Willie Mays

The IBC is essentially a draft league with all the teams run by me.  So while I have a stake in all ten franchises, my emotions are also distanced from the wins and losses.  Even so, I cannot help but notice Council Bluffs, the Bay Area combo of Giants and A’s, has been in the lead all season.  The Falcons have won eight straight, a streak that has included sweeps on the road of both Waterloo and West Metro, and must now be seen as the team to beat. 

As mentioned last week, both in Strat and in real life there are a variety of roster-building strategies that might lead to success.  The way the Knights fell together — last week’s focus — the team turned out to be a “pitching and defense” archetype.  As for Council Bluffs, one thing that sticks out is the team’s walk totals — in the 32 games played thus far it has drawn 124 free passes but handed out just 73. The team also happens to be tops in on-base % and runs scored.  

Rather than focusing on the obvious root of this team’s success — all those walks — my mind today is drifting to a weird stat developed by Bill James, the Power-Speed Number.  

PSN = (2 x HR x SB) ÷ (HR + SB)

Bonds

In 1968, the all-time career leader in this category would have been Willie Mays, who most days plays CF for Council Bluffs.  You can see why he’d score well in this: Mays led the NL in steals four times, and in four other seasons was tops in homers.  Now 37, his 23 dingers and dozen thefts don’t stand out, but he’s still quite solid.  This was also the rookie year of Bobby Bonds, who topped his league in PSN nine times.  In fact it was out of an interest in quantifying the uniqueness of Bonds that James coined the new stat category.  

It takes both speed and power to get a high score (such as A-Rod’s 40-40 campaign), so the fastest Falcon, Campy Campaneris, only gets a 7.5 PSN in 1968 despite stealing 62 bags; 4 HRs just doesn’t cut the mustard.  Although well past his prime, Mays still achieved a mark of 15.8; meanwhile young Mr. Bonds (whose power didn’t really kick in until 1969) turned in a ratio of 12.0.  The top score on the team?  Another young guy, Reggie Jackson, whose 29 homers and 14 steals were good for an 18.9.  These are good scores, but not all that close to Hank Aaron’s 28.5, which led the majors.

Out of curiousity, I went on to check the career PSN of hitters granted special mention thus far in this blog, using career stats per 162 games.  

Player                         HR     SB       PSN   
Roberto Clemente (Ames)         6     16       8.7  
Ed Stroud (Dubuque)            22      4       6.8 
Matty Alou (Ames)              15      3       5.0       
Ron Santo (Des Moines)          3     25       5.4   
Lou Brock (Davenport)          58      9      15.6 
Willie Mays (Council Bluffs)   18     36      24.0  
Bobby Bonds (Council Bluffs)   40     29      33.6    

An ideal player runs well, plays good defense, has power, and is able to work the count.  Since PSN only looks at two of these aspects, it obviously is not short-hand for overall value.  But I think it does shine a light on a type of player that we grew to admire, and maybe explains why guys like Matty Alou can win batting titles but rarely make it to Cooperstown.

Some of the great (and not so great) teams of the 60s and 70s platooned a lot.  Strat-O-Matic players push this modern major-league trend to elevated heights because the game encourages optimization of left-right matchups.  As such, it is a bit odd to find the Falcons, with 13 right-handed hitters, in first place.  They have just three left-handed hitters; fortunately they’re all good ones, but it definitely narrows the opportunities to capitalize on unbalanced situations.  

Two of the southpaws are 22-yo youngsters in the outfield corners: Reggie Jackson (.250/29/74) and Rick Monday (.274/8/49 and 72 walks).  In CF is 37-yo legend Willie Mays (.289/23/79 and 67 walks), and other fly-chaser options include 22-yo Bobby Bonds (.254/9/35 and 16 SB), Mike Hershberger (.272/5/32), and Jesus Alou (.263/0/39).  This is a really solid group.

At first is the other big lefty stick, Willie McCovey (.293/36/105 and 72 walks).  He’s got a good backup in Danny Cater (.296/6/62), who often plays LF against lefty pitching.  Over at the hot corner is another pair of good players, Jim Ray Hart (.258/23/78) and 24-yo Sal Bando (.251/9/67).  Hart’s the better hitter but is a natural DH.

Bert Campaneris (.276/4/38 and 62 SB) is perhaps the best offensive SS in the IBC.  His weakness is defense (3e36), but Hal Lanier (.206, and the team’s sole switch-hitter) is available as a defensive sub.  At second is one of my faves, Ron Hunt (.250 with 78 walks), who led the league in being hit-by-pitch in this and the next several years.  Hal seems to prefer Dick Green (.233/6/18) at the keystone, but I don’t think the extra power is worth it.

Three catchers made the club.  Dick Dietz (.272/6/38) and Jim Pagliaroni (.246/6/20) swing decent sticks, but their +2 arms are problematic.  Jack Hiatt (.232/4/34) is the starter against lefties and is a better defender (a +0 arm).

Below are the historical ballpark ratings for the A's and Giants (note all IBC parks are 9’s across the board).  It turns out that Oakland is tough on homers and SF depresses singles, but overall the shift in parks isn’t dramatic.

Ballpark Effect     Oakland     San Francisco
Lefty Singles         11            1  
Righty Singles        11            4
Lefty Homers           2           10
Righty Homers          2            7 

Two hitters with the sorting requirement of 360+ ABs and/or a WAR of 0.5+ didn’t make Council Bluffs 30-man roster.  2B John Donaldson (.220/2/27) and RF Dave Marshall (.264/1/16) were tough cuts because they hit left-handed.  I probably should have kept one of them, but the last bench decisions are always hard!

Here is a link to the Strat-O-Matic league file after 5 weeks of play, and the current standings:

1968IB-2-2-2019.lzp

5/12/68 Iowa Baseball Confederacy        Won   Lost    Pct     GB
Council Bluffs Falcons (A’s-Giants)      23      9    .719     —
Sioux City Crusaders (Indians-Reds)      18     12    .600    4.0
Davenport Knights (Tigers-Cards)         16     12    .571    5.0
Iowa City Regals (Red Sox-Phillies)      17     13    .567    5.0
Ames Little Cyclones (Orioles-Pirates)   15     15    .500    7.0
Waterloo Sailors (White Sox-Braves)      15     16    .484    7.5
Cedar Rapids Saints (Twins-Dodgers)      13     17    .433    9.0
Des Moines Scarlets (Yankees-Cubs)       13     18    .419    9.5
Dubuque Golden Eagles (Senators-Astros)  11     19    .367   11.0
West Metro Maroons (Angels-Mets)         11     21    .344   12.0

I’ll cover the Council Bluffs Falcons pitchers next time!

© John Kisner 2019