Thursday, July 23, 2015

1883 NL

The NL now had to share the major league stage with the AA, and it began to take act accordingly. Some combination of league “persuasion” and financial difficulty chased Troy and Worcester from the league. In their place, the NL returned to the two cities whose clubs were expelled after 1876, New York and Philadelphia. The two circuits would thus have their first head-to-head city battles.

Abraham Mills became the fourth president of the NL. According to Harold Seymour, one of his actions was to remove the team names from the official letterhead, as they tended to change so often. More significant changes were the expansion of the schedule to 98 games, switching to the Reach ball, eliminating first bound foul outs once and for all, and allowing the umpire to call for a new ball to be put in play at any time. These innovations were not copied by the upstart Association, with the exception of the expanded schedule.

Notable individual feats during the season included Monte Ward, now of New York, becoming the first pitcher to hit two homers in on game on May 3; Hoss Radbourn’s (PRO) 8-0 no-hitter against Cleveland on July 25 and One Arm Daily’s (CLE) 1-0 no-hitter versus hapless Philadelphia on September 13.

On May 30 (Memorial Day or Decoration Day or whatever it was called at the time), the NL tried a couple of two-city doubleheaders; Cleveland lost 3-1 at Boston, then won 5-2 at Providence. Taking their place was Buffalo, which started with a 4-2 loss in Providence and took the broom for the day as they lost 2-1 in Boston.

The pennant race was very competitive, with four teams in the mix. On July 7, Providence led the way at 33-16; Cleveland was two games back, but actually led by one in the loss column (30-15). Boston and defending champ Chicago were running third and fourth respectively. By August 20, Cleveland had the lead at 45-27 with Providence second. However, Cleveland lost two to Chicago and Providence two to Boston, bringing them right back into the hunt. The Reds went on to win six straight, but the Grays ended their streak and added another win in the first two of a series in Rhode Island. The third game on September 8 matched up the aces--Hoss Radbourn for the Grays and Jim Whitney for the Reds. Providence took the lead in the top of the eleventh, but Boston countered with two for a 4-3 win.

From that point on, Boston was in command, taking thirteen of fourteen and wrapping up the flag with a 4-1 victory over Cleveland on September 27. The final margin was four over the White Stockings, five over the Grays, and seven and a half over the Blues.

Perhaps Mills should have ordered some more stationary, as all eight clubs would be back. Peace with the AA came as well, but the tenuous new alliance would be tested immediately.


The NL continued to boast fine competitive balance with the exception of Philadelphia. The actual records were pretty close to what the runs scored and allowed would suggest.


The Reds (who according to Nemec were also being referred to as the Beaneaters around this time, all informally of course) won their third NL pennant, pulling to within one of Chicago for the lead. It was a mild surprise as they were third and ten back in 1882, needing to pass both the White Stockings and their New England rivals, the Grays.

Rookies Mike Hines and Paul Radford were serviceable, while Edgar Smith was also a rookie but really was only the nominal regular in center field. He played thirty games in the outfield but Jim Whitney played forty, being used as a regular when not pitching for the first time. While his ARG was down a bit, the extra playing time made his bat more valuable and he had a better year pitching (his best so far in fact).

Rookie hurler Charlie Buffinton gave Boston a pair of good pitchers, something they had not had since two pitchers had become the norm. The duo’s combined WAR of over ten paced the circuit.

John Morrill was replaced by Jack Burdock as manager mid-season. Meanwhile, Arthur Soden was operating behind the scenes. He had claimed for a few years that the team’s profits needed to be reinvested to improve the club, but after he continued to sing that tune after the pennant, many of the shareholders gave in and sold out.


The White Stockings kept their three-time pennant winning lineup largely intact; they cast off Hugh Nicol, shifted King Kelly back to the outfield, slid Tom Burns over to shortstop, and brought in Fred Pfeffer from Troy to play second.

If the second place finish must be laid at the feet of anyone, the previously brilliant pitching duo of Corcoran and Goldsmith would be the prime culprits. While they were still above average, they were now overshadowed by the Whitney/Buffinton duo in Boston and the Radbourn/replacement level #2 in Providence.

The White Stockings hammered Detroit 26-6 on September 6 on the strength of a record setting 18 runs in the seventh inning.


The Grays continued to close the gap on Chicago; since winning the 1879 flag, they had finished 15 behind Chicago, then nine, three, and finally one. Unfortunately for them, that meant a third place finish in 1883.

The team brought in three regulars from the defunct franchises; Arthur Irwin and Lee Richmond (the team’s #3 pitcher with 94 innings) from Worchester and John Cassidy from Troy. Rookie Cliff Carroll shared left with Richmond, and rookie Charlie Sweeney turned in a replacement-level performance as the #2 pitcher. With Radbourn earning his “Hoss” moniker by tossing 632 innings with the league’s best ARA, that was adequate enough.

There were rumors late in the summer that the club’s board of directors was going to close shop and instead shift their sporting interests to harness racing. Instead, perhaps due to displeasure over the supposed scheme, they voted to distribute the profits, then resigned. Providence would continue as a member of the National League.


The Blues picked up Bushong and Evans from Worcester, Daily from Buffalo, York from Providence, and Hotaling from Boston (he had played for Cleveland in 1880 as a rookie). They managed to get into contention largely on the strength of their brilliant keystone combo of Dunlap and Glasscock, both of whom I see as the all-star at their position for 1881-1883.

Had they combined the pitching they had boasted in previous years with this offense, they may have done more than just contend. Jim McCormick’s workload plummeted from 596 to 342 innings despite the expanded schedule (although his ARA held steady at 86). Neither One Arm Daily nor nineteen year old Will Sawyer, in his only big league campaign, contributed any value.

The Blues visited the White House in April. President Chester Arthur spoke to them, advising that “good ballplayers make good citizens”.


The Bisons finished with the same W% (.536) that they had in 1882. This is not too surprising as they returned all their regulars except Blondie Purcell (now with Philly) and One Arm Daily (Cleveland). However, Curry Foley was sidelined with various maladies of the joints, and only got 115 PA. Rookie Jim Lillie took his place in center field (see Brian McKenna’s thread on Foley at Baseball-Fever for more).

A profit of $5,000 was turned, which they put towards a new ballpark that, according to Phil Lowry in Green Cathedrals, cost $6,000. The team also wore new blue uniforms this season; ace Pud Galvin objected on the grounds that they made him look fat. No, Pud, the fat made you look fat.


The Gothams were controlled by John Day and Jim Mutrie, who also controlled the Metropolitans, the formerly independent and now AA club. Some players were shifted from the Mets to the Gothams, but around half of the New York regulars had played in the NL in 1882.

The top source of players was Troy, from whence came Ewing, Connor, Gillespie, and Welch (Hankinson and Caskin had last seen NL action with the Trojans in 1881). Dasher Troy came from Detroit (Dorgan had last played in the league with the Wolverines in 1881), Monte Ward from Providence, and Tip O’Neill was the lone rookie on the team. Given their wealth of experience for a first-year club, it is not surprising that they finished a respectable 46-50.

John Clapp was the manager of the team; he was also a reserve catcher (78 PA). This would make the end of Clapp’s remarkable major league career in which he managed six different teams all for one season each: the Mansfields of Middletown, CT in 1872; then, for four straight years beginning in 1878, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and Cleveland; and finally the 1883 New Yorks.

The team’s debut, which was the first NL game ever played in New York City (the 1876 Mutuals actually played in Brooklyn which was a separate municipality at the time), was a 7-5 victory over eventual pennant winner Boston. The crowd included ex-President Ulysses S. Grant.


The Wolverines were mired near the bottom of the heap again; they had slipped to sixth and now seventh after an encouraging fourth in their inaugural campaign. Sam Trott, a reserve in 1882, moved into the lineup, and they regained the services of Sadie Houck who had not played in 1882. Tom Mansell split right field duties with rookie Dick Burns after having not played in the NL since 1879 with Syracuse. Burns and another rookie, Dupee Shaw, teamed up with Stump Wiedman as the primary pitchers.


It was a tough first year for the Phillies. The NL, seeking to get into Philadelphia where the AA’s Athletics had been a success, recruited Al Reach to back the team; he and partner Ben Shibe went in with lawyer John Rogers.

It may not be historically kosher, but I like to think of this club as the first expansion team in the modern sense. Most previous “expansions” had simply brought strong independent clubs into the circuit, but the Phillies included a group of castoffs and minor leaguers that more closely resembles modern expansion team composition. Their pathetic 17-81 record, worst in the NL since the league’s inaugural season (Cincinnati, 9-56) certainly doesn’t hurt the argument. They also used 29 players, a huge number for the time--the next highest was Buffalo with 18 and the median was 16.

Of the regulars, Ringo, Farrar, Coleman, and Hagan were rookies. The rest of the players (and last ML experience; 1882 if not listed): Gross (PRO, 1881), Ferguson (TRO), Warner (CLE, 1879), McClellan (PRO, 1881), Purcell (BUF), Harbidge (TRO), and Manning (BUF, 1881).

On Aguust 21, the Phillies were hammered 28-0 at Providence. Art Hagan was a Rhode Island native, and was left in to absorb the shellacking as the team did not want to disappoint the hometown fans that had come out to see him.

It was not a good year at the box office either, as the Athletics were reported to draw twice as many fans as any NL team and four times as many as the Phililies. Bob Ferguson quit as manager mid-season and was replaced by Blondie Purcell.

Leaders and trailers:
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.374)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (.357)
3. George Gore, CHN (.334)
Trailer: Doc Bushong, CLE (.172)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.397)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (.394)
3. George Gore, CHN (.377)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (.196)
Trailing non-pitcher: Doc Bushong, CLE (.198)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.572)
2. John Morrill, BSN (.525)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (.506)
Trailer: Doc Bushong, CLE (.195)
1. John Morrill, BSN (.243)
2. Charlie Bennett, DET (.240)
3. Dan Brouthers, BUF (.235)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (.048)
Trailing non-pitcher: Doc Bushong, CLE (.056)
1. Dan Brouthers, BUF (112)
2. Roger Connor, NYN (102)
3. Ezra Sutton, BSN (92)
4. George Gore, CHN (92)
5. Jim O’Rourke, BUF (91)
The expanded schedule enabled Brouthers and Connor to become the first National Leaguers to create an estimated 100 runs in a season.
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (194)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (191)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (189)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (159)
5. George Gore, CHN (157)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (45)
Trailing non-pitcher: Frank Ringo, PHI (53)
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (+4.5)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (+4.4)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (+4.2)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (+3.0)
5. George Gore, CHN (+2.7)
Trailer: Stump Wiedman, DET (-2.6)
Trailing non-pitcher: Davy Force, BUF (-2.0)
1. Fred Dunlap, CLE (+6.4)
2. Dan Brouthers, BUF (+5.4)
3. Roger Connor, NYN (+5.3)
4. Ezra Sutton, BSN (+4.8)
5. Buck Ewing, NYN (+4.4)
Trailer: John Humphries, NYN (-.9)
Humphries was the Gothams’ #2 catcher behind Ewing. He made 85 outs in 108 PA, hitting .112/.120/.121 and creating just one run. Another Gotham reserve, outfielder Gracie Pierce, is next on the trailing list, making 50 outs in 63 PA, hitting .081/.095/.113 and creating just one run.
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (72)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (74)
3. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (83)
4. Larry Corcoran, CHN (86)
5. Jim McCormick, CLE (86)
Trailer: Art Hagan, PHI (178)
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (+4.7)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (+3.4)
3. Pud Galvin, BUF (+2.1)
4. Larry Corcoran, CHN (+1.7)
5. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (+1.5)
Trailer: John Coleman, PHI (-7.5)
1. Hoss Radbourn, PRO (+8.1)
2. Jim Whitney, BSN (+7.8)
3. Charlie Buffinton, BSN (+2.8)
4. Pud Galvin, BUF (+2.2)
5. Monte Ward, NYN (+2.1)
Trailer: John Coleman, PHI (-5.6)

My all-star team:
C: Buck Ewing, NYN
1B: Dan Brouthers, BUF
2B: Fred Dunlap, CLE
3B: Ezra Sutton, BSN
SS: Jack Glasscock, CLE
LF: George Wood, DET
CF: George Gore, CHN
RF: Orator Shaffer, BUF
P: Hoss Radbourn, PRO
P: Jim Whitney, BSN
P: Charlie Buffinton, BSN
MVP: 2B Fred Dunlap, CLE
Rookie Hitter: C Mike Hines, BSN
Rookie Pitcher: Charlie Buffinton, BSN

I gave George Wood the nod in left field as he was close to the top in WAR (Tom York and Jim O’Rourke were in the mix as well), but Pete Palmer has him at +7 in the field, easily the best of those three. Again, the right fielders were a weak crop; Paul Hines, the runner-up in center field, was 1.7 WAR better than Shaffer.

The pitchers were the same pair as last season, but in reverse order. Radbourn led the league in ARA (meaning he was the most effective on a per inning basis) and tossed 632 innings, second only to Pud Galvin’s 656, an unbeatable combination even for Whitney’s bat. I also added a third spot as the AA averaged close to three 100 IP pitchers per team.

It was another very weak year for rookie hitters; while Mike Hines only put up a 70 ARG, I felt that being the catcher for a pennant-winning team should probably count for something--and it’s not as if he’s taking it away from a guy who had a great year (the top rookie hitter in WAR is Cliff Carroll, +.9 and also a below-average hitter).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Collapse, pt. 2

For the second time in three years, OSU baseball entered May in excellent position to secure the program's first NCAA tournament berth since 2009, projected as a #2 seed with an outside shot of earning a #1 and hosting a regional. For the second time in three years, it all came crashing down around hapless coach Greg Beals. This one was even tougher to swallow. In 2013, the crash mostly came in non-conference games against tough national opponents (Georgia Tech, Louisville, Oregon), and the Buckeyes still came close to a share of the Big Ten title. In 2015, OSU tumbled down the Big Ten standings, losing eight of their final nine conference games to fall to seventh in the league.

Despite this catastrophic failure, the stagnation of the program under Beals' stewardship, and the expiration of his inital contract, it appears as if Beals will be invited back for a sixth season leading the OSU baseball program. Under previous coach Bob Todd, the Buckeyes and Minnesota duked it out for conference supremacy, a veritable big two and little eight on the diamond. While Todd's program slipped a bit near the end of his tenure, he still made semi-annual NCAA appearances and captured a final regular season crown in 2009. Under Beals, OSU has clearly fallen behind at least Indiana, Illinois, and newcomers Nebraska and Maryland in the Big Ten pecking order.

The Big Ten got five teams into the NCAA Tournament: Indiana, Iowa, the forces of evil, Maryland, and Illinois, with the latter two winning their regionals. But the overall performance of conference teams only adds to the frustration for OSU supporters, as the Bucks finished 35-19 (.648), third in the Big Ten (Illinois led at 50-10, .833). In EW%, OSU was fifth at .636 (Illinois led at .783), and in PW% OSU was third at .643 (again, the Illini led at .748). OSU tied for fourth with 5.63 runs/game against a conference average of 5.36 and sixth with 4.22 RA/game against an average of 4.87.

OSU's offense was paced by its outfield, with the three primary starters ranking 1-2-3 on the team in RAA. Sophomore left fielder Ronnie Dawson took a step back from his debut campaign, but still hit .279/.357/.465, ranked second on the team with 7 longballs, and created 6.3 RG for +9 RAA. Classmate leadoff man and center fielder Troy Montgomery broke out in a big way, hitting .317/.424/.493 for 8.7 RG and +22 RAA. And senior right fielder Pat Porter played himself into being a fifteenth round pick of Houston with a bounceback .338/.414/.576, eleven homer, 9.4 RG, +25 RAA season that also saw him set the school's career triples record.

The platoon of senior catchers Aaron Gretz and Conor Sabanosh was fairly effective, with 176 and 189 PA respectively, Gretz created 6.1 runs/game and +5 RAA, Sabanosh 5.0 and +1, although it once again mystified this observer that Beals showed a degree favoritism towards Sabanosh in doling out playing time. First base was a major weakness. Jacob Bosiokovic missed most of the season, taking one option out of play. Junior Ryan Leffel struggled at the plate, hitting .211/.304/.267 for 3.3 RG and -4 RAA in 109 PA, while classmate Zach Ratcliff hit well (7.1 RG) in limited opportunities (64 PA). Eventually junior Troy Kuhn saw time at first after starting the season at the hot corner, and was Ohio's most productive infielder with 5.4 RG for +2 RAA in 187 PA.

After Kuhn shifted across, the diamond, junior second baseman Nick Sergakis moved to third. Sergakis did not reprise his strong 2014 campaign with a .250/.320/.330, 4.3 RG, -3 RAA season. Sophomore L Grant Davis plugged in at second, hitting .282/.320/.353, 4.7 RG, -1 RAA over 102 PA. And an early hot streak kept junior Craig Nennig from a third straight dismal offensive performance, but he still only hit .266/.327/.330 for 4.3 RG and -3 RAA.

There was no regular DH, so the only other Buckeye who got more than 50 PA was freshman outfielder Tre' Gantt, who showed promise with speed and a .311/.378/.351, 5.6 RG, +2 RAA performance over 85 PA--he should be a shoe-in for the vacant outfield spot. Freshman catcher/DH/pinch-hitter Jordan McDonough showed some gap power with six doubles in 41 PA (4.7 RG). Sophomore IF/C Jalen Washington and junior OF Jake Brobst served mostly in pinch-running roles, combining for just 37 PA.

OSU's starting pitching was solid, but that's about the strongest praise that can be offered. Sophomore lefty Tanner Tully was slotted as the #1 but not surprisingly took a big step back from his Freshman of the Year campaign with a 5.04 RA (and even more distressing 5.75 eRA) and -3 RAA over 75 innings. His strikeout rate ticked up from 5.1 to 5.3, which tells much of the story. Sophomore Travis Lakins moved into the rotation but was just average (4.78 RA for -1 RAA with a similar eRA in 96 innings), but clearly was the best mound prospect on the team and was draft eligible, signing with Boston after being a sixth round pick. Senior Ryan Riga was OSU's best pitcher and was drafted in the thirteen round by the White Sox after positing a 3.38 RA for +12 RAA over 97 innings).

Freshman Jacob Niggemeyer got the most mid-week starting assignments with seven, but will need to improve on a 4.09 RA, 5.35 eRA, and 4.1 K/9 performance to be a strong candidate for weekend starts in 2016. Redshirt freshman Adam Niemeyer worked in something of a long relief role, pitching 33 innings over 12 appearances (4 starts) with a 2.16 RA and 3.79 eRA for +9 RAA to rank second to Riga on the team. Junior lefty John Havird (3.58 RA, 4.17 eRA in 27 innings) will also be in that mix.

The Buckeye bullpen struggled immensely, particularly down the stretch and in the Big Ten Tournament. In the last regular season weekend at Indiana, the bullpen failed to hold a 4-3 eighth inning lead in the opener, then surrendered two runs with the game tied in the eighth in the finale. In the Tournament, closer Trace Dempsey yielded a two-out, two-strike homer in the opener against Iowa that turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 loss. Scarred by the experience, Beals stuck with his ace Riga in the eighth inning of a 2-2 elimination game against the Hoosiers; they struck for three and ended OSU's season, 5-3.

Dempsey's senior season saw him once again unable to catch his sophomore lightning in a bottle--he was average but not brilliant (4.46 RA, 3.98 eRA, +1 RAA, with 8.4 K/9 against 2.4 W/9, the latter a marked improvement from 4.9 in 2014). The rest of the pen was weakened by a late season injury to junior Jake Post, who was the best Buckeye reliever with a 3.03 RA, 4.05 eRA, +6 RAA over 29 innings. Freshman Seth Kinker pitched well (2.82 RA with similar eRA for +5 RAA, 7.7 K/1.2 W over 22 innings0 and marks a continuation of one of the few positives of Beals' style--a fondness for relievers with less than over-the-top deliveries. As the season progressed Kinker took some high leverage work away from redshirt freshman Kyle Michalik, who pitched better than his traditional stats might indicate, albeit in only 19 innings (5.21 RA but 2.92 eRA). Senior Michael Horejsei really only had his left-handedness to offer him as a key reliever, ranking second to Dempsey with 19 appearances but tossing just 14 1/3 innings with a 6.91 RA and 5.57 eRA. Redshirt sophomore Shea Murray came back from an arm injury to throw seven ineffective but exciting innings (7.04 RA, 4.7 W, 14.1 K); his stuff was good enough for Texas to take a flier on him in the 39th round.

As far as the state of the program goes, there's really nothing to be said that I haven't already. Perhaps one could credit Beals for some apparent development by offensive players (Montgomery in particular comes to mind), but his track record in that regard is still quite sketchy. The dreadful baserunning and bizarre infatuation with the runners at the corners, two out double steal show no sign of abating, the late season collapse is fast becoming a staple, and while a 35-20 record doesn't look so bad, Beals' five-year body of work is 159-125 (.560), the program's worst stretch of that length since 1986-1990 (.500), except for the overlapping 2010-2014 period (.543). The same holds true for conference play where Beals is 49-47 (.510). The six-year NCAA Tournament drought is the longest since OSU went eight years without qualifying 1983-1990. It's time for OSU to once again have a baseball program its football and basketball programs can be proud of, and it seems likely that someone other than Beals would be best positioned to make that happen.