First Stab at Adjusting 19th Century Pitchers

Dec 26, 2012 by Adam Darowski

Note: I have opted to implement this adjustment.

When I launched the Hall of Stats, I wrote about one of the ongoing issues I was dealing with—the overpopulation of 19th century pitchers in the Hall of Stats. I’ve been thinking of some ways to deal with this and today I’m giving one a try.

Now, this is just a proposed change. I don’t know if it’s good yet. I figured I’d put it out there for feedback. With the Hall of Stats, I’ve tried to steer clear of arbitrary adjustments. I have to admit, I use a couple. For both catchers and relief pitchers, I give a 20% boost to adjWAR and adjWAA. I like that percentage a lot for catchers. For relievers? Maybe it could be a bit higher.

Since I’m using the 20% adjustment twice already, I decided to see how things would look of I used it again—this time to dock value for pitching adjWAR and adjWAA accumulated before 1893 (when the mound was moved to its current distance).

Here are the results:

Player Current Hall Rating Proposed Hall Rating
Kid Nichols 239 228
Tim Keefe 173 139
John Clarkson 162 132
Old Hoss Radbourn 139 113
Pud Galvin 137 108
Amos Rusie 132 125
Tommy Bond 131 106
Jim McCormick 130 106
Charlie Buffinton 126 102
Tony Mullane 124 103
Al Spalding 121 99.8
Bob Caruthers 118 102
Bobby Mathews 115 91
Clark Griffith 113 114
Mickey Welch 112 90
Silver King 103 84
Monte Ward 103 95

This change would remove the following pitchers from the Hall of Stats:

I’m a bit bummed to see Spalding and Ward go, but they certainly are Hall-worthy for other reasons. Spalding is already in the Hall as a pioneer. The fact that he also had a borderline case in just six useful seasons as a player is remarkable. Ward is in as a player, but he easily qualifies as a pioneer as well. Mathews is kind of the Jim Kaat of the 19th century, so it makes sense that he hovers near the borderline. I won’t miss Welch or King at all.

What’s interesting is the number of pitchers who now come very close to the borderline:

So, are these pitchers really on the borderline? Or did I just not make enough of an adjustment?

As for the rest of the list, Amos Rusie and Clark Griffith aren’t really affected because they started their careers closer to the turn of the century. Kid Nichols, Tim Keefe, John Clarkson, and Old Hoss Radbourn were all well over the borderline and stay that way. Interestly, both Rusie and Griffith leapfrog Radbourn.

In short, I feel that this adjustment actually does a really good job. Many guys now move to the borderline, but that’s where I’ve always felt they belong. I didn’t like the Hall Rating scores that guys like Bond, Buffinton, and McCormick were getting. But I didn’t dislike their cases enough to simply cast them aside. They were elite pitchers and certainly deserve consideration. Did I make a big enough adjustment? Should it go beyond just pre-1893 seasons? Well, I could use some feedback.

If this change did go through, the Hall of Stats would need to induct five new players. They would be:

Not an overwhelming list, but probably more deserving than an overpopulation of ancient hurlers.

Your thoughts?

Update: A comment by Bryan alone led me to update some research I did a while back. One of the issues I had with 19th century pitchers was that a high percentage of them are in the Hall of Fame.

In fact,

That’s a lot of Hall of Fame pitchers. The thing is, the Hall of Stats currently only adds 19th century pitchers. It doesn’t subtract any. Running this adjustment does help that.

See the table below and note that:

Year IPouts HOS IPouts HOS Pct New HOS IPouts New HOS Pct
1871 6750 1279 18.9% 0 0.0%
1872 9858 2432 24.7% 0 0.0%
1873 10754 2819 26.2% 0 0.0%
1874 12509 5077 40.6% 1491 11.9%
1875 18571 4831 26.0% 1242 6.7%
1876 14218 4364 30.7% 1230 8.7%
1877 9723 1984 20.4% 1563 16.1%
1878 9972 2951 29.6% 1949 19.5%
1879 17391 7475 43.0% 5147 29.6%
1880 18094 8659 47.9% 5152 28.5%
1881 17965 7863 43.8% 5393 30.0%
1882 30455 9824 32.3% 7268 23.9%
1883 41627 12421 29.8% 9169 22.0%
1884 80835 15103 18.7% 11957 14.8%
1885 47161 11778 25.0% 9035 19.2%
1886 54846 12294 22.4% 10084 18.4%
1887 55110 12256 22.2% 9874 17.9%
1888 57785 11255 19.5% 8225 14.2%
1889 57061 11177 19.6% 8678 15.2%
1890 84342 11925 14.1% 9665 11.5%
1891 58355 12855 22.0% 11222 19.2%
1892 48320 9757 20.2% 8511 17.6%
1893 41593 7030 16.9% 6568 15.8%
1894 41494 5572 13.4% 5572 13.4%
1895 41421 5206 12.6% 5206 12.6%
1896 41286 4185 10.1% 3749 9.1%
1897 42012 4613 11.0% 4151 9.9%
1898 47864 5107 10.7% 5107 10.7%
1899 47665 5461 11.5% 5461 11.5%
1900 29742 4774 16.1% 4774 16.1%
Total 1094779 222327 20.3% 167443 15.3%

We still get a high number of pitchers from the 1880s inducted, but it’s not that much worse than, say, how the Hall of Fame handles hitters from the 1920s and 1930s. Overall, the difference between the percentage of innings by a Hall of Famer before and after the adjustment is a whopping 5%. Pretty major adjustment there.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles RSS