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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ranking the Hall of Merit Catchers - Discussion

We’ll be going position by position, starting behind the plate:

Johnny Bench
Charlie Bennett
Yogi Berra
Roger Bresnahan
Roy Campanella
Gary Carter
Mickey Cochrane
Bill Dickey
Buck Ewing
Carlton Fisk
Bill Freehan
Josh Gibson
Gabby Hartnett
Biz Mackey
Cal McVey
Louis Santop
Ted Simmons
Joe Torre
Quincy Trouppe
Deacon White

I expect the election to begin 4/27/2008 and wrap up 5/4/2008.

EDIT: Election will end 5/11/2008 8 p.m. EDT, unless another time is found to be more convenient for John and the ballot counters.

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 21, 2008 at 06:57 PM | 121 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 21, 2008 at 07:07 PM (#2753240)
Moving to hot topics.
   2. DL from MN Posted: April 21, 2008 at 09:33 PM (#2753346)
Might as well start it off:

1) Gibson, Josh
2) Berra, Yogi
3) Bench, Johnny
4) Carter, Gary
5) Hartnett, Gabby
6) Dickey, Bill
7) Ewing, Buck
8) Fisk, Carlton
9) Cochrane, Mickey
10) Santop, Louis
11) Campanella, Roy
12) White, Deacon
13) Bresnahan, Roger
14) Bennett, Charlie
15) Torre, Joe
16) Trouppe, Quincy
17) Simmons, Ted
18) Freehan, Bill
19) Mackey, Biz
20) McVey, Cal
   3. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 21, 2008 at 11:11 PM (#2753393)
Where are there accurate stats for the negro leaguers?
   4. Sean Gilman Posted: April 21, 2008 at 11:15 PM (#2753394)
You can find them linked through the "Important Links" link on the main page. Link.

My initial ranking:

1. Josh Gibson
2. Johnny Bench
3. Gary Carter
4. Deacon White
5. Yogi Berra
6. Buck Ewing
7. Bill Dickey
8. Charlie Bennett
9. Mickey Cochrane
10. Roy Campanella
11. Louis Santop
12. Ted Simmons
13. Gabby Hartnett
14. Cal McVey
15. Carlton Fisk
16. Joe Torre
17. Roger Bresnahan
18. Bill Freehan
19. Quincy Trouppe
20. Biz Mackey
   5. Chris Cobb Posted: April 21, 2008 at 11:43 PM (#2753405)
I'm in the process of reviewing my NeL numbers for Mackey and Campanella and I need to run numbers using my new RCAP+FRAA system for pre-1893 players for Buck Ewing and Cal McVey, so I'm only ready to rank post-1893 ML candidates, (except for Josh Gibson). The others I'll slot in as current guesses. With those caveats, here's my list with a few comments. The numbers are a derived from a weighted combination of career, total peak, and peak rate values in WS, WARP1, and Dan R's WAR.

I think there's only a couple of radical disagreement on ML catchers between my list and those of DL and Sean Gilman above: I'll mention it in the notes.

Catchers—Preliminary Ranking

1. Josh Gibson. In the same class as a hitter as Ruth, Williams, and Barry Bonds. Not reputed to be a great defensive catcher, but that just doesn't matter. He's an easy #1 in this group.
2. Johnny Bench. Total = 365. Best major-league catcher ever. No one else has ever had his combination of offensive and defensive brilliance. Durability during his prime is also a plus.
3. Yogi Berra. Total = 357. Equal to Bench in raw numbers, but his competition was a little bit softer, which the SD adjustment in Dan R's system adjusts for.
--Deacon White?
4. Gary Carter. Total = 349. Closer to Bench and Berra than he is given credit for being.
5. Carlton Fisk. Total = 348. By far the most durable catcher, in a career sense, of all time, as he continued to be a valuable catcher to and past the age of 40. Was hurt a lot during his prime, however, which softens his peak. When he was healthy in his prime, he was as good as Bench, but he only had a couple of seasons like that. Sean's rating of Fisk seems _way_ low. What brings Fisk down in your rankings, Sean?
--Buck Ewing?
6. Bill Dickey. Total = 315. Best of the great 1930s ML trio. This is without war credit, which he could reasonably receive.
7. Gabby Hartnett. Total = 306. Great career.
--Louis Santop?
8. Mickey Cochrane. Total = 292. The best peak of the 1930s trio, but the beanings cut his career short.
--Roy Campanella?
9. Ted Simmons. Total = 270. A great offensive catcher, and adequate with the glove.
--Charlie Bennett, Quincy Trouppe, Cal McVey, Biz Mackey, in some order??
10. Joe Torre. Total = 235. A great offensive catcher and a HoMer at that position, but not quite of HoM quality with a bad glove at other positions in the second half of his career.
11. Bill Freehan. Total = 223. Great but short peak.
12. Roger Bresnahan. Total = 221. High impact player, but very short on playing time. DL in MN, how do you have him so high? Or perhaps I should ask, how do you have Deacon White so low? Seeing the two of them at 12/13 in the middle of your rankings seemed hard to credit.
   6. DanG Posted: April 22, 2008 at 02:34 AM (#2753692)
Can we include the HOF-not-HoM players in these discussions and rankings? For catchers that's Lombardi, Ferrell and Schalk.
   7. Sean Gilman Posted: April 22, 2008 at 05:30 AM (#2753785)
It's Fisk's peak that drops him for me. I've likely got too much space between him and Bennett, though.
   8. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 22, 2008 at 01:11 PM (#2753858)
Dan, I don't really see the point of that, but either way that should be discussed on the 'once we catch up' thread. Thanks!
   9. DL from MN Posted: April 22, 2008 at 01:53 PM (#2753887)
They look closer than they are. I have Deacon White just barely below Santop, Cochrane, Fisk and Ewing - within spitting distance - and I noticed that I actually have him ahead of Campanella, so switch those two.

There's a 36 player gap between Campanella and Bresnahan and a 10 player gap between White and Campanella in my all-time rankings. Bresnahan is just barely above Torre and Campanella is just barely behind the others in that grouping.

I noticed that Torre should also be ahead of Bennett. Bennett and White were my cut-and-pastes from a different list so I think I slotted them both one ahead by mistake. I also noticed that I'm not giving Dickey any war credit. Does someone want to make a case for how much war credit he deserves?

Revised
1) Gibson, Josh
2) Berra, Yogi
3) Bench, Johnny
4) Carter, Gary
5) Hartnett, Gabby
6) Dickey, Bill
7) Ewing, Buck
8) Fisk, Carlton
9) Cochrane, Mickey
10) Santop, Louis
11) White, Deacon
12) Campanella, Roy
13) Bresnahan, Roger
14) Torre, Joe
15) Bennett, Charlie
16) Trouppe, Quincy
17) Simmons, Ted
18) Freehan, Bill
19) Mackey, Biz
20) McVey, Cal
   10. DL from MN Posted: April 22, 2008 at 01:55 PM (#2753889)
I'm waiting for all hell to break loose when someone puts Josh Gibson somewhere other than #1.
   11. justbob Posted: April 22, 2008 at 02:41 PM (#2753928)
I'm not ready to break the ice and put someone other than Josh Gibson at the top. However, because I came too late to most of the HoM discussions, I haven't yet had the chance to express an opinion on the subject of Negro Leaguers.

I have no argument to make against having Josh Gibson, Louis Santop or Biz Mackey in either Hall. When it comes to ranking them within the position, though, I have a big problem; it's the lack of reliable (let alone comparable) statistical data, and that's never going to be overcome. Even the data that we do have was compiled under questionable conditions. We can never properly adjust for the level of competition, park factors, record keeping, etc. This means that discussion can't really rise much above the level of the old Veterans Committee, whereby someone says "Boy, that guy could really hit" or "I saw hit Gibson hit one, must've been 600 feet" or "he could turn off a light and be in bed before it went out." In other words, legends are most of what we have when it comes to evaluating the careers of NeLers.

It doesn't serve the purpose here, but I'm personally content to place the Negro League players off to one side, conceding their greatness but unable to rank them among their MLB peers in any disciplined system.
   12. DL from MN Posted: April 22, 2008 at 03:52 PM (#2753985)
I think we've done the best job yet on answering those unanswerable questions, though defensive prowess may be forever left to the anectdotes.
   13. DanG Posted: April 22, 2008 at 04:11 PM (#2754004)
Dan, I don't really see the point of that, but either way that should be discussed on the 'once we catch up' thread. Thanks!

Joe, I don't think you'll see the point if we discuss it yet again. There is, to me, obvious benefit in weighing in our collective opinion on "their guys", telling exactly why they are not deserving of being honored. Just thought I'd give it a shot, to encourage this exercise to relate more closely to the deliberations of the Cooperstown electorate. Thanks for listening.
   14. TomH Posted: April 22, 2008 at 04:44 PM (#2754034)
prelim
1) Gibson, Josh - J Foxx, if Foxx had stayed at C his whole career. Only Wagner is a clearer #1 at his position to me.
2) Bench, Johnny
3) Berra, Yogi - dadgum close to Bnech. Better hitter, and brilliant baseball man, as well as ya gotta give him credit for all of those WS titles. In times where SBs were unusual, I'd take him easily over Johnny B, but in 1910 or 1980, no way.
4) Carter, Gary
5) Hartnett, Gabby
next 4 are about tied; not sure what I'll do
6) Fisk, Carlton
7) Cochrane, Mickey
8) Ewing, Buck
9) Dickey, Bill
10) Campanella, Roy - NBJHA overrates this guy; he had some big years that system counted an awful lot.

and the 19th c and NgLgers are tough to rank....
11) White, Deacon
12) Santop, Louis
13) McVey, Cal
14) Bennett, Charlie

15) Simmons, Ted
16) Torre, Joe
17) Bresnahan, Roger
18) Freehan, Bill
19) Mackey, Biz
20) Trouppe, Quincy
   15. Rusty Priske Posted: April 22, 2008 at 06:15 PM (#2754158)
Prelim

Some have changed since I initially voted on them.

1. Josh Gibson
2. Johnny Bench
3. Yogi Berra
4. Gary Carter
5. Carlton Fisk
6. Deacon White
7. Roy Campanella
8. Louis Santop
9. Bill Dickey
10. Gabby Hartnett
11. Joe Torre
12. Mickey Cochrane
13. Quincy Trouppe
14. Cal McVey
15. Ted Simmons
16. Biz Mackey
17. Bill Freehan
18. Buck Ewing
19. Charlie Bennett
20. Roger Bresnahan
   16. TomH Posted: April 22, 2008 at 06:38 PM (#2754200)
Rusty and I are pretty in sync, except for sorta-contemporaries D White and B Ewing. I see Chris C also had the Deacon much higher than I do.

If it's mostly career length, I'll understand; White after age 33 was a slightly-above-lg-avg hitter and mediocre 3Bman/RFer, which has some value, but not much for me. Ewing seems to rank clearly above him in their primes, as Buck was a primo glove guy.

One thing we ought to bring back up as we discuss catchers (boy, it's been a long time since we vettted the 19th century guys...) was Ewing's reputation; there are lots of quotes about how stupendous people thought he was, and he was almost voted in as part of the original Hall of Fame class with Cobb Ruth Wagner Matty and Johnson. That buys him points in my book!
   17. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 22, 2008 at 07:32 PM (#2754379)
Prelim:

My list looks like a bell curve, with a bunch in the middle:

1. Josh Gibson
2. Johnny Bench
3. Yogi Berra, I can see where I could flip-flop Berra and Bench.
4. Deacon White, and this is a tough one. He's got some great numbers in a very short career, but how did we determine he's a catcher? According to BB-Ref, he played more games at 3B.

The next bunch is really close together:
5. Roy Campanella, he edges ahead of the rest of the group on NgL service time.
6. Bill Dickey
7. Carlton Fisk, I tend to weigh peak over career, so he suffers a bit.
8. Gary Carter
9. Buck Ewing
10. Mickey Cochrane
11. Louis Santopp
12. Ted Simmons
13. Gabby Hartnett

A bit of a dropoff to the next group. I admit that the NgL players may be getting a bit of short shrift here.

14. Joe Torre
15. Quincy Trouppe
16. Charlie Bennett
17. Roger Bresnahan

and finally,
18. Cal McVey
19. Bill Freehan
20. Biz Mackey

FWIW, of the three HoF not HoM, Lombardi came in slightly ahead of Torre. Ferrell and Schalk weren't in the ballpark, so to speak.
   18. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 22, 2008 at 07:37 PM (#2754401)
I have no argument to make against having Josh Gibson, Louis Santop or Biz Mackey in either Hall. When it comes to ranking them within the position, though, I have a big problem; it's the lack of reliable (let alone comparable) statistical data, and that's never going to be overcome. Even the data that we do have was compiled under questionable conditions. We can never properly adjust for the level of competition, park factors, record keeping, etc. This means that discussion can't really rise much above the level of the old Veterans Committee, whereby someone says "Boy, that guy could really hit" or "I saw hit Gibson hit one, must've been 600 feet" or "he could turn off a light and be in bed before it went out." In other words, legends are most of what we have when it comes to evaluating the careers of NeLers.

It doesn't serve the purpose here, but I'm personally content to place the Negro League players off to one side, conceding their greatness but unable to rank them among their MLB peers in any disciplined system.


Bob, thanks for bringing this up, it gives me a good opportunity to reiterate some things. We have decided to go the other way. Just to be clear, we welcome participation from everyone in this part of the project. But if a voter cannot 'get past' this issue, then we do ask that he/she not actually vote.

By 'get past' it, we don't mean being willing to be conservative with the Negro League HoMers either. A voter needs to be willing to give a 'best guess' as to where the Negro League guys stand, as opposed to a 'conservative guess'.

We (not me) have done a lot of work on this project in terms of closing the statistical gap. I definitely encourage voters to check the old threads, and re-posting of relevant MLE's on these threads as well.

Again, I can't stress strongly enough that even if you (they general 'you', not you in particular Bob) don't feel you can vote, we still encourage participation in the discussion. Thanks!
   19. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 22, 2008 at 07:41 PM (#2754419)
There is, to me, obvious benefit in weighing in our collective opinion on "their guys", telling exactly why they are not deserving of being honored.


I'm not sure that there is . . . the goal of this project was never to knock the Cooperstown mistakes down a peg. It was more to see who was getting shortchanged by the Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame is never going to 'unelect' anyone (barring an OJ Simpson or Pete Rose caliber post-career scandal). So I don't really see much point in that.

As a group we've decided that Ferrell, Schalk and Lombardi (in this case) are below the 20 listed above. I think that's enough, right?
   20. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 22, 2008 at 07:45 PM (#2754434)
4. Deacon White, and this is a tough one. He's got some great numbers in a very short career, but how did we determine he's a catcher? According to BB-Ref, he played more games at 3B.


Good questions.

His career was 20 years, it was one of the longest of the 19th Century.

We determined him to be a catcher based on seasons played at a position, not games played.

He was a catcher in his prime years, when the schedule was shorter. He was 34 years old before he played more than 7 games in a season at 3B.

Which brings up the corollary to post 18 . . . if you don't feel like you can give the 19th Century guys (especially 1860s and 1870s) a fair shake because of the shorter schedules we also ask that you refrain from voting. Thanks!
   21. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 22, 2008 at 07:47 PM (#2754441)
Which brings up the corollary to post 18 . . . if you don't feel like you can give the 19th Century guys (especially 1860s and 1870s) a fair shake because of the shorter schedules we also ask that you refrain from voting. Thanks!


That was not intended at you specifically Raffy, just in case that wasn't obvious.
   22. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 22, 2008 at 08:23 PM (#2754569)
That was not intended at you specifically Raffy, just in case that wasn't obvious.


I didn't take it personally, especially since I have White #4 on my ballot :)
   23. Paul Wendt Posted: April 22, 2008 at 08:50 PM (#2754661)
4. Deacon White, and this is a tough one. He's got some great numbers in a very short career, but how did we determine he's a catcher? According to BB-Ref, he played more games at 3B.

Full Seasons Equivalent games played
major leagues 1871-1890 ==> professional play 1869-1870
C_ 7.423 ==> ~ 9
3B 7.117
OF 2.383
1B 1.483
2B 0.666

Even without the plurality FSE games at catcher, it would be reasonable to classify him here because he was primarily a catcher in his prime. Compare Ernie Banks and Rod Carew.
   24. rawagman Posted: April 22, 2008 at 09:46 PM (#2754820)
I'd be happy to contribute, but unfortunately, my stats for already elected players did not follow me from Israel, and I don't have the time to re-do the research, so any vote from me would be essentially "off-the cuff" and in no way methodical. If this bothers any of the electorate, I'll be a bystander.
   25. justbob Posted: April 22, 2008 at 10:02 PM (#2754832)
Thanks for the clarification, Joe. I will simply put my personal HoM considerations aside and play by the rules. No problem.

Preliminary --

1. Gibson -- I don't doubt that he was the best
2. Bench
3. Carter -- I have him higher than most will. If there had never been a Johnny Bench, well...
4. Berra
5. Hartnett
6. Fisk -- Much of his value is in career length, just a couple of good full years
7. Cochrane -- The opposite of Fisk
8. Torre -- I'm a believer
9. Campanella -- Higher than he would be on MLB alone
10. Dickey
11. Santop
12. Ewing
13. Simmons
14. Bennett
15. Freehan
16. White
17. Mackey
18. Bresnahan
19. Troupe
20. McVey
   26. sunnyday2 Posted: April 22, 2008 at 11:00 PM (#2754864)
etc. This means that discussion can't really rise much above the level of the old Veterans Committee, whereby someone says "Boy, that guy could really hit" or "I saw hit Gibson hit one, must've been 600 feet" or "he could turn off a light and be in bed before it went out."



I don't agree with this. At. all. I was there. I saw the discussion.
   27. Chris Cobb Posted: April 22, 2008 at 11:29 PM (#2754895)
I don't agree with this. At. all. I was there. I saw the discussion.

We ought to revive those discussions, as much as we can.

On Ewing vs. White

TomH wrote:

Ewing seems to rank clearly above him in their primes, as Buck was a primo glove guy

Well, White was excellent defensively also, and was a better hitter in his best seasons. BP's WARP2 has his career fielding rate at catcher as 111. Reviewing both White's and Ewing's records in WARP, I will say that Ewing is better than I remembered (career fielding rate at catcher: 117. Wow!), and may deserve to rank higher than I had him, maybe higher than White. But White was a great, great, player, who ought to rank at least in the top half of catchers all time.
   28. mulder & scully Posted: April 23, 2008 at 02:01 AM (#2755191)
Prelim:

Based on my Win Shares numbers only. Plan to add DanR Warp before actually voting.

1. Gibson


2. Berra

3. Bench
4. White
5. Cochrane
6. Hartnett
7. Dickey
8. Carter
9. Campanella
10. Santop
11. Ewing

12. McVey

13. Fisk
14. Bennett
15. Freehan
16. Troupe

17. Mackey
18. Simmons

19. Bresnahan
20. Torre

Some notes: spaces 2 through 11 are very close. It will really depend on how much I weigh defense and league strength which DanR's numbers should help. Fisk gets dinged because I like a consecutive peak. Freehan's weak AL context has not been taken into account yet. Bennett could push up. And I don't know what to do with McVey yet. I downloaded most of the balloting from when he was eligible to try and get a handle on him.

Things will change on the real ballot.
   29. sunnyday2 Posted: April 23, 2008 at 03:15 PM (#2755629)
Prelim

1. Gibson

2. Bench
3. Berra--those 3 won't change

4. Carter
5. Hartnett
6. Campanella
7. Cochrane
8. White
9. Ewing
10. Fisk
11. Santop
12. Dickey--I agree that there's this middle group that is pretty interchangeable. Carter is better than Dickey but incrementally so, and yet 7 other guys fit in between. (I don't agree that 2 through 11 or 12 are close, however. There's a pretty solid gap between Bench and Berra, and Carter and Campy and the rest.

13. McVey--the poor man's Deacon White. I think some gave him extra credit for an early retirement from "MLB" to continue playing in California. Of course, if he continued playing, it's not really extra credit, it's just credit
14. Simmons
15. Freehan
16. Torre
17. Bennett--PHoM. All of these guys are solid HoMers, though if we went backwards in time or just picked the top 225 or so, Bennett probably drops out. In that sense, Torre and Bresnahan kind of define in/out for me (Bennett kind of defines in/out in the 19C). Not enough catching, not enough offense considering not enough catching. If they had caught throughout, then both would be easy/easier picks. Bennett, OTOH, plenty of catching.

18. Bresnahan
19. Trouppe
20. Mackey--not PHoM though Bresnahan is close.
   30. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 23, 2008 at 03:24 PM (#2755636)
As a group we've decided that Ferrell, Schalk and Lombardi (in this case) are below the 20 listed above. I think that's enough, right?

Not quite, since they were not voted on as a group, but in predetermined slots year by year.

I for one would like to see if a majority of voters would put those three at #21, #22, and #23 (in whatever order).
   31. DL from MN Posted: April 23, 2008 at 03:55 PM (#2755677)
Actually, I'd have Lombardi at 26th with Schang, Tenace, Munson, Howard, Porter in between. Ferrell and Schalk aren't even in the spreadsheet and there are at least a dozen other guys with comparable cases that I'd have to consider to even come up with a rank.
   32. sunnyday2 Posted: April 24, 2008 at 01:48 AM (#2756630)
I'm with DL. Those 3 wouldn't be anywhere near 21-22-23 if we threw everybody back on the table. I agree that as a group, we've spoken about those guys. That train has left the station.
   33. DanG Posted: April 24, 2008 at 12:49 PM (#2757092)
I'm with DL. Those 3 wouldn't be anywhere near 21-22-23

Then you're not with DL: he has Lombardi at 26th, very near to 21-22-23.
as a group, we've spoken about those guys.

We've passed judgment on them, sure. However, my understanding is that this thread, this ranking exercise, is intended as a reiteration of our analyses leading to those judgments. For the benefit of those outside or new to the HoM, we should include more than just the HoMers. I would quote Chris, writing on a related topic: We ought to revive those discussions, as much as we can.
   34. DL from MN Posted: April 24, 2008 at 01:42 PM (#2757131)
> Lombardi at 26th

Which means he'll never, ever make my PHoM. He's currently 110th among non-PHoM players on my lists. Schang is in the top 10 of non-PHoM players on my list.
   35. Paul Wendt Posted: April 24, 2008 at 04:04 PM (#2757249)
TomH
One thing we ought to bring back up as we discuss catchers (boy, it's been a long time since we vettted the 19th century guys...) was Ewing's reputation; there are lots of quotes about how stupendous people thought he was, and he was almost voted in as part of the original Hall of Fame class with Cobb Ruth Wagner Matty and Johnson. That buys him points in my book!

Wikipedia relays the story of that 1936 election from The Sporting News.
HOF 1936 at wikipedia (see Veterans Committee)
   36. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 24, 2008 at 08:18 PM (#2757746)
I'd be happy to contribute, but unfortunately, my stats for already elected players did not follow me from Israel, and I don't have the time to re-do the research, so any vote from me would be essentially "off-the cuff" and in no way methodical. If this bothers any of the electorate, I'll be a bystander.


rawagman this doesn't bother me if you put thought into it and feel OK with the ballot yourself.
   37. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 24, 2008 at 08:28 PM (#2757767)
Thanks for the clarification, Joe. I will simply put my personal HoM considerations aside and play by the rules. No problem.


Awesome Bob, glad to hear it!

I responded to Dan's comments over on the other thread. Please check there . . .

etc. This means that discussion can't really rise much above the level of the old Veterans Committee, whereby someone says "Boy, that guy could really hit" or "I saw hit Gibson hit one, must've been 600 feet" or "he could turn off a light and be in bed before it went out."


I don't agree with this. At. all. I was there. I saw the discussion.

We ought to revive those discussions, as much as we can.


Well said Marc, I agree.

I think I should have put links to all of the player's discussion threads (and other relevant threads) in the first post of this thread.

I would love to do that now, but I really don't have the time right now - any volunteers? If not, I'll try to do it this weekend.
   38. andrew siegel Posted: April 25, 2008 at 06:37 PM (#2758746)
For now:

(1) Gibson--Easy.

(2) Bench--Could flip-flop with Yogi.
(3) Berra

(Piazza)
(4) Carter--Top of a tight group.
(5) Harnett--Played in a much tougher hitting environment than Dickey; underrated.
(6) Dickey
(7) Cochrane--At his best, as good as anyone except Gibson but the short career hurts in this tight a group.
(8) Ewing--When you adjust for season length, his career is almost identical to Cochrane's.
(9) Fisk--Actually very close to Carter; lots of very good partial seasons exaggerrate his value but only a little bit.
(10) White--Long career but really a peak/prime candidate as his 3B seasons were so-so; might rank higher.

(I-Rod)
(11) Campanella--Only at top of his game offensively and defensively for a few seasons, but his best seasons are very similar to Bench's.

(12) Santop--Hardest to get a handle on. I see him as a B+ hitter and a B+ defender, not really comparable to anyone else on this list.
(13) McVey--A top of the league hitter and a slight plus as a catcher for a few seasons, mix in another few years as a good hitter at offense first positions and we are looking at the career Joe Torre would have had if he wasn't a defensive liability.

(14) Simmons--Still working on this group.
(15) Torree
(16) Bennett
(17) Freehan

(18) Trouppe
(E.Howard)
(Schang)
(19) Bresnahan

_______PHOM line
(Posada)
(20) Mackey--Not a crazy pick, but doesn't seem to have hit enough. Bob Boone with 2 or 3 big years with the bat.
   39. Chris Cobb Posted: April 25, 2008 at 11:01 PM (#2758968)
Re Mackey:

I should note for the record that he ought to have new MLEs run using the HoF NeL project's numbers. They may not make a difference, but my impression is that they improve his profile as a hitter somewhat. I have a lot on my plate at the moment, so I can't say that I will get to them before the voting starts, but if I can, I will.
   40. OCF Posted: April 25, 2008 at 11:10 PM (#2758977)
I'm not sure how much use this is going to be, but I do have all my old data and I've been presenting in this style forever. This is offense only and is measured against average. It doesn't know how good a defensive catcher the player was, and it doesn't even know what position he played in any given year - something to bear in mind with respect to Torre and Bresnahan. (And for that matter, by this offense-only stat, Gene Tenace would be right up there with Cochrane and Hartnett.) While it's not terribly sensitive to season length, it is just the same seriously unfair to Bennett to measure him on the same scale.

Berra . . . 52 48 46 44 36 34 27 24 20 19 16 16 14 13 13 10  4 --4
Torre 
. . . 84 53 43 40 31 31 28 23 17 15 15  9  9  5  4  0 --8
Dickey 
. .  50 48 46 39 35 34 24 22 20 20 14 14 12  6  1 --3
Bench 
. . . 64 47 42 35 32 24 23 21 16 15 12 12 11  7 --5-11
Cochraane 
48 42 40 38 34 30 29 26 19 13  7  6  1  0
Hartnett 
.  41 39 34 32 30 19 19 16 15 14 12 12 12  6  5  4  1  0 -7
Simmons 
. . 49 48 38 38 35 24 21 18 16  8  8  3  1  1  0 -----6-30
Fisk 
. . .  49 37 33 32 25 21 19 18 17 15 11 10  9  9  3  3  1  0 -----7
Bresnahan 
60 43 40 38 26 23 19 19 17  9  6  5  1  0 ---6
Carter 
. .  43 39 37 27 26 21 20 15 14 13  9  5  2  0 --6-11-12-13
Freehan 
. . 53 46 28 28 25 21 13  4  2  1  1 --4-10-12
Campanella  54 52 41 34 24 17  6 
--8-18
Bennett 
. . 27 25 22 17 13 12  9  4 ------
   41. BobDD Posted: April 27, 2008 at 04:10 AM (#2760321)
Is King Kelly considered a catcher?
   42. Howie Menckel Posted: April 27, 2008 at 05:48 PM (#2760535)
(this will be a variation on OCF's approach)

I put together my OPS+ lists for catchers, with a twist.

The first list tells us what kind of hitters they were, relative to the average player. I list them in only a very rough order of impressiveness, combining peak, prime and career. Frankly, I'm a little amazed at how close they are - almost all have a way to appeal to some groups of voters. The old-era guys get an advantage by this method, but I won't necessarily have them anywhere near there.

The second list adds in any 300+ PA (or schedule-length equivalent), to account for catchers who didn't quite play every day. Hartnett, Bennett, and Bresnahan benefit most from this version.

The third list makes you both be a full-timer, but also a full-time catcher. This crushes Torre, McVey, Bresnahan, and Ewing - but not White or Simmons.

These lists do not account for Negro Leagues catchers Josh Gibson, Biz Mackey, Louis Santop, and Quincy Trouppe.

And we haven't even started yet on defense, baserunning, strength of the era, etc. But it's a start.

OPS+s, batting title-qualifying seasons (3.1 PA per G), can be any position (measure overall hitting effectiveness)

Deacon White...........191 79 56 53 49 45 38 32 31 30 28 14 09 09 08 08 06 06 (91)

Cal McVey................194 77 61 58 51 43 39 32 11

Buck Ewing..............158 55 46 44 36 36 36 30 26 10 (89)

Joe Torre..................171 56 40 40 36 26 26 25 22 17 17

Johnny Bench ..........166 43 41 40 33 33 29 23 19 17 09 07

Carlton Fisk..............162 58 38 34 34 25 18 15 09 05 03 02 (97)

Mickey Cochrane......157 49 37 35 33 28 24 22 17 08

Bill Dickey................158 45 43 35 33 20 17 09

Roy Campanella........159 55 53 35 31 21

Ted Simmons...........148 44 42 41 35 27 26 24 17 16 14 12 03 (87 61)

Yogi Berra................142 40 37 37 35 30 25 20 20 19 10

Gary Carter.............146 43 38 37 26 23 16 15 12 12 (93 83)

Charlie Bennett.........161 52 51 49 30 (90)

Roger Bresnahan......162 40 40 38 13

Bill Freehan..............145 44 39 26 22 05 (83)

Gabby Hartnett.........144 29 17 15


...................................

OPS+s, 300+ PA (or equivalent), can be any position

Deacon White...........191 79 56 53 49 45 38 37 32 31 30 28 14 09 09 08 08 06 06 (91 81)

Buck Ewing..............158 56 55 46 44 44 43 36 36 36 30 26 10 (89 85)

Joe Torre..................171 56 40 40 36 26 26 25 22 23 17 17 12 04 (91)

Cal McVey................194 77 61 58 51 43 39 32 11

Johnny Bench .........166 43 41 40 33 33 29 29 23 23 19 17 09 07 01 (98)

Carlton Fisk..............162 58 55 50 38 36 34 34 25 18 15 09 05 03 02 02 (97 96 60)

Gabby Hartnett.........158 51 44 42 38 29 26 23 18 18 17 15 14 12

Yogi Berra...............142 40 37 37 35 30 25 20 20 19 19 15 15 11 10

Mickey Cochrane......157 49 37 35 33 28 24 22 17 08 (98)

Joe Torre..................171 56 40 40 36 26 26 25 22 17 17

Roy Campanella........159 55 53 35 31 21 02 (88 82 74)

Bill Dickey................158 45 43 35 33 32 21 20 20 17 09 09 08 (82)

Ted Simmons...........148 44 42 41 35 27 26 24 17 16 14 12 03 (87 74 61)

Charlie Bennett........161 52 51 49 37 30 29 (97 90 87 70)

Roger Bresnahan.....162 45 40 40 38 34 32 29 13 04 (89)

Gary Carter..............146 43 38 37 26 23 16 15 12 12 (93 83 82 66)

Bill Freehan..............145 44 39 26 22 22 06 05 (99 95 83 82 76)


...................................

OPS+s, batting title-qualifying seasons, based on 3.1 PA per G as a catcher

Deacon White...........191 79 56 49 45 38 32 30 14

Johnny Bench ..........166 43 41 40 33 33 29 23 19 17 09 07

Carlton Fisk..............162 58 38 34 34 25 18 15 09 05 03 02 (97)

Mickey Cochrane......157 49 37 35 33 28 24 22 17 08

Bill Dickey................158 45 43 35 33 20 17 09

Roy Campanella........159 55 53 35 31 21

Ted Simmons...........148 44 42 41 35 27 24 16 14 12

Gary Carter.............146 43 38 37 26 23 16 15 12 (93 83)

Yogi Berra................142 40 37 37 35 30 25 20 10

Charlie Bennett.........152 51 49 30

Buck Ewing..............146 44 36 36

Bill Freehan..............145 44 26 22 (83)

Cal McVey................177 51 11

Gabby Hartnett.........144 29 17 15

Joe Torre..................156

Roger Bresnahan......138

.............................

Percentages of games each candidate played by position, unadjusted for era (leaves Kelly and McVey and Ewing a little skewed, includes estimates on Negro Leaguers):

Cochrane 100, Dickey 100, Hartnett 98, JGibson 95, Campanella 95, Freehan 90, GCarter 90, Fisk 90, Bennett 88, Berra 87, Mackey 80, Bench 78, TSimmons 77, Santop 75, Bresnahan 71, Trouppe 65, Ewing 47, Torre 41, McVey 30, White 28

(other Hall of Merit guys at 10 pct + as a C are: King Kelly 36 pct and Jim O'Rourke 11 pct)
   43. Howie Menckel Posted: April 27, 2008 at 05:49 PM (#2760536)
No, King Kelly will be in the third base competition.
   44. Paul Wendt Posted: April 27, 2008 at 06:37 PM (#2760599)
I consider him a catcher and an in and out fielder. By inference from his statistics and the legend of his inventiveness Bill James says that he probably felt free to range far and wide. I imagine that he was a kind of short fielder (used by some softball Tens), right shortstop (Henry Chadwick's suggestion for a tenth player), or long stop. Bill James gives A and A+ grades to Dalrymple and Gore in left and center. I presume they were sound traditional fielders and I suppose that was a practical necessity in Kelly's company.

Kelly was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1945, before mmebers were officially elected as or designated "players" as opposed to managers, executives, etc. Even today the fielding positions are determined by Hall of Fame staff, like the caps that make one team affiliation official in a sense.

The Hall of Fame staff has revised their classifications, too. The first generation of webpages deviated; perhaps authors were essentially free to use judgment. Was Rube Foster either a "Manager" or a "Pioneer/Executive" before the website? I don't think so. He is now both:
Manager in the Negro Leaguers category
Negro Leaguers at NBHOFM and
Executive/Pioneer on his own
Rube Foster at NBHOFM

Full Seasons Equivalent games playerd
Mike Kelly
POS seasons
OF 7.387
C 5.093
3B 1.046 (infield 2.6)
SS 0.890
2B 0.459
1B 0.211
P 0.106

That is more than 33% catcher. Compare Cal McVey 36+, Deacon White 39+, Joe Torre 40+ (from 1871; McVey and White about 30% and 43% beginning 1869).

But catcher was the plurality position for McVey, White, and Torre during their major league careers, not so for Kelly. He was a substitute catcher and everyday player in his prime, when a third catcher sometimes played more than a second catcher plays today. He was primarily a catcher only in 1888 and 1890-93. In 1890-91 he was the manager; in 1892 Bennett was hurt or ill (the number one catcher for Boston 1888-93); in 1893 he was catcher or nothing (17g).
   45. Howie Menckel Posted: April 27, 2008 at 08:10 PM (#2760747)
Sorry, meant to sat Kelly is in the OUTFIELD competition.
He's the C/OF guy, and White is the C/3B guy, obviously.
   46. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2008 at 01:28 AM (#2761906)
I'm curious - who got the biggest defensive bonus and demerits, and why?

Quite a range of eras here, re equipment and basestealers and such.
   47. Paul Wendt Posted: April 29, 2008 at 01:46 AM (#2761921)
Percentages of games each candidate played by position, unadjusted for era (leaves Kelly and McVey and Ewing a little skewed, includes estimates on Negro Leaguers):

Cochrane 100, Dickey 100, Hartnett 98, JGibson 95, Campanella 95, Freehan 90, GCarter 90, Fisk 90, Bennett 88, Berra 87, Mackey 80, Bench 78, TSimmons 77, Santop 75, Bresnahan 71, Trouppe 65, Ewing 47, Torre 41, McVey 30, White 28


Permit me to highlight:
This distorts White's career more than the others Howie mentioned because the league seasons were much longer late in his career when he was no longer catching. For Kelly the adjustment goes the other way because he was primarily a catcher at the end of his career.

catcher share of raw games played (beginning 1871)
Ewing 47, Torre 41, Kelly 36, McVey 30, White 28

catcher share of full seasons equivalent (beginning 1871) <== don't miss it
Ewing 48, Torre 40, White 39, McVey 36, Kelly 33
   48. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 29, 2008 at 12:15 PM (#2762133)
(In response to Chris Cobb's post on the ballot thread.)

I've been working through the NgL players a bit and found what you said about Gibson is accurate. My initial problem was the numbers my system was coming up with. As a guideline, I ran Jimmie Foxx's offensive numbers and then gave credit for catching a full career and my system came up with the following scores for a few of the catchers:

1. Gibson 575


2. Bench 388
3. Berra 376
4. White 367

<cut to bottom>

20. Freehan 308

So, there is more than twice as much distance between Gibson and Bench as there is between Bench and Freehan, and I find that a bit hard to credit. I'm going to start running the numbers for the 1B and maybe if I start seeing those 500+ scores for others, I'll feel more comfortable seeing Gibson with that score.
   49. TomH Posted: April 29, 2008 at 12:29 PM (#2762139)
Would Gibson have caught that many MLB games per year to have put up Foxx's ##s? 50 HR in a season twice? Perhaps not. While maybe as "good" a hitter as Foxx, he likely would have had less durability, at least in terms of games squatting behind the plate. Or maybe he would have been like Torre or Simmons, spending significant time at other positions. But he DID catch a LOT of NgLg games, so it's hard to project. I can see argments that he is one of the best 5 players ever, and I can see those who would rate Bench for example higher as a pure catcher, even tho I disagree.

As to Deacon White, yes the increasing schedule during his career misshapes his "% of time at C". However, playing 54 of a 60-game schedule at C is not the same as playing 144 of 160, either; any attempt at 'full season adjustment' should account for this.
   50. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2008 at 01:03 PM (#2762158)
How tough was it defensively for each pre-1900 catcher?
Seems like that landscape changed a lot.
Who gets the most 'bonus'?
   51. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2008 at 01:03 PM (#2762159)
I'm going to start running the numbers for the 1B and maybe if I start seeing those 500+ scores for others, I'll feel more comfortable seeing Gibson with that score.

Let us know what you find.

My guess is that that is you will find "Gibson minus a little" scores for players like Gehrig and Foxx: that's about how it shakes out in my system.

The more players you study, the more being able to see players in a more complete context will help you to (1) have confidence in your results and (2) identify ways to fine-tune your system. I can see how starting with catchers and getting the numbers for Gibson would cause you to view the results with skepticism! It is anomalous. As Tom H. mentioned above somewhere, the only comparable case of positional dominance in the all-time rankings is Honus Wagner at shortstop, a case in which the statistical evidence is a lot easier to accept at face value.
   52. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: April 29, 2008 at 01:51 PM (#2762190)
Let us know what you find.

My guess is that that is you will find "Gibson minus a little" scores for players like Gehrig and Foxx: that's about how it shakes out in my system.


Gibson slotted below Gehrig, but ahead of Foxx (and everyone else, so far).
   53. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 29, 2008 at 02:00 PM (#2762195)
As to Deacon White, yes the increasing schedule during his career misshapes his "% of time at C". However, playing 54 of a 60-game schedule at C is not the same as playing 144 of 160, either; any attempt at 'full season adjustment' should account for this.


I disagree, in terms of value in winning the pennant, 54/60 is just as valuable as 146/162.

It's not like the catchers of his day hit a ton because they 'only' caught 50 games a year. They played many non-league games, etc..
   54. TomH Posted: April 29, 2008 at 02:28 PM (#2762225)
Agreed Joe, 54/60 is as good in pennants won as 146/162. But conditions change, and some mechanism to account for that is needed, or else I might conclude that Al Spalding and Pud Galvin were the best pitchers ever.
   55. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 29, 2008 at 03:12 PM (#2762284)
I don't think it's close to the same thing. In modern times catcher occasionally get to 140-145 games. No one makes 140 starts a year as a pitcher.

BTW, I will post (hopefully today) Pennants Added numbers for these guys, using DanR's WAR, with my pennants added calc. I also give a 50% boost for catcher seasons (this gets them in the ballpark career wise and season wise with other players), and knocks guys like Torre down a little.
   56. Al Peterson Posted: April 29, 2008 at 03:30 PM (#2762316)
Have went round and round trying to prelim these guys. Should put something out here so don't waste all effort to this point.

1) Gibson, Josh - running away with it. Might not have been catcher in majors but he sure was one in the leagues he played.
2) Berra, Yogi - six of one
3) Bench, Johnny - half-dozen of the other
4) Hartnett, Gabby
5) Dickey, Bill
6) Fisk, Carlton
7) Carter, Gary
8) Ewing, Buck - I might be a little rough on the early catchers since they caught less games but tried to adjust for that. Clearly top 10, maybe high as #4.
9) Cochrane, Mickey - The beaning cost us a fine player retiring early.
10) Campanella, Roy - Speaking of bad luck...gets some NeL credit
11) White, Deacon - I know it was decided long ago but he just feels like a 3Bmen to me.
12) Santop, Louis - There was a gap from Gibson down to him when discussing candidates from the "other" league.
13) McVey, Cal - Played on the Cincinnati team of 1869, went out west to play later when still a top notch player back east.
14) Torre, Joe - Multi position special
15) Bennett, Charlie - Nod to defense
16) Simmons, Ted - Man hit well, baserunning & defense were more pedestrian.
17) Freehan, Bill - last of the 60s/70s grouping
18) Trouppe, Quincy - luckwarm support for the last three
19) Bresnahan, Roger
20) Mackey, Biz

Will get the ballot in there later this week.
   57. Paul Wendt Posted: April 29, 2008 at 03:41 PM (#2762333)
As to Deacon White, yes the increasing schedule during his career misshapes his "% of time at C". However, playing 54 of a 60-game schedule at C is not the same as playing 144 of 160, either; any attempt at 'full season adjustment' should account for this.

I disagree. It's a measure of how much of his career he was a catcher. If you interpret this as doubling his early seasons, and you don't like that, simply reinterpret it as halving his late seasons.
It isn't his fault they doubled the number of championship games (not commercial games) when he was an "old man" playing third base.
   58. Paul Wendt Posted: April 29, 2008 at 03:55 PM (#2762351)
50. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2008 at 09:03 AM (#2762158)
How tough was it defensively for each pre-1900 catcher?


I don't entirely grasp the point.
And Al Spink isn't entirely reliable. But I'm sure it wasn't rare to play close to the batter in 1870.
The National Game, 2nd ed., 1911 (SIU reprint, 2000)
>>
Opinion is divided and history fails to prove just which of the veteran catchers was the first to play up close to the bat with neither mask, chest protector or the commonest kind of glove to protect him.
>The honor has been claimed in turn by the friends of Robert Ferguson of the Atlantics, . . . [Malone, Craver, Allison, King, Hastings, McGeary, White, Mills, Jouett, Boerum - he provides full player names and club names].
>I saw all of these players in their work behind the bat in 1870 and not one of them had mask, chest protector or glove to protect them form the swift pitching they then faced. They were all fine, fearless players and took no heed of the injuries to face, head, body and fingers which came to them often.
>There may, however, have been other catchers before those I have mentioned to play up close to the bat.
<<
   59. Sean Gilman Posted: April 29, 2008 at 05:14 PM (#2762471)
Agreed Joe, 54/60 is as good in pennants won as 146/162. But conditions change, and some mechanism to account for that is needed, or else I might conclude that Al Spalding and Pud Galvin were the best pitchers ever.


I don't think it's close to the same thing. In modern times catcher occasionally get to 140-145 games. No one makes 140 starts a year as a pitcher.


The adjustment to Galvin and Spalding should be in the pitching/fielding split, not in the games started.
   60. Chris Cobb Posted: April 29, 2008 at 09:05 PM (#2762910)
On the ballot thread, Rusty wrote, in response to my calling his ranking of Ewing "indefensible":

Obviously your opinion is different, but 'indefensible' is a huge overstatement.

I generally choose my words carefully. When I said "indefensible," I didn't mean that you would not have any rationale to offer in defense of your ranking, but that no one would see it as justifiable.

Two quick points for you to chew over:

1) The electorate has learned a thing or two since the 1902 election. Ewing was elected before any of the really serious study of catcher usage patterns had been undertaken: those really got underway as the case began to build for Charlie Bennett. For Ewing to have been elected without usage adjustments having yet been systematically implemented by the electorate shows how good he was. His reputation, remember, was as "the best player of the nineteenth century." Against that reputation, yes he was overrated, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a great, great player.

2) Citing James' rankings as meaningful authority for the ranking of nineteenth-century players, given that his system has a time-line and does not adjust for season length, is curious, and I doubt anyone else here thinks James' placements of nineteenth-century players, and especially pre-1893 players, against players of other eras should be taken seriously. I note that you have no difficulty ranking Deacon White and Cal McVey very differently from James.

How are you going to rank Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, and Roger Connor when we turn to first basemen next week? James has them at #11, #18, and #22 all time among first basemen. When I see you ranking Brouthers and Connor at the bottom of the first base pack, then I will believe that you actually take James's rankings seriously and aren't just using him as a convenient justification for your ranking of Ewing. You would at least be consistent, though mistaken, in both cases.

When you look at how James handles the other pre-1893 players, it appears that, by his standards, he holds Ewing in very high regard indeed. The top finishers, among pre-1893 players, at each position are: C Ewing 17; 1B Anson 11, Brouthers 18, Connor 22; 2B McPhee 30, Richardson 39; 3B Williamson 45; SS Glasscock 43; LF O'Rourke 37; CF Gore 40; RF King Kelly 32; P Clarkson 42, Radbourn 45, Keefe 54. So, by James's reckoning, Ewing has an argument to be the second best pre-1893 position player after Anson, and clearly one of the top 5 players of the 1876-93 period. If one is being fair to all eras, is it reasonable to argue that the best catcher of a two-decade period of major league baseball, who was also among the top 5 players of that era, is worse than every modern catcher who was elected to the HoM? If one brings James's rankings into the HoM context, they are not much of a support for your ranking of Ewing.
   61. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2008 at 11:23 PM (#2763031)
I'd still recommend looking at the 1902 ballot discussion thread, link is here:

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/hall_of_merit/discussion/1902_ballot_discussion

I haven't gotten far enough along yet to weigh in too well re Ewing.
But Ewing has only 4 seasons as a relatively "full-time catcher," among the fewest of the group.

His highest peak OPS+ also is only about average among this group, even though it seemed more common back then to put up monster OPS+s.
Torre, who like Ewing spent a lot of time at other positions, is a good comp re OPS+ alone in full-time seasons at any position. Ewing's lot improves by adding in his part-time seasons.

Ewing has a lot to recommend him - and so do most of the other guys.

I think I'd reserve the word "indefensible" for putting Gibson or Bench or probably Berra and Fisk that low. If I could see someone putting a guy below 10th, then 17th or 18th may seem curious but again I'd pick another word myself.
   62. Howie Menckel Posted: April 29, 2008 at 11:26 PM (#2763042)
As for catcher's defense, I mean when do we change our sense from "guy standing there because someone has to throw the ball back to the pitcher" to "brutal place to play, with little equipment, faster pitching, tons of steals, and knee-ruining bunts to chase."

I exaggerate, but one gets the idea I hope.
We're talking an 1870s C vs an 1880s one vs an 1890s one vs a 1900s one. Heck, we're talking decade to decade throughout history.
   63. Paul Wendt Posted: April 30, 2008 at 01:45 AM (#2763557)
In those terms I mean that for serious competitive teams, eg the professional teams of 1869-1870 (some of the men named by Al Spink played only before 1871), it is already too late for "guy standing there because someone has to throw the ball back to the pitcher". Bill James and some of the vintage teams that recreate muffin games (1867 is a popular rulebook) have done a disservice with such talk --although I don't recall reading that one, only the converse about pitcher's task to toss the ball so the batter can hit it.

--
TomH,
If you are thinking of a wear-and-tear effect on longevity --catchers tend to have short careers-- then of course halving Deacon White's later seasons is not the same as doubling his early ones.

Maybe Carlton Fisk enjoyed a long career partly because he didn't play "every day" like Randy Hundley and Thurman Munson and Johnny Bench --in turn, ironically, partly because he suffered injuries (can't play in August) rather than wear and tear (can't play so well in August). I think Bill James wrote that somewhere, but it may have been someone else. It is analogous to the argument many have made about high workloads for young pitchers --Bill James again? or Craig Wright & Tom House.
We must suppose that Deacon White's workload measured in games was low compared to that of Hundley, Munson, and Bench at similar age and probably throughout his career as a catcher. So he enjoyed "Fisk's advantage".

By the way, the remarkable batting season White enjoyed in 1877, the only season in his twenties when he did not catch, is suggestive. It's only one season, so it isn't more than that.
   64. Chris Cobb Posted: April 30, 2008 at 02:42 AM (#2763732)
But Ewing has only 4 seasons as a relatively "full-time catcher," among the fewest of the group.

This description of Ewing's playing time doesn't take account of 1880s conditions.

Ewing played the majority of his games at catcher in eight seasons in which he was a starter: every year from 1881-1890 except 1882 and 1887, when he played mostly third base.

In each of those seasons he led his team in games caught.

Here's a look at catcher usage in those seasons

Year – the season
avg. – average number of games caught by team #1 catcher
?nt – that average expressed as percentage of team games
lead – number of games caught by league leader in games caught
Ew g – Ewing’s games caught
Ew % -- Ewing’s percentage of games caught


Year avg. ?nt lead Ew g Ew%
1881..59...70%...80...44...52%
1883..65...66%...83...63...64%
1884..69...62%...80...80...71%
1885..59...53%...69...63...56%
1886..58...47%...72...50...40%
1888..71...53%...85...78...58%
1889..75...56%...97...97...72%
1890..76...57%..112...81...60%
Tot..532...57%..678..556...60


The upshot is that over his eight years as a starting catcher, he was a little bit above average in durability, setting aside his play at other positions. He led the league twice in games caught in those seasons. He caught an above average number of games in five of eight seasons.

There is some similarity between Ewing’s playing time at catcher and Torre’s, but in context their time at catcher was somewhat different relative to their peers.

Torre played the majority of his games at catcher in nine seasons. He led his team in eight of those seasons. In those eight seasons, an average starting catcher caught 845 games, an average of 66% per season. Torre caught 823, an average of 64% per season. He was never close to leading the league in games caught. He caught an above average number of games in four of eight seasons.

Ewing, by reputation and by the available fielding metrics, was a top-notch defensive catcher, probably among the best all time, and he was an above-average fielder at the other infield positions he played (3B and SS during his prime). Torre, by reputation was a poor catcher, by the metrics an average one. He was a defensive liability at the other positions he played.
   65. Howie Menckel Posted: April 30, 2008 at 02:14 PM (#2764055)
Thanks, guys.

Anyone else on how catching was more or less challenging in different eras? Can include eras where runners didn't steal as much or hitters didn't bunt as much.
   66. TomH Posted: April 30, 2008 at 03:06 PM (#2764068)
When steals were low (1950), THROWING wasn't as impt, but it was still tough to squat 140 games a year I'm sure. So maybe the variation among catcher defense value was larger in 1985 and 1910 than 1950 (as others have poitned out, Maury Wills' 1962 amazing year of 104 SB and 13 CS would not have occurred in 1990, when more catchers could throw well), but the difference between the typical catcher's and first baseman's ability to hit would not be affected.
   67. TomH Posted: April 30, 2008 at 05:26 PM (#2764232)
re: Deacon and catching durability, let me try to say it a different way. It seems some voters are crediting White a la BP's player translated statistics, where White winds up being a guy with waaay over 3000 hits, while catching half of a career, when you project the short seasons into full ones. I agree that in the sense of pennants won, this IS his approx value. My point is that given the wear on catchers, this projection has issues.

Using Bill Dickey as a comp, Dickey had 6300 career ABs. Eight times he was named as one of the best 16 players in his league (there were 16 teams in MLB at the time). Six times he was one of the top 10 in his league in Batting Wins (BBref). And he played his entire career at catcher.

You wish to rank White ahead of him? Is White's career effectively longer? Was he a better hitter? A better defensive catcher? A better player when he was not catching?

White is his prime was a great hitter, but his rank in batting wins in a small MLB setting is not better than Dickey's. The only truly great year he had in battikng wins was the year he played mostly 1B. His career was longer, but he spent time as a below-avg third baseman, and also as an OFer, where BP rates him lower on defense than Manny Ramirez (!); so I would suggest his ranking should be more based on prime than career. White was a great defender, but Dickey was also very good, so I don't see much diff there.

Deacon is historically vastly underrated, and for us to put him in somewhere near the top half of all HoM catchers is an honor. I just can't see him higher than the 10 or so truly greats we have available. If your mileage varies, I'd ask how many 1870s era players you want in your top 100 all time.

OTOH, if you have White and Ewing at 16th-ish each, the doctor will diagnose you with a case of BillJames19thcentury-itis, and recommend remedial study on the book "good baseball players did actually exist before 1885".
   68. jimd Posted: April 30, 2008 at 06:49 PM (#2764402)
Who is the best catcher pre-1920? (Nearly half-way through the time period of MLB). How does the possessor of that title compare to the catchers post-1920?

The lively ball appears to have reduced the wear-and-tear on catchers.

Shortly after its introduction, great modern-style catchers began to appear, Hartnett, Cochrane, Dickey, Gibson, etc. 14 of the 20 catchers on our list date from after that time. Before 1920, Bennett is the only one who spent most of his time at catcher, and he was at reduced effectiveness in the latter part of his career due to repeated injuries. The others - White, McVey, Ewing, Bresnahan, Santop - all spent significant amounts of time at other positions to reduce that wear and tear.

Most of us give some kind of a bonus to catchers beyond their apparent value. If this was not done, there would be even less catchers in the HOM then there are now. Is this extra value warranted? If it is, then does it vary through time? These are all not easy questions to answer and will make the rankings at catcher more personal than those at other positions might be.
   69. Dizzypaco Posted: April 30, 2008 at 06:58 PM (#2764424)
I know you all disagree with me, but my own take:

Bill James is right. I believe the quality of "major league" baseball before 1880 was very, very poor compared to 20th and 21st century baseball - it drew from an extremely small number of people. An absurdly small number of people. Simply put, professional baseball was not mature at this time.

The only way to prove me wrong is either to be 150 years old or more, or to find players that played both in 1870 and the 20th century. In other words, the only way to debate this is through logic, which I believe is on my (and Bill James') side.

OTOH, if you have White and Ewing at 16th-ish each, the doctor will diagnose you with a case of BillJames19thcentury-itis, and recommend remedial study on the book "good baseball players did actually exist before 1885".

Methinks the doctor is a quack.
   70. DanG Posted: April 30, 2008 at 07:46 PM (#2764483)
Bill James is right. I believe the quality of "major league" baseball before 1880 was very, very poor compared to 20th and 21st century baseball - it drew from an extremely small number of people. An absurdly small number of people. Simply put, professional baseball was not mature at this time.

The only way to prove me wrong is either to be 150 years old or more, or to find players that played both in 1870 and the 20th century. In other words, the only way to debate this is through logic, which I believe is on my (and Bill James') side.

I don't think this is really the issue in dispute. We're not playing time machine.

I think the question is more along the lines, Was a championship in the 1870's "worth" as much as a championship in the 21st century? IOW, is a pennant a pennant? If it's not, how do you calculate the appropriate discount?
   71. Dizzypaco Posted: April 30, 2008 at 08:22 PM (#2764519)
I think the question is more along the lines, Was a championship in the 1870's "worth" as much as a championship in the 21st century? IOW, is a pennant a pennant? If it's not, how do you calculate the appropriate discount?

True, but can't you make the same argument about the 1860's? How about the 1850's? 1840's? When do you draw the line? With the first game? The first professional team? The first professional league? I would draw the line later than most people, I guess.

Besides, I think many people are arguing that the overall level of play before 1880 was just as good as at any time - so players stats should be taken at face value. I can't agree.

Its one thing to say, roughly, "White was more dominant in his time than Mickey Cochrane was in the 1920's and 1930's. Its a different think to say he was better. I might agree with the former (I'd have to study it more), but I would not agree with the latter. And because I would never agree with the latter, I would also never agree that a player that played in the 1870's is "underrated".
   72. TomH Posted: April 30, 2008 at 08:36 PM (#2764531)
Cap Anson, 1871 to 1897. Did pretty good for an old guy in a much tougher league :)
   73. Dizzypaco Posted: April 30, 2008 at 08:49 PM (#2764551)
Cap Anson, 1871 to 1897. Did pretty good for an old guy in a much tougher league :)

Yeah, there's that.

On the other hand, there are countless examples of major leaguers whose raw stats weren't any better in the majors than they were in the low and high minors. It doesn't mean that the quality of play in A ball is just as good as in the American League.
   74. Paul Wendt Posted: April 30, 2008 at 09:59 PM (#2764582)
Actually Bill James counts zero before 1876 and in outside the major leagues and he counts "a game win is a game win" beginning in 1876. Play during the 1876 season, or the 1876 pennant if you prefer, counts 5/9 that of 1886 (NL) or 1918; 5/10 that of 1888 or 1903; 5/11 that of 1892 or 1960; 5/6 that of 1879. Play in 1892 and 1960 counts 11/9 that of 1886 (NL) or 1918. He carries this through not only in his career win shares measure but also in this three-year and five-season measures of peak value, which are extremely influential in his player rankings.
   75. Howie Menckel Posted: May 01, 2008 at 12:06 AM (#2764652)
hardly dispositive, for a million reasons.
but the OPS+ and career MLB PA numbers for each:


Josh Gibson
Cal McVey ..........152 OPS+ in 2543 PA

Buck Ewing .........129 OPS+ in 5770 PA

Joe Torre ............128 OPS+ in 8801 PA

Mickey Cochrane ..128 OPS+ in 6206 PA
Bill Dickey ...........127 OPS+ in 7060 PA

Deacon White ......127 OPS+ in 6972 PA
Johnny Bench .......126 OPS+ in 8669 PA

Gabby Hartnett ....126 OPS+ in 7297 PA
Roger Bresnahan ..126 OPS+ in 5374 PA
Yogi Berra ...........125 OPS+ in 8364 PA
Roy Campanella ...124 OPS+ in 4816 PA
Charlie Bennett .....118 OPS+ in 4310 PA
Gary Carter ..........115 OPS+ in 9019 PA
Carlton Fisk .........117 OPS+ in 9853 PA

Ted Simmons ......117 OPS+ in 9685 PA

Bill Freehan .........112 OPS+ in 6899 PA

Biz Mackey
Louis Santop
Quincy Trouppe
   76. jimd Posted: May 01, 2008 at 01:20 AM (#2764742)
Besides, I think many people are arguing that the overall level of play before 1880 was just as good as at any time - so players stats should be taken at face value. I can't agree.

I don't think anyone here is actually arguing that. Many people here argue "a pennant is a pennant" - IOW each era is approximately equal in worth.

Otherwise, there are endless unanswerable arguments about 19thC vs 20thC, pre-integration vs integration ball, expansion ball vs modern physical training ball, etc.
   77. DanG Posted: May 01, 2008 at 01:28 PM (#2764970)
True, but can't you make the same argument about the 1860's? How about the 1850's? 1840's? When do you draw the line? With the first game? The first professional team? The first professional league? I would draw the line later than most people, I guess.

Well, every voter has their preference. (And no, you can't make the same arguement about the 1860's, as there were obvious, dramatic advances made in the game's organization immediately after that.) What I prefer, which I believe is similar to many other HoM voters, is to give 100% consideration to years beginning in 1871, when the first professional league pennant was awarded. Before this, diminishing credit is given for years extending back to 1857, when the NABBP was founded.
Besides, I think many people are arguing that the overall level of play before 1880 was just as good as at any time - so players stats should be taken at face value. I can't agree.

As jimd wrote, that's not the arguement. One of the challenges of this era is how to interpret the statistical record - indeed, trying to piece together a statistical record.
Its one thing to say, roughly, "White was more dominant in his time than Mickey Cochrane was in the 1920's and 1930's. Its a different think to say he was better.

See, you tripped right over it: "in his time". That's how the HoM is dedicated to judging players. You want to say the quality was poor, the sport was immature, the talent pool was shallow, blah, blah, blah. And in 130 years they can just as easily say the same thing about baseball in 2008.

Nobody doubts that on some imaginary time-transporter basis Cochrane was "better" than White. OK, but why does everyone say that some fat guy whose prime was over 80 years ago is the greatest player who ever lived? Because he's being judged "in his time".
   78. Dizzypaco Posted: May 01, 2008 at 01:54 PM (#2764993)
As jimd wrote, that's not the arguement

It may not be your argument, but it seems to be the argument of others. Take the following quotes:

OTOH, if you have White and Ewing at 16th-ish each, the doctor will diagnose you with a case of BillJames19thcentury-itis, and recommend remedial study on the book "good baseball players did actually exist before 1885".
Deacon is historically vastly underrated


This strongly implies a belief that players in 1871 were not just good for their time, but good, period. The way Bill James has been talked about in this thread is that he is somehow mistaken in his rankings of players of this era, and that he doesn't know what he is talking about, when it comes to evaluating 19th century players. I think both approaches are fine (I prefer James' reasoning) but I think he has been unfairly maligned for choosing a different approach.

See, you tripped right over it: "in his time". That's how the HoM is dedicated to judging players. You want to say the quality was poor, the sport was immature, the talent pool was shallow, blah, blah, blah. And in 130 years they can just as easily say the same thing about baseball in 2008.

That misses the point. I'm not arguing that whether baseball in 2008 is better than baseball in 1958 or 1908, or will be better in 50 years. Rather that there is some point in baseball history where the rules became pretty similar to the ones played today, and where the major leagues started drawing from huge numbers of people, so that the overall talent was at least reasonable. I think most people would agree that that point occured sometime in the 19th century, and I believe the point was clearly after 1871.

Your response seems to be "There was a league in 1871. It doesn't make any difference to us whether the quality of play in that league was great, good, fair, or positively awful. It doesn't make any difference to us whether the rules under which they played were vastly different than those that have been used for the past 120 years or so. It was a league, so we are bound to treat it like any other league."

I understand the reasoning, but I don't agree with it.
   79. DanG Posted: May 01, 2008 at 02:09 PM (#2765004)
So, overall you're saying the HoM does things differently, that we aren't mainstream. Got it.

And yeah, I sorta agree that some here are maligning Bill James. Again, he does it different. I think what irks many here (at least me) is his attitude that since baseball before circa 1885 wasn't quite the game we all know, that it's not worth taking the time to analyze. It's very disappointing that the Sultan of Stats took a "pass" on the era.
   80. Dizzypaco Posted: May 01, 2008 at 02:18 PM (#2765018)
So, overall you're saying the HoM does things differently, that we aren't mainstream. Got it.

Well, yes. But there has long been an attitude that the HOM does things better, not just different. I doesn't bother me that different groups analyze things differently, it bothers me when people have an attitude that "our approach is better - others should learn from us." Obviously, not every poster shares this attitudes, but clearly some do.

I think what irks many here (at least me) is his attitude that since baseball before circa 1885 wasn't quite the game we all know, that it's not worth taking the time to analyze. It's very disappointing that the Sultan of Stats took a "pass" on the era.

My point is that he had solid reasons for "passing" on the era, reasons that I agree with. And what irks me is when people get irked for what is a very reasonable decision, and malign him on that basis.
   81. TomH Posted: May 01, 2008 at 02:33 PM (#2765046)
OTOH, if you have White and Ewing at 16th-ish each, the doctor will diagnose you with a case of BillJames19thcentury-itis, and recommend remedial study on the book "good baseball players did actually exist before 1885". .... Deacon is historically vastly underrated
---
My points were that James not only used a timeline, but also neglected to adjust for season length. The double peanlty was unwarranted. Also, that players (like White) who played in that era, since they have no significant stats by which to recommend them (unlike even the 1880s guys like Brouthers),are unknown to the fnabase, and even to HoF voters.
   82. DanG Posted: May 01, 2008 at 02:35 PM (#2765049)
My point is that he had solid reasons for "passing" on the era

I'm unaware he ever explained this "passover". The downgrading, the discounting, the timelining, yes. But the decision to not even try to accurately value 19th century players? What were his reasons for that?
   83. Sean Gilman Posted: May 01, 2008 at 04:48 PM (#2765339)
So, overall you're saying the HoM does things differently, that we aren't mainstream. Got it.
____________________
Well, yes. But there has long been an attitude that the HOM does things better, not just different. I doesn't bother me that different groups analyze things differently, it bothers me when people have an attitude that "our approach is better - others should learn from us." Obviously, not every poster shares this attitudes, but clearly some do.


We've spent 6+ years doing this. You think we'd do that if we didn't think we were right, that our approach was best?
   84. Chris Cobb Posted: May 02, 2008 at 02:42 AM (#2766091)
Setting aside the question of whether the approach that the Hall of Merit electorate has agreed upon suits Dizzypaco's sensibilities, let's look at catchers.

Howie's OPS+ list in post 75 is quite remarkable. There appears to be a very firm career offense ceiling for catchers at about 130 OPS+, broken only by Josh Gibson and, lately, Mike Piazza. This means that factors like defense and in-season durability play an exceptionally large role in sorting these players.

Here's a list to parellel Howie's. This is WARP2 (adjusted to an all-time competitive context) career fielding rate at catcher for each of the candidates, along with career games played at catcher, not adjusted for season length, and top 5 rates in fulltime seasons at catcher (ft here defined as playing more than 50% of player's games and 33% of team games at position. I have eyeballed this in some cases). This measure has the advantage of adjusting (at least somewhat) for quality of play, and since it is a rate comparing players to average, it doesn't get involved with WARP's messing about with replacement level.

A player with a fielding rate of 110 earns 1 fielding run above average per 10 games played. A player with a fielding rate of 105 earns 1 fielding run above average per 20 games played, etc.


Buck Ewing .........117 in 615.1 g, 129, 126, 120, 119, 119

Johnny Bench .......110 in 1608.2 g, 119, 116, 114, 113, 112
Charlie Bennett .....109 in 926.1 g, 124, 118, 116, 115, 114

Gary Carter ..........107 in 1924.6 g, 116, 114, 113, 113, 113

Gabby Hartnett ....106 in 1681.9 g, 115, 114, 113, 113, 110
Bill Dickey ...........106 in 1615.2 g, 114, 112, 111, 110, 109
Yogi Berra ...........106 in 1616.7 g, 114, 109, 109, 108, 108
Roy Campanella ...105 in 1140.9 g, 110, 110, 109, 109, 106
Deacon White ......106 in 429.1 g, 116, 113, 109, 107, 106


Mickey Cochrane ..103 in 1350.3 g, 112, 109, 108, 107, 107
Carlton Fisk .........101 in 2069.9 g, 109, 109, 107, 107, 104


Bill Freehan .........100 in 1501.3 g, 110, 105, 104, 103, 102
Ted Simmons ......99 in 1677.6 g, 105, 103, 102, 102, 101
Joe Torre ............101 in 828.7 g, 108, 106, 106, 106, 100


Cal McVey .......... 95 in 152.2 g, 105, 103, 85, 71
Roger Bresnahan ..92 in 896 g, 109, 99, 93, 91, 91
   85. Paul Wendt Posted: May 02, 2008 at 04:15 AM (#2766159)
"I wonder" means that I don't presume anyone here knows any answers.

Here's a list to parellel Howie's. This is WARP2 (adjusted to an all-time competitive context) career fielding rate at catcher for each of the candidates,
I wonder whether Davenport tries to make that adjustment separately for every fielding position. I suspect that would add more "noise" than "signal".

I wonder whether these ratings incorporate ballpark and teammate effects, as do OPS+ and ERA+. Again that might add more noise than signal.

along with career games played at catcher, not adjusted for season length, and top 5 rates in fulltime seasons at catcher (ft here defined as playing more than 50% of player's games and 33% of team games at position. I have eyeballed this in some cases). This measure has the advantage of adjusting (at least somewhat) for quality of play, and since it is a rate comparing players to average, it doesn't get involved with WARP's messing about with replacement level.

A player with a fielding rate of 110 earns 1 fielding run above average per 10 games played. A player with a fielding rate of 105 earns 1 fielding run above average per 20 games played, etc.


Wow! Referring to his DT card for the WARP1 fielding rate, I see that Buck Ewing saved one run every four games in the 1880s, Davenport estimates. . . . Ed Williamson at 3B saved one run every three games during his first four seasons in Chicago. Paul Hines at CF saved one run every five games for ten seasons (his 2nd to 11th of about 15). I didn't appreciate the magnitude of the estimates.
   86. Chris Cobb Posted: May 02, 2008 at 04:43 PM (#2766511)
I didn't appreciate the magnitude of the estimates.

Yeah. I knew, from season-adjusting 1880s FRAA totals, that they were a lot higher for that era than anyone later would achieve, but it wasn't until I finally decided to figure out what the fielding rate stat actually meant that the magnitude sank in for me.

Does this mean I think that Buck Ewing was a greater defensive catcher than Johnny Bench? No, but I do think it means that Ewing was a great defensive catcher in a time when it meant more. That is, given the conditions under which he played, Johnny Bench was about as valuable defensively as it was possible for a catcher to be, given his opportunities, while Ewing was similarly good in a situation with more opportunities for catcher defense to save runs. I think it no coincidence that the 4 HoM catchers who break the 106 career rate ceiling and the 115 seasonal rate ceiling played during times when small ball was important and, for the 1880s, when just catching the ball was a big deal, given the conditions of the time. If Ewing had had a decline phase as catcher, instead of being moved off catcher, I suspect his career rate would have settled out much closer to Bench's, as Charlie Bennett's did.

Similarly, I think it possible that Hartnett, Dickey, and Berra could have been as good as Ewing, Bench, Bennett, and Carter, if they had played in an era that demanded more of them defensively, but we can't _know_ that, and we could know, by studying catcher hitting, if their hitting, although similar in the context of all hitters to Bench's and Ewing's, was less valuable because batting replacement level for catchers was higher during their era, because the defensive demands were lower.
   87. Paul Wendt Posted: May 03, 2008 at 12:08 AM (#2766940)
for the 1880s, when just catching the ball was a big deal, given the conditions of the time.

not only
the equipment, which made catching the ball less reliable (a source of variance among contemporary catchers),
but also
the rules, which made catching the ball immensely more valuable, several times during any 1860s game and maybe a few times in 1880. A foul ball was never a strike but it was often a fly out. Later the batter was safe on a foul tip or nub, distinguished from a pop that rises to 10 feet high(?), and only the latter could be a fly out.


If Ewing had had a decline phase as catcher, instead of being moved off catcher, I suspect his career rate would have settled out much closer to Bench's, as Charlie Bennett's did.

Maybe. But see two catchers with extraordinary reputations for defense, Pop Snyder and Bill Holbert (OPS+ 72 and 47). Davenport does not find much decline there, through Holbert's ~10 seasons and through Snyder's first 12 seasons or so.
[I was looking at Rate1, not Rate2. I can't connect to baseballprospectus at the moment, so I'll sign off by saying only that Snyder and Holbert may be worth visiting there.]

Among the featured catchers who worked ~1600 games or more, only Carter shows a big variation in quality as indicated by the difference between his career average rate and his 5th best season rate.
The difference is 6 points for Carter, only 2-3 points for everyone else, even Fisk who played more than 2000 games. Rate 104 in his 5th best season, 101 for his career; that must be a fairly consisent record.
   88. caiman Posted: May 03, 2008 at 03:01 PM (#2767733)
Hi All,

Sorry about having to repot the item below to the discussion part of this subject. I just joined this site yesterday and was unaware that there was a "vote" and a "discussion area". I just saw a subject that I felt that I could add some information to and immediately went there and posted it.

My posting below, as I stated in the "vote" area is not for the purpose of making a vote or even discussion of the named players for the "Hall of Merit". This is simply a posting of my findings in regards to MLB catchers from 1900-2006. Again, let me apologize for mis-posting to the "Vote" area.

Here's the re-posted message. I hope that you find it interesting:

I(Mike Gimbel)just joined this site tonight after seing some responses to my article on the "Blacklisting" of Barry Bonds. After posting my belated response there, I looked at the current list of topics and saw this one. Hope that you don't mind my contributions!

I've rated every hitter with at least a career total of 500 AB's and every pitcher with a career total of at least 125 IP's in MLB from 1900-2006 using my RPA formula. The RPA formula had to be modified due to the lack of sufficient data. I had to only use those pieces of data that were common for the entire period. That left out all defensive data that I use to rate current players since there is no comparable data for all those years. Therefore no defensive data was used in these ratings. Only offensive data was used but this was unavoidable if I did not want to bring in subjective ratings into my objective ratings. That is something that I could and would not do.

All my ratings use an annualized league and stadium adjustment with the normal being set at a .115 RPA (Runs per Plate Appearance). In order to compare the offensive contribution of each player at each position, I compared that player to the .115 RPA standard and multiplied that by his computed plate appearances. For example, let's take a player that had a career offensive .150 RPA over 1000 AB's. The difference (.150 minus .115) is .035 runs times 1000 for a difference of +35 runs of value. The following list of the top hitting catchers is for the player's entire career production in terms of plus runs produced (as per above example), which includes games played at other positions, together with the total plus runs produced:

Player & Run Value
1. Mike Piazza 437.762
2. Johnny Bench 340.705
3. Joe Torre 327.884
4. Yogi Berra 310.300
5. Gene Tenace 291.541
6. Bill Dickey 256.749
7. Gabby Hartnett 256.111
8. Ted Simmons 251.881
9. Gary Carter 246.024
10. Mickey Cochrane 238.209
11. Carlton Fisk 224.397
12. Mickey Tettleton 216.990
13. Roy Campanella 196.152
14. Ernie "The Schnozz" Lombardi 194.055
15. Jorge Posada 175.752
16. Darrell Porter 164.662
17. Ivan Rodriguez 164.316
18. Mike Stanley 160.495
19. Wally Schang 153.196

--Mike Gimbel
   89. Kenn Posted: May 03, 2008 at 03:38 PM (#2767747)
Haven't had time to keep up with the HOM of late, and not sure I'll get a final ballot idone in time, but in general the summer should have more time for me. My first pass:

1) Gibson, Josh - easy
2) Bench, Johnny - tiny edge over Berra due to defense/ could change my mind.
3) Berra, Yogi
4) White, Deacon - think of him as a 3B, and crosses over awfully high to the catcher list
5) Hartnett, Gabby
6) Dickey, Bill
7) Fisk, Carlton
8) Cochrane, Mickey - may be overating defense
9) Carter, Gary - may be underrating longetivity
10) Simmons, Ted
11) Torre, Joe - Defers to Simmons for less time at catcher
12) Ewing, Buck - Stats not so good as would expect, giving some nod to reputation
13) Santop, Louis - Relying even moreso on repuatation...
14) Campanella, Roy - Big gap Roy
15) Bresnehan, Roger - Acceptable playing time for his era, IMO, though cutting it close
16) McVey, Cal
17) Bennett, Charlie
18) Freehan, Bill
19) Trouppe, Quincy
20) Mackey, Biz - not PHOM

It occurs to me that since they'd already been elected when I started voting, I don't think McVey, Bennett, and Ewing have had the benefit of more detailed playing time analysis relative to their peers that Bresnehan received. I also really like Wally Schang, and have Elston Howard and Ernie Lombardi competitive with the last couple.
   90. Howie Menckel Posted: May 03, 2008 at 03:59 PM (#2767761)
just askin':

Yogi seems at a glance like one of the weakest peak and even prime candidates if you go solely by OPS+ - to my surprise.
What puts him near the top regardless?
Playing time is often an OPS+ comparison confounder, but in this case some guys played even MORE per season than he did.
His era doesn't seem very brutal to be a catcher.
His 87 pct of games at catcher is only mid-pack.
No hidden speed bonus, lol.

An easy and obvious HOMer, but there are about 15 rivals who can say the same.
What puts Yogi near the top, in your mind?

I'd say that his longevity+performance level edges out most, but do some feel he's well ahead of the pack? That's the part I'm not sure I get.

I see most as remarkably close, which is why I haven't been able to vote quite yet.
   91. OCF Posted: May 03, 2008 at 06:41 PM (#2767844)
Since it's offense-only, the obvious points of comparison for calman's post #88 are my #40 and Howie's #42. The one person I'd want to ask him about is Roger Bresnahan. Did you work up Bresnahan, and if you did, why is his offense behind Schang?

(Bresnahan's overall candidacy suffers from his lack of time at catcher, and the fact that, like Torre, he had his best offensive years while playing other positions.)
   92. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 03, 2008 at 07:10 PM (#2767872)
and the fact that, like Torre, he had his best offensive years while playing other positions.)


...and if you adjust those years as if they did play catcher those particular seasons, you still have to conclude that they were excellent seasons.
   93. caiman Posted: May 03, 2008 at 09:33 PM (#2767998)
Hi OCF,

I worked up every single hitter from 1900-2006 with at least 500 career MLB AB's. Roger Bresnahan's career RPA was .141 while Wally Schang's was .140. Schang had a longer career so that Bresnahan's very small per AB advantage was overwhelmed by Schang's production over a longer career. Bresnahan's total career offensive value was +134.396 runs vs. Schang's +153.196 runs.

Bresnahan's best season was 1903 with a .163 RPA His 2nd best RPA was in 1910 with a .158 RPA, but that was in only 234 AB's. Catchers didn't get a lot of AB's back then, apparently. He only had 4 seasons with 400+ AB's. His 3rd best season was 1908 with a .157 RPA. His 4th best season was 1906 with a .156 RPA.

Wally Schang's best season was 1919 with a .165 RPA. His 2nd best RPA was in 1926 in just 285 AB's (he only had 2 season with over 400 AB's) was .156 and his 3rd best season was in 1928 with a .156 RPA. His 4th best season was his rookie season in 1913 with a .151 RPA.

Bresnahan was hurt a little bit because, unlike Schang, he started off slow in MLB. Bresnahan's 1903 season was his breakthrough season, wheras Schang began with a "bang". Bresnahan also had more poor performances at the end of his career (1913 & 1915) than did Schang.

--Mike Gimbel
   94. OCF Posted: May 03, 2008 at 11:10 PM (#2768073)
By the context-adjusted RC above average system I've been using, I have Bresnahan's 1903 as a "60" and Schang's 1919 as a "30." But I don't see 1928 as Schang's 2nd or 3rd best or anything close to it. I have Schang 1928 as a mere 18. Instead, I have Schang 1914, 1915, 1920, and 1921 as 28, 23, 27, 28. In other words, nearly as good as his 1919.

Bresnahan had no years anywhere close to 1903, but I do have 1906 at 43 and 1908 at 40 - all of them better than Schang's best year.

Part of the difference here may by the scaling by which I make runs more valuable in low-scoring environments; part of it may be that the runs created formulas (which I'm not computing myself but taking from a Stats Handbook from 2000) likes Bresnahan's offensive shape more than Schang's.

Measured over their career versus 75% of average offense (rather than average), and I have Schang and Bresnahan near-level, but Bresnahan wih a higher offensive peak. (Of course, Bresnahan was playing CF in 1903). So by offense alone I would opt for Bresnahan.

Schang probably has defensive advantages that bring them back together in overall value. In truth, I never supported either for HoM election and will probably have Bresnahan last or next to last on this ballot when I do get around to voting.

I gave my results above in post #40. Putting some arbitrary weights on things to make a single overall number, I get the following for the 20th century catchers:

Berra 144
Torre 143 (offense only, and not noticing when he played other positions)
Dickey 127
Bench 123
Tenace 111 (yes, I agree that he could hit)
Cochrane 110
Hartnett 105
Simmons 102
Fisk 101
Bresnahan 98
Carter 87
Schang 82
Freehan 75
Campanella 74
Lombardi 71 (he gets killed in RC by the GIDP)
Porter 63
Munson 57
Burgess 54
E. Howard 49
   95. caiman Posted: May 03, 2008 at 11:51 PM (#2768096)
Hi OCF,

I realize that we use different measures for individual stats but I have one question: What stadium, league and normalized year variants did you use prior to making an evaluation?

Bresnahan's 1903 was in a huge offensive situation when all these things are taken into account. My variant for his season at his stadium was 1.138. The exact opposite for Wally Schang's 1919 season with a variant of 0.857. Both numbers are modified against 1.000 for runs produced. Bresnahan's numbers are reduced by multiplying the runs by 1.000 divided by 1.138 and Schang's increased by multiplying runs by 1.000 divided by 0.857

I also probably value walks more than you do and Schang's 1919 was incredible in the number of walks taken.

--Mike Gimbel
   96. Chris Cobb Posted: May 04, 2008 at 10:00 PM (#2768729)
On Ewing being moved off catcher to keep his bat in the lineup, Brock wrote:

As far as I can tell from the sources, he was moved off catcher to keep him in the lineup two or three times: 1882, 1887, and maybe 1892, although the last is after what appears to have been a serious injury in 1891. For the others, I looked for mentions of why the moves occurred, and why teams kept moving him back to catcher, but all I can find is vague references to how good he was. There's nothing in there about having to move him because he was hurt or anything. Also, both times, they moved him to third, which indicates that he didn't have an arm-only problem that would have forced him off of catcher. In the absence of any such references, and considering his enormous value as a catcher, I concluded that the teams were doing this because he was missing games.

I think highly of Ewing, as my comments earlier on both thread show, and it is useful to recognize that he had the hitting and fielding skills to be a star at other positions. However, I am skeptical that Ewing's multi-position play was all that different from other pre-1890 catchers. Shifting between positions was much more common in that era, and there are many instances of catchers playing a considerable number of games at other positions. Just to stick with 1880s examples, Charlie Bennett was in the outfield quite a bit early in his career, and Jack Rowe moved between catcher and infield positions until he became Charlie Bennett's teammate with Detroit in 1886, at which point he became a full time shortstop.

I haven't looked at the 1887 shift, but in 1882 it is quite possible that Ewing's shift to playing third base primarily had more to do with there being a hole at that position that the team was trying to fill or with Bill Holbert being healthier in 1882 than he had been in 1881 and thus able to catch more games. In 1881, Ewing and Holbert had split the catching duties almost exactly evenly, with Ewing playing 22 games at shortstop (approximately half his games off at catcher). Troy had two totally anemic hitters at SS and 3B in 1881: Ed Caskin and Frank Hankinson, respectively. Both were gone from the team in 1882 (and out of baseball that year, though they both returned with the new NY team in 1883, to which Ewing and Roger Connor also went: I'd be interested to know more about the factors behind this player movement). Troy found the solution to its shortstop problem in 22-year-old Fred Pfeffer, but they gave five players time at third base: John Cassidy, Roger Connor, Bill Holbert, Tim Keefe (!, though only 3 games), and Ewing. Absent data on the sequence of players at 3B through the season (I'd love to get a look at the game-by-game lineups from Retrosheet, if that's available), it certainly appears that they were looking for a permanent solution at third. Cassidy, who had been their center-fielder the year before (and not much of a hitter there) was a disaster with both bat and glove. Connor was not quite up to the glove work. Were they filling in while Ewing recovered from a catcher injury, and then took over at third, or were they early attempts at solutions that didn't work out? I don't think we can tell purely from the games played info.

In any case, Ewing didn't get into any more games in 1882 than he had in 1881, but where he had been appx. 40/20 C/SS in 1881, he was 40/20 3B/C in 1882, so the re-arrangement of his priorities didn't get him into the lineup any more often, though perhaps it got him into the lineup more than he would have been otherwise.
   97. Howie Menckel Posted: May 04, 2008 at 10:34 PM (#2768769)
when does voting end?

I believe I'll be in by 8 pm EST, but not by a lot...
   98. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: May 05, 2008 at 07:37 PM (#2769549)
Either you assume that the overall competition is exactly the same in each era, or you don't.


Not necessarily, Diz. While I believe the top stars of the 19th century would not perform as well as the best from the 20th/21st centuries if we used a time machine, they might if they had been given the same advantages that the later generations were given (better nutrition, training, etc.) They would undoubtedly be bigger, stronger and faster today, so that can't be ignored if we want to be fair to our baseball ancestors.

Just a note about Brock's ballot...

We used to allow ties. I don't recall that they become ilegal, just that people stopped submitting them. My memory could be faulty however.


We haven't had ties in a gazillion years (I hate them, BTW) and they were only for the last spot on the ballot (i.e. if we were allowing them for this election, there could be two #20's).

And I should say something about Deacon White, just because Grandma Murphy has always been a good guy whenever I've run across his work.


That's very nice of you, Brock. The same can be said whenever I picked up a Big Bad Baseball. Nice having another celebrity visit our home. :-)

Here are my problems: Including the NA, White played 458 games at catcher, but 826 at third. Yes, there are more games in the schedule later, when he was playing third, but the ratio is nothing like 826/458. White is primarily a third baseman.


Would you conclude Ernie Banks is really a first baseman then? Like White as a catcher, Ernie's contributions at short are what made him great and have the most value, regardless of how many games he played there or not.

White was a bonafide star as a catcher, while he was a journeyman as a third baseman.

Brock:

For every ballot that we've ever done, there's a discussion thread and then a week or two later there's a ballot thread. After there's a ballot thread, the two threads run side by side. Most of the talk goes on the discussion thread, typically, but it's not a big deal if it's here.


Just be aware, Brock, that some of the early ones were chewed up due to web site transitions. Some have been corrected, while others still need to be or can not be helped at all.

First off, I really really want to say thank you to you all for treating me well here. I wasn't sure what I'd get, and this is better than the high end of my hopes. Thanks! Second, it's obvious that you guys have a discussion structure here and that I don't know it. Is there another thread that has discussions regarding these ballots? Should I move my comments there? Should I have sent my entire "ballot" there, since I wasn't even aware that it might be counted? If someone would please tell me the drill as you guys are used to it, I'll try to conform until I figure it out.


You're very welcome regarding the treatment you feel you have been getting here, Brock. Unlike other sections at BBTF, we try not beat up people that we have a disagreement with. Besides not being productive, we'd rather be nice guys, to boot. :-D

As for your comments, please use the discussion thread from now on (I will, too :-). Once you post a prelim that is acceptable by our rules, then you can post your actual ballot on the ballot thread (I'll ignore your earlier attempt).

when does voting end?


Doesn't anybody read my posts? ;-)
   99. OCF Posted: May 06, 2008 at 07:16 AM (#2770472)
Sooner or later I have to construct a ballot - I'm not quite ready to do that yet. I went looking at my own voting record to see what clues I can find there:

White and Ewing: elected before I joined.

McVey: 14th on my 1904 ballot, never better than 9th, 10th when elected in 1914. Notes: I had Sam Thompson ahead of McVey and you know I'm no believer in Thompson. I had all of Van Haltren, Duffy, and Ryan ahead of McVey.

Bennett: 12th on my 1904 ballot, rose to 1st in his election year of 1921. Bennett rose on my ballot while McVey didn't.

Santop: 1st on my ballot in his only year, 1932. (It wasn't that competitive a year.)

Cochrane: 2nd on my 1943 ballot behind Charleston.

Hartnett: 2nd on my 1947 ballot behind Grove.

Gibson: 1st on my 1952 ballot.

Dickey: 3rd on my 1952 ballot behind Gibson and Ott; 2nd on my 1954 ballot behind Greenberg.

Campanella: 1st on my 1964 ballot.

Berra: 2nd on my 1969 ballot behind Musial.

Mackey: started 12th on my 1949 ballot; sank to 15th but eventually rose as high as 7th. 11th when elected in 1975. Note that I had Trouppe 5th on that 1975 ballot.

Torre: 3rd on my 1983 ballot behind Williams and Allen; 1st when elected in 1984.

Freehan: started at 7th in 1982; 4th behind Pierce, Doyle, and Mendez when elected in 1985.

Bench: 1st in 1989.

Simmons: 2nd in 1994 behind Niekro.

Trouppe: started 15th in 1960, 4 spots behind Mackey. Was ahead of Macky by 1962, and stayed ahead of Mackey. Was in my top 8 for 30 years. 3rd when elected in 1995 behind Schmidt and Doyle.

Carter: 2nd in 1998 behind Blyleven.

Fisk: 3rd in 1999 behind Brett and Yount.

Bresnahan: started 4th on my ballot in 1922 but dropped quickly. Stayed in top 15 through 1940, then kept sinking. Disappeared from my top 30 after 1959. Was nowhere near my ballot when elected in 2004.

What does that get me? It looks like I should have McVey and Bresnahan as my last two, although I don't have them compared to each other.

I have Trouppe ahead of Mackey, and all of Gibson, Dickey, Campanella, Berra, Torre, Freehan, Bench, and Simmons ahead of Trouppe.

I have Bennett ahead of McVey.

But a whole lot of these candidates were "frontloggers," at least as far as I was concerned, and frontloggers just didn't stay on the ballot to be compared to other frontloggers.

Among those frontloggers, I think I'm going to have Carter a little lower than the consensus on him. Sure, he's a HOMer, but he didn't really hit like Cochrane, Dickey, or Hartnett (not to mention not hitting like Torre or Tenace, but that's another issue.)
   100. Paul Wendt Posted: May 08, 2008 at 02:56 PM (#2773539)
Hi Brock,
If you are a member of the SABR Statistical Analysis Committee egroup at yahoo then you know my relatively secret identity. They/we are stat.anal on my personal computer and I'm the one responsible for naming the '19cBB' egroup.

Most of the time, there is a lot more discussion in the discussion thread than in the ballot thread, including some longer articles in the discussion thread. Meanwhile there are threads or hundreds of particular players (some almost empty, established after the player was elected or practically dismissed by the main Hall of Merit project).

Chris Cobb moved the discussion of Ewing here from the voting thread.
>>
On Ewing being moved off catcher to keep his bat in the lineup, Brock wrote:

As far as I can tell from the sources, he was moved off catcher to keep him in the lineup two or three times: 1882, 1887, and maybe 1892, although the last is after what appears to have been a serious injury in 1891. For the others, I looked for mentions of why the moves occurred, and why teams kept moving him back to catcher, but all I can find is vague references to how good he was.
<<

OK. I thought probably you meant 1892, or intermingled some of the facts, because to me "moved off catcher" suggests a degree of permanence. But at the same time I couldn't really believe that anyone could really believe that Buck Ewing was a great fielding catcher in 1892.

All,
Let me second Chris's reference to Bill Holbert. Holbert and Pop Snyder were great fielding catchers and Troy had Holbert. Methinks moving Ewing to third or short hurt team batting, even if it did permit Ewing to bat every day!

Cliff Blau has worked on the Mets and Giants of the 1880s. Visit Bill Holbert at bb-ref and select the sponsor. He has done a lot of daily research on the 1882 season and 1883 or very soon after is the starting point for his Retrosheet work scoring New York games, maybe home games.

The Mets, established September 1880 by Jim Mutrie, considered or negotiated joining a major league for 1882 but remained independent, the strongest inde team. For 1883 owner John Day got franchises in both the AA and the NL. The Mets joined the AA; signed Keefe and Holbert from Troy. The new club, Giants to be, went to the NL; signed Welch and Ewing from Troy.
For 1885, manager Mutrie and pitcher Keefe were moved to the NL team, leaving the AA with a hapless champion. Holbert remained with Mets. After all,
commonly( ops+.holbert + era+.keefe < 200 )
For example, 51 + 138 = 189 in the championship season.

There were other players involved, from Troy 1882 and from Mets 1884. This is only a teaser.
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