… “and let slip the dogs of war.”-William Shakespeare, “Julius Caesar”, Act III.
In the previous post I commented on the change in the pitching distance instituted in the National League in 1893. It ushered in the modern game by placing all the players where they currently play. It created havoc not only with the pitchers, but also with the hitters. That havoc reached its zenith in 1894.
Hitting numbers are crazy in 1894. I can’t think of a better word. Boston’s Hugh Duffy hit .440 (all stats are from David Nemic The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Major League Baseball published in 1997, a book worth having), and hit 18 home runs. His slugging percentage was .694 and he had 237 hits. Boston finished third that season. But the biggest numbers were in Philadelphia.
The 1894 Phillies set a record with a team batting average of .349. Their slugging percentage was .476 for the team and they lead the league with 1732 hits. The outfield hit .400. Not just a single player, but the entire outfield hit .400. Center Fielder and Hall of Famer Billy Hamilton hit .404 with a .523 on base percentage (yes, that reads .523) and stole 98 bases. Stolen bases were figured differently in 1894 and included going from first to third on a single as a stolen base. The modern stolen base rule began in 1898 and stolen base totals dropped overnight. The number that sets Hamilton apart from everybody else is 192. That’s the number of runs he scored while playing only 131 games. That works out to 1.47 runs a game. So everytime Hamilton took the field, Philadelphia could count on one and a half runs. Left Fielder and Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty hit .407 with 199 hits, 147 runs, 131 RBIs, and a .585 slugging percentage. Right Fielder and fellow Hall of Famer Sam Thompson also hit .407 with a .686 slugging percentage, 141 RBIs and 27 triples. Even the substitute outfielder got into the act. Backup Tuck Turner hit a team leading .416 over 80 games with a .540 slugging percentage and 82 RBIs. First Baseman Jack Boyle was the weak hitter among the regulars netting only a .301 average. Three subs (two backup catchers and a shortstop) played 40 or more games. One of them hit .346 while the other two managed to hit .294 and .255.
So what did all this offense get them? Fourth place, 18 games out in a 12 team league. League pitching was down in 1894 in general and in Philadelphia it was the same. Jack Taylor was the ace going 31-23 with a 4.08 ERA (good for fifth in the league) but the rest of the staff had ERA’s well over 5.00 with the team coming in at 5.63, 10th in a 12 team league. They were ninth in strikeouts and sixth in hits.
By 1895 things began to calm down, only two men hitting over .400 and Hamilton scoring only 166 runs in 123 games (1.35 per game). But baseball was secure. The fans loved the new found offense.