Posts Tagged ‘Tommy Bond’

My Own Little Hall of Fame: Class of 1905

July 1, 2014

It’s time for my monthly addition to My Own Little Hall of Fame. For those of you who’ve forgotten, this is my attempt to determine what the Hall of Fame would look like if it were formed in 1901 rather than in the 1930s. My primary contention is that a number of players who’ve gotten little consideration for the modern Hall would have been added if the Hall were created earlier. So here’s the Class of 1905.

Tommy Bond

Tommy Bond

Thomas “Tommy” Bond pitched from 1874 through 1884 winning 234 games leading his league in strikeouts wins, and ERA twice each. He also led the National League in shutouts on three occasions. His 1877 and 1878 Boston teams won pennants with him as their primary hurler. One of only a handful of players to work in four different leagues: National Association, National League, American Association, and Union Association.

Bid McPhee

Bid McPhee

John “Bid” McPhee was a star second baseman for Cincinnati in both the National League and the American Association. He holds many fielding records for second basemen. As a hitter he won both a home run and a triples title. Is second among all players with 189 total triples.

"Truthful" Jim Mutrie

“Truthful” Jim Mutrie

James “Truthful Jim” Mutrie managed both the New York Metropolitans of the American Association and the New York Gothams of the National League. Under his leadership the Metropolitans won the 1884 Association pennant and the Gothams won both the 1888 and 1889 National League pennants. The latter teams both won postseason tournaments against their Association rivals. Among managers with 200 or more wins his winning percentage is highest in Major League history. He is credited with coining the name “Giants” for the current New York National League team.

Tip O'Neill, well after his retirement

Tip O’Neill, well after his retirement

James “Tip” O’Neill played outfield for the St. Louis Browns between 1884 and 1889 inclusive and was the first great Canadian player. He led his team to four consecutive pennants (1885-1888) and two disputed postseason championships. He led the Association in hits twice and batting average twice. In 1887 he hit .435 and led the Association in average, home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, hits, and runs.

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey

Harry Stovey played both outfield and first base from 1880 through 1893. He led his league in booth runs scored and triples four times, in home runs five times, in stolen bases twice, and in doubles once. His 1888 Philadelphia Athletics team won the second American Association pennant, while his 1890 Boston team won the only Player’s League pennant. In the National League he won a pennant with the 1891 Beaneaters.

And now the commentary.

1. Tommy Bond? Really? Bond only has 180 wins in the National League but is the ace of the first great NL team. I felt that gave him a leg up on other pitchers still not elected and eligible (Mathews, McCormick, Mullane, and Deacon White’s brother Will). As with most pitchers of his era he has only a handful of great years then drops off quickly, perhaps too quickly for many voters. My guess is that if he were elected by the voters in 1905 he would just barely get invited to the Hall. Having said that, I think he’s the best available pitcher, but I am aware that Mullane and Mathews have a  lot more wins, the key pitching stat is 1905.

2. McPhee is now much further down the current list of triples, but in 1905 he was still second (to Anson). He is, by all accounts and by all stats available in 1905, the finest second baseman of the 19th Century.

3. I am absolutely certain that Mutrie should be in the Hall of Fame and, thus, am completely comfortable adding him to the Class of 1905. In 1876 William Hulbert tossed New York out of the National League. No NYC team played at the highest level again until the Metropolitans joined the American Association. Mutrie was a prime mover in creating the team and piloted it to its first successful season. Then he was instrumental in creating the Gothams (Giants) and putting a New York team back into the NL. In many ways he is the father of Major League baseball in New York. He was still alive in 1905, but lived in obscurity. In 1905 only one manager who managed more than one year had a higher winning percentage than Mutrie and he managed all the way back in the National Association (and to this day only Joe McCarthy has a higher winning percentage among managers with 200+ wins). BTW “Truthful Jim” is an ironic nickname (sort of like calling a 6’9″ 300 pound guy “Tiny”). He was known to make up a lot of stuff in order to get what he wanted when it came to his team and his own wealth. That means he’s a bit of a  rogue, but then the real Hall is full of those.

4. Aren’t O’Neill and Stovey a bit of a stretch? O’Neill and Stovey were, to me the best players in the Association (although McPhee also spent a lot of time in the AA, I think both were better than him). By 1905 the Association had been dead for almost 15 years and was already slipping in the public memory. The Reach Guide, newspapers, and other sources have very little on the Association and it was quickly fading from memory. Those new players eligible for a Hall of Fame in 1905 weren’t a particularly exciting lot, so I took the opportunity to add the best of the Association at this point, presuming that the longer I waited, the less likely they would get a call. I’m not at all sure that a real Hall existing in 1905 would have brought them inside. The current Hall certainly hasn’t.

5. OK, fine, but what happened to Pete Browning? I’ll admit that I considered long and hard about Browning. His average is tremendous, but there are three problems. First, he plays in the Association and for almost its entire existence it was considered much the weaker league. I felt that the perceived weakness of the Association would be held against him. Second, yeah he’s got a high average, but he’s got all of 1656 hits and 4820 at bats. Those just aren’t really big numbers, even for the era. He averages 371 at bats per season and 127 hits per season. That’s all. Finally he was universally considered a lousy fielder. Four times he’s in the top four in errors and no contemporary source I could find says anything good about him in the field. So I’m holding him until later. He may still get an invite, but not this time.

6. You seem somewhat unhappy with this list. Are you? Yeah, kinda. On a personal level I have no problem with who I added for 1905. But when trying to figure this out from the point of view of a voter in 1905, I’m not so sure that this is the list that would come out of a vote. As mentioned above, other pitchers have more wins than Bond (and wins is the key stat for pitchers in 1905) and O’Neill and Stovey play in what was almost universally conceded was a weaker league. Even McPhee is questionable because he didn’t hit .300 and in 1905 that mattered a lot. I’m simply concerned that viewing this list from 1905 I may have gotten it wrong.

7. Finally, it was a real problem putting five new members into this Hall of Fame. It’s becoming harder to get five each time because there are only a handful of worthy new candidates showing up each year and the backlog of quality players is quickly reaching the line that separates great players from really good players (and I may have crossed it already with Bond). It may be  a while before there are five new inductees again.

 

 

 

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Old Guys; New Stats

December 21, 2012

The proliferation of new statistics in the last few years has been a mixed blessing. Some of them are pretty good, others not so much. In studying 19th Century baseball I’ve used both the traditional stats (ERA, BA, hits, runs, etc) and the newer stats (OPS+, ERA+, WAR, etc) to look at the players. The newer stats present something of a conundrum.

Below I’ve listed the OPS+ of two players. Their stat is for a five consecutive year period at the peak of each man’s career (all stats below from Baseball Reference.com):

player 1: 186/175/184/147/142

player 2: 211/207/143/176/235

Now the WAR for a five consecutive year period during the career peak for two players:

player 1: 7.9/6.8/8.6/5.7/4.8

player 2: 4.7/5.2/2.5/5.8/6.1

Next the ERA+ of two pitchers, again for a five consecutive year period during their peak years:

pitcher 1: 155/149/185/217/160

pitcher 2: 167/143/135/115/129

Finally the WAR for two pitchers over a five consecutive year period at their peak:

pitcher 1: 7.9/6.8/8.6/5.7/4.8

pitcher 2: 12.3/10.2/11.3/13.4/14.0

First, the obvious question, “who are these guys?” The first player in both OPS+ and WAR is Joe DiMaggio in the years 1939-42 and 1946 (Joltin’ Joe lost two years to World War II). The second player in both stats is Ross Barnes in the years 1872-76. And here a caveat. I realize that Barnes is in the National Association in 1872-75 and the National League only in 1876, but as his stats are available I’m going to use them. The first pitcher in both ERA+ and WAR is Lefty Grove in 1928-1932 and the second pitcher for both stats is Tommy Bond in 1875-1879 (and, again, Bond is in the NA in 1875).

Notice a few things? First, the two hitters are pretty comparable, aren’t they? According to OPS+ Barnes is better than DiMaggio three times, and in WAR is better twice. In fact, other than Barnes’ third number in both lists, they are pretty much a wash. And somehow we all know that’s just wrong. Does anyone seriously consider Ross Barnes as good as Joe DiMaggio, even if for only a five-year period? I doubt it. 

Now take a look at the pitchers. The two men are roughly comparable for the first two years of ERA+, then Grove really takes off. In WAR, Bond is consistently better. Really? Would you truly want Tommy Bond over Lefty Grove? Again, I doubt it.

So what’s going on here? Surely a number of things. First, the 19th Century players are involved in a lot fewer games played and anybody can get hot for a few games. Look up Bob Hazle in 1957 if you don’t believe me. Secondly, the nature of the way pitchers are used in the 19th Century, especially early, is so utterly different that it blows statistics completely out of kilter. Sticking with Grove and Bond, if you look at one single stat, batters faced, you see the problem immediately. In his career, the most batters Grove faced in any season was 1191 in 1930. Bond, on the other hand, faced 1408 as his low in 1875 (his high was 2189 in 1879). Think that fact alone doesn’t skew the stats? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, “you betcha.” (My, God, I’m quoting Sarah Palin. Yutz.)

And these two things alone make it imperative that the newer stats be used carefully when looking at 19th Century players. I’m not suggesting they be ignored. What I am suggesting is that a slavish devotion to any of the stats is a mistake, particularly in the world of 19th Century baseball, where even the word, base ball, is different.

The Hall of Fame is out to GET Me

December 9, 2012
Pete Browning about 1877. Is this the best 19th Century player not in Cooperstown?

Pete Browning about 1877. Is this the best 19th Century player not in Cooperstown?

Alright, I’ve had enough of this. I’ve decided the Hall of Fame is picking on me specifically. They chose Deacon White for the Hall of Fame. “But, wait,” I hear you say, “Didn’t you support White for the Hall? Didn’t you call him ‘The Best 19th Century Player not in the Hall’?”  That’s exactly the problem.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to pick a “Best 19th Century Player not in the Hall”? Do you? For 10 years I could wake up with the comfort of knowing I had White and the Hall didn’t. I wasn’t going to have to sweat over a big thick book of  stats or stare at long columns of numbers online. I wasn’t going to have to read florid journals written in 19th Century style about base ball (19th Century spelling). I was able to simply get up in the morning and go about my business.

But then the Hall of Fame struck. It aimed its barb directly at me and elected White. My God, Cooperstown, how fair was that? What were you thinking?

Now I have to go back to the books, the long columns of figures, the 19th Century journals, and start a new search for “The Best 19th Century Player not in the Hall.” Do you have any idea how hard that’s going to be? I’ve going to have to go over the career of the likes of  Tommy Bond and Bob Carruthers, of Mike Tiernan and Harry Stovey, of Pete Browning and Cal McVey. And that’s assuming I leave off guys like Bill Dahlen who spent about half their career in the 20th Century or guys like Joe Start who played for the Atlantic in the 1860s.

Curse you, Cooperstown, for complicating my world. I take it personally (there’s no paranoia in my family; I have it all).

Top of the World

October 18, 2012

Triple Crown winner Chuck Klein with a bunch of bats

So far I’ve said little about Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown. I tend to worry more about old-time baseball than about the current season, but congratulations are certainly in order. With Detroit still alive in the playoffs he has a chance to do something that’s only been done twice.

Over the years a hitting Triple Crown has been accomplished 16 times. Only twice has the Triple Crown winners team also won the World Series. Here’s a quick review of each Triple Crown winner and where his team finished.

1878–Paul Hines won the Triple Crown for Providence. They finished third in the National League.

1887–Tip O’Neill won the Triple Crown for St. Louis of the American Association (a major league at the time). The team finished first and played a 15 game postseason series against Detroit of the National League (sort of a  primitive World Series). They lost 10 games to 5.

1901–Napoleon LaJoie won the Triple Crown for the Philadelphia Athletics. They finished fourth in the fledgling American League.

1909–Ty Cobb won the Triple Crown at Detroit. The Tigers dropped the World Series to Pittsburgh in seven games.

1922 and 1925–Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown while with St. Louis. The Cardinals finished third in 1922 and fourth in 1925. Hornsby became the only player to win a Triple Crown and hit .400 in the same season. He did it both times.

1933–both leagues had a Triple Crown winner (only time that’s happened). Chuck Klein won the NL Triple Crown for the seventh place Phillies, while Jimmie Foxx won the AL Triple Crown for the third place Athletics. As a bit of trivia, both Triple Crown winners played in Philadelphia.

1934–Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown in one of the few years the Yankees didn’t finish first. They finished second.

1937–Joe Medwick won the last NL Triple Crown for the Cardinals. They rewarded him with a fourth place finish.

1942 and 1947–Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in both seasons. His Boston team finished second in ’42 and third in ’47.

1956–Mickey Mantle became the second Yankee Triple Crown winner and first Triple Crown winner to have his team (the Yankees) win the World Series.

1966–Frank Robinson became the second (with Baltimore). Robinson also became the first (and so far only) black player to win a Triple Crown. 

1967 –Carl Yastrzemski won the Triple Crown with Boston, but the Red Sox lost the World Series in seven games to the Cardinals.

Pitching Triple Crown winners are both more common and have won more frequently. Here’s a list of the pitchers who won both the pitching Triple Crown and the World Series (1800s version or modern version): Tommy Bond in 1877 (there was no postseason play that season but Bond’s Boston team took first place in the regular season), Charles Radbourne in 1884, Tim Keefe in 1888, Christy Mathewson in 1905, Walter Johnson in 1924, Lefty Grove in 1930, Lefty Gomez in 1937, Hal Newhouser in 1945, Sandy Koufax in both 1963 and 1965.

All that indicates that winning a Triple Crown (either variety) is no predictor of success in the postseason. Still, I think I’d rather win one than not.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Subs

March 20, 2010

I wonder how modern managers would handle old time rosters. Tony LaRussa seems to think a 25 man roster ought to include 19 pitchers and six others (I guess two pitchers go in the corners of the outfield.). But way back when rosters were much smaller, the 1927 Yankees had 25 men total on their roster for the entire year. The prize here has to go to the 1878 Boston Red Caps who managed to win a pennant with a ten man roster. With appropriate apologies to Alfonso Bedoya, their motto might have been “We don’t need no stinkin’ subs.”

The Red Caps won the National Association pennant by four games over Cincinnati going 41-19 in a 60 game season. They loaded up on the bottom teams winning eight of 12 against Chicago, 10 of 12 against Indianapolis, and all but one against Milwaukee. As mentioned in the post on Louisville’s 1877 scandal, both Indianapolis and Milwaukee were new to the league. They included a number of players from the defunct Louisville and St.. Louis teams, but hadn’t spent time working the pieces together. A further group of their players were NL rookies. Against the stronger teams, Providence and Cincinnati, Boston went 6-6.

They did it all with ten men. Harry Wright managing his last pennant winner, pulled all the right levers and won without substituting. Imagine that today.  Here’s the roster.

John Morrill played at first (and one game at third and in the outfield) hitting .240 with 23 RBIs and 26 runs scored.

Jack Burdock was at second for every inning of every game. He hit .260 with 25 RBIs and 37 runs.

George Wright was Harry’s younger brother and a future Hall of Famer. He played shortstop for 59 games hitting .225 with 12 RBIs and 35 runs. He was one of two players who “wimped out” and sat out a game.

Ezra Sutton played third for 59 games (and short the day George Wright sat out) going .226, with 29 RBIs, and 31 runs.

Andy Leonard was in left every game hitting .260 with 16 RBIs and 41 runs.

Hall of Famer Jim O’Rourke played center field (plus one game at first and caught two more). He led the team with a .278 average, and in runs scored  with 44. He tied with Sutton for the team lead in RBIs with 29.

Jack Manning was in right except for pitching three games (only one of which he started). He was a .254 hitter, with 23 RBIs, and 41 runs scored. Pitching he went 1-0 in 11.33 innings with two strikeouts, five walks, and an ERA of 14.29.

Pop Snyder was the catcher. He hit .212 with 14 RBIs and 21 runs scored. He spent two games in the outfield.

Tommy Bond was the workhorse pitcher. He hit .212 with 23 RBIs and scored 22 runs. In the field he was 40-19 with a 2.06 ERA, 33 walks, and led the league in strikeouts with 182 and 9 shutouts. The 40 wins also led the league. He, like George Wright, took a day off.  Both times he was relieved from pitching duties, he went to the outfield.

Which brings me to the tenth man. Drum roll please for substitute Harry Schafer. The supersub played in two (count ’em) games, both in the outfield. He was one for eight ( a .125 batting average) with no RBIs or runs scored. The hit was a single. I’ve always wondered if Schafer travelled around with the team or if Harry Wright just called him up a couple of times and asked him to come to the park so he could give someone a rest.

A couple of things to notice here. First, there are a lot more runs than RBIs. It was an era of small or non-existent gloves and terrible fields so there were a lot of errors and unearned runs. Second, the batting averages are pretty low, O’Rourke’s .278 leading the team. Boston finished fourth in hitting in the league (six teams), but was second in pitching with a 2.32 ERA. Obviously they were winning a lot of close games. Additionally, Burdock, George Wright, Snyder, and Bond all led the league in fielding at their position. The fielding numbers aren’t great by modern standards, but are very good for the era.

I’ve always been fascinated by this team since I first discovered it years ago. I wondered how you won with only one sub (playing only two games). I’d like to see the least number of players a modern (21st Century) team used over a sixty game period.

The Scandal at Louisville

March 19, 2010

I really wish I didn’t have to say this, but it’s true. The Black Sox are not completely unique. OK, they threw a World Series and no one else did, but the idea of throwing away a game or a season isn’t unique. Players have been accused of it for a long time. There have been questions of players taking money to lose games, of them playing less that 100% because the hated the owner or the manager. The Black Sox may have been the worst case, but they weren’t first.

By the middle of the 1877 season it became evident that the National League pennant was a two team race: Boston vs. the Louisville Grays. The Red Caps (Boston) was managed by Harry Wright. They had essentially the same team that won the last four National Association pennants then lost the first National League pennant by finishing fourth. Deacon White, George Wright (Harry’s brother), Ezra Sutton, and John Morrill handled the infield; Lew Brown caught; Andy Leonard, Harry Schafer, and Jim O’Rourke patrolled the outfield; and Tommy Bond did the pitching (both Wright’s and O’Rourke are Hall of Famers). Louisville finished fifth in 1876, but produced a strong contender the next season. The Grays featured Juice Latham, Joe Gerhardt, Bill Craver, and Bill Hague were the infield: the catcher was Pop Snyder; the outfield consisted of George Hall, Orator Shaffer, and Bill Crowley; and Jim Devlin pitched.

Th race was tight into late September, then Louisville lost four in a row at Boston, lost three of  four in Brooklyn (the other game was a tie), then dropped the final game of the season to Chicago. Boston won the pennant by seven games after Louisville led for most of the year. The official reason was that Devlin tired and the team just quit hitting. In an era of one pitcher teams, that sounded reasonable.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t so, Joe. It seems that a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, who happened to be the son of the team owner, started asking questions. Little used player Al Nichols (he played six games) was serving as a conduit for gamblers to fix games. Pitcher Devlin, outfielder Hall, and third baseman Craver were the other men accused. For money, they had thrown an unspecified number of games allowing Boston to win the pennant.

The accusations and the proof, in the form of telegrams to Nichols, landed on the desk of league president William Hulbert. The National League was Hulbert’s baby and any chance that gambling was occuring was sheer anathema to him. Any chance that games were being fixed was equally anathema. In looking at his comments, it’s as if he took it as a personal affront to his honor. He moved immediately, banning all four players from the game. None ever played a Major League game again.

As a result of the castastophe, Louisville dropped totally out of the NL the next season. St. Louis attempted to sign two of the “outlaws” and was shown the door also. So the scandal had produced a questionable pennant and cost the NL two teams (which were replaced by Milwaukee and Indianapolis). At least in 1919 the AL lost no teams.

Interestingly enough Devlin, who died in 1883, found another line of work after his banishment. He became a policeman in Philadelphia (go figure).