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Monday, January 13, 2003

Season by Season Recap

I think one way to build towards the first election is to recap each season with a thread, starting with the 1871 NA. I’m thinking a season a day (Monday-Friday). As we go through time this way, we’ll start to get a feel for which players dominated year-in-year out, etc.

Charles Saeger has done a lot of work towards coming up with modified Win Shares for NA (and eventually all 19th Century players). The reliability of Win Shares gets shakier the further back we go in time, mainly because of the pitching and fielding differences. Charlie’s work should correct a fair amount of this error.

The problem with the massive revisions is that they also require a massive effort to work their way into a spreadsheet. It’ll be worth the wait once they are done, and if we go through time season by season, that will also buy us a little bit of time to get the spreadsheet revised and do some testing before presenting the NA numbers.

We’re not saying WS are the be all and end all. But Charlie’s revised numbers will be a very good guide for an era where we don’t have much to go on.

Let me know what you think of the season-by-season approach. Assuming people are in favor of it, I should be able to get the 1871 NA up tonight.

JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: January 13, 2003 at 02:53 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jimd Posted: January 13, 2003 at 08:44 PM (#511238)
Season by season is fine. 1871 is probably the most unusual season anyway because the National Association season was so short that year (about 30 games).
   2. Carl Goetz Posted: January 13, 2003 at 09:44 PM (#511239)
Season by season recaps are fine with me. Do we have an updated ETA for the 1906 election?
   3. Marc Posted: January 14, 2003 at 01:08 AM (#511240)
I'd like to see a season by season recap, though I can't quite envision what that means--a narrative or some statistics? It sounds like adjWS are not ready yet? I can cheerfully wait for 1871 to see what you have in mind, however, so no response here is needed.

My main point would be---what about 1869? Can we get at least a narrative on '69? Who knows the '69 season well or has a source?
   4. MattB Posted: January 14, 2003 at 04:32 PM (#511241)
I think a season by season recap is a great idea. The problem with looking at individual player stats is that it is difficult to distinguish whether he was the best or not at a given time.

In terms of pre-1871, there were no real major leagues, so there were no "seasons" really, just a bunch of teams playing games.

The first openly professional team was the Cincinatti Reds, who went undefeated in 1869, and took a couple of losses, I believe in 1870. It is the general consensus that the Reds were the best team of the era. When the Reds, broke up after 1870, their team was split in half. Harry Wright took his brother George, his best players (Cal McVey and Charlie Gould), and his stocking colors, and went to Boston. The other starters for Cincinnati (Fred Waterman, Asa Brainard, Doug Allison, Charlie Sweasy, and Andy Leonard) joined the Washington Olympics. The NA's Opening Day in 1871 was supposed to be Boston v. Washington for this reason, but it was rained out.

Although many teams had major league quality players (e.g., Cap Anson was playing in Marshalltown, Iowa for a local team, and only got to the majors because his Marshalltown teammate, Pony Sager, was signed by an NA team and suggested that they sign Anson too), the only other "major league quality team" before 1871 was the Brooklyn Atlantics. But they did not join the NA, so their best players all left, most joining the New York Mutuals. (Charlie Smith, Mills, Start, Ferguson, and Pearce were all Atlantics before joining the Mutuals in 1871.)

There were other solid teams in Brooklyn (like the Eckfords), and a lot of talent in Baltimore, some of which joined midwestern teams in the NA, since there was no Baltimore entry (mostly Ft. Wayne, at first).

Looking beyond the stats for teams like Cincinnati and Brooklyn, though, are practically meaningless, though, because without a "league" format its practically impossible to determine the quality of their opponents. Who was better? The player who hit .400 for Marshalltown Iowa or the player who hit .300 for Middletown CT (where Jim O'Rourke played)?

Individual players should get credit for pre-1871 performances, but I'm dubious about the value of going year by year into the nebulous pre-pro era.
   5. Marc Posted: January 14, 2003 at 06:28 PM (#511243)
Matt, what about Ross Barnes. I thought he was active in 1869? No? How about Deacon White, did he do anything in '69-'70 that would enhance his record at all?
   6. MattB Posted: January 14, 2003 at 07:13 PM (#511244)
Ross Barnes was the star of the Rockford Forest Citys in the years before the NA (along with Al Spalding, who had been pitching for Rockford since he was 13 or 14). If you had to pick a third major league team from the era, Rockford would be it. (In 1867, the gave the only defeat to the Washington Nationals on their national road show.) They were certainly the best "Western" club, even without Cap Anson (who joined from an amateur team in 1871.)

Rockford was an NA team, but in order to understand the NA, you have to understand that there were really two "types" of teams, stock teams (aka, the Good Teams) and co-ops (aka the Bad Teams). Stock teams paid salaries to their players. Co-ops paid a share of the gate. No profit, no pay. Who would you rather play for?

In the five year history of the NA, NO co-op team EVER finished ahead of a stock team (with the possible exception of 1871, where Ft. Wayne had a better percentage than Cleveland, but didn't finish the season because all their players jumped ship.) Rockford was a co-op team, Boston was a stock team. Bye bye Barnes and Spalding to Boston.

I believe Deacon White did play as early as 1869, but I'm not sure who for, and I don't know of any particularly distinguishing factors of his pre-NA days. (Baseball Library points out that he lost to the Red Stockings in 1869, which was hardly an accomplishment, but not necessarily a fault.)
   7. jimd Posted: January 14, 2003 at 09:55 PM (#511245)
<i>In terms of pre-1871, there were no real major leagues, so there were no "seasons" really, just a bunch of teams playing games.
   8. jimd Posted: January 14, 2003 at 10:05 PM (#511246)
<i>The NA's Opening Day in 1871 was supposed to be Boston v. Washington for this reason, but it was rained out.
   9. MattB Posted: January 15, 2003 at 01:42 PM (#511247)
"There were other independent teams out there of approximately major-league quality (at least some of those teams were better than the last place teams)."

Yes, but for this reason it is important to distinguish between stock and co-op teams (unlike the standings at, many local papers kept two sets of standings, one for the stock teams and one for the co-ops.) An independent team may have been as good as the worst co-op team. There would have been no independent teams as good as any major league stock team.

"Actually, during all of the 1870's, the "season" was much different than today. The first schedule - published before the season began - didn't happen until 1877. Before then, teams met at their mutual convenience, while the association/league dictated how many times they were supposed to meet during the year."

The important point, though, is that for purposes of the standings, the teams all basically played the same other teams. There were "exhibitions" against all comers, but they didn't "count."

So, when you see a .600 team and a .500 team after 1871, you can be relatively sure the .600 team was better, since they achieved their record against the same teams. Before 1871, there was no common list of opponents.
   10. jimd Posted: January 15, 2003 at 08:06 PM (#511248)
<i>There would have been no independent teams as good as any major league stock team.
   11. jimd Posted: January 27, 2003 at 11:06 PM (#511252)
BTW, I'm sure that most, if not all, of you are familiar with Retrosheet's gamelogs for each 20th century season. Does anyone know of a similar source for the 19th century? Even a for-pay source, if the price is reasonable. Thanks in advance.

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