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Rube Waddell - most underrated pitcher ever?

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  • JR Hart
    replied
    I think that Kevin Brown is the most underrated, more more than
    Waddell.

    Leave a comment:


  • Floyd Gondolli
    replied
    Rube was a lot better than conventional stats suggest. In fact, he is of the greatest pitchers ever on a rate basis.

    The list below is all pitchers with at least 2,500 IP. Check out #2 on that list!!

    FIP Leaders.PNG

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  • bluesky5
    replied
    Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
    A note on DERA – in its calculation, the BP system removes all fielding support including the pitcher's own fielding. This especially matters for a few pitchers who were well below average or above average—Waddell was 25 fielding runs below average, according to the BP system. The runs lost due to a pitcher's own fielding are excluded from DERA but included in RA.
    Being a poor fielder could really hurt a pitcher in the deadball era.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    This posted by "Brent" on Baseball Think Factory:

    I think the wrong conclusion was drawn from the discussion of unearned runs. Relying on ERA+ and ignoring unearned runs distorts Waddell's record; it also distorts the records of other deadball pitchers. The conclusion should have been to stop relying on ERA+ and switch to a measure that includes unearned runs, such as RA+ or DERA. Craig Wright made this recommendation in his 1989 book, The Diamond Appraised, and it's followed by most serious sabermetricians. So I find it surprising to see so much discussion of ERA+.

    Rube's unearned runs were a giant red herring. They were not out of line with the other great pitchers of that time.

    First, I don't necessarily disagree with the second sentence; but, as I noted in my ballot comment, I think the first sentence is the wrong conclusion to have drawn from your mini-study.

    It's long been recognized that removing unearned runs is an imperfect way of correcting for the effects of defense on a pitcher's record. On the one hand, an error is just one of several defensive events that take place when an unearned run is scored, and the pitcher surely contributes to the other events; on the other hand, unearned runs don't correct at all for the effects of defensive range, ability to turn a double play, and other aspects of fielding.

    I believe Craig Wright may have been the first researcher to note that pitchers also directly affect the rate of errors and unearned runs through their pitching styles. He noted that there tend to be more errors with ground ball pitchers than with fly-ball pitchers, that strikeouts reduce the number of errors, that pitchers who are good at holding runners reduce the number of errors, and that lefties tend to have more errors (because they have more ground balls hit to the left side of the infield). He recommended using RA (including unearned runs) rather than ERA.

    Waddell's unearned runs were a great topic of discussion when I joined the HoM project about 50 "years" ago. At the time, Chris Jaffe was a voter and had a Web site that provided lots of interesting information on pitchers that he calculated from retrosheet data and other sources. I believe it was Chris who dubbed Waddell the "king of the unearned run"; for a group of important pitchers, he compared their actual unearned runs to the number they would have had if they had the same number as the other pitchers on their team, and Waddell came out at the head of the list. (He later ran this calculation for some additional pitchers and someone else took Waddell's place as leader—my recollection is that it was Dutch Leonard.)

    As I said, there was a lot of discussion at the time. Unfortunately, many of those discussions were lost when BTF switched Internet sites—archives exist, but much of their content was lost. Also, Chris's pitcher Web site is no longer available. From what I could locate, it seems that several factors were identified that contributed to Waddell's unearned runs total:

    a) His own low fielding percentage (.909 compared to league average of .941)--see the 1918 ballot thread;
    b) His ability to hold runners may have been poor (however, little direct evidence);
    c) Errors may have distracted him and caused him to pitch more poorly.

    Rawagman recently posted some data that show other deadball era pitchers also allowed a lot of unearned runs—see the 1975 ballot discussion thread. I'm not sure that rawagman's data are inconsistent with Chris's—it would be nice if Chris could respond, but he doesn't post here very often anymore.

    Many elections ago when I was reviewing the credentials of Waddell and his contemporaries and was looking at the issue of unearned runs, several things were clear: a) If we agree that pitchers can influence the number of unearned runs and that RA+ is more appropriate, it was clear that unearned runs were distorting Waddell's record. I'll note that the effect was not so much on his career total as on some of the season-by-season statistics; but my analysis assigns points to each season, so these effects mattered a lot. b) However, Waddell was not unique; including unearned runs also had similarly large effects on the season-by-season statistics of other deadball era pitchers. Here are some examples:

    Waddell 1900 – ERA+ 153, RA+ 127
    Waddell 1903 – ERA+ 125, RA+ 143
    Waddell 1904 – ERA+ 165, RA+ 144
    Waddell 1907 – ERA+ 121, RA+ 104
    Joss 1908 – ERA+ 205, RA+ 163
    Willis 1909 – ERA+ 121, RA+ 147

    Including unearned runs doesn't eliminate Waddell's great 5-season peak, but it does take some air out of his shoulder seasons like 1900 and 1907. I think the proper advice is to always be very cautious using ERA+, especially for pre-1920 pitchers. It is generally preferable to use RA+, especially when comparing deadball pitchers with liveball pitchers.

    A note on DERA – in its calculation, the BP system removes all fielding support including the pitcher's own fielding. This especially matters for a few pitchers who were well below average or above average—Waddell was 25 fielding runs below average, according to the BP system. The runs lost due to a pitcher's own fielding are excluded from DERA but included in RA.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Walter Johnson on Rube Waddell:

    In my opinion, and I suppose if there is any subject that I am qualified to discuss it is pitching. Rube Waddell had more sheer pitching ability than any man I ever saw. That doesn't say he was the greatest pitcher, by a good deal. Rube had defects of character that prevented him from using his talents to the best effect. He is dead and gone, so there is no need for me to enlarge on his weaknesses. They were well enough known. I would prefer to dwell on his strong points. And he had plenty.

    There is one game that stands out in my memory above all, perhaps, that I have pitched. That was a game fairly early in my career, when I hooked up in a pitching duel with Rube Waddell.

    Rube was a queer character and he could get indisposed more quickly than anyone I ever saw, when the mood seized him.

    That day we scored a run off him in the first inning. This didn't please Rube at all. He wasn't feeling particularly ambitious that day, and as he came in to the bench, he started to limp. His leg, it seemed, hurt him a good deal. We had a coach at the time who had a deep knowledge of human nature and a particular knowledge of Rube Waddell's nature. He started after Rube, without an instant's delay. "You'd better be getting on your way to the showers," he said. "If you don't get out of the box, we'll knock you out."

    Somehow, that remark got under Rube's skin. He really was a sensitive soul under it all. He made up his mind that he wouldn't quit. Instead, he came back the next inning with blood in his eyes, and from then on he gave the greatest exhibition of all-round speed and unhittable curves that I ever looked at. They scored a run off me, meantime, to tie up the tally. The game drifted into extra innings. In the eleventh inning they scored another run and beat me by 2 to 1.

    In those eleven innings Rube struck out seventeen Washington players. Most of the time they were choking up on the bat and just trying to keep from getting struck out. But Rube burned them past in spite of everything.

    There have been many arguments about pitchers' speed. Such arguments invariably hinge on personal opinion. When Waddell had a red letter day such as the one I have mentioned, and cut loose with everything he had, he showed an amazing amount of speed. But Rube was erratic and uncertain, and his pitching was decidedly unequal.

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  • csh19792001
    replied
    Originally posted by Matthew C. View Post
    Very short career vs. a pretty weak, non-integrated league. Horrific hitter too. I think most people see him as a guy who had about 4 great years in a weak league. I think most people see him as a solid HOFer, but probably not in the top half of pitchers. Seems about right. Of course this is from knowledgeable historians. The average fan has never heard of him, of course, but they have never heard of much, much superior players such as Arky Vaughan, Geroge Davis, or Eddie Plank either, so I don't know how the phrase "underrated" fits there.
    This thread on unearned runs/earned runs harkened our old Waddell Threads (this being one of them).

    http://www.baseball-fever.com/showth...ny-Earned-Runs

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  • Bothrops Atrox
    replied
    Very short career vs. a pretty weak, non-integrated league. Horrific hitter too. I think most people see him as a guy who had about 4 great years in a weak league. I think most people see him as a solid HOFer, but probably not in the top half of pitchers. Seems about right. Of course this is from knowledgeable historians. The average fan has never heard of him, of course, but they have never heard of much, much superior players such as Arky Vaughan, Geroge Davis, or Eddie Plank either, so I don't know how the phrase "underrated" fits there.

    Leave a comment:


  • csh19792001
    replied
    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/...n/rube_waddell

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  • jalbright
    replied
    Originally posted by wamby
    I realize that it is not the fault of Negro Leaguers that few numbers exist from their playing days. But the cold, hard truth is that those guys don't have the numbers in which to evalute their careers. Unfair or not, that is how I see it. I don't understand how numbers guys can evaluate these players when the numbers aren't there. I think Parker and Gossage have a legitimite beef here.
    You're right that one cannot rely solely on Negro Leauge numbers to evaluate players. On the other hand, career numbers limited by the league the player is in are solid indicators. Single season numbers, with the short seasons, are not terribly valuable except for guys who consistently were among the league leaders. But there are plenty of points of intersection which can give us reasonable ways to mold that data to major league equivalents. That's only one part of the puzzle, though--this is a situation where a) you probably should err on the side of caution, and 2) you want to be very careful when the numbers you come up with don't match the subjective reputation of the player. But when the numbers and the subjective reputation match, they reinforce each other.

    As an aside, if the numerical systems didn't generally gibe with subjective opinions, there would be great cause to doubt the value of those systems. However, most of the designers of such systems realize that truth and use subjective opinions as a means of checking the results they come up with. If the variations are because of things like valuing walks, which traditionally have been virtually ignored, that's OK. But otherwise, they should be relatively few in number and not indicative of a bias in one direction or another.

    Jim Albright

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  • 538280
    replied
    Originally posted by abacab
    Right, 52% of a team's WS is allocated to run prevention, but I was under the impression that the percentages allocated to pitching and fielding were more or less set. The percentage allocated to fielding should be much higher for deadball era and 19th century players compared with current players.
    The percentages allocated to pitching and fielding are not set, certainly not set at all. They are figured differently for each team, depending on these factors:

    1.A team's defensive efficiency record (percentage of balls in play turned into outs)
    2.A team's strikeout rate
    3.A team's walk rate
    4.A team's home runs allowed, park adjusted.
    5.A team's fielding percentage
    6.A team's double plays, compared to expected double plays.

    All those factors combine to have a percentage of that 52% allocated to pitchers and fielders. It is done differently for each team. Obviously, if a team has a high DER, that will mean more points for the fielders. Higher strikeout rate, more points for the pitchers. Higher walk rate more points to the pitchers (even though it is a negative thing it does equal less responsibility on the fielders). Higher HRs allowed is more for pitchers, higher fielding percentage is more for fielders, and higher DPs is more for fielders.

    So, yes, WS does differentiate between pitching and fielding when giving credit for runs not allowed.

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  • jalbright
    replied
    Originally posted by abacab
    Right, 52% of a team's WS is allocated to run prevention, but I was under the impression that the percentages allocated to pitching and fielding were more or less set. The percentage allocated to fielding should be much higher for deadball era and 19th century players compared with current players.
    They all vary--the 52% is only for average teams--it can vary greatly for individual teams (ones that are offense rich and defense poor will have a lot less than 50% of its win shares on the run prevention side, for example), and the split between defense and pitchers is usually 70% pitchers, but according to the win shares book, ranges between 60 and 75% in all cases where doing so doesn't screw up everything else. I know that pitchers usually get 1/2 of the unearned runs in their evaluations, so that works against them in earlier times--beyond that, you'd have to talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of the system better than I to get a worthwhile answer on how the system addresses the issue you raise.

    Jim Albright

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  • abacab
    replied
    Originally posted by jalbright
    Win Shares does try to divide the credit for runs prevented between the defense and the pitchers. How well it accomplishes that is open to debate, but the method does try to account for how good the defense is.
    Right, 52% of a team's WS is allocated to run prevention, but I was under the impression that the percentages allocated to pitching and fielding were more or less set. The percentage allocated to fielding should be much higher for deadball era and 19th century players compared with current players.

    Leave a comment:


  • jalbright
    replied
    Originally posted by abacab
    I don't think Win Shares adjusts for team defense, which makes it less reliable for deadball players. WS generally isn't good for comparing pitchers of any era since it's based on innings pitched.
    .
    Win Shares does try to divide the credit for runs prevented between the defense and the pitchers. How well it accomplishes that is open to debate, but the method does try to account for how good the defense is.

    Jim Albright

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Originally posted by 538280
    You have to understand that Win Shares aren't designed to be an argument ender. They're not designed to be a definitive statement that's ALWAYS true. They're supposed to help people rate players, not completely have them make up their mind because "Win Shares says it's right".



    It's unfair to leave the Negro Leaguers out, so you have to make your best approximation. This is like the argument some guys like Parker and Gossage have made with this Negro League ballot. They say that they're being kept out of the HOF because their numbers supposedly aren't good enough, and now they're electing a boatload of guys without numbers. But they have to realize it's not the players' fault that they don't have numbers.
    I realize that it is not the fault of Negro Leaguers that few numbers exist from their playing days. But the cold, hard truth is that those guys don't have the numbers in which to evalute their careers. Unfair or not, that is how I see it. I don't understand how numbers guys can evaluate these players when the numbers aren't there. I think Parker and Gossage have a legitimite beef here.

    Leave a comment:


  • abacab
    replied
    Originally posted by Imapotato
    I made a point and case for Joss using stats

    His unearned runs were 2x as much as his earned runs, runs were premium back then and defense was VERY important, more important then sabermetrics consider today (and that is correct, defense is not important at the start of the HR fiesta)

    Joss had a 1.16 ERA, and went ONLY 24-11...that is amazing and shows that the Naps/Indians had a horrible defense

    Joss was also not a K artist, he relied on his wicked curve to be put into the ground for outs...his defense obviously failed him
    Good info, but here's the question: did Joss give up more unearned runs than the average deadball pitcher? If all deadball pitchers gave up twice as many unearned runs as earned, then this doesn't help Joss. This is also an indication that ERA+ isn't as meaningful for deadball and 19th century pitchers as it is for modern pitchers.

    I don't think Win Shares adjusts for team defense, which makes it less reliable for deadball players. WS generally isn't good for comparing pitchers of any era since it's based on innings pitched.

    However, WARP does incorporate team defense into a pitcher's rating. On the BP site, there is a stat called DERA which adjusts a pitcher's ERA for defense. They adjust Joss's ERA upward - meaning that they think he had a really good defense. Since they don't post their formulas, we can't see how they came up with that.

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