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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Schoenfield: Musial may have been best left fielder ever

Ted Williams was arguably the greatest hitter of all time. Barry Bonds became the greatest hitter since Williams. Rickey Henderson was the greatest power-speed combo ever, unless you give that honor to Bonds. It’s easy to extract an image of them in play: Williams, with that beautiful uppercut swing, launching that home run in the 1941 All-Star Game, the last man to hit .400; Bonds, once the graceful two-way threat, already the best player in the game, turning into the beefy monster late in his career and putting up softball numbers; Henderson, in that crouch at home plate, annoying pitchers with his postage-stamp strike zone and then annoying them further by swiping second base ... and often third.

But Stan Musial? What’s your image of Stan the Man?

...As beloved as he was in St. Louis, however, Musial’s legacy had faded over time, picking up in attention only in recent years, it seemed. He wasn’t the last player to hit .400. He hadn’t played with the Yankees. He didn’t play center field like Willie Mays or become the home run king like Hank Aaron. Again: What label do you put on Musial?

How about ballplayer? I think you can make the argument that Musial is the greatest of the four; it’s a hard one to win (in part because Musial actually played a few more games at first base than left field, and also several seasons in right field). But that speaks not just to his versatility—he was athletic enough to play over 300 games in center field as well—but his obvious willingness to put the team first, not always something said about Williams, Bonds or Henderson. He once played more than 800 games in a row, and that durability, consistency and attitude provided a bonus you didn’t get at all times from the other three.

In terms of career wins above replacement, the four rank like this:

Bonds: 158.1 WAR
Musial: 123.4 WAR
Williams: 119.8 WAR
Henderson: 106.8 WAR

Thanks to Los.

Repoz Posted: January 20, 2013 at 08:02 AM | 128 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. ajnrules Posted: January 20, 2013 at 10:38 AM (#4350856)
If we're going to use the character clause as extra credit in a way, I can definitely make this argument. That's probably why this news was so devastating to me, because Musial was such a great human being.

I have no idea how to check, but I presume he holds the record for most games played without an.ejection.
   2. jacjacatk Posted: January 20, 2013 at 10:54 AM (#4350864)
If character is enough extra credit to make up for an 1800 game deficit, isn't MLK, or Mother Theresa the best LF?
   3. SavoyBG Posted: January 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM (#4350867)
Musial missed only one season during the war. Ted missed almost 5 seasons during 2 wars, yet Ted's Career WAR is still right there with Musial. Combine this with the fact that Stan was not a full time LFer for most of his career and there's no way that he was better than Ted, let alone Bonds.
   4. Riki Tiki Javy Lopez Posted: January 20, 2013 at 11:29 AM (#4350880)
he was athletic enough to play over 300 games in center field


Was he athletic enough to steal 500 bases, too?
   5. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 20, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4350884)
Dunno, but apparently he was quite the speedster when young. Back then, SBs weren't really part of the game, were they? I remember guys leading their leagues with a couple of dozen at most, seems like.
   6. puck Posted: January 20, 2013 at 01:28 PM (#4350934)
He must have had some wheels, he led the league in triples 5 times. I thought Sportsman's park was good for triples but for his career he hit 87 on the road, 90 at home.
   7. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4350937)
But Stan Musial? What’s your image of Stan the Man?


The batting stance. How the hell could anybody hit like that? Much less hit like that hitting like that.
   8. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 20, 2013 at 02:04 PM (#4350955)
Ricky Henderson was churlish? I thought he was just loony.
   9. Brian Posted: January 20, 2013 at 02:12 PM (#4350960)
Rickey was a pain in the ass. Whenever someone else signed a contract for more than Rickey was making there was an excellent chance Rickey would be pissed off.
   10. boteman Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:06 PM (#4350980)
Whenever someone else signed a contract for more than Rickey was making there was an excellent chance Rickey would be pissed off.

Yep, just like a great many readers here, and John Q. Citizens out in the "real" world. O! The temerity!

A contemporary of Rickey Henderson described Rickey's megalomaniacal proclamations as just a façade, a false bravado much like they had put on amongst each other as kids playing on a sandlot. It wasn't no thing.
   11. booond Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4350984)
Either he was the best ever or not. "Might have been" articles aren't worth the keystrokes.
   12. bookbook Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:23 PM (#4350992)
Yes, because its much better to be definitive and wrong. George W. Bush is going up on Mt. Rushmore soon...
   13. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:37 PM (#4350999)
Forget WAR and just consider overall skill sets, and the order looks like this:

Batting for average: Williams, Musial, Bonds, Henderson
Power: Bonds, Williams, Musial, Henderson
Batting eye: Williams, Bonds, Henderson, Musial
Overall batting: Williams (by a hair), Bonds, Musial, Henderson
Baserunning: Henderson, Bonds, Musial, Williams
Overall offense: Bonds, Williams, Musial, Henderson
Fielding: Bonds, Henderson, Musial, Williams
Arm: Henderson/Bonds, Musial/Williams (no great ones in there)

Overall I'd go with Bonds, Williams, Musial and Henderson. Williams' batting skill makes up for pretty much everything else relative to Musial and Henderson.
   14. cardsfanboy Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:39 PM (#4351000)
  11. booond Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4350984)
Either he was the best ever or not. "Might have been" articles aren't worth the keystrokes.


There is no definitive answer to something like this. You have the moron's way of looking at it, which is just raw war, then you have the way most intelligent people would look at it, which is anything and everything possible. You also have the arguments about position, since he didn't play as much left field as the others, and you have arguments about timelining etc...

An article that is definitive isn't worth the keystrokes, the debate and the reasoning is the entire point of an article like this. Accepting that it's not definitive is a plus to the writer.
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4351001)
Arm: Henderson/Bonds, Musial/Williams (no great ones in there)


???? Musial may not have been Clemente, but I find it hard to believe that a former pitcher had a arm on par with Rickey/Ted.

   16. Publius Publicola Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:50 PM (#4351005)
Well, he hurt it to the degree he couldn't pitch anymore. The injury might have been bad enough to damage his arm in the same way that Don Baylor's shoulder ruined his arm.
   17. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4351006)
Rickey was a pain in the ass.

there is what evidence to support this statement?

i can recall many a statement about rickey but not that phrase.
   18. Flynn Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:54 PM (#4351007)
Williams had a good arm since he pitched in high school.
   19. Sweatpants Posted: January 20, 2013 at 03:58 PM (#4351008)
there is what evidence to support this statement?

i can recall many a statement about rickey but not that phrase.
I can see how he'd have been a pain with the Mets. He got pulled from a game after a half-hearted attempt to score against the Braves, and he famously went to play cards after being taken out of game six of the NLCS.
   20. Walt Davis Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4351013)
I go on about the role of positional playing time in positional lists a bit more than a sane person should but Musial is pretty much the archetype.

Now, first, let me say I don't really care if we distinguish LF from RF and we can lump 1B and now DH in there as well. They are the positions that almost anybody can play. Lots of guys spend their early career in RF then get shifted to the slightly less demanding LF/1B later in their careers. Lots of guys switch within a season although maybe this is less common than it used to be.

Musial had 989 starts at 1B, 868 in LF, 680 in RF and 305 in CF. Why is he being rated as an LF? He has as much claim to being the best 1B as he does the best LF although we'll settle on Gehrig there. Call him an RF and he's the 2nd greatest RF of all-time.

But it doesn't reflect his reality. Ages and positional dominance:

21: LF
22: RF
23: RF
25: 1B
26: 1B
27: LF/CF/RF (equally)
28: RF/CF equally
29: 1B/LF (and 23 starts in RF/CF)
30: LF/1B
31: CF
32: LF
33: RF
34: 1B (1/3 time in RF)
35: 1B (1/3 time in RF)
36-38: 1B
39-42: LF

He wasn't a regular LF until ages 39-42 (about 40% of his LF starts). The only reason folks ascribe him to LF is to keep him out of the way of Ruth and Gehrig.

Without question, Musial could have been one of the top 3 LF, one of the top 2 1B and (unless I'm forgetting somebody) one of the top 2 RF of all time. But in reality he wasn't any of those things because he never even made it to 1000 starts at any position. He was surely the greatest multiple-position player of all time, especially multiple positions within a season and across years.

What he was, of course, was one of the greatest players of all time. There's no need to squeeze him into the top of positional lists where he doesn't belong to be able to show how great he was. Celebrate the man for the great player that he actually was, not the great leftfielder that he wasn't.
   21. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:31 PM (#4351016)
(unless I'm forgetting somebody) one of the top 2 RF of all time.

You're either forgetting someone, or you're ranking Musial ahead of Aaron.

Is it even worth pointing out any more that you simply look at positional rankings differently than almost everyone else who does them, and that neither way is inherently correct?
   22. MHS Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:45 PM (#4351020)
The premise is absurd. Of course he wasn't. I don't know why these even get linked.

He was strictly worse, than a direct peer.

If you give Saint Stan the benefit of any reasonable doubt he is still not the best.

   23. Morty Causa Posted: January 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM (#4351028)
Musial did not have a good arm. But, then, if you have a player of Musial's quality and he has to have a flaw, make it a weak arm. It was not better than Williams's, though, and Williams was probably better than Rickey and Bonds's.

Otherwise, post #13 is a quite judicious post. It always has to be remembered, if we're going away from objective data, that Williams's career was simply mutilated by factors beyond his control, and he's still inner circle. If that doesn't impress you, you have some very special requirements for being impressed. Give him those full five years (or even just three), and his stats . . . .

Please don't take this, though, as a knock on Stan, especially at this time of all times.
   24. Morty Causa Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:07 PM (#4351032)
A case can certainly be made that Stan should rank ahead of Aaron. It's close, though, but still.
   25. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:27 PM (#4351054)
You're either forgetting someone, or you're ranking Musial ahead of Aaron.


Ruth played almost as much LF as RF. Maybe we shouldn't squeeze him onto some silly positional list either.
   26. OCF Posted: January 20, 2013 at 05:45 PM (#4351078)
Here is Musial's Hall of Merit thread. There wasn't much to say, but we did manage to get in 50 posts. Some part of it was discussing the positional issues. One of the comments I made there was something to this effect: it's the norm for a superstar franchise player to be firmly planted at one position and in one role on a team, with the rest of the team being made to fit around him. Thus it's a little odd to see Musial be the one who was moved around to accommodate other (and lesser) players.
   27. bjhanke Posted: January 20, 2013 at 06:21 PM (#4351128)
Musial was VERY fast. In fact, his early nickname was "The Donora Greyhound", not "The Man." That's a later term that came from his beating up on Brooklyn pitching. He could certainly have stolen bases if he hadn't played during a time when that facet of the game had all but disappeared. Actually, when he first reached the majors, Musial had center field ability, but was blocked by Terry Moore, who is one of the handful of players who can contend for the title "best defensive outfielder ever." Absent Moore, Musial would have probably been a career CF, clogging up the Hall of Fame logjam at the spot in the 40s and 50s even more than it is. As it was, he played in a ballpark (Sportsmans' Park) that had a small right field territory, making LF actually a harder position to play than RF, since you didn't need a big arm in RF. Musial's moving around was because he could - and would without complaint - play anywhere a lefty can play. His managers would decide who else could play best where, and Stan got what was left over, including first base in some years where it was clear that he was a noticeably better outfielder than some of the starters.

Boy, isn't it odd to think that, when Stan Musial first arrived in the Major leagues, the ability that he had that most impressed spectators was his running speed? And yet, it clearly was. - Brock Hanke
   28. Baldrick Posted: January 20, 2013 at 07:19 PM (#4351278)
Is it even worth pointing out any more that you simply look at positional rankings differently than almost everyone else who does them, and that neither way is inherently correct?

No matter how many times it gets said, Walt continues to insist that his way is the only correct way, so...no.

I have no problem with Walt's way, BTW. It just attempts to answer a different question than most people are focused on.

In the case of Musial, he was clearly and outfielder. Of the OF slots, he played more LF. That's why he's considered a LF. Pretty simple.
   29. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: January 20, 2013 at 08:08 PM (#4351335)
Thus it's a little odd to see Musial be the one who was moved around to accommodate other (and lesser) players.


without reading the HoM thread or knowing much of the story, I'd assume that Musial bounced around more than more franchise superstars because he had less of an ego than most franchise superstars. A guy who won't kick up a fuss is far more likely to bounce around the diamond than a guy determined to play where he wants to play.
   30. base ball chick Posted: January 20, 2013 at 08:57 PM (#4351388)
cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 20, 2013 at 01:33 PM (#4350937)
But Stan Musial? What’s your image of Stan the Man?


The batting stance. How the hell could anybody hit like that? Much less hit like that hitting like that.


- the astros had a guy who had the same exact stance - todd self - career minor leaguer who got basically no chance after failing to hit 1000 in a couple of pinch hit ABs -

or at least that what a couple of cards fans - 2 old ladies who had SEEN stan the man actually play, told me
   31. bjhanke Posted: January 20, 2013 at 10:36 PM (#4351559)
The main reason that Musial never played center field when he first came up was named Terry Moore, one of the short list of candidates for best defensive outfielder of all time. Part of the oddities of Musial's playing position when in his late 30s have to do with Solly Hemus' idea of managing. He apparently thought that Stan had slowed up too much to play the outfield, and kept trying him at first base, putting Bill White and Joe Cunningham in the outfield. Neither White (who was fast but couldn't judge fly balls) nor Cunningham (who was just slow) was an outfielder. When Solly went away, Johnny Keane realized that Stan could still play the outfield, and that Bill White was a Gold Glove 1B. That's the basic story. My memory in the Hall of Merit is that we assigned Stan to LF because that was where he had accumulated the most value, not the most games. - Brock Hanke (who thinks that it's very dangerous to argue with Walt Davis' mathematical analysis - Walt REALLY knows his math, and there's always a good chance that he's just seeing something that many of the rest of us, including me, aren't equipped to handle)
   32. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:37 AM (#4351641)
No matter how many times it gets said, Walt continues to insist that his way is the only correct way

This is not true. I insist the other way is inherently incorrect, because it is. I don't have a "way" to be correct if for no other reason than I don't concoct lists of the greatest X of all time.

Seriously, what's the rationale for comparing a player who played a position for half of their career (but counting their whole career) to someone who played that position for their entire career? Other than it being simpler? What is the logic behind comparing Musial, who played 2/3 of his games elsewhere, to Bonds and Williams but not Ruth, Aaron, Gehrig, etc.

Why should games played at a position be ignored in compiling lists of the greatest at a position?

It just attempts to answer a different question than most people are focused on.

What question are other people focused on? I thought the question a list of the greatest LFs was focused on was to list the greatest LFs. To do so, it would be handy to start with the list of guys who actually played LF not guys who played 1/3 of their career in LF and 2/3 of it elsewhere.

And let's be completely clear about something. You are doing a DISSERVICE to the actual Musial when you create your pretend LF Musial. One of the things that made Musial unique, even among most of the greats, was his ability to bounce around the field. The man got 105 starts in CF at age 31 and you want to call him a LF.

This is distinct from the way these things usually go. Pretending Yount and Banks were SS for their entire careers makes them look better. Treating Brett as if he doesn't have 500 fewer starts at 3B than Boggs makes Brett look better. Labeling Musial just a LF makes him look worse.

In the case of Musial, he was clearly an outfielder. Of the OF slots, he played more LF. That's why he's considered a LF. Pretty simple.

Musial played 2900+ games in the field (by b-r). 2/3 of them were not in LF. As I also pointed out, he was only a regular LF from ages 39-42, the very end of his career, accounting for 40% of his LF career games. For the bulk of his career, when he had his most value, he was in LF only about 20% of the time so I assume nobody thought of Musial as a LF during his career (Brock care to comment?). That's why he should not be considered (solely) a LF.

Pretty simple and it has the benefit of being accurate.

He won the MVP in 1943 and 122 of his 155 starts came in RF. He won it in 46 and 114 of his 156 starts were at 1B. He won it in 1948 playing all 3 OF positions with 114 of his 155 starts not in LF. His "peak" was ages 22-33 for a staggering 88 WAR during which he had just 408 starts in LF, nearly 1/3 of them in his age 32 season.

So 3 MVPs, none as a LF. 11 years of greatness, 20% of it spent in LF. Not that it's a great measure but near as I can tell, Musial got 14 AS starts, only 5 of them in LF. Yep, definitely an LF because "analysts" are too lazy to do anything more complex.

Now, if you want to lump LF and RF together, be my guest. That will simplify your life a lot without doing a lot of harm to the point of your analysis although Musial will still be "problematic." Lots of guys play at both positions for big chunks of their careers. If you want to treat them as separate positions be my guest just assign players in a way that is at least reasonably consistent with the facts (which, for a lot of guys, would mean splitting their careers between positions). And, yes, Ruth should be treated the same way as Musial.

To sum up:

2/3 of his starts were not in LF
2/3 of his starts were not in LF
2/3 of his starts were not in LF
2/3 of his starts were not in LF

ergo

not a LF for anything remotely resembling his entire career.

If you've got a fact-based counter-argument, I'd love to hear it.

Brock, thanks for the compliment, but this has nothing to do with math beyond being able to count up the number of games and do percentages and b-r/retrosheet have already done the hard counting bit. This is just common sense -- third basemen are guys who play third base, not guys who play first base.
   33. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:40 AM (#4351642)
I usually disagree with you on this subject, but in this particular case I think you are right.
   34. Baldrick Posted: January 21, 2013 at 03:17 AM (#4351645)
People want to rank all the baseball players, and they want to do so by ranking them at positions. You therefore have to select a position to rank players at. If you don't select a position for Musial he won't be ranked. This makes people far more unhappy than the fact that any position you select for him won't be a perfect fit.

People consider the values of the PLAYER to be the most important thing, and don't care very much about the value accumulated by a player at each individual position - except as it contributes to the value of the player.

That is: you want to rank value by players at positions. Most people want to rank players by value, dividing them among positions.

It doesn't make Musial "look worse" to call him a leftfielder. Because people want to rank the whole value of the player. Calling him a leftfielder is a mechanism for sorting.

I really don't get what is so complicated about this.
   35. Squash Posted: January 21, 2013 at 03:39 AM (#4351648)
Boy, isn't it odd to think that, when Stan Musial first arrived in the Major leagues, the ability that he had that most impressed spectators was his running speed? And yet, it clearly was.

Mantle as well. There's a bit in his biography about how when he first came up (pre-knee injury) he was timed running the bases in 13 seconds or something like that. Which is pretty ridiculously fast. Casey Stengel thought the watch was broken and made him run it a few times more for confirmation.
   36.     Hey Gurl Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:10 AM (#4351651)
I think I agree with Baldrick.

Walt, another way of looking at it is that if you're putting together the all-time team, who would be your starting left-fielder? It doesn't necessarily have to be a guy who played the majority of his games there, just a player who can play there and did play there a fair bit. Nobody would argue if you were putting together your all-time team and stuck Musial in left field. When people say "who was the greatest left fielder" they mean "who was the greatest overall player, who could be reasonably placed in left field?"

I think for Musial, the fact that he started his career in left field and ended it there is part of it, and while his 5 ASG starts in LF are not a majority out of 14 starts, they are more than any other position (this is another awesome Musial fact:) LF: 5, 1B: 4, RF: 3, CF: 2
   37. bjhanke Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:29 AM (#4351662)
Walt - Contemporary opinion is a VERY good issue to bring up, but I can't cover all of it, and a lot of it was just downright strange. When I first started following baseball, Stan was 33 (1954) and I was 6. That year, he played Right Field and was considered a RF. I can say that he was still considered a RF during the next few years, when he was playing 1B, because everyone knew that there was something wrong in who was playing where. The Cards in the late 50s had weak weird managers and a farm system that kept churning out odd players, like Ray Jablonski and Bill Virdon, so the manager had to keep figuring out where the rookies could play. The last year of Stan at 1B, 1959, was, according to Curt Flood, the result of racism. Solly Hemus wanted to avoid playing black guys, so he took a pool of Flood, Musial, Bill White and Joe Cunningham, and put Stan at 1B, White in CF (where he was certain to fail), Cunningham in RF, and Flood on the bench. This collapsed as a system, and Hemus got fired, so Stan went back to the OF so that Bill White could play Gold Glove 1B instead of failing at CF, and Flood could play CF, and Cunningham became the tradable guy who was left over. The next few years, Stan played LF, but I think that was because the Cards understood that, in Sportsmans' Park, LF was actually harder to play than RF, because RF was a small territory, similar to Fenway's LF. I think that's the important factor. In his ballpark, he was the best corner OF, but seldom the best CF because the Cards had either Moore or Flood or Virdon or somebody. So he played mostly LF because that was the hardest corner spot in his park. If the team had had weaker CFs, Stan would probably have played more there. But Moore, Virdon and Flood is stiff competition. When they didn't have one of those guys - those were the years Stan played in center.

The early 1940s were no better; the Cards just had massive instability in their outfield. For example, Johnny Hopp played 1B in 1942, was a utility man in 1943, and then became the starting CENTER fielder in 1944, when Moore was in WWII. Who moves from 1B to CF? What manager does this? Whoever they were, those were the managers who kept asking Stan to play a different position every year. And they were winning, so who was going to complain? Not Stan. Not his nature.

If you ask me to guess, my guess would be that Stan was considered an "outfielder" who was being played out of position when he played 1B, but could have played any outfield position, so he got moved around because of the unending series of rookies and odd pickups. He was a LF early because Enos Slaughter was in RF, and Stan was by far the better defender and LF was harder to play in that ballpark. Because of that ballpark oddity, I've always considered Stan to be a LF because of the difficulty factor, although he was playing RF and then 1B when I first started following the game. When he played LF, at the beginning and end of his career, that was really a testament to how good a glove he had. Even in his 40s, he was considered a better glove than whoever was playing RF, but Stan wasn't the CF because they had Flood. Early in his career, he was clearly better than Enos, but not as good as Moore, so he ended up in LF.

Best I can do, I call him a LF, thanks for asking! - Brock (Also I admire your work aside from the math. You do understand that the most important thing to do first in any analysis is figure out what is the right question to ask. A lot of the strong math guys don't get that.)
   38. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:03 AM (#4351665)
I've been meaning to say this for a couple of weeks, but now would be a good time I guess. Walt Davis has the most informative posts of anyone on BBTF. I also love the old "stories" (i.e. narrative, not stats) from Brock, Harvey, Treder and Andy.
   39. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:34 AM (#4351672)
I love Brock's posts, particularly this week in regards to Musial.

And I love Rickey Henderson but he was a notorious pain in the ass. He was always considered selfish and enigmatic. Its part of the reason he bounced around so much. I think it was overblown but he definitely had that rep. In the movie Little Big League the GM passes on a chance to grab Rickey off waivers in his prime because he was concern end about clubhouse chemistry.
   40. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM (#4351687)
I've been meaning to say this for a couple of weeks, but now would be a good time I guess. Walt Davis has the most informative posts of anyone on BBTF. I also love the old "stories" (i.e. narrative, not stats) from Brock, Harvey, Treder and Andy.


Seconded, or thirded.
   41. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:26 AM (#4351715)
Was he athletic enough to steal 500 bases, too?


He never stole bases, but I'm pretty sure he was fast as a young man, but lost that speed by his early 30s.

The very late move back to the OF from 1B is interesting, but I think has more to do with the fact that DH had not been invented yet, so the only way to get Bill White's bat in the lineup was to have White play 1B. (though White may actually have been a decent 1B- but he could not play in the OF if his life depended on it*)


*My vague recollection from my youth is that White once told Phil Rizzuto on air exactly that, he couldn't play in the OF if his life depended on it.
   42. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4351722)
Seriously, what's the rationale for comparing a player who played a position for half of their career (but counting their whole career) to someone who played that position for their entire career? Other than it being simpler? What is the logic behind comparing Musial, who played 2/3 of his games elsewhere, to Bonds and Williams but not Ruth, Aaron, Gehrig, etc.

OK, let's try this again.

People like to compare baseball players to each other. Sometimes, they don't want to bother comparing all of the baseball players who have ever played to each other, so they break them into subsets. Typically, they break them into subsets that have something in common. One frequently-used criteria is position played.

Of course, baseball players don't always stay at the same position throughout their careers. So when confronted with someone like, say, Joe Torre, you're left with the question of what to do with someone who was 41% catcher, 35% first baseman, and 24% third baseman (by innings played). You could, of course, say that Torre was (I assume) the best 41% catcher, 35% first baseman, 24% third baseman in the history of baseball, but that's not really a very interesting statement. You could split his value up by position and rank him separately at each one, but then you're not looking at his complete career any more, and that's what people want to do when comparing players. (Also, if you value-split by position, you get Musial not being one of the top 10 left fielders, right fielders or first basemen, despite being arguably one of the 10 best players overall; you can insist on that if you want to, but it's going to sound like nonsense to a lot of people.)

Or, you can assign each player a position, not in an effort to create an alternate universe in which the player didn't spend a single inning at another position, but simply as a convenient sorting mechanism to find similar players. This is generally done in either of two ways - either by listing the player where he spent the most time, or listing him where he accrued the most value. The second option is more common, because nobody wants to put Ernie Banks on the first base list.

So when people list Musial as a left fielder, they're really listing him as a "guy who is generally thought of as a left fielder, even though we fully acknowledge that he played other positions also and that his versatility was an asset to his team," or a "guy who provided more value in left field than at any other position." This is generally shortened to "left fielder" because the other options take longer to write out.

(Taking a quick look at Musial's career, by the way, it looks like he actually might have provided more value in right field. But he had so many years where he moved all around the outfield on a regular basis that it's tough to make the call.)
   43. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4351724)
I loved Rickey as a ballplayer but he was said to be difficult and indifferent at times. Goose Gossage claimed in his book, when he played for the A's that in his opionion Henderson was a very selfish player and a bad teammate.
   44. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:55 AM (#4351728)
#9 The only time I can recall that happening was 1990. Henderson was for some reason not covered by the collusion ruling and was stuck with a lower than market value contract.

Very unhappy. Said (almost word for word) that if they're going to pay me like Mike Gallego maybe I should play like Mike Gallego. Worth noting that while he was unhappy he played great -- won the MVP.

And it didn't cause problems in the team. Gallego in particular took it with humor (said something very close to I had no idea Rickey thought I was so good)

Alderson handled it well for the team. Simply said that Rickey had a contract and that he expected him to honor it.

EDIT: And Rickey was passed around a fair amount because the team picking him up was trying to win. It wasn't a Dick Allen "get him out of here" transaction.
   45. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:05 PM (#4351733)
#34 Walt being particularly dense here because Musial could obviously have handled left. Only a moron refuses to count (say) Henderson's (or Raines or Aaron's or ... well most corner OF with good speed spent some time in CF) time in CF when looking at LF.

The specific point of Yount's time in CF is a valid one. He simply couldn't handle SS any longer. But Henderson could have obviously handled LF in 1985.

   46. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM (#4351736)
People want to rank all the baseball players, and they want to do so by ranking them at positions. You therefore have to select a position to rank players at. If you don't select a position for Musial he won't be ranked. This makes people far more unhappy than the fact that any position you select for him won't be a perfect fit.

People consider the values of the PLAYER to be the most important thing, and don't care very much about the value accumulated by a player at each individual position - except as it contributes to the value of the player.

That is: you want to rank value by players at positions. Most people want to rank players by value, dividing them among positions.

It doesn't make Musial "look worse" to call him a leftfielder. Because people want to rank the whole value of the player. Calling him a leftfielder is a mechanism for sorting.


I think I come down on Walt's side...

When people rank 'by position', and when they get specific on OF positions in particular, it seems to me that what they're building is a 'team'...

This shortshrifts Musial --- I think he's a victim of the fact that you could play him 3 - even 4 - positions and he'd be defensive plus (except CF?) and his bat would be top class.

In doing such 'rankings' -- Musial would be my OF/1B... that's not to say he's not as good as my 'standard' set of LF/CF/RF/1B -- just that he could play all 4 of those positions, whereas, say, Ted Williams or Babe Ruth could not. Musial would be in my theoretical lineup as often as Williams-Bonds/Cobb/Ruth/Gehrig-whomever --- it's just that he'd be rotating around those four positions to spell the LF/CF/RF/1B.... in the end, all 5 of them would end up getting roughly the same number of PA's -- Musial might end up actually seeing more defensive innings because I suspect (if Williams were my LF), he'd be shifting over to LF regardless in late innings for defensive purposes.

...of course - in such a scenario, unless we're playing some otherworldly or alternate dimension group of all-stars -- this is all kind of moot, since I can't imagine anyone could play "us" tight enough that I'd even need to care about defensive alignments ;-)
   47. Ron J2 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:25 PM (#4351741)
Incidentally my memory said that one reason that people thought of Musial as a LF was that he mostly played left in the AS game. Not quite right.

Starts in AS games: 5 in LF, 4 at 1b, 3 in CF, 2 in RF. Pinch-hit in another 10 AS games and stayed to play the field only twice. LF in both cases.

His last AS start in the OF is interesting. He started in RF with Frank Robinson playing in left. "Everybody" thinks of Frank Robinson as a RF but he only had 1,270 games there. 834 games in left and 101 in center.

   48. The Good Face Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:31 PM (#4351745)
I loved Rickey as a ballplayer but he was said to be difficult and indifferent at times. Goose Gossage claimed in his book, when he played for the A's that in his opionion Henderson was a very selfish player and a bad teammate.


That makes me more inclined to view Henderson in a favorable light.
   49. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:39 PM (#4351749)
47:

Which were on TV?
   50. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:49 PM (#4351755)
When people rank 'by position', and when they get specific on OF positions in particular, it seems to me that what they're building is a 'team'...

Correct, they're constructing a "Dream Team" or a series of teams (1st team, 2nd Team, 3rd team, etc.).

I think it's perfectly legitimate to say your "Dream Team" has Mantle in LF, Cobb in CF and Mays in RF (with Ruth at DH).

Especially with LF. There really is no such thing as a "LF". Any decent CF or RF can play LF.
   51. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:51 PM (#4351757)
I loved Rickey as a ballplayer but he was said to be difficult and indifferent at times. Goose Gossage claimed in his book, when he played for the A's that in his opionion Henderson was a very selfish player and a bad teammate.



That makes me more inclined to view Henderson in a favorable light.


Heh...

I think too many players - particularly those of the Gossage mindset - tend to think 'good teammate' comes down to the guy waving a towel on the dugout steps. For a reliever, even one of Goose's era that threw 100+ innings - I can see where he comes to this thinking... he's participating in so little of the game, I guess there's an expectation that a "good teammate" should be doing such things because there's little else he can do until one or two of those few innings come up over the course of a season.

Rickey, obviously, wasn't that... From most accounts, Rickey also wasn't really the guy to be 'involved' with the team -- I recall an instance late in his career when the Mets had canned the hitting coach, Rickey got asked about it, and wasn't even aware who the guy was.... Of course, that seems balanced by the fact that there were a number of guys who played "with Rickey" that seemed to become relatively useful leadoff types for a brief period (I'm thinking of Roger Cedeno for one, but there are probably others).

I think the miscalculation that Gossage makes - and players like him make - is that Rickey's "selfishness" and the fact that Rickey most certainly DID care about his numbers (or should I say, Rickey most certainly cared about Rickey's numbers) ended up being significant positives for the "team", and it's hard to find where his pursuit of them ever hurt the team.

I.e., sure - he wanted the season and career SB record -- but led the league in SBs 12 times, but only 5 times in CS. Brock, OTOH, who probably has a reputation as a better "teammate" led the league in SBs 8 times, but in CS 7 times. Brock's career SB% was just a hair over 75%. Rickey's was almost 81%.

Call it preternatural, innate baseball acumen -- but the simple fact is that the numbers Rickey counted/cared about in fact MADE him a great teammate if you cared about winning games.

Maybe he was just poor at expressing that understanding or maybe it was just instinctual - but Rickey just sort of understood what sorts of things were most valuable in a baseball game and excelled at them.
   52. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2013 at 12:59 PM (#4351764)
I guess there's an expectation that a "good teammate" should be doing such things because there's little else he can do until one or two of those few innings come up over the course of a season.


Well, you can drink beer and eat fried chicken during the game while ####### around with video games and the internet.
   53. bjhanke Posted: January 21, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4351786)
Rants (#38) - Thank you! And you're right about Walt Davis. He posts up here a LOT, and you can always tell he's done his research. He must put in VERY large amounts of time analyzing baseball. The only other guy I know who puts that much work into sabermetrics when it's not his day job or anything is Don Malcolm. Walt and Don might disagree on a topic, but if so, when they finally got their opinions sorted out, that topic would KNOW it had been researched. Don sometimes posts here, but mostly on his blog, BigBadBaseball@blogspot.com. Walt could, IMO, easily maintain a blog of that caliber. He puts in the work on BTF comments, instead of a blog, but he certainly could do a blog if he wanted to. I'd bookmark it. Most people won't work that hard, unless they're getting paid. That includes me. I tell stories and sometimes do research to see if they are plausible or documented. Not the same amount of pure work. I salute both gentlemen. - Brock
   54. BDC Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:19 PM (#4351831)
I'm a Waltist on this issue, and I second the love for Walt expressed in many posts here. I mean, I love all you guys, but find Walt convincing on player/position philosophy and much else.

There really is no such thing as a "LF"

Exactly. Since 1961 (breakdown by OF position is spottier early on) here is the complete list of >3000-PA careers with 90% of career games in LF:

Player          WAR/pos    PA From   To      Pos
Barry Bonds       158.1 12606 1986 2007   
*78/D9
Luis Gonzalez      48.0 10531 1990 2008 
*7/D9835
Matt Holliday      35.8  5517 2004 2012     
*7/D
Carl Crawford      33.5  6059 2002 2012    
*7/8D
Jason Bay          21.8  5022 2003 2012   
*7/8D9 


Basta. Now, it's fair to note that all five of these guys were/are excellent players, and carved out niches for themselves at the LF position, whether by really honing their skills there, or by default. Ted Williams would be the archetype of such a player. But they're rare.

Here are the number of >3000-PA, >90% players at each position, 1961-2012:

C 62
1B 37
2B 49
3B 38
SS 57
RF 9
CF 18
LF 5

To a greater extent than I would have guessed, the OF positions are just not highly specialized, even in recent decades. You'd predict that CF would be the most specialized position (the very best fielders staying there stubbornly, with no reason to move them off), but even CF is far less specialized than any infield position.
   55. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 02:38 PM (#4351854)
To a greater extent than I would have guessed, the OF positions are just not highly specialized, even in recent decades. You'd predict that CF would be the most specialized position (the very best fielders staying there stubbornly, with no reason to move them off), but even CF is far less specialized than any infield position.

Yup.

If you were confident you had your positional adjustments and defensive ratings pretty accurate (i.e. CF are getting enough credit for the difficulty filling the position), I would advocate ranking all OF together.
   56. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 04:39 PM (#4351966)
If you were confident you had your positional adjustments and defensive ratings pretty accurate (i.e. CF are getting enough credit for the difficulty filling the position), I would advocate ranking all OF together.


I'm fine with ranking right and left together, but I think that centerfield requires a level of speed that isn't had by everyplayer. Enough to warrant it's inclusion as a separate position. Of course if you are ranking players and you find that your centerfielder is the better player than your corner fielders, then you are perfectly right in placing him in the corner, you can't do the opposite of that though(with notable exceptions of course, but it doesn't matter how much you love Ted Williams, if you have decided that Ruth and Bonds take the corners, he still isn't going to be in center....note: I know you would probably put Bonds in center in that situation, the point still stands)
   57. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:34 PM (#4352006)
I love Rickey Henderson but he was a notorious pain in the ass. He was always considered selfish and enigmatic. Its part of the reason he bounced around so much. I think it was overblown but he definitely had that rep. In the movie Little Big League the GM passes on a chance to grab Rickey off waivers in his prime because he was concerned about clubhouse chemistry.

And in the non-movie Actual Big Leagues, the Oakland A's re-acquired Henderson three separate times. Just imagine how many times they'd have done it if Henderson weren't such a clubhouse wretch.

At age 42, selfish Rickey had already been living contract to contract for 6 years. He'd been re-acquired by the 2001 Padres, who were also inexplicably unaware of the dreadful reputation he'd built with many teams, including the San Diego Padres. On the last day of the season, Henderson had 2,999 career hits. But he asked not to play that game, because it was Tony Gwynn's last, and he didn't want to take any of the attention away from Gwynn. And besides, fading 43-year-old pariahs are such hot commodities on the free agent market, especially ones who think only of themselves.
   58. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4352013)
So when people list Musial as a left fielder, they're really listing him as a "guy who is generally thought of as a left fielder, even though we fully acknowledge that he played other positions also and that his versatility was an asset to his team," or a "guy who provided more value in left field than at any other position." This is generally shortened to "left fielder" because the other options take longer to write out.
Is that true? I would be surprised if it were. Moreover his value as a LF was, say, 33% of his career value (40 WAR). THat's not close to WIlliams' (say) 100 WAR. Just like HRs as a catcher or whatnot.
   59. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 05:59 PM (#4352024)

I'm fine with ranking right and left together, but I think that centerfield requires a level of speed that isn't had by everyplayer. Enough to warrant it's inclusion as a separate position. Of course if you are ranking players and you find that your centerfielder is the better player than your corner fielders, then you are perfectly right in placing him in the corner, you can't do the opposite of that though(with notable exceptions of course, but it doesn't matter how much you love Ted Williams, if you have decided that Ruth and Bonds take the corners, he still isn't going to be in center....note: I know you would probably put Bonds in center in that situation, the point still stands)


My point is exactly that (bolded).

When ranking OF, if you go by top-3,4,5 at each position, you shortchange CF.

The top 12 OF of all time are probably (not in particular order) Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Musial, Bonds, Speaker, Robinson, DiMaggio, Williams and Henderson. 5 of those guys are CF.
   60. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:00 PM (#4352027)
Is that true? I would be surprised if it were. Moreover his value as a LF was, say, 33% of his career value (40 WAR). THat's not close to WIlliams' (say) 100 WAR. Just like HRs as a catcher or whatnot.


I think you misread that, they are saying he is thought of as a left fielder, because his largest value for his career was as a left fielder, but when comparing him to other players, they look at the entire career, not just his left field numbers.

As has been pointed out, there really is no major difference between left and right, and to an extent even center and first. If you are of the non-Walt feelings on the issue, and you feel you need to slot Musial at a position, you could argue that he is a left fielder, and then compare him to other people you would slot as left fielders(based upon total career, including other positions)
   61. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:05 PM (#4352035)
The top 12 OF of all time are probably (not in particular order) Ruth, Aaron, Mays, Mantle, Cobb, Musial, Bonds, Speaker, Robinson, DiMaggio, Williams and Henderson. 5 of those guys are CF.


I do find it a stretch that Dimaggio makes that cut to be honest. Always thought he was the perfect example of a New York bias. Great player of course, but what separates him from Ott or even Yaz or Clemente? Yes I know Ott is a Giant, but I just don't think he gets the press that Yankee players from the 40's, 50's and 60's got.

Of course if you ranked in order, you are going to have a listing of
1/2)Bonds or Ruth(corner fielders)
3/4/5) Williams, Mays and Cobb (2 cf, and 1 corner)
6/7/8/9) Musial, Speaker, Aaron and Mantle (2 corner, 2 center...all capable of playing any of position)
10/11/12/13)Henderson/Ott(sorry, I just can't see listing Dimaggio as clearly ahead of him)/Dimaggio/Robinson (a cf, and 3 corners)

That seems about right percentage within margin of error.
   62. zonk Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:06 PM (#4352036)
At age 42, selfish Rickey had already been living contract to contract for 6 years. He'd been re-acquired by the 2001 Padres, who were also inexplicably unaware of the dreadful reputation he'd built with many teams, including the San Diego Padres. On the last day of the season, Henderson had 2,999 career hits. But he asked not to play that game, because it was Tony Gwynn's last, and he didn't want to take any of the attention away from Gwynn. And besides, fading 43-year-old pariahs are such hot commodities on the free agent market, especially ones who think only of themselves.


Rickey was just Rickey... he didn't just have his own drummer to march to, he was playing personality jazz, where the standard set of rules just don't apply. He was also brilliant at playing baseball and most especially, doing the sort of things that people for a long time didn't understand were as valuable as they are to winning baseball games (i.e., it's not that he stole a lot of bases, it's that he stole them at a very, very proficient success rate).

I guess I'm saying that I agree with TGF -- contrary what seems CW -- those players that get these reputations in the media as 'good clubhouse guys' and then, as a result, slam people like Rickey are probably themselves clubhouse red asses who aren't well-liked.

I'd put someone like Mark Grace in that category, too... I think it's fair to say during his playing days that he had a reputation as a 'good chemistry guy'... but that was probably due almost entirely to the way he'd buddy up with the media.

Meanwhile, he's backstabbing other teammates who may or may not have been good teammates -- but who were mainly guilty of just not being a part of Mark's clique... he's doing everything possible to make life miserable for any kid in the organization who dares play a position he plays... etc.

   63. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:09 PM (#4352039)
Is that true? I would be surprised if it were.

If you read the rest of my post, I already acknowledged that Musial may not have provided the plurality of his value in left. Honestly, I'm not sure why people always seem to rank Musial in particular as a left fielder; he fits equally well in right or at first.

Which was not the point at all.
   64. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4352043)
I do find it a stretch that Dimaggio makes that cut to be honest. Always thought he was the perfect example of a New York bias. Great player of course, but what separates him from Ott or even Yaz or Clemente?

3 years of war-credit, in his prime, get him to 90 WAR (which is the same as Yaz or Clemente), plus WAR defense doesn't nearly match his reputation, and he was specifically hurt by his home park.

10/11/12/13)Henderson/Ott(sorry, I just can't see listing Dimaggio as clearly ahead of him)/Dimaggio/Robinson (a cf, and 3 corners)

Ott was helped by his park as much as DiMaggio was hurt.

I think ranking players solely on value-created as determined by WAR is pretty silly. The fact the Yaz tacked on 15 WAR as an average or worse player doesn't impress me at all. DiMaggio as still well above average when he retired, as was Mantle.

Is there really any doubt DiMaggio was a better ballplayer than Ott or Yaz?
   65. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:25 PM (#4352059)
Ott was helped by his park as much as DiMaggio was hurt.

Ott's home-field advantage is hugely overstated. Yes, he hit more homers at home - but he hit for a higher average and had far more doubles and triples on the road. Overall, he's +62 points of OPS at home, which isn't nothing, but it's not exactly a historic advantage. (For the sake of comparison, the overall MLB home-road split in 1937, which is roughly Ott's median year, is +37.)
   66. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:26 PM (#4352061)
3 years of war-credit, in his prime, get him to 90 WAR (which is the same as Yaz or Clemente), plus WAR defense doesn't nearly match his reputation, and he was specifically hurt by his home park.


Agreed it gets him to Yaz and Clemente range.

Ott was helped by his park as much as DiMaggio was hurt.


I don't see how that matters in the slightest, value is value regardless of how you get there.

I think ranking players solely on value-created as determined by WAR is pretty silly. The fact the Yaz tacked on 15 WAR as an average or worse player doesn't impress me at all. DiMaggio as still well above average when he retired, as was Mantle.


I agree with this also, but I've always thought Dimaggio was the most overrated player in history, and War hasn't changed my perception of this.

Is there really any doubt DiMaggio was a better ballplayer than Ott or Yaz?


Absolutely, especially in regards to Ott. Yaz and Clemente a different story of course, but I don't see any way that Dimaggio is better than Ott.
   67. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:34 PM (#4352066)
I don't see how that matters in the slightest, value is value regardless of how you get there.

So in ranking ball players we're giving them credit for what park they played in? That seems awfully silly.

We're talking "best ballplayer" no "best value accumulator".

I mean if you give DiMaggio war-credit, he's at 90 WAR through age 36 (more if you give him defensive credit equal to his rep), and still well above average (2.7 WAR in 117 games). Through 36, Yaz had 80 WAR. I don't see how his extra 7 years of mostly mediocrity elevate him to DiMaggio's level.

I agree with this also, but I've always thought Dimaggio was the most overrated player in history, and War hasn't changed my perception of this.

Well, around here he seems to have become so overrated he's underrated. I mean, this is a guy who put up a 1015 road OPS (I know all the issues with splits) and was considered an excellent defensive CF in his day.
   68. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:39 PM (#4352070)
Absolutely, especially in regards to Ott. Yaz and Clemente a different story of course, but I don't see any way that Dimaggio is better than Ott.

DiMaggio had a 155 career OPS+ and was considered an excellent defensive CF in a park that specifically hurt him (148 HR at home, vs. 213 on the road, .938 home OPS vs. 1.015 on the road). Ott has a 155 career OPS+, in RF (I've never heard much about defense, I assume he was fine), and benefited, or at least wasn't hurt by his home park.
   69. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4352072)
So in ranking ball players we're giving them credit for what park they played in? That seems awfully silly.

We are giving them credit for their performance in their park relative to other players performance. You park adjust for value, but you don't then add a second penalty because the player was particularly well suited for the park.

In the years that Ott played against Dimaggio, Ott posted better ops, obp, played more games, the defensive adjustment makes up some of that ground, but on a per season basis, Ott gave you 147 games at .301 .423 .530 .953 vs Dimaggio giving you 140 games at .339 .403 .607 1.010 159... The obp difference is a very large gap to overcome.
   70. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:43 PM (#4352073)
Ott's home-field advantage is hugely overstated. Yes, he hit more homers at home - but he hit for a higher average and had far more doubles and triples on the road. Overall, he's +62 points of OPS at home, which isn't nothing, but it's not exactly a historic advantage. (For the sake of comparison, the overall MLB home-road split in 1937, which is roughly Ott's median year, is +37.)

And DiMaggio's split was -77. Give him a +37, and he has a career OPS of about 1035 instead of 977, and an OPS+ well over 160.
   71. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:45 PM (#4352074)
And DiMaggio's split was -77. Give him a +37, and he has a career OPS of about 1035 instead of 977, and an OPS+ well over 160.


Are you turning doubles into homeruns, or outs into homeruns in that little exercise?

Mind you, it doesn't matter in the slightest, again all that matters is what they did, theoretical concepts of what they could have done in another ball park is beyond any reasonable analysis.
   72. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:48 PM (#4352077)
We are giving them credit for their performance in their park relative to other players performance. You park adjust for value, but you don't then add a second penalty because the player was particularly well suited for the park.

Why not? We're trying to determine talent level, aren't we? Nobody tends to add Ruth's ~20 pitching WAR to his batting total, but that's real value. It's just not really relevant to who was the best RF, or position player.

I mean if a park specifically hurts or helps certain types of players, we should use that info. In and ideal world, we'd park adjust with specific single, double, triple, HR, BB and K park factors for every park, with LHB and RHB separate.
   73. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:49 PM (#4352078)
Are you turning doubles into homeruns, or outs into homeruns in that little exercise?

Just adding the +37 to his actual road OPS.
   74. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:51 PM (#4352080)
Why not? We're trying to determine talent level, aren't we?


Not in the slightest. We are trying to determine who was best. Talent level, you might have to argue Eric Davis as best of all time.

I mean if a park specifically hurts or helps certain types of players, we should use that info. In and ideal world, we'd park adjust with specific single, double, triple, HR, BB and K park factors for every park, with LHB and RHB separate.


If we are making a trade for a player, sure. If you are trying to argue for one player better than the other, I don't see how you can. You can make up all the theoretical constructs you want, but until it's put in a real world environment, it doesn't tell you anything about how they actually did perform.


Players value is what they did in the environment that they were forced to play in, relative to their peers.
   75. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:52 PM (#4352081)
Mind you, it doesn't matter in the slightest, again all that matters is what they did, theoretical concepts of what they could have done in another ball park is beyond any reasonable analysis.

That ridiculous. That's the analysis every GM (and all us arm-chair GMs) do every day. If I trade for Dustin Pedroia, I don't get his performance in Fenway, I get his talent level.

If DiMaggio had been a Red Sox and Williams a Yankee, it would have changed their stats a lot, but their talent not one bit.
   76. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:55 PM (#4352084)
That ridiculous. That's the analysis every GM (and all us arm-chair GMs) do every day. If I trade for Dustin Pedroia, I don't get his performance in Fenway, I get his talent level.

If DiMaggio had been a Red Sox and Williams a Yankee, it would have changed their stats a lot, but their talent not one bit.


Without a spray chart of all of Dimaggio's hits, and the weather patterns for each game, we don't know what he would have actually done in another stadium and it's ridiculous to pretend we could have. We can only go by what happened. I am not going to vote for a cy young award based upon fip era, and would ridicule any idiot that does, same thing goes here, you can only judge him by what happened.

Besides, if he has those extra homeruns that you are talking about, that would imply that yankee stadium was easier to hit in, and it probably doesn't affect his ops+ in the slightest.
   77. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 06:58 PM (#4352088)
If we are making a trade for a player, sure. If you are trying to argue for one player better than the other, I don't see how you can. You can make up all the theoretical constructs you want, but until it's put in a real world environment, it doesn't tell you anything about how they actually did perform.

I disagree. We use the best info we have.

Just like we don't have real world evidence of what Ted Williams would have done if he hadn't missed all that war time, it's a disservice to him to not try to adjust as best we can.

That's why, to me, Williams is, hands down, the better LF than Bonds. Eyeballing the surrounding seasons, Williams lost about 45 WAR from the two wars. That puts him ahead of Bonds already, at 165 to 158. I then dock Bonds another 20-25 WAR by giving him only a Mays/Aaron type 35+ career, instead of the roid/armor silliness that the record books have.

Quite frankly to say Bonds is better than Williams, b/c Williams lost 5 years serving his country is a little bit offensive.
   78. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:00 PM (#4352090)

Besides, if he has those extra homeruns that you are talking about, that would imply that yankee stadium was easier to hit in, and it probably doesn't affect his ops+ in the slightest.


That's silly. OPS+ is done by overall park factor. You know Yankee Stadium was an easy HR park for LHB and death on RHB.

   79. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4352093)
That's silly. OPS+ is done by overall park factor. You know Yankee Stadium was an easy HR park for LHB and death on RHB.


I don't see how that is silly. If right handed batters had problems at Yankee stadium, and you are giving advantages to one right handed batter, you would have to apply the same advantage to all the right handed batters at that stadium during the year to determine proper park factors.

If you want to do that exercise properly, then you would need to look at all the right handed at bats in Yankee stadium, apply the same sort of bonus that you are giving Dimaggio to all players to determine it's new park factors and work from there.
   80. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:09 PM (#4352096)
I think you misread that, they are saying he is thought of as a left fielder, because his largest value for his career was as a left fielder, but when comparing him to other players, they look at the entire career, not just his left field numbers.
I did not misread it. Is it true that his largest value for his career was as a left fielder? Can you provide me with a list of his value by position?

As has been pointed out, there really is no major difference between left and right, and to an extent even center and first.
I disagree with that assertion. Is any evidence for this presented? From a hitting perspective, there may not be, but from a defensive perspective there is.
If you are of the non-Walt feelings on the issue, and you feel you need to slot Musial at a position, you could argue that he is a left fielder, and then compare him to other people you would slot as left fielders(based upon total career, including other positions)
I put him at first - that's where he played the most. And yes, I can provide you a list (people already did above). "Musial had 989 starts at 1B, 868 in LF, 680 in RF and 305 in CF."

Going to his splits page, we have the splits for 629 of his 820 LF starts, and his tOPS is just 92. We have just 364 of his 680 RF starts (tOPS 115).

His 1B, we have 836 of 989, and he has a 98 tOPS. So I am a little skeptical that we *know* most of his value came in LF. I'd guess it was either RF or 1B.

   81. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:10 PM (#4352100)
I then dock Bonds another 20-25 WAR by giving him only a Mays/Aaron type 35+ career, instead of the roid/armor silliness that the record books have.
How much are you docking Williams for amphetamine usage?
   82. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:14 PM (#4352103)
How much are you docking Williams for amphetamine usage?

In the air or on the baseball field?
   83. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:16 PM (#4352104)
In the air or on the baseball field?
Exactly.
   84. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:22 PM (#4352106)
I disagree with that assertion. Is any evidence for this presented? From a hitting perspective, there may not be, but from a defensive perspective there is.


The evidence is how frequently teams slot players in either left or right field. Yes there is a slight difference in that right field usually prefers a stronger arm, but in practice, the teams don't stress that too much when it comes to subbing players in and out. Ultimately teams don't really see much of a difference in which players they will put at left or right. Only rule seems to be that the most established player gets his position first and others follow, but if you get a team which acquire two career left fielders, teams don't hesitate putting one in right.


I put him at first - that's where he played the most. And yes, I can provide you a list (people already did above). "Musial had 989 starts at 1B, 868 in LF, 680 in RF and 305 in CF."


And you would be in a massive minority slotting Musial as a first baseman. Almost nobody thinks of Musial as a first baseman.
   85. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:27 PM (#4352110)
Quite frankly to say Bonds is better than Williams, b/c Williams lost 5 years serving his country is a little bit offensive.


The thing about Williams is that he was purely a bat as a player. He was an inner circle Manny Ramirez. Yes he was great, but every thing outside of hitting, hurts his career. Many people just find it hard to list him as the second best of all time, when it's very apparent, he wasn't a complete ballplayer.

I personally don't care one whit about roid usage, again, it's what happened on the field, no matter how much you want to penalize a player or a generation, it happened, you can't do anything about it, and baseball, unlike pretend sports(college football, cycling etc) doesn't erase the stats because of a controversy, what happened, happened.


   86. The District Attorney Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:28 PM (#4352112)
We're trying to determine talent level, aren't we?
What does "talent level" even mean when you're evaluating players from completely different eras? Are you giving Gavvy Cravath credit because the shape of his talent would translate better to the 1990s than it did to his own era, and docking Ty Cobb because the opposite is true for him?
   87. Greg K Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:32 PM (#4352115)
And in the non-movie Actual Big Leagues

This reminds me of a guy I know who's doing a PhD on a 2011 novel by a particular author. Except that author died in 2007 so the novel doesn't exist.
   88. Greg K Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:37 PM (#4352120)
As for where to put people defensively, like everything else it all depends on what you're hoping to accomplish in your rankings.

If you're assembling a dream team, then I see no reason not to go with Cobb, Mays, Mantle in the OF (and Ruth DHing as the fellow says).

If you're looking to see how accomplished the most while playing at a certain position, then ignore everything Torre did when he wasn't catching.

If you just want to divide players up into 8 largely symmetrical groups then I think you go with the "everyone has to fit into one of the buckets" approach.

I don't think there's a rule book anywhere that says any ranking of players has to be done with X purpose in mind.
   89. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2013 at 07:42 PM (#4352124)
Just adding the +37 to his actual road OPS.

Two things wrong with that. First, the 37 points was home minus road, not overall minus road; you'd want to cut the difference in half.

Second, you're removing Yankee Stadium from Dimaggio's line entirely, thereby giving him a more favorable set of parks to play in than his AL peers.
   90. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:04 PM (#4352147)
Going to his splits page, we have the splits for 629 of his 820 LF starts, and his tOPS is just 92. We have just 364 of his 680 RF starts (tOPS 115).

His 1B, we have 836 of 989, and he has a 98 tOPS.


The splits we have are for the latter part of Musial's career; they don't include most of his best seasons.

Still, I don't mind debating the correct position to list Musial. I mind the absolutist insistence that picking one position simply for the sake of subdividing players is absolutely the wrong way to go about ranking players by position, which is frankly far too trivial an exercise for absolutism.
   91. Booey Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:17 PM (#4352158)
DiMaggio or Ott?

He's barely been mentioned, but I'd probably take Frank Robinson over either of them.

And wouldn't Kaline belong in the Yaz/Clemente group as well?

I then dock Bonds another 20-25 WAR by giving him only a Mays/Aaron type 35+ career, instead of the roid/armor silliness that the record books have.


This doesn't make any sense. The roid/armor silliness happened and actual measurable wins resulted because of it. By the same logic you could severely reduce the value of Williams or Mays or whoever by pretending they broke their leg at 30 and had to play the last half of their career with a cast. There's a reason most people choose to use actual numbers rather than made up ones of what would've/could've/should've happened in an alternate universe.
   92. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:22 PM (#4352160)
The evidence is how frequently teams slot players in either left or right field. Yes there is a slight difference in that right field usually prefers a stronger arm, but in practice, the teams don't stress that too much when it comes to subbing players in and out. Ultimately teams don't really see much of a difference in which players they will put at left or right. Only rule seems to be that the most established player gets his position first and others follow, but if you get a team which acquire two career left fielders, teams don't hesitate putting one in right.
You just re-stated the premise. How many players have lots of innings in both?
   93. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:24 PM (#4352162)
And you would be in a massive minority slotting Musial as a first baseman. Almost nobody thinks of Musial as a first baseman.
Once upon a time, I was in the minority on how valuable defense was amongst statheads. I don't mind. Coincidentally, he played the most games there, and there's a good chance he created his most value there. DOn't why that makes me odd.
   94. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:34 PM (#4352168)
You just re-stated the premise. How many players have lots of innings in both?


I doubt that there are many, the veteran/star player gets his position and has a tendency to stick there. My point was that if you look at a team for a season, you will see a lot more players getting playing time at left/right, than you will see getting playing time at other multiple positions. A centerfielder = outfielder(meaning he can play all three positions) I don't think anyone doubts that. Which is why I think centerfield is perfectly acceptable being listed as it's own position. I don't think I've ever heard a manager really fret about finding a spot for a corner outfielder, if he can play right, he can play left, and only the most horrible left fielders can't play right(even with a poor arm, arm plays happen so infrequently that they aren't detrimental in getting a player into a game there)


As to how many...depends on your criteria for how many. Since 1901 there are 88 players who have played at least 300 games at right and left field. Just 20 at 500


Rk                 Player  HR From   To
                                       
1               Babe Ruth 714 1914 1935
2          Frank Robinson 586 1956 1976
3           Manny Ramirez 555 1993 2011
4             Stan Musial 475 1941 1963
5              Joe Carter 396 1983 1998
6            Frank Howard 382 1958 1973
7          Rocky Colavito 374 1955 1968
8             Moises Alou 332 1990 2008
9               Del Ennis 288 1946 1959
10            Brian Giles 287 1995 2009
11         Dante Bichette 274 1988 2001
12            Bob Allison 256 1958 1970
13        Bobby Higginson 187 1995 2005
14         Enos Slaughter 169 1938 1959
15              Pete Rose 160 1963 1986
16             Bob Meusel 156 1920 1930
17            Ken Griffey 152 1973 1991
18          Frank Schulte  92 1904 1918
19   Shoeless Joe Jackson  54 1908 1920
20             Greg Gross   7 1973 1989 
   95. Mefisto Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:35 PM (#4352169)
Ott was good enough as a fielder to play 3b for an entire season, one in which he had .5 dWAR. He played a total of 256 games at 3b, another 140 in CF and 6 at 2b. Going by contemporary judgment, he was considered one of the two best RF of his era (Paul Waner being the other).

I see no reason to believe that DiMag had a better career than Ott, whose career also ended (for practical purposes) at age 36 and who had 105 war through that age. Ott was a legitimately great player. Even if you give DiMag generous credit for WWII, I'd call it a dead heat between them.
   96. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 21, 2013 at 08:39 PM (#4352175)
Since 1901 there are 88 players who have played at least 300 games at right and left field. Just 20 at 500
Right - Just 20 players have played three seasons at both. Its rare. Managers don't seem to think it is interchangeable - or they don't behave that way. How many guys have 1000 games at either?

I think people rationalize that they are interchangeable, but MLB hasn't acted like they are.
   97. tfbg9 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 09:40 PM (#4352201)
What are Yaz's top 3 seasons by WAR, and what are Dimaggio's? IIRC, the answer is fairly suprising...
   98. tfbg9 Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:38 PM (#4352234)
I looked it up...its Yaz at ~31, Joe at ~25, using rWAR. Using fWAR, its Yaz ~32, Joe D. ~30.
   99. TDF, situational idiot Posted: January 21, 2013 at 10:39 PM (#4352235)
Here are the number of >3000-PA, >90% players at each position, 1961-2012:

C 62
1B 37
2B 49
3B 38
SS 57
RF 9
CF 18
LF 5
...You'd predict that CF would be the most specialized position (the very best fielders staying there stubbornly, with no reason to move them off), but even CF is far less specialized than any infield position.
The thing is, CF is a tough position defensively, and guys get days off or eventually move somewhere else.

Ken Griffey Jr. is a CF, right? However, he didn't even play in the field in 90% of his games (89.2%, to be exact); even of his games played where he didn't DH, he played CF exactly 90% (90.05%) of the time.

Jim Edmonds? He spent 65% of his career in the NL (by games played), but DHed enough that he only played CF in 88% of his total starts.

Catcher is tough, but those guys get regular days off and usually don't hit enough to DH; SS don't get as much rest, but again aren't going to DH.
   100. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 21, 2013 at 11:16 PM (#4352266)
Without a spray chart of all of Dimaggio's hits, and the weather patterns for each game, we don't know what he would have actually done in another stadium and it's ridiculous to pretend we could have. We can only go by what happened.

Well, if you want to go by "what happened" with Dimaggio in Fenway Park against a pitching staff whose ERA was in the top half of the league in 8 out of Dimaggio's 13 years, his 162 game average production** was a .334 BA, 40 home runs, 152 RBI and a 1.015 OPS. His corresponding numbers for Yankee Stadium, based on 875 games against all opponents, were a .315 BA, 27 home runs, 133 RBI and a .938. I'd say those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.

**Based on the 119 games he actually played in Fenway over the course of his career.
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