .406 .765  110
RF-LF G. Foster     26   134 463  70 137  22   3  26  78  40  73 .296 .352 .525 .877  139
CF-RF D. Baker      26   142 494  64 129  18   2  19  73  67  57 .261 .346 .421 .767  110
  LF  R. Garr*      29   143 563  69 157  23  10   5  29  40  45 .279 .327 .382 .709   94
  C   J. Oates*     29    98 287  26  80  15   0   2  24  34  35 .279 .347 .352 .698   92

  CF  R. Office*    22   105 236  24  68   9   1   2  20  14  28 .288 .328 .360 .688   89
  OF  D. May*       31    82 203  29  56   8   0  12  41  25  27 .276 .361 .493 .853  133
  SS  J. Mason*     24    63 201  15  32   3   2   2  14  21  44 .159 .233 .224 .457   26
  1B  B. Beall#     27    82 179  16  36   7   1   3  14  37  48 .201 .333 .302 .635   76
SS-2B C. Robinson   26    80 196  19  38   4   2   0  10  11  32 .194 .234 .235 .468   29
  C   V. Correll    29    69 163  18  34   6   1   5  19  20  34 .209 .289 .350 .638   75
  C   B. Plummer    28    43  95   9  17   4   0   1  12  14  17 .179 .283 .253 .536   48
  IF  R. Belloir    26    29  53   5  11   1   1   0   4   3   4 .208 .237 .264 .501   38

      Others                  23   2   6   1   0   0   2   3   1 .261 .346 .304 .651   80

      Pitchers               372  23  55   7   1   0  24  16 103 .146 .165 .169 .334   -8

      Total                5327 593 1287 181  33 118 550 600 804 .241 .313 .354 .667   83

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      C. Morton     31    39  39  11  18  16   0 278 302 122 108   19   82   78 3.50  108
      P. Niekro     36    39  37  13  16  15   0 276 285 115  98   29   72  144 3.20  118
      F. Norman*    32    31  29   2  10   9   0 188 159  97  82   27   86  120 3.93   96
      P. Dobson     33    33  20   4   7   9   0 144 144  75  65   15   56   96 4.06   93
      B. Capra      27    12  12   5   4   7   0  78  77  41  37    8   28   35 4.27   89

      D. Tomlin*    26    67   0   0   4   4  11  83  83  44  32    7   31   48 3.47  109
      J. Niekro     30    40   4   1   6   6   6  88  81  35  33    4   39   54 3.38  112
      M. Leon       25    40   1   0   2   3   5  68  71  41  30    4   27   43 3.97   95
      L. Gura*      27    37  10   2   5   8   3 101 110  46  38    8   26   49 3.39  112
      R. Sadecki*   34    33   4   1   3   2   1  61  65  35  26    2   23   28 3.84   99
      A. Devine     23    16   3   0   2   2   0  41  44  16  14    2   18   22 3.07  123

      Others                   2   0   0   2   0  24  24  12   9    1   12   13 3.38  112

      Total                  161  39  74  87 24 1430 1445 679 572 126  500  730 3.60  105

      *  Throws left

The magic spell that enchanted our pitching in 1974 is all too clearly cast away. Buzz Capra struggles with arm trouble, and generally everyone is much more mortal this time around. It’s still a fine staff, but no longer anything close to the league’s best.

And on top of that, the offensive decline we suffered between 1973 and ’74 continues apace this year. Aaron suddenly looks all of his 41 years. Garr sees his average shrink by more than 70 points. Shortstop Jim Mason, who’d been holding his own with the bat, just implodes and is demoted to the minors in midseason, rendering the position an offensive black hole.

Darrell Evans and Dusty Baker hit well, as they did in ’74, but neither is proving to be the elite belter we expected to be seeing at this point. The only bright spots are Foster, who fulfills our hopes by breaking out as a star, and Dave May, who provides excellent power in a utility role.

In two years, the Atlanta attack has tumbled all the way from baseball’s best to the bottom of the pile. The pitching-led winner of 1974 is a punchless loser this year. Even with a four-win overperformance against Pythag, we still stumble home at 74-87, the worst Braves record since 1952, two cities ago.

Astros

Upgrading our already-strong starting rotation with the addition of Lolich, we’re confident that we can cover the loss of Staub’s bat. We know we have the talent to get back to first place.

Then midwinter brings shockingly tragic news: stalwart starting pitcher Don Wilson is dead in a horrible carbon monoxide poisoning that also claims his son and sickens his wife and daughter. Once the emotional blow is overcome, the practical impact is a sudden opening in our rotation, a particular opportunity for young J.R. Richard to take the step forward we’ve been anticipating.

      1975 Houston Astros     Won 84    Lost 77    Finished 3rd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  26   156 554  96 153  36   1  30 106 125  73 .276 .409 .507 .917  163
  2B  J. Morgan*    31   146 498 105 155  29   7  14  72 129  50 .311 .451 .482 .933  169
  SS  R. Metzger#   27   106 300  24  68   5   6   1  17  27  26 .227 .279 .293 .573   65
  3B  D. Rader      30   129 448  45 100  23   2  12  53  42 101 .223 .295 .364 .658   89
RF-LF D. Driessen*  23   123 425  67 120  17   1  12  53  65  57 .282 .380 .412 .791  128
  CF  C. Cedeño     24   131 500  93 144  31   3  13  83  62  52 .288 .370 .440 .810  133
  LF  J. Wynn       33   130 412  81 104  17   1  15  44 106  78 .252 .402 .408 .810  134
  C   M. May*       24   111 386  29  93  15   1   4  55  26  41 .241 .284 .316 .600   73

  OF  J. Cruz*      27   120 315  48  81  15   2   9  54  52  44 .257 .355 .403 .759  118
  IF  M. Perez      29   100 307  28  81   9   1   1  23  23  28 .264 .309 .309 .618   79
 C-1B C. Johnson    27    81 204  33  55  10   1  12  43  27  39 .270 .360 .505 .865  147
  UT  J. Youngblood 23    67 162  17  36   6   2   1  13  18  29 .222 .297 .302 .600   73
SS-2B L. Milbourne# 24    73 151  17  32   1   2   1   9   6  14 .212 .239 .265 .504   45
  OF  G. Gross*     22    66 121  17  34   3   3   0  10  15  10 .281 .353 .355 .708  105
  C   S. Jutze      29    51  93   9  21   2   0   0   6   2   4 .226 .235 .247 .482   39

      Others                  42   6  12   2   0   0   3   4   5 .286 .348 .333 .681   97

      Pitchers               390  19  52   9   1   2  26  15 145 .134 .154 .176 .330   -5

      Total                5308 734 1341 230  34 127 670 744 796 .253 .341 .380 .721  108

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      M. Lolich*    34    32  32  17  16  13   0 235 247  96  86   13   59  143 3.29  103
      M. Cuellar*   38    34  34  13  14  11   0 230 213  93  91   12   72  101 3.56   95
      L. Dierker    28    34  34  12  13  14   0 216 213 100  94   22   86  122 3.92   86
      J. Richard    25    33  31   6  12   9   0 193 168 101  93    8  131  169 4.34   78
      W. Fryman*    35    38  20   7  10  10   2 157 131  56  51    8   69  120 2.92  116

      D. Giusti     35    61   0   0   6   4  17  92  77  34  29    3   41   39 2.84  119
      W. Granger    31    55   0   0   2   4   2  74  76  39  30    7   23   30 3.65   93
      M. Cosgrove*  24    41   0   0   2   2   2  71  60  23  23    2   37   34 2.92  116
      K. Forsch     28    38   0   0   3   4   6  60  55  17  15    4   26   40 2.25  150
      P. Darcy      25    27   8   0   5   2   0  66  61  22  22    1   30   26 3.00  113
      D. Konieczny  23    16   3   0   1   1   0  34  34  17  15    2   17   20 3.97   85

      Others                   0   0   0   3   1  30  33  15  15    1   18   17 4.50   75

      Total                  162  55  84  77 30 1458 1368 613 564  83  609  861 3.48   97

      *  Throws left

John Mayberry storms back from his lackluster 1974 performance and is again a world-class slugger. Joe Morgan tops himself yet again in scintillating all-around fashion. Despite an injury-nagged so-so (by his lofty standards) year from Cesar Cedeño, and despite downright bad years from Doug Rader and Milt May, this remarkable offensive unit is yet again the league’s best.

Our pitching, however, has some issues. Lolich is good, but not great. Veteran starters Mike Cuellar and Larry Dierker aren’t their sharpest, and Richard, frustratingly, continues to fight his control. An injury to Ken Forsch puts a strain on the bullpen. Still, even with all that, it isn’t a bad staff, coming in at just a bit below league-average.

The resulting run differential yields a Pythagorean record of 95-66, which should put us right in the thick of contention. Except that we somehow manage to fall short of that projection by a whopping 11 wins, and wind up nowhere near contention.

We’ve encountered frustration in the past couple of years, but this one is just dispiriting. It’s as though The Baseball Gods have it in for us, and they won’t tell us why.

Reds

Our moves have been minimal. Our primary concern is second base, where veteran Tommy Helms began to show his age a bit last year. We’ve brought in Ken Boswell and brought up rookie Doug Flynn as extra support.

We welcome Gary Nolan back to the pitching ranks after being sidelined for nearly two years. Sophomore reliever Rawly Eastwick, who was up for the second half in ’74, will spend his first full year in the majors.

      1975 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      33   137 511  75 144  28   3  20 108  54 101 .282 .350 .466 .816  124
  2B  D. Flynn      24   100 319  36  83  14   1   1  39  20  30 .260 .295 .320 .615   70
  SS  D. Concepcion 27   140 507  63 139  23   1   5  50  39  51 .274 .323 .353 .676   86
  3B  P. Rose#      34   162 662 108 210  47   4   7  74  89  50 .317 .406 .432 .838  131
  RF  B. Carbo*     27   107 319  65  81  17   4  12  53  87  69 .254 .411 .445 .856  136
  CF  C. Geronimo*  27   148 501  67 129  25   5   6  53  48  97 .257 .325 .363 .688   90
LF-1B B. Watson     29   132 485  81 162  29   1  20  89  43  53 .334 .388 .522 .910  149
C-O-1 J. Bench      27   142 530  89 150  39   1  28 104  65 108 .283 .359 .519 .878  140

  OF  K. Griffey*   25   132 463  94 141  15   9   4  49  67  67 .305 .387 .402 .789  118
1B-OF M. Lum*       29    83 218  20  49   6   1   4  31  23  24 .225 .296 .317 .613   69
2B-LF K. Boswell*   29    86 187  23  47  10   2   0  22  34  14 .251 .364 .326 .691   92
  C   S. Ruberto    29    60 173  13  38   6   1   3  16  11  41 .220 .266 .318 .584   61
  2B  T. Helms      34    64 135   9  29   2   0   0  14  11   9 .215 .277 .230 .507   41
  IF  E. Crosby*    26    61 128  15  31   3   0   0   7  14  14 .242 .308 .266 .574   60
  OF  E. Armbrister 26    59  65   9  12   1   0   0   2   5  19 .185 .250 .200 .450   25

      Others                  15   0   2   0   0   0   2   1   2 .133 .211 .133 .344   -3

      Pitchers               423  36  71   8   2   2  32  18 144 .168 .185 .210 .395    9

      Total                5641 803 1518 273  35 112 745 629 893 .269 .340 .389 .729  101

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Nolan      27    32  32   5  14   9   0 211 202  75  74   18   29   74 3.16  114
      R. Grimsley*  25    35  32   8  13   9   0 197 225  99  95   27   45   93 4.34   83
      J. Bibby      30    36  24   4  11   9   2 181 175  86  78    9   74   98 3.88   93
      R. Cleveland  27    31  20   3  13   7   1 171 169  80  77   15   49   82 4.05   89
      D. Gullett*   24    22  22   8  14   4   0 160 127  49  43   11   56   98 2.42  149
      C. Kirby      27    26  19   1   9   6   0 111 113  63  58   13   54   48 4.70   77
      P. Zachry     23    14   5   1   3   1   0  40  35  13  12    1   20   21 2.70  133

      P. Borbon     28    67   0   0   8   5   5 125 145  47  41    6   21   29 2.95  122
      R. Eastwick   24    58   0   0   5   3  22  90  77  26  26    6   25   61 2.60  138
      C. Carroll    34    56   2   0   6   5   7  96  93  30  28    2   32   44 2.63  137
      T. Hall*      27    36   4   0   6   1   3  63  62  39  33   10   34   53 4.71   76

      Others                   2   0   1   0   0  16  17   9   9    0    9    5 5.06   71

      Total                  162  30 103  59 40 1461 1440 616 574 118  448  706 3.54  102

      *  Throws left

Helms does slow down a lot, and over the course of the season it’s Flynn getting most of the second base playing time. Other than that, it’s another Cincinnati year in which just about everything goes exactly according to plan.

Bob Watson shakes off his semi-regular status and emerges as a genuine hitting star. Our deep, well-balanced attack leads the majors in runs scored.

Nolan comes back remarkably well, leading the major leagues in fewest walks per nine innings. Don Gullett misses a couple of months with a tender arm, but is nicely replaced by rookie call-up Pat Zachry. Eastwick steps up as one of the key contributors in our always-strong bullpen, leading the league in saves.

The division flag is ours in a cakewalk, the third straight year we’ve either won it outright or tied for the top spot. One might almost consider this ball club to be rather like a mechanical device of some sort.

Next time

It’ll be the last chance for our Morgan-led Astros to see if they can thwart that seemingly unstoppable Cincinnati force.

              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
 1975    67   94  5    583  739    64   97  6    664  711   108   54  1    840  586

              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
 1975    74   87  5    593  679    84   77  3    734  613   103   59  1    803  616

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

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

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

So, just as we incorporate each team’s actual variance from 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. Philip said...

    Another great series is winding down. Well done, Steve.

    Yes, after the Big Red Machine pulls off another division crown and Concepcion, Griffey and Geronimo will still run wild on Manny Sanguillen in the NLCS.

    But the Boston Red Sox will feast on this Reds pitching staff.

    After plating six runs in the 7th inning of game one and knocking out Don Gullett, Boston then rips Ross Grimsely in game two.

    NBC’s Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek wonder aloud during the telecast how two supposedly top-notch managers, Dick Williams and Sparky Anderson, decided to start four lefties against the Red Sox in the post-season at Fenway Park. Garagiola: “Man, it just goes to show you. Play with fire and you’re bound to get burned.”

    [This is not a stretch by any means; Boston did indeed blast Gullett, 6-0, in game one of the series and Grimsley’s actual ERA at Fenway in 1975 was 13.50.]

    Boston pounded the A’s Holtzman and Blue in games one and two of the ALCS in route to a three game sweep and now head to Cincinnati up 2-0 in the World Series.

    Ed Armbrister won’t be causing any interference on Carlton Fisk this time around because the Bosox send Jim Bibby to the showers early in game three as they win in a route. (Bibby’s home ERA against the Red Sox in 1975 was 6.00)

    The next night, El Tiante completes the sweep and the Braves fans among the 50 million television viewers are wondering why their team didn’t keep him.

    During the Winter Meetings the Reds start looking for pitching help and GM Bob Howsman is overheard muttering that Cincinnati is not going to win the World Series with Doug Flynn playing second base. He immediately begins making inquiries with the Pirates about top minor league prospect Willie Randolph.

    Talks with Gabe Paul are resurrected from a year earlier about the possibility of the Yankees acquiring Tony Perez. The Angels, also interested in a power upgrade (having been out-homered by Babe Ruth’s 60 in 1927, their 55 being the lowest totals in the majors in some twenty years). They dangle pitcher Ed Figueroa at the Reds for Perez.

    The extra interest in Randolph and Perez may even give the Angels time to complete the Mickey Scott for Roger Moret deal.

    [The Angels were going to then send the newly acquired Jim Spencer (who was acquired from Texas for Bill Singer), Moret and Mickey Rivers to Milwaukee for George Scott, but when Boston at the last minute decided to send Moret to Atlanta for Tom House, the Angels then sent Rivers and Figgy to the Yankees for Bobby Bonds. That deal by NY’s Gabe Paul was made principally to allow them to trade Doc Medich to the Pirates for Ken Brett, Dock Ellis and Willie Randolph.

    With no House in Atlanta (Steve, who ends up catching Hank Aaron’s #714?!), the Red Sox either (a) swing the deal with the Angels, thus triggering a chain of events that leaves the Yankees for 1976 with an injured center fielder (Elliott Maddox), a not fully healed Bobby Bonds and the aging Sandy Alomar Sr at second; or getting swept in the Series sends the Reds looking for pitching upgrades courtesy of the Angels and using Tony Perez as trade bait, knowing they have Dave Revering waiting in the wings at Indianapolis.]

    As an aside, prospects suddenly look markedly improved for skipper Walt Alston and the Dodgers in 1976. If Los Angeles ends up winning the pennant, Alston might just be given yet another one year contract. If so, then maybe Tommy Lasorda takes the Expos managerial job after all.

    And with the young talent over in Montreal (Carter, Parrish, Cromartie, Dawson, Valentine, Rogers) and with the addition of free agent Dave Cash, Lasorda will not make a mess of things like Dick Williams did. Watch out. Under Lasorda’s enthusiastic guidance the best National League club of the late 70s and early 80s might not be wearing Dodger Blue but Expo bleu blanc et rouge.

    Do the Yankees, still waiting for a pennant since 1964, fire Billy Martin and hire Dick Williams (who was The Boss’ first choice anyway after the 73 Series before the tampering became known)?

  2. Philip said...

    As the season ends, there are additional things to ponder.

    The Dodgers, despite injuries to Bill Buckner and Bill Russell no doubt smell blood. In actuality, they traded Jimmy Wynn, Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek and Jerry Royster in a deal to get Dusty Baker. Assuming that Steve’s Braves won’t make the same mistake (and LA doesn’t have Wynn anyway), the Dodgers surely won’t stand pat.

    Also, as Steve speculated, if the Dodgers dealt Claude Osteen to acquire Merv Rettenmund, they surely will be interested in Mickey Rivers, too. And Bill Buckner could be part of that, or maybe he goes to the Cubs a year earlier in a swap for Rick Monday.

    Also, with a much more competitive division, perhaps they give Andy Messersmith his no trade, 3 year contract after all. Expos release Dave McNally and the Reserve Clause sticks around for a few more years.

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