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Gehrig/Hornsby: Who Was the Greater Historical Player?

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  • #16
    Cobb didn't say that Hornsby was the "worst fielder in the world".

    In his book, Cobb picked his all-time team and states that he picked Eddie Collins as number one. Of Hornsby he states, "Hornsby batted .358 lifetime, the number 2 average in the books. None of them reached Collin's class and I'll tell you why. Hornsby couldn't go in and out to bag those flies. He needed help from the shortstop and first baseman, a fatal weakness."

    Hornsby's problem with pop ups was well known. Most of the common statements from contemporary players about his defense are that he had a great arm, turned the douple play well, and was sure handed. There are a ton of statements from other players about his defense on the Hornsby thread.

    As an example, here is a statement from Charlie Grimm:

    "This greatest right handed hitter of all time had only one weakness - difficulty catching pop flies to his left. Otherwise he was a fine second baseman. For a big man, he was 5'11" and 180 pounds, he ran well. "
    "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

    Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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    • #17
      This is a tough pick for me because they are both favorites of mine. The Pride of the Yankees http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vya1NrHyXE versus the Greatest Right Handed Batter in history.

      I pick Hornsby by a slim margin.
      "Batting slumps? I never had one. When a guy hits .358, he doesn't have slumps."

      Rogers Hornsby, 1961

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      • #18
        From what I can tell, Hornsby was a good fielder. He had one weakness, but when you can easily identify the one weakness, you can accomodate for it. You can shift where people play a little bit, and/or have another player cover it. If he has trouble with popups to his left, all it takes is a good fielding 1Bman or RFer, and you should be fine (and good fielding was much more common at 1B in his day, from what I've heard).

        I do think Gehrig should get some extra credit since the only thing that stopped him was an extremely rare and debilitating disease. It's hard to say how much, though. And I give more credit for peak than career, so I go with Hornsby (and I might go with Hornsby for career as well).
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDxgNjMTPIs

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        • #19
          These are two of my favorite players. I have been more of an advocate for Hornsby's case the last couple of years because I felt he was getting a raw deal from Bill James and a few of the posters on this forum. However, I also think Gehrig is underrated by some on this forum.

          When it comes to ranking, the main argument used against both Gehrig and Hornsby by some posters is that the end of their careers were truncated so they don't have as many plate appearances as some of the other greats.

          I don't think that this criticism is really relevant to ranking either Gehrig or Hornsby. Gehrig's career was stopped due to illness as we all know. Given all the great years Gehrig had, does anyone seriously think that Gehrig wouldn't have had a few more outstanding years, as his career was winding to a close, if he hadn't gotten ill? I find it difficult to understand why some will rate lesser players over Gehrig simply because they have more career plate appearances, even though he was far better than some of these players during the core years of his career.

          In the case of Hornsby, prior to having the managership and co-ownership of his team thrust upon him while at the peak of his career at age 29, Hornsby had just won 6 straight batting championships. After that Hornsby spent much of his remaining career as a player-manager, saddled with the pressure of managing and directing teams as well as playing a tough middle infield position. The pressures and responsibilities of managing obviously impacted to some extent his stats, and it also curtailed the length of his playing career as Hornsby's primary focus thereafter was managing. After being made a manager mid way through the 1925 season, he was a manager in 1926, an interim manager for a large chunk of 1927, a manager again in 1928, a manager again at the end of 1930, and from 1931 on. It is probably no coincidence that the one season he didn't have the responsiblity of managing during that period, 1929, he was once again totally dominant as a player and MVP of the league.

          Both Hornsby and Gehrig have similar at bat and PA numbers, with Gehrig having a slightly higher adjusted OPS+ (6 points if you use the Offical Encyclpeia and 4 points if you use baseball reference.com). On the other hand, Hornsby was much more dominant as a hitter, leading his league in OPS+ 12 times compared to 3 for Gehrig, though obviously part of the reason for that is that Gehrig was competing in the first decade of his career with the greatest player of all time, Babe Ruth, though he also got the benefit of batting in the order next to him all those years.

          I give Hornsby the edge as a player, however I think the narrative of "Lou Gehrig's story" is more important to the history of baseball than is Hornsby.

          Given the important defensive positions that Hornsby played, I think Hornsby's offensive numbers relative to his league are just stunning. Below is a chart which I posted a while back on the Hornsby thread which shows just how dominant Hornsby was relative to this postions he played.


          OPS+ POSITION COMPARISON CHART FOR HORNSBY'S CAREER

          The chart below covers each of Hornsby's 15 seasons as a full time player. For each of Hornsby's seasons as a full time player the chart shows how Hornsby compared to the other players at the position he primarily played during each season

          P=position (in this column is listed the position Hornsby primarily played that season)

          LR=league ranking (the number in this column is Hornsby's ranking in terms of OPS+ in comparision to the entire league)

          PR=position ranking (the number in this column is Hornsby's ranking in terms of OPS+ in comparison to all the other players in the league who played his position that season)

          PANHP=Points above next highest player (the number in this column compares Hornsby's OPS+ to the player in the league with the next highest OPS+ who played the same position as Hornsby)

          Points above average for rest of league at position-for each season the OPS+ numbers of the other seven starters at the position Hornsby played have been added together and then divided by seven to obtain the average of the other players in the league who played the same position as Hornsby-the last column in the chart lists the number of points Hornsby's OPS+ was above the league average of the other 7 starters at the position Hornsby played each season.

          Year--P--OPS+-LR--PR--PANHP-----Points above avg of rest of league at position

          1916-3B--150--2---1---18 points--50.4 points over rest of league avg at position

          1917-SS--170--1---1---59 points--84.0 points over rest of league avg at position

          1918-SS--138--1---1----5 points--50.7 points over rest of league avg at position

          1919-3B--154--6---1----3 points--59.0 points over rest of league avg at position

          1920-2B--190--1---1---83 points-100.0 points over rest of league avg at position

          1921-2B--191--1---1---89 points-108.7 points over rest of league avg at position

          1922-2B--210--1---1---83 points-120.9 points over rest of league avg at position

          1923-2B--188--1---1---55 points--90.3 points over rest of league avg at position

          1924-2B--223--1---1---91 points-119.1 points over rest of league avg at position

          1925-2B--208--1---1---96 points-119.2 points over rest of league avg at position

          1926-2B--123-14---1---17 points--34.7 points over rest of league avg at position

          1927-2B--176--1---1---51 points--82.3 points over rest of league avg at position

          1928-2B--204--1---1---96 points-116.3 points over rest of league avg at position

          1929-2B--178--1---1---38 points--88.9 points over rest of league avg at position

          1931-2B--162--1---1---39 points--95.0 points over rest of league avg at position

          Total----823 points (54.9 points of OPS+ per season over next highest player at his position)

          Total--1,319.5 points (90.0 points of OPS+ per season over average of rest of players in league playing at his position

          The above chart shows:

          In Hornsby's 15 seasons as a full time player Hornsby led the entire league in OPS+ 12 times, finished 2nd once, 6th once, and 14th once.

          In every one of Hornsby's 15 full time seasons as a player he lead all other players at his position in OPS+

          During Hornsby's career as a full-time player he averaged 54.9 points of OPS+ more than any other player in the league playing his position ]

          During Hornsby's career as a full-time player he averaged 90 points of OPS+ more than the average of the other players in the league who played his position

          Even in the two seasons that Hornsby played injured all season (1918 & 1926) he still lead all other players in the league at his position in OPS+



          c JRB

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          Last edited by JRB : 12-16-2007 at 05:39 PM.


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          #262 12-16-2007
          Last edited by JRB; 03-16-2008, 01:01 PM.

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          • #20
            Two giants of the game with similar career lengths. I don't think you could fault anyone on their choice here,but I am with the Rajah.
            Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball

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            • #21
              Originally posted by KCGHOST View Post
              Two giants of the game with similar career lengths. I don't think you could fault anyone on their choice here,but I am with the Rajah.
              It's the Rajah, moving up on the outside, inching ahead by a nose!

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              • #22
                Originally posted by EdTarbusz View Post
                I don't think that opinion means much. How often would Cobb have seen Hornsby's defense? Maybe in Spring Training and possibly a few exhibition games?
                In "Clearing the Bases" Allen Barra notes that Cobb didn't like the fact that Hornsby was supposedly afraid of being spiked, so he let the Shortstop take the throws to 2nd. Barra concludes that his fear of being spiked would have earned him Cobb's contempt right there.
                “There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and to shame the devil.” Walter Lippmann

                "Fill in any figure you want for that boy (Mantle). Whatever the figure, it's a deal." - Branch Rickey

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by 1905 Giants View Post
                  In "Clearing the Bases" Allen Barra notes that Cobb didn't like the fact that Hornsby was supposedly afraid of being spiked, so he let the Shortstop take the throws to 2nd. Barra concludes that his fear of being spiked would have earned him Cobb's contempt right there.
                  You rarely hear about Cobb being complimentary when talking about any other player, including the Babe. If Cobb said something negative about Hornsby, I wouldn't necessarily put much stock in it.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by blackout805 View Post
                    ty cobb said Hornsby was the worst defensive second basemen in the world


                    gehrig had a nice rep as a gloveman from accounts I've read
                    Bill James gave Gehrig a B- as a defensive 1B and Hornsby a C as a defensive 2B. I don't see that as a big enough advantage for Lou to outweight the positional advantage that Hornsby has.

                    Since Lou's OPS+ is only 4 points higher than Hornsby, I'd give my vote to the Rajah when you factor in the positional advantage and Hornsby's greater foot speed.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by Otis Nixon's Bodyguard View Post
                      You rarely hear about Cobb being complimentary when talking about any other player, including the Babe. If Cobb said something negative about Hornsby, I wouldn't necessarily put much stock in it.
                      Actually, Ty said some extremely flattering to some players. In 1914, he called Wagner the greatest player in the game. Later, he called Eddie Collins the greatest player ever.

                      He called Sisler the perfect player. He raved about Walter Johnson, Joe Jackson, Tris Speaker, and a lot of others. And later, he did give the Babe his respect, after they had retired. Matty and Wagner were his idols.

                      Much later he praised Camanella, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams.

                      Here is an article he wrote in May, 1959.
                      http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...&postcount=189

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                      • #26
                        It looks like The Rajah took The Pride of the Yankees by a pretty fair margin. I had expected it to be much closer.

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                        • #27
                          I have to give a slight edge to Hornsby. Gehrig was a great hitter, no doubt. But there are plenty of great hitting 1B. How many 2B hit like Hornsby? Rogers was terrible in the field, maybe average. He suffers a lot in comps to other great 2B like Collins, Lajoie, Robinson, Gehringer, Morgan (overrated defensively), because they were great defensive players.

                          Gehrig was an average defensive player at a postion that wasn't know for it's defensive needs. Hornsby played a much more defensive position.

                          Hornsby was faster. However, Gehrig was no slouch in base running. While he may not have been what you would call fast, he had great instincts, knowing when he could take the extra base and so forth. So Rogers speed advantage is trumped by Gehrig's instincts. A wash.

                          Since they are so close in hitting, Gehrig slighly ahead, I go with Hornsby because of the position.

                          Yankees Fan Since 1957

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