Last week, we shared information showing that the standard deviation of offensive performance in the Negro Leagues and Latin leagues was considerably higher than that of the major leagues of the same era. But players in the Jackie Robinson era also played in the white minor leagues, and someone translating their performance to an MLB level would want to know whether the minors were more like the majors or the Negro and Latin leagues. Did those leagues have wider variation than the majors as well?
Before we turn to the record itself, let’s ask this question. Why might the white minors be dissimilar or similar to the majors in terms of STDEV? We explored some of the structural and game-play drivers of a wider standard deviation in the Negro Leagues last time out. Do they hold for the minors?
So we already see that the conditions that made the Negro Leagues’ performances spread out further from the average than MLB’s in most cases either don’t apply to the minors or are muted. But we need to look at the stats to know whether or not STDEV was nonetheless driven by other factors, or whether it mirrored the majors. As we look at this question, we’ll examine the results level by level using the same technique as in our previous article.
AAA and Open Classifications
Although right around Jackie’s time, these leagues got new classifications or jumped a class, they remained the highest rungs on the sub-major ladder. (For a graphic that helps to visualize how the classifications of minor leagues has changed over the last hundred-odd years, check out this article.)
YEAR MLB | PCL | IL | AA STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ =================================================== 1946 1.55 | 1.24 1.12 | 1.32 1.09 | 1.30 1.10 1947 1.46 | 1.61 0.96 | 1.58 0.96 | 1.52 0.98 1948 1.59 | 1.85 0.93 | 1.13 1.20 | 1.38 1.08 1949 1.50 | 1.44 1.02 | 1.58 0.98 | 1.56 0.98 1950 1.43 | 1.48 0.98 | 1.52 0.97 | 1.13 1.13 1951 1.50 | 1.66 0.95 | 1.22 1.12 | 1.71 0.94 1952 1.17 | 1.09 1.04 | 1.28 0.96 | 1.62 0.86 1953 1.49 | 1.14 1.16 | 1.53 0.99 | 1.52 0.99 1954 1.65 | 1.14 1.22 | 1.54 1.04 | 1.31 1.13 1955 1.43 | 1.18 1.11 | 1.51 0.97 | 1.20 1.10 1956 1.59 | 1.47 1.04 | 1.33 1.10 | 1.37 1.08 1957 1.85 | 1.23 1.25 | 1.24 1.25 | 1.41 1.16 1958 1.50 | 1.74 0.93 | 1.33 1.07 | 1.04 1.22 1959 1.39 | 1.12 1.12 | 1.42 0.99 | 1.16 1.10 1960 1.15 | 1.14 1.00 | 1.16 0.99 | 1.82 0.82 1961 1.64 | 1.54 1.03 | 1.27 1.15 | 1.17 1.20 1962 1.31 | 1.63 0.90 | 1.36 0.98 | 1.16 1.07 1963 1.22 | 1.01 1.10 | 1.08 1.06 | 1964 1.37 | 1.25 1.05 | 1.47 0.97 | 1965 1.29 | 1.36 0.97 | 0.87 1.24 | --------------------------------------------------- AVG 1.45 | 1.37 1.04 | 1.34 1.05 | 1.38 1.07
How about them apples?! The high minors actually had less standard deviation than the majors. Before we draw conclusions, let’s see if that’s how things play out down the ladder.
In each instance as we tour the minors, I’ve only included seasons where I’m aware that a top Negro Leagues candidate played in a given league. Therefore, there may be gaps in the information I’m presenting, especially compared to the AAA/Open leagues. As it turns out, we only have solid information for seasons in question from one league that would currently be considered AA, and that’s the Texas League. Other leagues included Negro League candidates, but their stats aren’t yet on BBREF, so I couldn’t include them.
YEAR MLB | TXL STDEV | STDEV ADJJ ========================= 1953 1.49 | 1.50 1.00 1954 1.65 | 1.59 1.02 1955 1.43 | 1.28 1.06 1956 1.59 | 1.51 1.03 1957 1.85 | 1.19 1.28 1958 1.50 | 1.26 1.10 1959 1.39 | 1.50 0.96 1960 1.15 | 1.44 0.90 1961 1.64 | 1.56 1.03 ------------------------- AVG 1.52 | 1.42 1.04
Yet again, a minor league is actually a little tighter than the majors….
Today we have Hi-A and Lo-A levels, but that split only occurred in 1990. Before that every A-level team was in the same category. Once again, we only have stats for one league (and one season in it) at this level.
YEAR MLB | WES STDEV | STDEV ADJ ========================= 1958 1.50 | 1.83 0.91
If we’re starting to get into the exurbs with B leagues, we’re going to be out past the boonies with C and D leagues. The lower in the classification system we go, the more localized the leagues and teams are.
YEAR MLB | IIIL | NORW | WINT STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ =================================================== 1951 1.50 | | | 1.39 1.04 1954 1.65 | 1.62 1.01 | | 1962 1.31 | | 1.27 1.02 |
YEAR MLB | AZMX | CAL STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ ====================================== 1954 1.65 | | 2.12 0.89 1958 1.50 | 2.13 0.85 | 1.24 1.10 1959 1.39 | | 1.00 1.19 -------------------------------------- AVG 1.51 | | 1.45 1.06
YEAR MLB | FLOR STDEV | STDEV ADJ ========================= 1958 1.50 | 1.43 1.02
My boss’ boss has more than a few pearls of wisdom inside her. She likes to say that a good rule of thumb for making decisions says that if something happens once, it’s an occurrence. If it happens twice, it’s notable. If it happens three times it’s a pattern, and you need to take action. So looking at the minor leagues, we see that nearly every league we’ve looked at, and most seasons in each league we examined, show up as having a lower standard deviation than the majors of the same season. This was at first a surprising result. But maybe it shouldn’t have been?
From an anecdotal and qualitative perspective, it does makes sense that minor league standard deviations are closer to the big leagues than the Negro Leagues were. Rarities such as .400 hitters or 60-homer hitters don’t litter the annals of minor league history, but such batting averages and equivalent feats of batsmanship do occur more often in the Negro Leagues. But that’s also a clue to the minors tighter variance.
I initially thought that because the minors tended to employ less experienced players in the farm-system model, play would be somewhat uneven. Similarly, the minors in this time had more independence than today and were at liberty to sign MLB vets who could no longer keep at job in the show. In the case of the PCL, which signed many such players, guys originally from out west may also have opted to forgo the worst of their decline phase in MLB to play out west nearer their homes. Today a so-called AAAA player might be in his late 20s or very early 30s, but back then, fringe types might be older. Indeed, from 1947 to 1954, the average age in AAA/Open leagues was around 27.5 for the AA, 28 for the IL, and 30 for the PCL. The Coast League was the most active in terms of signing ex big leaguers, for example LA-born and Portland native Joe Gordon for his age-36 season. The majors at that time were around 28.5 years old. From 2011 to 2015, the average age in the PCL was this close to 27 and roughly the same in the IL. The PCL lost three years in average age by becoming a development league, whereas the IL had lost only one year because its teams had been mostly affiliated all along.
In fact, the average age of a league tells us something simple and significant about why standard deviations were so tight: Everyone in the league is basically at the same developmental level. In the minors, if you’re too good, you get promoted quickly. If you’re too awful, you get demoted. If you stay the whole year, you’re getting appropriately challenged for your level of experience. That’s the whole point of the minors! Today this is much more apparent because the average the different levels is more highly stratified than ever. Rookie ball is filled with 18–20 year olds. Short season ball is all 20 or 21 year olds, etc. So no matter what other factors may contribute to the variance in a league, age/experience may be the most important. To be sure, this is isn’t ironclad reasoning, but it does pass the smell test for me.
OK, so we’ve now had a look at the Negro Leagues themselves and some of the leagues that Negro Leagues expats played in. Next time out, we’ll take a look at how all of this may change our perspective on the offensive value of some famous blackball heroes.
So our pal Miller had a fine idea: Whose faces would be on the Mount Rushmore of each team. I’ll be your guide through the National League’s Black Hills, and since we’re going alpha by city, we’ll start in Arizona.
The only catch with our Rushmore series is that each face of the franchise has to be someone who only played for that team. Which leaves a club like the Arizona Diamondbacks, extant not quite 20 years as of this writing, in a bit of a pickle. If not for that little hitch in the rules, why they’d be chiseling in the faces of Randy Johnson (51.2 BBREF WAR) WAR, Luis Gonzalez (29.9),…and Curt Schilling (25.4). Well, I’m sure Alex Jones will have a conspiracy theory about our choosing not to include guys with right-wing radio shows. (Hint: It’s the Deep State!)
But, in fact, we decided this is an honor for faithful, loyal soldiers. In which case, things get a little, uh, weird for a team still in early bloom of its flowering. The primary candidates for Snake Mountain are, on offense:
Moundwardly there’s Brandon Webb (31.5), and, well, uh, Patrick Corbin’s 4.5 WAR. And that’s about it. At least for another few years.
So, for the moment, on June 14th, 2017 at 9:50 PM, it’s these guys…until one or more split or get split: Paul Goldschmidt, Brandon Webb, A.J. Pollack, and David Peralta.
Frankly, there’s not a ton to say about these guys that you don’t already know since most are of very recent vintage. Goldschmidt is Bagwellesque, right down to the surprising steals and excellent glove. He’s not quite Bagwell’s equal, but he’s in that mode, and his athleticism bodes well for a lengthy and productive career. Every time I see his name, I imagine Dame Shirley Bassey singing “Gooooooooooooldschmidterrrrrrr.” But, you know, that’s just how I roll.
Webb is a-not-so-old favorite of mine. In fact, if the fates played fair, he’s still be pitching in the big leagues. Webb had this absolutely vicious sinking fastball threw, nearly 1200 innings from age 25 to 29, walked off the mound in his first start of 2009, and never threw another pitch in anger again. Total bummer. Wonderful pitcher who could use that dead, if rapid, fish to avoid the thin-air proclivities of the run-drenched high-desert environment.
As for the others I’ve mentioned, I invite you on the journey of a decade or more as we discover what the future holds for them and the many other players supporting the D’Backs youth movement.
What if we want to take the Dead Presidents approach, however, and force ourselves to only use retirees who were Hooked on Phoenix their whole career? You know what, go ahead and grab a beer or some garlic knots and a Sunny D. I’m going to be a few minutes. It’s OK, I’ll have the answer by the time you get back. Well, and if you need a pee break, might as well go for it. I mean, don’t get into the latest episode of Fargo or anything. I won’t be that long.
[Trawls through BBREF’s Play Index with increasingly hangdog expression and red, bleary eyes.]
Pretty cool, huh?!
That leaves one other question we like to answer. Who would our personal Mount Rushmore for the team be? Well, The Big Unit has to be on there. In fact, I’d gladly use him for all four faces. He’s just awesome no matter what team he played for. Obviously, I’m something of a Brandon Webb partisan. And there was that one great year of Junior Spivey (2002 for those who may have misplaced that particular memory). For a franchise this young, I’m going to bend the rules a little. Because doesn’t this ring a bell? “Reached on E1 (throw to 2B) (Bunt); Dellucci to 2B.” So my fourth for the AZ Rushmore is none other than Mariano Rivera.
A lonnnng time ago now, we presented findings about how standard deviation may color our perceptions of any given MLB season. The rough answer is that for whatever reason, in some years performance is bunched closely together so that the highest WAR total in the land is under 7.0, and in other seasons, it’s practically the wild west, and we see players racking up WAR at every integer between -2 and 12.
I created a seasonal adjustment factor to compensate for this phenomenon, which I use in my home-cooked WAR. As I’ve rolled out a few articles recently about the Negro Leagues, I’ve begun to wonder about the effect standard deviation might have on blackball players.
There are several indicators that suggest player performance varied more widely in the Negro Leagues than in MLB:
That’s a lot of indicators that variance among players, between leagues, and between seasons might have swung wider than the majors. Further clouding the picture is the sheer number of leagues we’re talking about. To properly evaluate Negro League players, we’d need to know not only about the Negro Leagues themselves, but also about various Caribbean leagues (winter and summer), the Mexican League, and, for Integration-era players, the minor leagues as well as certain independent leagues.
So I, your trusty servant, decided to look into things, and I pulled out my trusty spreadsheets, opened BBREF and the Negro League Database, and got to work.
For now, I’ve only worked up hitting stats. To keep this reasonably simple, here’s what I did:
The result is a STDEV factor.
A note of caution. Many leagues, including MLB, did not tally some or all among caught stealing, GIDP, intentional walks, HPB, SF, strikeouts, and even walks in various seasons. We’ve avoided calculations that don’t involve walks, and we’ve worked around the lack of caught stealing by assuming that hitters will be caught stealing 80% as often as they are successful. That’s a 55% success rate, approximately the MLB average for most of the time span we’re dealing with. In some cases, if too little information exists, we haven’t included the season in our researches.
The Negro Leagues
Let’s start with the Negro Leagues themselves. That term refers to a collection of at least 8 different loose affiliations and actual organizations. The Negro Leagues Database does not yet have complete information for all seasons. Nor does it currently have park factors or strength of schedule adjustments. Ideally, these would be made before doing the STDEV calculation, but we didn’t make this adjustment for big leaguers either. We’ll take it in chunks of time so we can fit more information in.
EAST = Independent clubs in the east
NAC = National Association of Colored Professional Clubs of the United States and Cuba
WEST = Independent clubs in the west
YEAR MLB | EAST | NAC | WEST STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ ========================================================= 1905 1.39 | 3.68 0.69 | | 1906 1.16 | 7.81 0.57 | | 3.53 0.66 1907 1.03 | | 1.96 0.76 | 1908 1.10 | | 2.30 0.74 | 3.40 0.66 1909 1.10 | | | 6.34 0.59 1910 1.24 | 2.96 0.71 | | 7.61 0.58 1911 1.46 | 2.62 0.78 | | 14.55 0.55 1912 1.58 | 4.42 0.68 | | 3.33 0.74 1913 1.31 | 2.76 0.74 | | 6.84 0.60 1914 1.27 | 3.85 0.67 | | 2.87 0.72 1915 1.21 | 2.97 0.70 | | 2.08 0.79 1916 1.26 | 3.09 0.70 | | 3.03 0.71 1917 1.18 | 3.78 0.66 | | 7.90 0.57 1918 1.09 | 2.53 0.72 | | 1.97 0.78 1919 1.41 | 2.47 0.79 | | 4.80 0.65
We can see already the whopping difference in STDEVs, and the proportionally whopping adjustment that can result from it.
Here’s 1920–1932, a very active time for league formation and for league destruction thanks to the Great Depression.
NNL = first version of Negro National League
ECL = Eastern Colored League
EWL = East West League (only played in 1932, for convenience placed in the ECL column)
EAST = Independent clubs in the east
IND = Independent clubs
YEAR MLB | NNL | ECL/EWL | EAST | IND STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ ======================================================================= 1920 1.90 | 1.89 1.00 | | 3.07 0.81 | 1921 1.81 | 2.30 0.89 | | 3.09 0.79 | 1922 1.78 | 2.29 0.89 | | 4.61 0.69 | 1923 1.89 | 2.13 0.94 | 2.17 0.94 | | 1.74 1.04 1924 1.92 | 1.35 1.21 | 1.94 0.99 | | 1925 1.81 | 2.16 0.92 | 2.34 0.89 | | 1926 1.59 | 1.98 0.90 | 2.12 0.87 | | 1927 1.80 | | | | 1928 1.84 | | 3.04 0.80 | 4.19 0.72 | 1929 1.82 | | | | 1930 2.03 | | | 3.55 0.78 | 1931 1.80 | | | 3.00 0.80 | 1932 1.74 | | 2.20 0.90 | | 4.13 0.71
With more organized leagues bringing a higher level of owner and team into the festivities, the NNL’s and ECL’s STDEVs both dropped rapidly from the independent teams’ of the previous decades. These two leagues and the EWL in 1932 were nearly on par with the majors in terms of STDEV especially compared to the independents and the previous era. But even the Eastern indies in this period moved toward MLB’s level of variance. That said, whiteball moved toward blackball as well. The sudden surge in run scoring in the 1920s increased the variance among MLB hitters’ performance.
Now onto the final phase of the Negro Leagues, the more stable era of 1933–1944.
NNL = second version of Negro National League
NAL = Negro American League
IND = Independent clubs
YEAR MLB | NNL | NAL | IND STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ ========================================================= 1933 1.73 | 2.07 0.92 | | 7.02 0.62 1934 1.74 | 2.77 0.81 | | 2.48 0.85 1935 1.67 | 2.50 0.83 | | 1936 1.93 | 2.79 0.85 | | 4.62 0.71 1937 1.94 | 3.39 0.79 | | 1938 1.81 | 2.66 0.84 | | 1939 1.62 | 2.70 0.80 | 2.27 0.86 | 1940 1.56 | 1.96 0.90 | 1.83 0.92 | 1941 1.89 | 2.45 0.89 | 2.17 0.94 | 1942 1.59 | 1.92 0.91 | 1.96 0.90 | 1943 1.30 | 3.30 0.70 | 1.73 0.88 | 1944 1.60 | 2.63 0.81 | 2.71 0.80 |
Generally, the NNL and NAL stayed relatively close to the majors. Mexican League defections and World War II probably increased performance variation overall in 1943 and 1944. The big leagues had whole farm systems full of replacements of decent quality and a huge white population (and light-skinned Latino population) to draw from. Black Americans numbered hundreds of millions fewer and so were more difficult in some ways to find reasonable replacements for.
Some of the information that follows includes calculations based on data that won’t be available on the Negro Leagues Database for a little while yet. I happened to have access to it, and it is ultimately all derived from Pedro Cisneros’ Mexican League encyclopedia. The information for the various Cuban leagues is all from the Negro Leagues Database.
CWL = Cuban Winter League (la Liga general de base ball de la República de Cuba)
PV = Cuban Summer League (el Premio de verano)
GP = Grand Winter Championship (el Gran premio invernal)
YEAR MLB | CWL | PV | GP STDEV | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ | STDEV ADJ ========================================================= 1902 1.39 | 1.82 0.91 | | 1903 1.39 | 1.27 1.03 | | 1904 1.39 | 1.53 0.89 | 2.53 0.74 | 1905 1.39 | 1.45 0.98 | 2.06 0.84 | 1906 1.16 | 1.45 0.90 | 2.08 0.78 | 1907 1.03 | 1.66 0.81 | 2.67 0.69 | 1908 1.10 | 1.71 0.82 | 1.99 0.78 | 1909 1.10 | 2.63 0.71 | | 1910 1.24 | 2.19 0.78 | | 1911 1.46 | 2.29 0.82 | | 1912 1.58 | 1.97 0.90 | | 1913 1.31 | 1.70 0.89 | | 1914 1.27 | 2.11 0.80 | | 1915 1.21 | 2.67 0.73 | | 1916 1.26 | 1.88 0.84 | | 1917 1.18 | | | 1918 1.09 | 1.44 0.88 | | 1919 1.41 | | | 1920 1.90 | 1.83 1.02 | | 1921 1.81 | | | 1922 1.78 | 2.53 0.85 | | 1923 1.89 | 2.00 0.97 | | 1.76 1.03 1924 1.92 | | | 1925 1.81 | | | 1926 1.59 | | | 1927 1.80 | 2.74 0.83 | |
The Cuban winter leagues show roughly the same range of standard deviation that the latter-day Negro Leagues did. The early summer league looks similar, if a little tighter than, the NAC did.
YEAR MLB | MXL STDEV | STDEV ADJ =========================== 1937 1.94 | 3.68 0.76 1938 1.81 | 2.28 0.90 1939 1.62 | 1.98 0.91 1940 1.56 | 2.20 0.85 1941 1.89 | 2.24 0.92 1942 1.59 | 2.29 0.85 1943 1.30 | 1.66 0.89 1944 1.60 | 1.74 0.96 1945 1.32 | 1.97 0.83 1946 1.55 | 1.74 0.95 1947 1.46 | 1.23 1.09 1948 1.59 | 1.85 0.93 1949 1.50 | 1.65 0.95 1950 1.43 | 1.67 0.93 1951 1.50 | 1.81 0.91 1952 1.17 | 2.05 0.79 1953 1.49 | 2.02 0.87 1954 1.65 | 2.05 0.90
La Liga comes in consistently close to the big leagues for quite some time in terms of the spread of its hitters’ performance. Drawing on a large native population that only rarely made it to the Big Leagues, taking the cream of the crop from the Negro Leagues, and pinching a few players in 1946–1947 from MLB and the US minors, Mexico reduced its overall spread in talent and performance. It rates as a little more tightly bunched than the NNL and NAL of the same period.
Here’s an overall look at the entire span of time for each of the leagues mentioned above. The MLB column includes only those seasons that correspond to the seasons with available data for each respective Negro or Latin league.
Average Standard Deviation 1902–1954 YEARS | STDEV | MLB STEDEV ===================================== CWL 1902–1927* | 1.94 | 1.38 PV 1904–1908 | 2.26 | 1.18 EAST 1905–1931* | 3.58 | 1.48 WEST 1906–1919* | 5.25 | 1.26 NAC 1907–1908 | 2.13 | 1.06 NNL1 1920–1926 | 2.02 | 1.81 ECL 1923–1928* | 2.32 | 1.81 IND 1923–1936* | 4.00 | 1.81 GP 1923 | 1.76 | 1.89 EWL 1932 | 2.20 | 1.74 NNL2 1933–1944 | 2.60 | 1.70 MEX 1937–1954 | 2.01 | 1.56 NAL 1939–1944 | 2.11 | 1.59 *Indicates span includes discontinuous seasons
Here we see the strong effect of a league structure. The East, West, and Independent teams show a far higher degree of variance (about 50%–100%) than the more structured league setups. Other than those three, however, the rest of the leagues show a fairly narrow range of STDEVs, roughly a half run or less among them. Setting aside the East, West, and independents for a moment, MLB shows a similar overall range but with a little more clumping around the 1.80 level.
Let’s remember that the spread of performance in a league shares many markers with the league’s overall quality of competition. But factors beyond those indicating quality of play influence variance, and others that influence quality may not affect STDEV as much. The long and short of it is this: Standard Deviation is a real thing, and it is a statistical thing. I adjust for it because as a statistical thing, all statistics derived from the league’s record will be influenced by the degree of variance. And that variance is outside an individual player’s immediate control. Just as his park, his league, his run environment, the strength of the schedule he faces, and many other factors that have an impact on his numbers, subtly or not so subtly.
Next time out, we’ll check in on the Integration-era minor leagues to see how they compare to the big leagues. Then in a final article, we’ll recap by showing how adjusting for STDEV may change our perceptions of several Negro League stars.
Miller and I love to get comments! Here’s one that grabbed me from one of our most loyal readers, Ryan, about the series of articles we recently posted about the HoME Standings. Those articles calculated standings solely based on playing time:
Do you have an alternative standings with a weighting of CHEWS+ values of each player for every franchise?
In a word, no. But it prompted me to put together standings based instead on the WAR values I compute. Thanks, Ryan!
Rather than run a three-article odyssey again, I’m going to sum things up in one post. This time around, I’ve based the standings on the percent of a player’s career spent with a given team. If Joe Schmuckface had 50 WAR with the Yanks and 50 WAR with the Sox, then each team gets 0.50 standings points assigned to them.
First off, let’s note that the standings by playing time included managers and executives who were specifically associated with teams in the roles we elected them for. And to answer another reader question, this time from JD, we elected Spalding as an executive. We didn’t feel that his case as an exec required the support of his playing career, unlike combo candidates Roger Bresnahan, Clark Griffith, and Frank Chance. In the same way, we didn’t include John McGraw and Connie Mack’s executive and/or player careers because they weren’t necessary for their election.
OK, on with the show.
The Grays Area
When we looked at the standings by playing time, several current MLB teams fell into what I coined “The Spiders’ Web.” These four clubs have so far failed to give HoMErs as much playing time as the highest-ranking defunct franchise, the Cleveland Spiders. But looking by value, the story is different in the details.
Five teams currently fall into “The Grays Area.” Among all long-dead franchises, The Providence Grays rank 26th among all clubs historically in our value-based standings. They received the contribution of 1.88 HoMErs, among whom were 76% of Old Hoss Radbourn’s value, 63% of Paul Hines’, 29% of Monte Ward’s, 13% of George Wright’s, and 7% of Jim O’Rourke’s.
The Toronto Blue Jays, 26th among current MLB teams are right behind them by 0.03 careers and are certain to pass them in 2019 at the latest. The Arizona Diamondbacks jump up a spot with 0.82 standings points. Only two defunct franchises stand between them and the Jays, the Buffalo Bisons (1.46) and the Detroit Wolverines (1.19). Ironically, these two teams shared a large number of core players. Two more dead teams separate the Colorado Rockies (0.65 careers) from their fellow Mountain Time foes. One is those famous old Baltimore Orioles teams of the 1890s, and the other is our old pals the Spiders. The Louisville Colonels and the Cleveland Infants of the Players League stand between the Rox and the Miami Marlins (0.51 careers). And then, a yawning gulf opens, and 24 cold, dead franchises sit above the Tampa Bay Rays who, to date have accumulated 0.1 careers’ worth of HoMErs. Better get cracking, Mantamen!
The Ring of Sixteen
Another target for expansion teams to aim for is “The Ring of Sixteen.” That is, catching up to one of the original franchises of the AL/NL peace accords of the 1910s. For Twins fans holding your breath, keep those cheeks puffed out because you’re about to get owned. The Houston Astros (4.73) trail the Twinkies by less than half of a single career, far less than what the Mets by in the playing-time version of our standings. The presence of Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, and Carlos Beltran could very well get them there. The threats to the Ring of Sixteen loom less dangerously below the Stros. The New York Mets (3.27) probably don’t have enough HoME irons in the current fire to catch up very soon, even if we end up electing David Wright. But they will be well positioned to enter the 16 in the mid-term. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Texas Rangers are tied with 2.97 HoMErs’ worth of value. The Metroplex Marshalls have a lot of little slices of careers out there to add as well as something like a third of Adrian Beltre’s career and half of Ian Kinsler’s plus a not-quite predictable piece of Cole Hamels. There’s a lot of opportunity for them if things break in their favor. The Halos are in something like the same boat but with more uncertainty. Like if Mike Trout leaves someday. Maybe they do need a stinkin’ badge?
Three more teams cluster up behind these three. The Washington Nationals (2.87) will have six years of Bryce Harper and a few years of Max Scherzer but little else to look forward to. I’d say they’re stuck in committee. The Kansas City Royals (2.75) are similar to the Nats. There’s no clear line of succession between Zack Greinke and the next Royals star. The last team in this little group is the San Diego Padres (2.61) whose missionary activities have attracted no HoME followers.
Rounding out the expansion group, the Seattle Mariners (2.32) and Milwaukee Brewers (2.25) have managed to haul themselves out of the gray area. The M’s have a whole bunch of third- or half-careers in the ready plus Ichrio. King Felix, and Kyle Seager bring more support. They could move quickly. And the Brew Crew continue to enjoy their status as a recognized MLB team.
Turning It Up to 10
Once we get into the Ring of 16, teams fall fairly neatly into two categories: those who have at least 10 careers worth of HoMErs, and those that don’t. The latter category comprises seven teams. As we mentioned early, the Minnesota Twins (5.12) lag far, far behind the other originals. The next squad on the horizon is nearly two full careers away, which is a lot considering how few careers were spent in the Twin Cities. Joe Mauer and Johan Santaña could take them a ways toward their next competitor, but they’ll still be short, and there’s little in the short- or mid-term climb, let alone keep the Astros at bay. Which means that the Cincinnati Reds (7.00) aren’t facing losing their spot in the Ring of Sixteen. The Reds aren’t in much better position than the Twins, but, thanks to nearly two decades of spectacular ineptitude, the Pittsburgh Pirates (7.65) won’t be in any position to scuttle the Redlegs’ hopes. Particularly if Andrew McCutchen is permanently broken. The Chicago White Sox (8.21) are in something of the same boat as the Reds and Bucs with relatively little near-term firepower. These three clubs will struggle among themselves for “supremacy” in the standings and won’t be reaching 10 players for a decade or more. Our next three teams, however, are knocking on the proverbial door.
Just three-quarters of a player away, the Baltimore Orioles (9.21) don’t have much to sing about with only guest shots by Jim Thome and Vlad Guerrero coming up. But Manny Machado seems very likely to earn them at least half of that 0.75 WAR they need to migrate northward. Relatively speaking, the St. Louis Cardinals (9.36) got a lot more playing time from their HoMErs than they did value. They rank sixth in our playing-time-base standings and 11th in value-based standings. But 10 careers is pretty much in the bag for the Redbirds. Albert Pujols gets them most of the way, and Scott Rolen and Carlos Beltran could put them over. If things break right, they might end up chirping about more than those guys too, but that’s up to the baseball gods, Adam Wainwright’s elbow, and Yadier Molina’s bat. Finally, the Philadelphia Phillies move up from 13th in playing time to 10th in value. They trail their former city mates, the A’s, by a shade more than 1 career, and they’ve got plenty in the pipeline among Rolen, Halladay, Thome, Hamels, and Chase Utley with Hughie Jennings, Cupid Childs, and Roy Oswalt representing opportunities for pick-ups as well. In the next three to five HoME elections, they’ll earn their tenth career. Speaking of the Oakland Athletics, at 10.56 careers, they’ve broken through a barrier, but they’ve got a lot of work to do to move up in the standings. Nearly two full careers separate them from the 8th place franchise. The White Elephants have some of Tim Hudson, and a bunch of HoME question marks who weren’t with them all that long. Expect a change in the standings here as the A’s cede the #9 slot to the Phils.
Four teams sit within a single HoME career of one another, and have a position from which to launch an assault on the top of the standings. The Cleveland Indians (12.41) have a couple careers’ worth of HoMErs in the near- and mid-term, plus a few younger players who could keep them climbing in the long term. They are running neck-and-neck with the Detroit Tigers (12.42). The Bengals counter with a lot of star power in Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Max Scherzer, and several borderliners who could make it. I’d say they’ll keep ahead of the Tribe and might even be able to turn these guys into 6th place. That’s because the Boston Red Sox (13.32) and Atlanta Braves (13.37) sit within a single HoME career. For the sox it all depends on how long Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, David Price, and Chris Sale can continue to accumulate HoME credentials. Especially Pedroia, a lifetime Sock so far. Los Bravos have more than two careers’ worth of value coming their way in Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Tim Hudson. That’ll keep all three teams below them from reaching 5th place. But will it get them into the “Gang of Four?”
The Gang of Four
The top four teams in our standings are separated by less than two HoME careers. The Braves have the Los Angeles Dodgers (14.31) under siege for the moment. But they probably can break it with Clayton Kershaw leading the charge. In the long term Seager, Bellinger, and Urias could propel them toward the top. The Chicago Cubs (14.55) are in trouble and will undoubtedly lose the 3rd spot. They might tumble to fifth and are at some risk of dropping into sixth place. They just don’t have many HoMErs coming along very soon. Most of their talent is too young to project a HoME career. The outlook is much rosier for the Evil Empire. The New York Yankees (15.75) have something like three careers’ worth of value simply awaiting our vote, and there’s more where those three came from. Lots more. They sit only one-half a career behind the top spot and will take it perhaps as soon as Andy Pettitte’s eligibility, if not Mariano’s. They will almost certainly become the first club with 20 HoME careers. That leaves us with the San Francisco Giants (16.25). Look, mostly in this country we all love to hate the Yankees. So does SF have any hope of holding off the Darth Vaders of MLB? Nope. The inevitable is going to happen unless our planet is destroyed first. I guess that’s one instance where I’d root for the Yanks. Heinie Groh and Carlos Beltran are their best near-term opportunities. Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and Johnny Cueto have to nail down their claims to greatness first. A sudden and prolonged surge of great pitching from Matt Cain would help. Which isn’t much of a hope to offer. I guess bad money drives out good money. Or at least money that’s not as bad.
Here then are the standings by value. You’ll find that we’ve added this information to our HoME Stats report on the honorees page. Enjoy.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ===================================================== 1 San Francisco Giants 1883–2017 16.25 0.15 2 New York Yankees 1903–2017 15.74 0.14 3 Chicago Cubs 1871–2017 14.55 0.10 4 Los Angeles Dodgers 1884–2017 14.31 0.11 5 Atlanta Braves 1871-2017 13.37 0.10 8 Boston Red Sox 1901–2017 13.32 0.12 7 Detroit Tigers 1901–2017 12.42 0.11 8 Cleveland Indians 1901–2017 12.41 0.11 9 Oakland Athletics 1901–2017 10.56 0.10 10 Philadelphia Phillies 1883–2017 9.43 0.07 11 St. Louis Cardinals 1882–2017 9.36 0.07 12 Baltimore Orioles 1901–2017 9.22 0.08 13 Chicago White Sox 1901–2017 8.21 0.07 14 Pittsburgh Pirates 1882–2017 7.65 0.06 15 Cincinnati Reds 1882-2017 7.00 0.05 16 Minnesota Twins 1901–2017 5.12 0.05 17 Houston Astros 1962–2017 4.73 0.10 18 New York Mets 1962–2017 3.27 0.07 19 LA Angels of Anaheim 1961–2017 2.97 0.06 20 Texas Rangers 1961–2017 2.97 0.06 21 Washington Nationals 1969–2017 2.87 0.07 22 Kansas City Royals 1969–2017 2.75 0.07 23 San Diego Padres 1969–2017 2.61 0.06 24 Seattle Mariners 1977–2017 2.32 0.07 25 Milwaukee Brewers 1969–2017 2.25 0.05 26 Toronto Blue Jays 1977-2017 1.85 0.05 27 Arizona Diamondbacks 1998–2017 0.82 0.06 28 Colorado Rockies 1993–2017 0.65 0.04 29 Miami Marlins 1993–2017 0.51 0.03 30 Tampa Bay Rays 1998–2017 0.01 0.00
We’ve heard many stories about the ugly part of the MLB integration era, about Jackie Robinson and his early-integrating peers enduring the worst kind of slurs from the stands, clubhouse alienation, and on-field abuse. But perhaps the ugliest fact of baseball’s integration was this: By time Jackie retired after 1956, three teams had still not given a dark-skinned player even one plate appearance or pitching appearance: The Phillies, the Tigers, and the Red Sox. Bigotry so saturated the sport that the last team to integrate required 13 years.
But there’s more, much more, to it than that. Giving Pumpsie Green some playing time does not equal integration. I googled the definition of integrate and this was its second definition:
Bring (people or groups with particular characteristics or needs) into equal participation in or membership of a social group or institution.
We can parse the word equal in this definition all day and night, but in the interest of keeping this article to a semi-reasonable length, let’s agree to keep things as simple as we can. Let’s merely ask ourselves this: When in our game’s history can we say with reasonable certainty that the majors had integrated?
As you can tell from above, a list of when each team integrated doesn’t cut it for me. What would? I’m no sociologist, nor am I a demographer, nor a trained statistician. As I’ve told you all before, I merely play one on the Internet. But a basic indicator to my mind is the rate of participation in MLB compared to the US population of dark-skinned people. Uhhhhh, yeah, except there are four issues there (at least):
Let’s take the last one first. I believe we have to use the term dark-skinned because African Americans were not the only people affected by the color line. Players from outside the US with dark skin were not permitted to play in MLB. How do we know who was dark-skinned? To be honest, we have to guess by looking at pictures. If the person is a light-skinned Latino who might pass as being merely olive-complected, they “pass.” It’s a bit dicey.
In terms of the rate of participation, we have at least two ways to look at it. We can count the number of players of color appearing in a given season. Or we can use their actual playing time (plate appearances and innings pitched). The latter makes better sense since in the same way that equality isn’t equity.
That brings us to the population/demography matter. Obviously, the percentage of African-American people in the population compared to the entire population makes the most sense. But that once again doesn’t account for dark-skinned Latinos. I think merely adding the UA Latino population to the African-American population should be a decent guidepost. Not every Latino is dark-skinned (and in the US, perhaps most aren’t), but it was in the time a big enough yet small enough group not to overly skew things but to provide some additional depth to the population pool we’re working with.
So here’s how I looked at it.
Because we don’t have annualized census data, for step 4 I estimated it for each season based on linear population growth among African-American and Latino/a populations from census to census. For those curious, here’s how this looks:
YEAR A.A. LAT COMBINED ============================= 1947 9.94% 2.17% 12.11% 1948 9.96% 2.28% 12.24% 1949 9.98% 2.39% 12.37% 1950 10.00% 2.50% 12.50% 1951 10.05% 2.61% 12.66% 1952 10.10% 2.72% 12.82% 1953 10.15% 2.83% 12.98% 1954 10.20% 2.94% 13.14% 1955 10.25% 3.05% 13.30% 1956 10.30% 3.16% 13.46% 1957 10.35% 3.27% 13.62% 1958 10.40% 3.38% 13.78% 1959 10.45% 3.49% 13.94% 1960 10.50% 3.60% 14.10% 1961 10.56% 3.71% 14.27% 1962 10.62% 3.82% 14.44% 1963 10.68% 3.93% 14.61% 1964 10.74% 4.04% 14.78% 1965 10.80% 4.15% 14.95% 1966 10.86% 4.26% 15.12% 1967 10.92% 4.37% 15.29% 1968 10.98% 4.48% 15.46% 1969 11.04% 4.59% 15.63% 1970 11.10% 4.70% 15.80%
Once a team matched my estimate of the US’s dark-skinned population, it had integrated. Once a league matched that estimate and each of its teams had employed more than a token number of dark-skinned players, it was integrated. Until both leagues were fully integrated, the majors were not integrated.
So let’s take that list of the first dark-skinned players per franchise and blow it out to see how long it took each team to actually integrate. By the way, it’s worth noting that a team could integrate and then backtrack. Several teams did, but we’ll assume that a year of full integration denotes a willingness to be fully integrated. Note that for Pittsburgh, I’m using Carlos Bernier as the first dark-skinned player, not Spec Roberts.
TEAM PLAYERS FIRST INTEGRATED ======================================== BRK/LAD J. Robinson 1947 1949 CLE L. Doby 1947 1951 SLB/BAL H. Thompson 1947 1957 NYG/SFG H. Thompson 1949 1951 M. Irvin 1949 BSN/MLN S. Jethroe 1950 1954 CHW M. Minoso 1951 1961* PHA/OAK B. Trice 1953 1955 CHC E. Banks 1953 1955 PIT C. Benier 1953 1961 STL T. Alston 1954 1958 CIN N. Escalera 1954 1956 C. Harmon 1954 WAS/MIN C. Paula 1954 1960 NYY E. Howard 1955 1963 PHI J. Kennedy 1957 1960 DET O. Virgil 1958 1961 BOS P. Green 1959 1965 *In 1956, the Sox fell about half a percentage point below the estimate. That’s pretty close but I don’t report it for consistency’s sake.
On average, MLB clubs required about five years to fully integrate after the debut of their first dark-skinned player. NL teams ramped up in about three seasons on average, once they played a dark-skinned person. Taken as a whole, the NL had integrated percentage-wise by 1955 or 1956, but the Phillies had not yet broken their color line. It would be fair to say, however, that the NL was effectively integrated by 1960. Then there’s the AL. Its teams required an average of six years to fully integrate. By percentage, the AL had fully integrated by 1963. This seems fair. The laggardly Red Sox reached double-digit participation rates that very year.
So as a matter of opinion after studying the question a little, I would consider integration completed at the MLB level by 1963.
Two questions remain for me. First: Why did NL teams take less time to integrate overall and especially once they began the process? The simple answer: In an arms race you have to catch up fast. The Dodgers started winning the pennant every darn year, and they integrated earliest, most completely, and most quickly of any team in baseball. They did it by opening up a whole new talent pool and plucking from it some of its available players. So what about the Phillies? Yeah, they resisted, but once John Quinn took over, the pace accelerated with 100 G force and laid the groundwork for the near-pennant-winning 1964 team. Quinn, of course, had signed Hank Aaron, Sam Jethroe, and several other import dark-skinned players as the GM of the Braves.
The second question is a little more involved. I don’t remember exactly where I’d read or seen this question referenced, but it goes like this: Did teams artificially cap the number of dark-skinned players on their rosters in the early part of integration?
Only two teams fielded more than four dark-skinned players in a season before 1954 (the Indians from 1951 to 1953 and the Giants in 1951). One of the charges of this collusion is that teams sough to limit the simultaneity of dark-skinned players on rosters. If these two very active integrators were party to this agreement, we should see some evidence in how they managed their black players.
In 1951, the Indians’ gave playing time to five dark-skinned players:
Doby, Easter, and Simpson stayed on the roster all year long, though the latter didn’t play regularly until May. Minoso played regularly from April 17th through April 29th and was traded to Chicago. Jones spent most of his season at AAA and came up only for two a pair of starts in games 151 and 155 of the season.
In 1952, the Tribe featured six dark-skinned players:
Doby and Simpson each stayed on the roster all year. Easter spent a couple weeks in the minors at the beginning of July after hitting just .208/.274/.385 in the season’s first 70 games. After returning on July 15th, he crushed it the rest of the way. Dave Pope was in the majors…from July 1st through July 16th and then again for three games in the season’s last week. Trouppe, a thirty-nine year old catcher, appeared six times in early May. Jones appeared in May and June, returned in July, and made two other brief appearances later in the year.
Doby, Simpson, Easter, and Hoskins appear to have survived the entire season on the roster. Smith was recalled on July 10th and stuck.
If you squint you can maybe see some race-oriented roster manipulation in 1951 or 1952. Nothing definite but maybe a little whiff. Not so much in 1953. Let’s turn to the 1951 Giants.
Irvin and Noble were around all year, and the rookie Mays hit .477 in AAA and forced his way into the lineup for good on May 25th. A slumping and presumably banged up Thompson missed a couple weeks several times and spent a couple in AAA as well. Wilson pinch hit numerous times early in the season, got only three starts, and was farmed out to AAA in late May hitting under .200.
The 1952 Giants:
Irvin got hurt, Mays got drafted, Thompson got better, and Noble got farmed out. In the minors, the Giants had few dark-skinned replacements for their injured. Ray Dandridge was playing at AAA Minneapolis, but despite a nice .291 average, his overall slash line was a putrid: .291/.327/387 in a league that scored 4.88 R/G versus the NL’s 4.17 and slashed .271/.352./407.
I think we can stop here. If some “gentleman’s” agreement existed not to have more than X, Y, or Z number of dark-skinned players on a roster, these two teams don’t appear to have taken part in the collusion. It is, of course, possible that the rest of the league was so colluding, but I don’t have enough time to go through every team’s rosters and their players’ game logs to ferret it out. I’ll leave it to someone else. The point is that from this limited evidence if there is collusion, it’s kind of patchy. It’s much more likely that these teams were merely managing their rosters around injuries and poor performance. At least that’s my take. I’d love to see more in the comments from those who might have more complete information.
This is our national day of remembrance, and we thank all of our veterans whose lives were sacrificed in the protection of our democratic institutions, our liberty, and our safety. The baseball world doesn’t have a remembrance day, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to look back on some of the 80 ballplayers who died since Memorial Day 2016 (May 30th).
We can’t talk about every ballplayer who died because, frankly, we’d all be asleep. But we’ll list them all out and provide commentary as we are so moved. Please place your own remembrances, comments, and stray thoughts in the comments.
Obviously, we hope that the loved ones these men leave behind are comforted in their time of loss and understand the joy their ballplayer family member or friend brought to many millions of others.
And that’s our baseball memorial roll since last Memorial Day. There’s lots more to say about any or all of these guys. Please add your thoughts in the comments.
We’re finally into the top ten in the HoME Standings. If your favorite team isn’t on the list below, check back on our first two posts You’ll be shocked, SHOCKED, to learn who our top contestant is, but there’s a lot going on underneath them, and if your favorite nine remains, cheer up, most of these clubs have some very interesting prospects for advancement.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================= 10 Cleveland Indians 1901–2017 11.11 0.10 9 Oakland Athletics 1901–2017 11.40 0.10 8 Detroit Tigers 1901–2017 13.15 0.12 7 Boston Red Sox 1901–2017 13.37 0.12 6 St. Louis Cardinals 1882–2017 13.92 0.11 5 Atlanta Braves 1876-2017 15.45 0.11 4 Chicago Cubs 1876–2017 17.91 0.13 3 San Francisco Giants 1883–2017 18.50 0.14 2 Los Angeles Dodgers 1884–2017 19.63 0.15 1 New York Yankees 1903–2017 22.16 0.21
The Tribe has done a nice job of developing and collecting HoME talent…and a lousy job of timing many of those acquisitions. But Thome and Sabathia should provide about 1 HoME career between them. As we mentioned last time, Larry Doby could also contribute 80% of a career if we do the Negro Leagues and elect him. Call it 1.9 or so careers. Tack on maybe a third of Tito’s tenure, and there’s a lot in the till. Definitely enough to claim 9th place, maybe enough to reach 8th. It’s probably too late for Michael Brantley to build enough of a case to make the HoME, but Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor are well on their way, and Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have enough talent that if one of them goes on the Randy Johnson career path, they could be a contender. I wouldn’t be the house on that, though.
Those Swingin’ A’s are about to slide outside the top ten. We talked about the surging Phils the last time out, and the Indians just above, and they will sweep away the Athletics who have very little to come back at them with. About 40% of Hudson, Billy Bean, and tiny bits of some others who might or might not pan out. It could be 1.0 to 1.5 careers. Not enough to catch the next team, not enough to drown out the war drumming of the Indians, maybe just enough to Phight the Phils phor now.
I’m pretty sanguine about the chances of Cabrera, Verlander, Kinsler, and Scherzer together, they’d add about 2.4 careers to the Bengals’ total. That’s certain to push the team at least one or two notches upward, and maybe more. After that, however, Price wasn’t around that long and his future isn’t certain given his current injury. Jordan Zimmerman would need to turn in a great second act, and none of the other active players looks like they will step up.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox have been great in the Twenty-First Century, though often featuring a roster full of talented players. Among the players above, what they seem likely to end up with is about 10% of Beltre’s career, at least 80% of Pedroia’s career, at least 20% of Sale’s career, if he doesn’t break down, about 60% of Lester’s tenure, half of Theo, and a third of Tito 2.5 careers. That’s a lot! If Miller and I get sentimental, then maybe David Ortiz has a shot. At this point he’s more appropriate for the Hall of Fame rather than the Hall of Miller and Eric. Like Detroit, if things bounce right for them, the Sox could barge into the top five. In the longer term, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, and, perhaps, Andrew Benintendi can give them additional fuel to continue rising in the standings.
St. Louis Cardinals
If everything goes the Cards’ way, they could make a big jump. That would mean we elected Rolen, Slaughter, Pujols, Beltran, Molina, and Wainwright, putting about 3.75 Cards careers into the HoME. Or we might only end up with Rolen, Pujols, and Beltran, which would be about 1.2 careers. When you look at how these standings are bunched, that’s a very large difference. Perhaps enough to swing 6th place to someone else.
Jones, Jones, and Hudson would give the Bravos another 2.3 careers. And they need every one because it’ll be a long time before anyone else is electable. Those are the last of the 1990s Braves and most of the last of the 2000s Braves that made the playoffs for nearly a decade. Jason Heyward? Maybe Freddie Freeman? Could Julio Tehran take a step up and stay there a long while? It won’t be enough to catch the Cubbies, it should be enough to hold off the Cards’s best case scenario.
What makes the Cubs’ a threat to go dynasty on the league is also what makes their near term HoME outlook a little bleak. The earliest they might elect a player that we haven’t already passed over is maybe eight to ten years from now. That’s when Ben Zobrist comes due. He might yet assemble a strong enough case, or he might just fall short. Jon Lester will arrive several years after that, and the team should get a nice chunk of his career. If Jason Heyward learns to hit again, his turn would be another for or more years thereafter. But he’s a big question mark. After that, you’re waiting for Theo or Maddon to retire, though Maddon will have a tougher climb if he doesn’t win another title. At that point it’s probably also Rizzo’s time. He’s been awfully good and very durable, and if we’ve seen his best, he’ll have to go the Eddie Murray route and be very good for very long. Then it’ll be Kris Bryant’s turn. He’s played a total of 344 games, so I’m not excited to start calling him a HoMEr yet. His BBREF comps have some danger signs: Danny Tartabull, Ralph Kiner, Carlos Gonzalez, Rocky Colavito, Fernando Tatis, Tom Tresh. Let’s not start casting the bronze quite yet. There’s a lot of reason for optimism here, and there’s not much we can safely predict yet.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants led the pack for many electoral years until our number one club wrested the top spot away about two-thirds through the journey. At this point, a chunk of Heinie Groh, a sliver of Beltran, probably most of Posey, and that’s the more bankable stuff. MadBum and Cueto are very much building their legend, and in the backlog, no one else is screaming elect-me to us at this time. So the Giants will need to turn to off-the-field honorees. Bochy is a slam-dunk and worth about two-thirds of a career. Sabean’s probably also a slam dunk, and he appears to be a lifer at PacBell/AT&T/whatever it’s called now. Dusty Baker ought to win the big one before any gets excited over his prospects. Sans the management team the Giants over the long term are likely to lose some ground to the pack whether or not they are passed. Their leadership is their saving grace.
Los Angeles Dodgers
We can’t realistically predict how long a player will stay with his team. Even if he signs a big, long contract, trades, buy-outs, and opt-outs happen. So I can really only give about 60% of Clayton Kershaw to the Dodgers. Adrian Beltre is worth about 40% of a career to the team. Grienke about a quarter of a career. Chase Utley about 15%. If Russell Martin should rebound enough to just ease over the line, then there’s probably another 40%. Among retirees, Andruw Jones is three points, Jim Thome’s worth 0% (just 17 PAs). En toto that’s about 1.8 careers, if things work out well. The Dodgers need 2.5 careers just to reach where the Yanks are right now. It’s absolutely possible to squint and see Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger and Julio Urias all coming through. But I don’t trust my squinty eyes that much.
New York Yankees
No doubt that no one is shocked to see Emperor Palpatine’s favorite team leading the pack. They will get 3.33 to 3.5 careers just out of the retirees. Establishing a long dynasty and staying competitive does that. Cano, Beltran, Sabathia, Ichiro together will add another 1.25 to 1.5 careers. So the New York Vaders are tacking on 5 HoMErs in short order. Toss Cashman and Girardi on the heap, and that’s for reals like 7 careers’ worth of Yankees. Hate or hate ‘em, they get the job done.
So that’s the state of play for now. Of course, this is all speculation and prediction. No one knows whether Clayton Kershaw will suddenly demand a trade to the Rays, or whether Derek Jeter will buy the Marlins and put himself at shortstop, or whether Jason Hayward will rediscover his stroke or discover he’s had a stroke. It’s all up in the air. These are just some best guesses at what the future holds. And as a certain philosopher once said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
On Monday, we began our look at the HoME team cap standings with defunct franchises as well as the bottom third of the current league. Some of those expansion squads and the ones we’ll talk about in a moment actually have a chance to climb into the Ring of Sixteen. None has yet, but the day may be coming soon, ya know. Once again, we’ll look at each team’s future HoME outlook by examining their current HoMErs, retired players with a 95 or higher CHEWS+, and active players with a good shot (CHEWS+ through the 2016 season).
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR =================================================== 20 Kansas City Royals 1969–2017 3.18 0.08 19 LA Angels of Anaheim 1961–2017 3.92 0.08 18 Houston Astros 1962–2017 4.85 0.10 17 New York Mets 1962–2017 4.94 0.10 16 Minnesota Twins 1901–2017 6.07 0.06 15 Cincinnati Reds 1882-2017 9.20 0.07 14 Pittsburgh Pirates 1882–2017 9.83 0.08 13 Philadelphia Phillies 1883–2017 10.02 0.08 12 Baltimore Orioles 1901–2017 10.05 0.09 11 Chicago White Sox 1901–2017 10.50 0.10
Kansas City Royals
Isn’t it kinda weird that George Brett is the only KC position player to make the HoME? While Beltran (35% of a career) and Grienke (40%) will give the R’s a nice boost, no one else is an odds-on favorite quite yet. Zobrist is inching closer, but in his mid-30s, his game could collapse at any moment. Alex Gordon’s run at immortality has stalled thanks to injuries. Cueto is still very much making his case, but he spent only about two months in Royal blue. Jose Bautista spent less time than even that. So looks the team will at best tread HoME water for some time to come, and at worst will be forced to dip their crowns as other clubs pass them by. Unless, that is, Sal Perez takes a step forward as a hitter in his late 20s and deep into his 30s.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
It’s not a bad outlook for the Angels. They’ve got enough to stay ahead of the Royals and might have enough cushion to keep up with the hard-charging teams behind that. On the other hand, in the longer term, the team has little in the minor league system and may be due for a rebuild, so you Halo Hombres might be facing a long drought after Mike Trout. Who by the way, you might notice already has a compelling case for the HoME based on his performance through 2016. He’s on a 10-WAR pace again this year.
If we elect Oswalt, then the Astros have enough on hand to rocket past the lowest member in the Ring of Sixteen (about 1.2 careers). Even if not, they have a wide launch window. Unlike the Angels and Royals, the Stros have youngsters with the right stuff to take off into stardom. Carlos Correa, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, and maybe even George Springer have HoME liftoff potential. Put this team in the watch bucket. And they are awfully close to passing…
New York Mets
The Mets could flex some serious HoME muscle. Santaña certainly has my eye, Beltran’s basically a given, and Wright is right on my borderline even if he never plays again. Add them up, and they’d be worth a minimum of a player and a half, maybe almost two. That’s enough to bust into the ring of sixteen. There’s also considerable young talent on the current roster. Michael Conforto is the only young hitter with potential for special things (if the team would quite jerking him around), but we already know that several of their pitchers have Hall kind of talent. But can they convert to a HoME career? Noah Syndergaard, of course. Who knows whether Matt Harvey can recapture his form, but if so, he’s got a shot. Jacob DeGrom has been great when he’s been healthy. I won’t tell you that all or most of these guys will end up near the HoME, but one might. That is if Mr. Met will leave Thor alone….
The Ring of Sixteen: The next big step for our expansion clubs is to slide into the sixteenth spot. Our next entrant has the lowest total of HoME careers among any of the teams thought of as the original AL/NL teams of the early two-league era. Consider these franchises have 60 to 100 years on their younger competitors, it’s impressive that any latter-day teams could make a run at entering the Ring of Sixteen, and it’s, in a darker way, impressive that one of the sixteen has been this unbelievably bad at collecting and locking down great players.
Yah know, that’s a heck of a pickle they got themselves into. They’ve got it worse than any other olde tyme team. How come our team is goinabe the first one of the original-16 that’s bein’ passed by some lousy expansion team? That Miguel Sano, though, he’s pretty darned important. He could be a true star and can make a HoME-run! That’ll help our Twinkies keep those Mets and Astros at bay. Well, it’s not like Brian Dozier’s going to keep it up forever after comin’ out of nowhere. And when Byron Buxton is hittin’, he looks like a walleye put into saltwater. And we haven’t had a half-decent pitcher come along since they got Radke and Santana. Well, Idaknow. things’ll get better, donchaknow.
At least the Redlegs won’t get rolled by a team half their age like the Twins. However, they are one of only two other squads in the Ring of Sixteen with fewer than 10 total HoME careers. Obviously, that’s not good. The Reds, like the Twins, have often seemed downright provincial in their operations, perhaps contributing to their general lack of HoME-level players. There’s an additional consideration here that works in their favor. Should we get play-by-play data in for Edd Roush that improves his standing, he could become a more serious candidate. The same could be true for Joe Kelley, but we know that’s not coming for eons. Aside from that, Heinie Groh is the most likely old-timer on the list to make it. The current Reds offer little in terms of future stardom, have a couple back doors to make progress, and, overall, should get into the 10+ club relatively soon. Unlike, say, the Twins.
Unless Andrew McCutchen rebounds, the Bucs stop here. Among retired players, only Groh has a real shot. Among the actives, we’ve already mentioned that Martin is in a doldrums in his mid-thirties, and we all know that McCutchen’s gone from MVP to swabbie. Gerrit Cole might help in the long term. Gregory Polanco doesn’t look like much of a hitter, and Sterling Marte just failed a pee test. As soon as Joey Votto is eligible for the HoME, the Reds will fly the flag of 14th placed. But, me hardees, that’s what happens when ye have two decades a losin’. Squawk! Two-decades a-losing’, two decades a losin’. Squawk!
Sure seems like the Phils are going places over the next few HoME elections. Halladay, Thome, and Rolen will buy about 1.0 career. Chase Utley’s near the end of the string and a strong candidate. He’d add another 85% of a career. If Cole Hamels’ injury this year doesn’t wreck his career, he’s got a real nice shot at a plaque, fetching about two-thirds of a career. Tito is very, very close to being a slam dunk and worth about another third. Plus Childs, Jennings, and Oswalt represent small potential pickups as well, though none except maybe Oswalt, is nearly as sure as those mentioned above. At the MLB level now, the Phils have very little to offer as their best youngsters haven’t yet emerged from the minors. They are neck-and-neck with the O’s and not far behind the #12 and #11 teams either. In other words, things could get real interesting in the middle of the standings. Adding two-and-a-half careers would get the Phils inside the top and maybe even as high as #8.
Another team where a long losing skid cost them a shot at a higher ranking. Thome’s tenure wasn’t long enough to make a difference, Dean’s was one game. Guerrero’s one season. Really, it’s Machado who can make the most difference. Whether Dylan Bundy or Kevin Gausman can be healthy or productive enough to join Manny, only time can tell. Either way, however, this team looks like its wings have been clipped, and it will a minimum of two ranks in the standings over the next couple decades.
Chicago White Sox
Most of Mark Buehrle and maybe a quarter of Chris Sale can’t hurt. It’s a little early to count on Quintana yet, but he’s well worth watching. The Chisox do, however, have a means to pick up some help. Doby and Minnie Miñoso (93 CHEWS+) are both near the borderline at their positions, and both will benefit if we choose to elect Negro Leagues players. Doby only a smidgen, but for Minnie, it’s likely three-quarters or more of a career. That won’t buy the team a boost in the standings, but it could keep a team or two at bay.
That’s a wrap for the second tier of our HoME standings. Next time, we check out the top-ten teams. There’s a lot of jockeying there for position beneath the undisputed holder of first place.
It’s been more than a year since we’ve updated you on how your favorite team has fared in the HoME standings. David Neft’s election catches us all the way up to the Hall in each of the three categories we’ve voted for: players, managers, and pioneer/executives.
In a moment, we’ll show you the agate type to find out which teams are the most HoMErific. First quick notes on what the table shows you.
To begin with, and to pay them their due while getting them out of the way, here are the results for all defunct franchises who played for five or more seasons:
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================== Cleveland Spiders 1887–1899 1.60 0.12 Providence Grays 1878–1885 1.51 0.19 Boston Red Stockings 1871–1875 1.44 0.29 Buffalo Bisons 1878–1885 1.32 0.19 Detroit Wolverines 1881–1888 1.06 0.13 Louisville Colonels 1882–1899 1.01 0.06 Baltimore Orioles 1882–1899 0.99 0.05 Cincinnati Reds 1876–1880 0.34 0.07 Cleveland Blues 1879–1884 0.27 0.05 New York Metropolitans 1883–1887 0.21 0.04 Washington Senators 1891–1899 0.12 0.01 Philadelphia Athletics 1871–1875 0.10 0.02
More on the Spiders, Grays, Red Stockings, and Bisons later. Speaking of the latter, I’m not sure if it’s Bisons or Bison, but we ain’t speaking no Queens English neither. Not surprisingly most of these are well known among Nineteenth Century squads for one reason or another.
The period of stability ushered in by the contraction of the NL and the rise of the AL gives the rest of the standings more comprehensibility. We’ll knock out the thirty franchises in descending tiers of ten. I’ll give a quick write up for each team, listing their current HoMErs with the percentage of career spent with the team; all retired, unenshrined players with at least 95 CHEWS+; and active players who we might reasonably project as strong candidates (with CHEWS+ figures through the end of 2016).
Today, we’ll cover the bottom ten, and we’ll follow on with two more articles this week to cap things off.
TEAM YEARS HoMERS /YEAR ================================================ 30 Tampa Bay Rays 1998–2017 0.08 0.01 29 Miami Marlins 1993–2017 0.45 0.03 28 Colorado Rockies 1993–2017 0.62 0.03 27 Arizona Diamondbacks 1998–2017 0.63 0.05 26 Seattle Mariners 1977–2017 2.48 0.07 25 Toronto Blue Jays 1977-2017 2.55 0.07 24 Milwaukee Brewers 1969–2017 2.62 0.06 23 Texas Rangers 1961–2017 2.94 0.06 22 Washington Nationals 1969–2017 3.03 0.07 21 San Diego Padres 1969–2017 3.13 0.07
As you surely would have guessed, the four most recent expansion franchises finish in the ultimate, penultimate, antepenultimate, and anteantepenultimate slots. And the rest of the 20s are occupied by the three previous rounds of expansion.
Tampa Bay Rays
Chuck Lamar, eat your heart out. Sixteen defunct franchises stand between the Rays and the Marlins, most of which clubs only existed a year or two. Longo’s a good bet to deliver at least 80% of a career, Zobrist could give them another 60%, and Price 40% more. Maddon could give them another 50% depending how long he stays in the dugout and how many more titles he wins. So at a max, we’re looking at 2.3 more HoMErs within the next 20 years, but after Longo, there’s a lot of ifs. Still, even Longo’s contribution will at least get the team in the vicinity of the famous old NL Baltimore Orioles. Overall, Mantamen fans, it’s going to be a long wait.
The Fish aren’t swimming in would-be honorees, but a few members of their school have a decent near-term shot to make a HoME splash. Cabrera is a lock, and he’s a third of a career. Ichiro is similarly locked in and would deliver at least 17% of a career. Buehrle is a borderline candidate and would give them 6% of a career should we find him worthy. So the team’s sitting on about 60% a career, give or take. At the big-league level, if Giancarlo Stanton stays healthy and productive, he should provide at least 50% of a career. After that, however, the cupboard is being restocked, but who knows who will be doing the shopping. Christian Yelich or Marcel Ozuna could go nuts for a few years and help out. This is a place where the team misses Jose Fernandez. En toto, the Marlins could see be passed by their Sunshine State rivals somewhat soon and have relatively little opportunity to climb the ladder where they swim now.
If we elect Todd Helton, which wouldn’t shock us, an entire career goes into the Rox column, which would push them beyond the Spiders’ Web (more on that in a moment). The Rockies, however, face a structural challenge like no other team. Despite the presence of 2% of Roy Oswalt’s career (and he’s no certainty for election), the Purple Mountain Majestics have to rely on hitters for virtually all of their representation in the HoME because it’s not like we’ll be seeing a long-tenured Rockies pitcher getting in soon…perhaps ever. Longer term, however, counting on Tulo to stay both healthy and productive is, uh, not a good bet. Let’s say he’s a 40% chance from this point forward to end up with a HoME career, which I think is pretty generous. He’s likely to have spent about 65% of his career as a Rocky. Multiply those odds by that career percentage, and you’ve got about another quarter of a player. Arenado (born on my birthday!) is something of an unsung hero, and I love his chances, but there’s a long way to go.
The Snakes are in rougher shape than the three teams behind them. Despite at least three-quarters of a HoME career among Grienke, Scherzer, and Goldschmidt, there’s nothing else brewing. It’s enough to stave off the Fish, at least. You know maybe if Taijuan Walker and Archie Bradley develop quickly, the team could add to this list. And maybe if Densby Swanson…oh, never mind.
The Spiders’ Web!!! Now those four recent expansion teams are miles behind all other active franchises. In fact, they each fall under within The Spiders’ Web. That is, the total for the Cleveland Spiders, who have the highest number of HoMErs among all defunct franchises (1.60). The Rockies have a way out of that one, the other teams, well, it might take them some time…and some don’t have a clear path out yet.
As we move into the mid-20s in our rankings, with the Spiders’ Web behind them, how much can teams expect to move upward in the standings? And how quickly? At this position among the teams, there’s not much hope of catching the leaders, let alone leaping into the top-ten. But no expansion team has gotten past the Ring of 16 (which we’ll talk about in our next post), the teams of the original AL/NL setup. Do they have a path to make that leap and maybe draw a bead on the bottom of the top tier?
The Mariners are within a half a career of four other teams. Among their retirees, only A-Rod (29%) has an undeniable shot at our Hall. But Beltre (about 30%) and Ichiro (about 70%) will soon follow, so that the Boatsmen might have more than 1.3 careers to tack on by 2025. That would get them to about 4.0 full careers’ worth of HoME players, a figure that would currently place #19. But the winds are in their favor over the longer haul too. Cano will bring at least a quarter of a career if not a half, Felix (minimum 70% if he sails away soon), and maybe half of Seager will help them ride the crest of the tide. That’s another possible career and a half. The Seattleites, then could push upwards of 5.0 to 5.5 careers. Still outside the Ring of Sixteen but ready to fire the proverbial shot across the bow.
Toronto Blue Jays
Halladay (75% a Jay) and Rolen (10%) should be HoMErs quickly. Buehrle has a shot. But all of the active players have a question mark or two. Martin appears to be losing his bat and might not make it across the finish line. Tulo’s body (as mentioned above) is reliably unreliable, and he still has a lot of HoMEwork to do entering his 30s. Josh Donaldson’s remarkable career path guarantees nothing going forward. Jose Bautista looks cooked. Even David Price has a scary injury this year. The Jays could really cash in and leap forward or they could end up with only Halladay and Rolen likely to contribute. That’s about 1 player’s worth, which isn’t enough to keep the Mariners at bay, but is enough to fly by two of the teams directly ahead.
Sorry, Brewers fans, but your future outlook for the HoME is worse than a flat Milwaukee’s Best from the can. You’ll very soon be the 26th best team as you’re passed by Seattle and Toronto, and you don’t have much ammunition to fire back and catch up. Especially not long term. But we can always drink to the memory of Harvey’s Wallbangers.
The Rangers lassoed the Spiders as the 1990s teams came through the electoral pipeline, and they’ve got some serious opportunities to flash their badges. A-Rod, Andruw, and the Impaler give the Metroplex Marshalls about 40% of a career if they get a plaque. All those active players could add about a career to that. Depending on how things pan out for the teams above them, the team could get into the top 20 within 15 years.
Like their real-life political counterparts in DC, the Nats appear to have a bumpy road HoME ahead of them. Scherzer is an odds-on favorite for a plaque, and he’d chip in 25% of a career. There simply aren’t a ton of good, projectable options after that. It’s very early in Bryce Harper’s career, and he’s had only one great season. Anyway, he’s likely leaving town as soon as Scott Boras can get that $400 million. I don’t know, maybe Jordan Zimmerman or Stephen Strassburg has an amazing run into his late 30s? The M’s, Jays, and Rangers are all hot on their tail, and this squad could also easily find themselves in 25th place, snuggling uncomfortably close to the Brewers. I don’t think it’ll get that bad for them, however, because our next team is losing ground even more rapidly.
San Diego Padres
We don’t need to see any good players. They can go about their boring losing. Move along. Move along…to a battle with the Nats and Brewers for the 26th spot.
So as you can see, some teams are on the move, while several are drifting. Next time out, we’ll look at the last four expansion franchises and then see how things look inside the Ring of Sixteen.
Tune in next time when you’ll hear Eric say, “Yah know, that’s a heck of a pickle they got themselves into.”
Last week, we shocked ourselves by deciding to postpone the last scheduled election in the Hall of Miller and Eric’s Pioneers/Executives wing. We had between us agreed upon Vin Scully. And on Monday, May 1st, Rob Neyer happened, and we had to ask whether we’d dumped David Neft too quickly.
We like Rob’s work a lot, and he’s a trustworthy researcher and voice with connections all over the baseball world. He was, as most of you know, Bill James’ research assistant prior to launching the ESPN column that pushed sabrmetric thinking into the mainstream (and spawned a love of flannel shirts among analysts). So when he tells us this, we listen:
A world without the Big Mac might not just mean a world without Baseball-Reference.com, it might also mean a world without Bill James, which might mean a world without sabermetrics, a world without Moneyball, a world without the analytics that have transformed so many other sports.
We’d always understood that The Baseball Encyclopedia (aka the Mac or Big Mac) represented a true first in the annals of the game. In fact, it is an annals of the game. It was the first that scrupulously combined meticulously researched consistency with the breadth of categorical completeness we now associate with BBREF or Total Baseball or any compendium online or in print. As Neyer and Mark Armour’s SABR Chadwick Award bio tell us, there were other encyclopedic sources, but they resembled the Big Mac as an IBM Selectric typewriter resembles the Mac I’m using to compose this article. (I see what I did there….) We had, however, underestimated its influence on the game’s analytical revolution when we crossed Neft off of our list months ago.
We might think of the Mac as part of a statistical and analytical timeline that goes like this:
Baseball-Reference.com (Sean Forman)
Baseball Prospectus (BP gang)
Total Baseball (Pete Palmer and John Thorn)
Baseball Abstract, etc. (Bill James)
Baseball Encyclopedia (David Neft)
The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball (Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson)
The Sporting News (The Spinks)
Beadle’s Dime Base-Ball Player; Spalding’s Official Base Ball Guide, etc. (Henry Chadwick)
Now, that’s a pretty impressive list of annuals, periodicals, and encyclopedias. Each represents an increment of evolution, but the Mac stands out both because the leap it made was so big compared to anything in the 100 years since Chadwick’s first guides and because that large of a leap enabled a decisive quickening of subsequent leaps (especially in combination with the miniaturization of higher computing power).
Of course, that’s just the book itself. David Neft is the guy we’re talking about. In order to be worthy of the Hall of Miller and Eric, we need evidence that he was the force behind the Mac. Consider the people above. While Bill James was the one driving force behind his work and Sean Forman the force behind his, the Baseball Prospectus enclave has been an evolving cast of characters with distributed workloads. It’s much harder give anyone in that group a plaque, nor even all of them, perhaps, because of the collective’s comings and goings.
But Neyer’s article explains clearly that Neft made that 6.5 pound, 1200-page book happen. He worked with biographical research legend Lee Allen, purchased a collection of 19th-century data from another important researcher, John Tattersall, and then put together a staff of 21 people who raked through microfilm and periodicals collections nationwide to gather and validate (with multiple box scores) the data that would comprise the book. That level of work had never been done before on baseball’s statistical history, which prior to 1920 was especially sketchy and prone to inconsistencies. Neft conceived the book, got it funded, and project-managed the whole thing.
That, however, is not the end of it. Neft’s great innovation made every latter day encyclopedic book possible to manufacture and sell at a cost that people might actually be capable of paying. You saw in Neyer’s article that the book retailed for the equivalent of $150 of today’s money. Total Baseball would cost $60 and more in later editions. But without Neft’s forward thinking, they would have been prohibitively expensive to make.
Neft recognized that a book like the Mac required a few things that would make it too costly to produce and sell:
Worse yet, the typesetting costs by themselves carried additional risk for the publisher. if you happened to mistakenly drop Lou Boudreau’s 1938 season from his entry, and it caused a line in someone else’s entry to move to a subsequent page, you’d now have to reflow every single page remaining in the batting records or perhaps the entire book. It’s not as though you can simply edit a player’s season out of existence and be credible. Hundreds of hand-reflowed pages, friends, is a bookmaker’s nightmare because it massively increases typesetting costs and lengthens the production schedule.
But Neft came to the vital realization that typesetting via computer could reduce overall typesetting costs and also make the book relatively easily reflowable. I work in the publishing industry, and my wife is a Production Editor (the person who takes manuscript and turns it into a printable book while keeping a strict budget to ensure profitability). When I asked her about it, she said that without computing technology the book would be possible but so expensive to produce that no one would buy it. And it would take forever to get print-ready.
Why am I going into that level of detail? Of course, because it’s a crucial piece of Neft’s story, but also because it demonstrates why The Baseball Encyclopedia became so important. As the research community used it, found discrepancies, recommended adding this or that, the book could change and grow. So now could any baseball book that relied on a background database. Which eventually gets you to BBREF. The rapid evolution of baseball research, analytics, and publishing were enabled by Neft’s breakthrough thinking. As Armour writes,
It can be said without hyperbole that everything that followed—the creation of SABR, the widespread interest in baseball analysis, fantasy baseball, the popular statistical websites of today—owes a large debt to the work of David Neft and his team for what they did in the 1960s.
So on Friday we will name our final honoree in the pioneer/executive sweepstakes. But first, tune in on Wednesday for Miller’s analysis of the case for Vin Scully, our other finalist.