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Monday, March 07, 2005

Lefty Grove

Lefty Grove

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:26 AM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Flynn Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:45 AM (#1184896)
Yeah. There's soooo going to be a discussion on whether Lefty Grove is going to be enshrined.
   2. Trevor P. Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:50 AM (#1184901)
Well, if we're talking the Rock and Roll Hall of Merit, I'd rather enshrine "China Grove."

Discuss amongst yourselves.
   3. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:53 AM (#1184906)
Yeah. There's soooo going to be a discussion on whether Lefty Grove is going to be enshrined.

Of course you're right (yes, I can read between the lines :-), but there will be some discussion about his minor league seasons regardless.
   4. OCF Posted: March 07, 2005 at 02:09 AM (#1184927)
Well, we might as well get the data out.

RA+ PythPat equivalent record: 295-143. I put in a "big years bonus" which is just total seasonal equivaent FWP above 15 per year.

Let's take another pitcher we're familiar with: Rixie. He had 4 years that exceeded 15 equiv. FWP: 21-11, 21-13, 17-10, 19-14. Total big years bonus of 19.

Or take Dean, he of the high, short, peak: 4 years above that treshold: 24-11, 23-13, 21-14, 19-14. Total bonus score of 35.

Grove exceeded the 15 single season FWP threshold 13 times. His top 3 equivalent records were 25-7, 24-8, 24-8. Total bonus score of 145, which is the same neighorhood as Alexander or Nichols - and they pitched when pitchers threw more innings in a season.

From here:

Possible downward adjustments:

I haven't checked Chris J.'s site for defensive support. He pitched for good teams, so his support could have been good.

Possible adjustment for quality of opponents (the Dick Thompson/jonesy evidence). The effect is probably small.

Lousy hitter, lousy fielder. Bill James put him in a class with Randy Johnson and Waddell - big lefty power pitchers. Lousy hitting and lousy defense come with the type.

Hothead; hard to manage.

Possible upward adjustment (potentially large):

Credit for pitching for Baltimore.
   5. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: March 07, 2005 at 02:26 AM (#1184951)
Are his home road splits by ERA+ available?
   6. Paul Wendt Posted: March 07, 2005 at 03:11 AM (#1185049)
Laconic from Laconing.

Lefty Grove was a more dominating strikeout pitcher in 1926-1928 than he was at his supposed peak. (Thanks to JP Caillault on relative strikeout rates in BRJ 2004.)

Lousy hitter, lousy fielder. Bill James put him in a class with Randy Johnson and Waddell - big lefty power pitchers. Lousy hitting and lousy defense come with the type.

Steve Carlton is another type.
   7. DavidFoss Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:50 AM (#1185187)
There's been a bit of talk recently that Grove was a bit fussy and had to be handled correctly in order to be effective. A bit like Pedro has been in recent years.

Still, I'm not going to penalize him because his managers knew how to use him. Guys with 3900 IP and 148 ERA+ don't grow on trees. Easy #1.
   8. Dag Nabbit at Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:55 AM (#1185191)
I haven't checked Chris J.'s site for defensive support. He pitched for good teams, so his support could have been good.

He had terrific defensive support. In fact, of all liveball pitchers, only Jim Palmer had a higher career defensive adjustment.

Possible adjustment for quality of opponents (the Dick Thompson/jonesy evidence). The effect is probably small.

He had pretty good MOWPs.

Possible upward adjustment (potentially large):

How large could it be? Ain't he a #1 even without Baltimore?

FWIW, going by win shares, these are the best 5 consecutive primes among all liveball pitchers:

1) Lefty Grove 167 win shares
2) Hal Newhouser 157
3t) Robin Roberts 153
3t) Carl Hubbell 153
5) Dizzy Dean 145
6) Bob Gibson 143
7) Stan Coveleski 142
8t) Tom Seaver 140
8t) Carl Mays 140
10) Sandy Koufax 139
11) Fergie Jenkins 135
12) Gaylord Perry 134
13t) Juan Marichal 133
13t) Wilbur Cooper 133
15) Bucky Walters 132
16) Greg Madduz 131
17) Wes Ferrell 129
18) Urban Shocker 128
19t) Randy Johnson 126
19t) Bob Lemon 126
19t) Dizzy Trout 126
19t) Jim Palmer 126
23t) Roger Clemens 125
23t) Lon Warneke 125
25t) Warren Spahn 124
25t) Dazzy Vance 124
   9. DavidFoss Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:09 AM (#1185210)
Interesting Grove tidbits:

Comes up as with one of the best fastballs in history, but a bit wild. After struggling with control in his first couple of seasons in Philly, he shows up regularly on the fewest BB/9IP leaderboards after 1930.

After 1933 he has a 152 ERA+ in 2401 IP. Has two triple crown's in his belt. Wins five ERA titles in a hitters park. The 152 ERA+ is good for 4th on the all-time up-to-34 list behind PMartinez, WJohnson and TFBrown.

In 1934, his arm goes dead -- literally no pulse for a while. Is able to pitch some, but was simply horrendous. 74 ERA+ in 109 IP.

After 1934, the former fireballer reinvents himself as a lefty control pitcher. (A lefty control pitcher in Fenway Park!) He has a 155 ERA+ in 1430.3IP. Wins four more ERA titles in a hitters park. The 155 ERA+ is tied for 2nd place with Wilhelm on the all time 35+ list. (RJohnson is #1).

Its amazing that a great pitcher could lose his bread & butter pitch and still come back to be just as dominant.
   10. Kelly in SD Posted: March 07, 2005 at 09:28 AM (#1185365)
Some various Grove information.

Grove Minor League Numbers:
He was born Mar 6, 1900, so his baseball age is 20 in his first pro season.
year Gm IPs Ws Ls W/L% Hit Run ERs Kss BBs ERA
1920 06 059 03 03 .500 030 016 xxx 060 024 ?
1920 19 123 12 02 .857 120 069 052 088 071 3.80
1921 47 313 25 10 .714 237 131 089 254 179 2.56
1922 41 209 18 08 .692 146 090 065 205 152 2.80
1923 52 303 27 10 .730 223 128 105 330 186 3.12
1924 47 236 27 06 .813 196 095 079 231 108 3.01

In 1920, he started with Martinsburg in the Blue Ridge League, before Baltimore acquired him. He led the league the bolded numbers.

Major league trivia
He struck out the side on 9 pitches twice in 1928.
Won 16 straight in 1931. 14 straight in 1928.
AL MVP 1931.
TSN AllStar 1928, 29, 30, 31, 32.
In the World Series, he did the following: He went 4-2 1.75 ERA. K to BB of 36 to 6. Used out of the bullpen in 1929, he pitched in 6.1 innings, gave up 3 hits, struck out 10, walked 1.
The above is from Daguerrotypes.

One of the cool things the Macmillan Encyclopedia used to do was give separate stats for relief pitching.
Connie Mack, as I think most of us know, liked to use his starters out of the bullpen. Most managers did this to some degree, but it really worked like a charm for Grove. Here are the breakdowns from 1930 to 1933.
As a starter:
90-20 120 97 1000.1 309 2.78

As a reliever:
18-7 27 60 146 29 1.78

During those 4 years, he led the league in wins 3 times, winning pct 3 times, ERA 3 times, saves 1 time, games 1 time, complete games 3 times, strikeouts 2 times, and shutouts 2 times.

He would not have won 300 without his bullpen work. Here are his career totals out of the pen:
Ws Ls Pct. Sv Gms InnPs ERA
33 21 .611 55 160 377.2 2.84

The only other pitchers I looked at for similar splits was TF Brown and Walsh. Brown had a similar, if even better, stretch from 1908-1911.
12-8 w/ 32 saves in 70 games/166 IP with a 1.73 ERA and leading the league in saves every year. He won 20 games every year also.
Walsh, from 1907-1912, went 11-11 with 33 saves in 79 games / 207.2 IP with a 1.34 ERA while leading the league in saves 4 times.
It must be coincidence that all 3 pitchers suffered almost career ending injuries at this point. Take a look at Brown 1912, Walsh 1913, and Grove 1934. Blechh.

Grove was barely used as a reliever while in Boston. Only 25 games, 68.1 innings.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:05 PM (#1185425)
Well, he's no Wes Ferrell!

   12. Dag Nabbit at Posted: March 07, 2005 at 01:20 PM (#1185437)
Kelly, where are you getting your info on Grove's IP and other stat as starter and as reliever? The only relief numbers I've ever found for him are his W/L in the Macmillan Encyclopedia. If you are getting the other numbers from that, what edition is it of the Macmillan?
   13. OCF Posted: March 07, 2005 at 04:02 PM (#1185648)
How large could it be? Ain't he a #1 even without Baltimore?

You've got a point there, Chris. The first question is, "Where does he go on you 1947 ballot?" That has an easy answer. I supose I was thinking of the second question, the one that lies outside our mandate and which our voting structure is ill-suited to deal with: "Where does Grove rate among the all-time greats?"

In the original Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James went out on a limb and declared Grove to be the greates pitcher of all time. In the remake, he backed off from that position but still had him #2.

So far, we have 6 candidates for the top few positions: Young, Nichols, Johnson, Alexander, Williams, and Grove. Two of these - Nichols and Alexander - are immediately disqualified from being #1 because they lose a simple direct comparison. How would you rank these six? I'm still stewing about it myself - I have Johnson #1 but could see almost any of the others as #2.
   14. Daryn Posted: March 07, 2005 at 05:06 PM (#1185782)
I have Johnson, Alexander, Young and Clemens, at least, ahead of Grove. But I like Young more than most. Williams, Paige, Nichols and maybe Maddux and Johnson, Randy could push Grove to 10. That may be a bit of a stretch, but some here would take Ferrell over Grove.
   15. TomH Posted: March 07, 2005 at 06:36 PM (#1186023)
9 ERA titles. 300 Wins and 140 Losses, even though he was stuck in the "minors" until he was 25. Best ERA+ of any pitcher ever (excluding active players). I think he's a clear #2 among eligible HoFers. To posit Grove being beneath four deadball hurlers is to badly demean the early live ball era.
   16. Scoriano Flitcraft Posted: March 07, 2005 at 07:42 PM (#1186213)
Are his home road splits by ERA+ available?

I take it this is not available or has not been done?
   17. Kelly in SD Posted: March 07, 2005 at 08:33 PM (#1186342)
Chris J.,

My copy of Macmillan is a first edition (with a slipcase ... ok, who wants to touch me ... I said, who wants to ****in touch me [just saw South Park the Movie again]). ;)

Anyway, my parents joined Book of the Month Club in 1969/1970 and one of the books they chose for their free ones was the Macmillan. They gave it to my uncle who was 10 at the time. In the early 80s when I was getting into baseball and stats, I saw the book at my grandmother's house. I spent several hours with it and she said I could have it.

This edition also includes pitcher batting stats for pitchers with longish careers. Every pitcher has the following relief specific data - wins, losses, saves, games relieved, innings pitched as a reliever, relief era. So I can figure out relief earned runs if I want.
   18. EricC Posted: March 07, 2005 at 09:57 PM (#1186507)
My all-time major league top 5 through 1947 eligibles is: Ruth, Johnson, Young, Cobb, Grove, with Johnson as the most similar pitcher to Grove.
   19. Daryn Posted: March 07, 2005 at 10:02 PM (#1186516)
I'm not braggin', but I too, have a first edition MacMillan, with dust jacket. Don't know how I got it -- but I think it was a used book sale in Cincinatti.
   20. sunnyday2 Posted: March 07, 2005 at 11:20 PM (#1186677)
Lefty was no Wes Ferrell all right. I have him the #2 ML pitcher of all-time. And an easy #1 on the '47 ballot.
   21. jimd Posted: March 08, 2005 at 12:19 AM (#1186773)
I believe that the claim was: that Ferrell's 8 year prime (1929-1936) was as valuable as Grove for the same 8 year span. No more, no less. BP's numbers back this up. If you ignore career totally, this might be sufficient to place Ferrell ahead of Grove; I'm a big FOWF but Grove clearly has more merit in my system.

Grove all time? Johnson is 1.3*Grove and so is clearly ahead. Young and Alexander vs Grove are quantity vs quality arguments; my current ranking would be Young/Grove/Pete though that could change. I think I'd rank Spahn and Clemens ahead of Grove also, at #4 and #2 respectively, but that's the "future" (and I may change my mind on those rankings too).
   22. Brent Posted: March 08, 2005 at 04:29 AM (#1187264)
I wasn't really planning to do MLEs for Grove's Baltimore years, but since there seems to be some interest and the data are readily available, I've gone ahead and calculated them. (See post # 10 by Kelly from SD for Grove's minor league data. Note, there are excellent articles on each of the great Baltimore teams from 1919-24 on; click on "History" and "Top 100 Teams.")

For those who haven't looked at the Arlett (pitching) or Quinn MLEs, my method for pitchers is pretty simple - I base it on just two statistics, ERA and IP. I make three adjustments:

- For quality of competition, I divide the ERA by 0.82 (reflecting an 18 percent differential between the highest minors and majors in run scoring and prevention.)

- I make an adjustment for run environment, based on team runs scored per game and an estimate of runs allowed per game (derived from the W-L record and the Pythagorean formula). If someone has the actual runs allowed per game I would substitute that number.

- I adjust IP to a 154-game schedule (for 1920 the IL had a 154-game schedule; for 1921-24, there were 168 scheduled games). I also adjust IP down an additional 7.5 percent assuming that it is more difficult to pitch a long schedule in the majors.

I then calculate "pure" pitching win shares based on the "short-form" formula given in the Win Shares book, and then multiply the result by 0.9, since I've found that the short-form formula tends to overestimate the actual win shares.

Note that for poor hitters, the WS method deducts any negative batting WS from the pitching WS, to get the final value of "pitching" WS. I haven't bothered calculating batting WS for Grove, but based on his poor batting averages for his Baltimore seasons (.082, .168, .169, .156, .245) I'd recommend deducting one or two WS each season from what I calculate here.

As we've already noted on the Arlett thread, Baltimore was very much a hitters' park, so Grove's actual minor league ERAs are not that far different from his MLE ERAs. I calculate Baltimore's run environment factors for 1920-24 as 119.3, 114.5, 100.7, 113.1, and 109.5.

Here are Grove's MLEs for Baltimore, 1920-24:

year_ InnP_ ERA_ pWS
1920 113.7 3.89 06.6
1921 265.3 2.73 28.5
1922 177.3 3.39 15.5
1923 257.0 3.36 22.3
1924 200.0 3.35 17.2
Total 1013.3 3.22 90.1

After making the deduction for negative batting WS, it looks like Grove's WS for his Baltimore years will total 80 to 85.
   23. KJOK Posted: March 08, 2005 at 05:03 AM (#1187327)
Out of the pitchers we've already elected, I have Grove at #3 behind Cy Young and Walter Johnson, but ahead of Kid Nichols, Pete Alexander, Joe Williams and Christy Mathewson.
   24. Paul Wendt Posted: March 08, 2005 at 02:37 PM (#1187821)
Kelly SD on relief pitching records in Mac1:
Ws Ls Pct. Sv Gms InnPs ERA
18-7 [.720] 27 60 146__ 1.78 ; Grove 1930-33
33 21 .611 55 160 377.2 2.84 ; Grove career

32 20 ____ 55 159 373.1 2.92 ; Grove career TB3 (starts 457, 3567.1 ip)

61 relief pitching runs (below league-average)
67 adjusted " " " (the familiar adjustment)
117 leveraged """" (adjusted by a decision factor, too)

Total Baseball editions - stats in the Registers
guide to TB1-TB7 "Registers" of playing statistics
   25. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: March 08, 2005 at 07:50 PM (#1188469)
Awesome, Brent! It won't change my ballot in the least, but it's cool none the less.
   26. Brent Posted: March 18, 2005 at 05:43 AM (#1204769)
Ever since reading the article about the 1920s Baltimore Orioles in the 1986 edition of the BJHBA, I've wondered how that great minor league team would have performed had they been transplanted into the majors. Only last week, however, did I realize that the technique of creating MLEs provides a way to answer that question. (For more information on the 1920s Orioles, see the minor league baseball site's articles on the top 100 teams of the 20th century.)

The method I've been using (which Bill James introduced and demonstrated for modern triple AAA players) assumes that the player's run production will drop 18 percent if moving to the majors, assuming no change in run environment. If that's true for one player, shouldn't it also be true for the team as a whole? Then, if we assume the runs allowed by pitchers and defense rise by a similar 18 percent, we can plug the revised runs scored and runs allowed into the Pythagorean formula and find what the team's W-L record would be if the whole team moved into the majors.

Let's try 1921. The Orioles record was 119-47 while scoring 1,140 runs. The runs allowed total that is consistent with that W-L record would be 716. Multiply 1,140 by .82 and divide 716 by .82, and I project their ML runs scored as 935 and runs allowed as 874, implying by the Pythagorean formula a .534 winning percentage or (rounding) a ML W-L record of 82-72.

For the other years in their run of 7 consecutive IL pennants, I obtain MLE W-L records of:

1919 74-80
1920 83-71
1921 82-72
1922 77-77
1923 75-79
1924 81-73
1925 67-87

Is it plausible that a minor league team could have been as good as teams that placed in the first division in the majors? I think it is.

Besides Grove, the Orioles had several players who went on to have very good, albeit not HoM-quality, MLB careers, including Max Bishop, Tommy Thompson, and George Earnshaw. Other players, including Joe Boley and Fritz Maisel, pretty clearly could have had long MLB careers had they not spent their primes in the IL. One of the stars of the Orioles was Jake Bentley, the pitching first baseman, who looked like Parisian Bob or Bullet Rogan while he was in Baltimore, but didn't catch on permanently as either a pitcher or a first baseman in the majors. (My own opinion is that if someone had simply made him a first baseman and left him there he would have had a good, but not great, major league career). Finally, they had pitcher Jack Ogden whose career IL record was 213-103, 3.36 (mostly in an extreme hitters' park). I believe that if he had spent his prime seasons in the majors, Ogden would now be remembered as one of the top pitchers of the 20s.

In his article on the Orioles, Bill James quotes the 1922 Reach Guide saying the "Baltimore team was universally regarded as of real major league caliber." James also says "the 1922 Orioles probably had a better pitching staff than the 1927 Yankees."

During the 1920s I think that there are reasons to think that the 18 percent quality penalty that I've used may actually be too stiff, which would imply that the Orioles may have been better than the records listed above. If ever there was a time when the conditions were optimal for the gap between the majors and the highest minors to be small, it was during the early 1920s:
- Baseball had grown to nation-wide popularity.
- Before radio, the market for MLB teams was pretty much limited to the cities they played in.
- Newspaper coverage contributed to intense interest in local minor league teams.
- Farm systems hadn't yet been formed.
- The minor league draft was not in effect for the top minor leagues.
- Minor league teams were able to sell players to the majors for record prices.

I hope to shortly finish a seemingly never-ending study on the quality of play in the 1920s PCL that hopefully will help us decide whether the 18 percent differential was appropriate for that period. For now, though, I think it is a conservative and reasonable estimate. We should not assume that all of the good (white) players of the 1920s were in the major leagues.
   27. jimd Posted: March 18, 2005 at 06:14 PM (#1205309)
Composite W-L records 1920-24:

474 291 .610 Yankees (1-2 WS)
461 306 .601 Giants (2-2 WS)
431 337 .561 Pirates
419 349 .546 Indians (1-0 WS)
414 354 .539 Robins (0-1 WS)
412 355 .537 Reds
398 367 .520 Browns
398 372 .517 Orioles (estimated)
391 377 .509 Cardinals
384 382 .501 Senators (1-0 WS)
383 385 .499 Cubs
380 389 .494 Tigers
370 399 .481 White Sox
336 431 .438 Red Sox
306 459 .400 Athletics
301 464 .393 Braves
275 490 .359 Phillies
   28. jimd Posted: March 18, 2005 at 06:16 PM (#1205312)
474 291 .620 Yankees (1-2 WS)
   29. Brent Posted: March 18, 2005 at 08:26 PM (#1205574)
A mistake in # 26 - I meant to say Tommy Thomas (117-128, 4.11, ERA+ 104), not Tommy Thompson.
   30. Cblau Posted: March 19, 2005 at 02:23 AM (#1206173)
Clay Davenport did a presentation at a SABR national a few years ago on how the Orioles would have fared in the American League. The best team they had would have finished below .500 according to his calculations, which involved comparing players in the IL and AL the same way he has for the various Major Leagues.
   31. jimd Posted: March 19, 2005 at 03:27 AM (#1206309)
Interesting. Either he would now change that opinion, or the AAA leagues of that era were relatively weaker than today (perhaps just due to the change in ratio of MLB:AAA teams).
   32. Brent Posted: March 19, 2005 at 03:54 AM (#1206370)
I'd like to see the Davenport study. Obviously, he undoubtedly did a much more accurate calculation than I have. Still, if the implication is that the 1920s AAA leagues (actually classified as AA at that time) were relatively weaker than the AAA leagues of today, I find it a bit difficult to believe.
   33. Cblau Posted: March 20, 2005 at 02:23 AM (#1207634)
All I've got is photocopies of Powerpoint slides (or the equivalent.) They indicate that, according to Clay, the IL reached a peak in 1912, dipped, then bounced back in the late 1920s. Based on the 1920 AL having a .260 EQA, the 1920 IL had a .225 EQA and it was weaker the other years of the Orioles' dominance. He figures the 1920 Orioles would have scored 3.7 and allowed 4.0 runs per game in the NL, which had an EQA of about .255 that year. The other years their translated record is quite a bit worse. He gives Groves' translated 1920 ERA as 4.56.

You have to remember that the IL wasn't getting players from the Majors in those years, so the lack of a draft was a double-edged sword.
   34. Paul Wendt Posted: March 20, 2005 at 03:04 PM (#1208199)
Research for a documentary on the 1919-1925 Orioles was undertaken almost two years ago.
from the staff of "The Forgotten Birds" documentary
I recall reading something recently (a call for extras ?), probably also in one of those little-used SABR Forums.
   35. Brent Posted: March 23, 2005 at 01:13 AM (#1212144)
Based on the 1920 AL having a .260 EQA, the 1920 IL had a .225 EQA and it was weaker the other years of the Orioles' dominance. He figures the 1920 Orioles would have scored 3.7 and allowed 4.0 runs per game in the NL, which had an EQA of about .255 that year.

I located an article by Davenport on Japanese baseball that mentions that the ratio in modern times between AAA and major league EQA is .860. That's very close to the IL/AL ratio that Cliff attributes to Davenport for 1920--.865. The ratio of IL to the NL is narrower, about .882. So Davenport's study does *not* imply that the 1920s IL was weaker, relative to the majors, than the modern AAA.

What I don't know is how these ratios for EQA relate to the ratios for batting average and slugging average that Chris Cobb, I, and others have been kicking around for MLEs. Because EQA is "normalized to account for league difficulty and scale," I am not sure how it relates to ordinary statistics. Perhaps someone who is more experienced than I in working with the BP statistics can comment.
   36. shay Posted: November 02, 2005 at 04:29 AM (#1715445)
If anyone here could help me find personal history on Lefty Grove, I would greatly appreciate it. I am doing a geneology chart for my family, and have reason to belive that Mr. Grove may be related. I am trying to confirm whether or not he is. So any personal info on him would help. Thnx
   37. KJOK Posted: November 02, 2005 at 05:50 AM (#1715501)
Son of coal miner John Grove and homemaker Emma (Beeman) Grove.

Left Lonaconing, MD public school in eighth grade, married Ethel Gardner on January 30, 1921, and had two children, Robert G. and Doris.

Retired and operated a bowling alley in Lonaconing. Following his wife's death, he spent his remaining years in Norwalk,
OH at his daughter-in-law's home.

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