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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, February 09, 2009

Ranking the Hall of Merit Pitchers (1871-1892) - Discussion

We’ll start light. The first group are the pitcher’s box era pitchers, those whose careers were centered on the period 1871-1892.

Al Spalding
Charley Radbourn
Pud Galvin
Tim Keefe
John Clarkson
Bob Caruthers

We’ll discuss this week, vote next week. It’s a small group, so I think one week of voting will work.

Also, it’s a small group, so it should be pretty easy, please vote!!

Going forward, the other groups will be:

1893-1923: (18) Young, Nichols, Griffith, Rusie, McGinnity, Plank, Waddell, MBrown, RFoster, Mathewson, Walsh, JWilliams, Alexander, Mendez, Johnson, Faber, Coveleski, Rixey.

1924-1958: (19) Rogan, Vance, Grove, Lyons, Hubbell, Ruffing, BFoster, Dihigo, Paige, Ferrell, RBrown, Feller, Wynn, Lemon, Spahn, Newhouser, Roberts, Pierce, Ford.

1959-1986 (plus post-1986 for now): (20) Wilhelm, Bunning, Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson, Marichal, Perry, Niekro, Jenkins, Seaver, Carlton, Sutton, Fingers, Palmer, Ryan, Blyleven, Gossage, Eckersley, Stieb, Saberhagen.

Let’s keep discussion on this thread to the 1871-1892 guys. Please use the pitcher thread for the others for now. If you want me to open up discussion threads for each group now, that probably wouldn’t hurt anything, let me know what you think (on the pitchers thread).

—Joe

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 09, 2009 at 07:59 PM | 130 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 09, 2009 at 08:20 PM (#3072397)
Interesting group. I'll put some numbers up in a bit.
   2. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 08:58 PM (#3072478)
I thought were going with groups of 15.

Hopefully, we can get someone to create a ballot counter for me, because I doubt that I'm going to have time with this then.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:02 PM (#3072486)
BTW, I don't mean to sound like a whiner, but the 16+-candidate ballots are a major pain in the ass for me to tally. They are not fun at all.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:07 PM (#3072497)
The first group won't be a problem at all, BTW. :-)
   5. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:17 PM (#3072514)
Prelim:

Clarkson
Spalding
Radbourn
Galvin
Keefe
Caruthers
   6. OCF Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:43 PM (#3072556)
I don't think I'll have Spalding that high, since his career was so very short. Remember that his last year as a player was at the age of 26 and his last year as a pitcher at the age of 25. Even acknowledging that he was pretty well established as a teenager before the NA was organized, that's still a short career. Most of the teams he played for were virtual all-star teams; several of those teams utterly dominated the leagues they were in. While that is a good thing for Spalding, it makes it very difficult to separate his own pitching skills from the general athletic skills, manifested as defense, of his illustrious teammates.
   7. karlmagnus Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:47 PM (#3072561)
Prelim:

1. Clarkson 4536IP@134, 328-178, 432 hits@60OPS+. Was behind Old Hoss on my 1900 ballot, but he was better.

2. Spalding 2890IP@142, 253-65, 613 hits@116. More or less single-handedly pitched his way to several pennants, and was no mean hitter.

3. Caruthers 2828IP@123, 218-99, 695 hits@135. By far the highest peak of any player other than Babe Ruth; about 131 ERA+ until his last lousy year. At his peak, this is the guy you'd want on your team, of all pre-1983 players.

4. Radbourn 4535IP@119, 309-195, 585 hits@72. Superb peak, falls off a bit outside it. Better competition than Keefe.

5. Keefe 5047IP@127, 342-225, 390 hits@58. Close between him and Galvin; I could be persuaded either way.

6. Galvin 6003IP@107, 364-310, 552 hits @46 and that's without giving him credit for two years in the IL. Well over the borderline; all 6 of these are core HOM members.
   8. karlmagnus Posted: February 09, 2009 at 09:48 PM (#3072564)
Pre-1893, not 1983. Where did the edit function go?
   9. DL from MN Posted: February 09, 2009 at 10:30 PM (#3072618)
Lots of trouble with Spalding and Caruthers for me due to their short careers. I'll rank them though.

Clarkson
Keefe
Radbourn
Galvin
Caruthers
Spalding

I really have no idea what to do with players who only last 6 years. They just can't compile enough value in my system. Babe Ruth with only his 6 seasons with the Red Sox is worse than Spalding but not a lot. Ruth isn't a HoM player in my scoring system until his 4th season with the Yankees.
   10. jimd Posted: February 09, 2009 at 10:44 PM (#3072639)
I thought that a 20-position ballot counter was created during the 60's when we were toying with expanding the regular HOM ballot. Maybe not.
   11. OCF Posted: February 09, 2009 at 10:48 PM (#3072645)
It doesn't matter to me, because I use something home-brewed that isn't the more widely disseminated ballot counter. But that also means I have a harder time providing the kind of display tables that get posted with the results; my counting mostly serves as a backup to John's. (The independence of method is an asset where the goal is double-checking.)
   12. jimd Posted: February 09, 2009 at 11:22 PM (#3072675)
For the greybeards amongst us, these 6 candidates were on the ballot together in 1900.

My ordering then was:
1) Radbourn
4) Spalding
5) Clarkson
6) Keefe
8) Galvin
12) Caruthers

My system has been revised a number of times since then. I would now order them:
Clarkson
Radbourn
Spalding
Galvin
Caruthers
Keefe
   13. OCF Posted: February 09, 2009 at 11:28 PM (#3072679)
For the greybeards amongst us, these 6 candidates were on the ballot together in 1900.

I started voting in 1904. Clarkson and Keefe were already in before I joined, but I had a chance to vote for - or against - Spalding, Galvin, Radbourn, and Caruthers. My top unelected candidate from this time would be Jim McCormick, as in I'd probably take him ahead of Caruthers, at least.
   14. OCF Posted: February 09, 2009 at 11:31 PM (#3072682)
I couldn't find my own 1904 ballot, but I found a document labeled "1905 ballot". on it , I said:

1. Radbourn
5. Galvin
8. Spalding
11. McCormick
12. Welch

15. Caruthers (with a note that said, "Just ahead of Mullane.")
   15. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 11:37 PM (#3072687)
I don't think I'll have Spalding that high, since his career was so very short.


Are you giving him any credit for his 1860s seasons, OCF?
   16. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 09, 2009 at 11:39 PM (#3072690)
But that also means I have a harder time providing the kind of display tables that get posted with the results;


My display tables are always a mess, too.
   17. Paul Wendt Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:05 AM (#3072703)
Caruthers and Spalding earned a lot of credit here for their batting and perhaps fielding. I'm not sure that either one would have been elected for pitching only.

In sharp contrast, I believe, it has been common even here for people to consider primary pitchers for pitching only.
   18. TomH Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:30 AM (#3072717)
I'll pop in here briefly to vote. The first 2 are very tight, as are the other 4 knotted together.

My defense of Spalding at #1 or #2 is that in most any other era / epoch /situation, he would not have walksed away from the game when he did. He quit in his prime to pursue other viable options; if he had wanted to be thought of as the best baseball pitcher or player ever, and was finnanically rewarded for doing so, he likely could have played much monger at a very high level. There are very very few players I give credit for in this way, but Spalding qualifies.
   19. TomH Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:30 AM (#3072718)
Oh, and Clarkson is the other candidate for #1.
   20. OCF Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:45 AM (#3072727)
Tom, that presumes that Spalding's 1877 performance was an aberration that he would have recovered from. He didn't pitch that year, and his offensive performance fell off a cliff. A 77 OPS+ first basemen doesn't cut that imposing a figure. Yes, he was only 26 at the time, and 60 game seasons make for small samples and large fluctuations - but it's not a great year.
   21. Howie Menckel Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:54 AM (#3072735)
for fun, I'll just repeat my 1900 ballot comments on any Ps or near-Ps (Ward) for now (obviously a lot may have changed in 6 real years)

1. John Clarkson - Tempted to put my guy Wright here, but can't deny Clarkson's wondrous quality/quantity package. First P in HOM.
3. Tim Keefe - I'm in the queasy-'bout-NA club, but his longevity puts him this high even with a discount. Should go in next time.
7. Old Hoss Radbourn - Warming up to him, but really wish he had ONE more solid season.
8. Monte Ward - Would hate to see him get in first year or two; we need time to weigh his unique career, and once a guy's in, he's in forever. Be cautious unless you believe you really have a good feel for him.
9. Pud Galvin - Happy to see pitchers getting more focus, and particularly this one. Unique career length tells me he was something special. Deserves to get in eventually.
12. Al Spalding - Still vague on whether he has much "behind the fog" performance to raise him higher, and I do have that "softball pitcher" picture in my head.
13. Bob Caruthers - Still trying to digest this career as well, and battling "anti-AA" bias. Worth a further look.
15. Tony Mullane - It's a pitcher's ballot, I suppose. With six hitters already in, not being in top 14 now makes remaining hitters questionable at best.
   22. DL from MN Posted: February 10, 2009 at 01:40 AM (#3072768)
I have Jim McCormick PHoM fwiw.
   23. TomH Posted: February 10, 2009 at 01:59 AM (#3072781)
OCF, yes, he didn't hit well in 77, but his biggest loss of value was he stopped pitching, and I haven't heard that it was because he couldn't. Willing to listen tho.
   24. Chris Cobb Posted: February 10, 2009 at 02:34 AM (#3072810)
OCF, yes, he didn't hit well in 77, but his biggest loss of value was he stopped pitching, and I haven't heard that it was because he couldn't. Willing to listen tho.

There's not a lot of info on the web on Spalding, because he's such an early player, but there are several references to his suffering an arm injury that ended his pitching.

"He concluded his on-the-field career in 1878 after suffering an arm injury which forced him to move from the mound to first base" (quoted from G. Richard McKelvey, _For It's One, Two, Three, Four Strikes You're Out at the Owner's Ball Game_, McFarland, 2001, p. 3 [excerpt available on amazon.com]

I imagine there are people around here with more reliable references who can weigh in on this.

Spalding's professional career began in 1868 when he became an "unofficially" paid player for the Chicago Excelsiors. He was definitely a player of top calibre in 1867 when he pitched the Forest City squad to victory against the Washington Nationals, the top team of that season (headed by George Wright) for their only loss on their national tour.

I would credit Spalding with at least a 10-year career.
   25. Chris Cobb Posted: February 10, 2009 at 02:40 AM (#3072815)
Very preliminary ranking:

1) Clarkson
2) Keefe
3) Spalding
4) Radbourne
(Welch)
(Buffinton)
5) Caruthers
(McCormick)
6) Galvin

This is the order in which my system places these pitchers, but I think it breaks down for seasons with less than 130 or so games, so I am expecting to revise these rankings quite a bit.
   26. bjhanke Posted: February 10, 2009 at 04:25 AM (#3072879)
First off, I really like doing the pitchers this way. Merging the various lists together at the end will be hard, but nothing like trying to sort out the whole group in one pass. Nice job, Joe.

A couple of quick notes:

On Spalding: My understanding, for decades, has also been that he blew his arm out as the schedules increased in length and he still was pitching every game, and that's why he quit playing. Also, although you almost never have to do FSEs for 19th century pitchers, the schedules at the beginning of the NA are so small that you really should. That means FSEs for Spalding for those 29-game schedules, which will increase the look of his career length.

As for the 1880s guys, I have a process I do to get hold of their career lengths expressed in seasons rather than IP. What I do is take the huge seasons and break them into 38-game chunks, treating each chunk as a "season" and carrying the remainder. I'm sure you guys get the drill, but just in case, that means that in 1884, when Hoss Radbourne pitched 73 games, I treat that as 1 full season and (73 - 38) / 38 = 35/38 = .92 of another season, at the 1884 rate. Then I take .08 of the 1885 season, add that on to the 1884 remainder, recompute the rate for this new "1884a season" and so on. That gives me a much better idea of how many seasons to credit Radbourne and those guys with, and at what rates. It doesn't change the actual IP or anything, but it makes the careers look much closer to modern careers, and therefore makes it easier to do preliminary eyeball comparisons.

- Brock

My ratings may also vary from some because of the hitting. I consider the hitting to be important, especially since the HoM rules appear to be "count everything the player did, regardless of position." So a pitcher who also played the outfield when he wasn't pitching, and hit well, is going to get a lot of extra credit out of me. My ranking of Caruthers, in particular, may be high because of this, but hitting wins games too, right?
   27. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 10, 2009 at 12:32 PM (#3072974)
On Spalding: My understanding, for decades, has also been that he blew his arm out as the schedules increased in length and he still was pitching every game, and that's why he quit playing.


That's my take, too.
   28. Paul Wendt Posted: February 10, 2009 at 02:33 PM (#3073039)
Spalding's professional career began in 1868 when he became an "unofficially" paid player for the Chicago Excelsiors. He was definitely a player of top calibre in 1867 when he pitched the Forest City squad to victory against the Washington Nationals, the top team of that season (headed by George Wright) for their only loss on their national tour.

Did he ever play for the Excelsiors? Vaguely I recall that that originates here at the Hall of Merit. So does designation of the Nationals as the top team (marc's later-admitted presumption iirc). The Nationals were a very good intercity or "national" team and a Washington novelty in that. They would have been the top team in the West.

The Forest City club team in Rockford IL recruited Spalding and Barnes from a junior Pioneers team sometime late in 1866. (I imagine it was a recruitment similar to a promotion.) By the end of the decade the Forest Citys were dividing gate receipts --I think that is nearly a quotation from Spalding but it may be from Barnes or I may be mistaken.
   29. DL from MN Posted: February 10, 2009 at 03:24 PM (#3073104)
The immediate consequence of this ranking exercise is probably going to be Jim McCormick rocketing up my 2009 ballot.
   30. Paul Wendt Posted: February 10, 2009 at 03:56 PM (#3073141)
The top twenty, down to DW=5 or 5 unexpected wins, include five 1960s and two 1970s debuts along with the five 1980s pitchers who score 10 wins.

count +5 wins by debut decade (among top hundred innings leaders)

1870s: 1 0 2 ; 1 2 2 0 0 ; 0 5 2 5 0

career innings leaders by decade

1870s: 5 10 8 ; 7 10 8 4 4 ; 8 17 8 10 1 : top hundred
1870s: 3 6 4 ;; 4 5 3 2 2 ;; 2 10 5 4 0 :: top fifty
   31. Paul Wendt Posted: February 10, 2009 at 03:57 PM (#3073143)
Sorry, that belongs in the "pitchers" thread and I'll copy it there.
   32. HGM Posted: February 10, 2009 at 04:13 PM (#3073158)
First take:

1) Clarkson
2) Keefe
3) Spalding
4) Radbourn
5) Caruthers
6) Galvin
   33. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 10, 2009 at 05:48 PM (#3073269)
Prelim:

Clarkson
Spalding
Radbourn
Galvin
Keefe
Caruthers


New prelim:

Clarkson
Spalding
Keefe
Galvin
Radbourn
Caruthers

For some reason, I had Keefe too low.
   34. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 10, 2009 at 05:49 PM (#3073272)
BTW, I give Galvin credit for his years during the 1870s. Without it, he would be behind Radbourn.
   35. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 10, 2009 at 07:59 PM (#3073447)
Caruthers and Spalding earned a lot of credit here for their batting and perhaps fielding. I'm not sure that either one would have been elected for pitching only.

In sharp contrast, I believe, it has been common even here for people to consider primary pitchers for pitching only.


Just want to be clear - hitting counts on these ballots. We are rating them as players, which includes everything. Their primary positions just happen to be pitcher.
   36. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 10, 2009 at 08:01 PM (#3073455)
My ballot seems to have vanished from the 1900 thread. Bummer.
   37. DanG Posted: February 10, 2009 at 08:20 PM (#3073488)
My ballot seems to have vanished from the 1900 thread.


From the Internet Archive 1900 Ballot thread.

Posted 10:14 p.m., May 4, 2003 (#1) - Joe Dimino (e-mail)
Some of the comments are carryovers where I don't have anything new to add, but this one has some major changes.

1. John Clarkson (first ballot) - I'm convinced he was the best pitcher of the era pre 60' 6". His 1889 season, relative to other pitchers in the league was the best of anyone eligible. I'm sure he's the best pitcher on the ballot, and deserves to be the first elected.

2. Joe Start (#2 last vote) - MattB's assertion that he was widely regarded as one of the best players of the 1860s just adds to my previous comments about him. He really was a great player, and accomplished more after age 28 (his first year in the NA was his age 28 season) than any player we will consider for awhile, other than Anson.

3. Ezra Sutton (3) - enormous career value, even in his down years he was still above average offensively, considering he played a key defensive position well.

4. Tim Keefe (5) - I'm convinced now that he wasn't quite as good as Clarkson, but he was still a helluva pitcher. His best two years were in the AA during the weak years, but it doesn't mean he wasn't a great pitcher. From 1882-90 he never had an off year, and even in his decline he was a good pitcher, he just didn't pitch as many innings.

5. George Wright (6) - Great offense for the position, great defense. Short career, but he did play 5 years pre-NA, and he was very good there as well. Enormous peak value, probably the second best player of the NA (Barnes).

6. Cal McVey (7), very underrated, and I do give him credit for continuing his career after his years in the 'majors'.

7. Hardy Richardson (8) - best 2B on the ballot, and he'll be the best for quite sometime. A six-time Stats All-Star. I've got his career offensive record at 141-75 (.651). During his 3-year peak his OWP was .741; .712 during his 5-year peak. His offense is comparable to George Brett's (remember 2B was the modern equivalent of 3B), not as long a career, but similar quality, Brett was (.661 for his career, .750 for his 3-year peak, .744 for his 5-year peak).

8. Charley Radbourn (13) - Great pitcher from the early 80's, he doesn't rate as high as Clarkson and Keefe because he really only had 3 great years, and a couple of other decent years, with some clunkers thrown in. From 1882-84 he was the best pitcher in baseball.

9. Al Spalding (NR) - Okay, I'm convinced he was the Koufax of his generation, well, sort of. He was a great hitter, and a great pitcher, but he had a great defense behind him, and he was finished early. But he was a key part of the team that dominated his era, and he deserves credit. I'm troubled by his low WARP3 scores, and the fact that his era was the one where pitchers had the least impact.

10. John Ward (first ballot) - He was a decent pitcher for a few years (.564, 5 1/2 years), and a great defensive shortstop for many more. But I don't think he was ever a great player, and this is stiff competition.

11. Ed Williamson (9) - 2nd best 3B of the generation, was overrated by his peers, but still a very good player.

12. Charlie Bennett (10) - I love him, he's one of my favorites. But I don't rate him as high as some of the others. His career was short, well not short, but he missed lots of time. He only played the equivalent of 9 1/2 years. He was a great player, but so was everyone above him on this ballot. He's only got 277 ASWS, and I've moved him above many players with more than him as a subjective bonus. I could conceivably move him higher as this process goes on, but I don't think he was better than the others ahead of him.

13. Pud Galvin (NR) - I've reevaluated pitchers, and I'm giving them more credit. I believe Galvin was his generation's Phil Niekro. His best year (like almost every eligible pitcher) was in 1884, where he was the horse throwing the modern (1920-80) equivalent of 310 IP at 23-11. He was a consistently very good pitcher, who worked more than anyone in his time (1879-89, hung around decently 1890-92).

14. Harry Stovey (12) - I've docked him, maybe too much. He adjusts to 404 ASWS, but 55 came in one weak AA year. I may move him up, but this is stiff competition, I'm not convinced yet.

15. Lip Pike (14) - One of the greats from the early years.

Stovey and Pike are the grey area for me, I think everyone above their line should be in someday, not sure about those two.

Dropped out: 11. Bob Caruthers; 15. Pete Browning.
   38. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 01:14 AM (#3073790)
Now my pitchers pennants added numbers, developed years after that ballot was built. These numbers include hitting:

RK Pitcher            PA  James JAWS DRA+  tIP   WARP PPAR  LI LIP LgAdj DEF  1    2   3   4   5
x1
John Clarkson     .907 26.8 52.6 120  2806.3 56.4    0 1.3  45  .08  .22 11.9 9.6 8.7 5.7 4.6
x2
Charley Radbourn  .844 25.8 49.4 115  2750.7 53.6   37 1.1 108  .11  .21 10.1 9.1 6.8 5.8 5.5 
x3
Tim Keefe         .765 21.3 44.0 111  3016.7 51.0    6 1.0  26  .23  .26  7.2 6.2 5.8 5.5 4.5
x4
Bob Caruthers     .695 25.6 42.6 109  1655.7 44.6  176 1.0 128  .31  .40  8.6 7.8 7.0 5.4 5.2
x5
Pud Galvin        .690 19.4 40.6 107  3409.7 46.0  -44 1.0  70  .10 -.02  7.8 6.2 5.7 4.8 3.8 
x6
Jim McCormick     .654 21.0 40.2 115  2338.7 43.1    2 1.1  30  .14  .10  7.9 5.7 5.7 5.0 4.5
x7
Jim Whitney       .644 23.8 40.1 107  2056.3 41.0   94  .8  75  .10 -.24 10.1 6.6 6.6 5.9 4.8
x8
Charlie Buffinton .641 23.8 40.1 115  2065.7 41.2   24 1.1  72  .14  .00  8.4 7.9 6.9 4.5 3.8
x9
Mickey Welch      .636 18.9 38.2 106  2739.3 42.5    6  .9  53  .10  .13  6.3 6.1 5.3 5.0 4.0
10. Jack Stivetts     .625 20.9 38.2 107  2041.3 41.3   98 1.2 203  .21  .25  7.9 5.5 4.9 4.8 4.1
11. Al Spalding       .583 22.9 37.1 110  1817.3 37.1   70  
--   0  .05  .88  8.5 6.6 6.3 6.2 5.3
12. Bobby Mathews     .558 18.3 34.5 105  2913.3 37.6  
-43  .9  29  .23 -.24  6.5 5.7 4.9 4.5 4.1
13. Silver King       .558 22.1 35.3 114  1988.7 35.8    3  .9 119  .14  .16  8.7 8.7 5.0 4.1 3.4
14. Tony Mullane      .527 16.5 33.0  97  2760.7 35.4   61 1.0 217  .44  .26  6.9 6.2 4.2 4.2 3.8 


After Mullane, it drops all the way to Dave Foutz .475, Tommy Bond .469, Gus Weyhing .440, John Ward .431 (only counting 1878-83), Adonis Terry .414, Charlie Ferguson .374, Sadie McMahon .372, Guy Hecker .340, Matt Kilroy .324, Mark Baldwin .316, Jim Devlin .308, Ed Morris .306, Candy Cummings .305, Elton Chamberlain .294, Larry Corcoran .264, Dan Casey .205, Ed Seward .200, Scott Stratton .199, Will White .176, Elmer Smith .156, George Haddock .150, Jesse Duryea .146, Lady Baldwin .140.

Ferguson would rank 8th by the Bill James peak heavy scoring systems.
   39. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 01:15 AM (#3073791)
Heh, thanks Dan!
   40. HGM Posted: February 11, 2009 at 02:09 AM (#3073846)
Joe, are your numbers available anywhere for all pitchers?
   41. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 02:31 AM (#3073858)
HGM, thanks for asking. Once we get the database up and running, the numbers will be in there.

In the meantime, they reside in an Excel spreadsheet. I'll post it to one of those internet file hosting things tomorrow and anyone could download it from there. I need to tweak a couple of things in there first to make sure everything is right.

BTW, the numbers in post 38 do not take into account the updated BPro DERA numbers.
   42. Blackadder Posted: February 11, 2009 at 03:11 AM (#3073879)
I know very little about this era, so this seems an appropriate forum to ask: how do the people here feel about Bill James' claim that Charley Radbourn's 1884 is the most valuable season in baseball history? Evidently Joe's number's prefer Clarkson's best season, whichever one that happens to be, but I am curious how other people feel.
   43. HGM Posted: February 11, 2009 at 08:01 AM (#3074069)
Thanks Joe. Looking forward to the link.
   44. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM (#3074139)
I know very little about this era, so this seems an appropriate forum to ask: how do the people here feel about Bill James' claim that Charley Radbourn's 1884 is the most valuable season in baseball history?


It depends on what you mean by value, Blackadder. I certainly don't think it's light years ahead of Dwight Gooden's '85, for example. We also know that Radbourn would have had zero chance to replicate his '84 accomplishments in the post-1900 world.

Is Radbourn's 1884 season the most valuable because it was so much easier to accumulate innings during his time? I can't say.
   45. Howie Menckel Posted: February 11, 2009 at 01:30 PM (#3074165)
James was looking at pct of team's IP plus results, that sort of thing, I assume.
I doubt he spent 2 seconds mulling the quality of his fielders, danger of batters hitting HRs, etc, but I could be wrong.
   46. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 07:00 PM (#3074689)
You also have to adjust for the fact that 1884 was a 3-league season, talent was spread pretty thin. If you don't adjust for that, you are going to show a lot of players that year with big seasons. When I get a chance, I'll check Radbourn's adjustment for league strength that year.
   47. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 08:12 PM (#3074783)
You should be able to download the latest file here:

http://www.mediafire.com/?iydmuv0md2q
   48. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 11, 2009 at 08:13 PM (#3074786)
Also, it's in .xlsx format (Excel 2007). If you don't have the latest version of Excel, you can download a viewer from Microsoft I believe.
   49. jimd Posted: February 12, 2009 at 02:09 AM (#3075134)
My ballot comments on the pitchers from 1900. I dropped the Caruthers comment because I later changed my opinion of him. I consider Clarkson #1 now because I've changed the way that I weight portions of the following arguments.

Thanks again to John Murphy for restoring the 1900 ballot thread.

1) C. Radbourn -- A close decision between 1 and 2. Pitchers dominate the early 1880's; there's no doubt that they are important in each game (the pitching records like no-hitters, perfect games, a 19 strike-out game all demonstrate this). Individuals also are close to complete staffs. My interpretation is that a great pitching season put a team in contention, even over an All-Star team which hit like Chicago. Radbourn is the best of this generation, the best P of 1882, 83, and 84.

4) A. Spalding -- The hardest of these guys to place. He's a full-time hitter and a very good (but not great) one. As an OF, he'd be forgettable; as an IF, he'd be notable, but not this high. I'd lower him if somebody could give a compelling argument that SS or C was more valuable defensively than P during his career, but H.Wright was willing to pay him more for less hitting than Barnes and G.Wright, which leads me to believe that P was still the most important position defensively in the 1870's, and just got even more important as time went on.

5) J. Clarkson -- Better peak than Keefe with similar career value. I can't rank him with Radbourn though, the quality numbers that others are citing are exaggerated by the dilution of the league pitching quality caused by lengthening the schedules. He also doesn't benefit from the extra impact that the short schedules gave to Ps pre-1885 by enabling them to pitch the majority of a team's innings. It's a double-whammy that isn't Clarkson's fault, but it's there. People nowadays talk about how expansion has diluted today's pitching because of a 15% increase in innings due to expansion 1992-2002; how about a 325% increase in innings between 1879-1889 (more than triple)? I think it's this that is causing voters to overrate him relative to Radbourn. I also think that Clarkson deserves to be elected, in his turn; the best pitcher of 1885, 87, and 89.

6) T. Keefe -- His career value is comparable to Radbourn but Keefe doesn't have the peak. Peaks win pennants. Keefe was on more pennant-winning teams, but he also had better teammates (Connor, Ewing, Ward, O'Rourke, Welch, Tiernan vs. Hines & 41 yr-old Start).

8) P. Galvin -- Ditto. TangoTiger style thought experiment: suppose that they played Clarkson/Caruthers-length schedules (140 games) during Galvin's peak. Galvin's raw stats would stay the same. His ERA+ would be much better, because the Ps pitching all those extra innings would be replacement-level Ps (the #2 backup starters of the 84 game schedule), or worse (the #3 starters that couldn't get NL jobs at 84 games). His value to his team (in Wins) would improve somewhat due to the drop in replacement level. The impact of that value when compared to the position players would drop because the position players would be playing 140 games instead of 84, increasing their value. (Just another cut at explaining why WARP3 values early 1880's pitching so highly.)
   50. sunnyday2 Posted: February 12, 2009 at 12:19 PM (#3075343)
Hey, good catch, jimd, to note that these guys were all on the 1900 ballot. Here's mine.


1. Al Spalding (up from 2)--a giant among men, best ERA+ on the board (138)
2. John Clarkson (-)--best pure 19th century pitcher on the board though Spalding had more overall impact on pennant races
3. John Ward (-)--high peak, short career...twice! (I said I was gonna steal that line.)
4. Tim Keefe (5)--a schnipple behind Clarkson
5. George Wright (4)--would like to rate him higher, clearly a great player for a dozen years or so
6. Hoss Radbourn (10)--maybe I underrated him before, maybe I'm overrating him now but gotta love his peak
7. Hardy Richardson (9)--the best "normal" career among position players on the board, i.e. a career that is documented, or normal length and can be easily compared to that of a 20th century player
8. Cal McVey (6)--a poor man's Deacon White, did everything White did, better actually, just not as long
9. Bob Caruthers (11)--I gave him a little extra credit for his hitting, though with the bat he was frankly a two-year wonder
10. Pete Browning (8)--AA discount applies, but 164 OPS+ still great

And below the in/out line:

11. Charlie Bennett (13)--did "a man's job" very well but not quite a HoMer
12. Joe Start (-)--moved him up, still hard to tell whether he was really one of the "greatest" of the '60s but certainly very good for a long time
13. Lip Pike (7)--moved him down because like all his contemporaries there's so much we don't know, it's a question of the benefit of the doubt
14. Ezra Sutton (14)--like Start outstanding for a long time, and better documented, but no peak to speak of
15. Ed Williamson (15)--the legend lives on but is it just a legend?


So there you have it: Spalding, Clarkson, Keefe, Radbourne, Caruthers...and Galvin, who never made my PHoM. There would be several pitchers between Caruthers and Galvin, including Bond and McCormick for sure.

Eventually all 15 of these guys made my PHoM.
   51. Paul Wendt Posted: February 12, 2009 at 04:24 PM (#3075548)
#35-36
> In sharp contrast, I believe, it has been common even here for people to consider primary pitchers for pitching only.

Just want to be clear - hitting counts on these ballots. We are rating them as players, which includes everything. Their primary positions just happen to be pitcher.

I meant to hint that even some longterm participants have not routinely considered anything but pitching. The purpose of an outsider's hint is to provoke an authority.

Everyone from longterm voters to occasionals to lurkers has done that for Spalding and Caruthers. Going further doesn't matter much this fortnight because the other pitchers on the agenda were not much above or below average as batters (by OPS+, Radbourn 10-15 points above, Clarkson and Keefe average, Galvin 10-15 below).

13. Silver King .558 22.1 35.3 114 1988.7 35.8 3 .9 119 .14 .16 8.7 8.7 5.0 4.1 3.4
14. Tony Mullane .527 16.5 33.0 97 2760.7 35.4 61 1.0 217 .44 .26 6.9 6.2 4.2 4.2 3.8

After Mullane, it drops all the way to Dave Foutz .475, Tommy Bond .469, Gus Weyhing .440, John Ward .431 (only counting 1878-83), Adonis Terry .414, Charlie Ferguson .374, Sadie McMahon .372, Guy Hecker .340, Matt Kilroy .324, Mark Baldwin .316, Jim Devlin .308, . . .

Ferguson would rank 8th by the Bill James peak heavy scoring systems.


Measured by pennants added, how many of the best seasons were posted by the best pitchers? How many of the best seasons were the best of Ferguson, Hecker, Devlin (I suppose)?

Which of the columns are Pennants Added measures?
Probably you have posted a guide to the columns.
   52. Ron Johnson Posted: February 12, 2009 at 05:37 PM (#3075624)
I'm fairly clear on ranking Clarkson, Keefe, Radbourn, Galvin.

Spalding? I have little doubt he faced the weakest competition. Short career of course, but tremendous influence on every race while active. All in all, below the lot I guess. With no real conviction.

That leaves Caruthers. Love the peak (issues of league quality notwithstanding) and the bat. So:

Caruthers, Clarkson, Keefe, Radbourne, Galvin, Spalding

Catch me on a different day and I could easily come up with a different answer. I don't see a clearly correct way to weight the issues.
   53. Rusty Priske Posted: February 12, 2009 at 05:55 PM (#3075647)
I am home recovering from a brush with pneumonia and my info is at work, so this prelim is off the top of my head. In could change... assuming I get the opportunity to vote at all (I won't vote unless I can sit down at go over my 'stuff').

1. Radbourne
2. Keefe
3. Galvin
4. Spalding
5. Caruthers
6. Clarkson

And I would have Mullane in here... at least above Clarkson... maybe Caruthers as well.
   54. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 12, 2009 at 06:33 PM (#3075697)
Short career of course,


Really no shorter than the rest if you include his pre-NA years, Ron.
   55. Ron Johnson Posted: February 12, 2009 at 06:53 PM (#3075706)
How can I put this? (Probably) best pitcher in the game against random strength competition. It's kind of like arguing for inclusion of A ball stats in a HOF case.

Mind you, his NA career is kind of like considering AAA stats. He played against the best competition available and was the dominant figure. How that translates to the competition even a decade later is a guess.
   56. Paul Wendt Posted: February 12, 2009 at 09:59 PM (#3075940)
45. Howie Menckel Posted: February 11, 2009 at 08:30 AM (#3074165)
James was looking at pct of team's IP plus results, that sort of thing, I assume.
I doubt he spent 2 seconds mulling the quality of his fielders, danger of batters hitting HRs, etc, but I could be wrong.


Until I learn otherwise I suppose that James relied on Win Shares ratings without any adjustments for length of season and so on. Where does Radbourn 1884 rank among all season by win shares?

According to Davenport's career statistics both Radbourn and Ward, who preceded him as a regular pitcher for the Providence Grays, enjoyed much above average team fielding support, about what Nichols enjoyed in Boston. --not what Spalding enjoyed but clearly above average even among leading pitchers, who typically pitched for good teams.
   57. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 12, 2009 at 10:33 PM (#3075981)
Paul, here's a legend for the columns in post #38

PA - Pennants Added

James - Uses my WAR as the inputs for a modified version of the scoring system Bill James uses in the NHBA. This is very peak heavy.

JAWS - Same as James only using Jay Jaffe's JAWS scoring system

DRA+ - Basically my answer to ERA+. The "D" is because it adjusts for team defensive quality, not for Dimino :-)

tIP - My version of translated IP. This adjusts IP so the pitchers ranked 3-6 in an 8-team league, 4-9 in a 12 team league, etc., average 258.3 IP.

WARP - My version of Wins Above Replacement. Accounts for hitting, team defense, league quality (in terms of expansions, wars, not a timeline).

PPAR - Position Player Above Replacement, basically his hitting, fielding at non-pitcher positions, etc. Replacement level for the % of PH AB are considered against league average for pitchers that PH.

LI - Leverage Index for his relief innings. This is estimated before 1960.

LIP - Relief IP adjusted for leverage

LgAdj - The adjustment to the pitcher's DRA (in a 4.50 R/G league) for the quality of his league. Higher numbers mean the league was weaker.

DEF - The adjustment to the pitcher's DRA (in a 4.50 R/G league) for quality of the defense behind him. Positive numbers mean good defense, negative mean bad. Note Pud Galvin's numbers compared to the others at the top of the list.

1/2/3/4/5 - Pitcher's best individual seasons according to my WAR.
   58. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 12, 2009 at 10:36 PM (#3075986)
I meant to hint that even some longterm participants have not routinely considered anything but pitching. The purpose of an outsider's hint is to provoke an authority.


Thanks Paul, consider me provoked!

In case it isn't clear, anyone who is not accounting for hitting when rating pitchers should be.
   59. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 12, 2009 at 11:19 PM (#3076026)
Measured by pennants added, how many of the best seasons were posted by the best pitchers? How many of the best seasons were the best of Ferguson, Hecker, Devlin (I suppose)?


Here's my listing of the best 28 seasons (every season of 7.0+ WAR), 1871-1892:

Year WARP   tIP  DRAPPAR Pitcher
1889 11.9  429.0  144   1  John Clarkson
1883 10.1  393.0  126  14  Charley Radbourn
1883 10.1  306.3  132  26  Jim Whitney
1876 10.0  370.7  132  11  Jim Devlin
1887  9.6  333.3  149   1  John Clarkson
1884  9.1  350.3  135   3  Charley Radbourn
1888  8.7  334.0  132   6  Silver King
1890  8.7  316.0  152  
-5  Silver King
1885  8.7  365.3  131   0  John Clarkson
1887  8.6  188.0  116  49  Bob Caruthers
1872  8.5  278.0  137  13  Al Spalding
1889  8.4  281.3  158  
-1  Charlie Buffinton
1884  8.2  386.0  108  22  Guy Hecker
1887  8.0  186.3  143  28  Charlie Ferguson
1882  7.9  379.0  125  
-3  Jim McCormick
1887  7.9  324.7  126   7  Matt Kilroy
1891  7.9  304.3  124  12  Jack Stivetts
1884  7.9  292.0  127  12  Charlie Buffinton
1892  7.8  382.7  119   3  Bill Hutchison
1886  7.8  204.3  116  39  Bob Caruthers
1884  7.8  316.3  146 
-10  Pud Galvin
1886  7.7  218.3  146  16  Charlie Ferguson
1891  7.5  380.3  121  
-3  Bill Hutchison
1888  7.2  264.0  150  
-4  Tim Keefe
1891  7.1  318.3  124   2  Amos Rusie
1892  7.0  272.7  146  
-5  Cy Young
1889  7.0  286.3  119  13  Bob Caruthers
1877  7.0  325.7  122   2  Jim Devlin 


Note this list includes anyone whose primary position was pitcher, and accounts for all of their value for the season.

I think this covers everyone but I may have missed one or two, if the guy was a one or two year wonder and I didn't run him - a guy like John Ewing I haven't ran yet, for example. Or if the guy is listed in the post-1893 group, but had a big year before then (I did get Cy Young and Amos Rusie).
   60. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 12, 2009 at 11:23 PM (#3076028)
PPAR - Position Player Above Replacement, basically his hitting, fielding at non-pitcher positions, etc. Replacement level for the % of PH AB are considered against league average for pitchers that PH.


Just to clarify, this includes:

All hitting - pitcher portion considers replacement level as a league average hitting pitcher. AB when not pitching consider replacement level of position players.

Fielding at non-pitching positions.

This pitcher portion of hitting is scaled on the same scale as his IP to translated IP are. So if a pitcher's hitting was -10 runs and he threw 500 innings, and his 500 IP are translated to 250, then his hitting is translated to -5.
   61. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 12, 2009 at 11:27 PM (#3076032)
How can I put this? (Probably) best pitcher in the game against random strength competition. It's kind of like arguing for inclusion of A ball stats in a HOF case.


Except that Spalding was not pitching like an A-ball pitcher - he was one of the best hurlers around. That should be the only criterion for evaluating the quality of his pitching, IMO.
   62. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 12, 2009 at 11:32 PM (#3076036)
I agree - what Ron is talking about is timelining, and it's very much discouraged here. We aren't trying to show who the best would be if we put them in a time machine - we're trying to compare who played the best in the circumstances they were dealt.

We mostly operate under the premise, 'a pennant is a pennant'.

It's one thing to adjust for expansion weakening a league and increasing the standard deviation for a few years, and for wars, temporary blips. But when we started we agreed to consider all seasons, even 1860s information.
   63. HGM Posted: February 12, 2009 at 11:59 PM (#3076053)
Joe - Perhaps I'm doing something wrong, but the first 3 columns in the spreadsheet with all the pitchers don't seem to be calculating properly. The JAWS/James columns.
   64. Paul Wendt Posted: February 13, 2009 at 01:29 AM (#3076108)
Tim Keefe
After the group elected Keefe, maybe long after, someone presented analysis favoring his longtime teammate Mickey Welch. Welch is not in the Hall of Merit and the case for including him never goes away. As I recall, some people responded essentially by saying, "Yes this makes me doubt Keefe." Check the Welch thread but it may be scattered in annual threads.
   65. Paul Wendt Posted: February 13, 2009 at 02:00 AM (#3076130)
PA - Pennants Added

James - Uses my WAR as the inputs for a modified version of the scoring system Bill James uses in the NHBA. This is very peak heavy.

JAWS - Same as James only using Jay Jaffe's JAWS scoring system


If I understand correctly, "James" and "JAWS" are two systems for deriving one rating, which may be called the career rating, from a series of season ratings. The season ratings or so-called inputs may be win shares (as for James in the New BJHBA) or pennants added or innings fielding shortstop.

One intermediate component used by Bill James is career win shares per 162 games. Therefore unmodified James is reasonable at most for any season rating that is a count, not for a season rating that is a rate; to combine season rates a "modified version" would be necessary. Of course modification may be useful for other reasons, too. Joe, do you "modify" simply by dropping the timeline and, inevitably, the bullshit?

Is there one authoritative source for JAWS?
   66. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 03:13 AM (#3076161)
John to be clear what I'm saying is Spalding's Pre-NA pitching is of precisely the same value to his case for greatness as Andruw Jones' A ball play. To me that's zero. Competition's just too weak.

On the other hand I give a mental nod to Galvin's IL play. We've got a genral idea of the strength of competition and can put his numbers into some kind of context.
   67. Chris Cobb Posted: February 13, 2009 at 05:06 AM (#3076210)
John to be clear what I'm saying is Spalding's Pre-NA pitching is of precisely the same value to his case for greatness as Andruw Jones' A ball play. To me that's zero. Competition's just too weak.

Your analogy is incorrect: Spalding was playing against the best competition in the world, while Jones was playing against competition that was manifestly inferior to other competition he could have been playing against. That's a tremendous difference. The world was smaller, so being the biggest star pitcher before the advent of professional baseball is not equivalent, by a long stretch, to being the top pitcher of the first decade of the 21st century, but that doesn't mean it was without value.

Spalding was a player with a national reputation before the NA started: he was recruited by Harry Wright as a cornerstone of the Boston Red Stockings.

John's point, that Spalding wasn't an "A-Ball" pitcher is valid. To judge Spalding's merit based on the quality of his league inappropriately applies a modern framework in which league strength is strongly tiered. It's like saying Josh Gibson or Satchel Paige couldn't have been great because they played against competition that was, overall, not of major-league quality. They played against the best competition available to them, just as Spalding did. Gibson and Paige were limited in their choice of competition by the segregation of baseball during their careers; Spalding was limited in his choice of competition by the limited scope of baseball's organization at the time of his career.
   68. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 06:08 AM (#3076239)
Your analogy is incorrect: Spalding was playing against the best competition in the world,


Nonsense. Before 1871 he was playing against random strength . Generally the best competition available in a relatively small area. Mostly town teams.

And I'm not saying Spalding was an A ball pitcher. I'm saying he pitched against (by and large) A ball competition. Any success he has against that competition -- and it was substantial of course -- tells us little more than that he was too good for the competition.

John argues that his Pre NA pitching adds to his value. I'm telling you that in 1880 John Clarkson was playing against competition every bit as strong as Spalding was in 1869 and with results of similar order of magnitude (too good for the competition he was up against) so how does Spalding's pre NA pitching advance his case against Clarkson.

Or Galvin. Or any of these guys.
   69. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2009 at 06:32 AM (#3076245)
Joe - Perhaps I'm doing something wrong, but the first 3 columns in the spreadsheet with all the pitchers don't seem to be calculating properly. The JAWS/James columns.


HGM - Those first 3 columns are the pitcher's rank in that group under each of those scoring systems (PA, James, JAWS). The actual scores are on the far right of the worksheet.

Paul, I do drop the timeline out of James' system. Also, he uses best 3 individual, and top 5 consecutive. I use top 5 individual and top 3 consecutive (was much easier to set up that way, based on how I built the worksheet).
   70. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2009 at 06:33 AM (#3076246)
Is there one authoritative source for JAWS?


I'm not sure - I just took the formula from the article and applied it to my WAR.
   71. HGM Posted: February 13, 2009 at 07:44 AM (#3076264)
HGM - Those first 3 columns are the pitcher's rank in that group under each of those scoring systems (PA, James, JAWS). The actual scores are on the far right of the worksheet.

Thank you. I seem to be getting jumbled garbage for the ranks, though. If I sort, the ranks change, and a lot of times are just errors. *shrug* I just need the actual scores though, so thanks for pointing that out.
   72. HGM Posted: February 13, 2009 at 08:14 AM (#3076271)
Prelim with comments:

1) John Clarkson - Easily the best of the bunch to me. Phenomenal peak.
2) Tim Keefe - Not quite the peak of Clarkson, but a long career with barely any poor seasons. Slight discount for his AA years but I still feel he's ahead of the others.
3) Al Spalding - Some credit for his pre-NA years. Phenomenal peak, but little else. His bat helps him stay above Radbourn.
4) Charley Radbourn - His 1884 is a sight to behold even if it's not quite as good as it would appear at first glance. Keefe, Spalding, Radbourn and Caruthers are a tightly knit group.
5) Bob Caruthers - Short but outstanding peak. Love the two-way player aspect of him, awesome bat for two years and very good the rest combined with very good pitching. Small discount for the AA.
6) Pud Galvin - Very long career, but not much of a peak and a couple low valleys pushes him down for me. Still a solid HoMer.
   73. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 08:20 AM (#3076272)
Come to think of it, I understate when it comes to Galvin. 72-25 in a 116 game season in the IL in 1878. No idea the number of IP but it couldn't have been far off 900.

So how strong was the IL? Almost certainly stronger than what Spalding faced in 1869. As a point of reference Galvin went 10-5 against NL competition in 1878 (The IL was trying to establish itself as a competitor. Buffalo had other plans, and Galvin was crucial to them). Yeah exhibition games, but you'd have to classify most of Spalding's games as exhibitions.

And that's just one year for Galvin.
   74. bjhanke Posted: February 13, 2009 at 10:50 AM (#3076284)
Paul says/asks, "Until I learn otherwise I suppose that James relied on Win Shares ratings without any adjustments for length of season and so on. Where does Radbourn 1884 rank among all season by win shares?"

It ranks first, at 89 WS. This is what Bill means by "the best season ever", and it sort of laps the field. The next highest WS is 74, by Guy Hecker, also in 1884, but in the American Association. Tim Keefe posted 70 in 1883, also in the AA. There are no other seasons that I know of, by either batters or pitchers, above 70 WS. Bill's comment on this, in the Historical Abstract, amounts to "It makes sense. Hoss was pitching at the level of Pedro Martinez, but 3 times as many innings." Other people have pitched over 600 IP, but not at anything like Hoss' level in '84. One oddity: Although 1884 was the first season where overhand pitching was allowed, every source I've seen (all 2 of them) say that Hoss was still throwing underhand/sidearm that season.

- Brock
   75. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 13, 2009 at 12:35 PM (#3076294)
John argues that his Pre NA pitching adds to his value. I'm telling you that in 1880 John Clarkson was playing against competition every bit as strong as Spalding was in 1869 and with results of similar order of magnitude (too good for the competition he was up against) so how does Spalding's pre NA pitching advance his case against Clarkson.


I'm confused by this, Ron. I have Clarkson above Spalding. Are you stating that I am saying the opposite?

At any rate, if Spalding was a fine pitcher by the standards of the time pre-NA, how can that not add value to his resume? Even if Babe Ruth had hit 200 homers a season against minor league competition, that doesn't affect his intrinsic greatness in any way, shape or form. Same goes for Spalding and his supposed lesser competition pre-1871.

BTW, Al was a helluva hitter.
   76. sunnyday2 Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:02 PM (#3076421)
John to be clear what I'm saying is Spalding's Pre-NA pitching is of precisely the same value to his case for greatness as Andruw Jones' A ball play. To me that's zero. Competition's just too weak.


Ron it was not unclear that that is what you were/are saying. Nor is it unclear that Joe is saying that that philosophy is discouraged and maybe unconstitutional. There was no better competition for Spalding to have played against. He played against the best available. Andruw Jones in A was not playing against the best competition available. Those are quite obviously different scenarios and in no way comparable.

By extension, 100 years from now our successors will be saying that players of the late 19th century get zero value because the competition was too weak. But, no. A pennant is a pennant. Baseball in 1999 and 1969 and 1929 and 1909 and 1889 and 1869 is all baseball and the best players in the world were accruing value.
   77. sunnyday2 Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:04 PM (#3076423)
What I meant to say is that by extension, this idea that pre-NA pitching (baseball) is of zero value...by extension people 100 years from now will be saying that players of the late 20th century get zero value because of weak competition.
   78. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:23 PM (#3076440)
#75 We appear to be slightly talking past each other. To get back where we came in I made a comment about short career and you suggested that Al's pre-NA days brings him (roughly in to line with both).

And what I'm arguing is that if you're going to count Spalding's pre NA stuff you also need to account for the other guys in the group. Who pitched as much and as well against exactly the same competition.

What distinguishes Spalding's pre NA stuff from the others pre NL/AA/whatever isn't quality of competition but quality of observer.

IOW I stand behind the short career comment.
   79. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:28 PM (#3076444)
(NO edit or I'd just tack it on)

And I don't see this as timelining, though I see why my comments triggered that reflex. I'm arguing within the context of these 6 players. This isn't a "Couldn't hold Jamie Moyer's jock" argument.
   80. DL from MN Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:45 PM (#3076458)
This gets into the territory of a "standard deviation" adjustment. Spalding thumping some local team 49-4 still only counts for 1 win.
   81. DL from MN Posted: February 13, 2009 at 04:52 PM (#3076468)
All these pitchers were eligible in 1900. They went into the HoM in this order:

Clarkson - 1900
Keefe - 1901
Radbourn - 1905
Spalding - 1906
Galvin - 1910
Caruthers - 1930

In one sense, the HoM already did this ranking exercise. That's pretty close to my current rankings with my caveat of "I don't know where to rank Spalding". I think I'll probably submit that order as my ballot.
   82. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: February 13, 2009 at 05:42 PM (#3076503)
And what I'm arguing is that if you're going to count Spalding's pre NA stuff you also need to account for the other guys in the group. Who pitched as much and as well against exactly the same competition.


In the case of Galvin, Ron, I have. I don't know what Keefe, Clarkson, Radbourne and Caruthers did before the ML, however. If I did, I would adjust their numbers accordingly.

And I don't see this as timelining, though I see why my comments triggered that reflex. I'm arguing within the context of these 6 players. This isn't a "Couldn't hold Jamie Moyer's jock" argument.


Fair enough.

IOW I stand behind the short career comment.


I guess we're at the "agree to disagree" point of this discussion now.

In one sense, the HoM already did this ranking exercise.


Except we were still trying to figure out these guys at the time. Of course, the ranking may duplicate your list anyway.
   83. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2009 at 09:12 PM (#3076715)
Anyone care to take a gander at an MLE for Galvin in 1878?

I've got his 1879 at 100 DRA+, 278.3 tIP; 1880 at 109/240.0, 1881 125/274.0, 1882 100/273.7.

He first popped into the NA for a couple of games in 1875 . . . should he get anything for 1876-77 also?

Giving him credit for 1876-78 at his 1879-81 level would move him from 5th to 2nd in my raw numbers - these guys are pretty tight, and every little bit counts.

My issues with Keefe are playing in some weak leagues and he had very good defense behind him - a little better than Radbourn and Clarkson, and a lot better than Galvin.
   84. Ron Johnson Posted: February 13, 2009 at 10:10 PM (#3076750)
Joe I'd love to take a shot but I've never seen anything close to authoritative on the IL in that time frame. Even allowing for a heavy discount for quality (and I doubt it's merited) his 1878 season has to be among the most valuable of all time either by something like win shares -- just consider the raw number of innings -- or pennants added. Add to that beating every team in the NL at least once. I'm know a significant number of watchers of the game thought he was the best pitcher in baseball.

Earlier than that, 31-16 for a non league St. Louis team in 1876. Including a no-hitter against a Philadelphia team and a perfecto against Detroit's Cass Club. No idea what that's worth.

Pitched in the IL in 1877. Don't have any seasonal numbers but I do know he was worked very hard. 18 starts in 19 days at one point (going 12-6)
   85. HGM Posted: February 14, 2009 at 12:23 AM (#3076823)
Joe: David Cone doesn't seem to be in your spreadsheet. Is there a reason for that?
   86. Paul Wendt Posted: February 14, 2009 at 01:36 AM (#3076870)
DL #81
All these pitchers were eligible in 1900. They went into the HoM in this order:

Clarkson - 1900
Keefe - 1901
Radbourn - 1905
Spalding - 1906
Galvin - 1910
Caruthers - 1930

In one sense, the HoM already did this ranking exercise.


But in reply to supporters of Welch years later (whose argument I don't recall, maybe a Grove/Ferrell analysis of their opponents?), several participants regretted their strong early support for Keefe.


Joe Dimino #83
My issues with Keefe are playing in some weak leagues and he had very good defense behind him - a little better than Radbourn and Clarkson, and a lot better than Galvin.

That is opposite to Clay Davenport's estimates, which put Keefe and Galvin together near the median of alltime HOM pitchers.

team fielding support (career runs/9ip benefit from above average fielding)
+0.84 Spalding
+0.48 Ward
(nichols)
+0.41 Radbourn
+0.40 Caruthers
(brown)
------ ------ gap
(walsh)
+0.19 Clarkson
(mcginnity)
(rusie)
(griffith)
+0.06 Keefe
+0.05 Galvin
(matty)
(plank)
(-0.04 young)
(-0.14 waddell)

Spalding to Brown are the six leaders among all HOM pitchers. Palmer, Hubbell, Ford, Lemon, and Pierce follow, ahead of Walsh and Clarkson.

Here is the same statistic for all of the 1880s debuts in my desktop table that covers 637 pitchers alltime.

0.60 Corcoran L
0.46 Foutz D
0.41 Radbourn C
0.40 Caruthers B
0.39 Smith Elmer
0.36 Mullane T
0.33 Morris E
0.33 Stivetts J
0.25 Ferguson C
0.24 McGinnis J
0.24 Boyle H
0.22 Chamberlain E
0.22 King S
0.21 Dwyer F
0.19 Clarkson J
0.11 Gumbert A
0.10 Casey Danny
0.09 Hutchison B
0.09 Rusie A
0.08 Gleason K
0.08 Terry A
0.07 Kilroy Matt
0.07 Welch M
0.06 Staley H
0.06 Keefe T
0.06 Seward E
0.05 Daily H
0.04 Hecker G
0.00 Sanders B
-0.02 Weyhing G
-0.02 Cunningham B
-0.05 Baldwin L
-0.06 Ehret R
-0.06 Buffinton C
-0.07 McMahon S
-0.12 Getzien C
-0.12 Baldwin M
-0.26 Ramsey T
-0.32 Whitney J
-0.33 Stratton S
-0.39 Lynch J
-0.51 Wiedman S
   87. jimd Posted: February 14, 2009 at 01:59 AM (#3076876)
All these pitchers were eligible in 1900. They went into the HoM in this order:

Clarkson - 1900
Keefe - 1901
Radbourn - 1905
Spalding - 1906
Galvin - 1910
Caruthers - 1930

In one sense, the HoM already did this ranking exercise.


Another version of that ranking is the 1900 ballot results:

1st Clarkson 756 pts (elected)
3rd Keefe 582 pts
5th Radbourn 484 pts
8th Spalding 403 pts
12th Caruthers 284 pts (wins tiebreaker)
13th Galvin 284 pts

Caruthers would undergo an extensive tear-down and rebuild over the next 30 elections.

OTOH, Keefe and Clarkson would sail in with very little debate.
Some have voiced regret over Keefe's quick election.
Here's the chance to reexamine.
   88. sunnyday2 Posted: February 14, 2009 at 01:42 PM (#3077003)
Who pitched as much and as well against exactly the same competition.


Well, nobody did. That's kind of the point.
   89. sunnyday2 Posted: February 14, 2009 at 05:54 PM (#3077129)
Re. Keefe, it is heartening to know that the comparability of Welch and Keefe led to a devaluation of Keefe rather than a rush to honor Welch. Good work.
   90. Howie Menckel Posted: February 15, 2009 at 01:09 AM (#3077265)
HOM Pitching teammates (each must pitch at least 1 IP per team game), with at least one of the relevant six candidates in the tandem:

1882 Providence NL - Charley Radbourn (33-20) and John Ward (19-12)

1888 Boston NL - John Clarkson (33-20) and Charley Radbourn (7-16)
1889 Boston NL - John Clarkson (49-19) and Charley Radbourn (20-11)

1890 Boston NL - Kid Nichols (27-19) and John Clarkson (26-18)
1891 Boston NL - John Clarkson (33-19) and Kid Nichols (30-17)

1892 Cleveland NL - Cy Young (36-12) and John Clarkson (17-10)
1893 Cleveland NL - Cy Young (34-16) and John Clarkson (16-17)
1894 Cleveland NL - Cy Young (26-21) and John Clarkson (8-10)
   91. OCF Posted: February 16, 2009 at 07:15 AM (#3077968)
My inclination is to go with my own 1905 ranking (see post 14 above). I'll have to add it Clarkson and Keefe. Clarkson should go on top, but Keefe? That's the one case that I don't know what to do with. What do some of the rest of you have to say about Keefe (as compared to, say, Galvin and Radbourn)? Up or down?
   92. Rusty Priske Posted: February 17, 2009 at 04:23 PM (#3078942)
Re. Keefe, it is heartening to know that the comparability of Welch and Keefe led to a devaluation of Keefe rather than a rush to honor Welch. Good work.


And here I was think the exact opposite thing.
   93. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 17, 2009 at 08:52 PM (#3079350)
My issues with Keefe are playing in some weak leagues and he had very good defense behind him - a little better than Radbourn and Clarkson, and a lot better than Galvin.

That is opposite to Clay Davenport's estimates, which put Keefe and Galvin together near the median of alltime HOM pitchers.


Looks like Clay changed his mind then :-) My numbers basically use DERA - NRA (WARP1 not WARP2 version) as a proxy for quality of team defense. I have not updated for the last iteration.

*****

HGM - regarding Cone - that's strange - I could have sworn I ran the numbers for him - maybe I posted an older version of the spreadsheet. I just checked and I don't see him either . . . I'll check all my files when I get home.
   94. Paul Wendt Posted: February 19, 2009 at 04:11 AM (#3080877)
My numbers basically use DERA - NRA (WARP1 not WARP2 version) as a proxy for quality of team defense. I have not updated for the last iteration.

Joe,
The runs/9ip statistic in #86 (which I have incorporated in many summer/winter 2008/2009 comments) is equivalent to DERA - NRA except for rounding and clerical error.

Literally that runs/9ip is RAA - PRAA per nine innings: the difference between team runs above ave and pitcher runs above ave, or fielders runs above ave. (I have provided the quotient w/r XIP rather than IP but that discrepancy is trivial for pitchers from the heyday of the complete game.)

For the pitchers on the agenda and a few leading contemporaries I have doublechecked against DT cards just now. The misfit with your report is so great that I wonder whether you made some clerical error a few years ago. But will never know, not until they come out with the "CD" edition of Clay Davenport, every recording he every made, plus a few incomplete bootlegs from users like us.

There isn't much rounding error in these numbers. So I am happy to provide DERA as a familiar index (the ERA+ scale) with another significant figure.

DERA+
120.6 Keefe
118.7 Clarkson
117.4 Buffinton
etc.

DERA (4.50 represents average effective pitching)

3.73 Keefe T
3.79 Clarkson J
3.83 Buffinton C
3.95 Caruthers B
4.03 Whitney J
4.07 McCormick J
4.13 Welch M
4.15 Radbourn C
4.20 Galvin J
4.21 Mullane T
4.27 White W
4.44 Ward J.M.
4.48 Terry A
   95. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 19, 2009 at 03:58 PM (#3081117)
Paul, here are the numbers I was using for Keefe:

Year    NRA     DERA   NewDERA
1880    2.23    2.19    1.97
1881    4.49    4.87    4.33
1882    4.50    4.12    3.83
1883    2.85    3.36    2.61
1884    3.36    3.77    3.02
1885    3.27    4.12    4.13
1886    3.67    3.85    3.61
1887    3.72    3.84    3.99
1888    3.23    3.25    3.59
1889    3.93    4.09    4.16
1890    3.21    3.48    3.52
1891    6.37    6.38    6.52
1892    3.60    4.10    4.04
1893    4.61    4.98    4.86 


I don't really see anything that could be a typo. Just a wholesale re-evaluation of 1880-84 that went very much in Keefe's favor.

This makes a huge difference for him, bumps him from .751 PA to .873 PA. From a 111 DRA+ to a 116 DRA+. From 51.0 WARP to 57.9.

Obviously, I will need to update the others in the group as well, before I change his ranking. I'll do that sometime between now and Saturday . . . let you know how the results.
   96. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 19, 2009 at 04:59 PM (#3081201)
Al Spalding's 1872 was brought back to reality, but his 1875 was bumped up. He is a very slight net winner in the new evaluation, moving from .583 to .591 PA.

John Clarkson is virtually unchanged from .907 to .909. His WARP improved from 56.4 to 57.6 and his DERA from 120 to 121, but his 1889 and 1885 (2 of his 3 biggest seasons) took a hit, which hurt him a little in PA. His 1887 was bumped to being essentially even with his 1889 (11.1 WAR each), 1887 being better per inning.

Pud Galvin takes a pretty decent sized hit, from .690 to .646. He dropped from 46.0 to 44.0 WARP, and from 107 to 105 DRA+. He takes this hit despite his 1883-84 big years being bumped up. His next best year is dropped all the way down to 3.8 WAR.

Bob Caruthers virtually unchanged, .695 to .688. His DRA+ went from 109 to 110, and his WARP from 44.9 to 44.6.

Charley Radbourn takes a huge hit. His defense adjustment went from .21 to .41, taking his DRA+ from 115 to 109, and his PA from .844 to .720. His WAR drops from 53.6 to 47.1.

I will re-run Welch, Whitney, McCormick and Buffinton (guys that are close) with the new numbers to see where they stand as well. Updated standings of the HoMers:

Clarkson  .909
Keefe     .873
Radbourn  .720
Caruthers .688
Galvin    .646
Spalding  .591 


I would encourage anyone who used my info for their ballot to reconsider with this new information.

This is a definite reminder that we are still learning a lot about these players as our methods improve.
   97. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 19, 2009 at 05:04 PM (#3081204)
It looks like my league strength adjustment factors are also going to need to be updated, ugh. That takes time, because of the way I calculate them . . . I'm not sure how this will impact the numbers.
   98. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 19, 2009 at 05:36 PM (#3081236)
Mickey Welch ticks up slight from .636 to .641.

Jim McCormick, takes a big enough hit to remove him as a serious candidate (unless the league adjustments I mentioned earlier somehow favor him incredibly more than the others. His DRA+ goes from 115 to 109, and he was a very borderline candidate before the change.

Jim Whitney becomes a pretty serious candidate at this point, moving from .644 to .668. His DRA+ improved from 107 to 110.

Charlie Buffinton moves from .641 to .662, DRA+ from 115 to 117.

Jack Stivetts drops from .625 to .584.

Bobby Mathews .558 -> .592, but still a little short - although if you compare him to Spalding . . .

Silver King .558 -> .541

Tony Mullane .527 -> .467

Tommy Bond .469 -> .536

Updated list of those recalced:

John Clarkson*     .909
Tim Keefe
*         .873
Charley Radbourn
*  .720
Bob Caruthers
*     .688
Jim Whitney        .668
Charlie Buffinton  .662
Pud Galvin
*        .646
Mickey Welch       .641
Bobby Mathews      .592
Al Spalding
*       .591
Jack Stivetts      .584
Jim McCormick      .545
Silver King        .541
Tommy Bond         .536 
   99. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 19, 2009 at 06:35 PM (#3081293)
Paul (or anyone else) any idea what the changes were this time around? They seem very significant, for the 19th century at least.
   100. Howie Menckel Posted: February 20, 2009 at 02:50 AM (#3081698)
I think these systems can do fairly well on Clarkson, Keefe and Radbourn, but for various reasons Galvin and especially Caruthers and Spalding defy such pigeonholing.

I know voters hate to have to accept a good system's hard-to-definables, but it happens.

I've never ruled out Welch as a candidate. Always has been an interesting case.

And of course the others on this list were topflight pitchers for sure...
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