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Friday, August 24, 2018

Posnanski: Baseball 100 Rules

In this era of reboots, it was perhaps inevitable that Joe Posnanski would take another crack at the 100 greatest players in major league history. 

The Baseball 100 is more than just a ranking system to me. The difference between my 78th ranked player and my 212th ranked player is so miniscule that it’s mathematically irrelevant. With one slight adjustment, I could have those two players switch places.

Nearly all of the series is to be pay walled, but Zach Greinke is No. 100 on the list.

In the original version of this list, I included a bunch of Negro leaguers — I can tell you that four were in my Top 20. I still believe this. But Negro leaguers will now be a major part of my corresponding Shadowball 100….It’s an eclectic list that includes players who are, in their own ways, larger than life.

No. 100 on this list is Duane Kuiper.

 

 

Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 24, 2018 at 08:01 AM | 272 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, joe posnanski, joe posnanski top 100, reboots

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   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:14 PM (#5732437)
In the full article, Posnanski says that he tends to favor peak over career and to timeline pretty heavily. I think that's consistent with what he did the first time around. Greinke is currently tied for No. 138 in career bWAR. You could probably look above him to eliminate compilers and oldtimers, and look below for a few extreme peakers, and come up with something pretty close to his final list.
   2. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:23 PM (#5732442)
Greinke is currently tied for No. 138 in career bWAR.


Holy crap! I wouldn't in a million years have guessed that Zach Greinke was in the top 150 in career bWAR. He's ahead of Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Bob Feller, and Juan Marichal, just to pick a few guys who show up just below him in the list. I'm not saying that's wrong. Just I never would have guessed that Greinke had been that good for that long. I knew he had the two elite seasons (and if Pos is timelining and favoring peak, then Greinke making his top 100 makes sense) but didn't realize the rest of his career was so good (or so long; I wouldn't have guessed he'd played for 15 seasons already). I also didn't realize he was that good a hitter (4.2 of his 65.0 WAR is from batting).

But maybe all of that is just me.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:27 PM (#5732446)
But maybe all of that is just me.


It isn't just you, though in my case I may also be applying a subconscious WAR discount because I don't like him.

   4. BDC Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:45 PM (#5732452)
Career bWAR for pitchers can be a little counterintuitive at times. Juan Marichal has near-identical pitching bWAR to Greinke through age 34:

Player           WAR  GS ERA+   Age  CG     IP  ERA  FIP
Juan Marichal   61.2 414  127 22
-34 235 3236.1 2.78 2.98
Zack Greinke    60.9 407  124 20
-34  16 2617.2 3.38 3.38 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/23/2018.

Marichal started a few more games, had a slightly better ERA relative to league, and threw >600 more innings; I'd expect him to be ahead. I assume that the career FIP has something to do with bringing them closer together. Greinke also added about 1 WAR as a reliever in 2007. (Neither line includes batting.)

I included the complete games because Marichal would have pitched a lot more high-leverage close-and-late innings, especially in his lower-scoring era. I seem to remember that relievers get some sort of leverage bonus in bWAR (I may be completely wrong about that), but starters from earlier eras who threw a lot of CGs don't get a similar bonus for in effect being their own relievers, half or more of the time. Anyway, it's a bit odd to think of Greinke as the equal of Marichal (Marichal had only one fairly ordinary season and a few further appearances after his age-34 year, so it's almost his complete career).
   5. Rally Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:05 PM (#5732462)
career FIP has something to do with bringing them closer together.


Not on BBref. It's runs based only. Maybe unearned runs? Defensive support might be a big thing too - I think modern defensive statistical analysis has unearthed the surprising claim that the center fielder behind Marichal was above average.
   6. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:07 PM (#5732466)
Holy crap! I wouldn't in a million years have guessed that Zach Greinke was in the top 150 in career bWAR. He's ahead of Andre Dawson, Willie McCovey, Bob Feller, and Juan Marichal,

I did not remember at all how badly Marichal cliffed--he had 55 WAR by age 31 but just a total of 6 in his last 6 seasons
   7. Rally Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:08 PM (#5732468)
Actually, Marichal's career defensive support was .05 runs per 9 below average, despite having Willie most of his career. Greinke's is a little worse, -0.10.

Probably the unearned runs, Greinke has given up 74 in his career, Marichal 203.
   8. BDC Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5732475)
Thanks, Rally. I hadn't looked at the UER, that makes sense.
   9. Ziggy's screen name Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:01 PM (#5732502)
Wouldn't offensive context have something to do with it too? Marichal led the league in ERA in 1969 with a 2.10 figure. The league as a whole had a 3.59 ERA. In 2009 Greinke led the league with a 2.19 ERA, against a league average of 4.45. (And of course the years prior Marichal benefited from the mini-deadball.) Greinke's 3.38 ERA just might be more impressive than Marichal's 2.78, even before you get to the UER. (I'm not enough of a B-R wizard to know how to check.)
   10. dlf Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:23 PM (#5732510)
FYI - It's behind the paywall, but Pos just posted #99, Charlie Gehringer.
   11. RoyalFlush Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:28 PM (#5732511)
So, the whole thing is behind a paywall? I don't get it, but more power to him. I really like Pos and his writing, but I'm not paying to read anyone's top 100 list.

   12. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:51 PM (#5732515)
Zack Greinke has 65 WAR already. That seems like a lot. He is almost caught up to Don Sutton in less than half the innings.

Zack Greinke
2617.2 IP
124 ERA+
60.9 pitching WAR
4.2 hitting WAR

Don Sutton
5282.1 IP
108 ERA+
68.6 pitching WAR
-1.6 hitting WAR

Bert Blyleven
4970.0 IP
118 ERA+
96.6 pitching WAR
-1.6 hitting WAR

Only 3 active pitchers have reached half as many IP as Don Sutton.
   13. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:48 PM (#5732557)
The difference between my 78th ranked player and my 212th ranked player is so miniscule


I weep for the republic.

   14. DanG Posted: August 23, 2018 at 07:47 PM (#5732586)
Top ten active in pitching WAR:

Player            WAR WAAERABorn   W   L     IP
Clayton Kershaw  62.1 45.8  161 1988 150  69 2051.1
Justin Verlander 62.0 36.7  125 1983 200 122 2714.2
CC Sabathia      61.9 29.7  118 1980 244 150 3436.1
Zack Greinke     60.9 38.0  124 1983 184 115 2617.2
Cole Hamels      53.9 33.5  123 1983 155 111 2501.2
Max Scherzer     51.9 34.1  131 1984 157  80 2071.2
Felix Hernandez  51.2 26.6  120 1986 168 125 2638.0
Bartolo Colon    48.2 16.5  106 1973 247 187 3455.2
Jon Lester       43.1 22.2  122 1984 173  97 2330.1
Chris Sale       42.7 28.8  144 1989 103  62 1470.1 

Top ten active pitching WAR in 1982:

Player          WAR WAAERA+   W   L     IP
Gaylord Perry  92.1 45.7  119 307 251 5163.2 H
Tom Seaver     92.1 59.1  132 264 156 3900.1 H
Phil Niekro    87.3 49.5  121 257 220 4417.2 H
Fergie Jenkins 81.4 42.7  116 278 217 4333.1 H
Steve Carlton  78.8 42.7  122 285 184 4275.0 H
Jim Palmer     68.6 34.1  128 263 145 3853.2 H
Luis Tiant     66.1 34.6  114 229 172 3486.1
Bert Blyleven  65.2 38.2  126 169 150 3021.0 H
Don Sutton     57.0 21.8  112 258 193 4137.1 H
Tommy John     55.9 24.2  118 237 171 3709.2 
   15. BDC Posted: August 23, 2018 at 08:02 PM (#5732595)
Greinke's 3.38 ERA just might be more impressive than Marichal's 2.78


I would reckon this is accounted for by ERA+ (where Marichal is still a bit ahead).
   16. Ziggy's screen name Posted: August 23, 2018 at 08:28 PM (#5732607)
Ziggy: paying attention since 1972.

But anyways, if 60 points of ERA turns into 3 points of ERA+ that's not so much for unearned runs to make up.
   17. QLE Posted: August 23, 2018 at 08:31 PM (#5732609)
Actually, Marichal's career defensive support was .05 runs per 9 below average, despite having Willie most of his career.


Part of it is that, after 1966, Mays' Rfield drops like a rock, when Marichal still had a lot more career left to go.

Another part is that, even when Mays was Mays in the outfield, he also had the legendarily inept Jim Ray Hart, Willie McCovey in a position he really had no business playing, and a defensively-indifferent Orlando Cepeda, as well as the usual folk from the Giants over-the-hill gang (Duke Snider on his last legs, Harvey Kuenn for who-knows-what reason). There's only so much a really good fielder can do when faced with that situation.
   18. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: August 23, 2018 at 08:46 PM (#5732617)
Probably the unearned runs, Greinke has given up 74 in his career, Marichal 203.

To be fair, unearned runs were more common back then than they are now... but not 3 times as common.

(UER per 9 innings in the '65 NL were 0.49, in the '09 AL 0.36.)
   19. Endless Trash Posted: August 23, 2018 at 09:11 PM (#5732629)
So, the whole thing is behind a paywall? I don't get it, but more power to him. I really like Pos and his writing, but I'm not paying to read anyone's top 100 list.


You're not paying to read a list, you're paying to read 100 excellent articles. If you're a fan of his writing, it's well worth it. If you're not, then who cares.
   20. Damon Rutherford Posted: August 24, 2018 at 07:57 AM (#5732771)
You're also paying to read other articles, not just the Top 100. For example, he's writing the Shadow 100, a list of 100 other players. Plus there's a message board, supposedly bonus PosCasts, etc.

It's akin to billjamesonline.com, I think.

Pos has over 1100 patrons already (been about a month). If a writer can manage ~1500 readers paying $3/month or more, that's at least $50k.

   21. bobm Posted: August 24, 2018 at 09:06 AM (#5732800)
[13]
Looking at the Corpus, we've discovered that the spelling miniscule now makes up around 52% of the total use of the word. This includes examples in printed sources such as newspapers and periodicals as well as in chatrooms or unedited personal blogs. This is from an online edition of a well-known Scottish Sunday paper:

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has a budget of about £1 million, a miniscule amount compared to Cannes or Venice.

and this is from a zoological journal:

Though a few other insects have been shown statistically to have minute differences in wing size, the variances have been too miniscule for the human eye to detect.

But even though the spelling miniscule is slightly more frequent, it hasn't yet become accepted as standard English and you should still treat it as an error to be avoided. If you look up minuscule in the dictionary you'll find that there's a note explaining this. Nevertheless, what's considered controversial today may become acceptable: at some future time, miniscule may be added as a valid alternative spelling.


https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/spelling/minuscule-or-miniscule

See also Google Books ngrams viewer
   22. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 24, 2018 at 09:08 AM (#5732801)
You're not paying to read a list, you're paying to read 100 excellent articles. If you're a fan of his writing, it's well worth it. If you're not, then who cares.


Exactly.

I'm glad there seems to be a more regular release of the names this time.
   23. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: August 24, 2018 at 01:23 PM (#5733078)
So, the whole thing is behind a paywall? I don't get it, but more power to him.

The chief benefit of this is that fewer people will notice when he reboots the thing midway through after realizing some player who belonged in the top 20 was going to be left out entirely.
   24. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: August 24, 2018 at 02:27 PM (#5733139)
You couldn't pay me to read Posnanski at this point. He used to be my favorite current sports writer.
   25. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 24, 2018 at 02:58 PM (#5733169)
fewer people will notice when he reboots the thing midway through


I've wondered about the best way to do something like this. You lose a good bit of the drama as it becomes obvious who the final 50 or so will be and, as Posnanski notes, the exact rankings are easily changeable depending on what you feel like emphasizing on a given day. Starting with one and moving to 100 would at least have the small drama of which borderline guys will make the final cut. I think the best way to do it, though, might be to skip around, do 100, then 36, then 12, then 71, and fill in the list as you went along. Maybe hold the top 3-5 for last.

I used to go to a deli that used a similar system. They did the "take a number" thing, but didn't have money for a number dispenser, so they just stole a bunch of number tags from some other place, put them in a basket and recycled them. The finished orders would be called, "number 7...84...53...16...." The regulars took it in stride, but first-timers could get quite agitated and it could be very interesting.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: August 24, 2018 at 06:20 PM (#5733337)
A small local noodle shop mostly has stuff in the steam table but you can order some special items off the bigger menu. There are never more than 2 or 3 of us waiting for a special item yet they have these numbered plastic disks (kinda like poker chips) that they hand out that go up into the high 100s and are handed out randomly. Doubly odd is that when you order and pay (always when you order) they give you this disk and a laminated bit of paper saying "PAID" -- just in case I was carrying around a couple of hundred counterfeit plastic discs with me so I'd have the right number to steal a dish that somebody else had paid for ... and hadn't noticed their number had been called.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: August 24, 2018 at 08:26 PM (#5733381)
WFAN NYC sports radio loudmouth Mike Francesa has just launched a new "app" which you can add for the bargain annual price of $98

get yours now before they run out of them!

"This app is going to be about me," Francesa said last week during a question-and-answer session on Twitter. "This app is about me. It's going to be me on it all the time, it will eventually be my broadcast home."

Francesa said he plans to be live on it at "crazy hours," adding he could start yakking at 7 a.m. or 2 a.m., depending on when the spirit moves him. "I promise you, you'll get sick of me, I'll be on the app so long," he said.
   28. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 24, 2018 at 09:08 PM (#5733408)
That's going to be about as popular as the Christopher Russo Ringtone and Alarm app.
   29. Tim M Posted: August 24, 2018 at 09:51 PM (#5733431)
Rule 1. Oh, wait, I already told you Rule 1.


Rule 1 needs to be that the Babe is #1. Any other list is invalid. He says the list will reflect that modern players are "better" and I think he's gonna pull some crap like ranking Bonds ahead of the Babe or something ("Ruth isn't going to be rated #47 or anything like that" - hey thanks!)

When I was a kid the first book I obsessed about was Maury Allen's Baseball's 100 and I fumed and stewed at how he ranked Babe #3, behind Mays and Aaron.

Ask me how I really feel..
   30. Howie Menckel Posted: August 24, 2018 at 10:07 PM (#5733435)
yeah, I had that Maury Allen book!
   31. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2018 at 10:59 PM (#5733454)
I included the complete games because Marichal would have pitched a lot more high-leverage close-and-late innings, especially in his lower-scoring era. I seem to remember that relievers get some sort of leverage bonus in bWAR (I may be completely wrong about that), but starters from earlier eras who threw a lot of CGs don't get a similar bonus for in effect being their own relievers, half or more of the time. Anyway, it's a bit odd to think of Greinke as the equal of Marichal (Marichal had only one fairly ordinary season and a few further appearances after his age-34 year, so it's almost his complete career).


agree with that, the thing that gets missed about pitchers today versus the past is the relative performance from the late innings by the starters. A complete game helps the team tremendously, and it's not really well captured by bwar. Obviously advance stats are going to miss 'future' performance type of options, there really is no way to capture that data... going 8 innings as a starter saving the best relievers for the next day helps the team beyond just todays game. etc.


   32. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2018 at 11:01 PM (#5733456)
Not on BBref. It's runs based only. Maybe unearned runs? Defensive support might be a big thing too - I think modern defensive statistical analysis has unearthed the surprising claim that the center fielder behind Marichal was above average.


I'm reading this thread for the first time right now, and replying to comments as I see them, I'm fairly certain someone after this post clarified that this isn't entirely accurate. It is runs based, absolutely, but there is still a defensive component included in their numbers beyond just raw runs allowed.
   33. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2018 at 11:05 PM (#5733460)
To be fair, unearned runs were more common back then than they are now... but not 3 times as common.


agreed, this is the problem with using uer for any analysis, except to compare contemporaries. I get that there is some useful information in there, but considering the changing standards of uer over the years, it makes it hard to be used in an argument comparing players of different eras and trying to argue an adjustment.
   34. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2018 at 11:11 PM (#5733465)
You're also paying to read other articles, not just the Top 100. For example, he's writing the Shadow 100, a list of 100 other players. Plus there's a message board, supposedly bonus PosCasts, etc.

It's akin to billjamesonline.com, I think.

Pos has over 1100 patrons already (been about a month). If a writer can manage ~1500 readers paying $3/month or more, that's at least $50k.


here is the thing, from a user point of view, that money slowly adds up... I mean I have cut the cord, and yet still play for 1. Netflix 2. Slingbox 3. Marvel Unlimited 4. Amazon Prime(annual) 5. Hulu(although that is a cheat, I'm illegally sharing with a friend...they get Netflix, I get Hulu---there is zero chance I would actually subscribe to it, and in the three months I've had the share, I've watched a total of 6 episodes of Firefly---which I own the DVD for, and about 8 episodes of Rick and Morty---which I already have downloaded) 6. CBS (which I've literally never used....so that is my stupidity that I need to cancel) 7. MS Office (and several others related to that) and I'm considering Britbox, and of course the Disney one when it comes out.... and I've even considered the .99 STLToday subscription, and about a dozen others, but my better demon usually wins out to stop me from being to aggressive with my spending.
   35. cardsfanboy Posted: August 24, 2018 at 11:26 PM (#5733470)
Rule 1 needs to be that the Babe is #1. Any other list is invalid. He says the list will reflect that modern players are "better" and I think he's gonna pull some crap like ranking Bonds ahead of the Babe or something ("Ruth isn't going to be rated #47 or anything like that" - hey thanks!)


Yep, the only other name that remotely has a possibility of ever being ahead of Ruth on any list of greatest of all time, that includes a subjective component is Jackie Robinson... that is it. And nobody is going to make the argument that Jackie was the better player, but his impact on the game might have been bigger than Ruth's.... I'm fine with Bonds number two, but I would probably put Mays 2(as a nod to modern players of him over Cobb) but the top seven best players of all time in baseball history is so far, kinda static... in no particular order(except 1) it's Ruth, Mays, Cobb, Bonds, Williams, Cy, and Johnson... with a few other names being "surprises" to the list (Wagner and Hornsby most notably on the offensive side and Clemens on the pitching side and of course Josh Gibson) (and yes I owe Aaron, Stan, Speaker and Alexander apologies for not putting them on the short list, because honestly they aren't on the short list)
   36. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 24, 2018 at 11:47 PM (#5733483)
The first time around, he placed Collins up at No. 40, so I was wondering if he'd timeline Wagner down into the 20s somewhere. I think Roger Conner was the only 19th position player he put on the list?

Edit: never mind. Conner wasn't on the first list.
   37. Endless Trash Posted: August 25, 2018 at 07:37 AM (#5733522)
The best player in any sport playing 100 years ago is ridiculous beyond belief.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:41 AM (#5733525)
The best player in any sport playing 100 years ago is ridiculous beyond belief.


That is kinda an open ended comment, what are you trying to say?
   39. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:48 AM (#5733526)
agreed, this is the problem with using uer for any analysis, except to compare contemporaries. I get that there is some useful information in there, but considering the changing standards of uer over the years, it makes it hard to be used in an argument comparing players of different eras and trying to argue an adjustment.


The unearned run problem is much bigger than this. It affects offensive stats too, such that current offensive metrics overstate the value of older players relative to today.
   40. SoSH U at work Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:55 AM (#5733527)
The unearned run problem is much bigger than this. It affects offensive stats too, such that current offensive metrics overstate the value of older players relative to today.


How so?

   41. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 10:08 AM (#5733537)
Take any linear weights-type formula. It gives a value of, say, .44 runs to a single, and then values all other offensive events (HR, T, HBP, etc.). It adds them all up and gives an estimate of the number of runs created by those events.

The problem is that those "offensive events" aren't the only events which affect scoring. The obvious omission is errors. A linear weights formula (and all the metrics we use are based on linear weights) doesn't account for them in estimating runs created. They become part of the background context, like park factors, except park factors get included later on in calculating OPS+.

A single, all by itself, isn't actually "worth" .44 runs. It's only worth that much *in the context of other events*. But if those "other events" include errors -- because runs do score on errors -- and if we don't account for errors, then we're missing an essential component of offense.

Does this matter? Yeah, it matters a lot. If you look at the numbers from, say, 1905, roughly 30% of all runs scored on errors. Today that number is more like 7%. What this means is that a formula which applies a constant value of .44 runs to a single in both 1905 and 2018 will overstate the actual *offensive* contribution of the players in 1905. The offensive player in 1905 actually created many fewer runs than we now credit to him; the defense just made a lot more mistakes which led to runs above and beyond what the batter did.

You could say that this will get picked up in the defensive stats for metrics like WAR. Unfortunately, they don't. Those metrics compare players to the average *during that season*. Thus, if Joe Tinker made 67 errors in 1905, he only gets compared to other players in 1905, not to, say, Brandon Crawford (who made 11 last year). The defensive measures don't pick up this difference between eras.

This isn't just an issue between the Deadball Era and today. Errors have declined pretty steadily ever since the early years. Players in the 1920s made fewer errors than they did in the Oughts, players in the '50s made fewer errors than they did in the '20s, and players today make fewer errors than players did in the '50s.

The obvious solution to this problem is to re-do the linear weights estimates using earned runs only. That will give an estimate of the actual *offensive* contributions.
   42. SoSH U at work Posted: August 25, 2018 at 10:22 AM (#5733540)
The offensive player in 1905 actually created many fewer runs than we now credit to him; the defense just made a lot more mistakes which led to runs above and beyond what the batter did.


Wouldn't a lot of that be offset by the fact that the defense was getting debited for plays not made that today would be scored as hits?
   43. cardsfanboy Posted: August 25, 2018 at 10:25 AM (#5733541)
To me it seems like it's undervaluing players of the past, since they aren't getting credited for roe, considering that an error in their day is a legitimate potential outcome, and it makes strikeouts far more damaging than it would be today. And of course considering that the standards for an error has decreased for decades....a two base error in 1970 is more often called a double today.

   44. McCoy Posted: August 25, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5733547)
I'm pretty sure a good chunk of linear weights out there look at ROE.
   45. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 10:59 AM (#5733548)
@42/43: Changes in the standards used by official scorers are impossible to measure. All we have to go on are the actual events. I'm not saying you're wrong, just that we can't measure it. I would say that if it's true that official scorers are applying different standards, then we'd have to stop using ERA (or ERA+) to compare pitchers across eras (heh).

Strikeouts have been increasing as errors have decreased. I haven't looked at it, but I suspect that the risks of a DP account for this.
   46. BDC Posted: August 25, 2018 at 11:38 AM (#5733554)
Small snapshot of Juan Marichal in 1969, almost the first thing I saw when I went looking:

Four-game weekend series, Houston at San Francisco, 25-27 April.

Friday night, Bobby Bolin starts, Frank Linzy (the Giants' incumbent fireman) gets roughed up in 1 2/3 innings, but the Giants win in the 13th behind a long relief stint by Joe Gibbon.

Saturday afternoon, Marichal wins a complete game 2-1. The Giants go ahead 2-1 in the 5th; Marichal pitches a perfect 7th, 8th, and 9th – though I reckon they are just treated as any other innings, they are the equivalent of a three high-leverage 2010s relief performances of the present day, on top of a quality start.

Sunday – and this is fanboy's point – Linzy, with a full day of rest, pitches 3 2/3 innings and saves both games of a doubleheader (Ray Sadecki knocked out early in the first game, Mike McCormick leaving in the 8th of the nightcap).

The series is bookended by complete-game wins by Gaylord Perry, BTW.

I guess, in the 2010s, the issue of saving the bullpen is no longer as crucial. Every manager plans to use relievers in the 7th, 8th, and 9th, and I am not sure how much the 6th matters. But in 1969, Linzy is the staff's way of getting from Perry/Marichal back to Perry/Marichal, and being able to rest him when the stoppers are on the mound is essential.

I don't have any strong feeling about how this should be calculated into value, just noticing that Marichal's role is different from Greinke's in a couple of ways other than sheer IP volume.
   47. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 25, 2018 at 11:44 AM (#5733555)
the top seven best players of all time in baseball history is so far, kinda static... in no particular order(except 1) it's Ruth, Mays, Cobb, Bonds, Williams, Cy, and Johnson... with a few other names being "surprises" to the list (Wagner and Hornsby most notably on the offensive side and Clemens on the pitching side and of course Josh Gibson) (and yes I owe Aaron, Stan, Speaker and Alexander apologies for not putting them on the short list, because honestly they aren't on the short list)


Without thinking about it too deeply, I'm sort of surprised to see a Cards fan not mentioning Musial ... unless he's there & I'm still to sleep-dazed to pick up on it. (Was going to say the same thing about Hornsby, but yeah, there he is.)
   48. Howie Menckel Posted: August 25, 2018 at 12:08 PM (#5733557)
well, I don't think "Stan" is Stan Williams, Coveleski, Hack, Bahnsen, or Javier - though they all had some merit
   49. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 25, 2018 at 12:22 PM (#5733563)
Aha! Knew I had to be missing something, but as alluded to was only about halfway into my day's dose of caffeine (read: frappucino, homemade #ThankYouMrCoffeeFrappeMaker).

Apropos of nothing -- I got Coveleski's autograph on a postcard & probably 3x5 index cards as well via SASE as a kid. Musial's address must not've been on the photocopies list I'd bought for a buck & was working from.
   50. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 12:37 PM (#5733567)
The best player in any sport playing 100 years ago is ridiculous beyond belief.

Is it any more ridiculous than the best composer ever writing 200+ years ago, or the best writer in the English language writing 400+ years ago?
   51. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 25, 2018 at 12:53 PM (#5733572)
The best player in any sport playing 100 years ago is ridiculous beyond belief.

Is it any more ridiculous than the best composer ever writing 200+ years ago, or the best writer in the English language writing 400+ years ago?


That immediately occurred to me as well, but I guess the difference is that athletic prowess has a lot -- everything, pretty much -- to do with physicality, which demonstrably evolves over time, despite obvious exceptions. Artistic pursuits are, in contrast, intellectual, where evolution over time isn't nearly as evident, if indeed it exists at all, AFAIK.

Note: Even so, I regard the Babe as No. 1 all-time. (And, going back nearly 60 years, Wilt as probably the best basketball player ever, or at the very least the most athletically gifted individual to ever come down the pike ... even though I couldn't stand him when I was a kid.)
   52. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 12:59 PM (#5733575)
That immediately occurred to me as well, but I guess the difference is that athletic prowess has a lot -- everything, pretty much -- to do with physicality, which demonstrably evolves over time, despite obvious exceptions. Artistic pursuits are, in contrast, intellectual, where evolution over time isn't nearly as evident, if indeed it exists at all.

I would say the improvement in physicality is almost 100% environmental, not evolutionary. No one can tell the difference between the DNA of a 15th century human and a 21st century human. But, nutrition and health care have raised average height, life expectancy, etc.

That's why I'm comfortable with a gentle timeline. If the old-timers played now, they'd be bigger and stronger. If the moderns played 100 years ago, they'd be smaller and weaker. The "time-machine" test of eras doesn't interest me.
   53. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 25, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5733578)
I would say the improvement in physicality is almost 100% environmental, not evolutionary. No one can tell the difference between the DNA of a 15th century human and a 21st century human. But, nutrition and health care have raised average height, life expectancy, etc.


I don't doubt that you're right. My use of the verb "evolves" wasn't meant to invoke Darwin et al.; I could & perhaps should just as easily have used "improves."
   54. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 01:13 PM (#5733584)
I don't doubt that you're right. My use of the verb "evolves" wasn't meant to invoke Darwin et al.; I could & perhaps should just as easily have used "improves."

Cool, just wanted to clarify.
   55. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 01:45 PM (#5733593)
The best player in any sport playing 100 years ago is ridiculous beyond belief.

actually--I think it's not only NOT ridiculous, but is to be expected if you define "best" as meaning best relative to his peers
as outlined here quoting the late Stephen Jay Gould:

Gould then supposes that the decline in batting average peak (the .400 hitter, the outlier) is due to decreased variation in the population of hitters. In other words, as the skills of both hitters and pitchers improved, and as the pool of talented players to choose from increased, the variation in talent (the difference between the best to the worst batting averages) should decrease. Therefore, players in Major League Baseball in more recent period are arguably reaching the “wall” of human performance. Gould’s analysis of the data supports this idea, as the standard deviation of league-wide batting averages has decreased steadily since the early 20th century.


and he doesn't say it, but the difference between the best and average has also been steadily declining
   56. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 02:31 PM (#5733596)
Gould's idea is a good one, and he concluded that players in the 80s, when he did the study, were much better than players in the past. Unfortunately, his work suffered from using BA as the metric of comparison (and I don't believe the averages were even park adjusted).

Chris Dial and I re-did the study using OPS+, which (off memory -- if Chris sees this he can correct me) showed the effect as real but as petering out in the 1930s. That is, players got consistently better until the 1930s, but the talent level stayed pretty much the same since then. The flaw in our approach, as I saw it (though I think Chris disagrees) is that any purely offensive measure like OPS+ doesn't account for errors, as I explained in 41.
   57. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 02:36 PM (#5733599)
Chris Dial and I re-did the study using OPS+, which (off memory -- if Chris sees this he can correct me) showed the effect as real but as petering out in the 1930s. That is, players got consistently better until the 1930s, but the talent level stayed pretty much the same since then.

That makes sense, since there was a huge "technological" revolution in the 1920's when Ruth, Hornsby, and a few other guys showed that it was worth while to swing hard, and pull the ball, trying to hit HRs, rather than try to spray singles.
   58. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 03:21 PM (#5733609)
That, plus improvements in glove technology which mostly ended after the mid-30s, was basically Chris' argument as I recall (it was 10-15 years ago). The disagreement I had was that (a) using OPS+ was a mistake (it was my idea) because it didn't account for errors; and (b) errors continued to decline after the 1930s even until today.

On that last point, and again off memory, errors accounted for nearly 30% of runs before 1910, for about 16% in the 20s and 30s, about 12% in the 50s and 60s, and about 8% when we did the study (and it's a bit lower today). The issue affects everyone to some extent, but the biggest impact would be on the Deadball Era. Note that even an 8% reduction in the offensive numbers for players in the 20s and 30s relative to players today would be noticeable.
   59. Sunday silence Posted: August 25, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5733623)
but I thought that weighted outcomes were adjusted according to the run environment they are in. No? I am still confused by this line of reasoning.
   60. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 04:25 PM (#5733625)
but I thought that weighted outcomes were adjusted according to the run environment they are in. No? I am still confused by this line of reasoning.

but this has nothing to do with the run environment---it's that in the teens and 20's the gap in performance between the , say, 8 best players and the average player was much larger than it is now (or in the 30s, 40s and 50s)
   61. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 04:57 PM (#5733631)
In addition to what #60 says, adjusting to the overall run environment doesn't tell you *where* those runs come from. If the defense makes errors, that shouldn't be credited to the offensive players.
   62. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 25, 2018 at 05:19 PM (#5733634)
Edit: way wrong thread.
   63. Sunday silence Posted: August 25, 2018 at 05:26 PM (#5733636)
well here's what you said:

What this means is that a formula which applies a constant value of .44 runs to a single in both 1905 and 2018 will overstate the actual *offensive* contribution of the players in 1905. The offensive player in 1905 actually created many fewer runs


so if you changes the weights of events, then by diminishing the value of a single in say 1920 then you would account for this issue. No? So whats the problem? they are supposed to adjust the weight of a single based on the environment, I suppose this includes errors. so doesnt that fix this issue.

I mean are we not counting enuf errors?
   64. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 05:46 PM (#5733637)
Right now, a linear weights formula establishes its coefficients (like the .44 for a single) by adding up all the offensive events. The formula will predict, with reasonable accuracy, the total number of runs scored in a league in a given year. The problem is that not all of those league runs scored because of actions by the batter/baserunner. Some scored thanks to the defense -- they booted the ball. In order to get the formula to estimate the number of runs created by *just* offensive events, we'd have to deal just with earned runs. That means the coefficients are too high. The fact that they're too high doesn't matter much if you just want to compare 2 players in the same season. The problem comes when you try to compare players across time because the coefficients are too high for earlier years compared to more recent years.

Adjusting for the run environment does something entirely different. First, it takes as a given that the linear weights formula is correct for both the league as a whole and for the individual batter. It then adjusts the "runs created" by the batter according to the context. Essentially, you get Batter Runs/League Runs (that's simplified, of course). But because the adjustment for run environment adds in the unearned runs to both the numerator and the denominator, the overall result still overstates the contribution of the batter in 1905 compared to the batter in 2018 because you're still faced with the problem that the coefficients are too high, relative to today, for those earlier years.
   65. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 05:57 PM (#5733639)
To clarify a point that may be confusing from 64:

Adjusting for the run environment will always involve the number of *actual* runs scored (the denominator). But the numerator should include solely the contributions of the batter, that is, no unearned runs.

In essence, the ratio of unearned runs/total runs has been declining since the Deadball Era. That means that putting unearned runs into the numerator overstates the contribution of the batters in those years compared to today.
   66. cardsfanboy Posted: August 25, 2018 at 06:04 PM (#5733640)
Right now, a linear weights formula establishes its coefficients (like the .44 for a single) by adding up all the offensive events.


Shouldn't reach on error be one of the coefficients?
   67. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 06:56 PM (#5733652)
There's been debate about that since the mid-80s. I'm sympathetic to the idea that it should; Ichiro should get credit for getting on base when a slower runner wouldn't. However, it isn't included now.

Even if it were included, that wouldn't solve the whole problem because unearned runs also score on, e.g., throwing errors trying to get an existing baserunner.
   68. cardsfanboy Posted: August 25, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5733660)
There's been debate about that since the mid-80s. I'm sympathetic to the idea that it should; Ichiro should get credit for getting on base when a slower runner wouldn't. However, it isn't included now.


You don't have to give players credit for roe, you just have to include it in the calculations. And you could do the same with other errors also.
   69. Walt Davis Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:00 PM (#5733663)
Unless errors are counted as outs or errors are correlated with hits, there's likely nothing to be worried about.

Any linear weights formula that doesn't include errors as a covariate is necessarily putting that term into the "error" (or residual). You are arguing that the coefficients of the remaining terms are biased. However this is only the case if errors are correlated both with the outcome (RS) and at least one of the included covariates. And generally, if that correlation is small (either really) then any resulting bias is trivial.

One potential test of this is to see whether those coefficients are changing over time. If errors were an important component in the 60s (say) and are not an important component today, then the coefficients for more recent years should be higher. Regardless of the reason, if the run value of a single has changed substantially over time then no model should be assuming it's constant over time -- i.e. whether that's due to errors or something else. But if the coefficients are stable over time then either those omitted factors don't matter, the omitted factors have also been stable over time meaning the bias cancels out when doing cross-era comparisons (on average) or some really weird combination of changes has occurred that has resulted in those coefficients remaining stable.

agreed, this is the problem with using uer for any analysis, except to compare contemporaries. I get that there is some useful information in there, but considering the changing standards of uer over the years, it makes it hard to be used in an argument comparing players of different eras and trying to argue an adjustment.

This is backwards. Changes in UER make it difficult to compare ER (and therefore ERA) across eras. What is "constant" is runs allowed. How to divvy up those runs allowed between the defense and the pitcher is the tough part but changes in UER/ER split are a reason RA should be used. This RA comparison is one of the reasons Marichal suffers.

Let's also address the "value" of the complete game. It's virtually non-existent. First, when it is a late, close lead, the tiring starter is much more likely to give up that lead than 1-3 fresh relievers. This is why we have closers and set-up men and given their vastly superior rate performance compared with starters, it's impossible to argue against them from a run prevention standpoint. (Any argument against is based on limited roster spots.) When it is not close, then there is no advantage to having a tiring starter stay in, better off letting him rest up for the next start.

As to "saving the top relievers for tomorrow's game" ... there is no saving. Leaving a tiring starter in puts today's close lead at greater risk which is almost always a bad tradeoff relative to maybe having another close lead to protect tomorrow. You also have to consider any follow-on effects to the starter's next start of pushing him for 2-3 extra innings in this one.

Then we get into arguments about "cruising" through the bottom of a 60s lineup. There's no way to prove it but it's clearly possible that past starters could take few batters off, saving something for those later innings.

In Marichal's case, his late and close numbers are very good, a bit better than his average numbers. But if you look by differential (tied, within 1, within 2, etc.) the numbers are as consistent as can be. If you look by innings, he was at his worst in the 6th, followed by the 9th and the 8th. If you aggregate, he was at his best in innings 1-3, then 4-6 and 7-9 were worse but about the same. If you look by high/medium/low leverage, everything is about the same.

But the thing is ... in that lower offensive context, possibly with 2-3 lineup spots posing no threat, Marichal's career OPS against was an excellent 626 and we've established it was fairly constant across the game on average. Well, just to pick a good but not great modern reliever, Pedro Strop's career OPS against is 597. Marichal gave up 1 HR every 44 PA; Strop 1 per 67 PA. Strop of course has a much higher K rate, a lower K/BB but a higher K-BB (new to b-r I think). Strop also has a small platoon advantage (58% vs 54%).

Moving a bit further down the reliever food chain, we have Cub reliever Brandon Kintzler, currently stinking things up but a solid career. In raw stat terms, he's worse than Marichal -- 694 OPS, slightly better K, slightly worse BB, slightly better HR%. B-R doesn't seem to offer an easy way to compare adjusted for context but, unless there are pretty big park effect differences, Marichal wins there pretty handily ... but Kintzler does have the slightly better ERA+ so maybe the park effect difference is large.

So just in those quick, quasi-random comparisons, a tiring Marichal was probably a bit better than Kintzler, worse than Stropp -- which would be why you might have him pitch the 7th but not the 8th much less the 9th in today's game.

Now it's possible that for certain all-time greats -- Pedro, Walter Johnson, Randy Johnson -- maybe the tiring starter is still superior to the parade of relievers. But somewhere around Marichal/Greinke might be the point where you'd even start considering letting the starter pitch the 8th in a close game on a regular basis but only the true elite should be considered for the 9th.

On Babe Ruth, etc. ... I think one thing we can be confident in is that if the Babe played in the current/recent era, his K-rate would be about double. That's the league context, it also fits with him relative to league. All those extra Ks would of course replace hits, walks, HRs ... and other outs. But keep everything the same (the on-contact production, hit/walk rates in non-K PAs, etc.) but double the K rate and Babe becomes a hitter slightly better than Jim Thome. That's still a HoFer obviously but probably not inner circle (based just on hitting).

FYI ... Babe led the league in Ks 5 times; Thome 3. Babe K'd 12.5% in a 8.2% league (roughly 150 K+); Thome K'd 24.7% in a 16.9% league (a bit under 150). Babe held the career K record for a very long time; Thome just missed breaking Reggie's career K record which has now stood as long as Ruth's. On contact, Ruth hit 406/819 (#1 all-time); Thome hit 396/795 (I think this is still #2).

So ONE SIMPLE TRICK -- a change we know would have happened but we can debate the extent -- turns Ruth into Thome plus. As a position player, I don't have qualms putting Ruth behind Bonds and Mays and hopefully eventually Trout. (I might consider Mantle too, I'd have to take a closer look at career length, etc.) How much extra value we add for Ruth's pitching (or alternatively pro-rate his offense to those "missed" years) might well be enough to push him back to #1.
   70. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:13 PM (#5733669)
Ruth's K rate would more than double. He'd have a hell of a time getting that 42oz bat around on today's pitches.
   71. Mefisto Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:28 PM (#5733676)
One potential test of this is to see whether those coefficients are changing over time. If errors were an important component in the 60s (say) and are not an important component today, then the coefficients for more recent years should be higher. Regardless of the reason, if the run value of a single has changed substantially over time then no model should be assuming it's constant over time -- i.e. whether that's due to errors or something else. But if the coefficients are stable over time then either those omitted factors don't matter, the omitted factors have also been stable over time meaning the bias cancels out when doing cross-era comparisons (on average) or some really weird combination of changes has occurred that has resulted in those coefficients remaining stable.


The coefficients are higher today because of fewer errors. The total runs scored have stayed relatively constant because other offensive events have replaced errors as methods of scoring runs (i.e., batters have become better/more efficient). To pick the obvious example, there were roughly 200 HR/team in the NL last year, and roughly 22/team in 1905. Hits/game are very nearly constant (8.48 in 1905, 8.64 last year). Yet batters in 1905 get the same coefficients as batters today even though they weren't actually causing the runs.
   72. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 25, 2018 at 08:57 PM (#5733691)

Francesa said he plans to be live on it at "crazy hours," adding he could start yakking at 7 a.m. or 2 a.m., depending on when the spirit moves him. "I promise you, you'll get sick of me, I'll be on the app so long," he said.
The app works so well that I'm already sick of him.
   73. BDC Posted: August 26, 2018 at 09:43 AM (#5733760)
Walt, what you say in #69 makes sense. But I'm not arguing that Marichal per inning in 1969 was better than Strop per inning in the 2010s, or that Marichal, if he were pitching today, should complete 253 games. I'm just wondering about WAR. As I understand it (having now looked it up) relievers get a certain leverage bonus in WAR because their innings are more crucial. This enables them to accumulate more WAR per inning than starters. But why does a given late inning generate more WAR when Strop pitches it, than when Marichal pitches it?

There is clearly something I'm just not understanding about how WAR is figured, which is of course fine; I am not insisting on anything, just expressing a puzzlement.
   74. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5733765)
If I recall Marichal gets credit for pitching in higher leveraged late innings just as much as any reliever would. The difference is that Marichal also gets credit for pitching a lot of low leverage early innings as well so it decreases his overall leverage index whereas a Strop doesn't pitch the 2nd so he does't get that lower score thrown into his average.

Now I think the true issue is that the leverage index is a bunch of hooey. The 8th is more "valuable" than the 2nd inning because the unknowns have become known but that doesn't make the 2nd inning any less important. Now if you want to argue that the 9th inning is harder because instead of facing the 7,8, 9 hitter you're facing three pinch hitters that are being put in because they have better odds of producing a run than the original 7,8,9 hitters that's fine with me.
   75. Mefisto Posted: August 26, 2018 at 10:12 AM (#5733766)
This discussion about Marichal makes me think that there's something odd about using RA to evaluate pitchers. It's similar to the issue with batters and errors.

As defenses generally have improved over the years -- errors decline, DPs increase -- the benefit to merely putting the ball in play has declined as well. That's especially true for ground balls because of the risks of a DP. In today's game, a pitcher who can force batters to put the ball in play (say, a sinker baller) is much better off than he would have been 50 or 100 years ago.

If a guy like Marichal pitched today, he'd almost certainly give up fewer runs total than he did pitching in the 60s, because of this general trend. I'm not sure it makes sense to use RA to compare pitchers across eras unless we account for the general trend in defense.
   76. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 01:42 PM (#5733843)
I'm fairly certain a guy who can induce groundballs was always valuable and perhaps more valuable back in the day of low strikeouts. The last thing any defending teams wants is hard hit balls that are off the ground.
   77. Mefisto Posted: August 26, 2018 at 02:29 PM (#5733855)
If errors are low and DPs high, then inducing ground balls is very valuable. The whole trend of baseball history shows that errors keep decreasing and DPs keep increasing. The net result is that the modern game should value ground ball pitchers more than any previous era did.
   78. Rally Posted: August 26, 2018 at 02:55 PM (#5733862)
“Ruth's K rate would more than double. He'd have a hell of a time getting that 42oz bat around on today's pitches.”

In Ruth’s day he very likely faced many more pitchers who’s top speed started with an 8 than a 9. But there were a few extremely hard throwers and we have some data on how he did against certain pitchers. On bbref the data goes back to 1925, so I’ll ignore the small sample of AB against Walter Johnson. Johnson probably threw with modern velocity (at least when he wasn’t pacing himself) but probably not when he was that old.

We do have 146 PA against Lefty Grove. Ruth’s strikeouts were way up against Lefty’s heat, 45 in 133 AB, slightly more than 33%. He was still very productive against Lefty (316/377/534) with 9 homers.

One thing I wonder, when the Babe faced Grove did he stick with his usual big bat? Or did he switch to something smaller to helpf get around on Lefty?
   79. Morty Causa Posted: August 26, 2018 at 02:58 PM (#5733864)
That's not bad, especially considering Grove had the lefty-lefty advantage working for him.
   80. Morty Causa Posted: August 26, 2018 at 03:00 PM (#5733866)
Thinking that Ruth would have used a 42-ounce bat in this day and age is like thinking Ty Cobb would have stayed with the hands-spread grip.
   81. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 03:01 PM (#5733868)
So what kind of pitcher would a 1922 manager value? One that gives up line drives and fly balls?
   82. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 03:03 PM (#5733869)
Babe from 1926 and on had a mucher lighter bat than a 42 ouncer. Usually it was somewhere between 36 and 40 ounces. I believe in the thirties it would drop even lower eventually.
   83. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 26, 2018 at 04:00 PM (#5733886)
On Babe Ruth, etc. ... I think one thing we can be confident in is that if the Babe played in the current/recent era, his K-rate would be about double. That's the league context, it also fits with him relative to league. All those extra Ks would of course replace hits, walks, HRs ... and other outs. But keep everything the same (the on-contact production, hit/walk rates in non-K PAs, etc.) but double the K rate and Babe becomes a hitter slightly better than Jim Thome. That's still a HoFer obviously but probably not inner circle (based just on hitting).

FYI ... Babe led the league in Ks 5 times; Thome 3. Babe K'd 12.5% in a 8.2% league (roughly 150 K+); Thome K'd 24.7% in a 16.9% league (a bit under 150). Babe held the career K record for a very long time; Thome just missed breaking Reggie's career K record which has now stood as long as Ruth's. On contact, Ruth hit 406/819 (#1 all-time); Thome hit 396/795 (I think this is still #2).

So ONE SIMPLE TRICK -- a change we know would have happened but we can debate the extent -- turns Ruth into Thome plus. As a position player, I don't have qualms putting Ruth behind Bonds and Mays and hopefully eventually Trout. (I might consider Mantle too, I'd have to take a closer look at career length, etc.) How much extra value we add for Ruth's pitching (or alternatively pro-rate his offense to those "missed" years) might well be enough to push him back to #1.


I agree, in today's game Ruth would K more. But, Ruth would be playing in significantly smaller ballparks, with a livelier ball. How many 410-450 foot fly balls to LF and CF in Old Yankee Stadium would be HRs in DNYS? No reason to think he doesn't gain back value elsewhere.
   84. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 04:02 PM (#5733887)
The ball is more consistent nowadays but there is little evidence that it is livelier nowadays.
   85. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 26, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5733892)
The ball is more consistent nowadays but there is little evidence that it is livelier nowadays.

I thought the recent experiments shown it was more consistently in the high end of the allowable range? i.e. the max and min haven't changed, but the average has b/c balls are more clustered near the max.
   86. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 04:24 PM (#5733903)
Tests done back in the day show that the ball was livelier than it is now.
   87. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 26, 2018 at 05:09 PM (#5733920)
Would you expect Ruth's home runs to incease proportionately to era? Pitchers are obviously throwing harder, but hitters are swinging harder, too. Since that swing largely originated with Ruth, wouldn't his wild-swinging strikeouts already be accounted for if he played today?
   88. Walt Davis Posted: August 26, 2018 at 06:34 PM (#5733947)
Would you expect Ruth's home runs to increase proportionately to era?

No. Most obviously not from his earlier years when he hit as many HRs as the league combined. But more generally no -- yes, he invented the HR swing, arguably perfected it. That just makes him the first guy to figure out exit velocity and launch angle (intuitively presumably). The physics of HRs hasn't changed. As noted, ballpark dimensions, etc. have changed so there may be some effects on the margins -- e.g. Babe in early Coors would have hit a ton of them ... as would have Thome or Mac or Bonds. If somebody wants to cook up PFs that allow us to compare current and past Yankee Stadia then feel free.

As I noted, Ruth is the all-time leader in on-contact BA/SLG. Still nobody has come particularly close for a career. There's no good reason to think he would be substantially better on-contact now than he was then. If anything, I suspect the improvement in pitchers would probably reduce that, pushing him closer to Thome.

We will of course never know. But either you do no time-lining ... or you only use relative then compare those ... or, if you're going to timeline, then time-lining by a limited number of kinda undeniable factors is the way to go. My personal starting assumption is that of course the average player of today is better than the average player of the 20s and 30s so the first two options aren't good for cross-era comparisons for putting together a list like this. On the other hand, there's clearly no "correct" answer.

But it was really just happenstance. I forget why I tried it that first time and it just happened to work out pretty perfectly for Ruth/Thome. I think I just once noticed that Thome's K-rate was almost exactly double Ruth's and, already knowing their awesome on-contact performance, went from there. I don't know what you get if you double Ted Williams' K-rate. We know doubling DiMaggio's K-rate wouldn't have a big impact and I'm pretty sure he'd have about the lowest K-rate in the league these days even if we doubled it.

I tend to do much less time-lining post-integration. Integration clearly raised the average quality. The baby boom clearly expanded the talent pool but then expansion (and competition from other sports) diluted it; followed by a long-running baby bust (compensated for at least in part by international talent) and I don't think we've seen major shifts in the average quality since 1960-1970 or so.

Which means my gut feeling is that Willie Mays is the greatest of all-time -- great offense, defense, running, incredibly consistent production. Bonds is the other top candidate for #1 in my mind, but I guess/assume Willie had the defensive edge. I suspect we under-rate Aaron in these lists.

What we've also seen are some major changes at certain positions. The most obvious is 3B -- there's not much room to doubt that the best 3Bs of all time are all post-integration ... and it doesn't even seem close. (Arguably the jump in 3B has been matched by a drop at 2B). Catcher too I'd say but that may be just increased durability (not to be sneezed at obviously). And again we don't really have proper data to compare but the post-integration pitchers sure seem to have a lot more velocity and that keeps going up.

My final comment on time-lining is that of course there's a big difference between assuming that Ruth at age 20 was magically transported to today vs. assuming that baby Ruth was magically transported to 1998. I don't doubt that Ruth had an amazingly high level of baseball talent so, if given the same development opportunities of today's players from infancy, he'd be among the very best in the game today. Ruth at age 20, maybe never having seen a 95-MPH fastball, a filthy slider, a nasty cutter or splitter ... that guy is gonna struggle and at least take a few years to develop. I try to timeline based on the infancy assumption.

And of course maybe the Ruth of today would take better care of himself, last even longer and still makes it to 700+ HR or even 800.

Or he gets turned into a LOOGy and never gets to hit. :-)
   89. Mefisto Posted: August 26, 2018 at 07:03 PM (#5733956)
I tend to do much less time-lining post-integration. Integration clearly raised the average quality. The baby boom clearly expanded the talent pool but then expansion (and competition from other sports) diluted it; followed by a long-running baby bust (compensated for at least in part by international talent) and I don't think we've seen major shifts in the average quality since 1960-1970 or so.

Which means my gut feeling is that Willie Mays is the greatest of all-time -- great offense, defense, running, incredibly consistent production. Bonds is the other top candidate for #1 in my mind, but I guess/assume Willie had the defensive edge.


I agree with this.

I suspect we under-rate Aaron in these lists.


He's 5th all time among non-pitchers without timelining. He could drop to 6th if you give Williams war-time credit (which I would). If you timeline, then he could move above Cobb but nobody else. So anywhere around 5th seems like a fair ranking.
   90. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 07:18 PM (#5733963)
Move Mike Schmidt back twenty years to a debut date in 1952 and he's probably viewed as a better player than Hank Aaron.
   91. Mefisto Posted: August 26, 2018 at 07:23 PM (#5733964)
Well, we can test for that pretty confidently: Eddie Mathews. I don't think that holds up.
   92. McCoy Posted: August 26, 2018 at 07:52 PM (#5733973)
Mike Schmidt was a better fielder than Eddie and had better power.

If we're doing the Babe Ruth in infancy thing then Mike Schmidt isn't playing football in high school, isn't injuring his knees playing football, gets signed out of high school and probably makes his debut as a 20 year old instead of a cup of coffee as a 22 year old. Schmidt when he retired was 16th all time in WAR. He did that in 16 full seasons, a cup of coffee debut, and a third of a season last season. By WAA he was 13th when he retired. Only Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig played around the same amount of seasons as Mike. Put Mike in the homer rich era of the 1950's where sluggers could hit for power, hit for a good to great average, and get walks and he'd have better numbers than playing in an era where players were either sluggers with low batting average or spray hitters with high average and little power.

Since Schmidt only Bonds, Henderson, and Rodriguez has surpassed his WAR with Henderson and Rodriguez doing it just barely. And really no player who debuted from 1970 and on has come close to Schmidt besides those three. With Bonds and ARod you have the issue of steroids with Bonds probably still surpassing Schmidt without steroids and Henderson has WAR but actually trails Schmidt by WAA.

In the last 50 years the only player that had a clearly better career WAR numbers than Schmidt without any asterisks was Henderson and he needed forever to do it. That's pretty impressive.
   93. Mefisto Posted: August 26, 2018 at 08:19 PM (#5733983)
Oh, Schmidt was a great player, I'm not questioning that. But he had 106 WAR and Mathews had 96. They had an essentially identical number of PAs. Mathews was 11th all time in WAR when he retired, though I didn't look to see if some then-active players had already passed him (Mays and Aaron certainly had). They each have the other as their top similarity score. That's as comparable as you can get. But after about 1957, I don't think anyone argued that Mathews was better than Aaron.

If Schmidt hadn't gotten injured in high school? That's too hypothetical for me.
   94. Hank Gillette Posted: August 27, 2018 at 02:24 AM (#5734061)

I'm glad there seems to be a more regular release of the names this time.
  


He has only released two names and you can tell the the release of the names is more regular? Coo!
   95. Sunday silence Posted: August 27, 2018 at 08:01 AM (#5734076)
the problem Im having with Walt's analysis is that you cant simply adjust for one variable (KOs) without adjusting for all the other variables. It seems the ball is livlier whether you believe that or not players are hitting HRs at the highest rates in history.

SO why wouldnt Ruth benefit from that as well as well as suffer from more KOs? I mean youve spent paragraphs making out a great case for why his KOs would increase. Ok that's fair, but what about all the other component variables? dont we have to adjust them as well?

Anyhow Thome is a very interesting comparison, its hard to find anyone similar in those ways.
   96. McCoy Posted: August 27, 2018 at 08:15 AM (#5734081)
Oh, Schmidt was a great player, I'm not questioning that. But he had 106 WAR and Mathews had 96. They had an essentially identical number of PAs. Mathews was 11th all time in WAR when he retired,

But that is kind of my point. Eddie by the time he wrapped up his career was 11th. Eddie was done being an elite player by after his age 33 season and done being an everyday good player after his age 34 season. Mike Schmidt would be an elite player right up until a torn rotator cuff during his age 38 season forced him out of the game. He won an MVP at age 36.

Schmidt led the league in homers 8 times. A Mike Schmidt starting in the early 1950's easily gets to 650 homers and is possibly knocking on 700 homers and he's doing so with a higher batting average than he had two decades later.

A Mike Schmidt starting his major league career at age 20 and playing up until a rotator cuff injury forces him from the game at age 39 in 1971 has probably comparable WAR numbers to Hank through that same period and sure Mike would have two extra seasons on him by that point but Mike would have more HR titles on him career wise and quite possibly MVPs as well.
   97. McCoy Posted: August 27, 2018 at 08:29 AM (#5734087)
the problem Im having with Walt's analysis is that you cant simply adjust for one variable (KOs) without adjusting for all the other variables. It seems the ball is livlier whether you believe that or not players are hitting HRs at the highest rates in history.

But you just did what you critiqued Walt for. A livelier ball could be and is but just one variable in home run numbers. According to the numbers that people ran during Ruth's career the ball was very lively. Over the years it became deader and then it improved. As I said before I have no doubt the ball was far more inconsistent 100 years ago but even with those inconsistencies the numbers they are reporting back are livelier than the numbers being reported back for current balls.

SO why wouldnt Ruth benefit from that as well as well as suffer from more KOs? I mean youve spent paragraphs making out a great case for why his KOs would increase. Ok that's fair, but what about all the other component variables? dont we have to adjust them as well?

For the sake of the argument we can accept that the ball is livelier but now we've got but just two variables out of the hundred or more that we have to consider. How about relievers? How about sliders and sinkers? How about teams that actually understand what a platoon advantage is? Babe Ruth and really all sluggers pre relievers had a higher % of their homers hit in late innings than modern day sluggers do. That would change.

Thome and Ruth kind of had a similar playing time career arc. Ruth debuted at age 19 while Thome did so at age 20. Ruth racked up 789 PA before his age 24 season and Thome racked up 796 PA before his age 24 season. Ruth would finish his career at age 40 and Thome at age 41. As I believe Walt mentioned Ruth has the highest on contact numbers in the history of the game for a player with more than a blip of a career. It would be hard to believe that Ruth would significantly improve on those numbers and to maintain them in the face of all the things he would have to face in the modern game would be really hard to do.
   98. Rally Posted: August 27, 2018 at 12:07 PM (#5734194)
It seems the ball is livlier whether you believe that or not players are hitting HRs at the highest rates in history.


I doubt the differences in the ball account for the difference in play now and ~90 years ago. In Ruth's time and shortly after the top sluggers, the strongest men in the game, hit 30-40 homers and sometimes topped 50. That is the same environment we are in now. The difference is that a much higher proportion of MLB baseball players are strong enough to be the power hitters.
   99. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: August 27, 2018 at 12:28 PM (#5734205)
the top seven best players of all time in baseball history is so far, kinda static... in no particular order(except 1) it's Ruth, Mays, Cobb, Bonds, Williams, Cy, and Johnson... with a few other names being "surprises" to the list (Wagner and Hornsby most notably on the offensive side and Clemens on the pitching side and of course Josh Gibson) (and yes I owe Aaron, Stan, Speaker and Alexander apologies for not putting them on the short list, because honestly they aren't on the short list)


Grove?
A-Rod?
   100. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 27, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5734254)
He has only released two names and you can tell the the release of the names is more regular? Coo!


From Posnanski's blog:

1. How frequently will we be receiving content?

The plan will be to run two Baseball 100 stories every week; I’m thinking Monday and Fridays but I’ll get the specifics nailed down later. I’m writing the essays now and have been for a little while so there should be no interruption (don’t you hate when people just STOP WRITING in the middle of a series?).


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