The virtual 1971-1980 St. Louis Cardinals (Part 2)

Last time, we highlighted the series of remarkably questionable trades executed between 1970 and 1975 by the St. Louis Cardinals under owner Gussie Busch and General Manager Bing Devine. Now we’re ready to examine just how differently the St. Louis teams might have performed across the decade with those deals nullified.

1971

Led by the tremendous .363, 137-RBI MVP performance of third baseman Joe Torre, the actual 1971 Cardinals had a good year. They finished in second place at 90-72 (the most wins by any actual St. Louis ball club between 1968 and 1982), though they were a bit lucky to do that, with a Pythagorean record of 85-77.

Our version of the Cardinals would have only a few different players on the roster. But two of the differences would yield significant improvements. In the fifth starter/swingman role, Nelson Briles would displace Chris Zachary, and provide a 114 ERA+ instead of Zachary’s dreadful 68. Even more impactfully, Richie (as he was still then known) Allen’s 151 OPS+ would be in the lineup at first base in place of Joe Hague’s 101.

Even considering the fact that we’re taking Briles from the actual division-winning Pittsburgh Pirates, it isn’t certain whether these improved Cardinals would be able to overtake those Pirates, who won 97 games and had a Pythag mark of 101-61. But it is clear that the race would be far closer than it was. Our Cards would be, at least, a very strong contender.

1972

Now our Cardinals begin to truly deviate from the actual ball club, which dropped back to fourth place, at 75-81 (in that season’s strike-shortened schedule). In our scenario the Birds will be flying far higher than that.

Not that there wouldn’t be any challenges. Though he still hit well, Torre dropped off drastically from his scintillating form of 1971. And center fielder Jose Cruz, the terrific rookie of ’71, hit weakly as a sophomore.

But these setbacks would be more than offset by this roster’s strengths. Most dramatically, Allen would present the best season of his career, performing as the premier all-around hitter in the game. The big slugger would be amply supported by a deep and well-balanced attack, starting with the ever-dynamic leadoff hitter Lou Brock, and including the robust line drive hitting of catcher Ted Simmons and right fielder Jose Cardenal. The bench would feature two potent left-handed bats in Vic Davalillo and Bernie Carbo. It wouldn’t add up to the best offense in the league, but it would be a very good one.

  Pos  Player        Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B   D. Allen      30    148  506   96  160   27    6   35  120   92  131  .316  .420  .601 1.021   189
  2B   C. Rojas      33    137  487   52  130   20    1    3   50   39   37  .267  .315  .331  .646    85
  SS   D. Maxvill    33    143  340   26   76    8    1    1   26   35   63  .224  .289  .262  .551    59
  3B   J. Torre      31    149  544   84  157   26    6   11   80   54   64  .289  .357  .419  .776   122
 RF-CF J. Cardenal   28    123  411   69  119   18    6   11   49   42   45  .290  .354  .443  .797   127
  CF   J. Cruz*      24    117  332   40   78   14    4    2   23   36   54  .235  .307  .319  .627    80
  LF   L. Brock*     33    153  621   91  193   26    8    3   42   47   93  .311  .359  .393  .752   115
   C   T. Simmons#   22    152  594   72  180   36    6   16   99   29   57  .303  .336  .465  .801   127

 RF-CF V. Davalillo* 35     78  184   28   57    8    1    2   18   12   24  .310  .353  .397  .750   114
  RF   B. Carbo*     24     66  151   21   38    7    1    3   19   26   29  .252  .365  .371  .736   111
 SS-2B E. Crosby*    23     91  166   16   35    4    1    0   11   10   18  .211  .256  .247  .503    44
  SS   D. Anderson   24     57  135   13   36    4    1    1    8    8   23  .267  .313  .333  .646    85
  OF   L. Melendez   22     69  111   12   25    4    1    1    9    7   12  .225  .269  .306  .575    64
 3B-OF B. Stein      25     34   71    6   20    2    1    2    6    2   15  .282  .286  .423  .708   100
   C   J. McNertney  35     39   48    3   10    3    1    0    9    6   16  .208  .291  .313  .603    73

       Others                   205   13   40   11    0    2   19   18   46  .195  .253  .278  .531    52

       Pitchers                 405   32   73   13    1    7   27   14  132  .180  .200  .269  .469    33

       Total                   5311  674 1427  231   46  100  615  477  859  .269  .326  .386  .712   103

       * Bats left
       # Bats both

       Pitcher       Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
       S. Carlton*   27     37   37   27   28    5    0  311  226   71   63    15    75   281  1.82   188
       B. Gibson     36     34   34   23   21    9    0  278  226   83   76    14    88   208  2.46   139
       M. Torrez     25     34   29   10   14    8    0  194  172   76   70    11    82    90  3.25   106
       J. Reuss*     23     33   15    2    7    8    2  128  113   62   53     8    57   119  3.73    92
       R. Cleveland  24     29   17    4    8    7    1  116  112   55   46    10    29    79  3.57    96

       N. Briles     28     42   11    3    9    7    4  131  118   52   42     8    30    83  2.89   119
       D. Segui      34     33    0    0    3    1   12   56   47   23   19     2    32    54  3.07   112
       A. Santorini  24     21    5    0    4    3    0   53   54   24   23     2    20    28  3.91    88
       M. Drabowsky  36     37    0    0    1    1    5   35   35   15   10     4    16    26  2.57   133
       L. Palmer     24     11    2    0    0    3    0   23   20   11   10     1    17    17  3.91    88

       Others                     6    0    3    6    1   80   75   43   36     6    41    49  4.05    85

       Total                    156   69   98   58   25 1405 1198  515  448    81   487  1034  2.87   120

       * Throws left

With baseball’s best hitter of 1972 leading the run production, the pitching staff would correspondingly feature baseball’s best pitcher of 1972. At the age of 27, Steve Carlton would bust out with a breathtaking performance, one for the ages. Carlton was so spectacular that he would nudge longtime ace Bob Gibson, presenting his last great year, into No. 2 status. Rotation depth would be provided by Mike Torrez in a strong bounceback year, and impressive youngsters Jerry Reuss and Reggie Cleveland contributing solidly as swingmen.

The bullpen would be something of a patchwork, but it would be well-served by the versatile Briles, as well as good work from the veteran Diego Segui, a midseason bargain pickup. In any case, a staff that throws 69 complete games doesn’t ask much of its bullpen.

Overall the pitching would be extremely close to the best in the league, and would lead the ’72 Cards to a 98-win season, handily winning the NL East championship.

1973

This year would present problems aplenty. Allen would miss half the season with a broken leg. Gibson would miss most of the final two months with a knee injury. Carlton would suffer a big letdown performance. Torre would prove unable to regain his former elite-hitter status, and Cruz’s slump would drag on for yet another full year.

But the Baseball Gods would cut the 1973 Cardinals a big break. Remember that it was the 1973 National League East Division in which nobody wanted to win, with a rag-tag New York Mets team climbing out of the basement in late August, and riding a hot September to the title with a meager 82-79 record. The actual Cardinals came in second at 81-81, despite a Pythagorean record of 86-76, the best in the division.

Our version of the Cards, problems and all, would benefit from the contributions of Allen and the others, and would be meaningfully better than their real-life counterparts. Thus though it would be in far less impressive fashion than in the previous season, we can say with confidence that St. Louis would be repeating as the division champ.

1974

The repeat champ of ’73 would only be better in ’74.

Allen’s season would end in early September with another leg injury, but his performance up to that point would be superb. All the other familiar offensive contributors would be back in fine form, and they’d be joined by a new one in speedy center fielder Bake McBride. All in all it would be a deep and flexible lineup, among the better run production outfits in the league.

  Pos  Player        Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B   D. Allen      32    128  462   85  141   22    2   30   91   54   92  .305  .375  .556  .932   159
  2B   C. Rojas      35    144  542   52  148   16    1    5   51   29   44  .273  .306  .334  .640    80
  SS   M. Tyson      24    151  422   35   94   14    5    1   37   22   70  .223  .264  .287  .551    55
 3B-1B J. Torre      33    147  476   53  134   25    1   10   63   62   79  .282  .370  .401  .771   117
  RF   B. Carbo*     26    117  338   40   85   19    0   10   52   55   93  .251  .361  .396  .757   113
 CF-LF B. McBride*   25    135  478   72  154   18    5    5   47   39   44  .322  .379  .412  .792   122
  LF   L. Brock*     35    153  635  105  194   25    7    3   48   61   88  .306  .368  .381  .749   110
   C   T. Simmons#   24    152  599   66  163   33    6   20  101   47   35  .272  .327  .447  .774   116

 RF-CF J. Cardenal   30    102  346   51  102   22    3    7   37   37   41  .295  .361  .436  .797   123
  3B   K. Reitz      23     77  193   16   50    9    1    2   17    7   23  .259  .284  .347  .631    77
  OF   J. Cruz*      26    107  161   24   42    4    3    5   20   20   27  .261  .341  .416  .757   112
 C-1B  T. McCarver*  32     85  134   16   30    1    1    0   12   26    7  .224  .347  .246  .593    69
 SS-2B E. Crosby*    25     84  154   18   33    5    0    0    9   12   19  .214  .269  .247  .516    46
  CF   L. Melendez   24     83  124   15   27    4    3    0    8   11    9  .218  .283  .298  .581    63
 SS-2B J. DaVanon    28     30   40    4    6    1    0    0    4    4    5  .150  .255  .175  .430    23

       Others                   144   19   35    3    2    1   10   20   28  .243  .335  .313  .648    83

       Pitchers                 411   30   77   11    2    0   25   13  111  .187  .200  .224  .423    19

       Total                   5659  701 1515  232   42   99  632  519  815  .268  .328  .376  .705    98

       * Bats left
       # Bats both

       Pitcher       Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
       S. Carlton*   29     35   35   15   17   11    0  262  222  100   87    18   120   218  2.99   122
       B. Gibson     38     33   33    9   11   13    0  240  236  111  102    24   104   129  3.83    95
       J. Reuss*     25     35   24    9   11    9    0  184  183   82   72    14    72    77  3.52   104
       L. McGlothen  24     31   21    5   11    8    1  158  137   51   45     7    59    98  2.56   142
       M. Torrez     27     32   20    4   10    7    0  135  130   60   49     7    62    69  3.27   112
       J. Curtis*    26     33   19    3    7    9    1  130  129   59   53     9    55    61  3.67    99

       R. Folkers*   27     55    0    0    6    2    3   90   65   31   30     4    38    57  3.00   122
       A. Hrabosky*  24     65    0    0    8    1   10   88   71   34   29     3    38    82  2.95   123
       M. Garman     24     64    0    0    7    2    7   82   66   26   24     4    27    45  2.64   138
       N. Briles     30     27    6    1    3    5    1   69   74   28   27     4    15    29  3.52   104

       Others                     3    0    1    2    0   35   37   26   23     3    27    19  5.91    62

       Total                    161   46   92   69   23 1473 1350  608  541    97   617   884  3.31   110

       * Throws left

But once again it would be the pitching as the Cardinals’ strongest suit. Gibson finally began to show his age, but Carlton would anchor the staff with a very strong year. And no fewer than four young pitchers would capably compete for the rest of the starts: Reuss and Torrez, plus Lynn McGlothen and John Curtis, a couple of newcomers acquired from Boston.

And all would be supported by a rock-solid bullpen fronted by the very colorful and very hard-throwing “Mad Hungarian,” Al Hrabosky.

Again this season the NL East wouldn’t present a whole lot of competition for the Cardinals, and they would cruise to another flag.

1975-1976

It was in mid-September of 1974 that Dick Allen abruptly announced his “retirement,” setting in motion a nasty negotiation in which his team (the Chicago White Sox) eventually felt forced to trade him for a token return. While it’s impossible to know if Allen would have pulled exactly the same stunt with St. Louis, given his track record it’s unrealistic for us to imagine there would be no shenanigans. So to be fair, our Cardinals will have to bid adieu to their best hitter at this point, and assume nothing substantial is received in exchange.

This would open up first base, and we can assume that our Cardinals would ease in young Keith Hernandez as the regular in 1975-76, as they actually did. And this would be part of a general reworking of the roster, as several key players “aged out” in this period. Gibson hit the end of the line and retired. Torre was traded away as he was winding down. Cookie Rojas would be phased out as the regular second baseman, with Mike Tyson moving over from shortstop to second when young Garry Templeton arrived to take over at short.

The actual Cardinals were mediocre in 1975, at 82-80 (overperforming against Pythag by four wins), and pretty bad in ’76, at 72-90 (underperforming against Pythag by four wins). Our version would be significantly better than that, of course, especially on the pitching side, with Carlton, Torrez and Reuss in the starting rotation, and Ron Reed in the bullpen in 1976.

Whether our Cardinals would be improved enough to eclipse the division-winning Pirates in 1975 (who went 92-69, but would now be without Reuss) or the division-winning Phillies in ’76 (who went 101-61, but would now be without Carlton and Reed) is a good question. There are a few too many moving parts in the scenario to answer it with certainty, but we are safe in saying that if St. Louis didn’t win the NL East in either of these seasons, they’d come pretty close.

1977

Our Cardinals ball club would be resolidified with Hernandez and Templeton established as stars, and the fully mature Jose Cruz performing excellently as well. Catcher Simmons, still only 27 years old, remained highly productive in the middle of the order.

This offense would have its issues, as Brock and Cardenal were finally in decline, and Tyson at second base and Ken Reitz at third were defense-first regulars. But Carbo’s booming bat would provide a big lift off the bench, and while this team wouldn’t present the league’s best offense, it would be better than most.

  Pos  Player        Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B   K. Hernandez* 23    161  560   90  163   41    4   15   92   79   88  .291  .379  .459  .837   125
  2B   M. Tyson      27    138  418   42  103   15    2    7   57   30   48  .246  .299  .342  .641    73
  SS   G. Templeton# 21    153  621   89  200   19   18    8   79   15   70  .322  .336  .449  .786   110
  3B   K. Reitz      26    157  587   58  153   36    1   17   79   19   74  .261  .291  .412  .703    88
 RF-LF J. Cruz*      29    157  579   98  178   33   10   20   85   69   67  .307  .374  .503  .876   134
 CF-LF J. Mumphrey#  24    130  370   58  104   16    8    2   28   38   56  .281  .349  .384  .733    98
  LF   L. Brock*     38    127  440   62  121   20    5    2   42   27   67  .275  .320  .357  .677    82
   C   T. Simmons#   27    150  516   82  164   25    3   21   96   79   37  .318  .408  .500  .908   144

  RF   B. Carbo*     29     86  228   36   67    6    1   12   30   44   70  .294  .407  .487  .893   140
 LF-RF J. Cardenal   33     80  181   25   42   10    1    2   13   22   24  .232  .316  .331  .647    75
  CF   B. McBride*   28     43  122   21   32    5    1    4   20    7   19  .262  .298  .418  .716    91
   C   J. Tamargo#   25     60  118   13   25    3    1    3   12   16   16  .212  .307  .331  .637    72
  2B   C. Rojas      38     64  104    5   25    6    1    0    6    5   14  .240  .273  .317  .590    59
  CF   T. Scott#     25     63   97   19   26    4    1    1   10   10   18  .268  .339  .361  .700    89
 2B-SS D. Kessinger# 34     59   67    7   15    2    1    0    8    7   17  .224  .293  .284  .577    57
 2B-SS M. Phillips*  26     48   58   11   13    2    1    0    5    6    9  .224  .308  .293  .601    63
 3B-LF H. Cruz       24     24   34    4    6    2    0    1    3    4    7  .176  .256  .324  .580    55

       Others                    73    7   15    0    0    1    6    6   15  .205  .272  .247  .518    41

       Pitchers                 368   26   68   12    0    3   30   17  109  .185  .205  .242  .447    20

       Total                   5541  753 1520  257   59  119  701  500  825  .274  .332  .406  .738    98

       * Bats left
       # Bats both

       Pitcher       Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
       S. Carlton*   32     36   36   17   22   11    0  283  229   96   80    23    91   198  2.54   153
       M. Torrez     30     35   35   17   16   13    0  243  235  109  101    20    82   107  3.74   104
       J. Reuss*     28     31   26    5    9    9    0  166  175   81   70     8    57    95  3.80   103
       E. Rasmussen  25     32   23    6    8   10    0  155  145   65   56    14    42    82  3.25   120
       B. Forsch     27     33   23    4   14    4    0  145  137   62   53    12    46    65  3.29   119

       R. Reed       34     60    3    0    7    5   16  124  101   40   37     8    37    84  2.69   145
       A. Hrabosky*  27     65    0    0    6    5   12   86   82   44   42    12    41    68  4.38    89
       N. Briles     33     28    3    0    4    1    1   54   55   25   22     5    15    31  3.67   106
       T. Underwood* 23     21    4    0    2    3    0   50   48   26   24     2    29    37  4.32    90
       J. Urrea      22     21    2    0    3    1    1   46   39   16   14     3    12    29  2.74   142
       P. Falcone*   23     16    2    0    1    3    0   41   41   24   23     5    20    27  5.05    77
       J. Denny      24     13    4    0    2    1    0   30   33   17   15     2    12    12  4.50    87

       Others                     1    0    2    0    0   24   26   14   12     2    11    15  4.50    87

       Total                    162   49   96   66   30 1447 1346  619  549   116   495   850  3.41   114

       * Throws left

As in previous years, pitching would lead the way for St. Louis. Carlton would deliver one of his greatest seasons. The rotation behind him of Torrez and Reuss, plus up-and-comers Eric Rasmussen and Bob Forsch, would be without weakness.

The bullpen would be less impressive, as Hrabosky suffered an off-year. But the durable and steady Reed would pick up the slack, and overall the staff would be among the league’s finest.

This season we can conclude with confidence that the NL East flag would again fly over Busch Stadium.

1978-1979

Following the 1977 season, Mike Torrez opted for free agency, and signed with the Boston Red Sox (for whom he would be pitching when he surrendered an early October home run to a certain Bucky F. Dent). In our scenario, we can’t assume the Cardinals would be able to keep him, so Torrez will be gone from this roster beginning in 1978.

So our Cardinals would that much more closely resemble the actual St. Louis ball clubs in these years, which finished fifth in ’78, and third in ’79. But our version retains a few very significant advantages, especially Carlton and Cruz, as well as Reuss and Reed.

As had been the case in 1975-76, it’s tricky to sort through all the contingencies involving not just the Cards, but also the Phillies (who won the division in ’78) and Pirates (who won it in ’79), as well as the Montreal Expos (who suddenly emerged as a strong contender in ’79), to determine the champions in these years. One suspects that St. Louis would fall short in our scenario, but not by anything resembling their actual wide margins.

1980

Previous Cardinals teams here featured good-but-not-great-hitting. Not this time: The 1980 version in our scenario would present a dominant offense, clearly the best in the league. And this ball club would accomplish this feat despite having one of its expected major cogs suffer a disastrous performance: Bobby Bonds, acquired in a major offseason trade, utterly fell off the cliff.

But just about everyone else would hit splendidly. Hernandez and Simmons were both tremendous, and Cruz was nearly as good. Center fielder George Hendrick, who’d been picked up in a very shrewd trade in mid-1978, was excellent as well. Shortstop Templeton and second baseman Ken Oberkfell would deliver exceptionally good middle-infield offense.

The team total of 302 doubles would be the most whacked by any National League team since 1939.

  Pos  Player        Age     G   AB    R    H   2B   3B   HR  RBI   BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  OPS+
  1B   K. Hernandez* 26    159  595  114  191   39    8   16  101   86   73  .321  .408  .494  .902   147
  2B   K. Oberkfell* 24    116  422   58  128   27    6    3   46   51   23  .303  .377  .417  .794   119
  SS   G. Templeton# 24    118  504   79  161   19    9    4   49   18   43  .319  .342  .417  .759   108
  3B   K. Reitz      29    151  523   41  141   33    0    8   61   22   44  .270  .300  .379  .679    86
  RF   B. Bonds      34     77  208   29   42    4    3    5   25   30   67  .202  .305  .322  .627    73
 CF-RF G. Hendrick   30    150  572   76  173   33    2   25  115   32   67  .302  .342  .498  .840   129
 LF-RF J. Cruz*      32    160  612  114  192   31    7   14   66   60   66  .314  .371  .456  .826   127
   C   T. Simmons#   30    145  495   85  150   33    2   21  104   59   45  .303  .375  .505  .880   141

 2B-SS T. Herr#      24     76  222   25   55   12    5    0   15   16   21  .248  .299  .347  .646    77
 C-LF  T. Kennedy*   24     67  198   23   50   10    2    3   27   22   27  .253  .321  .369  .690    90
 LF-RF D. Iorg*      30     84  201   25   61   18    1    2   33   16   27  .303  .350  .433  .783   115
 RF-1B L. Durham*    22     64  152   19   39    7    2    4   20    8   29  .257  .291  .408  .699    91
  CF   T. Scott#     28     72  138   20   33    6    1    0    8   10   25  .239  .285  .297  .582    61
  INF  M. Phillips*  29     63  128   13   30    5    0    0    7    9   17  .234  .283  .273  .556    54
  INF  M. Ramsey#    26     59  126   11   33    8    1    0    8    3   17  .262  .279  .341  .620    70

       Others                   123   11   25    3    1    0    8    7   26  .203  .250  .244  .494    37

       Pitchers                 409   29   73   14    0    4   27   11  117  .178  .183  .242  .425    16

       Total                   5628  772 1577  302   50  109  720  460  734  .280  .331  .410  .740   103

       * Bats left
       # Bats both

       Pitcher       Age     G   GS   CG    W    L   SV   IP    H    R   ER    HR    BB    SO   ERA  ERA+
       S. Carlton*   35     38   38   13   25    8    0  304  247   87   79    14    90   283  2.34   162
       J. Reuss*     31     37   29   10   20    5    3  229  205   78   68    12    40   111  2.67   141
       P. Vuckovich  27     32   30    7   13    8    1  222  203   96   84    18    68   132  3.41   111
       B. Forsch     30     31   31    8   12    9    0  215  225  102   90    12    33    87  3.77   100
       J. Fulgham    24     15   14    4    5    5    0   85   66   33   32     7    32    48  3.39   112
       S. Martinez   24     25   12    1    4    6    0   80   82   48   41     5    32    26  4.61    82

       R. Reed       37     55    0    0    8    4   13   82   78   40   36     4    27    50  3.95    96
       J. Kaat*      41     35    0    0    4    1    5   40   36   16   14     1    13    16  3.15   120
       D. Hood*      30     25    0    0    2    3    0   39   42   17   13     0    22    16  3.00   126
       B. Sykes*     25      9    2    0    1    2    0   25   27   13   13     2    11    10  4.68    81
       Littlefield   26     17    0    0    2    2    3   22   24   10    8     1     7     7  3.27   116
       J. Urrea      25     10    0    0    2    0    1   22   19    9    8     1    14    12  3.27   116
       M. Littell    27     14    0    0    0    2    2   11   14   11   11     2     7     7  9.00    42

       Others                     6    0    4    5    2   73   71   35   33     3    25    38  4.07    93

       Total                    162   43  102   60   30 1449 1339  595  530    82   421   843  3.29   115

       * Throws left

Not to be outdone, our 1980 Cardinals pitching would be the league’s best as well. At the top of the rotation, the amazing Carlton, at 35, would achieve his most spectacular season since his 1972 tour de force. Right behind him would be Reuss in career-best form, and right-handers Pete Vuckovich and Bob Forsch would give the Cards two more good starters with well over 200 innings each.

That would be fortunate, because the bullpen would have some issues due to erstwhile ace Mark Littell bombing out with arm trouble. But with Reed on hand, and some improvising with several others, the relief work would be adequate to yield the NL’s top overall staff ERA+.

The result would be a runaway division champion. Those 102 victories would be the most tallied by a St. Louis team since the ultra-dominant three-peat wartime Stan Musial Cardinals of the 1940s.

Summing up

The St. Louis franchise is one of the National League’s flagships, with a long history rich in vivid color and great success. From Branch Rickey’s rowdy Gashouse Gang, to Whitey Herzog’s razor-sharp speed demons, to the methodical and consistent excellence led by Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have often been among the league’s elite.

But the 1970s stand out as one of the few decades in which that wasn’t the case. The Cards weren’t a bad team in that period, but contending status persistently eluded them, as they seemed stuck on an also-ran treadmill.

This counter-factual exercise demonstrates how strongly that didn’t have to be. We haven’t introduced a single acquisition the Cardinals didn’t make, but simply cancelled the most egregious of their excessive trades of the early-to-mid-1970s, and the results are stunning: an obvious division champion in 1972, ’73, ’74, ’77, and ’80, and possibly achieving flags in every other season. They simply never would have been out of contention for at least 10 years straight.

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Comments

  1. Mike said...

    Job well done again Steve. Looking forward to your next article. If you’re looking for ideas, would be curious as to how the Indians of the past decade would have done had they not traded Brian Giles, Sean Casey, etc.

  2. Steve Treder said...

    Thanks for the kind words.  The Indians are on the list, but the Expos are ahead of them in line.

  3. Ari Berkowitz said...

    Really enjoy your articles, especially “The Virtual” series.  I was wondering if the 1970’s Mets were on the list considering that many people believe that if Hodges had never passed they would have at least one more flag flying and the fact that they traded both Ryan, Singleton and Otis in 1971.  I know that some years they finished pretty far out of the race but I think with the additions of Singleton, Ryan, Otis and a few other useful players (Gentry, Folkers, Capra) they would be a lot better.

  4. Steve Treder said...

    Yeah, the 1970s Mets are clearly a good candidate, with Ryan, Otis, and Singleton.  Honestly the reason I’ve never done them is that they’re so well known to be obvious that I’m pretty sure other folks have written articles along that line before; I seem to recall seeing one by Alex Belth fairly recently.

  5. Rick V said...

    Thanks again for doing this one.  I knew we would have won a few more division titles, but I didn’t realize just how many we could have won.

  6. Steve Treder said...

    “I didn’t see his article, do you mind sending me a link or something?”

    Dang, I’ve just tried to find it via google, not having any luck.  It was a couple of months ago, I think, and he did something similar to what I’ve done in this series with the early 1970s Mets, only without (of course) my anal attention to detail.  It was linked at BBTF.

  7. voxpoptart said...

    I’m puzzled at the OPS+ category in this article.  There’s several seasons where you refer to the Cardinals’ good offense, and show the team’s OPS+ at 98; there’s another where you show them leading the league in both slugging and on-base percentages, and yet with a team OPS+ of 103.

    That’s when I realized it seemed to be a systematic error in that stat, as it looked at first like a problem with the article. But if you can fix whatever’s wrong, that would be a minor-yet-cool improvement.

  8. Steve Treder said...

    “I’m puzzled at the OPS+ category in this article.  There’s several seasons where you refer to the Cardinals’ good offense, and show the team’s OPS+ at 98; there’s another where you show them leading the league in both slugging and on-base percentages, and yet with a team OPS+ of 103.”

    I use the OPS+ stat as it’s calculated on bb-ref.com.  A while back (I think a year ago or so), bb-ref changed the manner in which it calculates OPS+, removing pitcher batting stats from the league norm to which each individual’s OPS is compared.

    Therefore, while the league OPS+ in a DH league remains 100 (or very nearly so), in a non-DH league the league-average OPS+ is now usually around 93 or 94.  Thus in such a league, a team OPS+ of 98 is good, and a team OPS+ of 103 is excellent, and can sometimes lead the league.

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