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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Wally Schang

Gee Wally, why are acting so goofy?

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 12, 2004 at 12:40 AM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4668579)
With so much about pitch framing, plate blocking, and game calling out there right now, does anyone know of good narrative sources to research these? I'm particularly interested in Schang, Bresnahan, Lombardi, Tenace, Freehan, Campy, and Parrish.

   2. DL from MN Posted: March 19, 2014 at 02:44 PM (#4674084)
The pitch framing is based on PitchFX data so there won't be any historical information.
   3. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: March 22, 2014 at 06:29 PM (#4675467)
DL, right, that's why I'm looking for narrative sources. There's not much in the usual omnibus spots (wiki, BR bullpen, SABR bioproj, NBJHBA, etc...), so if anyone knows any other more specific sources, I'd be much obliged!
   4. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 26, 2015 at 08:49 PM (#4888310)
Wow, I was hoping for a little more discussion here!

Schang is a player whose career mostly pre-dates my system but who received Hall-of-Merit votes in the most recent election, so I think I need to figure out what to do with him. My system relies on Retrosheet play-by-play data, and they've actually released partial data for four seasons of Schang's career: 1922, 1925, 1927, and 1931. These end up missing Schang's prime but his 1922 and 1927 seasons actually turn out to have been among the most "typical" seasons of his career. In 1922, Schang had an OPS+ of 111 and in 1927, he had an OPS+ of 121 vs. a career OPS+ of 121. If you add up his BB-Ref WAR for those two seasons (5.5) and adjust his games played those two seasons (221) up to his career total (1,842), that produces 45.8 WAR. BB-Ref shows Schang with 45.0 career WAR.

So, as a starting point, I thought it might be worth looking at what my system thinks of his 1922 and 1927 seasons and project that up to his full career. I only have data for 189 games for Schang those two seasons, but he looks quite good in those 189 games.

I tried to apply the weights that I did in my 2-part Discussion Thread post (comments #62 and #63, I believe) to Schang's 1922 and 1927 seasons and then blow that up for his full career. I gave him a pro-rated catcher bonus based on his having played 78% of his career games at C (according to BB-Ref), adjusted his seasons up to 162 games. For his 32 career World Series games, he batted .287/.362/.404 vs. a career batting line of .283/.393/.401. For simplicity, I assumed his World Series record would be proportional to his career; it's hard to say if that's reasonable or not.

Anyway, doing all of that, I think Schang ends up right around Jeff Kent (and probably Ben Taylor) on my ballot, probably somewhere around #10 or so. Looking at my numbers, that puts Schang in between Gary Carter and Ivan Rodriguez among catchers. My system isn't crazy about Ivan Rodriguez (he'll make my ballot when the time comes, but I suspect he'll be elected without me putting him in an "elect me" slot), and Carter ends up quite a bit better than Schang. The next two catchers below Rodriguez on my list are Ted Simmons and Jorge Posada, who are perhaps better comps to Wally Schang.

My system actually thinks fairly highly of Schang's defense, especially considering that the only four seasons were his age-32, 35, 37, and 41 seasons. My system doesn't take any explicit measure of pitch-calling or pitch-framing, and I don't know what Schang's reputation was in that regard (since nobody answered Dr. Chaleeko's almost-year-old question), but he did play for 6 pennant winners and was still catching a majority of his team's games at age 39, so I can't imagine his reputation was terrible.

Finally, I am perhaps not as well versed in this period of history as others (and/or I'm forgetting the obvious answer to this question), but during the 1910's and 1920's, who would have been the best catcher in MLB (and/or in the Negro Leagues)? Because being the best catcher in baseball is something that my system and I would tend to look very favorably upon, which could bump Schang even higher on my ballot (FWIW, he rates as the best catcher in the AL in my system in both 1922 and 1927). FYI, here's Wally Schang's player page from my website.
   5. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2015 at 11:14 AM (#4888497)
Louis Santop is the top catcher among Schang's contemporaries. Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett were better for part of the 1920s.
   6. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 27, 2015 at 11:26 AM (#4888506)
Louis Santop is the top catcher among Schang's contemporaries. Cochrane and Gabby Hartnett were better for part of the 1920s.

Thanks, DL. Cochrane and Hartnett both seem a little past Schang's time - they overlapped, obviously, but Schang has a decade of prime before Cochrane even shows up and about that long before Hartnett really comes into his own, right? Is Santop the only Hall-of-Merit catcher whose prime fell within the 1910's? If so, I probably will have Schang on my ballot somewhere in the area of Kent and Taylor - maybe even ahead of those two?
   7. Rally Posted: January 27, 2015 at 11:35 AM (#4888516)
If someone want to put the work in to estimate the pitch framing/game calling of early catchers, look at box scores and see how pitchers fared in strikeouts and walks with and without the catcher.
   8. Ron J2 Posted: January 27, 2015 at 12:09 PM (#4888536)
#7 Also worth looking at whether there's a significant difference in BABIP (I doubt it, but nobody to my knowledge has checked) and HR rates.

It seems plausible that a catcher who was good at the Ks and walks side might be calling more hittable pitches.
   9. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2015 at 02:02 PM (#4888640)
Strikeout rates were so much lower then that framing would probably have less impact.
   10. Ron J2 Posted: January 27, 2015 at 03:20 PM (#4888692)
#9 Good point. Almost everybody was pitching to contact.
   11. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2015 at 03:31 PM (#4888696)
Controlling the running game, fielding bunts, blocking spitballs that got away - those would be important. BABIP should be higher then than now due to less effective gloves.
   12. The Honorable Ardo Posted: January 28, 2015 at 01:40 AM (#4888928)
Summary: Schang is the only pre-integration white player who clearly should be in the Hall of Merit and isn't.

Schang's durability, like Roger Bresnahan's, must be looked at in context. When he retired, he was 3rd all-time in Games Caught. He's still in the top 40. The only ones ahead of him were ageless wonder Deacon McGuire (who got a smattering of votes early in this project) and Ray Schalk (a Cooperstown mistake, the Tony Pena of his era).

His offense is easy to spot. Schang was incredible at not making outs. His OBP is top-100 all time, next to Rod Carew and Gary Sheffield on the all-time list. That's unadjusted OBP; this is a 1910's catcher, folks.

His defense, in proper context, has been unfairly maligned by Hall of Merit voters. His caught-stealing rates are slightly better than league average & improved gradually over the course of his career. Much of the criticism comes from two sources:

- His poor defense in his sophomore season of 1914. If the SABR Bio Project is believable, it was a one-off: Schang was trying to play through a broken thumb.

- His play at positions other than catcher. Schang shouldn't be marked down for this.

After Connie Mack broke up his dynastic 1911-14 A's, Schang played third base and outfield for the woeful 1915-17 teams to get his bat in the lineup more often. On a "not historically awful" team, Schang stays behind the plate.

Then, for the 1920 Red Sox (the year after giving up Babe Ruth), Schang played 39 games in CF - fairly well - while Ed Barrow determined if Roxy Walters, who backed up Schang in 1918-19, had the chops to be an MLB starter. Walters couldn't hit and didn't stick. The next year, Schang hopped onto the Boston-New York shuttle and caught 132 games for Ruth's Yankees.

Also, since postseason credit has come up a lot lately, Schang was the most valuable position player in both the 1913 and 1918 World Series.

Hope I'm convincing voters to take a fresh look!

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