I was surprised Tony Perez finished so high but looking at his WAR defense Tony wasn’t a bad defensive player. He was above average at first base and average at third base. He played 760 games at third base, which is more that I thought. Bill James with win shares gave him a B minus at third, not bad.
One thing I remember was that the writers all blamed the Reds fade in 1977 on the trade of Tony Perez. He was a leader on the team. On a team with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench who would have thought you needed more leaders. It was explained that Tony was optimistic and kept the team moving forward. I can see that. However, what happened to the Reds in 1977. Did they stop hitting or pitching. Lucky except for Perez the Reds had the same starters all three years, the two World Series year and the 1977 year of the letdown. Let us see how they did with OPS+, which is the adding of on base and slugging average (Remember 100 is average and the more above 100 the better):
1975 1976 1977
C – Johnny Bench: 140 109 133
Bench had an off year in 1976. They won without Bench having his usual good offensive season in 1975.
1B – Tony Perez: 124 118
Dan Driessen had an OPS+ of 124 in 1977. He was not as good in the field. As I show later the team ERA went up significantly in 1977. I doubt it was all due to Driessen replacing Perez. The Reds core of Bench, Perez, Morgan and Rose was getting old. Perez the weakest of the three was 35 in 1977. They had to put in younger players. Unfortunately for the Reds Dan Driessen never panned out.
2B – Joe Morgan 169 187 138
Morgan hitting 138 was still great for a second baseman. You can’t be super every year.
SS – Dave Conception 88 107 84
So, 1976 was kind of a fluke. His career average was 88, although he had a few more years in the 100s.
3B – Pete Rose 132 141 115
This was the start of a fade for Rose. He had one more year (1979) at 130 left in his career. He was 36 in 1977.
LF – George Foster 139 150 165
Foster replaced Morgan as the big hitter on the team.
CF – Cesar Geronimo 90 125 88
Geronimo was not a 125 OPS+ hitter.
RF Ken Griffey Junior 119 140 127
He was the most consistent of the seven starters besides Perez on offense these three seasons.
I also have runs scored: 5.19 5.29 4.95
This was runs scored per 9 innings. So there scoring went down. However, they only went from first to second in the league. However, that is more than a third of run a game and well over 50 runs in the season.
I decided to try:
Runs allowed: 3.62 3.91 4.48
Well the big different was the defense. That was well over a half a run per game and over 90 in the season. A loss of 140 runs can’t be attributed to one person.
So what happened to the defense? Well, Pat Zachary didn’t pitch well in 1977 after doing well in 1976. However, the Reds traded for Tom Seaver who basically replaced Zachary. He was better except for a shorter time. Starters Fred Norman and Jack Billingham did worse by about an earned run per inning. This was bad for Billingham as his ERA went to 5.23. The bad thing was the Reds had no fourth starter. Now for the relievers. Rawley Eastwick ERA went up nearly a run but he was still respectable at 2.91. Pedro Borbon actually had a slight improvement. Will McEnaney didn’t have a good season in 1976 but pitched a lot. He wasn’t with the team in 1977, but Dale Murrey replaced him and was almost as good. A decent fourth starter probably would have helped more than bringing Perez back.