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Friday, July 11, 2003

Ezra Sutton

One of our most talked about candidates.

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: July 11, 2003 at 03:55 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 11:56 PM (#515430)
Blame it on me, but this discussion has migrated to the McPhee/Richardson thread.
   2. Chris Cobb Posted: July 14, 2003 at 04:18 AM (#515431)
A quick note on Sutton not directly related to comparing him to McPhee and Richardson -- there's been a certain amount of bemusement about the down years in the middle of Sutton's career, when we would expect to find a peak. If you use win shares to evaluate Sutton, you'll notice that 1876 looks like one of those peculiar down years -- just 5 WS, which adjusts to 14. In Sutton's numbers, 1876 looks like a good year -- 140 OPS+, almost identical to his 1877 performance offensively. The difference comes from the fact that Sutton was a good player on a terrible team. His Athletics went 14-45, underperforming a Pythagorean record of 20-39. Win Shares becomes less accurate for players on teams in this range of winning percentage, esp. when the Pythagorean record is so far off from the actual.

The upshot is that if you are ranking Sutton by looking at adjusted win shares, it would make sense to credit him with another 8-10, to make 1876 match 1877 more closely, a correspondence which seems amply justified by the fact that Sutton performed just as well under extremely similar conditions.
   3. Paul Wendt Posted: February 17, 2008 at 04:24 AM (#2692899)
andrew siegel, "Ranking Group 3" #66
Signficant Oversights--All-Time 110-160
(4) Glasscock
(5) Sutton

andrew may be the new best friend of Ezra Sutton. Can Joe Dimino take back the title?

Notes from the biography by Richard Puff in 19c Stars (1989).
- Sutton moved to first base in 1876 because of a sore arm.
- Sporting Life (estab. 1883) once called him "especially apt in judging and catching foul flies".
- After his mlb career he played for Rochester IA 1888 (his home town) and Milwaukee WA 1889.
- He died 20 Jun 1907 "after suffering form paralysis of his limbs since 1890".

Notes gleaned from data in Marshall Wright, NABBP 1857-1870.
- The Forest City BBC of Cleveland went professional in 1869, the first year that was permitted. W-L record 18-0 against amateurs, 1-6 against pros. The close calls against amateurs were all at home, beating teams from Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo by 6, 5, and 4 runs. On tour in September, they beat the same three clubs by 28, 10, and 10 runs. The same Alerts of Rochester lost their home-and-home to the Cincinnati Red Stockings 9-18 and 19-32.
- Sutton did not shine in the eight games with known box scores, five against professionals. Sutton made 26 outs (3.25 per game), sixth best among the eight regular players, and scored 19 runs (2.375), fifth.
- Forest City Cleveland hired Sutton and Gene Kimball from the Alerts for 1870. Kimball was fourth and third on the team in outs and runs. They were both 19.0 years old in September and they would be the two youngest on a young FC Cleveland team in 1871.
- FC Cleveland improved to 16-1 against amateurs, 9-15 against pros. Because the strongest teams played more games, that is a good pro record, 2-9 against the top five and 7-4 against others.
- Eight men played almost every game and another played about half. Sutton did shine in his 35 games played on record (among records for at least 37 of 41 team games). He led in hits with 3.54 per game, James Deacon White 3.00, Art Allison 2.72. White led in total bases with 5.11 per game, Sutton 5.00, Allison 4.08. Only White and Allison surpassed 1.5 bases per hit.
   4. Paul Wendt Posted: February 17, 2008 at 04:41 AM (#2692904)
Chris Cobb above, 53 months ago!
In Sutton's numbers, 1876 looks like a good year -- 140 OPS+, almost identical to his 1877 performance offensively. The difference comes from the fact that Sutton was a good player on a terrible team. His Athletics went 14-45, underperforming a Pythagorean record of 20-39. Win Shares becomes less accurate for players on teams in this range of winning percentage, esp. when the Pythagorean record is so far off from the actual.

Take a look at Harry Wright's 1878 pennant winners. 41-19, excellent but not extreme, with Pythagorean W-L 36-24, still best in league.

Boston 1878
OPS+ _79 with Jim O'Rourke 122 the only one above average, and five of nine players below 70!
ERA+ 101 in 60 games
ERA+ 114 with Tommy Bond pitching 59 games, 57 complete

Say what?
It's in the fielding. Here is OPS+ around the field

- 89 - 122 - 86 -
68 - 57 - 98 - 68
p : 43
c : 43

That's Sutton and George Wright on the left side, glove maestro Pop Snyder behind the plate.

Unearned Run Average, NL 1878 (order by W-L standings)
1.70 Boston
2.77 Cincinnati
2.89 Indianapolis
3.06 Chicago
3.06 Providence
3.73 Milwaukee
   5. Paul Wendt Posted: February 17, 2008 at 04:47 AM (#2692905)
1. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 06:56 PM (#515430)
Blame it on me, but this discussion has migrated to the McPhee/Richardson thread.

Thus OCF opened "Bid McPhee and Hardy Richardson":

1. OCF Posted: July 11, 2003 at 11:56 AM (#515285)
For me, this is a 4-man question rather than a 2-man question.

Clearly, third base was a key defensive position, maybe a slightly more defense-oriented position than 2B - but a second baseman with strong defense still meant a lot to a team. I feel comfortable considering 2B and 3B more or less together.

So I'd rather start with McPhee versus Sutton, and then Richardson versus Williamson, and only then try to cross these two pairs.
   6. Paul Wendt Posted: February 25, 2008 at 02:18 AM (#2698960)
Sutton was one of six players targeted by the Chicago White Stockings. That is, five targeted by Hulbert and Spalding after the V.P. recruited the pitcher. They were all from the midwest, the Des Moines River to Lake Ontario.

Sutton turned them down flat and re-signed with the Athletics. Anson accepted and signed, but without consulting his wife; later tried to back out in favor of returning to Philadelphia but Hulbert played hardball.
In effect this was an all-star cast of players not presumed to be wed to the East Coast. Here is one plausible arrangement of the 1876 White Stockings, although it would have been a return to 1874 for Anson and Sutton.

3B Anson - SS Sutton - 2B Barnes - 1B McVey (backup P, backup C)
P Spalding
C White (some rest at 3B)

In the event, incumbent SS John Peters retained his position.
   7. Paul Wendt Posted: July 25, 2008 at 07:34 PM (#2873120)
Ezra Sutton ranks #27 in full season equivalent fielding games, 1871-2006, or #18 with credit for 1870. That is about 16.3 or about 17.3 seasons. Either way he is second to Brooks Robinson among the major league 3Bmen.

Counting pure batting games (dh, ph) for Molitor, Nettles, Brett, and Evans, without counting 1870 for Sutton, knocks him down to sixth among the Hall of Merit thirdbasemen; with credit for 1870 he remains second behind Brooks.

That's also sixth and second among all so-called 3Bmen. Cross, Gaetti, Boggs, Bell, Killebrew, Schmidt, and Mathews all played between 16 and 15 seasons games.

Sutton had one of the longest careers that looks short by raw counting statistics.
   8. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: January 06, 2009 at 09:23 PM (#3044843)
Here is Ezra Sutton's bio from the SABR BioProject. It was written by Brian McKenna. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but thought it would be good to post the link.
   9. Paul Wendt Posted: November 11, 2009 at 10:20 PM (#3385506)
Re the remarkable champion Boston team of 1878 (#4 above), see also "Tommy Bond" (#4). There the matter is likely to remain timely forever, as Bond remains a Hall of Merit candidate forever. (Both Bond and Sutton were discussed primarily before the institution of threads for individual players.)

Regarding Sutton the question is whether the Boston players were better batters and worse fielders than the official numbers imply. (all relative to players on the other five teams) Is there any reason to suppose so?
   10. OCF Posted: November 11, 2009 at 10:26 PM (#3385516)
Repeating the link I just put on the Bond thread: Link. Discussion starts at post 118.
   11. Bleed the Freak Posted: December 14, 2012 at 02:15 AM (#4324526)
What does the electorate make of the BREF and BGUAGE WAR totals for Ezra...he looks quite poor by this measure.
Did we elect the wrong 19th century third sacker (Ed Williamson)?

Is there possibly a flaw in how BREF sees Sutton and or 1870s players?
   12. Chris Cobb Posted: December 14, 2012 at 09:12 PM (#4325254)
In answer to the above questions, my system still sees Ezra Sutton as just over the in-out line based on season-adjusted WAR totals from BBRef and Fangraphs. Given that research on pre-1871 baseball shows that he was one of the top professional players in 1870 as a hitter and that he gained a reputation that year as one of the top defensive third basemen in base ball, I credit him with an all-star level season for 1870, which puts him comfortably above the in-out line.

Added to that, as the discussion in posts 1-10 indicates, the available statistics and current analysis of them for the late 1870s Boston teams are clearly not accurately capturing the value of players on that team, so it's likely that Sutton's mid-career trough from 1876-79 is not as deep as it seems. I don't know whether the Pythagorean problems I noted for WS in 1876 persist in any of the current WAR systems (though I suspect they do to some extent in BBRef), but I am sure that the underrating of the Boston defense continues in BBRef WAR. This is a team that allowed 1-2 unearned runs fewer per game than any other team in the league, committing 40 fewer errors (in 60 games) than the next-best fielding team and leading the league in double plays, and BBRef finds the fielders, as a whole, worth .1 dWAR. That just isn't credible. BBRef does see George Wright, Pop Snyder, and Jack Burdock as good defensively, and Sutton as average, so it isn't totally missing the boat, but this is a great defensive team, not an average one overall.

(As Paul Wendt notes, this is material for Tommy Bond's case, because his pitching is given credit for almost the entirety of the team's WAR. He was probably the best pitcher in the league, but I think BBRef's WAR formulas are not capturing the distribution of value on this team accurately.)

Now, just because a great defensive team is being evaluated as a replacement level defensive team doesn't mean Sutton's evaluation is way off, but was he a terrible defensive player in 1878 as DRA indicates? I'm doubtful.

Anyway, my conclusion is that BBRef's WAR is not a completely reliable guide to 1870s players, but even with problems that look like they probably underrate Sutton, Sutton's numbers still justify his induction, esp. with 1870 credit given.
   13. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: December 18, 2012 at 01:56 PM (#4327802)
DanR would be better to speak to this than me, but from what I understand WAR as we know it completely breaks down in the 1870s and 1880s. The game was just too different - the errors overwhelm everything, both on offense and defense.

Doesn't mean we don't try, but you can't apply modern metrics to that game. The error bar is much higher is if you do.
   14. theorioleway Posted: December 20, 2012 at 09:35 PM (#4329786)
Somewhat related to this...Chris Cobb asked on his ballot why people had love for Williamson but not Dunlap. Speaking as one such voter, I give greater weight considering that Williamson played the tougher end of the defensive spectrum and that Dunlap's career year in 1884 was in the UA, and I discount that year enough for him to be on the outside looking in.

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