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Friday, August 24, 2018

Posnanski: Baseball 100 Rules

In this era of reboots, it was perhaps inevitable that Joe Posnanski would take another crack at the 100 greatest players in major league history. 

The Baseball 100 is more than just a ranking system to me. The difference between my 78th ranked player and my 212th ranked player is so miniscule that it’s mathematically irrelevant. With one slight adjustment, I could have those two players switch places.

Nearly all of the series is to be pay walled, but Zach Greinke is No. 100 on the list.

In the original version of this list, I included a bunch of Negro leaguers — I can tell you that four were in my Top 20. I still believe this. But Negro leaguers will now be a major part of my corresponding Shadowball 100….It’s an eclectic list that includes players who are, in their own ways, larger than life.

No. 100 on this list is Duane Kuiper.

 

 

Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 24, 2018 at 08:01 AM | 1453 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, joe posnanski, joe posnanski top 100, reboots

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   1101. TomH Posted: March 27, 2020 at 11:30 AM (#5934014)
There is NO doubt Cobb was the dominant offensive force of his day.

There IS good debate on whether he was even the best player at his position in his league tho. Some guy named Speaker has as much WAR or WS from 1910 on.

Ruth outdid Cobb later on, and Wagner outdid Cobb his first few years. Walter Johnson was as valuable as Cobb in the 1910s. Negro Leaguers (Lloyd?), who knows. So all in all, I would put Cobb just outside the top 10.
   1102. Ron J Posted: March 27, 2020 at 11:39 AM (#5934019)
#1101 Yeah but a huge park of the difference is defense and much as I love the work Sean (and Sean) has done, in the end it's range factor and that's pretty noisy.

Still Speaker was a damned fine offensive player and the best defensive CF of his time. While Cobb spent significant time in the corner OF spots. So there's reason to believe Speaker had quite a bit of an edge defensively.
   1103. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 11:50 AM (#5934029)
There is pretty good reason to believe that the baserunning portion of WAR underrates Cobb. If we ever get PBP estimates for his era, he could easily gain 4-5 career WAR for baserunning and 2-3 for DP avoidance.
   1104. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 11:59 AM (#5934033)
Interesting. My guess is that all players from that era will see their WAR decline once we have good CS data. They all ran far more recklessly (in our view) back then. I think it paid off for them because throwing errors were common enough to make up for the CS.
   1105. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 12:16 PM (#5934039)
I believe the estimates assume everyone CS at the same rate. We also have all the other baserunning data (taking the extra base) that's not accounted for.

When the PBP data gets added, generally the good baserunners improve while the average and bad ones get worse. Aside from Max Carey, I don't think there was a better baserunner than Cobb in deadball.

   1106. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 12:51 PM (#5934066)
I did a bad job of stating my point. Cobb might well have been better than his peers when it comes to baserunning. But he was awful compared to say, Rickey, because he got caught so often. When we compare across time, that will hurt Cobb's relative ranking.
   1107. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 01:04 PM (#5934073)
But relative to how he is ranked currently, his baserunning is likely underrated.

I believe the current rbaser estimates for years without CS use a league wide baseline, which Cobb was likely better than. Cobb also gets no credit for non-SB runs, which he almost certainly was positive in.
   1108. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 01:08 PM (#5934075)
Maybe, but that's what timelining accounts for. He can look better relative to his peers and still come out worse in the all-time rankings.
   1109. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 01:39 PM (#5934091)
This has nothing to do with timelining. The base running numbers that WAR uses for Cobb are almost certainly low estimates, and probably by a good margin.

Cobb is currently given no credit for avoiding double plays or taking extra bases. As a fast, left handed, intellegent player, he probably was quite good at both. That's a lot of value that WAR handwaves away.

If you want to timeline, fine, but you should at least account for the fact that there is missing data. The untimelined 151.0 career WAR number is probably close to 160 with full baserunning data.
   1110. TomH Posted: March 27, 2020 at 02:10 PM (#5934108)
good point jaack. With more errors back then, guys who stole bases or tried for an extra base also likely generated extra runs by forcing errors. Like in high school ball today. I don't think WAR accounts for that, although WS does with its varying formulae for RC in the deadball era.
   1111. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 03:06 PM (#5934145)
I think it has everything to do with timelining. Cobb already leads all his near peers in WAR. He doesn't need more to be considered the best of his era. In this thread (and in my 1106), we've been talking about how to rank players against each other *across time*. That's the point I'm making.
   1112. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 03:19 PM (#5934156)
So if it comes out that Cobb produced 20 more wins worth of baserunning value (an unreasonably high estimate) he wouldn't benefit? What if he hit .400 for his career?

If we're comparing players across time, it should matter more, because modern players are getting credit for something Ty Cobb and other deadball players don't get credit for.
   1113. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 03:54 PM (#5934179)
No, it actually might not matter. It's possible that Cobb did produce more wins *relative to his peers*. Overall, the data we have show 388 SB out of 600 attempts. That's 65%, or below break-even for today's game. If that turns out to be better than his peers, then he'll have produced more WAR than his peers.

But when we evaluate across time we have to normalize performance. That means we have judge his baserunning compared to modern standards. By that standard, the data we have show that he was actually costing his teams runs (just costing them less than his peers were). The more he ran, the worse he'll do compared to modern players, *even if he's doing better than his peers".

Now, if more data show that Cobb ran the bases efficiently *by modern standards*, then of course he'll do better compared to modern players also.
   1114. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 27, 2020 at 05:37 PM (#5934239)
But when we evaluate across time we have to normalize performance. That means we have judge his baserunning compared to modern standards. By that standard, the data we have show that he was actually costing his teams runs (just costing them less than his peers were). The more he ran, the worse he'll do compared to modern players, *even if he's doing better than his peers".

You're penalizing old players for correctly adjusting to their own context again. The break-even percentage in Cobb's prime was lower than it is now, because scoring was lower and because stolen base attempts were a good way to force the errors that were much more common back then. (Do we know how many of Cobb's known CS were actually CS/error on which he was safe, or even advanced further?)

This is especially damaging when looking at stolen bases in particular. We can argue about whether Honus Wagner could have adapted his hitting style to a modern context. But adapting baserunning to a modern context is incredibly easy; if the break-even percentage was higher, Cobb was a smart enough player to run less often. (Evidence: Scoring increased in the '20s, and Cobb ran less often despite still having good speed.) But it wasn't, so he ran more often.
   1115. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 05:50 PM (#5934243)
I'm not so much penalizing anybody as adjusting for context. Yes, their context allowed for riskier baserunning (probably because there were more errors, but maybe just because that was the ethos). But modern players don't make those errors. If Cobb were magically transported to today's game and continued to run recklessly, he'd be costing his team runs. That's a sign that the game today is better, that the level of competition is higher, and that therefore Cobb's WAR needs to be adjusted downwards when we compare him to modern players.

Do we know how many of Cobb's known CS were actually CS/error on which he was safe, or even advanced further?


Unfortunately, I don't think we do. We need more PBP data for that.

Scoring increased in the '20s, and Cobb ran less often despite still having good speed.


Cobb did run less often in the '20s but I'm not sure that he still had good speed. His SB% was down from even the slightly above-breakeven levels he showed earlier. For example, he stole at 72% at the age of 25 (61/85), but was 128/227 (56%) in the '20s.

ETA: For comparison, Bonds was 97/120 (81%) from age 33 on (Cobb's age in 1920) and he was nobody's idea of fast for most of that period.
   1116. Jaack Posted: March 27, 2020 at 06:19 PM (#5934259)
The fact remains, the added data would show that Cobb helped his team more than data currently shows.

At some point, any system trying to compare players across eras has to relate to a player helping his team win games. Without that, you will end up in 'Oswald Arcia is better than Honus Wagner' territory.
   1117. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 06:46 PM (#5934265)
If we ask the question, "who contributed the most value to his team?", we don't need these discussion threads. We can just go to BBREF and look at the leaderboard. I guess there will always be small points to clarify, like the one you raise here or maybe the question of military service, but the basic answer is unlikely to change: Babe Ruth.

But for me that's not the interesting question. The interesting question involves the level of competition these players faced in order to add value. Value added is always *relative* to the other players in that league in that season. To use an extreme example, if we put peak Mickey Mantle onto a high school team, his WAR for that league would be off the charts. But that doesn't tell us anything about Mantle the professional player. We know what Mantle did against the replacement players of his time. What we'd like to know is "how good were those replacement players compared to today's replacement players, that is, were they just high school level players or were they better?". Because that's the only way to know whether Mantle would help a team win more games than Mike Trout would.
   1118. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 27, 2020 at 07:06 PM (#5934268)
But for me that's not the interesting question. The interesting question involves the level of competition these players faced in order to add value.

I don't disagree with you on the general concept of timelining, nor do many people in this thread as best I can tell; there seems to be a general consensus that the modern players are underrepresented at the top of the list. My disagreement comes from the fact that you're taking numerous factors that have changed in the game over time (quality of equipment, style of play, scoring context, improvements in strategy) and conflating them all into quality of player. My position is that quality of player exists independent of those other considerations, and that directly comparing "Honus with Honus's glove" to "Ozzie with Ozzie's glove" or "Cobb's aggressive running in Cobb's context" to "Raines's less-aggressive but more efficient running in Raines's context" leads to over-adjusting for the timeline.

If you give Ozzie Smith the glove that Honus Wagner used, and make him play shortstop in the unkempt stadia that Honus Wagner played in, his raw fielding numbers will be worse than the ones that he actually accrued in his career. That doesn't make Ozzie Smith himself a worse fielder; it just means his context is different. (And I suspect his numbers would still be the best in a league full of people who were playing under the same conditions.)

Edit: To clarify, I'm referring to quality of player in the sense of overall league strength, and using "Ozzie with Honus's glove" as a metaphor for that.
   1119. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 07:33 PM (#5934280)
My disagreement comes from the fact that you're taking numerous factors that have changed in the game over time (quality of equipment, style of play, scoring context, improvements in strategy) and conflating them all into quality of player.


I think I'm doing exactly what park effects do: adjusting for the *conditions of the game*. We can't separate "Joe Tinker's defense" from the glove Joe Tinker used. Better gloves mean fewer balls get through and it's harder to get base hits. Better fields mean fewer bad hops and more PO, so again it's harder to get base hits. Fewer errors mean fewer AB with runners on base and more CS. Etc.

All of that goes into making up the quality of competition in 1908 versus today.
   1120. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: March 27, 2020 at 07:38 PM (#5934282)
If we ask the question, "who contributed the most value to his team?", we don't need these discussion threads


No, we don't. Because what's great about great players is that they win games for their teams.
   1121. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: March 27, 2020 at 07:40 PM (#5934283)
The thing we still have to do is refine our calculations.
   1122. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 27, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5934287)
I think I'm doing exactly what park effects do: adjusting for the *conditions of the game*. We can't separate "Joe Tinker's defense" from the glove Joe Tinker used. Better gloves mean fewer balls get through and it's harder to get base hits. Better fields mean fewer bad hops and more PO, so again it's harder to get base hits. Fewer errors mean fewer AB with runners on base and more CS. Etc.

All of that goes into making up the quality of competition in 1908 versus today.


I would argue that, while we cannot perfectly separate Joe Tinker's defense from Joe Tinker's glove, there are ways we can attempt to do so imperfectly, just like we can imperfectly separate Jim Rice's bat from Fenway Park. The easiest way to do it is to compare Tinker's fielding with a primitive glove to other players' fielding with similar gloves - that is, to compare him to his contemporaries, or players who played within a decade or two of him. Again, this is imperfect for a historical evaluation, but we can attempt to adjust for the imperfections. (For instance, was there anything that artificially limited the set of contemporaries that Tinker is compared to? Yes, several things - the league was segregated, the best players in the minors weren't moved to the majors as efficiently as they later would be, etc. Attempting to adjust the overall league quality for those changes strikes me as much more fair and accurate than simply saying that Tinker with Tinker's glove couldn't field as well as Vizquel with Vizquel's glove. By that standard, Tinker might be a worse fielder than... pick your favorite terrible modern shortstop. His fielding percentage at short is twice as far from 1.000 as Yuniesky Betancourt's.)

I'll make this my last post on this particular issue (and try to stick by that this time), since I suspect we aren't going to get any further than we did a couple pages ago.
   1123. Mefisto Posted: March 27, 2020 at 08:19 PM (#5934290)
I would argue that, while we cannot perfectly separate Joe Tinker's defense from Joe Tinker's glove, there are ways we can attempt to do so imperfectly, just like we can imperfectly separate Jim Rice's bat from Fenway Park.


If we can do these things, then IMO we should. AFAIK, we aren't now. Overall I think it's easier to adjust the totality of the competition level rather than each item individually, but I could be wrong about this and maybe someday we'll find that we can add up all the increments.

And I'll leave it at that.
   1124. alsep73 Posted: March 30, 2020 at 10:10 AM (#5934898)
7. Walter Johnson

There’s no conversion chart that can tell us how Johnson’s stuff would hold up today. All we have are the stories and the quotes — and from those, you can understand the awe that people felt when seeing how impossibly hard Johnson threw.

“When you see the arm starting forward,” Birdie McCree said, “swing.”

“The thing just hissed with danger,” Ty Cobb said.

“He’s got a gun concealed about his person,” Ring Lardner wrote, “and he shoots them.”

“On a cloudy day, you couldn’t see the ball half the time it came in so fast,” Jimmy Austin said.

“Most of the time you couldn’t see the ball,” Fred Snodgrass said.

“You batted against him for the first time,” Dutch Ruether said, “and that easy sweep of the arm, with a bullet coming out of it, made you blink and wonder if your eyes were failing.”

“I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion,” George Sisler said. “If Ol’ Walter Johnson had a curve, no one ever would have gotten a hit off him. Every game he pitched would have been a no-hitter.”
   1125. Blastin Posted: March 30, 2020 at 10:31 AM (#5934903)
So 6 hitters at the top (plus Ruth's pitching), then?


   1126. Mefisto Posted: March 30, 2020 at 11:03 AM (#5934916)
Darn, there goes my Bingo card.
   1127. alsep73 Posted: March 30, 2020 at 03:29 PM (#5935018)
Yup. Anyone care to take a stab at the remaining rankings? For the hell of it, I'm going:

6. Williams
5. Aaron
4. Bonds
3. Charleston
2. Mays
1. Ruth

With a chance Charleston could be 2nd or even 1st to complete Joe's series-long argument about how overlooked the best Negro Leaguers were. And also with a small chance Mays finishes ahead of Ruth because he played in an integrated league.
   1128. Sweatpants Posted: March 30, 2020 at 03:47 PM (#5935031)
If those are the six remaining (I haven't been keeping track), then I'll go with an order of:

1. Ruth
2. Bonds
3. Mays
4. Williams
5. Charleston
6. Aaron

I would be very surprised if Mays finished higher than Bonds.
   1129. bbmck Posted: March 30, 2020 at 04:47 PM (#5935054)
1. Barry - started with making a HoF case for Beltran, finishes with HoF case for Bonds
2. Mays - last spot left in top 3
3. Ruth - uniform number
4. Charleston
5. Ted - or flip 4 and 5, overlooked because of Negro Leagues or military service in some best ever lists
6. Aaron - "only" 60.3 WAR7 finally catches up to him, next lowest left is 67.9
   1130. ajnrules Posted: March 30, 2020 at 05:11 PM (#5935060)
6. Williams
5. Aaron
4. Charleston
3. Ruth
2. Bonds
1. Mays

Hey, Joe Posnanski introduced the Willie Mays Hall of Fame.
   1131. bbmck Posted: March 30, 2020 at 05:13 PM (#5935063)
But Willie Mays didn't make the Willie Mays Hall of Fame.
   1132. EddieA Posted: March 30, 2020 at 11:41 PM (#5935146)
6. Williams (not quite the all-around player)
5. Charleston
4. Aaron (half of 44, and he's alive)
3. Ruth (his number and he's not alive)
2. Bonds
1. Mays, so the top 2 can argue about it if they're paying attention
   1133. EddieA Posted: March 30, 2020 at 11:47 PM (#5935147)
Aaron, BTW, has more Rbaser than Bonds, and he has more decline.
Williams didn't become a terrible fielder til his last 3 years.
   1134. Howie Menckel Posted: March 31, 2020 at 12:03 AM (#5935149)
I would be very surprised if Mays finished higher than Bonds.

Mays is Bonds' godfather, which is a cool twist.
   1135. Rally Posted: March 31, 2020 at 08:31 AM (#5935166)
On Cobb's baserunning runs:

I tried to give him some credit for non-SB baserunning, to do that I created a regression formula with the inputs being SB, triples, runs scored per time on base (I forget exactly what I used and the programs that did this are probably 2-3 generations of computer replacement in my past). So he should be credited with similar runs as more recent players (in pbp era) given those inputs.

On my site I had him at +84 runs, BBref is showing +55. I think the difference is at some point they replaced my numbers with SB/CS derived runs for years where CS is known.

I would not compare him to Rickey to get an estimate of how many runs he should have contributed, Rickey went above and beyond everyone. There is a better match in the first guy to break Cobb's record, Lou Brock. Lou stole about the same number of bases and for years we have data was caught at a similar rate. Brock is +78, another +25 for avoiding DP. Giving Cobb another 5 wins sounds reasonable, but 10-15 too much. He took a ton of bases, probably ran into a lot of outs too.
   1136. Ron J Posted: March 31, 2020 at 08:40 AM (#5935168)
Rally, my feeling is that if the numbers are significant they have to manifest themselves at the team level.

Did the Tigers consistently score more runs that your model predicts? If so, there's a strong case for boosting Cobb's numbers. If not, not so much.
   1137. Rally Posted: March 31, 2020 at 11:32 AM (#5935211)
When I did these numbers for my site, I generated custom base runs for linear weights on the team level that results in exactly matching team runs scored totals. I think it especially helped for the pre-1900 set, since I was able to sort of estimate the effect of errors. No, I don't have any clue whether Billy Hamilton reached base on error more often than John McGraw. The effect was to treat non-so outs differently than strikeouts, since any ball in play had a decent chance of turning into a positive offensive event.

But on BBref now, they are using Pete Palmer's linear weights. I don't know how well they add up to team totals.
   1138. Ron J Posted: March 31, 2020 at 11:46 AM (#5935219)
#1137 Matches what I found when attempting to model deadball scoring.

I couldn't build really good models (because I wasn't doing single year model. I believe that to be overfitting at its worst) but strikeouts were significant (word chosen intentionally) and negative prior to 1920.
   1139. Mefisto Posted: March 31, 2020 at 11:55 AM (#5935221)
This is why I think the simple answer works better: revise the linear weights coefficients to produce earned runs rather than total runs.
   1140. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: March 31, 2020 at 03:07 PM (#5935282)
7. Walter Johnson

There’s no conversion chart that can tell us how Johnson’s stuff would hold up today. All we have are the stories and the quotes — and from those, you can understand the awe that people felt when seeing how impossibly hard Johnson threw.

“When you see the arm starting forward,” Birdie McCree said, “swing.”

“The thing just hissed with danger,” Ty Cobb said.

“He’s got a gun concealed about his person,” Ring Lardner wrote, “and he shoots them.”

“On a cloudy day, you couldn’t see the ball half the time it came in so fast,” Jimmy Austin said.

“Most of the time you couldn’t see the ball,” Fred Snodgrass said.

“You batted against him for the first time,” Dutch Ruether said, “and that easy sweep of the arm, with a bullet coming out of it, made you blink and wonder if your eyes were failing.”

“I’ve thought about it a lot and I’ve come to one inescapable conclusion,” George Sisler said. “If Ol’ Walter Johnson had a curve, no one ever would have gotten a hit off him. Every game he pitched would have been a no-hitter.”


"Can I throw harder than Joe Wood? Listen mister, no man alive can throw any harder than Smoky Joe Wood." - Hall of Famer Walter Johnson
   1141. Ron J Posted: March 31, 2020 at 03:30 PM (#5935290)
#1139 Interesting idea. Wasn't really an option before we got detailed numbers for the pitching side. Be interesting to see how well the approach works.
   1142. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: March 31, 2020 at 09:06 PM (#5935382)
So my dad says the poster writing as Jim P is Jim Palmer. Anyone believe this?
   1143. bbmck Posted: March 31, 2020 at 09:19 PM (#5935385)
Jim Palmer tweeted a link to the Roy Hobbs article but not to any of the real player articles, not even his own.
   1144. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: March 31, 2020 at 09:28 PM (#5935387)
1143--thanks! But I scrolled down and he had the link to Eddie Murray. So I guess it is the Jim Palmer. Kind of cool
   1145. Howie Menckel Posted: March 31, 2020 at 10:07 PM (#5935392)

Twitter really does suck on so many levels, but "the blue check mark" seems remarkably accurate.

a little surprised Palmer only has 32K followers, but it's very likely to be legit. they don't hand out those check marks like Tic Tacs.
   1146. alsep73 Posted: April 01, 2020 at 07:44 AM (#5935432)
6. Ted Williams.

“Gods do not answer letters” is clearly the greatest line in sports writing history. What are the contenders for second place?
   1147. Mefisto Posted: April 01, 2020 at 08:22 AM (#5935438)
"Nice guys finish last."

"Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the 4 horsemen ride again."

"A tree grows in Brooklyn. It's an apple tree and the apple is lodged in the throats of the Dodgers."
   1148. AndrewJ Posted: April 01, 2020 at 08:46 AM (#5935442)
“You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”
   1149. SoSH U at work Posted: April 01, 2020 at 09:57 AM (#5935458)
An odd one coming from me, but:

"Ninety feet between home plate and first base may be the closest man has ever come to perfection." Red Smith

And here's a little-remembered favorite lede of mine from SI after the 1993 World Series.

"Every day and never, that's how often this happens. Every day a boy hits a come-from-behind home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win the World Series. And never, in 89 Fall Classics, has this actually come to pass. Of course it hasn't. Even in the big leagues, hitting a home run is called leaving the yard, and that is the only place where such a thing can happen: the backyard." Steve Rushin
   1150. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 01, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5935500)
Hey Yankees... you can take your apology and your trophy and shove 'em straight up your ass!
   1151. DanG Posted: April 01, 2020 at 11:57 AM (#5935506)
Pass.
   1152. TomH Posted: April 01, 2020 at 01:12 PM (#5935539)
mefisto, please provide where "A tree grows..." is from; it sounds interesting, and I am not familiar with it
   1153. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 01, 2020 at 01:29 PM (#5935549)
"He writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game." - Grantland Rice
   1154. Mefisto Posted: April 01, 2020 at 01:30 PM (#5935550)
It's Dick Young, from when the Dodgers lost the pennant in 1951. I'd have to search to find the publication and I'm running out the door right now.
   1155. Rally Posted: April 01, 2020 at 02:52 PM (#5935584)
Jim Palmer tweeted a link to the Roy Hobbs article but not to any of the real player articles, not even his own.


Palmer didn't make it into Joe's top 100 series, so he can't link to his own. He's one of the better candidates outside the top 100, and if he were ranked in the 75-100 range instead of somebody else it wouldn't look out of place. Not much difference between the 75th best and 125th best.
   1156. Perry Posted: April 01, 2020 at 04:15 PM (#5935618)
It's Dick Young, from when the Dodgers lost the pennant in 1951. I'd have to search to find the publication and I'm running out the door right now.


New York Daily News, saith Wikipedia.
   1157. Perry Posted: April 01, 2020 at 04:19 PM (#5935622)
So my dad says the poster writing as Jim P is Jim Palmer. Anyone believe this?


They have the ring of authenticity to me. The only thing that makes me a bit suspicious is there's a little too much statistical detail in his comments. Somehow I doubt Palmer would either remember that precisely from 50+ years ago or bother to look up all those minor league records. So who knows.
   1158. Perry Posted: April 01, 2020 at 04:25 PM (#5935624)
"Gentlemen, start your coffins." -- Jim Murray on the Indy 500.
   1159. Mefisto Posted: April 01, 2020 at 04:32 PM (#5935625)
Thanks Perry.
   1160. toratoratora Posted: April 01, 2020 at 06:31 PM (#5935656)
“He was a credit to his race – the human race…” — Jimmy Cannon about Joe Louis
   1161. Howie Menckel Posted: April 01, 2020 at 07:36 PM (#5935671)
"The imperfect man pitched the perfect game." - credited to Joe Trimble, but written by Dick Young

teamwork

"In 1956, when the bibulous Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history, Young`s assignment was the Dodger clubhouse. His stablemate, Joe Trimble, a very able baseball writer, was doing the lead. Trimble was stuck. The event had overwhelmed him. ''How about this?'' Young said. ''The imperfect man pitched the perfect game.''

The lead won a prize for Trimble. Typically, Young, aggressive, brash and sometimes obscene, never revealed it was his lead. Twenty years later, Trimble told what happened, at a banquet honoring Young."

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

(as reviled as Young was in many circles, my recent story about scoring a ticket for Game 7 of the 1986 World Series has another factor: those were Young's seats! he lived in North Jersey, across the street from my best friend in college 1979-83, and he gave two of his freebies for each Mets home game to his neighbors. I never met Young - who died less than a year after that Game 7 - but my pal got him to autograph a short note for me.)
   1162. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: April 01, 2020 at 10:18 PM (#5935705)
Three baseball writer quotes you've all read before:

Red Smith: "Ninety feet between the bases is the nearest thing to perfection that man has yet achieved."

Jim Murray: "Willie Mays' glove is where triples go to die."

Roger Angell: "Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young."
   1163. baudib Posted: April 02, 2020 at 02:29 AM (#5935726)
My favorite sportswriting line comes from my old employer, the New York Daily News.

Joe Trimble was struggling for a lead for one of the most remarkable games in baseball history, and Dick Young walked over and typed, "The imperfect man pitched a perfect game."

Damn Howie beat me to it.
   1164. baudib Posted: April 02, 2020 at 02:35 AM (#5935727)
I'd go

5. Charleston
4. Aaron
3. Mays
2. Ruth
1. Bonds

My unpopular opinions is that Oscar Charleston is overrated. My knowledge of the Negro Leagues is not exhaustive, but in my readings as a very young person, I recalled many, many more stories about Pop Lloyd and Josh Gibson's superiority than Oscar Charleston. It is quite clear that he was a stupendous player, but I'm not convinced at all he was greater than Mays. I realize there are MLEs, but it's clear that he wasn't a defensive player of the same caliber as Mays in his 30s. He was moved to first base, and you don't move great center fielders to first base. I think there's a really good chance he was merely as good as Frank Robinson.

Personally, my top 10 would have Josh Gibson and Roger Clemens and I'd move Charleston, Musial down.
   1165. Blastin Posted: April 02, 2020 at 09:37 AM (#5935764)
Are we doing personal top tens? Can we?

I agree with the above.

I'd go 10-1

Paige
Cobb
Gibson
WJohnson
Clemens
Williams
Aaron
Ruth
Bonds
Mays
   1166. TomH Posted: April 02, 2020 at 11:26 AM (#5935807)
me, 10 to 1, minor PED discount for #10 and #7

Clemens
A-Rod
Musial
Bonds
Gibson

Williams/Aaron
Wagner
Mays
Ruth

Paige/Cobb/Mantle/WJohnson/Schmidt in some order would be next
   1167. Mefisto Posted: April 02, 2020 at 11:58 AM (#5935825)
Seeing Gibson people's top 10 lists reminds me for the manyth time that we still lack a good method of ranking catchers. Leaving Gibson aside for the moment, the top catchers by WAR are Bench and Carter, but neither one is anywhere close to top 10. Even if we use just PosWAR, Bench is 50th. Using WAR7, Carter is 39 and Bench 40.

To get a sense for Gibson, let's assume he hit like Piazza and fielded like Bench. That would give him a defensive value of roughly 173 (Bench's Rfield + Rpos), a net of 150 over Piazza. But even adding that total to Piazza's WAR gets him to only 74 WAR (I'm simplifying here, of course), which is slightly less than Bench. By this reasoning, Gibson would be equivalent to Bench.

The problem is that my instinct is to say that the best catchers should rate up there with the top players at other positions. But I don't see any obvious way to get them there beyond "well, I think so".
   1168. TomH Posted: April 02, 2020 at 12:34 PM (#5935847)
Gibson, like many catchers, would rank higher using rate stats or peak/prime years than for career; as catchers' career length is rarely very long, and never Yaz/Rose-like.
   1169. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 02, 2020 at 12:53 PM (#5935863)
The Quisenberry article today is super good.
   1170. Mefisto Posted: April 02, 2020 at 12:57 PM (#5935866)
@1168: Agreed, but even for Bench using WAR7 gets him only from 50 to 40.
   1171. Jaack Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:39 PM (#5935891)
The Quisenberry article today is super good.


Definitely one of the best ones so far. Up there with the Roberto Clemente and Pete Alexander ones.

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

The catcher debate was recently a HoM discussion point. The big issue is the lack of defensive data for catchers - we don't framing data for most of baseball hisory (and have basically no data at all for Gibson's defense aside from anecdotes). Fangraphs has data going back to 2008 for framing, which elevates catchers up to their peers at other positions - the position player WAR rankings since that data was incorporated are more fair to catchers, with two catchers in the top four and four in the top eleven. That may be a bit aggressive, but if we could uncover pitch framing data for the missing years, that would likely push a couple catchers up the rankings. I imagine that at least one of Bench/I-Rod/Carter/Berra/Fisk/Piazza/Ewing would look like a top 10-15 player with that data, but I have no way to tell which one it would be.
   1172. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:49 PM (#5935897)
1171--I forget. There is or is not some factor in WAR to adjust for the beating catchers take. Meaning get a value and then multiply it by something. Ex: Career WAR by standard method gets you to 60. But you then multiply it by something say 1.2. So the new number is 72.

Just asking and if this makes me read as a complete dumbass ok. Just thought it might have been discussed
   1173. Jaack Posted: April 02, 2020 at 02:20 PM (#5935917)
Many HoM voters do something along those lines to put catchers on the same scale with some sort of catcher bonus or multiplier.The school of thought is that catcher is a required position and since you need a player at all eight positions, they should be treated similarly, even if they may not have the playing time to accumulate the same raw value as players at the other seven positions.

My view is that catchers are probably producing the same value as other positions - the number of defensive chances they have makes up for the lack of PAs. This value is unknown for the majority of baseball history, so I account for it partly by boosting their defensive numbers. I'm not fully comfortable with the idea that a catcher's known defensive corrolates completely with their unknown value, but I feel that's probably a stronger relationship than their overall known value to their unknown value (which is what a flat multiplier represents). This means I'm higher of defense-first catchers like Jim Sundberg and lower on iffier defenders like Jorge Posada than the rest of the electorate.

Still, even with my method the real top line catchers don't quite match up with the top line players at other positions - Johnny Bench ends up in similar territory to Mel Ott and Carl Yasztremski, not Cobb and Musial. I think it's plausible that there is a catcher in baseball history that is on that level. We just don't have the data to show it.
   1174. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 02, 2020 at 02:25 PM (#5935919)
1173--Thanks for the feedback.
   1175. Mefisto Posted: April 02, 2020 at 04:23 PM (#5935980)
The pitch framing data do seem aggressive. I look at it this way: in order to get Bench up to, say, 105 WAR (at which point we could talk about him being a top X player), he'd need an extra 300 batting runs. That would mean hitting like Edgar Martinez while being an outstanding defensive catcher. That's a heck of a lot of runs to make up from pitch framing. I'd like to see more before I'd take without question an adjustment on that level. I'm not ruling it out, just saying that's a lot.
   1176. Jaack Posted: April 02, 2020 at 05:00 PM (#5935996)
It's a lot, but it's plausible.

In ~8400 innings, fangraphs credits Buster Posey with 123.5 framing runs. If Carlton Fisk was as good of a framer as Buster Posey, he would be at ~270 framing runs. Throw in some credit for other catcher skills that we can't measure, and you're getting fairly close to 300 runs.

I wouldn't bet on any individual catcher at being worth 300 runs in framing/game calling/etc. I may not even bet on any individual catcher being worth even 150 runs. But I think it's in the realm of possibilty that someone has done that.
   1177. toratoratora Posted: April 02, 2020 at 10:42 PM (#5936082)
One more quote, belatedly.
Maybe my favorite Bill James line, "Catching Willie Mays in a rundown is like trying to assassinate a squirrel with a lawnmower"
   1178. cardsfanboy Posted: April 02, 2020 at 10:53 PM (#5936085)
Seeing Gibson people's top 10 lists reminds me for the manyth time that we still lack a good method of ranking catchers. Leaving Gibson aside for the moment, the top catchers by WAR are Bench and Carter, but neither one is anywhere close to top 10. Even if we use just PosWAR, Bench is 50th. Using WAR7, Carter is 39 and Bench 40.

To get a sense for Gibson, let's assume he hit like Piazza and fielded like Bench. That would give him a defensive value of roughly 173 (Bench's Rfield + Rpos), a net of 150 over Piazza. But even adding that total to Piazza's WAR gets him to only 74 WAR (I'm simplifying here, of course), which is slightly less than Bench. By this reasoning, Gibson would be equivalent to Bench.

The problem is that my instinct is to say that the best catchers should rate up there with the top players at other positions. But I don't see any obvious way to get them there beyond "well, I think so".


They really can't, on a year to year basis they could be the best player in the game, but when you look at Mays, Ruth or even lessers like Musial, and you see a 18 years as an above average player or a 3 war player, and knowing that no catcher in baseball comes close, you have to accept that in the upper echelons, catchers will never reach the Mays or Cobb or Musial level, it's a nature of the job. There is no requirement that the top ten of all time should represent a player from every position and a pitcher, that doesn't follow logic at all. You have to be great above your positional peers, you have to be great above your generational peers, you have to be great year in, year out, and you have to be great for a long period of time to reach the upper echelons, and catchers have no chance of reaching that last criteria... there will never be a catcher deserving of the top ten spot of all time, just like there won't be a reliever or there won't be a starting pitcher who's career started after 1950. (regardless of how hard Clemens tried) Those positions just have no chance of being top ten, sure if a catcher could start 115 games a year, produce a positive waa every one of those years, then you might have the beginnings of an argument, but considering no catcher has played 115 games a season more than 11 seasons with a positive waa, it's not something likely to happen.

It's simply the nature of the position.
   1179. TomH Posted: April 03, 2020 at 05:46 AM (#5936117)
"sure if a catcher could start 115 games a year, produce a positive waa every one of those years, then you might have the beginnings of an argument, but considering no catcher has played 115 games a season more than 11 seasons with a positive waa, it's not something likely to happen."

Am I misreading you, cfb, cause this guy named Bench played over 142 g a year for 13 yrs; vast majority at C; avg-ing almost 4 waa per year, his lowest waa being 1.9.

From 1970-74, Bench IMHO was the best player in the game. 153 g per year with OPS of 846. The only other candidates would be teammates Rose and Morgan. Rose played more but hit less and was a corner OFer. Morgan hit about the same, but played a little less, and surely we'd take Bench with more defensive value. Reggie! thinks he was better but that's Reggie! for you.
   1180. alsep73 Posted: April 03, 2020 at 07:37 AM (#5936119)
5. Oscar Charleston. Joe writes at length about how the rankings are mostly a device and not meant as a literal ranking in order. But it was important to him that Charleston be number five.

I want you to feel the fury of this ranking, feel it down deep. I want you to think, “Look, I’m sure he was terrific, but there’s no possible way that Oscar Charleston, who played in a struggling league 100 years ago, could possibly be the fifth greatest player of all time.”

Or I want you to think, “Fifth greatest? That’s ridiculous. He should be No. 1!”

Or I want you to think, “This is pure romanticism. We have almost no stats on Charleston. We have only a handful of quotes about him. You can’t rank someone this high on the list based on a few crusty legends and myths.”

Or I want you to think, “It’s such an infuriating tragedy that we as an entire nation never got to see the greatest player in the history of baseball.”

Or I want you to think, “How is it that I’ve never even heard of this guy?”

Or I want you to think some of those thoughts together, or even all of them at the same time. This ranking, unlike the rest, is a statement and, even more, it’s a challenge. Oscar Charleston is the fifth greatest player in baseball history? It is meant to make you think about what you think.
   1181. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 03, 2020 at 07:59 AM (#5936123)
Or I want you to think, “This is pure romanticism. We have almost no stats on Charleston. We have only a handful of quotes about him. You can’t rank someone this high on the list based on a few crusty legends and myths.”
Done.
   1182. JJ1986 Posted: April 03, 2020 at 08:03 AM (#5936124)
Didn't Bill James rank him fourth 20 years ago? Joe is not exactly breaking ground.
   1183. Mefisto Posted: April 03, 2020 at 08:42 AM (#5936133)
It's simply the nature of the position.


That's the crux of the issue: should we assign catchers a higher positional value to account for this?
   1184. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:00 AM (#5936137)
“Willie,” Buck said in an effort to break through, “I saw the catch on television the other day.”

The catch. Willie Mays made it on Sept. 29, 1954. It was the first game of the World Series, the Polo Grounds, and he went back on a long fly ball hit by Vic Wertz, a fly ball that would have been a home run in almost every other ballpark. Mays turned his back so that anyone who was behind home plate clearly saw the No. 24 on his jersey. He caught the ball over his shoulder and then whirled and threw it back to the infield.

“Willie Mays,” announcer Jack Brickhouse shouted, “just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people.”

“You saw that?” Mays said. He smiled a little.

“Only one other guy I ever saw could have made that catch,” Buck said.

Seven days after Mays made that catch, the only other man — the statue standing in center field on the Field of Legends — died in a Philadelphia hospital. He was not quite 58 years old and he was almost entirely unknown. His obituary did not appear in the local newspapers.

“Oscar Charleston,” Mays said as he looked out on the field.

“He was you before you,” O’Neil said.


Great intro to the Charleston essay, with Posnanski, Buck and Mays at the Negro Leagues Museum. He doesn't say it here, but I suspect that Pos ranks Charleston so high because he played forever (18 to 44, though I don't know how legit some of those later seasons were). At this point in the rankings career length matters more than parsing out who had the better peak.
   1185. PreservedFish Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:18 AM (#5936140)
It's extremely easy to me that believe Charleston should be as high as #2. This isn't going to be the most impressive analysis, but, well, it's clear to me that black people can be just as good at baseball as white people, and that the best Negro League players were the likely equals of the best MLB players, and that therefore the maybe-best-ever Negro Leagues player was maybe the best player ever. I'd never put anyone above Ruth, due to the pitching, his fame, and his outsized importance in the development of the game.


“Only one other guy I ever saw could have made that catch,” Buck said.

Was it SOSH U?
   1186. Blastin Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:39 AM (#5936147)
Great Charleston essay. I really thought he'd made a mistake with #19.


I get pretty damn sad whenever I think of the Negro Leagues. Not that we've solved those issues altogether....
   1187. Blastin Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:40 AM (#5936151)
I'd never put anyone above Ruth, due to the pitching,


I mean this is the real key, to me. Do I believe his excellent pitching matters more than not having to face Charleston (and the others) when he was pitching that well?
   1188. PreservedFish Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:51 AM (#5936156)
Well, Charleston didn't have to face Lefty Grove. Ruth, as a hitter, didn't have to face Paige. And so on. It's an intractable problem. You can't parse the statistics too carefully. I'm just thinking very broadly - if Charleston was the best black player, he was probably more or less the equal of the best white player, and therefore should rank just as high. I can see ranking him lower due to the comparative uncertainty, but would still acknowledge that he could well have been better than the white guys we're comparing him too.
   1189. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:51 AM (#5936157)
That's the crux of the issue: should we assign catchers a higher positional value to account for this?


I'll go with: no. The fact that you're a catcher doesn't mean that when you save a run you actually save 1.2 runs.
   1190. Blastin Posted: April 03, 2020 at 09:57 AM (#5936160)
That all makes sense, PF.
   1191. SoSH U at work Posted: April 03, 2020 at 10:10 AM (#5936171)
Was it SOSH U?


Thanks PF.
   1192. PreservedFish Posted: April 03, 2020 at 10:34 AM (#5936180)
Man I'm on a roll.
   1193. Rally Posted: April 03, 2020 at 10:46 AM (#5936182)
My understanding is that pitch framing had a much lower impact in seasons of the past. For the most part, before WW2. I don't have data to confirm this and we have zero chance of every getting that data, but I base this on simple logic.

There were fewer pitches per plate appearance, and a lot more balls in play. You could have the greatest pitch framer in the world, call him Buster Yasmani Lucroy Coltrane Molina, but he can't save you a fraction of a run if the batter is going to swing at the first pitch and put it in play.

Fewer pitches and fewer called pitches = less impact of framing.
   1194. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 03, 2020 at 11:15 AM (#5936187)
I can see ranking him lower due to the comparative uncertainty, but would still acknowledge that he could well have been better than the white guys we're comparing him too.
That's pretty much where I'm at. Given that virtually 100% of old baseball player stories are unreliable data, the players with the more reliably kept stats have the data advantage. But that doesn't eliminate uncertainty, of course.
   1195. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: April 03, 2020 at 11:19 AM (#5936190)
Kudos to this crowd for not having a meltdown about the Charleston article. Because at TA there are posters who think JP just murdered baseball.
   1196. Mefisto Posted: April 03, 2020 at 11:22 AM (#5936191)
if Charleston was the best black player, he was probably more or less the equal of the best white player, and therefore should rank just as high.


That still leaves some leeway. Was he as good as Ott? Hornsby? Ruth? All great players, but only 1 belongs in the top 10 all time.
   1197. bbmck Posted: April 03, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5936257)
Bill James has Oscar 4th in 2001 and Barry could have quite possibly passed Oscar without revising the thought process or methodology of that list.
   1198. Rally Posted: April 03, 2020 at 02:35 PM (#5936259)
Best black player of his time, but Joe has two from mid 20th century and one from 13-34 years ago ahead of him. Plus one white guy.

I'm not sure he was the best player of the Negro Leagues. The data we have says Gibson was the best hitter of the leagues, and by a substantial margin. And he caught. He has longevity on Gibson, who died young, and certainly base running. If Gibson was an average defensive catcher, maybe Charleston made it up by being a Willie Mays caliber defender. Charleston played a lot of first base later in his career, so did Gibson. At that position I'd have to take Josh since he was the top hitter and the range of first base defensive value isn't wide enough to offset the bat.
   1199. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: April 03, 2020 at 03:31 PM (#5936280)
Because at TA there are posters who think JP just murdered baseball.
I hope this is just the warmup to Joe putting Mays at #1 over Ruth (which I think is more likely than having Bonds leapfrog Ruth because of the steroids issue). And I don't think Joe will bump Ruth down to #3.
   1200. Mefisto Posted: April 03, 2020 at 04:29 PM (#5936292)
Baseball Gauge has Charlton's most similar MLB player as Hornsby. It doesn't adjust for league quality or park factors, though. However, if we take the raw score as reasonable, it would suggest leaving Charleston out of the top 10. My instinct is that adjustments for league quality would rank him still lower, but I don't know enough to have a real opinion on that.
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