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CTaka
09-12-2009, 01:43 PM
It seems that in the greatest pitcher threads on Fever, Kid Nichols typically doesn't show up in the top ten....or the top fifteen judging by the most recent thread. I'm guessing that while there are a fair number of posters that have him in the top ten, there are plenty that don't rank him highly at all dropping him down to about #20 overall. Bill James had him at #9 in his 2001 Abstract.

Granted, 2001 was 8 years ago and I'd expect people like Maddux, Clemens, Pedro and Unit would be higher now than then. But it still seems that Nichols is held in a bit lower regard here than on James' list. I'm wondering why? Perhaps because 19th century pitchers fare well on Win Shares, thus inflating him in James' system? Or a bias against 19th century players in general on Fever?

How good was the Kid? Any modern-day comps?

Bothrops Atrox
09-12-2009, 01:54 PM
Seems to me like Nichols is almost always in the top 13 or so when we do those polls.

jalbright
09-12-2009, 02:13 PM
Here's something I wrote about Nichols elsewhere on this site:

Kid Nichols

This guy is a vastly underappreciated great. He was

in the top five in ERA 9 times;
7th in career wins;
3 time leader and ten times in the top 10 in wins;
42d in win loss percentage;
in the top 10 in win-loss percentage 9 times;
14th in career ERA+;
led the league in ERA+ twice and was in the top 10 twelve times;
41st among pitchers in black ink;
9th among pitchers in gray ink; and
8th among pitchers in HOF standards.

If that doesn't convince you, let's look at his win share scores against his top contemporaries:



Pitcher.... career best3 5Consecutive
Radbourn.. 391 199 270
Clarkson.. 396 173 248
Rusie….... 293 137 205
Nichols.... 479 135 208
Young..... 635 127 200
Willis....... 293 101 138
Mathewson.. 426 115 161
McGinnity.. 269 117 162
Griffith..... 273 96 143
Plank...... 360 89 133
Waddell.... 240 100 145
Chesbro.... 209 103 143


Nichols beats everybody but Cy Young on the career level, and gives serious ground to Radbourn and Clarkson on the peak measures (he does get edged by Rusie, but his career advantage is so huge it overcomes that) that you can at least argue for those two over him. That still puts him ahead of HOFers like Willis, Mathewson (!), McGinnity, Griffith (though he has other credits), Plank, Waddell and Chesbro.

Nichols is difficult to compare, though, because he's one of the rare ones to make it through the transition to the 60 feet, 6 inches pitching distance.

Aqua
09-12-2009, 02:21 PM
I've got Nichols ranked #10, between Seaver and Martinez.

RyanExpress30
09-12-2009, 06:01 PM
Behind only Young from 1890 to 1905. :)

Buzzaldrin
09-13-2009, 04:16 AM
It's a shame that Nichols left the majors to own and manage Kansas City in 1902 and 1903. He very likely would have 400 career wins had he not done so, and would consequently get more love.

He was also amazingly consistent, and out Younged Cy Young in the 1890s- seven 30 win seasons is more than anyone else ever had.

CTaka
09-13-2009, 02:16 PM
Seems to me like Nichols is almost always in the top 13 or so when we do those polls.

In the most recent "greatest player by position" thread, Nichols did not crack the top 15. And I believe in a recent "greatest pitchers" thread, he also did not make the top 15 and while getting some support, did not appear to be a lock to make the top 20 had that thread not died. I've got him around #10 - maybe that's a slot or two too high, but not making the top 15 or top 20 just seems too low to me. He pitched during a high offensive era in which many pitchers gave up a lot of runs. And, as was already mentioned, he pitched very well when the pitching mound was 50 feet from home and as well (or better if using ERA+) when it was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893. I get the impression he would have been a great pitcher in any era. I get the sense that he is a bit of a victim from a 19th century bias.

Paul Wendt
09-14-2009, 10:14 AM
The Hall of Merit ranks Nichols number six among pitchers who worked primarily 1893 to 1923, behind Johnson, Young, Alexander, Williams, and Mathewson. Ranking all 63 member pitchers is one matter for this fall, with discussion now open and election probably next month. (Pitchers Combined Ballot Discussion (http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/hall_of_merit/discussion/pitchers_combined_ballot_discussion/))


The Top 100 Pitchers project, last year in the Hall of Fame forum, selected pitchers in ten tiers of size twenty. There was no ranking within tiers but the numbers of votes for election to the first tier shows two clear gaps, one between 15 and 16, another between 17 and 18.

Nichols and Sandy Koufax are the two who evidently rank 16 and 17 in some order. Here are the fifteen clearly ahead of them. (Choosing Tier 1, closed (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=82535&page=2))


Top 15 inferred from Top 100 Pitchers, tier 1
Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander
Grove, Paige, Feller, Spahn
Gibson, Seaver, Carlton
Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Martinez


Nichols was the 13th pitcher named by the "Collaboration" to rank at least 500 players, underway in the Hall of Fame forum. There he follows twelve of the "Top 15 inferred" above and he precedes three: Feller, Gibson, and Carlton. (Collaboration, ranking now in the low 200s (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?p=1609973#post1609973))


Almost ten years ago Bill James in the New BJHBA named Nichols number nine in the major leagues. He did not consider the Negro Leagues (Paige) or the whole careers of Clemens and younger pitchers. Otherwise he put Nichols ahead of Feller and Carlton among the fifteen named above.


add:
In this forum last week about twenty readers voted Kid Nichols "15th Greatest Pitcher" (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?p=1616632#post1616632). Thus he follows fourteen of the "Top 15 inferred" above and he precedes one: Carlton. Numbers one to fifteen have been named by a continuing series of five-man rank-order ballots; the "16th" is now underway. (16th Greatest Pitcher (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?t=93533))

RuthMayBond
09-14-2009, 12:20 PM
It's a shame that Nichols left the majors to own and manage Kansas City in 1902 and 1903. He very likely would have 400 career wins had he not done so, and would consequently get more love.
And had he got more than 94% of average run support, compared with Matty's and Spahn's 108%.
I have him at about ninth

Bothrops Atrox
09-14-2009, 01:42 PM
In the most recent "greatest player by position" thread, Nichols did not crack the top 15. And I believe in a recent "greatest pitchers" thread, he also did not make the top 15 and while getting some support, did not appear to be a lock to make the top 20 had that thread not died. I've got him around #10 - maybe that's a slot or two too high, but not making the top 15 or top 20 just seems too low to me. He pitched during a high offensive era in which many pitchers gave up a lot of runs. And, as was already mentioned, he pitched very well when the pitching mound was 50 feet from home and as well (or better if using ERA+) when it was moved to 60 feet, 6 inches in 1893. I get the impression he would have been a great pitcher in any era. I get the sense that he is a bit of a victim from a 19th century bias.

Well, he had been running near 13- 15 in past years. I wonder why he is sliding?

RuthMayBond
09-14-2009, 01:47 PM
Well, he had been running near 13- 15 in past years. I wonder why he is sliding?BBFers are
trying to tag him
as an irrelevant old-timer

Bothrops Atrox
09-14-2009, 02:11 PM
BBFers are
trying to tag him
as an irrelevant old-timer

Could be, but it sems to me like a lot of the most vocal massive LQ adjusters have been around less, not more lately.

CTaka
09-14-2009, 09:52 PM
Well, he had been running near 13- 15 in past years. I wonder why he is sliding?

Maybe because he hasn't had a great season in the past couple of years?:shhh:

I think part of it is a bias against 19th century players. Some have a feeling of "it was a different game then, different conditions, so since I don't know how to account for that, I'll just rate them low."

Bothrops Atrox
09-14-2009, 10:10 PM
Maybe because he hasn't had a great season in the past couple of years?:shhh:

I think part of it is a bias against 19th century players. Some have a feeling of "it was a different game then, different conditions, so since I don't know how to account for that, I'll just rate them low."

Oh come on, there are just as many if not more guys around here who glamorize/idolize old players and come up with any reason possible to make current players look bad. Many completely ignore LQ all together including integration, etc. which is way more laughable than putting Nichols down a few slots.

The biases run both ways.

CTaka
09-14-2009, 10:21 PM
Oh come on, there are just as many if not more guys around here who glamorize/idolize old players and come up with any reason possible to make current players look bad. Many completely ignore LQ all together including integration, etc. which is way more laughable than putting Nichols down a few slots.

The biases run both ways.

I think the "glamorization", if it is there, starts with the deadball era. I disagree that 19th century players have been "glamorized/idolized" - to the contrary, I think they are more often dismissed as "irrelevant".

RuthMayBond
09-15-2009, 06:20 AM
I think the "glamorization", if it is there, starts with the deadball era. I disagree that 19th century players have been "glamorized/idolized" - to the contrary, I think they are more often dismissed as "irrelevant".Some boards think they're so irrelevant they separate them into their own forum :eek:

KCGHOST
09-15-2009, 12:00 PM
I've always thought highly of Nichols, but with recent mega-studs Maddux, Clemens, Martinex, and Johnson you know Nichols has to slide down. People always prefer players they have to those they haven't.

nerfan
09-15-2009, 06:00 PM
I've always thought highly of Nichols, but with recent mega-studs Maddux, Clemens, Martinex, and Johnson you know Nichols has to slide down. People always prefer players they have to those they haven't.

This, Nichols is still top 15 for me barely.

csh19792001
09-16-2009, 02:46 PM
Behind only Young from 1890 to 1905. :)

The matchups between Cy Young and Nichols had really were legendary. Accordingly, Young had a ton of respect for Nichols, and many speculated that Kid's fastball was the equal of Amos Rusie, who by all accounts was Nolan Ryan pitching 80 years earlier.

My stance on Nichols changed drastically when I started to read more about syndicate ball of the 1890's. I was always one of his more ardent supporters back in the days when I used to vote/participate in polls and rankings.

In his 2000 Abstract Bill James asserted that Nichols was superior to Young during the 1890's. In coming to this conclusion, though, he neglected to take into account the incredible lack of parity in syndicate baseball. I wonder if Nichols was ACTUALLY better than Cy Young while they were in the same league at the same time.

Being on a dynasty...not only did he have superstars and some of the best defense teams in the league behind him year in and year out, but Nichols was also pitching a large percentage of his games against at 2-3 "second division" teams stock full of scrubs who weren't even remotely close to what we would consider major league caliber today.

The top teams won nearly 70% of the games in that decade, and the worst teams lost 75%. There were at least five teams in the 1890's that finished 50, 60, and 80 games out of first place. Dreyfuss and Robison-owners of two franchises each, put all their stars on one team and let the other atrophy into bankruptcy. The competitive balance was akin to little league.

Nichols' teams:

YEAR PLACE W L PCT GB TITLE
1890 5th 76 57 .571 12
1891 1st 87 51 .630 +3.5 NL CHAMPIONS
1892 1st 52 22 .703 +2.5 NL CHAMPIONS
1892 2nd 50 26 .658 3
1893 1st 86 43 .667 +5 NL CHAMPIONS
1894 3rd 83 49 .629 8
1895 5th 71 60 .542 16.5
1896 4th 74 57 .565 17
1897 1st 93 39 .705 +2
1898 1st 102 47 .685 +6 NL CHAMPIONS
1899 2nd 95 57 .625 8
1900 4th 66 72 .478 17

7 times in a decade Kid's teams either led a 12 team league or finished second. Only one losing season and never on a bad team. Was he a huge part of this? Of course. But no more than Young contributed to his team's successes. They had extremely similar IP and ERA totals during these years.

Compare that with Young's teams:

YEAR PLACE W L PCT GB TITLE
1890 7th 44 88 .333 43.5
1891 5th 65 74 .468 22.5
1892 5th 40 33 .548 11.5
1892 1st 53 23 .697 +3
1893 3rd 73 55 .570 12.5
1894 6th 68 61 .527 21.5
1895 2nd 84 46 .646 3 WORLD CHAMPIONS
1896 2nd 80 48 .625 9.5
1897 5th 69 62 .527 23.5
1898 5th 81 68 .544 21
1899 5th 84 67 .556 18.5
1900 5th 65 75 .464 19

Significantly different, I'd say.

The stats from baseball prospectus also suggest that Nichols' teams had significantly better defenses than Young's. With a much higher percentage of balls put in play then (BB and K were rare) and the incredibly high error rate and percentage of unearned runs, I think defense was significantly more important then than it is today.

I think Cy was actually a better pitcher during the 1890's.

Thoughts?

Buzzaldrin
09-16-2009, 04:20 PM
Have you looked at Nichols' run support compared with Young's?

RMB pointed out earlier in this thread that Nichols only got 94% of the league average run support. That ain't good.

How did Young fare in the 90s?

Bothrops Atrox
09-16-2009, 04:52 PM
Have you looked at Nichols' run support compared with Young's?

RMB pointed out earlier in this thread that Nichols only got 94% of the league average run support. That ain't good.

How did Young fare in the 90s?

Run support certainly has a major impact on W-L record, but there are no studies that show any correlation between the amount of run support and amount of run prevention. Sure, if some guys have huge leads, they may relax and pitch better, but you always hear about the best "pitching their best" when the games are close/lots of pressure/low scoring, etc. In reality, very few pitchers have statistically significant differences in OPSA or ERA+, etc. between margin less than 4 games and margin greater than 4 games. Young and Mathewson may have gotten lots more run support, but if their ERA+ ( or FIP or whatever you want to use) is different (higher or lower), then run support is pretty much irrelevant. If one guy wins 8-0 and another wins 1-0, it is nearly impossible to prove that the 1-0 winner has pitched better.

This brings us to Nichols, Young, Mathewson, etc. I would only worry about run support if you are looking at W-L records. If not, why bother?

In terms of comparing the importance of defensive support (in favor of Young) vs. offensive support (favoring Nichols): if you are looking at W-L to compare the pitchers, then both made a huge impact. If you are looking to wards run prevention data for comparison, defensive support is monstrously more important. Especially in a low strikeout, high contact era. A horrible or great defense could completely make or break a pitcher.

csh19792001
09-16-2009, 05:25 PM
In terms of comparing the importance of defensive support (in favor of Young) vs. offensive support (favoring Nichols).

Nichols had much better teams behind him. In that era, I gotta believe that the syndicate that got all the great players had both better offensive and better defensive teams. Clearly, the offensive part is true.

According to baseball prospectus, Nichols' defenses were significantly better than Young's. I don't know of any other measures of team defense. Does anyone else?

In order to assess how great these guys were we need their records against the rest of the league. I'd bet Kid faced a weaker opposition than Young. This reminds me of the discussion we had not long ago about the ridiculously bad record of the 1922-33 Red Sox, which strongly called into question the records of the superstars of that era, but more importantly, the quality of the league itself.

Bothrops Atrox
09-16-2009, 06:20 PM
Nichols had much better teams behind him. In that era, I gotta believe that the syndicate that got all the great players had both better offensive and better defensive teams. Clearly, the offensive part is true.

According to baseball prospectus, Nichols' defenses were significantly better than Young's. I don't know of any other measures of team defense. Does anyone else?

In order to assess how great these guys were we need their records against the rest of the league. I'd bet Kid faced a weaker opposition than Young. This reminds me of the discussion we had not long ago about the ridiculously bad record of the 1922-33 Red Sox, which strongly called into question the records of the superstars of that era, but more importantly, the quality of the league itself.


When I said defensive support being "in favor of Young" I meant that the poor defense behind him favors his ranking, not that he was favored by a better defense. Poor wording on my part.

Paul Wendt
09-16-2009, 08:56 PM
According to baseball prospectus, Nichols' defenses were significantly better than Young's. I don't know of any other measures of team defense. Does anyone else?

Win Shares. Batting/running, fielding, and pitching win shares for every major league team are published in the book.

For example, the 1892 Boston and Cleveland teams met in the National League championship series.

Win Shares, 1892 full season
Bat ; Field ; Pitch : Sum (= 3*wins)
122.4 49.2 134.4 : 306 Boston
122.7 49.5 106.7 : 279 Cleveland

Batting Win Shares follow simply from the allocation of wins between Batting/running and Fielding/pitching, that is between run-scoring and run-prevention, which should be uncontroversial. In the example, the shares allocated to batting/running are 40% of the Boston wins and 44% of the Cleveland wins, which come to the same 41 wins or ~123 win shares.

The allocation between fielding and pitching, within run-prevention, is one of the sharply criticized elements of the rating system. "Everyone" agrees that James gives too much credit to pitching, too little credit to fielding, for some early period that certainly extends through the careers of Nichols and Young.
(If the misjudgment is proportional for all contemporary teams, then the Boston fielders should be credited with some part of the 134.4 pitching win shares, and Cleveland fielders credited with the same fraction of 106.7 pitching win shares.)

brett
09-17-2009, 06:40 AM
Top 15 inferred from Top 100 Pitchers, tier 1
Young, Mathewson, Johnson, Alexander
Grove, Paige, Feller, Spahn
Gibson, Seaver, Carlton
Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Martinez



I think Nichols is in the Gibson, Carlton, Pedro territory. I tended to slip Nichols ahead of Feller and Spahn in the bast, but I have separated Feller and Spahn from those 4 over the years, and moved them into my 9 and 10 slots (not including Paige who I could place anywhere in the top 10, but most safely in Feller/Spahn territory).

Beady
09-17-2009, 03:07 PM
In order to assess how great these guys were we need their records against the rest of the league. I'd bet Kid faced a weaker opposition than Young.

I have counted up the numbers for 1896, maybe not the best year to pick because Boston was in their mid-decade trough and actually finished behind Cleveland.

Young started two games against Brooklyn, six each against Baltimore and Cincinnati and three to five against everybody else. Nichols started between three and five times against every opposing team. In more detail:

Young, 3 starts: Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington
Young, 4 starts: NY, Pittsburgh
Young, 5 starts: Boston, Chicago, Louisville

Nichols, 3 starts: Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh
Nichols, 4 starts: Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis, Washington, Brooklyn, Cleveland
Nichols , 5 starts: NY, Philadelphia

I don't see much of a pattern to be extracted from Nichols' record, but Young does seem to have been spotted against the tougher teams (although why Louisville?). If Tebeau did that with him in 1896, then quite likely he would have done it every year.

Paul Wendt
09-18-2009, 03:18 PM
Next season Boston certainly used better pitchers led by Kid Nichols a little more against stronger rivals. Indeed, Nichols started half of the 12 games against Baltimore, including one on two days rest. He also started one-third of the 36 games against other strong teams and one-quarter of the 87 games against seven mediocre and weak teams!

Meanwhile Fred Klobedanz started almost one-third of the games against Baltimore and the other strong teams and one-quarter of the games against mediocre and weak teams. Ted Lewis, in his first full season, worked more against the mediocre and weak teams. Jack Stivetts and Jim Sullivan, who helped eat innings in 1895-96, worked much less in 1987. (Stivetts had been a star on the 1892-93 champions but he was over the hill by this time.)


Pitcher starts, Boston NL 1897

all Nichols Klobed. Lewis Stivet. Sullivan
all 135 40 37 34 15 9

by opposing team, ordered and grouped according to full-season wins
Bal 12 6 * 4 1 1 0

NYk - 12 3 4 * 2 2 1
Cin 12 4 3 3 2 0
Cle 12 5 4 2 0 1

Bro 12 1 3 6 * 2 0
Was 13 3 2 3 1 4
Pit 12 4 4 4 0 0
Chi + 13 5 4 3 1 0
Phi 13 4 4 3 2 0
Lou - 12 3 3 3 * 1 2

StL 12 2 2 4 * 3 1

by opposing team grouped according to full-season wins
Bal 12 6 4 1 1 0
next3 36 12 11 7 4 2
next6 75 20 20 22 7 6
StL 12 2 2 4 3 1

in doubleheaders
dh 26 5 6 7 3 4

Reference: Retrosheet, The 1897 Boston Beaneaters Game Log (http://www.retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1897/VBSN01897.htm)

Grouped by the previous season's final standings, New York (-) and Chicago (+) change places and the pattern in favor of Nichols is two games stronger.

Five times the Boston pitcher started on one day's rest (*): Nichols against the Baltimore champions, Klobedanz against New York, and Lewis three times against mediocre teams (*).

The team played 20% of its games in doubleheaders and relied more on its lesser pitchers in those games.

Paul Wendt
09-18-2009, 04:10 PM
Five times the Boston pitcher started on one day's rest (*): Nichols against the Baltimore champions ...

June 22 and 24, first and last of a three-game series versus Baltimore. That followed his pitching two of three versus Chicago with two days rest, then skipping for a three-game series at Brooklyn. Immediately following the Baltimore series Lewis pitched first and last of a three-game series vs Brooklyn with one day rest.

Jun 16 - Jun 30
vs Chi: Nich-Klob-Nich (two days rest)
at Bro: Klob-Stiv-Lew
vs Bal: Nich-Klob-Nich (one day)
vs Bro: Lew-Klob-Lew (one day)

Klobedanz worked one in each series with three days rest each time.

Nichols worked two of three in another Baltimore series at the close of the season.

Sep 16 - Oct 2
vs NYk: Klob-Nich-Klob (one day rest)
vs Bro: Nich-Lew-Stiv
at Bal: Nich-Klob-Nich (two days)
at Bro: Lew-Klob-Lew (two days)

Paul Wendt
09-24-2009, 12:06 PM
About twenty readers voted Kid Nichols "15th Greatest Pitcher" (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showthread.php?p=1616632#post1616632). Numbers one to fifteen have been named by a continuing series of five-man rank-order ballots; the "16th" is now underway.

I have updated the linked summary "who ranks Nichols where?" (#8) (http://www.baseball-fever.com/showpost.php?p=1611209&postcount=8) to include this latest result.


--

Oh come on, there are just as many if not more guys around here who glamorize/idolize old players and come up with any reason possible to make current players look bad. Many completely ignore LQ all together including integration, etc. which is way more laughable than putting Nichols down a few slots.

The biases run both ways.
(my emphasis)
It seems likely that the series linked above will name Joe Williams the 16th greatest pitcher. If so then the sixteen will include six pitchers from the 1890s to 1910s (debut 1890-1911), four from the 1990s and 2000s (debut 1984-1992), and only six from the long intervening period (debut 1912-1983; none pre-1890). If that concentration is a mistake, I'm not sure that "idolization" of present heroes and those from a century ago is the cause. There may be a bias of another kind. Perhaps participants have relied on the ERA+ measure but some general conditions rather than individual greatness generated more high ratings from those two time periods.

Bothrops Atrox
09-24-2009, 01:48 PM
--

If that concentration is a mistake, I'm not sure that "idolization" of present heroes and those from a century ago is the cause. There may be a bias of another kind. Perhaps participants have relied on the ERA+ measure but some general conditions rather than individual greatness generated more high ratings from those two time periods.

This may be true. But what if that concentration isn't a mistake?

6/16 from the 1890's-1910's is a little suprising. 4/16 from the mid 80's on is a little less so, as probably more than 25% of all pitchers in baseball history have played in that time.

I bet we will also see the next 30 pitchers in that poll absolutely littered and inidated with guys from the late 50's through the early 80's. They may be a perceived as a little below the top 10-15, but they will be well represented soon. Not sure what that all means - just an observation.

Bill Burgess
09-24-2009, 02:14 PM
It's been my experience that to be ranked well, one normally needs some energetic supporters to push their case. That is often what it took to get candidates elected to the Hall of Fame.

A few good men to write letter, lobby voters, etc.

That is what I have done here for Cobb, Ewing and some others. The Kid will need someone here to push his case, with his case logically presented, and presented regularly and consistently. Sometimes, good credentials are not enough.

Paul Wendt
09-24-2009, 06:52 PM
Note, I have implicitly defined the "present heroes" by their debuts beginning 1984, selected for the debut of Roger Clemens, the earliest of the recent quartet. That selection of the starting point, often called "cherry picking" around here, overstates the concentration of great pitchers from any "debutspan"


This may be true. But what if that concentration isn't a mistake?
If that concentration of debuts and careers is not a mistake then there is no bias in favor of either deadball era pitchers or present heroes to be explained. I think "everyone knows" there is no bias in favor of Ted Lyons' or Warren Spahn's generations. The only other time period plausibly the object of favorable bias is Tom Seaver's generation.


6/16 from the 1890's-1910's is a little surprising. 4/16 from the mid 80's on is a little less so, as probably more than 25% of all pitchers in baseball history have played in that time.
That is a good general point, increasing numbers in recent years, but it does not explain the concentration of "greatest pitchers".

"All pitchers in baseball history" are not relevant in discussion of the greatest. The debuts beginning 1984 cover perhaps 35% of more than 8000 men who have pitched in the major leagues and 30% of more than 4000 who have pitched 100 innings, but only 16.4% of the 688 pitchers with 1500 innings entering this season and 12.7% of the 407 pitchers with 2000 innings. (The latest debut of the 2000-inning pitchers was Tim Hudson 1999.)

Those shares 16.4% and 12.7%, and 11.5% of the 234 pitchers with 2500 career innings, do not represent much recent concentration of long-career pitchers measured by innings pitched. (Why not? Regular starting pitchers work fewer innings each season. In the career sums at this level, that roughly balances the greater number of teams.) Nevertheless the recent period and the deadball era produced heavy concentrations of long-career pitchers with high ERA+. Consider the thresholds 2500 career innings and career ERA+ at least 120 or 130.

all 2500 IP ERA+ >= 120 ERA+ >= 130
debut count count pct count pct

before 1890 30 (12.8%) 8 26% 2 7%

1890 to 1911 43 (18.3%) 16 37% 8 19%

between 134 (57.2%) 19 14% 4 3%

1984 to dddd 27 (11.5%) 12 44% 4 15%

-------- --- --- ---
all-time 234 (100%) 55 24% 18 8%

Blue marks column percentages. Other percentages ("pct") measure the high-ERA+ subset among the high-innings pitchers: row percentages. For example (big), beginning with 1984 debuts 44% of 2500-innings pitchers have achieved career ERA+ 120.

Within the latest period, all twelve of the 2500-inning pitchers with ERA+ 120 or greater debuted 1984 to 1992, demarcated by Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez.
: the big four, Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, and Martinez
: the little four, Brown, Glavine, Schilling, and Smoltz
: four more, Key, Saberhagen, Appier, and Mussina
They are twelve among only 55 in major league history. Sixteen more of the 55 debuted 1890 to 1911, demarcated by Cy Young and Pete Alexander.

Merely nineteen debuted during the long intervening period 1912 to 1983, which produced much more than half of the 2500-inning pitchers.

Bothrops Atrox
09-24-2009, 07:12 PM
Note, I have implicitly defined the "present heroes" by their debuts beginning 1984, selected for the debut of Roger Clemens, the earliest of the recent quartet. That selection of the starting point, often called "cherry picking" around here, overstates the concentration of great pitchers from any "debutspan"


If that concentration of debuts and careers is not a mistake then there is no bias in favor of either deadball era pitchers or present heroes to be explained. I think "everyone knows" there is no bias in favor of Ted Lyons' or Warren Spahn's generations. The only other time period plausibly the object of favorable bias is Tom Seaver's generation.


That is a good general point, increasing numbers in recent years, but it does not explain the concentration of "greatest pitchers".

"All pitchers in baseball history" are not relevant in discussion of the greatest. The debuts beginning 1984 cover perhaps 35% of more than 8000 men who have pitched in the major leagues and 30% of more than 4000 who have pitched 100 innings, but only 16.4% of the 688 pitchers with 1500 innings entering this season and 12.7% of the 407 pitchers with 2000 innings. (The latest debut of the 2000-inning pitchers was Tim Hudson 1999.)

Those shares 16.4% and 12.7%, and 11.5% of the 234 pitchers with 2500 career innings, do not represent much recent concentration of long-career pitchers measured by innings pitched. (Why not? Regular starting pitchers work fewer innings each season. In the career sums at this level, that roughly balances the greater number of teams.) Nevertheless the recent period and the deadball era produced heavy concentrations of long-career pitchers with high ERA+. Consider the thresholds 2500 career innings and career ERA+ at least 120 or 130.

all 2500 IP ERA+ >= 120 ERA+ >= 130
debut count count pct count pct

before 1890 30 (12.8%) 8 26% 2 7%

1890 to 1911 43 (18.3%) 16 37% 8 19%

between 134 (57.2%) 19 14% 4 3%

1984 to dddd 27 (11.5%) 12 44% 4 15%

-------- --- --- ---
all-time 234 (100%) 55 24% 18 8%

Blue marks column percentages. Other percentages ("pct") measure the high-ERA+ subset among the high-innings pitchers: row percentages.

Within the latest period, all twelve of the 2500-inning pitchers with ERA+ 120 or greater debuted 1984 to 1992, demarcated by Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez.
: the big four, Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, and Martinez
: the little four, Brown, Glavine, Schilling, and Smoltz
: four more, Key, Saberhagen, Appier, and Mussina
They are twelve among only 55 in major league history. Sixteen more of the 55 debuted 1890 to 1911, demarcated by Cy Young and Pete Alexander.

Merely nineteen debuted during the long intervening period 1912 to 1983, which produced much more than half of the 2500-inning pitchers.

As far as perception, you are right - there is probably an ERA+ bias. Of course a huge majority of guys from the 1984-on group would be under a 120 ERA+ if they threw 4,500 to 5,000 IP like in the dark area, instead of the 2,500-3,500 most of them pitched. That is why ERA+ always has to be considered with a time-played element, as you have done. I wonder how many of the Steve Cartons, Warren Spahns, Phil Niekros, Perrys, Blylevens, or even Johns, Koosmans, Tiants, and Kaats etc. had a 120 or higher ERA+ at 2,500-3,500 innings or roughly the number of IP by most of these 1984-on guys. I would bet most of them. The lack of IP seems to be the single driving factor in higher ERA+ numbers (of the recent era at least.) When you look at the ERA+ years of 200 or more in the past 15 years, virtually all of them are either in seasons of fewer than 220 IP or connected to steroid users. Hopefully those who rank players will keep into consideration IP (BF) just as much as ERA+ by itself. This is why I have Niekro, Perry, Blyleven, etc, ranked much higher than most.

That is what is nice about WAR and WSAB, WPA/LI, etc. - they all look at runs allowed based on baeRuns (and defense/park neutralizes them) considers era run environment, IP (BF) compared to league, etc. And the results show a pretty evenly distributed group of pitchers, even though there doesn't necessarily have to be - it is possible for a better crop at one position to play at one time. And yes, the big four and little four score very well on those lists as well.

Just some thoughts - not disagreeing with anything you said.