Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Hall of Merit > Discussion
Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Buzz Arlett

An interesting career that deserves some scrutiny from us. That’s the Buzz that I’ve been hearing, anyway.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 22, 2004 at 02:30 AM | 174 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Related News:

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 
   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 22, 2004 at 03:11 AM (#1035026)
hot topics
   2. Brent Posted: December 22, 2004 at 04:02 AM (#1035182)
There's a very nice biographical article by Bill James in "The Baseball Book 1991." Here is a quote from the article:

"Modern fans looking back at the astonishing numbers he compiled in the best minor leagues are always puzzled by his failure to 'get a chance' in the majors, so perhaps I should address that directly. There were several factors involved.

"- The Oakland owners did not want to sell him, and until the mid- to late-twenties did not have to sell him if they did not want to. (In fact, I'm not really sure when the Pacific Coast League teams agreed to the structural arrangements which required them to sell players to the majors after holding them for a couple of years. It wasn't before 1925.) The Oaks set a price for Arlett of $100,000--the same price Babe Ruth sold for in 1919--and, not surprisingly, no major league team would come up with the money.

"- Although Arlett had other pitches, he relied heavily on a spitball. The spitball was banned in 1920, but established pitchers were protected by a 'grandfather clause.' In the Pacific Coast League, Arlett was grandfathered, allowed to throw the spitball. Had he gone to the major leagues, he would not have been; he wasn't on the major league list. Thus, from 1920 to 1922, Arlett's prime as a pitcher, major league teams were reluctant to shell out the big money for a pitcher who couldn't bring one of his best pitches with him.

"- After Arlett moved to the outfield, it took him a couple of years to gain the same status as an outfielder that he had had as a pitcher.

"- Like Ruth, Arlett was enormously popular with his local fans, which made it both difficult and counter-productive for an organization to peddle him. Arlett was, incidentally, an extremely handsome man, with dark, curly hair and a dimpled chin.

"- Like Ruth, Arlett put on weight in mid-career, reaching 230 to 245 pounds by 1930. He lost some speed, and major league teams became somewhat wary of him because of this."

Later in the article, James concludes that Arlett was as good as some of the marginal Hall of Fame outfielders, including Chuck Klein, Hack Wilson, and Heinie Manush. He says he may have been as good as Goose Goslin, but probably was not.
   3. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: December 22, 2004 at 06:36 AM (#1035478)
Anyone with some PCL stats and some time on their hands want to tackle some kind of WS eqiuvalency for Arlett?

That last paragraph sure is a kicker.

There's a huge gap, in my opinion between Chuck Klein and Hack Wilson. Wilson is a Roger Maris to me, while Klein is quite similar to Larry Walker and a borderline candidate to me. Goslin is a no-brainer.
   4. Chris Dial Posted: December 22, 2004 at 02:17 PM (#1035693)
"- The Oakland owners did not want to sell him, and until the mid- to late-twenties did not have to sell him if they did not want to. (In fact, I'm not really sure when the Pacific Coast League teams agreed to the structural arrangements which required them to sell players to the majors after holding them for a couple of years. It wasn't before 1925.) The Oaks set a price for Arlett of $100,000--the same price Babe Ruth sold for in 1919--and, not surprisingly, no major league team would come up with the money.


In the Vets committee discussion, I pontificated that if the Joe D wanted to stay, teh Seals didn't *have* to sell him.

It's hard to tell from this that the Seals couldn't have set a ridiculous price and kept him.

The comment about when the NA set the price structure is a critical one.
   5. Cblau Posted: December 23, 2004 at 12:36 AM (#1037082)
The comment about when the NA set the
price structure is a critical one.


Then see http://mysite.verizon.net/brak2.0/ml_draft.htm
   6. jonesy Posted: December 23, 2004 at 02:25 AM (#1037297)
I was going to take a look at Arlett's PCL career and see if I could make some statistical sense out of it. His first big offensive season was 1924 when he hit 33 homers, 145 RBI and .328 for Oakland.

(The Minor League Register lists Arlett's 1923 RBI total as 191 but that seems to be a typo. 101 seems the real number.)

Anyway, I quit after just looking at 1924. Here are some individual RBI totals of PCL players that season.

Bert Ellison 188
Wally Hood 184
Jim Poole 159
Duffy Lewis (yes, that Duffy Lewis) 154
Ray Rohwer 154
Frank Brazill 148
Roy Leslie 147
Buzz Arlett 145
Dick Cox 141
Ted Baldwin 140
Charlie High 139
Johnny Fredericks 132
Jim McDowell 132
Brick Eldred 131
Cedric Durst 130
Les Sheehan 118
Eddie Mulligan 114
Howard Lindimore 114
(The Immortal) Pete Kilduff 108
Lefty O'Doul 101
Jim Blakesly 101

A lot of recognizable major league names, but few accomplished much.
   7. jonesy Posted: December 23, 2004 at 02:40 AM (#1037323)
What the heck. Here's 1929.

Ike Boone 218 RBI (55 HR)
Buz Arlett 189 (39 HR)
Fuzzy Hufft 187
Gus Suhr 177 (51 HR)
Wally Berge 166 (40 HR)
Johnny Vergez 165 (46 Hr) (Arlett's teammate)
Earl Webb 164 (37 HR)
Smead Jolley 159
Monk Sherlock 156
Mickey Health 156
Cleo Carlyle 136
Charlie Wade 133
Liz Funk (yes, that Liz Funk) 125
Red Wingo 124
Jim Keesey 124
Hank Severeid (yes, that Hank Severeid) 124
Slug Tolson 122
Bill Rumler 120
Ray Jacobs 118
Dave Barbee 118
Gordon Slade 115
Ernie Lombardi 109
Roy Carlyle 108

I think we need to set up a page for Smead Jolley as well as Arlett. :)
   8. Kelly in SD Posted: December 23, 2004 at 03:49 AM (#1037371)
Arlett was born in 1899. His listed baseball height and weight are 6'4" 235 pounds.

Arlett became a full-time outfielder in 1923. He hit .341 for his minor league career of 2390 games with 432 home runs, 1786 RBI, 1610 runs, .604 SLG%, and 1137 extrabase hits. He drove in 100 runs 12 tiems, 140 8 times. He started as a pitcher in 1918 and went 108-93 with a 3.42 ERA using mainly a spitball.

From Futility Infielder and stewthornley.net for post Philadelphia career and coast.league.com for Oakland:
As a pitcher:
year gs Ws Ls InnsP Hts Run ERs Kks BBs ERA
1918 21 04 09 153.3 150 060 046 034 043 2.70
1919 57 22 17 348.0 315 172 116 079 112 3.00
1920 53 29 17 427.3 430 162 137 105 134 2.89
1921 55 19 18 319.0 371 180 155 101 115 4.37
1922 47 25 19 374.0 396 171 115 128 112 2.77
1923 28 04 09 125.0 182 106 080 034 047 5.76

1923 was the year he switched to the outfield full time b/c he hurt his arm - No ####.

As a hitter.
year Gms ABs RNs Hit 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG. SLG.
1918 026 071 009 015 04 00 01 008 01 .211 .310
1919 056 140 014 040 07 02 01 019 02 .286 .386
1920 064 177 024 045 02 03 05 026 02 .254 .384
1921 064 128 012 028 05 01 03 014 01 .219 .344
1922 074 174 023 042 09 04 04 021 00 .241 .408
1923 149 445 076 147 31 05 19 101 09 .330 .551
1924 193 698 122 229 57 19 33 145 24 .328 .606
1925 190 710 121 244 49 13 25 146 26 .344 .555
1926 194 667 140 255 52 16 35 140 26 .382 .666
1927 187 658 122 231 54 07 30 123 20 .351 .591
1928 190 561 111 205 47 03 25 113 10 .365 .594
1929 200 722 146 270 70 08 39 189 22 .374 .655
1930 176 618 132 223 57 07 31 143 08 .361 .626

He missed some time in 1930 when he got into an argument with an umpire and the umpire smashed his mask into Arlett's face.

In 1932 with Baltimore of the International League, 54 HR 144 RBI.
In 1933, he hit 39 HR.
In 1934 with Minneapolis of the American Assoc.,
.319 41 HR 132 RBI in 116 games.
1935 with Minneapolis, .360 25 HR 101 RBI in 122 games.
1936 Minneapolis .316 16 HR 52 RBI 75games

I couldn't find his stats with Oakland for a long time. While looking, I found his grave in Minnesota: Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, section 41, lot 562, plot 7.
Yes, his grave is online, but not his Oaks yearly stats.
   9. Kelly in SD Posted: December 23, 2004 at 03:51 AM (#1037372)
Smead Jolley supposedly was an even worse fielder than Arlett. He did have about three seasons in the majors with the White Sox and Red Sox I think.
   10. Gary A Posted: December 23, 2004 at 07:24 AM (#1037631)
Here are his IL and AA stats, in a similar format:

Yr Gms ABs Hts Db T HR Rns RBI BBs SB AVE OBA SLG
32 147 516 175 33 4 54 141 144 112 11 339 457 733
33 159 531 182 40 3 39 135 146 113 20 343 458 655
34 116 430 137 32 1 41 106 132 92 8 319 439 684
35 122 425 153 26 2 25 90 101 60 6 360 439 607
36 50 193 61 10 4 15 55 52 41 1 316 436 643

Black Ink:
1932: Led in HR, Runs, RBI, Walks
1933: Led in Runs, Walks
1934: Led in HR

The OBA is just (W+H)/(AB+W), since I don't have HP and SF info. I figured OBA and SLG myself, and don't know who led the league--Arlett probably led (or was close to leading) the IL in OBA in '32 and '33.
   11. Gary A Posted: December 23, 2004 at 07:27 AM (#1037639)
Let me try this again, in better format (I hope):

Yr Gms ABs Hts Db T HR Rns RBI BBs SB AVE OBA SLG
32 147 516 175 33 4 54 141 144 112 11 339 457 733
33 159 531 182 40 3 39 135 146 113 20 343 458 655
34 116 430 137 32 1 41 106 132 092 08 319 439 684
35 122 425 153 26 2 25 090 101 060 06 360 439 607
36 050 193 061 10 4 15 055 052 041 01 316 436 643

Black Ink:
1932: Led in HR, Runs, RBI, Walks
1933: Led in Runs, Walks
1934: Led in HR

The OBA is just (W+H)/(AB+W), since I don't have HP and SF info. I figured OBA and SLG myself, and don't know who led the league--Arlett probably led (or was close to leading) the IL in OBA in '32 and '33.
   12. Kelly in SD Posted: December 23, 2004 at 07:51 AM (#1037705)
Black Ink from Oakland years:

1920: Wins, IP, H, BB
1922: IP, H
1924: Triples
1926: RBI
1927: Doubles
1929: Doubles (I think - the record on the site is hard to read)

There is no walk info on www.coastleague.com.

I don't know where to find league scoring information and scoring information for the Oakland home park in order to create MLEs.
   13. karlmagnus Posted: December 23, 2004 at 03:09 PM (#1037881)
Jolley, a dubious-fielding outfielder, had an OPS+ of 112 in the majors, at the peak of his abilities. Since he was just about as good as Arlett in the pCL, it suggests that Arlett, too would have been a good but not great ML player. It also throws doubt on the conversions of minor league and Negro League stats to ML -- I am increasingly of the opinion that there is an inbuilt heavy positive bias in the conversion, and that in particular we are electing too many Negro League stars.
   14. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2004 at 03:39 PM (#1037907)
It also throws doubt on the conversions of minor league and Negro League stats to ML

How are you coming to that conclusion, karlmagnus?

We have had over 20 years of successful major league equivalents from Bill James to know that they work. As far as I'm concerned, it's not debatable anymore.

As fot the Negro League equivilents, are they 100% perfect? No, but that doesn't mean that they're not close. The introduction of park factors for the Negro Leaguers should help.
   15. karlmagnus Posted: December 23, 2004 at 04:20 PM (#1037954)
From modern minor league parks, to modern ML, conversions work in a general way at a plus or minus 10% level, with part of the error being random, part of it systemic but tough to find. However, as you go back or go to leagues where there wasn't a lot of movement to and from the ML, the conversions inevitably get more iffy. If A and B play in the same minro league, and A is better than B, then A would probably have been a better major leaguer too. However if A is a HOMer and B played in a minor league or the Negro leagues and his stats, when converted are similar to As, that does NOT in my view prove that B was a HOMER -- the errors are too great, and for the Negro Leagues especially, given the emotional involvements involved, they are all likely to be in the same direction. I do NOT believe that, with poorer facilities, fewer opportunities and more disadvantages, the Negro leagues produced twice the number of HOMers as the proportion of African-Americans in the population.
   16. andrew siegel Posted: December 23, 2004 at 05:11 PM (#1038012)
I think that we have a moral imperative to analyze the negro league stats under the best statistical models that we have and then to give them the same weight that we would anyone else's statistics (i.e., look at them in context, look at intangibles, take into account peak, prime, and carer, use subjective opinions of contemporaries as a check). Using the uncertainty principle reinforces the harm of the blacklist, b/c/ every negro leaguer excluded due to a discount for uncertainty is going to be replaced by a major leaguer (though not necessarily a white major leaguer--could be a second-tier player of color from the later years).

I don't feel the same way about minor league stats for two reasons:

(1) Using an uncertainty principle is morally netural--if you discount some white guys minor league stats for uncertainty and it drops him below the in/out line is place is likely to be taken by another white guy (or even a negro leaguer).

(2) The fact that a guy WAS in the minors is not a neutral fact--in most (though not all) cases it means that he could not get an acceptable job in the majors. While it is absolutely true that lots of major league quality guys were playing in the minors b/c/ bad talent evaluation, bad timing, etc., we should at least entertain the possiblity that the three major league teams that gave up on Cravath within a year of each other noticed something of relevance about his skills or performance that slips through the cracks of the statistics.
   17. Gary A Posted: December 24, 2004 at 01:36 AM (#1039007)
Karl, those are some awfully broad conclusions to draw from Smead Jolley's OPS+!

You could also throw Earl Averill into the mix: they were the same baseball age, and here's what they did when they played together in SF's outfield:

1926
Jolley/Averill
AB-575/679
AVE-.346/.348
HR-25/23
RBI-132/119

1927 (Lefty O'Doul was SF's other outfielder, five years older than Jolley and Averill)
Jolley/Averill/O'Doul
AB-625/754/736
AVE-.397/.324/.378
HR-33/20/33
RBI-163/116/158

1928 (let's add Ike Boone, whose team used the same home park--same age as O'Doul)
Jolley/Averill/Boone
AB-765/763/594
AVE-.404/.354/.354
HR-45/36/9
RBI-188/173/104

1929 (Averill went to Cleveland)
Jolley/Boone
AB-812/794
AVE-.387/.407
HR-35/55
RBI-159/218

Their OPS+ in the majors:
Smead Jolley (ages 28-31):112
Ike Boone (mostly ages 27-28, 33): 121
Earl Averill (ages 27-39): 133
Lefty O'Doul (mostly 31-37): 143

Buzz Arlett's OPS+ for this single major-league season (at the age of 32) was 138.

Boone's major league performance is the worst among this group of PCL outfielders of similar offensive accomplishments, playing in the same park at around the same time. Of course, this isn't comprehensive.
   18. KJOK Posted: December 24, 2004 at 06:38 AM (#1039380)
Karlmagnus is correct in that we don't have players jumping back and forth between leagues, but we do know what happened when the block from moving from Negro Leagues to Major Leagues:

Jackie Robinson
Larry Doby
Hank Aaron
Willie Mays
Frank Robinson
Don Newcombe
Satchel Paige (at an advanced age)
etc.

Given their performances, it's not a stretch to think that the top Negro League players of the 1930's and 1920's might have been able to accomplish similar performance if given the chance, or that if Satchel Paige was able to pitch effectively in the majors at 46 that he would have been a superstar in his prime...
   19. Gary A Posted: December 24, 2004 at 06:50 AM (#1039399)
Edit to my previous post: of course I meant Jolley had the worst performance.
   20. Chris Cobb Posted: December 26, 2004 at 08:07 PM (#1041346)
Karlmagnus is correct in that we don't have players jumping back and forth between leagues, but we do know what happened when the block from moving from Negro Leagues to Major Leagues

For the record, the conversion factor of .87 that I use when translating Negro-League statistics into MLEs is based on comparisons of Negro-League performance to major-league performance for

Bob Boyd
Roy Campanella
Larry Doby
Monte Irvin
Sam Jethro
Jackie Robinson
Sam Thompson
   21. Brent Posted: January 03, 2005 at 05:04 AM (#1052319)
I realized that voting starts tomorrow and I still wasn’t sure whether Buzz Arlett should rank number one or number 50 on my ballot, so I decided to do a very crude attempt at a major league equivalent (MLE) record for his career and calculate win shares (WS), based solely on the information that has been posted so far on this thread.

I’m well aware that there are some huge gaps in my analysis, which I’m hoping others can help fill. The biggest gap is the lack of information on the run environment in the minor leagues in which Arlett played. I believe that there is a book of old PCL statistics available, so if anyone happens to have a copy and can help fill in basic statistics like runs per game, either for the league as a whole or for the Oaks, I’d be appreciative. Also, I am using the method developed by Bill James in the 1985 Baseball Abstract to do the MLEs. I know there has been subsequent improvements in doing them, so methodological suggestions are also welcome.

Assumptions:

- Lacking any other information, I have assumed the run environment he faced was the same as the average of the two major leagues for each year. I am not aware of any information suggesting that the scoring environments of the PCL (1918-30), IL (1932-33), or AA (1934-35) were either higher or lower than the majors, nor am I aware of unusual park effects for Oakland, Baltimore, and Minneapolis during those periods, though I admit I am not well informed.

- I use the same adjustment for quality of competition that BJ used for modern Triple-A leagues – that is, 18 percent below major league level (in units of runs). My intuition suggests that the difference between the top minor leagues and the major leagues may have actually been narrower then, before the development of farm systems and with restrictions on the major league draft, but since I don’t have data to support my supposition, I am sticking with the standard 18 percent differential.

- Season length. I know that the PCL played a much longer season, but I don’t know exactly how much longer. To adjust for season length, I have adjusted all of Arlett’s counting statistics downward by 23 percent (= 1 - 154/200), except for 1918 when the PCL ended in mid-season due to the war. Again, if someone knows a better adjustment factor, I’d appreciate hearing about it.

- I am calculating MLEs for his entire career except for the partial season he spent in the Southern League in 1934 and the handful of games he played his last season in 1937. (And, of course, MLEs aren’t needed for 1931, which he spent with the Phillies). I know some voters have made the point that since most players pass through the minors for at least a year or two, and we don’t ordinarily give credit for these seasons, a couple of seasons should be trimmed off for purposes of HOM evaluation. I acknowledge the validity of this point, but go ahead and calculate MLEs for all his top-level minor league seasons, leaving it up to you to decide how much to trim off.

Pitching

This is pretty simple. I divided his ERA by .82 to adjust for quality of competition, and reduced his innings pitched by 23 percent (except 1918) for season length.

MLE Pitching
Year InnP ERA
1918 153.3 3.29
1919 268.0 3.66
1920 329.0 3.52
1921 245.7 5.33
1922 288.0 3.38
1923 96.3 7.02


Then I standardized to a run environment of 4.5 R/G and calculated pitching WS using the “short-form” method (the difference between his earned runs allowed and how many he would have allowed if his ERA had been 1.5 times the league average minus 1.00, which, in standardized units, is an ERA of 5.75).

MLE Pitching WS
1918 09.5
1919 14.9
1920 25.7
1921 07.4
1922 28.0
1923 -2.9
Tot 82.6

Batting

The BJ system is fairly straightforward.

Step 1. Adjust for the run environment (runs scored and allowed per game in the minor and major league environments). As already mentioned, lacking information I am assuming the two environments are the same.

Step 2. Adjust for the caliber of the competition, the assumed 18 percent difference in quality of play. Two factors based on this are m = .82, and M = sqrt (m) = .906.

Adjust the minor league statistics to ML levels using the following:

ML Hits = Hits * .98 * M
ML 2B = 2B * M
ML 3B = 3B * .85 * m
ML HR = HR * m
ML BB = BB * m

There’s also an adjustment for strikeouts, but since I don’t have the data and they don’t figure into the analysis, I skipped that step.

Walks are a bigger problem, since the PCL batting statistics in post # 8 by Kelly from SD do not include data on walks. I filled in walks data by applying the ratio of walks per out from Arlett’s 1931 ML season to each PCL season’s batting outs. I regard this estimate as conservative, since his minor league statistics for the IL and AA after 1931 suggest he was capable of drawing many more walks, as will be seen in a surge in the MLE walks estimates after 1931.

Step 3. Bill James next applies ML park adjustments, which I am skipping since I am comparing him to an “average” ML park of the period.

Step 4. The rest of the record is filled in using the minor league outs and games. Adding outs and MLE hits gives us MLE at-bats. I add the additional step of decreasing all PCL counting statistics (except for 1918) by 23 percent for the difference in schedule length. Batting average and slugging percentage are then easily calculated, and OBA can be approximated as hits plus walks divided by at-bats plus walks. I also add runs created, based on the basic formula.

MLE Batting
Year Gms ABs RNs Hit 2B 3B HR RBI BB AVG OBA SLG RC
1918 026 069 007 013 04 00 01 007 09 .188 .282 .290 006
1919 043 104 009 027 05 01 01 012 12 .260 .336 .356 012
1920 049 132 015 031 01 02 03 016 16 .235 .318 .341 014
1921 049 096 008 019 03 01 02 009 12 .198 .287 .313 009
1922 057 130 015 029 06 02 03 013 16 .223 .308 .369 015
1923 115 330 048 100 22 03 12 064 36 .303 .372 .497 061
1924 149 518 077 156 40 10 21 092 57 .301 .370 .539 103
1925 146 526 076 167 34 07 16 092 56 .317 .383 .500 101
1926 149 491 088 174 36 09 22 088 50 .354 .414 .599 122
1927 144 487 077 158 38 04 19 078 52 .324 .390 .536 102
1928 146 414 070 140 33 02 16 071 43 .338 .400 .543 090
1929 154 533 092 184 49 04 25 119 55 .345 .406 .593 128
1930 136 457 083 152 40 04 20 090 48 .333 .396 .569 103
1931 121 418 065 131 26 07 18 072 45 .313 .387 .538 086
1932 147 496 116 155 30 03 44 118 92 .313 .420 .651 136
1933 159 511 111 162 36 02 32 120 93 .317 .422 .583 126
1934 116 415 087 122 29 01 34 108 75 .294 .402 .614 103
1935 122 408 074 136 24 01 21 083 49 .333 .405 .551 091
1936 050 186 045 054 09 03 12 043 34 .290 .400 .565 042
Total 2078 6721 1163 2110 465 66 322 1295 850 .314 .391 .546 1450
   22. Brent Posted: January 03, 2005 at 05:05 AM (#1052322)
Next, I convert the runs created to a standard 4.5 R/G environment, then calculate Batting WS using the short-form method (that is, runs created minus outs-divided-by-12, divided by 3; note – for pitchers, in the short-form method one does not subtract the outs-divided-by-12; I used the pitchers version for 1918-22).

MLE Batting WS
1918 02.5
1919 04.6
1920 04.8
1921 02.8
1922 04.6
1923 12.6
1924 22.4
1925 19.6
1926 30.7
1927 23.1
1928 20.9
1929 27.3
1930 19.4
1931 ----
1932 32.0
1933 32.5
1934 23.4
1935 20.3
1936 08.5
Total 330.8

Fielding
The short biography by Bill James in The Baseball Book 1991 says he “ran well, and had a powerful throwing arm.” On the other hand, I’ve seen a couple of comments on the Internet suggesting that Arlett may have been a below-average fielder. For 1931 BP shows him with -7 for FRAA. For now, I am sticking with the standard short-form value for fielding WS, which is one WS per 48 games in the outfield - you can adjust these estimates downward if you think he was well below average. For 1923 (the season he converted from pitcher to outfielder), I estimated his games in the outfield as total games minus games pitched. For the other years I used all his games, which is probably a slight overestimate due to games appearing as a pinch hitter.

Fielding WS
1923 1.9
1924 3.1
1925 3.0
1926 3.1
1927 3.0
1928 3.0
1929 3.2
1930 2.8
1931 ---
1932 3.1
1933 3.3
1934 2.4
1935 2.5
1936 1.0
Total 38.2

Total WS

Adding everything up, Arlett appears to have been a very valuable player. Even if one chooses to delete, for example, his 1918-19 and 1936 seasons, it still adds up to a player with more than 400 career WS and 6 seasons with more than 30 WS (2 as a pitcher and 4 as an outfielder).

1918 12
1919 20
1920 31
1921 10
1922 33
1923 12
1924 25
1925 23
1926 34
1927 26
1928 24
1929 31
1930 22
1931 16
1932 35
1933 36
1934 26
1935 23
1936 10
Total 449

I’m not sure whether I’m confident enough in these numbers to place Arlett number one on my ballot, but he definitely looks like one of my top 3.

Comments?
   23. Brent Posted: January 03, 2005 at 06:25 AM (#1052487)
A couple more comments.

In an unusual way, the fact that Arlett was both a pitcher and a position player for the Oaks makes me more confident of these estimates for his PCL years. That is because any errors due to assuming the wrong PCL run environment would be at least partly offsetting. For example, if the actual run environment in Oakland were lower scoring than I've assumed, that would mean he wasn't quite as good a pitcher, but was actually a better hitter than I've calculated. Conversely, if the run environment were higher, the opposite would be true. The errors for the PCL years would tend to offset unless the run environment in Oakland relative to the majors changed between his pitching years and his years as an outfielder (for example, if they moved into a new stadiium sometime around 1923).

The numbers I am most suspicious of are for 1932 and 1933, when he played for Baltimore. The increase in MLE HRs suggests that a park effect may have been in play, though Buzz was still young enough that it could have been a simple (non-steroid induced) surge in home run power. Those seasons aren't that far out of line from the rest of his career to be implausible, but you may want to treat them with a little caution.
   24. KJOK Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:04 AM (#1052582)
In 1933, Baltimore scored 962 runs in 166 games, which was 2nd in league.

They hist 180 HR's, which was by far first in league, so it does look like a hitter friendly park.

To add to what Gary posted, in 1933 Arlett was HBP 9 times and had 3 SH.

His Fielding for 1933:
G-147, PO-267, A-13, E-12, DP-1. Looks like only 2 regular outfielders had a worse fielding % than Arlett.
   25. KJOK Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:15 AM (#1052586)
1929 PCL OF Fielding:

Jigger Statz, G-196, PO-517, A-22, E-17, Pct-.971
Smead Jolly, G-199, PO-319, A-37, E-12, Pct-.967
Buzz Arlett, G-115, PO-226, A-9, E-11, Pct -.965

There were about 4 regular outfielders with a worse fielding % than Arlett.
   26. KJOK Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:17 AM (#1052587)
1933 Oakland Offense
G-202, Runs-1034. Oakland was 5th in runs and home runs, so appears to be a somewhat neutral park...
   27. KJOK Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:18 AM (#1052588)
That should be 1929 Oakland, NOT 1933.
   28. KJOK Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:27 AM (#1052590)
1928:
Oakland G-192, R-863, 5th in runs, 6th in HR's.

OF Fielding:
Buzz Arlett, G-154, PO-296, A-17, E-12, Pct-.963.
In bottom 3rd of regular OF for Fielding %.
   29. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: January 03, 2005 at 08:49 AM (#1052595)
Great stuff Brent.

I think a very conservative trimming would be to cut all of the pitching (based on Brent's post #2), and start his MLB career in 1924. If your estimates are correct, that leaves him as a 335 WS guy.

I'd really like to see actual numbers of scheduled games, and something that tells what the run environments of his leagues were, before I'm willing to vote based on this information though.

This is great stuff though, thanks for doing the work!
   30. karlmagnus Posted: January 03, 2005 at 02:37 PM (#1052667)
449 WS for Buzz Arlett (whose OPS+ of 138 in 1931 is perfectly OK for a poorly fielding outfielder, but not at all special) looks about as overstaed as the NL figures, and gives me further confidence that the translation process is fatally flawed, with at least a 20% bias to the upside. We've been over-rating NLers so far, and have probably elected a couple we shouldn't have; I for one will cease doing so going forward.
   31. TomH Posted: January 03, 2005 at 03:55 PM (#1052722)
Brent, many thanks for the analysis. Without attempting to re-work all you did, one item immediately jumped out at me:

year WS
1926 34
1927 26
1928 24
1929 31
1930 22
1931 16
1932 35
1933 36
1934 26

The one major league season Arlett had was clearly the Worst by these projections. That makes me real queasy that he really would have racked up 30 WS per year had he played MLB the other seasons.
   32. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 03, 2005 at 04:05 PM (#1052743)
The one major league season Arlett had was clearly the Worst by these projections. That makes me real queasy that he really would have racked up 30 WS per year had he played MLB the other seasons.

Same here. I can't place him on my ballot just yet.

I think we can safely say that he was a very good player who should have had a long major league career, though.
   33. karlmagnus Posted: January 03, 2005 at 04:26 PM (#1052791)
TomH, very good catch. The REAL 16 surrounded by all those "conversion" 25s and 30s. I'm sorry, that Arlett conversion is now Exhibit A in my STRONG belief that we are WAY overconverting the Negro leaguers. My 15% discount of the conversions will henceforth become 20-25%.

Having said that, I've just started on '43 and put Oscar #1 -- there were truly great NL players, just nothing like as many of them as people are claiming. Beckwith in particular looks WAY overvalued.
   34. Chris Cobb Posted: January 03, 2005 at 04:27 PM (#1052792)
The one major league season Arlett had was clearly the Worst by these projections. That makes me real queasy that he really would have racked up 30 WS per year had he played MLB the other seasons.

Two factors to bear in mind when evaluating this discrepancy:

1) Players jumping from one level of competition to another typically require an adjustment period of at least one season. Most Negro-League players who entered the majors directly from the NeL hit very poorly at first, but then made the adjustment and rose to the level we would expect in later seasons. It seems plausible to infer that we are seeing an adjustment season here, but with nothing else to follow.

2) Arlett played only 121 games that year (14 as a ph), which is much lower than in the surrounding seasons. If you project his 16 win shares to 146 games, it rises to 19, which is closer to his less productive PCL seasons.

I have no idea what to make of Arlett as a candidate at present, and I think a cautious approach is indicated until we have a) a better idea of the offensive level in the PCL vs. the majors and b) more data points for checking the conversion ratio.

I'd also be interested to see how the short-form projections that Brent is using compare to the projections one would come up with by matching Arlett's seasons to their closest major-league equivalents by raw stats and finding the ws from there. That's how I do the NeL projections for batting.

Speaking of NeL conversions, I'm home and gathering my scattered data on the subject, which I hope to post by the end of the day.
   35. Chris Cobb Posted: January 03, 2005 at 04:30 PM (#1052801)
Karlmagnus, two words that you should keep in mind before judging all NeL to ML conversions on the basis of Buzz Arlett's 1931 season: SAMPLE SIZE.
   36. karlmagnus Posted: January 03, 2005 at 05:05 PM (#1052882)
Chris, I agree, and I need to be as careful with discounting as you are projecting, and not over-discount. All the same, the "buzz" about Arlett was that his 1931 proved him to be a near-HOF'er, so it's a little glib then to discount it as an off-season.

In my view, Arlett was a good ML player, but not close to HOF/HOM, but conversions tend to be substantially over-optimistic -- also WS and WARP are dodgy metrics anyway, and can be 25% out either way.

Charleston's in my PHOM, no question, but I will need a lot of convincing on Foster, Johnson and Lundy.
   37. Chris Cobb Posted: January 03, 2005 at 06:39 PM (#1053148)
Bill Foster has a very strong reputation. I have no idea what the numbers will really show, so I don't know whether I'll be trying to convince you or not.

Few HoM voters will be convinced by Judy Johnson's case; I think it unlikely that he will do as well as Pie Traynor in the balloting.

Dick Lundy, from his raw stats, appears to be on the border. I don't know yet whether there's a convincing case to be made or not.
   38. Gary A Posted: January 04, 2005 at 02:57 AM (#1054703)
Brent--great work, really interesting. I just now realized I had enough information to come up with league averages for Arlett's years in the IL and AA:

Year-Ave-OBA-SLG-R/G
1932-284-350-425-5.21
1933-279-351-402-4.89
1934-291-351-413-5.44
1935-293-353-415-5.51
1936-295-350-431-5.59

(Again, the OBA is (H+W)/(AB+W).)

in 1932 Baltimore led the IL in runs (1036) and home runs (232). I don't have pitching totals, but looking at the ERAs for their pitchers, it looks to me like their team ERA was at best 6th in the league (more likely 7th). They finished a distant second (93-74).

In 1933, as KJOK pointed out, Baltimore finished second in runs and first in home runs, and my sense of their ERAs is that the team may well have finished dead last in the league in ERA. The team finished third, 84-80.

In 1934, Minneapolis led the AA in runs and home runs (and BA and doubles and walks), and their ERAs were not too great. Again, I don't have pitching team totals, but their ERAs do NOT look like the best in the league (maybe somewhere in the middle?). Minneapolis finished first, 85-64.

In 1935, Minneapolis again led the league in runs and home runs. At least three teams, possibly four, look to have had better ERAs. Again the Millers won the pennant, at 91-63.

In 1936, again Minneapolis led in runs and home runs (212-164 over Milwaukee), and their ERA may have been 7th or 8th. The team finished fifth, 78-76.

In short, both Baltimore and Minneapolis seem to have been definite hitters' parks during Arlett's time there, and both the IL and the AA had higher offensive levels than the majors.

Unfortunately, my PCL data is very spotty--only triple crown numbers for individual players, no team numbers. If anybody has guides for those years, maybe they would help...?
   39. KJOK Posted: January 04, 2005 at 03:23 AM (#1054756)
1929 PCL Offense:

1929

TeamGABRHSBHR3B2BSHRBIAVE
Mission2037087122222641561704339820911100.319
San Fransisco202720412132261641934541416510870.314
Hollywood2056892123321421111535038331411520.311
Los Angeles2056899121720921931804438826211040.303
Oakland202696110342099107154643722409560.302
Sacramento2047002100820697095513872489180.295
Portland2026779932195313997553362408610.288
Seattle20569509151955132103663151878230.281

TOTAL16285577487741683597211454182993186580110.302
   40. Brent Posted: January 04, 2005 at 03:44 AM (#1054796)
Thanks to everyone for your comments! I knew my first try at MLEs would have a lot of flaws, but I plan to do a second take (maybe tomorrow), incorporating the information you've been able to provide.

KJOK and Gary A: Thank you very much for the data. Of course, I'd always like more.

KJOK, do you happen to have runs allowed (or ERA) by Oakland for 1928 and 29? If not, would you have their W-L record? (With runs scored and allowed, I could do an inverse Pythagorean calculation to estimate runs allowed.)

Gary A, you mention the rank of Minneapolis in runs, do you have the actual numbers available? Again, even without runs allowed, I could do an inverse Pythag to estimate runs allowed.

Of course I'd really like a couple more data points on the PCL for the early 20s, but I'll work with whatever I can get.

I'll also lower my estimate of his fielding WS in my next run.

By the way, here's a comment by Bill James from an article on "Minor League Baseball Stars" in the 1986 BJHBA (p. 84): "The 'major league'writers put these players down by exaggerating their shortcomings as baserunners and fielders. One case in which this seems particularly glaring is that of Buzz Arlett, possibly the best of the minor league stars... Arlett, too, developed that bad-glove reputation, because it helped major league writers explain why he wasn't in the major leagues. In all likelihood he was a very good fielder... he had an excellent arm, and though a huge man and carrying a little extra weight that summer, he was quite mobile. There is no evidence at all that he deserved the bad-glove reputation that he was hung with." I don't believe BJ included that article in the NBJHBA, nor do I know if his WS analysis led him to re-think his conclusion. But while I'll agree that he may have been below average, I really don't think he was in the same class as Greg Luzinski.

We've got plenty of time to work on Arlett, since he's obviously not going in this "year" (nor should he!) But I think Arlett is a good example that several truly great ballplayers spent most or all of their careers in the high minor leagues, at least during the pre-1935 period.
   41. KJOK Posted: January 04, 2005 at 03:48 AM (#1054804)
For some reason the numbers won't format, so I'll upload the PCL totals for 1928 & 1929 to the HOM egroup if anyone wants to take a look at them...
   42. KJOK Posted: January 04, 2005 at 03:55 AM (#1054811)
KJOK, do you happen to have runs allowed (or ERA) by Oakland for 1928 and 29? If not, would you have their W-L record? (With runs scored and allowed, I could do an inverse Pythagorean calculation to estimate runs allowed.)

ERA isn't available unles you want to add all the team pitchers up individually.

In 1928, Oakland was 91-100
In 1929, Oakland was 111-91
   43. Brent Posted: January 04, 2005 at 03:57 AM (#1054822)
Thanks!
   44. sunnyday2 Posted: January 04, 2005 at 04:01 AM (#1054831)
If there was a minor league player discussed here that I would support, I think it would be Ike Boone, but I'm not gonna support him either. I just can't or at least don't believe right now that the MLs were that inefficient at evaluating talent even then. I mean, Arlett maybe coulda had a ten year ML career and it looks like maybe he coulda hit 300 HR and driven in 1000 and hit .333. But that to me is giving him the benefit of the doubt. I just don't see him as Chuck Klein or Hack Wilson, much less Al Simmons or Goose Goslin or Mel Ott or... or....
   45. Gary A Posted: January 04, 2005 at 04:36 AM (#1054941)
Minneapolis led the AA in runs scored every year from 1928 to 1937.

Here are Minneapolis team totals and league totals, 1934-36:

Year-Gms--ABs--Rns---Hits--Dbls--Tpls-HRs---BBs
1934-150-05448-1012-01676--0309--050--176--0603
AA---612-43546-6662-12685--2080--592--699--3981
1935-154-05430-0934-01601--0284--044--191--0573
AA---617-44088-6804-12905--2121--573--704--4108
1936-158-05758-1008-01703--0296--060--212--0527
AA---622-44671-6953-13159--2160--663--869--3781
   46. Brent Posted: January 04, 2005 at 05:01 AM (#1055031)
Thanks for the data, GaryA!

Sunnyday2 wrote:

I just can't or at least don't believe right now that the MLs were that inefficient at evaluating talent even then.

I don't think efficiency in evaluating talent was the issue at all. I believe major league teams wanted Arlett (and other minor league stars), but in the early 1920s (the early part of his career) there were simply no mechanisms in place to force Oakland to surrender him to the major leagues. He was playing for an independent team in an independent league that valued him greatly and didn't want to give him up.

I wish copyright laws didn't prohibit me from posting the entire 1986 Bill James article on minor league stars that I mentioned earlier, but here is a quote:

"The minor leagues as they existed sixy to seventy years ago were something more like today's Mexican League, or perhaps Japanese baseball, except that rather than operating in another country in a foreign language, they operated in the hinterlands of the United States. They were independent. [emphasis in original] My experience has been that it is difficult to get people to internalize this concept to the point that they can stop coloring their perceptions of what happened then with modern notions of what a 'minor league' baseball team is, notions that have no relevance to 1922. My experience has been that if you tell somebody about the brilliant minor league career of Ox Eckhardt, who had a career batting average of .367, they will say, 'Wow, why didn't he ever get a chance?' No, no--it's not like that. He's not a player who might have done things if he'd had the chance; he's a player who did things. He played baseball. He made a good living playing baseball. His picture was on baseball cards; he was a local celebrity. The fact that he did these things in a league that was not the American League or the National League is important in its own way, but it doesn't make the things he did unreal or meaningless, as it would today; he did them."
   47. jimd Posted: January 04, 2005 at 05:44 AM (#1055124)
For some reason the numbers won't format,

Don't use tabs in the layout. Format the table with spaces.
   48. KJOK Posted: January 04, 2005 at 06:22 AM (#1055200)
Don't use tabs in the layout. Format the table with spaces
I was afraid that was the answer. When your data's in Excel, this makes it a little inconvenient....
   49. Brent Posted: January 05, 2005 at 06:17 AM (#1057899)
MLEs, Take 2

Thanks again to all. Based on your feedback, I’ll take another stab at Buzz Arlett’s major league equivalencies, with the following changes from my first attempt (in # 21 and 22 above):

Run environment.

While it would be most appropriate to figure the run environment for the league, then calculate park factors for the parks BA played in, I will take a shortcut and simply take his team’s runs scored per game averaged with an estimate of runs allowed per game as an estimate of his run environment. This shortcut has been used in early sabermetric work, for example, in the 1986 BJHBA.

Since I haven’t yet been able to obtain actual runs allowed per game, I use the following “inverse Pythagorean” method to estimate them. Usually the Pythagorean method projects winning percentage based on runs scored and allowed:

W/(W+L) = (R/G)^2 / [(R/G)^2 + (RA/G)^2].

In this case, we know (thanks to KJOK and Gary A) the wins, losses, and runs scored for BA’s teams (for 1928-29 and 1932-36), so I will solve for estimates of runs allowed:

RA/G = (R/G) * [(W+L)/W – 1]^(1/2)

For example, for 1928, the Oaks were 91-100 and scored 4.495 runs per game, so we estimate that they must have allowed about 4.712 runs per game. Averaging Oakland’s runs scored and estimated runs allowed produces a estimated run scoring environment of 4.603 runs per game, which compares to the major league average of 4.730 runs per game. The environment adjustment factor is 1.027 = 4.730/4.603. I estimated the following environment adjustment factors for the years for which KJOK and Gary A provided data:

1928 1.027
1929 1.063
1932 0.792
1933 0.773
1934 0.727
1935 0.807
1936 0.813

Baltimore and Minneapolis were clearly very batter-friendly during this era, while Oakland appears to be somewhat pitcher-friendly. For his other seasons with the Oaks (1918-27 and 1930), I will use 1.045, the average of the two years for which I have an estimate.

The environment adjustment factor for each season is then multiplied by the quality-of-competition factor (.82) to obtain the “m” factor that is used in the calculations described in posts # 21 and 22.

Other changes in assumptions

Next I reduce his estimated fielding win shares to 1 per 64 games, which works out to about 1.74 win shares per 1000 innings. This puts his defensive estimates in the same general range as Harry Heilmann (1.79 WS/1000 innings), Jeff Burroughs (1.69), and Greg Luzinski (1.73), though I don’t think BA was really quite that bad. I also will assume that he pinch hit and didn’t accumulate fielding win shares in 5 percent of his games prior to 1931 and in 10 percent of his games after 1931.

Finally, I had been assuming that long seasons were only relevant to his PCL years, but Gary’s data show that the IL also held long seasons (167 team decisions in 1932 and 164 in 1933). I’ll make a season length adjustment of 8.3 percent (1 – 154/168) for those years. The AA appears to have held 154 game seasons.

Revised MLEs

Pitching:

Year InnP ERA
1918 153.3 3.29
1919 268.0 3.66
1920 329.0 3.52
1921 245.7 5.33
1922 288.0 3.38
1923 096.3 7.02

Batting:

Year Gms ABs RNs Hit 2B 3B HR RBI BB AVG OBA SLG RC
1918 026 070 008 014 04 00 01 007 09 .200 .291 .300 006
1919 043 105 009 028 05 01 01 013 12 .267 .342 .362 013
1920 049 133 016 031 01 02 03 017 16 .233 .315 .338 014
1921 049 097 008 020 04 01 02 009 12 .206 .294 .330 009
1922 057 131 015 029 06 02 03 014 16 .221 .306 .366 015
1923 115 332 050 103 22 03 13 067 36 .310 .378 .512 064
1924 149 521 081 160 41 11 22 096 57 .307 .375 .555 109
1925 146 529 080 170 35 07 17 096 56 .321 .386 .510 104
1926 149 495 092 178 37 09 23 092 50 .360 .418 .610 126
1927 144 490 081 161 38 04 20 081 52 .329 .393 .545 105
1928 146 416 072 142 33 02 16 073 43 .341 .403 .546 091
1929 154 538 098 190 50 05 26 127 55 .353 .413 .610 136
1930 136 460 087 156 41 04 20 094 48 .339 .402 .576 106
1931 121 418 065 131 26 07 18 072 45 .313 .387 .538 086
1932 135 439 084 127 24 02 32 086 67 .289 .383 .572 096
1933 146 450 078 130 29 01 23 085 66 .289 .380 .511 087
1934 116 397 063 104 25 01 24 079 55 .262 .352 .511 071
1935 122 394 060 122 21 01 17 067 40 .310 .373 .497 073
1936 050 181 037 049 08 02 10 035 27 .271 .365 .503 033
Tot 2053 6596 1084 2045 450 65 291 1210 762 .310 .381 .530 1344

Win Shares:

Year BWS PWS FWS WS
1918 02.5 09.5 --- 12
1919 05.0 14.9 --- 20
1920 04.8 25.7 --- 31
1921 02.8 07.4 --- 10
1922 04.6 28.0 --- 33
1923 13.6 -2.9 1.4 12
1924 24.3 ---- 2.2 27
1925 20.4 ---- 2.2 23
1926 32.0 ---- 2.2 34
1927 24.0 ---- 2.1 26
1928 21.2 ---- 2.2 23
1929 29.7 ---- 2.3 32
1930 20.2 ---- 2.0 22
1931 ---- ---- ---- 16
1932 20.6 ---- 1.9 23
1933 20.2 ---- 2.1 22
1934 13.6 ---- 1.6 15
1935 14.8 ---- 1.7 17
1936 05.9 ---- 0.7 07
Tot 280.3 82.6 24.6 405

The last half of BA’s career now looks a lot less impressive than in my first iteration, but the PCL years are still very strong. Even if one drops his 1918-19 and 1936 seasons, we’re still left with a 16-year career worth 361 win shares, with 4 seasons worth 30+ WS and 7 more worth 20-29.
   50. Brent Posted: January 05, 2005 at 06:43 AM (#1057956)
Responding to some more of your comments –

KJOK: In post # 25, you provided BA’s fielding statistics for 1929, and I noticed that he only played 115 games in the outfield, while his batting statistics for that year show 200 games (and 722 at bats). I’m wondering about the difference. BJ’s short biography mentions “an ill-advised attempt to return regularly to the mound in 1929,” but doesn’t give any details. I also wonder about games played at other positions, such as first base. If you have any info, I’d be interested.

In # 29, Joe Dimino wrote:

I think a very conservative trimming would be to cut all of the pitching (based on Brent's post #2), and start his MLB career in 1924. If your estimates are correct, that leaves him as a 335 WS guy.

Because I think each voter ought to be free to use their own judgment about how much of his career should be trimmed, I’ve provided MLEs for all of the years, even though I don’t plan to use them all in my own evaluation. But FWIW, I think cutting off all of his pitching seasons is too harsh. By the end of 1920 (assuming there aren’t any surprises lurking in missing data on his Oakland PCL run environment) he had clearly established that he was capable of pitching very well at the major league level and was also unusually good hitter for a pitcher. IMO, he clearly would have advanced to the majors at that point if it weren’t for two unusual circumstances that were entirely out of his control: (1) the temporary refusal by the PCL to participate in the minor league draft (according to the link provided by Cliff Blau in # 5 above, the PCL opted out of the draft entirely during the years from 1919 to 1924; afterward, if I read the rules correctly, only one player a year could be drafted from any team); and (2) the 1920 spitball ban and fact that BA’s spitball was grandfathered in the PCL, but wouldn’t have been in the majors. We’ve already elected two HOMers, Coveleski and Faber, who were grandfathered by the major league spitball rule. During 1920-22 BA was using the same pitch very effectively at the highest level where he was permitted to do so. Personally, I don’t think it is fair to exclude BA’s value as a pitcher, at least for the years 1921-22 after he’d established that he was a top major league-caliber pitcher.

Joe also wrote:

I'd really like to see actual numbers of scheduled games, and something that tells what the run environments of his leagues were, before I'm willing to vote based on this information though.

I agree that more information would help us ensure the accuracy of these projections. Regarding schedule length, I’ve tracked down win-loss records for a few more PCL teams from the 1920s, and they all seem to be in a range between about 190 – 204 games, so my estimate 200 is probably ok. But it would be better to get hard information. While I now have run environment information for the last half of his career, including two seasons in Oakland, it would still be good to fill in a few years in the first half.

In # 30, karlmagnus wrote:

449 WS for Buzz Arlett (whose OPS+ of 138 in 1931 is perfectly OK for a poorly fielding outfielder, but not at all special) looks about as overstaed as the NL figures, and gives me further confidence that the translation process is fatally flawed, with at least a 20% bias to the upside.

I’m sure my latest revisions won’t satisfy you either, Karl. I’ve already applied an 18 percent penalty (in units of runs) for differences in quality. If I were to add another 20 percent, it would imply that the relative gap between the major leagues and the top minors then was wider than the distance between the majors and the double-AA leagues today. No way can that be true! In fact, I think the institutional arrangements of the 1920s argue that the gap may have been smaller – PCL teams were routinely able to hold onto outstanding players like Earl Averill for a couple more years after they had clearly established their ability to be stars at the major league level. That would rarely happen today.

During those years lots of players passed through the PCL and other top minor leagues on their way to or from the majors and can be directly compared with Buzz. BA played side by side with Ernie Lombardi from 1928-30 and out-hit him every year. He pitched side by side with Ray Kremer from 1919-22 and out-pitched him (BA was 95-71 over 4 years, Kremer was 64-77). In 1924, at age 31, Kremer moved to Pittsburgh where he began a very effective ML career (143-85, 113 ERA+).

If I had the time and the data, I’d love to do the study that provides definitive MLEs for the minor leagues of the teens, twenties, and thirties. But even without doing the study, I’m sure that 18 percent is much closer to the true quality discount than 38 percent.

In # 31 Tom H wrote:

The one major league season Arlett had was clearly the Worst by these projections. That makes me real queasy that he really would have racked up 30 WS per year had he played MLB the other seasons.

The short biography by Bill James in the The Baseball Book 1991 discusses BA’s 1931 season and BJ surmises that Arlett probably suffered a minor injury in mid August that hurt his performance for the rest of the season. BJ notes that BA played well in the first half of the season, playing right field regularly and hitting .324 through August 9. That was followed by an interval on the bench, followed by usage patterns that suggested he “was nursing an injury of some sort.” (I assume BJ is referring to his appearances as a pinch hitter or at first base.) As the Phillies regular outfielders, Chuck Klein moved from left field back to right field and Doug Taitt entered the lineup in left field.

Over most of his career, BA appears to have largely avoided injuries (other than the one that ended his pitching career) and stayed in the lineup pretty well. So I think his lower performance in 1931 is explainable. Also, the 1931 season looks less out of line now than it did with my first set of estimates; with new environment adjustment factors for the IL and AA, his career now follows a more typical pattern of decline after age 30 (1929).

Another comment on his 1931 season is that playing right field in the Baker Bowl must have required some significant re-learning. The Baker Bowl’s right-field wall was sort of the mirror of Fenway’s left-field Wall, except that it was located about 40 feet closer to home plate. I agree with Chris Cobb’s comment that moves (especially jumping from one level to another) often requires an adjustment period of at least one season. More convincing evidence that the MLEs work would have to be based on a group of players, each of whom spent several years in the PCL and in the majors. There were plenty of such players during the 20s and 30s, but I don’t have the database to do such a study.

In # 34, Chris Cobb wrote:

I'd also be interested to see how the short-form projections that Brent is using compare to the projections one would come up with by matching Arlett's seasons to their closest major-league equivalents by raw stats and finding the ws from there. That's how I do the NeL projections for batting.

Chris, I’d welcome alternative projections by you or others. While I think I understand the basic approach you are using, I didn’t feel confident enough with the specifics to attempt to do the projections that way, so I opted instead for the simple formulas that BJ provided.
   51. Gary A Posted: January 05, 2005 at 07:53 AM (#1058074)
OK, I've got Oakland's W/L records:

1918: 40-63 6th
1919: 86-96 5th
1920: 95-103 6th
1921: 101-85 5th
1922: 88-112 6th
1923: 91-111 7th
1924: 103-99 4th
1925: 88-112 6th
1926: 111-92 2nd
1927: 120-75 1st
1928: 91-100 5th
1929: 111-91 4th
1930: 97-103 5th
   52. Chris Cobb Posted: January 05, 2005 at 04:51 PM (#1058389)
Chris, I’d welcome alternative projections by you or others. While I think I understand the basic approach you are using, I didn’t feel confident enough with the specifics to attempt to do the projections that way, so I opted instead for the simple formulas that BJ provided.

I've done a short set of projections using my approach, which is to find the closest match for the player's rate stats in either the AL or the NL (alternating seasons) and giving him that player's win shares, prorated for differences in playing time and differences in production. Here are the batting win shares my method produced for Arlett, 1923-27, using AL in even numbered years and NL in odd-numbered. For ease of comparison, I've put Brent's numbers in parentheses following.

1923 14.1 (13.6)
1924 22.5 (24.3)
1925 20.6 (20.4)
1926 28.1 (32.0)
1927 24.3 (24.1)

As you can see, the matches are pretty close. Three factors may be involved in the discrepancies, which could be investigated by further testing. First, they could be random. Second, they may be attributable to differences in competition levels between the leagues. Third, they may be the effect of the full WS system tamping down on extreme values in a way that the short form does not. I'll try to run more seasons and cross-check across leagues to make clearer the source of the discrepancies.

Obviously, they're not huge, so if Brent's MLE projections are on target, the win share estimates are also pretty much on target.

If further comparison of short-form win shares to comparison win shares confirms that the short form overestimates top seasons, it would be appropriate, I think, to pro-rate Arlett's peak batting seasons as they appear in Brett's projections by a small amount -- say 5-10%.

Further investigation of offensive levels in the PCL and of the competition differential between the majors and the top minors should be done, if possible, but given what we know so far, I'm convinced that Arlett needs to be considered as a serious candidate.

Thanks, Brent, for all the great work you've done on Arlett's case. A good assessment of the PCL will be valuable for our consideration of candidates like Averill, too!
   53. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 02:24 AM (#1059643)
KJOK: In post # 25, you provided BA’s fielding statistics for 1929, and I noticed that he only played 115 games in the outfield, while his batting statistics for that year show 200 games (and 722 at bats). I’m wondering about the difference. BJ’s short biography mentions “an ill-advised attempt to return regularly to the mound in 1929,” but doesn’t give any details. I also wonder about games played at other positions, such as first base. If you have any info, I’d be interested.

I noticed this too, but didn't have time at the time to do additional searching.

Turns out he played 74 games at 1st base with:
Po-601
A-39
E-14
Pct - .979

He was 16th out of all 20 players listed as playing 1st base in Fielding%, and 10th out of the 10 with more than 50 games, so doesn't look like he was much of a 1st baseman....
   54. Thane of Bagarth Posted: January 06, 2005 at 03:10 AM (#1059706)
There's a very nice biographical article by Bill James in "The Baseball Book 1991."

Does James (or any other source) explain why Buzz went to Baltimore after his one season with the Phillies?
   55. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 03:28 AM (#1059730)
From the Washington Post, March 5, 1931:

Winterhaven, Fla - The spotlight blazed on Buzz Arlett, might oak from Oakland, Cal., as he went through his first workout today with the Phillies. The new outfielder is 6 feet 3 and scales 225. "What a break to get in the majors at last," he says.

"There were reports that I didn't care about coming up, and that I was satisfied to stay in Oakland, but that was wrong. I gave my best for thirteen years and they held me back. At the end of last season I said I was through, so they sold me."
   56. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 03:31 AM (#1059737)
New York Times, March 8, 1931:

"The big leaguers are interested in the debut of Buzz Arlett with the Phillies. Arlett is a Coast veteran, 32 years old, and he has never been up before. He is supposed to be a poor fielder, but the players like him because he is a husky fellow with a heavy wallop. The boys in the trade have a great respect for base hits."
   57. DanG Posted: January 06, 2005 at 03:49 AM (#1059771)
BJ’s short biography mentions “an ill-advised attempt to return regularly to the mound in 1929,” but doesn’t give any details.

SABR's Minor League Baseball Stars shows Buzz pitching very little 1924-27 (3-0, 8 G, 27 IP). In 1928 he was 1-0, 7 G, 27 IP and in 1929 he was 1-4, 5.76, 17 G, 61 IP. The next year, his last with Oakland, is the last shown in his pitching record, 3 G, 3 IP.

Regarding possible injuries, he seems to have missed a chunk of games in 1928. Gary's list has Oakland with 191 decisions while Arlett played 160 games. Also in 1930, Buzz played 176 games and the team had 200 decisions.
   58. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 03:58 AM (#1059796)
Washington Post, December 19, 1931:

BUZZ ARLETT RETURNS TO MINORS:

Aged Rookie Traded to Baltimore for Russ Scarritt

New York, December 18 (U.P.) - Opportunity to make good as a major league ball player came too late for big Buzz Arlett and the slugging 220-pound outfielder today was returned to the minors after a single season of prominence with the Philadelphia Philles.

Long regarded as the finest prospect in the minor leagues (he remained with the Oakland Pacific Coast for 13 years only because major league clubs were unwilling to pay the $100,000 purchase price demanded by Oakland owners). Arlett was allowed to slip back to the minors with no big league team willing to pay the $7,500 waiver price for his services.

With every big league team granting waivers, Philadelphia traded Arlett to the Baltimore International League club in exchange for outfielder Russell Scarritt.

Arlett played with the Phillies for a single season, but his heavy hitting and colorful play made him a prime favorite with the Philadelphia fans.........he ranked as the greatest slugger in the Coast League. Despite his bulk, his agility and fine throwing arm made him a valuable defensive gardener, and the Oakland club set a prohibitively high price on his services.

When the Phillies finally purchased him after thirteen years of minor league service, Arlett had started to slow down. He opened the season with a flash and gave promise of earning ranking as the most valuable "rookie" of the year, but injuries and advancing years took their toll. By the middle of August, Arlett had lost his regular place in the Phillies lineup and served only as a pinch hitter for the balance of the year.....

Arlett's chief weakness was in the field, and he finished far down among the outfielders with a percentage of .955.
   59. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 04:10 AM (#1059820)
From NY Times Feb 24, 1932:

"The truth is that outfielders are really hired for their hitting. The ability to catch flies is taken for granted. This is sometimes taking too much for granted. Ham Hyatt, Billy Bagwell and BUZZ ARLETT proved that...."
   60. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 04:24 AM (#1059836)
Arlett went to spring training with Brooklyn in 1933, and it was noted that he had dieted down to 210 lbs.

From March 21, 1933 Washington Post (apparently Arlett had been cut by Brooklyn) :

"...the reason big league clubs don't buy Buzz Arlett, the Oriole slugger, for pinch hitting duties is because Arlett demands a major league salary and he isn't worth it as a pinch hitter..."
   61. DavidFoss Posted: January 06, 2005 at 04:29 AM (#1059852)
Arlett's chief weakness was in the field, and he finished far down among the outfielders with a percentage of .955.

Huh... and RF in the Baker Bowl was not exactly spacious, either. Caroms off the screen might have been tricky, though. Anyhow, the Phils actually moved Klein to left to make room for Arlett and as soon as Arlett was gone, they hurriedly placed Klein back in right. Its not like the Phils were the pitching-and-defense minded team of their era, either.
   62. Brent Posted: January 06, 2005 at 05:41 AM (#1059960)
Thanks. Lots of useful information is coming in.

Gary A: Thanks for the W-L records and rankings. Would you be able to tell us how many teams were playing in the PCL each of those seasons?

Anyone: It still would be very helpful if we could get Oakland team runs scored for at least a couple more years during 1918-27 or 1930.

Chris: Thanks for the alternative projections. You're right that the latest-and-greatest runs created formulas that are used in the Win Shares book tend to tamp down extreme values compared to the basic runs created formula that I used. But I'd have guessed the difference from that source would be smaller - maybe 5 percent rather than 10 percent.

KJOK and David: Great quotes. You've convinced me that Arlett was a poor outfielder (though the statistics never seem to imply that he was the very worst outfielder around). It's still hard for me to understand that teams weren't willing to live with the glove to have the bat that had ranked eighth 8 in OPS+. My guess is that Philadelphia's decision to trade him (and the other teams' willingness to let him clear waivers) may have reflected several points of confusion that sabermetricians now have a better handle on:

- the sudden drop in NL offense (from 5.68 R/G in 1930 to 4.48 in 1931) probably made his offensive contributions seem less impressive.

- while the fact that the Baker Bowl boosted offense was known, estimates of the magnitude of the effect weren't available, so there was added uncertainty about the quality of any Philly player.

- I've observed that good players on bad teams are often unappreciated (and their fielding deficiencies are sometimes exaggerated).

It's clear from my latest MLE projections that Arlett's HOM case will have to rest primarily on what he did in Oakland rather than on what he did in Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Minneapolis. But the fact that after leaving Philadelphia he continued to play professional baseball successfully at the next-to-highest level for 4 full seasons and contributed to two AA pennant-winning teams ought to count for something.
   63. Gary A Posted: January 06, 2005 at 05:56 AM (#1059987)
Yes, I'd forgotten that the PCL was still a six-club league through 1918. In 1919 it expanded to eight, and stayed there till the 60s.

The PCL source I have--*The Pacific Coast League: A Statistical History*, by Dennis Snelling--doesn't give team totals, but it does (for some reason) have a list of teams that led the league in a few categories. It looks like, until 1948, Oakland only led the league in batting ave. once (in 1921, .305). Oakland didn't lead the league in runs scored per game until 1947. They NEVER led the league in home runs, through 1957. There are, unfortunately, no pitching categories.

Also--it seems that the two major themes of KJOK's quotes are fielding AND money. Arlett was roundly thought to be a poor fielder, AND he (and Oakland) seemed to be tough negotiators, perhaps a little too tough. It would be interesting to have salary info for him (I have no idea if anybody's ever done research on minor league salaries in this era). Were minor league teams willing to pay him more than the majors were in the thirties?
   64. Gary A Posted: January 06, 2005 at 06:05 AM (#1060001)
Snelling also provides some league leaders in fielding:

In 1920, Arlett led the league in errors by a pitcher with 10 (tied with 3 others)

In 1924, Arlett led the league in errors by an OF with 19.

He never led the league in OF assists, or fielding pct. at any position.
   65. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 07:00 AM (#1060117)
One theory I have about Arlett's fall from MLB:

Thru June 6th, Arlett was hitting .384 and apparently had been leading the NL batting race.

He hit his 11th HR on June 13th.

On June 19th, he suffered a broken thumb, and apparently had to sit out for at least a few weeks.

Apparently, when he came back from that injury, he was either rusty, or in a slump, or just suffering "regression to the mean", etc. but obviously from that point on he was a less effective player, and his shortcomings seem to have started to be magnified, with his hitting skills overlooked...
   66. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 07:04 AM (#1060128)
Well, luckily I found what I was looking for, sort of:

As of June 5th, Arlett was 61 out of 159, for a .384 average (and 10 HR's), which means that for the remainder of the year he was:

70 out of 259 (8 HR's), for a .270 average. That is quite a dropoff, and by September the more recent performance is probably what was focused on.
   67. KJOK Posted: January 06, 2005 at 11:50 PM (#1061787)
And FYI, here is the link to Arlett's PCL batting and pitching stats:

Buzz Arlett PCL Stats
   68. Michael Bass Posted: January 07, 2005 at 07:09 AM (#1062811)
Possibly a minor quibble, but I still have to make it...

Since most of the players he’s being compared to had two or three good years in the minors before establishing themselves in the majors, in evaluating Arlett I dropped his 1918 and 1919 seasons and gave only half credit for 1920. He wouldn’t have made it to my ballot purely as an outfielder – I see him as similar to, but not quite as good as Cravath and Tiernan. But when you add one and a half seasons as a 30-win share pitcher, I believe he legitimately qualifies.

My understanding is that the spitball ban began in 1920. So if we're assuming a normal career path, and that he would have debuted in 1920, doesn't that mean the pitching has to be out, as he relied on the spitter? Certainly seems wrong to me to give him credit for pitching that there's no serious way he could have done in the major leagues.

----------------------------

As for Arlett overall, without the pitching (which I'm not giving), I can't see any way he's ahead of Cravath, who's not on my ballot. I'm probably being closed minded on the topic, but so be it.

Speaking of Cravath, if someone were to do a similar Win Shares calculation to the above for his "missing" years, it would be much appreciated. :)
   69. Brent Posted: January 07, 2005 at 07:43 AM (#1062891)
Michael:

I guess I see the fact that the spitball ban went into effect at the same time as Arlett established himself as a star-quality pitcher as an historical accident that was entirely out of his control and shouldn't be held against him. The fact that he wasn't allowed to pitch in the majors during those years didn't make him any less of a pitcher. He was a great pitcher during those years, just in the PCL, rather than in the NL or AL. And in the days of independent minor leagues, the PCL was just as important to the fans in Los Angeles and Oakland and Salt Lake City as the NL was to the fans in Pittsburgh and Chicago.

If we aren't penalizing Coveleski and Faber for the spitball grandfather clause, I don't think it's fair to penalize Arlett either.

By the way, I agree that MLE's for Cravath would be useful. I am giving him credit for his minor league seasons, but I may be too conservative.

KJOK: Thanks for the information on the injury. Characteristically, Bill James seems to have gotten the essence of the story right but the details wrong. A broken thumb? Ouch!

Also, thanks for the link to his statistics. In his picture he doesn't look all that fat - why I'm sure there must be at least a couple dozen fatter major leaguers today! ;-)

I did a little browsing today to see what I could find. I got my hopes up when I found that the Library of Congress had on-line versions of a number of old issues of the Spalding Official Base Ball Guide, including the one for 1922. Unfortunately, it looks like for several years in the teens and early 20s Spalding made its readers by a second book, the Spalding Base Ball Record to get the minor league statistics. (Kind of like Bill James making people buy Win Shares to get the background info for the NBJHBA.) I suspect that copies of the Record will be even harder to locate than the Guide.

I also found an Oakland Oaks Web site that has info on the Oaks Ball Park.
http://oaklandoaks.tripod.com/oakspark.html

Oaks Ball Park was used from 1913 to 1955. The page also says that from 1913 to 1922 some of the Oaks' home games were played in San Francisco. I don't know how many games or how it might have affected the run environment. However, the info in Gary A's # 63 strongly suggests that the Oaks played in a neutral to pitcher friendly environment through most of their history.
   70. Brent Posted: January 07, 2005 at 08:14 AM (#1062939)
Michael,

Let me try answering your question again another way. When I think about major league equivalents for minor league or Negro League players, I'm not literally thinking of what their career would have been if they had played the same years with a major league team. Instead, I'm thinking of taking their actual accomplishments in whichever league they played in, and converting them to units of major league value, in the same way that dollars are converted into euros or pounds. I'm saying that a 2.77 ERA in Oakland in 1922 was comparable in difficulty, after adjusting for the differences in quality of competition and run environment, to a 3.38 ERA in the majors the same year. I do not believe that the fact that the pitching was done for Oakland rather than a major league team made it any less valuable - just that the quality of competition was different, so a minor league pitcher who was as good as a major league pitcher (and there were many minor league players during those years who were as good as major league players) would be expected to have a lower ERA and better statistical record.
   71. Michael Bass Posted: January 07, 2005 at 05:01 PM (#1063413)

If we aren't penalizing Coveleski and Faber for the spitball grandfather clause, I don't think it's fair to penalize Arlett either.


See, I don't think that is a valid comparison. They *were* grandfathered. Arlett would not have been. The valid comparison is to the, I'm sure, many pitchers who debuted or would have debuted in the majors from 1920-1922 who had a key part of their pitch assortment banned. Is anyone arguing that those guys should receive extra credit? That's essentially what you're arguing with Arlett.


Or another way...we elected Ross Barnes, who took advantage of the fair-foul rule. Does that mean we should have been looking for post-1876 players who would have been great with that rule in place?

In my opinion, no; you get credit for what you actually did in the majors, or you actually could have done in the majors. You reference the Negro Leagues...Mendez had an entire section of his career as a SS. It was not particularly great, but it was above replacement, at a minimum. He gets no credit for that from me because I don't believe he would have done that in the majors. Wilbur Rogan was a tougher call, but I believe he'd have at least been given a shot as a two-way player. I understand those who might have not voted for him on the grounds that they don't think he could have. Like I said, he was a tough call.
   72. Brent Posted: January 09, 2005 at 01:16 AM (#1066082)
Michael,

I don’t think of it as giving Arlett extra credit. Extra credit would be giving Arlett credit for pitching when he didn’t, but he did pitch during 1920-22, actually more than 1100 innings during those 3 years, and that’s what I think he ought to get credit for. When you say, no, he wouldn’t have been able to pitch in the majors, it seems to me you also need to ask whether in that case he would have moved to the outfield three years earlier, and then maybe he would have hit another 75 home runs (or whatever). Playing that kind of “what if” scenario is what I don’t want to get into—Arlett was a pitcher during those years, he was covered by a grandfather clause in the PCL the same as Faber was in the AL, and he was an excellent, ML-quality pitcher during those years.

You’re right that other young pitchers were caught by the ban, and some of them lost their careers as a result. That was clearly unfortunate and unfair to them, but we don’t know who they are, and even if we did I wouldn't give them credit for pitching that they didn’t do, just as we don’t give Barnes credit for baseball he didn't play because of the rules change. The difference in Arlett’s case is that he was allowed to continue pitching.

It seems that your premise is that only baseball played at the ML level really counts. For the period since about 1960, I’d agree with you; everyone understands that the minor leagues are primarily training programs for the majors and the seasons don’t really count in any meaningful sense. If someone tells you that someone had a great season in Triple-AAA, your reaction isn’t, “did it help his team win its minor league pennant?” Instead, it’s, “he’s probably going to make the ML roster next year,” or “why didn’t they call him up earlier when we could have used him.” If a minor league team is in a tight pennant race and its major league parent decides it needs the team’s best player to be called up for 3 weeks to sit on the bench and pinch-hit, it has not qualms about doing so because everyone understands that that the only pennant race that really matters is the major league one.

We need to understand is that 1920s baseball wasn’t like that at all. Minor leagues were largely independent and operated pretty much the same way the major leagues did. It was more like college sports, where there are stronger leagues and weaker leagues, but every league is more or less independent and equally important to its own teams and fans. (Actually, college basketball isn’t so much that way anymore, but I hope you're understanding my point.) Just as in college sports, in 1920s baseball most of the best players were in the best leagues (the majors), but not all of them were. If Baltimore thought its players were worth more competing in the IL than Philadelphia was willing to pay for them, then they would stay in Baltimore. And since the Baltimore baseball fans cared more about the IL than they did about the AL or NL (in those days before television or radio), there’s no reason a player couldn’t have been worth more to a top minor league team than to a major league one. If you were to pick the 50 best performing baseball players for each season prior to 1930, my guess is that about 30 would have been major leaguers, another 10 to 15 would have been in the Negro Leagues, and 5 to 10 ought to be minor leaguers. Don’t get me wrong; I think the very best players (the Ruth’s, Cobb’s and Johnson’s) were all major leaguers (or Negro Leaguers), but the next tier included some minor league stars who were every bit as good as some of the major league all stars.

When I think about giving Arlett or other players credit for minor league play, I’m not imagining a major league career that they didn’t have. I’m taking the career that they did have and adjusting it to its equivalent in difficulty at a major league level. It’s more like adjusting in the 1880s/90s for differences in quality of competition between the NL and AA or PL; playing in either league counts, but the quality of the leagues wasn’t all the same, so it needs to be adjusted for.
   73. KJOK Posted: January 09, 2005 at 08:47 AM (#1067174)
Adendum to Arlett Fielding:

With the Phillies, Arlett gets a "94" from Baseball Prospectus, and gets 2.0 Fielding Win Shares (in about 840 innings).
   74. Rick A. Posted: January 10, 2005 at 05:41 PM (#1069970)
You’re right that other young pitchers were caught by the ban, and some of them lost their careers as a result. That was clearly unfortunate and unfair to them, but we don’t know who they are, and even if we did I wouldn't give them credit for pitching that they didn’t do, just as we don’t give Barnes credit for baseball he didn't play because of the rules change. The difference in Arlett’s case is that he was allowed to continue pitching.

When I think about giving Arlett or other players credit for minor league play, I’m not imagining a major league career that they didn’t have. I’m taking the career that they did have and adjusting it to its equivalent in difficulty at a major league level.


One pitcher who comes to mind is Frank Shellenback. He was a spitball pitcher who pitched for Chicago White Sox in 1918 and some of 1919. He was in the PCL when the spitball was outlawed and was thus not grandfathered in. He went on to compile a 295-178 record in the PCL. Should we adjust his PCL statistics to MLE? As Brent says, he did pitch those years, just as Arlett did.
   75. Brent Posted: January 11, 2005 at 04:02 AM (#1071294)
Yes, Shellenback was an excellent pitcher - another one we should really be looking at. If someone can post his minor league data, I'll gladly do the MLE calculations - or you are welcome to do them yourselves.
   76. Brent Posted: February 22, 2005 at 05:06 AM (#1158549)
Major league equivalents for Buzz Arlett, version 3

I’m making several modifications to my MLEs for Arlett. I located a library with copies of most of the old Reach Guides on microfilm. (I must say, after spending several hours staring at microfilm, my admiration for those of you who do serious historical research has gone up.)

- I have left the quality of competition parameters the same as shown in earlier posts # 21, 22, and 49, based on the factors given by Bill James: 0.82 for runs, about 0.92 for AVG, and about 0.89 for SLG (note – the Bill James method separately adjusts each element of the batting line, so the adjustments for AVG and SLG are only approximate). Gadfly has recently argued that the quality of competition may have been higher during the 1920s. I am sympathetic to his argument, but am holding off on making any change to these factors until I can complete a small study of players who moved between the PCL and the majors during the 1920s.

- For run environment, the Reach Guides provide information on the team’s runs scored per game, which I use together with an estimate of runs allowed per game based on the “inverse Pythagorean” calculation shown in post # 49. My microfilm did not include the 1925 and 1926 Guides, so I do not have data for 1924-25; for those two years I used an average of factors for 1922-23 and 1926-27. Also, the 1919 Guide did not contain runs scored for 1918, so I used an average of factors for 1919-21.

Oakland was pitcher friendly during the late 1920s, but seems to have been more hitter friendly during the early 1920s. (Partly, this reflects a shift in the league, which included hitter-friendly Salt Lake until 1925; however, even relative to the league Oakland appears to have been more hitter friendly during the earlier period.) The following table gives Oakland’s runs scored, games played, W-L record, estimated run environment = (runs + est. runs allowed) / 2, and the run environment relative to the averages for the PCL and for the major leagues. For example, for 1919 I estimate the Oaks’ run environment to have been 4.69 runs per game, which is 8.0 percent above the PCL average and 21.0 percent above the MLB average.

Year Runs Gms W-Loss REnv PCL MLB
1919 0834 183 86-096 4.69 108.0 121.0
1920 0850 199 95-103 4.36 106.4 100.0
1921 0996 187 101-85 5.11 103.5 105.2
1922 0822 202 88-112 4.33 092.8 088.9
1923 0969 203 91-111 5.02 096.9 104.3
. . .
1926 0906 203 111-92 4.26 095.2 091.9
1927 0966 195 120-75 4.44 089.9 093.3
1928 0865 192 91-100 4.61 095.1 097.5
1929 1034 202 111-91 4.88 090.5 094.0
1930 1014 200 97-103 5.15 092.6 092.8

- I again used the formulas for converting minor league statistics to MLB equivalents from the Bill James 1985 Baseball Abstract, which are listed in post # 21.

- Given the lack of data on batters walks for the PCL, I decided to use a more sophisticated method. I started with a weighted average of Arlett’s walk rates for his 1931 major league season and of the MLEs for his 1932 and 1933 IL seasons, which are based on actual walks data. (The average was weighted 5/12 for 1931, 1/3 for 1932, and 1/4 for 1933.) This average is extrapolated for the PCL years with two adjustments: (a) for age, using the age profile shown on Tango Tiger’s Web site (TT shows that batter walk rates tend to increase throughout a player’s career), and (b) for changes in the ML average walk rate.

- I also did a better job of adjusting for PCL season length. Because the PCL did not follow a balanced schedule, I am not sure how many games were scheduled in each year. Instead, I adjusted for schedule length from the number of decisions by the team with the maximum number of decisions each season. For the missing years (1924 and 1925), I used the number of decisions by the Oaks. The numbers used are: 1919-182, 1920-199, 1921-188, 1922-201, 1923-202, 1924-202, 1925-200, 1926-203, 1927-196, 1928-192, 1929-202, 1930-201.

- For runs created, I have switched to a formula appearing in the Bill James Handbook 2005. I believe that this formula, which places “the individual hitter in a ‘neutral solution’ of eight ordinary hitters,” effectively eliminates the upward bias of my WS estimates for high-performing seasons that Chris Cobb noted in my earlier Arlett MLEs (see post # 52). The version I use is:

(A+2.4*C)*(B+3*C)/(9*C)-0.9*C
A = H + BB
B = 1.125*1B + 1.69*2B + 3.02*3B +3.73*HR + 0.29*BB
C = AB + BB

- I realized that I had been assigning too many batting WS to the years that Arlett was pitching. I fit a linear regression to seasons of several pitchers for which their OPS+ was 75 or above and obtained the following formula, applicable to seasons with OPS+ above 56:

bWS = (AB+BB)*(-.024024 + 0.00043449*OPS+)

- Influenced by Chris Cobb’s discussion of Negro League work loads, I decided to reduce Arlett’s innings pitched by another 7.5 percent beyond the proportional reduction implied by the difference in schedule length.

- Comparing the pitching WS to ML pitchers with similar innings and ERA, I decided that the short form formula was overestimating his pWS, so I multiplied the result by a factor of 0.90.

Here are Arlett’s MLE batting statistics.

Year Age Gm ABs Rns Hit 2B 3B HR RBI BB Avg OBA SLG OPS+ RC
1918 19 026 069 007 013 03 00 01 006 05 .188 .243 .275 063 005
1919 20 047 112 008 027 05 01 01 011 09 .241 .298 .330 089 012
1920 21 050 133 015 031 01 02 03 017 11 .233 .292 .338 079 015
1921 22 052 102 008 020 04 01 02 009 09 .196 .261 .314 054 009
1922 23 057 131 016 030 07 02 03 015 13 .229 .299 .382 082 016
1923 24 114 325 046 097 21 03 11 061 37 .298 .370 .483 131 060
1924 25 147 517 081 160 41 11 22 096 59 .309 .380 .559 153 108
1925 26 146 531 081 172 35 07 17 098 66 .324 .399 .512 139 110
1926 27 147 492 095 179 37 09 24 095 63 .364 .436 .622 188 126
1927 28 147 502 084 167 40 04 21 085 63 .333 .407 .554 160 111
1928 29 152 433 075 148 35 02 17 076 58 .342 .420 .550 161 098
1929 30 152 533 097 188 50 05 26 126 75 .353 .433 .612 170 133
1930 31 135 460 089 157 41 04 21 097 62 .341 .420 .585 153 109
1931 32 121 418 065 131 26 07 18 072 45 .313 .387 .538 138 085
1932 33 135 439 084 127 24 02 32 086 67 .289 .383 .572 158 095
1933 34 146 450 078 130 29 01 23 085 66 .289 .380 .511 152 089
1934 35 116 397 063 104 25 01 24 079 55 .262 .352 .511 133 072
1935 36 122 394 060 122 21 01 17 067 40 .310 .373 .497 136 074
1936 37 050 181 037 049 08 02 10 035 27 .271 .365 .503 130 034
Total 2062 6619 1089 2052 453 65 293 1216 830 .310 .387 .531 146 1361

His pitching MLEs:

Year InnP ERA
1918 153.3 3.29
1919 272.3 3.66
1920 306.0 3.52
1921 241.7 5.33
1922 265.0 3.38
1923 088.0 7.02
Total 1326.3 3.85

And here are his batting, pitching, fielding, and total win shares:

Year bWS pWS fWS WS
1918 00.2 08.5 --- 9
1919 01.8 13.6 --- 15
1920 01.5 21.6 --- 23
1921 00.0 06.5 --- 7
1922 01.7 23.2 --- 25
1923 12.4 -2.7 1.4 11
1924 24.1 ---- 2.2 26
1925 22.2 ---- 2.2 24
1926 32.1 ---- 2.2 34
1927 25.7 ---- 2.2 28
1928 23.2 ---- 2.3 25
1929 28.9 ---- 2.3 31
1930 21.0 ---- 2.0 23
1931 ----- ---- --- 16
1932 20.3 ---- 1.9 22
1933 20.9 ---- 2.1 23
1934 13.9 ---- 1.6 16
1935 15.1 ---- 1.7 17
1936 06.2 ---- 0.7 7
Total 271.1 70.8 24.6 382

This evening I will also post MLEs for Earl Averill. I hope to do the calculations for Berger in the next couple of days.
   77. Chris Cobb Posted: February 22, 2005 at 05:25 AM (#1158587)
Brent, this is great stuff!

I look forward to seeing what Berger and Averill look like by comparison.
   78. Gadfly Posted: February 22, 2005 at 05:24 PM (#1159325)
Brent-

I agree with Chris Cobb's assessment (great stuff) and have already made my comments on the conversion rates in the Averill thread, but the first thing that comes to mind when I look at your Arlett MLE is that the ABs seem too low.

In 1931, Arlett had 418 at bats for the Phillies in 121 games. He actually played 107 games in the field and pinch hit 14 times (with 4 hits for a .286 BA). So he had 404 at bats in 107 starts.

154/107x404=581 at bats in a full season.

For a check, I'll run 1929 since (in that season) you have Arlett having a career high 535 ABs.

Arlett with Oakland 1929: 200 games, 722 ABs
Oakland: 202 games
PCL 1929: 1628 games, 55774 at bats
NL 1929: 1232 Games, 43030 at bats

(I used the National League since that is the Major League Arlett actually played in.)

Arlett Games 154/202x200=152
Arlett AB 152/200x722=549
League adjusted (43030/1232)/(55774/1628)=1.019
Adjusted at bats=560

That still seems too low. I think what is happening here is that Arlett's AB are being artificially lowered by the BB conversion.

In other words, you need to adjust for Plate Appearances, not just at bats. When you adjust for PA, some BB will become AB if the BB rate is lowered (and that would also work in reverse). If you just adjust for AB, these PA disappear.

And, of course, this phenomenon will affect a player that walks a lot much more than one who does not walk much. Of course, there are no BB figures for Arlett in the PCL but it is known that he would take a walk.

I think his actual ABs in 1929 should be more like 575-580.

Interestingly, my seat of the pants analysis of Arlett showed him as a player capable of hitting over 300 HRs in the Majors with a BA of around .320 to .330. Your analysis, if you accept my BA conversion rate and adjust for the missing ABs, hits that right on the nose.

I look forward to your work on conversion rates for the PCL so that I am no longer a chorus of one.
   79. Chris Cobb Posted: February 22, 2005 at 05:41 PM (#1159361)
gadfly is entirely correct. Thanks for looking closely at Brent's work!

For what it's worth:

In this era, the average number of PA per player per game tended to be about 4.2 (Arlett is very close to that for 1931), with variation from place in the batting order for individual players. When I need to make an off-the-cuff estimate of PAs in relation to games played, that's what I generally use.
   80. andrew siegel Posted: February 22, 2005 at 06:18 PM (#1159465)
The statistical projections regarding Arlett (though not the win shares estimates, which are higher) confirm my suspiscion that the very best career minor leaguers were among the top 500 players of all-time, maybe even the top 300, but that none of them quite crack the top 210. That's really a pity as this project would have been much more fun if we had to sprinkle a few career minor leaguers onto our ballots.
   81. Daryn Posted: February 22, 2005 at 10:13 PM (#1159906)
How come the WS projections are so far off the stats projections? Eyeballing the career statistics set out in post 76, I would have pegged Arlett at between 250 and 275 WS.
   82. Chris Cobb Posted: February 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM (#1160126)
Daryn,

What leads you to believe that the WS are off? Are you remembering the pitching win shares?

Brent has Arlett with 7449 PA, a 146 OPS+, and 271 bws.

Harry Heilmann, a near contemporary, has 8960 PA, a 148 OPS+, and 325.1 bws.

If you prorate Heilmann's bws by Arlett's at bats, you get 270 bws.

That leads me to think that Brent's bws are pretty reasonably scaled.

They'll go up a bit, actually, once the Arlett's PAs are adjusted.
   83. Brent Posted: February 23, 2005 at 04:01 AM (#1160521)
Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Gadfly wrote:

…the first thing that comes to mind when I look at your Arlett MLE is that the ABs seem too low.

First, to explain how they were calculated – AB were determined residually by holding outs (= AB – H) constant, except for scaling for the number of games played. For 1929 his actual number of outs was 452 (= 722 – 270) (see post # 8 by Kelly from SD). Scaling this by the difference in schedule implies 345 outs = (154/202) * 452. After calculating 188 hits, I added the 345 outs to get 533 AB. A few comments:

- Holding number of outs constant is pretty standard in similar exercises done by other baseball analysts. In addition to Bill James, I believe the same assumption was used by Steve Treder in his recent analyses on hardballtimes.com, and my recollection is that Davenport makes a similar assumption.

- The assumption is generally justified because 27 outs is the one thing that stays (approximately) constant as the run scoring context changes. If you imagine moving a player and his team from one scoring environment to another, then I am sure that this is the appropriate assumption.

- For going from the minors to the majors, however, it may be more relevant to consider whether the player’s share of total team outs is likely to change. It seems to me that there are two cases to consider.

- For the very good player, moving to a better team is likely to increase his share of the team’s outs. An extreme example is Barry Bonds, who in recent seasons has used an unusually small share of his team’s outs. If he could be placed on a team of his “peers” (I guess I have in mind Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Josh Gibson, etc.) his share of team outs would surely go up.

- For a marginal player, on the other hand, moving to a better team is likely to lead to a decline in plate appearances and his share of team outs, because a good team would be more likely to platoon him or use him irregularly. This factor suggests that if Arlett had spent his final seasons in the majors rather than in the AA, he might have been used as a pinch hitter or backup player. Consequently, the distribution of AB across seasons probably needs to change, but it is not clear that the total is that far off.

- Perhaps a more important factor in Arlett’s case is that his actual AB data for the PCL (see post # 8), it appears to show an unusually low average AB/G, at least for some seasons. For example, in 1928 he plays 190 games, but has “only” 561 AB. Two possible explanations come to mind.

- My estimates of BB could be much too low. Unfortunately, I only have actual walks data available for 1931 and later, so the estimates of BB for the PCL years are entirely based on my assumptions.

- Another possibility is that the Oaks may have used him as a pinch hitter fairly often. We know that the PCL seasons were unusually long, there were long distances to travel, and there must have been quite a few double headers. It seems possible to me that they may have given Arlett some rest by using him as a pinch hitter a number of times each season. It would be interesting to compare his fielding games to his total games. (Unfortunately, I didn’t think to photocopy the fielding statistics when I was going through the microfilmed Guides.)

I'll try to come up with a more appropriate distribution of AB in the next iteration of these MLEs. (I view each iteration as a learning opportunity).
   84. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 23, 2005 at 04:42 PM (#1161078)
Does anyone know what Arlett's principle position in the outfield was for each individual season?
   85. Daryn Posted: February 23, 2005 at 05:23 PM (#1161159)
Chris,

I wasn't intentionally ignoring the pitching stats, but I have to say I have trouble giving them credit for 100 WS. On the hitting, the 600 hits and 500 r+rbi difference between heilmann and Projected Arlett seem to be worth about a 75 WS drop, I guess. So maybe I'd expect those stats to come in a little over 300 WS (hitting plus pitching), not close to 400. Clearly, what's colouring my perception is that I don't think a minor leaguer could actually translate to first ballot NB status. For better or for worse, some pre-conceived notions are difficult to change. But like Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction, I'm trying to be a better person...
   86. Daryn Posted: February 23, 2005 at 05:25 PM (#1161162)
That should say 70 PWS, not 100.
   87. Brent Posted: February 24, 2005 at 05:32 AM (#1162598)
Yesterday I wrote:

For example, in 1928 he plays 190 games, but has “only” 561 AB...

Another possibility is that the Oaks may have used him as a pinch hitter fairly often... It would be interesting to compare his fielding games to his total games.


It occurred to me that 1928 is the season covered by the 1929 Spalding Guide, which is available on-line at the Library of Congress site. So I looked up his playing and fielding games and learned... oops (he says sheepishly!) I've been using the wrong number of games played. Arlett's record actually shows him playing 160 games in 1928, rather than 190. He fielded 154 games in the outfield and pitched 7 games, not leaving much opportunity for pinch hitting! With that correction made, Arlett's AB for 1924-30 all vary between 3.44-3.74 per game--reasonable values for a player who drew a lot of walks. In my next iteration years I will have to slightly boost his MLE plate appearances for those years, as Gadfly sugggested, but will lower them slightly for 1932-36. (I will also double check all the data for typing errors.)

John Murphy asked:

Does anyone know what Arlett's principle position in the outfield was for each individual season?

I don't know, and I figure it will be difficult to find out (unless you're willing to look up old West Coast newspapers on microfilm). The Guides don't list outfielders games by outfield position, and I doubt any other reference does either. (See KJOK's post # 53 regarding games played at first base in 1929; I think he pretty much stayed in the outfield for his other seasons.)

I have always thought of Arlett as a right fielder (probably because that's what he played for Philadelphia), but when I went back to look at sources like the 1991 Bill James short biography, they don't mention his minor league positions other than "outfield." The PCL "All Century Team" (www.coastleague.com) lists him as their left fielder. I'm fairly sure he didn't spend significant time in center field, but don't know the split between the two corners.

Some of our younger voters may not realize that until quite recently, information on major leaguers' specific outfield positions played was generally unavailable. I don't know who assembled the information, but I imagine it must have involved collecting data from tens of thousands of microfilmed box scores. I salute whoever accomplished the project.
   88. jimd Posted: February 24, 2005 at 06:13 AM (#1162704)
I'm no minor league expert or anything, so maybe this model is way off base. My perception of the PCL of Arlett's younger days is that it's sort of like the Japanese leagues of today, completely independent, lesser quality than the majors but better than the eastern minors, and with little or no standardized mechanism in place for funneling talent into the majors. They also played in some large markets and were far away. (LA and SF were Pittsburgh sized cities, larger than DC and Cincy and the split markets of Boston and St.Louis.)

To those who know more, in what respects is this model wrong?
   89. Brent Posted: February 24, 2005 at 06:35 AM (#1162754)
Jimd,

I think you're mostly right - the 1920s PCL teams were independent and not vassals to the major league teams. Because they played in large markets, some PCL teams drew more attendance than some of the lesser major league teams. A player could be more valuable to a PCL team than to a major league team.

A lot of talent was always being funneled to the majors, but because the teams were independent, if they wanted to hang on to a player they could, at least until 1925 when they agreed to participate in the minor league draft. When they finally did agree to the draft, though, there were still a lot of restrictions and limits -- for example, I think they were allowed to hang onto a player for three years before he became eligible for the draft, and I think the draft limit initially was one player per team per year. I believe that most players of that era who moved from the PCL to the majors did so through trades or cash purchases rather than through the draft. Some of the cash purchases could be quite large -- in excess of $100,000.

The PCL, IL and AA were recognized as lower quality (or "minor") leagues relative to the majors, but they were not considered to be less "important"; they just played in smaller cities and had slightly lower quality players.
   90. Brent Posted: February 24, 2005 at 06:44 AM (#1162788)
I thought I'd better explain that I'm not any kind of expert on the minor leagues or anything. In fact I feel kind of silly leading the charge on Arlett and other minor leaguers, since I don't even own the minor league reference books. I guess I first got interested with the first Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (the 1986 edition), which contained quite a bit of material on minor league stars, much of which was dropped for the NBJHBA. So I'll gladly take advice from some of the posters here who are much more knowledgeable.

My general impression is that the PCL surpassed the IL and AA in overall quality beginning around 1925. It's just an impression, but I'm pretty sure that by the 1930s the PCL was considered the best. In the early 1920s, though, I think the IL's Baltimore Orioles were the great minor league team of all time.
   91. jimd Posted: February 24, 2005 at 07:13 AM (#1162853)
the IL's Baltimore Orioles were the great minor league team of all time

IIRC, the IL was another minor league that went without a draft agreement for some time during the 1920's.

Also Baltimore, Buffalo, Newark, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St.Paul, and New Orleans were all cities that were arguably of major league size (Cincinnati being the smallest single market, and half of St. Louis being smaller than that). Baltimore was the largest of them all, larger than Pittsburgh or LA, nearly the size of St. Louis, and only one team, not two. (I don't have Canadian historical census numbers, so I can't say anything about Toronto and Montreal in 1920.)
   92. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 24, 2005 at 05:40 PM (#1163409)
Brent:

Thanks for your response.

It drives me crazy when I see all of the outfield positions lumped together. Oh, well...
   93. Cblau Posted: February 25, 2005 at 04:33 AM (#1164639)
Based on a small sample of boxscores from the LA Times:
1924- RF
1925- RF
1926- RF
1927- RF
1928- RF
1929- RF/1B?

I'm gonna go out on a limb, and say he was a right fielder.
   94. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 25, 2005 at 04:44 AM (#1164656)
Cliff, you rule!
   95. Brent Posted: February 26, 2005 at 08:43 PM (#1167351)
I discovered I made a mistake in doing the adjustment for run environment in calculating Arlett's pitching record--divided when I should have multiplied. Here's a corrected version. I have to say that I think this version looks more reasonable, particularly in comparing his W-L record to that of his team. This correction changes his career total WS (batting, fielding, and pitching) to 388.

Year InnP_ ERA_ pWS
1918 153.3 3.05 10.1
1919 272.3 3.02 20.3
1920 306.0 3.53 21.5
1921 241.7 5.07 08.5
1922 265.0 3.80 19.8
1923 088.0 6.73 -1.8
Total 1326.3 3.71 78.4
   96. Brent Posted: February 26, 2005 at 08:54 PM (#1167371)
Regarding attendance at PCL games, I noticed that the 1931 Reach Guide, in describing the 1930 split-season pennant race in which second-half victor Hollywood beat first-half winner Los Angeles in the playoff, included some discussion of attendance:

"Therefore the strength of the circuit was concentrated at Wrigley Field, where these two teams play, and this park drew around 995,000 admissions from the two tenants, which was bigger than the 1929 mark."

The guide doesn't break it down by team, but if we divide by two that comes to 497,500 per team, which was larger than the 1930 attendance for 7 of the 16 major league teams.
   97. Brent Posted: February 28, 2005 at 04:35 AM (#1169471)
In response to helpful comments and criticism, I’ve decided to make a couple tweaks to my minor league MLEs. Because the two changes pretty much offset each other, I will hold off on re-doing those for Buzz Arlett pending the completion of another study of players who moved between the PCL and the majors, but I will go ahead post a revised version of MLEs for new candidate Earl Averill, as well as my first set of MLEs for Wally Berger.

Gadfly (# 78) noted that my AB estimates were low. I agree – the AB should be reduced if they are in a higher run scoring environment, but they should not necessarily be reduced for the differences in quality of play (though they could be if the player is playing at a “marginal” level that wouldn’t ensure full-time play in the majors). I will restore the missing AB; for Averill this change raises his assumed plate appearances by about 5.5 percent.

Daryn (# 80) questioned whether my WS estimates were consistent with the MLE batting statistics. Chris Cobb (# 82) defended my estimates by comparing Arlett to Heilmann, but I realized that there is a problem with that defense, and that Daryn has a valid point. The OPS+ statistics I’ve presented are in comparison to the major league average OBP and SLG, but bbref calculates OPS+ from league averages excluding pitchers’ batting. That means the OPS+ that I’ve calculated are too high (I’m guessing by 4 to 5 points, but I will try to run some more precise calculations). After looking at Arlett’s MLEs and bWS relative to other similar players—e.g., Heilmann, Hack Wilson, Babe Herman, Chuck Klein—I’ve decided that the short-form batting Win Share formulas that I’ve been using are a little too high, so I’m reducing them by about 5 percent.

These two adjustments are essentially offsetting, so if you look at Averill’s revised estimates you will see little change in the estimated WS, though the batting lines will be larger because of the increased plate appearances.

By the way, I’ve decided that Hack Wilson is probably the most similar contemporary player to Arlett as a batter, though Arlett played longer, more consistently, and was generally a bit better hitter.
   98. David C. Jones Posted: May 06, 2005 at 05:46 AM (#1316045)
I've been giving Arlett's candidacy a lot of thought this week, and I have a question for you guys: Why has his support dried up so much amongst the electorate? I think he was only on one ballot in 1950...the MLEs suggest a clear HOMer. So what's the story? Is the issue one of not trusting the MLEs, or just not being able to pull the trigger on a career minor leaguer, or has something else been brought to light which detracts from his candidacy?

I'm interested in hearing input from as many people as possible, so please chime in.
   99. Jeff M Posted: May 06, 2005 at 12:46 PM (#1316208)
Ran across this, which doesn't solve anything but strikes me as relevant to this thread:



Moneyball Redux
Slate talks to the man who revolutionized baseball.
By James Surowiecki
Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2003, at 10:15 AM PT

...

One of your most important insights is the idea that minor league batting statistics predict major league batting performance as reliably as major league statistics do. There have been certain players—think of 1980s players like Mike Stenhouse, Doug Frobel, Brad Komminsk—who seemed as though they would be terrific hitters but never really made it in the big leagues. Did they not get enough of a shot? Are they outliers? Or is there such a thing as a Four A (too good for Triple A, not good enough for the majors) hitter?

Well, no, there is no such thing as a Four A hitter. That idea, as I understand it, envisions a "gap" between the majors and Triple A, with some players who fall into the gap. There is no such gap. In fact, there is a very significant overlap between the major leagues and Triple A. Many of the players in Triple A are better than many of the players in the majors.

The three examples you cite are three very different cases. Stenhouse never had 180 at bats in a major league season, so one would be hard pressed to argue that he got a full trial.

Frobel is a different [instance], in which I think there probably wasn't a real strong case that he was a good hitter to begin with. Frobel hit .251 at Buffalo in '81, hit .261 at Portland—Pacific Coast League—in 1982. We would expect, based on those seasons, that he would hit .200, .210 in the major leagues, with a pretty ghastly strikeout/walk ratio—which is what he did. Then he had the one good year at Hawaii in 1983, looked like a better hitter, and fooled some of us into thinking that he was better than he was. But ... it was one year, 378 at bats, of performance that isn't that impressive. It wasn't enough, in retrospect, to conclude that he was actually a good hitter.

[Then] there are some players whose level of skill changes—drops—between two adjacent seasons or between two seasons separated by two or three years, usually because of an injury but sometimes because of some other factor. Frank Thomas is not the same hitter now that he was a few years ago; Tino Martinez isn't; Mo Vaughn isn't.

When those "disconnects" happen between major league seasons, we ascribe them to sensible causes—aging, injury, conditioning, motivation, luck, etc. Comparing major league seasons to minor league seasons, occasionally you get the same disconnect. Sometimes a guy simply loses it before he establishes himself in the major leagues. That's what happened to Komminsk, I think—he shot his cannons in the minor leagues.

I'm trying to make two general points here. Point 1: When there is a disconnect between a player's major league and minor league records, some people want to ascribe this to some mystical difference between major league baseball and minor league baseball. Unless you can say specifically what that difference is, this is akin to magical thinking—asserting that there is some magical "major league ability," which is distinct from the ability to play baseball. The same sorts of disconnects happen routinely in the middle of major league careers—not often as a percentage, but they happen. Everybody who plays rotisserie baseball knows that some guys you paid big money for because they were good last year will stink this year. It is not necessary or helpful to create some magical "major league ability" to explain those occasional disconnects between major league and minor league seasons.

Second point ... the creation of new knowledge or new understanding does not make the people who possess that new knowledge invulnerable to old failings. I can't predict reliably who is going to be successful in the major leagues in 2004, even if we stick with the field of players who have been in the major leagues since 2000. I can't do that, because there are limits to my knowledge, and there are flaws in my implementation of what I know. The principle that minor league hitting stats predict major league hitting stats as well as major league hitting stats predict major league hitting stats can be perfectly true—and yet still not enable me or you to reliably predict who will be successful in the major leagues in 2004, because I still have limits to my knowledge and flaws in the way I try to implement that knowledge.
   100. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 06, 2005 at 02:53 PM (#1316397)
David,

I am taking another look at Arlett, but I will say that he isnt' really ballot material for me. For one I am not going to give him pitching credit. He had a few decent years, but he had quitpitching by the time (age 24 or 25) he would have been moving to MLB anyways and he obviously didn't attract their attention as a pitcher.

Second, I give him no credit for 1923 and 1936 get no credit and I am debatign giving him credit for 1924. A player in the PCL did need to have a godo season to get him noticed. 1923 was his first season as a hitter so that is thrown out. He also wasn't terribly good at it (I give him 14 WS) so he may or may not have been able to attract attention. This brings in the question of 1924. In other words had he had a clear path to MLB would 1923 have been enough to get him there? Obviously 1924 was good enough but should it count?

Taking 1923 and 1936 off gives him 275 career WS with a decent peak. If I take 1924 off he is nto a contender really, 249 WS with a decent peak but not one that is eye popping in any way.
Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
TedBerg
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Syndicate

Page rendered in 0.4663 seconds
19 querie(s) executed