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Cobb vs. Speaker - as 5 tool players

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  • Cobb vs. Speaker - as 5 tool players

    All of these Speaker threads got me thinking. Just how great was he? Do we still underrate him? Obviously, we rank him behind Cobb, his 1910s-1920s era contemporary. But how close is he to Cobb?

    When comparing them, let's compare them as 5 tool players. Personally, when I rank my top players ever, I rank primarily on dominance level, and obviously Cobb wins over Speaker there. But even Cobb's staunchest supporters here on BBF who seem to rank players based on the 5 tools rank Speaker well behind Cobb, with no second thought. But is he that far behind? Here is a quote from Cobb's #1 supporter, Bill Burgess (you knew his name was gonna pop up, didn't you?) on the Speaker General Thread. He was comparing Speaker to Mantle:

    I'll take Spoke in a heartbeat. He was, after Wagner/Mays possibly the premier offensive/defensive combo player in history.

    Not only was his defense obviously so much superior, but his hitting was second only to Ty for his career. His running was also top notch, he lasted so much longer, and his last 1/3 of his career was accomplished while managing. He also led his team to a WS victory his first year at the helm.

    Many of Tris' black ink, league leads were absorbed like a blotter by Cobb, in much the same way as The Babe absorbed most of Lou Gehrig's league leads.


    Now, obviously, Bill has many more reasons to rank Cobb ahead of Speaker - his competitive nature, dominance, etc. But he did say Spoke was "possibly the premier offensive/defensive combo player in history" behind Wagner/Mays.

    If we just focus on the 5 tools of a player - hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, field - how close are they, and does Speaker actually come out ahead?
    20
    Ty Cobb
    85.00%
    17
    Tris Speaker
    15.00%
    3
    Last edited by torez77; 02-19-2006, 09:39 AM.
    Red, it took me 16 years to get here. Play me, and you'll get the best I got.

  • #2
    Cobb easily, he was a better hitter and baserunner, and held his own defensively

    Speaker was better defensively but nowhere near the hitter or baserunner Cobb was

    Comment


    • #3
      Speaker's fielding gets the nod, but it's not by as large a margin as most think, imo.

      Taking their entire careers into account, I would also give an edge to Speaker on throwing, only because Cobb blew his arm out in '15. Before then, it was either even or Cobb was slightly ahead.

      Bill, question. Cobb ruptured the ligaments in the right knee in '20 correct? How did that affect him? He couldn't have ever been the same again, but how much did he lose?

      Comment


      • #4
        Cobb is better than Speaker. Given. But just as five toolers, Speaker HAS TO get the edge.
        "Simply put, the passion, interest and tradition surrounding baseball in New York is unmatched."

        Sean McAdam, ESPN.com

        Comment


        • #5
          --Grading the 5 tools is far from the best way to judge which was better, but FWIW;
          --Cobb wins contact hitting and baserunning
          --Speaker wins fielding and throwing
          --Cobb was a better deadball slugger, but Speaker made a better adjustment to the live ball and out slugged him there. Guess you could go either way on power.
          --Cobb's baserunning advantage is huge, but so is Speaker's fieldign advantage.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by leecemark
            --Grading the 5 tools is far from the best way to judge which was better, but FWIW;
            --Cobb wins contact hitting and baserunning
            --Speaker wins fielding and throwing
            --Cobb was a better deadball slugger, but Speaker made a better adjustment to the live ball and out slugged him there. Guess you could go either way on power.
            --Cobb's baserunning advantage is huge, but so is Speaker's fieldign advantage.
            5 tools is a good criteria, but I agree it shouldn't be the final deciding factor when ranking players.

            I agree with everything you said above. Would you answer be that, if we were ranking them based on the 5 tools ONLY, that they are equal? (I guess I could've put that on the poll as an option)
            Red, it took me 16 years to get here. Play me, and you'll get the best I got.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948
              Bill, question. Cobb ruptured the ligaments in the right knee in '20 correct? How did that affect him? He couldn't have ever been the same again, but how much did he lose?
              In 1920, Ty incurred one of his few serious injuries. During a game on June 6, while chasing a fly ball in right center, Ty collided with his RFer, Ira Flagstead, and sprained his left knee so badly, he was out of action till July 31, save a couple of games. That is why he lost so many games in 1920. He was also a slow starter, and built up to his high BA at the end. This interrupted that process, resulting in his low BA for the year.

              It was a very serious injury. He tried to come back and re-injured it. He may have lost a step due to this. He had already lost a step or two by 1918, if that tells you something. He was already showing his age in that his speed was slowly leaving him, and that injury sure didn't help him any.

              Bill Burgess
              Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 06:23 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Cobb careerwise is easily better, despite speaker's advantage in defense.

                However speaker's best year ( 1912) was better than cobb's best year ( 1915).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Both players had ALL the tools. Neither one had a discernable weakness, until Ty hurt his arm.

                  Both had equal tools, but Ty had superior skills, by comparison. He had practiced so exhaustively, that he had developed his tools better than Tris did.

                  But that is not to say that Tris was in any way weak. He had broken his arm in his youth, and learned to throw with his other arm. So Tris had good tenacity also, simply not as intensely obsessed as Ty.

                  In summary, neither lacked any tools, but Ty strove more intensely to develope his. Tris' tools were not inferior to Ty's. If their minds had been transplanted, Tris would have ended up with the better skills.

                  Bill
                  Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 06:43 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dontworry
                    Cobb careerwise is easily better, despite speaker's advantage in defense.

                    However speaker's best year ( 1912) was better than cobb's best year ( 1915).
                    Well, Speaker's '12 season may have been better than Cobb's '15 season, but let's clear something up, 1915 wasn't Cobb's best season. In fact, there are a few seasons that could be considered better. For now, I'll just go with 1911 as his best, so let's compare seasons - Cobb's 1911 and Speakers 1912, and because they both played at the same time, in the same league, no adjustments need to be made.

                    Cobb beats speaker in: Runs, hits, triples, RBI, SB's, BA, OBP, SLG, (OPS), OPS+, RC, the list goes on...

                    Speaker beat cobb in: doubles, HR's, and walks.

                    Cobb was also more dominant compared to the league than Speaker, leading in: R, H, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, BA, Slg, OPS, OPS+, RC, and again the list goes on...

                    Speaker did nothing like that, with only a few league leads, in: 2B, HR, OBP, and RC.

                    And at this time, while Speaker was the best defensively, Cobb wasn't TOO far behind, and nothing a 37 (!!!!!!!!!) point lead in BA can't make up.

                    So yes, Speaker's best season in 1912 may have been better than Cobb's 1915 season, but as we just went over, that wasn't his best, so while you tried to slip that in, I just had to point that out.

                    So Cobb had the better career, and the better peak (1, 2, 3 year, etc...).

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Edgartohof
                      Well, Speaker's '12 season may have been better than Cobb's '15 season, but let's clear something up, 1915 wasn't Cobb's best season. In fact, there are a few seasons that could be considered better. For now, I'll just go with 1911 as his best, so let's compare seasons - Cobb's 1911 and Speakers 1912, and because they both played at the same time, in the same league, no adjustments need to be made.

                      Cobb beats speaker in: Runs, hits, triples, RBI, SB's, BA, OBP, SLG, (OPS), OPS+, RC, the list goes on...

                      Speaker beat cobb in: doubles, HR's, and walks.

                      Cobb was also more dominant compared to the league than Speaker, leading in: R, H, 2B, 3B, RBI, SB, BA, Slg, OPS, OPS+, RC, and again the list goes on...

                      Speaker did nothing like that, with only a few league leads, in: 2B, HR, OBP, and RC.

                      And at this time, while Speaker was the best defensively, Cobb wasn't TOO far behind, and nothing a 37 (!!!!!!!!!) point lead in BA can't make up.

                      So yes, Speaker's best season in 1912 may have been better than Cobb's 1915 season, but as we just went over, that wasn't his best, so while you tried to slip that in, I just had to point that out.

                      So Cobb had the better career, and the better peak (1, 2, 3 year, etc...).
                      Top twenty offensive seasons according to Batting WS -
                      1 Bonds 2001
                      2 Bonds 2004
                      3 Wagner 1908
                      4 Ruth 1923
                      5 Ruth 1920
                      6 Ruth 1921
                      7 Mantle 1957
                      8 Bonds 2002
                      9 T. Williams 1946
                      10 Bonds 1993
                      11 Mantle 1956
                      12 Mantle 1961
                      13 Hornsby 1922
                      14 Ruth 1928
                      15 Ruth 1926
                      16 Musial 1948
                      17 Ruth 1924
                      18 Speaker 1912
                      19 Ty Cobb 1915
                      20 T. Williams 1942

                      Cobb's second and third best seasons rank after 20, so as you can see, going by batting WS, cobb's 15 is his best, and speaker's 12 was better.

                      Total WS also sees it that way, speaker had 51 (!) in 12, cobb had 48 in 15.

                      I dont have the time right now to explain why speaker had more WS than cobb, and why cobb's 15 is his best, but I promise I will later.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        One of the problems with the 5-tool system is that it doesn't give credit to those who walk more. Cobb was the better at hitting for average (one of the five tools), but I'm not sure about being a better contact hitter since Speaker typically struck out a tad fewer times than Cobb.

                        But Speaker was the more patient hitter. Despite Cobb holding a career batting average over 20 points higher than Spoke, Cobb's OBP is only 5 points higher than Tris. Cobb finished in the top ten in walks 5 times in his career compared to 14 times for Speaker.

                        I have them as fairly close in terms of the five tools. Cobb has the edge in hitting for average and baserunning, Speaker for fielding and throwing. They seem about a wash in terms of hitting for power, with perhaps a slight edge to Cobb since his slugging percentage for his career was 147 points above league average compared to 127 points for Speaker.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Good point, CTaka. I sometimes make the mistake of viewing contact hitting and hitting for average as one and the same, but plate discipline's a big factor. Contact hitting is actually hit for average and plate discipline combined, and it's a very interesting comparison between Cobb and Speaker.

                          When we look at hitting for average, we also have to consider speed, and it's obvious that Cobb's speed heavily contributed to his high BA, winning him alot of BA races over Speaker and Shoeless Joe. More power to him there. But was Speaker better than Cobb with the bat alone, excluding speed? It's hard for me to rank him above Cobb even going by the bat alone. The difference in BA is just too high. And when we're talking about hitting for average, we also have to include speed, because that's the other big component, and when you do that, it's obvious Cobb was second to no one in hitting for average. All in all, when comparing the two in contact hitting - Speaker wins plate discipline. Cobb wins hitting for average, and by a bigger margin.

                          If we're going to compare Cobb to someone as a HITTER, meaning who was better with the bat, I think the most interesting comparison would be to Joe Jackson. Cobb and Ruth said Jackson was the best natural hitter they ever saw. Cobb vs. Jackson with the bat might be worthy of a poll. Whaddya think?
                          Red, it took me 16 years to get here. Play me, and you'll get the best I got.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by torez77
                            Good point, CTaka. I sometimes make the mistake of viewing contact hitting and hitting for average as one and the same, but plate discipline's a big factor. Contact hitting is actually hit for average and plate discipline combined, and it's a very interesting comparison between Cobb and Speaker.

                            When we look at hitting for average, we also have to consider speed, and it's obvious that Cobb's speed heavily contributed to his high BA, winning him alot of BA races over Speaker and Shoeless Joe. More power to him there. But was Speaker better than Cobb with the bat alone, excluding speed? It's hard for me to rank him above Cobb even going by the bat alone. The difference in BA is just too high. And when we're talking about hitting for average, we also have to include speed, because that's the other big component, and when you do that, it's obvious Cobb was second to no one in hitting for average. All in all, when comparing the two in contact hitting - Speaker wins plate discipline. Cobb wins hitting for average, and by a bigger margin.

                            If we're going to compare Cobb to someone as a HITTER, meaning who was better with the bat, I think the most interesting comparison would be to Joe Jackson. Cobb and Ruth said Jackson was the best natural hitter they ever saw. Cobb vs. Jackson with the bat might be worthy of a poll. Whaddya think?
                            As I indicated, I still give Cobb the edge over Speaker in hitting for average; I was just pointing out that Speaker's plate discipline makes it much closer than just comparing batting averages.

                            As for Jackson, I'd think that Cobb would win that one fairly easily. Remember that Jackson didn't have to face a decline phase. And even in his peak years, he had some comparatively low averages (.308 in 1915, .301 in 1917) among his high average years. After his rookie season in which Cobb only played in 41 games, Ty never hit that low in his entire career. Cobb, who played to the age of 41, still finished with a career batting average 93 points above league average and an OBP that was 92 points above league average. Jackson, with the benefit of never having a decline phase, was only 86 and 83 points above league average in those two categories respectively. If Shoeless had played a 20+ year career and finished that close to Cobb, I'd say they would be fairly comparable. But when that is essentially Jackson's peak compared to Cobb's 24 year career, I see Cobb as having a big advantage in terms of hitting for average.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Trying to discern which of Ty's seasons were the most superior is not as easy as it might sound.

                              Code:
                              Relative BA------------Relative SLG.-------OPS+
                              1910---1.58%-----------1917--1.72%---------1917--209
                              1916---1.55%-----------1910--1.65%---------1910--206
                              1912---1.54%-----------1911--1.64%---------1912--200
                              1909---1.54%-----------1912--1.64%---------1911--196
                              1917---1.54%-----------1909--1.58%---------1909--194
                              1911---1.53%-----------1918--1.57%---------1913--194
                              -----------------------1913--1.54%---------1918--193
                              -------------------------------------------1914--190
                              Appears Win Shares must be placing an extremely inappropriate amount of weight on defense.
                              Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-19-2006, 06:42 PM.

                              Comment

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