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