Hardball Retrospective – What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1978 Pirates

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the teams with the biggest single-season difference in the WAR and Win Shares for the “Original” vs. “Actual” rosters for every Major League organization. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.

Terminology

OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams

AWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “actual” teams

AWS – Win Shares for players on “actual” teams

APW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “actual” teams

Assessment

The 1978 Pittsburgh Pirates 

OWAR: 49.0     OWS: 345     OPW%: .559     (91-71)

AWAR: 40.0      AWS: 263     APW%: .547     (88-73)

WARdiff: 9.0                        WSdiff: 82  

Pittsburgh emerged victorious from a three-team battle with Montreal and Philadelphia for the National League Eastern Division crown. The “Original” Pirates paced the Senior Circuit in OWS and accrued an 82-point Win Shares differential compared to the “Actual” Bucs.

Dave Parker (.334/30/117) collected his second straight batting crown and earned NL MVP and Gold Glove honors. “Cobra” scored 102 runs and topped the League with 340 total bases and a .585 SLG. Willie Randolph recorded 36 steals in 43 attempts and coaxed 82 bases on balls. Willie “Pops” Stargell (.295/28/97) achieved All-Star status for the seventh time. Al “Scoop” Oliver drilled 35 two-base knocks and posted a .324 BA. Mitchell Page (.285/17/70) supplied a solid sophomore season after placing runner-up in the Rookie of the Year balloting in the previous campaign. Don Money batted .293 with 30 doubles to secure his fourth All-Star invitation. Omar Moreno and Frank Taveras ran wild on the base paths, swiping 71 and 46 bases, respectively.

Willie Stargell rated ninth among left fielders in the “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” top 100 player rankings. “Original” Pirates teammates registered in the “NBJHBA” top 100 rankings include Dave Parker (14th-RF), Willie Randolph (17th-2B), Al Oliver (31st-CF), Manny Sanguillen (42nd-C), Dave Cash (50th-2B), Don Money (55th-3B), Richie Hebner (56th-3B), Richie Zisk (69th-RF), Freddie Patek (73rd-SS), Bob Bailey (79th-3B), Tony Armas (89th-RF) and Rennie Stennett (90th-2B). Jim Fregosi (15th-SS), Bert Blyleven (39th-P) and Phil Garner (41st-2B) achieved top-100 status among the individuals who played solely for the “Actual” 1978 Pirates.

  Original 1978 Pirates                                Actual 1978 Pirates

STARTING LINEUP POS OWAR OWS STARTING LINEUP POS AWAR AWS
Al Oliver LF 3.24 21.42 Bill Robinson LF 0.33 13.75
Omar Moreno CF 2.02 18.08 Omar Moreno CF 2.02 18.08
Dave Parker RF 6.91 36.75 Dave Parker RF 6.91 36.75
Willie Stargell 1B 2.42 22 Willie Stargell 1B 2.42 22
Willie Randolph 2B 5.16 22.83 Rennie Stennett 2B 0.34 4.95
Craig Reynolds SS 3.09 17.66 Frank Taveras SS 0.76 16.43
Don Money 3B/1B 3.32 18.96 Phil Garner 3B 2.86 19.58
Milt May C 0.94 8.46 Ed Ott C 1.3 11.76
BENCH POS OWAR OWS BENCH POS AWAR AWS
Mitchell Page LF 2.34 20.02 John Milner LF 0.93 10.1
Frank Taveras SS 0.76 16.43 Manny Sanguillen 1B -0.29 3.57
Richie Hebner 1B 2.81 16.19 Dale Berra 3B -0.14 2.82
Art Howe 2B 3.09 15.77 Duffy Dyer C -0.52 2.36
Richie Zisk DH 1.25 15.11 Steve Brye LF -0.11 2.26
Ed Ott C 1.3 11.76 Mario Mendoza 2B 0.05 1.32
Dave Cash 2B -0.6 11.31 Ken Macha 3B -0.1 1.08
Freddie Patek SS 0.28 10.8 Jim Fregosi 3B 0.05 0.52
Mike Edwards 2B -1.12 6.07 Alberto Lois LF 0.04 0.29
Rennie Stennett 2B 0.34 4.95 Cito Gaston LF 0.02 0.13
Bob Robertson DH 0.17 4.07 Fernando Gonzalez 2B -0.15 0.08
Gene Clines LF -0.56 3.66 Steve Nicosia C -0.06 0.05
Manny Sanguillen 1B -0.29 3.57 Doe Boyland 1B -0.05 0.01
Miguel Dilone LF -0.75 3.31 Matt Alexander -0.01 0
Tony Armas RF -0.36 2.95 Dave May -0.03 0
Jimmy Sexton SS 0.3 2.94
Dale Berra 3B -0.14 2.82
Bob Bailey DH -0.09 1.73
Mario Mendoza 2B 0.05 1.32
Ken Macha 3B -0.1 1.08
Nelson Norman SS -0.14 0.7
Alberto Lois LF 0.04 0.29
Butch Alberts DH -0.06 0.2
Steve Nicosia C -0.06 0.05
Doe Boyland 1B -0.05 0.01

Don “Caveman” Robinson (14-6, 3.47) produced a WHIP of 1.139 and placed third in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting. “The Candy Man” John Candelaria contributed 12 victories and a 3.24 ERA following a 20-win effort in the previous campaign. The bullpen trifecta consisted of Doug Bair (1.97, 28 SV), Gene Garber (2.15, 25 SV) and Kent Tekulve (2.33, 31 SV). Bert Blyleven tallied 14 victories for the “Actuals” while posting a 3.03 ERA.

  Original 1978 Pirates                               Actual 1978 Pirates

ROTATION POS OWAR OWS ROTATION POS AWAR AWS
Don Robinson SP 2.63 14.13 Bert Blyleven SP 3.65 16.94
John Candelaria SP 3.29 12.87 Don Robinson SP 2.63 14.13
Rick Langford SP 2.1 10.57 John Candelaria SP 3.29 12.87
Silvio Martinez SP 0.33 6.43 Bruce Kison SP 1.12 6.08
Bruce Kison SP 1.12 6.08 Jim Bibby SP 0.41 5.92
BULLPEN POS OWAR OWS BULLPEN POS AWAR AWS
Gene Garber RP 3.45 20.73 Kent Tekulve RP 2.88 19.7
Kent Tekulve RP 2.88 19.7 Grant Jackson RP 0.63 6.21
Doug Bair RP 3.83 17.45 Ed Whitson RP 0.56 5.44
Ed Whitson RP 0.56 5.44 Dave Hamilton RP -0.35 0.91
Clay Carroll RP 0.1 0.42
Dock Ellis SP -0.72 5.39 Jim Rooker SP -0.73 4.76
Woodie Fryman SP -0.04 5.17 Jerry Reuss SP -0.45 1.57
Rick Honeycutt SP -0.6 3.45 Odell Jones SP 0.18 1.17
Odell Jones SP 0.18 1.17 Will McEnaney RP -0.66 0

Notable Transactions

Willie Randolph 

December 11, 1975: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Ken Brett and Dock Ellis to the New York Yankees for Doc Medich. 

Al Oliver 

December 8, 1977: Traded as part of a 4-team trade by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Nelson Norman to the Texas Rangers. The Atlanta Braves sent Willie Montanez to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Tommy Boggs, Adrian Devine and Eddie Miller to the Atlanta Braves. The Texas Rangers sent a player to be named later and Tom Grieve to the New York Mets. The Texas Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The New York Mets sent Jon Matlack to the Texas Rangers. The New York Mets sent John Milner to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Texas Rangers sent Ken Henderson (March 15, 1978) to the New York Mets to complete the trade. 

Mitchell Page 

March 15, 1977: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Tony Armas, Doug Bair, Dave Giusti, Rick Langford and Doc Medich to the Oakland Athletics for Chris Batton, Phil Garner and Tommy Helms. 

Gene Garber

October 25, 1972: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Kansas City Royals for Jim Rooker.

July 12, 1974: Purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies from the Kansas City Royals. 

Don Money

December 15, 1967: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Harold Clem (minors), Woodie Fryman and Bill Laxton to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jim Bunning.

October 31, 1972: Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies with Bill Champion and John Vukovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for Ken Brett, Jim Lonborg, Ken Sanders and Earl Stephenson.

Craig Reynolds

December 7, 1976: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates with Jimmy Sexton to the Seattle Mariners for Grant Jackson.

Honorable Mention

The 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates 

OWAR: 46.1     OWS: 303     OPW%: .597     (97-65)

AWAR: 24.2       AWS: 236      APW%: .488    (79-83)

WARdiff: 21.9                        WSdiff: 67

The “Original” 2012 Bucs bested the Brew Crew by four games and trounced the “Actuals” by an 18-game margin. Andrew McCutchen (.327/31/96) established personal bests in batting average, home runs, RBI, runs (107), hits (194) and SLG (.553). He placed third in the NL MVP race and earned his first Gold Glove Award. Aramis Ramirez (.300/27/105) topped the circuit with 50 two-base hits. Pedro “El Toro” Alvarez dialed long distance 30 times and knocked in 85 baserunners. Jose A. Bautista bashed 27 long balls despite missing nearly half the season due to injury. Jeff Keppinger boasted a .325 BA in a platoon role.

On Deck

What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1992 Padres

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database

Baseball-Reference

James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive



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Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games. He has written a number of articles for Fangraphs and Seamheads, and enjoys spending quality time with his family.

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