Wednesday, June 10, 2015

1930, and the opulence of offense...

            Someone once said that is hard to look back on past baseball seasons without         commentary on the historical significance of those years. That being said, it should be noted that the first ever night baseball game was played on April 28th in Independence, Kansas, the Twinkie was invented, and Farm Cow Ollie became the first cow to be milked in an airplane. (She may also be the ONLY one)
            Prohibition was in full effect in 1930, and the great depression was gripping the nation. Babe Ruth of the Yankees was paid $80,000. Someone pointed out that the Babe was getting paid more than President Herbert Hoover, and he famously responded, "I had a better year than he did."
            Prosperity was hard to find in America...unless you were a big league hitter.

            With the depression in full swing, it's hard to imagine anyone with more than they needed. But in baseball, that's exactly what seemed to happen. Many look at the 1930 season as the best season for hitters, and it's hard to disagree. The combined leagues' batting average that year was .296, the highest ever in the modern era; averaged 5.55 runs scored per game, again the highest in the modern era; and the pitchers had an ERA of 4.81, worst in the modern era.
            Bill Terry became the last National League hitter to hit over .400. (.401 to be exact). Hack Wilson set the NL home run record with 56 homers, a record that stood for 68 years until Mark McGwire slammed 70. Wilson still holds the major league record for RBI with 191, averaging 1.23 RBI per game.
            No steroids, no performance enhancing drugs. Just an impressive offensive season. Bad pitching? Maybe. But Casey Stengel used to say, "Good pitching stops good hitting, and vice-versa".  Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Ted Lyons and Wes Ferrell were active pitchers that year, as was 43 year old Grover Alexander and 36 year old Burleigh Grimes (the last of the legal spitball pitchers)

            The Cardinals faced the A's in the World Series, with Philadelphia winning in 6 games, behind the slugging of Al Simmons and Jimmie Foxx.  So let's look first at the best offensive performances in both leagues, lowest to best.    

            Beginning in the AL:

            5. Mickey Cochrane    PHA    2.6303
            4. Jimmie Foxx            PHA    2.6895
            3. Babe Ruth               NYY   2.9927
            2. Lou Gehrig              NYY   2.9939
            1. Al Simmons            PHA    3.1829

            And the NL:

            5. Chick Hafey            STL     2.6536
            4. Babe Herman          BKL    2.7003
            3. Kiki Cuyler             CHN   2.7588
            2. Chuck Klein            PHN    2.9795
            1. Hack Wilson           CHN   3.0044

            Simmons and Wilson would be the Offensive Players of the year, easily. Note that while Bill Terry did hit .401, his overall ranking placed him 7th in the NL.

            Value? The players with the highest performance compared to their teams?

            5. Earl Webb               BOS    1.3781
            4. Charlie Gehringer    DET    1.4419
            3. Carl Reynolds         CHA   1.4735
            2. Al Simmons            PHA    1.5157
            1. Goose Goslin          STL     1.5970

            5. Kiki Cuyler             CHN   1.3567
            4. Harry Heilman        CIN     1.4561
            3. Wally Berger           BOS    1.4736
            2. Hack Wilson           CHN   1.4774
            1. Chuck Klein            PHI     1.5214

            Two things of note. Hack Wilson, while he had a fantastic season, had help, as proved by teammate Kiki Cuyler's top 5 ranking. The same with the Yankees combo of Ruth & Gehrig. Both had monster offensive years, but they were on a team that scored 1096 runs.

            And, if I add the time spent with Washington, Goose Goslin would place 4th on the Most Valuable list. 

Gary's book makes for a great Father's Day gift

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