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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Babe Ruth

Eligible in 1941.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2007 at 11:51 AM | 44 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2007 at 11:58 AM (#2317400)
The Colossus of Clout was analyzed on these threads:

1941 Ballot Discussion

Right Fielder Positional Thread

If you know of any others, please let me know.
   2. AndrewJ Posted: March 25, 2007 at 01:18 PM (#2317415)
Pass.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 25, 2007 at 01:52 PM (#2317426)
;-)
   4. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 25, 2007 at 02:22 PM (#2317434)
Ruth is at one extreme of a scale representing the well-known two-way guys, and being great at both. At the other end might be someone like Don Newcombe or Bob Lemon or Bucky Walters, a guy who was clearly a pitcher but who could really hit and consistently. So I made a quick list of those guys, alpha rather than ranked:

George Bradley
Rube Bressler
Charlie Buffington
Nixey Callahan
Bob Caruthers
Martin Dihigo
Charley Ferguson
Wes Ferrell
Dave Foutz
Kid Gleason
Guy Hecker
Bob Lemon
Jack Manning
Cal McVey
Jose Mendez
Tony Mullane
Don Newcombe
Joe Rogan
Babe Ruth
Cy Seymour
Elmer Smith (The Oneth)
Al Spalding
Jesse Tannehill
Adonis Terry
Bobby Wallace
Bucky Walters
Monte Ward
Joe Wood

This is off the top of my head. I wondered if guys like Ruffing, Stivetts, Bond, McCormick, Whitney were good enough hitters, pinch hit enough, or played other positions enough. Also whether Ryan and GVH did enough good pitching. For that matter is it appropriate to classify Walters or Lemon as two-way players? Finally, there's a bunch of other NgL two-way players who I'm not recalling just now, but who would definitely be on any such list.
   5. BDC Posted: March 25, 2007 at 02:43 PM (#2317436)
Does any source other than the 1969 Macmillan include pitcher's pinch-hit appearances? Ruffing was 58-for-228 lifetime as a pinch hitter [as of spring 1969 he was 21st in career pinch hits], Lemon 31-for-109, Walters 14-for-64, Stivetts 10-for-37. Bond, McCormick, and Whitney are not listed as having any pinch at-bats, probably because they played before pinch-hitters were common (the Macmillan tends to leave a line completely blank if there is no data, but those three have solid zeroes in the PH column).

For context, Walter Johnson was 21-for-110 lifetime as a pinch hitter, while Pete Alexander and Lefty Grove were each 0-for-2 lifetime in that role; Christy Mathewson 0-for-4, Cy Young 1-for-5. Evidently to do a lot of pinch-hitting in the 1890s-1950s era, a pitcher had to meet some minimal standard; it wasn't just that rosters were so small that every pitcher had to do some. Guys like Ruffing and Lemon added serious versatility to their teams' benches.

Wes Ferrell was 31-for-139 lifetime as a pinch hitter, as has no doubt been shown in great detail on several threads :) George Uhle was 44-for-169.
   6. OCF Posted: March 25, 2007 at 03:01 PM (#2317441)
In the Historical Baseball Abstract, and repeated in the newer version, James provides a list of players who started as pitchers but switched to be position players at roughly the same time Ruth did:

George Sisler
Rube Bressler
Reb Russell
Buzz Arlett
Lefty O'Doul
Pete Schneider
Sam Rice
Charlie Jamieson
Jack Graney
Bill Barrett
Harry Wolter
Wilbur Good
Clarence Mitchell
Jack Bentley
Johnny Cooney

And then, in the NBJHBA, he gives two more lists - one which is calls "pitcher plus" in which he's using WS and a harmonic mean to find the best 10 combos. Here's that list:

1. Ruth
2. Ward
3. Caruthers
4. Foutz
5. Elmer Smith
6. Gleason
7. Hecker
8. Seymour
9. Callahan
10. Jim Whitney

And then he provided a list of post-WWII pitchers who could hit a little, with Lemon being #1 on that list, following by Newcombe and Wynn. Bob Forsch and Rick Rhoden were 9 and 10 on the list.

--

There have been plenty of other guys switched from P to position player in the low minors - wasn't Stan Musial once a pitcher? And there have been guys switched in the other direction, from position player to pitcher - Walters and Lemon stick out becuase they reached the majors as position players before the switch happened. There are probably dozens of Guillermo Mota stories, where the switch happened in the minors.

The 1930's was the high time of the P/PH. We've mentioned Ruffing and Ferrell. Red Lucas was another one, and as a classic PH type (LH, high average) he got more PA as a PH than the RH slugger Ferrell.

The P/PH essentially died out long ago, but there was Brooks Kieschnick, and I've been telling Mets fans that Jason Vargas could do that if given a chance.
   7. rawagman Posted: March 25, 2007 at 03:06 PM (#2317444)
Vladimir Guerrero.
I recently met Dan Duquette who told the story of how Vlad tried out with the Yankees as a pitcher and they weren't interested. Next, he worked out for the Expos' scout, as both pitcher and outfielder. Apparently, the scout was impressed by his work in the field and with the stick.
   8. baudib Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:18 AM (#2317798)
When Jack Clark joined the Yankees, I remember reading that he, Mattingly and Winfield had all been pitchers at one point (college or minors).
   9. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:35 AM (#2317804)
One other guy who was by no means a great player, or even a particularly good one, but was able to play regularly as an outfielder, and then pitch regularly both as a starter and reliever, and do it after WW2, is Hal Jeffcoat:

Hal Jeffcoat

We won't mention Wonderous Willie Smith. And of course, among current players, Ron Mahay came up as an outfielder.

And yes, I'm aware of the lifetime OPS+ of 73.

One interesting thing that's forgotten is that the Giants, at the end of the 1902 season, tried to convert Christy Mathewson to an outfielder/first baseman. He played four games in the OF, and three at first, making four errors at the latter position. Fortunately, John McGraw abandoned that by the start of 1903...
   10. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:37 AM (#2317805)
Oops... that didn't read well. The lifetime OPS+ of 73 belonged to Jeffcoat.
   11. DCW3 Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:42 AM (#2317807)
What about the unforgettable Chubby Dean? Perhaps unique in that his career ERA+ was identical to his career OPS+ (79). Sort of a sad case, as he was an excellent pitcher for a first baseman, and an excellent hitter for a pitcher...just nowhere near good enough at either one to be a successful major leaguer.
   12. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:50 AM (#2317809)
Another post-WW2 player who did both was Dick Hall - he was a pretty good pitcher, but as an outfielder, hit like a pitcher. His one year, 1954, with over 300 PA resulted in a .239/.304/.310 line, and an OPS+ of 62. It was also his last year primarily as an outfielder - he made the right decision...
   13. Paul Wendt Posted: March 26, 2007 at 01:33 PM (#2317855)
OCF and other Arithmegicians:
What do you think of geometric means, harmonic means, and roll your own means as :-) means of building eye-catching statistics from numbers in multiple unlike categories?
   14. TomH Posted: March 26, 2007 at 02:16 PM (#2317876)
That would be a complex subject, Paul, and I doubt I could answer it fully (or cogently) in brief. In both cases you need to ensure the Min number in any category doesn't fall below a level that renders the technique silly; below 1 starts funny stuff happening. Same with logarithmic means. I've seen the geometric mean in real-life issues (navigation system errors).

James' use of harmonic in the NHA was I think a taste issue (it worked for him, gave a reasonable answer), but three other techinques likely would have done as well.
James' cute 'power speed' formula is essentially a geometric mean.
When comparing ranks in categories, geometric works well because a rank of '1st' and '20th' in two categories is weighted better than two '10ths'. I suspect voter's (MVP, HoF) subconcious tendencies could be described well using some geometric or harmonic mean stats.
   15. Paul Wendt Posted: March 26, 2007 at 02:17 PM (#2317877)
Eric Chalek has a lot on the top of his head. I still have a lot of hair but only because I don't cut it.
This is off the top of my head. I wondered if guys like Ruffing, Stivetts, Bond, McCormick, Whitney were good enough hitters, pinch hit enough, or played other positions enough. Also whether Ryan and GVH did enough good pitching. For that matter is it appropriate to classify Walters or Lemon as two-way players?

Ec, all that depends on what you are trying to do!

John Elmer happy jack Stivetts

Fielding Games, etc
Pit O-1 23S phr
361 109 _4 (12) ; 1889-1896, double-digit OF games in most seasons
_18 _31 _2 (10) ; 1897 (OPS+ 143)
__9 _31 _8 (11) ; 1898-1899 (OPS+ ~

388 171 14 (33) ; 1889-1899, mlb career

"phr" is the season surplus of batting games above fielding games; that is min{0, Batting-Fielding}
For straight Batting-Fielding the season record is 0 0 -1 -2 1 3 1 7 ; 10 ; 9 2
(All that work by hand, eye, and mind is errorprone.)

Babe Ruth recalled Boston memories of Jack Stivetts. Beside batting with some power, Stivetts was a regular pitcher on back to back champions in his first two seasons. The pitching staffs included about three and five regulars so the Babe's role as a pitcher, and any pitcher's role in his time, was notably less than Jack's. The development was well underway before Stivetts retired from the Boston staff.
   16. OCF Posted: March 26, 2007 at 03:41 PM (#2317969)
Power-speed number is a harmonic mean, not a geometric mean.

Suppose we have two positive numbers A and B. The mean of order p is M_p=(A^p + B^p)^(1/p). This is an increasing function of p - the larger the p, the larger the mean. There are three limiting cases:

The limit as p tends to + infinity (might as well call it the + infinity mean) is the maximum.

The limit as p tends to - infinity is the minimum.

The limit as p tends to zero is M_0=sqrt(A*B), better known as the geometric mean.

The case of p= 1 is the arithmetic mean; the ordinary average.

The case of p = -1 is the harmonic mean: M_{-1}=(A^{-1}+B^{-1})^{-1}=2*A*B/(A+B).

Talking about a "40-40" season, or a "triple-double" in basketball, is in effect using the - infinity mean (the minimum).

The larger you make p, the more important you're making the maximum number; the smaller you make p, the more important you're making the minimum number. The geometric mean has the important conceptual advantage of being "scale-free," meaning that it doesn't really matter if the two items are measured on different scales. In any other mean, the scale matters. Take the case of the "triple-double" - it's a minimum, so only the smallest of the three numbers matters, but 10 points is a far less impressive accomplishment than 10 rebounds or 10 assists. It would make more sense to divide the points by something like 2.5 before including them.

If you're trying to highlight the dual nature of some combined accomplishment - if you want something on both sides - then any mean with p <= 0 has the property that if either one of the two numbers is zero, then the mean is zero.
   17. Paul Wendt Posted: March 26, 2007 at 04:02 PM (#2317991)
The geometric mean has the important conceptual advantage of being "scale-free," meaning that it doesn't really matter if the two items are measured on different scales. In any other mean, the scale matters.

Oh, I missed that and it is crucial.
   18. OCF Posted: March 26, 2007 at 04:08 PM (#2317999)
Typo: that should have been that the mean of order p is

M_p = ((A^p + B^p)/2)^(1/p)
   19. Paul Wendt Posted: March 26, 2007 at 05:42 PM (#2318055)
Thanks.
Inside the parens, this expression seems to be off by a factor of n, the number of numbers meaned.
Wikipedia: Power mean
   20. DavidFoss Posted: March 26, 2007 at 05:47 PM (#2318060)
Inside the parens, this expression seems to be off by a factor of n, the number of numbers meaned.

That's what the "2" is I believe.
   21. djrelays Posted: March 26, 2007 at 06:37 PM (#2318111)
Dick Hall is one of the (extremely) few major leaguers who would know exactly what OCF (#16) is talking about!
   22. TomH Posted: March 26, 2007 at 07:43 PM (#2318154)
Power-speed number is a harmonic mean, not a geometric mean.

yeah. Duh. I knew that. Told ya I couldn't be cogent when being brief and typing quickly!
   23. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 26, 2007 at 08:58 PM (#2318243)
Dick Hall is one of the (extremely) few major leaguers who would know exactly what OCF (#16) is talking about!

That's why he was known as Turkey Neck.



Or maybe not.
   24. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 26, 2007 at 09:25 PM (#2318283)
OK, I went searching for Dick Hall (who I thought was called Turkey Neck), and now i'm not so sure. The only reference to him as being anything poultry related is on Baseball Almance which only shows "Turkey." I did a lot of googling on this and turned up nothing. However, I very clearly remember Hall being referred to in my 1990 Neft and Cohen as "Turkey Neck." Like it was yesterday. Am I going crazy?
   25. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 26, 2007 at 09:52 PM (#2318321)
OK, I went searching for Dick Hall (who I thought was called Turkey Neck), and now i'm not so sure. The only reference to him as being anything poultry related is on Baseball Almance which only shows "Turkey." I did a lot of googling on this and turned up nothing. However, I very clearly remember Hall being referred to in my 1990 Neft and Cohen as "Turkey Neck." Like it was yesterday. Am I going crazy?


Don't know about the '90, but I have the 1988 edition, and Dick Hall is certainly listed as "Turkey Neck". So, no, you're not going crazy.
   26. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 26, 2007 at 10:54 PM (#2318386)
So, no, you're not going crazy.

Thanks, VOD! Though I suspect my wife won't agree with your conclusion....
   27. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: March 26, 2007 at 11:13 PM (#2318400)
I believe that Tim Wakefield came up as an outfielder, as well.
   28. Cblau Posted: March 27, 2007 at 02:04 AM (#2318548)
Regarding Mathewson,
In June 1902, he had a sore arm, and the Giants had released their first baseman, so they used Matty there for 3 games. He also played some in the OF when McGraw took over the team. Joe McGinnity was also used in the OF and at second base. Rosters were a lot smaller then.
   29. BDC Posted: March 27, 2007 at 02:40 AM (#2318568)
We should not only mention Clint Hartung in this thread, but also note that he is alive and well.
   30. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 27, 2007 at 04:50 AM (#2318637)
Regarding Mathewson,
In June 1902, he had a sore arm, and the Giants had released their first baseman, so they used Matty there for 3 games. He also played some in the OF when McGraw took over the team. Joe McGinnity was also used in the OF and at second base. Rosters were a lot smaller then.


I looked at Matty, the Roy Robinson bio of Mathewson, and it wasn't just a situation of Mathewson being used as a position player in desperation. I got it wrong in my previous post, and you are right; it wasn't at the end of the year, it was in the middle of the season, in June, when Horace Fogel was still manager. According to Robinson, a few of the other Giant players had lost confidence in Mathewson as a pitcher (he went 14-17 that season), and convinced Fogel to play him somewhere other than pitcher. After a few none too impressive games in the field, Fogel put him back on the mound, and when McGraw took over later in the year, he kept him there. But the move was originally made with the intention of seeing if Mathewson had the ability to be a regular position player.
   31. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 27, 2007 at 04:59 AM (#2318641)
Back to the original subject of the thread: Has anyone ever done a brock2-type projection on what the rest of Babe Ruth's career as a pitcher would have been like if he hadn't been moved to the outfield?

Obviously, he was a very good pitcher, but, disregarding injury, just how good was he?
   32. OCF Posted: March 27, 2007 at 06:47 AM (#2318679)
Even though he was still very young, his strikeout rate was dropping. Strikeouts in general were dropping, but his trend doesn't look good. My best guess is that he wasn't destined for a long career as a pitcher.
   33. JPWF13 Posted: March 27, 2007 at 07:34 PM (#2319063)
My best guess is that he wasn't destined for a long career as a pitcher.


He threw 218 innings as a 20 year old, 324 as a 21 year old and 326 as a 22 year old. That was in the deadball era where IP were much less stressful than later eras, but the liveball era was going to get started whether or not Ruth was a hitter, and most young pitchers post deadball era simply don't last long under such a workload, and

as No.32 alludes to his K/BB was getting worse every year- that's a bad trend for a pitcher in any era.
   34. Mike Emeigh Posted: March 29, 2007 at 05:25 PM (#2320298)
I believe that Tim Wakefield came up as an outfielder, as well.


He was actually a 1B/3B in the minors who converted to pitching when it became obvious he'd never hit enough to make it as a position player.

-- MWE
   35. OCF Posted: March 29, 2007 at 07:06 PM (#2320357)
I can't find my notes, but there was something I remember looking at a long time ago when we were talking about Van Haltren and Cy Seymour and various other two-way players. The following seemed to me to be at trend: before 1893, such players were about as good at hitting when they were pitching a lot as when they weren't pitching. But after 1893, there was a distinct tendency for these players to be better hitters when not doing much pitching and worse hitters when the were throwing serious innings. Babe Ruth himself is an example of this.
   36. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 29, 2007 at 07:41 PM (#2320376)
DrC (#4) - Ruffing IMO has the most hitting value of any pitcher post-1893. Only Caruthers and Foutz (who didn't pitch all that much 1123 tIP) would be ahead of him if you include pre-1893.
   37. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 29, 2007 at 07:47 PM (#2320382)
Here's my list of the top hitters as pitchers (post-1893) in terms of runs:

Red Ruffing
Wes Ferrell
Walter Johnson
Don Newcombe
George Uhle
George Mullin
Bob Lemon
Babe Ruth
Schoolboy Rowe
Al Orth
Early Wynn
Bucky Walters
Reb Russell
Carl Mays
Warren Spahn
Jesse Tannehill
Bob Gibson
Joe Bush
Dutch Ruether
Claude Hendrix
Burleigh Grimes
Rick Rhoden
Bob Forsch
Christy Matthews
Gary Peters

Those guys all had 35 or BRAR as a pitcher. Wood doesn't make the list because he only pitched for a few years. It doesn't count his offense after going to the OF.

Don Drysdale just misses (+32).
   38. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 29, 2007 at 07:48 PM (#2320383)
Actually, Reb Russell probably shouldn't be on that list - I was counting all of his offense/fielding, including his two years in the OF.
   39. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: March 29, 2007 at 07:50 PM (#2320384)
I came across what I think is the most amazing Babe Ruth statistic (and perhaps the most amazing baseball statistic I've ever seen, period) in calculating my new WARP (check them out! They're posted to the Yahoo! group). As I was doing my regression on the standard deviation of performance in the AL, I kept getting lower correlations than I had seen in the NL, with particularly high residuals in the 1920's--the regression equation was predicting a far lower standard deviation throughout the 1920's AL than the league actually had, sometimes by as much as 15% (which is huge). It was, however, right on for 1925 and 1922. Which gave me an idea...

I removed Babe Ruth, one player, from the sample. Instantly, the regression line was a perfect fit. Babe Ruth alone increased the standard deviation of his league by over 10% consistently throughout the 1920's. He was a one-man star glut. Pretty damn remarkable. But then again, he was The Babe.

Is there any reason to doubt Fielding Win Shares and WARP crediting him for a great, great defensive season in 1921 and a positively historic one in 1923?
   40. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 29, 2007 at 08:26 PM (#2320417)
"Is there any reason to doubt Fielding Win Shares and WARP crediting him for a great, great defensive season in 1921 and a positively historic one in 1923?"


Not in my opinion. He got a reputation as a fat guy later, but in 1921-23 he was 26-28 years old. He was an amazing athlete. He hit a ton of triples, stole some bases. I have no doubt he was an outstanding corner outfielder before the hot dogs and beer weighed him down.
   41. Daryn Posted: March 29, 2007 at 08:42 PM (#2320427)
My favourite weird Ruth stat is this: 144, 137, 137, 72, 136, 128, 130.

Does everyone/anyone know what those numbers are?

They are Ruth's BBs from 1926 to 1932, all in similarly full-time seasons.

What happened in 1929?
   42. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 30, 2007 at 07:10 PM (#2320988)
Maybe they switched the batting order that year and fewer intentional walks or something?
   43. JPWF13 Posted: March 30, 2007 at 07:44 PM (#2321012)
I removed Babe Ruth, one player, from the sample. Instantly, the regression line was a perfect fit. Babe Ruth alone increased the standard deviation of his league by over 10% consistently throughout the 1920's. He was a one-man star glut. Pretty damn remarkable. But then again, he was The Babe.


A similar but less extreme case was the 2B position especially in the NL- it's been observed by some- including Bill James, that 2B used to be an offense position- more so than 3B- into the late 20s... actually the switch from 2B being an offense first position to a defense first position (and being less offensive than 3B) happened earlier- if you exclude Hornsby's #s in figuring out means.
   44. vortex of dissipation Posted: March 30, 2007 at 08:38 PM (#2321044)
Maybe they switched the batting order that year and fewer intentional walks or something?


The problem with this is that Ruth usually hit third, and Gehrig fourth, so changing the batting order would mean that the player hitting behind Ruth was not as good as Gehrig, and would presumably lead to more intentional walks for Ruth. I have no idea if the Yankees changed the batting order in 1929, but it's interesting that as Ruth's walks went down, Gehrig's went up - he drew 122, the largest total while he and Ruth were teammates. Gehrig's three biggest years in walks came in 1935-37, the first three years that he didn't play with Ruth.

And it's not as if Ruth sucked in 1929 and people were less scared of him - he hit .345 with 46 home runs. And he went back up to 130 walks in 1930.

What this all means, I don't know.

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