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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-14-2020

New York Tribune, January 14, 1920:

Where, Prithee, Will Huggins Play ‘The Babe’?

Left Field Is Too Sunny and Right Too Dangerous at Polo Grounds

For two reasons it is scarcely likely that Huggins would care to plant the Babe in left field with New York. Left field [at the Polo Grounds] is a terrific sun field…Besides which, Duffy Lewis, a left fielder extraordinary and sundodger par excellence, is expected back with the Yankee caravan.

Take it from those familiar with the idiosyncracies of the young Mr. Ruth, Huggins will be inviting nothing short of absolute disaster if he places this piece of rare bric-a-brac in right field…New York fans will remember the Sunday last summer when he butted the left field paling so hard as to knock himself unconscious, though he clung to the ball for an out that saved a game.

It is argued that if Ruth plays right, unless the fences are moved back out of home-run range, he is likely soon to exercise the ambulance. In center field Ruth would have all the leeway necessary, but the big fellow is scarcely fleet enough on foot for this most important assignment.

This is a problem that everyone other than the Red Sox would have been happy to deal with in 1920. Also, I’d pay top dollar to go back to 1920 in a time machine and watch the Babe chase a ball to that crazy wall in dead center at the Polo Grounds.

Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:56 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dugout, history

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   1. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:57 AM (#5915563)
It's not a great sign when Erick Aybar is by far your best position player, so there's very little to get excited about on today's Birthday Team. Smead Jolley was a good hitter and a hilariously awful fielder, so he'd at least be fun to watch.

Put another way: Terry Forster may well be a better hitter than the everyday third baseman.

C: Paddy Livingston (3.5 WAR)
1B: Wayne Gross (15.0 WAR)
2B: Logan Forsythe (12.5 WAR)
3B: Dave Campbell (-0.9 WAR)
SS: Erick Aybar (23.7 WAR)
LF: Smead Jolley (5.7 WAR)
CF: Derrel Thomas (6.5 WAR)
RF: Steven Piscotty (8.1 WAR)

SP: Sonny Siebert (32.2 WAR)
SP: Chet "Dooflackem" Brewer (0.0 WAR, Negro Leagues star)
SP: Mike Pelfrey (5.3 WAR)
SP: Steve Cooke (4.3 WAR)
SP: Curry Foley (1.5 WAR)
RP: Terry Forster (20.4 WAR)

Manager: Billy Meyer
Not that one: Danny Boone, Boog Powell
   2. Itchy Row Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:02 AM (#5915566)
Terry Forster has the most plate appearances of anybody who has a higher batting average than Ty Cobb.
   3. eric Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:41 AM (#5915594)
Terry Forster has the most plate appearances of anybody who has a higher batting average than Ty Cobb.


That's a very cool piece of trivia. Forster actually ended his career on an 0-5 streak. He was batting .425 for his career after the first 2/3 of his PAs in 1984 (and that's also a literally 2/3; he went 2 for 3 that season). His last career AB the following season dropped his career BA from .403 to his final .397.

   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:46 AM (#5915598)
Duffy Lewis, a left fielder extraordinary and sundodger par excellence, is expected back with the Yankee caravan.

I love the old-timey sportswriter jargon.
   5. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:51 AM (#5915605)
Forster never homered but did both triple and steal a base.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 14, 2020 at 11:52 AM (#5915607)
Forster and Rich Gossage were a strong left-right tandem out of the pen for the White Sox in the early 1970s. When old-timer Paul Richards took over as manager in 1976, he sent them both to the rotation, since in Richards' day, your best pitchers started and your worst pitchers relieved. The results: Gossage went 9-17 with a 3.94 ERA (91 ERA+) while Forster was even worse, going 2-12 with a 4.37 ERA (83 ERA+).

After the season, the Sox traded both pitchers to the Pirates for one season of Richie Zisk. Following a last-place finish in 1976, Richards never managed again.
   7. PreservedFish Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:00 PM (#5915618)
Always been curious about Gossage's one random year as a starter. But the real mystery is Hoyt Wilhelm's one year as a starter, because he kicked ass.
   8. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2020 at 12:05 PM (#5915623)
But the real mystery is Hoyt Wilhelm's one year as a starter, because he kicked ass.

Yeah, leads the league in ERA and gets sent back to the pen. WTF?

That's the reason Wilhelm would be the only RP in my PHOF. He showed he wasn't just a failed starter.
   9. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:39 PM (#5915694)
I always figured that the catchers begged and pleaded to not have to catch a knuckleball for nine innings. But yeah, he was really good, led the league in ERA+.
   10. Itchy Row Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:45 PM (#5915696)
Wilhelm started 52 games in his career and had a 2.68 ERA. He averaged over 7 IP per start, with 20 CG, 5 shutouts, and a no-hitter, but his record as a starter was only 19-19. He just didn't know how to win.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: January 14, 2020 at 02:47 PM (#5915697)
It makes sense that a guy that didn't throw as hard as he possibly could wouldn't have benefited much extra from coming out of the pen.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:09 PM (#5915707)
As I noted the other day, Rivera's rookie season of mostly starting raised his careeer ERA by 0.18 and his ERA+ by 18 points. But then those mere 67 innings constitute about 5% of his career innings.

Eckersley was of course far from a failed starter with 2500 IP, 111 ERA+, 151-128 and even led the league in ERA+ once. But it's still easy enough to argue his career performance isn't good enough for the HoF -- his relief greatness was short-lived and really consists of one off the charts great 73 inning season and two standard Rivera seasons and about 8 years of Steve Cishek.

Moving a good reliever to the rotation is likely a bad idea in general. Knuckleballers aside, a SP usually needs a few pitches to succeed while a successful relievver can often get by on one or at most two. That's why they failed as starters. Gossage of course might have been different -- he was throwing 130-140 innings in relief in those days so he clearly had the durability and was getting seen a second time on occasion. Also recall it was the mid-70s which means that Richards had him complete half his starts. That doesn't seem to have been a good idea based on his ERAs of 5.81, 5.01 and 4.95 for innings 6-8. He'd have likely adapted if kept there for multiple seasons but Gossage was a 21st century starter before his time.

None of that meant to defend Richards. Gossage had just had arguably the greatest relief season of all time, why in the world would you mess with that? Some of them are better by WAR but in 75, Gossage made 62 appearances and in 60 of them he entered with men on base and one of the other two he entered just after the SP gave up a HR. (This is why mid-inning changes haven't gone up much, this is what firemen did.) Despite entering most games early, his gmLI (leverage) was 2.42, blowing any Rivera season out of the water even though Rivera mostly pitched the 9th when leverage is maximized (or not with a 3-run lead). Eck doesn't have any leverage like that, Wilhelm doesn't (if you check, he was largely a SP those years and gmLI only applies to relief appearances), Hiller came close a couple of times. The 75 Sox weren't much of a team but that was a super-clutch performance by Gossage.

Laughably, Fingers finished ahead of him in CYA voting that year.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:26 PM (#5915714)
And for those who didn't bother to check, Ruth made 84 starts in RF, 31 in LF, 25 in CF, 1 at P and made 2 appearances at 1B in 1920. Looking at the gamelog, the guess is that was more injuries to others or other changes in personnel. For the start of the season, he was almost always in RF, then there was a month when he was mostly in LF, then back to RF, the CF for the last few weeks. So apparently his lack of sundodging ruled him out of LF most of the time.

Looking at their defensive lineups, Duffy Lewis opened in LF and stunk (1921 was his last year). Meusel briefly took over in LF but then Sammy Vick took over in RF with Ruth shifting. Vick also stunk so Meusel was back but for whatever reason in RF. After a couple of weeks of that, they switched Meusel and Ruth but then stuck Lewis back out in LF for most of the rest of the season. Then CF Ping Bodie must have gotten hurt with Vick back in RF.

By the way, Meusel started 43 games at 3B that year, returnnig there for a stint in 1925.
   14. The Mighty Quintana Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:37 PM (#5915718)
Laughably, Fingers finished ahead of him in CYA voting that year.


The moustache holds strange powers over people...

He still owes Bobby Grich an MVP award.
   15. SandyRiver Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:52 PM (#5915723)
I always figured that the catchers begged and pleaded to not have to catch a knuckleball for nine innings. But yeah, he was really good, led the league in ERA+.

I still chuckle a bit recalling the gigantic catcher's mitt the aforementioned Paul Richards had built for poor Gus Triandos, who wasn't exactly a GG contender behind the plate.
   16. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 14, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5915725)
Meusel was back but for whatever reason in RF.


Meusel was regarded as having the best outfield arm of his generation, so from a strict baseball standpoint, it made sense to play him in right, even over someone with an arm such as Ruth's. I know that Ruth hated playing left field in Yankee Stadium because it was the sun field, and from the article it seems that the Polo Grounds must have been similar (I don't know the specific geographical orientation of the fields), so from that viewpoint it may have made sense to play Ruth in right to keep him happy.
   17. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:12 PM (#5915731)
It occurs to me that I would welcome a book on Hoyt Wilhelm.
   18. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: January 14, 2020 at 04:35 PM (#5915746)
phillies dfa odubel herrera to pick up nick martini, they still owe him 19.5m
   19. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: January 14, 2020 at 05:50 PM (#5915766)
I still chuckle a bit recalling the gigantic catcher's mitt the aforementioned Paul Richards had built for poor Gus Triandos, who wasn't exactly a GG contender behind the plate.

This thread also reminded me of a bit of humor related to Gus Triandos, albeit not the same one.
   20. caspian88 Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:44 PM (#5915785)
The Polo Grounds faced east (home to center), so a left fielder would have been facing west (maybe closer to west-southwest) during a game there.

Yankee Stadium has pretty much the same orientation, maybe slightly more northeast, so basically the same sunset problem arises.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 06:54 PM (#5915789)
It occurs to me that I would welcome a book on Hoyt Wilhelm.

Or maybe one covering all of the great knuckleball pitchers. Or at least a roundtable!

Is anybody throwing a knuckleball these days?

A long-ago version of MLBxxxx featured Mike Mussina with a "knuckle-curve" that obviously the programmer figured was the same as a knuckleball. And he could throw it in the low 90s. Pretty much unhittable.
   22. AndrewJ Posted: January 14, 2020 at 07:35 PM (#5915794)
   23. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: January 14, 2020 at 07:54 PM (#5915804)
Donaldson to the Twins for 4 years
Reportedly 4/92, yr 5 opt can make deal 100m (per robothal)
   24. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:06 PM (#5915807)
After the Letterman thing, Forster also committed the most body-positive rap of 1986: "Fat Is In."
   25. AndrewJ Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:11 PM (#5915809)
Terry Forster was the first ballplayer autograph I got, at my very first MLB game (Padres at Dodgers, 1978). And a college acquaintance of mine was the TV viewer who sent in the Forster baseball card to the Letterman show, the card that inspired Dave to call Terry a "a fat tub of goo."
   26. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:13 PM (#5915811)
Is anybody throwing a knuckleball these days?
Steven Wright, on those rare occasions that he’s not (a) injured, (b) suspended for PEDs, (c) suspended for domestic violence, or (d) some combination of the preceding.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 08:27 PM (#5915815)
So per b-r, Cora made about $15 M in his playing career plus any signing bonus he might have gotten, any playoff money plus whatever he was paid by Bos (prob not huge) and Hou (even less). Unless he's managed his money very poorly, he's probably fine if he never works again.

AJ Hinch only make it to about $1 M (plus any extras) but has been a manager, FO, coach, etc. for much longer than Cora. Also he presumably still has 2 years of salary coming for 2021-22 totalling at least $3-4 M I'd think.

Luhnow has 3 years left and will end up with 10 years of GM salary. He probably wasn't paid a lot at the start but with this success plus his last extension included a "promotion" to PBO. So he's probably comfy too.

Now if the Astros find a way to void those contracts, which they well might, then Hinch especially will want to watch his pennies.

   28. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2020 at 10:17 PM (#5915834)
Donaldson to the Twins for 4 years
Reportedly 4/92, yr 5 opt can make deal 100m (per robothal)


that seems pretty reasonable, maybe even cheap ... and surely that's an option that can take it to $110 or something. I mean, he'll be worth a marginal $8 M as long as he's still breathing.
   29. JJ1986 Posted: January 15, 2020 at 01:34 PM (#5916057)
Are rosters actually capped at 13 pitchers for next year or was that a rule that never got approved?
   30. bbmck Posted: January 15, 2020 at 11:44 PM (#5916348)
One World Series winning manager starts 2020 managing the team where he won that/those Ring(s).

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