Comments on: 50 stolen bases and .500 slugging This and that about baseball stats. Tue, 16 Jul 2013 17:01:55 +0000 hourly 1 By: Thursday Links (4 Aug 11) | Ducksnorts Thu, 04 Aug 2011 13:32:33 +0000 [...] 50 stolen bases and .500 slugging (Baseball-Reference). Former Padres Tony Gwynn and Rickey Henderson appear on this list, as does arguably the most talented baseball player I’ve ever seen, Eric Davis. Also, how great was Cesar Cedeno, doing it at age 21 and 22… in the Astrodome! [...]

By: Neil L. Sat, 30 Jul 2011 20:31:16 +0000 Robmer, I think I need to become a SABR member as well as continuing my BBRef subscription.

I agree with you that the beauty of the game we follow is the humanity behind the cold, hard numbers.

The statistics, or lack of good ones, have a human being behind them, a story that begs looking into. I, for one, don't always have the will or knowledge of how to bring that information to light.

By: RobMer Sat, 30 Jul 2011 18:33:36 +0000 @49, Neil L, perhaps I'm his biographer? 🙂 A good way to go broke. Pick a player few care about!

Seriously, every one here has an interest in baseball, and there's probably some aspect of the game that appeals to each of us perhaps more than another. In my case, it's a very strong interest in the game's early history. It was originally driven by my first viewing of Ken Burns' Baseball in 1994. I loved the first few episodes about the very early years of the game. It led me to reading the Glory of Their Times, and I've kept reading every think I can find about the game's early years ever since, just finishing, for example, John Thorn's "Baseball in the Garden of Eden," (Thorn was recently named Official Baseball Historian for MLB.)

I am a member of SABR and they have excellent resources. Like all of us, I'm in to numbers, but I find the personal stories behind the early players most interesting. It makes the game more interesting to me.

By: John Autin Sat, 30 Jul 2011 15:16:05 +0000 I think both sides of the "what-if-Eric-Davis..." discussion are understandable.

-- On one hand, he did have a long and productive career, in spite of all the injuries, playing 1,626 games,

-- On the other hand, the 25-year period from 1980-2004 that brackets his career was unusually rich in long-career players; 105 position players topped Davis in games played.

Also, there are several different kinds of "what-ifs". With Mantle and Bonds, speculation may be interesting, but none is necessary to recognize their brilliant, HOF-caliber careers. With Bo and other short-career players (Bo had just 5 seasons playing more than 1/2 the schedule), speculation may be fun, but too much of it is required in order to see them as HOF talents.

The "what-if" game is most tantalizing with a guy like Davis, who clearly had both the talent and the longevity to make the HOF, but just couldn't stay on the field quite enough to get there. It's amazing that in the 15 seasons after he made the majors to stay, he never topped 132 games. He had just 8 seasons of 100+ games, but in those 8 he averaged a 138 OPS+, and played at least 127 games in all 8. In 3 of the 6 years that he qualified for the batting title, his OPS+ was in the 150s.

Also, I think his value pattern is pretty unusual. Through age 28, he had a 140 OPS+. From 29-33, he had a 92 OPS+ and averaged just 67 games. But from 34-36, his OPS+ was 143, and 2 of those 3 years were among his fullest seasons.

None of this affects the bottom-line assessment of his value, because of course the ability to stay on the field is an enormous component of value, and a player who misses 30 games a year in his prime due to nagging injuries has to be downgraded for it. At the same time, a big chunk of his lost time (and effectiveness) was due to the kidney laceration he suffered in 1990 and the cancer that cost him all of the '95 season. Without those two setbacks, even if he had continued to miss 30 games a year with whatnot, I think he makes the HOF.

Even though it's pointless speculation.

By: Neil L. Sat, 30 Jul 2011 14:07:30 +0000 @50
With respect, Thomas, I feel you may be a little harsh on those who like to speculate about "what if".

"What if?" is a way of mourning lost or misused potential for what ever reason. After all, Eric Davis did turn up legitimately on this list and it does cause one to think that he is off the baseball radar in a career sense compared to the quality of some of his individual seasons. Nothing wrong with that regret for him, in my opinion.

I think "What if?" statistical projections are a fun exercise as long as they don't cloud "What was".

By: Thomas Court Sat, 30 Jul 2011 13:50:44 +0000 The "If only Eric Davis stayed healthy" idea is one that will never die I guess. Instead of admiring what he DID do, people want to focus on what he would have done if he stayed healthy. What he actually DID was impressive. The "what if" game is wasted time in my opinion.

What if he had stayed healthy? My answer is: he didn't.

and Mantle didn't stay sober...or tear his knee up...
Bonds didn't choose to take the high road...
Bo Jackson didn't choose baseball only...

When the answer is: "Whatever I want the answer to be." then it is time to stop asking the question.

By: Neil L. Sat, 30 Jul 2011 12:50:47 +0000 @48
Robmer, you are remarkably well informed about Benny Kauff. Is the biography project at SABR the source of your information? Their bio pages are incredibly detailed.

By: RobMer Sat, 30 Jul 2011 02:50:07 +0000 @33, Neil L -- I'd say yes to that. Benny Kauff got caught up in Landis' great purge. If his trial had happened a couple years earlier, or perhaps even a couple years later, then Kauff might have survived. Unfortunately for him, it happened during 1920 and early 1921 when the whole Black Sox scandal was unfolding in the news every day. Landis, as we know, was brought in to "clean up" the game, but even more so, he had to make it appear he was cleaning up the game. The more high profile the player banished the better. Landis was willing to sacrifice an innocent man for what he viewed as the greater good of the game.

In Kauff, he had a very high profile player, which as I alluded to earlier might be surprising to some fans today who don't know Benny Kauff. He was in the media spotlight from the time he signed to play in the Federal League, then his dynamic play in the Federal League, to his signing by the Giants, only to be returned to the Federal League when MLB teams refused to play the Giants as long as Kauff was on the team, then his eventual debut as the Giants' CFer the following year, along with the trial around the auto theft, and his ultimate banishment from the game. He was a man whose off-the-field activities kept him in the spotlight. He compounded this with a very cocky personality. He did not lack for confidence. He boasted when he came to the Giants that he was every bit the player as Ty Cobb, maybe even better. He also was a bit of a dandy, known for dressing flashy and wearing the best clothes. The media ate up every thing about him.

He was exactly the type of symbolic player that Landis wanted to banish. Kauff was known to the baseball public. Landis had him killed.

By: John Autin Sat, 30 Jul 2011 01:46:36 +0000 @45, Rich -- Why should I mindlessly accept MLB's long-ago decision to recognize the Federal League as a major league, given that they gave the same blessing to the 1884 Union Association? Go read Bill James's dismantling of the UA's caliber of play in the Historical Baseball Abstract. Those decisions were not made on the basis of a rational assessment of the quality of play.

I found the following player breakdown informative re: the Federal League:

Out of 286 players who played at all in the FL:
-- 35% were ex-MLers whose careers ended in the FL.
-- 31% never played in the NL/AL.
-- 25% were ex-MLers who went back to ML after the FL.
-- 9% were newbies who went on to ML careers.

Only 1/3 of those who played in the FL played in the majors after the league's demise. If the FL really was ML-caliber, when the total "major league" jobs shrunk by 1/3, shouldn't the proportion of FL players who got jobs in the NL/AL have been closer to 2/3?

When the league dissolved after 1915, 59 FL players were selected by ML clubs. Almost half were taken by 2 clubs, the Cubs (17) and the Browns (12).
-- The Cubs declined by 6 games in 1916, from 73-80 to 67-86. They went 74-80 in 1917.
-- The Browns improved by 16 games in 1916, from 63-91 to 79-75, but fell back to 57-97 in 1917.

(Source for player breakdown:

By: SocraticGadfly Fri, 29 Jul 2011 23:13:41 +0000 @41, and at JA and all: The NBA refused to count ABA stats.