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Quick Note about Rookies

October 17, 2018
                                              Quick Note About Rookies


              This is just a little note from a longer study that I just started.  It is a study of rookies, and I am using a "Game Equivalents" score for playing time, game equivalents based on both games played and plate appearances.  The surprise discovery was that, of the 25 highest playing times score ever for rookie players, an astonishing 12 of the 25 are from the years 1961 to 1966.   Jake Wood, 1961, is number 1 (162 games, 731 plate appearances as a rookie).  Chuck Schilling, 1961 is number 3, Tony Oliva, 1964 is number 6, Rich Rollins, 1962 is number 7, Dick Allen, 1964 is number 8, Ken Hubbs, 1962 is number 9, Dick Howser, 1961 is number 12.  Others are Tom Tresh, 1962, Joe Morgan, 1965, George Scott, 1966, Tommie Agee, 1966, and Pete Rose, 1963.  (The standard is whether we would consider the player a rookie NOW and by the playing time standard only, not whether they were considered a rookie THEN and by the days-on-the-roster standard.  I think Rollins in ’62 was not considered a rookie at the time.) 

              Obviously expansion and the lengthened schedule influenced this, but we have been playing the lengthened schedule since 1961.  Dominant attitudes about playing rookies every day apparently changed about 1967.  


COMMENTS (18 Comments, most recent shown first)

P.S. ( re 337) I looked back at the Times article to see if there was any reference or at least murmur about the assassination. There isn't, and there's this thing that we could call ironic or head-shaking or just understandable.

After the 3-paragraph account of Mantle's play, the next paragraph begins with the sentence:

"All of this was incidental, of course."

Well yes. The assassination had been 2 days before.
As I was re-reading the article (I hadn't gone on to that pgph before, and hadn't thought of what else was going on at that time), my immediate thought was, there's going to be some reference to the assassination, if just vaguely, like referring to something like "national events" or "events outside of sports." But no -- it was just that the Angel hitters had a big game, so the Yanks lost.
11:45 AM Oct 21st
337: That's probably why I had no awareness whatsoever about that game.
11:32 AM Oct 21st
.....In case anyone's still looking (or even if you're not)....

About "Buck" Rodgers: I was curious to try to find out when he started being known as Buck. As I mentioned, at the start of his career he seemed just to be called Bob, and really I never noticed his being called Buck till much later. Since lists him as Buck in the '62 Rookie of the Year vote (plus that they call him Buck on his "player page") I figured he must have started to be commonly called Buck pretty early in his career.

Maybe he was, but at least from how the New York Times saw it, he was never "Buck" during his playing career. There are many mentions of him during his playing career and thereafter, when he was coaching and managing in the minors, always as Bob, until 1980, when he started sometimes being called Buck, but mostly still Bob, and when they said Buck, it was usually like this:
Bob (Buck) Rodgers

In case you'd like to know.
(I did.) :-)


Unrelated, but a thing perhaps of interest that I came across while doing this:

Mantle late in his career of course wasn't a great defensive player, but evidently he had some real good moments, which I didn't remember. I do think of him as a "smart" fielder, or at least with good instincts, like in that play in the 9th inning of the last game of the '60 World Series (although some have actually criticized what he did since the film came out).

Here's a play from June 1968, as described by the Times, Mantle playing 1B.
(written by Leonard Koppett, a prominent and good (IMO) sportswriter although, as Bill once told us on Hey Bill, he apparently became somewhat of a jerk in his later years)

Mantle made a play in the 8th inning that was spectacularly rare. Jim Fregosi...was on 3rd and Roger Repoz...on 1st, when Mincher bounced to Mantle, wide of 1st base, with nobody out.
Mantle started to throw home, but saw that Fregosi had stopped halfway between 3rd and the plate. Mantle started to move toward him, and, as Fregosi stood still, hoping to give the other two runners time to reach 3rd and 2nd, Mantle ran right at him. Finally forced to break back toward 3rd, Fregosi was chased just the right amount before Mickey flipped the ball to [Bobby] Cox, who quickly tagged Fregosi as the runner changed direction.
But Mantle, having given the ball to Cox, kept right on going in the same direction to 3rd. He took a return toss from Cox in time to tag Repoz sliding in. Thus Mantle, once a minor league shortstop and a center fielder for most of his career, wound up as a first baseman completing a double play at 3rd base.

6:37 PM Oct 20th
If y'all don't mind tangents too much (I hope you don't):

Was Dean Chance's rookie year (1962) the Firpo Marberry-est year of the last 64 years?
(The reason I say 64 is to leave room for Allie Reynolds, whose last year was 1954, although, while he did have what we could call Marberry years, I don't think he ever had as Marberry a year as Chance did in 1962.)
9:21 PM Oct 18th
Also: Good point about Bob Rodgers, the catcher, who only later became Buck Rodgers, the manager, although I suspect his teammates called him Buck all along. It's just too — umm, sorry about this — obvious.

Was there some kind of rule that everyone who caught regularly for an LA team before, say, 1985, had to be given a managerial job? Well, Yeager and Ferguson didn't, so maybe the rule was merely to offer them a manager job. :-)
6:39 PM Oct 18th
That's right, Maris, I should have clarified that the misinterpretation of declining offense would only apply to 1964-66, not '61-63.

These numbers are probably too small to men anything, but for what it's worth:

1. Half of the 12 rookies in this period would have been ineligible to play as recently as 15-20 years earlier. That's easy for us Baby Boomers to forget, with the natural tendency to put a large and artificial gap between our memories and everything before that. The early '60s were when the trickle of black players entering the major leagues turned into a steady stream.

2. Seven of these 12 are middle infielders.
6:31 PM Oct 18th
I seem to recall you couldn't be considered a rookie if you played in previous years before September 1st. I think that is why Rollins wasn't considered a rookie.
4:06 PM Oct 18th
Yes OBS, one of his worse seasons (in St. Louis). OPS barely over 1.000, OPS+ just over 150, and a paltry 37 HRs. Think he needed another few months at Memphis?
6:51 AM Oct 18th
@Brian...none of those listed by Bill are on the "Bonus Baby" lists.

Puhol would seem to be the mobern era rookie iron man, with 161 games. But he only knocked 130 ribbies that year...ptui....rooks...​
5:10 AM Oct 18th
@Brian...none of those listed by Bill are on the "Bonus Baby" lists.
5:00 AM Oct 18th
KL: I like your idea that there may have been a factor from teams' misinterpretation of the declining offensive numbers, but I wouldn't think that came into play soon enough to affect the several examples from the early years in the period being looked at.

But, I think there's a good chance the other extra factor you mentioned -- expansion -- filled part of that gap. I think it seems likely that expansion was a factor making it more likely for rookies to get lots of playing time.


About Rollins, I wanted to mention but forgot:
The reason I say so confidently that he must not have been considered a rookie is that it's 'obvious' (boy, have we learned to avoid that word, unless we apologize in advance about it)'s obvious that he had a better year than some players who got votes for the award, and he got none. OK, maybe it's not "obvious obvious," but it does seem sure that especially considering the way stats were viewed at the time, his year was seen as stronger. And, it's not like he wasn't being noticed, which sometimes does affect such voting; he had a very very hot start and was one of the stories of the early part of the year, he made the all star team, and he actually finished 8th for MVP.

The guys who did get votes for Rookie of the Year were an interesting group, I'd say one of the more interesting there could be.
There was such "variety."

You had Tom Tresh, who won (by a lot), who had a terrific year keeping SS warm until Tony Kubek came back from military service, for most of the season, then moving to LF.
Runner-up was Buck Rodgers, who I swear was known mainly just as "Bob" at that time, who had a very nice season as the extremely full-time catcher for the Angels, but it wasn't as good a year as Rollins' .....well I suppose maybe it was, depending on how much you value catching and how extraordinary you think it is (I do) for a rookie to be such a full-time catcher and have a good year.
Finally there were three guys who got 1 vote each:
Bernie Allen, Rollins' teammate on the Twins, who had a very nice and extremely full-time year at 2B but it wasn't as good a year as Rollins' .....well I suppose some might feel it was, depending on how much you value being a decent-fielding 2B, which metrics seem to say he was (that year at least).
Dean Chance, who had an extremely nice rookie year, equally divided between starting and relieving; it was practically a good Firpo Marberry year.
Dick Radatz, who had an extreme Dick Radatz year in his rookie season.

You'd have a great head start making up a team with those 5 guys plus Rollins.
9:55 PM Oct 17th
That was supposed to be 25 PERCENT, not 25 teams.
6:31 PM Oct 17th
There's another reason that teams might have THOUGHT there were fewer-than-usual good players in the prime age range. The effects of the big strike zone are obvious to us now, but I don't think many teams realized what was happening in the first few years. I expect a lot of teams were saying, "This guy's average is plummeting. We've gotta call up somebody new from Triple-A." Maybe the trend stopped in '67 because that's when the trend became so obvious that the reason was better understood.

None of those players had flame-out careers except maybe Schilling (and I'm not including Hubbs, for whom I made a poor choice of words). Oliva, Allen, Morgan and Rose had great careers. I'm eager to see how those rookie classes stack up across history, and not just because they spanned my baseball childhood.

Another consideration is that the effects of this expansion might very well have lingered longer than they did later. For one thing, it was something that teams had never dealt with, and it also was the largest expansion, increasing the number of teams by 25.
6:20 PM Oct 17th
My first thought is that this coincides with the end of the strict version of the bonus rule in 1958. Prior to 1961, perhaps he best rookies were playing part time or sitting on benches? It seemed to me there was an unusually high amount of 23-25 year olds on that list, although to be fair I haven't studied what the average amount would be. But I might guess there was an early over -correction where players who were not forced to stay on a roster were kept maybe an extra year or two in the minors. When they came up, they were established to a level where they were expected to play every day immediately.

Maybe after a few years of this practice they realized it was best to bring up your best rookies earlier, even if they weren't playing every day.

Just a hypothesis. I am fairly sure I will be too lazy to research it.
6:04 PM Oct 17th
Hmmm....Super Twos, George Springer, service time.....
5:27 PM Oct 17th
P.S. A wise guy might say the reason Rollins wasn't considered a rookie was that he looked like he was about 60. I remember thinking at the time that he looked older than he was, and in that great little book about baseball cards ("The Great American Baseball Card Flipping....") they make a thing of it.
Again using my powers of imagination and speculation, I would have thought that such an appearance in youth would be a pessimistic indicator for longevity. I'm glad to see that in fact Rollins, now 80, is still with us, and hopefully, doing well.
And actually his (possibly) older appearance may have been nothing but a receding hairline.
11:47 AM Oct 17th
A couple of (unrelated) things:

-- It seems your guess is right that Rollins wasn't considered a rookie in 1962, but it's hard to see why not, at least from his basic stat page. He was never in the majors till the year before, when he had just 13 games and 20 plate appearances. I'd guess it was something about how long he was on the ML roster. From the game log, we see that he was up with the team for a fair while that year (5 weeks from mid-June to mid-July) in addition to (apparently) a September call-up. What I really remembered about the rookie rule from around that time was only that if you had 90 at-bats you weren't eligible any more (which I remember because of Vada Pinson); I might vaguely remember something about time on the roster but I could be imagining it.

-- Re the concentration of such high-playing-tine rookies in that period, I would tend to think of it in a way that I think you frown upon, which is to just wonder about a possible factor rather than testing it, and it's eminently testable: I'd wonder if there were fewer-than-usual good players in the age range that was thought at the time to be "prime," which I'd say was 28-32 -- and, speculating frowned-uponly further, I'd immediately wonder if there might be some historic reason that this might have been so, and there's an easy guess of a hypothesis there:
Those players would have been born and in their early childhood during the heart of the Depression. I can well imagine that they tended not to develop their abilities and confidence as well as kids born and coming of age in other times. Plus, their early adolescence, which is when you're really developing your athletic skills, would have been during World War II, when......y'know, hard times, adult male coaches/role models etc. being mostly away.....

I can also well imagine the opposite, and if there were much fewer than usual high-playing-time rookies in the early-to-mid '60's, I'd be offering the same factor.
11:27 AM Oct 17th
I'd be curious to see how this relates to non-rookies. The 162 game players seem to be fewer in number then they once were, but it the pitching staffs continue to get bigger...
11:04 AM Oct 17th
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