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Thread: History of the Game's Strength - The Era Difficulty Rating

  1. #41
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    To Sultan

    I'll grant that there is possibly a ceiling to human achievement...but you're thikning only in terms of offense...league talent depth runs on both sides of the ball.

    Part of the reason the 1990s register is highly deep is that although offense increased...it did not go through the roof like it did in previous eras...the batters improved...SO DID THE PITCHERS...and in fact...the in play hit rate did not climb that much from lesser offensive leagues of the 70s and 80s...which says the fielding must also have improved or at least stayed the same.

    Compare that to the late 1960s where we had a run of great pitchers...but the hitters did NOT respond in kind...there was a large imbalance.

  2. #42
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    The AL expands in 1961, that year EDR2 is at its highest peak until the 80's. The next year it slides slightly but again is at its highest until the 80's. It holds it level in 1963 then starts it slides as the pitching era takes over.

    The NL expands in 1962, in 1961 its at it highest until the 80's, it slips during 1962 but again it is at its highest until the 90's. Then in 1963 it surpasses even the high mark of 1961 before starting its slide into the pitchers era.

  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt
    To Sultan

    I'll grant that there is possibly a ceiling to human achievement...but you're thikning only in terms of offense...league talent depth runs on both sides of the ball.

    Part of the reason the 1990s register is highly deep is that although offense increased...it did not go through the roof like it did in previous eras...the batters improved...SO DID THE PITCHERS...and in fact...the in play hit rate did not climb that much from lesser offensive leagues of the 70s and 80s...which says the fielding must also have improved or at least stayed the same.

    Compare that to the late 1960s where we had a run of great pitchers...but the hitters did NOT respond in kind...there was a large imbalance.
    You say that pitching has improved, but using the naked eye along with baseball knowledge, its clearly watered down. How many guys need to be seasoned down in the minors, but clubs have too much invested in them to keep them there. How many old timers are just hangin' around because they are a bargain, and they're only asked to go 5 innings, or get 2 outs in relief. Why do you think pitchng has increased in this era? Because strikeouts are up? That shows a hitters approach.

    Defense have improved because of many factors as well. Less ground to cover, smooth infields and outfields, bigger gloves, scouting charts, etc. What causes this to be rendered slightly more meaningless, is that today's style of play is slug for the fences, strikeout or nothing type of baseball.

    Hey Sabermatt, do you have stats that show the number of fly ball outs recorded for each year?
    "By common consent, Ruth was the hardest hitter of history; a fine fielder, if not a finished one; an inspired base runner, seeming to do the right thing without thinking. He had the most perfect co-ordination of any human animal I ever knew." - Hugh Fullerton, 1936 (Chicago sports writer, 1893-1930's)

    ROY / ERA+ Title / Cy Young / WS MVP / HR Title / Gold Glove / Comeback POY / BA Title / MVP / All Star / HOF

  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous
    The AL expands in 1961, that year EDR2 is at its highest peak until the 80's. The next year it slides slightly but again is at its highest until the 80's. It holds it level in 1963 then starts it slides as the pitching era takes over.

    The NL expands in 1962, in 1961 its at it highest until the 80's, it slips during 1962 but again it is at its highest until the 90's. Then in 1963 it surpasses even the high mark of 1961 before starting its slide into the pitchers era.
    As I said Ubiquitus...it takes a few years for the effects of an expansion to be felt fully IMHO...what you basically have when you expand a league is the other teams the way they were before minus a few lesser players...and then the exapnsion teams...which are basically dogs.

    It's not until the Expansion teams start pulling on the rest of the league seriously that they can really have an impact on the run scoring distribution or on the overall average level of competition faced by any one player.

  5. #45
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    How come that doesn't really happen at any other expansion?

    One observatiomn I take away from this is that it looks to me that there never were enough white players to stock 16 teams and have good overall leagues. For instances in the 30's AL league play was high but it was at the expense of the NL. The NL during that stretch was not good.

  6. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sultan_1895-1948
    You say that pitching has improved, but using the naked eye along with baseball knowledge, its clearly watered down. How many guys need to be seasoned down in the minors, but clubs have too much invested in them to keep them there. How many old timers are just hangin' around because they are a bargain, and they're only asked to go 5 innings, or get 2 outs in relief. Why do you think pitchng has increased in this era? Because strikeouts are up? That shows a hitters approach.

    Defense have improved because of many factors as well. Less ground to cover, smooth infields and outfields, bigger gloves, scouting charts, etc. What causes this to be rendered slightly more meaningless, is that today's style of play is slug for the fences, strikeout or nothing type of baseball.

    Hey Sabermatt, do you have stats that show the number of fly ball outs recorded for each year?
    I wouldn't go so far as to say the entire style of play in the 90s/00s has been "slug for the fences or nothing"...walks are also up...as hits aren't "down"...it's basically the 80s contact game PLUS more walks and power...

    I have...somewhere in my huge stack of data...groundball/flyball percentages through time...and the flyball rate is in fact up in the liveball era...in fact it goes up in every liveball era because managers and players aren't stupid...they sense the ball is getting easier to hit farther/faster...they're going to try to elevate it.

    So yes...fielding is being aided by less ground to cover (although the new parks added since Safeco field have been largely pitcher's parks so that trend is starting to reverse), more flyballs, and better equipment and scouting...but that's all part of the same package...the end result is that the quality of play has improved all around in the 90s...perhaps I should be careful to avoid using the word "talent" because that implies that these changes are entirely in the hands of the players...clearly...they aren't...but when you're trying to see how any player would do in a neutral environment...you have to factor out things outside his control...including the league difficulty...and a league difficulty can be raised by either improving player depth...or by improving playing conditions.

    As for your comments on pitching...I'll say that the main thing that's really had a positive impact on pitching is the era of reliever specialization. The strain is coming off the starters and pitchers are being used in roles that they can maximize their abilities (lefties facing lefties...pitchers with unique deliveries being used to throw off batters in critical situations...power pitchers facing contact hitters and control artists facing pull hitters...etc)...it's easy to get bogged down in the offensive statistics and blame the pitchers...but I submit to you that the primary factor in raising offense in the recent seasons has been the live ball and the small parks...NOT the pitching.

  7. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ubiquitous
    How come that doesn't really happen at any other expansion?

    One observatiomn I take away from this is that it looks to me that there never were enough white players to stock 16 teams and have good overall leagues. For instances in the 30's AL league play was high but it was at the expense of the NL. The NL during that stretch was not good.
    Answer to question first:

    Actually it's happening as we speak...the 1998 expansion came at a time when baseball was again very strong...since '98 the AL weakened significantly and the NL stopped improving (problems here...interleague play...the crossing of league barriers more than ever...I expect to see the leagues become increasingly homogeneous with time...and it appears they are in fact doing that...so an expansion in any league will impact them both)...

    Of course...it's not perfect...but I think it's a pretty darned good first step.

    And I think we didn't see a gradual drop in the 70s because there were other factors obscurring that negative influence...the Latin surge (which was MUCH larger than the Negro surge in terms of new talent)...free agency...Tommy John surgery...and...dare I say it...sabermetrics in their fledgling forms aiding in better scouting and development...

    The final graph of depth rating versus time is the result of adding and subtracting many different possible pulls on the skill of the league.

    To your observation now...I FULLY agree. As I said earlier...think of ten great players from the 30s...I'll be shocked if the first ten you think of include more than one or two NL stars...the NL in the 30s was HORRIBLE...the era difficulty rating is absolutely correct in seeing a very large difference between the two leagues there...I was glad to see it sniff that out.

  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt
    but I submit to you that the primary factor in raising offense in the recent seasons has been the live ball and the small parks...NOT the pitching.
    wow, I agree with a "saber" guy on something. Just playin'

    We can add to that : smaller strike zone, lighter and harder bats, can't come inside anymore, body armor, etc.

    In the face of all this, its truly amazing that any pitchers succeed. Ironically, most of them "do" succeed, because of the overall hitters approach. Its become like a certain type of martial art (the one Segal apparently knows), where you use the others persons strength/momentum against him in a fight. This has to be the pitching approach nowdays. You're not gonna succeed by just by having a blazing fastball.
    "By common consent, Ruth was the hardest hitter of history; a fine fielder, if not a finished one; an inspired base runner, seeming to do the right thing without thinking. He had the most perfect co-ordination of any human animal I ever knew." - Hugh Fullerton, 1936 (Chicago sports writer, 1893-1930's)

    ROY / ERA+ Title / Cy Young / WS MVP / HR Title / Gold Glove / Comeback POY / BA Title / MVP / All Star / HOF

  9. #49
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    All of that stuff...the body armor...the strike zone...that's all a part of why the game is deeper now than ever...or clsoe anyway...that came about because players and coaches got smarter and smarter...the pitchers got smarter too...they learned to counter all of that...

  10. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt
    All of that stuff...the body armor...the strike zone...that's all a part of why the game is deeper now than ever...or clsoe anyway...that came about because players and coaches got smarter and smarter...the pitchers got smarter too...they learned to counter all of that...
    Its certainly why the game is "easier" than ever for average players. How many guys hit 25-30 HR per season. I bet its gone way up from the mediocre players now being able to reach that total.

    IMO, they came about because offense = money. Baseball shows no interest in correcting these issues because all they see is $$$$$$$$$$$$ They're appealing to the lowest intellectual form of baseball fan. Not a good move if you've got the best interest of the national pastime in mind eh.
    "By common consent, Ruth was the hardest hitter of history; a fine fielder, if not a finished one; an inspired base runner, seeming to do the right thing without thinking. He had the most perfect co-ordination of any human animal I ever knew." - Hugh Fullerton, 1936 (Chicago sports writer, 1893-1930's)

    ROY / ERA+ Title / Cy Young / WS MVP / HR Title / Gold Glove / Comeback POY / BA Title / MVP / All Star / HOF

  11. #51
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    See...I don't see it as mediocre players having an easier time clubbing 25 HRs...I see it as there being fewer truly mediocre players...I see it as baseball teams knowing they need to sock the ball to win and therefore not accepting poor offensive players as long term solutions...and of course...these players have advantages other players did not...it's easier to learn what they're doing wrong and adjust than it was in 1960...so I guess that aspect is helping some.

    The best interest of the game IS for it to make lots and lots of money...the richer the game...the better the product on the field assuming the money is spent well...of course not everyone spends their money well...I do think sasbermetrics will help with that...owners will not waste money on bad players...they'll spend their money plumbing the international player pool for the good ones.

  12. #52
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    I don't have the exact numbers today but they are approximate.

    1950s
    16 major league teams, over 800 minor league teams

    2000s
    30 major league teams, 150 minor league teams

    obviously there are fewer supplying more today. benefit: batters

  13. #53
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    I wasn't aware there were 800 minor league teams in the 50s...I suspect however that the vast majority of those teams NEVER produced a major league player...nor came anywhere close to doing so.

    Serious farm systems were more limited in the 50s than they are today...the whole method for developing players is FAR more advanced now than it was.

  14. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkmckenna
    I don't have the exact numbers today but they are approximate.

    1950s
    16 major league teams, over 800 minor league teams

    2000s
    30 major league teams, 150 minor league teams

    obviously there are fewer supplying more today. benefit: batters
    There are more then 150 minor league teams in America. Just like in the 50's there are a lot of independent leagues out there.
    Plus you have to factor in the explosion of colleges and junior colleges that didn't exist in those days or had nowhere near the level of organization that they do now.

    There are over 200 teams in the minor league organization. That organization had 448 teams (an all time high) in 1949 but it quickly fell to 132 teams by 1963. As of 2004 it has 242 teams.

    that of course does not include the indy leagus, of which there is at least 70 more teams.

  15. #55
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    Also during the golden era of minor league baseball Major league teams were reducing their farm system. In 1946 62% of all minor league teams were affiliated to a major league team. By 1951 it was down to 46%. They went from having 280 affiliates to 172 teams. So in actuality there are more affiliates today then in the golden age of minor league baseball.

    In 1950 232 minor league teams that were not affiliated with a major league team. Close to the highest amount in 40 years. These teams were very close to semipro team.

    Finally the height of the minors was just after WWII, the 50's was a time of decline for the minors. In 1950 there were 446 teams by 1960 there were 152 teams. I, 1950 210 were affiliated, by 1960 only 126. 33 million people went to see minor league games in 1950, only 10.6 million went to see them in 1960.

  16. #56
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    I think it is universally understood that minor league player development is better now than at any time in major league history.

  17. #57
    Quote Originally Posted by SABR Matt
    As I said Ubiquitus...it takes a few years for the effects of an expansion to be felt fully IMHO...

    It's not until the Expansion teams start pulling on the rest of the league seriously that they can really have an impact on the run scoring distribution or on the overall average level of competition faced by any one player.
    This is a VERY interesting thread. Thanks for taking the time to put together and present this info, Matt.

    According to your measures, which are the top 5 strongest and weakest leagues (in both NL and AL) in history?

    As to your quote above, though- if this is true (that it takes a few years for the effects of expansion to impact league quality) then why is the spread between the best and the average player (expressed in TRP, Win Shares, whatever) felt most the year of expansion? Why should it take the lousy expansion teams a few years before they start depricating the league strength? That doesn't make sense because expansions teams are typically their worst the 1st or 2nd year, anyway.

    I ran a little study where I looked at the comprehensive value metrics pre and post expansion in the early 60's (both NL and AL). On both sides of the ball (esp in the NL), the spread was MUCH greater during the expansion year than the year previous.

    Although the term "expansion" obviously needs to be modified, look at the expansion from 1900 (8 teams in the entire Majors) to 1901 (16 teams now in the majors). Nap Lajoie, 1901 is another example. Look at what happened to Cy Young's quality right away, as well. Haven't looked at your results in detail, but if 1901 isn't one of the weakest years for both leagues (ESPECIALLY the NL, as the AL raided their talent, taking 70% of the best with them), then something is clearly awry here.

    Why are the records broken during expansion years, after holding up for ~35 years previous? Sportswriters predicted McGwire would break the record in 1998, 2 teams were added (infusing MANY minor leaguer talent caliber players into the NL), and both he and Sosa shattered Maris' mark.

    Finally, how do you think your results would correlate with James' league quality assessments delineated in his NHBA? I'm fairly certain he claimed that either the 58' or 59' NL was the most competitve league in history, although his semantic inference regarding the word "competitive" probably differs from yours.
    Last edited by csh19792001; 10-18-2005 at 10:53 AM.

  18. #58
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    Well also expansion happened at the same time that the schedule expanded, so there is more wins to go around and more runs to go around. That could be something.

  19. #59
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    Mark McGwire hit 58 homers in 156 games and playing two thirds of his games in the Coliseum in 1997. That is why people thought Mark would break the record, he was peaking and he was moving away from the pitchers park to a park that is pretty good for home runs.

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    To csh...

    1901 was indeed a very weak year in baseball history...league difficulty scores of ~.720 existed in the AL for the first few years although it actually dropped lower during the depths of the deadball era (1905-1909)...I suspect this is because they started with a certain level of talent but had not developed the mechanisms to scout NEW talent and as the old guard disappeared it took a few years to develop new quality players.

    In the NL the slide is much more rapid...they started 1900 with EDR2s of .729...now it took a couple of years for the slide to take hold, but by 1903 they were below .700 and by 1904 the NL was the weakest it's ever been aside from when it was the NA and when the AA and UA were competing for NL talent between 1881 and 1887 (well OK...there was no AA in 1881 but the league did expand from 8 teams to 12 that year I believe)

    I think we need to be careful in assuming that the spread between the best and worst players is specifically what sets the standard for league depth. It's a good hint, but it doesn't fully explain what makes a league hard/easy...a difficult league is one in which a larger proportion of the players fall between a narrower range of skill levels. WS ratings won't really see that kind of information because it's based on team wins...and no matter how "difficult" a league is...the wins are determined by balance between teams...which isn't the same as difficulty. This isn't a semantic issue...this is very real and extremely important...competitive balance does NOT equal league depth...I need to make sure you are clear on that point.

    Now...I think what may be causing the delay in EDR2 drops after an expansion is the fact that my skew measurements are centered...meaning on the year of an expansion, I'm seeing the years before it...and the years after...I may try to place hard barriers at points in the history of the game where the league irrevocably changed...and only take skew measurements of data up to those barriers from either direction.

    In the AL in 1961 for instance...from 1958 to 1960...the league was 8 teams...those years shouldn't impact the EDR2 of 1961.

    I'm going to try this before anyone panicks about delays in feeling the effects of an expansion.

    However...there is a logical reason why it takes time for an expansion to impact the run scoring distribution. When a new expansion team emerges...it will have a direct effect on only the games it plays...a small portion of the total games played by the league...no one else will feel those effects. After a few years though...the new team/teams start pulling players out of other franchises...negatively impacting depth league wide isntead of just locally.

    Analysts may have correctly predicted McGwire's 70 HR season in 1998...but that doesn't tell me much about the middle of the league...just the extrema...

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