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How Great Was Lefty Grove?

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  • #61
    Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
    I just wanted to correct a misconception about what Grove's prime was.
    10-4......

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    • #62
      Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
      10-4......
      Que? You'll have to clarify this code for me, Chris.
      "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

      - Alvin Dark

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      • #63
        Regarding the LQ issue, I simply have no idea how to adjust, so I play it safe. I am probably more conservative than I need to be, though I try to maintain good balance. I could argue a spot for Pedro and Spahnie in the top ten, and maybe even Smokey Joe Williams, if I wanted to reach back to the old days again.
        "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

        - Alvin Dark

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        • #64
          Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
          Detroit's pitching was not that great, you're correct. However everyone else in the league got to face them and didn't do what Ruth did. Furthermore, we also need to consider three factors. 1) Due to the Ruth/Cobb rivalry, Ruth no doubt stepped up his game against Detroit more-so than against other teams. 2) The opposite of Yankee Stadium, Navin is infamous for having an excellent hitters backdrop. 3) As you know from reading the Jenkinson book, the ball travels very well in Detroit compared to other parks, historically speaking.
          As to number 1, I agree with Ruth stepping it up. Both of them did.

          Nobody did what Ruth did because nobody ever could or probably ever will be as good at hitting the long ball.

          I wasn't typing that to detract from Babe. I pointed it out to exemplify that the Tigers' pitching was indeed lousy, and gave up a ton of homers, especially given that Navin Field was not a good park for left handed home run hitters. Their were other staffs that pitched in much better homer parks for lefties than Tiger Stadium (St. Louis!!!) but Ruth hit Detroit the hardest.

          I don't have Schell's park factors, but I'd be interested to see the left handed HR factor during Ruth's career. I know it's generally been good for average and run scoring.
          Attached Files

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          • #65
            Originally posted by AstrosFan View Post
            Que? You'll have to clarify this code for me, Chris.
            Sorry. "10-4" is CB radio lingo for "understood" or "message received".

            Comment


            • #66
              This might appear to be a total tangent, but it really isn't. And also, since basically everything I've posted has been detracting from Grove, I thought it would be fair for me to post something in support of him.

              Based on the persuasion used below, a case could be made that Grove was greater than all of the pitchers from before 1920, including Walter Johnson. Although Ed makes Big Train seem more monolithic than he was (he wasn't a one pitch pitcher, and his fastball had significant movement), his message resonates with me.

              Because of the park, conditions, and style of hitters, Grove had to worry about automatic run(s) put on the board. Not nearly as much as Spahn, who pitched when hitters were going for homers much more than they were in the 20's and 30's, but much more than Walter Johnson. Big Train gave up 97 homers in 6000 innings; a big part of this was his park.

              Factoids:

              1. Eddie Yost- in his first 5 years, before they changed the dimensions, he hit 2 homers at home and 44 on the road. He had only 23 career home runs hit at home in those years at Washington 1944-1958. He hit 101 total over that stretch.

              2. Goose Goslin and Griffith:
              31 homers at home 94 on the road. In 1926 he hit 17 on the road and 0 at home.

              Does anyone know of the percentage of position players and/or pitcher handedness by decade???


              Originally posted by Metal Ed View Post
              It depends on what you mean by greater. I could easily make a case for Spahn being better, if we are talking about skill. Walter Johnson has the higher value, Spahn was more skilled.

              Walter Johnson or Warren Spahn.... to me this is like Babe Ruth vs. Ty Cobb.

              Clearly, the Babe had a higher mathematical value than Ty Cobb (OK, Cobb had a higher offensive Win Shares total, but Babe crushes him in Win Shares/per game). But who was better? Well, in terms of value at the time that they played, the Babe. But I would argue that this was only because the Babe played under the one set of circumstances that were ideally suited to maximizing the value of his particular skill set. Cobb's skill set was easily greater, but he didn't have the luck of having the perfect set of circumstances like the Babe did. Babe's skill set was morelimited than Cobb's. But the Babe played under conditions that maximized the value of his more limited skill set. Under a different set of conditions, Ty would've been better.

              There is no question whatsoever that Walter Johnson was a more valuable pitcher than Spahn.... in fact, there is little doubt Walter was a more valuable pitcher than anybody who ever lived. But that is because the game was working for him. Imagine the situation. Here Johnson is throwing 95-100 mph. Hardly anyone else in the league at the time could even crack 90 mph. And they didn't have batting machines feeding them 100 mph color-coded tennis balls all off season long. When Johnson pitched, the hitters were seeing something they had never seen before, and were hopelessly overmatched. There was simply not enough time in a 2 hour game to adjust their bat speed - not when only a handful of pitchers in the league were even within 5 mph of Sir Walter.

              The hitters' precious reflexes simply hadn't had the opportunity to be honed and sharpened against a steady diet of 95-100 mph offerings.

              And that was all Johnson had - speed and control. He didn't master his curve until well into his later years, when time had robbed him of some of his speed. And his curve was never thought of as being amongst the best in the world.

              Like Babe Ruth, Johnson was a beneficiary of circumstance. He played in an era of 160 lb. hitters whose mechanical skills were nowhere near those of later generations. He played in Griffith Satdium, a pitcher's paradise. He threw a ball so lifeless and so dead, to hitters so weak, in a park so big, in a generation so bereft of uppercuts, that it didn't matter if he left it right in the middle of the plate - it was simply not going out of the park. Rarely could the poor hitter even manage to center the ball on the sweet spot of the bat. That's what happens when your reflexes have been sharpened against 75-85 mph fastballs for your whole career but you suddenly are asked to adjust to a 95 mph fastball.

              Put him in a different environment, and watch him squirm. Can you imagine a starting pitcher with only one good pitch in the modern game? He'd have to develop a better breaking ball and/or change-up. A lot of BB fans like to just assume that he would've. Why simply make that assumption? Is that a fair assumption? Has every pitcher who needed a good second pitch been able to develop one? Well, no. Not at all. Some do and some don't.

              Warren Spahn had far more skills than Johnson. He just didn't play in an environment that exploited his skills like Johnson did. Spahnie had a good fastball, not as good as Johnson's, but good. He had better breaking balls and many more types of breaking balls. And he had a phenomenal change-up. He was smart, cunning and knew how to pitch. Every pitch had a purpose, everything had a design. Walter Johnson was an idiot savant for his time. There was no thinking necessary for him. The only thinking he had to do was to decide whether to throw the fastball, or the really fastball.

              Under different sets of circumstances, Spahn could easily have been better. If I had my choice right now in 2005 between the two of them - which one I think could better adapt their games to the modern era - it would be Spahn. Let today's hitters tee off on Sir Walter's straight-as-an-arrow, you-know-what's-coming-because-it's-all-he-has 95 mph fastball; it's nothing that about 30 or 50 other guys in the league don't have. Today's hitters would have a much more difficult time adjusting to Spahnnie's change, slider and curve.

              That'll be two cents please.

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              • #67
                Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                As to number 1, I agree with Ruth stepping it up. Both of them did.

                Nobody did what Ruth did because nobody ever could or probably ever will be as good at hitting the long ball.

                I wasn't typing that to detract from Babe. I pointed it out to exemplify that the Tigers' pitching was indeed lousy, and gave up a ton of homers, especially given that Navin Field was not a good park for left handed home run hitters. Their were other staffs that pitched in much better homer parks for lefties than Tiger Stadium (St. Louis!!!) but Ruth hit Detroit the hardest.

                I don't have Schell's park factors, but I'd be interested to see the left handed HR factor during Ruth's career. I know it's generally been good for average and run scoring.
                The Tigers pitching overall was not very good but they were some where in the middle giving up home runs.
                1915-1934

                Home runs given up AL.

                Browns-----------1380
                A's---------------1218
                Yanks------------1186
                White Sox--------1114
                Tigers------------1110
                Bosox-------------943
                Washington-------880
                Cleveland---------874

                I would like to see the splits, Tiger pitching against Ruth in Detroit and New York. I have the notion it was the park in Detroit more than the Tiger pitching that was responsible for that high number of home runs in play with the Tigers. Both but more so the park than the pitching
                Last edited by SHOELESSJOE3; 02-24-2008, 04:34 PM.

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                • #68
                  How can a list of 10 pitchers not have Bob Gibson on it.

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                  • #69
                    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                    Sorry. "10-4" is CB radio lingo for "understood" or "message received".
                    Ach so . . .
                    "Any pitcher who throws at a batter and deliberately tries to hit him is a communist."

                    - Alvin Dark

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
                      I have the notion it was the park in Detroit more than the Tiger pitching that was responsible for that high number of home runs in play with the Tigers. Both but more so the park than the pitching
                      That is my point. Most hitters have somewhere on the road they just feel good hitting in. Detroit and St. Louis seemed to be that way for Babe. Put him up against the Yankees staff or any other staff you can come up with, and he's still gonna be Babe Ruth. I don't get the whole thing with docking a player because they didn't face their own pitchers. Over-thinking what doesn't need to be thought about imo.


                      Chris, regarding Grove. You obviously have an agenda when it comes to him and that's fine. But what exactly are you trying to prove, or better still, what would you like to see done to his legacy? We know Grove was an absolute prick. Nobody would deny that. As a Cobb fanatic however, I would think you, more than anybody, would appreciate and understand how a players attitude can fuel their play. We know that Grove was screwed by being held down in the minors. At least two more ERA titles more than likely were lost due to this. We also know that as a lefty he pitched in brutal hitter friendly parks and pitched in a hitters era. So know all of this, what would you like to see done here? Take away an entire ERA title because of the couple years of non-usage against the Yanks? Consider everything. None of the stuff you're throwing around makes a dent in his legacy. No personality issue matters and being held off the Yanks for a couple years matters little imo. If you've read up on Mack, he is famous for his strange usage of players. Starting a former University of California halfback rookie named Sam Chapman in centerfield in 1938, which immediately cost pitcher Kelley an error is one example. Kelley slammed his glove against the wall and shouted bleeps about fresh college players, directed at Mack. Starting the old Ehmke in the first game of the
                      '29 Series over Grove and Earnshaw, is another strange call. The examples go on and on. He was a genius when it came to spotting talent and having patience with that talent, even through growing pains, but standard by-the-book he was not. Grove was as competitive as they came. I doubt very seriously that he would ask to be held back from Ruth/Gehrig. More than anything, imo, Grove was waiting in the wings, ready for Mack to send him in against lefties Ruth/Gehrig if need be in a crucial spot.
                      Last edited by Sultan_1895-1948; 02-24-2008, 08:14 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
                        I have the notion it was the park in Detroit more than the Tiger pitching that was responsible for that high number of home runs in play with the Tigers. Both but more so the park than the pitching
                        If I remember right, the number against Detroit, 123 or 122, it's almost a dead split. Home away from home if you will. He hit pretty well against Philly too. In 1922 he hit 4 homers in three games against Philly. How bout this for a stretch against Philly. Eight straight homers against that team. On 5/21/30 they played a double header. First game Ruth hits two bombs off Earnshaw, then one off Grove in the eighth inning. Three in that one game. The next day another double header. In the first game he hits one off Ehmke in the third inning and another off Rommel in the fourth inning. In the second game that day, he hits one off Quinn in the second inning. On the 24th, another double header against Philly, and Ruth homers off Quinn again. In the second game that day he homers off Walberg. Not sure if that's ever been done. Eight straight homers by one player against one team. And all in a six game stretch.

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                        • #72
                          Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                          If I remember right, the number against Detroit, 123 or 122, it's almost a dead split. Home away from home if you will. He hit pretty well against Philly too. In 1922 he hit 4 homers in three games against Philly. How bout this for a stretch against Philly. Eight straight homers against that team. On 5/21/30 they played a double header. First game Ruth hits two bombs off Earnshaw, then one off Grove in the eighth inning. Three in that one game. The next day another double header. In the first game he hits one off Ehmke in the third inning and another off Rommel in the fourth inning. In the second game that day, he hits one off Quinn in the second inning. On the 24th, another double header against Philly, and Ruth homers off Quinn again. In the second game that day he homers off Walberg. Not sure if that's ever been done. Eight straight homers by one player against one team. And all in a six game stretch.
                          Thats close enough, Home Run Encyclopedia lists 60 at Tiger Stadium.

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                          • #73
                            Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                            That is my point. Most hitters have somewhere on the road they just feel good hitting in.
                            To answer the original question about Tiger Stadium and left handers for home runs..... From 1912-1922, the HR factor at Tiger Stadium was 59 (100 is average). 41% fewer homers were hit by lefties there than the average park.

                            Here's the rout- the home run factor for right handers from 1923-31 was 153 (that is, 53% more homers were hit there by right handers than average). They don't have left handed data yet for the rest of Babe's career, but I doubt it would be average, or even close to it.

                            Thus, Tiger Stadium comes out looking like a relatively neutral park for homers in Ruth's day. Yet it was awful for lefties and very good for righties (relatively speaking).

                            Of course, Cobb gets shafted in a stat like OPS+, which assumes all parks are symmetrical and affect all hitters equally.

                            Given how difficult it was to hit homers in Ruth's day in Detroit, this supports my original supposition about Detroit pitching being very poor, and giving up tons of homers.

                            Comment


                            • #74
                              Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                              Chris, regarding Grove. You obviously have an agenda when it comes to him and that's fine. But what exactly are you trying to prove, or better still, what would you like to see done to his legacy?
                              I'm just trying to give as much in-depth information as possible. I'm trying to demonstrate that Grove- at his best- wasn't nearly as great as his statistics have shown him to be for the last 75 years. More importantly, the Grove information illustrates the vital importance of usage patterns with pitchers and strength the team behind a player/pitcher. The Ferrell/Grove dichotomy serves to further buttress this principle.

                              Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                              .
                              We know Grove was an absolute prick. Nobody would deny that. As a Cobb fanatic however, I would think you, more than anybody, would appreciate and understand how a players attitude can fuel their play. We know that Grove was screwed by being held down in the minors. At least two more ERA titles more than likely were lost due to this. We also know that as a lefty he pitched in brutal hitter friendly parks and pitched in a hitters era. So know all of this, what would you like to see done here? Take away an entire ERA title because of the couple years of non-usage against the Yanks?
                              Being a general prick is one thing; being a bad teammate is another. Cobb didn't pout and leave the team for weeks on end when he didn't get his way, nor was he coddled and cow-towed to by his manager.

                              I for one would like to hear more stories about Grove's personality and him as a teammate.

                              We can't take ERA titles, batting titles, HR titles ex post facto, but we can look at things and say that there were a couple of years there when Grove wouldn't have won the ERA title- and probably wouldn't look like easily the best pitcher in baseball- had Earnshaw and Walberg not taken most of the heat. Hell, take Walberg- gave up 163 homers in his career and 17 were against Ruth alone. Rube pitched about 3 times as much against the two greatest run scoring teams of all time as Grove did.

                              As far as being held down in the minors, well, it wasn't unusual. Dimaggio and Ted Williams were held in the minors a few years too long and look at what they did when they hit the league- both premier players.

                              I'm not entirely convinced that Grove really "lost" all those years; he had no control over his fastball and was mediocre at best during his first big league season, despite the fact that he was already 25.

                              Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                              Consider everything. None of the stuff you're throwing around makes a dent in his legacy. No personality issue matters and being held off the Yanks for a couple years matters little imo. If you've read up on Mack, he is famous for his strange usage of players. Starting a former University of California halfback rookie named Sam Chapman in centerfield in 1938, which immediately cost pitcher Kelley an error is one example. Kelley slammed his glove against the wall and shouted bleeps about fresh college players, directed at Mack. Starting the old Ehmke in the first game of the '29 Series over Grove and Earnshaw, is another strange call. The examples go on and on. He was a genius when it came to spotting talent and having patience with that talent, even through growing pains, but standard by-the-book he was not.
                              I think a closer examination of his personality and relationship with his teammates is germane. Some players make others around them better with some combination of tutelage, leadership, or morale. Some are only in the game more or less for their own records. Where Grove falls on this spectrum, overall, is something that we should discuss.

                              I think Grove may have played a significant part in being benched against Murderers' Row. His temper and flare ups were notorious, and as previously noted he went 1-6 against the Yankees in 1928 with an ERA close to 6.00. For the entire period of 1928-32, his ERA against the Yankees was around 5.50, or 3 runs higher than his overall ERA. Shouldn't the best pitcher in the world do a little better against the best?

                              For example, from 1999-2004 Pedro Martinez pitched far more against the Yankees than any other team in the American League. In fact, every year, he pitched the most against the Yankees than any other team. Despite that, his ERA against them was 2.95 (overall his ERA was 2.14).

                              All I'm saying is that Grove was allowed to beat up on the worst teams much more than he should have in his triple crown seasons, he vultured wins, and pitched on much more rest than the guy who was really the best pitcher in baseball two out of those three years.

                              I don't doubt Mack's acumen, either, though, and clearly catering to his star worked to the team's advantage.

                              Originally posted by Sultan_1895-1948 View Post
                              Grove was as competitive as they came. I doubt very seriously that he would ask to be held back from Ruth/Gehrig. More than anything, imo, Grove was waiting in the wings, ready for Mack to send him in against lefties Ruth/Gehrig if need be in a crucial spot.
                              I'll have to read more about it and him. I was actually thinking of starting a project to see how Gehrig did against Grove over the course of his career. Apparently Ubiquitous went back to look at Grove and Ruth- I'm not sure how he determined how he waded through the info when Grove didn't complete games, but this is what he found.

                              Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
                              For Grove vs. Ruth I found about 129 at bats in which Ruth got 39 hits, of those hits I could find 9 homers and 1 double. Along with 17 K's and 9 walks.

                              His batting average was .313 and his SLG was .527.

                              I'm pretty sure that I am missing some at bats and this isn't the final numbers. But it is a ballpark estimate, and if I had to guess I would say both numbers might go down slightly.
                              I haven't assessed the rest of Grove's career. I'd like to switch the focus to those areas instead of continuing to rehash what we already know and have been over many times.

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                --You (via Dick Thompson) have pointed out a few occasions where Grove "vultured" wins, but that was NOT what most of his relief appearances consisted of. Grove led the league in saves in 1930. Granted it was only 9 and the stat didn't exist at the time, but he was coming in to close out close games most of his appearances. He finished the game in 17 of his 18 relief appearances - not to mention 22 of his 30 starts. In 1931 he didn't relieve quite as often, but again finished the game all but one of his relief appearance and got the save in half of them. Meanwhile he was leading the league in CG despite only getting 30 starts (27 of 30).
                                --Also you reference Grove "leaving his team for weeks at a time" as if that was something he did regularly. Looking at his record it seems unlikley he was unavailable for significant streches very often, excpecting his serious arm trouble mid-career. Perhaps some documentation of this charge is in order. Basically the entire case against Lefty Grove is that he had several seasons where Mack chose not to pitch him much against the Yankees.
                                --As to whether he could have been a great pitcher is last several years in the majors, I am certain he was. Sure he had some rough spots that first year, but that is normal when stepping up a level. It is extremely likely he could have gotten that adjustment season in at least a couple years earlier. He did lead the league in strikeouts as a rookie and was the best pitcher in the league by his second.

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