From Lajoie to Doerr

January 2, 2018
  

2018-1

57.  The Nap Lajoie Era

              Oversimplifying yet further, the history of Second Base from 1900 to 1940 can be reduced to four eras.   1900 to 1910 is essentially the Nap Lajoie Decade, 1910 to 1920 is the Eddie Collins Decade, 1920 to 1930 is the Rogers Hornsby Decade, and 1930 to 1940 is the Charlie Gehringer Decade.   After Gehringer second basemen will fall in to the normal pattern of (a) domination by players for three to five years, or (b) no clear number one player at the position, but somebody has to rank first.  

              There is a virtue in the single-player straight-decade domination, in that it enables us to focus on the secondary players at the position in a different way.    From 1900 to 1908 the top second baseman in baseball was Nap Lajoie.  The other top second basemen of the era were Danny Murphy of Connie Mack’s Athletics and Johnny Evers.    Evers was still fairly early in his career by 1908, although that was his peak season.

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1900

1

Nap

Lajoie

7

92

.337

.362

.510

29.95

1900

2

Tom

Daly

4

55

.312

.403

.414

22.29

 

     

 

     

 

 

1901

1

Nap

Lajoie

14

125

.426

.463

.643

38.21

1901

2

Tom

Daly

3

90

.315

.371

.444

23.63

1901

3

Jimmy

Williams

7

96

.317

.388

.495

23.40

1901

4

John

Farrell

3

63

.272

.336

.386

20.26

1901

5

Claude

Ritchey

1

74

.296

.357

.354

20.17

 

     

 

     

 

 

1902

1

Nap

Lajoie

7

65

.378

.419

.565

33.76

1902

2

Sammy

Strang

3

46

.296

.387

.364

22.81

1902

3

Jimmy

Williams

8

83

.313

.361

.500

21.83

1902

4

Claude

Ritchey

2

55

.277

.370

.328

19.93

1902

5

Heinie

Peitz

1

60

.315

.369

.406

17.75

 

     

 

     

 

 

1903

1

Nap

Lajoie

7

93

.344

.379

.518

35.57

1903

2

Jimmy

Williams

3

82

.267

.326

.392

22.32

1903

3

Danny

Murphy

1

60

.273

.295

.382

22.09

1903

4

Sammy

Strang

0

38

.272

.376

.333

21.90

1903

5

Claude

Ritchey

0

59

.287

.360

.381

21.57

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1904

1

Nap

Lajoie

5

102

.376

.413

.546

36.93

1904

2

Danny

Murphy

7

77

.287

.320

.440

26.17

1904

3

Claude

Ritchey

0

51

.263

.338

.347

21.54

1904

4

Jimmy

Williams

2

74

.263

.314

.354

20.68

1904

5

Miller

Huggins

2

30

.263

.377

.328

19.73

 

     

 

     

 

 

1905

1

Nap

Lajoie

2

41

.329

.377

.418

29.36

1905

2

Danny

Murphy

6

71

.278

.340

.390

25.23

1905

3

Miller

Huggins

1

38

.273

.392

.326

22.88

1905

4

Charlie

Hickman

4

66

.277

.311

.405

21.65

1905

5

Claude

Ritchey

0

52

.255

.324

.332

20.20

 

     

 

     

 

 

1906

1

Nap

Lajoie

0

91

.355

.392

.465

32.45

1906

2

Danny

Murphy

2

60

.301

.341

.400

23.92

1906

3

Miller

Huggins

0

26

.292

.376

.338

22.41

1906

4

Sammy

Strang

4

49

.319

.423

.435

20.50

1906

4

Jim

Delahanty

1

39

.280

.371

.364

21.94

1906

5

Johnny

Evers

1

51

.255

.305

.315

20.34

 

     

 

     

 

 

1907

1

Nap

Lajoie

2

63

.299

.345

.393

32.24

1907

2

Johnny

Evers

2

51

.250

.309

.313

23.19

1907

2

Jim

Delahanty

2

60

.279

.350

.361

21.91

1907

3

Danny

Murphy

2

57

.271

.317

.345

22.42

1907

4

Ed

Abbaticchio

2

82

.262

.357

.331

19.13

1907

5

Miller

Huggins

1

31

.248

.346

.289

19.12

 

     

 

     

 

 

1908

1

Nap

Lajoie

2

74

.289

.352

.375

33.09

1908

2

Johnny

Evers

0

37

.300

.402

.375

27.74

1908

3

Danny

Murphy

4

66

.265

.309

.364

23.47

1908

4

Germany

Schaefer

3

52

.259

.304

.342

20.83

1908

5

Amby

McConnell

2

43

.279

.343

.335

20.11

 

              No one was really close to Lajoie in any of those seasons. . ..no one was on his heels.  

              I was never sure how to pronounce "Lajoie" until I worked with his grandson, Bill Lajoie, with the Red Sox.  Bill pronounced it "La-Joy" with just a hint of an "uh" sound after it, "La-Joy-uh", but really just "La-Joy".  Not Lah-Joe-A or anything like that.  

 

58.  The Eddie Collins Decade

              After Lajoie the top second baseman in baseball was Eddie Collins.  Eddie Collins was perhaps the closest thing ever to a perfect player, Collins or Willie Mays or maybe Stan Musial.  Collins did not hit for power, but in his era there was really no power.  He hit for an extremely high average, was tremendously fast, walked a lot while rarely striking out, was an outstanding defensive second baseman, and played something close to 154 games every season.   He was the best bunter in baseball, in an era in which the bunt was a huge part of the game.   In my view he was a greater player than Lajoie, which is not to put down Lajoie, who was the dominant second baseman in baseball for a decade, which is a long, long time to dominate a position. 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1909

1

Eddie

Collins

3

56

.346

.416

.449

35.60

1909

2

Nap

Lajoie

1

47

.324

.378

.431

32.57

1909

3

Johnny

Evers

1

24

.263

.369

.337

27.27

1909

4

Danny

Murphy

5

69

.281

.332

.412

25.46

1909

5

Larry

Doyle

6

49

.302

.360

.419

24.93

 

     

 

     

 

 

1910

1

Eddie

Collins

3

81

.322

.381

.417

37.51

1910

2

Nap

Lajoie

4

76

.384

.445

.514

37.20

1910

3

Larry

Doyle

8

69

.285

.369

.412

26.35

1910

4

Danny

Murphy

4

64

.300

.338

.436

25.61

1910

5

Johnny

Evers

0

28

.263

.413

.321

24.59

 

     

 

     

 

 

1911

1

Eddie

Collins

3

73

.365

.451

.481

38.38

1911

2

Larry

Doyle

13

77

.310

.397

.527

27.96

1911

3

Danny

Murphy

6

66

.329

.398

.461

24.55

1911

4

Heinie

Zimmerman

9

85

.307

.343

.462

23.67

1911

5

Buck

Herzog

6

67

.290

.365

.418

22.89

 

     

 

     

 

 

1912

1

Eddie

Collins

0

64

.348

.450

.435

37.84

1912

2

Larry

Doyle

10

90

.330

.393

.471

27.45

1912

3

Nap

Lajoie

0

90

.368

.414

.462

24.77

1912

4

Johnny

Evers

1

63

.341

.431

.441

24.21

1912

5

Del

Pratt

5

69

.302

.348

.426

22.12

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1913

1

Eddie

Collins

3

73

.345

.441

.453

38.76

1913

2

Larry

Doyle

5

73

.280

.364

.388

24.91

1913

3

Del

Pratt

2

87

.296

.341

.402

24.40

1913

4

Jim

Viox

2

65

.317

.399

.427

23.47

1913

5

Johnny

Evers

3

49

.285

.361

.372

22.25

 

     

 

     

 

 

1914

1

Eddie

Collins

2

85

.344

.452

.452

38.82

1914

2

Duke

Kenworthy

15

91

.317

.372

.525

26.61

1914

3

Frank

LaPorte

4

107

.311

.361

.436

24.73

1914

4

Del

Pratt

5

65

.283

.341

.411

24.17

1914

5

Larry

Doyle

5

63

.260

.343

.353

23.57

1914

6

Johnny

Evers

1

40

.279

.390

.338

23.09

1914

7

Baldy

Louden

6

63

.313

.391

.399

22.06

1914

8

George

Cutshaw

2

78

.257

.297

.346

20.98

 

     

 

     

 

 

1915

1

Eddie

Collins

4

77

.332

.460

.436

33.25

1915

2

Larry

Doyle

4

70

.320

.358

.442

27.38

1915

3

Del

Pratt

3

78

.291

.323

.394

22.97

1915

4

Lee

Magee

4

49

.323

.356

.436

21.97

1915

5

Baldy

Louden

4

48

.281

.372

.367

20.45

1915

6

Duke

Kenworthy

3

52

.298

.355

.432

20.11

1915

7

Heinie

Zimmerman

3

62

.265

.300

.379

19.58

1915

8

George

Cutshaw

0

62

.246

.293

.309

18.04

 

     

 

     

 

 

1916

1

Eddie

Collins

0

52

.308

.405

.396

31.15

1916

2

Larry

Doyle

3

54

.278

.323

.403

23.34

1916

3

Del

Pratt

5

103

.267

.331

.391

23.31

1916

4

George

Cutshaw

2

63

.260

.292

.320

17.73

1916

5

Buck

Herzog

1

49

.264

.327

.333

17.14

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1917

1

Eddie

Collins

0

67

.289

.389

.363

29.51

1917

2

Larry

Doyle

6

61

.254

.323

.353

21.18

1917

3

Del

Pratt

1

53

.247

.301

.338

20.81

1917

4

George

Cutshaw

4

49

.259

.292

.347

18.54

1917

5

Bill

Wambsganss

0

43

.255

.315

.313

16.54

 

     

 

     

 

 

1918

1

Eddie

Collins

2

30

.276

.407

.330

26.50

1918

2

Del

Pratt

2

55

.275

.327

.356

21.85

1918

3

George

Cutshaw

5

68

.285

.326

.395

20.17

1918

4

Larry

Doyle

3

36

.261

.354

.354

18.39

1918

5

Bill

Wambsganss

0

40

.295

.345

.356

17.51

 

     

 

     

 

 

1919

1

Eddie

Collins

4

80

.319

.400

.405

28.67

1919

2

Del

Pratt

4

56

.292

.342

.393

22.97

1919

3

Larry

Doyle

7

52

.289

.350

.433

19.30

1919

4

Bill

Wambsganss

2

60

.278

.323

.344

18.00

1919

5

George

Cutshaw

3

51

.242

.287

.320

17.44

 

              Other than Collins, the leading second basemen of this era were Laughing Larry Doyle and Del Pratt, who are not Hall of Famers but who were fine players.  The only other Hall of Fame second baseman of the Collins era was Johnny Evers, who won a National League MVP Award with the Braves in 1914, and who of course was part of the Tinker to Evers to Chance combination.

              Eddie Collins would remain one of the top second basemen in baseball for years after he was pushed out of the #1 spot by the Rajah.  He was the same player in the 1920s that he was in the teens, more or less, but there were a lot more runs in the game in the 1920s, so the 110 runs a year that Collins created had less impact in the 1920s.  

 

59.  The Rogers Hornsby Decade

              Rogers Hornsby, of course, was one of the greatest hitters of all time, and was the greatest second baseman of the 1920s.   Early in his career he was a shortstop, but moved to second base in 1920:

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1920

1

Rogers

Hornsby

9

94

.370

.431

.559

36.61

1920

2

Eddie

Collins

3

76

.372

.438

.493

31.31

1920

3

Del

Pratt

4

97

.314

.372

.427

23.98

1920

4

Joe

Gedeon

0

61

.292

.355

.366

18.73

1920

5

Bucky

Harris

1

68

.300

.377

.381

17.01

 

     

 

     

 

 

1921

1

Rogers

Hornsby

21

126

.397

.458

.639

39.80

1921

2

Eddie

Collins

2

58

.337

.412

.424

25.74

1921

3

Del

Pratt

5

100

.324

.378

.461

22.34

1921

4

Aaron

Ward

5

75

.306

.363

.423

17.91

1921

5

Bucky

Harris

0

54

.289

.367

.354

17.19

 

     

 

     

 

 

1922

1

Rogers

Hornsby

42

152

.401

.459

.722

42.30

1922

2

Frankie

Frisch

5

51

.327

.387

.438

25.49

1922

3

Eddie

Collins

1

69

.324

.401

.403

24.59

1922

4

Marty

McManus

11

109

.312

.358

.459

21.52

1922

5

Del

Pratt

6

86

.301

.361

.427

19.82

 

     

 

     

 

 

1923

1

Rogers

Hornsby

17

83

.384

.459

.627

37.10

1923

2

Frankie

Frisch

12

111

.348

.395

.485

29.02

1923

3

Eddie

Collins

5

67

.360

.455

.453

24.32

1923

4

Marty

McManus

15

94

.309

.367

.481

22.97

1923

5

Cotton

Tierney

13

88

.312

.343

.447

19.18

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1924

1

Rogers

Hornsby

25

94

.424

.507

.696

37.27

1924

2

Frankie

Frisch

7

69

.328

.387

.468

28.18

1924

3

Eddie

Collins

6

86

.349

.441

.455

24.54

1924

4

Marty

McManus

5

80

.333

.409

.441

22.30

1924

5

George

Grantham

12

60

.316

.390

.458

19.13

 

     

 

     

 

 

1925

1

Rogers

Hornsby

39

143

.403

.489

.756

35.40

1925

2

Eddie

Collins

3

80

.346

.461

.442

23.66

1925

3

Marty

McManus

13

90

.288

.371

.457

21.78

1925

4

Eddie

Moore

6

77

.298

.383

.413

18.17

1925

5

Bucky

Harris

1

66

.287

.370

.358

17.58

 

     

 

     

 

 

1926

1

Rogers

Hornsby

11

93

.317

.388

.463

30.60

1926

2

Frankie

Frisch

5

44

.314

.353

.409

24.80

1926

3

Eddie

Collins

1

62

.344

.441

.459

19.27

1926

4

Sparky

Adams

0

39

.309

.367

.375

18.50

1926

5

Bucky

Harris

1

63

.283

.363

.395

18.16

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1927

1

Rogers

Hornsby

26

125

.361

.448

.586

36.26

1927

2

Frankie

Frisch

10

78

.337

.387

.472

28.28

1927

3

George

Grantham

8

66

.305

.396

.454

23.60

1927

4

Tony

Lazzeri

18

102

.309

.383

.482

22.93

1927

5

Charlie

Gehringer

4

61

.317

.383

.441

19.89

 

     

 

     

 

 

1928

1

Rogers

Hornsby

21

94

.387

.498

.632

34.23

1928

2

Tony

Lazzeri

10

82

.332

.397

.535

25.01

1928

3

Frankie

Frisch

10

86

.300

.374

.441

24.81

1928

4

Charlie

Gehringer

6

74

.320

.395

.451

23.12

1928

5

Max

Bishop

6

50

.316

.435

.432

19.37

 

     

 

     

 

 

1929

1

Rogers

Hornsby

39

149

.380

.459

.679

35.01

1929

2

Tony

Lazzeri

18

106

.354

.430

.561

26.27

1929

3

Charlie

Gehringer

13

106

.339

.405

.532

25.14

1929

4

George

Grantham

12

90

.307

.454

.533

24.21

1929

5

Frankie

Frisch

5

74

.334

.397

.484

23.69

 

              Hornsby, of course, had trouble catching pop ups; he would get a little dizzy when he looked up in the air.  I say "of course" because all baseball fans knew that 40 years ago; I would guess a lot of you now don’t know it.  Anyway, I was wondering if this would cause him to have a lower ratio of putouts to assists, since this would mean that there were putouts that he didn’t get on Pop Ups.  Strange that I had never thought to look at that before.

              The answer is, yes, it shows.  A typical second baseman has 79% as many putouts as assists.  Hornsby had only 62% as many, which is the lowest ratio for any long-term second baseman except Ryne Sandberg.  Contemporaries to Hornsby:  Bucky Harris, 88%; Buddy Myer, 86%; Eddie Collins, 86%; Marty McManus, 85%; Billy Herman, 84%; George Cutshaw, 84%; Billy Wambsganss, 81%; Hobe Ferris, 79%; Oscar Melillio, 77%. 

              Let’s say that 79% is the norm in Hornsby’s era, as it appears that it wasn’t any less than 79%.   If that is true, Hornsby is 861 putouts short of the norm.   We can’t assume that all of those were lost plays, of course; it is possible that many of them or most of them were pop outs taken by some other fielder because Hornsby had trouble with them.  But it does seem likely that there was some loss of effectiveness there. 

              The primary reason that we study statistics is so that we are not misled by them.  Before sabermetrics, baseball historians saw Hornsby’s big hitting numbers as proof that he was greater than the best second basemen of the dead ball era, because his hitting numbers were bigger.  With sabermetrics, we learn to translate the hitting stats into runs, and to express the runs as wins.   We now understand that when there are more runs, it requires more runs to win a game; thus, that Hornsby’s advantage may not be as large as it appears.

              Eddie Collins is the only second baseman of the Eddie Collins era who is in the Hall of Fame.  But in the Rogers Hornsby era, the 2nd-best and 3rd-best second basemen (in the late 1920s) are also in the Hall of Fame (Frisch and Lazzeri), although it might be more accurate to say that Frisch was the 2nd-best second baseman of the Hornsby era and Lazzeri was the 2nd-best second baseman of the Gehringer era.  Anyway, the same is true at all of the positions; there are also more first basemen and catchers and left fielders and center fielders in the Hall of Fame.  It is likely that this is because the inflated hitting numbers of the 1920s have historically misled people into believing that these players were greater than they actually were, relative to the stars from other eras.

 

61.  Charlie Gehringer’s Short Decade

              Charlie Gehringer was only seven years younger than Rogers Hornsby, so he didn’t quite get a full decade to be the #1 second baseman in baseball. 

              Gehringer was a consummate gentleman who lived with his mother and went to the church to pray literally every day.   He was very much respected by those who knew him, but the nickname which is associated with him, The Mechanical Man, was not intended as a compliment.  It was like the term that people use for Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith, a "Game Manager".   It suggests what he was not more than what he was.   He played the game without passion, without anger or without evident joy; he was just there, going through his motions, doing his job.   In the early 1950s he was thrust into the role of Detroit’s General Manager simply because the owner had so much respect and affection for him that he implored him to be the General Manager, but Gehringer had no training or background to be a GM and was really awful at the job, which led to a down phase for the Tigers. 

              The other interesting thing about him is that Gehringer got steadily better, 3% better every year, more or less, for an exceptionally long period of time.  He may have had the longest period of getting consistently a little bit better of any player in major league history.   Frank White was like that as well.

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1930

1

Charlie

Gehringer

16

98

.330

.404

.534

25.42

1930

2

Frankie

Frisch

10

114

.346

.407

.520

24.13

1930

3

George

Grantham

18

99

.324

.413

.534

23.50

1930

4

Tony

Lazzeri

9

121

.303

.372

.462

22.14

1930

5

Max

Bishop

10

38

.252

.426

.408

20.69

 

     

 

     

 

 

1931

1

Frankie

Frisch

4

82

.311

.368

.396

22.34

1931

2

Tony

Lazzeri

8

83

.267

.371

.401

20.74

1931

3

Charlie

Gehringer

4

53

.311

.359

.431

20.53

1931

4

Max

Bishop

5

37

.294

.426

.400

20.18

1931

5

Buddy

Myer

4

56

.293

.360

.406

20.11

 

     

 

     

 

 

1932

1

Charlie

Gehringer

19

107

.298

.370

.497

25.15

1932

2

Tony

Lazzeri

15

113

.300

.399

.506

24.26

1932

3

Buddy

Myer

5

52

.279

.360

.426

20.95

1932

4

Billy

Herman

1

51

.314

.358

.404

20.07

1932

5

Frankie

Frisch

3

60

.292

.327

.372

19.76

 

     

 

     

 

 

YEAR

Rank

First

Last

HR

RBI

Avg

OBA

SPct

Value

1933

1

Charlie

Gehringer

12

105

.325

.393

.468

28.18

1933

2

Buddy

Myer

4

61

.302

.374

.436

23.84

1933

3

Tony

Lazzeri

18

104

.294

.383

.486

23.30

1933

4

Frankie

Frisch

4

66

.303

.358

.398

20.56

1933

5

Billy

Herman

0

44

.279

.332

.342

19.73

 

     

 

     

 

 

1934

1

Charlie

Gehringer

11

127

.356

.450

.517

33.32

1934

2

Buddy

Myer

3

57

.305

.419

.416

22.69

1934

3

Billy

Herman

3

42

.303

.355

.395

22.28

1934

4

Odell

Hale

13

101

.302

.357

.471

20.88

1934