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Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues Third Basemen

[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]

Stay on your toes because this week we return to the hot corner. We’ve been doing a lot of work to cut down the cone, and today we’ve got three complete MLEs to share plus the lightning round for a few others. As ever, if you’d like to know how we arrive at these MLEs, and you don’t have any paint to watch dry, take a gander at our Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters post. It’s just as powerful as the leading over-the-counter sleep-aids.

Howard Easterling

[Updated 4/4/18 with updated park information.]

Easterling was a hitting machine in the 1930s and 1940s. The switch hitter played stateside for most of his career. He made five East-West Game All-Star teams and helped the Homestead Grays to four consecutive pennants hitting behind Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. He played in Mexico in the final act of his career and continued to hit well south of the border. Easterling displayed a wide range of skills with versatility on defense, and a powerful bat. His baserunning appears to be hit-and-miss and specifically to have ebbed in the latter parts of his career. 

Howard Easterling
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1936–1954
Destination: NL 1936–1953
Missing data: 1938–1939, 1947–1948

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rdp Rfield Rpos RAA  WAA Rrep RAR  WAR
=============================================================================
1936  24 NL SS    560  - 7    0    0     1     8     1   0.1   17   19   1.9
1937  25 NL SS    570   16    0    0   - 1     8    23   2.3   18   40   4.2
1938  26 NL SS    440   12    0    0   - 2     6    16   1.6   14   29   3.1
1939  27 NL SS    570   16    0    0   - 3     8    20   2.0   18   38   3.9
1940  28 NL 3B    590   12    0    0     3     1    16   1.7   18   34   3.6
1941  28 NL 3B    580   11    0    0     3     1    14   1.5   18   32   3.5
1942  30 NL 3B    580    2    0    0     3     0     5   0.6   18   23   2.7
1943  31 NL 3B    570   12    0    0     3     0    15   1.7   18   33   3.7
1944  32          MILITARY SERVICE
1945  33          MILITARY SERVICE
1946  34 NL 3B    490   10    0    0   - 2     0     7   0.8   15   22   2.6
1947  35 NL 3B    570   15    0    0   - 3     0    12   1.2   18   30   3.1
1948  36 NL 3B    420   11    0    0   - 2     0    10   1.0   13   23   2.4
1949  37 NL 3B    380   11    0    0   - 2     0     9   0.9   12   21   2.2
1950  38 NL 3B    300   10    0    0   - 2     0     8   0.8    9   17   1.8
1951  38 NL 3B    250   11    0    0   - 2     0    10   1.0    8   17   1.8
1952  40 NL 3B    160    9    0    0   - 1     0     7   0.8    5   12   1.3
1954  41 NL 3B    100    2    0    0   - 1     0     3   0.2    3    6   0.6
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 7130  153   -3    1   - 9    32   174  18.2  222  396  42.3

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 139th 
Rbat: 171st
WAA: 139th
WAR: t-127h

In terms of overall value and playing time, this MLE comes out looking a lot like Buddy Myer’s BBREF WAA/WAR profile. Easterling’s glove is a hard thing to figure. He started as a shortstop and moved off there to third base. But we lack a lot of defensive information about his 1940s seasons. What we have indicates he wasn’t very good at third base, but he did play well at second base in the same season we have data for. Additionally, his known baserunning stats are not great at the beginning of his career, get decent for a while, then go lousy in his latter days (as in, did not steal a base for three straight years in Mexico in his baseball dotage). It seemed likely that the glove and the baserunning were connected, so we’ve shaped his defensive value in the manner you see above.

Ollie Marcell(e)

It would be no exaggeration to say that the Negro Leagues feel, in retrospect, like the Wild West of baseball. Take Ollie Marcelle:

  • Was in the barroom in which Dave Brown murdered a man
  • Hit Oscar Charleston over the head with a bat during a game
  • Had a nostril bitten off by another player (Frank Warfield) after an argument broke out during a dice game.

That said, Marcelle was a slick fielding third baseman whose quickness and style were well remembered after his career (and his life) were over. He had enough ability with a bat to keep himself in the lineup, and he appears to have been roughly average on the bases. I put the final e on his name in parentheses because I’ve seen it spelled both ways. I’ve also seen him as both Oliver and Ollie.

Ollie Marcelle
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1918–1933
Destination: NL 1918–1930
Missing data: 1927-1929, 1931
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos RAA   WAA Rrep  RAR   WAR
======================================================================
1918  23 NL  3B  570  - 8    0      2    4   - 2  -0.2   18   16   2.0
1919  24 NL  3B  580  - 2    0      2    4     4   0.5   18   22   2.7
1920  25 NL  3B  600    5    0      2    4    12   1.3   19   30   3.5
1921  26 NL  3B  610    2    0      2    4     9   0.9   19   28   2.9
1922  27 NL  3B  570  - 1    0      2    4     5   0.5   18   23   2.2
1923  28 NL  2B  620   13    0      2    4    20   1.9   19   39   3.9
1924  29 NL  2B  590    9    0      2    4    16   1.6   18   34   3.6
1925  30 NL  2B  610    1    0      2    4     7   0.7   19   26   2.5
1926  31 NL  2B  590    6    0      2    4    12   1.3   18   31   3.2
1927  32 NL  2B  600    8    0      2    4    15   1.5   19   33   3.4
1928  33 NL  2B  550  - 2    0      2    3     3   0.4   17   21   2.1
1929  34 NL  2B  500  - 2    0      2    3     3   0.3   16   19   1.7
1930  35 NL  2B  200  - 6    0      1    1     1  -0.4    6    2   0.2
----------------------------------------------------------------------
                7190   23    2     27   48   100  10.2  224  324  33.8

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 136th   
Rbat: t-540th
Rfield (3B only): 29th
WAA: t-256th  
WAR: t-194th

As you see, our MLE does not comport with his sensational defensive reputation. Not that we’re saying he’s a bad defender at all. We’re showing him with 27 Rfield. Rather, the data provided by the Negro Leagues Database suggests that while Marcelle may have sparkled afield, the overall value of his play doesn’t reflect the accolades he received. However, even if you doubled his fielding value, it wouldn’t be enough to make the “Ghost” a viable candidate for the Hall of Miller and Eric.

Carlos Moran

Sleeper? More like coma. Carlos Moran has so little recognition that the best bio I could locate online is a discussion thread at the Hall of Merit that’s less biography than inquiry. Yet, the guy could really play.

Moran’s game looks almost exactly like deadball outfielder Roy Thomas. Check it out this comparison between Thomas’ big league stats and stats from Moran’s league games:

      HAND  AVG  BB/154  ISO  SB/154
=====================================
THOMAS LH  .290   109   .043   26
MORAN  LH  .275   102   .048   51

So take Roy Thomas, stick him at third base with an excellent glove, and you have a whale of a player. Amright? Well, yes and no. This being the deadball era and the Cuban and Negro Leagues things aren’t so easy. See, the problem is that Carlos Moran threw with his left hand. You read that right. Threw with his left hand and played third base. Not just playing third base either, but excelling. Moran’s defensive statistics are outstanding at the hot corner. So what do we do with that zany information? I’ve created two MLEs. Moran was fast enough to steal a lot of bases, but his rate of steals per opportunity, adjusted for his teams, comes in only a wee tiny bit above average. We’ve made him an exactly average runner. On the other hand, Roy Thomas stole 244 bases in his career and BBREF shows him as a -20 runner but a +23 centerfielder. Similarly, DRA shows Thomas at +36. The implication goes that Moran, who played the outfield throughout his career, especially early on, would have been at minimum an adequate centerfielder. So what we’ve done is create two MLEs for Moran. The first shows an estimate for him as a lefty third baseman just as is. The second as a centerfielder with an exactly average glove.

Carlos Moran (Third Base)
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1902–1915
Destination: NL 1902–1915
Honors: Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame
Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR    WAR
========================================================================
1902  24 NL  3B  480   36    0      5     3    45   4.9   15   60    6.7
1903  25 NL  3B  450   19    0      5     3    27   2.6   14   41    4.0
1904  26 NL  3B  440    9    0      5     3    17   1.9   14   30    3.5
1905  27 NL  3B  540   18    0      6     4    28   3.0   17   45    5.0
1906  28 NL  3B  510   17    0      5     4    26   3.2   16   42    5.1
1907  29 NL  3B  400   10    0      4     3    18   2.2   12   30    3.8
1908  30 NL  3B  500   10    0      5     4    19   2.5   16   35    4.5
1909  31 NL  3B  520   23    0      5     4    33   3.9   16   49    5.9
1910  32 NL  3B  500   10    0      5     4    19   2.1   16   34    3.9
1911  33 NL  3B  460   20    0      5     3    28   2.9   14   42    4.5
1912  34 NL  3B  400   17    0      4     3    23   2.4   12   36    3.7
1913  35 NL  3B  300    0    0      3     2     5   0.6    9   14    1.6
1914  36 NL  3B  240  - 1    0      3     2     5   0.3    7   10    1.2
1915  37 NL  3B  200  - 7    0      2     1   - 3  -0.4    6    3    0.3
------------------------------------------------------------------------
                5940  181   -1     63    43   286  32.1  185  471   53.7

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 257th   
Rbat: 138th
Rfield: 7th (third base only)
WAA: 46th  
WAR: t-61st

 

Carlos Moran (Center Field)

Year Age Lg Pos   PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA  Rrep RAR   WAR
=======================================================================
1902  24 NL  CF  480   36    0      0    -3    33   3.7   15   48   5.4
1903  25 NL  CF  450   19    0      0    -3    16   1.6   14   30   3.0
1904  26 NL  CF  440    9    0      0    -3     6   0.7   14   20   2.3
1905  27 NL  CF  540   18    0      0    -3    15   1.6   17   32   3.5
1906  28 NL  CF  510   17    0      0    -3    14   1.7   16   30   3.7
1907  29 NL  CF  400   10    0      0    -2     8   1.0   12   20   2.6
1908  30 NL  CF  500   10    0      0    -3     7   0.9   16   23   3.0
1909  31 NL  CF  520   23    0      0    -3    20   2.4   16   36   4.4
1910  32 NL  CF  500   10    0      0    -3     7   0.8   16   23   2.6
1911  33 NL  CF  480   20    0      0    -3    17   1.8   15   32   3.4
1912  34 NL  CF  470   17    0      0    -3    14   1.4   15   29   2.9
1913  35 NL  CF  420    0    0      0    -2   - 3  -0.3   13   10   1.2
1914  36 NL  CF  420  - 1    0      0    -2   - 4  -0.4   13    9   1.1
1915  37 NL  CF  320  - 7    0      0    -2   - 9  -1.1   10    1   0.1
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
                6450  181   -1      0   -37   143  15.8  201  344  39.2

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 200th   
Rbat: 138th
WAA: t-157th 
WAR: t-150th

As you can see, position plays an extremely important role in how we look at Moran. If we chose to look at Moran’s contributions in light of what he actually did on the field then he’s a contender as a third baseman. Or we can ask ourselves whether we think it makes sense to view him as a third baseman in light of long-established best practices in the major leagues. The last time the big leagues included a regular lefty third baseman was 1890/1891 (Lefty Marr) and the 1880s when Hick Carpenter played nearly an entire career there. As always, in the Negro Leagues it’s never truly simple.

Lightning Round!

Todd Allen
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1908–1925
Destination: NL 1908–1919
      Lg Pos  PA  Rbat  Rbaser  Rfield  Rpos  RAA   WAA  Rrep  RAR   WAR 
======================================================================== 
TOTAL NL 3B  6130  -25    20       1     44    40   4.7   191  231  27.3

John Britton 
Negro Leagues Stats | Minor Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1940–1953 
Destination: NL 1940–1953
Missing Data: 1941, 1947–1951 
      Lg    Pos     PA  Rbat  Rbaser  Rdp  Rfield  Rpos  RAA  WAA  Rrep  RAR   WAR 
================================================================================== 
TOTAL NL     3B    6790 -29    - 3     3      5     2    -23 -2.6   212  189  20.3

Bill Kindle 
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1911–1925 
Destination: NL 1911–1920 
Missing Data: 1926–1927  
      Lg Pos     PA  Rbat  Rbaser  Rfield  Rpos  RAA  WAA  Rrep  RAR   WAR 
========================================================================= 
TOTAL NL 3B-2B  3520  37     7      12      13    68  8.1   110  178  21.3

We should also make brief mention of Edric/Leon Kellmann. His MLEs will have to wait until we’ve got more data. As it is we would have just a few scraps. More if/when we are able.

* * *

Next week we take a slow walk to the mound for a meeting with Webster McDonald, Henry McHenry, Juanelo Miribal, and Barney Morris.

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