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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Arky Vaughan

Arky Vaughan

Eligible in 1954.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 12, 2005 at 08:59 PM | 40 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 12, 2005 at 09:23 PM (#1399584)
Even with three missing seasons, his career is still outstanding.
   2. OCF Posted: June 13, 2005 at 10:22 PM (#1402036)

December 12, 1941: Traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Pete Coscarart, Luke Hamlin, Babe Phelps, and Jimmy Wasdell.

Five days after Pearl Harbor! Vaughan was 29 years old (to be 30 the next year) and had been in the majors for a decade. He had played just 106 games in 1941 - his fewest ever up to that point - but still had an OPS+ of 140. So who did he get traded for?

Coscarart was a 29 year old middle infielder, at the peak of a fairly short career, although he basically didn't have a job in 1941. He had been Brooklyn's starting 2B in 1940 and would be the Pirates' starting SS in 1942. Looks like a typical product of "shaking the glove tree": probably pretty good with the glove, hit like a typical middle infielder.

Hamlin was a 36 year old pitcher - pretty decent at his peak, and had once won 20, but he was already down to swing-man status.

Phelps was a 33 year old catcher who had barely played in 1941. He would retire after 1942.

Wasdell was a 27 year old OF/1B who hadn't yet had a starting job, although he'd had a pretty good year as a 4th OF/PH for Brooklyn in 1941. He would become a regular or platoon regular for the Pirates through the war years. His career OPS+ was 96.

That's a peculiar looking trade: a great player and major star, just entering his 30's, for a big bag of roster-fillers, none of them exactly a prospect. The trade didn't really make Pittsburgh younger and it certainly didn't make them better. If you saw that in our generation, you'd think it was a salary dump. This was before the major leagues knew with any certainty what the effects of the war would be.

Of course, this trade put Vaughan together with Leo Durocher, which was not a good thing for Vaughan.
   3. TomH Posted: June 13, 2005 at 10:39 PM (#1402044)
IIRC, Rob Wood has some bio info on the ending of Arky's career that maybe he can share.
   4. Howie Menckel Posted: June 13, 2005 at 10:45 PM (#1402054)
well, some info

Named for his home state of Arkansas, Arky Vaughan was a quiet, gentlemanly ballplayer whose demeanor [was once disturbed] by Leo Durocher.

An argument between the Dodger manager and Bobo Newsome raged through the Dodger club house. Finally, Vaughan presented his rolled-up uniform to his manager with a suggestion he dispose of it in an impossible manner. Vaughan stalked out and the rest of the team was ready to follow. Relations were strained the rest of the 1943 season and, in 1944, Vaughan stayed on his California ranch, refusing to give as the reason his obvious loathing for Durocher or his wish to support the war effort by farming.
He remained away from baseball until 1947, the year of Durocher's suspension.".... Vaughan drowned in 1952, just forty years old, when a boat from which he was fishing capsized.
   5. Kelly in SD Posted: June 14, 2005 at 05:56 AM (#1402848)
First on my ballot in 1954. Wells second.
   6. jimd Posted: June 14, 2005 at 06:33 PM (#1403915)
Ott may be the forgotten superstar, but in a very real sense, Arky Vaughan is the unknown or sabrmetric superstar.

When I was growing up, I read a lot of baseball stuff - written mostly in the postwar decade or so - and nobody gushed about Arky Vaughan the way they did about Gehrig, Foxx, Grove, Hubbell, Dean, Cochrane, Hartnett, Waner, Ott, DiMaggio, etc. Just another good player on a good Pirates team.

He never won an MVP, though he finished 3rd twice:
1935 behind Hartnett, whose team won the pennant, and Dean (2nd)
1938 behind Lombardi, whose team finished 4th, and Bill Lee (2nd)
The Pirates that year lost a very close pennant race to the Cubs ("homer in the gloaming") and that MVP should have been a slam-dunk for Arky.

He was totally ignored by the BBWAA in HOF voting. His first year (1953) he got ONE vote, and that support snowballed up to 10 by 1960 (4%). By modern rules he would have been immediately removed from the ballot. In his last year of eligibility in 1968, he would peak at 29%.

The Veterans committee wouldn't get around to him until 1985.
1984 PeeWee Reese, Rick Ferrell
1985 Country Slaughter, Arky Vaughan
1986 Bobby Doerr, Ernie Lombardi

His stats are terrific. Good hitter at a prime defensive position which he played very well.

Do they lie?

He was not considered a superstar in his own time by the contemporary mythmakers.
   7. TomH Posted: June 14, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1404087)
I had a study published recently on what player had the highest ever 'trade value'; established greatness at a young age.
For established performance, I used Win Shares, and weighted 40% of current year, 30% of Year-1, then 20% Y-2 and 10% Y-3.
Arky Vaughan thru age 24 was 4th all-time.
...Cobb 44.7
Mantle 41.7
...Ruth 41.5
Vaughan 36.3
And if I had used a January 1 birthdate instead of July 1 to get "age", Mantle would fall and leave Vaughan in 3rd place.
I guess if I had a 24-yr old good glove SS with an established OPS+ of 150, I probably would keep him, too.

I can email the whole study if anyone wants it
   8. OCF Posted: June 14, 2005 at 07:38 PM (#1404111)
His trade value was obviously much lower than that after his age 29 season, but still ...
   9. Michael Bass Posted: June 14, 2005 at 08:18 PM (#1404189)
My all-time SS list (active players excluded):

1. Wagner
2. Lloyd
3. Ripken
4. Vaughan
   10. TomH Posted: June 14, 2005 at 08:30 PM (#1404220)
nice list, altho I'd have Yount at #4
   11. Michael Bass Posted: June 14, 2005 at 08:38 PM (#1404234)
The case can be made for Yount, but I'm a peak guy, and Vaughan's peak was historically great. Basically, he's Hughie Jennings, except with actual support years to his unbelievable peak.
   12. Howie Menckel Posted: June 14, 2005 at 08:50 PM (#1404258)
Hughie Jennings?

What years were Vaughan the best player in the majors?
   13. Michael Bass Posted: June 14, 2005 at 09:02 PM (#1404285)
1) Being the best player in the 30s is a little tougher than being the best player in the 90s was. There seemed to be a bit of a dearth of inner circle hitting talent at that time, IMO.

2) Vaughan was the best player in baseball in 1935. I'm too lazy to look it up*, but I suspect he was at least close from 1933-1936, though probably never the best in those other 3 years.

Top 5 WARP1 years:

Jennings: 16.0, 15.3, 15.3, 12.5, 10.3
Vaughan: 16.2, 15.0, 14.5, 13.3, 12.4

Now, Hughie gets a schedule adjustment, so he edges out Arky on peak...maybe. Arky is already pulling way ahead by year 5. But Arky's close enough to be in the Jennings zone on peak. And he adds another 6 or so quality support years.

I got motivated enough to look it up in the WS supplement, which is easy enough. Wish WARP had season summaries. ML ranks:

1933: t4
1934: 5
1935: 1
1936: 5
1938: t2
1940: t4
   14. jimd Posted: June 14, 2005 at 11:00 PM (#1404460)
BP has Vaughan as the best player in MLB in 1934, 35, 36, and 38. (At least it did in the version of WARP from last fall.) Now, in 1934 and 1936 it is very close between Vaughan and Gehrig, and Vaughan benefits from the NL having moved ahead of the AL somewhat. OTOH, Vaughan has a good lead in 1935 and 1938.
   15. sunnyday2 Posted: June 14, 2005 at 11:30 PM (#1404540)
Just to summarize (for myself), I can't imagine how Vaughan won't be #1 on my 1954 ballot. Taken from the standpoint of his reputation, as exemplified at least in part by his treatment by the HoF, versus the statistical record and analysis that has since been developed, he must be (or rather, must have been) one of the two or three most underrated players in history.
   16. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: June 15, 2005 at 12:25 AM (#1404686)
Or at least one of the two or three underrated players in MLB history. There areplenty of vastly underrated NeL players like Torriente, Santop, Suttles, Beckwith, etc.
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: June 15, 2005 at 12:42 AM (#1404751)
I already was prepared to give you 1935.
I'd have to look closer at the others.

So we have a guy who gets a nice boost for his defense to become a supposed 'all-time great.'
Oddly, no one in his era appears to have grasped this, as per MVP and then HOM voting trends.

Now, if it were just a matter of primitive thinking not grasping the value of walks, for example, I'd be inclined to discount the lack of peer respect.

But is there much anecdotal evidence that he was a really good fielder? I'm no expert on him, so perhaps there is.

I do know he made 92 errors his first two years, which ain't good. His range seemed to improve, among other things, but I'm leery of assumptions that Win Shares (or anything else) are gold when fielding kicks in.

Vaughan was an excellent hitter who played SS. He could rank as high as No. 1 on my 1954 ballot. But it wouldn't kill us to make him jump a few hurdles before we canonize him, right?
   18. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 15, 2005 at 02:16 AM (#1405078)
"Now, if it were just a matter of primitive thinking not grasping the value of walks, for example, I'd be inclined to discount the lack of peer respect."

That's a big part of it. Arky walked 84 times per 162 games. His AVG was +.042, his OBP was +.067.

Good hitters that play SS tend to get compared to other power hitters instead of other SS's for some reason. This always dogged Ripken in the late 80s when he supposedly wasn't very good (which is hogwash).

It was also a down era/league for hitters. Look at his ten most comparable list through age 30:

His OPS+ is 23 points higher than the guys with similar stats - he's clearly better than guys like Frisch, Jeter, Cronin, Sewell, Alomar through the same age. Of course he adds nothing after this, but that gives you an idea of just how good he was. Even Jennings only had a 123 OPS+ through age 30 (when he was effectively done), compared to Vaughn's 138.

I haven't looked everyone over, but he's probably going to be #1 on my ballot, actually maybe #2 behind Wells, I've got to look over the career/peak thing.

As for defense, his career FPct, was .002 above the league, so I wouldn't knock him for his errors. I have no idea what his range was like. He must have had a good arm, because he also played 3B (and looks to have been outstanding there, at least error wise).

I'd think he was a league average defensive SS.

This guy isn't a Jennings/Koufax/Dean, he's a Griffey/Belle/Kiner.
   19. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 15, 2005 at 02:18 AM (#1405085)
Stupid mozilla. Here's the link, broken up, sorry.
   20. Chris Cobb Posted: June 15, 2005 at 02:28 AM (#1405113)
On Vaughan's fielding: WARP and WS are in agreement that Vaughan was an above-average defensive shortstop: WS rates him a B+, WARP has him at 107 fielding runs above average for his career. _Not_ shabby.

On errors early in his career: it's not unusual for a young shortstop with good range and good arm to make a lot of errors early in his career. From studying career trajectories, it looks like fielders at high-skill defensive positions tend to peak defensively 3-5 years into their time in the majors. Obviously, their athleticism is declining slightly from Day One, but they learn the position better and refine their skills. Vaughan's errors drop after his first two years, quite substantially, so I don't see this as serious evidence that he wasn't a good defensive shortstop.

He also, if you like traditional fielding metrics, led NL shortstops in putouts in 1936, putouts, assists, and double plays in 1938, putouts, assists, and total chances per game in 1939, assists (and errors again) in 1940.

So if he didn't have a good contemporary defensive reputation, it would appear to be because nobody was looking at the numbers at all.

With his bat, which is as good as anybody eligible except Cravath, Suttles, Sisler (peak only), and Beckwith (narrowly ahead), all he needs to be is an average defensive shortstop to be #1 on this ballot. The statistical evidence that he was substantially above average defensively is strong. That makes him not only #1 on this ballot but one of the top 5 shortstops of all time.

If the fact that he was winning batting titles (not a routine thing for shortstops not named Wagner) and leading the league in putouts and assists (though not in the same year as he won a batting title) didn't give him a contemporary reputation as a the best player in baseball, then people just weren't paying attention, because the evidence was there in signs folks in the 1930s ought to have been able to read.

Maybe the sportswriters thought he lacked "heart" because he walked out on Durocher.
   21. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 15, 2005 at 02:40 AM (#1405150)
He was a 9-time All-Star who finished 3rd in the MVP vote twice despite never playing for a team that won a pennant (really he played for the 1980s Tigers, if they hadn't won in 1984 or 1987, a team always in contention but never over the hump). I'd say his reputation wasn't that bad.

Well he was on the 1947 Dodgers, but by then he was pretty much done.
   22. jimd Posted: June 15, 2005 at 03:13 AM (#1405229)
The difference between SS and 1B for the 30's is about 35 points of OPS+. The difference between Vaughan and Gehrig in 1936 is 42 points of OPS+. I have no problem believing that a good defensive SS can make up 7 points of OPS+ with defense over a good 1B. The difference in 1934 is 59 points of OPS+. 24 points is tougher to make up; I think the league discount must come into play there.

I wonder if Vaughan suffered from "the Yaz effect" (or "Bourque effect"). This is where a superstar playing the same position in the same city in the wake of another, greater superstar tends to suffer by comparison. The local writers that one would expect to tout him to the out-of-town writers are more reticent in their praise because "he's no Wagner".

This is compounded by Vaughan's own quiet disposition, the lack of pennant winners during his tenure, and Pittsburgh being a small market.
   23. Chris Cobb Posted: June 15, 2005 at 03:59 AM (#1405313)
Given the all-star selections and the near-misses on the MVPs, the BBWAA's dissing of Vaughan in the HoF voting is truly bizarre, then. How could they have forgotten him that fast?

The Rhyne Sandberg syndrome in spades? Or maybe this was a side-effect of the Rizzuto vs. Stephens shortstop debates, with Vaughan as a proxy for Stephens??
   24. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 15, 2005 at 04:12 AM (#1405347)
They had a boatload of candidates to sift through and this guy was dead. Because of the war, he only played 129 games after 1943. His teams never won anything. Record keeping was pretty bad, no encyclopedia, and you've got guys like Ott and Foxx, Paul Waner, Harry Heilmann, etc. going in during this time.

Out of sight, out of mind.
   25. Howie Menckel Posted: June 15, 2005 at 11:35 AM (#1405575)
Wow, lots of good responses, not that I'm surprised.

I like Joe's Griffey/Belle/Kiner mode, though Vaughan may be better due to the SS issue.

Funny about his getting compared to non-SSs - that's what really propelled my skepticism. Compared to 2B-SSs, he crushes the field.
But some of the praise seemed to go into territory I'm not sure he belongs in.

I'll take Gehrig and his 42-pt OPS+ advantage in 1936, for example, and win a pennant over your non-Ozzie-defense SS and his 42-pt disadvantage. Vaughan is a top 5 player in several of those years, and No. 1 in 1935, but I'm not going further than that right now.
   26. Howie Menckel Posted: June 15, 2005 at 11:39 AM (#1405577)
P.S. Relying completely on comparisons to other players at a position can be a little dicey. A few people fell in love with Sewell early, just because his competition stunk.
Vaughan was a phenomenal hitter; if there happened to be two other great hitters at SS in that league and era, yes it cuts into his dominance at the position. But he's still a great hitter.
Of course skill level vs position peers is significant, but it can be taken too far.
   27. jimd Posted: June 15, 2005 at 06:23 PM (#1406602)
I'll take Gehrig and his 42-pt OPS+ advantage in 1936, for example, and win a pennant over your non-Ozzie-defense SS and his 42-pt disadvantage.

No you won't. You have a completely average SS (90 OPS+) and Gehrig. I have a completely average 1B (125 OPS+), and Vaughan, hitting for a 150 OPS+. You need to get 35 points extra of OPS+ (185) from 1B with average defense to break even with an average defensive SS hitting a 150 OPS+. If my SS is above average defensively, then you need extra OPS+ from your star 1B to stay even.
   28. jimd Posted: June 15, 2005 at 06:39 PM (#1406684)
They had a boatload of candidates to sift through and this guy was dead.

Check out the HOF voting for 1953

Vaughan has ONE vote. His predecessor, Glenn Wright, has three. Maranville is fifth place. For some reason, Arky didn't leave an impression.
   29. DavidFoss Posted: June 15, 2005 at 06:47 PM (#1406725)
Vaughan has ONE vote. His predecessor, Glenn Wright, has three. Maranville is fifth place. For some reason, Arky didn't leave an impression.

Wow... and Hank Gowdy got 58 votes due to his 1914 WS performance. Its tallies like these that remind me why we're doing this project.
   30. andrew siegel Posted: June 15, 2005 at 07:27 PM (#1406848)
As I understand it, Gowdy got a few votes for his postseason heroics and a few from defense-above-all-else stalwarts, but got most of his votes b/c/ he was a true war hero and a number of voters and officials thought that it would make sense to honor him as a human being and as a representative of all the ballplayer-servicemen. There is no intrinsic reason why the HoF needs to honor only on the field contributions and the instiution was new enough that it wasn't clear that it was going to do so exclusively.
   31. DavidFoss Posted: June 15, 2005 at 08:33 PM (#1407060)
OK. Thanks for the info on Hank Gowdy.
   32. sunnyday2 Posted: June 16, 2005 at 03:35 AM (#1408252)
Quite the field, it would be fun if we had to vote for such a field. If so:

1. DiMaggio--ya think?
2. Vaughan
3. Greenberg
4. Hartnett
5. Dickey
6. Cronin
7. Simmons
8. Lyons
9. Appling
10. Terry

11. Vance
12. Wheat
13. Carey
14. Roush
15. Dean
16. Gomez
17. Doerr
18. H. Wilson

Could only vote for 10 anyway. I might have voted for 8 or 9 and left it at that under those rules.
   33. Howie Menckel Posted: June 16, 2005 at 12:41 PM (#1408724)
Interesting challenge, sunnyday.

1) Is OPS+ that linear, as you are trying to make it?
2) You're giving too much reward, in my mind, to the SS and penalizing the 1B for the other ones being good. Although, in my 'challenge,' that may actually be fair. I don't think it's quite so with HOM voting, though. In that case, Greenberg would be much closer to 'average' than he should be, and no one seemed willing to do that.
   34. jimd Posted: June 16, 2005 at 06:15 PM (#1409350)
1) Is OPS+ that linear, as you are trying to make it?

There are more sophisticated offensive measures like RC and EQA, but OPS+ is easier to calculate and correlates fairly well with the others and the number of runs that a team scores. It's linear.

2) You're giving too much reward, in my mind, to the SS and penalizing the 1B for the other ones being good.

You're giving too much credit for the hitting and no credit for playing the more demanding defensive position.

The rationale behind James' Defensive Spectrum is that the relative absence of offense at a position is a good indicator of how much the defense at that position is worth. If offense trumped everything then managers would just play their 8 best bats, at the positions they caused the least defensive damage. (Kevin Millar at 2B during interleague play? No thanks.)

Another way of looking at this is, Vaughan in 1936 is worth 60 points of OPS+ over the average SS and Gehrig is worth 67 points of OPS+ over the average 1B. Not a big difference and one which someone with above average glovework at SS could overcome. Also the 35 point difference between 1B and SS in the 1930's isn't much different than it is for all time; the average 1B-man could really hit but so could the SS's. The difference was over 40 points of OPS+ in the 1970's when hitting SS's were rare. How much value someone contributes is always relative to his peers, so if the average at 1B is 125 OPS+, then hitting 125 OPS+ at 1B isn't particularly valuable, it's just average.
   35. Howie Menckel Posted: June 16, 2005 at 08:27 PM (#1409784)
I agree that over decades, the absence of offense is an indicator of the value of the defense of the position. And I do give a bonus for Vaughan as an SS.
But in the short run, sometimes other SSs just stink, or the other 1Bs are phenomenal. We can and do take all that into account in our voting (see, Sewell, Joe and Greenberg, Hank).

If all the SSs in the NL hit .180 with a 72 OPS+ next year, except for Felipe Lopez hit .290 with a 110 OPS+, there might be some truth in noting that Lopez was further ahead for his position than anyone, for example.
But Lopez wouldn't necessarily deserve the MVP. Otherwise, Albert Pujols might be losing out not because Lopez was better - but because Jose Reyes had hamstring problems all year, Vizquel got old in a hurry, Jack Wilson slipped further from a career year, JJ Hardy was given another year to develop, etc.

I'm not going to pick Lopez over Pujols for MVP simply based on factors like that.

As for the 125 OPS+ thing, yes, somewhat true.

But if yo go to a super-model party, and they're all similarly hot, does that mean they're all just average - or all equally hot?
   36. Howie Menckel Posted: June 17, 2005 at 03:55 PM (#1411363)
Whew, only on a baseball-geek site could a mention of super-models grind a good discussion to a halt for 20 hours...

   37. DavidFoss Posted: June 17, 2005 at 04:11 PM (#1411405)
Whew, only on a baseball-geek site could a mention of super-models grind a good discussion to a halt for 20 hours...


Yeah, taking your analogy further... just like every team gets one-and-only-one first baseman, then every one of us gets one-and-only-one supermodel.

Since Heidi Klum is effectively on the DL with her pregnancy, I've been mulling over who to replace her for the previous 20 hours.

   38. jimd Posted: June 17, 2005 at 06:05 PM (#1411680)
But if yo go to a super-model party, and they're all similarly hot, does that mean they're all just average - or all equally hot?

If you're a featured guest at a party at the Playboy mansion, do you get more selective? ;-)

But in the short run, sometimes other SSs just stink, or the other 1Bs are phenomenal.

But the SS's in the 30's don't stink. They are also above the historical average as hitters. Over all time, the average difference between SS's and 1B-men is about 30 points of OPS+.

So Gehrig in 1936 is 7-12 points of OPS+ ahead (depending on whether you give Vaughan 35 or 30 points of positional credit). 7-12 points of OPS+ is about 7-12 singles. If Vaughan can make one or two extra plays at SS per month that an average SS doesn't make, he's even.
   39. Howie Menckel Posted: June 17, 2005 at 07:43 PM (#1411954)
gotcha, jimd.
I'm not quite convinced that Vaughan made those plays, though.

Someone will smack me if I vote Vaughan No. 1 after all this, but it is possible. He's got some great numbers, for sure.
   40. jimd Posted: June 17, 2005 at 11:52 PM (#1412636)
I'm not quite convinced that Vaughan made those plays, though.

And that is your right, of course.

My main point was that in the seasons in question, both players hit about the same amount above their positional peers, so both deserve similar consideration and analysis for the honor of "the best player in baseball". Vaughan was in the mix, even if you don't buy into BP's specific defensive numbers.

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