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  1. Looking at that runs per game chart makes the whole kerfuffle over the so called steroids era seem pretty overblown.

    Comment by t ball — January 14, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  2. How did you arrive at fielding metrics for all of these players? Did fangraphs incorporate the baseball-reference data? Otherwise, it seems to me that batting runs above average would be the superior metric. Not to question that you’ve done your due diligence, I’m sure that the fielding data used to generate these WAR numbers is the best we can do at educated guessing, but what kind of information could even exist about deadball era players’ defensive capabilities other than sports columnists’ anecdotes?

    Comment by Chris K — January 14, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  3. What about Ty Cobb? He played 1905 – 1928. He played a majority of his (and his best) baseball in the Dead Ball era. Does he get included in the Liveball era instead?

    Comment by Dash — January 14, 2011 @ 11:00 am

  4. I love these historical articles! Thanks.

    One suggestion for the display might be sorting the last list and/ or the graph by lifetime WAR. We’re always interested in who’s the best….

    Comment by James III — January 14, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  5. Ahem. No mention of Mordecai Centennial “Three Finger” Brown — my all time favorite Cub?

    Comment by Bradley Woodrum — January 14, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  6. The graph makes it so clear how amazing Wagner was. Nap Lajoie was an amazing player with an amazing career, and yet Wagner dwarfs him. I wonder if the common fan even knows anything about Wagner beyond the baseball card?

    He’s got to be one of the top 5 of all time, right? Wagner, Ruth, Cobb, Williams, Mays in some order? Bonds once we have some perspective? Pujols and/or ARod maybe someday?

    Comment by DL80 — January 14, 2011 @ 11:20 am

  7. I thought Ty Cobb played in the Deadball Era,,,,,,,where is he?

    Comment by Rafael J — January 14, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  8. Why is John McGraw tops on the chart showing the best deadball ERA players when Honus Wagner and Nap Lajoie (for example) blew him away in terms of career WAR? I think there may be something wrong with the chart.

    Also, as another posted asked, where is Ty Cobb? Cobb was a contemporary of Lajoie (the whole flap over the batting title and the Chalmers automobile comes to mind.)

    Comment by hunterfan — January 14, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  9. The link to baseball prehistory isn’t working.

    Comment by Devon & His 1982 Topps blog — January 14, 2011 @ 11:34 am

  10. This question was asked by myself and several others when the initial article came out. Namely, how do you get the defensive component of WAR for players of this era, and what’s the confidence interval for the results?

    The author never responded which leads me to believe he simply doesn’t know.

    Comment by hunterfan — January 14, 2011 @ 11:37 am

  11. The article is titled “position players”.

    Comment by hunterfan — January 14, 2011 @ 11:38 am

  12. I’ll ask around and try to figure out how it was determined. I personally have no idea and didn’t do any due diligence, I trusted people smarter than me to make that determination and used their numbers.

    Give me some time (I’m on vacation in the US right now) and I’ll either send you an e-mail, include it in a future column from this series, or otherwise give you a heads up.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:40 am

  13. Sorry about that — he’s in the Liveball era. My methodology (to save me work, though clearly unfair) is to make the cutoff at a year — in this case 1925 — and throw all players who played past that date to the next era.

    Regardless, since each player is compared against his peers to determine his WAR, being thrown into another era doesn’t actually hurt him in any way but perception. So feel free to lay the blame at my feet, and include him in Deadball where he rightfully belongs.

    I can try to do a better job in a couple articles by making per-player distinctions, but chances are there will be problems with that method too. If it would make you feel better, I could include the “on the cusp” players in both eras, or something like that, so that you can throw them wherever you think they best belong.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  14. I can give that a shot for the Post-war era article in 2 weeks (I am away from my home computer for the next couple weeks). I’ll also update the old lists at that time for you.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  15. Fixed. Thanks for the heads up — sorry about that.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:48 am

  16. If you’d like to see a smattering of 86 pitchers (including all the Hall of Famers, all the Hall of Meriters, and the top 50 pitchers by WAR), I have that article on my blog:

    But, as hunterfan pointed out, these articles only cover position players.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  17. I think it’s a tough call to make because of the totally different game that was being played. Replacement level was a lot lower (and there was far less parity) so players ended up with some pretty silly WAR figures at the end of the day.

    You can take a look yourself using the WAR Grids that David Appelman set up for us:

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  18. Biggest Hall snubs to me seem like:

    “Bad Bill” Dahlen, who seems to have had a reputation as a good fielding SS (collecting the career record for total chances along the way, which still holds) and managed a .360 wOBA (2500 hits, 1600 runs, 550 sb).

    “Jimmy” Sheckard, also with a reputation as a slick fielder (mostly LF), holds the single season MLB record for double plays at BOTH LF and RF, and put together a .371 wOBA as a leadoff hitter (2100 hits, 1300 runs).

    and Sherwood “Sherry” Magee, a LF who collected over 2100 hits with a .385 wOBA, including a .291 average (pretty good for the era I think).

    Its harder to point at those in the Hall on the list who may not belong, but first glance I would point at Hughie Jennings and Miller Huggins…

    Comment by Chad — January 14, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  19. Okay, here was my basic methodology:

    – Get list of top 500 position players by WAR
    – Sort by retirement year
    – Separate list by era by arbitrary year played

    Prehistory: Retired in 1905 or before
    Deadball: Retired in 1925 or before
    Liveball: Retired in 1950 or before
    Post-War: Retired in 1965 or before
    Expansion: Retired in 1980 or before
    Free Agency: Retired in 2000 or before
    Modern: The rest

    So this is not ideal for players that skirt eras, obviously. And it leaves a bad taste in the mouth for some. My apologies. I arranged it this way because I plan to do the next series looking into timelines for these players to see where the overlap was, and who the superstars of various eras were.

    That is a poor excuse for not doing a good job on these, so I apologize. Can you forgive me?

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 11:58 am

  20. Your method is fine so long as it is consistent. Keep it the way it is, just make a note of it somewhere.

    Comment by Dash — January 14, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  21. I’ll toss that in as a note. Sorry ’bout the confusion.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

  22. Also note Dahlen’s line compared to anyone but Lajoie and Wagner… Someday he has to end up in the HoF, right??

    Comment by Eric R — January 14, 2011 @ 12:16 pm

  23. A better approach (admittedly more effort) would be to put each player into the era that they got the most WAR in. But you’re putting a lot of effort into this, and I’m happy just to get the article, so don’t feel obligated to go to even more work.

    Comment by Richard Gadsden — January 14, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  24. Brett Favre could be Hughie Jennings reincarnated.

    Comment by Mike — January 14, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  25. As a previous poster stated, I was confused because I didn’t quite understand what the methodology. Now that I understand, things make much more sense. :-)

    Comment by hunterfan — January 14, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

  26. How so? I wiki’d it, and I’m not sure I see the comparison.

    Although the wikipedia entry did relate the following anecdote, which I find hilarious if true :

    ‘In 1912, during a game in which “pick-ups” played for the Tigers when the regular team went on strike to protest the suspension of Cobb after an incident involving a fan in the stands whom Cobb assaulted, Jennings, who also sent his coaches in as substitute players, came to bat himself once as a pinch hitter. According to one source, when the umpire asked him for whom he was batting, Jennings answered, “None of your business.” The umpire noted on his lineup sheet, “Jennings–batted for exercise.”‘

    Comment by hunterfan — January 14, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

  27. I can see using those cutoffs Cobb gets lumped into the liveball era. But you know that isn’t right – he exemplified the way to play baseball in the deadball era. His peak years were all deadball.

    I suggest using age of birth to set your cutoff points so that a guy who hangs on for a few years well past his prime can still be counted with the group of players he mostly played against.

    Comment by Rally — January 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

  28. Huggins has got to be in more for managing than he is for playing. Jennings has a pretty good managerial career too. As a player he kept putting himself in a game every now and then until age 49 but for all intents and purposes he was done as a regular at 31.

    His peak, age 25-29 is pretty impressive. 41 of his 46 career WAR, and monster league leading HBP every year.

    Comment by Rally — January 14, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  29. In the past, Total Zone has been used to estimate historical players’ defensive contributions.

    I have no idea if that was the data Josh used here, though.

    Comment by alskor — January 14, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

  30. I’m guessing in the sense of flirting with retirement but never quite letting himself stay out of the game.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  31. Yeah, I screwed the pooch on that one. Let me see if I can grab the ages of players from the database easily and go from there.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

  32. I used the data from the Fangraphs player pages. So that may be Total Zone or not — trying to check up on it so I can answer this question (as I think it’s important).

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 14, 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  33. Have to admit after looking at it a bit more that Jennings belongs among the greats (his ’94-’98 seasons may be the greatest stretch ever by a shortstop, an accumulative 38 war over 5 years if you believe the fielding values – he certainly had the fielding reputation), and he cemented his fame as a manager (leading the tigers to three consecutive pennants right after he took over the helm).

    Miller (“Mighty Mite” Ha!) Huggins doesn’t impress me that much as a player (beyond the ability to get a walk, probably helped by being 5’6″), but he did manage the 20’s yankees, through Ruth’s amazing rise and three World Series rings, so he may belong in the Hall for that reason alone.

    Comment by Chad — January 14, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  34. Yeah it really puts it into perspective. Although there was a massive jump around 1992. That jump looks to be about as large as the jump from 1968’s “Year of the Pitcher” to 1969, when the lowered the mound in response.

    Comment by Topher — January 14, 2011 @ 2:44 pm

  35. Fangraphs uses Total Zone for fielding. I posted a link in the last article explaining how it works.

    Comment by SF 55 for life — January 14, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  36. I don’t think there are 21 worthy hall of famers from this group. I would put the following players in the hall of fame:
    Hughie Jennings, George Davis, Elmer Flick, Bill Dahlen, Nap Lajoie, Honus Wagner, Frank Baker, Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Sam Crawford, Sherry Magee,

    That’s ten right there. Some guys are pretty close like Bobby Wallace, Roger Bresnahan, and Larry Doyle.

    As you can see the middle infield positions were very well represented during this era. I wonder if any other era will have this many middle infielders worthy of the hall of fame.

    Comment by SF 55 for life — January 14, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

  37. This graph really shows the tragedy of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Carry his career out to the logical endpoint, and he’s right there with Honus Wagner.

    Comment by baycommuter — January 14, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  38. You neven seem to hear anything about McGraw other than his managing, but a .466 OBP (3rd best all time)? Wow.

    Comment by williams .482 — January 14, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

  39. Eight Men Out was on the tube a week ago. Better depiction there than Field of Dreams. Great to look those guys up on baseball reference: see also Bucky Weaver and Eddie Ciccote.

    Comment by Scout Finch — January 14, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

  40. despite the fact that cobb is probably the defining player of the deadball era, he’s included in the liveball era with his homeboys ruth, hornsby, gehrig, and foxx?

    Comment by fredsbank — January 14, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

  41. Joshua, I appreciate the recognition and glad I could help. These posts are really great and a lot of fun. I just noticed in the short bio that you are an expat living in Japan…me too. I just moved to Kita-Kyushu last summer after 10 years in Tokyo. I have to say I am pretty psyched on fangraphs so far. I will check out your blog sometime later this week as well. Enjoy your vacation back home!

    Comment by bcp33bosox — January 15, 2011 @ 10:08 am

  42. ” That year would also see the first World Series, held every year (except 1904).”

    Who won in 1994?

    Comment by ibn Bob — January 16, 2011 @ 1:03 am

  43. Joshua,

    1908, the last World Series win of the Cubs, 1907.

    Wow, after 66 years without a WS appearance, now nobody respect my team, and its history.

    Sad, really, sad.

    Comment by dorasaga — January 17, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  44. *1908, the last World Series win of the Cubs, not 1907.
    (I guess both of us need a new, more presopnsive keyboard.)

    Comment by dorasaga — January 17, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  45. Many apologies. I’ve fixed it in the article. I have trouble remembering what I did 3 weeks ago — please don’t judge me too harshly for forgetting the details of what happened decades before I was born.

    (but please do continue to fact-check me so that I can fix things that people smarter than I remember properly)

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 19, 2011 @ 9:25 am

  46. Fixed. Nice catch. I added “and other strike years” hoping that will cover it. Thanks for the feedback.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 19, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  47. If you’re ever up in Kansai, let me know, we can grab a beer.

    Comment by Joshua Maciel — January 19, 2011 @ 9:27 am

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