As promised, here is a mega-thread of simulations to make up for last week’s abbreviated version. Spoiler: The Reds have another pretty good week.
If you missed the explainer of this little project, you can find it here and last week’s results here. To give the Sparknotes: I will be randomizing every Reds game by picking a historical box score and subbing in the current Reds. As you might guess, these randomizations are not meant to be realistic, unlike Tom Mitsoff’s Strat-o-Matic simulation exercise. I just want people to remember how absurd baseball can be and maybe learn about some guys from years gone by.
Monday, June 1: Reds at Cubs
Randomized Game: Cleveland Indians at Baltimore Orioles, May 11, 1968
The Game (4-3 win): Tucker Barnhart homers for the second straight game and Wade Miley goes the distance as the Reds eke out another win over the Cubbies and take the series. The Reds carried a two-run lead for most of this game until the Cubs struck for two in the bottom of the eighth, tying it up and putting Miley’s chances at a complete game in jeopardy. But a ball airmailed into the stands by Ian Happ in the top of the ninth put Aristides Aquino on second, and Derek Dietrich played the hero, pinch-hit singling Aquino home for the go-ahead run. Miley then struck out two Cubs in the bottom of the inning to seal the win.
The Guy: Duke Sims played for the Cleveland Indians for most of his career, acquitting himself well with a .764 OPS across seven seasons in northern Ohio, but the more interesting parts of Sims’ career occurred in the Big Apple. Sims joined the Yankees after the Bombers claimed him from waivers on September 24, 1973 with just six games left to play. Led by Thurmon Munster and two of the Alous (Felipe and Matty), the Yankees were just riding out a underperforming season, the last in the original Yankee Stadium. Sims only played in four of those six games, totaling 12 plate appearances, but he cemented his place in history by becoming the last player to ever homer in the original Yankee Stadium. It was the only homer he hit as a Yankee, as he was traded to Texas the next season and subsequently retired.
Tuesday, June 2: Reds at Pirates
Randomized Game: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals, August 20, 1979
The Game (17-4 win): With an absolute rout of the division-leading Pirates, the Reds climb within a half game of first for the first time in weeks. Luis Castillo isn’t his sharpest on the mound, only lasting five innings, but every starter records a hit, with most notching multiple. Mike Moustakas drove in two, Shogo Akiyama hit a three-run homer, and Eugenio Suarez doubled twice, but the true star of the show was Curt Casali, who doubled, homered twice, and walked twice to bring home five runs and score another four himself. Casali’s OPS shot up over 150 points on the day alone.
The Guy: Jim Spencer accomplished a lot in his career — a World Series, two Gold Gloves, an 8-RBI game in just five innings — but his lasting legacy might be the Spencer Clause. Toward the end of his 15-season career, Spencer inked a four-year deal with the Yankees that stipulated he must start games against right-handed pitchers. Managers had started to platoon Spencer, and he wanted to ensure that he got his at-bats. Unfortunately for Spencer, he didn’t do too well in those contract-mandated at-bats, and halfway through the season, manager Dick Howe sat him against a righty. Spencer didn’t complain — “I wasn’t hitting,” he said — but as the benchings continued, he filed suit. Ultimately the judge ruled that because Spencer’s suit was not filed after the initial benching, he had no claim. The Yankees eventually traded Spencer to Oakland, and he retired after two lackluster seasons in the Bay.
Wednesday, June 3: Reds at Pirates
Randomized Game: Philadelphia Athletics at Cleveland Indians, June 8, 1941
The Game (8-6 loss): For how well the Reds played in the first game of this two-game set, they played the exact opposite in the second. Sonny Gray recorded the shortest outing by a starter in 2020, giving up six runs in just two innings. Cody Reed and Lucas Sims kept the damage minimal over the next six innings, but the two runs Reed gave up proved to be the difference. Curt Casali led the offense for the second day in a row, going 2-4 with a double, and Cody Reed’s one at-bat resulted in a hit, cursing our hitting leaderboard for the rest of the season with Reed’s 2.000 OPS.
The Guy: Ever seen Bull Durham? Yeah? Well, you probably already know all there is to know about Crash Davis then. Except well, the real Crash Davis was a second baseman, not a catcher, and the real Crash Davis only played one season for the Durham Bulls at 28 years old, not after 12 years in the minors, and the real Crash Davis played in the majors for a bit longer than 21 days. Granted, during Crash Davis’ three years with the Philadelphia A’s before being drafted into the Navy, he didn’t play too well, hitting .230/.289/.279 good for -1.7 WAR. But Crash’s baseball experience landed him as an ROTC instructor at Harvard instead of shipping out oversees. After his discharge, Davis played for a few different minor league teams, including the Lawrence Millionaires and Lowell Orphans, both of which are terrible baseball team names.
Thursday, June 4: Reds vs. Cubs
Randomized Game: Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies, August 30, 2009
The Game (3-2 win): Now that we’ve played catch-up, on to our regularly scheduled programming. In a desperate attempt to jumpstart Jesse Winker’s bat, David Bell starts him for the second straight day, resting Joey Votto. It works: Winker goes 3-3, driving in two runs on a pair of doubles and raising his OPS 74 points. Eugenio Suarez initially put the Reds in front with his seventh home run of the season, and Trevor Bauer pitched well for seven innings, only giving up a solo shot himself. Bell brought on Pedro Strop to deal with the 8th, the reliever’s horrible season continued with two hits and a hit by pitch but no outs recorded. Despite a decent FIP, Strop’s ERA has climbed up near 7.00.
The Guy: Better known as “Chooch,” Carlos Ruiz was the soul of the 2008 World Series winning Phillies and one of the most fan-friendly players to ever play the game. (Even as a non-Phillie fan, I stand by that statement. Chooch just seemed like a good dude.) Born and raised in Chiriqui, Panama, Ruiz signed with the Phillies for just $8,000 in 1998, 19-years-old, undersized, and playing a brand new position. For Ruiz to eventually make the majors as a catcher, much less become one of the better catchers in the game for a couple of seasons, was the longest of shots. But he did it, and now holds the distinction of being just one of two catchers in major league history to catch four no-hitters (Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, twice each).
Friday, June 5: Reds vs. Cubs
Randomized Game: Chicago Cubs at Boston Braves, June 8, 1941
The Game (13-1 win): In perhaps the strangest twist of randomized events that’s happened since I started this project, the real game behind this simulation occurred on the exact same day (June 8, 1941) as the real game behind Wednesday’s simulation. That is, of all the days since the first box scores in Baseball-Reference’s database (1871), somehow the random generator pulled two games from the same day two queries apart. Assuming I’ve done my math right, there’s a 0.00000051% chance of that occurring, or a roughly 1-in-2 million odds. In game news, Anthony DeSclafani threw another complete game and now leads the Reds in ERA, strikeouts, and home runs allowed.
The Guy: If there’s a better nickname out there than Al Javery’s, I’ve yet to hear it because something about “Beartracks” just seems right for a rubber-armed pitcher. Javery made two All Star teams during his career, in 1943 and 1944, and lead the league in innings pitched with 303 in 1943. Between 1942 and 1944, Javery pitched 815 innings, which likely led to his sudden fall from Major League Baseball, as arm problems cut his career short in 1946. Dave Egan, of the Boston Daily Record, once wrote that “Javery just too good to remain with Braves,” but remain Javery did and the Braves finished with a winning record only once in Javery’s career.
Saturday, June 6: Reds vs. Cubs
Randomized Game: New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers, May 31, 2006
The Game (6-1 loss): Not too much happened in this game. The Reds managed six singles, one run, and Wade Miley pitched into the ninth for some reason despite giving up two runs in the top of the eighth and ninth. If David Bell had lifted his starter after the seventh for the one-two punch of Amir Garrett and Raisel Iglesias, the Reds still would have lost because the offense fell asleep, but at least it would have been 2-1.
The Guy: As I was writing this entry, my friend accidentally saved over a FIFA team he had started at the beginning of quarantine and was four seasons into. All of his progress gone. That has nothing to do with baseball, but in terms of investment, hours spent thinking about development, and overall team strategy, Nate Robertson, former Tigers pitcher, may relate. Robertson spent nine seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Tigers, and accumulated 4.2 WAR along the way.
But he found his real passion after retiring when he bought the Wichita Wingnuts, an independent league team. “It’s amazing how into it I am,” he told Michigan Live in 2017. “It’s almost like I’m more into it at playoff time than I was myself when I played.” While Robertson helped save the Wingnuts from folding once, he wasn’t able to do it a second time, and the team went under in 2018. Now, Robertson coaches high school baseball in Wichita, already having won a state championship.
Sunday, June 7: Reds vs. Cubs
Randomized Game: St. Louis Browns at Chicago White Sox, April 14, 1942
The Game (3-0 loss): After a prolonged hot streak that brought the Reds within a half game of the Pirates, the team has now dropped two straight, managing only nine singles between the two games. Congratulations to Joey Votto, Philip Ervin, and Freddy Galvis for being the lucky three today. On the plus side, this snoozer of a game only lasted an hour and 27 minutes, which if you have to watch a bad baseball game, the shorter the better.
The Guy: Wally Moses lasted for 41 years in the major leagues, 17 as a player, 16 as a manager, three as a scout, and five more as a hitting coach. In his first seven years, Moses hit at least .300 season, and somehow managed 25 home runs in his third season, even though he never hit double-digit homers in any of his other 16. To continue the anomalies, Moses stole 71 bases total his first eight seasons in the bigs before running wild in his ninth season, stealing 56 bases. Sporting News gave him the “Georgia Express” because he tore after every fly ball in the outfield, but his teammates called him “Peep Sight” for his eye at the plate. (Imagine calling Joey Votto “Peep Sight” with a straight face.)
Tuesday, June 9: Reds vs. Dodgers
Randomized Game: Boston Braves at New York Giants, April 18, 1932
The Game (7-1 loss): Well, the Reds scrounged up more hits in this one, even managing an extra-base hit! But it was all for naught. A second inning single from Mike Moustakas brought home Nick Castellanos and that was the end of the scoring for the Redlegs. Sonny Gray got torched for the second start this week, giving up six runs in five innings, which is actually a three inning improvement from his earlier start. Luckily, the Pirates have also picked this exact stretch to go cold, and the Reds sit only a half game back.
The Guy: Bill Terry got a late jump on his major league career, never playing a full season until he was 25 years old. That wasn’t without reason: Terry retired from the Southern League after having a kid, only coming back to professional ball a couple years later when New York Giants manager asked him to join the team following a scout seeing him play in a company league. Terry asked McGraw how much he’d be making, and then elaborated for the stunned manager: “I’ll tell you how I feel about it, Mr. McGraw, because I don’t want you to misunderstand me and think I’m just a swell-headed clown. I’m not. But I’m doing all right here. I quit the Southern League because I got tired of tramping around the country with a minor league ball club, and I was married and had a baby and I wanted to settle down some place….I have a nice home and I’m in no hurry to leave either my job or my home. If I can make more money going to New York, I’ll go….As I told you before, the Giants don’t mean anything to me.”
McGraw ended up meeting Terry’s asking price of $800 a month, and it worked out pretty well for him. In his 14 year career all with the Giants, Terry hit .341/.393/.506, won a batting title and a World Series, and eventually made the Hall of Fame in 1954.
Wednesday, June 10: Reds vs. Dodgers
Randomized Game: New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers, July 15, 1934
The Game (8-3 win): The bats awaken! The Reds put one across in the second inning before falling behind 2-1 in the sixth. Something for clicks at that point for the team, as a four-run frame puts the Redlegs ahead for good. Eugenio Suarez continued his torrid stretch with a double and a homer, and Mike Moustakas added a pair of doubles of his own. And as a perfect end to this week’s megathread, Joey Votto stole his seventh base of the season as the Reds retake the NL Central lead with a 0.5-game gap above the Pirates.
The Guy: You would think that Jo-Jo White got his nickname because his given name, Joyner, was easily shortened to Jo-Jo. Not so: White really got his moniker because when asked where he was from, he would drawl “Joe Jah” (Georgia). The name stuck. White managed to stick in the big leagues for nine years, the last of which came with the Reds. He wasn’t great with the bat, but akin to his fellow Georgian, Jo-Jo was murder on the basepaths. He perfected what’s known as a “scissor-kick” slide where he would keep his legs under him, kicking out at the last moment and try to dislodge the ball from the glove. After his playing career, White too went on to become a manager, ultimately lasting 42 years in the major leagues.
Season Stats and Standings
Cody Reed sitting atop the hitting leaderboard is going to annoy me all season, I can tell you that now. Aristides Aquino slumped through these nine games, his OPS dropping nearly 100 points, but Curt Casali, Derek Dietrich, and Mike Moustakas have all made strong recoveries from early season slumps. Sonny Gray’s horrible week didn’t hurt him all that much, but he does lead the Reds starters in hits allowed now.
Great stuff as always Wesley. I had never heard that story about Bill Terry – amazing how well that turned out when a little stingier McGraw might have kept a future hall of Famer out of baseball. Also, you left out some fascinating details about the great Yankees catcher Thurman Munster. He wasn’t really a Munster at all – that was just his sitcom persona, and he was actually played by Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s great uncle Fred Gwynn. You can look up it up! One other thing. I think your odds are way off on that same day coincidence. If there have been, say, 120 seasons to pick from, with 189 days a season give or take, the odds of picking the same day twice in a row are 1 in about 21,600. The odds of picking the same day again the next day or the day after that are about half that, or 1 in 10,800. And the odds of that happening somewhere in 80 games are about 1/80th of that, or about 1 in 135. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened! Thanks for all this baseball nostalgia. Keep it coming!
Oops: You can look it up. And those numbers are based on 180 days in a season. But once you’ve picked any day (the odds of picking SOME day are 100%), you only have to look at the odds of picking that same day again tomorrow or the next, which aren’t all that crazy. Sorry for the anal retentive engineer’s response. But these throwbacks are still fantastic!