The Black Hole

March 14, 2021
                                                           The Black Hole

 

            The San Francisco Giants problems at shortstop actually began in 1959 and ended, at least temporarily, in 1971.  I referred to this period in the tweet which started this discussion as "the 1960s", but the actual dates are 1959 to 1970.  It began with the decision to move Daryl Spencer from shortstop to second base.  

In 1958 Spencer had his best major league season, hitting .256 but with 17 homers, 76 RBI, and 73 walks, and also playing OK at shortstop.  Although he did lead the league in errors,  his fielding percentage was only .009 below average, and Baseball Reference lists his "Rfield" for the season—Runs from fielding—at +/- zero, and credits him with 3.3 WAR.   By Win Shares he was the #4 shortstop in the major leagues, behind Ernie Banks (1958-1959 NL MVP), Dick Groat (1960 NL MVP) and Luis Aparicio, who was second in the AL MVP voting in 1959. 

            The 1958 Giants had one of the greatest rookie classes of all time—Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Leon Wagner, Jim Davenport, and a couple of other guys who had long, productive careers.  Bob Schmidt and Willie Kirkland.  19-year-old Mike McCormick was 11-8 for the 1958 Giants.

            Perhaps the most exciting of those rookies at the time, however—other than Cepeda—perhaps the guy they were most excited about was Andre Rodgers.  The first player from the Bahamas to come to the major leagues, Rodgers was a fantastic athlete, a big guy (for a shortstop) with a cannon and the agility to play shortstop.  They had another promising young shortstop backing him up, Eddie Bressoud, and more in the minors.  They decided to move Daryl Spencer, one of the best shortstops in the majors in 1958, to second base so that they could get Andre Rodgers into the lineup.

            It was a disaster.  Rodgers had not played a lot of baseball growing up.  He could not get his footwork co-ordinated with his throwing motion.   Although he hit OK, his confidence washed away.  He lost the job at the end of June, and was sent to the minors a couple of weeks later, Eddie Bressoud taking over.  Bressoud was a pretty good hitter and had some very good years later on, but he had fringy defensive skills for a shortstop.  He was not top-shelf either in quickness or arm strength. Giant shortstops for the season were last in the league in assists, last in putouts, tied for second in errors, second-to-last in fielding percentage, and last by a mile in double plays; their shortstops were involved in 74 double plays, while every other team had at least 92. 

            1959 was the stumble; 1960 was the fall.  Daryl Spencer played OK at second base (1959), but after the season the Giants packaged Spencer with Leon Wagner, a surplus outfielder, and sent them to St. Louis for Don Blasingame, one of the better second basemen in the league.  They went into 1960 with Bressoud as the shortstop. 

            Candlestick Park opened on April 12, 1960.  Within weeks, Giants players were bitching in the newspapers about having to play there.  The infield was a rockpile, the wind whipped nastily through the infield and across the outfield, and it was, apparently, a cold, cold summer in San Francisco.   For the season, Willie McCovey hit .203 in Candlestick Park, and if Willie McCovey can’t hit there, God help the rest of the league.  Don Blasingame, Eddie Bressoud and Andre Rodgers all had terrible seasons, at least statistically if you don’t adjust for the very low park run factors, and at that time, nobody had any notion of adjusting for park effects.  The Giants also led the major leagues in errors. 

            The Giants gave up on Bressoud and Blasingame, trading both men away and going with Chuck (Iron Hands) Hiller at second base, and Jose Pagan at short.  In retrospect, they might have kept Bressoud and lived with his inherent defensive limitations.  Bressoud became the best-hitting shortstop in the majors from 1962 to 1964. 

            The Giants middle infield, on the other hand, was on a treadmill through the Twilight Zone.  From Daryl Spencer (1958) they went through Andre Rodgers (1959), Eddie Bressoud (1960), Jose Pagan (1961-1962), Jose Pagan and Ernie Bowman (1963), Jose Pagan and Jim Davenport (1964), Dick Schofield, Jim Davenport, Jose Pagan, and Tito Fuentes (1965), Tito Fuentes, Jim Davenport and Hal Lanier (1966), and then mostly Hal Lanier (1967-1970).  Jim Davenport, losing the third base job to Jim Ray Hart in 1964, played over 200 games at short for the Giants from 1964 to 1968—not because anyone thought that he was a shortstop, but because somebody had to try. 

            The rest of this article is based on Matthew Namee’s research.  Matthew worked in my office from 2003 to 2005.  One thing I asked him to do was to take the Win Shares book, and construct a spreadsheet placing each and every blessed player at a position on a team.  He produced an extremely valuable spreadsheet, which will be one of my greatest assets if I ever get around to doing a fourth edition of the Historical Abstract.  It uses Win Shares to map baseball history.   You can use the spreadsheet to see patterns of things that you otherwise KNOW or sense, but can’t put a finger on.  The spreadsheet would have been much more valuable to me than it has been had I not go on the long career detour of working for the Red Sox (2002 to 2019), which limited my book writing.

            Anyway, this is the sort of issue for which the thing is valuable.  It was by studying the spreadsheet that I realized where this problem started and what the dimensions of it really were.   Here is a small snapshot from the file, describing the Giants lineups’ from 1958 to 1971:

 

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1958

10

20

8

11

18

10

40

13

18

15

9

7

4

10

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

1971

19

16

17

13

16

23

27

32

18

17

13

5

3

12

           

            This column represents Willie Mays:

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1958

10

20

8

11

18

10

40

13

18

15

9

7

4

10

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

1971

19

16

17

13

16

23

27

32

18

17

13

5

3

12

 

            "1B" represents Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey; the values are low in 1960-1961 because McCovey was playing there half-time with Cepeda in left field.  Cepeda was only in left field half the time, but one person is necessarily assigned to one position in this format:

 

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1958

10

20

8

11

18

10

40

13

18

15

9

7

4

10

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

1971

19

16

17

13

16

23

27

32

18

17

13

5

3

12

 

            While the #1 and #2 starters (S1 and S2) are generally Marichal and Gaylord Perry:

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1958

10

20

8

11

18

10

40

13

18

15

9

7

4

10

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

1971

19

16

17

13

16

23

27

32

18

17

13

5

3

12

 

            And, before we go, we should highlight the 1958 season of Daryl Spencer and the 1971 season of Chris Speier, who bookend the shortstop disasters, and the star periods of third baseman Jim Ray Hart and right fielder Bobby Bonds:

 

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1958

10

20

8

11

18

10

40

13

18

15

9

7

4

10

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

1971

19

16

17

13

16

23

27

32

18

17

13

5

3

12

 

            OK, now let’s cut off the 1958 and 1971 seasons, and form totals of what remains:

 

Year

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

1959

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

1960

8

12

13

10

11

26

38

19

18

12

11

8

6

7

1961

11

13

9

18

10

29

34

14

17

11

10

7

5

18

1962

16

26

17

20

16

18

41

25

20

19

17

13

1

8

1963

17

30

4

9

10

29

38

21

26

13

13

3

0

7

1964

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

1965

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

1966

22

34

7

27

14

3

37

6

33

21

17

3

2

11

1967

21

24

7

29

9

12

21

11

20

20

15

14

5

15

1968

14

34

21

19

8

6

30

15

24

19

15

12

6

11

1969

9

39

19

6

9

8

17

31

29

26

12

4

4

10

1970

29

33

13

7

6

24

24

32

24

11

5

3

3

14

 

193

320

141

204

112

186

393

215

288

210

155

94

46

137

 

            The 1960s Giants (1959-1970, you dork) have a total of 393 Win Shares from their #1 center fielders, Willie Mays.  This is the highest total for any team at any position during those years.  For what it is worth, these are the highest position totals in the major leagues:

 

Giants CF (Willie Mays)

393

Braves RF (Henry Aaron)

358

Giants 1B (Willie McCovey)

320

Yankees CF (Mickey Mantle)

314

Reds CF (Vada Pinson)

297

Reds RF (Frank Robinson)

294

Dodgers #1 SP (Sandy Koufax)

292

Pirates RF (Roberto Clemente)

291

Giants #1 SP (Juan Marichal)

288

Cardinals #1 SP (Bob Gibson)

284

Cubs 3B (Ron Santo)

282

Twins RF (Tony Oliva)

281

Braves 3B (Eddie Mathews)

271

Red Sox LF (Carl Yastrzemski)

269

Cardinals 3b (Ken Boyer)

268

 

            So we can see there why the National League won almost all the All Star Games in those years.  Anyway, the point is that the Giants had three of the top 9 position totals in the major leagues, but won only one league title in this period, whereas the Yankees won 5, the Dodgers 4, the Cardinals 3, the Pirates 2 and the Orioles 2. During these years the Giants won more games than any other National League franchise, more than any other major league team except the Orioles.   

            The Giants had only 112 Win Shares in 12 years out of their #1 shortstops.  This is the fifth-lowest total in the major leagues, at any position.   Because teams split playing time at catcher, the three lowest totals are all at catcher.  Fourth and fifth are at shortstop:

 

Team

SS

Philadelphia Phillies

111

San Francisco Giants

112

Cincinnati Reds

147

Detroit Tigers

148

Atlanta Braves

153

 

            The Giants’ starting shortstops were one Win Share better than the Phillies, but 35 Win Shares worse than any other team in the majors.  

            Among the 16 "original" franchises, this is where their shortstops ranked year by year:

 

Year

#1 Shortstop

WS

Rank among 16

1959

Bressoud

8

13th

1960

Bressoud

11

10th

1961

Pagan

10

Tied for 12th to 15th

1962

Pagan

16

Tied for 7th to 9th

1963

Pagan

10

14th

1964

Davenport

7

Dead Last

1965

Schofield

4

15th

1966

Fuentes

14

10th

1967

Lanier

9

Tied for 9th or 10th

1968

Lanier

8

11th

1969

Lanier

9

Tied for 12th or 13th

1970

Lanier

6

Tied for 13th or 14th

 

            Pagan in 1964 was their #1 shortstop by playing time, but Davenport was by value. 

            One of the strongest franchises in the majors, literally trading away valuable players like Felipe and Matty Alou, Leon Wagner, Willie Kirkland, Orlando Cepeda and Bill White because they had no place to play them, had a below-average regular shortstop for 12 straight seasons, with the arguable exception of 1962, when Jose Pagan had a kind-of decent year.

            In 1959 the Detroit Tigers had the weakest first baseman in the major leagues, with the position manned by Gail Harris, Gus Zernial and Bobo Osborne.   That winter they made a very minor trade for Norm Cash, and in 1961 they had the best first baseman in the majors.

            The same year, the Baltimore Orioles had the second-weakest first baseman in the majors, Bob Boyd.  That winter they made a very minor trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and in 1961 they had the second-best first baseman in the majors, in Jim Gentile. 

            In 1959 the Washington Senators had the worst regular catcher in the major leagues (Hal Naragon).  That winter they traded their aging star (Roy Sievers) for a young catcher, and in 1960 they had the second-best catcher in the major leagues (Earl Battey).

            In 1962 the St. Louis Cardinals had the weakest shortstop in the major leagues (Julio Gotay). That winter they made a trade for Dick Groat, and in 1963 they had the best shortstop in the majors; Groat earned 31 Win Shares, and was second in the MVP voting. 

            In 1962 the Baltimore Orioles had the second-worst catcher in the majors, as old Gus Triandos hit .159.  That winter they made a trade with the Giants for one of those extra players who couldn’t get into the Giants’ lineup, John Orsino, and in 1963 they had the 4th-best catcher in the majors. 

            In 1965 the Chicago White Sox had one of the weakest center fielders in baseball, as glove wizard Ken Berry hit .218 with 34 RBI in 147 games.   That winter they traded a package of second-line players to the Indians in exchange for Tommie Agee (and Tommy John), and in 1966 they had the third-best center fielder in the majors, behind Willie Mays and Al Kaline (who played center and right in 1966, but we have listed him in center.) 

 

            These stories are common.  Good organizations identify their weaknesses, identify the best young player who is blocked with his current team, and make a trade.  It is very puzzling that the San Francisco Giants, one of the best organizations in baseball, were never able to do that, and lost pennant after pennant because they could not do that.   And it’s not like they traded for players who went bust on them; they just didn’t make the trades.  Rodgers, Bressoud, Pagan, Davenport, Fuentes, Lanier—these were all guys who were in the system.  The only effort they made to patch it with a trade was Dick Schofield in 1965, but he was a guy who had been in the league for more than ten years, had played badly for Pittsburgh for the last two years, and they just flipped him for Jose Pagan, who was the same age as Schofield. 

            And this was the consequence of that.  In 1964 the Giants missed the National League pennant by 3 games.  This is a position-by-position comparison of the Giants to the first-place St. Louis Cardinals:

Team

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

San Francisco Giants

18

23

9

25

7

8

38

11

25

19

10

10

8

7

St. Louis Cardinals

17

26

11

28

20

22

25

7

24

16

15

12

5

10

 

            The Cardinals won by three games—9 Win Shares—and held a 13-Win Share advantage at shortstop.  Of course, this is not a technical comparison because the Giants had multiple shortstops, Davenport and Pagan, but all of the San Francisco shortstops together earned only 11 Win Shares, nine fewer than Groat, and it isn’t actually that close, because about 40% of Jim Davenport’s 1964 playing time was at other positions. 

            In 1965 the Giants lost the National League pennant to the Dodgers by just two games—6 Win Shares.  Let’s compare the two teams position by position:

Team

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

San Francisco Giants

18

29

7

25

4

11

43

14

30

19

15

8

6

16

Los Angeles Dodgers

13

20

23

18

28

17

15

26

33

27

18

6

1

13

 

            The Giants lost the pennant by 6 Win Shares, but were 24 Win Shares behind at shortstop (Maury Wills vs. Dick Schofield.) 

            In 1966 the Giants again lost the pennant again by just two games, although they didn’t really lose that one at shortstop, as Fuentes had a not-terrible year, and Maury Wills had a not-great year.   In 1959 the Giants finished just three games behind the first-place tie, and we can, if you want, compare the Giants not to the champions, the Dodgers, but to the team which tied them in the regular season:

Team

C

1B

2B

3B

SS

LF

CF

RF

S1

S2

S3

S4

S5

RA

San Francisco Giants

10

23

15

9

8

12

32

16

22

20

15

9

0

13

Milwaukee Braves

20

17

4

37

19

8

14

38

23

15

14

6

4

10

 

            The Giants finished three games—9 Win Shares—out of the first-place tie, but were 11 Win Shares behind the Braves at shortstop.

            That show doesn’t work for the Dodgers that year because the Dodgers switched shortstops in mid-season, from Don Zimmer to Maury Wills, and the Giants finished second in 1967 and 1968, but by wider margins.  But I must add this:  what are the two years 1959-1971 when the Giants had a decent shortstop?  1962 and 1971.  And what are the two years in that era when the Giants won something?  1962 and 1971.  In neither case was the shortstop great; he just wasn’t terrible.

 

            Of course, many teams have a "black hole" position that, for some reason, they just can’t fill.  With this tool, I could identify the worst "Black Hole" positions in baseball history, but then, I could have done that 15 years ago, too, and I haven’t got around to it yet.  What makes this one noteworthy is the combination of a REALLY BAD black hole with a team that is losing the pennant by two or three games a year.  And we add to that combination of facts:  it was an organization that was swimming in surplus talent. 

 
 

COMMENTS (27 Comments, most recent shown first)

KaiserD2
I gave a presentation at the last SABR convention in San Diego about the Giants in two eras, roughly 1929-38 and 1961-66. But mine wasn't confined to shortstop. In the earlier era they had three Hall of Famers, Terry, Ott, and Hubbell, and no other National League team had three players nearly that good. In the latter period they had Mays, Cepeda, McCovey, and Marichal. Yet in neither era did they win nearly as many pennants as they should have because year after year they would play DREADFUL players, way below average, at other positions. Just to stick to the later era, that applied to second base and at times to third base as well, but also, by 1965, to the corner outfield positions. Bill's comparison chart with the Dodgers in `1965 is very revealing. In the lineup the Dodgers didn't have anyone nearly as good as Mays or McCovey--but everyone was above average. Not a lot, but above average. That's how they won. Their fielding was also much better than the Giants--although I believe their pitching, park and fielding adjusted, was not as good.
12:03 PM Mar 21st
 
3for3
It seems like this might be as much a scouting problem as a GM problem. The Giants were great at signing pitchers and right end of the defensive spectrum players. As several have pointed out, this was a second base problem as well.

This is either 1. Random bad luck in the guys they scouted, or 2. An organizational philosophy of looking for guys who could hit first.
10:02 AM Mar 17th
 
evanecurb
Steven Goldleaf,

Re: Aparicio and the Giants. Your main point is well taken, and I should have acknowledged that. The Giants could have put together a much more attractive package of hitters than what the O's put together in the winter of 1962-63, either the combo you suggest involving Stu Miller, or any other number of combinations. The White Sox would not have received a shortstop of Hansen's caliber, but they would have received better hitters.
12:06 PM Mar 16th
 
FrankD
I really like that Bill acknowledged work by people under him:

" The rest of this article is based on Matthew Nameeā€™s research. Matthew worked in my office from 2003 to 2005. One thing I asked him to do was to take the Win Shares book, and construct a spreadsheet placing each and every blessed player at a position on a team. He produced an extremely valuable spreadsheet, which will be one of my greatest assets... "

Usually the grad student or the junior members of a research team get little acknowledgment with the Professor or research team leader getting all the kudos.

It may be that the Giants were so close to winning so often that they felt that 'this year for sure' at the beginning of every year and never made any moves at SS. The Giants did have the best NL record over that time period. Maybe being close all the time led to complacency.
6:34 PM Mar 15th
 
enamee
Really cool to see Win Shares in Team Form in an article - it was one of the projects I most enjoyed working on during my years in your office, Bill. - Matthew Namee
5:38 PM Mar 15th
 
Gfletch
mpiafsky
Wait, when was the third edition of the Historical? I am looking at my shelf and I have the 88 and the 2003. What am I missing?

Mpiafsky, you are missing the second edition, mostly a reprint of the first edition but with some updates and other new material, plus the critique of The Hidden Game excised. It was, I believe, strictly a paperback edition even though it was still about 4 inches thick.
1:55 PM Mar 15th
 
Gfletch
Tragedy or travesty? Just as the Giants wasted the second half of Willie Mays' career plus their extraordinary farm system during that time must cause old SF fans retroactive pain, what will the California Angels fans think of the career of Mike Trout starting about ten years from now?

It's pretty simplistic and shallow and clumsy of me to compare the Giants shortstop / shortsighted / blind spot to the commitment of the Angels to the corpse of Albert Pujols. But I'm doing it anyway.​
1:53 PM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Evanecurb--I wrote "gliettering"? My bad. I did say that Ward and Hansen were decent players, and they may well have been better than decent--but neither had long careers, considering that the deal was youth for age, prospects for "win now" and the Orioles did win now, or at least in 1966, with Aparicio at short. It's an interesting question if they could have done as well to have kept Hansen and played him at short instead of Looie. Would they have been a stronger club with Hansen playing short? Maybe so. This supports my speculation, in a cockeyed way, that if the Sox-O's deal shouldn't have happened at all, then Aparicio would have been available for the Giants to deal for him in the winter of 1962-3.
1:15 PM Mar 15th
 
mpiafsky
Wait, when was the third edition of the Historical? I am looking at my shelf and I have the 88 and the 2003. What am I missing?
12:36 PM Mar 15th
 
bhalbleib
Sometimes I think Bill puts things in the middle of his essays to see if we actually read the whole thing:

"He produced an extremely valuable spreadsheet, which will be one of my greatest assets if I ever get around to doing a fourth edition of the Historical Abstract."

Did I miss something? Is there a 3rd edition? Is he counting the paperback edition of either one as the extra edition. Color me confused.
11:51 AM Mar 15th
 
evanecurb
Steven Goldleaf said that Aparicio was traded for (other than Wilhelm) a "pile of gliettering crap." This is incorrect. Pete Ward, who had been stuck behind Brooks Robinson (they're the same age), was the White Sox' best hitter 1963-64, and had an OPS+ of 116 in his seven years in Chicago. Ron Hansen stayed in Chicago five years, played great defense with above-average offense, even got some down ballot MVP votes in three of his seasons there. He was arguably better than Aparicio during those five seasons. Comiskey and the 1960s context masked Ward's and Hansen's solid offensive performances.
10:27 AM Mar 15th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Good point, malbuff. Two pitchers and a catcher in exchange for two pitchers and a catcher. You'd have supposed, given Bill's thesis, that they would have been trading for a middle infielder once in a while.
10:23 AM Mar 15th
 
malbuff
Regarding Steven Goldleaf's comment about Stu Miller-as-Hoyt Wilhelm in a plausible trade, the Giants DID trade Miller after the 1962 season-- along with Orsino and Mike McCormick. They got: Jimmie Coker (5 AB in 1963), Billy Hoeft (2 wins) and Jack Fisher (6-10, 4.58 ERA), all of whom were gone after one year. This trade was part of the Giants' aggregate trading deficit that Bill, in the 1982 Abstract, said was "enough to turn 7 last-place teams into pennant winners."
9:12 AM Mar 15th
 
shthar
Maybe we need to be ranking SS higher in all these systems?

If having the worst one can offset the gains from having three of the best guys at other positions?


6:41 PM Mar 14th
 
BobGill
Great stuff. I notice that during this period the Giants' second basemen weren't a whole lot better than the shortstops -- and from 1963-67 (mainly Hal Lanier and Tito Fuentes) they might have been even worse.

I remember something you wrote about the Brewers back when they traded Gorman Thomas for Rick Manning -- that they fell into the trap of thinking that since they had a lot of hitters, it didn't matter if Manning didn't hit. And you said of course it matters, that they were losing 20 or 30 runs in that deal. I wonder if that applies to the Giants' troubles in the '60s -- that is, if they tended to think that since they had WILLIE MAYS out there, plus Cepeda or McCovey or Felipe Alou and the other standouts, it didn't matter if they were a little weak at short or second.

6:01 PM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
arcnews--Tom Haller was one of the best catchers in the NL in the 1960s.
6:01 PM Mar 14th
 
arnewcs
Those Giants teams were quite weak up the middle, other than center field. That's presumably quite unusual, for an overall very good team for many years to have that much weakness at catcher, short, and second.
5:49 PM Mar 14th
 
mauimike
As I said I played shortstop and as I watched the Giants I knew that there was something wrong there. Not that I was of major league caliber, but at 9 to 13, I was routinely making plays that the Giant shortstops couldn't. And none of them were a leader, a captain of the infield kind of guy. I was. I ran the show.

My childhood would have been more pleasant with a decent shortstop. I might still be a Giant fan.

"My kingdom for a horse."

I went to Candlestick in April of 1971 to see my hero, Willie Mays, in person. It was a night game. I knew it would cold. It was colder and more windy than I could imagine. After spending two months at Ft Ord for basic training I had an idea what the wind was like in that part of the world. After years of long hair, the army hair cut, left my ears so exposed they felt like they shatter any second.

In 2002 it all came together, the Giants and Angels in the World Series. The Angels won. I was a happy man. 19 years ago.
5:48 PM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
There were actually a number of real good young shortstops in AL that winter, now that I look over some rosters, who hadn't quite established themselves yet: 20-year old Jim Fregosi would have been the best of them, though Tom Tresh would have seemed the best. (Tresh was filling in at short for Tony Kubek that year, so they had to move him to the OF for 1963--they might have been willing to swap him out for 4 or 5 attractive SF Giants.) 22 year old Zoilo Versalles had just a few years of fulltime play--he could have been gotten for a song, maybe a medley. McAuliffe was definitely gettable. The point is there were definitely deals to be made.
5:36 PM Mar 14th
 
mskarpelos
I became a Giants fan in 1969, so I missed most of this frustration first hand, but it was definitely part of the zeitgeist in the Bay Area at the time. I note that in 1969 the Giants also were just 3 games behind the Braves in their division, but it was a lot more than just shortstop where they came up short. They had great years from McCovey and Bobby Bonds and good years from Marichal and Perry, but Mays had an off year, and the rest of the line-up and back end of the rotation were severely lacking. Shortstop was poor, but 3rd, 2nd, and left were even worse, so we can't blame 1969 on the shortstop alone.
5:30 PM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Luis Aparicio also was traded in the 1962-3 off-season, basically for a pile of glittering crap (which is unkind to the decent players in the deal--their potentials went unfilled, except for the one old guy in the deal, Hoyt Wilhelm, who had a bunch of good years in him. Not so much Pete Ward and Ron Hansen.) Do you suppose the Giants could have put together a better package to wrest Little Looie from the White Sox? Of course, he wasn't all that good, offensively, as was supposed at the time, but he was a hell of a lot better than Hal Lanier. Let's see--a package of Pagan, Ed Bailey, one of the lesser Alous or Manny Mota, maybe Stu Miller playing the part of Hoyt Wilhelm, yeah, I think that would have done the trick.
5:29 PM Mar 14th
 
SteveN
I notice that the Phillies shortstops don't show up so well, either. I remember Bobby Wine as a good field, absolutely no hit, shortstop. Of course, when Ruben Amaro came along, not much changed.

I do wonder, though, if they were really good fielders, or, were the local guys just trying to justify having them on the team.
4:14 PM Mar 14th
 
CharlesSaeger
Nothing to add, other than this is fascinating, and that I wonder what White Sox third basemen would look like between Buck Weaver getting banned and Robin Ventura coming up.
3:23 PM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
Just off the top of my head, the Pirates might have traded Dick Groat (which they did, in the 1962-3 off-season, to St, Louis for Don Cardwell and Julio Gotay) to the Giants for Mike McCormack and Jose Pagan. (Groat ended up with the Giants, after he was about done, in the mid-60s, but he still had some star years ahead of him as of 1963.) The Pirates also needed a catcher (they were starting Smoky Burgess, who couldn't get around so good anymore) and the Giants had two good starting catchers, Tom Haller (keeper) and Ed Bailey.
3:11 PM Mar 14th
 
Steven Goldleaf
For me, the fun part of this exercise is to speculate on trades they might have been able to pull off--which good shortstops were available in the 60s, and which Giants would they have wanted in a trade? Usually, with my acute 20/20 hindsight, I can manufacture plausible deals that both teams might have gone for.
3:00 PM Mar 14th
 
bjames
jfenimore
I wonder if every team could do this same study where one position kept them from the playoffs. The top-tier NL teams were very, very strong in the 60s.



If you believe that that is true, you have missed the entire point of the article. There is NO other team in baseball history for which a similar thing is true.
2:52 PM Mar 14th
 
jfenimore
I wonder if every team could do this same study where one position kept them from the playoffs. The top-tier NL teams were very, very strong in the 60s.
2:39 PM Mar 14th
 
 
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