Wednesday, September 23, 2015


     Rest in Peace, Yogi. Thank you for the joy that you have given baseball fans for over sixty years. Thank you for the quotes, mixed-up, but dead-on philosophies and your quiet strength.
For your beliefs, your strength of conviction and your amazing outlook on life.
     The media world will be filled with your quotes and stories for the next couple of days, giving us a refresher course in the uniqueness of Yogi, which is a good thing. Always good for a funny quote, most of his most endearing ones were totally off the cuff, some were seemingly nonsensical, but deep beyond their simplicity.
     Some of my favorites include:
     “That restaurant is so crowded, nobody goes there”.
     “A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore”.
     “It ain't over til it's over”.

     It's hard to truly argue any of those observations. Another time, while discussing playing the outfield in the World Series during day games, and dealing with the sun, he noticed that it 'gets late early out there”.

     There was also the military man, a Navy veteran that was a part of D-Day, serving on the USS Bayfield.

     There was the ballplayer, the Yankee catcher and notorious bad ball hitter that earned an unprecedented 10 World Series rings during his playing days. Garnering 3 Most Valuable Player Awards and was named to the All-Century Team by MLB in 1999.
     He passed on the 69th anniversary of his major league debut.
     There is the man enshrined in Cooperstown, elected in his second year of eligibility in 1972.

     There was the family man, who along with is wife Carmen, raised their kids in Montclair, New Jersey, where the Yogi Berra Museum is located. (On the grounds of Montclair State University)
     Then there was 1985.

     Managing the New York Yankees, who were struggling to say the least, Yogi got a 'vote of confidence' from owner George Steinbrenner, essentially saying that no matter what, Yogi would be his manager for the duration of the 1985 season. That lasted all of sixteen games. Yogi was fired while the team was in Chicago, after the team had lost 6 of its previous 7 games. After his termination, Yogi rode on the team bus to the airport, wished the Yankees well, and caught a plane home, while the Yankees, and new (recycled) manager Billy Martin and the rest of the team flew to Texas.
     Yogi vowed that he would never again be a part of the Yankee family, or set foot in Yankee Stadium.
     Apart from the Mets, the only other major league jersey that Yogi would wear in his career was the Houston Astros, where he coached for a couple of seasons, mainly as a favor to his neighbor, John McMullen, who owned the team at the time. He coached there for three years before retiring.

      There was the man that walked away from his livelihood over an injustice, and held his ground until the offending party apologized, not an easy thing for Yankee owner George Steinbrenner to do. But George came to Yogi,hat in his hand to make amends, and invite Yogi back into the New York Yankee family. That was all it took for Yogi to return. But it took Steinbrenner fourteen years to do it.
     So Rest in Peace, Sir. It has been our privilege.

This is a good book about Yogi, and his relationship with the more contemporary Yankees, through Ron Guidry's eyes...a good read for sure.

Friday, September 18, 2015

From the Archives...

     One from the archives (The Sporting News 1964 Baseball Guide, actually. Pretty self explanatory. Note 2 of the 1973 Mets on this team, a Hall of Famer and a Toy Cannon...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

1950, Gee Whiz...

            The 1950 Philadelphia, Phillies, or 'The Whiz Kids", as they had known to be called, won the National League pennant for the first time since 1915. Prior to that, they had never finished in first place.
            Essentially, 33 years before the first pennant, 35 years to the second, and then 30 years to the third National League championship, and eventually their first World Championship, in 1980.
            Recent history has them being a little more successful in their pennant hopes,  winning the Series in 2008, only to lose it again in the following season.

            But that 1950 season is worth looking at, for a few reasons.

            First of all, the Post Season awards were intriguing.

            The National League MVP was Jim Konstanty of the Whiz Kids. He set a league record by appearing in more games that season, 74. He also had another national League record of 22 saves to his credit. (saves were not an official statistic as of yet), besting the 7 he had in the previous year.

            Now, in looking back lo these 65 years later, it is easy to see the greater picture, and also hard to see what MVP voters had seen or heard. But in looking at the black and white numbers, and the theoretic numbers as well, Konstanty was not the most deserving player that year. Nor was he the most deserving Phillie. In fact, in looking at the results I have garnered, he was not even the best pitcher on that Phillies staff.
            True, he had the lowest ERA on the club (but not enough innings to qualify for the league leaders) and had the third most wins on the staff. But Robin Roberts' numbers were batter than that.
            Konstanty                   16-7     2.66     22 saves                       152.0 IP
            Roberts                        20-11   3.02     21 CG 5 SHO            304.1 IP

            The formula that I use factors in saves, but not as heavily as it does wins, and it factors in wins plus saves as a quotient based on games pitched in.  Konstany pitched in 74 games, while Roberts worked in 40 games. Had Konstanty been able to accomplish his same numbers in, say, 63 games, then his ranking would have bested Roberts.
            In looking at the top 10 pitching performances for that year, Konstanty would be tenth, that is, including two other non-qualifiers. That list is:
            Jim Hearn        NYG/STL       1.8209 (non qualifier)
            Larry Jansen    NYG               1.6628
            Early Wynn     CLE                1.6421
            Robin Roberts PHI                 1.6347
            Whitey Ford    NYY               1.6185 (non qualifier)
            Warren Spahn BOSN             1.6002
            Curt Simmons PHI                 1.5921
            Preacher Roe   BKL                1.5834
            Ewell Blackwell CIN              1.5820
            Jim Konstanty PHI                 1.5324 (non qualifier)

            The league pitching averages for both leagues were low, with the NL's 1.3170 besting the AL's 1.1739. Why is this? Good question, and a great one for all the ages. Was it bad pitching, or good hitting. More bad pitching than good hitting? Why is the AL pitching mark so low? Was it because they had to face Berra, DiMaggio and Ted Williams? Or was it, as the above table shows, the lack of quality pitching in the AL that year?
            But the NL mark is much better, and those pitchers had to face Kiner, Musial, Hodges and Jackie Robinson. Of that table above, 3 of the pitchers are Hall of Famers, and two were 300 game winners. But two of the Hall of Famers are from the NL.
            Personally, I think it was just a bad year for American League pitchers, combined with the talent laden American League lineups.

            So, when we look at the performances against their respective leagues, the top performers in each league were:

                        NL                                                       AL
  1. Larry Jansen                NYG               Mel Parnell                  BOS
  2. Robin Roberts             PHI                 Early Wynn                 CLE
  3. Warren Spahn             BOS                Vic Raschi                   NYY
  4. Curt Simmons             PHI                 Eddie Lopat                NYY
  5. Preacher Roe               BKL                Joe Dobson                 BOS

            Non-qualifiers are Whitey Ford in the AL, who would have placed 3rd, but only threw in 112 innings; and Jim Hearn who would have placed 1st in the NL, but pitched in just 134 innings combined

            Then, when we look at performance against their team's average, a number that helps players on bad teams, the breakdown is as follows:

                        NL                                                       AL
  1. Ewell Blackwell          CIN                 Ned Garver                 STL
  2. Warren Spahn             BOS                Lou Brissie                  PHI
  3. Preacher Roe               BKL                Bob Hooper                PHI
  4. Cliff Chambers           PIT                  Stubby Overmire         STL
  5. Murry Dickson            PIT                  Bill Wight                   CHI

            Hearn would have been 2nd, and Ford 3rd, if they'd qualified, in theory at least.
            Then, combining these two numbers across the board, the results are:
                        NL                                                       AL
  1. Blackwell                    CIN                 Garver                         STL
  2. Spahn                          BOS                Parnell                         BOS
  3. Jansen                          NYG               Wynn                          CLE
  4. Roe                              BKL                Raschi                         NYY
  5. Roberts                        PHI                 Lopat                           NYY

            But, let's not stop there, shall we. We'll look at these player's performances against their league's power rankings, and see what that may tell us. The power ranking is an average of the offensive numbers and the pitching numbers, and are a good way to measure a well balanced team.
            In 1950, the teams with the best Power Rankings were

  1. Yankees
  2. Red Sox
  3. Tigers
  4. Indians
  5. Phillies
No surprises there as the 4 American League teams represented each won at least 92 games that year, while the Phillies were the only National League team to crack the 90 win mark, getting 91.  But comparing the pitchers against their team's 'Power Number" gives us this ranking:
1.      Ewell Blackwell
2.      Preacher Roe
3.      Warren Spahn
4.      Don Newcombe
5.      Larry Jansen

The highest ranking AL pitcher was Ned Garver of the St. Louis Browns, who came in at seventeenth place. Konstanty was twentieth overall.

            Now, in the American league, with a very top-heavy standings, 4 ninety game winners, the Most Valuable Player for the season was Phil Rizzuto of the Yankees. In reality, he may not have been the best player in the league. He may not have been in the top three Italian-American players on the Yankees that year (Berra, DiMaggio and Raschi are tough competitors in this respect). So we'll disect those numbers in a minute.

            The hardest part about comparing players of this ear and earlier, is the lack of hard, concrete numbers dealing with a player's fielding prowess. Sure, a fielder may led the league in fielding percentage, but is that a true gauge of their range? On outfielder with a powerful, accurate throwing arm will not garner as many outfield assists as a perceived weaker armed outfielder.
            A middle infielder who's quicker on their feet than another may get 200 more fielding chances in a season than a slower player, and may make 3 errors in those 200 chances, and lose the fielding percentage race by hundreds of a percent, through no fault of his own.     
            That is true across all eras, but more so in the pre-video days, when films are not as plentiful and not every game was recorded or filmed for future review like it is today. So we need to rely on anecdotal evidence.
            Scooter Rizzuto, the pride of Richmond Hill High School was regarded as one of the top fielding shortstops of his day. Offensively, not spectacular, but he does hold the distinction of being the only MVP in either league to lead the league in sacrifice bunts. So there's that.
            So, before we delve into numbers, a brief qualifier to note...Ted Williams broke his arm in the All-Star Game, and missed the second half of the season. In fact, the break was so severe that he considered retiring after the season, with the fear that he wouldn't be able to hit, so while his numbers were superb, he didn't qualify for any of the statistical categories that he excelled in normally.
            What effect did that have on the Red Sox pennant aspirations? Well, the Red Sox finished with the highest league lead in batting average, runs scored, runs created, slugging and on base percentages, doubles and runs per game. So it's hard to imagine Teddy Ballgame's impact not improving on those numbers, and that the Sox may have been able to squeak past the Yankees for the AL Crown.

            Also, Red Sox utility player Billy Goodman won the American League batting crown, appearing in 110 games, and garnering 424 official at-bats. During this era, the qualifications for the batting championship required a player to have a minimum of 2.6 official at-bats per each game that his team was scheduled for, or roughly 400 at-bats. (Modern day, the qualifications are 3.1 plate appearances per scheduled game, roughly 502 plate appearances) At the time, there was some contention about his winning the crown, but as you can see, he did legitimately qualify, given the parameters of the time.

            So, let's look at the overall numbers, the total number before any filters or anything, adding Ted Williams as a reference:

                        AL                                                                   NL      
  1. Ted Williams   BOS    2.7957             Stan Musial                 STL     2.3079
  2. Yogi Berra      NYY   2.5514             Ralph Kiner                 PIT      2.2184
  3. Walt Dropo     BOS    2.5123             Duke Snider                BKL    2.1558
  4. Vern Stephens BOS    2.4760             Del Ennis                    PHI     2.1467
  5. Joe DiMaggio  NYY   2.4468             Bob Elliott                  BOS    2.1459
  6. Larry Doby     CLE    2.3055             Roy Campanella          BKL    2.1250
  7. Billy Goodman BOS  2.2995             Sid Gordon                 BOS    2.1105
  8. Vic Wertz        DET    2.2528             Jackie Robinson          BKL    2.0859
  9. Dom DiMaggio BOS  2.249               Ted Kluszewski          CIN     2.0720
  10. Hoot Evers      DET    2.408               Earl Torgeson              BOS    2.0715
  11. George Kell     DET    2.180

      And then looking at numbers against their team average, the numbers reflect the strength of the AL hitters against the lesser numbers of the NL teams. Whether this is a result of stronger NL pitching or not, but I won't dwell on that right now.

                  AL                                                                   NL
1.      Eddie Robinson (WAS & CHI)   Ralph Kiner                 PIT
2.      Mickey Vernon (WAS & CLE)    Stan Musial                 STL
3.      Larry Doby           CLE                Andy Pafko                CHI
4.      Yogi Berra                        NYY               Hank Sauer                 CHI
5.      Irv Noren              WAS               Ted Kluszewski          CIN
6.      Gus Zernial           CHI                 Del Ennis                    PHI
7.      Sam Chapman       PHI                 Bob Elliott                  BOS
8.      Bob Dillinger        PHI                 Sid Gordon                 BOS
9.      Ferris Fain             PHI                 Enos Salughter            STL
10.  Ted Williams         BOS                Tommy Glaviano        STL
11.  Joe DiMaggio        NYY

            Now, a new thing to look at, I am going to list the top producers in runs created. Runs created is the biggest part of my formula, since a team wins games by scoring runs, and obviously the more runs a player creates, or is responsible for, the better their teams chances for getting wins, which is the point of playing the game to begin with.

            So for each league, the top run creators were:
                        AL                                                                               NL
1. Vern Stephens               BOS    239                  Del Ennis                    PHI     187
                                                                              Carl Furillo                  BKL    187
2. Yogi Berra                    NYY   212                  Stan Musial                 STL     186
3. Walt Dropo                   BOS    211                  Duke Snider                BKL    185
4. George Kell                   DET    207                  Earl Torgeson              BOS    184
5. Joe DiMaggio                NYY   204                  Ralph Kiner                 PIT      183
6. Bobby Doerr                 BOS    196                  Gil Hodges                  BKL    179
7. Vic Wertz                      DET    195                  Bob Elliott                  BOS    177
8. Dom DiMaggio             BOS    194                  Enos Slaughter            STL     173
9. Larry Doby                   CLE    187                  Jackie Robinson          BKL    166
10. Phil Rizzuto                NYY   184                  Willie Jones                 PHI     163

                  The interesting thing is how these numbers are reflected in the standings in 1950. The Phillies with just one offensive player on these lists, and two top pitchers atop those standings. And the Yankees very well represented on the offensive lists and the pitching lists as well.


The final standings for the leagues were:

AL                                     W        L          GB     
Yankees                                  98        56        -
Tigers                                      95        59        3         
Red Sox                                  94        60        4         
Indians                                    92        62        6         
Senators                                  67        87        31
White Sox                               60        94        38       
St. Louis                                  58        96        40
Philadephia                             52        102      46

            NL                               W        L          GB
Phillies                                    91        63        -
Brooklyn                                 89        65        2         
New York                               86        68        5         
Boston                                    83        71        8         
St. Louis                                 78        75        12.5
Cincinnati                               66        87        24.5
Cubs                                        64        89        26.5
Pirates                                     57        96         33.5

            So...the Pirates...Ralph Kiner, who ranks high in all these categories follows the old baseball adage, "We could've finished last without you." However, that shouldn't take away from the fact that he had a great season.

            Look at these numbers:
                                                            HR      RBI     AVG   SLG    OBP    OPS     RC/G                           Player 1                        47        118      .272     .590     .408     .998     1.22
                        Player 2                       28        109      .346     .596     .437     1.034   1.27
                        Player 3                       36        92        .304     .591     .398     .990     1.03
                        Player 4                       28        124      .322     .533     .383     .915     1.40
                        Player 5                       34        144      .322     .583     .378     .961     1.55

            All of the above players had fantastic seasons, and would have been among the league leaders in any season. Looking at these raw numbers, not adding any of the filters, these easily represent the top players in both leagues.
            Without looking at the players or their teams, and just judging by these offensive numbers, if I were to pick one of these as my most valuable, or the top offensive player, number 5 would have my vote. The RC/G is runs created per game and this player, of these 5, has the best runs created, once again, the crux of what makes wins. That player, in this sample, is Walt Dropo, who was the AL Rookie of the Year that year.

            That being said, I think that he MVP voters in 1950 missed the boat on their awards. The top 5 vote-getters were:
                        AL                                                                   NL
            Phil Rizzuto                                                    Jim Konstanty
            Billy Goodman                                               Stan Musial
            Yogi Berra                                                      Eddie Stanky
            George Kell                                                     Del Ennis
            Bob Lemon                                                     Ralph Kiner

            My pick for each league would be:
                        AL                                                                   NL
            Yogi Berra                                                      Stan Musial
            Mel Parnell                                                      Jim Hearn

            That's who I would have voted for in each league.