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Monday, February 27, 2012

Mike Piazza

Eligible in 2013.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2012 at 01:51 PM | 278 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4069615)
Best-hitting catcher of all-time not named Josh Gibson.
   2. Bourbon Samurai Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4069692)
This thread is a trap.
   3. bjhanke Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4069694)
And actually so good that he may have hit even better than Gibson. Translating NgL stats to Major League equivalencies is, I am willing to bet, never going to be a secure enough conversion to be really, really sure that Gibson was an even better hitter. He was certainly a better defensive catcher (who wasn't?), but the hitting is always going to be the best guess available quality of analysis. If he had only lived to see 1948, when Bill Veeck would have signed him even if no one else did.... - Brock Hanke
   4. AROM Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:49 PM (#4069706)
Without being able to precisely translate Negro League stats, what is beyond dispute according to the stats we have is that Gibson was not only the best hitter during his years there, he was by far the best.

Given the records in exhibition games and the MLB leaderboard dominance of the best black players immediately after integration, I'm convinced Josh was on the level of contemporaries such as Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams.
   5. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4069709)
I'm convinced Josh was on the level of contemporaries such as Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams.


On a certain level, we have to rely on scouting here. That puts Gibson in the same breath as the very inner circle of the HOF. I'm not inclined to doubt it, either. For all the flack they get, when scouts are unanimous, it's mighty likely to be true. WRT Gibson, praise is universal and effusive.
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4069710)
Given the records in exhibition games and the MLB leaderboard dominance of the best black players immediately after integration, I'm convinced Josh was on the level of contemporaries such as Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Ted Williams.


Jimmie Foxx is on record saying that Gibson was as good a hitter he had ever seen.

   7. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 27, 2012 at 03:57 PM (#4069715)
Translating NgL stats to Major League equivalencies is, I am willing to bet, never going to be a secure enough conversion to be really, really sure that Gibson was an even better hitter.

The equivalencies would have to be severely off for Piazza to be a greater hotter than Gibson, Brock. Now, I don't put 100% faith in them, but I have enough to be sure Josh is well ahead of any catcher in ML history.
   8. AROM Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4069719)
Josh's contemporaries, by birth year +-5, just miss Gehrig on one end and Williams on the other.

They do include:
Foxx 163
Mize/Greenberg 158
DiMaggio/Ott 155

Given the true statements of #5/#6 here, I'd guess Gibson is in the 170-180 range. That puts him around Hornsby (175) and Pujols (170 but no decline phase yet) in the running for greatest RH hitter of all time.

A little below Ruth/Williams/Bonds for best hitter period, but I think he might have maxed out how good a righty could be. Assuming you reach the human limit for batting ability, the guy who bats 2/3 of the time with the platoon advantage will have better numbers than an equal getting the platoon advantage only 1/3 of the time.
   9. RJ in TO Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:09 PM (#4069724)
He was certainly a better defensive catcher (who wasn't?), but the hitting is always going to be the best guess available quality of analysis.


This seems like a bit of an unfair statement. My understanding is that Piazza was good to excellent in every part of the game except for catching base-runners. While that's certainly the most visible component of catcher defense, it was very much balanced out by his game-calling, prevention of PB/WP, and other items.

I agree that he certainly wasn't Josh Gibson defensively, but he still wasn't a disaster behind the plate.
   10. Ron J Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:11 PM (#4069726)
The equivalencies would have to be severely off for Piazza to be a greater hotter than Gibson


We've been here before and I still don't buy it. What in Gibson's record would be remotely surprising for a hitter as good as Piazza in his prime?

EDIT: To be clear though, Gibson does seem to have breadth of prime firmly on his side.

   11. Ron J Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:18 PM (#4069728)
#9 Thing is that after an OK start Piazza was giving up an awful lot of runs to the running game. This wasn't a Ted Simmons type of situation (basically nearly breaking even albeit with lots of action) They ran with increased frequency and pretty much made it against Piazza. Ignoring this is kind of like evaluating Tim Raines by OPS+ only.
   12. Rear Admiral Piazza Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4069731)
In
   13. AROM Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4069732)
What in Gibson's record would be remotely surprising for a hitter as good as Piazza in his prime?


To me it's standing well atop of his peers. Among Piazza's peers (birth year +/- 5 years) he ranks 10th in OPS+, and is significantly (more than 10 points) behind Bonds, McGwire, Thomas, and Ramirez.
   14. RJ in TO Posted: February 27, 2012 at 04:54 PM (#4069764)
#9 Thing is that after an OK start Piazza was giving up an awful lot of runs to the running game. This wasn't a Ted Simmons type of situation (basically nearly breaking even albeit with lots of action) They ran with increased frequency and pretty much made it against Piazza. Ignoring this is kind of like evaluating Tim Raines by OPS+ only.

Please understand that I'm not saying his problems with base-stealers should be ignored. They were there, and they certainly had an effect on his overall value. However, to describe his defense in a "who wasn't better?" way ignores too many of the other ways in which he contributed defensively. While he may have been one of the worst catchers ever in terms of controlling the running game, he certainly wasn't one of the worst catchers ever in terms of overall defense.
   15. Ron J Posted: February 28, 2012 at 03:30 AM (#4070138)
#13 Sure, but we're talking a much smaller pool (much, much smaller pool during the war years).

I also wonder how much Gibson was actually catching. Nothing in Gibson's record is remotely as impressive to me as Piazza's 1997. 1200 innings at catcher and 185 OPS+ against opposition that was consistently far stronger than anything Gibson faced. Gibson never faced that kind of workload (in sanctioned games)

Yeah, constant touring has its own wear and tear, but actual game time is far more demanding for catchers. And I'm pretty sure Gibson didn't catch full games during exhibitions all of the time.

   16. OCF Posted: February 28, 2012 at 03:55 AM (#4070140)
I remember my son (who was in high school at the time) playing around with some park conversion factors in 1997 for the purpose of comparing Piazza to Larry Walker. Remember the Walker did win the MVP that year. My son tried asking the question of what Piazza would have hit in Coors Field and came up with a .426 BA and 61 HR.

Now, he probably overdid some things - possibly by not accounting for the fact that Piazza would now be playing some road games in Dodger Stadium. But the numbers were attention-getting.

Using what bb-ref says now about 1997:

Piazza: oWAR 9.7, dWAR -0.4, WAR 9.3
Actual stats: .362/.431/.638, OPS+ 185, 201 H, 40 HR
Neutralized to 4.42 R/G: .366/.436/.648, 205 H, 41 HR
Neutralized to 2000 Col: .420//492/.740, 257 H, 51 HR (2000 Col is livelier than 1997 Col; my son's calculations had many more HR)

Walker: oWAR 8.0, dWAR 1.0, WAR 9.0
Actual stats: .366/.452/.720, OPS+ 178, 208 H, 49 HR
Neutralized to 4.42 R/G: .332/.415/.651, 179 H, 42 HR
Neutralized to 2000 Col: .384/.470/.755, 224 H, 53 HR (yes, 2000 was livelier than 1997)

Oh, and there's an under-the-radar third party here:

Bonds: oWAR 7.3, dWAR 1.5, WAR 8.8
Actual stats: .291/.446/.585, OPS+ 170, 155 H, 40 HR
Neutralized to 4.42 R/G: .289/.443/.570, 153 H, 39 HR
Neutralized to 2000 Col: .337/.499/.675, 192 H, 49 HR
   17. baudib Posted: February 28, 2012 at 04:56 AM (#4070141)
Every forum thread that has ever talked about Piazza included someone mentioning that he wasn't a disaster behind the plate because he did other stuff besides throwing out runners well. This is like saying Derek Jeter isn't a terrible shortstop even though he can't field groundballs well. It's true, Jeter does other things very well on defense. He has good hands, he has a strong arm, he's great on popups, he's great on the relay. He's a bad shortstop.

Piazza was bad, historically bad at throwing out runners, and there's just no amount of "calling good game/blocking plate/fielding bunts" etc. that makes up for that deficit. Jorge Posada was as terrible at those "other things" as any long-term catcher I've ever seen, but was decent at throwing out runners, and a much better overall catcher than Piazza.
   18. SoCalDemon Posted: February 28, 2012 at 05:57 AM (#4070143)
I do not have Craig Wright's article from the HBT 2009 in front of me, but I think there is a lot of evidence that Piazza really did help his pitchers prevent runs. And in the end, the goal is to prevent runs, not stolen bases (which of course lead to runs, but fewer runs than homers and line drives and wild pitches {I do know that Piazza was above average in PB/WP}). I also think that, with what has happened with all other bad defensive catchers, that the DOgers and/or Mets would have been perfectly fine with a 142 OPS+ 1B or LF if he really was so bad defensively. I am not trying to say he was a good, or even average, catcher, just that you can make up for bad base-stealing prevention a lot of ways. Also, I thought from the HOM thread that Gibson had a mediocre to bad defensive reputation himself? Am I just wrong there? If not, I don't think that defensively the difference between Piazza and Gibson, defensively, is quite so clearcut.
   19. Lassus Posted: February 28, 2012 at 07:58 AM (#4070156)
Piazza was bad, historically bad at throwing out runners, and there's just no amount of "calling good game/blocking plate/fielding bunts" etc. that makes up for that deficit. Jorge Posada was as terrible at those "other things" as any long-term catcher I've ever seen, but was decent at throwing out runners, and a much better overall catcher than Piazza.

This is an all-around oversell. Jorge wasn't much better at throwing out runners, and one year (2001? 2002? I can't look it up at the moment.) he was actually worse.

Also, I think it also oversells the percentage it takes away from Piazza's case anyhow. Isn't it a generally accepted sabermetric precept that SB aren't nearly worth as much value as the mainstream says? If so, how could being bad at throwing them out create so much negative value? (I admit, I'm not entirely sure I have this one right as far as SB value, so feel free to educate me if so.)
   20. AROM Posted: February 28, 2012 at 09:19 AM (#4070161)
Using .2 runs for a SB and .5 for a CS, Piazza cost his teams about 70 runs over his career. That's giving him 100% of the blame and not adjusting for pitchers.

I have his game calling being worth a bit more than that. Max Marchi is working on a similar metric and I can't wait to see what he comes up with.
   21. AROM Posted: February 28, 2012 at 09:23 AM (#4070162)
Piazza's overall rating on bbref is -61, so he was probably +18 on errors, wp, and pb. But the difference could also be from working with a different mix of lefties and righties than average.
   22. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 28, 2012 at 09:53 AM (#4070176)
They do include:
Foxx 163
Mize/Greenberg 158
DiMaggio/Ott 155

Given the true statements of #5/#6 here, I'd guess Gibson is in the 170-180 range. That puts him around Hornsby (175) and Pujols (170 but no decline phase yet) in the running for greatest RH hitter of all time.


That seems a tad aggressive given limited info. Do we have any idea about the quality of pitching he was facing?

Best in an underdeveloped league only carries you so far. I imagine the Negro Leagues were quite a bit less efficient at sourcing the absolute best black talent than the majors were.

It's already a big step to say Gibson's as good a hitter as Aaron and Mays (there's no guarantee the best black hitter of his generation was as good as the best black hitters of theirs').
   23. Lassus Posted: February 28, 2012 at 10:05 AM (#4070181)
Someone should drag Dial away from the Braun thread to inform him of the Gibson hijack in this one. If I recall, he has some opinions on the matter.
   24. AROM Posted: February 28, 2012 at 10:30 AM (#4070189)
It's already a big step to say Gibson's as good a hitter as Aaron and Mays (there's no guarantee the best black hitter of his generation was as good as the best black hitters of theirs').


No guarantee, you are right about that. But I find it extremely unlikely that the very best black hitters from the 50's and 60's were substantially better than the best from the 30's and 40's, and this great improvement just happened to coincide with them being allowed to play with the white boys.

If Gibson were a 142 OPS+ player like Piazza, then had he been born 20 years later he would only be the 5th best black hitter born in the 1930's, after Aaron, Mays, Robinson, and McCovey.

Those guys were the 2nd to 5th best hitters born in the 1930's, with the top spot being a white guy named Mick, and spots 6-10 also being white guys (Killebrew, Matthews, Howard, Cash, Gentile). So the top 10 was split fairly evenly among black and white players.

I don't see any reason to think that a similar list 10-20 years earlier, had baseball been integrated, would have been white-heavy.
   25. Loren F. Posted: February 28, 2012 at 11:49 AM (#4070236)
In terms of evaluating catcher defense, what do people think of Mike Fast's research on framing pitches? I don't know enough to assess it, but if pitch framing has even some of the value that Fast asserts, then throwing out baserunners becomes a slightly smaller part of overall catcher defense.

Also, just to say that I rarely post in these HoM threads but I read many of them and, with the kinds of discussions like analyzing just how good Gibson was, I find them very enjoyable!
   26. DL from MN Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:07 PM (#4070346)
Bringing over relevant information from the Josh Gibson thread:

"Josh's greatest asset as a catcher was his durability. He was seldom injured severely enough to keep him out of action for any length of time. In fact, until the last few years of his career, only the 1932 appendectomy kept him sidelined for more than a day or two." - Brashler biography

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

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

Josh was a smooth, efficient, reliable catcher who apologized to no one for his defensive skills. Had his, and most anyone else's, defensive talents not paled in comparison to his hitting ability, his catching would not even be scrutinized." - Brashler biography

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

That sounds like a Benito Santiago or perhaps Jason Varitek caliber catcher to me, not outstanding but average and durable with a good arm.
   27. DL from MN Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4070349)
As far as offense goes, here's Josh Gibson's career MLE line from Chris Cobb

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

That would mean that Piazza's 5 year peak is comparable in rate production to Gibson's 15 year career.
   28. DL from MN Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4070357)
So roughly between Johnny Mize and Jimmy Foxx with the bat, just a little bit better hitter than Oscar Charleston. Then you add in average defense and high durability at the catcher position.
   29. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4070361)
As far as offense goes, here's Josh Gibson's career MLE line from Chris Cobb

Here's an area, I think we're the MLE needs to be significantly adjusted. We know that playing catcher affects hitting production and the the effect is cumulative - i.e., its harder to maintain hitting when playing 100 games at catcher compared to 70, 130 compared to 100. My understanding is that Gibson didn't have nearly the catching workload that Piazza did. In his peak years, Piazza caught 130-140 games; I think its reasonable to assume (and probably could be done in a quantitative manner) that if he, say, caught 75 games and spent the other 75 at 1B, he would've been a more productive hitter.

That Piazza produced his peak numbers while playing a 162 game season at catcher is unbelieveable. I have serious doubts that Gibson could've done it.

   30. DL from MN Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4070374)
If Josh Gibson hadn't played year round and played doubleheaders barnstorming between league games and had the benefits of better equipment and a trainer perhaps he would have hit even better in league games. Do we want to play the "what if" game or should we discuss the contribution of the player relative to the era in which he played?
   31. AROM Posted: February 28, 2012 at 02:51 PM (#4070382)
The Negro League season stats show much fewer games than an MLB schedule. But you have to be kidding if you think Gibson was only playing 75 games a year and sitting on his butt the rest of the time.

Stats compiled against weak competition in barnstorming/exhibition games rightfully should not be used to rank him among the greats, but against any competition, squatting behind the plate that often will still take it's toll.

I think that Gibson caught many more games and innings in his career than Piazza did, once you count in all sources (and add spring training, all star too). I could be wrong on this though, and if anyone has an estimate on how many games Gibson would play (and catch) I'd be very interested.
   32. Mike Webber Posted: February 29, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4070803)
Arom wrote:
Piazza's overall rating on bbref is -61, so he was probably +18 on errors, wp, and pb. But the difference could also be from working with a different mix of lefties and righties than average.


I recently was exchanging emails with a friend and catcher defense came up. I wrote this to him,
"Mike Piazza not a defensive whiz any way you slice it, but check out those Dodger pitching staffs when Ramon Martinez was the ace, say 1993 Piazza’s rookie year. Now lefty pitchers are quite a bit better as a group at cutting off steals, how much does the fact that the Dodgers had 61 total innings pitched by lefties that season contribute to the 108 steals he allowed that season? Or in 1996 when they had 173 lefty innings pitched and Piazza managed an 18% caught stealing rate, 155/34."

Since AROM mentioned it, and I had recently looked it up, I decided to contribute.
   33. Ron J Posted: February 29, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4070821)
#31 Sure he played an awful lot of games, but I'm skeptical he caught the full 9 innings, and that matters. We know that on the tours the star pitcher would generally start but that guys like Paige would generally only go two or three innings. You just can't pitch 9 innings every day no matter how much coasting you do. And catching is similar.

I'm fully prepared to believe he caught most of the innings in his organized league games though. It just has to be easier to put up huge stats in a smaller number of games. I'm pretty sure it's a partial explanation for a breadth of prime that you simply don't see from any other catcher. (the other part of the explanation is that he was playing in very weak leagues when you'd expect his career to have started to wind down)

Bill James made an off-hand comment years ago that a catcher only has something like 1200 quality games in the body (well before Piazza came up) and that the catchers who played well when old missed a fair amount of time when they were young. (Of course Gibson wasn't old when his career ended. He started young)
   34. Flynn Posted: February 29, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4070899)
Well how many innings do you think he caught in an average barnstorming game? You are pulling out these suppositions but then not really backing them up with any decent facts or even educated guesses (it's the Negro Leagues, obviously all we have is the latter in many instances).

Gibson was the star attraction in any town or sandlot he played in, so they weren't going to have him squat for two innings, get one AB, and take him out of the game.
   35. Ron J Posted: February 29, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4070919)
#34 No they probably wouldn't have him leave the game, but is it unreasonable to think he'd move to first.

Either Gibson was far more durable than any catcher in history or they were doing something to cut back his workload. I'm betting the latter, particularly in light of the known treatment of Paige.
   36. AROM Posted: February 29, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4070921)
Yeah, I seriously doubt Gibson would have only taken 1-2 AB and left the game. Maybe he caught a few innings, then gone out to left field or 1B. I don't know if he did this or caught most of the game. Ron, do you have any source suggesting he didn't catch full games?
   37. Ron J Posted: February 29, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4070925)
#36 No. I'm basing it on the way Paige was handled and the way teams in general handle exhibitions. The risk of injury to your star is very real when he's catching, so why have him catch a full game?

And I'd turn this around. What evidence does anybody disputing this have that it's not the case?
   38. DL from MN Posted: February 29, 2012 at 12:50 PM (#4070939)
How many other catchers were on those limited barnstorming rosters? If there wasn't another catcher then Gibson caught the whole game.
   39. Chris Fluit Posted: February 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4071012)
Paige was a unique case. Because he was such a huge draw at the gate, teams wanted him to pitch every day. Well, even for Paige, it's not possible to throw a full game every day. So they developed this unique strategy in which Paige would start the game, pitch 1, 2 maybe 3 innings and be done. That way he could pitch in more games and increase the team's profitability. This was not done with other pitchers. And it certainly wasn't done with position players. You can't extrapolate from Paige's unique situation to other Negro League players.

Gibson was more typical in terms of usage. He was a catcher but, like most players, he occasionally played other positions. Negro Leagues Baseball eMuseum has Gibson playing outfield, third base and first base in addition to catcher. That doesn't mean he was a Joe Torre-type who bounced from one position to another. Think of him more like Gary Carter. Carter was a catcher, playing 90% of his games at that position. But Carter also played 137 games in the outfield, 76 games at first base and even 3 at third. It was a way to keep Carter in the line-up while sparing him some of the wear and tear that comes from playing catcher. Teams would do the same with Gibson. Sure he'd played the odd game at another position. But I wouldn't be surprised if Gibson played 90% of his games and of his innings behind the plate.
   40. AROM Posted: February 29, 2012 at 02:17 PM (#4071021)
Some information here: http://sports.jrank.org/pages/1649/Gibson-Josh.html

When he started the team had two other catchers so Josh played other positions. He worked hard to become a better catcher "frequently catching both batting practice and games to gain experience". Doesn't really answer the question but I'll keep looking.
   41. bjhanke Posted: February 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4071095)
I really wanted to thank the people who have been posting bout Josh Gibson and Mike Piazza. When I asked the original question at the top of this thread, I really only knew 4 things about comparing them: 1) They are the #1 and #2 candidates, in some order, for best hitting catcher ever. All the white guys can be discarded because there are stats based on a full database, so we can actually compare them to Piazza. 2) Everyone who knew anything about it at the time said that Gibson was the best hitter among black catchers ever. Therefore, 3) The best hitting catcher of all time has to be one of them. But 4) stats for Gibson's career are much more dicey, so you really have to say that you've figured out a range of hitting, via things like Chris Cobb's wonderful MLEs, where you're comfortable that Gibson isn't any better than the top or any worse than the bottom.

The question that hijacked this thread was the exact one I needed addressed: Where IS that Gibson range, exactly? The answer seems to be somewhere between an average Jimmy Foxx season and the very best seasons that Foxx ever had, except Gibson had more such seasons. That squares with everything I've ever heard; Gibson was durable and pretty consistent. Is Mike Piazza in that range? Only near the bottom. And Gibson probably had the better glove. So it is, as far as I can now see, possible that Piazza hit as well as Gibson, but very unlikely. And that is very helpful to me. I have to vote for or against Piazza soon in the HoM. He's got one of the very few catcher bats that provokes a serious comparison to Gibson. I now have a much better idea how to compare the two.

And that is why this hijacking isn't really that. The question that everyone is addressing is important to Piazza analysts. Where did he fit in among or above Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra, and Josh Gibson? Thanks for helping me get something I can go with as an answer. - Brock

   42. Ron J Posted: February 29, 2012 at 03:42 PM (#4071123)
#38 Unless the team banked on Gibson being the only catcher in history not to sustain one of those injuries that required an in-game replacement I'll bet they carried at least one backup.

And #39, I'd bet more like Berra, Bench etc. use. Carter in his prime was probably worked harder than any great catcher and as such probably isn't the best guy to take as a model for usage. The major league catchers of Gibson's day were generally handled pretty gently by today's standards (yes -- better equipment is probably the biggest issue) and I'd be somewhat surprised to find his usage so different from the guys in the majors.

Actually, not probably. Comparing best 5 offensive years, Carter caught 43 more games than Berra (who was second -- OK, somewhat undermines my point by picking a guy who handled the second heaviest workload in his prime, but he did extend his usefulness by spending a lot of time just outside his prime years in the outfield) with Simmons, Freehan, Piazza, Bench, Munson and Campanella (in that order) being the only guys within 100 games caught of Carter in their best 5 offensive years. Bench for instance was within 5 games played, but caught 89 games fewer.

The great catchers (of the 20th century -- didn't look at the 19th century catchers, and given equipment differences I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have added anything) who caught the least in their offensive prime were Lombardi, Harnett, Fisk, Cochrane and Dickey.
   43. Mike Webber Posted: February 29, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4071133)
The major league catchers of Gibson's day were generally handled pretty gently by today's standards (yes -- better equipment is probably the biggest issue)


I'll bet double headers were a big part of that too.
   44. AROM Posted: February 29, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4071176)
Seamheads.com actually has Negro League data from 1902-1923. Even fielding stats. This is one of the coolest things on the web. I hope they will be able to add the rest of the seasons.
   45. DL from MN Posted: February 29, 2012 at 05:12 PM (#4071251)
Everyone who knew anything about it at the time said that Gibson was the best hitter among black catchers ever.


No, they said Gibson was the best hitter among black ballplayers ever. Better than Buck Leonard and Oscar Charleston.
   46. bjhanke Posted: March 01, 2012 at 11:36 PM (#4072437)
Actually, looking at 19th century catchers might be helpful in estimating Gibson's workload. Catchers of the 1870s, up to about when the schedules got over 60 games, caught pretty much every day. Early in the 1870s, it WAS every day for people like Deacon White and several others, catching barehanded. Of course, the league schedule was much smaller. But then, there were a bunch of barnstorming games in there, too. Sounds like Gibson's environment doesn't it, although Gibson's league schedules were longer than those of the early 1870s? And it implies that, if your catcher got hurt, you might play him elsewhere in the barnstorming games, trying to let him heal up before the next league game. It would explain part of his exceptional durability in league games. And DL is right. Since I was focusing on Mike Piazza compared to Gibson, I only considered whether Gibson could outhit Mike. But the reputation he had was the he could outhit everyone in the NgL, regardless of position. Which brings you right back to the question of whether or not he was played at lesser positions when barnstorming so that he could be at full strength for the league games. I don't know, and have not the faintest idea of how to find out, unless some city's black newspaper (it's the St. Louis American in STL) actually carried accounts of barnstorming games. - Brock
   47. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 01, 2012 at 11:42 PM (#4072440)
The equivalencies would have to be severely off for Piazza to be a greater hotter than Gibson, Brock.


And the equivalencies may well be severely off, given that the data doesn't exist to do them.
   48. bjhanke Posted: March 03, 2012 at 03:09 PM (#4073346)
I took AROM's advice (#44) and checked out Seamheads.com. They are everything he says they are. Stuff you can NEVER find anywhere else. I was even able to get lefty/righty splits in ballparks effects, something I've been whining about for years. THANKS, Sean (it is Sean behind AROM, isn't it?). I am now an evangelist and an acolyte. - Brock
   49. AROM Posted: March 03, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4073352)
Yes, that's my name. No need to thank me. I've got nothing to do with Seamheads, just a big fan of the work they are doing.
   50. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4074365)
If Gibson wasn't even as good as Piazza offensively despite the former's dominance against NeL hitters, then that would suggest there were no good hitters in the NeL. Does anybody really believe that (especially since we know a few who played in both the NeL and ML who were great)?
   51. Lassus Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:23 PM (#4074373)
If Gibson wasn't even as good as Piazza despite the former's dominance against NeL hitters, then that would suggest there were no good hitters in the NeL. Does anybody really believe that (especially since we know a few who played in both the NeL and ML that were great)?

Something about this sounds wrong. Using as a standard a guy who many consider a first or near-first-ballot HOF hitter? Maybe I'm not understanding.
   52. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:39 PM (#4074386)
Something about this sounds wrong. Using as a standard a guy who many consider a first or near-first-ballot HOF hitter? Maybe I'm not understanding.


If Gibson would have been only a 135 OPS hitter, i.e., instead of a potential 170-180 OPS hitter, you would have to downgrade every other NeL hitter an appropriate amount then, correct? Who then would be considered a great hitter from the Negro Leagues besides Gibson (other than the hitters who played in both the Mel and majors and whose equivalencies correlate, of course ;-)?
   53. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 04:51 PM (#4074405)
Something about this sounds wrong. Using as a standard a guy who many consider a first or near-first-ballot HOF hitter? Maybe I'm not understanding.


Basically, there are people who -- despite the fragmented data -- find it insulting to Gibson to suggest that Gibson was "only" as good a hitter as the greatest hitting MLB catcher ever, in 150 years of MLB.

He has to be 170-180 OPS+, as good as Bonds, and at the very top (excepting just two players) of MLB hitters ever.
   54. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 05:11 PM (#4074426)
And I don't see how you get there with the available data we have, and the complete inability --given that the data does not exist -- to do a real MLE.

(Yes, I know people have purported to have done MLEs. That's simply impossible. It's not an issue of "incomplete" data -- it's an issue of the data points never existing in the first place, **even if we had all of the data that did exist**.)
   55. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 05:27 PM (#4074445)
So who are the truly great NeL hitters who didn't play in the majors then? Only Gibson?

And Ray, I find your tone extremely insulting. I only care about what the numbers suggest, not in propping up NeL players because of some misguided white guilt on my part (which I have none, BTW). If I'm wrong in my analysis, then I'm wrong because I'm not factoring the numbers correctly, nothing more.
   56. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4074473)
If Gibson would have been only a 135 OPS hitter, i.e., instead of a potential 170-180 OPS hitter, you would have to downgrade every other NeL hitter an appropriate amount then, correct? Who then would be considered a great hitter from the Negro Leagues besides Gibson (other than the hitters who played in both the Mel and majors and whose equivalencies correlate, of course ;-)?

Couldn't he have easily been a 145-155 OPS+ player?

There are decades of MLB where the best player doesn't crack that. The best hitter of the '70s and '80s, Mike Schmidt, has a 147.

Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are at 155, Frank Robinson at 154. Why must he be a lot better than the best black hitters of the next generation?

I can't see Foxx (163) being the floor. If the stats truly show him as the best hitter in the NeL (I have no idea), if you want to set the floor, I think it's somewhere around Schmidt/McCovey/Stargell, with the most likely range around Mays/Aaron.
   57. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 05:55 PM (#4074485)
Snapper, I was going with the idea that Piazza was a better hitter than Gibson (as some here believe), so that's why I was using the 135 OPS+ number.

As for your other question, Gibson's actual numbers suggest he was a lot better than any other NeL hitter who ever played, just like Babe Ruth and Ted Williams were a lot better than anybody playing when I was a kid during the Seventies. It happens.

Believe me, I wish Piazza was better than Gibson. My generation has been banged up so much by the PED scandals that it would be nice to point to Mike as the best hitter ever at his position.
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:01 PM (#4074497)
As for your other question, Gibson's actual numbers suggest he was a lot better than any other NeL hitter who ever played

But do we know how much that is league context? Obviously we don't have OPS+ for the NeL. How do we know if Gibson's NeL was the '30s AL or the late '60s and '70s as far as offense?

Doesn't short seasons, and irregular league sizes and stability affect things too?
   59. Lassus Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4074506)
And Ray, I find your tone extremely insulting. I only care about what the numbers suggest, not in propping up NeL players because of some misguided white guilt on my part (which I have none, BTW). If I'm wrong in my analysis, then I'm wrong because I'm not factoring the numbers correctly, nothing more.

To be clear, John, I'm not coming from wherever Ray is. I just find "Gibson not as good as Piazza" (something I am not qualified to judge as well as MANY here, and therefore have no real opinion on) = "no good hitters in the Negro Leagues" to be a strange conclusion, logically.
   60. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:17 PM (#4074512)
And Ray, I find your tone extremely insulting.


My apologies; on re-read, that came out harsher than I'd intended.

I do think my basic point stands, though.

   61. AROM Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:32 PM (#4074534)
Hank Aaron and Willie Mays are at 155, Frank Robinson at 154. Why must he be a lot better than the best black hitters of the next generation?


I think it's likely that Josh was because of how far he stood above his contemporaries, while Mays, Aaron, and Robinson were essentially equals by batting rates. But he might be at this level. I'd set the floor for Gibson around 150, and the ceiling about 190.
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:39 PM (#4074538)
I think it's likely that Josh was because of how far he stood above his contemporaries, while Mays, Aaron, and Robinson were essentially equals by batting rates.

Why isn't it equally or even more likely that there just weren't the other two equal players in his generation? The 8X larger white population hasn't turned out a trio like Mays, Aaron and Robbie in most generations.
   63. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4074548)
To be clear, John, I'm not coming from wherever Ray is. I just find "Gibson not as good as Piazza" (something I am not qualified to judge as well as MANY here, and therefore have no real opinion on) = "no good hitters in the Negro Leagues" to be a strange conclusion, logically.


It would be logical if Gibson was only as good as the other superior NeL hitters. However, if you reduce NeL equivalencies 35%, you have to do the same to everyone else. Since I believe Gibson was better than any other NeL by a considerable amount, then it would appear to have been a dearth of quality hitting if Josh was only as good a hitter (or less so) than Piazza (which I don't buy for a second).

But do we know how much that is league context? Obviously we don't have OPS+ for the NeL. How do we know if Gibson's NeL was the '30s AL or the late '60s and '70s as far as offense?

Doesn't short seasons, and irregular league sizes and stability affect things too?


The context is the era the player played in, Snapper.

Short seasons and irregular league create a higher standard deviation level, which was also worked on, too, within the equivalencies.
   64. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4074553)
If Gibson is only 150 OPS+ then Oscar Charleston is only 145 OPS+ (not as good as Frank Robinson), Buck Leonard is only 120 OPS+ (more Harold Baines than Eddie Murray) and Monte Irvin wasn't as good in the Negro Leagues as he was in the majors.
   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:56 PM (#4074562)
The context is the era the player played in, Snapper.

And how do you begin to compare across eras with very spotty statistics and wildly varying league stability and competition level?

All we know for sure is how good the black players of the 1947-1960 period were. How can we begin to guess whether the best black players in the teens, 20s and 30s were better or worse?

You have a relatively small talent pool, very poor scouting and player development, poor levels of nutrition and medical care in the population in question, etc., etc. I don't see how we can extrapolate enough to get anything close to reliable MLEs.

Even if we're sure Gibson was the best black hitter of his generation, I can't see how that tells us much besides his MLB equivalent OPS+ was most likely between 145 and 180.
   66. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 06:59 PM (#4074564)
If Gibson is only 150 OPS+ then Oscar Charleston is only 145 OPS+ (not as good as Frank Robinson)

So, is "not as good as Frank Robinson" some kind of insult now?

I also would dispute that given the short schedule, league instability, and likely wildly varying talent levels, that you expect translations to be linear, or even ordinal.

i.e. if you took the ten best NeL hitter by OPS in 1935 (if you had those stats, which we don't), and plucked them into MLB, I wouldn't be surprised at all if their MLB performance ranking varied wildly.
   67. DL from MN Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:06 PM (#4074573)
> How can we begin to guess whether the best black players in the teens, 20s and 30s were better or worse?

Work backwards from the players that did play in both leagues. See how the Negro League players did in the integrated majors and minors (Marvin Williams, Luke Easter, etc). There were also black v. white exhibition games, Cuban leagues with crossover players (Dolf Luque), and contemporary scouting reports. The data is spotty but it can be used to paint a picture. The HoM viewpoint in most discussions has been 50% confidence is probably fair. You're never going to get to 95% confidence without regressing things so much that black ballplayers look inferior to whites of the same era.
   68. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 07:37 PM (#4074590)
The HoM viewpoint in most discussions has been 50% confidence is probably fair.


I don't think the comments here match 50% confidence. Heck, they don't seem to be anything less than 100% confidence.

Again, even if we had perfect recorded data for every game ever played, the requisite datapoints for an MLE would still not exist.
   69. Mike Webber Posted: March 05, 2012 at 09:26 PM (#4074678)
Snapper, I was going with the idea that Piazza was a better hitter than Gibson (as some here believe), so that's why I was using the 135 OPS+ number.


Just FYI Piazza's career OPS+ was 142.

And through age 34 - Josh Gibson died after his age 34 season - Piazza's OPS+ was 152.

Piazza's 152 OPS+ was the highest of any MLB catcher through age 34.
   70. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 05, 2012 at 11:16 PM (#4074739)
Just FYI Piazza's career OPS+ was 142.

And through age 34 - Josh Gibson died after his age 34 season - Piazza's OPS+ was 152.

Piazza's 152 OPS+ was the highest of any MLB catcher through age 34.


Given that info, I think we can't say with any certainty that Gibson was a better hitter than Piazza.

I'd guess it's still more likely than not, I'd peg Gibson's likely talent range at 140-170 OPS+, but certainly not definitive.
   71. theorioleway Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:13 AM (#4074782)
John, since I know you are paying attention to this thread I will post this here: For whatever reason it seems the Schilling thread is not appearing in the Hot Topics thread. If this could be corrected that would be great, as it seems he has a valid argument for the 3rd ballot spot just like Piazza and Biggio.
   72. theorioleway Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:13 AM (#4074783)
And nevermind, it is there now. False alarm everyone.
   73. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 08:53 AM (#4074829)
"I'd guess it's still more likely than not, I'd peg Gibson's likely talent range at 140-170 OPS+, but certainly not definitive."

Yeah, I can agree on that. Mike Webber has a very good point about Piazza's decline phase.

   74. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4074887)
Wikipedia has statistics for both Josh Gibson and Monte Irvin, with the source being the 2006 book "Shades of Glory" by Michael Hogan. I'll have to get this one.

The numbers are less than John Holway's book, which I have, so I'm assuming Hogan either has a stricter criteria for what counts as an official league game, or stricter criteria for including games with more complete accounts. He's got a total of 1800 AB for Gibson while Holway had about 1000 more.

Gibson hit 359/436/648 in those games, and Irvin hit 358/415/564. Since we know Irvin had a 125 OPS+ in the majors (ages 30-37) then this suggest Gibson would have been about 148.

We don't know if Irvin's 125 in his 30's is an accurate representation of his hitting ability in his 20's. For what it's worth, Robinson, Mays, and Aaron all hit slightly better from ages 30-37 than their overall numbers. I don't know the relative park factors for Gibson and Irvin. And of course it's just one player. Obviously we'd like to see a lot more comparisons to have faith in the data.

Both Gibson and Irvin played in the Mexican League, Gibson in 1940-41, Irvin in 1942, and the both played for Veracruz, so park is not an issue (unless they opened a new one right in 1942.)

Irvin hit 397/502/772 there, and Gibson was essentially his equal there, at 393/495/802. This would suggest a 128 OPS+ for Gibson.

Weighting those two results by at bats (1855 in NL, 450 in MEX) I get OPS+ = 144.

So I have to back off my previous claim and say I have no idea whether Gibson or Piazza was the best hitting catcher. But I'm sure it's one of them.
   75. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 11:37 AM (#4074901)
About Piazza v Gibson through age 34 - Gibson looks better if you start him at age 23 like Piazza. Gibson's "through age 34" stats include ages 18-22 and Piazza's don't.

I think Ray may have misunderstood my 50% confidence statement. The general consensus for the Hall of Merit is to rank Negro League players at the level where it is just as likely they were better than it is that they were worse. Certainly there is a 5% chance Piazza was a better hitter than Josh Gibson. There's also a 5% chance that Josh Gibson was better than Babe Ruth. Both of those fail the "P-value" test.
   76. Mike Webber Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4074920)
Wikipedia has statistics for both Josh Gibson and Monte Irvin, with the source being the 2006 book "Shades of Glory" by Michael Hogan. I'll have to get this one.

The numbers are less than John Holway's book, which I have, so I'm assuming Hogan either has a stricter criteria for what counts as an official league game, or stricter criteria for including games with more complete accounts. He's got a total of 1800 AB for Gibson while Holway had about 1000 more.


Hogan was part of the Negro League HOF stats collection group (NLRAG), I am sure the stats in the book are from that project.
   77. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:13 PM (#4074921)
As for data to do MLE's, I've found a list of players who have played in MLB and in the Negro Leagues.

And Baseball-reference has this page : http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/league.cgi?code=NAL&class=NgM

With links that go to file not found errors, but If Sean is putting the league links up there, then hopefully team and player data won't be far behind.
   78. cardsfanboy Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:35 PM (#4074933)
Every forum thread that has ever talked about Piazza included someone mentioning that he wasn't a disaster behind the plate because he did other stuff besides throwing out runners well. This is like saying Derek Jeter isn't a terrible shortstop even though he can't field groundballs well. It's true, Jeter does other things very well on defense. He has good hands, he has a strong arm, he's great on popups, he's great on the relay. He's a bad shortstop.

Piazza was bad, historically bad at throwing out runners, and there's just no amount of "calling good game/blocking plate/fielding bunts" etc. that makes up for that deficit. Jorge Posada was as terrible at those "other things" as any long-term catcher I've ever seen, but was decent at throwing out runners, and a much better overall catcher than Piazza.


Not comparable. The single most important defensive skill for a shortstop is fielding balls. The single most important defensive skill for a catcher is handling pitchers. Stopping the running game is akin to Jeter's ability to go back on pop ups, not akin to his ability to field the ball. Every team Piazza caught for a full season was among the best teams in overall runs prevented, on top of that the years he was injured or left the team, they almost all immediately fell out of the conversation as among the fewest allowing runs.
   79. Ron J Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4074955)
The most compelling part of the argument for Gibson is how much better than his peers he was.

There are two issues that I can see. One is the difference between value in context and ability. Bear in mind that I usually talk value in context -- primarily because I'm far more confident of that. Value in context takes the stats, park adjusts and then applies an adjustment for strength of competition.

Ability is tougher (since there's no obvious definition). But to get an example of what I'm talking about, consider Ichiro and Matsui. Matsui had much better raw stats in Japan. In the US they're pretty close in raw batting (IE OPS+). This is not really surprising. Matsui's skill set was better suited to Japan. Same kind of thing happened with Edgar Martinez and lesser offensive players in Calgary. Calgary was an extremely easy home run park, but hitting home runs wasn't a huge part of Edgar's game. He looks broadly equal by value in context to (say) Tino Martinez, but it shouldn't be surprising that he was more successful in the majors.

In other words, it's plausible that the gap is partially a matter of the conditions they played in. May have just suited Gibson's game better than guys who would be closer to him in a different setting. (One interesting example of this is Ralph Kiner in Forbes. There were years when he personally moved the home run park factor because he was hitting a pretty high percentage of all of the home runs hit in Forbes. 1952 for instance.)

The other possibility is that there is some form of park illusion in play. The notion that we have a handle on Negro League park factors strikes me a sketchy. Hell, I don't have the slightest doubt that the park factors for Hank Greenberg are wrong (the Tigers were making a lot of big changes to their park in this period. It's simply not valid to use multi-year park factors when you've brought a fence in 40 feet or so)
   80. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:39 PM (#4074984)
If Gibson is only 150 OPS+ then Oscar Charleston is only 145 OPS+ (not as good as Frank Robinson), Buck Leonard is only 120 OPS+ (more Harold Baines than Eddie Murray) and Monte Irvin wasn't as good in the Negro Leagues as he was in the majors.


...and that's the problem in a nutshell, DL. We know what these guys did in the Negro Leagues and how they compared to each other offensively. If Gibson is "only" a 150 OPS+ hitter, then we're talking about only a couple of African-American players that were great hitters in almost 70 years of NeL play. Now, some of you here might be willing to accept that, but my brain can't.
   81. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:47 PM (#4074994)
If Gibson is only 150 OPS+ then Oscar Charleston is only 145 OPS+ (not as good as Frank Robinson), Buck Leonard is only 120 OPS+ (more Harold Baines than Eddie Murray) and Monte Irvin wasn't as good in the Negro Leagues as he was in the majors.


Aside from the issue of a limited number of data points, citing OPS+ presumes a similar shape of performance for all these players -- similar skill sets -- and I don't see how that assumption is valid. One skill set would likely translate differently to another league (and to different parks) than another skill set would.
   82. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4075000)
...and that's the problem in a nutshell, DL. We know what these guys did in the Negro Leagues and how they compared to each other offensively.


Which... is why you can't do a proper MLE. You can't properly adjust for the caliber of competition between the two leagues.

A hitter typically loses about 18% of his ability relative to the league in moving from AAA to the majors. What is that number for NeL vs the majors? Nobody knows, because the data points don't exist, because nobody was moving between the NeL and the majors.

   83. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4075002)
One skill set would likely translate differently to another league


A high batting average coupled with light tower power translates well to any league. You might have a point if we were talking about Cool Papa Bell.
   84. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4075009)
The primary problem with Josh Gibson was the bacne.
   85. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:14 PM (#4075037)
Nobody knows, because the data points don't exist, because nobody was moving between the NeL and the majors.


Larry Doby
Jackie Robinson
Hank Thompson
Monte Irvin
Sam Jethroe
Roy Campanella
Willard Brown
Minnie Minoso
Bob Boyd
Luke Easter
Junior Gilliam
Willie Mays
Bob Thurman

Yeah, that's enough data points that I can do some pretty good MLEs. It's more than I had to work with when I first started projecting Japanese players. I did pretty well when guys like Iguchi and Johjima came over. Since then I've added more data points from players coming from Japan, and more significantly looking at the larger sample of players going to Japan. The factors did not change much from having the smaller sample. I've got the list of players (anybody with a more complete list of guys who played in the Negro Leagues before 1950 and had 100+ PA in MLB please let me know). I've got the major league stats. And we are really close to having the Negro League stats to work with. Data will need to be age adjusted but that's a snap.

I don't really care if I convince you but I look forward to this to satisfy my own curiosity. It won't tell us anything about Oscar Charleston or Pop Lloyd though - it will be best used for players who played closer to the integration line.

I'd leave out Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks - they played in a Negro League that had lost too much talent.

   86. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4075067)
One skill set would likely translate differently to another league

A high batting average coupled with light tower power translates well to any league. You might have a point if we were talking about Cool Papa Bell.


That was Hideki Matsui in Japan. (And, no, I'm not saying that Gibson and Matsui were comparable talents.) It didn't translate that way to the majors.
   87. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4075074)
It won't tell us anything about Oscar Charleston or Pop Lloyd though - it will be best used for players who played closer to the integration line.


And Gibson's career started in 1930, a generation before Jackie Robinson played for the Dodgers.
   88. Ron J Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4075091)
#87 And then there's the matter of the war years. No idea how strong the 1946 Negro League was, but it's very likely that the 1942-45 was of very uneven quality and that's ~29% of his Negro League games.
   89. Ron J Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:57 PM (#4075108)
AROM, I wouldn't include Mays. He seems to have taken a huge step forward in 1951 and will likely (given how small your sample size is) make the Negro League look weaker than it actually was.
   90. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4075119)
Hideki Matsui was a 130 OPS+ hitter before age-related decline set in. I don't think he was thought of as a disappointment.
   91. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4075126)
I wouldn't include Mays.


When you're dealing with a limited data set it is usually best to include all of it.
   92. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4075134)
When you're dealing with a limited data set it is usually best to include all of it.


Perhaps. I'd think it would also be best not to be so sure of one's opinions.
   93. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4075143)
Hideki Matsui was a 130 OPS+ hitter before age-related decline set in. I don't think he was thought of as a disappointment.


He was, the first year. Then he settled in at a 130 OPS+.

But he lost a ton of power coming over, and a fair amount of walks, and a small bit of batting average. That needs to be acknowledged.
   94. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:48 PM (#4075198)
I'd think it would also be best not to be so sure of one's opinions.


Good for the goose is good for the gander

he lost a ton of power coming over, and a fair amount of walks, and a small bit of batting average


Every MLE I've ever seen adjusts each one of those items
   95. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 04:28 PM (#4075268)
AROM, I wouldn't include Mays. He seems to have taken a huge step forward in 1951 and will likely (given how small your sample size is) make the Negro League look weaker than it actually was.


I don't think he played very long in the Negro Leagues, so he'd be adding only a small bit to the sample. And he was a teenager, so if I age adjust that should mitigate it.

I'd rather err on including too many than open myself to accusations of cherry picking.
   96. Ray (RDP) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 04:40 PM (#4075287)
Good for the goose is good for the gander


This really doesn't work both ways. You don't have the info to be sure of your conclusions. But because we don't have the info, I can be sure that we can't be sure.
   97. AROM Posted: March 06, 2012 at 04:41 PM (#4075288)
But he lost a ton of power coming over, and a fair amount of walks, and a small bit of batting average. That needs to be acknowledged.


So did Ichiro. Ichiro hit 17 homers per 550 Japanese at bats. Only 7 over here. Matsui dropped from 40 per 550 to 22. As a general rule of thumb, players coming over from Japan lose about half their homeruns. Matsui's adjustment was exactly what should have been expected given the results of everyone else making the adjustment.

It does change their relative value though, even though Ichiro lost more of his power as a percentage, Matsui lost 18 bombs and Ichiro only lost 10.
   98. Ron J Posted: March 06, 2012 at 04:50 PM (#4075300)
#94 But look at the raw difference between Matsui and Ichiro in Japan. We're talking ~200 points of raw OPS. And it's not limited to Matsui. Petagine, Rhodes, there's no shortage of players who gained more from the offensive context of Japan than Ichiro did, while Julio Franco didn't have enough power to take full advantage (and didn't see the boost in raw numbers -- and thus had less value in context)

There's no reason to think that this isn't at least a partial explanation for what happened with Gibson -- that at least part of the apparent gap between the next best hitters in the Negro League is because the conditions suited Gibson unusually well.
   99. JPWF1313 Posted: March 06, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4075321)
Every MLE I've ever seen adjusts each one of those items


You haven't been looking at them very long then. They adjust, but as it turns out just about every early Japan to US MLE I saw greatly underadjusted- especially for power.
   100. DL from MN Posted: March 06, 2012 at 05:01 PM (#4075322)
I can be sure that we can't be sure.


So what good does that do? Should we just throw our hands up in the air and give up because we can't be certain? You're the one who stated MLE's are "impossible" which is the only statement in the thread that is provably false. You can do an MLE. It might not be accurate and might rely on extrapolation from small amounts of data but it can be done.

Yes, there's a huge error bar. That's no reason not to give your best guess. I still have yet to see your best guess. It's really easy to poke holes in other people's guesses. What do you think Gibson would have hit in the majors based on his Negro League data?
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