Posts Tagged ‘Joe Sullivan’

The Water in Philadelphia

October 29, 2018

“water, water everywhere.”–Coleridge

A couple of days ago I did a little thing on those players who hit .400 and failed to win a batting title. In 1894 there were four of them, all in Philadelphia. I commented that there must have been something in the water. So let’s take a quick look at what was going on in Philly in 1894.

First we have to acknowledge that after the 1892 season, Major League Baseball, which at that point consisted solely of the National League, moved the pitcher back to 60″ 6′ and built a mound. It changed forever the way pitchers worked and how batter could respond. It made an immediate difference in the game. As just one example, in 1892 Dan Brouthers won the batting title at .335. In 1893 Billy Hamilton (who will be one of the waterboys in Philadelphia in 1894) won the title at .380. The last time a NL batting title was won by hitting over .380 was in 1886 by King Kelly who’d hit .388 (there were American Association titles that were higher, but the AA was gone by 1894). On the other hand strikeouts by pitchers dropped from Bill Hutchinson’s 314 to Amos Rusie’s 208. It wouldn’t be until 1904 (Rube Waddell) that the 314 would be surpassed.

So acknowledging all that, what about the Phillies? In 1894 the team hit a team average of .350 and led the NL in hits. The starters were (with their batting average in parens) catcher Jack Clements (.351), and infield of (from first around to third) Jack Boyle (.300-lowest among the starters), Bill Hallman (.312), Joe Sullivan (.353), Lave Cross (.387), and an outfield of “Sliding” Billy Hamilton (.403), Ed Delahanty (.405), and Sam Thompson (.415). On the bench Tuck Turner who got into 82 games and had 347 at bats) was the backup outfielder and led the team with a .418 average. Backup catcher Mike Grady hit .363 in 61 games. From there the remainder of the reserves fell off with shortstop Tom Murray going 0 for 2 and hitting .000 (this doesn’t count pitchers who had some terrible averages also).

What did all that hitting get the Phillies? It got them a record of 71-57, good for fourth place in the NL (behind Boston, New York, and pennant winner Baltimore who went 89-39), 18 games behind the winner and 10 games out of third place. The problem? Their team had the second highest ERA (5.63) in the league, were seventh in hits (in a 12 team league), and also seventh in strikeouts.

What’s it all mean? Well, maybe good pitching does beat good hitting. Or maybe it just means that the 1894 Philadelphia Phillies could hit a lot, but didn’t pitch nearly as well. In case you’re curious, only Hamilton, Delahanty, and Thompson made the Hall of Fame. Again, thought you just might like to know.

A Chance for Revenge: the 1935 Tigers

August 9, 2017

Mickey Cochrane with Detroit

All the way back in the first decade of the 20th Century, Detroit fielded the premier team in the American League. Led by players like Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford they won three consecutive AL pennants from 1907 through 1909. In three consecutive World Series appearances, however, they failed to win. In 1909 they came up short against Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In both 1907 and ’08 it was the Tinker to Evers to Chance Chicago Cubs that thwarted them. After that they went into something of a tailspin that lasted into the 1930s when they again began fielding a superior team. It got to the World Series in 1934 and this time managed to lose to Dizzy Dean and the St. Louis Cardinals. With essentially the same team they won the AL pennant the next year.

Player-manager Mickey Cochrane led a team that led the league in runs, average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and total bases while ranking second in hits, doubles, triples, homers, and even stolen bases. The pitching staff was second in ERA, strikeouts, hits, and runs allowed. Cochrane himself contributed a .319 average, 46 RBIs, an 5.0 WAR. He wasn’t particularly well liked by the team. He was an in-your-face type manager who took emotion to a level that sometimes rankled his players. His backup was Ray Hayworth who also hit over .300 in 51 games.

They caught a staff that consisted of four primary starters. Schoolboy Rowe was 19-13 with an ERA in the mid-threes. He struck out a lot of men (140) for a WHIP of 1.233 but gave up a ton of hits. All of that resulting in 5.3 WAR. Tommy Bridges got 21 wins and an ERA just under Rowe’s, led the team in strikeouts with 163, but gave up more hits than he had inning pitched and showed 3.4 WAR at season’s end. Eldon Auker had 18 wins, an ERA of 3.83, gave up 18 more hits than he had innings pitched and had a walk to strikeout ratio that was close to one (1.405 WHIP) and 2.6 WAR. The other major starter was General Crowder whose ERA blossomed to over four, had more walks than strikeouts, gave up more hits than he had innings pitched (WHIP of 1.394) but still managed 16 wins and 1.7 WAR. The bullpen was led by Chief Hogsett’s 1.6 WAR, the result from, again, more hits allowed than innings pitched and more walks than strikeouts (1.634 WHIP). Joe Sullivan got into 25 games, half of them starts (12) and had an ERA of 3.51. Hogsett and Sullivan were the only lefties.

The infield was, in many ways, the strength of the team. It consisted of two Hall of Famers on the right side and two very good players on the left. Hank Greenberg held down first. His triple slash line read .328/.411/6.28/1.039 (OPS+ of 170) for 7.7 WAR. He had 36 home runs, 46 doubles, 16 triples (he seems to have liked the number six) and 168 RBIs (see what I mean about six?). His right side partner was Charlie Gehringer whose 7.8 WAR led the team. He had 19 homers, second to Greenberg, 108 RBIs (third on the team), and a triple slash line that read .330/.409/.502/.911 (OPS+ of 138). Beside him around second was Billy Rogell. He hit .275 with a .754 OPS and was fourth on the team with 74 RBIs. His WAR clocked in at 5.1. A brief aside is in order here. 5.1 WAR is generally considered all-star level. At the same time Rogell shows a 98 OPS+. Both are good stats and I’m sometimes surprised at how differently they can evaluate the same guy. Marv Owen was at third. He .263 with two less RBIs than Rogell (72), hit .263 and had only 0.3 WAR. Flea Clifton, who hit 2.55 (-0.2 WAR) was the only backup infielder who played in more than 20 games (and ya gotta admit with names like Flea, Chief, General, and Schoolboy this team had great nicknames).

Almost all the outfield work went to four men (no other outfielder played in more than 14 games). Joiner (“Jo Jo”–see what I mean about nicknames?) White was the primary center fielder. He led off most games, hit .240 led the team with 19 stolen bases (and 10 caught stealing), and had -1.3 WAR. He was flanked on the left side by Hall of Famer Goose Goslin. At 34, Goslin was the oldest position player on the team (a couple of pitchers, including another all-nickname player, Firpo Marberry, were older).He his triple slash line was .292/.355/.415/.770 (OPS+ of 102) and was second on the team with 111 RBIs. His WAR was 2.5. Pete Fox was the regular right fielder. He hit .321 had an .895 OPS, good for fourth on the team, racked up an OPS+ of 133 (also good for fourth on the team), and had an outfield leading 3.9 WAR. Gee Walker was the primary sub, getting into 98 games. He had -0.3 WAR to go with a .301 average, 56 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 104 (again note how WAR and OPS+ differ). He, joined by Goslin, Gehringer, and Greenberg, gave the team its informal nickname, “The G Men.”

As repeat pennant winners, the Tigers had experience in postseason play. Their opponents were the Chicago Cubs, thus giving the team a chance to gain revenge for the 1907 and 1908 losses. Having said that, I find no evidence that anyone on the team particularly cared if they got “revenge.” They wanted to win for their own team and their city.