Posts Tagged ‘Pud Galvin’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1904

June 2, 2014

Time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. This time it’s the Class of 1904. Without further nonsense, here’s the list followed, as usual, by the commentary.

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

Henry Chadwick

One of the true “Fathers of Baseball.” New York sportswriter who popularized baseball through his columns and coverage in newspapers. He is credited with inventing the box score as well as a number of other statistics.

"Pud" Galvin

“Pud” Galvin

James “Pud” Galvin

Most wins of any pitcher. Most innings pitched of any pitcher. Had a long career with both Buffalo and Pittsburgh while playing in three different Major Leagues. Never pitched from a mound.

Jim O'Rourke

Jim O’Rourke

“Orator” Jim O’Rourke

Hit .310 over a 21 year career extending from 1872 through 1893. Member of three National Association champions and of the 1877 and 1978 Boston National League pennant winners. Won the 1884 National League batting title. Member of the 1888 and 1889 National League pennant winning New York Giants, hitting .306 with two home runs in postseason play.

Mickey Welch

Mickey Welch

Mickey Welch

Won over 300 games, most with the Giants. Had 40 wins once, 30 three times, with 345 strikeouts in 1884. Won pennants with the Giants in both 1888 and 1889.

Deacon White

Deacon White

James “Deacon” White

First great professional catcher. In 1871, he had the first hit in an all professional league. Later in his career he moved to third base. Won batting titles in both the National Association and the National League. His teams won three National Association pennants and an equal number of National League pennants.

And now the commentary.

1. How much did baseball writers know about Henry Chadwick’s work in 1904? I was surprised at how well he was known. Of course he was still alive in 1904, so that helped. But a lot of sports writer’s seemed to know about the box score. About the other stats I’m not as sure.

2. What took so long on Galvin? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, it seems that Galvin’s accomplishments had fallen off the face of the earth. Here’s a guy with more wins and innings pitched than any other 19th Century pitcher and he seems to be overlooked. Much as you find few people today who place Cy Young (who has more wins than any other pitcher) at the top of the pitching pecking order, preferring Walter Johnson or Lefty Grove or Rogers Clemens or someone else, Galvin (who has the most wins of a 19th Century pitcher) seems to find few writers who extolled his greatness. So I’m comfortable with holding him until 1904.

3. Deacon White lived until 1939 and was still active in 1904 as a manager and coach for a variety of minor league teams. I was surprised how much I found about him (although there was a lot more on other players). In various places he’s credited with catching innovations that are also credited to others. I decided to ignore those. Interestingly, the “first hit in an all professional league” honor didn’t seem to be all that well-known. As early as 1904 there seems to have been at least a bit of mixed feeling about calling the National Association a “Major League”.

4. So, who did you agonize over most? Well, I didn’t actually “agonize”, but I thought longest and hardest about O’Rourke and Welch. O’Rourke is one of those players that I’ve always felt was overrated, but when I looked at his hits, games, total bases, doubles, and membership on pennant winning teams, I decided he would probably have made it (possibly even earlier than 1904). He was still active in baseball in 1904 (he was a coach), even playing in a game for the Giants (the last one of the season). He hadn’t played in MLB since 1893 so I decided that if the election occurred in January (as it does presently) O’Rourke would remain retired when the election was held. As mentioned above, he was a coach for the Giants, but also had extensive ties to the minors, and was well enough known and liked that I could see him sliding into a 1904 version of the Hall of Fame. Besides, it gave me a chance to allow a living (as of 1904) member of the Hall of Fame to actually appear in a Big League game.

5. But Welch was different. He was distinctly the weaker of the two great Giants pitchers (Tim Keefe being the other). There were a lot of pitchers from the 19th Century that were probably as good but played for weaker teams. I looked at some of the more modern stats to see if I was just imagining it, but had to dismiss them as they were unavailable for 1904 era voters. Ultimately, I decided that era voters would probably be dazzled enough by the 300 wins that he’d get in without a lot a problem. I just wish I was more comfortable with his inclusion. BTW he was also still alive in 1904.

6. Where’s Delahanty? Ed Delahanty died in 1903 in a fall from the train bridge. Being dead there was no chance of him playing in 1904 (Is that the most obvious statement I ever made or what?) so he could be eligible for election. I thought about it seriously because I knew whatever I decided would impact what I do in 1910 with Addie Joss. The circumstances of Delahanty’s death were such that one could argue that the death was avoidable and thus he shouldn’t be given a waiver. On the other hand it was an era of sports reporting that tended to gloss over a player’s failings so I don’t know if the circumstances were universally known to regular fans. Realizing that most writers (the actual voters) would know the circumstances, I decided to hold him until he is otherwise eligible in 1909. Not sure it’s the right choice, but I have to make one. Without wanting to totally commit to it, my guess is that I’ll let Joss get in early since his death was of natural causes (he had tubercular meningitis), assuming he gets in at all let alone on the first try.

7. The 1905 class is going to be interesting. There are few just “have to” people left to put in and none of them come eligible in 1905. So I’m going to concentrate on the American Association (which doesn’t mean only Association players are getting in). For almost all their post-demise history, the two Associations (National and later American) were ignored by the later writers. To make it worse, the AA was considered much the weaker league so that hitting .320 in the AA didn’t mean quite the same thing to contemporaries as hitting .320 in the NL (this will greatly affect Pete Browning). I’m going to have to try to find out if there’s a way to figure out what the likely voters in 1905 thought of the players in the AA (by today, the only players with significant time in the AA enshrined in Cooperstown are Bid McPhee and Tommy McCarthy). By 1905 it had been over a  decade since the AA had played a game and I don’t know how much the writers who would have voted in 1905 knew about the Association. By something like 1915 it would have been 25 years since the Association played and many of the writers would never have seen an Association game. It seems to me that getting AA players in to a 1901 era Hall of Fame would have to come fairly quickly or time alone would dim the chances of the players. That convoluted enough for you?

 

A Baker’s Dozen Things You Should Know About Tim Keefe

June 6, 2012

Tim Keefe as a Giant

1. Tim Keefe was born New Year’s Day 1857 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the same town as his contemporary rival John Clarkson.

2. His Major League debut was in 1880 at Troy (New York). He pitched in 12 games, won six, and won the ERA title with a record low 0.86 and an ERA+ of 293.

3. When Troy folded after the 1882 season he moved to New York of the American Association where he pitched for two seasons, including the 1884 pennant winning campaign. In the first postseason play between Major League teams, he was 0-2 as his team lost to Providence in three games.

4. Between 1885 and 1889 he played for the New York Giants leading them to a pair of pennants and postseason triumphs in 1888 and 1889. He was 4-1 in the two postseasons.

5. He was the brother-in-law of John Montgomery Ward (they married sisters), head of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the first sports union. Keefe supported the Brotherhood and took his services to the Player’s League in 1890.

6. With the folding of the Player’s League in 1891 he went back to the Giants, did poorly and was traded to Philadelphia.

7. He stayed in Philly through 1893 and the transition to a pitching distance of 60′ 6″. At was 36 and with a new set of pitching regulations, he finished 10-7 with a 4.40 ERA and retired at the end of the season.

8. His Triple Crown season was 1888. He went 35-12 (.745 winning percentage), had an ERA of 1.74 (ERA+156), and stuck out 335 men (while walking 90). He also led the National League with eight shutouts. And we should remember that the pitching distance at the time was 50′ and there was no mound.

9. For his career he was 342-225 with an ERA of 2.63 (ERA+126). He had 2564 strikeouts, 1233 walks, gave up 4438 hits, and 1474 earned runs in 5050 innings pitched. At his retirement the 342 wins was second only to Pud Galvin.

10. He is  credited with inventing the change-up in 1883. I’m not sure that’s true because it implies no one changed speeds prior to 1883. My guess is he figured out how to throw both his fastball and a slower pitch with the same arm motion. That’s strictly a guess.

11. After retirement he umped a little then coached at Harvard, at Princeton, and at Tufts University.

12. He died in 1933 in Cambridge and is buried in the same cemetery as Clarkson.

13. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964, 31 years after his death.

Comparing Across Eras

May 30, 2011

Nap LaJoie

I have to admit I’m guilty of something. It’s a small thing, not exactly a sin, but I still do it. I’m guilty of trying to compare players across eras. We all do it. We compare Babe Ruth to Hank Aaron. We compare Lou Gehrig to Mark McGwire. We compare Honus Wagner to Derek Jeter. Baseball statisticians have come up with stat after stat that attempts to compare players. Some of them take the time to try to figure out how the eras differ and then try to factor that into the equation. Some of those do a fairly good job of it, and others stink up the joint when they try. So here’s a look at some of the factors that I think have to be considered when trying to compare players across eras.

1. Segregation. This one should be obvious and I have no idea how you factor it in. How much does Lefty Grove not having to face Josh Gibson change Grove’s overall numbers? Got me, coach. And of course it works the other way too. How much does Satchel Paige’s inability to face Babe Ruth in meaningful competition change Paige’s numbers? Again, got me, coach. I think it is important to recognize this is a problem. I simply have no idea how you fix it.

2. Roster sizes. I don’t want to hit this one too hard. If you have Babe Ruth on your team, you’re going to play him a lot. But roster sizes do matter, at least some. The smaller the roster, the less a manager can rest a player and that can create end of season slumps that might not occur on teams with larger rosters.

3. Rules changes. I tend to harp on the pitching change to 60’6″ as a watershed in baseball, but there are a lot of major rules changes that make it difficult to compare players. How would Cy Young do pitching at 50 feet? Well, we actually know he did quite well for a few years, but we don’t know what that means for someone like Walter Johnson. Pud Galvin never pitched a big  league game at 60’6″. Could he have been successful there? Don’t know and don’t know how to figure it out. There are other problems like ball and strike count, stolen base rules, etc. My guess is that some of them can be accounted for by looking at before and after stats and seeing how much change occurs (sort of like figuring out how much expansion changes things), but I don’t know you can account for every situation, particularly the mound. I also know this is a much greater problem in trying to factor in 19th Century players.

4. Equipment. How good was Honus Wagner in the field? A look at his basic fielding  stats shows he was OK, but nothing special. Some of the newer stats begin to show us just how good he was, but many of the older ones don’t take the difference in equipment into account. When you’re playing shortstop with a glove that looks a lot like my winter gloves, you’re not going to put up fielding statistics that equal those of players with modern gloves.  Take a look at modern catching equipment versus the gear of players as recent as Ray Schalk (of 1919 fame). Fielding statistics have gotten better over the years, but much of that is  artificial, brought on by equipment changes. Same for batting. Moderns bats are a far cry from the table legs used by guys at the turn of the 20th Century. There’s a wonderful picture of Nap LaJoie that I stuck in above. Take a look at the bat. Now think about a modern bat. Tell me that one factor doesn’t affect stats.

5. Fields. Modern baseball parks are a far cry from early parks. I’m not talking about the distance to fences, that’s easy to factor in. What I’m talking about is the general condition of the playing surface. Wagner talked about picking up a  ball and watching a cloud of  dust, a handful of pebbles, and the ball all going toward first at the same time. Don’t know how many times that actually happened, but it’s not going to happen at all today. Those uneven fields created more errors and also made normal chances more difficult. I think you can determine the best fielders of the era, but to compare them to modern fielders is difficult enough without worrying about the condition of the playing surface in 1910.

6. Going off to war. Really cuts down on your playing time and is specific to time and place.

Most of what I’ve talked about so far is generally known, and I think statisticians have made good-faith efforts to factor in those things. How much success they’ve had is another question. I don’t know that Win Shares or WAR or anything else adequately accounts for these things, but it’s evident that they are trying. It’s the following two items that I think have been vastly underappreciated by people who try to compare players.

7. Medical advances. You do know that if Tommy John never has the surgery named for him that he never enters a Hall of Fame discussion, don’t you? If that surgery were available in 1935, maybe Dizzy Dean wins another 100 games (or maybe something else goes wrong and he doesn’t). Modern arthritis treatments might give Sandy Koufax another twenty win season. My point is that medical advances change the ability of players to compete just as changes in bats and gloves and fields do the same. I don’t know that anyone has considered this. I also don’t know how you would factor it in, but I think it should be noted at some point.

8. Salaries. Back when I was collecting baseball cards the info on the back sometimes told you what the guy did in the offseason. Most players had to have a “real” job to make ends meet. Most of those jobs weren’t going to enhance your baseball skills. A guy like Richie Hebner dug graves. That might keep him in shape, but didn’t particularly help his batting eye. An old Cardinals pitcher named Ray Washburn sold insurance. Checking  actuary tables probably didn’t hurt his eyesight too much, but I’ll bet it didn’t help his throwing motion. With modern salaries making it less necessary for players to have a “real” job in the offseason they have more time to hone their baseball skills, thus making them better players. This doesn’t mean they all do it in the offseason, only that the opportunity is there for modern players, an option that wasn’t as readily available in 1960. Again, I’m not sure how that’s factored in, but it probably should  be noted.

So the next time you decide to see if you can figure out which was better, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, don’t forget to factor in a bunch of things that don’t always show up in the stats. There are others that I didn’t mention above (like advances in training methods), but these will do for starters. Have fun.

Winning Big

April 1, 2011

Get ready, team, I’ve invented another new stat. It’s called W-RITA (Geez, I don’t think I even know a Rita). That’s short for Wins Remaining In The Arm ( Catchy name, right?). OK this is a dumb stat and strictly for trivia purposes, but it’s kinda fun to note. Here’s how it works. You take a retired pitcher, say Cy Young, and write down his total wins (511). then you go to a particular point in his career, say the start of the 1911 season, and write down the number of wins he has on that date (504). The difference is the wins remaining in the arm (7). Let me give you some examples.

Below is a list of the ten pitchers with the most wins according to Baseball Reference.com (other places vary the number of wins for the guys before 1920). Beside that is the number of wins they had already logged by opening day 1911 (12 April): Cy Young 511/504, Walter Johnson 417/82, Christy Mathewson 373/263, Grover Cleveland Alexander 373/0, Pud Galvin 365/365, Warren Spahn 363/0, Kid Nichols 361/361, Greg Maddux 355/0, Roger Clemens 354/0, Tim Keefe 342/342.

So now we subtract the second number from the first, rearrange the list in order, and we get the following: Alexander 373, Spahn 363, Maddux 355, Clemens 354, Johnson 335, Mathewson 110, Young 7, and Galvin, Nichols, and Keefe all with zero (they were retired by 1911). The number you see is the total number of wins remaining in the arms of the pitchers listed when opening day 1911 rolled around.

OK, so  what? Well, really it’s mainly trivia, but it does hold one interesting note. Alexander won 28 games in 1911. So by the end of the 1911 season the numbers of the top four will look like this: Spahn 363, Maddux 355, Clemens 354, Alexander 345. Meaning that sometime during the 1911 season, and I went to Retrosheet to look up the date (it’s the 9th of June, the date Alexander won his 11th game), Spahn will pass Alexander to become the winningest pitcher in the last 100 years. Bet you didn’t know that.

The Little Steam Engine

July 26, 2010

Pud Galvin

The other day, prefatory to doing my post on Cy Young, I looked over the list of 300 game winners. Most of the modern ones are fairly well-known, as are most of the ones who pitched in the early part of the 20th Century. That’s not as true of the 19th Century pitchers. Most have fallen into obscurity. The recent book on 1884 has brought back Charles Radbourn and both Welch and Keefe pitched in New York for pennant winners. Clarkson pitched for the Cubs and Kid Nichols gets a lot of votes as the best 19th Century pitcher. So if I had to pick a 300 win pitcher and call him the most obscure, it would be James “Pud” Galvin, the winningest pitcher of the 19th Century.

Galvin was born Christmas day 1856 in St. Louis. In 1875 he began playing for the hometown Browns of the National Association (the only Major League at the time). He got into eight games as a pitcher, going 4-2, and played a handful of games in the outfield, hitting .130. The Association folded the next season and Galvin disappears from the Major Leagues until 1879. Between the two big league appearances he pitched for the International League team in Buffalo. In 1879, Buffalo joined the National League and Galvin stayed in the majors through 1892. Early on he picked up the nickname “The Little Steam Engine”, the first of a number of pitchers compared to trains. Walter Johnson (The Big Train), and Nolan Ryan (The Express) come immediately to mind.

He played for Buffalo into the 1885 season when he was sent to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the American Association. In 1887, Pittsburgh moved to the National League and Galvin remained with them through 1889. In 1890 he jumped to the fledgling Player’s League (joining the new team in Pittsburgh), then returned to the Alleghenys when the Player’s League collapsed. He went back to St. Louis (now the Cardinals) toward the end of 1892, then retired. At retirment he was the winningest pitcher in Major League history. He died in March 1902 in Pittsburgh. The Wikipedia article on him indicates that the nickname “Pud” was an abbreviation for “Pudding”, which is what his pitches turned hitters into. I’ve been unable to track down a better explanation.

Galvin seems to be the first of the PED boys. Apparently he took an elixir that contained monkey testosterone to help him stay in shape and sharp. There are a lot of jokes to be made here about arm length and hair and such. I think I’ll simply mention the fact and let it go at that.

Galvin pitched far enough back that many of his numbers are in dispute. I’ve taken the newest baseball encyclopedia numbers for use here and recognize that when the next version comes out they may be different. For his career Galvin had 361 wins, 308 losses (for a .540 winning percentage), with 5941 innings pitched. He gave up 6352 hits, walked 744 and struck out 1799. For all that he had a 2.87 ERA in 697 games, 681 of them starts. His teams never won a pennant or a postseason series. In his career best seasons of 1883 and 1884 he won 46 games each year, leading the league in innings pitched in 1883 with 656, and threw a league leading 12 shutouts in 1884. In 1883 he tied the all time record (with Will White) for the most games pitched and started in a season with 76 games and 75 starts.

Galvin is very difficult to evaluate. For one thing, he never pitched a big league game at 60’6″. He’s one of only two 300 game winners to do that (Radbourn is the other). How he would have done at the modern distance is simply unknowable. Additionally, the ball and strike counts varied during his career. Sometimes there were four balls and three strikes, sometimes there were more. Throw in the differences in equipment and fields and you have a pitcher doing his job in conditions that are alien to us. Having said all that, there are still a few observations that can be made. He gave up more hits than innings pitched, which is never a good thing. His walks to strikeout rate is pretty good (2.4 strikeouts per walk) for the era without being great. He got a lot of wins (and losses) but pitched in an era when two pitchers was fairly normal and one single hurler could occasionally dominate a team’s statistics. Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract does not list him among his 100 greatest pitchers and the WAR statistic puts him 27th between Don Sutton and Curt Schilling (and two below his contemporary rival Radbourn).

Unbreakable

January 14, 2010

Baseball fans are fond of saying such-and-such a number is “unbreakable.” Well, the last twenty or so years have proved that just isn’t so. The steroids era provided us with a number of “broken” records, some real, some steroids induced. But you know there are a handful of records that are unbreakable.

Almost all are pitching numbers. Modern pitchers do it differently than their ancestors. They don’t pitch as much, they don’t pitch as often, they are pulled from games more quickly. All these things make it impossible for modern pitchers to break some long standing records.

All of which brings me to Cy Young. The guy holds most of those unbreakable records. He pitched a long time and he pitched consistantly well for most of the period in which he toiled.  Below is a list of Cy Young’s unbreakable records:

Wins: (511) No one is even close. Walter Johnson is the only pitcher within 100 wins of Young. The winningest pitcher of the last 50 years, Greg Maddux, is over 150 back. With the spate of recent pitching retirements, Jaime Moyer is the winningest active pitcher.

Inning pitched: (7375) Over 1434 more than 2nd place (Pud Galvin). The closest modern pitcher, Phil Niekro, is over 1900 inning back.

Starts: (816) At least Nolan Ryan got within 100 of him at 773.

Losses: (315) Young is one of only 2 pitchers (Galvin is the other) with 300 losses. The closest modern guy is Ryan at 292. Do you have any idea how good you have to be to stick around long enough to lose 300 games (or 292)?