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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
1872 National Association
All of the text in the discussion portion is courtesy of jimd, who did an outstanding job; and he makes an interesting case for a defensive spectrum shift as well. It’s one that seems obvious to me now, but which I had never thought of, we’ll save that for later.
Here’s a look at the standings:
ACTUAL STANDINGS W L PCT GB PERFECT BALANCE W L PCT GB Boston 39 8 .830 -- Boston 141 19 .883 -- Philadelphia 30 14 .682 7.5 Philadelphia 127 33 .796 14 Baltimore 35 19 .648 7.5 New York 119 41 .745 22 New York 34 20 .630 8.5 Baltimore 116 44 .727 25 Troy 15 10 .600 13.0 Troy 107 53 .670 34 Cleveland 6 16 .273 20.5 Bro. Atlantics 72 88 .451 69 Bro. Atlantics 9 28 .243 25.0 Cleveland 71 89 .443 70 Was. Olypics 2 7 .222 18.0 Middletown 60 100 .372 81 Middletown 5 19 .208 22.5 Bro. Eckfords 50 110 .312 91 Bro. Eckfords 3 26 .103 27.0 Was. Olympics 16 144 .100 125 Was. Nationals 0 11 .000 21.0 Was. Nationals 0 160 .000 141
There’s more to this though. There were clearly 5 teams that stood out from the pack. What would the standings look like if we considered only these teams ‘major league’? Also, what would the standings look like for the middle four teams? The last two don’t really matter since they couldn’t beat any of these teams. The only two wins for the Olympics came against the Nationals.
BAL. TOP TIER W L PCT GB BAL. AAA W L PCT GB Boston 119 41 .744 -- Bro. Atlantics 103 59 .633 -- Philadelphia 89 71 .559 30 Cleveland 100 62 .616 3 New York 73 87 .456 46 Middletown 73 89 .452 30 Baltimore 68 92 .423 51 Bro. Eckfords 48 114 .298 55 Troy 51 109 .318 68
When we compute adjusted Win Shares, we’ll use the top tier standings above for the players on those teams, as a way of letting the air out of their stats. For 2nd tier teams, we’ll give them credit for the wins they would have had under a balanced schedule, if they were the 6th team in the league.
I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to work this out, although it may require more editing than it’s worth. But, there are some players of consequence on those teams, guys like Jack Burdock, Deacon White, Ezra Sutton, Jim O’Rourke and John Clapp, so we’ll have to figure something out. I’m open to ideas here. But if we can find a sound way to let the air out of their stats, it’ll help to ease the concerns of some about the quality of the competition.
There’s a lot more about the season in the discussion portion.
Ft. Wayne failed to finish in 1871. Chicago and Rockford dropped out in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire. Only 6 teams returned from that inaugural season, but there was no shortage of teams willing to join the Association for the second go-round.
There wasn’t much of a pennant race. Philadelphia took the early lead, winning their first 6 games. A loss to New York on June 1st dropped them behind Boston, then 9-1. Boston never looked back, even taking a vacation in mid-July when their record was 22-1. They didn’t play as well afterwards (17-7, probably due to a tougher schedule), but that didn’t matter.
Big-5 64-64 77-7 Little-6 7-77 19-19Team by team breakdowns vs. Big-5 and Little-6
Troy lost a good chunk of its team to the new Baltimore team (Craver, Pike, and York). They compensated by signing much of the disbanded Chicago team (Wood, Zettlein, and others). They were the best of the teams that folded, but still couldn’t compete with the big 4. After they folded, the Eckfords picked up some of their remains, presumably after 60 days, but it was too late for the Eckfords also; they would not return for 1873. The Silver Sluggers for 1872: 1B - Denny Mack (PHI) .288/.360/.341 (age 21); Tim Murnane (MID) .359/.359/.367 (age 20) has slightly better stats, but played less than half the season, and of course, a much weaker schedule. 2B - Ross Barnes (BOS) .432/.454/.585 (age 22); Jimmy Wood (TRY/ECK) .308/.336/.503 (age 27) remains in his shadow. SS - George Wright (BOS) .337/.345/.471 (age 25); Mike McGeary (PHI) .360/.366/.418 (age 21) is close when stats are park-adjusted. 3B - Cap Anson (PHI) .415/.455/.525 (age 20); Davy Force (TRY/BAL) .418/.423/.493 (age 22) is 3rd in the league, but Anson is 2nd. LF - Andy Leonard (BOS) .350/.350/.412 (age 26); Ned Cuthbert (PHI) .338/.353/.388 (age 27) is close when stats are park-adjusted. CF - George Hall (BAL) .336/.344/.464 (age 23); Dave Eggler (NY) .338/.356/.407 (age 21); the rivalry continues. RF - Levi Meyerle (PHI) .329/.329/.486 (age 26) C - Scott Hastings (CLE/BAL) .362/.376/.412 (age 24) P - Al Spalding (BOS) .354/.362/.443 (age 21) Notes: This is Spalding’s biggest season statistically, both at the plate and pitching (188 ERA+). However, WARP3 is not impressed with the quality of the opposition, and considers it a typical Spalding pitching season. Bobby Mathews is the strikeout king (55 K and 1.22 K/9IP) and George Zettlein again leads in least walks issued (.48 BB/9IP); this ignores a few backup pitchers who pitched less than 125 IP and would not be considered for any pitching title by their contemporaries. The first base position league-wide is pretty weak at the plate. There may be an argument for the defensive spectrum being different during this era. Nowadays first-basemen wear huge leather baskets that make catching most throws routine. In the 1870’s nobody is wearing gloves, except to protect hand-injuries, and those are men’s dress gloves with the fingers cut off. You actually have to catch the ball with your hands, not a leather extension. Then again, maybe it’s just been a bad year or two. Philadelphia has an unusual 3-position fielding rotation for C, 1B, and SS. Mack is splitting his time between 1B and SS, McGeary between SS and C, and Malone between C and 1B. I could just as well declare McGeary to be a close runner-up behind Hastings. I suppose this was to keep the catcher fresh. Mack and Anson collected 39 walks combined. This was more than any pitching staff except Baltimore issued; more than any team except NY drew. Considering that a walk took about twice as many pitches as it does today, they were extremely patient hitters. It’s worth noting that Philadelphia was the defending champ, upgraded by adding Anson and Mack from Rockford, McGeary from Troy, Treacey from Chicago (see 1871), and still couldn’t keep up with Boston. Meyerle became human and got hurt, which didn’t help. Boston only added Andy Leonard, from Harry Wright’s original Cincinnati Red Stockings, via Washington. Philadelphia sure could hit, but Boston kept the opposition from scoring, only 53% of league average, 75% of the big-4 average. Philly also played Boston even, splitting their 8 games, but couldn’t match Boston’s record against New York or Baltimore. Boston’s 7 game sweep of the Canaries was a key to their pennant.
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