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Monday, November 22, 2004

John Beckwith

Another quality shortstop to muddy up the waters for us.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 22, 2004 at 03:47 PM | 380 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Gary A Posted: January 08, 2005 at 08:37 AM (#1065381)
From the Pittsburgh Courier, 3-29-1924, praising Beckwith:

"The lure of the East, New York and big time, had no particular appeal for this earnest, hard-working diamond star—or if it did, he remained true to his promise and signed contract. His buddy, Judy Gans [Lincoln Giants’ manager], attempted to persuade him to go East, but his reply, typical of him, was to the effect that he had signed up with the Grays, and intended to come here."

Pittsburgh Courier 3-29-24
   102. Gary A Posted: January 08, 2005 at 08:42 AM (#1065385)
Beckwith's signing with the Grays was a pretty big deal in the Pittsburgh Courier. His arrival in Pittsburgh was reported as major news, and it was regarded as a sign that the independent Grays were making a move to be considered as good as NNL and ECL teams. He was immediately chosen as captain.

From the Courier, 4-12-24:

“Colorful to the extreme, Beckwith is the kind of player who will make a decided impression with fans throughout the tri-state district, and his name in a lineup will be an immense drawing power. He will do the receiving for the Grays. Realizing this fact and also realizing that tempting offers from various Eastern magnates were being flaunted almost daily in the face of the former Foster star, Posey went to Chicago two weeks ago, and upon his return brought back the bats which are Beckwith’s greatest hobby. Wherever those bats go, there goes Beckwith also, and when he appeared Saturday, one of Posey’s biggest causes for worry had been removed.”
   103. Gary A Posted: January 08, 2005 at 08:47 AM (#1065388)
Beckwith caught and batted fourth for the Grays, generally receiving praise for his heavy hitting. However, in the June 21 issue of the Courier, a bombshell was dropped: Cum Posey, the Grays' owner and manager, announced that Beckwith (and pitcher "Darknight" or "Midnight" Smith) was being released.

“Beckwith was unable to fit into our organization," Posey said, "and we felt that we had to either let him go or ruin the morale of our club.” The Courier blamed the team's recent poor play on "internal strife": "Several of the players told of arguments which had ensured since the team began its regular playing season, which had proven injurious to the playing of some of the players.”

"'The climax of the entire affair occurred Saturday,' said one of the players, talking for himself. 'It was in the crucial eighth inning. Bellevue at the time was leading 3-1. Posey, on the first base coaching line, sent a pinch-hitter up. Beckwith waved him back. Eventually our club lost, 3-2. That started the fireworks. Posey is as reasonable as anyone, if you get the results. But when you go against his better judgment, and lose games, that is a different thing.'"
   104. Gary A Posted: January 08, 2005 at 09:01 AM (#1065399)
There was an immediate scramble for Beckwith's services. Charles Spedden, the owner of the ECL's Baltimore Black Sox, hopped a train for Pittsburgh, only to find that Beckwith had already left for Chicago. Spedden continued all the way to Chicago, where he persuaded Beckwith to sign with Baltimore.

Calling Beckwith “one of the most valuable players in organized baseball,” the Courier wrote of him: "Still a young man, he will give the Black Sox just that punch without which they cannot hope to rise above third place. His acquisition has made Baltimore one of the strongest clubs in the East, and the league race from now on promises to take on all the glitter of real fireworks.” (Courier 6-28-24)

Beckwith moved to short for the Black Sox and batted third while the team climbed from third to second place (where it finished the season). In early August, Cum Posey spent an entire week in Baltimore trying to persuade Beckwith to return to the Homestead Grays. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that very week Beckwith was named captain of the Black Sox.

By season's end, it was rumored that Beckwith would replace Pete Hill as manager in 1925. On the other hand, Beckwith was apparently telling friends he intended to retire after the season in order to devote his time to business (of what sort, I wasn't able to find out).

From W. Rollo Wilson's column in the 7-19-24 Pittsburgh Courier:

“An Eastern League manager rises to remark that there is another star keystone combination at work now. He obtrudes his opinion that Beckwith and Day are as good on the defense as Lundy and Lloyd.”

From the Baltimore Afro-American, 7-4-24:

“in the acquisition of Beckwith, formerly of the Homestead Grays, Pittsburg, the Sox have one of the greatest performers at [shortstop] in the Eastern League. Manager Posey himself admits that Beckwith is a star but due to personal reasons the two agreed to disagree and parted. The fans with one accord always give Beckwith the glad hand, and he is proving beyond a doubt his worth to the Sox.”
   105. Gary A Posted: January 08, 2005 at 09:24 AM (#1065417)
A few comments:

A key factor in the Grays' release of Beckwith was the team's independent status; Posey wasn't maintaining very good relations with either league around this time, and wouldn't have had many real options to trade or sell Beckwith to another team. He effectively pirated Beckwith away from Foster to begin with, and his first reaction on getting rid of him was to talk publicly about signing players away from ECL teams.

Posey's talk about signing Mackey and Winters to replace Beckwith, however unrealistic he was being, indicates how big a star Beckwith was at the time. Also, his leaving the NNL for the Grays was considered at least as important as Oscar Charleston going to Harrisburg that same off-season.

It also seems to have been generally understood that losing Beckwith weakened the Grays considerably; when they were swept in a three-game series by the American Giants in late August, Wilson attributed the defeats to the departures of Beckwith and pitcher Ed Rile.
   106. Chris Cobb Posted: January 08, 2005 at 04:13 PM (#1065510)
Gary,

Many thanks for providing all this wonderful contemporary commentary on Beckwith!
   107. Brent Posted: January 09, 2005 at 01:48 AM (#1066127)
Chris and Gary,

Yes, I appreciate the responses from both of you. It looks like Riley was factually correct, but he may have slanted the story somewhat to fit his biases about Beckwith. That's a problem in all history from secondary sources, and why it's great to have someone like Gary pulling out information from primary sources.

I guess I'm still inclined to apply a modest penalty to Beckwith's record because I believe some of his actions did hurt his teams - certainly, having a star player contradict his manager in running the game, which is what seems to have happened in the event in question, isn't good for a team. But clearly everyone involved, including Posey, still recognized Beckwith as a great player who was worth having, which is a more positive impression than I obtained from reading Riley.

And Chris, I'm glad to hear the details about the park adjustment. It sounds like your work is very careful and sophisticated, but many of us didn't know because the methods you've used hadn't been fully written up.

John M - Would it make sense to add a thread on methods for calculating major league equivalents?
   108. Gary A Posted: January 10, 2005 at 06:09 AM (#1069015)
About jimd's comments on park factors (#1063912, previous page): unfortunately, Cincinnati didn't see another Negro League team until the 1930s--the Cuban Stars usually played as a travelling team. (Although Holway does list them as Cincinnati for 1929--I'm not sure whether that's a mistake or not.) So the NeL sample for Redland is very small (29 home games, 44 road games).

The only other Negro League team in the 1920s that regularly used a major league home field was the Homestead Grays, who played in Forbes Field quite a bit. The only problem is that the Grays didn't join a league until 1929--they played league teams, but only around 10-15 times a year.

A couple of other big league parks were used for occasional games in the 1920s, notably Ebbetts Field. The Monarchs of course used the KC Blues' home parks, and I believe a few other teams used minor league parks. Though we don't have minor league park factors either, we could check out team stats like we did on the Buzz Arlett thread to get some idea.

By the way, Beckwith hit a home run at Redland on May 22, 1921, that was said by several papers to be the first ball ever hit over the left field wall. The Chicago Defender said that the "enormous clout" "cleared the left field wall by three feet and just several feet east of the large clock."

Honus Wagner disputed this claim, telling Rollo Wilson in 1924 that he'd hit a ball over the left field wall in 1901. Wilson, however, noted that renovations had been made since then, so Beckwith was the first to homer over the new wall. Wagner, by the way, also said at that time that he'd never seen Beckwith play.
   109. Gary A Posted: January 10, 2005 at 06:17 AM (#1069032)
Further quote from the Chicago Defender (5-28-21) about Beckwith's home run at Redland Field:

"Beckwith was given a great ovation by the fans, who literally went frantic and showered money upon the 19-year-old youth who was able to perform the feat that veterans of the big show have been unable to do. When he had counted his donations from the fans Beckwith found himself about $25 richer. In recognition of the honor bestowed upon him he attempted to loop one into the right field bleachers and missed doing so by only a few feet."

Remember that Beckwith was playing for the visiting Chicago Giants. When the home run came, the Giants were trailing 3-0; it was a solo shot. A few innings later the Cubans opened up on Frank Wickware, drove him from the mound, and ended up winning 14-2. Beckwith hit 1 for 3 with a walk.
   110. Kelly in SD Posted: January 11, 2005 at 10:53 AM (#1071996)
Chris,

Thank you for your response. I did not read your post closely enough. At least leaving him off my ballot did not make the difference. With better understanding, Beckwith may have made my ballot around Moore - about 14th. My ballot is just extremely tight right now from about 7th down to 35th so any little doubt can cause a severe jump.
Yes, the 15-20 homers would be quite a powerful hitter for the 1920s.
Thank you for the continuing education.

Gary A,

Thank you for the contemporary accounts. They really help to complete a picture.

Kelly
   111. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 04:39 AM (#1076215)
From the 7-8-1922 Chicago Defender, on a July 4th game in which the American Giants beat Detroit 1 to 0: "The Giants' only score came in the fifth grame when Beckwith rammed one of Cooper's deliveries over the left field fence, the first time in the history of the park for a home-run." (The first home run over the left field fence, not the first home run!)

"Cooper" is Andy Cooper.
   112. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 04:48 AM (#1076228)
I guess I'll continue to post these here. 1922 NNL raw park factors (incomplete at this point, unfortunately), with home and road games in parentheses:

Indianapolis (Washington Park)- 107 (22,42)
Chi American Gts (Schorling Park)- 66 (50,19)
Cleveland (Tate Field) - 121 (25,8)
Detroit (Mack Park) - 122 (40,16)
Kansas City (Association Park) - 109 (44,28)
Pittsburgh (Central Park) - 118 (7,18)
St. Louis (Stars' Park) - 103 (17,18)

The Bacharachs and Hilldales both toured the west, but I have only 2 and 3 home games for them, respectively. The Cuban Stars were again a road team, and the Chicago Giants left the league, though they remained associate members. I haven't found any games they played with NNL teams.
   113. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 05:09 AM (#1076269)
NNL runs per game, 1920-23:

1920 4.49
1921 5.05 (.263/.324/.361)
1922 5.12
1923 5.48
   114. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 05:38 AM (#1076327)
Some patterns--

Schorling Park PFs:
1920: 85
1921: 54
1922: 66
1923: 81
1928: 57

Stars Park:
1922: 103
1923: 155
1928: 124

Washington Park (Indy):
1920: 102
1921: 106
1922: 107
1923: 85

Association Park (KC):
1920: 110
1921: 115
1922: 109
1923: 113

Muehlebach Field (KC):
1923: 104
1928: 99

Mack Park (Detroit):
1920: 121
1921: 107
1922: 122
1923: 79
1928: 93


(There might be some minor discrepancies in the 1921 data from what I've previously posted; I'm continually adding new games to that season.)
   115. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 04:00 PM (#1076771)
In post #11 above Beckwith's home run came in Schorling's Park, Chicago.
   116. Gary A Posted: January 13, 2005 at 04:10 PM (#1076797)
NNL runs per game, 1920-23 PLUS 1928:

1920 4.49
1921 5.05 (.263/.324/.361; fielding pct. .949)
1922 5.12
1923 5.48
1928 5.07 (.278/.333/.384; fpct. .955)
   117. Gadfly Posted: January 18, 2005 at 06:50 PM (#1086616)
I haven't looked at this thread since before Xmas and must admit that I am amazed at all the great stuff on here.

A couple of points:

1) John Beckwith did not play "half a season" in an extreme hitters park (Prtotectory Oval) in 1929. Beckwith played with the Homestead Grays until early September of that year and his home field was Forbes Field, a pitcher's park.

Beckwith, not Chino Smith, was the greatest hitter operating in the 1929 American Negro League.

2) The contention that Beckwith would have hit 15 to 20 HRs a year in his prime is obviously false.

Beckwith was the greatest Black power hitter of the 1920s. Does it make any sense that he would not hit as many HRs as the white league leaders?

Although the McMillon Statistics are somewhat unreliable, they show Beckwith in his prime, 1924 to 1931 at ages 24-31, hitting 39.6 HRs per 154 Games.

McMillion (Beckwith 24-31, then pro-rated)
272 G, 1028 AB, 388 H, 60 2B, 9 3B, 70 HR, .377 BA
154 G, 588 AB, 220 H, 34 2B, 5 3B, 40 HR

If he is averaging 40 for eight years, would he not hit 50 or so at his peak?

3) I did not mean to present a "rosy" biography of Beckwith. I simply think that James Riley's characterization of Beckwith as a criminal was way off. Beckwith was a very difficult man, something like Albert Belle (and Albert Belle is an extraordinarily good comp for Beckwith as a hitter).

Several years ago, I spoke with Al Fennar who was a personal friend of Beckwith. He greatly liked and admired Beckwith so you may discount his testimony as biased. He basically told me that Beckwith was a good man, but would not allow anyone to disrespect him or anyone or anything else that he cared about.

Mr. Fennar strongly disagreed with Riley's bio of Beckwith, calling it a "bunch of crap." Fennar, by the way, knew Beckwith for 25 years and visited him in Harlem Hospital shortly before he passed away. Mr. Fennar did admit that Beckwith had a temper.

Mr. Fennar discribed him as "touchy" in the old style of that word, i.e. easy to piss off if you got out of line. He also said that, as a manager, Beckwith was a strict disciplinarian who would help you if you showed you cared and be all over you if you slacked off.

4) I completely agree with Chris Cobb's observation that Josh Gibson was the greatest hitter in Negro League history and that Beckwith (with Stearnes, Suttles, and Charleston) is in the running for Number 2. Though I would maybe add Buck Leonard, Grant Johnson, John Lloyd, and Bill Pettus to the list.

My personal opinion is that he is a close number 3 behind Gibson and Charleston.
   118. Gadfly Posted: January 18, 2005 at 07:54 PM (#1086778)
Chris Cobb:

On your conversion rates (.87 Batting/.82 Slugging):

In my opinion, your conversion rates are too low and suffer from sample size and quality problems.

For SA, you use the following five men:

Robinson .762
Irvin .816
Doby .833
Jethroe .874
Campanella .961

The problem with Robinson is that you are using his 1945 Negro League stats. These statistics have to be adjusted for 1) a severe war-related decline in the quality of Negro League play and 2) war time dead ball emphasis of speed over slugging.

By the second point, I mean that, if you reduce pure slugging, a player's speed (ability to produce doubles, triples, and inside the park homers because of speed) begins to show up in their SA. Robinson was lightning fast.

Robinson's SA conversion rate has to be adjusted up, way up.

The problem with both Irvin and Doby is the same: Both men went from what was the best hitter's park in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s (Ruppert Stadium: 305 down the lines, short power alleys, 400 to center) to pitcher's parks in the Major Leagues.

Somewhere around here, I have Irvin's 1951 Home/Road Splits. Overall, he hit 24 HRs total with a .312 BA. But on the road he hit 16 HRs with a BA in the .330s. During his Major league career Irvin's home/road home run split was 43/56.

Doby's career home/road home run split is 121/132. In 1948 and 1949, his first two full seasons, Doby hit 13 homers at home and 25 on the road.

Both Irvin's and Doby's SA conversion rate has to be adjusted up quite a bit.

The problem with both Jethroe and Campanella is simply age. Jethroe, born in 1917, was on the down side of 30 with eye and physical problems when he played in the Majors from 1950 to 1952.

On the other hand, Campanella was too young when he played in the Negro Leagues and had not fully developed his power. Another problem with Campy is that Ebbetts Field was a bandbox.

The SA conversion of Jethroe has to be adjusted up and Campanella, taking both his age and the Ebbetts Field factor which offsets it, probably should be adjusted down.

There are similar problems with your BA conversions, biased against the Negro Leaguers, but they are not as severe as these.

Rather than using the Major Leagues, You might want to try comparing the Negro Leagues of the 1940s to the contemporary Triple-A Leagues.

At one point, you state that you think the Negro Leagues are between AA and AAA in quality; but, if you run Negro League and Triple-A comparisons (which have a much larger sample base) and do the appropriate adjustments, you will quickly see that the Negro Leagues of the 1940s are almost exactly the same quality as the contemporary Triple-A Leagues.

By the way, the Mexican League of the 1940s was also of Triple-A caliber. For example, check out Ray Dandridge's statistics some day. He skipped thru the Negro Leagues, the Mexican League, and Triple-A during the 1940s. Also compare Monte Irvin's 1942 Mexican stats with his 1948-49 Triple-A stats combined.
   119. Gadfly Posted: January 18, 2005 at 08:14 PM (#1086828)
One Last Thought:
(I was going to say "Final" but it was too Springer-like.)

A couple of years ago, there was a study done that compared the Triple-A Leagues of the 1940s to their Major League counterparts.

The conversion factor that the study revealed was .92. (Interestingly, the modern Triple-A conversion rates that I have seen are pretty much the same. I guess that the more things change, the more they stay the same.)

My own personal conversion rates that I use are:

Negro Leagues
1920-1924 .85-.89
1925-1930 .90
1931-1936 .95
1937-1950 .90

And I think these are very slightly conservative.

(Note: From 1931 to 1936, the Depression concentrated the Negro League talent by killing off the weak teams.)

After 1950, the Negro League talent level fell off the cliff. For example, Henry Aaron hit almost exactly the same in the Negro Leagues in 1952 as he did in A ball in 1953.

Someone in this thread said that: "By studying the Negro Leagues, you are obviously biased in the favor of the Negro Leagues." This is most probably true. However, if you simply look at the evidence with open eyes, the unbiased conclusions are fairly obvious.
   120. Gary A Posted: January 18, 2005 at 10:11 PM (#1087111)
Gadfly,

I've been researching 1916, and in early July of that year the Montgomery Gray Sox played three games with the Indianapolis ABCs. "Beckwith" was Montgomery's catcher for the series. Both Riley and The Negro Leagues Book identify this guy as John Beckwith; but since John would only have been 16, I was wondering if this could be his brother, Stanley. I don't think I'd ever heard of Stanley before your earlier posts on Beckwith...
   121. Chris Cobb Posted: January 18, 2005 at 11:52 PM (#1087426)
Gadfly,

Thanks for your comments on conversions.

Obviously, they suffer from sample-size problems, but that problem is imposed by the data: I have used what I have available. Do you have more information on the AAA-to ML conversion study in the 1940s?

Differences in competition quality in the Negro Leagues over time is not something my conversions take into account, although I agree that levels of competition were not uniform and were almost certainly higher between 1925 and 1940 than from 1940-1948. I would like to do so, but I would need some data to go on.

I hope the electorate is aware of this issue and considers it, despite its not being directly represented in my conversions.

Slugging percentage needs to receive more of a reduction than batting average. If my ba conversions are about 3% low, I expect my slugging conversions are about 3% low also. If one converts ba and slugging at equal rates, one gets ba/slg ratios that do not match the ratios achieved by major-leaguers: nobody with a batting average that matches the negro-leaguer's average has a slugging percentage as high. My conversions may be accurate or inaccurate, but I am convinced that my use of a lower ratio for slugging than for ba is correct, and is (I think) corroborated by conversions of minor league stats to MLEs. I would be happy to be corrected on this point by anyone with better information, but as far as I can tell, the lower rate for slugging is justified not just by my limited data set but by other conversion studies.

I have accounted for a number of the factors you mention:

1) I have park-adjusted Doby and Irvin's slugging averages, using their major-league park factors and estimating the Newark park as an extreme hitter's park. I may well have underestimated the park factor for Newark, as I was simply guessing.

2) I did not use Campanella in the slugging average study because of age issues; I don't remember off the top of my head if I excluded Jethro or not, but I think his data was consistent with the others.

3) I did include a WWII competition adjustment in the translations for Robinson's slugging. I agree that speed does become a factor in slugging under some conditions. As Irvin, Robinson, and Doby were all speedy, perhaps there should be a slightly different conversion rate for players who were not speedy.
   122. Gadfly Posted: January 19, 2005 at 12:16 AM (#1087486)
Gary A-

The quick answer to your question is that I think the Beckwith who caught for Montgomery in 1916 is neither John nor Stanley. But, in all honesty, I could be wrong.

Stanley Beckwith was born in July of 1895 in Louisville, Kentucky. John Beckwith was born in January of 1900, same place. Their parent's names were Jacob and Daisy (Smith) Beckwith.

Jacob Beckwith, who was born in Louisville about 1877, simply disappears from every Census. I assume he died, but Daisy Beckwith is listed as married, not widowed, in the 1920 Census.

In the 1910 Census, Stanley Beckwith is living with an uncle in Chicago; but, as of now, I haven't been able to locate Daisy or John Beckwith.

In the 1920 Census, the 24 year old and married Stanley is the head of household and both his 19 year old brother John and Daisy are living with him. Stanley was working as a clerk in the Chicago Post Office and had apparently given up baseball.

John Beckwith died in January of 1956 and Stanley, still living in Chicago, is mentioned as his surviving relative. John Beckwith's obituary states that he played baseball from 1918 to 1942.

Stanley Beckwith died in Cleveland, Ohio, in October of 1984.

I first heard of Stanley from Al Fennar who told me that John Beckwith had a brother Stanley who also played and got John Beckwith to give up his boxing dreams and play baseball for the Chicago Giants.

Of course, there is a Beckwith playing shortstop for the Chicago Giants in 1917 and 1918. While going through the Chicago Defender, I came across a box score that had two Beckwiths. One was S. Beckwith and the other J. Beckwith.

Just recently, I was looking through the Baseball Magazine Database that SABR has posted access to. Incredibly, there is an article in there about the Chicago All Nations team of 1918. The shortstop for that team is Stanley Beckwith. There is even a team picture.

My conclusions are that Stanley Beckwith played shortstop for the Chicago Giants in 1917 and 1918 and got his brother to join the team.

As far as the Beckwith who caught for Montgomery in Indianapolis in 1916, I would assume that this is another Beckwith. Stanley was a shortstop and John was too young. But you never know.
   123. Gadfly Posted: January 19, 2005 at 01:09 AM (#1087580)
Chris Cobb-

I do agree with you that, from what I've seen, you have to give a greater discount to slugging average over batting average when doing Minor League to Major League conversions. And it is also very clear that the Negro Leagues were of lesser quality than the contemporary Major Leagues.

I've often wondered about that. I assume that, with the increase in the quality of competition, it is more difficult to made hard contact. This would lower the slugging but, with some of the hard contact now going for singles, moderate the loss of batting average.

But that is simply a guess.

I will try to find reference to the study I saw that did 1940s Major-Minor Translations for you and post some Negro League Triple-A comparisons when I have time. It was my understanding that the .92 conversion was overall. In other words, BA would be reduced by say .95 and slugging by .89. But I could be wrong.

But I still stand by my opinion of Beckwith. Over 8 years in his prime, he averaged .377 and 39.6 Homers in the Negro Leagues. Discount the BA by .90 and the homers by .80 and you still have a man hitting 32 homers and batting .340 a year through the 1920s.

And I think those estimates are dead wrong on the conservative side. I stand by my evaluation of Beckwith as Rogers Hornsby with more power and less speed.
   124. Chris Cobb Posted: January 19, 2005 at 01:33 AM (#1087629)
Gadfly,

Part of the difference between our estimations of Beckwith may have to do with the numbers we're using. It appears that Holway's numbers are lower than the numbers in MacMillan (which I have not looked at). I've operated on the assumption that the numbers in Holway's book are the most reliable available, despite the limitations imposed by their frequent incompleteness.

Your lower-bound estimate is about where my upper-bound estimate would be.

I note that Rogers Hornsby himself averaged 25 home runs a year from 1920 to 1929,

In any case, I think John Beckwith is a definite HoMer. He hasn't been elected yet, and given the procession of great stars who will be reaching the ballot during the rest of the 1940s and early 1950s, he may not be elected soon, though further analysis may continue to raise his ranking relative to others. But I think it very likely that he will be elected.
   125. KJOK Posted: January 19, 2005 at 02:18 AM (#1087723)
Oooh, lots of good stuff:

The problem with both Irvin and Doby is the same: Both men went from what was the best hitter's park in the Negro Leagues in the 1940s (Ruppert Stadium: 305 down the lines, short power alleys, 400 to center) to pitcher's parks in the Major Leagues....
The problem with both Jethroe and Campanella is simply age. Jethroe, born in 1917, was on the down side of 30 with eye and physical problems when he played in the Majors from 1950 to 1952.


These are the same type of problems that flaw McNeil's "Baseball's Other All-stars" conversions.

Slugging percentage needs to receive more of a reduction than batting average. If my ba conversions are about 3% low, I expect my slugging conversions are about 3% low also. If one converts ba and slugging at equal rates, one gets ba/slg ratios that do not match the ratios achieved by major-leaguers: nobody with a batting average that matches the negro-leaguer's average has a slugging percentage as high. My conversions may be accurate or inaccurate, but I am convinced that my use of a lower ratio for slugging than for ba is correct, and is (I think) corroborated by conversions of minor league stats to MLEs. I would be happy to be corrected on this point by anyone with better information, but as far as I can tell, the lower rate for slugging is justified not just by my limited data set but by other conversion studies.

I agree, SLG% moves up/down at a faster rate than BA. I think my limited studies plus some things others have done show that the relationship is roughly BA gets reduced by the square root of whatever SLG is getting reduced by (so if .92 is the factor for BA, then .85 should be the factor for SLG, if .82 is the factor for BA, then .68 would be the factor for SLG, etc.).

Part of the difference between our estimations of Beckwith may have to do with the numbers we're using. It appears that Holway's numbers are lower than the numbers in MacMillan (which I have not looked at). I've operated on the assumption that the numbers in Holway's book are the most reliable available, despite the limitations imposed by their frequent incompleteness.

I would probably guess the opposite, although maybe Gary could comment. What's funny, to me, is that I believe Holway was heavily involved in the development of the MacMillan numbers...
   126. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 04:20 AM (#1087910)
I didn't realize there was such a difference between Holway and the Macmillan. Here are Beckwith's Macmillan stats:

Year--G--AB--H--D--T-HR-SB-AVE-SLG
1920-15-046-10-01-01-00-01-217-283
1921-34-113-45-05-04-04-00-398-619
1922-48-159-48-11-02-03-03-302-453
1923-60-232-75-19-09-13-05-323-651
1924-33-119-48-08-01-07-07-403-664
1925-47-174-70-14-01-14-02-402-736
1926-34-119-43-07-01-09-01-361-664
1927-46-188-63-13-02-07-01-335-537
1928-(no data)
1929-40-163-62-10-02-11-06-380-669
1930-50-200-96-10-03-19-00-480-845
1931-51-190-66-03-00-16-00-316-616
1932-03-012-04-01-00-01-00-333-667
1933-02-009-04-00-00-00-00-444-444
1934-12-011-03-01-00-00-00-273-364
1935-01-004-00-00-00-00-00-000-000
tot-476-1739-637-103-26-104-26-366-635

Hope this is at least somewhat readable. Sorry, the totals line isn't aligned.

Year-Teams-Pos
1920-Chi Gts-ss,c,p
1921-Chi Gts-ss
1922-Chi Am Gts-ut
1923-Chi Am Gts-3b,1b
1924-Hom Grays, Balt-ss
1925-Balt-ss
1926-Balt, Harrisburg-ss,ut
1927-Harrisburg-3b,ut
1928-(no data)
1929-Hom Grays, Linc Gts-3b,1b,ss,of
1930-Linc Gts, Balt-3b
1931-Balt, Nwk Browns-3b
1932-Nwk Browns-3b
1933-Black Yankees-3b
1934-Black Yankees, Nwk Browns-ph
1935-Hom Grays-c
   127. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 04:48 AM (#1087942)
Macmillan black ink for Beckwith:
1923: doubles
1930: games, at bats, hits, home runs, batting average
1931: home runs

The SLG I figured myself, so I don't know the leaders. I'd wager his 1930 SLG is the best in the east.
   128. Chris Cobb Posted: January 19, 2005 at 04:51 AM (#1087946)
Just to make the key differences easy to see, here are the two career lines from MacMillan and Holway for Beckwith

Source -- AB -- hits -- hr -- ba -- hr/550
Macmil -- 1739 -- 637 -- 104 -- .366 -- 33
Holway -- 2176 -- 767 -- 80-- .352 -- 20

Gadfly's MLEs, if I have understood correctly, are based on a conversion factor of .90 - .95 off of the MacMillan stats.

My assessment is based off of a conversion factor of .87/.82 (ba/slg) off of the Holway stats.

While the differences in the conversion factors are not meaningless, I think the larger discrepancy derives from the base statistics.

It would be useful to get more expert commentary on the reliability of the two sources.

Data that Gary A. has provided from his own box-score tabulation can provide one cross-check of the two larger sources for selected seasons.
   129. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 05:00 AM (#1087954)
Comparing Beckwith's HR according to Macmillan and Holway's Complete Book:

Year-Mac-Holway
1923--13-14
1924---7--5
1925--14-24
1926---9-(7 or fewer)
1927---7--9
1928--------
1929--11-15
1930--19--6
1931--16-16
   130. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 05:12 AM (#1087968)
Well, one thing that's clear is that Holway's career HR total for Beckwith doesn't match up with his individual season total. Just the seasons I listed above add up to 89, whereas Holway gives 80 at the end of the book.
   131. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 19, 2005 at 03:52 PM (#1088360)
Gary or anybody else:

If you see any errors on any Negro Leaguer plaques, please let me know so I can correct them. Holway and Riley don't always agree, plus both of them don't always have the right stats. Thanks!
   132. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 06:07 PM (#1088591)
Comparing Macmillan and Holway as listed above (taking out 1926, when Holway doesn't give a HR figure for Beckwith), their TOTALS for these years are identical, 89. At the least, I'd say that Holway's "real" career HR total for Beckwith must be about what the Macmillan has, 104. So if that 80 figure Holway gives at the end of the book has affected our MLEs, they should probably be adjusted for now.
   133. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 06:15 PM (#1088604)
Gadfly,

Thanks for all the great information on Beckwith! For now, the Gray Sox Beckwith will just have to do without a first name, until we can find out more.
   134. Gadfly Posted: January 19, 2005 at 07:22 PM (#1088765)
Gary A-

The MacMillon Statistics were compiled by the Negro League Committee and, of course, John Holway was a large part of this. John Holway's Statistics from his "Complete Book of the Negro Leagues" are his own continuation of that work.

However, John Holway is a writer, some whould say propagandist, about the Negro Leagues; not a statistician. To say the least, his statistical work is usually quite sloppy. In one book, he listed Josh Gibson hitting 16 HRs in 27 Games. The 27 games was how many box scores he had for Gibson, the 16 HRs were Gibson's published League leading total from a 50 game season.

Of course, I mean no disrespect to John Holway. The world would be a much poorer place without him. But stats are not his forte and any statistics from him need to be examined closely.

One other note: MacMillon (Tenth Edition) lists Beckwith with 6 HRs in 1930, the same as Holway. Not sure where your total of 19 came from. John Beckwith missed most of the 1930 season with a leg injury.

Interestingly, other than that, Holway and MacMillon are pretty much in agreement except that Holway has Beckwith hitting 24(?) rather than 14 HRs in 1925.

More interestingly, I think KJOK is absolutely correct. Looking over some studies I have, SA increases and decreases as the square or square root of BA as you go up and down the talent ladder.

During his prime (1921 to 1929), Rogers Hornsby hit 28.9 HR per 154 Games in the Majors. During his prime (1924 to 1931), Beckwith hit 39.6 HRs per 154 Games in the Negro Leagues.

If your .87 BA reduction is correct that makes the SA reduction .75. In other words, Beckwith, without League or Park adjustments, would have hit 29.7 HRs per 154 Games in the Majors.

And I'll bet dimes to dollars that the League adjustment is in Beckwith's favor in a big way(i.e. there were much less homers hit per game in the Negro Leagues than in the Majors).
   135. Paul Wendt Posted: January 19, 2005 at 09:04 PM (#1088991)
Gadfly #118 suggested
you run Negro League and Triple-A comparisons (which have a much larger sample base)

I think it's likely that the Major League sample is critically small and AAA data therefore critically important.


Gadfly #122
there is a Beckwith playing shortstop for the Chicago Giants in 1917 and 1918. . . . My conclusions are that Stanley Beckwith played shortstop for the Chicago Giants in 1917 and 1918 and got his brother to join the team.

Gary A
For now, the Gray Sox Beckwith will just have to do without a first name, until we can find out more.

Are there many open questions about player identities in the major Negro Leagues?


Gadfly #123
I will try to find reference to the study I saw that did 1940s Major-Minor Translations for you and post some Negro League Triple-A comparisons when I have time. It was my understanding that the .92 conversion was overall. In other words, BA would be reduced by say .95 and slugging by .89. But I could be wrong.

Clay Davenport's minor league translation factors have some currency; indeed, I know of them only indirectly, by reference in remarks on major leagues. He uses the summary measure EqA and his factors should have this property (between batting and slugging factors), if I understand correctly.
   136. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 10:00 PM (#1089145)
Gadfly,

The Macmillan I have is the Eighth Edition, which I think is where the NeL section first appeared. I know that there were corrections and changes made in later editions, and as I understand it, these were basically done by Holway and disavowed by Dick Clark. Of course, I don't really know the details--those who are interested should check out the SABR-L archives, which is where I read about this.

Btw, when Bill James says in the NBJHBA that Beckwith hit 46 home runs in 141 games between 1929 and 1931, he's citing the same stats I have, but says they're from the 1993 edition (which I believe is the Ninth). So the change in Beckwith's record came between the ninth and tenth editions.

In any case, Holway's account of the 1930 season is a real mess. In the standings, he lists Beckwith's Lincoln Giants as going 19-4, hardly enough games in which to hit 19 home runs. But the pitchers' W-L records add up to 26-3, plus the Lincolns played a ten-game series with the Grays that Holways counts as post-season, and apparently didn't include in the regular season stats. But Beckwith was injured and hit only 1 for 8 in that series, according to Holway.

The explanation may be this: in Macmillan 8, Beckwith is listed as playing for the Lincolns AND the Baltimore Black Sox, and as leading the east in games played and at bats--fairly unusual for Beckwith, who missed his share of games. I'm thinking that in the original tabulation a number of 1931 box scores were accidentally included in the 1930 season, and that at some point Holway noticed and corrected this.
   137. Gary A Posted: January 19, 2005 at 10:24 PM (#1089204)
Paul, there are still questions about player identities--mostly bit players, like the Montgomery Beckwith, but a few major ones, like Luis/Juan Padron/e, who I am all but certain was really at least two different people whose careers have been mixed together. In 1916 there were certainly two Padrons playing in the U.S., one in right field for the Long Branch Cubans on the east coast, the other pitching for the Cuban Stars in the midwest. Figueredo has a J. Padron pitching in Cuba for a season around 1915 (he's identified in a photo caption as Jose), and I suspect *he's* the one who later pitched in the NNL (and was usually called "Juan"), rather than the Luis Padron who had been pitching in Cuba since 1900. There may be more recent research on this that I don't know about.

There are lots of issues surrounding Cuban players, because their names tend to get mangled in box scores. Players with the same surnames on the same teams can easily be confused for each other, and sometimes it's not even clear how many there are (as in the Martinez/Martini case on the '28 western Cubans, or the various Joneses, all outfielders, playing for the '34 Cleveland and Birmingham teams).
   138. Gary A Posted: January 20, 2005 at 01:22 AM (#1089508)
Holway's work in the Complete Book is, as Gadfly says, a continuation and extension of the earlier Negro League Committee and Macmillan work. The trouble, unfortunately, is that even a casual reader would note numerous inconsistencies and mistakes in the book; and research I've done shows that, while much of the information is about right, a lot is badly flawed.

In general, I would take Holway's later statistics over the earlier ones, as they are based on a larger number of sources--BUT, when there are major inconsistencies, as in Beckwith's 1930 HRs or Lundy's 1924 HRs, they should be checked out. In such cases, Holway might have corrected an earlier mistake (as I think he did in 1930)--OR he may have introduced a whole new mistake.
   139. Paul Wendt Posted: January 20, 2005 at 02:12 AM (#1089573)
Gary A #[10]4
Beckwith was apparently telling friends he intended to retire after the season in order to devote his time to business (of what sort, I wasn't able to find out).

That was a common negotiating tactic for the preceding generation of white players. They didn't have many alternatives, often no good ones, within baseball under the reserve rule. I don't recall a case where the alternative (eg, the business) was not reported. Offhand, I guess that a viable alternative would be known to or easily discovered by the press.


Brent #[10]7
It looks like Riley was factually correct, but he may have slanted the story somewhat to fit his biases about Beckwith. That's a problem in all history from secondary sources, and why it's great to have someone like Gary pulling out information from primary sources.

Note that contemporary newspapers are commonly secondary sources, even granting that quotation of a participant is a primary source.
   140. Gadfly Posted: January 20, 2005 at 08:17 PM (#1090956)
Paul Wendt:

In the off-seasons in the 1920s, John Beckwith ran a pool hall in Chicago.

I looked over some of the Davenport translation stuff in old Baseball Prospectus annuals, and you are correct. The .92 is an overall reduction based on the EQA rating. I would assume that this would give you about a .95 reduction of BA and a .89 reduction on isolated SA if the square root theory is correct.

Gary A:

Juan Padron and Luis Padron are, as you assert, two distinct players (and I've never understood the various contentions that they are not).

Luis Padron, was born in Cuba probably before 1880, and played in the Cuban Winter Leagues from 1900 to 1919. In general, the Padron on the Long Branch Cubans and Linares' Cuban Star team is Luis.

He returned to Cuban and there is a picture of him as an old man in the 1948 Raul Diez Cuban League History book.

Juan Padron was an American Cuban born in Key West, Florida, in 1896. In general, the Padron on Pompez' (another Key West native) Cuban Stars and then various Negro League teams thru the 1920s, including the American Giants, is Juan.

Juan Padron died in 1981 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Each man's name was spelled Padron, Padrone is a misspelling.

Both were very good pitchers and Luis was probably a Major League Caliber hitter too.

I've started working up a Monte Irvin analysis and will post it within a week.

I will pose you a theoretical question though. After integration, the superstars of Major League Baseball were pretty much evenly divided between black and white players (For proof, check out the Hall of Fame demographics of players active from 1950 to Present).

If anything, the greatest stars were actually black (Mays, Aaron, Frank Robinson, etc. and now Bonds). Of course, many people make a demographic argument (i.e. only 10-12 percent of the population is Black); but I have always thought that the more proper demographic argument would be: "What are the percentages of poor people."

Historically, the percentage of white and non-whites below the poverty line is more like 50-50.

So, if the distribution of superstars is roughly equal between white and black, why do none of your translations for the Negro League Superstars from the 1920s and 1930s end up with a lifetime BA of .330 to .350 like their white counterparts?

I saw a translation for Oscar Charleston (I think by KJOK) that posited his lifetime BA as about .310. If Oscar Charleston wouldn't have finished his Major League career with a lifetime BA over .330 and probably closer to .350, I'd eat my hat.

I think that, all by itself, is proof that the .87 BA/.75 SA translation is too low, way too low.
   141. Gary A Posted: January 20, 2005 at 09:14 PM (#1091101)
Gadfly,

Thanks! I figured somebody had disentangled those guys more thoroughly by now. What you say accords completely with what I know--Luis pitched in the 1900s, but played infield and outfield more and more, whereas the Padron of the early 20s was pretty much a pitcher (though a good hitter, as you point out).

Do you happen to know if they were both lefthanded pitchers? The American Giants' Padron was usually referred to as a lefty; Luis definitely was. Figueredo's book, however, has J. Padron as a righty.

One interesting thing about Luis is that, throwing lefthanded, he apparently played a good deal of third base (and I think 2B--don't have the books here to check) in Cuba in the 1900s.

I would ask you about some other Cuban guys but we're kind of getting far from Beckwith here (not that that's anything new).
   142. karlmagnus Posted: January 20, 2005 at 10:07 PM (#1091191)
(40) It is however untrue that only those below the poverty line play MLB -- gehrig was a Columbia graduate. Thus 10-12% should be the proportion, a priori, though the standrad deviation around that may be quite high.

MLB was the first major lucrative sport to integrate (not much money in basketball back then.) Hence it got more than its share of great African-American athletes in 1950-1970. Since then, the big expansion has been non-US Hispanics, who can get into the US via a MLB career.
   143. Gadfly Posted: January 21, 2005 at 12:13 AM (#1091472)
Gary A-

As you mention, both Padrons seem to have been left-handed. However, I have a note under Luis Padron remarking that, in Figueredo's "Cuban Baseball: A Statistical History" (Page 41), there is a small picture of Luis Padron apparently winding up to throw a pitch right-handed.

He may have batted Left and thrown Right, but obviously more info is needed.

By the way, I meant that Luis (1900-1919) was probably a Major League caliber hitter, not Juan (1915-1934).

Way back in 1906, New Britain signed Almeida and Marsans, the two Cubans that broke into the Majors in 1911. What isn't commonly known is that they also signed Luis Padron (and also Alfredo Cabrera).

Padron way outhit both Almeida and Marsans and was considered the best prospect of the 4. However, I will note that Padron was surely older than either future Cincinnati Red.

In any case, Padron's career went no further becuase he was considered not white enough.

Karl Magnus-

You misconstrue my argument completely. I never stated that 'only' those under the poverty line play MLB. My point was that economic incentive coupled with cultural bias are more important in the demographics of MLB than just straight-line demographic percentages.

How do you explain all these Dominicans currently in MLB, by the way? It surely isn't demographics, but it certainly is economic and cultural.

Do you really assert that the economic and also cultural incentives that drove the percentage of African-American Baseball Players so high from 1950 to 1980 were not there before integration?

I would theorize that those economic incentives were even greater before integration (a good example is the endless careers of some of the great Negro League players themselves).

It is also true that those economic incentives are currently receding and the population of Black Players in MLB is falling. Which, if you ask me, simply proves my point.

I also note that you completely ignore the fact that Hall of Fame players since integration are evenly distributed between white and non-white.

Of course, I do note that you admit that the standard deviation from the 10-12% demographic could be quite high. I submit that it is so high to make the 10-12% figure essentially meaningless.

One final Note: Your example of Lou Gehrig is silly. Gerhig was the only child of very poor immigrant parents. He got into Columbia because of his athletic talent and the fact that his parents, having only one child, could manage to just barely get the money together.

Most Major League Superstars come from economically impoverished backgrounds (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Ted Williams all being good examples).

A few rare Major League Superstars come from backgrounds that are impoverished in other ways (Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds being the two great examples). But they are very obviously the exceptions to the rule.
   144. Gadfly Posted: January 21, 2005 at 12:43 AM (#1091540)
Gary A-

My humble apologies. On rereading my posts, I note that I directed a theoretical question to you that should have gone to Chris Cobb.
   145. KJOK Posted: January 21, 2005 at 12:56 AM (#1091563)
I saw a translation for Oscar Charleston (I think by KJOK) that posited his lifetime BA as about .310. If Oscar Charleston wouldn't have finished his Major League career with a lifetime BA over .330 and probably closer to .350, I'd eat my hat.

I think that, all by itself, is proof that the .87 BA/.75 SA translation is too low, way too low.


Just to avoid confusion AND mischaracterization of my MLE's, my MLE for Charleston was .315 average, not .310, and more importantly, was converted TO National Leage 1955-2003, NOT to Charleston's contemporary Major Leagues. The conversion to contemporary leagues would give him a MLE BA quite a bit higher than .315 I believe!
   146. KJOK Posted: January 21, 2005 at 12:57 AM (#1091564)
and of course a contemporary MLE would have Charleston with quite a few less HR's than my MLE of 761!
   147. jimd Posted: January 21, 2005 at 01:27 AM (#1091601)
Do you really assert that the economic and also cultural incentives that drove the percentage of African-American Baseball Players so high from 1950 to 1980 were not there before integration?

I would theorize that those economic incentives were even greater before integration (a good example is the endless careers of some of the great Negro League players themselves).


This point has been discussed here before.

The economic incentives can be debated. They would have been much greater after 1947 when compared to before, based on the assumption that MLB paid much better than the NeL's.

The cultural incentives can also be debated. Certainly the example of Jackie Robinson was much more powerful than that of Frank Grant or Rube Foster, and there is a time lag between the icon's effect on young boys and their later arrival on the baseball scene.

The ethnic mix of MLB baseball has varied over time and it's not clear that the 1950's/1960's are any more relevant to the 1920's/1930's than the 1890's are.

I've noted elsewhere(see post #71, down the bottom) that the geographic origins of the white players of the 1920's/1930's would indicate that the 10% estimate for blacks should be revised upwards to 15%. Quantifying and incorporating the factors you note would push that up further. But to 50%, as in the 60's? probably not, as I see that as the peak, and not typical.
   148. Chris Cobb Posted: January 21, 2005 at 03:44 AM (#1091828)
I'll pick up on the theoretical question that I think gadfly meant for me and not for Gary A:

So, if the distribution of superstars is roughly equal between white and black, why do none of your translations for the Negro League Superstars from the 1920s and 1930s end up with a lifetime BA of .330 to .350 like their white counterparts?

I don't have a firm response to this, but here are my thoughts about the situation. I have never attempted to justify my translations in demographic terms. I don't think it's possible to derive from demographic/economic arguments the percentage of stars by race with any certainty. For the purposes of Hall of Merit elections, I believe that a quota approach to electing black player would create an inappropriate double standard. One of my goals in trying to develop accurate and reliable MLEs has been to make quota arguments unncessary. So I have not attempted to measure the results of my translations against any demographic standard.

That said, I'm not at all sure my MLEs are correct. My gut, which is sensitive to players' reputations of greatness and to expert opinions, says that they are a bit low. However, my standard for calculating them is to base no step in the process on my sense of what the numbers _ought_ to show, but to construct a system that creates statistics that are (1) derived from the best available data and (2) based on conversion methods that have been discussed by the interested membrs of the electorate and that have been generally (if not universally) accepted as sound.

If the results seem lower than they ought to be, we have the commentary of experts to challenge the results and to help us find ways to do better. I think that you are probably right that my MLEs are a little low, and I hope the electorate here will consider the serious likelihood of that based on your comments and other evidence of expert opinion.

But I can't change the system based on opinion, or it ceases to be a system that aims at an objective numerical statement of value. If we find evidence that I have erred in a calculation or gain access to evidence that leads to different conclusions about the conversions, I can make changes to improve the system accordingly. I hope to do so. I believe improvements in my handling of regression based on recent conversations will improve the system and give a fairer representation of peak value.

I can see a number of points where the evidentiary basis for the conversion factor could be improved:

1) NeL park factors from 1938-1948. A lot of the data for the conversion comes from Doby and Irvin in Newark. We know that was a hitter's park, but how extreme was it, exactly, and what percentage of their games did they play there? If I have used too low a park factor, that would depress the conversion factor incorrectly.

2) Data on the overall level of offense in the NeL from 1938-1948 in comparison to the major leagues, especially in the Negro National League. Evidence from the 1920s provided by Gary A. indicates that, although NeL levels of offenses tracked with ML levels, these diverged at times by up to 10% (I think that the difference was even greater in the late teens), with the ML levels being higher. I have taken this into account for 1920s conversions, which raises the MLEs of Negro-League players. Eyeballing the numbers for the late 1930s and early 1940s, it looks like offensive levels were high in the Negro Leagues at that time, quite possibly higher than in the majors. If this is the case, that again, if not properly accounted for, would depress the conversion factor incorrectly.

3) Use of AAA conversion studies could help to better model the process of arriving at a conversion, provide a point of comparison for the Negro Leagues' competition level, and add statistics from NeL stars playing in the high minors to the pool of data available for the calculation of a conversion factor. Studies on the level of competition in the Mexican League would be similarly useful (and will be important for the assessment of players like Cool Papa Bell, Ray Dandridge, Martin Dihigo, and Will Bill Wright in any case).

4) Striking the right balance between conversion rates for batting and conversion rates for slugging. The discussion of the square-root relation between the two numbers has been helpful and should help to improve the accuracy of individual conversions and provide a standard by which the conversion factors can be judged. Obviously, the .87/.82 split I am using now isn't right. It appears to be a compromise between two different conversion levels. Figuring out why my calcuation of conversion factors from the data produced this discrepancy could lead to a more reliably derived factor.

I am hopeful that I/we can do better on all of these fronts.
   149. Gadfly Posted: January 21, 2005 at 06:57 AM (#1092099)
Chris Cobb-

A most reasoned, objective, and flexible answer. Without evidence, all of this is simply argument and opinion. I'll see what I can do to back up my claims with some scientific evidence.

KJOK-

Now I must give my humble apologies to you too. I was just speaking off the cuff and did not realize that your Oscar Charleston translation was to modern times.
   150. Gadfly Posted: January 24, 2005 at 04:58 PM (#1098965)
While working on my little Monte Irvin conversion thing, I found the following in the 7/5/1947 New Jersey Afro-American:

"The East Orange Baseball club is set for a double diamond attraction this week end, beginning July 4 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants invading the East Orange Oval against the locals at 3 p.m.

John Beckwith, Giants manager, is now playing his strongest team of recent years, with Chick Anderson and the two Spearman brothers, Chollie and Clyde, who are clouting the ball at a .400 clip."

Of course, according to Riley the Unreliable, John Beckwith was deep into his criminal career by this time. According to Al Fennar, Beckwith stayed involved with baseball. I guess you can make up your own mind who is right.
   151. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:47 AM (#1112354)
Well, the kids are in bed and I figure I will try to post my Monte Irvin opus before I pass out. I would like to aplogize in advance for the length of this thing. I finally finished it yesterday. Well, actually, I should say that I decided to simply stop working on it yesterday. Now, I've spent the last hour editing it to half its original size. Hopefully, this will give Chris Cobb, Gary A, KJOK, and others doing some great stuff on this thread some stuff to ponder.

But first two things (one on point and one off point):

1) In Post 118, I stated that Monte Irvin hit over .330 on the road in 1951. Unfortunately, that is just wrong. Over a decade ago, I went through the NY Times, of all things, and broke Irvin's seasons down. But, it was a long time ago. I am pretty sure that what I misremembered was this: In 1951, Monte Irvin hit over .330 in the second half of the season. So Mea Culpa.

2) I have been about the Padrons. I think it entirely possible that there are 3 of them: Jose, Juan, and Luis. The Jose Padron in Figueredo's book is a short-timer, playing one season in the Cuban League just at the intersection of the career of Luis and Juan.

I have always been under the impression that Juan Padron never played in Cuba. The interesting question is, if Jose is a third player, did he play in America?
   152. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:48 AM (#1112361)
The Question:
“Will Monte Irvin’s Statistics support a .87 Batting Average (BA) reduction and a .82 Slugging Average (SA) reduction to translate Negro League statistics into Major League equivalents?”

To answer this question, the first thing that must be done is to compare Monte Irvin’s statistics within the context of the Leagues themselves [Off the point observations in brackets].

1) LEAGUE STATISTICS

Since Irvin went from the Negro National League to the National League, I’ll concentrate on comparing the two National Leagues with info on the Negro American League thrown in for perspective; but pretty much ignoring the Caucasian American League. Of course, the NAL absorbed four teams from the defunct NNL to make a ten-team league for the 1949 season; so, for that year, it is really the combined NAL-NNL anyways.

National League 1944-1953
[R/G = Runs per Game]
YEAR, R/G, BA, SA, ISA, (2B-3B-HR/500AB), SB/500AB
1944: 4.25, .261, .363, .102, (21.93-4.60-6.70), 4.43
1945: 4.46, .265, .364, .099, (21.29-3.92-6.74), 6.13
1946: 3.96, .256, .355, .100, (20.81-4.54-6.68), 5.68
1947: 4.57, .265, .390, .125, (21.92-4.62-10.44), 4.25
1948: 4.43, .261, .383, .122, (21.77-4.54-10.00), 5.31
1949: 4.54, .262, .389, .127, (21.83-4.33-10.95), 4.26
1950: 4.66, .261, .401, .140, (22.22-4.36-12.97), 4.39
1951: 4.46, .260, .390, .130, (20.44-4.30-11.99), 5.30
1952: 4.17, .253, .374, .121, (19.96-4.04-10.83), 4.73
1953: 4.75, .266, .411, .145, (20.84-4.85-14.04), 4.01

Negro National League 1944-1948
1944: 4.89, .274, .383, .109, (22.55-8.88-4.78), 9.01
1945: 4.79, .276, .381, .104, (19.67-7.77-5.68), 8.52
1946: 4.96, .255
1947: 4.94, .270, .388, .118, (22.69-7.32-7.20), 11.42
1948: 4.71, .263

Combined NAL/NNL League 1949
1949: 4.90, .268, .374, .106, (22.40-6.80-5.64), 9.41

Note 1: 1944, 1945, 1947, and 1949 Negro League stats are from complete Final Statistics
Note 2: 1946 and 1948 Stats are all but complete, excluding the season’s final week.
Note 3: 1946 NNL home run rate equals 5.69 HR per 500 AB.

Other Negro American League Statistics
YEAR, R/G, BA, SA, ISA, (2B-3B-HR/500 AB), SB/500 AB
1944: 4.29, .255, .329, .074, (16.40-6.85-2.30), 16.12
1945: 4.52, .258, .340, .082, (18.62-7.03-2.85), 13.64
1946: 4.49, .245 (Small sample: 3866 AB)
1947: 5.74, .283 (Final Statistics: 13919 AB)
1948: 5.59, .278 (One week left out: 15147 AB)

RAW STATISTICS
1944 Negro National League
250 G, 8160 AB, 1223 R, 2233 H, 368 2B, 145 3B, 78 HR, .274 BA, 147 SB
1945 Negro National League
226 G, 7398 AB, 1083 R, 2043 H, 291 2B, 115 3B, 84 HR, .276 BA, 126 SB
1946 Negro National League
263 G, 8784 AB, 1304 R, 2242 H, .255 BA and 100 HR
1947 Negro National League
402 G, 12430 AB, 1985 R, 3357 H, 564 2B, 182 2B, 179 HR, .270 BA, 284 SB
1948 Negro National League
318 G, 10517 AB, 1498 R, 2761 H, .263 BA

1949 Combined NNL/NAL League
820 G, 27410 AB, 4022 R, 7349 H, 1228 2B, 373 3B, 309 HR, .268, 516 SB

SOURCES:
National League: All-Time Baseball Sourcebook
Negro National League: New Jersey African American, various other newspapers & the 1945 and 1946 Negro League All-Star Programs.
   153. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:51 AM (#1112371)
2) COMPARISON OF NNL AND NL STATISTICS

The Negro National League (NNL) that Monte Irvin played in from 1945-1948 compares to the National League (NL) that he played in after 1949 in the following ways:

The NNL scored significantly more runs, hitting for a slightly higher overall batting average but with a lower isolated slugging percentage. There was significantly less HR hit in the NNL, but significantly more 3B. The rate of 2B was about the same. The NNL stole many more bases than the NL, about twice as many.

[NAL Note: In general, the NAL was the NNL’s schizophrenic cousin, hitting for either much more or much less BA with way less power (HR) but even more speed (3B, SB). For reasons that I cannot really explain, the NAL had extremely high offensive levels in 1947 and 1948 after playing in almost dead ball conditions from 1944 through 1946. After the NNL and the NAL combined in 1949, the 1949 NAL offensive level was obviously a mix of the typical 1946-1948 NNL offense and the high-octane offense of the 1947-1948 NAL.]

In order to properly evaluate Monte Irvin’s statistics, the next obvious question is:

1) Why did the Negro Leagues score so many more runs per game than the National League with about equivalent offensive levels (based on BA/SA)?

The one obvious answer to this question would simply be speed. The Negro Leaguers hit many more 3Bs and stole many more bases than the Major Leaguers. They were evidently playing a faster and quicker game. Although modern baseball analysis denigrates the value of the stolen base, it is obviously true that speed will help a team manufacture some runs.

However, there are two other factors that surely might be having an even greater effect on the rate of Negro Leagues’ runs scored than simply speed. The First would be errors and the Second would be base on balls or On-Base Percentage (OBP).

This is the extent information on Negro League Error Rates:

1944 NNL: 383 E in 250 G, 1.53 per game
1945 NNL: 371 E in 226 G, 1.64 per game
1947 NNL: 556 E in 402 G, 1.38 per game
1948 NNL: 516 E in 318 G, 1.62 per game

1944 NAL: 779 E in 394 G, 1.98 per game
1947 NAL: 776 E in 422 G, 1.84 per game
1949 NAL: 1311 E in 820 G, 1.60 per game

[The difference between the two Negro Leagues is interesting. The NNL, especially during World War 2, was a much older, more experienced, league than the NAL. Evidently, by 1949, when the leagues combined, the difference had washed out.]

On the Other hand, the Caucasian National League had significantly less errors:

1944 NL: 1361 E in 1246 G, 1.09 per game
1945 NL: 1405 E in 1236 G, 1.14 per game
1946 NL: 1259 E in 1242 G, 1.01 per game
1947 NL: 1154 E in 1240 G, 0.93 per game
1948 NL: 1256 E in 1238 G, 1.01 per game
1949 NL: 1189 E in 1244 G, 0.96 per game

Obviously, some of the runs scored differential is due to error rate.
Now the question becomes: How much is due to the rate of walks (BB/OBP)?

One would assume that the Negro Leagues would have lower BB and SO rates than the Major Leagues simply due to the quality of the umpiring. In other words, if you are not sure whether the Umpire is going to give you a free pass or ring you up on strikes, you are much more likely to try to take the matter out of his hands by swinging away and putting the ball in play.

Unfortunately, there is not much info on BB and SO rates for the 1940s Negro Leagues.

However:
In 1944, the NAL drew 911 BB and had 1523 SO in 12838 AB.
In 1945, the NAL drew 871 BB and had 1578 SO in 11950 AB.

In 1947, NNL pitchers, who recorded 3 or more decisions, had 1168 BB and 1676 SO in 3011 Innings Pitched (IP).

In 1949, NAL-NNL pitchers, who recorded 45 or more innings, had 2215 BB and 3081 SO in 6274 Innings Pitched (IP).

In the 1944 and 1945 NAL seasons, the rate of BB is significantly below the NL rate (by about 25%) and the rate of SO is significantly higher than the NL rate (by about 50%).

In the 1947 NNL season, the rate of BB is slightly lower (by 3%) and the rate of SO is much higher (by 33%) than the rates in the 1947 National League.

In the 1949 Combined NAL/NNL season, the rate of BB is lower (by about 10%) and the rate of SO is higher (by about 20%) than the rates in the 1949 National League.

Obviously, the addition of those pitchers who pitched less than 3 decisions in 1947 and less than 45 innings in 1949 would probably increase the BB rate and decrease the SO rate; but, in each case, there is much less than 10% of the possible IP thrown missing. So, unless these pitchers were almost superhumanly awful, these rates would not change that much.

Interestingly, the observation that, because of the quality of the umpiring, one would assume that the BB and SO rates of the Negro Leagues would be lower than those of the Major Leagues proves to be only half-right. Although the BB rates are slightly lower or much lower, the SO rates are uniformly much higher. In any event, it is obvious that the BB rates (or OBP) are not the cause of the higher runs scored rate of the Negro National League.

[Also, it is once again interesting to note the difference between the older, more experienced, NNL and their generally younger, wilder, NAL cousins. As one would suspect, the league with the older and more experienced players walked more and struck out less.]

In conclusion, we can say that Monte Irvin’s NNL of 1946-1948, when compared to Monte Irvin’s NL of 1949-1953, had the following characteristics:

1) Scored significantly more runs, mostly due to a much higher error rate and perhaps speed.
2) Hit for a slightly higher overall batting average.
3) Slugged for a lower isolated slugging percentage with about the same rate of 2B, significantly more 3B, and significantly less HR.
4) Stole significantly more bases than the NL, about twice as many.
5) Drew about the same amount, or slightly less, of BB.
6) Struck out at a greater rate, somewhere between 20 and 33 percent more

In other words, the Negro Leagues played a faster, looser (or sloppier) game that was less power and walk dependent than the contemporary Major Leagues. Of the two Negro Leagues, the NNL played a version of baseball closer to that of the Major Leagues, and the NAL was much further away from the Major League style. On the basis of the speed, runs scored, and even sloppiness, one might actually claim that the Negro Leagues played a more exciting game.

Next, to properly evaluate Monte Irvin’s career, the man himself must be considered.
   154. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:53 AM (#1112377)
3) MONTE IRVIN BASEBALL BIOGRAPHY

Monte Irvin was born February 25, 1919, in Alabama. In 1927, his family moved to New Jersey. Irvin was, to put it mildly, a High School athletic superstar: lettering in Baseball, Basketball, Football, and Track for the Orange (NJ) High School in every year he attended the school.

Irvin grew up to be the perfect baseball prospect: big, strong, and fast with the ability to hit for average, hit for power, control the strike zone, throw, run, and field multiple positions. On top of all this, Irvin had a fantastic disposition: calm, controlled, competitive, and intelligent. If Irvin grew up today, he would almost certainly be the first player picked in the baseball draft.

He began playing professionally for Abe and Effa Manley’s Newark (NJ) Eagles of the Negro National League (NNL) in the summers of 1937 and 1938. In 1939, Irvin dropped out of college to join the Eagles full time; playing shortstop, third base and centerfield depending on the team’s needs. From 1939 to 1941, Irvin was recognized as the coming superstar of the Negro Leagues.

In 1941, Monte Irvin began to hit for great power in the Negro Leagues after copying the batting stance of Joe DiMaggio. In 1942, after an early season dispute with Effa Manley over his salary, Irvin left the United States to play for the Vera Cruz team in Mexico. At the age of 23, Irvin had (by his own evaluation) the greatest baseball year of his life, winning the Mexican League Triple Crown with statistics that are just short of incredible.

[Interestingly, the only player, in the history of the Mexican League, whose statistics can be compared to Irvin’s 1942 season without blushing are those of Josh Gibson in 1940 and 1941. Both men played in the same park. All in all, Gibson’s stats are better. While Gibson’s 1941 rate stats are quite comparable to Irvin’s 1942 stats, Gibson played the whole season. Irvin only played two-thirds of the season. Both men lead the Mexican League in HR, but Gibson hit 33 to Irvin’s 20. Of course, Gibson spent most of the 1941 season indulging in a season long drinking contest with Sammy Bankhead.

In other words, playing hung over, Gibson was as great a hitter as Irvin was at his absolute peak. Gibson’s 1940 Mexican season, when he was evidently sober, was so ungodly that nothing can be compared to it. Playing just the last month, Gibson hit .467 and came within one home run of tying for the league lead. That would be like Barry Bonds sitting out the most of the 2005 season, coming back in September, and then crushing the ball so hard and often that he failed to lead the League in home runs by just a whisker.]

Monte Irvin was inducted into US Army for the Second World War on March 9, 1943, before he could return for his second season in Mexico. He was discharged from the Army on September 1, 1945. Unlike most Major League players and many Negro League players during World War 2, Irvin did not play any type of organized baseball while in the Army.

In September of 1945, Irvin returned to play for the Newark Eagles, hitting .222 in a handful of games. He played in Puerto Rico for the Winter Season of 1945-46 to tune himself up; and was robbed of the BA title after hitting .368. In 1946, he played shortstop for the NNL Champion Eagles, winning the batting title (.389) and finishing tied for third in HR. Irvin hit .462 in the Negro World Series; and the Newark Eagles defeated the Kansas City Monarchs in 7 games.

Returning to Puerto Rico for the 1946-47 Winter Season, Monte Irvin hit .387. In 1947, Irvin continued to play shortstop for the Eagles. The Eagles won the first half of the NNL season; but the team, and Irvin, slumped after the Eagles sold Larry Doby to the Major Leagues. Irvin lead the 1947 NNL in HR and RBI, but Newark finished second.

After playing for Habana in the Cuban Winter League Season of 1947-48, Irvin began the 1948 NNL season with an unknown illness, reportedly under a doctor’s care, and missed the first month of play. After the season ended, the NNL folded up and the Newark Eagle franchise was sold, moved to Houston, and entered into the NAL. Monte Irvin returned to play for Habana in the 1948-49 Winter League Season, and lead the Cuban League in HR.

In January 1949, Branch Rickey and the Brooklyn Dodgers, believing that Irvin was now a free agent, signed Irvin to a Brooklyn contract while he played in Cuba. The Dodgers had originally approached Irvin in 1946, but backed off because the Eagles had a signed contract with Irvin that contained a reserve clause. Rickey, though certainly a hero in the integration saga, pretty much refused on general principles of cheapness to pay Negro League teams for their players.

Rickey also probably realized that Effa Manley, who was still angry for his uncompensated signing of former Eagle Don Newcombe, would want her pound of flesh. When Effa Manley strenuously objected to Irvin’s signing and pointed out that the Eagles had been sold and not dissolved, Rickey voided Irvin’s contract rather than pay Manley for it. Manley sold Irvin’s contract to the New York Giants, who were looking for their own Jackie Robinson.

In 1949, the now 30-year-old Monte Irvin played for the Giants’ Triple-A International League Jersey City Giants farm club and hit .373 with good power. Irvin made his Major League Debut on July 8, 1949; and played sporadically for the rest of the year, hitting just .224 in 76 AB. For some reason, Leo Durocher, the Giant manager, resisted just letting Irvin play so that he could get his feet on the ground.

In 1950, Monte Irvin once again began the year with Jersey City but went absolutely atomic with his bat, hitting 10 HR and 33 RBI, with a .510 BA, in 18 games. He was brought back up to the Giants where Durocher played him some at 1B and some in RF for the rest of the year. Irvin hit 15 HR, 66 RBI, and .299 BA in 110 Games to finally establish himself as a Major League player at the age of 31. However, Durocher still will not simply commit to playing Irvin full time.

In 1951, Irvin, after a great Spring Training season, began the season as the Giants regular 1B and clean-up hitter. However, Irvin started the season slowly (15 G, 1 HR, 8 RBI, .226 BA in April) and Durocher lost faith in him. Durocher batted him eighth a lot, sat him for six various games, put him in at RF, LF, 1B, and even 3B; and generally just screwed Irvin around for the entire first half of the 1951 season. The Giants fell way behind the Dodgers in the pennant race.

But Irvin started to hit. On the 78th game of the season (exactly the beginning of the second half of the season), Irvin went back into the clean-up spot. For the 86th game, Monte Irvin became the starting LF for good and was no longer shifted around at all. Irvin hit 12 HR, 71 RBI, with a .332 BA, in the second half. Irvin was the driving force behind the Giants surge to the 1951 NL pennant. In the 1951 Series, Irvin hit .458 but the Giants lose in six games to the Yankees.

On April 2 of 1952, while playing a Spring Training exhibition game in Denver, Irvin badly broke his ankle. After missing the entire first half of the season, he returned in the second half and, playing with a special heavy high top shoe to protect the ankle, hit .310 but with little power (4 HR) and almost no speed (2 2B, 1 3B, 0 SB) in 126 AB.

In 1953, the now 34-year-old Monte Irvin begins the season as the Giants’ clean-up hitter and left fielder. Although he starts slow again in April (14 Games, .218 BA) while still wearing the heavy protective shoe, Durocher leaves him alone and doesn’t lose faith in him. Irvin removes the protective shoe in May and begins to heat up. By August 8, 1953, Irvin has raised his hitting statistics to 20 HR, 91 RBI, with a .339 BA and .562 SA, in 101 Games. He is white-hot with the bat and on the verge of taking over the NL BA and RBI leads.

On August 9 of 1953, Monte Irvin once again badly re-injures his ankle in a collision at home plate in St. Louis. He missed several weeks, and then returned to play poorly while hobbling around (22 G, 49 AB, 1 HR, .245 BA, .367 SA). Irvin finished the season with a .329 BA. This second ankle injury would effectively end Irvin’s prime years as a baseball player.

In 1954, the now 35-year-old Irvin, handicapped by his wrecked ankle, struggles through a 19 HR, 64 RBI, .262 season. He bats just .222 as a part-time player in the New York Giants World Series victory over the Cleveland Indians. In 1955, Irvin once again starts slow (.253, .333 SA) and the Giants demote him to their Triple-A farm club. At Triple-A, he finally begins to hit again (.352) and is drafted by the Chicago Cubs for the 1956 season.

In 1956, the now 37-year-old Irvin hits 15 HR, 50 RBI, with a .271 BA and .460 SA, as a part-time left fielder for the Cubs. Released after the season, Monte Irvin signs for the 1957 season with the Pacific Coast League Los Angeles Angels. However, he retires after a handful of games due to back problems that have probably been caused or exasperated by his ankle injuries. Irvin will later estimate that his ankle injuries took four to five years off his career.

Irvin goes on to a later career working in the Baseball Commissioner’s Office in the Bowie Kuhn administration. Most notably, Irvin is part of the Special Committee to honor the Negro Leagues and he is one of the nine original Negro League players enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
   155. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:57 AM (#1112391)
4) MONTE IRVIN STATISTICS 1942-1953

MEXICAN STATISTICS 1942 (Vera Cruz)
YEAR-G-AB-R-H-2B-3B-HR-RBI-BA-SA-SB-BB-SO
1942: 63 237 74 94 17 6 20 79 .397 .772 11 50 19

PUBLISHED NEGRO LEAGUE STATISTICS 1945-1948 (Newark Eagles):
1945 NNL
5 G, 18 AB, 5 R, 4 H, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, .222 BA, 444 SA, 0 SB
1946 NNL
57 G, 213 AB, 59 R, 84 H, 20 2B, 4 3B, 8 HR, 56 RBI, .394 BA, 638 SA
1947 NNL
81 G, 287 AB, 70 R, 91 H, 18 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 71 RBI, .317 BA, 554 SA, 19 SB
1948 NNL
42 G, 135 AB, 26 R, 43 H, .319 BA

Notes:
1): The 1945 and 1947 Statistics are final and complete. The 1946 statistics do not include the final 4 games played by the Newark Eagles, during which Irvin played 2 games, went 2 for 8 with 0 HR, and finished at 86 H in 221 AB to win the NNL Batting Title with a .389 BA. The 1948 Statistics do not include the very final Newark Eagle game of the season. The Eagles played 56 Games in 1948 and Irvin missed the first 13 games because of illness. It is unknown if he played in the final game.
2) In 1948, the Negro Press Sportswriters constantly referred to Irvin as the 1947 HR Champion. However, for some reason, they constantly credited him with 16 HR and either 69 or 70 RBI for that 1947 season.

Newark Eagles Team Games 1946-1948 (How many Irvin played):
1946- 63 NNL Games (59 of 63 Games)
1947- 83 NNL Games (81 of 83 Games)
1948- 56 NNL Games (42 or 43 of 56 Games)

TRIPLE-A STATISTICS 1949-1950 (Jersey City Giants)
YEAR-G-AB-R-H-2B-3B-HR-RBI-BA-SA-SB-BB-SO
1949: 63 204 55 76 18 05 09 52 .373 .642-14 59 22
1950: 18 051 28 26 04 01 10 33 .510 1.216-02 29 06

NATIONAL LEAGUE STATISTICS 1949-1953 (New York Giants)
YEAR-G-AB-R-H-2B-3B-HR-RBI-BA-SA-SB-BB-SO
1949: 036 076 07 017 03 02 00 007 .224 .316 00 17 11
1950: 110 374 61 112 19 05 15 066 .299 .497 03 51 41
1951: 151 558 94 174 19 11 24 121 .312 .514 12 89 44
1952: 046 126 10 039 02 01 04 021 .310 .437 00 10 11
1953: 124 444 72 146 21 05 21 097 .329 .541 02 55 34

One of the most interesting things about Monte Irvin’s statistics is the comparison between his Mexican League stats of 1942 (first line) and his combined stats from Triple-A in 1949 and 1950 (second line).

G-AB-R-H-2B-3B-HR-RBI-BA-SA-SB-BB-SO
63-237-74-094-17-6-20-79-.397-.772-11-50-19
81-255-83-102-22-6-19-85-.400-.757-16-88-28

In fact, these statistics look like the same player put them up in the same league. The only real difference is that the 30-year-old Irvin walked at a greater rate than the 23-year-old Irvin. Of course, this is exactly what you would expect.

But this phenomenon is somewhat unremarkable. In 1948, Luke Easter hit .363 in the NNL. In 1949, he hit .363 in Triple-A. In 1948, Ray Dandridge hit .369 in Mexico. In 1949, he hit .362 in Triple-A. From 1946 to 1948, Minnie Minoso hit .306, .294, and .336 in the NNL. In 1949 and 1950, he hit .297 and .339 in Triple-A. From 1946 to 1948, Sam Jethroe hit .325 in 717 AB in the NAL. In 1948 and 1949, he hit .325 in 927 Triple-A at bats.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the Negro Leagues, Mexican League, and Triple-A Leagues of the 1940s were of equivalent strength if the League statistical rates were identical. When a player goes from one League where he is already experienced to another League where he has no experience and is able to post the same averages while he adjusts, the only conclusion is that the second League must be inferior to the first League.

[Also, despite Jethroe’s statistics, this usually doesn’t work as well for NAL players. In fact, I would have to say that the only reason it does work for Jethroe is that he was injured and sub-par for most of the 1948 season, thus bringing down his cumulative NAL batting average.

As was mentioned before, the NAL had a high-octane, high BA offense in 1947 and 1948. There are a number of players (Bob Boyd, Piper Davis, Hank Thompson, Artie Wilson, etc.) that hit for a much higher BA in these NAL years than they later would in Triple-A. Of course, until now, I had never realized how high the NAL BA was in 1947 and 1948. It will be very interesting to go back and see if these player’s BA are more consistent after an adjustment.

Also, another problem with these players may be the phenomenon of the ‘rising tide.’ In other words, as black players made it into the Majors and particularly Triple-A, they would obviously elevate the talent level of these Leagues by forcing lesser players down the organized baseball totem pole. The Triple-A Leagues in, say 1955, almost surely had to be tougher than the Triple-A Leagues of 1946 to 1950 for this reason.]
   156. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:58 AM (#1112393)
5) CONVERSION RATE

Now that there are hopefully adequate League and Player numbers for Monte Irvin’s career, it is possible to compare his Negro National League career to his National League career.

From 1945 to 1948 (Age 26 to 29), Monte Irvin played two full seasons in the NNL, one injured season, and one season where he entered the league late in the season and just played a little.

From 1949 to 1952 (Age 30 to 33), Monte Irvin played two full seasons in the NL, one injured season, and one season where he entered the league late in the season and just played a little.

So it would stand to reason that these four-year periods could and should be compared to each other. Some may say that, comparing Monte Irvin’s prime (26-29) to his post-prime years (30-33), is slightly unfair; but, to forestall any cries of bias in favor of the Negro Leaguers, it seems appropriate to actually try to be as biased against Irvin as possible.

From 1945 to 1948, Monte Irvin hit .339969 (222/653) in the NNL.
The weighted (by Irvin’s at bats) 1945-1948 NNL BA is .263841.
The conversion factor is 1.28854.

From 1949 to 1952, Monte Irvin hit .301597 (342/1134) in the NL.
The weighted (by Irvin’s at bats) 1949-1952 NL BA is .259616.
The conversion factor is 1.16170.

The conversion factor of NNL BA into NL BA (1.16170 divided by 1.28854) by this calculation is .901563.

In other words, a Negro League player going from the Negro Leagues to the Major Leagues, in this time period, would lose 90 percent of his batting average. Obviously, this is slightly higher than the current conversion rate being used of 87 percent.

However, there are very obviously two glaring weaknesses with this conversion equation. The first is that it ignores adjustment effects. The second is that it ignores park effects.

1) Adjustment Effects (i.e. the Matsui effect)

In 1948, Candy Jim Taylor, a long-time Negro league player, manager, and official was asked how the Negro League players would fare in the Major Leagues. Taylor replied that, after they had a year to adjust, they would do just fine.

In 2003, Hideki Matsui, the greatest player in Japan, signed with the Yankees and came to the United States to play in the Major Leagues. Matsui faced pretty much the exact same situation that Monte Irvin faced in late 1949 and 1950. Matsui was in a new League, with no past history or experience of the League or its players. He needed to gain experience and adjust. In 2003, Matsui hit for a BA-OBP-SA line of .287-.353-.435. But, in the year 2004, Matsui had evidently adjusted to his new League and hit .298-.390-.522.

[In fact, whether Matsui continues to adjust and improve will be one of the most fascinating aspects of the 2005 season to me. I assume that he will continue to improve, just not as much as he did between the 2003 and 2004 seasons. If he does improve some more, the Yankees will have, through nothing more than the process of adjustment, one of the best hitters in the Major Leagues and Matsui will justify all the hype.]

Of course, the point of all this is that Matsui, an incredibly durable and consistent player, was not any less talented in 2003; he simply needed to adjust. If Matsui had stayed in Japan, his statistics for 2003 and 2004 would almost surely look remarkably similar if not virtually the same.

By comparing the Monte Irvin of the 1945 to 1948 Negro National League to the Monte Irvin of the 1949 to 1952 National League, his adjustment period for the Major Leagues is being included in the equation. This would unfairly lower the conversion factor. The only fair thing to do is to remove Monte Irvin’s 1949 and 1950 adjustment period (146 G, 450 AB) from the discussion.

Basically, Irvin spent three seasons in the Major Leagues (1951 to 1953) after his adjustment period and before his ankle injuries totally derailed his career. Of these three seasons, Irvin was a full time player in two (1951 and 1953) and lost one season to injury (1952). In the Negro National League from 1946 to 1948, Irvin played two full seasons (1946 and 1947) and was hampered by an unknown illness in the other (1948).

Obviously, the fairest possible comparison that could be made would be between Irvin’s two full seasons in the Negro Leagues (1946 and 1947) and his two full seasons in the Major Leagues (1951 and 1953). Once again, notice that Irvin’s Negro League seasons are in his prime (Age 26 and 27) and Major League seasons are past his prime (Age 32 and 34). Also, his numbers were obviously reduced by injury in 1953. However, to continue the bias against Irvin, both of these factors will be ignored.

Interestingly, by comparing Monte Irvin’s 1946 and 1947 NNL seasons to his 1951 and 1953 NL seasons, it also becomes possible to compare his Slugging Average. The 1947 NNL League SA is known. Although the 1946 NNL SA is not known, the information available makes it clear that it falls between the known SA of the 1945 NNL and the known SA of the 1947 NNL.

Because it will bias the equation against the Negro Leagues, the much lower 1945 NNL isolated SA, rather than the 1947 NNL isolated SA, will be used to evaluate Irvin’s 1946 SA. Also, in addition to that adjustment, the two extra HR that the Negro League sportswriters decided to add to Irvin’s 1947 HR total in 1948 will be included in Irvin’s 1947 statistics to further bias the case against the NNL.

So, now that the problem of adjustment period is considered, that leaves only Park Factors to consider and adjust for.
   157. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 05:59 AM (#1112399)
6) PARK FACTORS I

From the beginning of his career in 1937 until 1948, Monte Irvin learned how to hit in Ruppert Stadium, the Eagles’ home field in Newark, New Jersey. The dimensions of Ruppert Field were 305 feet down both foul lines, 365 feet in both power alleys, and 400 feet to dead center field. In other words, Ruppert Stadium was a symmetrical hitter’s park that would especially reward or favor a modern style power hitter (i.e. to hit for power to both the right and left field alleys).

Perhaps not un-coincidentally, Monte Irvin grew up to be a great, modern style, power hitter.

In 1949 to 1955, Monte Irvin had the New York Giants’ Polo Grounds as his home field. The Polo Grounds was a park that would reward extreme pull hitters and punish all other hitters, and especially a modern style power hitter. Shaped like a bath tub, the left field foul line was just 280 feet away and the right field foul line a mere 259 feet away. However, both power alleys were over 440 feet away; and dead center field was a phenomenal 490 feet away.

Not surprisingly, the Polo Grounds killed Monte Irvin’s statistics.

Monte Irvin 1951 and 1953 Home/Road Splits

1951
Home (top)/Road (bottom):
75 G, 270 AB, 84 H, .311 BA, .474 SA, 8 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR
76 G, 288 AB, 90 H, .313 BA, .552 SA, 11 2B, 5 3B, 16 HR
1953
59 G, 206 AB, 64 H, .311 BA, .476 SA, 7 2B, 3 3B, 7 HR
65 G, 238 AB, 82 H, .345 BA, .597 SA, 14 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR

1951 & 1953 Combined
134 G, 476 AB, 148 H, .311 BA, .475 SA, 15 2B, 9 3B, 15 HR
141 G, 526 AB, 172 H, .327 BA, .572 SA, 25 2B, 7 3B, 30 HR

The question now becomes: How do we adjust for Irvin’s problem with the Polo Grounds?

In 1951 and 1953, the 8 team National League played a 154 game schedule, each team playing 77 games at home and 77 on the road with 11 games at each venue against the other teams (22 games total per season). In other words, if Monte Irvin’s 1951 and 1953 home statistics are divided by 7 and added back into the road totals, the end result is a perfectly neutral batting line in which Irvin would have had a chance to play equally in all 8 National League parks.

Of course, studies have shown that a player, in general, receives a 5% percent boost from playing at home. This method pretty much eliminates that statistical advantage. However, since it would once again bias the study towards the Negro Leagues, it will again be ignored.

Using this formula, Monte Irvin’s adjusted combined BA and SA for 1951 and 1953 are then compared to his 1951 and 1953 National League BA and SA, weighted by Irvin’s at bats, to furnish Irvin’s BA and SA Conversion Rates:

Monte Irvin (NL 1951 & 1953)
BA, SA, Conversions
.325156-.262508-1.23865 BA;
.561087-.399408-1.40480 SA;

Using Monte Irvin’s 1946 and 1947 Negro National League statistics combined with the two adjustments previously discussed (using the 1945 ISA for 1946 and adding 2HR to Irvin’s 1947 total) gives the following BA, SA, and ISA Conversion Rates compared to the 1946 and 1947 Negro National League rates:

Monte Irvin (NNL 1946 & 1947)
BA, SA, Conversions
.350000-.263752-1.32700
.602000-.375915-1.60143

Note: Monte Irvin’s averages all come out to exactly three figures because, in the 1946 and 1947 NNL seasons combined, he had exactly 500 AB.

In other words, to convert Monte Irvin’s Negro League statistics into Equivalent Major League statistics, the conversion factors are:

.933421 (1.23865/1.32700) for BA
.877216 (1.40480/1.60143) for SA

Obviously, these conversion factors, taking into effect Monte Irvin’s Major League Park Factors, are much higher than the current estimate of a .87 BA reduction and a .82 SA reduction that are now being used to convert Negro League Statistics.

Even more interestingly, these figures support the theory that SA increases or decreases as the square of the BA figure. The square of .933421 is .871275, just slightly less than the actual conversion factor of .877216. Of course, if the two adjustments that biased the formula against SA were removed, these figures would be even closer together.

But, of course, these Conversion Rates are still incomplete. These rates only consider the Major League half of the Park Factor adjustment that has to be made to convert Irvin’s Negro League statistics into Major League Equivalents.

If Monte Irvin was playing in a Pitcher’s Park in the Negro Leagues, Irvin’s adjusted Batting Rates will rise and the conversion rates will fall. In other words, the quality of baseball in the Negro Leagues would have been lesser than these conversion rates would have you believe.

If Monte Irvin was playing in a Hitter’s Park in the Negro Leagues, Irvin’s adjusted Batting Rates will fall and the conversion rates will rise. In other words, these conversion rates are still too low and are underestimating the quality of baseball played in the Negro Leagues.
   158. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 06:00 AM (#1112405)
7) PARK FACTORS II

During all the years Monte Irvin played for the Newark Eagles, the team’s primary home field was Ruppert Stadium in Newark, New Jersey. The team shared the stadium witht the New York Yankees top farm club, the Newark Bears. Ruppert Stadium had the reputation of being the best hitter’s park in the Negro National League; and the Newark Eagles lead the NNL in team home runs hit in both 1946 and 1947 (1948 team totals are unknown).

The main Home Fields of the NNL teams in the 1946 to 1948 period were:

Negro National League Home Fields 1944-1948
NNL Baltimore Elite Giants: Bugle Field
NNL Homestead Grays: 1) Griffith Stadium, 2) Forbes Field
NNL New York Cubans: Polo Grounds
NNL New York Black Yankees: Yankee Stadium
NNL Newark Eagles: 1) Ruppert Stadium, 2) Ebbetts Field
NNL Philadelphia Stars: 1) Parkside Athletic Field, 2) Shibe Park

LF/LF Power Alley/CF/ RF Power Alley/RF: Park (Notes)
405-391-420-391-320: Griffith Stadium (30 foot high wall in RF)
365-406-435-416-300: Forbes Field (457 feet to deep LF)
280-447-490-449-259: Polo Grounds
301-457-461-367-296: Yankee Stadium (466 feet to deep LF)
305-365-400-365-305: Ruppert Stadium (Symmetrical)
356-365-399-351-296: Ebbetts Field
330-380-410-370-310: Parkside Athletic Field
334-367-468-364-329: Shibe Park

Note 1: Measurements for Bugle Field are unavailable. But, considering the number of triples hit compared to HR hit by the Elite Giants, it seems to have been a large park.
Note 2: In 1947, Forbes Fields brought their LF fences in for Hank Greenberg. The new park measurements were 335-355-435-416-300; but the Homestead Grays were, at this time, playing almost all their home games in Griffith Stadium.

Sources: Green Cathedrals, Lost Ballparks, Ballparks of North America, and contemporary newspapers.

Just by looking at the parks, it could probably be concluded that the Negro National League of 1946 to 1948 was more of a Pitchers’ League than the National League of 1946 to 1948. The two Leagues share 4 parks in common: Ebbetts Field, Forbes Field, Polo Grounds, and Shibe Park. But the missing NL parks (BOS, CHI, CIN, and STL) were all hitters or neutral parks.

The additional NNL parks were all neutral or pitchers parks. The difference in parks, combined with the difference between the NNL and NL in actual baseballs (the NL used the Spalding ball and the NNL used the cheaper and inferior Wilson ball), probably accounts for all or almost all of the difference in HR rates between the two Leagues.

Analyzing all this information, it is probable that Monte Irvin had a fairly large home field advantage while playing for the Newark Eagles. The only question is: “How large was it?”

Unfortunately, this is the one question that cannot really be answered at this time. Looking through the contemporary Newspapers, it was impossible to separate League games from Exhibition games, match venues with individual games, or otherwise sort the information.

A study of the 1947 Newark Eagle season did reveal some interesting aspects though. In that year, the Eagles used four home fields. Their main home field was Ruppert Stadium in Newark, NJ. They also used Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn, New York. Surprisingly, Newark also played quite a few games at Dunn Field in Trenton, NJ (shades of the original Cuban Giants). Lastly, the club played one game at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJ, in an attempt to open another venue for their home games.

Against other NNL teams in 1947, the Eagles scheduled (at the very least) 35 games against other NNL teams at Ruppert Stadium, 13 at Ebbetts Field, 12 at Dunn Field, and 1 at Roosevelt Stadium. As far as can be ascertained, all the games played at Ruppert, Ebbetts, and Roosevelt were NNL League games. The games at Dunn Field were sometimes exhibitions, but also seem to mostly have been League games.

In 1947, the Newark Eagles played 83 NNL games total. Between their four home fields, the Eagles scheduled at least 50 League games and possibly as many as 60 known games. And there may be even more undocumented games at these parks. In other words, Monte Irvin’s home field adjustment simply might be impossible to make because his home field sample is so large and his road game sample is so small.

In all honesty, the many problems inherent in adjusting for the home-road differentials of a League that plays an unbalanced schedule are probably prohibitively difficult. From the information that is present, it seems that the conversion factors for Monte Irvin should be adjusted upwards because of his home field; but whether that would be by a slight amount or a large amount is unknown.

Once again, in keeping with the procedure of being biased against the Negro Leagues, this factor shall simply be ignored because it almost surely favors the Negro Leaguers.

[Interestingly, much of the reason for the difference between the style of play between the NNL and the NAL (way less HR, much more 3B and SB) becomes glaringly obvious when the same tables are done for the NAL home fields. The NAL was evidently playing in the equivalent of Yellowstone National Park. All the home fields were pitchers’ parks or extreme pitchers’ parks. The measurements of five of the six parks are known and the average distances are 366-405-456-395-337. In other words, an average park factor somewhere between Griffith Stadium and Forbes Field, two famous pitcher’s park.]
   159. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 06:02 AM (#1112411)
8) CONCLUSIONS

In the beginning the following question was asked:

“Will Monte Irvin’s Statistics support a .87 Batting Average (BA) reduction and a .82 Slugging Average (SA) reduction to translate Negro League statistics into Major League equivalents?”

The answer seems to be no, the conversion rates should be higher. The study suggested a more likely conversion rate of .933 for BA and .877 for SA. However, in all honesty, these rates are probably still too low. Adjusting for the biases in the study itself and those things that are simply unknowable to the degree necessary at this point, I believe the true conversion rates are probably about .95 BA and .90 SA and perhaps even slightly higher.

And, I must admit, that surprised me. But I’m not interested in arguing the point.

A second thing that surprised me was Monte Irvin himself.

I have always considered Irvin to be one of those players who ranks in the second tier of Major League outfielders whose careers spanned the 1940s. The first tier is, of course, Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, and Ted Williams. Irvin, I assumed, was somewhere back there in the second tier with Dom DiMaggio, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Ralph Kiner, and Enos Slaughter; plus his Negro League brethren: Willard Brown and Sam Jethroe.

I may have been subconsciously biased against Irvin because I did not think he belonged on the “Nine Man Team” of the best players from the Negro Leagues that was elected to the Hall of Fame in the 1970s. I always thought that, especially considering that he was on the committee that elected himself, there was something wrong with his selection.

I have always figured that, at his peak in a neutral park, Irvin would have been capable of some seasons of 30-35 HR, 120-130 RBI, with a .320-.340 BA. But, after doing this study, I think that Irvin’s peak, in a neutral park, would have been over 40 HR and 150 RBI. He would have also batted over .350 BA and won some batting titles.

I now believe Irvin belongs in the first tier with DiMaggio, Musial, and Williams.
I also now believe that his 1970s selection to the HOF was deserved.

Interestingly, Monte Irvin and his career are quite comparable to Joe DiMaggio, the man whose swing he copied. Both players had their careers badly cut up and damaged by World War 2, and then shortened by foot-related injury problems. Without doing any real analysis, it seems to me that DiMaggio was a better outfielder with more raw power than Irvin. However, Irvin was far more versatile defensively and would have certainly walked a good deal more than Joe.

At his peak, it is obvious that Irvin would have been drawing over 100 base on balls per season. Modern baseball analysis would be quite kind to him. Regardless, I believe that the two players were actually quite similar in value.

In a more perfect world, Irvin would have had monster seasons in the Majors in 1942, 46, 47, 49, 50, 51, and 53 (assuming that he would have served in World War 2, but by playing baseball). If he had played in the National League, Irvin would have been a more valuable player than Stan Musial during those peak years (but admitting that The Man’s career value would be greater). I believe Irvin would have been the most valuable NL player of his time.

Of course, one thing that always fascinates me is how history could have taken a different course. In early 1946, Dodger scouts approached Irvin to feel him out about signing. But Irvin was signed to an Eagle contract, and no one was more aware of the ramifications of violating Baseball’s Reserve Clause than Branch Rickey, so the Dodgers backed off.

But what if Irvin had signed with the Dodgers in 1946 and reported to Montreal with Jackie Robinson in 1946? It is my opinion that, if this had happened, Irvin’s career would have tracked Robinson’s career. In other words, Irvin would have been up with the Dodgers in 1947, at the same time as Robinson. 1947 would have been the adjustment year for both men. 1948 would have been an injury year for both men.

[Of course, Robinson wasn’t really injured in 1948. He was just fat and out of shape.]

And then, from 1949 to 1953, Monte Irvin, Jackie Robinson, and the Dodgers would have taken over the National League. Of course, in real life, the Dodgers won the 1949 NL pennant but lost the 1950 and 1951 pennants by a nose. But, with Irvin, the Dodgers would have won both easily and then won in 1952 and 1953 again to make it 5 in a row. In all probability, Monte Irvin, playing in Ebbetts field, would have been hitting upwards of 50 homers a year.

During the 1951 and 1953 seasons, Monte Irvin played 18 games in Ebbetts Field. In those games, the Dodger pitchers, a good staff, held Irvin to a .276 BA. But Irvin also cranked out 7 HR, 19 RBI, and slugged .692. Although this sample size is admittedly too small, it is pretty obvious that, if Irvin had played in Ebbetts Field for the Dodgers, he would have been a force.

And, with Robinson and Reese batting in front of him, Irvin’s RBI total would have probably reached phenomenal levels. So the question is: “Who would have been the bigger star of the Dodgers if Monte Irvin and Jackie Robinson were on the Dodgers together at that time?” I don’t know, but I have a feeling that the guy hitting over 50 HR, 150 RBI, and batting over .350 would be the one.

I guess the Good Lord just wanted Jackie Robinson to have his stage all to himself.
   160. Gadfly Posted: January 30, 2005 at 06:32 AM (#1112493)
Of course, I have taken this thread far far away from John Beckwith, my second favorite Negro League player. So I will just conclude by saying that, if you use a conversion rate of .93 BA and .87 SA after park adjustments for Beckwith (or, if you really want to go out on a limb and use .95 and .90), you will finally begin seeing the man with 20/20 vision.

In other words, Beckwith is one of four guys who you have to consider the greatest hitter after the Babe during the 1920s. The other three guys are Charleston, Gehrig, and Hornsby.
   161. OCF Posted: January 30, 2005 at 07:36 AM (#1112675)
Although the BB rates are slightly lower or much lower, the SO rates are uniformly much higher.

Did the Negro Leagues play a significantly higher fraction of their games at night compared to the major leagues? And when they did both play night games, was the quality of the lighting the same or were the Negro League parks dimmer? Lighting and visibility do affect strikouts.
   162. EricC Posted: January 30, 2005 at 08:20 PM (#1113327)
“Will Monte Irvin’s Statistics support a .87 Batting Average (BA) reduction and a .82 Slugging Average (SA) reduction to translate Negro League statistics into Major League equivalents?”

The answer seems to be no, the conversion rates should be higher. The study suggested a more likely conversion rate of .933 for BA and .877 for SA.


Is the idea of major league equivalents well-justified in the first place? Success in baseball requires multidimensional skills. Because players differ in their skill sets, you can have two players with equal production in a non-major league that would have produced very differently had they played in the major leagues. As a corollary, any study that attempts to find major league conversions by correlating individual players' productions in non-major leauges with major-league production will suffer from a selection bias: the players whose skills carry over will get significant major league playing time, but those whose skills don't carry over will get little or no major league playing time. The major league conversions determined by the selection-biased set will be better than the (unknown) average major-league conversion factor of all players in the non-major league.
   163. TomH Posted: January 30, 2005 at 11:29 PM (#1113706)
wow, that is an impressive study, Gadfly. Many thanks. One quick W, tho: as far as applying conversion factors to Beckwith, I'm not sure Irvin's record, made in the mid-late 40s, can be extrapolated to JB's career.
   164. karlmagnus Posted: January 30, 2005 at 11:52 PM (#1113797)
Irvin is where the ML conversions become poisoned Kool-Aid, if they tell you he should be in the HOM -- he's not even close. 731 hits at an OPS+ of 126, starting at 30 -- he's Sisler's decline phase, without any evidence whatever of Sisler's peak. Absolutely NOT HOMable -- a classic HOF mistake due to sentimentality about the Negro Leagues, which concentrated on their last years. If we're right about the early NL'ers being HOM worthy, then it makes no sense that every second tier NL player from the early 40s should be in there.
   165. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 12:17 AM (#1113899)
Irvin is where the ML conversions become poisoned Kool-Aid, if they tell you he should be in the HOM -- he's not even close. 731 hits at an OPS+ of 126, starting at 30 -- he's Sisler's decline phase, without any evidence whatever of Sisler's peak.

How did you come to that conclusion, karlmagnus? What was Sisler's OPS+ from age 30 to when he retired? I can tell you it's no where near being 126 OPS+.

Don't you think his twenties would have produced a lifetime OPS+ of at least 130? It's possible he may not be a HOMer (he wasn't really that durable in his thirties), but it's safe to say he was one helluva hitter.
   166. DavidFoss Posted: January 31, 2005 at 01:48 AM (#1114249)
How did you come to that conclusion, karlmagnus? What was Sisler's OPS+ from age 30 to when he retired? I can tell you it's no where near being 126 OPS+.

Sisler's OPS+ is 154 before the injury (1915-1922) and 97 after (1924-30).
   167. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 02:13 AM (#1114344)
Sisler's OPS+ is 154 before the injury (1915-1922) and 97 after (1924-30).

Thanks, David. Sisler in his thirties was no match for Irvin in his thirties.

Now, Irvin in his twenties may not have been Sisler in his twenties, but the odds look like he was a lot closer to the peakeriffic Gorgeous George than Sisler post-surgery was to the 1950's Irvin.

The one thing in Sisler's favor, though, is that he was very durable in his thirties, while Irvin wasn't.
   168. karlmagnus Posted: January 31, 2005 at 03:04 AM (#1114457)
Irvin hadn't had surgery, and entered the ML at 30; there's no reason to believe he was a lot worse in his 30s than in his 20s. If you assume 50% more ML career in his 20s than in his 30s, and an OPS+ 10 points higher, the total career is still only 1827 hits and an OPS+ of 132. Doesn't do it, in fact misses by quite a way.

Sisler's 124 includes his sharp drop off after major injury and a year off; at his best he was MUCH better than Irvin. Plus he ended with 2800 hits, and Irvin would have had to become a major leaguer at 15 to do that.

As I've said many times, there's altogether too much rounding up going on in these conversions, and I don't buy it. We should NOT elect the entire starting lineup for the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs.
   169. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 03:20 AM (#1114503)
Sisler's 124 includes his sharp drop off after major injury and a year off; at his best he was MUCH better than Irvin. Plus he ended with 2800 hits, and Irvin would have had to become a major leaguer at 15 to do that.

I'm not arguing that that Irvin was better or even equalt to Sisler at their peaks. I honestly have no idea. None of us were around to state unequivocally that one was better than the other.

What I did state was that it's illogical to assume that he was the same hitter in his twenties as he was in his thirties. We know he had foot problems like DiMaggio had, so that wasn't going to help him, either.

As for Sisler's hits, Doc Cramer had almost as many as hits. I can state without hesitation that Irvin was better than the latter despite all of those hits.
   170. karlmagnus Posted: January 31, 2005 at 03:33 AM (#1114540)
Gosh, Cramer's quite a find, isn't he? Rabbit Maranville without actually bothering to play shortstop...
   171. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 03:41 AM (#1114560)
Gosh, Cramer's quite a find, isn't he? Rabbit Maranville without actually bothering to play shortstop...

LOL
   172. Paul Wendt Posted: January 31, 2005 at 07:27 AM (#1115201)
MLB walk rates were volatile and interleague differences were large during the period I checked, 1928-1953. The Negro AL of 1944-1945 matches NL1933, the low point for mlb walks.

In 1928, the AL and NL were about equal in walks;
1933, AL about 45% more walks;
1938, AL about 30% more walks;
1944-46, equal again (15% above both leagues in 1928);
1949, AL about 25% more walks.

The walks peak was in AL1949, about 50% more walks than NL1940 (mlb low for the 1940s) and almost 100% more than NL1933.

Per plate appearance, the walk rate was about almost 1/8 in AL1949, almost 1/10 in both leagues 1946, about 1/12 in both leagues 1928, and less than 1/15 in NL1933 (as in the Negro AL 1944-1945).

During this period, the strikeout:walk ratio was roughly 0.8 to 1.2 with most of the extreme seasons in the AL. The strikeout peak was AL1946, almost 1/9.
   173. Gadfly Posted: January 31, 2005 at 07:31 PM (#1116034)
OCF-
I think you are absolutely correct. The Negro Leagues embraced night baseball, and the Major Leagues resisted (if I remember right, they even had night game quotas). I would assume that explains most of the SO rate differnce. I don't know why I didn't think of it myself. Thanks.

Eric C-
Are you serious? The skill set necessary to succeed in the Negro Leagues and contemporary Major Leagues are the same or so similar as to be indistinguishable. It's not as if the Negro Leaguers were playing baseball on unicycles and then asked to play baseball while juggling.

Tom H-
Your point is valid. My off-the-cuff observation on Beckwith is not supported by the Monte Irvin study. However, I have done two larger studies, that are more on point (and the Monte Irvin study simply confirmed one of them); and was referring myself to them.

In the first study, I analyzed the Major League players who went directly into the Mexican League in 1946. This quickly got out of hand and I ended up doing a study that compared the relative strengths of the Major Leagues, Negro Leagues, Triple-A Leagues, Lower Minor Leagues, and Cuban and Puerto Rican Winter Leagues through the many players that changed between these Leagues.

The conclusions of the study were that the Negro Leagues were comparable to Triple-A (actually slightly better). The Monte Irvin study simply confirmed this study. In fact, the results were so close that they startled me.

(By the way, one of my main interests in doing that study was to try to analyze Josh Gibson's statistics. From 1940 to 1946, there are stats available for Gibson in every year. Anyways, the conclusion was that Gibson, if he had played in the Majors, would have had statistics remarkably like Lou Gerhig, only with even more power if you can believe it. I mention this because, like Irvin with DiMaggio, Gibson patterned his swing after his favorite Major League player, who just happened to be Gehrig.)

The second study was of the consistency of the available Negro League player records. In other words, was the quality of Negro League play consistent from 1920 to 1950? The study found that the statistics were consistent, with two exceptions.

The first exception was the quality was lower at the very beginning in the 1920s and the second exception was that the quality was higher in the 1930s when the depression had killed off the weak teams.

However, I will admit that this study is crude and could be refined. But I firmly believe in its results. I posted these before, but the conversion rates I used (because of that study) were:

1920-1924: .85-.89 (rising a point a year)
1925-1930: .90
1931-1936: .95
1937-1950: .90

With that in mind, I stated that Beckwith was one of the four best hitters in baseball after Ruth in the 1920s. And I think he was clearly No# 2 in the late 20s after Charleston began to fade and before Gehrig came fully into his power.

Karl Magnus-
You can teach a crippled squirrel to play the flute, but you cannot see forever on a clear day, if you know what I mean.

John Murphy & David Foss-
One thing that got edited out of the Monte Irvin opus was career path reconstruction.

A superstar baseball player's career path, by OPS, is like a wave. In his early 20s, he grows quickly until he reaches his prime. His prime usually stretchs from 25 to about 32 and contains his peak years which usually occur from 26 to 30. From 32 on, the player declines and, if he takes care of himself and doesn't get hurt, this long career trough can last to 40 or so.

Sisler is a good example of the first half of this: From 22 to 24, his OPS went 106, 133, 163 as he grew into a star. From 25 to 29, his OPS was 159, 153, 179, 137, 169; with peaks at 27 and 29. Of course, at 30, his career path was wiped out by his sinus-induced vision problems and he was never the same.

However, Irvin is doubly penalized. He did not begin his Major League career until 31. Just becuase he started late doesn't mean he got to skip the growth phase. So his OPS is growing while his skills are declining. The Major Leagues never got to see Irvin at his peak or even in his prime.

At 31, his OPS was 131. At 32, it was 147. At 34, it was 142 and would have certainly been over 150 if not for the ankle injuries. Of course, if Irvin had come up to the Majors in 1939 or 1940. This would not be his growth phase, this would be his decline phase.

In other words, he would have probably had a higher OPS in 1950 than 1951, and 1951 than 1953. And his OPS in 1953 would have almost surely been higher than it was in real life.

Although Irvin's career is all cut up by World War 2 and integration, the reconstruction of his career path, using his extent statistics, show him having a prime OPS of probably 170 to 180 with peak years approaching or even surpassing 200. Irvin, in his prime, would have hit for average, hit for power, and walked a lot.

He was a better hitter than Sisler, and its not even close. The only thing George could probably do better than Monte is run, and I'm not even sure of that (Irvin was consistently described as 'blazingly fast' in 1951). As I already stated, Irvin was much better than I thought he would be.

Paul Wendt-
Your point about the AL walk rates is well taken; but, so far, I haven't seen any evidence (and doubt that I will) that Negro League walk rates were ever higher than Major League rates at any point in time.

So much for my lunch hour.
   174. karlmagnus Posted: January 31, 2005 at 07:58 PM (#1116103)
Gadfly, since Irvin's highest OPS+ was 147, and he started in the ML at 30, it is pure cuckoo fantasy to claim that he'd have done 180-200 in his 20s. As I say, I am increaingly coming the view that the ML conversions for NL players are hopelessly unscientific and off-the-wall. Of course Gibson, Charleston and Williams were great players in any league, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced that we are horribly overrating the next tier.
   175. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 08:00 PM (#1116108)
It's not as if the Negro Leaguers were playing baseball on unicycles and then asked to play baseball while juggling.

Don't give Selig any ideas, Gadfly. :-0

In other words, he would have probably had a higher OPS in 1950 than 1951, and 1951 than 1953. And his OPS in 1953 would have almost surely been higher than it was in real life.

For me, it's too early to really get myself involved with Irvin's candidacy at the present time. When he's eligible decades from now, that will be the time that I start really paying attention. I'm more interested in getting Willie Foster numbers. :-)
   176. Chris Cobb Posted: January 31, 2005 at 08:35 PM (#1116201)
I'm just back from a long weekend and in the middle of several big projects, so it's going to be a couple of days before I have time to digest all the material gadfly has posted, but I will definitely do so.

Three quick comments:

gadfly, thank you for gathering this data. I will read carefully and think carefully and respond.

John, Irvin's career is relevant _now_ because his career provides a considerable portion of the data that supports the conversion factors I've used for all Negro-League players. Interpretation of his career is important for all NeL candidates.

Karlmagnus, nothing of what gadfly has posted has had any impact on any of the conversions I have calculated as yet, so don't pass judgment on all conversions based on one set. I will argue that we _must_ use the same standards for handling data for all NeL players. It's not fair to say that Charleston was a genuinely great player, so we elect him, while some other hitter with similar numbers was not, so his numbers need to be disregarded.
   177. OCF Posted: January 31, 2005 at 09:18 PM (#1116289)
A superstar baseball player's career path, by OPS, is like a wave. In his early 20s, he grows quickly until he reaches his prime. His prime usually stretchs from 25 to about 32 and contains his peak years which usually occur from 26 to 30. From 32 on, the player declines and, if he takes care of himself and doesn't get hurt, this long career trough can last to 40 or so.

There is, of course a weakness. This describes the behavior of an aggregate but individuals differ. Perhaps neither Cesar Cedeno nor Jose Cruz quite qualify as "superstar", but they're both awfully good baseball players. Cruz couldn't even hang onto a full time job until he was 29, and was far better in his 30's than he had been in his 20s. Cedeno had his two best years at the ages of 21 and 22, then hung around for a long time after that as a diminished player. We're forced here to rely on the records of a distressingly small number of individuals, and run the risk of being thrown off by those individuals' deviations from the pattern - on either side.
   178. andrew siegel Posted: January 31, 2005 at 09:30 PM (#1116324)
Here's a theoretical issue about Negro Leaguers: are we rating them based on how many wins their skill set produced in the Negro Leagues or how many wins we think those skills would have produced in a world without racism?

For players who played in the major leagues, my rule of thumb is we are evaluating almost exclusively how many wins their skills produced under the conditions of their time, with a tiny smidgen of extra credit if they had skills that would have translated well to another time (speedy guys in the 1950s, guys with power in the 1910s, etc.). That is on the a pennant is a pennant is a pennant theory--e.g., your job is to do all you can to help your team win under the conditions of your time.

But what about Negro Leaguers? To the extent that the conditions in the Negro Leagues differ from those in the contemporaneous majors, whose rules should we apply? On the one hand, the Negro Leaguer's job is to win games for his Negro League team. On the other hand, he is only in that league b/c/ of the bigotry of whiteball. If we don't give credit for skills that would have been more useful in the contemporaneous white leagues, are we punishing him for being black?

John Beckwith strikes me as the classic example of someone who would have been more valuable in integrated ball than he was in the Negro Leagues, while Cool Papa Bell might be the posterboy for those whose skills were better attuned to the Negro Leagues.
   179. DavidFoss Posted: January 31, 2005 at 09:47 PM (#1116356)
Although Irvin's career is all cut up by World War 2 and integration, the reconstruction of his career path, using his extent statistics, show him having a prime OPS of probably 170 to 180 with peak years approaching or even surpassing 200. Irvin, in his prime, would have hit for average, hit for power, and walked a lot.

This is Stan Musial, better than Dimaggio (bat-only) and better than peak-Kiner. That's an impressive conversion. Irvin is only two years older than Musial, and was no Musial by the time he made it to the Giants. That's what's giving me pause at the moment.

Now baseballlibrary.com gives him two pre-war batting titles in the NeL and he was the star of the 1946 NeL World Series, but the war intervened and his integration was not smooth. How does 1940s Irvin compare to other NeL hitting greats (Charleson, Beckwith, Suttles, Gibson, Dihigo, Stearnes)?
   180. karlmagnus Posted: January 31, 2005 at 10:06 PM (#1116403)
Chris, beckwith is nudging his way up my ballot and will almost certainly make it in the next weak year (just misses in '45.) I'm not fully convinced but I am semi-convinced.

On Irwin, we have post-integration views of how good he was, and he was not treated as a great player, or regarded as more than a very good one. This was not racism -- Leo Durocher, his manager, knew a great player when he saw one (Willie Mays) and doesn't appear to have regarded Irwin as such. For Irwin's 20's "prime" to have been so much better than his 30's peak would be a very peculiar career path -- like Cedeno, so it could have happened, but there's really no evidence for it. NeL batting titles are interesting, but the talent pol was thin, and he wasn't competing with Gibson and Charleston in their primes -- after all Pete Runnels had two AL batting crowns.
   181. DavidFoss Posted: January 31, 2005 at 10:45 PM (#1116477)
NeL batting titles are interesting, but the talent pol was thin, and he wasn't competing with Gibson and Charleston in their primes -- after all Pete Runnels had two AL batting crowns.

Well, Irvin's BA crowns were 40-41 and Gibsons were 1938, 42-43, 45 so there was some overlap there. Also, Irvin's slugging numbers in MLB are much better than Runnels.

I'm inclined to believe that Irvin was indeed a great player, probably a HOM-er, but projecting his 20's numbers to "Stan Musial" is quite remarkable. Maybe it is true, maybe its not, but its worth a second look. Since he's the crossover candidate, then seeing how his MLE's line up will help us evaluate Beckwith, Gibson, Suttles, Dihigo, Stearnes & Bell. I do understand the rough integration transition and some injuries are depressing in Giants numbers a bit.
   182. Chris Cobb Posted: January 31, 2005 at 11:17 PM (#1116545)
Well, Irvin's BA crowns were 40-41 and Gibsons were 1938, 42-43, 45 so there was some overlap there.

I believe Gibson was playing in Mexico in 40-41, and that Irvin played in Mexico in 42. Don't have the books at hand at the moment to check that, though.
   183. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 31, 2005 at 11:31 PM (#1116583)
Chris:

I wasn't implying in any way that we shouldn't be having the discussion. I was only informing Gadfly that I personally haven't analyzed Irvin's Negro League years at all.

BTW, shouldn't this discussion be held at the MLE thread?
   184. EricC Posted: February 01, 2005 at 01:24 AM (#1116792)
Eric C-
Are you serious?


Gadfly-

Perhaps you misunderstood my post as an attack. I think that we both agree with Bill James' definition of sabermetrics as the "search for objective knowledge about baseball", and are simply looking at different aspects of the same problem.

I hope that the following makes my point of view more clear. For present purposes, please assume that "skill level", "talent" "performance", "value", etc. are all interchangable.

I understand that issues concerning race are very sensitive, but the following arguments apply to all leagues, the PCL for example.

Start with a few assumptions:

(1) Success in baseball requires a set success in a number of independent skills. Hitting and defense, obviously, but each of hitting and defense in itself involves various skills.

(2) Different players differ in their relative skill levels for different skills. This one's obvious.

(3) As a result of which individuals compete to become baseball players in a league and a selection process that relies on the performance of players in the context of the skill levels of their direction competition, different leagues will end up with different distributions of talent among the different skills.


(4) As a consequence of (3), conversion factors of different skills between leagues are likely to be different for the different skills

Given (2) and (4), one can readily make models for converting the performance of individual players moving from one league to another. With the additional assumption that those whose performance falls below a certain level will get zero or limited playing time, one can easily demonstrate that any calculation of conversion factors based only players who were regulars in league A and then regular in league B will overestimate the strength of league A. Remarkably, this conclusion holds even if the players in league A are superior overall in some skills , as long as the league-average talent in some skill or skills is lower in league A than in league B.

As a very simple example; suppose in the model that performance = offensive performance +defensive performance, that players in league A improve by 10 percent in offensive performance when they move to league B, but decline by 10 percent in defensive performance. In these units, any player who falls below 80 gets cut.

Suppose three players move from league A to B with the following offense/defense breakdowns in league A:

A 40 O + 40 D = 80
B 50 O + 30 D = 80
C 30 O + 50 D = 80.

In league B, their performances become:
A 44 O + 36 D = 80
B 55 O + 27 D = 82
C 33 O + 45 D = 78

If A, B, and C were all regulars in both leagues, we would see that the two leagues were the same strength, as expected. But since C flunks out of league B, all we see is that, on the average, players with an 80 level of performance in league A have an average performance of 81 in league B. Because of selection bias, we arrive at the incorrect conclusion that league A is stronger.
   185. Paul Wendt Posted: February 01, 2005 at 02:11 AM (#1116886)
#72 continued

Gadfly #53 presented some league-average batting and fielding data for some 1944-49 Negro Leagues.

Russell O. Wright, The Evolution of Baseball: A History of the Major Leagues in Graphs, 1903-1989 provides line graphs of 5- and 10-year averages for many league statistics.

By decade, the MLB strikeout:walk rate was greater than 1.5 (as in NAL 1944-45) in AL1900s and in both leagues 1960s-80s. During the heyday of the Negro Leagues, 1920s-40s, the mlb ratio was about 1.0 (NL < 1.1, AL > 0.9).

For both strikeouts and walks separately, the ml-decade closest to NAL 1944-45 was probably NL1960s (not to say 1968). Otherwise, mlb has achieved high strikeout:walk ratios with significantly fewer (AL1900s) or significantly more of both strikeouts and walks.

For NNL 1947 and NNL-NAL 1949, Gadfly reported average walk and strikeout rates for most pitchers in sum rather than for the league (not available). Walk rates were much higher than for NAL 1944-45, which suggests an evolution parallel to mlb walks boom, late 1940s in the AL and a few years later in the NL. Were there parallel changes in umpiring or batting fashions?

The strikeout:walk ratio in NNL-NAL 1949 (about 1.4) was still higher than in any ml-decade before the 1960s, except AL1900s, but only slightly higher than NL 1900s-10s and 1950s (about 1.3); probably not so high as in the late 1950s NL.

MLB strikeouts increased steadily and markedly thru the 1920s to 1960s; walks decreased steadily from the early 1950s thru the 1960s. For strikeouts and walks separately, the NL probably matched NNL-NAL 1949 rather well sometime in the late 1950s and matched NAL 1944-45 rather well sometime in the late 1960s.

Casually considering many league-average stats at once, I guess that the ml-decade closest to NAL 1944-45 was probably AL 1903-09 (after the foul-strike rule). Beside the good match in walks strikeouts, there is an excellent match in doubles, triples, steals, and errors. Scoring in the early AL was about 15% lower and HR rate about 30% lower. Turn one third of all NAL 1944-45 homeruns into flyouts?

American League 1903-1909

SO/G - W/G
3.89 - 2.29

2B - 3B - HR - SB per *game*
1.15-0.43-0.11-1.13

2B - 3B - HR - SB per 500 ABs
18 - 7 - 1.7 - 18

R/G - BA - E/G
3.65, .246, 1.79
   186. Paul Wendt Posted: February 01, 2005 at 02:49 AM (#1116930)
Paul Wendt-
Your point about the AL walk rates is well taken; but, so far, I haven't seen any evidence (and doubt that I will) that Negro League walk rates were ever higher than Major League rates at any point in time.


My articles #72 and #85 concern qualities of the game, not mlb equivalencies (translation of player records). Before the 1970s, where one league such as NAL 1944 is very different from a contemporary league by one or a few of these measures, it is likely to be close to that other league 30 years ago or 10 years hence.
   187. Brent Posted: February 01, 2005 at 05:50 AM (#1117103)
EricC,

You have an interesting theoretical argument, but I think I have to go with gadfly on this point. If you've ever watched AAA or AA minor league games, I challenge you to identify a different set of skills that are used in the minors than are used in the majors. The players are a bit younger, and the overall quality of all their skills is a bit lower, but I can't see where there's any difference in the mix of skills from major league ball. Hitting, pitching, defense, basepath speed - it's all the same skills.
   188. EricC Posted: February 01, 2005 at 11:24 AM (#1117580)
Brent-

Thanks, but note that I never claimed different sets of skills in different leagues. I only note different distributions of talent among the different skills in different leagues.
   189. karlmagnus Posted: February 01, 2005 at 02:50 PM (#1117637)
Incidentally, one feature that makes one believe the gap between NEL and ML was pretty significant was Irvin's achieving batting titles in the NEL at 20 and 21. About 35 "years" ago we remarked that dominance of the league by very young players, such as occurred in the 1870s, was a sign of league immaturity, because a top quality major league would leave players unable to domeinate until at least 22-23. I can't offhand think of any post-1880 ML batting titlists of 20, so I think this is probably a significant indicator. Without Josh Gibson, the NeL just weren't that hard to dominate.
   190. Gary A Posted: February 01, 2005 at 03:52 PM (#1117691)
Obviously with shorter seasons there are greater year-to-year variations in NeL batting averages and other stats (as we've discussed elsewhere). Ted Williams and Pete Reiser won the ML batting titles in 1941, both at age 22; I'd bet that if you went through post-1880 ML seasons, took out each season's batting champion (as if they'd gone to play in Mexico), and sliced each season in half, you'd find a few 20-21 year-olds (DiMaggio, Williams, etc.) winning half-season batting championships. This is leaving aside the fact that Irvin almost certainly played in a hitters' park.

The relevant information here is not whether a given player happened to win a batting championship in a given year, but rather the whole of that player's production in relation to his league and park.

Also: I don't know as much about the 1940s, but I can say without hesitation that the NeL of the 1920s and 30s were not dominated by very young players. The best players at any given time were generally in their mid-20s to early 30s.
   191. Gary A Posted: February 01, 2005 at 05:11 PM (#1117817)
Wait a minute--if Irvin won batting titles in 1940 and '41, he was 21 and 22 years old, not 20 and 21.
   192. karlmagnus Posted: February 01, 2005 at 06:30 PM (#1118023)
Quite right, my blob. 22 certainly has some matches in the ML, not sure about 21
   193. DavidFoss Posted: February 01, 2005 at 06:50 PM (#1118081)
Quite right, my blob. 22 certainly has some matches in the ML, not sure about 21

Al Kaline -- 20.
   194. Gadfly Posted: February 01, 2005 at 09:47 PM (#1118494)
OCF-
I guess I should have made two things clear about Monte Irvin's reconstructed career path:

1) I am crediting him what he could have done in a more perfect world, i.e. in the Majors at 20 or 21, spent WW2 playing baseball for the Army, with his career shortened by injuries in 1952 and 1953.

In real life, Irvin reached a peak at 23 in 1942, then spent 3 years not playing baseball. He came back, had two adjustment years and an injury year and then was reaching another peak in Triple-A in 1949-50. Then he went to the Majors, spent two years adjusting, one year injured, and was reaching another peak in 1953 when the rest of his career was called off.

In other words, I am filling in the valleys between the peaks.

(What's really weird about this is that DiMaggio came back from the Army, where he had't played much ball because of illness - an ulcer - and then took two years to readjust before returning to his pre-War form.)

Monte Irvin already has a career path to be evaluated. Cesar Cedeno's career path (Superstar talent derailed by immaturity) and Jose Cruz' career path (star talent denied a chance for five long years) are interesting but not really relevant.

David Foss-
This is just my personal opinion, but I would rank the hitters you asked about like this for their peak, not their career:

1) Gibson (comp- Gehrig with more power)
2) Charleston (comp- Hornsby with some Ruth)
3) Beckwith (comp- slower Hornsby with more power)
4) Irvin (comp- DiMaggio, less power, more walks)
5) Stearnes (comp- Musial, dead-on)
6) Suttles (comp- Greenberg, dead-on)

Gibson is number 1 and no one is close to him. He hit like Gehrig in style, but I think his value was more like Ruth.

Beckwith and Charleston are very close as hitters, but Charleston (at his peak) was faster and more valuable defensively. I think both are them are clearly better than the next three.

Irvin, Suttles, and Stearnes are very close together and I never would have thought Irvin was this good before I studied his career.

I can't really rate Dihigo because his career is just so bizarre. However, if Dihigo hadn't taken up pitching and evidently switch-hitting, it looks like he might have developed into a hitter of the caliber of Charleston and Beckwith. But that is a huge maybe. Dihigo was so good at everything that he never really concentrated all his efforts on any one thing.

Karl Magnus-
Leo Durocher did come around to acknowledging the Irvin was a great player. It's clear in his comments from late 1951 to 1954 that he thought Irvin was the Giants' best player. The question is why it took him so long.

I remember some player from one of his teams saying that Durocher was a horrible judge of talent, that the talent had to hit him like a truck, otherwise he just went on past performance. I guess Willie Mays was that truck.

Eric C-
Your hypothesis that different playing conditions would demand different distributions of baseball talent is true. For instance, a slow slugger would not be as valuable under deadball conditions; and a speedster would not be as valuable in an extreme powerball situation.

However, I think these differences can be overstated and would mostly show up among players of marginal talent. Superstar players would be somewhat immune; although, I think, under really extreme circumstances, it could possibly make a superstar into just a star.

The primary baseball skills (hit, hit for average, control the strike zone, run, throw) translate to almost all conditions. The one that seems to vary the most is power, although power would also have some impact on the value of speed.

I did not mean to dismiss your hypothesis out of hand; but I don't think it has much validity in the case of the Negro Leagues. The Negro Leagues played a version of baseball close to that of the Majors, only the power was muted. The Negro League skills would translate almost perfectly with an accent on the power.

Paul Wendt-
That the Negro American League rates from 1944 to 1946 match those of the Deadball rates of the 1903-1909 American League is interesting. I would love to know what changed in 1947. It weasn't a new ball like in 1910.

Gary A-
From what I know, Monte Irvin did not win the NNL batting title in 1940 at age 21. Irvin is sometimes credited with the 1941 NNL batting title with a mark of .395, but these are just early early season statistics (78 at bats if I remember correctly). Irvin may or may not have won that batting title at the age of 22. He won the Mexican League batting title in 1942 (age 23) and the NNL batting crown in 1946 (age 27).

If he had been left in the International League for entire seasons in 1949 and 1950, I'd bet my house that he would have won both of those batting titles (at ages 30 and 31). Irvin was well on his way to winning the 1953 NL batting title when derailed by injury.

This is a statistic I edited because it's just a goof; but in 1953, Irvin started slow becuase of the ankle injury and then heated up. Early on, Durocher sat Irvin for 4 games to rest his ankle. When he again hurt his ankle in August, Irvin had played 101 of the Giants 105 games. There were 49 games left in the season.

So I just added his last 49 games (Giant game 57 to 105) back into to get this:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BA SA SB
151 593 98 208 31 8 29 134 .351 .577 4

His home-road HR breakdown is 9-20. He wins the batting title (Furillo .344), leads the league in hits (Ashburn 205), and finishes third in RBI (Campy in Ebbetts 142, Mathews 135).
   195. Gadfly Posted: February 01, 2005 at 09:58 PM (#1118523)
Looking at that composite 1953 Irvin line made me think of something else:

Those figures, 29-134-.351, park-adjusted would be something like:

40-155-.365, two legs of the Triple Crown.

by a 34-year-old player, with a bum ankle, who has lost his once 'blazing speed.'

And it is not reasonable to assume that this player, at his peak from age 26 to 30, would not have put up an OPS close to 200?
   196. DavidFoss Posted: February 01, 2005 at 11:22 PM (#1118787)
Those figures, 29-134-.351, park-adjusted would be something like:

40-155-.365, two legs of the Triple Crown.


But the Polo Grounds played neutral in 1953 and was always a bit of a homer-friendly park (though it appears that Irvin was not the pull hitter to take advantage of that). Double counting his good months doesn't seem scientific either. Its not a bad "what-if" line, though.

1) Gibson (comp- Gehrig with more power)
2) Charleston (comp- Hornsby with some Ruth)
3) Beckwith (comp- slower Hornsby with more power)
4) Irvin (comp- DiMaggio, less power, more walks)
5) Stearnes (comp- Musial, dead-on)
6) Suttles (comp- Greenberg, dead-on)


Thanks for the comps. Most of us would rank Musial ahead of DiMaggio, though (offensively, of course). JoeD's best OPS+ was 185.

From what I know, Monte Irvin did not win the NNL batting title in 1940 at age 21. Irvin is sometimes credited with the 1941 NNL batting title with a mark of .395, but these are just early early season statistics (78 at bats if I remember correctly).

I'm the one who first brought this up. I mentioned it in passing from the text at baseballlibary.com . Feel free to correct this with better information.
   197. Gadfly Posted: February 02, 2005 at 12:32 AM (#1118914)
David Foss-

Double-counting Irvin's last 49 games is, of course, completely unscientific. That's why I called it a goof and edited it out originally. But it is completely true that Irvin was hobbled early in 1953 and had apparently gotten healthy until he smashed up his ankle.

And, if not for the ankle injury and barring any other injuries, I firmly believe that Irvin would have ended up with a 30 HR, 135 RBI, .350 BA stat line for 1953.

But, of course, we will never know.

And, of course, I am adjusting for just Irvin not for the league-wide Polo Ground park effects.

Which makes it interesting that you brought up DiMaggio. DiMaggio's top OPS were 186, 185, 178, 176. Musial was 196, 182, 180, 176, just slightly better. But DiMaggio played in a park that just killed his power (he should have been hitting 50 HRs a year at his peak). Musial played in a great hitting park.

In other words, DiMaggio's park uniquely hurt his OPS. In the same park, DiMaggio would have been a way better hitter than Musial. Not to mention the fact that DiMaggio lost three years of his absolute prime to the War and the readjustment time form that. Musial just lost one.

Also, DiMaggio was way better than Musial defensively. In his prime, I'd pick DiMag in a heartbeat.

The last time I saw Irvin's researched stats, they went like this: 1939: .293 BA, 1940: .341 BA, 1941: .384 BA. Irvin very well could have won the BA title in 1941. His main competition, Josh Gibson and Bill Wright, were both out of the country. I don't think he won in 1940.

Of course, Irvin statistics in 1942, before he left to go to Mexico are known and they are pretty staggering even with the small sample size:
8 G, 32 AB, 17 H, 6 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, .531 BA, 1.156 SA, 1 SB.
   198. karlmagnus Posted: February 02, 2005 at 12:38 AM (#1118923)
Come off it, Gadfly, earlier on you say that in 1951 Durocher "simply lost faith in him." There's no evidence Durocher thought Irvin was the best player on the Giants, and indeed he wasn't, excpt possibly on and off when he was fit and Mays was in the srvice (not even close in 1954, though.)

Durocher was a famously good judge of talent, and regarded Irvin highly -- but not as anywhere near the equal of Mays/diMaggio/Musial
   199. jimd Posted: February 02, 2005 at 01:10 AM (#1119003)
For instance, a slow slugger would not be as valuable under deadball conditions;

However, I think these differences can be overstated and would mostly show up among players of marginal talent. Superstar players would be somewhat immune;


How much does Gehrig play in the 00's? His HR's mostly go away, and his walks drop more than expected because pitchers will challenge him more. Can he coexist with the aggresive running game? Or be viewed as a base-clogging liability? He certainly doesn't fit the defensive model managers are looking for at 1B; would they try to shift him to RF and could he make it there?

The reason I ask this is because that basic model disappears for the 30 years between about 1895 (A/B/C) and 1925 (G/F/etc). (The 1b-man drought.) Is it because there weren't any players like them to be found (even if they weren't quite as good)? Or is it because managers agreed there was no place for them in the deadball game?
   200. Gary A Posted: February 02, 2005 at 01:42 AM (#1119059)
With regard to Irvin's batting titles, Holway has these leaders:

1940:
1. Lenny Pearson, Nwk .396
2. Monte Irvin, Nwk .383

1941
1. Bill Hoskins, Bal .412
2. Henry Spearman, Bal .400
3. Monte Irvin, Nwk .382
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