Posts Tagged ‘Rube Bressler’

1914: The Big, Bad A’s

October 8, 2014
The Athletics

The Athletics

One hundred years ago this month one of the greatest upsets in World Series history occurred, the Philadelphia Athletics lost to the Boston Braves. No one expected to the Braves to win the National League pennant, let alone win the World Series. They were a bunch of cast-offs and losers who’d been put together from out of the trashcan, but they’d won the whole thing. They are, to this day, known as the “Miracle Braves.” I want to take a look at both the teams and the Series (and BTW Kevin at Baseball Revisited has just completed running a simulation of the Series on his site–see Blogroll at right) over the next few days. Because they lost, let’s start with the team that gets very little press in the entire endeavor, the big, bad Philadelphia A’s.

Connie Mack’s Athletics were defending world champions. In fact, they’d won three of the last four World Series (losing out to the Red Sox in 1912). To this point it was the most consistent of American League teams winning pennants in 1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913, and the current pennant. They won 99 games in 1914 taking the pennant by 8.5 games over the Red Sox. If you look at their positional wins above average, they were above average in all positions except right field. They led the AL in runs, hits, homers, average, slugging, OBP, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. The hitters consisted of the $100,00 infield of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry, and Frank “Home Run” Baker from first around the horn to third. Collins led the league in runs scored, while Baker was the home run champion. McInnis was second in RBIs with 95 (it’s a league with Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker so you’re not going to lead the AL in much with them around). The outfield consisted of Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk, and Eddie Murphy (obviously not the comedian). All hit between .277 and .272 and were decent fielders for the era. Wally Schang was now Mack’s primary catcher. He hit .287 with a 137 OPS+ and managed to catch 45% of opponents base stealers, which was dead on league average.

The pitching was beginning to wither a bit. The team finished first in no major category (except wins, obviously) but was second in shutouts and strikeouts. It was fourth in hits and third in runs allowed (fourth in earned runs). Stalwarts Eddie Plank and Chief Bender were aging (Plank was 38), Jack Coombs was gone, and an entire group of younger pitchers were trying to make their mark. Bob Shawkey, Bullet Joe Bush, Weldon Wycoffe, and Herb Pennock were all in their early 20s (Pennock was 20) and Rube Bressler was only 19. Bush and Bender were technically the aces with 17 wins each. If the A’s had a problem it was with the staff.

They were overwhelming favorites to win. The National League hadn’t won a World Series since Honus Wagner’s Pirates in 1909 and the Braves were an absolute fluke. No one expected what was coming, except maybe the Braves.

 

 

 

1919: The Reds

September 30, 2011

Edd Roush

For obvious reasons information on the 1919 World Series tends to concentrate on the White Sox. But there is, of course, another team in the Series: The Cincinnati Reds. Almost nothing is written about them. They are generally viewed as simple foils for the overpowering Sox who would have made hash of them had the Sox been playing on the up and up. In the movie “Eight Men Out”, which is probably the best flick on the event, they get all of two lines. But the Reds were a real team and they really did play in the 1919 World Series and in their opinion would have won anyway.

If you look at the Reds hitters you find a group not much different from the White Sox. There are a handful of really first-rate players, a bunch of middle-of-the-road types, and a few guys who you wonder why the team couldn’t find someone better. In Edd Roush, the center fielder, the Reds have a Hall of Fame quality player. Roush won two batting titles, including the one in 1919, had an OPS of 811 and an OPS+ of 146 for the season. Only Joe Jackson of the Sox is better. Third baseman Heinie Groh (who today is known only for his “bottle bat”, which is a great shame) had an even better OPS and OPS+ than Roush. Both, in other words, were good players having good years. At 35, first baseman Jake Daubert was beyond his prime, but was still a solid player, as was 32-year-old Morrie Rath, the second baseman. They were also the only two starters over 30. Outfielder Sherry Magee was also over 30 and well beyond the prime he showed with Philadelphia a decade earlier. But Magee was used in a platoon-type system with Rube Bressler, so saw limited action during the season and only had two plate appearances in the Series. As both Magee and  Bressler hit right-handed, I’m not sure how the platoon worked exactly. As a team, the Reds led the National League in both triples and walks, were second in both average and slugging as well as RBIs and runs. They were third in hits.

Heinie Groh

In fielding the Reds were actually slightly better than the Sox. they showed superior numbers in both fielding percentage and range factor as well as in assists. They also made fewer errors. This is not to say that there are a lot of truly great fielders on either team, but in the context of the era, the Reds aren’t just awful or anything.

Hod Eller

In pitching the Sox were definitely better, especially with a healthy Red Faber. Having said that, the Reds still show up first in shutouts in the National League and  second in ERA. They led the league with the least hits allowed and were second in the least walks given up. So again, it’s not a bad staff, but most people are going to credit the Sox with a better mound crew.

Pat Moran as Phillies Manger

And as a final comparison, I see no evidence that contemporary opinion was convinced that Kid Gleason was a particularly better manager than Pat Moran. Maybe he was, but I can’t  find a consensus that confirms that.

So why exactly were the Sox, with a weaker overall record (88-52) considered so utterly superior to the Reds (with a 96-44 record)? I think it’s a perception issue. In 1909 the National League’s Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. In the 10 years since the Cubs, Giants, Braves, Phillies, and Robins (now the Dodgers) had all crossed swords with the American League champion (including the White Sox in 1917) and only the Braves in 1914 had been successful (and they were, and still are, considered one of the great flukes of all time). So the American League was perceived as the stronger league. The American League champion, regardless of record, had to be seen as the stronger team.

Were they in 1919? Frankly, we’re never going to know. From a look at the stats and the players I’m convinced the Reds would have proved a formidable opponent for the Sox playing on the up and up.

The Way to Win: Deadball

August 6, 2010

Connie Mack

In the previous post I talked about how the Yankees dynasty teams were all built pretty much the same way with a solid manager, star players, good players, role players, and one-year wonders. I found this a good way to look at a “big picture”, as opposed to a stat-filled view of winners. It’s not just the Yankees who’ve done it that way. Consider the Deadball Era’s Philadelphia Athletics if you will. Although they win differently than the bashing Murder’s Row Yankees of the 1920s, the A’s are put together the same way.

Connie Mack was both manager and owner (which makes for really great job security for the manager). He’d been a 19th Century catcher who’d never been a great player, but he understood the importance of team unity, of pitching, of defense, and timely hitting. He put together a team that between 1910 and 1914 won the World Series three times, lost it once,  and finished third in 1912.

The hitting stars were second baseman Eddie Collins and third baseman Frank Baker. Both made the Hall of Fame and both hit extremely well. Collins provided speed to go with Baker’s power (power in Deadball Era terms). Additionally, Eddie Plank was a star pitcher, eventually racking up over 300 wins (he’s still third among lefties).

As mentioned earlier, you don’t win with just stars. You need a lot of good players around the stars. Mack had them. Stuffy McInnis, started the era as a role players, but quickly became a very good player at first base. On the mound Chief Bender overcame the racial prejudice of his era (he was an American Indian) and rose to Hall of Fame status as a solid pitcher and Mack’s favorite. Two other very good players came through the A’s dynasty for part of the period. Danny Murphy, a converted second baseman, was an outfielder in 1910-11 and Wally Schang took over the catching job late. Then there was Jack Coombs. Coombs had great years in 1910, 11, and 12, then got sick and his career faded. For those three years though, he may have been the best pitcher on the A’s , if not in all of baseball.

The team had a lot of role players who were able to step into holes or step up in games to provide the kind of solid play a team needs to win. Jack Barry was the shortstop for the entire period. He was a decent, without being truly great, shortstop who hit some. The outfield, other than Danny Murphy, consisted of Bris Lord, Rube Oldring, Amos Strunk,  Topsy Hartsell,  and Eddie Murphy. Not all of them started the entire time, but each contributed for at least a year or two. None were household names during the era (nor are they now). On the other hand, Harry Davis was something of a household name in the era. He’d led the AL in both doubles and home runs earlier in his career, but by 1910 was reduced to pretty much a role player (and in 1911 lost his first base job to McInnis).  Both Bob Shawkey and Herb Pennock came up late in run and both went on to stellar careers (Pennock making the Hall of Fame), but at this point in their lives they were role players.

The one-year wonders? Well, there was Harry Krause who went 11-8 on the mound in 1911 and 25-18 for the rest of his career and fellow pitcher Rube Bressler who went 10-3 in 1914 and 16-28 for the rest of his career . Mack seemed able to find guys like this frequently. Maybe his being an ex-catcher helped.

The Deadball A’s were put together very much like te Murder’s Row Yankees. They won differently by emphasizing pitching, timely hitting, speed, and power (as defined by Deadball Era stats) as opposed to raw power and effective pitching. Both worked well. As mentioned earlier the two teams look very different in the method they used to accomplish their job, but both are put together the same way. I want to look next week at two more squads to emphasize how many teams work like this over both different eras and different methods of winning.