Thursday, October 29, 2009

PTWSW #19: The 1922 New York Giants

Manager: John McGraw
Record: 93-61
Ballpark: Polo Grounds
Owners: Francis X. McQuade and Charles Stoneham
Coaches: Jesse Burkett, Cozy Dolan, Hughie Jennings

Future Hall of Famers: Dave Bancroft, Frankie Frisch, Travis Jackson, George Kelly, Casey Stengel, Ross Youngs

Team Leaders, Batting

Frank Snyder, .343
OBP: Ross Youngs, .398
SLG: Irish Meusel, .509
OPS: Irish Meusel, .877
2B: Dave Bancroft, 41
3B: Irish Meusel, 17
HR: George Kelly, 17
RBI: Irish Meusel, 132
BB: Dave Bancroft, 79
SB: Frankie Frisch, 31

Team Leaders, Pitching

Art Nehf, 19
SO: Rosy Ryan, 75
ERA: Phil Douglas, 2.63 (NL leader)
IP: Art Nehf, 268.1
CG: Art Nehf, 20
SHO: Jesse Barnes, Art Nehf, 2
K/BB: Jesse Barnes, 1.37
SV: Claude Jonnard, 5 (NL leader)


Oldest Player: Fred Toney (b. December 11, 1888)

Youngest Player: Travis Jackson (b. November 2, 1903)

First to Leave Us: Ross Youngs (d. October 22, 1927)

Last Survivor: Carmen Hill (d. January 1, 1990)

First in Majors: Technically it was Cozy Dolan, who debuted on August 15, 1909, but he was a coach who only got into one game. Among regular players, it was Fred Toney, whose debut was on April 15, 1911.

Last in Majors: Fred Johnson (final game May 10, 1939). Johnson actually spent 1924 through 1937 in the minors before resurfacing with the Browns for two years.

First to Play For the Franchise: Heinie Groh (April 12, 1912)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Travis Jackson (September 24, 1936)

Pre-union Team: The 1919 Braves (Red Causey, Art Nehf, Johnny Rawlings, Hugh McQuillan and Jack Scott) and 1920 Phillies (Dave Bancroft, Red Causey, Irish Meusel, Johnny Rawlings and Casey Stengel) each had five.

Reunion Team: The 1924 Braves with five (Dave Bancroft, Jesse Barnes, Bill Cunningham, Earl Smith and Casey Stengel). Also noteworthy are the pennant-winning 1927 Pirates with four (Mike Cvengros, Heinie Groh, Carmen Hill and Earl Smith).


Ross Youngs, cycle on April 29

Season Summary

The Giants' offense led the league in only one major category (though it didn't exist at the time): on-base percentage. They were second- or third-best everywhere else. Their defensive efficiency and fielding percentage were both tops in the Senior Circuit, and those first-rate glovemen helped the pitching staff allow the fewest runs and post a league-best 116 ERA+.

The pennant race wasn't a come-from-behind story like the previous year's. The Giants spent almost the entire season in first place, with only the Cardinals pulling ahead of them at any point after the first few weeks. The most exciting period of the season was between July 14 and August 16, when neither team had more than a 2.5-game lead.

Perhaps the most noteworthy event that season was the scandal involving pitcher "Shufflin' Phil" Douglas. Douglas was a talented but problematic player who often butted heads with John McGraw. In July he wrote a letter to Cardinals outfielder Les Mann offering to quit the Giants in exchange for money, thereby leaving his detested manager shorthanded in the pennant race. Instead of dealing with Douglas, Mann sent the letter to McGraw. When confronted with the evidence, Douglas confessed his guilt and was subsequently banned from baseball. It was the most shocking incident to hit the American Pastime since the "Black Sox" were exposed two years earlier.

The loss of Douglas didn't hurt the Giants as much as the pitcher thought it would. McGraw's men won the pennant by seven games and got a rematch with the Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees won three Series games the previous year, but this time they wouldn't manage to win even one. The closest they'd come would be a tie when Game 2 was called on account of darkness. The Giants got two of their wins on 8th-inning comebacks, including the clinching Game 5. George Kelly's two-run single scored the tying and go-ahead runs, and the Yankees went quietly in the 9th to give the Giants back-to-back titles.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Monday, October 26, 2009

PTWSW #18: The 1921 New York Giants

Manager: John McGraw
Record: 94-59
Ballpark: Polo Grounds
Owners: Francis X. McQuade and Charles Stoneham
Coaches: Jesse Burkett, Cozy Dolan, Hughie Jennings

Future Hall of Famers: Dave Bancroft, Frankie Frisch, George Kelly, Casey Stengel, Ross Youngs

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Frankie Frisch, .341
OBP: Ross Youngs, .411
SLG: George Kelly, .528
OPS: George Kelly, .884
2B: George Kelly, 42
3B: Frankie Frisch, 17
HR: George Kelly, 23 (NL leader)
RBI: George Kelly, 122
BB: George Burns, 80 (NL leader)
SB: Frankie Frisch, 49 (NL leader)

Team Leaders, Pitching

Art Nehf, 20
SO: Art Nehf, 67
ERA: Jesse Barnes, 3.10
IP: Art Nehf, 260.2
CG: Art Nehf, 18
SHO: Phil Douglas, 3 (NL leader)
K/BB: Jesse Barnes, 1.27
SV: Jesse Barnes, 6


Oldest Player: Slim Sallee (b. February 3, 1885)

Youngest Player: Jim Mahady (b. April 22, 1901)

First to Leave Us: Ross Youngs (d. October 22, 1927). Bright's Disease felled the star right fielder at the age of 30.

Last Survivor: George Kelly (d. October 13, 1984). Both the first and last man from this team to die are in the Hall of Fame, though most baseball scholars would probably agree neither one belongs there.

First in Majors: Slim Sallee (debut April 16, 1908)

Last in Majors: Frankie Frisch (final game August 5, 1937)

First to Play For the Franchise: George Burns (October 3, 1911)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Dave Bancroft (May 31, 1930)

Pre-union Team: The 1920 Phillies had five, with Dave Bancroft, Red Causey, Irish Meusel, Johnny Rawlings and Casey Stengel. Four of those five were acquired by the Giants in three July 1921 trades. The 1914 Reds and 1917 Braves each had four.

Reunion Team: The 1924 Braves with five: Dave Bancroft, Jesse Barnes, Bill Cunningham, Earl Smith and Casey Stengel.


Dave Bancroft, cycle on June 1

Season Summary

The Giants had the most productive offense in the NL despite being outslugged and outhit by the Cardinals. Their league leadership in walks and stolen bases gave them an extra edge. Their defensive efficiency and ERA+ were both bettered by the Pirates, and they were second only to them in fewest runs allowed. Their staff pitched to contact, allowing the fewest walks while also striking out the second-fewest batters in the league.

McGraw's men played from behind most of the season, as the Pirates got off to a great start that allowed them to coast at times. The Giants pulled ahead of them temporarily on June 4, but a six-game losing streak put them right back where they were before. On July 1 the Giants sent third baseman Goldie Rapp, who was batting a disappointing .215, and some spare parts to the floundering (phloundering?) Phillies in a trade that landed them second baseman Johnny Rawlings. Rawlings wasn't a star, but he provided more value than Rapp on both sides of the ball. Regular second baseman Frankie Frisch was shifted to third to accomodate the move. Later that month the Gothams shored up their outfield with Irish Meusel, another Philly acquisition.

On August 23 the Giants were 7.5 games behind the first-place Pirates. The next day the Giants began an eight-game winning streak while the Pirates would continue an eventual six-game slide. The Pirates could never string together more than two wins in a row after that point, and on September 9, in the early stages of what would become a ten-game run of victories, the Giants pulled into first place for good. They ended up winning the pennant by four games.

The World Series pitted the Giants against their American League counterpart and fellow Polo Grounds-dwellers, the Yankees. This was the final year the World Series would follow the best-of-nine format, requiring five wins for the championship. The Yankees won the first two games behind shutouts from Carl Mays and Waite Hoyt, but the Giants came storming back in the next two games to tie the Series. A Game 5 victory was the Yankees' last hurrah, as an injured Babe Ruth made it easier for the Giants to win the final three matches. After losing all four World Series in which they participated during the 1910's, the Giants finally had their first title since 1905. Irish Meusel was the hitting star of the Series, with seven RBI and a .973 OPS.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Which Team Had the Most Future Managers?

It's a question you see come up from time to time, but no one ever seems to have the answer. Which single-season team produced the most dugout leaders? I felt it was my duty as a baseball fan, an American and a guy with a blog dedicated to such trivialities to settle it once and for all. I went to Baseball-Reference's manager register, clicked on the link to each manager's playing career and compiled the data. Is there an easier way to do it? Probably, but I don't know what it is. Feel free to fill me in if you know of one.

If the question is simply which team had the most men play in at least one game who also managed a Major League game at some point, the top of the rankings look like this:


1908 Boston Red Sox
(Bill Carrigan, Gavvy Cravath, Doc Gessler, Harry Lord, Deacon McGuire, Tris Speaker, Jake Stahl, Bob Unglaub, Heinie Wagner, Cy Young)


1878 Providence Grays
(Doug Allison, Tom Carey, Dick Higham, Tim Murnane, Lip Pike, Charlie Sweasy, John Ward, Harry Wheeler, Tom York)
1879 Providence Grays (Doug Allison, Jack Farrell, Mike McGeary, Dan O'Leary, Jim O'Rourke, Joe Start, John Ward, George Wright, Tom York)
1891 Boston Reds (Tom Brown, Charlie Buffinton, Tommy Dowd, Hugh Duffy, Clark Griffith, Arthur Irwin, Bill Joyce, King Kelly, Cub Stricker)
1892 Baltimore Orioles (Charlie Buffinton, Ned Hanlon, Joe Kelley, John McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Harry Stovey, Cub Stricker, George Van Haltren, George Wood)
1892 St. Louis Browns (Bob Caruthers, Jack Crooks, Frank Dwyer, Pud Galvin, Jack Glasscock, Kid Gleason, George Gore, Cub Stricker, Jimmy Wolf)
1900 St. Louis Cardinals (Lave Cross, Patsy Donovan, John McGraw, Jack O'Connor, Joe Quinn, Wilbert Robinson, Patsy Tebeau, Bobby Wallace, Cy Young)
1902 New York Giants (Frank Bowerman, Roger Bresnahan, Jack Doyle, Jack Hendricks, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Heinie Smith, George Van Haltren, Heinie Wagner)
1912 Detroit Tigers (Donie Bush, Ty Cobb, Red Corriden, Bill Donovan, Hughie Jennings, Deacon McGuire, George Moriarty, Jack Onslow, Ossie Vitt)
1956 St. Louis Cardinals (Ken Boyer, Alvin Dark, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Grady Hatton, Solly Hemus, Whitey Lockman, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon)


1873 Boston Red Stockings
(Bob Addy, Jack Manning, Jim O'Rourke, Al Spalding, Charlie Sweasy, Deacon White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1875 Boston Red Stockings (Juice Latham, Jack Manning, Cal McVey, Jim O'Rourke, Al Spalding, Deacon White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1876 Boston Red Caps (Jack Manning, Dick McBride, John Morrill, Tim Murnane, Jim O'Rourke, Bill Parks, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1876 Hartford Dark Blues (Doug Allison, Tommy Bond, Jack Burdock, Tom Carey, Bob Ferguson, Dick Higham, Everett Mills, Tom York)
1877 Boston Red Caps (Tommy Bond, John Morrill, Tim Murnane, Jim O'Rourke, Deacon White, Will White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1881 Detroit Wolverines (Mike Dorgan, Joe Gerhardt, Ned Hanlon, Lon Knight, Dan O'Leary, Sam Trott, Will White, George Wood)
1885 New York Giants (Roger Connor, Mike Dorgan, Dude Esterbrook, Buck Ewing, Joe Gerhardt, Jim O'Rourke, Danny Richardson, John Ward)
1886 New York Giants (Roger Connor, Mike Dorgan, Dude Esterbrook, Buck Ewing, Joe Gerhardt, Jim O'Rourke, Danny Richardson, John Ward)
1887 New York Giants (Roger Connor, Mike Dorgan, Buck Ewing, Joe Gerhardt, George Gore, Jim O'Rourke, Danny Richardson, John Ward)
1888 Philadelphia Quakers (Charlie Buffinton, Jack Clements, Jim Fogarty, Kid Gleason, Bill Hallman, Arthur Irwin, Deacon McGuire, George Wood)
1890 New York Giants (PL) (Roger Connor, Fred Dunlap, Buck Ewing, George Gore, Hank O'Day, Jim O'Rourke, Danny Richardson, Dan Shannon)
1891 Boston Beaneaters (Joe Kelley, King Kelly, Fred Lake, Bobby Lowe, Billy Nash, Kid Nichols, Joe Quinn, Harry Stovey)
1892 Boston Beaneaters (Hugh Duffy, King Kelly, Bobby Lowe, Tommy McCarthy, Billy Nash, Kid Nichols, Joe Quinn, Harry Stovey)
1897 Boston Beaneaters (Bob Allen, Jimmy Collins, Hugh Duffy, Fred Lake, Bobby Lowe, Kid Nichols, Chick Stahl, Fred Tenney)
1900 Boston Beaneaters (Jack Clements, Jimmy Collins, Hugh Duffy, Bobby Lowe, Kid Nichols, Chick Stahl, Billy Sullivan, Fred Tenney)
1900 Chicago Orphans (Bill Bradley, Roger Bresnahan, Nixey Callahan, Frank Chance, John Ganzel, Clark Griffith, Johnny Kling, Harry Wolverton)
1909 Washington Senators (Gavvy Cravath, Doc Gessler, Walter Johnson, George McBride, Clyde Milan, Jack Slattery, Gabby Street, Bob Unglaub)
1912 Chicago White Sox (Lena Blackburne, Nixey Callahan, Shano Collins, Kid Gleason, Harry Lord, Ray Schalk, Billy Sullivan, Ed Walsh)
1932 Chicago Cubs (Burleigh Grimes, Charlie Grimm, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Jurges, Zack Taylor)
1946 St. Louis Cardinals (Lou Klein, Marty Marion, Terry Moore, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Dick Sisler, Harry Walker, Del Wilber)
1955 St. Louis Cardinals (Ken Boyer, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Solly Hemus, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Harry Walker)
1959 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Mickey Vernon)
1960 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Alvin Dark, Eddie Haas, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Joe Torre)

Well, there's an obvious 19th Century/early-20th Century bias. Player-managers were much more common in those days, plus teams didn't employ coaches who could take over on an interim basis if the manager left mid-season. That's part of the reason the 1908 Red Sox come out on top. Manager Chick Stahl committed suicide just before the beginning of the 1907 season, and both Bob Unglaub and Cy Young assumed player-manager duties at various points.

Does this list really answer the titular question the way most people have in mind though? Do they consider a coach with managerial experience who made a few gimmicky playing appearances (back in the early days this wasn't uncommon) an official player on the team? What about interim managers with less than a full season at the helm? Are their playing careers those of "future managers"? Of course, some of these men were also former managers whose playing careers weren't over yet. What about them?

Let's narrow the criteria a bit. This time we'll take away the men who were former managers during these years they played but never managed again. In other words, who was actually a "future manager"?


1956 St. Louis Cardinals
(Ken Boyer, Alvin Dark, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Grady Hatton, Solly Hemus, Whitey Lockman, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon)


1873 Boston Red Stockings
(Bob Addy, Jack Manning, Jim O'Rourke, Al Spalding, Charlie Sweasy, Deacon White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1875 Boston Red Stockings (Juice Latham, Jack Manning, Cal McVey, Jim O'Rourke, Al Spalding, Deacon White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1877 Boston Red Caps (Tommy Bond, John Morrill, Tim Murnane, Jim O'Rourke, Deacon White, Will White, George Wright, Harry Wright)
1888 Philadelphia Quakers (Charlie Buffinton, Jack Clements, Jim Fogarty, Kid Gleason, Bill Hallman, Arthur Irwin, Deacon McGuire, George Wood)
1897 Boston Beaneaters (Bob Allen, Jimmy Collins, Hugh Duffy, Fred Lake, Bobby Lowe, Kid Nichols, Chick Stahl, Fred Tenney)
1900 Chicago Orphans (Bill Bradley, Roger Bresnahan, Nixey Callahan, Frank Chance, John Ganzel, Clark Griffith, Johnny Kling, Harry Wolverton)
1908 Boston Red Sox (Bill Carrigan, Gavvy Cravath, Doc Gessler, Harry Lord, Deacon McGuire, Tris Speaker, Jake Stahl, Heinie Wagner)
1912 Detroit Tigers (Donie Bush, Ty Cobb, Red Corriden, Bill Donovan, Hughie Jennings, George Moriarty, Jack Onslow, Ossie Vitt)
1932 Chicago Cubs (Burleigh Grimes, Charlie Grimm, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Jurges, Zack Taylor)
1946 St. Louis Cardinals (Lou Klein, Marty Marion, Terry Moore, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Dick Sisler, Harry Walker, Del Wilber)
1955 St. Louis Cardinals (Ken Boyer, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Solly Hemus, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Harry Walker)
1959 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Mickey Vernon)
1960 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Alvin Dark, Eddie Haas, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Joe Torre)

Wow. Already one team stands alone. The 1956 Cardinals literally had the most future managers get into a game for them that season. I guess we've now answered the question in the technical sense, but how ironclad is the '56 Redbirds' case? Just for kicks, let's narrow it down even more by taking out men who only managed on an interim basis. How do I define "interim"? Let's say any man who never began the season as manager. After all, there's plenty of time to replace a guy during the offseason if he's not the one the front office wants. Of course, if I find evidence to suggest that the guy was considered more than just a place-holder in a season he didn't begin, I'll let it pass.


1956 St. Louis Cardinals (Ken Boyer, Alvin Dark, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Grady Hatton, Solly Hemus, Whitey Lockman, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon)


1900 Chicago Orphans (Bill Bradley, Roger Bresnahan, Nixey Callahan, Frank Chance, John Ganzel, Clark Griffith, Johnny Kling, Harry Wolverton)
1908 Boston Red Sox (Bill Carrigan, Gavvy Cravath, Doc Gessler, Harry Lord, Deacon McGuire, Tris Speaker, Jake Stahl, Heinie Wagner)
1932 Chicago Cubs (Burleigh Grimes, Charlie Grimm, Stan Hack, Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Rogers Hornsby, Billy Jurges, Zack Taylor)
1955 St. Louis Cardinals (Ken Boyer, Joe Frazier, Alex Grammas, Solly Hemus, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Bill Virdon, Harry Walker)
1959 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Del Rice, Red Schoendienst, Mickey Vernon)
1960 Milwaukee Braves (Joe Adcock, Chuck Cottier, Del Crandall, Alvin Dark, Eddie Haas, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst, Joe Torre)

Wow again. This list got a lot smaller, yet the reductions weren't enough to knock the Cardinals from their perch. It looks like we have a winner. Next time someone asks you which Major League Baseball team had the most future managers pass through its clubhouse, you can confidently answer with the 1956 St. Louis Cardinals.

As was often the case with teams that had Frank "Trader" Lane as GM, there was a lot of wheeling and dealing going on during this season. In fact, of those nine future managers, Ken Boyer was the only one who spent the entire season in the organization. Dark and Lockman came over from the Giants in June, Frazier, Grammas, Hemus, Schoendienst and Virdon were all traded away by June, and Hatton was purchased in May and sold in August. All that baseball brainpower didn't add up to a winning season, as the Cardinals finished in 4th place with a 76-78 record.

I find it interesting that the 1959 Milwaukee Braves show up among the teams with eight future managers. Bill James once nominated them, under the leadership of Fred Haney, for the title of most poorly mismanaged team ever. Of those eight who later had a turn at the helm, only Red Schoendienst, who missed most of the season due to tuberculosis, had a long and successful managerial career.

Will we ever see the '56 Cardinals dethroned? I doubt it, since 1956 was only five years before expansion began. The gap between a man's playing and managerial primes is usually a decade or two wide. By 1977 there were 26 managerial jobs available, and most prospective skippers were condensed among just 16 organizations during their formative years in pro baseball. We have 30 teams today, but since there are almost no managers who played before expansion, the pool of former players who get a shot at managing will likely be spread out among more franchises.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PTWSW #17: The 1920 Cleveland Indians

Manager: Tris Speaker
Record: 98-56
Ballpark: League Park
Owner: James Dunn
GM: Ernest Barnard
Coaches: Jack McCallister

Future Hall of Famers: Stan Coveleski, Joe Sewell, Tris Speaker

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Tris Speaker, .388
OBP: Tris Speaker, .483
SLG: Tris Speaker, .562
OPS: Tris Speaker, 1.045
2B: Tris Speaker, 50 (AL leader)
3B: Larry Gardner, Tris Speaker, Bill Wambsganss, 11
HR: Elmer Smith, 12
RBI: Larry Gardner, 118
BB: Tris Speaker, 97
SB: Ray Chapman, Doc Johnston, 13

Team Leaders, Pitching

Jim Bagby, 31 (AL leader)
SO: Stan Coveleski, 133 (AL leader)
ERA: Stan Coveleski, 2.49
IP: Jim Bagby, 339.2 (AL leader)
CG: Jim Bagby, 30 (AL leader)
SHO: Jim Bagby, Stan Coveleski, 3
K/BB: Stan Coveleski, 2.05
SV: Stan Coveleski, Dick Niehaus, 2


Oldest Player: Larry Gardner (b. May 13, 1886)

Youngest Player: Joe Sewell (b. October 9, 1898)

First to Leave Us: Ray Chapman (d. August 17, 1920)

Last Survivor: Joe Sewell (d. March 6, 1990)

First in Majors: Tris Speaker (debut September 14, 1907)

Last in Majors: George Uhle (final game September 22, 1936)

First to Play For the Franchise: Jack Graney (April 30, 1908)

Last to Play For the Franchise: George Uhle (September 22, 1936)

Pre-union Team: The 1912-14 Red Sox had five: Larry Gardner, Les Nunamaker, Tris Speaker, Pinch Thomas and Joe Wood. Manager Speaker obviously knew there was talent on his former team.

Reunion Team: The 1922 Red Sox had George Burns, Elmer Myers and Elmer Smith (Two Elmers! What are the odds of that?).


Bill Wambsganss, unassisted triple play on October 10

Season Summary

It was the final year of the Dead Ball Era, and the game was changing. Stolen bases were on the decline and Babe Ruth was setting the baseball world on fire with his home run barrage. The Indians didn't completely keep the deadball flame burning. Their base-stealing was among the worst in the league, with only 73 successful attempts against 93 unsuccessful ones. They did, however, lead the league in drawing walks and sacrifice bunts, both of which might be associated with pesky "inside baseball" teams. They hardly led the new revolution either. Their 35 homers ranked in the second division of the AL leaderboard, but they made up for it by leading in doubles and placing second in triples. Overall, their 107 OPS+ was the AL's best. They were second only to the Yankees in fewest runs allowed, with their pitching and defense near the top in most categories.

The pennant race ultimately came down to three teams: the Indians, White Sox and Yankees. By mid-July they were the only ones left with a realistic shot. The Indians held a slim lead most of the season, but the Yankees occasionally crept ahead or tied them, while the Sox lurked in the shadows.

On August 16 the Yankees and Indians met in New York to begin a crucial three-game showdown. It looked sure to be exciting, but instead, tragedy struck. Indians shortstop Ray Chapman, batting against New York's Carl Mays, was hit in the head by a pitch and suffered a severe skull fracture. Chapman was rushed to the hospital, where he died the next day. The loss of Chapman was a huge blow to Cleveland. Not only was he one of their best players, he was also a popular teammate and friend in the clubhouse.

The Indians struggled immediately after the death of Chapman. They fell as far as third place before getting it together again in a four-game series at Washington two weeks later. In September the Indians acquired shortstop Joe Sewell from the minors to be Chapman's permanent replacement. Sewell was in his first year of pro baseball, but he impressed by batting .329 with Cleveland. Another key minor-league acquisition was pitcher Duster Mails, who went 7-0 with a 1.85 ERA after joining the Tribe in late August. From September 16 on the Indians were never out of first place. They went 12-4 after reaching first, yet they never led by more than two games during that final stretch. The valiant effort of the hard-charging White Sox came up just short.

The World Series against the Brooklyn Robins went seven games, which isn't quite as exciting as it sounds since they were still using the best-of-nine format. Game 5 was notable for three World Series firsts from the Indians. Right fielder Elmer Smith hit the first grand slam, pitcher Jim Bagby became the first hurler to go deep and second baseman Bill Wambsganss made the first (and to this day only) unassisted triple play in World Series history. Stan Coveleski nailed down the final victory for Cleveland in Game 7 with a shutout, his third win of the Series.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Monday, October 19, 2009

PTWSW #16: The 1919 Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Pat Moran
Record: 96-44
Ballpark: Redland Field
Owner: Garry Herrmann
GM: Frank Bancroft

Future Hall of Famers: Edd Roush

Team Leaders, Batting

Edd Roush, .321 (NL leader)
OBP: Heinie Groh, .392
SLG: Heinie Groh, .431 (fractionally better than Roush)
OPS: Heinie Groh, .823 (NL leader)
2B: Edd Roush, 19
3B: Jake Daubert, Greasy Neale, Edd Roush, 12
HR: Heinie Groh, 5
RBI: Edd Roush, 71
BB: Morrie Rath, 64
SB: Greasy Neale, 28

Team Leaders, Pitching

Slim Sallee, 21
SO: Hod Eller, 137
ERA: Dutch Ruether, 1.82
IP: Hod Eller, 248.1
CG: Slim Sallee, 22
SHO: Hod Eller, 7
K/BB: Hod Eller, 2.74
SV: Dolf Luque, Jimmy Ring, 3


Oldest Player: Jake Daubert (b. April 7, 1884)

Youngest Player: Ed Gerner (b. July 22, 1897)

First to Leave Us: Jake Daubert (d. October 9, 1924). Daubert died shortly after the end of the 1924 season due to complications from appendicitis surgery.

Last Survivor: Edd Roush (d. March 21, 1988). The only Hall of Famer on the team was the last one living. This has nothing to do with anything, but 1950's Cincinnati slugger Ted Kluszewski was born a month before Daubert's death and died eight days after Roush's death.

First in Majors: Sherry Magee (debut June 29, 1904)

Last in Majors: Dolf Luque (final game April 26, 1935)

First to Play For the Franchise: Heinie Groh (May 1913)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Edd Roush (September 27, 1931)

Pre-union Team: The 1916-17 Giants (Bill Rariden, Slim Sallee, Edd Roush (1916) and Jimmy Smith (1917)) and 1917 Braves (Sherry Magee, Wally Rehg and Hank Schreiber) each had three.

Reunion Team: The 1921 Phillies with three (Greasy Neale, Jimmy Ring, Jimmy Smith).


Hod Eller, no-hitter on May 11

Season Summary

The 1918-19 offseason was a period of change for the Reds. Pat Moran was hired as pitching coach for the Giants in January, but when the Reds expressed interest in him as their manager the Giants let him take the job. Moran replaced Christy Mathewson as Cincinnati skipper and Mathewson, in turn, took over Moran's intended coaching post with the Giants.

The 1918 Reds were a great offensive team that gave back most of those runs on pitching and defense. For 1919 they picked up pitchers Slim Sallee and Ray Fisher off the waiver wire, upgraded their middle infield defense with the additions of Morrie Rath and Larry Kopf, and replaced malcontent first baseman Hal Chase with former NL MVP Jake Daubert. The result was a team that led the league in fielding percentage and defensive efficiency and finished second in ERA+ at 124. Their offense actually averaged more runs per game than the previous season, finishing second only to the Giants in that statistic and OPS+.

The Reds got off to a solid-but-not-spectacular start. On June 5 they were 20-16 and tied for second, five games behind the Giants. A four-game sweep of Brooklyn immediately followed, which marked the beginning of the Reds' hitting their stride. From June 5 on they went 76-28 and won the pennant by nine games.

The Reds went on to beat the White Sox five games to three in the newly-revived best-of-nine format World Series. There was little drama during the eight games, most likely due to the Black Sox Scandal. Because several members of the White Sox were paid to throw the World Series, the game results are tainted. Members of the Reds insisted they would've won fix or no fix, but obviously, it can never be known for certain. It should be noted though, that the 1919 Reds had the highest winning percentage of any National League team between 1910 and 1941. To assume that the White Sox would've had an easy victory (as many often do) is to be ignorant of what a quality team Cincinnati fielded.


Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

Saturday, October 17, 2009

PTWSW #15: The 1918 Boston Red Sox

Manager: Ed Barrow
Record: 75-51
Ballpark: Fenway Park
Owner: Harry Frazee
Coaches: Heinie Wagner

Future Hall of Famers: Harry Hooper, Babe Ruth

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Babe Ruth, .300
OBP: Babe Ruth, .411
SLG: Babe Ruth, .555 (AL leader)
OPS: Babe Ruth, .966 (AL leader)
2B: Harry Hooper, Babe Ruth, 26
3B: Harry Hooper, 13
HR: Babe Ruth, 11 (AL leader)
RBI: Babe Ruth, 66
BB: Harry Hooper, 75
SB: Harry Hooper, 24

Team Leaders, Pitching

W: Carl Mays, 21
SO: Joe Bush, 125
ERA: Joe Bush, 2.11
IP: Carl Mays, 293.1
CG: Carl Mays, 30 (AL leader)
SHO: Carl Mays, 8 (AL leader)
K/BB: Carl Mays, 1.41
SV: Joe Bush, 2


Oldest Player: Heinie Wagner (b. September 23, 1880). As I said in the 1916 entry, he was mainly a coach at this point, but he did play in three games.

Youngest Player: Bill Pertica (b. August 17, 1898)

First to Leave Us: Heinie Wagner (d. March 20, 1943)

Last Survivor: Fred Thomas (d. January 15, 1986)

First in Majors: Heinie Wagner (debut July 1, 1902)

Last in Majors: Sam Jones (final game September 28, 1935)

First to Play For the Franchise: Heinie Wagner (September 26, 1906)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Joe Bush, Sam Jones, Stuffy McInnis and Everett Scott were all traded away after the 1921 season. That's right, just three years later the entire roster was turned over. All but Jones played in the final game of the season on October 2, 1921.

Pre-union Team: The 1913-16 Athletics had five: Joe Bush, Stuffy McInnis, Wally Schang, Amos Strunk and Weldon Wyckoff. Philadelphia's financial difficulties were a boon for Boston.

Reunion Team: The 1922-23 Yankees won pennants with the sextet of Joe Bush, Sam Jones, Carl Mays, Babe Ruth, Wally Schang and Everett Scott. As Yankee GM, Ed Barrow moved this great team west when Boston started facing financial difficulties of its own.


Dutch Leonard, no-hitter on June 3

Season Summary

Like the previous BoSox champs, run prevention was where the 1918 team excelled. Their pitching staff had the second-best ERA+ in the AL, and their defensive efficiency and fielding percentage were both league-bests. Their offense was solid, but not spectacular. Their best hitter by a long shot was Babe Ruth, a star pitcher who began playing outfield and first base on days when he wasn't pitching.

The Red Sox got off to a good start, holding onto first place for most of the first half. They never had a sizable lead though, and when they struggled in late June they briefly fell into second. On July 3, with the Red Sox still barely hanging on, Ruth quit the team to play in the Delaware River Shipbuilding League. Just days later, coach Heinie Wagner convinced him to return to Boston. Boston seemed rejuvenated by Ruth's return, as they broke out of their slump, regained sole possession of first place and held onto it for the rest of the season. In early August it was announced that the regular season would end on September 2 due to The Great War (WWI), making the Fall Classic instead a Late-Summer Classic.

The Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs in six games, scoring only nine runs in the entire series, to win their fourth championship of the decade. The legitimacy of this World Series has been called into question, as the Cubs made numerous boneheaded mistakes throughout. There was weakened interest in baseball at the time due to the war, and the players may have been motivated to increase their funds any way they could. Nothing's been proven, but it remains a source of debate.

Red Sox fans became all too familiar with this season in the years to come, as it would be their last World Series title until 2004.


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Has Anyone Picked on Joe Morgan Lately?

Most baseball fans were probably fortunate enough to be able to watch Game 1 of the ALCS on TV. I was not one of them. I still haven't gotten around to purchasing one of those digital TV converters, plus I had to work late. What does that mean? It means I had the privilege of listening to the game on ESPN radio during the drive home...with everyone's favorite broadcasting team of Joe Morgan and Jon Miller!

With the once-popular Fire Joe Morgan currently in retirement, I thought I'd share some small tidbits from the broadcast just in case anyone out there is still outraged over the Hall of Fame second baseman's employment. I don't have exact quotes, but I can paraphrase what was said.

Morgan: We hear so much about on-base percentage, but it's not the be-all, end-all. The pitcher isn't going to walk four straight batters. You need clutch hitters who can drive in those runs. On-base percentage only gives you more opportunities.

Interesting. Apparently Joe isn't aware that hitting is factored into on-base percentage.

Morgan further "supported" his argument by pointing out that the Yankees scored the most runs in the American League but didn't have the highest on-base percentage. I'm not sure where he got that stat, but it appears to be false (I love those sortable columns). The Yankees scored the most runs and had the highest on-base percentage, both by significant margins.

I had to laugh when Robinson Cano batted later that inning and the commentary went something like this (again, I'm paraphrasing):

Morgan: Cano with a chance to drive in some runs, but he's not very good in these situations! His batting average with runners in scoring position is only .207! Somehow he had 85 RBIs!

Miller: I think part of it's because he hits a lot of home runs and part of it's a product of being on this great Yankee team. You get a lot more RBI opportunities.

Thanks, Jon. Are you listening, Joe? Basically, even if you're not a "clutch hitter" you're still going to drive in a fair amount of runs if you keep getting opportunities. That's why (drumroll, please) on-base percentage is important.

In all honesty, I'm not the type of guy who gets bothered easily by announcers. Unless they're pervasively obnoxious (like, say...Chris Berman) I usually don't have a problem with them. Neither am I a "stathead" who has a condescending view of anyone whose approach to analysis is different than his. I'm cool with people who don't get into advanced statistics. Heck, I'm not nearly as into them as many bloggers are. I guess my point here is that I can live with Joe Morgan for the most part. I'm merely amused at his seeming inability to understand such a basic concept.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

PTWSW #14: The 1917 Chicago White Sox

Manager: Pants Rowland
Record: 100-54
Ballpark: Comiskey Park
Owner: Charles Comiskey
GM: Harry Grabiner
Coaches: Kid Gleason

Future Hall of Famers: Eddie Collins, Red Faber, Ray Schalk

Team Leaders, Batting

BA: Happy Felsch, .308
OBP: Eddie Collins, .389
SLG: Joe Jackson, .429
OPS: Joe Jackson, .805
2B: Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, 20
3B: Joe Jackson, 17
HR: Happy Felsch, 6
RBI: Happy Felsch, 102
BB: Eddie Collins, 89
SB: Eddie Collins, 53

Team Leaders, Pitching

Eddie Cicotte, 28 (AL leader)
SO: Eddie Cicotte, 150
ERA: Eddie Cicotte, 1.53 (AL leader)
IP: Eddie Cicotte, 346.2 (AL leader)
CG: Eddie Cicotte, 29
SHO: Eddie Cicotte, 7
K/BB: Eddie Cicotte, 2.14
SV: Dave Danforth, 9 (AL leader)


Oldest Player: Eddie Cicotte (b. June 19, 1884)

Youngest Player: Ted Jourdan (b. September 5, 1895)

First to Leave Us: Byrd Lynn (d. February 5, 1940)

Last Survivor: Zeb Terry (d. March 14, 1988). Interesting fact: excepting Lynn and Terry, everyone who played for this team died between 1947 and 1977.

First in Majors: Eddie Cicotte (debut September 3, 1905)

Last in Majors: Red Faber (final game September 20, 1933). Cicotte was the veteran ace and Faber the up-and-coming ace. Between them their careers covered the Major League service time of every man to play for this team. Interestingly, Cicotte was only four years older than Faber.

First to Play For the Franchise: Jim Scott (April 25, 1909). "Death Valley Jim" had the most tenure on the Sox, but he wasn't part of the World Series celebration, as he enlisted in the military before the end of the season.

Last to Play For the Franchise: Red Faber (September 20, 1933)

Pre-union Team: The 1912 Philadelphia Athletics (Eddie Collins, Dave Danforth, Eddie Murphy). Like the Red Sox of the era, the White Sox recognized the value of Connie Mack's players.

Reunion Team: Since eight of these players were banned for life three years later, the only reunion team you can find is the 1921-23 Red Sox, who had Shano Collins and Nemo Leibold.


Eddie Cicotte, no-hitter on April 14

Season Summary

After a close second-place finish the year before, the White Sox upgraded their infield with the acquisition of first baseman Chick Gandil and the introduction of rookie shortstop Swede Risberg. Third baseman Buck Weaver also emerged as an offensive force that year and second baseman Eddie Collins remained his Hall-of-Fame self. Throw in outfield stars "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and Happy Felsch, a league-leading on-base percentage and a league-leading stolen base total and you have a team that scored the most runs in the American League. Pitching-wise, they led the AL with a 123 ERA+, and their fielding percentage and defensive efficiency were both second only to Boston.

The White Sox didn't start the season storming out the gate. In fact, they were no-hit by the St. Louis Browns on consecutive days in early May. Things really got started when the Sox went on a 16-1 run a week later. The pennant race was fairly close. While the White Sox were in first place most of the way, the Red Sox were always right behind them. It wasn't until the White Sox went on an 18-1 run between August 23 and September 14 that they effectively put the Red Sox' pennant hopes out of reach.

There was little drama in the Sox' World Series victory over the New York Giants. The only moment most people remember from that Series is the botched rundown by the Giants in Game 6 which allowed Collins to score. That would also be the game where the Sox clinched the world championship. Red Faber appeared in four of the six games, posting a 3-1 record for the Series. This team would end up hovering over White Sox fans' heads for a long time, as it'd be their last World Series champion for 88 years.


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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Best Right Fielders By Season, 1954-2008

And now we come to the final installment of this series. It's the right fielders. You know the guys I'm talking about. The ones who hit for power and gun down baserunners.

All I can say about the National Leaguers early on is dang! From 1954 to 1972 you see nothing but Hall of Famers: Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente. Over in the AL you have Al Kaline and some Hall of Very Gooders: Hank Bauer, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Bob Allison and Tony Oliva. Interestingly enough, Maris wasn't even the most valuable right fielder in the game the year he hit those 61 homers. Frank Robinson's only AL topper season was 1966, the year of his Triple Crown.

Bobby Bonds ends the NL's Hall of Famer streak. Reggie Smith was a two-time topper in center field, and he did the same as a right fielder. Reggie Jackson was the AL's best seven times between 1969 and 1980. Shucks, I suppose that's why he's in the Hall of Fame. Dave Parker topped the NL three times in four seasons at his impressive peak. Dave Winfield only shows up twice.

Ken Singleton may be underrated, but his poor fielding ensured that he'd only top the league once. Sixto Lezcano, Jack Clark and Dwight Evans did it twice, and I have no idea how guys like Jay Johnstone, Leon Roberts and Mike Davis crept in here. Tony Armas may have been a "two true outcomes" kind of guy, but his good fielding and a career year at the plate made him co-best for 1980. Pedro Guerrero and Tom Brunansky were a pair of solid sluggers who had their moments in the sun.

The National League between 1984 and 1991 was mainly a battle between Tony Gwynn and Darryl Strawberry. One of those guys continued producing for the next decade and ended up in the Hall of Fame. The other was derailed by drugs and ended up in the "What Could Have Been" file. Jesse Barfield was a back-to-back topper in 1985 and 86, and Devon White barely outdid him in 1987. Despite qualifying for the Rookie of the Year Award in 1987, White finished fifth in the voting. Jose Canseco took three of four between 1988 and 1991, losing out only to Ruben Sierra in 1989.

Larry Walker may have been the best NL right fielder of the '90s, topping the league four times. When Walker wasn't beating out the competition, guys like David Justice, Reggie Sanders and Sammy Sosa were able to shine through. Speaking of Sosa, it's cool to see that he was the best National League right fielder in 1996. I remember the Cubs being criticized for signing him to a large extension in the middle of the 1997 season. Turns out they were just locking up the best guy at his position at the time. We all know Sosa won the MVP next year, but ironically, Vladimir Guerrero beat him out value-wise. In the American League the '90s seems to be a toss-up between Paul O'Neill, Manny Ramirez and Tim Salmon. Rob Deer manages to weasel his way in there during a weak 1992 though.

Bobby Abreu, Ellis Burks, Gary Sheffield and Brian Giles. Fine players all, but each stands atop the NL right field rankings only once. J.D. Drew, to my utter surprise, does it twice. The last two seasons have seen probable one-timers Corey Hart and Ryan Ludwick take the title. The AL this decade has belonged to Ichiro Suzuki three times, Magglio Ordonez twice and Trot Nixon, Vladimir Guerrero and Nick Markakis once each (I know Manny Ramirez won it in 2000, but I lumped him in with the '90s earlier).

Five of these guys were toppers in both leagues. Robinson, Smith, Winfield, Lezcano and Vladimir Guerrero.

The NL team leaders are the Braves and the Padres (didn't expect that second one) with four each. Over in the AL the Yankees take leadership of their fifth position with five.

So that's it for this series. I hope you enjoyed it. I'm sure my methodology could use some improvement, but I'm satisfied with it for now. Perhaps in the future I'll be able to rerun this series with more extensive and accurate results as more data becomes available.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Best Center Fielders By Season, 1954-2008

Those who play a mean center field and know how to use the lumber may be the most romanticized players in baseball. Just look at the top of this chart:

Willie, Mickey and The Duke. Willie Mays owned the NL between 1954 and 1970. Duke Snider only beat him out once, and it isn't until Mays started aging that you saw blips from guys like Adolfo Phillips and Jimmy Wynn. Al Kaline only barely beat out Mickey Mantle in 1959. Jimmie Hall had a good run from 1963 to 1965, topping the AL in the bookend seasons and barely finishing behind Mantle in the middle (books?) season.

Tommie Agee earned every bit of that 1966 American League Rookie of the Year Award by being the best center fielder in the Junior Circuit. Paul Blair and Reggie Smith alternated the next four seasons before Bobby Murcer had his two years of domination. The "other" center field Willie in the Dodgers-Giants rivalry, Willie Davis, finally got to top the league in 1971. Cesar Cedeno took it three times between 1972 and 1975.

Billy North was a solid player on a great team, and Elliott Maddox was the first guy so surnamed to top the league in center. The better-known and more famously-gloved Garry Maddox did it twice over in the National League. Like Agee before him, Fred Lynn was a league-topping super rookie in 1975.

The late '70s didn't seem to have any consensus best center fielder in either league. George Hendrick, Lee Mazzilli, Mickey Rivers, Lyman Bostock and Amos Otis all show up. Bostock's death a year after topping the league is especially tragic. Who knows what might have been?

Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson have their Hall of Fame proponents, but their peaks overlapped and neither one was a topper more than twice. 1984 to 1986 was a good period for National League center fielders. Kevin McReynolds, Willie McGee and Lenny Dykstra's teams all won the pennant in their topping years. Eric Davis breaks the streak. Even today many Red fans lament the fact that he never reached his full potential. Speaking of Dykstra, I wouldn't have pegged him as a three-time topper. Too bad he was injured all the time.

Dwayne Murphy and Chet Lemon are two three-time toppers who seem to be mostly forgotten today. Criminal. It's no surprise that Rickey Henderson became an AL topper when he was moved to center field. Brett Butler did it three times, once in the AL, twice in the NL, as did Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett (minus the league change). Andy Van Slyke did it twice. Robin Yount won the MVP in 1989, but his per-game value at his position was shared by a barely-qualifying Ellis Burks.

Most people would tell you without a second thought that Ken Griffey Jr. was the best center fielder of the '90s. As a four-time league-topper he probably was, but he didn't own the position the way I would've expected him to. In that same era Kenny Lofton topped the AL twice and the NL once. Bernie Williams did it three times, even though no one seems to consider him truly great. Jim Edmonds didn't just become a star once he moved to the National League, he co-topped the AL in 1995.

The second half of the '90s was as volatile as the latter portion of the '70s in the NL. Marquis Grissom, Ray Lankford, Lance Johnson, Lofton, Andruw Jones, Carl Everett and Brian Giles all spent time at the top. Of that group only Jones would rise again. From 2000 to 2005 Jones and Edmonds battled for the title of best National League center fielder each year.

Carlos Beltran emerged atop the AL in 2002, and Milton Bradley, who saw far less playing time, barely beat him out in 2003. Beltran topped the NL twice more after going to the Mets. Aaron Rowand, despite his famous overratedness, topped each league once. Now there's one I didn't see coming. The Royals probably weren't too disappointed after losing Beltran, since his replacement, David DeJesus, turned in a fluke topping year where he barely beat out Grady Sizemore, the man with the reputation. Sizemore was no match for Curtis Granderson's great 2007 season either.

The two NL teams with the most leaders are the Mets and Dodgers, with four each. The AL leader is (hey, I called it!) the Yankees with six.

Next time we'll conclude this series with a look at the right fielders. Hope you have a good arm!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Best Left Fielders By Season, 1954-2008

It's probably the only position where you could play either a weak-armed speedster or a slow-footed slugger. It's left field! Who tops each league each season?

Well, we unsurprisingly see some Hall of Famers here: Monte Irvin, Ted Williams, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Brock, Willie Stargell, Jim Rice and Rickey Henderson. Barry Bonds on pure production alone deserves to join their ranks someday, but it remains to be seen whether the voters will deem him worthy. Manny Ramirez, despite being less publicly hated than Bonds (though not by me), may face the same dilemma. Pete Rose is here too, but we all know he's a special case.

There are a significant number of guys here who are considered deserving outsiders or just on the borderline too: Del Ennis, Minnie Minoso, Rocky Colavito, Frank Howard, Tim Raines and Albert Belle. Matt Holliday, Jason Bay and Carl Crawford are still wait-and-sees. Not much to say about the aforementioned guys except that we know they are/were great. It's the rest of the list that's interesting.

Bob Cerv was essentially a one-hit wonder, but what a season it was: .305/.371/.592 batting line, 38 homers and a 159 OPS+. He never produced like that over a full season again. Carlos Quentin's 2008 was great, but after an injury-plagued 2009 he may end up just like Cerv. Mitchell Page's rookie season was outstanding and his second was very good, but he fizzled out after that. These guys are the ones who look unusual here based on name recognition. Tommy Davis was only great for about two years, but his profile is considerably higher because he played for the Dodgers and had such a long career.

One underrated Dodger though, is Wally Moon. Would you believe he was the National League's best left fielder twice in a three-year span and was second-best the year he wasn't? The 1960 AL tie is an oddity, as neither man shows up anywhere else. One was a mediocre player in the middle of a career-best three-year stretch (Tito Francona) and the other was an aging star who'd been overshadowed by better players throughout his career (Gene Woodling).

Bob Allison, Boog Powell and Tony Gonzalez were consistently good offensive players throughout their careers, but none was an all-time great. The 1969 Miracle Mets owe a lot of their success to Cleon Jones having a well-timed peak, as he was the best NL left fielder that year.

When Yankee fans tell you how great one of their old players was it's usually safe to brush it off as a combination of buying into one's own hype and the halo effect. Sometimes though, a Yankee does manage to be better than his national reputation. Case in point: Roy White. Between 1970 and 1976 he was the best American League left fielder three times. I remember watching old Yankee games from the "Bronx Zoo" era on Classic Sports Network as a kid and wondering who this Roy White guy I'd never heard of was. It turns out he was a longtime Yankee stalwart enjoying some championships at the end of his career. Who knew?

Rico Carty only tops the league once, but he comes in second a few times, which makes him underrated in my book. Joe Rudi topped the sevens for two of the three Athletic three-peat seasons, and Tommy Harper shows up at his second position, previously topping the AL at third base in 1970. 1975 was a good year for completely un-noteworthy left fielders. Nothing against Gary Matthews, Claudell Washington and Richie Zisk, but there's not much to say about them. None of them ever topped the league again, and I'd hardly consider any of them Hall of Very Gooders. Hall of Above Averagers, maybe. I dunno. George Foster was the NL's best three times in four years, interrupted only by Greg Luzinski in 1978. It's no wonder Foster was considered a possible future Hall of Famer at one point.

Willie Wilson's defense, baserunning and average made him the best in the AL just before Rickey Henderson's emergence. He might've given Henderson a run for his money if he'd had the overall on-base skills. Lonnie Smith and Jose Cruz aren't considered all-time greats by many people, but they were both two-time league toppers in the '80s. Kirk Gibson topped the AL in 1987, then went to the NL in 1988 where topped that league, won the MVP and delivered one of the most dramatic homers in World Series history. All-in-all, not a bad two-year run.

Rickey Henderson's last year as a topper was 1992, and his immediate successors were a Juan Gonzalez/Greg Vaughn tie. Albert Belle emerged soon after that, but Rusty Greer outdid him twice in the middle of his peak, as did B.J. Surhoff in 1997, Belle's disappointing first year in Chicago. Luis Gonzalez can hold his head up high knowing he was the only man to better Barry Bonds as best NL left fielder between 1990 and 2004.

Was left field a dead zone in the American League between 1999 and 2002 or what? Johnny Damon, Darin Erstad, Bobby Higginson and Jacque Jones come out as the leaders in those years. I remember Damon's hot streak in 1999 and Erstad's monster 2000, but I never would've expected Higginson or Jones to pop up here. Amazing. Cub fans wish Alfonso Soriano could repeat his performance from 2006, since they're stuck with him for five more years, and Coco Crisp parlayed his great 2005 into a stint with the Red Sox. What a group.

The NL team with the most toppers is the Giants, with five. Right behind them are the archrival Dodgers and the Pirates with four. The Red Sox and their left field legacy lead the AL with six, but the Athletics are a close second with five.

Next time we'll get to the last "up-the-middle" position, and one where the Yankees have traditionally been very strong: center field. Will the Yankees' be mentioned at the bottom of the post like the Red Sox were in this one? We shall see!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Best Shortstops By Season, 1954-2008

Who's the most important defender? Shortstop! Shortstop! And who tops the league at shortstop each season?

The shortstop crop in the '60s and '70s was famously weak. In fact, from 1962 to 1977 there are no Hall of Fame toppers. Luis Aparicio has the reputation from that era, but he only leads his league twice. Ernie Banks, his crosstown counterpart, completely dominated the NL from 1955 to 1961. Cub fans didn't have much to cheer for in those days, but the best player in baseball at perhaps the most glorious position might have brightened up the North Side ever so slightly. Pee Wee Reese precedes Banks as the NL's best shortstop, and we can only wonder how many more times he was a league-topper in the pre-Retrosheet era. Harvey Kuenn also deserves some mention as a two-time leader.

The late Woodie Held was the American League's best shortstop three years in a row. Can you believe it? I remember coming across his entry in the Baseball Encyclopedia back in the day and wondering why you never heard about this guy, as he appeared to be pretty good. I guess he was better than even I realized.

After Banks was moved to first base the NL sees the likes of Maury Wills, Denis Menke and Dick Groat inherit his spot. Gene Alley surprised me with a three-year run at the top too. The best AL shortstop of the '60s era seems to be Jim Fregosi, who topped the league three times. One-hit wonders like Eddie Bressoud, Ron Hansen, Zoilo Versalles, Dick McAuliffe and Rico Petrocelli make up most of the remaining group.

The one AL guy from the '60s I didn't mention was Bert Campaneris. He topped the AL five times between 1968 and 1977, including all three years of the Athletics' three-peat. He's often struck me as severely underrated, and these findings back up that striking. He's no Hall of Famer, but he deserves to be remembered.

Cincinnati (and Joe Morgan) favorite Dave Concepcion shows up atop the NL four times. Impressive, but I don't think those credentials are enough for the Hall in such a weak era for shortstops. Bud Harrelson, Chris Speier and Garry Templeton each show up twice in the same era. Those first two surprise me more than the last. None were truly great, though. Mark Belanger was never much of a hitter, but his defense was so good that he was able to top the AL twice.

Poor Dickie Thon. Best National League shortstop twice before that beaning. Ozzie Smith was surely the NL shortstop of the '80s, but would he have held that title if Thon's career had stayed on track?

Robin Yount topped the AL four times in five years. Some consider him overrated, but his longevity combined with his peak make it clear why he's in the Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken almost couldn't help but be overrated due to The Streak. Still, he'd be my pick as AL shortstop of the '80s, and his six-in-nine topping stretch proves his reputation to be reasonably well-deserved. The guy who beat him out those other three years, Alan Trammell, was no slouch either.

Ozzie Smith's NL successor was Barry Larkin, a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Topping the league ten of twelve seasons? That's either an elite player or the best of a truly horrid group. All evidence suggests the former. The only guy to beat out Larkin in the NL during the '90s was Jeff Blauser, and that was only because Larkin was injured for half the season.

No wonder Pat Listach was Rookie of the Year in 1992. He was a league-topper. Too bad he fizzled out after that.

We all remember the AL's "Big Three" shortstops (Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter), but John Valentin was the best in the Junior Circuit for three years before they emerged. After Valentin, one of the Big Three topped the AL each year until 2004.

As much as we Yankee-haters want Derek Jeter to be overrated, he comes out on top twice in the '90s and again in 2006 (and probably will again once I run the numbers for this season). All the "Jeter isn't the best shortstop on his own team" talk seems a little weaker when you realize that A-Rod isn't quite the dominant force he's often portrayed as. Like I said last time, he's one of the great ones, but perhaps not quite as transcendent as his reputation would have you believe.

The 2000 NL season probably deserves an asterisk. Barry Larkin and Rafael Furcal fell just short of my minimum innings requirement, and both provided more value per game than Rich Aurilia. Would their production have dropped off had they played more? Who knows? All I know is that Rich Aurilia is now a two-time NL topper. Edgar Renteria follows in Aurilia's footsteps with the same accomplishment.

When Jimmy Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP there were some who argued that Hanley Ramirez was the more valuable shortstop. Looks like Fangraphs disagrees. Jhonny Peralta shows up twice, much to my surprise. Hey, would you have believed it? Felipe Lopez, Jose Reyes, Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera have each had turns at the top too.

The NL team with the most men on this list is the Cardinals, with four. The AL leader, also with four, is the Red Sox.

Next time we'll be getting to the outfield. While outfielders often get lumped into one big group, I think each individual outfield position is important enough to merit its own post. The frequent shifting of outfielders made data compilation frustrating at times, but I think the effort was worth it. Next time I post this blog will be sporting a list of left fielders.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Best Third Basemen By Season, 1954-2008

Third base is one of those odd positions. Steve Treder has called it "The Crossroads" due to its place smack dab in the center of the defensive spectrum. Few great players make a name for themselves as third basemen, but most of the men on the following list did:

What a surprise. Mike Schmidt dominates the NL spot from 1974 to 1987. In 1985, the one year he didn't top the league, he was deployed primarily at first base. While he didn't top the majors each year, there's no denying Schmidt was the most productive third baseman ever to play the game.

The NL was generally the superior league for hot cornermen up through the Schmidt era. Eddie Mathews dominated the decade between 1954 and 1963, but Ken Boyer occasionally gave him a run for his money. Ron Santo inherited Mathews' throne in the mid-'60s, and Tony Perez and Dick Allen show up in the same time frame. All of them either are or (in my opinion) should be in the Hall of Fame (though Boyer is debatable). We get three sub-greatness guys (Joe Torre, Richie Hebner, Darrell Evans) right before the Schmidt era begins.

I once read an internet discussion where someone claimed that the only reason Brooks Robinson had such a lofty reputation was because the American League hadn't seen any truly great third basemen in a while when he came along. Indeed, I never would've guessed that Ray Boone was the AL's best third baseman three years straight, or that Frank Malzone or Eddie Yost ever claimed the title. It's interesting to note that Brooks was never far and away the best at his position during the '60s. Clete Boyer, Pete Ward, Ed Charles and Harmon Killebrew all either bested or tied him at various points. At least Clete's great 1961 season means there's one year in this database where two brothers held the top spot at the same position in each league.

Sal Bando was pretty much Robinson's successor in the AL, though good years from Tommy Harper and Graig Nettles kept him from a stranglehold on the title. Speaking of Nettles, that 1971 tie is the only season where he shows up at the top. He is, however, pretty consistently in the top one-third of qualifying third basemen during his peak years. I don't support the Hall of Fame case put forth by some biased Yankee fans, but he's a clear Very Gooder.

After a brief detour (Eric Soderholm? Really?), George Brett takes his place as Bando's AL successor. He only has four years at the top, but they come in a five-year span, a peak to be proud of in a strong era for third basemen. Buddy Bell and Doug DeCinces each peek through twice before Wade Boggs takes the title five years straight (the middle of a seven-in-nine-years run).

How about that Edgar Martinez? Three straight years topping the AL! Just imagine if he'd been able to stay there his whole career! He'd be a no-brainer Hall of Famer next year instead of a debatable one. Robin Ventura, one of my favorites, gets a year in after Martinez, then Boggs shows up for the eighth and final time.

Over in the NL we see Matt Williams three times, Ken Caminiti twice and blips from guys like Bobby Bonilla, Howard Johnson, Terry Pendleton and Gary Sheffield. Of course, that's just the ten years post-Schmidt.

Edgardo Alfonzo, better known as a second baseman, takes it in 1997. Over in the AL we see Jim Thome, better known as a first baseman, take it in 1995 and 1996. Tony Fernandez, better known as a shortstop, takes it in 1999. Funny. You could construct an entire infield out of these '90s toppers.

After Alfonzo, Chipper Jones has a nice three-year run. He won't be back until 2008. I don't think anyone (including myself) has ever considered Scott Brosius anything other than a role player, but he was in fact twice the AL's best third baseman. Who would've thunk it? Of course, Jeff Cirillo's numbers are better than Brosius' in 1998. If the Brewers hadn't moved to the NL that year he might've topped the AL two straight seasons.

The NL this decade has been pretty much up-for-grabs. Scott Rolen takes it twice (including 2002, the year he was traded to St. Louis), and the rest of the picture is populated with flashes-in-the-pan like Phil Nevin, Adrian Beltre and Morgan Ensberg. In fairness to Beltre though, he did do it again in the AL with much less impressive stats than in his incredible 2004 season. Two bright young stars, Miguel Cabrera and David Wright, show up in 2006 and 2007.

The AL this decade has been more consistent. Troy Glaus gets a year in at the top, but the next four years belong to Eric Chavez and Corey Koskie. Chavez I could believe, since he had the reputation, but Koskie surprised me. I didn't realize baseball was losing such a good player when Koskie's career prematurely ended.

Of course, Alex Rodriguez has dominated the position since moving to third, right? Well, not quite. In 2004, his first year at third, he lost out to Chavez. In 2005 he took it, but next year he finished just behind a two-way tie between the aforementioned Beltre and (I'm not making this up) Mark Teahen. In 2007 and 2008 he took it again. Is A-Rod a tad overrated? I'm inclined to say yes, though he's obviously still one of the greats.

Overall, the Braves lead the NL with four league-toppers, while the Athletics and Yankees share AL leadership with four each.

Next time it's the "6" position, the most important on the field, the shortstop. So uh, yeah, that should be fun. See you then.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Best Second Basemen By Season, 1954-2008

Second base. The cornerstone. Possibly the most aesthetically glorified position in baseball. We love those guys who can turn the double play. You know my methodology, let's see what it gives us.

Wow. So much inconsistency, particularly in the AL. Only two AL second basemen bested the league four straight seasons, and both played for the Twins: Rod Carew and Chuck Knoblauch.

Based on reputation, Nellie Fox was the best second baseman of the '50s. He shows up three times in the four years between 1957 and 1960. Between 1954 and 1958 he only shows up once. Is he overrated? As a big Nellie Fox fan I'd like to think not, but I must admit he's nothing close to the inner circle of great second basemen.

One player it is safe to call overrated is Bobby Richardson. From what I've read, he was considered the best AL second baseman of the '60s. Only once does he show up atop the AL, and that's 1963. Jerry Lumpe and Dick McAuliffe show up there more often than he does. I think it's more accurate to say that Richardson played in a weak era for second basemen and only got national recognition because his team won a bunch of pennants. Interestingly, Lumpe originally came up in the Yankee system. If the Bronx Bombers had held onto him he probably would've gotten his due.

Red Schoendienst, Don Blasingame and Bill Mazeroski each show up twice in the NL during that era. Jim Gilliam shows up three times. Mazeroski may have been a great fielder, but it's hard to say his defense pushed him to any type of elite level. I've never felt he belonged in the Hall, even though Bill James does. Frank Bolling shows up once in each league.

Joe Morgan bests the NL for the first time in 1965 and for the last time in 1982. That's some longevity right there. During that span he led a total of 11 times. Now that's inner circle of great second basemen. Sorry, Nellie.

I would never have expected Ron Hunt to show up here three times. I guess getting hit by pitches is a silent value-raiser. Davey Johnson also had a brief moment in the sun that coincided with the Orioles' dominance.

Things start to get interesting in the late '70s. We see an era where two third basemen, one playing out of position (Bill Madlock) and another who'd move there later (Ken Oberkfell), both show up. Bump Wills came out on top of the AL in his rookie year of 1977, but he finished a mere third in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Three players emerge in the AL who all have interesting cases: Bobby Grich, Willie Randolph and Lou Whitaker. Grich has his Hall of Fame supporters, but only thrice was he the league's best second baseman. Playing in the shadow of Rod Carew can do that to you sometimes. Randolph also shows up three times, but there's a difference of nine years between the first and last times, proving the longevity factor. He rarely gets discussed as a possible Hall of Famer, and while I don't quite think he belongs, he's closer than many people may realize. It's rare to see an underrated Yankee. As for Whitaker, between 1982 and 1991 he bests the league seven times. He's got more Hall supporters than Randolph or Grich, and after doing this exercise I think I'd have to count myself among them.

Ryne Sandberg had the reputation over in the NL, and he definitely showed up in his 1984 MVP season. He didn't come out on top again until 1988 though, and after being narrowly beat out by Robby Thompson in 1989 he led until 1992. Bill Doran, on the other hand, shows up three times between 1983 and 1987. Might he be a better candidate for NL second baseman of the '80s than Sandberg?

Roberto Alomar, like Bump Wills before him, topped his league in his rookie year. Also like Wills, he failed to win the ROY, placing fifth in the voting. Of course, Alomar didn't do so bad with the rest of his career. He went on to top his league four more times, the last being in 2001. While he wasn't the dominant force he was often made out to be, he was clearly one of the better second-sackers in the game when he wasn't the best.

After Sandberg's run at the top of the NL ended Craig Biggio was there to take over for him. He led five straight years from 1994 to 1998. Following Edgardo Alfonzo's strong 1999, Jeff Kent began a three-year run of his own. Yes, that's right. Only three years. Don't be blinded by the power numbers. In 2003 and 2004 he was bested by Marcus Giles and Mark Loretta, respectively. For real.

The last seven years have had seven different AL leaders. Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano, Alfonso Soriano and Bret Boone probably come as no surprise, but what about Brian Roberts, Placido Polanco and Orlando Hudson? You never know who'll emerge in a given year. The NL has been much more steady, with Chase Utley owning not just the NL, but all of baseball since 2005.

Overall, the NL team with the most leaders during this era is the Giants, with six. The Dodgers are right behind them with five, and the Reds and Cardinals each have four. In the AL it's a tie between the Yankees and Tigers with five. The Orioles and Rangers follow with three each.

Next time it's the hot cornermen. You won't be surprised at all who holds the record for most years as a league topper. Some others might widen your eyes a little though. Stay tuned!