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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, February 23, 2004

1921 Ballot Discussion

We’ll place the new Negro League eligibility rules into effect this year (see the thread). Newcomers:

***1921 (March 7)?elect 2
WS W3 Rookie Name-Pos (Died)
328 74.8 1899 Tommy Leach-CF/3b (1969)
258 65.6 1902 Joe Tinker-SS (1948)
255 56.4 1902 George Mullin-P (1944)
231 53.7 1901 Roger Bresnahan-C (1944)
163 39.1 1904 Hooks Wiltse-P (1959)
151 37.8 1904 Frank Smith-P (1952)
149 34.8 1904 Jim Delahanty-2b (1953)
138 34.1 1906 Frank LaPorte-2b (1939)
140 31.7 1906 Red Murray-RF (1958)
138 30.3 1905 Al Bridwell-SS (1969)
125 33.9 1910 Russ Ford-P (1960)
118 31.0 1902 Germany Schaefer-2b (1919)
126 25.1 1909 Steve Evans-RF (1943)
111 25.4 1904 George Stovall-1b (1951)
NEGRO LEAGUES Home Run Johnson

I see it as 3 borderline players (Leach, Tinker and Bresnahan) and one solid Negro League candidate. The job gets a little tougher this year . . .

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 23, 2004 at 12:01 PM | 298 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. karlmagnus Posted: February 25, 2004 at 08:48 PM (#522166)
Joe D., do we need to start a separate thread for Black Sox and assorted gambling scandals? Of the Black Sox, Jackson and Cicotte (as well as Eddie Collins) would seem to be promising HOM material, absent discounts for bad behavior, but there are some (e.g. Bender in 1923) who may have been involved in similar activity and get to us earlier.

I've just been reading David Pietrusza's "Rothstein" which suggests that the reason the scandal blew after 1919 was that there were no fewer than 3 gangs trying to bribe the Black Sox, two controlled by Rothstein and a Midwestern mob he knew about, but that previous Series, in particular 1914, 1917 and 1918 had been the subjects of attempted or successful "fixes" without it coming out. If true, that surely changes the picture considerably, since the only distinction between Jackson/Cicotte and a number of their contemporaries was not criminal conviction, but only that Landis decided to make an example of them.

Working backwards:

1918: Boston was the home of "Sport" Sullivan, Rothstein's main coadjutor in the Black Sox scandal. Apparently there was a lot of talk of the '18 Series being fixed but baseball decicded to do nothing because everybody was broke after the low wartime attendance. If there was a successful fix, we don't have to worry much, as I see nobody obvious on the 1918 Cubs whom we're likely to enshrine. However, Sullivan, in planning for 1919, made it clear that a large percentage of the team needed to be bribed, which suggests to me that he may have tried working with just a few Boston stars in 1918, and seen it backfire when Boston won anyway. There are of course some big names on that team; Babe Ruth pitched well but batted poorly in the Series, Carl Mays pitched well, Harry Hooper had a poor series, and Wally Schang (of whom more below) had a superb one. If Sullivan was looking for Bostonians to bribe, Mays and Schang would be obvious candidates, I think.

1917: Lots of rumors about that one apparently, and New York was Rothstein's hometown -- did the Giants throw the Series? (lost 4-2 to the White, mostly later Black Sox.) Buck Herzog was apparently thrown off the team by McGraw after the Series for unspecified corruptions, as was Zimmerman after 1919 (also Hal Chase, but he wasn't on the team in '17.) There are however no other HOM-worthy names on the '17 Giants that I can spot.

No rumors in the Rothstein book aout '16 or '15.

In 1914 the Miracle Braves very unexpectedly beat the Philadelphia As, after which Connie Mack abruptly broke up the team, more thoroughly than he was to do after '31 (no Great Depression in 1914-15, but there was the Federal League, a problem for the underfunded Mack.) Again, Sport Sullivan may have been involved, presumably betting on the Braves and subverting the As since you'd have got lousy odds betting on the As. Apart from Collins (if innocent in 1919, presumably also in 1914) this team had Schang (poor series 2 for 12 and 4 strikeouts), Baker (mediocre series) Eddie Plank (quite a good series) and the most obvious culprit, Chief Bender, who blew the first game wide open and had an ERA of 10.8, having been the As best pitcher during the season.

This group should be able to come to quite a good consensus on what's real and what isn't in '10s Series-fixing; if it can, that will impact our discussions helpfully.

It's not fair though just e.g. to eliminate Jackson's 1919 and 1920 (which in my book would remove him from the Inner Circle, though it may not for others) and we also need to look at Cicotte very seriously, since without the scandal, as a knuckleballer, he had an excllent chance to go on and win 300 after which, this not being the 1880s, he'd presumably be in the HOF and HOM (interesting to think that if the HOF had been in full swing in 1919, Cicotte might have been looking towards his chances of eventual induction, and so wouldn't have thrown the Series -- without Cicotte's two losses, the White Sox win.)
   102. KJOK Posted: February 25, 2004 at 09:00 PM (#522167)
Finally (for now), just to clarify, I'm not tying to be an EOHJ, but I'm just trying to preach some caution with both statistical AND non-statistical data that may be used to draw conclusions.

Just for example (and this is a REAL example) :

In 1926, Cool Papa Bell hit .355 for the St. Louis Stars.

What would be your conclusion?

Now, I will tell you that the starters for the 1926 St. Louis Stars batted a composite .364!

So, your first conclusion may have been incorrect?? Perhaps, and perhaps not. We need to keep looking at the evidence. We need to know that the St. Louis Stars played in Dick Kent's Ballyard, aka Compton Park from 1922 to 1941 and that it had a reputation as a hitter's park, with a distance to LF of approx. 250 ft. We need to know what Bell did in other year's. We need to see how many All-star teams he was elected to. Etc., etc.

My point isn't that Cool Papa or Home Run weren't great players, just that you need to be very cautious about making conclusions based on incomplete information and, especially for Negro League players pre-established leagues, there is a lot of incomplete information.
   103. DanG Posted: February 25, 2004 at 09:24 PM (#522168)
KJOK, as Marc wrote:

"Err on the side of the most likely."

IMO, it's most likely that we will not have digested all of the pertinent information regarding HRJ's candidacy in two weeks of discussion.
   104. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 25, 2004 at 09:25 PM (#522169)
No offense taken, Dan.

you need to be very cautious about making conclusions based on incomplete information

We're never going to have complete information about these players. Nothing remotely like it.

I understand that some of us think that's grounds to not consider them - which is fine in my book, though I think it's not quite in keeping with the spirit of the project.

I, however, will do my best to rate a player no matter how sketchy the record is.
   105. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 25, 2004 at 09:41 PM (#522171)
But Bresnahan does not have a long career behind the plate for his era. What DanG posted was a list of Roger's contemporaries that had longer careers. Bresnahan ranked 9th; he's just below "median" (assuming one per team).

Red Dooin had 23% more games played as a catcher than Bresnahan; Lave Cross had 120% more games played at third than McGraw.

George Gibson had 23% more games behind the plate than the Duke of Tralee; Jimmy Collins had 115% more games played at the hot corner than the Little Napoleon.
   106. KJOK Posted: February 25, 2004 at 09:52 PM (#522172)
IMO, it's most likely that we will not have digested all of the pertinent information regarding HRJ's candidacy in two weeks of discussion.

Exactly, which is why we shouldn't be rushing to demand that everyone justify not putting him in the "top 5" the first week he's eligible.
   107. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 25, 2004 at 10:02 PM (#522173)
Exactly, which is why we shouldn't be rushing to demand that everyone justify not putting him in the "top 5" the first week he's eligible.

I hope we don't have a new rule to that effect. The "explaining why you didn't rank the top ten players from the last election" rule is overkill enough already. :-)
   108. jimd Posted: February 25, 2004 at 10:29 PM (#522174)
Yes, McGraw had a shorter career for his position. That's a very good point, John.

As quoted above, I already conceded this, John.

However, the fact that McGraw had a short career still does not imply that Bresnahan had a long career. As shown by your numbers and DanG's numbers, the deadball catchers are tightly grouped. Bresnahan played only 18% more games than Frank Bowerman, who'd rank 14th on DanG's list, if he extended it.

That's not a long career, and that's not a short career. No brownie points, no demerits.
   109. Marc Posted: February 25, 2004 at 10:38 PM (#522175)
>Exactly, which is why we shouldn't be rushing to demand that everyone justify not putting him in the "top 5"
   110. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 25, 2004 at 11:33 PM (#522177)
As quoted above, I already conceded this, John.

I apologize, Jim. I'm usually working and posting at the same time, so my attempts at speed reading have disastrous results. :-)

That's not a long career, and that's not a short career. No brownie points, no demerits.

I agree the Bresnahan didn't have great career numbers for his era, but they weren't bad.

If he had a truly long career during the Deadball Era, he would be at the top of my ballot.
   111. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 12:38 AM (#522178)
>Posted 5:22 p.m., February 25, 2004 (#134) - Mark McKinniss
   112. Sean Gilman Posted: February 26, 2004 at 12:44 AM (#522179)
I don't think Joe being curious counts as a "demand".
   113. Howie Menckel Posted: February 26, 2004 at 01:48 AM (#522182)
Welcome, Casey, I hope you don't get hit with any cyberspace buzzsaws in here! Spirited case-making is welcome here; just don't let the reaction rattle you.

Very briefly, James himself has admitted he doesn't know squat about 19th-century guys.
   114. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: February 26, 2004 at 02:19 AM (#522183)
IMO, it's most likely that we will not have digested all of the pertinent information regarding HRJ's candidacy in two weeks of discussion.

Good point.
   115. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: February 26, 2004 at 02:41 AM (#522184)
Casey,

Wallace just entered the ballot last year & initially I had no intention of voting for him, but a closer look made me reconsider. Short answer on reasons why Wallace got his support: he' the Jake Beckley of shortstops, his defensive letter grade underrates his defensive performance (see some of the links below), his counting stats look worse than they are because he played in the deadest years of the deadball era, he could pitch, he scores well in WARP & Win Shares, & though he was never the best he was very good for a very long time FWIW, based on the sorts of players you prefer, I doubt you'll ever be high on Wallace, but some of the arguments & evidence presented on his behalf can be found <a
   116. jimd Posted: February 26, 2004 at 03:12 AM (#522185)
Welcome aboard, Casey. That's an excellent, well-considered ballot. You're definitely to the Peak side of me (I consider myself a moderate, don't we all ;-)

I?m guessing the idea behind the HoM was to become baseball?s version of Mount Olympus, with only the greatest making it to the top.

Not exactly. The idea behind the HOM is to elect an alternative selection of the same quantity of players, using the benefits of modern baseball research and methods; voting started early to insure representation from the "Old-Timer" years. The most heated debates tend to center around the marginal players. Enjoy.
   117. Jeff M Posted: February 26, 2004 at 03:22 AM (#522186)
We?re only up to the 1921 election and already there is a definite disparity in the quality of inductees. I?m guessing the idea behind the HoM was to become baseball?s version of Mount Olympus, with only the greatest making it to the top. I think it?s a stretch to consider Hardy Richardson, Ezra Sutton, Joe Start and Jack Glasscock as members of baseball?s Inner Circle. Cal McVey might have become one but he opted to quit young and live in California.

Casey, rather than provide a point-by-point rebuttal of your post, let me say this. It sounds like you have some pre-conceived notions of who the great players are. Each of the candidates you mentioned were discussed at considerable length over many many weeks. Some voters who initially ranked those players low on their ballots eventually supported their election. Most of our members believe those selections are pretty solid.

One note about Win Shares: it won't work to look at the Bill James rankings in the NHBA for several reasons, but here are three: (1) James doesn't do well with 19th century players, (2) James doesn't take into account season-length, so non-pitchers who played prior to the 154 game schedule aren't going to look so hot and (3) WS overscores pitching and underscores defense in the 19th century.

We aren't hacks. We have spirited, detailed and highly technical debates. The players we have elected are not accidents. They are products of a process, and they reflect a willingness of each member to shed pre-conceived notions and evaluate the evidence.

Welcome aboard.
   118. Chris Cobb Posted: February 26, 2004 at 03:45 AM (#522187)
Casey, welcome!

I?m guessing the idea behind the HoM was to become baseball?s version of Mount Olympus, with only the greatest making it to the top.

I'll third what jimd and Jeff have said in response to your sense of what the project is and why some players have been elected.

If you want to understand why the group has elected the players we have, reading through some of the ballot discussion threads is the way to go. The debates over Sutton and Start heat up around 1905 or so. And remember, one person's great player is another person's esoteric choice. Your ballot is ok, but from my perspective you are a bit infatuated with the idea of "dominance" and are overlooking the fact that being an excellent player may have 90-95% of the value of being "the best" in a given year, so that over a course of a career a player with a lot of excellent years, even if he was never "the best" in a given year, may do more to help his teams to pennants. For this reason, career value matters to me and to many of the voters quite a lot more than it appears to matter for you. You express mystification that anyone could possibly support Wallace. If you consider that many people think career value matters, it will become less mystifying, even if no more satisfactory when measured by your own views of greatness.

Two additional matters.

One, in explaining your preference for Herman Long over Bobby Wallace, you wrote: There is absolutely no evidence that would convince me Wallace is the equal of Long or Jennings. Not even Total Baseball, which lists Wallace as the NL MVP in 1902. It's generally both wise and polite to keep an open mind in these parts. You may have no idea of the evidence you are pre-disposing yourself to reject! If you read through the analysis of Wallace in last year's ballot discussion thread, as Chris J. suggests, you'll find that some of your own data points may not be as solid as you think. Also, you'll find that many, though perhaps not a majority, of current voters find the Baseball Prospectus Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP for short -- a comprehensive, win-based metric like win shares) to be more reliable than win shares or at least an important source for a second opinion. Stats for all players, all time, are available at baseballprospectus.com by searching in the box in the upper-right hand corner. WARP thinks pretty highly of Wallace, by the way.

Two: It's generally part of the balloting process to explain one's reasons if one does _not_ place one of the top ten candidates from the preceding year's election on one's ballot. Some long-time voters give this practice a miss because they've already explained themselves many times. Since this will be your first ballot, most of us will especially want to see your analysis of all of the main current candidates. You've made your views on Wallace clear, but there are two other top-10 candidates, Jimmy Sheckard and Charlie Bennett, whom you haven't mentioned. Would you be able, sometime before voting begins for the 1921 election, to give us your assessment of those two players?
   119. Chris Cobb Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:03 AM (#522188)
Dan G., thanks for your questions back in #120.

I think 1 & 2 are reasonable and ought to be answerable, though I don't have the materials in my possession to answer them. I await anxiously my copy of Holway's book . . . I also have not forgotten about your questions over on the Negro Leagues thread, some of which should also be answerable, if I or someone else will take the trouble to do it.

Question 3 seems to me to be skeptical beyond reason. We have no reason to doubt that Johnson was describing his practice.

Question 4 is a useful question insofar as it might help us contextualize the data better, but in the absence of clear documentation, I think we have to accept the evidence that the experts provide as the best and most reliable we're going to get. Unless Riley's veracity has been challenged by other experts (I haven't read of anything to that effect), his numbers ought to be used. If we don't trust the experts' data, why would we trust their rankings, which carry whatever authority they do because "the experts" have gathered such data as there is?
   120. Jeff M Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:42 AM (#522189)
Also, you'll find that many, though perhaps not a majority, of current voters find the Baseball Prospectus Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP for short -- a comprehensive, win-based metric like win shares) to be more reliable than win shares or at least an important source for a second opinion.

For the benefit of Casey, I'm in the camp that looks at WARP as a second opinion, or WS as a second opinion, however you want to view it. I treat them equally, although they are often completely different. I adjust all WS hitting and fielding numbers for season-length. And I use WARP1 with a season-length adjustment, rather than WARP2 and WARP3. For pitchers I also pay attention to LWTS (adjusted to reflect the NRA and DERA reported on the BP site), and to Wins Above Team (to a lesser extent).

I'm also in the camp that has not completely shunned counting stats, but I use counting stats only after I've adjusted for ballparks and run scoring environment, so that everybody is on a level playing field (at least to the extent I can achieve that). So, for instance, Tommy Leach's real numbers are .269/.340/.370 with 2,143 Hits, 1,355 Runs and 810 RBI. My level playing field adjustments produce .306/.381/.421 with 2,335 Hits, 1,598 Runs and 936 RBI. If you use the Black Ink, HOM Monitor and HOM Standards of Bill James and you don't make some adjustments, then certain players in certain eras will be unfairly prejudiced.
   121. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:56 AM (#522190)
Casey, in a nutshell, if you're gonna vote for Bob Caruthers, you'll have a hard time making anybody else feel embarrassed. (Now I myself am a FOBC but the opposition to Freedom Bob--we don't say Parisian Bob or Frenchy Bordagaray around here--has been the most vitriolic that we've seen. That and a certain Jewish 2B-CF from the very early days, now that I think of it.)

Welcome--your ballot is no worse than mine ;-)
   122. Brian H Posted: February 26, 2004 at 05:11 AM (#522191)
Casey -
   123. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 26, 2004 at 05:54 AM (#522192)
Welcome, Casey! Your preliminary ballot looks solid to me. It's nice to see someone who values Cupid Childs, too!

One note about Win Shares: it won't work to look at the Bill James rankings in the NHBA for several reasons, but here are three: (1) James doesn't do well with 19th century players, (2) James doesn't take into account season-length, so non-pitchers who played prior to the 154 game schedule aren't going to look so hot and (3) WS overscores pitching and underscores defense in the 19th century.

Another point is that his timeline is horse****. It appears he didn't have enough time to create a logical system, so he came up with the mess that damaged his rankings, IMO (and I'm a huge James fan!)
   124. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 11:34 AM (#522194)
Again, the trouble with James' 19th century ratings is that position players are penalized twice. First, there is no adjustment for season length, so no matter how good a player was he did not have the same opportunity as a 20th century player to rack up WS. (WARP at least adjusts seasons to *2/3 of a 162 game season.) Second, in order to put 19th century pitchers in their place he imposes a timeline. Well, the position players never rated anything like those pitchers but he timelines them anyway. He makes his case, but the idea that Ross Barnes is not one of the top 100 2Bs of all-time pretty much tells the tale.

And the point also was not whether you consider the NA, it is whether you consider pre-NA. There are disagreements on that here, but Start (and Dickey Pearce) were the two best players of the '60s and I for one think that is worth something.

But as Chris said, we've all been through all of these things twice.
   125. Howie Menckel Posted: February 26, 2004 at 01:57 PM (#522195)
Casey,
   126. Daryn Posted: February 26, 2004 at 03:35 PM (#522196)
Does anyone know who is likely to be our first living Hall of Merit inductee?
   127. RobC Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:03 PM (#522197)
White, Hines, Gore and Barnes in a 4 way tie. They were all alive when they were inducted.
   128. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:46 PM (#522198)
The defensive letter grades may be an illusion, but I don't see how.

That wasn't my point. In general, they are a good shorthand way to view a player's defensive worth, but in the case of Wallace it can be a little deceptive because: A) His best years as a defender were split between 2 positions, & B) His long decline all came at one position. A lengthier look at his defense is in the links up in post #142
   129. Daryn Posted: February 26, 2004 at 04:57 PM (#522199)
Rob C,

I'm not sure if you were joking or didn't understand my question -- who will be alive in 2004 or 2005 by the time we get to them. I'd guess it would have to be someone who retired in the mid to late 40s.
   130. RobC Posted: February 26, 2004 at 05:02 PM (#522200)
daryn,

I was either joking or getting way too far into this. Its really 1920 right now, right?
   131. DanG Posted: February 26, 2004 at 05:51 PM (#522201)
Daryn,

Looking at hall of famers, Bobby Doerr, soon to be 86, may be the first man to whom we make the phone call. He's eligible in 1957, or summer 2005 real time.

After him, Ralph Kiner, 81, is eligible in 1961.

Al Lopez is eligible in 1953, but I doubt he's HoMer material.
   132. Chris Cobb Posted: February 26, 2004 at 06:00 PM (#522202)
Bob Feller, now 85, is eligible in 1962. He'll reach the ballot later than Doerr or Kiner but he's pretty likely to go in as soon as he is eligible, unlike Kiner and Doerr. Let us wish good health and long life to all three!
   133. Jeff M Posted: February 26, 2004 at 06:05 PM (#522203)
The fact is, in 16 seasons of Major League baseball, he hit .300 only seven times and slugged .400 only four times.

I'm going to let this go, because I can see there isn't much point, but somehow I think the figures you've quoted have not been adjusted in any way. They also do not take into account pre-NA play. Start wasn't elected when some of his contemporaries were, so you have no choice but to evaluate him against other players on the ballot who may have played in a different era. If this were a different project in which we voted for the best 200+ players in baseball history on one gigantic ballot from the perspective of 2004, Start may not make the list. But from the perspective of the year-by-year ballots we conduct, when the competition is more fierce in some years than others, he is a worthy electee.

Rest assured, none of my statements are pre-conceived.

I'll take your word on this. My reaction was to your original post, which placed quite a bit of weight on Bill James' positional rankings and seemed to have been written without having read all of our discussions in the past. Obviously, I don't expect you to have time to read what we have written over the life of this project. At the same time, I don't expect you to criticize what you haven't read.

You certainly have a right to respectfully disagree. I just didn't think your first post showed a lot of respect.

Let's move on and talk about current ballot candidates.
   134. Philip Posted: February 26, 2004 at 06:10 PM (#522204)
Welcome Casey,

I would als like to mention that Win Shares overrate pitching in the 19th century, because a greater part of team defense could be attributed to fielding than to pitching, compared to the modern game.

So let's hope this boosts your rating of Lip Pike! :-)
   135. jimd Posted: February 26, 2004 at 06:13 PM (#522205)
To be honest, I think neither Long nor Wallace would ever get my vote for the HoM.

We're electing a LOT of players, Casey. I'm a Small-Hall advocate, and I've often been surprised by who makes it onto the end of my ballot; some elections, the quality just isn't there.

However, in these cases I'm comparing the system, however flawed, to contemporaries rather than cutting through several generations.
   136. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 08:12 PM (#522207)
> McGraw and Williamson were great peak
   137. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 26, 2004 at 08:34 PM (#522208)
Marc, I really was just pointing out Sutton's greatness to Casey. Williamson and McGraw were added to my post to highlight Ezra's career performance, not to demean their own uniqueness.

I have Willaimson and McGraw #'s 17 and 18 on my ballot, so they'll be back on my ballot in a few "years." Too much competition (as you know).
   138. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 26, 2004 at 08:37 PM (#522209)
except for the 27 HR, and some voters would probably look more kindly on his candidacy if those had been fly ball outs.

Who's saying that?
   139. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 08:56 PM (#522210)
When I voted for Big Ed, somebody asked how many "gazillion points" I deducted for his cheap HR (whatever in the world "deducting points" means). I pointed out that King Kelly hit 13 HR that year (9 more than the year before) and George Gore 3 and wondered how many gazillion "points" one would deduct for their failure to take advantage? The implication being I guess that if Big Ed was a real man he would have eschewed the cheap opportunity by...doing what? I have no idea what he "should" have done. Well, yes, I do. Given the opportunity he should have parked the damn thing, and he did.
   140. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 26, 2004 at 09:12 PM (#522211)
Big Ed should have done exactly what he did in '87, but his numbers (and those of his teammates) still need to be placed in proper context. I think Win Shares applies a reasonable park adjustment in that regard. If your evaluations are more peak oriented, it matters more that his 27 homer season be analyzed correctly.
   141. Al Peterson Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:21 PM (#522213)
1921 prelim. Slotting two new people. Also note there is no Joe Start. Relax guys - he's in the HOM. Right or wrong, don't matter.

1. Charlie Bennett (1). Has been debated so long I forget why I like him. Oh yeah, good hitter at an important defensive position where his fielding was rated very highly. Should go in when compared to other backstops.

2. Jimmy Collins (3). Another vote for a fielder. Jimmy Collins was amongst the best by the numbers and by his peers.

3. Rube Waddell (4). His strikeout numbers were well ahead of his time. Would a player with as much baggage as him make it in today's game?

4. Sam Thompson (5). Outlandish numbers make up for era, career length issues. During 10 year period (1886-1895) was top 10 in league in total bases 9 times. Miscatagorized as only slugger - did decent job of getting on base. Juan Gone he is not.

5. Joe McGinnity (8). Quanity of work for the 1900s impressive to say the least. Helped the team by taking the ball often.

6. Jimmy Sheckard (6). Shade better than the next set of OFs. Defense a plus, hitting numbers jumped around.

7. Frank Grant (9). Yes this is conjecture but digging up "facts" at this point would be a trick.

8. Bobby Wallace (7). Careeer is long, not enough peak to make the top candidate.

9. Cupid Childs (10). Wow, look at those walk totals. He wasn't exactly Barry Bonds being pitched to.

10. George Van Haltren (11). Steady would be a good word.

11. Jimmy Ryan (13). Maybe he should combine with #10, be called Jim Van Halryan, and get elected.

12. Roger Bresnahan (-). See the pros as solid hitting catcher with some versatility. Cons are OK, not great, in terms of durability, fielding is not Bennett level.

13. Home Run Johnson (-). Weighed the evidence, can provide some ballot support.

14. Clark Griffith (12). The many pitching metrics presented show he's in the mix as HOM worthy. Most people voting are saying the same thing: Nice career, here's a low ballot spot, thanks for playing.

15. Bob Caruthers (16). Bob back on ballot after a good 10-15 years off of mine. Excellent peak hitter & pitcher during a time when it was more commonplace. His uniqueness comes from being at a high level for the combination. Benefitted from great teams & little decline phase.

Simmering below the cut line:

16. Hughie Jennings (15). Were taking on SS's quickly - has short term excellence on his side.
   142. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:25 PM (#522214)
I mentioned in another post that Frank Grant was considered the best black player of the 19th Century and an outstanding infielder. Grant made 74 errors one year, 50 in another. Lip Pike played eight full years in the NA and NL. He reached a .900 fielding average exactly one time. In 1872 he made 48 errors in 55 games and fielded .779. Ezra Sutton made 79 errors in 75 games in 1875, fielding .799. That was his second best fielding average in a five-year period.

I'm not badmouthing these players. It was tough playing barehanded and constantly playing with gnarly, injured fingers. But the errors alone explain why these players didn't get as much credit. Nor should they.


But they did receive a lot of credit during their time. It's only when we review their numbers without putting them in context where we tend to underrate them.

Before this project, I had never heard of Ezra Sutton (for example). But when you compare him to his peers, he stands out to a great degree.

Any infielder from the 20th century you could name would have had a truckload of errors playing in the 19th century, too. That was a condition of that era.

Are Win Shares perfect? Not by a long shot. But I like the idea of a way to convey the performance of a player or team using a single statistic. Win Shares attempts to combine pitching, defensive and offensive value. I look at other methodologies as well, but I like the ambition of Win Shares and hope it's refined to the point most baseball fans will know that a 30 Win Share season is damn good and a 40 share season of Hall of Fame quality.

I use Win Shares as my principal base, though I use WARP for NA seasons.
   143. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:25 PM (#522215)
<i>Posted 3:32 p.m., February 25, 2004 (#128) - Dickey Pearce
   144. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:28 PM (#522216)
As I posted that, I realized I misspoke somewhat. The professionalization of the game isn't the root issue... the root issue is the level of competition, which professionalization develops. This, along with the spread of the game, mean that baseball really doesn't develop good competition (in my view) until the 1870s, and progress is very rapid up until the late 1880s/early 1890s. Growth is slower until about 1900, in my view.

Sorry for any confusion.
   145. Marc Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:33 PM (#522217)
Casey, I'm not sure you got the point about pre-1893 pitching being overrated. Certainly the fact that pitchers threw SO many innings, allowing them to rack up astronomical WS totals, is a "problem." ie. If you don't "do" something with the numbers, all the greatest pitchers are 19th century guys. So what James does is timeline the hell out of them, which (frankly) is bullsnort. But I digress.

The real problem is not how many WS Clarkson or Keefe or Caruthers pile up, it's now many WS PITCHERS (PITCHING) piles up. Why do you think these guys could pitch so many innings? Because they didn't "have to" bear down. They hardly struck anybody out, they hardly walked anybody, they hardly ever gave up a HR. And when the ball was put in play, their fielders dropped more than 10 percent of them anyway. So the guy just kept chucking it up there, putting it in play and hoping that eventually his fielders would get three outs. So how much credit should the pitchers really get?

After much discussion, many of decided they should only get about 50 percent as much as modern pitchers do (someone developed a sliding scale going from half up to James' pct. gradually; I just used 50 percent until '93, then 100 percent; the sliding scale makes a lot more sense but was more work to implement). But where then do those missing WS go? To the hitters? No, to the fielders.

And I would argue that in a no-glove, high-error environment the fielders should get MORE WS, not LESS. Because the differential between a good and a bad fielder is vastly more than it is today. The study you should have done was UNEARNED RUNS. The differential of UER and its impact on the pythagorean was much greater then than it is now. So a good fielder has a big impact and earns a lot more WS.

Fielding is more important, the difference between good and bad is more, and so the distribution of fielding WS is more lopsided than now. So indeed the fielder who makes lots and lots of errors and is truly horrible, no, he doesn't get the boost. The good one does.

>So, 19th Century pitching is not overrepresented in Win Shares.

No, so, your study shows exactly the opposite. With all of that (my theory), the 1870s and '80s fielders SHOULD have gotten twice as many WS as 20th century fielders and they DON'T. The answer is not in your numbers, it is in your interpretation of how the game was played and I think you've got it fundamentally wrong. Good fielders are vastly more valuable in a high error environment, especially a high error environment where the pitcher just keeps putting the ball in play.

Thus: Ezra Sutton, Ed Williamson, Bid McPhee, Pebbly Jack.
   146. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:41 PM (#522218)
The fair/foul hit was commonplace, so defense had a higher premium than now. Similarly, the 1890-1920 era had an abundance of bunts, so the Mo Vaughn type of first baseman couldn't survive during that time.

I thought I should address this point by John Murphy.

First basemen do NOT charge bunts, or even field them very much, until Hal Chase. Chase's style of charging bunts is what cemented his defensive reputation. There are plenty of slow, immobile first basemen in the 1890s, for example. (There are few slow players at all in the 1860s to 80s though, as John points out)

I remember sending JoeDimino a clipping (or rather an excerpt) on Chase's first base defense recently that confirmed this, but I don't remember what happened to it unfortunately.
   147. Daryn Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:43 PM (#522219)
Craig,

How are you going to apply your severe timeline to Jennings? It doesn't look like he is going to make it in in the pre-1932 drought, so he'll be on the ballot with dozens of players who retired in 1930 or later, who with a severe timeline, will all be way better than him. Either he will precipitously drop off your ballot in the next 15 years or ... I don't know any other way to interpret your comments.

I try to compare players to their contemporaries, so if I think someone was the 3rd best player in baseball from 1890-1900 I will keep him ahead of the 5th best player in baseball from 1990-2000, even though I think that the 100th best player in baseball in 2000 is better that the best from 100 years earlier.

For better or for worse, Mickey Welch is going to spend a long time on my ballot.
   148. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:47 PM (#522220)
Actually, all you need to do is look at assist totals. Take 1882. The four top teams in 1882 had the following assist totals by first basemen...

Boston 17 in 85 games
   149. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 26, 2004 at 10:51 PM (#522221)
daryn, he probably will drop. The timeline becomes much less severe after 1893. MUCH less. But still, if Hughie is still unelected in the late 1930s and 1940s, I'm going to be hard-pressed to put him ahead of the guys who are better, later. He'll still be well-regarded. I mean, Hans Wagner could still be a star today. I don't think Dickey Pearce would have made the 1901 Cincinnati Reds. So the pre-NA guys are a bit of a special case, because they're just so inferior to the guys who come later.
   150. Jim Sp Posted: February 26, 2004 at 11:08 PM (#522222)
1) Waddell?Waddell has a run of 7 years (1902-1908) in which he was blowing people away, striking out people at rate that is extremely high for the era. Each year allowing at least 20% fewer runs than an average pitcher, in three of those years with an ERA+ over 165. 134 ERA+ in 3000 IP is worthy, his W/L record isn?t impressive because his run support wasn?t impressive. A seven year peak for a pitcher is much more rare than a seven year peak for a hitter, I give the short peak pitchers a lot more credit than the short peak hitters.
   151. jimd Posted: February 26, 2004 at 11:55 PM (#522224)
Actually, all you need to do is look at assist totals.

I did. (These are NL numbers.) In 1882 1B assists were .28 per game (for reference). In 1893 and 94 they were .55 per game, pretty similar to 1912 and 13 at .56 per game. Peak is in 1904 at .67 per game, and it stays over .60 from 1904 to 1908.
   152. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 03:26 AM (#522226)
Casey, you might be surprised to learn that I was probably THE major supporter of Al Spalding for the HoM. Others generally made the arguments then that I am making now about the relatively lesser importance of pitching. To which I made an argument similar to yours--except that I suggested that pre-NA and NA ball was perhaps even more akin to slow pitch softball (hang with me here). But having played slow pitch softball myself for 25 years, I generally found that the pitcher (on a good team) was usually one of the top 2 or 3 athletes on the team. He has less importance purely as a pitcher than a ML pitcher, obviously, but it does matter whether he can throw a nice deep strike with some spin on it. And equally importantly, being one of the best athletes on the team, he is absolutely essential as an infielder, more so than the 2B by a long shot. And he is often one of the best hitters to boot.

So I think, paradoxically, that 19th century pitchERS could be tremendously valuable, even though 19th century pitchING was not so valuable as 20th century pitching.

But I will hold to my belief that the real key to the value of fielding is not how high the FA but how big the difference between the best and the worst. Modern SSs for example vary from, what?, .940 (replacement?) to .980 or even .990, a spread of, well, realistically 30 points for 90 percent of 'em. In the 19th century the spread was perhaps damn near 100 points. In that environment a .900 fielder was more valuable than a .980 fielder today. What is important is that he contributed to wins by being better than his counterpart, he did not contribute to losses by being worse than Cal Ripken.

(As a tangent, are the greatest hitting SSs "more better" than the rest or are the greatest fielding SSs "more better"? Our recent discussions have attempted to compare a great fielder like Joe Tinker to a great hitter like-well maybe Hughie Jennings but maybe somebody with more of a comparable career length like Arky Vaughan. But the unit of analysis either way is how much better than his opponents was he on whatever dimension you're talking about. That's what value is, a differential. How either of them compare to Banks or Yount or Ripken or ARod has nuthin' to do with nuthin'.)
   153. Chris Cobb Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:08 AM (#522228)
So, anybody out there want to make a pitch for Tommy Leach?

What with Bresnahan vs. Bennett, the Home Run Johnson debate, studies of the Cub infield defense, a rehash of the problems with win shares for the 19th century, Leach has gotten short shrift so far. There's an argument for him as a mid-ballot candidate, but I haven't seen anyone try to make it. I'm not sure I would, but I'd like to see that case if anyone is inclining toward ranking Leach that high.
   154. Adam Schafer Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:33 AM (#522229)
yest...Thank you very much. That has been my primary arguement in Welch's defense. Glad to see someone else showing some support for Welch.
   155. Chris Cobb Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:34 AM (#522230)
Quick response to Casey re WS and 19th-century pitching value:

The evidence you've presented, showing WS calculations of team's defensive WS through history is not relevant to the problem. It _assumes_ that WS is representing defensive value correctly, and then uses the evidence that WS provides to prove the validity of WS. Circular logic is no good in this case.

To see the problem with WS (and it's not a fatal problem by any means -- I prefer WS to any other comprehensive metric, but I _adjust_ it where it's demonstrably inaccurate), you have to look not at the system's results, but at the way it reaches those results. We had a discussion of this matter on the 1920 ballot discussion thread, so I'm not going to re-hash the whole substance of that argument here. If you want to read it, check out posts 83, 92, 121, and 123-125. Here's a quick summary:

WS divides credit between pitchers and fielders based on a formula that assigns value to fielding events based on the extent to which teams deviate from the league average for that event. It sets the value of average by means of a constant. The constants in the formula are the same throughout history, regardless of the relative importance of the defensive event to defensive value. To figure runs created, James uses 19 (or something like that) specifically tailored formulas to reflect as accurately as possible the changes in offensive conditions that alter the relative value of hits, walks, extra base hits, as well as in the data available. Yet for figuring defensive value for runs prevented, he has only one formula. Is it any surprise that it becomes significantly inaccurate under different conditions? Its results on the team level look consistent because it normalizes all its results to the ratio of pitching value to fielding value typical of the post-1930 game.

He does address the historical differences, but rather than altering the constants in the formula to let the historical differences out, he introduces tweaks to the system to suppress the historical differences where they arise even with the normalized formula (altering the value of a passed ball when passed balls become very common, and as jimd noted from a brilliant reading the WS fine print, putting an absolute ceiling on the percentage of a team's win shares that can go to fielding. See post #31 above in this thread.)

If you want to debate this matter further, I'd be happy to, but let us move the discussion over to the WARP3 thread, which was set up for discussion of the reliability of comprehensive metrics. I'll put a copy of this post there, so if you, or anyone else who wants to get into this discussion, want to reply, please do so there!
   156. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:50 AM (#522231)
>(as teammates) I don?t see why one was voted in on his first few tries and the other is not even close

yest, can you find even one additional argument in Welch's favor? No, you can't.

ERA+ Keefe 126 Welch 114
   157. OCF Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:50 AM (#522232)
Chis Cobb asks, what about Tommy Leach? To start with, it's a fairly long career - 200 fewer games than Wallace but 400 more than Jimmy Collins. If we were going to blindly say that everyone with X many Win Shares is in and use that as the only criterion, what would X be? Maybe 320? Well, Leach has 320 Win Shares.

That's not much of an argument.

Offensively, he's got quite a bit of value above replacement - an OK hitter over a long career. There isn't much peak, although I like what passes for peak/prime in his offensive record better than either Collins or Wallace.

If Leach were entirely a centerfielder, I wouldn't have any reason to put him ahead of Duffy or Ryan, who were better offensive players. But he's half CF, half 3B. He's got more career and more offense than Collins, who is all 3B.

To even hope to get any consideration, Leach would have to have tremendous defensive value - which maybe he does (Chris J., #37 on this thread.)

He's somewhere between 4th and 30th. You'll see where I put him when I post my ballot - and I probably won't figure it out myself until then.
   158. Philip Posted: February 27, 2004 at 01:50 PM (#522236)
RE Craig B: But still, if Hughie is still unelected in the late 1930s and 1940s, I'm going to be hard-pressed to put him ahead of the guys who are better, later. He'll still be well-regarded. I mean, Hans Wagner could still be a star today. I don't think Dickey Pearce would have made the 1901 Cincinnati Reds.

So what evidence do you have for this or is it just a far-fetched feeling??! This is a completely unsubstantiated assumption. Honus Wagner may be a AA player today (who knows?) but that has absolutely nothing to do with his value. This goes completely against the pennant is a pennant principle. What do you base this timeline on? There is no evidence that Hughie couldn?t be a great shortstop in the 30?s, but no one knows so why not give everyone a fair shot and compare them to their pears???
   159. karlmagnus Posted: February 27, 2004 at 02:59 PM (#522237)
I don't see why we should elect as many as 20-25 NL'ers; it's way out of proportion to their share in the population in the relevant period, for which we're electing under 120 HOMers. I think 12-15 is a much more reasonable number. I also think it unlikely that we'll find more than 12-15 for which we can make a solid case -- Grant is in my view by far the strongest so far, and we still haven't elected him.

It's not reasonable to elect NL'ers out of proportion to their level in the overall population, when, particularly in 1890-1920, they had inferior facilities to become HOM-worthy (of course, not their fault but a reality nonetheless.) Of course, if there were evidence that NL players were more capable than major league players, there would be a case for enshrining them out of proportion, but there is no such evidence -- Josh Gibson was one hell of a player, but I don't buy the argument that he was better than Babe Ruth.

I can see about 6-8 obvious ones from 1930-47, plus Grant, plus maybe 4-5 more and that's about it, without engaging in obnoxious levels of affirmative action which I would NOT support.
   160. Daryn Posted: February 27, 2004 at 03:17 PM (#522239)
Joe,

I'm the one who will be giving Williams zero credit for the war years. Obviously, it won't matter for Williams. But I have heard a lot of arguments for why we should give credit for time not played and none of them hold any water for me. He did not play those years. Maybe it helped him, maybe he would have been struck by a pitch and died had he played. I'm not willing to speculate.

I'd be interested to know if I am the only one who will be giving zero credit for time lost to war. I also enjoy being convinced to change my opinion but I don't see it -- we are measuring value not ability, not what might have been, but what was. If he had played in a fledgling WHA type league for those three years and hit .650 against terrible competition before the league folded and then rejoined the majors, I'd give him credit, just as I am giving credit to the blackballers who did not play against the best competition. But he didn't.

It is not about skill sets -- if it were we should debate whether Dave Winfield deserves to be in the NBA Hall of Fame.
   161. Daryn Posted: February 27, 2004 at 03:20 PM (#522240)
Or, Craig, you could compare them to their peers.
   162. Philip Posted: February 27, 2004 at 03:21 PM (#522241)
At the same time, why should we punish the pitchers simply because they pitched 500 innings or won 45 games? The fact is,they did the work. Radbourn DID win 59 games in one season and 48 in another and 309 overall.

Why do some people put so much weight on pitcher?s wins when there are much more powerful stats available. If we assume (theoretically) that 50% of the game is defense and 70% of defense is pitching, than wins are only determined for 35% by pitchers. It is awfully crude to assign value to something pitcher?s can only control for 35%. Now assuming that pitching was only 50% of defense in the 1870?s and 80?s, a pitcher only has 25% contribution to the wins and losses he gets credited. It looks like this leaves room for a large margin of error. And even more it tells us that win totals in the early days don?t give a relevant indication of value.
   163. Jeff M Posted: February 27, 2004 at 04:02 PM (#522242)
...Leach has gotten short shrift so far. There's an argument for him as a mid-ballot candidate, but I haven't seen anyone try to make it. I'm not sure I would, but I'd like to see that case if anyone is inclining toward ranking Leach that high.

More on this later, when I'm not at work and I have all my stuff in front of me. I have Leach at #8 (see post #40) and have mentioned some of the revised numbers I have for him in post #147. My recollection is that Win Shares gives him 7 gold gloves and that WS rates both his 3b defense and CF defense very very highly. Again, I focus on WARP1 numbers rather than WARP2 or WARP3, and Leach holds up very nicely under WARP1.
   164. Daryn Posted: February 27, 2004 at 04:14 PM (#522243)
mnp on wartime credit:

The Boston Red Sox were a great team in 1945; they just happened to suck because players like Williams and Doerr and Pesky and DiMaggio and Hughson weren't available -- through no fault of the Red Sox'. Do we give the Red Sox credit for another AL title? A World Series?

Do we tell the Tigers "Sorry, guys, we gotta take away that World Championship; you wouldn't have won if the Red Sox weren't off fighting for their country. You understand, I'm sure: they were the better team."

Where do you stop? You can't *just* give Williams and DiMaggio et al credit for the time they missed. That credit has implications. Like, for example, lots of guys who remember playing major league baseball back in the 1940s suddenly didn't. Gotta wipe them off the books. Gotta take away Johnny Lazor's 6 career HR, otherwise we've made a jumble of things. Too bad for Johnny; I bet he really enjoyed his career, and his grandkids probably liked hearing about it. It's a shame we have to pretend it didn't exist.

Now me again: Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan clearly had the ability to perform in one sport when they chose not to -- but you can't use the year Jordan missed for baseball to convince me that he was a better player than, pick a guy randomly, Chamberlain. Sure Williams, may not have had a choice or alternatively chose to do the patriotic thing, but the only credit I'll give him for it is as a person, not as a ballplayer.
   165. Chris Cobb Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:05 PM (#522244)
Daryn,

You might look at the matter less from the perspective of individual players and more from the perspective of correctly evaluating the era. Is it fair to say that players whose primes fall in the 1930s or 1950s are, as a group, more _meritorious_ than player whose prime fell during the 1940s? If you fail to account for the wartime context, that's what your results will show, and I think that it is not reasonable conclusion. Further, if you fail to account for the uneven nature of military service, you will also conclude that players who happened not to be called into the military were more _meritorious_ than players who were called to serve. Again, that seems to me to be an unreasonable conclusion about the merits of these players. When you recognize that dealing with the war has to do with assessing value in context, and not just with the cases of individual players, you'll see that the Bo Jackon/Michael Jordan case isn't relevant. These two individual players made choices about what to do with their talents. The war affected the game of baseball as a whole.

Likewise, as soon as you accept that this is about the context of the game, the Dave Winfield argument also becomes invalid. While has rhetorical flair, it's not remotely comparable to the situation with wartime ballplayers. Any player we will be considering will be a player who _has_ substantial value already, not a player who _might have had_ substantial value. The question is what to do with players who fall just short of the value typically necessary to be elected to the HoM, but who would obviously have that value _if_ they had followed a normal career path during the war, had they not been called to serve in the military. Considering this question is by no means turning our ranking of players into something based entirely on "skill sets." It's considering the record of the player's value in its historical context in order to fairly assess the player's merit. It is not fair to players to compare their value without accounting for the context in which their value was produced. When you look at the numbers of these players in the context of wartime, where part of the condition of the game is that you might miss one, two three, four seasons during the prime of your career, you have to say that their performances were great, _given their context_.

Finally, the Red Sox World Series case also falls apart when one looks at wartime adjustments as responding to context. We don't take the world championship from one team and assign it to another. But we evaluate the achievements of teams and players during the war in light of the fact that many of the best players were absent from the game. Yes, the Tigers won, but they won against _wartime competition_. A pennant is a pennant, but some acknowledgement of context is necessary.

Your arguments make it sound as if making any adjustment to our assessment of players' value based on contextual factors that prevented a _large group_ of the game's best players from competing is tantamount to totally re-writing the history of baseball. To the contrary, it's an attempt to be responsive to the history of baseball and its players.
   166. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:13 PM (#522245)
Craig, you could compare them to their peers.

Which is what I do.

But that population of peers is better, later on, the player who dominates the better peer group is a better player, and he gets moved ahead. I'm not going to apologise for that.

Now I'm not going crazy here... I'm not going to move Joe Sewell, say, ahead of Jennings - or even all that close to him. Sewell may well have been 99% of the player Jennings was. But Sewell was never even close to being the best position player in baseball, and I think Jennings was, and that's the core of "my" HoM - all the "best" players.

But what about Foxx or Greenberg? For a while, Foxx and/or Greenberg - like Jennings was - is probably the best position player in (white) baseball. They play against a higher level of competition than Jennings did, though, and so on those grounds they should, I think, be moved ahead of him (as well as on career value elements, and so forth).
   167. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:24 PM (#522247)
I had season tickets to the Mn Gophers in '72-'73. Dave Winfield does not even belong in the Gopher basketball HoF. Jim Brewer, Ron Behagen and Clyde Turner were all better. Winfield would not even have been a starter except that two players got suspended for the season for fighting. Bad analogy.

I agree with Chris. There is a difference between saying that Joe Blow could have been a great player (if but for an injury or whatever) and saying that Joe Blow WAS a great player, he just happened to be in the army (or blacklisted) that year.

Rather than talk about Ted Williams, Rizutto and Pee Wee Reese and Country Slaughter are the people who need to be looked at. To say that Lou Boudreau or Marty Marion are more deserving of the HoM than Rizzuto or Reese because of who did or didn't serve their country is offensive to me.
   168. karlmagnus Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:29 PM (#522248)
Philip: In terms of the most powerful statistics, Pedro may have been the best pitcher in baseball in 2003. In terms of wins, he blew the key game.

Wins in pitching are the objective, and Old Hoss in 1884 was supremely good at achieving that objective, a feat unanimously recognized by his teammates. By all means, the achievement of a particular win is 65% random, but all that says is that, over 300-500 games, a pitcher who wins 2/3 of his games has just about achieved perfection -- the chance over that many games of a W/L record being more than 5% out is vanishingly small.
   169. ronw Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:45 PM (#522249)
In looking at Casey's ballot, it got me thinking, do we have a decent mix of peak vs. career voters?

I think we do, just based on Jennings (27 votes) vs. Beckley (24 votes) in the last election.

For the peakerific Jennings in 1920, but not Beckley - (18 total) ed, Jeff M, Marc, KJOK, Sean Gilman, Andrew Siegel, Al Peterson, Chris Cobb, Rick A., LennoxHC, Carl Goetz, Clint, Mark McKinniss, Brian H, Max Parkinson, dan b, Devin McCullen, Philip. (Casey's ballot would place him here.)

For the steady Beckley in 1920, but not Jennings - (15 total) daryn, MattB, Rusty Priske, karlmagnus, Jim Sp, Chris J., Dan G, Ron Wargo, Patrick W, Howie Menckel, Don F, Rob Wood, yest, MichaelD, JoeDimino.

For both Jennings and Beckley, rating Jennings higher - (6 total) RobC, EricC, jimd, RMc, Esteban Rivera, CraigB

For both Beckley and Jennings, rating Beckley higher - (3 total) favre, Adam Schafer, Ken Fischer

For neither Jennings nor Beckley - OCF, John Murphy, Brad G, Tom H (But OCF had Jennings 16 and Beckley 19; John Murphy said Jennings was close and didn't mention Beckley; Brad G didn't say anything about either (naughty, naughty, Jennings was in the top 10 in 1919); and TomH had Beckley 16 and Jennings 17.

Maybe slightly favoring short-career Jennings-types over long career Beckley-types, but still a good balance.
   170. karlmagnus Posted: February 27, 2004 at 05:52 PM (#522251)
Having checked, I think the W/L percentage leaderboard is actually a very good guide as to who should go into the HOM. Of those with more than 300 decisions, the two highest whom I wouldn't probably elect are Jesse Tannehill (197-116) at #51 and Carl Mays (207-126) at #63. I think in particular that we should have given Tannehill (1915)and Sam Leever ((194-100 -- 1916) a good look before electing Walsh or getting close to electing Waddell, both of whom pitched for just as good teams and achieved worse records.

Caruthers, of course, is #7 on this list, or #3 after Spalding and Whitey Ford if you restrict it only to pitchers with more than 300 decisions (Pedro needs 3 more good years to get to 300 career decisions and make Caruthers #4.)
   171. RobC Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:14 PM (#522252)
The war discount isnt a penalty for staying home. Its acknowledgement that they beat up on inferior competition. If a player is an 8 warp1 a season player before the war and an 8 warp1 a season player after the war, and he puts up 12 warp1 during the war, its not a surprise if his warp3 numbers are 8,8 and 9 respectively (I just made these numbers up, its just an example of the "war discount").

For a player who went to war, the number 8,8, and 0 get bonused to something like 8, 8, 8.

Dont see a double standard at all. Its not like the stay at home guys are getting changed to 8,8,2.
   172. Philip Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:15 PM (#522253)
RE Karlmagnus: Philip: In terms of the most powerful statistics, Pedro may have been the best pitcher in baseball in 2003. In terms of wins, he blew the key game.

Wins in pitching are the objective, and Old Hoss in 1884 was supremely good at achieving that objective, a feat unanimously recognized by his teammates. By all means, the achievement of a particular win is 65% random, but all that says is that, over 300-500 games, a pitcher who wins 2/3 of his games has just about achieved perfection -- the chance over that many games of a W/L record being more than 5% out is vanishingly small.


Of course wins in pitching are the objective, as it is for a shortstop or a left fielder or a third base coach. All have their contribution in winning and we should acknowledge that. But it was not Old Hoss alone who was good at winning games, it was his team. And it doesn't even out over a career.

An average pitcher, pitching for the Yankees for 10 years will have a W/L % of close to .600. An average pitcher, pitching for the Pirates for 10 years will have a W/L % close to .400. The pitcher would have the same value and considering an average pitcher is expected to win 50% of his games his W/L % would be more than 5% off either way.

I suggest you read this article at baseballprospectus: http://premium.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=2590

To quote from that article:
   173. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:19 PM (#522254)
I think in particular that we should have given Tannehill (1915)and Sam Leever ((194-100 -- 1916) a good look before electing Walsh or getting close to electing Waddell, both of whom pitched for just as good teams and achieved worse records.

Tannehill & Leever had far far better run support. Career RSIs (not including pre-1901 starts):

Leever 118.77
   174. jimd Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:39 PM (#522255)
Casey, before we endlessly rehash many of the 19th century pitching debates that have gone before, may I suggest that you browse through some of those past debates. They will give you an idea of some of the viewpoints here. The Pitchers thread (under Positional Threads) is one place to start. There are many, many posts on this subject on both the Discussion and Ballot threads up to 1910. Ward and Clarkson were elected in 1900, Keefe in 1901 (not too much opposition for these players, though some grumbling about Ward). Radbourn 1905, Spalding 1906, and Galvin 1910 were each elected after many elections and much heated debate. Since then it's been pretty quiet, though BP's pitcher revisions have revived the Caruthers candidacy.
   175. Daryn Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:55 PM (#522256)
chris cobb,

I find your arguments convincing. But there is a reductio ad absurdum problem here. Let's say that at the end of the 1999 season there was a strike. It lasts 8 years. The players do not form another league. Arod has put in his first four great years prior to the strike, he comes back at the age of 33 or 34 and puts in another 5 good years. Do you evaluate him as if he had 17 years of good play? I don't. I know that my way would prohibit almost any player who was born between 1970 and 1975 from being in the Hall of Merit. That is somewhat problematic for me. But I still see it as better than fabricating the in-between seasons, even in the name of context. I don't mind fabricating Frank Grant's stats because I know he played and we just don't have the stats, but Williams just didn't play.

Is there an example of a player that is borderline Hall of Merit without a war credit but would be more easily in with a war credit? This might help us take this out of the theoretical and into the practical, though it is really the theory that is most interesting.
   176. OCF Posted: February 27, 2004 at 06:57 PM (#522257)
For karlmagnus (#209)

Of course, Tannehill and Leever were very good pitchers, but our standards are higher than that. I don't have Tannehill in the set of pitchers that I've extensively worked up, but I do have Leever.

Let's look at one year out of Leever's career: 1903. This wasn't chosen at random, as it is the best year of his career. His record that year was 25-7, and he led the league in ERA. In more detail: he had 284.1 IP and an ERA+ of 157. He was 3rd in the league in WH9IP at 9.97. The first thing I do is change to RA+. His RA+ is 162 - even a little better than his ERA+. Turn that RA+ into a winning percentage and multiply by 284/9, and his equivalent record comes out to 23-9 (which would be 31 FWP).

Repeat that for Joe McGinnity in the same year, 1903 (the second best year of McGinnity's career). His actual W-L record was 31-20. He had 434 IP, leading the league. His ERA+ was 137, but switch to RA+ and that jumps forward to to 150. His WH9IP was 5th in the league at 10.37. Turn the RA+ a winning percentage, and multiply by 434/9, and his equivalent record is 33-15 (42 FWP).

The equivalent of 33-15 is clearly more valuable than the equivalent of 23-9, even though it is a slightly lower winning percentage. McGinnity would have deserved the hypothetical "Cy Young" (Jim Creighton?) award for that year.

It's not just that one year - it goes like that between McGinnity and Leever year after year. McGinnity had an RA+ equivalent record of 230-152 (with the winning percentage of a 123 RA+), while Leever has an RA+ equivalent record of 182-114 (the winning percentage of a 126 RA+). Because of the usage - the career IP - McGinnity was substantially more valuable than Leever.

Is there any evidence to suggest that Leever was better or worse than his actual or RA+ equivalent record? Well, yes. First, it's no surprise that his actual W-L record (194-100 or 194-98) was better than his equivalent record. The Pirates led the NL in offense in 1902 and 1903, and were among the league leaders in most other years. But is that RA+ entirely his own doing? He owes some of that to his defense. In 1903, he had a 29-year-old (presumably at the height of his powers) Wagner at SS. Leach was playing 3B, and (see #37) Leach was a superb defender. Ritchey at 2B was a good defender. That was a good outfield.

The Cubs and the Pirates were pioneers in reducing the load on each individual pitcher and using more pitchers - and both teams were repaid for that effort by having excellent performances from multiple pitchers. Their success should be seen as evidence that the plan worked. But it also means that their pitchers were placed in a favorable environment and should be seen in that light.

Overall, I would take Leever's value as approximately equal to that of Ed Reulbach, who had a similar favorable environment. Both Leever and Reulbach were very good and very valuable pitchers. But they weren't as valuable as Addie Joss. Pitchers I would take ahead of Leever and Reulbach: Mathewson, Plank, Brown, Walsh, McGinnity, Waddell, Willis, Griffith, Joss - and Covaleski, Rixie, Faber, and Cooper when we get to them. There just isn't room for as many pitchers as it would take to get down to Leever.
   177. karlmagnus Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:03 PM (#522258)
The reason lifetime W/L is a good proxy for quality whereas seasonal W/L isn't is a simple matter of statistics. The standard deiation for the outcome of 30 coin tosses is the square root of 30, or 5.5, roughly, so 95 percent confidnce limits for wins for a .500 pitcher in a season are only 4 to 26 -- i.e. unless he goes 27-3 you can't show it wasn't random. For 300 coin tosses, the standard deviation is the square root of 300, or 17.3, so if a pitcher with 300 decisions goes more than 184.6-115.4, for a WPCT of .6153, you can be sure at the 95% confidence level that he's a superior pitcher. Caruthers went 218-99; Walsh went 195-126. You can therefore be approximately 85 percent certain that Caruthers was a superior pitcher -- not "statistically significant at the 95% confidence level" but not that far off. AND he was a truly high quality hitter.
   178. jimd Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:04 PM (#522259)
On the "war bonus". I understand some people's objections to making up performance that didn't actually happen. I think an alternative way to dealing with the problem when doing a comparison is to remove the corresponding age seasons from the other player, to simulate what the war would have done to him (barring serious injury, etc.). For example, when comparing Ted Williams to Barry Bonds, remove Barry's seasons 1989-91 (pseudo WWII) and 98-99 (pseudo Korea) (remove Ted's partial Korea seasons also, to be fair).

WARP-3, instead of career 177.6 to 204.3 (Barry), it becomes 174.8 to 161.6.
   179. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:27 PM (#522260)
karl, thank god you didn't think to apply that logic to Kelly, O'Rourke, Delahanty, Walsh, Collins et al.

I also expect a truckload of Italian ballplayers for the HoM to represent my Italian ancestry, too! :-)
   180. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:27 PM (#522261)
karl, thank god you didn't think to apply that logic to Kelly, O'Rourke, Delahanty, Walsh, Collins et al.

I also expect a truckload of Italian ballplayers for the HoM to represent my Italian ancestry, too! :-)
   181. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:45 PM (#522262)
Paul Wendt and I and others had a discussion over at sabr.com,back when there were actually discussions at sabr.com, about all the reasons why "established baseball players" miss out on value, and how one might treat all those various cases. It was really a good discussion, very helpful, and following, as best as I can remember, is where we ended up (not that everybody agreed).

Racism--easier to handle Jackie Robinson and Roy Campanella and Monte Irvin who established in the ML what they could do, then extrapolate. Harder for others. But if a player failed to earn value because of racism, he gets every benefit of every doubt. (Note that above I said these "rules" are about "established baseball players," not just ML players but not Michael Jordan who was never "established" either).

Injuries--part of the game, no X-credit.

Except injuries and illness that have nothing to do with on-the-field activity--e.g. G. Sisler's eye troubles or Addie Joss or Elmer Flick. Some might give X-credit but I have a hard time with anything more than a token.

Kept in the minor leagues unfairly--well, says who? Very little if any X-credit in my book, though I was convinced to give Pud Galvin some credit. Of course, if a player is kept in the minors because of racism, the racism rule trumps the minor league rule.

Held out--that's his choice, no X-credit. Frank Baker fans may not agree.

Blacklisted--depends on why. Charley Jones got screwed, X-credit. Joe Jackson screwed himself, no X-credit.

Strike/lockout--this is tough. Technically for a strike, well, that was the players' choice, no X-credit. Lockout? Not the players choice, X-credit. But in reality, this is a very grey area.

Went to war--the player gets the benefit of the doubt. Absolutely.

To those who say that this is all about real value, that nobody gets the benefit of the doubt for anything ever, well, as DanG says, this ain't the Hall of Fair. But it doesn't have to be the Hall of Unfair either.

Besides, we all exercise judgement here all the time. You use raw unadulterated WARP3 with no adjustments? Good for you, but that is a judgement.
   182. Philip Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:48 PM (#522263)
For 300 coin tosses, the standard deviation is the square root of 300, or 17.3, so if a pitcher with 300 decisions goes more than 184.6-115.4, for a WPCT of .6153, you can be sure at the 95% confidence level that he's a superior pitcher. Caruthers went 218-99; Walsh went 195-126. You can therefore be approximately 85 percent certain that Caruthers was a superior pitcher -- not "statistically significant at the 95% confidence level" but not that far off. AND he was a truly high quality hitter.

Karl, I'm sure you haven't read the article yet. Your line of thinking is incorrect. There are so many other factors contributing to a pitcher's win that you can't apply simple statistics. To follow your analogy: it's not just the pitcher who throws the coin, it's the whole team. Maybe there are some players who have more talent in throwing heads than others. And maybe those players aren't the ones throwing from the mound.
   183. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 07:49 PM (#522264)
karl, are you joining yest (and all the other lower case participants, maybe?) is saying that Welch is just as good as Keefe, based on WL? I mean, nobody says WL is meaningless. But my reading is that yest says everything else is meaningless.
   184. karlmagnus Posted: February 27, 2004 at 08:00 PM (#522265)
Marc, Welch is currently No 2. on my ballot; I think he's a lot better than does the consensus (and his 1885 stacks up with anybody's best seasons, including Clarkson's 1889.)

Equally, I accept that ERA+ is important (but more so in my view for looking at a peak than at a career, since pitchers who go on too long, or like Caruthers, play hurt for a couple of years are penalised.) What I don't accept is that W/L is irrelvant because it happened in the 1880s; the reason Caruthers was out at 30 was because of the over-usage and tough environment pitchers of his era faced, so you have to give him full credit for what he did achieve. I also don't accept the crude WS "divide by 2" for pitchers before 1893; to say Caruthers gets only half credit for 1889 while Rusie gets full credit for 1894 is a travesty.

There is of course a timeline scaling factor between Spalding and Pedro, but it should be a moderate one and applied reasonably evenly after about 1880 (I accept a steep curve in 1860-1880, as the nature of pitching changed hugely.) Thus if a win in 1885 isn't the same as a win in 1998 then nor is a win in 1908. This is why I don't rate these short career dead ball era pitchers like Walsh and Waddell highly.
   185. RobC Posted: February 27, 2004 at 08:16 PM (#522266)
I mean, nobody says WL is meaningless.

W-L is meaningless.

I haven't used win/loss records for putting together a HoM ballot. Not at all. Wins (and losses) are a team stat.
   186. Chris Cobb Posted: February 27, 2004 at 08:33 PM (#522267)
To break in on the various theoretical discussions with a few numbers . . .

Here's some more material on Grant Johnson, derived from my recently received copy of Holway's _Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues_. For those who haven't seen it, Holway's book reports statistics of play of black teams against one another, black teams against white major-league teams, and black teams against Cuban teams. Especially prior to 1910, these sorts of games made up a tiny percentage of the games black teams played; mostly they played white semi-pro teams, and mostly they won. Holway shows their slenderer records against the best competition they faced.

Johnson's BA against black teams, 1904-1913 (no box-score records of play against black teams exist for the first 9 years of his career). Compiled by Holway. Johnson is the only player whose career began in the 19th-century listed in the table, so direct comparisons to his contemporaries are not helped much, but it gives one a sense of the greater scope of his career in comparison to his contemporaries.

106-335, .316

Johnson's lifetime batting record against major-league competition, compiled by me from Holway's game accounts.

17-49, .347

This is based on records of 1 game in 1895 against the Reds, partial account of 10-19 games in Cuba against the Tigers and the Athletics, 1 game against the Giants/Highlanders in 1912, and, in 1913, 1 game against the Phillies and 1/2 game against a minor-league team barnstorming with Walter Johnson, who pitched.

1895 1-8 vs. Reds. Parrott, Phillips pitch
   187. KJOK Posted: February 27, 2004 at 09:03 PM (#522268)
I've been playing around with converting the available Negro League players statistics to a neutral Major League season basis for awhile now, and though I was reluctant to do this for pre-1920 players due to all of the assumptions, guesses and lack of consistent sample size involved, I think some may find it worthwhile to look at, so I'm going to start posting them to the HOM Yahoo egroup in the files section, starting with Grant Johnson.

As an aside, after doing Grant Johnson's conversion I'm becoming less skeptical of his ability - he's basically similar to Pete Hill offensively, while playing as an infielder, which is pretty impressive....
   188. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 09:08 PM (#522269)
RobC, well, I haven't "used" WL records in constructing my ballots either but that's not the same as saying they're meaningless. I use WS, WARP, a little ERA+. There are thousands of numbers to choose from and one can't put all of them on a spreadsheet. But the 900 or so that I don't put on my spreadsheet are not meaningless.

Having said that, Welch has never made my ballot though he was 16-20 once. One cannot look at the total record and conclude other than that given the same run and fielding support, Keefe would have had a much better WL. Welch appears to have been very lucky (tough and durable, but lucky).
   189. Howie Menckel Posted: February 27, 2004 at 09:22 PM (#522270)
"Welch appears to have been very lucky (tough and durable, but lucky)."

Marc, here's the problem with that.
   190. Brad G. Posted: February 27, 2004 at 09:33 PM (#522273)
Regarding Career vs. Peak (Beckley vs. Jennings), I suppose you'd have to put me on the side of Career. Beckley, absent from my last ballot, will be back on this year (around #12), as my favorite current 1B candidate.

I have Jennings rated behind Wallace and Long (and probably HR Johnson) at SS, which will be enough for him to miss my ballot yet again. As of now, Wallace will be the only SS on my ballot.
   191. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 09:46 PM (#522274)
>Welch goes on to win 300+ games. Walsh doesn't even win 200. But hey, Walsh has a sweeter ERA+, so he must be better, right? Well, winning is the point of the game. I realize the eras are different,

Well, except that the debate started with Keefe and Welch. Keefe did whatever Welch did to survive and his performance numbers (everything except WL pct.) are all vastly better (see post #189 above). My point was to respond to yest (#185) and to say that given the same run and fielding support, Keefe's WL would also have been much better. Welch, compared to Keefe, was lucky. I shouldn't have said he was tough and durable, because relative to Keefe there's no difference. Relative just to Keefe, he was lucky.
   192. Howie Menckel Posted: February 27, 2004 at 10:14 PM (#522275)
Points well taken, Marc.
   193. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2004 at 10:21 PM (#522276)
I've been playing around with converting the available Negro League players statistics to a neutral Major League season basis for awhile now, and though I was reluctant to do this for pre-1920 players due to all of the assumptions, guesses and lack of consistent sample size involved, I think some may find it worthwhile to look at, so I'm going to start posting them to the HOM Yahoo egroup in the files section, starting with Grant Johnson.

I'll be looking forward to it, KJOK!
   194. Chris Cobb Posted: February 27, 2004 at 11:22 PM (#522278)
I've been playing around with converting the available Negro League players statistics to a neutral Major League season basis for awhile now, and though I was reluctant to do this for pre-1920 players due to all of the assumptions, guesses and lack of consistent sample size involved, I think some may find it worthwhile to look at, so I'm going to start posting them to the HOM Yahoo egroup in the files section, starting with Grant Johnson.

It will be wonderful to have these, KJOK!

I have a few questions, though.

1) What statistics are you using as your starting point?

2) What r/g do you set as Major-league neutral?

3) What are the basic assumptions that you make for the conversion of the stats of negro-league players?

Knowing the answers to these questions would be a great help in deciding what kind of use to make of the MLE stats you've worked up.
   195. KJOK Posted: February 27, 2004 at 11:32 PM (#522279)
Chris, there are SO MANY assumptions that I'm going to also post a document there trying to explain all of the sources, assumptions, etc. Probably won't get that up until the weekend....
   196. Marc Posted: February 27, 2004 at 11:42 PM (#522280)
>If any pitcher did allow his 'personal stats' like ERA to take a hit so that he could help his team win more
   197. Jeff M Posted: February 28, 2004 at 12:38 AM (#522281)
I also expect a truckload of Italian ballplayers for the HoM to represent my Italian ancestry, too!

Don't forget we(e) Scots!
   198. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 28, 2004 at 12:41 AM (#522282)
Don't forget we(e) Scots!

Fine with me. I have a little Scottish on my Irish side. :-)
   199. Howie Menckel Posted: February 28, 2004 at 02:00 AM (#522283)
Marc,
   200. Howie Menckel Posted: February 28, 2004 at 02:47 AM (#522285)
Career votes-points leaders
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