Yogi's Years

December 9, 2017
 2017-65

15.  Your Author is a Slow Learner

              To this point in this process I have been rating players based on the information which could have been known at that time.   The best catchers in 1947 are evaluated based on modern analysis of the facts as they were known at the end of the 1947 season.    I say "to this point in the process", but actually I was doing that well beyond the point in the process that we have reached together.  I generated complete rankings based on that process, and was merely explaining and defending my conclusions.  

              Well down the road from where we are now, in stuff that I have written but not yet published, I found some rankings that were hard to defend.   This began to trouble me.  I began to justify this approach in my head, but found it difficult to do.   Why exactly are we saying that, in evaluating the performance of players from 1947, what those players did in 1946 is relevant to our understanding of how good the really were, but what happened in 1948 is not?           

              The breaking point came for me when I was working on the first basemen of the 1980s, and I needed to explain why, in 1985, Don Mattingly ranked second.  Mattingly drove in 145 runs in 1985.  He hit .324, which was actually well below his average in 1984 or 1986.  He ranked second behind Eddie Murray, which is hardly a disgrace; Eddie was also a great player, but still, Mattingly had 32 Win Shares in 1985, to Murray’s 28.   Why is Murray ahead, in evaluating where those two players were at that moment?

              He is ahead, I told myself, because at that time we could not have known for certain that Mattingly was not having a Norm Cash season, a season like Walt Dropo had in 1950 or a season like Mark Trumbo had in 2016, a season above his real level of ability.

              Well, yes, responded the wiser Evil Bill, but this is 2017.   The issue in 2017 is not what we could have known for certain in 1985; it is what we can know for certain in 2017 about 1985.   Mattingly was not in any sense a fluke.  He was a tremendous player.   We are discussing the careers that players have had, more than we are discussing careers which they are in the middle of having.

              I was using the data through 1985 to evaluate the players of 1985, I realized, because I am in the habit of doing so.   The problem of best use of the backward-looking data is one with which I have long wrestled.   In the winter of 1985, I had to rate the players of 1985 based on what they had done through 1985, in order to produce the 1986 Baseball Abstract.   One month from now I will be on MLB television, and I will be ranking the players of 2018, based on the information available through 2017.   I look at the problem that way because I have long been in the habit of looking at it that way.

              But it isn’t right; for this purpose it isn’t right.   For what we are doing right now, 1946 is no more relevant to 1947 than 1948 is.  That one should consider what players have done over a period of seasons to determine who is actually the best player is a valid approach, but that we are trapped in the position of being only able to look at it from one direction is not true.  

              Unfortunately, by the time I reached this realization, I had written these articles up through first base, 1984.   I had wasted a good many man-hours of work.  This is painful, but it is also in the nature of research, that in order to move forward toward better research methods, you have to admit that what you have done in the past was not perfectly done.   It is not a good policy to change directions in the middle of the trip, but much more of the trip is ahead of us than is behind us, and I have decided that I need to do so. 

 

16.  The New, New Method

              OK, here’s what I changed to.   I changed to evaluating players based on what they had done over a five-year period, weighted 1-2-6-2-1.   In other words, where a player ranks after the 1952 season will be based 8.3% on what he did in 1950, one-sixth on what he did in 1951, one-half on what he did in 1952, one-sixth on what he did in 1953, and one-twelfth (or 8.3%) on what he did in 1954.   This preserves the policy that one-half of the rating is based on that season’s performance and one-half on the surrounding seasons, but changes it so that the "surrounding seasons" includes the seasons ahead as well as the seasons behind. 

              I figure the player’s Win Shares per season based on that weighting system, and also his games played per season based on that weighting system.   I preserved the rule that a player’s Win Share value after the season cannot be less than 75% of his Win Shares in that season, so that rookies are not excessively discriminated against; however, with this forward-and-backward looking method, this rule is less necessary and has less impact.  I then adjusted the player’s value weighting, as I explained before, with some limited credit for missed playing time, so that a player who plays well but misses two months with an injury gets some compensation for that when we are asking how good a player he actually was.  

              Everything is the same, except that I changed the weighting for seasons from 1-2-3, or 1-2-3-4 for veteran players, to 1-2-6-2-1.   It is clear to me, having redone the rankings, that this adjustment is appropriate, and that it does lead to better lists of the top players for seasons from the past. 

              We’ll re-do 1948 for illustration.  In 1948 Yogi Berra hit .305 and drove in 98 runs.   At the time, we might have thought that this might be a fluke season, and we might not have granted Yogi the top of the rankings out of the concern that it could be a one-season fluke.   But knowing what we now know, it is apparent that that season was in no way a fluke. 

 

17.  Yogi and Campanella

              In 1948 Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella emerged as the best catchers in baseball.   They were not the best by default, like Phil Masi and Bill Salkeld; they were tremendous players.   Yogi won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1951, 1954 and 1955, and Campanella won the NL Award in 1951, 1953 and 1955.   Campanella was one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time and had better hitting numbers than Yogi in his best seasons, but in our system Yogi rates a hair ahead of Campanella every year because:

              a) Yogi was much more consistent with the bat than Campanella was, having good years every year while Campanella fought injuries every other year, and

              b) some of Campanella’s advantage in the numbers is due to the parks they played in.   Ebbetts Field was a better park for a hitter than Yankee Stadium.  In 1953 the Park Run Index in Yankee Stadium was 78; in Ebbetts Field it was 107.   The difference wasn’t usually that large, but there were more runs to work with in Ebbetts Field, thus a lower ratio of actual value to runs created. 

              Yogi was the best catcher in baseball for more than a decade, but choosing between Yogi and Campy, there wasn’t a bad choice.   They were both great players, both deserving of a #1 ranking:

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1948

Yogi

Berra

20.32

2

1948

Walker

Cooper

15.54

3

1948

Andy

Seminick

15.29

4

1948

Roy

Campanella

15.05

5

1948

Jim

Hegan

14.82

 

     

 

1

1949

Yogi

Berra

25.19

2

1949

Roy

Campanella

24.07

3

1949

Andy

Seminick

19.13

4

1949

Walker

Cooper

16.95

5

1949

Jim

Hegan

14.70

 

     

 

1

1950

Yogi

Berra

29.95

2

1950

Roy

Campanella

25.92

3

1950

Andy

Seminick

20.32

4

1950

Walker

Cooper

18.92

5

1950

Wes

Westrum

16.09

 

     

 

1

1951

Yogi

Berra

31.19

2

1951

Roy

Campanella

30.40

3

1951

Walker

Cooper

17.14

4

1951

Wes

Westrum

16.85

5

1951

Andy

Seminick

15.97

 

     

 

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1952

Yogi

Berra

31.04

2

1952

Roy

Campanella

26.77

3

1952

Sherm

Lollar

15.26

4

1952

Smoky

Burgess

15.05

5

1952

Wes

Westrum

14.99

 

     

 

1

1953

Yogi

Berra

30.39

2

1953

Roy

Campanella

28.93

3

1953

Sammy

White

16.58

4

1953

Smoky

Burgess

15.56

5

1953

Sherm

Lollar

15.44

 

     

 

1

1954

Yogi

Berra

31.47

2

1954

Roy

Campanella

20.45

3

1954

Smoky

Burgess

18.50

4

1954

Sammy

White

16.91

5

1954

Stan

Lopata

16.11

 

     

 

1

1955

Yogi

Berra

27.97

2

1955

Roy

Campanella

24.21

3

1955

Stan

Lopata

19.45

4

1955

Smoky

Burgess

19.33

5

1955

Sherm

Lollar

17.25

 

     

 

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1956

Yogi

Berra

29.36

2

1956

Stan

Lopata

22.84

3

1956

Sherm

Lollar

18.80

4

1956

Ed

Bailey

17.96

5

1956

Gus

Triandos

17.73

 

     

 

1

1957

Yogi

Berra

25.90

2

1957

Sherm

Lollar

18.17

3

1957

Stan

Lopata

17.78

4

1957

Ed

Bailey

17.68

5

1957

Gus

Triandos

16.93

 

     

 

1

1958

Yogi

Berra

24.45

2

1958

Sherm

Lollar

19.15

3

1958

Del

Crandall

18.13

4

1958

Gus

Triandos

17.97

5

1958

Ed

Bailey

17.17

 

     

 

1

1959

Yogi

Berra

23.15

2

1959

Sherm

Lollar

18.18

3

1959

Del

Crandall

17.99

4

1959

Gus

Triandos

16.79

5

1959

Smoky

Burgess

16.30

 

     

 

1

1960

Yogi

Berra

19.21

2

1960

Elston

Howard

17.87

3

1960

Del

Crandall

17.72

4

1960

Ed

Bailey

16.43

5

1960

John

Romano

16.36

 

 

 

 

 

              One thing I love about doing this is watching the players rotate onto and off of the lists.   Yogi gets onto the list in 1948 with Walker Cooper and Jim Hegan; gradually Hegan and Cooper are replaced by Seminick and Sherm Lollar, gradually Seminick is replaced by Ed Bailey and Del Crandall and Gus Triandos.   The list never or very rarely changes completely; it carries forward names for a few years or occasionally for a long time, so that you could easily make a shared-the-list chain connecting Mike Grady to Gus Triandos.   That is something we love about baseball which is impossible to explain to a person who isn’t a fan, watching the generations share the field and then replace one another.  

 

18.  Fourth Stage Explanation of the Process

              Yogi Berra by 1960 was a shadow of his former self, his defensive skills mostly gone and his still-potent bat limited to a smaller number of games, but he was still the #1 catcher in baseball because nobody else had yet arisen to take his place.   People who didn’t know baseball and didn’t care about baseball still knew Yogi Berra—and not merely for the malapropisms which later dominated his image, but as a complex and lovable figure.  He had transcended baseball to become part of the culture. 

              1960 was the last year I have him rated #1, and that may be one year too long, but it is a fortunate time because we need to take a break there and explain about expansion.  

              When there were 16 teams we credited the top catchers with a total of 24 points—10 for first place, 7 for second, 4 for third, 2 for fourth, 1 for fifth.   That’s 1.50 points per team.  In order to be fair to the players of later generations we need to maintain that average of 1.50 points per team, while continuing to recognize one player for each three teams, rounded down, and giving no player more than 10 points for his rank in a season. 

              In 1961, when there are 18 teams, that means 27 points.   We will award points for 1961 as 10-7-4-3-2-1; that is, 10 points for ranking first, 7 for ranking 2nd, 4 for ranking 3rd, 3 for ranking 4th, 2 for 5th, and 1 for 6th.   It’s a total of 27 points, or 1.500 per team. 

              From 1962 to 1968, when there were 20 teams, that means 30 points.  We will award points in that era as 10-8-5-4-2-1 (10 for first, 8 for 2nd, 5 for 3rd, 4 for 4th, 2 for 5th, 1 for 6th.)

              From 1969 to 1975, when there were 24 teams, that means 36 points.  We will award points in that era as 10-8-6-4-3-2-1-1 (10 for 1st, 8 for 2nd, 6 for 3rd, 4 for 4th, 3 for 5th, 2 for 6th, 1 for 7th, 1 for 8th.)

              From 1976 to 1992, when there were 26 teams, that means 39 points.  We will award points in that era as 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1-1 (10 for 1st, 8 for 2nd, 6 for 3rd, 5 for 4th, 3 for 5th, 2 for 6th, 1 for 7th, 1 for 8th.)

              From 1993 to 1997, when there were 28 teams, that means 42 points.  We will award points in that era as 10-8-7-6-4-3-2-1-1 (10 for 1st, 8th for 2nd, 7 for 3rd, 6 for 4th, 4 for 5th, 3 for 6th, 2 for 7th, 1 for 8th, 1 for 9th.)

              From 1998 to the present, when there are 30 teams, that means 45 points.  We will award points in that era as 10-8-7-6-5-4-2-1-1-1 (10 for 1st, 8 for 2nd, 7 for 3rd, 6 for 4th, 5 for 5th, 4 for 6th, 2 for 7th, 1 for 8th, 1 for 9th, 1 for 10th.)

              Also in 1961 and from 1961 to the present, since teams began playing 162 games, we began figuring "injury credits" or replacement games based on 162 games, rather than 154.   That is, if a player had an established games played level of 140.00 in 1960, we would project his established Win Shares Level into 147 games, giving him half credit for the games that he is missing, whereas if he has the same level in 1961, we would project his established Win Shares Level into 151 games. 

 

19.  The Elston Howard Years

              Yogi Berra had several quite famous backups.   In this era teams carried three catchers.   Yogi’s two backups for several years were Charlie Silvera, who was probably a quality catcher but who rarely got on the field, and Ralph Houk, who was the kind of guy that teams liked to have on the roster and who rarely had to do anything as a player.   Yogi also ran off four or five young catchers who went to other teams and became top-rank catchers, among these Sherm Lollar and Gus Triandos. 

              Yogi’s last backup was Elston Howard.   Bill Dickey, who had trained Yogi to be his replacement, was still on hand and trained Elston as well, and then also the Yankees hired Jim Hegan to tutor Howard, so Howard was exceptionally well mentored by Berra, Dickey and Hegan.   Being only four years younger than Yogi, a little less than four years younger than Yogi, he didn’t get into the lineup as a regular until he was 32 years old, but when he did he was the best catcher in baseball, and he was a true number one.  He was a great player from 1961 to 1964:

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1961

Elston

Howard

26.21

2

1961

John

Romano

21.44

3

1961

Earl

Battey

19.60

4

1961

John

Roseboro

16.57

5

1961

Smoky

Burgess

15.86

6

1961

Ed

Bailey

15.38

 

     

 

1

1962

Elston

Howard

25.46

2

1962

John

Romano

21.26

3

1962

Earl

Battey

19.94

4

1962

Johnny

Edwards

17.03

5

1962

John

Roseboro

16.40

6

1962

Smoky

Burgess

15.40

 

     

 

1

1963

Elston

Howard

28.32

2

1963

Earl

Battey

22.15

3

1963

Joe

Torre

21.37

4

1963

Johnny

Edwards

20.41

5

1963

Gene

Oliver

16.60

6

1963

Tom

Haller

16.54

 

     

 

1

1964

Elston

Howard

26.76

2

1964

Joe

Torre

25.82

3

1964

Bill

Freehan

21.82

4

1964

Tom

Haller

20.29

5

1964

Johnny

Edwards

20.20

6

1964

Earl

Battey

18.61

             

              We’re listing the top six here because there are 18 teams in 1961 and 20 teams beginning in 1962.   Divide that by three, round down.    In the earlier version of these rankings, which I had prepared for posting but did not post, I had John Romano ranked as the #1 catcher of 1962.   Romano was a tremendous player for a couple of years, but I’m glad I made the switch. 

 

20.  The Torre-Freehan Era

              Joe Torre was in the Spud Davis-Rudy York-Ted Simmons-Mike Piazza mold as a catcher, a great hitter but not a complete defensive catcher.  For a few years Torre, McCarver and Bill Freehan were the best catchers in baseball:

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1965

Joe

Torre

25.36

2

1965

Tom

Haller

20.77

3

1965

Tim

McCarver

19.97

4

1965

Bill

Freehan

19.04

5

1965

Earl

Battey

17.52

6

1965

Johnny

Edwards

16.96

 

     

 

1

1966

Joe

Torre

26.51

2

1966

Tom

Haller

23.05

3

1966

Tim

McCarver

22.25

4

1966

Bill

Freehan

21.90

5

1966

John

Bateman

16.47

6

1966

John

Roseboro

15.86

 

     

 

1

1967

Bill

Freehan

27.51

2

1967

Tim

McCarver

25.45

3

1967

Tom

Haller

23.15

4

1967

Joe

Torre

22.01

5

1967

Randy

Hundley

17.90

6

1967

John

Roseboro

13.84

 

     

 

1

1968

Bill

Freehan

29.82

2

1968

Tom

Haller

24.63

3

1968

Johnny

Bench

23.16

4

1968

Joe

Torre

20.95

5

1968

Tim

McCarver

19.03

6

1968

Duke

Sims

17.67

 

 

 

 

 

 

              Joe Torre has now been elected to the Hall of Fame in part or in the whole based on his accomplishments as a manager.  It was always my opinion that Torre should have been selected as a player. 

              Freehan, like Elston Howard, was not a great player for a long enough period of time to be a Hall of Famer, but he was a true #1, rather than a default #1, for a few years.   

 

21.   The Johnny Bench Years

              Johnny Bench was the best catcher in baseball from 1969 to 1976, arguably longer than that:

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1969

Johnny

Bench

27.35

2

1969

Bill

Freehan

24.70

3

1969

Tom

Haller

19.69

4

1969

Duke

Sims

18.01

5

1969

Dick

Dietz

16.72

6

1969

Tim

McCarver

16.72

7

1969

Randy

Hundley

15.97

8

1969

Manny

Sanguillen

14.94

 

     

 

1

1970

Johnny

Bench

30.74

2

1970

Joe

Torre

26.43

3

1970

Dick

Dietz

24.82

4

1970

Thurman

Munson

23.29

5

1970

Bill

Freehan

22.64

6

1970

Manny

Sanguillen

20.34

7

1970

Tom

Haller

16.66

8

1970

Ray

Fosse

15.78

 

     

 

1

1971

Johnny

Bench

26.84

2

1971

Bill

Freehan

23.47

3

1971

Manny

Sanguillen

22.54

4

1971

Thurman

Munson

21.80

5

1971

Earl

Williams

20.48

6

1971

Ted

Simmons

20.04

7

1971

Dick

Dietz

19.73

8

1971

Ray

Fosse

17.70

 

     

 

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1972

Johnny

Bench

32.91

2

1972

Carlton

Fisk

29.79

3

1972

Earl

Williams

23.12

4

1972

Ted

Simmons

23.07

5

1972

Bill

Freehan

22.68

6

1972

Thurman

Munson

21.98

7

1972

Manny

Sanguillen

19.93

8

1972

Ray

Fosse

15.96

 

     

 

1

1973

Johnny

Bench

29.93

2

1973

Ted

Simmons

25.88

3

1973

Thurman

Munson

23.26

4

1973

Joe

Ferguson

21.33

5

1973

Earl

Williams

20.54

6

1973

Carlton

Fisk

20.51

7

1973

Bill

Freehan

19.11

8

1973

Manny

Sanguillen

18.09

 

     

 

1

1974

Johnny

Bench

31.97

2

1974

Ted

Simmons

24.01

3

1974

Thurman

Munson

21.11

4

1974

Carlton

Fisk

18.79

5

1974

Manny

Sanguillen

18.02

6

1974

Earl

Williams

17.23

7

1974

Joe

Ferguson

16.54

8

1974

Darrell

Porter

16.37

 

     

 

Rank

YEAR

First

Last

Value

1

1975

Johnny

Bench

29.50

2

1975

Gene

Tenace

28.47

3

1975

Ted

Simmons

26.10

4

1975

Thurman

Munson

22.94

5

1975

Manny

Sanguillen

20.11

6

1975

Carlton

Fisk

19.89

7

1975

Darrell

Porter

18.18

8

1975

Bill

Freehan

14.94

 

     

 

1

1976

Johnny

Bench

24.62

2

1976

Ted

Simmons

24.40

3

1976

Carlton

Fisk

23.76

4

1976

Thurman

Munson

23.25

5

1976

Butch

Wynegar

16.77

6

1976

Manny

Sanguillen

15.56

7

1976

Bob

Boone

15.43

8

1976

Jim

Sundberg

14.87

 

 

 

 

 

The odd thing is that Johnny Bench had a very good year in 1977, hitting .275 with 31 homers, 109 RBI, but nonetheless slipped from first to fourth in the catcher rankings.  There are two reasons for this:

              1)  Bench had a poor year in 1976 after he had surgery to remove a potentially cancerous growth; the surgeons had to cut through some shoulder muscles, and it effected his play.   Prior to 1976 Bench had a wide lead over the other catchers, but the off season in 1976 gave away almost all of his lead, and left him in a more vulnerable position.

              2)  While Bench had a good year in 1977, both Ted Simmons and Carlton Fisk had much better years, both hitting well over .300 with power.

 

 

 

 

(This article was supposed to be up the first thing this morning; apparently I screwed up the posting process.   Sorry.)

 
 

COMMENTS (16 Comments, most recent shown first)

wilbur
"For a few years Torre, McCarver and Bill Freehan were the best catchers in baseball"

During those years another catcher ranked, in order
#2
#2
#3
#2

Before those years in reverse order, this catcher was
#4
#6
Immediately after those years, he was
#3

Why no love for Tom Haller?


4:10 PM Dec 15th
 
wovenstrap
1. Amazing that Munson couldn't crack the top 3 catchers in a year he won the MVP.

2. On Torre's good-hit/no-field skills, is there a passing resemblance there to Gary Sanchez there? (Poor Sanchez, right now you can't mention the words "not a great fielding catcher" without immediately flashing to him. Oh well.)
4:24 PM Dec 13th
 
DavidHNix
Smokey's arm --

From the Smokey Burgess page in the SABR bio project:

"As a jeep driver in Germany the vehicle Burgess was driving ran off the road and rolled over three times, smashing his right, throwing, shoulder in the process. When he returned to the minors his arm was still so damaged that he could barely throw a ball back to the pitcher and he was moved from behind home plate to the outfield. Even after the arm healed enough for him to return to catching, Burgess routinely ranked among the league leaders in stolen bases allowed."
12:41 PM Dec 13th
 
MarisFan61
Kaiser: I know that you put a lot of weight on "WAR"-related data, sometimes seemingly all your weight. I guess that's the main difference in how we see it.
5:35 PM Dec 12th
 
danfeinstein
Seems that the links I tried to put in for Smokey and Yogi's SB & CS numbers are broken. Sorry, but I don't know how to fix them - I'll assume user error on my part. The links are supposed to go the the baseballreference.com pages for each and, once there, if you scroll down to the defensive numbers, the SB, CS and league norms are listed on the far right.
5:11 PM Dec 12th
 
KaiserD2
MarisFan, I show Yogi at .9 WAA for 1948, which I consider marginal. Basegall-Reference gives him 1 WAA, .1 more. As I said, that was probably good enough to get him on the All Star team among catchers that year. That may indeed have been better than anyone else on the team beyond Joe D and Henrich, although Johnny Lindell was better, according to b-r. (I don't have the energy to rerun the numbers for that whole Yankee team right now.) But that's because of the utter mediocrity or worse of the rest of the lineup. It doesn't make him a star.
DK
4:55 PM Dec 12th
 
Marc Schneider
I thought Bench's cancer surgery was in 1972 after he hit the home run in the 9th inning of the NLCS to help the Reds win it. As I recall, there was talk at the time about him hitting the homer despite there having been a mass found on his lung. But maybe it wasn't cancerous. Was there another cancer surgery in 1976?
3:50 PM Dec 12th
 
danfeinstein
For his career, Burgess threw out 213 runners attempting to steal and allowed 372 successful thieveries for a 36% rate. The league norm was 40% so he was somewhat under the average. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/burgesm01.shtml Yogi threw out 49% against 45% league norm. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/berrayo01.shtml
3:47 PM Dec 12th
 
astros34
Disregard my previous comment. You actually covered it briefly and I missed it. Sorry.
2:24 PM Dec 12th
 
astros34
I don't know if it matters but the AL is the only league that changed to 162 games in 1961. The NL didn't expand until 1962 and that's when they changed to 162 games.
2:23 PM Dec 12th
 
bjames
Wish I had time to confirm this with data, but I think Burgess also turned out to be shockingly good at defending against the stolen base, once we finally got data on that. I only remember him as an older player with a poor defensive rep. . .but a wonderful, cheerful player who could just flat out hit.
1:30 PM Dec 12th
 
bhalbleib
One of my favorite might have been great catchers is on your list quite a few times in the 50s.

A comparison of the might have been (MHB) great catcher and a was great (WG) catcher whose careers ran roughly for the same amount of seasons in opposite leagues:
Vs. RHP
MHB: .297/.366/.454
WG: .285/.349/.493

The difference between Smoky Burgess and Yogi Berra? Apparently, someone decided early on that Smoky couldn't hit lefties and Yogi could. Burgess was destined to be a platoon player and then pinch-hitter (858 plate appearances against lefties, .272/.326/.408) ,while Yogi went out to play every day. (2240 plate appearances against lefties, .278/.340/.440)​
12:37 PM Dec 12th
 
MarisFan61
Kaiser: Interesting about Yogi and those last 7 weeks of 1948 (which is confirmed by the game log). But, you're mistaken in saying he was "a marginally above average player overall that year."

Some data:
497 plate appearances, 24 doubles, 10 triples (interesting, eh?), 14 HR, 98 RBI.
.305/.341/.488
OPS+ 120
Made the all star team
Some MVP points (and btw he had some the prior year too, in fact was 15th)
10th in the league in slugging
9th in the league in Base-Out Wins Added (whatever that is) :-)
Win Shares: 18 (not a great total but very good), 3rd on Yanks behind DiMaggio, Henrich

8:37 AM Dec 12th
 
KaiserD2
There is an interesting sentence in this essay which bears very much on the issue of whether to evaluate people based on what was known at a particular moment, or on what we know now.

That sentence is, "In 1948 Yogi Berra and Roy Campanella emerged as the best catchers in baseball." It is, in fact, a very powerful piece of evidence that we should NOT try to evaluate people based on what was known at the time.

I will leave Roy Campanella out of this discussion--except to note that he played only 83 games that year, and according to baseball-reference.com, was a totally average hitter. We now now, yes, that there weren't any other catchers in the NL in 1948 who would turn out to be remotely as good as Roy Campanella--and there may not have been any that year who were as good. But how good he was was certainly not clear yet.

As for Yogi, the case is more interesting, and here I'm relying on my earlier book, Epic Season: The 1948 American League Pennant Race.

Now Yogi, who was a marginally above average player overall that year in 125 games, might have been the best player who caught a significant number of games in the AL that year; certainly there was no one substantially better. But there's a catch. Yogi at the end of 1948 wasn't regarded as a promising catcher; his manager, Bucky Harris, had decided that Yogi wasn't good enough behind the plate to catch for the Yankees in the last seven weeks of one of the great pennant races of all time. Yogi had had some trouble with the AL umpires during the season, pitchers hadn't been doing especially well with him behind the plate lately, and on Saturday, August 15, Harris took Yogi from behind the plate and moved him to right field. He remained there for the rest of the season, platooning for some of September with a right-handed rookie named Hank Bauer. (Tommy Henrich, who had the year of his life in 1948, meanwhile moved to first base.)

Casey Stengel deserves credit for making Yogi the number 1 catcher again in 1949, even though Berra, like every other Yankee standout that year except Phil Rizzuto, missed a substantial portion of that year with injuries. In 1950, of course, he became YOGI BERRA.

David Kaiser
7:59 AM Dec 12th
 
JohnPontoon
Two abilities are demonstrated here: 1. The ability to understand when (and how) one has been wrong; and 2. The conviction and integrity to own up to having been incorrect. Those two things are, it seems to me, two excellent fundaments of wisdom. I'll have to remember to slip that into my son's syllabus of How To Live Life.
6:16 AM Dec 12th
 
MarisFan61
(I put a comment like this in the first posting of this article, but I see it's gone, so....)

I love that you were willing to revise the method in mid-stream. I wish more researchers in all fields were open to it, although I realize that in some areas, like probably most scientific research, it wouldn't fly. (Most of the time I think they'd have to just start a new study with the revised method.)

Also: I hope (and sort of assume?) that in due course you'll be addressing some of what was asked under the other articles, like about how it could be that Mike Grady came out so high.
10:38 PM Dec 11th
 
 
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