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Monday, April 17, 2006

Curt Flood

Eligible in 1975.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 17, 2006 at 06:10 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: April 17, 2006 at 06:45 PM (#1969025)
He was playing minor league ball in the South while the Montgomery Bus Boycott was going on. Nothing to do with his candidacy, but that's worth mentioning.
   2. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 17, 2006 at 07:09 PM (#1969069)
Though not a HoMer, IMO, Flood was the type of guy that was a perfect fit for the Baseball Reliquary.
   3. DavidFoss Posted: April 17, 2006 at 07:59 PM (#1969158)
There's been talk about what would happen if his career was projected forward. I'd put Willie Davis at as adequate if not slightly generous comp for Flood with the bat (Willie had a bit of a renaissance when he got older). Given that, I don't see him anywhere near my ballot no matter how good of a glove he had.
   4. OCF Posted: April 17, 2006 at 08:14 PM (#1969194)
As I've said before, I became really attached to baseball (and to the way Harry Caray told it) during the 1967 season. I realize now that most of the good things said about Flood's offense were overstated, but the defense was genuine. During 1967 (and maybe also 1968), Flood was struggling with arm trouble. He really couldn't throw very well at all - and was a very valuable defensive outfielder just the same.

One play I remember in particular, almost certainly from the 1967 season. This is a radio memory - I never saw a video replay. It makes a nice game-theory setup involving consequences, risk and reward. (I don't want to look it up on retrosheet for now - don't want to interfere with the imperfections of memory just yet.) Bottom of the 9th in the Astrodome; Cardinals are leading the game by one run. One out, runner on second. The batter hit what Harry described as a sinking line drive to center. Two choices: for the baserunner at second - play it cautiously, staying close to the bag, or just take off and go for home? For Flood: go for the catch, or play it safe and play the ball on the bounce? If both parties play it safe, you wind up with runners on first and third with one out - still a little in the Cardinal's favor because the tying run hasn't scored yet. If Flood plays it safe and the runner takes off, then the game will be tied, and the inning still live - definitely in the Astro's favor. As for what Flood would be risking by going for the catch; if he misses it completely (and at that time, I don't really recall outfielders using the kind of slide that has become common now), then, this being the Dome and some very fast turf, he might be risking an inside-the-parker, ending the game on the spot. Both players went for the risk - Flood for the catch, the runner breaking for home. And when Flood pulled off the running shoetop catch, there was no need even to make the throw: game-ending unassisted double play by the centerfielder.

Harry's call of the play was so far overboard that they used a clip of it to advertise a record that they (the Cardinals or KMOX or someone) were selling of radio highlights of the season. Anyone have that record?
   5. OCF Posted: April 18, 2006 at 02:32 AM (#1970217)
OK, I did look for it on Retrosheet. And it wasn't the 9th inning, it was the 11th inning.

June 19, 1967.

Gibson versus Cuellar. Gibson left the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 8th losing 3-2 - but the pinch hitter ignited a 2-run rally, setting up Gibson to be the winner and Cuellar the loser. Except that Joe Hoerner blew the save in the bottom of the 9th, taking Cuellar off the hook. On to extra innings at 4-4, Latman versus Briles. A quiet 10th, and then:

CARDINALS 11TH: Shannon grounded out (shortstop to first);
McCarver singled to center; Maris doubled to right [McCarver
scored, Maris to third (on throw)]; TOLAN BATTED FOR MAXVILL;
Tolan popped to catcher in foul territory; Briles was called out
on strikes; 1 R, 2 H, 0 E, 1 LOB. Cardinals 5, Astros 4.

ASTROS 11TH: BRESSOUD REPLACED MARIS (PLAYING SS); TOLAN STAYED
IN GAME (PLAYING RF); Landis singled to center; Aspromonte out
on a sacrifice bunt (pitcher to second) [Landis to second];
Lillis hit into a double play (center unassisted) [Landis out at
third]; 0 R, 1 H, 0 E, 0 LOB. Cardinals 5, Astros 4.

So Jim Landis was the runner - came up a fast CF, now playing out the string in the last year of his career. Plenty of experience and probably still at least some speed. And I have no idea what the meaning of "[Landis out at third]" is supposed to be. Flood ran in and stepped on second; I suppose it means Landis had already rounded third and didn't even try to get back.

A great, tense, see-saw game, with a spectacular finish.
   6. Paul Wendt Posted: April 18, 2006 at 03:20 AM (#1970310)
Does everyone know about Curt Flood and defensive win shares?!

OCF:
Two choices: for the baserunner at second - play it cautiously, staying close to the bag, or just take off and go for home? For Flood: go for the catch, or play it safe and play the ball on the bounce? If both parties play it safe,

With the ball hit in front of the CF and the runner on second, the decisions may not be practically simultaneous. Depending on how sharp the line, CF has more or less time to respond to the baserunner's decision.

when Flood pulled off the running shoetop catch, there was no need even to make the throw: game-ending unassisted double play by the centerfielder.

I wonder whether Flood's position was shallow because of the batter (Lillis powerless?) or situation (prevent the run on a single). And whether the baserunner can surely advance to third if he plays safe and the ball drops. One can't go half way and be safe with the CF running toward second base.

Using the retrosheet database, it's possible to count the over a few decades the number of such rareties as doubleplay, 8 unassisted, and runner out advancing *one* base on a single.
   7. Ardo Posted: April 18, 2006 at 07:04 PM (#1971379)
Don't laugh, men and women - Flood is very close to my ballot.

Look at his defensive statistics again. He's in the rare Carey/Maranville/Ozzie class of making your jaw drop.

Flood had four rough part-time years at the plate - his age 20-23 seasons, so that's excusable. He then put up OPS+ 128-114-113-108-100-100-96-83 while playing the best center field since Tris Speaker.

In his worst full-time hitting year, 1966, he handled 386 chances without an error.

Then, of course, it all ended at age 31. I am of the mind to give full credit for his projected performance beyond 1969. Reasonable estimates put his career value slightly ahead of Willie Davis.
   8. sunnyday2 Posted: April 18, 2006 at 07:31 PM (#1971443)
I don't see it. Those OPS+ look a bit like Cool Papa Bell, who has not been retired from my backlog yet. Even in CF I like a bopper.
   9. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: April 18, 2006 at 07:40 PM (#1971478)
Bell may not be a bad comp in peak/prime but even if you are giving Flood credit after 1969, I couldnt' imagine giving him so much credit that his career length appraches Cool Papa's. Flood will not be in my top 50.
   10. jimd Posted: April 18, 2006 at 08:06 PM (#1971550)
BP rates Fielder Jones and Curt Flood as peers in CF fielding (108 career rating for each). Jones trounces Flood at the plate (.286 to .268). Jones also has a somewhat longer career (1776 to 1759 GP, ignoring FJ's Federal League tokens; when all seasons are adjusted to 162G, this lead increases to 1963 to 1786).

If you're contemplating voting for Flood, check out Fielder Jones.
   11. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 18, 2006 at 08:10 PM (#1971565)
If you're contemplating voting for Flood, check out Fielder Jones.

I agree that Fielder was the superior player, Jim.

Does everyone know about Curt Flood and defensive win shares?!

Curt Flood has an A+ rating, Paul, so WS loves him out in the field.
   12. OCF Posted: April 18, 2006 at 10:07 PM (#1971883)
To start with: emotional attachments aside, I'm not going to vote for Flood. He surely experienced all of the racism and resentments stirred up by the early pioneers of integration, but he also got a full chance to play in the majors at the age of 20. He did sacrifice the tail end of his career, taking a bullet on behalf of his fellow players just to demonstrate what was not the path to players' rights. But he wasn't blackballed permanently; he did try to play in 1971, and left quickly - possibly because he didn't have much left (although it is a very small sample). A transcendent fielder (even with the throwing trouble), but for his relatively short career, just not enough of a bat.

Looking over that retrosheet transcript, I'm struck by just how much the handling of pitchers has changed within my lifetime.

Gibson staying in through 7 innings when he's being reasonably effective - that looks normal. Pinch-hitting for Gibson down one run in the top of the 8th? Also normal. But then it starts to look different. Hoerner was the #1 short reliever. In current terms, he'd be the closer - but "closer" had no meaning at the time. A "standard model" 21st century team would have sent out the setup man to pitch the 8th with the 1-run lead. Instead, the Cardinals used the #1 guy, Hoerner, trying for a 2-inning save. In 21st century terms, once the closer is in, he usually finishes his innings (barring extreme disaster). Instead, Schoendienst pulled Hoerner in the middle of the 9th, replacing him with Briles. Briles was a "swingman," who would go on to have quite a few starts that season, especially after Gibson suffered the broken leg.

The one piece of management that really catches your eye: letting Briles bat for himself in the top of the 11th with a runner on third, after Briles had already pitched more than an inning. I haven't checked the surrounding games to check on his availability, but the Birds probably still had Ron WIllis available. Willis was the #2 short reliever at the time (in the 21st century he'd be the setup man), a righthander to Hoerner's southpaw. In fact, they pinch hit for Maxvill, weakening the infield defense for the bottom of the 11th (although possibly strengthening the outfield defense by replacing Maris with the younger, faster Tolan), but they left Briles in.
   13. TomH Posted: April 18, 2006 at 11:24 PM (#1972096)
I'm working on a research paper for SABR which will be entitled something like "the best defensive centerfielder" (or catchier if I can think of a better one). Anyway, the data is mostly crunched, the words are still to be written, but I'll summarize here because it relates CUrt and one other backlogger.

I used the two publicly available, thinking-man-endorsed systems that can be used for all eras - the BP cards, and Win Shares. I created a way to equate the Rate stats for each to a common metric. I found all seasons with >=100 games played, and used all CFers who did really good on both systems; if you were not an "A+" in win shares, for example, no matter how good BP had you, you weren't likely to be nominated for the 'best ever'.

I defined 3 measures -
peak - 5 best seasons
prime - 8 best consecutive seasons
career - 12 best seasons

Overall, the numbers say it is crystal clear who the most dominant CFer was. Tris Speaker. He's at or right next to the top in all 3.

One could argue that league strength, and Speaker's amazing ability to play real shallow in the deadball era, might mean he would not have been as great in 1955, but that's an argument that won't be solved with these numbers.

Depending on how you weight the three measures and how to deal with the tricky war credit problem, you can argue foir any of 3 men to be #2.

Willie Mays (right with Tris for best career), Curt Flood, and Dominic DiMaggio (need to assume war years were in his peak/prime).

Additionally, Andruw Jones has a chance to match all of these guys. So far in his 8 years, he already has the top 8-year prime (1998-2005), and is only behind Tris in "peak".

Paul Blair has a good case to be considered 5th or 6th overall.

As for Curt Flood, as best as I can tell, he was worth about .075 runs above an average CFer per game played from age 22 (his sophomore year) until he quit.
   14. jimd Posted: April 19, 2006 at 01:07 AM (#1972625)
if you were not an "A+" in win shares, for example, no matter how good BP had you, you weren't likely to be nominated for the 'best ever'.

The OF system in Win Shares is very tightly coupled with overall team defensive performance (DER). Play a couple of years on a bad defensive team and your overall rating may be toast.

This may actually have some validity in the post-WWII era when the majority of players are aiming over the walls. In the deadball era, I think it can unduly penalize the outfielders for the deficiencies of the infield.

Win Shares also minimizes the effects of errors in past eras by comparing to league averages using ratios to "grade on a curve" instead of deltas to measure actual runs prevented or allowed. It takes the performance out of its original context and judges it by modern standards.
   15. kim pinson Posted: July 10, 2007 at 12:40 AM (#2435186)
Did you know he was an excellent Artist? Curt Flood Painted portraits of me and sisters and my brother and they have been hanging in the living room for all these years. H e found another career and did very well.
   16. Howie Menckel Posted: July 10, 2007 at 12:56 AM (#2435203)
Is this a Vada relative?
Welcome!

I recall this Topps card so well as a kid, even then it seemed forlorn..

http://cgi.ebay.com/1971-Topps-535-Curt-Flood-Washington-Senators_W0QQitemZ180137087292QQcmdZViewItem
   17. Juan V Posted: July 10, 2007 at 01:11 AM (#2435215)
Since this thread is up.. has anyone tried to calculate how much extra credit should he get?
   18. Paul Wendt Posted: July 10, 2007 at 04:03 AM (#2435383)
Hoerner was the #1 short reliever. In current terms, he'd be the closer - but "closer" had no meaning at the time. A "standard model" 21st century team would have sent out the setup man to pitch the 8th with the 1-run lead. Instead, the Cardinals used the #1 guy, Hoerner, trying for a 2-inning save. In 21st century terms, once the closer is in, he usually finishes his innings (barring extreme disaster).
. . . [Ron] Willis was the #2 short reliever at the time (in the 21st century he'd be the setup man), a righthander to Hoerner's southpaw.


Back in the olden days when closers were newly invented, several lefties were good ones. Here in the early 21st century we have nearly reached "no lefty need apply".
   19. kim pinson Posted: July 10, 2007 at 05:28 AM (#2435423)
To Howie, yes Vada is my dad
   20. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: July 10, 2007 at 06:04 AM (#2435435)
Putting in a plug for A Well-Paid Slave, a really good biography of Curt Flood that came out last year. It's an excellent depiction of the man that make him shine while not troubling to hide his flaws; the account of his legal case against baseball is almost suspenseful, despite the outcome being so well known. And yes, it discusses his artistic career, too.
   21. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: April 19, 2008 at 01:02 PM (#2751020)

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