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Thread: Mining for Gold - Harvesting Turds

  1. #1
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Mining for Gold - Harvesting Turds

    Almost every team experiences a stretch of seasons where the taste of the losing becomes all too familiar to the fans and very often the franchise as well. For an organization it’s usually around this time that finding a player amongst what you thought was nothing becomes the most realistic means to achieving immediate success. A fine example in this the Cardinals finding a surprise in Albert Pujols, especially after turning Kent Bottenfield into Jim Edmonds.

    Rags to riches in the wink of an eye, a tale that is Dicksonian in nature, however more often than not it ends up being a story that is more worthy of a Big Boy Comic than a Dickens tale. One thing’s for sure; it entertains the fans active imagination in the off-season and buoys the hopes of the losers in the front office while they get their resumes ready for their next job. After making Orlando their home for the balance of the 1920’s the Reds were lured to Tampa in 1931 in an arranged deal with former Reds manager Clark Griffith(who owned the Senators and trained in Tampa) the two teams switched training sites to see what the other experienced each spring. The switch proved to be a great success for both parties and each team soon dug deep roots into their new spring homes. In Tampa the Reds would become a fixture for the majority of the years between 1930 and 1988, missing out only in 1936 when they went to Puerto Rico and during the war when travel restrictions created the Limestone League each spring. It was in Tampa that many a Reds prospect stumbled on to the fact that they were destined not for the greatness promised by their high school coach and girlfriend(s), but instead they were destined for the marked mediocrity and reality of the failed prospect. Yet, others found the exact opposite, and emerged from nowhere to the major league roster, many of them made the team before they even owned a suit or a pair of dress shoes. It’s quite a jump from the buses and fast food or the minors to the world of big league meal money, and the fall back there is perhaps an even harder reality to deal with.

    Spring training is a lot like life, sometimes you have an opportunity that becomes a jewel in your eyes, something that can solve all your problems and inevitably it slips from your fingers, leaving you pondering how it could have fallen to the wayside so swiftly. In baseball sometimes your team has player who is an unpolished jewel, and somehow lets him fall away before they can harvest his skills correctly. It’s painful to watch a player your team tossed aside succeed elsewhere and the Reds like any other team have attempted to find a diamond amongst the numerous rocks in the game, it’s during the spring that projects are undertaken and the Reds are fraught with players who were once projects for them and stars for another. At no time was this more obvious than the mid 1930’s, when if anything was missing from the Cincinnati baseball world it was a star player. In the era of DiMaggio, Greenberg, Pepper, Ducky and Dean the Reds had a roster that was vacant of anyone even resembling a current star. The Reds were in constant search for an offense in an era that seemed was swimming neck deep in offense everywhere but Cincinnati.

    How bad was it? Here are the worst team offenses in the National League from 1930-1937, no shortage of Reds teams there. Following that is the worst total offense of those years.
    Code:
    1930-1937          YEAR      R
    1    Reds               1933      496
    2    Braves             1931      533
    3    Braves             1933      552
    T4   Reds               1932      575
    T4   Braves             1935      575
    6    Braves             1937      579
    7    Reds               1934      590
    8    Reds               1931      602
    9    Phillies           1933      607
    10   Reds               1937      612
    
    NATIONAL LEAGUE CAREER 1930-1937
    
    RUNS                             R
    1    Braves                     4895
    2    Reds                       4908
    3    Dodgers                    5658
    4    Pirates                    5880
    5    Phillies                   5889
    6    Giants                     6122
    7    Cubs                       6310
    8    Cardinals                  6400
    In 1935 the Reds cut an option deal with the Cardinals to take a look at a young hitter from Rochester who had hit .339 the prior year. The deal was simple, for fifty five thousand dollars the Reds could purchase him if they found him to their liking. So instead of going to Cardinals camp the big hitter headed to Tampa that spring.The players name was Johnny Mize.


    Mize’s performance in a Reds uniform was good enough to cause Sunny Jim Bottomley the Reds incumbent retread slugger to jump camp, seeing Mize play was the writing on the wall and Jim could only foresee a future of watching the Reds play from the bench instead of the field.

    Of course there was a catch, after all it was Branch Rickey on the other side of the deal. Johnny Mize needed knee surgery in an era that surgery was an iffy subject. In a fit of bad decision making and a moment that involved the usual dollar watching a small town franchise must endure, the Reds decided to pass on Johnny Mize and sent him back to the Cardinals. Sunny Jim came back to the team and Mize had the knee operated on, using it to carry him on 809 extra base hits over the next 18 years and eventually to the to the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile in Cincinnati the Reds slotted the relieved Bottomley in as the starting 1st baseman and 400 at bats and a pitiful .617 OPS later he was relived of his duties and jettisoned off to a place that must have been worse than Cincinnati in the mid 30’s. St. Louis, but this time as a Brown, not a Cardinal. Being a St. Louis Brown was a baseball fate often believed to be worse than death, and at no time more than during the Depression.


    Fixing something that’s not broke.

    It wouldn’t be spring if the papers didn’t ponder the teams attempt to alter the approach of certain ballplayers, whether it is way they hold the bat, scoop a grounder or plant their feet. There seems to always be something that causes the coaches to retch in the dugout during BP, or worse yet a game. The result is they think spring is the time that they (the coaches) can fix your game.

    If this instance arises I suggest everyone take it slow.

    Following the Mize/Bottomley debacle the Reds found that they were once again looking for a 1st baseman and in the winter of 1936 the Reds and GM Larry MacPhail were also looking for an increased revenue stream to help boost the teams bottom line. The later of those problems enabled the Reds to cut a deal to train in Puerto Rico, making the Reds the first team to train outside of the USA, adding firsts to the list was McPhail’s goal, coming in first was the managing staffs. As far as the search for a first baseman goes the Reds once again dipped into the rich vein of talent that was mined by the best, this year eschewing the Cardinals the Reds turned to the American League for help specifically the Yankees, who offered the Reds an option to purchase Newark first sacker George McQuinn, a spray hitter that had an unfortunate situation. He was slotted behind Lou Gehrig and had yet been asked to join the Yankees and because of this he never sniffed a Yankee camp much alone an at bat during the regular season. At the age of 25 the Yankees saw him as an asset ready to be moved along for the right price, the team that was kicking the tires of McQuinn the most was the Reds. Unfortunately the Reds also wanted to reshape the 25-year-old McQuinn’s plate approach.

    Sometimes bad teams are their own worst enemy and in this instance the Reds proved why they were holding down the bottom of the standings most years. In the book “Even the Browns” McQuinn reminisces about his brief National League career as a Red.

    “The Yankees finally sold me on a look-see basis. Charlie Dressen was the manager at Cincinnati and he almost ruined my career. We trained in Puerto Rico in 1936. He must have known I wasn’t a pull hitter; I hit balls down the left field line, left center, right center, but I seldom pulled the ball. You’d think with all the success I had had they would let me alone. But from the first day in camp, the first time I walked up to the batters box, Charlie and a coach yelled at me, pull the ball, pull the ball, pull the ball! They changed my whole stance, turned me around tried to get me to pull the ball… I was playing everyday, but I was in such a slump that I couldn’t do anything right. So they returned me to the Yankees and I gradually worked my way around and hit .330 again.“
    McQuinn had 6700 plate appearances in the major leagues and because of the Reds attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken they missed out on a slice of a .324/.384/.477/.861 player, one who oddly eventually ended up moving on to the Browns and replacing the man he was being asked to replace in Cincinnati, Sunny Jim Bottomley. Irony abounds in the world of baseball.

    Fixing something that’s not broke. Version 2.0

    Hank Sauer came to camp in Tampa in 1949 fresh off setting the Reds single season record for home runs, the 31-year-old WW 2 vet had worked his way through the Reds system since the early 1940’s and had starred at Rochester after the war, yet still he could get no interest from Warren Giles until 1948 when deadball era manager Bill McKetchnie finally left. It was then that he finally won the left field job and ended up the season with 35 home runs, a Reds team record. Sauer was a dead pull hitter playing in a park that boasted that it had the most expansive outfield in the major leagues, however the LF line was only 328 feet away and the wall was 18 feet high. However, operating under the adage that a manager knows best in the spring of 1949 Reds manager Bucky Walters entered camp with a pet project, he and his staff were going to get Hank Sauer to use the whole field, not only would he get 30 home runs buy he would rack up the doubles as well. Sauer was no spring chicken, and the 31 year old took offense to the request and promptly replied, “You wanted to provide power and I hit 35 homers, what in the hell is wrong with that?” Despite his pleas they still attempted the change, focusing much of the spring on taking the ball to right field. Sauer eventually worked so much that his hands swelled up from the change in approach, limiting all his baseball activities, it was then that the project was stopped and Sauer was allowed to return to his prior hitting approach. Because of the lack of regular work Sauer had a hard time finding his stroke in the early part of 1949 and by June he had only batted 152 times and he had only .673 OPS.

    Once again the Reds brain trust made a move that they would rather forget than remember when they traded Sauer and Frank Baumholtz to the Cubs for Peanuts Lawrey and Harry Walker, a lopsided deal if there ever was one, this deal was later termed by Reds GM Warren Giles as:

    “The worst deal I ever made.”
    When asked by the Sauer why he was traded Bucky Walters replied,

    Because I couldn’t make an all around hitter out of you.”
    Sauer went on to hit 242 home runs for assorted teams around baseball and took home the MVP award in 1952. He never was much of a doubles hitter only topping 25 twice in his career. However his dead pull hitting made him a popular slugger in a hitter’s era and the Reds got nothing out of it other than the heartbreak of watching him do it in another teams uniform.

    Bucky Walters was let go by the Reds after the 153rd game of the season. He never managed in the major leagues again.

    I wonder why.

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  3. #2
    Playoffs Cyclone792's Avatar
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    Re: Mining for Gold - Harvesting Turds

    Good stuff, woy.

    Johnny Mize is one of the most underrated players in history, IMO. When people think of all-time great first basemen, they'll think of guys such as Gehrig, Foxx, Greenberg, and McCovey, but Mize's name rarely comes up. He's arguably the greatest first sacker in NL history, at least until Pujols pushes his name atop that throne.

    Frank McCormick had some solid seasons for the Reds and peaked during the Reds' run from 1939-40, but it makes me wonder how much better those Reds teams could have been had they had Mize in the lineup rather than McCormick.
    Code:
    1939 McCormick: .332/.374/.495/.869 with 110 runs created and a 131 OPS+ in 688 PAs.
    1939 Mize:      .349/.444/.626/1.070 with 162 runs created and a 178 OPS+ in 670 PAs.
    
    1940 McCormick: .309/.367/.482/.850 with 106 runs created and a 132 OPS+ in 676 PAs.
    1940 Mize:      .314/.404/.636/1.040 with 154 runs created and a 176 OPS+ in 666 PAs.
    It should be noted that Mize's home park, Sportsman's Park, during 1939-40 was a bit more of a hitter's park than Crosley Field, though Mize's OPS+ was still 40+ points higher each season.

    In the 1939 World Series, McCormick batted .400/.400/.467 with five singles and one double in 16 plate appearances. Could Mize had produced more during that Series? Who knows. Maybe the Yankees still sweep and/or win the World Series anyway if the Reds had Mize instead of McCormick. In 1940, the Reds defeated the Tigers in seven games despite a very poor performance from McCormick when he batted .214/.241/.250 with five singles, one double, and one walk in 29 plate appearances.

    The Reds may have also made it very interesting in 1938 had they had Mize instead of McCormick:
    Code:
    1938 McCormick: .327/.348/.425/.773 with 93 runs created and a 114 OPS+ in 671 PAs.
    1938 Mize:      .337/.422/.614/1.036 with 142 runs created and a 175 OPS+ in 609 PAs.
    The Reds finished 82-68, in fourth place but only six games behind the Pennant winning Cubs at 89-63 in 1938.
    Code:
    JOHNNY MIZE
    
    GIVEN NAME: John Robert Mize
    BORN: 1/7/1913  Demorest, Georgia  DIED: 6/2/1993  Demorest, Georgia
    BAT: L  THROW: R  HEIGHT: 6'2"  WEIGHT: 215  MLB DEBUT: 4/16/1936
    CAREER GAMES BY POSITION:  1B: 1667  RF: 8  
    
    YEAR TEAM         AGE G    AB    R    H    2B  3B  HR   HR%   RBI  BB   SO   SB   CS  AVG   SLG  OBA   OPS
    1936 Cardinals    23  126   414   76  136  30   8  19   4.59   93   50   32    1   0  .329  .577  .402  .979 
    1937 Cardinals    24  145   560  103  204  40   7  25   4.46  113   56   57    2   0  .364  .595  .427 1.021 
    1938 Cardinals    25  149   531   85  179  34  16  27   5.08  102   74   47    0   0  .337  .614  .422 1.036 
    1939 Cardinals    26  153   564  104  197  44  14  28   4.96  108   92   49    0   0  .349  .626  .444 1.070 
    1940 Cardinals    27  155   579  111  182  31  13  43   7.43  137   82   49    7   0  .314  .636  .404 1.039 
    1941 Cardinals    28  126   473   67  150  39   8  16   3.38  100   70   45    4   0  .317  .535  .406  .941 
    1942 Giants       29  142   541   97  165  25   7  26   4.81  110   60   39    3   0  .305  .521  .380  .901 
    1946 Giants       33  101   377   70  127  18   3  22   5.84   70   62   26    3   0  .337  .576  .437 1.013 
    1947 Giants       34  154   586  137  177  26   2  51   8.70  138   74   42    2   0  .302  .614  .384  .998 
    1948 Giants       35  152   560  110  162  26   4  40   7.14  125   94   37    4   0  .289  .564  .395  .959 
    1949 Giants       36  106   388   59  102  15   0  18   4.64   62   50   19    1   1  .263  .441  .351  .792 
         Yankees      36   13    23    4    6   1   0   1   4.35    2    4    2    0   0  .261  .435  .393  .828 
         TOTALS           119   411   63  108  16   0  19   4.62   64   54   21    1   1  .263  .440  .354  .794 
    1950 Yankees      37   90   274   43   76  12   0  25   9.12   72   29   24    0   1  .277  .595  .351  .946 
    1951 Yankees      38  113   332   37   86  14   1  10   3.01   49   36   24    1   0  .259  .398  .339  .736 
    1952 Yankees      39   78   137    9   36   9   0   4   2.92   29   11   15    0   0  .263  .416  .327  .743 
    1953 Yankees      40   81   104    6   26   3   0   4   3.85   27   12   17    0   0  .250  .394  .339  .733 
         TOTALS          1884  6443 1118 2011 367  83 359   5.57 1337  856  524   28   2  .312  .562  .397  .959 
         LG AVERAGE            5940  791 1614 273  59 107   1.80  733  611  552   61   8  .272  .391  .342  .734 
         POS AVERAGE           6054  860 1703 294  68 159   2.62  903  697  553   53   8  .281  .431  .358  .789 
    
    YEAR TEAM          RC   RCAA  RCAP OWP   RC/G   TB   EBH  ISO   SEC  BPA  IBB HBP SAC  SF GIDP OUTS  PA   POS
    1936 Cardinals     102   49   37  .770   9.63  239   57  .249  .372  .617   0   1   4   0   4   286   469  1B
    1937 Cardinals     150   81   70  .805  11.22  333   72  .230  .334  .630   0   5   0   0   5   361   621  1B
    1938 Cardinals     142   65   45  .755  10.48  326   77  .277  .416  .640   0   4   0   0  14   366   609  1B
    1939 Cardinals     162   88   68  .808  11.33  353   86  .277  .440  .667   0   4  10   0   9   386   670  1B
    1940 Cardinals     154   80   64  .793  10.22  368   87  .321  .475  .679   0   5   0   0  10   407   666  1B
    1941 Cardinals     108   44   20  .724   8.73  253   63  .218  .374  .588   0   1   3   0   8   334   547  1B
    1942 Giants        111   48   33  .740   7.78  282   58  .216  .333  .564   0   5   1   0   8   385   607  1B
    1946 Giants        101   56   43  .813  10.65  217   43  .239  .411  .635   0   5   1   0   5   256   445  1B
    1947 Giants        145   63   51  .740   9.43  360   79  .312  .442  .654   0   4   0   0   6   415   664  1B
    1948 Giants        133   57   58  .737   8.87  316   70  .275  .450  .625   0   4   0   0   7   405   658  1B
    1949 Giants         64    7    6  .551   5.90  171   33  .178  .309  .497   0   3   1   0   5   293   442  1B
         Yankees         5    2    2  .691   7.94   10    2  .174  .348  .536   0   1   0   0   0    17    28  1B
         TOTALS         69    9    8  .560   6.01  181   35  .178  .311  .499   0   4   1   0   5   310   470 
    1950 Yankees        58   18   11  .659   7.71  163   37  .318  .423  .620   0   2   0   0   4   203   305  1B
    1951 Yankees        47    6    4  .564   5.02  132   25  .139  .250  .446   0   4   0   0   7   253   372  1B
    1952 Yankees        18    1   -2  .515   4.54   57   13  .153  .234  .427   0   2   0   0   6   107   150  1B
    1953 Yankees        15    2    2  .570   5.13   41    7  .144  .260  .458   0   2   0   0   1    79   118  1B
         TOTALS       1515  667  512  .743   8.98 3621  809  .250  .387  .606   0  52  20   0  99  4553  7371 
         LG AVERAGE    832    0    0  .500   4.93 2326  439  .120  .233  .438   0  28  84   0 134  4553  6663 
         POS AVERAGE   982  149    0  .574   5.82 2608  520  .149  .273  .480   0  32  66   0 128  4553  6848 
    
    
    Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia
    New editions are available every October
    http://www.baseball-encyclopedia.com
    Last edited by Cyclone792; 02-26-2007 at 02:58 PM.
    Barry Larkin - HOF, 2012

    Put an end to the Lost Decade.


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