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Baseball: Lee Sinins, baseball encyclopedia

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posted on Nov, 18 2005 @ 08:41 PM
i ordered the Sabermetric baseball encyclopedia, does anyone have this program? if so is it as good as it sounds, i am really anxious to receive my order and check it out, it lets you compare the stats of any player in baseball history....

[Edited on 11/30/2005 by toejam]

posted on Nov, 18 2005 @ 11:14 PM
Dear Toejam,


How, exactly, does this encyclopedia let you "compare" stats of Dead Ball Era players to post-1919 players? Particularly, how does it let you compare stats of Dead Ball pitchers to post-1919 pitchers?

It is my opinion pre-1920 pitching stats are enormously overrated. Exhibit A in support of that proposition is Walter Johnson, who was only 32 at the end of the 1920 season, but whose stats took a colossal nosedive that year. Grover Cleveland Alexander, born the same year as Johnson, had another great year in 1920 (park-adjusted ERA of 168, 3rd best of his career), but in the ten years remaining in his career after that, he was only over 130 once.

In writing his 2000-2001 magnum opus, rating the top 100 of all time at each position, and the top 100 of all time overall, Bill James admitted there's a huge problem with Dead Ball Era pitchers, but said he didn't know what to do about it. He also admitted Clemens or Seaver might be the greatest pitcher ever, but he sure didn't rate them that way. Seaver was #6; Clemens was #11, but had "only" 260 wins then and obviously would be far higher now.

I'm not a sabermetrician, but it's obvious to me that, largely for reasons set forth in James' 1988 treatise, Dead Ball Era pitchers' feats need to be enormously discounted. Their precipitous declines in post-1919 baseball show they weren't all that great at REAL baseball--i.e., baseball where, as James put it in 1988, the ball could be hit out of the park on any pitch, and thus they couldn't get away with lobbing all those pitches in, batter after batter, inning after inning, until they got in trouble and finally had to bear down.

To my way thinking, the first great REAL pitchers were Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell (who started in 1925 and 1928), followed by the two jewels who started in the 1930's, Dizzy Dean and Bob Feller. The fact Johnson and Alexander are no better than Feller, and are not within a mile of Grove, is proven by their park-adjusted ERA's in the 1920's. The unworthiness of Young, Nicholls and Mathewson to stand with Grove, Clemens and the other very best of the post-1919 pitchers is established by the fact Johnson was their superior, as, probably, was Alexander.

I realize the can of worms I'm opening with this. If the Dead Ball pitchers can't be taken that seriously, then how seriously should Cobb, Speaker, Wagner, Lajoie, Collins and Baker be taken? Most of those guys were phenomenal fielders and/or basestealers and/or baserunners, which is unaffected by the discounting of their era's pitching. But the thing I think saves them from the same sort of hatchet job their era's "great" pitchers must face is this:

Guys like Cobb, Speaker and Wagner often outhit everyone, or almost everyone, else on their teams by almost the same margins by which Ruth outhomered, outslugged and out-runproduced his team. No, they weren't nearly as off-the-charts as Ruth. They didn't do anything akin to outhomering every other TEAM in the league in 1919, 1920 and 1927. But they towered over their peers.

As I've said before, part of that's the fact many good athletes were dissuaded from baseball careers, which were considered unseemly in the 1900's and 1910's. But the fact is guys like Cobb, Speaker and Wagner towered over their peers. No, they didn't get more doubles or triples than any other ML team, like Ruth did with HR's, but they were still very dominant.

I'm open to suggestions that I'm somewhat in denial, and that the great Dead Ball Era hitters must be discounted more heavily, in light of the major discounting of their pitchers. Certainly such a position has an initial aura of undeniable logic to it.

But as to the fact those "immortal great pitchers" from the Dead Ball Era are enormously overrated, I'm absolutely sure I'm right.
James talked extensively about it in his (circa) 1988 book, in explaining why Lefty Grove was the greatest pitcher ever, and in explaining why pitching before 1920 was so radically different. He gave detailed accounts of how pitchers would "pace" themselves through games by lobbing pitches in until they got in trouble two or three times a game, and then would finally bear down.

Then, in James' huge book of 2000 or 2001, he inexplicably went and rated Johnson (#1), Grover Cleveland Alexander (#3) and Cy Young (#4) as three of the four greatest pitchers ever--i.e., the three greatest not named Grove, whom many if not most experts agree on as the greatest pitcher ever, or at least the greateest until Clemens had his last few years.

I think James was right before and is way off the mark now. By his own admission, he's unable to come up with an adequate way of discounting Dead Ball pitching properly. So he's saying "screw it" and rating those guys sky high. I think he's way wrong time and was right the first time, all of which surprises me from an iconoclast who's famous for not being afraid to take on the notoriously overrated (e.g., Clemente and his "halo effect").

I think Dead Ball Era "pitching" was not, in the post-1919 sense of the word--let alone the 2005 sense of the word--any real sort of pitching. And sabermetricians need to accept that fact and do something radical about it in their calculations.

I get irritated when I hear P.C. battallions say that true "baseball" began in 1947, and that the feats of Ruth, Gehrig, Grove, Cobb, Speaker, Feller, Joe D.--as well as the feats of Satchell Paige, Josh Gibson and the incomparable Oscar Charleston--are meaningless because of segregation. Ruth and Charleston, who are quite likely the two greatest players ever, were playing baseball as we know it... and at a level with which nobody else was familiar, in 1920 and long thereafter. (For those who don't know of him, Charleston was basically an early Willie Mays... EXCEPT, he was also a natural left-handed hitter with the tremendous bat speed and strength of at least Mantle, if not Ruth. Those who saw him compared his hitting to Ruth's, his play in CF to Speaker's, and his running to Cobb's.)

I am certain pitching in the Dead Ball Era was wholly unlike what Ruth and Charelston saw with a live ball in the 1920's, and what we and our dads and granddads have seen since. In light of how rapidly and severely Dead Ball's greatest pitching stars declined after the live ball came in, I refuse to regard Dead Ball Era pitching stars in the same breath with the great pitchers of 1920 and thereafter. I think everyone who's into baseball history should take the same point of view.

So, Toejam, I can tell you that my view of this "compare-players-from-any-two-eras" book will depend on its approach to Dead Ball Era pitchers.

But I'd be interested to hear your thoughts--or Hootie's--about what I've said. If at all possible, please get James' 1988 or 1989 (don't remember exact year) book first, and read the extended comment about Dead Ball "pitching." It's either under the #1 pitcher, Lefty Grove, or the next pitcher after that, whoever he was.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 02:03 AM
After further thought, although James did rate pitchers in order in the Top 10, for both righties and lefties, he had the discussions in alphabetical order. So the comments I'm talking about were either under Grove or Hubbell. Pretty sure they're under Grove. If need be, I can find the book and quote it as needed.


posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 07:46 AM
actually it is a computer program, here is a link to the it's site

posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 11:36 AM
Well, come on, Toejam. I want to know what you think--and what Hootie thinks--about my serious diminution of the rankings of Dead Ball Era pitchers.

posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 03:09 PM
i am on the last day of a 14 day work week, i will have an answer when i get cought up on my sleep enough to put 2 thoughts together and have them make some kind of sense....even if it is just to me.....

posted on Nov, 19 2005 @ 11:24 PM
Jeez, where are your priorities?

posted on Nov, 20 2005 @ 08:45 AM
right now they are in bed....i do have tonight off, but to compicate matters i work the graveyard shift, so today i will get a few hours sleep, get up this afternoon so i can get some sleep tonight, probably wake up at 1 or 2 am tomorrow morning (this is a good thing) get some sleep during the day so i can go back to work monday night....

they have switched production around so that when we go back to work after Thanksgiving we should be on a 5 night a week schedule but there is already talk that they have received so many orders that we will be back to 6 and 7 days a week after the new year, if that happens i am out of there, i got a couple of other irons in the fire

posted on Nov, 24 2005 @ 07:02 PM

You may not have noticed, because Hootie posted it on a seemingly unrelated thread due to my penchant for making desultory comments on inappropriate threads, but he has replied. He says he agrees with me about Dead Ball pitchers, but does feel Johnson and Young should rank in the Top 10 all-time. He puts Grove #1, as I have done for the 30+ years I've been making such rankings. But he's not yet addressed my comments that we're going to have to take a hard look at the possibility of Clemens as #1 when his career ends, provided his wondrous pitching in the past 10 years has been untainted. I also think Pedro may be #1 when he's done, but we're a LONG way from there... though he's already the only post-Dead Ball guy with four seasons over 200 in Adjusted ERA, an absolutely tremendous feat.

I agree Johnson should make the Top 10 all time, though the biography/hagiography his grandson wrote ironically gives me pause to consider. Grandsonny wrote the book to refute Bill James' claim Grove was better than Johnson, but Grandsonny acknowledges repeatedly the great defensive players Johnson had. When you consider that he pitched in an enormous ball park during the Dead Ball Era, the fact he had great fielders obviously helped a bunch. Grandsonny could learn a few things about making effective arguments.

But I agree with Hootie on that score, simply because of Johnson's outstanding career Adjusted ERA. And out of the considerable respect I've developed for Hootie's opinions, I'm going to give thought to Young as Top Ten material--a thought which sticks in my craw, considering how long ago he pitched and the lob-it-in-90%-of-the-time style of "pitching" used in the Dead Ball Era.

Young did, after all, win 511 games and lose "only" 316, giving him a .618 career winning percentage, which easily bests Johnson's. Also, while NOT having the luxury of pitching in cavernous Griffith Stadium with consistently good fielders, he posted some excellent stats after his 35th birthday. To wit:

Whereas Johnson's seasonal park-and-league "Adjusted ERA" stats sank like stones after his 32nd birthday, Young posted some very fine Adjusted ERA's after his 35th birthday: 166 at 35; 145, 136 and 148 the next three years; and a Clemensesque 194 at age 41, surely one of the best seasons ever after age 40.

If you (or others) want, I will quote James' remarks about "pitching" in the Dead Ball Era. Once you know how it was done, it's hard to treat it seriously, but Young is the one guy who never threw the live ball, yet has the stats which force you to at least consider taking him seriously.


posted on Nov, 25 2005 @ 05:33 AM
personally i like the dead ball era, tue many were discouraged from playing proffesional baseball because it wasn't a respectable career and from what i have read it wasn't. How can we break BH into eras and say that one was better than another, first there was the "dead ball" should we discount the records because the game was different? then we had the segregated years, the war years, after the war many of the best atheletes went on to play football and basketball...should we discount the records because the best atheletes may have been playing other sports?

i should say that i am not a big fan of "adjusted stats" although i will admit that i haven't put much time in trying to understand them, i do have the Bill James 2005 abstract and i am beginning to see that i need to take the time to sit down and do some studying with it

imo, the dead ball era should stand on it's own, it was as different a game as basketball was before the shot clock, when the 2 handed set shot ruled the hardwood, can we say how Shaq would fare in that earlier era? i don't think we can, same with the deadball era in my mind....There was no waiting for a 3 run homer as in todays game, a scratch single, hit and run, steal third, score on a squeeze bunt was the order of the day. The introduction of the "live ball" changed the game forever, some players made the transition with ease, some didn't.

I enjoy the deadball era for what it was, a primitive version of todays game, a step in the evoulution of the game we love, will we ever see a season end in the chaos of 1908? probably not, players careers cut short by substance abuse? the outcome of games affected by gamblers? hmmmm....

i hope that this long and rambling post makes some sense to those who read it, when i get the time i will sit down with Bill James and we will become better aquainted, maybe he and i will even agree at some point.

i haven't gotten the program that i have ordered yet, hopefully it will be here today, and i hope that it will be a useful tool in these discussions

posted on Nov, 25 2005 @ 03:33 PM
The James book which best puts The Dead Ball Era's pitchers into perspective is the 1985 Historical Abstract, under the section about the first great--and in my opinion, still best--LIVE ball pitcher, Lefty Grove. James addresses the inevitable argument against Grove that he "only" won 300 games. First, he points out that such an argument is inherently absurd. Second, he adds that Grove was owned by an independent minor league team (owner, Jack Dunn, the same guy who signed Babe Ruth--> think he had an eye for talent?), and thus did not get to the majors until he was 25, after Connie Mack had shelled out over $100,000 for him.

Mack got his money's worth. Starting belatedly at age 25, Grove STILL won 9 E.R.A. titles, which nobody had come within a mile of until Clemens, and had the greatest W-L % of any 250-game winner ever.

Then James gets down to cases, addressing the obvious fact of pitchers with more wins, and, in the cases of Young and Johnson, enormously more wins. Here is what James says:

"Cy Young and Walter Johnson were able to pitch a great many more innings in a season than was Grove because of one essential characteristic of their time: no home runs. Because the home run was so rare, a pitcher in the dead ball era could afford to throw 70, 75 MPH fastballs most of the time, and `save' his good stuff for those moments when there was a runner on base and thus a danger of a run being scored.

"This `pacing' or `saving' was a major part of pitching science in the dead-ball era, and I could show you a hundred quotes from the time that tell about pitchers doing it. Christy Mathewson in `Pitching in a Pinch' reflected on a game early in his career that he lost by surrendering four runs in the ninth inning. After the game George Davis, his manager, told him, `Never mind, Matty. It was worth it. This game ought to teach you not to pitch your head off when you don't need to.' Matty added that `Many spectators wonder why a pitcher does not work as hard as he can all through the game, instead of just in the pinches.' Forty years later, Ty Cobb struck up a friendship with a high school boy who turned out to be a marginal major league pitcher named Barry Latman. He wrote Latman several letters, giving him advice about the game, and one thing he wrote about was this need to `save your stuff' for the key moments of the game.

"After 1920 there was the danger of a run being scored at any moment, and the amount that any pitcher could [slack off] was thereby reduced. Many pitchers prior to that won 300 games; since then, only Spahn and now Carlton have moved significantly beyond that point."

In other words, Dead Ball "pitchers" weren't really pitching. No wonder they could throw complete games of 20 innings. No wonder they could pitch on consecutive days. No wonder they could throw such mind-boggling numbers of innings, complete games, etc. But if they were throwing 70 mph fast balls except "in a pinch," they weren't really PITCHING at all, in any sense of the word that I'm willing to accept, and I'm sure not going to judge them on the same plane as their successors.

So if someone comes up to me and says, "Gee, I hope Clemens doesn't retire, 'cuz he only needs one more win to tie Tim Keefe for 8th place in wins," excuse me if I laugh in the person's face. Tim Keefe got his 342 wins from 1880 to 1893. Keefe completed 554 of his 594 starts, including all 68 starts in 1883, when he went 41-27.

Yes, obviously some "pitchers" were better than others back then. And because Johnson posted FOUR of the 35 all-time seasons with an Adjusted ERA of 200 or higher (the enormously underrated Pedro Martinez has done the same, already), and was SO dominant in the final years of the dead ball, I agree with Hootie about putting him in the Top 10... but I sure as hell wouldn't put him in the Top 3. Cy Young is a tougher question for me, because his career Adjusted Era is significantly lower than Johnson's. (Johnson's 146 is second only to Grove's 148, among retired pitchers; Young's is 138; Pedro's is--hold your breath--166, but that will fall in his decline phase, unless he proves as timeless as Clemens, which I doubt, or unless a major arm injury ends his career suddenly.)

But with Dead Ball pitchers, we are talking about guys who deliberately didn't try their best, and deliberately threw 70 mph "fast balls," in an effort to conserve their REAL pitching for when they were "in a pinch," a few times a game. You cannot seriously propose to treat them as equals of Live Ball pitchers, who, as James said, must face the reality of a possible home run at any time, and thus cannot serve up batting practice pitches that are hard to hit out of the infield because of the ball.

Baseball History Nut

posted on Nov, 25 2005 @ 03:38 PM
P.S. And yes, I realize the possible hypocrisy of my taking a mental meat cleaver to guys like Mathewson, Nicholls, Alexander, perhaps Young, etc., and not doing the same to Cobb, Speaker, Lajoie, Wagner, Collins, etc. I've stated my reasoning before, which is mainly that those guys just absolutely TOWERED over all the others, but I'm open to the suggestion that I'm off-base and that the ones who didn't play after 1919 (Lajoie and Wagner), or the ones who fell off badly after 1919, must get the same cleaver treatment in their ranking.

posted on Nov, 25 2005 @ 03:53 PM
P.P.S. Here is a start towards explaining why those guys should be treated differently:

From the passage in James' book, it's obvious Dead Ball pitchers didn't mind the risks of singles. But with guys like Cobb, Speaker and Wagner, they faced far worse possibilities. Cobb and Speaker are the only two players in baseball history who amassed over 1,000 extra base hits NOT COUNTING HOME RUNS. Cobb had 1,019 combined triples and doubles; Speaker, the career doubles leader for eons, had 1014. Wagner "only" had 892. PLUS, Cobb is still #4 in stolen bases, with 892; Wagner is still #10, with 722; Speaker "only" had 432.

In other words, these guys hit the hell out of the ball, AND stole a lot of bases once they got on. I doubt very much Dead Ball pitchers just casually lobbed pitches in to the three of them. Don't you? If you were a young pitcher on the N.Y. Giants back then, wouldn't it have been fun to explain to John McGraw why you casually lobbed a 68 m.p.h. fast ball to Honus Wagner?


posted on Nov, 30 2005 @ 05:17 PM
i emailed Lee Sinins today regarding the status of my order as i had not yet received the program that i had ordered, within 5 minutes i had a reply saying that it had been sent out on the 18th and since i hadn't gotten it yet he would have to assume that it was lost in the mail, not only is he going to send out a replacement tomorrow he is going to upgrade it to the "deluxe" package at no charge.

I wanted to give Lee a pat on the back for his excellent customer service, if the product is half as good as the service i will be very impressed and it will be money well spent

posted on Dec, 7 2005 @ 05:16 PM
i received the computer disc today and got it on the computer, i haven't had a lot of time to play with it but it looks to be a great resourse, complete stats for every major league player from 1901 to the present, all completely sortable, it has both the traditional stats and the saber stats, at first glance it looks to be well worth the money, i only wish that it included minor league records and Negro league as well

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