Posts Tagged ‘Jack Powell’

Replacing Cy

January 28, 2016
Cy Young

Cy Young

I have a question for you. Just exactly how do you, as a Major League Baseball owner, replace a superstar? I ask because all the way back in 1901 the American League was formed and it took a lot of players away from the National League. One of those was Cy Young. You know Cy Young right? He’s the guy they named the pitching award after. So just how do you replace a guy like that? This is the story of one team’s attempt to do so.

In 1900 the St. Louis Cardinals were, to be candid about it, not very good. They finished 65-75, good for fifth in the NL. They did have Cy Young, however (and John McGraw). He was 33, went 19-19, had an ERA of exactly three, gave up more hits than he had innings pitched, walked all of 36 while striking out 115, put up 1.161 WHIP, had an ERA+ of  121, and had 7.3 WAR (tops on the team). Jim Hughey, Willie Sudhoff, Jack Powell, and Albert “Cowboy” Jones (the only lefty) made up the rest of the staff (those who pitched at least double figure games). Gus Weyhing, Tom Thomas, and Jack Harper were the other pitchers and got into a total of 13 games. All were right-handed.

This is the same staff in 1901: Powell, Harper, Sudhoff, Jones (again the only lefty), and new guy Ed Murphy (guys who pitched in double figure games). The rest of the staff was all new guys and topped out at five games (and 41 innings) pitched. So technically, I guess, Murphy is the guy who replaced Young (now with the Boston team in the AL). Murphy went 10-9 with an ERA of 4.20 (ERA+ 76), 36 more hits than innings pitched, 32 walks to 42 strikeouts, a 1.412 WHIP, and -1.3 WAR. Quite a comedown, right?

So how about the other new guys, the ones with less than 10 games pitched? They were a combined 5-6 in 96 innings. So there wasn’t much there either. Cy Young was, to be fairly blunt about it, tough to replace.

Interestingly enough, the Cards actually got better. They went 76-64 and finished fourth, a jump of 11 wins and one place in the standings. So maybe replacing Young actually worked, at least a little. The team ERA dropped (3.75 to 3.68), they gave up 40 fewer hits, struck out 120 more (Powell led the team with 133 and Harper had 128, both more than Young the year before), but walked 33 more men. Powell equalled Young’s 19-19 record (what do you supposed the chances of that are?) while Harper went 23-13. Both had good years and provided pitching that did manage to replace Young.

It was something of a fluke. The next time St. Louis was above .500 was in 1911. Neither Harper nor Powell sustained long periods of excellence while Young went on to the Hall of Fame. Replacing Cy Young worked for one year, then the team receded. In 1903 the Cards finished dead last while Young was instrumental in Boston winning the first ever World Series.

1910: Browns Postmortem

August 23, 2010

By the end of August 1910, the St. Louis Browns were on the verge of elimination in the American League pennant race. If you ignored ties that might or might not be replayed, they were eliminated on 22 August. If you count the ones that were replayed, then they managed to hang on another week.

For the season the Browns went 47-107 (a .305 winning percentage). In an eight team league they finished 7th in hits, runs, and doubles; 6th in triples, walks,  and slugging: and dead last in hitting, stolen bases, and RBIs. They did manage 4th in home runs with all of 12. The pitching was as bad. They finished 7th in complete games (a bigger deal in 1910 than it is now) and hits allowed. They were dead last again with the most walks, highest ERA , and least strikeouts in the American League.

Individually, only Hall of Fame shortstop Bobby Wallace (.258) and outfielder George Stone (.256) managed to hit .250. Wallace and sub Art Griggs led the team in doubles with 19 and 22, while Stone led with 12 triples, 40 RBIs, and 144 hits. A real problem was that of all the bench players with 30 or more at bats, only Griggs managed to hit above .200 (.236), so there was no one to go to if one of the starters slumped (With this team I’m not sure how you determined if someone was slumping.). Another real problem for the team was that Stone and Wallace, their best position players were, at 36 and 33, the oldest position players on the team (pitcher Jack Powell was 35).

The pitching ace (if there is an “ace”) was Joe Lake who went 11-18 with a 2.21 ERA, which is third highest in the AL among “aces”. He’s the only pitcher to pick up double figure wins. Lefty Bill Bailey went 3-18 with more walks than strikeouts. Only Roy Mitchell at 4-2 (over six games), Rube Waddell 3-1 (10 games and only two starts), and Dode Criss 2-1 (six games, all in relief) had winning records (Bill Crouch and Harry Howell both went 0-0, which at least isn’t a losing record).

All this got first year manager Jack O’Connor fired. Shortstop Wallace was picked to replace him. Wallace would make in 39 games into 1912 before being shown the door. O’Connor never managed again in the big leagues.

I’d like to say something good about this team, but just can’t find anything positive to say. It’s not like a young George Sisler came up at the end of the year and showed possibilities or anything.  This team is a typical Browns team of the era. There’s a reason the Browns made exactly one World Series (1944) before transferring to Baltimore (where they are now the Orioles). Too many teams like this is the reason.

Over the next month or so, I intend to do one of these for each team that failed to win the 1910 pennant. I want to see what went wrong and what went right. It may take a while, because I’m not going to slavishly do it each time until all are done.

Opening Day, 1910: St. Louis (AL)

April 21, 2010

Bobby Wallace

It’s uncharitable to say that the St. Louis Browns were hopeless, but sometimes the truth hurts. The Browns were hopeless. In their entire existence, 1902-1953, they finished first once. 1910 wasn’t it.  

 The Browns finished seventh in 1909, 36 games out of first. It led to a general housecleaning, something the Browns did frequently. Manager Jimmy McAleer was canned and replaced by Jack O’Connor a former catcher whose rookie season was 1887 with the American Association Cincinnati Reds. It was his first managerial job (and his last). He would survive in the job exactly one year. 

He didn’t have a lot to work with in St. Louis. Three of the infielders were different. Future Hall of Famer Bobby Wallace remained at short, but he was 36 in 1910 and on is last legs as a player. Former right fielder Roy Hartzell moved to third base with fairly predictable results. Pat Newman and Frank Truesdale took the jobs at first and second. Both were rookies. Art Griggs and Dode Criss remained the men off the bench. Criss sometimes moonlighted as a pitcher for St. Louis. He wasn’t an upgrade. 

The outfield had two stable members, Hartzell moving to third as mentioned above. Al Schweitzer replaced Hartzell in right and Danny Hoffman and George Stone remained in the other two spots. Schweitzer had been, with John McAleese, one of the backup outfielders in 1909. 

The 1909 catcher, Lou Criger, was gone, replaced by ’09 backup Jim Stephens. The new backup was Bill Killefer who would go on to fame as Grover Cleveland Alexander’s catcher with the Phillies. Killefer played 11 games in 1909. 

The pitching in 1909 was weak, but at least none of the major starters had given up more hits than innings pitched, and only one had walked more than he struck out. In 1910 four of the big starters, Jack Powell, Barney Pelty, Bill Bailey, and Hall of Famer Rube Waddell were back. Joe Lake was new, coming over from New York. So was rookie Robert “Farmer” Ray. 

And that was it. There were new guys, but they weren’t much of an upgrade, if at all. There was a new manager, four rookies (including Killefer), and a bunch of guys nobody ever heard of. The genuinely good players like Wallace and Waddell were at the end of their careers. The 1910 season was Waddell’s final year. It was the same story for most of the Browns’ history. 

Next: the Senators