Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NL Shuts Out AL to Take '82 All-Star Game, 6-0

MONTREAL -- Charlie Hustle beat out a bobbled grounder in the first inning, eventually coming around to score the first and only run the National League would need to dominate the American League, 6-0, in a 1982 APBA All-Star Game replay.

Pete Rose got the Nationals started in the third inning as well, slapping a lead-off single and scoring on another single by hometown favorite Gary Carter. The pair of runs earned Rose the game's MVP award at Stade Olympique before 59,057 fans.

Montreal starter Steve Rogers got the win, pitching two scoreless innings. He set the tone early, striking out Oakland's Ricky Henderson to start the game. Boston starter Dennis Eckersley took the loss, after allowing Rose to score the unearned run in the bottom of the first inning.

The NL all-stars outhit the AL 13-2. LA outfielder Dusty Baker went 2-for-2, including a double and drove in two runs. Also smacking doubles for the National League were Lonnie Smith, John Stearns and Bob Horner.

A pair of double plays by the NL helped keep the American League from mounting any kind of comeback, as all they could muster were a pair of singles by Carlton Fisk and Paul Molitor. Only one American League runner, Henderson, reached second, after stealing the base following a walk in the third inning.

In succession, Fernando Valenzuela, Phil Niekro, Steve Carlton, Greg Minton and Steve Howe followed Rogers in shutting out the Americans. Howe struck out Hal McRae to end the game in the top of the ninth.

The Brewers, who lead the majors in victories with a 55-30 record at the break, were well-represented. Cecil Cooper started the game at first base, with Robin Yount at shortstop. Yount walked in his first at-bat, giving the AL its first base runner. Ben Oglivie grounded into a double play in the fifth inning while pinch-hitting for Brewer hurler Pete Vuckovich. Molitor went 1-for-2, striking out in addition to his sixth-inning single.

Vuckovich struggled in two innings of work, giving up two runs on four hits after relieving Eckersley. Bullpen ace Rollie Fingers fared a bit better, getting out of the seventh inning after allowing the run-scoring double by Stearns.

Molitor and Vuckovich were added to the AL squad after their outstanding performance for Milwaukee over the first half of the season.

The Brewers will continue their drive to the team's first American League pennant when they resume play against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park.

Here are the latest stats from the Brewers replay

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Brewers Reach 55 Wins by '82 All-star Break

With a 13th-inning walk-off three-run home run by Gorman Thomas, the Brewers cruised into the 1982 all-star break with an 8-5 win over the Braves and a 55-30 record.

The Brewers closed the first-half of this APBA baseball season replay on a two-game win streak, defeating the Braves for the second straight day. Jim Slaton earned his eighth victory with three innings of scoreless relief.

Meanwhile, fans voted shortstop Robin Yount and first-baseman Cecil Cooper into the starting lineup for the American League all-stars. They will be joined in Montreal by teammates Paul Molitor, Ben Oglivie, Pete Vuckovich and Rollie Fingers.

The Brewers' league-leading offensive attack has been led by the one-two punch of Molitor and Yount. Molitor already has tallied 74 runs, 17 home runs, 24 stolen bases and a .337 batting average. Likewise, Yount has piled up MVP numbers including a .354 batting average, 57 runs, 66 RBI, 29 doubles and 14 home runs.

While Cooper started the season slowly, the all-star is now batting .312 with 58 RBI and 13 home runs.

The Brewers have already crushed 115 home runs, led by Oglivie with 22. Thomas and designated hitter Don Money have added 15 homers apiece. Money also is batting .325 and has driven in 46 runs in the cleanup spot.

With his 12-2 record, Vuckovich leads a pitching staff that has a combined 3.30 ERA. Among the starters, Moose Haas is 9-4; Randy Lerch stands at 7-4 and Mike Caldwell is even at 6-6. In addition to his eight wins, Slaton has compiled three saves while pitching mostly in relief.

Fingers, the all-star and future hall-of-famer, has four wins to go along with his 15 saves.

To this point, the Brewers have compiled a 28-14 record at home and are 27-16 on the road. The Brew Crew has amassed a 16-9 record so far in interleague play. (The AL Brewers' schedule was tweaked to include 48 interleague games, four against each of the 12 National League squads.)

This Brewers team, my favorite all-time, started quickly in this replay, sweeping the Blue Jays and winning their first five games. They built up a 12-5 record in April, followed by a 20-9 record in May. They went 17-11 in June and are 6-5 so far in July.

Among the season highlights so far:

April 9 -- The Brewers opened the season with a 10-0 win in Toronto on opening day. Vuckovich tossed the day one shutout. The offense included three-run homers by Yount and Thomas and a two-run shot by Molitor.

April 21 -- Money hits a two-run walk-off home run to down the Blue Jays 3-2. Buck Martinez had hit a solo homer in the top of the ninth to put Toronto ahead.

April 22 -- For the second straight day, the Brewers win 5-3on a two-run walk-off home run, this time by Oglivie in the bottom of the 10th inning versus the Blue Jays.

April 28 -- Second-baseman Jim Gantner led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a game-typing solo home run. Later in the inning, Cooper drove in Yount with the winning run. The Brewers hit four homers in the game, a 7-6 win over the White Sox.

May 1 -- Oglivie hits a pair of home runs in a 9-1 win over the Twins. Vuckovich throws a six-hitter.

May 2 -- Roy Howell hits a two-run homer in the 13th inning for a 4-3 win over the Twins.

May 6 -- The Brewers destroy the Cardinals 11-1 as Vuckovich gets another complete game win.

May 9 -- Gantner is the hero again, hitting one to the wall to drive in a pair of runs for a 6-5 win in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Twins. Gantner went 3-for-5 with a double, home run and four RBI.

May 15 -- Haas shuts out the Cubs 6-0, defeating hall-of-famer Fergie Jenkins.

May 23 -- Money hits a pair of homers in a 10-2 blowout of the Mariners. Molitor and Thomas also hit round-trippers.

May 27 -- Cooper and Money hit back-to-back homers to defeat the Angels 3-2 in Anaheim. Vuckovich gets the win, with a save by Fingers.

June 2 -- Oglivie's two-run homer in the 11th inning propels the Brewers to a 3-1 win over the Astros in the Astrodome.

June 8 -- Every batter in the lineup gets at least one hit in the Brewers' 7-1 win over the Orioles. Lerch gets the win.

June 9 -- Thomas gets a walk-off bases-loaded walk to defeat the Orioles 6-5. The free pass was the third in a row by O's reliever Tim Stoddard.

June 18 -- Yount and Cooper go a combined 8-for-9 with five runs, four RBI and four doubles in an 8-6 win over the Tigers.

June 19 -- Haas shuts out the Tigers on three hits for a 1-0 win at old Tiger Stadium. Oglivie hit a solo home run in the ninth inning against his former team for the only score.

June 23 -- The Crew scores seven runs in the bottom of the first inning off Mike Morgan on their way to a 9-1 win over the Yankees.

July 4 -- The Brewers complete a three-game sweep of the Red Sox with an 8-2 win on Independence Day.

July 7 -- Molitor hits a leadoff home run as the Brewers pound the Padres 13-6. Yount scored three runs and drove in five with a double, triple and a home run.

July 9 -- The Expos rally to score three runs, including two off Fingers, in the ninth inning to drop the Brewers 4-3. D'oh!

July 11 -- The Brewers pound out 19 hits in a 12-3 victory over the Braves, including a triple and a home run by Yount, who scored two and drove in five.

Note: Check out the Brewers' up-to-date stats here.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cubs Cruise to 1969 NL East Title, Playoffs



The 1969 Cubs -- cursed in real life -- crushed their competition in this APBA baseball season replay!

The Cubs cruised to an astounding 107-55 record, including winning 13 of their final 14 games. The only team with a better record? The Baltimore Orioles at 109-53 in the American League.

The Cubbies put an exclamation point on the end of their regular-season schedule by dropping the "Miracle" Mets  6-3 and 4-1 in the final two games. By winning the division, the Cubs will take on the Atlanta Braves, winners of the NL West with a record of 93-69.

A trio of 20-game winners led the Cubs -- Fergie Jenkins (27-9), Ken Holtzman (22-12) and Bill Hands (21-10). The threesome threw a combined 71 complete games and 19 shutouts. The staff ERA was a stellar 2.87 (compared to 3.34 for real).

The strength of the starting three limited the innings of the bullpen. Although lacking a true stopper, the relief corps nevertheless put up impressive numbers: Phil Regan (7-1) and Ted Abernathy (9-2) tied for the team lead with 9 saves apiece. Hank Aguirre (3-3) chipped in another 5 saves.

On the offensive side, Billy Williams stood out as the team MVP, leading the team in hitting (.328) and runs batted in (118). Williams compiled 211 hits while playing in every game. He scored 97 runs and led the team in doubles (35) and triples (13). He was second to Ron Santo (30) with 26 home runs.

In addition to leading the team in homers, Santo drove in 114 runs, batted .267, scored 82 runs and walked 99 times to boost his on-base percentage to .372, right behind .377 by Williams.

The Cubs' double-play combo also shined. Shortstop Don Kessinger (.265) scored 101 runs batting in the leadoff spot most of the year. He was second in doubles (34) and triples (11) and led the team in stolen bases with 13.

When Kessinger went out with an injury near the end of the season, second baseman Glenn Beckert stepped up in the leadoff spot, batting .321 and scoring 82 runs for the season.

Catcher Randy Hundley seemed to be Mr. Clutch, getting a key hit whenever the Cubs needed one. He bounced all over the lineup, batting fifth, sixth and even second at the end of the season. He hit .257 with 15 home runs and 75 RBI.

Hall-of-Fame first baseman Ernie Banks (.223, 21 HR, 64 RBI) and rightfielder Jim Hickman (.247, 16 HR, 61 RBI) rounded out the offense.

As a team, the Cubs hit .248 with 142 home runs, scoring 725 runs in my replay -- almost identical to the team's actual .253, 142 home runs and 720 runs scored! Whoa!

Like many APBA players out there, I consider myself kind of unlucky when it comes to rolling the dice. My teams, it seems, leave way too many runners stranded on second and third after zero outs; give up too many late-inning home runs to guys with two first-column zeroes and only five second-column 1's, and I can't begin to count how many times my teams have been shut out by a DW starter.

So how did the 1969 Cubs manage to win 107 games on my watch?! Beats me ...

It didn't hurt to have three B starters who pitched a monster number of innings -- all more than 300! My tendency always is to leave the starters in the game, which probably wouldn't work in real life as I'm sure all three would have had dead arms by mid-August. My guess is that's exactly what happend to Leo Durocher's Cubs, despite his best intentions.

My Cubs allowed 100 fewer runs than in real life (511 to 611), which easily could account for the additional 17 wins. I had 74 complete games vs. 58; and about the same number of shutouts -- 20 to 18 in real life. It makes a difference when you've got a B starter cruising along instead of a D reliever in mop-up mode.

As with my earlier replay of the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers, I'm amazed at how similar the team and individual stats compared to reality.

It probably helped that I limited all players to 102 percent of their actual at-bats or relief innings pitched. Starters were limited to their number of starts, though no limit on innings pitched. I used the Cubs actual pitching rotation, the actual lineups for opponents (it helps that APBA's 1969 reprint set includes a card for every player!), and tried as best I could to honor games missed due to injuries. (Anybody know a resource that lists a player's actual trips to the DL?)

I did adjust the schedule slightly to allow for 30 interleague games so I could play against some of the AL stars (e.g. Frank and Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, "Catfish" Hunter and Carl Yastrzemski).

I used my original 1976 game boards and hit-and-run booklet. I seldom called for hit and runs, which probably accounted for my more realistic steals stats. (I know I overused the hit and run in my Brewers replay.)

To keep the number of singles and overall hits closer to reality (and counter the tendency to bring in stronger relievers than reality) I awarded singles with the bases empty and a roll of 65-35. (Thanks, Kevin Burghardt, for the suggestion.) It's not a big deal, but it added another element of surprise when a .150 hitter faced pitchers such as Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson! Even I got lucky every once in a while when I was a little leaguer!

Not much more to say except that my wife will probably be glad to stop hearing about the Cubs and how many games they've won, and thanks to all you readers and Facebook fans out there who have followed this replay.

Now it's time for some playoffs! Bring on the Braves!

As always, here's the link to my Cubs stats

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bittersweet Memories for Long-suffering Cubs Fans

http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-1973-cubs-swan-song-of-a-dynasty-that-never-was/

Courtesy of Frank Jackson and The Hardball Times ... "The 1973 Cubs: Swan Song of a Dynasty That Never Was."

Don't miss reading about one of the great eras in Chicago Cubs history, 1967-1973. Even without a single playoff game, this Cubs squad was easily one of the best in baseball, and featured a core group of four future Hall-of-Famers -- Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins.

This article chronicles the history of this core group, where they came from and where they went, and the heartbreak they felt year after year as they always found themselves on the outside looking in when sometimes lesser teams were still competing at the end of October.

This article is particularly timely for me as I'm about two-thirds of the way through my APBA Baseball Game replay of the Cubs' fateful 1969 season.

Just as in real life, my replay Cubs are tearing up the National League! As of July 27, 1969, the Cubbies stand at 65-38 after splitting a four-game set with the Dodgers. Midweek, Banks earned the MVP award for the All-Star Game, leading the NL to a 4-2 win with a two-run home run in the eighth inning.

Next up for the Cubs at Wrigley Field is a four-game series versus Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and the San Francisco Giants.

God willing and a few favorable dice rolls here and there and maybe, just maybe, I can enjoy a World Series at Wrigley ...

Note: Here are the latest stats on my 1969 Cubs replay. 

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Friday, July 11, 2014

'82 Brewers Begin Season Replay with a Bang!


Now I know how Leo Durocher may have felt when managing the Cubs into July and August back in 1969. ... When the weather got hot, the Cubs cooled off ...

Just as in real life, the '69 Cubs have started to struggle now that I've reached the 100-game mark and the stretch run of my replay season. Where I used to be sweeping the lower-echelon teams, the Cubs are now dropping series to the likes of the Seattle Pilots! (Yes, I know, the Cubs didn't play interleague games back then, but they do in my replay!)

Unlike the Cubs who famously crashed and burned in the heat of the summer pennant race, I'm ready to take a break. Maybe the replay Cubs can regroup after a brief respite and regain the swagger that propelled them to a 55-21 record -- 34 games over .500! -- at the end of June.

I needed some time off anyway ...

So I'm taking on a season replay of the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers.

I'm way overdue in replaying the Brewers' iconic 1982 season, which culminated in a World Series showdown versus the St. Louis Cardinals. It's the first and only time the Brewers have made it to baseball's championship, and followed by 25 years the World Series title earned by the then-Milwaukee Braves, who of course were led by Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews and Warren Spahn.

The 1982 Milwaukee team is easily my most favorite, whether reminiscing about the good-ol' days or playing APBA. I grew up outside Milwaukee. My first APBA baseball game arrived in the mail in 1976, and I was thrilled to play game after game with the lowly '75 Brewers team that finished in fifth place with a 68-94 record. At least they didn't lose 100 games!

That season marked Aaron's return to Milwaukee, where he became the designated hitter and managed to crack another dozen dingers. Robin Yount was truly "The Kid," and I became a huge fan of Sixto Lezcano, the promising right fielder who eventually got traded to St. Louis with some other guys for three of the key components of the '82 AL title team -- Rollie Fingers, Ted Simmons and Pete Vuckovich.

I graduated from high school in 1981. We attended many a game during my high school years and into my college days at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. By the time we had become bleacher bums at old Milwaukee County Stadium I had shifted my fickle favorite-player allegiance to mutton-chopped center fielder "Stormin'" Gorman Thomas.

Of course, the '82 squad featured three future Hall-of-Famers -- Yount, Paul Molitor and Fingers, the ace reliever. Yount went on to earn the league's Most Valuable Player award. That year he hit .331 with 29 home runs and 129 runs scored. He led the league in hits with 210, doubles with 46 and slugging percentage at .578. He topped it off with his first and only Gold Glove Award.

Vuckovich had one of his best seasons, earning the AL Cy Young Award by going 18-6 with a 3.34 ERA. Fingers saved 29 games as the Brewers compiled a 95-67 record.

I'll never forget the Brewers' dramatic march to the World Series after dropping the first two playoff games to the Angels in California. They came home to sweep the Halos in the best-of-five round and then headed to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals. So many times I've replayed Game 7 but I can seldom knock out Joaquin Andujar and those pesky Cardinals -- even when I "cheat" and have Rollie Fingers warming up in the 'pen. (He missed the series that year due to injury. Dang it!)

What the Brewers lacked in starting pitching they more than made up with their hitting. Harvey's Wallbangers led the league in home runs (216) and runs scored (891) -- no other team came even close to matching those numbers!

So I'm looking forward to a few more blowouts in this replay, which will once again use the basic game with a few tweaks here and there, including a 48-game interleague schedule (two home and two away against each NL squad). I use the actual starting pitchers for both teams, and the actual lineups for the Brewers' opponents. During interleague action, I try to use the opponent's actual lineup on that date, unless they happened face a righty on the day that Milwaukee lefty Mike Caldwell pitched. Then I try to find a lefty batting order as close to the actual game date. Not perfect, but it works.

My replay results have been pretty close to real life so far (e.g. '08 Brewers and '69 Cubs), so I'm looking forward to enjoying plenty of wins by the '82 Brewers.

But if they hit a rough patch, I can always go back to the Cubs and see if I can finish off the 1969 season with better results ...

Brewers Win 10-0 in Season Opener

The Brewers opened their 1982 APBA season replay by destroying the Blue Jays 10-0 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto behind home runs by Gorman Thomas, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor and a four-hit shutout by Pete Vuckovich.

Fans didn't have to wait long for the Brew Crew's offense to show up as the Brewers pounded Blue Jays starter Mark Bomback for seven runs in the second inning.

Designated hitter Don Money got the season's first hit, a double, followed by a walk to Ben Oglivie. Thomas then got the fireworks started, launching a three-run home run to deep right field. Catcher Charlie Moore, filling in for the injured Ted Simmons, then got the Brewers reloaded with a double, scoring on Jim Gantner's single.

Molitor followed with his first hit of the season, a double that moved Gantner to third. Yount then came up to deliver the second-three-run shot of the inning, a blast over the center field fence, staking the Crew to a 7-0 lead.

Meanwhile, "Dirty Pete" Vuckovich was setting down the Jays, scattering four hits and pitching a complete game in his season debut. Vuke struck out a half dozen batters and walked only two.

Molitor finished off the scoring with a two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Brewers banged out 14 hits in the opener for both teams.

The Brewers went on to sweep the series, coming from behind to beat the Jays 7-3 in game two and holding on for a 2-1 win in game three.

In their next stop, Ted Simmons returned to the lineup with a first-inning, bases-clearing triple to lead the Crew to an 8-5 win over the Indians. They duplicated the feat the next day, defeating Cleveland again 8-5 with three more home runs and a second win by Vuckovich.

Yount got injured, however, and will be out for about a week. And the Brewers got their first loss, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Bert Blyleven, who pitched a complete game. (It was one of the few games Blyleven pitched that year; I had to use his '81 APBA card. I had to find the '81 card for "Super Joe" Charboneau as well. The 1980 AL Rookie of the Year turned out to be not so super after all, playing his last major league game on June 1, 1982.)

Next I'm looking forward to replaying the Brewers' home opener against the Rangers ...

Note: Here are my up-to-date Brewers replay stats.

--66--

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Banks, Cubs Star as Nationals Rally for Win in '69 All-Star Game Replay


Cubs first baseman Ernie Banks went from late-inning sub to All-Star Game hero with a two-out, two-run home run in the eighth inning that propelled the National League to a 4-2 win over the American League.

With his clutch hit, Banks was named the All-Star Game MVP. But he wasn't the only Cub to make a key contribution. Second baseman Glenn Beckert drove in the tying run in the seventh inning with a sacrifice fly to score Dennis Menke, who had come into the game as a pinch runner for Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, who led off the inning with a walk.

Cubs ace Fergie Jenkins was a late addition to the NL squad after posting 17 wins before the All-Star break. He pitched one inning of scoreless relief. Shortstop Don Kessinger went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in the second spot in the NL batting order.

Cubs leftfielder Billy Williams -- another late addition to the team due to batting .322 with 12 homers and 64 RBI -- grounded out to lead off the third inning as a pinch hitter for starting pitcher Steve Carlton of the Cardinals. Catcher Randy Hundley struck out in his only at bat in the ninth inning.

With seven players on the team -- the most of any team in either league -- the Cubs were well-represented in the mid-season classic.

But it was Banks' late-inning heroics that sealed the deal for the Nationals. Oakland's John "Blue Moon" Odom looked like he would sail through the eighth after striking out Willie Mays to lead off the inning. After a single by Kessinger, Hank Aaron hit a routine fly ball to Carl Yastrzemski in left field.

That's when Banks, a Hall-of-Famer and 11-time all-star, smacked it over the left field fence at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. (Incidentally, this would be the last All-Star Game appearance for Banks, who retired after the 1971 season.)

The American League scored first, after pinch hitter Mike Hegan of the upstart Seattle Pilots led off with a single in the third inning off Tom Seaver of the Mets. Hegan went to third on a single by Minnesota second baseman Rod Carew, who then stole second. Hegan scored on a ground out to second by Reggie Jackson of the A's, with Carew moving to third on the play.

Frank Robinson of the O's then drew a walk off Seaver, who had entered the game to pitch the bottom of the third. With Orioles first baseman Boog Powell batting, Robinson and Carew executed a nifty double steal, with Carew scoring on the play. Robinson then was stranded at second as sluggers Powell and Frank Howard of the Senators both grounded out to end the inning.

That would be it for the American League, as they mustered only three more singles and a trio of walks over the next six innings.

The National League finally got on the scoreboard in the sixth inning as pinch hitter Pete Rose of the Reds lived up to his nickname, Charlie Hustle. He led off the inning with a single off Tigers ace Mickey Lolich. He advanced to second on a ground out by Matty Alou of the Pirates. He came around to score on Kessinger's first single.

The Nationals tied the game in the seventh on Beckert's sacrifice fly to right field, then took the lead on Banks' home run in the eighth.

San Francisco's Juan Marichal got the win while pitching a scoreless seventh and eighth inning. Larry Dierker, who tossed a no-hitter versus the Cubs earlier in the season, got the save.

The bottom of the ninth was not without a bit of drama, however, after Dierker surrendered a leadoff single to Boston's Yastrzemski. Yaz then promptly stole second, and Brooks Robinson walked. Next up was Minnesota's Harmon Killebrew.

The Twins slugger smacked a fly ball to deep left center, but Mays was able to track it down. Mays then gunned a throw to Menke at third to nail Yastrzemski for the second out. Dierker then struck out Twins catcher Johnny Roseboro to end the game.

Odom was tagged with loss after giving up Banks' game-winning hit.

Cubs fans can only hope the All-Star success translates to an equally successful second half of the 1969 replay season for their first-place Cubbies...

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Jenkins Gets 15th Win as Cubs Close in on '69 All-Star Game

Hall-of-Famer Fergie Jenkins defeated the Washington Senators 3-2 as the Cubs notched their 61st win before the 1969 All-Star Game.

Jenkins pitched like an all-star versus the Senators, scattering eight hits and striking out eight batters in besting Washington's Dick Bosman. The victory came on the heels of Dick Selma's two-hit shutout the day before, as he won 4-0 against the Senators and the Cubs neared the end of their interleague schedule.

Interleague play hasn't necessarily been a blessing for the Cubs as they've compiled just an average 15-12 record heading into a three-game set with Seattle in their final interleague matchup. That compares to a 46-22 record against their traditional NL rivals.

Overall, the replay Cubs stand at 61-34 after 95 decisions, compared to 59-36 in real life.

The Cubs continue to rely on strong pitching and timely hitting. In addition to Jenkins at 15-5, Ken Holtzman has a record of 13-7 and Bill Hands stands at 11-6. Phil Regan and Ted Abernathy each have six saves out of the bullpen.

Billy Williams and Ron Santo are leading the offense. Williams is batting .325 with 12 home runs, 63 RBI and 50 runs scored. Santo's batting average keeps rising -- he's now at .272 -- and he leads the team in home runs with 14 and RBI with 64. He has scored 45 runs and leads the team in on-base percentage at .384.

Leadoff hitter Don Kessinger leads the team in runs scored with 60, to go along with his .275 batting average. The Cubs also have benefited from the return of Glenn Beckert from an injury that kept him out of about 30 games. He is hitting .314 in the number-two spot and has scored 39 runs.

Rightfielder Jim Hickman has had a number of key hits in recent weeks, raising his average to .261, with 12 home runs and 39 RBI. Randy Hundley has been steady behind the plate, also batting .261 with 35 runs scored and 41 RBI.

Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks is starting to get it going. He now has 8 home runs and 31 RBI.

Here are some of the highlights from other recent games:

June 27: Steve Carlton of the Cards out-duels Holtzman, winning 4-2 at Wrigley Field. Lou Brock iced it with a home run in the ninth inning.

June 28-29: The Cubs win two out of three games against the Yankees, including a 7-2 win by Jenkins in the first game of a Sunday doubleheader at Wrigley Field.

July 1: Santo drives in two runs with a single in the top of the 11th inning to lead the Cubs over the Orioles 7-5. Beckert went 4-for-6 with two runs and two RBI in his return to the lineup. The Orioles went on to win the next two games.

July 8: Jenkins shuts out the A's 6-0 to snap a six-game losing streak. Yikes! Jenkins beat Catfish Hunter in another showdown between hall-of-fame pitchers.

July 10: Hickman hit a two-run homer and the Cubs rally for three runs in the eighth inning to beat the A's and win two of three games at the Oakland Coliseum.

July 12: Santo hits a two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Cubs beat the White Sox 7-2. Santo had four RBI, Banks added a home run, and the Cubs ended up going 3-3 against their cross-town rivals.

Note: Here are the up-to-date stats for my Cubs replay.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Interleague Schedule Can't Slow '69 Cubs

With a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, the Cubs pushed their record to an incredible 53-19 in a replay of the team's memorable 1969 season.

The latest victory was a 5-4 walk-off win in the 21st inning as Jim Qualls singled off Fred Wenz to bring home Jim Hickman, who had led off the inning with single. Dick Selma got the win for the Cubs, who were led by Hall-of-Famers Billy Williams and Ernie Banks, who each tallied five hits and a home run.

The win over Boston raised Chicago's interleague record to 7-2, including a pair of victories over Detroit and two wins over the crosstown rival White Sox. In this replay, the Cubs will play 30 interleague games in all, six against the White Sox. (Of course, it wouldn't be until 1997 that the Cubs would play an interleague game for real!)

The Cubs continue to be led by their strong starting trio of Fergie Jenkins (11-4), Bill Hands (10-4) and Ken Holtzman (13-4). Each has thrown three shutouts and they have totalled 37 complete games! Ted Abernathy has 4 wins and 6 saves out of the bullpen to go along with Phil Regan's 3 wins and 5 saves.

Leadoff man Don Kessinger has ignited the offense with his .295 average and 53 runs scored.

Williams and Ron Santo have buoyed the center of the lineup -- Williams is hitting .335 with 9 home runs and 52 RBI; Santo leads the team with 10 home runs and has driven in 48 runners. Willie Smith has 9 home runs in his part-time role.

Paul Popovich has admirably filled in for the injured Glenn Beckert since being acquired in a trade with the Dodgers. In 16 games, Popo is batting .288 with 11 runs and 11 RBI. After his slow start, Hickman continues to provide punch at the bottom of the lineup with 8 home runs and 30 RBI.

Next up for the Cubs are games against division rivals Pittsburgh and St. Louis before hosting a three-game set versus the Yankees at Wrigley Field.

Here are some of the highlights from the past 30 games:

May 25: Randy Hundley smacks a three-run pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth inning to propel the Cubs to an 8-6 win over the Padres.

May 31: Jenkins shuts out the Braves 5-0, limiting Atlanta's lineup to five singles and striking out nine.

June 7: Light-hitting Nate "Pee Wee" Oliver smacks a grand slam to lead the Cubs to an 8-3 win over the Reds. Oliver, primarily a pinch runner to this point in the season, was starting for the injured Beckert.

June 9: Two days later Al Spangler hits his second home run of the season, a walk-off two-run dinger to defeat the Reds 8-6.

June 14: Reds right-fielder Bobby Tolan hits a walk-off grand slam to beat the Cubs 9-5. He had hit a solo home run in the eighth to tie the game. Willie Smith had put the Cubs ahead in the top of the ninth with a two-out, two-run pinch-hit home run before Tolan helped the Reds rebound.

June 17: Jenkins throws a three-hit shutout as the Cubs defeated the White Sox 7-0 in the first interleague game of the season.

June 20: Hands loses a 1-0 one-hitter after allowing a seventh-inning solo home run to Mack Jones of the Expos.

June 21: The Cubs pound Tigers ace Mickey Lolich in a 9-4 win over Detroit.

Note: Here are the up-to-date stats for my Cubs replay.

--66--


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dierker's No-hitter Slows Cubs in '69 Replay

Larry Dierker tossed a no-hitter against the Cubs, slowing their momentum on the way to a 32-10 record in this APBA Baseball Game replay of Chicago's epic 1969 campaign.

At one point, Dierker struck out eight batters in a row and 11 total in the Astros' 2-0 win inside the Astrodome on May 16. Doug Rader hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning to account for Houston's offense and handed Ken Holtzman only his second loss of the season.

With a 9-2 loss to the Astros two days later, the Cubs lost their first series of the season.

For Dierker, 1969 was the peak of a steady career as he posted a 20-13 record and earned a spot on the NL All-Star team. However, it was his only 20-win season. He went on to compile a  139-123 record between 1964-1977.

Holtzman quickly rebounded for a pair of wins on the Cubs' western road trip, raising his record to 9-2. The Cubs are 4-4 so far against Houston, Los Angeles and San Diego. While Chicago may have cooled slightly on this trip, the squad's winning percentage remained a robust .762 for the season.

The Cubs' big three -- Holtzman, Fergie Jenkins (7-3) and Bill Hands (7-1) -- continued to lead the way. Ted Abernathy has three wins and four saves out of the bullpen. Overall, the team ERA stands at 2.34.

In addition to the usual stalwarts on offense, rightfielder Jim Hickman has rebounded, raising his average to .250 along with hitting four home runs and driving in 17.

Among the Cubs' starters, leading hitters include Glenn Beckert (.337), Billy Williams (.321) and Randy Hundley (.313); RBI leaders Santo (33), Williams (30) and Hundley (18); and top scorers Don Kessinger (30), Beckert (28) and Santo (23). Santo and Willie Smith continue to lead the team in home runs with six apiece, followed by Williams with five.

Next up for the Cubs is a May 25 doubleheader vs. the Padres, then it's on to Candlestick Park for a pair of games against the Giants.

Some other highlights:

May 11: Hickman goes 3-for-4 with two home runs and five RBI to lead the Cubs to a 10-6 win over the Giants at Wrigley.

May 12: Hickman homered again the next day in a 14-1 victory over the Padres. Beckert went 4-for-4 and Ernie Banks got back on track by going 4-for-5 and scoring three runs.

May 14: Hands tosses a one-hitter in defeating the Padres 3-0. Santo hit a two-run homer for the Cubs.

May 21: Cubs rally for two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth inning in a 6-4 comeback win over the Dodgers. Williams has a two-run homer and drives in three runs. Willie Davis and Andy Kosco had back-to-back jacks to give the home team the lead in the bottom of the sixth.

May 23: Cubs reliever Jim Colborn allows a pair of walk-off hits to lose two extra-inning games in two days. Ted Sizemore drove in Paul Popovich with a single for a 4-3 Dodgers win in the bottom of the 12th on May 22. The next day, San Diego's Tommy Dean hit one to the wall in the bottom of the 11th inning, bringing John Sipin all the way around from first base for an 8-7 win. At one point, the Padres trailed 7-1 before tying the game in the eighth, no thanks to Cubs reliever Phil Regan, who continues to struggle out of the bullpen.

--66--

Note: Here's the link to the Cubs' up-to-date replay stats.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Cubs Win 12 Straight in '69 Replay

Now I really don't know how the Cubs didn't win 100 games or top the Mets for the NL Championship in 1969.

In my APBA Baseball Game replay the Cubs now stand at 24-5, including winning 12 straight games. In that stretch, the Cubs won 18 out of 19 games, sweeping all eight games against the Mets!

The Cubbies continue to rely on incredible pitching and timely hitting to win game after game. Their Big Three -- Fergie Jenkins (5-3), Bill Hands (5-1) and Ken Holtzman (6-1) -- have piled up 16 wins. They have 17 complete games and 4 shutouts.

The team ERA is 2.06.

On the offensive side, the Cubs are getting clutch hits throughout the batting order.

Their top hitters continue to be Billy Williams (.329), Glenn Beckert (.325) and Randy Hundley (.341).  Leadoff man Don Kessinger and cleanup hitter Ron Santo lead the team in runs scored with 19 each, followed by Beckert at 17.

Santo leads the Cubs in runs batted in with 22; Williams is next at 19. Santo and right-fielder Willie Smith are tied with a team-high 4 home runs apiece.

The biggest mystery continues to be the lack of hitting by Jim Hickman, who is at .119 after 42 at-bats. However, he did smack a two-run homer in his last game.

Here are the highlights over the past two weeks:

April 22: Cubs sweep a doubleheader -- 2-1 and 6-5 -- at Forbes Field vs. the Pirates. Hundley wins game one with an RBI-double in the eighth. In game two, the Cubs got a solo home run from Williams and a three-run homer by fill-in catcher Bill Heath.

April 24: Holtzman strikes out 11 in an 8-1 blowout vs. the Cardinals that included home runs by Beckert, Santo, Smith and Hundley.

April 25: Jenkins outpitches Tom Seaver, defeating the Mets 3-1 at Shea Stadium.

April 27: The Cubs pile up 21 runs on 28 hits to sweep a doubleheader against the Mets -- 4-3 and 17-5.

May 2: Holtzman throws a 6-hit shutout against the Mets as Ernie Banks gets his first home run of the season in a 5-0 win.

May 4: Seaver takes another loss vs. the Cubs, this time a 5-0 shutout by Hands.

May 6: Holtzman notches his team-high 6th win of the season with a 1-0 two-hit shutout against the Dodgers at Wrigley Field. In seven starts, the lefty is now 6-1 with an ERA of 1.29.

May 7: The Cubs fall 7-5 in 11 innings as Jenkins is torched for 14 hits. Santo hits a pair of home runs in the loss.

To this point in the season, the Mets have been anything but miraculous vs. the Cubs. And it's not hard to see why. Their pitching hasn't phased the Cubs, and their current lineup remains impotent with the likes of Rod Gaspar, Al Weis and Kevin Collins piling up the outs.

Likewise, one of my favorite players ever -- Amos Otis -- did little for the Mets in his outings against the Cubs. I'm glad he went on to become an all-star, Gold Glove center-fielder -- in 1970 with the Royals.

--66--

Note: Here's a link to my ongoing Cubs replay season stats


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cubs Start Fast in '69 Replay

With a doubleheader sweep over the expansion Expos, the Cubs improved to 10-3 on the season in an APBA baseball game replay of Chicago's 1969 season.

In the opener, the Cubs "exploded" for 9 runs on 10 hits in the sixth inning, knocking out Montreal starter Carl Morton and propelling Fergie Jenkins to his third victory of the season. The Cubs won 12-1, despite only one extra-base hit, a double by Ron Santo.

1969 Topps Team Poster
Equally indicative of the Cubs' season so far, Chicago rallied for a 6-3 victory in the nightcap, scoring 5 runs in the top of the seventh on three singles, three walks and a hit batsman.

So far, the Cubbies have hit a grand total of three home runs, two by reserve outfielder Willy Smith and one by Billy Williams. Williams is hitting .294 with 10 RBI; Santo has scored 8 runs and driven in 8; and catcher Randy Hundley leads the regulars in hitting at .359, with 7 RBI.

What the Cubs lack in hitting they've more than made up in pitching, with a team ERA of 2.17! In addition to Jenkins, Cubs' starters Bill Hands, Ken Holtzman and Joe Niekro all have a pair of wins. They've also tossed 6 complete games and a shutout.

Chicago has had just enough hitting to win half their games by one or two runs. Among the highlights:

  • A 3-1 win on opening day, featuring a complete game by Jenkins and a two-run double by Williams.
  • A 1-0 win by Jenkins to extend the Cubs season-opening win streak to 5 games. Santo drove in the winning run in the bottom of the first, after a double by Williams.
  • A 5-4 victory over the Pirates on a two-out, three-run home run by Smith in the bottom of the eighth inning. 
  • A 3-2 extra-inning win by Holtzman, who went all 10 innings. The Cubs tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the ninth on doubles by Glenn Beckert and Santo. They took the lead in the 10th on a leadoff walk by rookie Oscar Gamble, who scooted all the way to third on a sacrifice bunt by Holtzman. Don Kessinger drove him in with a sacrifice fly to right field. 

Following on the heels of my replay of the Milwaukee Brewers' 2008 campaign, I'm already seeing some significant differences, even though both squads posted 90-win seasons.

While the Brewers bashed 198 homers and stole 158 bases, the Cubs rely on a steadier offense throughout the lineup, stringing together singles and walks and counting on their superior starting pitching to keep games close. The Cubs aren't slow -- except for Santo -- but they've amassed all of three stolen bases in 13 games.

In contrast to Milwaukee's feast-or-famine attack and a maddening number of strikeouts, the Cubs so far have been in every game, and always seem to have runners on base. It challenges the manager's patience from time to time, however, as the Cubs often go three, four and five innings in a row with base runners but can't string together enough walks and singles to tally a score. But I'll get over it.

Replay Notes: I'm using the 1969 reprint set, so I've got every player who stepped to the plate or the mound that season. Along with the Cubs actual starting pitchers, I'm using opponents' real lineups, paying attention to trades and injuries for home and away teams.

With so many players available, I'm limiting Cubs batters to 102 percent of their actual plate appearances. Likewise, for pitchers I'm sticking to their actual games started and 102 percent of actual innings for relievers.

Frustrated by the lack of singles -- and lower batting averages -- in my Brewers' replay, I took Kevin Burghardt's suggestion on the APBA Baseball Facebook page of turning a 65-35 into a single when the bases are empty. I'm hoping this also will compensate for my tendency to always put in the opponent's top-rated reliever, even when he probably wan't always available in "real life."

Finally, I couldn't resist tweaking the schedule, throwing in a smattering of inter-league games, including a home-and-home series against the cross-town rival White Sox.

Anyway, the Cubs are off today before another doubleheader against the Pirates at Forbes Field. And those "Amazing Mets" are on the schedule for eight games in the next two weeks ...

-- 66 --

P.S. Here's a link to my current stats, if anyone is that interested ... 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Trip Back to Wrigley: Replaying the '69 Cubs

The 1969 Cubs included future Hall-of-Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins, Billy Williams and Ron Santo.

Ultimately, the decision just came down to enjoying replaying games with hall-of-famers.

I'm just starting my quest to replay the Chicago Cubs infamous 1969 season in APBA baseball -- with a few twists. For example, I've ditched 30 games against division rivals to add some inter-league games, including a home-and-home series against the crosstown White Sox.

In addition to managing Cubs legends Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ron Santo, I'm looking forward to almost daily encounters with opposing hall-of-famers, from Bench and Seaver to Clemente, Mays and Aaron. Replaying games with such greats makes the 1969 Cubs an easy replay choice. For me, 1969 is part of one of baseball's golden eras.

And then there's the personal connection. Although my favorite team remains the Milwaukee Brewers, I was born in the Chicago area and lived on the north side of the city in Northbrook until third grade. That's when I moved north and started rooting for the Brew Crew.

But I can remember my grandma following the "Cubbies" and talking about the team when we visited her north side apartment in Winnetka.

Looking through the Cubs APBA cards, it's hard to believe they finished 8 games behind the Mets! Sure, the Mets had A starters Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman, but they didn't have Santo. Banks and Williams suiting up every day. It was more like Art Shamsky, Ed Kranepool and Ron Swoboda.

The Cubs won 92 games that year, but are known more for their epic September collapse, and giving way to the Miracle Mets, who went on to defeat the invincible Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.

The Cubs starting rotation was solid, with three B starters -- Jenkins, Bill Hands and Ken Holtzman. Where they could have used some help was a shutdown reliever. They had to depend on Phil Regan (CZ) and Ted Abernathy (BY).

The team's strength, of course, was it's everyday lineup. In addition to Santo, Williams and Banks, it featured all-star double-play combo Don Kessinger and Glenn Beckert. The Gold Glove shortstop was among the league leaders in runs, hits and doubles. Santo finished second in runs batted in (121)  and eighth in home runs (29). Williams finished the year in the top 10 in a half-dozen categories, including hits, runs, doubles, triples and RBI.

On the mound, the Cubs big three combined for 58 wins: Jenkins (21-15); Hands (20-14) and Holtzman (17-13).

One of the cool things about the 1969 APBA reprint set is that it includes a card for every player who got into a game that season. While it's neat to see some future stars who got their first taste of the big leagues that season (e.g. Ted Simmons, Carlton Fisk, Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Cesar Geronimo) I don't see going out of my way to find two at-bats for the Cubs' sixth-string catcher Randy Bobb!

The Cubs will open the season against the Phillies at Wrigley Field. Play ball!

--66--





Thursday, March 20, 2014

Phillies' Playoff Homer Barrage Ends Brewers Season in '08 Replay


Photo courtesy of Bryce Edwards/Creative Commons

Home runs by the Phillies soundly spoiled any notions the Brewers had about moving beyond the NL Division Series in a replay of Milwaukee's 2008 season.

Just as in real life, the Brewers fell 3 games to 1 to the eventual World Series champion. My replay came to a sudden and decisive end as the Phillies smacked three 2-run home runs, rallying for a 10-4 win over the Brewers in Game 4.

It didn't matter that the replay Brewers ignored injuries that kept the real Ben Sheets, Russell Branyan and Gabe Kapler out of the series. While Sheets won Game 3 of the series and Branyan had a key home run in the win, their innings and at-bats couldn't reverse the series outcome.

Chase Utley and Ryan Howard ultimately made the difference for the Phillies, combining for 6 home runs, 9 runs and 13 RBI. Yikes! With 4 of those home runs, Utley earned the series MVP award.

Game 1 -- Phillies 4, Brewers 2

A game that began with first-inning fireworks, quickly turned into an extra inning stalemate.

Photo courtesy of Matt Schilder/Creative Commons
Rickie Weeks led off with a single and was followed by a home run by J.J. Hardy, staking the Brewers to a 2-0 lead. The Phillies answered in the bottom of the first after a double by Jason Werth and Utley's first homer of the series.

Starters Yovani Gallardo and Cole Hamels gave way to a series of relievers over 14th innings. In the bottom of the 14th, Utley led off with a single, followed by Howard's walk-off home run on a pitch by Carlos Villanueva. Chad Durbin got the victory in the 4-2 win.

Game 2 -- Phillies 6, Brewers 4

Once again powered by a pair of two-run home runs by Utley and Howard, the Phillies cruised to a 6-4 win in Game 2. Ryan "Mad Dog" Madson got the win; Brad Lidge the save.

Branyan put the Brewers ahead 4-2 in the fourth inning with a home run to drive in Corey Hart, who had tripled to drive in Prince Fielder. However, C.C. Sabathia, whose pitching heroics helped propel the Brewers to their first playoff series in 26 years, couldn't put the brakes on the Phillies offense.

Sabathia surrendered a solo home run to Pedro Feliz in the bottom of the fourth and a two-run homer to -- who else? -- Utley in the seventh inning. Meanwhile, Clay Condrey, Madson and Lidge held the Brewers scoreless the rest of the way.

Game 3 -- Brewers 2, Phillies 1

Photo courtesy of Michael Napoleon/
Creative Commons
The Brewers didn't disappoint a full house at Miller Park, winning Game 3 2-1 when Hardy scored from second on Hart's two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning. Sheets pitched a complete game, striking out nine, for the victory.

The only Phillies tally came in the first inning, as Jimmy Rollins lead off with a single and scored on a double by Utley. It took until the eighth inning for the Brewers to tie, on a solo home run by Branyan.

Jamie Moyer, who had no-hit the Brewers three weeks earlier, got the loss.

Game 4 -- Phillies 10, Brewers 4

The Phillies looked like they might wrap up Game 4 early when Jayson Werth crushed a home run off Brewers starter Dave Bush in the second inning. Carlos Ruiz scored a few moments later on an error by Branyan.

But the Brewers bounced back, thanks to J.J. Hardy. In the third, he drove in Weeks, who had tripled with two out. Then Hardy smashed a three-run homer in the fifth to help send Phillies starter Joe Blanton to the showers.

But that would be it for the Brewers, who mustered little against the Phillies' deep bullpen.

Meanwhile, the Phils were just getting warmed up.

Utley led the way with a pair of two-run home runs, one in the seventh inning and one in the eighth. Greg Dobbs -- yet another former Mariner -- closed out the barrage with a two-run dinger in the ninth. The Phillies piled up 14 hits in all.

Losing pitcher Brian Shouse, one of the Brewers' most effective arms out of the bullpen during the regular season, got pounded for five runs in two innings, including Utley's twin shots. Condrey got the win in relief for the Phillies.

Postscript

Losing to the Phillies in the Division Series wasn't all that unexpected. And it certainly didn't diminish the Brewers' stellar 90-72 record in the regular season.

This was my first full-season replay. It was interesting to experience all the ups and downs, heartbreak and heroics that happen through a long season.

After a bit of a break, I'll be ready for another replay. Among the teams under consideration:
  • 1982 Brewers -- My favorite team ever!
  • 2011 Brew Crew -- NL Central Champs!
  • 1957 Braves -- Those were the days ... 
  • 1969 Cubs -- Reverse the curse?
  • 1949 Dodgers? 
We shall see ...
--66--

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sabathia, Braun Lead Brew Crew to Playoffs in '08 APBA Replay

Courtesy of BaseballBacks/Creative Commons

C.C. Sabathia closed out the season in style -- with 34 shutout innings and a no-hitter in leading the Brewers to their first playoffs in 26 years in my APBA Baseball game replay of Milwaukee's 2008 season.

As in real life, Sabathia -- acquired in a mid-season trade with the Indians -- proved a game-changer. In his 17 starts for my Brewers, Sabathia tossed 13 complete games, 6 shutouts and a no-hitter versus the Reds on Sept. 20 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

C.C.'s no-no was one of many highlights in a replay that saw my Brewers match their real-life record of 90-72, good for second place in the NL Central behind the Cubs. While Sabathia (12-4, 1.81 ERA) was teaming up with Ben Sheets (16-11, 2.49 ERA) on the mound, Ryan Braun anchored the offense with 40 home runs, while scoring 104 runs and driving in 113. Meanwhile, Prince Fielder kicked in 32 homers to go along with 97 RBI.

Although I've been playing APBA some four decades since first rolling the dice for "The Kid" Robin Yount and "Hammerin'" Hank Aaron, this was my first full-season replay. I picked the '08 squad in part because I couldn't bear to lose close to 100 games as so many of Milwaukee's teams have done over the years.

I'll admit plenty of anxiety throughout the season, however, as I wondered if I could manage the Crew to the playoffs or suffer the same fate as Ned Yost, who was booted in favor of Dale Sveum with but a dozen games to go.

What frustrated me game after game was the Brewers' persistent lack of offense! This for a team that batted .253 and scored 750 runs and smacked 198 home runs. In my replay, the Brewers hit a paltry .226 while scoring 50 fewer runs. My Brewers hit 196 homers, while upping their doubles from 324 to 351. Nevertheless, their slugging and on-base percentages also dipped (.431 vs. .412 and .325 vs. .300).

Countering the drop in offense, apparently, was a spike in quality pitching! The replay Crew shaved three-quarters of a run off the team ERA -- from 3.85 to 3.15, which easily would have led the league in pitching!

Honestly, I'm stumped by the stats!

Seeing this slump in hitting from nearly the get-go, I had my doubts whether the Brewers could muster enough runs to match their real-life win total. But the ridiculously good pitching persisted, culminating in Sabathia's end-of-the-season invincibility.

In the end, I was amazed how close most of the other team stats matched reality.

And with some exceptions, individuals weren't too far off either. Sabathia, for instance, was 12-4 compared to 11-2. Sheets went 16-11 vs. 13-9.

Braun's .267/40/113 matched up with .285/37/106 while Fielder went .246/32/97 vs. .276/34/102. J.J. Hardy went .263/28/88  against .283/24/74.

When it came to hitting, my biggest disappointment was Corey Hart, who went .268/20/91 for real. In the replay he slumped miserably to .217/15/74. Meanwhile, one of my faves, centerfielder Mike Cameron was an uncanny .236/24/74, compared to reality's .243/25/70.

What did I learn about the way I manage over the course of this season?

Mainly that I prefer starting pitching, and that I way over-use the hit-and-run and except for pitchers, I almost never use the sacrifice bunt.

My rotation amassed 46 complete games -- 29 by Sheets and Sabathia. The real Brewers had 12 ... total! This probably accounted for the lack of replay saves, 31 vs. 45.

In real life, the Brewers had fewer than one stolen base per game, 108. I piled up 158, including 37 apiece for Cameron and Hart and 36 for my main leadoff hitter, Rickie Weeks. That was only about double their actual totals: Cameron 17, Hart 23, and Weeks 19. D'oh!

In the end, this replay was more an experiment than anything. Based on all the other replays I've read about over the years in the APBA Journal/APBA Blog and elsewhere, I figured the Brewers would end up pretty close to their actual record. But I had to prove it to myself.

Also just as in real life, it was alternately exhilarating when the Brewers won and funk-inducing when they lost, especially what seemed like an inordinate number of walk-off wins by the likes of the Reds, Cards and Astros -- damn you, Joey Votto!

Some highlights:

Sept. 28: Brewers win their last game of the season, a 3-0 shutout by Sabathia for win number 12. They finish the replay with a 90-72 record -- identical to real life.

Sept. 27: Braun hits a pair of home runs in a 7-1 win over the Cubs.

Sept. 25: The Brewers lose 3-2 to the lowly Pirates in 11 innings. The loss drops the Brewers' record to 7-8 record against the Bucs for the year, a far cry from the 14-1 record they posted against Pittsburgh in real life.

Sept. 21: The Brewers score 5 runs in the 9th inning, including a 3-run home run by Mike Cameron to defeat the Reds 13-8.

Sept. 20: Sabathia throws a no-hitter to beat the Reds 3-0. Fielder and Hardy hit home runs to provide the offense.

Sept. 11: Jamie Moyer of the Phillies throws a no-hitter in defeating the Brewers 4-0.

Sept. 2-3: Mets errors lead to back-to-back walk-off wins for the Brewers.

Aug. 15-17: The Brewers sweep Los Angeles in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium.

Aug. 6: Joey Votto hits a two-out, grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to rally the Reds to a 7-4 win.

July 28: The Brewers defeat the Cubs 5-4 in 18 innings on back-to-back doubles by Hardy and Braun.

July 18-20: The visiting Brewers sweep the Giants in three games at AT&T Park.

July 15: Ben Sheets and Ryan Braun start for the NL All-Stars at Yankee Stadium. The AL wins 12-4 behind MVP Manny Ramirez, who goes 2-for-3 with 5 RBI on a double and a triple.

July 13: In one of his rare bad outings, Sabathia loses 11-5 to the Reds at Miller Park, dropping the Brewers to 51-44 at the All-Star Break.

June 25: Braun smacks a 10th-inning home run to beat the Braves 5-4.

June 7-8: On consecutive nights Corey Hart hits two-run home runs in the final inning to rally the team to wins over the Rockies in Denver.

June 6: Brad Haupe jacks at two-out grand slam in the bottom of the 10th to drop the Brewers 6-2.

May 30: Russell Branyan hits a pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Astros 7-6.

May 27: Mike Cameron hits a pair of home runs to lead the Crew to a 4-1 win over the Braves.

May 25: The Nationals pound the Brewers 15-3, smacking 19 hits.

May 12: The Brewers win 1-0, scoring the winning run on a walk-off hit by Gabe Kapler, subbing for Braun.

May 11: The first six batters for the visiting Cardinals reach base and score on the way to a 12-5 win.

April 25: The Brewers hit five home runs, including two by Braun, to defeat the Marlins 15-2.

April 24: Prince Fielder smacks at walk-off three-run home run to rally the Brewers to a 4-3 win over the Phillies.

April 20: The Brewers fall four games under .500 to 7-11 after a 1-0 shutout by Aaron Harang of the Reds.

March 30: Ben Sheets begins the season the same way he ends it, with a win over the Cubs, this one a 4-2 victory on opening day at Wrigley Field.

-- 66 --

Note: This replay took me about a year to complete. I took a break after about 30 games, right about the time Ryan Braun was suspended for the rest of last season. When I finally got over it, the pace of play heated up the closer I got to the end ... 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RIP Jim Fregosi

Growing up, Jim Fregosi was one of those players whose baseball card you always seemed to have in doubles, even triples. I never really thought he was much of a player, though he had a cool name.

Part of my ignorance was that he was pretty much past his prime when I got interested in baseball in the mid-1970s. By then, the six-time all-star was mostly a backup for the Texas Rangers, his stellar years with the Angels a mystery to me.

Upon his death Friday, however, I learned just how good he was -- an outstanding, gold-glove caliber shortstop on an otherwise average team. A .265 hitter, he also had 151 home runs over an 18-year career. He was anything but a light-hitting shortstop, batting in the middle of the lineup for many years. Heck, the Angels retired his No. 11 jersey.

Mostly I remember him as a manager, first with the Angels and then with the White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays. And he was pretty decent, leading the Angels to their first playoff appearance in 1979 and the Phillies to the 1993 National League pennant. In 15 years as a manager, his teams won 1,028 games. (Ok, they also lost 1,094 games.)

The best Jim Fregosi APBA card in my collection is his 1969 card, when he was rated a fast shortstop (10). He batted third for the Angels that year, batting .260 with 12 home runs, 78 runs scored and 47 RBI. When your No. 3 hitter amasses only 47 RBI, is it any surprise the Angels only had 67 wins that year? Fregosi did have a .381 slugging percentage and a higher-than-average on-base percentage of .361.

The Angels were a good match for my favorite team in 1969, the one-year wonders known as the Seattle Pilots. One of the great things about the 1969 APBA reprint set is that it includes a card for every player that year. The Pilots, in all their ineptitude, practically overflow the team card envelope, with 45 marvelous players to choose from. Of course, many of those are for D pitchers and other guys even I've never heard of.

My affinity for this lowly Pilots squad that tallied a 64-98 record during their single season in Seattle is that it allowed car dealer Bud Selig to whisk them away to Milwaukee, where they became the Brewers, my favorite team. Among the players who went on to endure some of those brutal early years in Milwaukee were Tommy Harper, Mike Hegan, Skip Lockwood, and Gene Brabender, a Wisconsin native who suffered 15 loses in the Brew Crew's inaugural season.

As I mentioned earlier, Fregosi stands out most in my memory as one of those '70s Topps baseball cards that are now immortalized in Josh Wilker's often-hilarious book "Cardboard Gods," published in 2010. Wilker's website of the same name includes a gem of an entry about Fregosi when he was finishing up his career with the Pirates.

As often happens, this week's news about Fregosi made me look up his APBA card and find a game to replay. On Sept. 12, 1969 the Angels and the Pilots managed to tie 1-1 in a 10-inning game that was the second game of a doubleheader at Sick's Field. Perfect!

With Fregosi batting third, as usual that season, the Angels managed to win the replay 4-1. Pitcher Rickey Clark (DW) got the win, which would have been his first and only that season in his lone start. Ken Tatum finished the eighth and retired the Pilots in the ninth for the save.

Fregosi went 0-for-4, getting on base in the first inning on a two-base error by second baseman John Donaldson. Sandy Alomar and Jim Spencer, two other Angels regulars from that era, provided the bulk of the Angels offense in the replay. Alomar, the leadoff hitter, got on base three times, stole three bases and scored three runs, two of them on singles by Spencer, who drove in three runs.

Also noteworthy in the Angels' lineup was Aurelio Rodriguez, one of my favorite APBA players over the years. First, I had no idea Rodriguez played for the Angels. He'll always be the Tigers third baseman to me. Second, though he was never a high-average hitter (.237 lifetime), he always seems to come through in the clutch. And it never hurt that he was a gold-glover at third. In this replay, he contributed as usual, reaching base on an error and scoring.

For the Pilots, Lockwood got the loss, though only allowing a pair of runs in his five innings. First baseman Don "The Mule" Mincher drove in Steve Hovley for the Pilots' lone score. The Pilots totalled only four hits. No wonder only 5,085 turned out for the game!

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Monday, February 10, 2014

Plenty of APBA Highlights in June 15, 2013 Replay

Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe of the Dodgers.  Photo courtesy of Ron Reiring/Creative Commons/Flickr

What better way check out the 2013 APBA baseball card set than to put all the teams in action and see what happens.

So I picked a mid-summer date when nobody has yet thrown in the towel or begun unloading their soon-to-be free agents. I had only two criteria -- Felix Hernandez had to be starting for the Mariners and Yasiel Puig had to be in the Dodgers starting lineup.

Saturday, June 15, 2013 fit the bill, and the games didn't disappoint.

Eight of the 15 games finished in one-run victories, including three walk-off winners. Unfortunately for King Felix and the Mariners, the A's notched one of the come-from-behind thrillers.

And the Dodgers won their showdown with the Pirates 7-3. Puig was a difference-maker, going 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. After driving in the game-winning run with his second double, Puig stole third base and cruised home with an insurance run when Russell Martin's throw skipped into left field. Of course, Puig rounded out his performance with a trio of strikeouts. D'oh!

In what may have been a first in the nearly four decades that I've been rolling for sixty-sixes, the Dodgers hit 10 doubles in the game, including four in the decisive fifth inning. Clayton Kershaw, Skip Schumaker and Puig went back-to-back-to-back, with Hanley Ramirez adding another for good measure. Kershaw got the complete-game victory.

Felix Hernandez. Photo by Keith Allison/Creative Commons/Flickr
Hernandez seemed well on his way to doing the same against the A's. He cruised through the first seven innings, allowing a solo home run by Josh Donaldson while scattering seven hits and working out of several jams. Meanwhile, the M's built an early lead with three runs in the first, including a solo home run by Raul Ibanez. They added another run in the third after Nick Franklin's second double of the game. Kyle Seager followed with an RBI-single.

A.J. Griffin started for the Athletics and didn't look as though he would make it through the third inning, much less pitch a complete game. But Yoenis Cespedes made it a one-run game in the eighth with a two-run homer off King Felix. With the A's trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth, Chris Young led off with a single, then stole second. Hernandez headed for the dugout, confident that Yoervis Medina could slam the door.

Medina, however, uncorked a wild pitch, sending Young to third. Eric Sogard drove him in with a grounder to first. After getting Coco Crisp to pop to third, Josh Reddick singled. Cespedes did the same, moving the go-ahead runner to second. Brandon Moss then didn't waste any time dropping the M's, smashing a gapper to left center to bring in Reddick. A's win, 5-4.

In one of the other top contests, my favorite Brewers squad gave up THREE two-run home runs to the Reds' Brandon Phillips, including a walk-off dinger in the bottom of the ninth! Phillips drove in six runs, spoiling a showdown in which the Brewers rallied three times before falling 9-8.

Led by Carlos Gomez, the Brew Crew finally tallied three runs in the top of the eighth to take an 8-7 lead. Gomez scored two runs and drove in three with a double and a home run. It was great to see Milwaukee total 12 hits -- without Ryan Braun. The Reds, however, had Phillips.

The games setup was simple enough. I went to Baseball-Reference.com for the schedule and boxscores. I played the games in their real-life order, beginning with the Cubs facing the Mets at Citi Field.

Wherever possible, I used actual lineups. In a few instances I had to to substitute for players who had too few at-bats or innings pitched to earn a card. Or, as in the case of Mark Teixeira of the Yankees, I had to use his 2012 card as he spent most of 2013 on the bench with injuries. About a dozen players had to be plucked from other squads as they still hadn't been traded when my June 15 games happened.  Among the notable players who later changed uniforms were Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs/Yankees and Alex Rios of the White Sox/Rangers.

Here are the results and a highlight or two or three ...

1. Mets hold on for a 7-6 win over the Cubs. Soriano had a two-run home run in the loss; David Wright scored a pair of runs; center-fielder Juan Lagares drove in three runs with a pair of doubles.
2. John Lackey and the Red Sox earned a 3-1 win over the the Orioles at Camden Yards. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a double and scored, then drove in the game-winner with a single in the second. Big Papi David Ortiz reached base four out of five at-bats; Crash Davis had a solo home run for the O's.
3. The Dodgers dropped the Bucs 7-3 at PNC Park.
4. Jason Heyward drove in the winning run with a double in the bottom of the 10th inning, lifting the Braves to a 5-4 win over the Giants at Turner Field. After being shut out for seven innings, the Giants rallied for four runs, including a pinch-hit two-run homer by Brandon Belt.
5. The Blue Jays defeated the Rangers 7-2 in Arlington. The big blow was a two-out, bases-loaded double by Maicer Izturis, propelling R.A. Dickey to the win. Nelson Cruz had a two-run homer for the home team.
6. The Rays blew out the Royals 11-3. Alex Cobb got the complete game win. Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings each scored three runs; third-baseman Kelly Johnson drove in four runs with a home run and a double.
7. The Reds broke the hearts of any Brewers fans who attended the 9-8 thriller at Great American Ball Park.
8. Tyler Chatwood pitched an eight-hit shutout in defeating the Phillies, 2-0. Nolan Arenado had a solo homer.
9. The Cardinals rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth to defeat the Marlins 6-5. Marcel Ozuna smacked a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth that looked to give Florida the victory. But Pete Kozma, Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday all hit doubles to tally the game-tying and then game-winning runs.
10. Home runs by Conor Gillaspie and Alejandro De Aza helped the White Sox to a comeback win over the Astros, 5-4. Jason Castro had three RBI in the loss.
11. A two-out, three-run home run by Alex Avila propelled the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Twins. Max Scherzer got the win; Joaquin Benoit earned the save. Home runs by Clete Thomas and Ryan Doumit kept it close.
12. The Yankees exploded for six runs in the top of the 12th inning to drop the Angels 9-3. Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells and Eduardo Nunez all scored a run and drove in a pair.
13. The Mariners suffered the agony of defeat at the hands of the A's.
14. A pair of home runs by Jason Werth led the Nationals to a 5-4 win over the Indians. Ryan Zimmerman got the win; Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for the save.
15. Similar to the Yankees, the Diamondbacks piled up six runs in the top of the 10th inning to score an 11-5 win over the Padres in the day's finale. The D-Backs combined nine walks with 11 hits in the win. The Padres scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 5-5, including a three-run pinch-hit home run by Will Venable and a solo homer by Chris Denorfia.

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Friday, February 7, 2014

APBA Replay Honors Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner


Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ralph Kiner died Thursday, Feb. 6.

In honor of the former Pirates slugger, I ventured into my APBA baseball game closet for the 1949 set, looking to replay Pittsburgh's game against the New York Giants on Monday, Sept. 19, 1949 at Forbes Field.

The date seemed significant enough during one of Kiner's finest seasons -- he smacked his 50th homer of the season that day, a second-inning solo slam to left against right-hander Kirby Higbe. Unfortunately, the Pirates lost 6-4 that day on the way to a lackluster 71-83 record.

For Kiner, however, 1949 proved to be anything but mundane. Kiner finished the season with 54 home runs, 116 runs, and 127 RBI, while batting .310. The all-star left-fielder finished fourth in the MVP vote that year. In addition to home runs and runs batted in, he led the National League in slugging (.658) and walks (117). He ended his decade-long career with 369 homers and was elected into the Hall-of-Fame in 1975.

The result of all those 1949 numbers is a fine APBA cleanup hitter -- 1-1-5-5-7-10-8-8-9-9 and six 14's. In my replay, Kiner took up his typical spot in the lineup, batting fourth and playing left field.

Although Kiner ended up with a rather lackluster game, the Pirates managed to reverse the real-life result. They defeated the Giants 4-3 on a walk-off gapper to left center in the bottom of the 10th by catcher Phil Masi. He drove in Danny Murtaugh, who had stolen second a moment earlier. 

Murry Dickson got the win in relief over Swede Hansen. Junior Walsh started for the Pirates, holding New York scoreless for the first six innings. He fell behind in the seventh, however, allowing a pinch-hit RBI single by Monte Irvin, followed by a two-run home run by second baseman Hank Thompson.

Pittsburgh was led by John "Hippity" Hopp, who went 2-for-5, including a two-run double to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Shortstop Stan Rojek scored a pair of runs in the lead-off spot.

Kiner went 0-for-5 with a strikeout, only reaching base in the seventh on an error by catcher Wes Westrum.

While Kiner may not have starred in this replay, it provided yet another opportunity to relive the past and remember other players such as Murtaugh (who went on to manage the Bucs, winning more than 1,000 games and World Championships in 1960 and 1971) and the immortal Bobby Thompson of the Giants.

Note: Had Pittsburgh actually won that game, the Pirates and the Giants both would have ended the season at 72-82 -- tied for fifth place in the National League.

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