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Monday, May 02, 2005

Josh Gibson

Josh Gibson

Eligible in 1952.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 08:42 PM | 131 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 08:59 PM (#1305159)
I doubt Chris' MLEs will show that he's not HoM worthy. IOW, he's going in quickly.
   2. Chris Cobb Posted: May 02, 2005 at 09:25 PM (#1305197)
His MLEs will be interesting for two reasons:

1) the contemplation of greatness

2) they'll give us another useful read on whether the early 1930s are being underrated and the early 40s overrated by the conversion rates.

I won't have them for a few days yet, but I'll post the Holway data tonight.
   3. OCF Posted: May 02, 2005 at 09:48 PM (#1305226)
Every scrap of reputation I've ever heard labels him a Hitter with a capital H. I assume that Chris's reference to "the contemplation of greatness" says he's not going to contradict that. But what can you say about his defense? If he had the defensive skills of Mike Piazza, then we'll elect him anyway. Come to think of it, if we're still up and running 5 years after Piazza's retirement, we're also electing Piazza. But just so we hear it, what of Gibson's defense?
   4. Carl G Posted: May 02, 2005 at 09:57 PM (#1305248)
Is Gibson Eligible in 51? If so, can we just put him and Foxx in and move right to 52?
   5. DavidFoss Posted: May 02, 2005 at 10:09 PM (#1305267)
Gibson is eligible in 1952.

John, would it be too much to ask if we could insert eligibility dates into the thread headers? (at least for the '51-'52 players)
   6. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 02, 2005 at 10:29 PM (#1305304)
The way I look at Gibson is that if you want to be unduly harsh on mhim and say that he wouldn't ahve been catcher in MLB (and iwth Piazza catching I am not sure why you wouldn't give him all but his last few seasons) he is still Jimmie Foxx or Johnny Mize or some other no brainer.
   7. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 02, 2005 at 11:02 PM (#1305354)
John, would it be too much to ask if we could insert eligibility dates into the thread headers? (at least for the '51-'52 players)

Good point, David. I'll have it done sometime tonight.
   8. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 03, 2005 at 12:04 AM (#1305576)
Don't jump on me, because I really don't know.

I was always under the impression that stats from the Negro Leagues were not reliable. Is this true? And if it is, can we be certain that guys like Gibson were as good as we are lead to believe?
   9. OCF Posted: May 03, 2005 at 12:13 AM (#1305613)
Linkin, we're not going to jump on you. But the reliability and comparability of Negro League stats is a very large and much debated topic around here. Try reading some of the single-player threads we have linked under the main Hall of Merit page. The Beckwith thread might be a good place to start, unless someone has a better suggestion.
   10. Chris Cobb Posted: May 03, 2005 at 12:31 AM (#1305699)
On Gibson's fielding, the experts will know better than I, but I can say a few things:

1) If Ernie Lombardi could catch in the major leagues in the 1930s, Josh Gibson could catch in the major leagues in the 1930s :-) .

2) According to Riley, Gibson had a strong arm. When he began his career, he was pretty raw defensively (unsurprising as he was 18, fresh off the sandlots of Pittsburgh semipro baseball), but that he worked hard on his defense and became "one of the better receivers in the league." Late in his career, his knees went bad, so that he could no longer squat -- he caught from a stooping position. If that story is indeed corrrect, he obviously he wouldn't have been catching in the majors -- he would have been shifted to first base or right field, perhaps. Holway indicates that he couldn't run well, but he was still hitting triples, so his knees can't have been completely shot.

Overall, I'd say he started and finished as a marginal defensive catcher (C- or D by James' letter grades), rising probably to a B catcher by about 1935 and staying at more or less that level until 1941 or so.
   11. Chris Cobb Posted: May 03, 2005 at 12:34 AM (#1305714)
Josh Gibson Data

Seasonal data from Holway

1930 .261 for Homestead; c (1 hr, according to Holway)
1931 .308 for Homestead; 14 hr (2nd), 30 hr/550 (2nd), 15 2b (2nd), 7 3b (2nd); c, all-star
1932 .303 for Pgh; 10 hr (1st), 19 hr/550 (3rd), 16 2b (2nd), 6 3b (3rd); c, all-star
1933 .352 for Pgh; 23 hr (1st), 38 hr/550 (3rd), 18 2b (2nd), 10 3b (3rd); c all-star
1934 .295 for Pgh; 16 hr (1st), 29 hr/550 (3rd), 15 2b (1st), 4 3b (4th); c
1935 .355 for Pgh; 16 hr (1st), 40 hr/550 (2nd); c, all-star
1936 .327 for Pgh; 14 hr (3rd), 72 hr/550 (1st); c, all-star
1937 .462 for Homestead (1st); 21 hr (1st), 67 hr/550 (2nd), 5 3b (1st); c, all-star, MVP
1938 .358 for Homestead; 8 hr (2nd), 28 hr/550 (5th), 2 3b (1st); c, all-star
1939 .341 for Homestead; 17 hr (1st), 105 hr/550 (1st), 2 3b (3rd); c, all-star, MVP
1940 .167 for Homestead, part-season only
1940 In Mexico, 43-92, .467, 11 hr (2nd), 65 hr/550 (1st)
1941 In Mexico, 134-368, .374 (2nd); 33 hr (1st), 49 hr/550 (1st)
1942 .347 for Homestead (4th); 14 hr (1st), 49 hr/550 (1st), 8 2b (4th), 3 sb (3rd); c, all-star, MVP
1943 .449 for Homestead (3rd); 22 hr (1st), 41 hr/550 (1st) 33 2b (1st), 8 3b (5th), c, all-star, MVP
1944 .365 for Homestead (4th); 17 hr (1st), 35 hr/550 (2nd); 8 2b (5th), 12 3b (1st); c, all-star MVP
1945 .323 for Homestead; 11 hr (1st); 60 hr/550 (1st), 4 3b (3rd); c, all-star
1946 .397 for Homestead; 17 hr (1st); 69 hr/550 (1st), 12 2b (1st), 4 3b (2nd); c, all-star MVP

Career Data from Holway
1010-2875, .351
224 HR, 43 hr/550 (n.b. – Holway lists him at 51 hr/550 ab, but he lists 2375 ab as his total here: clearly a misreading of a handwritten number 8. His hr/550 total is the highest in the NeL, but only slightly higher than Mule Suttles’ 40/550 ab.)
21-56 vs. Major-league competition, 2 hr

Gibson has some Cuban play, I think, and a number of winter seasons in Puerto Rico, for which data is also available, and I’m sure there are better stats available for his Mexican League seasons, but this is good for a start.

Gibson's fielding history is simple: he was a catcher throughout his career.

Here's his career line from Macmillan 8th

439 g, 1820 ab, 644 hits, 110 2b, 45 3b, 141 hr, 17 sb, .354 ba, .696 sa
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 03, 2005 at 12:51 AM (#1305761)
Overall, I'd say he started and finished as a marginal defensive catcher (C- or D by James' letter grades), rising probably to a B catcher by about 1935 and staying at more or less that level until 1941 or so.

That makes sense to me, Chris.
   13. karlmagnus Posted: May 03, 2005 at 01:17 AM (#1305857)
16 seasons on my 130 games normalization formula would give him 2080 games, which would give him 3051 hits and 668 HR. Yup, that's a HOM'er, even if you multiply by 0.9!

Sometimes, simple formulae can give you the answer!
   14. Brent Posted: May 03, 2005 at 03:07 AM (#1306330)
His Cuban record consisted of two seasons:

1937-38 - Habana (apparently signed late in season)
61 AB, 11 R, 21 H, 3 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 13 RBI, .344

1938-39 - Santa Clara (won pennant)
163 AB, 50 R, 58 H, 7 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 2 SB, .356

Led league in runs and HR. Set season record in HR. (I'm not sure what the previous record was, but thumbing through the book the highest earlier total I could find was 7 by Mule Suttles. The Cuban ballparks prior to 1942 were huge -- the main park in Havana, La Tropical, was listed as 498 to left, 505 to center, and 398 to right.)
   15. KJOK Posted: May 03, 2005 at 07:39 AM (#1306707)
His hr/550 total is the highest in the NeL, but only slightly higher than Mule Suttles’ 40/550 ab.)

But Suttles played in many "bandbox" parks, while Gibson played many games in Griffith Stadium and Forbes Field, which were not very HR friendly....
   16. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 03, 2005 at 01:40 PM (#1306884)
But Suttles played in many "bandbox" parks, while Gibson played many games in Griffith Stadium and Forbes Field, which were not very HR friendly....

Right. Gibson was the more impressive power hitter, IMO.
   17. Chris Cobb Posted: May 03, 2005 at 02:25 PM (#1306969)
Right. Gibson was the more impressive power hitter, IMO.

I agree completely. My comment was not meant to suggest that Gibson was anything but the best power hitter in the history of the Negro Leagues and one of the best power hitters ever.

However, Holway's error makes Gibson seem even more sensational than he really was, so I wanted both to note that I was making a correction to his published figures and to suggest that Gibson was say, 10-15% ahead of Suttles as a home-run hitter, rather than 25% ahead, as Holway's data indicated.
   18. Gary A Posted: May 03, 2005 at 03:10 PM (#1307039)
Josh Gibson's Mexican League batting (he joined Veracruz late in the season, but was still only only 1 HR behind the league leader, Cool Papa Bell):

1940
G-22
AB-92
H-43
D-7
T-4
HR-11
R-32
RBI-38
BB-16
SO-6
HP-0
SH-0
SB-3
AVE-.467
OBA-.565
SLG-.989

And 1941, also with Veracruz:
G-94
AB-358
H-134
D-31
T-3
HR-33
R-100
RBI-124
BB-75
SO-25
HP-1
SH-0
SB-7
AVE-.374
OBA-.484
SLG-.754

Totals:
G-116
AB-450
H-177
D-38
T-7
HR-44
R-132
RBI-162
BB-91
SO-31
HP-1
SH-0
SB-10
AVE-.393
OBA-.496
SLG-.802
   19. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 03, 2005 at 09:20 PM (#1308056)
the main park in Havana, La Tropical, was listed as 498 to left, 505 to center, and 398 to right.)

I've actually been to La Tropical, and it's a legit 500+ feet to center. (It's used mostly as a soccer field now, though.) Almendares Park, the main park before La Tropical was built, was also gigantic.

Given La Tropical, Forbes Field, and Griffith Stadium, I''d guess Gibson's home parks were probably as unconducive to HRs as those of any major NL or MLB power hitter.
   20. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 04, 2005 at 04:27 AM (#1309580)
OCF:

I just waded through the Beckwith thread, and I think you misunderstood me.

I can't guess at how Negro League stats would translate. My question is about the completeness of NL stats.
   21. Chris Cobb Posted: May 04, 2005 at 04:45 AM (#1309598)
I can't guess at how Negro League stats would translate. My question is about the completeness of NL stats.

Well, it depends on what you mean by completeness. Certain stats were reported more consistently than others: stolen bases, sacrifices, esp. were reported irregularly.

The degree of completeness in game coverage varies from season to season and from team to team, depending on the quality of league record-keeping and of the newspaper coverage.

Negro League teams played a smaller number of league games than ML teams and a much larger number of non-league games against a wide variety of opponents.

Coverage of the non-league games is very seldom complete. Coverage of the league games is sometimes quite complete, at other times quite fragmentary.

It is because of the small number of games and the incomplete state of the records that the major-league equivalency calculations that we do here use regression to the mean when projecting NeL seasons into major-league seasons.

Does that answer your question?
   22. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 04, 2005 at 03:40 PM (#1310139)
Yes, it does, but your explaination begs the real question I have:

How certain can we be that the stats we do have fairly reflect the players' abilities? If data is missing (and your post suggests there may be alot of data missing), how can we really evaluate the talent of Negro Leaguers.

Please don't think I'm dismissing the quality of the players; you have to believe that some of the all-time greats played in those leagues. But who were they?

Put it in modern terms: If you used most of his game stats, it would be easy to believe the press that Jeter is Ozzie Smith's glove and Ted Williams' bat.
   23. Gary A Posted: May 04, 2005 at 03:59 PM (#1310219)
There's also his Dominican League stats from 1937, from Holway, which I think nobody's mentioned. Gibson hit 24 for 53 (.453). Next highest was Clyde Spearman, at .352, then Dihigo at .351 (in 97 ABs). Holway doesn't give extra base hits, or anything else.
   24. OCF Posted: May 04, 2005 at 05:51 PM (#1310642)
If you used most of his game stats, it would be easy to believe the press that Jeter is Ozzie Smith's glove and Ted Williams' bat.

I don't think you could arrive at that conclusion from a haphazardly selected "most" of Jeter's stats. Someone would have to be intentionally selecting them with a pro-Jeter agenda. Do we suspect the equivalent of this in any of our Negro League cases? I don't recall hearing of it anywhere.

If what we really had was every hometown newpaper in the AL having a different idea of what should go in a box score, and a couple of those cities are missing, and we throw in the box scores from a month-long trip in which the Yankees were playing every NCAA team in Ohio and Michigan, what would we see? I think we would still be able to tell from the stats we have that Alex Rodriguez has been a better player than Derek Jeter. To compare either one to Arky Vaughan would require a long and fragile chain of inferences, but there would be some evidence we could use.

Linkin seems to be separating the question of reliability from the issue of translation. I'm choosing to interpret the reliability as the question of whether we could tell, with these problematic stats, that Rodriguez was better than Jeter (or Gibson better than Suttles). Translation is comparing Rodriguez to Vaughan, or Gibson to Foxx.
   25. Chris Cobb Posted: May 04, 2005 at 06:29 PM (#1310758)
Linkin,

OCF presents a good description of the situation that makes the data haphazard.

Unless the stats have been doctored, they are reasonably reliable for much of the NeL's history. We have as many games recorded for NeL players during most seasons of the 1920s and a few during the 1930s and 1940s as we did for major-league players during the first decade and a half of professional baseball. The player's seasonal peaks and valleys will appear higher and lower as a result of smaller data sets, but we have enough career data to get a fairly reliable view of a player's quality. There's a lot more uncertainty than there is with the major-league players, but not nearly enough to turn Derek Jeter into Ted Williams.

The statistics we are using for our projections are mostly reliably gathered league data and data gathered by historians from box scores. There are a few instances in which data gathered during the NeL era is unreliable (it is my understanding that Cum Posey would pad his players' numbers in the data he kept), but those cases have been identified and our data does not draw on these sorts of sources for the most part.
   26. ronw Posted: May 04, 2005 at 07:14 PM (#1310874)
Linkin,

You should check out a few other Negro League threads. Measuring data by Josh Gibson examples doesn't quite lend credence to Chris Cobb's suggestions, because Gibson may have actually been as good a hitter as Ted Williams.

By the way, those Holway, McMillan, and GaryA numbers are amazing. When you think about the parks Josh played in, he may well be the best hitter ever.

I think when comparing Josh Gibson to ML players, this is the rare instance where you have to begin with the Babe. There aren't too many players you can put on a pedestal with Ruth.

It really looks like either Ott or Dickey will have to wait a year.
   27. Chris Cobb Posted: May 04, 2005 at 07:23 PM (#1310899)
My first pass through Gibson's data suggests not quite Ted Williams but above Hank Greenberg and Jimmy Foxx (his stats match theirs closely, but he is being projected into the lower offense National League).

If his park factors are lower than what I've used, he could match Ted Williams pretty closely.

I think there's about a 0% chance that he was actually a Derek Jeter-type hitter.

I should also note that the numbers in this respect are totally matched by his reputation.
   28. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 04, 2005 at 08:44 PM (#1311110)
My first pass through Gibson's data suggests not quite Ted Williams but above Hank Greenberg and Jimmy Foxx (his stats match theirs closely, but he is being projected into the lower offense National League).

That sounds like greatest catcher of all-time to me.

If his park factors are lower than what I've used, he could match Ted Williams pretty closely.

That a catcher could be considered in the same sentence with Williams in regard to hitting is mind boggling. Wow!
   29. Mike Webber Posted: May 04, 2005 at 09:16 PM (#1311216)
If you used most of his game stats, it would be easy to believe the press that Jeter is Ozzie Smith's glove and Ted Williams' bat.

I don't think you could arrive at that conclusion from a haphazardly selected "most" of Jeter's stats. Someone would have to be intentionally selecting them with a pro-Jeter agenda. Do we suspect the equivalent of this in any of our Negro League cases?


If there were no fielding stats, and only defensive stories, and 60 years of time lapse you could certainly think that Jeter was about the same as Ozzie.

I think everyone involved with the HOM does the best they can with the stats they have. However the Holway/MacMillan numbers... well I don't want to be threatened with a law suit.

Even if the stats were not cooked in any way, the nature of the Negro leagues certainly lends to a situation where a few extra starts against sub-par pitching could change stats a lot.

Suppose you are playing a league game in Ottawa, KS - yes that did happen in the late 1940's - and Ottawa has a young guy that throws hard and will help draw a crowd, so the Cuban Giants start him. Could that have an impact?

To illustrate the point, have you seen the recent thread on SABR-L about Yogi Berra in the minors?

From SABR-L
Randy Messel posted:
Saw Yogi Berra on TV with Tim McCarver and Yogi said while playing in the minor leagues at Roanoke, Virginia, he had 23 RBIs in one day. In the first game he had 13 RBIs and 10 in the second game.

John Lewis then added:
According to The Sporting News' Super Stars of Baseball, Berra told this story in his book with Ed Fitzgerald, "Yogi." It says he had 13 RBI in a game and 10 in the game the following day for Norfolk against Roanoke. He had 6 hits in each game with 3 HR, 2 3B, and 1 2B. If true, Berra had 3 HR and 23 RBI in 2 games and only 4 HR and 33 RBI in his other 109 games in 1943.

Then Merritt Clifton added:
The 18-year-old Yogi Berra saved his career on August 1 and August 2, 1943. His other accomplishments for the season included leading the league in errors by a catcher, and, except for those two days, batting .228.

Thanks to those two days, he ended up at 7-56-.253, good enough to get another chance three years later after participating in
the D-Day invasion (albeit not in the first wave to go ashore) and then starring in service ball in Germany.
++++++++++++++++++

And, of course Gibson will be my number one selection in 1952 - unless Ruth is somehow put back on the ballot.
   30. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 04, 2005 at 10:05 PM (#1311359)
The only question that I have with Gibson being the best catcher ever is that we still dont' know the full effects of catcher defense, i.e. how he handles a pitching staff and the like. From what I glean Johnny Bench was really good at this and Berra wasnt' bad himself. Gibson? I have no clue but I dnt' think he was anything special defensively. Of course you can almost always find a good quote or two about how good a star catcher was at handling pitchers.

But yeah, I find it hard to believe that Gibson isnt' the best catcher ever.
   31. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 04, 2005 at 10:31 PM (#1311429)
If Chris has Gibson as at least Foxx and Greenberg, he would have to be a historically bad defensive catcher for him not to be the best all-around, IMO.
   32. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 04, 2005 at 11:42 PM (#1311675)
Here's what William Brashler's Gibson biography has to say on the subject of his defense... the liberal use of ellipses is mine:

"Through the years... Josh was held in varying esteem as a catcher. He was once described as a 'weak member in that department.'

In his early seasons... Josh impressed with his speed. He was quick for a big man and possessed good hands despite the fact that the catcher's glove of his time was a big, fat, round saucer... but Josh's greatest asset as a catcher was his durability. He was sesldom injured severely enough to keep him out of action for any length of time. In fact, until the last few years of his career, only the 1932 appendectomy kept him sidelined for more than a day or two.

Those who played with him considered him a good catcher; not a great one, not the best one, but a solid receiver. ...

Judy Johnson: 'He was not a Campanella, but he could run, had a good arm, and he did the job.'

Roy Campanella: 'I couldn't carry Josh's glove. Anything I could do, Josh could do better.' ...

Josh did have a powerful, accurate arm. In an informal pregame track meet among the Crawfords in 1942, he won the long distance toss. Behind the plate he was not easy to run against and frequently picked runners off third base in a prearranged play with Judy Johnson. ...

It wasn't quite as easy with foul flies. Josh often had trouble following and catching them, and it was the one weakness his teammates most remember. He had difficulty getting his bearings once he flipped off the mask and went after the fly, even to the point of getting dizzy as he looked upward and attempted to track the ball. ...

Josh was a smooth, efficient, reliable catcher who apologized to no one for his defensive skills. Had his, and most anyone else's, defensive talents not paled in comparison to his hitting ability, his catching would not even be scrutinized."
   33. sunnyday2 Posted: May 05, 2005 at 12:14 AM (#1311844)
That sounds like a lot of hyperbole...

When did Campy say that, e.g? I mean, Josh died tragically in 1952 and I'll bet a lot of people went out of their way to say really, really nice things about him at that time.

So far, the sum total of evidence I've seen suggests an average to above average catcher at best--a guy who grew into a B catcher.

Considering, however, that he is probably the best hitting catcher ever, that makes a fine package and very possibly the greatest player ever who was primary a catcher. There aren't many years when he would not be #1 and 1952 isn't one of them.
   34. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 12:27 AM (#1311922)
sunnyday2,

Gibson died in early 1947. I agree that Campy's statement is out of keeping with the rest of the anecdotal evidence.

Eric,

Thanks very much for the info from the biography!

This information prompts me to ask two additional questions on playing time that the biography might answer:

1) how much of the 1932 season did he miss for the appendectomy?

2) how much time was he missing in the last stage of his career, 1942-46?

I'm just trying to get my playing time projections as accurate as I can . . .
   35. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 05, 2005 at 12:31 AM (#1311937)
When did Campy say that, e.g? I mean, Josh died tragically in 1952 and I'll bet a lot of people went out of their way to say really, really nice things about him at that time.

The book is not footnoted, so I can't say for sure. But he did a lot of original interviews for it, and I suspect Campanella was among them. (It was written in 1978.)

Josh died tragically in 1947, less than three months before the color barrier was broken.
   36. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 05, 2005 at 01:00 AM (#1312120)
This information prompts me to ask two additional questions on playing time that the biography might answer:

1) how much of the 1932 season did he miss for the appendectomy?
2) how much time was he missing in the last stage of his career, 1942-46?

----------

Gibson had an emergency appendectomy after feeling pain in his side while riding a bus to 1932 spring training. "By mid-March he was still unable to play." [season began on March 25]

"Josh started slowly and played himself into shape, gaining weight with each day... Manager Charleston put him in left field while Perkins caught, for Josh's bat, even in his weakened condition, was still overpowering."

Apparently he missed very little if any regular season playing time. Unfortunately, though, the book doesn't say at what point in the season he moved back to catcher.

As for the later years... in August 1942 (around the time he was starting to develop a drinking problem) Gibson missed an unspecified number of games with fatigue and general aches and pains. After the season he was ordered by doctors not to play winter or barnstorming ball, an order he ignored. On New Year's Day 1943 he slipped into a coma and was hospitalized for 10 days. Doctors diagnosed him with a brain tumor and wanted to operate, but Gibson wouldn't let them. (Or so Brashler says.)

Remarkably, he appears to have played much of the 1943 season unmolested, except for a few days off due to headaches and seizures. At an unspecified date late in the season he entered a sanitarium, from which he was released for weekend games only.

In 1944 and 45 Gibson appears to have played regularly.

In 1946, his knees gave out and he was "out of the lineup for weeks at a time." After the season, he died.

Also, it has nothing to do with playing time, but I thought this tidbit was interesting: "Gibson was fast when he was young. In straight-out sprinting contests he could stay with anyone. On the base-paths he was a constant base stealing threat and ran with impunity."
   37. KJOK Posted: May 05, 2005 at 01:29 AM (#1312257)
Apparently he missed very little if any regular season playing time. Unfortunately, though, the book doesn't say at what point in the season he moved back to catcher.

He caught all 3 games of a triple header vs. Baltimore on July 31st, but then sat out the August 1st game.
   38. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 01:46 AM (#1312348)
Eric,

Thanks very much!

I'll try to work that into the playing time projections.

The 1932 situation is interesting; it makes me wonder if in the majors Gibson would have been shifted from catcher to the outfield, much as Jimmy Foxx was shifted to first base, simply to keep his bat in the lineup every day.

There are a lot of parallels between Gibson and Foxx, actually.

Gibson's triples totals certainly confirm his speed, esp. early in his career.
   39. OCF Posted: May 05, 2005 at 02:32 AM (#1312544)
Gibson's triples totals certainly confirm his speed, esp. early in his career.

If you crush a screaming liner over the centerfielder's head in a ballpark with a 500 foot fence, that's probably a triple for a guy with average speed. If C.P. Bell hits that, it's a HR, only C.P. Bell didn't hit nearly as many of those as Gibson.

- just a thought.
   40. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 05, 2005 at 02:51 AM (#1312647)
Gibson didn't play in Griffith Stadium as a young man; the parks in question during the "Speedy Josh" era would likely be Forbes Field (great triples park, obviously) and Greenlee Field (no idea).
   41. Brent Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:00 AM (#1312678)
For the "legendary home runs" file, the following anecdote is from The Pride of Havana by Roberto González Echevarría, p. 277.

"This season [1938-39] was made memorable also by an enormous homer hit by Josh Gibson at La Boulanger Park in Santa Clara on October 22, 1938, against Manuel (Chino) Fortes, pitching for team Cuba. Lore passed on to me by my father, who was in the stands, claims that the ball cleared the ####-fightin pit beyond the fence... Charles Monfort Subirats, a very meticulous independent archivist of Cuban baseball, told me in Miami, in December 1990, that he surveyed that shot. Years after the feat, Monfort happened to have a layover at Santa Clara on a bus trip from Santiago de Cuba to Havana. He decided to pass the time by ascertaining once and for all the actual length of Gibson's already legendary blast. He bought a tape measure at a local hardware store, went to La Boulanger Park, and measured from the spot where the ball crossed the fence to a weather vane on the roof of a small grocery store where witnesses told him it had struck. Adding this distance to the distance from home plate to the fence, he came up with a figure of 704 feet! Wherever he went, Gibson hit the longest ball in that place's history, including Cuba."
   42. Brent Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:02 AM (#1312685)
I guess I should have said chicken-fighting. :-)
   43. OCF Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:22 AM (#1312758)
Googling the phrase "tape measure home run" got me this link, among others. No, I don't believe he actually hit it 700 feet.
   44. Brent Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:37 AM (#1312798)
But it makes for a great story.
   45. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:46 AM (#1312822)
I don't have time to post Gibson's full MLEs tonight, but here's his career line, with a rough OPS+ estimate at the end:

MLE career 1931-1946
games 1930
at bats 6627
walks 1210
hits 2165
total bases 3941 (which suggests c. 395 2b, 67 3b, 410 hr)
ba .327
obp .431
slg. .595
OPS+ 175 (could be 5 points higher or lower, I think)

Just too good to wait another day to post this . . .
   46. KJOK Posted: May 05, 2005 at 07:33 AM (#1313102)
Somewhat comparable to Mark McGwire then, only he played Catcher....
   47. Kelly in SD Posted: May 05, 2005 at 08:49 AM (#1313131)
Where some of those numbers rank among major leaguers:

Slugging:
Ruth .690
Williams .634
Gehrig .632
Foxx .609
Greenberg .605
-- Gibson .595
McGwire .588
DiMaggio .579
Hornsby .577
Belle .564
Mize .562

Including active players, place Gibson behind Helton .616, Bonds .611, Ramirez .599.

On Base Percentage:
Williams .482
Ruth .474
McGraw .466
Hamilton .455
Gehrig .447
Joyce .435
Hornsby .434
Cobb .433
-- Gibson .431
Foxx .428
Speaker .428

Including active players, place Gibson behind Bonds .442 and even with Helton .4316.

OPS+
Ruth 207
Williams 190
Gehrig 179
Hornsby 175
-- Gibson 175
Mantle 172
Brouthers 170
Joe Jackson 170
Cobb 167
Foxx 163
McGwire 163
Browning 162

Including active players, places Bonds 182 ahead of Gibson.

So that is top 10 in Slugging, On Base Percentage, and OPS+. AS A CATCHER.
The top performance by a catcher in those 3 categories:
Slugging: Mike Piazza .562 is 20th all-time. Roy Campanella .500 is tied for 92nd.
On Base: Mickey Cochrane .419 is 20th all-time.
OPS+: Mike Piazza 150 is tied for 30th. There is no retired catcher in the top 100.

Again, wow.
   48. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 05, 2005 at 01:13 PM (#1313223)
Again, wow.

Double wow!
   49. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 05, 2005 at 02:28 PM (#1313338)
Thanks for the info on...info.

And I hope no one thought I was denigrating Gibson, or any player (or players). He was obviously a great player (but putting him ahead of Bench is blasphomy, blasphomy I tell you!) as were many others in those leagues.

I was just interested in how certain you could be of a particular player's ability when (1) the stats were incomplete, and (2) much of the evidence was anecdotal.
   50. OCF Posted: May 05, 2005 at 03:46 PM (#1313529)
Blasphemy, you say? I'll give you blasphemy!

If you take a close look at what a catcher actually does in a game, and in particular at the difference between a good catcher and a bad catcher, you'll find that the value difference between a good defensive catcher and a bad defensive catcher is nowhere near as great as the difference between good defense and bad defense at SS or CF.

Gibson > Piazza > Bench.

(At least in peak. Bench does have a longer effective career.)
   51. DavidFoss Posted: May 05, 2005 at 04:00 PM (#1313566)
If you take a close look at what a catcher actually does in a game, and in particular at the difference between a good catcher and a bad catcher, you'll find that the value difference between a good defensive catcher and a bad defensive catcher is nowhere near as great as the difference between good defense and bad defense at SS or CF.

Although I agree with this, there is a higher level of pre-selection bias at catcher than there is at other positions. Before they commit a player to wearing all of that gear, crouching for nine innings and taking an extra day off every week, they are usually ensured of a certain base level of fielding competance (arm or no arm).

While catcher may not be as important defensively as SS or CF, its certainly not a place where anyone could "hide a bat".
   52. Evan Posted: May 05, 2005 at 04:42 PM (#1313665)
I just thought it might be worth it to repost this, now in its correct thread:

From http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/primer/hom_discussion/all_time_negro_leagues_all_stars

# Posted by Eric Pledge on May 18, 2003 at 11:16 AM (#511282)
Josh Gibson is the greatest baseball player that ever lived. He will make Fat boy Babe Ruth look silly. The Greatest of all times Josh Gibson #20 Homestead Grays. The true home run king.
# Posted by Eric Pledge on May 18, 2003 at 11:45 AM (#511283)
Mr.Josh Gibson was an amazing baseball player. The greatest of all times. Yes, he been decease for over fifty years now. This man is my favorite player. I choose him over Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. The baseball world know those two were great players themselves. Many people don't know that he hit over 800 or possibly 900 homeruns during his baseball career. Check this out the man once hit over 80 homeruns in an season. Thats right he hit over 80 in an season! He bless with speed and strong throwing arm. The Greatest.
   53. Gadfly Posted: May 05, 2005 at 07:01 PM (#1314359)
Chris Cobb-

Greenlee Field was reportedly laid out like Forbes Field, only the dimensions (distance to the fences) were even slightly larger so that Gus Greenlee could boast that he had the largest diamond (playing field) in Pittsburgh.

In other words, it wasn't a hitter's park.

Other than that, I don't have much else to add about Gibson's hitting (His 1937 Dominican extra base hit totals were 4 2B, 5 3B, 2 HR and Gibson played for Maracaibo in Venezuela in early 1940, tying the league HR record in half a season) except for the usual rant that the conversion rates are too low, which is shown by Gibson not rating with Ruth and Williams (I know, yadda yadda).

As for his defense, there's a great quote from one of his teammates (either Judy Johnson or Jimmie Crutchfield, I think) that went something like this: I remember when he couldn't catch this house if you threw it at him, but he became a pretty good catcher.

And, as you point out, there are great similarities between Gibson and Jimmie Foxx. There are even more similarities between Gibson and Lou Gehrig. Gibson actually patterned his swing after Gehrig.

My personal comp for Gibson is Gehrig with even more power (and Gehrig, because of his home park, is underrated in this department).
   54. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 07:29 PM (#1314571)
gadfly,

Thanks for the info on Greenlee field. In the absence of park factor data, my current estimates have given Gibson a 99 park factor in each of his seasons except for his time in the Mexican League, where I have used a park factor of 100.

I think this is probably underrating the pitcher-park effect, but given that many of the NeL parks at this time seem to have been large, I'm not confident that these parks played quite as strongly as pitchers' parks in the NeL as they did in the majors.

Obviously, in Gibson's case small adjustments like 97 to 99 for the park factor make no difference to his HoM case.
   55. andrew siegel Posted: May 05, 2005 at 07:51 PM (#1314776)
The best major league offensive players of All-Time by just about any measure are Ruth, Williams, and Bonds. There is a second group whose membership is somewhat more flexible that usually includes Mantle, Cobb, Hornsby, Gehrig, and maybe one or two others. The next group has probably eight to ten names including guys like Musial, Foxx, Speaker, Mays, and Wagner, maybe dipping down to pick up an Ott or Aaron or Joe Jackson or Schmidt or Joe Morgan.

If Josh Gibson, is in any of these three groups offensively, he is the best catcher of All-Time with room to spare, even given his short career.

If he is in group number 1, he almost certainly has the highest peak of any player All-Time, though his shorter career arguably keeps him behind a handful of guys on career value.

Chris's numbers drop him into the second group, which seems a sensible middle point. It is a fair enough point, however, that our margin of error is big enough that Gibson may have been Babe Ruth (on the high end) or Mel Ott (on the low end) just as easily as Lou Gehrig (his current best comp).
   56. andrew siegel Posted: May 05, 2005 at 07:51 PM (#1314779)
The best major league offensive players of All-Time by just about any measure are Ruth, Williams, and Bonds. There is a second group whose membership is somewhat more flexible that usually includes Mantle, Cobb, Hornsby, Gehrig, and maybe one or two others. The next group has probably eight to ten names including guys like Musial, Foxx, Speaker, Mays, and Wagner, maybe dipping down to pick up an Ott or Aaron or Joe Jackson or Schmidt or Joe Morgan.

If Josh Gibson, is in any of these three groups offensively, he is the best catcher of All-Time with room to spare, even given his short career.

If he is in group number 1, he almost certainly has the highest peak of any player All-Time, though his shorter career arguably keeps him behind a handful of guys on career value.

Chris's numbers drop him into the second group, which seems a sensible middle point. It is a fair enough point, however, that our margin of error is big enough that Gibson may have been Babe Ruth (on the high end) or Mel Ott (on the low end) just as easily as Lou Gehrig (his current best comp).
   57. andrew siegel Posted: May 05, 2005 at 08:10 PM (#1314920)
sorry for the double post and I obviously meant those comparisons in the last paragraph to refer only to possible offensive comps--not total value comps
   58. jingoist Posted: May 05, 2005 at 08:44 PM (#1315028)
OCF: In Post # 50 you finish your comments with the simple equation Gibson > Piazza > Bench.
Yes, Mike P has changed many peoples expectation of what a catcher could possibly be as a hitter but his lack of field generalship and wretched rate of throwing out base stealers makes me place him behind Bench and Berra.
Based upon pure hitting and fielding stats I believe your ranking is accurate but the Mike Piazza I've seen trying to throw out runners he can't hold a candle to Bench or Yogi.
Likewise I believe certain "intangible/unattributable" stats such as a pitching staff's collective ERA and ERA+ are directly affected by the game calling; poise and assuredness and overall demeanor of the catcher.
That said, Yogi and Johnny B are my two all-time C greats and I'm not sure what Piazza could ever do statistically as a hitter to get me to alter my perception.
   59. Howie Menckel Posted: May 05, 2005 at 08:59 PM (#1315054)
Well, I see Piazza as at least an average catcher aside from basestealing issues - which is a major shortcoming, but not the only thing that matters.
I haven't seen Piazza ERA+s re pitchers he catches vs when he doesn't; I'd be interested.
   60. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 05, 2005 at 11:17 PM (#1315322)
Didn't BP do a study wherein they found that catcher ERA (by this I mean the ERA of pitchers when a catcher is and is not behind the plate) sint' terribly instructive? This sounds counterintuitive as it seems very feasible that some catchers work better with pitchers than others, but that is what they found.

Of course they only did modern catchers and maybe the selection bias is so strong that all catchers are pretty close to each other. This may have been different in the 20s' and 30's, when Gibson was playing. And I woudl bet that it was very different in a league with a low replacement level like the NeL
   61. Chris Cobb Posted: May 05, 2005 at 11:46 PM (#1315391)
Josh Gibson MLEs

Notes

1) Park factor for all non-Mexican League years set at 99; Mexican League set at 100

2) Playing time based on normal catcher careers during this period, using same framework developed for Mackey. Games as catcher per season capped at 140, but more seasons above 120 games included as a result of Gibson’s reputation for durability.

3) PAs set to 4.0 per game for prime, 3.9 for “decline”; pinch hit PAs added on top of this estimate. I’ll include a more detailed pt breakdown with the fielding ws, which should appear next week.

4) Mexican data have been included for the first time, just to see how it looks. I set conversion factors MeL 1941 equal in competition to NeL; for 1940 I used .87/.76 . These factors produced conversions that look consistent with Gibson’s surrounding seasons. Since Gibson’s candidacy does not hinge on these years and they are the years in which the MeL competition level was surely highest, I thought it would be a good time to experiment.

5) Gibson is projected into the National League for his full career. Hence lower OPS than Foxx but higher adj. OPS+.


Year Team EqG^ PA    BB  Hits  TB  BA   OBP SA
(1930 Home 55  209   21   49   76 .260 .336 .405)
1931      132  533   60  139  243 .293 .372 .512
1932 Pgh  117  475   55  122  193 .291 .373 .459
1933 Home 130  526   65  142  253 .309 .394 .548
1934 Pgh  120  488   63  123  206 .289 .381 .485
1935      131  528   74  146  252 .323 .418 .556
1936      134  542   81  147  287 .320 .421 .623
1937 Home*126  524   81  172  319 .387 .482 .721
1938      108  444   71  126  206 .338 .444 .552
1939      127  513   84  144  311 .336 .445 .725
1940 MeL**114  471   81  140  262 .359 .469 .670
1941 MeL  138  554   95  155  287 .338 .452 .624
1942 Home 114  465   81  123  224 .320 .439 .584
1943       90  371   66  112  195 .367 .480 .639
1944      122  506   91  133  231 .321 .443 .556
1945      130  509   92  130  255 .312 .436 .610
1946       97  389   71  110  219 .346 .465 .689
Total#   1930 7837 1210 2165 3941 .327 .431 .595



^Game totals do not include 195 est. pinch-hitting apperances, but PA do. I keep ph out of the games data so that I don’t have to remove them again when estimating fielding ws.

*Seasonal projections do not include Santa Domingo play, but there is no evidence that his play there was anything less that dominating.

**Seasonal projections include data for one game with Homestead.

#1930 not counted in career stats. Seasonal MLEs provided for reference and to show their role in the regression. Unregressed ba was .220 -- with poor catcher defense, it makes for an unlikely package at the major-league level. By 1931, Gibson’s bat would have brought him to the majors, though.
   62. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 06, 2005 at 12:50 AM (#1315549)
As usual, Chris, terrific stuff!
   63. DavidFoss Posted: May 06, 2005 at 01:25 AM (#1315625)
Josh Gibson

-First you have Year, Team(s), PA.
-Second you have Chris's MLE's
-Third, in parentheses, you have pitchers-removed offense context. MLB for the 20s, then NL
-Fourth, you have AVG+/OBP+/SLG+
-Lastly, is the OPS+

1930 Home  209  0.260/0.335/0.405   (0.312/0.370/0.464)    83/ 91/ 87     78
1931 Home  533  0.293/0.373/0.512   (0.285/0.344/0.403)   103/109/127    136
1932 Pgh   475  0.291/0.373/0.459   (0.284/0.337/0.412)   102/111/111    122
1933 Home  526  0.309/0.394/0.548   (0.274/0.327/0.376)   113/120/146    166
1934 Pgh   488  0.289/0.381/0.485   (0.287/0.342/0.408)   101/111/119    130
1935 Pgh   528  0.323/0.417/0.556   (0.286/0.341/0.407)   113/122/137    159
1936 Pgh   542  0.320/0.421/0.623   (0.286/0.345/0.400)   112/122/156    178
1937 Home* 524  0.387/0.483/0.721   (0.280/0.342/0.397)   138/141/182    223
1938 Home  444  0.338/0.444/0.552   (0.275/0.339/0.391)   123/131/141    172
1939 Home  513  0.336/0.444/0.725   (0.280/0.346/0.401)   120/128/181    209
1940 MeL** 471  0.359/0.469/0.670   (0.272/0.337/0.391)   132/139/171    211
1941 MeL   554  0.338/0.451/0.624   (0.266/0.337/0.375)   127/134/166    200
1942 Home  465  0.320/0.439/0.584   (0.256/0.328/0.356)   125/134/164    198
1943 Home  371  0.367/0.480/0.639   (0.265/0.334/0.360)   138/144/178    221
1944 Home  506  0.321/0.443/0.556   (0.268/0.335/0.377)   120/132/147    180
1945 Home  509  0.312/0.436/0.610   (0.273/0.343/0.377)   114/127/162    189
1946 Home  389  0.346/0.465/0.689   (0.263/0.338/0.368)   132/138/187    225
   64. DavidFoss Posted: May 06, 2005 at 01:30 AM (#1315638)
Using 1931-46 data for Josh Gibson

(omitting 1930 which Chris had in parentheses)

Counting stats (+/- 2 for rounding?)
7838 PA
6623 AB
2164 H
3943 TB

Percentages
Gibson -- 0.327/0.431/0.595
Context -- (0.276/0.339/0.389)
Plusses -- 119/127/153

OPS+ = 180
   65. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 06, 2005 at 01:33 AM (#1315641)
OPS+ = 180

Boy, oh boy.

Thanks, David!
   66. Brent Posted: May 06, 2005 at 03:30 AM (#1315831)
I was mistaken last ballot when I asserted several times that Dihigo was the most valuable player in baseball for 1935-38. Clearly Gibson was!
   67. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 06, 2005 at 01:37 PM (#1316266)
I was mistaken last ballot when I asserted several times that Dihigo was the most valuable player in baseball for 1935-38. Clearly Gibson was!

That's not really a knock on "El Maestro," though. :-)
   68. jingoist Posted: May 06, 2005 at 03:14 PM (#1316450)
Maybe there was a reason oldtimers claimed he was the best-ever player, regardlees of race?
Stats are a wonderful tool for determining a players relative level of excellance, but forst-hand reminiscences based upon personal obsevations help us clarify the picture.

As I see it Josh Gibson is as much of a no-brainer inner-circle HoMer as Babe Ruth.
   69. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 06, 2005 at 04:04 PM (#1316567)
As I see it Josh Gibson is as much of a no-brainer inner-circle HoMer as Babe Ruth.

At their peaks, you might be right, Jingoist.
   70. TomH Posted: May 06, 2005 at 11:05 PM (#1318076)
"If you take a close look at what a catcher actually does in a game, and in particular at the difference between a good catcher and a bad catcher, you'll find that the value difference between a good defensive catcher and a bad defensive catcher is nowhere near as great as the difference between good defense and bad defense at SS or CF."
--
This is true *only* if the effects of 'calling a game' are ignored. In other words, solely based on ability to prevent stolen bases, amount of passed balls, etc.

While some (Keith Woolner) have inferred that 'catcher ERA' is a myth, I invite anyone interested to peruse an SABR article posted at www.philbirnbaum.com, Nov2004 issue, for considerable data that suggest otherwise.
   71. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: May 09, 2005 at 10:38 AM (#1322846)
"Greenlee Field was reportedly laid out like Forbes Field, only the dimensions (distance to the fences) were even slightly larger so that Gus Greenlee could boast that he had the largest diamond (playing field) in Pittsburgh.

In other words, it wasn't a hitter's park."

I thought Forbes was a great hitters park, just a bad home run park. It was great for singles, doubles and triples, no?
   72. TomH Posted: May 09, 2005 at 11:37 AM (#1322858)
Wow. looking at those MLEs...wow.

Ask fans who have some knowledge od NeLers who the best ever was, most might say Paige, altho Gibson and Bell and others woud be mentioned. It's been trendy since the BJHA to go with Oscar Charleston, and he's a reasonable choice, but Gibson's numbers in this thread simply scream 'maybe the best player ever?' Was he Mike Piazza with 5 outs a year turned into home runs? When you consider how greta Piazza has been, and then realize he's never led his league in any category, you get a picture of how great Gibson may have been. At worst he is Hornsby, another superb hitter and poor fielder, but C was more impt in 1935 than 2B in 1925.

Just wow.
   73. Chris Cobb Posted: May 09, 2005 at 02:00 PM (#1322970)
I thought Forbes was a great hitters park, just a bad home run park. It was great for singles, doubles and triples, no?

Good question.

In the National League from 1930-1946, its park factor ranged from 98 to 104, with the preponderance of seasons in the 100-102 range.

In that context, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a _great_ hitters' park, but it was definitely not a pitchers' park.

Griffith Stadium, on the other hand, did play as a solidly pitchers' park in the AL.

How these parks played in an NeL context is, of course, another question.

If Gibson's career park factors are adjusted from 99 across the board to 100, his career OPS+ probably drops to 176. If raised to 101, to 172.

More analysis from the experts on the park set of the NeL teams 1930 to 1945 would be helpful!
   74. Chris Cobb Posted: May 09, 2005 at 02:04 PM (#1322975)
On Gibson as the best player ever in the NeL -- it's possible, but there are a few factors I'd want to consider more fully before making that call:

1) A wartime discount for his numbers 1943-45

2) A better read on park factors

3) A better read on competition levels 1937-39 vs. 1925-35

He's a no-doubt inner-circle HoMer for certain.
   75. karlmagnus Posted: May 09, 2005 at 02:44 PM (#1323038)
Smokey Joe Williams should also be in the "Best in the NEL" discussion -- I strongly suspect he was better than Paige, though Chris will give us a better pointer in a few years.
   76. karlmagnus Posted: May 09, 2005 at 02:46 PM (#1323044)
The one big plus for Gibson is that if the conversions are anywhere close, there hasn't been an ML player anywhere close at that position -- that's not true for Charleston or Williams/Paige.
   77. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 09, 2005 at 03:23 PM (#1323105)
I thought Forbes was a great hitters park, just a bad home run park. It was great for singles, doubles and triples, no?

Don't let it bother you, Chris. Joe was the same pain in the butt that pointed out the same thing to me in our DMB league last year. :-)

The one big plus for Gibson is that if the conversions are anywhere close, there hasn't been an ML player anywhere close at that position -- that's not true for Charleston or Williams/Paige.

Which would indicate that, unless Chris really screwed up with the MLEs (which I would be willing to bet money that the error rate is not high), Gibson has to be the best catcher in baseball history.
   78. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 09, 2005 at 03:41 PM (#1323135)
Just looking at league-leading OPS+s in the NL from 1937 or so, Gibson smokes the league leader in virtually every year. And when he doesn't just blow them out of the water, he's either ahead or behind the league leader by just a couple points. In fact, here's a kind of thumbnail sketch of his level of production as compared to the Major Leagues' best hitters:

1931-1936: Mel Ott (among league leaders each year)
1937-1943: Ted Williams (utterly dominating the league)
1944-1945: "Decline" to merely Musialian
1946: Swan song with a Williams-like OPS+.

I was thinking about doing some MLE WS, but with NO analagous hitters in the NL after 1937, it's nearly impossible to estimate with any real accuracy. Jimmie Foxx may have been called the right-handed Ruth, but that name should have been given to Gibson instead.

Maybe I'm getting swept up in this, but if Ruth had not been a dominating pitcher for several years, and if Gibson had played another five years instead of dying early, I wonder if we'd be debating which of them was the greatest ever.

But then, the what-ifs are what make Babe the best.
   79. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 09, 2005 at 04:12 PM (#1323210)
Jimmie Foxx may have been called the right-handed Ruth, but that name should have been given to Gibson instead.

I think Double X would have had no problem with that since he was very friendly and supportive of NeLers.
   80. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 10, 2005 at 01:30 AM (#1324737)
I'm 99.9999999ext sure that Sisler belongs in the top 5 I'm around 90 percent sure a bought Gibson due to lack of stats and defensive quistions and I give negitive value to bad Defensive catching.

What lack of stats? We have plenty of stats for Gibson.

As for Chris' MLE, they would have to be horribly off for him just to be in Sisler's neighborhood as a hitter (and Sisler was not a catcher).

In regard to his fielding, he may not have been Schalk or Bench behind the plate, but that doesn't mean that he was bad.

Gibson appears to have been the best all-around catcher of all-time. Dickey should also be cooling his heels behind him on your ballot (not to mention Ott).
   81. yest Posted: May 10, 2005 at 02:03 AM (#1324918)
What lack of stats? We have plenty of stats for Gibson.

As for Chris' MLE, they would have to be horribly off for him just to be in Sisler's neighborhood as a hitter (and Sisler was not a catcher).


I meant weaker compitition not stats

In regard to his fielding, he may not have been Schalk or Bench behind the plate, but that doesn't mean that he was bad.

Gibson appears to have been the best all-around catcher of all-time. Dickey should also be cooling his heels behind him on your ballot (not to mention Ott).


1. I have Dickey as the best catcher ever
2. I've seen conflicting opinions in regard to Gibson as a defensive player from very good to very bad and since I think that defense from a catcher is more important then offense (thus Ray schalk in my phom) I don't feel as confident a bought Gibson as I do a bought Sisler (Who I don't think was origanally to overrated b history).
   82. David C. Jones Posted: May 10, 2005 at 05:55 AM (#1325660)
Yest,

Don't embarrass yourself. Think about this. Chris's MLEs, which already take into account the level of competition, peg Gibson as having a career OPS+ of 180. Sisler's career OPS+ was 124. It's just not even remotely close between the two as hitters.

Also, there's really no evidence to suggest that Gibson was a VERY BAD defensive catcher, as you state. I'm not aware of anyone ever saying that. He had a strong arm and was reasonably mobile behind the plate. Quite frankly, in order for Sisler to be anywhere near Gibson, Josh would have had to have been, by far, the worst catcher in the history of the majors/Negro Leagues. Not just almost the worst, but clearly and unambiguously the worst. There is NO evidence to support this at all. In fact, the evidence suggests that Gibson was fair to average defensively.

You need to think carefully about what you are doing here. Arguing that Sisler was better than Gibson is like arguing that Hughie Jennings was better than Babe Ruth. It's just not going to work.
   83. OCF Posted: May 10, 2005 at 08:26 AM (#1325736)
A couple of words in defense of Bill Dickey:

Somewhat to my surprise, my offensive system likes Dickey better than either Cochrane or Hartnett. For me, that makes Dickey a clear-cut, obvious HoMer. He belongs very, very high on the 1952 ballot, probably ahead of anyone who was eligible in 1951.

But Dickey was no Josh Gibson.

My 1952 ballot will start out: 1. Gibson, 2. Ott, 3. Dickey.
   84. karlmagnus Posted: May 10, 2005 at 11:50 AM (#1325772)
Gibson was the greatest catcher in the history of the game, but it's not a very distinguished position (I would put Hartnett and probably Berra, Bench and Fisk ahead of Dickey, though they're all close with Gibson ahead by a margin.) But Sisler's a lot better than this team gives him credit for -- in the first Historical Abstract Bill James points out that until his injury he was as good as Ruth. Gibson's around #20 all time, in my view, but Sisler's more than a marginal HOM'er. In other words I don't agree with Yest, but I disagree with him less than I disagree with many other views here.

Now, Yest, if you'd just take another look at Beckley .... :-))
   85. Rusty Priske Posted: May 10, 2005 at 01:02 PM (#1325806)
Way back when people were arguing about Charlie Bennett, I refused to give a huge "catcher bonus" that some people were (and still are for non-deserving players like Schang and Bresnahan - in my opinion, obviously).

My argument was that I respected catchers too much to tell them they weren't good enough to compete with other position players on an equal basis.

Someone called me on it and said "Will you ever induct a catcher?"

I said that I couldn't imagine not putting Josh Gibson at #1.

Well, the time has come and I STILL can't imagine not having Josh Gibson at #1. He is not only the best catcher ever, he is one of the best players ever.
   86. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 11, 2005 at 01:28 PM (#1328368)
Just to echo what Karl has said, Chris's MLEs and David's OPS+s would have to be wicked far off for Gibson to rank as anything but the best catcher ever.

Knock ten percent off of his career OPS+ listed above and you've got a catcher with a 162 career OPS+.

Piazza is currently the leading catcher in OPS+ at 150, and he's in decline as we speak. He's also the only catcher among the top 100 (unless you count King Kelly as a full-time catcher, I don't). Here's the list of top career OPS+ per bb-ref

RANK__NAME__________CAREER OPS+
1._Babe Ruth__________207
2._Ted Williams_______190
3._Barry Bonds________184
(__JOSH GIBSON MLE____180)
4._Lou Gehrig_________179
5._Rogers Hornsby_____175
6._Mickey Mantle______172
7._Dan Brouthers______170
___Joe Jackson________170
9._Ty Cobb____________167
10.Jimmie Foxx________163
___Mark McGwire_______163
12.Pete Browning______162
___Frank Thomas_______162
(__JOSH GIBSON 10% OFF MLE__162)
14.Dave Orr___________161
15.Stan Musial________159
16.Hank Greenberg_____158
___Johnny Mize________158
___Tris Speaker_______158
19.Dick Allen_________156
___Willie Mays________156
___Manny Ramirez______156

There's virtually no doubt in my mind that he's not the best catcher ever. Being a candidate for best player ever should start with dominating your own position. He gets at least that far in the best-ever argument.
   87. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 11, 2005 at 04:37 PM (#1328770)
My argument was that I respected catchers too much to tell them they weren't good enough to compete with other position players on an equal basis.

But Rusty, if you take any non-catcher from baseball history and had given them the "tools of ignorance" for their whole careers instead, their rate and counting stats would all be reduced. When we give credit to catchers, it's because the position takes it's toll on their numbers, not because we think catchers can't compete with the other position players.
   88. The definitely immoral Eric Enders Posted: May 11, 2005 at 04:43 PM (#1328791)
There's virtually no doubt in my mind that he's not the best catcher ever.

As Mandy Patinkin might say, "I do not think that means what you think it means."
   89. TomH Posted: May 11, 2005 at 04:52 PM (#1328816)
inconceivable, Eric!
   90. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 11, 2005 at 05:19 PM (#1328951)
As Mandy Patinkin might say, "I do not think that means what you think it means."

As long as Mandy says it, but doesn't sing it.
   91. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 11, 2005 at 05:37 PM (#1329093)
Yeah, I might have had an extraneous negative in that sentence.... And I write for a living!

; )
   92. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 11, 2005 at 05:39 PM (#1329104)
Yeah, I might have had an extraneous negative in that sentence.... And I write for a living!

; )
   93. JoeHova Posted: May 14, 2005 at 07:01 AM (#1335879)
so, Josh hit like Barry Bonds or, at worst, Frank Thomas and he was a catcher. Wow. Wow. That's just incredible, even if he was just taking up space back there (which it doesn't sound like he was). Plus he could run.

karlmagnus-
How is he not at least a top 10 player all-time? I'm honestly curious. Do you give him a big penalty because he only played 17 years? That seems plenty long enough to me, especially for a catcher. Or do you just not trust the numbers enough? Or what?
   94. Chris Cobb Posted: May 18, 2005 at 05:32 PM (#1345654)
Josh Gibson Win Shares

Notes.

1) These are based on slightly revised MLEs. After Joe noted that Forbes Field generally played as a hitter’s park despite being a tough home run park, I redid the park factors for Gibson. Each year he played for Homestead in the 1930s (when they were based mostly in Pittsburgh), I set the park factor at 102. Each year he played for the Crawfords in the 1930s I set the park factor to 100 (all of the pfs had been 99 previously). I left the Mexico factors at 100 and the post-1940 Homestead factors at 99, because after 1940 the Grays were playing mostly in Griffith stadium in Washington, which was a pitcher’s park. These changes lowered Gibson’s career OPS+ from 180 to 177. Not a big deal, so I don’t want to go through the hassle of reformatting all of his MLEs, but I thought you should know.

2) These are a bit less exact than previous win share estimates generally have been. Gibson was regularly among the top hitters in baseball, which means the exact comps are few to none. By OPS+, Gibson was the top hitter in the majors in 1937, 1939, 1940, 1943-45, and he was second only to Ted Wiliams in 1941, 42, and 46. I tried to be slightly conservative in my estimates, but for the second half of Gibson’s career, the batting win shares could be off by 10% in either direction. Not that it makes much difference in terms of his HoM case, but it would affect his all-time standing somewhat.

3) Fielding win shares are based of the estimate that Gibson was a C catcher for his career. I used Darrell Porter’s career as a model, adding a learning curve at the beginning of Gibson’s career. Porter averaged 4.8 fws/1000 innings in his career; Gibson came out to 4.63. I made him a C- leftfielder (2.1 fws/1000) and first baseman (1.4 fws/1000) for the games in which I estimated him at those positions.

Year Team BWS FWS    Total
1931 Home 17.1  3.8  20.9
1932 Pgh  12.3  3.0  15.3
1933 Home 25.0  4.4  29.4
1934 Pgh  12.8  4.3  17.1
1935      24.5  5.3  29.8
1936      28.4  5.6  34.0
1937 Home 34.3  5.7  40.0
1938      17.9  4.9  22.8
1939      30.0  6.1  36.1
1940 MeL  28.0  4.8  32.8
1941 MeL  34.2  6.8  41.0
1942 Home 29.4  4.6  34.0
1943      23.4  2.7  26.1
1944      27.7  3.6  31.3
1945      25.3  2.8  28.1
1946      27.8  1.4  29.2
         398.1 69.8 467.9
   95. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: May 18, 2005 at 05:57 PM (#1345723)
Those are monster numbers for a catcher. I usually peg average seasons at 15 and peak seasons at 25 for my system,b ut for catcher I use 12 and 20.

In other words while some may be dissappointed that he 'only' has 468 MLE WS, remember he was a catcher and would have had 500+ had he been a 1B or OFer.

As an aside, does tha fact ath Gibson's MLE's pretty much turned out like everyone thought and possibly even better, mean that we are on the right track here? Or at least not on a completely wrong tack? I think that if Gibson's MLE's had given him a .480 SLG or something like that it woudl be time to go back and make sure we weren't underrating everyone. In stead he turned up as Jimmie Foxx behind the plate. What does everyone think?
   96. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 18, 2005 at 05:59 PM (#1345734)
What's so great about Gibson to me is that he touches on nearly every one of the electorate's various pet themes.

For the catcher-bonus group, he's a catcher.

For the NgL afficiandos, he's covers that one pretty good.

For those who want a greater degree of certainty, his published and MLE totals leave little doubt of his prowess.

For those who enjoy the challenge of figuring out how MLEs work in Mexico, he offers a very strong, consistent datapoint.

For those who also like a good, bittersweet narrative, he came up at 17 or 18 but died tragically and early at age 35, just before integration.

For those who like to discuss top-ten lists and greatest-ever at positions or all-time, he makes the cut.

He's just got a little of everything for everyone except for pitching.
   97. karlmagnus Posted: May 18, 2005 at 06:35 PM (#1345889)
468WS isn't top 10 all time, but it is I think top 20. Looks as close as it's humanly possible to get to me, and gives confidence that e.g. Wells isn't too high and Bell/Mackey too low.
   98. karlmagnus Posted: May 18, 2005 at 06:36 PM (#1345897)
468WS isn't top 10 all time, but it is I think top 20. Looks as close as it's humanly possible to get to me, and gives confidence that e.g. Wells isn't too high and Bell/Mackey too low.
   99. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 18, 2005 at 06:51 PM (#1345955)
468WS isn't top 10 all time, but it is I think top 20.

I don't know, karlmagnus. That number is a ton and a half for a catcher.

I'm not saying you're wrong, but that's an incredible number for a backstop in only 17 seasons.
   100. Michael Bass Posted: May 18, 2005 at 07:09 PM (#1346098)
Hey, 100 WS more than Johnny Bench!

Yeah, that's good for #1 on my ballot. :)
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