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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, March 22, 2004

1923 Ballot Discussion

Quite a new class coming on the ballot and only one electee this year. Wonder who it’ll be . . .

 WS   W3  Rookie Name-Pos (Died) 
655 180.1  1897  Honus Wagner-SS (1955)
446 115.2  1899  Sam Crawford-RF (1968)
361 100.1  1901  Ed Plank-P (1926)
268  70.8  1903  Johnny Evers-2b (1947)
231  58.6  1903  Chief Bender-P (1954)
157  28.7  1906  Hans Lobert-3b (1968)
124  35.0  1909  Jim Scott-P (1957)
129  32.9  1909  Chief Meyers-C (1971)
139  25.1  1907  Mike Mowrey-3b (1947)
137  23.4  1907  Bobby Byrne-3b (1964)
128  26.8  1903  Cy Falkenberg-P (1961)
113  26.0  1905  George Gibson-C (1967)
Negro Lg   1901  Rube Foster-P (1930)

Thanks to DanG for compiling this list:

HoMers and candidates who died in the past year:

HoMers:
Age Elected
 69 1903 Cap Anson

Candidates:
Age Eligible
 81 1882 Wes Fisler
 70 1896 Orator Shaffer
 67 1896 Joe Gerhardt
 62 1902 Sam Thompson
 59 1902 Tommy McCarthy
 53 1907 Nig Cuppy
 52 1905 Billy Rhines
 43 1918 Jake Stahl

Future Candidate:
Age Eligible
 27 1928 Austin McHenry
Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 22, 2004 at 04:11 PM | 221 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Marc Posted: March 22, 2004 at 04:43 PM (#523110)
Without going back and looking up past elections, is Wahoo Sam the best player yet who won't go in on his first opportunity? Maybe I am overrating Sam, and maybe it is in part a reaction to the fact that the BBWAA never saw fit to put him into Cooperstown via the front door. Then again, maybe it is because he is one of the stars of The Glory of Their Times, but I love Sam Crawford. I agree he is headed for the #2 slot.

Evers goes below Tinker who was not on my ballot. I hope all fans of either will give Larry Doyle a look when he arrives.

Plank and Rube Foster are going to be difficult. Is Plank really the best available pitcher? Or even #2 after Brown? A peak vs. career dilemma of the first order. And with Rube my fear is that we will honor him for the wrong reason. He was Harry Wright and Cap Anson and Ned Hanlon and John Ward all rolled into one. But how good of a pitcher was he? I don't like (I hate) pool arguments, but his 56-1 record has to be taken with a grain of salt (unlike HR Johnson's .320 vs. major league competition). How did Rube do against major leaguers, or do we know? Everyone should be very sure to heed Andrew's warning--Rube Foster and Big Bill Foster are two different people!

I've always thought that Chief Bender was one of the weakest HoF pitchers (one of, he can't be the weakest until after they through Marquard and Haines out), but, hey, he is still the only American Indian in the HoF and he was the only native-born Minnesotan until Dave Winfield, so he'll be near the top of my ballot.

Seriously if Tinker-Evers-and-Chance are a challenge, how about the A's rotation?
   2. Marc Posted: March 22, 2004 at 04:54 PM (#523111)
PS. Just kidding about Chief Bender being near the top, I meant to insert a smiley face.
   3. Marc Posted: March 22, 2004 at 04:59 PM (#523112)
I always forget when our election is taking place. Is it January 1922 now??? My point is that Sam Thompson's death occurs on November 7. So maybe there is still a chance to honor Big Sam before it's too late!!! So I've found an even more compelling rationale for this year's ballot than my fondness for the Chief and Wahoo Sam! Prelim:

1. Sam Thompson
   4. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 22, 2004 at 05:23 PM (#523113)
RSIs & Adjusted W/L for Plank & Bender:

Eddie Plank:

1901..97...18-12
   5. karlmagnus Posted: March 22, 2004 at 05:42 PM (#523114)
I have Bender off the bottom of the ballot, but FOCB (NOT BC) should ponder: did he throw Game 1 of the 1914 WS? As I set out in '20 or '21, there seems to be a Black Sox question over that series, the first of several.
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 22, 2004 at 05:43 PM (#523115)
Prelim:

Wagner
   7. ronw Posted: March 22, 2004 at 05:46 PM (#523116)
Marc:

I think Caruthers once passed through Minnesota, and said positive comments about the lakes. Is that enough to vault him over Wagner this year?

Re: Sam Crawford - I think Wahoo Sam is probably the best eligible outfielder in major league history this January of 1922. His peak was never "Wagnerian" or "Cobbian," but he did have a highly sustained prime (15 years 21+ unadj WS, 9 years 25+ unadj WS, 6 years 30+ unadj WS, never over 36 unadj WS).

I have to say eligible because although they are still playing, it appears clear that Mr. Cobb and Mr. Speaker have surpassed Mr. Crawford as the best OF in baseball history at this time.
   8. Daryn Posted: March 22, 2004 at 05:57 PM (#523117)
Prelim

1. Honus Wagner -- easy choice. One of the top 3 hitters in the league 11 times, plus the defense. 14 great years.

2. Sam Crawford ? would be first most years. 31 more hits than Beckley, his most similar player.

3. Ed Plank ? would be first many years. No real black ink, but easily best pitcher on the ballot unless you love McGinnity?s peak. Top ten most similars are a pretty impressive list.

4. Mordecai Brown ? slightly better than mcginnity, top 5 pitcher in the league 7 consecutive times, 8 total. On win/loss only, mcginnity had brown?s career and then went 7-12. I think they are about that close.

5. Joe Mcginnity ? led league in wins 5 times, averaged 25 wins a year, led league in IP 4 straight years. Very close in value to first ballot inductee Walsh. Could flip him with Brown.

6. Grant Johnson - best blackball player to date. I?d really like to see he and Grant and Rube all make it.

7. Frank Grant ? no stats, gut pick based on descriptions of a great excluded player. I?m more sold on him than before based on the commentaries in the past few weeks.

8. Andrew Foster ? All three of these blackball stars should be in by 1932. Could easily be 6th on this ballot, or even 4th. I think his legend is a bit enhanced by his managerial and executive prowess. Still, Wagner said he might have been the best. Best Rube-related stat ? his Chicago Leland Giants went 123-6 in 1910.

9. Mickey Welch ? 300 wins, lots of grey ink. Welch is the last person on my ballot that I really care about being in the Hall of Merit; and sadly he looks like the person on my ballot who has one of the worst chances of making it in.

10. Jake Beckley -- ~3000 hits but no black ink at all. My type of hall of meriter. The Beckley supporters have done some pretty good analysis of how strong his career was, even absent a real peak. Baseballreality.com has him as the best first baseman in baseball for a long time. Surprised how ?close? he is to Crawford.

11. Sam Thompson ? 8 dominating years, great ops+, lots of black ink in multiple categories. I have lowered him as it becomes apparent that others of his value are entering the ballot more frequently. I am lowering him again because I am more convinced his defense faired poorly compared to others on and near this ballot.

12. Bob Caruthers ? nice Winning percentage, great peak, short career, surprisingly low era+, 130 ops+ as a hitter . Karlmagnus? tactics notwithstanding, he has convinced me that this guy should be in (which was my original thought in any event). A record 6th pitcher on my ballot.

13. Roger Bresnahan ? Great OBP, arguably the best catcher in baseball for a six year period. Counting stats, like all catchers of this time and earlier, are really poor. It?s here or just off the ballot. Tight ballot.

14. Bobby Wallace ? like Sheckard, too many Win Shares to ignore, but unless he was a great defender (and people seem to think he was, .34ws/1000 from an A) he doesn?t belong close to this high. Is he Ozzie or Tony Fernandez? I do compare ss?s as hitters to other hitters and as fielders to other ss?s. I don?t think this is wrong.

15. Jimmy Sheckard ? I can?t ignore 339 win shares and he did walk a lot ? throw in above average defense, a home run title and strong seasons 8 years apart and I guess I wouldn?t be embarrassed if he got in.

I have Bender at 20 and Evers at 23. I'd like to hear from blackball experts on Foster. I have him mid-to-upper ballot which I think is right, but I always have a little trouble with these underdocumented careers.
   9. Rusty Priske Posted: March 22, 2004 at 06:31 PM (#523119)
A number of solid candidates along with a relatively weak backlog makes for quite a new ballot this week. I have also come around on 3-Finger Brown, and he has jumped up my ballot.

Still prelim, of course.

1. Honus Wagner (new)
   10. Marc Posted: March 22, 2004 at 06:59 PM (#523120)
Actually I have 3F Brown on my ballot. But if anything, thinking about that Cubs teams tempts me to move him down, not up. IOW, I'm not super=high on Tinker or Evers or Chance, but what team has three IFers who even deserve consideration? And then somebody posted the records of a bunch of other pitchers who for 1-2-3-4 years with the Cubs were just as good (in the ballpark anyway) as Brown. I am not that perplexed that a team could be that good w/o a HoMer (though Brown will make my PHoM someday, I think). The odds are that once in 135 years it would work out that way.

What is surprising to me is that Plank and Bender have these astronomical RSIs and Waddell's is way negatory. I would have assumed they'd be comparable.
   11. OCF Posted: March 22, 2004 at 07:22 PM (#523121)
Most of us were baseball fans, and at least somewhat informed about the history of the game, before we learned any sabermetrics. We must have at least heard of Wagner. As we changed with learning sabermetrics, how did our opinion of Wagner change? From that point, with the intensive study we have all recently given to early baseball, how has our opinion of Wagner changed again?

For my own sake, I'll say that every time I have looked at the Dutchman, his stock has risen another notch.

Five arguments against Wagner that can be easily dismissed:

1. Contemporary observers did not routinely gush about his defense. (They don't have to have been right. It's always been hard for big, strong shortstops to get their due respect.)
   12. Brian H Posted: March 22, 2004 at 07:28 PM (#523122)
To me Foster is the best Negro League/Blackball player we have seen to date. He was the best Pitcher in the Negro Leagues for some years and we have some evidence that he compares quite favorably with his white contemporaries. At the moment I have him somewhere around for or five on this ballot (near McGinitty and perhaps Brown and the controversial Caruthers).

Also, what is "RSI" again.... Run support index ? And how does it work ? Sorry to have to ask but the alphabet soup of acronyms is beginning to daze me.
   13. OCF Posted: March 22, 2004 at 07:41 PM (#523123)
And then somebody posted the records of a bunch of other pitchers who for 1-2-3-4 years with the Cubs were just as good (in the ballpark anyway) as Brown.

That was me (#22 on the 1921 Ballot Discussion thread, shortly after Chris J.'s long post on the Cubs.) But I wound up voting Brown very high anyway - #4 on my ballot, second only to Matty among pitchers. Chris J. also had Brown at #4, in his case, right behind McGinnity. This year, he'll be well behind Plank, and I have yet to do the serious comparison to McGinnity that I want to do, but I am convinced that Brown was a great pitcher.
   14. Marc Posted: March 22, 2004 at 08:07 PM (#523125)
OCF, I have Brown on my ballot too. But I have this feeling that there is a paradox at work here. ie. Brown is the most HoM-worthy of the old Cubs, yet he might not have been the most important player to that dynasty. By analogy, when the lowly Twins somehow won the World Series in '87 and '91, there is no question that Kirby Puckett was the "best player," but some of us always throught that the most indispensible member of that team was Greg Gagne.
   15. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 22, 2004 at 08:57 PM (#523126)
I am not that perplexed that a team could be that good w/o a HoMer (though Brown will make my PHoM someday, I think). The odds are that once in 135 years it would work out that way.

It wouldn't be once, though. This wasn't a team like the 2002 Angels that surprised everyone won it all & returned back to the pack. This team won more games over a 1, 2, 3, . . . 9, 10 year period than any other. If it was just a 1 or 2 year wonder I'd accept them as a HoM-less team, but they were a lot more than that.

Re: RSI - stands for Run Support Index, a way of determining a pitcher's level of run support. To figure it out: go to retosheet, find out how many runs a team scored in each of a pitcher's start that year, add 'em up, divide by the pitcher's games started, then divide by the batter park factor for that team listed at baseball-reference.com, then divide by the league R/G average, multiply by 100, & round off to the nearest integer. It's set up like ERA+ or OPS+ in that 100 is average, lower worse, higher good. There's a method to using that info to adjust W/L records - I wrote about it earlier, I've got the url to that post written down elsewhere - when I dig it up I'll post that for you.
   16. Jim Sp Posted: March 22, 2004 at 09:04 PM (#523127)
Evers is well off my ballot but might make it someday, Bender will never make my ballot. I have Bender slightly above Haines and well above Marquard, still a terrible selection by the HoF though.

1) Wagner--Best candidate so far.
   17. MattB Posted: March 22, 2004 at 10:19 PM (#523129)
I hate my ballot. It is completely unbalanced. I have Wagner and Crawford on top, of course.

Of the next 13, I have 6 pitchers and 5 Negro League players (Rube Foster is both), and Lip Pike. Jake Beckley and Roger Bresnahan are the only "regular" players left. And I'm not really sure either of them are better than Sam Thompson, who I've got in the low teens. (I'm not sure Thompson is better either, though.)

Chief Meyers should be on more people's ballots, though. Even though he's not on mine.

1. Honus Wagner (n/e)
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 22, 2004 at 10:26 PM (#523130)
Chief Meyers should be on more people's ballots, though. Even though he's not on mine.

LOL

I was actually looking hard at him, but he just didn't have a long enough career. I'm not getting a sense that he was an above-average player in the minors, so I don't see him ever making my ballot. A shame because, for a short time, he was a terrific player.
   19. Brian H Posted: March 22, 2004 at 10:41 PM (#523131)
Thanks Chris (for RSI info.)
   20. EricC Posted: March 22, 2004 at 11:57 PM (#523132)
1923 prelim. The deepest ballot for a long time to come.

1. Honus Wagner (N) Should be unanimous.
   21. Paul Wendt Posted: March 23, 2004 at 12:22 AM (#523133)
I was wondering why Bender suffered so much more repetitive stress injury than Plank, despite pitching so much less in nearly identical conditions. Then ChrisJ #18 explained it.

MattB #21
   22. Paul Wendt Posted: March 23, 2004 at 12:24 AM (#523134)
I was wondering why Bender suffered so much more repetitive stress injury than Plank, despite pitching so much less in nearly identical conditions. Then ChrisJ #18 explained it.

MattB #21
   23. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 01:16 AM (#523135)
Just as the HoM electorate has done better than anybody else on evaluating 19th century players, we should be able to evaluate the early black stars better than anybody else.

Aside from patting ourselves on the back, we should note that most voters here tend to do their best when presented with a full statistical record, & that just ain't available for early blackball stars.

To find out how Adjusted W/L records are figured, click here.

Now for my defensive adjustments for Plank & Bender, using Def. Win Shares. To figure out how this was figured, click here.

Bender:
   24. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 01:26 AM (#523136)
What is surprising to me is that Plank and Bender have these astronomical RSIs and Waddell's is way negatory. I would have assumed they'd be comparable.

Knew I forgot to address something in my last point. Year-by-year RSIs for all three in their time with the A's:
   25. OCF Posted: March 23, 2004 at 01:29 AM (#523137)
Among pitchers, I've got Plank at the top. I have Bender just below Jack Chesbro. Ouch.

Agreed about Plank. I have Bender in the Leever/Phillippe/Doc White neighborhood, which is a notch better than the Chesbro/Rucker/Tannehill neighborhood. It still won't get him my vote.
   26. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 02:28 AM (#523138)
>All were there from 1903-7. In those years, Plank posted an RSI of 100.85 in 189 starts. Waddell scored a mark of 108.70 in 127 starts. Waddell got stuck with an RSI of 92.66 in 185 starts.

Chris, I think you mean Bender 108?

Another theory. If Waddell was such an idiot, maybe his teammates just didn't put out for him?

>The difference between a guy hitting .230 & a guy hitting .160 really shouldn't be 15% of an offensive total. . . . I think. . . .

I think I agree. More like 5% or less...I think...assuming all complete games. (Plank completed 159 of 189 starts [84%], Bender 109-133 [82%], Waddell 142-185 [77%]. Actually, looking at these records, it seems that Bender and Waddell in particular were used in relief a lot and all three perhaps completed fewer games than "quality" pitchers of that era would on average.)

And while I've got the book out, some more trad. numbers.

Bender ~3000 IP .239 OBA .292 OOB 111 ERA+ ~2.5 K/BB 21-13 per 300 IP
   27. jimd Posted: March 23, 2004 at 02:59 AM (#523139)
Anyway, Connie Mack obviously had a lot of pull, and he didn't waste it on HR Baker or Al Simmons who both waited a criminally long time to get in while Chief and Rube waltzed in.

Just picking nits here really. Plank and Waddell went into the HOF in 1946 with a whole bunch of other pitchers from that era (Chesbro, Griffith, McGinnity, Walsh), selected by the Old-Timer's Committee. That would have been when Connie Mack had maximum pull. The BBWAA elected Simmons in 1953 (not yet eligible for the Veteran's; nothing to do with Connie), only two years after Foxx. Bender joined Al that year (I think the HOF had a new Veteran's Committee by then; I don't know if Connie was still part of it.) Baker was selected by the Veteran's in 1955 (I'm not sure when he was first eligible for them; my few HOF references are murky about the changing eligibility requirements around this time.)
   28. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 03:47 AM (#523140)
I guess my point was the treatment that Mack's pitchers got as opposed to Baker suggests to me at least that Connie was talking up the former and not the latter.

Oddly enough Plank never got more than 27% of the BBWAA vote while Waddell got up to 65%, then as jimd said, both went in in 1946. Waddell had slipped to 34% of the vote that year (the second ballot not the nominating ballot) and Plank to 17%. Baker had gotten 14% and Bender 13%.

By 1947 it was a lot easier to get a BBWAA HoF vote, and Bender and Baker both peaked that year at 45 and 30%, respectively. Both slipped after that as guys like Ott, Grove, Foxx et al became eligible.

By 1951 Baker had slipped to 3.5% while Bender remained on the ballot til '53 when he still got 39%. Consistent with the BBWAA voting, then, Bender was elected by the VC in '53 and Baker in '55.

The fact that both the BBWAA and the VC preferred Plank, Waddell and (especially) Bender over Baker seems to suggest that Connie preferred them too. Whereas we all know that the case for Bender over Baker is (dare I say) indefensible (though that word might not mean what I think it means).

You're right, jimd, about Simmons. His productive career was over after '39, Foxx's after '45, but Al hung around too long because of WWII. So it only seemed like he waited too long. I suspect that he will be eligible here a little earlier? Whether we elect him a little earlier I don't know, but I'm a big fan. He was no Jimmie Foxx, but he absolutely was no Ducky or Goose either.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: March 23, 2004 at 03:49 AM (#523141)
Most years with another HOMer:

ELEVEN
   30. favre Posted: March 23, 2004 at 03:50 AM (#523142)
Here is info on Rube Foster from John Holway:

1902 Foster plays for Chicago Union Giants. Does not play in two-game set against Philadelphia Athletics
   31. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 04:57 AM (#523144)
I guess my point was the treatment that Mack's pitchers got as opposed to Baker suggests to me at least that Connie was talking up the former and not the latter.

IIRC, Mack said that if he had just one pitcher to pitch in a big game, he'd make it Bender. That'll help his HoF chances. Plank got in because he was the best of all the A's-Pirates bunch. Waddell was probably more helped by his image than anything else. Sure it's a screwball, nutjob image, but more importanly it was a memorable one. People would remember him & then talk of the K's & how dominate he was, etc.

Another theory. If Waddell was such an idiot, maybe his teammates just didn't put out for him?

Don't buy it. You can see a similar split between Marichal & Gaylord Perry when they were with the Giants. Sometimes, sh1t just happens for no real reason. Maybe I'm wrong, but if there was something to it, there'd probably be some stories of how his teammates were really put-off by him or didn't like him.
   32. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 06:11 AM (#523145)
> Don't buy it. You can see a similar split between Marichal & Gaylord Perry when they were with the Giants. Sometimes, sh1t just happens for no real reason

You mean like random chance? You know, I made that comment re. Keefe and Welch and was told there's no such thing. Everything happens for a reason. And the reason is usually something like "character" and "heart." Those silly numbers just don't measure a guy's heart.

Waddell had heart, I think, and courage. Now, if he only had a brain.
   33. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 01:14 PM (#523146)
Prelim. *In my PHoM.

1. *Wagner
   34. RobC Posted: March 23, 2004 at 03:14 PM (#523148)
2 major changes and some minor ones. Brown moves from 17th to 8th, Jennings falls from 6th to 14th. Other than that, just some minor tweaking. Not sure on Rube Foster yet, but it wont be top 15.

1. Wagner
   35. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 03:59 PM (#523149)
Really provisional ballot. Given the upcoming dry spell & as a result the importance of the back end of the ballot for figuring future elections, this is an extra-extra long list:

1. Honus Wagner. Well, this part ain't so provisional.
   36. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 04:08 PM (#523150)
& ended up with a[bout] 90% as many wins.

That's adjusted for offense & defense (as best as I can anyways).
   37. MattB Posted: March 23, 2004 at 04:27 PM (#523151)
Paul Wendt wrote:

"Try Charley Jones and Ed Williamson in place of Beckley and Bresnahan."

Sounds like Weight Watchers low-fat substitutions!

One factor I weight highly in my rankings in positional dominance. Was the player the best (or second best) at his position in his league for a prolonged period of time?

Beckley was a top 1 or 2 first baseman in his league in 1890 (PL), 1893, 1895, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902, and 1904 (NL). That's 8 Top 2 finishes at first base, and excludes several years (1891, 1892, and 1894) in which Anson, Connor, and Brouthers, 3 of the top players in baseball (not just his position) knocked Brouthers out of the top 2.

Compare him to Charley Jones, who was a top left fielder in 1877, 1878, 1879, and 1880. Throw in 1884, 1885, and 1886 in the AA and we're up to seven top finishes, although I discount the first two (I don't discount AA 1886-1889 at all). That's essentially his whole career, with no seasons pushed out by all-time greats. Jones therefore does not displace Beckley.

Next, Bresnahan v. Williamson is interesting.

Bresnahan was a top CF in 1903 and 1904, and a top C in 1905, 1906, 1907, and 1908.

Williamson was a top 3B in 1878, 1879, 1882, 1884, 1885, and adds in a top SS in 1888. That's 6 to 6, and Williamson gets a little extra credit for 1880 and 1881 where he was pushed out of the top ranks of third basemen by 2 HoMers (Connor and Richardson in 1880, Sutton and O'Rourke in 1881), although only a little extra since his own seasons those years weren't among his best. In the end, I find Bresnahan's dominance in catcher over his 4 year reign there (with no OPS+ below 129), the overall scarcity of quality catchers, as well as Bresnahan's value over the non-peak portion of his career makes him a better selection, although this choice is much closer than Beckley v. Jones.
   38. Max Parkinson Posted: March 23, 2004 at 07:46 PM (#523152)
Thanks to EricC for posting my ballot last week! Much appreciated...
   39. Daryn Posted: March 23, 2004 at 08:29 PM (#523154)
Question

I am second on the list of voters closest to consensus. I also think that I use traditional stats more than the typical voter -- particularly if Win Shares, OPS+ and ERA+ can be called traditional stats. Does this mean that after all is said and done, there is not much of a difference in the conclusions of traditional yet educated voters on the one hand and advanced sabermetric yet educated voters on the other?
   40. RobC Posted: March 23, 2004 at 08:48 PM (#523155)
Win shares are sabrmetric not tradional. OPS+ and ERA+ are somewhere in between. If those are your "primary" stats used, you arent a traditional stats voter. I wouldnt call OPS tradional either, although ERA is.
   41. Jeff M Posted: March 23, 2004 at 09:10 PM (#523156)
I think OPS is traditional. It simply adds two traditional stats together. I don't think that really makes anything new. It's just something that Peter Gammons can talk about on Baseball Tonight so that people think he is a sabermetrician.

OPS+, like ERA+, is less traditional, because at least it measured OPS against league average. I'm not sure it's really sabermetrics though.
   42. Chris Cobb Posted: March 23, 2004 at 09:13 PM (#523157)
I am second on the list of voters closest to consensus. I also think that I use traditional stats more than the typical voter -- particularly if Win Shares, OPS+ and ERA+ can be called traditional stats. Does this mean that after all is said and done, there is not much of a difference in the conclusions of traditional yet educated voters on the one hand and advanced sabermetric yet educated voters on the other?

As part of a fuller study of Home Run Johnson (full results to be posted sometime this week when I have a bit of time), I've been comparing the way players rank over a four-year period if one uses only batting average, age, and playing position as data, and the way players rank over the same period using WS. In this era, it looks like the two ranking systems agree on at least 75% of the players who rank in the top 1/3 of players, and most of the disagreements are ones that data concerning playing time, on-base percentage, and a rough estimate of fielding value will smooth out. So, if BA, OPS+, and games played will get you 80-90% agreement with WS on the best position players, then there's not a tremendous amount of difference between conclusions of traditional, yet educated voters and advanced sabermetric ones.

This project has so far differed significantly from the HoF in its early selections mostly because its voters have taken the trouble to really educate themselves about the early game, enabling us to pick out the best players when compared to their peers. WARP and WS have helped a great deal on the subject of fielding value, but that has only shaped the cases of a minority -- an important minority, but a minority -- of position players.

I think that in evaluation of pitchers there may be more variance between advanced sabermetric analysis and traditional analysis, but I haven't done a study to test that hypothesis. It certainly looks to me like voters are placing more trust in traditional stats -- especially ERA+-- than in WS or WARP. That may be because the problems WS has with pitchers have been so thoroughly discussed and because WARP lost a lot of credibility when it radically revised its conclusions about pitching value. I wouldn't say that I'm an advanced sabermetric analyst, but my attempts to establish an independent assessment of the value of pitchers has certainly put me at variance with the consensus on the ranking of pitchers.
   43. Daryn Posted: March 23, 2004 at 09:38 PM (#523159)
Just to be clear, I primarily use Win Shares, ERA+ and OPS+ along with very traditional stats like hits, wins, era, h+bb/ip, runs, rbis, homeruns, obp, slugging, batting average, mvp voting shares (for future eligibles), all star appearances (also for the future). For defense I primarily use Win Shares, Range Factor, Gold Gloves (future) and subjective opinion by peers.

I think the problem with the Hall of Fame was primarily personally biased, unthinking or uneducated voters, not the failure to understand or pay attention to sabermetric ideas like park factors, run support and other contextual measures.
   44. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 23, 2004 at 09:53 PM (#523160)
Reading through the discussion threads I didn't see much on his defense.

Johnson was considered, at least, very good defensively.
   45. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 23, 2004 at 09:59 PM (#523161)
So, if BA, OPS+, and games played will get you 80-90% agreement with WS on the best position players, then there's not a tremendous amount of difference between conclusions of traditional, yet educated voters and advanced sabermetric ones.

Which makes sense. Any Great New Stat that comes along & completely demolishes prevoius assumptions would indicate that either: A) There's something wildly wrong with older methods, or B) There's something wildly wrong with the new stat. Though counting stats ain't perfect, they ain't wildly wrong either. Which isn't to say any new stat is worthless if it does veer from convention wisdom - heck if all it does is agree with traditional opinions then it's value is limited. But when a new stat does veer from traditional opinions it should offer a pretty dang good rationale for it.

This project has so far differed significantly from the HoF in its early selections mostly because its voters have taken the trouble to really educate themselves about the early game,

Well, let's not pat outselves on the back too heavily here. We also have the rather considerable advantage of having numerous resources, most notably b-ref.com, at our fingertips. How much time did an early BBWAA voter spend determining who belonged on his ballot? How much time does the average HoM voter spend determing his ballot? I ain't sure we come out ahead. I'd say the main difference is that we started in the 1890s, so there wasn't a giant-sized backload of players that led to voting paralysis, which opened the door for an early vets committee to let anyone in.

We're doing a better job than that early vets committee did, but that ain't saying much.
   46. Paul Wendt Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:12 PM (#523163)
Howie Menckel #33:

<i>Lajoie-Flick - 1896-00; 1902-07; 1909-10
   47. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:28 PM (#523164)
<i>Lajoie-Flick - 1896-00; 1902-07; 1909-10
   48. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:30 PM (#523165)
Oops! I thought Paul was critiquing one of my plaques.

Nevermind! :-0
   49. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:35 PM (#523166)
Two comments. One direct to daryn's question: yest has claimed to base his ballots pretty much on traditional stats. And his ballots and commentary seems to support that. (If you disagree, yest, if I have you confused with somebody else, please say so and I will withdraw this comment.) But anyway, my point is that his ballots are generally among the furthest away from consensus, even more so than John or me!

Traditional stats would be R, RBI, BA, SB... and for pitchers, there's been this debate whether we should even use ERA (much less ERA+) for the period we're now talking about, or whether W-L is a better indicator of what those pitchers were trying to do. Now, throwing out ERA and going by W-L, now *that* would be traditional. By comparison, ERA+, OPS+ and WS is sabermetrics.

Second comment directed to yest. I noticed on your prelim. ballot you did not have a single black ballplayer on your ballot, and then you said you hadn't decided what to do with Rube Foster. No disrespect, but I would guess you probably have decided what to do with Rube Foster.

My point is not that you are racist. But. The reason we don't have more data on these guys is *RACISM.* If we can't expend a little effort and a little imagination to compensate for Cap Anson and Judge Landis and all those other racist b*****ds, then what are we? Well, not racist. Just lacking in work ethic and imagination.

This is not affirmative action. This is nothing more than a commitment to discovering the truth even though it may be a little bit of work. Don't do it for them. Do it for yourself and do it for the HoM!
   50. Marc Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:41 PM (#523167)
PS. My example of yest (trad. stats) vs. the consensus (sabermetric) does not prove the point, of course. It could be a fluke. This is in response to Chris' point--i.e. if trad. stats and saber stats come to totally different conclusions, yes, there's something definitely wrong. I agree.

Except. Trad. stats have always implied a heavy emphasis on career totals. WS or WARP don't necessarily imply otherwise, but I would guess that people who lean heaviest on WS and WARP are also pretty skeptical of the value of 3000 hits or 500 HR or 300 pitching wins, and probably are more inclined to look at peak.

So I think the trad. vs. sabermetrics dichotomy may really be a stalking horse for peak vs. career. But it's just a theory.

PS. I'm not sure, from my reading, that we haven't spent more time on our HoM picks than the Old Timers committee ever did on its HoF picks. But I agree that they didn't have the information we have. But what they did have (or should have had) doesn't appear to have been of much interest to them.
   51. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 23, 2004 at 10:44 PM (#523168)
Johnson was considered, at least, very good defensively

any details


Well, he played shortstop into his late thirties and was only removed from that position by the even greater Pop Lloyd. He was still considered good enough defensively to play second and to be considered part of one of the great keystone combinations of all-time.
   52. favre Posted: March 23, 2004 at 11:42 PM (#523169)
"CAG is 34-7 against teams in the west, easily the best Negro League team. Foster leads the team in victories with an 11-8 record;

Hell of a team. When their best pitcher wasn't on the mound they went 23-(-1). :)"

Good Lord, you're right...I posted Holway's info without catching that discrepancy at all. My bad.
   53. karlmagnus Posted: March 24, 2004 at 12:41 AM (#523170)
I don't think it at all fair to accuse yest of racism or near-racism for not having any black players on his ballot. If we were God the Omniscient, we might well KNOW that none of the players so far discussed were in fact of HOM quality. Before the Negro Leagues started in 1920, it is clear that blackball was poorly documented and not very good quality. Of course, in the later period from 1930-47 we know some of the black players were easily HOM-worthy, because they overlapped with others who went on to star in the major leagues. For the earlier period we don't know that, and it's quite possible that Grant and Johnson never played enough against good enough competition to become HOM-worthy and/or that the potentially best black players of 1890-1915 never got the chance to play blackball at all.

With Grant, I think you can extrapolate his brief AAA career, and give him a large benefit of the doubt, to make him Hardy Richardson or Bid McPhee. With Johnson, Foster and Monroe, there is simply NO benchmark of reliable quality and statistically reliable length. Fairly soon, we will start getting players who dominated the Negro Leagues in the 1920s and then, with a bit of handwaving, we will have a basis to elect some people. But with the partial exception of Grant, we really haven't had such a basis beyond feelgood affirmative action so far.

I have every intention of electing about 12 black players into my PHOM from the pre-1947 period, the number representing their share in the population, and of putting more than that number in ballot positions where, if others want them enough, I'm not hindering the process (Johnson, who probably won't make my PHOM, will be on the bottom of my ballot by about '28, Grant is quite high up it.) As many as possible of that 12, but probably no more than 4-5, will be from the pre-1930 period. But to say we should elect 25, twice their share in the population, when to an impartial God there were probably not as many great black players as there proportionately should have been, is affirmative action run riot.
   54. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:19 AM (#523171)
re:Negro Leaguers

As I have pointed out here before, I'm opposed to any type of quota for the Negro Leaguers. What type of honor is it if it's not really deserved?

My criteria for them is to see where they fit inside their times. It's not easy, but I think it's the fairest way around.

BTW, Rube Foster is a real pain in the butt for me. He's somewhere between McGinnity/Brown and Joss territory, but where? I don't know.
   55. Howie Menckel Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:32 AM (#523172)
Thanks for the "fix," Paul...
   56. Marc Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:33 AM (#523173)
>I don't think it at all fair to accuse yest of racism or near-racism for not having any black players on his
   57. Marc Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:41 AM (#523174)
>Before the Negro Leagues started in 1920, it is clear that blackball was poorly documented and not very good quality.

But of course the point of #58 was that the lack of documentation is a direct result of absolutely nothing other than racism.

>But to say we should elect 25, twice their share in the population,

I gotta ask you to point me to where I said that.

I've said several times that I don't really care if anybody votes for these guys or not. I just tend to have difficulty holding back when somebody says, "I don't know much about these guys, somebody (else) bring me some information (but no way am I gonna go looking for it myself), but if somebody brings me the information, then I'll consider it."

And that has been said many times in many ways. As for a quota of 25, well, maybe somebody said it once, but it wasn't me.

Now if one of you guys wants to bring me some information on this Wagner fella, I might consider it.
   58. Chris Cobb Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:49 AM (#523176)
Before the Negro Leagues started in 1920, it is clear that blackball was poorly documented and not very good quality.

Poorly documented, yes, but the claim that the quality of play in black baseball suddenly increased when the Negro National League got organized simply won't stand up to scrutiny.

Many of the significant stars of the 1920s began their careers as early as 1910 or before: Pop Lloyd -- 1906, Smokey Joe Williams -- 1910, Oscar Charleston -- 1915, Bullet Joe Rogan -- 1917, and lots of regular players had careers that spanned both sides of the 1920 divide handily. Of 56 players documented by Holway as starting players for the 5-6 top black teams in 1910 or 1911, 27 were playing as starters at least through 1921, and a dozen were still starters in 1924. If anything, the quality of play by the best teams may have dropped in 1920, because it was functionally an expansion year. To create competitive balance among a larger pool of teams than before had competed regularly against one another, Rube Foster broke up the top independent teams that were joining the league and distributed their players to the lesser teams; the stars of the Chicago American Giants became the key players and player-managers on other teams. The change from 1919 to 1920 in black baseball is _not at all_ like the change from 1870 to 1871 in white baseball when the NA formed up and teams became fully professional. Black teams had been fully professional for 25-30 years; they just hadn't formed a league.

One might also note that Holway's records show black teams being good enough to beat white major-league teams as early as 1905, and possibly as early as 1903 and 1904, though no boxscores survive to document those games. How bad can the quality of play have been if black teams were competitive against major-league competition?

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the degree of organization in black baseball is not reliable evidence for the quality of play in black baseball by the best players on the best teams! There's plenty of evidence to show that the black stars were competitive with the white stars long before 1920. Black baseball was not able to get organized until 1920 because of the severe economic difficulties involved and because there was considerable reluctance to accept segregation by institutionalizing black baseball separate from white baseball. It's not like the players suddenly became good enough in 1920 to make a league happen; it's that the money and the organizational will finally came together at that time. There'd been abortive attempts to organize a league as early as 1906, but they didn't come to anything.
   59. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 24, 2004 at 01:56 AM (#523177)
I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the degree of organization in black baseball is not reliable evidence for the quality of play in black baseball by the best players on the best teams!

The same could be said for pre-1876 players, but that's another matter.
   60. Marc Posted: March 24, 2004 at 02:29 AM (#523178)
Clint, that's two things I did not say. 1) That it is "either racism or..." I said "not racism." 2) The problem is not who is on your ballot. It is comments (and I'm not saying you, I don't even remember who), but it is comments like, well, I just don't know enough about these guys, so the hell with it. If you have neither made nor seen such a comment, fine, but I've seen it said over and over.

That is what I said. And if calling a spade a spade doesn't advance the ball, then so be it. (Like Joe said, if you want to be "persuasive," argue for Honus Wagner.)
   61. Paul Wendt Posted: March 24, 2004 at 06:31 AM (#523179)
John Murphy #57
   62. Carl Goetz Posted: March 24, 2004 at 04:47 PM (#523181)
Ok guys, I'm back. As expected, I welcomed Mathewson and Lajoie to my personal HoM in 1922 and you can pen in Wagner for 1923. Here's my early crack at 1923:
   63. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 24, 2004 at 05:41 PM (#523182)
jtm, I do that in the Plaque Room, never here.

Sometimes I forget where I am, Paul. :-)
   64. Yardape Posted: March 24, 2004 at 07:17 PM (#523183)
Rube Foster isn't going to make my ballot this year. As others have noted, he was clearly the best black pitcher in the first decade of the 20th Century, but I don't think that will be enough, this year.
   65. Jeff M Posted: March 24, 2004 at 07:33 PM (#523184)
...but I would guess that people who lean heaviest on WS and WARP are also pretty skeptical of the value of 3000 hits or 500 HR or 300 pitching wins, and probably are more inclined to look at peak.

I actually rely pretty heavily on WS and WARP (and I look at both peak and career), but I also use counting stats in a "HoF Monitor" and "HoF Standards" sort of way. With the "Grey Ink" test added, I'm incorporating a significant amount of traditional stuff in there. However, some of the counting stats I use are normalized to a particular run scoring environment and adjusted for parks so that everyone is on a level playing field. In other words, they aren't purely traditional...but those milestones you mentioned do matter to me (even if they shouldn't).
   66. Jeff M Posted: March 24, 2004 at 07:44 PM (#523185)
Fairly soon, we will start getting players who dominated the Negro Leagues in the 1920s and then, with a bit of handwaving, we will have a basis to elect some people. But with the partial exception of Grant, we really haven't had such a basis beyond feelgood affirmative action so far.

I don't think there is a single voter with Johnson, Monroe or White on their ballot who placed him there due to "feelgood affirmative action" and I think it is disrespectful to say so.

I place players on my ballot that I think belong there. I don't vote for players simply because I want them to be elected. I don't vote for players because I like them. I don't vote for players as a strategic move. I don't vote for players because they are black or native american or any other particular race. I don't vote for players to right historical social wrongs.

I read. I analyze data. I listen to arguments (however stupid). And I vote.
   67. Jeff M Posted: March 24, 2004 at 07:47 PM (#523186)
The same could be said for pre-1876 players, but that's another matter.

Well, maybe "similar" but not the "same." You still have the regional problem and the fact that the game was in its infancy and hadn't yet attracted players from the full pool of eligible candidates (I'm thinking more pre-1871 than the NA players) -- including no black players.

Anyway, I don't think the Negro Leagues suffered from those issues to the same degree.

But you are right, that's another matter.
   68. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 24, 2004 at 09:10 PM (#523187)
Jeff:

I was specifically referring to the disorganization of both eras. Obviously, there are difference between the Negro Leagues and the Amateur Era in terms of what they experienced.
   69. Marc Posted: March 24, 2004 at 09:38 PM (#523190)
The above posts are definitely not made by me. Must be a troll.
   70. karlmagnus Posted: March 24, 2004 at 10:10 PM (#523191)
That's the trouble. We don't know their quality as ballplayers; the available evidence is wholly insufficient, except for those immediately prior to 1947. All we can do is assemble what evidence we have, and try to elect a representative sample, erring on the favorable side when in doubt. However, it is not reasonable to suppose that there were 25 negro league ballplayers who were HOM-worthy, given that their facilities and competition were greatly inferior and there was no league structure before 1920. 12, proportinate to their share of the population (by all means plus or minus 2 or 3 for random fluctuation)is the highest number that can be rationally justified. 25 would be affirmative action, 12 is giving the benefit of the doubt.

So far, we have had wholly insufficient evidence to elect any black ballplayers to the HOM. There is a very little hard evidence indicating that Grant may possibly have been of sufficient quality, and some soft (because not benchmarked) evidence that Johnson was a very good ballplayer, possibly the best black ballplayer of his era. But we really don't know. All we can do is decide that some number of pre-1930 black ballplayers should be in the HOM, and make an unsupported guess about which of the available candidates were in fact the best ballplayers. There's a very high probability of our getting it wrong, but there we are.

Once we get players with primes in the 1920s, it will be easier, and for primes in 1937-47 it will be easier still. But we aren't there yet.
   71. Al Peterson Posted: March 24, 2004 at 10:32 PM (#523193)
1923 prelim ballot. With a couple of easier elections at the top I took the time to redo my calculations, add some components to my rankings, basically do a double check for the coming years. Below are the changes which helped some players at the cost of some others.
   72. Chris Cobb Posted: March 24, 2004 at 10:55 PM (#523195)
So, karlmagnus, it sounds like you're saying that since we don't have major-league numbers for black ballplayers, none of the evidence we do have is worth anything, so we can safely ignore it and make some "unsupported guesses" about the black players who should fill out our quota? Since you ignored the post I made yesterday offering some evidence that the quality of play in black baseball was similar before and after the formation of the Negro National League, that's sure the impression I'm getting.
   73. karlmagnus Posted: March 24, 2004 at 11:07 PM (#523196)
No, I think we should take the evidence we have to try and make sense of it all. But we only have individual seasons and bits of seaons. For example Foster batted .385 in 1904, .250 in 1905 and .300 in 1906, presumably all in fairly limited numbers of ABs. Even if we knew how good the competition was, which we don't, that tells us almost nothing about whether Foster was an adequate major league hitter (i.e. was he a Caruthers -- his pitching quality is clear, albeit also undefined in detail.)

The quality of play may not have dipped in the 1920s -- an organised league would presumably attract much more spectator support, and hence provide a living to more ballplayers, than a barnstorming program. Also, the black population of the big cities was increasing very rapidly in these decades, which would give a much greater catchment base for black ballplayers to arise from -- presumably most of these players were city dwellers not Mississippi sharecroppers, as the scouting must have been rudimentary and the facilities to learn the game for blacks in the rural south even more so.

Of course the lack of evidence, lack of facilities etc. was caused by racism in the society that none of us condones. But it's also a reality we have to deal with.
   74. Marc Posted: March 24, 2004 at 11:18 PM (#523197)
>it's also a reality we have to deal with.

karl, that's been my point all along. We have to deal with it. I keep reading posts that say the opposite--that people don't want to deal with it.
   75. karlmagnus Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:03 AM (#523198)
Marc, we are I hope in general agreement. My 12 may be a "quota" but it's a benignly derived quota, based I hope in a "fair" reality, that recognises the impossibility of benchmarking pre-1930 black players against the ML with any degree of accuracy at all. Given that, you do the best you can with what you have, and try to elect about the number you derived from population considerations, hopefully picking the best.
   76. Jeff M Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:15 AM (#523199)
However, it is not reasonable to suppose that there were 25 negro league ballplayers who were HOM-worthy, given that their facilities and competition were greatly inferior and there was no league structure before 1920.

How do you know the competition was inferior? And what do their facilities have to do with it? Should I withhold votes for any major leaguers who played in the Baker Bowl? Is it easier or harder to play defense with a better glove?

12, proportinate to their share of the population (by all means plus or minus 2 or 3 for random fluctuation)is the highest number that can be rationally justified.

I've lost track of whether you are arguing 12 before 1920 or 12 overall. Doesn't matter. In general, your position is that HoM should contain black athletes in numbers that approximate their numbers in the general population? Suppose baseball was founded in 1947. Would non-whites occupy a greater or lesser proportion of HoF slots than would exist in the general population during that time? What about the NFL? NBA?

Well, there's always hockey and golf. :)

Even if we knew how good the competition was, which we don't, that tells us almost nothing about whether Foster was an adequate major league hitter (i.e. was he a Caruthers -- his pitching quality is clear, albeit also undefined in detail.)

Ah, so the competition is unknown, not inferior?

BTW, unlike Caruthers, I don't think anyone is saying Foster is one of the 2 or 3 best players of all time -- even if his hitting was as "adequate" as Caruthers'. Then again, unlike Caruthers, Foster had a nice long career. :)
   77. Jeff M Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:17 AM (#523200)
Jeff: I was specifically referring to the disorganization of both eras. Obviously, there are difference between the Negro Leagues and the Amateur Era in terms of what they experienced.

You are right, of course. You were responding to a narrower question than I first realized. Anyway, I wasn't attacking...just clarifying.
   78. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:19 AM (#523201)
What I can't understand is some ballots with no Negro Leaguers on them. This makes little sense to me. It's one thing if you don't feel they belong at the top (while I have Grant Johnson high, Monroe and Grant are closer to the bottom), but it's another not to have them at all, IMO.
   79. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:22 AM (#523202)
You are right, of course. You were responding to a narrower question than I first realized. Anyway, I wasn't attacking...just clarifying.

I knew you weren't attacking, Jeff. Besides, I've been known to respond to a statement a little too quickly myself. :-)
   80. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2004 at 12:38 AM (#523204)
Is managerial success a factor?

Only for player-managers.
   81. OCF Posted: March 25, 2004 at 01:46 AM (#523206)
Is managerial success a factor?

Only for player-managers.


If you look at our voting patterns, it's clear that even player-managers are only getting credit for their playing contributions. In the last election, Frank Chance appeared on only 8 ballots and finished 25th. (McGraw appeared on 3 ballots and finished 33rd.) I'm one of the 8 who did vote for Chance, and I did so because I think he was that good as a player - not because I'm giving him any credit for his managing. It's a peak-value, short-career argument, of course, as would be any argument for McGraw. I take the consensus position on Chance (which is lower than mine) as evidence that the rest of the electorate is also giving Chance no credit as a manager.

There are many similarities between McGraw and Chance. One is that you can clearly see the manager-genius who stands behind each: Ned Hanlon in one case, Frank Selee in the other. But there are differences in that. Selee assembled a great team which he left to Chance. Selee deserves quite a bit of credit for the success of that team even after he was no longer with them. Still, Chance kept this team going for a long, long time, and sustaining success is a huge accomplishment in itself. However, when that dynasty faded, so did Chance as a manager. McGraw didn't just start with what Hanlon left him, if Hanlon ever did leave him much. McGraw proved several times that the could build a new great team.

Rube Foster belongs in this discussion as well. His case as a player seems also to be a peak-value case. He was a talented manager, organizer, money man - the description of his duties may overlap a little with those of a manager like McGraw, but it's not the same list. Bill James has suggested that the premature death of Foster was a major setback for the Negro Leagues.
   82. karlmagnus Posted: March 25, 2004 at 03:37 AM (#523207)
Joe, I agree that ballplayers tended to come from the lower strata of society, but not from the lowest strata in the back end of nowhere, which is where most of the blacks were stuck until at least WWI if not WWII. The "lower strata" argument actually only means there weren't many college grads, a tiny minority of the population at this date -- baseball by 1900 was already a highly attractive economic proposition for the working man.

Once the Hall of Fame started to induct Negro League ballplayers, it of course gave them the benefit of the doubt, partly I would guess in recompense for the racism of the past. The 17 in the HOF is thus presumably more than pro rata to the population, although maybe not as many more as it would be in the HOM -- I would guess there are more than 114 ballplayers in the HOF who played mainly before 1947, if only because of the glut of 1920s New York Giants.

Everyone will do what they feel best. Some will try to torture early blackball records into ML equivalents, some will operate on an informal quota of 20-25, I will operate on a quota of 12 plus or minus 3. With nearly 50 voters, and on the whole a willingness of all to listen to others, I'm confident a sensible consensus will be reached.

The only thing I do worry about a little, since we still haven't elected Grant, who is fairly clearly top 12 and without question top 25, is that we may elect very few black ballplayers in the early years, then panic about 1950 and elect nothing but Negro League stars for the next decade -- that might give you the preferred number of blackball players, but they would almost certainly be the wrong ones (and would presumably result in underrepresenting 1930-45 ML players.) Hopefully we'll elect Grant and probably Johnson (who I'm not yet convinced about) in the next few years and alleviate the problem.

I am right in thinking that, under the HOM constitution, managerial and organisational activities should not be considered, aren't I? Without them, I don't think Foster qualifies, with them, he should be a slam dunk.

One particular problem with the data we have on blackball before 1920 is that it's very intermittent, and I suspect selective, picking out the high spots of each player's career. If Foster hits .385 one year, that goes into the database. If he bats like a normal pitcher and hits .150 the next, we may never hear about it.

As I say, I'm trying both to keep an eye on how many Negro League and predecessor players I'm voting for high on the ballot, and to end up with the right ones elected. With the evidence we have, it's very hard, though hopefully after 1920 it's easier -- you presumably have data for every year, so know you've got the guy's full career for those years, it's just a question of league quality and hitter-friendliness.
   83. Jeff M Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:07 AM (#523208)
Did you guys see this Negro Leagues story in The Onion? Pretty funny.

http://www.theonion.com/news/index.php?i=1&n=1
   84. Howie Menckel Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:33 AM (#523209)
all-time HOM point-vote-getters.

still 'active' in CAPS, number of elections in parentheses
   85. Howie Menckel Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:34 AM (#523210)
Any friends of Johnny Evers?
   86. Marc Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:37 AM (#523211)
karl, I don't have a problem with your recent comments though I don't agree. My problem is with people who say that since we don't know much about the Negro Leaguers, we therefore don't know how good they are, and therefore I'm not gonna vote for them. You've devised a method to "deal" with our limited knowledge and while I don't agree with your method, you are not ignoring the problem.

But the "pool" argument seems to have so many practical arguments against it. If we elected Irish ballplayers proportionate to their population, I don't think we'd have the guys that we have in the HoM. What about the NFL or NBA HoF? What if they were limited to 10 percent blacks? No way that would be fair.

Granted that we don't know exactly which black players, especially pre-1920, should be in the HoM. But I'm not sure that their percent of the "pool" is a particularly logical solution. I'd rather take my chances with individual cases despite the relative lack of data.
   87. Chris Cobb Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:43 AM (#523212)
karl, thanks for addressing my questions! I'll continue to advance the inferential argument that the talent pool and the quality of play in black baseball were probably close, by 1905-1910, to what they would be in the 1920s.

The quality of play may not have dipped in the 1920s -- an organised league would presumably attract much more spectator support, and hence provide a living to more ballplayers, than a barnstorming program.

It's quite possible that the quality of the play did not dip in the 1920s -- I suggested the _possibility_ that it dipped primarily as part of an argument to show that there is little evidence to suggest that it rose significantly. The best black teams were competitive with major-league teams by 1905-1910, and they were competitive with major-league teams in the 1920s. There were undoubtedly more black teams playing at that level, and more great players, in 1925 than in 1905, but professional black baseball was _broadening_ its top level of competition more than it was _raising_ that level during those years, it seems to me.

One of the goals of the organized leagues was to attract more spectator support as a way of providing a living for more ballplayers, but in black baseball as in white baseball, the formation of a _league_ was more about the financial situation of the owners than the financial situation of the players. Before the league was formed, black players "revolved" as much or more than NA players had done in the 1870s. The lack of any sort of reserve clause or even readily enforceable contracts gave players a lot of leverage. Of course, teams needed to _exist_ for players to have jobs, so they also benefited from the league, but it was not formed primarily to advance the economic interests of the players. When the leagues folded in the Depression, the teams went back to barnstorming and the players went back to revolving, and they survived.

Also, the black population of the big cities was increasing very rapidly in these decades, which would give a much greater catchment base for black ballplayers to arise from -- presumably most of these players were city dwellers not Mississippi sharecroppers, as the scouting must have been rudimentary and the facilities to learn the game for blacks in the rural south even more so.

Baseball had thoroughly penetrated the black south, as the white south, by 1900, and the ballplayers, like the rest of the black population, were coming north. They weren't _discovering_ baseball when they arrived at the cities, they were bringing it with them. Rube Foster was from east Texas and played ball in Texas leagues before coming north in 1902. Pop Lloyd was from Georgia and played ball there and in Florida before he came north in 1906. Smokey Joe Williams was from Texas, and he played in San Antonio for several years before coming north in 1910; there were players of Indian heritage from Oklahoma. Bill Pettus had started playing ball in New Mexico around 1905. The great Taylor baseball family (four baseball-playing brothers) grew up in South Carolina, broke into professional baseball in Birmingham in the aughts and established themselves on the big northern teams between 1905 and 1910. Black baseball was active in the south during this period; it was not just a northern phenomenon. 19th century black players, like 19th century white players, were from the Northeast and the Midwest, but 20th century players were from all parts of the country that had significant black populations.

As to scouting, two points. First, one of things that barnstorming was good for was scouting. When Foster's teams played all over the south and west, which they did regularly, Foster was getting a look at talent all across the region. Lloyd was discovered this way in 1905. In 1910, for example, Foster's Leland Giants played in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri before heading north to Chicago to open their official season. Since they were barnstorming, they must have had teams to play wherever they went. And given the lack of other economic opportunities for blacks, baseball offered excellent money, so players had a significant incentive to make themselves known, if they had the talent.

Finally, the "lacking the facilities to learn the game" argument doesn't hold up to the example of Latin American ballplayers, esp. from the Dominican Republic. Star players have built up the facilities there now, but they didn't come from them, and look at Sammy Sosa, for example. He had _nothing_, but he could develop his baseball skills.
   88. Rusty Priske Posted: March 25, 2004 at 01:07 PM (#523215)
If you are willing to throw flames like this, at least have the intestinal fortitude to put your name on it.
   89. Jeff M Posted: March 25, 2004 at 02:13 PM (#523216)
I agree with Rusty. That's ridiculous.
   90. Al Peterson Posted: March 25, 2004 at 03:07 PM (#523218)
Any friends of Johnny Evers?

He's a fringe player to me in terms of being included in the pool of players evaluated. Fine hitter, not great. Fine fielder, not great. Infield is crowded right now with all the SS's. At 2B I have him below Grant and Childs. Players around his value are Fielder Jones and Herman Long. Slightly better than Tinker, but of course I could be wrong :)

Does have that 1914 MVP award so someone thought he was valuable, even if it was just some sportswriters.
   91. Carl Goetz Posted: March 25, 2004 at 03:41 PM (#523219)
Tinker, Evers, and Chance were all mistakes from the 'Real' Hall that I hope we don't repeat.
   92. Carl Goetz Posted: March 25, 2004 at 03:46 PM (#523220)
They get MVPs wrong now, even with much better stats and ability to see every player more often. was Miguel Tejada a better player than A-Rod? Remember, they gave Zoilo Versalles an MVP.
   93. Al Peterson Posted: March 25, 2004 at 03:59 PM (#523221)
Don't get me wrong Carl. I'm not showing Evers the door into the HOM. All you have to do is look at his most similar player from bb-ref who was a contemporary. How much support did we give Miller Huggins?
   94. Marc Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:01 PM (#523222)
Two things aw I start out a new day. I've been arguing with karl but I have always signed my name. I agree that "sorry but" is a sorry butt.

As for Zoilo Versalles, Carl, your comment is sorry but. The MVP award is not for career achievements. If you look at 1965 there simply was nobody else who was better with the one and only possible exception of Tony Oliva. James has Oliva as the WS MVP with 33--Versalles had 32, and as a lead-off hitting SS (who scored 126 runs and led the league in 2B and 3B!). Zoilo also played 160 games and Oliva 149, while leading the league in H and BA. Versalles has the stronger case, IMHO, and BTW I saw them both play that year and followed the team all year long.

The NL had 10-12 players with 30 WS that year, which makes Zoilo look that much worse. But the AL only had three. If you don't like Zoilo or Tony, you've got Don Buford and, frankly, if he had won, he would be the butt of jokes just like Zoilo.

James called Zoilo's MVP a "fluke" in that it was a fluke season totally outside of his "established" ability, and that is fair. But it doesn't make the MVP award wrong or inappropriate for that year.

Tejada, IMO, is a different story because there were better players that year.
   95. Carl Goetz Posted: March 25, 2004 at 04:27 PM (#523223)
I didn't mean to imply that Zoilo didn't deserve based on his competition in '65; only that his '65 MVP will not make me vote for him when his time comes. Nor should Johnny Ever's MVP in 1914.
   96. Marc Posted: March 25, 2004 at 05:19 PM (#523224)
Carl, I agree with you there. I am surprised that Evers and Huggins are that similar. I think of Huggins more like a Donie Bush--i.e. specifically their BB. Of the three, I like Donie the best, he played SS and I think his walk totals dwarf even Huggins though I certainly will look it up before I vote for Donie, which now that I think of it is unlikely. But anyway, three really "great" ballplayers but almost surely not HoMers. I would prefer Tinker to any of them and I haven't voted for Joe yet either.
   97. Philip Posted: March 25, 2004 at 05:39 PM (#523226)
As I have Herman Long higher on my ballot than most people, I was wandering why?
   98. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2004 at 05:45 PM (#523227)
If you are willing to throw flames like this, at least have the intestinal fortitude to put your name on it.

I agree with Rusty and Jeff. Pure gutlessness. Besides, whatever disagreements I have with Karl concerning the project, he seems like a likable guy who doesn't deserve that crap.
   99. karlmagnus Posted: March 25, 2004 at 05:55 PM (#523228)
TomH, a very interesting analysis.

I've just been re-reading the Alexander bio of Ty Cobb, who met the Cubs in the 1907-08 WS, and what struck me was the high importance the Tigers placed on the Cubs' baserunning and base-stealing as a major factor in their loss. Given that sabemetrics seems unable to explain the Cubs' success, is it possible that the sabermetric discipline's dismissal of the importance of baserunning and SB is all a ghastly mistake, at least in the deadball era when so much revolved around it?

I ony asked...
   100. Chris Cobb Posted: March 25, 2004 at 06:13 PM (#523230)
Hopefully my powers of analysis then exceed my knowledge, so I can contribute meaningfully.

Karl, one way you contribute meaningfully is by raising issues. Unless I have an idea of what issues you and other folks are considering, I don't have an idea of what historical evidence would be relevant. Before you brought up the impact of the formation of the leagues on quality of play, I hadn't thought of looking at player careers across the 1920 changeover; before you brought up the regional issue, I hadn't thought of systematically gathering information about where players came from. I had some knowledge on the subjects from reading around in the sources, but I hadn't applied it.

So, to get some more issues raised -- you've raised two concerns about data on early Negro-league players: 1) the data isn't "benchmarked," and 2) it's intermittent and possibly selectively presented.

With respect to issue 1, I would ask what you look for in a benchmark. I've been thinking about this issue and playing around with some ways of setting up more meaningful comparisons between the limited negro-league data we have and the much more complete major-league data, but I could certainly work more effectively if I had a sense of what others would see as a meaningful benchmark.

With respect to issue 2, I would agree to a considerable extent, though not completely. Certainly the data is intermittent, and all we can do is decide how we can most responsibly fill in the gaps. With respect to selective presentation, Riley's _Encyclopedia_ does give me some concern in this regard, though correlating data from many different biographical entries does help counter this tendency. Holway, though, seems to present all the relevant data. His focus is narrow -- games black teams played against each other and against major-league teams -- but within that focus he reports everything.
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