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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Hall of Merit - the early years

Hi there folks!

Joe and I have a lot of work to do to get the Hall of Merit off the ground.

I think the biggest challenge before the first election is getting people familiar with the eligible players.

In principle, any player whose career finished before 1911 is eligible. Because we are dealing with 40 years of baseball I decided to break down the player lists into more managable parts: 1) those who last played in the bigs before 1891; 2) those not in the first group who last played before 1901; 3) and those remaining who last played before 1911.

I’ve made a list of the players who played in parts of at least 10 years and left the bigs before 1891, here it is:

name   last year games main positions
Wright, George 1882 591 ss 530 SS / 2b
McGeary, Mike 1882 547 2b 196 2B,SS,3B / c
Fulmer, Chick 1884 583 ss 430 SS / 2b,3b
Peters, John 1884 615 ss 557 SS / 2b
Ferguson, Bob 1884 824 3b 397 3B,2B /
Force, Davy 1886 1029 ss 716 SS / 2b,3b
Quest, Joe 1886 596 2b 528 2B / ss
Start, Joe 1886 1071 1b 1070 1B /
Sutton, Ezra 1888 1263 3b 880 3B / ss,2b,1b.rf.lf
Hankinson,Frank 1888 849 3b 764 3B / p, lf
Phillips, Bill 1888 1038 1b 1032 1B /
Farrell, Jack 1889 884 2b 740 2B / ss
Rowe, Jack 1890 1044 ss 657 SS / c,lf,cf,rf
Nelson, Candy 1890 817 ss 560 SS / 2b,rf,cf,3b
Williamson, Ned 1890 1201 3b 716 3B,SS / c,p
White ,Deacon 1890 1560 3b 827 3B,C / rf,1b,2b
Battin, Joe 1890 480 3b 340 3B / 2b
Morrill, John 1890 1265 1b 916 1B / 3b,2b,ss,c


name   last year games main positions
Remsen, Jack 1884 578 cf 515 CF / lf
Cuthbert, Ned 1884 452 lf 398 LF / cf
Eggler, Dave 1885 576 cf 561 CF /
York, Tom 1885 963 lf 651 LF / rf
Cassidy, John 1885 634 rf 411 RF / cf,p
Clinton, Jim 1886 426 cf 205 CF / lf,rf
Manning, Jack 1886 834 rf 672 RF / p,ss,1b
Pike, Lip 1887 425 cf 235 CF / rf,2b,ss
Jones, Charley 1888 894 lf 636 LF/ cf
Purcell,Blondie 1890 1097 lf 480 LF,RF / cf,p,3b
Sommer, Joe 1890 920 lf 567 LF / rf,3b,2b,ss
Hornung, Joe 1890 1123 lf 1051 LF / 1b
Dorgan, Mike 1890 715 rf 556 RF / lf
Shaffer, Orator 1890 871 rf 810 RF / cf,rf
Nicol, Hugh 1890 888 rf 802 RF / 2b,ss,cf

name   last year games main positions
Clapp, John 1883 588 c 472 C / lf,rf,cf
Allison, Doug 1883 318 c 279 C /
Bond, Tommy 1884 488 p 322 P / rf
White, Will 1886 403 p 403 P /
Mathews, Bobby 1887 623 p 578 P / rf
McCormick, Jim 1887 534 p 492 P / cf
Bradley, George 1888 567 p 347 P / 3b,ss
Gilligan,Barney 1888 523 c 459 C / ss,lf
Holbert, Bill 1888 623 c 538 C / rf
Flint, Silver 1889 760 c 727 C / rf
Whitney, Jim 1890 550 p 413 P / cf,rf,1b
Bushong, Doc 1890 672 c 667 C /

1) “games” is career games played, including in the National Association
2)“main” is the main position and the number of career games played at that position.
2) The “positions” syntax is as follows: the main position, plus any others that exceed 50% of the number played at the main position, are uppercase and followed by a slash(/). The positions following the slash are all others at which the player played at least 20 games, in descending order.

By no means does this include every quality player of the 1871-1890 era - for one thing, many of them played past 1890. I’ll feature them in upcoming lists.

 

Robert Dudek Posted: January 09, 2002 at 03:29 AM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. MattB Posted: January 10, 2002 at 04:04 PM (#509451)
Is ten years a minimum requirement for induction? I haven't heard of everyone on the list above, and I of course have to think about everything, but right now I'm thinking my top 10 list from pre-1911 would have Ross Barnes on it. Being the best player in the entire history of a league has to be worth some points, even if he only played in parts of nine seasons.
   2. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 10, 2002 at 07:18 PM (#509455)
I wouldn't like to see a ten-year requirement with the Hall of Merit. I think players such as Ross Barnes and Addie Joss are hurt by such a rule, even though they were worthy stars at their peak (especially Barnes). In fact, the writers realized this by ignoring their rule by inducting Joss themselves. Since (I assume) we are tring to find the best players of all-time by a combination of peak and career performance, I say let's have an open field.

By the way, if he were to be elected, Ned Williamson's first name in the Hall should be Ed. Might as well go with the name he used as a player.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 10, 2002 at 07:42 PM (#509456)
One thing I would like to hear is some feedback on allowing a two- player limit for each year that the Hall of Merit would cover. If we are covering players from 1871-present, this would allow into the pantheon about 260 players (obviously some would not be eligible yet). Of course, there would have to be an acceleration program so we would be able to catch up to our era in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe we can reduce it to a one-player limit for most of the pre-AL years because there were fewer teams. My idea is that we should have the best .05% of players in the Hall. Just a thought.
   4. Lujack Posted: January 10, 2002 at 07:56 PM (#509457)
John, I don't think entry to the hall of merit needs to be that stringent. Out of the 15,000 players that have ever played in the majors, only .05% (or 8) would make it in the hall of merit?
   5. MattB Posted: January 10, 2002 at 09:03 PM (#509460)
Robert quotes Joe: "Following this procedure, we'll have 218 honorees after the 2002 ceremony."

That's fine if you want the 218 best players, which sounds like a fine number. Alternatively, you could alternate between two and three players each year 1915-2002, and also get 218 through 2002. Why should the voting procedure change for 1977 to account for more players, if the third best player who will now get in may not have played since 1901? Also, what makes the third or fourth player on the the later ballots more worthy, just because they played against a greater number of opponents? As a reductio ad absurdum, if the major leagues expanded from 30 to 3,000 teams next season, would everyone on the Baltimore Orioles suddenly become eligible for the Hall, as they'd now be among the top 1% of all players? (well, maybe not Brook Fordyce).

On the other hand, why start electing five people for 1915 and 1916? If the 10th best player from this group is one of the 218th best players in history, he should get in through some subsequent election. If not, he shouldn't be in at all.

Not trying to be confrontational. Just raising some issues.
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 10, 2002 at 09:06 PM (#509461)
Hi, Lujack. I screwed up-it should have been .5% (not .05%). I should have explained my idea better. If we were talking, for example, about baseball from 1901-1960, we are talking the magic "400" players per year.
   7. jimd Posted: January 11, 2002 at 03:32 PM (#509467)
I know that the screen was for 10 years minimum (with no editing), but here's a few names that may draw a couple more vote points than Jim Clinton.

I suggest including Al Spalding, Harry Wright, Candy Cummings, and Cal McVey from the National Association years, and Guy Hecker from the American Association. These guys have some black ink points to their credit at least. (Also, if they've already been selected by the competition, then their credentials may be worth investigating.)
   8. MattB Posted: January 11, 2002 at 04:40 PM (#509468)
At the risk of being too substantive in what has become a very procedural thread, I thought the Hall of Merit concept would be a good way for me to fill in my knowledge of old ballplayers. So, taking it systematically, I spend a few hours yesterday looking at all the pitchers (position #1 if your keeping score) who played exclusively from 1871-1890.

I made a sort of rough Bill James-style ?Top 16 Pitchers? list with comments. I?d be interested in comments on my comments, since my knowledge is very limited, and it seems that which league you played in affected your stats a lot. I think this sort of discussion would be useful to someone whose anyone like me, and has no vested interest in the relative merits of people who died before my grandparents left Europe.

Anyway, here goes:

1. Jim McCormick

Pitched for 10 years for some bad teams and still ended up with a 265-214 record. I saw no one else on my list who pitched for as long and had an ERA+ over 100 for all but one (his last) year. In 1879, he led the league in losses, but was an above-average pitcher. McCormick was a player manager that season and the next (bizarrely, only managing at the beginning of his career), and was smart enough to keep sending himself out there despite accumulating 40 losses. His self-confidence paid off, and the next year he led the league in wins.

In 1883 for the Cleveland Blues he went a respectable 28-12, but what was amazing was that he lost even 12 games. His ERA was 1.84, 70% above average. That year, Cleveland had the best pitching in the league, (due primarily to McCormick), but the next to worst offense. (Their starting catcher that year slugged a non-lead-leading .195).

Bill James makes a persuasive case in his new book that the Union Association should not be considered a major league. I?m therefore significantly discounting his 21-3 UA record, but even there, his ERA+ of 203 led the league, and he only lost three games despite the fact that he was not pitching for the league-destroying St. Louis Maroons.

2. Al Spalding

Spalding was the best pitcher in the history of the National Association, which should be worth something. He was a career 253-65, and led the NA is wins, and was either first of second in ERA, for every year that it existed as a major league (1871-1875). He also led the National League in wins in its first year, and his career ERA+ of 142 is nothing to sneeze at. In 1875, he went a sufficiently dominant 55-5, and still managed to pick up 8 saves to lead the league in that stat as well. I haven?t checked, but I doubt anyone else has ever led a league in wins and saves in the same year.

One thing I?ve noticed about 19th century pitchers, is that generally their career is likely to skip the ?decline? phase. I guess when you have one guy pitching all of your innings, there?s not much glamour in being the number two pitcher on the team. After a dominant debut in the National League, Spalding seems to have gotten hit by a bus (or, maybe, a riverboat). He pitched 4 games in 1877, and came back to play second base one day in 1878. Unlike McCormick, above, Spalding is in the Hall of Fame.

3. Jim Whitney

Jim Whitney led the National League with 31 wins in 1881, but, as was not uncommon for pitchers who started so often, he went 31-33 and also led the league in losses. His career mark of 191-204 is unimpressive, but he had a few great seasons. From 1883-87, he led the league in fewest walks per nine innings, which is of unclear significance, as the balls per walk rule was dropping slowly from 9 balls to 5 balls over this period. In 1883, he also led the league in strikeout rate.

A word is probably appropriate here about gray ink. For nineteenth century pitchers they?re pretty worthless. I mean, if you?ve got eight teams and one pitcher pitching all the innings on your team, ranking number eight gives you gray ink, but it also means you?re the worst starter in the league. Whitney has a lot of gray ink.

4. Bobby Mathews

I guess it?s not much of a compliment to say someone is just like a Hall of Fame pitcher ? on offense. But that?s Bobby Mathews. While his ?similar pitchers? list on baseball-reference.com lists six Hall of Famers, his ?similar batters? list has eight, and its an altogether more impressive group. Steve Carlton, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander . . . all ten have similarity scores above 900 ? as batters. I don?t know if there?s a Hall of Fame style of batting for pitchers, but it might be worth looking into. I mean, could you look at Mathews, see his batting line of .205/ .225/ .230 over 2487 at bats, and conclude, ?Now, that?s a Hall of Fame pitcher!? I doubt it, but all those asterisks on the bottom of the page have to mean something.

Mathews career path is unusual. He was great from ages 20-24, and again from 30-33, but the heart of his career, when most player peak, Mathews was mediocre at best. This inverted bell curve could just be an aberration, or it could mean that Mathews actually peaked early (at 24), and that the rebirth at age 30 is a result of a switch to a generally weaker league. He moved from the NL to the AA in 1883 and won 30 games three years in a row, after winning 39 games the last four seasons combined. I?m placing him fourth under the assumption that the AA was a weaker league. If that?s wrong and Mathews just needed a change of scenery, he?d move up to third.

5. Tommy Bond

His career ERA+ is an impressive 111, but he was only over 100 for five of his ten seasons. His two best seasons, 1875-6, were spectacular, but Candy Cummings was actually the best pitcher for Hartford in those seasons. When he moved to Boston the next year and became the number one pitcher, he had a few more solid seasons, and led the league in ERA a few times, but he seems to have peaked at 19 years old. He had a last hurrah in the Union Association, but was out of baseball at 28.

6. Candy Cummings

Cummings was pretty much Tommy Bond without the slow decline years, which I?m not sure should be considered a plus or a minus. He only played in six seasons, but was great in five of them. Unlike Bond, he was never the best pitcher in the league.

7. Dick McBride

Probably the second or third best National Association pitcher, but didn?t survive the conversion to the National League.

8. Larry Corcoran

Five solid years with the Cubs, but was never the dominant pitcher in the league.

9. Will White

Led the league in losses in 1880, which seems to be the nineteenth century sign of a pitcher about to bloom. The bloom came when he moved to the American Association in 1882, and like Bobby Mathews, may rank higher if AA stats are closer to NL stats than they seem. Loses points, however, for his listed nickname of ?Whoop-La,? but not as many as Lady Baldwin (see below).

10. George Bradley

It must have been nice to have all those leagues back then. After finishing up a seven year NL career one win over .500 (based primarily on a dominant centennial year performance), he got a second chance, going 16-7 for the American Association, and then the next year got a third chance, going 25-15 for the Union Association. .600 in the Union Association wasn?t good enough to land him a job in 1885, though.

11. Guy Hecker

Good, durable American Association pitcher, with a career ERA+ of 114, and 173 wins. Will rank higher in the American Association is a better league than I think it is.

12. George Zeittlein

Career 129-112. After the 1871 season, he could truthfully claim he was greatest pitcher in the history of major league baseball. It was all downhill from there, but that?s not too surprising when the major leagues don?t get created until you?re 26 years old.

13. Ed Morris

Great American Association pitcher who didn?t convert well to the National League

14. Dan Casey

At 24, most similar to Steve Carlton; at 25, most similar to Elmer Smith. ?Nuff said.

15. Charlie Sweeney

Best pitcher of 1884, turning in excellent performances in the National League, as well as the Union Association. But there wasn?t much else there. He was 41-15 in 1884, 23-38 the rest of his career.

16. Lady Baldwin

He was the best pitcher of 1886 (42-13), but was only 31-28 the rest of his career. Loses points for an emasculating nickname. Loses even more points because his real name, ?Charles Busted Baldwin? makes me just want to curl up in pain and die.
   9. scruff Posted: January 11, 2002 at 06:44 PM (#509469)
Hey there guys, great disucssion so far! I've been out of town the last few days, this is the first chance I've had to read the threads.

I think Robert has answered the procedural issues. There is one point I'd like to make about players early in the 1871-1910 period vs. players who starred later.

While I agree the players who played later in the period are generally better, we need to be careful to be too harsh on the early players. Those players were winning championships as well, and that does count for something. We are not strictly rewarding ability, we are awarding value as well. I'm not sure what the perfect balance would be between "ability" and "value", but I'm pretty sure it isn't 100/0. It's probably more like 50/50 or 40/60, at least in my opinion. I'm curious as to what you guys think of this, it's a very important issue for the first elections.

MattB -- great work. I'll have a few comments of my own later.
   10. jimd Posted: January 12, 2002 at 12:42 AM (#509472)
Good stuff, MattB.

One issue we're going to have to confront headon when dealing with the early years is the relationship between pitchers and position players, because in the 1870's they are ALL everyday players. Pitchers were like NHL goalies, you had a primary starter, and a backup guy to give him a break every few starts. (They didn't play league games everyday, either, with NHL length schedules, though there were many exhibition games against non-league teams.)

At one extreme, there will be those who believe in rough equality between positions: there are approximately the same number of quality shortstops as center-fielders as 1st-basemen. Do pitchers follow this rule? If a high percentage of the regular pitchers won 300 games back then, well it couldn't have been that hard, could it?

At the other extreme will be those advocating value based results (such as Win Shares). These values, derived using models from modern MLB, show the pitcher to be the dominant player on the field. In the modern game he is; he just can't play every day which dilutes his cumulative value. If the models are valid in the 19th century game, then when he does play everyday, his cumulative value will tend to blow everybody else away.

An alternative possiblity is that the relationship between pitching and defense is not the same. We are dealing with a game where walks are about as rare as errors are today (.7 per game) and strikeouts not much more comman (1.1 per game), while errors are twice as common as walks are today (6 errors per game; yes, per team)(data comparison between 1876 and 2001). The ball was almost always in play so there may be merit to an argument that fielders were considerably more important in the overall scheme of things, relative to today.

I haven't done any relevant research on this, so I have no strong opinions on this matter. It's going to be fun finding out.
   11. Toby Posted: January 14, 2002 at 09:28 PM (#509474)
Robert, we all resent some of your work. Thanks for joining us. :-)

(I say that COMPLETELY in jest, of course!)
   12. scruff Posted: January 15, 2002 at 02:20 AM (#509475)
LOL Toby . . .
   13. jimd Posted: January 16, 2002 at 01:05 AM (#509476)
(I suppose this comment more properly belongs here, but noone's posting here lately.)

I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them.

Any thoughts on this?
   14. scruff Posted: January 16, 2002 at 03:49 PM (#509477)
JimD -- Good question. I'm not really sure that it would matter either way. Their value was their value.

What I mean is, what is more valuable, winning 25 games (assume this was the pitchers true level, average run support, etc.) and pitching 250 innings two years in a row or winning 50 games and pitching 500 innings in one season? Most would say the 50 in one year is more valuable, because there is a better chance that would result in a pennant.

So the pitchers of the 19th Century (pre-1893 anyway) pitching 500 innings a year may have had careers that were half as long, but they were pitching twice as much.

The much more important question, is: How much credit do we give the defense, and how much do we give the pitchers? Defense was much more important back then. I'm curious as to how win shares or Charlie Saeger's system would see the split. I think that's the much bigger issue, and a vital one for determining the relative worth of the pre-1893 pitcher.
   15. KJOK Posted: January 17, 2002 at 04:40 AM (#509478)
MATTB - Good List! Here's mine.

1. Charley Radbourn - Yes, I know he played in '91 (not very well however) but he's really a contemporary of these guys instead of the next group (Clarkson, Keefe, Mullane), and he's the BEST pitcher of the 1980's...

2. Jim McCormick

THOSE ARE THE ONLY 2 I'd CONSIDER FOR "HALL OF MERIT"

3. Larry Corcoran. .665% in a league that was tougher than in the 1870's.

4. Al Spalding. Faces very weak competition, but he was extremely dominating.

5. Tommy Bond. Faced somewhat tougher competition than Spalding over the course of his career, but the difference in results is probably not great enough to bridge the gap.

6. Will White - The AA was ALMOST as good as the NL in the 1880's.

7. Guy Hecker - Again, I think I discount the AA less than you do.

8. Ed Morris - another great AA pitcher.

9. Jim Whitney - When guys pitch most of their teams innings/games, I think W/L records matter a little bit more than for modern guys, and Whitney had a losing record AND his ERA+ was only 105...

10. Toad Ramsey - You didn't have him on your list. He also had a losing record, but his ERA+ was 114.

11. Bobby Mathews - Won a lot of games early in his career against very poor competition, so I've got him quite a bit lower than you do.

12. George Bradly - Decent pitcher, but I totally take out his 25-15 in the UA as the UA was definitely NOT of the same calibre as the NL or even the AA.

13. Charlie Ferguson - .607%, ERA+ of 122, not on your list.

14. Candy Cummings - Another pitcher who fattened his stats in less competitive league years, but he made the HOF.

15. Jim Devlin - Only .493% in weak league, but he did manage a 155 ERA+, so he makes my list.

16. Jumbo McGinnis - Ace pitcher for the best AA team - St. Louis.

17. Fred Goldsmith - Had a .622% in the 1880's, so he makes the list.

The others..
   16. KJOK Posted: January 17, 2002 at 04:46 AM (#509479)
And before someone corrects me, St. Louis had Mullane, Foutz & Carruthers, so calling Jumbo "the Ace" was a bit of a stretch, but his 1st 3 years (ages 18-20!) were VERY good...

And of course Radbourn was ONE of the best pitchers of the 1880's, NOT 1980's..
   17. KJOK Posted: January 17, 2002 at 04:49 AM (#509480)
One other item - John Montgomery Ward played past 1891, but his last PITCHING YEAR was 1883, so he probably belongs in the top 10 on this list.
   18. MattB Posted: January 17, 2002 at 03:28 PM (#509481)
Good list, as well, KJOK. I was starting to wonder if everyone was more interested in arguing the rules than the players.

It seems that are lists are generally comparable, except that you discount the NA more than I did, and the discount the AA less than I did. Also, I would have no problem with my Top 6 being considered among the most Meritorious of All-Time.

Re: Differences

Charley Radbourne: Far and away the best of the bunch, but I was sticking to the pre-1891 timeframe.

Toad Ramsey and Charlie Ferguson: Not oversights, but not in my Top 15.

Besides losing points for his amphibious nickname, Mr. Ramsey was only a regular for 5 years and was awful for two of them. Right in the heart of his career, he went 12-47 with an ERA+ in the low 80s. While I allowed high ranking for pitchers with short careers, I wanted to see more than just 3 good years, and I wanted to see consistency. If you're just going to show me five years, don't show me two with ERA+ of 75 and 89. I was happy to rank higher pitchers with lower career ERA+, but that never dropped below ninety. Consistency counts.

Same for Mr. Ferguson. Dominated for three years, but only played in four. He also could hit some. I'd rank him above the Toad, but again wanted to see more than just 3 years, no matter how dominant those three were.
   19. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: January 17, 2002 at 09:53 PM (#509482)
Since this got mentioned earlier and no one responded, I thought I'd clear it up. Al Spalding quit pitching because he was the team owner, and he wanted to spend his time with that and his sporting goods venture (worked out pretty well, I'd say). He's really in the Hall of Fame more as an executive and league official than for his pitching, although he certainly was an excellent pitcher. Since the Hall of Merit is just focusing on playing careers, I don't think he'd make the cut, although if somebody wanted to make a peak value argument, I'd be willing to listen.
   20. jimd Posted: January 18, 2002 at 01:41 AM (#509483)
Spalding was one of the reasons I brought up the injury issue, though a short pitching career seems to be symptomatic of the era. I didn't know why he stopped pitching. Was it: he was hurting, so they signed Bradley? Or, they signed Bradley so he stepped aside?

I knew he was part owner in Chicago, along with league founder William Hulbert, becoming team president after Hulbert's death in 1882. Was equity in the team part of his famous "free-agent" signing when he went from Boston to Chicago in 1876? (along with Barnes, White, and McVey; picture maybe Mussina, Clemens, Jeter and Posada signing with another team when contemplating the impact of this event).

To say he's in the HOF for any one thing is probably wrong. There were other team owners of that era, practically all bypassed. I'd say he's in because he was FAMOUS. Teen phenom becomes star pitcher on best team in baseball, wins 5 straight championships, founds sporting goods company (named after himself), and becomes president/owner of Cubs while (ghost?)writing popular annual guidebook (again under his name), all by the age of 33; this paints a picture in broad strokes.

The negative? The short career. Questions about the competition level; how concentrated was the talent into the National Association? From what I've read, this was the best baseball league in the country, but it was a completely new concept, the first league where all the teams were openly professional. However, there were lots of good players still playing for local semi-pro teams away from the big cities. The NA teams were not yet trying to find this talent, and the talent was not yet dreaming of playing for them either. It wasn't yet "The Show".
   21. DanG Posted: January 18, 2002 at 03:55 PM (#509486)
jimd wrote: "I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them."

I recall that Craig Wright in "The Diamond Appraised" documents some of the history of this abuse. Been awhile since I've read it, though.

Looking at this issue a bit, pitching in the 19th century was indeed a young man's profession. Cy Young in 1903 was the first pitcher older than 35 to win 18 or more games in a season.

The aptly named "Old Hoss" Radbourn was the only 20-game winner older than 33 before 1901. He was 20-11 at age 34 and 27-12 at age 35 (in the Players League). Tim Keefe came close at age 35 (19-16), nobody else did.

There were only three 20-game winners at age 33: Bobby Mathews in 1885 (30-17), Bob Barr in 1890 (28-24, back in the "bigs" due to the player shortage that year), and Tony Mullane 1892 (21-13).

Only a handful of 19th-century pitchers were consistent big winners in their early 30's. The list includes Bill Hutchison, Keefe, Mathews, Radbourn, Young and Pud Galvin. That's about it.

As much as arm abuse, the sea-change in pitching conditions that came in 1893 cut short (and often ended) the careers of nearly every pitcher active then.

Should they be given a break in assessing their careers? I'm inclined to say no. The great ones (Young, Nichols, Rusie) pitched through it, hardly missing a beat.

More study is needed.

Dan
   22. DanG Posted: January 18, 2002 at 04:49 PM (#509487)
jimd wrote: "I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them."

I recall that Craig Wright in "The Diamond Appraised" documents some of the history of this abuse. Been awhile since I've read it, though.

Looking at this issue a bit, pitching in the 19th century was indeed a young man's profession. Cy Young in 1903 was the first pitcher older than 35 to win 18 or more games in a season.

The aptly named "Old Hoss" Radbourn was the only 20-game winner older than 33 before 1901. He was 20-11 at age 34 and 27-12 at age 35 (in the Players League). Tim Keefe came close at age 35 (19-16), nobody else did.

There were only three 20-game winners at age 33: Bobby Mathews in 1885 (30-17), Bob Barr in 1890 (28-24, back in the "bigs" due to the player shortage that year), and Tony Mullane 1892 (21-13).

Only a handful of 19th-century pitchers were consistent big winners in their early 30's. The list includes Bill Hutchison, Keefe, Mathews, Radbourn, Young and Pud Galvin. That's about it.

As much as arm abuse, the sea-change in pitching conditions that came in 1893 cut short (and often ended) the careers of nearly every pitcher active then.

Should they be given a break in assessing their careers? I'm inclined to say no. The great ones (Young, Nichols, Rusie) pitched through it, hardly missing a beat.

More study is needed.

Dan
   23. jimd Posted: January 18, 2002 at 10:18 PM (#509488)
To me, one of the key issues in evaluating these pitchers is the relationship between them and the rest of the team. Are they carrying the team with their pitching brilliance, or are they creations of the team defense behind them? Those are the extreme positions; the reality is some of both, I'm sure, but is it the same as today? Or is the defense more important in a relative sense?
   24. J. Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: January 31, 2002 at 06:58 PM (#509489)
Satchel's comments re Spalding are interesting. Could it really be true that the curveball didn't become "the coming thing" until the mid-1870s? I find it highly unlikely myself, given that cricket bowlers were bowling "spin" as far back as the 1820s and 1830s.

The principle of spin bowling is slightly similar to offspeed pitches like the curveball, although not so much that the baseballists would have necessarily adapted the principle. I am sure, though, that many if not most of the baseball players of the 1860s and 1870s were also familiar with cricket, which would have been equally popular at the time in many areas (particularly Philadelphia).
   25. jimd Posted: January 31, 2002 at 09:26 PM (#509490)
The following link may be of some interest to the HOM voters:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20020129davenport.html

The article by Clay Davenport is about the relative strength of the Japanese Leagues vis-a-vis MLB, but about 2/3 of the way down, he mentions similar ratings of the Federal League, the American Association, the Union Association, and the Players League, all of which have interest to us here.
   26. scruff Posted: January 31, 2002 at 09:46 PM (#509491)
Thanks Jim. That's a great article. I'm going to give this topic it's own thread . . .
   27. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 01, 2002 at 07:05 AM (#509492)
Couldn't a similiar rating be conducted for during WW2?
   28. J. Lowenstein Apathy Club Posted: February 03, 2002 at 05:12 AM (#509493)
John, you're exactly right, and I believe I remember hearing that some had done similar work already. This would indeed be crucial to getting an accurate handle on 1917-18, 1941-46 in particular, and even 1950-53...
   29. DanG Posted: March 05, 2002 at 08:44 PM (#509494)
I've begun looking at candidates for the first election and thought I'd share some of the numbers I've found. Begin with a look at the top five offensive catchers retired by 1900:

Retired-/-Gcatch-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   30. DanG Posted: March 05, 2002 at 08:55 PM (#509495)
The top five offensive firstbasemen:

Retired-/-G1stbase-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   31. DanG Posted: March 05, 2002 at 09:16 PM (#509496)
The top five offensive secondbasemen:

Retired-/-G2ndbase-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   32. scruff Posted: March 05, 2002 at 09:31 PM (#509497)
Dan -- Good work.

One thing when figuring out position to keep in mind. Career games totals might not be a good idea for figuring a player's main position.

Because the schedules gradually got longer, players played less games at the positions they played during their primes because the seasons were longer.

Deacon White is a great example. I consider him a C/3B (equivalent of a C/2B today), kind of like Joe Torre, had he been a 2B not a 3B in his 2nd life. Most of the other people that have looked at it consider him a 3B (though not many consider it equivalent to a 2B of the post-1920 era). This is vital in judging Deacon White as a hitter. I consider him of the greatest players of the 19th Century, but if I judged him as a modern day 3B he obviously wouldn't be.

-From 1871-76 White was C.
   33. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2002 at 10:11 PM (#509498)
(Deacon White was a truly great player in the 19th Century. But it's hard to see without focusing the lense right. How we interpret the numbers is vital for the early elections.)

I'm trying to focus the lens right, but Alex Gonzalez still stinks!
   34. DanG Posted: March 05, 2002 at 10:13 PM (#509499)
Joe's analysis of Deacon White is important and his points are worth emphasizing. The game was evolving rapidly and few statistics can be taken at face value. For instance, in my list of best hitting thirdbasemen here, White isn't really directly comparable to Bill Joyce in any meaningful way. My lists are kind of a rough starting point.

If I were redoing these lists I'd use seasons at position rather than games.

Anyway, the top five offensive thirdbasemen:

Retired-/-G3rdbase-/Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   35. DanG Posted: March 06, 2002 at 05:14 PM (#509500)
Let's try two positions this time:
   36. DanG Posted: March 06, 2002 at 06:43 PM (#509501)
The five best offensive centerfielders:

Retired-/-Gcenterfld-/Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   37. DanG Posted: March 06, 2002 at 09:13 PM (#509502)
To finish this up, here are the five best offensive pitchers retired by 1900:

Retired-/-Gpitcher-/-Other Pos/BR+/5yr Pk/RC/Pyth
   38. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:55 AM (#2631053)
Fixing this thread:

Posted 10:04 a.m., January 10, 2002 (#1) - MattB (homepage)
Is ten years a minimum requirement for induction? I haven't heard of everyone on the list above, and I of course have to think about everything, but right now I'm thinking my top 10 list from pre-1911 would have Ross Barnes on it. Being the best player in the entire history of a league has to be worth some points, even if he only played in parts of nine seasons.

Posted 11:10 a.m., January 10, 2002 (#2) - Craig
Matt, you're right about the ten-year requirement. It seems to me that the ten-years-in-the-majors requirement, if we choose to honour it at all, should only be used for players who began their careers after the AL began operations.

Which begs the question, should we bother with the requirement at all? The one advantage of the requirement is that it focuses the discussion more on career value (an approach which I, for one, like very much).

Posted 11:55 a.m., January 10, 2002 (#3) - Steve Cameron
I think that one needs to take a look at baseball across the various eras - in the early days, which is wha's being examined now, there was very little stability. I think reducing the 10-year requirement for the early days makes a lot of sense - to what, I'm not sure.

Once the AL comes around things are fairly stable for quite a while, that seems like the right demarcation line.

Posted 12:03 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#4) - Steve Cameron
One other thought. Would it make more sense to break this into 3 mini-elections if you're breaking it into 3 lists? It would serve multiple purposes:

1. It should be easier to compare smaller groups of players.
2. It would be speed the learning curve of an unfamiliar era by using smaller groups of players.
3. If you only allow a couple of players from each mini-election in, you'd get the cream of the crop. Then you could have the one big election for pre-1911 retirees but any discussion wouldn't need to include the no-brainers because they'd already be in.

Posted 1:18 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#5) - John Murphy (e-mail)
I wouldn't like to see a ten-year requirement with the Hall of Merit. I think players such as Ross Barnes and Addie Joss are hurt by such a rule, even though they were worthy stars at their peak (especially Barnes). In fact, the writers realized this by ignoring their rule by inducting Joss themselves. Since (I assume) we are tring to find the best players of all-time by a combination of peak and career performance, I say let's have an open field.

By the way, if he were to be elected, Ned Williamson's first name in the Hall should be Ed. Might as well go with the name he used as a player.

Posted 1:42 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#6) - John Murphy (e-mail)
One thing I would like to hear is some feedback on allowing a two- player limit for each year that the Hall of Merit would cover. If we are covering players from 1871-present, this would allow into the pantheon about 260 players (obviously some would not be eligible yet). Of course, there would have to be an acceleration program so we would be able to catch up to our era in a reasonable amount of time. Maybe we can reduce it to a one-player limit for most of the pre-AL years because there were fewer teams. My idea is that we should have the best .05% of players in the Hall. Just a thought.
How will Negro League players be worked in to the Hall?

Posted 1:56 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#7) - Lujack
John, I don't think entry to the hall of merit needs to be that stringent. Out of the 15,000 players that have ever played in the majors, only .05% (or 8) would make it in the hall of merit?

Posted 2:24 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#8) - Robert Dudek
There is no 10-year requirement. Everyone is eligible.

I decided that selecting 10-year players to be a convenient way to begin presenting data - that's all.

Posted 2:44 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#9) - Robert Dudek
Here is an excerpt from Joe's article about th Hall of Merit on this website. It may clarify a few things.

"As for the number of people to be elected, we?ve run a spreadsheet that takes the ?team seasons? into account (we?ve adjusted downward for the early years, it?s not a straight X teams equals X electees), and we want to allow for some ?make up? selections, since the first election will encompass 40 years of careers (1871-1910). We are going to start with 5 for the 1915 and 1916 elections, 4 from 1917-19, 3 from 1920-25 and then 2 per year through 1977. At that point, we?ll start upping the number elected, to account for expansion and growth in the population. From 1978-83 we'll alternate 3 per year in even years, 2 in odd years. From 1984-94 we'll elect 3 players per season. Starting in 1995 we'll elect 4 players every 4th year, 3 in the other years. In 2007 we'll start alternating between 3 (even years) and 4 (odd years) players per season. Players will never lose eligibility. Both Robert and I feel that this is crucial: it means that if new information about a player comes to light that player can benefit (as an example, I offer Bill James? reassessment of Phil Rizzutto based on new evidence of his defensive prowess). It also means that if a voter thinks there were more great players from a certain era than in others, he can vote for a player that might have been squeezed out by his contemporaries in his previous tries. Since the inherent structure of the vote forces the best players to the top of the ballot, there is no reason to remove players from the process artificially. Following this procedure, we'll have 218 honorees after the 2002 ceremony. The current Hall of Fame has 215 members (as players), with a few more coming in 2002. players), with a few more coming in 2002."

Posted 3:03 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#10) - MattB
Robert quotes Joe: "Following this procedure, we'll have 218 honorees after the 2002 ceremony."

That's fine if you want the 218 best players, which sounds like a fine number. Alternatively, you could alternate between two and three players each year 1915-2002, and also get 218 through 2002. Why should the voting procedure change for 1977 to account for more players, if the third best player who will now get in may not have played since 1901? Also, what makes the third or fourth player on the the later ballots more worthy, just because they played against a greater number of opponents? As a reductio ad absurdum, if the major leagues expanded from 30 to 3,000 teams next season, would everyone on the Baltimore Orioles suddenly become eligible for the Hall, as they'd now be among the top 1% of all players? (well, maybe not Brook Fordyce).

On the other hand, why start electing five people for 1915 and 1916? If the 10th best player from this group is one of the 218th best players in history, he should get in through some subsequent election. If not, he shouldn't be in at all.

Not trying to be confrontational. Just raising some issues.

Posted 3:06 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#11) - John Murphy (e-mail)
Hi, Lujack. I screwed up-it should have been .5% (not .05%). I should have explained my idea better. If we were talking, for example, about baseball from 1901-1960, we are talking the magic "400" players per year.
I'm trying to make it exclusive, but not so exclusive! Now that I think about it, it probably would include a few more players that I would like. There are a little over 200 Hall of Famers (who were elected as players) now. I don't think I want to expand upon that amount.

Posted 3:50 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#12) - Robert Dudek
Matt B...

You raise some interesting points.

Of course the voters should consider the playing strength of each year of every league under consideration.

Don't forget that all non-elected players will be eligible for every subsequent ballot. We started expanding the members per year in the 77 vote because MLB was undergoing major integration between 1950-1972. To us, this suggests that there was fiercer competition for jobs than in th white-only eras.

I think it would not be appropriate to keep the rate at 2 to 2.5 inductees per year forever because the reality is that MLB talent now comes from ever more diverse souces and this, coupled with expansion of population in baseball playing countries, suggests that there should be a rise in the NUMBER of truly great major league baseball players over time.

Of course, if a particular voter disagrees, he/she is welcome to vote for a 19th century or deadball era player in the 1993 election for example. I can't stress enough how important I feel the concept of permanent eligibility is. It allows the voter a great deal of flexibility.

On the the hand, if we had a 2 and 3 alternating system then this might mean that few old time ballplayers got in. As it is, the way we have designed the system means that there is a huge backlog that remains for many years. Nevertheless, we wanted to ensure that a miminum number of 19th century players got in, while at the same time allowing the voter a great deal of flexibility to "favor" one era over another if he/she so chooses.

Joe and I discussed these issues at length (we didn't agree on every point) and reached a compromise. That is not to say that the election structure is now fixed. We are always open for input regarding how to make it better.

Posted 4:51 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#13) - ColinM (e-mail)
Robert,

One of the things I really like about the HOM is that you do make an adjustment for population growth. In fact I'm probably one of the few who would like to see an even more extreme bias towards modern players. The US population today is nearly four times what it was in 1900. When you consider this fact, along with segregation, and scouting methods, I don't think it would be a stretch to say there are probably 5 times as many "deserving" players playing today than there were in 1900. And that's without even touching quality of play issues.

The case for the oldtimers gets even murkier for 19th century players. In his New Historical Abstract, Bill James argues that there really was nothing to seperate the National League from other leagues in the 1870's and 80's, and that he wouldn't truly consider the NL at a "major league" level until about 1885. The rules changed frequently during this period, at one point players could even call for a high or low ball, and at another time a walk took 9 balls. You could say that these men were playing a different game altogether.

I have done a lot of research over the past few years on earlier players, but I usually don't go any further back than 1893. It was during this season that the pitching mound was moved to its current distance from the plate causing IP totals to quickly drop to more familiar levels for us modern day fans. (no pitcher ever pitched over 500 IP again). This was probably the last HUGE rule change to seperate early baseball from the modern game. This doesn't mean that I won't vote for ANY pre-1893 players, but I will limit it to only the very best such as Cap Anson. My early ballots will definately be biased towards players from the 1900's and late 1890's. I hope people do keep some of these points in mind when evaluating players from long ago.
   39. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:57 AM (#2631055)
Posted 6:10 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#14) - Robert Dudek
Colin...

I welcome your perspective and personally I agree with most of what you wrote.

There are other factors at work in the modern game, perhaps the fact that youngsters are drawn into different sports like basketball and football. I think this has definitely affected the African-American group of ballplayers - there just doesn't seem to be a new generation of superstar ballplayers ready to replace Larkin, Bonds and Sheffield when they retire.

Maybe it's just an aberation but it's also possible that the best black athletes are now focusing on basketball and football to a greater degree than they did 30 years ago.

In any case, the Hall of Merit election structure provides the flexibility to view it either way - Joe and I view this flexibility as one of the project's defining characteristics.

If you are willing, I welcome you to submit your work to this Weblog or to e-mail it to us. We need all the information we can get about 19th century ballplayers.

Posted 10:29 p.m., January 10, 2002 (#15) - Dan Passner (homepage)
Hey guys I just want to say that I do not believe in setting any limit on the ammount of players that can be voted in. We are all very smart people and I am sure we can figure out who belongs and who doesn't without needing to impose any "2 per year" limits. I recently completed a manuscript on this very issue (needed something to keep me busy over the summer and to help get me into a decent college.) Anyway, I came to the conclusion that there are currently 53 players who should be in the Hall of Fame but are not (give or take Benny Kauff,) and approximately 40 who are in but do not belong in. I think a limit would just be beating a dead horse. For instance, a great pitcher like Ed Reulbach (I believe almost any starter with an ERA+ above 120, especially a peak ERA+ of 172 belongs in Cooperstown) will be completely lost in the fray when compared to guys like Ed Walsh and Mordecai Brown. By the way, in my book I make a huge push for Ross Barnes because few were ever as dominant as him, and he accompished more in 499 games then Nolan Ryan accomplished in 26 years in the majors (as you can see, I am a big proponent of dominance as the key factor in Hall of Fame selections.) If we want this Hall of Merit to have Merit, we have to do it right and we cannot set limits for a given year, just look at the crop of 2007 and 2008.

Dan
P.S. soon my site will have some nice frilly articles on it and I will slowly post info about my book as I go through the self-publishing process.

Posted 2:51 a.m., January 11, 2002 (#16) - Robert Dudek
Dan..

Ed Reulbach need not suffer by being compared with Walsh and Three Fingers.

Candidates will NEVER lose eligibility, so if Reulbach is truly worthy he will be inducted when his competition isn't as stiff, even if that takes over 70 years!.

It is our firm belief that each election has to admit a set number of candidates, determined in advance. This forces the voter to rank the players according to merit rather than just giving a simple thumbs up or thumbs down.

Posted 9:32 a.m., January 11, 2002 (#17) - jimd
I know that the screen was for 10 years minimum (with no editing), but here's a few names that may draw a couple more vote points than Jim Clinton.

I suggest including Al Spalding, Harry Wright, Candy Cummings, and Cal McVey from the National Association years, and Guy Hecker from the American Association. These guys have some black ink points to their credit at least. (Also, if they've already been selected by the competition, then their credentials may be worth investigating.)
   40. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:58 AM (#2631056)
Posted 10:40 a.m., January 11, 2002 (#18) - MattB
At the risk of being too substantive in what has become a very procedural thread, I thought the Hall of Merit concept would be a good way for me to fill in my knowledge of old ballplayers. So, taking it systematically, I spend a few hours yesterday looking at all the pitchers (position #1 if your keeping score) who played exclusively from 1871-1890.

I made a sort of rough Bill James-style ?Top 16 Pitchers? list with comments. I?d be interested in comments on my comments, since my knowledge is very limited, and it seems that which league you played in affected your stats a lot. I think this sort of discussion would be useful to someone whose anyone like me, and has no vested interest in the relative merits of people who died before my grandparents left Europe.

Anyway, here goes:

1. Jim McCormick

Pitched for 10 years for some bad teams and still ended up with a 265-214 record. I saw no one else on my list who pitched for as long and had an ERA+ over 100 for all but one (his last) year. In 1879, he led the league in losses, but was an above-average pitcher. McCormick was a player manager that season and the next (bizarrely, only managing at the beginning of his career), and was smart enough to keep sending himself out there despite accumulating 40 losses. His self-confidence paid off, and the next year he led the league in wins.

In 1883 for the Cleveland Blues he went a respectable 28-12, but what was amazing was that he lost even 12 games. His ERA was 1.84, 70% above average. That year, Cleveland had the best pitching in the league, (due primarily to McCormick), but the next to worst offense. (Their starting catcher that year slugged a non-lead-leading .195).

Bill James makes a persuasive case in his new book that the Union Association should not be considered a major league. I?m therefore significantly discounting his 21-3 UA record, but even there, his ERA+ of 203 led the league, and he only lost three games despite the fact that he was not pitching for the league-destroying St. Louis Maroons.

2. Al Spalding

Spalding was the best pitcher in the history of the National Association, which should be worth something. He was a career 253-65, and led the NA is wins, and was either first of second in ERA, for every year that it existed as a major league (1871-1875). He also led the National League in wins in its first year, and his career ERA+ of 142 is nothing to sneeze at. In 1875, he went a sufficiently dominant 55-5, and still managed to pick up 8 saves to lead the league in that stat as well. I haven?t checked, but I doubt anyone else has ever led a league in wins and saves in the same year.

One thing I?ve noticed about 19th century pitchers, is that generally their career is likely to skip the ?decline? phase. I guess when you have one guy pitching all of your innings, there?s not much glamour in being the number two pitcher on the team. After a dominant debut in the National League, Spalding seems to have gotten hit by a bus (or, maybe, a riverboat). He pitched 4 games in 1877, and came back to play second base one day in 1878. Unlike McCormick, above, Spalding is in the Hall of Fame.

3. Jim Whitney

Jim Whitney led the National League with 31 wins in 1881, but, as was not uncommon for pitchers who started so often, he went 31-33 and also led the league in losses. His career mark of 191-204 is unimpressive, but he had a few great seasons. From 1883-87, he led the league in fewest walks per nine innings, which is of unclear significance, as the balls per walk rule was dropping slowly from 9 balls to 5 balls over this period. In 1883, he also led the league in strikeout rate.

A word is probably appropriate here about gray ink. For nineteenth century pitchers they?re pretty worthless. I mean, if you?ve got eight teams and one pitcher pitching all the innings on your team, ranking number eight gives you gray ink, but it also means you?re the worst starter in the league. Whitney has a lot of gray ink.

4. Bobby Mathews

I guess it?s not much of a compliment to say someone is just like a Hall of Fame pitcher ? on offense. But that?s Bobby Mathews. While his ?similar pitchers? list on baseball-reference.com lists six Hall of Famers, his ?similar batters? list has eight, and its an altogether more impressive group. Steve Carlton, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander . . . all ten have similarity scores above 900 ? as batters. I don?t know if there?s a Hall of Fame style of batting for pitchers, but it might be worth looking into. I mean, could you look at Mathews, see his batting line of .205/ .225/ .230 over 2487 at bats, and conclude, ?Now, that?s a Hall of Fame pitcher!? I doubt it, but all those asterisks on the bottom of the page have to mean something.

Mathews career path is unusual. He was great from ages 20-24, and again from 30-33, but the heart of his career, when most player peak, Mathews was mediocre at best. This inverted bell curve could just be an aberration, or it could mean that Mathews actually peaked early (at 24), and that the rebirth at age 30 is a result of a switch to a generally weaker league. He moved from the NL to the AA in 1883 and won 30 games three years in a row, after winning 39 games the last four seasons combined. I?m placing him fourth under the assumption that the AA was a weaker league. If that?s wrong and Mathews just needed a change of scenery, he?d move up to third.

5. Tommy Bond

His career ERA+ is an impressive 111, but he was only over 100 for five of his ten seasons. His two best seasons, 1875-6, were spectacular, but Candy Cummings was actually the best pitcher for Hartford in those seasons. When he moved to Boston the next year and became the number one pitcher, he had a few more solid seasons, and led the league in ERA a few times, but he seems to have peaked at 19 years old. He had a last hurrah in the Union Association, but was out of baseball at 28.

6. Candy Cummings

Cummings was pretty much Tommy Bond without the slow decline years, which I?m not sure should be considered a plus or a minus. He only played in six seasons, but was great in five of them. Unlike Bond, he was never the best pitcher in the league.

7. Dick McBride

Probably the second or third best National Association pitcher, but didn?t survive the conversion to the National League.

8. Larry Corcoran

Five solid years with the Cubs, but was never the dominant pitcher in the league.

9. Will White

Led the league in losses in 1880, which seems to be the nineteenth century sign of a pitcher about to bloom. The bloom came when he moved to the American Association in 1882, and like Bobby Mathews, may rank higher if AA stats are closer to NL stats than they seem. Loses points, however, for his listed nickname of ?Whoop-La,? but not as many as Lady Baldwin (see below).

10. George Bradley

It must have been nice to have all those leagues back then. After finishing up a seven year NL career one win over .500 (based primarily on a dominant centennial year performance), he got a second chance, going 16-7 for the American Association, and then the next year got a third chance, going 25-15 for the Union Association. .600 in the Union Association wasn?t good enough to land him a job in 1885, though.

11. Guy Hecker

Good, durable American Association pitcher, with a career ERA+ of 114, and 173 wins. Will rank higher in the American Association is a better league than I think it is.

12. George Zeittlein

Career 129-112. After the 1871 season, he could truthfully claim he was greatest pitcher in the history of major league baseball. It was all downhill from there, but that?s not too surprising when the major leagues don?t get created until you?re 26 years old.

13. Ed Morris

Great American Association pitcher who didn?t convert well to the National League

14. Dan Casey

At 24, most similar to Steve Carlton; at 25, most similar to Elmer Smith. ?Nuff said.

15. Charlie Sweeney

Best pitcher of 1884, turning in excellent performances in the National League, as well as the Union Association. But there wasn?t much else there. He was 41-15 in 1884, 23-38 the rest of his career.

16. Lady Baldwin

He was the best pitcher of 1886 (42-13), but was only 31-28 the rest of his career. Loses points for an emasculating nickname. Loses even more points because his real name, ?Charles Busted Baldwin? makes me just want to curl up in pain and die.

Posted 12:44 p.m., January 11, 2002 (#19) - scruff (e-mail)
Hey there guys, great disucssion so far! I've been out of town the last few days, this is the first chance I've had to read the threads.

I think Robert has answered the procedural issues. There is one point I'd like to make about players early in the 1871-1910 period vs. players who starred later.

While I agree the players who played later in the period are generally better, we need to be careful to be too harsh on the early players. Those players were winning championships as well, and that does count for something. We are not strictly rewarding ability, we are awarding value as well. I'm not sure what the perfect balance would be between "ability" and "value", but I'm pretty sure it isn't 100/0. It's probably more like 50/50 or 40/60, at least in my opinion. I'm curious as to what you guys think of this, it's a very important issue for the first elections.

MattB -- great work. I'll have a few comments of my own later.
   41. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:58 AM (#2631057)
Posted 5:03 p.m., January 11, 2002 (#20) - ColinM (e-mail)
scruff,

You make a good point about ability vs. value in regard to earlier players, mentioning that these players were contributing towards championships. However, I would like to call in to question how "valuable" some of these championships themselves were. If Bill James is right (and he often is), there wasn't a large difference between the early National League's level of play and other top pro (and semi-pro?) leagues at the time. Should we still consider a player's contribution towards winning in that league as being as valuable as those players in later leagues? Cap Anson hit .399 and led Chicago to the NL title in 1881, is this as valuable as Schilling and Johnson leading Arizona to the WS? Even in 1901, should the AL championship be considered as "valuable" as the NL championship?

In an earlier post I mention the large differences in the rules in the 1870's and 80's. IMHO, pro baseball didn't really stabilize until the early 20th century. At this point, I think we only really need to adjust for talent base (IOW, the sheer number of great players). I don't want to get into an argument along the lines of "Ty Cobb could never be the best player against today's athletes", because Cobb was as valuable to the Tigers in 1909 as ARod is to the M's today. And in 1909 you had two major leagues, who for the most part played by the same rules as today, who's players were cleary the best in the world (at least out of those players allowed to play). But earlier, before the mid 1890's anyway, they might have called the game baseball, and the NL a major league, but they were playing a different game in a league where the quality of play was probably greatly inferior to the NL of only 20 years later. I just think we should keep this in mind when evaluating players from this era.

Posted 5:25 p.m., January 11, 2002 (#21) - ColinM (e-mail)
scruff,

You make a good point about ability vs. value in regard to earlier players, mentioning that these players were contributing towards championships. However, I would like to call in to question how "valuable" some of these championships themselves were. If Bill James is right (and he often is), there wasn't a large difference between the early National League's level of play and other top pro (and semi-pro?) leagues at the time. Should we still consider a player's contribution towards winning in that league as being as valuable as those players in later leagues? Cap Anson hit .399 and led Chicago to the NL title in 1881, is this as valuable as Schilling and Johnson leading Arizona to the WS? Even in 1901, should the AL championship be considered as "valuable" as the NL championship?

In an earlier post I mention the large differences in the rules in the 1870's and 80's. IMHO, pro baseball didn't really stabilize until the early 20th century. At this point, I think we only really need to adjust for talent base (IOW, the sheer number of great players). I don't want to get into an argument along the lines of "Ty Cobb could never be the best player against today's athletes", because Cobb was as valuable to the Tigers in 1909 as ARod is to the M's today. And in 1909 you had two major leagues, who for the most part played by the same rules as today, who's players were cleary the best in the world (at least out of those players allowed to play). But earlier, before the mid 1890's anyway, they might have called the game baseball, and the NL a major league, but they were playing a different game in a league where the quality of play was probably greatly inferior to the NL of only 20 years later. I just think we should keep this in mind when evaluating players from this era.

Posted 6:42 p.m., January 11, 2002 (#22) - jimd
Good stuff, MattB.

One issue we're going to have to confront headon when dealing with the early years is the relationship between pitchers and position players, because in the 1870's they are ALL everyday players. Pitchers were like NHL goalies, you had a primary starter, and a backup guy to give him a break every few starts. (They didn't play league games everyday, either, with NHL length schedules, though there were many exhibition games against non-league teams.)

At one extreme, there will be those who believe in rough equality between positions: there are approximately the same number of quality shortstops as center-fielders as 1st-basemen. Do pitchers follow this rule? If a high percentage of the regular pitchers won 300 games back then, well it couldn't have been that hard, could it?

At the other extreme will be those advocating value based results (such as Win Shares). These values, derived using models from modern MLB, show the pitcher to be the dominant player on the field. In the modern game he is; he just can't play every day which dilutes his cumulative value. If the models are valid in the 19th century game, then when he does play everyday, his cumulative value will tend to blow everybody else away.

An alternative possiblity is that the relationship between pitching and defense is not the same. We are dealing with a game where walks are about as rare as errors are today (.7 per game) and strikeouts not much more comman (1.1 per game), while errors are twice as common as walks are today (6 errors per game; yes, per team)(data comparison between 1876 and 2001). The ball was almost always in play so there may be merit to an argument that fielders were considerably more important in the overall scheme of things, relative to today.

I haven't done any relevant research on this, so I have no strong opinions on this matter. It's going to be fun finding out.

Posted 7:33 p.m., January 11, 2002 (#23) - Robert Dudek
It's true that the early leagues were not too much stronger than other ones that were not considered major leagues.

I've been studying the strength of copmpetition issue and I will resent some of my work, hopefully soon.

The electoral system is set up so that a certain minimum of 19th century players get in and after that it becomes a matter for each voter to decide.

And it is certainly true that the fielders were much more important relative to the pitcher on defense than in the modern game. I've started to look at this issue as it pertains to positional value.

Posted 3:28 p.m., January 14, 2002 (#24) - Toby
Robert, we all resent some of your work. Thanks for joining us. :-)

(I say that COMPLETELY in jest, of course!)

Posted 8:20 p.m., January 14, 2002 (#25) - scruff
LOL Toby . . .

Posted 7:05 p.m., January 15, 2002 (#26) - jimd
(I suppose this comment more properly belongs here, but noone's posting here lately.)

I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them.

Any thoughts on this?

Posted 9:49 a.m., January 16, 2002 (#27) - scruff (e-mail)
JimD -- Good question. I'm not really sure that it would matter either way. Their value was their value.

What I mean is, what is more valuable, winning 25 games (assume this was the pitchers true level, average run support, etc.) and pitching 250 innings two years in a row or winning 50 games and pitching 500 innings in one season? Most would say the 50 in one year is more valuable, because there is a better chance that would result in a pennant.

So the pitchers of the 19th Century (pre-1893 anyway) pitching 500 innings a year may have had careers that were half as long, but they were pitching twice as much.

The much more important question, is: How much credit do we give the defense, and how much do we give the pitchers? Defense was much more important back then. I'm curious as to how win shares or Charlie Saeger's system would see the split. I think that's the much bigger issue, and a vital one for determining the relative worth of the pre-1893 pitcher.
   42. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:59 AM (#2631058)
Posted 10:40 p.m., January 16, 2002 (#28) - KJOK (e-mail)
MATTB - Good List! Here's mine.

1. Charley Radbourn - Yes, I know he played in '91 (not very well however) but he's really a contemporary of these guys instead of the next group (Clarkson, Keefe, Mullane), and he's the BEST pitcher of the 1980's...

2. Jim McCormick

THOSE ARE THE ONLY 2 I'd CONSIDER FOR "HALL OF MERIT"

3. Larry Corcoran. .665% in a league that was tougher than in the 1870's.

4. Al Spalding. Faces very weak competition, but he was extremely dominating.

5. Tommy Bond. Faced somewhat tougher competition than Spalding over the course of his career, but the difference in results is probably not great enough to bridge the gap.

6. Will White - The AA was ALMOST as good as the NL in the 1880's.

7. Guy Hecker - Again, I think I discount the AA less than you do.

8. Ed Morris - another great AA pitcher.

9. Jim Whitney - When guys pitch most of their teams innings/games, I think W/L records matter a little bit more than for modern guys, and Whitney had a losing record AND his ERA+ was only 105...

10. Toad Ramsey - You didn't have him on your list. He also had a losing record, but his ERA+ was 114.

11. Bobby Mathews - Won a lot of games early in his career against very poor competition, so I've got him quite a bit lower than you do.

12. George Bradly - Decent pitcher, but I totally take out his 25-15 in the UA as the UA was definitely NOT of the same calibre as the NL or even the AA.

13. Charlie Ferguson - .607%, ERA+ of 122, not on your list.

14. Candy Cummings - Another pitcher who fattened his stats in less competitive league years, but he made the HOF.

15. Jim Devlin - Only .493% in weak league, but he did manage a 155 ERA+, so he makes my list.

16. Jumbo McGinnis - Ace pitcher for the best AA team - St. Louis.

17. Fred Goldsmith - Had a .622% in the 1880's, so he makes the list.

The others..
Dan Casey, Dick McBride, George Zettlein, ...

Posted 10:46 p.m., January 16, 2002 (#29) - KJOK (e-mail)
And before someone corrects me, St. Louis had Mullane, Foutz & Carruthers, so calling Jumbo "the Ace" was a bit of a stretch, but his 1st 3 years (ages 18-20!) were VERY good...

And of course Radbourn was ONE of the best pitchers of the 1880's, NOT 1980's..

Posted 10:49 p.m., January 16, 2002 (#30) - KJOK (e-mail)
One other item - John Montgomery Ward played past 1891, but his last PITCHING YEAR was 1883, so he probably belongs in the top 10 on this list.

Posted 9:28 a.m., January 17, 2002 (#31) - MattB
Good list, as well, KJOK. I was starting to wonder if everyone was more interested in arguing the rules than the players.

It seems that are lists are generally comparable, except that you discount the NA more than I did, and the discount the AA less than I did. Also, I would have no problem with my Top 6 being considered among the most Meritorious of All-Time.

Re: Differences

Charley Radbourne: Far and away the best of the bunch, but I was sticking to the pre-1891 timeframe.

Toad Ramsey and Charlie Ferguson: Not oversights, but not in my Top 15.

Besides losing points for his amphibious nickname, Mr. Ramsey was only a regular for 5 years and was awful for two of them. Right in the heart of his career, he went 12-47 with an ERA+ in the low 80s. While I allowed high ranking for pitchers with short careers, I wanted to see more than just 3 good years, and I wanted to see consistency. If you're just going to show me five years, don't show me two with ERA+ of 75 and 89. I was happy to rank higher pitchers with lower career ERA+, but that never dropped below ninety. Consistency counts.

Same for Mr. Ferguson. Dominated for three years, but only played in four. He also could hit some. I'd rank him above the Toad, but again wanted to see more than just 3 years, no matter how dominant those three were.

Posted 3:53 p.m., January 17, 2002 (#32) - Devin McCullen
Since this got mentioned earlier and no one responded, I thought I'd clear it up. Al Spalding quit pitching because he was the team owner, and he wanted to spend his time with that and his sporting goods venture (worked out pretty well, I'd say). He's really in the Hall of Fame more as an executive and league official than for his pitching, although he certainly was an excellent pitcher. Since the Hall of Merit is just focusing on playing careers, I don't think he'd make the cut, although if somebody wanted to make a peak value argument, I'd be willing to listen.

Posted 7:41 p.m., January 17, 2002 (#33) - jimd
Spalding was one of the reasons I brought up the injury issue, though a short pitching career seems to be symptomatic of the era. I didn't know why he stopped pitching. Was it: he was hurting, so they signed Bradley? Or, they signed Bradley so he stepped aside?

I knew he was part owner in Chicago, along with league founder William Hulbert, becoming team president after Hulbert's death in 1882. Was equity in the team part of his famous "free-agent" signing when he went from Boston to Chicago in 1876? (along with Barnes, White, and McVey; picture maybe Mussina, Clemens, Jeter and Posada signing with another team when contemplating the impact of this event).

To say he's in the HOF for any one thing is probably wrong. There were other team owners of that era, practically all bypassed. I'd say he's in because he was FAMOUS. Teen phenom becomes star pitcher on best team in baseball, wins 5 straight championships, founds sporting goods company (named after himself), and becomes president/owner of Cubs while (ghost?)writing popular annual guidebook (again under his name), all by the age of 33; this paints a picture in broad strokes.

The negative? The short career. Questions about the competition level; how concentrated was the talent into the National Association? From what I've read, this was the best baseball league in the country, but it was a completely new concept, the first league where all the teams were openly professional. However, there were lots of good players still playing for local semi-pro teams away from the big cities. The NA teams were not yet trying to find this talent, and the talent was not yet dreaming of playing for them either. It wasn't yet "The Show".
   43. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 01:59 AM (#2631059)
Posted 12:50 a.m., January 18, 2002 (#34) - Satchel (e-mail)
On the question of the National League's superiority to other leagues in the 1870s and 80s: I'd always been intrigued by James's remarks (which were in the old HBA, too), and recently I've set out to research the question. While I don't have anything systematic yet, I can tell you that the NL was definitely superior to any other league in operation at the time. The best "other" league was probably the 1878 International Association, which featured quite a few former and future major leaguers--but the NL immediately grabbed its top two teams, Buffalo and Syracuse. Buffalo, the '78 IA champ, finished third in the '79 NL; Syracuse finished last. So the '78 IA was close in quality to the NL, but not quite there--probably about like the American Association in an average season.

Other good leagues would include the California League of the late 70s/early 80s (which featured Cal McVey among others), and the Eastern Championship Association of 1881 (which featured two future AA teams, the NY Metropolitans and the Philadelphia Athletics). The ECA champion Mets were by far the best non-NL club in the country that year. They played an extensive schedule of games against NL teams, finishing 18-41.

Posted 1:01 a.m., January 18, 2002 (#35) - Satchel (e-mail)
About Al Spalding: he did quit playing in order to pay full attention to his business career, but he quit pitching before he quit playing. He was the White Stockings' pennant-winning pitcher (and the second-best pitcher in the league) in 1876; in 1877, he decided for some reason to play first base, and acquired the best pitcher, St. Louis's George Bradley, to take his place on the mound. Bradley tanked, and so did the team. And Spalding hit .256.

I've read that some say Spalding retired because he could neither throw nor hit a curveball, which was quite the coming thing in the mid-70s; but I have no idea whether this is accurate or not. It's true that he was known mostly for his fastball.

Posted 9:55 a.m., January 18, 2002 (#36) - DanG
jimd wrote: "I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them."

I recall that Craig Wright in "The Diamond Appraised" documents some of the history of this abuse. Been awhile since I've read it, though.

Looking at this issue a bit, pitching in the 19th century was indeed a young man's profession. Cy Young in 1903 was the first pitcher older than 35 to win 18 or more games in a season.

The aptly named "Old Hoss" Radbourn was the only 20-game winner older than 33 before 1901. He was 20-11 at age 34 and 27-12 at age 35 (in the Players League). Tim Keefe came close at age 35 (19-16), nobody else did.

There were only three 20-game winners at age 33: Bobby Mathews in 1885 (30-17), Bob Barr in 1890 (28-24, back in the "bigs" due to the player shortage that year), and Tony Mullane 1892 (21-13).

Only a handful of 19th-century pitchers were consistent big winners in their early 30's. The list includes Bill Hutchison, Keefe, Mathews, Radbourn, Young and Pud Galvin. That's about it.

As much as arm abuse, the sea-change in pitching conditions that came in 1893 cut short (and often ended) the careers of nearly every pitcher active then.

Should they be given a break in assessing their careers? I'm inclined to say no. The great ones (Young, Nichols, Rusie) pitched through it, hardly missing a beat.

More study is needed.

Dan

Posted 10:49 a.m., January 18, 2002 (#37) - DanG
jimd wrote: "I want to bring up an issue that may be injury-related, maybe not (I don't know, since I never studied the issue, nor heard it discussed) but is related to 19th century baseball.

Most pitchers in the 19th century had short careers. Their numbers are impressive because they pitched nearly everyday, which may also have something to do with their having short careers. Were these guys routinely coming up with sore arms and being replaced because they were hurt, or were they being replaced because the team found somebody better?

Anybody know?

If the game itself was systematically abusing these pitchers (probably because nobody knew any better), then I would argue that modern standards of career length should not apply to them."

I recall that Craig Wright in "The Diamond Appraised" documents some of the history of this abuse. Been awhile since I've read it, though.

Looking at this issue a bit, pitching in the 19th century was indeed a young man's profession. Cy Young in 1903 was the first pitcher older than 35 to win 18 or more games in a season.

The aptly named "Old Hoss" Radbourn was the only 20-game winner older than 33 before 1901. He was 20-11 at age 34 and 27-12 at age 35 (in the Players League). Tim Keefe came close at age 35 (19-16), nobody else did.

There were only three 20-game winners at age 33: Bobby Mathews in 1885 (30-17), Bob Barr in 1890 (28-24, back in the "bigs" due to the player shortage that year), and Tony Mullane 1892 (21-13).

Only a handful of 19th-century pitchers were consistent big winners in their early 30's. The list includes Bill Hutchison, Keefe, Mathews, Radbourn, Young and Pud Galvin. That's about it.

As much as arm abuse, the sea-change in pitching conditions that came in 1893 cut short (and often ended) the careers of nearly every pitcher active then.

Should they be given a break in assessing their careers? I'm inclined to say no. The great ones (Young, Nichols, Rusie) pitched through it, hardly missing a beat.

More study is needed.

Dan

Posted 4:18 p.m., January 18, 2002 (#38) - jimd
To me, one of the key issues in evaluating these pitchers is the relationship between them and the rest of the team. Are they carrying the team with their pitching brilliance, or are they creations of the team defense behind them? Those are the extreme positions; the reality is some of both, I'm sure, but is it the same as today? Or is the defense more important in a relative sense?
(I'm thinking of this issue specifically in anticipation of Win Shares and it's quantification of the allocation of defensive responsibility, but it's an issue worth contemplating in its own right.)

The replacement issue touches on this because, well, if pitchers are easily replaceable with someone else, then it's not likely to be their extreme excellence, is it? Of course, they might also be relying on trick pitches/deliveries/whatever that wear off quick after the league adapts. But it seems to me there would be mention of these things in the tales/histories.

Therefore the injury explanation would seem to be necessary to support the theory of pitchers having both a dominant role but short careers. Is the injury evidence there? I guess another possiblity would be a model of aging which has these guys on the way out in their mid-to-late twenties, but why them and not the position players? Why so different from today's aging patterns for pitchers (such as they are)?

Alternative takes on this are welcome. (I know, I'm asking a lot of questions for which I don't have answers. "Do some research, jimd"; I just hate to reinvent the wheel.)

I'll have to see if I can find my "Diamond Appraised" up in the attic. Thanks for the lead, DanG.
   44. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 02:00 AM (#2631061)
Posted 12:58 p.m., January 31, 2002 (#39) - Craig Burley
Satchel's comments re Spalding are interesting. Could it really be true that the curveball didn't become "the coming thing" until the mid-1870s? I find it highly unlikely myself, given that cricket bowlers were bowling "spin" as far back as the 1820s and 1830s.

The principle of spin bowling is slightly similar to offspeed pitches like the curveball, although not so much that the baseballists would have necessarily adapted the principle. I am sure, though, that many if not most of the baseball players of the 1860s and 1870s were also familiar with cricket, which would have been equally popular at the time in many areas (particularly Philadelphia).

Posted 3:26 p.m., January 31, 2002 (#40) - jimd
The following link may be of some interest to the HOM voters:

http://web.archive.org/web/20030609183923/http://www.baseballprospectus.com/news/20020129davenport.html

The article by Clay Davenport is about the relative strength of the Japanese Leagues vis-a-vis MLB, but about 2/3 of the way down, he mentions similar ratings of the Federal League, the American Association, the Union Association, and the Players League, all of which have interest to us here.

Posted 3:46 p.m., January 31, 2002 (#41) - scruff
Thanks Jim. That's a great article. I'm going to give this topic it's own thread . . .

Posted 1:05 a.m., February 1, 2002 (#42) - John Murphy
Couldn't a similiar rating be conducted for during WW2?

Posted 11:12 p.m., February 2, 2002 (#43) - Craig Burley
John, you're exactly right, and I believe I remember hearing that some had done similar work already. This would indeed be crucial to getting an accurate handle on 1917-18, 1941-46 in particular, and even 1950-53...

Posted 2:44 p.m., March 5, 2002 (#44) - DanG (e-mail)
I've begun looking at candidates for the first election and thought I'd share some of the numbers I've found. Begin with a look at the top five offensive catchers retired by 1900:

Retired-/-Gcatch-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Ewing, Buck 1897 636 1B-253 187 23.0 1173 0.662
Carroll, Fred 1891 377 OF-319 153 29.2 597 0.641
McVey, Cal 1879 183 1B-184 131 19.0 246 0.707
Bennett, Cha 1893 954 --------- 92 19.6 701 0.589
Clements, J 1900 1076 --------- 80 19.6 775 0.570

That's about the best I could get the columns.
A few notes:
1) Career BR+ is from Total Baseball, 7th ed.
2) 5-year peak is the average of the 5 best BR+ seasons
3) Runs Created is from STATS All-time Major League Handbook. National Association play is not included in the total.
4) Pythagorean Win Pct is computed from STATS RC/27 figures in the Handbook. I don't believe these are park adjusted.

Other positions to follow.

Posted 2:55 p.m., March 5, 2002 (#45) - DanG
The top five offensive firstbasemen:

Retired-/-G1stbase-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Brouthers, D 1896 1633 -------- 611 55.4 1804 0.770
Connor, Rog 1897 1759 -------- 550 48.6 1891 0.716
Anson, Cap 1897 2152 --------- 482 37.2 2108 0.713
Larkin, Henry 1893 710 LF-308 252 34.8 1044 0.672
Orr, David L. 1890 787 --------- 233 39.8 0758 0.714

Posted 3:16 p.m., March 5, 2002 (#46) - DanG
The top five offensive secondbasemen:

Retired-/-G2ndbase-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Richardsn, H 1892 585 LF-375 188 24.4 1132 0.650
Barnes, Ross 1881 346 SS-141 160 28.8 0217 0.715
McPhee, Bid 1899 2129 -------- 78 14.0 1600 0.581
Dunlap, Fred 1891 963 --------- 113 20.1 677 0.579
Robinson, Yk 1892 698 --------- 17 13.8 0721 0.609

One note. I decided to value Fred Dunlap's BR+ of 49.2 in the Union Association of 1884 at half (24.6).

Posted 3:31 p.m., March 5, 2002 (#47) - scruff (e-mail)
Dan -- Good work.

One thing when figuring out position to keep in mind. Career games totals might not be a good idea for figuring a player's main position.

Because the schedules gradually got longer, players played less games at the positions they played during their primes because the seasons were longer.

Deacon White is a great example. I consider him a C/3B (equivalent of a C/2B today), kind of like Joe Torre, had he been a 2B not a 3B in his 2nd life. Most of the other people that have looked at it consider him a 3B (though not many consider it equivalent to a 2B of the post-1920 era). This is vital in judging Deacon White as a hitter. I consider him of the greatest players of the 19th Century, but if I judged him as a modern day 3B he obviously wouldn't be.

-From 1871-76 White was C.
-In 1877 he was a 1B/OF.
-From 1878-1879 he was a C/0F.
-In 1880 he was an OF.
-In 1881 he was a 1B/2B/OF (the modern equivalent of a Bobby Bonilla/Pedro Guerrero, but he was a good defensive player by accounts I've seen).
-From 1882-83 he was a 3B/C (a rare wrong way shift on the defensive spectrum that actually worked).
-From 1884-89 he was a 3B
-In 1890 he played 3B-1B.

So all told, you have about 8 years as a C, 7 years at 3B (equivalent of 2B today), 2 years as an OF about a year and a half at 1B and about 1/3 of a year at 2B.

His career games totals however show up like this:

C - 8 seasons, 458 G
3B - 7 seasons, 827 G
OF - 2 seasons, 162 G
1B - 1.5 seasons, 133 G
2B - .33 seasons, 34 G

He was 24 in 1872 and was one of the better players in the league, by 1873 he was a star. He most surely could have played before age 23 if the league had been in existance.

Also, his counting stats are hurt by the fact that his best years were played under the shorter schedules. He played 54% of the games in his career in 40% of the years (after the age of 35) because the seasons became longer. His rate stats need to be adjusted for this.

I'll be posting similar numbers to Dan shortly; career offensive W-L records for 19th Century players. The numbers will be seasonally adjusted to a 162 game season. This is very important when considering 19th Century players. I'll also seasonally adjust the win shares for 19th Century players to 162 game seasons as well, once that book comes out. This is going to help us a lot with defensive evaluation (I'm hoping anyway).

Deacon White was a truly great player in the 19th Century. But it's hard to see without focusing the lense right. How we interpret the numbers is vital for the early elections.
   45. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 02:00 AM (#2631064)
Posted 4:13 p.m., March 5, 2002 (#49) - DanG
Joe's analysis of Deacon White is important and his points are worth emphasizing. The game was evolving rapidly and few statistics can be taken at face value. For instance, in my list of best hitting thirdbasemen here, White isn't really directly comparable to Bill Joyce in any meaningful way. My lists are kind of a rough starting point.

If I were redoing these lists I'd use seasons at position rather than games.

Anyway, the top five offensive thirdbasemen:

Retired-/-G3rdbase-/Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Joyce, Willm 1898 735 -------- 250 39.2 0881 0.722
Lyons, Den 1897 1085 -------- 237 36.4 1005 0.677
White, Deac 1890 826 C-458- 198 23.0 0972 0.615
Sutton, Ezra 1888 880 SS-245 112 20.4 0761 0.609
Meyerle, Le 1877 158 ---------- 97 17.0 0077 0.688

Posted 11:14 a.m., March 6, 2002 (#50) - DanG
Let's try two positions this time:
The top five offensive shortstops:

Retired-/-Gshortstop-/Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
McKean, Ed 1899 1565 -------- 118 21.4 1332 0.592
Glasscock, J 1895 1629 -------- 107 23.6 1226 0.563
Wise, Samuel 1893 563 -2B-448- 90 19.8 0861 0.563
Fennelly, Fra 1890 769 ----------- 73 17.4 0622 0.614
Wright, Geor 1882 530 ----------- 67 15.8 0227 0.520

The top five offensive leftfielders:

Retired-/-Gleftfield-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Delahanty Ed 1903 1056 1B-271 544 63.2 1793 0.730
Stovey, Harry 1893 519 1B-550- 296 36.8 1462 0.708
O'Rourke, Jim 1893 770 CF-463 329 27.2 1515 0.662
O'Neill, Tip 1892 1010 ---------- 194 33.8 1052 0.734
Jones, Charley 1888 636 CF-247 209 27.2 0833 0.704

I included Delahanty because there seemed to be a consensus to let deceased players on the ballot early. If you don't include him, the next best LF would be George Wood, Abner Dalrymple or Tom York.

Posted 12:43 p.m., March 6, 2002 (#51) - DanG
The five best offensive centerfielders:

Retired-/-Gcenterfld-/Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Browning, P 1894 490 LF-477 386 47.8 1152 0.734
Gore, Georg 1892 1175 -------- 235 25.8 1219 0.711
Hines, Paul 1891 1303 -------- 256 29.0 1245 0.663
Griffin, Mike 1898 1461 -------- 229 29.0 1298 0.642
Stenzel, Jak 1899 692 -------- 159 31.6 0708 0.684

Billy Hamilton retired in 1901 and tops any of these candidates.

The five best offensive rightfielders:

Retired-/-Grightfld-/-Other Pos/BR+/5-yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Thompson, S 1898 1404 -------- 348 47.4 1361 0.692
Kelly, Mi King 1893 742 -C-583- 247 36.0 1357 0.720
Tiernan, Mike 1899 1160 -------- 316 42.4 1353 0.681
Burns, Oyster 1895 781 SS-200 211 34.0 1028 0.654
Swartwood, E 1892 502 -------- 154 30.0 0636 0.685

Posted 3:13 p.m., March 6, 2002 (#52) - DanG
To finish this up, here are the five best offensive pitchers retired by 1900:

Retired-/-Gpitcher-/-Other Pos/BR+/5yr Pk/RC/Pyth
Caruthers, B 1893 340 RF-280 118 21.4 567 0.697
Hecker, Guy 1890 336 -1B-322 56 13.2 497 0.557
Foutz, Dave 1896 251 1B-596 -10 10.8 820 0.544
Whitney, Jim 1890 413 --------- 31 09.4 362 0.561
Stivetts, Jack 1899 388 OF-141 -4 05.4 382 0.574

Posted 4:14 p.m., March 7, 2002 (#53) - Mark McKinniss (e-mail)
Robert Dudek:

Do you think you could present lists similar to the one you posted a couple of months ago (the list that had George Wright through Doc Bushong)? I'm OK with analyzing players, etc. but my database skills aren't that solid, and it also saves me a bunch of time if I have a "master list" to work with.

I guess in concordance with that comment, I do think that the HoM should have a master list of eligible players to be voted on for each election, especially this first one. I wouldn't put it past me to miss a player or three that I should really be taking a hard look at.

Thanks...

Posted 7:54 p.m., January 7, 2003 (#54) - Not Applicable
you should really consider putting the numbers the players wore on their jerseys. If someone wanted to have a reason why they wanted a certain number on their jersey they could say oh this famous baseball player had it and that person is my role model I know that it would come in handy sometimes and you should put a table of contents so if you wanted to know something specifice you could just click on it. thats all for know thanks!

Posted 9:52 a.m., January 8, 2003 (#55) - Really Not Applicable
Players didn't start wearing numbers regularly until the 1929 Yankees.
   46. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 02, 2007 at 02:01 AM (#2631066)
This thread has all of it's posts now.

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