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.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

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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Steve Treder
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Steve Treder
“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… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
“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… Read more »
gdc
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gdc

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.

Steve Treder
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Steve Treder

“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.

Paul G.
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Paul G.

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?

Steve Treder
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Steve Treder

“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.

Paul G.
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Paul G.

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.

Philip
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Philip
‘‘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… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
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… Read more »
Tom Hill
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Tom Hill

Steve:  Why were my comment/question about Watson, and your response, removed?

Philip
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Philip
“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… Read more »
Paul G.
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Paul G.

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

Philip
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Philip
‘‘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… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
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… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
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… Read more »
Philip
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Philip
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… Read more »
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