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  • 1950's Pitchers and WAR totals

    Anyone want to take a stab on why 1950's pitchers have such low WARs?

    There were FOUR AL pitchers with 4 WAR in 1950. Wynn led the league in 1951 with 5.5. Lemon was 10th in 1953 with 3.2. Suscne was 9th with 3.1 in 1954. Dick Donovan was THIRD in 1957 with 3.9 WAR. Lary was the ONLY AL pitcher in 1958 with 5 WAR.

    The NL over that time was SLIGHTLY better...but not by much. There is no other decade that even comes close to the 1950's. Spahn and Roberts are the only pitchers from the decade to put up 70 WAR. Spahn's 50's years don't really stand-out too much compared to his late 40's and early 60's years.

    Overall, guys like Pierce, Wynn, and lemon cannot crack 90 PARC-D. Whitey Ford's 107 is MUCH lower than one would expect.

    I really don't think it was an issue of one league being so much better or worse or overall LQ. And it isn' just lower IP numbers as other low IP eras had MUCH higher WAR numbers. Was it a rare combination of low IP totals AND low runs to wins conversions? The most comparable era would be the-mid to late 80's which also saw lowish IP totals and lowish runs to wins conversion factors.

    I really feel I need a 1950's PARC-D adjustment like I did for the WW2 period.
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  • #2
    Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
    Anyone want to take a stab on why 1950's pitchers have such low WARs?

    There were FOUR AL pitchers with 4 WAR in 1950. Wynn led the league in 1951 with 5.5. Lemon was 10th in 1953 with 3.2. Suscne was 9th with 3.1 in 1954. Dick Donovan was THIRD in 1957 with 3.9 WAR. Lary was the ONLY AL pitcher in 1958 with 5 WAR.

    The NL over that time was SLIGHTLY better...but not by much. There is no other decade that even comes close to the 1950's. Spahn and Roberts are the only pitchers from the decade to put up 70 WAR. Spahn's 50's years don't really stand-out too much compared to his late 40's and early 60's years.

    Overall, guys like Pierce, Wynn, and lemon cannot crack 90 PARC-D. Whitey Ford's 107 is MUCH lower than one would expect.

    I really don't think it was an issue of one league being so much better or worse or overall LQ. And it isn' just lower IP numbers as other low IP eras had MUCH higher WAR numbers. Was it a rare combination of low IP totals AND low runs to wins conversions? The most comparable era would be the-mid to late 80's which also saw lowish IP totals and lowish runs to wins conversion factors.

    I really feel I need a 1950's PARC-D adjustment like I did for the WW2 period.
    Is there a weird defense affected pattern? In the AL, many of the best pitchers were on the Indians, Yankees (Ford really) or the White Sox, the three teams with the best defenses overall. Perhaps with having good pitching/good defenses concentrated on certain teams, that affects the overall numbers?

    Spitballing it....
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Toledo Inquisition View Post

      Is there a weird defense affected pattern? In the AL, many of the best pitchers were on the Indians, Yankees (Ford really) or the White Sox, the three teams with the best defenses overall. Perhaps with having good pitching/good defenses concentrated on certain teams, that affects the overall numbers?

      Spitballing it....
      Yes - these guys will have suppressed numbers. But the top pitchers on the other teams seem low too. But that could have an impact. Good thinking.
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      • #4
        Thinking re about my theory re: the 50's being unique by having both a relatively ow number of historical IP AND lower runs to wins...

        The mid 80's to early 90's would have the same thing going-on. It does seem like WAR is a bit suppressed for starters during that era too.
        1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

        1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

        1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


        The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
        The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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        • #5
          There just wasn't a whole lot of all time type of pitchers/seasons during that time. Spahn obviously, but he really only had one truly great season in the 1950s, and his WAR that year was 8.8 Pierce had an awesome year with low IP total, still had 7.0 WAR, a couple more 7.0 WAR seasons. Ford has low WAR totals, because it penalizes him for his defense/team.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by willshad View Post
            There just wasn't a whole lot of all time type of pitchers/seasons during that time. Spahn obviously, but he really only had one truly great season in the 1950s, and his WAR that year was 8.8 Pierce had an awesome year with low IP total, still had 7.0 WAR, a couple more 7.0 WAR seasons. Ford has low WAR totals, because it penalizes him for his defense/team.
            We already touched on all of this (post 2 if you didn't read it). I am in no way talking just about the the top few pitchers. I think low runs to wins conversion and low (compared to previous and subsequent decades) both happening simultaneously is the biggest culprit by far.
            Last edited by Bothrops Atrox; 01-28-2020, 01:27 PM.
            1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

            1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

            1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


            The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
            The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post
              Anyone want to take a stab on why 1950's pitchers have such low WARs?

              There were FOUR AL pitchers with 4 WAR in 1950. Wynn led the league in 1951 with 5.5. Lemon was 10th in 1953 with 3.2. Suscne was 9th with 3.1 in 1954. Dick Donovan was THIRD in 1957 with 3.9 WAR. Lary was the ONLY AL pitcher in 1958 with 5 WAR.

              The NL over that time was SLIGHTLY better...but not by much. There is no other decade that even comes close to the 1950's. Spahn and Roberts are the only pitchers from the decade to put up 70 WAR. Spahn's 50's years don't really stand-out too much compared to his late 40's and early 60's years.
              I assume you are using BBRef. Per FG, there were 120 pitchers with 4 or more WAR seasons from 1951-1960. That number did go up a lot, to about 180, in the sixties and following decades, but earlier decades, 1920s, 30s and 40s, were slightly less. It does seem that something changed after the fifties, but that decade itself was about the same as several decades before it.
              Last edited by Stolensingle; 01-28-2020, 05:59 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Stolensingle View Post

                I assume you are using BBRef. Per FG, there were 120 pitchers with 4 or more WAR seasons from 1951-1960. That number did go up a lot, to about 180, in the sixties and following decades, but earlier decades, 1920s, 30s and 40s, were slightly less. It does seem that something changed after the fifties, but that decade itself was about the same as several decades before it.
                But the guys from the 20's-40's also had a lot more 5+ seasons and the top 10's were higher on average too.

                FG has much more stable runs to wins than BBref, which is why it might be more drastic at BBref.
                1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Bothrops Atrox View Post

                  But the guys from the 20's-40's also had a lot more 5+ seasons and the top 10's were higher on average too.

                  FG has much more stable runs to wins than BBref, which is why it might be more drastic at BBref.
                  Seasons with 5 or more fWAR:

                  1921-30: 43
                  1931-40: 41
                  1941-50: 48
                  1951-60: 50
                  1961-70: 109

                  I would think some of the increase after 1960 was attributable to a lower offensive era, for whatever reasons. Another factor, in the sixties and beyond, would be league expansion.

                  Differences between fWAR and rWAR, of course, could result from the different algorithms used, particularly that BBRef uses RA/9, which as you've pointed out, is more accurate over long periods of time, but probably less so for single seasons.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Stolensingle View Post

                    Seasons with 5 or more fWAR:

                    1921-30: 43
                    1931-40: 41
                    1941-50: 48
                    1951-60: 50
                    1961-70: 109

                    I would think some of the increase after 1960 was attributable to a lower offensive era, for whatever reasons. Another factor, in the sixties and beyond, would be league expansion.

                    Differences between fWAR and rWAR, of course, could result from the different algorithms used, particularly that BBRef uses RA/9, which as you've pointed out, is more accurate over long periods of time, but probably less so for single seasons.
                    I really think there is a big difference between the two because of BBrefs extreme runs to wins conversions.
                    systems
                    It looks like the 20s-40's had much more extremes at the highest ends too.
                    1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                    1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                    1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                    The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                    The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Stolensingle View Post

                      Seasons with 5 or more fWAR:

                      1921-30: 43
                      1931-40: 41
                      1941-50: 48
                      1951-60: 50
                      1961-70: 109

                      I would think some of the increase after 1960 was attributable to a lower offensive era, for whatever reasons. Another factor, in the sixties and beyond, would be league expansion.

                      Differences between fWAR and rWAR, of course, could result from the different algorithms used, particularly that BBRef uses RA/9, which as you've pointed out, is more accurate over long periods of time, but probably less so for single seasons.
                      I was looking through some pitchers and FG vs. BBRef. The biggest difference I see is with Al vs. NL LQ. The BBref adjustments are larger - so NL pitchers look better at FG compared to BBref during say the 90's and worse in the 60's. The 50's were pretty balanced and the results are more even at FG than BBref.

                      It seems like there really was a dry-spell from the mid 30's through 1950...relative to other eras.
                      1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                      1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                      1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


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                      The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

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                      • #12
                        I will add that the 1950's were the last 10 years before expansion, and the league was probably its most competitive. Until the Colts-Giants Overtime NFL Championship Game in 1958, baseball was still the runaway number one sport in America. The Patrick Mahomes' and LeBron James' of the 1950s more than likely chose baseball over football or basketball. If you wanted to be somebody in the sports world, you were either a boxing champion, a horse, or a baseball player. College and NBA basketball were about as popular in 1957 as the Dinah Shore women's golf tournament today.

                        As an example, look at the MLB player mystery guests that appeared on "What's My Line" in the 1950's. Many times, the mystery guest was somebody from a team other than the Yankees, Giants, or Dodgers. There were two genius females on that panel in Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis. They were better than Columbo at solving stuff. When it became obvious that the mystery guest was a baseball player from an outside team, the two ladies knew who the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants had played that afternoon. Find the Youtube video where the Cincinnati Reds had half their roster as the mystery guests. Arlene Francis knew that if these players were from a team outside the city, that they had won that day. She knew the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers all lost.

                        With just 16 teams, the worst player on the worst team would probably be an above average player with a nice WAR if you compare 1956 to 2020 by factoring out the evolution of the human body through nutrtition and exercise science, through better equipment, and all the other factors. The 1956 Cubs and the 1956 Athletics would most likely contend for .500 records today when you factor out evolution.

                        If the worst players and teams in the Majors are not that much worse than the best players and teams in the Majors, then the overall WAR stats would have lower standard deviations, and there would be a lot of players separated by little.

                        Rather than look at WAR per season back then, look at WAR ranking and then see how many players consistently rank in the upper echelon of WAR, even if the numbers are not gaudy.

                        Another reason why WAR might be lower is that, except for maybe Kansas City, teams didn't "tank" in those days. There was no reason to be like the 2011 Astros. There was no draft, so finishing 50-104 rather than 60-94 didn't help a team and only hurt them at the gate. Plus, even when teams were out of the pennant races then, the Majors awarded money to the second, third, and fourth place teams, giving the teams and players incentives to keep competing even when they were 25 games out of first place in August. So, a pitcher like Chuck Stobbs of the Senators might steal a chunk of WAR that somebody like Jim Rivera might have had, because he's treating an August 10 game like it's the last out of the World Series, and likewise, Charlie Maxwell is competing like Pete Rose on pep pills in that August game against Tom Sturdivent. The stats had lower standard deviations.

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