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Monday, March 03, 2003

1876 National League

Once again, jimd’s thoughts are in the discussion:

Standings      W  L   PCT    GB  Adjusted Standings  W   L  PCT  GB
Chicago       52 14  .788   --   Chicago           128  33 .794  --
Hartford      47 21  .691   6.0  St.Louis          115  46 .717  13
St.Louis      45 19  .703   6.0  Hartford          112  49 .694  16
Boston        39 31  .557  15.0  Boston             90  71 .557  38
Louisville    30 36  .455  22.0  Louisville         75  86 .467  53
New York      21 35  .375  26.0  New York           61 100 .379  67
Philadelphia  14 45  .237  34.5  Philadelphia       39 122 .245  89
Cincinnati     9 56  .136  42.5  Cincinnati         24 137 .146 104

If you look at the 3 worst teams, only Philadelphia had more than one or two legit major leaguers. Also the three teams were by far the worst fielding teams in the league. Removing them from the standings would produce these records:

Standings      W   L  PCT  GB
Chicago      112  48 .700  --
St. Louis     94  66 .589  18
Hartford      89  71 .558  23
Boston        61  99 .379  51
Louisville    44 116 .273  68


From a historical viewpoint, 1876 is notable for the replacement of the “National Association of Professional Baseball Players” by the “National League of Professional Baseball Clubs”.  The change in name is important, because it reflects the overall shift in power from the players, who ran the Association through player representatives on various committees, to the financial backers, who ran the League.  This was all set in motion by William Hulbert of Chicago, who did not take well the controversial decision against his club in the Davey Force contract case the previous year.

The baseball fan of 1876 may not have noticed much difference, however, depending on which city he was located in.  It was essentially the same players playing for essentially the same teams, with the usual amount of turnover in both.  (Some fans may have noticed a raise in ticket price to 50 cents, now a League policy; others may have noticed the ban on alcohol sales or the ban on Sunday games, also League policies.)

Six teams were back from 1875.  Boston, New York, and the Athletics were original founders of both organizations; Chicago, Hartford, and St. Louis were more recent additions to the Association.  Cincinnati and Louisville were the two new teams.  Six of the eight largest markets were represented. Baltimore and Brooklyn were missing; Louisville was the next best choice for a western team, unless you wanted to add New Orleans or San Francisco, both of which may have been too far away to be practical for that era.  Hartford was too small (not even top-30 in market size), but had too good a team (2nd in wins, 3rd in percentage in 1875) to be excluded.

The defection of the Big Four (Barnes, McVey, Spalding, and White) from Boston to Chicago, combined with Chicago’s addition of Cap Anson from Philadelphia, moved the pennant from Boston to Chicago.  St. Louis hung with them for the first few weeks, Hartford until mid-July.  Chicago defeated Hartford 9-5 in a major showdown in early July, beginning an 11-game winning streak that effectively ended the race; the White Stockings cruised the rest of the way.

Pennant Race Progression:

Standings on am July 1              Standings on am Sept. 1
Chicago       24- 5  .828  --       Chicago       42-12  .778  --
Hartford      22- 5  .815   1       St.Louis      35-17  .673   6
St.Louis      19-10  .655   5       Hartford      33-15  .688   6
Boston        14-15  .483  10       Boston        30-22  .577  11
Louisville    12-17  .414  12       Louisville    25-29  .463  17
New York      10-18  .357  13+      New York      20-27  .426  18+
Philadelphia   9-19  .321  14+      Philadelphia  13-38  .255  27+
Cincinnati     4-25  .138  20       Cincinnati     7-45  .135  34

The Silver Sluggers for 1876:

1B - Cal McVey (CHI) .347/.352/.406 (age 25)

2B - Ross Barnes (CHI) .429/.462/.590 (age 26); the league leader

SS - John Peters (CHI) .343/.358/.419 (age 26)

3B - Levi Meyerle (PHI) .340/.347/.449 (age 31);
Cap Anson (CHI) .356/.380/.450 (age 24); this one is very close after park-adjustments are applied, which favor Levi.

LF - George Hall (PHI) .366/.384/.545 (age 27)

CF - Lip Pike (STL) .323/.341/.472 (age 31);
Jim O’Rourke (BOS) .327/.358/.420 (age 25) is a respectable 2nd, as is Charley Jones (CIN) .286/.304/.420 (age 26)
(Cincinnati is quite the pitcher’s park, as measured by conventional means.)

RF - Dick Higham (HAR) .327/.331/.407 (age 25)

C - Deacon White (CHI) .343/.358/.419 (age 28)

P - Al Spalding (CHI) .312/.326/.373 (age 25);
Jim Devlin (LOU) .315/.318/.369 (age 27) is close behind


George Bradley (STL) edged Jim Devlin (LOU) for the ERA+ title 175 to 174.  Devlin is the new strikeout king with 122K though Tommy Bond (HAR) had a better rate with 1.94 K/9IP.  Bond is arguably the leader in least walks issued at .29 BB/9IP, or you could go with George Zettlein (PHI) at .23, if you include number 2 starters also.

STATS All-Star Team            BJ Win Shares All-Star Team
1b  Cal McVey      Chi         16 Cal McVey, Chi
2b  Ross Barnes    Chi         20 Ross Barnes, Chi
SS  John Peters    Chi         17 George Wright, Bos (12 Peters)
3b  Cap Anson      Chi         15 Joe Battin, StL (14 Anson)
OF  George Hall    Phi         17 Lip Pike, StL (10 Hall)
OF  Paul Hines     Chi         17 Jim O'Rourke, Bos (12 Hines)
OF  Jim O'Rourke   Bos         13 Dick Higham, Har
C   Deacon White   Chi         14 John Clapp, StL (13 White)
P   Al Spalding    Chi         57 Al Spalding, Chi = George Bradley StL
Ut                             19 Jack Manning, Bos OF(+P)

Boston defeated the Athletics 6-5 at Philadelphia on April 22 to start the new league’s first season.  Jim O’Rourke got the first hit, and Joe Borden (still known as “Josephs”) got the first win.

Chicago’s first trip to Boston on May 30th drew a crowd estimated at 14,000, “the largest that ever attended a baseball match in the world”. Chicago won 5-1.

George Bradley pitched the League’s first no-hitter on July 15 against Hartford, winning 2-0.  It is his third consecutive shutout in the 3-game series against the Blues.  He would pitch 16 shutouts in 1876.

St. Louis won the season series over Chicago, 6 games to 4.

Louisville appears to have copied, with some success, Bob Ferguson’s strategy at Hartford by building a strong pitching/fielding squad.  Cincinnati went with mostly non-veteran talent; Charlie Gould from Harry Wright’s original Cincinnati team was hired as manager; the team was far from competitive.

Harry Wright was gracious in relinquishing the name “Red Stockings” to the Cincinnati club; Boston became the “Red Caps” instead.

Morgan Bulkeley of Hartford was the first league president.  At various times, I have read that this was determined by drawing lots (which gave Morgan his winning ticket into the HOF), or was a compromise between the eastern and western clubs (a small-market eastern team owner makes sense). Bulkeley would be inducted into the HOF in 1937, though he did little to deserve it other than being the first president (for only one year). Hulbert, who deserved the honor if anyone did, had to wait until 1995.

New York and Philadelphia both blew off their last couple of road games with the western clubs, pleading financial difficulties; this had been done before in the Association, but either they didn’t read the fine print or didn’t believe the League would follow through with it.  They were expelled for this at the league meeting after the season.  Also at this meeting, a request for “free agency” was made by Louisville pitcher, Jim Devlin, on the grounds that Louisville had not fulfilled its contract with him; it was denied.

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: March 03, 2003 at 11:45 PM | 8 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Marc Posted: March 04, 2003 at 05:30 PM (#511574)
This is not an informed opinion, but is this the law of diminishing returns? ie. Chicago was a veritable all-star team yet could still not be expected to win more than .788, but still had only 156 WS available, which are then distributed over a large number of outstanding players. Boston, meanwhile, had only three players mentioned above (O'Rourke and Manning in addition to Wright) yet against the real opposition they were able to win better than .500 and generate 117 WS to be distributed over a smaller pool of real talent.

That's my theory. Significant problem with WS over short season and a wide variance in team performance. The adjusted WS vs. the adjusted balanced schedule should even some of this out, should it not? Now instead of 156-117, Chicago's edge in WS will be 336-183 over the Red Caps.
   2. jimd Posted: March 04, 2003 at 07:56 PM (#511575)
RE: Wright vs Peters. I think there are a number of different effects going on here:

1) Chicago appears to be a strong hitter's park in 1876 (like Texas or Arizona 2002) while Boston is approximately neutral.

2) Wright can field. Peters is very sure-handed but has slightly sub-par range. Wright played two more games and made 58 more assists (with 22 more errors, but he still had above average FPct.) He's getting to a lot more balls, and converting most of them into outs. If every play made saved a single, his defensive edge clearly more than made up the offensive gap. (Caveat, I have not looked at flyball/groundball tendencies here.)

3) Chicago underperformed its Pythagorean by 3 games; Boston overperformed by the same amount. This probably cost each Chicago regular 1 WS while giving each Boston regular 1 extra. But each team collectively earned that result.

4) There is an "overkill" effect that affects extremely good teams, where surplus performance results in bigger and better blowouts instead of more wins. We discussed this on one of the older threads with respect to King Kelly and the Chicago teams of the mid-1880's. Chicago 1876 may be feeling a little of that; Boston 1875 would be the most extreme example.
   3. jimd Posted: March 05, 2003 at 12:14 AM (#511576)
There is an "overkill" effect, or as Marc put it, the law of diminishing returns.
   4. dan b Posted: March 08, 2003 at 03:56 PM (#511578)
   5. Rob Wood Posted: March 10, 2003 at 12:40 AM (#511580)
I am partially to blame for the protracted delay. I volunteered to help Joe modify the win shares system to make it more applicable to the 19th century (especially the National Association). However, given my unfamiliarity with Joe's win share spreadsheet, I was not able to accomplish the task. Thus, this task fell back onto Joe's shoulders.

Having said that, I too am getting antsy about getting going again. I fear we have lost whatever momentum we had. I realize that it is important to try to do justice to the 19th century players (such as calculating NA win shares), but we are likely paying a high price in waning interest.

Joe, could you let us know where things stand and what your ideas are for going forward?

Thanks much.
   6. MattB Posted: March 10, 2003 at 12:58 PM (#511581)
I was very interested in the beginning, but if there is not a first election scheduled by opening day, I don't think I want to play anymore.

I mean, there will always be more information coming available. We wanted to evaluate players using Win Shares, and since then we've wanted to evaluate pitchers using DIPS, but we don't know yet if it's even applicable, and if so how much, to pre-modern players.

This year I'm sure some new uber-metric will come out that'll blow all the others out of the water, or at least put a new slant on things.

The assumption seems to be that "as soon as we know everything" we can start balloting, but 19th century win shares is only one aspect of voting, and by the time we're done, no matter how much info we have the early elections will end up looking somewhat wrongheaded by the time we're done.

If anything, this project is giving me a better appreciation for early Hall voters who were probably just doing the best they could with the information readily available.

I say a big push up to a first ballot by opening day. If it can't be done by then, I doubt it'll be done at all.
   7. Marc Posted: March 11, 2003 at 02:20 AM (#511583)
Let me put my two cents worth in here. I am a relative newcomer, having been on primer since about last June or so. I came here because somebody over at told me about the HoM. Now I'm part of a much smaller HoM discussion than then. So I understand wanting to get the voting going.

But let's be sure we are doing the right thing. The point of the year-by-year review was to figure out how to allocate WS (or adjusted WS) for the NA. From 1876-today we have Bill James' numbers which have been adjusted to 162 games. I think post-1876 that's good enough. But we have been waiting for NA WS and I think that is something we need. At the present time every player's WS for the NA is zero, no more, no less.

So my suggestion is:

1. we get NA WS

2. republish the adjusted WS that were first posted here mid-year last year. Or I guess what I mean by republish is just add a new post on each and push back to active status.

3. I think we can ask the voters to manually add in the NA WS to overall WS numbers for themselves

4. Announce a vote date and vote. If it's a couple weeks away rather than a couple days, Joe, I think that's OK. But somewhere around opening day would be a nice touch.

But I do think we need NA WS. Rob, Dan, whomever is more versed in the etiquette of baseballprimer, what do you think. I still feel guilty that we're asking Joe to do all the work on the NA WS. And we can all help relaunch the voting, reactivating the old adjWS posts, etc. etc., right?
   8. MattB Posted: March 11, 2003 at 05:16 PM (#511584)
How about a "List Your Top 15" thread along with the one announcing when the vote will take place. That will allow those who haven't taken the year-and-a-half to study 1,000 ballplayers to look at a group of 30-40 names and know who the serious contenders are.

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