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Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues Pitchers, Part 3

[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]

The wealth of outstanding pitchers in the Negro Leagues keeps on giving. This time around, we introduce you to Carl Glass, Bill Holland, Connie Johnson, Toothpick Sam Jones, and José Junco. We’ll also take a couple moments to tell you about some guys who didn’t quite make the cut for a longer entry. If you are in the mood for a treatise, we have previously described our method for creating Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues pitchers.

We apologize for the oddity of this article appearing not once, but twice, in its incomplete form. Personal stuff got in the way the first time and then family stuff the second, so this article had to be pushed back a couple weeks. Unfortunately, yours truly forgot to make the necessary scheduling adjustments. But we’re back on track now and looking forward to bringing you our perspective on many more Negro Leagues greats.

Carl Glass

There’s not much to say about this guy who was the best pitcher on the Memphis Red Sox of the 1930s. Biographical notes are hard to come by. He was reputed to have a great curveball and iffy control, but the numbers we have so far don’t indicate control issues. We also only have four years of league statistics to work with at this point, and he pitched for fourteen years. We went ahead with the MLE because the numbers we have are very good (four seasons all with an ERA+ above 120, three above 130). So the MLE provided below should be considered strictly provisional, and as we gain more information, we’ll see if Glass cracks. Yeah, I’m here all week.

Carl Glass
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1923–1936
Destination: NL 1923–1936
Missing data: 1926–1927, 1929–1936
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
1923   25  150    1   0.1   1.7  |   50   0.1  |   1.8 
1924   26  170    6   0.7   2.4  |   57   0.1  |   2.5 
1925   27  180   19   1.8   3.7  |   60   0.2  |   3.8 
1926   28  200   17   1.8   3.8  |   67   0.2  |   3.9 
1927   29  230   18   1.9   4.2  |   77   0.2  |   4.4 
1928   30  270   23   2.4   5.2  |   90   0.3  |   5.4 
1929   31  270   20   1.9   4.8  |   90   0.3  |   5.0 
1930   32  230   16   1.4   3.9  |   77   0.2  |   4.1 
1931   33  240   17   1.9   4.3  |   80   0.2  |   4.5 
1932   34  210   16   1.7   3.8  |   70   0.2  |   4.1 
1933   35  210   16   1.9   3.9  |   70   0.2  |   4.1 
1934   36  170   13   1.3   3.0  |   57   0.2  |   3.2 
1935   37  150   11   1.1   2.6  |   50   0.1  |   2.8 
1936   38   20    1   0.1   0.3  |    7   0.0  |   0.4 
------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL     2700  195  20.0  47.7  |  902   2.4  |  50.0 
Hypothetical MLB career rankings (1871–1960) 
Innings pitched: 112th  
Pitching Wins Above Average: t-63rd
Pitching Wins Above Replacement: 48th  
Total Wins Above Replacement (pitchers only): t-50th

Glass probably isn’t this good. Or at least he isn’t this preternaturally consistent even if his career value is approximately correct. With just four seasons of prime-seasons data, we’re relying on his known career averages more than is healthy. This is especially true in the back end of his career where we might well be way above his actual performance. Just tuck this one into your back pocket for now.

Bill Holland

Pitching mostly in New York, Chris Berman would have nicknamed him Tunnel. Then again, for you northern New Jersey sorts, Berman would have referred to Lee Tunnel as Fort Lee Tunnel. As for Holland, The righty threw a little of everything and played all but five of his 22 seasons with teams in the Big Apple. In fact, Holland was the black professional to throw a pitch in Yankee Stadium. His record and MLEs suggest he was the up-and-down type, like Early Wynn or Burleigh Grimes in that way. Like them he was an above average pitcher but not really an ace. We don’t show him with the kind of durability those two righties possessed, however. Nor was he a good hitting pitcher like these two.

Bill Holland
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1919–1941
Destination: NL 1922–1941
Missing data: 1927, 1929
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
1922   21  130   31   3.2   4.5  |   43  -0.1  |   4.4 
1923   22  160   42   4.5   6.0  |   53  -0.2  |   5.8
1924   23  190    6   0.6   2.6  |   63  -0.3  |   2.3 
1925   24  220  - 4  -0.3   2.0  |   73  -0.2  |   1.9 
1926   25  260  -19  -1.9   0.9  |   87  -0.3  |   0.6 
1927   26  250  - 6  -0.6   2.0  |   83  -0.2  |   1.8 
1928   27  250  -68  -6.0  -3.2  |   83  -0.1  |  -3.3 
1929   28  250    4   0.4   3.1  |   83  -0.1  |   3.1 
1930   29  250   30   2.7   5.4  |   83  -0.1  |   5.3 
1931   30  220    0   0.0   2.3  |   73  -0.2  |   2.1 
1932   31  250   10   1.0   3.6  |   83  -0.1  |   3.4 
1933   32  190  - 2  -0.2   1.7  |   63  -0.2  |   1.5 
1934   33  190    0   0.0   2.0  |   63  -0.1  |   1.9 
1935   34  200   21   2.1   4.2  |   67  -0.2  |   4.0 
1936   35  200   34   3.7   5.6  |   67   0.0  |   5.6 
1937   36  190   13   1.4   3.4  |   63  -0.1  |   3.3
1938   37  150    8   0.8   2.3  |   50   0.0  |   2.3
1939   38  140    4   0.4   1.9  |   47  -0.1  |   1.8
1940   39   50    1   0.1   0.6  |   17   0.0  |   0.6
------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL     3740  106  12.0  50.9  | 1244  -2.6  |  48.3 
Hypothetical MLB career rankings (1871–1960) 
Innings pitched: 32nd  
Pitching Wins Above Average: t-136th
Pitching Wins Above Replacement: 47th  
Total Wins Above Replacement (pitchers only): 64th

In case you were wondering, Early Wynn’s career WAA and WAR, pitching only, were 16.6 and 51.6 respectively, though in 800 more innings. Grimes finished at 14.2 WAA and 46.9 WAR in 450 more innings. We knocked off Holland’s earliest and latest seasons due to their being rather poor. We assume as part of this process that in a player’s formative years, if he can’t play above-average big-league baseball he’s in the minors until he can. Similarly that once he has clearly lost it, we cut him loose quickly. Wynn was at best inconsistent from 19 through 22, though he did a pretty good job of keeping his stuff into his forties as he chased number 300. Early in his career, Grimes sandwiched two replacement-level seasons around a 4.7 WAR season, and late in his days, from 38 to 40, he was no longer good enough to hold a roster spot for a whole season.

Big picture, probably a lesser version of Wynn and Grimes. The former wouldn’t have reached the HoME if his bat hadn’t nosed him over, and the latter didn’t make it even with a good bat.

Connie Johnson

Johnson was a righty who made the big show in 1953 at age 30. He was known for an excellent curveball and stayed in the league for parts of five years with the Pale Hose, and the O’s. He got his start in 1940 as a fireballing youngster, and spent three years in the service during World War II. At some point along the way, an arm injury forced him to develop secondary pitches. Thus the great curve. He made a good showing in MLB, including leading the league in FIP and K/BB in his penultimate season. After being a below average pitcher the next year, he was sent down and never appeared again in big leagues.

Connie Johnson
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1940–1960
Destination: AL 1942–1959
Missing data: 1947–1950
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
1942   19   50  - 3  -0.3   0.2  |   17   0.0  |   0.2 
1943       MILITARY SERVICE
1944       MILITARY SERVICE
1945       MILITARY SERVICE
1946   23  180  -33  -3.4  -1.5  |   60   0.1  |  -1.4 
1947   24   30  -16  -1.3  -1.0  |   10   0.0  |  -1.0 
1948   25  210  -16  -1.6   0.7  |   70   0.1  |   0.8 
1949   26  220    7   0.7   3.0  |   73   0.2  |   3.1 
1950   27  230   21   2.1   4.5  |   77   0.2  |   4.7 
1951   28  260   33   3.5   6.2  |   87   0.1  |   6.3 
1952   29  190   25   2.9   4.7  |   63   0.2  |   4.9 
1953   30  180   12   1.3   3.1  |   60   0.0  |   3.0 
1954   31  210   31   3.5   5.6  |   70   0.2  |   5.8 
1955   32  210   11   1.2   3.3  |   70   0.0  |   3.4 
1956   33  196   16   1.7   3.2  |   73   0.3  |   3.5 
1957   34  242    8   0.9   2.9  |   81   0.2  |   3.1
1958   35  118  - 3  -0.3   0.6  |   39   0.1  |   0.7
1959   36  110    5   0.6   1.6  |   37   0.1  |   1.7
------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL     2636   99  11.4  37.0  |  887   1.9  |  38.8 
Hypothetical MLB career rankings (1871–1960) 
Innings pitched: 118th  
Pitching Wins Above Average: 149th
Pitching Wins Above Replacement: t-105th  
Total Wins Above Replacement (pitchers only): 99th

[The following refers to an earlier MLE with higher values.]

If you’re wondering, that’s a pretty darned good pitcher. Here’s a few other pitchers with similar innings and pitching WAR totals:

  • Babe Adams: 49.5 WAR in 2995 innings
  • Ted Breitenstein: 52.1 WAR in 2973 innings
  • Tommy Bridges: 52.5 WAR in 2826 innings
  • Wes Ferrell: 48.8 WAR in 2623 innings
  • Dizzy Trout: 46.1 WAR in 2726 innings
  • Bob Shawkey: 46.2 WAR in 2937 innings
  • Al Spalding: 52.3 WAR in 2886 innings
  • Hippo Vaughn: 46.6 WAR in 2730 innings

But you probably see the fly in ointment for Mr. Johnson. Of these fellows, we’ve elected only Wes Ferrell and only because he has more hitting value than any pitcher.

Toothpick Sam Jones

This fellow has a strange blend of characteristics that include aspects of Minnie Miñoso and Nolan Ryan. The former because he reached the big leagues late in his career (age 25) in Cleveland. The latter because he dominated both the strikeout and walk charts in the AL and allowed very few hits. In fact, from 1955–1960, he led the strikeouts four times, and finished in the top five every year. At the same time, however, he also led the AL in walks four times and finished sixth and eighth in two other seasons. While he was at it, he led the league in H/9 twice and finished in the top ten in the AL every year over the same span. Thus a no-hitter and two near misses in the majors. He did the same kind of thing in the minors prior to 1955 as well. In 1950 in the Eastern League, he led the league in walks (BBREF doesn’t have strikeout figures for the circuit). In 1951, he led the PCL in strikeouts and walks. In 1953 he finished seventh in strikeouts and second in walks. In 1954, he was second in both strikeouts and walks, finishing behind a similar Indians farmhand, Herb Score.

Jones’ records during his minor league indenture were very similar to his big-league records:

  • 1950: 17-8, 3.70 RA9
  • 1951: 16-13, 3.30 RA9
  • 1953: 10-12, 4.14 RA9
  • 1954: 15-8, 4.43 RA9
  • TOTAL: 58-41, 3.84 RA9

Jones’ MLB record from 1955 to 1960 was 88-85, 3.91 RA9. That’s a substantially similar record considering the higher level of competition in MLB and the fact that Cleveland’s farm teams played better  in the early 1950s was a better relative to their leagues than Jones’ Cubs, Cards, and Giants did relative to the NL. So Jones was, like so many other black players of the time, an MLB-ready player toiling away in the minors. Once in the big leagues, he made two All-Star teams, earned 21 WAR as a pitcher, and finished second in the 1959 Cy Young vote. Early Wynn won going away, but the award was given to only one pitcher in all of MLB at the time. Jones’ Achilles heel was not his walks, by the way. It was his bat. He was an unusually poor hitter, even for a pitcher. His career OPS+ was -6, he created -2.0 WAR of batting value in just 588 plate appearances, during which he struck out 167 times. The latter might be OK for Adam Dunn, but for a really bad hitter in the 1950s (when strikeout rates were half or less of today’s zooming rates), that’s just terrible.

Toothpick Sam Jones
Major Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1946–1964
Destination: AL 1946–1964
Missing data: 1946–1949
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
1946   20  130    7   0.8   2.0  |   43  -0.1  |   1.9 
1947   21  100   13   1.4   2.8  |   47  -0.2  |   2.6 
1948   22  180    9   1.0   2.8  |   60  -0.2  |   2.6 
1949   23  220   28   3.0   5.2  |   73  -0.2  |   5.0 
1950   24  260   18   1.9   4.5  |   87  -0.3  |   4.2 
1951   25  260   25   2.7   5.3  |   87  -0.3  |   5.0 
1952   26   70    5   0.5   1.2  |   23  -0.1  |   1.1 
1953   27  200   13   1.3   3.4  |   67  -0.1  |   3.2 
1954   28  210   12   1.2   3.3  |   70  -0.2  |   3.1 
1955   29  242    8   0.8   3.2  |   85  -0.2  |   3.0 
1956   30  189  - 1  -0.1   1.8  |   70   0.0  |   1.8 
1957   31  183    9   1.0   2.8  |   70  -0.4  |   2.4
1958   32  250   34   3.9   6.3  |   95  -1.0  |   5.3
1959   33  271   27   2.9   5.7  |  100  -0.5  |   5.2
1960   34  234  -11  -1.2   1.1  |   89  -0.3  |   1.4  
1961   35  128  -13  -1.3   0.0  |   42  -0.1  |  -0.1  
1962   36   81    4   0.4   1.0  |   21  -0.1  |   0.9
1963   37   11  - 7  -0.8  -1.0  |    2   0.0  |  -1.0 
1964   38   10    1   0.1   0.1  |    1   0.0  |   0.1
------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL     3269  180  19.5  51.6  | 1132  -3.9  |  47.7 

Hypothetical MLB career rankings (1871–1960) 
Innings pitched: 51st  
Pitching Wins Above Average: 68th
Pitching Wins Above Replacement: t-44th  
Total Wins Above Replacement (pitchers only): t-66th

[The following refers to an earlier, more generous, MLE for Connie Johnson.]

Jones makes a nice comp for Connie Johnson. Very similar career totals and not too far off on peak. Basically if you whack off Jones’ last four years, you have Johnson’s career, give or take. Toothpick Sam couldn’t hit a lick, and Johnson could, and the former was a little less effective on a per-game basis.

Of course, both of these guys have several seasons’ of complete data missing from our career assessments, and in the case of Johnson, likely peak years. It’s possible they might end up looking a little better, or a little worse, than what we show here. Neither looks like a big-time contender at this point. Good, not great. That’s unlikely to change with just a couple-three years of data, but we won’t know until we know.

José Junco

Not a lot of biographical information out there on this fellow. He was hardly a flashy pitcher, didn’t strike out tons of guys and barely more than he struck out. But running him through our MLE protocol, we found a guy who at least was worth passing along to you, dear reader.

José Junco
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1911–1922
Destination: NL 1911–1922
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
1911   21  200   45   5.1   7.0  |   67  -0.2  |   6.9 
1912   22  220   31   3.4   5.6  |   73  -0.3  |   5.3 
1913   23  220   12   1.4   3.5  |   73  -0.2  |   3.3 
1914   24  200    0   0.0   2.0  |   67  -0.2  |   1.8 
1915   25  220    7   0.8   2.9  |   73  -0.4  |   2.5 
1916   26  250    8   1.1   3.4  |   83  -0.4  |   3.0 
1917   27  260   14   1.7   4.2  |   87  -0.6  |   3.6 
1918   28  270  - 3  -0.4   2.2  |   90  -0.7  |   1.6 
1919   29  170  -15  -1.7   0.0  |   57  -0.3  |  -0.3 
1920   30  240   17   2.0   4.3  |   80  -0.4  |   4.0 
1921   31  140   17   1.7   3.1  |   47  -0.1  |   3.0 
1922   32   10    5   0.4   0.5  |    3   0.0  |   0.5 
------------------------------------------------------- 
TOTAL     2400  138  15.5  38.9  |  800  -3.7  |  35.1 
Hypothetical MLB career rankings (1871–1960) 
Innings pitched: 143rd 
Pitching Wins Above Average: 97th
Pitching Wins Above Replacement: t-94th 
Total Wins Above Replacement (pitchers only): t-119th

Junco looks like he might have a Doc Gooden kind of career: Brilliant couple years early, never reaching those heights again and pitching like a #2/#3 for a while thereafter with intermittent awfulness. Not a serious HoME candidate, but a good pitcher and worth knowing about.

Lightning Round

Before we go we have a couple other fellows we wanted to introduce you to, though none of them quite rises to the level of the pitchers we’ve shown you today. Below you’ll find career MLE lines for Lewis Hampton and Rats Henderson.

Lewis Hampton
Negro Leagues Stats
Career: 1920–1928
Destination: NL 1920–1928
Missing Data: 1920, 1926–1928
               PITCHING          |  BATTING    |  TOTAL
YEAR  AGE   IP  RAA   WAA   WAR  |  PA    WAR  |   WAR
========================================================
TOTAL     1356  112  11.5  25.3  |  452   3.3  |  28.6 

Rats Henderson 
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1923–1931 
Destination: NL 1923–1931 
Missing Data: 1927, 1929–1931  
                PITCHING         |  BATTING  |  TOTAL 
YEAR  AGE    IP  RAA   WAA   WAR |  PA   WAR |   WAR 
======================================================== 
TOTAL      1840   85   8.8  28.0 | 615  -1.4 |  26.6

* * *

Next up: Second basemen. We’ll have a look at Newt Allen, Bobby Avila, Rev Canada, and maybe one or two others.

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Evaluating More Negro Leagues Pitchers, Part 3

  1. Oops. Looks like you reprised almost all of the previous post after Lewis Hampton’s name.

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    Posted by jim albright | February 19, 2018, 6:21 pm
    • Yup. Hit “publish” instead of “schedule.” Happens to the best of us…and to me.

      Please consider Carl Glass’ MLE a sneak preview of what you’ll see on 2/28 when the rest of it goes up.

      Posted by eric | February 19, 2018, 9:48 pm

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