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Monday, December 23, 2013

Joe Posnanski’s 100 Best Baseball Players: #76, Buck Leonard

The next time Leonard was approached by the big leagues was 1952 — five years after Jackie Robinson and others had crossed the line. Bill Veeck asked him to play for the St. Louis Browns. By then, Leonard realized it was too late for him. “I only wish I could have played in the big leagues when I was young enough to show what I could do,” he would say years later.

Instead, he went back in Rocky Mount, worked for the school district and helped out with the minor league team there. He was 65 years old when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In interviews, he would exhibit little bitterness over never playing in the majors but there’s a quote from Dodgers’ scout Elwood Parsons that breaks the heart. Parsons, according to the author Larry Lester, was a police court bailiff and a chemistry instructor when Branch Rickey made him the first black scout.

“I was talking about Robinson, Campy (Roy Campanella) and Newk (Don Newcombe) making it with Brooklyn,” Parsons said. “I’ll never forget Buck’s eyes filling with tears when he said, ‘But it’s too late for me.’”

This series has been criminally under discussed on BTF. It’s the best baseball writing I’ve read this year, and the four profiles of Negro League players alone are worth the price of entry. Then you have wonderful profiles of people like Robin Roberts and Hank Greenberg. So I’m just going to start submitting these as they come up, because frankly they are far more worthy of attention than the latest A-Rod kerfuffle. If you consider yourself a baseball fan you owe it to yourself to read these.

The List So Far:
100. Curt Schilling
99. Cool Papa Bell
98. Ron Santo
97. Lou Whitaker
96. Ichiro Suzuki
95. Mariano Rivera
94. Paul Waner
93. Craig Biggio
92. Old Hoss Radbourn
91. Robin Roberts
90. Mark McGwire
89. Bullet Rogan
88. Tim Raines
87. Nolan Ryan
86. Miguel Cabrera
85. Barry Larkin
84. Frankie Frisch
83. Gaylord Perry
82. Roberto Alomar
81. Joe Jackson
80. Johnny Mize
79. Smokey Joe Williams
78. Ryne Sandberg
77. Ozzie Smith
76. Buck Leonard
75. Tony Gwynn
74. Hank Greenberg
73. Arky Vaughan

The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 23, 2013 at 12:18 PM | 46 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: buck leonard, joe posnanski, joe posnanski top 100, negro leagues

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   1. VoodooR Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:02 AM (#4623297)
**crickets chirping**
   2. Greg K Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:07 AM (#4623300)
Well, I would recommend everyone to read this series, it has been absolutely fabulous...

But I did that about 18 times in the other thread about this project.

In all seriousness, I hope he turns this into something I can own and put on my bookshelf next to the Historical Abstract (next goal is getting him to do 100 at each position! Though I'm guessing (to borrow his fan ranking system from the Arky Vaughan entry) Poz doesn't quite have the knowledge to provide these kinds of write-ups of 900 players.
   3. Jick Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:19 AM (#4623304)
I'd been down on Posnanski's writing for a while - thinking that maybe the constant moves from employer to employer had somehow sapped his talent? - but this series has made me look forward to his posts more than anything he's done in years. The Negro Leagues installments have indeed been the highlights, but Joe Jackson, Johnny Mize, and Arky Vaughan were also excellent reads.

(I wish he'd do a better job of proofreading, but I'm reading these for free, and he seems to be posting seven days a week, so I can't complain too much there.)
   4. vivaelpujols Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:25 AM (#4623305)
If I can comment on his Schilling article (which was very good), this line (and his ranking) kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

There are a few pitchers with higher WAR than Schilling who I left out of the Top 100. There are quite a few pitchers with more than Schilling’s 214 wins who I left out of the Top 100. The wild inconsistency of Schilling’s career is a mark against him. He also suffered many injuries which shortened his career somewhat


Schilling has the 62nd best bWAR of all time among both position players and pitchers, so I'm guessing there are a lot more players who rank below Schilling who are in the top 100 than there are players who rank above him who are out. Even in an article where's he's being underrated (by WAR at least), Posnanski acts like he has to apologize for ranking him so high. Just looking at the first 10 names on this list who are ahead of Schilling, only 3 have higher career WARs.

I don't understand why Schilling is so underrated by baseball writers. He has the numbers, the dead father narrative, the post season heroics, one of the best peaks of all time and yet most people consider him a borderline HOFer. Mussina is in a similar situation, but he doesn't have Schilling's peak or his postseason numbers. He's more of a classic compiler who was consistently a 5-6 WAR pitcher over his career (not that there's anything wrong with that) so it's understandable why he'd be underrated.
   5. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:51 AM (#4623311)
It might have something to do with how Schilling is an insufferable blowhard.
   6. vivaelpujols Posted: December 24, 2013 at 02:07 AM (#4623313)
I doubt it in Poz's case.
   7. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: December 24, 2013 at 02:08 AM (#4623314)
It might also have something to do with Schilling being the 5th best pitcher of his time, or even lower if you think Glavine's better. At least he's considered "borderline" whereas Kevin Brown isn't considered anything.
   8. vivaelpujols Posted: December 24, 2013 at 02:29 AM (#4623319)
Glavine and Schilling are very close statistically with Schilling having a slight edge in overall value and a huge edge in peak value. I'm guessing Glavine makes the HOF on his first try and is top 50 in Poz' list with some qualification like "he arguably could be higher". We'll see... but the Glavine comparison kind of proves my point.
   9. Sweatpants Posted: December 24, 2013 at 05:48 AM (#4623329)
If you're going by BR's WAR, then it's Glavine who has slightly more overall value. Schilling might be ahead if you count the postseason.
   10. dlf Posted: December 24, 2013 at 09:48 AM (#4623360)
I think arguing about the precise rankings misses the point of these beautifully written and informative articles. We have a writer who clearly loves sports and can string together well written sentences. Complaining that the rankings don't line up precisely with an ordinal WAR ranking is arguing that Aretha Franklin couldn't dance.
   11. Morty Causa Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4623397)
According to BR's WAR, Schilling has 80.7 WAR in 3261 innings, an ERA+ of 127, and a postseason record second to none; Glavine has 74.0 WAR in 4413.1 innings and an ERA+ of 118, with a post-season career line that, except for actual win-losses, seems quite good. Glavine's post-season record is made a lot worse by those few times when he really stunk up the joint.

   12. Sweatpants Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:14 AM (#4623403)
According to BR's WAR, Schilling has 80.7 WAR in 3261 innings, an ERA+ of 127, and a postseason record second to none; Glavine has 74.0 WAR in 4413.1 innings and an ERA+ of 118, with a post-season career line that, except for actual win-losses, seems quite good. Glavine's post-season record is made a lot worse by those few times when he really stunk up the joint.
That doesn't include offense, which was a significant advantage for Glavine.
   13. Morty Causa Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:25 AM (#4623412)
Wow. Okay, but you still have the fact that Schilling's value on a prorated basis is quite a bit better.
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4623417)
Glavine and Schilling are very close statistically with Schilling having a slight edge in overall value and a huge edge in peak value. I'm guessing Glavine makes the HOF on his first try and is top 50 in Poz' list with some qualification like "he arguably could be higher". We'll see... but the Glavine comparison kind of proves my point.


I don't see it, I think Glavine has the edge in overall value, Schilling has a very(if any) slight peak advantage.


According to BR's WAR, Schilling has 80.7 WAR in 3261 innings, an ERA+ of 127, and a postseason record second to none; Glavine has 74.0 WAR in 4413.1 innings and an ERA+ of 118, with a post-season career line that, except for actual win-losses, seems quite good. Glavine's post-season record is made a lot worse by those few times when he really stunk up the joint.


I think it's wrong. Glavine basically put up Schilling's career from 1991-2005 posting a 128 era+ over 3305 ip, and before complaining too much about unearned runs, we are talking about Glavine putting up 1320/1204 r/er vs Schilling of 1318/1253.(back of the envelope calculations says that Schilling was an ra+ of 120, while Glavine's was 116, and considering that era/ra+ over states the relative difference, I'm content with calling it equal) not really a noticeable difference...yes it probably skews a tad towards Schilling, but not enough to create a compelling case. And then Glavine added another 1000 innings as an average major league starter(roughly 96 era+ over the remainder of his career).

   15. Guapo Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4623418)
Love the articles. But part of the fun is complaining about the ratings. :)

I mentioned on a previous link that if you're putting together a top 100 list, and you want to take into account some sort of equity across positions, one handy benchmark would be to look for about 28 pitchers on your top 100 list. That would leave 72 spots for position players, which you could spread across the 8 field positions- 9 spots per position. Obviously you wouldn't have exactly 9 from each position, and 28 pitchers seems like it might be too few, but it gives you sort of a sanity check.

So through his first 28, Poz has:

-ZERO catchers. Yikes. No Bench, Piazza, Berra, Fisk, Carter, Cochrane, I-Rod, Dickey, Hartnett, Campanella, or Josh Gibson. That's pretty tough. Some of those guys are obviously being left off- but which ones?.

-Four first basemen. If you assume he's only got room for 5 more, he's still got to make room for Gehrig, Foxx, McCovey, Thome, Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Murray, Anson, Roger Connor, Brouthers, Mule Suttles.

-Five second basemen already, and we haven't gotten to guys like Lajoie, Collins, Morgan, Hornsby, Carew, Jackie Robinson, and Gehringer. Presumably Grich isn't happening. Lou Whitaker looks like the most obvious mistake on the list at this point.

-Two third basemen (including Cabrera)- This is a notoriously weak position historically so might not get up to 9. But who do you leave off among A-Rod, Schmidt, Boggs, Mathews, Brett, Chipper, and Brooksie at a minimum?

-Three shortstops. Have to carve out room for Wagner, Ripken, Jeter, Banks, Yount, and Pop Lloyd. That might be it- Appling, Trammell, Cronin, and George Davis don't look like they'll make it if Vaughan, Ozzie, and Larkin are already off the board.

-Two left fielders. Still need room for Bonds, T. Williams, Musial, Yaz, Rickey, Al Simmons, Manny, Billy Williams, Stargell.

-One CF, which is good, because we need room for Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Speaker, Charleston, DiMaggio, Snider and Griffey, to start. Doubt there's room for anyone else.
Sorry, Turkey Stearnes and Billy Hamilton.

-Three RF. So there's plenty of room for Ruth, Aaron, Ott, F. Robinson, Kaline, Clemente... oops, we hit 9 already and we haven't even gotten to Sosa, Winfield, Sam Crawford, Reggie, Sheffield, and Vlad.

Oh, and don't forget the multiposition guys/DHs like Pujols, Rose, Killebrew, Molitor. Got to find spots for each of them, right?


-Eight pitchers- about where he should be. But if you only give him 20 more spots- well, we got to fit in Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Maddux, Clemens, Mathewson, Carlton, Randy Johnson, Alexander, Seaver, Spahn, Gibson, Pedro, Nichols, Feller, Koufax, Dihigo, Paige. Those guys seem like the no-brainers to me. So that gives you 2 spots to split between Hubbell, Palmer, Three Finger Brown, Niekro, Smoltz, Jenkins, Marichal, Vance, Whitey Ford...


Not sure how he's going to do it!
   16. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:34 AM (#4623422)
I agree with #10. These are beautiful homages to a game that we all love. We might disagree with the ordinal ranking, but the profiles themselves are never worse than above average and at their best match the legends. This is the type of project Posnanski was made to write.

This is, quite simply, the best baseball writing of 2013, and will very likely be the best baseball writing of 2014.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4623433)
I mentioned on a previous link that if you're putting together a top 100 list, and you want to take into account some sort of equity across positions, one handy benchmark would be to look for about 28 pitchers on your top 100 list. That would leave 72 spots for position players, which you could spread across the 8 field positions- 9 spots per position. Obviously you wouldn't have exactly 9 from each position, and 28 pitchers seems like it might be too few, but it gives you sort of a sanity check.


I dislike the assumption that 1. hof is spread out equally among positions 2. that positions are relatively equally valuable.

Historically shortstops and centerfielders have longer careers than the other positions, you would almost expect them to also have more players on a list of best of all times. Catchers have significantly shorter careers and you would expect them to not be as well represented.(along with third and second baseman) Add in that pitchers have an unusually large influence on the games they played, and you might expect for them to be fairly highly represented in these type of lists and of course there are players who move around and are hard to identify...what position did Stan Musial, Babe Ruth, Biggio, Yount, Carew, Banks, Arod, etc play?(which you did mention when talking about Pujols and Molitor)








   18. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM (#4623438)
#15, oh, I agree, and no one's top 100's are likely to be the same (see how Posnanski notes that basically no one will agree with him on Mo Rivera at 95th, many will think he shouldn't even be on the list, others will think he's way too low). But I would like to see some conversation about the actual articles too. Buck Leonard is a player that, like Bullet Rogan and Joe Williams, is not nearly as famous as he deserved to be. The same will go for Oscar Charleston and even Josh Gibson. The only Negro League player who gets anything like his just due is Satchel Paige, and even then he's probably less famous than someone like Dizzy Dean, who while great was not the player Paige was.
   19. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:56 AM (#4623441)
These aren't very good. The problem with Pos is that once you realize that he's fundamentally unable to critically assess the subject of his writing - that he is effectively unable to do anything but hagiography, or finding the sympathetic or human side in everything he writes about - then his ability to turn a nice phrase is fundamentally uninteresting. He put out an article on Bode Miller the other day that was embarrassingly saccharine, eliding over flaws in such a shameless way that you wondered whether NBC didn't hire him expressly to help them pimp personally unattractive Olympic athletes.
   20. AROM Posted: December 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4623444)
Do shortstops have longer careers than others? I think the list of shortstops playing to an advanced age is pretty small. Looking at the longest position player careers in terms of PA:

Rose: of/2b/3b/1b
Yaz: lf/1b
Aaron rf
Rickey! lf
Cobb cf
Ripken ss/3b
Murray 1b
Musial lf/1b
Bonds lf
Biggio 2b/c/of
Mays cf
Winfield rf
Yount ss/cf
Molitor 3b/2b/1b/dh
Palmeiro 1b/dh
Collins 2b
Vizquel ss
Speaker cf
Jeter ss
Brooks Rob 3b

I'd stick with these conclusions as to which stars have the longest careers:
1. Outfielders in general
2. It helps to be able to play multiple positions
3. Catchers need not apply
   21. Greg K Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:13 PM (#4623462)
I don't really know much about Bode Miller other than he plays for the bad guys at international events. Is he a jerk to small children or something?

I like Poz because he more or less writes from my perspective (loves baseball, likes to see the best in people), except better than I would have written it.
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4623464)
Do shortstops have longer careers than others? I think the list of shortstops playing to an advanced age is pretty small. Looking at the longest position player careers in terms of PA:


It was from a historical looking thing. I overstated Centerfield I think bad memory, or I used a different criteria before.

Number of players at each position with 1500 games played at that position.

C---30
1b---56
2b---34
ss---62
3b---39
lf---22
cf---34
rf---30

I'm comfortable with saying shortstops have longer careers than other positions, for all types of caveats (big one being that they don't get moved off the base if they don't have the bat for another position, but are good enough to warrant a roster spot)
   23. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:19 PM (#4623474)
Miller stands with his wife Morgan on the bottom of the hill, and he holds his daughter Neesyn Dacey and he looks happy. People around him talk about how much he has changed in the last couple of years. Bode used to be about Bode, they say. Now, it’s different. He married Morgan last year. He has brought his daughter along to numerous events, and he sometimes holds her while doing interviews He has been in a public battle with an ex-girlfriend, Sara McKenna, over the custody of their 9-month old son — something Miller admits has embarrassed him — but they seemed to make some progress last week with a temporary agreement.
   24. Greg K Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:19 PM (#4623476)
Dividing LF and RF might be misleading though. Off the top of my head, Manny Ramirez played around 1000 games in LF and 1000 games in RF (ok, 900). I think a guy like that should be included in a list of guys who had long careers at "one" position.
   25. Greg K Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:23 PM (#4623482)
Miller stands with his wife Morgan on the bottom of the hill, and he holds his daughter Neesyn Dacey and he looks happy.

Point made, it is a bit of a dick move to a saddle a kid with that name.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4623484)
Dividing LF and RF might be misleading though. Off the top of my head, Manny Ramirez played around 1000 games in LF and 1000 games in RF (ok, 900). I think a guy like that should be included in a list of guys who had long careers at "one" position.


Agreed for the most part, I was going to post outfield total (173...which is double the combined of the individual outfield positions) and just decided not to.

I think in my original research, where I came to the conclusion that shortstops and centerfielders have the longer career, it came about because of the ability of those players to move down the defensive spectrum prolonging their careers.

But yes outfield is probably your best bet for a long career.
   27. Greg K Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:32 PM (#4623491)
I suppose one way of looking at it is to take a few samples, say #10, #15, and #20 at each position and rank them. If you keep picking the SS (or whatever position) near the top of your list then that's an argument against equal representation in the Hall (or your top 100 list).
   28. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 24, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4623493)
Do shortstops have longer careers than others? I think the list of shortstops playing to an advanced age is pretty small.


Luke Appling added 19.2 WAR after his 39th birthday. Wagner 29.2 after age 37. No other infield position had any player who added more then Eddie Collins 16.8 after his age 37 season. I didn't expect to find that. I figured there had to be a 1B who added more value late in his career.

   29. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:02 PM (#4623518)
. I figured there had to be a 1B who added more value late in his career.


1b careers end pretty quickly. They aren't as bad as second baseman in that regards, but generally they don't have much of a career after age 37 as a profession.

Here is the list of first baseman(minimum 300 games played) who have put up 10 or more war from their age 37 season on. (and note, this guy is a third baseman)


Rk          Player WAR/pos From   To   Age   G   PA   AB   R   H 2B 3B  HR RBI  BB IBB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS    Pos      Tm
                                                                                                                             
1    Darrell Evans    12.8 1984 1989 37
-42 834 3132 2625 388 616 78  2 152 444 478  45 479 .235 .351 .440 .791 *3DH/5 DET-ATL 


It's true not many players/positions put up 10 war after their age 36 season so it's not a knock, but generally speaking if you look at the list of "old" first baseman, half of the list is players converted from other positions winding down their careers(Rose, Evans, Stargell, Julio Franco, Banks etc. ) with the other positions, if there is an older player playing it, there is a good chance it is the position they are identified with.

Mind you, it's truly staggering looking at the list of players with 300 games played at a position after age 36 and seeing none of the list with a good quantity of players.

   30. Guapo Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:04 PM (#4623519)
To clarify, I'm not suggesting a top 100 list should have exact positional equity, only that you can use it as a sanity check.

For example, if your top 100 has 15 LF and 2 SS, that might be a signal that your rankings undervalue defense.

The fact that Poz has not yet named a catcher to his top 100 suggests to me he may not be adjusting for their shorter careers in the way I personally would.
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: December 24, 2013 at 01:16 PM (#4623526)
I think with catchers, you just have to accept that it's a position that isn't going to be equally representated. Pos is obviously going to end up having Berra, Bench, Piazza and Gibson. He'll probably more than likely have Irod... And of course he might be inclined to include Campanella...not sure about the real pudge or others.
   32. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: December 24, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4623563)
I doubt we'll see Campy if we haven't already. Pretty hard to get him in the top 70. Of the others, I wouldn't be shocked if he doesn't have Piazza. The guy seems to be perpetually underrated.
   33. vivaelpujols Posted: December 25, 2013 at 02:15 AM (#4623777)
I think it's wrong. Glavine basically put up Schilling's career from 1991-2005 posting a 128 era+ over 3305 ip, and before complaining too much about unearned runs, we are talking about Glavine putting up 1320/1204 r/er vs Schilling of 1318/1253.(back of the envelope calculations says that Schilling was an ra+ of 120, while Glavine's was 116, and considering that era/ra+ over states the relative difference, I'm content with calling it equal) not really a noticeable difference...yes it probably skews a tad towards Schilling, but not enough to create a compelling case. And then Glavine added another 1000 innings as an average major league starter(roughly 96 era+ over the remainder of his career).


I'm sorry but your own logic fails you. If Schilling has a 4 point RA+ advantage over 7/10's of Glavine's career (if you get what I'm saying) and Glavine was slightly below average in the remaining 3/10's of his career.. those two careers seem roughly equivalent to me.

Also what do you think is going on here? Do you think Sean Forman made a calculation mistake that only effects Schilling or something? All pitcher WAR is is runs allowed, innings pitched, park adjustment and defensive adjustment. The defensive adjustment has Schilling having an average defense behind and Glavine having .12 runs above average defensive support which is ~6 wins over his career. So if you take away the defensive adjustment for some reason than Glavine has like a 2 WAR advantage over their careers.. so still roughly equivalent.

   34. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: December 25, 2013 at 10:46 AM (#4623803)
I doubt we'll see Campy if we haven't already. Pretty hard to get him in the top 70. Of the others, I wouldn't be shocked if he doesn't have Piazza. The guy seems to be perpetually underrated.


I bet we will. Unlike most of the other black stars of the 1950s, Campanella was actually a Negro Leagues star for years before coming to the majors (he started at like 16), and Poz will take that into account.
   35. cardsfanboy Posted: December 25, 2013 at 11:17 AM (#4623813)
I'm sorry but your own logic fails you. If Schilling has a 4 point RA+ advantage over 7/10's of Glavine's career (if you get what I'm saying) and Glavine was slightly below average in the remaining 3/10's of his career.. those two careers seem roughly equivalent to me.


4 points of era+ is absolutely nothing. Factor in that era+ is a semi-crappy stat that is surpassed by the superior era- which would have an even smaller gap and there is no difference between the two.

Then add in that as a career guy, 1000 extra innings being an "average" picture is extremely valuable and it's not comparable players. Glavine wins.
Also what do you think is going on here? Do you think Sean Forman made a calculation mistake that only effects Schilling or something? All pitcher WAR is is runs allowed, innings pitched, park adjustment and defensive adjustment. The defensive adjustment has Schilling having an average defense behind and Glavine having .12 runs above average defensive support which is ~6 wins over his career. So if you take away the defensive adjustment for some reason than Glavine has like a 2 WAR advantage over their careers.. so still roughly equivalent.


Not 100% sure what is going on there, but Schilling and Glavine have the same effective career regardless of what war is saying is going on. Glavine just adds 1000 ip more of average quality pitching.

   36. Greg K Posted: December 25, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4623832)
Doesn't Schilling have significantly fewer unearned runs allowed, making him under-rated compared to other pitchers using ERA (or ERA+)?
   37. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: December 25, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4623839)
Doesn't Schilling have significantly fewer unearned runs allowed, making him under-rated compared to other pitchers using ERA (or ERA+)?

Schilling allowed about 1 UER every 50 innings, for a .18 UERA; Glavine's UERA was about .34. This despite Glavine pitching in front of better defenses.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: December 25, 2013 at 01:35 PM (#4623840)

Doesn't Schilling have significantly fewer unearned runs allowed, making him under-rated compared to other pitchers using ERA (or ERA+)?


Yes, which is why I posted "ra+" over a similar span between Schilling and Glavine.
   39. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: December 25, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4623841)
Doesn't Schilling have significantly fewer unearned runs allowed, making him under-rated compared to other pitchers using ERA (or ERA+)?


As of a few years ago, Schilling had the lowest unearned runs per PA faced of any pitcher in history.
   40. Blackadder Posted: December 25, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4623852)
Not 100% sure what is going on there, but Schilling and Glavine have the same effective career regardless of what war is saying is going on. Glavine just adds 1000 ip more of average quality pitching.


WAR is not exactly a black box; we can go through this carefully, and you can say at what point you disagree. We are comparing Glavine from 1991 to 2005 to Schilling's career.

RA: Schilling has an RA of 3.64, Glavine is 3.59. Surely this is not objectionable.

Opponents: The opponents Schilling faced collectively scored 4.71 runs per game, Glavine 4.59. Again, this should be unobjectionable.

Park: Fulton County played as a hitter's park, Turner Field and Shea pitcher's parks. Overall, Glavine gets a park factor of 100.9. Schilling generally pitched in hitter's parks, and has a park factor of 103.6. Not an unvarnished truth like the last two, but surely reasonable.

Starting: WAR gives a bonus for starting, since starting tends to increase one's RA. Glavine gets a bonus of .17, Schilling .15; I'm guessing Schilling's relief days bring him down a little.

There is also defense, which we will do later.

So, ignoring defense, Glavine's "expected" RA is (4.59+.17)*1.009=~4.80. Over 3302.2 innings, that comes out to ~445 runs above average. Schilling has an expected RA of (4.71+.15)*1.036 = 5.03, which perfectly matches his BBREF page (since his defensive support is almost average), which over 3261 innings comes out to ~505 runs above average; this doesn't quite match his BBREF, since apparently there is some "recentering" afterwards. In any case, Schilling has a ~60 run advantage, which is not negligible; Glavine would have had to be about 13% more effective to catch Schilling.

Of course there are also Glavine's crappy years to consider; those are below average, but probably worth ~90 runs above replacement, so he does pass Schilling in career pitching value above replacement.

We have, however, ignored the elephant in the room: defense. You hardly have to be a FIP acolyte to think that defense has an impact on run scoring. rWAR has Schilling with almost exactly average defensive support(*), so we don't have to make any changes. Glavine, however, is credited with terrific defenses. This is perhaps more controversial, but it seems pretty obvious that those Atlanta teams had terrific fielding; when almost every pitcher you trot out "pitches" terrifically, you obviously should credit the pitching coach, but should probably also give a nod to your all-world center fielder too.

From 1991 to 2005, rWAR thinks that Glavine had .18 runs per game of defensive support. This knocks his expected runs allowed to (4.59+.17-.18)*1.009=4.62, which translates into 379 runs above average. Schilling now has a massive ~125 run advantage, which is why he leads in WAA by 54.1 to 39.1. Glavine can't even close the replacement level gap in pitching with his crap years, although his hitting brings him into a virtual tie with Schilling.

One obviously doesn't have to agree with all of this; personally, I think WAR overrates Glavine, since I have a suspicion that he benefited more from his defense than an average pitcher would have. But there is nothing mysterious going on here, no weird era adjustments distorting the numbers like we used to see with BP WARP. And if this is close to accurate, I don't see any way to rank Glavine ahead of Schilling.


(*)and in any case, Schilling was probably less affected by his defense than almost any pitcher in history
   41. DL from MN Posted: December 25, 2013 at 05:36 PM (#4623901)
Comparing Glavine to Schilling isn't complete until you add back in the value of Glavine's hitting.
   42. Morty Causa Posted: December 25, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4623903)
Did he hit when he wasn't pitching?
   43. vivaelpujols Posted: December 25, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4623909)
Who the hell cares about hitting when you're rating pitchers? If that's your only case for saying Glavine's ahead of Schilling than you're reaching.
   44. Greg K Posted: December 25, 2013 at 06:22 PM (#4623910)
If only for accounting purposes I think pitcher batting ought to be counted. Hits and runs by the pitcher are just valuable as those by the 2B.

I don't do it in my personal rankings as I am far too lazy, but in the interests of being comprehensive I don't see how you can ignore it. BRef has Glavine as 7 wins better with the bat (with Schilling having roughly 5 full seasons in the AL). Is that enough to put Glavine over Schilling? Not in my opinion, but I think this is a real difference in the value they each provided their teams.
   45. Morty Causa Posted: December 25, 2013 at 06:25 PM (#4623911)
FanGraphs has Schilling with a good bit more WAR than Glavine than does B-ref, I think.
   46. PreservedFish Posted: December 25, 2013 at 07:37 PM (#4623927)
FanGraphs has Schilling with a good bit more WAR than Glavine than does B-ref, I think.


I think that Fangraphs' approach (using defense independent component statistics instead of what actually happened) works well for individual seasons, depending on the question you're asking, but it fails for career retrospectives. Glavine always outpiched his component statistics. He doggedly worked the outside half, a predictable approach that led to more walks and easy dunk singles but really cut down on the extra base hits and homeruns. He used this approach even more stubbornly with men on base - strikeouts went down, walks went up, but homeruns were cut almost in half. He beat his FIP something like 17 out of his 21 seasons. I thought he was boring to watch, but when you look at his strategy from a wider perspective it's very interesting.

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