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  • Cobb vs. Mays and LQ

    Ty Cobb had a few hundred more PA than Willie Mays, so we'll raise his OPS+ by one point. The chart I posted in the Cobb vs. Hornsby hitting thread seems to support this. That gives Cobb a 168 OPS+ and Mays a 156 OPS+. Which makes Cobb's OPS+ 7.7% higher. Cobb stole more bases, but caught stealing was not kept for much of his career, and there were more steals in the time. Mays would have stolen a lot more bases had he played in Cobb's time, 600-700, perhaps. Cobb is considered by many to be the greatest baserunner ever, but Mays was probably the best of his time. Dave Kent has posted charts documenting Mays's fantastic skill at taking the extra base. The idea that Cobb destroys all comers here is a fiction; he was the best, but there were others who rank right up there. Mays of course wins the fielding battle, but again, he wouldn't crush Cobb here. Cobb's speed gave him excellent range, and though he didn't have the natural fielding instincts that Mays did, he was still very good. I would give Mays's fielding advantage the edge over Cobb's baserunning advantage, but it's not enough to offset the 7.7% OPS+ difference. Not yet. Let's say Mays's fielding advantage over Cobb's baserunning advantage reduces the hitting advantage to 6%. That seems about fair. Now then, Cobb played from 1905-28, Mays from 1951-73. Does 46 years result in the league getting stronger hitting-wise by 6%? Or even 7%? That's the question here. Without league quality, I don't see Mays over Cobb. But we have to include it. Is it enough to get Mays over Cobb?
    16
    Yes
    50.00%
    8
    No
    50.00%
    8
    "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

    - Alvin Dark

  • #2
    I was never able to move Mays ahead of Cobb for a long time, even with LQ.

    The way it broke down for me was this.

    Starting with OPS+ Mays was 155 and Cobb 167.

    Although its not perfect, I prefer to look at games rather than plate appearances, because PA's get boosted by the run environment. Cobb played 43 more games, but also played in shorter seasons. He would have had an additional 90 on Mays when accounting for the 13 seasons that Mays played with the 162 game schedule (plus I think there was another 40 or so lost from one of Cobb's years). That gives Cobb about a 175 game edge.

    Taking a baseline OPS+ of 90 (which is my preference) I would multiply OPS+ - 90 by games played. Cobb's is +77 x and adjusted 3210 games and Mays' is + 65 for 2992.

    I actually think that May's OPS+ was cut about 15-16 points by integration so if he goes to 170 or 171 or +80 to +81 compared to Cobb's +77.

    .805 x 2992 = 240.9 games worth of hitting above the baseline of 90

    .77 x 3210 = 247.2 above baseline.

    VERY close.

    I do not consider Cobb's league to have been low quality. It was the highest level that the deadball game ever reached. Furthermore, we have all heard that deadball pitchers saved their best stuff for the toughest hitters which would actually make it even harder for the top hitters to separate from the league.

    Cobb has the steals edge though value-wise its real close. Mays may have stolen 700 but largely because he would not have hit with as much power in the deadball period.

    Mays may have been a great secondary baserunner, but I would not put him ahead of Cobb. They are two of the best ever there.

    Mays has a defensive edge. Cobb was a fantastic corner outfielder, and an above average centerfielder. Mays played 2827 games in center, though may be remembered more for his peak 11-13 years and that may have been somewhat washed-out in the long run.

    The final factor for me is simple-Mays two lost seasons in '52 and '53. They may not have been among his top 11 years, but it is enough to push a virtual tie in Mays favor. They are enough to make their games played virtually equal.

    If we take Mays at +80.5 and Cobb at +77 Mays could be worth a good equivalent of +10 OPS+ points and Cobb + 5 or so over the balance of their careers. A phenomenal defensive season for a CF is worth about 20 runs saved above average, or 24-25 OPS+ points, but every great player has ups and downs over a long period.

    Mays +90.5 (adjusted for LQ)

    Cobb +87 + his slight base stealing edge

    for virtually the same games and assuming they were both among the best ancillary runners of all time.

    Comment


    • #3
      --Between Mays more difficult league and his much superior defense he clearly ranks ahead of Cobb IMO.

      Comment


      • #4
        The deadball needs to be factored in, it was a harder ball to hit consistently, and Cobb had larger stadiums to deal with.

        How do those factors affecdt the calculations?

        Comment


        • #5
          Since I have Willie Mays ranked ahead of Tyrus anyway I had to answer 'Yes' to the question.

          The biggest single reason for me is that Willie's era was much more competitive. The LQ was much stronger making it more difficult to 'stand out'.

          Another is that Willie was a far superior defensive player than Cobb at a critical position postion. Ty was good in CF....Willie was fantastic. The poster stated Cobb was "fantistic" corner outfielder. So what? Ty Cobb was a CF'er playing a corner position. Fact is the only pennants the Tigers ever won in Ty Cobb's career, ever, were when he was in RF not CF. It's no contest in regards to defense.

          As for the base running, yes, Ty Cobb was great. But so was Willie. Plenty has been posted on Willie's base running exploits. I tend to think of them as pretty equal in this regard. I don't hold Willie's era when they didn't run very much against him. I feel Ty's greatest strength was his base running, not his hitting. And in Ty's greatest strength Willie can match him.

          It's close to be sure, very close. I won't argue Bill Burgess or anybody else placing Cobb ahead of Mays, but for me it's Willie ahead of Ty.

          Yankees Fan Since 1957

          Comment


          • #6
            Hitting - In their hitting, I will concede that Willie needs and deserves his LQ adjustment for having to play against better players than Ty did. That only makes sense. But, in order for Willie to overcome Ty's OPS+ lead, it requires quite an adjustment.

            If we are going to give Willie his adjustment due to era for LQ, we must also give one to Ty for power. Ty was one of the best power hitters of his era, and its not just for his running and stretching of hits. He was also among his era's best for over-the-fence HRs/distance hitting too. And if he played later, and thus didn't have his aversion to the long ball to limit his hitting style, he would have had that HR weapon to assist him to separate from his league's hitters. You just have to give him that. Fair is fair.

            If we give Wille that presumption that he would steal 600-700 bases, only due to the era running more, we also must cut Ty the same presumption, and give him his 35-40 HRs/season, which will boost his OPS+. Fair is fair. If you won't give Cobb that presumption, I won't concede Willie the SB presumption.

            Fielding - Here, Willie does indeed deserve his points over Ty. Willie was, along with Speaker/McAleer, possibly the best defensive OF ever. We must give that to him. Willie was a fantastic glove, no doubt about that.

            But Tyrus was a very good outfielder. He was a very, very good right-fielder. He played CF for his team because they had no other fielder with his speed who could cover the amount of area that he could. Ty, like Willie, was reputed to cover vast amounts of territory, he could go back, he could range far to his left/right, and like Willie, had extremely fine instincts.

            No one can have 'backward flight' without extremely deep instincts. Ty, as good as he was in his defense, could never be called a 'great fielder'. Not with better defensive CFers in the league. Speaker, Milan, and later Felsch were also phenonenal gloves, and so Ty had to be content with 'a very, very good fielder' category.

            Running - Here is where Ty loses his most points. His era never recorded 'Taking Extra Bases' data, and he was famous for that. That was his signature move. He was fabled for winning games with that one skill. He boldness was legendary.
            http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...14&postcount=9

            He also is discounted somewhat because his era did keep CS records for most of his good years. Here is all we have.
            http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...5&postcount=71
            He is further punished in his CS figures due to his policy of 'running wild', when his team was far ahead in the score. He wanted to create fear and uncertainty in the opposition, so that they would be nervous next game, and hence unable to play their usual stable play. He referred to it as 'psychological warfare'. And considering the numbers of errors he induced by his unpredicictability, it masked his effectiveness. His record is the poster boy for numbers not doing justice to his effectiveness.

            Also, his record of 54 steals of home, out of 98 attempts, is a testament to his boldness. Willie was exciting. I watched him hit, I watched him run, I watched him steal. He never created fear, and never had the chutzpah to attempt a move as bold as stealing home on a veteran battery. Score a point for Tyrus in that regard. It electrified the fans and put many additional fans in the park. His running was his greatest skill, and why they came to watch him.

            Intangibles - Again, the numbers cannot give justice to certain players. Will never convey the level of excitement in watching Ruth stride towards the plate. The buzz when Cobb started trash-talking while dancing far off base. Some players had 'color'. Cobb led the parade in his flair. Many others studied him, copied him. Collins/Sisler admitted to trying to use his methods. He also coached his hitters and raised their hitting stats over their heads. But I won't ask for points for that skill. That skill is something set apart. Same as managing. I won't ask for anything for that either. Another skill that gave value to his team, but we'll set that value apart too. That's a different discussion than the one we're conducting here.

            And lastly, here is my standard Ty/Willie write-up.
            http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...6&postcount=15
            Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-16-2008, 02:32 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Good points, Bill. I think Willie would have been more daring had he played during Cobb's time. I doubt he'd have stolen home 54 times in 98 attempts, but he'd have his fair share of successes.

              Regarding Cobb's home run hitting: If we give Cobb credit for being a 35-40 home runs guy, we are going to assume that he is doing this in the context of Mays's time. So his OPS+ would go up, but only by a very little, because he isn't creating the kind of separation that the top sluggers created in Ruth's time because they were the only ones doing it. Home run hitting was much more common in Mays's time, and though the power game probably does help Cobb's OPS+, the boost won't be that significant.

              Finally, regardless of how daring Mays was, he was extremely successful at taking the extra base. I weigh success on the basepaths ahead of disruption. And giving Cobb extra credit for flair but not Willie is beyond ridiculous. Willie's flair for the game and the excitement he brought has been written about ever since he broke into the big leagues. Just ask Leo Durocher. Cobb's hitting coaching is some of the finest work the league has ever seen, but I don't think it should ever be factored into our evaluation of them as players.
              "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

              - Alvin Dark

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by yanks0714 View Post
                I don't hold Willie's era when they didn't run very much against him. I feel Ty's greatest strength was his base running, not his hitting. And in Ty's greatest strength Willie can match him.
                I don't hold Willie's baserunning (for his era) against him, but if he stole 400 more bases it certainly would have taken more out of him.

                As for Ty's hitting, he had a deadball OPS+ of 180. Nobody else topped 150s except Delehanty who unfortunately had no decline period.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
                  Good points, Bill. I think Willie would have been more daring had he played during Cobb's time. I doubt he'd have stolen home 54 times in 98 attempts, but he'd have his fair share of successes.
                  I also believe that Willie would have been far more daring had he played in an era where that skill was more common. I believe Willie would have been good for 50-80 SB/season. And that's a lot. That's a generous presumption.
                  Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
                  Regarding Cobb's home run hitting: If we give Cobb credit for being a 35-40 home runs guy, we are going to assume that he is doing this in the context of Mays' time. So his OPS+ would go up, but only by a very little, because he isn't creating the kind of separation that the top sluggers created in Ruth's time because they were the only ones doing it. Home run hitting was much more common in Mays' time, and though the power game probably does help Cobb's OPS+, the boost won't be that significant.
                  Once again, we are in agreement. I believe that Cobb would have been a moderate, mid-range pop hitter. In the category of Musial. Not a true power hitter, but something. I am not bright enough to know how much of an adjustment that Cobb earned, but something. That's all I am saying.

                  I do not perceive Ty as a true slugger. If he played later, I don't think he would have hit as many homers as Joe Jackson, Honus Wagner or Nap Lajoie. I honestly believe those hitters would have hit 50+ homers in their prime best seasons.

                  I think Ty would be more likely a .380-.400 with 35 homers guy, while Jackson, Wagner and Lajoie more likely .340-.360 with 50 homers guys.

                  Plus Ty would be stealing his 80-100 bases, while continuing to throw the other side into tension/confusion. I don't see Jackson, Wagner or Lajoie as having that kind of modern potential. Those 3 were actually the opposite of disruptors. They lacked the excitement/chutzpah that Cobb had in such abundance.
                  Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
                  Finally, regardless of how daring Mays was, he was extremely successful at taking the extra base. I weigh success on the basepaths ahead of disruption. And giving Cobb extra credit for flair but not Willie is beyond ridiculous. Willie's flair for the game and the excitement he brought has been written about ever since he broke into the big leagues. Just ask Leo Durocher. Cobb's hitting coaching is some of the finest work the league has ever seen, but I don't think it should ever be factored into our evaluation of them as players.
                  I am not trying to take anything at all away from my man Willie. He is my favorite player after 1925. I believe he was the greatest all-around position player post-1925. Greater than Mantle, greater than Bonds.

                  But I cannot put Willie on the same plane of effectiveness on the bases as Cobb. Ty was not only a disrupter, but he was a volume base thief too. He was both. I do think Willie would have been slightly behind Ty as a volume base thief, had Willie played in his time. But stealing bases, in and of itself was not Ty's chief contribution. It was the disruption factor that impresses me. Ty had it. Jackie Robinson had it. Bill Lange had it. Bo Jackson had it. They intimidated the fielder. Lange due to his size, Jackson due to his size, but Cobb due to his sliding with his cleats too high.

                  There were others who could steal bases as well as Cobb. Max Carey, Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Maury Wills. All could steal as well as Ty Cobb.

                  But they lacked his mental component. None of the above ever trash-talked, taunted, baited, or otherwise threw the other side into tension, created errors or mental lapses. Here is a quote from one of Cobb's peers, who played against him 1909-25.
                  http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...0&postcount=23
                  Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-16-2008, 03:03 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by [email protected] View Post
                    Hitting - In their hitting, I will concede that Willie needs and deserves his LQ adjustment for having to play against better players than Ty did. That only makes sense. But, in order for Willie to overcome Ty's OPS+ lead, it requires quite an adjustment.

                    If we are going to give Willie his adjustment due to era for LQ, we must also give one to Ty for power. Ty was one of the best power hitters of his era, and its not just for his running and stretching of hits. He was also among his era's best for over-the-fence HRs/distance hitting too. And if he played later, and thus didn't have his aversion to the long ball to limit his hitting style, he would have had that HR weapon to assist him to separate from his league's hitters. You just have to give him that. Fair is fair.
                    No, Bill, fair is not fair. Ty Cobb DID in fact have an opportunity to hit for more HR power in the liveball era, he refused to do so. You're trying to 'give' Ty something that he had an opportunity to do and he disdained it for whatever reason ( I don't want to get into the reasons or explanations, I know all of them).

                    Yankees Fan Since 1957

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by yanks0714 View Post
                      No, Bill, fair is not fair. Ty Cobb DID in fact have an opportunity to hit for more HR power in the liveball era, he refused to do so. You're trying to 'give' Ty something that he had an opportunity to do and he disdained it for whatever reason ( I don't want to get into the reasons or explanations, I know all of them).
                      Mays could have stolen 40 every year, but he saved his body for other things.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The answer to the original question is that LQ questions can put Mays and Cobb into the same conversation, along with Ruth and Wagner, AND that basically our uncertaintly about value beyond the stats makes it impossible to answer the question of "who's better" with numbers.

                        Stats are real good however to be able to tell us that Ruth, Cobb, Mays and Wagner had the 4 most valuable careers in baseball history. (Excluding any decision of exactly what to do with Bonds). Once you get down to Ruth, Mays, Cobb and Wagner, you can take your pick, and not be wrong.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          --Brett I absolutely agree that those are the 4 viable candidates for best ever. They may not be the top 4, depending on how you weight things, but they have the best cases for top spot. If you don't discount Bonds for PEDs (or don't discount too heavily anyway) then he enters the pciture. Ted Williams is on the fringes of the arguement. I think you'd have to give him credit for losing his BEST years to WWII and very good ones to Korea to get him there though. He is the closest thing to Ruth as a hitter, but even if you have him slightly ahead (and slightly is the most I could imagine) he loses ground in the field and on the bases. Nobody else really has any kind of case for best ever. Although its possible A-Rod is working on such a case.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by leecemark View Post
                            --Brett I absolutely agree that those are the 4 viable candidates for best ever. They may not be the top 4, depending on how you weight things, but they have the best cases for top spot.

                            Ted Williams is on the fringes of the argument. I think you'd have to give him credit for losing his BEST years to WWII and very good ones to Korea to get him there though. He is the closest thing to Ruth as a hitter, but even if you have him slightly ahead (and slightly is the most I could imagine) he loses ground in the field and on the bases. Nobody else really has any kind of case for best ever. Although its possible A-Rod is working on such a case.
                            I happen to agree with you on this, Mark. You make common sense. And yet, you have traditionally not ranked Cobb/Wagner such.

                            Here is your rankings, as expressed by you in your "Official Member Opinions".

                            1) Mays
                            2) Ruth
                            3) Aaron
                            4) Williams
                            5) Wagner
                            6) Cobb


                            You usually ranked Cobb 7-8, but I see you have raised him to #6 here. Why still let him lag Williams/Aaron, if what you wrote above is how you really feel?

                            Were you to adjust the above to

                            1) Mays
                            2) Ruth
                            3) Wagner
                            4) Cobb
                            5) Aaron
                            6) Williams

                            you'd rejoin the mainstream, shut me up, and stop being such a minority dissenter. Finally, after all this time.
                            Last edited by Bill Burgess; 02-17-2008, 08:03 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              --Bill you can be a candidate for best ever and still rank behind some who are not. Suppose there was a SS from the 1870-80s with a 200 OPS+ and a good defensive reputation. Taken strictly at face value he would unquestionable be the best player of all time (assuming reasonable career length). Even so, I think many of us would leave him outside our top 10 due to questions about the quality of competion he put those numbers up against. That same factor makes it tougher to properly slot Wagner or Cobb or even Ruth.
                              --With no league quality discount I'd have Wagner #1 all time. However I can't ignore the fact that he dominated a severely depleted NL. His numbers have to be discounted somewhat. Does that drop him from 1 to 5? 1 to 10? Some would say even more. There is no concrete answer to that question. Cobb's leagues were better than Wagner's, but baseball was still at a fairly early stage in its evolution and we still have to try and translate his deadball achievements to a modern baseball context (or at least I do). Ruth's leagues were better than Cobb's but farm systems were still rudimentary and integration was still well into the future. He did play under mostly modern conditions, but he had a number of years where he was one of the few who fully realized and took advantage of the importance of swinging for the fences. Adjustments have to be made for that and how big an adjustment determines whether he is #1 - or just very close to #1.

                              Comment

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