and the Reds

Heinie Groh, Reds leader in WAR in 1919

In my continuing effort to dazzle you with numbers, here’s four more sets for you to look over. The first two are hitting stats in the following order: hits, runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, walks, strikeouts, batting average, OBP, slugging, OPS, total bases, OPS+ and WAR.

team A 1204/578/135/83/20/489/143/405/368/263/327/342/669/1565/61/21.0

team B 1343/668/218/70/25/571/150/427/358/287/351/380/731/1776/104/25.6

By now you’ve surely figured that one is the 1919 Cincinnati Reds. You’re right; they are team A. Having deduced that you’re pretty sure that team B is the 1919 Chicago White Sox, the Reds’ opponents in the World Series. Again, you would be right. Pat yourself on the back.

There is a common idea that the only reason the Reds won the World Series in 1919 is because the White Sox turned their hose black. The Sox were heavy favorites and would have won easily if they’d played the game on the up-and-up. The hitting numbers above tend to bear that out. Chicago is clearly better in everything except triples and they strike out more frequently than the National League’s finest.

Add to those numbers the undisputed fact that since 1910, the National League team won a single World Series (1914) and that team was known, even at the time, as the “Miracle Braves.” Anybody called “Miracle” anything is pretty much acknowledged as a fluke. So the American League was clearly the superior league and the White Sox, having just won in 1917 with pretty much the same team, was surely better than the Reds.

OK, maybe. But here’s two more sets of numbers for you to look over. They are pitching stats in the following order ERA, hits given up, runs given up, earned runs given up, walks allowed, strike outs ERA+, WHIP, WAR

Team A: 223/1274/401/316/298/407/126/1.100/16.2

Team B: 304/1245/539/427/342/468/106/1.254/14.3

Again the teams are the Reds and White Sox in that order (and all stats from the team page at BaseballReference.com). This time the Reds show up with better numbers overall.  So before we determine that the White Sox were going to win in 1919, maybe we should consider the pitching staff of each team. Just maybe the Reds were good enough to shut down Chicago with superior pitching.

There are a couple of great unknowns in all this. The first is that in the era the two leagues played no interleague games during the season. There wasn’t even an All Star Game. So that White Sox beating up on American League pitching means little against a team with no pitchers who played in the AL in 1919. No Reds pitchers played for any team other than the Reds in 1919 (and no Reds hitters played in the AL in 1919). The White Sox had two pitchers (Win Noyes and Pat Ragan) who had pitched in the NL in 1919, but neither appeared in the Series (Erskine Mayer pitched in the Series and had pitched in the NL, but had not pitched in the NL in 1919) and none of the ChiSox hitters were National Leaguers at any point in 1919. So there is no way to directly compare the players on either team against common opponents. So the White Sox hitters ability to beat up on AL pitching has no reference point against the Reds staff and the same works for the Reds hitters versus Chicago.

Most importantly, teams like the “Miracle Braves” and the “Hittless Wonders” (the White Sox world champions of 1906) indicate that sometimes teams that aren’t favored win the World Series (see teams like the “Miracle Mets” of 1969 and the Dodgers of 1988). So I’d just rather leave it at the White Sox were favored in 1919. Would they have won if the players had not “thrown” games? It’s certainly possible, but give the Reds a bit of credit. They were a champion also.

Edd Roush, Hall of Fame Reds outfielder

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