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  • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
    I personally don't think Cobb was as far ahead of Wagner as their OPS+ stats show.
    I believe the difference in fielding value is significantly mitigated by the disparity in league quality. For the first three years of Wagner's career, there was still syndicate baseball. Wagner was playing in a league full of truly awful players (not even close ML baseball caliber).

    In his first three years, look at the records of Washington and St. Louis. An absolute joke, and Wagner and his brethren were beating up on those minor league teams about 1/5th of the games.

    1900 was the most competitive the NL was for a long time afterwards, IMO.

    Then Johnson's AL raided the NL rosters in 1901, and 70% of the 1900 National League went to the upstart AL, including many of the biggest stars. This is a factor largely lost on our constituency here, and the affect of which should not be underestimated. The AL was actually considered the better league during the 1901-1910 timeframe. The Cubs teams had incredible records, sure, but that was in part due to the lack of competitive balance in the league.

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    • Originally posted by Mongoose View Post
      McGraw, Barrow and Rickey might be the best judges of talent in history.
      But how much did these guys see Wagner play?

      Comment


      • Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
        I believe the difference in fielding value is significantly mitigated by the disparity in league quality. For the first three years of Wagner's career, there was still syndicate baseball. Wagner was playing in a league full of truly awful players (not even close ML baseball caliber).

        In his first three years, look at the records of Washington and St. Louis. An absolute joke, and Wagner and his brethren were beating up on those minor league teams about 1/5th of the games.

        1900 was the most competitive the NL was for a long time afterwards, IMO.

        Then Johnson's AL raided the NL rosters in 1901, and 70% of the 1900 National League went to the upstart AL, including many of the biggest stars. This is a factor largely lost on our constituency here, and the affect of which should not be underestimated. The AL was actually considered the better league during the 1901-1910 timeframe. The Cubs teams had incredible records, sure, but that was in part due to the lack of competitive balance in the league.

        Exactly. That's part of the reason I can't put Wagner ahead of Cobb (or Ruth or Mays, for that matter). But it is hard to say how much better the average player in the AL was than the average player in the NL, or how different Wagner's relative stats would have been if he'd jumped to the AL. It's easy to see that the AL had better and more top level stars that Cobb had to compete with, but that's not the same thing. One of the many difficulties of relying solely on relative stats to compare players in different leagues/eras.

        Not to get off topic here, but in regards to the Cobb/Wagner discussion, an important question would be did Wagner's home park and the fact that he was a deadball slugger depress his relative stats more than the fact that the NL was the weaker league gave them a boost? I think the weak league helped him less than the other factors hurt him, so I think his relative stats probably do underrate his hitting - but that's all somewhat guesswork.
        Last edited by mwiggins; 12-28-2008, 05:47 PM.

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        • Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
          Speaking of Babe supporters, here comes one now. I'm sure you speak in general terms Bill.............the words, infuriates the Babe supporters.
          You're not only a world-class Babe expert, but a gentleman of equal stature, Joe. And I am proud to call you my friend! Always express yourself as one of the finest people I've ever met. And glad to tell you so!

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          • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
            Not to get off topic here, but in regards to the Cobb/Wagner discussion, an important question would be did Wagner's home park and the fact that he was a deadball slugger depress his relative stats more than the fact that the NL was the weaker league gave them a boost?
            That's a very good question...how much are stats depressed beyond that which is already accounted for in stats like relative slugging or OPS+?

            He was in a league full of little guys choking up 6-12 on the bat, and he was a tremendous slugger who extended his strike zone whenever possible. He played in a park that yielded about 30% more triples than average, but was bad for home runs. Then again, he was also playing in a league where 3 times more triples were hit than home runs!! Today, about 5 times as many home runs are hit in comparison to triples.

            Since home runs were brutally difficult to hit in Wagner's day, the triple was the home run. Playing in a park with a massive power alley and deep lines (and a generally huge outfield) probably produced a ton of triples and other base hits that would be caught in a different park.

            I think if anything, given the average style and size of the players in his era, I think his relative production might even be more augmented than that of a guy like Cobb, whose career spanned two eras and a significant change in the way players approached hitting.

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            • Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
              I think if anything, given the average style and size of the players in his era, I think his relative production might even be more augmented than that of a guy like Cobb, whose career spanned two eras and a significant change in the way players approached hitting.
              Very good points. Though I do have a hard time giving Cobb "credit" for having to hit in two eras, since it was somewhat his choice to not take advantage of the change to the liveball era.

              Speaker was just two years younger, but he didn't have any trouble taking advantage of the hitting environment in the early 20's. He had production at age 34 & 35 that was equal to his peak years in his 20's. Though certainly there were other factors at play beyond just the change to the liveball era.

              In other words, I don't see the fact that Cobb's relative stats might have been hurt in the 1920's because he was using a "power swing" as the same thing as Wagner's relative stats being hurt in the deadball era because he had (probably) excellent power, but wasn't able to hit bunches of HR's (and have pitchers fear him) the way guys like Mays and Aaron and Ruth and Gehrig were. Cobb's "disadvantage" was either by choice, in which case he deserves no allowance, or was because he didn't have the power than Hornsby and Ruth did. In which case, that's a flaw in his game when he's being compared guys like Ruth and Williams and Mays, who had the ability to hit for a high average AND great power.

              Anyway, it's all pretty subjective, but it's fun to banter about as long as you don't get too worked up about it.

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              • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
                Very good points. Though I do have a hard time giving Cobb "credit" for having to hit in two eras, since it was somewhat his choice to not take advantage of the change to the liveball era.

                Speaker was just two years younger, but he didn't have any trouble taking advantage of the hitting environment in the early 20's. He had production at age 34 & 35 that was equal to his peak years in his 20's. Though certainly there were other factors at play beyond just the change to the liveball era.

                In other words, I don't see the fact that Cobb's relative stats might have been hurt in the 1920's because he was using a "power swing" as the same thing as Wagner's relative stats being hurt in the deadball era because he had (probably) excellent power, but wasn't able to hit bunches of HR's (and have pitchers fear him) the way guys like Mays and Aaron and Ruth and Gehrig were. Cobb's "disadvantage" was either by choice, in which case he deserves no allowance, or was because he didn't have the power than Hornsby and Ruth did. In which case, that's a flaw in his game when he's being compared guys like Ruth and Williams and Mays, who had the ability to hit for a high average AND great power.

                Anyway, it's all pretty subjective, but it's fun to banter about as long as you don't get too worked up about it.
                I'll mention that Cobb had a 170 OPS+ in 1925 at the age of 38 and after his running was on the decline. This is important for 2 reasons. 1) Only 3 other hitters had 170 or better OPS+ seasons at age 38 or beyond: Ruth (who was actually a couple of months older than Cobb when he did it; Williams and Bonds (with assistance). One could argue that Cobb had the best season ever by a player 38 years of age or older. 2) Bill James and others feel that between 1920 and 1925 the league had adapted in large part to the live ball. I don't completely agree because certain relative stats stayed higher for sluggers until the 50s but for Cobb to produce a 170 OPS+ with "his" game in 1925 is impressive.

                Personally, I would actually rate Wagner a little ahead of Cobb if not for Cobb's 243 extra games played. That amounts to about 9% more play for Cobb than Wagner. I DO think a 150 OPS+ top defensive SS overtakes a 167 OPS+ centerfielder who I consider to be very good but not in my top 15. I would generally rate an average SS as about 10 points up on the OPS+ scale from a CF and great versus very good might be another 10 points, but 9% longevity can't be tossed out. Yes, Wagner broke in late, but he was not tearing up the league at ages 23-24 and was still playing mostly outfield until '02, though his team NEEDED him in that huge RF.
                Last edited by brett; 12-28-2008, 09:07 PM.

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                • Originally posted by Bill Burgess View Post
                  You're not only a world-class Babe expert, but a gentleman of equal stature, Joe. And I am proud to call you my friend! Always express yourself as one of the finest people I've ever met. And glad to tell you so!
                  Thank you for the kind words Bill, the feelings are mutual.

                  Comment


                  • Speaking his 1925 year...can one of our Cobb scholars shed some light on why his production jumped so much from the previous two years?

                    It is interesting to note that in 1921 and 1922 Cobb was, statistically at least, was still hitting like he had in the deadball era. Very high BA, lots of doubles and triples. But even with his lack of HR power, he was still able to essentially match any of the OPS+ numbers put up by anybody in the AL thsoe two years other than Ruth's astounding 1921 season.

                    Even being in his mid-30's, he was still able to remain the probably 2nd best hitter in the AL without really adapting his game to take advantage of the new era. Pretty strong testament to his skill with the bat.

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                    • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
                      Very good points. Though I do have a hard time giving Cobb "credit" for having to hit in two eras, since it was somewhat his choice to not take advantage of the change to the liveball era.
                      Where's Astros Fan when we need him? I'd like to see the relative isolated slugging numbers for all the stars of the teens that transitioned into the 20's. The guys that were born in the 1880's.

                      This may sound harsh, but it doesn't mean to be and certainly isn't personal....but.... it's my sense that Cobb gets unfairly singled out for "failing to adapt" to the live ball. I think those that continue to make this claim seemingly continue to lack historical perspective on the issue. They're espousing 20/20 hindsight. Perhaps they haven't read enough contemporaneous information about what a freak Ruth was perceived to be, or enough about the first 60 years of baseball, when the ethos about average, hits, strikeouts, and general approach to offense was set. It wasn't just Cobb- basically no one his age actually revamped their ethos and entire approach to hitting. On paper, CERTAIN players that played a lot before and after 1920 seemed to change their approach, but closer examination reveals something different.

                      Nobody could have the prescience to wake up one morning in the 20's and exclaim "Hey, the way this freak of nature swings and tries to hit the ball is the way people are going to aspire to hit the ball for the next 90 years!" or "Wow, look at his OPS+ and isolated slugging numbers! We really need to toss out everything we've learned and valued during our lives!" None of the established position players was going to spit in the face of 70 years of baseball orthodoxy. Especially guys heading downhill physically after dominating the game for the previous decade with their chosen style of play...

                      As Cobb himself said, Babe was able to develop that (for that time unique) swing because he was a pitcher, and the managers didn't bother coaching it out of him. Had he been an outfielder from the start, they probably would have. They too ascribed to different values that had developed in accord with the deadball conditions that had existed from the beginning.

                      Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
                      Speaker was just two years younger, but he didn't have any trouble taking advantage of the hitting environment in the early 20's. He had production at age 34 & 35 that was equal to his peak years in his 20's. Though certainly there were other factors at play beyond just the change to the liveball era.
                      No knock on Speaker, but to be fair- he played in a park that had a 290 foot RF line (albeit with a 45 foot fence, but still). He probably got a lot of doubles (that should have been singles) and homers (on hits that were flyouts for Cobb) with Detroit's 370 foot line. Speaker hit 246 doubles at League Park II during the 20's and only 150 on the road. One year he hit 42 doubles in 288 AB's at home! My guess is that he was fortunate enough to play in a park where he could really take advantage of the new lively ball and banning of trick pitches. With a 290 foot wall and a 45' fence, if Speaker hit the ball hard to RF it was almost certainly going to be a double- on more rare occasions a hard single or HR.

                      As to Hornsby...besides the historical precedent having less of an impact (Hornsby was 10 years younger), Rogers also played in the kind of parks where it made a great deal of sense for a hitter of his handedness to try to pull the ball consistently and go for home runs. Sportsman's was a good park for power hitting and home runs in the 20's, as were the Polo Grounds and Wrigley. Consequently, Hornsby was able to 60% of his home runs at home despite having more PA's on the road.

                      Guys Cobb's age like Cy Williams (who appeared to "adapt" to the liveball) were really products of their park. Cy hit 160 HR at home, and only 90 on the road. Ken Williams was the same (142 HR at home, 52 on the road). Same goes for Jack Fournier, who became a HR threat only once he moved to a great park for LH home run hitters (Ebbets).

                      These guys were playing in parks that weren't meant to accommodate the liveball. Philly and Sportsman's were way too short down the lines. This was opportunism, not a paradigm shift on the part of people Cobb's age.

                      Ruth was Ruth. He'd be the best slugger/home run hitter in any league at any time. IMO, nobody has come close to him since.
                      Last edited by csh19792001; 12-28-2008, 09:25 PM.

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                      • Originally posted by SHOELESSJOE3 View Post
                        Thank you for the kind words Bill, the feelings are mutual.
                        I'd like to "third" these sentiments. It's been a pleasure having the chance to interact regularly with you guys for all these years here.

                        Joe, you've been nothing but cordial with me, even when things have gotten very heated and we've become polarized on certain issues. I applaud your patience and seemingly tireless dedication towards fostering the study of baseball history and Babe Ruth.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
                          Speaking his 1925 year...can one of our Cobb scholars shed some light on why his production jumped so much from the previous two years?
                          I just combed the six books on Cobb that I have here, and there is no explicit mention of why his production jumped so much in 25'. I think he drove himself into the ground in 1924, playing every inning, player-managing, and coming to bat more than anyone else in baseball except one player. He also led the Tigers to the AL lead as late as mid August.

                          I think it took a ton out of him, and perhaps he resigned to rest more in 25'.

                          Mwiggins, I assume you've read about his rampage in St. Louis in May of 25'. He nearly hit 6 home runs in two consecutive games (just missed the sixth by a few feet). It is possible that- especially having lost some foot speed relative to his youth- that he tried more for slugging that year...

                          I also wonder why he drew 118 walks in 1915. Does anyone have any information that might shed some light on this one? It's way out of line with the rest of his career.

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                          • You're right that Cobb is normally unfairly singled out, I wasn't intending to go there. It certainly isn't a knock on him that he didn't dramatically alter his swing in his mid-30's when no one else really did either.

                            And you're right that Speaker did play in a park that rewarded "adapting" to the new era more than Cobb did. And his Home-Road splits were fairly out of whack those years. But it's still to his credit that he did adapt.

                            At least in the two years that Retrosheet has Home/Road splits for Cobb in the 20's, it's interesting to see the change in his road performance between 1923 & 1925. He went from hitting significantly better at home in 1923 (361/462/493 at home, 319/394/446 on the road ) to hitting significantly better on the road in 1925 (332/448/421 at home, 418/490/662 on the road). While he and Speaker had similar overall production in 1925, Cobb was MUCH better on the road. Speaker's road line in 1925 - 337/426/497.

                            Though Cobb's teammate Heilman also hit MUCH better away from home in 1925, after posting very similar stats home and away in 1923.
                            1923 - 400/488/628 home; 404/473/633 road
                            1925 - 326/397/498 home; 456/514/636 road
                            Last edited by mwiggins; 12-28-2008, 09:45 PM.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by mwiggins View Post
                              You're right that Cobb is normally unfairly singled out, I wasn't intending to go there. It certainly isn't a knock on him that he didn't dramatically alter his swing in his mid-30's when no one else really did either.

                              And you're right that Speaker did play in a park that rewarded "adapting" to the new era more than Cobb did. And his Home-Road splits were fairly out of whack those years. But it's still to his credit that he did adapt.

                              At least in the two years that Retrosheet has Home/Road splits for Cobb in the 20's, it's interesting to see the change in his road performance between 1923 & 1925. He went from hitting significantly better at home in 1923 (361/462/493 at home, 319/394/446 on the road ) to hitting significantly better on the road in 1925 (332/448/421 at home, 418/490/662 on the road). While he and Speaker had similar overall production in 1925, Cobb was MUCH better on the road. Speaker's road line in 1925 - 337/426/497.

                              Though Cobb's teammate Heilman also hit MUCH better away from home in 1925, after posting very similar stats home and away in 1923.
                              1923 - 400/488/628 home; 404/473/633 road
                              1925 - 326/397/498 home; 456/514/636 road
                              It is interesting stuff. I think that in one of two seasons sampling error becomes a significant issue, from the standpoint of statistical reliability.

                              The 1989 issue of Total Baseball has complete home/road splits for:

                              Aaron
                              Clemente
                              Cobb
                              Collins
                              Crawford
                              DiMaggio
                              Foxx
                              Gehrig
                              Hornsby
                              Reggie
                              Kaline
                              Killebrew
                              Klein
                              Lajoie
                              Mantle
                              Mays
                              Morgan
                              Musial
                              Ott
                              Robinson
                              Rose
                              Schmidt
                              Speaker
                              Wagner
                              Williams
                              Yaz

                              Being the baseball freak that I am, several years ago I ordered it just to get the splits. It now resides alongside the 7 other baseball encyclopedias I have...

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                                I just combed the six books on Cobb that I have here, and there is no explicit mention of why his production jumped so much in 25'. I think he drove himself into the ground in 1924, playing every inning, player-managing, and coming to bat more than anyone else in baseball except one player. He also led the Tigers to the AL lead as late as mid August.

                                I think it took a ton out of him, and perhaps he resigned to rest more in 25'.

                                Mwiggins, I assume you've read about his rampage in St. Louis in May of 25'. He nearly hit 6 home runs in two consecutive games (just missed the sixth by a few feet). It is possible that- especially having lost some foot speed relative to his youth- that he tried more for slugging that year...
                                Thanks for scanning your Ty collection. That reasoning seems pretty sound.

                                Interstingly, he did hit cleanup in 83 of his 121 games in 1925, vs. only 10 of 145 in 1923. And 16 of his 121 games in 1925 were as a pinch hitter, so he really did play a lot less than in the previous years, so it would make sense that he would be fresher and more productive when he was in the lineup.

                                And regarding the big series in St. Louis in May, much of his power damage in 1925 was done in May and June. 5 HR's and a .688 SLG% May. 6 HR's and a .825 SLG% in June. He only hit 1 more HR the rest of the year, and his SLG% in the rest of the months never approached those numbers.

                                July - .350
                                Aug - .471
                                Sept - .385

                                He also had over half of his AB's in May and June. So maybe his big year was simply a matter of getting really, really hot for a couple of months? And since he didn't play fulltime for that whole year, a few big series like the St. Louis one could really skew his H/R splits for the year. 18 of his 25 games in June were on the road in 1925, for example.
                                Last edited by mwiggins; 12-28-2008, 10:23 PM.

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