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Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues First Basemen, Part 1

[All MLEs updated 7/4/18 to include (a) new 1938 and 1947 data (b) new baserunning-runs estimates(c) new, more objective playing-time estimates]

We told you previously about the careers of Buck Leonard, Mule Suttles, and Ben Taylor. Now, let’s have a look at some of the other well known Negro Leagues first basemen! We’ll begin with two guys who made the majors, one who had a good run in the PCL, another who played too long before integration, and a guy virtually no one has heard of but who could really, really hit.

We refer you to our Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters for all the gory details of how we come up with our figures.

Bob Boyd

When “The Rope” finally got a crack at full-time play on a major league roster, his OPS+es were 119, 125, and 122. Not amazing for a first basemen…until you consider he was 36 years old. The White Sox couldn’t seem to make up their mind about him, bringing him up three times in four years but never committing to him. He played 12 games in 1951, 55 in 1953, and 29 in 1954. He didn’t exactly for their hand, however, with meh or much worse performances. But he finally broke out at age 36 as a Baltimore Oriole and at 37 placed 16th in the AL MVP voting.

Boyd didn’t project like a typical 1950s first baseman. Unlike the Johnny Mize, Big Klu types, Boyd hit line drives, thus the sobriquet, and had good speed (though it had dissipated somewhat by the time he stuck with the O’s). That’s not a common skillset for a first baseman of the time. His numbers are eerily consistent across every level of play we have solid data for. In the majors, he slashed .293/.349/.388. In AAA, mostly the PCL, he hit .317/.368/.448. In AA it was .318/.381/.461. That’s a very smooth progression that pretty much mirrors what we’d expect as he encountered more difficult pitching from level to level. Then again, by the time he reached the minors he was already 30 years old and had long since established his style of play. Which brings up one final point. Boyd didn’t start his high-level career until age 27 with Memphis in the Negro Leagues, so while we have most of his data, none of it comes from his peak performances as yet.

Bob Boyd
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1947–1961
Destination: AL 1947–1961
Missing data: 1948–1950

Year Age Lg Pos    PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1947  27 AL 1B    550  - 4    2    0     3   - 5  - 4  -0.5   19   15   1.7
1948  28 AL 1B    550    3    2    2     2   - 5    5   0.5   19   23   2.4
1949  29 AL 1B    550    5    2    2     2   - 5    6   0.6   19   25   2.6
1950  30 AL 1B    550    6    2    2     2   - 5    8   0.7   19   26   2.6
1951  31 AL 1B    640    9    3    2     3   - 6   10   1.0   22   32   3.3
1952  32 AL 1B    580   10    2    2     3   - 6   12   1.3   20   31   3.5
1953  33 AL 1B    580    4    2    2     2   - 6    4   0.4   20   23   2.5
1954  34 AL 1B    490  - 2    1    2     1   - 5  - 4  -0.4   17   13   1.4
1955  35 AL 1B    630    4    1    2     0   - 7    0   0.0   22   21   2.3
1956  36 AL 1B    262    9   -4    0    -3   - 3  - 1  -0.1    8    7   0.7
1957  37 AL 1B    552   19    1    4     1   - 7   18   1.8   17   35   3.5
1958  38 AL 1B    432   14    0    1     4   - 5   13   1.4   13   27   2.7
1959  39 AL 1B    461  - 4   -1    1    -6   - 6  -17  -1.9   14  - 2  -0.5
1960  40 AL 1B     88    1    0    0     1     0    2   0.2    3    5   0.4
1961  41 AL 1B     93  - 9   -1    1    -1     0  -10  -1.0    4  - 6  -0.8
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 7017   66   12   22    14   -71   41   4.0  234  277  28.1

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1961)
PA: 149th
Rbat: 340th 
WAA: t-462nd
WAR: t-255th

Boyd had outstanding speed early in his career, and the ropes he hit probably helped him stay out of the deuce. On the other hand, he didn’t hit for enough power or walk often enough to be much more than a slightly above-average hitter. However, we are missing all of his Negro Leagues work, and it could positively impact his MLE since he arrived, after the war, as a fully-formed, peak-aged player.

George Carr

Nicknamed “Tank”…you would be too if you stood 5’11” and weighed 200 pounds in the 1920s. Back then six-footers didn’t fall out of trees, and Carr’s broad shape stood out among more lithely shaped ball players. Somewhat unusual for the Negro Leagues, Carr hailed from the West Coast and had plied his trade in the western reaches before signing on with J. L. Wilkinson’s Kansas City Monarchs in 1920 as a 25-year-old. He is also strongly associated with the great Hilldale teams of the 1920s after sliding there at age 28.  He showed good power, as someone called “Tank” ought to, and he had decent speed as well. Carr is said to have leveled out in his early 30s, but we don’t yet have complete-enough data for the 1927 and 1929–1932 seasons to say with much assurance.

George Carr
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1916–1935
Destination: NL 1916–1933
Missing data: 1916-1919, 1927, 1929–1932
 
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
=======================================================================
1916  21 NL  1B  280    6    0       0   - 2    4   0.5    9   11   1.6
1917  22 NL  1B  570   13    0     - 1   - 5    7   0.9   18   25   3.1
1918  23 NL  1B  470   11    0     - 1   - 4    6   0.7   15   21   2.5
1919  24 NL  1B  520   12    0     - 1   - 4    7   0.8   16   23   2.8
1920  25 NL  1B  620   16    0     - 1   - 5   10   1.1   19   29   3.3
1921  26 NL  1B  630   17    0     - 1   - 6   11   1.1   20   30   3.1
1922  27 NL  1B  560    3    0     - 1   - 5  - 3  -0.3   17   14   1.4
1923  28 NL  1B  550    2    0     - 1   - 5  - 5  -0.5   17   12   1.2
1924  29 NL  1B  550    7    0     - 1   - 5    1   0.1   17   18   1.9
1925  30 NL  1B  630   12    0     - 1   - 6    5   0.4   20   24   2.3
1926  31 NL  1B  590   19    0     - 1   - 6   12   1.2   18   30   3.1
1927  32 NL  1B  590   15    0     - 1   - 6    8   0.8   18   26   2.7
1928  33 NL  1B  610   16    0     - 1   - 6    9   0.9   19   28   2.8
1929  34 NL  1B  610   14    0     - 1   - 6    7   0.6   19   26   2.4
1930  35 NL  1B  610   14    0     - 1   - 6    7   0.6   19   26   2.3
1931  36 NL  1B  590   10    0     - 1   - 6    4   0.4   18   22   2.3
1932  37 NL  1B  450    4    0     - 1   - 4  - 2  -0.2   14   12   1.3
1933  38 NL  1B  230  - 8    0       0   - 2  -11  -1.2    7  - 4  -0.4
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                9430  189  - 2     -15   -86   86   9.2  294  380  40.3

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 37th   
Rbat: 131st
WAA: t-279th
WAR: t-141st

Sunny Jim Bottomley is a nice comp for Tank Carr. Long-career first baseman, decent hitter but nothing earth-shattering. in the 40-WAR neighborhood. Also, they both wore their caps at a jaunty angle and are frequently shown in photos with a slightly goofy or playful smile. At this point, we show Carr has having a slightly longer and slightly more productive career, but as more data arrives, that could change. For now the comparison seems apt enough.

Julian Castillo

If you’ve heard of Julian Castillo, you don’t spend nearly all your internet hours at the Negro Leagues Database,  and you weren’t born into a baseball-loving Cuban family, take a bow. We’re reaching pretty deep into obscurity with Castillo. Not only is he a Negro Leaguer, but he only played a single blackball season. Instead, he spent 12 years in the various Cuban professional leagues. And as a hitter he owned them. 

Castillo could flat rake. His 176 OPS+ in the Negro Leagues Database says most of what you need to know. But some nuance will help. In most of the various Cuban winter and summer circuits, every team has played its games in the same ballpark in la Habana. With small leagues (three or four teams), you can share a ballpark among several teams. Not coincidentally, most of the teams were also headquartered in or immediately adjacent to the Cuban capital. The kinds of semipro leagues where Alejandro Oms did his woodshedding were out in the hinterlands from ciudad grande. The action was in Habana.

So when we look at Castillo’s lifetime slash line in the Cuban leagues of .296/.388/.403, we needn’t be puzzled by how that becomes a 186 OPS+. Here’s how this plays out over his career from ages 22 to 32. The lines are the triple slash with OPS and OPS+ following. League-leading marks are bolded.

  • 1902 Cuban Winter League: .325/.410/.453/.863/247 Led in hits, homers, and triples
  • 1903 Cuban Winter League: .354/.425/.538/.963/240 Led in triples
  • 1904 Cuban Summer League: .380/.492/.500/.992/280 Led in doubles and triples
  • 1904 Cuban Winter League: .308/.368/.433/.801/209 Led in hits, triples, homers
  • 1905 Cuban Summer League: .327/.403/.545/.949/256 Led in doubles, triples, and homers
  • 1905 Cuban Winter League: .238/.354/.321/.675/167 Yes, that 167 OPS+ is correct. Led in doubles and hit-by-pitch
  • 1906 Cuban Summer League: .350/.458/.450/.908/280 Led in hits, triples, and homers
  • 1906 Cuban Winter League: .254/.341/.368/.710/157 Led in doubles and triples
  • 1907 Cuban Summer League: .267/.365/.267/.632/111
  • 1907 Cuban Winter League: .308/.426/.359/.785/167 Led in doubles
  • 1908 Cuban Winter League: .301/.391/.382/.773/186 Led in hits and doubles
  • 1909 Cuban Winter League: .377/.443/.472/.914/252 Led in hits and hit-by-pitch
  • 1910 Cuban Winter League: .231/.375/.250/.625/104
  • 1911 Western Independent Negro Leagues teams: .264/.381/.264/.645/91
  • 1911 Cuban Winter League: .263/.336/.535/.872/166 Led in doubles and homers
  • 1912 Cuban Winter League: .326/.426/.435/.861/148 Led in doubles and homers

That’s a pretty great hitter.

Maybe.

Dark-skinned players only entered the Cuban pro leagues in 1902. Black Americans only entered the league in 1906, and only in a trickle. They were shut out again in 1909 and returned in 1910 in force and for good. So Castillo’s case is complicated by this set of circumstances. He went Babe Ruth on a league that didn’t include Americans. When they got there in relatively few numbers, he ranked with the Pete Hill/Grant Johnson/Spot Poles class of hitters, he remained a potent force when they black Americans left for a year, and when they came back, he had already entered his decline, and in a couple years was done. I don’t know why he ceased playing, biographical information remains scarce.

Julian Castillo
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1902–1914
Destination: NL 1902–1912
Honors: Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame 

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield  Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
========================================================================
1902  22 NL  1B  320   37    0     - 1   - 2   34   3.7   10   44   4.8
1903  23 NL  1B  300   28    0     - 1   - 2   25   2.4    9   35   3.4
1904  24 NL  1B  380   35    0     - 1   - 3   31   3.4   12   43   4.8
1905  25 NL  1B  400   25    0     - 1   - 3   20   2.2   12   33   3.6
1906  26 NL  1B  460   28    0     - 2   - 3   23   2.7   14   37   4.5
1907  27 NL  1B  520   27    0     - 2   - 4   22   2.7   16   38   4.8
1908  28 NL  1B  530   33    0     - 2   - 4   27   3.4   17   44   5.6
1909  29 NL  1B  540   33    0     - 2   - 4   27   3.2   17   44   5.2
1910  30 NL  1B  520   15    0     - 2   - 4    9   1.0   16   25   2.8
1911  31 NL  1B  490   16    0     - 2   - 4   11   1.1   15   26   2.7
1912  32 NL  1B  470   19    0     - 2   - 3   14   1.4   15   28   2.9
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                4930  296   -1     -18   -35  242  27.1  154  395  45.2

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 406th 
Rbat: 57th 
WAA: 70th  
WAR: t-105th

In addition to the complicated questions we raised above regarding Castillo’s play relative to the influx of black Americans into Cuba, still other questions intrude as well. Castillo appears to have been poor at the applied-speed/quickness aspects of the game. While he had a few steals early in his career, which we’ve credit him for, he rarely got anyplace near the lead in his leagues in runs scored, and became less and less likely to steal over time. Then there’s his fielding. Oy. I have a note to myself that says, “Worst defenders at 1B in his time had fewer PAs. Not sure he could play 1B in MLB.” What that means is that his rate of defensive performance is poor enough that it weeded others with similarly bad gloves out of the league. Therefore I find it questionable whether he could have hacked first base on a full-time basis stateside.

The one not in question, however, is that this guy could really bring the lumber.

Our 7/5/18 update of Castillo’s MLE lowers his PA total considerably, and he is, perhaps, the most affected by the change in playing-time allocation techniques that have been rolled out. The reason is simple: Short-career first basemen have fewer PAs than those with longer careers, and that’s true on a season-by-season and career level. Had a I used a medium-length career-trajectory, he’d pick up more PAs, but not enough to greatly enhance his case. Without knowing why his career came to its end, we can’t really be sure we’ve got him right.

George Crowe

[Updated 3/31/18 due to incorrect Quality of Play factor for minor league seasons.]

In many respects, Crowe’s career mirrors Bob Boyd’s. A fellow southpaw first baseman, he debuted in the Negro Leagues after the war at roughly the same age (they’re a year apart). He played well in the minors but his entry to the majors wasn’t as rapid as his skills and minor league performance warranted. Once in the big leagues, he had some fine seasons and stuck around until about age 40. In other words, a good or very good player who got screwed by the war, by his race, and then by the herky-jerky nature of integration.

He and Boyd diverged when it came to their styles of play. Crowe owned big-time power and popped thirty-one round trippers in 1957, his age-36 year. Not coincidentally, it was also the only year he played full-time and reached 500 plate appearances. But Big George didn’t have Boyd’s speed or glove. He was merely around average in those departments.

In the end, our MLEs for them come out fairly similar. But, for Crowe, we felt we needed to create two sets of MLEs. The reason for this decision was that unlike Boyd, Crowe’s play declined quickly in his mid-thirties, while the Rope was having his better years. This means that Crowe’s MLEs are more heavily influenced by his decline phase than might be reasonable. As the late-1940s seasons roll out on the Negro Leagues database, these two sets of projections will converge, but for now we have one that’s a straight-up translation based on overall career norms. In the second however, we fill in Crowe’s 1947 to 1950 seasons from the production rates and playing-time rates of his minor leagues performance in 1951, 1952, and 1954 when he had regular playing time during the tail end of his prime.

George Crowe (MLE version 1)
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1947–1961
Destination: NL 1947–1961
Missing data: 1950

Year Age Lg Pos    PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1947  26 NL 1B    500    9    0    0     0   - 5    4   0.4   16   19   2.0
1948  27 NL 1B    490   14    0    0     0   - 5    9   0.9   15   24   2.5
1949  28 NL 1B    620   19    0    0     0   - 6   13   1.3   19   32   3.3
1950  29 NL 1B    630   20    0    0     0   - 6   14   1.4   20   34   3.4
1951  30 NL 1B    630   21    0    0     0   - 6   15   1.6   20   35   3.6
1952  31 NL 1B    420   12    0    1     0   - 4    8   0.9   13   22   2.4
1953  32 NL 1B    490   13    0    0     1     0   14   1.4   15   29   2.9
1954  33 NL 1B    630   38    0    0     0   - 7   31   3.1   20   51   5.2
1955  34 NL 1B    354   12    1    0    -3   - 4    6   0.6   13   20   1.8
1956  35 NL 1B    157    1    0    0     4   - 1    4   0.4    6    9   0.9
1957  36 NL 1B    532    9   -1    0    -4   - 7  - 3  -0.3   20   17   1.6
1958  37 NL 1B    393  - 4    0    0    -3   - 5  -13  -1.4   15    2   0.1
1959  38 NL 1B    109    5    0    0     1   - 1    5   0.5    4   10   1.0
1960  39 NL 1B     79  - 2    0    0     0     0  - 3  -0.3    3    0   0.0
1961  40 NL 1B      7  - 1    0    0     0     0  - 1  -0.1    0  - 1  -0.1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 6041  165    0   -2    -5   -56  102  10.4  199  302  30.6

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1961)
PA: 246th
Rbat: 150th 
WAA: t-248th
WAR: t-231st
George Crowe (MLE version 2)
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1947–1961
Destination: NL 1947–1961
Missing data: 1947–1950

Year Age Lg Pos    PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1947  26 NL 1B    630    9    0    0     0   - 6    2   0.3   22   24   2.5
1948  27 NL 1B    630   27    0    0     0   - 6   21   2.1   22   42   4.5
1949  28 NL 1B    620   27    0    0     0   - 6   20   2.1   21   42   4.3
1950  29 NL 1B    630   27    0    0     0   - 6   21   2.1   22   42   4.3
1951  30 NL 1B    630   21    0    0     0   - 6   15   1.6   22   37   3.8
1952  31 NL 1B    420   12    0    1     0   - 4    8   0.9   14   23   2.5
1953  32 NL 1B    490   13    0    0     1     0   14   1.4   14   31   3.1
1954  33 NL 1B    630   38    0    0     0   - 7   31   3.1   17   52   5.4
1955  34 NL 1B    354   12    1    0    -3   - 4    6   0.6   13   20   1.8
1956  35 NL 1B    157    1    0    0     4   - 1    4   0.4    6    9   0.9
1957  36 NL 1B    532    9   -1    0    -4   - 7  - 3  -0.3   20   17   1.6
1958  37 NL 1B    393  - 4    0    0    -3   - 5  -13  -1.4   15    2   0.1
1959  38 NL 1B    109    5    0    0     1   - 1    5   0.5    4   10   1.0
1960  39 NL 1B     79  - 2    0    0     0     0  - 3  -0.3    3    0   0.0
1961  40 NL 1B      7  - 1    0    0     0     0  - 1  -0.1    0  - 1  -0.1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 6311  193    0   -2    -5   -59  128  13.0  221  350  35.6

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1961)
PA: 219th
Rbat: 130th
WAA: t-198th
WAR: t-176th

Unless Crowe’s 1947 and 1948 Negro Leagues stats come back way off the charts, we’ve got a pretty good bead on this guy. He’s in the same Jim Bottomley neighborhood that George Carr is with a range from a little less value than Carr to a little more value than Boyd.

Well, sort of. We don’t actually have that great a sense of Crowe because he did get jerked around a bit in the early 1950s. Then once he arrived in the majors for keeps, he got platooned frequently. Big George demonstrates the very complicated nature of interpreting integration-era players. The late start is one thing, of course. And the fact that his first taste of organized baseball was in B and A leagues he was clearly too advanced for. So then he goes to AAA and in parts of three years and over 1,588 plate appearances just totally destroys the American Association to the tune of .327/.405/.556. That’s not a Quad-A player, that’s a major leaguer held back by his race and given big-league playing time in fits and starts (he was basically a pinch-hitter in the NL for the entire 1953 season), even after he’d make it for good.

There’s too much noise around the signal for a player like Crowe for us to be sure that we know what he would have been like had his career followed the normal trajectory of a white player with his abilities in his time. So we do our best with what we have.

Luke Easter

Speaking of guys with careers fractured in every which way by race, war, and a hundred other things, here’s Luke Easter. Let’s run through the poor guy’s tale of baseball turbulence. Much of this narrative comes courtesy of Justin Murphy, Ted Knorr, and Kevin Johnson.

Born 1915 in Mississippi and grew up in St. Louis.

St. Louis had no top Negro Leagues team, so Easter played for a company team sponsored by the American Titanium Company. Easter received steady-earning, year-round employment in his hometown with plenty of time off for practice and games. He played for the St. Louis Titanium Giants at least 1937–1941, as early as 1939, batting fourth for them. He may not have even been the team’s best player, which depends on how you feel about Sam Jethroe. It’s important to point out that the combination of the lack of an organized talent pipeline, the less remunerative salaries of the Negro Leagues, and the difficult travel conditions of black baseball in some cases gave local teams a recruiting advantage, as in the case of Luke Easter.

In 1941, Easter’s ankle was broken when a car driven by Jethroe crashed while driving to a game. This was the first of many cascading leg issues that Easter had, and one that wouldn’t have occurred under the same circumstances in organized baseball.

Easter did not receive a draft deferment (as had Jethroe), so in 1942, he was drafted and sent to a base in Missouri, but was mustered out in 1943 due to the ankle injury he’d suffered in the car accident. The St. Louis Titanium Giants ceased to exist in 1942, and Easter found work in essentially wartime industries. Easter appears not to have played high-level baseball at all during the war.

After the war, Abe Sapperstein, the biggest black-sports promoter in the midwest and founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, created the Cincinnati Crescents and signed Luke Easter for it. Sapperstein couldn’t convince the Negro American League to add his nine to their slate of teams, so the squad barnstormed the country with a full load of games against NAL and Negro National League teams. Easter hit homer after homer and emerged as the team’s best player.

Josh Gibson’s death in early 1947 tore a hole in the Homestead Gray’s lineup, which they filled by purchasing Easter from the Crescents. Although we don’t yet have 1947 totals, Easter has been reported to hit well. But in 1948, the hulking slugger went ape on the league with monster power numbers.

Bill Veeck’s Cleveland Indians purchased Easter in 1949 and assigned him to San Diego in the AAA Pacific Coast League. But in spring training, he hurt his knee in a collision and then had the same kneecap broken by a pitch. The injuries limited him to half a season, during which he pummeled the circuit by hitting .363 with 25 bombs, and led to mid-season surgery. Despite that, Cleveland called him up late in the year after a weeks-long layoff. Not surprisingly, he did little to impress.

But in 1950, he won the first base job and hit .280 with 28 roundtrippers as a 34 year-old rookie. The next year brought more of the same with a .270 average and 27 homers despite tearing a tendon in his left knee. As a 36 year old in 1952, he tacked on 31 dingers with a .263 average. Despite a constant stream of leg injuries, he managed to be a roughly average baserunner and played a competent first base. That said, the Indians demoted Easter for 14 games in the middle of the year. He started off poorly and was in obvious pain throughout the first half. Unlike white players who might be given leeway and recuperative time for non-traumatic injuries, black players during early integration had to play to stay. We see very few dark-skinned benchies during this period. Easter got healthy, tore it up, was re-promoted, and stayed in Cleveland the remainder of the year.

In 1953, an errant pitch broke Easter’s foot, and prohibited him from playing from April 18th through June 20th. He managed 230 plate appearances and hit .303 with 7 homers.

During spring training of 1954, an infected toe created problems. The Indians kept Easter on for six pinch-hitting appearances and released him during the then customary May roster cut-down. He went to Ottawa of the International League and split the remainder of the campaign with San Diego once again. He hit .315 with 28 homers between the two AAA teams.

From that point onward, Luke Easter, from age 39 to age 48 batted 4048 times, hit 210 homers and hit .287, mostly for Buffalo and Rochester in the International league. His legs healed up, and he became a local hero that fans came early to watch take batting practice.

As much as anyone, Easter can probably claim to have had among the most interesting of careers with so many stops, starts, obstacles, and towering homers that a movie should be made about him. But the reality for those interpreting his performances is that an MLE for his career requires a lot of very deep thinking. We’ll get into that below.

Luke Easter died in 1979 when he was accosted by two robbers while carrying payroll money to a bank. He was shot in the chest with a high-powered firearm and was dead on arrival to the hospital.

Luke Easter
Major League Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1937–1964
Destination: AL 1937–1957
Missing Data: 1937–1941, 1946, 1948

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1937  21 AL  1B  540   20    0    0     1   - 5    15   1.4   18   33   3.1
1938  22 AL  1B  540   20    0    0     1   - 5    15   1.4   18   33   3.1
1939  23 AL  1B  550   20    0    0     1   - 5    15   1.4   19   34   3.2
1940  24 AL  1B  550   20    0    0     1   - 5    15   1.5   19   34   3.3
1941  25 AL  1B  270   10    0    0     0   - 3     7   0.7    9   17   1.7
1942  26                     WORLD WAR II
1943  27                     WORLD WAR II, ESSENTIAL WAR INDUSTRY
1944  28                     ESSENTIAL WAR INDUSTRY
1945  29                     ESSENTIAL WAR INDUSTRY
1946  30 AL  1B  540   18   -1    0     1   - 5    12   1.4   18   31   3.5
1947  31 AL  1B  580   10   -1    0     1   - 6     4   0.5   20   24   2.7
1948  32 AL  1B  550   19   -1    0     1   - 5    14   1.4   19   32   3.3
1949  33 AL  1B  330   14    0    0     0   - 3    11   1.1   11   22   2.2
1950  34 AL  1B  623   16   -1    0     4   - 7    13   1.3   19   32   3.1
1951  35 AL  1B  532   13    0    0     0   - 6     7   0.7   16   23   2.3
1952  36 AL  1B  600   23   -1    0     1   - 6    17   1.8   21   37   4.1
1953  37 AL  1B  230    7   -2   -2    -1   - 2     1   0.1    7    8   0.8
1954  38 AL  1B  430   14   -1    0    -1   - 4     8   0.8   15   23   2.5
1955  39 AL  1B  370   12   -1    0    -1   - 4     7   0.7   13   20   2.1
1956  40 AL  1B  370   17   -1    0    -1   - 4    12   1.2   13   25   2.5
1957  41 AL  1B  280   14    0    0     0   - 3     9   1.0   10   19   2.0
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                7885  265   -8   -2     5   -79   183  18.3  264  447  45.5

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 93rd 
Rbat: 72nd 
WAA: t-138th  
WAR: t-102nd

 

To begin with, let’s call this MLE highly provisional. Until we have Easter’s 1947 and 1948 totals, we have no information on his career prior to his age-32 season. In other words, our entire MLE is based on the end of his prime and his decline. We need those two years pretty badly to increase our confidence. And, truth be told, they could make a really huge difference. If they are elite-level seasons, they will positively impact other seasons where we have to use career averages to create a projection.

Which brings us to another important point. All sources indicate that Easter began play with the Titanium Giants in 1937 and remained until 1941, ages 21 to 25. These are normal seasons for younger players to establish themselves as regulars and enjoy the seasons they will build on as a foundation for their peak performances. So this MLE includes all of those five seasons since it does not stretch credulity to think that an outstanding hitter like Easter might have arrived in his early twenties. If you disagree, just chop off the seasons you disagree with. Or take down the plate appearances to whatever level you feel more appropriate. Same can be said for Easter’s age 41 season and any later seasons. Look, Easter continued to bash away in the IL until 48, and he was an effective AAA hitter until at least age 46. This MLE, however, is based on the careers of major leaguer first basemen from 1871 to 1960 with lengthy careers, and virtually none played after age 40, so giving him age 41 could well be generous.

For Hall of Merit voters (and anyone else) who extends war credit to players, Easter is shown above earning 3 WAR per 500 PA. The implication being that with four years of 500 PAs during the war, he’d be very close to 60 WAR. Considering those were peak years, it’s easy to see him eclipsing that figure as well. We don’t do that here at the HoME, so we won’t get to deep into that discussion.

Just remember, everything about Luke Easter is highly provisional until we get those 1947 and 1948 numbers.

* * *

Next time out we’ll look at a few more first base types, with hard hitters Bill Pettus, Bill Pierce, and Edgar Wesley

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