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Ted Williams

In 1959, at the age of 40 and in 103 games, Ted Williams OPS(plus) was 114 - the lowest of his career.

Anybody care to guess what his next lowest figure was.

Re: Ted Williams

168

(No Asher I did NOT check)

Re: Ted Williams

144?

Re: Ted Williams

It's higher than 144 lower than 168.

Re: Ted Williams

160. As a 20 year old rookie.

I'm sure I had seen that before, but, wow. His career never ceases to amaze me.

Re: Ted Williams

Where would you rank him among your top 10, Tom?

Re: Ted Williams

I don't know.

If there is a gap between he and Ruth as hitters, I believe it is very small, and I don't really think anyone else is close.

Notes about his career hitting stats:

-Highest OBP of all time (.482). Ruth is second.
-Led league in OBP every year of his career, except his rookie year.
-He OBP'd 126 points (or 35%) higher than the league average during his career. Both are the highest all time. Ruth is second in both.
-Offensive win % of .857(!) is second only to Ruth's .858. Next highest is .815.
-Second highest OPS of all time (Ruth)
-Second highest OPS(plus) of all time (Ruth)
-Second highest SLG of all time (Ruth)

Basically, Williams was better at getting on base, while Ruth hit for more power. Ruth has a bigger lead in power than Williams does in reaching base, but reaching base is more important. I believe the gap in power is big enough to offset Williams' lead in OBP, but not by much. Clearly, when you add in baserunning, fielding, and pitching, Ruth is the superior player, but I think Williams was very nearly as good as Ruth while standing in the batter's box. (I also believe it was easier to outdistance your peers in Ruth's day, which would be a point in Williams' favor).

As for his spot in a ranking? Clearly, he's no better than two. At this point, we have to consider whether to rank Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby higher, based on defensive/baserunning value. Without getting too long winded, I would probably say no on Hornsby and maybe/yes on Cobb.

I would probably slip Walter Johnson ahead of him (if for no other reason than I don't think the best four players of all time should/could all be hitters.

So:

1. Ruth
2. Johnson
3. Cobb
4. Williams
5. Hornsby
6. Honus Wagner
7. Mickey Mantle
8. Barry Bonds
9. Lou Gehrig
10. Stan Musial

I'm not entirely comfortable with the notion that nine of the 10 best players of all time are position players, but that's the conclusion I came to. Cy Young and Roger Clemens would be coming up soon in the low teens, I would imagine.

One last note:
Generally, if I can't break a tie, I would tend to go with the player that I believe played against the better competition. For this reason, I have my reservations about placing Cobb ahead of Williams, but I think he did earn it with his huge advantages in baserunning and defense. I guess the point is - I think Williams and Cobb are pretty close together.

Re: Ted Williams

Now I'm having second thoughts about Mantle. If you wanted to flip him with Honus Wagner, I wouldn't argue.

Re: Ted Williams

Ok, I can't stop thinking about it. Maybe Bonds should be above Wagner also:

6. Mantle
7. Bonds
8. Wagner

Or:

6. Bonds
7. Mantle
8. Wagner

Or maybe Willie Mays or Hank Aaron should be ahead of Musial.

I don't know - I have to stop now.

Re: Ted Williams

Not an attempt to devalue Williams here or anything but he didn't lead the league in OBP in '59. He didn't lead in '60 either but that was just for lack of PA. In '59 his .372 mark wouldn't have been close even if he'd had enough PA.

Re: Ted Williams

Addictive, isn't it?

I would say that if competitive difficulty is something that you consider, Bonds should be closer to #2 than #8 and certainly ahead of Williams.

Re: Ted Williams

Yeah, I know. Or #1 (maybe).

I wouldn't use it to change the rankings too much, but I would use it as a tiebreaker.

No, the first thing I mentioned about it being easier for Ruth to dominate the competition wasn't really a quality of competition issue - it was a statistical one.

Basically, I mean there's an upper limit to how well anyone can perform, and Ruth, Williams, and Bonds are (as far as we know) all near that limit. It's fun to say that Ruth hit more HRs than all but one team, but that's simply not possible today, and I don't think that's Williams' or Bonds' fault.

Overall, the league-wide hitting stats were the highest during Williams' era (and park) - higher than Ruth or Bonds. If we're comparing rates (OBP, SLG) or counting stats between the three, that would mean Williams would have to do a little better to be on equal footing (and he does lead Bonds in both OBP and SLG and Ruth in OBP). However, one of the things we do is compare them to their own leagues (on a % basis) with OPS(plus), or something like that. In that case, it was probably easier to record an OPS(plus) of 191 in Ruth's or Bonds' time (starting from a lower place) than it was in Williams time (quality of competition aside). As the league averages approach absolute maximums (or minimums, in the case of ERA), it's harder to record numbers above (or below) them. It's not a huge factor here, but as you compute something like OPS(plus), it's worth noting.

I will say, though: I went back and checked, and the league averages weren't as low over the course of Ruth's career as I would have guessed, so it's really not much of an issue at all. They're just a tick lower than the league averages during Williams' career.

The place where this becomes a stronger issue is comparing the peaks of Koufax and Pedro. I believe Pedro was better, but I think the ERA(plus) is a little misleading in his favor.

Re: Ted Williams

I'd say any ranking of Bonds is going to be highly subjectively based on that person's feeling regarding how much Bonds benefitted from PEDs.

Re: Ted Williams

Thank you for articulating that, Tom. That is a problem I've had with Lefty Grove's ERA-plus for the past five years. Still a fantastic pitcher, but while his ERA would no doubt be much better in any other era, his ERA-plus would likely be a little worse.

Re: Ted Williams

Yeah. I think it would probably be better if they used standard deviations, rather than % for the "plus" stats.

Obviously, the % comparisons are useful, I just think they break down when you're comparing an year/park combination where the average ERA is 5.07 (Fenway, 2000) to one where the average is 2.99 (Dodger Stadium, 1963). In the higher scoring environments, you just have a lot more room before your ERA starts getting squeezed upwards by the aboslute minimum (zero).

There have been 32 seasons since 1901 in which a pitcher has qualified for the ERA title and posted an ERAplus above 200. They're distributed like this:

1900's: 9
1910's: 6
1920's: 1
1930's: 1
1940's: 0
1950's: 1
1960's: 1
1970's: 1
1980's: 1
1990's: 7
2000's: 4

Does anyone really think that 11 of the best 17 pitching years since 1920 were in the 90's or 2000's?

Also, for the 15 guys in the 1900's and 1910's, they averaged .67 unearned runs per ER. Those after 1920 averaged .18. So I would take some of the pre-1920 seasons with a grain of salt.

Re: Ted Williams

That actually contradicts the point. We would excpect the 20s and 30s to feature more >200 ERAplus seasons than the 00s and 10s.

Also, unearned runs didn't just stop in 1920, as you misleadingly conclude. The difference in them from the 00s and 10s to the 90s and 2000s is extreme, but historically, they have fallen in a fairly steady manner, similar to the increase in fielding percentage, obviously.

Check out the graphs found at the bottom of this page under Fielding Stats.

Re: Ted Williams

I'm not sure how illustrative this is, but here is the OPSplus >200 distribution by decade:

1900s: 3
1910s: 4
1920s: 12
1930s: 7
1940s: 5
1950s: 4
1960s: 3
1970s: 0
1980s: 1
1990s: 5
2000s: 5

George Brett, 1980 is the only player to do it between 1970-1991. Impressive.

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