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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Luke Easter

Luke Easter

Eligible in 1959.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: August 17, 2005 at 03:11 PM | 112 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Gamingboy Posted: November 26, 2009 at 09:39 PM (#3397422)
However, on "Luke Easter Night" on August 17, 1963 in Rochester, Easter told the crowd that he was really 52 years old, which would have made his birth year 1911...

Love that story.
   102. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: November 28, 2009 at 04:25 AM (#3397917)
A comment from what will be my 2010 ballot, unless I am persuaded otherwise:

Luke Easter – The case of Easter, I truly believe, is sui generis. Exceptionally victimized by circumstance, the historical record shows his career was unique for its longevity.

I ran quick-and-dirty MLEs for Easter's AAA stats: first adjusting for league AVG/OBP/SLG context between AAA and the AL, then multiplying his AVG/OBP/SLG by .87, and finally adjusting for season length. (Two points to bring up: most of his AAA seasons are missing OBP data, so I added .068 to his AVG to estimate OBP; .068 was the average ISO OBP of his last three seasons. Secondly, the 1949 PCL does not have league AVG/OBP/SLG available, so I used the 1950 PCL averages.) These translations show a career 124 OPS+ hitter in AAA, matching his 124 OPS+ in the majors.

Easter finished his career as a Matt Stairs-type power bat, averaging about 100 games and 280 plate appearances for his last three seasons, with OPS+ lines of 121-115-110. What's remarkable is that those were his age-44, 45 and 46 seasons. In all, Easter played 1794 G with 6530 PA from the age of 33 on, with 924 G and 3143 PA from age 40 forward. (Also of note is that he was more durable after he got older and went back to the minors. This fits into the historical record, though.) He might be the greatest 40+ hitter in baseball history.

However, Easter is not so exceptional an outlier in this respect as to reject the idea that he could have racked up that much playing time in this portion of his career. There are 22 players in MLB history with at least 5000 PA from age 33 on. (Easter would be third on this list in PA.) This population had an average (weighted by PA) OPS+ of 123.48. Easter fits squarely into this group, so I looked at what this population did on average from 25 to 32, which covers Easter's career from 1941 to 1948. (The historical record shows Easter as an established, quality player in the Negro Leagues in this time period and covers war credit.) They averaged 4764 PA with an OPS+ of 135.87. Adding 12 points to Easter's MLB/AAA translated OPS+ of 124 gives you a 136 OPS+ from 25-32. Dividing 4764 PA by 4.2 PA/G gives you 1134 G (an average of 142 G and 596 PA over that eight-season span). All told, the translated record gives him 2928 G, 11294 PA and a 129 OPS+, which fits right into the Eddie Murray/Dave Winfield/Carl Yastrzemski (and Rafael Palmeiro) class of long-career HOM “corner bat” inductees (though noting Yaz's defensive value).

(A quick note about his defense: Easter was not some lumbering -10 slug at first base. Both Smith and Rosenheck see him as around average in his MLB career, and both have his 1950 season at around +5. This captures Easter at his most injury-plagued, so it seems likely his glove isn't taking anything off of the table. Well, not until he's simply mashing in his mid-40s.)

Obviously, there is probably no way to know for certain if Luke Easter was a late bloomer like Edgar Martinez or a superstar aging gracefully like Willie Mays. There is probably no way to know for certain the shape of what would have been his first seasons leading up to his peak. (Something like 110-123-126-129-138-142-150-160 OPS+ can perhaps be justified.) However, the way Easter beat the crap out of the PCL is what a great hitter would do and it's the first season in the “formal” professional record. Furthermore, the unique longevity shown by his professional record is another sign of a great player. The weight of the evidence, and the weight of the historical circumstances, leads me to accept the above projection as a reasonable career estimate.

(One last note: if we are talking about “missing” players from the 1940s and 1950s, perhaps Easter is the top candidate.)
   103. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: November 28, 2009 at 09:34 PM (#3398227)
I'll give him a closer look. I've voted for him before, but he kind of slipped off my ballot at some point.
   104. Shooty would run in but these bone spurs hurt! Posted: November 28, 2009 at 10:30 PM (#3398250)
I love these discussions about guys like Easter and Marvin Williams and Bus Clarkson. I can't really add anything, just wanted to say thanks and keep on chugging along.
   105. DL from MN Posted: November 30, 2009 at 09:26 PM (#3399430)
I used a few different proxies to come up with what Luke Easter should look like including Gil Hodges, Tony Perez, Dave Winfield and Orlando Cepeda through age 32. Dolph Camilli is also a decent proxy. Note that none of these guys is a real "peak" star, even Winfield wouldn't rank very highly without his long career. I think we can use Ryan Howard as a modern comp for his ceiling.

It's a pretty wide error band for Luke Easter, the best case scenario is he's clearly a HoM player like McGwire, Killebrew, Winfield or McCovey. In the most reasonable worst case scenario he's in a glut with Cepeda and Perez. Right now I have him around 50th on my list.
   106. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: July 08, 2011 at 08:17 AM (#3871724)
I just checked Luke Easter's minor league stats page on Baseball Reference, and it now has seasonal walks data. I'm now incorporating this data into my MLEs instead of a flat ISO OBP of .068. Using the method I describe in my longer post above, here are his new MLEs (minor league numbers only, adjusted to 162 games):

Season  Age    G     PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+
1949    33     84    324    .315     .420     .631     178
1952    36     14    55     .276     .374     .584     171
1954    38    134    497    .278     .366     .501     135
1955    39    151    547    .247     .361     .459     117
1956    40    152    557    .277     .395     .545     144
1957    41    162    611    .251     .356     .514     135
1958    42    155    574    .276     .370     .541     149
1959    43    150    552    .229     .340     .419     111
1960    44    121    320    .275     .342     .469     120
1961    45     86    233    .261     .327     .477     115
1962    46     98    296    .249     .330     .460     113
MINORS TOTAL 1307   4566    .264     .363     .502     133 

Add that in to his MLB career:

Season  Age    G     PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+
1949    33    106    381    .303     .408     .580     162
1950    34    148    654    .280     .373     .487     121
1951    35    134    557    .270     .333     .481     123
1952    36    133    510    .264     .341     .520     144
1953    37     71    240    .303     .361     .445     118
1954    38    122    469    .278     .366     .501     135
1955    39    144    521    .247     .361     .459     117
1956    40    145    530    .277     .395     .545     144
1957    41    154    582    .251     .356     .514     135
1958    42    148    547    .276     .370     .541     149
1959    43    143    526    .229     .340     .419     111
1960    44    115    305    .275     .342     .469     120
1961    45     82    222    .261     .327     .477     115
1962    46     93    282    .249     .330     .460     113
/MLE TOT  1801   6529    .267     .348     .495     127 
   107. Alex King Posted: July 18, 2011 at 06:04 AM (#3880025)
I think Eric Chalek and Chris Cobb used the square of the BA factor as the ISO factor in the past (so in Easter's case that would be .76 rather than the .87 James uses). I've rerun the MLEs with this change; I'm also using .90 as the PCL factor rather than .87, reflecting its reputation as the top AAA league during this period. Lastly, my MLEs are a bit lower than James's even for BA and OBP (where they should be the same), but I think this is because James's are placed in the context of the AL without pitchers, whereas mine are placed in the context of the AL with pitchers included.

Year mle BA mle OBP mle SLG OPS+
1949 0.319 0.426 0.603 180
1952 0.276 0.367 0.527 155
1954 0.272 0.353 0.464 131
1955 0.235 0.344 0.402 108
1956 0.266 0.377 0.495 136
1957 0.244 0.340 0.464 126
1958 0.269 0.356 0.490 138
1959 0.225 0.335 0.387 104
1960 0.270 0.331 0.434 113
1961 0.257 0.320 0.442 109
1962 0.244 0.323 0.423 107
1963 0.231 0.297 0.341 85

Also, what about Easter's parks? Per Wikipedia, Offermann Stadium in Buffalo, where Easter played from 1956-1958, was a hitter's park, 321 to left, 345 to left-center, 400 to center, 365 to right center, 297 to right. Silver Park in Rochester, Easter's home field from 1959 to 1964, was 320 to left, 420 to center, and 315 to right (wikipedia doesn't mention whether it was considered a hitter's park or a pitcher's park).
   108. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 26, 2015 at 10:51 PM (#4888360)
I'm starting to take a look at players whose case is based, at least in part, on data outside of my system. I have Player won-lost records for all of Luke Easter's (integrated) major-league career, but, of course, that's a fairly small part of the full picture. One kind of interesting thing: for the seasons that I do have, Luke Easter looks much better in context than out of context. Looking at his career splits on BB-Ref, Easter's career OPS in "high-leverage" situations was .881 (.293/.360/.521) compared to his overall career OPS of .830 (.274/.350/.481). I've looked at whether this sort of "clutch" hitting persists (here if you care) and I found what I think is the consensus result: there may be such a thing as a "clutch" hitter, but it's a very, very small effect. Retrospectively, I'm cool with giving somebody some credit for what they actually did, but, of course, Luke Easter has no case based purely on what he did in the (integrated) major leagues, no matter how "clutch" he was in his 3 good seasons there.

Anyway, I tried to extrapolate Luke Easter's career a couple of ways to see what it might suggest. First, I looked at the players most similar to Luke Easter from age 34-36 (considering overall record - in and out of context - and batting). The 10 players included three Hall-of-Famers (Joe DiMaggio, Dave Winfield, and Jackie Robinson), one current serious HOM candidate (Jeff Kent), one possible future candidate (David Ortiz), and a bunch of guys who probably don't make anybody's consideration set (Don Baylor, Ellis Burks, Paul O'Neill, et al.). Taking a simple average of those guys would put Luke Easter somewhere in the 25-35 range of my consideration set (somewhere between Fred Lynn and Jim Rice).

Another thought I had was to take his three full MLB seasons and multiply by 6, based on comments through this thread that seem to suggest an 18-year career might be a plausible extrapolation for Luke Easter in a fully integrated, World War-less world. If I just take his 1950-52 records at face value - including the crazy-good clutch hitting - my best-case scenario can get him up reasonably close to Gary Sheffield's Hall-of-Merit case. Sheffield will probably end up in the 5-8 range on my final ballot. But that's an absolute best-case scenario built in part of unsustainable contextual advantages - although it also assumes that his age 34-36 seasons were average seasons for his career, so maybe those two assumptions reasonably balance each other out? If I blow up his career based on his context-neutral 1950-52, he ends up similar to where his most similars put him - somewhere around Jim Rice.

If somebody had a really compelling case that Luke Easter has a genuine statistical case that lines up with somebody legitimately in the Hall of Merit - Willie Stargell?, Dave Winfield?, Willie McCovey?, I want to be open to it, because I feel like Luke Easter has a potentially fascinating case, but I can't put him on my ballot based on what I know right now.
   109. dlf Posted: July 10, 2015 at 08:04 PM (#4996963)
Nothing new here, but I really like Poz's article on Easter: link
   110. Howie Menckel Posted: July 10, 2015 at 10:56 PM (#4997024)

thanks, dlf

I would quibble with some details, but many deserving stars get just a little more deserved recognition off that article so I'll take it every time. My sense has been that younger people don't grasp how aware white America - from fan to sportswriter to MLB player - was of how good Negro League players were. they played against them, they covered them, they attended the games. they knew.
   111. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: February 17, 2018 at 04:02 PM (#5626467)
Hey, everyone,

Please see my latest MLEs for Luke Easter. These will be updated as more information is made public.
   112. progrockfan Posted: February 21, 2018 at 01:25 PM (#5628122)
Thank you, Dr. Chaleeko, for your fantastic work on these updated MLEs.
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