For the First Time: National Association Pitching WAR Leaders

To this day, I still marvel at how Sean Smith gave us (and then gave Baseball-Reference) a complete dataset of historical Wins Above Replacement from 1871 to the present. My one teenie tiny issue with it is the fact that it's not actually 100% complete.

While American League, National League, Federal League, American Association, Players League, and even Union Association data is complete, the data for the National Association (1871–1875) is incomplete. It's not that the National Association was intentionally left out, either. Position player WAR data exists. Pitching WAR does not, however.

As I'm working on the new version of the Hall of wWAR, I just can't completely ignore these pitchers, though. I need that WAR. So, I decided I'll just estimate it (using the same basic methodology of Baseball-Reference's pitching WAR).

So, for the first time ever, here are the National Association career pitching WAR leaders:

Na-war_medium

(Complete list after the jump.)

Player G IP W L BB SO ERA WAR
Al Spalding 282 2346.7 204 53 138 207 2.21 60.2
Bobby Mathews 255 2221.7 131 112 196 329 2.69 43.6
Candy Cummings 199 1778.0 124 72 86 222 2.35 42.9
Dick McBride 233 2049.0 149 74 169 148 2.71 36.7
George Zettlein 308 1942.7 169 130 169 189 3.11 36.4
Cherokee Fisher 136 1087.7 52 63 74 92 2.52 20.3
Tommy Bond 95 849.0 41 48 15 112 1.77 12.7
George Bradley 60 535.7 33 26 17 60 2.13 8.1
Rynie Wolters 45 367.3 19 23 47 27 3.90 4.3
Jack Manning 49 320.7 20 18 26 46 2.22 3.2
Al Pratt 43 330.3 12 26 61 41 4.41 2.5
Joe Borden 7 66.0 2 4 7 9 1.50 1.9
Harry Wright 36 100.3 4 4 14 6 3.68 1.0
Lon Knight 13 107.0 6 5 12 15 2.27 0.9
Pud Galvin 8 62.0 4 2 1 8 1.16 0.8
Count Gedney 2 11.0 1 0 1 2 0.82 0.4
Ed Pinkham 3 10.3 1 0 3 0 3.48 0.3
Tricky Nichols 34 288.0 4 29 9 48 2.38 0.3
Hugh Campbell 19 165.0 2 16 8 7 2.95 0.3
Mike Golden 54 232.0 14 38 40 68 3.72 0.2
Sam Weaver 1 6.0 1 0 2 2 1.50 0.2
George Knight 1 9.0 1 0 0 0 3.00 0.1
John Hatfield 3 8.0 0 1 0 0 2.25 0.1
Frank Buttery 8 59.0 3 2 3 5 4.27 0.1
Chick Fulmer 2 5.0 0 0 1 0 3.60 0.1
Dickie Flowers 1 1.0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.1
Levi Meyerle 1 1.0 0 0 2 0 9.00 0.0
George Wright 2 4.0 0 1 0 0 6.75 0.0
Phonney Martin 42 156.3 6 19 28 11 7.31 0.0
Charlie Mason 1 2.0 0 0 1 0 4.50 0.0
Cal McVey 3 11.0 1 0 1 1 4.91 0.0
Bill Boyd 1 1.7 0 0 0 0 0.00 -0.1
O'Rourke 1 9.0 0 1 2 0 8.00 -0.2
Frank Heifer 2 2.3 0 0 0 0 15.45 -0.2
Len Lovett 1 9.0 0 1 1 1 7.00 -0.3
Pidgey Morgan 7 42.0 1 3 1 7 1.29 -0.3
Jim Britt 91 816.7 26 64 62 29 4.26 -0.3
Harry Arundel 1 2.3 0 1 0 0 7.73 -0.3
Jim Devlin 28 224.0 7 16 12 23 1.93 -0.3
Charles Witherow 1 1.0 0 1 0 0 18.00 -0.3
Edwards 1 2.0 0 1 0 0 4.50 -0.3
Dan Collins 2 11.0 1 1 2 0 4.91 -0.4
Dickey Pearce 2 5.3 0 0 0 0 3.38 -0.6
Denny Mack 3 13.0 0 1 3 1 3.46 -0.6
Joe Blong 15 129.0 3 12 2 14 3.07 -0.6
John Greason 7 63.0 1 6 10 5 5.86 -0.6
Johnny Ryan 11 62.7 1 5 9 1 3.88 -0.6
Jim Clinton 18 132.0 1 14 6 8 2.73 -0.7
McDoolan 1 9.0 0 1 0 0 3.00 -0.7
John McMullin 37 283.3 14 15 79 15 5.43 -0.7
Ezra Sutton 2 6.0 0 0 0 0 10.50 -0.7
Charlie Pabor 10 51.3 1 4 10 0 5.96 -0.7
Frank Sellman 1 9.0 0 1 0 0 8.00 -0.8
Bill French 1 9.0 0 1 0 0 12.00 -0.8
George Bechtel 48 243.0 12 33 30 19 4.96 -1.1
Hugh O'Neil 5 34.0 0 4 0 0 5.03 -1.1
Davy Force 4 25.0 1 1 1 0 6.12 -1.1
Bob Ferguson 7 31.3 0 2 5 0 6.89 -1.4
Martin Malone 2 18.0 0 2 4 0 10.50 -1.5
Frank Fleet 14 75.3 4 8 9 7 7.17 -1.6
Bill Parks 32 112.0 8 16 12 6 7.07 -1.9
Ed Stratton 3 27.0 0 3 1 0 8.33 -2.1
Henry Luff 10 68.7 1 6 3 5 3.28 -2.6
Cy Bentley 18 144.0 2 15 12 5 6.06 -3.4
Joe McDermott 7 63.0 0 7 14 1 8.14 -3.4
John Cassidy 30 213.7 1 21 11 9 3.03 -3.7
Asa Brainard 96 699.7 26 62 83 26 5.18 -5.9
Bill Stearns 84 699.7 13 64 46 24 4.28 -12.1

Some Thoughts

Al Spalding is in the Hall of Fame as an executive/pioneer. Like John McGraw (and, in the future, Joe Torre), he was good enough that he really should be in as a player. Now the problem is that people only know Spalding the pioneer or McGraw the manager or Torre the manager. They were each Hall of Fame players. Who's the pitcher most similar to Spalding (in terms of WAR and IP)? That'd be Roy Halladay and his 61.8 WAR in 2531 IP.

Candy Cummings is often criticized as a poor Hall of Fame choice. He is essentially in the Hall because he supposedly invented the curveball (a fact that his widely refuted).. Between that debate and the fact that he's in as a pioneer, it really takes the focus off his pitching career (which just may have been Hall-worthy). Cummings' similar pitchers by WAR and IP include Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Hoyt Wilhelm, Addie Joss, and Goose Gossage as well as guys on the bubble like Ron Guidry and Sam McDowell. Cummings also had a flashy amateur career before the National Association was formed.

Bobby Mathews famously has the most wins for a pitcher not in the Hall (297). His post-NA WAR of 16.1 looks better when you add his NA numbers (for total of 59.7 WAR). His closest WAR and IP comps are Tommy John and Mickey Welch. I couldn't come up with better comps if I tried.

Dick McBride was a workhorse pitcher/manager in his five seasons with the Philadelphia Athletics. From 1871 to 1875, he accounted for 89%, 100%, 81%, 100%, and 78% of his team's innings. McBride was worth 36.7 WAR in the National Association while fellow hurler George Zettlein was worth 36.4 WAR. Both pitchers—whom I'd never heard of until this project—had long amateur careers before joining the National Association (dating back to the Civil War).

The Methodology

I should probably explain how I came up with this. I'm no math whiz, but I think this is a decent estimate.

  1. For each pitcher, I collected his innings pitched and his total runs allowed (not unearned).
  2. For his team, I collected the total number of innings pitched and Total Zone runs.
  3. For his league, I collected the average number of innings and average number of runs allowed.
  4. I found the league average for runs allowed per inning pitched.
  5. I then calculated the number of runs each pitcher should have allowed (using his innings pitched) if he was a league average pitcher with a league average defense.
  6. I then split up each team's Total Zone runs and assigned them to each pitcher on the team based on his innings pitched.
  7. I adjusted the pitcher's runs allowed based on his defense's contribution. If his defense was worth five runs above average, I added those five runs to his runs allowed total (since he theoretically would have allowed them, given an average defense).
  8. I subtracted his runs allowed (adjusted for defense) from the number of runs he should have allowed, given average performance with average defense. This is his runs above average.
  9. (Note: This is the inexact science part) I consulted with Matt Klaasen about how to convert runs above average to runs above replacement. He said that replacement level runs allowed is typically 120 to 130 percent of runs above average. He also warned me that the difference between average and replacement may have been smaller in the 1870s. I went with the low end (120 percent), but it could conceivably still be lower. Any input here is appreciated (and I could re-run the numbers).
  10. I then used Matt's post about historical run environments to convert from runs above replacement to wins above replacement.

Big thanks to Matt Klaasen for helping me out with that last part.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Join Beyond the Box Score

You must be a member of Beyond the Box Score to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Beyond the Box Score. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker