Capitol Implement

My grandfather, and then my uncle, owned the Ford Tractor dealership in Iowa City.  Being part of a farm implement’s extended family while growing up in a college town didn’t score me much credit in a world in which my best friend’s dad was a professor, but had its perks.  Not the least of them was a steady supply of meat on the table — granddad still owned a farm west of town, and we had access to packages of frozen beef and steak stored over at Gay’s Locker.

During this, the first year of MLB expansion after sixty years of 16 teams, my fuzzy memory is that hitters feasted on the new clubs (and on the watered-down pitching generally).  The main purpose behind replaying this season was to see how Mantle & Maris would fare, and so it has been something of a disappointment to see the Yanks-Cubs franchise, the Des Moines Scarlets, stumbling along at 27-24.  But as the team’s aging platoon bat in LF, Yogi Berra, would say, it ain’t over til it’s over.

MarisMantle

A lineup that includes Mickey Mantle (.317/54/128 and 126 BB) and Roger Maris (.269/61/141 and 94 BB) is off to a pretty great start.  These men are also good fielders: The Mick is a 1 in CF and Roger a 2 in RF, and both have -3 arms, so no complaints on defense either.  The options in LF are none too shabby either, with a trio of left-handed sluggers to rotate through the position and also DH: George Altman (.303/27/96), 23-yo Billy Williams (.278/25/86), and 36-yo Yogi (.271/22/61).  The depth is provided by the outfield’s lone right-handed bat, 33-yo Al Heist (.255/7/37), and 34-yo Richie Ashburn (.257/0/19 and 55 BB).  There might be some vulnerability vs LHP, but aside from that this is a fine group.

Also pretty darn outstanding is the team’s all-Yankee catching corps.  32-yo Elston Howard (.348/21/77 with a -4 arm) is an all-round star.  His backup, Johnny Blanchard (.305/21/54), gives the club another monster bat that can DH now and then (alas, he only had 243 ABs).

The infield is ok, but perhaps drags down the team as a whole.  At the corners are a couple of typical sluggers, Bill Skowron (.267/28/89) and 21-yo Ron Santo (.284/23/83 and 73 BB), who are both 3’s defensively.  Nearly forgotten at the end of the bench are backups at the corners, Ed Bouchee (.248/12/38 and 58 BB) and 24-yo Clete Boyer (.224/11/55 and 63 BB), but Clete’s got a golden glove at third so he at least gets some innings as a defensive sub.  At short the team has an interesting choice, between the good glove of Tony Kubek (.276/8/46 and a 2) and the great bat of Ernie Banks (.278/29/80 and 54 BB).  Mostly the starts have been going to Mr. Cub, but he’s aged into a 4 rating and there are spots where Kubek’s lefty bat gets the nod.  The club’s bona-fide weakness is at 2nd, where the club’s two worst hitters are found: Bobby Richardson (.261/3/49) and Jerry Kindall (.242/9/44).     

SUMMARY LOOK AT DES MOINES HITTERS (WAR of 61.8)
CA (2): 689 ABs, 2R balance, and WAR of 8.5
1B (2): 880 ABs, 1R balance, and WAR of 5.2
2B (2): 972 ABs, 4L balance, and WAR of 2.2
3B (2): 1082 ABs, 1L balance, and WAR of 6.3
SS (2): 1128 ABs, E balance, and WAR of 5.7
LF (2): 924 ABs, 4R balance, and WAR of 4.8
CF (3): 1142 ABs, 2L balance, and WAR of 15.4
RF (2): 1108 ABs, 6R balance, and WAR of 13.7

The historical park factors, as you can see below, probably hurt the power numbers on both clubs a tad — the Yanks do have two right-handed bats (Skowron and Howard) who might see a boost, though, and Mickey as a switch-hitter might swat some extra longballs when a lefty is on the mound.  But Cubs such as Banks and Santo will be hurt enough to make it pretty much a wash.

Ballpark Effect     Yankees       Cubs
Lefty Singles          7            6  
Righty Singles         2            6
Lefty Homers          10           10
Righty Homers          4           13
  

If you need evidence as to how much the Yankee sluggers dominated in ’61, look no further than their mound ace, 32-yo Whitey Ford, who went 25-4 with a so-so ERA of 3.21.  In this replay he’s just 5-4 at this point, though, and I’m not holding my breath for him to reel off nothing but W’s the rest of the way.  Next three starters in the rotation are 22-yo Bill Stafford (14-9, 2.68, 195 IP), Ralph Terry (16-3, 3.15, 188 IP), and Don Cardwell (15-14, 3.82, 259 IP).  The back end features 21-yo Dick Ellsworth (10-11, 3.86, 187 IP) and Glen Hobbie (7-13, 4.26, 199 IP).  I do miss the rotations from the ’68 season!

The bullpen has one true standout in lefty 34-yo Luis Arroyo (15-5, 2.19, 119 IP, and 29 saves).  Joining him is a gaggle of righties  The first three are long-men: 24-yo Rollie Sheldon (11-5, 3.60, 163 IP), Jim Coates (3.44 and 141 IP), and Bob Anderson (4.26, 152 IP, and 8 saves).  Providing more traditional relief innings are 34-yo Barney Schultz (2.70, 67 IP, and 7 saves), 22-yo Hal Reniff (2.58 and 45 IP), and 24-yo Dick Drott (4.22 and 98 IP).

Overall, this does not seem like a great staff, and currently it is indeed pretty middling (the team ERA of 4.40 sits 5th in the 10-team league).  But surprisingly enough, this looks a bit better than the vaunted hiters, who’s 242 runs also stand 5th overall.  Funny that adding guys like Altman, Santo, and Banks to the existing Yankee Murderer’s Row hasn’t been more productive… but that’s why we play out the games.

SUMMARY LOOK AT DES MOINES PITCHERS (WAR of 38.3)
RELIEF (3): 231 IPs, 10R balance, and WAR of 5.7
RELIEF/STARTER (5): 753 IPs, 5L balance, and WAR of 8.0
STARTER (5): 1112 IPs, 3L balance, and WAR of 24.6

Below is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after five weeks, followed by the current standings.  West Metro been hot, winning 7 of its last ten to edge past Dubuque in the race for expansion bragging rights.  The cold club has been Cedar Rapids, in a 2-8 fall that has dropped them below the .500 mark.  

1961IB-1-19-2019.lzp

6/02/61 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         32     20    .615     — 
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      28     21    .571    2.5  
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      26     21    .553    3.5 
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       27     24    .529    4.5 
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   26     27    .491    6.5
West Metro Maroons (Angels)              23     25    .479    7.0 
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators)         24     28    .462    8.0 
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      22     26    .458    8.0 
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      22     29    .431    9.5 
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      20     29    .408   10.5 

That’s all for this time, but one final note: I played more than just one week this time… didn’t feel like writing after taking a break from this league for several months.  Hopefully we can get back on the regular pace. 

© John Kisner 2019