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How Great Was Lefty Grove?

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  • Grove pitched 447 innings against the White Sox and Red Sox from 1928-1932. He went 45-8 with an ERA of 2.45. Worst two offensive teams, by far, in the American League during those years.

    During the same years, his own clearly inferiour teammate, Rube Walberg, pitched only 266 innings against the White Sox and Red Sox and went 22-8 with an ERA of 3.15.

    On the other hand, against the Yankees, same years, Grove pitched only 161 innings against the Yankees, going 10-10 with an ERA of 4.71.

    Walberg pitched 214 innings against the Yankees, and went 11-11, with a 4.94 ERA.

    When one looks harder...it is quite clear that Lefty Grove is incredibly overrated. The greatest pitcher of all time, or very close to it, would not have a record like Grove and Walberg had, same years, same team. Grove would be beating the best teams far more than the second or third best pitcher on the team, not vice versa.

    Most of Grove's legacy rests on his (ostensibly) unbelievable peak. However, it wasn't nearly as impressive as his ERA+ or WAR (or any other omni metric) would lead one to believe.

    And, Rube Walberg and Lefty Grove prove ERA+ is useless without looking deeper.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Floyd Gondolli View Post
      Grove pitched 447 innings against the White Sox and Red Sox from 1928-1932. He went 45-8 with an ERA of 2.45. Worst two offensive teams, by far, in the American League during those years.

      During the same years, his own clearly inferiour teammate, Rube Walberg, pitched only 266 innings against the White Sox and Red Sox and went 22-8 with an ERA of 3.15.

      On the other hand, against the Yankees, same years, Grove pitched only 161 innings against the Yankees, going 10-10 with an ERA of 4.71.

      Walberg pitched 214 innings against the Yankees, and went 11-11, with a 4.94 ERA.

      When one looks harder...it is quite clear that Lefty Grove is incredibly overrated. The greatest pitcher of all time, or very close to it, would not have a record like Grove and Walberg had, same years, same team. Grove would be beating the best teams far more than the second or third best pitcher on the team, not vice versa.

      Most of Grove's legacy rests on his (ostensibly) unbelievable peak. However, it wasn't nearly as impressive as his ERA+ or WAR (or any other omni metric) would lead one to believe.

      And, Rube Walberg and Lefty Grove prove ERA+ is useless without looking deeper.
      For his career Grove was 34-26 against the Yankees, who win 9 AL pennants during his 17 year career. He completed 39 of 69 starts. He pitched 553 innings against the Yankees, which was in line with his workload against the majority of teams. His ERA against the Yankees was 3.85. During his career the AL average ERA was 4.42. Grove didn't dominate the Yankees- nobody did, as far as I know- but his overall record against them was quite good.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by BigRon View Post

        For his career Grove was 34-26 against the Yankees..
        I'm referencing 1929-1936 specifically, and Grove and Ferrell, specifically.

        Comment


        • What makes Grove stand out for me was the fact that he was so head and shoulders above his competition, for basically his entire prime. A Gomez or Harder would have an occasional great season and beat his ERA, and a young Feller came along during the end, but overall there was nobody even close. All the other all timer pitchers were part of a group of contemporaries who were all pretty close together. It may just be a historical coincidence, but I have my doubts.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by willshad View Post
            What makes Grove stand out for me was the fact that he was so head and shoulders above his competition, for basically his entire prime.
            It's really easy to be (only ostensibly) be head and shoulders above all your peers while you beat up on the worst teams in the league while hardly facing the best two teams in the league, for many years, during your entire prime.

            That's what Grove did. See post 107.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Floyd Gondolli View Post

              It's really easy to be (only ostensibly) be head and shoulders above all your peers while you beat up on the worst teams in the league while hardly facing the best two teams in the league, for many years, during your entire prime.

              That's what Grove did. See post 107.
              You are a complete broken record, but for crying out loud, no one buys it.
              "The first draft of anything is crap." - Ernest Hemingway

              There's no such thing as an ultimate stat.

              Comment


              • Lefty Grove's career should be looked at in two stages, the Philly years and the Boston years, as his usage differed in both (not just versus the Yankees, but against all teams). With Philadelphia, he started 267 games and was used out of the bullpen in 135 games...so one relief appearance for every two starts. However in Boston, he started 190 games and only came out of the bullpen 24 times. Of those 24 relief appearances, 10 were in his first year (1934), where he had a sore arm most of the year, and had a weird usage pattern/was injured all year (only 109 innings). In effect, with Boston he was a starter only.

                Between 1929-1936, he started 229 games, so by standard division, we'd expect 33 games started versus the Yankees if everything was random. In that time frame he started 29 games versus the Yankees, so a bit under expectations, but nothing radical.

                For the A's, Grove rarely was held to a strict 4-man or 5-man rotation, regardless of the teams faced. He was used as a closer and pressure specialist besides a starter. Double headers also affected his usage.


                From 1925-1933, in the A's years, here are his games/usage:

                1925: 45 games total, 18 starts
                1926: 45 games total, 33 starts
                1927: 51 games total, 28 starts
                1928: 39 games total, 31 starts
                1929: 42 games total, 37 starts
                1930: 50 games total, 32 starts
                1931: 41 games total, 30 starts
                1932: 44 games total, 30 starts
                1933: 45 games total, 28 starts


                Breaking it down by year further vs. the Yankees

                1925: 4 starts, 2 relief appearances. 14.2 inning start, 1 ER, loss, 1-0 A's Loss; 2 ER Complete Game win, 4 ER Complete Game win; 6 ER in 4 inning start, loss; 4 ER in 4 innings relief (win); 2 ER in 0.2 inning blown save loss....well above average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (41 innings, 4 starts vs 197 total innings, 18 total starts)

                1926: 45 games total, 33 starts. Complete Game with one unearned run (win); Complete Game with one unearned run (win); Complete Game with one ER (win); Complete Game with 3 earned runs (loss); Complete Game with 3 earned runs (win); 4 ER in 1.2 inning start (team loss); 2 ER in 4 inning start (back half of double header); 1 batter walk relief appearance; 1 ER three inning save....well above average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (53 innings, 7 starts vs 258 total innings, 33 total starts)

                1927: 51 games total, 28 starts. 8 innings with 5 earned runs (win); Complete Game shutout (win); Complete Game 8 ER (cheap 9-8 win); ; 5 earned runs in 2 relief innings (loss); 2 ER in 5 inning start, 3 ER in 6 inning start (loss); 1 scoreless 10 inning in a tie....slightly above average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (40 innings, 5 starts vs 262 total innings, 28 total starts);

                1928: 39 games total, 31 starts. 4 ER in Complete Game (loss); 5 ER in Complete Game (loss); 5 ER in 7 inning start (loss); 1 ER in 2-1 Complete Game (win); 4 ER in 6 inning start (loss); 6 ER in 8 inning start (loss); 5 ER in 3 inning start (loss); 2 strikeouts to close out save...well above average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (50 innings, 7 starts vs 262 total innings, 31 total starts)

                1929: 42 games total, 37 starts. 1 ER in Complete Game (win); 3 ER in 5 inning Complete Game (win); 0 runs in 3 inning start; 7 runs (3 earned) in 6 inning start (loss); 5 runs (3 earned) in 5.1 inning start; 0 runs in 3 inning save; 0 runs in 1 inning save; 0 runs in 1 relief inning...slightly below average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (33 innings, 5 starts vs 275 total innings, 37 total starts)

                1930: 50 games total, 32 starts. 1 ER in Complete Game (win); 6 ER/8 runs in 2.1 innings (loss); 0 runs in four out save; 0 runs in two out save; 1 run in two inning save; 1 run in 1.1 inning relief effort...noticeably and extremely well below average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (17 innings, 2 starts vs 291 total innings, 32 total starts)

                1931: 41 games total, 30 starts. 2 runs in Complete Game (win); 4 ER in 3 inning start (loss); 4 ER in 5.1 inning start (win); 0 runs in 2 inning relief (win); 0 runs in 2.1 inning save...noticeably and extremely well below average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (22 innings, 3 starts vs 289 total innings, 30 total starts)

                1932: 44 games total, 30 starts. 9 ER in Complete Game (loss); one run in 8 inning start (win); 7 ER in Complete Game (cheap win); 2 runs in Complete Game (win); 4 runs (3 earned) in 6 inning start (loss); 2 runs in one inning blown save....average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (41 innings, 5 starts vs 291 total innings, 30 total starts);

                1933: 45 games total, 28 starts. 7 ER in Complete Game (loss); 5 ER in Complete Game (win); Complete Game shutout (win); 6 run/4ER in 6 inning start; 1 hit in 0.2 inning blown save...slightly below average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (33 innings, 4 starts vs 275 total innings, 28 total starts)

                1934: Sample size too small due to injury

                1935 (Boston): 35 games total, 30 starts. 4 ER in Complete Game (win); 3 ER in Complete Game (win); Complete Game shutout (win)...below average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (27 innings, 3 starts vs 273 total innings, 30 total starts)

                1936 (Boston): 35 games total, 30 starts. 2 runs in Complete Game (win); 3 ER in 12.2 Complete Game (loss); Complete Game shutout (win); 1 run in Complete Game (win); 3 ER in 7 inning start; 4 ER/5 run in 5 inning start; 4 ER in 8 inning start (loss)...extremely well above average usage against Yankees versus expected averages (60 innings, 7 starts vs 253 total innings, 30 total starts)



                Looking at the patterns, we see that obviously in 1930 and 1931, Grove was not used much against the Yankees. Excluding those two years, there was no pattern of him being held out specifically against the Yankees. Excluding 1930 and 1931 Grove was used more against the Yankees than would be expected in a random pattern. The rest of his career, especially 1925, 1926, 1928, 1936 balance out years where he didn't pitch as much against the Yankees, primarily 1930 and 1931 but also 1935.

                If someone were to discount Grove's performances against the Yankees in 1930 and 1931, then Grove should be given extra credit in other years. At worst, Grove's 1930 and 1931 years can be adjusted downwards, but in my opinion no other Grove year can legitimately downgraded.

                Lastly, keep in mind the baseball season has a lot of irregularities (off days, rain outs, scheduling conflicts, etc.). For most of the years shown above, Grove's usage probably can be attributed in large part to randomness. Only in 1930 and 1931 does there appear to be any Grove particular usage pattern versus the Yankees that we wouldn't expect to see of any top notch pitcher (i.e. a standard rotation or being used versus the best team).
                Last edited by Toledo Inquisition; 01-25-2021, 11:59 AM.
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                Comment


                • Originally posted by Toledo Inquisition View Post
                  Only in 1930 and 1931 does there appear to be any Grove particular usage pattern versus the Yankees that we wouldn't expect to see of any top notch pitcher (i.e. a standard rotation or being used versus the best team).
                  Again, I'm referencing his dispersion of innings, 1929-1936, against the best two teams, and versus the worst two teams. Nobody- including Dick Thompson- ever made the claim that Grove was held back against the Yankees in any other timeframe then 1929-1931. (His best years, incidentally).

                  Also, specifically, the comparison is being made with Wes Ferrell, 1929-1936. Who has never had a chance in Hell of getting in the Hall of Fame, when he was every bit the pitcher Grove was, 1929-1936, even if WAR can't account for the ocean of disparity in whom they faced, and how often.

                  Or, Grove juxtaposed with his other teammate, Rube Walberg, who was cannon fodder for the best teams while Grove was beating up on the worst teams with amazing regularity.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Floyd Gondolli View Post

                    Again, I'm referencing his dispersion of innings, 1929-1936, against the best two teams, and versus the worst two teams. Nobody- including Dick Thompson- ever made the claim that Grove was held back against the Yankees in any other timeframe then 1929-1931. (His best years, incidentally).

                    Also, specifically, the comparison is being made with Wes Ferrell, 1929-1936. Who has never had a chance in Hell of getting in the Hall of Fame, when he was every bit the pitcher Grove was, 1929-1936, even if WAR can't account for the ocean of disparity in whom they faced, and how often.

                    Or, Grove juxtaposed with his other teammate, Rube Walberg, who was cannon fodder for the best teams while Grove was beating up on the worst teams with amazing regularity.
                    Excluding 1930/1931, there isn't a discrepancy that I am seeing. Maybe I am missing something, but his innings are normal from 1929-1936 except for 1930/1931. Take 1929 for example....54 innings versus the second best team (Indians). 1930, 47 innings versus the second best team (the Senators). 54 innings versus the worst team (Red Sox) and 36 versus the second worst team (White Sox). I don't see the issue. Do the stats without 1930/1931, which I agree are skewed without the Yankees. For the rest of his career, he faced a little more of the best teams. I think this 1929-1936 analysis is skewed greatly by these two years, which I agree with your point...although I don't that it is too big an issue considering the rest of his career where he faced more of the powerful Yankees.
                    The Padres should bring back Bruce Bochy as manager.
                    Play the Who am I? game in trivia and you can make this signature line yours for 3 days (baseball signatures only!)

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                    Go here for all your 1920's/1930's OF info

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Toledo Inquisition View Post
                      Excluding 1930/1931, there isn't a discrepancy that I am seeing.
                      Maybe you missed the earlier posts. Most from years ago from WJackman (author and SABR Award Winner Dick Thompson).

                      Again, Ferrell and Grove. 1929-1936.

                      The A's and Yankees averaged an amazing 5.85 runs per game during this entire span:

                      --Ferrell pitched 618.1 innings and went 40-37.

                      --Grove pitched only 322.0 innings and went 24-11 on much, much better teams.

                      The Red Sox and White Sox were the worst two offensive teams, averaging 4.4 runs per game:

                      --Ferrell pitched 362.4 innings and went 42-13.

                      --Grove pitched 482.2 innings and went 50-12.

                      But "on paper", here is the cheap and all too easy (and, clearly, in this case, inaccurate) numbers everyone barks as a "Mic Drop" here:

                      Grove ERA+ 158, Ferrell 128.

                      Grove WAR 66.1, Ferrell 49.2

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Floyd Gondolli View Post

                        Maybe you missed the earlier posts. Most from years ago from WJackman (author and SABR Award Winner Dick Thompson).

                        Again, Ferrell and Grove. 1929-1936.

                        The A's and Yankees averaged an amazing 5.85 runs per game during this entire span:

                        --Ferrell pitched 618.1 innings and went 40-37.

                        --Grove pitched only 322.0 innings and went 24-11 on much, much better teams.

                        The Red Sox and White Sox were the worst two offensive teams, averaging 4.4 runs per game:

                        --Ferrell pitched 362.4 innings and went 42-13.

                        --Grove pitched 482.2 innings and went 50-12.

                        But "on paper", here is the cheap and all too easy (and, clearly, in this case, inaccurate) numbers everyone barks as a "Mic Drop" here:

                        Grove ERA+ 158, Ferrell 128.

                        Grove WAR 66.1, Ferrell 49.2
                        Pardon my pointing this out, but 42-13 and 362.4 innings ain't too shabby either.
                        "The first draft of anything is crap." - Ernest Hemingway

                        There's no such thing as an ultimate stat.

                        Comment


                        • By the way, here's some stats about Ferrell that you probably like to forget.

                          H/9: 9.8
                          Walked more than he struck out
                          4.04 ERA lifetime
                          "The first draft of anything is crap." - Ernest Hemingway

                          There's no such thing as an ultimate stat.

                          Comment


                          • I'll read the whole thread in the next day or two and will respond.
                            The Padres should bring back Bruce Bochy as manager.
                            Play the Who am I? game in trivia and you can make this signature line yours for 3 days (baseball signatures only!)

                            Go here for a link to all player links! http://www.baseball-fever.com/forum/...player-threads

                            Go here for all your 1920's/1930's OF info

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Ubiquitous View Post
                              I haven't read all of the posts but I'm sure Dick Thompson's work has been mentioned as a strike against Grove. Sadly Thompson is no longer with us but that doesn't mean he was right. His views on Grove were off and a bit misleading. Check out Chris Jaffe's work, he did an excellent job disproving much of Thompsons views on Grove.
                              Chris Jaffe's work on Grove is totally misleading because he used starts, rather than innings pitched. All totally archaic, ancient history in the Stathead/Statmuse Era of the 2020's.

                              Comment


                              • Remember, I can shave 750 feet off the top of Mnt. Everest, and it would still be the tallest mountain in the world. I could shave-off half-a-mile and it would still be top-10.
                                Last edited by Bothrops Atrox; 01-26-2021, 06:38 PM.
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