Spring Tweaking (The Replay Zone – April 2012)


By Jeff Polman
April ruminations from your trusty Strat-O-Matic replay addict.

In Billy Beane’s division-winning heyday with the Oakland A’s, he often said he spent the first third of every season seeing what he had, the second third analyzing it and making adjustments, and the final third watching it work.
A full-season Strat replay demands a similar formula. It often takes a good month or two of play before the right lineups are in place for the right pitchers, ball parks, and weather. An added wrench thrown into my 1958 replay engine, though, is my use of guest, or “absentee” managers. As I’ve mentioned to them in e-mails, unless they have a set of the super-advanced ’58 cards to study, I have the advantage of being able to see what is and isn’t working for each team day in and day out.
For anyone out there who is playing the power-heavy, speed-deprived ’58, then, here’s a rundown of suggestions and tweaks I’ve either thought about or outright employed. Keep in mind I have no one team that I’m rooting for in this replay—only close pennant races.
YANKEES (20-7 through May 11th)
Off to a slow start, the Bombers have been bombing lately, going 10-1 in May. This club requires lots of platooning and situational managing, much like Casey Stengel employed, and I suggested some major lineup changes here. Enos Slaughter was being underused, so he’s now in RF against righties, and Kubek sits for Richardson (Slaughter moving to short) against lefties. Elston Howard destroys southpaws, so he takes turns with Slaughter out in right, with Bauer and his 2e6 fielding spelling both of them late in games.
ORIOLES (18-9)
They’ve been winning with dice rolls and mirrors, and if one of them shatters, look out below. I did recommend using Gus Triandos full time after a 3-homer game at Fenway, but other than that, Baltimore’s pitching has been the story. Would you believe a team ERA of 2.39?
WHITE SOX (14-12)
Nellie Fox wrecks lefties, but is very weak vs. righties and was hitting leadoff, so against them I swapped him in the lineup with on-base machine Earl Torgeson. Chicago started put pretty hot, but other than Sherm Lollar’s constant home runs, they’ve really tailed off offensively.
INDIANS (14-15)
Playing a lot better once struggling Vic Wertz got hurt and smooth Mickey Vernon took his place at first base. Rocky Colavito is on a ridiculous pace to hit 103 doubles, and their offense has been surging, but a super-thin bullpen keeps them from winning many close games.
RED SOX (13-14)
Ted Williams can virtually not be retired, batting .500 in 64 at bats with a .614 on-base percentage and 1.000 slugging. Can’t say the same for the rest of the lineup lately, and the pitching staff has been largely dreck. I might suggest backup catcher Pete Daley vs. righties, because Sammy White can barely tie his cleats against them.
TIGERS (13-14)
Similar pitching problems as Boston, but a far more balanced lineup with Kaline and Kuenn every day and a lot of hidden power in Harris, Maxwell, and bench demon Gus Zernial. Have to say they’re playing about as good as they can with this outfit, and will go as far as pitchers Jim Bunning, Billy Hoeft and Herm Wehmeier take them.
They don’t hit homers or pitch that well, but they have some killer bats in Vic Power, Bob Cerv and catcher Harry Chiti, and a couple good closers in Bud Daley and Tom Gorman. Things may get interesting for K.C. and Cleveland on June 15, when they’ll be engineering a multi-player swap that will send Power to the Indians and Roger Maris and Preston Ward to the A’s.
Playing as awful as expected, they just got swept four games in the Bronx and were outscored 35-8. The only thing one can do with Washington is pick a suitable fifth starter to take regular 9-2 poundings instead of 15-2 ones. First it was Bill Fischer, a hit magnet of a card if I’ve ever seen one, and for now it’s Hal Griggs.
BRAVES (14-10)
The National League race is tighter than a sardine can in a jiffy pack, largely because Milwaukee hasn’t shown they can run away from anybody yet. Their offense is tops in both leagues, especially with Wes “Destroyer” Covington hitting leadoff against righties, but their bullpen’s a bit suspect and against lefties their outfield defense suffers. Aaron is moved to center with his “2”, but Mel Roach in right and Adcock in left both have “5” ratings and Roach has an e25. Obviously, early defense has been sacrificed for offense.
CUBS (13-12)
A big surprise, with a lineup of homer hitters around Ernie Banks that has already clubbed 36 in 25 games to lead the NL. Like most teams from that year, a pitching staff thin on quality has harmed them in close games, but with Wrigley’s automatic 20 homer for righties in good weather, I expect Mr. Banks and his mates to be in the race for a while.
PIRATES (14-13)
The Bucs were expected to be here, and probably a little better. Decent power for them, but Forbes Field cuts down their homer chances considerably, so they’ve been having much more luck on the road so far. Clemente gets hits but grounds into scads of DPs, so I’m not sure third is the best spot in the lineup for him. To be examined further…
PHILLIES (12-12)
Forget about the Cubs: this is the real NL surprise. They finished last that year mostly due to pitching, but they have Ashburn on base constantly and the little-known Harry Anderson providing clutch hits in the cleanup spot, while Jack Meyer and Turk Farrell have been a great closer tandem. How can you not pull for a team with Pancho Herrera?
DODGERS (12-13)
Memorial Coliseum is a daily gift to right-hand hitters, but a death knell for many of L.A.’s pitchers, which has certainly kept them around the .500 mark. Koufax and Drysdale aren’t close to being effective yet, so they have to rely on Podres, Stan Williams and the duo of Bad Don Newcombe or Worse Carl Erskine to fill out the rotation. And the relief is a gopher ball fiesta.
Still, Don Zimmer is batting over .350, so I guess anything can happen, especially in this league.
GIANTS (12-13)
The Dodgers’ dance partners have had similar pitching issues, but Mays, Cepeda, Wagner and Kirkland have homered enough to knock out some wins. Hank Sauer was recently put in the cleanup spot against lefties and has responded nicely. Like the Yankees, these boys require a LOT of platooning and daily matching.
Musial and Boyer have some nice stats going, but never seem to get big hits when needed. The pitching has been very erratic. They tend to either get great starts from people like Sam Jones and Jim Brosnan (Brosnan tossed a no-hitter at Seals Stadium last month!) or thorough disasters. They also need much lefty-righty platooning, but I suspect if both Musial and Boyer get red-hot, this team could surge upward.
REDS (10-13)
Also an erratic bunch. Key change was taking Jerry Lynch off the bench, despite his “5” outfield rating and sticking him in the lineup every day, because this offense is a tad weak. Vada Pinson was a young part-timer and Frank Robinson didn’t have one of his best years. Pitching has been the culprit so far, though, to the tune of a 5.59 ERA.
The great thing with ’58 so far, though, is this National league race. Just three games separating all eight teams! For more complete team statistics, you can click on the PDF links just above the standings on Friday’s Mystery Ball ‘58 blog post. See you next month!