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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Friday, January 24, 2003
1871 National Association
This will be the first recap of a 19th Century season. Besides baseball-reference.com my main sources will be The Stats All-Time Handbook, The Stats All-Time Sourcebook and The Great Encyclopedia of the 19th Century Major League Baseball.
I’ll be presenting two sets of standings, the first, the games as they were played. The second set will show what the standings would have been over a balanced schedule, with the aim for somewhere between 154 and 162 games where possible.
I have a complex set of formulas that adjusts for the unbalanced schedule. I don’t want to get into too many details here, but I adjust each team’s skill rate based on schedule strength.
Then I prove out the actual W-L record to within .05 for each team (in most cases) using the actual schedule, and the formula for W-L between two teams A and B: (WpctA*LpctB)/((WpctA*LpctB)+(WpctB*LpctA)). I plug that formula in for every combination (multiplied by actual games played), and prove out the records. With wacky schedules sometimes the numbers have to be manually tweaked, but that just improves the accuracy. I’ll send you the spreadsheet if you have any interest in the gory details.
Once that is done, the sheet computes a second set of standings based on a balanced schedule. Since there were 9 teams in the 1871 NA, I had each team play each other 20 times (160 game season). I take one final step of rounding up enough teams to make the standings ‘add up’. Sometimes due to rounding, the whole league comes out 1001-999 or something when you add up the rounded numbers. So I find the team over .5 by the least and round them down instead of up (or vice versa if the league is 999-1001). It’s just for appearances, that’s all. The PCT is based on the actual numbers of adjusted wins and losses, as many decimals as excel calculates.
Since we care about individuals more than teams for this exercise, once we get the Win Shares spreadsheet adjusted for 19th Century purposes, I’ll be computing adjusted NA Win Shares based on the second set of standings (adjusted to 162 game seasons of course), so we account for unbalanced schedules. It’s especially important, with the short, haphazard schedules, to remove this bias.
One other note on the 1871 NA. Rockford’s manager/catcher Scott Hastings played with New Orleans over the previous winter to earn some extra $$. On April 16, New Orleans played Chicago in an exhibition game (this was before the first NA season opener).
Here are the results (the actual standings only include games actually played, no forfeits):
*see posts 6, 8 and 10 for explanation of Troy and Fort Wayne’s records
You can see that Philly and Chicago both played pretty tough schedules (their adjPCT is .026 higher than actual) while Boston didn’t. In reality, Chicago probably would have won the pennant if it wasn’t for The Fire (see discussion). Boston would have won if it weren’t for an injury that cost George Wright half the season.
There’s more, including a Silver Slugger team in the discussion portion.
The Philadelphia Athletics, managed by pitcher Dick McBride won the ‘pennant’ with a 21-7 record, defeating the Chicago White Stockings (19-9) and Boston Red Stockings (20-10) by 2 games.
The Chicago Fire destroyed the team’s stadium October 8. They finished the season on the road and lost their final 3 games and the pennant (although they truly fell into a tie, the Rockford forfeits counted in the official standings). The clincher came on October 30, the last day of the season, when they lost 4-1 to Philly in Brooklyn.
Ft. Wayne folded in late August, which is why they only played 19 games. In the official standings (but not counted on baseball-reference), their last 9 opponents were given wins, fortunately for the pennant race Philly, Chicago and Boston each received 1 win.
The offensive star of the season was Philadephia 3B Levi Meyerle, who hit .492/.500/.700, leading the league in all three categories. He also led the league in OPS+ at 241. His team also played the toughest schedule in the league, so there isn’t any issue there. According to Baseball Reference, the park factor was 99.
A Silver Slugger team (no clue about defense yet):
1B - Joe Start (NY) .360/.372/.422 (age 28)
2B - Ross Barnes (BOS) .401/.447/.580 (age 21), split season between 2B and SS. One might move Barnes to SS and put Jimmy Wood (CHI) who hit .375/.425/.563 in the 2B slot.
SS - George Wright (BOS) .412/.453/.625 (age 24), played just 16 games (84 in 162 game season) but he was incredible. John Bass (CLE) hit .303/.326/.640 and led the league with 10 triples, but only played the equivalent of 123 games. Could go either way here.
3B - Levi Meyerle (PHI) .492/.500/.700 (age 25); Ezra Sutton (CLE) hit .352/.357/.555 but Meyerle’s incredible year leaves him off the team.
LF - Steve King (TRY) .396/.400/.549 (age 29).
CF - Dave Eggler (NY) .320/.338/.408 (age 20).
RF - Lip Pike (TRY) .377/.400/.654 (age 26).
C - Cal McVey (BOS) .431/.435/.556 (age 20).
Troy’s pitching (most likely defense) was awful, worst in the league, so King and Pike might not be deserving if this were an “All-Star Team” instead of a “Silver Slugger Team”. Fred Treacy (CHI) played LF for the best team in the league and hit .339/.349/.573, and he led the league with a .918 FPct in the outfiled, so he could be a better choice than King for an all-star team, but Chicago was a hitters park before it burned down, so I went with King as a hitter.
George Zettelin of Chicago led the league in ERA+ at 168, obviously I have no idea if that means anything. He was 3rd in the league with .82 K/9 IP and he led the league with just .93 BB/9 IP. Al Pratt from Cleveland led the league with 1.36 K/9 IP (and 34 K) and and was 4th with a 110 ERA+.
Let me know what else you’d like to see. It took quite a few hours to write this up, so 1 per day was probably overreaching a little, but I’ll try my best here, and things will move faster once we get to 1876, when I can just post the Stats All-Stars, etc.
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