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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-6-2012

El Paso Herald, November 6, 1912:

Charged by a wounded deer and unable to use his rifle, which had [jammed], Clark Griffith, manager of the Washington American league team, saved himself from probably serious injury by his old-time skill as a pitcher. Seizing a stone the size of a baseball, he threw and struck the animal on the head, felling it. He then killed it with the butt of his gun.

This sounds completely apocryphal, but I guess it’s plausible. I guess.

Also 100 years ago today, newspapers around the country report on a Woodrow Wilson landslide.

Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: November 06, 2012 at 06:52 AM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: clark griffith, dugout, history

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   1. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: November 06, 2012 at 06:57 AM (#4294145)
That's a pretty great pitching staff on today's Birthday Team. Not much in the way of offense - Deivi Cruz is five hits off the all-time November 6 lead - but when you've got Big Train and the Candy Man, you don't need much offense.

Chris Arnold isn't really a catcher, but somebody's got to crouch back there and give the pitchers a target. Arnold is a utility infielder who caught nine games for the '73 Giants.

C: Chris Arnold
1B: Adam LaRoche
2B: Deivi Cruz
3B: Tim Shinnick
SS: Buddy Kerr
LF: Mack Jones
CF: Chad Curtis
RF: Danny Green

SP/Manager: Walter Johnson
SP: John Candelaria
SP: Dana Fillingim
SP: Ricky Romero
SP: Ron Romanick
RP: Justin Speier

Fun Names: Harley Hisner, Everardo Magallanes, Atahualpa Severino
   2. Tiboreau Posted: November 06, 2012 at 07:42 AM (#4294152)
I hope no one minds if I post this in today's dugout, minutes after submitting it in yesterday's. . . .

Yo, what's up?

Did you know that if Miguel Cabrera loses the WAR for AL MVP to Mike Trout it won't be the 1st time a Triple Crown winner's missed out on the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award? Of course you do--who can forget Lou Gehrig losing to Mickey Cochrane in '34 or Chuck Klein losing to Carl Hubbell in '33? And we all know how recalcitrant the baseball writers were about awarding Ted Williams MVP recognition. But these aren't the Triple Crown winners I'm interested in rambling about; after all, they were MLB superstars. Instead, let's talk about a Pacific Coast League superstar & the 1940 Triple Crown winner, "The Mad Russian" Lou Novikoff!

Prior to baseball, Larrapin' Lou Novikoff first solidified his name as a standout softball player, both on the mound & at the plate. Unlike Bob Fesler, Novikoff was able to smoothly transition from softball to baseball, batting .351 for the '37 Ponca City Angels of the Western Association--just 3 points shy of the batting title. The next season with the Moline Plow Boys he would claim that title, dominating Triple I League with a .367 average, and in '39 he led Texas League in batting, hitting .368 for the Tulsa Oilers. Novikoff's performance with the Oilers coerced the Los Angeles Angels to call up The Mad Russian in an attempt to boost their flagging PCL pennant hopes. While the Angels would finish 5 games behind the Seattle Rainiers for the '39 pennant, Larrapin' Lou secured a spot on Los Angeles's 1940 roster, hitting an astounding .452 with a .770 slugging percentage in 36 games.

Lou Novikoff would not waste his 1st opportunity to hit in a full season at minor league baseball's highest level. Using Wrigley Field in L.A.'s cozy dimensions to his advantage, The Mad Russian dominated Pacific Coast League pitching and claimed the Triple Crown with ease. Novikoff led the PCL in batting with a .363 average--22 points higher than 2nd place Steve Mesner's .341--his league-leading 41 home runs were 13 more than 2nd place Cecil Dunn's 27 while playing in San Diego's cozy Lane Field, and he drove in a whopping 171 runs--60 more than teammate Rip Collins' 2nd place RBI total of 111. Yet Lou Novikoff's prodigious hitting performance was deemed unworthy of MVP recognition. What gives?

Once again, it was the Seattle Rainiers. While Larrapin' Lou Novikoff spent the 1940 season carving up Pacific Coast League pitching the Rainiers were using that classic formula of pitching, defense, and timely hitting to dominate the rest of the PCL ball clubs. While the Los Angeles Angels finished a respectable 2nd place with a 102-75 record, the Seattle Rainiers finished with a 112-66 record--10 & a half games ahead of the Angels! It was the best record & biggest margin of victory since arguably the greatest PCL team of all-time, the 1934 Los Angeles Angels, who dominated to the tune of a 137-50 record--35 & a half games better than the next closest team! As an aside, the manager of both the 1934 Los Angeles Angels & the 1940 Seattle Rainiers? Jack Lelivelt!

In a move not uncommon in the history of awarding individual achievement, team performance dictated the delivery of the of the 1940 Pacific Coast League Most Valuable Player award (much to the dismay of proto-sabermatricians & L.A. Angels fans, I assume . . . ). In passing up Triple Crown winner Lou Novikoff the Pacific Coast League recognized 1B George Archie of the Seattle Rainiers as its 1940 MVP. Archie, acquired a year earlier in the blockbuster deal that sent phenom & Seattle icon Fred Hutchinson to the Detroit Tigers, hit a respectable .324, and was commended for his smooth fielding & quiet leadership, playing in every game (I think . . . ) while the veteran Rainiers ran roughshod over the PCL.

While George Archie's performance on a dominate club was no doubt respectable the question remains: were fielding & intangibles enough to trump Lou Novikoff's 1940 Triple Crown performance to garner MVP recognition? Lou Novikoff's "fielding" efforts were legendary in their own respect--altho' not in the way in an individual would typically like to be remembered. . . . The Mad Russian's fear of the Wrigley ivy while manning the Chicago Cubs' outer pasture during WWII is well-known, and after playing for the Rainiers from '45 to '48 Seattle beat writer & former catcher Emmett Watson cited not only his hitting prowess but also his dramatic ability to miss outfield flyballs for enlivening the Sicks' Stadium atmosphere. According to John Spalding, "Novikoff's fielding was atrocious and every catch he made in the outfield was an adventure. Clumsy with a duck-waddling gait, Lou also tended to shy away from fences and stands while chasing fly balls."

If any Seattle Rainier deserved individual recognition for team achievement over Lou Novikoff's Triple Crown performance it was "Kewpie" Dick Barrett, who despite missing six weeks to back trouble pitched 258 innings, leading the league in strikeouts with 164 and wins with a 24-5 record. Barrett also posted a 2.48 ERA in 1940, 3rd lowest in the PCL. Among the Seattle Rainiers' players were several solid performers in 1940, such as Archie, Edo Vanni, Broadway Bill Schuster, Joyner "Jo-Jo" White, and slick-fielding Dick "The Thin Man" Gyselman, but it was a team effort rather than any individual's standout performance that sparked the pennant winner's offense.

Be that as it may, Lou Novikoff was not totally without trophy recognition--having been awarded the the 1939 Minor League Player of the Year by the Sporting News during the '40 season. And that fall the Los Angeles Angels sold Novikoff & slick-fielding 2B Lou Stringer to the Chicago Cubs for $150,000. Splitting time between Chicago & Milwaukee in '41, the Mad Russian would win his 4th batting title in his 4th league, hitting .370 for the Brewers of the American Association. And in '42 Lou Novikoff posted a 124 OPS+ in 513 PA for the Chicago Cubs, but after WWII the Mad Russian would return to the Pacific Coast League where he would hit well but never quite to the standard of that 1940 Triple Crown season.

A few anecdotes concerning "The Mad Russian," Larrapin' Lou Novikoff, who belonged to minor league baseball's proud tradition of eccentrics. It is said that the motivation behind Novikoff's hitting feats was the verbal abuse he instructed his wife Esther to heap upon him from a box seat behind home plate. Larrapin' Lou also had the habit of kissing home plate each time he hit a home run. In one description of these theatrics, Novikoff fell "to his knees halfway between third and home on his scoring trot, crawling the rest of the way to the plate to plant a smacker on it." Lou Novikoff was also a notorious bad ball hitter. John Spalding describes one at-bat, shortly after arriving in L.A., in which "Hollywood pitcher Rugger Ardizoiamade a wild throw that was headed for the screen well above Novikoff's head. Lou stood on his toes, reached up and lined out a base hit."

Here is a more informative article about the Mad Russian by actual baseball historians David Eskenazi & Steve Rudman. Other sources include John Spalding's Pacific Coast League Stars: One Hundred of the Best, 1903 to 1957, Garry Waddingham's The Seattle Rainiers, 1938 - 1942, and Runs, Hits, and an Era: The Pacific Coast League, 1903-58 by Paul Zingg & Mark Medeiros. And, of course, baseball-reference.com!
   3. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:07 AM (#4294155)
Great stuff, Tiboreau.
   4. Tiboreau Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:27 AM (#4294159)
Thanks, Dan, sorry about the length. . . .
   5. AndrewJ Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:27 AM (#4294160)
That's a pretty great pitching staff on today's Birthday Team.

Check out the pitching staff for the November 3rd Birthday Team: Bob Feller, Jim McCormick, Bob Welch, Ken Holtzman and Harry Staley. With Armando Benitez and Paul Quantrill in the bullpen.
   6. TerpNats Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:28 AM (#4294161)
Pre-1958 PCL material is always welcome here. A fascinating league.
   7. Tiboreau Posted: November 06, 2012 at 09:00 AM (#4294172)
I love the PCL's season lengths. 137-50? 112-66? 1940 PCL MVP George Archie played in 179 games that year! (I think one of those was a tie?)

Also, they played seven game series! Monday was an off-day & they played Sunday doubleheaders.
   8. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: November 06, 2012 at 09:28 AM (#4294197)
Historical item up at THT notes that today is the 125th b-day for Walter Johnson.

He was one of four HoFers born in 1887. Can you name any of the others. (They're listed in the fourth paragraph in the link). One is an obscure mistake, but the others are slum dunk members.
   9. Dag Nabbit: secretary of the World Banana Forum Posted: November 06, 2012 at 09:43 AM (#4294212)
Also, an article up at THT noting the best Game Twos in LCS history. The AL dominates the list.
   10. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 06, 2012 at 10:37 AM (#4294266)
4/Tiboreau: Don't be.
   11. TerpNats Posted: November 06, 2012 at 12:49 PM (#4294451)
In the '20s or '30s, a PCL team (the San Francisco Seals?) finished 100-100. Pretty remarkable.
   12. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 06, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4294456)
   13. JJ1986 Posted: November 06, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4294464)
Minor League Free Agent List

Some of the more interesting names (Olmstead, Obispo, the not listed Jesus Sanchez) have already signed. At first glance I don't see anyone who could be Jose Quintana.

I do think someone should give James Skelton a chance, but backup catcher is his ceiling.

edit: coke to Der K.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: November 06, 2012 at 01:11 PM (#4294486)
Great stuff as usual Tiboreau. I loved the anecdote about his wife heaping abuse upon him.

   15. JJ1986 Posted: November 06, 2012 at 03:55 PM (#4294803)
I have a question. Now that oWAR on Baseball-reference includes positional adjustments, is there anywhere to just get offensive WAR?
   16. jwb Posted: November 06, 2012 at 05:59 PM (#4295050)
Funny thing. I just voted in Cook County. The instructions were to fill in the arrow for your choice. One of the examples:

Favorite Pitcher
Vote for one
--- ---> Carlos Zambrano
--- ---> Bobby Jenks
   17. dr. scott Posted: November 06, 2012 at 06:50 PM (#4295112)
So what pitcher did you vote for... Id probably go for Jenks, as hes probably calmer under pressure.... you know, those midnight "red phone" calls.
   18. jwb Posted: November 06, 2012 at 07:13 PM (#4295137)
I went with Jenks. I think Zambrano's birth certificate is phony.
   19. Der-K: Hipster doofus Posted: November 06, 2012 at 08:04 PM (#4295193)
Sanchez wasn't listed because he was added to the 40 man before the deadline (thus, didn't become a FA).

I didn't think Quintana was a Quintana last year (I liked him, but was surprised he got a 40 man spot), so what do I know? Olmstead looks like a good pickup.
   20. puck Posted: November 06, 2012 at 09:37 PM (#4295410)
Rockies' choice for manager said to be down to Walt Weiss (who is supposedly the favorite) and Matt Williams.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: November 07, 2012 at 08:14 AM (#4296647)
Now that oWAR on Baseball-reference includes positional adjustments, is there anywhere to just get offensive WAR?

Take oWAR and subtract out the positional adjustment and use the old 10 runs per win rule (or figure out what the actual translation is).

Alternatively add Rbat, Rbase and Rdp and use the 10 runs per win rule.

Or maybe fangraphs, they've got all sorts of crazy #### over there.

(I thought oWAR always had a positional adjustment in it but I just roll with the flow so maybe my memory's off.)

EDIT: oops, much simpler ... WAR - dWAR = offensive wins relative to league average. That does include Rrep which I'm not sure you want in your measure or not.
   22. BourbonSamurai Is a Lazy Nogoodnik Posted: November 07, 2012 at 09:37 AM (#4296679)
Great post number two
   23. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: November 07, 2012 at 10:05 AM (#4296692)
I went with Jenks. I think Zambrano's birth certificate is phony

Nice topicality!
   24. Tom Nawrocki Posted: November 07, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4296701)
Rockies' choice for manager said to be down to Walt Weiss (who is supposedly the favorite) and Matt Williams.


Walt Weiss is now a high school baseball coach. High school. But I'm sure he's got a lot of character.

What a Rockies thing to do.

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