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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Don Newcombe

Eligible in 1966.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 13, 2005 at 10:22 PM | 108 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. sunnyday2 Posted: October 24, 2007 at 01:13 PM (#2591232)
OK, DL is right. I can't extrapolate Newcombe to 4600 IP. I wasn't clear. With reasonable credit, Newcombe's prime is in Robin Roberts territory. I define prime as all those not necessarily consecutive seasons in which a pitcher is ? 100 OPS+ and ERA eligible.

For Newcombe that means adding 1947 and 1948, plus 1952 and 1953 and 1954. Half of 1954, he was still in the military. And I also posit that he would not have thrown a 90 ERA+ in 1954 had he been active continuously. Plus Chris gave him 126 IP in 1946, not enough to call it a prime year but 126 IP.

Add it all up and I get about 3170 IP, not 2900. And I get 12 prime seasons to Roberts' 11 prime seasons. It's also true that Roberts averaged 281 IP in those 11 seasons, Newk averaged 233 for his 12 prime seasons.

I don't think I was being hyperbolic, but I wasn't clear. Newcombe's prime with reasonable credit is just as long as Robin Roberts'.

Billy Pierce is of course a better comp. Pierce had 14 prime seasons with an average of 221 IP and a total of 3360 IP. His career OPS+ is 119 (Roberts 113, Newcombe 114 though it comes up a point or two if you posit that he would have been better than a 90 OP+ pitcher but for the 2.5 year military lay-off).

Warren Spahn is of course not a comp with any of these guys. Except if you look at his overlap with them--which is to say, if his ERA+ 98 in 1960 had indicated a final decline, if he hadn't preternaturally bounced back for 3 more prime seasons, 2 of them with 20+ wins. Then you'd have 13 prime seasons (Roberts 11-Newk 12-Spahn 13-Pierce 14) with an average of 282 IP.

Then there's Whitey Ford who actually is a comp with the Roberts-Newk-Pierce group, though a bit younger. Ford had 12 prime seasons with an average of 234 IP. He was of course more effective at 133 OPS+. But his career total of 3170 IP is pretty much identical to Newcombe's adjusted total.

So anyway, when you look at the great pitchers of the 1950s, Newcombe's record is hardly out of place at all.

Spahn 412 WS
Roberts 339
Wynn 309
Newcombe 264
Ford 261
Pierce 248
Lemon 232

The next best career total WS among pitchers with 100 WS in the 1950s are Wilhelm with 256 and Curt Simmons at 210. So I don't think I'm skipping anybody.

Newcombe's IP is > Lemon and = Ford and 200 IP short of Pierce. His ERA+ is > Roberts and Wynn, and within 5 points of Pierce, Spahn and Lemon.

Newcombe is arguably the weakest of the 5, but he is more like this group than he is like the next best group of pitchers from the 1950s, which is Simmons, Garcia, Ned Garver, Murry Dickson, Maglie, Burdette, Haddix, the guys who also earned more than 100 WS in the decade.

The question of course is whether he was better than pitchers from other decades--Dean, Walters, Saberhagen, etc. I think he's got them all beat on career length, oddly enough. Walters ends up with 3100 IP (at 115 OPS+) but just 7 prime seasons. As a peak voter, of course, I like them all. But I think Newk is there and Walters, in a very superficial sense (career totals, as opposed to career shape), is another pretty close comp.
   102. sunnyday2 Posted: November 26, 2009 at 05:54 PM (#3397350)
   103. DL from MN Posted: July 10, 2010 at 08:22 PM (#3584984)
Without the war and without racism, Newcombe would have a peak run, I think, of 1948 to 1956

From Roger Kahn's _A Season in the Sun_ quoting Don Newcombe's Senate testimony pp105-106
"Mr. Chairman, my drinking started when I was eight. When I joined the Dodgers, my consumption increased tremendously...."
"After my biggest season with the Dodgers - in 1956 I won twenty-seven games - I went to Japan with the team. i was so constantly drunk I couldn't pitch a game. The following year I went into a prolonged slump. I dropped back into the minor leagues."
   104. The Honorable Ardo Posted: May 27, 2015 at 04:34 PM (#4965633)
I took another look at Newcombe, concluding that he's a whisker short of the Hall of Merit. The comp to Bob Lemon is apt. Give Newcombe 700 quality innings (500 for 1952-3, 200 for 1948) and he's right there. I'm not too keen on granting him extra credit for 1954 - even great pitchers can have off years - or 1946-7, when a modern prospect would still be in the minors.

But Lemon's career was delayed by WWII (he was almost fully formed when he debuted) and he has a stronger prime. Lemon had six consecutive top-three innings pitched finishes; Newcombe's highest in any season was 4th.

If Newcombe could have stayed sober and pitched well into his late 30's, he would have been inducted. As it is, I still have both Bucky Walters and Hilton Smith ahead of him.
   105. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 23, 2018 at 09:46 PM (#5678552)
Hey, gang, please click through for my latest MLEs for Don Newcombe.

These may spark some discussion about the big righty. Depending on when you think you should start giving him MLE credit, he may emerge as a strong candidate. His top-level pro career stretches back to age 18, he was in the Dodger chain at age 20, and the team held him back in the same league at age 21 and made him repeat AAA at age 23 before his dominance forced their hand.

And the question (which is researchable) is "How quickly is a white guy with similar MiL success promoted?"
   106. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: May 23, 2018 at 09:51 PM (#5678559)
Re 104:

"when a modern prospect would still be in the minors"

That's a different spin on the question I posed in 105.... At least I think so. Ardo, are you saying that you're applying post-Newcombe conventions about pitcher promotion to Newcombe? That seems inapt. I think we'd want to know what teams were doing a little before and mostly during his career.

Also, a great source for how the Dodgers handled Newcombe is Jules Tygiel's "Baseball's Great Experiment." In addition to being a compelling read in general, Tygiel goes into depth not only about Jackie, but about the whole first and second waves of integration players (maybe the third wave too). The parts about Newcombe are very interesting in a "I wonder what was really motivating them?" kind of way.
   107. . . . . . . Posted: May 24, 2018 at 01:22 PM (#5678978)
Clicking through to Mr. Chalek's link reminded me of a thought I had last season: is Luke Easter the best, perhaps ONLY, comp for Aaron Judge?
   108. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 29, 2019 at 03:40 PM (#5904486)
Let’s talk about Don Newcombe! He’s drawing considerable interest from the electorate and with some good reason.

YEAR AGE  LG   G   IP    R   RA9  RAA  pWAA  pWAR    PA   Bat  bWAR    WAR
1944  18  NL   5   30   13  3.99    1   0.1   0.4    10  -0.2   0.1    0.5
1945  19  NL  15  100   37  3.30   13   1.4   2.4    33  -0.8   0.2    2.6
1946  20  NL  26  160   53  2.99   17   2.0   3.6    53  -1.3   0.4    4.0
1947  21  NL  34  210   74  3.19   32   3.5   5.6    70  -1.7   0.6    6.2
1948  22  NL  33  210   57  2.44   47   5.3   7.3    70  -1.7   0.6    7.9
1949  23  NL  43  280  102  3.27   40   4.3   7.1    93  -2.2   0.8    7.9
1950  24  NL  40  267  120  4.04   10   1.0   3.6   110  -5.0   0.7    4.3
1951  25  NL  40  272  115  3.81   11   1.1   3.8   114  -7.0   0.4    4.2
1952  26  KOREAN WAR  
1953  27  KOREAN WAR
1954  28  NL  29  144   81  5.05  -10  -1.0   0.4    55  -2.0   0.5    0.9
1955  29  NL  34  234  103  3.97    6   0.6   2.9   125  11.0   2.4    5.3
1956  30  NL  38  268  101  3.39   17   1.9   4.5   128  -5.0   0.9    5.4
1957  31  NL  28  199   86  3.90   12   1.3   3.2    86  -3.3   0.5    3.7
1958  32  NL  31  168   98  5.26  -10  -0.8   0.9    73   4.0   1.3    2.2
1959  33  NL  30  222   87  3.53   24   2.7   4.8   123   3.0   1.9    6.7
1960  34  NL  36  137   76  5.01  -10  -1.4  -0.2    62  -4.0   0.2    0.0
20–34        442 2770 1153  3.75  182  20.5  47.4  1162 -14.8  11.2   58.6
19–34        457 2870 1190  3.73  194  21.9  49.8  1195 -15.6  11.0   61.3
18–34        462 2900 1203  3.73  195  22.0  50.2  1205 -15.9  11.5   61.7

The key to understanding Newcombe’s career requires your answering one question: At what age would he have debuted in MLB?
Don Newcombe was a good pitcher from the very first moment he took a pro mound in 1944. But the record of 18-year-olds in the majors isn’t great, and I personally don’t see it likely that he would have appeared in the majors (irrespective of team and not taking the Pete-Gray roster depredations of WW2 into account.) At nineteen, I think we get closer to the likelihood of his appearing. But at age 20, I have little doubt that he could have gotten MLB hitters out. Newcombe pitched in the New England League ate ages 20 and 21 then in the International League at age 22. At age 23, he spent the first weeks of the season in Montreal and was promoted to stay in May. His minor league record looks exactly like his big-league record. He walked more than you’d like, and he struck out many more than the average pitcher. Remember this was a low-strikeout, high-walk environment when, I have to assume, pitchers mostly attempted to avoid the longball. Newk gave up way fewer hits than innings pitched and with strong Dodger farm teams went 52–18 with at least 18 complete games and at least five shutouts (those categories and punchouts are not available for the NENL at this time).

Whether it’s a quota thing or what, the Dodgers kept Newcombe on the farm longer than Robinson and Campanella. In my opinion, needlessly long because Newcombe was great from the moment he first toed the rubber in Nashua. I remember reading that the Dodgers claimed that Newcombe needed to work on his control, but I think that’s a bit specious and a little gaslighting on their part. If Jackie had arrived in 1942 instead of 1946, Newcombe would have been in the majors at age 20, in my opinion. Accordingly, however, I don’t give him a full-time job in the big leagues at age 20, instead following the pattern established in his age 23 season of dominating for a month or so before getting the call-up to the majors.

There isn’t that much difference between the three scenarios I show in the totals rows above, but I’m only going to talk about the one I believe in the most, the 20–34 scenario. What does 21 WAA and 47 WAR compare to among pitchers in the liveball era? Here’s a few that are in the neighborhood. Remember, this is pitching BBREF WAA/WAR only, no hitting yet.
• Frank Viola: 22/47
• Bucky Walters: 20/47
• Brad Radke: 22/46
• Steve Rogers: 21/45
• Wes Ferrell: 23/49

So we have a good, not great pitcher here. A guy that could be fringy for some HOM voters but whom the HOM would accurately reject as a prime candidate. Once we add the hitting, however, he turns into a 32 WAA/59 WAR player. On BBREF, this would jump Newcombe onto the north side of the in/out line for many HOM voters. Just looking at unadjusted BBREF WAA/WAR, he’d be in the same zipcode as lower quartile HOM pitchers such as White Ford, Bret Saberhagen, Chuck Finley, Early Wynn, Sandy Koufax, Red Faber, Billy Pierce, and Dave Stieb as well as candidates that several voters like: Kevin Appier, Orel Hershiser, Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana, Tommy Bridges, Andy Pettitte, and upcoming candidate Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle. Keeping that company is, in itself, pretty substantial evidence for his getting a strong second look from the electorate.

I certainly won’t say that he’d get my vote or not. He’s not a no-brainer at all. He’d be a bottom quartile/quintile HOMer all the way, and there are plenty of candidates still out there with more impressive candidacies. But he’s definitely getting another look from me.
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