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Monday, March 07, 2005

Jud Wilson

Jud Wilson

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 02:24 AM | 197 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 02:56 AM (#1184909)
Unless Boojum was an atrocious fielder, I have to see him comfortably above Suttles and possibly Beckwith. What a mighty hitter he was!
   2. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2005 at 03:38 AM (#1184977)
Jud Wilson Data

Seasonal Data from holway

1922 .438 for Bal Black Sox (too few ab to qualify for title); 1b; all-star
1923 .369 for Bal Black Sox; ba 3rd; 1b; all-star
1924 .381 for Bal Black Sox; ba 2nd; 1b; all-star
4-7 vs. major-league competition
1925 .419 for Bal Black Sox; ba 1st, 5 3b (5th); 1b; all-star
64-149 in Cuban Play (top in league)
1926 .351 for Bal Black Sox; ba 1st, 6 sb (3rd); 3b
1927 .416 for Bal Black Sox; ba 2nd, 10 hr (3rd), 22 hr/550 (4th), 22 2b (1st), 9 3b (2nd), 8 sb (4th); 3b; all-star (as SS??)
50-118 in Cuban Play (1st in league)
1928 .375 for Bal Black Sox; ba 4th, 13 2b (3rd); 2b; all-star (as 3b??)
3-4 vs. Major-league competition
1929 .405 for Bal Black sox; ba 5th, 11 hr (5th), 24 hr/550 (5th), 20 2b (5th), x 3b (4th); 1b (should have been all-star, but Holway gives it to Pop Lloyd)
4-8 vs. major-league competition
58-160 in Cuban Play
1930 .415 for Bal Black Sox, ba 4th, 10 2b (3rd); 3b; all-star (dh)
1931 .352 for Homestead, ba 2nd, 6 hr (3rd); 13 hr/550 (3rd), 13 2b, (4th), 5 3b (3rd); 3b
11-28 in World Series vs. Monarchs
1932 .317 for Pgh Crawfords/Homestead; ba 5th; 3b; all-star
9-28 vs. major-league competition
3-6 vs. major-league pitching (2 hr)
1933 .416 for Phi Stars; ba 2nd; 3b; all-star
1934 .333 for Phi Stars, 10 hr (5th); 1b
5-16 in playoff vs. Chi Am Giants
1935 .312 for Phi Stars; 1b
1-11 vs. major-league competition
1936 .333 for Phi Stars; 10 hr (5th); 1b
1937 .351 for Phi Stars; 1b
1938 .222 for Phi Stars; 2 3b (1st); 3b
1939 .276 for Phi Stars; 9 2b (3rd); 3b
1940 .250 for Homestead; ut
1941 .454 for Homestead; 6 2b (5th); ut; all-star (3b)
1942 .243 for Homestead; 2b
2-7 in World Series vs. Monarchs
1943 .327 for Homestead; 13 3b (1st); 2b
1944 no data
1945 .400 for Homestead; ut


Career, according to Holway
1484-4188, .354
94 home runs, 12/550 ab
39-132 vs. major-league competition, 6 hr

Career data from MacMillan, 10th ed.
781 g, 2763 ab, 960 hits, 151 2b, 32 3b, 63 hr, .347 ba, .494 slg
   3. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2005 at 03:47 AM (#1184995)
I'm at work on MLEs for Wilson. They should be ready, at least BA and SA, in a couple of days. I hope to see some data on Wilson's walk rates (I hope that's available for 1923 and 1928!) before attempting win shares for him.

I'm also working on a study of batting averages in the 1930s which I'd like to finish and post for discussion before I post MLEs for Wilson: accounting as acccurately as possible for 1930s offensive levels is going to be crucial in placing Wilson correctly.

He's a serious candidate, but despite the image of him as a power-hitter, he wasn't exactly. Looks more like a line-drive hitter with some home-run power, and not a whole lot of speed. His batting averages were great, of course, and he played for ever, but where that will land him in the rankings I'm not exactly sure.
   4. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:36 AM (#1185097)
1928 Jud Wilson
Baltimore Black Sox

Batting
*-led league
G: 53 (team 70; Wilson was injured)
AB: 194
H: 82
D: 21*
T: 3
HR: 12*
R: 60
W: 35*
HP: 4
SF: 4
SH: 1
SB: 18 (tied for 2nd)
TB: 145 (2nd)
AVE: .423*
OBA: .511*
SLG: .747*

Baltimore played more games against top black competition than any other team in the east, which partly explains his dominance in counting stats. The Black Sox played as many home games in Richmond as in Baltimore; overall, their home parks had a 102 raw park factor (home/away ratio). I don't have other seasons for them, so I'm not sure how reliable that is.
   5. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:44 AM (#1185107)
1928 Jud Wilson

Fielding (3b-39; 2b-13; 1b-1)
Third base
*-led league
G-39
DI-335
PO-39
A-74
E-6
DP-8*
RF-3.04* (eastern 3b 2.73)
FPCT-.950 (3rd; leader had .954; eastern 3b .919)

Second base
G-13
DI-111.7
PO-36
A-48
E-5
DP-9
RF-6.77 (eastern 2b 5.39)
FPCT-.944 (eastern 2b .949)
   6. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:58 AM (#1185132)
Sorry--he led in runs scored in '28, also.
   7. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:47 AM (#1185185)
His chapter in John Holway's "Blackball Stars" left a big impression on me.

You know who Jud Wilson is? He's Dick Allen, with 70% more career.

A terrific hitter capable of hitting absolute moonshot homers. He came up as a first baseman. No one doubted his ability, but he was a controversial player, getting into a series of fights and controveries on and off the field. Some said he was a rotten person, but many other former teammates were quite fervent in their belief that he was a good guy who wouldn't cause a problem with you unless you caused a problem with him.

Like I said, this guy is Dick Allen, with a 20+ year career. If I was still voting, he'd start off near the top of my ballot.
   8. DavidFoss Posted: March 07, 2005 at 06:20 AM (#1185231)
Like I said, this guy is Dick Allen, with a 20+ year career. If I was still voting, he'd start off near the top of my ballot.

OK... how does he compare to the other 'Dick Allen' candidates?

Beckwith vs. Suttles vs JWilson anyone?
   9. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:47 PM (#1185735)
Actually, if you're looking for comparisons to ML players, try George Brett. Wilson's fielding at third was regarded as rough but not bad, kind of scrappy; he hit lefthanded with lots of doubles and good (but not great) home run power; not fast, but could steal when he needed to. He moved to first at roughly the same age (though Brett came up as a third baseman).
   10. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:48 PM (#1185738)
Btw, his nickname, "Boojum," is supposed to have come from the sound of his line drives crashing off the wall.
   11. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:56 PM (#1185762)
Playing side by side with Wilson in 1924-25, Beckwith seems to have outhit him (though both were very good). Beckwith played third and short while Wilson played first; of course, Beckwith was the manager the second year. Wilson was a year older and got started a bit later (at age 23), but had a much longer career.
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 06:04 PM (#1185778)
I have to think that a guy who played a chunk at third and could also hit a ton during that era, plus play a long time, has to be an easy chice to make the HoM.
   13. DavidFoss Posted: March 07, 2005 at 07:07 PM (#1185933)
I have to think that a guy who played a chunk at third and could also hit a ton during that era, plus play a long time, has to be an easy chice to make the HoM.

Maybe so, but easy choices for the HOM are starting to pile up in my backlog. :-) With Grove & Hartnett eligible this year, Jud won't fly in right away. Gives us a chance to fully hash out his pros and cons and insert him into the backlog (even if its near the top of the backlog).

There are a *LOT* of NeL candidates becoming eligible in the the 1940s and a large number of them have great MLE's. Not to say that it can't be true, but perhaps we didn't allocate enough slots of eligibility for the NeL stars. Could also be that I'm still mentally adjusting to the number of fine new eligibles after many backlog years.

Quick question: was he a 3B-1B or a 1B-3B?
   14. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 07:12 PM (#1185947)
Quick question: was he a 3B-1B or a 1B-3B?

Looks like the former to me, David.
   15. Gadfly Posted: March 07, 2005 at 09:07 PM (#1186277)
Notes on Jud Wilson:

Wilson was born in Remington, VA; but grew up in Washington, DC. His published birth year of 1899 is inaccurate, he was born in 1897 according to Census records. Interestingly, Wilson told Social Security that he was born in 1894 so that his benefits would start early. He might have been slightly crazy but he wasn't dumb.

Wilson was a short squat man, 5 foot 8 inches tall and 195 pounds in his prime. Like Kirby Puckett, Wilson wasn't exactly the most attractive speciman. The other Negro League players nicknamed him "Lon Chaney" and, if you ever see a picture of him, you know exactly why. However, it's doubtful that this was said to his face more than once by anyone.

A left-handed hitter, he was an opposite field hitter like Gavy Cravath or Dale Alexander. By all descriptions, Wilson simply smoked line drives one after another to left and center field, rarely pulling the ball to right. Wilson could crush any fast ball and loved to hit against Satchel Paige. Wilson may have been the greatest line-drive hitter of all time.

The opposite-field line-drive hitting approach keep his home run totals down, but he was still powerful enough to hit 20 to 30 a year in the Majors with plenty of doubles and triples. There really is no comparable Major League player to Wilson, he was pretty much unique. Of course, uniqueness is a sign of greatness.

Gary A's statistics also give some evidence to two other aspects of Wilson:

One is that Wilson, who was almost psychotically aggressive with umpires, walked a ton; he would have been banging out something like 200 hits and 100 walks a year in the Majors; and...

Two is that Wilson was, despite having the reputation of not being a great defensive player, was actually probably quite good. In other words, Wilson (who advised Raymond Dandridge, I think, to always charge the ball and play it off your body) looked brutal out there but was in fact very functionally effective.

If you can imagine Al Simmons or perhaps Kirby Puckett, at the top of his career, playing third base or any damn place they put him, smashing everything to the opposite field, drawing 100 walks or so a year, and acting as driven and aggressive as Ty Cobb at his worst, then you can kind of picture Wilson.

Wilson served in the Military in World War One and then played semi-pro ball in the Washington area from 1919 to 1921. Scrappy Brown, a great early basketball player who also played some pro ball and was also from Washington, recruited him for the Baltimore Black Sox in 1922.

One interesting aspect of Wilson is that he apparently didn't like change. Wilson didn't want to leave his hometown in 1922 and go to Baltimore, was homesick, and had to be talked into staying by Brown. Unlike most Negro League players, Wilson didn't jump around much. He basically just played for 3 teams:

1922-1930 Baltimore Black Sox;
1933-1939 Philadelphia Stars;
1940-1945 Homestead Grays;

and spending the 1931 and 1932 depression years with first Homestead and then the Crawfords in Pittsburgh because that was where the money was.

Basically, from the first game Wilson played in 1922 until the back injury caused by a bus crash stopped his career as a regular in 1937, Jud was among the very best hitters in the Negro Leagues. The only better offensive players were the extreme power hitters like Oscar Charleston and John Beckwith.

In my opinion, Wilson would have won multiple batting titles in the Majors and hit over .400 more than once. If he had come up at 20, there is a good chance he would have finished with more than 4000 career hits.

Although his 1937 and 1938 seasons were affected by his back injury, Wilson continued to play in the Negro Leagues until 1945. From 1940 to 1945, he played part-time for Cum Posey's Homestead Grays. Posey loved players like Wilson (or more to the point like Posey himself): extremely poor losers who always wanted to win.

In the Majors, Wilson might dropped out of the Majors after his injury and spent 1939 to 1945 in the Minor Leagues; but he was still a Major League caliber hitter until deep into his 40s.

History has been somewhat unkind to Wilson. Wilson was the second best Negro League 3B at his peak after Beckwith (and not that far behind) and undisputably the greatest Negro League 3B in terms of career value.

However, when it came to honor the Negro League players, the Hall of Fame decided to pick a nine man team, preferably of old players that were still alive.

To simplify things, the HOF pretty much just followed the 1952 Pittsburgh Courier poll on who was the best. This poll listed the top Negro League 3B as: 1) Oliver Marcelle, 2) Judy Johnson, 3) Jud Wilson, 4) Ray Dandridge, and 5) Dave Malarcher.

Well, Marcelle was dead and Johnson was alive, well-known, and comparable to Marcelle, so he got in as the 3B.

Of course, the Courier poll had one huge flaw in it. Voters were able to list players at whatever position they wanted. Wilson was third at 3B, but he was also third at 1B. Beckwith got so many votes at so many positions, he was named the number one utility player. Dandridge got votes at 2B.

The only reason Marcelle and Johnson finished first was because they only got votes at 3B. All three men listed above were better players than Judy Johnson.

One last note:
Jud Wilson's Cuban League statistics are simply flat out incredible. They are better than those of Oscar Charleston or Cristobal Torriente or Martin Dihigo or Alejandro Oms.

Of course, the Cuban League, with large foul spaces and distant fences, rewarded a pure line-drive hitter more than any other type of player. Only Josh Gibson, in much less at bats, has better Cuban League statistics than Wilson.

I'm looking forward to Chris Cobb's MLEs.
   16. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 09:40 PM (#1186357)
The other Negro League players nicknamed him "Lon Chaney" and, if you ever see a picture of him, you know exactly why.

Since he resembles the Phantom more than the Wolf Man, I assume you were referring to Chaney Sr., not Junior. :-)
   17. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2005 at 09:56 PM (#1186400)
Two questions re Wilson's MLEs:

1) Playing time. Wilson had a reputation for playing through injuries, but he also was injured from time to time. Right now, I have him as missing time due to injury in 1924 (not much), 1926, 1928, 1937, and 1938, with the 1938 missed time being continuing recovery from the bus accident in 1937. Any other injuries I should know about?

2) Regression and the 1937 injury. It's clear from the records that Wilson's play suffered a severe drop as a result of the injury; it leads me to question the accuracy of including 1938 in the regression of 1936 and 1937, as the five-year rolling average system would ordinarily do. Thoughts on that subject?


I should mention that I am impressed by Wilson's plate discipline.
   18. TomH Posted: March 07, 2005 at 10:02 PM (#1186414)
I don't mean this to sound nasty, but....

Are there any Negro league stars who aren't labeled at least 'good' defensively?

It seems everyone we come across is either described as
a) "GREAT reputation with the glove", or
b) "not a great reputation, but if we look closer, he was actually real good; he just got a bum rap becasue of blah blah blah"

Ya know, unlike the residents of Lake Wobegon, we can't *all* be above average.

Here is a brief list of 32 possible HoMers (from various NeL expert lists) from the NeL (exlcuding pitchers)

C Gibson Mackey Santop Petway
2B Hughes Grant Allen Monroe DeMoss
SS Wells Lloyd Lundy Moore Johnson
3B Dandridge Wilson Beckwith Johnson Marcelle
1B/OF Charleston Stearnes Suttles Torriente Irvin Leonard Bell Hill Dihigo Irvin Poles Taylor O'Neal

Anyone care to postulate which 16 of these would be 'below average' for their position on this list of 32? And if so, could we agree that 'below' average' on this list just *might* mean 'below average' among the MLB HoM contenders? There are lots of MLB players who we admit didn't help their teams with their gloves. Can't we admit the same for some of these guys? And if someone writes that NeL play emphasized defense much more than MLB, I am just gonna scream that means that either we're being way too generous with the hitting translations for a league who would rather sit the bashers and play the gloves.

end of rant
   19. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2005 at 10:15 PM (#1186439)
Tom,

What does "below average" fielding mean in quantitative terms? Below a "C" in win shares? with a negative career FRAA total in WARP?

By either of these definitions, how many genuinely below average fielders do we have among the electees and the current serious candidates from the majors? My impression is, "not many." Few players who are good enough to play for a long time are butchers in the field. But I could be wrong.

Comparative data would make the case better than a rant.
   20. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 07, 2005 at 10:27 PM (#1186460)
If I recall correctly, the Negro Leagues may or may not have been as good as the PCL and the International league right? If so I find it highly unlikely that they were able to produce so many guys who would have hit .400, with 40 home runs and great defense, etc., etc.

This isn't to say that Wilson, Suttles, and Beckwith aren't HOMers or to deny the affect that African Americans had on baseball in the 50's and 60's. But dont' you think that have three guys who were Al SImmons equal at the plate, only better defensively and with longer careers, none of which are considered among the top players ever by NeL experts, a little bit of a stretch?

I can only take so many 'Willie Stargell/Dick Allen' clones that could pick it with 20 years primes before I begin to get a little suspicious of them.
   21. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 11:22 PM (#1186552)
But dont' you think that have three guys who were Al SImmons equal at the plate, only better defensively and with longer careers, none of which are considered among the top players ever by NeL experts, a little bit of a stretch?

Sorry, but I don't get this from any of the discussions on these players. Suttles was a 1B/LF without a good defensive reputation, Beckwith's career was shorter than Simmons's, Wilson was a 3B/1B, probably not a great 3B. Of the three, probably only Beckwith can be said with certainty to have been a more valuable defensive player than Simmons (which doesn't mean anyone's saying he was great--just that he played more demanding positions.) I don't know know what you mean by the last remark--all three are certainly considered among the best at their positions.
   22. Gary A Posted: March 07, 2005 at 11:30 PM (#1186568)
If I recall correctly, the Negro Leagues may or may not have been as good as the PCL and the International league right?

Yes, the overall quality of the Negro Leagues is often compared to the highest level of the minors. If you'd think about it for a second, though, you'd realize that the talent must have been distributed rather differently. There was a ceiling for the best black players--they couldn't go anywhere else (except, in the 40s, to Latin America). It would make more sense to think of the Negro Leagues as the PCL if it got to keep Joe DiMaggio, Paul Waner, Earl Averill, etc., for their whole careers. Also, remember that for most of the organized league era (after 1920), there were two Negro Leagues, not one, with a handful of strong independent teams--so in any given year you're probably talking about 16-20 black teams playing at the top level.
   23. Mike Webber Posted: March 08, 2005 at 12:01 AM (#1186636)
In my opinion, Wilson would have won multiple batting titles in the Majors and hit over .400 more than once. If he had come up at 20, there is a good chance he would have finished with more than 4000 career hits.

Tedfly, you know I love you! You always make me smile.

Only 2 guys have ever had 4,000 hits in the majors, and really no one else is even close!

When you say #### like that it makes everything else sound suspicious.

Love that enthusiasm for the subject though.
   24. sunnyday2 Posted: March 08, 2005 at 12:11 AM (#1186662)
Wilson or Beckwith?

I think Wilson is probably the best player traditionally described as a 3B in the NeLs, but of course he played some 1B while Beckwith moonlighted at SS...

And of course Wilson played for a very long time. But Beckwith's time in the NeLs was supplemented with some quality time on some indie teams...

I also feel more certain about Wilson because there is less of a disconnect between the numbers and his reputation. Or is there? I mean a lot of folks who saw them play preferred Judy Johnson and Ollie Marcelle et al.

Tough call. Right now I'm inclined toward Wilson. But if the continue to look like comps, well, Beckwith has been hanging around 13th to 15th on my ballot, so that doesn't speak well for Boojum's chances of going to the top of my ballot.

Be that as it may, I feel a little better about Wilson going into the PHoM someday ahead of Beckwith. Both could or the line could come between or maybe neither. It's a question of developing a comfort level that I really understand these players.
   25. Mike Webber Posted: March 08, 2005 at 12:25 AM (#1186686)
Are there any Negro league stars who aren't labeled at least 'good' defensively?

It seems everyone we come across is either described as
a) "GREAT reputation with the glove", or
b) "not a great reputation, but if we look closer, he was actually real good; he just got a bum rap becasue of blah blah blah"


The short answer to this is "No."

Which hurts their credibility tremendously.

I've wondered why this is before. I think it might be like my High school friend Steve. Steve was easily the best shortstop defensively in our HS league. You'd be amazed at the balls he got to. He played 2 years at JUCO and everyone there raved about his defense. He then went to a NCAA Div 2 program, and he was probably the best defensive shortstop in that league too.

And he never got a sniff from major league scouts. You know why? There are bunches of guys that field like that and are good hitters to boot. But if you asked me (well at least before I watched the Blanco kid the Royals came up with last year) who the best defensive shortstop I ever saw was, I might have said Steve. He was sooo much better than his peers. But I doubt he was major league average.

Or to put it another way, a cruddy major league fielder, say Aaron Gleeman's whipping boy Luis Rivas, would probably be a dominant shortstop in a college league. You could be fooled by watching him compared to his new peers and think he was a great fielder, but you would be wrong.

So anyone that you see the NeL experts concede and say, "well, he was a so-so fielder" like Beckwith, I'd give long odds that if he was in the majors he'd field Dave Magadan.
   26. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 08, 2005 at 01:34 AM (#1186796)
My last post probably did include some hyperbole and it was mostly a reaction to the over the top take on Wilson by Gadfly.

I also understand about the talent distribution, which is why I think we should have 20-30 NeLers in the HOM without putting Buzz Arlett or Jeff Manto in.

I still wonder though, especially about the defense. For some reason I doubt that Beckwith would have played even 100 games at SS. I mean Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones (not to mention Henry Aaron and plenty of others) played SS in the minor leagues, leagues that would be about even with NeL competition. And if the talent distribution is more even in these leagues, then it would be tougher to play the top defensive positions beacuse replacement level might be higher.

I have heard that Stearnes was better tha Musial, Suttles is a better version of Stargell, Beckwith is Dick Allen/Mel Ott playing defense at a level just under Joe Sewell, and Wilson would have hit .400 at times, had 500HR's, 4,000 hits, and would have played a credible 3B. This makes him a cross between Ted Williams and George Brett. I just wanted to say, WWHHOOAA, hold back here a second.
   27. ronw Posted: March 08, 2005 at 01:41 AM (#1186813)
You could also say that our views of Musial, Mel Ott, Ted Williams, etc. might be diminished were the Charlestons, Wilsons, Beckwiths, Rogans et al allowed to play against them.

As an aside, is there a better team than the '31 Homestead Grays? Maybe the Pittsburgh Crawfords, but the Grays had (correct my placement)

P Joe Williams
P Ted Page
C/P Ted Radcliffe
OF Oscar Charleston
3B Judy Johnson
1B/3B Jud Wilson
2B George Scales

and a rookie C named Josh Gibson.
   28. Gary A Posted: March 08, 2005 at 01:45 AM (#1186816)
It seems everyone we come across is either described as
a) "GREAT reputation with the glove", or
b) "not a great reputation, but if we look closer, he was actually real good; he just got a bum rap becasue of blah blah blah"


Don't exaggerate and mischaracterize what I say.

As far as I can tell, (b) refers to my research on Beckwith, since that's not a kind of argument you're likely to find in Riley or Holway; in fact, as far as I know, that argument has ONLY been made about Beckwith. What I'm actually doing there is trying to track down the truth about Beckwith's contemporary reputation (and ultimately the truth about his fielding, but that's a ways off). As it turned out, we haven't yet come up with a solid source for the idea that he was a poor or terrible fielder, and I did find a few complimentary remarks about him as a shortstop; that's pretty much it.

So, nobody said he was "real good." And what was in question was his contemporary reputation among fans and sportswriters, not what some latter-day "expert" or other said. Maybe I posted too much material to digest easily (though most of it has to do with the character issue).

Oh, and I guess the remark that set this off was my incautiously saying that I thought Wilson was considered "not bad" at third at the time. Note I did not say "real good," and also note that I tend to think within a Negro League context (since it all comes from black papers at the time). I don't usually bother to try to translate what some sportswriter said in 1928 into an assessment of how a player might play in an integrated league or the major leagues now or whatever; you can figure that out for yourself.
   29. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 02:43 AM (#1186893)
Gary and gadfly, I didn't mean to go off on either of your posts specifically...they merely happened to come right when I was thinkin about this subject, and we've had what IMHO was more than our share of glowing reports. I'm respondikng in general; should have made that more clear.

regarding Chris C's reply, I *tried* to clearly say that I didn't mean negative FRAA, but
'average with respect to each other'; I at least want us to believe an 'average' fielder among NeL HoM candidates should be about an 'average' fielder among MLB candidates, and from the discussion I was getting the impression (amybe incorrectly) that we were trending toward believing that the press reports of NeL stars were comparable across to MLB play. As others have stated, *most* MLBers played SS or CF or some other spot in lower levels. Hank Aaron might have played SS if he stayed in the NeL, so now we'd have a shortstop who hit 755 HRs! etc etc.

My impression of Suttles, for example, is that he would have been the value of Frank Thomas. Would his bat still have let him play? Sure! But if I were constructing 'hypothetical win shares', I sure wouldn't be giving him many for his glovework :)
   30. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 02:47 AM (#1186905)
to finish the analogy, would Jud Wilson have been Edgar Martinez? Great stick, OK 3B for a while, then his bat would have to really carry his glove. How long would Edgar have played without a DH?
   31. Chris Cobb Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:09 AM (#1186955)
I asked Tom H for data earlier, but was curious enough to gather a bit myself to see what the real distribution of fielding talent among the ballot-worthy candidates is and how it compares to the rating of Negro-League players' defense.

Part I: I listed all the position players elected to the HoM and receiving votes in 1945 and found all the available Win Shares Letter Grades for their defense. I found 89 grades (some early players not listed, Sewell and Leach listed at 2 positions).

Here's the breakdown:
18 A+
9 A
12 A-
8 B+
11 B
8 B-
11 C+
6 C
4 C-
1 D+
1 D

That's 44% A-range grades, 30 % B-range, 24% C-range, and 2% D-range.

I should note that 1/3 of the grades of C+ or below have gone to right fielders, who, in the early game, are significantly disadvantaged in the letter grade system. Most of these players, if graded according to a positional norm, would have significantly higher grades. Assuming that C+ and C rf players are good, for early right-fielders, I present the following complete list of mediocre to poor fielders among the top 87 major-league players so far eligible, as WS sees it:

C+ Larry Doyle, Roger Bresnahan, Wally Schang, Hack Wilson, Jim O'Rourke, Pete Browning, Charley Jones
C Rogers Hornsby, Tony Lazzeri, Heinie Manush, Donie Bush
C- George Sisler, Deacon White (3b), Babe Ruth, Sam Thompson
D+ Gavvy Cravath
D Harry Heilmann

That's a group comprising about 20% of the total pool.

I then went through my records to find all the letter-grades I had assigned to NeL players who received votes in estimating their career values. I included Suttles and Stearnes, too. Here's the list:

A Ben Taylor, Pete Hill, Spots Poles, Pop Lloyd, Dick Lundy
A- Frank Grant, Dobie Moore
B+ Cristobal Torriente
B Joe Rogan (of), Louis Santop (c)
B- Mule Suttles (1b)
C+ Louis Santop (of)
C Beckwith (ss)
C- Suttles (of)
D Beckwith SS

No Grade: Oscar Charleston, Grant Johnson, Oliver Marcelle, Judy Johnson

That's 40% A-range, 27% B-range, 20% C-range, 7% D-range.

The percentage of very low fielders is smaller. Santop, Beckwith, and Suttles fall into this group, but Santop and Suttles only for one position.

However, the A+ group is also empty for the Negro-League players. With very little data to go on, I have tended to avoid extremes in fielding value, which I continue to think proper.

This study speaks only for me, but in terms of my MLEs have been fairly widely used, the distribution of fielding value among the Negro League candidates has been fairly consistent with teh observed distribution of fielding value among the major-league candidates for whom win-share data is available.

I'm not sure exactly what I'd do with Tom H's list of 32 candidates, and I could hardly tackle it disinterestedly now :-) .

However, by the evidence of our NeL pool, we shouldn't expect to see more than 5 or 6 players out of that group of 32 who have reputations as mediocre-to-poor fielders. And it would be easy, also, to swap George Scales for Sammy T. Hughes, for instance, to affect the balance of the list.

We could list Beckwith, Gibson, Santop, Suttles, Wilson and have a quorum. That might be the right five: it might not. There might not be five in this particular group.

Gary A's points about the lack of evidence to justify the prevailing view of Beckwith's defense have been entirely accurate. While I don't, in general, want to see criticism personalized, it would be fairer not to lump together "NeL experts" as a category. The two who participate in our discussions have clearly different views, and there's no universal agreeement anywhere.
   32. Howie Menckel Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:24 AM (#1186985)
Well, I for one find this to be a helluva discussion.
The impersonality of the internet can create some communication gaps, but trust me, I find the assertions on all sides pretty compelling.
   33. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:27 AM (#1186994)
I find the assertions on all sides pretty compelling.

I find J Lo's and Beyonce's assertions much more compelling.

:-)
   34. Chris Cobb Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:32 AM (#1187001)
A different angle for consideration here:

Although the argument that there are players at shortstop in the minors who could never play the position in the majors is clearly correct, it's also the case that there is a strong argument that "replacement level" for fielding in the majors is league average. If this is the case, then we should expect (I infer) to see fielding value translate from a top minor league to the major leagues with less change than in hitting and pitching, where the values shift considerably.
   35. karlmagnus Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:38 AM (#1187012)
I agree this is high level stuff. Having looked again, I am inclined to mark Beckwith back down for a short career, but this guy looks as if he'd have got 3000 hits or close to it which as you know always rings my bell. So my tentative order for '47 is probably Wilson/Beckwith/Suttles, with Mule being marked down for that .298 BA, which in the 1930s makes him more Kingman than Stargell.
   36. David C. Jones Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:43 AM (#1187017)
Yeah, Chipper Jones and Gary Sheffield only played shortstop in the minors, but Tony Batista played it in the majors, and as a SS/3B, he might be comparable defensively to what Beckwith was. Who knows.

As I said in my own ballot, Suttles was a poor fielder; no question in my mind about that. I still had him second on my ballot for other reasons, but I definitely think he was below average.
   37. Chris Cobb Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:58 AM (#1187043)
Karlmagnus inspired me to make my first-ever visit to the baseball-reference page for "Major League Baseball's most feared slugger of the 70's and 80's": Dave Kingman.

That's what the page's sponsor, DaveKingman.com, says, I kid you not. Mike Schmidt and Reggie Jackson, among others, might possibly beg to differ . . .

Anyway, Kingman hit .236 in a .262 league.
Stargell hit .281 in a .261 league.
Suttles, as currently projected, hit .298 in a league that was probably somewhere around .290.

So, while I agree that Suttles is not quite up to Stargell's standard, I must point out that there is _substantial_ room between Dave Kingman and Willie Stargell as hitters for average, and that Suttles is rather closer to Stargell than to Kingman.
   38. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 12:23 PM (#1187727)
Well, this thread certainly went in directions I did not anticipate.

Tom H-

You may have a point about Negro League defensive reputations. However I wasn't trying to say that Wilson was a great fielder. I said that he was probably 'good' and 'functionally effective.' And I had specific information to support this: the 1928 fielding stats put up by Gary A.

I've always believed the old saying that you can find glove men easily but pure hitters are quite a bit harder to find.

A lot of Negro League players would have moved to the left on the defensive spectrum if they had played in the Major Leagues. For example, Josh Gibson and Jimmie Foxx have a lot of similarities and both came up as catchers. But Foxx ended up as a first baseman in the Majors.

In your list are several guys without sterling defensive reps: C- Santop, Gibson (though he had a great arm), 1B- Leonard, 3B- Wilson, Beckwith, OF- Suttles. Another interesting guy is Willie Wells. Wells had a good defensive rep but was well known for having a very weak arm.

I've always thought that, if Wells had played in the Majors, he would have played second. The Majors were better than the Negro Leagues and had a higher defensive standard. But the point is that, if you can hit, they will always find a place for you. They just slide you down the defensive spectrum.

However, the actual point I was trying to make is one of appearances. If Derek Jeter had played in the Majors or the Negro Leagues in the 1920s, he would have had a great defensive rep because he looks so smooth out there (forgetting for now that his Jamaican father would have precluded him from playing in the Majors in the 1920s).

But a great defensive reutation doesn't make you a great fielder. Results do. The defensive stats posted by Gary A seem to show that Wilson had the results.

All this being said, there would have been a good chance that Wilson, if he had played in the Majors and based on appearances rather than results, would have been put at 1B or LF and told to concentrate on whacking the ball.

But that still doesn't mean he wasn't capable of playing 3B, just that he didn't look good doing it.
   39. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 01:34 PM (#1187740)
Thanks for the insightful replies, guys. Gadfly's last post seems right on the money. I wish I could make the time for more research on this, but this just ain't gonna be the week for it.

Chris' letter grades for NeL defense seem reasonable. I do believe his missing grades for Oscar Charleston, Grant Johnson, Oliver Marcelle, and Judy Johnson would likely bring the 'average' up, and inflate the % of "A" grades.

While still awaiting MLEs for Wilson, I wonder if his best MLB comp might be Killebrew with a bit less power?
   40. karlmagnus Posted: March 08, 2005 at 01:50 PM (#1187743)
They didn't say WHY Kingman was feared -- they meant he was the one you'd least like to meet outside a bar on a dark night. Reggie and Schmidt were both gentlemen! :-))
   41. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 02:11 PM (#1187753)
J. Schmeagol-

You ask this completely reasonable question: 'How can the Negro Leagues, considering the fact that they are generally considered to be of Triple-A quality, produce four players (Stearnes, Beckwith, Suttles, and now Wilson) all of whom are better hitters than their Major League contemporary Al Simmons.

There is a two part answer to this:

1) First is that Simmons, while certainly a great player, is really not one of the true elite Hall of Famers; and

2) Second is that you have to understand that the distribution of talent in the Negro Leagues, particularily of star players, was not uniform in any way.

By this I mean:

Using straight demopgraphics, the Majors before integration should have been 10 to 12 percent African-American. There should be one star player denied his chance by discrimination for every ten white star players.

But, if the Negro Leagues truly were Triple-A, then the Majors should have been 28.6 percent African-American (i.e. two out of seven existing Triple-A or above Leagues). There should about one star player denied his chance by discrimination for every two or so white star players.

However, I believe the true distribution of star players is not 10 percent or 28 percent, it's much closer to one-to-one or 50-50.

The 100 top players who started their careers after integration (1946 or later) listed in the career leaders section of Bill James Win Shares book break down like this:

55 White/45 Non-White (36 Black/9 Latin)

But even this understates the case because:

1) The list is top heavy to the non-whites. Six of the top eight players are African-American (the highest Latins are Rod Carew at 25 and Roberto Clemente at 26); and

2) The list includes pitchers.

For some strange reason, the Major Leagues has never developed as many star African-American pitchers as hitters since integration. However, there are 14 pitchers in the above top 100. 12 are white, 2 are Black (Gibson, Jenkins), and none are Latin (where are you, Juan Marichal).

Removing the pitchers you get 88 players:

43 White/45 Non-white (36 Black/9 Latin).

Of course, now someone will point out that what happened after integration has no bearing on what happened before integration. Maybe they are right, but also maybe they are simply deluded or in denial.

In my opinion, the structure and economics that produced one star colored hitter for every star white hitter have been in place since 1910 to 1920 and are only now fading away (or more accurately changing with African-Americans fading and Latins increasing).

Because of this one to one ratio, there is almost always a very good Major League comp for every Negro League hitter from 1920 to 1950: Gibson with Foxx and Gehrig, Stearnes with Musial, Suttles with Greenberg, Wells with Gehringer, Beckwith with Hornsby, Lundy with Frisch .

Of course, these comps can get pretty thin: Oscar Charleston as Hornsby playing the OF like Speaker or Cool Papa Bell as Max Carey hitting like Paul Waner. But there is always somebody.

But, to get back to the subject, there are two pre-integration players who are pretty much just completely unique. One is the greatest player that ever lived and the other is Jud Wilson.

There is no Negro Leaguer comparable to Ruth and there has never been anyone really comparable to Wilson. Of course, Jud wasn't anywhere near as good as Ruth; but he was one hell of a hitter, and a really unique one at that.
   42. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:02 PM (#1187786)
Tom H-

You postulate two guys for Wilson's comps: Edgar Martinez and Killebrew. Killebrew doesn't really fit, Wilson was not a huge home run threat. But Edgar Martinez isn't bad, especially before his back injury removed him from the field. I don't get the impression that Wilson was as immobile as Martinez, Jud often stole bases.

However, the guy I really comp in my head with Wilson is Pete Rose. Rose came up as a second baseman, played third, left field, and, in his twilight, first. Anywhere really just to keep his bat and fire in the line-up. And Rose and Wilson had similar attitudes to playing baseball, i.e. win at all costs, extreme competitiveness, make them pull the uniform off your dying carcass.

Unlike the extroverted Rose, Wilson seems to have been somewhat introverted and surely did not have a gambling problem, if just for lack of funds. But the competitive fire is exactly the same only with Wilson having more of Cobb's dark side than Rose's cheerfulness.

But, in my opinion, Wilson was a much more talented and powerful hitter than Rose. A good comp perhaps would be Pete Rose with the hitting skill of Edgar Martinez and a personality borrowed from the Georgia Peach.

Mike Webber made fun of my assertion above that Wilson may have had 4000 hits if he had started in the Majors at 20 while also stating the truth that it's only been done twice and making it sound impossible.

Well, maybe so. But Honus Wagner would have had 4000 hits if he started at 20 and Cap Anson would have had 4000 hits (maybe even 5000) if they had just played 154 games schedules all through his career and George Sisler would have come damn close if not for his sinus and Joe Jackson looked pretty good until they found out he was a crook and Musial would have gotten a lot closer if he hadn't missed 1945 due to the war and Robin Yount would have had a chance if he hadn't simply gotten bored with playing ball since he was 18.

In other words, it's hardly an impossible feat to get 4000 hits if things break right. Wilson had the same ultra-competitive fire of Cobb and Rose, the two men who made it; and wouldn't have quit playing of his own accord.

If Wilson comes up at 20 and plays his career out, you basically have a player who hits .350 or so (surely .333 in Chris Cobb's MLEs) for his career and plays from 1917 to 1945. Perhaps he would have missed time in WW1, but he certainly could have made it up in WW2. I think, under those circumstances, Wilson clears 4000 hits easy and Rose never gets the all-time mark.

Of course, in real life, Wilson didn't start playing in the Negro Leagues until 25 and there are several guys who would have had a better shot at 4000 hits than him, the line starting with John Henry Lloyd, of course.

Damn, I've got to go to work.
   43. Mike Webber Posted: March 08, 2005 at 03:36 PM (#1187820)
GadFly Wrote:
In my opinion, the structure and economics that produced one star colored hitter for every star white hitter have been in place since 1910 to 1920 and are only now fading away (or more accurately changing with African-Americans fading and Latins increasing).

I think this is an excellent argument though I might mark the change closer to 1970 than 1990.

Almost 20 years ago I almost got thrown out of a sociology class by a professor becuase he was trying to make some point about superior black athletes due to race - boxing in particular - and I asked him to explain why Irishmen, then Italian and Jews were such good boxers when they were the newest immigrants and lowest socio-economic class and aren't any more.

I think it is true that the lowest socio-economic classes produced more than their fair share of great athletes, and of course that would mean that African-Americans in general might produce a higher percentage of great athletes than their percentage of population overall.

I think that this trend stopped in baseball in America about 1970. After that you get into the George Brett, Dave Winfield, generation of players that more frequently come from middle class or wealthier families.

Last weeks Sports Weekly reported there were 400 Dominicans/Latin born in the majors now. Obviously comparing percentage of major leaguers to percentage of population this is a disproportionately large number.
   44. DavidFoss Posted: March 08, 2005 at 04:29 PM (#1187906)
If Wilson comes up at 20 and plays his career out, you basically have a player who hits .350 or so (surely .333 in Chris Cobb's MLEs) for his career and plays from 1917 to 1945. Perhaps he would have missed time in WW1, but he certainly could have made it up in WW2. I think, under those circumstances, Wilson clears 4000 hits easy and Rose never gets the all-time mark.

Of course, if Rose had come up at 20, he likely would have had 4500 hits. :-) Sorry, couldn't resist. But Rose doesn't make the hits-by-age-XX top ten leaderboards until age 35. Great new feature at bb-ref by the way.

These "analogies" given forth can be helpful, but they also tend to be a bit too simplistic and often anachronistic. I mean an "OK fielding" 3B with very batting averages, solid plate discipline and gap power who started late and slowed a bit in his late 30s... I could play this game and say that sounds quite a bit like Wade Boggs. But tossing names like Boggs (or Edgar, or Harmon, or Stargell, or Kingman, or Dick Allen, or Andre Dawson, or Joe Carter, or Jose Canseco, or whoever) just isn't going to accurate enough for this detail oriented group... and none of these guys are anywhere near our collective radar anyways.

Looking forward to the MLE's.
   45. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 04:31 PM (#1187913)
OK, now I can waste time and get paid for it. God, I love this country.

Mike Webber:

I do agree with you that the tide of African-American baseball demographics started to go out in the 1970s. Basically, I think you can look at the African-American demographics in baseball like this:

The first black players who had careers that are possibly of Hall of Fame quality were born in the 1860s (Sol White, Frank Grant); and the first indisputable HOF quality players were born in the 1870s (Grant Johnson, Rube Foster). Players from this era began their careers in the 1880s and 1890s.

From 1900 to 1920, there was a transitional phase as the number of African-American players rose until the point that there were enough to support two Triple-A quality Leagues.

From 1920 until 1970, this point was reached and a third of all pro ball players active of Double-A or Triple-A quality were colored (black and latin); and half of the very best (star and HOF quality) pro ball players were also not welcome at the country club.

Since 1970, the ratio of African-American players has been decling and the ratio of Latins rising.

Of course, the argument has been made that there is a 'Jackie Robinson' generation of players. This argument asserts that Robinson's story and struggle inspired African-Americans to pursue baseball and the number of black ballplayers after integration was at an all-time high.

I do think that there was a 'Jackie Robinson' effect. I think Jackie Robinson did inspire black athletes to pursue baseball. However, I do not believe it pushed African-American baseball demographics to an all-time high.

In actuality, I believe the Robinson effect was opposite to the actual demographic trend and simply prolonged the time in which baseball was dominated by African-Americans.

The nadir of the African-American economic situation in this country came in the 1920s (with the Klu Klux Klan marching on Washington) and the 1930s (the Depression). When baseball integrated in 1946, the economic situation for African-Americans was improving at a steady pace and aiming at the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Also, athletic opportunity, in the form of both college and pro basketball and especially football, was expanding enormously. The college part of that is especially important since it becomes possible to leverage athletic talent into educational opportunity.

The Robinson effect simply forestalled the inevitable fade of the African-American demographic. The argument that Robinson's example showed African-Americans the way to riches by playing baseball is silly.

The Negro League Stars of the 1920s and 1930s were rich and famous in the context of their own communities and the number of opportunities for fame and wealth in these communities was far less than it would be after integration.

It is my belief that the quality of stars in the Negro Leagues from 1920 to 1950 was equal to that of the Majors. It is also my belief that, if you could truly figure out who were the top 20 players of any color during this period, half of them would be non-white and the very top, the cream de la creme would look something like the post-integration demographic, i.e. six of the top eight were African-American.

But, of course, that's just an opinion.
   46. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 04:43 PM (#1187949)
The 100 top players who started their careers after integration (1946 or later) listed in the career leaders section of Bill James Win Shares book break down like this:
55 White/45 Non-White (36 Black/9 Latin)
--
good data. However, things do change quickly. It should be apparent that black non-Latin MLB players are greatly fewer in 2000 than they were in 1965. So I don't assume that this ratio of white star:black star held true in 1930. But it does speak strongly that we shouldn't use demogrpahics of natinal pop as a large argument.

As to Wilson and Rose, given the anecdotes about Wilson's temper, I would assume that he would have been tossed out / suspended often enough not to assumulate huge career totals. Dont know about his injurty hisotry. Rose got 200 hits each year because he played every single game and batted leadoff for the best offense in the league. Them is fine circumstances for racking up lots of hits.
   47. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2005 at 05:06 PM (#1188001)
Anger-management issues aside, the career that Wilson's reminds me the most of is Wade Boggs.
1) Opposite-field, line-drive hitter
2) High averages
3) Apparently very good to great plate discipline.
4) Had power but a lot of it showed up as doubles.
5) Played third-base ugly but well enough to get by.
6) Long career with lots of batting titles and black and gray ink.
   48. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 08, 2005 at 05:10 PM (#1188012)
The nadir of the African-American economic situation in this country came in the 1920s (with the Klu Klux Klan marching on Washington) and the 1930s (the Depression).

I ain't sure the '20s were any worse than what came before. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been referred to as the nation's post Civil War racial nadir. You have the rise of legally enforced (as opposed to just socially enforced) segregation, almost complete disenfranchisement in the South, almost 100 lynchings a year at one point. Blacks were excluded from good jobs and tended to be forcably placed in a job ghetto of sharecropping and servants with no redress because the local and state legal/political system was designed to keep them there and the feds were indifferent. Yeah, the '20s had the Klan, but you also had the Great Migration beginning in WWI and continuing througout the years. The Klan was national, but in the North it tended to be most successful in the states which had the fewest blacks (like Indiana, Colorado, and Oregon) and often spent much more of their energy denouncing Catholics, Jews, and immigrants than it did in the South.

I don't think the '20s were any worse economically for blacks than what came earlier.
   49. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 05:34 PM (#1188077)
Well, here I go again, altho maybe I'll try to say it more charitably this time....
----
the career that Wilson's reminds me the most of is Wade Boggs.
Opposite-field, line-drive hitter, High averages, very good to great plate discipline, (doubles) power, played third-base ugly but well enough to get by, long career with lots of batting titles and black and gray ink.
---
Wilson's style may have been Boggs-like, and if that's the comparison, I'm okay with it. But not a Value comparison. Boggs' averages were surreal, his and peak was amazing. From 1985 to 88 his composite OPS+ was over 160. He was clearly the best player in the (integrated!) game. Was Jud Wilson ever commonly recognized as close to the greatets player in the NeL? And Boggs for those 4 years had an above-avg range factor AND an above-avg fielding pct every season. Wade Boggs being left off the 100-man all-century team was a travesty.

I knew Wade Boggs, and Jud Wilson, you are no Wade Boggs :)

I'll stick with Edgar M = Jud W for now
   50. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 06:01 PM (#1188147)
Of course, my former musings on this thread don't answer the most interesting question, which is this: "Why would a demographic of one-third the players produce half the stars?"

In Bill James'comparative rookie study, he found that, in general, when you have two rookies of comparable talent, one white and one black, the black player is far more likely to go on to a better and longer career. He also found that black players kept their speed indicators, to an almost absurd degree, much longer than their comparable white players.

There are, of course, two ways to look at this:

1) the black players were more genetically gifted; or
2) the black players were more motivated to maximize their careers.

I think the correct answer is two. The fact that the comparable black players retained their speed or even improved it tells you this: the average black player was working harder to keep in shape and to improve.

And that makes perfect sense. The players of African-American descent from 1970 and before really had nowhere else to go to make the kind of money they were making in baseball. Of course, they were going to work harder to retain and improve their talents.

Of course, this makes me think of the four greatest baseball talents to come up during the 1950s: Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Mathews, and Willie Mays. Two whites and two blacks.

Looking at them as rookies, baseball talents in utero so to speak, it is pretty apparent that the most talented was Mantle and the most powerful was Mathews. But, when their careers were in the bank, it looked like this:

WIN SHARES:
643 Hank Aaron
642 Willie Mays
565 Mickey Mantle
450 Eddie Matthews

(Interestingly, if Mays had not served during the Korean War, he would far surpass Aaron, something like 695-700 to 643.)

The black players had much greater careers. Of course, Mantle and Matthews both drank and partied heavily and were somewhat indifferent to keeping in shape; and it could be claimed that this small selection doesn't truly represent all the players.

But I think that - when you multiply every Mick and Ed by Tom, Dick, and Harry - you get the reason behind a one-third demographic producing a one-half star ratio.

Of course, this also touchs on something JSchmeagol said. To paraphase, he said: "What the hell is up with all these Negro League players and their endless 20 years careers?"

This is the answer. I think that, if the Negro Leaguers had been able to play their endless 20-year economically-motivated careers in the Majors, they would dominate the career counting stats to the same degree that they do post-integration.

One of those guys would have gotten 4000 hits, that's for sure.
   51. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 06:36 PM (#1188199)
Tom H-

First, I respectfully disagree with your contention that Wade Boggs was the most valuable player in baseball at his peak; I'd take Rickey in a heartbeat or Ripken, for that matter, though I would sit that man's ass down every once in a while for the good of the team.

But Wade Boggs, while different in style and temperament and distribution of talent but not in level of obsession, is not a bad comp. With all I know, I would still rather have Wilson.

However, your question of whether Wilson was ever considered the best player in the Negro Leagues gets back to something I was trying to get at in my original post on this thread. The answer to that question is: "Hell Yes!" I put in Wilson's nickname of 'Lon Chaney' above; but he had another nickname during his career and that is 'Babe' as in Babe Ruth.

During their actual careers, John Beckwith, Jud Wilson, and Turkey Stearnes were all considered absolute superstars. But, in the Negro League revival that began with Peterson's book in the 1970s, several factors have diminished their luster.

(Though all three men are listed in Peterson's short bio section on Negro League superstars.)

These factors are:

1) The deeply flawed 1952 Pittsburgh Courier Poll;
2) Living players over Dead players (Beck & Jud);
3) Defensive players over Offensive players;
4) Eastern players over Western players (Turkey); and
5) players who played in Organized Baseball over players who just played in the Negro Leagues.

If you could get the Negro League officials together just one more time and offer them just the usual 3B candidates for their team and then tally the votes, I am pretty sure that it would go like this:

1 and 2: Beckwith and Wilson;
3 and 4: Dandridge and A.Radcliffe or J.Taylor;
5 and 6: Marcelle and Johnson.

But, because of the way things have been filtered through time, people think Johnson and Marcelle, with their want-to-be Pie Traynor careers are where the discussion starts.
   52. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 08, 2005 at 07:23 PM (#1188275)
TomH,

I was only comparing players stylistically not on win-based value patterns or anything so specific as that. An impression is all. Boggs just worked better for me than Edgar due to
a) handedness
b) Edgar's DHing which is related to...
c) Edgar's injury-proneness in the early and late stages of his career
d) relative length of career at the highest-attainable level (Boggs wasn't blocked like until his mid-late 20s like Edgar)
e) Boggs' defense was better.

But, realistically, a mixture of them might feel better too because Wilson appears to have had a little more power than Boggs with more of it distributed to roundtrippers if I read the info on Jud's career correctly. And I wouldn't be surprised to see that he'd have walked a little less than either of them too.

Also, I should mention, I'm trying to comp Wilson (or any NgL player) to big leaguers not to claim they are that comp, but to get a general idea of what style of player he was so I can put a mental image to the MLEs and WS, and to, hopefully, better understand how a Jud Wilson-type player fit into the style of play of the NgLs in the 1920s and 1930s.
   53. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 08, 2005 at 07:40 PM (#1188315)
1. As I recall the 1920's Klan was different from the 1960's clan, i.e. not as violent with a number of members who weren't really true racists. Guys like Tris Speaker. Also with the Great Migration of blacks from southern farms to northern cities, there was much more economic opportunity.

In fact, economically the 1870's was probably the worst, maybe even worse than the slavery years. Yes, they were free (which is important), but many had no land to work and no one giving them a place to sleep or food. Things may have been better overall in the 1870's and 80's, but many blacks foudn themselves worse off economically.

2. I can't say that I buy a 1-1 coorelation. Just because it happened in the 50's and 60's, doesn't mean it would have happpened in the 20's or 30's.

3. Chris Cobb's Win Shares estimates have been very good so far. In fact I think they have been a resaonable mid point between those who don't think many NeL players should be in the Hall of Fame and those who think that every NeL star we come across is an inner circle guy. For instance, Beckwith's Win Shares estimates dont' put him much higher than Tommy Leach in my system. Now LEach played CF and Ws is much kinder to CFers than WARP, but I doubt that Beckwith would have played much SS in the majors.
   54. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 08:10 PM (#1188393)
Dr Chaleeko, thanks for the clarification. Yo comprendo.
Gadfly, at least if you would tkae Wilson over Boggs, I will now attribute it mostly to your under-appreciation of Wade, as opposed to too much love for Jud. Win Shares and WARP both say Boggs cleans Cal and Rickey's clocks over their best 5 year runs. :)

As to Wilson's status as 'best NeL player', I'm very open to hear the voices (or stats) that say it. I see in the NBJHA, Suttles gets 2-3 yearly mentions as best player, Stearns one, Beckwith one, and a few other guys we haven't voted for much (J Lyons, F Jenkins, C Smith), but no sign of Jud. It could very well be, of course, that Bill James is wrong.
   55. TomH Posted: March 08, 2005 at 08:12 PM (#1188396)
One more note: I mentioned long ago that NeL expert Ted Knorr had given me his list of best NeL (and Latin) players. It went 40-45 deep, including 4 3Bmen, but not Jud Wilson.
   56. Mike Webber Posted: March 08, 2005 at 08:36 PM (#1188433)
One more note: I mentioned long ago that NeL expert Ted Knorr had given me his list of best NeL (and Latin) players. It went 40-45 deep, including 4 3Bmen, but not Jud Wilson.

LOL!

Ted Knorr? Whatever happened to that guy?
   57. jimd Posted: March 08, 2005 at 08:52 PM (#1188478)
Using straight demopgraphics, the Majors before integration should have been 10 to 12 percent African-American.

I have written elsewhere that an analysis by the birthstates of major league players supports a 15 percent level for the 1930's.

(Follow the link and it was post #20; that post was lost in the site change of last year and later reposted as post #71; the discussion follows post #20 however.)

But, if the Negro Leagues truly were Triple-A, then the Majors should have been 28.6 percent African-American (i.e. two out of seven existing Triple-A or above Leagues).

I think this argument is flawed. From what I understand, the AVERAGE quality of the NeL were AAA. However, the variance on the quality was much, much wider.

The white leagues were very stratified (once drafts were in place, etc.) If organized white baseball was a pyramid, with the majors as the top section, then each minor league level represents a narrow slice below that, with a relatively narrow range of talent present because the best move up to the next level of league. OTOH, the Negro Leagues would be like an obelisk, with a wide range of talent from a narrower base, ranging probably from AA (maybe lower) up to MLB super-star, averaging out to AAA. The median talent level would be lower than in the white AAA leagues because of the presence of the major-league star level players (not found in white AAA) who then raise the average considerably and skew the distribution.

55 White/45 Non-White (36 Black/9 Latin)

Using Latin players from post-integration may invalidate the argument unless they were also present at constant rates during the entire study period. This is obviously not true, so it adds an extra variable that should be controlled for (removing it is easiest).

Removing the pitchers you get 88 players:

You only removed the white pitchers.

****

If we can determine that the ratio of American-born black stars to American-born white stars stays relatively constant across the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's, then we can generalize back with some confidence to the 30's and 20's and 10's. If the ratio is highly variable, then it would seem that each decade needs to be examined separately and the extrapolation would be suspect.
   58. Gadfly Posted: March 08, 2005 at 11:24 PM (#1188760)
Jim D-

You are exactly correct. I only removed the white pitchers. I'd claim I did this to see if anyone is paying attention; but the true fact was that I was simply typing too fast. Removing Jenkins and Gibson gives a top 100 Win Share breakdown after integration, minus the pitchers, of:

86 hitters, exactly 43 White and 43 Non-White (34 Black, 9 Latin). I have to admit that I like the ratio. As far as using Latins from before integration, you may have a point. However, there were a lot of good Latin players in the Negro Leagues with Torriente, Dihigo, and Oms all being easy top-100 pre-integration players.

There are a bunch of lesser known guys (Tetelo Vargas, Manuel Garcia, Silvio Garcia, Coimbre, Castillo, Mendez, Bragana and even Orlando's daddy) who were also incredibly good; but are pretty much forgotten.

I formed my judgment that the one to one ratio of post-integration players is measuring a falling rather than a rising tide based on what I know from analyzing the Negro Leagues and just simple economics. But, of course, it's just my opinion.

It is interesting to note that no one has commented on the fact that 6 of the top 8 (and now with Bonds stilling moving up) the top 3 WS careers post-integration are all African-American.

By that as it may, I have no doubt that the number one pre-integration career was still the Babe. But I'd wager my house, if there was some way to definitely prove it that more than half of numbers 2 thru 10 were black.
   59. Evan Posted: March 09, 2005 at 12:27 AM (#1188853)
Just wanted to mention that this is one of the most interesting ongoing discussions of the relative merit of the Negro Leagues I've ever come across - I hope we don't lose the value of this thread just because Jud gets elected.
   60. sunnyday2 Posted: March 09, 2005 at 02:13 AM (#1189014)
Yes, good discussion. I am of two minds. No I'm not. Yes I am. No I'm not.

Seriously.

I agree that population/demographics provide little or no direction to this project (for me). HoMers are outliers, pure and simple, distributed randomly over time.

And at the sub-group level the numbers become even more unreliable. I don't think there can be any doubt that certain ethnic or national groups have excelled way beyond their numbers at times--the Irish at one time being the obvious example. It doesn't really matter if we understand why, the evidence is uncontrovertible.

OTOH, the claims that have been made for certain NeLers are (in a word) INcredible.

But it still comes down to Player A vs. Player B, regardless of race, color or creed (or position or era or whatever). Was Mickey Welch better than Joe Sewell, or Hugh Duffy better than Wes Ferrell? How the hell would one go about comparing them apples with them oranges? Vell, ve hafe our vays.

So...vas (er, I mean was) Jud Wilson better than Pie Traynor? Almost surely. Was he better than John Beckwith? That should be an easier question to answer, yet I find it not so. Was he better than Mule Suttles? Ditto. Was he better than Wes Ferrell? How the hell would one go about comparing them apples to them oranges.

Vell, ve hafe our vays!
   61. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 09, 2005 at 02:56 AM (#1189105)
I have a question...

The evidence overwhelmingly states that the Major Leagues had a hard time developing african american pitchers, as compared to position players, in the decades after integration. Could this be because the Negro Leagues had a hard time developing pitchers? It seems to me that the balance between Negro League pitchers and hitters is tilted more toward hitters than it is for their white contemporaries. The only reason that I have REdeding on my ballot and have had Mendez on it in the past is that they even things out a bit.

I guess all of that is a long winded way of saying, might the Negro Leagues have been low on pitching? pitching stars? Or even if they were stars, could they just not have been as good as their white conterparts, much like they weren't in the 50's and 60's?
   62. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2005 at 03:13 AM (#1189134)
I'm not exactly sure how to slot this into jschmeagol's point in post 61, but....

I remember about 15 years ago SI ran a big cover story about how there were almost no black starting pitchers except for, like, Dave Stewart. I no longer have the article, but at its root was the question of whether baseball's culture threw more obstacles in the way of black pitchers than white pitchers in an Al Campanis kind of way.

At this same time there were also articles about the dearth of black quarterbacks, black managers, and black head football coaches, each in its turn attributed to bias in hiring practices and systemic prejudice in which teams consistently understimated (or if you prefer insulted) black people's intelligence.

Again, not sure if this is related to the point at hand or not, but it seems like it might be.
   63. OCF Posted: March 09, 2005 at 05:25 PM (#1189894)
I've made a couple of tries to write a response to Dr. Chaleeko. I can't make the response come together as a coherent whole, but I'll just dump the disconnected fragments here anyway.

Of course racially stereotyped position steering exists, declaring black athletes more suitable for certain positions (outfielder, running back, wide receiver) and less suitable for other positions (pitcher, quarterback). But such steering can only operate in an integrated environment. In a segregated, all-black environment, every role must be filled.

Negro league pitchers were heroes and legends. How many anecdotes about Satchel Paige have you heard? From how many different sources did we hear about that one Joe Williams/Chet Brewer extra-inning game?

The greatest post-integration African-American pitcher was Bob Gibson. He has no connection to the Negro Leagues, but he did briefly tour with the Harlem Globetrotters, who in their own way represent the old tradition of segregated sports.

Pro football now has its Michael Vicks. What has happened in baseball (at least for American-born playes) is the suburbanization of the sport. We get our pitchers now from a web of youth and school leagues, with private coaching from an early age.

Felix Rodriguez, Guillermo Mota, Yhency Brazoban - good all-around athletes of Afro-Caribbean descent, position players in the minors, converted to relief pitcher.

As I said, it doesn't exactly make a coherent argmument for anything.
   64. Chris Cobb Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:04 PM (#1189993)
Jud Wilson MLEs


Age Year  BA   SA    G     PA   AB   H     BB  TB
25  1922 .366  .409  100   420  360  132   60  147
26  1923 .354  .454  154   647  554  196   93  252
27  1924 .352  .423  145   609  522  184   87  221
28  1925 .377  .515  154   647  554  209   93  285
29  1926 .349  .497  133   559  479  167   80  238
30  1927 .379  .575  152   638  547  207   89  314
31  1928 .376  .597  120   504  432  163   72  258
32  1929 .363  .519  150   630  540  196   90  280
33  1930 .342  .465  154   647  554  190   93  258
34  1931 .334  .445  152   638  547  183   89  244
35  1932 .318  .393  147   617  529  168   88  208
36  1933 .330  .412  154   647  554  183   93  228
37  1934 .312  .408  154   647  554  173   93  226
38  1935 .299  .390  154   647  554  166   93  216
39  1936 .301  .393  151   634  544  164   90  213
40  1937 .328  .392   68   286  245   80   41   96
41  1938 .215  .263  110   462  396   85   66  104
42  1939 .252  .332  135   567  486  123   61  161
43  1940 .235  .286   85   297  255   60   42   73
44  1941 .345  .411   70   234  201   69   33   82
45  1942 .224  .289   45    95   81   18   14   23
46  1943 .280  .365   50   140  120   34   20   44
47  1944 .256  .293   50   125  107   27   18   31
48  1945 .339  .431   40    70   60   20   10   26
24 years .327  .433 2827 11406 9775 3196 1631 4230

career obp:  .423



gadfly suggested that Wilson would not have lasted in the majors after his injury in 1937. If gadfly’s info about Wilson’s age is correct (and I think it fits his career path very well), then this suggestion seems very likely. When I credit him with an attempted comeback for 1938, here are his career totals, 1922-1938.

1922-1938 totals
17 yrs. 2352 g, 8466 ab, 2845 hits, 1413 walks, 3789 total bases, .336 ba, .431 obp, .448 sa

Notes

These MLEs use the new offensive level adjustments for the 1930s, which project NeL players into a National League environment, 1930-1939. For the 1920s the environment is a generic "major-league" environment. My Suttles projections, to which these will be compared, did not use these offensive level adjustments. I’ll try to get revised projections for Suttles up soon. The offensive level adjustments will raise his numbers somewhat, and they will also raise his win shares a bit. Comparing his numbers to players in a league that was often 10% higher in offensive level will cut into the win shares a bit . . .

BA and SA above are the regressed figures. I can easily post the unregressed figures.

BB are estimated by a very simple formula, derived from his 1928 walk rate, rounded down somewhat. A more sophisticated approach would adjust this up and down for age. I suspect his OBP is slightly overestimated by this approach, but not by much.

PA = g*4.2, except for his last 5 seasons, when I estimated that a significant percentage of his appearances were as a pinch-hitter.

Questions? Comments?
   65. DavidFoss Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:18 PM (#1190027)
These MLEs use the new offensive level adjustments for the 1930s, which project NeL players into a National League environment, 1930-1939. For the 1920s the environment is a generic "major-league" environment.

Thanks for the clarification on the translations.

Either NL or AL context in the 30s is fine. I was a little weary about alternating leagues or some sort of halfway point translation. Not that it couldn't be done, but it would have been hard for me to interpret.

Thanks for all the work, of course!
   66. karlmagnus Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:23 PM (#1190034)
Looks about right. 3000 hits or unlucky not to get there, same # of hits as Suttles, much higher BA, more walks. Suttles would have had to have an OBP of .355 to have the same OPS (which would still be more SLG and less OBP) and I don't believe he did, with a .298BA.

I think it's Wilson/Suttles/Beckwith, with the latter two very close indeed (beckwith better, but shorter career)and Wilson just a bit better, but all 3 significantly short of Turkey. On my ballot, Wilson will be at 5, behind Grove/Beckley/Welch/Hartnett but ahead of Sisler. Suttles will be 14, Beckwith probably 16.
   67. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:25 PM (#1190044)
Great job, Chris!

Will you be working up WS translations for him? Thanks!
   68. Chris Cobb Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:49 PM (#1190086)
Will you be working up WS translations for him? Thanks!

Yes, but I'm going out of town for the weekend, so I may not get to it before the voting begins. My first priority is to get revised BA/SA/OBP projections for Suttles to help compare him to Wilson.

At this point, when defensive value is considered, I'm definitely with Karlmagnus on Wilson being ahead of Suttles, whom I think the electorate has overrated somewhat.

I'm not sure about Wilson vs. Beckwith. Wilson definitely has the better career, but Beckwith hit for the same avg. as Wilson, had good but not great plate discipline, and had much better power.

Well, we have at least another year to get these three sorted out before any will be in position for election, since Grove and Hartnett are looking like locks for #1 and #2 overall.

1948 will certainly be interesting, with (iirc) Hubbell, Lyons, and Cool Papa Bell reaching eligibility.
   69. andrew siegel Posted: March 09, 2005 at 06:58 PM (#1190106)
I just read the Steve Treder Hardball Times articles that rework 1930s statistics to normalize for the different run environments in the NL and AL in the 1930s. I think his methods might be of use for building Negro League MLE's. If I get a few hours later in the week, I may try to work out some numbers.

For now, I just note that Chris's numbers are much more impressive in the 1930s NL than they would have been in the 1930s AL.
   70. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 09, 2005 at 07:02 PM (#1190113)
Yes, but I'm going out of town for the weekend, so I may not get to it before the voting begins.

Not a big deal since Wilson is not going in this time anyway.
   71. andrew siegel Posted: March 09, 2005 at 07:04 PM (#1190123)
With a .431 OBP Wilson would rank 11th on the All-Time list behind six inner circle HoMers (Wiliams, Ruth, Gehrig, Bonds, Hornsby, and Cobb); three 1890s guys (McGraw, Hamilton, and Joyce) and Todd Helton (who has him by less than a point and hasn't gone through his decline phase yet). WOW!
   72. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 09, 2005 at 08:17 PM (#1190261)
Even if you doc that OBP a little to be cautious it still puts him on the same plane as Mantle. Boggs comparisons are looking better right now.

I also wanted to clarify what I said above. I wasn't intimating that balcks cant' pitch or anythinglike that, only that maybe the NEgro Leagues didn't have the institutions in place to develop pitchers as well as position player prospects. This could be a reason why there aren't many black pitchers in the years after integration (and the ones that were had a ton of talent) and might affect how we view the Negro Leagues.
   73. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2005 at 08:50 PM (#1190324)
Just because I enjoy doing this kind of stuff...

Here are two types of comps. Post-war statistical comps and comps among Wilson's contemporaries. I've brought in a few extra with a wider range of OBPs to account for the possibility that Wilson's OBP was lower than the CC's MLE.

ALL-TIME COMPS, not including contemporaries
NAME.....G......AVG...OBP...SLG
WILSON...2352...336...431...448
===============================
BOGGS....2439...328...415...443
GWYNN....2440...338...388...459
CAREW....2469...328...393...429
ALOMAR...2379...300...371...443
MOLITOR..2683...306...369...448

and just for yucks
ICHIRO!.........339...384...443

I think Boggs, Gwynn, and Carew form a very strong sense of what we've got in Wilson.

Now here are the hitters he was contemporaneous with

NAME.....G......AVG...OBP...SLG
WILSON...2352...336...431...448
===============================
WANER....2549...333...404...473
VAUGHN...1817...318...406...453
G'RINGER.2323...320...404...480
COCHRANE.1482...320...419...478
COMBS....1455...325...397...462
DICKEY...1789...313...382...486
RICE.....2404...322...374...427
MANUSH...2008...330...377...479
CUYLER...1879...321...386...474

A little less clear cut here, but I think seeing Vaughn among the comps was a big surprise to my mind. Cochrane also comps out nicely on the rate stats. It's interesting that all the guys on these two lists turned out to be left-handed except Molitor and Cuyler who are, IMO, generally less comparable than the other guys on the list.

Anyway, looking at things this way gives me a strong sense that Wilson's an easy "in" vote, and that as a 3B in his era, I need to make a decision between him and Becwith; Suttles will likely fall behind them in my queue.
   74. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 09, 2005 at 09:05 PM (#1190358)
However I wasn't trying to say that Wilson was a great fielder. I said that he was probably 'good' and 'functionally effective.'

So that means you wouldn't really support Jud for the defense?

Sorry, but I couldn't pass that one up. :-) Only the oldsters here will understand it, though (I was but a wee one when it was on).
   75. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2005 at 10:09 PM (#1190486)
Jumping through some mental hoops with JW and JB.

Wilson's SLG was MLEed at around 448 over 8466 AB (2350 g). 3789 total bases.

Beckwith's SLG was MLEed around 537 over 1900 or so games (I don't think Chris ever put the exact AB number into the JB thread). JB walked less, so let's say that he would have had 3.8 AB/G. That would leave him with 7220 AB A .537 SLG over 7220 AB is worth ... 3877 TB.

So Beckwith would need negative total bases to achieve the same SLG as Wilson if his career matched the length of Jud's.

Now looking at it from the other side, the MLE has Beckwith around a .337 average and Wilson about the same. So the walks will be really in figuring which is a more valuable (some might say HOMworthy) candidate.

Simplistically, we could just take the MLEs and run them through the old RC formula.

Wilson creates 1633 runs based on the MLE, or 7.41/25.5 outs.

We don't have walks at this point for Beckwith, but we know he didn't take tons of walks. Wilson is MLEed at a 14% walk rate. If we figure that Beckwith would post half of Wilson's MLE walk rate (544 walks), then Boom Boom would own 1488 RC and a rate of 7.9/25.5 outs, about 9 percent lower than Wilson by raw career RC totals, but by rate 6% higher than Wilson's.

Oy. I'm beginning to see this comparison as something like Wade Boggs versus Ron Santo...there's just no easy answer out there, especially since neither player is known for his defense.
   76. DavidFoss Posted: March 09, 2005 at 10:28 PM (#1190542)
Note that there's a big context shift between 1930 & 1931 for those NL translations.

Arky Vaughn's career is after the switch while a decent chunk of JWilson's is before.

Looks like we have the data for quick and easy yearly OPS+ estimates. I'm at work right now, though.
   77. Gary A Posted: March 09, 2005 at 11:24 PM (#1190659)
We don't have walks at this point for Beckwith, but we know he didn't take tons of walks.

Walk information we have for Beckwith:

In 1921, he walked 13 times in 170 plate appearances (154 at bats, 39 games); he hit 383/433/578. (I've added five games for the Chi Gts since the last time I posted stats.)

In 1923, he walked 19 times in 270 at bats, 72 games (don't have total plate appearances); he hit 307/341/537.

In 1928, he walked 2 times in 73 plate appearances (70 at bats, 19 games), and hit 343/370/486.

What we really need are walk totals for his prime years in the mid and late twenties (the '28 Grays just didn't play that many games against top teams).
   78. Gadfly Posted: March 09, 2005 at 11:43 PM (#1190696)
J.Schmeagol:

If I may paraphrase, you asked these 2 questions:

1) Did the Negro Leagues have difficulty developing pitchers?

Basically, you wondered if the Negro League had the same difficulty that the Major Leagues have had since integration developing black pitchers. In my opinion, the answer to this is absolutely not. The Negro Leagues, with their small roster sizes, ran virtually an on-going try-out camp for ALL of their players' talents.

In other words, if you could pitch at all, you were going to get the chance. An enormous number of Negro Leaguers were great or good pitchers and also great or good players. Bullet Rogan and Dihigo are the two obvious guys, but there is a truckload of other guys (Leon Day, Ed Rile, Wilmer Fields, Emmett Bowman, etc.) who were really good at both and other guys who pitched some just because they could (Torriente and Johnny Davis come to mind).

I think that the Negro Leagues' system for developing pitchers was very effective.

On the other hand, the Major Leagues have had difficulty developing black pitchers for the simple reason that pitching is more of a skill (i.e. something learned) than a talent (something innate within the player) and the Majors are evidently not interested in investing this time on any black pitchers except those who have the chance to be exceptional.

I think this is the reason why the black pitchers who do make the Majors are, as a group, much better than their white counterparts. Or as someone called it above: "Selection Bias." If Dihigo and Rogan and the others had played today, it's pretty obvious that they would have never pitched.

I also have a theory that Major League clubs have more of an indifference to the health of their black pitching talent than their white pitching prospects.

But this may simply be a disgusted reaction to how Dwight Gooden, the greatest pitching prospect I've seen in my lifetime, was treated (and his talent destroyed) by the Mets (not that Gooden escapes blame for eventually completing the destruction himself).

2) Was the balance between Negro League pitchers and hitters more slanted to the hitters than it is for their white contemporaries?

I don't think that the balance between pitchers and hitters in the Negro Leagues was slanted more to the hitters than the pitchers. From what I know, both hitting and pitching talent ran just about as deep with the one odd cavaet that, quite often, Negro League players had both talents.

There are a bunch of really great pitchers in the Negro Leagues who you will never hear about, but who were awfully good. Two that come immediately to mind are Bill Byrd (comp is Gaylord Perry) and Webster McDonald (comp is Ted Lyons). Both of these guys would have won over 200 games in the Majors easy.

The two guys you mention being on your ballot, Dick Redding and Jose Mendez, were both fantastic pitchers. Dick Redding is Amos Rusie with a 20 year career, and Mendez is Pedro Martinez with his brother Ramon's career path. Redding is on my ballot, but Mendez' career is a little too injury-shortened for my taste (an extremely good contemporary comp for Mendez is Smokey Joe Wood).

One thing to remember is that pitching skill is easier to see than hitting talent (which needs time to manifest). Redding used to pitch against the complete Triple-A Newark team each year early in his career, and he simply annhilated them. Mendez pitched against dozens of National Leaguers in Cuba and they were pretty much unanimous that the only better pitcher in the National League was Christy Mathewson.

And, of course, you have to remember that, on top of all this, the Negro Leagues produced the greatest pitcher that ever lived.

Chris Cobb:

Thanks for the Wilson MLEs; though, as always, I think the conversion rates depress the BA and very significantly understate the slugging. It was interesting to see Wilson, who was built like a gorilla and as strong as an Ox, comped as a lesser slugging Paul Waner.

But I don't really mind. I'd rather see the absolute cream of the Negro Leagues get in than the borderline guys anyways.
   79. Chris Cobb Posted: March 09, 2005 at 11:51 PM (#1190707)
It was interesting to see Wilson, who was built like a gorilla and as strong as an Ox, comped as a lesser slugging Paul Waner.


Reilly lists him as 5'8", 185 pounds, which is bigger than Waner, whose power was partly in his speed, but, unless Reilly's data is way off, he was no John Beckwith.
   80. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: March 10, 2005 at 02:28 AM (#1190969)
Gadfly,

You points would have more weight if you didn't go to such extremes. So Mendez had Pedro's peak? If so then I guess you dont' like the I9's projection of a career 121 ERA+ in a short career. Redding had Rusie' peak with a 20 year long career? I guess that means that Redding is an easy HOM choice, much like Rusie?

What I try and do with Negro League guys is try and figure out what they would have done in the Majors in their own time, kinda like Chris' MLE's. This means a) those with 20 year careers wouldn't have 20 year careers in MLB where the replacement level was higher, and b) many who played 'functional' or worse defense in the NeL would have made a defensive shift mid career or earlier since, again, the repalcement level was higher. (if you have a wider distribution of talent, it would follow that replacement level is higher)

Also, while the Gwynn, Boggs, Carew comparisons are nice, we need to remember that BA was much higher in the 1930's NL than it was in the 70's and 80's. Of course Gwynn did a lot of damage in the 1990's as well, but you still get my point. Right now Wilson looks like Boggs, in a high average era with a 3B/1B or 3B/LF (3B/RF) split defensively. I would put him about even with Gwynn (who was a good defender in his prime) and Molitor, guys who are HOMers.

While I understand that people weren't as big in the 1920's as they are today, I am 5'9' 200 with some msucle and I dont' think of myself as an OX in any way, shape, or form.
   81. DavidFoss Posted: March 10, 2005 at 05:35 AM (#1191266)
From Chris Cobb's data above and information that the context is MLB in the 20's and NL in the 30's, I calculated yearly OPS+'s for Jud Wilson's career. (league avg/obp/slg is in the parentheses).

1922   0.366/0.457/0.409   (0.289/0.345/0.401)     134
1923   0.354/0.447/0.454   (0.284/0.343/0.392)     146
1924   0.352/0.445/0.423   (0.287/0.343/0.394)     137
1925   0.377/0.467/0.515   (0.292/0.350/0.411)     159
1926   0.349/0.442/0.497   (0.281/0.341/0.389)     157
1927   0.379/0.464/0.575   (0.283/0.342/0.390)     183
1928   0.376/0.466/0.597   (0.281/0.341/0.397)     187
1929   0.363/0.454/0.519   (0.289/0.351/0.417)     154
1930   0.342/0.437/0.465   (0.303/0.358/0.448)     126
1931   0.334/0.426/0.445   (0.277/0.331/0.387)     144
1932   0.318/0.415/0.393   (0.276/0.325/0.396)     127
1933   0.330/0.427/0.412   (0.266/0.314/0.362)     150
1934   0.312/0.411/0.408   (0.279/0.330/0.394)     128
1935   0.299/0.400/0.390   (0.277/0.328/0.391)     122
1936   0.301/0.401/0.393   (0.278/0.332/0.386)     123
1937   0.328/0.423/0.392   (0.272/0.329/0.382)     131
1938   0.215/0.327/0.263   (0.267/0.326/0.376)      70
   82. Chris Cobb Posted: March 10, 2005 at 05:59 AM (#1191292)
A few more tidbits on Wilson's walks:

his bb rate for 1928 (the one year we have data), is 23.8 walks per 100 pa in which he did not get a base hit.

This is very similar to the rate at which Jimmy Foxx walked in his top seasons, in leagues with a higher walk rate than the NeL (for example, Foxx's rate was 24.4 in 1938).

Foxx's career rate was 20.9 walks/100 non-hit PAs.

Mel Ott is also similar, with a typical peak rate of 24.5 in 1938 and a career rate of 20.6.

Wilson's career rate is here estimated as 16.6 walks/100 non-hit PAs.

That strikes me as a safely conservative figure, given the small amount of data that we have.
   83. Howie Menckel Posted: March 10, 2005 at 06:12 AM (#1191315)
gadfly,
love your info, expertise, and devil's advocate stance.

I won't go along with all of it, however, like most of us here. But we'll each try to give it a fair consideration. I like to at least take a temporary walk down the Negro Leagues vs MLB pre-WW II talent distribution that you imagine. I doubt I'll remain there, but it never hurts to try something like that on for size, at least....
   84. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 10, 2005 at 02:14 PM (#1191556)
Also, while the Gwynn, Boggs, Carew comparisons are nice, we need to remember that BA was much higher in the 1930's NL than it was in the 70's and 80's.

Jschmeagol,

You're right about Wilson's batting average context being higher than the more modern players mentioned. So I took a quick snapshot of what the more contemporary players' batting avg. contexts looked like and how they each compared to their league.

First Wilson. The simple average NL AVG over Wilson's career (1922-1938) was .281. I didn't apportion that by at bats so that's subject to a little variation. Wilson's simple AVG+ (Wilson's avg/lg avg) ~ 119.

-Per bb-ref, Gwynn's career AVG context was .262, and his AVG+ would be 129.

-Carew's career AVG context was .260, and his AVG+ would be 126.

-Boggs's career AVG context was .268, and his AVG+ would be 122.

-Molitor's career AVG context was .264, and his AVG+ would be 116.

-Alomar's career AVG context is .267, and his AVG+ would be 112.

This rudimentary analysis supports Wilson as fitting in somewhere between Boggs and Molitor as a hitter for average.
   85. Chris Cobb Posted: March 10, 2005 at 03:42 PM (#1191637)
DavidFoss:

Thank you for the OPS+ calculations!

Am I right in assuming that you are using the simple league averages (as listed in your post) to do the calculation?

If so, we should note that these OPS+ figures will not comp directly to baseball-reference OPS+, because that removes pitcher batting from its calcuation of league averages for purposes of OPS+.

For example, Pittsburgh had a 100 batting park factor in 1933. League OBP/ SA was.314/ .362. Arky Vaughn's OPS+ is calculated off of .327/.375 .

Using these numbers as Wilson's base would drop his OPS+ for 1933 from 150 to 140.

I would guess that the drop across his career would be similar?
   86. andrew siegel Posted: March 10, 2005 at 03:48 PM (#1191645)
Two conflicting thoughts about Wilson:

(1) I think his offense was better than Chris's translations suggest for 4 reasons:

--I think Chris was too conservative as to his walk rate.
--I think translating into the 1930s NL articifically represses the numbers b/c/ the NL was a much lower run environment than the AL.
--Though I lack evidence on this point, I think he might have had a touch more power than the translations suggest (the low isolated power he is credited with doesn't quite fit with the subjective assessments of him as having moderate power).
--I think it is likely that he deserves some credit for the years before age 25 for some combination of the following three reasons: war credit, the Negro League equivalent of trapped in the minors, and/or a socio-economic structure that didn't allow him to be discovered until a relatively late age.

(2) I have no idea how to project him defensively, in large part b/c/ I can't figure out what managers would have done with him defensively had he been white. If he couldn't have handled 3B in the majors, where would he have gone? 1B is the obvious answer, but he was very short and squat for that position? 2b? Likely not agile enough. Corner OF? I guess, but he wasn't exactly graceful. So, if he couldn't have hacked it at 3B in the majors, he'd likely have been a below-averge LF. Not a lot of defensive credit for that. (And, if he started off his career 5 for 40, it might well have taken him 5 years to get back to the majors.)

If I thought he would have been a credible major league 3B, I'd peg him as one of the top 5 3B of All-Time and one of the All-Time top 60 players. As a medicore LF, his crazy OBP skills (over 3,000 hits plus over 100 walks per year in my guesstimate) still put him in the top 100, but it's close. Either way, an easy HoMer.
   87. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 10, 2005 at 03:51 PM (#1191651)
Those are some incredible OPS+ for a third baseman of that time. We need to compare his peak to Baker and McGraw to see if he has a shot at being the greatest pre-Harlond Clift hot corner guy.
   88. Chris Cobb Posted: March 10, 2005 at 04:04 PM (#1191677)
I think translating into the 1930s NL articifically represses the numbers b/c/ the NL was a much lower run environment than the AL.

When, in the fullness of time, his offensive stats are used to calculate win shares, this effect will disappear.

On projecting him defensively, I think gadfly's comparision of Wilson to Pete Rose is brilliant.

I'll also note that nobody thought Wade Boggs was a great defensive third baseman, but he made himself a good one.

Beckwith has the reputation of being lazy defensively; Wilson has the reputation of being ugly defensively, with good defensive numbers at third and avg. defensive numbers at second for the one season in which we have them.

I'm thinking of Wilson as a C to C+ thirdbaseman, B to B- at first base because of his lack of height. Maybe he would have been a C second baseman in the majors, like Hornsby was; he began his career just at the time in which second base was still a more offense-oriented position than third was in the major leagues.
   89. DavidFoss Posted: March 10, 2005 at 04:07 PM (#1191682)

Am I right in assuming that you are using the simple league averages (as listed in your post) to do the calculation?

If so, we should note that these OPS+ figures will not comp directly to baseball-reference OPS+, because that removes pitcher batting from its calcuation of league averages for purposes of OPS+.


Yup. That's what I did... used the league averages that I posted above. I didn't realize that pitcher batting was removed in that calculation. OK. Thanks for catching that.

You're probably right, all the numbers are probably 10 points too high because of that.
   90. Brent Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:42 AM (#1193099)
An interesting discussion of OPS+. A while ago I posted OPS+ estimates for Arlett and Averill, then realized they were not comparable to bbref, but I never figured out how to fix them.

Chris Cobb wrote:

Am I right in assuming that you are using the simple league averages (as listed in your post) to do the calculation?

If so, we should note that these OPS+ figures will not comp directly to baseball-reference OPS+, because that removes pitcher batting from its calcuation of league averages for purposes of OPS+.

For example, Pittsburgh had a 100 batting park factor in 1933. League OBP/ SA was.314/ .362. Arky Vaughn's OPS+ is calculated off of .327/.375 .

Using these numbers as Wilson's base would drop his OPS+ for 1933 from 150 to 140.

I would guess that the drop across his career would be similar?


Thanks, Chris, for a clever and simple solution. (I had contemplated a need to calculate the league averages without including the pitchers, which needless to say was a frightening prospect.) I have a couple of comments.

- I wanted to check whether the values Chris found for 1933 were representative, so I checked the NL for each year in the 1930s and found 5 teams that had a batting park factor of exactly 100 (Pittsburg 1930, 1933, and 1937; Chicago 1933; and St. Louis 1936). The "Lg OBP" for those teams (according to bbref--that is, excluding pitchers) exceeded the league values calculated by David Foss by amounts ranging from 3.4 percent to 4.1 percent, with an average of 3.9 percent. The "Lg SLG" for those teams according to bbref exceeded David's values including pitchers by amounts ranging from 3.6 percent to 3.9 percent, with an average of 3.7 percent. These calculations suggest that the adjustment required to remove pitchers is quite stable.

- Trimming a flat 10 percentage points off is not quite right; the appropriate amount to be trimmed varies depending on the numbers. It is more accurate to correct the denominators and re-do the OPS+ calculations. I've re-done them, adjusting the league averages in the denominators upward by the average differences (3.9 percent for OBP and 3.7 percent for SLG). Here are the results; OPS+1 are David's numbers, OPS+2 are adjusted to conform to bbref's definition:

Year OPS+1 OPS+2
1922 134 126
1923 146 137
1924 137 128
1925 159 149
1926 157 148
1927 183 173
1928 187 177
1929 154 145
1930 126 118
1931 144 135
1932 127 119
1933 150 141
1934 128 120
1935 122 114
1936 123 114
1937 131 123
1938 070 064

I will plan to use these adjustments in any future work I may do on minor leaguers.

Andrew Siegel wrote:

I think his offense was better than Chris's translations suggest for 4 reasons:...

...

...--Though I lack evidence on this point, I think he might have had a touch more power than the translations suggest (the low isolated power he is credited with doesn't quite fit with the subjective assessments of him as having moderate power).


I agree with Andrew.

Chris, I thought it was a bit surprising when you raised the adjustment for batting average from .87 to .90 that you didn't make a corresponding upward adjustment to slugging percentages (raising it to .85 or .86). The result has been that Stearnes, Suttles, and Wilson all seem to have less isolated power than seems appropriate. This particularly affects Suttles because so much of his value is associated with his isolated power.
   91. DavidFoss Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:52 AM (#1193135)
I've re-done them, adjusting the league averages in the denominators upward by the average differences (3.9 percent for OBP and 3.7 percent for SLG). Here are the results; OPS+1 are David's numbers, OPS+2 are adjusted to conform to bbref's definition:

Thanks! I've just gotten home and was going to try to fix this.

I was going to try and find (BPF==100) context numbers for each year. Not sure if I'll still do this, now. Hmmm... anyhow, thanks for that.
   92. Chris Cobb Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:53 AM (#1193140)
Thanks, Brent, for adjusting David's OPS+ scores for Wilson!

Chris, I thought it was a bit surprising when you raised the adjustment for batting average from .87 to .90 that you didn't make a corresponding upward adjustment to slugging percentages (raising it to .85 or .86)

There are two reasons I didn't make this adjustment. The first is that I hadn't yet re-studied slugging average, so I didn't want to make an adjustment for which I didn't yet have evidence. The second is that, theoretically, slugging should vary as the square of batting average. My old conversion factor pair of .87/.82 was suspect because it didn't fit this theoetical model. When the ba conversion went up to .90, it conveniently presented itself as the square root of .82. I'm not saying that theory and reality necessarily match here, but there's a logic to the current .90/.82 conversion pair.

The result has been that Stearnes, Suttles, and Wilson all seem to have less isolated power than seems appropriate.

What is your standard for appropriateness in these cases?
   93. Brent Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:59 AM (#1193161)
Oops - sorry, Pirates fans, I meant "Pittsburgh."

(I'll blame it on the fact that I've recently been spending time reading at microfilmed guides from the early 20th century, when it was standard to leave the "h" off.)
   94. Brent Posted: March 11, 2005 at 04:17 AM (#1193205)
There are two reasons I didn't make this adjustment. The first is that I hadn't yet re-studied slugging average, so I didn't want to make an adjustment for which I didn't yet have evidence.

I agree, that's reasonable.

The second is that, theoretically, slugging should vary as the square of batting average.

I'm not sure I agree. Most formulas show runs varying with the square of rate statistics, and the Bill James formulas that I've used have home runs and triples varying with the square of hits. But slugging also includes singles, so if a large part of a player's slugging comes from singles, I'd say that it is probably not appropriate to have slugging vary with the square.

For example, suppose a players batting average is .300 and his slugging is .320. If you multiply his batting average by .90 and his slugging by .82, you'd actually have his slugging lower than his batting, which of course is impossible. Obviously an extreme case that isn't applicable to the kind of players we're evaluating, but I think it's suggestive of a problem. You might consider applying the square only to the isolated power portion of the player's slugging percentage, and not use the square for the portion that comes from singles.

What is your standard for appropriateness in these cases?

Not any real evidence, just my impressions from what I've read and by comparing your estimates with the isolated power of major leaguers I think might have been similar. For example, I noted that Suttles led the Cuban League in home runs in 2 or the 3 seasons he played there. My understanding is that those parks were huge, so it makes me think of other big right handed sluggers like McGwire, Howard, and Canseco.
   95. DavidFoss Posted: March 11, 2005 at 04:36 AM (#1193246)
OK... turns out that Lee Sinin's encyclopedia returns "pitching excluded" league data. I checked this versus 7 years of BPF-neutral parks and got exact matches, so I went for it. Contexts are MLB for the 20's and NL for the 30s.

-First triplet is his MLE's from Chris Cobb
-Second triplet in parentheses is the pitching-excluded contexts.
-Third triplet is AVG+/OBP+/SLG+
-Final number is OPS+

1922   0.366/0.457/0.409   (0.297/0.359/0.415)   123/127/ 99    126
1923   0.354/0.447/0.454   (0.292/0.356/0.405)   121/125/112    138
1924   0.352/0.445/0.423   (0.294/0.356/0.406)   120/125/104    129
1925   0.377/0.467/0.515   (0.300/0.364/0.425)   126/128/121    149
1926   0.349/0.442/0.497   (0.289/0.355/0.402)   121/124/124    148
1927   0.379/0.464/0.575   (0.292/0.355/0.406)   130/131/142    172
1928   0.376/0.466/0.597   (0.290/0.355/0.412)   130/131/145    176
1929   0.363/0.454/0.519   (0.298/0.363/0.432)   122/125/120    145
1930   0.342/0.437/0.465   (0.312/0.370/0.464)   110/118/100    118
1931   0.334/0.426/0.445   (0.285/0.344/0.403)   117/124/110    134
1932   0.318/0.415/0.393   (0.284/0.337/0.412)   112/123/ 95    119
1933   0.330/0.427/0.412   (0.274/0.327/0.376)   120/130/110    140
1934   0.312/0.411/0.408   (0.287/0.342/0.408)   109/120/100    120
1935   0.299/0.400/0.390   (0.286/0.341/0.407)   105/117/ 96    113
1936   0.301/0.401/0.393   (0.286/0.345/0.400)   105/116/ 98    114
1937   0.328/0.423/0.392   (0.280/0.342/0.397)   117/124/ 99    122
1938   0.215/0.327/0.263   (0.275/0.339/0.391)    78/ 96/ 67     64


Thanks to Chris for finding the mistake in the algorithm. Thanks to Brent for doing this already :-). I think my results are nearly identical (plus/minus only 1 point).

Anyhow, this is really easy to do. :-) Any year-by-year data for Beckwith & Suttles?
   96. Chris Cobb Posted: March 11, 2005 at 05:10 AM (#1193295)
David,

I have comparable data for Beckwith and Suttles (with similar caveats about the roughness of the walk estimates), but I'd need to format it for posting.

I can do that, but I'm about to be away from e-mail until Monday afternoon, so it will have to wait until I'm back and caught up from being away.

I hate to duck out in the middle of our open-source MLE work getting rolling . . .
   97. OCF Posted: March 11, 2005 at 05:17 AM (#1193299)
Since Boggs has been mentioned, and since David produced OPS+ to go with Chris's MLE's, how about running the OPS+ numbers side-by-side? The estimated Wilson and the actual Boggs.
J.W. W.B.
126  128
138  150 
129  125
149  151
148  157
172  173
176  168
145  143
118  121
134  140
119   95
140  102 
120  142
113  120
114   97
122  103
 64   92
      94
   98. Daryn Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:24 PM (#1193731)
That's pretty darn close.
   99. karlmagnus Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:27 PM (#1193737)
Yes, but Boggs is better. Wilson a HOM'er, but bottom half, since I wouldn't put Boggs above about #120.
   100. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 11, 2005 at 03:40 PM (#1193751)
Karl,

OK, I'll bite. Since I see Boggs as being a contender for Best. Third. Baseman. Ever. #120 seems a tad on the low end to me.

Your candidates are basically
-Schmidt
-Matthews
-Brett
-Boggs

probably in that order and with a sympathy card to Ron Santo for not having a longer career; then there's a chasm before picking up the next tier of guys.

And, of course, he's got those 3000+ hits.

So how are you figuring #120?
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