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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Elston Howard

Eligible in 1974.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 02, 2006 at 11:33 PM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 02, 2006 at 11:46 PM (#1931089)
My pick for the most analytical posts among 1974 candidates.
   2. The Honorable Ardo Posted: April 03, 2006 at 02:06 AM (#1931656)
I'm afraid he won't match Dickey Pearce among 1874 candidates =:)

There's a case for Howard in the HoM:
-He was a above-average offensive and defensive catcher.
-He didn't enter MLB until age 26, whereupon he faced the pressure of being the first black Yankee.
-Stengel jerked him around in the field, such that he didn't become a full-time catcher until 1961.

Who wants to make the case?
   3. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: April 03, 2006 at 02:20 AM (#1931699)
What do his minor league numbers look like? He has a nice peak, I could be convinced with a catcher bonus and some nice MiL years that he is a ballot candidate. Nice peak for a catcher.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 03, 2006 at 02:20 AM (#1931700)
I'm afraid he won't match Dickey Pearce among 1874 candidates =:)

Oops! Thanks, Ardo. I corrected that post.
   5. Mark Donelson Posted: April 03, 2006 at 04:42 AM (#1931975)
I'm with usual, among hitters, anyway. He has a chance of making my ballot.
   6. sunnyday2 Posted: April 03, 2006 at 10:28 AM (#1932422)
Underrated and overrated at the same time, if you know what I mean. Freehan was better.
   7. Mark Donelson Posted: April 03, 2006 at 03:42 PM (#1932691)
More like overrated at the time, underrated now, no? (Freehan, of course, was underrated then and remains so, poor guy.)
   8. DavidFoss Posted: April 03, 2006 at 05:29 PM (#1932933)
Howard and Pee Wee Reese share the record for most World Series losses with six.
   9. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 03, 2006 at 06:33 PM (#1933355)
Howard's pre-MLB record

NEGRO LEAGUES              
1948 NAL KC 19  OF
/C/2B 51   24  99  28  48  8  3  2  1     .283 .485
1949 NAL KC 20  OF
/C/2B      85 307  83 134 20  8  5        .270 .436
1950 NAL KC 21  OF
/C/2B 73   48 188  60  92 13  5  3  0     .319 .489
CENTRAL LEAGUE              
1950 CL MSK 21  OF           54 184  52  89  6  2  9  0     .283 .484
1953 AA  KC 24  OF
/C    154 139 497 142 212 22  9 10  3     .286 .427
1954 INT TOR 25  C
/OF   154 138 497 164 283 21 16 22  2     .330 .569
1954 PRW SJ  25  C       72     121  45  81  7  4  7        .372 .669 
   10. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 03, 2006 at 06:35 PM (#1933378)
Actually, hang on, that 1949 line is wrong. His 2b, 3b, HR totals should be there because those are extrapolations based on rates in surrounding years, not actual numbers.

Reposting just that year

1949 NAL KC 20 OF/C/2B 85 307 83 134 .270 .436
   11. sunnyday2 Posted: April 03, 2006 at 06:37 PM (#1933396)
Was he in the military in 1951-52? Looks to me like he was ready for the MLs by 1954 at the latest and maybe he would have been ready sooner but for. I guess I could see one MLE season, probably not more.
   12. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 03, 2006 at 06:48 PM (#1933515)
Now here's those numbers translated into the NL of the time using Howard's career FWS/100 as guidance on defense and the positions he played most often in his non-MLB years. In addition, I've built in war credit for 1951-1952 at the usual average of surrounding seasons.

YEAR LG AGE POS   AVG  OBP  SLG   G  PA  AB   H  TB BB opssfws
1948 NL 19  C/OF .246 .295 .398  72 275 257  63 102 18  86   7.9
1949 NL 20  C
/OF .238 .285 .359 131 495 465 111 167 30  71  11.9
1950 NL 21  C
/OF .266 .317 .364 155 593 551 146 200 42  79  17.0
1951 NL 22  C
/OF .257 .306 .364 142 538 503 129 183 35  80  14.7
1952 NL 23  C
/OF .278 .329 .401 133 508 472 131 189 36 102  17.3
1953 NL 24  C
/OF .266 .313 .369 139 527 493 131 182 34  77  15.2
1954 NL 25  C
/OF .313 .367 .498 105 403 372 116 185 32 124  20.3 

It seems like 1954 might be the only year he really gets much credit for. While it's possible that his 1952 could have gotten him noticed, that's a war-credit year, and I don't think it's safe to predicate giving credit for 1952 and 1953 based on it, especially since 1953 comes out as very similar to pre-War seasons.

However I do think it's possible that 1953 is a shaking-off-the rust year after his hitch in the service, which might suggest that 1954 could be a credit year even though it might also be his "get-noticed" year.

For a player of his caliber at a skill position, it seems like age 25 should be the latest he should have made the majors. The combo of war and the color line probably pushed his development and his debut far enough back that giving him credit for 1954 despite the lack of a proper look-at-me year might not be altogether out of line.
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: April 03, 2006 at 07:03 PM (#1933638)
Great stuff, Eric.

Going over the numbers, I might possibly give him credit for everything after 1950.
   14. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 03, 2006 at 07:19 PM (#1933787)
Before my catcher bonusing process, Howard's not all that close to my ballot (in other words, not very close to electable for a catcher).

After catcher bonus, he moves up somewhat so that he is just outside, and I mean just outside, my own boundaries for electable, among MLB catchers.

After other Negro League players are added to the mix, he drops back a couple slots.

But with a single year of credit (1954), he leaps forward again, coming to rest just behind Bresnahan and Mackey, a smidge ahead of Bennett, a spot or two inside of my personal in/out line. Given the uncertainty around his career due to
-Color line
-General slowness of integration
-Especially torpid pace of the Yankees' integration
-Uncertainty of translations

I think this is probably a prudent placement, neither an overreach, nor overly conservative either. He had some tremendous peak seasons which scream HOMer, but his career length is clearly an issue, just like for Bresnahan. I have Bresnahan toward the back of the pack among catchers, which is now where I have Howard.

He's very likely to receive a vote from me in the 1974 election, perhaps debuting within the top dozen on my ballot (though to be fair I have not yet analyzed the entire ballot and we don't yet know this week's results).
   15. KJOK Posted: April 03, 2006 at 10:49 PM (#1935201)
Underrated and overrated at the same time, if you know what I mean.

When you bat .178 in 345 PA's, and you get MVP votes, I think that makes you a bit OVERrated.
   16. Brent Posted: April 04, 2006 at 02:32 AM (#1935779)
Dr. C,

How much catching and how much OF are you figuring in your MLEs? I ask because 155 games played would be extremely unusual for a major league catcher.
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: April 04, 2006 at 01:12 PM (#1936572)
I had Howard's 1968 Topps card as a young lad.
I remember:
- He looked amazingly old to me, as did Mathews and a few others.
- I couldn't fathom those 1967 hitting stats.
.178 in 315 ABs? How did this guy ever play, I thought?

1967 Red Sox catching:
Mike Ryan 45 for 226, .199, .282 OBP, .261 SLG, 57 OPS+
Elston Howard 17 for 116, .147, .211, .198, 18 OPS+ (!)
Russ Gibson, 28 for 138, .203, .263, .275, 55 OPS+
Bob Tillman, 12 for 64, .188, .224, .250, 36 OPS+
Totals 102 for 544, .188, 5 hr, 57 rbi

Howard was picked up by the Sox in early August for hurler Ron Klimkowski. Tillman then went to the Yankees the same day Klimkowski arrived, but as a cash transaction, and Tillman actually hit .254 down the stretch for the Yanks.

The only other game caught for the Red Sox that year went to George Thomas, who had one game C. He was .213/.255/.270, so I guess they were looking for a "potent offense" that day, lol.

And yet they won the pennant!
Elston Howard went 2 for 18, both singles, with an RBI and a walk while catching all 7 World Series games.
Ryan went 0 for 2.
Gibson went 0 for 2.

Ironically, Tim McCarver went 3 for 24 with a double and two RBI for the Cardinals and backup Dave Ricketts (remember those silly black-rimmed glasses?) went 0 for 2.
   18. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 04, 2006 at 01:44 PM (#1936617)

He played about 50/50 NAL to CL, but he played only OF in the CL and was listed at OF/C/2B in the NAL (per Lester and Clark). So I just went with the "preponderance of the evidence" on this one since he wasn't a full-time backstop and figured he played lots and lots of outfield, and little bit of catcher and 2B.

On the other hand, 155 games is a lot of games in a 154 game schedule! Feel free to dock him some games off that total as you see fit.
   19. sunnyday2 Posted: April 04, 2006 at 02:16 PM (#1936654)
Clearly he was pretty much the player in 1954 that he would be in 1955 and for all the reasons Doc mentions in #14, Ellie clearly deserves an MLE for 1954.

Next question--1953. Anybody know what the park factors are for 1953 and 1954? IOW, was he substantially the same player also in 1953? Of course, if he was regarded as an OF in 1953, then those stats don't add up to much. If he was a prospect as a C and was just slumming in the OF because that's what his team needed, then that's different.

So a couple of questions--park or league factors, and position.

Then--what about 1951 and 1952. Well, that depends on what he was doing 1950. What is the Central League, what classification? And just how bad was the NAL by 1950? Does anybody think he was a MLer in 1950? I didn't think so, but what about '51 and '52?

I said before that he looks like he deserves the one (and only the one) MLE year. But now I'm checking up on that. Anybody?
   20. Chris Cobb Posted: April 04, 2006 at 02:52 PM (#1936698)
As to position:

1) Howard's bio in Riley's _Encyclopedia_ indiates that he was splitting time between outfield and catcher from the start of his career, so I think he was always regarded as a catcher who could also play in the outfield.

2) The BP fielding ratings indicate that Howard was excellent defensively as a catcher when he came up and also above average as an outfielder, so it seems pretty clear that he wasn't being held in the minor leagues to polish his catching skills.
   21. Cblau Posted: April 05, 2006 at 02:32 AM (#1938343)
Here's something I happened to write about Howard with the 1967 Red Sox a few days ago.

I got to wondering if Ellie actually helped the Sox win the pennant, given how poorly he hit for them (.409 OPS). So I looked up how they did in his starts. Turns out they won 18 of the 33 games he started (55%), not much different from their overall record of .568. So he seems not to have had much direct effect either way.
   22. Paul Wendt Posted: April 05, 2006 at 04:24 PM (#1939304)
The SABR chapter in New Jersey meets at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center at Montclair State U. The player panel this winter featured kids and spice: Monte Irvin's daughter, Berra's son L.P.Jr., Howard's wife D., and Berra's wife Carmen. It was super, thanks to all of the panelists and to the moderator.

The Berras and Howards were and are friends. Both families moved to Montclair while Yogi and Elston were with the Yankees. Coincidentally, and maybe a factor, Yogi, Elston, and Elston's wife D. were all from St Louis.

One touching point: the moderator asked each kid and spouse to recall a memorable game or moment. Howard's widow recalled his single with two out in the bottom of the ninth, breaking up Billy Rohr's no-hit debut, 1967 April 14 (batting fifth! for the Yankees against the Red Sox).
box+pbp Billy Rohr, Elston Howard
By that time, they were all Billy Rohr fans, so it was a sad moment.
"And then he never did anything" (I paraphrase).
Billy Rohr, 3-game winner
   23. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: April 13, 2006 at 11:17 AM (#1960029)
I was just reading his obit, here:

You can find great info at that site, btw. Especially for players who died fairly young, when the obit writers remembered them as players.

Anyway, he was definitely in the military 1951-52.

Dickey taught him the finer points of catching once he got to the Yankees according to the article, but Berra held him back from the full-time job.

There's definitely an interesting case here. Catching 1138 games with a career 108 OPS+ and peak with 6 years over 110, and as high as 153 is a heckuva player. He must have been highly regarded, because he made the All-Star team as an 82 OPS+ OF/C in 1957, and was an all-star every year from 1957-65.

A peak voter should love his 1961-64. You could make a case for him being top 10 all-time peak as a catcher.
   24. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 13, 2006 at 07:44 PM (#1961418)
This is not a call to give Elston any credit beyond what one would normally give him for MS and NgLs, but just something to think about.

The guy starts his pro career in the NgLs at age 19 right as the Negro Leagues are winding down. The best old timers are on the wane, the best short timers are out the door. He stays two years, during which the quality of play presumably drops tremendously even from 1948.

Finally Howard makes the jump at age 21 into a decent lower-level club and makes a good transition. Entering his age 22 year, he goes into the military for two years. I don't know how much ball he played there, but it most certainly would not have been of a high enough caliber to help him continue his development. At best, I think he would have maintained his worst he might fall behind his peers.

When he gets out, he's a 23-year old OF/C who hasn't played a professional game in two years and has spent just a quarter season in "organized" ball. Think about that a second. You're a big-league team thinking about Howard and you see three years in a league you probably don't respect (unless you are Bill Veeck), and one-quarter year in the Central League, and that's it. And nothing overwhelming anywhere. It's somewhat miraculous that he actually ended up in a AAA level league.

After two years in AAA he makes the majors at age 26, where he's a part timer for a while, then finally settles in as a great catcher for a few years , mostly after his age-27 season.

You have to imagine that Howard's development as a player was severely hampered by his circumstance, even more so than top Negro League players like Irvin and Doby whose pre-MLB Negro leagues were much stronger and for whom the Mexican League may also have been stronger than Howard's NgLs. Again I'm not suggesting any extra credit to acknowledge this, but rather a simple recognition of how great of a player he must have been to have been so hampered and still have a late-career blossoming that included five wonderful peak seasons in the 1960s.
   25. Paul Wendt Posted: April 13, 2006 at 09:41 PM (#1961603)
You're a big-league team thinking about Howard and you see three years in a league you probably don't respect (unless you are Bill Veeck), and one-quarter year in the Central League, and that's it. And nothing overwhelming anywhere. It's somewhat miraculous that he actually ended up in a AAA level league.

Did he play for affiliated clubs in 1950 and 1953?
Did the government require them to give him back his job, in some sense, after duty in Korea (as for WWII)?
Note, I am not sure that would have been the obligation of a major league club in 1953 --as it would today, with MLB clubs the employers of all OB players.
   26. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 13, 2006 at 09:49 PM (#1961616)
Yes, he was affiliated in 1950 in the central league and in 1953 at the AAA level, but he played three years in the NgL too. Well, two years plus parts of a third before he went into the Central League.

In case I wasn't clear, I was thinking about a big league club looking at him before the 1953 season. Sorry for any ensuing confusion.
   27. sunnyday2 Posted: April 13, 2006 at 09:59 PM (#1961634)
Early on I opined that I would probably only recognize 1954 as an MLE year, but on reflection--specifically of his military service--I'd be pretty sure it would be fair to add one more year on to that. Still have to take a minute to see where that would put him relative to Bresnahan, Lombardi; Trouppe, Mackey; Clapp and Carroll.

Not to mention Bill Freehan.
   28. sunnyday2 Posted: April 13, 2006 at 10:01 PM (#1961636)
Speaking of catchers (I'll put this here):

I met a guy the other day whose wife is an artist and also runs a gallery. Apparently Ted Simmons is a major art collector (not Picasso's, stuff one can afford, young artists), and he was in her gallery in Minneapolis that very day and had bought several pieces of hers.

They were right to keep an artsy fartsy guy like that out of the HoF ;-)

Now you know.
   29. jimd Posted: April 13, 2006 at 10:21 PM (#1961649)
where he's a part timer for a while, then finally settles in as a great catcher for a few years

He was backup to Yogi Berra, who still caught a lot of games those years. 1959 was Yogi's last great season as a catcher. 1960 was a transitional year (and Stengel's last as manager).

In 1961 the job appears to have been Howard's (don't know what role, if any, the managerial change played in this), and begins Howard's streak of 4 great seasons. Howard was only 4 years younger than Yogi, so it's not too surprising that the run wasn't longer.

These were better seasons than Yogi had had at the same age (though it must be noted that Elston also had had a lot less wear-and-tear due to his prolonged understudy role). In fact, those might be the best 4 seasons that any catcher has had aged 32-35. At that age, White was playing 3rd, Ewing 1st, Bennett was in a backup role. Bresnahan was player-managing, Cochrane was beaned around 32-33, Dickey and Carter and Piazza's last great season was at 32, Bench at 31.

Stack those 4 seasons against Josh Gibson's MLE's at the same age and you get:
Howard: 29, 20, 28, 32
Gibson: 31, 28, 29, deceased
Hartnett: 21, 24, 26, 18, (25)

It's a highly unusual career. One which makes you wonder if a truly great player was forced to play an understudy role to another truly great player because the player had no real options and the team had no compelling need to either play him or trade him.
   30. jimd Posted: April 13, 2006 at 10:35 PM (#1961661)
Just want to point out that I'm not suggesting that Howard might have been Josh Gibson if he'd only had a chance to play. (I think the Yankees would have noticed that.)
   31. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 13, 2006 at 10:46 PM (#1961672)
It's a highly unusual career. One which makes you wonder if a truly great player was forced to play an understudy role to another truly great player because the player had no real options and the team had no compelling need to either play him or trade him.

Agreed. I've always had a mental image of Ellie Howard with kind of a hang-dog expression. No doubt projecting my own feelings about his treatment at the hands of baseball onto the few photos i've seen of him.

At any rate, those four peak years Jim mentioned are pretty darned huge for a catcher. They pretty much, by themselves, put him among my top 25 ever catchers (though a good 5 or 6 behind Freehan, Sunny2) and at best at the edge of my HOMables. He will appear on my ballot this year around mid-ballot.
   32. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: April 14, 2006 at 12:28 AM (#1961925)
I have Howard as my 2nd catcher right now. Trouppe is on ballot at around #11 or so, Bresnahan at #21 and Howard at #20. I like to start guys that i am unsure about pretty low, still, howard is as good as candidate as anyone to jump over some guys to get onto my ballot in the next few years.
   33. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 14, 2006 at 06:13 PM (#1962992)
He will appear on my ballot this year around mid-ballot.

I was wrong, he's just barely off my ballot. I was working from the wrong list of players (an unintegrated one).
   34. TomH Posted: April 14, 2006 at 08:35 PM (#1963222)
Elston Howard World Series notes:
Howard played in 10 fall classics. His OPS overall were 692, compared with 749 in regular season. He did score runs at a slightly better clip in the W.S. than normal, but did not drive in any extra. Not much + or - either way there.
I looked for clutch moments (close games of close series), and did not find many. He did hit a game-tying 3-run HR inthe 9th of game 4 in 1957 vs Milwaukee, but he had also gone 0-for-3 including a GIDP, stranding a total of 4 runners earlier in the game. In game 1 of 1958, he took an 0-for-5 day as the Yanks lsot by 1. In game 6, he went 2-for-5 and scored a key run as they won a close one. He was terrible in 67 for the Red Sox, but he at least drove in a key run in one of Lonborg's wins.

I doubt I will give him any bonus (but certainly no penalty) for his post-season play.

oh, and bb-ref is way cool.
   35. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: April 15, 2006 at 03:51 AM (#1964770)
I think I'm going to have Howard above Lombardi. Not sure where I'm going to have him related to Mackey, but I'm leaning towards above Mackey. The actual career is very good. The extra credit gives him a very high subjective bump. In just about any other circumstances his numbers would be much better than what you see at first glance.

If one is using a strict by the numbers system, with a bullsh!t dump, he should get one of the highest bullsh!t dump scores I could imagine.
   36. Howie Menckel Posted: April 16, 2006 at 12:34 AM (#1965943)
I happened across my 1968 Elston Howard Topps card today during spring cleaning.
It has his 1950 and 1953-54 minor league numbers, but near as I can tell we already have those above. If anything is unclear, I can post it here.
16 triples in 1954, wow.

He's listed at 6-2, 208 lbs on that card, and living in Teaneck, NJ.
"Elston's key hit helped Boston to a victory in one of the 1967 World Series games. The backstop was the 1963 A.L. Most Valuable Player."

You don't see the word 'backstop' much anymore.
   37. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: April 28, 2006 at 08:29 AM (#1993837)
Dr. Chaleeko,

I've been trying to reverse-engineer your AVG/OBP/SLG translations but I can't figure out what league baseline you're using. I've tried each leadgue and an average of the two leagues. Nothing seems to work. What are your league averages?
   38. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 10, 2007 at 02:13 AM (#2330749)
This thread's been dormant a year, but this ought to heat it up a bit.

I've rerun Ellie Howard's pre-MLB career through the new MLE system. It comes out pretty similarly. Difference of a couple-few win shares. But I'll report in on it anyway, just for posterity's sake.

1) I gave Howard 3.75 PA/game. His MLB PA/game was closer to 3.65, but since he played a little more OF in his youth, I raised it up.

2) 1951 and 1952 are war credit years as they were last time. They were figured as I've been doing lately by filling in with career-average rates. I used his translated pre-MLB rates combined with his neutralized MLB rates.

3) I made him a 50/50 C/OF combo through 1953 with 1954 a 60/40 tilt toward catching. I think this is a place where some discussion could be helpful.

4) Discount structure as follows:
AA and IL (Class AAA): .88
NgL 1948-1949: .85
NgL 1950: .825
CL (Class A): .75

5) Howard is projected into the AL.

Elston Howard 
Revised MLE version 1.0

    AGE outs   pa   ab   h   tb  bb sh hpb sb cs gdp  rc  avg  obp  slg ops
1948 19  193  276  255  65  105  18  1  1   1  0   7  35 .255 .302 .413  89
1949 20  349  492  455 110  179  33  3  2   0  0  12  58 .242 .292 .394  81
1950 21  352  506  469 121  194  33  2  2   0  0  12  65 .258 .305 .414  83
1951 22  359  514  477 123  193  32  2  2   1  0  13  64 .258 .303 .405  90
1952 23  360  505  471 115  181  30  2  2   1  0  12  57 .244 .288 .384  86
1953 24  360  513  475 120  179  34  2  2   3  1  12  59 .252 .301 .376  82
1954 25  339  502  466 132  229  32  2  2   2  0  12  80 .283 .328 .490 122
2313 3308 3069 786 1260 211 15 13   7  2  79 419 .256 .303 .411  90

      bws  fws   ws     Of
%  C%
1948  5.5  2.5   8.0    .5  .5
1949  8.3  4.5  12.8    .5  .5
1950  9.0  4.6  13.6    .5  .5
1951 10.4  4.7  15.1    .5  .5
1952 10.1  4.6  14.8    .5  .5
1953  9.5  4.7  14.2    .5  .5
1954 18.7  5.0  23.7    .4  .6
71.6 30.6 102.2 

SFWS comes in at 106.

Much as last time around, the result is that Howard appears to have taken a sudden and massive step forward with the bat in 1954. Since he was 25 in that year and had been subjected to many career-delaying forces, I guess it's not altogether surprising. That said, if he's really more catcher than outfielder, then it's not impossible that he was ready for big-league action in 1953 since his OPS though lower than average, was within the realm for catchers. In 1953, the average catcher had a .714 OPS. Howard's MLE OPS of .677 was 95% of the position's average, and WS, WARP, and contemporary accounts peg him as a good defensive catcher, perhaps good enough to hold serve as his bat developed.

Anyway, just thought I'd report in on the results. With any luck I'll have Dandridge and Estalella done this week too.
   39. sunnyday2 Posted: April 10, 2007 at 03:52 AM (#2330825)
If you like Doc's WS for Ellie Howard, then, just to fill out the record.

1948 8
1949 13
1950 14
1951 15
1952 15
1953 14
1954 24
Sub-Total 102

1955 11
1956 6
1957 6
1958 18
1959 14

1960 10
1961 29
1962 20
1963 28
1964 32
1965 8
1966 11
1967 4
1968 8
Sub-Total 203

Total 305

My personal belief is that the 102 is a bit much. If he was really born in 1929, then 1951-52 is probably more like a normal starting point (though in reality he was in the military at that time). But then, looking at his record from 1961-64 (age 32-35), it is obvious that he was capable of much more in 1959 and 1960, at a minimum. And if you're willing to entertain 24 WS in 1954, then 6 is completely unreasonable for 1956 and 1957. So one could say he was held back rather dramatically as a member of the New York Yankees.

Overall, it basically washes out, and I think 305 is a reasonable total, though I could probably be convinced that 275 is a better number, but with the same peak. 32-29-28-24-20 probably understates his peak, but there it is.

Howard 275/32-29-28-24-20 this is the worst-worst case, could easily be higher for career
Mackey 248/26-23-20-19-19 nowhere near Ellie's class
Trouppe 256/31-27-26-26-24 comparable if you assume Howard's worst possible case

Bresnahan 234/29-29-27-27-23 short all around, and not a full time C
Lombardi 218/24-19-17-17-17 nowhere near Ellie's class
Munson 206/26-25-24-23-22 short all around
Schang 249/21-20-20-19-18 nowhere near Howard's class
Tenace 231/32-26-25-24-22 can compete on peak, but not career

Howard is #16 on (off) this week's ballot and is in my PHoM. A hugely deserving player. Trouppe is the obvious comp.
   40. sunnyday2 Posted: April 10, 2007 at 03:57 AM (#2330828)
And best case he is pretty much Ted Simmons.

Howard 305/32-29-28-24-20
Simmons 315/30-28-28-28-23

Howard 108/156-41-31-27-22-16-15 (7 yrs ? 100 and ? 100 games)
Simmons 118/150-45-41-37-27-24-17-17-15 (12)

Howard A-/101 dWS (@305 total)
Simmons C/72
   41. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 10, 2007 at 02:04 PM (#2331006)
I like Howard, but I don't think he should get much credit before 1953. I think 102 WS is too much. I provided them to show what his play looked like in a major league setting, but I don't advocate for full-slate credit. What the estimates say up there is a bit colored by filling in the war gaps with the usual method that really smooths things out a lot---as you can see. Thing is, he's just not a good hitter before his big year in 1954, and he has a lot of years after that where he's not a good hitter. You'd have to argue that he's a stellar defesnive catcher who finally started to hit in the big leagues. OK, but going back to ages 19-21 seems a little unlikely to me. That's very typical minor-league seasoning time.

From 1947-1955, this is the complete list of catchers whose age was under 23 with their PAs and OPS:
NAME             year age ops  pa
Harry Chiti      1950 17 .667   6
Nick Koback      1953 17 .426  18
Jim Pagliaroni   1955 17 .000   1
Harry Chiti      1951 18 .813  34
Nick Koback      1954 18 .000  10
Walt Streuli     1954 18 1.00   1
Harry Chiti      1952 19 .756 118
Del Crandall     1949 19 .660 239
Nick Koback      1955 19 .571   7
Walt Streuli     1955 19 .700   5
Earl Battey      1955 20 .730   9
Del Crandall     1950 20 .567 274
Frank House      1950 20 1.00   5
Hobie Landrith   1950 20 .527  16
Joe Garagiola    1947 21 .814 228
Joe Ginsberg     1948 21 .771  39
Frank House      1951 21 .661  48
Roy Jarvis       1947 21 .499  51
Steve Korcheck   1954 21 .286   7
Hobie Landrith   1951 21 .890  14
Pete Naton       1953 21 .452  14 
Hank Ruszkowski  1947 21 .977  29
Jack Shepard     1953 21 .500   4
Ed Bailey        1953 22 .944   9
Yogi Berra       1947 22 .775 306
Johnny Blanchard 1955 22 .250   4
Earle Brucker    1948 22 .619   7
Smoky Burgess    1949 22 .638  60
Harry Chiti      1955 22 .634 372
Joe Garagiola    1948 22 .508  69
Hal Keller       1950 22 .695  30
Steve Korcheck   1955 22 .631  38
Hobie Landrith   1952 22 .600  50
Sherm Lollar     1947 22 .617  33
Stan Lopata      1948 22 .333  15
Eric MacKenzie   1955 22 .000   1
Jim Mangan       1952 22 .368  14
Les Moss         1947 22 .510 312
Hal Naragon      1951 22 .650  10
Dick Rand        1953 22 .656  34
Carl Sawatski    1950 22 .468 114
Jack Shepard     1954 22 .766 265
Rube Walker      1948 22 .780 197
Sammy White      1951 22 .364  11
Red Wilson       1951 22 .697  12

AGE   PA  estOPS
17    25  .467
18    45  .636
19   369  .690
20   304  .577
21   434  .746
22  1963  .650
*I didn't do a full-on OPS calculation, I just multiplied each guy's PA by his OPS added those products together and divided by the sum of the PAsSo this is approximate

So 22 is the first year where lots of guys are getting PAs. Interestingly at each age, the league must be promoting only its very best hitting catching prospects, beause they hit real good each year. I don't know what these young debuters did in the minors, but Howard's numbers aren't so special, until 1954, that his bat screams Call Me Up! Though his defense might well have been good enough to play. I'm going to give him 1953 and 1954 as a nod to the totality of circumstances that delayed his entry and held him back, unless someone knocks me over with an argument for his earlier years.
   42. Dizzypaco Posted: April 10, 2007 at 02:38 PM (#2331038)
This is a good place as any to raise a concern I have about some people's methods for estimating MLE value, particularly when it comes to catchers. Whenever someone adds plate appearances, such as due to war credit or other factors preventing someone from playing, assumptions are made that:
1) the player would not have suffered some injury that would have affected the player's performance in those years.
2) The player would not have suffered some injury that would have affected later performance or ability to catch
3) The sheer number of additional games caught, even without an injury, would not have any affect on the players' long term performance.

Isn't it possible that one of the reasons that Howard was an effective catcher at age 35 and beyond that he didn't have to catch as many games when he was young? Now Doc, you can tell me how many games he actually did catch before reaching the majors, but are you adding any additional games caught?
   43. Paul Wendt Posted: April 11, 2007 at 10:59 PM (#2332755)
I think that is reasonable for any catcher, maybe likely. Somewhat less so for a pitcher. Practically insignificant otherwise.
   44. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: April 11, 2007 at 11:50 PM (#2332853)
Now Doc, you can tell me how many games he actually did catch before reaching the majors, but are you adding any additional games caught?

The weird thing with Howard is that he's listed as OF/C by Lester/Clark right up until 1954. They don't break it down any further, but I think generally they mean the first position to be the majority position. Actually, let me be more specific about Clark/Lester's designations:

1948 nal of c 1b
1949 nal of c 1b
1950 nal of
1950 cl of
1953 aa of c
1954 il c of
1956 al of c

Here's a Riley description:
"Beginning in 1948...[he] played three seasons in the Negro Leagues with the Kansas City Monarchs as an outfielder-catcher."

That's all he says for pre-MLB positional description throughout.

Given that Howard's offense was unexceptional except in 1954, he would have had a hard time making it as an OF. As a catcher, though, he could hit.

So, Diz, I don't have a real specific answer for you, that's the best I can do.
   45. sunnyday2 Posted: April 12, 2007 at 02:33 PM (#2333281)
As a peak voter, of course, I don't have much of a problem with Elston Howard regardless of MLEs. Actual ML play only.

Howard 203/32-29-28-20-18
Freehan 267/35-30-25-25-23

Howard 108/156-41-31-27-16
Freehan 111/143-43-26-23-21

Both are rated as A- gloves.

But if you're going to consider MLEs--if you're going to say he was kept out of the MLs "unreasonably," whether by virtue of race (a la every black player through 1947) or whether by virtue of incompetent management or unfair circumstances (a la Charley Keller or Lefty Grove or Hank Sauer or Clark Griffith or whomever)....

Then it seems to me that the concept of MLEs being used only for seasons in which a player does not appear in the MLs is a bit narrow. IOW, MLEs show Howard to have been a ML caliber player prior to his ML debut in 1955. But it accepts a pair of 6 WS seasons after it accepts him as a 24 WS player. If this is not being held back "unreasonably" I don't know what is.

I mean that not in the sense that he should have played ahead of Yogi Berra (nor to say that he is really "equal" to Bill Freehan, but rather that he is very close to Bill Freehan) but in the sense that he would have been an upgrade for almost every other 15 ML team of the day.

Now, personally, my solution to this is to just transfer some WS from his earliest (age 19-20-21) seasons into those 6 WS years and take 305 to be the right number to capture the essence of his ability.

I can't think of another black player from this era with a more illusory ML career except Don Newcombe. Whereas the NeL players pre-1940 or so have no such illusions working against them--we know they didn't get a fair shake and we eval them accordingly. Howard and Newk appear to have "normal" ML careers and we tend to think that those careers fairly represent who they were. But no. Of course this is no different than the illusion that Ted Williams' or Pee Wee Reese's or Phil Rizutto's or Johnny Pesky's actual ML career fairly represents who they are. They don't.
   46. sunnyday2 Posted: November 26, 2009 at 05:57 PM (#3397351)
   47. Paul Wendt Posted: November 27, 2009 at 12:24 AM (#3397453)
I don't know Eric Chalek's "Lester/Clark" reference (#44).

Clark & Lester eds., The Negro Leagues Book, "Rosters" section gives these listings for Elston Howard under 1948, 1949, and 1950 Kansas City Monarchs.
- c lf
c of 1b
lf - -

These meanings explain the three-column format.
- the positions played by the starters
- where reserves most often played, or where first-stringers filled in
- a starter's third position or a reserve's second

Riley's Encyclopedia gives this listing for Elston Howard's career fielding positions.
c of 1b

None is bold (strongly identified positions) or italic (emergency positions), which means that all three were "reasonably regular" positions sometime during his NeL career, in listed order by frequency.
   48. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 13, 2018 at 09:47 PM (#5624656)
Hey, everyone,

Here's my latest MLEs for Elston Howard. These will be updated as new data becomes available.

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