you're reading...
Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues Second Basemen, Part II

[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 dudes who turn the deuce are back this week. We have MLEs for four more outstanding Negro Leagues second basemen—Tommy Sampson, Bunny Serrell, George Scales, and Marv Williams—as well as a little sum’in sum’in with a special guest. As always, if you want to unlock the inner springs of our Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters, we encourage you to block off a few hours on your schedule for some breezy reading.

Tommy Sampson

Talk about bad breaks. Tommy Sampson had a lot of them. He quit school at 17 and went to work in the West Virginia coal mines for seven years.

Bad Break 1: While jacking up a coal car, he lost the little finger on his right (throwing) hand.

Sampson played ball on weekends, and he was really good. He caught a good break when a superior semipro team noticed his abundant talent.

Bad Break 2: Sampson was 25 when he got into semipro ball.

At some point prior to his Negro Leagues experience, Sampson hurt his throwing shoulder, forcing a move from third base to second base.

That team kept faster company, barnstormed a little, and played all week in a regional southeastern semipro league. Sampson wasn’t on any Negro Leagues radars but was finally noticed by Candy Jim Taylor during a non-league game in Atlanta in early 1940.

Bad Break 4: Sampson didn’t sign until age 27.

He was immediately a star, making the East-West All-Star Game in his rookie season. Because the righty swinging Sampson didn’t have the benefit of top level coaching and mentorship until his late 20s, Taylor helped him refine his game. Sampson, described as an ideal second-place hitter, played good baseball for several years. Then came the 1944 Negro World Series. In the middle of it, a drunk driver hit a car Sampson was driving in with three other players. The others emerged from the wreck with minor injuries.

Bad Break 5: Sampson’s right leg was broken.

He missed the rest of the World Series, which his Birmingham Black Barons lost. Sampson was named player-manager for 1946, a position he held until 1947. The statistical record we have shows Sampson playing 5 of the Birmingham Black Barons’ 23 currently documented league contests in 1945 and in only 3 of the Black Barons’ 9 documented contests in 1946. We don’t yet have numbers for 1947—1949, so we don’t know whether Sampson simply didn’t play himself and/or whether his injury scotched his productivity.

That last paragraph should tell you a lot about how we currently view his MLE. It’s a work in progress. Without a clearer sense of how badly the car accident diminished his capabilities, everything after 1944 is tentative. This MLE, however, also includes his age 25 and age 26 seasons. They are based on his career norms. A white player with Tommy Sampson’s talent was extraordinary unlikely to have debuted at age 27 in the white major leagues. Not impossible, there are certain players with career paths like that, including some Hall of Miller and Eric players, but they are exceptions that prove the rule.

Tommy Sampson may have had those five bad breaks, in addition to the bad break of being born a black man in a racist country and baseball system, but he played on very important part in the integration of the big leagues. In 1948, he discovered a teenager in the Birmingham baseball scene with lightning speed, a thunderous bat, and one heck of a glove. Thanks to Sampson, the world got to enjoy the career of Willie Mays.

Tommy Sampson
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1940–1948
Destination: NL 1938–1948
Missing data: 1947–1948

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA  WAA Rrep RAR   WAR
=============================================================================
1938  25 NL 2B    510    5    0    0     4     7    16   1.7   16   32   3.4
1939  26 NL 2B    510    5    0    0     4     7    17   1.7   16   33   3.4
1940  27 NL 2B    530    8    0    0     4     7    20   2.1   17   37   3.9
1941  28 NL 2B    530    7    0    0     4     7    19   2.1   17   36   3.9
1942  29 NL 2B    530    8    0    0     4     7    20   2.3   17   36   4.2
1943  30 NL 2B    540    1    0    0     5     8    13   1.5   17   30   3.4
1944  31 NL 2B    520    5    0    0     4     7    17   1.8   16   33   3.6
1945  32 NL 2B    460  - 2    0    0     4     6     8   0.9   14   23   2.4
1946  33 NL 2B    410   17    0    0     3     6    26   2.9   13   39   4.4
1947  34 NL 2B    270  - 7    0    0     2     4   - 1  -0.1    8    7   0.7
1948  35 NL 2B    200  - 2    0    0     2     3     3   0.3    6    9   1.0
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 5010   45    2    0    42    69   158  17.1  156  314  34.4

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 395th 
Rbat: 432nd
WAA: 148th
WAR: 188th

The baserunning value doesn’t add up due to rounding error. In general, we can say with some certainty that Sampson isn’t going to be challenging for the Hall of Miller and Eric. Especially because without those last two years, his story remains incomplete. That said, he appears to have been a pretty darned good player.

George Scales

Scales was hung with the sobriquet “Tubby.” In fact, his stats and his MLE support the nickname, at least during part of his career. From age 20 to age 27, in those seasons for which we have documentation, Scales pilfered 27 bags for teams and leagues that averaged 34 swipes in his opportunities. Thereafter he stole 12 times for teams and leagues that roughly doubled his output. Similarly, through age 31, Scales tripled 29 times. After age 31 he tripled nine times.  It’s noT unusual to be slowed by age, of course, but Scales dropped from merely below average speed to piano-mover speed quickly.

James Riley described him as a “fast big man but a little portly and lacking the speed necessary for a wide range afield.” I’m not entirely sure how all of those things make sense together, but Tubby tipped the scales at 5’11″/195 lbs, so he wasn’t a Kirby Puckett fire hydrant (Puckett is generously listed at 5’8″, 178 lbs by BBREF. Riley says Scales studied the opposition keenly and made up for his slowness afoot with sound positioning. The records we have indicate that Scales moved around the diamond over the course of his career in a somewhat predictable fashion:

  • Age 20–22: Third base
  • Age 23: Second base
  • Age 24–25: Shortstop
  • Age 26: No data
  • Age 27: Second base/Shortstop
  • Age 28: No data
  • Age 29–31: Second base
  • Age 32: Third base/Right field
  • Age 33: Third base/Second base
  • Age 34–35: Third base
  • Age 36: No data
  • Age 37–39: Third base
  • Age 40: Second base/Third base/Left field
  • Age 41: First base
  • Age 42: First base/Right field
  • Age 43–45: First base

When Scales started, third base and second base had just begun trading places on the defensive spectrum. He began at third and played some shortstop too. Then mostly second base into his early thirties. Back to third base for the better part of a decade, and on to first base to finish things off. Essentially he moved along the defensive spectrum from the most difficult infield positions to the least. It does appear that in his early thirties, between position changes and amidst radical reductions in steals and triples, Scales had lost a lot of athleticism. It shows up in his hitting performance too. The bottom fell out from under his bat in his early thirties, which shows up in his actual stats and in our MLE.

George Scales
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1921–1944
Destination: NL 1922–1942
Missing data: 1927-1928, 1937
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
======================================================================
1922  21 NL  2B  270  - 2    0      1    2     0   0.0    8    9   0.9
1923  22 NL  2B  520   23    0      2    4    27   2.7   16   44   4.3
1924  23 NL  2B  530   26    0      2    4    31   3.1   17   47   4.9
1925  24 NL  2B  490   11    0      2    3    15   1.4   15   30   2.9
1926  25 NL  2B  550   11   -1      2    4    16   1.6   17   33   3.4
1927  26 NL  2B  550    7   -1      2    4    13   1.3   17   30   3.1
1928  27 NL  2B  560   16   -1      2    4    21   2.1   17   38   3.9
1929  28 NL  2B  540   19   -1      2    4    24   2.2   17   41   3.7
1930  29 NL  2B  560   38   -1      2    4    43   3.7   17   61   5.3
1931  30 NL  2B  550   24   -1      0    4    27   2.8   17   44   4.6
1932  31 NL  2B  550    7   -1     -4    4     7   0.7   17   24   2.5
1933  32 NL  3B  530    4    0      2    2     8   0.9   17   24   2.8
1934  33 NL  3B  540  - 4   -1     -1    2   - 4  -0.4   17   13   1.3
1935  34 NL  3B  520    2    0     -5    2   - 1  -0.1   16   15   1.5
1936  35 NL  3B  460    7    0     -4    2     4   0.4   14   19   1.9
1937  36 NL  3B  430    7    0     -4    1     4   0.4   13   17   1.8
1938  37 NL  3B  300    0    0     -3    1   - 3  -0.3    9    7   0.7
1939  38 NL  3B  250    5    0     -2    1     3   0.4    8   11   1.2
1940  39 NL  3B  230    7    0     -2    0     5   0.5    7   12   1.3
1941  40 NL  1B  170    2    0      0   -2     0   0.0    5    5   0.6
1942  41 NL  1B  100    0    0      0    0   - 1  -0.1    3    2   0.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------
                9200  209  - 9     -8   48   240  23.3  287  527  52.8

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 40th   
Rbat: 115th
WAA: t-86th  
WAR: 67th

So what we’re saying here is that after age 30, Scales went Dale Murphy and was a pale shadow of himself. His batting, speed, and fielding all fell apart. There’s only three ways this thing goes:

  1. Scales suffered an injury, probably to his legs, prior to his age 31 season, that destroyed his athleticism.
  2. Scales let himself go physically, gained weight to match his nickname, and squandered his athleticism.
  3. It was just his time.

Now, George Scales was no dummy. In fact, he became a stockbroker in his post-baseball career. He had been elevated to manager as a player, and was known as a smart baseball man who was tough on his players. He helped organize the New York Black Yankees club in mid-career. People aren’t always rational about how they live and work, but I’d guess that Scales probably didn’t let himself go. Therefore, I’m speculating, that numbers 1 or 3 were operative.

I revised this MLE just before positing it to present a view of Scales more consistent with those presented for other players. But the original version of this MLE was pretty harsh on him with a much earlier close to his top-level career. There’s a sound baseball argument that in the majors, he might have been done by his mid-thirties. Goes like this:

  • Scales lost his athleticism after age 30ish
  • Which ruined his defense, forcing a move to third base
  • He was well below average at third base
  • He probably would have been forced to move to first base defensively around age 34ish
  • But his offensive production had fallen way off
  • So moving to first base would have rendered him approximately a replacement player, maybe worse due to the offensive expectations for first basemen.

For this reason, even if Scales appears like he has a decent claim on the lower rungs of the Hall of Miller and Eric, I’d be skeptical enough of this MLE to say No thanks. I have more confidence in this next fellow.

Barney (?) Serrell

He was called Barney, Bunny, and Bonnie. No matter what you called him, however, he could really pick it at second base. In fact, as every source on him points out, other players dubbed Serrell “Vacuum Cleaner” long before Brooks Robinson was called it. Hailing from Louisiana, the rail thin Serrell got his start at age 21 with the Chicago American Giants, then became a regular at 22 with the Kansas City Monarchs. Serrell’s calling cards were sensational range and a line-drive bat. In some ways he’s like Ray Dandridge at second: outstanding defense, middling power, relatively few walks, good batting averages, long careers. Both also spent much of their careers outside the States where they could enjoy life in a society not stacked so steeply against people with dark skin. In fact, Serrell married a Mexican woman and resided south of the Rio Grande after his playing days. When integration finally opened up the baseball world to black players, both entered the minors, though Serrell went back to Mexico after only a season in organized baseball. Serrell didn’t quite have Dandridge’s speed, but the analogy goes pretty far, especially because both players appear to have very good HoME cases if our MLEs are correctly calibrated.

History owes Serrell a backhanded favor. His defection after 1945 to Tampico in the Mexican League opened a spot on the Monarch’s roster. Reeling from the loss of a star player, the squad signed a former collegiate football, track, and basketball star named Jackie Robinson to fill the roster spot. Many thought at the time that the Monarchs got the worst of that swap because Serrell was so well thought of. Our MLE says that while we may look back and chuckle because of what we know about Jackie, contemporary observers had good reason to question the move.

Barney Serrell (also known by William C., Bonnie, Bunny, and Sorrell)
Negro Leagues Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1941–1958
Destination: NL 1941–1958
Missing data: 1949-1950, 1955-1957
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
==========================================================================
1941  21 NL  2B  280  - 1    0    0     3    3     5   0.5    9   14   1.5
1942  22 NL  2B  570   14    0    0     7    5    26   3.0   18   44   5.1
1943  23 NL  2B  590    7    0    0     7    6    21   2.3   18   39   4.5
1944  24 NL  2B  570   16    0    0     7    6    28   3.0   18   46   5.0
1945  25 NL  2B  580   10    0    0     7    6    23   2.4   18   41   4.3
1946  26 NL  2B  600    7    0    0     7    6    22   2.4   19   39   4.5
1947  27 NL  2B  640    2    0    0     8    6    16   1.7   20   36   3.7
1948  28 NL  2B  610   10    0    1     7    6    24   2.5   19   43   4.6
1949  29 NL  2B  560    4    0    1     7    5    17   1.7   17   34   3.6
1950  30 NL  2B  560    2    0    1     6    5    14   1.4   17   31   3.2
1951  31 NL  2B  440  - 7    0    0     4    4     2   0.2   14   15   1.6
1952  32 NL  2B  380    8    0    0     3    3    14   1.6   12   26   2.9
1953  33 NL  2B  610   13    0    1     4    6    23   2.2   19   42   4.2
1954  34 NL  2B  520   15    0    1     2    4    22   2.2   16   38   3.9
1955  35 NL  2B  480    6    0    1     1    4    11   1.1   15   26   2.7
1956  36 NL  2B  440    3    0    0     0    3     7   0.7   14   21   2.2
1957  37 NL  2B  310    2    0    0    -1    2     4   0.4   10   13   1.4
1958  38 NL  2B  250  - 3    0    0    -1    2   - 2  -0.2    8    6   0.7
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
                8990  108    1    5    78   82   274  29.2  280  554  59.5

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 49th   
Rbat: 229th
Rfield: 14th (second base only)
WAA: 62nd  
WAR: 48th

For defense, we’ve given Serrell defensive runs in accordance with his reputation and in spite of only one season’s worth of Negro Leagues stats and two season’s worth of minor leagues stats. We began with an 8 runs per 154 games rate through age 29. Then we decremented for age such that his total of defensive runs makes him the 14th highest Rfield total among second basemen from 1871 through 1960. It’s possible that Serrell was a better or worse defender than that, but we felt that being just outside the best baker’s dozen felt defensible. Here’s how it would look:

  1. Bid McPhee: 154
  2. Joe Gordon: 150
  3. Frankie Frisch: 140
  4. Hughie Critz: 130
  5. Johnny Evers: 127
  6. Nellie Fox: 104
  7. Lou Bierbauer: 89
  8. Bobby Lowe: 88
  9. Danny Richardson: 85
  10. Red Schoendienst: 84
  11. Nap Lajoie: 83
  12. Jackie Robinson: 81
  13. Fred Dunlap: 80
  14. Bonnie Serrell: 78

We’ve given Serrell a high ranking, but his total of fielding runs isn’t so high that it’s an outlier.

The quality of Serrell’s MLE surprised me. This guy is basically on the in/out line with these numbers. I thought he would come out as a meh player whose outsized defensive reputation hid his offensive imperfections. I thought the same thing about Hooks Dandridge too. In both cases I was wrong. In fact, Serrell’s bat, while not exactly Rogers Hornsby’s came out fine. After departing for Mexico, the free-swinging style he showed early in his Negro Leagues career gave way to a more balanced attack. The lefty swinger improved his walk rates considerably to acceptable rates, and he continued to hit with authority. He also struck out very little.

You can see that Serrell’s MLE looks like Tommy Sampson’s if the latter had been healthy, had gotten started at a normal baseball age, and had lasted a lot longer. Unlike Sampson, Bunny must have had a good-luck rabbit’s foot.

Marvin Williams

Marvin Williams was a big, strong righty hitter with a dash of speed, a below-average glove, and maybe  a little homesickness. At 6’0″, 190 pounds, Williams was, if not a basketball center, a guy with a sturdy,  plus-size frame. In the 4,313 plate appearances we know about so far, he used his size to smash 405 extra base hits or about 61 per 650 trips to the plate. In a full season, he hit about 32 doubles, 8 triples, and 20 homers. He hit .303 in the at-bats we have on record, and he also walked 527 times, or roughly 79 times a year. Now all that translates down a bit once we work up the MLEs, but you can get the outlines of the type of player we’re talking about.

Williams’ weakness was his glove. In the few sources that exist for him, little or no mention is made of his fielding, a sure sign that he probably didn’t impress anyone with his glove work. That doesn’t make him a disaster artist at second base, however. He played there deep into his career, so he couldn’t have played it that badly. I’d be challenged to discern the difference visually in any given season between fielding a couple runs below average and a couple runs above, and Williams was so well traveled that nobody got long glimpses at him.

We have fielding numbers for only a few years of his career, and they are a mixed bag. Some seasons positive, some seasons rotten. So at this point, we’ve taken a conservative approach and made him a below average fielder all the way across his career.

Few players switched teams as often as Williams did. He worked out, along with Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe, for the Red Sox in 1943. Few people remember Williams’ participation. At the time he was with the Philadelphia Stars of the Negro National League. Here’s his career itinerary:

  • 1943–1945: Philadelphia, NNL
  • 1944/1945: Ponce, Puerto Rican Winter League
  • 1945: Mexico City, Mexican League
  • 1946: Philadelphia Stars, NNL
  • 1947: Pastora, Venezuelan Summer League
  • 1947: Vargas, Venezuelan Winter League
  • 1947/1948: Leones, Cuban Winter League
  • 1948: Mexico City, Mexican League
  • 1949: Jalisco, Mexican League
  • 1949: Philadelphia, Negro American League
  • 1949/1950: Ponce, Puerto Rican Winter League
  • 1950: Cleveland: Negro American League
  • 1950: Sacramento, Pacific Coast League
  • 1951: Mexico City, Mexican League
  • 1952: Chihuahua, Arizona-Texas League
  • 1953: Laredo, Gulf Coast League
  • 1953: Mexico City, Mexican League
  • 1954: Vancouver, Western International League
  • 1955: Seattle, Pacific Coast League
  • 1955: Columbia, South Atlantic League
  • 1956–1958: Tulsa, Texas League
  • 1959: Victoria, Texas League
  • 1959: Mexico City Tigers, Mexican League
  • 1959: Mexico City Reds, Mexican League
  • 1960: Victoria, Texas League
  • 1960: San Antonio, Texas League
  • 1961: Victoria/Ardmore , Texas League
  • 1961: Rio Grande Valley/Victoria, San Antonio

And that’s just the leagues I know about. As you can see, while he went from place to place, he gravitated toward his home state of Texas. Players called him Tex, and if you can’t break into the majors, you might as well play near your home if you love it there. I once posted a lyric parody to the Hall of Merit about him that kinda tells the story:

“Marv’s Been Everywhere”

I was totin’ my bat along the long dusty Northern League road
When along came a team bus painted in green and gold
If your goin’ to Grand Forks, Mack, with me you can ride
And so I climbed into a seat and then I settled down inside
He asked me if I’d seen a road with so much dust and sand
And I said, “Listen! I’ve traveled every road in this here land!”

I’ve hit everywhere, man
I’ve hit everywhere, man
In Mexican stadia bare, man
Homered in the mountain air, man
Hitting – I’ve had my share, man
I’ve played everywhere

Played in:
Hilldale
Homestead
Fargo
Nagshead
Nuevo York
New Laredo
Pastora
Columbia
Topeka
Victoria
Jalisco
Idaho
Ponce
San Jose
Veracruz
Santa Cruz
Walla Walla
Chihuahua
Venezuela
I even faced Valenzuela

I’ve hit everywhere, man
I’ve hit everywhere, man
In Mexican stadia bare, man
Homered in the mountain air, man
Hitting – I’ve had my share, man

I’ve played everywhere….

Marv Williams
Negro Leagues Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1943–1961
Destination: NL 1943–1959

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield  Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1943  23 NL  2B  430   20    0    0    -1      4   23   2.5   13   36   4.1
1944  24 NL  2B  580   21    0    0    -2      6   25   2.6   18   43   4.6
1945  25 NL  2B  550   24    0    0    -2      5   28   2.8   17   45   4.7
1946  26 NL  2B  550   20    0    0    -2      5   23   2.6   17   41   4.6
1947  27 NL  2B  560   21    0    0    -2      5   25   2.5   17   42   4.3
1948  28 NL  2B  600   32    0   -1    -2      5   35   3.6   19   53   5.6
1949  29 NL  2B  560   17    0   -1    -2      6   20   2.1   17   38   3.9
1950  30 NL  2B  570    5    0   -1    -2      5    8   0.8   18   25   2.6
1951  31 NL  2B  530   22    0   -1    -2      6   24   2.5   17   41   4.2
1952  32 NL  2B  540   20    0   -1    -2      5   23   2.5   17   40   4.3
1953  33 NL  2B  570   29    0   -1    -2      5   32   3.1   18   50   4.9
1954  34 NL  2B  630   21    0   -1    -2      5   24   2.4   20   44   4.5
1955  35 NL  2B  580   13    0   -1    -2      4   15   1.5   18   33   3.4
1956  36 NL  2B  520   12    0   -1    -2      4   13   1.4   16   30   3.2
1957  37 NL  1B  440    2    0   -1     0    - 5  - 4  -0.4   14   10   1.0
1958  38 NL  1B  370    6    0    0     0    - 4    2   0.2   12   13   1.4
1959  39 NL  1B  190    5    0    0     0    - 2    2   0.2    6    8   0.9
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                8770  290   -3   -7   -23     59  317  32.9  273  591  62.3

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 56th 
Rbat: 59th 
WAA: 45th  
WAR: 40th

And here, folks, might be a hidden Hall member. About everyone but, like, 700 people in the world would shrug their shoulders when asked who Marvin Williams was. To answer the question about who he was in a baseball sense, an interesting comp is Scott Rolen. I didn’t have Rolen in mind as a comp at all, but as I’ve entered the data above, he pops out. Imagine Rolen stood four inches shorter, played second base, and was iffy at it. That’s precisely who Marvin Williams was, and that’s an outstanding player because for us Scott Rolen was well over the in/out line at third base.

Now, as I write, I’m poking around BBREF, and Ron Santo is an even better match. Ken Boyer’s another good one. As it turns out, there are few if any second basemen who compare well to Williams. Perhaps that suggests that a white Marvin Williams would have moved to third base by the time he reached the big leagues? Or my MLE protocol is screwy kablooey. I prefer the former.

Special Guest: Jim Gilliam

Jim Gilliam was something like the Tony Phillips of his time. He played all over the field, had speed, drew walks. He traded Phillips’ bat for excellent baserunning, double-play avoidance, and fielding. To put a more contemporary spin on him, he was to Walt Alston as Ben Zobrist is to Joe Maddon. His versatility combined with Jackie Robinson’s gave the Dodgers incredible depth, flexibility, and athleticism. They could paper over injuries to virtually any of their regulars on the fly.

Gilliam flew under the radar, as a player of his sort, featuring a mix of subtle skills, might. He began his career with the Baltimore Elite Giants in the Negro Leagues at age seventeen. He stayed in blackball through age 21 when the Dodgers signed him and sent him to Montreal in the International League. At 22, he hit .287 with 117 walks against 47 strikeouts, 15 steals, and 38 extra base hits. They said, “Do it again,” and his age 23 season was even better: .301, 100 walks against 18 strikeouts, 18 steals, and 57 extra base hits. That was plenty enough evidence, and he made the club for good at age twenty-four, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1954.

Now, clearly, Gilliam was essentially a finished product when he got to Montreal. He did there exactly what he did in the big leagues: .268, 1036 walks against 416 strikeouts, 203 steals, and 440 extra base hits. Remember, too, that Gilliam played with the Dodgers in the offensively starved 1960s, one of the worst combinations of park and league for hitters. Overall, his OPS+ clocks in at 93.

So the question with Gilliam is when can we reasonably start his MLB career? Age 22, his first season in Montreal, looks like our minimum. Trouble is we have basically zip on his career before that. What we do know is that he made the East-West All-Star Game from 1948–1950, ages 19–21. For now, we’re going to split the difference, and onboard him at age 20 with a partial season, then ramp him up at age twenty-one.

Jim Gilliam
Negro Leagues Stats | Major League Stats | Minor League Stats | Bio
Career: 1946–1966
Destination: AL 1949–1966
Missing data: 1947–1950

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
===========================================================================
1949  20 NL  2B  200    0    1    0     2    2     5   0.5    6   11   1.2
1950  21 NL  2B  530    3    2    1     4    5    15   1.5   17   31   3.2
1951  22 NL  2B  550    6    2    1     4    5    18   1.9   17   35   3.7
1952  23 NL  2B  619   13    2    1     5    6    27   2.9   19   46   5.1
1953  24 NL  2B  710    5    0    1     4    6    17   1.5   24   42   3.9
1954  25 NL  2B  695  - 3    4   -1     0    6     6   0.5   24   30   2.8
1955  26 NL  2B  627  - 5    4    1    12    2    15   1.2   24   38   3.6
1956  27 NL  2B  701   12    0    2    23    1    37   3.6   24   62   6.1
1957  28 NL  2B  695  -24    6    3   - 3    5   -12  -1.6   24   12   0.9
1958  29 NL  LF  636  - 9    0    3     5   -2   - 3  -0.4   24   21   2.0
1959  30 NL  3B  655  - 2    3    2   - 5    2     0   0.0   23   23   2.4
1960  31 NL  3B  669  - 4    3    1    15    4    19   1.9   24   43   4.4
1961  32 NL  3B  531  - 7    0    2     7    3     4   0.4   20   25   2.4
1962  33 NL  2B  702    3    3    1     2    5    14   1.5   26   40   4.1
1963  34 NL  2B  605   18    6    1   - 5    4    24   2.8   23   47   5.2
1964  35 NL  3B  390  - 9   -1    0   - 6    2   -12  -1.3   15    3   0.2
1965  36 NL  3B  432   11    1    2   - 3    1    11   1.2   16   27   2.8
1966  37 NL  3B  273  - 7    1    0   - 5    1   -11  -1.1   10  - 1  -0.1
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
               10220    0   37   22    55   58   174  17.0  360  536  53.8

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1966)
PA: 21st 
Rbat: way down the list 
WAA: t-155th
WAR: 65th

One thing I didn’t mention above that really comes through when you look at his seasonal stats lines: Junior Gilliam didn’t miss many games. He racked up plate appearances. Without any MLEs attached to his career, Gilliam ranks near Red Schoendienst and Max Bishop, right at the edge of the top forty among MLE second basemen with a 77.1 CHEWS+ (100 is in/out line for the Hall of Miller and Eric). Add the MLEs, and he jumps about ten spots into the Tony Lazzeri/Del Pratt zone. Unless we get Negro Leagues data that justifies a reassessment of his early career, we can feel pretty firm that Gilliam’s a Hall of the Very Good member.

* * *

Next week, it’s back to the slab. We’ll look at our fourth round of Negro Leagues hurlers, including Max Manning, Connie Marerro, Verdel Mathis, and Leroy Matlock.

Advertisements

Discussion

One thought on “Evaluating More Negro Leagues Second Basemen, Part II

  1. Marvin Williams has been a player of interest for years voting at the Hall of Merit but rarely if ever got a sniff. Considering you are trying to be conservative with his defensive value, you found a potential 65 WAR gem…wow!

    Thanks for your tireless efforts Eric!

    Posted by Ryan | March 31, 2018, 2:36 pm

Tell us what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Institutional History

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: