Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Goldman: Derek Jeter is far better than Honus Wagner, and that’s final

Writing back in the 1990s, I posed the question of how the great 1906 Cubs (116-36) would have done if they had had a chance to play against a team composed of the likes of Mark McGwire.  My hyperbolic supposition was that the question would have remained unanswered because their first reaction would have been to scream, “Agh! Giant!” and run like hell. The same goes for Jeter. As the title of Laurence Ritter’s classic oral history of the Deadball era tells us, Wagner and his contemporaries were the glory of their times—but that is all they were too small, too poorly trained, to ill-nourished, too untested by real competition to be the glory of ours.

Jeter is not the greatest shortstop of all time, but he is one of the greatest and that is enough for us to know that he was a better player than anyone born in the 19th century. Either that’s true or all the greatest players in history played in the years before World War II, when a man could hit .424 out of his pure superiority to the puny .310 hitter of today.

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. You can believe that if you want to; Lord knows people have believed stranger things in our time, but if you do then you have my pity, for what a sad, pessimistic, and stultified world you live in. Honus Wagner was a great player in the days of William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, a primordial great. Derek Jeter is better. It’s not even his fault; it’s just an accident of timing. To assert otherwise is to assert a false nostalgia and fail to see the great things that are happening before your own eyes.

Thanks to Los.

Repoz Posted: August 12, 2014 at 09:39 AM | 112 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, yankees

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

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

Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 
   1. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM (#4769222)
In other news, Giancarlo Stanton is a better ballplayer than Tris Speaker and Zack Greinke is a better pitcher than Hoss Radbourn.
   2. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4769223)
Did Steve Goldman really write this? Is this is a different Steve Goldman?
   3. BDC Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4769225)
This is a wild and wonderful argument that lurches all over the place, worth reading.

Centrally, of course, it runs up against a basic logical problem. Honus Wagner excelled against lesser competition than Derek Jeter's. Fine. But both are outliers, and I think it's really hard to be categorical about how an outlier would do against a different level of competition. In a way, I'm not sure why the comparison matters. It's really about the general level of athletic ability and baseball talent in pools of players a century apart. No question whatsoever that c2000 trumps c1900. However, that translates very uncertainly into an individual comparison of Wagner vs. Jeter.
   4. Batman Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4769226)
For me to poop on.
   5. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4769227)
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


ummm, no, the mean talent level in Baseball in Wagner's day could be equivalent to today's AA/AAA and Wagner still beats Jeter like a drum

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.


umm no, see above.

I think it's pretty obvious to everyone other than the Frankie Frisch's of the world that the mean talent level of MLB has improved over time, that the guy who has a 120 OPS+ today would outhit the guy who had a 120 OPS+ 100 years ago- if you could magically move one (or both) through time and space and play against eachother.

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.
   6. JE (Jason) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM (#4769228)
Did Steve Goldman really write this? Is this is a different Steve Goldman?

Page hits, page hits, roly poly page hits. Page hits, page hits, eat them up, yum.
   7. Batman Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4769231)
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.
   8. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:10 AM (#4769233)
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.

Nice.
   9. Sweatpants Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:16 AM (#4769244)
This article is a follow-up to this piece, which is far more trollish.
   10. bookbook Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4769251)
Im not so sure. Wagner's strike zone is tiny. Didn't you ever read "The Kid Who Batted 1,000?"
   11. SoCalDemon Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:20 AM (#4769253)
Yes, talent has been getting better. An average player of 100 years ago is probably replacement-ish, or lower, today. But I am pretty sure the best players of each era not only could play, but would be stars today. Stephen Jay Gould had an essay on batting .400 that I think hit the nail on the head. The best hitter in the league (he was going by BA, but easy enough to substitute wOBA)could hit .400 100 years ago, and the best player today might only hit .350, but the very, very best player of 100 years ago is likely to be one of the best today, just with less distance between himself and average/replacement because of increased competition. Wagner today might look a lot like Jeter (but with better defense :) ); Ty Cobb might look like Ichiro (or, my guess is his power comes more into play, and maybe he looks like, I don't know, Yaz). Babe Ruth, most likely, is a league average pitcher for a few years before fading out of the league (his pitching trajectory looks pretty bad over time), but assuming he switching to the OF in the minors I bet he still is a complete monster. Its the league-average players of yesteryear that I think couldn't hack it, but I think the superstars would be just fine. (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).
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4769254)
I think there's no reasonable doubt that the mechanics of playing have become far, far more refined over the years, in addition to players becoming much more fit and powerful as a whole. I've said this before, but if you look back at game footage even as recently as the '80s, the players' mechanics are often all over the place, and it gets worse the further back you go. Pitchers of, say, the '50s generally wound up with arms and legs akimbo and just flung the ball up there, at least to my eyes. Batters dove over the plate, bailing their back leg out as they took a wristy swing. Now, players' actions seem much more precise and intentional rather than haphazard. So it seems that not only has the talent level improved, the approach to playing has as well (except for all the dicking around between pitches).
   13. Repoz Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4769267)
I trust John Thorn won't mind...but here's his FB entry on this.

"Smart if not "final." I agree that the average player of 1900 was vastly inferior to the average player of 2000--which made it easier for the greats to exceed the average to a larger extent than the greats of today (except for Barry Bonds). Steve's present-centric dismissal of Wagner (and Cobb and Ruth and other worthies of old) is perilous, however. If Jeter and Wagner were to change times and places, neither would be the same player. In the end, better to fall back on what the man did in his own time and place, and how his accomplishments stacked up against those of his peers."
   14. TJ Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:29 AM (#4769269)
Coming up next from the Derek Jeter suckups, "Why Derek Jeter is Better than Willie Mays!" The reasons are:

1. Jeter is taller.
2. Jeter plays today, when everything is obviously better.
3. Jeter has more titles.
4. Jeter eats better.
5. Jeter played against the best players in the entire world- Mays never had to play against Yu Darvish or Ichiro.

I would love to see Wagner playing today with modern training, gloves, bats, etc. That would be the end of this discussion, since the argument for Jeter is that he was one of the best shortstops of his era, while the argument for Wagner is that he was one of the best overall players of his...
   15. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:31 AM (#4769273)
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?
   16. shoewizard Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:34 AM (#4769278)
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 ?
   17. BDC Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:36 AM (#4769283)
One thing's absolutely sure, nobody of a typical 19th-century ballplayer size could possibly bat .336 and lead a league in hitting in the year 2014.
   18. Batman Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:46 AM (#4769294)
The last few 5'6"-and-under players to hit at least .304 are Scooter, Hack, Cuckoo, Sparky, No Neck, Dim Dom, The Littlest Angel and Joe Sewell. Sewell and Altuve need nicknames. I guess "Gigante" will have to do.
   19. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:47 AM (#4769296)
It all depends on how you're framing the question, doesn't it? On the one hand, Goldman rates Jeter above Wagner. But OTOH he ranks him below Banks, Ozzie Smith, and Ripken, calls Trammell a near push, and puts Jeter over Larkin on durability alone. You can dispute Goldman's premise and his methodology, but it's nothing to get all indignant about.

And yes, of course I'd rather have Wagner, but Goldman presents his case very well.
   20. Matt Welch Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4769298)
if you look back at game footage even as recently as the '80s, the players' mechanics are often all over the place

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Mechanical variety in today's game, with few exceptions (Jordan Walden, Bryce Harper), comes from foreign-born players, many of whom have obviously been excellent (Ichiro, Vlad Guerrero, El Duque, various Japanese pitchers). Just because people don't have batting stances like Rod Carew and Hal McRae anymore, or have windups like Luis Tiant or Sandy Koufax, doesn't mean that those were bad ways of going about things.
   21. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4769300)
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 ?


Exactly.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. Mechanical variety in today's game, with few exceptions (Jordan Walden, Bryce Harper), comes from foreign-born players, many of whom have obviously been excellent (Ichiro, Vlad Guerrero, El Duque, various Japanese pitchers). Just because people don't have batting stances like Rod Carew and Hal McRae anymore, or have windups like Luis Tiant or Sandy Koufax, doesn't mean that those were bad ways of going about things.

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.
   22. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:55 AM (#4769303)
#7 ought to win a lifetime Primey award.
   23. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4769310)
Also, Goldman completely misses the point - it isn't the raw numbers that separate Wagner from Jeter, but the way he towered over the league offensively. In 1908 Wagner hit .354/.415/.542 in a league that hit .239/.299/.306; even in the new diminished offensive era, the AL is hitting .255/.319/.394. In Jeter's best year by raw numbers (1999, .349/.438/.552) the league hit .275/.347/.439.

Buried in the article is this:
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.
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.
   24. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4769312)
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 ?
Yes, I think that's right, but it only works for the best players. Take the average player of 1900 and give him today's nutrition et al. and he doesn't become an average player of today. Take the average player of today and give him 1900's nutrition et al. and he doesn't fall to average. The overall talent level, controlling for nutrition et al., is higher today.
   25. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4769313)
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.
   26. TJ Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:01 AM (#4769314)
I suspect Jeter would have hit a few more doubles in his career if players today were using the gloves of Wagner's era.


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.
   27. GEB4000 Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4769316)
Wagner's best year doesn't look any different from a typical great Wagner season. The only difference is offense cratered that year. Wagner made the adjustments he needed to make to keep hitting they way he normally does. He had the talent to perform at a higher level.
   28. Jeltzandini Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4769319)
Whenever I try to envision time machine hypotheticals, I get lost in the weeds of the specifics. At what age do you do the transfer? How long do you give the guy to adapt? Into what environment do you put him? E.g., if you bring Wagner to 2000 as a ten year old and put him in a modern baseball academy, what sort of personality does he develop in the much cushier environment?

I never get to a fully satisfactory scenario to answer the question of most interest: how would a properly acclimatized past star do today? My gut suspicion is that a straight-from-1905 Wagner, ignoring somehow the psychic shock of being plunked into a world of jet travel and iPhones, would take quite awhile to adjust to the better equipment and incomparably better pitching of today. Like I think he'd start out by striking out all the damn time for at least a few weeks. As by far the best player from a much more limited pool though, he'd probably end up at least a league average hitter today. Fielding is another matter; the standard of modern SS play is really, really high.

10yo Wagner probably develops into a star, but probably not into the obvious best player in baseball.



   29. Batman Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:11 AM (#4769324)
Wagner only got MVP votes in three seasons, and never won a Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, or Lou Gehrig award.

Checkmate.
   30. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4769325)
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.


Eh, fair point, I agree that there are some number of players for whom nonstandard mechanics work well, just like there are PGA players with odd swings. However, I would still argue that there's at least a range of more optimal mechanics in terms of efficiency of motion, etc. that will generally produce better and/or more consistent results.
   31. TJ Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4769330)
Maybe a better "What If" question to ask is...

If Cincinnati (picking just ahead of the Yankees) had drafted Derek Jeter with the 5th pick in the 1992 draft instead of Chad Mottolla, would we even be having this conversation?
   32. Batman Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4769335)
Maybe Jeter would have A-Rodded Barry Larkin to third base.
   33. bigglou115 Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:38 AM (#4769342)
Well, here's the way I look at it, for what it's worth. Assuming a pretty large increase of 25% talent every 20 years, Wagner would be a mid 50s WAR player. That's pretty respectable. Of course that assumes he doesn't get anything back. If you give him modern bats to hit at modern balls, in today's better cared for fields with faster surfaces, he probably gets some of what he loses back. Fielding wise, better gloves, better shoes, better health equipment. I'm not prepared to say he gets any worse, maybe better.

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.

Edit: in the original I only moved Wagner up to 1980 by accident. The additional drop out him at like 48 WAR. But I think that underscores that the jump isn't that big, does anyone think a 60 WAR guy debuting in 1980 would be a 50 WAR guy in 2000? Who knows, maybe that's right.
   34. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:44 AM (#4769344)
On the one hand, Goldman rates Jeter above Wagner. But OTOH he ranks him below Banks


If you are timelining enough to get Jeter over Wagner, I don't see how you also get Banks over Jeter...

If Jeter was using the glove of Wagner's era, he would have been a third baseman...


If Jeter was using the glove of Wagner's era he would have been an outfielder

   35. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:50 AM (#4769348)
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.
   36. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4769357)
On the one hand, Goldman rates Jeter above Wagner. But OTOH he ranks him below Banks

If you are timelining enough to get Jeter over Wagner, I don't see how you also get Banks over Jeter...


In Banks' case, he was going strictly by peak.
   37. McCoy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 11:59 AM (#4769359)
Honus Wagner was certainly not a little guy. He'd be big by today's standards. Not Adam Dunn big but he would fit right in with today's baseball players in terms of size and build. Nor was Honus a poker or spanker or whatever of the ball. He took full swings and had a somewhat modern swing. Don't know what he would have done against today's competition but he could certainly hit with a live ball and modern park configurations. Don't know if he would still be a SS though.
   38. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:21 PM (#4769377)
In Banks' case, he was going strictly by peak.


Best year (by WAR)
Wagner: 11.5
Banks: 10.2
Jeter: 8.0

2nd best year:
Wagner 10.1
Banks 9.4
Jeter 7.5

3rd best year
Wagner 9.3
Banks 8.2
Jeter: 6.5

4th best year
Wagner: 9.2
Banks: 7.8
Jeter: 5.5

I suppose you can do it, but that's an awfully tight needle to thread as definitively as TFA claims
   39. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4769378)
Posing a question to the statistically trained in the group. 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?
   40. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4769379)
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?

World records typically seem to have changed between 10% and 20% over the past 100 years, for the ones I checked. Of course, then there is Javlin, where it went up about 70% in 70 years, and got to the point, where they had to change the javlins, to protect people past the other side of the field from getting speared.
   41. cardsfanboy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4769385)

Standard time travel argument with all the noted fallacies of that argument. Goldman's argument is simply if you took a time machine and pulled Wagner out of a game in his era, dropped him into the middle of a diamond today, with today's equipment, style of play, and philosophy, where would he come out. It's a silly argument. To be legit, you would have to pull Wagner out from his time, when he was a toddler, raise him with today's food and conditioning and then the argument can begin.


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.


When we have these discussions, people usually point to that if you break Jesse Owens down compared to Ursain Bolt, almost, if not all of the difference can be attributed to equipment.
   42. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4769401)

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.

I expect Jeter would have had his share of inside-the-park HRs, at least in his younger days.
   43. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:53 PM (#4769404)
If Wagner had access to same nutrition/vitamins as Jeter did, he wouldn't be bow-legged and likely be 2-4 inches taller.

And while this era is probably more competitive, it's not because of African-Americans, the best who almost always get poached by football and basketball. It's mostly because of the Dominican Republic.

And Jeter had all of the benefits of modern gloves and coaching, yet still can't field worth a damn.
   44. Ron J2 Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:57 PM (#4769409)
#40 But (as I'm sure you're aware) it's tough to tell how much this is due to improvement in equipment (etc) as opposed to better athletes. And how you factor better training into timeline discussions is tricky.

And to #26, Jeter is fast enough to have hit a fair number of inside the park HR
   45. Swedish Chef Posted: August 12, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4769411)
If Jeter was transported to Wagner's time he wouldn't be able to play, too dark.
   46. Ray Knight and the Wally Pipps Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4769415)
Even the "Pull them to today as a toddler" option gets complicated. Different individuals would very likely respond very differently. On the one hand you have someone like Honus who actually lifted weights and worked out during the offseason even back then... he'd probably get maximized benefit from today's nutrition and training methods. 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. Once we start getting into counterfactuals, the variables add up so quickly that you just can't come up with a solid theory of who would do what if they were ported to today, and at what age they were. Best to just compare to their own peers and then compare that over time... but then I'm not a timeliner.
   47. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:05 PM (#4769416)
And Jeter had all of the benefits of modern gloves and coaching, yet still can't field worth a damn.


Only because fielding is measured relative to position. My guess is that Jeter makes as many or more plays per ball hit into the shortstop position as players did a century ago. In the AL of 1914, teams made an average of 57 errors at short, with a range of 39-82. That we know. How many hits got through the position? That we won't know without sending a camera crew back through time.

If shortstops get to as many balls as they used to (which I doubt, they probably get to more) then error rates alone mean they are much more efficient. Maybe the league makes outs on 75% of plays instead of 70%. A poor shortstop might make plays on 72% - his UZR will look bad but he's definitely taking advantage of his modern benefits to do more than he would have a century ago.
   48. Moeball Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:09 PM (#4769422)
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.


First of all, if Wagner was using Jeter's modern glove, 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 on the journey to first base along with the ball.

If Jeter used Wagner's glove...it wouldn't have made one bit of difference at all. The problem with Jeter's defense is the 40 billion ground balls that every other starting shortstop in the major leagues during his entire career would have been able to get to that Jeter instead watched go by into the outfield for base hits.

We all know Jeter has been a great hitter, and as I have said before, even if he was a first baseman or corner outfielder - with his career numbers he would cruise into the HOF. Lifetime BA over .300, 3400+ career hits - unless extenuating (read: steroids) circumstances apply, that will get a player into the HOF. The "Jeter is better than..." arguments really are all based on the same thing - the people that spout this sort of stuff really honestly believe Derek Jeter was a great fielder as well as a great hitter. There's a lot of baseball writers and fans who really really believe this. For these people, it doesn't matter how much evidence to the contrary you bring to the table, they aren't buying it at all. So don't waste your breath trying - I've tried until I'm blue in the face and it's just useless.

Man, I can't wait for this season to be over...
   49. The District Attorney Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:12 PM (#4769427)
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?
Yes, this would be the better way to make cross-era comparisons. OPS+ and such were always a bad idea IMO. And unfortunately now it's at the point where it's difficult to get off this path.
   50. villageidiom Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:15 PM (#4769433)
Derek Jeter is far better than Honus Wagner, and that’s final

The headline writer misspelled "false".
   51. jdennis Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:23 PM (#4769445)
I did some log regressions based on fielding percentages. I think fielding percentages league-wide are a good indicator of overall talent level.

Players of today are 4 percent better than those in 1947. That jump has come since 1990. From 1947-1990, the players were basically equal, it had gone asymptotic.

Players of today are approximately 10% better than those in Wagner's time, and about 7% better than in the early 1930s.

Where it really falls off is before 1890, and even steeper in the NA days.

So starting with 1871, players were only 45% as good as now by my estimation. Pretty quickly, by the formation of the NL, it was more like 55%. During the 1880s it went up to about 80%. From 1890-1920 it got to 90%. Gloves I think. From 1920 to 1947 it got up to 96%. Integration the obvious culprit here. Only around 1990 did it get up to today, and I think the difference is information technology. So in general, the "talent deficit from today" was pretty steep right at the beginning, but closed quickly until plateauing with integration, but information technology allowed for a further development after 1990.

There were a lot of interesting findings - for one the wide swath in which you can compare players without adjustment. But also, the leagues went down in quality with contraction, not expansion. Also, the AL was only perceptibly worse than the NL for one year. The AA, PL, FL, UA, and Negro Leagues were all significantly worse than the AL and NL, 5% or more concurrently.

Based on the above, I am still in the Wagner was better than Jeter camp.
   52. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:24 PM (#4769446)
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.
This is arguing a point no one is making.

Just going by bWAR, the top 20 position players in history are pretty equally spread out:

2 started before 1900 (Wagner, Lajoie)
3 started '00-'10 (Cobb, Collins, Speaker)
2 started '10-'20 (Ruth, Hornsby)
2 started '20-'30 (Gehrig, Ott)
Of the top 20 position players, that's 9 who played "some 70 or 80 years ago.

Meanwhile,...
Williams was a rookie in '39; Musial in '41. It wouldn't be a stretch to think the war may have taken away 1 or 2 potential all-timers who might have debuted in the '40s.
4 started in the 50's (Mantle, Mays, Aaron, Robinson)
Morgan was a rookie in '63.
2 started in the '70's (Schmidt, Rickey!)
Bonds was a rookie in '86.
ARod was a rookie in '94.


Currently just outside is Pujols, who needs a couple of decent years yet (to knock out Morgan). He was a rookie in '01.

That's probably a good list of who most people would think of as "inner-circle" guys, and it shows that they mostly showed up 1 or 2 a decade, which seems reasonable.

   53. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:30 PM (#4769461)
It's always fun to come back to these discussions. Here's one from 2 years ago.

Look to post #52 of that one for a link even further back, and for the timeline estimate based on pitcher hitting showing Wagner as a 116 OPS+ career, 367/460 hitter today. Coincidently, Jeter has a career 116 OPS+.

So the conclusion must be that Jeter is indeed the greater player, on the strength of his defense. Count the gold gloves, 5-0 :-)
   54. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:34 PM (#4769472)
Can we define greatness outside of context? If you think we can then Goldman makes a strong case that Jeter may be a better ballplayer in the absolute sense. If you think you can only judge a player based on how they stacked up with their contemporary competition then obviously Jeter is not. The question is more epistemological than mathematical, maybe.
   55. TDF, situational idiot Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:41 PM (#4769483)
The other thing to remember is that as more and more people have played baseball, it's tougher and tougher to crack that "inner circle".

Using bWAR, 100 is currently the in/out line. If Miguel Cabrera exactly duplicated his career from here on out, it only gets him to 114 (passing Gehrig for #13); if Cano or Wright duplicated their careers, they'd just make it in (but they'd have to hope Cabrera isn't in, or the new line of 106 (Schmidt) would still leave them out).
   56. Mark Armour Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:42 PM (#4769488)
Comparing players across eras is pretty much guesswork no matter how much people try to believe otherwise. This goes for Goldman, but also for those who insist he is wrong.

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.

I believe that the rate of improvement has slowed throughout the past 150 years, and that the quality stabilized after the game was fully integrated in the 1960s. Can I prove that? Of course not.
   57. JRVJ Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:45 PM (#4769494)
I'm pretty sure that Jeter sends better gift baskets than Honus Wagner ever did......
   58. JRVJ Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4769497)
On a more serious note, I see no reason for this article to be written (*), BUT, it was a fun read.

(*) Other than the fact that the writer wanted to get paid for it and/or wanted to write at length to justify weeks / months worth of research.

   59. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4769507)
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.


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.
   60. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4769508)
. . . 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 . . .


They say that one time he scooped a rabbit up along with the ball. His throw beat the runner by a hare.
   61. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4769512)
My HS baseball coach used to say "practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect!"
Your HS baseball coach stole this from Cal Ripken Sr. (Who probably stole it from someone else.)
   62. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 01:58 PM (#4769516)
If Jeter was transported to Wagner's time he wouldn't be able to play, too dark.
No; they played day games back then.
   63. The Polish Sausage Racer Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4769532)
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.


I'm guessing he probably would have basically been Josh Hamilton except maybe not as high functioning.
   64. Mark Armour Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4769541)
Ruth learned the game at a reform school, taught by gym teachers. Two years after he got out, he was the best pitcher in the American League.
   65. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:17 PM (#4769546)
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.

I think given Ruth's talent, the team adjusts to Ruth, not vice versa.

There's also significant evidence that Ruth wanted to run/train more, but the team prevented him to "save his legs".
   66. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:18 PM (#4769547)
Your HS baseball coach stole this from Cal Ripken Sr. (Who probably stole it from someone else.)


I heard he stole it from Kevin Costner Sr.

   67. Hank G. Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4769565)
(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).


Ruth played baseball virtually year round his entire childhood at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. This was likely higher level baseball than Little League.

If I had to pick one player from the distant past to simply drop in the present and succeed, it would be Ruth. Besides his prodigious natural talent, he played an amazing amount of baseball before signing as a pro, and he was in great physical shape as a young man. I’m guessing, but I think his nutrition and diet at St. Mary’s was probably better than most Americans at the time (he certainly wasn’t getting junk food there). That’s one reason he went so wild afterwards; his life had been completely controlled until he left St. Mary’s.
   68. Hank G. Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:39 PM (#4769567)
I suspect Jeter would have hit a few more doubles in his career if players today were using the gloves of Wagner's era.


Really? How many doubles are hit off a glove? Aren’t the majority of doubles hit in the gap or the corners?
   69. Huck Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:46 PM (#4769576)
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.


Agree. And I think it's wrong to automatically dismiss the old guys' talent or assume they couldn't have adapted. Bill Russell played against a lot of centers who wouldn't have come close to making the NBA today. But I also saw a Youtube clip of him recently where he grabbed a rebound, ran the entire length of the floor in about 2 seconds, and jumped completely over a guy to make a layup. I think he would have done just fine today.

Ted Williams and Stan Musial joined a game that was not much different than the one that Ruth dominated. Ted started just 6 or 7 years after Ruth was still one of the best players in the league. And of course they were great. By the time they retired, baseball was integrated, there was plane travel, filthy sliders and specialized relief pitching...and they were still great. They made the adjustments; I think most of the true all-timers would.

Wagner was also the Mays or Trout of his day - all five tools - maybe more so than anyone who ever played - and a great work ethic. I think he would have been a star in this era (although maybe he would have played football).
   70. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4769578)
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.

With someone with Ruth's personality, you just don't know how he reacts to the challenges of a different situation.
   71. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4769582)
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.


Ruth dominated inferior competition, but did it in more of a Chamberlain style than a Mikan style. It is pretty obvious from watching video that Mikan would not be able to play against today's big men. Wilt though was bigger or faster than any who came after him, and both bigger and faster than most. Regardless of the competition their pure physical accomplishments have not been topped. Let me know when somebody comes along who can hit a baseball as far as Ruth's documented distances.
   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:04 PM (#4769590)
Let me know when somebody comes along who can hit a baseball as far as Ruth's documented distances.

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.
   73. Chris Dial Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4769597)
I think we did some of this 10years ago. I did this research. And the following discussion was really strong.

Also, it wasn't on USENET this time - now 10+ years ago is BTF!
   74. Srul Itza Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4769599)
Given that Wagner's dead, I would hope that Jeter is a better short stop at this point -- even if we give Wagner the edge on range.
   75. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:15 PM (#4769601)
Really? How many doubles are hit off a glove? Aren’t the majority of doubles hit in the gap or the corners?
I'm sure the majority are. But how many diving plays in the outfield wouldn't be made without a real glove? How many times does an outfielder field the ball off the wall and fire it back into second to catch the runner trying to stretch the hit into a double, a play made more difficult without a real glove? Let's say it's only 4-5 times all year. How many more doubles would that give Jeter?
   76. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:20 PM (#4769608)
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.


Granted, I haven't read that book, but it's not as if old newspaper articles constitute reliable documentation. Hyperbole and mythmaking were sportswriters' stock in trade back then (many still attempt to do it now, just in different ways because verifying specific facts is a lot easier these days). If I had to guess, I'd say around 90% of old baseball stories are apocryphal, or at best wildly exaggerated (including, for example, the one about Honus throwing all kinds of debris over to first), because they come from either old sportswriters or old ballplayers.
   77. deputydrew Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4769612)
What I find interesting about these sorts of articles (at least today) is that many writers will say today's players are NOT as good as Mantle, Mays, Gibson or Koufax, but are better than Wagner, Cobb and Johnson. How does that work?

I like Biglou115's question
does anyone think a 60 WAR guy debuting in 1980 would be a 50 WAR guy in 2000?


I'd like to see someone actually go through this thought experiment. Here's a list of SS with higher WAR in the same ballpark as Jeter (or way better), along with their debut year. There's roughly one each decade. If "newer is better," shere would you (or Goldman) draw the line? How "old" is "too old"?

1995 Derek Jeter
1981 Cal Ripken
1974 Robin Yount
1961 Jim Fregosi
1953 Ernie Banks
1940 Pee Wee Reese
1930 Luke Appling
1915 Dave Bancroft
1897 Honus Wagner
1890 George Davis
   78. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:21 PM (#4769613)
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.

Davenport Translations, which compare each player's relative performance in every league season he participated in to estimate the strength of every league in history, basically confirm this. They peg replacement level as having improved by about 1.35 wins per 650 PAs from Wagner's time to Jeter's. So Wagner born in 1974 loses about 25 wins over the course of his career, leaving him... easily the best shortstop ever and clearly a top-ten position player. The curve just isn't that steep, as far as level of competition* goes.


* New techniques or equipment may raise the absolute level of play, but not the level of competition -- it's not as though mid-career players are barred from using them and get swallowed up by these youngsters with their newfangled video study and webbed gloves. The embiggened talent pool, extensive minor league networks improving the efficiency with which the talent is cultivated, increased competition from other sports, expansion from 16 to 30 teams, etc. are the things that change the level of competition.
   79. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4769619)
Honus Wagner threw so fast the pebbles would explode the lightbulb before it even flicked on.
   80. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:32 PM (#4769629)
Honus Wagner threw so fast the pebbles would explode the lightbulb before it even flicked on.


No, that's Hunter Pence.
   81. PreservedFish Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:34 PM (#4769631)
Hunter Pence forgets to account for the effect of integration when comparing the ballplayers of yesteryear to today's stars.
   82. McCoy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:38 PM (#4769634)
Ruth and his amazing shots were hit when bats were heavier because the strength to weight ratio for hickory is not as good as ash. Baseball was played in the daytime and had less games in traditional cooler months while having more games in the traditional warmer months. Thus pitched balls moved less and traveled further. Used balls that were horribly inconsistent and there is some evidence that they were even more lively than today's balls. Played in parks that were much more susceptible to wind. Faced pitchers that didn't really have the skillset to make hitters miss nor played against teams that had all that effective of a strategy when it came to pitchers and how to use them.

If we were to come up with 50 variables that cause a ball to travel far I would guess that Babe has at least 40 of those variables working in his favor.
   83. Ron J2 Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4769637)
#70 Right. Does he still punch an ump very early in his career. Or jump the team in a dispute about the way he was being used. Or pull a Ron Artest. Or pick up 5 suspensions in a single year or ... The list of things that would be major issues is not a short one.

OK, the phenomenally talented get many, many chances, and I think the low end for Ruth is Harmon Killebrew with better durability and more defensive value (and that's not intended as an insult. Somebody whose low end expectation is Killebrew plus is pretty special)

And I have absolutely no doubt that Cy Young would have been successful in today's game.
   84. Zach Posted: August 12, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4769647)
Goldman keeps on implying that deadball players were shrimps and weaklings, but I don't buy it. Look at the picture of his basketball team in 1911. The man is a specimen.

In fact, look at the picture underneath that.

Rod Carew is listed at 6'0", 170 pounds.

Honus Wagner is listed at 5'11", 200 pounds.

The Jeter Himself is listed at 6'3", 195 pounds.

Wagner is conspicuously more muscular than either of those guys.

According to this site, the average player in the roided up 2000s was 6'1", 190 lbs. So he's above average, even by current day standards.

The heavy bats argument is a non sequitur. It was the deadball era. If you took enough oomph out of the modern ball to take the home run out of the equation, you'd see a return to heavier bats.
   85. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:01 PM (#4769650)
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.

Not saying he would for sure. Maybe he sticks to booze and just plays hung a lot, which I think the Babe could handle. But it's a variable that I wouldn't risk if given the alternative of a sure thing like Gehrig.
   86. Zach Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:03 PM (#4769652)
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.
   87. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:04 PM (#4769654)
Miguel Tejada was shorter than Wagner, but a similar muscular build. He might be a good comp for power hitting, though Wagner had more to his game.
   88. bobm Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:07 PM (#4769658)
[7] From the movie "Cobb":

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 #####.
   89. cardsfanboy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4769675)
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"
   90. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4769687)
Finally read the article. There's a lot of good stuff in there. And the idea that the quality of play has improved over the last century is well supported and hard to argue against. But he's missing a step there when he concludes that the best player from the deadball era can't have been as good as the great players of today.

Wagner was a 151 OPS+ player. Jeter is at 116. OK, I buy it that Wagner would not be at 151 playing today. But I see nothing here to make such a definitive case that he has to fall that much.

   91. AROM Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4769690)
First thing I thought of with the first part of that comment was "John Belushi or Chris Farley"


Yeah, that too.
   92. Moeball Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:43 PM (#4769693)
Ruth's average distance dwarfs every subsequent power hitter to this day.


The heavy bats argument is a non sequitur. It was the deadball era. If you took enough oomph out of the modern ball to take the home run out of the equation, you'd see a return to heavier bats.

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.


Zach - the "deadball" era supposedly ended in 1920 and the AL was using livelier balls in the 1920s and 1930s - those were the balls Ruth was hitting for most of his gargantuan shots.

F=MA, yes? Given that Ruth's bats were what, 20 oz. or so heavier than today's bats - that increased mass would hit the ball with a lot more force, wouldn't it?

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.

Today's pitchers not only throw considerably harder than yesteryear's pitchers, they also throw splitters, cutters and sliders that Ruth never had to see. Although he probably did see a fair amount of spitters as opposed to splitters!
   93. BDC Posted: August 12, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4769702)
It's utter speculation, but I don't think Ruth (or Cobb or Hornsby or similarly troubled people) would get along all that different in the 2010s than they actually did. They played in a big, noisy, fishbowly media environment where most of the modern distractions were well under way. And they stayed in shape for a long time, and by and large showed up for work. That said, it was a somewhat different job in those days, less a corporate-spokesperson career and more "just show up at the park sober" ethic. It's interesting that even in his day Ruth didn't get the shot at managing that he craved.
   94. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4769706)
I can absolutely guarantee that if you transport Jeter back to Wagner's time, Jeter doesn't even sniff MLB ball.
   95. Huck Posted: August 12, 2014 at 05:05 PM (#4769712)
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 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.

   96. Copronymus Posted: August 12, 2014 at 05:33 PM (#4769734)
I can absolutely guarantee that if you transport Jeter back to Wagner's time, Jeter doesn't even sniff MLB ball.


Oh, come on, I figure there's at least a 5% chance that John McGraw would call him Chief and have him pretend to be Native American to get around the color line. Or maybe Rico from Cuba instead?

And then, presumably, he'd stick him in the outfield because that is a fight that Derek/Chief/Rico was not going to win in a million years.
   97. cardsfanboy Posted: August 12, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4769740)
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.


That is something that I would like to see in spring training, a player using a heavier bat to see how he does with it. Although the Cardinal announcers were talking with Matt Holliday and mentioned that some(not Holliday) players drop their bat weight as the season progress's to help combat fatigue(Matt says he doesn't because it just doesn't feel the same)

As others in this thread noted though, that in this day and age, it's possible that the pitching is to contact averse for it to be something that would happen.
   98. toratoratora Posted: August 12, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4769764)
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.

I'd maybe pick Cobb. Big guy, fanatical about conditioning, utterly 100% obsessed with being the very best, played with the hottest of spotlights on him almost his whole career, lived in controversy so the modern press ain't gonna bother him.

Imagining Cobb playing now, I picture a workout regimen that would make Jerry Rice weep for mercy.

(and please don't say he was a singles hitter. The man won a triple crown, had over 1100 xtra base hits, led the league in TB six times, hit three homers in a game and five in two...at 38. Heck, he has a higher lifetime slugging percentage than Eddie Matthews)
   99. Moeball Posted: August 12, 2014 at 06:13 PM (#4769766)
That is something that I would like to see in spring training, a player using a heavier bat to see how he does with it.

Given all of the shifts that are being used defensively now to combat all the extreme pull hitters - maybe the occasional switch to a heavier bat might benefit some hitters. As referenced in our discussions of the 1957 MMP:

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.”
   100. Zach Posted: August 12, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4769769)
Flip.
Page 1 of 2 pages  1 2 > 

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
aleskel
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogDealing or dueling – what’s a manager to do? | MGL on Baseball
(39 - 7:10pm, Oct 22)
Last: bobm

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(3135 - 7:10pm, Oct 22)
Last: Misirlou's been working for the drug squad

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 2 OMNICHATTER
(23 - 7:07pm, Oct 22)
Last: PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth)

NewsblogSielski: A friend fights for ex-Phillie Dick Allen's Hall of Fame induction
(170 - 7:06pm, Oct 22)
Last: Harveys Wallbangers

NewsblogStatcast: Posey out at the plate
(9 - 7:05pm, Oct 22)
Last: Merton Muffley

NewsblogHow Wall Street Strangled the Life out of Sabermetrics | VICE Sports
(3 - 7:05pm, Oct 22)
Last: Sunday silence

NewsblogRoyals are not the future of baseball | FOX Sports
(27 - 7:04pm, Oct 22)
Last: Belfry Bob

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(873 - 7:02pm, Oct 22)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogHunter Pence responds to Royals fan signs with monster Game 1 | MLB.com
(53 - 6:57pm, Oct 22)
Last: JAHV

NewsblogJerome Williams re-signs with Phils
(6 - 6:36pm, Oct 22)
Last: Brian White

NewsblogJay set for surgery — and for CF in 2015 : Sports
(1 - 6:32pm, Oct 22)
Last: Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling

NewsblogHitting coaches blamed for lack of offense - Sports - The Boston Globe
(18 - 5:40pm, Oct 22)
Last: Bhaakon

NewsblogBaseball's hardest throwing bullpen - Beyond the Box Score
(11 - 5:31pm, Oct 22)
Last: Walt Davis

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(339 - 5:16pm, Oct 22)
Last: Merton Muffley

NewsblogPrimer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-22-2014
(13 - 4:49pm, Oct 22)
Last: Walt Davis

Page rendered in 1.1681 seconds
54 querie(s) executed