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Friday, December 10, 2004

Rube Waddell

It’s a shame when you think about what he could have been. However, what he actually was wasn’t too bad either.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 10, 2004 at 08:56 PM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: December 11, 2004 at 08:43 PM (#1013259)
Another guy I love, not as good as Vance though.

Again, just want to put some stats here to start a conversation.

193-143, 2.16 ERA, 134 ERA+. 2,416.3 IP

RSI of 94.85, upping his record to 201-135

BP - 3.69 DERA, 2,179.3 TR. IP, 136-106

K# of 190, Tr K/9 of 10.4

BB# of 98, BB/9 of 3.3

K/BB# of 184

I love guys with tons of strikeouts, so Waddell is my kind of pitcher. Nice peak, pitched very well throughout his career, it was just short. I dont' know why BP only deducts 250 IP for him when it dedcuts a 1000 for Willis as they were contemporaries, though in different leagues. he didn't have great control, but he was no Steve Blass.

There is a question about whether or not he could pitch in later eras because of mind being that of a 12 year olds. Maybe his high k, merely average BB totals would have looked worse in an era with more BB. He will be slipping down to #10 with all the newbies at the top of my ballot.
   2. Dag Nabbit: Sockless Psychopath Posted: December 11, 2004 at 09:54 PM (#1013369)
Rube Waddell: King of the Unearned Run. I stopped supporting him when I realized this.
   3. OCF Posted: December 12, 2004 at 05:46 AM (#1014549)
King of the Unearned Run.

That's not a deal-breaker for me. Everyone allowed lots of unearned runs. He was a little worse, but it wasn't night and day. I've always been looking at RA, not ERA, and Waddell still has a terrific RA+-Pyth. record of 200-129, which is right up there with Coveleski and Vance.
   4. karlmagnus Posted: December 12, 2004 at 05:15 PM (#1015049)
Waddell wasn't "pitching in a pinch" because he wasn't smart enough to know when the "pinch" was. That's why his Pythag is better than his actual record, whereas smart pitchers like Leever have a worse Pythag than actual.
   5. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 12, 2004 at 05:45 PM (#1015088)
Waddell wasn't "pitching in a pinch" because he wasn't smart enough to know when the "pinch" was. That's why his Pythag is better than his actual record, whereas smart pitchers like Leever have a worse Pythag than actual.

Not necessarily. Leever had great run support, while Waddell didn't. Are you saying Leever would have had the same record on any team? That flies in the face of baseball history, karlmagnus.
   6. karlmagnus Posted: December 12, 2004 at 09:04 PM (#1015425)
Both statements can be true -- Leever's W/L is so much better than Waddell's that I can quite believe there are several explanations to it. Of course Leever was on a good, sometimes great team and wouldn't have won so many on the 30s Phillies, but the 00s As weren't exactly chopped liver.
   7. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: December 12, 2004 at 11:28 PM (#1015702)
Waddel did recieve below average run support during his career. I believe somewhere around 95% of league average.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: December 13, 2004 at 04:09 AM (#1016236)
but the 00s As weren't exactly chopped liver.

No, they weren't, but he was with the Browns and Colonels for a big chunk of his career, too.
   9. Dag Nabbit: Sockless Psychopath Posted: December 13, 2004 at 04:42 AM (#1016313)
Did pitcher X pitch in a pinch? Folks, I got career over/underachieving online. (Admittedly, it's not the most accessible part of my site - available only through the Site Navigator page, but it's there).

Pitchers eligible (or soon-to-be-eligible) by now (more important current candidates in bold:

Bobby Mathews +15
Mickey Welch +13
Pink Hawley +10
Kid Nichols +9
Joe McGinnity +8
Clark Griffith +7
Herb Pennock +6
Christy Mathewson +6
Bill Hutchinson +5
Chick Fraser +5
Pete Alexander +5
Eddie Rommel +4
Addie Joss +4
Jack Chesbro +4
Burleigh Grimes +4
Deacon Phillippe +3
Adonis Terry +3
George Mullin +3
Sam Leever +2
Bob Caruthers +2
Waite Hoyt +2
Smokey Joe Wood +1
Jesse Tannehill +1
Hippo Vaughn +1
Jesse Haines +1
Rube Marquard +1
Ted Lyons +1
Ed Reulbach EVEN
Urban Shocker EVEN
Jack Stivetts EVEN
Chief Bender EVEN
Stan Coveleski EVEN
Tony Mullane EVEN
John Ward -1
Dazzy Vance -1
Charlie Buffington -1
Jim Whitney -1
Tommy Bond -1
Tom Zachary -1
John Clarkson -2
Nap Rucker -3
Ted Breitenstein -3
Amos Rusie -3
Eppa Rixey -3
Pud Galvin -3
Gus Weyhing -4
Bill Donovan -5
Al Orth -5
Jack Quinn -5
Old Hoss Radbourn -5
Cy Young -5
Tully Sparks -6
Rube Waddell -6
Al Spalding -6
Babe Adams -6
Silver King -6
Lee Meadows -6
Red Faber -6
Ed Walsh -8
Doc White -9
Hooks Dauss -9
Ned Garvin -10
Mordecai Brown -10
Vic Willis -10
Wilbur Cooper -10
Eddie Plank -10
Carl Mays -11
Jack Powell -11
Dolf Luque -12
Will White -12
Jim McCormick -13
Walter Johnosn -13
Candy Cummings -14
Bob Shawkey -15
Harry Howell -16
   10. karlmagnus Posted: December 13, 2004 at 12:43 PM (#1016964)
You've got Cicotte -14 on the website list too. I have to say I think this stst is just dumb luck -- otherwise Walkter Johnson would be utterly inept at it, which makes very little sense.
   11. mulder & scully Posted: July 18, 2006 at 07:09 AM (#2103081)
Reposted to the Rube Waddell Thread.

Early Rube Waddell Timeline:
1897: Signs a $500 contract with Louisville at age 18. Jumps team after being fined $50 by Fred Clarke for excessive drinking. Pitches 2 games.
1898: Goes to Detroit of the Western League. Pitches 9 games and jumps team to pitch semi-pro in Canada
1899: Returns to Western League with Columbus-Grand Rapids and wins 27 games. Louisville gives him another chance, goes 7-2.
1900: Goes 8-13 with Pit but leads league in ERA. Jumps team/farmed out/let go with sighs of relief to play for Connie Mack with Milwaukee in the Western League in July. After going 10-3 in the summer for Milwaukee, Pit demands his return. Finishes year with league best ERA.
1901: Clarke again fed up with Waddell after 2 starts at beginning of season. Dreyfuss sells him to the Cubs. Suspended for last month of season for erratic behavior. Plays for semi-pro team in Wisconsin.
1901-02: Hooks up with barnstorming team and makes it to California where Mack signs him for the Athletics in early summer of 1902.
From Total Ballplayers.

Personally, I give extra credit rather liberally. Charley Jones gets 2+ years for suspension, Ralph Kiner gets one for WWII, Keller gets 1.75 for WWII, and big believer in NeL MLEs. But I have not given credit to Waddell before because I don't see his minor league sojourns as anyone's fault but his own.

1897: NL Louisville - At 18, he was good enough to be a major leaguer, but Fred Clarke tried to reign him in and Waddell jumped the team.
1898: Western League Detroit - Jumps the team to pitch semi-pro ball in Canada.
1900: NL Pittsburgh - leads the league in ERA but jumps team in middle of year to play for Connie Mack in Western League Milwaukee, before returning at end of year.
1901: NL Pittsburgh - Clarke finally at wits end and has Dreyfuss sell Waddell to Cubs. Cubs suspend him for last month of season. Ends up in California barnstorming.
1902: Wins 10-12 games in Los Angeles before Mack purchases contract for Athletics.

The contraction years were 1899 and 1900.
In 1899, Waddell was 20 years old and had jumped 2 contracts in two years. I could see a team being hesitant about bringing him back.
In 1900, Waddell started the year with Pitt, but jumped team/left team/ something in the middle of the season, but was brought back by the end of the season.

To me, I see a player who was okay with playing in the "major" leagues, but was also okay with not playing. I see Fred Clarke bring him back to his team two times after he jumped the team. Many players were blackballed for such. Waddell wasn't. I don't see a player trapped. I don't see his career being hurt much, if at all, by the 4 team contraction. I see a player with phenomenal talent who got every chance in the book.
Personally, that is why I don't think Waddell deserves any minor league credit. Your Mileage May Vary.

End of copying

I can have Waddell's minor league stats up the first week in August. If anyone else gets there first, please go ahead.
   12. rawagman Posted: July 18, 2006 at 07:50 AM (#2103091)
Waddell is a big "what-if" guy, but I have rated where I do without any MiL credit.
   13. karlmagnus Posted: July 18, 2006 at 12:58 PM (#2103155)
He certainly deserves MiL credit for 1899. You don't win 27 games in any league while being drunk all the time. Don't forget the majors that year included the 1899 Cleveland Spiders; it was not irrational for Waddell to think there was very little difference between being a major league pitcher and a minor league one. Not giving minor league credit because it was his "fault" is most unfair; in a confused situation he had difficulty adapting because he wasn't very bright. He overcame his lack of IQ to produce a HOM quality major league career, which lacks length only because we don't give credit for his early minor league work. Minor league credit gives him the bulk he needs to be a shoo-in, in my view.
   14. rawagman Posted: July 18, 2006 at 01:35 PM (#2103179)
what about 1910? Went 20-10 (?) for Minneapolis in the minors, as he had bugged out enough of his teammates in Philly and St. Louis.

He was still pitching effectively in the minors up until his final illness.
   15. Daryn Posted: July 18, 2006 at 01:49 PM (#2103194)
If you add 1899 and 1910, there is not much that separates Waddell from Gibson. 240-165 ERA+ 135 in 3400 innings v. 251-174 ERA+ 127 in 3900 innings. Enough to make the difference between the top of the ballot and the middle or bottom of the ballot, but not enough to have him off the ballot of half the voters, one wouldn't think. Is this intellectual elitism run amok? :)
   16. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 18, 2006 at 02:20 PM (#2103223)
Well Waddell's IP should be degraded a bit when compared to someone who pitched in the 1960's, as should W-L records. Then again, I will have Gibson 1 and Wadeell 13 so I guess I agree with you.
   17. rawagman Posted: July 18, 2006 at 03:17 PM (#2103284)
I did a study on Waddell a few "years" ago comparing his IP totals to his teammates. I'll try to find it.
   18. KJOK Posted: July 18, 2006 at 04:23 PM (#2103387)
Waddell's Primary minor league record:

Year - 1899
Lg - Western




   19. Brent Posted: July 19, 2006 at 04:06 AM (#2104276)
In early 1902, I believe the league in which Waddell pitched was the California League. The PCL was founded in 1903.
   20. KJOK Posted: July 19, 2006 at 05:00 PM (#2104735)
Yes, you're correct. I was thinking the league Waddell pitched in during 1902 BECAME the PCL, but that was actually the Pacific Northwest League.
   21. Brent Posted: July 23, 2006 at 03:57 AM (#2108147)
For my 1981 ballot's comment on Rube Waddell, I included the following:

I think the wrong conclusion was drawn from the discussion of unearned runs. Relying on ERA+ and ignoring unearned runs distorts Waddell's record; it also distorts the records of other deadball pitchers. The conclusion should have been to stop relying on ERA+ and switch to a measure that includes unearned runs, such as RA+ or DERA. Craig Wright made this recommendation in his 1989 book, The Diamond Appraised, and it's followed by most serious sabermetricians. So I find it surprising to see so much discussion of ERA+.

Rawagman responded:

Rube's UERs were a giant red herring. They were not out of line with the other great pitchers of that time.

First, I don't necessarily disagree with the second sentence; but, as I noted in my ballot comment, I think the first sentence is the wrong conclusion to have drawn from your mini-study.

It's long been recognized that removing unearned runs is an imperfect way of correcting for the effects of defense on a pitcher's record. On the one hand, an error is just one of several defensive events that take place when an unearned run is scored, and the pitcher surely contributes to the other events; on the other hand, unearned runs don't correct at all for the effects of defensive range, ability to turn a double play, and other aspects of fielding.

I believe Craig Wright may have been the first researcher to note that pitchers also directly affect the rate of errors and unearned runs through their pitching styles. He noted that there tend to be more errors with ground ball pitchers than with fly-ball pitchers, that strikeouts reduce the number of errors, that pitchers who are good at holding runners reduce the number of errors, and that lefties tend to have more errors (because they have more ground balls hit to the left side of the infield). He recommended using RA (including unearned runs) rather than ERA.

Waddell's unearned runs were a great topic of discussion when I joined the HoM project about 50 "years" ago. At the time, Chris Jaffe was a voter and had a Web site that provided lots of interesting information on pitchers that he calculated from retrosheet data and other sources. I believe it was Chris who dubbed Waddell the "king of the unearned run"; for a group of important pitchers, he compared their actual unearned runs to the number they would have had if they had the same number as the other pitchers on their team, and Waddell came out at the head of the list. (He later ran this calculation for some additional pitchers and someone else took Waddell's place as leader—my recollection is that it was Dutch Leonard.)

As I said, there was a lot of discussion at the time. Unfortunately, many of those discussions were lost when BTF switched Internet sites—archives exist, but much of their content was lost. Also, Chris's pitcher Web site is no longer available. From what I could locate, it seems that several factors were identified that contributed to Waddell's unearned runs total:
a) His own low fielding percentage (.909 compared to league average of .941)--see the 1918 ballot thread;
b) His ability to hold runners may have been poor (however, little direct evidence);
c) Errors may have distracted him and caused him to pitch more poorly.

Rawagman recently posted some data that show other deadball era pitchers also allowed a lot of unearned runs—see the 1975 ballot discussion thread. I'm not sure that rawagman's data are inconsistent with Chris's—it would be nice if Chris could respond, but he doesn't post here very often anymore.

Many elections ago when I was reviewing the credentials of Waddell and his contemporaries and was looking at the issue of unearned runs, several things were clear: a) If we agree that pitchers can influence the number of unearned runs and that RA+ is more appropriate, it was clear that unearned runs were distorting Waddell's record. I'll note that the effect was not so much on his career total as on some of the season-by-season statistics; but my analysis assigns points to each season, so these effects mattered a lot. b) However, Waddell was not unique; including unearned runs also had similarly large effects on the season-by-season statistics of other deadball era pitchers. Here are some examples:

Waddell 1900 – ERA+ 153, RA+ 127
Waddell 1903 – ERA+ 125, RA+ 143
Waddell 1904 – ERA+ 165, RA+ 144
Waddell 1907 – ERA+ 121, RA+ 104
Joss 1908 – ERA+ 205, RA+ 163
Willis 1909 – ERA+ 121, RA+ 147

Including unearned runs doesn't eliminate Waddell's great 5-season peak, but it does take some air out of his shoulder seasons like 1900 and 1907. I think the proper advice is to always be very cautious using ERA+, especially for pre-1920 pitchers. It is generally preferable to use RA+, especially when comparing deadball pitchers with liveball pitchers.

A note on DERA – in its calculation, the BP system removes all fielding support including the pitcher's own fielding. This especially matters for a few pitchers who were well below average or above average—Waddell was 25 fielding runs below average, according to the BP system. The runs lost due to a pitcher's own fielding are excluded from DERA but included in RA.
   22. Brent Posted: July 23, 2006 at 04:13 AM (#2108149)
A minor correction - in describing Chris Jaffe's results, I said "he compared their actual unearned runs to the number they would have had if they had the same number as the other pitchers on their team." I meant to say "...if they had the same proportion [of unearned runs] as the other pitchers on the team."
   23. rawagman Posted: July 23, 2006 at 05:40 AM (#2108172)
Some pitchers whose careers were centered (at least half) in the 1900's
Name years ER's UER's UER%
Waddell 1897-1910 711 352 33.1
Mathewson 1900-1916 1133 483 29.8 - his % was really good in 06-07
Ames 1903-1919 934 377 28.8 - better post 1910
D. White 1901-1913 808 307 27.5
M. Brown 1903-1916 725 319 30.6
C. Young 1890-1911 2147 1020 32.2
Ed Walsh 1904-1917 598 279 31.8
Joss 1902-1910 488 241 33.1
   24. rawagman Posted: July 23, 2006 at 05:42 AM (#2108173)
part 2

In every season between 1902 and 1909, Rube Waddell finshed the season in the top two of his team in IP.
The following is a comparison of the top two pitchers in IP in each of those seasons on Waddell's teams.
Between 1902-1905 and 1907, pitcher #2 is Eddie Plank. In 1906, it is Chief Bender. Harry Howell in 1908 and Jack Powell in 1909.

Year Rube (RA ER URA%) Pitcher 2 (RA ER URA%) % Difference (Rube's perspective)
1902 90 63 30 140 110 21.4 +8.6%
1903 109 88 19.3 128 89 30.5 -11.2%
1904 109 69 36.7 111 86 22.5 +14.2%
1905 86 54 37.2 113 87 23 +14.2%
1906 89 67 24.7 98 67 31.6 -6.9%
1907 115 68 40.9 115 84 27 +13.9%
1908 93 60 35.5 103 68 33.4 +2.1%
1909 78 58 25.6 83 56 32.5 -6.9%

Totals 769 527 31.5 891 647 27.4 +4.1%

Not such a huge difference between him and his immediate contemporaries, is it?

The next step. I'll add 4.1 percent of his unearned runs back to his earned run total, using 4.1% as a base for his whole career. (I know, it's a little bit sloppy, but probably not that much)
So, as is, 66.9% of all runs allowed by Rube were earned. Add 4.1% and we have 71%. We'll leave the numbers allowed as is.
So Waddell still pitches 2961.3 innings. He allows 1063 runs, 755 (rounded up) earned. ERA: 2.29 (real life 216). His translated ERA+, career, is now 127 (real life 134). Not as impressive, but still impressive enough for my tastes.
   25. rawagman Posted: July 23, 2006 at 08:15 AM (#2108208)
Does this logic not make sense to anyone?
   26. Brent Posted: July 23, 2006 at 01:36 PM (#2108239)
So, rawagman, according to # 24, by comparing Rube Waddell to the other top pitcher on his team for 1902-09 and then applying the 4.1% difference to his entire career, you find he allowed 44 "excess" unearned runs (your calculated "755 (rounded up)" less his actual 711 earned runs). My understanding is that Chris Jaffe performed a similar calculation, except it covered all the pitchers on his teams and a couple of extra seasons. Unfortunately, the crucial post on the 1918 ballot thread got trashed, so we can't see the results. Waddell's career RA+ was 127, so I think your approach goes in the right direction.

By contrast, using RA+ instead of ERA+ raises Willis's career rate from 118 to 121 (and Willis pitched about 1,000 additional innings). These differences may be small over a pitcher's career, but for the fine comparisons we're interested in, I certainly think it's relevant whether we're comparing 134 vs. 118 or 127 vs. 121. So, let's please not label this issue a red herring.

Another comment on # 23 - errors and unearned runs were trending downward throughout this era, which would bias up the results for Cy Young because he started earlier than the others in the comparison. I'd suggest that you try truncating the first 7 seasons of his career.
   27. rawagman Posted: July 23, 2006 at 01:58 PM (#2108249)
Even taking away Young (He was included as part of a general, generational sweep), the percentages were very similar with the pther pitchers - dead on with Addie Joss, for one.

I did the study not so much to fix a set value on his RA+ or ERA+, but because I kept seeing the excuse for not voting for him be that he allowed an inordinate number of UERs.
The fact is that he didn't. His numbers are very much in line with the norms of the time. That 4.1% was an average of around 3 extra UER's per season.

Admittedly, I did not factor Waddell's own fielding in this study.
I generally don't look at pitcher's fielding for my rankings.
Waddell's fielding was pretty bad, but I think that pitcher fielding has got to be below that of deadball era right fielders when it comes to in game importance.

Actually, maybe it isn't. Some people also recognize me as Lefty Gomez' best friend. I just eyeballed league average RF's for pitchers throughout Waddell's and Gomez' careers. To be sure, two very different eras.
lgRFg in Waddell's career for pitchers: 2.51
lgRFg in Gomez' career pitchers: 1.13.

Less than half!

For further linear comparison, see the Randy Johnson era: 0.52.

Ultimately, you like the way Rube pitched, or you don't.

From 1900-1908, Rube led his league in K/9 8 times, and finished second in 1901 (behind Long Tom Hughes).
   28. Howie Menckel Posted: July 23, 2006 at 02:11 PM (#2108251)
Waddell's Ks helped him allow fewer runs, but we're already looking at what his results were.

Looking forward, K-rates have tremendous predictive value.
Looking backward, I don't see the relevance - ESPECIALLY when you are factoring in unearned runs. It may well be that Waddell's inept fielding was counteracted nicely by his extra Ks (minimizing team errors). So we go back to what we're already looking at.

A guy could have 10 Ks a year for all I care - if his results were tremendous, then I'd take him over the guy who whiffed 390 a year with lesser other numbers.

I vote for Waddell, and Ks tell me he must have seemed impressive, but I see them as a red herring in voting considerations.
   29. rawagman Posted: July 23, 2006 at 03:37 PM (#2108267)
I brought up the K9's in light of some recent discussions around Killebrew about how well he might have fared had he played in a different time.
This tells me that Waddell would have dominated in almost any era. In fact, he was probably hurt playing when he did.
I feel he would have been much better in the last quarter century or so, when money played a greater part and measures would likely have been taken to defend him from himself.
   30. W. G. Braund Posted: January 21, 2015 at 05:45 PM (#4885589)
My name is Will Braund. I am a retired principal, baseball researcher, and primary contributor to, where I provide historical perspective to current events in baseball.

My novel based on the extraordinary life and career of Rube Waddell has recently been published by Foundation Press and is available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Praise for King of the Hall of Flakes
As his records clearly show, Rube Waddell was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history. He was also one of the most eccentric. In "King of the Hall of Flakes" author Will Braund captures in vivid detail the amazing life of this wacky character, portraying both his glittering feats on the mound and his deranged actions off of it. It is truly an incredible story about a person whose short life would be impossible to duplicate.
Rich Westcott, a lifetime Philadelphian, is a writer and baseball historian, and the author of 24 books.

Will Braund brings to life one of baseball's most unique characters in a vivid account. Rube Waddell threw hard and lived even harder. It is a terrific history lesson of how they played the game in the early 20th Century.
Ed Sherman Author of "Babe Ruth's Called Shot: The Myth and Mystery Behind Baseball's Greatest Home Run."

George Edward ‘Rube’ Waddell, besides being a dominant pitcher in the first decade of the 1900s, was also one of the game’s most memorable ‘characters’. Will Braund’s novel brings him to vivid life in its pages. This is one hell of a funny read!
Rick Blechta, best-selling author of "The Fallen One"

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