Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Integrating the Segregated Era With Strat-O-Matic Part Three

371 days after I started, I've reached the 3/4 mark of my Strat-O-Matic season made up of four all-star teams compiled of Negro leaguers and pre-integration MLB Hall of Famers. For the full explanation, read part one here, and you can see the mid-season point post here. For the first time, there is some separation in the standings as the Smiths have pulled ahead of the pack a bit and the Charlestons have slipped. The Gibsons have actually been slightly better at run scoring and prevention than the Smiths, so it will be interesting to see how the last quarter of the season plays out between them.

The average ERA is 5.46 and the average OPS .843. Here are some leaderboards:

WAR - position players:

Oscar Charleston
7.1 Oscar Charleston CF (Charlestons)
5.9 Babe Ruth RF (Ruths)
5.9 Ty Cobb CF (Gibsons)
5.1 John Beckwith 3B (Ruths)
5.1 Rogers Hornsby 2B (Charlestons)
4.4 Buck Leonard 1B (Smiths)
4.0 Joe DiMaggio CF (Ruths)
3.8 Tubby Scales 2B (Smiths)
3.8 Oscar Johnson LF (Charlestons)
3.7 Josh Gibson C (Gibsons)

WAR - pitchers (average of RA9-WAR & FIP-WAR):

7.0 Satchel Paige (Ruths)
6.3 Slim Jones (Gibsons)
5.9 Pete Alexander (Ruths)
5.4 John Donaldson (Smiths)
5.0 Big Bill Foster (Gibsons)
4.9 Smokey Williams (Charlestons)
4.8 Lefty Grove (Smiths)
4.7 Dazzy Vance (Gibsons)
3.9 Max Manning (Charlestons)
3.8 Hilton Smith (Smiths)

Bullet Rogan (Smiths) has a combined 3.9 WAR between his pitching and time in center field.

Oscar Charleston maintained the top WAR rating from mid-season, but he slipped from number one in average, OBP, slugging, and OPS:


1.095 Babe Ruth (Ruths)
1.093 Oscar Charleston (Charlestons)
1.027 John Beckwith (Ruths)
1.013 Buck Leonard (Smiths)
1.003 Jimmie Foxx (Gibsons)


.440 Ty Cobb (Gibsons)
.434 Oscar Charleston (Charlestons)
.428 Babe Ruth (Ruths)
.422 Oscar Johnson (Charlestons)
.417 Buck Leonard (Smiths)


.667 Babe Ruth (Ruths)
.660 Oscar Charleston (Charlestons)
.629 John Beckwith (Ruths)
.608 Jimmie Foxx (Gibsons)
.596 Buck Leonard (Ruths)


.369 Ty Cobb (Gibsons)
.364 Oscar Johnson (Charlestons)
.347 Oscar Charleston (Charlestons)
.343 Rogers Hornsby (Charlestons)
.335 Bullet Rogan (Smiths)

The home run race has become one of my favorite parts of the season:

38 Jimmie Foxx (Gibsons)
37 Babe Ruth (Ruths)
34 John Beckwith (Ruths)
32 Lou Gehrig (Charlestons)
29 Joe DiMaggio (Ruths)


4.06 Slim Jones (Gibsons)
4.24 Big Bill Foster (Gibsons)
4.32 Pete Alexander (Ruths)
4.38 Satchel Paige (Ruths)
4.46 John Donaldson (Smiths)


4.02 Satchel Paige (Ruths)
4.47 Pete Alexander (Ruths)
4.79 Slim Jones (Gibsons)
5.01 John Donaldson (Smiths)
5.04 Smokey Williams (Charlestons)


24% Slim Jones (Gibsons)
19% Satchel Paige (Ruths)
19% Dazzy Vance (Gibsons)
18% Lefty Grove (Smiths)
16% Smokey Williams (Charlestons)


7% Satchel Paige (Ruths)
8% Dazzy Vance (Gibsons)
8% Max Manning (Charlestons)
8% Slim Jones (Gibsons)
9% Hilton Smith (Smiths)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bill James Stability Index Graphed

Bill James has a fascinating article on his website (subscription required) tracking the stability of five different areas of baseball history (see key in the above graph) plus the overall stability measured as the average of the five factors. The data was calling out to me to be turned into a line graph, so here it is. I've used a rolling four year average trend line for the numbers James provided. (He didn't include the numbers for every year, just pointed out certain years in a narrative summary.)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Top 100 & Thoughts

Last February, March, and April, I painstakingly rated my top 100 players of all time and made note of any connections each one had with KC. Click here to see all my top 100 related posts. With another season in the books and some new thoughts about how to adjust my rankings, I've rejiggered them a bit, and you can find my new list below.

In my original formula that greatly informed my rankings, I did not include a "timeline adjustment" to give more recent players a bonus. I considered it, thanks to Bill James arguing for and using one in his Historical Baseball Abstract top 100. Last off-season, my thinking was that all that really matters is how much a player dominates in his own era. If Babe Ruth was worth 10 WAR one season and Barry Bonds worth 10 WAR in another, then they were equally valuable. But after finalizing last off-season's ratings, I did a check to see how well my list was distributed throughout baseball history. Using a reverse numbering system where my #1 player was rated as worth 100 points in each year of his career, #2 worth 99 points in each year of his career, etc., I came up with a year-by-year index of how my top 100 were distributed. It looked like this:

The replacement and average level player keeps getting better and better, making it harder and harder to dominate the later in baseball history you get. I did not doubt that before, but now I understand how important it is to take into consideration when comparing one era to another. While thinking about this recently, I came across a fantastic 1977 study by Richard Cramer that actually quantified this ever-increasing skill level in baseball. (I would love to see someone smarter than me update that study.)

So I've added this timeline adjustment, stolen from James, to my formula: (year of birth - 1852)/6. On the extremes of players that made my list, Albert Pujols has an 18 point edge on Cy Young, worth roughly 9 WAR in the formula.

Here's how the year-by-year greatness breaks down in my new list:

It's especially satisfying how much this evens things out between 1953-2007. There's still that conspicuous bump centered around 1927, which I'm still not sure what to make of. It could be that there was just a random huge influx of greatness at that time. It's also possible that I'm overrating the 17 Negro leaguers included in my list. But maybe the most likely thing is that another adjustment is needed to penalize players from the segregated era. Keeping out a large population of the best players surely drove down the overall replacement/average skill levels, making it easier for very good players to dominate at all-time great levels. I'm going to keep thinking about that, but may add in a segregated era penalty in next year's revision.

Only four players fell off of my original list, victims mostly of the timeline adjustment: Joe Jackson, Ernie Banks, Home Run Baker, and Yogi Berra, replaced by newcomers Adrian Beltre, Chase Utley, Alan Trammell, and Carlos Beltran. Here is the new list, with a note for whether the player moved up, down, stayed in the same spot, or is new relative to my first rankings (the new top five by position is at the end):
  1. Babe Ruth -
  2. Willie Mays -
  3. Ted Williams -
  4. Oscar Charleston -
  5. Walter Johnson -
  6. Barry Bonds -
  7. Ty Cobb -
  8. Rogers Hornsby -
  9. Hank Aaron -
  10. Roger Clemens 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Royals Home Run Rates By Stadium

There's been plenty of talk around the interwebs about the Royals abysmal home run numbers to start the 2014 season, as well as their impotence throughout their history: Mike Engel did a great breakdown of KC homer rates at home and on the road and in different erasEngel also discussed the topic with Jeff Herr on the KC Baseball Vault, Rob Neyer chimed in, and JoePo revisited the infamous Balboni record. As if more needed to be said on the topic, I started poking around at how their homers have broken down by ballpark. Here's the top ten by total homers:

1. Kauffman 2271
2. Angel 220
3. Metrodome 200
4. 182
5. US Cellular 180
6. Tiger 179
7. Fenway 170
8. Yankee II 147
9. (old) Arlington 146
10. Progressive 139

More interesting are the home run rates by stadium. The Royals have had at least 500 plate appearances in 30 different stadiums. Here are their rates at all of them:

Safeco?! Safeco has been as much of a homerun graveyard as Kauffman until the fences were moved in last year. 33 Royals have homered in Safeco, with Raul Ibanez and Mike Sweeney leading the way with five apiece. I suppose it's mostly a fluke, but it's also more proof that it's not impossible to hit homers at a reasonable rate in big parks like the Royals sometimes seem to suggest. None of the current Royals have done much damage at Safeco: Alex and Billy have two, Hosmer one.

At first I was surprised to see Municipal at the bottom, but then I remembered there was no DH those years and of course they were an expansion club. Ed Kirkpatrick, with 26, was the only player to hit even 20 homers combined in the four years at Municipal. Bob Oliver, Lou Piniella, John Mayberry, and Amos Otis were the only others with 10 or more. The run scoring environment was neutral at Municipal, but I don't know exactly about home run factors. I believe the LF-CF-RF dimensions when the Royals played there were 369-421-328, so there were certainly no cheapies to be had.

Fenway and Yankee II are both a little lower than I'd expect considering the short dimensions in left and right respectively. They've hit dingers at a much higher rate at Yankee III in the short time it's been open.

And not surprisingly, but sadly, Kauffman is way down at 23rd on the list. Like you already know, Kauffman is indeed a tough park to homer in, but it's not as tough as the Royals have made it look. Visiting teams consistently out-homer the Royals in their own ballpark. According to Engel, the Royals have homered once every 54 PAs in Kauffman history while their opponents have gone long once every 46 trips to the plate. In the words of GOB Bluth, "Come on!"

5/13 Update: It occurred to me after posting the above that it is probably more instructive to limit the data to the DH/Kauffman era, so here are the Royals homer rates by stadium from 1973 through today. Ignoring '69-'72, Tiger Stadium takes over the top spot, while Safeco strangely remains at the top of current stadiums. (The Royals hit two dingers in three recent games at Safeco, which actually dropped their all-time Safeco rate.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

My All-Time Players By Position

Using my top 100 player list, here's how the rankings break down by position.

Pujols is already in a dead heat with Foxx, and will almost certainly pass him sometime this season.

My best guess is that Satchel Paige was Walter Johnson's equal on the mound. But Johnson could hit a little, and Satchel couldn't.

Integrating the Segregated Era With Strat-O-Matic Part Two

I've reached the half-way point of my Strat-O-Matic tournament made up of four all-star teams of players from baseball's segregated era. If you missed part one, you can read all about it here. The standings remain extremely tight:

Smiths 40-37
Gibsons 39-38
Charlestons 38-39
Ruths 37-40

The scoring remains ridiculously high, and actually went up a tick in the second quarter. Teams are scoring an average of 6.14 runs per game, the average ERA is 5.48, and average OPS .844.

I may have reached the pinnacle of baseball nerdery by calculating WAR for a Strat league. But the results show Oscar Charleston being the first-half MVP by a wide margin, not surprising since he's the leader in AVG, OBP, and SLG, and is a highly rated center fielder.* No pitcher is standing out from the crowd, but Satchel Paige, Lefty Grove, and John Donaldson are all in the top five for both ERA and FIP. 

The full leaderboards:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 1—10

1. Babe Ruth • RF/LF/P • 1914—1935

Played in at least three exhibitions in KC. On October 22, 1922, Babe Ruth & Bob Meusel, "playing with an all star team," dropped a game 10-5 against the Monarchs. Ruth went 4 for 4, all hits of the single variety against Bullet Rogan and Rube Currie. The Ruth's All-Stars passed through KC again in October, 1924. The teams were made up of "Bob Meusel, also of the Yankees, most of the Kansas City Blues, and the biggest names in Kansas City semi-professional baseball."* Ruth pulled a homer at Muehlebach Stadium in that game. Three years later, his Bustin' Babe's faced the Larrupin' Lou's on October 15, 1927. Ruth and Gehrig presented a refrigerator to Children's Mercy Hospital while in town.
*The Monarchs 1920-1938 by Phil S. Dixon

2. Willie Mays • CF • 1951—1973

As a 17 year old kid playing for the Birmingham Black Barons, faced the Monarchs in KC during the 1948 Negro American League regular season and in the  league championship series. Returned to KC for two All-Star Games, one in 1960 (3 for 4 with a double and triple) and one in 1973 (0 for 1 with a strikeout).

3. Ted Williams • LF • 1939—1960

Murdered the A's in KC in 51 games between 1955-60: 15 homers and a 1.186 OPS. Grounded out in one PA at the '60 All-Star Game.

4. Oscar Charleston • CF • 1916—1941

Visited KC to face the Monarchs an unknown number of times.

5. Walter Johnson • P • 1907—1927

6. Barry Bonds • LF • 1986—2007

Played three games at Kauffman Stadium in 2003. After playing left in the first game, he was the DH for the next two. Here, for some reason, are the results of all of his plate appearances from that series:

June 13

vs. Chris George
1. intentional walk
2. ground ball single
3. ground ball single
4. strikeout swinging

vs. Mike MacDougal
5. strikeout looking

June 14

vs. DJ Carrasco
6. fly out to deep RF
7. intentional walk

vs. Les Walrond
8. strikeout swinging
9. walk

vs. Nate Field
10. walk

June 15

vs. Jose Lima
11. line drive single
12. home run
13. walk

vs. Jason Gilfillan
14. fly out to LF

7. Ty Cobb • CF • 1905—1928

8. Rogers Hornsby • 2B • 1915—1937

9. Hank Aaron • RF • 1954—1976

Faced the Monarchs in Kansas City as a member of the 1952 Indianapolis Clowns. Went 0 for 4 at the 1960 All-Star Game and 1 for 2 at the 1973 summer classic. Squeezed in nine regular season games at Royals Stadium between 1975 and '76, highlighted by one home run, hit off Al Fitzmorris.

10. Honus Wagner • SS • 1897—1917

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Federal League Kansas City Packers

Home opener, April 16, 1914. The Chicago Whales, with Hall of Famer Joe Tinker at short, defeated KC 3-2.
The Federal League existed 1913-15, and Kansas City had a team in the loop for the last two and a half of those three seasons. The Fed, then and now considered an independent minor league in 1913, placed one of their original teams in Covington, KY. The Covington Blue Sox suffered from poor attendance to the point that they needed to locate mid-season. KC was their landing spot in late June, and the franchise became known alternately as the Packers and the Feds. Gordon & Koppel Field at 47th & Tracy was their home yard.

The loop declared itself a major league in 1914 and began poaching what talent they could from the American and National. The Federal is indeed considered a major league for the 1914 and '15 seasons, though the talent level lagged behind the two established majors. One of KC's additions was George Stovall, a KC native that had been a below average/above replacement level first baseman in the American League since 1904. He'd been a playing manager for the previous three seasons, a dual role that he continued for the Packers in '14 and '15. But they didn't add any awe-inspiring talent. The 1914 squad liked playing in KC alright, squeaking out a 37-36 home record, but overall went just 67-84, good for sixth place in the eight team league. The team didn't draw particularly well, and the league announced they would be relocated to Newark, NJ for 1915. But KC ownership fought back, serving a lawsuit to the league that successfully blocked the transfer.

The fans came out in much bigger numbers in 1915, putting up some of the highest attendance figures in the league. There was very little turnover on the roster, so no expectation that the Packers would make much noise in the standings. But they were a much improved team and actually held on to first place for a significant chunk of the year. They faded slightly and finished fourth with a respectable 81-72 record buoyed by their 46-31 ledger at home. It was the first winning record by a major league team in KC's history after the Unions and Cowboys never sniffed .500 in their four combined seasons in the 19th century. 1915 was also the last winning record by a major league team in KC until the 1971 Royals.

Despite the increase in attendance, the owners had gone bankrupt by the end of 1915 and the team was taken over by the league. During the '15-'16 off-season, an agreement was reached between the AL/NL and the Federal that put an end to the Fed by partially absorbing it into the AL & NL. With no ownership group left in KC, the Packers were not a part of the deal, and KC fans had to wait 40 years for the official return of major league baseball. 

Exterior of Gordon & Koppel Field

My best guess at the orientation of Gordon & Koppel Field. Assuming the game in the top photo was being played in the afternoon, the shadows would be approximately right. And baseball historian Lloyd Johnson has written that long home runs would end up in Brush Creek.

How great are those sweaters?

"Kansas City in the Federal League" by Bob Cole in the book Unions To Royals
"Kansas City Baseball History" tour pamphlet by Lloyd Johnson
The Federal League of Baseball Clubs by Robert Peyton Wiggins

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 11—20

11. Satchel Paige • P • 1927—1965
Was the ultimate free agent, and probably played for more teams than any other player. But from 1941—47, he had a relatively steady run as a Kansas City Monarch (though he still occasionally pitched for other teams between Monarchs starts). Paige was loyal to the team after owner J.L. Wilkinson gave him a job at a time when his arm went dead in the late '30s. KC became his home for the second half of his life, and he even pitched three shutout innings for the KC A's in 1965 at the age of 59. His legacy remains strong in KC with Satchel Paige Field at Swope Parkway and 51st, Satchel Paige Elementary at Indiana and 75th, and his final resting place at Forest Hill Cemetery, Troost & Gregory.

12. Lou Gehrig • 1B • 1923—1939

Played in at least two exhibitions in KC: His Larrupin' Lou's faced the Bustin' Babe's on October 15, 1927. Gehrig and Ruth presented a refrigerator to Children's Mercy Hospital while in town. Gehrig also played in his last ever baseball game in KC on June 12, 1939. Gehrig had been inactive for six weeks due to a mysterious ailment, but gave it a go in an exhibition against the Blues to please the fans. He came to the plate once, grounded out weakly to second, and came out of the game. He left straight from KC the morning after for the Mayo Clinic, where he soon received his diagnosis of ALS.

13. Tris Speaker • CF • 1907—1928

Never played in KC that I'm aware of, but he did become heavily involved with the Blues for a brief time. Along with two partners, Speaker purchased the Blues before the '33 season. Speaker planned on being the field manager in addition to overseeing all personnel, contracts, and scouting issues. He realized quickly that it was too much, and stepped down as manager almost as soon as he started. He and his partners sold the team a couple of years later. (Info from Timothy M. Gay's book Tris Speaker.)

14. Stan Musial • OF/1B • 1941—1963

Definitely played a KC exhibition in '43, and could have played a couple of others. Also singled in his lone plate appearance at the '60 All Star Game.

15. Grover Cleveland (Pete) Alexander • P • 1911—1930

16. Mickey Mantle • CF • 1951—1968

Sent down to the Blues after a slow start to his rookie season in '51. The legend goes that he was ready to quit baseball until his father came to pick him up in KC and gave him a hard time about quitting. In 40 games with the Blues, crushed 11 homers and a 1.096 OPS. Returned to Municipal as a MLB visitor for 114 games (26 HRs, .983 OPS).

17. Roger Clemens • P • 1984—2007

19 games at Kauffman: 12-4, 2.05 ERA.

18. Lefty Grove • P • 1920—1941

19. Bullet Rogan • P/CF • 1915—1938

Spent much of his childhood in Kansas City, KS. Starred for the Monarchs from 1920—38 and managed them '26—'34 and '36. Also umpired home games for many years after his playing days. Buried at Blue Ridge Lawn Memorial Gardens in KC.

20. Josh Gibson • C • 1930—1946

Visited KC to face the Monarchs.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 21—30

21. Eddie Collins • 2B • 1906—1930

22. Martin Dihigo • P/IF/OF • 1923—1945

Likely made a number of trips to KC to play the Monarchs. 

23. Cy Young • P • 1890—1911

24. John Henry Lloyd • SS • 1907—1929

In addition to an unknown number of trips to KC as a visitor, suited up for the Monarchs in a post-season exhibition series against the KC Blues in 1921. The Monarchs usual shortstop, Dobie Moore, was injured, so the Monarchs brought in Lloyd. I'm not sure how Lloyd performed individually, but the Blues won the series 4-2. 

25. Randy Johnson • P • 1988—2009

Hurled 13 games at Royals/Kauffman Stadium with a 2.58 ERA and rather ridiculous 103 strikeouts in 87.1 innings.

26. Rickey Henderson • LF • 1979—2003

Played at Royals/Kauffman 95 times, more than any other stadium that he never called home. Swiped 59 bases and put up an .843 OPS (compared to a career .820).

27. Christy Mathewson • P • 1900—1916

28. Mike Schmidt • 3B • 1972—1989

MVP of the 1980 World Series, which included three games at Royals Stadium. Schmidt homered twice in those three contests.

29. Nap Lajoie • 2B • 1896—1916
Played and managed games against the Blues at KC's Association Park as a member of the Indianapolis Indians in 1918, his last year in baseball.

30. Tom Seaver • P • 1967—1986

Pitched just four regular season games (32.2 innings) at Royals Stadium, plus one inning at the '73 All-Star Game.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 31—40

31. Alex Rodriguez • SS/3B • 1994

Has killed the Royals in general: His 1.071 OPS against them is the highest among players with at least 500 PAs, and his 48 homers are second only to Jim Thome's 49. But more of that damage has been done with the Royals on the road. While actually playing in KC, Rodriguez has "just" a .959 OPS and 18 dongs.

32. Greg Maddux • P • 1986—2008

Never faced the Royals, in or out of KC, even though there was inter-league play for the last 12 years of his career.

33. Jimmie Foxx • 1B • 1925—1945

34. Albert Pujols • 1B • 2001

Went to high school and one year of college in the KC area, and seems to enjoy returning and crushing the Royals at Kauffman, where he has hit a ridiculous .335/.426/.671 in 40 games.

35. Joe Morgan • 2B • 1963—1984

Had a good All-Star Game at Royals Stadium in '73 by walking, doubling, and scoring two runs. Returned for five games during the last season of his career as a member of the A's.

36. Joe DiMaggio • CF • 1936—1951

The Yankees made quite a few visits to KC during DiMaggio's career to play exhibitions against the Blues, the Yank's top farm team at the time. Played at least two, but possibly as many as seven, exhibitions in KC. 

37. Mel Ott • RF • 1926—1947


Bounced between Negro leagues teams quite a bit, but was a Monarch in '31, '34, and '38-'40.

39. Frank Robinson • RF/LF • 1956—1976

Played 47 games in KC (45 at Municipal, 12 at Royals).

40. Willie Wells • SS • 1924—1948

Played for the Monarchs for a hot second in '32, and was a frequent visitor throughout his long Negro leagues career.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Top 100 & KC Connections: 41—50

41. Pedro Martinez • P • 1992—2009

Made one start at Kauffman Stadium each year from '98-'02, and the Red Sox won all five games. Pedro had a 2.19 ERA with 39 Ks and 5 walks allowed in those games.

42. Kid Nichols • P • 1890—1906

Moved to KC at around 12 years of age and spent four seasons playing for KC minor league teams (1887-88, 1902-03). Combining those four seasons, Nichols had a 2.32 ERA and an 81-33 record. Was a co-owner, manager, and pitcher for the 1902 & '03 KC Blue Stockings. Remained a KC resident throughout his life, where he owned bowling allies and a theater after retiring from baseball. 

43. Roberto Clemente • RF • 1955—1972

The Pirates played an exhibition against the Royals in Kansas City in 1970, but I don't know whether Clemente played or not. There was a posthumous tribute to him at the KC-hosted '73 All-Star Game.

44. Carl Yastrzemski • LF • 1961—1983

Lots of trips to KC: Faced the A's at Municipal 59 times, the Royals at Municipal 19 times, and 55 games at Royal Stadium.

45. Bob Gibson • P • 1959—1975

46. Cal Ripken, Jr. • SS • 1981—2001

102 games at Royals/Kauffman Stadium.

47. Johnny Bench • C • 1967—1983

Hit one of the longest home runs in Royals/Kauffman Stadium history at the '73 All-Star Game.

48. Eddie Mathews • 3B • 1952—1968

Started the '60 All-Star Game at Municipal, then sneaked in three regular season games in KC against the A's in 1967 during his brief stint in the AL.

49. George Brett • 3B • 1973—1993


50. Wade Boggs • 3B • 1982—1999

Royals Stadium was one of his most common places to visit, where he played 91 games and hit slightly worse than usual.