Some posters have encouraged me to dust off old notes and my defense metric to post some player evaluations. I decided to start at 1901 because that's where my manuscript begins and lead of with 2B because a number of recent threads here are debating players at that position across several generations of play.
By brief introduction: the metric is position-challenge and opportunity based. I started out, taking months to map out various plays and strategies that prevailed in 1901; the equipment used; the ball quality and in-game duration; ball liveliness and batting strategies, and base running.
I started with the premise that each position has unique turf, challenges, error costs and play opportunities. An error at each position will have costs in runs and runner advancement unique to the position.
To evaluate players from 1901-2011 against peers and against players long deceased, the metric inputs had to be interactive with me as years passed and the game changed. When rating started to go beyond expectation, the model demanded adjustment. The model has been consisent overall, but has been flexible and responsive to changes in position dynamics.
Evaluations are measured to a TEMPLATE of perfection, reached by no player. The rating can then be converted to something uniform and familiar, which is why the RATINGS resemble fielding percentage. When something changes to improve defense overall, ratings rise and the template is adjusted. This allows for comparisons across generations; and as a kind of Devil's Advocate test, I can shift players out of their generations to see how well they hold up in the evolving game.
At 2B, starting in 1901, these players best spell out Phase I of the early 1900s, 1901 - 1911, when the first adjustment was made to ball liveliness. These players are best measured in the basic 1901-1912 Template and here are their RATINGS [average at this time is about .931]: their seasons are in brackets;
Nap Lajoie, .954 [1901-1912]
Hobe Ferris, .939; [1901-1909]
Johnny Evers, .931; [1903-1915]
Muller Huggins, .940; [1904-1915]
Eddie Collins, .940; [1908-1926]
Del Pratt, .945; [1912-1924]
EDIT: Had meant to include, in the first group, Bill Wambsganss of CLE [1914-1925], whose career was predominant;y before the 1921 and after live ball era. His rating = .947 against .931 average, inserted among the players above.
At .954 vs. average of .931, Lajoie [career] averaged +4.51 DR > average over the 13 seasons, or +58.6 DR.
The second group have career spans that are predominantly after the slight jolt to the ball and which enter a decent part of the live ball era during and after 1921. One significant change in the game was the increase in the DP's executed and the importance of that execution to the game. Also, between 1909 and 1922 [and ongoing] there were design upgrades in glove pockets and webbings. Fielding got better and the templates rose.
EDIT ADDED: Moreover, with the fatal beaning of Ray Chapman in 1920, the 1921 and subsequent seasons, in addition to the live ball, have the prohibition of formerly legal pitchers, with some veteran spitballers godfathered in until their career ended.
Freddie Maguire [1928-1931]; .974
Rogers Hornsby [1916-1931]; .953
Hughie Critz [1925-1934]; .977
Frankie Frisch [1920-1935]; .966
Bucky Harris [1920-1927]; .946
The average MLB rating between 1921 and 1929 varied between .940 and .961, settling around .950. Over a 154 game schedule, Hughie Critz would be around +9.4 DR above average, or +94 DR > average over the decade.
Two players with extended careers dip back into the 'teens and extend through the 1920's. They have been measured separately in groups according to their career years. Rogers Hornsby around +1.0 defense runs; +16 DR, career.
Hornsby, transposed to the 1912 template would be at .970. Eddie Collins, transported to the 1929 template would be at .921. Nap Lajoie, uprooted from 1901 to 1929 would rate .937 with all the game changes. I'm convinced he was a towering defensive force as the game moved into the 20th Century.
Some players have become established favorites of a number of defense metrics. Others seemingly are wrapped in shrouds they can't shake off. If this approach causes a few surprises, then I say OK - let it ride.
This, I hope is an opener. Comments and debates and player suggestions are all welcome.