Thursday, March 24, 2011


Dock Ellis: born too early to be the Olympics' undisputed king of curlers...
We're into the back half of the 40s birthyear teams now, and this team is just plain mystifying. They have a terrific #1-#3 in their batting order, the starting rotation isn't too shabby, and they have some truly unique individuals on the roster (Dock Ellis, Jay Johnstone), but the rest of these guys...yeesh. We'll let player-manager Davey Lopes figure it out, but we are not expecting miracles here.

Your roster:

Entering the picture: Dave Lopes, who didn't
make it to the majors until the age of 27
C: Dave Duncan, George Mitterwald
1B: Rod Carew
2B: Dave Lopes, Ted Sizemore
SS: Larry Bowa, Hector Torres
3B: Bill Melton, Jerry Kenney
OF: Reggie Smith, Rick Monday, Hal McRae, Ralph Garr, Bobby Tolan, Jay Johnstone, Tony Conigliaro

As we saw with the 44s, the 45s might be better off platooning their cleanup hitter. (Is this a 60s thing? We're going to have to investigate this.)

Anyway, Lopes is clearly going to lead himself off, where he is clearly well-qualified, with good OBP, great base-stealing skills, and plus power for a guy batting #1. Davey has a pretty pronounced platoon split, but he's not so pathetic against RHP that he needs to be platooned. He will mash lefties, however.

Batting behind him is the type of player we just don't have any more: a non-power hitting superstar. Who's that? Why, Rod Carew, of course. The chances of seeing anyone like Carew on a baseball diamond seem to have gone the way of the dodo bird, but feel free to keep a candle lighted in the window just in case.

You've got a lot of versatility with Carew in the #2 slot, as his career splits indicate that he's at his best with men on base.

And the man following him in the lineup might just be the most underrated hitter of his decade: Reggie Smith. (In the 70s, Reggie's 142 OPS+ ranked him fourth among all hitters with 4000 or more plate appearances, behind Willie Stargell, Reggie Jackson, and--Carew.

The young Reggie Smith
Borrowing for the moment the parlance of the girlie mags, that's a nicely stacked top of the lineup.

Later in life, Tony C. became a different kind
of swinger...
As noted at the top, however: that's the good news. If you implement this 1-2-3- punch, things are going to go downhill fast lineup-wise. You're going to have to platoon your cleanup hitter, and you're going to have a problem with your center field defense.

Offensively, however, the platoon might be a very good one: Rick Monday was very effective against RHP, while Tony Conigliaro could hit the bejesus out of lefties--at least he could when he had full sight in his left eye.

A place where the man-embrace does
not lead to the event horizon at the top
of Brokeback Mountain: Dave Duncan (r)
and Rollie Fingers clinch as the A's win
the 1972 World Series...
Could you bat Hal McRae cleanup? Yes, you could: in fact, that is the batting order slot that McRae appeared in the most over his career. He's a little light overall in home run pop (191), but Hal is a much more solid hitter than what we tend to remember.This might be one of those lineup situations where you bat McRae fourth and Monday fifth against righties, and bat Tony C. fourth and McRae fifth against lefties.

No matter how you sort that out, short-career Bill Melton is your sixth batter. As a hitter, Melton looked like a keeper at age 25 (he led the AL in HRs that year--1971), but injuries and lack of conditioning caused him to fade quickly.

The "Larry Bowa bobblehead":
certainly a harbinger of a
thousand heated arguments...
Behind Melton it gets dicey fast. Dave Duncan and George Mitterwald are pretty much the same player (though Sean Smith's WAR system really doesn't like Duncan's defense). Dave is of course much more famous as a pitching coach than he is as a player, and I'm sure he prefers it that way. One of the great mysteries about Mitterwald is why the Twins traded him (after his best season for them, in 1973) straight up for a catcher three years older than he was (Randy Hundley).

And finally, last but certainly least, we have Larry Bowa, whose harrowing transformation from nice-guy shortstop to the odds-on favorite to win the managerial mouth-foam sweepstakes in a cakewalk is, well, downright harrowing. And just wait until you see him hit...

Ralph "Roadrunner" Garr: caught short
The bench is pretty thin if you figure Conigliaro for a platoon player. The best overall player not in the starting lineup is Ralph Garr, but he's not going to beat out McRae in left. You've got Jay Johnstone, good for some laughs, slotted as a pinch-hitter deluxe--but it turns out that he only hit .227 in pinch-hit situations during his career. The middle infield replacements (Ted Sizemore, Jerry Kenney) are non-descript. The operating word for the bench is blah.

Here's that batting order:

1. Lopes, 2b
2. Carew, 1b
3. Smith, rf
4. McRae, lf
5. Monday/Conigliaro, cf
6. Melton, 3b
7. Duncan, c
8. Bowa, ss

Jim Palmer, demonstrating the reason why
his nickname was "Cakes"...
On the pitching side of the ledger, things are a bit better. You've got two Hall of Fame starting pitchers to anchor the rotation in Jim Palmer and Don Sutton (though Seaver and Carlton they ain't). The back end of the rotation contains some quality pitchers, but each of them (Rick Wise, Andy Messersmith, Ken Holtzman) for one reason or another never quite matched up to the level of talent that many thought they possessed.
The 45s might actually need five Don
Suttons on the staff to make up for
what looks to be a thin bullpen...

And, of course, there's Dock Ellis. Dock's "signifying" persona was one of the more interesting phenomena of the 70s and it's an open question as to whether he's preferable to Wise for the last slot in the rotation. There's also Dave Boswell, who blew his arm out after a 20-win season at age 24.

The 45s are top-heavy with starters, and have a thin, non-descript bullpen (Tom Murphy, Dick Drago, Horacio Pina, and Dick Woodson). This is going to be a problem.

I'm figuring it's 80% that this team finishes with less than 75 wins, and it's even money that they don't break 70. The 45s are not going to live up to the legacy of their birthyear, which produced V-E Day and V-J Day.