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  1. #34

    Perucho Cepeda

    [NOTE: The following was originally posted on May 26, 2006, which was before I started to post Keltner Lists. Since I did not want to do the work of rearranging the post into a Keltner List, I left it as it was, except for some minor changes reflecting BBFHOF elections since the date of the original post and a question posed in May 2006. Cepeda was elected into the BBFHOF on November 9, 2007.]

    More information on Perucho Cepeda, a shortstop (and, in his 30s, outfielder) from Puerto Rico. Cepeda had offers to play for Black ballclubs in the United States, but the combination of his temper and the racism in the United States led him to reject the offers. Since there was some racism in Cuba during that time as well, he may have turned down the chance to play in Cuba for the same reason.

    From 1938 until 1942 - the first five seasons for which we have statistics for Cepeda - he accomplished the following in the Puerto Rican Winter League against some of the top talent from the Negro Leagues:

    Won two MVPs
    Won two batting titles and finished third twice
    Won three RBI titles and finished second once
    Was second in HR once
    Led in triples once and was third once
    Was third in runs scored once and fourth twice

    The people at baseballthinkfactory have come up with major league equivalents for pre-integration Puerto Rican legends Francisco Coimbre and Perucho Cepeda, both of whom would appear to be HOF candidates based on their reputations. Based on the projections alone, Coimbre doesn’t seem quite worthy of the BBFHOF, so I won't mention him any futher here. However, these are the win shares produced for Cepeda:

    1938 (Age 32) 36
    1939 (Age 33) 26
    1940 (Age 34) 31
    1941 (Age 35) 20
    1942 (Age 36) 13
    1943 (Age 37) 1

    Unfortunately, we have no statistics whatsoever for Puerto Rico prior to 1938. We do know, however, that Cepeda played professionally around the Caribbean for at least a decade before 1938, and he was called “The Babe Ruth of Puerto Rico” for being the best baseball player on the island.

    Looking at what he did from age 32 onwards, and knowing that he played on the 1937 Ciudad Trujillo team in the Dominican Republic, it seems reasonable to assume that Cepeda would have racked up the equivalent of four or five seasons with 30+ win shares during his career, which is certainly BBFHOF territory. No eligible major leaguer with five such seasons is outside the BBFHOF. Of those with four such seasons, only Charlie Keller, Jimmy Wynn, and Bobby Bonds are outside the BBFHOF. All three were outfielders; Cepeda, however, was a shortstop during his prime. Furthermore, Cepeda had a full career (Keller didn't), and had a great reputation (Wynn didn't).

    [For those who are curious, every eligible major leaguer at 2B, 3B, or SS with three 30+ win share seasons is currently in the BBFHOF. There are only two eligible major league shortstops with two 30+ win share seasons not in the BBFHOF as players: Hughie Jennings and Vern Stephens. Jennings, however, has been elected as a contributor. It is extremely likely that Cepeda had at least three MVP-type seasons, and fits into this group of infielders at defensive positions as well.]


    Also, it seems reasonable to assume that Cepeda would have earned at least 40 win shares total at ages 30 and 31, and would have averaged at least 22 win shares per season from ages 24 to 31. Given his reputation before the PRWL and its detailed record-keeping started, and the fact that Trujillo hired him for his own personal team in the 1937 Dominican league, we know that he wasn't a late bloomer. As we do have MLEs for Cepeda from age 32 onwards, this assumption would most likely underestimate his real ability. This would give Cepeda at least 303 career win shares, at least 133 win shares in his best five seasons, and at least 93 win shares in his best three seasons. Since I'm being very conservative in setting these minimums, he was most likely better than that.

    Now, these shortstops are in the BBFHOF:

    Barry Larkin. 346 career WS, 130 in best five seasons, 32, 31, 30 in best three seasons.

    Ozzie Smith. 326 career WS, 123 in best five seasons, 33, 25, 23 in best three seasons.

    Alan Trammell. 318 career WS, 132 in best five seasons, 35, 29, 26 in best three seasons.

    Pee Wee Reese. 314 career WS plus war credit, 134 in best five seasons, 32, 27, 26 in best three seasons.

    Lou Boudreau. 277 career WS, 135 in best five seasons, 34, 32, 30 in best three seasons.

    Thus, in all probability, Perucho Cepeda was at least the equal of fellow shortstops Larkin, Smith, Trammell, Reese, and Boudreau, all of whom are members of the BBFHOF. Do we have all the statistics to make this absolutely certain? Unfortunately not. But the statistics we do have for Cepeda, as well as the reputation Cepeda had before he compiled our available numbers, lead me to believe that Cepeda belongs in the BBFHOF.
    Last edited by AG2004; 11-12-2007 at 11:19 AM.


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