Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Hall of Merit > Discussion
Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Robin Roberts

Eligible in 1972.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2006 at 10:04 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Related News:

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 05, 2006 at 10:17 PM (#1884381)
Holy peak and prime, Batman!
   2. OCF Posted: March 06, 2006 at 03:36 AM (#1884753)
Moving three of my own posts over from the Spahn thread:

The contemporary comparison [to Spahn] is to Roberts. I've got Roberts at a career 295-226. Roberts has a three-year stretch (1952-54) with equivalent records of 24-13, 26-12, and 25-13, with two very good years just before that. Spahn never had three consecutive years like that, or 5 consecutive years like that, any maybe not even a three best or five best years like that. So I'm willing to say that Roberts had a better peak than Spahn. But for career value, the difference between the two career equivalent records is 45-16, and 45-16 is a lot of value.

---

Looking again at what I wrote [above] about Robin Roberts: "only" 45-16 short of Spahn's career value; a better peak than Spahn, comes on a ballot with no overwhelming holdovers; same year as Koufax, but I'm kind of a career guy with pitchers, and Koufax isn't that.

Roberts will be #1 on my 1972 ballot. If he were eligible in 1971, he'd be #2 behind Spahn.

OK, I shouldn't say "only" 45-16; that's two seasons each better than a typical Cy Young season.

---

n my RA+ equivalent system:

Koufax, 1962-1966: 107-46, 137 FWP
Roberts, 1950-1954: 118-63, 132 FWP

Another way to put that: the difference between them for those 5 years, 11-17, is close enough to replacement as to have fairly small value.

But even there: I haven't corrected for the pitcher's own offense. Roberts certainly wasn't a good hitter (yeah, there was a 120 OPS+ one year but that was a fluke), but for a pitcher, he wasn't completely hopeless with a bat in his hand. Koufax was completely hopeless with a bat in his hand; you have to discount him a little for that.

Outside of those 5 years - well, Roberts had plenty of years in which he was pretty ordinary. But still:

Koufax: 56-49, 34 FWP
Roberts: 177-163, 105 FWP

The difference is mostly just bulk as a slightly-better-than-average pitcher. But slightly-better-than-average bulk has value.
   3. DL from MN Posted: March 07, 2006 at 12:23 AM (#1886156)
I have Roberts as significantly below Spahn but a good chunk of that is Spahn's war credit. Take away war credit and Spahn's still better but there's an argument.
   4. Jim Sp Posted: March 07, 2006 at 05:59 PM (#1886906)
Anyone else surprised to see a 113 career ERA+? Not as dominant as I thought in his peak, either. Durability is great but the peak is in Wins, not ERA. His best seasons in ERA+ are typical Addie Joss seasons, and indeed he has a lot of years in which he is pretty ordinary. He's on the good side of my borderline, but he's start off around 14 on my ballot. Just ahead of Koufax I think...
   5. DavidFoss Posted: March 07, 2006 at 06:31 PM (#1886945)
Anyone else surprised to see a 113 career ERA+?

1956-57 and 1959-61 are weighing down his career numbers. His peak is better characterized by the absurdly high IP levels.

It would be cool if baseball-reference had by-age similarity pages for pitchers as well. I often use those to get "pre-decline" career numbers.
   6. DL from MN Posted: March 07, 2006 at 07:16 PM (#1887014)
Did the lower offense of the era lower the OPS+ and ERA+ standard deviation during the 60's?
   7. Chris Cobb Posted: March 07, 2006 at 09:29 PM (#1887349)
Did the lower offense of the era lower the OPS+ and ERA+ standard deviation during the 60's?

This is a subject that has been argued over repeatedly on this site, with no consensus reached.

The only matter on which there is consensus is that the win-value of higher ERA+ values is lower in a low-scoring era than in a high scoring era.

It is my opinion that higher ERA+ scores tend to appear in lower-scoring eras, because of the lower baseline in the denominator: If a pitcher has an ERA 1 run better than league average, that will give a higher ERA+ in a 3.5 r/g environment than in a 4 r/g environment.

But not everyone agrees with that case, and that's not really what you are asking about, but I think it suggests that the sd for ERA+ would not drop during the 60s.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2006 at 09:35 PM (#1887364)
His best seasons in ERA+ are typical Addie Joss seasons,

Except that Roberts flat-out destroys Joss in IP. How many pitchers throughout history have been in the top-two in IP 7 times in a row or #1 5 times in a row? That had to affect his ERA+, too.
   9. Al Peterson Posted: March 07, 2006 at 10:35 PM (#1887512)
Except that Roberts flat-out destroys Joss in IP. How many pitchers throughout history have been in the top-two in IP 7 times in a row or #1 5 times in a row? That had to affect his ERA+, too.

That workload thing is what Roberts has in aces. Let's look at 1950-55.

1950 2nd place in innings by 7 IP
1951 1st place in innings by 5 IP
1952 1st place in innings by 40 IP
1953 1st place in innings by 81 IP!
1954 1st place in innings by 52 IP
1955 1st place in innings by 48 IP

Over this time his ERA+ was 135, 127, 141, 152, 136, 121. So the median of those is about 135.

Due to his extreme innings pitched, he actually had about 7 years of workload compressed into 6 years. If you lower his innings pitched in 50-55 you still get a full-time starter but you could then add another ERA+ of 135 in a hypothetical second 1955 season.

A 7 year prime with an ERA+ of 135 is worthy of notice when you consider he did some other pretty good things along the way.
   10. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 07, 2006 at 10:45 PM (#1887534)
IIRC, he once tossed 28 straight complete games. Not even Rick Langford can match that.
   11. Paul Wendt Posted: March 09, 2006 at 06:04 AM (#1890033)
How many pitchers throughout history have been in the top-two in IP 7 times in a row or #1 5 times in a row?

Forty years later, Greg Maddux for one:
2-1-1-1-1-1-2 -8-3-9 in the 1990s (NL rank, innings).
If you wish, extend that to 14 seasons with a 4-6 before and a 2-4 after. And now thru 2005 three more seasons of grey ink after missing in 2002. He led the league (what's a league?) in starts for the seventh time last season.

Forty years earlier, Grover Alexander deserves honorable mention:
1-1-3-1-1-1-1 in his Phillies career (NL rank, innings)
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 09, 2006 at 07:17 AM (#1890122)
Forty years later, Greg Maddux for one:
2-1-1-1-1-1-2 -8-3-9 in the 1990s (NL rank, innings).
If you wish, extend that to 14 seasons with a 4-6 before and a 2-4 after. And now thru 2005 three more seasons of grey ink after missing in 2002. He led the league (what's a league?) in starts for the seventh time last season.

Forty years earlier, Grover Alexander deserves honorable mention:
1-1-3-1-1-1-1 in his Phillies career (NL rank, innings)


Not too shabby of a group, I must say. :-)
   13. sunnyday2 Posted: March 12, 2006 at 04:07 PM (#1894312)
>His best seasons in ERA+ are typical Addie Joss seasons, and indeed he has a lot of years in which he is pretty ordinary.

Well, Roberts was certainly no Early Wynn.
   14. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 12, 2006 at 05:21 PM (#1894350)
Well, Roberts was certainly no Early Wynn.

Ain't that the truth, Marc.
   15. DavidFoss Posted: March 12, 2006 at 06:05 PM (#1894385)
Well, Roberts was certainly no Early Wynn.

I had my own fears. There are similarities. They show up on each other's similarity lists. Neither won an ERA+ title (though Wynn has one unadjusted-ERA title) and relied on being a 'workhorse' to rack up high value seasons. Also, both had some crummy seasons to lower the career rate stats (Wynn shuffled his good and bad seasons more, whereas Roberts had a much more consecutive peak). I did their sorted WS lines as a sanity check:

RR:35-32-31-28-27-26-20-16-16-15-15-13-13-13-12-12-12-03-00
EW
:28-24-24-23-21-21-21-20-19-16-16-11-10-09-09-08-08-06-05-04-03-03-00 


Indeed, Roberts' peak simply blows him away. Wynn's non-consective prime is a tad longer -- taking back some value in seasons 7-11 (especially 8-9) and then Roberts' weak years were not nearly as bad as Wynn's.

So, yes, slam dunk choice of Roberts over Wynn. :-)
   16. sunnyday2 Posted: March 16, 2006 at 01:55 PM (#1901462)
I missed this discussion while traveling...so, catching up...

I have Roberts at #1 on my prelim ballot but I thought before I punch “submit” I would look at him versus the other long career pitchers still in my top 25-30 (including HoM/not PHoM pitchers). The candidates are listed under each category inn the order that that particular part of the analysis seems to suggest.


ERA+
Rixey 116/145-43-43-38-37-29-24-15-15-13-10-9-9-7-(98)-(95)-(91) in 4495 IP
Roberts 113/153-41-36-34-33-27-23-22-21-7-4-(97)-(96)-(93)-(84) in 4689 IP
(Ruffing) 109/149-49-37-32-30-21-19-11-7-6-3-(99)-(99)-(93)-(91)-(91)-(90)-(88) in 4344 IP
(Wynn) 106/154-42-35-35-26-19-15-10-8-2-(96)-(96)-(95)-(88)-(88)-(86)-(75)-(71) in 4564 IP

For ERA+ it seems that the career total positions each of the four pitchers accurately. None had a huge peak, all in fact about equal for their best 4-5-6 seasons. Where they separate is on their seasons number 6 through 10, not a particularly compelled basis for differentiation, but basically it’s what you’ve got. Of course, Roberts has that edge in IP which maybe moves him up to equal with Rixey on this measure.

Win Shares

16. Roberts 339/35-32-31/153/27.0
75. Rixey 315/26-26-24/118/26.5
51. Ruffing 322/27-25-24/116/25.5
47. Wynn 308/28-25-24/110/24.6

The only possible basis for putting Wynn ahead of Rixey and Ruffing appears to me to be a timeline and/or the BS dump. My reading of James’ own numbers suggests the above order. Roberts pulls ahead quite clearly by virtue of his peak which is more based (from the above) on IP than on being any more effective. Still, there it is.

Roberts 339/35-32-31-28-27-26-20-16-16-15-15-13-13-13-12-12-12
Rixey 315/26-26-24-23-22-22-21-20-18-15-14-14-14-12-12-10-10
Ruffing 322/27-25-24-23-22-22-21-20-19-17-16-15-15-11
Wynn 308/28-25-24-23-21-21-21-20-19-16-16-11-10

Extend it out, and Roberts has 7 20 WS seasons, the others have 8 but I have no problem seeing Roberts as #1 on this measure by virture, again, of that peak. His 10 additional 10 WS seasons also help, while Rixey moves up with his 9 additional 10 WS seasons versus Ruffing with 6 and Wynn with 5.

Offensive Win Shares

Ruffing 32
Wynn 15
Roberts 7
Rixey approaching 0

As pitchers Roberts is closer to this pack than I expected and the batting just tightens it up further. Still Roberts remains the best of the 4, and Wynn I am quite sure remains the weakest. Ruffing and Rixey remain very close.

My dilemma is Roberts #1 on 1972 ballot, when the others are all around #20 or so. Seems like to big of a spread. I have had Wynn ahead of Ruffing and Rixey and will have to fix that. But is 1-20 an appropriate spread between Roberts and the others??? Well, I am a peak/prime voter and those 3 30 WS seasons a pretty impressive from a guy who is basically in the Rixey-Ruffing-Wynn camp. As I said before (based more impressionistically) Roberts is closer to Spahn than he is to Wynn. And considering I am no friend at all of Red Ruffing, I am now satisfied til further review that Wynn will never make my PHoM.
   17. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 16, 2006 at 06:25 PM (#1901800)
I don't see the Roberts-Rixey comparison. Roberts peak, compared to his peers, was far greater than Rixey's. Eppa Jeptha also had the good fortune of starting his career during the much easier teens, while Roberts experienced the pitcher-friendly '60s when he was on his way out.

Rixey was real good, but Roberts was at a higher level.
   18. DavidFoss Posted: March 16, 2006 at 06:29 PM (#1901811)
I don't know the exact count, but Robin Roberts has about 5 WS Cy Young awards. Eppa Rixey doesn't have any.
   19. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 16, 2006 at 06:33 PM (#1901829)
I don't know the exact count, but Robin Roberts has about 5 WS Cy Young awards. Eppa Rixey doesn't have any.

Exactly, David. Roberts was superior to Rixey.
   20. sunnyday2 Posted: March 16, 2006 at 06:58 PM (#1901896)
>Robin Roberts has about 5 WS Cy Young awards. Eppa Rixey doesn't have any

Spoken like a good peak voter!
   21. sunnyday2 Posted: March 16, 2006 at 06:59 PM (#1901900)
But seriously, you can't see any comparison between these two pitchers?

Rixey 116/145-43-43-38-37-29-24-15-15-13-10-9-9-7-(98)-(95)-(91) in 4495 IP
Roberts 113/153-41-36-34-33-27-23-22-21-7-4-(97)-(96)-(93)-(84) in 4689 IP
   22. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 16, 2006 at 07:27 PM (#1901981)
But seriously, you can't see any comparison between these two pitchers?

Rixey 116/145-43-43-38-37-29-24-15-15-13-10-9-9-7-(98)-(95)-(91) in 4495 IP
Roberts 113/153-41-36-34-33-27-23-22-21-7-4-(97)-(96)-(93)-(84) in 4689 IP


The difference is that Roberts packed in more IP in less years than Rixey did. Rixey never dominated the IP list the way Roberts did (not many other pitchers did, for that matter). Roberts also pitched in a far more difficult environment in his twenties than Rixey did. Pitching 200 IP during the Deadball Era is not the same thing as 200 IP during the first home run explosion.

Not to mention the fact that the NL was far stronger during the 1950s than it was during the 1910s and 1920s.
   23. sunnyday2 Posted: March 16, 2006 at 08:16 PM (#1902133)
>But seriously, you can't see *any* comparison between these two pitchers?

** added
   24. DavidFoss Posted: March 16, 2006 at 08:54 PM (#1902250)
** added

Yeah, sure. I myself get used to scanning OPS+ lines and assuming that for two full time players, then OPS+ will determine (roughly) who was the better hitter. For full-time players, PA is often taken for granted.

For ERA+, the playing time component (IP) has much more variance among full time players.
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 16, 2006 at 09:45 PM (#1902383)
>But seriously, you can't see *any* comparison between these two pitchers?

** added


I understand, Marc, but there's a big difference between their peaks. As David alludes to, that doesn't show up when you just look at their career ERA+ or career IP. One also gets the wrong impression just looking at their seasons of peak ERA+ without comparing their respective IP among their peers.
   26. sunnyday2 Posted: March 16, 2006 at 09:46 PM (#1902385)
Also from #16:

>Roberts pulls ahead quite clearly by virtue of his peak which is more based (from the above) on IP than on being any more effective. Still, there it is.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: March 17, 2006 at 02:02 AM (#1902864)
EpRixey Top 10 IP: 1 3 3 3 4 7 8 8 9 9
Roberts Top 10 IP: 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 4 5 5 7 9

That's a major edge for Roberts, indeed, but some of the comments to me almost seem to imply that it's even greater than this.

Rixey does not have Griffith/Pierce issues regarding IP.
We're talking about a couple of extra seasons of Roberts leading in IP. Quite significant, but Rixey's no slouch on that front.
   28. Rick A. Posted: March 18, 2006 at 03:09 AM (#1904968)
Marc,

Just wondering where you have Burleigh Grimes. He has a higher peak than Rixey, and almost as many IP. As a peak/prime voter, I would think he would be ranked higher than Rixey.
   29. sunnyday2 Posted: March 18, 2006 at 05:48 AM (#1905154)
Grimes dropped out of my consideration set a long time ago. It might be because of ERA+ issues...? Somebody I will re-eval some more pitchers.
   30. jimd Posted: March 21, 2006 at 01:24 AM (#1909106)
Top MLB pitchers by WS (numerical ranking includes all players):
<pre>
1916 1)ALEXANDER 4)RUTH 5)JOHNSON 7)PFEFFER 11)HCOVELESKI=SHAWKEY 
xxxx 27
)Vaughn=<b>Rixey</b35)leonard=mays

1917 2
)ALEXANDER 6)RUTH 7)CICOTTE 8)BAGBY 13)MAYS 18)Coveleski=Johnson 
xxxx 24
)Vaughn 27)Schupp 30)Leonard=Cooper 37)cadore 42)<b>rixey</b>


1921 3)FABER 4)MAYS 7)SHOCKER 8)GRIMES=SJONES 11)COOPER 15)MOGRIDGE
xxxx 18
)Coveleski 22)Hoyt=JBush 30)Johnson=Luque 38)alexander=<b>rixey</b>

1922 2)FABER 5)SHOCKER 11)SHAWKEY=ROMMEL=COOPER 16)JBUSH 21)<b>Rixey</b
xxxx 25)VanGilder=Pillette=Coveleski=Uhle 36)hoyt=johnson=nehf=pfeffer=morrison

1923 2
)LUQUE 6)UHLE 12)ALEXANDER 15)<b>RIXEY</b17)Dauss=Shocker=Rommel=Ehmke
xxxx 25
)JBush 30)Pennock=VanGilder=Morrison 41)hoyt=donahue=cooper=meadows=grimes

1924 3
)VANCE 8)JOHNSON 12)PENNOCK 15)EHMKE 18)Cooper 21)JBush 23)Shaute 
xxxx 28
)Zachary=Rommel=Grimes=Kremer=<b>Rixey</b>=Barnes 40)shocker=baumgartner=thurston=mays

1925 7
)DONAHUE 8)LUQUE 11)JOHNSON=<b>RIXEY</b15)SCOTT 21)Coveleski=Lyons=Pennock
xxxx 27
)Blankenship 32)Harriss=Rommel 36)ruether=vance=alexander


1928 6
)VANCE 8)BENTON=GRIMES 14)GROVE 15)THOMAS 20)Sherdel=Blake
xxxx 26
)Gray=Malone 33)hoyt=sjones=<b>rixey</b43)pipgras=braxton=morris=ruffing
</pre


<pre>
1950 15)<b>ROBERTS</b>=BLACKWELL 20)Houtteman=Lemon=Garver=Jansen
xxxx 27
)Konstanty 32)Parnell=Newcombe 42)hutchinson=wynn=roe=maglie=spahn

1951 9
)<b>ROBERTS</b>=MAGLIE 14)SPAHN 20)Wynn=Jansen 27)Garcia=Parnell=Garver
xxxx 37
)newcombe=roe 44)blackwell=lopat=reynolds=lemon=pierce

1952 4
)SHANTZ 5)<b>ROBERTS</b15)LEMON 20)Reynolds 23)Rush=Garcia=Pierce
xxxx 31
)Raffensberger=Spahn 37)wynn 47)black=porterfield

1953 4
)<b>ROBERTS</b7)SPAHN 10)HADDIX 17)Trucks 22)Pierce 27)Parnell=Kinder
xxxx 32
)Lemon=McDermott 35)garcia=porterfield 42)erskine

1954 10
)<b>ROBERTS</b15)ANTONELLI 21)Garcia=Lemon=Wynn=Gromek
xxxx 27
)Spahn 30)Trucks 34)simmons 40)garver 48)gomez

1955 12
)<b>ROBERTS</b15)NEWCOMBE 20)Pierce 24)Ford=Sullivan 30)Wynn
xxxx 37
)nuxhall 41)spahn=friend=score


1958 7
)SPAHN 17)Burdette=SJones 20)Pierce=Harshman 26)Lary
xxxx 34
)<b>roberts</b>=ford=o'dell 43)hyde 
</pre> 


When compared to their peers, not quite the same.
   31. jimd Posted: March 21, 2006 at 01:26 AM (#1909110)
WYSIWYG it's not. Looked good in preview.
   32. Paul Wendt Posted: October 20, 2009 at 12:02 AM (#3358642)
(Results of the recent Combined Pitchers election (results), with 20-deep rank-order ballots, have provoked more comment on consensus #16 Robin Roberts than anyone else.)

Beside providing that notice and link, let me extend one of my remarks there (italic).

The outstanding feature of Robin Roberts at his peak was his heavy workload in combination with excellent rates. By innings pitched his 1950-56 margins over the third-leading NL pitcher were roughly 5%, 5%, 20%, 35%, 30%, 20%, 5% (his ranks <2 1 1 1 1 1 2>). "Poor" Warren Spahn ranked <3 2 2 2 2 3 3> followed by another 2 between his league leaderships of the late forties and late fifties.

Ten years later, 1960-66 Sandy Koufax ranked < - 4 - 3 - 1 1> in the NL by innings pitched --behind leaders Burdette, Drysdale, Marichal, Drysdale before closing in 1965-66 about 10% and 5% ahead of the third-leading NL pitcher.

Forty years after Roberts, 1990-96 Greg Maddux ranked <2 1 1 1 1 1 2> by innings pitched, precisely the same rank-order record. His margins over the third-leading NL pitcher were roughly 1% 10% 10% 10% 15% 1% 2%, rare dominance.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
tshipman
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Syndicate

Page rendered in 0.2195 seconds
49 querie(s) executed