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Friday, July 11, 2003

McPhee and Richardson

A place to focus in the pros and cons of our top keystone men.

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: July 11, 2003 at 03:52 PM | 16 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 04:56 PM (#515285)
For me, this is a 4-man question rather than a 2-man question.

Clearly, third base was a key defensive position, maybe a slightly more defense-oriented position than 2B - but a second baseman with strong defense still meant a lot to a team. I feel comfortable considering 2B and 3B more or less together.

So I'd rather start with McPhee versus Sutton, and then Richardson versus Williamson, and only then try to cross these two pairs.

McPhee and Sutton both had very long careers, and neither one was moved leftward on the defensive spectrum as they aged. (Sutton actually played some SS near the end of his career and apparently played it well.) Such long careers are themselves indirect evidence of great defensive value. Both were useful offensive players, generally better than league average on offense over a long career.

There are so many differences in the circumstances that McPhee and Sutton played in that measurements of offensive value have large uncertainties. I see their overall offense as roughly equal, within measurement uncertainty.

On defense, they both seem to have been outstanding. However, McPhee was leading the league over and over in things like fielding percentage, double plays, and assists. I don't see that in Sutton's record. I'm going to grant at least some defensive edge to McPhee.

McPhee played in the AA, which needs some discounting, especially the 82-83-84 AA at the very beginning of his career. But if he'd kept playing the way he did at age 22-25, we wouldn't be talking about him. He's a long-developing, late-blooming player who peaked when the AA had matured, and he moved into the NL in 1890 without any appreciable break in his offensive value. McPhee was a fast, base-stealing leadoff-type hitter. My work with R* paints him as very good (but not great) run-scorer, and I think he deserves a small (not Stovey-sized!) dose of credit for otherwise undocumented baserunning skill.

Sutton played far fewer total games than McPhee, becuase there were fewer games available to be played. He's basically equivalent to McPhee in longevity and durability - but not in steadiness. Sutton's offense had more upward and downward spikes (which may simply be an effect of the shorter seasons) and a worrisome sag in the middle when he should have been in his prime. We may discount McPhee's AA experience, but how strong was the NA, top to bottom, really?

My ballot will put McPhee ahead of Sutton, primarily on defensive grounds.

Next up: Richardson versus Williamson.
   2. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 11, 2003 at 05:38 PM (#515286)
He's basically equivalent to McPhee in longevity and durability - but not in steadiness. Sutton's offense had more upward and downward spikes (which may simply be an effect of the shorter seasons) and a worrisome sag in the middle when he should have been in his prime.

I still don't understand this argument. We're not projecting him through Bill James' Brock2 program. He was a mediocre (not terrible) third baseman during his prime, but he was kick ass in his non-prime mid-thirties. Who cares? Far as I'm concerned, his whole career could be the total opposite of a normal career progression. Overall, his value is still going to be the same. Besides, couldn't he have been playing hurt during that time?
   3. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 06:07 PM (#515287)
John, I really wasn't using that to decide anything. Both Sutton and McPhee played most of the games they could have, but because of the differences in games available, McPhee played more actual games and was less subject to sampling errors or to seasons dominated by a single hot streak or slump. To put it simply, they're pretty close offensively, and I'm more convinced of McPhee's defense.

Richardson and Williamson both had 13 or 14 year careers, shorter than either McPhee or Sutton. In both cases, I don't think they had much left in the tank when they retired. Of the two, Richardson was clearly the better offensive player and Williamson the bettter defensive player, so it comes down to balancing one advantage versus the other.

Williamson started as a third baseman, and stayed at 3B through 1885. In 1886 he became a shortstop, and was a SS for the rest of his career. There wasn't any change in the roster; between '85 and '86 he and Tom Burns simply switched places for whatever reason. The evidence of his defensive skills comes mostly from his years at 3B. As a past-prime player, he was probably stretched to play SS, but the very fact that they would pull that switch suggests great respect for his fielding. Richardson started as third baseman, but after two years there, moved to second, and from the time he became a second baseman, he also always played a significant fraction of the season in the outfield. Just the track of positions puts him on a lower defensive level than Williamson.

But the offense does lean the other way. We do know enough not to put too much weight on Williamson's goofy 27-HR year. Both were good hitters who had betters hitters for teammates. Richardson had more good offensive years than Williamson, and his best years were better (if you deal with Williamson's HR anomaly).

So: Richardson ahead of Williamson on offensive grounds, but a close call - maybe right next to each other on the ballot.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 11, 2003 at 06:33 PM (#515291)
I don't know where the idea that Sutton and McPhee were remotely equal offensive players comes from. Each played 18 seasons (though Sutton's 18th was 28/134 games). Here are the seasonal OPS+ numbers for the two, in descending order

While I agree Sutton was a better hitter, his early year OPS+ were affected by the smaller number of games to some degree. If he had played the same schedule as McPhee, his numbers would have been a little bit closer to the average (which OCF explained).

I have them extremely close, but Sutton gets the nod becuase third baseman tended to play less seasons than second baseman back then.
   5. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 06:47 PM (#515293)
Two defense/career guys (McPhee, Sutton) versus two offense/peak guys (Richardson, Williamson). Of course that's an oversimplification. This time, I'm going to lean in the career direction, and make the overall order McPhee > Sutton > Richardson > Williamson. I'm less sure of this final step than of any other part of this thread.

What I'm really thinking of, from TomH's comment, is that it may be 289 +- 15 versus 281 +- 10: the advantage is probably there, but the ranges overlap.

I also know, in 1905, that I've seen some active or recently retired infielders that are better than any of these four.
   6. Chris Cobb Posted: July 11, 2003 at 07:15 PM (#515296)
I just noticed that there's a typo in the WS section of pennants added for McPhee. He's listed there as having 337 adjWS for his career; according to the positional thread, which I think is accurate, he has 377 adjWS for his career. I'm guessing that the pennants added figure was calculated using the correct number, but I can't be certain.
   7. Marc Posted: July 11, 2003 at 07:22 PM (#515298)
Can somebody confirm--337 or 377? A pretty significant difference!
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 11, 2003 at 07:39 PM (#515299)
Can somebody confirm--337 or 377?

   9. Howie Menckel Posted: July 11, 2003 at 07:44 PM (#515300)
Still digesting all this, but this is damn good stuff. And I agree this is a fine foursome to bat around......
   10. jimd Posted: July 12, 2003 at 12:10 AM (#515302)
I have McPhee on a grand total of one WS All-Star team: AA 1886.

Yep. I also have him close (within 10%) in:
   11. Jeff M Posted: July 12, 2003 at 01:13 AM (#515303)
Not selling here, but I have Sutton, then McPhee, then Richardson, then Williamson (Williamson has never made my ballot).

1. From a defensive point of view, I've evaluated each of these guys on a 2b-basis. WS sees Sutton as the weakest of the defenders, with the others essentially equal on a per season basis -- McPhee having a slight edge on a per season basis.

2. Williamson didn't hit like a HOMer. He was about 10% better than the league over his career. McPhee was about 20%, Sutton nearly 30% and Richardson about 33%. McPhee and Sutton sustained this for 18 years. Richardson for 14 years. Williamson for 13 years.

3. For all of Richardson's good defensive ratings at 2b, he probably wouldn't have won a gold glove there. McPhee would have won lots -- probably would battle Maz for best defensive 2b ever. Williamson would have won a few at their positions. Sutton was sometimes erratic.

4. Neither Richardson nor Williamson played an exceptionally large number of games at key infield positions.

5. In my calculations, Sutton, McPhee and Richardson are about equal on Pennants Added. Williamson isn't.

6. Defense never dominated hitting, so Williamson just doesn't cut the mustard in my opinion. His hitting just isn't good enough for me to include him. I basically ignore the "greatest player" comments made at the time of his death.

7. A couple more years from Richardson with the bat, and at 2b, would move him ahead of the other guys. His hitting is slightly better than Sutton's -- though Richardson was consistently in hitters parks and Sutton was not -- and Richardson's defense would make a bigger difference if he played more 2b, but I think Sutton's 4 extra years make up for those slight advantages that Richardson might otherwise have.

8. Sutton and McPhee had similar career lengths. McPhee was better than Sutton on defense by a good margin. Sutton was a better hitter than McPhee by a good margin. Hitting is more important than defense, so the nod goes to Sutton.

9. Richardson outhit McPhee. McPhee is the better 2b on a per-season basis, AND McPhee played 1,500 more games at the position! I don't know the right answer (anymore than anyone else), but at the gut level, Richardson's numbers do not excite me. He doesn't do anything in particular that just screams "Elect me." Has anyone seen a quote from a writer, player or manager that advocates Richardson as a HOFer? I'm not saying he doesn't deserve the HOM, but I just can't get excited about him. So I have him a little behind McPhee.
   12. Jeff M Posted: July 13, 2003 at 03:18 PM (#515306)
Since my post yesterday, I looked more closely at Richardson and McPhee and decided I had been ignoring my own arguments in other threads that we sometimes seem to treat fielding equally with hitting. Richardson was a significantly better hitter than McPhee, and although McPhee played many many more games at 2b, it's not like Richardson simply retired. He played another defensive position -- not as tough as 2b, but it's not like he quit -- and he continued to hit very very well.

In other words, I've now got Richardson ahead of McPhee (but still behind Sutton).
   13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 14, 2003 at 03:05 PM (#515308)
McPhee did one thing extremely well (defense at 2B) and did one thing very well (steal bases).

He also did one other thing well. He was extremely durable. He played roughly six more seasons than Hardy Richardson and almost ten more seasons than Fred Dunlap. There is a lot of value in that.
   14. Paul Wendt Posted: February 17, 2008 at 04:50 AM (#2692906)
There is a lot on Hardy Richardson in "Ranking . . . Group 3"
   15. Paul Wendt Posted: February 17, 2008 at 05:14 AM (#2692913)
6. Defense never dominated hitting

It did in 1878. Boston won the pennant with OPS+ 79, ERA+ 101.
I stumbled upon this and I haven't looked at any other seasons.

Here is the full seasons data for OCF's four players.
full seasons equivalent, major leagues 1871-2006
-all- field
16.43 16.40 McPhee 1882-99 (#46, 25)
16.32 16.32 Sutton 1871-88 (#47, 27)
12.03 12.03 Richardson 1879-92 (#306, 244)
11.55 11.55 Williamson 1878-90 (#365, 286)

full seasons equivalent fielding games by position
16.37 2B McPhee #2, #9 at any fielding position
11.84 3B Sutton #18
_7.71 3B Williamson #70
_5.19 2B Richardson #144
_4.58 OF Richardson (LF 2.87, CF 1.63)
_3.45 SS Williamson
_2.96 SS Sutton
_2.09 3B Richardson

_0.66 OF Sutton
_0.56 2B Sutton
   16. Paul Wendt Posted: February 25, 2008 at 01:47 AM (#2698956)
13. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 14, 2003 at 10:05 AM (#515308)
> McPhee did one thing extremely well (defense at 2B) and did one thing very well (steal bases).

He also did one other thing well. He was extremely durable. He played roughly six more seasons than Hardy Richardson and almost ten more seasons than Fred Dunlap. There is a lot of value in that.

Point taken.
But McPhee, and Sutton at a different primary fielding position, played about four and eight mlb seasons more than Richardson and Dunlap (not six and ten).

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