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Big Hair and Plastic Grass Revival League
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Outstanding team recaps!

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Thanks. Just have a few more to go before I put this baby to bed.

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CHICAGO 25-29 / .287 AVG., 302 R, 72 HR, 14 SB, 4.38 ERA, 9 SV, 1 ShO

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The South Side Hitmen lived up to their reputation, and in fact probably exceeded it, leading the majors in homers and Nanananas. Richie Zisk had an MVP-like season, Oscar Gamble's OPS was bigger than his afro, and Jorge Orta and Ralph Garr both hit better than .300. Despite numerous weaknesses, the Sox stayed in the race until the last weekend of the year, and it was their formidable offense, averaging a stout 5.6 runs a game that kept them there.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nearly everything else. Chicago's pitching eventually became exposed (although Francisco Barrios and Lerrin LaGrow had nice years) and their defense was easily the worst in either league, led by Alan Bannister's 17 errors. The Sox used a league high 16 pitchers as Bob Lemon cast about looking for decent arms. When the Sox lost Gamble late in the year, their offense went with him, and it likely is the biggest reason the A's outlasted them.

STATS THAT WERE "STRIKES": Hitters within fifteen points of their actual batting average (RL/replay); Jim Essian (.273/.267), Lamar Johnson (.302/.292), Jack Brohamer (.257/.260), Wayne Nordhagen (.315/.329). Chicago's prorated SB were an exact match for their actual total in 1977 (42) and their expected triple total of 57 was similarly near their 77 total of 52. Their error total was also very close, 162 pro-rated versus 159 in real life.  Pitchers that were within a quarter run of their actual ERA; Dave Hamilton (3.61/ 3.38). Chicago's team ERA was reasonably close to their actual, 4.38 to 4.25, as was their S0/BB ratio, 1.56 to 1.63. 

STATS THAT HIT THE BULL IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE: Hitters that were more than seventy five points off their actual averages; Gamble (.297/.427), Brian Downing (.284/.197), Royle Stillman (.210/.364). Pitchers who were more than run off their ERA; Stone (4.51/5.71), Ken Kravec (4.10/5.34), Chris Knapp (4.80/6.28), Ken Brett (5.01/3.34), Lerrin LaGrow (2.46/1.16), Don Kirkwood (5.18/2.79), and a few other guys who didn't pitch much. The White Sox' staff was all over the place, but the combination of disparate results was ultimately a reasonably accurate portrayal of their general mediocrity. In fact, that can be said of the whole team--maybe not a lot of bulls eyes, but the team's strengths and weaknesses were well represented statistically as a whole.

TEAM MVP: If he had played more, it would have been Gamble; if he had played more, he might have won the MVP for whole league, because nobody could get Oscar out, even the rare opportunities he had against lefties. But since he only had 110 ABs, Gamble is not really a legit choice here, leaving the obvious selection of  Zisk, who led the league in RBIs and was Harry Caray's choice for league MVP anyway.

Image result for richie zisk white sox



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KANSAS CITY 24-30 / .264 AVG., 246 R, 46 HR, 54 SB, 4.43 ERA, 14 SV, 46 E

WHAT WENT RIGHT: In an epically disappointing season for his team, Amos Otis provided some highlights with brilliant play down the stretch. Al Cowens was one of the better OFs in the league, and before he wore out the last quarter of the season, Dennis Leonard may have been the best starter in the league. They stole a lot of bases, and Big John Mayberry hit a few homers. And the Royal charter never crashed and the Stadium didn't burn down. Perhaps it would have been better if either of those things happened...

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nearly everything else. KC was bit by the injury vampire and lost multiple games to key players. But many of the healthy ones had putrid seasons; Colborn, Splittorf, and Gura were abysmal, and George Brett drove in just 19 runs despite hitting ten homers. Fred Patek and Frank White didn't hit and Patek didn't field. No one filled the lead off spot effectively. It was a bad, bad year that tried Whitey Herzog's patience, and was made all the more frustrating when viewed within the context of a poor division that was ripe for the taking.

STATS THAT WERE "STRIKES": Hitters within fifteen points of their actual batting average (RL/replay); Darrell Porter (.275/.283), Mayberry (.230/226), Cowens (.312/.311), Buck Martinez (.225/.222). KC was on pace for 162 steals, compared with an actual total of 170. Their prorated total of 158 homers was reasonably close to 1977's total of 146. Pitchers that were within a quarter run of their actual ERA; nobody. KC's total of 46 errors was not impressive relative to the league in this project, but it was almost a dead ringer for their actual total of 137 if figured on a 162 game basis.

STATS THAT HIT THE BULL IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE: Hitters that were more than seventy five points off their actual averages; Otis (.251/.351). The Royal's offense was off it's real life average by about a half a run (5.0/4.6) and 13 points in BA and 36 in SLG. They just didn't hit as well as they expected to. Pitchers who were more than run off their ERA; Jim Colborn (3.63/5.75), Paul Splittorf (3.69/5.20), Larry Gura (3.13/6.32), Marty Pattin (3.58/5.24) ,Mark Littell (3.61/2.45). The Royals soft-tossing staff was pummeled to a tune of nearly one more earned run a game than in real life, 4.43 versus 3.52. Their strikeout to walk ratio was also askew; 1.7 in real life, 1.3 in the replay.

Jim Colborn threw a no-hitter in 1977. I had forgotten that and was shocked to contemplate it, because in this replay, Colborn could scarcely get through an inning without giving up a couple of hits. Too many Royal pitchers depended entirely on location to get batters out, and failing that they were battered by the many good hitters in this league. They just couldn't throw the raw meat past the hungry wolves, and they were eaten alive as a result.

TEAM MVP: Amos Otis was clearly the best player on the club, although if had played more (134 ABs) it may have caught up with him. But, man was he good when he was in the lineup, even as his team floundered. AO hit .351 with 20 RBIs and 10 SBs. He had 4 homers, a team high 4 triples, and played a flawless CF with zero errors and multiple base runner kills. 



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OAKLAND 27-27 / .259 AVG., 245 R, 50 HR, 38 SB, 4.28 ERA, 13 SV, 3 ShO, 38 E

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Despite a .500 regular season, the A's had the AL MVP (Sal Bando) and Cy Young winner (Ken Holtzman) and probably the best reliever in Rollie Fingers. They also had the stolen base leader, Bill North. In the end it was enough to win a weak division and ultimately a decisive post season title, as some players who struggled recovered to have great performances (Hunter, Rudi, Johnson, Tenace.)

WHAT WENT WRONG: There were serious holes in the bullpen aside from Fingers, and the the rotation beyond Holtzman was spotty, even downright bad at times. Joe Rudi was hurt all year and played like it, and no one filled in capably when he was out. Bert Campaneris was also out with injuries and never really kicked into gear at the plate, and Reggie Jackson seemed distracted by his on again-off again war of words with owner Charlie Finley.

STATS THAT WERE "STRIKES": Hitters within fifteen points of their actual batting average (RL/replay); Dick Green (.262/.254), Campaneris (.250/.238), Bill North (.285/.294), Jackson (.293/.289), Deron Johnson (.246/.252). Tha A's hit .260 in 1973, and .259 in this season. They slugged .392 in the project, .388 in real life. The A's home run pace was identical--147--to actual. Pitchers that were within a quarter run of their actual ERA; Holtzman (2.97/3.02), Dave Hamilton (4.39/4.54), Fingers (1.92/2.06). The A's prorated save totals were very close (41/39).

STATS THAT HIT THE BULL IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE: Hitters that were more than seventy five points off their actual averages; Pat Bourque (.190/.294), although he didn't play much, needless to say. Oakland's offensive numbers were really close, and only Rudi was an outlier. If the post season numbers are included, everything gets closer to actual (especially pitching stats), which is what one would expect, all things being equal. Pitchers who were more than run off their ERA; Pina (2.76/6.41), Lindblad (3.69/6.54). The A's pitching numbers were blown up almost entirely by it's bullpen (with a little Glenn Abbott and an underwhelming Vida Blue thrown in as well.) As a result, they allowed nearly an earned run more than they should have been expected to (4.28 to 3.29.) 

TEAM MVP (not named Bando or Holtzman); A tough call, because a little inspection reveals how crucial those two were to the A's winning the division. There is a big gap in performances after them. But we'll go with Bill North, who got on base regularly, scored 42 runs (even more than Bando), ran the bases with efficient abandon, and played a solid center field. North was an underrated table setter during his career--a personal favorite of mine--and when hitting right handed actually a pretty dangerous hitter. And he fought Reggie Jackson and lived to tell about it, so points there as well.



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seajaw wrote:

Outstanding team recaps!


+1

I still don't see how the 27-27 A's beat the Reds, but I guess anything can happen in a seven-game series (especially if one team has a pitching advantage).



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Aside from the pitching advantage, I think two things were at work. 1) The A's were a better team than their record indicated, especially the pitching. Hunter started to pitch like you would expect from a HOFer, the bullpen settled down, and the hitting picked up a little. I think if the season went on longer they would have perfromed much better (but KC likely would have too, and then all bets would have been off.)

2) a seven game series in baseball is a lot of luck, good and bad. I think it has more to do with that than anything. A five game series like this still could have swung the other way with a couple of different decisions or outcomes. Most of those tipping points went Oakland's way.



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boomer wrote:
seajaw wrote:

Outstanding team recaps!


+1

I still don't see how the 27-27 A's beat the Reds, but I guess anything can happen in a seven-game series (especially if one team has a pitching advantage).


 Add me to the list of those enjoying the recaps.



-- Edited by stratfan70 on Monday 8th of August 2016 06:55:01 PM

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Thanks, fellas. Have the Japanese teams and some final observations and then that's all she wrote.

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YOMIURI (TOKYO) GIANTS  24-29-1 / .262 AVG., 254 R, 51 HR, 30 SB, 5.05 ERA, 8 SV, 2 ShO

WHAT WENT RIGHT: After a rough start, the Giants became a respectable foe as they adjusted to the American game and all it's many differences. Isao Shibata was stellar as their lead off man, and former big-leaguer Johnny Sipin tore the cover off the ball. Tsuneo Horiuchi had a fine season on the mound, and lightly regarded Susumu Omata was the lone bright spot in the bullpen.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The pitching staff struggled to find the strike zone, often getting into trouble due to its insistence on living on the corners, and that unwillingness to challenge  MLB hitters led to a rotation that rarely worked deep into games and a bullpen that was overworked and disappointing. Masahiro Yanagida quit hitting after the first month of the season, and the Giants catchers swung the bat so badly it was literally the same as having two pitchers in the lineup. Big lefty sluggers Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto were solid but unspectacular.

STATS THAT WERE "STRIKES": Hitters within fifteen points of their actual batting average (RL/replay); Sipin (.315/.330), Haruaki Harada (.235/.231) Kaz Kono (.291/.282) In general few performed at levels equal to their actual, but I didn't expect many to. The Giants were stepping up in competition, and their Statis Pro Cards reflected that. The HMB cards I created were a little closer to their actual stats, but on balance, their performance was indicative and consistent with the inferior competition in the NPB. That being said, they were within eight points (.270/.262)) of their actual team batting average, and they scored the same number of runs per game (4.7). Pitchers that were within a quarter run of their actual ERA; Clyde Wright (4.97/4.92), Takashi Nishimoto (3.76/4.00), Horuichi (3.54/3.46). 

STATS THAT HIT THE BULL IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE: Hitters that were more than seventy five points off their actual averages; Tomoharu Fukushima (.226/.140). Pitchers who were more than run off their ERA; Keishi Asano (5.72/7.76), Hajime Kato (3.61/6.58), Shigeru Kobayashi (4.09/6.84), Hisao Niura (2.81/5.29), Mitsuo Sumi (2.88/5.44), Omata (4.24/2.65). The difference in quality showed up  primarily in the pitching department. Yomiuri's team ERA in the 1978 Central League was a solid 3.61. Against the Majors, it was 5.05. Their strikeout to walk ratio was 1.09 in the project, as opposed to 1.51 in real life. 

TEAM MVP: Although Oh was the big draw and the initiating reason for the Japanese clubs' inclusion, it was Johnny Sipin who was the best player on the Giants, with Shibata a very close second. "Lion Maru" was a wildly popular and productive player in Japan, after an unremarkable MLB career of one year with the expansion Padres. Originally the property of the other Japanese team in this project, the Taiyo Whales, Sipin was sent to the Giants in 78, where he switched positions from second base to third and left, and shaved off his trademark beard and cut his hair. Sipin batted .330 in this replay season, with 8 HRs and 30 RBIs, and played decently in the field wherever he was deployed. Fortunately Johnny was not hit by pitches too often--he was known to charge the mound in Japan, something that was quite uncommon in the NPB.

 

Sipin, before the trade to Yomiuri



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TAIYO (YOKOHAMA) WHALES 20-33-1 / .279 AVG., 293 R, 66 HR, 17 SB, 5.33 ERA, 6 SV, 3 ShO

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Whales could hit. They had power throughout the lineup and some really tough outs like Masayuki Nakatsuka, Yoshi Takagi and Makoto Matsubara. The Whales adjusted to the longer American fences, and soon were knocking them down. Tomio Tashiro led the club with 13 homers, and the Whales were one of the more formidable offenses in the league.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Just about everything else. Taiyo was like a lite version of Boston or Chicago; if they couldn't out-slug you, they weren't going to win, because they were not fast, not great defensively, and their pitching was the worst in baseball. In truth, the Whales did a disproportionate amount of their limited damage against the weak sisters in the break out part of the season, whupping up on the Seattle's of the world. The struggled against the core twelve, and simply could not execute the other facets of the game well enough to compete.

STATS THAT WERE "STRIKES": Hitters within fifteen points of their actual batting average (RL/replay); Nakatsuka (.317/.315), Felix Millan (.287/.296), Takagi (.326/.335), Matsubara (.329/.329), Danny Walton (.215/.229). Despite the supposed "devaluation" of the Japanese hitters, the Whales had a lot of guys close to their actual performances offensively, and as a team, they came very near their real totals or exceeded them. The Whales hit .279 in my replay, .273 in 1978. Pitchers that were within a quarter run of their actual ERA; Shigeyuki Takahashi (3.39/3.40). The Whales pitchers, beleaguered though they were, averaged 0.56 strikeouts per inning, versus 0.6 IRL.

STATS THAT HIT THE BULL IN THE ON-DECK CIRCLE: Hitters that were more than seventy five points off their actual averages; Yasuhiko Tsuji (.203/.313). The Whales averaged a respectable 4.6 runs a game in 1978 in the Central League; they exploded to 5.4 in the replay. They were also on a pace to hit 159 homers in the replay, versus the 132 they hit out in real life. Pitchers who were more than run off their ERA; Shiro Miyamoto (4.18/6.31), Takashi Nemoto (7.64/9.35), Osamu Nomura (3.14/4.28), Hiroshi Okawa (7.34/11.80), Masao Tamura (3.77/5.77). Much like the Giants, it was pitching where the apple fell the farthest from the tree. The Whales ERA was nearly a run and a half higher against MLB (5.33) than against NPB (3.90). Their strikeout to walk was nearly as bad (1.63/1.32.) History has actually favored pitchers who migrated to the US from Japan, but it would appear the underlying assumption of the card makers at Avalon Hill was quite the opposite in the late seventies.

TEAM MVP: Takagi was a terrific hitter, smacking 18 doubles to go along with 10 homers, 46 RBIs, and a .571 SLG. But he also committed eight errors in LF to "pace" the league, and was generally a liability in the field. That gives the MVP to Matsubara, who was named to the all-league team at first base. Makoto didn't lead the Whales in any particular stat but game winning RBI (4), but he was in the top two or three in all the major categories, and quietly led the Whales throughout the year.



-- Edited by pfunkone on Friday 12th of August 2016 09:49:05 AM

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SOME FINAL THOUGHTS...

When I undertook this project back in September, I really had only a vague notion of what I was getting into. Most of my past efforts had been directed toward tournament style replays, usually just within a single season. I had always looked at people who were able to finish off even short season schedules with a type of peculiar awe--I had only done it twice, and both were very short with few stats, and certainly not with the added expectation of posting to a group (or groups.) I had enjoyed those mini-campaigns, but just couldn't see myself doing it again--staying with the process--despite a desire to do so. It just seemed like too much work, and I have enough unfinished projects laying around.

But it kept nagging at me, and I'm getting older, and frankly don't know how much time I've got left... So I decided to do one, but realized I had to give myself a "hook," something that would keep my interest throughout a long season. The multi-platform approach was a way to do that, and I have to admit, I am a bit surprised at how well it worked. I rarely got bored, the statistics had a solid degree of fidelity, the crossover between game engines was easily managed, and I ended up with some compelling team and individual races. And I learned a lot about how I would do another project, and hopefully how to present it in a way that is interesting and edifying to those that follow it.

For me at this point, anything of a similar magnitude will require the same multi-platform arrangement. I just enjoyed bouncing around from game-to-game too much. I have a better idea of how to deal with different types of injuries, manage rest requirements, and the sometimes differing ratings. Bottom line, I know it is an approach capable of producing realistic results, hitting all the areas of the game in one way or another, and is fun, which is the most important factor of all.

As a result of this experience, I know what my next big project will be-- I just don't know when I will undertake it. As much as I loved this league, it came to dominate much of my free time over the last ten months, and there are other things I would like to do. As much as I enjoyed sharing it with people, there were times it became a job--not often, but occasionally. So for the next little bit I will be taking a break.

But I appreciate those that came along for the ride, and who provided encouragement and insight into what was an otherwise personal endeavor. Thank you for experiencing it with me, even when it veered off into topics that only marginally related to tabletop board gaming.

Because sports in general, and baseball specifically, have always been not just a pleasant pastime, but the way in which I mark time. When I think of say, 1973, the first thing I think of is what happened in that baseball season, and then everything else that happened that year flows from that mental landmark. On a related note, I have also found that the only way to slow the seeming velocity increase in the flow of time as I age is to take these journeys backward, back to when I was young and the world was a room full of people I could become, rather than the small corner my choices have painted me in. It is my revival, my railing against the dying of the light...

 

POST SCRIPT: The only regret I have about this project and the way it was laid out, was that some players who I would have really liked to have been involved just didn't get in. Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, two of the greatest players of all-time, were not included. Neither was the great Bob Gibson, and while I would acknowledge they were better known for their exploits in the sixties (or even fifties in Aaron's case), they all were significant parts of this decade as well.

But the guy I really missed the most was my favorite player, Mitchell Page. Many of you may not remember him, but playing for some really bad A's teams in the late seventies, Page was for a very brief period, a legitimate star. He was the Sporting News Rookie of the Year in 1977, when he set a then-major league mark for consecutive stolen bases without being caught (he ended up 42 out of 47) and hit .307 with 21 home runs, with an OBP over .400. He was the best player on a couple of bad teams, and he briefly gave hope to a young fan that the A's would regain their spot at the top of the AL. 

Of course, he never really capitalized on that beginning, and he was back in the minors by the time Billy Martin got the A's back in the post season a few years later, and despite hitting well in AAA could never get back full time to the majors. He transitioned into coaching, where he worked for many clubs for many years, until dying unexpectedly in his sleep a few years ago.

To this day I don't know why he was my favorite player; perhaps it was his batting style, bat held rigidly like an arrow to be released from it's bow. Maybe it was his aggressive running style, like a train about to hit a car on the tracks. Or maybe it was his dichotomous flaws, for despite his athleticism, Page didn't throw well and was not a good outfielder. Despite being strong, he was not a pull hitter.

More likely, it was because his career arc seemed so unfair, and it that regard so lifelike in retrospect in it's subtle tragedy. From the heights of his rookie season, to the lows of the strike year, Mitchell Page did nothing but work hard and yet it all escaped him, and he was done by 1984. He struggled with alcoholism in later years, and he left the game for personal reasons after coaching for nearly twenty. Despite all that, or perhaps in part because of it, he was generally well-respected by those that played with and for him, and he is missed.

This one was for you Mitch...



-- Edited by pfunkone on Friday 12th of August 2016 09:54:22 AM

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Interesting and poignant final thoughts, all of which I agree with (either before or only after you articulated them).

To a similar, though lesser, extent your Mitchell Page might be my Gates Brown.  Lord knows why, but if he ever got a start in one of my games, I think I'd root for him more than any other player.  If the Lord knows why, he ain't telling me.



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