Continuing my little look at WAR by decade, we move into the good ol' 1880's. My first post was on 1871-1879 and this is a ripoff of Adam's format when he looks at each franchises' WARlords (can't remember who coined that term, but I love it, by the way).
Hopefully I do a decent enough job at giving back round info on each of the guys I discuss in detail. That's the real reason I'm doing this; I love baseball history and learning about players of which I know literally nothing about before the research begins. I should note that all of the data from the previous two posts include BOTH the National Association and National Leagues.
So let's roll!
Everyone knows Cap Anson, right? Well, Adrian Constantine Anson was basically the best player in baseball history when he retired. If you thought Rickey Henderson played a really long time, Cap Anson scoffs in your general direction. He played 27 seasons (Henderson, "just" 25), but did it in a time that was only twenty years removed from the freakin' Civil War (which was a pretty big deal, I hear) and in a time when modern medicine meant drinking or just amputating something.
On the field, Anson was a very good hitter. He played 1st and 3rd base and turned pro in 1871 after one year at Notre Dame. However, in the 1870's he accrued just 20.6 WAR over 2297 plate appearances. The 1880's is where he really took off with his 55.7 WAR.
Want to know just how amazing Anson was for the era? Had he retired after the 1889 season at age 37, he would've played 19 seasons and retired with 76.3 WAR. The second best WAR total over those years? Roger Conner at 54.4. Cap Anson could've retired before the 1890's and held a 22 WAR lead over the second best hitter of that time period. That is insane. To put into context, that is the difference between Al Kaline and Barry Larkin.
Did You Know: Cap Anson accrued 68.4 WAR from age 28 through age 40. The best ever between those ages was, predictably Babe Ruth with an astounding 116.7 WAR. Anson's the 13th best ever between those ages.
You should know Roger Connor as he was the home run king until Babe Ruth broke his mark in 1921. Connor broke into pro baseball at age 22 around the same time as Cap Anson and was the second best hitter of the era. I really didn't want to talk too much about him because he does get some pub as the guy who held the career HR record holder before Ruth, but I wanted to give you this little tidbit I did not know:
Did You Know: Roger Connor was the very first player to hit a walk-off grand slam in baseball history? Well, he did. Apparently he lived the dream before any other kid in America could think it up in their back yards, too; his team was down three runs at the time.
Big Dan Brouthers is the guy I wanted to talk about for segue purposes. Connor and Brouthers are the 19th century versions of Jeff Bagwell and Frank Thomas. You know all those similiarities that Bagwell and The Big Hurt have (born the same day of the same year, power-hitting first basemen in the 1990's, finishing withing 4 WAR of one another, etc etc)? Connor and Brouthers should've trade marked it. Brouthers broke into pro ball in 1879 at age 21 while Connor came in in 1880 at age 22 and were born less than a year apart (July 1st of 1857 for Connor and May 8th of 1858 for Brouthers). They finished within 2 WAR of each other in the 1880's and 4.5 of each other in their careers.
Brouthers played on what was referred to as The Big Four. They were kind of a Big Red Machine of the 19th century; a group of dominating hitters on a very good team. The Big Four were Jack Rowe (C, in Buffalo), Brouthers (1B), Hardy Richardson (2B), and Deacon White (3B). Of course, you remember Deacon White from the post on the 1870's that you definitely read, right? The shortstop for a number of years was Davy Force until his skills declined. It was then that Rowe moved from behind the plate to SS.
For my money, there couldn't have been many foursome's better than The Big Four. They played together basically from 1881-1888 and accumulated the following WAR's: Dan Brouthers 46.5; Hardy Richardson, 28.8; Jack Rowe, 24.9; and Deacon White, 17.2. That gives them a total of 117.4 WAR as teammates. Basically, over the course of 8 seasons, these four were as good as Lou Gerhig was in 17 seasons.
Lets look at The Big Four stacked up against the great Dodgers foursome of Steve Garvey, Davy Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. These four played together for a decade (1972-1981) and accrued the following WAR's: Steve Garvey, 32.5; Davey Lopes, 29.1; Bill Russell, 16.1; Ron Cey, 43.5. That gives them a total of 121.2.
If we go with WAR per year, The Big Four churned out 14.7 WAR per season and The LA Quintet produced 12.1 per season. Once you add in the fact that The Big Four played shorter seasons, and it's stunning just how amazing they were.
And it didn't end there: they played with Pud Galvin (who you'll see later), Sam Thompson (46.7 career WAR) and Jim O'Rourke who is 15th on this list of WAR in the 1880's.
For another day, I (or someone) should really compare one of the old Buffalo Bisons teams with the aforementioned seven players WAR's to some of the great teams throughout the years.
1880-1889 Pitching Leaders
|2||Old Hoss Radbourn||61.6||26-34||1881||1889|
|25||Ice Box Chamberlin||17.3||18-21||1886||1889|
Ice Box Chamberlin might be my favorite baseball name of all time. I mean, how amazing would the call to the bullpen be in baseball today if you could hear "NOW PITCHING, ICE BOX CHAMBERLIN" thunder through the stadium from the PA system? It's be unmeasurable amounts of awesome, that's how much.
Pud Galvin, part of those great teams with The Big Four shows up third on this list. James Francis Galvin -- who also went at Gentle Jeems or The Little Steam Engine ... I'll take Gentle Jeems, though -- was a 4-time NL strikeout leader. He was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1965 by the Veterans Committee, some 63 years after his death. Galvin was the first pitcher to 300 wins and is the most used pitcher not named Cy Young. He places second behind Young in innings with 6,003, and complete games with 646. Mind boggling.
Did You Know: Galvin won 20 games in 10 different seasons, yet never won the pennant? That is a baseball record.
Bob Caruthers is an incredibly interesting player. He only appears on the list from '84-'89 but accrued a good amount of WAR (which you'll see later). Unfortunately, once he declined from his peak. He posted ERA+'s of 112 in two of his final four seasons but dropped off to 106 and then 58 before being done as a pitcher in 1892.
Because Caruthers spent the bulk of his career in the American Association (1884-1889) -- the years he's on this list for -- he isn't in the Hall of Fame. There weren't any players who spend considerable time in that league inducted into the HoF until Bid McPhee was elected in 2000. But there wasn't much more Caruthers could do in his time on the field. He only played 10 years and was done at age 29, but was perhaps the greatest two-way player in baseball history.
Caruthers picked up 52.6 WAR on the mound and another 18.8 at the dish where he didn't hit for a lot of power but had a stellar on-base percentage. Obviously others may jump at Babe Ruth being the best two-way player ever, but in terms of guys who pitched and hit for their entire careers, Caruthers is the best.
Caruthers was part of a great St. Louis Browns club from 1885-1887 that he steered to 3 pennants. The Browns faced Cap Anson in the 1885 World Series where the series yielded really no winner. The series was 3-3-1 and the Browns felt biased umpiring robbed them of a win in Game 3 of the series. So the rematch in 1886 was filled with bad blood between the two teams. (Note: post-season games like the World Series were for bragging rights and were exhibitions before 1903 when the World Series became official). Cap Anson only agreed to play the Browns on the condition that the gates receipts would not be shared; the winner would take all. The Browns won the series 4-2 and took home bragging rights and perhaps more importantly, the money.
The interesting back-story here is that Caruthers was looking to get paid for his talents. After the 1885 season, Caruthers was sparring via telegram with the Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe who was in Paris at the time. It didn't bother Caruthers when he was playing, but it probably didn't sit well with Von der Ahe. The 1887 Browns were continuing to roll on but the post season was not as easy. The Browns bats went cold and they lost the 15-game World Series 10-5 to the Detroit Wolverines.
Von der Ahe was none-to-pleased and blamed it on the players penchant for drinking, cards and gambling, and carousing. He particularly pointed the finger at Caruthers who was a billiards and card shark and promptly dealt him to Brooklyn for the 1888 season.
Did You Know: Caruthers posted a 148 ERA+ in 1886 while posting a 200 OPS+ in that same season. That is absurd.
War as a rate stat
1880-1889 WAR per 700 Plate Appearances (Min 1000 PA's)
Cap Anson gets hurt for playing so, so long, but Dan Brouthers really was a beast offensively. Charlie Bennett and Buck Ewing move up the list a good amount, as well.
Charlie Bennett was one of the better hitting catchers of the 19th century, notably hitting for power. Bennett hit .270/.339/.415 for the decade and that was a 131 OPS+. Bennett was 12th in the decade in WAR and moved up the list to 5th in WAR/700 PA's. Of course, though, he gets a large chunk of that due to his position. Bennett was the catcher before Jack Rowe came over to the Detroit Wolverines with The Big Four. However, Bennett's talents were respected enough that Rowe moved to shortstop after being a catcher previously so the Wolverines could keep Bennett behind the dish.
Did You Know: Bennett Park in Detroit, which held about 5000 people when Bennett was there, was named after Charlie Bennett. His career was finished after he lost both of his legs after being run over by a train. He survived (quite the feat given the time period) and lived until 1927. With artificial legs and canes, Bennett threw out the first pitch of the season in Detroit for every year after his career ended in 1903, before his health precluded him from doing so in 1927. That's a long time.
Dave Orr really didn't have a cool nickname that I know of, which is surprising given he was listed at being 5-foot-11, and 250-pounds -- kind of a Babe Ruth before Babe Ruth existed. Orr, basically looking like the 19th century equivalent of Pablo Sandoval I'd guess (but with a cooler 'stache), was a big time slugger for the time period. His career 162 OPS+ puts him in a tie with Mark McGwire and Pete Browning -- they're in a group right between Jimmie Foxx and Stan The Man Musial. Clearly, Orr could slug when compared against his peers.
Perhaps the most astounding thing about Orr was that his weight didn't inhibit his fielding. Obviously fielding metrics are sketchy and when you're talking pre-2002 get even sketchier, but his TotalZone rating for the decade was +21 runs -- a -12 season in 1890 sunk his overall TZ rating to "just" +9. Very interesting. So, put Albert Pujols' glove on Prince Fielder and give them a great mustache and you've got Dave Orr.
Besides defensive prowess, Orr also -- like Pujols -- burst onto the professional baseball scene with a fantastic rookie season: .354/.362/.539 for an OPS+ of 190 in 1884.
Did You Know: Dave Orr was two homers shy of being just the 4th player in the 19th century to win the modern day equivalent of the Triple Crown in 1884. He hit .354 and drove in 112 -- his rookie year -- and belted out 6 home runs. John Reilly of Cincinnati hit 8 that year to take the HR title away from Orr.
BONUS DYK: Dave Orr holds the record for most triples hit by a right-handed hitter in baseball history with 31. That's the second highest mark ever, as well.
1880-1889 WAR per 200 IP (Min. 1000 Innings)
|Ice Box Chamberlin||3.2||1070||1886||1889||18-21|
|Old Hoss Radbourn||3.1||3966.1||1881||1889||26-34|
Pud Galvin drops from 3rd best WAR to 19th best as a rate stat. Big drop off. Meanwhile, Caruthers jumps to the second best and Silver King tops the list.
Silver King was an innovator. Born Charles Fredrick Koenig, he was the first side-arm pitcher in baseball. He reportedly had very large hands and threw the ball with basically no wind-up. Still, the unorthodox arm slot and a still pretty hard fastball, King wound up in the top 10 in strikeouts 6 different times in his 10-year career.
His nickname was given because he had white hair and because his German surname Koenig translated to King in English.
Did You Know: Silver King threw the first no-hitter in which he was the losing pitcher. His team chose to bat first and so he only pitched 8 innings. The MLB does not recognize it as a no-hitter, however.
Somewhere, Tony Mullane is possibly watching Pat Venditte's success in the New York Yankees farm system and smiling wide. Mulhane was the first ambidextrous pitcher in baseball history. He switched pitching arms so-to-speak for the first recorded time in July 1882. That's the only recorded account of it happening, but it's possible he did it more often than just that one time.
Mullane was also a very good pitcher. He pitched for 13 seasons until 1894 when he was 35 years old. He had a solid start to his career but was a bit above-average for the rest of it, finishing with a 123 ERA+ for the 1880's.
Beyond the diamond, though, Mullane had something even better going for him: he was apparently very handsome. I'm not an expert on such things, but it's reported that opposing teams scheduled "Ladies Night" for games Mullane was going to be in town for to drum up business on otherwise slow attendance days. Mullane, however, was extremely frugal, wearing his clothes until they nearly disintegrated.
However, he did have his bad qualities as he was a known racist. He would have a black catcher named Fleet Walker behind the dish for him and Mullane admitted to intentionally crossing him up. However, it's reported that when he admitted to this, Mullane also called Walker the best catcher he ever worked with.
Did You know: Tony Mullane holds the record for most wins by an Irish born pitcher. His 284 wins is the 3rd-most among pitchers not in the Hall of Fame -- behind Bobby Matthews and Bert Blyleven. Mulhane possibly would've won 300 games had he not been suspended for all of the 1885 season.
WAR Components (Position Players)
1880-1889 Batting Runs Leaders
Dan Brouthers really shines offensively. Cap Anson really shows how good he was given his age for the decade.
1880-1889 Baserunning Leaders
Arlie Latham accrued 223 Runs Above Replacement for the 1880's. He picked up 43 on the base paths and another 81 in the field. He couldn't hit at all, though, picking up just 9 runs with the bat.
1880-1889 Fielding Leaders
Latham shows up here but Charlie Bennett was just plain STUDLY behind the plate. Add that to his power and you've got a great combo for a catcher. Jack Glasscock was a beast in the field, and more than capable with the bat, picking up 102 runs offensively.
WAR in a Single Season
1880-1889 Best Seasons by WAR
Roger Connor put up a fantastic season in 1885 which was nearly 2 WAR better than any other year in his career which was 1 of the 5 season in the top 25 he posted.
Dan Brouthers had 4 seasons in the top 25 but his best year (9.1 WAR) wasn't even his best (which came in the next decade). His 1886 season was on the back of 75 batting runs and 5 more in fielding runs.
Fred Dunlap is the best story on this list with his 9.2 WAR season in 1884 making up almost 27% of his career 34.7 WAR. Dunlap put up an impressive 86 batting runs which was the second best mark of the decade. However, he was bested by an incredible 1887 season of Tip O'Neill.
O'Neill -- one of four players to win the triple crown in the 19th century -- put up 100 batting runs to go with 2 more runs fielding. He was -1 on the bases and -8 in position. Kick in 9 runs for replacement and you get 102 RAR which worked out to 8.1 WAR. His 1887 season was 36% of his total WAR in the 1880's.
Bonus DYK: The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum gives out the Tip O'Neill award annually to the player who has "excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to the highest ideals of the game of baseball." O'Neill, born in Springfield, Ontario was one of the inaugural inductees into the Canadian HOF in 1983.