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  • New Look at the Hornsby/Morgan Debate

    Once again, I am going at the traditional belief that Rogers Hornsby is the best second baseman ever. In my mind, he is third, behind Joe Morgan and Eddie Collins. Morgan then beats out Collins for the #1 spot. This is my comparison of Hornsby/Morgan, and why Morgan is better

    Critics of Morgan and praising of Hornsby usually begins with their batting average, so here they are, the career batting averages:

    Hornsby .358
    Morgan .271

    That is a large advantage for Hornsby, even I'm not discounting that. An 87 point difference in batting average is a big difference. Morgan, however, had some bad BAs in his decline years. As he was declining, Morgan had BAs of .243, .240, .230, and .244. Hornsby was out of baseball before his decline years. Should we penalize Morgan because he still was in the majors for more years? No, we should credit him for that. However, those decline years dragged Morgan's career BA down. Hornsby, on the other hand, retired before his career BA could sag. Before his decline, Morgan's career average was .282. Since Hornsby didn't have decline years, we will use .282 as Morgan's average to make it fair. That makes Hornsby's career BA advantage 76 points. Also, remember that BA is only half of offense. The other half left out by BA includes power, plate discipline, and baserunning. That half of offense can be gauged by secondary average. These are their career secondary averages:

    Morgan .431
    Hornsby .362

    That's a 69 point advantage for Morgan. Not as large as Hornsby's 76 point non-decline BA advantage, but still a very significant lead. That still leaves Hornsby with a 7 point advantage, but remember, those are raw numbers. When you consider Hornsby played in the big hitting 20s, and Morgan played mostly in the run neutral 70s, and the pitcher friendly 60s. That makes up for the 18 point advantage, and leaves it virtually even.

    Now, we must adress something else, the OPS+ factor. Let's just take a look at the career OPS+:

    Hornsby 176
    Morgan 133

    Hornsby does have an advantage, I'm not taking that away from him. However, there are two facors which make this much, much, closer than it appears:

    1.As we said with the BA, the career number still isn't a good way to look at this. Morgan went through his decline years, Hornsby didn't. When we take a look at their peak OPS+, we see how much that affected Morgan. These are their OPS+ in each of their five best consecutive seasons:

    Hornsby 1921-1925: 191, 210, 188, 223, 208
    Morgan 1972-1976: 152, 157, 160, 169, 186

    That still shows Hornsby having a distinct advantage, not as much as the career figure, but still misleading. That, however, gets into reason 2:

    2. Relative stats are always biased towards old time players, because the best old timers were further ahead of the average player. There were far more good players in Morgan's time, which made the league average higher, and made Morgan's OPS look not as good when compared to league average. Morgan's peak OPS+ are just as impressive as Hornsby's, when you take into account the old time bias in relative stats. I think, all things considered, Hornsby has a small advantage in OPS+, not that large, but still a small advantage.

    The conclusion all that led us to is that Hornsby is a slightly better hitter. When looking at the raw numbers, it looks like a landslide for Hornsby, but take all things into consideraton, and you come out with the conclusion that Hornsby is slightly better. Now, we must prove Morgan has a larger advatage at other things (fielding, intangibles) to make up for Hornsby's slight offensive advantage.

    Fielding: No question here, Morgan is the better fielder, by a wide margin. Morgan wasn't Bill Mazeroski in the field, by any means, but he was a good solid fielder who was very dependable and consistent.

    Hornsby, on the other hand, wasn't a good fielder. He was in the lineup for his hitting, not his fielding. He is last in defensive Win Shares among second basemen with 10000 or more innings played. Many of Hornsby's praisers like to point out that he had to be a decent fielder to even play 10000 innings in the field. That is true, he was actually a decent fielder, compared to players who didn't play over 10000 innings. Here we are comparing Hornsby to the all-time greats, and the all-time greats are the guys who did play over 10000 innings at the position. Hornsby wasn't bad when compared to average players, but he was awful when compared to all-time greats. Any way you look at it, Morgan has a very large fielding advantage.

    Baserunning: I'm not going to have this play a large role at all, since it was already factored into secondary average, but yes, Morgan was a far better baserunner, and no one can dispute that. Morgan stole 689 bases, and was caught stealing 162 times, for the awesome SB% of 81%, tenth all-time among retired players. We don't have CS for all of Hornsby's career, but for the years we do have it, his SB% was an awful 47%. Morgan has a huge baserunning advantage, but I'm facoring it in very little, since it is in Sec. Av.

    Now they are probably tied, with Morgan's fielding advantage equaling Hornsby's hitting advantage on the overall scale. Now we come to intangibles, which no one could argue for Hornsby. Hornsby was a jerk, all his teammates hated him. He was one of the most hated players of his era, and discussions of the meanest players in basball history usually end up with him as one of the finalists.

    Morgan was a leader on perhaps the best team ever, the 1975 Reds. He was a great intangible player who anyone would want to have on their team. I'm pretty sure that most managers of Hornsby's day wouldn't want him on their team, regardless of how he hit.

    So, all things considered, Morgan is superior to Hornsby, period.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    BB Reference---Is Joe Morgan in your top 20?---Morganites Unite!---New Look at the Hornsby/Morgan Debate Threads/Photos

    --------Joe Morgan, Reds' 2B, 1972-79-------------------------1972-79------------------------------1972-79


    ------------------------------Joe Morgan, Reds' 2B, 1972-79----------------------------------------1972-79


    Joe Morgan, Astros' 2B, 1966/Sonny Jackson, Astros' SS, 1966--------------Joe Morgan, 1972-79.


    -------------------------Joe Morgan, Reds' 2B, 1975 World Series---BB Reference--------------Joe Morgan, Phillies' 2B, 1983 World Series Phillies/Orioles.

    91
    Joe Morgan
    16.48%
    15
    Rogers Hornsby
    83.52%
    76
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-19-2009, 11:13 PM.

  • #2
    538280,

    I agree with about Morgan over Hornsby but you will NEVER convince the batting average snobs, or the "baseball was at it's best in the 1920s" fanantics, or the "OBP is overrated" zealots. You know who you are. Such is the nature of the world.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

    Comment


    • #3
      Excellent discussion going on here. Just a few things to add:

      1) Joe Morgan's .271 career average and his run production almost certainly would have been higher had he not spent eight of his seasons playing in the Astrodome. Despite his size, he hit with power and went for the power alleys. That was his game. The problem was that in the Astrodome, a lot of those balls that would have homers or doubles in most other parks became fly ball outs. About the only positive thing that the spacious Dome did for Morgan's numbers was triples, where he was among the league leaders when he played for the Astros.

      But his first year playing away from the Astrodome and what happened? Boom! He suddenly had career highs (up to that point) in BA, HRs, RBIs, OBP, SBs, and SLG pct. Of course, playing in the Big Red Machine lineup sure helped. But there is no question that Riverfront Stadium was much more suited to Morgan's style of play.

      Now, imagine if Morgan had played in friendlier confines instead of the Astrodome all those seasons. His career offensive output in almost all categories (except for triples) would have been higher for a certainty. And while Morgan would still not even be close to Hornby's .358, the gap would be a little narrower. Perhaps he would have ended up with a lifetime average in the .290s.

      2) Morgan definitely did bring leadership and intangibles to his teams. He was also, for all intents and purposes, very much a playing coach. Players like Ken Griffey Sr., Dave Concepcion, and Cesar Geronimo credited Morgan with teaching them the art of basestealing and learning to read the pitchers. He was also the defensive anchor in the infield, positioning the other players. This was especially valuable since the players the Reds had at the corners (Rose and Perez) weren't the slickest fielders in the world. Neither did they have great range.

      3) About the only major liability that I could think of with Morgan was his disdain for having baserunners (esp. on first) moving around when he was at the plate. He found it distracting and would often times request the coaches not to have anyone stealing (or even fake a move) when he is at bat or to attempt a hit-and-run. Now, when Morgan was at his absolute peak during his MVP years of 1975 and '76 and he was a veritable RBI machine, that was something that the Reds could obviously live with. But when he began to slow down due to the effects of advancing age and injuries, I think that Morgan's foibles began to get in the way of the team's offensive production. In particular, it would hamper the baserunning game that otherwise might have blossomed with speedsters like Griffey, Concepcion, and Dave Collins. And so his last couple of years with the Reds weren't a particularly memorable time for him. And when he was let go by Cincy, he would spend the last 5 seasons of his career as a journeyman.

      But there can be no doubt of Joe Morgan's greatness. He definitely belongs in a discussion of the greatest second basemen of all time, and I suspect that had Hornsby lived long enough, he may very well have agreed with that assessment.

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't really think of myself as a batting average snob, but I mean... .358 is .358. It'd be a little less compelling if Hornsby's OPS wasn't, in context, as good as Morgan's, but he's got a 43 point advantage there too.

        Here are two other players who have a 43 point difference in OPS+. Teammates on one of my historical favorites, the 1965 Twins; Harmon Killebrew (143) and Rich Rollins (99). OK, that's 44 points. In terms of OPS, if Joe Morgan is Rich Rollins, Rogers Hornsby is Harmon Killebrew. A turbo Harmon Killebrew who hits .350. 40 points of OPS+ and 80 points of batting average aren't something you can just throw away. 40 points of OPS+, 80 points of batting, and they played the same position.
        "Hall of Famer Whitey Ford now on the field... pleading with the crowd for, for some kind of sanity!"

        Comment


        • #5
          So do you guys think Don Mattingly was better than Lou Gehrig?

          And to me the dumbest argument is that Hornsby overrated because of the era in which he played, in that case so are Ruth and Gehrig.

          Give Hornsby his due the man in my opinion is far and away the best second basemen ever.
          "I was pitching one day when my glasses clouded up on me. I took them off to polish them. When I looked up to the plate, I saw Jimmie Foxx. The sight of him terrified me so much that I haven't been able to wear glasses since." - Left Gomez

          "(Lou) Gehrig never learned that a ballplayer couldn't be good every day." - Hank Gowdy

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Myankee4life
            So do you guys think Don Mattingly was better than Lou Gehrig?

            And to me the dumbest argument is that Hornsby overrated because of the era in which he played, in that case so are Ruth and Gehrig.

            Give Hornsby his due the man in my opinion is far and away the best second basemen ever.
            First, comparing Joe Morgan to Don Mattingly is completely ridiculous. I rate Morgan as the 14th best player ever, and Mattingly isn't even in the top 100. Bill James (he knows a thing or two about baseball) rates Morgan as the #1 second baseman ever. He also rates Morgan as the 15th best player ever, and Mattingly doesn't make the top 100. Comparing Morgan to Mattingly is exactly like comparing Gehrig to Mattingly. I rate Gehrig three spots ahead of Morgan, and James rates him one spot ahead.

            Second, I never said Hornsby was overrated because of the era he played in. I said that it inflates his stats slightly. To say that it didn't inflate his stats in completely ludicrous. He is overrated because people put far too much stock in batting averages, not because of his era.

            Third, did you actually read everything I had to say? If you did I doubt that you would criticize me in the way you did. Please read what I have to say before criticizing me.
            Last edited by 538280; 08-05-2005, 03:48 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Myankee4life
              So do you guys think Don Mattingly was better than Lou Gehrig?

              And to me the dumbest argument is that Hornsby overrated because of the era in which he played, in that case so are Ruth and Gehrig.

              Give Hornsby his due the man in my opinion is far and away the best second basemen ever.

              Ummm...You forget to mention that Hornsby played in the NL while Ruth and Gerhig did not. In my opinion. Joe Morgan is the the greatest second baseman of all time. I'll give Hornsby his due, he is the 3rd greatest second baseman of all time.
              Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by RuthMayBond
                <Morgan was a leader on perhaps the best team ever, the 1975 Reds.>

                Even WITH era adjustments, there are AT LEAST nine teams better than them.
                Just caught this. Please, RMB, name those nine teams for me. The 1975-76 Reds were certainly at least a top five team of all time.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
                  538280,

                  I agree with about Morgan over Hornsby but you will NEVER convince the batting average snobs, or the "baseball was at it's best in the 1920s" fanantics, or the "OBP is overrated" zealots. You know who you are. Such is the nature of the world.
                  Don't YOU have Babe Ruth as the greatest hitter ever???
                  and have the overrated Honus Wagner as a namesake?

                  Pot.Kettle.Black


                  A skewed BS slap down on Hornsby to give Morgan an advantage in every way is just ludicrous, even more so than Chris' hero worship of Negro League players

                  BTW Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie were the best 2nd basemen of all time

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Imapotato
                    Don't YOU have Babe Ruth as the greatest hitter ever???
                    and have the overrated Honus Wagner as a namesake?

                    Pot.Kettle.Black


                    A skewed BS slap down on Hornsby to give Morgan an advantage in every way is just ludicrous, even more so than Chris' hero worship of Negro League players

                    BTW Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie were the best 2nd basemen of all time
                    Whatever...
                    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Imapotato
                      A skewed BS slap down on Hornsby to give Morgan an advantage in every way is just ludicrous, even more so than Chris' hero worship of Negro League players

                      BTW Eddie Collins and Nap Lajoie were the best 2nd basemen of all time
                      All right, Potato, two questions:

                      1.Why was my argument skewed? I think I took a fair look at both sides of the argument and was completely fair towards Hornsby. Morgan is one of my favorites, and I do dislike Hornsby, but I don't think I was unfair in my argument. Hornsby was a jerk, and whether you like him or not, he was a jerk. Tell me why my argument was skewed.

                      2.Give me and explaination, with actual evidence, why Lajoie is better than Morgan. I know you hate fielding metrics, but don't give me any of Lajoie's fielding stats, because he is one of few cases where defensive metrics aren't very good.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        --Chris, I don't think it is a case of Lajoie being an exception to the rule so much as that Fielding Runs is a hugely flawed, worse than useless IMO, metric which greatly inflated Lajoie's defensive reputation when first published in Total Baseball.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Chris,

                          I hear you good friend, but if a old time player has such a huge lead in Relative stats, we can't just throw away relative career stats, because of inferior competition.

                          If we could then Ruth/Cobb/Wagner would be gone down the toilet. We need to adjust, but nobody has figured out how to do it with precision.

                          Maybe Matt Souders will jump in and weigh in with PCA results. And I can't justify that Joe's peak outshines Rogers. That is a rash, too-bold assertion, and we must be judicious in our needs to believe favorite players can leapfrog over huge leads.

                          If we can't settle the league strength issue to a healthy compromise, then the leading historical player, in this particular case, Hornsby, remains in the lead. By a healthy margin.

                          The burden of proof is on the Morganites to overturn a historical verdict.

                          But I AM listening to you, Chirs. I'm not blowing off your hard work. My ears are open. I wonder what Metal Ed, RealNod think of this.

                          Bill
                          Last edited by Bill Burgess; 08-05-2005, 09:27 PM.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 538280
                            Tell me why my argument was skewed.
                            ummm didn't you just answer it?

                            Morgan is one of my favorites, and I do dislike Hornsby, but I don't think I was unfair in my argument. Hornsby was a jerk, and whether you like him or not, he was a jerk.
                            You made every exception for Morgan, and every decimation to Hornsby

                            How about strength of team for Morgan?
                            How about Hornsby not being as bad defensively
                            How about Hornsby's HR numbers versus his peers
                            How about the fact that 60 bbs was pretty good for his era, when it was manly to hit the ball and you were a "Max Bishop" no good hitter if you tried to work the count like him? Walks were not part of the game, whether you like it or not, so OPS and OBP with modern players and older players is a unfair comparison. It was a different mentality and approach to the game

                            They threw pitches in the dirt to Ruth in order for him to walk

                            2.Give me and explaination, with actual evidence, why Lajoie is better than Morgan. I know you hate fielding metrics, but don't give me any of Lajoie's fielding stats, because he is one of few cases where defensive metrics aren't very good.
                            This means "Give me something I WANT and BELIEVE in for Lajoie

                            Obviously no matter how I answer, you will come back with some heavily favored metric that was made during today's era, and helps today's ballplayers and stuff like players citing Lajoie's defensive prowlness, and the fact that Lajoie was the best player in the AL until Cobb ( a top 3 player of ALL TIME) surplanted him to 2nd best

                            Nor will the fact that Lajoie despite his decline from the stress of managing when his stats went down, then back up after he stopped managing....and his OBP is .380, despite the fact he AVERAGED 34 freaking walks...while Morgan has a .392 OBP while averaging a 114 walks!!!!!

                            I mean freakin heck!!! You want 12 points of OBP....due to 80 walks???
                            I'd rather have Lajoie anyday of the week!

                            But oh Morgan had 27 doubles, 6 triples and 16 Hrs

                            Lajoie had just averaged 43 doubles 11 triples and 5 Hrs...in the DEADball era


                            But slugging...I mean Joe hit more Hrs....oh wait .427

                            Lajoie .467...in the DEAD BALL ERA!!!!

                            and this is WITH Lajoie managing and killing his production for 5 years 1905-1909, then 1910 he busts out like 1904

                            and the fact that unlike Hornsby, Lajoie did have a decline period....in fact NAP had 2 decline periods!!!!

                            No other player performed better as a player manager then Lajoie...McGraw (one of your other favorites because he couldn't hit but could walk) quit because he couldn't do both at once. Bucky Harris killed his career by managing.

                            So with better power a better average and probably on par, if not BETTER then Morgan defensively...I guess Joe walked a helluva lot more

                            Oh and he only stole on average about 15 more bases then slow ole Nap

                            So in order to be anywhere CLOSE to Lajoie in any % stat, Morgan had to lower the calculation...lowering his PA's by walking 4 times as much!!!

                            Yea ya know, you and Honus should write a guide to walking alot and being the best
                            Last edited by Imapotato; 08-05-2005, 09:08 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules
                              Whatever...

                              I shot your contradiction full of holes, and this is what you come back with???

                              You love to pounce on me, yet you try and shrug this off?

                              Comment

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