All Stars

We just hit the all-star break.  It sort of sneaked up on me, so I decided to save the discussion of odd-stat pitchers until later.  This is a week for the stars.

Little League and Babe Ruth were 3-year groupings.  Oldest kids made the all-star squad pretty routinely, and while I cannot remember if I ever made it as a 2nd-year, I like to think so.  My most memorable all-star game, pitting my Blue team against the Red squad, came in Little League.  This game planted the seed that grew my fascination with triples, since in this contest I hit one off my cousin, Tim Kennedy.  This matchup was a hens-tooth rarity, since there was no inter-league play in Iowa City, and it’s funny how memories of it shift according to perspective.  Me, I remember the blast almost going out — I swear it hit the fence on the fly and had to hustle for third since I had assumed it was gone.  Tim, however, sees it more as a dubious hit — opposite field, barely fair — and as evidence that I had trouble getting around on his heater.

My coach that year was Dee Norton, my best friend Jerry’s dad.  He stepped up to coach in part to keep his boy motivated to play — Jerry was pretty good at 2B, but was fast losing interest in baseball.  Another neighborhood dad, Ray Westfall, served as the assistant, but the team drew players from all over town.  Dee was a welcome change from the coach we had the previous year; I don’t recall his name, but remember him as too intense to be coaching little kids.

A year later, Jerry was out of baseball and I was drafted to play for the Braves squad.  The coach was Gene Gauron, who had no kids of his own.  Like Dee, he was a psychology professor at U of I.  I did a search for him, and found an article in Sports Illustrated that mentioned his work with the Iowa swim team. He was probably experimenting with us kids a bit, but for three years he was also an ersatz father figure for me (after my parents divorced I almost never saw my dad).  The Gaurons even gave me a high-school graduation gift, which says more about them than it does me.  I can only hope he knew his positive impact on my junior high years.  Alas, Gene Gauron died young (cancer), and I’ll never get to tell him now.

In the IBC, the all star squad is (mostly) generated by the game software.  Two players are chosen at each position, and then I’ll choose a 17th man that I think should also be honored.  Similarly, the game will pick a dozen pitchers and then I’ll add a final selection.  Here are the hitters and their current stats, ranked by their vote totals.  The eight starters are marked with an asterisk.

Name                    AB  DO  3B  HR  RBI  AVG  BB  SO
Willie Mays, CBF       248  18   2  16  55  .339  33  30  CF *
Brooks Robinson, ALC   290  17   4  13  49  .293  16  14  3B *
Willie Horton, DPK     243   6   2  19  55  .305  27  52  LF *
Carl Yastrzemski, ICR  261  19   1   9  30  .280  56  43  LF
Jim Fregosi, WMM       313  13   8   6  29  .275  20  59  SS *
Ken Harrelson, ICR     260   7   0  15  48  .323  25  43  RF *
Billy Williams, DPK    302   8   4  13  42  .255  28  33  RF
Mike Shannon, DPK      275  15   2  10  26  .295  24  50  3B
Willie McCovey, CBF    255   7   3  16  46  .251  31  40  1B *
Reggie Smith, ICR      275  12   1   7  35  .295  26  30  CF
Glenn Beckert, DMS     316  11   3   3  25  .250  14  21  2B *
Ernie Banks, DMS       274  12   0  16  43  .226   5  30  1B
Luis Aparicio, WLS     308  12   2   0  29  .292  16  28  SS
Mike Andrews, ICR      263  13   2   1  29  .266  41  33  2B
Bill Freehan, DPK      255   8   0   8  30  .239  22  34  CA *
John Bench, SCC        229  15   0   5  23  .253  12  44  CA
Roberto Clemente, ALC  244   8   6  15  40  .287  17  43  wildcard

This is a nice group, but note two clubs failed to roster a hitter on the squad.  The Saints didn’t really have any serious candidates.  Their best, Tony Oliva, has 38.5 Runs Created but he’s not even close to Clemente (my wild-card pick for last man).  A couple of stars from the Golden Eagles just missed the team.  At third, Ken McMullen’s .292/16/33 is very similar to Mike Shannon, but I suspect part of the voting is based on a team’s win total, and Dubuque’s in last place.  Frank Howard is leading the league in homers, but I suppose it’s hard to call him an all-star when he hits .229 and is a brick out in LF.

Brooks

Two mild surprises on the team man the hot corner.  First off, I was shocked that (according to the computer) Brooks Robinson is the league’s 2nd-best position player.  When Ames is playing, I usually have Brooks batting 7th and think of him as just an ok hitter (to go with the gold glove) — little did I know he’s hitting so well!  In my defense, 1968 was a very pedestrian year for The Human Vacuum Cleaner… a .253/17/73 slash line is nothing to get excited about.  Davenport’s Mike Shannon is a similar case, batting down in the order (as befitting a .266/15/79 hitter).

The software selected a nice mix of pitchers that includes four relievers, which seems about right for an all-star squad.  Here are the pitchers and their current stats, ranked by their vote totals, followed by my wildcard pick.

Name                    W   L    ERA  SV   IP    H  BB   SO  WHIP
Bob Gibson, DPK        13   3   2.34   0  154  123  32  102  1.02
Dean Chance, CRS       10   4   2.25   0  132   90  31  103   .92
Gaylord Perry, CBF     12   4   2.05   0  149  124  35   66  1.07
Juan Marichal, CBF     12   4   2.71   0  163  164  26   87  1.17
Steve Blass, ALC       10   1   3.03   0  107   99  24   64  1.15
Ron Taylor, WMM         3   2   1.90  16   43   33   7   30   .94
Fergie Jenkins, DMS     9   7   2.93   0  148  127  46  117  1.17
Chris Short, ICR       10   5   3.42   0  137  133  39   84  1.26
Jack Billingham CRS     2   0   1.07  14   25   19   5   17   .95
Luis Tiant, SCC         7   8   3.04   0  136  105  42  141  1.08
Moe Drabowsky, ALC      1   3   3.90  21   30   23  16   22  1.30
Hoyt Wilhelm, WLS       0   2   2.83  18   29   20   3   16   .80

The starting pitchers on this list tend toward sparkling W-L records, and it seems pretty clear that this was a priority for the computer voting.  Down the list are Fergie Jenkins and Luis Tiant, both sputtering around the break-even mark, and a case could be made for some pitchers with better ERAs, such as Iowa City’s Woodie Fryman (7-5, 2.72, 60 K) and Sioux City’s Sonny Siebert (4-3, 2.58, 58 K).  A trio of 8-game winners also warrant consideration: West Metro’s Tom Seaver (8-8, 2.96, 86 K), Davenport’s Denny McLain (8-7, 3.27, 106 K), and Des Moines’ Mel Stottlemyre (8-6, 3.08, 68 K).

Note that the Saints are represented by two pitchers, Chance and Billingham, so now it’s just Dubuque that lacks all star.  I could leave Roberto off the squad and pick McMullen instead, but it’s my league and I don’t think I need to jump any hoops to make sure every team is represented.  (This would be easy to do now, but would get harder if and when I play more recent seasons, and the league has more teams.)

Billingham

A few of the pitching lines really pop off the screen, and since relievers are sort of an afterthought in these writeups let’s take take a gander at Jack Billingham, who was a rookie in 1968.  Sure it will just take a single bad inning to goose that ERA, but for now that 1.07 is downright historic.  Note he was very good in 1968, posting a 2.15 ERA in 71 IP, so his current mark isn’t entirely luck driven.  It seems odd that the Dodgers didn’t protect Billingham in the 1969 expansion draft, but for whatever reason he was left available for the Expos (who traded him later that winter in a deal for Rusty Staub).  Jack’s best years would come with The Big Red Machine, winning 19 games in both 1973 and 1974, but he would never post an ERA under 3.00 after his rookie season.  So maybe the Dodgers had reasons to EXPOSe him in the draft!

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 13 weeks of play, and the current standings.  Iowa City is red-hot, going 9-1 of late to storm past Cedar Rapids in the standings.  On the flip side, Waterloo is sinking fast, going 2-8.  Front-runner Council Bluffs had another strong week, going 8-2 to extend their lead a bit.

1968IB-4-6-2019.lzp

7/7/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      58     29    .667     —
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   50     34    .595    6.5
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         49     34    .590    7.0
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      47     39    .500   10.5
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      43     42    .506   14.0
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      42     45    .483   16.0

Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       37     49    .430   20.5
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      36     50    .419   21.5
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         35     53    .398   23.5

Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  31     53    .369   25.5

That’s all for this week.  

© John Kisner 2019