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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Holmes: The Hall of Fame case for Wes Ferrell

“One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong” (files CC 75004 back into severely niobiten cabinet)

In the 1930s, Ferrell led all pitchers in complete games – he was a workhorse, similar in style to Jack Morris. And, like Morris, Ferrell did it in a hitter’s era where he didn’t always post a low ERA. Ferrell had an ERA of 4.08 in the decade, and 4.04 for his career, but he was a winner (again, like Morris). Ferrell won 170 games in the ’30s, a figure surpassed only by Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, and Red Ruffing. All three of those pitchers are in the Hall of Fame, the first two because they were outstanding, the latter because he was pretty good and pitched for a team that won all the time.

Ferrell, on the other hand, toiled mostly for losing teams (there the comparison with Morris ceases). His first seven seasons were spent with the mediocre Cleveland Indians, then he spent parts of four seasons with the Boston Red Sox, who had a winning percentage below .500 despite Ferrell and Grove being in their rotation.

...Ferrell’s name continues to crop up on the Hall of Fame old-timers type ballots because he won 20 games six times and did it for teams that were mediocre to average. He won 60% of his decisions despite pitching for teams that won about 51% of the time when he wasn’t on the mound. Ferrell threw a no-hitter and was a member of the very first American League All-Star team in 1933. He won 20 games when he was 21, 22, 23, and 24 years old. His 4.04 ERA is also not as bad as it seems, since the league average during his prime was about 3.75, and he ranked in the top ten in his league in the category seven times in an eight-year stretch from 1929-1936. If you want to view his accomplishments through the scope of modern advanced statistical analysis, note that he ranked second in WAR among pitchers four times.

...There’s no evidence to suggest that Ruffing or Herb Pennock were better pitchers than Ferrell. Ditto Catfish Hunter, who had an adjusted ERA of 104 to Ferrell’s 116, and who like Ferrell succumbed to an arm injury in his early 30s. Hunter had the fortune to pitch and win 20 games for a lot for winning teams, so that’s the only real difference between he and Wes. Ferrell was probably better than Catfish, but he deserves a plaque only if you believe every player who’s better than the lowest rung of Hall of Famer deserves to be enshrined.

Repoz Posted: November 13, 2012 at 06:16 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 13, 2012 at 08:32 AM (#4301159)
wes ferrell was a fine pitcher but enough with the guys pre 1970. it's the recent past group that's getting scr8wed due to writers inability to understand context.

folks from this community should be building those cases. not spending time trying to get some borderline hof player from 1935 into the hof

sincerely,

an old curmudgeon
   2. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 13, 2012 at 09:20 AM (#4301180)
And, like Morris, Ferrell did it in a hitter’s era where he didn’t always post a low ERA.

The only years in a "hitter's era" that coincided with Morris's career were 1993 and 1994, when he put up a shiny 5.91 ERA and a 17-18 record.

His 4.04 ERA is also not as bad as it seems, since the league average during his prime was about 3.75

Not sure where he's getting this, the lowest ERA in the AL during Ferrell's career was 4.04.


Ferrell, on the other hand, toiled mostly for losing teams

followed by
He won 60% of his decisions despite pitching for teams that won about 51% of the time when he wasn’t on the mound.

is pretty rich.

What a pathetic excuse for ar article.
   3. bachslunch Posted: November 13, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4301194)
Any argument pushing for

"[your favorite HoF snub pitcher -- fill in the blank here]"

while comparing that player to Herb Pennock and Catfish Hunter is a lousy argument.
   4. BDC Posted: November 13, 2012 at 10:50 AM (#4301222)
Eleven close comps for Ferrell, centered on him in terms of GS and ERA+. The range is very narrow because even a fairly tight range includes many, many comps; he just doesn't have a very unusual career:

Player             WAR  GS ERA+   W     IP
Ron Guidry        45.4 323  119 170 2392.0
Wes Ferrell       45.1 323  116 193 2623.0
Hippo Vaughn      43.1 332  119 178 2730.0
Bob Shawkey       41.9 333  113 195 2937.0
Claude Passeau    41.0 331  113 162 2719.2
Carl Mays         39.3 324  119 208 3021.1
Virgil Trucks     39.0 328  117 177 2682.1
Jesse Tannehill   38.2 321  114 197 2759.1
Jon Matlack       36.3 318  114 125 2363.0
Ned Garver        36.0 330  112 129 2477.1
Chris Carpenter   32.8 332  116 144 2219.1
Eddie Lopat       25.6 318  116 166 2439.1 


All good pitchers, but I'm not even sure they're all "HOVG." Depends on whether you're a "big-HOVG" person :)

Ferrell's inclusion in the HOM owes a lot, I'd imagine, to the late Dick Thompson's highly "granular" and persuasive argument that the basic data about Ferrell obscure a lot of the things that made him special, instead of just another good pitcher. At that, he's a just-over-the-bar Hall member, but I usually trust the HOM voters to have set their bar correctly. They'll just have a heck of an uphill battle convincing anyone with the keys to Cooperstown to follow their lead.
   5. AROM Posted: November 13, 2012 at 10:55 AM (#4301226)
Ferrell was on a HOF track in his 20's. After his age 30 season he pitched a total of 37 innings. There are a ton of guys like that. Dean Chance comes to mind, Dean had a better rate (119 ERA+ to 116) but 500 fewer innings. Though Ferrell and Chance were at the opposite ends of the hitting spectrum.

Chance's ineptitude is shocking to see, 0.066 average, struck out 2/3 of the time, 2 doubles are his only XBH in 662 lifetime at bats. While Ferrell was a league average hitter (exactly 100 OPS+). I was wondering why he didn't continue his career as a position player after his arm gave out, but thanks to SABR bio and bbref I see he did, just not in the majors. Very impressive numbers in the minors. Article doesn't mention WW2, I guess he was too old to be drafted. It is a little surprising that with the talent shortage in MLB from 1942-45, he didn't come back as a hitter.
   6. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4301231)
Wes Ferrell isn't a bad pick for the Hall of Fame but this article isn't helping him at all. Ferrell's numbers as a pitcher are borderline but he was one of the best hitting pitchers ever. His best argument is much more of a "peak" argument with some really fantastic pitching coupled with very good hitting.
   7. AROM Posted: November 13, 2012 at 11:15 AM (#4301246)
The article doesn't help him because the author is examining his case and then deciding against it. Towards the end he says "In my opinion, the incomplete career is just not enough to make Wes Ferrell a Hall of Fame member."
   8. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: November 13, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4301253)
Bob, your chart leaves out offensive WAR, which gets Ferrell to 57.2. Furthermore, he put up the entirety of his career total between 1929-1936 (56 WAR). Basically, he played at an MVP level for eight years, including a 10.4 WAR season in 1935. Ferrell is a clear HOFer.
   9. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: November 13, 2012 at 11:34 AM (#4301271)
post 8

no, he's not. he's borderline by any definition. he's also part of a segment of baseball history that has been given umpteen passes at the hall of fame. nor did he make some extraordinary baseball contribution that further elevates his candidacy. that and nobody from the ferrell family will likely care.

if ferrell is the one guy who gets 'punished' for the sins of others that is a very small price to pay if guys from the 70's and 80's get their due at some point.

wes ferrell was a fine player. anything else is a stretch and a waste of energy.

and i will honor that last comment by not posting further in this completely unnecessary thread
   10. KJOK Posted: November 13, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4301288)
According to the Hall of Stats (Wes Ferrell Hall of Stats Page) he IS worthy of the Hall of Fame Statistically.

His comps are:
Urban Shocker
Dizzy Trout
Dwight Gooden
Whitey Ford
Eddie Rommel
Orel Hershiser
Clark Griffith

   11. TR_Sullivan Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4301299)
I am reading every post and every comment, in addition to my own research
   12. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:02 PM (#4301301)
has been given umpteen passes at the hall of fame


I don't think it's a zero sum game. Electing Ferrell doesn't keep Lou Whitaker out. Players like Deacon White really never had "umpteen" tries. Early baseball has never really been considered by the writers - strictly the Veteran's Committee. The VC was often more interested in electing cronies of the VC than really diving in to baseball history.
   13. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:14 PM (#4301319)
TR - here are some good links:

Deacon White
Bill Dahlen

Wes Ferrell
Bucky Walters

Tony Mullane has been discussed in various ballot threads and has some supporters. Marty Marion never got his own thread because nobody considered him a legitimate candidate. One thing to watch out for in Walters' numbers is he had terrific defensive support.
   14. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM (#4301339)
Another point - disregard WAR for Tony Mullane unless you're prepared to do your own calculations. Quite a bit of his pitching WAR was in the American Association which was inferior to the National League of that time. A league adjustment is necessary if you're putting players on the same scale.
   15. TR_Sullivan Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4301340)
Thanks!!
   16. OCF Posted: November 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM (#4301346)
A few stray thoughts:

Ferrell's pitching career matches nearly exactly the highest-scoring leagues of the 20th Century. Of course, this directly explains his raw ERA, and requires that you study him from an ERA+ point of view. But there's another, more subtle effect: every inning pitched by him was higher-stress and higher-effort than an inning pitched in a different era. You might want to offer a small adjustment in your mind to the relative brevity of his career in IP terms.

My impression was that his offense - in particular, his power - tailed off at the major league level at about the same time his pitching did. I didn't know about a subsequent minor league career.

There were a number of P/PH combinations at about that time. Most of the others, such as Red Ruffing or Red Lucas, were classic PH stereotypes - LHB high-average hitters. Ferrell was a RHB home run hitter. An interesting comparison would be Earl Wilson. Wilson had much lower BA, but at least a little of that is the different times.

But the pinch-hitting adds very little to Ferrell's value. If you're looking at his pinch-hitting, then you really have to compare him to fourth outfielders, and in that context, his 100 OPS+ doesn't mean a lot. The primary value of his hitting comes from the games he pitched in. And yes, that resulted in real wins for his team, especially when you compare him to a Koufax/Chance sort of hitter.

We did elect him to the Hall of Merit. That might have been an overreach; certainly he's in the bottom quarter of our electees.
   17. BDC Posted: November 13, 2012 at 01:59 PM (#4301447)
your chart leaves out offensive WAR, which gets Ferrell to 57.2

The primary value of his hitting comes from the games he pitched in. And yes, that resulted in real wins for his team, especially when you compare him to a Koufax/Chance sort of hitter

Conceptually, this is unquestionable, but I'm sure the point came up in the HOM debate: how much should Ferrell's hitting be seen as an actual indicator of greatness, as opposed to relative positional value? That it helped win games is unquestionable, but when compared to some larger sense of how good a ballplayer he was historically, is it more than a curiosity?

Here are some comps for the batting side of Ferrell's career:

Player             WAR/pos   PA OPSSB        Pos
Wes Ferrell           12.1 1345  100  2       
*1/7
Ryan Hanigan           6.6 1320   96  0         
*2
Bob Wood               6.6 1368  101 15 
*2/5397846
Mike Sharperson        5.1 1383  102 22     54
/639
Rip Williams           4.7 1353   97 27     23
/958
Jed Lowrie             4.6 1307   97  5    
*6/543D
Dusty Rhodes           3.0 1318  104  3       7
/98
Leon Culberson         1.7 1348  100 28     
*8/975
Emil Batch             1.1 1361   97 37   
*57/9864
Jason Lane             0.9 1363   97 10     
*9/873
Cliff Mapes            0.8 1383   97  8      
*98/7
Wes Chamberlain        0.7 1352   96 20      
*97/D
Marv Throneberry      
-0.2 1331   96  3      *3/97
Chris Coghlan         
-0.8 1368   96 25     *7/894
Chris Johnson         
-0.8 1318  102 10      *5/39 


The list is ranked by WAR, and thus roughly sorted by position, with Ferrell way out on top as a pitcher, some catchers behind him, then some SS and 3B, then outfielders stacked C-R-L (roughly, mind you).

This way of looking at it asks whether Ron Guidry, hitting like Mike Sharperson, equals a HOFer (put aside the fact that Guidry was in a DH league, it's just a thought experiment). Extraordinary as Ferrell was for a hitting pitcher, he was utterly unextraordinary as a hitter. Does the combination equal baseball greatness? It's an extreme version of the Concepcion problem. You have an uninteresting hitter who excels defensively, but gathers value because his peers hit much worse than he does. Is he therefore a great player, or merely a good one with an unusual context?

I am not questioning the calculation or the logic that adds 12 wins to Ferrell's value because of his bat. I guess I'm just saying that it's really unusual, and it's hard to know how much to weigh in a HOF calculation.

   18. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4301472)
If he was a better hitter he might been moved to another position. The most comparable players to Ferrell are actually Negro League pitchers like Rogan. The bat definitely helped Ferrell's team win games when he was pitching.
   19. Hello Rusty Kuntz, Goodbye Rusty Cars Posted: November 13, 2012 at 03:05 PM (#4301527)
He was better than his Hall of Fame brother. There probably aren't many people who could say that.
   20. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4301565)
The 2013 ballot discussion is getting some discussion of the VC ballot.
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:08 PM (#4301579)
wes ferrell was a fine pitcher but enough with the guys pre 1970. it's the recent past group that's getting scr8wed due to writers inability to understand context.

folks from this community should be building those cases. not spending time trying to get some borderline hof player from 1935 into the hof


Agreed, my list of players deserving but not in, is almost exclusive over the past 50 years.

I think you start with the argument best eligible at his position not in,(and not likely to make it in) and choose from that group who you will campaign for.

C. Ted Simmons
1b. McGriff(Bagwell I think will go in eventually and McGwire and Palmeiro are a lost cause)
2b. Whitaker(or Grich)
SS. Trammell
3b.....Allen I guess or Evans.
OF. Raines, Walker,
DH. Edgar
P Brown.

I just don't see the need to campaign for a guy who isn't on the ballot and isn't the best guy eligible at his position.
   22. AROM Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:16 PM (#4301588)
He was better than his Hall of Fame brother. There probably aren't many people who could say that.


Paul Waner. George Wright. Frank Robinson.

Ok, Frank and Brooks weren't really brothers. Ferrell's the only one who's not in the HOF himself.
   23. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4301592)
Extraordinary as Ferrell was for a hitting pitcher, he was utterly unextraordinary as a hitter. Does the combination equal baseball greatness?

A good (not great) SS with a 100 OPS+ just may be a HOF candidate.

His hitting created real plus value for his teams...

Still at best he's borderline even with hitting IMHO
HOVG (and better than his brother)
   24. R.S. 2004 Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:24 PM (#4301600)
If Wes was as good as Hunter, he should be in. People forget that Catfish pitched for the awful Kansas city A's teams,
and the A's climed to their dynasty on HIS Back.
   25. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4301612)
Most HoM voters consider Dahlen to be better than Trammell. Ditto White over Simmons.
   26. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4301628)
Most HoM voters consider Dahlen to be better than Trammell. Ditto White over Simmons.


This is something I don't understand at all. Why is baseball the only athletic endeavour in which players have not improved over time? The record for the 100 m was 10.8 seconds in Bill Dahlen's time, so are we now going to pretend that that middle-teir sprinters who qualify for the Olympics with time in the 10.15 range are wouldn't win a race with the best sprinter in the world from 1890?

The idea that Bill Dahlen could be the equal of Trammell seems utterly preposterous to me.
   27. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:51 PM (#4301631)
Wes Ferrell: If you have not read Chris Jaffe's piece on HBT, you should. Chris took a close look at how Ferrell was used and learned that Ferrell actually pitched a lot against weaker teams once he moved out of Cleveland.

When you look at *any* starting pitcher before 1965, especially when you look pre-WWII, you need to consider how they were used along with their raw stats.

-- MWE
   28. Mike Emeigh Posted: November 13, 2012 at 04:58 PM (#4301638)
Why is baseball the only athletic endeavour in which players have not improved over time?


It's not. But where has the improvement come - at the top, or by the baseline moving upward from the bottom (i.e. the best players today aren't a whole lot better than the best players from the early days of the game, but the worst players today are far better than the worst players of the 00s and 10s)? I think you can make an argument that the top players of the pre-integration era would still be top players today, but the bench guys wouldn't ever sniff the majors and might not ever get beyond low Class A.

-- MWE
   29. cardsfanboy Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM (#4301659)
The idea that Bill Dahlen could be the equal of Trammell seems utterly preposterous to me.


Is that really the question that the Hof is answering though? I mean it's relative to era that determines the players value, not relative to different generational players. If Dahlen is significantly better to his peers than Trammel was to his, then it doesn't matter that Trammell is the better athlete.

Now the argument "Is Trammel's dominance over his peers, larger than Dahlen over his" etc. Other factors to include is increased talent pool, teams, etc. Is the number of hof quality players static(20-30 playing at one time) or is it relative (percentage of the players playing) etc.

   30. AROM Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:23 PM (#4301664)
This is something I don't understand at all. Why is baseball the only athletic endeavour in which players have not improved over time? The record for the 100 m was 10.8 seconds in Bill Dahlen's time, so are we now going to pretend that that middle-teir sprinters who qualify for the Olympics with time in the 10.15 range are wouldn't win a race with the best sprinter in the world from 1890?

The idea that Bill Dahlen could be the equal of Trammell seems utterly preposterous to me.


I'm comfortable with some timelining, and I'd take Trammell over Dahlen. But the sprinter comparison is flawed.

Take a 10.15 sprinter today, put him in 1890 shoes, on an 1890 track, and that race would probably be a lot closer than you think.
   31. AROM Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:33 PM (#4301672)
I would prefer to elect more players from the relatively recent past instead of putting in more guys from the early days of the sport, just because I think those eras are already well represented. Look at how many players have met the basic requirement for HOF consideration, 10 years played. Then how many are in the HOF.

Born before 1871: 202 players, 31 HOF (15.3%)
Born 1871-1890: 256 players, 39 HOF (15.2%)
Born 1891-1910: 370 players, 57 HOF (15.4%)
Born 1911-1930: 373 players, 32 HOF (8.6%)
Born 1931-1950: 610 players, 41 HOF (6.7%)

Some will say that the 19th century is under-represented because there are fewer players from that time than who played in the early to mid 20th century. I don't buy that. The population of the US was 3x larger in 1960 than it was in 1880. There were more teams, and those teams were playing baseball at a higher level than 80 years before, with better athletes. There should be more HOFers.
   32. cardsfanboy Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:40 PM (#4301685)
Take a 10.15 sprinter today, put him in 1890 shoes, on an 1890 track, and that race would probably be a lot closer than you think.


I was thinking the same thing. I remember someone once pointing to an analysis that showed that sprinters 50+ years ago performed the same physically, just didn't have the equipment advantages.

Some will say that the 19th century is under-represented because there are fewer players from that time than who played in the early to mid 20th century. I don't buy that. The population of the US was 3x larger in 1960 than it was in 1880. There were more teams, and those teams were playing baseball at a higher level than 80 years before, with better athletes. There should be more HOFers.


I agree with you for the most part, but in some respects, there is a pioneer bonus that any sport is going to give(rightfully so) to early adopters and promoters of the sport. It's not just about how good they were in the early days, but how they were received and how it helped the game. Having said(written) that, I'm fairly certain that the early guys who did provide those benefits, have all been elected.
   33. BDC Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:52 PM (#4301704)
I think you can make an argument that the top players of the pre-integration era would still be top players today, but the bench guys wouldn't ever sniff the majors

I think that's the way to look at it. I am not comfortable with the idea that Honus Wagner would be a AAAA player today at best (or whatever extreme time-liners might argue). There just aren't many generations between Wagner and now (he died three years before I was born!), and the human race has not been on a program of breeding supershortshops since then.

That today's league has gotten better at drafting talent from a much larger pool, despite inroads from other sports, is extremely plausible. But AROM's point about sprinters is useful here. Along with better tracks and shoes and technique, one thing that drives better sprint times is the absolute imperative to excel at a very narrow task. Baseball is not like that at the top. There's no imperative for Joe Cronin to outdo Wagner at every detail of the game, and then Banks to outdo Cronin and Ripken to outdo Banks or whatever. The greatest players stand out less from an improving context, but nothing's driving them to push the margin.

And pushing the margin isn't what it is in sprinting either. There, you go faster than the other guy. In baseball, you hit the fastball well, and they throw you a curve. You hit the curve and they develop a slider. You hit the slider and they throw the ball faster, whereupon you hit that and they … there's progress in a sense; the pitches probably are harder to hit nowadays (hence some timelining might be indicated), but it's more of a slow spiral, if not a continual reinventing of the wheel.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: November 13, 2012 at 05:56 PM (#4301711)
1. I think the HoF is about "greatness" not "value" per se. Those usually go hand-in-hand of course but, like BDC, Concepcion is certainly a place where I would part company (this is assuming you buy Dan R's argument to begin with of course).

2. I think time-lining is silly. I mean if you want to do a thorough analysis of the size of the talent pool over time and adjust for that, I think that would be really cool (whether I agreed with your adjustment or not). But all we can do with any reliability is assess players relative to their era.

Would Babe Ruth be as great today? Well, no, for the reason MWE mentions which is that the middle has closed a lot of the gap to the top. But also, what question are you asking? Are you asking "if we pluck Babe Ruth out of 1921 and stick him in 1991 would he have been as good as Barry Bonds? Well, we don't know but I'll agree our answer to that is "probably not." Or are you asking "if Babe Ruth had been born in 1965 instead of 1895 would have have been as good as Barry Bonds?" Now I'm thinking the answer to that is "it wouldn't surprise me one bit." If we further controlled for things and made Ruth the son of a major-leaguer who got to hang out with Mays and McCovey, probably get all sorts of specialized training, etc. then I'm even more confident Ruth would still have been awesome.

So I'm fine with the notion that if Ruth played in modern times that he wouldn't have had a 206 career OPS+ and I'm fine with the idea that Ruth the MLer was not as physically and athletically developed as players today due to changes in knowledge, technology, etc. But I'm not fine with the notion that Ruth did not have as much innate baseball talent as any player today. The one thing we can say for sure is that Ruth was by far the best white hitter of his era and therefore almost certainly the most talented. If you timeline him "fairly", he'd still be among the best hitters of this era.

The surprising part of the timelined Ruth is that, after being out of baseball completely for 3 years due to drug use in his early 20s, he found the Lord and is a prosletyzing jerk. :-)
   35. DL from MN Posted: November 13, 2012 at 06:37 PM (#4301757)
The idea that Bill Dahlen could be the equal of Trammell seems utterly preposterous to me.


Using your line of reasoning we probably shouldn't elect anyone now and should just wait 100 years for the really good players to show up.

It's about contribution relative to era. A pennant is a pennant. A Hall of Fame without pioneers (or the wrong ones) is just as ridiculous as a Hall of Fame without modern players (or the wrong ones).
   36. just plain joe Posted: November 13, 2012 at 08:15 PM (#4301887)
The surprising part of the timelined Ruth is that, after being out of baseball completely for 3 years due to drug use in his early 20s, he found the Lord and is a prosletyzing jerk. :-)


I used to be all messed up on drugs, now I'm all messed up on the Lord.
   37. alilisd Posted: November 13, 2012 at 08:52 PM (#4301932)
Ferrell's pitching career matches nearly exactly the highest-scoring leagues of the 20th Century. Of course, this directly explains his raw ERA, and requires that you study him from an ERA+ point of view. But there's another, more subtle effect: every inning pitched by him was higher-stress and higher-effort than an inning pitched in a different era. You might want to offer a small adjustment in your mind to the relative brevity of his career in IP terms.


I would hope everyone studies players using an adjusted point of view. ERA+ does not do much for him, finishing 2nd once, 5th once, 6th three times and 7th twice. Not bad, but not HOF great.

I could see the higher stress environment being a factor in his early demise, but, again, HOF players overcome these obstacles and still stand out as the best of their era. Looking at 1922 to 1945, basically 5 years on either side of his career, 17 pitchers threw at at least 2,500 innings and had an ERA+ of at least 110. Four of the top five in terms of ERA+ are in the HOF and all but Lefty Gomez (a not very compelling choice, IMO) threw more innings. Another HOF is at 9th in ERA+ at 118, but threw about 1,500 more innings. Ferrell falls in the bottom half of both IP and ERA+. He falls short of guys like Tommy Bridges and Dolf Luque; he ends up looking much like Claude Passeau or Mel Harder. Very good, but not HOF great.

I think if you want to look at Ferrell and find a HOF, it would not be in terms of ERA+ or giving him an adjustment for pitching in a high offense/stress era, but in terms of whether his teams won more games because he pitched very well and hit enough to influence the game. Certainly seems possible he did, though I have no idea whether if he did it would be enough to get him up to a HOF level. Personally, I find his career too short and his peak too low when looking at him solely as a pitcher.
   38. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 13, 2012 at 10:02 PM (#4301999)
I think if you want to look at Ferrell and find a HOF, it would not be in terms of ERA+ or giving him an adjustment for pitching in a high offense/stress era, but in terms of whether his teams won more games because he pitched very well and hit enough to influence the game.

Here's one way of looking at this - take Ferrell and BDC's comps for him from #4 and look at their W-L records, controlling for quality of team. (I'm controlling for team quality by looking at the team record each season in games in which the pitcher doesn't earn a decision, and regressing it 1/3 of the way to the mean as a rough way to control for the quality of the rest of the team's pitching staff.)

Ranked in terms of wins over .400, here's the list:
Tannehill 196-118 (+70)
Ferrell 195-126 (67)
Mays 191-143 (58)
Guidry 160-101 (56)
Vaughn 180-135 (54)
Trucks 175-137 (50)
Passeau 174-138 (50)
Carpenter 139-99 (44)
Lopat 154-124 (43)
Shawkey 180-165 (42)
Garver 149-137 (35)
Matlack 127-124 (27)

Not the most rigorous of methods, but not utterly horrible for back-of-the-envelope... anyway, Ferrell and Tannehill stand out well above the rest of the group. Tannehill, as it happens, was also a pretty terrific hitter by pitching standards (89 OPS+). So it looks as though hitting makes a decent-sized difference.
   39. Chris Fluit Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:17 AM (#4302151)
That's still a hall of very good cohort, not a hall of merit or hall of fame list.
   40. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 14, 2012 at 08:10 AM (#4302200)
That's still a hall of very good cohort, not a hall of merit or hall of fame list.

The point is that this group isn't really Ferrell's cohort (except for Tannehill), because he pitched as well as them and was also the best-hitting pitcher in MLB history.
   41. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: November 14, 2012 at 09:20 AM (#4302213)
Wes Ferrell: If you have not read Chris Jaffe's piece on HBT, you should. Chris took a close look at how Ferrell was used and learned that Ferrell actually pitched a lot against weaker teams once he moved out of Cleveland.

Why thank you, kind sir!

There is literally no other example in baseball history of a pitcher of Ferrell's caliber being used so often against second division teams while in his prime. Some pitchers matched up against lesser teams after their primes were over (Bob Feller most notably) but Ferrell was still a 20-game winner, whereas Feller was a spot starter at the end.
   42. bachslunch Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:06 AM (#4302235)
People forget that Catfish pitched for the awful Kansas city A's teams,

He pitched for the KC A's for three years and put up ERA+ numbers of 82, 85, and 114, meaning he was only even a very good pitcher once.

and the A's climed to their dynasty on HIS Back.

Which of course ignores the significant contributions made to the 1972-74 Oakland A's by Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando, Gene Tenace, Ken Holtzman, etc. Lots of big dogs were pulling that sled during those years.
   43. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4302260)
It's about contribution relative to era. A pennant is a pennant. A Hall of Fame without pioneers (or the wrong ones) is just as ridiculous as a Hall of Fame without modern players (or the wrong ones).


The bolded part was all you needed to say. Looking at it that way, I see your point. To say that Bill Dahlen was a better player than Trammell, if we could measure such things empirically, doesn't fly.
   44. DL from MN Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:26 PM (#4302462)
Good, I think we agree.
   45. tfbg9 Posted: November 14, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4302469)
There is literally no other example in baseball history of a pitcher of Ferrell's caliber being used so often against second division teams while in his prime. Some pitchers matched up against lesser teams after their primes were over (Bob Feller most notably) but Ferrell was still a 20-game winner, whereas Feller was a spot starter at the end.

From Baseball Reference.com:
Wes Ferrell:
W-L, W-L%, ERA, GS, IP:

Below .500 teams: 120-44,.732, 3.60, 162, 1364.1
Above .500 teams: 73-84, .465, 4.53, 161, 1257.0

Doesn't seem that dramatic, usage-wise. He did beat-up on bad teams, sure.

I'm far too lazy to extract-out the "in his prime" component of these numbers, so maybe that's where it'd appear?

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