First Stab at Adjusting 19th Century PitchersDec 26, 2012 by Adam Darowski
Note: I have opted to implement this adjustment.
When I launched the Hall of Stats, I wrote about one of the ongoing issues I was dealing with—the overpopulation of 19th century pitchers in the Hall of Stats. I’ve been thinking of some ways to deal with this and today I’m giving one a try.
Now, this is just a proposed change. I don’t know if it’s good yet. I figured I’d put it out there for feedback. With the Hall of Stats, I’ve tried to steer clear of arbitrary adjustments. I have to admit, I use a couple. For both catchers and relief pitchers, I give a 20% boost to adjWAR and adjWAA. I like that percentage a lot for catchers. For relievers? Maybe it could be a bit higher.
Since I’m using the 20% adjustment twice already, I decided to see how things would look of I used it again—this time to dock value for pitching adjWAR and adjWAA accumulated before 1893 (when the mound was moved to its current distance).
Here are the results:
|Player||Current Hall Rating||Proposed Hall Rating|
|Old Hoss Radbourn||139||113|
This change would remove the following pitchers from the Hall of Stats:
- Al Spalding (99.8)
- John Ward (95)
- Bobby Mathews (91)
- Mickey Welch (90)
- Silver King (84)
I’m a bit bummed to see Spalding and Ward go, but they certainly are Hall-worthy for other reasons. Spalding is already in the Hall as a pioneer. The fact that he also had a borderline case in just six useful seasons as a player is remarkable. Ward is in as a player, but he easily qualifies as a pioneer as well. Mathews is kind of the Jim Kaat of the 19th century, so it makes sense that he hovers near the borderline. I won’t miss Welch or King at all.
What’s interesting is the number of pitchers who now come very close to the borderline:
- Pud Galvin (108)
- Tommy Bond (106)
- Jim McCormick (106)
- Tony Mullane (103)
- Charlie Buffinton (102)
- Bob Caruthers (102)
So, are these pitchers really on the borderline? Or did I just not make enough of an adjustment?
As for the rest of the list, Amos Rusie and Clark Griffith aren’t really affected because they started their careers closer to the turn of the century. Kid Nichols, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, and Old Hoss Radbourn were all well over the borderline and stay that way. Interestly, both Rusie and Griffith leapfrog Radbourn.
In short, I feel that this adjustment actually does a really good job. Many guys now move to the borderline, but that’s where I’ve always felt they belong. I didn’t like the Hall Rating scores that guys like Bond, Buffinton, and McCormick were getting. But I didn’t dislike their cases enough to simply cast them aside. They were elite pitchers and certainly deserve consideration. Did I make a big enough adjustment? Should it go beyond just pre-1893 seasons? Well, I could use some feedback.
If this change did go through, the Hall of Stats would need to induct five new players. They would be:
- Nap Rucker (100.4)
- Red Ruffing (100.3)
- César Cedeño (100.2)
- Robin Ventura (100.0)
- Jimmy Collins (100.0)
Not an overwhelming list, but probably more deserving than an overpopulation of ancient hurlers.
Update: A comment by Bryan alone led me to update some research I did a while back. One of the issues I had with 19th century pitchers was that a high percentage of them are in the Hall of Fame.
- From 1872 to 1874, over 25% of all innings each season were thrown by a Hall of Famer.
- In 1881, a peak of 31.7% of all innings were thrown by a HOFer.
- After 18.6% of innings were thrown by a HOFer in 1900, the percentage never went that high again.
- In fact, after 1908, it never again reached 15%.
That’s a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers. The thing is, the Hall of Stats currently only adds 19th century pitchers. It doesn’t subtract any. Running this adjustment does help that.
See the table below and note that:
- IPouts = innings pitched, expressed in number of outs
- HOS = current Hall of Stats pitchers
- New HOS = Hall of Stats after this proposed change
|Year||IPouts||HOS IPouts||HOS Pct||New HOS IPouts||New HOS Pct|
We still get a high number of pitchers from the 1880s inducted, but it’s not that much worse than, say, how the Hall of Fame handles hitters from the 1920s and 1930s. Overall, the difference between the percentage of innings by a Hall of Famer before and after the adjustment is a whopping 5%. Pretty major adjustment there.