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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Difference of opinion on baseball stats as Derek Jeter climbs all-time hits list

I listen to more soulless Jonathan Elias synth-pap than I do The Elias Sports Bureau. Oh, and B-Ref’s Explaining the Honus Wagner Career Hits Discrepancy...

Steve Hirdt, executive vice president of Elias, said, “Major League Baseball for as far back as I know has dated its origins to 1876, the first year of the National League. The National Association is regarded as the first professional league but not major league.” As for statistical differences related to Wagner, Hirdt said, “As good a job and as clean cut and as beyond reproach as the statistics are today, when the whole enterprise started back then they weren’t kept with the same type of precision.”

Sean Forman, founder of, said Anson’s hits in the National Association should count.

“Our view is that the number of players who continued from the National Association into the National League in 1876 was significant,” he said. “The level of play, based on how those players did, moving from the National Association to the National League, indicates that it was at a high level of play.” Five players from the National Association are in Cooperstown.

“People expect to have solidity in these numbers and high confidence in these numbers and from 1970 on that’s essentially true,” Forman said. “Previously these were clerical workers working with pen and paper inserting everything in large ledger books every day. Mistakes were made. It’s part and parcel of the business. We’re 100 percent confident in Jeter’s hit total, but people like Anson and Wagner, their hit totals were calculated retroactively in a lot of cases 30, 40, 50, 60 years after the fact. We’re looking as carefully as we can.”

Hall of Fame spokesman Craig Muder said, “The Hall of Fame does not endorse any singular set of historical statistics. Official stats are kept by MLB and as such the Hall of Fame recognizes them. As a museum and library research center the Hall and the museum consults a variety of sources. We provide equal access to all these sources for our patrons. Baseball-Reference would be one of the varieties of sources that we use.”

A spokesman for MLB said, “We recognize Elias as the official stats.”

Repoz Posted: July 31, 2014 at 08:12 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. JRVJ Posted: July 31, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4761125)
I'm going to side with Elias on the National Association to National League issue.

By definition, this is a subjective issue with no right answer, and I see no particular reason to change the way this matter has been dealt with for so many years.
   2. Joey B. is counting the days to Trea Turner Posted: July 31, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4761134)
Only 834 hits behind Pete Rose.

Don't retire Derek; you can hit singles blindfolded.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: July 31, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4761135)

The National Association, Players League, and Federal League should be MLB.
The Union Association - no.
   4. TJ Posted: July 31, 2014 at 09:25 AM (#4761139)
Players ahead of Derek Jeter's 3422 on the All-Time hits list according to B-Ref:

6. Cap Anson (3435)- Subtract those National Association hits, since that wasn't really the major leagues- he never played against a team based in Florida or Arizona, for example.

5. Tris Speaker (3514)- Knock off about 200 hits because he played before 1910, and we all know that wasn't real baseball.

4. Stan Musial (3630)- Subtract the 812 hits Stan got before 1947, since we all know baseball was just an "apartheid minor league" before then, according to some sportswriters.

3. Hank Aaron (3771)- Erase the 815 hits Hank got in the 1970's since we all know he was juiced out of his mind on greenies throughout the decade.

2. Ty Cobb (4189)- Subtract 700 hits from the Georgia Peach's total because he was a racist jerk.

1. Pete Rose (4256)- These hits don't exist since Rose has been banned from the game.

There- Derek Jeter is now only 67 hits away from becoming the all-time hit king. Now ESPN has an excuse to show every Yankee game the rest of the year and talk exclusively about Derek Jeter for three hours...don't worry, Jeter will make it. He got this far, didn't he?
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 31, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4761208)
I side with bbref.
   6. jdennis Posted: July 31, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4761239)
I think the NA should count because it was the highest level option for players at the time, Cincinnati not joining notwithstanding. Meanwhile I don't count AA, UA, PL, or FL, or the NNL and NAL.

Will the mulatto dude take down both racists? Tune in to find out!
   7. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: July 31, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4761269)
#6: In fairness to the PL players, it seems clear to me that the Players League was the highest level of baseball being played in 1890.
   8. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: July 31, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4761339)
Yeah I had always assumed the players league was the top league in 1890.
   9. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 31, 2014 at 11:45 AM (#4761340)
In the National Association of 1871, the teams played anywhere from 33 to 19 official league games. In 1872, the spread was 54 to 9 league games. In 1873, the spread was 57 to 6(!).

That may have been the most advanced base ball league of its time, but I think it takes a powerful imagination to see that as a "major league."
   10. Ron J2 Posted: July 31, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4761356)
#9 It's at best the equivalent of counting AA stats.
   11. alilisd Posted: July 31, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4761377)
That may have been the most advanced base ball league of its time, but I think it takes a powerful imagination to see that as a "major league."

Wouldn't that depend on whether you were viewing it as a "major league" in terms of how it was administered, or a "major league" in terms of the quality of play? It doesn't seem as if the poor administration of the league necessarily reflects a low level of talent amongst the players.
   12. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: July 31, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4761416)
At the time the retrospective major-or-not categorization was being decided upon, there was a vested interest in calling a still-operational league "first." That's the only reason the NL gets the nod over the NA, not any kind of guiding principle for what makes a league major. The treatment of the UA gives away the game.
   13. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 31, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4761426)
#9 It's at best the equivalent of counting AA stats.

AA as in the current double-A minors, or AA as in the old American Association of the 1880s?
   14. Ron J2 Posted: July 31, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4761452)
#13 Current double-A minors -- though much more uneven than this. The weakest teams in the NA weren't close to even that level.
   15. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 31, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4761582)
If you count all MLB-sanctioned competition - regular season, playoffs, All-Star Game & World Baseball Classic - it looks like Jeter will end up with more hits than all but Rose, Cobb & Aaron. A healthy 2013 likely would have put him ahead of Aaron. Pretty good career, no matter how you measure.
   16. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 31, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4761600)
#13 Current double-A minors -- though much more uneven than this. The weakest teams in the NA weren't close to even that level.

So what were the AAA and ML-level teams in 1872?
   17. Ron J2 Posted: July 31, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4761654)
ML caliber teams in 1872? Boston.

AAA (ish) Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Troy. The rest weren't AA.

They simply hadn't had time to build up the networks for finding and recruiting the best talents so they were picking from a fairly small pool. And some teams barely bothered, just fielding the best they could find without looking that hard.

Best illustrated by going forward a few years. The Buffalo IL team of 1878 would have finished no lower than 3rd in the NL had they been in the NL (Their best player -- Pud Galvin -- had an absolute monster season and given the relative importance of pitchers then who knows what the upper ceiling is)
   18. The District Attorney Posted: August 02, 2014 at 09:13 AM (#4763012)
Bill James mailbag:
Hey Bill, the rise of Derek Jeter up the all-time hits chart has prompted the question of whether Cap Anson's hits in the National Association should count towards his total. The Elias Bureau, and thus MLB, says no. Baseball-Reference and others say yes. What's your take?

No. It's preposterous to suggest that the National Association was of quality comparable to major league baseball. It was well and comfortably below the level of good high school baseball today.
Many will remember James's excoriation of the idea that the Union Association should be considered major league. Based on his recent writings, I strongly suspect he would now argue 19th century stats shouldn't count, period...
   19. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 02, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4763048)
So if all the best teams were in the NA, and there were no rival leagues with better teams, it makes sense to me to call it a major league. I operate from the axiom that the best league at any given time is by definition a major league, so if there is at least one operating league, there is a major league.

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