Tommy Davis

By no stretch was I a fan of the White Sox in the 1960s.  That would come twenty years later, when WGN and Sportschannel became available on my tv.  Jenny’s favorite player back then was Harold Baines, who can thank the Designated Hitter rule for extending his career long enough to squeak into Cooperstown. Without the DH, knee troubles would probably have shortened his career by half.

The IBC uses the DH rule, a bit anachonistically, so that more hitters can find at-bats in this superstar league.  With 17 hitters on a roster, even with a DH it can be tough to win playing time.  It varies considerably by franchise.  For instance, on the Regals (which we talked about last time) the fifth outfielder is Johnny Callison (.244/14/40), who is a 2e0(-4) in RF and has a WAR of 3.6.  He’d be minor nobility in most towns, but collects more splinters than ABs in Iowa City since one of the team’s big stars, Dick Allen, is the perfect DH.

Wagner

This week’s featured team, Waterloo, has a couple of stars, but the supporting cast is weak in every sense of the word.  It’s a club that desparately needs a DH like Frank Howard or Willie Stargell to elevate the offense.  They do follow the standard formula of filling the extra lineup slot with slow, bad-fielding outfielders, but the Sailors’ platoon is too much Judy and not enough Punch.  Nonetheless, I do like these guys!  The primary DH has been Tommy Davis (.268/8/50), who has a WAR of just 0.3 and almost didn't even make the roster.  His primary virtue is 456 ABs, which ensure “quantity” never runs short, but I hate that he drew just 16 walks and hit into a ton of double-plays.  Davis is on the downward slope of a career that featured back-to-back batting titles for the Dodgers, but after a gruesome ankle break he was never as good. Similar in many ways is 34-yo Leon Wagner (.261/1/24), the left-handed part of this DH duo, with a WAR of 0.7 (he rates higher than Davis due to his .345 on-base %).  "Daddy Wags" drug addiction, unfortunately, led homelessness and a sad end to his life in 2004.  Filling the DH with a platoon that combines for under ten homers is obviously less than ideal, but in the IBC you have to play the cards you’re dealt (no trades allowed). 

Waterloo’s outfield, with two big-time veteran bats, is its strength.  The superstar is Henry Aaron (.287/29/86 and 64 walks), who at the ripe age of 34 still has the legs to steal 28 bags and be a ‘1’ in RF. Playing next to him is 33-yo Felipe Alou (.312/11/57), also still at peak value.  The situation in LF is more complicated, with matchup choices of right-handed Ken Berry (.252/7/32) and left-handed 34-yo Tito Francona (.286/2/47) — Berry's better with the glove, but Francona’s on-base % is almost 100 points higher so he usually gets the nod.  Extra outfielders are 2’s in the field who can’t hit a lick, but definitely add a sprig of youth to this graying outfield: 23-yo Buddy Bradford (.217/5/24) and 22-yo Mike Lum (.224/3/21).  

As with the DH slot, the corner infield positions feature platoons that leave much to be desired.  Tommy McCraw (.235/9/44 and 20 steals) and Deron Johnson (.208/8/33) handle first.  Note McCraw is actually the team’s 5th-best hitter by WAR (3.2), which I mention to illustrate how tough it will probably be for this team to produce runs.  The hot corner is more of the same: the left-handed Pete Ward (.216/15/50) and the righty Clete Boyer (.227/4/17 and a ‘1’ defender).

Defense is strong around the keystone, with Venezuelan great 34-yo Luis Aparicio (.264/4/36 and 17 steals) at SS and a pair of Puerto Rican 24-yos, Félix Milan (.289/1/33) and Sandy Alomar (.253/0/12 and 21 steals), manning second.  Alomar is also an able backup for Aparicio, so with this trio the Sailors are set.  

Joe Torre (.271/10/55) and Duane Josephson (.247/6/45) make the catcher position one of the team’s few offensive strengths — many teams get by with someone much, much worse than Torre.  I am also struck by how many of this team’s players I recognize for becaming managers and coaches.  In addition to Yankee skipper Joe Torre, we have McCraw, Alomar, Alou, and Davis.  It’s a cerebral bunch!

It struck me that it might be interesting to count Team WAR for the hitters on each roster, and compute runs per game.  The “regulars” are the Top 8 and the “bench” is the Bottom 9, and I have rounded each player’s value for ease of counting (I got lazy).  Note the order of presentation is the same as the current standings.  Although it is hard to say if this tabulation is meaningful, it does suggest Waterloo's thin bench has been a factor in their terrible run production.  I also think Davenport should be scoring more runs, given all that talent!
                                          Team WAR
                                     
Regulars   Bench   Runs/Game
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      40       13       4.54
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         43       23       3.96
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   38       16       4.14
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      40       11       4.52
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      38       17       3.69
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      30       10       3.66
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      33        8       3.39
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       41       15       3.69
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         28       10       3.55
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  29        6       3.50

Below are the historical ballpark ratings for the White Sox and Braves (note all IBC parks are 9’s across the board).  The switch in venues will not have a dramatic effect.

Ballpark Effect     Chicago     Atlanta
Lefty Singles          7            5  
Righty Singles        10            5
Lefty Homers           5           11
Righty Homers          5           11
 

A few hitters with the sorting requirement of 360+ ABs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Waterloo's 30-man roster.  Three were shortstops: Ron Hansen (.196/9/32), Sonny Jackson (.226/1/19 and 16 SB), and Marty Martinez (.230/0/12).  Hank’s kid brother, Tommie Aaron (.244/1/25), might have been a wise choice as the roster's last man, but my nod went to Tommy Davis (who had a much better career).

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 8 weeks of play, and the current standings.  We have moved past Memorial Day into early June, and this was the first week in which the pecking order did not change.

1968IB-2-13-2019.lzp

6/02/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      36     16    .692     —
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         28     21    .571    6.5
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   28     22    .560    7.0
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      27     23    .540    8.0
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      28     24    .538    8.0
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      24     26    .480   11.0
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      24     27    .471   11.5
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       22     29    .431   13.5
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         20     31    .392   15.5
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  17     35    .327   19.0

I’ll cover the Waterloo Sailors pitchers next time!

© John Kisner 2019