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Negro Leagues

Evaluating More Negro Leagues Left Fielders, Part 2

[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]

Last week we looked at three left fielders you probably haven’t heard of. This week we’ll do the same thing with three more gentlemen whose names likely summon forth little in the way of memories. Nonetheless, it’s our privilege to give these good if not great players a little more time in the sun. And may a chance for someone to get to know them a little better after all. If you’d like to get to know how we go about creating the numbers you’ll see below, check out our Major League Equivalencies (MLEs) for Negro Leagues batters. You may not see the sun for a while as you read it because it’s long and delightfully/insanely detailed, depending on your predictions toward twenty-something-step protocols. 

Blainey Hall

I don’t imagine a name like Blainey Hall put much fear in opposing pitchers. His .346 lifetime average against Negro Leagues and stateside winter ball opponents might have. Starting up in the teeth of the deadball era and then rolling into the liveball era, Hall pounded out a 149 OPS+. Sounds like a left fielder to me! So does the fact that he appears to have had below-average baserunning and a below-average glove.

Let me pause a moment. It could easily sound as though I’m conjuring up Luzinskiesque, Burroughsesque, or Kingmanesque commentary about his game. I don’t mean to do that. Hall shouldn’t be lumped in with the lumbering class. At bat, for example, he had a line-drive approach that better fitted the conditions he arrived in. He was clearly not a slow runner. He didn’t field like an Easter Island statue. Though at 5’7″ and 175 pounds, he probably didn’t look like a whippet out there. I simply have a picture in my mind of the ur-left fielder, and he looks a lot like Bull Luzinski. Which is patently unfair to Barry Bonds or Rickey Henderson or Stan Musial. But can you blame me?

Blainey Hall
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1914–1925
Destination: NL 1914–1925
Missing data: 1924

Year Age Lg Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA  WAA Rrep RAR  WAR
=========================================================================
1914  25  NL LF   530   10    0     -1    -6     2   0.3   17   19   2.2
1915  26  NL LF   570   29    0     -1    -7    21   2.5   18   39   4.7
1916  27  NL LF   540   28    0     -1    -6    21   2.5   17   37   4.7
1917  28  NL LF   580   19    0     -2    -7    11   1.3   18   29   3.6
1918  29  NL LF   570    9    0     -1    -6     1   0.1   18   19   2.3
1919  30  NL LF   580   20    0     -1    -6    12   1.4   18   30   3.6
1920  31  NL LF   580   43    0     -1    -6    35   3.8   18   53   5.9
1921  32  NL LF   560   36    0     -1    -5    29   2.9   17   46   4.7
1922  33  NL LF   600   20    0     -1    -6    13   1.2   19   31   3.0
1923  34  NL LF   380    8    0     -1    -4     3   0.3   12   15   1.5
1924  35  NL LF   290    5    0     -1    -3     2   0.2    9   11   1.1
1925  36  NL LF   380    0    0     -1    -4    -5  -0.4   12    7   0.7
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 6160  227   -3    -16   -66   143  16.0  192  335  38.0

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 232nd 
Rbat: 101st
WAA: t-155th
WAR: t-158th

I’m thinking Hall’s kind of a Heinie Manush kind of player. Line-drive power, good average, not much home-run power, not great in the field, averagish on the bases. That 1920 season looks especially nice at the bat, and 43 Rbat would have shown third behind Rogers Hornsby and Ross Youngs.

Bill Hoskins

You’ve possibly heard of Dave Hoskins, a Negro Leaguer who pitched in MLB in the 1950s. This is his brother, and for my money, Bill was an easily superior player. Problem was, he was born five years earlier than Dave, which made Bill just a little too old to attract much attention from the majors.

Hoskins could really hit, had a little speed, and, contrary to James Riley’s notes, appears to have had a very good glove.

Bill Hoskins
Negro Leagues Stats 
Career: 1937–1946
Destination: NL 1937–1946
Missing data: 1938
Year Age Lg Pos  PA  Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA  WAA Rrep  RAR  WAR
===========================================================================
1937  23 NL  LF   330    7     0       1    -3     5   0.6   10   16   1.7
1938  24 NL  LF   400    9     0       2    -4     7   0.8   12   20   2.1
1939  25 NL  LF   460   17     0       2    -4    15   1.5   14   29   3.0
1940  26 NL  LF   520   18     0       2    -5    15   1.6   16   31   3.3
1941  27 NL  LF   540   24     0       2    -5    21   2.3   17   38   4.1
1942  28 NL  LF   530   11     0       2    -5     9   1.0   17   26   3.0
1943  29 NL  LF   500    8     0       2    -5     6   0.7   16   22   2.5
1944  30 NL  LF   520   24     0       2    -5    22   2.3   16   38   4.1
1945  31 NL  LF   480   16     0       2    -5    14   1.5   15   29   3.0
1946  32 NL  LF   410   18     0       2    -4    16   1.8   13   29   3.3
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
                 4690  152     4      20   -46   131  14.0  146  227  30.2

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 449th   
Rbat: 172nd
WAA: t-181st
WAR: 235th

The big question with Hoskins is why he gave up the game at age 32. No source I’ve seen puts him on any roster after that. Injury? Tired of the grind? I dunno, but it was an abrupt cessation of a career that had some legs.

Fats Jenkins

Five-seven 165 pounds doesn’t seem fat to me, but what do I know? I guess it was better than Clarence. Jenkins, whose nickname was a childhood legacy from when he had lots of baby fat, played like the opposite of a fat man. A lefty slapper without much power, Jenkins did what players of his type have done since baseball was a twinkle in Abner Doubleday’s eye: use contact skills and speed to move the ball around the field and take whatever the defense gives them; run well; field their position well to increase their value. It’s a good way to make a living, really.

Jenkins, however, had immense talent in pretty much every facet of life. He captained the Harlem Renaissance professional basketball team during the winters, coaching them to a 1939 National Championship. He narrowly missed being an Olympic boxer in 1920 and later refereed bouts. He coached sports teams. He played musical instruments and sang in quartets. He owned a successful business after his sporting days. About the only thing he could do was hit for power.

Fats Jenkins
Negro Leagues Stats | Bio
Career: 1920–1940
Destination: NL 1920–1936
Missing data: 1921, 1923, 1927, 1929, 1939
Year Age Lg  Pos  PA Rbat Rbaser Rfield Rpos  RAA   WAA  Rrep  RAR  WAR
===========================================================================
1920  22 NL  LF  520   10    1     2    - 5     8   0.9   16   24   2.7
1921  23 NL  LF  540    8    1     2    - 5     6   0.6   17   23   2.3
1922  24 NL  LF  350    7    0     1    - 3     6   0.6   11   17   1.6
1923  25 NL  LF  550    8    1     2    - 5     6   0.6   17   23   2.3
1924  26 NL  LF  580   12    1     2    - 6    10   1.0   18   28   2.9
1925  27 NL  LF  600  - 3    1     3    - 6   - 5  -0.5   19   13   1.3
1926  28 NL  LF  580    5    1     2    - 6     2   0.2   18   20   2.1
1927  29 NL  LF  550    7    1     2    - 5     4   0.4   17   21   2.2
1928  30 NL  LF  580   13    1     2    - 6    11   1.1   18   29   2.9
1929  31 NL  LF  560   10    1     2    - 5     7   0.7   17   25   2.3
1930  32 NL  LF  570   15    1     2    - 5    12   1.1   18   30   2.7
1931  33 NL  LF  560    9    1     2    - 5     7   0.7   17   24   2.6
1932  34 NL  LF  560    4    1     2    - 5     2   0.2   17   19   2.0
1933  35 NL  LF  530    6    1     2    - 5     3   0.4   17   20   2.3
1934  36 NL  LF  500   10    1     2    - 5     8   0.8   16   23   2.4
1935  37 NL  LF  300    2    0     2    - 3     1   0.1    9   10   1.0
1936  38 NL  LF  200    1    0     1    - 2     0   0.0    6    6   0.7
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
                8630  125   10    37    -84    87   8.7  269  356  36.3

Hypothetical MLB Career Rankings (1871–1960)
PA: 63rd   
Rbat: 209th
WAA: 280th  
WAR: t-170th

Jenkins is in the Basketball Hall of Fame in the sense that the Rens were inducted as a team in the 1960s. He was probably better with the roundball than the horsehide, though I think it likely that today, due to his height, he’d have been an effective baseball player only.

* * *

Next week, it’s our last set of anonymous left fielders, with Art Pennington, Rogelio Valdés, and our ever popular Lightning Round, plus a little thinking on the question of why the Negro Leagues didn’t crank out many outstanding left fielders.

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