The virtual 1968-76 Braves, Astros, and Reds (Part 9:  1975-76)

This journey has provided us with sometimes surprising perspectives:

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/
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-virtual-1968-76-braves-astros-and-reds-part-8-1974-75/

              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

The National League West division flag has been claimed by (at least) one of our three contestants in every season of the division’s existence. The Reds come in to our final engagement looking very tough to beat.

The 1975-76 offseason: Actual deals we will make

Dec. 9, 1975: The Houston Astros released pitcher Wayne Granger.

Granger wasn’t bad in ’75, but we’ve got some younger bullpen options now.

Dec. 12, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Clay Kirby to the Montreal Expos for third baseman-outfielder Bob Bailey.

Kirby’s bloated ERA in 1975 wasn’t nearly as worrisome as his plummeting strikeout rate. We’re happy to get anything of substance for him, and Bailey is a distinctly substantive hitter. Thank you very much.

The 1975-76 offseason: Actual deals we will not make

Oct. 24, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Joaquin Andujar to the Houston Astros for players to be named later. (On Dec. 12, 1975, the Astros sent pitchers Luis Sanchez and Carlos Alfonso to the Reds, completing the deal.)

Our Reds cannot fathom the point of this.

Nov. 17, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Dusty Baker and first baseman-third baseman Ed Goodson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielders Jim Wynn and Tom Paciorek, infielder-outfielder Lee Lacy, and infielder Jerry Royster.

Like the real-life Braves, we’re frustrated that for the past couple of years the broadly-talented Baker hasn’t hit for the kind of average we believe he should, and we’re worried that he’s begun to be bothered by a sore knee. But still, he remains one of our best players, and we just aren’t persuaded by the logic of cashing him in for a package of odds and ends such as this.

Dec. 6, 1975: The Houston Astros traded catcher Milt May and pitchers Dave Roberts and Jim Crawford to the Detroit Tigers for outfielder Leon Roberts, pitchers Mark Lemongello and Gene Pentz, and catcher Terry Humphrey.

Dec. 11, 1975: The Houston Astros traded third baseman Doug Rader to the San Diego Padres for pitchers Larry Hardy and Joe McIntosh.

Both May and Rader were big disappointments with the bat in ’75. But neither of these trades accomplish much beyond just sending them away. Rather than swap them off for minimal return, our Astros will take the chance that either or both will bounce back, as both appear fully capable of doing.

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

Dec. 11, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Clay Carroll to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Rich Hinton and catcher Jeff Sovern.

The Hawk will be 35 in 1976, but he’s shown no signs of losing effectiveness. Our Reds won’t dump him.

Dec. 12, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitcher Tom House to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Roger Moret.

We don’t have House, and aren’t especially interested in Moret anyway.

Dec. 12, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder-first baseman Mike Lum to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Darrel Chaney.

Our Braves already traded Lum to our Reds last year.

April 7, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds traded first baseman-outfielder Terry Crowley to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Mike Thompson.

Our Reds don’t have Crowley.

The 1975-76 offseason: Deals we will invoke

Nov., 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitchers Pablo Torrealba and Mike Beard to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder-outfielder Ray Knight.

Our Braves and Reds will swap a bit of young pitching depth for a bit of young infield depth.

Dec. 12, 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded outfielder Ralph Garr and shortstop Jim Mason to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Ken Henderson and pitchers Dick Ruthven and Dan Osborn.

The actual deal included Larvell Blanks in place of Mason, but we see no reason why the White Sox wouldn’t have been okay with this. We’re delighted to get this much back in exchange for Garr and an unexciting infielder.

Dec. 12, 1975: The Cincinnati Reds traded second baseman Tommy Helms to the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named later. (On Jan. 6, 1976, the Pirates sent infielder Art Howe to the Reds, completing the deal.)

In reality the Pirates made this deal with Houston.

Dec., 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitchers Mike Thompson and Tommy Moore to the Houston Astros for infielder Larry Milbourne.

Neither Thompson nor Moore is a great prospect, but then again, neither is Milbourne a particular prize. He’s a former Rule 5 draft pick who’s served two seasons as a slappy, switch-hitting middle infield scrub in Houston.

Our Astros have the organizational infield depth to afford to surrender him at this point, and our Braves have the organizational pitching depth to afford to acquire him.

March, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds traded pitcher Tom Hall to the Kansas City Royals for infielder Bryan Jones and cash.

March, 1976: The Atlanta Braves sold catcher Vic Correll to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Cut-down time.

The 1976 season: Actual deals we will make

April 10, 1976: The Atlanta Braves signed pitcher Andy Messersmith as a free agent.

As did the real-life Braves, our version will spend what it takes (and what it takes is $3.4 million for three years) to achieve this historic milestone. We’re extremely enthused to land this 30-year-old coming in with back-to-back top-five Cy Young Award seasons.

The 1976 season: Actual deals we will not make

June 13, 1976: The Atlanta Braves traded third baseman-first baseman Darrell Evans and infielder Marty Perez to the San Francisco Giants for first baseman Willie Montañez, infielders Craig Robinson and Mike Eden, and outfielder Jake Brown.

We’ve assessed this Blockbuster:

Darrell Evans was quite possibly the single most underrated player of all time. Essentially, on every circumstance liable to render a player underrated, Evans scores about an 11 on a 1-10 scale. To take just one of the factors, Evans had his very best season early in his career: his spectacular 1973 performance, at the age of 26, meant that his every subsequent performance was held up in comparison to that, and falling short, it cast him in a disappointing light. Evans’s multiple very good seasons were thus rarely appreciated for how good they were. (In this regard, he bore more than a little similarity to Norm Cash.)

Thus, the Braves were frustrated with Evans’s quite strong performances of 1974 and 1975. And when he fell into a monumental slump in early ’76 (he truly was doing nothing in those early weeks except walking, striking out, and popping up), they lost patience.

For our Braves’ part, we’re definitely frustrated with Evans’ dreadful performance thus far in 1976 and are open to offers. But in our circumstance, though we like Montañez well enough, we just don’t have a place for him.

We remain committed to a certain Hank Aaron at first base (and Aaron is swinging the bat pretty well so far in ’76; it won’t be until the second half that he sadly and finally runs out of gas), and though Montañez probably still could handle left field, at this point we don’t have a vacancy there, either.

Thus, we’ll stick with Evans at least for the rest of this season while promoting rookie Ray Knight to create some competition at third base.

June 23, 1976: The Atlanta Braves traded infielder-outfielder Lee Lacy and pitcher Elias Sosa to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitcher Mike Marshall.

We have neither Lacy nor Sosa, nor do we have a particular need for Marshall.

The 1976 season: Deals we will invoke

April 19, 1976: The Atlanta Braves purchased catcher Tim Blackwell from the Boston Red Sox.

Actually, it was the Phillies making this purchase to address the vacancy created by an injury sustained by Johnny Oates. In our scenario, Oates is still with Atlanta, so we’ll be the ones picking up Blackwell.

April 21, 1976: The Houston Astros purchased catcher Gene Lamont from the Detroit Tigers.

To address the vacancy created by a season-ending broken ankle sustained by Milt May.

June 3, 1976: The Cincinnati Reds traded outfielder Bernie Carbo to the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Dave May, pitcher Jimmy Freeman, and cash.

Carbo is being squeezed out of his accustomed platoon-regular playing time by the terrific performance of Ken Griffey and Cesar Geronimo. And if we know Carbo, he won’t react with quiet dignity. Our Reds finally decide that, for all his talent, the, um, high-spirited Carbo is no longer worth the maintenance.

Our Braves are willing to take on the Carbo management project because, starving for offense, we can really use a fresh bat in the outfield mix. (It’s Carbo’s presence in Atlanta that leaves us without room for Willie Montañez’s left-handed bat in our outfield.)

June 6, 1976: In a three-club deal, the Houston Astros sent pitcher Mike Barlow to the California Angels and cash to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers sent catcher Terry Humphrey to the Angels, and the Angels sent catcher Ed Herrmann to the Astros.

Actually it was the Astros trading Barlow and Humphrey for Herrmann. In our scenario, Humphrey is still in the Detroit organization, so we’ll make it worth their while to give the Angels what they’re seeking and give our Astros a new left-handed bat to try to replace Milt May.

1976 season results

Braves

Milbourne will be given the opportunity to become our primary shortstop. In the outfield, newcomer Ken Henderson and youngster Rowland Office will compete in center as we shift Dusty Baker and his troublesome knee to left. The key to a rebound from our poor 1975 offensive showing will be big years from our power-hitting core of Baker, Darrell Evans, and George Foster.

We expect an improved pitching staff, with Messersmith and Dick Ruthven bolstering the starting rotation, allowing us to move veteran Pat Dobson to the bullpen full-time.

      1976 Atlanta Braves     Won 81    Lost 81    Finished 4th

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  H. Aaron      42    85 257  25  61   7   0  11  38  35  36 .237 .327 .393 .720   99
2B-3B R. Gilbreath  23   148 476  64 119  14   9   2  40  52  50 .250 .314 .330 .644   79
SS-2B L. Milbourne# 25   130 449  64 121  14   1   4  40  28  42 .269 .312 .332 .644   79
3B-1B D. Evans*     29   136 396  58  81   9   1  12  48  73  72 .205 .326 .323 .650   81
  RF  G. Foster     27   144 562  83 175  20   7  32 106  51  89 .311 .367 .543 .910  150
  CF  R. Office*    23    94 305  48  85  14   1   3  32  31  42 .279 .342 .361 .703   95
LF-1B D. Baker      27   112 384  42  98  14   0   5  43  30  53 .255 .307 .331 .638   77
  C   J. Oates*     30    69 188  18  47   4   0   2  15  15  20 .250 .301 .303 .604   68

  OF  K. Henderson# 30   133 435  55 114  19   0  13  64  62  68 .262 .350 .395 .746  107
LF-RF B. Carbo*     28    87 261  35  63  11   0   6  28  50  79 .241 .358 .352 .710   98
  SS  F. Stanley    28   110 260  32  64   3   3   1  20  35  28 .246 .326 .292 .618   73
  C   B. Pocoroba#  22    54 174  18  42   7   0   0  16  19  12 .241 .311 .282 .593   66
  1B  B. Beall#     28    88 140  29  36   6   2   3  21  45  34 .257 .434 .393 .827  131
  C   B. Plummer    29    62 168  17  41   6   1   5  23  15  40 .244 .304 .381 .685   90
  3B  R. Knight     23    66 158  16  36   7   1   3  14  12  23 .228 .281 .342 .622   72
LF-RF D. May*       32    26  54   8  11   1   1   1   6   6   8 .204 .279 .315 .594   65
  OF  B. Asselstine 22    23  56   5  13   1   0   1   7   3   4 .232 .262 .304 .566   57
  IF  C. Robinson   27    28  49   6   9   1   0   0   4   8  14 .184 .288 .204 .492   39
  C   T. Blackwell# 23    26  48   5  10   2   0   0   3   5   9 .208 .283 .250 .533   49
  1B  R. Sanders    26    24  45   4  10   2   0   1   6   2  10 .222 .250 .333 .583   61

      Others                  82   4  22   7   0   0  10  10  12 .268 .351 .354 .705   96

      Pitchers               394  20  62   6   0   2  36  13  94 .157 .169 .188 .357   -1

      Total                5341 656 1320 175  27 107 620 600 839 .247 .318 .350 .668   85

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      P. Niekro     37    38  37  10  18  11   0 271 249 116  99   18  101  173 3.29  116
      A. Messersmith 30   29  28  12  11  10   1 207 166  83  70   14   74  135 3.04  125
      D. Ruthven    25    32  29   6  11  13   0 192 199  87  87   11   72  116 4.08   93
      F. Norman*    33    33  24   8  11  11   0 180 161  75  67   12   72  128 3.35  113
      C. Morton     32    26  24   1   5   9   0 140 172  79  65    6   45   42 4.18   91
      J. Easterly*  23    11   5   0   2   2   0  33  36  17  17    1   22   17 4.64   82

      P. Dobson     34    53   3   0   8   7  10 109 112  48  42    5   37   67 3.47  110
      D. Tomlin*    27    49   1   0   3   2   5  73  70  28  27    5   19   42 3.33  114
      A. Devine     24    48   1   0   5   6   9  73  72  30  26    3   26   48 3.21  119
      J. Niekro     31    33   6   0   2   4   1  67  64  36  28    6   32   44 3.76  101
      L. Gura*      28    20   2   1   4   2   1  63  53  22  18    4   20   23 2.57  148

      Others                   2   0   1   4   2  30  30  17  16    1   10   17 4.80   79

      Total                  162  38  81  81 29 1438 1384 638 562  86  530  852 3.52  108

      *  Throws left

It turns out to be a season of “yes, buts.” Foster is terrific, rapidly maturing at 27 into an elite hitter, leading the majors in slugging. But both Baker and Evans are terrible. Carbo doesn’t help much.

Messersmith is good but, bothered by a tender arm, he isn’t the ace we anticipated. Phil Niekro is still terrific at age 37, but Carl Morton encounters a bad year. Our pitching staff is strong, but a tier below the league’s best.

Forty-two-year-old Aaron, limited to a part-time role in his 23rd major league season, finishes his spectacular career with the all-time record of 758 home runs. His curtain goes down amid a lackluster Braves’ season as we plod in at .500.

Astros

After three seasons of finishing increasingly further behind the division’s top spot, one might expect us to undertake some significant restructuring. But the fact remains that our Pythagorean record last year was 95-66, and we truly don’t have any basic problems to address, so we’ve largely stood pat. We’ll introduce a couple of young arms in the bullpen and swap out the second backup infielder, and literally, that’s it. We know we have ample talent to contend strongly.

      1976 Houston Astros     Won 87    Lost 75    Finished 3rd

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  J. Mayberry*  27   145 475  58 106  16   2  10  68  69  58 .223 .318 .328 .647   92
  2B  J. Morgan*    32   141 472 108 144  31   6  23  80 109  41 .305 .428 .542 .970  186
  SS  R. Metzger#   28   101 241  19  50   6   4   0  14  25  33 .207 .277 .266 .542   61
  3B  D. Rader      31   132 424  41 111  20   4   8  52  49  89 .262 .335 .384 .720  113
RF-CF J. Cruz*      28   133 439  61 133  21   5   4  52  53  46 .303 .375 .401 .776  130
  CF  C. Cedeño     25   150 575  93 171  26   5  18  87  55  51 .297 .357 .454 .811  139
  LF  J. Wynn       34   123 299  50  61  13   1   8  29  83  73 .204 .372 .334 .707  111
  C   E. Herrmann*  29    79 265  14  54   8   0   3  25  22  40 .204 .270 .268 .538   60

OF-1B D. Driessen*  24   131 431  50 110  22   2  12  56  72  61 .255 .357 .399 .756  124
  IF  M. Perez      30   103 285  32  71  11   1   2  21  25  24 .249 .298 .316 .614   82
C-1-L C. Johnson    28   102 286  32  66  19   2   9  40  56  52 .231 .364 .406 .770  128
  UT  J. Youngblood 24    98 211  20  51  11   2   0  12  14  44 .242 .289 .313 .602   78
  OF  G. Gross*     23    85 213  26  60   6   2   0  14  31  21 .282 .364 .329 .693  106
  IF  J. DaVanon    30    61 107  19  31   3   3   1  18  21  12 .290 .408 .402 .810  141
  C   S. Jutze      31    42  92   7  14   2   3   0   6   4  16 .152 .186 .239 .425   25
  C   G. Lamont*    29    14  27   2   5   1   0   0   2   3   5 .185 .258 .222 .480   43
  C   M. May*       25     6  25   2   7   1   0   0   1   0   1 .280 .280 .320 .600   77

      Others                  35   3   7   0   0   0   1   2   4 .200 .243 .200 .443   32

      Pitchers               377  19  51   4   0   3  21  16 130 .135 .161 .168 .329   -2

      Total                5279 656 1303 221  42 101 599 709 801 .247 .332 .362 .693  105

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      J. Richard    26    39  39  14  21  13   0 291 221 105  89   14  151  214 2.75  116
      M. Lolich*    35    31  30   5  10  10   0 193 188  83  68   12   52  121 3.17  101
      L. Dierker    29    28  28   7  13  11   0 188 171  85  77    9   72  112 3.69   87
      W. Fryman*    36    41  24   3  12   7   4 184 176  67  59   10   63  107 2.89  111
      M. Cuellar*   39    26  19   2   5  10   1 107 135  67  61    8   50   34 5.13   62
      B. McLaughlin 22    11   7   3   3   2   1  53  47  21  17    4   11   21 2.89  111
      P. Darcy      26    11   4   0   2   3   0  39  36  25  24    2   23   16 5.54   58
      M. Stanton    23    11   4   0   2   4   0  39  46  33  25    2   23   26 5.77   55

      K. Forsch     29    52   0   0   6   3  21  92  76  23  22    5   26   49 2.15  149
      J. Crawford*  25    43   3   0   2   4   3  98  90  53  44    4   39   65 4.04   79
      D. Giusti     36    40   0   0   5   4   6  58  58  29  25    4   26   25 3.88   82
      J. Sambito*   24    20   4   1   3   1   1  53  45  21  21    4   14   26 3.57   90
      P. Siebert*   23    19   0   0   1   2   0  26  29  10   9    0   18   10 3.12  103
      M. Barlow     28    16   0   0   2   1   0  22  27  13  11    0   17   11 4.50   71

      Total                  162  35  87  75 37 1443 1345 635 552  78  585  837 3.44   93

      *  Throws left

Our run of bad luck continues, as in the season’s first week, May is lost for the year. We eventually import the journeyman Herrmann to fill the hole, but he fails to hit anything close to his career norm.

A second major disappointment is that veteran southpaw Mike Cuellar, a top-flight starter for us every year since 1966, suddenly and emphatically hits the end of the line.

The worst news is that 27-year-old first baseman John Mayberry, instead of delivering expected career-peak-level performance, is inexplicably dreadful, his OPS+ plummeting from 163 to 92.

These are serious blows. They’re serious enough to prevent our Astros from making it to the level of serious contention, despite flamethrowing right-hander J.R. Richard breaking through as a stud ace at last, despite center fielder Cesar Cedeño performing superbly in every way, and most damningly, despite second baseman Joe Morgan capping a brilliant five-year peak run with his most glorious season yet, dominating across the board as, unequivocally, the greatest player in the game.

On balance we’re a good team, but we can be excused for scratching our heads and wondering just what might have been in Houston had the stars aligned more favorably this year and these past several.

Reds

Meanwhile, our Reds have seen no need for anything more than the most routine maintenance and tuning of The Machine.

      1976 Cincinnati Reds     Won 102   Lost 60    Finished 1st

 Pos  Player        Age    G  AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR RBI  BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
  1B  T. Perez      34   139 527  72 137  32   6  19  86  50  88 .260 .328 .452 .779  118
  2B  D. Flynn      25   140 458  41 119  12   4   1  45  20  44 .260 .284 .310 .594   68
  SS  D. Concepcion 28   152 576  69 162  28   7   9  67  49  68 .281 .333 .401 .734  106
  3B  P. Rose#      35   162 665 117 215  42   6  10  61  86  54 .323 .404 .450 .854  141
RF-CF K. Griffey*   26   148 562 100 189  28   9   6  71  62  65 .336 .401 .450 .851  140
  CF  C. Geronimo*  28   149 486  55 149  24  11   2  52  56  95 .307 .380 .414 .794  124
LF-1B B. Watson     30   157 585 104 190  34   3  19 111  66  64 .325 .390 .491 .881  147
 C-LF J. Bench      28   135 465  58 109  24   1  16  71  81  95 .234 .348 .394 .741  109

OF-1B M. Lum*       30    84 231  29  55   9   2   6  35  32  37 .238 .328 .372 .701   97
  C   S. Ruberto    30    56 153  12  34   2   0   0  11  12  27 .222 .272 .235 .507   44
2B-OF K. Boswell*   30    91 151  21  41  11   1   0  25  11  10 .272 .313 .358 .671   89
  IF  E. Crosby*    27    65 131  12  25   2   1   0  11  16  15 .191 .275 .221 .496   41
LF-3B B. Bailey     33    69 124  15  37   6   1   6  21  16  26 .298 .376 .508 .884  148
LF-RF D. May*       32    53 107  17  21   3   2   1  14  13  17 .196 .287 .290 .577   63
  OF  E. Armbrister 27    73  78  18  23   3   2   2   6   6  22 .295 .322 .462 .784  119
  RF  B. Carbo*     28    26  55   7  13   3   0   2   8   9  17 .236 .344 .400 .744  109

      Others                  14   0   3   1   0   0   1   3   3 .214 .353 .286 .639   82

      Pitchers               400  19  57   5   0   1  21  14 146 .142 .156 .161 .316  -11

      Total                5768 766 1579 269  56 100 717 602 893 .274 .339 .392 .730  106

      *  Bats left
      #  Bats both

      Pitcher       Age    G  GS  CG   W   L  SV  IP   H   R  ER   HR   BB   SO  ERA ERA+
      G. Nolan      28    34  34   7  14   9   0 239 232  96  92   28   27  113 3.46  101
      P. Zachry     24    38  28   6  14   8   0 204 170  70  62    8   83  143 2.74  128
      R. Cleveland  28    34  28   4  11  11   1 183 164  74  61    4   66   83 3.00  117
      J. Bibby      31    34  28   4  17   7   1 175 184  69  67    7   60   94 3.45  102
      R. Grimsley*  26    28  19   2  10   6   0 137 161  73  67    8   35   43 4.40   80
      D. Gullett*   25    23  20   4  11   3   1 126 119  48  42    8   48   64 3.00  117

      R. Eastwick   25    71   0   0  11   6  26 108  93  30  25    3   27   70 2.08  168
      P. Borbon     29    69   1   0   4   3   8 121 135  49  45    4   31   53 3.35  105
      C. Carroll    35    48   0   0   6   3   9  77  64  24  21    1   24   42 2.45  143
      P. Torrealba* 28    36   0   0   1   2   2  53  62  22  19    0   21   32 3.23  108
      M. Beard*     26     6   0   0   0   1   0   7   7   3   3    0    3    2 3.86   91

      Others                   4   1   3   2   0  41  41  20  19    2   20   21 4.17   84

      Total                  162  28 102  60 48 1471 1429 576 521  73  442  757 3.19  110

      *  Throws left

And it hums like the crimson Lamborghini it is.

Epilogue

The primary objective of these fanciful re-examinations is, of course, just to have fun. But there is a larger purpose as well: we just might learn something. (Come on, it’s all right to admit it.)

In conceiving of this one, I anticipated that the Reds, being unable to enjoy the fruits of their lopsided Lee May-for-Joe Morgan-and-much-more trade, would emerge not nearly as strong as the actual juggernaut that averaged 100 wins per year from 1972-76. To my surprise, these Morganless Reds turned out to be just exactly that formidable.

The exercise illuminates several things I hadn’t thought through. First, even without netting the dramatic bounty they actually did when trading May following the 1971 season, the Reds could get a reasonable return in an alternative deal, as our Reds did in Reggie Cleveland, who’s proved to be a worthy substitute for Jack Billingham.

Second, and most importantly, the Cincinnati organization in this period (under the helm of the exceptionally capable Bob Howsam) produced a staggering amount of talent, even more than I had understood. Our version doesn’t fritter away Bernie Carbo and thus has the leverage to convert Dan Driessen into Cesar Geronimo (the other key part of the “much more” acquired in the Morgan trade).

With that, and by substituting Bob Watson for George Foster, our Reds are able to overcome the vast production deficit between Morgan and Tommy Helms/Doug Flynn. As spectacular a talent as Morgan was, this exercise shows just how amply he was supported in Cincinnati by the tremendously productive Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and company.

And spectacular as Morgan is here while remaining in Houston, even without frittering away Mike Cuellar, Dave Giusti, Rusty Staub, John Mayberry, and Jim Wynn, these Astros can take away only the 1972 flag from the Reds’ grasp. While the Houston talent core kept together here is prodigious, it doesn’t achieve the year-in, year-out standard of consistent excellence demonstrated in Cincinnati, and the Astros don’t pack the roster with the deep supporting cast available to the Reds.

As for the Braves, I didn’t find this degree of improvement surprising, exactly, but still it’s remarkable just how badly Atlanta GM Paul Richards botched things there. Getting much less than market value for Joe Torre was the key blunder, but Richards did the same with Denis Menke, Denny Lemaster, Mack Jones, and Milt Pappas.

Thus, Hank Aaron’s thrilling chase of Babe Ruth‘s career home run record largely took place amid an environment of dreary mediocrity, when instead the Braves could plausibly have been, at least for most of those years, the strong contender they’d been earlier in Bad Henry’s long and brilliant career.

              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
 1976    70   92  6    620  700    80   82  3    625  657   102   60  1    857  633

              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
 1976    81   81  4    656  638    87   75  3    656  635   102   60  1    766  576

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 its Pythagorean record in these exercises, we’ll now also incorporate each team’s actual variance from its 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%


Print This Post
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jim G.
Guest
Jim G.

“Nov., 1975: The Atlanta Braves traded pitchers Pablo Torrealba and Mike Beard to the Cincinnati Reds for infielder-outfielder Ray Knight.”

Great! Now I don’t have to listen to Knight whine about how Sparky buried him early in his career.

Paul E
Guest
Paul E

Is that an MVP award for Watson in ‘76 ?

Steve Treder
Guest
Steve Treder
“Is that an MVP award for Watson in ‘76 ?” Interesting question … the league’s RBI champ on a division-winning team might just have gotten the nod from the voters. One wonders if perhaps Joe Morgan would have won neither of his 1975 or ‘76 MVPs in this scenario.  For one thing his raw stats are depressed from what they were by the Astrodome effect, and for another his team would finish only in 3rd place both years, which of course had to have been his fault. On the other hand, Morgan in this period was just such a commanding,… Read more »
John
Guest
John

It’s possible that the Buccos would have won two straight pennants against the Astros, and they may have defeated the A’s in 72, something the Reds couldn’t have done.

Also, with the Braves having a better team in 69, and the Reds out to prove something in 73 after coming two games short in 72 and losing in 70, I wonder if it butterflies away the Mets’ appearances in the WS.

Steve Treder
Guest
Steve Treder

Thinking some more about MVP awards … in this scenario, with the Astros beating out the Reds for the division title in 1972, I suspect Cesar Cedeno would likely have won the MVP ahead of Johnny Bench.

And then in ‘74, with the Reds beating out the Dodgers, it would seem probable that Bench (leading the league in runs scored and RBIs) would win it this time, nosing out Steve Garvey.

gary
Guest
gary

Messersmith for Reggie is an interesting possibility… Smith might be in the Hall of Fame if he had gone straight to Dodgers and put up an MVP season.  As is…he falls well short of MVP…but he was a heck of a player.

Still can’t figure out how the same Pirates who made perfectly reasonable trades for pitching in Oliver for Blyleven, Milner and Zisk for Gossage and Forster could waste Willie Randolph plus a still capable(if crazy) Dock Ellis and Ken Brett for Doc Medich.  Did anyone think Medich was that good back then?

Philip
Guest
Philip
Another great series, Steve. Too bad you can’t clone yourself so we’d know what the other 23 clubs were up to. How do you figure the Dodgers did in ‘76. They had actually gone 92-70, finishing 10 games behind Cincy. In your scenario, they of course fail to acquire the Toy Cannon from Houston. You speculated G.M. Al Campanis would have then perhaps traded lefty Claude Osteen to Baltimore for outfielder Merv Rettenmund (as the Birds could use a lefty given that Mike Cuellar never left Houston). Completely reasonable although as I mentioned there were two other possibilities after the… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Speaking of the Red Sox, my Roger Moret Scenario is intact. Steve had the Braves trade Tom House to St. Louis, where he languishes behind a much stronger staff and bullpen. The Red Sox aren’t impressed and coming off a World Championship they move Moret, as they had actually planned, to the Angels (who give them a desired lefty reliever, Mickey Scott). That deal was the final piece on the Angels’ actual plans to make a trade with Milwaukee. And so they turn around and send newly acquired Jim Spencer, Moret and OF Mickey Rivers to the Brewers for Boomer… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip

21 clubs (23 once Toronto and Seattle arrive)

Philip
Guest
Philip
Gary, I’ve written about this in the past. Pirates management was seemingly obsessed with acquiring Medich, apparently primarily over the failure to win only one NLCS game in two seasons vs. the Dodgers and Reds. Dock Ellis was giving Danny Murtaugh fits and Ken Brett (who had injured his elbow) was deemed expendable. With the capable Rennie Stennett at second, top minor leaguer Randolph was also put on the market. The Yankees Gabe Paul had already robbed his past employers, giving the Indians 33-year old starting pitcher Pat Dobson for 25-year old Oscar Gamble (1975: 261/361/454), correctly anticipating that a… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
The stars aligned for the Yankees in the late 70s. First, that idiot Charlie Finley screwed up and Catfish Hunter became a free agent. Then Messersmith saw what Hunter was worth and began making (actually reasonable) demands that the stubborn Dodgers refused to meet. Then that bumbling front office in Montreal traded Ken Singleton and Mike Torrez to Baltimore for Dave McNally, who was unhappy about the Expos refusal to meet his contract demands but astonishingly simply didn’t invoke his 10-5 status. Then add, take your pick, the rain-delay when Bill Lee was shutting down the Reds in game two… Read more »
John C
Guest
John C
Free agency was just a matter of time. If it hadn’t happened with McNally/Messersmith, it would have been someone else a year later. Marvin Miller would have just gotten someone else to play out their option, and it would have gone to arbitration, and Peter Seitz would have made the same ruling, because he wouldn’t have been fired a year earlier for making it. Also, they lost Fisk to free agency not because of the new rules, but because they didn’t mail him a contract on time while he was still under club control. To change that, you don’t need… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
The General Agreement was expiring on December 31, 1975. Had Messersmith/McNally not occurred the owners, after several close calls, would have been certain to not have the standard contract, or more specifically 10(a), subject to arbritration in the next CBA. Marvin Miller had made it clear in writings later that the players at that time would not have struck to gain free agency in a CBA. But they would have to preserve what they won at arbritration. I suspect free agency would have, as you said, eventually would have happened. But probably not until the expiration of the next agreement,… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Just for clarity, here would be a reasonable timeline re: Hunter, Singleton and also with Boston beating the Reds in the 1975 Series: Sep 26, 1974 – Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley reluctantly has a $50,000 check delivered to the Jefferson Insurance Company of North Carolina, thereby fulfilling a stipulation in Catfish Hunter’s contract that Finley purchase a non-taxable annuity for his star pitcher. Oct 17, 1974 – Dodgers PH Von Joshua hits a come-backer to Rollie Fingers who tosses the ball to Gene Tenace at first and the Oakland A’s become only the second team in baseball history to… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip

correction:
Dec 14, 1975 – Red Sox acquire Fergie Jenkins and John Polini from Rangers for Juan Beniquez, Steve Barr and Craig Skok.

gary
Guest
gary
Philip, great stuff on Pirates 1975 moves.  Interesting how they ended up with Blyleven for a comparable outfielder…and got Milner along with him. Garner trade is a classic example of a stronger team giving up more overall talent in able to fill one key spot.  Bill James wrote about that one year – I’ll have to dig that up.  Pirates give up Armas, Langford, Page, Bair – a lot of “good” talent – but how many of them would have made a difference in the 77-79 era Pirates?  Garner filled a key spot.  No Joe Morgan, but a valuable player… Read more »
gary
Guest
gary
Some great points, Philip.  While it’s usually the Astros that are blasted for missing their window of opportunity in the late 60s and early 70s, it can also be argued that the Pirates should have won more than 2 pennants in the 70s.  The talent they were producing from about 67 on is incredible….really in about three waves. Late 60s – Hebner, Oliver, Sanguillen, Ellis, Moose, Garber, Roberts, Patek, Cash, Robertson, Money Then piled right on top in 70-72 – Zisk, Parker, Stennett, Clines, Milt May Then in mid 70s – all that talent you mentioned that we’ve discussed in… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Yes, Gary. It’s amazing how much Pittsburgh gave up and what little they received in return between October 1976 and September 1977: IN: Mgr Chuck Tanner P Doc Medich->sold/cash after 2 seasons P Bert Blyleven P Grant Jackson P Chris Batton 23 Tommy Helms 23 Phil Garner O1 John Milner OUT: P Dock Ellis P Ken Brett P Rick Langford P Doug Bair P Dave Giusti C Manny Sanguillen 2B Willie Randolph SS Craig Reynolds SS Jimmy Sexton SS Nelson Norman O1 Al Oliver OF Mitchell Page OF Tony Armas With just a little more effort, they could have closed… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Gary, you’re right. Absolutely a missed opportunity. But rather than looking at it as a decade, look at it this way. 1970 … 89-73 1st, NL East 1971 … 97-65 WORLD CHAMPIONS 1972 … 96-59 1st, NL East 1973 … 80-82 3rd, NL East, 2.5 GB 1974 … 88-74 1st, NL East 1975 … 92-69 1st, NL East—————————————————— 1976 … 92-70, 2nd NL East, 9.0 GB 1977 … 96-66, 2nd NL East, 5.0 GB 1978 … 88-73, 2nd NL East, 1.5 GB 1980 … 83-79, 3rd NL East, 8.0 GB 1981 … 73-89, 4th NL East,21.0 GB (Pro-rated) 1982 …… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Steve, I was pretty sure you’d have the Reds nixing their giveaway of Joaquin Andujar to the Astros on 10/24/75. Even though he hadn’t yet pitched a game for the Reds, I recall his name being mentioned pre-trade by Dodgers announcers Vin Scully and Jerry Doggett as a future major leaguer who would help bolster the Cincinnati pitching staff. So when Andujar was traded I was surprised by how little the Reds got for someone who was supposedly one of their future major league starting pitchers. Andujar was pretty peeved about the trade. Here’s what he told the AP as… Read more »
gary
Guest
gary
The Andujar deal may be one of those “addition by subtraction” deals where the Reds simply made the decision that they didn’t want this guy in their clubhouse no matter his ability.  I’m not advocating….but suggesting that this may be the case in a lot of deals that appear lopsided.  Probably explains a few trades involving Richie Allen.  Dock Ellis?  Keith Hernandez for Neil Allen?  Blyleven for a tribe of Indians-soon-to-be-waived?  Sometimes, I think clubs just make the decision to send a guy elsewhere and that the scuttlebutt about that player around MLB is so bad that that the club… Read more »
Steve Treder
Guest
Steve Treder

“The Andujar deal may be one of those “addition by subtraction” deals where the Reds simply made the decision that they didn’t want this guy in their clubhouse no matter his ability.”

Yeah, you’re probably right.  If a deal makes no sense baseball-wise, there’s likely an off-the-field explanation.

Still, it seems impatient of them.  Andujar was still just a kid.  Give him another year in triple-A, make sure to have a veteran mentor or three giving him some guidance, and maybe he’ll start to grow up a little bit.  It happens.

gary
Guest
gary
True, Steve – usually you see those trades after a guy has had more of a chance to mature and establish himself – one would assume a lot of guys “mature out of” some off-the-field habits. In trying to analyze trades and other personnel moves from afar, I am constantly humbled by the the knowledge that there’s ” a lot we dont’ know”.  Antecdotally, there have been a number of occasions that I’ve looked at a guy’s stat line and wondered “why didn’t this guy get more playing time” or “why did this guy’s skills deteriotate so fast” only to… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Steve & Gary. The Pirates did want to move Dock Ellis because he was driving Danny Murtaugh up a wall. Sometimes it’s a club’s own fault for getting less than they should when a manager or the front office publicly blasts one of their own players. I’ve heard it said that Whitey Herzog may have traded Hernandez because of the first baseman’s cocaine use (which I recall became news a year or two after Hernandez left St. Louis). Of course in the 70s and 80s pre-cable, per-internet & pre-MLB Channel days, even if you followed the game close, you often… Read more »
gary
Guest
gary
PHilip – I remember you referencing the Zisk for Gossage and Forster trade once before.  To your knowledge, was that trade “contract driven”?  At the time and on the face of it, it seemed like a reasonable exchange of talent – a very consistent hitter in his prime for two young pitchers who had been successful for a year as relievers and not so successful as starters.  Who could have predicted that the position player would have the much shorter career and that one of the pitchers would be a Hall of Famer?  I believe all three players were in… Read more »
Philip
Guest
Philip
Also makes you wonder just how much influence Dick Williams had in Montreal if that sort of thing could have happened. On the other hand, perhaps Dick Williams had too much influence. He sure finished off Dave Cash’s career. Too bad the Expos fired Gene Mauch. I think with the club Williams inherited, Mauch would have won a pennant or two with. The Post-Gazette also reported that Joe Brown basically alienated Zisk and Hebner to the point they wouldn’t have re-signed with the Pirates under any circumstances. It was a situation that Peterson came into as new GM. Re: Gossage… Read more »
gary
Guest
gary

Great stuff, Phillip. You have super info on trades and almost-trades.  I didn’t remember the Money talk….always thought he would have been a good guy for the Pirates to retrieve.  And “wow”, the package the Expos offered for Oliver is amazing!

As tough as we’ve been on some of the Pirates moves, they did get decent value out of Zisk and Oliver.  However, your info is a reminder that they could have done even better…

Philip
Guest
Philip
Yes, Gary. That Bucs/Sox trade was contract-driven. Pittsburgh sent power-hitting LF Richie Zisk, along with then-minor league pitcher Silvio Martinez, to Chicago for pitchers Terry Forster & Rich Gossage. Both pitchers had played for incoming Bucs manager Chuck Tanner in Chi. Zisk had played virtually all of 1975 w/o a signed contract; the Pirates having renewed his previous one under clause 10(a) for a reported $75,000. But Zisk made it clear that he wasn’t testing the reserve clause. He and the Pirates came to an agreement and he signed a contract for 1975 in Sept just before the NLCS was… Read more »
wpDiscuz