Hardball Retrospective – What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1921 Tigers

In “Hardball Retrospective: Evaluating Scouting and Development Outcomes for the Modern-Era Franchises”, I placed every ballplayer in the modern era (from 1901-present) on their original team. I calculated revised standings for every season based entirely on the performance of each team’s “original” players. I discuss every team’s “original” players and seasons at length along with organizational performance with respect to the Amateur Draft (or First-Year Player Draft), amateur free agent signings and other methods of player acquisition.  Season standings, WAR and Win Shares totals for the “original” teams are compared against the “actual” team results to assess each franchise’s scouting, development and general management skills.

Expanding on my research for the book, the following series of articles will reveal the teams with the biggest single-season difference in the WAR and Win Shares for the “Original” vs. “Actual” rosters for every Major League organization. “Hardball Retrospective” is available in digital format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, GooglePlay, iTunes and KoboBooks. The paperback edition is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and CreateSpace. Supplemental Statistics, Charts and Graphs along with a discussion forum are offered at TuataraSoftware.com.

Don Daglow (Intellivision World Series Major League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball, Tony LaRussa Baseball) contributed the foreword for Hardball Retrospective. The foreword and preview of my book are accessible here.

Terminology

OWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “original” teams

OWS – Win Shares for players on “original” teams

OPW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “original” teams

AWAR – Wins Above Replacement for players on “actual” teams

AWS – Win Shares for players on “actual” teams

APW% – Pythagorean Won-Loss record for the “actual” teams

Assessment

The 1921 Detroit Tigers 

OWAR: 49.3     OWS: 289     OPW%: .553     (85-69)

AWAR: 40.4      AWS: 212     APW%: .464     (71-82)

WARdiff: 8.9                        WSdiff: 77  

The “Original” 1921 Tigers paced the Junior Circuit in OWAR and OWS. Detroit finished third in the American League, ten games in arrears to the Red Sox. Harry “Slug” Heilmann (.394/19/139) collected his first batting title, smashed 43 two-baggers and topped the leader boards with 237 safeties. Ty Cobb (.389/12/101) continued to mash opposition offerings. “The Georgia Peach” tallied 197 base knocks, 124 runs, 37 doubles and 16 triples while recording an OBP of .452 and a .596 SLG. Baby Doll Jacobson (.352/5/90) contributed 211 base hits, 38 doubles and 14 triples to Detroit’s powerful lineup. Ray “Rabbit” Powell (.306/12/74) legged out 18 three-base hits to lead the League and scored 114 runs. Powell and outfield mate Bobby Veach (.338/16/128) established personal-bests in almost every major offensive category. Lu Blue supplied a .308 BA with 103 runs scored and 33 two-baggers in his inaugural campaign while fellow first-sacker Wally Pipp (.296/8/103) drilled 35 doubles.

Ty Cobb placed runner-up to Willie Mays among center fielders in the “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” top 100 player rankings. “Original” Tigers teammates registered in the “NBJHBA” top 100 ratings include Harry Heilmann (16th-RF), Bobby Veach (33rd-LF), Carl Mays (38th-P), Donie Bush (51st-SS), Lu Blue (77th-1B), George H. Burns (79th-1B), Wally Pipp (83rd-1B) and Baby Doll Jacobson (85th-CF).

“Actuals” backstop Johnny Bassler rated forty-seventh.

  Original 1921 Tigers                                Actual 1921 Tigers

STARTING LINEUP POS OWAR OWS STARTING LINEUP POS OWAR OWS
Bobby Veach LF 5.23 22.64 Bobby Veach LF 5.23 22.64
Ty Cobb CF 5.74 25.77 Ty Cobb CF 5.74 25.77
Harry Heilmann RF 4.1 28.09 Harry Heilmann RF 4.1 28.09
Lu Blue 1B 1.61 16.87 Lu Blue 1B 1.61 16.87
Joe Sargent 2B 0.04 3.37 Ralph Young 2B -0.3 8.76
Donie Bush SS -2.03 6.82 Ira Flagstead SS 0.4 5.92
Eddie Foster 3B 1.78 13.05 Bob Jones 3B 1.22 12
Frank Gibson C 0.34 4.11 Johnny Bassler C 2.38 12.73
BENCH POS OWAR OWS BENCH POS OWAR OWS
Baby Doll Jacobson CF 3.64 25.11 Donie Bush SS -1.41 5.77
Ray Powell CF 3.17 24.19 Joe Sargent 2B 0.04 3.37
Wally Pipp 1B 1.49 14.75 Chick Shorten CF -0.39 3.06
Bob Jones 3B 1.22 12 Larry Woodall C 0.38 2.48
Charlie Deal 3B 0.66 11.21 Eddie Ainsmith C 0.22 2.38
Fred Nicholson LF 1.52 10.17 Herm Merritt SS 0.32 1.45
George H. Burns 1B 1.5 8.58 Sam Barnes 2B -0.02 0.17
Ira Flagstead SS 0.4 5.92 Clyde Manion C -0.01 0.13
Ossie Vitt 3B -0.37 3.6 Jackie Tavener SS -0.05 0.04
John Peters C -0.21 2.59 George Cunningham RF -0.01 0.01
Larry Woodall C 0.38 2.48 Clarence Huber 3B 0 0.01
Herm Merritt SS 0.32 1.45 Sammy Hale -0.04 0
Frank Walker CF -0.37 0.63
Sam Barnes 2B -0.02 0.17
Clyde Manion C -0.01 0.13
Jackie Tavener SS -0.05 0.04
George Cunningham RF -0.01 0.01
Clarence Huber 3B 0 0.01
Sammy Hale -0.04 0

Carl “Sub” Mays (27-9, 3.05) topped the American League in victories, games (49), saves (7) and innings pitched (336.2). Clarence Mitchell fashioned a 2.89 ERA and notched 11 wins while splitting time among the bullpen and starting rotation. Dutch H. Leonard contributed a 3.75 ERA with an 11-13 record for the “Actuals”.

  Original 1921 Tigers                                Actual 1921 Tigers 

ROTATION POS OWAR OWS ROTATION POS AWAR AWS
Carl Mays SP 7.27 34.42 Dutch H. Leonard SP 3.02 13.14
Clarence Mitchell SP 2.59 16.23 Red Oldham SP 2.13 10.76
Red Oldham SP 2.13 10.76 Hooks Dauss SP 1.3 9.82
Hooks Dauss SP 1.3 9.82 Howard Ehmke SP 0.65 8.14
BULLPEN POS OWAR OWS BULLPEN POS AWAR AWS
Lou North RP 0.41 6.23 Jim Middleton SW -0.73 4.25
Slicker Parks RP -0.18 0.85 Slicker Parks RP -0.18 0.85
Jim Walsh RP 0.04 0.25 Jim Walsh RP 0.04 0.25
George Boehler RP 0.06 0.15 Dan Boone RP 0.01 0.16
Lefty Stewart RP -0.58 0
Bert Cole SP 0.75 5.71 Bert Cole SP 0.75 5.71
Carl Holling SP -0.65 4.81 Carl Holling SP -0.65 4.81
Suds Sutherland SP -0.17 2.87 Suds Sutherland SP -0.17 2.87
Bernie Boland SP -1.58 0 Pol Perritt SP -0.02 0.59
Doc Ayers SP -0.29 0
Lefty Stewart RP -0.58 0

 

Notable Transactions

Carl Mays 

Before 1914 Season: Returned to Providence (International) by the Detroit Tigers after expiration of minor league working agreement.

Before 1914 Season: Obtained by the Boston Red Sox from Providence (International) as part of a minor league working agreement.

July 30, 1919: the Boston Red Sox sent Carl Mays to the New York Yankees to complete an earlier deal made on July 29, 1919. July 29, 1919: The Boston Red Sox sent a player to be named later to the New York Yankees for Bob McGraw, Allen Russell and $40,000. 

Baby Doll Jacobson 

Before 1915 Season: Purchased by the Detroit Tigers from Chattanooga (Southern Association).

August 18, 1915: Traded by the Detroit Tigers with $15,000 to the St. Louis Browns for Bill James. 

Ray Powell 

July 10, 1917: Purchased with Wally Rehg by the Boston Braves from Providence (International).

Clarence Mitchell

October 16, 1917: Selected off waivers by the Brooklyn Robins from the Cincinnati Reds.

Wally Pipp

August, 1912: Purchased by the Detroit Tigers from Kalamazoo (Southern Michigan). (Date given is approximate. Exact date is uncertain.)

February 4, 1915: Purchased with Hugh High by the New York Yankees from the Detroit Tigers.

Honorable Mention

The 2003 Detroit Tigers 

OWAR: 14.8     OWS: 195     OPW%: .400     (65-97)

AWAR: 7.1       AWS: 129      APW%: .265    (43-119)

WARdiff: 7.7                        WSdiff: 66

 

The “Original” 2003 Tigers finished last in the AL Central, 17 games behind the White Sox. However the “Actuals” finished 47 games off the pace with a ghastly 43-119 record.

Juan Encarnacion (.270/19/94) established career-highs in RBI and doubles (37). Frank Catalanotto contributed a .299 BA with 34 two-base knocks. Robert Fick registered a personal-best with 80 ribbies and Dave R. Roberts pilfered 40 bags. The bullpen featured John Smoltz (1.12, 45 SV) and Francisco Cordero (2.94, 15 SV).

On Deck

What Might Have Been – The “Original” 1979 Mets

References and Resources

Baseball America – Executive Database

Baseball-Reference

James, Bill. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York, NY.: The Free Press, 2001. Print.

James, Bill, with Jim Henzler. Win Shares. Morton Grove, Ill.: STATS, 2002. Print.

Retrosheet – Transactions Database

The information used here was obtained free of charge from and is copyrighted by Retrosheet. Interested parties may contact Retrosheet at “www.retrosheet.org”.

Seamheads – Baseball Gauge

Sean Lahman Baseball Archive



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Derek Bain is a New Jersey native with a passion for baseball, statistics, computers and video games. He has written a number of articles for Fangraphs and Seamheads, and enjoys spending quality time with his family.

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