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Thread: HOF cases of Negro Leaguers using MLEs of ERA+ and OPS+ from Seamheads

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    HOF cases of Negro Leaguers using MLEs of ERA+ and OPS+ from Seamheads

    I'm going to use some data I recently found on Negro Leaguers in Seamheads, namely ERA+ and OPS+ calculatons. I'm going to convert them to MLEs and discuss how this information influences my view of their HOF cases. There will be some guys you're not familiar with, and I made a point of including all the guys I've written up in my Musings thread (though in a few cases, all I can say is there's no Seamheads data to consider). I'll basically do one guy per post, though there are a few cases where I combined two players.

    One general note: be wary of converting guys whose careers are focused in Cuba in the 19 aughts. At that time, it was predominantly a Cuban league, and the stats for guys who played in Cuba and the Negro Leagues in that time are consistently significantly better in Cuba than the Negro Leagues. Later on, when more Negro Leaguers are mixed in, the stats are far more similar for the two leagues.
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    The means of turning the Seamheads ERA+ into a MLE ERA+ is simple: multiply the Seamheads number by 0.87. For OPS+, take the Seamheads OPS+, add 100 and multiply that sum by .935, then subtract 100 from that product. Remember, there are two elements to OPS+, and reducing both by 6.5% winds up being very much like reducing ERA+ by 13%. These numbers are in accordance with Chris Cobb’s standard approach to converting Negro League numbers to MLEs, and the outcomes are generally similar to the MLEs he and others generated in the BBTF Hall of Merit discussions.
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    The next step is to give you a table of all the pitchers I'm going to discuss, the first one sorted by ERA+

    Code:
    	mlb eq					mlb eq	
    ERA+	ERA+	IP	ages	HOF?	ops+	ops+	name
    184	160	848.1	21-36	yes	41	32	Paige, Satchel
    154	134	1001.1	24-30	no	24	16	Brown, Dave
    147	128	1825.0	18-40	yes	73	62	Mendez, Jose
    147	128	1279.1	26-42	yes	160	143	Rogan, Bullet Joe
    147	128	1743.1	21-46	yes	120	106	Williams, Smoky Joe
    147	128	862.2	19-32	yes	25	17	Foster, Willie
    141	123	1101.1	24-35	yes	109	95	Brown, Ray
    134	117	1129.0	22-33	no	114	100	Winters, Nip
    134	117	333.0	32-36	yes	107	94	Smith, Hilton
    129	112	953.2	22-37	yes	116	102	Foster, Rube
    126	110	436.1	17-26	yes	118	104	Day, Leon
    120	104	2139.0	21-41	no	69	58	Redding, Cannonball Dick
    116	101	929.2	25-39	no	41	32	Bell, William
    116	101	1105.1	24-43	yes	33	24	Cooper, Andy
    116	101	440	24-30	no	102	89	Donaldson, John
    77	67	123.1	32-40	no	88	76	Jackman, Will
    Last edited by jalbright; 04-06-2017 at 05:52 AM.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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    Now, those same pitchers and data, this time sorted alphabetically:

    Code:
    	mlb eq					mlb eq	
    ERA+	ERA+	IP	ages	HOF?	ops+	ops+	name
    116	101	929.2	25-39	no	41	32	Bell, William
    154	134	1001.1	24-30	no	24	16	Brown, Dave
    141	123	1101.1	24-35	yes	109	95	Brown, Ray
    116	101	1105.1	24-43	yes	33	24	Cooper, Andy
    126	110	436.1	17-26	yes	118	104	Day, Leon
    116	101	440	24-30	no	102	89	Donaldson, John
    129	112	953.2	22-37	yes	116	102	Foster, Rube
    147	128	862.2	19-32	yes	25	17	Foster, Willie
    77	67	123.1	32-40	no	88	76	Jackman, Will
    147	128	1825.0	18-40	yes	73	62	Mendez, Jose
    184	160	848.1	21-36	yes	41	32	Paige, Satchel
    120	104	2139.0	21-41	no	69	58	Redding, Cannonball Dick
    147	128	1279.1	26-42	yes	160	143	Rogan, Bullet Joe
    134	117	333.0	32-36	yes	107	94	Smith, Hilton
    147	128	1743.1	21-46	yes	120	106	Williams, Smoky Joe
    134	117	1129.0	22-33	no	114	100	Winters, Nip
    Last edited by jalbright; 04-06-2017 at 05:54 AM.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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    I'm going to present them using the order produced by the ERA+ sorting.

    Satchel Paige

    His ERA+ is easily the best of Negro Leaguers with over 500 IP in Seamheads. When we add the projection of his Negro League numbers (4000 IP at the MLE) to his actual MLB numbers, we get about 4500 IP at a 143 ERA+. The group within 8 points of that MLE ERA+ and 600 IP of that projected IP total is quite impressive:

    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    148	3940.2	Lefty Grove
    143	4916.2	Roger Clemens
    136	4218	Kid Nichols
    135	4788.2	Christy Mathewson
    135	4135.1	Randy Johnson
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    Dave Brown

    None of the four comps I came up with is in the Hall, and only Chandler is not primarily a reliever. Had Dave Brown not felt it necessary to disappear to avoid the police, he would have had a better career. As it is, Iíd rather have the careers of the relievers because Iíd prefer the higher leverage innings they worked compared to Brown. The brevity of Dave Brownís career is what eliminates him from serious HOF consideration in my book.

    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    134	1242	John Hiller
    132	1436.2	Kent Tekulve
    132	1485	Spud Chandler
    132	1289.1	Lee Smith
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    Jose Mendez

    The Seamheads MLE ERA+ is nine points higher than the mark used in the BBTF MLE done several years ago for him. When we redo his comp list within 300 IP of his projected 3001 and within three points of his projected 128, we get the following:

    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    131	2749.1	Roy Halladay
    130	2993	Hal Newhouser
    127	3261	Curt Schilling
    127	3082	Stan Coveleski
    127	3256.1	Kevin Brown
    126	2826.1	Tommy Bridges
    This comp list is quite favorable, IMHO. Two HOFers in Coveleski and Newhouser, plus two guys on or soon to be on the BBWAA ballot I’d induct (Schilling and Halladay), one guy whose prickly personality and connection to PEDs are the problems for his candidacy rather than his play in Kevin Brown, and finally a borderline candidate in Bridges, who is behind the Mendez projection in both categories.
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    Bullet Joe Rogan

    Hereís a list of guys with an ERA+ of 125 -131 with at least 2000 career IP, no longer active:

    Roy Halladay
    Hal Newhouser
    Carl Hubbell
    Curt Schilling
    Roy Oswalt
    Stan Coveleski
    Tom Seaver
    Bob Gibson
    Kevin Brown
    Bret Saberhagen
    Tommy Bridges
    Jim Palmer
    Lefty Gomez

    Kevin Brown is a hard case to use for comparisons, given the combination of his prickly personality and PED connection. Iíd put in the two guys on or soon to be on the BBWAA ballot (Halladay and Schilling), which leaves two of the three lowest IP guys as the only ones out of the Hall (Oswalt and Saberhagen). A BBTF MLE which omitted consideration of Roganís 25th Infantry play gave him 2430 career IP, which is Oswalt and Saberhagen territory. Iíve made elsewhere and believe the case that the Wreckers were just another way for some guys on the outside of the color bar to play baseball for a career, so I think that sells Rogan short. Still, thatís a pitcher whoís darned close to HOF worthy solely for his pitching.

    Neither Oswalt nor Saberhagen were notable as hitters, but Rogan most certainly was. He played more in right than any other OF spot, and while he played a little more in center than in left, Seamheads has him as a below average CF, but a good RF. Iíll call him a RF, and when we look at RF with at least 5000 PA and an OPS+ of 140 to 146, we get Sam Crawford, Larry Walker, Vladimir Guerrero and Babe Herman. Crawfordís already in, and Iíd induct both Walker and Guerrero, leaving only Babe Herman. Heís the one with the least PA of the bunchóbut remember, he adds an Oswalt/Saberhagen quality pitching career to that. Now, I think the Babe Herman plus Oswalt/Saberhagen mix is actually selling Rogan short, but I submit thereís no reasonable argument such a player is not HOF caliber.
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    Smoky Joe Williams

    The Seamheads MLE ERA+ is 11 points lower than the mark used by the BBTF MLE I had previously used. However, Williams still projects to 5900+ IP with a 128 ERA+. There are only four pitchers with an ERA+ of 125 or better with at least 5000 IP: Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Pete Alexander and Greg Maddux. If that’s the group you belong with, you belong in the HOF. That’s without giving Williams any boost for being an all-time great hitter for a pitcher, with a MLE OPS+ of 106.
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    Willie Foster

    Fosters MLE ERA+ from Seamheads is four points better than the MLE from BBTF I had used earlier. However, that MLE still generated a group of comps that persuades me he clearly belongs: Schilling, Kevin Brown, Cicotte, S. Coveleski, Vance and Stieb. If you donít think that group is august enough, with the new, higher ERA+, weíd keep Coveleski, Schilling and Kevin Brown, but ditches Vance, Stieb and Cicotte for Hal Newhouser.
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    Ray Brown

    This MLE for his ERA+ is also four points higher than the one from BBTF I’d used to generate his previous comp list. Since that list is all HOFers (Jenkins, Plank, Rixey, Glaving, Lyons, Faber and Willis), I don’t feel a need to run a new comp list. However, the list would only improve. Also, his OPS+ puts him among the best hitting pitchers ever, as if he needs the help.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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    Nip Winters

    Heís a guy I hadnít done a comp list for previously, in large part because he only projects to 2140 career IP. The ERA+ is good enough if heíd pitched more, but isnít enough to pull that few career IP over the HOF bar. His comp list has a lot of quality pitchers, but Cliff Lee is about the best of the bunch, and he isnít HOF caliber for me. Firpo Marberry has a case, but mostly as a pioneer in relief pitching, and Winters doesnít have that kind of argument going for him. The list, using 200 IP and 2 point of ERA+ ranges:

    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    119	2147.1	Dean Chance
    118	2156.2	Cliff Lee
    118	2056.2	Frank Dwyer
    117	2174.2	Mike Garcia
    116	1992.1	Johnny Antonelli
    116	2067.1	Firpo Marberry
    116	2325	Curt Davis
    116	2301	Bob Ewing
    116	2219.1	Chris Carpenter
    If you want to get Winters in, youíve got to argue his bat is enough to put him over the top. I donít think that argument works, but it at least allows him an argument.
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    Hilton Smith

    The Seamheads data is limited to ages 32 to 36, due to meager playing records for his teams in the mid 1930s (Monroe and Bismarck). Given the way teams and leagues were failing in blackball during those years, it’s actually a feather in his cap that he had a job. Bismarck found players all over the country, and paid well, so Smith had to have been doing something right in Monroe to come to their attention. The MLEs from Baseball Think Factory telescope those five seasons before he found his way to the KC Monarchs into one season. Under the circumstances, I think that’s selling him short. The age 32 to 36 batting data has him with a 94 MLE OPS+, which falls between Wes Ferrell and Jesse Tannehill (12.4 WAR/99 OPS+ and 7.6 WAR/89 OPS+) from the BBTF comps. I think the 10 offensive WAR mark for that projected career length is appropriate.

    However, I think that erasing four years he worked, given the circumstances and the high level of play of the Bismarck team (it beat many high minor league squads), is unduly harsh to Hilton. I don’t think that just saying we should assume four more career average seasons to bump the total from 13 to 17 is really best, either. What I did was do comps for guys age 29 and up to the BBTF projection. That generated a list of eight guys, two of whom are in the Hall (Bunning and Seaver) and has one more I’d induct in Tiant. There are also Ewing and Davis, who had no little or career outside the age limits used. That balances out Seaver, who had a nice career before age 29. The average of these eight guys is 3199 innings and 50.5 WAR with enough peak to get into the gray area solely on their pitching. The 3199 innings is about 24% above the age 29 on projection, and 620 innings over 4 seasons seems reasonable. I’d bump up his hitting to 12.4 WAR to allow for the extra playing time, and any reasonable estimate of peak hitting would put him very near or in the clearly in group. Were Smith just an average hitting pitcher, he would be a middle of the gray area guy with arguments that he pitched higher leverage innings due to his role as Satch’s reliever and also that he had some really special peak seasons. There’s some validity to those points, but Hilton was a top notch hitter for a pitcher, and that’s what makes him a safe HOF choice in my book.

    Those age 29 and up comps:
    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    117	2851.2	Tom Seaver
    116	2325	Curt Davis
    116	2301	Bob Ewing
    116	2594.1	Babe Adams
    115	2304.2	Virgil Trucks
    114	2335.2	Larry Jackson
    113	2667.1	Jim Bunning
    112	2286.1	Luis Tiant
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    Rube Foster

    His MLE ERA+ from Seamheads is five points lower than the MLE ERA+ that came from the BBTF that I had used to generate his earlier list of comps. However, I didn’t realize before how capable Rube was at the plate (MLE OPS+ of 102). Over his long career, that’s worth about 15 WAR, and then his peaks also move up due to his hitting. His comps get him close to, but not quite HOF territory solely on pitching, with two HOFers in Bunning and Hoyt, plus I’d put in Reuschel (in fairness, Hoyt doesn’t belong). Quinn and Koosman aren’t far short of the mark, either. Add in that hitting, and I’d still put old Rube in as a player. He’s even more impressive as a contributor, with his managing and other executive qualifications to add.

    His comps:
    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    115	3760.1	Jim Bunning
    114	3548.1	Rick Reuschel
    114	3920.1	Jack Quinn
    112	3762.1	Waite Hoyt
    110	3839.1	Jerry Koosman
    Last edited by jalbright; 04-06-2017 at 08:58 AM.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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    Leon Day

    Seamheads only has data through 1943, and that means it has limited value for Day. The most telling data here is his 104 OPS+ MLE, which means he would be one of the best hitting pitchers ever. That kind of hitting combined with some of those big years that get him recognition as the best Negro League pitcher of the year is enough to make him a worthy HOFer in my book.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
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    Dick Redding

    His MLE ERA+ from Seamheads is 8 points lower than the MLE from BBTF Iíd used earlier. When I run the comps with this new data, only three of the thirteen are in the Hall, and all three are guys Iíd regard as mistakes (Hunter, Pennock and Marquard). This data forces me to drop my support of his case.

    Those comps:
    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    107	3611	Bob Friend
    107	3759.1	Bobo Newsom
    106	3801.1	Charlie Hough
    106	3285.2	Jim Perry
    106	3571.2	Herb Pennock
    105	3824	Jack Morris
    104	3449.1	Catfish Hunter
    104	3460.2	Claude Osteen
    104	3638.1	Mickey Lolich
    103	3306.2	Rube Marquard
    103	3367.2	Doyle Alexander
    102	3390.2	Hooks Dauss
    101	3686.2	George Mullin
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    William Bell

    I don’t have a career IP estimate for him, but since his Seamheads MLE ERA+ is 101 and the lowest ERA+ for anyone in the Hall is 103, I don’t think I need it. Even worse is the fact the lowest ERA+ of a pitcher who wasn’t a mistake is 107 for Early Wynn, and he makes it on a combination of longevity (4500 IP) and hitting (9.7 offensive WAR). Bell doesn’t have enough of either (he’s done at 39 except for a short stint at age 50).
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    Andy Cooper

    His Seamheads MLE ERA+ is 101, which definitely does not support a HOF case as a player. However, there are gaps in that data: 1926-1928 when he was having success for Detroit in the Negro Leagues, and then during the Depression, the Negro Leagues got wiped out and the KC Monarchs turned to barnstorming to stay in business. That screws up the data for that period. Still, I find it hard to support his case based solely upon his play. When we look at him through the lens of a contributor, his success as a manager is arguably enough in and of itself, and adding his playing career can only help.
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    John Donaldson

    The Seamheads MLE ERA+ is 11 points lower than the BBTF projection I used to generate his previous list of comps. I thought that list of comps rather conclusively demonstrated he didn’t belong in the Hall. Now, the list of comps using 1915 IP and a 101 ERA+ are really damning (we can use only pitchers with a 101 ERA+ and within 200 IP and we still have seven guys):
    Code:
    ERA+	IP	Player
    101	1718.2	Carl Erskine
    101	1787.2	Max Butcher
    101	1963.1	Elden Auker
    101	1886	Denny McLain
    101	1954.2	Charles Nagy
    101	1933	Randy Jones
    101	1715.2	Elam Vangilder
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    Will Jackman

    I wonít try to make much of the Seamheads data for him, as itís heavily dominated by his age 39 season. He hit well, but pitched poorly that season. I think it likely he was a good hitting pitcher and would have pitched better in other seasonsóbut itís hard to really get a handle on anything more concrete than that.
    Seen on a bumper sticker: If only closed minds came with closed mouths.
    Some minds are like concrete--thoroughly mixed up and permanently set.
    A Lincoln: I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.

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