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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Baseball Reference Adds Negro Leagues Statistics, Rewriting Its Record Book

On Monday, Baseball Reference, the go-to source on the internet for such matters, would have told you that Stan Musial led the major leagues with a .357 batting average in 1943. It also would have said numerous pitchers took a turn leading the majors in strikeouts per nine innings between 1927 and 1945, and that the top three batters in career adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage were Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.

A day later, all of that looks much different. Now, Tetelo Vargas of the New York Cubans (.471) and Josh Gibson of the Homestead Grays (.466) have both surpassed Musial in 1943. Satchel Paige, a dominant pitcher for more than 20 seasons, has taken over eight of those strikeout titles. And Oscar Charleston, perhaps the finest all-around player in Negro leagues history, has bumped Bonds for the third-best career mark in adjusted O.P.S.

“A lot of new books on baseball trivia will be coming out in the next few years,” Sean Forman, the founder and president of Sports Reference, joked on a video call ahead of his baseball site’s announcement on Tuesday that it had drastically changed and expanded its accounting of the Negro leagues. The move comes ahead of Major League Baseball’s own plans to incorporate the statistics into its historical record, which could happen in the next off-season.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 15, 2021 at 04:51 PM | 182 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball reference, negro leagues

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   1. villageidiom Posted: June 15, 2021 at 05:56 PM (#6024330)
Excellent. Many thanks to... well, everyone Sean thanks, plus Sean.
   2. Dolf Lucky Posted: June 15, 2021 at 07:28 PM (#6024341)
I firmly believe that there were players in the Negro Leagues who would have excelled, even dominated, in the AL and NL.

At the same time, if I look at the newly updated single season batting average leaders list, 8 of the top 11 are from Negro League players.

That strikes me as an addition of data that is not particularly illuminating, at least not in the way Sean seems to indicate in the quoted passage.

I'm glad that there's available data on the Negro League players and I'm glad that this data is being made widely available, but typically the combination of two dissimilar data sets makes the sum of the parts less functional.
   3. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 15, 2021 at 07:54 PM (#6024343)
In the case of Vargas, his .471 batting average was compiled by going 57-for-121 in 30 games. Very impressive for a month's worth of games, but still.....
   4. Howie Menckel Posted: June 15, 2021 at 08:23 PM (#6024349)
the road to hell, or in this case purgatory, is paved with good intentions.

our Hall of Merit voting started in 2003 (with the "Class of 1898" vote), and in the next year or two we came across more and more Negro League candidates. there were posters - also well-meaning - who were reluctant to rank Negro Leaguers with white players, some suggesting even that it was not even possible.

my response, echoing many others, was that these guys in real life already got segregated for all sorts of disgraceful reasons - let's not compound the egregious error by segregating them again. and we figured it out as well as we could, and learned all sorts of info about many Negro Leaguers that many of us diehards were not that familiar with.

we anointed some players ignored by the HOF, and we found that some players like Cool Papa Bell - while still found to be HOM-worthy - had results that didn't quite live up to the stories handed down over the years. there even were some who made the HOF but not the HOM.

through it all, we tried to give all of these wonderful players the one thing that they never got - a fair chance.

the inclusion of Negro League records at BB-Ref is oh, so satisfying. it's another attempt at respect that, while it obviously is a drop in the bucket compared to the wrongs they all endured - well, at least we can do what we can, however belatedly.

but as noted in Post 3, having a player qualify as the supposed batting champ in 1943, with only 30 games of records, is simply a mistake.

a better idea might have been this compromise - don't list the Negro Leaguers in the single-season annals, but do list them for the career marks where the sample-size issues lessen somewhat.

all that said, the whole effort is a big net positive, and Sean's heart and soul are in the right place - so I guess we'll just move on.
   5. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 15, 2021 at 10:29 PM (#6024381)
Howie has it right.

Maybe a good idea would be an easy filter by league. If you're looking at leaders there should be some option to filter by league, so if what you're really interested in is the NL (or whatever) you can do that.
   6. sanny manguillen Posted: June 15, 2021 at 10:30 PM (#6024382)
My memory is that fans didn't usually focus on an overall MLB leader in a category, and that the focus was on league leaders unless a freakishly large or small number was involved. Sorting is something computers do best, so of course BB-Ref will have a page showing the overall MLB leaders for each year, but even confined to just the AL/NL I think it's a little misleading for years when the leagues had strong separate identities.
   7. sanny manguillen Posted: June 15, 2021 at 10:39 PM (#6024389)
Maybe a good idea would be an easy filter by league.


What is The Baseball Cube? It stays around year after year without drawing a lot of attention. It now has a series of check boxes where you can control what levels of a player's career you can consider. That's what I'd like - the option to look at MLB, or add in stats from NPB or some era of the PCL.
   8. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:09 PM (#6024421)
Red Sox win 10-8. 23 hits, 26K combined. How often do teams combine for 20+ hits and 20+ K's in the same game? Eh, probably common these days, but it looks like a lot either way.
   9. villageidiom Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:25 PM (#6024433)
if I look at the newly updated single season batting average leaders list, 8 of the top 11 are from Negro League players.

That strikes me as an addition of data that is not particularly illuminating, at least not in the way Sean seems to indicate in the quoted passage.
Why not? It seems to me that this is an improvement.

I mean, Hugh Duffy batted .440 in 1894, in a version of baseball that had different rules, wildly varying levels of competition, etc. His 1894 season was in the top 5 before the change, and is in the top 5 after the change. His 1894 season is just as incomparable to, say, Ted Williams' .406 in 1941 as is Josh Gibson's .466 in 1943. We've been able to deal with the incomparability between Duffy and Williams for decades now by just recognizing the eras were different, which itself is illuminating. Adding Gibson to the list is similarly illuminating.

If it's that the Negro Leagues played shorter seasons, and in a smaller sample anything can happen... Well, I guess we should remove 2020 from leader lists? How about 1981? Or 1994?

Maybe a good idea would be an easy filter by league. If you're looking at leaders there should be some option to filter by league, so if what you're really interested in is the NL (or whatever) you can do that.
If it was a good idea to filter just to NL - and I'm not saying it isn't - then it would have been a good idea before Negro Leagues were added. My hunch is it was rarely, if ever, requested of BB-Ref prior to the inclusion of Negro Leagues in the lists. Wouldn't surprise me if they get a lot of requests now, which has a very Tom Yawkey look to it.
   10. Booey Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:42 PM (#6024446)
Just wondering, why does Josh Gibson show up on the single season leader boards but not the career ones, while other Negro Leaguers (Oscar Charleston, etc) do? Shouldn't Gibson's career batting average and slugging percentages be listed as the new all time records?
   11. Gch Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:46 PM (#6024448)
You need 3000 PA to qualify for the career leaderboards, Gibson is credited with 2511.
   12. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:46 PM (#6024449)
Just wondering, why does Josh Gibson show up on the single season leader boards but not the career ones, while other Negro Leaguers (Oscar Charleston, etc) do? Shouldn't Gibson's career batting average and slugging percentages be listed as the new all time records?


Probably doesn't meet minimum PA requirements. Only 2500 PA in league games (so far, data still coming in). Charleston had ~1400 more PA.
   13. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: June 15, 2021 at 11:47 PM (#6024450)
aaannnddd coke for Gch
   14. Cooper Nielson Posted: June 16, 2021 at 12:11 AM (#6024452)
Howie's post above is very good. I mostly applaud this move, but I admit it feels weird to see Tetelo Vargas at the top of a "major" list for a 30-game season during WWII.

However, I also think villageidiom's post is good. The "weirdness" many of us are feeling really only applies to the single-season rate stats, which were already weird because of the timeline differences. Even for batting average, which was the most cherished stat for 120+ years of baseball history, few fans would be able to recall Hugh Duffy's .440 or Nap Lajoie's .427 (post-1900) as being the "records" for a single season. I expect a plurality of modern fans think Ted Williams holds the single-season record. So having a bunch of new, unfamiliar names at the top of this list is really just a shoulder shrug from me. Was Tetelo Vargas a better hitter than Rogers Hornsby or Ted Williams? No, almost certainly not. But was he better than Hugh Duffy or Tip O'Neill? Sure, very possibly.

Counting stats aren't really affected because of the shorter seasons/missing data for the Negro Leagues players. For career rate stats, the guys who are now on the career batting average list are pretty big names (Oscar Charleston is now right behind Ty Cobb, Jud Wilson and Turkey Stearnes are in the top 10 -- all Hall-of-Famers) so they don't look out of place. There are no new names at the top of the career ERA list, which is mostly 19th century guys anyway. Other career rate stats like OBP, SLG, and OPS aren't as well-known, but again it's guys like Oscar Charleston and Josh Gibson (currently not appearing, for some reason) showing up. That seems perfectly appropriate.
   15. Booey Posted: June 16, 2021 at 12:40 AM (#6024457)
Sooo...if there's a minimum PA cutoff to qualify for the career record leader boards, why wouldn't there be a minimum PA cutoff to qualify for the single season record leader boards too?

I really, really do appreciate what Sean is doing here. But I'll echo what others have said...crediting a batting average set in a 30 game season as not only the major league leader that year, but also as the ALL TIME SINGLE SEASON RECORD HOLDER just renders the record books essentially meaningless.

Edit: What if, say, COVID had shut down the 2020 season a month into the season rather than before it began, and the league chose not to continue playing it later in the year? Would someone hitting .450 at the time after just a months worth of games have been credited as not only a legit .400 hitter, but also as the new single season record holder? I don't think they would have or should have.
   16. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: June 16, 2021 at 12:56 AM (#6024461)
few fans would be able to recall Hugh Duffy's .440 or Nap Lajoie's .427 (post-1900) as being the "records" for a single season


The problem with Lajoie's is that for decades it was listed as .422 and Hornsby was credited as the single season batting average record holder at .424. It was later discovered that Lajoie actually hit .426, so he was really the record holder but the change to put him on top didn't occur with him breaking the record, but rather just a change in the scoring of official statistics, so it didn't get any fanfare.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: June 16, 2021 at 01:27 AM (#6024464)
Statistically it is problematic. MLB does have a rule about PAs to qualify for a batting title. That itself (at least theoretically) leads to a player with 502 PA (or even slightly fewer) winning a "batting title" by a trivial margin over a player with 700 PA. Now we have a player winning the 1943 title based on 136 PA which wouldn't even seem to be "qualifying" in comparison to Josh Gibson who is only 5 points behind with 302 PA. But I guess he did average more than 3.1 (or whatever) PA per his team's 34 games so the standard is met. (The Grays played 68 games that year and Gibson played in 69 of them; Sam Bankhead in 71 :-)

The point that we know not to compare certain eras to others is valid ... but we have to this point assumed that within-era comparisons between "major" leagues wasn't overly problematic (there are exceptions). It's true I am not the least concerned with comping Vargas to Duffy ... but comping 1943 Vargas to 1943 Musial and placing Vargas 114 points ahead on BA seems problematic. The point about 1981, 1994, 2020 is valid too but comping NeL rate stats to NL/AL rate stats isn't now a once very 15-20 year issue. And in 2020, there were questions about whether it would be "legit" if somebody hit 400 or bettered Bob Gibson's ERA mark in a 60-game season. I'm not entirely sure this is the argument we want to make though ... I see a number like a 471 BA (or Gibson's 466) and my initial reaction is like it is for Duffy: "they weren't playing real major-league competition or were playing in a very different environment."

Note, the way I deal with Duffy, etc. is by completely ignoring them when looking at stats. Virtually anytime I use stathead now, I limit it to the expansion era, maybe the integration era if the search is relevant to Jackie, Banks, early Mays/Aaron/Mantle, etc. It's over 60 years of baseball now, more than enough data to look at and reasonably consistent rules, environment, etc. If stathead had an easy button for 1980+ I might well be using that one now. So this change won't really affect my use of baseball stats.

Of course until recent years, we had no choice but to "ignore" NeL stats, now we have the choice ... that's obviously a very good thing and Tetelo Vargas (who I'd never heard of) joining DJ LeMahieu in the record books is a teeny price to pay.

Maybe a good idea would be an easy filter by league.

Stathead has a giant league filter box.

And by the way, if you want Gibson on a leaderboard, he ranks 103rd in career batter WAA, just ahead of McCovey, Vlad, Biggio, Dawson, Banks. That's not bad for 2500 PA. (You might have to use stathead to get that one.)
   18. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 02:24 AM (#6024466)
The 1871 NA is part of the record books, and teams that season played between 25-30 games. Levi Meyerle is listed with a .492 batting average that year
   19. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:04 AM (#6024469)
The Negro Leagues were not the major leagues. As much as we might want to re-litigate the past and right some wrongs, The Negro Leagues were not the major leagues. Sorry.
   20. Cooper Nielson Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:05 AM (#6024470)
The problem with Lajoie's is that for decades it was listed as .422 and Hornsby was credited as the single season batting average record holder at .424. It was later discovered that Lajoie actually hit .426, so he was really the record holder but the change to put him on top didn't occur with him breaking the record, but rather just a change in the scoring of official statistics, so it didn't get any fanfare.

Thanks for this note. I wasn't actually aware this had happened, I just assumed my memory was bad. (If you would've asked me yesterday who had the highest single-season batting average in major-league history, I would've said Rogers Hornsby, .424.) That's probably the biggest reason this "record" wasn't really well known.
   21. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:22 AM (#6024471)
Geez, there's even a chest-puffing "The Negro Leagues are Major Leagues!" logo at the Baseball-Reference site now, as if wishing will make it so. Geez.

I believe Sean Forman is doing this in the interests of historical accuracy, and not because some BLM functionary is breathing down his neck. And more data is better than less. This is good.

But there remains one undeniable fact:

No Negro League team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Major League team. Ever. They should have, and it would've been awesome. But they didn't. Can't change that. Sorry.

The high minors weren't/aren't the major leagues (not even the "Open" PCL of the 50s). The Mexican, Japanese and Cuban leagues weren't/aren't the major leagues. You could make a good argument that the 19th century leagues (especially the Union Association) weren't the major leagues, even if they represented the highest playing level of its time. The AAGPBL wasn't the major leagues.

And the Negro Leagues were not the major leagues.

Again, sorry.

   22. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: June 16, 2021 at 07:23 AM (#6024473)
Maybe a good idea would be an easy filter by league. If you're looking at leaders there should be some option to filter by league, so if what you're really interested in is the NL (or whatever) you can do that.

If you're looking at the leaderboard for one year (say 1943), this is readily available. For single-season leaderboards overall, I'm not sure.
   23. Dolf Lucky Posted: June 16, 2021 at 07:51 AM (#6024475)
Why not? It seems to me that this is an improvement.


Because a top ten list that gets completely overhauled by the addition of a new data set weakens the assertion that the new data is of equivalent meaning.

   24. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: June 16, 2021 at 08:37 AM (#6024476)
I generally agree this is a problematic situation, and it has no good or easy solution. That said, background information and context become important. BBREF and other interested groups will likely need to continue developing ways to support casual and hardcore users. Tool tips, hover glossaries, more articles, etc. I’d they are going to make this work effectively, what they cannot do is engage in defensive rhetoric with those who would criticize the inclusion of Negro Leagues data in the major-league dataset/leaderboards. (Notice I didn’t say Major League; Despite historical inaccuracy, I’m personally using MLB or Major League rather than major league to refer to the white leagues.) now that BBREF has made its decision, it must look forward and not bog down in the highly politicized racial animus in the country.
   25. DL from MN Posted: June 16, 2021 at 09:30 AM (#6024485)
Since when did everyone here care so much about batting average?

I'm glad that they're representing pre-1950 baseball as a muddled statistical mess, because it IS a muddled statistical mess. Statistics without context are just numbers.
   26. Ron J Posted: June 16, 2021 at 09:58 AM (#6024494)
#18 When did MLB recognize the NA. I know Sean decided to, but to my knowledge MLB didn't.

   27. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: June 16, 2021 at 10:26 AM (#6024501)
21 seems both tautological and like the foundation of an argument against recognizing the AL/NL etc... prior to widespread integration as major leagues.

No (say) Yankees team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Negro League team. Ever. They should have, and it would've been awesome. But they didn't. Can't change that. Sorry.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 16, 2021 at 10:29 AM (#6024505)
Here's Baseball-Reference's page for career leaders in batting average.

Anyone who's hung up on the idea that "The Negro Leagues" were not major leagues" has an easy solution to his problem: Just mentally eliminate any Black faces you see whose careers began before 1947. You can then cuddle up with your binky and sleep peacefully through the night.
   29. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: June 16, 2021 at 10:39 AM (#6024509)
I'm glad that they're representing pre-1950 baseball as a muddled statistical mess, because it IS a muddled statistical mess. Statistics without context are just numbers.
Therein lies a good chunk of the rub. To some extent - these records really are just numbers, and we've never done a good job of offering context to go along with them. (And with how they change as our understanding of the past does -- like how Harry Stovey was credited at one point with some truly wild batting stats.)

But time and narrative (as well as lack thereof) flattens nuance and so we have to choose how much work to put in to interpret how well Hugh Duffy hit or Hal Newhouser pitched (a WW2 peak, just as Vargas had his hot streak in WW2), and so on. Vargas's short season bothers you? I can't imagine the last time we had to think about the impact of a greatly shortened season on statistics, not since ... last year?

Sure - part of what top level American professional baseball has to offer is a long tradition as conveyed through numbers and this complicates that tradition and causes us to use more words in describing a past feat and on and on and on. All of that is pretty small potatoes compared to, I don't know, mass segregation?
   30. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 10:48 AM (#6024511)
#18 When did MLB recognize the NA. I know Sean decided to, but to my knowledge MLB didn't.


The entire article is about Baseball-Reference.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 16, 2021 at 11:03 AM (#6024517)
But time and narrative (as well as lack thereof) flattens nuance and so we have to choose how much work to put in to interpret how well Hugh Duffy hit or Hal Newhouser pitched (a WW2 peak, just as Vargas had his hot streak in WW2), and so on. Vargas's short season bothers you? I can't imagine the last time we had to think about the impact of a greatly shortened season on statistics, not since ... last year?

Sure - part of what top level American professional baseball has to offer is a long tradition as conveyed through numbers and this complicates that tradition and causes us to use more words in describing a past feat and on and on and on. All of that is pretty small potatoes compared to, I don't know, mass segregation?


These newly integrated lists of statistics should only bother people who think that lists like career leaders "prove" anything to begin with. Of course these newly incorporated NeL numbers still leave plenty of unanswered questions, but for Christ's sake, so do the numbers from MLB prior to the modern era when it got to more than token integration. Numbers are just a starting point in finding answers to questions about comparative "greatness", and if we look at it that way, the more numbers the better. Historians can put those numbers in context, or we can have a lot of fun trying to do it ourselves. What's the problem?
   32. villageidiom Posted: June 16, 2021 at 11:18 AM (#6024523)
Sooo...if there's a minimum PA cutoff to qualify for the career record leader boards, why wouldn't there be a minimum PA cutoff to qualify for the single season record leader boards too?
Season lengths vary. League standards for qualifiers changed over time. Even the AL and NL had different standards for a period of time. BB-Ref settled on a PA-per-team-game standard and has been using that for a while. This is not materially different from that. Maybe it's not the best standard, but every standard is problematic - mostly because BA itself is problematic.

Again, if minimum PA cutoffs are a thing, then there are no qualified players in 2020. But, like, the 2020 MLB season happened, and the stats count, and there are people who led their respective leagues in batting average. If we saw a 2020 player high in the list we could say "Oh, yeah, 2020, freaky year" and move on, just as much as we can see Hugh Duffy that high in the list and say "Oh, yeah, prehistoric baseball, wild stuff". Now we can say "Oh, yeah, Josh Gibson, played at the highest level he was allowed to, stats are weird" instead of remaining ignorant of Gibson or pretending that didn't happen - or worse, embracing the notion that the AL/NL stats are the "pure" ones and the Negro League stats are unworthy of being shown, which itself is a byproduct of past racism.

The single-season BA leader list isn't the end point of consideration of who was best. I mean, first, it's BA so it's missing a lot of context. It's all eras, and separate leagues, and different season lengths, and different rules, and different equipment, and different parks, and so on. It's the starting point for discovery, not the end point. Before the Negro Leagues were added it was also the starting point for discovery, but just within the context of institutional racism of the time. Now it looks outside that context as well. This is a good thing.

Because a top ten list that gets completely overhauled by the addition of a new data set weakens the assertion that the new data is of equivalent meaning.
The previous top ten list was already problematic because the data therein wasn't of equivalent meaning. But we gave it meaning, because we accepted whatever definition of greatness had been established before we first started paying attention to it.

No Negro League team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Major League team.
No AL nor NL team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Negro League team. Let's throw out all the stats.

More directly addressing your point, Nap Lajoie's .426 in 1901 was amassed while playing in a league that never played a meaningful, championship-level game against the only major league up to that point. Retroactively his was recognized as a major league despite it being unworthy at the time by your standard. And, like, everyone here is cool with that because (a) the retroactive decision was made long before we started paying attention to it, so it's "normal" to us; and (b) it tracks with our current understanding of the sport (AL being in MLB), so it's familiar to us. But Lajoie's .426 in 1901 is just as problematic as the inclusion of Negro League stats.

And more to my point (or I suppose BB-Ref's point) exclusion of Negro League stats only feels "normal" to us because we've come to accept the perpetuation of past institutionalized racism as a "well, can't do anything about the past" thing. In the global discussions of the past year it became clear that, well, yes we can, and yes we should, do something about this. There is far more harm in excluding Negro League stats - in that it perpetuates the notion of AL/NL stats as being somehow "pure" and the Negro Leagues as being insufficient, which only feels right because it aligns with what we've accepted as normal, which was the byproduct of racist views from a century ago - than there is in including Negro League stats. I mean, if the problem we now have is that the trivia question of "Who holds the highest major league batting average for a single season?" has a different answer, or now has an answer with a bunch of caveats... Like, that's great! And that's because that trivia question was a garbage question long before Tetelo Vargas was the answer. If that's our biggest problem, and not "Josh Gibson hit .466 in 1943, but that shouldn't count because he didn't hit against white players, but Nap Lajoie's .427 in 1901 should count even though it wasn't against black players because that's OK", then we're in a much better place.
   33. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 11:50 AM (#6024527)
No Negro League team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Major League team.

No AL nor NL team ever played a meaningful, championship-level game against a Negro League team. Let's throw out all the stats.


This is a silly argument. The AL and the NL were (and are) considered the top baseball leagues in this country, end of sentence. There was no need for them to play Negro League teams to prove their superiority, for the same reason they didn't have play teams from the high minors or Cuba and Japan.

See, there's no real reason to "promote" the Negro Leagues to Major Leagues; to do so stinks of paternalism. The Negro Leagues are fine where they are. I'm all in favour of giving the Negro Leagues their props as the great organizations they were, filled with some of the very best players the game has ever known. They need more publicity, not less; it would be fantastic if we could somehow get a hold of all the box scores and statistics, and perhaps come up with a reasonable set of Major League Equivalencies. (I'd like to see that for all of baseball, too, including the minors. And timeline the early majors so that we can actually get an idea of what Lajoie's .426 in 1901 really means.)

But Negro Leagues as Major Leagues? How can they be? Did the Homestead Greys or the Kansas City Monarchs ever play a single game in a top-level organized American baseball league, one in which the champion was hailed as the greatest club in the land? No, sir, they did not. It was horrible and unfair, and it took three-quarters of a century after MLB was born in 1871 to finally (begin to!) rectify this situation. (And as I've said before, does it makes sense that, in an era in which baseball got pretty much all the good athletes, that 15% of the population could produce a group of players as good as the other 85%? If it was closer to 50-50, maybe. But 15-85?))

we've come to accept the perpetuation of past institutionalized racism as a "well, can't do anything about the past" thing


There is nothing to be done about the past; it's gone. However, you can still change the present, as well as the future...two outa three ain't bad. But trying to re-write the past (especially for political reasons) not only doesn't fix the past, but it taints the present and potentially the future. (Orwell wrote that book as a warning, kids, not as a how-to guide.)
   34. Ron J Posted: June 16, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6024532)
#32 Yes, specifically the 1901 AL was weaKer than the NeL at any point. Doesn't mean that Lajoie wasn't an elite player, merely that a lot of the competition he faced was not top caliber. The issue's bigger when it comes to 1871 -- where I'm doubtful that the overall league quality was AA.

That's an argument for timelining and adjusting for. Of course Ty Cobb played against substantially weaker competition than Willie Mays and that matters.

But BA comps? We compare the Dodgers from the mid-60s to Coors in sillyball to segregated dead ball leagues to a 19th century league that lasted a years and was maybe AA in strength.

I can't be too concerned where anybody ends up on lists with no context adjustments.
   35. sanny manguillen Posted: June 16, 2021 at 12:41 PM (#6024539)
I'm looking at the 1968 MLB batting average leaders, with Yaz's .301 tied with Curt Flood for 5/6. Yaz is the only American Leaguer on the list. I don't think I've ever seen that specific list before. Any paper sources would always break it down to AL and NL leaders. I don't even look at lists like that now, because (a) no one then was thinking of it; and, (b) the league contexts were different. (Exception: I will occasionally look at the WAR leaders lists for all of MLB).
   36. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6024546)

Some random thoughts on this:

- It is a good thing and it will hopefully inspire people to learn more about the NeL. I've read "Beyond the Shadow of the Senators" but the NeL is still a big gap in my baseball knowledge, and having more stats available at BB-Ref will help with that.

- I hope there's a lot of transparency about how the statistics were compiled, what's included vs. not included, where there are still gaps, how things like park factors and WAR are calculated for the NeLers, etc. The NY Times article discusses the first part a bit.

- I hope people use this as an opportunity to learn more about the NeL as leagues, not just as collections of individual player statistics. It's great that you can now pull up standings for, say, the 1933 Negro National Leagues II. But is this just a retroactive assembly of the games for which they have box scores into a standings table? Or is this what the final standings would have looked like in a newspaper in 1933? Why did the Cleveland Giants only play one game, or the Akron Grays 10? Was there a postseason? Lots to learn here.

- I never really looked to the BB-Ref single season leaderboards for much of anything, so the fact that Vargas and Gibson now show up as the batting average leaders doesn't really bother me. That being said, it would be helpful if those leaderboards listed the player's league as well as the year they set such a mark, or the total team games for such a season. Previously, it was easy to look at those lists and mentally filter out the Deadball Era or pre-1900 guys if you wanted to. It's harder to do that with the NeLs or with the stats from 2020, which I also find difficult to compare to prior seasons.

Of course, if you really want to run such filters, you can pay for PI (or Stathead as it's now called). I assume the capability is there.
   37. sunday silence (again) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 01:41 PM (#6024553)
I think the more interesting question is:

We assume that NeGL don't need to play games against MLB and/or Dont need to "prove" they are the equivalent in terms of ability to white MLBers in order to be recognized as a major league. Yes?

If so then at some pt. do we not recognize the Japanese league. And of course Mexican baseball, Cuban baseball, Korean baseball whatever else.

So where do you draw the line? What is your reasoning?
   38. vortex of dissipation Posted: June 16, 2021 at 01:47 PM (#6024554)
If so then at some pt. do we not recognize the Japanese league.


An interesting concept, for two numbers.

868

4,367
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 02:04 PM (#6024560)
Previously, it was easy to look at those lists and mentally filter out the Deadball Era or pre-1900 guys if you wanted to. It's harder to do that with the NeLs or with the stats from 2020, which I also find difficult to compare to prior seasons.


2020 rate leaders should absolutely NOT be on all time leader boards.
   40. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 16, 2021 at 02:11 PM (#6024561)
- I never really looked to the BB-Ref single season leaderboards for much of anything, so the fact that Vargas and Gibson now show up as the batting average leaders doesn't really bother me. That being said, it would be helpful if those leaderboards listed the player's league as well as the year they set such a mark, or the total team games for such a season. Previously, it was easy to look at those lists and mentally filter out the Deadball Era or pre-1900 guys if you wanted to. It's harder to do that with the NeLs or with the stats from 2020, which I also find difficult to compare to prior seasons.

But again, career leaderboard pages for Batting Average and other stats have accompanying pictures that make it easy to tell the Negro League players from MLB's. Filtering out the Deadball Era or 19th Century players is a bit trickier, especially when you have players whose careers overlap different eras.
   41. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 16, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6024562)
We assume that NeGL don't need to play games against MLB and/or Dont need to "prove" they are the equivalent in terms of ability to white MLBers in order to be recognized as a major league. Yes?

If so then at some pt. do we not recognize the Japanese league. And of course Mexican baseball, Cuban baseball, Korean baseball whatever else.


The Federal League never played games against the established leagues, yet it has long been considered a major league. This idea that you didn't need to play meaningful games against the top league in order to be a major league was discarded long ago. It's not a new concept being applied to the Negro Leagues.
   42. Jay Seaver Posted: June 16, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6024563)
There is nothing to be done about the past; it's gone. However, you can still change the present, as well as the future...two outa three ain't bad. But trying to re-write the past (especially for political reasons) not only doesn't fix the past, but it taints the present and potentially the future.


Isn't the entire point of history as an academic field to re-write the story of the past based upon better access to information and, ideally, a clearer view of the forces at work, both at the time of the events and when the previous histories were being written? That seems to be what Baseball Reference is trying to do here - they've examined the data (which has become much more complete and accessible), interrogated the rationale for the Negro Leagues not having previously been considered major leagues and found it wanting, and decided that this is how they want to present the story of major league baseball (uncapitalized) going forward. There's debate to be had on the reasoning, but that's what historians do, and occasionally the consensus changes. The next generation grows up with a different view of Josh Gibson than the last one, but possibly a better, more truthful one.

If so then at some pt. do we not recognize the Japanese league. And of course Mexican baseball, Cuban baseball, Korean baseball whatever else.


It is an interesting question, and I suspect that it comes down to looking at the players who have crossed over, or faced each other in exhibitions or competitions like the Olympics and World Baseball Classic, applying what you know of aging curves, etc. You probably give some weight to whether players in a league felt that they had played at the highest level of competition or whether they set their sights on other leagues.

If and for what period various international leagues might be considered major-league could very well be a fascinating question down the road, especially if the WBC ever does jump-start global interest and China or Europe develop their own leagues with talent pools to rival MLB's.
   43. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:30 PM (#6024574)
The Federal League never played games against the established leagues, yet it has long been considered a major league. This idea that you didn't need to play meaningful games against the top league in order to be a major league was discarded long ago. It's not a new concept being applied to the Negro Leagues.


That's a good point, and one that needs to be addressed. We should probably demote "third wheel" leagues like the Feds and the Union Association of 1884. (It's less clear with the American Association, and what about the Player's League of 1890, which may well have been the best of the three leagues that year?)

Look, for the three decades or so the Negro Leagues existed, NOBODY considered them part of the major leagues. They weren't part of the major leagues when they existed, nor after integration, nor up until recently...when baseball (like a lot of corporations, who like money and want to stay in business) decided to try to score some brownie points. #we'retotallynotracistsnowbuyourstuffyoubigots (Guess what, guys? No matter what you do, it'll never be enough. Ever. You're saps if you think otherwise.)

Let's see more data on the Negro Leagues, more info, more analysis. Let's try to definitely answer the question, "If Joe Ballplayer hit .378 in the Arizona-Vermont League in 1938, how does that compare to the major leagues of that year? Or 2021?" But let's not confuse them with the American and National Leagues. Doing so insults every baseball fan, black and white.
   44. DL from MN Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:32 PM (#6024575)
Did the Homestead Greys or the Kansas City Monarchs ever play a single game in a top-level organized American baseball league


Sure they did, the Negro National League or Negro American League. Those were top-level organized American baseball leagues. That's the point. The American League and National League weren't really 'top level', at least compared to what they should have been, considering they were excluding 20% of the players who had the talent to play in the league.
   45. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:37 PM (#6024577)
the Negro National League or Negro American League. Those were top-level organized American baseball leagues.

For one-fifth of the population, sure.

they were excluding 20% of the players who had the talent to play in the league

But they still had other the 80%! 80% is a lot more than 20%, right?
   46. DL from MN Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:40 PM (#6024578)
for the three decades or so the Negro Leagues existed, NOBODY considered them part of the major leagues


That's the definition of white supremacy. The white leagues are superior, because we're considering them superior. Like 27 said, that's a tautology, not an argument.
   47. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:45 PM (#6024583)

But again, career leaderboard pages for Batting Average and other stats have accompanying pictures that make it easy to tell the Negro League players from MLB's. Filtering out the Deadball Era or 19th Century players is a bit trickier, especially when you have players whose careers overlap different eras.


(1) The photos are not matched up next to the list (and shouldn't be - if I want to copy-and-paste into Excel, the photos are not helpful).
(2) They only have photos for the top 20 or so players, while the lists go way beyond that.
(3) I don't necessarily presume that I can tell a person's race simply by looking at a photo of them (although it might be true in this case).
(4) Not all black players were NeL players, and there was a period of time where the NeLs co-existed with a semi-integrated MLB, so there's no simple rule you can apply other than going name-by-name, season-by-season. For example, Artie Wilson is on some lists for seasons he put up in the NeL after the NL and AL were officially integrated. Jackie Robinson is on some lists for seasons that he put up both in the NeL and in the NL.
   48. DL from MN Posted: June 16, 2021 at 03:56 PM (#6024587)
Hell, the NL and AL segregated the white players into two different leagues. Those players didn't face each other except in a 2 team exhibition at the end of the season.

In 1930 where the American League was considered stronger than the National League and there is only one Negro League with 8 teams you have a league with 45% of the top talent, another with 35% of the top talent and another with 20% of the top talent.

The white and black minor leagues don't matter because they only have a small percentage of the best players in any given season AND those players eventually advanced to the highest available level.

I think I'm done discussing, because I doubt this is an open minded conversation and more of a political statement from your end.
   49. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: June 16, 2021 at 04:10 PM (#6024589)
Sure they did, the Negro National League or Negro American League. Those were top-level organized American baseball leagues. That's the point. The American League and National League weren't really 'top level', at least compared to what they should have been, considering they were excluding 20% of the players who had the talent to play in the league.


And along those lines, the Yankees and Giants of the 30's played a lot of games against the Browns, A's, Phillies, and Braves who were MLB teams in name only.
   50. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 04:18 PM (#6024590)
That's the definition of white supremacy.

You betcha. In the Negro League era (let's call it 1920-50), most white people (unless they lived in inner cities or down south) probably didn't think about black people at all, let alone how good the Negro Baseball Leagues were. (Geez, just the name is offensive!) Your typical black person was invisible...if they were lucky. (Getting on the white folks' radar rarely ended well for a black person.)

We know now that that the best NeL players were every bit as good as the best MLB players; indeed, when you factor in how hard it was simply to play in the Negro Leagues, they may have been better. (After sleeping on busses and eating awful food for weeks on end, it's amazing these guys could even stand up straight, let alone play high-level baseball.) Maybe some of the best NeL teams could be competitive in the AL or NL, or even contend for a pennant. (Given decent food, equipment and working conditions, would you bet against the 1931 Homestead Grays? I sure as hell wouldn't.) But top-to-bottom, was the NeL as good as the majors? No. That's just a bridge too far, because racism, because neglect, because demographics.

Look, everybody wants to right wrongs, even if they happened long ago, even if the people that were wronged (and their tormentors) are long dead. It feels good, and it costs us nothing. Hey, MLB, you really wanna make things better for blacks? How about, I don't know, allowing more black people to own and run MLB teams? Why the hell couldn't Hank Aaron be the commissioner, instead of some used-car salesman? Ever notice that there are fewer African-Americans on major league clubs, or even in the stands? Maybe they're getting kinda tired baseball's mealy-mouthed crap.

Baseball, like all of us, needs to do better about race. Turning the record book into a politically-correct mishmash, however, ain't the way to do it.
   51. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 16, 2021 at 04:39 PM (#6024597)
But again, career leaderboard pages for Batting Average and other stats have accompanying pictures that make it easy to tell the Negro League players from MLB's. Filtering out the Deadball Era or 19th Century players is a bit trickier, especially when you have players whose careers overlap different eras.

(1) The photos are not matched up next to the list (and shouldn't be - if I want to copy-and-paste into Excel, the photos are not helpful).


The photos are in the order of the respective career averages, and if you hover over them you can see those averages. I agree it doesn't help for copy-and-paste into Excel, but that's more of a specialized or advanced need.

(2) They only have photos for the top 20 or so players, while the lists go way beyond that.

True, but that's where nearly all of the pushback is: The validity of the comparisons between the top Major Leaguers and the top Negro Leaguers.

(3) I don't necessarily presume that I can tell a person's race simply by looking at a photo of them (although it might be true in this case).

It's certainly true in this case, as the only Black Major Leaguer there has a color photo with a Padres cap. The other Black players are obviously from a much earlier era, and hence couldn't be Major Leaguers.

(P. S. It's too bad that book is now out of print and prohibitively expensive, but you can find summaries and discussions of its findings online.)

(4) Not all black players were NeL players, and there was a period of time where the NeLs co-existed with a semi-integrated MLB, so there's no simple rule you can apply other than going name-by-name, season-by-season. For example, Artie Wilson is on some lists for seasons he put up in the NeL after the NL and AL were officially integrated. Jackie Robinson is on some lists for seasons that he put up both in the NeL and in the NL.

Yes, but as has been the case forever, at the bottom of each player's stats, there's a breakdown for his totals by team, and also by league. While (for instance) Satchel Paige's initial bottom line combines his NeL and MLB stats, right below that there's a complete breakdown. From there it shouldn't be hard to get to the sort of answers that people seem to be wanting, though of course the issue of the relative overall quality of MLB and the Negro Leagues is never going to be settled.

As for the relative quality, John Holway's The Complete Book of Baseball's Negro Leagues: The Other Half of Baseball History (2004) addresses that inferentially by giving us the most complete compilation of Black vs White exhibition games to be found in any single source. It won't settle any arguments definitively one way or the other, but given the results it's not so hard to think that those quality differences were somewhat less than many people commonly assume.
   52. DL from MN Posted: June 16, 2021 at 04:55 PM (#6024601)
the issue of the relative overall quality of MLB and the Negro Leagues is never going to be settled.


I think that's also true of NL vs AL league strength until interleague play.
   53. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 05:03 PM (#6024605)
Sure, Andy, with a fair amount of work one can gather whatever information one wants from the site. But, given the whole point of Baseball-Reference is to make such queries easier, and they *have* the information in their database already, I don’t know why you’re arguing against including it. It’s not like I’m asking you to do the coding for the change.
   54. Howie Menckel Posted: June 16, 2021 at 05:18 PM (#6024609)
We know now that that the best NeL players were every bit as good as the best MLB players; indeed, when you factor in how hard it was simply to play in the Negro Leagues, they may have been better.

but "we" knew that in the 1920s and 1930 and 1940s as well. there were plenty of exhibition games, as noted in Post 51, between black and white players, taking place in front of huge crowds.

Satchel Paige faced Dizzy Dean in such a game in 1934. Smoky Joe Williams famously defeated Grover Cleveland Alexander and Walter Johnson in such games.

sometimes two separate things get confused. yes, they weren't "official games" and yes, at times the MLB teams might not have had their full rosters.

but not only were the games competitive - athletes are funny that way, especially then - but legendary MLB players saw Negro League greats pitch, hit, field, and run on the diamond.

I think you'd be hardpressed to find comments from MLB HOFers who did NOT consider the great Negro Leaguers to be their equal on the ballfield. now, Ty Cobb clearly was not the stereotypical racist from Al Stump's infamous book - but he wasn't a "social justice warrior," either. yet Cobb was quoted a number of times showing respect for the talents of his Negro counterparts. to him, it was utterly obvious.

now, the great white players were almost entirely fully accepting not only of segregation but of segregated leagues, being products of their time. but they also knew a stud ballplayer when they saw one.

I have noted that Tony Gwynn was managing at San Diego State when Stephen Strasburg pitched there. there was talk in the media about whether Strasburg would be a "safe pick" so early in the draft because he didn't face the stiff competition in the batter's box as an SEC pitcher did, for example.

I recall Gwynn being a bit mystified by the debate. he wasn't a braggart, but he politely explained, basically, that he knows a major league star-in-the-making when he sees one.

that seemed to have been the prevailing mood of white players toward their Negro League counterparts. great players know exactly what other great players look like. they said so not being charitable, nor fighting for a noble cause. they said so because it was as plain as the nose on their white faces.

   55. villageidiom Posted: June 16, 2021 at 05:32 PM (#6024615)
In the Negro League era (let's call it 1920-50), most white people (unless they lived in inner cities or down south) probably didn't think about black people at all, let alone how good the Negro Baseball Leagues were.
In one breath you seem to be saying the ledger shouldn't include Negro League stats along AL/NL because at the time nobody thought Negro Leagues was of AL/NL caliber, and in the other you're saying that the consideration at the time of the relative caliber of Negro Leagues vs. AL/NL was a spectacularly uninformed take. Feel free to clarify.
   56. pikepredator Posted: June 16, 2021 at 05:43 PM (#6024618)
I always took Hugh Duffy's .440 with an incredibly large grain of salt and thought it was a silly, fun number and not something that meant Hugh Duffy actually was the best hitter in history . . . those crazy old-time "records" inspired me to learn more about the players and style of baseball way back when. Including the NeL stats will inspire the same kind of curiosity, I'm sure.

.471, what's up with that? Oh, short season? Why was the season so short? Oh, maybe it was longer but most of the stats were missing . . . it will lead to people learning more about baseball's history, which I view as a good thing.

Certainly, the White Leagues weren't representative of overall baseball talent pre-integration. The stats of those players were clearly inflated by playing against inferior competition compared to what they would've faced had the leagues been fully integrated, but seeing as we've been willing to overlook that since forever, I don't know why this new change would cause people angst. It's just a record of who did what.

If we're gonna list *true records* let's start once baseball was fully integrated . . . oh but wait until the mound was lowered . . . oh but then omit the sillyball era . . . it's an impossible exercise IMO.
   57. sunday silence (again) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 06:16 PM (#6024623)
The Federal League never played games against the established leagues, yet it has long been considered a major league. This idea that you didn't need to play meaningful games against the top league in order to be a major league was discarded long ago. It's not a new concept being applied to the Negro Leagues.


do you understand what I'm saying? Cause it doesnt sound like you do at all.

Im not suggesting a new concept. Im not disagreeing with that.

Im saying once you accept NgLers, Nat'l Assoc.; Federal League etc as prestigious enuf to find a place in "major league" baseball. Then do we not incorporate any and all high level leagues across the world? Including JPN, Cuba, Mex, PCL, etc. Do you incorporate them all or is there a way to define major league in such a way that it has a well defined, logical limit.

Your statement sounds to me like it doesnt comprehend any of what I just said.
   58. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 16, 2021 at 06:35 PM (#6024625)
do you understand what I'm saying? Cause it doesnt sound like you do at all.


do you understand how much of an assh*le you sound like?
   59. sunday silence (again) Posted: June 16, 2021 at 06:38 PM (#6024627)
what if at some pt. in history there had been a Native American league? Composed entirely or almost entirely of native americans. And even though NAs make up say only 1% of US population. And lets say this league never played a single game vs MLB teams. Not even an exhibition game. So there's no way to even know if any one player was good enuf to play MLB ball. Say it was organized and had regular schedule, maybe 40 games a year.

All we know it was the highest level of ball a native american could ascribe to at that pt. in time.

Should we then describe that league as "major league?" If not, why not?
   60. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 16, 2021 at 07:50 PM (#6024637)
We know now that that the best NeL players were every bit as good as the best MLB players; indeed, when you factor in how hard it was simply to play in the Negro Leagues, they may have been better.

but "we" knew that in the 1920s and 1930 and 1940s as well.


Did we (er, they)? These exhibition games (and yes, they were exhibitions, not games in which teams were playing for lotsa money/glory/championships) may have gotten some coverage, but was it really that much? I'm willing to bet you there are more white baseball fans today that know about the Negro Leagues than there were when the NeL was actually in operation.

I play a lot of OOTP, and recent iterations of the game include the minors, and the Negro Leagues. When I replay history, I always turn the "colour barrier" setting off. Pity we can't do that for real.
   61. Ron J Posted: June 16, 2021 at 08:18 PM (#6024643)
#57 The moment you accept that the Union Association was a major league then it becomes basically impossible to argue against the inclusion of ... well basically any league that kept stats. The UA is certainly below AA quality.

Now my position is that this was in fact a mistake and I don't accept this decision as any more compelling than the arguments that basically go, better than Lloyd Waner therefore HOFer.
   62. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 05:03 AM (#6024695)

Let's see more data on the Negro Leagues, more info, more analysis. Let's try to definitely answer the question, "If Joe Ballplayer hit .378 in the Arizona-Vermont League in 1938, how does that compare to the major leagues of that year? Or 2021?" But let's not confuse them with the American and National Leagues. Doing so insults every baseball fan, black and white.


What about this as a compromise: maintain the NeL stats on BBR, yet keep them separate from the NL/AL stats -- but still equal! -- with some kind of visual marker. Maybe a red line?
   63. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 08:37 AM (#6024701)
what if at some pt. in history there had been a Native American league? Composed entirely or almost entirely of native americans. And even though NAs make up say only 1% of US population. And lets say this league never played a single game vs MLB teams. Not even an exhibition game. So there's no way to even know if any one player was good enuf to play MLB ball. Say it was organized and had regular schedule, maybe 40 games a year.

All we know it was the highest level of ball a native american could ascribe to at that pt. in time.

Should we then describe that league as "major league?" If not, why not?


This is a bad faith argument from its very premise, given that Native Americans could indeed play in the major leagues. You've even got a Native American Hall of Famer from the deadball era in Chief Bender.

The comparison also doesn't work with the Negro Leagues, of course, as they did play exhibition games with MLB teams and held their own. It's also clear from what happened after integration--African American stars immediately established themselves as among the best players in the Major Leagues--that it was solely the color barrier preventing them from playing in the Majors to that point. There is no other league in history that's analogous. There's a far better argument for excluding the Union Association or the Federal League than there is for excluding the Negro Leagues.

You're making a slippery slope argument about a dramatically unslippery slope.
   64. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 08:56 AM (#6024702)
I think you'd be hardpressed to find comments from MLB HOFers who did NOT consider the great Negro Leaguers to be their equal on the ballfield. now, Ty Cobb clearly was not the stereotypical racist from Al Stump's infamous book - but he wasn't a "social justice warrior," either. yet Cobb was quoted a number of times showing respect for the talents of his Negro counterparts. to him, it was utterly obvious.

I don't think anyone is arguing that the best black players weren't major leaguers, and equal in talent to their MLB peers. There were probably 10-20 Negro Leaguers that would have been in the top-100 of an integrated league.

The issue is that the overall league quality was lower in the NeLs (how could it not be with 10% of the population vs 90% for MLB, and a similar number of teams), and they played short seasons. So, the best players stats would be inflated, and rate stats records are skewed by SSS issues.
   65. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:18 AM (#6024706)
The issue is that the overall league quality was lower in the NeLs (how could it not be with 10% of the population vs 90% for MLB, and a similar number of teams)


This point is overstated at best. In an eight-team Negro League, you have 200 roster slots, and maybe 120 players you can consider regulars. You don't need a massive population base to come up with 120 regulars of Major League quality. This is especially true when there's a massive incentive to consider sports as a more reasonable avenue to a middle class life than business. Take a look at a small municipality like San Pedro de Macoris, which has produced nearly 100 Major Leaguers from a population base of under 200,000--including a handful who have or will receive legitimate consideration for the Hall of Fame.
   66. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:25 AM (#6024707)
Im saying once you accept NgLers, Nat'l Assoc.; Federal League etc as prestigious enuf to find a place in "major league" baseball. Then do we not incorporate any and all high level leagues across the world? Including JPN, Cuba, Mex, PCL, etc. Do you incorporate them all or is there a way to define major league in such a way that it has a well defined, logical limit.


Well the National Association and Federal League were already counted as "major league" so that's not some new consideration. There is something different about those leagues from the Negro Leagues but I can't quite put my finger on it.


Certainly, the White Leagues weren't representative of overall baseball talent pre-integration. The stats of those players were clearly inflated by playing against inferior competition compared to what they would've faced had the leagues been fully integrated, but seeing as we've been willing to overlook that since forever, I don't know why this new change would cause people angst. It's just a record of who did what.

If we're gonna list *true records* let's start once baseball was fully integrated . . . oh but wait until the mound was lowered . . . oh but then omit the sillyball era . . . it's an impossible exercise IMO.


Exactly.
   67. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:37 AM (#6024709)
This point is overstated at best. In an eight-team Negro League, you have 200 roster slots

10% of the population filling 8 teams is going to have a lower average quality that 90% filling 16.

This is especially true when there's a massive incentive to consider sports as a more reasonable avenue to a middle class life than business.

In this era 90% of whites were dirt poor too. My Grandfather was thrilled to be making $50 a week in the 1950's, in his 40s. An MLB salary looked great to almost everyone in 1920-40.
   68. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:58 AM (#6024711)
Maybe a red line?

I see what you did there.
   69. McCoy Posted: June 17, 2021 at 09:59 AM (#6024712)
IMO there never was enough white talent to fill out 16 rosters with legit major league talent. I mean obviously anyone can be signed to a contract and play but I don't think at any time there was say 300 white ball players that could clear a threshold of talent level.
   70. sanny manguillen Posted: June 17, 2021 at 10:00 AM (#6024713)
Maybe a red line?


First, I get the joke. But yes, a red line will be drawn. If it hasn't already, a database will make it easy to see the old sort, and and for $8 a month that will be the equivalent of sending your kid to private school.
   71. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 17, 2021 at 10:00 AM (#6024714)
Sure, Andy, with a fair amount of work one can gather whatever information one wants from the site. But, given the whole point of Baseball-Reference is to make such queries easier, and they *have* the information in their database already, I don’t know why you’re arguing against including it. It’s not like I’m asking you to do the coding for the change.

Maybe I'm missing something, but what am I arguing against including? I thought I was simply defending the new changes, not arguing against improving them.

-----------------------

now, the great white players were almost entirely fully accepting not only of segregation but of segregated leagues, being products of their time. but they also knew a stud ballplayer when they saw one.

Surveys of MLB players in the late 30's found many or most of them perfectly willing to allow Black players in the Majors. The problem was that the owners were either bigots themselves or were worried that their existing fan base would freak out. And then to add to that, several of them were making decent money renting their stadiums to Negro League teams.

The bottom line is that segregation in baseball persisted as long as it did due to a combination of bigotry and financial protection. But it wasn't primarily triggered by the players themselves.
   72. Ron J Posted: June 17, 2021 at 10:24 AM (#6024716)
#71 That may have become true by the 1930s but it certainly wasn't true when the color line was being instituted.
   73. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 10:36 AM (#6024718)
10% of the population filling 8 teams is going to have a lower average quality that 90% filling 16.


This isn't necessarily true at all. There is a point at which dilution will happen; there is no evidence backing your assertion that dilution happens at a level lower than 200 jobs out of 10% of the population.

We know that the top 10 Negro Leaguers were in no way inferior to the top 10 white Major Leaguers. We reasonably surmise that if we had a league with 100,000 players, the 100,000th Negro Leaguer would be worse than the 100,000th white Major Leaguer. We don't have reliable data for a league with 200 players, but it's no more reasonable to assume that league must be diluted than to assume it must not be.
   74. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 17, 2021 at 10:42 AM (#6024721)
Having Vargas at the top of the single season batting average list with 30 games played is just dumb. I mean. C'mon.

DJ Lemahiu should also be removed from the list, and any other super short seasons. Gibson and guys with 300 PA are at least reasonable, though also problematic.

Duffy had 600 PA, though it was a much different environment.


   75. Booey Posted: June 17, 2021 at 11:15 AM (#6024735)
#74 - Yep. My argument had nothing to do with whether the Negro Leagues were major leagues or not (they were). But if career records have minimum PA cutoffs to qualify, then single season records need them as well. Not doing so is just silly.

Vargas's batting average shouldn't be recognized as any more of a "record" than any other 30 game hot streak.
   76. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#6024739)
This isn't necessarily true at all. There is a point at which dilution will happen; there is no evidence backing your assertion that dilution happens at a level lower than 200 jobs out of 10% of the population.

We know that the top 10 Negro Leaguers were in no way inferior to the top 10 white Major Leaguers. We reasonably surmise that if we had a league with 100,000 players, the 100,000th Negro Leaguer would be worse than the 100,000th white Major Leaguer. We don't have reliable data for a league with 200 players, but it's no more reasonable to assume that league must be diluted than to assume it must not be.


Oh c'mon. We don't know that the top-10 NeLers were as good as the top-10 MLBers. We know they were really good.

The odds are heavily in favor of the 90% pop. producing more good ballplayers than the 10%, when both pops. are very interested in the sport. Post-integration, blacks were never more than 18% of MLBers. There's no rational reason at all that number was 50% in 1920-40. Why would black baseball talent have declined so rapidly from 1940 to 1980?
   77. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: June 17, 2021 at 11:48 AM (#6024740)
But if career records have minimum PA cutoffs to qualify, then single season records need them as well.


I think they do. It's PA per team game played that season. Single season cutoffs are not whole numbers in and of themselves, but whole numbers derived from ratios of number of PA per team game played. Career leaders are whole number cutoffs, regardless of team games a player could have conceivably participated in. Hence the difference.


There is nothing to be done about the past; it's gone.


As mentioned above in #42, no serious historian (academic or otherwise) would support this idea, in any era. Rather Faulkner:

“The past is never dead. It's not even past.”
   78. Jesse Barfield's Right Arm Posted: June 17, 2021 at 11:50 AM (#6024741)
The odds are heavily in favor of the 90% pop. producing more good ballplayers than the 10%, when both pops. are very interested in the sport.


Hmm. If only there were some other American sport in which this proposition might be tested...where in America a group with 10% of the Pop produced the overwhelming amount of talent in a major sport. There just has to be one, or two...
   79. Mirabelli Dictu (Chris McClinch) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 11:58 AM (#6024742)
Somehow I had forgotten that Snapper displays all the intellectual rigor of Ben Shapiro in making his arguments.
   80. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:08 PM (#6024745)
Hmm. If only there were some other American sport in which this proposition might be tested...where in America a group with 10% of the Pop produced the overwhelming amount of talent in a major sport. There just has to be one, or two...

Why would you compare to a different sport with a totally different culture, rather than the same sport in the immediately succeeding era?

Do you really think white Americans lost the ability to play basketball? Do you apply the same logic to the decline of black Americans in MLB? Doesn't the European player experience suggest that it's a cultural thing? Unless your making some sort of racialist argument. I don't believe in racial superiority in any category of human endeavour: athletic, intellectual, artistic, etc.
   81. Booey Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:20 PM (#6024747)
#77 - I get that it's based on team games, but there still needs to be a reasonable cutoff to be recognized as a legimate record.

For example, Ted Williams is no longer the last player to hit .400. There's eight .400 seasons on the single season list since then, the latest of which came from Artie Wilson and Willard Brown in 1948, who played in 29 and 44 games respectively (136 and 189 PA's). Wilson also had another qualifying .400 season a few years earlier when he hit .421 in a whopping 22 games (101 PA) in 1944. Teddy Ballgame himself hit .407 (with a .901 slg%) in 37 games (110 PA) in 1953...but THAT doesn't qualify...

Barry's eye popping .863 slg% in 2001? No longer within 100 pts of the record, since Josh Gibson slugged .974 in 39 games (183 PA) in 1937.

It's one thing to want to be more complete with the records. It's another to render them all basically irrelevant by putting 30-50 game seasons on par with 154-162 game ones.
   82. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:24 PM (#6024750)
Somehow I had forgotten that Snapper displays all the intellectual rigor of Ben Shapiro in making his arguments.

In a fully integrated league, blacks were never more than 20% of MLBers (which makes sense given their representation in the overall population). Saying that, therefore, it is massively unlikely that 50% of the best baseball players were black in 1920-40, when they were 10% of the pop.) is very simple and obvious logic. It shouldn't even have to be said.
   83. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:25 PM (#6024751)
This whole thing is a joke.

The 1933 Cleveland Giants played one game. 0-1. They had four guys bat .500 who played every game their team played. Why aren't those .500 hitters included?

The 1933 Akron Grays went 3-7. Lou Dials played in all 10 games, and hit .375. Why isn't he included?
   84. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:25 PM (#6024752)
We know that the top 10 Negro Leaguers were in no way inferior to the top 10 white Major Leaguers.

completely unsupported.
   85. DL from MN Posted: June 17, 2021 at 12:31 PM (#6024753)
The evidence is overwhelming that the Negro Leagues were producing far more talent than you would expect given the population pool they drew from (though you should also include Cuba as part of that pool). My best estimate is that there were ALWAYS at least four full teams of black players above AL/NL replacement level from 1920 onward and sometimes more than that. There was nearly a full team of just Cuban players in some years. An 8 team Negro League would be every bit as talented as the AL/NL, especially considering the bell curve where the supply of marginal players is pretty high. Where it gets diluted is the seasons when they have 16 Negro League teams operating.
   86. Eddo Posted: June 17, 2021 at 01:18 PM (#6024760)
#77 - I get that it's based on team games, but there still needs to be a reasonable cutoff to be recognized as a legimate record.

I was just thinking a simple-ish fix could be to change the cutoff to 3.XX times the number of games played by the team that played the most games in the league. For MLB, it would not change anything (unlikely game 163's or the case where a rainout isn't played would have a significant impact), but it would remove the situations where one team in the NeL played less than half the games of other teams(*).

(*) This might be a fabricated scenario, I have not looked into the spread of games played by teams in the NeL.
   87. pikepredator Posted: June 17, 2021 at 01:54 PM (#6024769)
I get that it's based on team games, but there still needs to be a reasonable cutoff to be recognized as a legitimate record


I honestly think "legitimate record" is in the eye of the beholder. I'm not trying to be ironic or whatever with that statement . . . Old Hoss Radbourn is the single-season win leader on B-R but (at the risk of incurring his wrath on twitter) I honestly don't view that as a "legitimate record" as much as a fascinating historical footnote that is entirely a function of the state of the game. Denny McLain, Johnson/Mathewson, Jack Chesbro . . . those names come to mind. And even then - deadball-era and McLain is 1968 . . . literally the top 100 single-season pitcher win totals are from the deadball era. That renders that list somewhat irrelevant IMO - again, except as a historical artifact of "this happened". They have minimal correlation to the top 100 pitcher seasons or anything happening in today's game.

We understand the context of those lists and accept that they're permanently clogged with numbers that are solely a function of era, and so we accept that a pitcher will *never* crack the top 100 of that list (unless the Rays do something new and unique with their rotation and somebody gets 30+ wins in a whole new way, which will also draw it's fair share of criticism for "not being the same") . . . and nobody is concerned.

I appreciate that context has typically not meant "minimal tracking of stats", and that this is a different sort of change to accept. But for decades, we've made exceptions for all kinds of lists being dominated by numbers that aren't feasible for today's ballplayers.
   88. Howie Menckel Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:04 PM (#6024774)
Ted Williams is no longer the last player to hit .400.


24. Howie Menckel Posted: January 06, 2018 at 10:51 PM (#5602245)
the last MLB player to hit .400 in a full season of active play (on the 25-man roster) of course we all know played for the Red Sox

yes, that is Roger LaFrancois in 1982, the third-string catcher

he got his first appearance on May 27 but did not bat

then 0 for 1 on June 18 and 1 for 1 on June 30 - a double, no less

an 0 for 2 on Aug 17 seemed to doom our hero

but he got a hit on Sept 14 to get to .400 (2 for 5)

no AB in Sept 17 and Sept 27 appearances, setting the stage for a Ted Williams-like effort in the Red Sox final game of the season- he would risk it all in his only start

our hero lined out to CF in the 2nd at dreaded Yankee Stadium against Doyle Alexander - then grounded out in the 4th and in the 6th

there was no joy in Mudville with a mere 2 for 8 - but wait, there's a single to CF in the top of the 9th

miraculously it's a tie game, and they go to the 11th - and Roger gets another single and scores the winning run!

a full season of "action" - and he went 4 for 10, and never played again (well, in the majors, but don't stop me, I'm on a roll)

...............

[2021 Howie: in retrospect, I think we all would have been better served by a different excerpt - even though it's not of context. the fact that these Negro League stats are being incorporated with other major leagues in US history is cause for celebration, but a lot of us - moi included - took the bait.]
   89. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:07 PM (#6024775)
In a fully integrated league, blacks were never more than 20% of MLBers (which makes sense given their representation in the overall population). Saying that, therefore, it is massively unlikely that 50% of the best baseball players were black in 1920-40, when they were 10% of the pop.) is very simple and obvious logic. It shouldn't even have to be said.


It's not racism, folks, it's math. The NeL produced a whole galaxy of stars, but top-to-bottom the Negro Leagues were never equivalent to the majors; not in talent, not in fan interest, and certainly not in cultural footprint.

Hell, the Negro Leagues barely even count as leagues. In the 28 seasons from 1920-48 (there was no league in 1931), there were no less than seven Negro Leagues operating, all with an ever-shifting roster of clubs. The AL and NL had the same 16 teams, in the same cities, for half a century, and not one team folded outright in the entire 20th century (unless we're counting the 1902 Baltimore Orioles, and, no, we're not). Sure, you can say the same thing about 19th-century white baseball, but that only makes the point that pre-1901 ball really shouldn't be considered "major leagues", either.
   90. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:14 PM (#6024777)
The evidence is overwhelming that the Negro Leagues were producing far more talent than you would expect given the population pool they drew from (though you should also include Cuba as part of that pool). My best estimate is that there were ALWAYS at least four full teams of black players above AL/NL replacement level from 1920 onward and sometimes more than that. There was nearly a full team of just Cuban players in some years. An 8 team Negro League would be every bit as talented as the AL/NL, especially considering the bell curve where the supply of marginal players is pretty high. Where it gets diluted is the seasons when they have 16 Negro League teams operating.

If 4-5 teams worth of NeLers were above replacement level, but they were fielding 8-16, that's a lot of sub-replacement level players, which should make them significantly worse than MLB.
   91. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:15 PM (#6024778)
the fact that these Negro League stats are being incorporated with other major leagues in US history is cause for celebration

Making the NeL stats and stories more available is certainly cause for a celebration. But turning the record book into a Frankenstein's monster, mostly to fit a political agenda? Not so much.
   92. Kiko Sakata Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:30 PM (#6024784)
For example, Ted Williams is no longer the last player to hit .400. There's eight .400 seasons on the single season list since then, the latest of which came from Artie Wilson and Willard Brown in 1948, who played in 29 and 44 games respectively (136 and 189 PA's). Wilson also had another qualifying .400 season a few years earlier when he hit .421 in a whopping 22 games (101 PA) in 1944. Teddy Ballgame himself hit .407 (with a .901 slg%) in 37 games (110 PA) in 1953...but THAT doesn't qualify...


I agree with the general sentiment that 20 or 30-game "seasons" are weird/problematic. But just to clarify. BB-Ref's standard is 3.1 PA per game for which they have data, which varies considerably between teams within the same league. The number of league games played by teams ALSO varied considerably in some cases but not to the extreme that it may appear looking at BB-Ref's numbers.

Newspaper reports of the time reported Artie Wilson as leading the NAL in batting average, hits, and runs scored, with a .402 batting average, 78 runs scored, and 134 hits (which implies he had 333 at bats). I don't know if this link will work for non-subscribers, but here's the blurb from the Sep 24, 1948 edition of the Alabama Tribune (a Black weekly out of Montgomery, Alabama): Birmingham's Art Wilson Wins Batting Championship
   93. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:37 PM (#6024787)
BB-Ref's standard is 3.1 PA per game for which they have data, which varies considerably between teams within the same league.

Totally a major league.
   94. Tom Nawrocki Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:44 PM (#6024789)
I had always thought that Sean considered the National Association to be a major league, but one thing I've learned from this little controversy is that he doesn't, at least not for these purposes. Ross Barnes' .431 average for the 1873 Boston Red Stockings is not listed among the top batting averages of all time, although his .429 average for the 1876 Chicago National League team is there.
   95. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili (TeddyF.Ballgame) Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:49 PM (#6024790)
Making the NeL stats and stories more available is certainly cause for a celebration. But turning the record book into a Frankenstein's monster, mostly to fit a political agenda? Not so much.


Even if you think this change is in service of an agenda, it's not a political one so much as a humanist one.

Yes, yes, everything is politics, but if your first thought when someone says "the Negro Leagues were major leagues" is "politically motivated" . . . well, let's just say that your stance may be even more politically motivated.
   96. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 17, 2021 at 02:52 PM (#6024792)
Oh c'mon. We don't know that the top-10 NeLers were as good as the top-10 MLBers. We know they were really good.

I'm not sure what sort of proof you need, but here's a list of NL MVP's from 1949 through 1969. 16 of the 21 winners were either African American or Afro-Latino:

1969 Willie McCovey San Francisco 1B
1968 Bob Gibson St. Louis SP
1967 Orlando Cepeda St. Louis 1B
1966 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh OF
1965 Willie Mays San Francisco OF
1964 Ken Boyer St. Louis 3B
1963 Sandy Koufax LA Dodgers SP
1962 Maury Wills LA Dodgers SS
1961 Frank Robinson Cincinnati OF
1960 Dick Groat Pittsburgh SS
1959 Ernie Banks Chi Cubs SS
1958 Ernie Banks Chi Cubs SS
1957 Hank Aaron Milwaukee OF
1956 Don Newcombe Brooklyn SP
1955 Roy Campanella Brooklyn C
1954 Willie Mays NY Giants OF
1953 Roy Campanella Brooklyn C
1952 Hank Sauer Chi Cubs OF
1951 Roy Campanella Brooklyn C
1950 Jim Konstanty Philadelphia RP
1949 Jackie Robinson Brooklyn 2B
   97. Howie Menckel Posted: June 17, 2021 at 03:03 PM (#6024794)
that's also 12 different "players of color" vs 5 white guys

from the same time period add from AL

1966 Frank Robinson
1965 Zoilo Versalles (Cuban)
1963 Elston Howard

yeah, the AL was, well, not so "major" in a way
   98. DL from MN Posted: June 17, 2021 at 03:06 PM (#6024795)
If 4-5 teams worth of NeLers were above replacement level, but they were fielding 8-16, that's a lot of sub-replacement level players, which should make them significantly worse than MLB.


I'm not sure the Union Association or the Federal League even had one whole team of above replacement players. That doesn't even get into the 1901 league expansion, 1944 WWII baseball, etc.
   99. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: June 17, 2021 at 03:21 PM (#6024797)
that's also 12 different "players of color" vs 5 white guys

And of those 10 PoC, all but Newcombe and Wills are Hall of Famers, whereas only one of the White players (Koufax) has a Cooperstown plaque.

from the same time period add from AL

1966 Frank Robinson
1965 Zoilo Versalles (Cuban)
1963 Elston Howard

yeah, the AL was, well, not so "major" in a way


And Robinson was an import from the NL, while Versalles was a fluke. The NL's clear superiority during that time frame was largely based on its relative acceptance of integration. The AL didn't really start to get serious about it until the late 60's and early 70's.
   100. villageidiom Posted: June 17, 2021 at 04:04 PM (#6024802)
But turning the record book into a Frankenstein's monster, mostly to fit a political agenda? Not so much.
In one breath you recognize that before this week the record book (in terms of BB-Ref single season BA leader list) was already a Frankenstein's monster, and in the next breath you suggest the addition of Negro League stats is turning it into a Frankenstein's monster. Feel free to clarify.
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