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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Thurman Munson

Eligible in 1985.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 03, 2006 at 11:54 PM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:02 AM (#2166766)
I was working on a model airplane in our kitchen the day Munson died. My father yelled to me from the family room what sounded like that Herman Munster had just died. "Fred Gwynne died?" I shouted back.

It sounds a little funny now, but I wasn't laughing back then.
   2. Juan V Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:29 AM (#2166788)
I don´t recall if this was mentioned in Clemente discussions, so... can one give early death credit?
   3. DavidFoss Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:37 AM (#2166794)
I don´t recall if this was mentioned in Clemente discussions, so... can one give early death credit?

No extra credit for dying. Clemente didn't need any extra credit.

He died on my 8th birthday. It didn't ruin my birthday because I didn't start following baseball until I was 9, but very eerie to find that out in retrospect.
   4. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:39 AM (#2166795)
I don´t recall if this was mentioned in Clemente discussions, so... can one give early death credit?

Well...karlmagnus has been doing it with Ed Cicotte for decades now (I know he didn't die, but...). However, it's highly frowned upon.

Besides, Munson was starting to slow down by the time of his untimely death. Can one estimate fairly accurately the rest of his career, especially factoring in the demanding position he manned?
   5. karlmagnus Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:47 AM (#2166802)
Joss gets death credit, Cicotte gets cicottic-owner credit -- both at 25% of estimated career after termination -- if they got 100% credit they'd be 1/2 on my ballot or pretty close. However even with dead credit Munson's below Freehan, hence off my ballot. He was clealry tailing off substantially his last 2 seasons.

Yankee connections are allowable in moderation (Torre) but there ARE limits!
   6. OCF Posted: September 04, 2006 at 12:56 AM (#2166807)
My attitude: what happened to Munson was an injury. An extreme injury, and not baseball-related, but that's what it is. Munson was not capable of playing major league baseball in 1980. That's different than the issue with Luke Easter, who may well have been capable of playing major league baseball for a number of years before he did, and was prevented from doing so for reasons which were not individual to his case but applied to everyone who shared his skin color. It's also different than the issue with, say Phil Rizzuto, who was presumably capable of playing major league baseball in 1943-45 but was prevented from doing so for reasons which were not individual to his case but applied to many men of his generation. But I've never given any credit beyond the record they have to Ed Delahanty or Addie Joss or Ray Chapman or Roberto Clemente or Mickey Cochrane (career effectively ended by a beaning) or Herb Score or Dickie Thon or Bo Jackson. Sometimes you have a Delahanty or Cochrane or Clemente who already had enough career. Sometimes, like Joss, and probably like Munson, it wasn't enough.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: September 04, 2006 at 01:11 AM (#2166811)
(abridged and expanded from the Torre thread)

Up front, I'll say I have no idea yet how I will rank these guys on my next ballot. You can make a decent case for any of the seven to be at the top of the C rankings, based on a wide variety of reasons to be sure.

A mere 200 PA minimum, and all seasons of adj OPS+, any position acceptable. Seasons under 400 PA denoted with *
BiFreehan 145 44 37 27 22 22 06 05/99* 98* 95 84 83 75
ThuMunson 141 28 26 26 21 14 05 03 00/95
ElsHoward 153 41 30 27 19* 15 13/97 93* 82* 81* 80* 77 42*
ELombardi 161* 53 47* 40 39 38 30 30* 29* 23* 20 06 01*/97 93
Bresnahan 162 45* 40 40 38 34* 32 29 24* 13 04*/89* 70*
WalSchang 139 38* 38* 37* 34 34* 32 23* 22* 21 21* 11 08 05* 01*/84*
(Quincy Trouppe, use your own methods)

Now only seasons with 75 pct of games at C, minimum 400 PA:
BiFreehan 145 44 27 22 22 06 05/95 84 83 75
ThuMunson 141 28 26 26 21 14 05 03 00/95
ElsHoward 153 41 27 13/97 77
ELombardi 153 40 39 38 30 20 06/97 93
Bresnahan 138 32 29
WalSchang 111 08
(Quincy Trouppe, use your own methods)


I clearly remember Munson struggling to play the OF, and was surprised to see he only played 27 games out there. All of his seasons qualify for the 2nd chart, he was over 500 PA every year except his shortened last one, and he amazingly averaged around 650 PA in 1975-78 (DHing 10-20 games or so per year). Adjusting for the fact that Freehan likely would have had a similar usage pattern, it's probably about fair to consider both equally durable. Freehan seems to win the first offensive 'race,' but without the 1B-C 1974 season, it's even closer.
Making the minimum 400 PA instead of 200 does nothing to the Munson-Freehan race except take a 99 away from Freehan for his 345 PA in 1963 and losing a 98 for his 255 PA in the 1976 swan song (it has profound implications for earlier catchers, as we'll see).

Freehan has five seasons over 120 OPS+ as a 'true catcher,' which is excellent (so does Munson). Plus Freehan has that 137 OPS+ as a 1B-C. He has five more seasons from 95 to 106 OPS+, which given his position AND his quality defense is a major plus each time. Even the 83 and 84 are acceptable given the context, and are an edge over Munson if one ignores the tragic end of the latter.

E Howard is as vexing as ever: Many of his better seasons are his most durable ones, and he almost compares with Freehan, for example, as an offensive player based on their MLB results. But Howard has more 'split' seasons than the others.

Four of Lombardi's 'qualifying seasons' of over 400 PA were fewer than 425 PA. Raise the minimum to 450 PA, and he's only got 153-30-20 for the 2nd chart. Even granting a schedule-length edge to the modern guys and noting the DH, Lombardi doesn't seem to have been as durable a catcher (or to be more fair, he wasn't used as often as a C, topping out at 123-120-116 in most games caught in a season). So his apparent edge in the 2nd chart is being too kind, even before we get to - ahem - defense.

Bresnahan has nine seasons over 120, but only three of those both as a primary C and with 400 PA. Still, he can battle Freehan as a peak-catcher candidate, with Freehan supplementing it with extra C seasons and Bresnahan with some heavy hitting in the OF.

Schang rings up 300+ PA 14 times, but in only six of those did he clear 400 PA (including a 413 and a 421). Shades of John McGraw and Frank Chance. Adjust for schedule length, and Schang is nearly even with Freehan in PA, with a better OPS+ (even though he lost a couple of points with a dreadful pair of part-time final seasons).
   8. Juan V Posted: September 04, 2006 at 01:13 AM (#2166813)
Well, I took a look, and prorating his 1979 to a full season and adding a couple of decline years puts him pretty close to Freehan territory on my sistem. Of course, there´s the very good chance he could´ve fallen off a cliff or even retired those years, so maybe the safest thing is to leave him as he is.
   9. sunnyday2 Posted: September 04, 2006 at 01:18 AM (#2166818)
>My attitude: what happened to Munson was an injury.

And everything else OCF says is right on. Just like Sisler's eyes. But if you do give Munson (or Joss) and death credit, then Sisler should get a continuation of his career pattern from the first half of his career. (Ditto Ross Youngs and you can think of others.)
   10. sunnyday2 Posted: September 04, 2006 at 01:28 AM (#2166825)
I've got Freehan, E. Howard, (Trouppe, Bresnahan, [Mackey] all pretty indistinguishable), Munson, Lombardi, Clapp, Schang, W. Cooper. I could see bumping him ahead of Trouppe, Bresnahan and Mackey, however. He's got a great peak but a pretty short career, even for a catcher.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: September 04, 2006 at 01:42 AM (#2166841)
Those of us old enough to remember Munson recall a decline that matches with his OPS+s - it seemed that his mercurial temperament, almost a fury in some ways, and the amount of time logged behind the plate in the previous 4-5 seasons were causing an early decline.
Someone else may remember it more exactly, and it's probably documented - were the Yankees already thinking of phasing him out as C?
I know once he died, they were stuck with Jerry Narron and Brad Gulden, which was just pathetic.

P.S. The Yankee Stadium attendance listed for the game following the death was 51,151 -as in Munson's "uniform No. 15".
I was almost 18 years old, yet at the time I actually believed that to be the 'real' attendance.
Looking back, it was a nice touch.
   12. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 04, 2006 at 02:28 AM (#2166872)
Well, Retrosheet still lists 51,151 as the official attendance of that game. And since it was the night after Munson died and there was an expected tribute to him, that figure may have been played with a bit, but it's certainly right around the number of people who were in the stands that night.
   13. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 04, 2006 at 03:51 AM (#2166972)
Using my still not-fully refined system, Munson rates as 19th among MLB catchers, which means he's ridiculously close to in. When you factor in the NgL guys, he slips back a bit and is probably out. WS sees Munson as the AL's All-Star catcher in three seasons, and on the second-team All-Star six times (that is, second best in an 8 team league or expanded league equivalent). Munson is almost certainly the best catcher of the AL in the 1970s. He rates as the best backstop in every three-year chunk of seasons beginning with 1970-1972 through 1975-1977. Six straight three-year chunks. That's the equal of Freehan's dominance of the 1960s, though Munson had better peers. Since that time only Ivan Rodriguez has exhibited similar dominance over the AL from the catcher position, while in the NL, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Mike Piazza have all had streaks of seven or more such three-year periods of positional dominance.

I don't have Munson as having any official MVP-type seasons, though that's not unusual for catchers. I do bonus them a little, and with that bonus, he gets one season that might qualify as an MVP-type season (1970). Nor does he have any three-year chunks where he's the league's leading player or in the conversation.

He's a very good package of value and positional dominance. But he's definitely borderline given the lack of career value and the lack of MVP-type seasons.
   14. Chris Fluit Posted: September 04, 2006 at 04:12 PM (#2167159)
Well, the lack of career value is due to extenuating circumstances: namely, his death. I can understand that some voters don't give out extra credit to guys who died. No problem. But it's pretty insulting to then penalize the same player for a short career, as several have suggested doing. Who wrote "he had a short career, even for a catcher"? Of course Munson had a short career. But it wasn't because he quit. And it wasn't because of a drastic decline in skills. It was because he died.

Now, most of us are going to judge Munson solely by what he accomplished in the time he had. That's all I'm suggesting we do. But look at Dr. Chaleeko's post #13. Munson dominated AL catchers of the 1970s the same way that Bill Freehan dominated AL catchers of the 1960s. And he was the only dominant catcher in the AL between Freehan and Rodriguez. Now, there are some flaws with that argument. When Freehan was dominating AL catchers during the '60s, he was coming pretty close to dominating MLB catchers as only one of his top contemporaries was in the other league (Torre). And many would say that Freehan was better than Torre. When Munson was dominating AL catchers during the '70s, he wasn't dominating MLB catchers as the other league had at least one superior catcher (Bench) and sometimes two (Carter). So Freehan's dominance may stand out more than Munson's. Also, the gap between Munson and Rodriguez can be explained by the AL having more than one quality catcher. Neither Simmons nor Parrish could dominate the league for that length of time because they were playing at the same time as the other. And I'm sure Fisk had some good years during that same decade. So I see some flaws in Dr. Chaleeko's pro-Munson argument.

However, I'm left with this impression: Munson's prime is every bit as good as Freehan's, or as Elston Howard's. If they're HoMers, then so is Munson. He's not a slam dunk candidate. He's not Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra or Ivan Rodriguez. And he probably won't make my ballot this cycle (Freehan and Howard are just off as well). But he is worthy of consideration. And he shouldn't be dismissed too easily because of "a short career."
   15. rico vanian Posted: September 04, 2006 at 04:24 PM (#2167163)
If I remember correctly (I was an avid late 70's Yankees fan), Munson was on the bigtime downward slide as a catcher by the time of the plane crash. He couldn't get the ball to 2nd base anymore (he had resorted to using a sidearm throw) and the Yankees were seriously considering a permanent move to the outfield for him.

I have Thurm with a higher prime and career value then both Howard and Freehan and as good a prime as Torre (with the exception of Torre's, when Torre wasn't even catching anymore) .
   16. Howie Menckel Posted: September 04, 2006 at 05:00 PM (#2167178)
Andy,
Yes, there probably were between 51,000 and 52,000 people at that game. They had a pre-game tribute to Munson, and iirc they played the national anthem with no Yankee standing behind the plate in the catcher's traditional spot (another nice touch).

But the odds of there having been exactly 51,151 of course are about 1,000 to 1.
I wouldn't be shocked if there were really, oh, 51,297 or something, and somebody said, 'Hey, let's maneuver a tiny bit.'

The NJ Devils' sellout crowd is 19,040, an old jab at the half-century Stanley Cup title drought that the archrival NY Rangers experienced (1940 til 1994).
   17. OCF Posted: September 04, 2006 at 07:10 PM (#2167267)
In my systems:

Offensive career value: Freehan > Munson
Offensive big year bonuses: Freehan > Munson
Defensive value: Freehan > Munson

He's reasonably worthy, and Munson versus Lombardi is worth a little study, but Freehan is clearly (IMO) the better candidate.
   18. sunnyday2 Posted: September 04, 2006 at 10:29 PM (#2167384)
>Who wrote "he had a short career, even for a catcher"? Of course Munson had a short career. But it wasn't because he quit. And it wasn't because of a drastic decline in skills. It was because he died.

I wrote that. I didn't think it was a secret that it was because he died. I don't penalize him for a short career. He gets the same 0 win shares that everybody else gets who didn't play in those seasons. Not a -2 or a -10 or anything like that. Just 0.

As a peak voter, of course, I don't care. It doesn't matter. I keep tellin' you guys, once you're a peak voter, you'll never go back.

But of course Freehan is a better candidate.
   19. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: September 04, 2006 at 11:02 PM (#2167409)
These things matter little to folks around here, but Munson was a testy fellow. This story has been told elsewhere but a writer once asked a Yankee if Munson could be described as "moody". "Nah", replied the Yankee player, "moody means you are friendly sometimes. Munson is just mean."

Munson was in serious decline at the time of his death. And while nobody can prove clearly that his bat wouldn't have recovered by moving to an alternative position, anyone who saw him hobble around the field in late '78 and all of '79 would be hard-pressed to believe that Munson had any big offensive seasons left in the tank. He was routinely hitting the ball to right-center and right at the end.

For the younger crowd Munson at age 32 was Jason Kendall minus the walks and mobility behind home plate but with a few more doubles.

Munson provides an interesting discussion when you consider his performance in MVP voting. Munson impressed the folks with the ballots. While nowadays Joe Mauer struggles to get his hometown writers to realize his greatness many a voter back in the day was wowed by Ole Thurman. Go figure.
   20. Devin has a deep burning passion for fuzzy socks Posted: September 04, 2006 at 11:22 PM (#2167435)
Harvey, that's one of my favorite baseball quotes. My copy of Baseball's Greatest Insults ascribes it to Sparky Lyle.
   21. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 04, 2006 at 11:35 PM (#2167462)
While nowadays Joe Mauer struggles to get his hometown writers to realize his greatness many a voter back in the day was wowed by Ole Thurman. Go figure.

Batting average still has its allure, but it was much stronger back in the Seventies pre-sabermetrics. I can remember having debates with people who thought Munson was better than Bench based on their different BAs. No offense to Munson, but he wasn't Bench any way you slice it.
   22. Ardo Posted: September 05, 2006 at 05:05 AM (#2167903)
Thurman Munson was a marvelous player at his peak. Had I been born, his death would have pained me. He's below Freehan, with proper offensive context adjustment - but not far below. I can see his case for a ballot, even for a top-10 placement.
   23. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 05, 2006 at 03:00 PM (#2168053)
However, I'm left with this impression: Munson's prime is every bit as good as Freehan's, or as Elston Howard's. If they're HoMers, then so is Munson. He's not a slam dunk candidate. He's not Johnny Bench or Yogi Berra or Ivan Rodriguez. And he probably won't make my ballot this cycle (Freehan and Howard are just off as well). But he is worthy of consideration. And he shouldn't be dismissed too easily because of "a short career."

I'm not really pro-Munson, I'm more surprised how good he is. But this can go too far. Munson's prime is NOT every bit as good as Howard's and Freehans. Howard and Freehan were legit MVP candidates in at least one season each, probably more. Munson was never a legit MVP candidate. That's why he's a few slots down from them in my rankings.
   24. DavidFoss Posted: September 05, 2006 at 03:24 PM (#2168076)
Here are the sorted WS totals for Freehan & Munson. I gave DH-era seasons one extra WS. I understand that may be a bit controversial.

Munson was a fine player, but he doesn't have anything close to Freehan's 1967-68 on his resume. Their AS-level primes end up being of comparable length. Freehan's extra seasons are when he was not that great of an offensive player (and are weighing down his career rate stats). Without the DH-era bonus, Freehan inches a bit more ahead.

BF-35-30-25-25-24-20-20-16-16-14-14-13-10-08-01
TM
-26-26-25-24-23-20-19-18-18-12-02 
   25. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 05, 2006 at 06:36 PM (#2168276)
"He died on my 8th birthday."


My sister's 3rd birthday, I still remember finding out like it was yesterday, and I was 6 going on 7 at the time.

"Well...karlmagnus has been doing it with Ed Cicotte for decades now (I know he didn't die, but...). However, it's highly frowned upon."


From the Constitution:

"Voters are strongly encouraged to consider only a player’s on-field accomplishments and other factors which had an impact on the outcomes of the player’s baseball games."


Uh . . . what am I missing? I didn't realize Karl was giving early death credit - that is clearly unconstitutional. That was certainly the intent if it isn't clear. I mean, we weren't spelling out every single thing, the document would have been gihugic. How does being dead contribute in any way to a player's 'on-field accomplishments'?

And I don't think this applies, at least it wasn't intended to apply to victims of early death:

Voters shall give serious consideration to “excluded” players such as Negro League stars.


We weren't going for including dead players as excluded. We were going for Negro Leaguers, military service and labor disputes. There's a major difference.
   26. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 05, 2006 at 06:47 PM (#2168285)
Uh . . . what am I missing? I didn't realize Karl was giving early death credit - that is clearly unconstitutional.

We actually commented about this a few months back, but nothing was done about it at the time.
   27. sunnyday2 Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:04 PM (#2168299)
Ken Hubbs will be #1 on my ballot next year. I have it on good authority that he was better than Pete Rose.
   28. sunnyday2 Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:06 PM (#2168301)
PS. I love the irony of arch-conservative karl giving Eddie Cicotte XC because he got screwed by a greedy capitalist. Now that's compassionate conservatism.
   29. Chris Fluit Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:31 PM (#2168322)
26. John
Uh . . . what am I missing? I didn't realize Karl was giving early death credit - that is clearly unconstitutional.

We actually commented about this a few months back, but nothing was done about it at the time.


Yup, it's in the 1973 Ballot Discussion thread.

Joe Dimino, you should have been aware of it as you were involved in the discussion at that time.
   30. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:34 PM (#2168323)
Joe Dimino, you should have been aware of it as you were involved in the discussion at that time.

Boy, Joe is having problems with memory loss in his mid-thirties already. :-D
   31. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:42 PM (#2168331)
I really don't remember it. I'll go take a look. Been very busy lately.
   32. Boots Day Posted: September 05, 2006 at 07:55 PM (#2168338)
Munson dominated AL catchers of the 1970s the same way that Bill Freehan dominated AL catchers of the 1960s. And he was the only dominant catcher in the AL between Freehan and Rodriguez.

Once Carlton Fisk came up in 1972, he earned 162 Win Shares for the rest of the decade, as opposed to Munson's 160.
   33. karlmagnus Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:03 PM (#2168345)
Cicotte is a labor dispute, pure and simple (he was exonerated in a court of law) -- under the Constitution we should be giving creit for 1921 till his estimated date of retirement.

My only on-ballot death credit is Joss, which I've been doing for about 40 "years" -- I see no reason why death shouldn't be adjusted for just as military service and labor disputes are. I also see no Constiutional justification for giving credit to players in the military (Moore) and in various minor leagues or Mexican leagues which can't be adequately benchmarked against the majors (The NgL is a special case I agree and was provided for in the Constiution, but the others weren't.)

Munson doesn't make it, with any reasonable death credit, and I don't think there are any other relevant cases (Chapman doesn't either, and has been around a long time.)
   34. karlmagnus Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:07 PM (#2168348)
BTW Fisk was MUCH better than Munson. No contest. Don't be ridiculous.
   35. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:13 PM (#2168354)
BTW Fisk was MUCH better than Munson. No contest. Don't be ridiculous.

Career and peak, you're absolutely right, karlmagnus, but the question was who was the best in the AL of the Seventies? I'd go with Munson, but Fisk's two best seasons are better than Thurman's.
   36. DavidFoss Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:22 PM (#2168365)
I'd go with Munson, but Fisk's two best seasons are better than Thurman's.

Make that three. WS likes 1972, 1977 & 1978 much better than anything of Munsons. All 30+ WS seasons while Munson peaks at 26. Munson owns seasons 4 through 10 though. Fisk's 1974-75 are also incredible by rate, but both seasons were shortened by injuries.
   37. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:38 PM (#2168380)
Munson looks like the career winner for the Seventies, but I'll give the peak to Pudge.
   38. sunnyday2 Posted: September 05, 2006 at 08:52 PM (#2168386)
>BTW Fisk was MUCH better than Munson. No contest. Don't be ridiculous.

Thanks, John. I said in the '70s (when they were head-to-head). I don't actually care whether Fisk got more total WS (by 2). I could be waay wrong, of course, but the Yankees won a lot more than the Sox with what sure didn't look to be as good of talent, and I believe Munson's leadership and attitude was part of the deal. i.e. the stuff that doesn't show up in the box.

A decade after Munson's death, sure, Fisk was obviously "better" (i.e. had accumulated more career value). But when they went head-to-head, Munson got the best of it.
   39. Cuban X Senators Posted: September 06, 2006 at 01:32 AM (#2168662)
I said in the '70s (when they were head-to-head). I don't actually care whether Fisk got more total WS (by 2).I could be waay wrong, of course, but the Yankees won a lot more than the Sox

Define winning. By pennant or by game. The Sox won more games in the 70s than the Yanks. And their advantage is greater if you only look at when both Fisk and Munson were playing.
   40. sunnyday2 Posted: September 06, 2006 at 02:49 AM (#2168771)
Won more "big games" that an old duffer like me can still remember 30 years later.
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: September 06, 2006 at 12:22 PM (#2168969)
Much acrimonious debate in grammar school about Fisk vs Munson, as I recall. It was quite a battle.
   42. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: September 06, 2006 at 01:22 PM (#2169000)
Much acrimonious debate in grammar school about Fisk vs Munson, as I recall. It was quite a battle.

Gedman v. Hassey/Wynegar/Skinner didn't quite have the same edge to it when I was in grammar school.
   43. jimd Posted: September 06, 2006 at 09:54 PM (#2169781)
>BTW Fisk was MUCH better than Munson. No contest. Don't be ridiculous.

It's both true and false.

Fisk was 6 months younger than Munson.
If we also end Fisk's career after 1979,
then we get the following snapshots.

Win Shares: Munson 206 - Fisk 164
Games: Munson 1423 - Fisk 947
WS/162G: Munson 23.5 - Fisk 28.1
FWS: Munson 62.3 - Fisk 45.2
FWS/162G: Munson 7.1 - Fisk 7.7

Munson's edge lay in his ability to stay on the field, to avoid the injuries that plagued the younger Fisk. That edge also might have shortened his career, if the plane crash hadn't ended it prematurely.

WARP comes to the same conclusion, though it rates Fisk and Munson as even defensively (107) through 1979. While Munson hit for the higher average, Fisk was the better hitter, due to his extra walks and his slugging.
   44. Benji Posted: September 06, 2006 at 11:08 PM (#2169878)
I'm light years from a Yankee fan, but Munson was a tremendous ballplayer. You really had to see him to appreciate how good he was. And as regards him vs Fisk, Munson seemed to intimidate him and the rest of the Sox. You just sensed that they both knew Thurman was better.

My two overarching memories about him:

1. The day he died, my brother and I were walking home from my playground job when a car screeched to a stop. It was Scooby, a intense but fair Yankee fanatic. He was crying! My brother and exchanged WTF? looks and walked up to the car. He finally choked out "Thurman Munson died". We said jeez Sccob we're sorry and just figured he was out of his mind. When we got home we found out. That next game in the Stadium even had me crying. (and I never knew that about the attendance. Thanks again BTF.)

2. Whenever he came up with the winning run on, we turned the game off. We were then spared the Holy Cows or Messer's smugness. Because the SOB always got the run in.
   45. Mark Donelson Posted: September 09, 2006 at 01:20 AM (#2171861)
Kevin, did you really just misspell "Carlton"?

I agree about Fisk/Munson (won't be voting for Munson, not sure yet about Fisk, but I think Fisk was at least better), but of course you had to overstep with the jealousy thing. I suppose you were just countering an overstep the other way from Benji. I don't really think either of 'em was particularly scared of the other.
   46. Mark Donelson Posted: September 09, 2006 at 01:25 AM (#2171867)
Kevin, did you really just misspell "Carlton"?

I agree about Fisk/Munson (won't be voting for Munson, not sure yet about Fisk, but I think Fisk was at least better), but of course you had to overstep with the jealousy thing. I suppose you were just countering an overstep the other way from Benji. I don't really think either of 'em was particularly scared of the other.
   47. Mark Donelson Posted: September 09, 2006 at 01:26 AM (#2171869)
Sorry about the double-post; lost my Internet connection, then reposted before it occurred to me it might have gotten through the first time. Oy.
   48. DavidFoss Posted: September 09, 2006 at 04:01 AM (#2171950)
Fisk really separates himself from Munson.

I have no doubts that Fisk hit better than Munson -- especially by rate -- but the raw totals exaggerate that. Fenway was a hitters paradise for much of the mid-70s and Yankee Stadium was a mild pitchers park. There is a whopping 10 points of park factor between the two in several of those years.
   49. rr Posted: September 09, 2006 at 03:53 PM (#2172069)
Thurman Munson hated Carlton Fisk because he was jealous of him -- the chisled, (sic) handsome Fisk, in contrast to the dumpy, stubbled Munson.

Sounds plausible, but the fact that Gammons wrote it doesn't make it true. Gammons may just be engaging in some amateur psychology here. Gammons ain't exactly objective about the Yankees and Red Sox of the late 70s.
   50. DavidFoss Posted: September 09, 2006 at 03:57 PM (#2172073)
So, you think Fisk scored all those extra runs because Fenway is a better running park than Yankee Stadium, David?

?!?

No. I didn't say that. Perhaps quoted the wrong sentence of yours to make my point on run context that you thought I was talking about something particular.

Fisk scored more runs than Munson because:

1. Fisk was a better hitter
2. Relative to Yankee Stadium, Fenway inflates scoring by a full 10% most years (even adjusting for road games). Higher OBP & SLG for Fisk and a higher OBP & SLG for the batters batting after Fisk which leads to more run scoring for Fisk.

Unfortunately, Munson's best seasons match up with Fisk's off-years and injuries. But, we can look at 1977 which is a solid season for Munson. By your raw stats above, Fisk looks dominant, leading by 56 points of OBP and 59 points of SLG. But, the contexts of the two parks are quite different. Fenway was (.280/.346/.426) while the Stadium was (.265/.329/.403). That's quite a spread for two parks in the same season. After adjusting, Fisk still has a comfortable lead in OPS+ (139-121) but its not anywhere near as extreme it was by looking at the raw numbers that you posted.

Fisks career OPS+ after 1979 stood at 128 while Munson's was 116. So, I have no doubts that Fisk was the better hitter by rate. FWIW, Munson got an early start and was less injury-prone so he led 5900 PA to 3800 PA at that point in their careers.
   51. rr Posted: September 09, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2172078)
Read the Michael escapades with the Fisk articles from TheDeadballEra.com.

I did. I was referring more to the "chiseled/dumpy" stuff. In my view, Fisk was the superior player, and I could see Munson's being jealous of him. Looks being a factor--hard to tell. In The Bronx Zoo (not a bad book, BTW) Lyle/Golenbock paint funny, somewhat sad, but human portraits of Munson and Billy Martin. In colloquial terms, it was sort of like, "Yeah, they are both SOBs but there are some other things going on with them too."
   52. Boots Day Posted: September 09, 2006 at 04:31 PM (#2172087)
Incidentally, as the person who brought Fisk into this discussion, I was not trying to insinuate that he was the better player in the 1970s. I was only taking issue with the claim that "Munson dominated AL catchers of the 1970s." Munson may have been the best AL catcher of the 1970s, but that's only because he had a two-year head start on Fisk. I don't think you can say he "dominated" the field.
   53. sunnyday2 Posted: September 09, 2006 at 05:18 PM (#2172114)
Re. runs scored, that was some changeup. I think the original claim was simply that Fisk scored more runs than Munson, and that was part of the claim that Fisk was a better offensive player. Response was that Fisk's offensive advantage is in part a matter of park effects.

Then, did Fisk score more runs because Fenway was a better running park? This surely was a joke, right? But maybe not. Easy answer: More runs scored in Fenway = more runs scored by Red Sox = more runs scored by Fisk. That's what a park effect does. It has nothing to do with baserunning ability.

Then the equally joketastic statement that the foregoing implies that Fisk was NOT a better baserunner, whereas Red Sox fans say he was. Again, this is irrelevant to the park effects discussion. I mean, maybe Fisk came around from first more often as a percentage than Munson did because of cheap doubles off the monster, not becuase he was like Carl Lewis or anything.

PS. I thought I had made the original comparison of Munson to Fisk and I didn't use the word dominate, I don't think. Just that at the time of his death, Munson had a better record than Fisk. All the caveats that have been raised are valid (OK, some of them).

But the original point was that baseball fans today, young 'uns, don't have a clue how highly regarded Munson was. Much more highly regarded than Freehan, e.g.
   54. Mark Donelson Posted: September 09, 2006 at 05:23 PM (#2172119)
Think I overstepped now, Mark?

Well, yeah. Gammons didn't have ESP, as robinred notes. And while the Deadball stuff illustrates that Munson felt he had a rivalry with Fisk (heck, hated the guy), it doesn't have much to say about WHY. He could have been jealous, he could have just thought the guy was a prick, he could have just been a prick himself who hated any other catcher who threatened him as tops in the league (which isn't the same thing as jealousy, IMO, anyway).

But whatever. I agree Fisk was better, despite my rosy childhood memories. Munson wasn't my favorite player when I was a kid anyway--that was Nettles, destroyer of down-the-line doubles and Bill Lee's arm. Nettles also doesn't seem to be the most charming of fellows, now that I see him with adult eyes. Then again, neither do a lot of these guys, on both sides--including Fisk.
   55. rr Posted: September 09, 2006 at 06:19 PM (#2172143)
Who cares what a HoF sportswriter who's been covering baseball since the sixties has to say on the subject, right?

Well, yes and no. Gammons is an HoF writer, but he is also a hard-core Red Sox fan who covered those teams in his 30s. So, yeah, he was there, but he was seeing it through his own eyes, which were not exactly objective. I would suggest that you could also say, in writing Gammons's bio in 2012:

"The chiseled, handsome Fisk, a taciturn but well-spoken New Englander and World Series hero, represented an ideal to the young Gammons, while the surly, earthy and homely Munson represented Yankee "vulgaris" at its nadir--and apex. The fact that these two men played the same position, and were the the top two catchers in the American League during Gammons' formative years as a writer, forged an indelible connection between the two men in Gammons' mind, with Munson's supposed resentment of Fisk often dominating Gammons' characterizations of the Yankee catcher."

And yeah--whatever. It's not really a big deal, but I think no one really likes to have motives ascribed to them that may be slanted. Of course, Gammons's goal is to write interesting material, and he did do that here.
   56. rr Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:15 PM (#2172196)
No, but he did have a functioning pair of eyes and ears.


So did Sparky Lyle. I don't remember anything in "The Bronx Zoo" like "Thurm really has a hard-on about Fisk. I think it's because Fisk is a handsome bastard and Thurm looks like a wrinkled shirt." Given the style of the book, that is exactly the kind of crap Golenbock would like. But, who knows? Maybe something like that was in there and Lyle asked them to take it out. He did include a lot of stuff about Munson, though.

that was Nettles, destroyer of down-the-line doubles and Bill Lee's arm. Nettles also doesn't seem to be the most charming of fellows, now that I see him with adult eyes.

Cincy and Padre fan living in SD. 10 years ago, when we had field-level seats at the old stadium, I went to a Cardinal-Padre game with a woman I know who is a big Yankee fan. Sitting two rows in front of us, doing some scouting: Graig Nettles. She gets all excited--and, since she was wearing a Yankee cap, I said "Go ask him to sign it." She was scared to go--heard he was "mean." So, I take the cap and go ask him: "Excuse me, Mr.Nettles, but my friend is a huge Yankee fan. Would you mind signing this for her?"

He just grunted--didn't say anything like "what's her name?" or whatever--but he did take the cap and signed the bill. She hasn't worn it since--keeps it on the mantle with her favorite photo of her kid.
   57. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:17 PM (#2172200)
Now, let's add up the runs scored - hrs and divide by hits + walks - hrs. If they were equally capable of scoring from first, then Fisk's percentage should be about 10% above Munson's. Using just the years from 1972 through 1979:

Fisk: .347
Munson: .307

Removing that 10% still gives Fisk a significantly greater advantage of making his on base appearances count for something.


35% of Fisk's non HR hits were doubles or triples, compared to 21% for Munson, so that will account for much of the differences. Plus, Fisk had a hidden advantage of 18 more times on base in many fewer ABs due to HBP which you didn't account for. That would probably shave another point or two off.

Now, how much of the XBH advantage is due to park factors and natural hitting ability, and how much is due to footspeed is anybody's guess. But your numbers fall far short of telling the whole story.
   58. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:18 PM (#2172202)
Who cares what a HoF sportswriter who's been covering baseball since the sixties

I do care about what Henry Chadwick, the only sportswriter in the HOF, said about baseball from the 1860's to his death, but what does that have to do with Fisk and Munson?

;-)

But the original point was that baseball fans today, young 'uns, don't have a clue how highly regarded Munson was. Much more highly regarded than Freehan, e.g.

That's not even debatable, Marc. Tugboat was talked about as a probable HOF pick by the mid-Seventies, while only Harvey said the same thing about Bill. ;-) Not that I agree with this, mind you, since I would take Freehan over Munson myself.
   59. Guapo Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:31 PM (#2172211)
Marty Appel co-wrote Munson's autobiography. This is excerpted from a chapter he wrote in a book called Cult Baseball Players:

Everyone knew Munson truly despised Carlton Fisk, but no one was sure why. I know he resented the accolades heaped on Fisk, many of which he thought were generated by Curt Gowdy on NBC. Gowdy, of course, was also the Red Sox announcer. Thurman said, "Fisk's always injured- he gets the credit. I don't and I'm out there every day." Thurman was the only catcher to have the stats to match Fisk, but Fisk had the looks and the glamour. Thurman was probably jealous.


He was a player's player. With the exception of Carlton Fisk, he was liked and admired by all teammates and opponents. It was apparent from the day he arrived on the scene that he would never accept .500 baseball, second place, or less than 100 perecent effort from a teammate. He didn't have to spell it out for anyone, nor did he have to explain that he was going to become the team's regular catcher. He simply arrived and took over the job.


My favorite memory of Munson relates to his telling me of the times he would wander up to George Steinbrenner's office after batting practice to talk a little business. Said Thurman, "I loved to put my feet up on the desk while we spoke. It annoyed the hell out of him, but he never told me to knock it off."

When Munson died, I watched George Steinbrenner speak on television. "I remember," he said, "how he'd come up to my office and put his feet on my desk. We were very close."
   60. rr Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:38 PM (#2172220)
Thurman was the only catcher to have the stats to match Fisk, but Fisk had the looks and the glamour. Thurman was probably jealous.

Well, that is more convincing than Gammons, cosidering the source. I would be a little surprised, though, that a guy as successful as Munson would be jealous of looks. Of course, it would make more sense if that were tied into the idea that Fisk gor more recognition.
   61. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 09, 2006 at 07:52 PM (#2172230)
In the irrational exuberance of my youth, I was a huge Thurman Munson fan. Thought he walked on water, and always blamed the other guy -- opponent or teammate -- in any fracas. I had myself convinced that he was a great guy who was misunderstood and misrepresented by the media -- especially the Boston media that I had my fill of during college. Looking back through more mature eyes, I realize now that Fisk and Munson were two of the biggest ######## to ever don the tools of ignorance. They were made for each other. It would have been poetic justice if they'd both suffered career-ending injuries in one of the brawls they instigated.

The guy could really hit the cirve, though.
   62. DavidFoss Posted: September 09, 2006 at 09:32 PM (#2172265)
Wow, Kevin. I like meandering off-topic debates, we're getting a bit more off-topic than usual here. Munson may have looked a bit like Meathead on All in the Family, but a lot of guys liked like that in the 1970s. Munson was married with three kids.

What's your whole point with that line of debate anyhow? Petty jealousies are easy to get between rival teams -- in some cases they are encouraged as a motivational tool.
   63. DavidFoss Posted: September 09, 2006 at 11:37 PM (#2172351)
Isn't the thread about Munson? All I'm doing is trying to set the record straight

Well, post #69 goes a bit too far -- especially considering the marriage and three kids makes it completely untrue. I realize it was a hyperbolic insult for humor purposes, but come on.

Its enlightening to hear about a players character, even if in cases where it shouldn't affect our voting. Lefty Grove & Ted Williams were cantankerous characters but that was part of what made them fierce competitors. There have been cases where personality hurt the team. Dick Allen was one of those guys -- and I'm sure some voters docked Allen for that.

As far as a Yankee like Munson not particularly caring for a Red Sock like Fisk? Enlightening perhaps, but I don't think it should affect anyone's votes. It probably helped Munson play harder it key games. Big deal. This isn't a "class act" contest where we judge players on how gracious they are in the media, this is the HOM.

All that said, I don't think this comparison really helps or hurts Munson at all. I mean, Fisk just has so much more career value and has higher peak seasons. Fisk isn't eligible until 1999 and he'll be going into the HOM that year (or shortly thereafter if there's some sort of logjam). So, if you are a Fisk fan, don't worry. Munson's chief concern is Bill Freehan, Ernie Lombardi, Roger Bresnahan and the rest of the current non-C backlog.
   64. Howie Menckel Posted: September 10, 2006 at 01:13 AM (#2172409)
I think the most important thing to realize about Munson - and I wish somehow we had this level of understanding about earlier-era abrupt career endings, both ultimate tragedies and lesser ones - is that he might not have had a lot of career value left even without the plane crash.

I remember this as a teenager, but also have talked about it with other older pals in the last few weeks. They also recall that Munson was basically burned out physically, and the Yankees were trying to figure out what to do with him for 1980. His knees were utterly shot, and he was in a lot of pain.
They tried him in the OF for 13 games in 1978, but that took about as well as the infamous Todd Hundley experiment the Mets once tried. Then Munson played 5 G at 1B in 1979, his last season.
One theory could be that he could have been switched to DH and added a few more solid offensive seasons. I'm skeptical, and not because Jim Spencer had 23 HRs in 295 AB in 1979, mostly as a DH (the immortal Eric Soderholm and friends filled the DH role in 1980).
Mainly, you have to imagine a remarkable battler whose intensity was almost frightening to watch. He literally wasn't built for the long haul, and he never played that way, either. Munson was in his prime as the Yankees awoke from a decade-long slumber, he was determined to make the most of it - and he did, hitting .357 in post-season play. But this is one of those stars that shone brightly but not so long.

I don't know yet if Munson makes my ballot, but I don't think the early death plays into the admittedly emotionless HOM part of the equation. I suspect he was headed for a quite-truncated career ending.
On the other hand, it is worth acknowledging the level of competitiveness that Munson brought to that memorable cast of characters.

Weird stat: Munson was 48 for 98 as a basestealer.
Nicknames listed in baseball-reference: Tugboat, Squatty Body, The Wall. I don't recall ANY of those ever being used while I was growing up in the NY area, but admittedly I was a pre-teen or teen during his career. The Wall probably had to do with how much he loved to block the plate.
Closest comp for his last three seasons: Freehan.
   65. Mark Donelson Posted: September 10, 2006 at 02:06 AM (#2172434)
I was only nine when Munson died, but my memory of him agrees with Howie's comment: He wasn't going to last much longer anyway as a player, even if he'd lived. He was having a real hard time of it in '78, and it wasn't getting any better in '79.

As for Kevin's comments, I figured we'd get the typically classy stuff sooner or later from him.
   66. sunnyday2 Posted: September 10, 2006 at 05:08 AM (#2172506)
>Fisk, Bench, Freehan and Carter all overlapped with him and were all better catchers than Munson,

At the time he died, only Bench was regarded as better. "Regarded." As a Yankee hater, I will say again, people thought Munson was a great player. I thought he was a great player. Now we know better.
   67. Boogie Nights Powell Posted: September 10, 2006 at 05:21 AM (#2172511)
Oh, he sounds like a real sweetheart. He didn't get along with Reggie either

Actually, Thurman and Reggie became friendly before Thurman's death. In fact Reggie flew with him (I believe Nettles was also there) two days before the crash that took Munson's life.

The story goes that as they were flying there was an instrument malfunction and everyone's oxygen mask came down, except for Reggie's. Thurman jokingly told Reggie he had seated him there on purpose.
   68. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 11:38 AM (#2172541)
Looking at their respective primes (1967-74 for Freehan, 1970-77 for Munson), I'd rank Munson ahead of Freehan without hesitation. Munson caught over 1000 innings more in the same number of seasons, had a way better arm, and was a more consistently superior hitter relative to other AL catchers. His ability to prevent the passed ball was comparable to Freehan's for the first four years. This deteriorated markedly in the last three (becoming even worse than Freehan in 1967), and he never had a season with the bat as good as 1967.

For me, the most remarkably stat is Munson's CS%+ relative to other AL catchers:

1970 132
1971 163
1972 124
1973 130
1974 91
1975 136
1976 103
1977 101

Again, he was in decline toward the end, but look at that 1971: 63% better at throwing out runners than other AL catchers!
   69. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 11:57 AM (#2172543)
his peak not high enough

This is just so not true it's funny.

Top 5 Freehan OPS+ relative to league vs Munson's, ranked from highest to lowest
Freehan     Munson   Advantage
 173         155       Freehan +18
 156         154       Freehan +2
 130         143       Munson  +13
 123         135       Munson  +12
 103         135       Munson  +32

Only if you treat a single year as a peak does Freehan have any advantage I'd call significant.

To deal with other data kevin might consider significant in seeing me as a sucker of the NY myth machine: I was 18 when Munson died, was born and lived in Detroit at the time, and have been quoted in the press when asked, what will be written on your tombstone - "'He hated the Yankees', because it's the only thing I'm sure was true yesterday, is true today, and will be true tomorrow."
   70. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 12:08 PM (#2172544)
By the way, that's relative to league catchers, not all the league.
   71. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 10, 2006 at 12:17 PM (#2172546)
Well, that's just your "perception" of what you think other people felt at the time. My perception is different.

Since Munson had more than twice as many MVP shares as Fisk had at the time of Thurman's death, it appears that the BBWAA thought he was greater, too.
   72. andrew siegel Posted: September 10, 2006 at 01:53 PM (#2172552)
By our standards, Munson is not an HoMer. I have him as the number 25 catcher of All-Time, which is excellent but behind a bunch of guys we are still waiting on like Freehan, Trouppe, Schang, Bresnahan, and Elston Howard. The interesting question raised for me is not whether Munson should be in, but whether his candidacy suggests that Freehan (who I rank number 18 at catcher and was planning on giving an elect-me vote) should be out. I'll be spending some more time on him before voting.

(FWIW, I am a 35 year-old lifelong Yankee fan, who came of age following the Thurman-Reggie Yankees.)
   73. Howie Menckel Posted: September 10, 2006 at 01:59 PM (#2172554)
I'm not a Yankees fan, either, never have been.
And I assume it's obvious to all - well, almost all - that I didn't literally mean Munson's intensity was 'frightening.' Remarkable, a better word, if you like.

Presumably, my critic also didn't literally mean that Munson needed to bribe girls to date him, and that they "probably all though (sic) he was a pedophile."
Or maybe he did.
   74. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 02:42 PM (#2172567)
What's even funnier is trying to justify why Munson should be in the HoF

You haven't a clue what's going on here, kevin.

Thurman Munson is eligible for election to the Hall of Merit. Voters have to rank catchers eligible for election, and decide if any of them should be listed among those who in their opinion are the best 15 players not yet in the Hall of Merit.

Since Freehan is eligible for the Hall of Merit as of 10 September 2006, but neither Bench, nor Carter, nor Fisk is, Munson at this time need only be compared with Freehan, the top vote-getting catcher as of our last ballot.

Whether either Freehan or Munson belongs in the Hall of Fame is irrelevant.

But, kevin, if you suggest Freehan has a better peak than Munson (which you did), I'm going to tell you that the stats don't seem to indicate it.
   75. sunnyday2 Posted: September 10, 2006 at 02:48 PM (#2172571)
Yeah, Munson vs. Fisk, RC (kevin's preferred measure):

Best season--Fisk 111 Munson 96, big edge for Fisk, debate over?
2nd best season--well, not so fast, Fisk 98 Munson 94
3rd--not to mention, Munson 91 Fisk 90, other than one year these guys are pretty interchangeable in RC!
4th--89-89
5th--Fisk 81 Munson 77, interchangeable indeed.

Sure a small edge to Fisk, but very small.

And as fp says, nobody here has argued that Munson belongs in the HoF, the HoF is not our problem.
   76. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 03:18 PM (#2172578)
What kevin fails to appreciate is that as a righty pull hitter, Fisk was the beneficiary of a massive homefield advantage. Comparing the away stats of the two catchers reveals that in a neutralish context, Fisk was a slightly better hitter but that advantage was largely washed away by Munson's superior durability. I've done this crudely, using a mass balance equation; i didn't feel like spending two hours copying stats from retrosheet this morning. I've only included the years where the players where the players were regulars when uninjured:

AWAY    Fisk                    Munson                
Yr    AB    OBP    SLG    OPS    MassBal    AB    OBP    SLG    OPS    MassBal
1969    0            0        37    0.341    0.27    0.611    
1970    0            0        235    0.392    0.46    0.852    200.22
1971    30    0.33    0.6    0.93        245    0.356    0.4    0.756    185.22
1972    218    0.347    0.495    0.842    183.556    276    0.334    0.348    0.682    188.232
1973    248    0.309    0.375    0.684    169.632    283    0.344    0.491    0.835    236.305
1974    99    0.407    0.586    0.993    98.307    262    0.281    0.347    0.628    164.536
1975    141    0.394    0.511    0.905    127.605    310    0.369    0.452    0.821    254.51
1976    238    0.318    0.357    0.675    160.65    319    0.356    0.47    0.826    263.494
1977    281    0.364    0.47    0.834    234.354    311    0.337    0.453    0.79    245.69
1978    303    0.317    0.442    0.759    229.977    318    0.314    0.352    0.666    211.788
1979    162    0.24    0.346    0.586    94.932    207    0.295    0.329    0.624    129.168
SUM    1690                1299.013    2766                2079.163
<b>AVG    211.25                0.768646746    276.6                0.751685828</b
   77. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 03:35 PM (#2172588)
Very. That table is completely unintelligible.

Indeed, the pre tags murdered Excel's formatting. I'll summarize:

During years when they were regulars in the 70's (for Fisk, 72-79, for Munson, 70-79):

Fisk averaged 211.25 away AB's with an away OPS of .769
Munson averaged 276.6 away AB's, away OPS of .752
   78. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 03:56 PM (#2172593)
AWAY    Fisk                                   Munson                
Yr       AB    OBP      SLG    OPS    MassBal   AB    OBP    SLG    OPS    MassBal
1969      0               0                     37  0.341  0.270  0.611    
1970      0               0                    235  0.392  0.460  0.852    200.22
1971     30    0.330  0.600  0.930             245  0.356  0.400  0.756    185.22
1972    218    0.347  0.495  0.842    183.556  276  0.334  0.348  0.682    188.232
1973    248    0.309  0.375  0.684    169.632  283  0.344  0.491  0.835    236.305
1974     99    0.407  0.586  0.993     98.307  262  0.281  0.347  0.628    164.536
1975    141    0.394  0.511  0.905    127.605  310  0.369  0.452  0.821    254.51
1976    238    0.318  0.357  0.675    160.65   319  0.356  0.470  0.826    263.494
1977    281    0.364  0.470  0.834    234.354  311  0.337  0.453  0.790    245.69
1978    303    0.317  0.442  0.759    229.977  318  0.314  0.352  0.666    211.788
1979    162    0.240  0.346  0.586     94.932  207  0.295  0.329  0.624    129.168
SUM    1690                          1299.013 2766                        2079.163

AVG    211.25                0.768646746    276.6                0.751685828 
   79. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 03:59 PM (#2172594)
#92 is a repost of #88.
The columns should line up now.
I don't know what 'mass balance' means in this context though. I have a chemical engineering degree, so perhaps that's clouding my brain. Weighted average -- some home stats added in to even out the context?
   80. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:05 PM (#2172596)
Top 5 Freehan OPS+ relative to league vs Munson's, ranked from highest to lowest

These numbers don't jive with bb-ref at all. Here is bb-ref:

BF-145-144-139-127-122-122-106-105
TM
-141-128-126-126-121-114-105-103 


Are you using position-adjusted context?
   81. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:10 PM (#2172600)
I don't know what 'mass balance' means in this context though. I have a chemical engineering degree, so perhaps that's clouding my brain. Weighted average -- some home stats added in to even out the context?


OPS*AB for each year

Sum all years

divide by total AB's for all years.


Its what we do in isotope geochemistry...i dont know for sure if it works here, but it seemed like it was worth a shot.
   82. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:10 PM (#2172601)
What the heck are you talking about, that Freehan is eligible as of Sept. 10, 2006?

It's today's date.
   83. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:13 PM (#2172602)
Are you using position-adjusted context?

Yes. Starting from Retrosheet data.
   84. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:20 PM (#2172604)
One other thing:

Take the average seasonal numbers I posted above, and assume that you have to fill 320 AB's at catcher in away games ( I know I should be using PA, but again, I'm lazy), and assume a .700 OPS for the replacement catcher.

The production from catcher in the average season, Fisk+replacement=.745 OPS, Munson+replacement=.745OPS
   85. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:32 PM (#2172607)
Since Freehan has neither gotten voted in to the HoF nor the HoM, don't you think he's an odd choice for you to pick and make a comparison to, as a justification for endorsement for honor.

That's how the HOM works. We don't have a 'bar' for admission, its whoever gets the most votes. People may make comparisions to the already-inducted or the not-yet-eligible for debating purposes, but at the end of the day its whoever gets scores in the top 2 or 3 in the results on Monday evening. Both Freehan & Munson are eligible, so a comparison between these two is quite relevant. We all have to submit top-15's next week. Freehan has quite a bit of support coming in from previous weeks, where should we slot Munson?

And it's BS to suggest that comparisons can't be made of contemporaries that are not eligible. There's nary a thread in which the merits of a player aren't discussed in the context of his contemporaries, both eligible and non-eligible.

You have a point. On one hand, Bench & Fisk won't be eligible until 1989 & 1999. We can't vote for them yet. I think that the point the other poster was trying to make. On the other hand, how Munson ranks relative to them affects his evaluation. We certainly don't have to induct a catcher this year. There are other candidates at other positions we could be voting for.
   86. PayRod Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:36 PM (#2172609)
If you looked like Thurman, it's pretty understandable. He looked 50 years old when he was 20. He probably needed that money to bribe some poor girl into dating him. They probably all though he was a pedophile.

Unreal.

Isn't the thread about Munson? All I'm doing is trying to set the record straight. That he was a good catcher but not as good as Fisk and that he was an ill-tempered curmudgeon who was envious of his chief rival.

Sounds like Ted Williams.
   87. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:40 PM (#2172612)
Its what we do in isotope geochemistry...i dont know for sure if it works here, but it seemed like it was worth a shot.

Ah... since you were dealing with unscaled OPS's (not OPS+'s) to begin with, you could have just kept AB, H, BB, HBP, 2B, 3B, HR on your spreadsheet and carried them through to the bottom line. There's a small error due to the fact that OBP has PA-SH in the denominator instead of AB, but it should be pretty close.

You're numbers don't take into effect the fact that the Yankees played road games in Fenway and the Red Sox road games in the Stadium. That should widen the gap a bit. The PF's have an adjustment for that (112 BPF in Fenway means the run context was inflated by over 20%).
   88. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:47 PM (#2172618)
You're numbers don't take into effect the fact that the Yankees played road games in Fenway and the Red Sox road games in the Stadium. That should widen the gap a bit. The PF's have an adjustment for that (112 BPF in Fenway means the run context was inflated by over 20%).

I realized that, but I figured that both of Munson's "extra" years are in low run-context seasons, so the effects would partially wash out. This is -at best- a crude measure of the two players, but it serves to show that neither was much better than the other during the 70's.

I typed these numbers over from retrosheet, so I had no spreadsheet to carry the numbers over from, thats why I used this quick-n-dirty method.
   89. DavidFoss Posted: September 10, 2006 at 04:53 PM (#2172624)
If you compare his RC/27 numbers, the numbers look like this:
< - snip see #85 - >

And that's even considering that Freehan had to play his prime through the second deadball era.

No, those numbers don't consider era or park adjustments That's just raw RC divided by outs. You need EqA or OWP data.

From Lee Sinins, sorted OWP numbers (1964-79 only, 300 PA to remove Fisk 74-75)

BF-713-695-648-628-569
TM-656-639-615-601-589
CF-731-658-642-536-501

Everone seems to have a different way of calculating OWP, so perhaps a second opinion is in order for these.
   90. fra paolo Posted: September 10, 2006 at 05:00 PM (#2172628)
assume a .700 OPS for the replacement catcher

The league average OPS for AL catchers in 1970-77:

.717
.672
.667
.693
.666
.682
.646
.662

So .700 probably overstates it quite a bit.
   91. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: September 10, 2006 at 05:02 PM (#2172630)
kevin, it seems that in that era the Yankees and Red Sox each played 1/9th of their away games at each other's stadium.

Therefore, even if Fenway inflated offense by 20% w/r/t Yankee stadium, you're talking about a very small difference.

Again, my numbers don't show that one player was a better hitter than the other, but merely that they are very close in offensive value in a neutral context. That's indisputable.

You can argue that Fisk should get credit for his ability to thrive in his homepark, and thats a legitimate argument. But he wasn't the "better hitter" he was "of two equal guys, the one who played in a more favorable context for his skills".
   92. Boogie Nights Powell Posted: September 10, 2006 at 05:06 PM (#2172633)
Sounds like Ted Williams.


That analogy is absurd. First, Williams was never jealous of anyone.


Yep. The only jealousy Teddy had for DiMag was the way Joe was treated by the press.
   93. Paul Wendt Posted: September 11, 2006 at 01:51 AM (#2173033)
In The Bronx Zoo (not a bad book, BTW) Lyle/Golenbock ...

With Golenbock, Appel, Gammons, and TheDeadballEra we seem to have a guest panel today.


But the original point was that baseball fans today, young 'uns, don't have a clue how highly regarded Munson was. Much more highly regarded than Freehan, e.g.

Only several years ago McFarland published a biography of Munson by high school student Chris Devine.
Marty Appel is still part of the sports scene in NYC.

Who keeps the memory of Bill Freehan alive for all those young baseball fans?
I suspect that he is known mainly by those youngsters who read the Hall of Merit discussion and election boards.
   94. Paul Wendt Posted: September 11, 2006 at 01:58 AM (#2173037)
Ted Simmons was knocked for his defense but at the same time, roughly when Munson died, Earl Weaver maybe called him maybe the best player in baseball. That is, I remember only vaguely, but that's enough so I am surprised to read of Bench, Carter, Fisk and Munson (and Freehan) without Simmons, here where the overwhelming focus is Munson's standing at death, on playing record and on reputation.
   95. OCF Posted: September 11, 2006 at 03:18 AM (#2173071)
Everyone's doing tables; I haven't shown you one yet for my favorite system. RCAA, scaled for run environment, expressed in units that are approximately tenths of runs, sorted by year from best to worst. DH-era AL players have an additional 3% environment adjustment.

Freehan  53 46 28 28 25 21 13  4  2  1  1 --4-10-12
Munson   31 27 26 23 19 14  9  6  5 
--1
Howard   45 41 36 21 13 11  9  1  0 
--6-14-14-29 

Yes, these are park-adjusted. I see Freehan as clearly the better hitter than Munson - and since Freehan was likely also a substantially better defensive catcher, Freehan will be many places ahead of Munson on my ballot.

As has been pointed out, our task is to rank the eligible catchers, and that means that Munson should be compared to Freehan, Howard, Trouppe, Lombardi, Schang, and Bresnahan. The comparison to Freehan is particularly timely and important, since Freehan stands a very good chance of being elected this year.

Now, what do we know in the winter of 1984-85? Bench has retired. He's so clearly superior to this group that it really has almost no effect on the debate. We will elect Bench overwhelmingly as soon as he is eligible.

We also know about Gary Carter, whose career so far has been entirely in Montreal. We are aware that he is accumulating a very impressive resume. Since he may still be in his prime, it's too soon to be worried about placing him accurately.

Fisk? We can see that he probably belongs in the Freehan/Howard/Munson conversation somewhere, but he hasn't actually retired yet. He'll be 37 next year, so we've got to assume his retirement is near, right? We can also see that in-season durability is something we'll hold against him, as we also hold it against Lombardi.

Simmons is a year younger than Fisk, but he too seems to be approaching the end of his career (and he did no catching at all last year). When he does become eligible, we anticipate a raging debate in which many people will try many different things to measure his defense. But since he hasn't retired yet, we don't quite know when to begin that debate.
   96. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: September 11, 2006 at 03:43 AM (#2173085)
Finally, he was neither ill-tempered nor curmudgeonly. He was impatient and obsessive. But most people who knew him liked him and were in awe of his abilities to master extremely complex physical skills.

That's sort of in the eye of the beholder. Williams had an incredibly generous spirit, but his impatience with what he considered dumb questions led to enough shouting matches with reporters to give him a reputation for a temper. And then of course there was the series of Great Expectorations, one of the great soap operas of the 50's. His real personality problem wasn't his impatience or his obsessiveness, it was simply his thin skin. He could always pick out the one raspberry in a grandstand full of cheers and use it to drive himself, which was a good baseball strategy but not such a keen public relations move.

And of course his teammates loved him for the most part, since they, too, knew what schmucks writers often can be, and would hardly have held Williams's feud with the writers against him.

That analogy is absurd. First, Williams was never jealous of anyone.

Yep. The only jealousy Teddy had for DiMag was the way Joe was treated by the press.


This is true, but maybe if Williams had spent a little less time practicing his swings while playing left field, and a lot less time reading the Boston press, the problem would have mostly taken care of itself.
   97. Boogie Nights Powell Posted: September 11, 2006 at 02:06 PM (#2173253)
This is true, but maybe if Williams had spent a little less time practicing his swings while playing left field, and a lot less time reading the Boston press, the problem would have mostly taken care of itself.

That may also be true but:

1. If Ted hadn't been so obsessed with his swing that he did things like practicing it in the outfield, he may never had become the hitter that he did. Besides, he was still a kid when he did that, and he did become a pretty fair left fielder anyway.

2. Isn't unreasonable to expect Ted (or any other high profile type) to just stop reading articles about themselves? Would you have the discipline to do that? Ted was a pretty highstrung guy, and the Boston press did write some nasty #### about him. I think he reacted as many of us would.
   98. Catfish326 Posted: September 14, 2006 at 06:26 PM (#2176943)
In Catfish Hunter's biography, he said that if he could pick any player to be on his team in a game of streetball, it would be Thurman Munson.
   99. fra paolo Posted: November 18, 2009 at 12:21 AM (#3389957)
It's probably the wrong year to try to revive this candidacy, but I'll give it a go.

The question occured to me, when I was looking at catchers in the HoM, was whether we should actually evaluate 'games as catcher' as a meritworthy aspect of a player's career. (It was, in particular, the presence of Joe Torre and Roger Bresnahan that set me off in pursuit of this relatively obscure fact.)

I went to my Lahman database, and got a list of all seasons where a player caught more than 120 games. Here's a list of those with 7 or more, asterisk indicates a HoMer, '&' indicates not yet eligible:

13 Bob Boone
12 Al Lopez
11 Johnny Bench*, Tony Pena, Ivan Rodriguez&, Ray Schalk
10 Brad Ausmus&, Gary Carter*, Ted Simmons*, Jim Sundberg
9 Carlton Fisk*, Jason Kendall&,
8 Yogi Berra*, Mickey Cochrane*, Thurman Munson, Lance Parrish, Jorge Posada&, Jason Varitek&
7 Roy Campanella*, Terry Kennedy, Mike Piazza&, Benito Santiago


Now, my current take on Munson is that he's not as meritworthy as Campanella, but he's not so far off. Campanella is at about the midpoint of catchers according to the ballot ranking. I argued earlier in this thread (three years ago!) that Munson is comparable to Freehan. Freehan has more games caught for career, but not so many seasons of 120+ (only 6). Munson is certainly worth comparing with Bresnahan, who only caught about two-thirds as many games, and I think on that basis Munson comes out ahead.

But the wider point is that not a lot of catchers have shown Munson's durability, early death or not. Especially not catchers with a better-than-average bat and who were no slouch throwing out runners, either.

I know we're supposed to consider players in relation to the unelected, but I enjoy looking at the elected and wondering.
   100. Chris Fluit Posted: November 18, 2009 at 01:19 AM (#3389998)
Not that I'm opposed to Thurman Munson, but your particular end-point understates Freehan. He only had 6 seasons of more than 120, as you stated, but he also had a 7th of exactly 120 and and 8th and 9th of 114 and 113.

Here's what the comparison would look like with a different minimum

seasons with 100 games caught: Freehan 10, Munson 9
110 games: both 9
115 games: Munson 9, Freehan 7
120 games: both 7
125 games: Munson 7, Freehan 6 (same as the 121 used above)
130 games: Freehan 6, Munson 5
135 games: Freehan 4, Munson 3
140 games: Freehan 3, Munson 1

You pretty much cherry picked 1 of 2 cut-offs that favor Munson, while two others are tied and four others favor Freehan
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