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Monday, May 20, 2019

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 5-20-2019

Bridgeport Evening Farmer, May 20, 1919:

Big Chief Meyers, manager of the New Haven team, had better win more games than his team has copped in the past six days or one of these fine mornings he may find himself on the outside of a ball park looking in.
...
Up to yesterday the New Haven players had not engaged in one single practice together. There seemed to be no desire on the part of the pilot to take out his team for a couple of hours each morning and instruct the players to go through some sort of drill.
...
“Red” Torphy has several times attempted to get the boys onto the ball field, but only a few have responded. Big Chief doesn’t seem to care.

Unsurprisingly, Meyers didn’t make it through the season as the manager. He stuck around as a player and played pretty well, but the team finished seventh in the Eastern League with a 47-62 record.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:23 AM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defensive indifference, dugout, history

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   1. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:29 AM (#5843726)
A really strong Birthday Team today. There are a bunch of good under-the-radar players like Grantham and Harris to go along with some stars it would be impossible to miss.

C: Ramon Hernandez (21.9 WAR)
1B: Sadaharu Oh (0.0 WAR, but c'mon, it's Sadaharu F. Oh)
2B: George Grantham (32.4 WAR)
3B: Ken Boyer (62.8 WAR)
SS: Adam Rosales (3.6 WAR)
LF: Joe Harris (26.3 WAR)
CF: Bobby Murcer (32.1 WAR)
RF: Jayson Werth (29.0 WAR)

SP: Hal Newhouser (62.5 WAR)
SP: David Wells (53.5 WAR)
SP: Todd Stottlemyre (22.9 WAR)
SP: Pete Appleton (8.8 WAR)
SP: Tom Morgan (7.5 WAR)
RP: Wilcy Moore (7.4 WAR)

Manager: Horace Phillips
Owner: Ivers Adams
Umpire: Watch Burnham
Broadcaster: Jamie Campbell
Spare OF: Austin Kearns (13.0 WAR)
Fun names: Claral Gillenwater, Fritz Von Kolnitz
That one's son: Joe Wood (-0.3 WAR)
   2. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:37 AM (#5843729)
1920 starting pitcher rankings are soon to come, but first, a quick methodological note. It was pointed out in the 5/6/19 Dugout when I first posted about these rankings that James's original method of penalizing inactivity (described here) is quite arbitrary. This is, essentially, correct, especially the 200-day cutoff for the increased penalty (which cannot be reached during the regular season, but can easily be reached during the offseason, and is in fact guaranteed to be reached during certain offseasons). So I went back and implemented a different method; it's percentage-based instead of a constant value, and it starts small and gets larger as the pitcher is inactive for longer stretches. Also, it treats offseason inactivity differently from in-season inactivity, because (get this) offseason inactivity IS different from in-season inactivity.

Going back and reapplying the new method to the past years tweaks a few of the results, mostly because a percentage-based adjustment during the offseason compresses the rankings a bit. Most notably, Hippo Vaughn now spends brief stretches at #1 in late 1918 and early 1919 (something like a week both times before Walter Johnson reasserts himself). Also, the stricter in-season penalties mean that Grover Cleveland Alexander now drops out of the top 25 by the end of 1918 - and yet, he's still back to #6 at the end of 1919, largely because the inactivity extending into the offseason doesn't hurt him as much.

I can go into more specifics here if there's interest, but first, let's get to the 1920 rankings.
   3. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5843732)
Wow, Joe Harris sure had a weird career - never really had a team or even a position, spent his best years with some terrible Red Sox teams of the 1920s when he was already past thirty. But he still managed to start every game in two separate World Series, and it's hard to argue with a career .317/.404/.472 hitter.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: May 20, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5843736)

Wow, Joe Harris sure had a weird career - never really had a team or even a position, spent his best years with some terrible Red Sox teams of the 1920s when he was already past thirty. But he still managed to start every game in two separate World Series, and it's hard to argue with a career .317/.404/.472 hitter.


And he had three gray lines on his BBRef page, representing five seasons of inactivity in MLB ('15-16, '18, '20-21). You don't see that often.

   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 20, 2019 at 11:01 AM (#5843745)
RP: Wilcy Moore (7.4 WAR)

Anyone know Moore's story? Debuted with the Murderer's Row Yankees at age 30, with a crazy good hybrid season: 213 IP, 19-7, 2.28 ERA, 50 G, 12 GS, 13 SV, 171 ERA+, 6.6 WAR. And that was pretty much his whole career value.

Where was he before 30?
   6. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 20, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5843753)


From Joe Harris' SABR bio:

Harris seemed perhaps poised for greatness, but come wintertime he was dissatisfied with the $5,000 contract he was proffered and decided to hold out for a better one. Shortly after the 1919 American League season, Harris (along with George Sisler) had played a few games with the Franklin, Pennsylvania independent team. The Franklin ballclub matched the Indians offer and “set me up in business, too.” He went with it. Basically, it was a better deal. Harris said he was making more with Franklin than he had been offered by Cleveland


So, he missed the 1920 and 21 seasons because an independent baseball team offered him as much or more money than an MLB team.
   7. Itchy Row Posted: May 20, 2019 at 11:22 AM (#5843758)
Moore's SABR bio says he broke his arm in 1925 and, since it hurt to throw overhand, he pitched sidearm the next year. We won 30 games for Greenville in 1926, so the '27 Yankees picked him up. He hadn't been as good throwing overhand.
   8. Master of the Horse Posted: May 20, 2019 at 11:24 AM (#5843761)
   9. Itchy Row Posted: May 20, 2019 at 11:30 AM (#5843762)
With Boyer, Stottlemyre, Newhouser (apparently a cousin of Ken Macha), Harris (uncle of 1960's Yankee reliever Hal Reniff), and Werth, plus Joe Wood Jr, it seems like today's teams have a lot of relatives of other major leaguers.

Werth's biological father played in the minor leagues, but he was raised by stepdad Dennis Werth. Jayson's mom was a track star and daughter of one Dick Schofield and sister of the other.
   10. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: May 20, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5843781)
1920 is a fascinating baseball season. In particular, the 1920 American League pennant race is one of the closest of all time, and beyond the general excitement of a great pennant race, each of the three teams involved had a lasting impact on the history of baseball. Which we'll get to as we go through this.

Here are the top 15 in the starting pitcher rankings entering the 1920 season:
1. Walter Johnson 530
2. Hippo Vaughn 510
3. Carl Mays 489
4. Wilbur Cooper 485
5. Eddie Cicotte 481
6. Grover Cleveland Alexander 478
7. Stan Coveleski 472
8. Art Nehf 460
9. Jim Shaw 443
10. Hod Eller 441
11. Babe Adams 433
12. Lefty Williams 432
13. Allan Sothoron 432
14. Fred Toney 431
15. Jesse Barnes 430

There's not much to report from April of 1920 (which isn't unusual, April schedules from this era were both short and sparse). Walter Johnson had a bad start on Opening Day and then sat for over a week, but came back with two strong starts to finish the month. Normally, I would update things as of April 30, but normally, there's not a 26-inning 1-1 tie on May 1, so I feel like it's justified to delay for a day. As of May 1:

Johnson 536
Vaughn 518
Cicotte 497
Mays 496
Coveleski 494
Alexander 485
Cooper 477
Williams 468
Leon Cadore 456
Adams 454

Cadore is not just up from 28th to start the season; he's up from 21st the day before. That'll happen when you post a Game Score of 140. (His opponent, Joe Oeschger, had a 153 - the highest ever, if I'm not mistaken - and moved from 51st to 39th.) I will quickly point out that Cadore displaces Lee Meadows from the top 10 here; Meadows started the season ranked 18th and went 3-0, 0.67 in April to briefly crack the upper echelon. Also, just for fun - May 1 wasn't Cadore's only great effort early in the year; he had a 1-0 11-inning win on April 20. His opponent? Oeschger again (or Oeschger first, I guess, since this game preceded the marathon).

Last note on that game (at least for now): Time of game - 3:55 to complete 26 innings, or 9 minutes per inning.

On May 8, Hippo Vaughn threw a complete game, allowing 5 hits, 1 unearned run, and striking out 7 to pull within two points of the top spot (he was 4-1, 1.61 to this point). The next day, Johnson also threw a complete game, but gave up 13 hits and 5 runs (4 earned), lifting his ERA to 3.03 and conceding the #1 ranking. Vaughn's next start consolidated his position, and it was also maintained as both pitchers went through a long stretch without starting in the middle of the month (Johnson went 12 days between starts, relieving twice in that span). The Big Train came back with a 4-hit, 7-K shutout on May 29, but it wasn't quite enough to put him over the top by the end of the month:

Vaughn 540
Johnson 539
Alexander 524
Coveleski 517
Mays 500
Cooper 493
Cicotte 490
Dutch Ruether 482
Adams 481
Cadore 469

Johnson recaptured the top spot on June 3. A poor start on June 12 would have jeopardized his lead, except that Vaughn was in the midst of a 15-day gap between starts. Upon his return, Vaughn reclaimed #1 on June 16. His lead proved short-lived once again; he got chased early on June 24 (Game Score 36), and then was left in to take a complete game beating two days later (8 innings, 17 hits, 9 runs/8 earned, Game Score 14), yielding to Johnson for (spoiler) the final time. Vaughn's ERA entering that June 24 start had been 1.38; for the rest of the season, it would be 3.15, which is not a particularly strong figure in a National League that was still clinging to the last vestiges of the Deadball Era. Johnson threw a great game on June 27; Vaughn matched him on June 30, but on July 1, Johnson threw one of the best games of his career - a 10-strikeout no-hitter of the Red Sox that (as far as I can tell) was only kept from being a perfect game by an error. The top 10 after that masterpiece:

Johnson 555
Alexander 536
Vaughn 533
Coveleski 522
Cooper 510
Ruether 495
Cicotte 491
Mays 479
Jack Quinn 474 (up from #33 to start the year)
Bob Shawkey 471 (up from #29 to start the year)

On July 1, the Yankees (led by Shawkey's 10-5, 2.19 start, as well as that one outfielder they had who was forever redefining how baseball was played) led the Indians by half a game in the AL standings, and the White Sox by 5.

Johnson's no-hitter (on the heels of another excellent outing) could have been interpreted as a return to form; events would prove otherwise, as he didn't pitch again until July 11, made two decent starts (7/11 and 7/16), and was then done for the year. Between those two starts, on July 13, he was passed by an old rival for the #1 spot: Grover Cleveland Alexander.

Starting the year at #6, Alexander had a bad opener (giving up 12 hits and 7 runs), but recovered to throw 8 complete games in May with an ERA of 1.22 for the month. June was rather rougher, but in his first six appearances (five starts) in July, Alexander gave up only 7 runs total (3 earned), for an ERA of 0.54. The rest of the month was not so productive, and he quickly ceded the top spot back to the inactive Big Train. As of July 31:

Johnson 549
Alexander 543
Cooper 538
Vaughn 529
Coveleski 521
Ruether 510
Cicotte 499
Mays 497
Adams 489
Quinn 485

(Standings update: Cleveland by 3 over New York and 5.5 over the White Sox.)

The top of the rankings continued to narrow from there; as of August 15, three pitchers (Alexander, Cooper, and Coveleski) were within six points of Johnson's total. Mays, meanwhile, had recovered from his early-season struggles and stabilized his ranking in the #8 spot.

I mention Mays because on August 16, when facing Coveleski, Mays hit Cleveland's Ray Chapman in the head with a pitch, resulting in the only fatality from an on-field incident in MLB history. There is plenty to say about this, starting obviously with the tragic death of a 29-year-old star. The Indians won the game, 4-3, maintaining their narrow lead in the standings (half a game over the streaking White Sox, 1.5 over Mays's Yankees). And from a broader historical perspective, Chapman's death is one of the factors that gave rise to the banning of the spitball, which combined with the discovery of the home run to produce a massive explosion of offense for the next decade.

Despite the tragedy, the season persisted. Alexander narrowly passed Johnson once again on August 20. Cooper moved up to #2 on August 27, and by the end of the month, Johnson's inactivity had dropped him substantially. As of August 31:

Alexander 552
Cooper 543
Coveleski 540
Johnson 539
Vaughn 533
Cicotte 520
Adams 520
Mays 504
Jim Bagby 498 (up from #19 to start the year)
Shawkey 498

(Standings: White Sox lead Cleveland by half a game, Yankees by 1.)

Coveleski threw a gem on September 3 and took the #2 spot; Alexander bettered him on 9/5 and extended his lead. Both men pitched on 9/9, with Alexander outshining his rival once more and widening the lead to 18 points. But on September 13, Coveleski threw a complete game and allowed two runs, while Alexander got chased after 5, allowing six, narrowing the gap to less than two points. (Cooper was pitching respectably during this stretch as well, at least maintaining the appearance of a three-man race for the top spot.) Coveleski pitched well again on September 17, grabbing the #1 ranking for the first time; Alexander sat until 9/20, and didn't do quite enough to reclaim the top spot. Both men pitched again on 9/25, and the results from 12 days earlier inverted themselves, with Alexander's Game Score coming in 34 points higher and putting him back in first. Another fine outing from Cooper on September 28 brought him nearly neck-and-neck with Coveleski for #2, but the next day, the Cleveland ace pulled all but even with Alexander again. As of September 30:

Alexander 561.6
Coveleski 561.5
Cooper 556
Mays 529
Vaughn 524
Johnson 521
Adams 520
Cicotte 519
Bagby 516
Shawkey 515

It was also in late September that the Black Sox scandal officially broke; neither Cicotte nor #16 Lefty Williams would start again this year (or ever, in the major leagues), and the White Sox would be missing their two best pitchers for the final series of the season, already trailing the Indians by 1.5 games (the Yankees were now down three). From a wider historical perspective, of course, the Black Sox led to the aggressive punishment of gambling-based offenses, and also brought about the creation of the office of Commissioner, which has had... some effect on the last century of baseball.

On October 1, Alexander threw 17 innings in a 3-2 victory, good for a Game Score of 94. On October 2, Cooper got chased after 2.1 innings, having allowed 10 hits and 8 runs (Game Score of 7). Suddenly, the top echelon of the rankings looked considerably less compressed than it had before; entering the World Series, Alexander's lead was 10 over Coveleski, and 31 over the now-inactive Cooper. Coveleski would have to do some serious work in the World Series to close the gap.

In Game 1 of the World Series, Coveleski allowed 5 hits and 1 run in a 3-1 victory (75 Game Score), and cut Alexander's lead to 5.5. In Game 4, he allowed the same numbers with an extra strikeout this time, posting a 76 Game Score; since this game was in Cleveland (a better hitter's park than Ebbets Field had been recently), it was enough to put him in the lead by a point and a half. And in Game 7 (it was a best-of-9 series, so Game 7 wasn't inherently decisive... but it ended up that way), Coveleski yet again allowed 5 hits, this time in a shutout for a Game Score of 80. It was a very nice exclamation point applied to one of the most influential years in the history of baseball.

Top 15 to close the season:
1. Coveleski 580
2. Alexander 572
3. Cooper 540
4. Mays 527
5. Vaughn 521
6. Bagby 520
7. Adams 519
(Cicotte 518 - I'm manually eliminating him and Lefty Williams from the rankings as of the end of the year)
8. Shawkey 515
9. Nehf 511
10. Johnson 511
11. Barnes 509
12. Burleigh Grimes 505 (up from #38 to start, and peaked at #7)
13. Toney 500
14. Bill Doak 492
(Williams 490)
15. Urban Shocker 485 (up from #41, peaked at #10)
   11. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 20, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5843784)
1920 is a fascinating baseball season. In particular, the 1920 American League pennant race is one of the closest of all time, and beyond the general excitement of a great pennant race, each of the three teams involved had a lasting impact on the history of baseball.


I highly recommend Mike Sowell's book The Pitch That Killed to any of you who haven't already read it. It's basically a book-length treatment of the two quoted sentences.
   12. GGC Posted: May 20, 2019 at 01:27 PM (#5843819)
That is a great book.

Does anyone know if The Cosmic Baseball Association is ever coming back? The data server move has been going on for a long time.

Here is a description of what the site once was:

   13. GGC Posted: May 20, 2019 at 01:42 PM (#5843825)
   14. PreservedFish Posted: May 20, 2019 at 01:50 PM (#5843826)
Harris seemed perhaps poised for greatness, but come wintertime he was dissatisfied with the $5,000 contract he was proffered and decided to hold out for a better one. Shortly after the 1919 American League season, Harris (along with George Sisler) had played a few games with the Franklin, Pennsylvania independent team. The Franklin ballclub matched the Indians offer and “set me up in business, too.”


What do you think that means, set him up in business? Did the owner of the team give him an offseason job with promise for advancement?
   15. Rennie's Tenet Posted: May 20, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5843843)
What was the minor league team (Piedmont League?) that forfeited all its games well into the season because they had an ineligible player, then basically didn't lose for the rest of the season and took the pennant anyway?
   16. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: May 20, 2019 at 02:24 PM (#5843851)
Should have just quoted the whole paragraph:

As to the business, the Franklin News-Herald reported, “[Harris] joined Homer D. Biery and Lawrence D. Gent in leasing the Commercial Hotel. Harris and Gent utilized the first floor as a billiard and pool room and it became a congregating place for baseball fans…He continued to maintain his business interest here and spent much time in Franklin during the 1920s. In the mid 1920s he sold his interest in the pool room to Florence Murray.”
   17. AndrewJ Posted: May 20, 2019 at 06:59 PM (#5843998)
Fifty years ago today, Baseball Hall oF Fame historian Lee Allen died in a Syracuse hospital. He'd been driving back to Cooperstown from 100th anniversary ceremonies in his hometown of Cincinnati when he developed cardiac problems.

Modern baseball research really started with Lee Allen -- he oversaw the creation of the National Baseball Library (aka the Giamatti Research Center) at the HOF, and he died three months before the publishing of the first edition of the Baseball Encyclopedia, which he helped conceive. SABR was established in 1971 by several of his colleagues, and I honestly don't think it would exist without his example.
   18. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 20, 2019 at 08:13 PM (#5844014)
What was the minor league team (Piedmont League?) that forfeited all its games well into the season because they had an ineligible player, then basically didn't lose for the rest of the season and took the pennant anyway?


Bill James wrote about the Salisbury (Maryland) Indians of the Eastern Shore League who did this in the Eastern Shore League in 1937. (I grew up in Salisbury, which is why I remember this.)
   19. Rennie's Tenet Posted: May 20, 2019 at 09:21 PM (#5844017)
That's it. Thank you!

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