Posts Tagged ‘Beals Becker’

1915: The New Kids in the Natonal League

April 8, 2015
Erskine Mayer

Erskine Mayer

Philadelphia joined the National League in 1876 and was tossed out before the end of the season. A team was formed in the rival American Association and won the 1883 Association pennant. The National League returned to Philly in 1883 when Worcester folded and the rights to a new franchise were given to Philadelphia. The new team was called the Quakers and managed to finish last. It was fairly typical for the NL team in Philly. Between 1883 and 1914 they’d won absolutely nothing. That changed finally in 1915, one hundred years ago.

The 1914 Phils finished sixth in an eight team league. It cost manager Red Dooin his job. Pat Moran, who’d played one game for Philadelphia in 1914 took over the job. He was 38 and a catcher. He’d not had much of a career (.235, a 78 OPS+, and a total WAR of 6.8), but he turned into a successful manager (He led the 1919 Reds to a World Series title). He ran a team that was greatly changed in 1915.

The 1915 Phillie infield (first to third) consisted of Fred Luderus, Bert Neihoff, Dave Bancroft, and Bob Byrne. Luderus was a holdover from the previous year. He’d hit only .248 but was second on the team with 12 home runs. Byrne was also a holdover, although he’d been the regular second baseman in 1914. Bancroft and Neihoff were both new. Bancroft was 24 and a rookie, just beginning what became a Hall of Fame career, while Neihoff came to the Phils from Cincinnati.

The outfield contained two holdovers and one new guy. The new guy was Possum Whitted. He’d been the cleanup hitter for the World Champion Boston Braves in 1914, but came to Philly in the off-season. His 43 RBIs were fourth on the team. One of the holdovers was Beals Becker. He hit only .246 in 1915, but was second on the team in home runs. The other was Gavvy Cravath. Cravath was the Philadelphia power hitter. He led the team in homers, RBIs, and runs, and was second in hits. His 24 home runs, 115 RBIs, 89 runs, and 170 OPS+ all led the NL.

Bill Killefer (played by James Millican in the flick “The Winning Team”) did the bulk of the catching. He wasn’t much of  a hitter, but was a good catcher. His backup, Ed Burns hit about the same but without the receiving skills. Dode Paskert and Milt Stock joined Burns as the only men on the bench who played more than 40 games. Stock led the bench with a .260 average and Paskert had three home runs.

Five men did most of the pitching. The ace was Grover Cleveland Alexander (who didn’t look much like Ronald Reagan in “The Winning Team”). Alexander went 31-10, had 12 shutouts, and struck out 241 while putting up a 1.22 ERA (ERA+ of 225) and a BBREF WAR of 10.9. Erskine Mayer was the two pitcher. He was 21-15 with a 2.36 ERA. Lefty Eppa Rixey had a losing record, but still recorded an ERA+ of 115. Al Demaree and George Chalmers rounded out the starters. Southpaw Stan Baumgartner and righty Ben Tincup did most of the bullpen work, but didn’t manage to post a single save (Alexander led the team with three).

The Phils won the pennant by seven games over reigning champ Boston. they were second in the league in runs, but last in hits (That’s a really odd combination, isn’t it?). They led the NL in home runs, were third in both doubles and RBIs. The staff led the league in ERA, hits, and runs, and was third in strikeouts. Individually, Cravath led the NL in offensive WAR, slugging, OBP, runs, walks, total bases, RBIs, and home runs. A caveat should be thrown in here. Almost all of Cravath’s 24 homers came at home in the small Philly ball park, Luderus finished second in hitting, second in doubles, and fifth in OBP and 10th in hits. Bancroft was third in runs scored and second in walks. Among pitchers Alexander led the NL in ERA, wins, WAR, strikeouts, shutouts, complete games, innings pitched, and just about anything else you can think of for pitchers. Mayer’s 21 wins were third in the league and he was ninth in strikeouts. He did, however, also lead the league in gopher balls.

The Phillies were one hit wonders. In 1916 they dropped back to second, stayed there in 1917, then went south quickly. They would return to their normal middle of the pack to second division status for the rest of the first half of the 20th Century. Their next pennant would come in 1950, the same year Alexander died.

Opening Day, 1914: National League

March 30, 2014
George Stallings, "The Miracle Man"

George Stallings, “The Miracle Man”

The National League opened play in 1914 in mid-April, but with opening day starting earlier now, it seems like a good time to finish my look at how things stacked up in 1914. It’s important to remember it’s a different world in 1914. Black Americans couldn’t vote or play in the Major Leagues, most Americans still lived in rural settings (but that would change by 1920), the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was still alive (his death in June would spark World War I), the Braves were still in Boston and they were supposed to be bad.

The New York Giants were three-time defending NL champions and expected to repeat in 1914. They were led by Hall of Fame pitchers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard with Hall of Fame manager John McGraw at the helm. It was decent, but not great lineup with soon to be war casualty Eddie Grant available as a sub. By way of  compensation, third pitcher Jeff Tesreau  would have a career year.

Philadelphia finished second in 1913 and looked set for another run at a pennant in 1914. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the ace and would have more wins and strikeouts than any other NL pitcher. But the rest of the staff, minus Erskine Meyer, would have a down year. Gavvy Cravath would lead the league in home runs with 19  (he also led in OPS and OPS+, but those stats weren’t around in 1914), and Sherry Magee won the RBI total with a miniscule 103. But other than Beals Becker’s .325 average the rest of the team didn’t do much.

The Cubs and Pirates finished third and fourth in 1913. Cubs pitching, even with Three-Finger Brown moved to the Federal League was still good, but the hitting wasn’t even vaguely on par with the pitching. The Pirates were aging. Honus Wagner, their best player, had his first bad year and without him, Pittsburgh had no one to step up.

The Braves finished fifth in 1913. They were 69-82, which was best among teams with a losing record, but still fifth. But there had been a revolution in Boston. Of the 1913 infield, only Rabbit Maranville, the shortstop, remained with the team. The catcher was new, as was one outfielder. the new players included Hall of Fame second baseman Johnny Evers (who would win the NL’s 1914 Chalmers Award–the 1914 version of the MVP) and a clutch of players brought over during the season who would turn the team around. The pitching also came around. By the fourth of July they were still out of the running (last place), but that would change as manager George Stallings’ (I still try to call him “Gene Stallings” some times) platoon system, judicious use of pitchers, a great (for the era) fielding team, and timely hitting brought them all the way to first as the “Miracle Braves.”

Nothing much was expected of Brooklyn, St. Louis, or Cincinnati, but Brooklyn’s Jake Daubert won the batting title and the Cardinals Bill Doak took the ERA title. Doak’s pitching helped St. Louis more than Daubert’s hitting helped Brooklyn with the Card’s coming in third and Brooklyn fifth.

It was not a great year for rookies in the NL. In May 1914, the Braves brought Dolf Luque to the team. He got into two games, lost one of them, and ended up being a non-factor in the Braves’ sprint for the championship. He would make his mark a few years later.

Boston was a big underdog in the 1914 World Series, but ended up sweeping the Athletics away in four games. They hit .244 while Philly had an average of only .172. Boston’s ERA was 1.15 versus the A’s 3.41. They scored 16 runs (14 earned) while giving up only six (five earned).

It was a “one year wonder” team. Boston faded in 1915, finishing second, then proceeding downhill, finishing sixth by the time the United States joined World War I in 1917. You gotta admit, it was one heck of a year for them in 1914.

 

 

1910: Giants Postmortem

October 2, 2010

John McGraw’s Giants were the last team eliminated from World Series contention in the National League. They finished the season in second place, 13 games back. Their record was 91-63, one game worse than 1909. But the Giants were a team on the rise.

They were also a typical McGraw team, with the emphasis on team not individual. Of the eight everyday starters only Fred Snodgrass and Josh Devore hit .300, but every other starter was between .292 and .260. There were a lot of stolen bases with Red Murray leading the team with 57, second in the NL. It was a team effort rather than one or two great players with a bunch of role players helping them out.

The Giants had one of the better benches in the league. Of six players getting into 20 or more games (and only 6th place Brooklyn had more bench players with 20 or more games), three hit over .250 (as did pitcher Doc Crandall). Both Beals Becker and Cy Seymour had double figure stolen bases and slugging  percentages over .325 (a good percentage in the Deadball Era).

Of course the key to a McGraw team was the pitching staff. The Giants were good without being great. Christy Mathewson led the NL with 27 wins, second in strikeouts, and had only 60 walks in 318 innings. The rest of the staff wasn’t nearly that good, but Crandall was 17-4 in 42 games (but only 18 starts). The other three men starting 20 games or more were 14-12, 12-11, and 2-10, but all had more innings than hits and more strikeouts than walks. Additionally 23-year-old Rube Marquard was 4-4 with a 2.47 ERA and would come into his own in 1911 (24-7 and a league leading 237 strikeouts).

If 1910 was a disappointment to the Giants, there were signs that they would be good in 1911. Unlike the Pirates they were rising. It so happened that the Cubs were also ready to fall off, thus 1911 would be a banner year for New York.

Opening Day, 1910: Boston (NL)

April 13, 2010

Peaches Graham

There’s no way to sugarcoat this, Boston in 1909 was a Truly Awful Team. That’s how I describe a team that finishes under a .300 winning percentage. Boston ended the season 45-108 (a .294 winning percentage), 65.5 games out of first and 9.5 out of seventh.

As you would expect, the Doves underwent wholesale change during the offseason. During the 1909 season manager Frank Bowerman had a winning percentage of .290 and was fired with 77 games remaining. New manager Harry Smith did better. His winning percentage was .299. So out he went too. In came Fred Lake. Lake was the former manager at the other Boston team (the Red Sox) and had finished third (I have no idea what possessed him to switch teams. As far as I can tell he wasn’t fired.).

The 1909 outfield had been Roy Thomas in left field and leading off, Beals Becker in right hitting second, and center fielder Ginger Beaumont hitting fourth. In 1910 they were all gone (to Philadelphia, the Giants, and the Cubs), replaced by Bill Collins in left and leading off, Fred Beck in center who hit seventh, and clean up hitter and right fielder Doc Miller (who would actually arrive in Boston about a month into the season).

Catching was holdover Peaches Graham, the eighth hitter. In trying to find a good picture to post with this comment, Graham’s was the best I could do. That alone should tell you the quality of what Boston was putting on the field in 1910.

The infield had two holdovers. Second baseman Dave Sheen remained but moved from the three hole in the lineup to fifth, and Bill Sweeney, the 1909 third baseman and five hitter, moved to shortstop and now hit sixth. The new third baseman was Buck Herzog who hit second. First base saw Bud Sharpe, the new three hitter, take over. (He was traded during the season.) 

The pitching was a mess. Al Mattern, Lew Richie, Kirby White, Cecil Ferguson, Buster Brown, and Tom Tuckey were the 1909 pitchers who started 10 or more games. Only Richie managed to pitch .500 (he went 7-7) and he came over in a trade from Philadelphia. Ferguson managed to go 5-23 and lead the NL in losses.  By 1910 Mattern, Ferguson, White, Richie, and Brown were all back. They were joined by Cliff Curtis (who started nine in 1909). Billy Burke became the major bullpen pitcher.  

I wish I could say something positive about this team. The only thing I can think of is that they will get above .300 in 1910 (.346) and end up only 50.5 games out of first. It’s a long road to redemption in the form of Gene Stallings and the 1914 Miracle Braves.

Next: the Tigers

Opening Day, 1910: New York (NL)

April 8, 2010

John J. McGraw

In 1908 the Giants lost the National League pennant on the last day of the season (the so called “Merkle Game”). They slipped in 1909, finishing third, 12 games out of second. John McGraw, never content with anything but first place, began retooling his team for the 1910 pennant run.

He did it by going with a group of bench players who replaced the more established players in the field. In doing so he dropped the average age of his postion players from 28 to 26 years of age, the youngest in the league (actually tied wth Cincinnati).  Gone were first baseman Fred Tenney, center fielder Bill O’Hara, and left fielder Moose McCormick. In their place came new first baseman and seven hitter Fred Merkle (of “Bonehead” infamy), Fred Snodgrass in center and hitting third, and Josh Devore the left fielder and new lead off man.

Staying in the starting line up were two hitter and second baseman Larry Doyle (the 1909 league leader in hits), shortstop and five hitter Al Bridwell, Art Devlin the third baseman and six hitter, and right fielder Red Murray who hit clean up. The 1909 backup catcher had been Chief Meyers. He now took over the starting spot, and the eight hole. Former starter Admiral Schlei slid onto the bench. Holdover Cy Symour and newcomer Beals Becker (from National League rival Boston) were the substitute outfielders, while Art Fletcher and Tilly Shafer remained backup infielders.

The pitching staff was the heart of a McGraw team. Christy Mathewson was the ace. He led the NL in winning percentage and ERA in 1909. Hooks Wiltse, Red Ames, and Bugs Raymond remained from the ’09 team. Reliever Doc Crandall stayed in the bullpen, and newcomer Rube Marquard was on the roster as a spot starter.

As usual for the Giants of the era, the team was built around pitching, defense, and speed. It was younger, faster, and hit better. Most New Yorkers expected it to compete for a pennant and a return to the World Series, the Giants’ first since 1905.

Next: Cincinnati