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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, January 30, 2006

Billy Pierce

Eligible in 1970.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 30, 2006 at 05:48 AM | 62 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 04:08 AM (#1851527)
I like this guy a lot more than Wynn, but the absence of the magic "300" (why it's magic, I haven't a clue) on his resume will probably hurt him. Hope I'm wrong.
   2. DavidFoss Posted: February 06, 2006 at 07:27 AM (#1851787)
Well, he's no where near the magic "300". He's way down at 211.

He's certainly one of the more underrated and unjustly forgotten players of his (or any other) era.

He does look quite a bit like Lemon. Similar W/L record and ERA+. He doesn't have Lemon's bat or 'workhorse factor', but does have 500 extra IP.

Tough guy to rank. 119 ERA+ is a bit low for a prime candidate and 3300 IP is a bit on the low side for a career candidate -- though IP/year for pitchers is going down as we progress in history. He does have the one 'big year' in that amazing 1955 season (where is Chris J to explain how only went 15-10 that season with a near-league-average Sox offense behind him). Its not a workhorse year, but 201 ERA+ still gets my attention.

Lee Sinin's RSAA likes him. It has him in 9th place from 1940-1969 slightly behind Bunning/Drysdale and slightly above Koufax/Roberts. The top six are Ford, Spahn, Newhouser, Wilhelm and Gibson. Lemon is down at 16th (his bat isn't counted in RSAA). Wynn is way down the list due as below average seasons are not treated kindly by RSAA. (Feller is missing his 30s years or he'd be top five).
   3. DavidFoss Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:15 AM (#1851838)
The top six are Ford, Spahn, Newhouser, Wilhelm and Gibson

Whoops... that's five names. #6 is Juan Marichal.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 02:26 PM (#1851891)
Well, he's no where near the magic "300". He's way down at 211.

Oh, I realize that, David. We're not talking about Blyleven here. :-) I just think that Pierce was still better than Wynn overall, even though the latter had almost 90 more wins to his credit.
   5. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 06, 2006 at 02:45 PM (#1851896)
Here’s a favorite game: which of these very similar pitchers is Billy Pierce?
INN ERA+
-------------------
PITCHER A 3306 119
PITCHER B 3104 115
PITCHER C 2850 119
PITCHER D 2782 119
PITCHER E 2623 117 

The answer is letter A. B is Bucky Walters, C is Bob Lemon, D is Lon Warneke, and E is Wes Ferrell. Of these pitchers, Lemon and Ferrell are HOMers, Walters has some support, and Warneke not so much. Ferrell augments his ERA+ with his 100 OPS+. Walters was also an outstanding hitter for a pitcher. Warneke was, by ERA+, more effective than either of them. But among these five, Pierce stands out for throwing the most innings and being just as effective as the Hall of Famer.

Pierce won 211 games with an OK .555 winning percentage. Lemon won 207 at .618. On the other hand, Lemon’s Indians won at a .574 clip during his career, compared to .539 for Pierce’s 1949-1961 Sox and .574 for his 1962-1964 Giants. When you compare Lemon’s and Pierce’s records to those of their teammates, Lemon outwon his teams by about four games; Pierce outwon his teammates by about five. There’s no meaningful difference between the quality of their pitching. The only real difference is that Lemon bunched more of his innings into his biggest years. However, Pierce wasn't exactly fragile, he just didn't hurl as many innings a year as Lemon, which may be a matter of his manager's preferences.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: February 06, 2006 at 03:19 PM (#1851913)
Expanding my little chart for Pierce:

162 IP minimum, listing all 100 ERA+ seasons:

BoLemon 144 39 36 34 33 13 12 08 03 01
Ferrell 146 35 33 30 26 24 24 06
EpRixey 144 43 42 39 36 29 24 15 15 13 10 09 09
BGrimes 152 44 38 36 31 23 08 08 08 03
EarWynn 154 42 36 35 26 18 15 10 09 03
BPierce 201 48 41 36 33 24 15 13 08 07 07 05 04 03

ERixey top 10 in IP: 1 3 3 3 4 7 8 8 9 9
Grimes top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 3 3 4 7 9 9 9
EaWynn top 10 in IP: 1 1 1 2 2 3 3 6 6 6 6 7
Pierce top 10 in IP: 3 3 3 5 5 7

Pierce's 201 ERA+ was not a top-10 IP season; he only started 26 of his 36 games. I suspect this was a Marty Marion idea, as he took over as manager during the 1954 season, which produced a similar Pierce pattern. Pierce then led the league in complete games each of 1956-58 - but in only 33-32-34 starts.
The lack of innings per season makes Lyons hard to compare to the 'peakers.'
He looks to be a hair behind Rixey (yes, I know he's elected already), before I start making other adjustments.

Pierce vs Ted Lyons, another Pale Hose whose career didn't quite intersect in Chicago. Seasons over 154 IP, but under 200 IP, with asterisk:

Pierce 201 48 41 36 33 24 15 13 08* 07* 07* 05* 04 03*
TLyons 171* 71* 53* 43 37* 33 32* 28 28 22 12* 11* 05 02 01*

Pierce top 10 in IP: 3 3 3 5 5 7
TLyons top 10 in IP: 1 1 2 2 7

When Pierce was in the top 10 in IP, his ERA+s were 148 41 36 33 24 15
When Lyons was in the top 10 in IP, his ERA+s were 143 28 28 22 05

Man, Lyons was an even weirder case. Even Pierce isn't a great parallel to him.

This will be an interesting guy to rank...
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: February 06, 2006 at 03:21 PM (#1851915)
oops
"the lack of innings makes PIERCE hard to compare to the peakers," I mean.
Lyons, too, but we're not voting on him anymore, lol
   8. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 06, 2006 at 05:10 PM (#1852029)
Interesting case. This may be the last guy that I am not too familiar with at all. However, right nwo he looks just below my in/out line because his peak isn't terribly high due to low IP totals and he doesnt' seem to be the hitter similar pitchers like Walters, Lemon, and Ferrell were. However, he shoudl be top 30 for me and I am open to ideas.
   9. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 06, 2006 at 05:45 PM (#1852076)
Pierce top 10 in IP: 3 3 3 5 5 7
TLyons top 10 in IP: 1 1 2 2 7


I wonder if this is a matter of managerial preference.

1951: Pierce is in top ten, four Cleveland guys ahead of him.

1952: 3 CLVs ahead of him

1953: 2 CLE ahead of him

1956: 1 CLE ahead of him

1957: 1 CLE ahead of him

1958: 0 CLE ahead of him

I think he just ran into Al Lopez's handling of his rotation. When Lopez moved to CHW, the White Sox started getting into the league leading innings totals more often.
   10. AJMcCringleberry Posted: February 06, 2006 at 07:03 PM (#1852170)
Win Shares has Wynn comfortably ahead of Pierce.

Career
Wynn: 308
Pierce: 248

Top 3 any
Wynn: 28, 25, 24 (also had another season at 24)
Pierce:24, 23, 23

Top 5 consecutive
Wynn: 110
Pierce: 101
   11. TomH Posted: February 06, 2006 at 07:44 PM (#1852223)
....except for WS/yr, where Pierce is comfortably ahead of Wynn, 27.7 to 24.6.
Carrer-wise, Wynn had 3.6 more 'years' at 16.8 WS/yr, which is about average performance.
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 07:55 PM (#1852239)
Win Shares has Wynn comfortably ahead of Pierce.

Career
Wynn: 308
Pierce: 248



Not so fast, AJM:

Career WS/43 Starts

Pierce: 27.73
Wynn: 24.64

I picked that up from the BJHBA, so it may be wrong, since many of those rate figures are incorrect in the book. However, I suspect the spread between then would still be the same.
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 07:57 PM (#1852243)
...and Tom beat me to the punch, I see. :-)
   14. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:29 PM (#1852272)
I think the other thing about Pierce that interests me is that we've often talked about how few pitchers we have or that there's kind of dearth of pitching between Grove and Spahn.

I'd say to that, here's your man. Sure, not as many innings as some, but equally effective or moreso with no major holes in his resume.
   15. DavidFoss Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:40 PM (#1852285)
....except for WS/yr, where Pierce is comfortably ahead of Wynn, 27.7 to 24.6

This is true, but Wynn has more WS in his best seasons than Pierce has in his. :-)

I think this says more about what a Dr. Jekyll & Mr Hyde type of pitcher that Wynn was than saying something about Pierce.

I think the other thing about Pierce that interests me is that we've often talked about how few pitchers we have or that there's kind of dearth of pitching between Grove and Spahn.

Spahn is helping this dearth out by outlasting his contemporaries. :-) Pierce is five years younger than Spahn (and a tiny bit younger than Roberts as well). But, you are right, the gap is there.
   16. AJMcCringleberry Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:43 PM (#1852290)
Wynn had 3.6 more 'years' at 16.8 WS/yr, which is about average performance.

Well, average performance has value.
   17. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:48 PM (#1852294)
This is true, but Wynn has more WS in his best seasons than Pierce has in his. :-)

I haven't run the numbers, so I may be wrong, but I suspect Pierce will do better with WS/43 Starts than Wynn.
   18. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 06, 2006 at 08:58 PM (#1852313)
Because I broached the subject earlier, I decided to take a quick look at what, if any, effect Al Lopez's usage patterns might have had on how well his pitchers fared on the innings leaderboards.

Lopez managed in Cleveland from 1951 through 1956, inheriting all the big hurlers we know about. In the five years before he took the helm, here's where Cleveland pitchers finished in the innings rankings (top five only)

1946: 1
1947: 1
1948: 1 2
1949: 3
1950: 1

During Lopez's tenure

1951: 1 2 4 5
1952: 1 2 3
1953: 1 2
1954: 1 3 4
1955: x
1956: 2 5

After Lopez

1957: 2
1958: x
1959: 5
1960: 3
1961: 0

Of course this doesn't tell us anything specific, but I think it's pretty suggestive that Lopez was staying with his starters longer than other managers OR was concentrating more starts in his big four than others were in their top starters.

He also managed in Chicago from 1957-1965. In the five years before he came on board

1952: 5
1953: 3
1954: 2
1955: x
1956: 3

During his tenure

1957: 3
1958: 3 5
1959: 1
1960: x
1961: x
1962: x
1963: x
1964: 2
1965: x

Although he managed parts of 1968 and 1969 for Chicago, he managed a third or less each year, so I'll go ahead and list out the post-Lopez years like previously.

1966: x
1967: 5
1968: x
1969: x
1970: x

Again, this isn't clear cut, but what it looks like is happening here is that Lopez is either spreading it around more than he did in Cleveland, or else other managers began to concentrate more innings on a team's best arm(s) than they used to.

So it's possible that Lopez's usage patterns in Cleveland may have the effect of making Pierce's innings look less impressive when considered within a leaderboard context, though I wouldn't hardly call this conclusive.
   19. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 06, 2006 at 10:47 PM (#1852478)
How much were the usage pattersn Lopez used influenced by the fact that he had a couple of stud pitchers in Lemon and Wynn, not to mention the end of Bob Feller's career?
   20. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 06, 2006 at 11:06 PM (#1852518)
jschmeagol,

That's why I'm not putting lots of stock in this. On the other hand, Feller, Lemon, Garican and Wynn all predated Lopez, so it's possible that Lopez's keenest insight was the benefit to be gained by concentrating as many innings in them as possible.

Garcia's last season of 200+ innings was 1957, still with cleveland.
Lemon's last 200+ inning season was 1956.
Wynn's last season with cleveland was 1957, then he followed Lopez to CHW, where he threw several more 200+ inning seasons.
Feller's last 200+ inning season was 1951, but he threw two years of 175+ innings after that.
Herb Score threw two 200+ inning seasons with Lopez before his injury.

Again I'm not sure it's saying anything other than talent was congregated at Cleveland, but it's worth noting.
   21. jimd Posted: February 06, 2006 at 11:17 PM (#1852538)
The best of their best...

Billy Pierce (All-Star quality seasons, i.e. WS top 32)
Year WS GS --IP- WS/GS WS/9IP
1952 23 32 255.3 0.719 0.811
1953 24 33 271.3 0.727 0.796
1955 23 26 205.7 0.885 1.006
1958 22 35 245.0 0.629 0.808

Totl 92 126 977.3 0.730 0.847

Early Wynn (All-Star quality seasons, i.e. WS top 32)
Year WS GS --IP- WS/GS WS/9IP
1951 24 34 274.3 0.706 0.787
1954 24 36 270.7 0.667 0.798
1955 21 31 230.0 0.677 0.822
1956 28 35 277.7 0.800 0.908
1959 23 37 255.7 0.622 0.810

Tot 120 173 1308.3 0.694 0.825
Scaled back to Billy Pierce -- 90 WS per 977.3 IP
but 331IP more of it

Expanding the comparison set...

Billy Pierce (near All-Star quality seasons, i.e. within 3 WS of WS top 32)
Year WS GS --IP- WS/GS WS/9IP
1951 19 28 240.3 0.679 0.712
1952 23 32 255.3 0.719 0.811
1953 24 33 271.3 0.727 0.796
1955 23 26 205.7 0.885 1.006
1956 21 33 276.3 0.636 0.684
1957 18 34 257.0 0.529 0.630
1958 22 35 245.0 0.629 0.808

Tot 150 221 1751 0.679 0.771

Early Wynn (near All-Star quality seasons, i.e. within 3 WS of WS top 32)
Year WS GS --IP- WS/GS WS/9IP
1947 20 31 247.0 0.645 0.729
1950 21 28 213.7 0.750 0.885
1951 24 34 274.3 0.706 0.787
1952 21 33 285.7 0.636 0.662
1954 24 36 270.7 0.667 0.798
1955 21 31 230.0 0.677 0.822
1956 28 35 277.7 0.800 0.908
1959 23 37 255.7 0.622 0.810
Tot 182 265 2052 0.687 0.798

Scaled back to Billy Pierce -- 155 WS per 1751 IP
and 301IP more of it
   22. jimd Posted: February 06, 2006 at 11:38 PM (#1852574)
WS/43 Starts

Is this a James metric? Why would he choose 43 starts to be a pitching season? A "median ace" last made 43 starts in 1893. It's like measuring position players with WS/200G.

Seasons of 43 GS or more since 1917:
1923 44 Uhle
1971 45 Lolich
1972 49 Wood
1973 48 Wood
1975 43 Wood
1977 43 P.Niekro
1979 44 P.Niekro
Only 7 and an awful lot of knuckleballers there.
   23. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 11:45 PM (#1852587)
As a full-time starter, Pierce never really had a bad season, while Wynn had quite a few stinkers. As I have stated before, Wynn shouldn't be affected negatively for those lousy seasons, but he shouldn't benefit much from them, either.

As it is, I haven't fully analyzed Pierce yet, so I really have no idea where he belongs.
   24. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 06, 2006 at 11:49 PM (#1852592)
Is this a James metric? Why would he choose 43 starts to be a pitching season? A "median ace" last made 43 starts in 1893.

I haven't a clue why he used it, Jim.
   25. jimd Posted: February 07, 2006 at 12:34 AM (#1852643)
he shouldn't benefit much from them, either.

In my system, they add to his career value, but that's it. No effect on his peak or prime ratings.

On Wynn vs Pierce, Wynn will be ahead on my ballot. They are pretty similar in value-rate at their best, though there is more IP for Wynn at that rate, hence the edge. Pierce's one huge season (by rate) suffers from both a lack of IP, and a lack of repetition. My guess is that both will make my PHOM, though Wynn will be sooner.
   26. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 07, 2006 at 03:03 AM (#1852814)
Maybe James used 43 starts in order to even the playing field for all pitchers?
   27. jimd Posted: February 07, 2006 at 03:27 AM (#1852849)
Maybe James used 43 starts in order to even the playing field for all pitchers?

Fixing the pitching/fielding split in Win Shares would be a better way to do that. ;-)

Once you assume that a start is a start, no matter when it happened, then any number would do. 30 is as good as 43. It yields a number that would represent the number of WS in a Mark Clark season, instead of the number of WS in a Clark Griffith season.
   28. jimd Posted: February 07, 2006 at 03:31 AM (#1852854)
Correction:
Mark Clark length season, instead of the number of WS in a Clark Griffith length season.

Did not intend to insinuate that Clark Griffith was no better than Mark Clark. (Grif's on my ballot.)
   29. KJOK Posted: February 07, 2006 at 03:47 AM (#1852873)
I think Cicotte and Carl Mays may be better comps for Pierce than either Griffith or Wynn.
   30. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: February 07, 2006 at 05:32 AM (#1852996)
Tough guy to rank. 119 ERA+ is a bit low for a prime candidate and 3300 IP is a bit on the low side for a career candidate -- though IP/year for pitchers is going down as we progress in history. He does have the one 'big year' in that amazing 1955 season (where is Chris J to explain how only went 15-10 that season with a near-league-average Sox offense behind him). Its not a workhorse year, but 201 ERA+ still gets my attention.

That league average Chicago offense wasn't so league average when Pierce started. His RSI was an uninspiring 78. That's bad, but not so bad as to justify his W-L record. He only had 5 UER, so it's not an issue of a misleading ERA. So digging a little more . . .

Our old friend run distribution rears his head up here. On August 24, the Sox beat the woeful Orioles 14-1. He didn't really need all those runs, but scoring 3x league average will warp his RSI. In his other 25 starts they scored 80 runs - in a moderate hitters park. Now the RSI is at 70. Yuck. That might not explain it all - odds are he underachieved a little, but his run support did suck.

That year, 12 of the games he started were decided by 1-run. The Sox went 6-6 in those games. I would've guessed worse than that. They went 10-4 in the rest, including a surprising 1-2 in games decided by 6 runs. He had 3 no-decisions in games the ChiSox won, so he had some relief wins. Well thats easy to check - he had a relief win against the Yanks in April & against the A's in September.

The CWS's record when giving him different levels of run support:
0 runs: 0-4
1 run: 1-3
2 runs: 0-2
3 runs: 4-1
4+ runs: 11-0

Given that the league averaged 4.44 runs per game, that ain't bad.

He's one guy it might be fun to AOWP (Average Opponent WInning Percentage) - number of starts against the different teams (and the Sox records in those games) ordered from best to worst (Sox came in third):

NYY 5 (2-3)
CLE 7 (3-4)
BOX 3 (2-1)
DET 3 (2-1)
KCA 2 (2-0)
BAL 4 (4-0)
WAS 2 (1-1)

South Side faithful have memories of his duels against Whitey Ford. I can see why. He had an AOWP of .519 for the season. Had he been used evely against all teams, it would've been a .486. I don't normal what a normal AOWP for the 1950s would've been, but I have to think that this is high.

For the games retrosheet lists an attendence, the Sox had 19279 people per game, but 22285 for games Pierce started. That's almost certainly caused by all those NYY/CLE starts.

His career RSI, FWIW, was 97.75. Take out '55 and it's 99.01.
   31. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 07, 2006 at 04:16 PM (#1853310)
Just thinking aloud about analogies to Pierce...

How about Dave Stieb?

Billy Pierce: Early Wynn as Dave Stieb: Jack Morris?

Or maybe Smoltz?

Billy Pierce: Early Wynn as John Smoltz: Tom Glavine

Not perfect, of course, but I think he's the same kind of pitcher as Smoltz and Stieb, moderate innings totals, very effective, very nice peak. Never as well received as certain other pitchers.
   32. Paul Wendt Posted: February 08, 2006 at 06:07 PM (#1854719)
.
American League 1950-1960
<u>number of pitchers with 20 Win Shares</u>
7 4 7 7 6 4 8 2 5 3 1
<u>leading pitchers by Win Shares rank</u>
1 5 2 4 1 8 4 _ _ _ _ Lemon
5 1 6 _ 1 4 1 _ _ 2 4 Wynn (1960: 8-way tie for 4th, 16 win shares)
_ 2 4 6 1 _ _ _ _ _ _ Garcia
_ _ _ 8 7 2 5 _ 4 8 _ Ford
_ 5 4 1 _ 1 7 5 1 _ _ Pierce
_ _ _ _ 9 2 9 2 _ _ _ Sullivan
4 2 _ 2 ; 8 5 _ 3 _ 2 Parnell ; Lary
1 2 _ _ 6 ; _ 1 _ 6 1 Garver ; Bunning

That is everyone with as much as one 2nd and one 4th.

Shantz led in 1953, Jack Harshman (tie) in 1958, Pascual in 1959.
Herb "scored" 5th and 2nd, Reynolds 5th and 3rd, Brewer 3rd and 6th.

sullivan, harshman, brewer - who?
   33. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 10, 2006 at 04:45 AM (#1857150)
I really like the Stieb comparison. Stieb may be the most historically underappreciated player of the 80s. How Morris is viewed as better historically is beyond me. This type, Pierce, Walters, Stieb, Bridges, even Urban Shocker or David Cone tends to get forgotten rather quickly, despite having some big years. I think it's because the big years aren't HUGE years, and the career ends a little too early, generally, right around 200 wins, give or take. But they just pitch very well for about 10-12 years, and then fade into obscurity. I think Smoltz will buck this trend, but that's because he was on TV every October for a decade and a half.

I also plan to bump him based on the 'facing tough opponents' issue Chris J. brings up. Bucky Walters picked up similar credit for me.

Still not sure where I'll have him - but my guess is somewhere on the lower 3rd of my ballot, which is where Lemon, Walters, and Trucks all sit. Considering the guys I have at or near the top, like Beckley, Cravath, Charley Jones, who have been there forever and aren't going anywhere, that's pretty high praise from me.
   34. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 10, 2006 at 04:30 PM (#1857441)
Shouldn't Cone also benefit from beign on TV almost every October of the 1990's? I believe he was in the playoffs in '92 ('93?) and '95-00, with some pretty high profile teams, namely the '98 Yankees. I think it is Smoltz closer years that will help him more than the others. Well, that and he was still a rotation anchor last season.
   35. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2006 at 12:58 AM (#1858180)
92-93 and 95-00 is nice. It isn't 1991-99 and 2001-05. Smoltz has 206 post-season innings (and is 15-4 with a 2.66 ERA), Cone had 111 (12-3, 3.80). Smoltz is 2nd to Pettitte for all-time post-season innings. Mike Mussina has thrown more post-season innings than Cone.
   36. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 11, 2006 at 02:12 AM (#1858229)
my point wasn't who through the most postseason innings but that Cone threw enough to get him notoriety. If Smoltz jumps out from the pack it will be because he is currently the best of those Braves pitchers (currently means 2005, not overall).
   37. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2006 at 02:48 AM (#1858272)
I disagree jschmeagol. I think Smoltz already stands ahead of them because of his post-season work. Not that I necessarily agree with that standing. But if one of this group makes Cooperstown, I think it will be Smoltz, and I think it will be because of October.

Cone threw enough to give him notoriety, but not any more than many other good 90s pitchers. Heck, El Duque pitched more innings in the post-season.

Smoltz pitched enough, well enough, and consistently enough (basically every year for 15 years) to make it a significant part of his borderline case.
   38. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2006 at 03:01 AM (#1858290)
Back to Pierce though, the more I look at his record, the more I like it. I just love this kind of pitcher, the Key, Stieb, Cone, Mussina type.

I guess I'm biased to two types of pitcher - the long-career, good but just 'good' peak types - Early Wynn, Eppa Rixey, Tommy John, Jim Kaat.

The other type I like is the consistently 'very good' pitcher that ends up near or a little over 200 wins, with a significant peak, high enough to win a Cy Young Award if things break right, but not dominant peak. The Smoltz, Stieb, Pierce type.

I tend to rate the first type higher, but those are the two pitchers I like. I'm not a huge fan of the super-high peak but short career (Dean, Gomez, Rusie) type. I don't put Joss in this group because his peak wasn't super-high because he didn't throw a lot of innings in any given season.

I still see Pierce right around #10 on my ballot, either just above or below Bucky Walters. If I had to say right now, I'd go with just above, basically due to a little war 'discredit' for Walters.
   39. DavidFoss Posted: February 11, 2006 at 03:23 AM (#1858322)
The other type I like is the consistently 'very good' pitcher that ends up near or a little over 200 wins, with a significant peak, high enough to win a Cy Young Award if things break right, but not dominant peak. The Smoltz, Stieb, Pierce type.

Only trouble is that there tend to be a fair number of these guys. We still have to sift through them and figure out which ones go in and which ones do not.
   40. Mark Donelson Posted: February 12, 2006 at 02:41 AM (#1859031)
I guess I'm biased to two types of pitcher - the long-career, good but just 'good' peak types - Early Wynn, Eppa Rixey, Tommy John, Jim Kaat.

The other type I like is the consistently 'very good' pitcher that ends up near or a little over 200 wins, with a significant peak, high enough to win a Cy Young Award if things break right, but not dominant peak. The Smoltz, Stieb, Pierce type.

I tend to rate the first type higher, but those are the two pitchers I like. I'm not a huge fan of the super-high peak but short career (Dean, Gomez, Rusie) type. I don't put Joss in this group because his peak wasn't super-high because he didn't throw a lot of innings in any given season.


I rate them in precisely the opposite order. You and I are cancelling each other's votes out for pitchers, Joe (just like my father-in-law and I do in national elections...)!
   41. OCF Posted: February 12, 2006 at 07:28 PM (#1859358)
Pierce looks awfully good in my system. I have him at an RA+-equivalent record of 218-150. This compares favorably to Coveleski (209-134), Vance (201-129), and Newhouser (202-131). Yes, it's spread out over more years than those pitchers, but Pierce has big years: 18-5 (that's 1955), 20-10, 19-9, 19-11.

Pierce has a normal, middle of the pack ratio of IP to decisions (8.70). His sometimes relatively low number of IP in a season doesn't come from leaving his starts early - in fact, he led leagues several times in CG. What's happening in his record is that he always had relief appearances in every season, and it looks like his number of starts was reduced to compensate for those appearances.

This suggests a throwback - a Three-Finger Brown or Lefty Grove usage pattern in which he was a highly valued relief pitcher. There's at least a slight hint of leverage in such a usage pattern.

Wynn, of course, has a much longer career, but the difference between Wynn and Pierce in my system is a rather uninspiring 63-100. I'm going to have Pierce ahead of Wynn, and am contemplating possibly putting him as high as #2 on the ballot.

Of course, there's an argument against that: we haven't yet dealt with all of his contemporaries, and Pierce is nowhere close to being as good as Roberts or Spahn.
   42. Cblau Posted: February 13, 2006 at 12:19 AM (#1859466)
Yet you say Pierce compares favorably to Coveleski when the difference in your system is 9 wins and 16 losses. That's .360 vs. .387 for Wynn's additional decisions.
   43. OCF Posted: February 13, 2006 at 08:37 AM (#1859832)
By "compares favorably" I didn't mean better - I meant in the same neighborhood; the differences are small. 9-16 is fairly small; 63-100 isn't.
   44. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2006 at 10:46 AM (#1859844)
9-16 and 63-100 are basically the same thing % wise. And 63-100 ate a heckuva lot more innings.

I'll bet if you took a look at all of the pitchers around 63-100 lifetime and all of the pitchers 9-16 lifetime, the 63-100 group would be generally considered a much better group of pitchers.
   45. DanG Posted: February 13, 2006 at 04:42 PM (#1859985)
I just had to see for myself.

I came up with two pitchers who were 9-16 in a career: Euel Moore and Jim Archer. Not exactly household names.

I didn't find anyone with exactly a 63-100 record. The closest are Irv Young (63-95) and Al Jackson (67-99), guys I've certainly heard of.
   46. Paul Wendt Posted: February 14, 2006 at 09:43 PM (#1861870)
I just had to see for myself.
What he said.

I came up with two pitchers who were 9-16 in a career: Euel Moore and Jim Archer. Not exactly household names.
Jimmy Archer, the best catcher in baseball (said Baseball Magazine).

I didn't find anyone with exactly a 63-100 record. The closest are Irv Young (63-95) and Al Jackson (67-99), guys I've certainly heard of.

But they are both better than 63-100. Who is the most famous pitcher just worse than that? . . .
35 to 39 games below .500, inclusive, the closest career records are
: 56-95 Buck Ross, including 14-15 during 1943-1945, worse
: 73-110 umpire Hank O'Day, better

Between -34 and -40,
: Skip Lockwood and Ned Garvin at 57-97,
: Al Hollingsworth at 70-104, not close enough.

Another approach. Among all pitchers with career W/L < .63

W/L < .63 AND
> .625 : maximum 34 wins
> .620 : maximum 40 wins
> .615 : as many as 50 wins plus Jack Fisher 86-139
>= .600 : no one between 51 and 71 wins!
(Mark Davis 51-84, Harry McIntire 71-117, both ~.606)

There is no one with 58 to 68 wins --closer than Lockwood and Garvin-- better than Bill Hart 66-120!
   47. Brent Posted: February 19, 2006 at 05:40 AM (#1867752)
On the ballot thread I said that among eligible 1950s-era pitchers I’ve rated Pierce behind Don Newcombe. Here’s a bit of the analysis that led me to that conclusion.

I generally begin my analysis of pitchers with their prime seasons, under the philosophy that identifying the greatest players of baseball history should start with the seasons when they were playing great. It was relatively straight-forward to identify 8 prime seasons for Pierce (1950-53, ’55-58) and 7 for Newcombe (1949-51, ’55-57, ’59).

Over these prime seasons they had similar workloads: Pierce averaged 246 IP and Newcombe 244.

Both pitchers owed part of their success to defensive support. Over the 8 prime seasons, Pierce’s RA+ was 131, while his DERA+ (which adjusts for defensive support) was 124. Over the 7 prime seasons, Newcombe’s RA+ was 121 and his DERA+ was 115.

These pitching rates leave little doubt that Pierce was the better pure pitcher, but there are offsetting factors. The most important is batting: over their prime seasons Newcombe’s OPS+ was 85, while Pierce’s was 10. For pitchers, I generally figure that 10 points of OPS+ is worth about as much as 1 point of DERA+, so Newcombe’s 75-point advantage in OPS+ goes a long way toward closing the 9-point gap in DERA+.

DERA+ excludes the pitcher’s fielding contribution—it’s small, but Newk has an advantage over Pierce of 8 fielding runs, worth maybe one more point in DERA+.

Looking the “three true outcomes,” Newcombe had the better SO-BB ratio, averaging 131-55 per season during his prime, compared to 153-87 for Pierce. On the other hand, Newcombe averaged 26 HR allowed per season, compared to 19 by Pierce (though part of the difference must represent park effects).

Turning to their W-L records, Pierce’s record over the 8 seasons was 132-96, or a seasonal average of 17-12. This was 1.5 wins above team. Newcombe was 127-60, or 18-9 per season, which was 3.0 wins above team. Clearly the advantage here goes to Newcombe. I’m aware that Newcombe received great run support; I’ll leave it to others to figure out how much of his W-L advantage represents run support, how much of the run support represents Newk’s own batting, and how much (if any) of his advantage remains unaccounted for.

In summary, comparing the prime seasons of Pierce and Newcombe, we see that Pierce has the advantage in defense-adjusted ERA, that batting and fielding help Newcombe close the gap in rate statistics, that Newcombe has the advantage in W-L record, and that Pierce has the not inconsequential advantage of an additional prime season. I’ll call it a slight advantage for Pierce.

Peak? Newcombe certainly had the more acclaimed peak season, winning both the MVP and the two-league CYA for his 27-7 1956 season. Win shares also recognizes this as the best season for either player, but WARP prefers Pierce’s 1955 season when he went 15-10 with 206 IP (albeit with a DERA+ of 166). Call me a skeptic, but I’ll take the 27 wins. However, expanding our perspective to look at their top 3 or 4 seasons, I don’t see much difference between the two pitchers in peak performance.

Looking outside their prime seasons, however, both pitcher’s careers have other features that are deserving of credit. Pierce had 3 additional fine seasons from 1960-62 when he went 14-7, 10-9, and 16-6. I didn’t include these in his prime because none of these seasons reached 200 IP, but these would be fine seasons for any team’s number two or number three starter.

Newcombe’s additional credit is more speculative, but also more important. He lost at least one prime season at the beginning of his career due to the slow pace of integration, and lost two seasons in the middle of his prime due to military service. I think that given these three seasons back, Newcombe would clearly be ahead of Pierce. There’s enough extra credit warranted to move him ahead of Pierce in my ratings.

By the way, in the four elections that Newcombe has been eligible so far, he has received the grand total of zero votes. (That includes supplemental votes in the 16-20 range in his first two elections.) Since Pierce obviously will be getting more than a few votes, you are welcome to tell me where my analysis has gone astray.
   48. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 19, 2006 at 01:46 PM (#1867979)
Since Pierce obviously will be getting more than a few votes, you are welcome to tell me where my analysis has gone astray.

You're missing the sizeable career IP and ERA+ advantage that Pierce has, for one.

I don't have either one on my ballot, but if I had to have one, Pierce would be the man (over Wynn, too).
   49. sunnyday2 Posted: February 19, 2006 at 02:41 PM (#1868007)
I agree that based on actual records Pierce beats Newk, but it's hard to believe that adding 3 prime (possibly peak) seasons back into Newcombe's record doesn't put him back on top. Depends of course on what one does with those missing years.
   50. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 19, 2006 at 04:14 PM (#1868064)
it's hard to believe that adding 3 prime (possibly peak) seasons back into Newcombe's record doesn't put him back on top.

You know, I haven't given anything to Newk for those years, which is a big mistake on my part. How I missed that, I haven't a clue.

I have his case on my to-do list for the next election.
   51. Brent Posted: February 19, 2006 at 05:54 PM (#1868164)
You're missing the sizeable career IP and ERA+ advantage that Pierce has, for one.

One of the main conclusions is that Pierce's ERA+ advantage largely goes away when one accounts for a) defensive support, and b) Newcombe's hitting.

And regarding the IP advantage, sunnyday2 is right that giving Newk credit for the missing 3+ prime seasons ought to largely close the gap. His pitching record from Montreal shows that he pitching at a high ML level in 1948, and let's not forget to credit him for 5 games (34 IP) with a 2.65 ERA pitched in Montreal during the first weeks of 1949. The biggest gap, however, is the two seasons lost in mid-career to military service.

Certainly, if I were judging just on MLB record alone, Newk would be behind Pierce (and well off ballot).

I'm not really an advocate for either pitcher, though I've moved Newk up to just off ballot. I'm just a bit puzzled by the enthusiasm for Pierce, who I concede was a good pitcher but one who doesn't stand out in my system. (Users of WARP need to be reminded that post-WWII pitchers get a huge timeline boost that I've discussed before. The boost affects both WARP1 and WARP3.)
   52. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 19, 2006 at 07:50 PM (#1868220)
Certainly, if I were judging just on MLB record alone, Newk would be behind Pierce (and well off ballot).

Again, since I forgot to give any "extra" credit to Newk, you might have a point about your comparison, Brent.
   53. OCF Posted: February 20, 2006 at 08:36 PM (#1869535)
This line of argument has led me to do something I didn't do when Newcombe first became eligible, which is to compute an offense-adjusted RA+ equivalent record for him. The offensive adjustment is worth 6 wins, from 137-103 to 143-97. The following table represents the RA+ equivalent records and season-by-season equivalent FWP for Newcombe, Lemon, and Pierce. Newcombe and Lemon (good hitters) have their records adjusted for their own offense; no such adjustment has been made for Pierce, a bad hitter.

Newcombe    Lemon       Pierce
18
9  20   23-10  28   185  26
*********   21-10  25   20-10  23
19
-11  20   21-13  21   199  23
*********   18-11  18   19-11  21
16
8  19   18-11  18   17-10  18
17
9  18   18-13  16   16-11  15
18
-12  17   18-14  14   17-12  14
18
-13  16   16-13  11   129  10
14
8  14   12-11   8   117   9
 9
9   5    55   2   13-11   9
 8
8   3    8-11   0   13-12   9
 7
9   1    12   0   119   7
             5
8  -1   11-10   6
                        10
-10   5
                         4
2   4
                         1
0   1
                         5
6   0
                         2
4  -


Totaling these columns, you get:

Newcombe 143-97 (132)
Lemon 184-133 (158)
Pierce 218-150 (197)

In addition, I would estimate for both Newcombe and Lemon a positive pinch-hitting value of between 1 and 1.5 wins.

The kicker is how good Newcombe was before he was in the majors. How much performance did the slow pace of integration cost him? Two peak years would be perhaps 35-20, bringing him to 188-117 (187). But two peak years is a lot of extrapolation; I don't think his actual minor league record supports that much.

Pierce and Lemon were AL pitchers; Newcombe was in the NL of the 50's. I haven't adjusted above for league strength, but you might want to look at it. I also haven't adjusted for defensive support, and I'm not sure who had it better. Newcombe had Reese and Robinson behind him; that matters.

The only think I'm finding hard to understand about all of this: why exactly did we elect Lemon?
   54. Brent Posted: February 21, 2006 at 04:10 AM (#1869977)
The kicker is how good Newcombe was before he was in the majors. How much performance did the slow pace of integration cost him?

Credit for Newcombe's minor league/NeL experience certainly helps, but the really big thing for him is his military service. Credit for his two seasons of military service in 1952-53 in the middle of his pitching prime can make a huge difference.

It appears that all three pitchers benefited from good defensive support.
   55. jimd Posted: February 21, 2006 at 09:02 PM (#1870668)
The only think I'm finding hard to understand about all of this: why exactly did we elect Lemon?

Because there is a big difference between WS/WARPS's analysis of Lemon and yours?
   56. sunnyday2 Posted: February 21, 2006 at 09:09 PM (#1870681)
My impression is it was because the BBWAA elected him to Cooperstown. That seems to have been the tipping point.
   57. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: February 21, 2006 at 11:16 PM (#1870843)
Sunny,

I have to say that whether or not Lemon had been elected by the BBWAA had no effect what so ever on my support for Lemon. It was more of what Jim said than anything else I guess. I dont' see Lemon as a better pitcher than Walters or pierce, but he certainly was the better hitter. Nice peak as well.
   58. DL from MN Posted: July 12, 2006 at 01:29 PM (#2096590)
If I had the time I'd copy over the relief leverage numbers for Pierce into his thread. In the Bunning thread we found out that Pierce ate innings well during his starts, he just didn't get as many starts because his manager liked him to close out games on occasion.
   59. Hack Wilson Posted: July 12, 2006 at 02:23 PM (#2096637)
I believe Lopez would set his rotation for Pierce to start more often against the top teams with fewer starts against weak teams. I remember a lot of Pierce v. Whitey Ford games (and Frank Lary).

Despite this White Sox fans of the period became convinced Lopez hated Pierce. I think it was because Pierce got no starts in the '59 Series (Wynn got 3).
   60. sunnyday2 Posted: July 12, 2006 at 03:40 PM (#2096743)
Pierce did not have one of his better years in '59. The Sox rotation looked like this

Wynn 37 GS, 256 IP, 22-10, 3.1
Pierce 33 GS, 224 IP, 14-15, 3.62
Donovan 29 GS, 180 IP, 9-10, 3.65
Shaw 26 GS (+21 relief apperances), 231 IP, 18-6, 2.69
Latman 21 GS, 156 IP, 8-5, 3.75

None of them was injured that I can tell. Lopez started Wynn Shaw, Donovan, Wynn, Shaw, Wynn. Pierce threw in relief in games 4, 5 and 6, coming in in the 4th, 8th and 8th innings. He had made 1 relief appearance during the year.

Wynn went 1-1, 5.54; Shaw 1-1, 2.57, Donovan 0-1, 5.40 with a save, Staley 0-1, 2.16 with a save in 4 relief appearances, Pierce had no decisions but an ERA of 0.00 in 3 games and 4 IP.

In game 4, the Sox down 2 games to 1, Pierce came in in the 4th inning. Wynn and Lown had given up 4 runs in the 3rd, and Pierce shut the Dodgers out in the 4th-5th-and 6th innings when the Sox scored 4 in the 7th to tie. I would guess that Pierce was pinch hit for, and Staley pitched the 7th and 8th, giving up the losing run in the 8th.

In game 5, Pierce was the first reliever in the 8th inning of a 1-0 game. Donovan came in to relieve Pierce in the 8th and got a save.

In game 6, the Dodgers scored 8 runs in the 3rd and 4th innings off of Wynn, Donovan and Lown. Pierce came in to mop up in the 8th.

Wynn won game 1 11-0. But he started on 3 and then 2 days rest and didn't get past the 4th inning either time. Lopez might have done well to start Wynn-Shaw-Donovan-Pierce and give Wynn a regular rest.
   61. TomH Posted: July 12, 2006 at 04:23 PM (#2096781)
you'd think that facing a lineup loaded with lefties (the 59 Dodgers had 3-and-a-half out of the starting 8, plus their two top pinch-hitters were LHB) would make you think about sending a southpaw against them.
   62. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 12, 2006 at 04:30 PM (#2096787)
Or maybe, Lopez figure that having Pierce in the pen would give him a tactical weapon. He may have hoped to negate the Dodgers' pinch-hitting advantage at highly leveraged moments in the game when a righty starter might be tiring and Pierce could come in a blow 'em away. Which it appears he did from the description above.

Or not....

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