Saturday, April 16, 2011


Carlton Fisk (l) and some members of the '73 Red Sox help
Thurman Munson (center) "do the limbo"...
80% of the way to the start of what promises to be a wild and wacky "alternate universe" simulation, and when we look at the 1947 team we immediately see that this squad is all-too-heavily invested in the tools of ignorance. Good gravy--a single squad with Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson and Cliff Johnson? What the heck can be done to get these guys enough playing time? Virtually can probably platoon Johnson at first and give Bench time at third base, which will open up some playing time for Fisk, but Munson is (sorry to say it...) off the radar.

Here's the roster:

C: Bench, Fisk, Munson, Johnson
1B: Darrell Evans
2B: Wayne Garrett, Bill Stein
SS: Roger Metzger, Fred Stanley
3B: Richie Hebner, Don Money
OF: Ken Singleton, Jose Cruz, Amos Otis, John Lowenstein, Bernie Carbo, Larry Hisle

There will probably be some complex platooning here, something like what you see in the chart at the right. It's clear, however, that the 47s pretty much have to carry all those middle infielders so that they can simply pinch-hit for their second basemen as often as necessary. (That way Munson can get at least 200 PAs during the season.)

In keeping with our unorthodox batting order practices, the 47s are going to lead off with Ken Singleton.  Earl Weaver gave this idea a shot in 1975, and it worked well for the Orioles (though they wound up in second place in the NL East that year). Singleton's lifetime .388 OBP is the fifth highest of all players born in the 1940s. There's enough power further down the lineup to make this a safe move.

Amos Otis
Jose Cruz
Amos Otis and Jose Cruz will spend time in the #2 and #3 slots--they have similarly shaped stats (though Cruz draws more walks). When Singleton is not on base, Otis and Cruz will be able to do some baserunning, and their moderate power is going to keep pitchers honest.

The 47s have the luxury of playing Larry Hisle against lefties. Hisle is an almost completely forgotten player, but he had some big years for the Twins and Brewers before injuries curtailed his career. Hisle's 1976 and 1977 seasons are more productive seasons than any individual years posted by Otis or Cruz.

Cliff Johnson eyes a lefty pitcher...
There will be solid power hitting in the #4 and #5 slots. Bench will bat fourth, with Darrell Evans and Cliff Johnson batting fifth in a first base platoon. Don't quite cotton to the idea that this semi-obscure utility player should push a great power hitter like Evans to the bench against lefties? Check out their SLG and OPS against lefties:

Johnson .514 SLG, .905 OPS
Evans .399 SLG, .744 OPS

Trust me, you will not regret this move.

Richie Hebner: from grave-digger to
garden troll...
Batting sixth, we'll have a shake-and-bake style platoon, with Richie Hebner playing third against righties and Fisk taking the slot and doing the catching while Bench plays third. We gain about 90 points of OPS by sitting Hebner down against lefties.

This is not something to be
found in your grandmother's
on-deck circle...
Given the truly absymal offensive alternatives available to the 47s at shortstop (Metzger and Stanley), it is really a no-brainer to shift Don Money from third base. He was good enough to play there when he was young, and one can always shift him to third (where he's a more accomplished fielder than anyone else the 47s can throw out there) in the late innings. If the team is going to get enough offensive firepower, it's going to have to make this move. Money will bring a solid bat to the #7 slot.

As we noted earlier, the 47s will have the opportunity to do some massive pinch-hitting in their #8 slot. They can actually afford to bat for their entire keystone platoon (Wayne Garrett and Bill Stein--that's Bill, not Ben...!) with Munson et al and still have Chicken Stanley available for some late-inning leather (hmm...methinks there might have been a late 70s porno flick with that title, featuring any one of several "early blooming overachievers" who gave the grotesquely gifted Ron Jeremy a heart rate far too dangerously elevated for someone with one--and only one--sharp edge).

So here's the batting order with all of the platoons (L/R):

1. Singleton rf
2. Otis cf
3. Hisle/Cruz lf
In the starting rotation: Nolan Ryan...and a whole lot of very little else.
4. Bench 3b/c
5. Johnson/Evans 1b
6. Fisk c/Hebner 3b
7. Money ss
8. Stein/Garrett 2b

These boys will score, with or without that leather nun. But once again, we see a team in the showdown with spotty pitching. Yes, you have Nolan Ryan on this squad--and you're probably going to have to give him 40 starts, given that the rest of the rotation includes the likes of Joe Coleman, Steve Stone, Larry Gura and Bob Moose.

One can quickly envision how this is likely to go. Ryan will put up numbers that look similar to his first breakout years with the Angels--let's say 19-16. The other four chimps here look like 8-13, 9-14, 10-13, and 8-12 types: add all that up and you have 54-67. That looks like a recipe for about 70 wins.

You do have a good bullpen here, with some solid depth and an ability to rack up a sizable number of innings just the way the 43s have. Gene Garber is one of the game's most underrated closers, and the 47s boast the two skinniest late-inning aces of all time in Kent Tekulve and Tom Hall.

But the problem is that the horses will too often be out of the barn before it's even possible to think about closing the door. Frankly, this team's chances to reach .500 probably rest on a manager pushing Ryan for 44-45 starts and yanking the Big Steerhead in the seventh half the time so that a) the bullpen can save a few more wins for him and b) his arm stays attached to his body for the entire season.

So--an interesting team, top-heavy with catching talent, a squad that is made for someone with a serious jones for overmanaging. What's really interesting is that, so far as I can tell, we haven't got a major or a minor-league manager on this squad. Who's going to do all that overmanaging?

Here are a few possibilities, from the list of people born in 1947:

Is this the future face of Tim Lincecum??
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Gregg Allman. Paul AusterDavid Bowie. Albert Brooks. Ry Cooder. The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Billy Crystal. Sibyl Danning. Robert Englund (aka Freddy Kruger). Dick Fosbury. Erica Gavin. Sammy Hagar. Tommy James. Elton John. Ted Lange. Rula Lenska. Jeff Lynne. Ellen Malcolm (no relation). Peter Noone. Sara Jane Olson. Camille Paglia. Iggy Pop. Dan Quayle. Mitt Romney. Salman Rushdie. Arnold Schwarzenegger. O.J. Simpson (via special furlough program). Alan Thicke. Cheryl Tiegs. Loudon Wainwright III. Tippy Walker. Bob Weir.

A legend in his own mind, just like Larry Bowa...

This probably has to be a College of Coaches kinda thing here, which sorta kinda means that the 47s are becoming the Chicago Cubs of the Birthyear Showdown. I think it comes down to two choices, reflecting the odd schizophrenia inherent in the second year of the Baby Boom--either Iggy Pop (the Billy Martin of rock'n'roll) or The Legendary Stardust Cowboy (the Larry Bowa of psychobilly). Let's face it, fringe teams need to be managed by lunatics.