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Monday, May 02, 2005

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson

Eligible in 1951.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 08:38 PM | 71 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 08:53 PM (#1305144)
Would he have been known as Native American Bob Johnson if he had been a player today? :-)
   2. OCF Posted: May 02, 2005 at 09:16 PM (#1305182)
Does anyone know in more detail what his ethnic/tribal background was? His birthplace of Pyor, OK suggests Cherokee, but plenty of people moved around and plenty of intermarriage happened.

Incidentally, his birthplace should not be stated as "Pryor, OK" in 1905. That should be "Pryor, IT," as in Indian Territory.

Second issue: a 27-year-old rookie with a 134 OPS+ didn't just appear out of nowhere. What does his minor league record look like?
   3. DavidFoss Posted: May 02, 2005 at 09:56 PM (#1305242)
Second issue: a 27-year-old rookie with a 134 OPS+ didn't just appear out of nowhere. What does his minor league record look like?

Older brother Roy Johnson was of the famed 1928 SF Seal outfield of Averill/Jolley/RJohnson
   4. Paul Wendt Posted: May 02, 2005 at 10:29 PM (#1305300)
SABR member Doron Duke Goldman, Western Mass., was writing a book biography of Bob Johnson a few years ago. Someone else completed a biography first, which may have terminated Duke's project. IIRC from a presentation, Bob welcomed the ethnic tag "Indian Bob" but Roy wanted no such thing.
   5. PhillyBooster Posted: May 03, 2005 at 05:05 AM (#1306579)
Baseball Library describes him as "Half Cherokee".

Would he have been known as Native American Bob Johnson if he had been a player today? :-)

The Phils have a Cherokee prospect. Generally, it's just never mentioned.
   6. Kelly in SD Posted: May 03, 2005 at 06:18 AM (#1306666)
Minor league playing time?

His first season is his age 22 year (he was born in Nov of 1906), 1929 when he splits time with Wichita-Pueblo of the Western League and Portland of the PCL. He spends 1930 through 1932 with Portland, his age 23 - 25 seasons. 1930 was not anything special, 1931 established him as a bona-fide prospect and in 1932, he consolidated his gains. After his major league career, he went back to the minors for another 4 years, but none of them look good enough for any major league credit.

year gms abs rns hts 2b 3 hr rbi avg. slg.
1929 066 227 050 062 09 3 16 xxx .273 .551
1929 081 264 042 067 16 3 05 027 .254 .394
1930 157 501 091 133 25 3 21 093 .265 .453
1931 141 504 108 170 37 5 22 094 .337 .562
1932 149 545 105 180 43 1 29 111 .330 .572

He played the outfield only in 1929, outfield, first, and second in 1930-32. He did not lead the league in anything while in the minors.
   7. Kelly in SD Posted: May 03, 2005 at 06:24 AM (#1306669)
Hit "enter" to fast.
His post-ML career. In 1946, he plays for Milwaukee in the American Assoc, in 1947-48, Seattle, in 1949, Tacoma of the Western International League, in 1951 for Tijuana.

Year Gms ABs Rns Hts 2b 3 hr rbi avg. slg.
1946 094 307 53 83 14 2 13 53 .270 .456
1947 130 342 44 101 28 1 7 50 .295 .444
1948 059 145 17 41 07 0 5 23 .283 .434
1949 093 218 35 71 13 1 5 50 .326 .463
1951 021 069 13 15 04 2 0 06 .217 .333

Hope these help.
   8. KJOK Posted: May 03, 2005 at 07:36 AM (#1306705)
That should be "Pryor, IT," as in Indian Territory.

But I think Oklahoma was designated as a specific Indian Territory in 1890, so Pryor, OK (Territory not state) is probably correct?!
   9. DavidFoss Posted: May 03, 2005 at 02:15 PM (#1306949)
Wikipedia on Oklahoma

Yeah, looks like between 1889 & 1907, they took Oklahoma away from the indians piece by piece. A big land run by Sooners in 1889. Oklahoma Territory out of the non-indian areas in 1890. Removal of tribal jurisdiction in 1898. And the merging of Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory into the state of Oklahoma in 1907.
   10. OCF Posted: May 03, 2005 at 03:09 PM (#1307035)
The assortment of land runs, lotteries, and other means of opening former Indian land to white settlement in 1889 and subsequent years created white-run Oklahoma Territory in the central and western portions of what was to become the state. The eastern part, the lands of the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole) that had been forcibly removed from the southeastern U.S. two generations earlier, remained Indian Territory up until the moment of statehood. Pryor lies in the eastern part, within the original lands of the Cherokee Nation. It would still have been Indian Territory.
   11. andrew siegel Posted: May 03, 2005 at 04:07 PM (#1307219)
A huge Win Shares vs. WARP discrepancy:

On WARP, this is a guy with about 8000 adjusted plate appearances with a .308 EQA and above-average defense as a corner OF. That's an impressive package (102+ WARP-1 in a short career) that slots in around 25th on my list, behind only Averill, Duffy, Van Haltren, Roush, and Ryan among OF's.

On WS, he's a guy with only 3 seasons over 25 (2 during the war years) and those three only good enough for 6th, 6th, and 9th in the American league. That package ranks him behind about 15 or 20 among OF's and somewhere around 80th or 90th on my list.
   12. Carl G Posted: May 03, 2005 at 05:27 PM (#1307471)
'Second issue: a 27-year-old rookie with a 134 OPS+ didn't just appear out of nowhere. What does his minor league record look like?'

Baseball Reference and Prospectus disagree on his birthdate. Both have 11/26, but Ref has 1905 and Prospectus has 1906. Do we have a way of finding out which is correct? If Prospectus is right, he was only 26 in his rookie year. This does not affect my analysis of his actual stats, but it may matter if we end up giving him some kind of minor league credit.
   13. Michael Bass Posted: May 03, 2005 at 05:32 PM (#1307482)
Interesting player. 13 season career. No monster peak, never a star. But solidly above average every single year of that 13-season career.

Honestly, I don't see any way one could put him above Averill, who had a similarly long prime (counting even a little minor league credit) and a much higher peak, but he's a top 30 guy for me I suspect.
   14. Al Peterson Posted: May 03, 2005 at 08:15 PM (#1307900)
He spends 1930 through 1932 with Portland, his age 23 - 25 seasons. 1930 was not anything special, 1931 established him as a bona-fide prospect and in 1932, he consolidated his gains. After his major league career, he went back to the minors for another 4 years, but none of them look good enough for any major league credit.

year gms abs rns hts 2b 3 hr rbi avg. slg.
1929 066 227 050 062 09 3 16 xxx .273 .551
1929 081 264 042 067 16 3 05 027 .254 .394
1930 157 501 091 133 25 3 21 093 .265 .453
1931 141 504 108 170 37 5 22 094 .337 .562
1932 149 545 105 180 43 1 29 111 .330 .572


Thanks for the numbers Kelly. An important fact for Johnson is that avg/slg doesn't do him justice since he had high walk ratios in the majors. 1930-32 look alright; throw in the OBP he probably translates better. Not that we have that number of walks but looking at his Portland teammates he had much lower AB/G than the other starters. Either he batted low in the lineup or he was getting on base via the walk plenty.
   15. Al Peterson Posted: May 03, 2005 at 08:20 PM (#1307915)
Where Bob Johnson's teams finished in the AL during his 13 year career:

3rd, 5th, 8th, 8th, 7th, 8th, 7th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 2nd, 4th, 7th

His 2nd place finish was by 13 1/2 games. Never sniffed a pennant race. Not a lot of Win Shares to go around on his teams...
   16. Carl G Posted: May 03, 2005 at 09:01 PM (#1308014)
'His 2nd place finish was by 13 1/2 games. Never sniffed a pennant race. Not a lot of Win Shares to go around on his teams... '

This shouldn't affect his WS as he was clearly not the reason his teams were so bad so he would get a higher percentage of his team's WS. James himself studied this and concluded that for similar players, it didn't matter much if 1 was on a bad team and the other a good team. What might depress his WS slightly is that his teams generally finished below their Pyth records; by a total of 15 games over his 13 seasons. Most notably, in 1937, the A's finished 8 games behind their pyth record. This is 24 WS taken away from the team; Indian Bob was clearly the best player on the team. Other than '37, he was probably not hurt too much by this inefficiency, though.
   17. Brent Posted: May 04, 2005 at 02:29 AM (#1309329)
My estimate of Portland's run environment (average of runs scored and estimated runs allowed per game) was 4.88 for 1929 (about 9 percent lower than the PCL as a whole), and 5.48 for 1930 (about 1.4 percent lower than the PCL). It looks like Portland was probably pitcher friendly. I'll try to look up 1931 and 32 so we can get started on MLEs.
   18. Brent Posted: May 07, 2005 at 02:59 AM (#1318977)
Bob Johnson MLEs

These MLEs are based on the minor league statistics for Portland in the PCL that were posted by Kelly from SD (# 6).

As Chris Cobb and others have observed, during the 1930s the two leagues diverged, so it doesn’t make sense to do the conversions to a major league average environment. In contrast to Chris, I have decided to convert Johnson to an American League environment; by converting to the AL we are able to compare his MLEs directly to his subsequent major league statistics. (I figured that would be more useful than being able to compare him to Josh Gibson or Cool Papa Bell, whom Chris has converted to an NL environment.) For 1932 and 33, Johnson's MLE rate statistics look very close to his actual AL statistics for 1933-36.

My estimates of Portland’s run environment, in R/G and relative to the AL, are:
Year R/G Port/AL
1929 4.88 97.5
1930 5.48 101.3
1931 5.60 108.9
1932 4.96 94.7

I haven’t bothered with his post-ML career; as Kelly observed, those seasons aren’t too impressive. Also, many other HoM candidates spent some post-ML time in the high minors, and they generally aren’t receiving credit for those years.

The other thing I’ll note is that although in 1930, ’31, and ’32 Johnson played 157, 141, and 149 games, these numbers actually indicate that he was missing quite a bit of playing time since the number of scheduled PCL games for those seasons was 201, 187, and 189 games. Consequently, I’ve converted his MLE playing time to 116 to 121 games. The low playing time will hurt his win share totals when we get those calculated.

Year _Lg Age _G _PA _AB _R _H 2B 3B HR RB W AVG OBA SLG
1929 PCL 23 062 226 205 28 048 12 2 03 18 21 .234 .305 .356
1930 PCL 24 120 431 390 59 094 18 2 14 60 41 .241 .313 .405
1931 PCL 25 116 462 416 71 126 28 3 14 62 46 .303 .372 .486
1932 PCL 26 121 513 457 78 142 35 1 22 83 56 .311 .386 .536

If Dr. Chaleeko would like to calculate the win shares again, as he did for Cravath, he is certainly welcome to. Otherwise, I’ll plan to take a crack at them tomorrow.
   19. Brent Posted: May 07, 2005 at 03:02 AM (#1318988)
For 1932 and 33, Johnson's MLE rate statistics...

That should say "For 1931 and 32..."
   20. DavidFoss Posted: May 07, 2005 at 03:11 AM (#1318998)
That should say "For 1931 and 32..."

Quite a big difference between AL & NL for those two years. What's your target context for those MLE's?
   21. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 07, 2005 at 03:28 AM (#1319014)
Brent,

I'm at a friend's wedding tomorrow and the next day, so please feel free to go for it on the MLE WS for Johnson so that we have them before the balloting starts.
   22. DavidFoss Posted: May 07, 2005 at 03:40 AM (#1319024)
Not as much difference as I thought. The big AL/NL context disparity kicks in in 1933 and then from 1936-1940

1931 AL .303/.372/.486 (.287/.354/.411)  106/105/118    123
1932 AL .311/.386/.536 (.285/.356/.419)  109/108/128    136

1931 NL .303/.372/.486 (.285/.344/.403)  106/108/121    129
1932 NL .311/.386/.536 (.284/.337/.412)  110/115/130    145
   23. Brent Posted: May 07, 2005 at 04:08 AM (#1319053)
What's your target context for those MLE's?

My target context is the American League.
   24. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: May 07, 2005 at 04:37 AM (#1319100)
This is responding to something in the Discussion Thread. Al Peterson said that Johnson was stuck behind Al Simmons, which may or may not be accurate. I had always believed that Connie Mack didn't develop a farm system until very late in the day, certainly not by 1932. On the other hand, it is always stated that when he saw Mickey Cochrane, he wanted him so much he bought the team, which would be Portland. Of course, that was in 1924, and he could have sold it. I did find a source that identified Portland as an A's farm team - for 1932, and only for 1932. (It's not listed as an affiliate of anyone else for any year until 1936.)

The other part of it is that if Mack had rights to him, presumably Johnson could have played another outfield spot in 1932. He did move Bing Miller into a part time role in that year, having him split time with Doc Cramer. Of course, with a good prospect like Cramer, he didn't really need Johnson.

One more tidbit, from the book The Mackmen, by The Baseball Padre: "Mr. Mack had three players, who, he hoped, were going to replace the trio he sent to the White Sox. They were Doc Cramer, Pinky Higgins and Lou Finney. Cramer and Higgins did all right as replacements for Dykes and Haas, but Finney didn't come close to being another Al Simmons...and in left field Lou Finney didn't take over, but a part Indian outfielder did, named Bob Johnson." There's no source given for it, but that doesn't sound like Johnson was the planned replacement for Simmons.

If anyone's interested, there is a
Bob Johnson biography for sale. I don't know anything about the book other than its existence.
   25. Paul Wendt Posted: May 07, 2005 at 04:53 AM (#1319124)
Baseball Reference and Prospectus disagree on his birthdate. Both have 11/26, but Ref has 1905 and Prospectus has 1906. Do we have a way of finding out which is correct?

I believe that
Baseball-Reference is close to the SABR Biog Research Cmte biographical database in that it reflects biog db revisions quickly (but it has never been synchronized). Retrosheet is close to the biog db in that it is synchronized periodically (but it does not reflect recent revisions). Both list 1905.
Bob Johnson at Retrosheet

For an introduction to the Biog Research Cmte project, read my article.
http://world.std.com/~pgw/19c/ ; Newsletter #2004.1 ; page 3.
   26. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 07, 2005 at 01:36 PM (#1319260)
If you buy the theory that every player needs one good season in the minors to get noticed by MLB scouts (in a perfect world of course as some never seemed to get noticed) was 1930 good enough to fit this criteria? If not that breakthrough season would have been 1931, meaning that it is reasonable only to give him credit for 1932.
   27. DavidFoss Posted: May 07, 2005 at 01:47 PM (#1319263)
was 1930 good enough to fit this criteria?

No. Pitching excluded contexts are (.295/.359/.434) in the AL and (.312/.370/.464) in the NL. He's got an OPS+ of far below 100. Using LF splits make things worse as well (and 1930-RF numbers are obscene).
   28. Brent Posted: May 08, 2005 at 01:14 AM (#1320272)
Here are some estimates of Bob Johnson’s MLE win shares:

Year bWS fWS WS Comps
1930 05.5 2.5 08 Charlie Jamieson (8), Roy Johnson (9), Russ Scarritt (6)
1931 12.2 2.4 15 Joe Vosmik (18), John Stone (17))
1932 15.5 2.5 18 Ben Chapman (22), Al Simmons (24), Heinie Manush (28)
   29. Brent Posted: May 08, 2005 at 01:15 AM (#1320279)
Note - his win shares are lower than some of his comps because of differences in estimated playing time.
   30. Michael Bass Posted: May 08, 2005 at 01:24 AM (#1320294)
Interesting stuff! Certainly a less compelling case for minor league credit than Averill. Don't see this really affecting his major league placement; he was just a late bloomer.
   31. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 08, 2005 at 01:41 AM (#1320364)
Johnson has a case for 1932 credit had he not been associated with the Athletics. But for me one 18 WS season isn't usually a difference maker.
   32. Brent Posted: May 08, 2005 at 01:49 AM (#1320397)
but Finney didn't come close to being another Al Simmons...and in left field Lou Finney didn't take over, but a part Indian outfielder did, named Bob Johnson.

Lou Finney was Johnson’s teammate at Portland in 1932, and in fact Finney was elected to the 1932 PCL all-star team over Johnson (the other outfielders were Jigger Statz of Los Angeles and Ox Eckhardt of Mission). Finney’s stats for ’32 were 185 G, 764 AB, 125 R, 268 H, 50 2B, 7 3B, 5 HR, 15 SB, 98 RBI, .351 BA, .454 SLG. A good season, but a lot less power than Johnson, who hit 29 home runs that season (while playing 36 fewer games). And since the PCL didn't count walks, it's questionable whether anyone knew about Johnson's ability to draw walks.

On the other hand, in 1933 Finney was 22 while Johnson was 27 (28?), so one would have thought Finney's development potential was greater. Johnson's development, and Finney's lack of development, must have been somewhat surprising.
   33. KJOK Posted: December 22, 2005 at 08:10 PM (#1790534)
Good article on Bob Johnson:

Indian Bob Johnson Article
   34. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 24, 2005 at 04:28 AM (#1792657)
I've noticed there's been a little bit of a resurrection of his case lately.

I'd love to be able to pull the trigger on him, but I just can't see it. He was a very good player, but just looking over his comps, he's clearly not over the line.

Averill hit nearly as well for his career (OBP about 12 points lower relative to league park, SLG the same), and didn't play during the war and played CF. Johnson played about two more seasons worth, but Averill has the minor league credit to counter any career length issues. I wasn't a big fan of Averill's selection, I don't see how we could go lower.

Edd Roush didn't quite have the same power, but he also was a CF, not a LF. Can't really see them as very far apart either.

If Johnson, why not Klein?

I guess I could see how one should argue he should be in the Hall of Fame, since the other 3 are all in. In that respect, I agree. But he seems to be just a notch below the standard set by the Hall of Merit.
   35. DavidFoss Posted: December 24, 2005 at 03:05 PM (#1792848)
I've noticed there's been a little bit of a resurrection of his case lately.

Well, he hasn't made a move in the results table yet (still hovering in the upper-30s). I think he's just appearing on more ballots than before because we don't have any new candidates.

If Johnson, why not Klein?

Johnson has 1000 more PA's? But yes, I agree that its a slippery slope from Goslin to Medwick to Johnson to Klein. But its the borderline guys that we are considering here. (Along with non-contemporaries Browning/CJones/Roush/Forgive-Me-If-I-Left-Out-Your-Favorite-Hitter-OF-Guy).

None of these guys should be considered a "standard" for future inductions that's for sure, but we are reaching the point where some of these guys will be inducted and Johnson certainly belongs in the discussion.
   36. DL from MN Posted: June 14, 2006 at 03:46 PM (#2063540)
Baseballanalysts.com take on why Bob Johnson stayed in the PCL
"He did not play professionally until Wichita of the Western League signed him in 1929. Johnson played in 145 games at two levels and batted .262 with 21 HR while slugging .503. After again hitting 21 HR (in just over 500 AB) the following season in Portland, he went to spring training with the Philadelphia A's but didn't make the roster due to his inability to hit the curveball. Over the next two seasons in the minors, Johnson batted a combined .334 with 51 HR while slugging .567 and showing both patience at the plate and a powerful throwing arm in the outfield.

Opportunity knocked in 1933 as Connie Mack sold off veteran Al Simmons to the White Sox leaving Johnson and Lou Finney to battle for the leftfield job in spring training. Johnson won the job and had an excellent freshman season at age 27...

AVG/ OBP/ SLG Runs 2B 3B HR RBI OPS+ RCAA
.290/.387/.505 103 44 4 21 93 134 37
...and was generally considered the league's finest rookie."

Apparently they didn't have curve balls in the PCL because he tore up those leagues. I think it is entirely reasonable to give Bob Johnson two seasons of minor league credit. He got noticed by Philly and it was a poor decision to return him to the minors for 2 seasons as his stats show convincingly. Philly having Al Simmons on the roster highly influenced that decision.

How much of the Win Shares - WARP difference on Bob Johnson is defense related? The consensus of his peers was that Bob Johnson was a terrific defensive left fielder. WARP agrees with that consensus. That may be what separates him from the other borderline outfielders. Is Win Shares underrating his defense?
   37. sunnyday2 Posted: June 14, 2006 at 04:24 PM (#2063572)
Well, I dunno. Connie Mack watched Johnson play and thought that he couldn't hit a ML curve ball. MiL curve balls often are not quite as good. Can we really sit here and say we in 2006, not having seen Johnson play, know better than Connie Mack in 1931, after watching him, that Johnson was ready to play ML ball?

PS. If electing Frank Howard would be like electing Sam Thompson (and it doesn't sound like that is meant as a good thing) then consider that Thompson's OPS+ is better than Bob Johnson's. (Howard > Thompson > Johnson)
   38. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 14, 2006 at 06:00 PM (#2063678)
Well, I dunno. Connie Mack watched Johnson play and thought that he couldn't hit a ML curve ball. MiL curve balls often are not quite as good.

Well, sure, but that's assuming that the PCL was so absolutely minor at the time. As late as the 1950s, it was making noises about declaring itself major, and at no time was in the thrall of big-league ball. Given all the amazing players coming out of the West in that era, and given that the geography of the country was much different then from a travel and communications point of view, it's a dubious proposition to say that a) PCL curves were that much worse than MLB curves b) Mack had enough information from a spring training's worth of at-bats to find out whether Johnson could hit a good curve or whether he would be able to quickly adapt c) Mack had any kind of good, systematic scouting on Johnson's (or any Western player's) ability to adapt d) Johnson's subsequent PCL and MLB performance obviously countermand Mack's opinion since there's not a large spike in performance during the three years, since Johnson succeeded from day one in the big leagues, and since Johnson's not some spring chicken in these years anyway, but at an age when he's fully realizing his potential.

I'm not a Johnson fan, but if you're giving MiL credit to Waner, Averill, et al, then it's obvious that Johnson's case for MiL credit is probably even more compelling than theirs since he show the classic MiL credit profile:
a) put up a show-me season
b) got a trial and didn't make the team
c) put up another show-me year
d) put up a third
e) then did it in MLB when the team finally picked up the option or passed him to another organization.

That said, I can't hit any curveball, even the hangers....
   39. DL from MN Posted: June 14, 2006 at 06:12 PM (#2063693)
Connie Mack was also well documented as strong resister of integration. This didn't seem to extend to Native Americans though; he discovered Chief Bender and raved about Sockalexis. I think it's more likely Bob Johnson was just blocked by Al Simmons.

Al Simmons
Year ABS .AVG .OBP .SLG OPS+
1931 513 .390 .444 .641 176
1932 670 .322 .368 .548 130

Mule Haas
1931 440 .323 .366 .475 114
1932 558 .305 .376 .405 99

Bing Miller
1931 534 .281 .338 .425 97

Doc Cramer
1932 384 .336 .367 .461 110
   40. Paul Wendt Posted: June 14, 2006 at 06:43 PM (#2063718)
PS. If electing Frank Howard would be like electing Sam Thompson (and it doesn't sound like that is meant as a good thing) then consider that Thompson's OPS+ is better than Bob Johnson's. (Howard > Thompson > Johnson)

Whose version of OPS+?
By the bb-ref implementation this corner outfield quartet is evenly spaced,
Thompson > Howard > Johnson > Medwick


I'm not a Johnson fan, but if you're giving MiL credit to Waner, Averill, et al, then it's obvious that Johnson's case for MiL credit is probably even more compelling than theirs since he show the classic MiL credit profile:
a) put up a show-me season
b) got a trial and didn't make the team


I think (b) scuttles the "classic" profile (Averill).
   41. Thane of Bagarth Posted: June 14, 2006 at 06:46 PM (#2063722)
Can anyone make a strong case against giving Johnson even a smidge of MiL credit? I ask because my ballot is tightly packed and if I give him credit for just one halfway-decent season (which is what I did for Averill) he could jump from #20 to somewhere between 5 and 10?
   42. Steve Treder Posted: June 14, 2006 at 06:54 PM (#2063723)
Well, sure, but that's assuming that the PCL was so absolutely minor at the time. As late as the 1950s, it was making noises about declaring itself major, and at no time was in the thrall of big-league ball. Given all the amazing players coming out of the West in that era, and given that the geography of the country was much different then from a travel and communications point of view, it's a dubious proposition to say that a) PCL curves were that much worse than MLB curves

The PCL in the early 1930s wasn't major-league caliber, but it was definitely AAA, probably even more properly understood to be something like AAAA. Few of its franchises were major league farms, and many of its better players spent their prime years playing there. It probably presented a higher quality of play than either the International League or the American Association.

The lore of how great the old PCL was is often overdone, but it was a damn fine minor league in that period, very likely the best minor league in history.

Regarding Mack's attributed justification for not promoting Johnson: I don't know how seriously I would take that. Perhaps Mack sincerely thought that to be the case, but very often people making decisions will throw out a bit of a cliche justification when pressed for one, when the truth might actually be something closer to:

- I really didn't have enough information to make a good decision, but I'm not going to tell you that

or

- I just don't like the SOB, but I'm not going to tell you that

or

- It was on the recommendation of so-and-so, who I know now was dead wrong, but I'm above hanging him out to dry in the press

or

etc. etc.

The "he couldn't hit the curve" sounds suspiciously like the boiler-plate farmed-him-out justification to me.
   43. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 14, 2006 at 07:04 PM (#2063733)
The "he couldn't hit the curve" sounds suspiciously like the boiler-plate farmed-him-out justification to me.

The "flu-like symptoms" of 1930 option declining?
   44. DL from MN Posted: June 14, 2006 at 07:35 PM (#2063766)
I've always inferred that "flu-like symptoms" = hangover. If you follow the Twins their favorite excuse is "lacks leadership".

I still want to know if Bob Johnson rates well in his seasonal defensive Win Shares. The baseball analysts article has some other good data about how bad the rest of his team performed, which might also pull down his Win Shares in the same way Medwick had his Win Shares boosted by a really good team.

It is entirely possible that Lefty Grove's curveball made Bob Johnson look silly at first which led to Mack's conclusion. That 1931 staff was generally outstanding and I'll bet Mack saw Johnson take more hacks against his own team in practice than he saw Johnson swing against other team's pitching. Mack didn't have any incentive to give Bob Johnson a shot in 1931; they won the AL pennant without him. In 1932 they finished 2nd without him and I can imagine they came into the season believing they didn't need him.
   45. sunnyday2 Posted: June 14, 2006 at 07:42 PM (#2063780)
What's dubious is that sitting here in 2006 that we know for an absolute fact that Connie Mack was wrong.

> Can anyone make a strong case against giving Johnson even a smidge of MiL credit? I

The burden of proof, it seems to me, flows the other way. There is a real history that really happened. Why rewrite history? If "it's entirely possible" is proof, then let's all just throw away our encyclopedias and write history like we want it. I want another three or four world championships for the Twins, and I want Tony Oliva to have great wheels and 3,000 hits.
   46. Al Peterson Posted: June 14, 2006 at 07:43 PM (#2063783)
Can anyone make a strong case against giving Johnson even a smidge of MiL credit? I ask because my ballot is tightly packed and if I give him credit for just one halfway-decent season (which is what I did for Averill) he could jump from #20 to somewhere between 5 and 10?

I'd say posts #18-22 in this thread do a good job of trying to give a rough estimate of how his PCL numbers would have converted into the AL. And what do we find out - he hit to a translated level pretty much what he did in the majors for the next decade. Not shocking that Mr. Consistency would have hit similar at ages 25-26 as he did at age 27.

As for the argument "he couldn't hit the curve" well there were probably a far share of major leaguers who also had that problem. To be honest the A's are coming off another dominant stretch of years (29-30 win the World Series) - do they really need to have many changes going on, such as bringing in a rookie? Standing pat in personnel probably seemed wise to Mr. Mack.
   47. Steve Treder Posted: June 14, 2006 at 07:52 PM (#2063803)
As for the argument "he couldn't hit the curve" well there were probably a far share of major leaguers who also had that problem.

I'm reminded of the conversation with the delightfully candid Gil Hodges that Roger Kahn reports in his masterpiece The Boys of Summer. Kahn is talking with the now-managing-the-Mets Hodges about his playing career, trying to get a reaction from Hodges to the criticisms that had been thrown at him during his playing days.

"You couldn't hit the good right-handers," Kahn says.

"Nobody hit the good right-handers," Hodges deadpans in reply.
   48. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 14, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2063819)
I want another three or four world championships for the Twins, and I want Tony Oliva to have great wheels and 3,000 hits.
You can't have those, but I'll give you an MVP for Steve Lombardozzi instead.
   49. Al Peterson Posted: June 14, 2006 at 08:18 PM (#2063832)
You can't have those, but I'll give you an MVP for Steve Lombardozzi instead.

Over Don Baylor's dead body you are. No team goes to the playoffs without the HBP monster.
   50. AJMcCringleberry Posted: June 14, 2006 at 08:26 PM (#2063835)
I still want to know if Bob Johnson rates well in his seasonal defensive Win Shares.

I don't have the season by season total, but for his career he's at 2.31 WS/1000 innings. James says 2.00 is typical for a corner outfielder so I guess Johnson would be considered very good.
   51. jimd Posted: June 14, 2006 at 08:42 PM (#2063845)
The consensus of his peers was that Bob Johnson was a terrific defensive left fielder. WARP agrees with that consensus. That may be what separates him from the other borderline outfielders. Is Win Shares underrating his defense?

"We are now measuring the relative contribution of outfielders to the success of the defense, and we are using the overall success of the defense to measure the value of the outfielders. We are perilously near, then, to circular definition -- that is concluding that the defensive outfield on a good team is always good because we all know that you can't win without a good defensive outfield." -- Win Shares p.65

The corollary to the above quote is: that the defensive outfield on a bad team is always bad because we all know that you can't lose without a bad defensive outfield.

That is what Win Share's implements. Its position on Bob Johnson's defense is that he played mostly on bad defensive teams, therefore he was a bad defensive outfielder. He gets a C letter grade.

For a more extended discussion of the mysteries of outfield Fielding Win Shares, see the latter half of the Bresnahan thread, which has an extensive analysis of Roy Thomas (intuitively obvious, of course ;-).
   52. Steve Treder Posted: June 14, 2006 at 08:48 PM (#2063851)
Here are Indian Bob's fielding Win Shares by season:

1933 1.6
1934 3.5
1935 2.0
1936 3.1
1937 2.9
1938 4.5
1939 1.9
1940 2.6
1941 3.3
1942 2.7
1943 3.4
1944 2.5
1945 2.5
   53. Al Peterson Posted: June 14, 2006 at 09:03 PM (#2063862)
1938 sticks out. That was the year he served as CF for the A's. So was he a good OF capable of handling center at age 32 after being a corner, or were the A's that bad that it didn't matter? Also note that Indian Bob did some subbing at 2B(!) one year.
   54. Rob_Wood Posted: June 14, 2006 at 09:11 PM (#2063874)
Post 28 lists MLE's for Bob Johnson that look reasonable to me. I will have Bob around #5 on my ballot this year.
   55. Steve Treder Posted: June 14, 2006 at 09:13 PM (#2063876)
FWIW, this was my take on him in this article:

Bob Johnson (1.1% of his major league defensive appearances were as a third baseman, between 1933 and 1945). A medium-sized guy (6'0", 180) and a power hitter from a young age, "Indian Bob" played first base and, interestingly, second base as well as the outfield for three years in the Pacific Coast League before reaching the majors. He was used in fill-in stints at both second and third at various times in the majors, though was always primarily an outfielder. If he was going to be used in the infield, Johnson sure seems more the modern third base type than the modern second base type. I suspect if he'd come along 10 or 15 years later, he'd have been one of those many outfield-to-third-base conversions.
   56. DL from MN Posted: June 14, 2006 at 09:52 PM (#2063921)
Well yeah you'd put him at 3B. He had a terrific arm.

WARP has him at 2 FRAA in 1938 so it looks like he held his own. Overall he's a 103 in LF and a 102 in CF.

Johnson had 80 fewer HR than Kiner but 60 more triples and twice as many doubles.
   57. sunnyday2 Posted: June 14, 2006 at 10:53 PM (#2063972)
Harmon Killebrew came to the MLs as a 2B.

>Post 28 lists MLE's for Bob Johnson that look reasonable to me.

I guess I would still conclude that it was probably reasonable that Mack decided Johnson didn't make his team any better.

But for those who think post 28 is reasonable, I would ask you to please consider Tony Oliva 1963. Exactly the same scenario.
   58. Steve Treder Posted: June 14, 2006 at 11:13 PM (#2063998)
Harmon Killebrew came to the MLs as a 2B.

Directly out of high school, and only in the majors due to the restrictions of the Bonus Baby rule. He would play a total of 11 major league games at second, none after the age of 21.

That's quite a different scenario than that of Johnson, who played quite a bit of second base in the minors well past the age of 21, and 28 games in the majors at second, all past the age of 30.

It's fair to infer from this that Johnson was a pretty agile guy for a corner outfielder.
   59. Paul Wendt Posted: June 15, 2006 at 01:57 AM (#2064370)
What was Johnson's status 1930-33: what rights did he and Mack and his PCL teams have?
   60. Steve Treder Posted: June 19, 2006 at 04:12 PM (#2068418)
What was Johnson's status 1930-33: what rights did he and Mack and his PCL teams have?

I don't know the particulars of Johnson's contract status.

But Portland wasn't a farm club of the A's in the modern sense; they were an independent, for-profit operation. But they and the rest of the PCL teams (and most teams in the minor leagues generally) often employed players whose contracts had option clauses with major league clubs (and the lower minor league teams had such deals with higher minor league clubs). Generally the deal was the major league team couldn't just call the guy up any time they wanted, but they would have the option of purchasing the player at specified points (generally in the off-season and/or at the end of spring training). It's likely that's the deal Portland had with the A's regarding Johnson.
   61. Paul Wendt Posted: June 21, 2006 at 05:37 AM (#2070517)
Do you suppose the Athletics, having paid for the option to buy him at the end of spring training (maybe renewed annually without limit), could summon him to their spring training camp (maybe annually) without payment?

I don't suppose that you know this, Steve Treder. I am only indicating some types of knowledge we would need in order to judge how firmly he was "trapped in the minors" or dependent on the judgment of Connie Mack year after year.
   62. Steve Treder Posted: June 21, 2006 at 05:23 PM (#2070790)
Do you suppose the Athletics, having paid for the option to buy him at the end of spring training (maybe renewed annually without limit), could summon him to their spring training camp (maybe annually) without payment?

Obviously it would depend upon the specific contract and working agreement between the clubs. But from what I understand, a typical arrangement would be for the major league club to invite the player to its spring training, at their expense (saving the minor league team the spring training expenses for that player). At the end of spring training, the major league club would make the decision of (a) purchase the player from the minor league club, or (b) send the player back to the minor league club.

If the major league club chose (b), then the minor league club had the choice of taking him back, or making a deal to sell/trade him to another club (major or minor), or, of course, releasing him.

Assuming Portland and the Athletics had some sort of an option contract with Johnson along these lines, it wouldn't be accurate to describe Johnson as "trapped" in the minor leagues so much as his status was dependent on the judgement of Mack, so long as the option contract was in place.

Not all minor league players had such option deals, of course. Many were the outright property of the minor league club, and they could indeed be "trapped" with that club for as long as that club chose to keep them. It is the case that minor league clubs counted on revenue from sales of top players to the majors as a significant portion of their revenue stream (which is why they would enter into option contract deals in the first place). The tradeoff decision for the minor league club would be: will we make more revenue by keeping this guy on our roster year after year, and selling tickets based on his contribution to team performance, or by selling him now? It was a tricky balancing act, as they would want to field a winning team, but rarely could they afford to get by financially without ever selling their best players.
   63. DL from MN Posted: June 21, 2006 at 05:56 PM (#2070816)
Bob Johnson might be the least stereotypically Indian name ever.
   64. sunnyday2 Posted: June 21, 2006 at 06:38 PM (#2070852)
If he was named Sockalexis (or Dances with Wolves) he'd be a HoMer by now ;-)
   65. OCF Posted: June 21, 2006 at 07:36 PM (#2070922)
Bob Johnson might be the least stereotypically Indian name ever.

How about William W. Keeler?
   66. DavidFoss Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:15 PM (#2070987)
Oh... you had me thinking for a second that that was *our* William Keeler. Wee Willie is from Brooklyn. That guy died sixty years later.

Checking out the Cherokee page at wikipedia, there are loads of people with very WASP-y surnames listed. Ernest E. Evans, John Nance Garner, Thomas King, Wayne Newton, Chuck Norris, John Phillips, Will Rogers, even Rita Coolidge and Charisma Carpenter. I don't know how much Cherokee blood you need to make it on the list (Indian Bob is 50%).
   67. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:48 PM (#2071026)
I don't know how much Cherokee blood you need to make it on the list (Indian Bob is 50%).

As has been reported lately about African-Americans and DNA, who knows how many really have Native American ancestry?
   68. OCF Posted: June 21, 2006 at 08:52 PM (#2071029)
The Bartlesville/Phillips/Cherokee William Keeler went by "Bill." I found him right away because I knew who I was looking for - that's my home town we're talking about.

Will Rogers was born in Oologah, which is only about 40 miles from Bartlesville, although he lived out his show-biz life in New York and Los Angeles. He was fond of the line, "My ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower - they were there to meet the boat."
   69. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 21, 2006 at 09:11 PM (#2071056)
IIRC, there's a story in the NHBA about Johnson being denied a shot professionally when a scout saw him clowning around during a rain delay. The scout concluded that he wasn't serious about baseball.

I'm at work right now, so I can't check it.
   70. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: June 25, 2006 at 05:10 AM (#2074963)
I can't find a story like that in the NHBA, at least not under any of the entries for Bob Johnson listed in the index.

2 stats that people may or may not be interested in that I did find:

Johnson is listed as the 4th highest OBP among outfielders who played 1500 or more games and are not in the Hall of Fame, of course, as of the NHBA (behind Barry Bonds, Rickey, and Elmer Valo)

Johnson has the 4th highest rate of Baserunner Kills/1000 innings of any oufielder born in the 20th century, behind Chuck Klein, Jesse Barfield and Roy Cullenbine. The rest of the top 10 is Ott, Clemente, Paul Waner, Ben Chapman, Dom DiMaggio, and Johnny Callison. (And that does only count the OF assists, I double-checked.)

Also, Paul & Steve, the Portland/A's relationship may not have been the standard one for the era. See Post #24 for more info.
   71. Steve Treder Posted: June 25, 2006 at 04:53 PM (#2075118)
Also, Paul & Steve, the Portland/A's relationship may not have been the standard one for the era. See Post #24 for more info.

Very interesting stuff. Still, in the case of Johnson, it's rather a moot point: it's obvious the A's had some kind of a stake in Johnson's contract prior to 1933. Whether it was simply an option clause in his Portland contract, whether the A's and Portland had a working agreement as a fully- or partially-affiliated farm team, or whether the A's owned the Portland franchise lock-stock-and-barrel (as the Cubs owned the Los Angeles Angels for many years), it's clear that the A's exercised some choice in declining to include him on their major league roster until 1933.

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