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To believe Wagner was a better player than Jeter one must also concede that all the best baseball was played prior to 1930 or so
and that Wagner, clearly an exceptional athlete, was playing against competition that tested his abilities in the same way that Jeter's contemporaries tested his.
Did Steve Goldman really write this? Is this is a different Steve Goldman?
The headline is "Jeter is better than Wagner," not "Jeter is better than Wagner was." At this point in their careers, Jeter is simply a better hitter than Wagner is, and Wagner's defensive advantage doesn't make up for it.
Honus was into "spanking" because he had no choice about it. He played during the Deadball era, a time when the ball had the resilience of a ripe grapefruit and did not go far when struck. Further, teams used one ball per game (fans catching fouls were not-so-politely encouraged to return the ball), and players spit, stomped, rubbed, and ripped at it for nine innings. By the middle of the game, not only was the ball no longer a spheroid, but even if you set off a keg of dynamite under it, it wasn't going anywhere. As such, there was a lot of bunting.
Give the best players of yesteryear the same level of nutrition, medical care, conditioning and training and they would be the best players today. Take the best players today and strip them of those same advantages and send them back 100 years and they would be the best players of that time.
How can there be any doubt about this in either direction ?
Wagner "spanked" that "ripe grapefruit" that "did not go far when struck" to 643 2B (100 more than Jeter in 700 fewer PA), 252 3B (185 more), and even with all of Jeter's HRs Wagner's ISO is slightly higher.
I suspect Jeter would have hit a few more doubles in his career if players today were using the gloves of Wagner's era.
I agree with this. My HS baseball coach used to say "practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!" But I always thought that was wrong because it assumes that there's a perfect way to throw a baseball, swing a bat, etc. The reason practice makes perfect is that doing something over and over again allows you to figure out what technique works best for you.
On the one hand, Goldman rates Jeter above Wagner. But OTOH he ranks him below Banks
If Jeter was using the glove of Wagner's era, he would have been a third baseman...
So a guy with ~72 bWAR is better than a guy with ~131 bWAR simply because of timelining. A similar adjustment would put Ken Griffey Jr. even with Ty Cobb.
Would the author be making the same argument to support anyone other than Jeter?[/quote
I think the answer is clearly yes. He admits upfront that Jeter is not the greatest shortstop of all time but simply being a great shortstop in modern times puts him ahead of Wagner.
In Banks' case, he was going strictly by peak.
I don't think it would be absurd to think Wagner could fall anywhere between 55-70 WAR, especially since 25% was a WAG. It's probably less than that. Anybody know the percentage rate in track and field sports?
I don't think it would be absurd to think Wagner could fall anywhere between 55-70 WAR, especially since 25% was a WAG. It's probably less than that. Anybody know the percentage rate in track and field sports? That'd probably be a handy proxy. That's close enough to where I don't think you can really say Jeter was definitely better.
And Jeter had all of the benefits of modern gloves and coaching, yet still can't field worth a damn.
If Jeter was using the glove of Wagner's era, he would have been a third baseman...and using those "ripe grapefruits" would have hit 1 or 2 home runs a season if he were lucky.
Wouldn't STDEV help us measure at least a little bit the degree of difference between dominating Wagner's era and Jeter's era? For example, could we compare the STDEV of WAA/PA for all position players who qualified for the batting title in their respective eras?
Derek Jeter is far better than Honus Wagner, and that’s final
That belief would mean that baseball history stopped some 70 or 80 years ago and that the game has only declined in the years since.
Someone like Babe Ruth, on the other hand, might not benefit so much because he'd very likely still be out partying and partaking of various entertainments more than training.
. . . Honus would have scooped up everything in sight...which he did anyways, as it was often reported that in his throws to first base various pebbles he had scooped up in fielding the ball would be included . . .
My HS baseball coach used to say "practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!"
If Jeter was transported to Wagner's time he wouldn't be able to play, too dark.
Pulling just a bit off topic, having read Robert Creamer's biography of Ruth, I have some doubts that Ruth could have functioned in the regimentation required by today's game. He doesn't seem to have had any filters at all till he was in his late 20s.
Your HS baseball coach stole this from Cal Ripken Sr. (Who probably stole it from someone else.)
(Obviously this is all conceptual; in reality, unless we were starting at birth, the adjustments would be way to big. But put 10 year old Ruth into a time machine, plop him in little league, and 10 years later he'd be fine, I think).
I believe that Wagner played against vastly inferior competition, and that he and Ruth are sort of like the George Mikan of their day. How you compare "ridiculously dominated inferior competition" to "excelled against superior competition" is where the guessing comes in.
Really? How many doubles are hit off a glove? Aren’t the majority of doubles hit in the gap or the corners?
Yeah this is the amazing part. The book "The Year babe Ruth hit 104 HRs", had a lot of wild speculation, but the documentation of the HR distances was superb. There are 3 or 4 or 10 newspaper accounts of every one.
Ruth's average distance dwarfs every subsequent power hitter to this day.
does anyone think a 60 WAR guy debuting in 1980 would be a 50 WAR guy in 2000?
But as Bill James once noted, the rate of improvement CAN'T be as great as the guys who think the 2003 Tigers would beat the 1927 Yankees seem to believe- if the rate of improvement was that great you would almost never see guys with 15-20 year careers, and those who payed that long would be dramatically/comically worse at 40 than they were at 20.
Honus Wagner threw so fast the pebbles would explode the lightbulb before it even flicked on.
Louis Prima: With all the great players playing ball right now, how well do you think you would do against today's pitchers?
Ty Cobb: Well, I figure against today's pitchers I'd only probably hit about .290
Louis Prima: .290? Well that's amazing, because you batted over .400 a... a whole bunch of times. Now tell us all, we'd all like to know, why do you think you'd only hit .290?
Ty Cobb: Well, I'm 72 ####### years old you ignorant son of a #####.
I'd worry about Ruth partying too much with the wrong stuff, maybe winding up losing a good chunk of his career like Josh Hamilton.
First thing I thought of with the first part of that comment was "John Belushi or Chris Farley"
Ruth's average distance dwarfs every subsequent power hitter to this day.
Heavier bats actually have a higher coefficient of restitution (the fraction of the energy that makes it into the ball), and a slower bat speed means more time in the hitting zone. People analyzing Babe Ruth's swing have pointed out that he could make solid contact with the ball over a range of four or five feet on the pitcher/catcher axis, and he famously loved to pull the high outside pitch. That's tough to do with modern thin handled bats.
Provided you can make contact, there's a lot to be said for heavy bats. Modern pitchers are much more contact averse than deadball pitchers.
On the other hand, doesn't this also speak to how weak the level of competition was in Ruth's day? A player today would never even try to swing a 50 oz. bat at all of the 95+ mph pitches that are regularly thrown now. Nobody would be able to get their swing around in time to hit anything. That Ruth could consistently clobber the ball with a 50 oz. bat tells me that, yes, he was very strong, but it also tells me that, outside of the very rare Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove or someone like that, most of the pitches he was seeing couldn't have been getting out of the 80s on a radar gun. Maybe even the 70s. It's the only way he could have gotten around in time to hit the ball.
I can absolutely guarantee that if you transport Jeter back to Wagner's time, Jeter doesn't even sniff MLB ball.
I think I read Ruth was in the low 40s for most of his career - the 54 ounce bat was something he used at the very beginning. But I'm not sure players couldn't use heavier bats today and still be effective. Wasn't Dick Allen famous for using a 42 ounce bat? And according to baseball reference he had a 1249 OPS against Nolan Ryan.
I'd pick Gehrig. I can't see any variables that would get in his way. Put young Lou in the present and he'll play in the college world series, be picked in the top 10, tear up the minors for a year and a half, and then settle into the middle of somebody's lineup for 15 years. Unfortunately there's still not much that can be done about the disease, but he'd have enough time to put in a HOF career.
Excerpt from Leigh Montville’s biography of Ted Williams:
The key to 1957, it turned out, may have been the bat as much as the batter.
“I picked up a 34 ½ ounce bat on the way north from spring training, a little heavier than what I had been using,” Williams explained. “I tried it out and, boy, I was ringing the ball with it. Boom, right through the middle. I said, ‘Hell, I’m going to start the season with this bat.’ It was about two ounces heavier than the bat I normally used. It had iron in it. I started the season with it, and I never hit the ball consistently harder than that year.”
The heavier bat stopped him from pulling the ball as often. As early as the second game of the season, against the Yankees, bang, he had a hit to left against the shift...Bang, (then) another one. Next game, three for five. Bang. He used the bat through the spring, and soon the mouth-to-ear-to-mouth telegraph of pitchers and managers started to spread a new message: maybe Williams can’t get around on the fastball anymore. The shift started to be shifted back toward normal dimensions.
“So when it gets warmer, I go back to a little lighter bat,” Williams said. “Where I hadn’t been getting hits between first and second base, now I’m getting them. They couldn’t shift me so much and I’m going to pulling again. Balls are going through for me that hadn’t been going through for five or six years. This was the beginning of the breakthrough for me. This was the real secret of this year.”
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