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From my new Taki’s Magazine column:

Ranking Ruth
Steve Sailer

February 26, 2020

I recently unfairly baited the great baseball philosopher Bill James into responding at vast length — 6,700 words — to one of my snarky tweets, which got me thinking about what we could learn from baseball history about how the media often gets The Narrative wrong.

Read the whole thing there.

 
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  1. So how many years before we can compare new Public Charge to old Public Charge regulations? Understanding that an illiterate peasant with Corona virus is more valuable than a scientist who could find a cure for the peasant.

  2. “The player who got the write-up the next morning for the biggest play in the game tended not to be the specialist in scoring runs, but in driving them in.”

    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in. They can’t score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball. RBI’s are equivalent to an assist in basketball and hockey. No one denigrates the assist in the NBA or NHL, so it doesn’t entirely make sense to denigrate the RBI as a legitimate metric for measuring a players overall greatness.

    HR sluggers generally have high RBI totals, because the two stats are interrelated. They go well together. It’s easier to get on base. It’s harder to drive the runner in than to actually score the run. No one (unless one steals home) scores a run all by himself. That’s why sacrifice flies are also counted as RBI.

    The RBI stat is actually an excellent team based stat as it best equates to an assist in other sports, where a player receives a legitimate share of the person’s goal, point, etc. That’s a fair observation, Steve.

    Like the assist in basketball, hockey, and soccer, the RBI is an acknowledgement that the runner didn’t just score that run all by himself. He had help. Someone drove him in. It’s giving a legitimate share to the hitter ahead of him who hit the ball and is ultimately responsible for driving the runner across the plate. Part of Ruth’s (and Lou Gerhig as well) allure as being the greatest player and hitter of all time is that he drove in lots of runners, led the AL in RBI’s.

    In that sense, it is acknowledging (or noticing) that sure, Henderson scored tons of runs, but R scored doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Someone had to drive him in. Thus Mattingly received his fair share of the credit for Henderson’s run scoring. As MLB is a team sport, the RBI serves as an assist, (team based) he is receiving legitimate credit for helping Henderson across the plate.

    That’s where Sabermetrics isn’t telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate. Come on. It doesn’t work that way in other sports, and MLB’s RBI stat is team based for similar reasons.

    It would be similar to Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison scoring TD’s. Well, Peyton Manning received some the credit as well for throwing the ball to them. WR’s can’t score unless they have the ball thrown to them.

    • Replies: @njguy73
    They're are advanced stats like
    - Runs Created, which takes into account getting on base, advancing around the bases, and advancing runners
    - Run Expectancy, which calculates a hitter's ability to increase the chance of his team scoring in that inning.

    And basketball and hockey have advanced stats like Player Efficiency and Corsi/Fenwick which measure their combined offensive/defensive value, or how well he helps his team control the puck. In hockey, any goal-based stat has limits since it's a low-scoring game. It's what happens between the goals that matters.

    , @Captain Tripps
    All great points, Y/Z. I do think, however, when you stated:

    They can’t score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball.
     
    You meant to say someone BEHIND them (in the batting order) hits the ball. Yes, I'm being slightly pedantic. But your points about RBIs as the baseball equivalent of assists is spot on.
    , @keypusher
    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in.

    That was literally the only thing you said in your entire post. You just repeated it about 20 times, and then threw in some I-don't-know-a-damn-thing-about-sabermetrics-but-I'm-going-to-talk-about-it-anyway stuff like

    "That’s where Sabermetrics isn’t telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate."

    Here's the answer to your post: 1. Driving in runs is important. 2. Getting on base so you can get driven in is important. In the old days, sportswriters overestimated #1 and underestimated #2. The End.

  3. What the hell is a baseball philosopher?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Bill James
    , @Known Fact
    I don't know about "philosopher," but James unlike some stat freaks does amusingly grasp the various archetypes and individual personality quirks that make MLB so absorbing. Is that element vanishing from his work? His annual Baseball Abstracts from the 70s and 80s were a work of art
  4. Ooh… ooh! Now do Baseball Machine George Will!

    • Replies: @guest
    The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. The effect of said symmetry? The exhilarating tension between: Being and Becoming.

    Willie Mays' Byzantinely whimsical over-the-shoulder catch was not-unlike seeing the Lost City of Atlantis rise from the sea, the bones of its long-submerged kings newly covered with flesh.

    Piffle or not piffle?

    https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/george-f-wills-sports-machine/n9910

  5. @SIMPLEPseudonymicHandle
    What the hell is a baseball philosopher?

    Bill James

    • LOL: Bardon Kaldian
  6. About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    • Replies: @ganderson
    A great player, and fun, too
    , @keypusher
    Also, if Rickey came along today, he'd never have pronoun trouble, because he always referred to himself as Rickey.


    @Steve Sailer -- well hey, maybe your grain of irritation produced a pearl. :-)

    Also, just in case it comes up in the comments, despite DiMaggio's modest WAR (and win shares) totals, caused by his short career, James ranked him #13 all time in his 2003 historical baseball abstract. He had a complicated formula for ranking players, but bottom line James favored big seasons over longevity. As he put it, nobody cares whether Mickey Mantle in 1968 was better than Willie Mays in 1972. Of course, best of all was to have both big seasons and longevity, like Ruth or Cobb.

    Probably doesn't need saying, but DiMaggio's career hits and home runs totals are also modest compared to most greats, and for the same reason. It's not just WAR that underrates him.

    My impression, however, is that James is underrating his movement’s accomplishment in securing Ruth’s reputation. I recollect that the condescending opinion of old-time baseball intellectuals in the 1960s was often, well, sure, ill-read fans think Ruth was the greatest because he hit a lot of vulgar home runs, but the real aficionados know that Ty Cobb’s record batting average (the most prestigious statistic) of .366 shows he was better than Ruth with his measly .342.

    In the 1960s everyone thought Cobb's career average was .367. Later the statisticians took a couple of hits away from him, I don't remember why.

    Less trivially, favoring Cobb over Ruth was in part an aesthetic judgment. Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs): line-drive power, hitting to a spot, bunting, sacrificing, stealing bases. Ruth was a smarter baseball player than he got credit for, but he was easy to caricature as a fat guy who hit home runs. Cobb was always visibly thinking about what to do, while Ruth, for example, may have been the first player not to bother to choke up on the bat when there were two strikes on him. The catcher who noticed said he couldn't tell whether Ruth didn't know he had two strikes on him, or he didn't care. I'm sure it was the latter, but a lot of people then probably thought it was the former.

    I've probably posted this quote from the Sporting News in 1922 before:

    As a batter, Ruth is an accident. He never plays inside baseball at the plate. He goes up trying to take a swing on every strike, a style that would cause any other player to be benched. He either knocks home runs or strikes out. Any man who strikes out as many times as Ruth did last year can never be classified as a great hitter.

    http://goldenrankings.com/baseballmemorablegame1921.htm

    Ruth had 81 strikeouts in 1921, incidentally. That would be an amazingly low number for a slugger today, but in 1921 Ruth was second in the American League. He easily held the career strikeout record when he retired. Anyway, he did a whole lot besides hit home runs or strike out, including lots of walks, doubles, and triples.

    , @Walsh2
    Rickey also is all time leader in referring to himself in the third person. If he were to revise your two paragraph post, "Rickey" would appear another 10 times at least.

    My favorite is voice mail he left for Padres GM:

    "Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."
    , @guest
    Forget everything else about Rickey Henderson but that he was the greatest ever at doing one thing: stealing bases. And he wasn't merely the greatest. He was a veritable Folk Hero. Like Paul Bunyan among mere lumberjacks. He out-stole entire teams. Groups of teams. Maybe even leagues, I dunno.

    Sorta like how Barry Bonds was out of proportion to the game for a while. As in, he could have gotten on base more than plenty of batters without bothering to pick up a bat...that is, if there were some way to prevent the pitcher from knowing whether he was armed or not. Except Barry was a cheater.

    Rickey wasn't. He was just superhuman.

    And it's not like punters or closers. In which case I don't care if your specialty gets you into the Hall of Fame. Stealing bases is something that comes in handy any number of ways all through the game.

    That being said, of course Henderson was not a one-trick pony. He was a great all-around player who did one thing especially great. A statistical phenomenon that way.

    , @Abe

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.
     
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson's WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    , @gsjackson
    These near-unanimous votes are a recent development. Check out these vote percentages. You've got people like Mantle, Dimaggio and Koufax under 90 percent. Jackie Robinson under 80 percent. Same with Walter Johnson, who was considered the GOAT on the mound until recent times, and even Cy Young himself with over 500 W's. Lots more immortals who will amaze with how low their vote totals are.

    https://www.baseball-almanac.com/hof/hofmem4.shtml
    , @Bostonvegas
    Rickey was the most destructive offensive player id ever seen prior to barry b and maybe pujols...i started watching late 70s
  7. Mickey Mantle was all right, I suppose, but my vote still goes to Jackie Jensen. My mom was friends with him way back in the day in Lake Tahoe and used to tell me stories about his wife having to drive him from city to city due to his fear of flying. Hadn’t thought about that in years. I used to love old-time baseball when I was a kid, and Jensen was like my own personal tie into that world.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Jensen and Mantle were physically pretty similar, strong athletes with fair coloration, Jensen a little more round-faced. You can find a TV episode of Home Run Derby with them competing around 1960.

    Here's a 1976 Sports Illustrated article on Jensen's life:

    https://www.si.com/vault/1976/04/12/616333/a-fear-of-flying

    The Boston Red Sox in the 1950s had a terrific outfield with two outfielders dealing with mental health issues -- Jensen and Jimmy Piersall -- and one guy who just caused anxiety and depression in pitchers, Ted Williams.

    Pitcher Zack Greinke missed most of a season after he went 5-17 early in his career due to mental issues. Kansas City team management was really good to him about how they dealt with it and by now he is close to going in the Hall of Fame.
  8. Why should a serious baseball philosopher even consider WAR in his analysis? Given that it is not 100% predicated upon irrefutable facts, the question should be, “what moron would accord any props to this sabermetric slumgullion?”

  9. Anent the basis upon which one casts his MVP ballot, how much weight should be accorded to the number of black numbers a candidate has?

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate. The Yankees Ron Guidry posted a record of 25-3 with an ERA of 1.74. His team won the AL East coming from 14 games behind Jim Rice’s Red Sox.

    Rice hit .315, with 46 home runs and 139 ribbies. He had black ink all over the place, leading the league in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. In fact, he had 406 total bases and he was the first AL player to have racked up 400 or more total bases since Joltin Joe did so in 1937.

    The discredited knock on Rice was that he did not hit in the clutch. However, in 1978, 31 of his 46 home-runs either tied the score or put the Sox in the lead. I can still recall Red Sox fans who thought Guidry should have won the MVP.

    To be sure, there has always been a bias in favor of the everyday player over a pitcher in the MVP debate. Nevertheless, Rice’s 1978 season ranks as one of the top three or four non-steroidal, non-garbage can banging, offensive years I have seen in my lifetime.

    • Replies: @ex-banker
    Every season of Mike Trout's career has been better than Jim Rice's 1978. Rice's career is ridiculously overrated and he has no business in the Hall of Fame -- unless it's based purely on "fame" as a player and not his performance. Dwight Evans peaked later and produced significantly more value than Rice.

    The legit knocks on Rice were his ridiculously high double play rate and his poor defense.

    , @ScarletNumber

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate.
     
    There was a similar debate in 1986, except switching the team names. The first place team (Red Sox) had the pitcher (Clemens) while the second place team (Yankees) had the batter (Mattingly).

    Except this time, the pitcher won while the batter came in 2nd. In both cases, the pitcher probably should have won.
    , @Steve Sailer
    There is a philosophical question involving the MVP vote: should you reward excellence that would, on average, contribute the most to winning ballgames? Or should you reward historical accomplishments that might involve a lot of luck?

    E.g. in 2018 Jacob DeGrom of the Mets pitched superbly but futilely, with a won-loss record of only 10-9. Similarly, Mike Trout of the Angels only had 79 RBIs because of the terribleness of the other Angel hitters that season.

    In contrast, in 1978, both Rice and Guidry had excellent claims to playing terrifically under any context, and contributing to a whole lot of wins and a historic pennant race.

    There are some newer stats like Win Probability Added that try to calculate the context of a hitter's contributions and Rice comes up the best hitter in 1978 on those measures.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/1978-batting-leaders.shtml

    On the other hand, Guidry went 25-3, one of the all-time great single season won-loss records. And it wasn't a fluke either.

    A rule of thumb seems to be that pitchers only win MVP, because they have their own Cy Young Award, if no hitter that season can make a comparable case. So Rice won.
  10. I saw that Mickey Mantle once. At the genuine Yankee Stadium.

    At one point in the game something complicated was attempted. I learnt that it was a “triple play”. But it didn’t come off.

    • Replies: @JMcG
    I pulled off an unassisted triple play in little league. Ran in from left field, caught a blooper at my shoestrings, tagged the runner advancing from second, and stepped on third, thus putting out the poor fellow who had already headed for home without tagging up. Never could have done it without my PF Flyers. And you expect us to watch soccer?
  11. What was discovered by our field was more along the lines of “we think that Larry Doby was actually more valuable than Hack Wilson.”

    Now see this is internet gold.

    I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    In the city I used to live there was a sports talk radio host on the biggest station (they broadcasted the NFL and the NBA team) who had a hall of fame vote and did not care for baseball at all and hadn’t watched an entire baseball game in years. He was musing one day that he was thinking of resigning from the baseball writers association and junking his hall of fame vote. Or maybe he would keep it. As a matter of about as much importance as a vote for county fence inspector.

    I would cite his name but I think he is probably one of a fairly sizable set. A lot of people think baseball is boring. Including sportswriters who go ga-ga over football and basketball.

  12. It’s fascinating how human beings can compartmentalize — e.g. a thread on baseball analysis right on the heels of a thread detailing how to prep for the Coronapocalypse. Serious worry about the safety of my family and community, but still time to follow the NHL trade deadline and sob quietly over the Pirates 2020 roster

    • Replies: @anon
    It’s fascinating how human beings can compartmentalize

    It's what keeps us sort of sane and able to function. Feature, not bug.
  13. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    A great player, and fun, too

  14. I’ll defend Mattingly over Henderson in 1985. Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder. A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game. I know Cardinals fans who are still bitter that Keith Hernandez had to share an MVP in 1979 with over-the-hill Willie Stargell (2.5 WAR vs Hernandez’s 7.6). Stargell was essentially getting a lifetime achievement award, with Hernandez the victim.

    Re RBI, I know sabermatricians don’t value them as much, but imagine a power hitter who doesn’t drive in runs and you have Rob Deer.

    • Replies: @ex-banker
    This is ridiculous:

    A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game.
     
    Hernandez was a great first baseman, but that's akin to being the world's tallest midget. Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history.

    The best first baseman in the majors last season saved 14 more runs over the whole season than an average first baseman.

    https://www.billjamesonline.com/2019_defensive_runs_saved_leaders/

    , @ScarletNumber

    in 1985... Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder.
     
    You have to give Henderson a little more credit than that. The Yankees still had Ken Griffey playing LF, so Rickey played CF.

    Don Mattingly also benefited from having a breakout 1984, which was his first full-year but not his official rookie year. He had a much better 1984 than Willie Hernandez, who won the MVP. Rickey, OTOH was still in Oakland in 1984. Therefore, you can think of Mattingly's MVP as an award for 1984 and 1985.
    , @Ian M.
    Why didn't Henderson play CF?
    , @Truth
    No he doesn't.

    If he did, a great fielding shortstop probably saves 2, and Rey Ordonez would be in the HOF.
  15. tmbb;dr

    I can’t wait for the golf course design Taki piece … or has that already appeared?

  16. @SIMPLEPseudonymicHandle
    What the hell is a baseball philosopher?

    I don’t know about “philosopher,” but James unlike some stat freaks does amusingly grasp the various archetypes and individual personality quirks that make MLB so absorbing. Is that element vanishing from his work? His annual Baseball Abstracts from the 70s and 80s were a work of art

  17. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    Also, if Rickey came along today, he’d never have pronoun trouble, because he always referred to himself as Rickey.

    — well hey, maybe your grain of irritation produced a pearl. 🙂

    Also, just in case it comes up in the comments, despite DiMaggio’s modest WAR (and win shares) totals, caused by his short career, James ranked him #13 all time in his 2003 historical baseball abstract. He had a complicated formula for ranking players, but bottom line James favored big seasons over longevity. As he put it, nobody cares whether Mickey Mantle in 1968 was better than Willie Mays in 1972. Of course, best of all was to have both big seasons and longevity, like Ruth or Cobb.

    Probably doesn’t need saying, but DiMaggio’s career hits and home runs totals are also modest compared to most greats, and for the same reason. It’s not just WAR that underrates him.

    My impression, however, is that James is underrating his movement’s accomplishment in securing Ruth’s reputation. I recollect that the condescending opinion of old-time baseball intellectuals in the 1960s was often, well, sure, ill-read fans think Ruth was the greatest because he hit a lot of vulgar home runs, but the real aficionados know that Ty Cobb’s record batting average (the most prestigious statistic) of .366 shows he was better than Ruth with his measly .342.

    In the 1960s everyone thought Cobb’s career average was .367. Later the statisticians took a couple of hits away from him, I don’t remember why.

    Less trivially, favoring Cobb over Ruth was in part an aesthetic judgment. Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs): line-drive power, hitting to a spot, bunting, sacrificing, stealing bases. Ruth was a smarter baseball player than he got credit for, but he was easy to caricature as a fat guy who hit home runs. Cobb was always visibly thinking about what to do, while Ruth, for example, may have been the first player not to bother to choke up on the bat when there were two strikes on him. The catcher who noticed said he couldn’t tell whether Ruth didn’t know he had two strikes on him, or he didn’t care. I’m sure it was the latter, but a lot of people then probably thought it was the former.

    I’ve probably posted this quote from the Sporting News in 1922 before:

    As a batter, Ruth is an accident. He never plays inside baseball at the plate. He goes up trying to take a swing on every strike, a style that would cause any other player to be benched. He either knocks home runs or strikes out. Any man who strikes out as many times as Ruth did last year can never be classified as a great hitter.

    http://goldenrankings.com/baseballmemorablegame1921.htm

    Ruth had 81 strikeouts in 1921, incidentally. That would be an amazingly low number for a slugger today, but in 1921 Ruth was second in the American League. He easily held the career strikeout record when he retired. Anyway, he did a whole lot besides hit home runs or strike out, including lots of walks, doubles, and triples.

    • Replies: @Ian M.

    Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs)...
     
    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.

    In response, Babe Ruth quipped, "I could have hit .600, but I would have had to hit singles. The people were paying for me to hit home runs."
  18. And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame.

    Only Mariano Rivera was.

    • Replies: @guest
    The Guy Who Threw One Pitch, beneficiary of being a Yankee and having a theme song.

    Marketing beats talent.
  19. Much like Steve was the inspiration for Bill’s most recent blog post, lest we forget that I was the inspiration for this post.

    https://www.unz.com/isteve/40th-anniversary-of-the-miracle-on-ice/#comment-3731554

  20. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    Rickey also is all time leader in referring to himself in the third person. If he were to revise your two paragraph post, “Rickey” would appear another 10 times at least.

    My favorite is voice mail he left for Padres GM:

    “Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball.”

    • Replies: @Hodag
    I went to high school with a kid whose father was a furrier. Every time Rickey came into town Rickey bought Rickey a fur. Rickey did not really trust banks,so Rickey liked to have hard assets. Cars lose value. Furs don't.
  21. The great philosopher of rank-order was Nietzsche: Rangordnung.

    But, of course, Nietzsche was “the Nazis’ favorite intellectual.” Whatever that means.

    I suppose it’s not surprising that in this #MeToo age the idea of rank-ordering has gone out of style.

    Women rank-order like mad, but they pretend they don’t.

  22. In 1936, DiMaggio’s rookie year, every Yankee regular except DiMaggio had more walks than strikeouts. Just one example from the era. I wonder whether pitchers back then really threw all that hard. By the way, Jensen cut me after I struck out his #3 and #4 hitters in a tryout.

    • Replies: @Mark Roulo

    In 1936, DiMaggio’s rookie year, every Yankee regular except DiMaggio had more walks than strikeouts. Just one example from the era. I wonder whether pitchers back then really threw all that hard.
     
    Babe Ruth used a 54 ounce bat at one point. Typical was around 40 ounces. Barry Bonds used a 32 ounce bat for his record setting season.

    The starters went every three or four days and in 1936 there were 42 pitchers who threw more than 200 innings.

    12 pitchers threw 20 or more complete games that year.

    The pitchers back then weren't throwing in the low 90 MPH for the typical fastball. The batters would not have been able to turn on the pitches and their arms would have failed.
  23. Maybe Murray cannot rank races, er, I mean ancestral groups or whatever.

    Are we allowed to rank particular human attributes?

    Such as the propensity of soi disant intellectuals to affect an interest in “manly” things like baseball?

    I think things were better when they were open about being effete pseudo intellectual snobs.

    The unintended consequences of Spiro Agnew rattle down the ages.

    • Agree: JMcG
  24. That 1985 Yankees team was peculiar in the sense that they had a great offensive year but no pitching besides Ron Guidry’s last good year and Dave Righetti in the bullpen.

    Also, Billy Martin had the best record in baseball that year at 91-54, but unfortunately for the Yankees their manager at the start of the year was Yogi Berra who went 6-10. In this pre-Wild Card era, the Yankees at 97-64 stayed home in October, finishing two games behind the Blue Jays. The Mets were even better at 98-64, but they stayed home as well, since the Cardinals won 101.

    It had to kill Steinbrenner to watch the ALCS that year, since the two managers were both former Yankees, both as players and coaches. Hell Dick Howser even got the Yankees into the playoffs his only year managing them in 1980, while Bobby Cox was a long-time Yankee minor league manager before becoming a coach in 1977.

    That 1977 coaching staff was something else. The manager was Billy Martin, while the coaches were Howser, Cox, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Art Fowler, and Cloyd Boyer (brother of Clete and Ken).

  25. @The Alarmist
    Ooh... ooh! Now do Baseball Machine George Will!

    The precarious balance between infield and outfield suggests a perfect symmetry. The effect of said symmetry? The exhilarating tension between: Being and Becoming.

    Willie Mays’ Byzantinely whimsical over-the-shoulder catch was not-unlike seeing the Lost City of Atlantis rise from the sea, the bones of its long-submerged kings newly covered with flesh.

    Piffle or not piffle?

    https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/george-f-wills-sports-machine/n9910

  26. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    Forget everything else about Rickey Henderson but that he was the greatest ever at doing one thing: stealing bases. And he wasn’t merely the greatest. He was a veritable Folk Hero. Like Paul Bunyan among mere lumberjacks. He out-stole entire teams. Groups of teams. Maybe even leagues, I dunno.

    Sorta like how Barry Bonds was out of proportion to the game for a while. As in, he could have gotten on base more than plenty of batters without bothering to pick up a bat…that is, if there were some way to prevent the pitcher from knowing whether he was armed or not. Except Barry was a cheater.

    Rickey wasn’t. He was just superhuman.

    And it’s not like punters or closers. In which case I don’t care if your specialty gets you into the Hall of Fame. Stealing bases is something that comes in handy any number of ways all through the game.

    That being said, of course Henderson was not a one-trick pony. He was a great all-around player who did one thing especially great. A statistical phenomenon that way.

  27. @ScarletNumber

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame.
     
    Only Mariano Rivera was.

    The Guy Who Threw One Pitch, beneficiary of being a Yankee and having a theme song.

    Marketing beats talent.

    • Replies: @peterike

    The Guy Who Threw One Pitch, beneficiary of being a Yankee and having a theme song.

     

    It doesn't matter if you only throw one pitch, if nobody can hit that pitch.
  28. On James’s website, there is a q&a section where he tries to explain/compare the politics of 1910-1920’s to the current era. Instead of consulting data (which he claims is his life) he makes a series of hunch based, cognitively biased, morally bland equivocations, based on nothing other than his intermittent exposure to popular media.

    His, and his fellow boomers, decades of cognitive dissonance must be extremely painful.

  29. @Known Fact
    It's fascinating how human beings can compartmentalize -- e.g. a thread on baseball analysis right on the heels of a thread detailing how to prep for the Coronapocalypse. Serious worry about the safety of my family and community, but still time to follow the NHL trade deadline and sob quietly over the Pirates 2020 roster

    It’s fascinating how human beings can compartmentalize

    It’s what keeps us sort of sane and able to function. Feature, not bug.

  30. @Walsh2
    Rickey also is all time leader in referring to himself in the third person. If he were to revise your two paragraph post, "Rickey" would appear another 10 times at least.

    My favorite is voice mail he left for Padres GM:

    "Kevin, this is Rickey, calling on behalf of Rickey. Rickey wants to play baseball."

    I went to high school with a kid whose father was a furrier. Every time Rickey came into town Rickey bought Rickey a fur. Rickey did not really trust banks,so Rickey liked to have hard assets. Cars lose value. Furs don’t.

    • Replies: @Walsh2
    Thanks for the story, Rickey was/is awesome.
  31. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson’s WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    • Replies: @Mark Roulo

    I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson’s WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.
     
    Sabermetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat, but the sabermetric community does insist on considering the time the base runner was caught stealing, too.

    There is a chapter titled "What if Rickey Henderson had Pete Incaviglia's legs?" in the Sabermetric book "Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong."

    Going from memory, Ricky's base stealing (over his career) contributed about 2.5 WAR to Ricky's career ~110 WAR. This works out to a few *runs* extra per season. The "problem" is that Ricky's 1,406 steals came paired with 335 caught stealing plays. This gives Ricky an 80% success rate, which is high enough to make the stealing worth doing (thus the +2.5 WAR), but getting caught is MUCH worse than the benefit of success, so the break-even point is around 2/3 - 70%.

    Ricky's 0.401 OBP is much more valuable than his 1,406 steals paired with his 335 caught stealing plays, just not as flashy.
    , @The Wild Geese Howard

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak.
     
    There are myriad reasons for this.

    Five that immediately come to mind-

    1) Much more emphasis on team defense from players; Everyone is expected to block shots and play two ways now
    2) The appearance of strategies that were designed to emphasize team defense and limit high %age scoring chances, like the neutral zone trap made infamous by Jacques Lemaire and the NJ Devils
    3) Much more athletic, well-conditioned players all over the ice; Thus, far less opportunity to pick your spot and far less time to get the shot off
    4) Better conditioned goalies, so it's harder to catch them unawares and blow the puck by them
    5) Much larger goalie equipment, though today's gear is not as ridiculous as some of the tents and styrofoam coolers in use from the mid-90s to the late-00s.

    , @kaganovitch
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years.


    Coleman never stole more than 110 in a season, though he did exceed 100 his first 3 years in the league. Rickey once stole 130 but never exceeded 108 otherwise. Rickey was around twice as good as Coleman otherwise . Rickey had a lifetime 127 ops+ , Coleman an 83.

    , @Ian M.
    What have teams done to improve their steal defense?
  32. James sounds like a loser. Does he even know how to throw?

  33. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "The player who got the write-up the next morning for the biggest play in the game tended not to be the specialist in scoring runs, but in driving them in."

    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in. They can't score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball. RBI's are equivalent to an assist in basketball and hockey. No one denigrates the assist in the NBA or NHL, so it doesn't entirely make sense to denigrate the RBI as a legitimate metric for measuring a players overall greatness.

    HR sluggers generally have high RBI totals, because the two stats are interrelated. They go well together. It's easier to get on base. It's harder to drive the runner in than to actually score the run. No one (unless one steals home) scores a run all by himself. That's why sacrifice flies are also counted as RBI.

    The RBI stat is actually an excellent team based stat as it best equates to an assist in other sports, where a player receives a legitimate share of the person's goal, point, etc. That's a fair observation, Steve.

    Like the assist in basketball, hockey, and soccer, the RBI is an acknowledgement that the runner didn't just score that run all by himself. He had help. Someone drove him in. It's giving a legitimate share to the hitter ahead of him who hit the ball and is ultimately responsible for driving the runner across the plate. Part of Ruth's (and Lou Gerhig as well) allure as being the greatest player and hitter of all time is that he drove in lots of runners, led the AL in RBI's.

    In that sense, it is acknowledging (or noticing) that sure, Henderson scored tons of runs, but R scored doesn't exist in a vacuum. Someone had to drive him in. Thus Mattingly received his fair share of the credit for Henderson's run scoring. As MLB is a team sport, the RBI serves as an assist, (team based) he is receiving legitimate credit for helping Henderson across the plate.

    That's where Sabermetrics isn't telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate. Come on. It doesn't work that way in other sports, and MLB's RBI stat is team based for similar reasons.

    It would be similar to Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison scoring TD's. Well, Peyton Manning received some the credit as well for throwing the ball to them. WR's can't score unless they have the ball thrown to them.

    They’re are advanced stats like
    – Runs Created, which takes into account getting on base, advancing around the bases, and advancing runners
    – Run Expectancy, which calculates a hitter’s ability to increase the chance of his team scoring in that inning.

    And basketball and hockey have advanced stats like Player Efficiency and Corsi/Fenwick which measure their combined offensive/defensive value, or how well he helps his team control the puck. In hockey, any goal-based stat has limits since it’s a low-scoring game. It’s what happens between the goals that matters.

  34. he’s wrong about players from 100 years ago being able to play today, too.

    if anybody is willing to pay me, i’ll write 6700 words about the flynn effect in sports.

    bill james doesn’t know anything about the advancing speed and movement in pitches, which is measurable. i saw his arguments where he got this exactly wrong, and talked about the size and strength of the batters over time instead, as if that was the key factor in batting average.

    it’s true that a human can probably only hit a baseball 500 feet from a baseball bat, no matter how strong or good their technique gets, due to physics. so guys were hitting it about as far as it could be hit 30 or 40 years ago. well, exempting Rob Manfred’s new baseballs. but if Bill James thinks the pitchers were about the same 100 years ago, lol.

    he also knows nothing about the most important thing in all of sports, participation rate. there were about 100 million people in the US in 1920, versus 330 million now. and 1 billion people in the world in 1920 versus 8 billion now.

    due to how this stuff actually works, human athletic performance began to peak in the 1980s, not the 1920s. it’s an open question how far back players from the past could play today, and it varies by sport too. but it’s not 1920, in any sport. for even the best player.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    but if Bill James thinks the pitchers were about the same 100 years ago, lol.

    What makes you think he does?

    he also knows nothing about the most important thing in all of sports, participation rate. there were about 100 million people in the US in 1920, versus 330 million now. and 1 billion people in the world in 1920 versus 8 billion now.

    He brings that up frequently in the historical baseball abstract, and introduces a time adjustment in his player ratings on account of it.

    It's my sense that a much lower percentage of the young male population plays baseball than 50 or 75 years ago, but I've never seen that quantified.

  35. @Marty
    In 1936, DiMaggio’s rookie year, every Yankee regular except DiMaggio had more walks than strikeouts. Just one example from the era. I wonder whether pitchers back then really threw all that hard. By the way, Jensen cut me after I struck out his #3 and #4 hitters in a tryout.

    In 1936, DiMaggio’s rookie year, every Yankee regular except DiMaggio had more walks than strikeouts. Just one example from the era. I wonder whether pitchers back then really threw all that hard.

    Babe Ruth used a 54 ounce bat at one point. Typical was around 40 ounces. Barry Bonds used a 32 ounce bat for his record setting season.

    The starters went every three or four days and in 1936 there were 42 pitchers who threw more than 200 innings.

    12 pitchers threw 20 or more complete games that year.

    The pitchers back then weren’t throwing in the low 90 MPH for the typical fastball. The batters would not have been able to turn on the pitches and their arms would have failed.

  36. Anonymous[354] • Disclaimer says:

    Heavyweight champ Tyson Fury is an athlete similar to Babe Ruth.

    Both appear to be out of shape in the competitive prime of their lives.

    Both are large men with a deceptive athleticism (foot work) that fools the opponent.

    Both have unusually good hand/eye coordination not usually associated with big guys.

    Both have a similar manic personality, off field antics and habits.

    • Replies: @prosa123
    Tyson Fury is also the world's best known Irish Traveller.
  37. @Abe

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.
     
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson's WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson’s WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Sabermetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat, but the sabermetric community does insist on considering the time the base runner was caught stealing, too.

    There is a chapter titled “What if Rickey Henderson had Pete Incaviglia’s legs?” in the Sabermetric book “Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong.”

    Going from memory, Ricky’s base stealing (over his career) contributed about 2.5 WAR to Ricky’s career ~110 WAR. This works out to a few *runs* extra per season. The “problem” is that Ricky’s 1,406 steals came paired with 335 caught stealing plays. This gives Ricky an 80% success rate, which is high enough to make the stealing worth doing (thus the +2.5 WAR), but getting caught is MUCH worse than the benefit of success, so the break-even point is around 2/3 – 70%.

    Ricky’s 0.401 OBP is much more valuable than his 1,406 steals paired with his 335 caught stealing plays, just not as flashy.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Of course, as well as stealing bases, Henderson scored on a lot of doubles from first and singles from center due to his speed. In contrast, in 1985, Wade Boggs got on base 340 times and scored only 107 runs. That probably had something to do with Jim Rice, batting behind Boggs, grounding into 35 double plays and only having 103 RBIs. Heck, Bill Buckner at age 35 had 110 RBIs that season.
    , @Steve Sailer
    Of course, as well as stealing bases, Henderson scored on a lot of doubles from first and singles from center due to his speed. In contrast, in 1985, Wade Boggs got on base 340 times and scored only 107 runs. That probably had something to do with Jim Rice, batting behind Boggs, grounding into 35 double plays and only having 103 RBIs. Heck, Bill Buckner at age 35 had 110 RBIs that season.
  38. I took some aptitude tests a few years back and “Baseball Philosopher” was nowhere on the outcomes. What are the job requirements? Is it like “Philosopher King”?

  39. @guest
    The Guy Who Threw One Pitch, beneficiary of being a Yankee and having a theme song.

    Marketing beats talent.

    The Guy Who Threw One Pitch, beneficiary of being a Yankee and having a theme song.

    It doesn’t matter if you only throw one pitch, if nobody can hit that pitch.

  40. Dear Steve,

    Please help save sports from the stat nerds. Stats are like accounting numbers in business, they can be useful to help clarify a situation, bolster and argument, or cast doubt on one.

    But never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever should they take precedence over the observation and analysis of actual humans doing actual things.
    Because stats don’t tell you what wasn’t done, or what plans were made, or thwarted, by players and the respect/fear that their ability causes the opponents.

    Also, they care not that the changes to the game caused by statistics-based strategy, while helping a team win, actual kill the game. Constant infield shifts and batters swinging for the fences when a ground ball will help the team makes me tune out.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    But never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever should they take precedence over the observation and analysis of actual humans doing actual things.
    Because stats don’t tell you what wasn’t done, or what plans were made, or thwarted, by players and the respect/fear that their ability causes the opponents.


    Complicated phenomena that occur over a long period of time, from typhoons to Triple Crowns, have to be analyzed statistically. Period. Human observers are dumb, biased, see little and understand less.

    Also, they care not that the changes to the game caused by statistics-based strategy, while helping a team win, actual kill the game. Constant infield shifts and batters swinging for the fences when a ground ball will help the team makes me tune out.

    You have a point there.
  41. @Abe

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.
     
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson's WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak.

    There are myriad reasons for this.

    Five that immediately come to mind-

    1) Much more emphasis on team defense from players; Everyone is expected to block shots and play two ways now
    2) The appearance of strategies that were designed to emphasize team defense and limit high %age scoring chances, like the neutral zone trap made infamous by Jacques Lemaire and the NJ Devils
    3) Much more athletic, well-conditioned players all over the ice; Thus, far less opportunity to pick your spot and far less time to get the shot off
    4) Better conditioned goalies, so it’s harder to catch them unawares and blow the puck by them
    5) Much larger goalie equipment, though today’s gear is not as ridiculous as some of the tents and styrofoam coolers in use from the mid-90s to the late-00s.

  42. @Liberty Mike
    Anent the basis upon which one casts his MVP ballot, how much weight should be accorded to the number of black numbers a candidate has?

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate. The Yankees Ron Guidry posted a record of 25-3 with an ERA of 1.74. His team won the AL East coming from 14 games behind Jim Rice's Red Sox.

    Rice hit .315, with 46 home runs and 139 ribbies. He had black ink all over the place, leading the league in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. In fact, he had 406 total bases and he was the first AL player to have racked up 400 or more total bases since Joltin Joe did so in 1937.

    The discredited knock on Rice was that he did not hit in the clutch. However, in 1978, 31 of his 46 home-runs either tied the score or put the Sox in the lead. I can still recall Red Sox fans who thought Guidry should have won the MVP.

    To be sure, there has always been a bias in favor of the everyday player over a pitcher in the MVP debate. Nevertheless, Rice's 1978 season ranks as one of the top three or four non-steroidal, non-garbage can banging, offensive years I have seen in my lifetime.

    Every season of Mike Trout’s career has been better than Jim Rice’s 1978. Rice’s career is ridiculously overrated and he has no business in the Hall of Fame — unless it’s based purely on “fame” as a player and not his performance. Dwight Evans peaked later and produced significantly more value than Rice.

    The legit knocks on Rice were his ridiculously high double play rate and his poor defense.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But Rice in 1978 only grounded into 15 double plays, a high number, but not ridiculous, and played decent defense in left. Several of his 1980s seasons were pretty bad, though.

    Fred Lynn probably deserved the MVP in 1979 but he and Rice split the vote, finishing 4th and 5th, letting Don Baylor win.
    , @Liberty Mike
    Your assertion that every one of Trout's seasons was better than Rice's 1978 is not supported by the facts.

    To wit, in 1978, Rice had 11 black ink numbers. Trout's high is five, the last three years.

    Rice had 139 RBIs in '78, Trout's career high was 111.

    Rice had 15 triples in '78, Trout's career high was 9.

    Rice had 213 hits in '78, Trout's career high was 190.

    Rice had 406 total bases. Trout's career high was 338.

    Check and mate.
  43. @prime noticer
    he's wrong about players from 100 years ago being able to play today, too.

    if anybody is willing to pay me, i'll write 6700 words about the flynn effect in sports.

    bill james doesn't know anything about the advancing speed and movement in pitches, which is measurable. i saw his arguments where he got this exactly wrong, and talked about the size and strength of the batters over time instead, as if that was the key factor in batting average.

    it's true that a human can probably only hit a baseball 500 feet from a baseball bat, no matter how strong or good their technique gets, due to physics. so guys were hitting it about as far as it could be hit 30 or 40 years ago. well, exempting Rob Manfred's new baseballs. but if Bill James thinks the pitchers were about the same 100 years ago, lol.

    he also knows nothing about the most important thing in all of sports, participation rate. there were about 100 million people in the US in 1920, versus 330 million now. and 1 billion people in the world in 1920 versus 8 billion now.

    due to how this stuff actually works, human athletic performance began to peak in the 1980s, not the 1920s. it's an open question how far back players from the past could play today, and it varies by sport too. but it's not 1920, in any sport. for even the best player.

    but if Bill James thinks the pitchers were about the same 100 years ago, lol.

    What makes you think he does?

    he also knows nothing about the most important thing in all of sports, participation rate. there were about 100 million people in the US in 1920, versus 330 million now. and 1 billion people in the world in 1920 versus 8 billion now.

    He brings that up frequently in the historical baseball abstract, and introduces a time adjustment in his player ratings on account of it.

    It’s my sense that a much lower percentage of the young male population plays baseball than 50 or 75 years ago, but I’ve never seen that quantified.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Baseball was a pretty universal sport among American boys until the later decades of the 20th Century, and the population was younger.

    Baseball wasn't that universal in 1900, however. Ty Cobb, who came up in 1905, was a rare Southerner at the time. Soon, though, there were a huge number of Southerners.
  44. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "The player who got the write-up the next morning for the biggest play in the game tended not to be the specialist in scoring runs, but in driving them in."

    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in. They can't score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball. RBI's are equivalent to an assist in basketball and hockey. No one denigrates the assist in the NBA or NHL, so it doesn't entirely make sense to denigrate the RBI as a legitimate metric for measuring a players overall greatness.

    HR sluggers generally have high RBI totals, because the two stats are interrelated. They go well together. It's easier to get on base. It's harder to drive the runner in than to actually score the run. No one (unless one steals home) scores a run all by himself. That's why sacrifice flies are also counted as RBI.

    The RBI stat is actually an excellent team based stat as it best equates to an assist in other sports, where a player receives a legitimate share of the person's goal, point, etc. That's a fair observation, Steve.

    Like the assist in basketball, hockey, and soccer, the RBI is an acknowledgement that the runner didn't just score that run all by himself. He had help. Someone drove him in. It's giving a legitimate share to the hitter ahead of him who hit the ball and is ultimately responsible for driving the runner across the plate. Part of Ruth's (and Lou Gerhig as well) allure as being the greatest player and hitter of all time is that he drove in lots of runners, led the AL in RBI's.

    In that sense, it is acknowledging (or noticing) that sure, Henderson scored tons of runs, but R scored doesn't exist in a vacuum. Someone had to drive him in. Thus Mattingly received his fair share of the credit for Henderson's run scoring. As MLB is a team sport, the RBI serves as an assist, (team based) he is receiving legitimate credit for helping Henderson across the plate.

    That's where Sabermetrics isn't telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate. Come on. It doesn't work that way in other sports, and MLB's RBI stat is team based for similar reasons.

    It would be similar to Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison scoring TD's. Well, Peyton Manning received some the credit as well for throwing the ball to them. WR's can't score unless they have the ball thrown to them.

    All great points, Y/Z. I do think, however, when you stated:

    They can’t score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball.

    You meant to say someone BEHIND them (in the batting order) hits the ball. Yes, I’m being slightly pedantic. But your points about RBIs as the baseball equivalent of assists is spot on.

  45. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    "The player who got the write-up the next morning for the biggest play in the game tended not to be the specialist in scoring runs, but in driving them in."

    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in. They can't score (generally) the run, unless someone ahead of them hits the ball. RBI's are equivalent to an assist in basketball and hockey. No one denigrates the assist in the NBA or NHL, so it doesn't entirely make sense to denigrate the RBI as a legitimate metric for measuring a players overall greatness.

    HR sluggers generally have high RBI totals, because the two stats are interrelated. They go well together. It's easier to get on base. It's harder to drive the runner in than to actually score the run. No one (unless one steals home) scores a run all by himself. That's why sacrifice flies are also counted as RBI.

    The RBI stat is actually an excellent team based stat as it best equates to an assist in other sports, where a player receives a legitimate share of the person's goal, point, etc. That's a fair observation, Steve.

    Like the assist in basketball, hockey, and soccer, the RBI is an acknowledgement that the runner didn't just score that run all by himself. He had help. Someone drove him in. It's giving a legitimate share to the hitter ahead of him who hit the ball and is ultimately responsible for driving the runner across the plate. Part of Ruth's (and Lou Gerhig as well) allure as being the greatest player and hitter of all time is that he drove in lots of runners, led the AL in RBI's.

    In that sense, it is acknowledging (or noticing) that sure, Henderson scored tons of runs, but R scored doesn't exist in a vacuum. Someone had to drive him in. Thus Mattingly received his fair share of the credit for Henderson's run scoring. As MLB is a team sport, the RBI serves as an assist, (team based) he is receiving legitimate credit for helping Henderson across the plate.

    That's where Sabermetrics isn't telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate. Come on. It doesn't work that way in other sports, and MLB's RBI stat is team based for similar reasons.

    It would be similar to Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison scoring TD's. Well, Peyton Manning received some the credit as well for throwing the ball to them. WR's can't score unless they have the ball thrown to them.

    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in.

    That was literally the only thing you said in your entire post. You just repeated it about 20 times, and then threw in some I-don’t-know-a-damn-thing-about-sabermetrics-but-I’m-going-to-talk-about-it-anyway stuff like

    “That’s where Sabermetrics isn’t telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate.”

    Here’s the answer to your post: 1. Driving in runs is important. 2. Getting on base so you can get driven in is important. In the old days, sportswriters overestimated #1 and underestimated #2. The End.

    • Replies: @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Not quite. The post wasn’t directly about Sabermetrics, but it was concerned with the attempt to stop denigrating a stat that has been around for over a century, and has been an important part in measuring a players total worth.

    #3. You can’t score the R without being driven in. Period. Solo HRs, by the way, also count as an RBI. It is more likely that a player can drive himself across the plate than he can score a R all by himself. Stealing home (extremely rare), as well as a passed ball or wild pitch are about only ways that it occurs. While players get driven across home plate by others (and rightly awarded a share in the run scorer’s success with an RBI) virtually most every ball game.

    Perhaps in the old days, the sportswriters went by what they were seeing on the field. Also, for the most part, a high RBI total (e.g. 100+ in a season) tend to equate with fairly large HR season totals. It’s unlikely that a power hitter with 40+ HR in a season won’t also have 100+ RBIs in the same season as well. They tend to go together.
  46. @Bragadocious
    I'll defend Mattingly over Henderson in 1985. Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder. A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game. I know Cardinals fans who are still bitter that Keith Hernandez had to share an MVP in 1979 with over-the-hill Willie Stargell (2.5 WAR vs Hernandez's 7.6). Stargell was essentially getting a lifetime achievement award, with Hernandez the victim.

    Re RBI, I know sabermatricians don't value them as much, but imagine a power hitter who doesn't drive in runs and you have Rob Deer.

    This is ridiculous:

    A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game.

    Hernandez was a great first baseman, but that’s akin to being the world’s tallest midget. Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history.

    The best first baseman in the majors last season saved 14 more runs over the whole season than an average first baseman.

    https://www.billjamesonline.com/2019_defensive_runs_saved_leaders/

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Keith Hernandez was like a Hall of Fame third baseman who happened to be lefthanded so he had to play first base.
    , @Bragadocious
    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. ("Win Shares Above Bench") So I don't know what you're ranting about, frankly. You don't even know James' own methodology.

    Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history

     

    You haven't seen Chris Carter play 1B.
  47. @dearieme
    I saw that Mickey Mantle once. At the genuine Yankee Stadium.

    At one point in the game something complicated was attempted. I learnt that it was a "triple play". But it didn't come off.

    I pulled off an unassisted triple play in little league. Ran in from left field, caught a blooper at my shoestrings, tagged the runner advancing from second, and stepped on third, thus putting out the poor fellow who had already headed for home without tagging up. Never could have done it without my PF Flyers. And you expect us to watch soccer?

  48. @ex-banker
    This is ridiculous:

    A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game.
     
    Hernandez was a great first baseman, but that's akin to being the world's tallest midget. Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history.

    The best first baseman in the majors last season saved 14 more runs over the whole season than an average first baseman.

    https://www.billjamesonline.com/2019_defensive_runs_saved_leaders/

    Keith Hernandez was like a Hall of Fame third baseman who happened to be lefthanded so he had to play first base.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    Also, in 1984 when the Mets had a young pitching staff and catchers, Keith pretty much ran the show from first base. In 1985 they acquired Gary Carter so Keith could concentrate on his hitting and fielding.
    , @Ian M.
    Yet another example of the pernicious discrimination against those of minority chirality.
  49. @Hodag
    I went to high school with a kid whose father was a furrier. Every time Rickey came into town Rickey bought Rickey a fur. Rickey did not really trust banks,so Rickey liked to have hard assets. Cars lose value. Furs don't.

    Thanks for the story, Rickey was/is awesome.

  50. Women: Catfights

    Men: Batfights

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar

    Women: Catfights

    Men: Batfights
     
    Californians: Ratfights


    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jVIgUVmb4JY
  51. @Steve Sailer
    Keith Hernandez was like a Hall of Fame third baseman who happened to be lefthanded so he had to play first base.

    Also, in 1984 when the Mets had a young pitching staff and catchers, Keith pretty much ran the show from first base. In 1985 they acquired Gary Carter so Keith could concentrate on his hitting and fielding.

  52. @keypusher
    Getting on base is awesome. Scoring runs is also great. But for the most part, someone has to drive the runners in.

    That was literally the only thing you said in your entire post. You just repeated it about 20 times, and then threw in some I-don't-know-a-damn-thing-about-sabermetrics-but-I'm-going-to-talk-about-it-anyway stuff like

    "That’s where Sabermetrics isn’t telling the entire story. As if a runner scored all by himself and had no assist from his teammates to help him across the plate."

    Here's the answer to your post: 1. Driving in runs is important. 2. Getting on base so you can get driven in is important. In the old days, sportswriters overestimated #1 and underestimated #2. The End.

    Not quite. The post wasn’t directly about Sabermetrics, but it was concerned with the attempt to stop denigrating a stat that has been around for over a century, and has been an important part in measuring a players total worth.

    #3. You can’t score the R without being driven in. Period. Solo HRs, by the way, also count as an RBI. It is more likely that a player can drive himself across the plate than he can score a R all by himself. Stealing home (extremely rare), as well as a passed ball or wild pitch are about only ways that it occurs. While players get driven across home plate by others (and rightly awarded a share in the run scorer’s success with an RBI) virtually most every ball game.

    Perhaps in the old days, the sportswriters went by what they were seeing on the field. Also, for the most part, a high RBI total (e.g. 100+ in a season) tend to equate with fairly large HR season totals. It’s unlikely that a power hitter with 40+ HR in a season won’t also have 100+ RBIs in the same season as well. They tend to go together.

    • Replies: @6dust6
    True. I’ve always noticed the fairly consistent 3-1 ratio of RBIs to HRs. For that
    reason Tommy Herr’s ‘85 season with the Cardinals knocking in 110 runs while
    hitting only 8 HRs always amazed me.
  53. @Mark Roulo

    I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson’s WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.
     
    Sabermetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat, but the sabermetric community does insist on considering the time the base runner was caught stealing, too.

    There is a chapter titled "What if Rickey Henderson had Pete Incaviglia's legs?" in the Sabermetric book "Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong."

    Going from memory, Ricky's base stealing (over his career) contributed about 2.5 WAR to Ricky's career ~110 WAR. This works out to a few *runs* extra per season. The "problem" is that Ricky's 1,406 steals came paired with 335 caught stealing plays. This gives Ricky an 80% success rate, which is high enough to make the stealing worth doing (thus the +2.5 WAR), but getting caught is MUCH worse than the benefit of success, so the break-even point is around 2/3 - 70%.

    Ricky's 0.401 OBP is much more valuable than his 1,406 steals paired with his 335 caught stealing plays, just not as flashy.

    Of course, as well as stealing bases, Henderson scored on a lot of doubles from first and singles from center due to his speed. In contrast, in 1985, Wade Boggs got on base 340 times and scored only 107 runs. That probably had something to do with Jim Rice, batting behind Boggs, grounding into 35 double plays and only having 103 RBIs. Heck, Bill Buckner at age 35 had 110 RBIs that season.

  54. …and four world championships.

    There are two cases when using “world championship” is bad form. When a sport is only played in one country. And when it’s played in many countries, but those countries are not invited to contest for this “world championship”.

    It would be silly to call the winner of a roque tournament in tiny Angelica, N.Y., the world champion, even if it’s quite possible that he is.


    In the other hand, the 1987 Twins called themselves “world champions” despite a mediocre record, getting lucky in the postseason, after taking vacation for the last week of the regular season and being rested and getting lucky in a postseason they didn’t deserve to experience.

    At the same time, the Seibu Lions were the 1950s Yankees of their nation:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saitama_Seibu_Lions#Golden_Age_(1982–1994)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saitama_Seibu_Lions#Season-by-season_records

    Detroit and Toronto won more games in the regular season than Minnesota did in the regular and post seasons combined. Milwaukee came close, too, and, being 15 miles farther west than Chicago, would have won the Twins’ pseudo-division by a half-dozen games had the league’s divisions been aligned properly.

    I never cared for the term “world champion” before that, but lost all respect for it in 1987.

    • Troll: ScarletNumber
  55. @Mark Roulo

    I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson’s WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.
     
    Sabermetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat, but the sabermetric community does insist on considering the time the base runner was caught stealing, too.

    There is a chapter titled "What if Rickey Henderson had Pete Incaviglia's legs?" in the Sabermetric book "Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game Is Wrong."

    Going from memory, Ricky's base stealing (over his career) contributed about 2.5 WAR to Ricky's career ~110 WAR. This works out to a few *runs* extra per season. The "problem" is that Ricky's 1,406 steals came paired with 335 caught stealing plays. This gives Ricky an 80% success rate, which is high enough to make the stealing worth doing (thus the +2.5 WAR), but getting caught is MUCH worse than the benefit of success, so the break-even point is around 2/3 - 70%.

    Ricky's 0.401 OBP is much more valuable than his 1,406 steals paired with his 335 caught stealing plays, just not as flashy.

    Of course, as well as stealing bases, Henderson scored on a lot of doubles from first and singles from center due to his speed. In contrast, in 1985, Wade Boggs got on base 340 times and scored only 107 runs. That probably had something to do with Jim Rice, batting behind Boggs, grounding into 35 double plays and only having 103 RBIs. Heck, Bill Buckner at age 35 had 110 RBIs that season.

  56. @Bragadocious
    I'll defend Mattingly over Henderson in 1985. Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder. A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game. I know Cardinals fans who are still bitter that Keith Hernandez had to share an MVP in 1979 with over-the-hill Willie Stargell (2.5 WAR vs Hernandez's 7.6). Stargell was essentially getting a lifetime achievement award, with Hernandez the victim.

    Re RBI, I know sabermatricians don't value them as much, but imagine a power hitter who doesn't drive in runs and you have Rob Deer.

    in 1985… Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder.

    You have to give Henderson a little more credit than that. The Yankees still had Ken Griffey playing LF, so Rickey played CF.

    Don Mattingly also benefited from having a breakout 1984, which was his first full-year but not his official rookie year. He had a much better 1984 than Willie Hernandez, who won the MVP. Rickey, OTOH was still in Oakland in 1984. Therefore, you can think of Mattingly’s MVP as an award for 1984 and 1985.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    A lot of MVP votes seem to be driven by sportwriters agreeing on some narrative-driven logic just for that year that they don't follow when voting in other years: e.g., Willie Stargell winning in 1979 as a combination of Good Clubhouse Presence and Lifetime Achievement and Clutch Hits.
  57. Sabermetricians are basically the Power Gamers of baseball.

    https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=power%20gamer

    We are known for sucking the life out of entertaining pursuits, it’s understandable why it took them so long to break into baseball.

  58. @Anonymous
    Women: Catfights

    Men: Batfights

    Women: Catfights

    Men: Batfights

    Californians: Ratfights

    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
    One time I was at State & Madison Chicago waiting for the bus and observed two English sparrows fighting. One of the sparrows pinned the other one upside down on the ground with one foot; yes, Black people were videoing this on the cellphone.
  59. @Liberty Mike
    Anent the basis upon which one casts his MVP ballot, how much weight should be accorded to the number of black numbers a candidate has?

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate. The Yankees Ron Guidry posted a record of 25-3 with an ERA of 1.74. His team won the AL East coming from 14 games behind Jim Rice's Red Sox.

    Rice hit .315, with 46 home runs and 139 ribbies. He had black ink all over the place, leading the league in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. In fact, he had 406 total bases and he was the first AL player to have racked up 400 or more total bases since Joltin Joe did so in 1937.

    The discredited knock on Rice was that he did not hit in the clutch. However, in 1978, 31 of his 46 home-runs either tied the score or put the Sox in the lead. I can still recall Red Sox fans who thought Guidry should have won the MVP.

    To be sure, there has always been a bias in favor of the everyday player over a pitcher in the MVP debate. Nevertheless, Rice's 1978 season ranks as one of the top three or four non-steroidal, non-garbage can banging, offensive years I have seen in my lifetime.

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate.

    There was a similar debate in 1986, except switching the team names. The first place team (Red Sox) had the pitcher (Clemens) while the second place team (Yankees) had the batter (Mattingly).

    Except this time, the pitcher won while the batter came in 2nd. In both cases, the pitcher probably should have won.

  60. @Janus
    Mickey Mantle was all right, I suppose, but my vote still goes to Jackie Jensen. My mom was friends with him way back in the day in Lake Tahoe and used to tell me stories about his wife having to drive him from city to city due to his fear of flying. Hadn't thought about that in years. I used to love old-time baseball when I was a kid, and Jensen was like my own personal tie into that world.

    Jensen and Mantle were physically pretty similar, strong athletes with fair coloration, Jensen a little more round-faced. You can find a TV episode of Home Run Derby with them competing around 1960.

    Here’s a 1976 Sports Illustrated article on Jensen’s life:

    https://www.si.com/vault/1976/04/12/616333/a-fear-of-flying

    The Boston Red Sox in the 1950s had a terrific outfield with two outfielders dealing with mental health issues — Jensen and Jimmy Piersall — and one guy who just caused anxiety and depression in pitchers, Ted Williams.

    Pitcher Zack Greinke missed most of a season after he went 5-17 early in his career due to mental issues. Kansas City team management was really good to him about how they dealt with it and by now he is close to going in the Hall of Fame.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Being afraid of flying in the late 1950s, by the way, was NOT a symptom of irrationality.

    The Lakers almost died in a plane crash in the late 1950s, and a couple of college football teams suffered fatal plane crashes in the 1960s.
    , @Janus
    Thanks. Back in the 80s I didn't have much of a way to study Jensen's career beyond what my mom knew and his stats in the Baseball Encyclopedia.
  61. Using Yogi’s eye test, Ruth and Cobb believed Jackson was the best hitter they ever saw.

  62. @Steve Sailer
    Jensen and Mantle were physically pretty similar, strong athletes with fair coloration, Jensen a little more round-faced. You can find a TV episode of Home Run Derby with them competing around 1960.

    Here's a 1976 Sports Illustrated article on Jensen's life:

    https://www.si.com/vault/1976/04/12/616333/a-fear-of-flying

    The Boston Red Sox in the 1950s had a terrific outfield with two outfielders dealing with mental health issues -- Jensen and Jimmy Piersall -- and one guy who just caused anxiety and depression in pitchers, Ted Williams.

    Pitcher Zack Greinke missed most of a season after he went 5-17 early in his career due to mental issues. Kansas City team management was really good to him about how they dealt with it and by now he is close to going in the Hall of Fame.

    Being afraid of flying in the late 1950s, by the way, was NOT a symptom of irrationality.

    The Lakers almost died in a plane crash in the late 1950s, and a couple of college football teams suffered fatal plane crashes in the 1960s.

    • Replies: @Charles Erwin Wilson
    Buddy Holly, Lynryrd Skynryd, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all would testify to your claim. So would the 1970 Wichita State football team.

    Gravity is a harsh mistress.
    , @donvonburg
    Flying was more dangerous than today but then again, so was riding in an automobile. Cars had no safety features whatever and there were no modern EMS services, life flight helicopters or trauma centers. Train travel was probably the safest way to travel long distances but they had collisions and derailments too.

    After WWII, scheduled airline service was relatively safe. Comparing safety then and now is comparing a relatively safe activity with a somewhat more safe activity, but there were and are other considerations. Airline travel (arriving at the departing airport to destination) was more pleasant and faster before 9/11 and much more pleasant before deregulation and hijacking. The early jet era was without doubt the acme of scheduled airline service in terms of style, comfort, service and safety was good then as well, statistically a little less so than today, but you probably lost fewer hours of your life on average waiting and putting up with "security".

    I used to enjoy riding on the old DC-9s and 727s a lot because you could hear the engines spool up and you got a pretty dramatic takeoff especially in the 727 if the airplane was light and density altitude was low (e.g., it was cold and you were at a low elevation airport). Crews usually could and would climb out at the maximum deck angle the FAA and company policy permitted. Under the right circumstances some variants of the 727 could nearly rival a U-2 with a light enough load, but they were generally limited to a specific figure in the manual.

    Now, I fly (commercially,i.e., scheduled airline) only with reluctance and when someone else is paying the bill, at least domestically. I have had a few clients fly me in private aircraft but I stay out of Lears and a couple of specific turboprops on general principles. I don't like dealing with TSA in the least.
  63. @Clemsnman
    Dear Steve,

    Please help save sports from the stat nerds. Stats are like accounting numbers in business, they can be useful to help clarify a situation, bolster and argument, or cast doubt on one.

    But never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever should they take precedence over the observation and analysis of actual humans doing actual things.
    Because stats don't tell you what wasn't done, or what plans were made, or thwarted, by players and the respect/fear that their ability causes the opponents.

    Also, they care not that the changes to the game caused by statistics-based strategy, while helping a team win, actual kill the game. Constant infield shifts and batters swinging for the fences when a ground ball will help the team makes me tune out.

    But never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever should they take precedence over the observation and analysis of actual humans doing actual things.
    Because stats don’t tell you what wasn’t done, or what plans were made, or thwarted, by players and the respect/fear that their ability causes the opponents.

    Complicated phenomena that occur over a long period of time, from typhoons to Triple Crowns, have to be analyzed statistically. Period. Human observers are dumb, biased, see little and understand less.

    Also, they care not that the changes to the game caused by statistics-based strategy, while helping a team win, actual kill the game. Constant infield shifts and batters swinging for the fences when a ground ball will help the team makes me tune out.

    You have a point there.

  64. @Liberty Mike
    Anent the basis upon which one casts his MVP ballot, how much weight should be accorded to the number of black numbers a candidate has?

    Those of a certain vintage might remember the 1978 MVP debate. The Yankees Ron Guidry posted a record of 25-3 with an ERA of 1.74. His team won the AL East coming from 14 games behind Jim Rice's Red Sox.

    Rice hit .315, with 46 home runs and 139 ribbies. He had black ink all over the place, leading the league in games, plate appearances, at-bats, hits, triples, home runs, RBIs, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. In fact, he had 406 total bases and he was the first AL player to have racked up 400 or more total bases since Joltin Joe did so in 1937.

    The discredited knock on Rice was that he did not hit in the clutch. However, in 1978, 31 of his 46 home-runs either tied the score or put the Sox in the lead. I can still recall Red Sox fans who thought Guidry should have won the MVP.

    To be sure, there has always been a bias in favor of the everyday player over a pitcher in the MVP debate. Nevertheless, Rice's 1978 season ranks as one of the top three or four non-steroidal, non-garbage can banging, offensive years I have seen in my lifetime.

    There is a philosophical question involving the MVP vote: should you reward excellence that would, on average, contribute the most to winning ballgames? Or should you reward historical accomplishments that might involve a lot of luck?

    E.g. in 2018 Jacob DeGrom of the Mets pitched superbly but futilely, with a won-loss record of only 10-9. Similarly, Mike Trout of the Angels only had 79 RBIs because of the terribleness of the other Angel hitters that season.

    In contrast, in 1978, both Rice and Guidry had excellent claims to playing terrifically under any context, and contributing to a whole lot of wins and a historic pennant race.

    There are some newer stats like Win Probability Added that try to calculate the context of a hitter’s contributions and Rice comes up the best hitter in 1978 on those measures.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/AL/1978-batting-leaders.shtml

    On the other hand, Guidry went 25-3, one of the all-time great single season won-loss records. And it wasn’t a fluke either.

    A rule of thumb seems to be that pitchers only win MVP, because they have their own Cy Young Award, if no hitter that season can make a comparable case. So Rice won.

  65. @ex-banker
    This is ridiculous:

    A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game.
     
    Hernandez was a great first baseman, but that's akin to being the world's tallest midget. Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history.

    The best first baseman in the majors last season saved 14 more runs over the whole season than an average first baseman.

    https://www.billjamesonline.com/2019_defensive_runs_saved_leaders/

    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. (“Win Shares Above Bench”) So I don’t know what you’re ranting about, frankly. You don’t even know James’ own methodology.

    Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history

    You haven’t seen Chris Carter play 1B.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. (“Win Shares Above Bench”)

    As far as I know everyone calculates runs saved against average. Anyway, if James was measuring runs saved against a bench player, that would mean the best first baseman last year would have saved fewer than 14 runs compared to an average player.

    If a player saved a run every game, his season total would be about 150, if he didn't play every day. It's hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are, but no one has ever come close to saving a run per game, and no one ever will. The record is apparently 42, by a center fielder. I don't know what the record is for a first baseman, but you can be sure it's a lot lower than 42. It's one of the least important defensive positions there is, which is why oafs like Jason Giambi wind up there. As Steve says, it's rare for an athlete like Keith Hernandez to be a first baseman (nowadays; in the bunt-heavy deadball era, some of the best fielders around were first basemen).

  66. @ex-banker
    Every season of Mike Trout's career has been better than Jim Rice's 1978. Rice's career is ridiculously overrated and he has no business in the Hall of Fame -- unless it's based purely on "fame" as a player and not his performance. Dwight Evans peaked later and produced significantly more value than Rice.

    The legit knocks on Rice were his ridiculously high double play rate and his poor defense.

    But Rice in 1978 only grounded into 15 double plays, a high number, but not ridiculous, and played decent defense in left. Several of his 1980s seasons were pretty bad, though.

    Fred Lynn probably deserved the MVP in 1979 but he and Rice split the vote, finishing 4th and 5th, letting Don Baylor win.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    Ex-banker's assertion laughably false. Not one of Trout's seasons can hold up to what Rice did in '78.

    The criteria?

    1. Black ink (certainly a proxy for the level of dominance);

    2. Hits;

    3. Total bases;

    4. games played;

    5. plate appearances;

    6. the number of home-runs that either tied the score or put his team in the lead;

    7. home-runs; and

    8. RBIs

    Another thing: Between 1975-86, Rice led the AL in the following:

    1. games played;

    2. at -bats;

    3, runs;

    4. hits;

    5. home-runs;

    6. RBIs;

    7. runs;

    8. extra base-hits;

    9. slugging;

    10. total bases;

    11. multi-hit games;

    12. go-ahead RBIs; and

    13. assists.


    Let's see Trout do that.

    Once again, check and mate.
  67. @keypusher
    but if Bill James thinks the pitchers were about the same 100 years ago, lol.

    What makes you think he does?

    he also knows nothing about the most important thing in all of sports, participation rate. there were about 100 million people in the US in 1920, versus 330 million now. and 1 billion people in the world in 1920 versus 8 billion now.

    He brings that up frequently in the historical baseball abstract, and introduces a time adjustment in his player ratings on account of it.

    It's my sense that a much lower percentage of the young male population plays baseball than 50 or 75 years ago, but I've never seen that quantified.

    Baseball was a pretty universal sport among American boys until the later decades of the 20th Century, and the population was younger.

    Baseball wasn’t that universal in 1900, however. Ty Cobb, who came up in 1905, was a rare Southerner at the time. Soon, though, there were a huge number of Southerners.

  68. @ScarletNumber

    in 1985... Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder.
     
    You have to give Henderson a little more credit than that. The Yankees still had Ken Griffey playing LF, so Rickey played CF.

    Don Mattingly also benefited from having a breakout 1984, which was his first full-year but not his official rookie year. He had a much better 1984 than Willie Hernandez, who won the MVP. Rickey, OTOH was still in Oakland in 1984. Therefore, you can think of Mattingly's MVP as an award for 1984 and 1985.

    A lot of MVP votes seem to be driven by sportwriters agreeing on some narrative-driven logic just for that year that they don’t follow when voting in other years: e.g., Willie Stargell winning in 1979 as a combination of Good Clubhouse Presence and Lifetime Achievement and Clutch Hits.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    Willie's monster years were in 71 and 73, where in came in 2nd to Joe Torre and Pete Rose. Then in 1979 he won it despite starting only 105 games at 1B, while Keith started 156 for the Cardinals. Ironically, neither one started the ASG that year, with the honor going to Steve Garvey.

    So Willie had never won the award before and was having a great year in what would be his last year as a regular, getting replaced by John Milner.

    Add in the fact that the Pirates won the NL East and the Cardinals didn't, and that's how Willie became co-MVP.
  69. @Bragadocious
    I'll defend Mattingly over Henderson in 1985. Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder. A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game. I know Cardinals fans who are still bitter that Keith Hernandez had to share an MVP in 1979 with over-the-hill Willie Stargell (2.5 WAR vs Hernandez's 7.6). Stargell was essentially getting a lifetime achievement award, with Hernandez the victim.

    Re RBI, I know sabermatricians don't value them as much, but imagine a power hitter who doesn't drive in runs and you have Rob Deer.

    Why didn’t Henderson play CF?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Henderson's throwing arm wasn't that strong. Bill James once explained how it works:

    Fast and a Strong Arm: centerfield. Centerfield is deeper than other fields, so you need to throw a long way.

    Not Fast and a Strong Arm: right field. You need to throw to third.

    Fast or Not Fast and Not a Strong Arm: left field. Throwing to third is shorter from left than from right. So left fielders can be anything from fast ball hawks like Henderson or slow poor defenders like Greg Luzinski.

    , @ScarletNumber
    You missed my reply to Bragadocious. While he was a Yankee Rickey started more games in CF than he did in LF. In 1985 in particular, the Yankees still had Ken Griffey playing LF.
  70. @keypusher
    Also, if Rickey came along today, he'd never have pronoun trouble, because he always referred to himself as Rickey.


    @Steve Sailer -- well hey, maybe your grain of irritation produced a pearl. :-)

    Also, just in case it comes up in the comments, despite DiMaggio's modest WAR (and win shares) totals, caused by his short career, James ranked him #13 all time in his 2003 historical baseball abstract. He had a complicated formula for ranking players, but bottom line James favored big seasons over longevity. As he put it, nobody cares whether Mickey Mantle in 1968 was better than Willie Mays in 1972. Of course, best of all was to have both big seasons and longevity, like Ruth or Cobb.

    Probably doesn't need saying, but DiMaggio's career hits and home runs totals are also modest compared to most greats, and for the same reason. It's not just WAR that underrates him.

    My impression, however, is that James is underrating his movement’s accomplishment in securing Ruth’s reputation. I recollect that the condescending opinion of old-time baseball intellectuals in the 1960s was often, well, sure, ill-read fans think Ruth was the greatest because he hit a lot of vulgar home runs, but the real aficionados know that Ty Cobb’s record batting average (the most prestigious statistic) of .366 shows he was better than Ruth with his measly .342.

    In the 1960s everyone thought Cobb's career average was .367. Later the statisticians took a couple of hits away from him, I don't remember why.

    Less trivially, favoring Cobb over Ruth was in part an aesthetic judgment. Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs): line-drive power, hitting to a spot, bunting, sacrificing, stealing bases. Ruth was a smarter baseball player than he got credit for, but he was easy to caricature as a fat guy who hit home runs. Cobb was always visibly thinking about what to do, while Ruth, for example, may have been the first player not to bother to choke up on the bat when there were two strikes on him. The catcher who noticed said he couldn't tell whether Ruth didn't know he had two strikes on him, or he didn't care. I'm sure it was the latter, but a lot of people then probably thought it was the former.

    I've probably posted this quote from the Sporting News in 1922 before:

    As a batter, Ruth is an accident. He never plays inside baseball at the plate. He goes up trying to take a swing on every strike, a style that would cause any other player to be benched. He either knocks home runs or strikes out. Any man who strikes out as many times as Ruth did last year can never be classified as a great hitter.

    http://goldenrankings.com/baseballmemorablegame1921.htm

    Ruth had 81 strikeouts in 1921, incidentally. That would be an amazingly low number for a slugger today, but in 1921 Ruth was second in the American League. He easily held the career strikeout record when he retired. Anyway, he did a whole lot besides hit home runs or strike out, including lots of walks, doubles, and triples.

    Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs)…

    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.

    In response, Babe Ruth quipped, “I could have hit .600, but I would have had to hit singles. The people were paying for me to hit home runs.”

    • Replies: @keypusher
    I've heard that story about Cobb, or versions of it. If he really could hit home runs at that clip, and chose not to, then he's a fool. And that's just about the only bad thing I've never heard anyone accuse Cobb of being.
    , @Reg Cæsar

    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.
     
    How many of those are inside the park?

    Unlike some beer belly waddling around the bases at his own leisure, those home runs are actually exciting.
  71. @Ian M.
    Why didn't Henderson play CF?

    Henderson’s throwing arm wasn’t that strong. Bill James once explained how it works:

    Fast and a Strong Arm: centerfield. Centerfield is deeper than other fields, so you need to throw a long way.

    Not Fast and a Strong Arm: right field. You need to throw to third.

    Fast or Not Fast and Not a Strong Arm: left field. Throwing to third is shorter from left than from right. So left fielders can be anything from fast ball hawks like Henderson or slow poor defenders like Greg Luzinski.

    • Thanks: Ian M.
    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
    Oddest thing about Henderson was his right-handed batting. That's extremely rare among major league lefties, pitchers excluded. There have been fewer than sixty.

    One reporter who looked into this rated Henderson as the best ever. Second-best after the "dead ball" era was Cleon Jones.
  72. @Ian M.

    Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs)...
     
    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.

    In response, Babe Ruth quipped, "I could have hit .600, but I would have had to hit singles. The people were paying for me to hit home runs."

    I’ve heard that story about Cobb, or versions of it. If he really could hit home runs at that clip, and chose not to, then he’s a fool. And that’s just about the only bad thing I’ve never heard anyone accuse Cobb of being.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
    Right. The five home runs over two consecutive games is true, but I'm skeptical that Cobb actually set out to do that just to show that he could do it. Probably just had a bit of luck.

    Speaking of Cobb being accused of everything under the sun, Charles Leehrsen's A Terrible Beauty does an excellent job of rehabilitating his image. Cobb's reputation as a villain comes from a dishonest hatchet job written by Al Stump.
  73. @Bragadocious
    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. ("Win Shares Above Bench") So I don't know what you're ranting about, frankly. You don't even know James' own methodology.

    Almost any player with talent to play another position in the major leagues would not cost his team a run per game over the best first baseman in history

     

    You haven't seen Chris Carter play 1B.

    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. (“Win Shares Above Bench”)

    As far as I know everyone calculates runs saved against average. Anyway, if James was measuring runs saved against a bench player, that would mean the best first baseman last year would have saved fewer than 14 runs compared to an average player.

    If a player saved a run every game, his season total would be about 150, if he didn’t play every day. It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are, but no one has ever come close to saving a run per game, and no one ever will. The record is apparently 42, by a center fielder. I don’t know what the record is for a first baseman, but you can be sure it’s a lot lower than 42. It’s one of the least important defensive positions there is, which is why oafs like Jason Giambi wind up there. As Steve says, it’s rare for an athlete like Keith Hernandez to be a first baseman (nowadays; in the bunt-heavy deadball era, some of the best fielders around were first basemen).

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    In the Deadball Era of the 1900s and 1910s, they put sluggers at 2nd and short like Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, and Rogers Hornsby. First and third tended to be defensive anti-bunt specialists. It took baseball until about WWII to figure out you could now expect some offense out of your third baseman.
    , @Bragadocious

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

     

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here's a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn't. Chris Carter doesn't make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don't care what Bill James says. And it's absurd to say it's a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.
  74. @keypusher
    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. (“Win Shares Above Bench”)

    As far as I know everyone calculates runs saved against average. Anyway, if James was measuring runs saved against a bench player, that would mean the best first baseman last year would have saved fewer than 14 runs compared to an average player.

    If a player saved a run every game, his season total would be about 150, if he didn't play every day. It's hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are, but no one has ever come close to saving a run per game, and no one ever will. The record is apparently 42, by a center fielder. I don't know what the record is for a first baseman, but you can be sure it's a lot lower than 42. It's one of the least important defensive positions there is, which is why oafs like Jason Giambi wind up there. As Steve says, it's rare for an athlete like Keith Hernandez to be a first baseman (nowadays; in the bunt-heavy deadball era, some of the best fielders around were first basemen).

    In the Deadball Era of the 1900s and 1910s, they put sluggers at 2nd and short like Honus Wagner, Nap Lajoie, and Rogers Hornsby. First and third tended to be defensive anti-bunt specialists. It took baseball until about WWII to figure out you could now expect some offense out of your third baseman.

  75. @Anonymous
    Heavyweight champ Tyson Fury is an athlete similar to Babe Ruth.

    Both appear to be out of shape in the competitive prime of their lives.

    Both are large men with a deceptive athleticism (foot work) that fools the opponent.

    Both have unusually good hand/eye coordination not usually associated with big guys.

    Both have a similar manic personality, off field antics and habits.

    Tyson Fury is also the world’s best known Irish Traveller.

  76. @keypusher
    Well, I believe James computes runs saved by comparing the starter with a bench replacement, not an average MLB replacement. (“Win Shares Above Bench”)

    As far as I know everyone calculates runs saved against average. Anyway, if James was measuring runs saved against a bench player, that would mean the best first baseman last year would have saved fewer than 14 runs compared to an average player.

    If a player saved a run every game, his season total would be about 150, if he didn't play every day. It's hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are, but no one has ever come close to saving a run per game, and no one ever will. The record is apparently 42, by a center fielder. I don't know what the record is for a first baseman, but you can be sure it's a lot lower than 42. It's one of the least important defensive positions there is, which is why oafs like Jason Giambi wind up there. As Steve says, it's rare for an athlete like Keith Hernandez to be a first baseman (nowadays; in the bunt-heavy deadball era, some of the best fielders around were first basemen).

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here’s a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn’t. Chris Carter doesn’t make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don’t care what Bill James says. And it’s absurd to say it’s a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    But it's not that unusual for a good big league hitter to have the good eye-hand coordination to catch throws at first with a high rate of success.
    , @ex-banker
    You said a good first baseman saves a run per game. Now it’s a ton of runs. Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86. Would have been even better if he’d taken your counsel and played him the whole playoffs. One extra run per game would have been great. The series against the Angels surely would have been less eventful.
    , @Rex Little

    Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.
     
    Those old enough to remember Dick ("Dr. Strangeglove") Stuart might give you a different answer than the one you expect.
    , @Rex Little

    Here’s a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man.
     
    If that scenario happens more than a couple of times a month, somebody else will be playing shortstop. Much more often, a left fielder with Rickey's speed, reactions and instincts will track down a fly ball that an average left fielder would let fall for a double.
  77. I was a pretty good hitter in my baseball days so I agree that power hitting wins both accolades and rewards. My father never went to my games but if he could read in the local paper I hit a ‘towering three run homer’ he was happy but if he learned I ‘bunted’ ( because the pitcher threw too hard to get around on) he scowled even if got on base.

    OTOH being left handed I was consigned to first base and right field. I liked to have a runner at first because I had to cover the bag though we were not good enough players to ever pick one off. Still it kept me safe from being exposed to a hard hit ground ball coming right at me and having to make accurate throws across the infield or just flip the ball gently to a pitcher covering first. I once threw it into the stands to my own an everyone else’s disgust.

    Yes, I admired thoss ground ball gobbling shortstops and third basemen a lot even if they couldn’t drive a ball over the fence. I could shag flyballs all day but scooping up a hard hit ground ball hit directly at you was a skill I never mastered. In the sabremetrics department I never once doubted the value of Clete Boyer despite his Mendoza line batting average over Ken Boyer and his .300 average.

  78. @Bragadocious

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

     

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here's a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn't. Chris Carter doesn't make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don't care what Bill James says. And it's absurd to say it's a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    But it’s not that unusual for a good big league hitter to have the good eye-hand coordination to catch throws at first with a high rate of success.

  79. @Reg Cæsar

    Women: Catfights

    Men: Batfights
     
    Californians: Ratfights


    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jVIgUVmb4JY

    One time I was at State & Madison Chicago waiting for the bus and observed two English sparrows fighting. One of the sparrows pinned the other one upside down on the ground with one foot; yes, Black people were videoing this on the cellphone.

  80. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    These near-unanimous votes are a recent development. Check out these vote percentages. You’ve got people like Mantle, Dimaggio and Koufax under 90 percent. Jackie Robinson under 80 percent. Same with Walter Johnson, who was considered the GOAT on the mound until recent times, and even Cy Young himself with over 500 W’s. Lots more immortals who will amaze with how low their vote totals are.

    https://www.baseball-almanac.com/hof/hofmem4.shtml

  81. @Steve Sailer
    Jensen and Mantle were physically pretty similar, strong athletes with fair coloration, Jensen a little more round-faced. You can find a TV episode of Home Run Derby with them competing around 1960.

    Here's a 1976 Sports Illustrated article on Jensen's life:

    https://www.si.com/vault/1976/04/12/616333/a-fear-of-flying

    The Boston Red Sox in the 1950s had a terrific outfield with two outfielders dealing with mental health issues -- Jensen and Jimmy Piersall -- and one guy who just caused anxiety and depression in pitchers, Ted Williams.

    Pitcher Zack Greinke missed most of a season after he went 5-17 early in his career due to mental issues. Kansas City team management was really good to him about how they dealt with it and by now he is close to going in the Hall of Fame.

    Thanks. Back in the 80s I didn’t have much of a way to study Jensen’s career beyond what my mom knew and his stats in the Baseball Encyclopedia.

  82. @Abe

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.
     
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson's WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years.

    Coleman never stole more than 110 in a season, though he did exceed 100 his first 3 years in the league. Rickey once stole 130 but never exceeded 108 otherwise. Rickey was around twice as good as Coleman otherwise . Rickey had a lifetime 127 ops+ , Coleman an 83.

    • Thanks: Abe
  83. @Bragadocious

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

     

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here's a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn't. Chris Carter doesn't make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don't care what Bill James says. And it's absurd to say it's a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    You said a good first baseman saves a run per game. Now it’s a ton of runs. Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86. Would have been even better if he’d taken your counsel and played him the whole playoffs. One extra run per game would have been great. The series against the Angels surely would have been less eventful.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Tom Boswell in the Washington Post wrote a couple of columns before the 1986 World Series on whether Bill Buckner's knees had gotten so bad that he shouldn't play anything in World Series other than DH. Buckner was really beaten up by the end of the season.
    , @Bragadocious

    Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

     

    Unless you're also "keypusher," I wasn't responding to you. I thought Ron Unz was cracking down on multiple handles. Hey Ron we've got a live one here!
    , @ScarletNumber

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86.
     
    Because of how the Red Sox lost the World Series, this has become popular to say, but the historic data does not back this up. In 1986 Buckner played 138 games at first base and finished 117 of them. This goes against the narrative of Stapleton always finishing up games for Buckner at first. I concede that McNamara did it all of the 7 games the Red Sox won in the playoffs that year.

    The last game Stapleton played for the Red Sox was in 1986. He never played for them, or anyone else, ever again.
  84. @Steve Sailer
    Being afraid of flying in the late 1950s, by the way, was NOT a symptom of irrationality.

    The Lakers almost died in a plane crash in the late 1950s, and a couple of college football teams suffered fatal plane crashes in the 1960s.

    Buddy Holly, Lynryrd Skynryd, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all would testify to your claim. So would the 1970 Wichita State football team.

    Gravity is a harsh mistress.

    • Replies: @MBlanc46
    I’m glad that I read your comment the day after flying from Chicago to Los Angeles rather than the day before.
  85. @Bragadocious
    I'll defend Mattingly over Henderson in 1985. Mattingly was a gold glove first baseman, while Henderson was about an average left fielder. A great fielding first baseman saves probably a run a game. I know Cardinals fans who are still bitter that Keith Hernandez had to share an MVP in 1979 with over-the-hill Willie Stargell (2.5 WAR vs Hernandez's 7.6). Stargell was essentially getting a lifetime achievement award, with Hernandez the victim.

    Re RBI, I know sabermatricians don't value them as much, but imagine a power hitter who doesn't drive in runs and you have Rob Deer.

    No he doesn’t.

    If he did, a great fielding shortstop probably saves 2, and Rey Ordonez would be in the HOF.

  86. @Abe

    Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.
     
    Rickey’s NL counterpart in terms of base stealing ability was the Cardinal’s Vince Coleman. In tandem the two would be their respective League’s steal kings at a whopping 120-130 each most years. I’m guessing Sabremetrics does not shortchange steals as a stat per se, only if it is combined with a relatively low success rate. I’m guessing that is a fairly significant part of Henderson's WAR, but with much improved steal defense in place, those days of triple digit bag grabs are not coming back ever again.

    Incidentally, goals are way down in professional hockey from the Wayne Gretzky/Brett Hull early 90’s triple digit peak. That would be an iSteve-licious topic too (my quick take is that brainy giant quick Finnish goalies are the underreported story here).

    What have teams done to improve their steal defense?

  87. @ex-banker
    You said a good first baseman saves a run per game. Now it’s a ton of runs. Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86. Would have been even better if he’d taken your counsel and played him the whole playoffs. One extra run per game would have been great. The series against the Angels surely would have been less eventful.

    Tom Boswell in the Washington Post wrote a couple of columns before the 1986 World Series on whether Bill Buckner’s knees had gotten so bad that he shouldn’t play anything in World Series other than DH. Buckner was really beaten up by the end of the season.

    • Replies: @ex-banker
    That is true, and he was removed on defense in every game they led until game 6, when McNamara wanted to let him celebrate the final out of a championship season on the field. Didn’t work out to well for anybody, except the Mets, and maybe Schiraldi, Stanley and Gedman, whose contributions to the epic collapse were completely overshadowed by Buckner’s error.
  88. @Steve Sailer
    Keith Hernandez was like a Hall of Fame third baseman who happened to be lefthanded so he had to play first base.

    Yet another example of the pernicious discrimination against those of minority chirality.

  89. The traditional batting average isn’t a bad statistic—it’s particularly good for tracking whether a player is streaking or slumping…

    One of James’s best arguments was that there are no streaks, slumps, or “momentum”. It’s a statistical illusion. If you flip a coin 162 times, you’ll see plenty of streaks of heads and of tails. That’s how we can tell when data are fudged– it’s all too steady, not random enough. But the coin doesn’t have momentum, memory, or emotion.

    Moreover, reporters knew Jensen was playing under terrible stress because of his worsening fear of flying…

    Hardly paranoia in the 1950s.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    So when Andy Ruiz Jr sat on his ass eating pizza, his subsequent loss was just a random fluctuation.
  90. @keypusher
    I've heard that story about Cobb, or versions of it. If he really could hit home runs at that clip, and chose not to, then he's a fool. And that's just about the only bad thing I've never heard anyone accuse Cobb of being.

    Right. The five home runs over two consecutive games is true, but I’m skeptical that Cobb actually set out to do that just to show that he could do it. Probably just had a bit of luck.

    Speaking of Cobb being accused of everything under the sun, Charles Leehrsen’s A Terrible Beauty does an excellent job of rehabilitating his image. Cobb’s reputation as a villain comes from a dishonest hatchet job written by Al Stump.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Cobb was a bright, cultured man.
    , @keypusher
    Yeah, I need to read that. Thanks for the reminder.
  91. @Bragadocious

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

     

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here's a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn't. Chris Carter doesn't make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don't care what Bill James says. And it's absurd to say it's a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    Those old enough to remember Dick (“Dr. Strangeglove”) Stuart might give you a different answer than the one you expect.

  92. When he was playing for the Yankees, Mattingly’s knickname was ‘Donnie Baseball’. I do not know if he became ‘Donnie Ballgame’ while he was managing the Dodgers, but I somehow doubt it.

    Not all baseball knowledge is stats!

  93. @Ian M.
    Right. The five home runs over two consecutive games is true, but I'm skeptical that Cobb actually set out to do that just to show that he could do it. Probably just had a bit of luck.

    Speaking of Cobb being accused of everything under the sun, Charles Leehrsen's A Terrible Beauty does an excellent job of rehabilitating his image. Cobb's reputation as a villain comes from a dishonest hatchet job written by Al Stump.

    Cobb was a bright, cultured man.

  94. @Hodag
    About two paragraphs into your article I knew I had to comment about Rickey. According to Baseball Reference, Rickey is in 14 place in WAR all time. Some of that has to do with his 25 years in baseball but still. Rickey was a giant pain his entire career because he could lead off the game with a homer, and you are down. Or he could walk and steal second and threaten third.

    And Rickey was not a unanimous vote for the Hall of Fame. I wonder what sort of jerk would not vote for Rickey and if they even watch baseball.

    Rickey was the most destructive offensive player id ever seen prior to barry b and maybe pujols…i started watching late 70s

  95. @Bragadocious

    It’s hard to say for sure how accurate runs saved figures really are

     

    Yeah, pretty much

    Here's a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man. The 1B scoops it and records the out. He should get credit for saving 2 runs right there, but my hunch is right now he doesn't. Chris Carter doesn't make that scoop. DJ Lemahieu does.

    A 1B man with soft hands saves a ton of runs, I don't care what Bill James says. And it's absurd to say it's a position for oafs. Ask Red Sox nation if you can hide your poor fielders at 1B.

    Here’s a scenario. Two outs, runners on second and third. Grounder to SS in the hole, he makes a poor throw that lands 2 feet in front of the 1B man.

    If that scenario happens more than a couple of times a month, somebody else will be playing shortstop. Much more often, a left fielder with Rickey’s speed, reactions and instincts will track down a fly ball that an average left fielder would let fall for a double.

  96. @Steve Sailer
    Tom Boswell in the Washington Post wrote a couple of columns before the 1986 World Series on whether Bill Buckner's knees had gotten so bad that he shouldn't play anything in World Series other than DH. Buckner was really beaten up by the end of the season.

    That is true, and he was removed on defense in every game they led until game 6, when McNamara wanted to let him celebrate the final out of a championship season on the field. Didn’t work out to well for anybody, except the Mets, and maybe Schiraldi, Stanley and Gedman, whose contributions to the epic collapse were completely overshadowed by Buckner’s error.

  97. @Steve Sailer
    A lot of MVP votes seem to be driven by sportwriters agreeing on some narrative-driven logic just for that year that they don't follow when voting in other years: e.g., Willie Stargell winning in 1979 as a combination of Good Clubhouse Presence and Lifetime Achievement and Clutch Hits.

    Willie’s monster years were in 71 and 73, where in came in 2nd to Joe Torre and Pete Rose. Then in 1979 he won it despite starting only 105 games at 1B, while Keith started 156 for the Cardinals. Ironically, neither one started the ASG that year, with the honor going to Steve Garvey.

    So Willie had never won the award before and was having a great year in what would be his last year as a regular, getting replaced by John Milner.

    Add in the fact that the Pirates won the NL East and the Cardinals didn’t, and that’s how Willie became co-MVP.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    One could make the argument that Willie wasn't even the most valuable Pirate in 1979. Dave Parker was the defending MVP and had another monster year in 1979, yet finished 10th. He also made the greatest fielding play in ASG history.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PH6XJypKno
  98. @Ian M.
    Why didn't Henderson play CF?

    You missed my reply to Bragadocious. While he was a Yankee Rickey started more games in CF than he did in LF. In 1985 in particular, the Yankees still had Ken Griffey playing LF.

    • Thanks: Ian M.
  99. @Charles Erwin Wilson
    Buddy Holly, Lynryrd Skynryd, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all would testify to your claim. So would the 1970 Wichita State football team.

    Gravity is a harsh mistress.

    I’m glad that I read your comment the day after flying from Chicago to Los Angeles rather than the day before.

    • Replies: @snorlax
    You probably caught coronavirus.
  100. @ScarletNumber
    Willie's monster years were in 71 and 73, where in came in 2nd to Joe Torre and Pete Rose. Then in 1979 he won it despite starting only 105 games at 1B, while Keith started 156 for the Cardinals. Ironically, neither one started the ASG that year, with the honor going to Steve Garvey.

    So Willie had never won the award before and was having a great year in what would be his last year as a regular, getting replaced by John Milner.

    Add in the fact that the Pirates won the NL East and the Cardinals didn't, and that's how Willie became co-MVP.

    One could make the argument that Willie wasn’t even the most valuable Pirate in 1979. Dave Parker was the defending MVP and had another monster year in 1979, yet finished 10th. He also made the greatest fielding play in ASG history.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    Good God! Thanks for sharing.
  101. @MBlanc46
    I’m glad that I read your comment the day after flying from Chicago to Los Angeles rather than the day before.

    You probably caught coronavirus.

  102. @Steve Sailer
    Being afraid of flying in the late 1950s, by the way, was NOT a symptom of irrationality.

    The Lakers almost died in a plane crash in the late 1950s, and a couple of college football teams suffered fatal plane crashes in the 1960s.

    Flying was more dangerous than today but then again, so was riding in an automobile. Cars had no safety features whatever and there were no modern EMS services, life flight helicopters or trauma centers. Train travel was probably the safest way to travel long distances but they had collisions and derailments too.

    After WWII, scheduled airline service was relatively safe. Comparing safety then and now is comparing a relatively safe activity with a somewhat more safe activity, but there were and are other considerations. Airline travel (arriving at the departing airport to destination) was more pleasant and faster before 9/11 and much more pleasant before deregulation and hijacking. The early jet era was without doubt the acme of scheduled airline service in terms of style, comfort, service and safety was good then as well, statistically a little less so than today, but you probably lost fewer hours of your life on average waiting and putting up with “security”.

    I used to enjoy riding on the old DC-9s and 727s a lot because you could hear the engines spool up and you got a pretty dramatic takeoff especially in the 727 if the airplane was light and density altitude was low (e.g., it was cold and you were at a low elevation airport). Crews usually could and would climb out at the maximum deck angle the FAA and company policy permitted. Under the right circumstances some variants of the 727 could nearly rival a U-2 with a light enough load, but they were generally limited to a specific figure in the manual.

    Now, I fly (commercially,i.e., scheduled airline) only with reluctance and when someone else is paying the bill, at least domestically. I have had a few clients fly me in private aircraft but I stay out of Lears and a couple of specific turboprops on general principles. I don’t like dealing with TSA in the least.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar

    After WWII, scheduled airline service was relatively safe. Comparing safety then and now is comparing a relatively safe activity with a somewhat more safe activity, but there were and are other considerations
     
    It's about perception, though. It takes time for the increased safety to seep into public consciousness, or, rather, subconsciousness. That, and airlines are loath to mention safety at all, even though it's their greatest accomplishment.

    Just in the previous decade, 1943, a Pan Am Clipper on a USO your crash-landed in Lisbon. Officially the wing tip "inadvertently" touched the waters of the Tagus, but one Pan Am historian thinks the pilot was showing off. A novelist and a Hollywood actress were among the 24 killed, and a fellow actress was injured for life.

    In fact, it was a Waylon Jennings/Big Bopper situation-- Jane Froman had given her seat to Tamara Drusin, and suffered from guilt the rest of her life.

    There was also that collision over the Grand Canyon in the middle 1950s. If there is no other reason to read David Duke's memoir, there is the story of his aunt and uncle perishing on that flight and how it messed up his mother's life, and turned him into an autodidact of sorts.

    That dramatic incident would have been fresh in Jackie Jensen's mind.

  103. @Reg Cæsar

    The traditional batting average isn’t a bad statistic—it’s particularly good for tracking whether a player is streaking or slumping...
     
    One of James's best arguments was that there are no streaks, slumps, or "momentum". It's a statistical illusion. If you flip a coin 162 times, you'll see plenty of streaks of heads and of tails. That's how we can tell when data are fudged-- it's all too steady, not random enough. But the coin doesn't have momentum, memory, or emotion.


    Moreover, reporters knew Jensen was playing under terrible stress because of his worsening fear of flying...

     

    Hardly paranoia in the 1950s.

    So when Andy Ruiz Jr sat on his ass eating pizza, his subsequent loss was just a random fluctuation.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar

    So when Andy Ruiz Jr sat on his ass eating pizza, his subsequent loss was just a random fluctuation.
     
    Well, yes, James himself admitted there might be negative momentum. But few players deliberately muck up their skills that way.

    Most slumps and losing streaks are statistical phenomena. (The most fired-up baseball team I've ever seen was the Baltimore Orioles about a dozen games into their season-opening losing streak. Didn't help; they lost that game, too.)

    But, yeah, you can always make things worse through your own effort and bad decisions. But not for long!
  104. @ScarletNumber
    One could make the argument that Willie wasn't even the most valuable Pirate in 1979. Dave Parker was the defending MVP and had another monster year in 1979, yet finished 10th. He also made the greatest fielding play in ASG history.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PH6XJypKno

    Good God! Thanks for sharing.

  105. @Ian M.
    Right. The five home runs over two consecutive games is true, but I'm skeptical that Cobb actually set out to do that just to show that he could do it. Probably just had a bit of luck.

    Speaking of Cobb being accused of everything under the sun, Charles Leehrsen's A Terrible Beauty does an excellent job of rehabilitating his image. Cobb's reputation as a villain comes from a dishonest hatchet job written by Al Stump.

    Yeah, I need to read that. Thanks for the reminder.

  106. @Yojimbo/Zatoichi
    Not quite. The post wasn’t directly about Sabermetrics, but it was concerned with the attempt to stop denigrating a stat that has been around for over a century, and has been an important part in measuring a players total worth.

    #3. You can’t score the R without being driven in. Period. Solo HRs, by the way, also count as an RBI. It is more likely that a player can drive himself across the plate than he can score a R all by himself. Stealing home (extremely rare), as well as a passed ball or wild pitch are about only ways that it occurs. While players get driven across home plate by others (and rightly awarded a share in the run scorer’s success with an RBI) virtually most every ball game.

    Perhaps in the old days, the sportswriters went by what they were seeing on the field. Also, for the most part, a high RBI total (e.g. 100+ in a season) tend to equate with fairly large HR season totals. It’s unlikely that a power hitter with 40+ HR in a season won’t also have 100+ RBIs in the same season as well. They tend to go together.

    True. I’ve always noticed the fairly consistent 3-1 ratio of RBIs to HRs. For that
    reason Tommy Herr’s ‘85 season with the Cardinals knocking in 110 runs while
    hitting only 8 HRs always amazed me.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Herr had Vince Coleman and MVP Willie McGee batting in front of him in 1985. Plus he had a great year.

    The state of Missouri had some memorable baseball teams playing on artificial turf in the 1980s. I wonder how much the fading out of the old hard artificial turf has contributed to fewer African-American baseball players in majors? Super speedsters like Willie Wilson and Coleman-McGee were more valuable on artificial turf than on grass. The second Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati might have been something if her were playing on Astroturf with bloopers bouncing over the heads of outfielders for inside the park homers.

    , @keypusher
    Wally Pipp had 103 RBIs on 8 homers in 1921, 109 RBIs on 6 homers in 1923, and 110 RBIs on 9 homers in 1924. His secret was hitting behind Babe Ruth, who got on base roughly 50% of the time. Despite all those RBIs, in 1925 Pipp lost his job to Lou Gehrig, who peaked at 184 RBI.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/pippwa01.shtml

    To repeat the obvious (though apparently it took the sabermetricians to figure this out), the relationship between the run-scorer and the RBI man is symbiotic, not parasitic.
  107. @6dust6
    True. I’ve always noticed the fairly consistent 3-1 ratio of RBIs to HRs. For that
    reason Tommy Herr’s ‘85 season with the Cardinals knocking in 110 runs while
    hitting only 8 HRs always amazed me.

    Herr had Vince Coleman and MVP Willie McGee batting in front of him in 1985. Plus he had a great year.

    The state of Missouri had some memorable baseball teams playing on artificial turf in the 1980s. I wonder how much the fading out of the old hard artificial turf has contributed to fewer African-American baseball players in majors? Super speedsters like Willie Wilson and Coleman-McGee were more valuable on artificial turf than on grass. The second Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati might have been something if her were playing on Astroturf with bloopers bouncing over the heads of outfielders for inside the park homers.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber

    The state of Missouri had some memorable baseball teams playing on artificial turf in the 1980s.
     
    I thought perhaps the 1985 all-Missouri World Series was the first completely played on AstroTurf, but it turns out it wasPhillies/Royals 1980
  108. @6dust6
    True. I’ve always noticed the fairly consistent 3-1 ratio of RBIs to HRs. For that
    reason Tommy Herr’s ‘85 season with the Cardinals knocking in 110 runs while
    hitting only 8 HRs always amazed me.

    Wally Pipp had 103 RBIs on 8 homers in 1921, 109 RBIs on 6 homers in 1923, and 110 RBIs on 9 homers in 1924. His secret was hitting behind Babe Ruth, who got on base roughly 50% of the time. Despite all those RBIs, in 1925 Pipp lost his job to Lou Gehrig, who peaked at 184 RBI.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/pippwa01.shtml

    To repeat the obvious (though apparently it took the sabermetricians to figure this out), the relationship between the run-scorer and the RBI man is symbiotic, not parasitic.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    It's almost as though despite Wally Pipp averaging over 100 RBIs from 1921-1924, the Yankee management figured out, despite their lack of sabermetrics, that Lou Gehrig would do even better batting behind Babe Ruth.
  109. @ex-banker
    You said a good first baseman saves a run per game. Now it’s a ton of runs. Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86. Would have been even better if he’d taken your counsel and played him the whole playoffs. One extra run per game would have been great. The series against the Angels surely would have been less eventful.

    Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Unless you’re also “keypusher,” I wasn’t responding to you. I thought Ron Unz was cracking down on multiple handles. Hey Ron we’ve got a live one here!

  110. @keypusher
    Wally Pipp had 103 RBIs on 8 homers in 1921, 109 RBIs on 6 homers in 1923, and 110 RBIs on 9 homers in 1924. His secret was hitting behind Babe Ruth, who got on base roughly 50% of the time. Despite all those RBIs, in 1925 Pipp lost his job to Lou Gehrig, who peaked at 184 RBI.

    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/pippwa01.shtml

    To repeat the obvious (though apparently it took the sabermetricians to figure this out), the relationship between the run-scorer and the RBI man is symbiotic, not parasitic.

    It’s almost as though despite Wally Pipp averaging over 100 RBIs from 1921-1924, the Yankee management figured out, despite their lack of sabermetrics, that Lou Gehrig would do even better batting behind Babe Ruth.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    Well yeah, because he was a much better hitter. You can see a lot just by watching, and he had 20 home runs his first year with any playing time. You don't need a graduate degree in statistics to know that 20 > 9.

    On the 1st of June, the Yankees lost their fifth straight game and fell to 15-26, 13½ games behind the first-place Athletics.

    Naturally enough, Huggins made some changes. The next day, Huggins benched three of his regulars: Pipp, along with catcher Wally Schang and second baseman Aaron Ward. From the aforementioned book: "It has often been said that Pipp lost his job to Gehrig because he had a headache on June 2. He may have had a headache that day, but Huggins simply decided to shake things up and bench Pipp and his .244 batting average."

    Wally Pipp just wasn’t nearly as good as Lou Gehrig, which wouldn’t have been difficult for a brilliant manager like Huggins to realize. Headache or no headache.

    https://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/the-real-wally-pipp-story-060215

    But apparently Pipp pinch-hit for Gehrig occasionally against lefties later that year.

    Incidentally, 1925 was the last year until 1964 that the Yankees finished below .500, partly because of Babe Ruth's troubles, as I'm sure you know.

  111. I believe Bill Jame’s number crunching has value but the statistics that impress me about Babe Ruth are his 90 wins as a big league pitcher and 2.28 ERA Considering the Babe began his career as a pitcher and gradually transitioned to a great hitter, I think his ability to pitch should be more widely praised when evaluating the greatest players of all time. Babe Ruth in my opinion is the greatest player of all time because barring injury would have been a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar

    I believe Bill Jame’s number crunching has value but the statistics that impress me about Babe Ruth are his 90 wins as a big league pitcher and 2.28 ERA Considering the Babe began his career as a pitcher and gradually transitioned to a great hitter, I think his ability to pitch should be more widely praised when evaluating the greatest players of all time. Babe Ruth in my opinion is the greatest player of all time because barring injury would have been a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.
     
    Ruth had outstanding seasons both on the mound and in the batter's box, but they didn't coincide.

    Wes Ferrell is generally considered the best-hitting pitcher in post-1900 ball. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I keep reading that Ferrell's batting record is better than Ruth's was with the Red Sox in his pitching days.

    One season Ferrell suffered an injury that kept him off the mound for a month or two. So they put him on second base, his bat was so valuable. I don't know if these games are included in his hitting-as-a-pitcher calculations. He hit only one of his three dozen or so home runs during this period. Which is odd; his at-bats would have quadrupled.

    As for your argument about Ruth, it doesn't take into account defensive skills. How were the Babe's? Good or bad, he wouldn't have contributed that much in right field or first base, those recycling bins for clumsy gloves. Good defense seems at least as important as hitting or pitching, but it's hard to quantify.

    My views are no doubt warped by the 1969 season, my third, in which the glove-dominant Mets knocked off Baltimore, arguably the best-fielding team of all time.

    One more tidbit about Ferrell: his brother Rick was a major league catcher, and sometime teammate of Wes. There were very few Ricks in baseball or anywhere else in those pre-Casablanca days. I'd like to see a chart of the evolution of the Dick-Rick ratio over the years.

    Remember when Richie Allen grew up and became Dick?

  112. @Anonymous
    So when Andy Ruiz Jr sat on his ass eating pizza, his subsequent loss was just a random fluctuation.

    So when Andy Ruiz Jr sat on his ass eating pizza, his subsequent loss was just a random fluctuation.

    Well, yes, James himself admitted there might be negative momentum. But few players deliberately muck up their skills that way.

    Most slumps and losing streaks are statistical phenomena. (The most fired-up baseball team I’ve ever seen was the Baltimore Orioles about a dozen games into their season-opening losing streak. Didn’t help; they lost that game, too.)

    But, yeah, you can always make things worse through your own effort and bad decisions. But not for long!

  113. @Ian M.

    Cobb could do everything on offense (except hit lots of home runs)...
     
    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.

    In response, Babe Ruth quipped, "I could have hit .600, but I would have had to hit singles. The people were paying for me to hit home runs."

    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.

    How many of those are inside the park?

    Unlike some beer belly waddling around the bases at his own leisure, those home runs are actually exciting.

    • Replies: @Ian M.
    Yeah. One year Cobb led the league in home runs with nine (his Triple Crown year). They were all inside-the-park.

    I saw Damion Easley hit an inside-the-park home run once. Very exciting. That same year I saw him hit for the cycle, where he came up for his last at-bat needing a triple and got it.
  114. @Steve Sailer
    Henderson's throwing arm wasn't that strong. Bill James once explained how it works:

    Fast and a Strong Arm: centerfield. Centerfield is deeper than other fields, so you need to throw a long way.

    Not Fast and a Strong Arm: right field. You need to throw to third.

    Fast or Not Fast and Not a Strong Arm: left field. Throwing to third is shorter from left than from right. So left fielders can be anything from fast ball hawks like Henderson or slow poor defenders like Greg Luzinski.

    Oddest thing about Henderson was his right-handed batting. That’s extremely rare among major league lefties, pitchers excluded. There have been fewer than sixty.

    One reporter who looked into this rated Henderson as the best ever. Second-best after the “dead ball” era was Cleon Jones.

  115. @Steve Sailer
    It's almost as though despite Wally Pipp averaging over 100 RBIs from 1921-1924, the Yankee management figured out, despite their lack of sabermetrics, that Lou Gehrig would do even better batting behind Babe Ruth.

    Well yeah, because he was a much better hitter. You can see a lot just by watching, and he had 20 home runs his first year with any playing time. You don’t need a graduate degree in statistics to know that 20 > 9.

    On the 1st of June, the Yankees lost their fifth straight game and fell to 15-26, 13½ games behind the first-place Athletics.

    Naturally enough, Huggins made some changes. The next day, Huggins benched three of his regulars: Pipp, along with catcher Wally Schang and second baseman Aaron Ward. From the aforementioned book: “It has often been said that Pipp lost his job to Gehrig because he had a headache on June 2. He may have had a headache that day, but Huggins simply decided to shake things up and bench Pipp and his .244 batting average.”

    Wally Pipp just wasn’t nearly as good as Lou Gehrig, which wouldn’t have been difficult for a brilliant manager like Huggins to realize. Headache or no headache.

    https://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/the-real-wally-pipp-story-060215

    But apparently Pipp pinch-hit for Gehrig occasionally against lefties later that year.

    Incidentally, 1925 was the last year until 1964 that the Yankees finished below .500, partly because of Babe Ruth’s troubles, as I’m sure you know.

  116. No reasonable person can argue that Ruth isn’t the best all-time player. As a pitcher, in 1916 he bested Walter Johnson as the AL ERA champion.

    As for Ruth’s batting credentials, check out the book “Incredible Baseball Stats” which states that if Ruth were resurrected, returned to baseball and struck out 3, 187 times he would still be slugging over .500. Ruth would have to go 0 for 1,501 to have his career OPS to dip below 1,000.

    James= Foolish

  117. @donvonburg
    Flying was more dangerous than today but then again, so was riding in an automobile. Cars had no safety features whatever and there were no modern EMS services, life flight helicopters or trauma centers. Train travel was probably the safest way to travel long distances but they had collisions and derailments too.

    After WWII, scheduled airline service was relatively safe. Comparing safety then and now is comparing a relatively safe activity with a somewhat more safe activity, but there were and are other considerations. Airline travel (arriving at the departing airport to destination) was more pleasant and faster before 9/11 and much more pleasant before deregulation and hijacking. The early jet era was without doubt the acme of scheduled airline service in terms of style, comfort, service and safety was good then as well, statistically a little less so than today, but you probably lost fewer hours of your life on average waiting and putting up with "security".

    I used to enjoy riding on the old DC-9s and 727s a lot because you could hear the engines spool up and you got a pretty dramatic takeoff especially in the 727 if the airplane was light and density altitude was low (e.g., it was cold and you were at a low elevation airport). Crews usually could and would climb out at the maximum deck angle the FAA and company policy permitted. Under the right circumstances some variants of the 727 could nearly rival a U-2 with a light enough load, but they were generally limited to a specific figure in the manual.

    Now, I fly (commercially,i.e., scheduled airline) only with reluctance and when someone else is paying the bill, at least domestically. I have had a few clients fly me in private aircraft but I stay out of Lears and a couple of specific turboprops on general principles. I don't like dealing with TSA in the least.

    After WWII, scheduled airline service was relatively safe. Comparing safety then and now is comparing a relatively safe activity with a somewhat more safe activity, but there were and are other considerations

    It’s about perception, though. It takes time for the increased safety to seep into public consciousness, or, rather, subconsciousness. That, and airlines are loath to mention safety at all, even though it’s their greatest accomplishment.

    Just in the previous decade, 1943, a Pan Am Clipper on a USO your crash-landed in Lisbon. Officially the wing tip “inadvertently” touched the waters of the Tagus, but one Pan Am historian thinks the pilot was showing off. A novelist and a Hollywood actress were among the 24 killed, and a fellow actress was injured for life.

    In fact, it was a Waylon Jennings/Big Bopper situation– Jane Froman had given her seat to Tamara Drusin, and suffered from guilt the rest of her life.

    There was also that collision over the Grand Canyon in the middle 1950s. If there is no other reason to read David Duke’s memoir, there is the story of his aunt and uncle perishing on that flight and how it messed up his mother’s life, and turned him into an autodidact of sorts.

    That dramatic incident would have been fresh in Jackie Jensen’s mind.

  118. @woody weaver
    I believe Bill Jame's number crunching has value but the statistics that impress me about Babe Ruth are his 90 wins as a big league pitcher and 2.28 ERA Considering the Babe began his career as a pitcher and gradually transitioned to a great hitter, I think his ability to pitch should be more widely praised when evaluating the greatest players of all time. Babe Ruth in my opinion is the greatest player of all time because barring injury would have been a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.

    I believe Bill Jame’s number crunching has value but the statistics that impress me about Babe Ruth are his 90 wins as a big league pitcher and 2.28 ERA Considering the Babe began his career as a pitcher and gradually transitioned to a great hitter, I think his ability to pitch should be more widely praised when evaluating the greatest players of all time. Babe Ruth in my opinion is the greatest player of all time because barring injury would have been a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.

    Ruth had outstanding seasons both on the mound and in the batter’s box, but they didn’t coincide.

    Wes Ferrell is generally considered the best-hitting pitcher in post-1900 ball. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I keep reading that Ferrell’s batting record is better than Ruth’s was with the Red Sox in his pitching days.

    One season Ferrell suffered an injury that kept him off the mound for a month or two. So they put him on second base, his bat was so valuable. I don’t know if these games are included in his hitting-as-a-pitcher calculations. He hit only one of his three dozen or so home runs during this period. Which is odd; his at-bats would have quadrupled.

    As for your argument about Ruth, it doesn’t take into account defensive skills. How were the Babe’s? Good or bad, he wouldn’t have contributed that much in right field or first base, those recycling bins for clumsy gloves. Good defense seems at least as important as hitting or pitching, but it’s hard to quantify.

    My views are no doubt warped by the 1969 season, my third, in which the glove-dominant Mets knocked off Baltimore, arguably the best-fielding team of all time.

    One more tidbit about Ferrell: his brother Rick was a major league catcher, and sometime teammate of Wes. There were very few Ricks in baseball or anywhere else in those pre-Casablanca days. I’d like to see a chart of the evolution of the Dick-Rick ratio over the years.

    Remember when Richie Allen grew up and became Dick?

  119. Wes Ferrell is generally considered the best-hitting pitcher in post-1900 ball. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I keep reading that Ferrell’s batting record is better than Ruth’s was with the Red Sox in his pitching days.

    Maybe if you ignore that Ruth was pitching in the deadball era and Ferrell was playing in the 1930s hitters’ paradise. Even then I’m not sure, eyeballing their numbers. Ruth really was a freak. He made Bill James’ all-time young player team as a pitcher and his all-time old player team as an outfielder. That’s how good he was.

    One season Ferrell suffered an injury that kept him off the mound for a month or two. So they put him on second base, his bat was so valuable.

    Ruth’s bat was so valuable they made him stop pitching completely, even though he was the best lefty in the American League. Don Drysdale pitch-hit for the offense-challenged Dodgers of the 60s. He wasn’t nearly as good a hitter as Ruth either.

    Good defense seems at least as important as hitting or pitching, but it’s hard to quantify.

    It is hard to quantify, but practically speaking, it isn’t as important as hitting or pitching, because performance levels don’t vary as much. Most of a right fielder’s job is catching fly balls. Most of a first baseman’s job is catching throws with his foot on the bag. That’s a lot easier than hitting major-league pitching. Even for center fielders and shortstops, a lot of the job is made up of routine plays.

  120. @Steve Sailer
    Herr had Vince Coleman and MVP Willie McGee batting in front of him in 1985. Plus he had a great year.

    The state of Missouri had some memorable baseball teams playing on artificial turf in the 1980s. I wonder how much the fading out of the old hard artificial turf has contributed to fewer African-American baseball players in majors? Super speedsters like Willie Wilson and Coleman-McGee were more valuable on artificial turf than on grass. The second Billy Hamilton of Cincinnati might have been something if her were playing on Astroturf with bloopers bouncing over the heads of outfielders for inside the park homers.

    The state of Missouri had some memorable baseball teams playing on artificial turf in the 1980s.

    I thought perhaps the 1985 all-Missouri World Series was the first completely played on AstroTurf, but it turns out it was

    [MORE]
    Phillies/Royals 1980

  121. @ex-banker
    You said a good first baseman saves a run per game. Now it’s a ton of runs. Do you think I’m so unreasonable to think that because I question your absurd assertion I must believe that a first baseman’s defense never matters?

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86. Would have been even better if he’d taken your counsel and played him the whole playoffs. One extra run per game would have been great. The series against the Angels surely would have been less eventful.

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86.

    Because of how the Red Sox lost the World Series, this has become popular to say, but the historic data does not back this up. In 1986 Buckner played 138 games at first base and finished 117 of them. This goes against the narrative of Stapleton always finishing up games for Buckner at first. I concede that McNamara did it all of the 7 games the Red Sox won in the playoffs that year.

    The last game Stapleton played for the Red Sox was in 1986. He never played for them, or anyone else, ever again.

    • Replies: @ex-banker
    Stapleton came in as a defensive replacement in every game the Sox led in the 1986 postseason, except Game 6 against the Mets.
  122. @ScarletNumber

    Yes, John McNamara should have replaced Buckner with Stapleton against the Mets in 86.
     
    Because of how the Red Sox lost the World Series, this has become popular to say, but the historic data does not back this up. In 1986 Buckner played 138 games at first base and finished 117 of them. This goes against the narrative of Stapleton always finishing up games for Buckner at first. I concede that McNamara did it all of the 7 games the Red Sox won in the playoffs that year.

    The last game Stapleton played for the Red Sox was in 1986. He never played for them, or anyone else, ever again.

    Stapleton came in as a defensive replacement in every game the Sox led in the 1986 postseason, except Game 6 against the Mets.

    • Replies: @ScarletNumber

    I concede that McNamara [used Stapleton for Buckner in] all of the 7 games the Red Sox won in the playoffs that year.
     
    If you are going to respond to my posts in the future, please read what I say for comprehension. Then you don't have to make the same exact point that I made.
  123. @ex-banker
    Every season of Mike Trout's career has been better than Jim Rice's 1978. Rice's career is ridiculously overrated and he has no business in the Hall of Fame -- unless it's based purely on "fame" as a player and not his performance. Dwight Evans peaked later and produced significantly more value than Rice.

    The legit knocks on Rice were his ridiculously high double play rate and his poor defense.

    Your assertion that every one of Trout’s seasons was better than Rice’s 1978 is not supported by the facts.

    To wit, in 1978, Rice had 11 black ink numbers. Trout’s high is five, the last three years.

    Rice had 139 RBIs in ’78, Trout’s career high was 111.

    Rice had 15 triples in ’78, Trout’s career high was 9.

    Rice had 213 hits in ’78, Trout’s career high was 190.

    Rice had 406 total bases. Trout’s career high was 338.

    Check and mate.

    • Replies: @keypusher
    Check and mate.

    Well, no, that's stupid. You're claiming that "black ink" is decisive; obviously ex-banker doesn't agree, or he never would have said what he said. You don't get to select the criteria to decide who is right.

    Looking at offensive WAR, Rice's career high is 6.7, achieved during that MVP 1978 season. And it is a fact that Mike Trout has topped that number in every full season of his career -- even 2017, when he missed about 50 games. Defensive WAR is also clearly in Trout's favor. Trout whips Rice in WAR, in short.

    The story in black ink is a bit more mixed than you seem to realize, too. Trout has led the league in runs scored four times; Rice never did. Trout has lead the league in slugging 4x (Rice 1x), OBP 3x (Rice 0x). Trout has won 3 MVPs and ROY; Rice had one MVP.

    I don't have a dog in this fight, particularly. I'm not sure how valid WAR really is. One of the main thrusts of Bill James' article was that it has major problems; I'd be curious to know how win shares, James's invention, treats Rice and Trout. But I suspect WAR is more valid than just comparing raw numbers across eras. After all, that's kind of the point of WAR (and win shares).

    Even if you think those measures are just invalid, Trout is clearly better at leading the league in good things (like OBP and slugging) and winning MVP awards as opposed to bad things (like grounding into double plays) than Rice is. So unless you think baseball talent took a big step back between 1978 and now, that's pretty good evidence that Trout is, in fact, a better ballplayer than Jim Rice.

  124. @Steve Sailer
    But Rice in 1978 only grounded into 15 double plays, a high number, but not ridiculous, and played decent defense in left. Several of his 1980s seasons were pretty bad, though.

    Fred Lynn probably deserved the MVP in 1979 but he and Rice split the vote, finishing 4th and 5th, letting Don Baylor win.

    Ex-banker’s assertion laughably false. Not one of Trout’s seasons can hold up to what Rice did in ’78.

    The criteria?

    1. Black ink (certainly a proxy for the level of dominance);

    2. Hits;

    3. Total bases;

    4. games played;

    5. plate appearances;

    6. the number of home-runs that either tied the score or put his team in the lead;

    7. home-runs; and

    8. RBIs

    Another thing: Between 1975-86, Rice led the AL in the following:

    1. games played;

    2. at -bats;

    3, runs;

    4. hits;

    5. home-runs;

    6. RBIs;

    7. runs;

    8. extra base-hits;

    9. slugging;

    10. total bases;

    11. multi-hit games;

    12. go-ahead RBIs; and

    13. assists.

    Let’s see Trout do that.

    Once again, check and mate.

  125. @Liberty Mike
    Your assertion that every one of Trout's seasons was better than Rice's 1978 is not supported by the facts.

    To wit, in 1978, Rice had 11 black ink numbers. Trout's high is five, the last three years.

    Rice had 139 RBIs in '78, Trout's career high was 111.

    Rice had 15 triples in '78, Trout's career high was 9.

    Rice had 213 hits in '78, Trout's career high was 190.

    Rice had 406 total bases. Trout's career high was 338.

    Check and mate.

    Check and mate.

    Well, no, that’s stupid. You’re claiming that “black ink” is decisive; obviously ex-banker doesn’t agree, or he never would have said what he said. You don’t get to select the criteria to decide who is right.

    Looking at offensive WAR, Rice’s career high is 6.7, achieved during that MVP 1978 season. And it is a fact that Mike Trout has topped that number in every full season of his career — even 2017, when he missed about 50 games. Defensive WAR is also clearly in Trout’s favor. Trout whips Rice in WAR, in short.

    The story in black ink is a bit more mixed than you seem to realize, too. Trout has led the league in runs scored four times; Rice never did. Trout has lead the league in slugging 4x (Rice 1x), OBP 3x (Rice 0x). Trout has won 3 MVPs and ROY; Rice had one MVP.

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, particularly. I’m not sure how valid WAR really is. One of the main thrusts of Bill James’ article was that it has major problems; I’d be curious to know how win shares, James’s invention, treats Rice and Trout. But I suspect WAR is more valid than just comparing raw numbers across eras. After all, that’s kind of the point of WAR (and win shares).

    Even if you think those measures are just invalid, Trout is clearly better at leading the league in good things (like OBP and slugging) and winning MVP awards as opposed to bad things (like grounding into double plays) than Rice is. So unless you think baseball talent took a big step back between 1978 and now, that’s pretty good evidence that Trout is, in fact, a better ballplayer than Jim Rice.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout's seasons was better than Rice's 1978.

    That is just stupid.

    Yes, I am making the case that black ink is a far superior measuring stick than WAR as the former is black (pun intended) and white whereas the latter is laced with subjectivity. FEELZ should have no place in baseball philosophy.

    As far as his black ink is concerned, Rice had 11 in 1978. Trout's high is 5.

    Rice is the only player to ever lead the league in triples, home-runs, and RBIs in the same year.

    Rice is the only player to ever record three consecutive seasons with 200 + hits and 39 + HRs.

    Rice also led the AL in total bases for three consecutive seasons.

    As for prolonged dominance, can Trout touch what Rice did between 1975-86 as I noted above?
  126. @Reg Cæsar

    Though he could hit home runs when he wanted to. He hit five home runs in two consecutive games to prove that he could.
     
    How many of those are inside the park?

    Unlike some beer belly waddling around the bases at his own leisure, those home runs are actually exciting.

    Yeah. One year Cobb led the league in home runs with nine (his Triple Crown year). They were all inside-the-park.

    I saw Damion Easley hit an inside-the-park home run once. Very exciting. That same year I saw him hit for the cycle, where he came up for his last at-bat needing a triple and got it.

  127. @keypusher
    Check and mate.

    Well, no, that's stupid. You're claiming that "black ink" is decisive; obviously ex-banker doesn't agree, or he never would have said what he said. You don't get to select the criteria to decide who is right.

    Looking at offensive WAR, Rice's career high is 6.7, achieved during that MVP 1978 season. And it is a fact that Mike Trout has topped that number in every full season of his career -- even 2017, when he missed about 50 games. Defensive WAR is also clearly in Trout's favor. Trout whips Rice in WAR, in short.

    The story in black ink is a bit more mixed than you seem to realize, too. Trout has led the league in runs scored four times; Rice never did. Trout has lead the league in slugging 4x (Rice 1x), OBP 3x (Rice 0x). Trout has won 3 MVPs and ROY; Rice had one MVP.

    I don't have a dog in this fight, particularly. I'm not sure how valid WAR really is. One of the main thrusts of Bill James' article was that it has major problems; I'd be curious to know how win shares, James's invention, treats Rice and Trout. But I suspect WAR is more valid than just comparing raw numbers across eras. After all, that's kind of the point of WAR (and win shares).

    Even if you think those measures are just invalid, Trout is clearly better at leading the league in good things (like OBP and slugging) and winning MVP awards as opposed to bad things (like grounding into double plays) than Rice is. So unless you think baseball talent took a big step back between 1978 and now, that's pretty good evidence that Trout is, in fact, a better ballplayer than Jim Rice.

    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout’s seasons was better than Rice’s 1978.

    That is just stupid.

    Yes, I am making the case that black ink is a far superior measuring stick than WAR as the former is black (pun intended) and white whereas the latter is laced with subjectivity. FEELZ should have no place in baseball philosophy.

    As far as his black ink is concerned, Rice had 11 in 1978. Trout’s high is 5.

    Rice is the only player to ever lead the league in triples, home-runs, and RBIs in the same year.

    Rice is the only player to ever record three consecutive seasons with 200 + hits and 39 + HRs.

    Rice also led the AL in total bases for three consecutive seasons.

    As for prolonged dominance, can Trout touch what Rice did between 1975-86 as I noted above?

    • Replies: @Keypusher

    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout’s seasons was better than Rice’s 1978.

    Yes, and I explained why that would be a reasonable claim. Are you able to respond with anything other than BLACK INK? And no, WAR is not laced with subjectivity or FEELZ, whatever other problems it may have.

    Measuring people playing 40 years apart by raw numbers alone is stupid.

    , @ex-banker
    Complain all you want about WAR, but it's far more relevant to player value than Black Ink, which Bill James developed to PREDICT which players would win MVPs and get elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers.

    Rice's WAR over his allegedly dominant 1975-1986 (12 seasons) was a respectable 50.2, sixth among position players over that period. His defense cost him significant value, but offense-only, he'd still be fourth over the period. His defense was terrible. Don't cite his assists -- they only reflect the park effects in Fenway.

    Trout's WAR over 2012-2019 (8 seasons) was 74.2 -- Buster Posey is next at 47.1. What is the difference, beyond above-average defense at a premium position? OUTS. To earn the Black Ink, Rice made an average of 50 more outs per season than Trout, who also averages more double, triples and homers on a per season basis than Rice. He also averages 25 steals per year at an above average 83% success rate.

    In his worst year (2017, played only 114 games due to an injury), Trout put up 6.8 WAR, one win less than Rice's 7.7 in 1978. For perspective, if Trout had 240 more plate appearances to match Rice, he would have need an OBP of .213 for two full months to get to Rice's level.

    Rice's 1978 season was great, and he had a few others as well, but over his career, Rice didn't walk enough, hit into too many double plays and was an awful fielder. He was also a creature of Fenway Park, as Steve notes above. For his career, his road OPS+ was 85, 15% worse than an average player. Ridiculous that he's in the HoF.
  128. @ex-banker
    Stapleton came in as a defensive replacement in every game the Sox led in the 1986 postseason, except Game 6 against the Mets.

    I concede that McNamara [used Stapleton for Buckner in] all of the 7 games the Red Sox won in the playoffs that year.

    If you are going to respond to my posts in the future, please read what I say for comprehension. Then you don’t have to make the same exact point that I made.

    • Thanks: ex-banker
  129. @Liberty Mike
    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout's seasons was better than Rice's 1978.

    That is just stupid.

    Yes, I am making the case that black ink is a far superior measuring stick than WAR as the former is black (pun intended) and white whereas the latter is laced with subjectivity. FEELZ should have no place in baseball philosophy.

    As far as his black ink is concerned, Rice had 11 in 1978. Trout's high is 5.

    Rice is the only player to ever lead the league in triples, home-runs, and RBIs in the same year.

    Rice is the only player to ever record three consecutive seasons with 200 + hits and 39 + HRs.

    Rice also led the AL in total bases for three consecutive seasons.

    As for prolonged dominance, can Trout touch what Rice did between 1975-86 as I noted above?


    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout’s seasons was better than Rice’s 1978.

    Yes, and I explained why that would be a reasonable claim. Are you able to respond with anything other than BLACK INK? And no, WAR is not laced with subjectivity or FEELZ, whatever other problems it may have.

    Measuring people playing 40 years apart by raw numbers alone is stupid.

    • Agree: ex-banker
    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Jim Rice's offense was perfect for Fenway Park. He wasn't that great on the road but he was a terror at home.
  130. @Keypusher

    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout’s seasons was better than Rice’s 1978.

    Yes, and I explained why that would be a reasonable claim. Are you able to respond with anything other than BLACK INK? And no, WAR is not laced with subjectivity or FEELZ, whatever other problems it may have.

    Measuring people playing 40 years apart by raw numbers alone is stupid.

    Jim Rice’s offense was perfect for Fenway Park. He wasn’t that great on the road but he was a terror at home.

  131. @Liberty Mike
    He made the assertion that EVERY ONE of Trout's seasons was better than Rice's 1978.

    That is just stupid.

    Yes, I am making the case that black ink is a far superior measuring stick than WAR as the former is black (pun intended) and white whereas the latter is laced with subjectivity. FEELZ should have no place in baseball philosophy.

    As far as his black ink is concerned, Rice had 11 in 1978. Trout's high is 5.

    Rice is the only player to ever lead the league in triples, home-runs, and RBIs in the same year.

    Rice is the only player to ever record three consecutive seasons with 200 + hits and 39 + HRs.

    Rice also led the AL in total bases for three consecutive seasons.

    As for prolonged dominance, can Trout touch what Rice did between 1975-86 as I noted above?

    Complain all you want about WAR, but it’s far more relevant to player value than Black Ink, which Bill James developed to PREDICT which players would win MVPs and get elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers.

    Rice’s WAR over his allegedly dominant 1975-1986 (12 seasons) was a respectable 50.2, sixth among position players over that period. His defense cost him significant value, but offense-only, he’d still be fourth over the period. His defense was terrible. Don’t cite his assists — they only reflect the park effects in Fenway.

    Trout’s WAR over 2012-2019 (8 seasons) was 74.2 — Buster Posey is next at 47.1. What is the difference, beyond above-average defense at a premium position? OUTS. To earn the Black Ink, Rice made an average of 50 more outs per season than Trout, who also averages more double, triples and homers on a per season basis than Rice. He also averages 25 steals per year at an above average 83% success rate.

    In his worst year (2017, played only 114 games due to an injury), Trout put up 6.8 WAR, one win less than Rice’s 7.7 in 1978. For perspective, if Trout had 240 more plate appearances to match Rice, he would have need an OBP of .213 for two full months to get to Rice’s level.

    Rice’s 1978 season was great, and he had a few others as well, but over his career, Rice didn’t walk enough, hit into too many double plays and was an awful fielder. He was also a creature of Fenway Park, as Steve notes above. For his career, his road OPS+ was 85, 15% worse than an average player. Ridiculous that he’s in the HoF.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    Why do you accord such credibility to WAR?

    Why should anybody regard it as the gold standard of measuring player performance?

    What about the fact that there is not one version of WAR?

    According to Bill James, "WAR is dead wrong because the creators of that statistic have severed the connection between performance statistics and win, thus undermining their analysis.."

    In WAR, the value of player's contribution is calculated independent of the situation in which it occurred. Hence, Rice's accomplishment of driving in the most go-ahead RBIs in the AL over a 12 year span is not credited. Ditto for his 31 home-runs in 1978 either tying the score or putting the Sox ahead.

    Stated alternatively, WAR fails to take into account a player's contributions to winning. The 1978 Red Sox won 99 games. During Rice's tenure, the Sox had several 90 + win seasons, including 95 in 1975, Rice's rookie campaign. The Sox won 97 in 1977, and 91 in 1979. In 1986, they won 95.

    The Angels did win 98 in 2014, but in 5 of his 8 years, Trout's Angels have been sub .500.
  132. @ex-banker
    Complain all you want about WAR, but it's far more relevant to player value than Black Ink, which Bill James developed to PREDICT which players would win MVPs and get elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers.

    Rice's WAR over his allegedly dominant 1975-1986 (12 seasons) was a respectable 50.2, sixth among position players over that period. His defense cost him significant value, but offense-only, he'd still be fourth over the period. His defense was terrible. Don't cite his assists -- they only reflect the park effects in Fenway.

    Trout's WAR over 2012-2019 (8 seasons) was 74.2 -- Buster Posey is next at 47.1. What is the difference, beyond above-average defense at a premium position? OUTS. To earn the Black Ink, Rice made an average of 50 more outs per season than Trout, who also averages more double, triples and homers on a per season basis than Rice. He also averages 25 steals per year at an above average 83% success rate.

    In his worst year (2017, played only 114 games due to an injury), Trout put up 6.8 WAR, one win less than Rice's 7.7 in 1978. For perspective, if Trout had 240 more plate appearances to match Rice, he would have need an OBP of .213 for two full months to get to Rice's level.

    Rice's 1978 season was great, and he had a few others as well, but over his career, Rice didn't walk enough, hit into too many double plays and was an awful fielder. He was also a creature of Fenway Park, as Steve notes above. For his career, his road OPS+ was 85, 15% worse than an average player. Ridiculous that he's in the HoF.

    Why do you accord such credibility to WAR?

    Why should anybody regard it as the gold standard of measuring player performance?

    What about the fact that there is not one version of WAR?

    According to Bill James, “WAR is dead wrong because the creators of that statistic have severed the connection between performance statistics and win, thus undermining their analysis..”

    In WAR, the value of player’s contribution is calculated independent of the situation in which it occurred. Hence, Rice’s accomplishment of driving in the most go-ahead RBIs in the AL over a 12 year span is not credited. Ditto for his 31 home-runs in 1978 either tying the score or putting the Sox ahead.

    Stated alternatively, WAR fails to take into account a player’s contributions to winning. The 1978 Red Sox won 99 games. During Rice’s tenure, the Sox had several 90 + win seasons, including 95 in 1975, Rice’s rookie campaign. The Sox won 97 in 1977, and 91 in 1979. In 1986, they won 95.

    The Angels did win 98 in 2014, but in 5 of his 8 years, Trout’s Angels have been sub .500.

  133. WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs. Go ahead and ignore WAR – address the point that In his worst season, Trout could go 51/240 on top of his worst season and still have the same OBP as Rice in his best.

    Why should the Jim Rice get extra credit because he routinely had better teammates than Trout? Hilarious when you consider that Rice led the Red Sox in WAR exactly once during his “dominant era.” He was pretty fortunate to play with Yaz, Lynn, Tiant, Fisk, Eckersley, Evans, Clemens and Boggs. With all that talent, exactly two World Series appearances for the team (and Rice missed one and was minor contributor in the other). You’re comparing him to a guy who has basically been in the top 2 of the league every year?

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Jim Rice was such a terror in Fenway Park that if, say, you went to 10 Red Sox home games per year, he might be the hero of a couple of them, so in the dozen years of his prime from 1975-1986, you'd have a lot of great memories of him. For example, if you double his 1978 Fenway Park stats, he's have a season of .361, 56 homers, 150 RBIs, 138 runs scored, and an insane 462 total bases in a pretty average offensive year for everybody else. Ted Williams never had a full year like that nor Mays. Mantle came close in 1956 with a full season of .353 - 52 - 130.

    On the road in 1978, Rice would have hit .269, 36 homers, and 128 RBIs, which is an MVP candidate season, but not all that special.

    I suspect those talented Red Sox teams didn't mesh well. For example, Wade Boggs seldom scored as many runs as his huge on-base totals would suggest. My guess is that some of that was Rice leading the league in double plays during Boggs' first four seasons. But also, one reason Rice grounded into so many double plays in the 1980s was Boggs got on base so much (up to 340 times in one season), but seldom stole second.

    , @Steve Sailer
    In the NBA, superstars like LeBron can finagle their way to getting better teammates. Have any baseball players ever been able to do that? Trout certainly has not.
    , @Steve Sailer
    In the NBA, superstars like LeBron can finagle their way to getting better teammates. Have any baseball players ever been able to do that? Trout certainly has not.

    Trout really is good at all sorts of things. Like Trout only grounds into 7 double plays per year, because he's fast and he hits the ball in the air, plus the Angels have been bad at getting on base in front of him. Pujols grounds into about 20 double plays per year.

    Trout has stolen 200 bases in only 236 attempts.

    Trout gets on base by getting hit by the pitch about 11 times per year, which is about as much as I'd want my best player to do. The Cubs' cornermen get hit about twice as much, but they seem to be wearing out faster than we would have expected, which might have something to do with how they sacrifice their bodies so much to getting on base.

    , @Liberty Mike
    If you recall, you broached the comparison between the two players. You responded to my post about 1978.

    Neither you nor keypusher have provided a coherent, substantive argument as to why WAR should be the gold standard of player evaluation. Its not as if everybody accepts that proposition.
  134. @ex-banker
    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs. Go ahead and ignore WAR - address the point that In his worst season, Trout could go 51/240 on top of his worst season and still have the same OBP as Rice in his best.

    Why should the Jim Rice get extra credit because he routinely had better teammates than Trout? Hilarious when you consider that Rice led the Red Sox in WAR exactly once during his “dominant era.” He was pretty fortunate to play with Yaz, Lynn, Tiant, Fisk, Eckersley, Evans, Clemens and Boggs. With all that talent, exactly two World Series appearances for the team (and Rice missed one and was minor contributor in the other). You’re comparing him to a guy who has basically been in the top 2 of the league every year?

    Jim Rice was such a terror in Fenway Park that if, say, you went to 10 Red Sox home games per year, he might be the hero of a couple of them, so in the dozen years of his prime from 1975-1986, you’d have a lot of great memories of him. For example, if you double his 1978 Fenway Park stats, he’s have a season of .361, 56 homers, 150 RBIs, 138 runs scored, and an insane 462 total bases in a pretty average offensive year for everybody else. Ted Williams never had a full year like that nor Mays. Mantle came close in 1956 with a full season of .353 – 52 – 130.

    On the road in 1978, Rice would have hit .269, 36 homers, and 128 RBIs, which is an MVP candidate season, but not all that special.

    I suspect those talented Red Sox teams didn’t mesh well. For example, Wade Boggs seldom scored as many runs as his huge on-base totals would suggest. My guess is that some of that was Rice leading the league in double plays during Boggs’ first four seasons. But also, one reason Rice grounded into so many double plays in the 1980s was Boggs got on base so much (up to 340 times in one season), but seldom stole second.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    If Rice had retired after, say, 1983, he would have had a short, spectacular career much like Sandy Koufax who was the right man at the right time in Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966. Rice was the right man at the right time in Fenway Park. Few would deny Koufax his Hall of Fame berth just because he wasn't as spectacular on the road as in brand new Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966 with its 410' centerfield and Willie Davis out there to catch anything hit 409'. So why deny Rice his glory for being the right man at the right time?
  135. @ex-banker
    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs. Go ahead and ignore WAR - address the point that In his worst season, Trout could go 51/240 on top of his worst season and still have the same OBP as Rice in his best.

    Why should the Jim Rice get extra credit because he routinely had better teammates than Trout? Hilarious when you consider that Rice led the Red Sox in WAR exactly once during his “dominant era.” He was pretty fortunate to play with Yaz, Lynn, Tiant, Fisk, Eckersley, Evans, Clemens and Boggs. With all that talent, exactly two World Series appearances for the team (and Rice missed one and was minor contributor in the other). You’re comparing him to a guy who has basically been in the top 2 of the league every year?

    In the NBA, superstars like LeBron can finagle their way to getting better teammates. Have any baseball players ever been able to do that? Trout certainly has not.

  136. @ex-banker
    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs. Go ahead and ignore WAR - address the point that In his worst season, Trout could go 51/240 on top of his worst season and still have the same OBP as Rice in his best.

    Why should the Jim Rice get extra credit because he routinely had better teammates than Trout? Hilarious when you consider that Rice led the Red Sox in WAR exactly once during his “dominant era.” He was pretty fortunate to play with Yaz, Lynn, Tiant, Fisk, Eckersley, Evans, Clemens and Boggs. With all that talent, exactly two World Series appearances for the team (and Rice missed one and was minor contributor in the other). You’re comparing him to a guy who has basically been in the top 2 of the league every year?

    In the NBA, superstars like LeBron can finagle their way to getting better teammates. Have any baseball players ever been able to do that? Trout certainly has not.

    Trout really is good at all sorts of things. Like Trout only grounds into 7 double plays per year, because he’s fast and he hits the ball in the air, plus the Angels have been bad at getting on base in front of him. Pujols grounds into about 20 double plays per year.

    Trout has stolen 200 bases in only 236 attempts.

    Trout gets on base by getting hit by the pitch about 11 times per year, which is about as much as I’d want my best player to do. The Cubs’ cornermen get hit about twice as much, but they seem to be wearing out faster than we would have expected, which might have something to do with how they sacrifice their bodies so much to getting on base.

  137. @ex-banker
    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs. Go ahead and ignore WAR - address the point that In his worst season, Trout could go 51/240 on top of his worst season and still have the same OBP as Rice in his best.

    Why should the Jim Rice get extra credit because he routinely had better teammates than Trout? Hilarious when you consider that Rice led the Red Sox in WAR exactly once during his “dominant era.” He was pretty fortunate to play with Yaz, Lynn, Tiant, Fisk, Eckersley, Evans, Clemens and Boggs. With all that talent, exactly two World Series appearances for the team (and Rice missed one and was minor contributor in the other). You’re comparing him to a guy who has basically been in the top 2 of the league every year?

    If you recall, you broached the comparison between the two players. You responded to my post about 1978.

    Neither you nor keypusher have provided a coherent, substantive argument as to why WAR should be the gold standard of player evaluation. Its not as if everybody accepts that proposition.

    • Replies: @ex-banker

    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs.
     
    Your black ink stats are all heavily context-dependent - how good were his teammates, what ballpark did he play in, what era was he playing in, defense - WAR accounts for all those things. Not perfectly, but enough to make real comparisons across eras. Rice at his best was comparable to Trout at his worst. There is no executive in baseball today that would take Rice over Trout. Most would take Evans over Rice for that matter.

    You’ve had two chances to address the fact that the currency of the black ink was outs and Rice consumed plenty to accumulate it. Third time a charm?
  138. @Steve Sailer
    Jim Rice was such a terror in Fenway Park that if, say, you went to 10 Red Sox home games per year, he might be the hero of a couple of them, so in the dozen years of his prime from 1975-1986, you'd have a lot of great memories of him. For example, if you double his 1978 Fenway Park stats, he's have a season of .361, 56 homers, 150 RBIs, 138 runs scored, and an insane 462 total bases in a pretty average offensive year for everybody else. Ted Williams never had a full year like that nor Mays. Mantle came close in 1956 with a full season of .353 - 52 - 130.

    On the road in 1978, Rice would have hit .269, 36 homers, and 128 RBIs, which is an MVP candidate season, but not all that special.

    I suspect those talented Red Sox teams didn't mesh well. For example, Wade Boggs seldom scored as many runs as his huge on-base totals would suggest. My guess is that some of that was Rice leading the league in double plays during Boggs' first four seasons. But also, one reason Rice grounded into so many double plays in the 1980s was Boggs got on base so much (up to 340 times in one season), but seldom stole second.

    If Rice had retired after, say, 1983, he would have had a short, spectacular career much like Sandy Koufax who was the right man at the right time in Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966. Rice was the right man at the right time in Fenway Park. Few would deny Koufax his Hall of Fame berth just because he wasn’t as spectacular on the road as in brand new Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966 with its 410′ centerfield and Willie Davis out there to catch anything hit 409′. So why deny Rice his glory for being the right man at the right time?

    • Replies: @ex-banker
    Beginning to feel like you’re using Rice as a proxy for a Dodgers’ fan’s support for Steve Garvey! It’s all about where you draw the line - Rice is well below mine, but reasonable minds can differ.

    With respect to the Red Sox teams of that era, Dennis Eckersley’s famous comment was “25 cabs for 25 guys.” Rice was not particularly popular with the media or fans as a player, but then again neither were Williams or Yaz during their careers.
  139. @Liberty Mike
    If you recall, you broached the comparison between the two players. You responded to my post about 1978.

    Neither you nor keypusher have provided a coherent, substantive argument as to why WAR should be the gold standard of player evaluation. Its not as if everybody accepts that proposition.

    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs.

    Your black ink stats are all heavily context-dependent – how good were his teammates, what ballpark did he play in, what era was he playing in, defense – WAR accounts for all those things. Not perfectly, but enough to make real comparisons across eras. Rice at his best was comparable to Trout at his worst. There is no executive in baseball today that would take Rice over Trout. Most would take Evans over Rice for that matter.

    You’ve had two chances to address the fact that the currency of the black ink was outs and Rice consumed plenty to accumulate it. Third time a charm?

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    Note that my contention is not that Rice was a better player than Trout; rather, my position has been that it is foolish to argue that every one of Trout's seasons has been better than Rice's 1978 season.

    That no executive today would take Rice over Trout is a proposition I do not contest.

    However, how many players in MLB have led their league in a dozen offensive categories and assists over a 12 year period? How can you characterize the same as "alleged dominance?" I submit that no executive, today or yesterday, would describe the same as "alleged dominance."

    So, take the category of go-ahead RBIs. In order to lead the entire league in go-ahead RBIs over a 12 year span, one can hardly dismiss that as currency in outs. Nor can one chalk that up to simply having teammates like Boggs, Dewey, and Lynn or playing in Fenway. That dog simply won't hunt.

    No, WAR is not reliable, for many reasons. Take, for example, ballpark adjustments and apply the same to the Cabrera v. Trout 2012 MVP debate. Trout and Cabrera played different 81 game away schedules. Miggy played in five ballparks that Trout did not; Trout played in three ballyards that Cabrera did not; and they played in different numbers of games in other parks. The final park adjustments for the two players involved nearly two dozen parks with as many imprecise measures.

    What's more, Fangraphs' ballpark rankings differ significantly from ESPN's. When sabermetricians provide different answers to the same problem, the results do not inspire confidence in the statistic.

    Have you ever questioned the accuracy of WAR's base-running metrics? Take a runner going from first to third on a base hit. Can WAR accurately take into account all of the variables in play? How hard did the batter hit the ball? Where did he hit it? Was the outfielder coming in or backing up when fielding the base hit? Did the outfielder field the base hit backhanded? Who was the outfielder? How did he throw it? What was the weather? What was the game situation?

    Another thing: baseball, like life, is context dependent.
  140. @Steve Sailer
    If Rice had retired after, say, 1983, he would have had a short, spectacular career much like Sandy Koufax who was the right man at the right time in Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966. Rice was the right man at the right time in Fenway Park. Few would deny Koufax his Hall of Fame berth just because he wasn't as spectacular on the road as in brand new Dodger Stadium from 1962-1966 with its 410' centerfield and Willie Davis out there to catch anything hit 409'. So why deny Rice his glory for being the right man at the right time?

    Beginning to feel like you’re using Rice as a proxy for a Dodgers’ fan’s support for Steve Garvey! It’s all about where you draw the line – Rice is well below mine, but reasonable minds can differ.

    With respect to the Red Sox teams of that era, Dennis Eckersley’s famous comment was “25 cabs for 25 guys.” Rice was not particularly popular with the media or fans as a player, but then again neither were Williams or Yaz during their careers.

  141. @ex-banker

    WAR isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable, context independent estimate of a players contribution to winning baseball: scoring runs and preventing runs.
     
    Your black ink stats are all heavily context-dependent - how good were his teammates, what ballpark did he play in, what era was he playing in, defense - WAR accounts for all those things. Not perfectly, but enough to make real comparisons across eras. Rice at his best was comparable to Trout at his worst. There is no executive in baseball today that would take Rice over Trout. Most would take Evans over Rice for that matter.

    You’ve had two chances to address the fact that the currency of the black ink was outs and Rice consumed plenty to accumulate it. Third time a charm?

    Note that my contention is not that Rice was a better player than Trout; rather, my position has been that it is foolish to argue that every one of Trout’s seasons has been better than Rice’s 1978 season.

    That no executive today would take Rice over Trout is a proposition I do not contest.

    However, how many players in MLB have led their league in a dozen offensive categories and assists over a 12 year period? How can you characterize the same as “alleged dominance?” I submit that no executive, today or yesterday, would describe the same as “alleged dominance.”

    So, take the category of go-ahead RBIs. In order to lead the entire league in go-ahead RBIs over a 12 year span, one can hardly dismiss that as currency in outs. Nor can one chalk that up to simply having teammates like Boggs, Dewey, and Lynn or playing in Fenway. That dog simply won’t hunt.

    No, WAR is not reliable, for many reasons. Take, for example, ballpark adjustments and apply the same to the Cabrera v. Trout 2012 MVP debate. Trout and Cabrera played different 81 game away schedules. Miggy played in five ballparks that Trout did not; Trout played in three ballyards that Cabrera did not; and they played in different numbers of games in other parks. The final park adjustments for the two players involved nearly two dozen parks with as many imprecise measures.

    What’s more, Fangraphs’ ballpark rankings differ significantly from ESPN’s. When sabermetricians provide different answers to the same problem, the results do not inspire confidence in the statistic.

    Have you ever questioned the accuracy of WAR’s base-running metrics? Take a runner going from first to third on a base hit. Can WAR accurately take into account all of the variables in play? How hard did the batter hit the ball? Where did he hit it? Was the outfielder coming in or backing up when fielding the base hit? Did the outfielder field the base hit backhanded? Who was the outfielder? How did he throw it? What was the weather? What was the game situation?

    Another thing: baseball, like life, is context dependent.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The main point of Bill James' long response to me is that he doesn't think WAR deserves its current unquestioned status as the One True Answer.

    In Fenway, isn't it kind of common for a blast off the Green Monster in left field to not advance the runner from first to third? My recollection is that Rice himself was pretty adept at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the wall and fire it to third.

    This may have something to do with Boggs' curiously low runs scored numbers.

  142. @Liberty Mike
    Note that my contention is not that Rice was a better player than Trout; rather, my position has been that it is foolish to argue that every one of Trout's seasons has been better than Rice's 1978 season.

    That no executive today would take Rice over Trout is a proposition I do not contest.

    However, how many players in MLB have led their league in a dozen offensive categories and assists over a 12 year period? How can you characterize the same as "alleged dominance?" I submit that no executive, today or yesterday, would describe the same as "alleged dominance."

    So, take the category of go-ahead RBIs. In order to lead the entire league in go-ahead RBIs over a 12 year span, one can hardly dismiss that as currency in outs. Nor can one chalk that up to simply having teammates like Boggs, Dewey, and Lynn or playing in Fenway. That dog simply won't hunt.

    No, WAR is not reliable, for many reasons. Take, for example, ballpark adjustments and apply the same to the Cabrera v. Trout 2012 MVP debate. Trout and Cabrera played different 81 game away schedules. Miggy played in five ballparks that Trout did not; Trout played in three ballyards that Cabrera did not; and they played in different numbers of games in other parks. The final park adjustments for the two players involved nearly two dozen parks with as many imprecise measures.

    What's more, Fangraphs' ballpark rankings differ significantly from ESPN's. When sabermetricians provide different answers to the same problem, the results do not inspire confidence in the statistic.

    Have you ever questioned the accuracy of WAR's base-running metrics? Take a runner going from first to third on a base hit. Can WAR accurately take into account all of the variables in play? How hard did the batter hit the ball? Where did he hit it? Was the outfielder coming in or backing up when fielding the base hit? Did the outfielder field the base hit backhanded? Who was the outfielder? How did he throw it? What was the weather? What was the game situation?

    Another thing: baseball, like life, is context dependent.

    The main point of Bill James’ long response to me is that he doesn’t think WAR deserves its current unquestioned status as the One True Answer.

    In Fenway, isn’t it kind of common for a blast off the Green Monster in left field to not advance the runner from first to third? My recollection is that Rice himself was pretty adept at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the wall and fire it to third.

    This may have something to do with Boggs’ curiously low runs scored numbers.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    IIRC, your recollection is right: Rice was adroit at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the Green Monster.

    Rice's overall defensive play has been unfairly maligned. Yes, he had trouble coming in on the ball, and his coverage declined markedly.

    However, he did set a then rookie record for outfielders in that he went 90 games without an error in 1975. Then there is the fact that he had more assists than any other outfielder in the AL between 75-86.

    Kenny the Hawk Harfelson has said that Rice routinely drove the ball 400 + yards. The Hawk cites the 14th at Grenelefe in Haines City, Florida where the Hawk's drive was 365 and Rice's was 460. The two were playing with former Sox catcher Bob Montgomery.

    The Hawk also called Rice the strongest player he ever saw who did not lift weights.
  143. I wonder who could hit a golf ball further in his prime: Jim Rice or Mike Trout? Rice was famous on the celebrity golf circuit as the longest driver of his era, while here’s a clip of Trout hitting a golf ball scary hard:

  144. Cody Bellinger at the same event, with a surprisingly short backswing although on his follow thru the club practically hits the ground:

  145. @Steve Sailer
    The main point of Bill James' long response to me is that he doesn't think WAR deserves its current unquestioned status as the One True Answer.

    In Fenway, isn't it kind of common for a blast off the Green Monster in left field to not advance the runner from first to third? My recollection is that Rice himself was pretty adept at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the wall and fire it to third.

    This may have something to do with Boggs' curiously low runs scored numbers.

    IIRC, your recollection is right: Rice was adroit at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the Green Monster.

    Rice’s overall defensive play has been unfairly maligned. Yes, he had trouble coming in on the ball, and his coverage declined markedly.

    However, he did set a then rookie record for outfielders in that he went 90 games without an error in 1975. Then there is the fact that he had more assists than any other outfielder in the AL between 75-86.

    Kenny the Hawk Harfelson has said that Rice routinely drove the ball 400 + yards. The Hawk cites the 14th at Grenelefe in Haines City, Florida where the Hawk’s drive was 365 and Rice’s was 460. The two were playing with former Sox catcher Bob Montgomery.

    The Hawk also called Rice the strongest player he ever saw who did not lift weights.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    "The Hawk also called Rice the strongest player he ever saw who did not lift weights."

    In other words, Jim Rice didn't do steroids.

    My impression is Dale Murphy didn't either and they had pretty similar careers. Rice is now in the Hall of Fame, which is a good argument for Murphy too.

  146. @Liberty Mike
    IIRC, your recollection is right: Rice was adroit at positioning himself to barehand the carom off the Green Monster.

    Rice's overall defensive play has been unfairly maligned. Yes, he had trouble coming in on the ball, and his coverage declined markedly.

    However, he did set a then rookie record for outfielders in that he went 90 games without an error in 1975. Then there is the fact that he had more assists than any other outfielder in the AL between 75-86.

    Kenny the Hawk Harfelson has said that Rice routinely drove the ball 400 + yards. The Hawk cites the 14th at Grenelefe in Haines City, Florida where the Hawk's drive was 365 and Rice's was 460. The two were playing with former Sox catcher Bob Montgomery.

    The Hawk also called Rice the strongest player he ever saw who did not lift weights.

    “The Hawk also called Rice the strongest player he ever saw who did not lift weights.”

    In other words, Jim Rice didn’t do steroids.

    My impression is Dale Murphy didn’t either and they had pretty similar careers. Rice is now in the Hall of Fame, which is a good argument for Murphy too.

  147. Murphy belongs in the Hall.

    There is something to be said for a guy who knocks in over a 100 runs 5 years out of 6 and hits 30 or more home runs in 5 out of 6 seasons as Dale did.

    Playing in all 162, 4 years in a row is also a plus.

    Both durability and longevity matter. No question about it, I bristle at the pejorative, “[ ] was a compiler.”

    • Replies: @ex-banker

    I bristle at the pejorative, “[ ] was a compiler.”
     
    Pretty humorous given that your defense of Rice is that he "led the league in x categories" and you think calling a player a compiler is insulting. If other players of that era (Murphy, Evans, Lynn) traded walks for balls-in-play and outs like Rice did, his "dominance" would evaporate.

    Steve is correct that Rice was adept at barehanding the ball off the wall and throwing to second, but so has every Red Sox long time leftfielder in my lifetime. None of them (Greenwell, Ramirez, Benintendi) were good defenders. It's akin to first baseman skills -- if you're good enough to make it to the majors, you can figure it out. A Red Sox LF leading the majors in assists is park-driven stat. Manny led the AL in assists over his time with the Red Sox and he was terrible defender with an average arm. One my favorite Manny highlights:

  148. @Liberty Mike
    Murphy belongs in the Hall.

    There is something to be said for a guy who knocks in over a 100 runs 5 years out of 6 and hits 30 or more home runs in 5 out of 6 seasons as Dale did.

    Playing in all 162, 4 years in a row is also a plus.

    Both durability and longevity matter. No question about it, I bristle at the pejorative, "[ ] was a compiler."

    I bristle at the pejorative, “[ ] was a compiler.”

    Pretty humorous given that your defense of Rice is that he “led the league in x categories” and you think calling a player a compiler is insulting. If other players of that era (Murphy, Evans, Lynn) traded walks for balls-in-play and outs like Rice did, his “dominance” would evaporate.

    Steve is correct that Rice was adept at barehanding the ball off the wall and throwing to second, but so has every Red Sox long time leftfielder in my lifetime. None of them (Greenwell, Ramirez, Benintendi) were good defenders. It’s akin to first baseman skills — if you’re good enough to make it to the majors, you can figure it out. A Red Sox LF leading the majors in assists is park-driven stat. Manny led the AL in assists over his time with the Red Sox and he was terrible defender with an average arm. One my favorite Manny highlights:

  149. Manny was an adventure. Would you grant that Yaz was a good / great left-fielder?

    Surely, you must know that there have been players who were good / decent fielders elsewhere who were relegated to 1B only to find it wasn’t so easy.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    The Dodgers played 22 year old Cody Bellinger at first in 2017, only to subsequently discover that he is a terrific outfielder, where in 2019 he won a gold glove splitting between right and center. So in the middle of 2019 they tried moving Jock Pederson from left to first, but that didn't work.

    My theory is that first is an important defensive position. Back in 1974-1981 Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers was not a good first baseman at throwing the ball, such as in 3-6-3 doubleplays. But he was extremely good at digging throws from the other 3 infielders -- Cey, Russell, Lopes -- out of the dirt. They were instructed to aim low and let Garvey deal with the bounce. Garvey was a vacuum cleaner at first, which kept the Dodger infield from tearing each other apart over who was responsible for errors. Hence the Dodgers started the exact same infield for 8 straight years, 1974-1981, during which they went to 4 World Series, winning 1. No other set of 4 infielders managed more than 4 straight years together. I suspect that a lot of that was due to Garvey digging poor throws out of the dirt.

    , @ex-banker
    The consensus on Yaz was that he was good fielder, though he'd largely moved to first by the time I was watching closely.

    Surely, you must know that there have been players who were good / decent fielders elsewhere who were relegated to 1B only to find it wasn’t so easy.
     
    Off the top of my head, I can't think of any players who were good elsewhere that couldn't make it work at first base. Moneyball highlighted Scott Hatteberg's conversion from catcher to first and the subtext was anybody could do it well enough -- Tejada and Chavez at SS and 3B probably made it easier though. Doesn't mean there haven't been any, and there is probably some bias built in because those who were really challenged likely weren't given many game opportunities to prove themselves.

    What I do know is that I can't think of a single player who started his career at first that moved to another position and was any good at all.

  150. @Liberty Mike
    Manny was an adventure. Would you grant that Yaz was a good / great left-fielder?

    Surely, you must know that there have been players who were good / decent fielders elsewhere who were relegated to 1B only to find it wasn't so easy.

    The Dodgers played 22 year old Cody Bellinger at first in 2017, only to subsequently discover that he is a terrific outfielder, where in 2019 he won a gold glove splitting between right and center. So in the middle of 2019 they tried moving Jock Pederson from left to first, but that didn’t work.

    My theory is that first is an important defensive position. Back in 1974-1981 Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers was not a good first baseman at throwing the ball, such as in 3-6-3 doubleplays. But he was extremely good at digging throws from the other 3 infielders — Cey, Russell, Lopes — out of the dirt. They were instructed to aim low and let Garvey deal with the bounce. Garvey was a vacuum cleaner at first, which kept the Dodger infield from tearing each other apart over who was responsible for errors. Hence the Dodgers started the exact same infield for 8 straight years, 1974-1981, during which they went to 4 World Series, winning 1. No other set of 4 infielders managed more than 4 straight years together. I suspect that a lot of that was due to Garvey digging poor throws out of the dirt.

    • Replies: @Liberty Mike
    If forced to choose, I would rather my first baseman have Hoover skills, like Garvey, than a great arm.

    Going to 4 World Series in 8 years is to be saluted, particularly in a world that is quick to brand the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills as losers.

    Game 5 of the 1981 Series is one of my all time favorite games. You probably remember it better than me, but it doesn't get any better than Guerrero and Yeager going back-to-back against Guidry.
    , @ex-banker
    I think you're overrating 1b defense in the same way closers tend to be. When they make errors or don't perform, they tend to be high profile. This article from Fangraphs measures the gap from best to worst first baseman at scooping as 8 runs over 1000 throws (nearly a full season).

    https://blogs.fangraphs.com/first-basemen-scoops/

    There just isn't enough variance for it to matter appreciably.
  151. @Steve Sailer
    The Dodgers played 22 year old Cody Bellinger at first in 2017, only to subsequently discover that he is a terrific outfielder, where in 2019 he won a gold glove splitting between right and center. So in the middle of 2019 they tried moving Jock Pederson from left to first, but that didn't work.

    My theory is that first is an important defensive position. Back in 1974-1981 Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers was not a good first baseman at throwing the ball, such as in 3-6-3 doubleplays. But he was extremely good at digging throws from the other 3 infielders -- Cey, Russell, Lopes -- out of the dirt. They were instructed to aim low and let Garvey deal with the bounce. Garvey was a vacuum cleaner at first, which kept the Dodger infield from tearing each other apart over who was responsible for errors. Hence the Dodgers started the exact same infield for 8 straight years, 1974-1981, during which they went to 4 World Series, winning 1. No other set of 4 infielders managed more than 4 straight years together. I suspect that a lot of that was due to Garvey digging poor throws out of the dirt.

    If forced to choose, I would rather my first baseman have Hoover skills, like Garvey, than a great arm.

    Going to 4 World Series in 8 years is to be saluted, particularly in a world that is quick to brand the 1990-93 Buffalo Bills as losers.

    Game 5 of the 1981 Series is one of my all time favorite games. You probably remember it better than me, but it doesn’t get any better than Guerrero and Yeager going back-to-back against Guidry.

  152. @Liberty Mike
    Manny was an adventure. Would you grant that Yaz was a good / great left-fielder?

    Surely, you must know that there have been players who were good / decent fielders elsewhere who were relegated to 1B only to find it wasn't so easy.

    The consensus on Yaz was that he was good fielder, though he’d largely moved to first by the time I was watching closely.

    Surely, you must know that there have been players who were good / decent fielders elsewhere who were relegated to 1B only to find it wasn’t so easy.

    Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any players who were good elsewhere that couldn’t make it work at first base. Moneyball highlighted Scott Hatteberg’s conversion from catcher to first and the subtext was anybody could do it well enough — Tejada and Chavez at SS and 3B probably made it easier though. Doesn’t mean there haven’t been any, and there is probably some bias built in because those who were really challenged likely weren’t given many game opportunities to prove themselves.

    What I do know is that I can’t think of a single player who started his career at first that moved to another position and was any good at all.

  153. @Steve Sailer
    The Dodgers played 22 year old Cody Bellinger at first in 2017, only to subsequently discover that he is a terrific outfielder, where in 2019 he won a gold glove splitting between right and center. So in the middle of 2019 they tried moving Jock Pederson from left to first, but that didn't work.

    My theory is that first is an important defensive position. Back in 1974-1981 Steve Garvey of the LA Dodgers was not a good first baseman at throwing the ball, such as in 3-6-3 doubleplays. But he was extremely good at digging throws from the other 3 infielders -- Cey, Russell, Lopes -- out of the dirt. They were instructed to aim low and let Garvey deal with the bounce. Garvey was a vacuum cleaner at first, which kept the Dodger infield from tearing each other apart over who was responsible for errors. Hence the Dodgers started the exact same infield for 8 straight years, 1974-1981, during which they went to 4 World Series, winning 1. No other set of 4 infielders managed more than 4 straight years together. I suspect that a lot of that was due to Garvey digging poor throws out of the dirt.

    I think you’re overrating 1b defense in the same way closers tend to be. When they make errors or don’t perform, they tend to be high profile. This article from Fangraphs measures the gap from best to worst first baseman at scooping as 8 runs over 1000 throws (nearly a full season).

    https://blogs.fangraphs.com/first-basemen-scoops/

    There just isn’t enough variance for it to matter appreciably.

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