Tuesday, June 30, 2009

PTWSW #11: The 1914 Boston Braves

Manager: George Stallings
Record: 94-59
Ballpark: South End Grounds/Fenway Park
Owner: James E. Gaffney
Coaches: Fred Mitchell

Future Hall of Famers: Johnny Evers, Rabbit Maranville

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Joe Connolly, .306
OBP: Joe Connolly, .393
SLG: Joe Connolly, .494
OPS: Joe Connolly, .886
2B: Joe Connolly, 28
3B: Les Mann, 11
HR: Joe Connolly, 9
RBI: Rabbit Maranville, 78
BB: Johnny Evers, 87
SB: Rabbit Maranville, 28

Team Leaders, Pitching

Bill James, Dick Rudolph, 26
SO: Bill James, 156
ERA: Bill James, 1.90
IP: Dick Rudolph, 336.1
CG: Dick Rudolph, 31
SHO: Dick Rudolph, 6
K/BB: Dick Rudolph, 2.26
SV: Bill James, Lefty Tyler, 2


Oldest Player: Jim Murray (b. January 16, 1878)

Youngest Player: Billy Martin (b. February 13, 1894)

First to Leave Us: Otto Hess (d. February 25, 1926)

Last Survivor: Jack Martin (d. July 4, 1980)

First in Majors: Otto Hess (debut August 3, 1902)

Last in Majors: Rabbit Maranville (final game September 29, 1935)

First to Play For the Franchise: Herbie Moran. Moran was acquired by Boston (then called the Doves) in August of 1908 and would play there for two more seasons. In 1914, while playing for the Reds, Boston once again made him an August acquisition.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Rabbit Maranville (September 29, 1935)

Pre-union Team: The 1910-11 New York Giants (Josh Devore, Hank Gowdy, Dick Rudolph). John McGraw's rejects later came back to haunt him in this pennant race.

Reunion Team: The 1917 Philadelphia Phillies and the 1918-19 Chicago Cubs each had three. Perhaps not surprisingly, those Cubs were managed by Fred Mitchell, Stallings' assistant coach.


George Davis, no-hitter on September 9
Johnny Evers, NL MVP

Season Summary

Talk about a crazy season! The Braves got off to a 3-16 start and spent most of the first half in last place. On Independence Day they lost a doubleheader to Brooklyn which put them 15 games behind the New York Giants and five games behind the 7th-place Phillies. Just when it looked like all hope was lost, the Braves started winning. They climbed out of the cellar on July 19 and a month later were only two games out of first.

Now finding themselves in a pennant race, the Braves were allowed to play their remaining home games in Fenway Park by Red Sox owner Joseph Lannin. The South End Grounds was an outdated structure with insufficient capacity for the crowds that wanted to witness the unfolding Cinderella story, and shiny new Fenway was more up to the task. The Braves couldn't have picked a better time to make their Fenway debut. On September 7 they began a three-game series with the Giants, with whom they were tied for first place. The Braves took two out of three and never looked back. They remained in first place for the rest of the season, ultimately winning the pennant by 10.5 games.

Since they're being profiled here, you obviously know the Braves won the World Series. They did it in impressive fashion though, sweeping the heavily-favored Philadelphia Athletics in four straight. It was the first four-game sweep in World Series history. Catcher Hank Gowdy was the star of the Series for Boston, batting .545, putting up an OPS of 1.960 and even stealing a base. Outfielder Les Mann also figured into two key moments, driving in the winning run in Game 2 and scoring the winning run as a pinch-runner in Game 3.

Let's see...third in the NL in runs per game. Pretty good. 92 OPS+, sixth in the NL. Eh. Last in stolen bases. That seems odd for a successful deadball era team, doesn't it? What about run prevention though? 104 ERA+, second in the league. Now we're talking. Third-best in runs allowed per game, only .05 behind the league-leading Pirates. All right, so they were built on pitching. Their team WHIP, SO/9 and BB/9 were all fifth-best in the NL, however. They were fourth in DER too. They did do a lot of wheeling and dealing during the season, so perhaps they ironed out all their kinks during the first half. And you thought Billy Beane invented the "build the team you want in-season" approach.

Like Beane, manager George Stallings wasn't afraid to employ non-traditional baseball methods. He platooned his corner outfielders all season long, including Joe Connolly, his best hitter. Platooning wasn't common in those days, but the Braves' success made it a hot trend in baseball for years afterward. This team is often referred to as "The Miracle Braves," but that nickname didn't appear in print until several years later. Stallings, however, was dubbed "The Miracle Man" after he got the Braves back into the pennant race. To this day no other World Series champion has experienced such a dramatic in-season turnaround.


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