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Friday, March 01, 2002

Estimating League Quality - Part 1 (the concept)

First of all, let me apologize for the lack of material posted to the Hall of Merit BLOG. In the coming weeks, I’m confident this will no longer be a problem.

When we consider players who played over 100 years ago, it is vital to look at the quality of the leagues they played in. Using a method that is similar to what Clay Davenport has been doing for some time (for examples of this kind of work, see Clay’s recent postings on Baseball Prospectus concerning the quality of play in the Japanese Baseball Leagues), I attempted to estimate the quality of baseball in the “major” leagues of the 19th century.

I focused on hitting stats, since at this time there were only a handful of pitchers active at a given time in a given league.

My method assumes that a player’s overall batting skill does not change appreciably from one year to the next. This assumption is not true on an individual basis, but it starts to make sense when we are talking about a large group of players. The individual changes in skill should become less important as the size of the group increases.

In leagues that are stable, there isn’t a very high turnover in personnel from year to year. In the 19th century National League, in most years, about 70%-80% of the players returned to play regularly the following year. In cases where new leagues started up and players jumped, the percentage of holdovers was much much lower - and this makes comparison much more difficult.

I estimated the quality of each hitter?s batting by using a runs produced ratio [(R+RBI)/PA] and compared it to a league average performance. The reason I chose this, and not Runs Created or Linear Weights, is that I wasn’t going to adjust for park and I assumed that the batting order bias of the R anbd RBI stats was not going to be relevant for a large group of players either.

In the 19th century, where more advanced run estimation formulas are much less accurate than for “modern” baseball, I opted for the simplicity of using Runs Scored and RBI.

Because we are comparing each group of players to league average the result shouldn’t be far from 1.00 for a relatively stable league (where the majority of regulars return the next year). In practice, it’s unlikely to be exactly 1.00 of course.

If the newcomers to the league in a given year were better than typical newcomers, the performance of the holdovers would be worse than in a typicla league and this would be a sign that the league was getting stronger. On the other hand, if a lot of good players jumped to a rival league and their places were filled by less skilled batsmen, the holdovers would improve their performance relative to league average and this would be a sign that the league was weakening.

By comparing the overall performance of the SAME group of players from year to year and league to league, it should be possible to track the changes in the overall quality of play.

In the next part, I’ll apply these methods to a specific example.



This thread will now be included with the Hall of Merit links.

-John Murphy
August 6, 2004

Robert Dudek Posted: March 01, 2002 at 11:49 PM | 173 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 02:52 PM (#1538380)
Certainly Mongo is correct. League quality is a huge factor in doing correctly what we are trying to do. I think it is fair to say that, rightly or wrongly, the only real league quality factors on which there is consensus of any kind are:

• Any and all 19C MLs are weak compared to any 20C ML. My evidence for this is pretty simple--the timeline--which I am guessing about half of our voters employ as a "strong" factor.

• The AA was weaker than the NL pretty much throughout its lifetime. Again, I would guess about half our voters thought so and factored it in.

• The NL of the 1910s or thereabouts was weak and I would guess that maybe one-third to one-half of our voters use that as a factor.

• Finally, anyone who relies heavily on WARP3 is undoubtedly accepting a variety of additional league quality adjustments as outlined by TomH above.

Generally, voters here might be thought of as being in three groups--those who ignore the whole issue, those who employ adjustments 1-2-3 above, and those who use WARP3.

I guess I have two questions/observations about all of this.

1. If my typology is anywhere close to correct, do items 1, 2 and 3 comprise a pretty selective use of league quality considerations? Is it fair to use these considerations on such a selective basis? I worry. And BTW I am as guilty as anyone here, having used the AA discount in the 19C. (I am among those who ignore 19C and NL 1910s quality, however.)

2. And secondly, among those who use WARP3, are you really sure the league quality (timeline) adjustments make sense?

3. And to anyone who uses any of the above discounts, is this measuring value or ability? Why is it correct to measure and reward ability rather than value?
   102. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 03:13 PM (#1538423)
PS. to me, the idea that the AL was weaker in '30 and '32 than it was in '44 casts this whole methodology into question. Not to diminish the work TomH has done, it sounds like a reasonable approach. But is there some reason--small sample size, the intrusion of other variables like aging or injury that cannot be properly accounted for--that this method might end up failing?

>conclusions from this data
NL was stronger thru 1936
AL caught up 1937 thru 1941
AL was weaker in 42 and 43
real 'war years' were only 44 and 45
small weakening effect during Korean conflict
AL thru mid-late 1950s was actually Weaker than it was in 1940.
NL strongest by late 1950s, but not by much over earlier years.

As for Tom's conclusions and the Cramer study, if I read it correctly, suggests that the AL never really caught up, other than an occasional one-year blip, from 1931 through 1966. Cramer also has the AL and NL in '44-'45 as weaker only than the period from '40-'43 but better than '39.

BTW Cramer also supports my long-time contention that the NL in 1878-79-80-81 was essentially as good as it was during the AA era.

Meanwhile, the FL was only about as good as the AL-NL in '01-'02-'03.

If integration had an impact on league quality, Cramer sees it as very gradual. In fact, the AL was never again as good as in 1947 until 1958, while the NL was not as good as it was in 1946 until 1952 (blip) and then 1955.

Maybe someone can explain this to me. The AL was better 1903-1919 than it would be again until 1929, Otherwise it was worse through the 1920s than in 1903. Not only that but generally the same is true of the NL though by fairly small margins. Why would the caliber of ball have declined in the '20s versus the '10s?

So anyway, this is tricky stuff. And finally, Cramer sees virtually no difference between the AL of the 1910s and the NL of the 1910s.
   103. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 11, 2005 at 03:24 PM (#1538450)
To pile onto Sunnyday's point about league quality questions. Anyone who uses Chris Cobb's conversions to assess NgL players is also accepting league-quality adjustments. He is adjusting downward from the NL (mostly). So this accepts two premises:
1) That there is a difference in league quality between the NgL, CWL, MxL, etc...and the white majors.
2) That the differences in league quality between the various leagus of color and the white majors do not vary, or at least very little.

Additionally, we as a group have arrived at no consensus regarding the relative league strengths of the various leagues of color compared to themselves (that is 1927 NNL vs. 1926 NNL or 1937 NAL vs. 1948 NAL), so we're also selectively operating under the assumption that, by and large, these leagues were of a consistent quality.

Whether these are accurate premises is certainly open to debate, but until we get our hands on the work of the Hall's committee, we're not likely to have a true sense of it because we'll lack the publicly available comprehensive data to do anything about it.
   104. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 03:36 PM (#1538472)
Doc, right on. I ovelooked those adjustments. And I will also add, what about MiLs? Some folks add value for, say, Earl Averill's or Gavy Cravath's AAA years. Those are adjusted for competition, presumably.

My rule of thumb has always been: I adjust for leagues that are understood NOT to be the best of their time--e.g. AA, MiLs, NeLs, MxL, etc.

I do not adjust over time because 1) we really don't know what the proper adjustment was and 2) a pennant is a pennant, meaning a ML pennant.
   105. Michael Bass Posted: August 11, 2005 at 04:41 PM (#1538638)
I do not adjust over time because 1) we really don't know what the proper adjustment was and 2) a pennant is a pennant, meaning a ML pennant.

Curiousity: Will you adjust for integration? Seems that a white major leaguer in 1940 is facing a very different competition set than a white National Leaguer in 1960 that has very little to do with timelining. Certainly this has to be adjusted for, right?
   106. KJOK Posted: August 11, 2005 at 05:12 PM (#1538725)
My rule of thumb has always been: I adjust for leagues that are understood NOT to be the best of their time--e.g. AA, MiLs, NeLs, MxL, etc.

I do not adjust over time because 1) we really don't know what the proper adjustment was and 2) a pennant is a pennant, meaning a ML pennant.


I agree - leagues that were CLEARLY less than major compared to the league/years around it - UA, some years in AA, PCL, Negro Leagues, AL 1901-1902, Federal League, MLB 1944-45, etc. should be adjusted for.

Curiousity: Will you adjust for integration? Seems that a white major leaguer in 1940 is facing a very different competition set than a white National Leaguer in 1960 that has very little to do with timelining. Certainly this has to be adjusted for, right?

As was mentioned above, the integration impact was very gradual. As such, my inclination right now is to not adjust for it.
   107. TomH Posted: August 11, 2005 at 05:47 PM (#1538828)
Quick n dirty check:

One way some (such as Steve Gould) have suggested to estimate league quality is by the ability of the best players to dominate a league.

I took bb-ref's leaderboard, and found the 5th best OPS+ and ERA+ leadeers from the AL in 1931-40, and again from 1951-60. I averaged the results for each 10-year period.
lg years.. OPS+ ERA+
AL 1931-40 145 136.5
AL 1951-60 140 132

This implies the later AL was stronger, as the best hitters and pitchers stood out less from the average. This is different than the conclusion arrievd at by the BP ##s, which would yield us to believe that (partly due to Korean war yeras) the AL was actually slightly Weaker in the 1950s.

-----

2nd subject: While integration WAS gradual, I can't see how we cannot conclude that by 1959 the effects of having blacks play had raised the average level of play over 1946. We may debate whether the expansions of 61/62/69 give it all back I'm sure. I will most certainly adjust for this, in the sense that I might take the 8th best candidate of the 1950s era over the 7th best of the 1930s. If that makes me an enemy of the 'pennant is a pennant' crowd, so be it.
   108. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 06:08 PM (#1538887)
To me, league adjustments over time are pretty much impossible because you've got two different variables going.

One is the pool. As the size of the population pool from which players are drawn increases, in theory so does the average skill level among your sub-pool--i.e. major league players. This is a theory which (in theory) the Cramer study and others verifies, though every study has come to vastly different conclusions about the size of the differentials.

Two is the individual player. There is no logical reason why the individual player should be discounted the same as the average player.

Or to put this in the terms Tom used above in #118:

>AL 1931-40 145 136.5
>AL 1951-60 140 132

>This implies the later AL was stronger, as the best hitters and pitchers stood out less from the average.

But the degree to which the best hitters and pitchers stand out from the rest is a function of both. How do we know that "the rest" in the '50s were 2-2.5% better than "the rest" in the '30s, rather than that "the best" were 2-2.5% better? We don't.

Four conclusions:

1. The pool argument is fairly compelling, especially when combined with what we know to be better health and training, in that the average player today IS better than before, and in fact the average has probably increased on a fairly level curve over (a long) time.

2. But the increase has been so gradual that we sometimes see league's being worse than they used to be. In the micro, the curve is in fact not a level curve at all.

3. But great players are outliers and their greatness is not particularly illuminated by comparison to the average, especially when the average at a micro level is so uneven and unpredictable. I mean, do we know that Joe Medwick faced better opposition than George Sisler (etc. etc.). Not with much certainty at all.

4. Timeline adjustments generally vastly overstate the change and ignore the fact that great players are not dependent upon the average in the first place.

For all of these reasons, if there is any science to rating and ranking ballplayers, timelining and league adjustments are not part of it but are purely art. They belong in what Bill James calls the "bullshirt dump." I don't mean to say they are "bullshirt," but that they are art and not in my view something you can build into a statistical evaluation with anything close to the kind of precision that is claimed for any statistical evaluation system worth using.
   109. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 11, 2005 at 06:32 PM (#1538967)
Sunnyday, this point is something I've wondered about often

. The pool argument is fairly compelling, especially when combined with what we know to be better health and training, in that the average player today IS better than before, and in fact the average has probably increased on a fairly level curve over (a long) time.

I see two points of view on this.

1) For all the reasons you mention and many more, in absolute terms, today's players are better than their yesteryear peers.

2) But in relative terms, the average player is, by definition, no better than the average player of yesteryear.

We often hear it said: would So and So be as dominant today as back in the day if they got put into a time machine to today. Reframing this question: Would the average player from 1896 or 1928 or 1952 be an average player today.

My answer is emphatically yes, assuming that he had the same access to training, healthcare, etc... that any player today does.

To put this another way, I imagine that the talent of average players is essentially always the same (assuming a large enough pool to draw from to make it statistically likely), it's the surrounding environment and their access to ideas and technology that make them "better" than their historical counterparts.
   110. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 07:04 PM (#1539061)
I'm a strong anti-timeliner, so you will be surprised when I say--today's average play is clearly better than he used to be, probably as recently as the 1970s and surely anytime before that.

1) He is better in absolute terms because he comes from a larger pool (today, that means including Latin America and Japan) and because of better health, training, diet, etc. etc. So, no, the average player from earlier eras could not step off the time machine and compete with these guys.

2) He is even better in relative terms because the superstars do not dominate him as much as they used to.

There are two problems applying these concepts. First, we are not electing average players, we are electing star players and we cannot assume that star players of any given era are better than star players from earlier eras by the same percentage that average players are (even setting aside the fact that we don't know with any certainty what that percentage is).

Second, we are meant to be "fair to all eras," and I have always taken that to mean that we are electing value and not ability.

Of course, the average player has more ability today, but more importantly he has more value because the star player does not dominate to the same degree.

But what of the star player? Well, maybe he has more ability than star players from earlier eras, but it is my contention that we do not know this for certain. The truth is, however, that he is less valuable today because he does not dominate. This is the conceptual problem for those of us who eschew the timeline. I've been accused of using a reverse timeline because I don't blanket-adjust for the fact that it was easier to dominate in the old days.

My PHoM includes some 19C players not in the HoM--Childs, Jennings, Williamson, C. Jones, H. Wright and Bond--but the HoM also has 19C players not in my PHoM--Sutton, Stovey, Kelley, Keeler and Galvin. I have only 1 more 19C player in my PHoM than the HoM has.

The fact is I do adjust for the fact that it was easier to dominate in the 19C. I just do it on a case-by-case basis, not by applying a blanket adjustment that derives from the performance of the average player rather than from the performance of the candidate himself. Like I said, it is art, not science.
   111. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 11, 2005 at 07:25 PM (#1539123)
Sorry for all those italics everyone, I missed a </em> somewhere.
   112. jimd Posted: August 11, 2005 at 09:00 PM (#1539564)
One very important feature of the WARP-3 league quality analysis is missing here.

A regression line is calculated from the numbers for 1947-2004. All measurements are then made with respect to that regression line.

What this means is that there will be no significant change in overall quality post-1950, just measurements of how expansion impacted the "local" quality (temporally speaking).

This also means the "timeline" pre-1950 is not really a "timeline" per se, but a measurement of how the local evolutionary rate differed from the modern (post-war) rate. The showing that 1930 was significantly weaker than 1940 really means that baseball quality evolved faster during the 1930's than it has in the modern era. I assume that this is due to the rise of the farm systems and the harvesting of the last independent top-minor league, the PCL.
   113. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 11, 2005 at 09:14 PM (#1539626)
JimD,

Can this statement really be accurate in light of integration?

The showing that 1930 was significantly weaker than 1940 really means that baseball quality evolved faster during the 1930's than it has in the modern era. I assume that this is due to the rise of the farm systems and the harvesting of the last independent top-minor league, the PCL.

The top minor league talent was at least available for purchase prior to and during the development of the farm system, but no players of color were allowed across the line. Were integration instant, it would have had a remarkable effect on replacement level, at the major league level, but even at its own pace, it should have had a simultaneous effect on the minor leagues where blacks were effectively trapped by MLB quotas and whatnot. This should have, therefore, had a bottlenecking effect on talent flowing through the minors, allowing a smaller percentage of filler (read: MLB replacment level) players to rise that high. If this postulate is correct, then integration at the minor league level should still have raised the level of major-league play.

So I guess I'm wondering if the great progress in the 1930s reported by BP's system is actually some kind of recognition that pitching found a little more equilibrium with hitting after the bat-tastic twenties (esp. in the NL).
   114. jimd Posted: August 11, 2005 at 09:47 PM (#1539801)
I think people underestimate two effects here:

1) the power of the minor league farm systems which improved the quality of the average and replacement level players in the majors. The top stars practically always found their way into the majors eventually; average, sub-average, and bench players were much improved by the systematic organization of talent, which replaced the "star search" system of pre-1925.

2) economic concerns. Was it Gadfly that argued that more young blacks became players in the 1930's then the 1960's due to lack of alternative opportunities? (Frankly, I think he's underestimating how slowly doors opened post-1960, but that's irrelevant to my argument.) The same argument applies to the white population during the 1930's and the Great Depression. Between the growing popularity of baseball during and after the Babe Ruth era, and the lack of alternative employment opportunities, I'd bet that more kids tried to become baseball players than at any time previously (and possibly since).
   115. sunnyday2 Posted: August 11, 2005 at 10:38 PM (#1540034)
If we wanted to create a comprehensive list of all the factors that have influenced the quality of play by the hypothetical average player, or we could express it as the total quality of the pool... What all would be on the list?

1. The size of the pool, which itself consists of a lot of things including the population of all the various relevant ethnic, racial, national, etc., groups that have comprised the pool at various times.

2. The quantity of playing experience available at X age and the quality of coaching and/or peer instruction available from birth right up through attainment of ML status. All the things that enhance tangible skills and knowledge of the game.

3. Health, diet, training, etc., all the things that optimize performance over and above raw "skill" and knowledge of the ins and outs of the game.

4. As jimd says, the economic attractiveness of baseball as something more than a youth activity or hobby.

5. And there are all the other things that make the game attractive, like media coverage, groupies...??? Or less attractive, like the counter from other sports like basketball, football, maybe boxing in earlier days, not to mention the opportunities or lack thereof for various racial and ethnic groups to earn a living in all the other areas outside of sports.

6. And all the things other than racial segregation that enhance access to the game, whatever that means.

7. Not sure if it's fair to include things like improvements to facilities and equipment, but maybe....

8. And of course, as jimd says again, though maybe this is related to #2 or even #6, the farm systems and/or all the various factors that create an efficient market for the evaluation and acquisition of talent.

9. And of course you've also got the size of the employee market to be filled up which is one of the few factors that militates against more or less constant improvement.

I'm probably missing another 9.

But I guess my point is that this is a massively complex social problem and I don't pretend to be even in the ballpark, pun intended, of having a way to really deal with it.

The other question is whether this is all just hypothetical, as in a hypothesis, or whether we think that the improvement has in fact been measured, really and truly, by Cramer and others. If so, then who cares about cause and effect. But if we don't really trust the measurement and we fall back to cause and effect arguments, then we're really only advancing hypotheses. Plausible ones, but hypothese nonetheless. And I'd guess we understand evolution a lot better in terms of cause and effect.
   116. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 12, 2005 at 03:15 AM (#1540909)
And I'd guess we understand evolution a lot better in terms of cause and effect.

Except in Kansas.

[Runs for cover before anyone can comment...]
   117. TomH Posted: August 12, 2005 at 03:26 PM (#1541360)
don't even go to Kansas, toto....

I found the Cramer study. It is in units called Batter Win Average, which are in runs per plate appearancs. Since one out into a single equals about .73 runs, I will divide by that factor to turn them into EqA.

The study did not publish a table, only a difficult-to-interpolate chart. :(

Beginning in 1931 thru about 1950, the NL was stonrger than the AL by .015 in EqA most years. The gap rose slightly toward the end.

League quality overall steadily increased throughout this time, excpet for a lull in the late 1930s.

1944 and 1945 are seen as significant 'war years', where avg skill was down by about .015. 1943 had no effect. The NL in 1945 was stronger than the AL in 1942!

From 1950 to 1960, the NL increased its lead even more, to about .022, after which the AL would catch back up until it pulled even in about 1975.

The two metrics agree on NL superiority in the 30s and 50s, and on the fact that the 'war discount' is not huge (maybe 8 htis in a year for a batter).

They disagree on league qual in the 1940s, and the rise in level of play over time.

Well, there you have it. Interpretation will truly be in the eyes of the beholder.
   118. PhillyBooster Posted: August 13, 2005 at 04:49 AM (#1543362)
Random unrelated question that I didn't know what thread to put in:

Has anyone studied (or is anyone even aware of) the California Winter League? I had never heard of it, but it was an integrated league that had lots of star players appearing in their respective off seasons. The individual teams weren't integrated, but there was always at least one or two black team playing against a group of three or more white teams.

In the 1926-7 season, for example, the Philadelphia Royal Giants put on a team with Bullet Rogan, Andy Cooper, Will Foster, Turkey Stearns, Biz Mackey, Rap Dixon, Crash Holloway, Willie Wells, and Newt Allen.

Obviously -- none of the opponents being the 1927 Yankees -- they won by a lot. But the opponents were not all career minor leaguers, either. They were all at least half major leaguers and the rest top PCL guys. One opposing team in 26-27, for example, had both Meusels, Fred Haney, Johnny Rawlings, Chicken Hawks, and Ping Bodie. Not pushovers.

Looks like an interesting place to look for Negro League comps, in a league that I really didn't know anyting about.
   119. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 13, 2005 at 06:05 AM (#1543559)
Mongo - thanks for getting this rolling again.

The big issue from what I've heard of the Cramer study is that with each comparison, you are introducing a minor error to the study - nothing is perfect. So from year to year this isn't an issue. However, as the study grows, the errors compound, so while looking at 1910-11 isn't an issue, looking at 1910-1998 is an issue. You'll have to find a way to avoid this for your study to work.

Tom - Regarding the Gould thing - Chris Dial was going to do a presentation this year on the 'domination' idea at SABR, but his proposal was lost and he wasn't notified until it was too late to resubmit. But essentially, he's convinced that it's easier to dominate now than it has been in awhile. Look at Greg Maddux 1994, or Pedro 1999-2000, or Barry Bonds, etc.. Everybody seems to think the players now are the best ever, but if so, why are we having these extreme deviations from average?

High run enviroments are very influential on extreme deviations, perhaps even moreso than league quality issues. So I'm not convinced that that's the right way to go, even though most seem to think it is.
   120. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: August 13, 2005 at 06:08 AM (#1543568)
"A regression line is calculated from the numbers for 1947-2004. All measurements are then made with respect to that regression line.

What this means is that there will be no significant change in overall quality post-1950, just measurements of how expansion impacted the "local" quality (temporally speaking)."

Jim I thought 1947-2004 were treated on their own merits (meaning it is NOT a straight line adjustment year by year), but the straight line those points form was used to project back BEFORE 1947 (for overall MLB quality, the difference between the leagues is also a factor).

Am I misunderstanding your post?
   121. TomH Posted: August 15, 2005 at 12:22 PM (#1546672)
"Regarding the Gould thing - Chris Dial was going to do a presentation this year on the 'domination' idea at SABR......he's convinced that it's easier to dominate now than it has been in awhile. Look at....Pedro, Barry Bonds, etc.. Everybody seems to think the players now are the best ever, but if so, why are we having these extreme deviations from average?"
--
Too bad. I have been waiting for someone (I know, Tom, why don't you do it yourself ya lazy bum) to address this on a good platform. It's Very tempting to put Barry (and Rocket) at the top of my theroetical all-time list, but the number of guys putting up surreal numbers gives me pause; it would be good if we had a few more years of data (= perspective) before annointing the current superstars status in Valhalla.
   122. sunnyday2 Posted: August 15, 2005 at 12:35 PM (#1546681)
This is extremely provocative, as there are two very very deeply ingrained theories in obvious conflict.

1. Quality has increased and continues to increase.

2. The degree to which individual (superstar) players dominate is the inverse of quality.

My gut feeling is that 1 remains true and there is a problem with 2. IOW, the reason individual players could dominate in the old days was indeed quality (low, as posited in theory #1). The reason certain players dominate today is something different.

What could that something different be? Two possibilities:

1. Physical training, diet, steroids, etc. etc.

2. Mental ability. The corollary to this of course would be provocative, and that is that in the old days individual players lacked the mental X to challenge the status quo in terms of playing and training and other accepted wisdom, Babe Ruth being the exception that proves the rule. Today, as our society has become more individualistic, certain individuals have found new paradigms for preparing and playing and conceptualizing the game in its mental aspects.

The other explanation is that Bonds and Clemens represent too small of a sample to be significant. That once upon a time "dominance" was something that was shared by, say, one or two or even three dozen players in each league, whereas today dominance to a similar degree (in SDs?) is only shown by a very very few players.

Or maybe the old-timers really were better, as was often claimed when I was a kid!?
   123. TomH Posted: August 15, 2005 at 01:30 PM (#1546735)
The atypically superior ERA+ figures put out in the last 12 years I think can be attributed to more 'below-average' pitchers getting more mound time - the 11th and 12th hurlers on the staff.

The five-man rotation surely has had an effect as well. Tom Seaver, by consensus the last 4-man rotation era pitcher with the greatest career value, only has an ERA+ of 127, yet he won four ERA+ 'titles', once with 'only' a 142. It does seem it was much more difficult to put up eye-popping numbers in 1975 than in 2000.
   124. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: June 09, 2006 at 06:45 PM (#2057887)
If anyone still checks this thread, I'm having a real problem applying a timeline. Basically, I can see two ways to do it:

1. Simply multiply a player's wins above replacement player (WARP) by the league difficulty. In a league 10% tougher than average, 10 WARP become 11, while in a league 10% easier than average, 10 WARP become 9. The obvious problem with this is when you get to players below replacement level. If, say, Cristian Guzman was (hypothetically, I don't remember the real number) minus 3 WARP in 2005, which was 15% more difficult than 1960, it's absurd to multiply that by 1.15 and give him negative 3.45 WARP. On the contrary, his -3 WARP in 2005 (or whatever) probably would have been like -2 WARP in 1960, not -3.45.

2. Raise or lower the league replacement level in relation to difficulty. This solves the problem of players like Guzman, but totally biases your results towards career guys over peak guys in hard leagues and peak guys over career guys in weak leagues. If you lower the replacement level 15% (or whatever it is), a guy who gets 1 WARP will suddenly be worth 3 (a 200% increase), while a guy who gets 10 WARP will be worth 12 (a 20% increase); conversely, if you raise it 15%, guys who were a steady 4 WARP a season for 20 years will lose 50% of their value, while someone who had 8 years at 10 WARP will only lose 20% of his value.

Both of these seem really suboptimal. Is there maybe a way to combine the approaches? Or just a different way to do it entirely? Let me know if you have any ideas.

Thanks,

Dan
   125. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 09, 2006 at 08:06 PM (#2057998)
I'm not a fan of timelining. At all.

That being said if you must . . . and jimd is the better to one to ask than me on this . . . you need to do both.

You need to raise/lower the replacement level - and if that drops the player out of the league, then he gets nothing. If it moves him into the league he gets more PT. Then with what is left after that, you apply your percentage gain/loss.

Kind of tough to do. Short of that, I think you should go with adjusting replacement level.

"If you lower the replacement level 15% (or whatever it is), a guy who gets 1 WARP will suddenly be worth 3 (a 200% increase), while a guy who gets 10 WARP will be worth 12 (a 20% increase); conversely, if you raise it 15%, guys who were a steady 4 WARP a season for 20 years will lose 50% of their value, while someone who had 8 years at 10 WARP will only lose 20% of his value."


That's the cost of doing business. If a guy was a steady 4 WARP in a weak league, he may deserve to lose half his value. That 4 wasn't right in your mind anyway, that's why you are adjusting it. So don't get married to it, or worry if you have to change it significantly.

But again, don't timeline. A pennant is a pennant.
   126. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 09, 2006 at 08:10 PM (#2058004)
I would add that while I'm against timelining, I would (and do) apply the above approach to things like adjusting for the AA being weaker than the NL in a given year, war years, etc..
   127. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: June 09, 2006 at 08:14 PM (#2058011)
By the way, Italics Man is my #####.
   128. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: June 09, 2006 at 10:26 PM (#2058161)
Forget I said timelining, then. But yeah, what about adjusting for the Federal League, for example? Let's take, say, Eddie Plank's 1915 in the Federal League. Just to keep it simple, Plank gave up 75 runs that year in a 3.85 R/G league. Using the BP formula replacement RA that year would be 4.61, or 137 runs in Plank's innings, making Plank 62 pitching runs above replacement. Now let's say I have the Federal League as 85% the difficulty of the AL and NL (assuming they were equal then, which they weren't) that year. How would I implement the adjustment? I just can't seem to make the math work myself.
   129. sunnyday2 Posted: June 10, 2006 at 01:36 AM (#2058496)
Say "competition adjustment." (Wink wink nudge nudge say no more say no more)
   130. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: June 10, 2006 at 03:14 PM (#2059074)
Here are the various approaches that occur to me.

1. Straight multiplier. 62 pitching runs *.85 = 53 pitching runs.
2. Straight replacement level. 137 replacement runs *.85 = 116 pitching runs, making Plank 116-75 = 41 pitching runs.
3. Replacement level jiggered to look like a multiplier. If we want Plank to be 53 pitching runs (as if it were a multiplier), then his replacement must have allowed 75 + 53 = 128 runs, which makes a replacement RA of 4.31. Use 4.31 as replacement RA for the whole league.
4. Combination of straight multiplier and straight replacement. Repeat step 2 to get Plank's 41 runs over the higher replacement level, then multiply THAT by .85, making him just 35 runs above replacement (ouch!).
5. Combination of straight multiplier and jiggered replacement. Repeat step 3 to get 53 runs above replacement, then multiply by .85, for 45 runs above replacement.
6. Half-and-half. We want Plank to have the same 53 pitching runs he'd have using a straight multiplier, but with half the adjustment coming from changing the replacement level. Thus we use a 4.46 RA replacement level, which is 132 runs in Plank's innings, and multiply that by .925, giving us 53 runs above replacement. Use 4.46 and .925 across the league.

It seems to me the best thing to do would be to actually look at the data used to derive the league difficulty factors. For example, in Plank's case, I have him at 7.3 wins above replacement in 1911, 6.4 in 1912, 6.4 in 1913, 3.2 in 1914, a Federal League spike to 8.2 in 1915, and back to 5.2 in 1916. In this one case, that seems to me to be decent circumstantial evidence that Plank was probably a 5.6 win pitcher or so in 1915, or 46 runs above replacement, which would anecdotally suggest that Option 5 is the way to go.
   131. Paul Wendt Posted: June 10, 2006 at 07:32 PM (#2059310)
If a guy was a steady 4 WARP in a weak league, he may deserve to lose half his value. That 4 wasn't right in your mind anyway, that's why you are adjusting it. So don't get married to it, or worry if you have to change it significantly.

Yes.

1. Straight multiplier. 62 pitching runs *.85 = 53 pitching runs.

No. Like Joe said. This would mean no adjustment for someone at league average. Your own misgivings show that leagues do not differ in this way. If you arrived at 85% by asking what is the best uniform multiplier for runs above league average then you took the wrong road and it would be a miracle if you arrived at the right place.
   132. Paul Wendt Posted: June 10, 2006 at 08:00 PM (#2059333)
Phillybooster 10 months ago:
Has anyone studied (or is anyone even aware of) the California Winter League? I had never heard of it, but it was an integrated league that had lots of star players appearing in their respective off seasons. The individual teams weren't integrated, but there was always at least one or two black team playing against a group of three or more white teams.

One of William F. McNeil's books features the California Winter League. I don't know it but there is a copy in a nearby used book store.

Mongo #107:
I don't know what relationships you are measuring --something about league, year, OPS+, age at the player level.
   133. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: June 10, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2059338)
I clearly know that a straight multiplier isn't the way to go, but it's not true that there would be no adjustment for a league average player. A league average pitcher would be around 22 runs above replacement in the 1915 FL, so with a straight multiplier that would drop to about 19.
   134. Brent Posted: January 29, 2007 at 04:42 AM (#2287879)
With Pete Browning and Charley Jones receiving strong support in recent HoM elections, now seems like a good time to revisit the issue of the quality of the American Association. Like many voters, I joined the project after the main discussion of this issue (even though I’ve been voting since the 1931 election). Although I was aware of the general conclusions on AA league quality, for me the issue was tangled up with other, more controversial issues (such as the WARP “for all time” adjustments), and I didn’t have a good sense of the quality of the evidence supporting the conclusions.

Past studies (such as a 1980 Dick Cramer study and BP’s “for all time” adjustments used for WARP2 and WARP3) have attempted to measure both (a) the relative quality of the leagues at a point in time, and (b) the changes in overall quality over the years. These studies have been controversial, especially with regards to the second issue—many people (including me) are skeptical that these studies can appropriately measure changes in quality of play over time. However, it seems to me that comparing quality of two leagues at a point in time should be simpler and less controversial than measuring the changes over time (provided, of course, that there was an adequate number of players moving between leagues). So I decided to undertake a study comparing batting performance of players who switched between the AA and the NL, covering the period when Browning played in the AA (1882-89). As my measure of performance, I’ll stick with simple conversion factors for the components of plain vanilla OPS+, OBP+ and SLG+, thereby hopefully avoiding the uberstat wars.

My comparison sets consist of players with at least 300 PA in the AA for year X and at least 300 PA in the NL during the period X – 3 to X + 3. For example, for 1882 I looked at all players with at least 300 PA in the 1882 AA and at least 300 PA in the NL during 1879-85. I found six players who met the criteria. (Fortunately, for the other years there were 16 to 30 such players.) For each player, I calculated his OBP+ and SLG+ for both leagues. I then averaged across players by taking the geometric mean (which has nice mathematical properties for averages of ratios). If the leagues were of equal quality, I’d expect the ratio of the players’ mean OBP+ and SLG+ in the two leagues to be about 1. On the other hand, if the AA has lower quality, I’d expect the performance to go up on average when a player moves from the NL to the AA and to decline when he moves the other direction. Thus, the ratios of mean OBP+ and SLG+ will be my estimates of the conversion factors.

I made two exceptions to the rules outlined in the last paragraph. For 1890, the Players’ League is generally considered the premier league in terms of quality, so I substituted the PL for the NL for that year. Also, for the 1889 AA, I set the comparison period as 1886-91 rather than ending with 1892, since the NL’s quality of play is generally considered to have risen in 1892 with the contraction to one major league. Other than these two exceptions, I am ignoring other ups and downs in the quality of NL play and simply treating the NL as the benchmark against which the AA is to be compared.

Probably the most important caveat for this study is that it doesn’t adjust for player age. Fortunately, a lot of players moved back and forth between the AA and the NL, and they included young, mid-career, and older players. Nevertheless, when you see a pickup in performance that’s bigger than other players in the group, chances are it’s a young player, and when you see an unusually large decline, more often than not it’s an aging veteran. I’m not going to try to adjust for age (I’ve spent way too much time on this study as it is), but I’m listing all of the comparisons in case one of you wants to do more analysis with this dataset. I’ll also include a few historical notes about the AA, mostly drawn from Total Ballclubs.

1882.
The AA’s first season, it consisted of six teams (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis), at least four of which had existed earlier as independent teams playing outside any formal league. Our comparison set suggests that for the first season, relatively little recruiting was done from NL ranks, as only six position players had significant, recent NL experience. All six hit better in the AA than in the NL, most of them hitting much better. Their differences in batting performance between the two leagues are consistent with the modern difference between the majors and the Double-A level. The AA that first season clearly should not be regarded as playing at a major-league level.

Player            OBP+        SLG+
                
NL    AA    NL    AA
Hick Carpenter  81   127    80   128
Chick Fulmer    97   107    93   105
Mike Mansell    84   108    83   139
John Peters     86   110    80   103
Pop Snyder      87   110    88   107
Oscar Walker   103    94   107   121

Geometric mean   89.2 108.8  88.1 116.5
Ratio              82.0
%       75.6
   135. Brent Posted: January 29, 2007 at 04:43 AM (#2287880)
AA quality (part 2)

1883.
The AA expanded to eight teams (adding an existing independent team from New York and a new franchise in Columbus). They aggressively recruited players until the signing of the Tripartite Agreement with the NL and the Northwestern League, in which the leagues agreed to respect each others contracts and allowed each team to reserve eleven players. The data suggest that the AA’s quality of play was significantly improved compared to 1882, but remained lower, relative to the NL of that era, than the quality of a modern Triple-A league relative to the majors.

Player                 OBP+        SLG+
                     
NL    AA    NL    AA
George Bradley       87    86    88    86
Hick Carpenter       81   112    83   109
Fred Corey           83    97    91    96
Sam Crane            73    90    66    83
George Creamer       82   104    79    97
Buttercup Dickerson 100   101   108    90
Dude Esterbrook      91    96    97    90
Joe Gerhardt         76   106    73   108
Jackie Hayes         94   104   110   115
Bill Holbert         84    82    69    80
Lon Knight           95    97    87   101
Mike Moynahan       110   121   100   118
Hugh Nicol           79   108    72    97
John O
'Rourke       118   108   132   111
John Richmond        95   118    87   105
Chief Roseman        88    93   102    91
Pop Smith            74   108    75   125
Harry Stovey        106   117   123   145

Geometric mean       89.0 102.1  89.5 101.5
Ratio                  87.2%       88.2% 


1884.
In response to the organization of the rival Union Association, the AA expanded to 12 teams, adding franchises in Brooklyn, Indianapolis, Toledo, and Washington. Predictably, the quality of play slipped a little relative to the contemporary NL; it remained between what would now be considered a double-A and triple A level.

Player             OBP+        SLG+
                 
NL    AA    NL    AA
Sam Barkley      90   119    75   131
Tom Brown        81   115    73   117
Hick Carpenter   74    94    79    95
John Cassidy     84   101    79    95
Fred Corey       86   105    96   124
George Creamer   85    79    83    70
Dude Esterbrook  91   123    99   130
Joe Gerhardt     76    91    72    85
Sadie Houck      91   110    95   116
Lon Knight       96    99    85   106
Bill Kuehne     100    93   112   119
Fred Lewis      102   127    93   126
Doggie Miller    97    90    85    79
Hugh Nicol       79   105    72    93
Tom Poorman      96    88   103    86
Joe Quest        87    88    79    80
Chief Roseman    88   121   102   125
Pop Smith        81   106    67   113
Harry Stovey    107   127   117   159
Dasher Troy      89   107    81   114
Tom York        114   111   113    95

Geometric mean   89.6 103.8  87.4 105.4
Ratio              86.4
%       83.0


1885.
With the threat from the UA past, the AA contracted back to eight teams, dropping Columbus and the new teams that had been added in 1884, except for Brooklyn. The data indicate that the AA’s quality of play picked up. In 1885 the AA stood, relative to the contemporary NL, about where modern triple-A leagues stand relative to the majors.

Player             OBP+        SLG+
                 
NL    AA    NL    AA
Sam Barkley      90   103    75   111
Tom Brown        92   124    92   127
Doc Bushong      76    98    62   100
John Coleman    100   114    93   120
Frank Hankinson  91    87    89    88
Pete Hotaling    99   117    95    93
Sadie Houck      87    94    88    95
Bill Kuehne      94    87   107   101
Bill McClellan  102   106    93   102
Mike Muldoon     91    99    94   102
Bill Phillips    97   122   110   124
Blondie Purcell 103   111    98   109
Chief Roseman    88   117   102   125
Pop Smith        87    99    79    99
Harry Stovey    116   122   121   141
Art Whitney      92    90    73    84

Geometric mean   93.6 104.9  90.7 106.4
Ratio              89.2
%       85.3
   136. Brent Posted: January 29, 2007 at 04:43 AM (#2287883)
AA quality (part 3)

1886.
There were no changes in teams, but the data show a continued improvement in batting quality relative to the NL. This is the first season for which the AA’s quality of play was clearly “major league,” in the sense that the gap between the AA and the contemporary NL was smaller than the gap between a modern triple-A league and the majors. It appears that at this point the improvements were primarily coming from recruiting and developing young players, since there was not a significant flow of quality players from the NL to the AA.

Player             OBP+        SLG+
                 
NL    AA    NL    AA
Sam Barkley      90   112    75   113
Tom Brown        94   118    88   111
Doc Bushong      84    89    65    75
Fred Carroll    127   117   124   129
John Coleman    100    98    93   108
Joe Farrell      87    78    84    82
Frank Hankinson  91   101    89    93
Bill Kuehne      89    77   106    96
Fred Lewis      106   117    98   126
Jack Manning    111    95   108    88
Bill McLellan   102   104    93   105
Doggie Miller   102   111   100    99
Mike Muldoon     88    88    87    85
Bill Phillips    97   101   109   112
Otto Schomberg  117   135   115   109
Milt Scott       94    78    97    75
Pop Smith        89    93    84    94
Art Whitney      93   102    75    86

Geometric mean   97.3  99.5  92.6  98.0
Ratio              97.7
%       94.4


1887.
The Pittsburgh franchise moved from the AA to the NL—they had finished second in the AA in 1886 and would finish sixth in the NL in 1887—and was replaced by a new team in Cleveland. The data indicate that the AA’s quality of play reached its apex, only slightly lower than the NL.

Player              OBP+        SLG+
                  
NL    AA    NL    AA
Lou Bierbauer     95    84   108    90
Jack Boyle        95    66    80    56
Pete Browning    132   134   137   143
Charlie Comiskey  76   105    73   105
Joe Gerhardt      72    83    65    75
Mike Griffin     104   112   103   116
Frank Harkinson   94    94    93   101
Pete Hotaling     99   110    95   114
Henry Larkin     120   110   128   111
Bill McClellan   106   105    93    88
Ed McKean        110   105   113   100
Tip O
'Neill      103   137   102   175
Dave Orr         112   121   133   139
Bill Phillips    103    96   114   101
Tom Poorman       96    92   103   101
Blondie Purcell  102    95    91    94
Paul Radford     105   119    88    92
Yank Robinson    125   124    75   102
Harry Stovey     110   106   117   111
Cub Stricker      93    98    81    87

Geometric mean   101.6 103.4  97.7 102.3
Ratio               98.3%       95.5% 


1888.
The New York AA franchise, which had been cannibalized by the NL New York Giants when both teams were owned by the same ownership group, folded and sold its remaining good players to Brooklyn; the league awarded the franchise to weak team in Kansas City. The data indicate that AA quality of play slipped this year.

Player              OBP+        SLG+
                  
NL    AA    NL    AA
Sam Barkley       90    84    75    93
Lou Bierbauer     87   100    94   105
Pete Browning    126   127   129   136
Oyster Burns     107   115   118   136
Hub Collins      110   124   101   132
Charlie Comiskey  76    93    73   106
Jay Faatz         82   104    77    92
Jack Farrell      85    86    86    96
Dave Foutz        94   104    99   116
Mike Griffin     103   111   107   106
Henry Larkin     120   108   128   126
Arlie Latham     103   103    98    97
Ed McKean        107   114   108   134
Bid McPhee       103   101   104   102
Darby O
'Brien    100   108   104   113
Tip O'
Neill      103   124   102   132
Dave Orr         112   109   133   120
George Pinkney   110   119    99   109
Tom Poorman       96    98   103    98
Paul Radford     108   101    91    88
John Reilly       80   118    98   152
Yank Robinson    125   127    75    93
Billy Shindle     95    84   100    86
Germany Smith     77    84    73    92
Harry Stovey     108   121   126   143
Cub Stricker      93   105    81    91
Tommy Tucker     100   111    88   126

Geometric mean    99.1 106.0  97.4 110.3
Ratio               93.5
%       88.3


1889.
The Cleveland team left the AA and joined the NL (finishing in sixth place in both leagues). It was replaced by a new franchise in Columbus (which also finished sixth). The data show the quality of play rebounding slightly—the AA continued to be slightly below the contemporary NL, but still well above the triple-A level we now think of as minor league quality.

Player              OBP+        SLG+
                  
NL    AA    NL    AA
Lou Bierbauer     87   102    94   115
Jack Boyle        95    84    80    87
Pete Browning    126    97   129   101
Oyster Burns     107   115   118   116
Hub Collins      110   107   101    88
Charlie Comiskey  76    87    73   100
Ed Daily          84    91    94    95
Dave Foust        94   104    99   102
Mike Griffin     103   113   107   107
Billy Hamilton   134   119   118   106
Bug Holliday     112   108   133   135
Joe Hornung       91    79    91    80
Spud Johnson      94   107    86   104
Henry Larkin     120   126   128   118
Arlie Latham     103    89    98    80
Herman Long      108   103   109    99
Lefty Marr        96   122    96   117
Bid McPhee       103   101   104   100
Darby O
'Brien    100   113   104   115
Tip O'
Neill      103   117   102   125
Dave Orr         112   102   133   126
George Pinkney   110    96    99    93
John Reilly       80    99    98   112
Yank Robinson    125   106    75    76
Dan Shannon       74    93    81   104
Billy Shindle     95   108   100   108
Germany Smith     77    87    73    86
Harry Stovey     108   116   126   145
Tommy Tucker     100   132    88   132
Joe Visner       106   102   105   123

Geometric mean   100.1 103.4 100.0 105.2
Ratio               96.8
%       95.1


<Summary</b>
The AA began life in 1882 with quality of play equivalent to a double-A minor league. The league’s quality gradually increased, but not until 1886 did it reach “major league” levels (that is, demonstrably better than a modern triple-A league). Its quality peaked in 1887 and remained a little below the NL throughout 1886-89.

Year          OBP+        SLG+
1882           82.0%       75.6%
1883           87.2%       88.2%
1884           86.4%       83.0%
1885           89.2%       85.3%
1886           97.7%       94.4%
1887           98.3%       95.5%
1888           93.5%       88.3%
1889           96.8%       95.1
   137. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 29, 2007 at 02:23 PM (#2288057)
Quick Q on your methodology: how can you include, for example, Tip O'Neill in your set of players used to determine translations, since he never played in the NL from 1884-1889? Are you just using his 1890 PL and 1892 NL seasons to determine his "true" talent level relative to the NL and comparing those to his AA performance? Isn't it possible that he actually just peaked in 1887, and was a much worse player by 1890 and 92?
   138. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 29, 2007 at 05:28 PM (#2288171)
Sorry, I should have read your description of your approach before posting, which answers the question. Nonetheless, I think maybe the cost of a smaller sample size might be worth the benefit of removing guys like O'Neill from your calculation.
   139. Chris Cobb Posted: January 29, 2007 at 06:11 PM (#2288226)
Brent, this is excellent work! Thank you!

I disagree with Dan on removing any players from the study: a larger sample, and a full representation of the acutal data, is preferable. When I was doing the NeL conversions, I found that adjusting for aging patterns did make a difference of a three percentage points in the outcome, but that was with a much smaller data set. I am pretty confident, therefore, that yours would not change more than 2 or 3 percent, unless there are years in which, by chance, the players are all old or all young.

I'll be curious to see what Pete Browning's and Charlie Jones's OPS+ scores look like with these modifiers applied.
   140. jimd Posted: January 29, 2007 at 06:47 PM (#2288274)
Nice job, Brent. Your study corroborates the less precise discounts that were used here in the early elections when evaluating Stovey, et al. Except for 1885, which appears to be somewhat weaker than was earlier assumed (more like 1888 than 1883).
   141. TomH Posted: January 29, 2007 at 07:50 PM (#2288364)
For comparison, here are the Davenport translation differences in EqA between Browning (AA) and Brouthers (NL) from 1882 to 1889. 20 pts in EqA is about 30 pts in OPS (Tom's rough estimator).

yr PBrow DBrou
1882 -75 -18
1883 -50 -18
1884 -51 -29
1885 -40 -25
1886 -32 -24
1887 -29 -16
1888 -23 -17
1889 -21 -12

avg.. -40 -20 shows Browning would lose about 30 pts of OPS, relative to legue/park avgs of course, (15 each of OBA and SLG) if he had been in the NL.
   142. David Concepcion de la Desviacion Estandar (Dan R) Posted: January 29, 2007 at 08:13 PM (#2288384)
My argument, put more explicitly, is that since the sample size isn't big enough for aging differences to just cancel each other out, the players in the sample should be carefully selected to make sure they are representative of the gap between leagues we are trying to measure. I don't think the fact that Tip O'Neill had a 106 OPS+ in the 1890 Player's League says anything about what OPS+ he would have generated had he played in the 1887 NL instead of the 1887 AA. Nonetheless, Brent, your conclusions do seem to line up with the consensus view on what the appropriate discount is.
   143. Paul Wendt Posted: January 30, 2007 at 01:17 AM (#2288655)
The AA’s first season, it consisted of six teams (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis), at least four of which had existed earlier as independent teams playing outside any formal league.

Cin, Lou, StL and ??
From memory [I won't keep saying that. I am not checking anything.] I think Philadelphia was a new Athletics club.

<i>Our comparison set suggests that for the first season, relatively little recruiting was done from NL ranks, as only six position players had significant, recent NL experience


At the last minute (how late?) the AA overturned its plan to ignore the NL blacklist.

--
What is the "modern AAA" and "modern AA" level?

--
A big question (elephant), why do the results differ so greatly from Cramer's? Because OPS+ differs so greatly from his BWA? Hard to believe and a concern if true.

Is Cramer's plot (average Batter Win Average) available by internet? What about his table (separate corrections for Batting and Slugging averages)?

I spoke to Dick Cramer at SABR34 about continuing interest in his classic study. He planned to redo it taking advantage of modern computing speed (25 years of quickening!). By email a year or two ago, I learned that the old findings held up remarkably well. I wonder whether he published.

Cramer used all the data. Can anyone explain why using it all, weighted by playing time, would yield findings systematically different from using only the players with 300 AA plate appearances in one season?

--
Somewhere here I posted Pete Palmer's findings for UA1884 and FL1914-1915. He finds those leagues remarkably close to the contemporary NL, remarkable if we accept Brent's estimates and the conventional wisdom about rival leagues. Eg, Palmer finds UA1884 relatively stronger than Brent finds AA1882. Cramer finds the former as far below AA1882 as that league below the NL.

. . . Actually, Brent may be finding differences much greater than anyone has found for any league. For 1885, the first season when it is generally agreed that the two leagues were similar in quality:

1885 AA:NL quality ratios estimated by Brent Lastname 
Player             OBP+        SLG+
Ratio              89.2%       85.3%

Does this means OPS+ "ratio" ~75? (90, 85-->75)
(Evidently, my brain doesn't working today.)
That is about double Palmer's finding for UA1884, universally considered the relative-weakest rival major league.
   144. Paul Wendt Posted: January 30, 2007 at 01:20 AM (#2288658)
Estimating League Quality - Part 1 (the concept)

I may have posted findings by Palmer or someone else, or contributed relevant discussion, to Part 2 or Part N.
   145. Paul Wendt Posted: January 30, 2007 at 01:47 AM (#2288675)
"Part 1 (the concept)" was a good idea, I'm sure, but the group didn't come close to maintaining the discipline necessary for that. So I am copying here in this "part" (because it is now active) what I posted to "Ron Guidry" a day or two ago.
[hr]
:: Dick Cramer's classic study is explicitly limited to batting skill.

: True, Paul, but there were others who used Cramer's concept for fielding and pitching and came up with a similar pattern.

True. But
(a) [incomprehensible. Similar pattern or similar magnitude? If similar magnitude then Pierce, Bunning, and Wynn are silly selections --I guess.]

(b) Others have not generally replicated Cramer's finding regarding batting skill. For the 1950s-60s, maybe so (and maybe that is what you mean [John Murphy]), but here is Cramer's finding.

batting skill relative to contemporary NL

American League 1901-1980
AL>NL: 1973-1980 (dh
AL=NL: never
AL<NL: 1902, 1907, 1917, 1924-1925 (plotted gap less than two quanta, I think)
AL<<NL: 01 03 05-06 08-11 16 18-23
AL<<<NL: 04, 12-15, 26-72 (that's right, 1926 to 1972)

AL<<<NL roughly comparable to AA<<<NL1884: 1901 and 1942-1968!
(1884 is the best of the five clearly inferior AA league-seasons, comparable to Federal League inferiority)

American Association 1882-1891
AA>NL: 1886
AA<<NL: 85, 87-89

Here is another qualitative representation of the gap according to Cramer, omitting the designated hitter seasons 1973-1980.

batting skill relative to contemporary NL [##] = number of MLB league-seasons in this class
+2: [01] PL 90
+1: [01] AA 86
==: none
-1: [04] AL 02 07 24-25
-2: [19] AA 85 87-89 ; AL 01 03 05-06 08-11 16 18-23
-3: [25] AL 04 12-15 26-41 69-72
really big gap:
-4: [31] AA 83-84 ; FL 15 ; AL 01 42-68

-5: [04] AA 82 90-91 ; FL 14
off the map:
-9: [01] UA 84

Now reread line "-4".

If the true difference in average pitching skill is half so great as that, then Pierce, Bunning and Wynn may be the HOM's biggest mistakes.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the size of the Cramer-measured difference casts doubt on the method. Where others broadly using the same method estimate a notably smaller gap, we really need to know why.
   146. Brent Posted: January 30, 2007 at 04:58 AM (#2288803)
Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Dan Rosenheck wrote:

since the sample size isn't big enough for aging differences to just cancel each other out, the players in the sample should be carefully selected to make sure they are representative of the gap between leagues we are trying to measure. I don't think the fact that Tip O'Neill had a 106 OPS+ in the 1890 Player's League says anything about what OPS+ he would have generated had he played in the 1887 NL instead of the 1887 AA.

While I concur that player aging can be a problem, I'll note that the problem goes both directions. Tip O'Neill may have been near the end of the line in the 1890 PL, but Billy Hamilton and Herman Long were just getting started in the 1889 AA. All that says is that increases and decreases in player performances are influenced by other factors as well as league quality. I also agree with Chris Cobb's comment that it is unwise to cut the sample size by removing selected players. I can think of a couple of approaches that seem preferable. (a) I could set up a control group of players who remained in the NL, attempting to match the players who switched leagues in age and approximate baseball ability. Since I don't have computer software set up to select control groups, and such a comparison would take many hours, I don't think I'll try this approach. (b) I could run a multiple regression analysis that controls for player ages. I won't have time to try this approach in the next week or so, either, but at least it seems do-able. Either approach would adjust for the effects of aging without throwing out data from the sample.

Chris Cobb wrote:

I'll be curious to see what Pete Browning's and Charlie Jones's OPS+ scores look like with these modifiers applied.

For future reference, the modified (or National League-equivalent) OPS+ scores are posted on the Browning and Jones threads.

Jimd noted a difference for 1885 from "the less precise discounts that were used here in the early elections." What were those discounts? BP's WARP2/3? (I wasn't around for the early elections, and as you know, many of the threads for pre-1925 elections were gutted when the HoM switched Web sites.)

Paul Wendt asked:

What is the "modern AAA" and "modern AA" level?

Working from memory, I believe that the modern AAA level is about 90-92% for OBP and about 86-88% for SLG. For AA level, I think we're talking about 82-84% for OBP, and about 75-77% for SLG. If someone can find a source that provides different conversion factors, please correct me.

A big question (elephant), why do the results differ so greatly from Cramer's?

It's been a number of years since I looked at Cramer's study, so I really can't answer. My guess is that a big part of the difference is that I am treating the NL as if it were constant quality, whereas his results allowed quality of both leagues to vary. For example, to compare the 1884 AA with the NL, I'm really looking at comparisons of 1884 AA to 1882 NL or 1884 AA to 1887 NL. Because few, if any, players switched leagues during the season, I don't have any comparisons of 1884 AA directly with 1884 NL. In order to compare the leagues for the same season, you really have to link two (or more) comparisons--for example, the 1884 AA with the 1882 NL, and the 1882 NL with the 1884 NL. I'm only making the first of those comparisons, so that could be a source of our differences.

The 1884 NL is an interesting case, because its quality probably dropped due to competition from the UA. The BP data cited by TomH (# 141) indeed show a decline in NL quality for 1884. What I don't understand, however, is why the BP NL data don't rebound more in 1885. Didn't most of the quality players who'd defected to the UA return to the NL in 1885?

I've tried to fully document my own study and make it as transparent as possible. Other than that, I can't pretend to explain differences from the Cramer, Palmer, or BP studies.
   147. Paul Wendt Posted: January 30, 2007 at 06:15 PM (#2289082)
By quality I mean relative quality of contemporary leagues throughout. Same for related terms such as gap, inferior, etc.

Brent finds huge gaps in league batting quality, huge in context of what others* have estimated, or conventional wisdom. (*unless Except Cramer on the 1940s-60s, who finds a persistent huge gap.) AA1883 according to Brent is comparable to UA1884 according to Palmer (OPS+ ~75% of contemporary NL). AA inferiority in 1882 and 1884 (and presumably 1890-1891) is notably greater than UA inferiority according to Palmer. Only in its best years, according to Brent's estimate, the AA was about as good as the Federal League according to Palmer.

I don't know what's wrong but I can't believe it any more than I can believe Cramer on the American League inferiority of 1942-1968 --comparable to AA1883-84 and FL1915, stronger than only five leagues in major league history.
   148. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 30, 2007 at 06:19 PM (#2289089)
What is the "modern AAA" and "modern AA" level?

Working from memory, I believe that the modern AAA level is about 90-92% for OBP and about 86-88% for SLG. For AA level, I think we're talking about 82-84% for OBP, and about 75-77% for SLG. If someone can find a source that provides different conversion factors, please correct me.


Unfortuantely I'm at work, because I did a little figuring on this a couple weeks ago. There's a couple different points of view, the BP POV and the BJ POV.

In the 1985 Abstract, in the introductory essay, James said that the QoP discount for AAA was 18%, which is assessed to the run environment. He offered nothing for any other classifications or for international play.

So I went hunting on BP to find out what Clay Davenport's figures say, and to estimate how James' MLE system might compare. A clutch of articles helped me figure it out.

-In the article "Japanese Baseball" he writes:
The Triple-A/majors multiplier is .860; if the transitive property holds, then Japanese EqA is worth about .948 of a major-league EqA, which conveniently enough is almost identical to what we got from major leaguers.

-From "Evaluating the Olypmians":
This is still using the Olympic average=.260 EQA rule. Given the difficulty level we worked out before, an average major-league team on this scale would have an EQA of .318. Stepping through the levels, an average Triple-A team should have produced at about a .289 EQA, a Double-A team would be .271, a high-A team would be .251, a low-A (South Atlantic, Midwest) would be .232, a short-season A team (New York-Penn, Northwest) would be .212, and a rookie league team (Appalachian, Pioneer) would be .201.

-From "Winter and Fall League Translations"
The 2001 AFL rates as being 5.3% easier than the International League, in terms of EqA. The IL, in turn, is rated at 13% below the AL (again, in EqA terms), making the net assessment of the AFL to be 18% below the AL.

and

Given that the Triple-A leagues rate between .850 and .870, and the Double-A leagues come in between .790-.800,...

-In "Julio Franco":
Unfortunately, for Mexican pride and Braves' fans hopes, the level of play in Mexico is a lot closer to the Midwest League than the Pacific Coast. That means Franco's .400 EqA should translate to about .270 or so in the National League.

-In "Translating Cuban Performance" Davenport says this:
The difficulty rating is the ratio between what a run is worth in this league and what it is worth in the major leagues. A player who produced 100 runs in Cuba, even after allowing for the offensive level of the league, would only be expected to produce 45.6 runs in the majors. The closest American league to that level of play is the New York-Penn League, which over the last four years has averaged a .436 rating.

OK, here’s what I get out of this. I plotted it all on a spread sheet, then used the one known value for James’ system to extrapolate the remainder.

clay   Bill
           eqa    runs
-----------------------
mlb        1.00   1.00
jpn        0.95   0.90
aaa        0.86   0.82
aa         0.80   0.76
hi a       0.75   0.71
lo a       0.70   0.67
short a    0.65   0.62
rookie     0.60   0.57 


It’s not perfect because EQA is not runs. And there are examples within the stuff above that may be contradictory. And perhaps a straight-line extrapolation ain’t quite the right way to go. But it at least offers a little bit of a sense of this all.

I like working in runs when possible, Chris Cobb has shown us information like this in terms of batting average and SLG, which present as higher for reasons to do with how runs are built. Anyway, the Mexican League of the 1940s probably falls somewhere between AA and AAA (so .8-.85 by EQA or .76-.82 by R), I’m still studying the matter and I hope to have a full report soon.

Meanwhile, the NgLs are likely falling in the realm of AAA, maybe a little lower than Japan. So .85-.95 by EQA or .82-.90 by runs.

By conventional wisdom, the PCL of the 1900-1950 era likely shows up as higher than the .86 or .82 shown above due to the fact that it wasn’t a farm league and held reserved contracts on lots of top-flight west coast talent during that time, as well as because it became a haven for top unaffiliated black players during the dissolution period of the NgLs. It also tended to have a very strong core of recently retired MLB players at any given moment. The IL and AA were probably similarly situated until around 1930ish.

No idea yet on the Candian Provincial League (also a haven for NgLers as well as for MxL jumpers), but I’ve got a little bit of info on those leagues that I’ll someday tease useful conversion figures from.

Anyway that’s just my take on it, I hope someone else has a better take on it all.
   149. Paul Wendt Posted: January 30, 2007 at 06:32 PM (#2289105)
See #55-90 on the preceding page.

In #55, DonF says "The Cramer spreadsheet is now uploaded" to the Yahoo egroup.

After I have my say on Cramer, Palmer, Davenport (mainly C & P) through #78,
Cblau #79 reports on Davenport and
jimd through #90 makes some good points about this family of studies.

I am not comfortable with EqA but I think the Davenport numbers reported by cblau #79 show a larger gap than my remarks imply, closer to Brent's estimates.

I have not assessed the contributions by Mongo and following (continuing on this page).

--
Reprinting Paul Wendt #72
Pete Palmer utilized only 1913-1916 data in his assessment of FL 1914-1915; only 1883-1885 data for UA 1884.

League-average performance, UA and FL.
Presuming contemporary NL=AA=1 and NL=AL=1.

UA 1884
OPS .76
ERA .875

FL 1914-1915
OPS .90
ERA .924

"League Performance" in the Glossary, Total Baseball 6 (1999).
   150. KJOK Posted: January 31, 2007 at 07:57 PM (#2289385)
           eqa    runs
-----------------------
mlb        1.00   1.00
jpn        0.95   0.90
aaa        0.86   0.82
aa         0.80   0.76
hi a       0.75   0.71
lo a       0.70   0.67
short a    0.65   0.62
rookie     0.60   0.57 


The factors I've used, 'averaged' from various studies, have been .92 for Japan and .88 for AAA for RUNS factors - so I'm thinking that .82 AAA factor looks too low, but I don't have the backup data to prove it...

However, there was an empirical study done I think in the 1990's that came up with these AAA to MLB conversions:

BATTERS

Name    AB    H    2B    3B    HR    R    RBI    BB    IB    K    SH    SF    SB    CS    HBP
    101%    83%    76%    53%    68%    80%    74%    89%    55%    125%    172%    88%    76%    79%    84%


PITCHERS

Name    G    GS    CG    IP    H    R    ER    HR    HB    BB    IB    K    W    L    SV
    127%    76%    22%    91%    110%    134%    139%    157%    119%    125%    198%    75%    63%    111%    21%
   151. KJOK Posted: January 31, 2007 at 08:01 PM (#2289388)
I'll try to line those up a little better:

BATTERS
AB    H    2B    3B    HR    R    RBI    BB    IB    K    SH    SF    SB    CS    HBP
101%    83%    76%    53%    68%    80%    74%    89%    55%    125%    172%    88%    76%    79%    84%



PITCHERS
G    GS    CG    IP    H    R    ER    HR    HB    BB    IB    K    W    L    SV
127%    76%    22%    91%    110%    134%    139%    157%    119%    125%    198%    75%    63%    111%    21%
   152. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 03, 2007 at 04:26 PM (#2291263)
KJOK - are you using tabs or spaces? If you use spaces, and have the first character of each line not a space, things should line up . . .
   153. Gary A Posted: February 07, 2007 at 09:29 PM (#2293663)
One interesting thing about Brent's study is that it shows that the gap between the National League and the second-best league in baseball was so great, particularly in 1882-84. When you see the AA's quality described as "double A," you might tend to assume that there must have been some triple A quality leagues around; but the AA was almost certainly the best of the rest.

The two best minor leagues in 1883 were the Northwestern League and the Interstate Association. As it happens, the 1883 champions of each league, respectively Toledo and Brooklyn, moved into the 1884 American Association. Toledo declined from 56-28, .667, in the IA to 46-58, .442, in the AA; Brooklyn declined from 44-28, .611, to 40-64, .385.

That’s without taking into account player movements (which I don’t know) which might have affected the quality of the teams—in 1884, of course, overall quality of all leagues was much diluted by the advent of the Union Association and the AA’s expansion. Still, the fact that the champions of the two best minor leagues both moved into the AA and ended up well under .500 gives us a very strong presumption that the AA was much better than the best minor leagues.

The '82 League Alliance might have been of "triple A" quality, but it had only two teams. One of them, the Metropolitans, moved into the AA in '83, finishing at .564. I don't know whether the other club, Atlantic, was organizationally the same as the '83 IA pennant winners or the '84 AA team. Looking quickly at '82 box scores, it would appear that only John Cassidy played on both teams.
   154. favre Posted: February 10, 2007 at 03:26 PM (#2295209)
If you have the time, could somebody run Bob Caruthers through these numbers? I'd be interested to see them, and it could make a difference to my pHoM.
   155. Paul Wendt Posted: February 11, 2007 at 01:03 AM (#2295394)
My comparison sets consist of players with at least 300 PA in the AA for year X and at least 300 PA in the NL during the period X – 3 to X + 3. For example, for 1882 I looked at all players with at least 300 PA in the 1882 AA and at least 300 PA in the NL during 1879-85.

This method is biased against the focal league-season, here AA 1882. Under optimal management, there are two general reasons why someone plays more in one season than in neighboring seasons (for Brent, a 7-year window): the population of players is worse and the player is better, more skilled or healthier. On average, a player is better in the seasons when he plays regularly. So Brent's criterion, regular play in the focal season, selects a subpopulation of players better in the focal season than in the window of neighboring seasons (on average).

AA history is so short and variable that we might not learn much from application of the same method with focus on the NL: eg, regular players in NL 1886 with at least 300 PA in AA 1883-1889.

We might learn more about the effect of this bias from NL and AL in the 1950s, aggregating over several seasons if necessary to get enough player movement. For example, look at players with 300 PA in NL 1953 and 300 in AL 1950-1956; also at players with 300 PA in AL 1953 and 300 in NL 1950-1956. Do the same with focus successively on 1954 to 1957. Aggregate over 1953-1957. The selection bias alone will generate estimates of relative league quality whose average is greater than 1, such as NL quality 1.10 and AL quality 0.95.

In the classic study, I understand, Cramer uses every player-league-season with 20 PA.
   156. Paul Wendt Posted: February 11, 2007 at 01:32 AM (#2295399)
Yes, every player-league-season with at least 20 PA, differently weighted in the comparisons with different league-seasons.

For example, a player-league-season with 100 PA gets weight 20 in the comparison of its league with one in which the same player achieved 20 PA; it gets weight 100 in the comparison of its league with one in which the same player achieved 500 PA. For each player, the weight is the lesser number of PA in the two leagues under comparison.
   157. Brent Posted: February 11, 2007 at 05:05 AM (#2295450)
This method is biased against the focal league-season, here AA 1882. Under optimal management, there are two general reasons why someone plays more in one season than in neighboring seasons (for Brent, a 7-year window): the population of players is worse and the player is better, more skilled or healthier. On average, a player is better in the seasons when he plays regularly. So Brent's criterion, regular play in the focal season, selects a subpopulation of players better in the focal season than in the window of neighboring seasons (on average).

I understand your point. One response would be to drop seasons from the NL sample that don't meet the 300 PA criterion. I'd lose a few players from the sample, but not too many, since most of these players had seasons meeting the 300 PA criterion in both leagues. I did look at 1882, which was my weakest sample -- only six players; if I required at least one NL season with 300 PA I'd lose two players (Mansell and Walker) and be down to four players.

Under Cramer's weighting scheme as you've described it, the part-time players would appear to be getting so little weight that I doubt that they'd have much effect on the results.
   158. Brent Posted: February 24, 2007 at 05:42 AM (#2302696)
I’d like to respond to Paul Wendt’s criticism in # 155. He correctly points out that my criteria for selecting the comparison set (300 PA in the AA focal season and at least 300 PA in the NL in the period X – 3 to X + 3) “selects a subpopulation of players better in the focal season than in the window of neighboring seasons.” The reason is that “a player is better in the seasons when he plays regularly.” My selection criteria require that he play regularly in the AA focal season but not in the NL neighboring seasons.

I’ve re-run the comparisons modifying the criteria so that I’m only using NL seasons with at least 300 PA in the period X – 3 to X + 3—that is, I’m dropping any NL seasons in the window when the player had fewer than 300 PA. This makes the selection criteria the same for the NL seasons in the window as for the AA focal seasons. In a few cases, a player had to be dropped from the comparison set altogether because he didn’t have any NL seasons in the window with at least 300 PA.

Year   Old results (# 136) New results (300 PA seasons)
Year   N  OBP+     SLG+         N  OBP+     SLG+
1882   6  82.0%    75.6%        4  79.3%    81.0
1883  18  87.2%    88.2%       13  88.7%    90.5%
1884  21  86.4%    83.0%       17  87.4%    84.2%
1885  16  89.2%    85.3%       15  90.9%    88.2%
1886  18  97.7%    94.4%       16  98.6%    96.5%
1887  20  98.3%    95.5%       20  98.6%    95.7%
1888  27  93.5%    88.3%       27  93.6%    88.7%
1889  30  96.8%    95.1%       30  97.0%    95.5


With only one exception, the AA conversion factors are larger, supporting Paul’s argument. The differences, however, are generally small. For Pete Browning, these new conversion factors raise his career NL equivalent OPS+ from 145 under the old version to 147 under the new one. Charley Jones goes from 133 to 136.

Thanks, Paul, for pointing out this problem.
   159. Paul Wendt Posted: February 25, 2007 at 01:25 AM (#2302912)
(The exception occurs in 1882 with a tiny number of players, first 6 now 4.)

Thanks for the rerun.
   160. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2007 at 08:45 PM (#2652733)
Reposting some earlier posts that either were chewed up or had eliminated Primates no longer with us during the latest changeover:

Posted 7:09 p.m., March 1, 2002 - Robert Dudek
I'd just like to add that Tangotiger has done excellent work over at Fanhome related to changes in quality of play over time (follow the link provided in the discussion section to Joe's post related to Japanese baseball).

I'm not so much interested in the changes in quality over a long period of time, as the changes in a relatively short period of time - especially leagues that existed at the same time.

I realise that adjusting for age, skillset etc is a more precise way of going about this sort of thing. When I present the results I've so far accumulated, I will discuss ways of interpreting the data.

19th century baseball is very different from what all of us grew up with - it was an evolving game and we have to respect that that makes it much more difficult to come to terms with issues like the quality of play.

Posted 11:45 a.m., March 14, 2002 - tangotiger (e-mail) (homepage)
No matter what method will be chosen, we will end up with problems. I personally would not choose R+RBI as they are heavily influenced by their teammates. Using LWTS or RC also have problems because they are dependent on the league context, and the impact of a single in 1993 mght not necessarily be the same as in 1903. The pool of players selected also has an influence.

As Robert said though, by looking at the changes over a SMALL set period of time, we might be able to learn something GENERALLY, without getting too specific.

Posted 9:32 a.m., April 15, 2002 - Robert Dudek
Tango...

1) Yes R and RBI and batting order dependent, but we are looking at a sample of players that includes most of the the players in the league, so its not likely that lineup bias will show up to a great degree.

2) LWTS is much less accurate for the 19th century, where the range of stats we have is narrower and the data itself less reliable. Perhaps baserunning was more important in 19th century baseball and we don't have the stats to adequately assess that.

Posted 8:27 p.m., September 16, 2002 - scruff (e-mail)
I'm reposting to reactivate this thread. Tom H asked about a thread to discuss the quality of league play, so here it is!

Posted 8:49 p.m., September 16, 2002 - Tom (e-mail)
I just located my Hidden Game of Baseball book which has a large quality of play study in it. I will post results later this week.

In the mean time, here is my general take:
It is obviously easier to dominate when league competition is poor. Many analysts seem not to understand this. I mean, if you just take raw stats, even people who should know better conclude that the best 5 pitchers of all time were Johnson/Grove/Young/Mathewson/Alexander. Now, these guys had great stats, but isn't it a bit odd to conclude that no pitcher after 1935 was better? We won't have this huge timeline problem since the biggest gap we face is 1870 to 1899, but still, things may have changed quickly in this time. If any of us see our top 15 ballot looking like 11 of the best players showed up in the first 15 years and only a few in the 1890s, I believe this should be a huge Caution sign that says someone has a "perspective" problem. The converse holds true; if I fail to list anybody from the NA or NL early years, then I discounted those stats way too much.

In general, little things like great seasons by teenagers in the early years or the ability of the same man to hit and pitch well (Spalding 1872) make me feel that there were likely twice as many good players in 1895 as in 1878.

Tom
   161. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2007 at 08:46 PM (#2652734)
Posted 2:11 p.m., September 18, 2002 - Charles Saeger (e-mail)
I've had some thoughts on league quality. I figure we need to look at several tools, not just one ultimate tool. As such, I propose the following tools:

* Five year floating comparisons. A player's performance can be compared with what he did up to five years before or after that year. This is the Cramer study, with a partial buffer against the effects of aging.

* Pitchers hitting, relative to the league. After 1975, this becomes less useful because pitchers bat less often in the minors due to the DH rule.

* Fielding percentage, adjusted for strikeouts (PO-SO)/(PO-SO+E). Less useful early in history since players did not start using gloves at the same time.

Posted 5:38 p.m., September 21, 2002 - TomH
In The Hidden Game of Baseball, Pete Palmer and Dallas Green present a chart comparing skill across the years 1876-19780. They did this by comparing every possible combination of batter year 1 - batter year 2, determining that a league was tougher if many of the hitters who moved into it performed more poorly. Also it is a good test for war years, since many hitters played much better in 1943-1945 than in others.
Here is what the data say (as best as I can read a small chart with few cross hatches) about the years 1876-1899. I present it first according to what Palmer calls Batting Win Average, which is linear weights in runs per PA. I think a good comparison to R/G would be .010 BWA = .4 R/G, and .010 BWA = .040 OWP.

1800s lg BWA
76 N -.013
77 N -.014
78 N -.005
79 N -.004
80 N .002
81 N .000 - I referenced all to 1881 NL
82 N .002 AA -.037
83 N -.003 AA -.027
84 N -.008 AA -.026 U -.065
85 N -.007 AA -.015
86 N -.009 AA -.008
87 N -.001 AA -.007
88 N -.002 AA -.009
89 N .004 AA -.005
90 N -.005 AA -.036 P .001
91 N .009 AA -.024
92 N .010
93 N .011
94 N .011
95 N .010
96 N .012
97 N .015
98 N .020
99 N .021
I can post the rest later; there's a big jump in 1900 when the league collapses to 8 teams, and then the AL begins in 1901 with an inferior league.

Posted 5:56 p.m., September 21, 2002 - Marc
Are there numbers for the NA? It's probably useless to speculate, but with a little extrapolation it kind of looks like the NA may have been about equal to the early and late AA?

On the other hand, that is not a fair comparison. The NA represented the best baseball, the state of the art, at the time. The AA did not. So I think it is two different things to discount Ross Barnes or Al Spalding versus discounting Stovey, Browning, Caruthers and Mullane. At their best Stovey, Browning, Caruthers and Mullane may never have been as good as their more or less exact contemporaries Brouthers, Connor, Ewing, Glasscock and Clarkson. But at their peak, there was nobody, no rough contemporaries anywhere near as good as Spalding, Barnes and Wright. To me, those are two quite different things that just happen to be described by the same concept--that is, "-.020."

Posted 5:06 p.m., September 23, 2002 - Charles Saeger (e-mail)
Actually, that study was done by Dick Cramer. It is an interesting study, but it has a fatal flaw -- it makes changes for player aging. The steady upcreep of player skill is probably real but nowhere near as great the Cramer study says it is. The other study outcomes probably are valid.

Posted 5:42 p.m., September 23, 2002 - Tom
Right on about Dick Cramer being the study author, and about it's flaw of improper adjustment over long periods of time. I don't think differences over 15-20 years shoud be too far off, however.

As to the quality of the early NA, given the incredible disparity among teams (a 71-8 record?!?) and individual player stats, I would subjectively put the league quality at a level so that the early stars (Barnes-Spalding-Wright) come out as no-better-than-even in terms of peak value with Brouthers-Glasscock-Nichols, and not fear to tread any further.

Tom
   162. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2007 at 08:46 PM (#2652735)
Posted 5:43 p.m., September 23, 2002 - Tom
Right on about Dick Cramer being the study author, and about it's flaw of improper adjustment over long periods of time. I don't think differences over 15-20 years shoud be too far off, however.

As to the quality of the early NA, given the incredible disparity among teams (a 71-8 record?!?) and individual player stats, I would subjectively put the league quality at a level so that the early stars (Barnes-Spalding-Wright) come out as no-better-than-even in terms of peak value with Brouthers-Glasscock-Nichols, and not fear to tread any further.

Tom

Posted 5:43 p.m., September 23, 2002 - Tom
Right on about Dick Cramer being the study author, and about it's flaw of improper adjustment over long periods of time. I don't think differences over 15-20 years shoud be too far off, however.

As to the quality of the early NA, given the incredible disparity among teams (a 71-8 record?!?) and individual player stats, I would subjectively put the league quality at a level so that the early stars (Barnes-Spalding-Wright) come out as no-better-than-even in terms of peak value with Brouthers-Glasscock-Nichols, and not fear to tread any further.

Tom

Posted 10:32 p.m., September 23, 2002 - Marc
Tom wrote:

>I would subjectively put the league quality at a level so that the early stars (Barnes-Spalding-Wright) come out as no-better-than-even in terms of peak value with Brouthers-Glasscock-Nichols....

That seems sensible. And in fact they would be more or less equal in terms of peak value, and then the short careers of the early stars would have to be factored in. So, no, none of the stars of the NA is probably the very best of the 19th century at his position, but in terms of peak value (in terms of their contributions toward winning pennants) they were "in the ballpark."

Posted 11:44 a.m., September 24, 2002 - Charles Saeger (e-mail)
I don't think the quality of the best players has advanced much over time, if at all. The quality of the tofu, marginal regulars, however, is where the increase has occurred.

It is interesting to note from the Cramer study that the rates of increase levelled off some in both 1920 and 1960, so we can assume the increase in quality of play has slowed. I do not think the baseball of today is all that much better than the baseball of 1960 -- were you to have an average team from 1960 play an average team from 2000 for 1000 games, my guess is the 2000 team would win 504 games on average, or something like that.

Posted 7:23 p.m., September 25, 2002 - jimd

As to the quality of the early NA, given the incredible disparity among teams (a 71-8 record?!?) and individual player stats, I would subjectively put the league quality at a level so that the early stars (Barnes-Spalding-Wright) come out as no-better-than-even in terms of peak value with Brouthers-Glasscock-Nichols, and not fear to tread any further.

As I've pointed out on the Pitchers thread, there should be little difference in quality between the NA of 1875 (when Boston went 71-8) and the NL of 1876. I'll let those with better numbers track the evolving quality of the earlier NA years and the succeeding ones of the NL. (scruff has published indications that he believes the NA of 1875 may have been tougher.)

However Harry Wright did it, there is no question that he determined who the best players of that era were and get most of them onto his team. He managed to keep them together and winning with apparently few ego problems (at least none that I've read about). This was good for them, but ultimately, this was bad for the NA (we think that there is no hope of competing against the Yankees now; they are nowhere near this dominant). A priori, they are the NA All-Star team; it will be interesting to see if anyone else can crack that lineup.

Posted 6:26 a.m., September 26, 2002 - TomH (e-mail)
Well, it's certainly possible that my intuition about quality of NA 74-75 versus NL 76-77 is wrong. I'd recommend doing a comparison of hitters' batting average in those years and comparing (relative to league) to see how those who played in both fared; probably enough regulars to get a good feel, but not so many it takes forever to check. If someone is not already attempting a study of this kind, I'll try to get to it by next week.

Tom
   163. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2007 at 08:47 PM (#2652737)
Posted 2:28 p.m., September 26, 2002 - scruff (e-mail)
Tom, I don't know that hitters batting avg relative to the league is a good stat to use. Batting avg is affected by many things.

I'd try to come up with something a little more comprehensive, like XR or RC or something. But then you run into problems with the formulas, etc.

This is what I'd do, if I had the time. Figure runs created for each player on each team, normalize the totals of the individuals to the team total runs, so they come out the same, i.e. the total for Chicago individuals in 1876 equals the actual number of runs the 1876 Cubs scored.

I know some people are opposed to this in theory, but the accuracy of RC and XR is questionable for that time period, and I think the adjustment is necessary, for the stabilizing effect.

Once you have the RC, figure RC per 27 outs (don't use 27, use the league average per game of batting outs recorded, will make a big difference back then, because of all the errors).

Finally, adjust that for the league. Now you've got a number you make meaningful comparisons with.

Alternatively, if you have the WS book (and the digital update from Stats), you can figure out WS per 162 team games or something like that (adjusting for the player's relative playing time), and use that as your comparison number. That would be a helluva lot easier, and the number is meaningful. But I don't think batting average is a good number to use. Just because fielding gets better (moving batting averages down), doesn't mean the quality of league play goes up. Take a league of Ozzie Smith's everywhere, even out in LF. Add Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson and Jeff Bagwell to the mix (removing two Ozzie LF's and an Ozzie 1B), and the league fielding will get worse, but you're going to have a higher quality league. WS is the kind of number that is perfect for a study like this, even though it is seriously flawed with the pitcher/fielder split on defense for this era.

If you use WS, you can include pitchers as well, or do two separate studies.

Just my .02 . . .

Posted 9:17 a.m., September 27, 2002 - TomH
Joe, your points are all well taken. My initial desire to use batting average was based available info - I have an old BB Encyclopedia that has BA and little else for the NA years. I don't have the WS book, but wholly support someone doing a WS/perG study using that method if they do.

Tom

Posted 9:17 a.m., September 27, 2002 - TomH
Joe, your points are all well taken. My initial desire to use batting average was based available info - I have an old BB Encyclopedia that has BA and little else for the NA years. I don't have the WS book, but wholly support someone doing a WS/perG study using that method if they do.

Tom

Posted 9:18 a.m., September 27, 2002 - TomH
Joe, your points are all well taken. My initial desire to use batting average was based available info - I have an old BB Encyclopedia that has BA and little else for the NA years. I don't have the WS book, but wholly support someone doing a WS/perG study using that method if they do.

Tom

Posted 10:58 a.m., September 27, 2002 - John Murphy
Tom, your points are all well taken. All three of them. :-)
   164. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 23, 2007 at 08:49 PM (#2652738)
All of the posts from March 1, 2002 to September 27, 2002 have reposted to this thread unabridged.
   165. Mongo Posted: December 26, 2007 at 02:50 AM (#2653460)
There is one obvious method of estimating league quality with regard to a given hitting metric, and that is looking at standard deviations (normalised to league average in that metric).

It is well-kmown that as league quality goes up, standard deviations tend to go down. This effect is not linear; the standard deviations in league-seasons known by other means to be probably of very low quality, like those of the early NA, are actually lower than in leagues known by other means to be probably of somewhat higher quality.

The problem was always that of correlating a given standard deviation (in a particular metric) with a specific league quality. One way to do this is for each league season, to compare the relative production by that metric by position. For example, in a particular league-season you might have shortstops protucing at 72% of the overall league average, with a standard deviation of 23%, while first basemen as a group produce at 118% of league average (164% of the value for shortstops), and a standard deviation of 14%. Repeat for each position to produce 8 data points (excluding pitchers) or 9 data points (AL with DH) per league-season, presumably tending to show that as hitting quality goes up, standard deviations go down. The reason being that all first basemen tend to be good hitters, while middle infielders are split between good and not-good hitters. This would be why the 1871 NA has such a low standard deviation -- they are almost all not-good, and as the league improves, good hitters make up an increasing percentage of all hitters, with the maximum standard deviation occurring at some intermediate good-hitter percentage.

Once we have these sets of data points for each league-season, they can be combined, with each league-season having its own multiplier, adjusted to reduce the S.D. of the entire collection at each quality level to a minimum. The result would be a best-fit of standard deviation to quality much more accurate than that derived from any single league-season.

Once we have that, we can apply that to each team-season (most likely by comparing the actual standard deviation of the league to the expected standard deviations generated by combining the positional standard deviations -- determined by comparing positional hitting production to league hitting production -- into one league standard deviation, for each increment of league quality, and selecting the closest match) to determine the most likely league quality. Given the rise-and-fall pattern of standard deviations versus league quality, a given league standard deviation would be produced at two league qualities, a high and a low quality. However, they can be easily distingushed for all league qualities other than those around the maximum standard deviation levels, since the low-quality league will have standard deviations rising with better-hitting positions, while the high-quality league will have the standard deviations falling with better-hitting positions.

Bill
   166. burniswright Posted: December 27, 2007 at 01:48 AM (#2654026)
I've now read this entire thread, despite the fact that a large proportion of the sabermetric calculations are beyond my competence. Once again, however, I applaud the tenacity and the energy with which you people have attacked a seemingly-intractable analytical problem. I would point out, in this regard, that the notion that excellent performance will stand out more obviously in a weak competitive environment than a strong one must be true in *every* endeavor, throughout the whole of human history. If you asked the man on the street about this, however, every single person would get it wrong--no matter what the topic--because it's essentially counter-intuitive. I don't know if that's a balm on the wound of how difficult this subject is to parse, but it's very encouraging that you're at least making a real effort to get it right.

Menawhile, I have a few comments to add.

First, although it's certainly true that league quality goes up as SDs go down (and vice versa), I have some questions about the extent this can be applied to individual players. It certainly seems to apply to the dominance of Wright/Barnes/Spalding in the NA, but does it apply as well to Ruth in 20/21? And if those two examples are operating on different principles, how do you tell the difference?

Second, my primary interest (and work) has been NeL history, and this is where help on this issue is desperately needed. The comparative strengths of the leagues has been discussed tangentially in the NeL second-tier pitchers thread, and with respect to some of the individual players (e.g. Willard Brown). But I don't see a NeL thread devoted specifically to this subject. I have missed threads on this site before, however, so if I'm mistaken about this, somebody please point me in the right direction.

I can tell you that comparative league strengths in NeL history is a very vexed subject among NeL historians. There has been, for the most part, a naive assumption that a Negro "major" league is a major league--and that a team in that league is by definition a major league team. That seems highly questionable to me.

Here's an obvious example. The Eastern Colored League from 1924 to 1927, I would argue, was the most competitive Negro League that ever existed, in that 7 of the 8 teams possessed absolutely solid rosters. Only the Washington/Wilmington Potomacs fell short of this standard. By contrast, there are very few instances in the entire NeL span of 1920 to 1948 in which there aren't a fair number of team/years that were awfully scruffy.

In this one instance at least, you really don't have to go to your spreadsheets to make this case--anecdotal history will do it for you. The fact that the eastern owners had more money, a lower expense ratio, and a more favorable geography and demographics is all the explanation that's needed. And the extent to which the star players that had previously been in the NNL were lured east by the raids of '23 and '24 is both extraordinary and fully-documented. Take a look at the roster of a pretty good NNL team like the 1922 Indianapolis ABCs, and you will see that, incredibly, every single member of the starting lineup went east in the following two years.

The assumption that the level of competition weakened from the 1920-22 NNL with 8 teams to the two-league structure through 1927 with 14-to-16 teams is actually very questionable. First of all, the new opportunities that presented themselves to black players who had previously led a hand-to-mouth semipro existence when the ECL came into being was a huge factor in populating the leagues.

And second (and this goes to the heart of the work that still needs to be done), the NNL of the first three years wasn't a major league from top to bottom. Four NNL teams dominated the entire decade of the 1920s: the CAGs and the Monarchs were obviously the best two, and the Detroit Stars and the St. Louis Stars/Giants gave them reasonable competition. Below those four, we have a sad list of teams that are best described as franchise wannabes that didn't have the money or the administrative acumen to stay the course.

The Chicago Giants, for example, were a perfectly awful team. If John Beckwith hadn't been on the roster, their W/L record would have been even more dismal than it actually was, which is painful to contemplate. A sampling of other teams of this type would include the Dayton Marcos, the Columbus Buckeyes, the Pittsburgh Keystones, the Cleveland Tate Stars, the Milwaukee Bears, and so on. One has to wonder at the financial judgment of anyone who thought black league baseball would have been viable in those days in towns like Dayton and Milwaukee.

More directly to the point, Gary A took me to task in the Bus Clarkson thread for claiming that the 1940 Indianapolis Crawfords were not a major league team. With all due respect to Gary's immense erudition in this area, they weren't even close. Here's their starting lineup: in the outfield, left to right, we have Nap Hairston, Jimmy Crutchfield and Tom Harding. The infield, third to first is Jimmy Reynolds, Curtis Henderson, James Wilson and a fat and superannuated Oscar Charleston. The catcher is Pee Wee Spencer, and the starting rotation is Spoon Carter, Slim Johnson, Zeke Keyes and John Wright.

Of those, Crutchfield, Carter and Wright were good ballplayers. If you haven't heard of the others, you can be excused--neither has anybody else.

So that's the issue: throughout the history of both the NNL and subsequently the NAL, these wannabe franchises appeared and disappeared again. The same is true in the non-league year of 1932, when the Negro Southern League and the star-crossed East-West League are accorded major league status in most reference books. In virtually every case, there are a first tier of dominant teams and then a disturbing number of teams that look like the '40 Craws, above.

I am not ignoring the reality that the same argument can be made for certain eras in 20th-century MLB as well. It's not just the '62 Mets, of course: it's also Connie Mack during the depressed cycles in his bipolar rhythm, the fact that the '54 Indians went 20-2 against the new and disorganized Orioles, some pathetic Braves and Phillies clubs, the weak competition the Yankees faced in any number of years, and so on. It's just that I think it's fair to say the problem is significantly more pronounced in the NeLs.

Then (and this may be the most important issue) the question of the competitive balance between the NNL and the NAL in the other two-league era (1937 through 1946, although most people count '47 and '48 as well) has *everything* to do with the evaluation of the stars from the NAL like Neil Robinson and Willard Brown. I lean heavily toward the notion that the NAL was meaningfully weaker, although this may well be a minority opinion. And in this case, it's not so easy to trace a substantial migration of players from west to east.

I would dearly love to turn you sabermetric geniuses loose on the problem of comparative strength in the various NeL leagues and years. Plus, you would be doing an immense service to those of us who are trying to sort these problems out without the help of this kind of sophisticated statistical methodology.
   167. Paul Wendt Posted: December 27, 2007 at 03:06 AM (#2654049)
One has to wonder at the financial judgment of anyone who thought black league baseball would have been viable in those days in towns like Dayton and Milwaukee.

Mainly-white cities, I suppose you mean. Was the black population in Cincinnati and Louisville also low?

It occurs to me that Dayton & Columbus are close. Milwaukee & Chicago are close. If travel was organized as in the white majors then the selections of Dayton and Milwaukee would have saved on the cost side relative to Louisville considered as a singleton. On that travel plan, a team from Columbus travels to Chicago and Milwaukee while one from Dayton travels to Milwaukee and Chicago, and then they go the other direction.


I would dearly love to turn you sabermetric geniuses loose on the problem of comparative strength in the various NeL leagues and years. Plus, you would be doing an immense service to those of us who are trying to sort these problems out without the help of this kind of sophisticated statistical methodology.

More than any other sabermetric question, if I may go out on a limb, this one benefits from bulk data. And great advances await the compilation and release of bulk data.


I lean heavily toward the notion that the NAL was meaningfully weaker, although this may well be a minority opinion.

How much weaker is meaningful? Is the National League meaningfully weaker today?

Granted that you have no reference measure for quantification, what do you say to this: Probably you have a sense of the range of differences in strength that others see between NL and AL since 1950. Consider the most extreme perceived differences. (perhaps in favor of AL in 2007 and NL in 1957?) During how many of the two-Negro-League seasons was the interleague difference in quality greater than that, in your opinion?
   168. burniswright Posted: December 27, 2007 at 08:53 AM (#2654152)
Paul Wendt: "It occurs to me that Dayton & Columbus are close. Milwaukee & Chicago are close. If travel was organized as in the white majors then the selections of Dayton and Milwaukee would have saved on the cost side..."

Some good geographical ruminations there, Paul. Nonetheless, the cost basis for running a league in the west was always about three times that of the east--there's just no way around that. In the ECL, the westernmost cities were D.C., Baltimore and Harrisburg (Homestead was not in the league)--so that makes a nicely tight-knit circle to the west of New York. Then, if you add in the reality that black populations were low in every western city except Chicago and Detroit, you've doubled the handicap for western teams.

Because budget constraints were so severe in blackball, travel costs always loomed large. In fact, the demise of the East-West League in 1932 is directly attributable to trying to cover too wide a chunk of territory.

"More than any other sabermetric question, if I may go out on a limb, this one benefits from bulk data. And great advances await the compilation and release of bulk data."

I agree, absolutely. Talk about your vexed issues; I can't describe (in a family publication) how frustrating this has been. The HOF had promised to publish the NLRAG research data in encyclopedia form within 12 to 18 months of having received it in December of 2004 (according to their own press release). Well, it's now 3 years and counting, and I'm not sure we're any closer to having that become a reality.

Those of us who have already pulled out all our hair over this issue invite the rest of you to join us in mounting a political campaign to get those 8000 pages of research materials into our hands. The HOF's position on this is that they "own" the research, since they paid for it, and accordingly they will do as they please. My own knowledge of copyright and intellectual property law tells me that their case is very thin indeed. They could claim copyright over the *formatting* of the data, but since everything that's been collected both happened (originally) in the public domain, and comes from what are now PD sources, the claim that they "own" Rap Dixon's batting average strikes me as nonsense.

Among the suggestions that have been made for moving this process along, we have:

1. Call Bud Selig, Bob Costas, ESPN, and anybody else you can think of, and ask them to put some pressure on Dale Petrosky to make the materials public. Although Dale didn't directly oversee the NLRAG project, the buck stops with him, and I can't help but think he could make it happen if he really wanted to.

2. If the issue is money, which it may in part be, since it's hard to imagine such an encyclopedia turning a profit, even at a publishing house like McFarland, then FIND some money: it really wouldn't take very much. For instance, as a first step, a small endowment from SABR would allow for online publication in .pdf format. Then we could worry about printed encyclopedias getting into reference libraries later. Another possibility: how about 1/1000th of some current black player's salary as an homage to the men who made his career possible. Is that a lot to ask?

I apologize for being in rant mode; I'll take a deep breath and get back to comparative league strengths now.

As to your last question, Paul, it's certainly the right question, but I don't want just to throw out some response off the top of my head. I'll certainly think about it, though, and in the meanwhile, I'll tell you what my process is. Like most people who have been doing this for awhile, I can read rosters and tell you a lot about the strength of the team on that basis. In some instances, it reveals more than the W/L statistics, given that there were some traveling teams, and the home-field advantage in blackball was often so outrageous.

One other general comment, specifically about my thoughts regarding the weak franchises. 10 or 15 years ago, I might have felt some reluctance to express those opinions, since it seemed like job one for us was to convince the blackball Neanderthals that black players didn't magically become MLB-worthy on that day in April of 1947 when Jackie stepped to the plate in Brooklyn.

I would hope we're well past that stage. I for one am bulletproof against the charge of denigrating the quality of blackball play--I've simply been working for the recognition of NeL history for too long. So my job now is to look at these kinds of issues with a dispassionate eye and try to get the evaluations right.

The template that the blackball naysayers put forth has always been the wrong one anyway. The idea that the NeLs consisted of a few stars and a bunch of other guys they picked up at local steel mills was never even remotely true. If you look at a roster like the 1924 Hilldales, it may be short by whiteball standards, but it's absolutely solid from top to bottom. In fact, the role of the subs was exactly the same in the NeLs as in MLB--it's just that there were only two of them instead of five.

No, the weakness of league blackball was the one I stated: the financially-troubled franchises that only lasted a year or two, and as a consequence, the somewhat compromised level of competition that sometimes appeared in the leagues at the bottom of the food chain. If every game in the western leagues had been between clubs of the quality of the CAGs and the Monarchs, you would have seen some very beautiful baseball.
   169. Paul Wendt Posted: December 27, 2007 at 04:14 PM (#2654259)
When NIH and the Pentagon fund research teams led by professors at Harvard and MIT, the universities are administrators. Their roles and their benefits aren't trivial but they can't do whatever they want with the fruit and publications or presentations identify NIH and the Pentagon as sponsors.

Is it possible that we'll need to wait five years and travel to Cooperstown to use a database? I think so. It does seems likely to me that the buck stops in Cooperstown. MLB is a beginner in the research world and its values are suspect, too. Insofar as MLB is the sponsor (unknown to me), the museum has done a good job of taking credit.
   170. burniswright Posted: February 05, 2008 at 11:03 AM (#2683861)
I've had a month now to think about Paul's question in the last paragraph of post #167. And I'll give an answer that's at least somewhat less tentative than my original one.

I've been examining the rosters of the 2007 National League teams, and there's an incredible level of talent there. The fact that the A.L. is on an all-star roll, and to a lesser extent a WS roll, is misleading in this regard. So, yes, I have no trouble with the notion that the disparity between the NNL and and NAL in the second blackball two-league era was greater than the disparity between the two MLB leagues now.

1957 is a little trickier, because of the overwhelming superiority of the N.L. in terms of signing blacks. We tend to think of the 1950s as "the" integration era, but we would do well to look hard at the 1960s also.

As it happens, I have paid very close attention to the distribution of talent in 1963, because I'm playing a 1963 sim. Here's an extraordinary piece of data: of the ten top contributors on offense in the '63 N.L., nine are black. And the white guy is 10th. In the A.L. nine of the top ten are white.

Now, what does this mean? I'm not convinced it means what it seems to. It would be fairer to say that, during this era, the N.L. had signed virtually all of the great black stars, which of course is not the same thing as saying they had a tremendously meaningful advantage overall--just an advantage at the level of stardom. And that Mantle, Yastrzemski and Kaline happened to be white guys.

It's obvious that, once the N.L. took a substantial lead in signing blacks in the early 1950s, and didn't relinquish that lead for at least two decades, they were the superior league. But in the MLB equation we're still not talking about the factors that troubled the second NAL. The blackball geography of the east was just as advantageous to the latter-day NNL as it had been to the ECL in the 1920s. And for blackball, geography equals money, and money equals an ability to sign and retain more of the quality players.

So, in the end, I'm comfortable with the opinion that there was never a time between 1950 and 2007 (Paul's parameters) when MLB has had a problem with disparate league strengths at the levels that blackball had in its two-league eras.

It's why I get a little uneasy about identifying Alec Radcliff with the tag-line that he was voted the West's all-star thirdbaseman virtually every year. Who exactly was his competition? It was Parnell Woods, and then a big step down to whoever was third. It isn't that Radcliff wasn't a good ballplayer. My uneasiness is that he wasn't a great one.
   171. burniswright Posted: February 06, 2008 at 03:33 AM (#2684494)
Upon further review, as we say in the NFL, I realize that the first sentence in the second paragraph, above, looks pretty strange. So let me simply cop to the fact that I'm not a contemporary baseball guy. If you ask me questions about the Milwaukee Brewers or the Washington Nats, I have to look stuff up.
   172. Paul Wendt Posted: February 07, 2008 at 12:49 AM (#2685270)
#170
I've been examining the rosters of the 2007 National League teams, and there's an incredible level of talent there. The fact that the A.L. is on an all-star roll, and to a lesser extent a WS roll, is misleading in this regard. So, yes, I have no trouble with the notion that the disparity between the NNL and and NAL in the second blackball two-league era was greater than the disparity between the two MLB leagues now.
#171
Upon further review, as we say in the NFL, I realize that the first sentence in the second paragraph, above, looks pretty strange. So let me simply cop to the fact that I'm not a contemporary baseball guy. If you ask me questions about the Milwaukee Brewers or the Washington Nats, I have to look stuff up.

Nor am I a contemporary baseball guy. I do know the standings but not the rosters.
For what it's worth, I was thinking of the 2007 disparity in interleague play, which shows up in the standings.
I also know that "everyone" says the AL is now superior and that the all-star game record is part of that.

So, in the end, I'm comfortable with the opinion that there was never a time between 1950 and 2007 (Paul's parameters) when MLB has had a problem with disparate league strengths at the levels that blackball had in its two-league eras.

Thanks for the deliberate reply.
   173. Alex King Posted: January 24, 2010 at 07:49 PM (#3445344)
I imitated Brent's second study (post 158), but I also included regression to the mean and aging. I made 3 changes to Brent's study:
1. Using these aging curves, I adjusted each player's seasons to his age in the AA in the year under consideration.
2. I included 200 PA of league-average performance in each player's average (in addition to his seasons in the NL).
3. I weighted by National League PA in my final average of the players' performances (using a weighted geometric mean).

For 1882 and 1883 (the only years that I've studied), here were the results:

Year OBP+ SLG+
1882 80.4 81.3
1883 91.9 91.5

Which are slightly higher than Brent's results:

Year OBP+ SLG+
1882 79.3 81.0
1883 88.7 90.5

While I'm certain that we need to include some regression to the mean, I am unsure how much. Is 200 or 100 or 400 PA enough? Should we regress to the player's career (NL only) totals if he's played a certain number of games in the majors, beyond those included in the study?
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