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1901, Sidebars

Focusing on the Families, Part 1

I’m a sucker for binning, bucketing, grouping, and generally finding patterns among players. Some might call it compulsive…. So I’ve always been taken with the old Bill James idea of baseball families. Not the Alous or Griffeys, but players across history who bear an uncanny resemblance to one another on a stat sheet, and often on the field too.

A useful definition of a family might be that:

  • It has several characteristics in common, for example: positional, statistical, demographic, stylistic, career-length, or physical traits
  • It has more than three members
  • It has members across history so that it’s not merely a localized trend.

Our 1901 ballot includes the progenitor of one such family. It has at least four easily identifiable members across history who share these characteristics:

  • First basemen
  • Careers exceeding 20 years
  • Gentle decline in skills
  • Durable
  • Eerily consistent performance at an above-average to All-Star level, but rarely or never an up-ballot MVP candidate.

The Joe Start/Eddie Murray Family 

If you click through to Start’s career, you’ll only see 1871–1886. Start was 28 when the National Association organized. Before that he played at the highest available level to him, club baseball in the New York City area.

Fittingly for this family, Start’s nickname was “Old Reliable,” and Murray was known as “Steady Eddie.”

If you spot any other members, pop it in the comments!

—Eric

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