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

Sunday, April 17, 2005

1950 Ballot Discussion

1950 (April 24)—elect 2
WS W3 Rookie Name-Pos (Died)

423 125.8 1926 Paul Waner-RF (1965)
333 104.2 1926 Joe Cronin-SS (1984)
145 46.2 1932 Johnny Allen-P (1959)
144 46.3 1935 Ival Goodman-RF (1984)
130 42.1 1933 Frank Demaree-RF/CF
127 35.0 1923 Johnny Cooney-CF/P (1986)
095 30.9 1937 Cliff Melton-P (1986)
082 28.8 1930 Joe Heving-RP (1970)

1950 (April 24)—elect 2
HF% Career Name-pos (born) BJ – MVP - All-Star

HF 23-45 Martin Dihigo-All (1905) #1 rf - 0 - 5*
28% 21-48 George Scales-2B (1900) #3 2b - 0 - 9*
20% 23-48 Vic Harris-LF (1905) #6 lf - 0 - 3*
00% 25-47 Dick Seay-2B (1904) #9 2b - 0 - 2*
00% 29-46 Showboat Thomas-1B (1905) #10 1b - 0 - 2*
00% 27-44 Tetelo Vargas-OF (1906) 0 - 2*

Players Passing Away in 1949

HoMers
Age Elected

None

Candidates
Age Eligible

88 1909 Chief Zimmer-C
78 1913 Bill Bernhard-P
77 1912 Buck Freeman-RF
75 1914 John Anderson-LF/1b
67 1924 Frank “Wildfire” Schulte-RF
66 1920 Johnny Bates-CF
62 1926 Dick Rudolph-P
58 1933 Sherry Smith-P
51 1936 Oliver Marcelle-3B
39 1948 Eric McNair-SS

Upcoming Candidate
36 1955 Tiny Bonham-P

Thanks to Dan and Chris!

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 17, 2005 at 08:45 PM | 178 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2005 at 11:35 AM (#1297386)
re the Maddux-Clemens matchup, this in the Chicago Tribune:

"The last time two NL pitchers with 300 or more victories faced each other was Philadelphia's Tim O'Keefe against St. Louis' Jim "Pud" Galvin on July 21, 1892."

O'ugh. at least he didn't call the other guy 'Spud.'
   102. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: April 29, 2005 at 04:56 PM (#1297856)
Hadn't Dihigo's craft as a hitter already been honed? He did spend his early years almost exlusively as an OFer right? Of course he may have not been as sharp if he was spending 30-50% of his time in practice pitching, but I doubt that his OPS+ or Eqa or whatever would have been more than say 5 points better if he had been full time. His defense, may be anohter matter. Still, your estimate that he would still have been an MVP candidate is interesting. I await the WS with baited breath.

One more question? Was Dihigo a better pitcher than Wes Ferrell? Comparable? If he was then I woudl have to move him to #6 as he was certainly the better hitter.
   103. karlmagnus Posted: April 29, 2005 at 05:15 PM (#1297905)
Dihigo appears to have been an anti-Ferrell, a hitter who pitched rather than a pitcher who hit. Caruthers is the only player we've come across (well, maybe Monte Ward) who was balanced, and better at both than Dihigo, though on hitting it's close and he had a shorter career.
   104. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2005 at 06:00 PM (#1298054)
Hadn't Dihigo's craft as a hitter already been honed? He did spend his early years almost exlusively as an OFer right?

During his early career, he was also pitching: he earned about 10% of his teams' decisions during most of the first part of his career, so from the start of his career his focus was somewhat divided.

During his early career, he was also playing all over the diamond: Gary A.'s data has him playing second, third, and short (no outfield) in 1928, and Holway lists him at various infield positions or as "utility" throughout his NeL career. Although where exactly he was playing each season is not entirely certain, it _is_ clear that he was not ensconced in say, right field and focusing on his hitting.

I await the WS with baited breath.

Well, the win shares for 1935 and 1936 have been posted on the Dihigo thread, but I'll put them here, too:

Year--BWS--FWS--PWS = Total
1935--17.7--2.3--16 = 36
1936--24.3--2.3--17 = 43
   105. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 06:07 PM (#1298077)
Regarding the "anti-Beckwith" trope used against some Negro Leaguers whose stats don't measure up to their reputations, I would be more tolerant of the term if at least we had elected Beckwith. In other words, people are denigrating the skills of players by comparing them unfavorably to another player that they haven't yet elected. Vote Beckwith in, then call people "anti-Beckwiths."
   106. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 06:18 PM (#1298110)
By the way, for those of you who put a lot of faith in Chris's WS translations, let's pause again at those two figures for 1935 and 1936. 36 and 43. That's more than either Cronin or Waner ever put up in a season. 43 WS is way more than either of them ever accomplished. Dihigo played for more than 20 seasons. Ask yourself again why you don't have him higher on your ballot.

"Whether playing the outfield, the infield, or pitching, [Dihigo] was awesome. The gifted Cuban was literally a star at every position he played. Neither before his appearance on the baseball horizon, nor since his departure from the scene, has his multitude of talents afield ever been approached by a single player."

--James Riley

The comparisons to Caruthers don't really work. Except for 13 games at first and nine at second, he was strictly an outfielder when not pitching. He was also not a very good defensive player: both his range factors and his fielding percentages in the field were below league average. Caruthers is absolutely a deserving HOMer, but he's not Martin Dihigo.
   107. TomH Posted: April 29, 2005 at 06:36 PM (#1298156)
win shares for Dihigo
Year--BWS--FWS--PWS = Total
1935--17.7--2.3--16 = 36
1936--24.3--2.3--17 = 43
--
for those who use some type of win shares above baseline or average, obviously Dihigo would lose more than the typical amount of WS in these two seasons going from the low WS replacement level to something higher, since he had both a ton of PAs *and* a pile of IPs.

OTOH, they would STILL be truly impressive seasons that, as David points out, maybe some of us haven't fully processed yet.
   108. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 29, 2005 at 06:43 PM (#1298172)
I agree with Karlmagnus that Dihigo was likely more hitter than pitcher, and I also agree with jschmeagol about his EQA or OPS+ not likely rising too much from where it was.

Which leaves us with the question of how to rank him among his peers of any color.

For the sake of discussion, here's the approach I took.

In my ballot, I posited that, based on my own analysis (which is full of assumptions, granted), Dihigo would be an OF in the mold of Al Kaline and would not have pitched were he in MLB. I think this is consistent with what we know about his offensive capabilities and his pitching capabilities. (Unless the MLE process is misrepresenting him in some way, which is possible, of course.) He was a player with a wide breadth of skills, no single one of which would be considered a dominant characteristic of his game, but none of which appear to be on par with Charleston, Stearnes, or hitters of that caliber.

On the other hand, in his dual role, he was also incredibly valuable to the teams he actually played on. Yet I don't agree that in an integrated league he would have both pitched and hit, so saying he was baseball's most valuable player doesn't seem logical to me (I'm not saying I'm right, just that this is how it's playing out for me).

Because of the fragmentary record of his career (no peak information), his on-the-job switch-hitting training, and the league-quality issues involved (which are variable, and which, I believe, are probably steep), I'm left to construct my own sense of his meritoriousness.

My baseline information is that he's an offensive player in the family represented by Kaline/Dewey in MLB. If he's Dewey, he's on the ballot, but not necessarily very high. If he's better than that (like Kaline), that player would fall in somewhere above Mendez because, despite lacking a huge peak, that player does have hefty prime and career numbers that negate Mendez's peak advantage.

Then when I assess his real-life value, I move him in just behind Beckwith and Duffy. At this point I ask myself, who is more valuable, an OF with a wide breadth of skills or a power-hitting, high-average SS/3B with so-so plate discipline? I'm taking the infielder, but that's just my way of thinking (just as I took Cronin over Suttles).

So number five is the ceiling that Dihigo can reach on my 1951 ballot. He could be number five, the spot currently occupied by Duffy, and Duffy's peak may be inflated by WS love of CFs. On the other hand, Duffy is also credited by WS with being an excellent fielder, unlike, say, Edd Roush. So for now, number six, with a bullet.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share with the group because I think Dihigo is a tough candidate to figure. He's both overrateable and underrateable, depending on your philosophy about NgL value, conversions, and lore. I think (but I don't KNOW) that my reasoning gets him as close to right as I personally am able to this week, but I'm very open to critique and discussion. If it would help discussion, I'll happily post the thumbnail, assumption-heavy, model of him that has lead me to the Kaline-family grouping.

(And I'm also thinking now that I need to go back and look at CP Bell to see if I can apply some lessons learned from Dihigo to him.)
   109. Mike Webber Posted: April 29, 2005 at 07:26 PM (#1298266)
Whenever its a tossup between a white player and a black player, the white guy goes in first.

As John has alluded to, perhaps it is better to say that whenever it's a tossup between a documented player and an undocumented or underdocumented player, the documented player goes in first.


Put me in this camp, documented greatness beat oral tradition.

I have no qualms about putting any of my top 5 in the HOM (Waner, Cronin, Suttles, Bell, DiHigo), and the order they are in is how confident I am that evaluation.

I've been trying to think of analogy for this; driving just 55 on an unfamilar stretch of highway until you're sure the speed limit is 65 or 70, grabbing a Boulevard Pale Ale out of the ice chest instead of a Tecate Dark at a cookout even though you know the host has good taste in suds, going out with easy Julie from purchasing instead of that new gal in accounting Susan...

Heck none of 'em are perfect, but that is the general idea.
   110. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2005 at 07:45 PM (#1298317)
I have no qualms about putting any of my top 5 in the HOM (Waner, Cronin, Suttles, Bell, DiHigo), and the order they are in is how confident I am that evaluation.

The problem with this approach to ranking, which feels sensible, is that in practice it penalizes players whose careers aren't documented, even though the lack of documentation is in no way the fault of their performance.

Look at the phrasing: "documented greatness beats oral tradition." The competition here is between two forms of history, not between two players. The player supported by oral tradition loses, not because of his ability, but because he was not permitted to play in the major leagues. And that's not what we're supposed to be evaluating.

If you rank a player with a less documented career at what you think is the most likely level of his merit (he might be better, he might be worse, but you've done your best to place him accurately), then he might be advantaged or he might be disadvantaged, and the cost of uncertainty is shared by him and by the better documented players. If "confidence level" is used in a way that docks NeL players below what you believe is the most likely placement, then all the cost of uncertainty is borne by the players already unfairly disadvantaged by either (for 1860s players) an accident of history or (for black players before 1947) institutional racism.

Because the number of players the HoM elects each year is fixed, any uncertainty penalty applied to one player necessarily benefits another, and the fairness of the elections are diminished.

As we learn more about underdocumented players, obviously our best estimates may shift up or down, but it's only when they could indeed move in both directions that we are being fair to the underdocumented players.
   111. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 29, 2005 at 07:59 PM (#1298363)
If you rank a player with a less documented career at what you think is the most likely level of his merit (he might be better, he might be worse, but you've done your best to place him accurately), then he might be advantaged or he might be disadvantaged, and the cost of uncertainty is shared by him and by the better documented players.

This one's a sticky wicket and a great example of why is the discussion of Dihigo in 1935-1936 being baseball's most valuable commodity. If you believe that Dihigo would pitch in an integrated MLB structure, then I guess there's no qualms and no one is disadvantaged. If you believe that he would not have pitched in an integrated MLB structure, then you disadvantage every other player under consideration when you evaluate Dihigo this way, even those NgL position players who did not pitch (or had insubstantial pitching in addiiton to their hitting, like Bell or Taylor).

Which isn't to say evaluate him as a he would have been versus his actual contribution, it's just to say there's potential pitfalls in making that claim about him.
   112. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2005 at 08:21 PM (#1298433)
This one's a sticky wicket and a great example of why is the discussion of Dihigo in 1935-1936 being baseball's most valuable commodity.

The problem here can only be solved by deciding how _merit_ is related to value. I conclude that Dihigo's _merit_ is greater than his probable major-league value because of his near-unique value in the context of play in the NeL, MeL, and Cuba. Those who believe that "merit=major-league equivalent value" will reach a different conclusion.

I think that by considering merit this way, I am potentially disadvantaging only those major-league players who never had an opportunity to demonstrate that, in a slightly weaker league, they could have done what Dihigo did. Since only Dihigo and Joe Rogan demonstrated that they could do it in the Negro Leagues (and it seems probable that Dihigo at least would look like a HoMer even if he had not become a two-way player), I feel pretty confident that the number of players who have been disadvantaged by this construction of merit is quite small.
   113. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 08:53 PM (#1298546)
What I don't understand is the need to analyze these NeLers within a white major league context. Dihigo, Beckwith, Suttles et al. weren't welcome in that league. What they might have done is completely irrelevant to evaluating them as players. It's accepting the bias of the time, which is that the white leagues were the standard by which every player should be judged, and furthermore, that the *kind* of baseball played in the white leagues should be the standard by which players should be judged.

That, to me, is absurd. Martin Dihigo spent his ENTIRE CAREER playing in an environment in which having a wide array of skills was extremely valuable. Who cares what he might have done had he specialized in one area? Why are we asking that question? It's entirely speculative, and furthermore, it gets away from the crux of the issue, which is simply, how much value did Dihigo provide to his teams? That's the standard set forth in the voting guidelines for the Hall of Merit. How much did he help his teams win games, compared to his peers? Beckwith and Suttles were both great hitters, but who here would rather have either one of them in their prime than Dihigo? Dihigo was one of the league's best pitchers and best hitters, and he took up only one roster spot. It's no contest.

To be honest, I'm really dumb-founded at how anyone can look at the package of skills he brought to the table and put him any lower than first on this ballot. Waner and Cronin were both very good players, but neither one of them was a dominant, inner-circle kind of player. How either one of them gets ahead of Dihigo is really beyond my understanding. Just being honest. I know that I'm one of the biggest Negro League advocates in this process right now, but to me Dihigo is well ahead of the other Negro Leaguers on the ballot. To me, he IS an inner-circle HOMer, no question in my mind.
   114. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2005 at 09:11 PM (#1298579)
David,

In looking at the voting guidelines, you're overlooking the eligibility standards in the Constitution.

All major league players are eligible for the Hall of Merit. Also eligible are all “excluded” players, most notably Negro Leaguers, and pre-MLB players.

It is a presumption of the project that we are evaluating the winning of major-league games or their equivalent, as we are evaluating major-league players, except in those cases where historical accident or institutionalized racism prevented otherwise qualified players from competing at the highest level of competition available.

By your reasoning Buzz Arlett should already have been elected, if we don't make any distinction between quality of play in different leagues and look at "winning ballgames" independent of quality of competition.

I'm with you on supporting Dihigo's candidacy, but the idea that what he would have accomplished in the major leagues is irrelevant doesn't fly.
   115. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 29, 2005 at 09:25 PM (#1298625)
How much did he help his teams win games, compared to his peers?

David,

I hear your argument very clearly, but the white guys are also Dihigo's peers. No matter which side you fall on (the value-to-team-in-context side or the what-if? side), you're engaging in speculation because on one side you have a league whose data is sketchy at best, so we cannot use stats like OPS+, WS, EQA, WARP that rely on a robust data set to accurately assess whether Dihigo was truly the most valuable to his league or not. And without those, who is to say that your opinion or Karlmagnus's (to pull out two names on opposite sides of the issue) is more accurate?

On the other side, when you project him into an MLB context, and you're speculating on his performance based on a small sample of sketchy data. So it cuts both ways.

Dihigo's value was, contextually, extraordinarily high, but his context had a lower replacement level, was much less stable, played in a different style than the hoarde of white guys we're looking at, and gave him opportunities for expressing his diversity of talents that MLB didn't give to its players, particularly after 1920ish. How does somone factor that into their thinking?

Who cares what he might have done had he specialized in one area? Why are we asking that question?

So for all the reasons cited above, this is why I am asking these questions. And mostly because I want to get him as right as I can, relative to all his peers.

I don't have the right answer, but I don't think that whatever the "right" answer is, it's going to be a binary decision a simple yes/no kind of thing, not with so much we don't know. All this isn't an argument for going with the known quantity, instead I'm trying to say that the two models, team-value versus what-if, don't have to mutually exclusive, but should probably, like scouting and statistics, be used jointly to make sure we do our best to get things right.
   116. Kelly in SD Posted: April 29, 2005 at 10:25 PM (#1298729)
Sorry to interrupt the discussion, but I have to post my 1950 Ballot-Prelim:

1. Martin Dihigo: unique talent
2. Paul Waner: Best documented career under my system
3. Joe Cronin: Shortstop with peak and career
4. Mickey Welch: M-i-c, k-e-y, W-e-l-c-h
5. Charley Jones: Great early hitter, short career, makes my ballot even I reduce his adjusted career by 10%.
6. Hugh Duffy: Moving him in front of Browning because of Duffy’s defense. Yes, I know about WS overrating of centerfield, but Duffy only spent 5 years as a center fielder. He was just a great outfielder. Also, the win shares goes overboard on outfielders in the late 1890s, not the earlier period when Duffy was at his peak.
7. Pete Browning: Moving Duffy in front for defensive reasons.
8. Wes Ferrell: Great peak and prime. Moves in front of Averill because my system gives a bonus for all-star appearances and Averill receives a big bonus for that and I think the AL during his career was going through a drought of outfielders.
9. Earl Averill: WinShares has him an all-star in the AL 9 times, but only 2 times in the majors. STATS has him a 6 time all-star. Give him credit for his 1928 season in the PCL.
10. Vic Willis: 2 times best pitcher, 2 times second best pitcher in league. Poor record in big games with the Pirates though.

The Big-Ol’ Kelly Glut:
In my system, all of these players are between 60.4% and 59% of “perfect.” So it all depends on which intangibles do I pick – consistency, position toughness, fielding, reputations.

George Van Haltren: Lack of peak hurts. But 7th best prime score and 2nd best career score.
Edd Roush: Difficulty staying healthy. 5 gold gloves.
Spots Poles: Did he really have as little power as his MLEs indicate? Was he like Bell, but without the stolen bases?
Mule Suttles: Think the MLEs are underrating his peaks
Biz Mackey: Think the MLEs are underrating him
John Beckwith: I don’t think he is Hornsby, but I think the MLEs may have underrated him.
Hughie Jennings: I didn’t realize the dearth of great seasons by infielders in the 1890s era. Does he deserve some extra credit for surviving and thriving? Short career though.
Gavvy Cravath: Credit for 1909-1911. Unique ability to take advantage of his parks, but real wins result from that ability.
Dobie Moore: Credit for some years in military. Great peak. Too bad about the jump out the window. Short career.
George Burns: Best leadoff man of the teens. Great prime. Good all-star apps. Very good black and grey ink.
Jose Mendez: Best Cuban pitcher. Are his MLEs too peak heavy? Should the value be spread out more?
Wilbur Cooper: 4 times STATS all-star, 6 times WS all-star, 1 time WS Cy Young. Very good defensive support. Average offensive support. 9 years with 20+ WS, 4 w/ 25+, 1 over 30.
Burleigh Grimes: Very good non-cons peak. 5 times STATS, 6 times WS all-star, 1 time WS Cy Young. Good offensive support. Good defensive support, but less than almost any other pitcher of his era. 7 years w/ 20+, 4 w/ 25, 2 w/ 30.
Dizzy Dean: Hi, I’m Mr. Peak, and I am here to tell you about...3 STATS all-stars, 4 times WS, 2 WS Cy Young. Very good offensive support. 5 years 20+ WS, 3 25+, 3 30+. No post-deadball pitcher has 3 30 WS seasons.
Tommy Leach: May be the best defensive player on the ballot (Maranville excepted.) Could hit as well. Instrumental in Pittsburgh’s ability to plug in different pitchers for 15 years and have them all perform well.

Currently, I am leaning toward Suttles, Beckwith, Burns, Moore, and Mackey. I’m giving the benefit of the doubt to Negro Leaguers this “year.”
Or, I could go the under-represented NL theory and pick Roush, Burns, Grimes, Cooper, and Cravath.
Or, I could go all peak: Jennings, Dean, Moore, Mendez, Cravath.
Or, consistent, long career: Poles, Grimes, Leach, Van Haltren, Suttles.

Tune it next week, same HoM channel, same HoM time.
   117. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 10:28 PM (#1298732)
Dr. Chaleeko,

It is true that the contexts were different. But analyzing Dihigo within his own context, how many players in Negro League history are comparable to him? How many players could you name who were as versatile as Dihigo? Bullet Rogan and Leon Day were somewhat versatile, though I don't think to the same degree that Dihigo was. You are right that Dihigo's environment allowed him to express his versatility. The fact that he seems to have done so better than any other player in that same environment tells me that he was an extraordinary athlete and baseball player, one without any known parallel in either white or black baseball, at this time, or at any other.

On a completely unrelated note (not sure where to put this), I just received through ILL the microfilm for the black newspaper the Philadelphia Tribune for 1932. I originally ordered this to figure out what happened to Mackey in '32. Since we now seem to know the answer to that question, is there anything else about the Negro Leagues from 1932 that anybody here would like to know? I have this microfilm for three weeks, so let me know if there's anything I can research.
   118. Sean Gilman Posted: April 29, 2005 at 10:59 PM (#1298763)
It is true that the contexts were different. But analyzing Dihigo within his own context, how many players in Negro League history are comparable to him? . . . . The fact that he seems to have done so better than any other player in that same environment tells me that he was an extraordinary athlete and baseball player, one without any known parallel in either white or black baseball, at this time, or at any other.

I don't get what you're trying to say here David. We caan all agree that Dihigo was a remarkable talent. And if this was a HOF-style yes/no vote, the vast majority of us would give him a 'yes'.

But the argument that his context was different from other players is the point here. Because Dihigo's context is so different from Cronin's, and because this isn't a simple binary vote but instead a ranked order, we must come up with some way of reconciling the two contexts. Thus the MLEs and speculation on what he would have done in MLB and attempts to create MLB comps for players and, yes, thus the uncertainty over the placement of undocumented players.

In other words, reasserting Dihigo's greatness in his own context tells us nothing about his merit relative to Paul Waner and Joe Cronin.
   119. jingoist Posted: April 29, 2005 at 10:59 PM (#1298764)
Curious that when posters are looking for ML comparisons for Dihigo they discuss Parisian Bob and Wes Ferrel and completely miss a very obvious comparison (if Dihigo's hitting exploits are as advertised) in Babe Ruth.
Once management got a real good look at the Babe's hitting and fielding prowess, the fact he was one on the best ML pitchers at that time went by the board and he was in RF every day.

Would that Dihigo could have played for a ML team back then there is almost no doubt in my mind he would have been relegated to the everyday playing status of a position player.

But as several posters have pointed out his unique array of talents WAS maximized in the Negro Leagues, perhaps to his and the publics benefit.
   120. DavidFoss Posted: April 29, 2005 at 11:14 PM (#1298802)
Great discussion. Looking at page one of this thread, I see that none of the first several prelims last week had Dihigo #1 either. If David had spoken up then as strongly as he is speaking up now, he might have swayed some voters before they actually voted. Its possible that many people who voted conservatively for Dihigo were waiting for more discussion.

Of course, this has happened before. It often takes a first batch of results to energize the electorate.
   121. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 11:31 PM (#1298855)
In other words, reasserting Dihigo's greatness in his own context tells us nothing about his merit relative to Paul Waner and Joe Cronin.

And by the same logic, asserting the greatness of Waner and Cronin tells us nothing about Dihigo.

But all we have are the two separate contexts. We all agree that the Negro Leagues' quality of play, top-to-bottom was not as high as the majors. How significant the gap was will determine where we rank these players with respect to each other. And once you have decided for yourself how significant that gap is, the only thing left to determine is how dominant each player was within his own context.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Dihigo's play could be expressed by a single number, where 100 equals "average for the Negro Leagues." If Dihigo was a 175 or 180 ballplayer, where would that rank him compared to a white major leaguer who was a 130 or a 135?

My point is, we can speculate all we want on what these players would have done in different environments, but our primary task is to determine the value of what they actually did accomplish, not what they might have accomplished if their skin was a different color.
   122. David C. Jones Posted: April 29, 2005 at 11:32 PM (#1298860)
If David had spoken up then as strongly as he is speaking up now, he might have swayed some voters before they actually voted.

You are right about that. I made a mistake and waited too long to jump in. Live and learn.
   123. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 30, 2005 at 12:14 AM (#1299013)
First off, agreed with DavidFoss that this is a good and valuable discussion that is, at least, helping this voter really sift through some issues.

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Dihigo's play could be expressed by a single number, where 100 equals "average for the Negro Leagues." If Dihigo was a 175 or 180 ballplayer, where would that rank him compared to a white major leaguer who was a 130 or a 135?

Again, this would beg the point that context is everything. We'd need some kind of equalizer that expresses "100 in the majors equals 100 in the Negro Leagues and vise verse." That's the holy grail that allows us to compare players. Getting there is the fun part!

Is there anything else about the Negro Leagues from 1932 that anybody here would like to know? I have this microfilm for three weeks, so let me know if there's anything I can research.

Would love it if you could find out anything about Lundy's walks....
   124. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 30, 2005 at 01:09 AM (#1299226)
I just wanted to let everyone know here that I'll be away for the next two days, so if you have any problems you will have to seek out the Commish instead. :-)
   125. Brent Posted: April 30, 2005 at 03:09 AM (#1299596)
Interesting discussion. I think I'm probably closer to David's position. To me it's always seemed vaguely chauvinistic that the discussions are always about how the Negro League player would have done if he had played in the majors, and never vice versa. Whether intended or not, it leaves the impression that only major league play is valued, and that not much thought is being given to the actual Negro League games and pennant races, except to the extent that they are used as a take off point for projecting the player into the white world.

I think it's mostly a semantic issue. I think we all can agree that quality of competition differed between the leagues and needs to be adjusted for. And I also can agree that some adjustments are needed for differences in circumstances -- for example, if a Negro League pitcher makes 35 percent of his team's starts during an era when the top major league pitchers are only making 25 percent of the starts, we should adjust for it. I make similar adjustments for environment in comparing major league pitchers or catchers from different decades. We can do all of these adjustments without necessarily having to imagine an alternate universe in which the Negro League player was allowed to play in an integrated league.

My real problem comes when voters try to imagine a different career in this alternate universe that they've imagined. Yes, Beckwith might have been asked to play a different position in the major leagues of the 1920s, and Dihigo might not have been allowed to pitch. We'll never really know. But those kind of thought experiments seem to much a stretch, and they run the risk (as I think has happened with several voters in evaluating Dihigo) of stripping away the very talents that made these players unique and valuable.

Maybe there was some unknown white player who could have been a star if he had been allowed both to pitch and to play the field; we'll never know. But if, in attempting to be fair to this unknown white player, we don't give Dihigo full credit for what he actually accomplished, I think the result would be grossly unfair to Dihigo.
   126. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 03:20 AM (#1299604)
Again, this would beg the point that context is everything. We'd need some kind of equalizer that expresses "100 in the majors equals 100 in the Negro Leagues and vise verse." That's the holy grail that allows us to compare players. Getting there is the fun part!

Well, of course. The question we are always after with all these players, regardless of what league they played in, is "How much better was this guy than the league average?" And then once you've figured that out, you need to ask yourself, "How good was the league average?" thus allowing you to make comparisons across leagues and eras, etc. But I don't think there is any system that can authoritatively balance the difference between an average Negro Leaguer and an average major leaguer, especially for the truly unique players like Dihigo. You can estimate, guess, come up with a formula, and do your best to make it accurate, but at the end of the day it's just a projection, and experience tells us that projections are sometimes worthless. There was no projection system that would have accurately predicted what Babe Ruth did in 1920, for instance. And while I am not arguing that Dihigo is on the same level as Ruth in terms of greatness, I do think that truly great players are not simply shaped by their environments, they help to shape them. So for those of you who still insist on trying to imagine Dihigo in the major leagues, I think you should consider the possibility that a player with his unique skill set might have done something that no other white player of the time was doing. In the white major leagues, he might have literally changed the game. I think he was that good.
   127. Brent Posted: April 30, 2005 at 03:35 AM (#1299622)
karlmagnus wrote:

Dihigo appears to have been an anti-Ferrell, a hitter who pitched rather than a pitcher who hit.

I suspect that Dihigo may have been a better pitcher than Chris's calculations give him credit for. The most detailed data appear to be those from the Mexican League, and we know that the quality of competition is suspect. But check out some of these K/W ratios:

1938 - 0.93 ERA, 184 SO, 32 BB, 167 IP
1939 - 2.90 ERA, 202 SO, 42 BB, 202 IP
1940 - 3.54 ERA, 065 SO, 48 BB, 109 IP
1941 - 4.01 ERA, 093 SO, 43 BB, 157 IP
1942 - 2.53 ERA, 211 SO, 77 BB, 245 IP

While it's true that we really don't know how to adjust these numbers for league quality, I think they still pretty clearly indicate that Dihigo could throw some heat and hit the strike zone. If you sent a major league pitcher with an ERA+ of 115 down to AA, would you really expect to see K/W ratios like these? Late in his career, Dihigo continued to pitch effectively in Mexico and Cuba for several years, even after his batting statistics had fallen off. I think he deserves some real credit as a pitcher.
   128. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 08:25 AM (#1299798)
And by the same logic, asserting the greatness of Waner and Cronin tells us nothing about Dihigo.

[snip]

Let's say, for argument's sake, that Dihigo's play could be expressed by a single number, where 100 equals "average for the Negro Leagues." If Dihigo was a 175 or 180 ballplayer, where would that rank him compared to a white major leaguer who was a 130 or a 135?


I am absolutely in agreement that that is our task. Impossible though it may be to be 100% accurate, this is exactly what the translations are for: to put everyone in the same context. It just so happens that the context for most of the players under consideration was MLB, thus we translate non-MLB players to that level. If someone wants to translate MLB players like Waner or Cronin to a Negro League context, I'm sure that'd be a fascinating exercise as well.

My point is, we can speculate all we want on what these players would have done in different environments, but our primary task is to determine the value of what they actually did accomplish, not what they might have accomplished if their skin was a different color.

If what you're saying here is that we should be translating what the players actually did to a standard context, then I am, again, in full agreement. Whether or not Dihigo, for example, would have pitched or switch-hit in the major leagues is irrelevant to his Merit as a baseball player. In his league he pitched, and while that pitching value needs to be translated to a standard context, it is still the value he created. Our task is to translate his value, not to imagine what that value would have been in some counter-factual world.

What i disagree with you about, is that you seem concerned that voters are allowing the uncertainty over the translated value of Dihigo's career to minimize his accomplishments relative to Cronin and Waner. To me, that seems perfectly reasonable, and justified because our translations are not (and, unfortunately, probably never will be) 100% accurate. I view the translations as coming with error bars, much like BP's PECOTA projections. To make up some numbers: if Dihigo has a 10% chance of being Babe Ruth, and 50% chance of being Paul Waner, and a 90% chance of being Joe Cronin, I think you have to rank the player that has a 100% chance of being Joe Cronin ahead of him.

That's why my 1-2-3 are Waner, Cronin and Dihigo, in that order.
   129. Brent Posted: April 30, 2005 at 01:05 PM (#1299828)
Sean Gilman wrote:

I view the translations as coming with error bars, much like BP's PECOTA projections. To make up some numbers: if Dihigo has a 10% chance of being Babe Ruth, and 50% chance of being Paul Waner, and a 90% chance of being Joe Cronin, I think you have to rank the player that has a 100% chance of being Joe Cronin ahead of him.

Chris Cobb has already made this point in #110 above, but it apparently bears repeating. Taking account of uncertainty by downweighting the option we know least about is perfectly normal in most decision making. If you're deciding what college to attend or what job to take, of course you would pay attention not only to the likely prospects, but also the information available and any uncertainty associated with it. But in this project, if we systematically downweight the players with less reliable information, the result will inevitably be systematic bias against Negro League players, since they are the ones with less reliable information. If that's the outcome of this project, I will view it as a failure.

Another way to say it might be, that if you know that Joe Cronin had 0% chance of being anywhere close to Babe Ruth, but Dihigo had a 10% chance of being Babe Ruth, it argues pretty strongly for placing Dihigo ahead of Cronin.
   130. Chris Cobb Posted: April 30, 2005 at 01:18 PM (#1299832)
To make up some numbers: if Dihigo has a 10% chance of being Babe Ruth, and 50% chance of being Paul Waner, and a 90% chance of being Joe Cronin, I think you have to rank the player that has a 100% chance of being Joe Cronin ahead of him.

This numerical example illustrates well, actually, why the ranking method advocated is unfair to the underdocumented player.

Look, the gap between Paul Waner and Joe Cronin is pretty big, so if there's a 50% chance that Dihigo was as good as Waner, then there's at least a 60% chance, say, that he was better than Cronin, a 30% chance that he and Cronin are so close that it's a coin toss which was better, and a 10% chance that Cronin was notably the better player.

If you rank Cronin ahead of Dihigo, because you're _sure_ that he was better than the worst that Dihigo might have been, there's a 60% chance that you are underrating Dihigo. If you rank Dihigo ahead of Cronin, there's a 10% chance that you're underrating Cronin.

Why should one see a ranking method that creates a 60% chance of error as being fairer than a ranking method that creates a 10% chance of error?

Given the hypothetical probabilities, I wouldn't argue that one should rank Dihigo ahead of Waner: that looks like a coin toss.

But to turn from the hypothetical example to the real situation, I think there's a large probability that Dihigo was better than Cronin, and small probability that Cronin was better than Dihigo. I think in that circumstance, Dihigo ought to be ranked the higher of the two.
   131. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 04:42 PM (#1300003)
And again, the standard by which Dihigo is being judged is his white counterparts, and what he "would have done." Why not focus on what he actually did do?
   132. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: April 30, 2005 at 04:58 PM (#1300031)
The funny thing about this discussion is that I find it highly unlikely that Dihigo wouldn't be one of the two favorites next year. A lot of this discussion is david's frustration that Dihigo isn't going into the HOM this year but honestly does it matter if he makes it in in 1950 or 1951? And wouldnt' he be in this year if we didn't have two definite MLB HOMers on the board as well?

As far as the context thing, I agree with Sean. We use MLB as the context because we know what league average in MLB is. We really dont' know what league average in the NeL was so we adjust to MLB. And I do think we need to take into consideration things like what position NeL players would have played in MLB since we are adjusting for MLB. Otherwise we would be overrating the Negro League players a tad. If we are going to adjsut to MLB then we need to do it fully. And it isn't like I am just pulling their defensive ability out of my ass, I do have a level that I adjust for myself.

That being said, Dihigo is a special case for which fully adjusting for position may not be fair at all to him. But I had/have no problem adjusting the positions of John Beckwith and Jud Wilson for instance.
   133. Michael Bass Posted: April 30, 2005 at 05:29 PM (#1300096)
Why not focus on what he actually did do?

Because he, by virtue of being in a lesser league, had opportunities to do things his white coutnerparts had no such opportunity to do. Yes, I realize the irony in declaring white guys "disadvantaged", but that's what happens if you just take Dihigo's pitching at face value, unless you really think that had there been no color line, he'd have been given the opportunity to pitch in the majors after many years as a star level hitter.

And I like Dihigo a lot despite actually attempting to put him on a level playing field with everyone else who was playing at his time. He has some peak, and a long career. He'll probably end up 3rd (possibly 2nd, haven't completely decided yet) on my ballot.
   134. Chris Cobb Posted: April 30, 2005 at 05:54 PM (#1300151)
jschmeagol wrote:

A lot of this discussion is david's frustration that Dihigo isn't going into the HOM this year but honestly does it matter if he makes it in in 1950 or 1951? And wouldnt' he be in this year if we didn't have two definite MLB HOMers on the board as well?

Dihigo is a special case, yes, and Dihigo is going to be elected sooner rather than later, yes. Nevertheless, the issues David has been raising apply (as you yourself note) to other NeL players, just to a lesser extent.

David's arguments have reminded me of earlier debates and caused me to reassess my rankings of NeL players more broadly, catching ways in which I had become unduly cautious in my rankings of NeL players.

Michael Bass wrote:

Because he, by virtue of being in a lesser league, had opportunities to do things his white coutnerparts had no such opportunity to do. Yes, I realize the irony in declaring white guys "disadvantaged", but that's what happens if you just take Dihigo's pitching at face value.

But how will you account for that irony in your rankings? Any time we face significant uncertainties about value, we face the possibility that our response to those uncertainties will unfairly disadvantage a player or a group of players in comparison to another group. It seems to me that the proper response to this problem is to try to spread out the potential disadvantage.

Dihigo is disadvantaged because he didn't get to play against top competition and he didn't get to have his play receive full statistical documentation.

Some unknown handful of white players (and we know the number wouldn't be large, because the number of players who were good enough and determined enough to be two-way players in the NeL is very small as it stands--2 to 4), might be disadvantaged because they didn't get to show that they would have been two-way stars in a league of lesser quality and lesser economic security, where a premium would have been placed on their versatility.

I think it fair, under the circumstances, to accept that there are some white players who would have been able to do the sort of thing that Dihigo did, but didn't have a chance, and give Dihigo credit for what he did do.

And if you feel uneasy about those white players, you could always go through your rankings and give Wes Ferrell, Carl Mays, and George Uhle a boost for versatility. Those are the pitchers who probably hit enough to be two-way players in the NeL. That probably covers half of the missing cases. Ruth, Sisler, and Arlett could be 4, 5, and 6. Boost them for versatility, too. And then we've probably found as many white players as would likely be credited for versatility of the sort Dihigo and Rogan had the opportunity to display during the era in which the Negro Leagues existed, and the accounts are balanced.
   135. Michael Bass Posted: April 30, 2005 at 06:18 PM (#1300227)
Dihigo is disadvantaged because he didn't get to play against top competition and he didn't get to have his play receive full statistical documentation.

This is where I differ from some voters...I don't see this as a disadvantage (in terms of HOM voting, obviously in real life terms he got hosed). I take a player, make my best guess based on the information, and rank him there. I don't give any sort of uncertainty discount, because I figure (hope?) that it is about as likely that I am underestimating as overestimating.

In fact, I've often argued that the uncertainty discount is against the constitution (most memorably when I, among others, voted for Williams over Alexander, and a minor brawl ensued).

I just don't see how the estimating process is automatically a disadvantage, unless there is a built in "conservative" factor to it. If it's truly our best guess, then it should be 50/50 whether we are missing high or low, and thus in the aggregate this should not be a disadvantage.
   136. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1300458)
Brent:

But in this project, if we systematically downweight the players with less reliable information, the result will inevitably be systematic bias against Negro League players, since they are the ones with less reliable information. If that's the outcome of this project, I will view it as a failure.

Well, it will be a systematic bias against less documented players and players from lesser leagues, which has been a feature of this project since 1898. Pete Browning is the shining example of this phenomenon, certainly not Martin Dihigo, who will sail into the HOM.

Another way to say it might be, that if you know that Joe Cronin had 0% chance of being anywhere close to Babe Ruth, but Dihigo had a 10% chance of being Babe Ruth, it argues pretty strongly for placing Dihigo ahead of Cronin.

Perhaps. But I think that would depend on the individual voter. There is however, also a 10% chance that Dihigo is Hack Wilson.
   137. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 07:40 PM (#1300481)
Chris:

Look, the gap between Paul Waner and Joe Cronin is pretty big, so if there's a 50% chance that Dihigo was as good as Waner, then there's at least a 60% chance, say, that he was better than Cronin, a 30% chance that he and Cronin are so close that it's a coin toss which was better, and a 10% chance that Cronin was notably the better player.

If you rank Cronin ahead of Dihigo, because you're _sure_ that he was better than the worst that Dihigo might have been, there's a 60% chance that you are underrating Dihigo. If you rank Dihigo ahead of Cronin, there's a 10% chance that you're underrating Cronin.

Why should one see a ranking method that creates a 60% chance of error as being fairer than a ranking method that creates a 10% chance of error?



This is very true, and is certainly a flaw with my example. I neglected to include the bad side of his probabilities, and also, i think, confused the issue by using % instead of percentiles.
What i intended, was a PECOTA-type system, where Dihigo's translation would look like this:

90th Percentile: Babe Ruth

70th Percentile: Paul Waner

50th Percentile: Joe Cronin

30th Percentile: Carl Mays

10th Percentile: Hack Wilson

The point being, that he is most likely at a Joe Cronin level, but because of the chance that he could be worse, even though there's also a chance he could be better, it's reasonable to rank the certain Joe Cronin over the probable Joe Cronin.
   138. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 08:19 PM (#1300580)
Sean,
Based on what statistical evidence have you determined that he is at a "Joe Cronin level"?

As far as my frustration goes, I feel that what was happening in this year's ballot was indicative of the general treatment Negro Leaguers have been receiving.

And wouldnt' he be in this year if we didn't have two definite MLB HOMers on the board as well?

And that's the problem right there in a nutshell. Joe Cronin and Paul Waner are "definite" HOMers, but Dihigo isn't? How? And why do some voters seem to reflexively go for the definite players from white leagues before the definite players from the Negro Leagues? Will it matter in the end? Yes! Dihigo will get in, sure, but this type of thinking effects the whole ballot, and if Negro Leaguers are being systematically discriminated against because of the lack of documentation, then that's going to impact the shape of the HOM over time.

Why couldn't it be the opposite? Why not say, well, Joe Cronin is a definite HOMer, but with Waner and Dihigo on the ballot, he'll just have to wait another year.

Michael wrote:

Because he, by virtue of being in a lesser league, had opportunities to do things his white coutnerparts had no such opportunity to do. Yes, I realize the irony in declaring white guys "disadvantaged", but that's what happens if you just take Dihigo's pitching at face value, unless you really think that had there been no color line, he'd have been given the opportunity to pitch in the majors after many years as a star level hitter.

I have a couple of problems with this. The Negro Leagues may have been "lesser" but, as pointed out by others, if it is indeed the case that Dihigo never would have pitched in the white leagues, then there's really no way of knowing how good a hitter he would have become. We already know he was HOM-caliber as a hitter even when he was "distracted" by pitching.

But again, let's return to the actual Negro Leagues. Plenty of black players had the opportunity to both pitch and hit. Can you name a single black player who pitched, batted, and fielded as well, all at the same time, as Dihigo did? We are looking at an environment here where gifted players had the opportunity to display their versatility. Dihigo did it better than anyone else in that environment. He's at the top of the list. You're telling me that player is not as "meritorious" as Joe Cronin? Do you think Joe Cronin would have also been a pitcher had he had the opportunity? Or Paul Waner? My point here is, based on what specific criteria are voters reaching the conclusion that Dihigo is inferior to Cronin and Waner? Again, Dihigo was the very best at what he did within his environment. There's no Negro Leaguer who can match his combination of skills, even though many had the opportunity to try. What, then, is the source of this conservatism that some voters are displaying when ranking him on their ballots?
   139. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 08:39 PM (#1300631)
Based on what statistical evidence have you determined that he is at a "Joe Cronin level"?

My own interpretation of the various MLEs (and there are a lot of them) as well as the anedotal evidence. I don't presume to know for a fact that "Dihigo = 175 and Cronin = 175 and therefore Dihigo = Cronin". Nor do I presume to know for a fact that "Dihigo > Cronin".

Based on what statistical evidence have you determined that Dihigo is undoubtedly better than Joe Cronin?
   140. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 08:43 PM (#1300648)
What, then, is the source of this conservatism that some voters are displaying when ranking him on their ballots?

You keep asking this question, David, and people keep answering it. If you intend to continue asking it until you get the answer you like, perhaps it would be easier if you just told us your answer.
   141. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 08:52 PM (#1300673)
Sorry if that sounds snarkier than I intend it to. . .I blame the cold medicine and lack of nicotine.
   142. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 09:43 PM (#1300716)
Based on what statistical evidence have you determined that Dihigo is undoubtedly better than Joe Cronin?

The numbers in Riley, Holway and Figuerado's History of Cuban Baseball indicate that Dihigo was one of the best hitters in the game during the late 1920s. He won home run titles, batted over .400 numerous times. For Habana in 1926-1927, Dihigo batted .413 with three home runs and six steals in 75 at bats, while also winning two games. (HOMer Jud Wilson, playing for that same team, hit .333 with two homers, and of course, didn't pitch.) In the short special season that followed the regular season, Dihigo went 1-0 on the mound and batted .450 at the plate. In 1927-1928, Dihigo was 4-2 on the mound for Habana, and batted .415 in 130 at-bats, again leading his team in steals with five. In 1928-1929, Dihigo went 2-1 on the mound, and batted .303 at the plate. In 1929-1930, his worst season in Cuba, he was 1-2 on the mound and .283 at the plate. But in the special season after the end of the regular season, he was 2-0 on the mound and batted .333 at the plate. He disappears in the Cuban records for a few years, then reemerges with Santa Clara in 1935-1936, where he went 11-2 on the mound and batted .358 at the plate. In fact, that year, he led the league in shutouts (4), wins, complete games (13), winning percentage (.846), batting average, runs (42), hits (63), triples (8) and RBI (38). This in a league that also featured the likes of Willie Wells and Jud Wilson. He literally led the league in everything. In 1936-1937, he was 14-10 on the mound and batted .323 with four homers, 34 RBI and 10 steals. Pitching for Marianao in 1937-1938, Dihigo was 11-5 on the mound and batted .303 at the plate. In 1938-1939, he was a league-best 14-2 on the mound but batted only .255. In 1939-1940 he was 6-4 on the mound and batted .291. During all this time, he was playing every position on the diamond. I also refer you to his Mexican League stats.

Back in the United States, in the late 1920s Dihigo batted over .400 and led the league in home runs one year, ranked among the league leaders in hitting the next. In the mid-1930s he was simply awesome, ranking among the league leaders in hitting and pitching in 1935, and doing so again in 1936. That year, for instance, he hit 13 home runs, one less than Josh Gibson and four off the league leading Stearnes, batted .331, led the league with nine doubles, and was 7-4 on the mound. The closest equivalent to that type of performance I can think of is Ruth in 1918. In 1937, he batted .351 and went 6-4 on the mound. He continued to pitch well into the 1940s.

The broad portrait, then, is of a player who was very good at everything: he hit for average, for power, could steal bases, and was a winning pitcher. When he was at his best and combining all those skills, he was probably the best baseball player alive: I'm thinking around 1934-1937. Since we also know he was a league-leading hitter several years before that, and a very effective pitcher for several years after that, we know that his career value is excellent.

Joe Cronin was a good fielding shortstop who also had some good seasons with the bat. He was very consistent, but never dominant. I don't think he was ever the best player in his league, though he may have come close around 1930. In a full season he never posted an OPS+ higher than 136. He led the league in doubles twice, triples once, and sacrifices once, but that's it. By the mid-1930s he was no longer the best shortstop in baseball, as Arky Vaughan had eclipsed him. He is a deserving HOMer, third on my ballot, but he is no Martin Dihigo.
   143. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 09:44 PM (#1300717)
You keep asking this question, David, and people keep answering it. If you intend to continue asking it until you get the answer you like, perhaps it would be easier if you just told us your answer.

I keep asking the question because I want somebody to explain their ranking of Dihigo while also explicitly addressing the statistical record that we do have.
   144. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 09:51 PM (#1300722)
How do you reconcile the above numbers for Dihigo, leading the league though they were, with the fact that the leagues he put them up in were inferior to Cronin's leagues.

Cronin, though, of course, not the hitter Dihigo was, is still one of the top 10 shortstops of all time, even if he was never the best player in his league, or did not lead his superiior league as many times in as many categories as Dihigo did.

Basically, David, you've given Dihigo's numbers in his context and Cronin's numbers in his context and then asserted that Dihigo was better, with no attempt to reconcile the two contexts. That's a perfectly valid voting strategy, but certainly not one that justifies the attacks you've made on other people's ballots.
   145. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 09:54 PM (#1300724)
I keep asking the question because I want somebody to explain their ranking of Dihigo while also explicitly addressing the statistical record that we do have.

I guess I just don't understand what that answer would look like then, if it hasn't already been given.
   146. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 10:03 PM (#1300726)
Of course I've made the attempt to reconcile the two contexts. However, you asked for statistical evidence, and that's what I gave you. I can't provide anyone with a precise projection for Dihigo, and neither can anyone else. By that criteria, I couldn't "prove" that Dihigo was better than Taylor Douthit, so if somebody had placed Douthit higher than Dihigo, I guess my attack on that ballot would be unjustified as well?

Here's another way of putting it. If I had to pick one man to pitch a game, and my life depended on the outcome, and my only choices were Dihigo or Cronin, I'd take Dihigo. If I had to pick one man to BAT with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and my team down, and my only choices were Dihigo or Cronin, I'd take Dihigo. If I had to pick one man to STEAL A BASE, and my life depended on it, and my only choices were Dihigo or Cronin, I'd take Dihigo. If I had to pick one man as a RESERVE, for my super-duper all-time all star team, and my only choices were Dihigo or Cronin, I'd take Dihigo. If I had to pick one man to play the outfield, or third, or second, or first, and my only choices were Dihigo or Cronin, I'd take Dihigo. In fact, the only baseball situations in which I would take Cronin over Dihigo would be if there was a groundball hit to shortstop, and my life depended on whether or not the play was made, I'd rather have Cronin. And also, if I needed a man to lay down a sacrifice bunt, and my life depended on the hitter successfully sacrificing, I'd take Cronin. Otherwise, basically anything that could possibly happen on a baseball field, I'd rather have Dihigo in that situation than Cronin.
   147. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 10:07 PM (#1300729)
That is your opinion David. And it isn't any more evidenced than the opinions of those who rank Cronin ahead of Dihigo.

You're not complaining about just those ballots that don't rank Dihigo, or those that rank him below Taylor Douthit, and I'm not defending them.
   148. David C. Jones Posted: April 30, 2005 at 10:23 PM (#1300736)
Well, you ask for a projection for Dihigo, something to normalize his hitting into a white major league context. The person on this site who has the best experience at doing this, Chris Cobb, has declined for a number of reasons to do full projections. He has said, however, and I don't believe I'm misquoting him, that a low-end estimate for a hitting comp for Dihigo is Earl Averill, who was himself a better hitter than Cronin. Take that for what it's worth.

But anyway, nothing is going to convince you, because you want to see a final, definitive set of numbers, and you won't ever get that for a Negro Leaguer. So, basically, you are free to vote however you want, and I'm free to criticize however I want. But if you follow this general principle in constructing all your ballots, you will be systematically down-grading Negro Leaguers. I'll leave it to you to determine the fairness in that.
   149. Michael Bass Posted: April 30, 2005 at 10:24 PM (#1300737)
But again, let's return to the actual Negro Leagues. Plenty of black players had the opportunity to both pitch and hit. Can you name a single black player who pitched, batted, and fielded as well, all at the same time, as Dihigo did? We are looking at an environment here where gifted players had the opportunity to display their versatility.

And the majority of the players we are considering were not in such an environment, and I'm simply not going to give Dihigo a leg up for getting a opportunity that the rest of the people did not get.

Do you think Joe Cronin would have also been a pitcher had he had the opportunity? Or Paul Waner?

This is the point: I don't know. Individually, I doubt it. On the aggregate, I would be willing to bet there are a couple players in our consideration set that could have pitched, but I have no idea who those might have been, and neither do you, because the chance to pick up pitching after spending time in the majors as a hitter was essentially zero.

As an aside, to Chris's examples: Ferrell, Mays et al are poor examples. They were pitchers first, hitters second. Dihigo started pitching after several years as a top level hitter. We have no idea who the potential group for that is.

As for David's last bit about Cronin vs. Dihigo, Dihigo was a better hitter than Cronin. I'm probably not breaking any ground by saying this. Cronin was a more valuable defensive player than Dihigo. I'm not moving the earth by saying this. The degree to which those things balance out is what we're doing.

For those including Dihigo's pitching, that in all likelihood tips the balance toward Dihigo. I do not, because had Dihigo been white, or had there been no color line, there is virtually zero chance he ever would have pitched. Convince me otherwise, I have him over Cronin.

As for your laundry list, the only question that matters to me is this: If I was drafting these two guys at the beginning of their careers to play for my major league team, who would I rather have? And for me, I'd rather have Cronin.
   150. Sean Gilman Posted: April 30, 2005 at 10:30 PM (#1300745)
But anyway, nothing is going to convince you, because you want to see a final, definitive set of numbers, and you won't ever get that for a Negro Leaguer.

I don't know what would make you think I expect a definitive set of numbers. Especially since i'm not the person telling half the electorate that they're ballots are wrong.

But if you follow this general principle in constructing all your ballots, you will be systematically down-grading Negro Leaguers. I'll leave it to you to determine the fairness in that.

It's unfortunate, but necessary. Just like it was with Dickey Pearce, Ross Barnes, Lip Pike and continues to be with Pete Browning, Gavvy Cravath and Buzz Arlett.

You come perilously close to implying that unless Martin Dihigo makes the HOM on his first try, then the electorate is racist. I really hope you don't mean that.
   151. karlmagnus Posted: May 01, 2005 at 12:42 AM (#1300982)
Yes he does mean that -- this is what I've been facing the last 6 weeks on these NEL candidates, and I object. Dihigo is a 125OPS+ hitter and a 105OPS+ pitcher who spent part of his career in the Negro leagues and part of it on Mars. As a consequence, we have very little relaible information, since there is no reasonable way to convert Martian stats. On the balance of probabilities, I believe he deserves to be in the HOM, but he's a very marginal case, and not close to even Cronin, who for many reasons (one of them his racist non-tryout of Jackie Robinson, another his pig's breakfast as manager of the late 30s and early 40s Red Sox) I'm not a fan of.
   152. OCF Posted: May 01, 2005 at 12:48 AM (#1300994)
David: A word of advice on argumentation. You've had your say, and you have been listened to. You've been influential. But there comes a point of diminishing returns, a point at which pushing harder is more likely to alienate people than persuade them. I think right now is a time for you to relax for a while and just watch. Trust the rest of us a little, OK?
   153. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:01 AM (#1301014)
You come perilously close to implying that unless Martin Dihigo makes the HOM on his first try, then the electorate is racist. I really hope you don't mean that.

Nowhere have I implied this. What I have specifically said is that if you follow the logic of taking the more well-documented player over the less well-documented, then the net result will be to devalue Negro Leaguers. This is no different than what Chris Cobb and Brent have already said. Karlmagnus is simply wrong about my statements; we've been over this before. I've never called him a racist, nor have I implied it. The only thing I question about the electorate (and you will note that nowhere in this thread regarding Dihigo have I specifically criticized any individual's ballot by name) is its method and rationale for evaluating Negro Leaguers.
   154. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:05 AM (#1301030)
David: A word of advice on argumentation. You've had your say, and you have been listened to. You've been influential. But there comes a point of diminishing returns, a point at which pushing harder is more likely to alienate people than persuade them. I think right now is a time for you to relax for a while and just watch. Trust the rest of us a little, OK?

I don't know where this is coming from, OCF. I raised the issue regarding Dihigo, others have taken up the cause. I've addressed specific arguments made in this thread. I was actually planning on leaving this thread alone for the weekend until Sean asked me for statistical reasons to vote for Dihigo over Cronin. It seemed a simple enough request, so I felt I should honor it by providing an answer.

I'm very relaxed, I'm not breathing down anyone's neck. I feel as if I've had my say, but that doesn't mean I won't respond to specific questions or arguments which merit a response.
   155. Howie Menckel Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:12 AM (#1301046)
David,
You've done an outstanding job pushing for Dihigo. I agree with much of what you say.
Now, you may just want to quit - well, not quit, not at all, actually, but just make a stronger effort to appear reasonable - while you're ahead. Assuming you want to finish ahead, of course.

Nobody has a monopoly on the 'right' answer here. I doubt you think that you do, either. But I'm not sure that comes across so well in some of your comments, the internet being as limited as it is in that respect.

I hope it's clear that I'm trying to make a constructive comment. Apologies if it doesn't come out that way. I'd just like to see your enthusiasm, and your very plausible reasoning, get the best possible response from our 'audience' here.
   156. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:16 AM (#1301056)
Michael Bass,

Judging from your statements in post #149, would it be fair to say that:

1. You are not giving Dihigo any credit for his pitching, on the assumption that if he was playing in the white major leagues he never would have had the opportunity to pitch.

2. You are evaluating Dihigo based solely on his hitting and fielding, and translating that to an MLB environment.

If I am correct in #1 and #2, would it be accurate to say that you are rating him on his actual hitting accomplishments, even though these were undoubtedly compromised by his pitching, which you are going to ignore?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that in your ranking you are imagining Dihigo in a white or no-color line context. In order to do this, it seems to me that you not only have to erase Dihigo's pitching (which he was doing in the Negro Leagues as early as age 20, by the way), you also have to determine what his career path would have looked like in the white leagues. You have to figure out what position he would have played (which would probably depend on which organization he was with, and thus, what their individual needs were at the time), you have to imagine that he never would have tried to learn how to switch-hit, and then you have to project how good his offense would have been, had he not had to work on the pitching. You would also have to figure out how he would have developed defensively had he played just the one position (whatever that would have been.)

Am I correct that this is the process you are trying to undertake with Dihigo?
   157. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:30 AM (#1301094)
I said:
You come perilously close to implying that unless Martin Dihigo makes the HOM on his first try, then the electorate is racist. I really hope you don't mean that.

David said:

Nowhere have I implied this. What I have specifically said is that if you follow the logic of taking the more well-documented player over the less well-documented, then the net result will be to devalue Negro Leaguers.

Good to know. I hope you will be joining me (and remarkably few others) in the campaign for Pete Browning, a player who, unlike Martin Dihigo, is unlikely to ever make the HOM based on what I believe are excessivly harsh translations of his record.
   158. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:33 AM (#1301103)
Howie (and everyone else),

If I come across as unreasonable, I apologize. That's not my intention. I am definitely advocating for Dihigo, but I am very interested in having a constructive dialogue on the issues that pertain to evaluating Negro Leaguers, as this is very important not only for this election, but for future ones as well. In the post above, I'm just trying to make sure I properly understand Michael Bass's line of reasoning in evaluating Dihigo.

Looking back over my comments on this page, the one that jumps out as possibly sounding the most bitter is this one, addressed to Sean Gilman:

But anyway, nothing is going to convince you, because you want to see a final, definitive set of numbers, and you won't ever get that for a Negro Leaguer.

I didn't mean that perhaps the way it came across. I was trying to say it more in the spirit of "agree to disagree," because I was getting the sense that Sean was looking for something in Dihigo's profile that wasn't ever going to be there. This goes back to the well-documented player versus the less-well-documented player argument.
   159. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:34 AM (#1301108)
No offense taken, David. And none meant from my end either.
   160. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:41 AM (#1301124)
Good to know. I hope you will be joining me (and remarkably few others) in the campaign for Pete Browning, a player who, unlike Martin Dihigo, is unlikely to ever make the HOM based on what I believe are excessivly harsh translations of his record.

Pete Browning is one player that I'm not very confident on, actually. Since I arrived late, I missed most of the Browning discussion, and I've had a hard time placing him, even though I know his career pretty well.

The reason he hasn't made one of my ballots so far is that I'm a little uncomfortable with the length of his career. (Pete "I always hit the bottle before I hit the ball" Browning didn't take the best care of his body.)

His OPS+ numbers, however, are off the charts, despite the relative lack of PAs.

So, Sean, since you happened to bring him up, now is a great time to make your case to someone who has been on the fence about Browning. Did the electorate ever reach a consensus on the quality of play in the American Association, relative to the National League?
   161. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 01:45 AM (#1301135)
Also (and this is going to seem like a ridiculous question coming from someone who helped compile the 19th century WS figures), does anybody have a link to those adjusted WS totals for 19th century guys? All I have in my spreadsheet right now for Browning are the unadjusted totals.
   162. Michael Bass Posted: May 01, 2005 at 02:12 AM (#1301172)
If I am correct in #1 and #2, would it be accurate to say that you are rating him on his actual hitting accomplishments, even though these were undoubtedly compromised by his pitching, which you are going to ignore?

Well, that's a tricky question.

By the time he was truly concentrating on pitching, we only have 2 years worth of stats which we have any idea what to do with. That is, 1935-1936, which were outstanding hitting seasons, his best.

I'll be candid and admit that my projection of his career from 1937 on is based very little on his stats (read: his actual accomplishments), because I don't have a damn clue what to do with those Mexican or Cuban league stats. This is my failing, not his, but I suspect I'm not alone on that.

What I do know is that he was incredibly athletic, enough to have the second pitching career. I feel very comfortable projecting him out to continue to be a solid player into his mid-late 30s, because he fits the profile of the multi-skilled player who tends to be able to do that.

So it's not as much an issue of boosting or not boosting his hitting, as it is making a complete guess off the wall. In my case, I've more or less projected his 1935-1936 peak on out to 1938, and then had him as a very good, but slowly declinging, major leaguer through about 1943. I've also given him the benefit of the doubt on his 1932-1934 seasons (about which we know pretty much zip), assuming that without the pitching, he'd have boucned back from his "slump" pretty quickly.

As for his 1935-1936 seasons themselves, a case could be made that I should bump them a touch to account for my translation of him not pitching. I choose not to do so only because he was such a good hitter those seasons (so much better, in fact, than he was in his early career), that I have a hard time being comfortable boosting those stats.

Aside: While I do not feel comfortable bumping his rate stats (~ a 140 and 160 OPS+), I am bumping up his playing time, which I presume was translated as low in part because he took days off because of the pitching.
   163. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: May 01, 2005 at 02:18 AM (#1301183)
This is getting a little ahead of things here, but since this is the first new page for a specific pitcher I've created in 307 days and since he's coming up next year, and there's a rather interesting gap in his career, I present to you: Curt Davis.

If anyone knows anything about his PCL days and I'd love to hear it. No, I don't think he's ballot worthy, but he may very well deserve a place on the backlog and (depending on what his PCL info looks like) maybe a few votes once the backlog starts getting cleared out. I'll bring this back up in the '51 ballot discussion thread.

May as well start looking him up now -- after all, there's no controversial candidates in this election, right? (ducks)
   164. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2005 at 03:11 AM (#1301309)
The reason he hasn't made one of my ballots so far is that I'm a little uncomfortable with the length of his career. (Pete "I always hit the bottle before I hit the ball" Browning didn't take the best care of his body.)

He did indeed have a short career, but 12 seasons in the 1880s is not an unusual career length. HOMer Sam Thompson, for example, also had only 12 seasons as a regular.

His OPS+ numbers, however, are off the charts, despite the relative lack of PAs.

Indeed, Browning's case rest on his peak, and your opinion of that peak depends on how much you discount the AA of the 1880s.

Did the electorate ever reach a consensus on the quality of play in the American Association, relative to the National League?

Unfortunately, we never came to a consensus. IIRC, most people were applying a blanket 10% discount, or greater, to AA players. Our translations were much less developed then, though. Which is why in my ballot I speculated on what would happen if Chris or Brent or any of the folks translating PCL and/or Negro League stats would take another look at the AA. Basically, I wonder if Browning had put up his career line in the Negro Leagues, would he recieve the same support as, say, Mule Suttles?

Beyond that, I have two other objections to the AA translations:

First, is the idea, recently revived in one of the Suttles discussions, that league translations necessarily penalize high peak players. The phrase popularly used in the Harry Stovey campaign was that "greatness cannot take full advantage of lesser competition". You can see how this would cause us to uniquely penalize a player like Browning, with his relatively (to now) short career, his case rests largely on the height of his peak.

Second, I'm of the opinion that we've gone overboard with the idea of competition adjustments. I think a Major League is a Major League, regardless of if it may be the inferior of the two Major Leagues. Thus, if the AL is perhaps weaker than the NL for a certain period of time, I don't think it's appropriate to penalize AL players for that. For most of Browning's career, the AA was percieved as a Major League. Otherwise, the NL wouldn't have deemed it worthy of playing a highly publicized post-season series against its champion. In Browning's first two seasons, 1882 and 1883, there was no post-season series between the two leagues, so I think some kind of discount for those years is appropriate. But for the next ten years of his career, he was playing in a Major League.

That's all I have time for right now, as the wife insists it is time for dinner. . .
   165. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2005 at 06:02 AM (#1301495)
Also (and this is going to seem like a ridiculous question coming from someone who helped compile the 19th century WS figures), does anybody have a link to those adjusted WS totals for 19th century guys? All I have in my spreadsheet right now for Browning are the unadjusted totals.

The Pennants Added thread shows Browning with 220 Win Shares Above Replacement, 310 Win Shares, 55 WARP3 and .813 Pennants Added. Comparable to Mule Suttles and John Beckwith.
   166. David C. Jones Posted: May 01, 2005 at 06:35 AM (#1301535)
Sean,

I agree with you that a player's peak (particularly a peak like Browning's) cannot really be "translated." What impresses me about Browning is how he managed to continue hitting across different leagues: in the AA, in the PL, and then in the NL at the tail end of his career.

I will ruminate on his case over the weekend. Are you also a Charley Jones supporter? If not, what do you see as being the difference between them?
   167. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2005 at 07:12 AM (#1301558)
I've got Browning 4th and Charley Jones 7th, with Beckwith and Suttles in-between them this week. I see Jones as very comparable to Browning, only with a little less of everything.
   168. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 02, 2005 at 03:52 AM (#1303614)
Just to have an idea what we're dealing with, could you provide a little more information on the "special seasons" in Cuba. The biggest question is the length of them, and also how many teams were involved, compared to the regular season. Also (if you know), are those statistics included in the Cuban stats listed on the Dihigo thread?
   169. David C. Jones Posted: May 02, 2005 at 04:34 AM (#1303739)
I don't know about the Cuban stats listed on the Dihigo thread, since I didn't compile them. The "special" seasons were very short, involving anywhere from 13 to 37 games total, with three or four teams typically included. Just browsing through the lists right now, the rosters for these teams include some really great players: Lloyd, Charleston, Lundy, Judy Johnson, Alejandro Oms, Frank Duncan, Cool Papa Bell, Pelayo Chacon...

The 1930 special season, which included 25 games, occurred because of the collapse of the regular season. The 1926-1927 Triangular season (Triangular because there were three teams involved), was a showcase of the very best Cuban and American players, so the talent level would have been very high. Dolf Luque, Lundy, Johnson, Marcelle, Chaarleston, Torriente, Mendez...this short season was basically an all-star showcase.

Those two special seasons (26-27 and 1930) were the main ones which featured Dihigo. It wasn't something that happened every year, but rather something that was just put together at the end of the regular season.

Hope this information helps.
   170. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 02, 2005 at 05:11 AM (#1303806)
Thanks. I just wanted to have an idea of what kinds of samples we were talking about. It looks to be small, but large enough to attach some meaning to it.
   171. TomH Posted: May 02, 2005 at 02:11 PM (#1304182)
Will Joe Sewell be Bobby Griched or Ron Santoed or Dwight Evansed out of the HoM?

Peak voters are putting the Wes Ferrells and H Jennings of the world ahead of Sewell.
Career voters are listing E Rixey, J Beckley, et al on top.

Lovers of speed and defense are friends of Mackey, Papa Bell, etc.

Big bat voters are enamored with Beckwith, Sisler, Suttles, Cravath....

Voters with a sense of 'Position evening' are pining for catchers and 3Bmen.

Meanwhile, Joe Sewell, who could do everything well, is dropping like a rock.

There are 8 or 9 SS in MLB history who had more career WS than Sewell, and also had more WS/PA than Sewell. These guys are all HoM locks: Wagner, Vaughan, Ripken (actually only tied in WS/PA!), Yount, Cronin, Dahlen, G Davis, Larkin, Appling. That's all, only these 9. Because Joe played very well and played for a while.

I think we've all drunk the 'no good (MLB) shortstops in the 1920s' kool-aid a bit too long, and forgotten that Sewell was a better hitter than Alan Trammell, and almost as good as Bill Dahlen.

I invite everyone to smoke the peace pipe of 'players who did everything really well and had a long career' with me next ballot.
   172. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 02:23 PM (#1304199)
I'm thinking that for players who don't have a full major league record to draw from (NeLers, Arlett, Averill, etc.) that I should post threads for them a couple of weeks earlier before they're eligible. That way, we will be more prepared than we have been and may eliminate revising our ballots as some of us had to do over Dihigo. Make sense, guys?
   173. Chris Cobb Posted: May 02, 2005 at 02:47 PM (#1304241)
I think we've all drunk the 'no good (MLB) shortstops in the 1920s' kool-aid a bit too long, and forgotten that Sewell was a better hitter than Alan Trammell, and almost as good as Bill Dahlen.

How do you figure that Sewell was a better hitter than Trammell?

Sewell, 109 OPS+, 8329 PA, top 5 146, 116, 116, 112, 110
Trammell 110 OPS+, 9375 PA, top 5 155, 138, 138, 138, 136

For their careers, without any competition adjustments or DH, they were about equal, except Trammell had a longer career in longer seasons, and Trammell's peak is a lot better.

I don't see comparing Sewell to Trammell doing much to advance Sewell's cause.

Sewell benefits on career WS/PA because he quit before he went through a serious decline. His peak rate of WS/g is not outstanding.
   174. TomH Posted: May 02, 2005 at 03:43 PM (#1304359)
OPS+ is good, but it doesn't quite capture offense exactly
........... OBA vs lg SLG (park adjusted)
Sewell... +33 ......... +0
Trammell +22 ........ +14

I'll take 11 pts of OBA instead of 14 pts of SLG.

Which is why Sewell's career OWP is higher. And his EqA (not timelined) is .007 higher. Which is mostly why his WS/PA is better.

Yes, Trammell had better peak years...mixed in with more medicore years.

A bit of Trammell's career length advantage is the 162G schedule.

Yes, timeline could put Trammell ahead; but then you'd be able to argue reverse timeline with Dahlen, etc.

Given the choice, would I take Alan? Yes, I would. But I suspect Mr. Trammell will have little trouble sailing into the HoM when he is elgible.
   175. Daryn Posted: May 02, 2005 at 05:29 PM (#1304592)
Sewell is by no means the 10th best shortstop of all-time. When the current crop is finished, he may struggle to make top 20. WS overrates long unspectacular careers. When comparing shortstops to each other using WS, I take a replacement amount of FWS off each year because I think the results are otherwise skewed in favour of longer, average careers. Even though I like Sewell's type of career he is only 18 on my ballot.
   176. Carl G Posted: May 02, 2005 at 06:00 PM (#1304696)
'I'll take 11 pts of OBA instead of 14 pts of SLG.'

I've heard the argument(though I don't remember where) that 2*OBP + SLG would be a better measure.
   177. yest Posted: May 02, 2005 at 06:05 PM (#1304712)
I'm thinking that for players who don't have a full major league record to draw from (NeLers, Arlett, Averill, etc.) that I should post threads for them a couple of weeks earlier before they're eligible. That way, we will be more prepared than we have been and may eliminate revising our ballots as some of us had to do over Dihigo. Make sense, guys?
yes
   178. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 02, 2005 at 07:18 PM (#1304921)
I think tankgotiger found taht number to be 1.7*OPS +SLG. This is one reason why Beckley's offense can look like Waner's even though he beats him roundly in a measure like Eqa which rates OBp and SLG more evenly.

Tom,

You don't have to worry about me being at fault for 'dropping' Sewell. He ranks as completely unspectacular in my system and was never higher than 17 or 18. He has now dropped to around 30 with an influx of good candidates in recent years, especially NeLers like Dihigo, Beckwith, Lundy, Mackey, Bell, and Suttles. I have argued this before but nothing he did screams HOM to me, long and unspectacular is the correct way to put it methinks.

I also don't use WS/Pa and rarely look at career WS so this may be why we disagree. His peak and prime in WS is vurtually even with Bancroft, Tinker, and Long. His career isn't as good as Maranville's. Though he does pull ahead in WARP and a few other points (OPS+, slight bonus for being the best of his era, etc.). Those others hav slipped out of my top 50 while Sewell won't be that low for a while.
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