Interesting Rarely Known Sports Facts/Tidbits Thread

HarleyQuinn

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Interesting. He made 216 PA from 1938-1940 (started pitching dominantly by 1939) and hit a pretty solid .316/.396/.358 in that span.

In my OOTP18 play through as GM/Manager of the Red Sox starting in 1941, I had a LF named Stan Spence whom I ended up making a "super sub" (for lack of a better term) since he was behind Ted Williams. From 1944-1948 he mostly had 100-200 PA but had OPS+ of 171, 125, 94, and 85.

I find stories of players like that mold simply fascinating. Darren Bragg was a guy who came to mind for me as that type. Never quite great with the bat but useful enough to play a role off the bench in the early 2000s.
 

alkeiper

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Spence IRL did quite well for himself. He was traded to the Washington Senators and became their regular center fielder, making four all star teams.

Another player I discovered through this process: Red Lucas. He was a starting pitcher for the Reds and Pirates, winning 157 career games with an above average ERA. He also pinch hit on his off days 505 times, hitting .281 over his career.
 

alkeiper

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Most casual fans are familiar with Herb Washington. In 1974, Charlie Finley employed a world class sprinter with no professional baseball experience to pinch run. Washington was completely fooled and picked off by Mike Marshall in the 1974 World Series.

https://youtu.be/vWb80Qz75bk

When you look at the A's of that era, it's amazing how far their pinch running fetish extended. From 1967-73 they had Allan Lewis, who made 139 pinch running appearances and batted 31 times. He logged all of 48 innings in the field. Blue Moon Odom, a starting pitcher, pinch ran over 100 times in this period as well. 1974 was the Herb Washington show. In 1975 they used Don Hopkins, who pinch ran 77 times and batted eight times. They also started using Matt Alexander who had a little more baseball skill and was allowed to bat and field occasionally. Alexander holds the MLB record for pinch running appearances with 271, 163 of those with the A's. Larry Lintz joins the team in 1976 and they're using him as a pinch runner as well. All those players were gone by 1978 so they made pinch running a team effort, 164 pinch runners used over the course of the season. On average a pinch runner every single game! By comparison the Yankees used 27 pinch runners that season.
 

HarleyQuinn

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In trying to figure out somewhat a timeline when "Closers" (in a sense, as relievers would throw a lot more innings well before the 1970s) and it's interesting stuff.

A guy named Clint Brown is credited with 18 Saves for the White Sox in 1937 & 1939, an era when 10-11 could lead the majors. Johnny Murphy of the Yankees may be the first unofficial 'Closer' putting up 62 Saves from 1939-1943 while routinely throwing 58-68 IP outside of 77.1 in 1941. His innings prior were the common 100-110 range but then it changed pretty hard. Worth mentioning that the Yankees for the next 2-3 Decades really were at the forefront of this late inning reliever style of pitcher (multiple guys with 16-19 Saves while throwing just 60-80 IP in a season).

It really wasn't until the late 1950s that the 'Closer' seemed to be coming more en vogue. From 1958-1962 for Pittsburgh, Roy Face had 99 Saves while averaging 95 IP a year. He had a league leading 28 Saves in 1962. From 1959-1964 with the Cardinals & Cubs, Lindy McDaniel had 104 Saves while averaging 105 IP.

Wayne Granger of Cincinnati was the first player to notch 35 Saves in 1970, along with a 2.66 ERA and finished 8th in Cy Young voting. By 1972 and 1973, two more players had hit 37 and 38 Saves respectively. By the late 1970s & especially the mid 1980s, the Closer was basically here to stay as far as how we associate them & their relation to the Save statistic.
 

HarleyQuinn

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I was looking at Tris Speaker and it's amazing how much League Park (while he was part of the Cleveland franchise) favored him as a LH hitter (with a 280 foot line leading to a 40 foot wall). People talk about Fenway Park/Coors Field or even Gavvy hitting at the Baker Bowl but it's insane to study Speaker.

At League Park (with the B-Ref splits that we know of), he hit a torrid .382 BA and .574 SLG for his career. At Fenway he hit .337/.466 by comparison and it further spotlights how important a home park can be to a hitter.

On the flipside, Harry Hooper largely got screwed by Fenway Park hitting just .270 with a woeful .368 SLG. He basically hit .290+ at every other ballpark (except the Polo Grounds & Griffith Stadium) while being capable of slugging .410-.430.
 

alkeiper

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As far as closers, it’s been a steady progression over the last century. Doc Crandall was the first pitcher who I would say made a career of relief pitching. Firpo Marberry was important in the 1920s, and Wiley Moore was a big part of the ‘27 Yankees. Jerome Holtzman, a Chicago sportswriter, invented the save statistic in 1969. Managers started managing to the stat and I think they’ve found both that it’s a good way to manage innings, and that relievers are more effective in short bursts.
 

alkeiper

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I’ll hit more on home/road splits if I get time, but let me note for now that Chuck Klein and Bobby Doerr are probably in the Hall of Fame thanks to their home parks. Rico Petrocelli and Cy Williams are eye popping as well.
 

alkeiper

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Platoon splits.

On Baseball-Ref there's a stat called tOPS+, which simply measures the OPS of a player's split against his total OPS. It can help find players whose home/road splits are wildly divergent. One fun player I discovered was Chico Fernandez, a shortstop whose meager .240/.292/.329 stat line was accomplished thanks to an OPS more than 100 points higher at home. But I don't want a whole bunch of players like that. So I set a minimum of 2500 road plate appearances. Rather than throw in a lot of stats, I can tell you that you can search these names on Baseball-Reference.com and check out their splits if you're so inclined.

PLAYERS MOST HELPED BY HOME PARKS
1. Bobby Doerr
Right handed hitter in Fenway Park
2. Cy Williams
Left handed hitter in the Baker Bowl
3. Dante Bichette
Coors Field
4. Rico Petrocelli
Right handed hitter in Fenway Park
5. Chuck Klein
Left handed hitter in the Baker Bowl
6. Jerry Lumpe
Left handed hitter feasted on Kansas City's Municipal Stadium
7. Hank Greenberg
Right handed hitter in Navin Field/Briggs Stadium (later known as Tiger Stadium)
8. Larry Walker
Coors Field
9. Rudy York
Right handed hitter in future Tiger Stadium
10. Todd Helton
Coors Field
11. Tim McCarver
Did his best hitting at Old Sportsmans Park. Also Busch Stadium and the Vet

PLAYERS HURT MOST BY HOME PARKS
1. Gil McDougald
Right handed hitter in pre-renovated Yankee Stadium
2. Johnny Logan
Right handed hitter in Milwaukee County Stadium
3. James Loney
Left handed hitter in Dodger Stadium (maybe helped by many road games in Denver and Phoenix?)
4. Brady Anderson
Camden Yards. His offensive production actually accelerated when the Orioles left Memorial Stadium
5. Willie Davis
1960s Dodgers Stadium
6. Buddy Lewis
WWII era Griffith Stadium
7. Mike Piazza
Dodgers Stadium and Shea Stadium
8. Dwayne Murphy
Oakland Coliseum
9. Curtis Granderson
Comerica, new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field. Citi Field put him on this list.
10. Dave Martinez
Played in nine different home parks. Candlestick hurt the most
11. Adrian Gonzalez
Petco and Dodger Stadium mostly
 

HarleyQuinn

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Interesting stuff although I'm not too surprised at the heavy Fenway/Coors/Navin Field (underrated as a hitter's park in the 1920s/1930s pantheon tbh). I only mentioned Tris Speaker because it stood out in such a stark way and delving deeper, the short line + 40 foot wall no doubt helped. One could argue he was a LHH proto-Wade Boggs.

It's interesting to note how some ballparks would change to accommodate sluggers. Fenway moved LF in from 324 in 1921 to the common 312-315 by 1936 with Jimmie Foxx. CF moved in from 488 in 1922 to just 389 by 1934. The RF line moved from 332 in 1936 to the common 304 by 1940, right when Teddy Ballgame entered the picture.
 

alkeiper

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I never realized League Park was such a hitters' haven. What's really interesting is that from 1932-46 the Indians had both League Park and Cleveland Stadium. The Indians' ERA over that span was a full run higher at League Park.
 

HarleyQuinn

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alkeiper said:
I never realized League Park was such a hitters' haven. What's really interesting is that from 1932-46 the Indians had both League Park and Cleveland Stadium. The Indians' ERA over that span was a full run higher at League Park.

Yeah, it made me start looking at other hitters of the time and it's quite astonishing. Other parks like Sportsman's Park are pretty well known but League Park & Navin Field seem to have flown under the radar quite a bit.

Joe Judge: .340/.419/.499 in 612 PA with a tOPS+ of 129 (compared to 103 at Griffith Stadium, his longtime home park)
Babe Ruth: .372/.528/.728 in 724 PA with a tOPS+ of 117 (compared to 104 at Yankee Stadium and 77 at Fenway Park)
Ty Cobb: .378/.449/.508 in 623 PA with a tOPS+ of 101 (same as Navin Field with virtually identical numbers)
Shoeless Joe Jackson: .367/.430/.548 in 946 PA with a tOPS+ of 114 (compared to 99 at Comiskey Park). Joe had a 117 at Navin Field too.

Also fascinating to take cases like George Sisler and Rogers Hornsby, who basically crafted HOF careers in large part thanks to Sportsman's Park. Hornsby slugged something like .660 there lifetime while Sisler hit .365 and slugged .529, the only ballpark he went over the .500 mark at while he also hit over .350 at Comiskey Park and League Park.

If it wasn't for those 3 parks, Sisler was sitting at roughly a .315-.325 batting average for most of his career. Those 3 parks combined he fashioned a BA of 0.362, which is just crazy.
 

HarleyQuinn

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Been looking at the effect of Yankee Stadium in the 1930s/1940s on DiMaggio and his teammates and it's really interesting. Thinking of doing out an article but just looking at the LHH there's an obvious boost to HR but not to BA, Doubles, or Triples. If anything, there's a greater disparity to the latter numbers. It actually makes me question if Ted Williams actually would've been hurt more by going to Yankee Stadium than most realize.
 

alkeiper

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Yankee Stadium overall I think was a pitchers' park. Its quirk is that it didn't hurt left handed hitters but it slaughtered righties. I noted Gil McDougald above. He is probably the player most hurt by his home park in the history of the majors.
 

HarleyQuinn

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alkeiper said:
Yankee Stadium overall I think was a pitchers' park. Its quirk is that it didn't hurt left handed hitters but it slaughtered righties. I noted Gil McDougald above. He is probably the player most hurt by his home park in the history of the majors.

Yeah but a lot of times I read that Williams would've done as well at Yankee Stadium as if both DiMaggio and Williams would've been 1:1 transplants, when I don't think it's necessarily the case. Williams definitely would have hit more HRs but Fenway Park really helped him as far as BA and Doubles. It's worth noting that he hit .428 at Fenway Park in 1941 and .485 in just 45 PA at Yankee Stadium but with only 3 Doubles (obvious caveat being the pitching talent he faced).

From 1950 on, it's blatantly insane how much Fenway Park was aiding Ted Williams as a hitter. Even towards the end of his career, Williams was hitting 0.25+ better at Fenway than on the road. I find it hard to believe he'd have finished with close to the number of hits that he had if he'd been traded to Yankee Stadium.

1950: .356 vs. .282 (+4 HR at Fenway)
1951: .403 vs. .232 (+6 HR at Fenway)
1954: .371 vs. .320 (+3 HR at Fenway)
1955: .390 vs. .318 (+2 HR at Fenway)
1956: .361 vs. .328 (-4 HR at Fenway)
1957: .403 vs. .374 (-14 HR at Fenway)
1958: .329 vs. .328 (-6 HR at Fenway)
1959: .276 vs. .232 (-4 HR at Fenway)
1960: .329 vs. .301 (+1 HR at Fenway)

David Ortiz ran into a similar situation in that he probably got robbed of legit 50+ HR seasons thanks to Fenway Park but also hit for a much higher average than he might have in a different ballpark.

2004: 17 HR and .325 vs. 24 HR and .274
2005: 20 HR and .322 vs. 27 HR and .278
2006: 22 HR and .300 vs. 32 HR and .275
2007: 16 HR and .365 vs. 19 HR and .298
 

HarleyQuinn

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In 1941, Joe DiMaggio had a 16 game hit streak (July 18th-August 2nd) hitting 0.426 starting the game after his 56 game streak was broken.
 

alkeiper

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Baseball-Reference.com added box scores going back to 1908. I'm sure there is a bunch of good information but for one thing, we have a box score of this gem:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHA/PHA191205180.shtml

Ty Cobb is suspended, the Tigers' players strike and the club fields a team of amateurs. For eight of the players, it is their only MLB game. Best I can tell only one of those even played pro minor league ball.
 

HarleyQuinn

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If you want a sense of how good Babe Ruth was as a pitcher, especially in the "clutch" end of the season...

1915 (8/14 - 10/06): 1.40 ERA in 90 IP with an 8-2 Record and 55 K vs 31 BB
1916 (8/12 - 10/03): 0.88 ERA in 122.2 IP with an 8-3 Record and 55 K vs 39 BB
1917 (8/03 - 10/03): 1.89 ERA in 123.2 IP with an 7-7 Record and 37 K vs 38 BB
1918 (7/05 - 8/31): 1.76 ERA in 97 IP with an 9-2 Record and 31 K vs 28 BB. He basically pitched just 8 times prior to July but again, was elite in the home stretch.

As legendary as his hitting would become, one wonders what could've been if Ruth had stayed strictly as a pitcher who dabbled in hitting.
 

alkeiper

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I mentioned Baseball-Ref had boxscores to 1908. We also have Play By Play data to 1925. I wanted to look for some high scoring games and found this gem:

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS192709051.shtml

The first place Murderers Row Yankees visited the last place Red Sox in Fenway Park for a Labor Day doubleheader. Game one goes eighteen innings with the Yankees tying it with two out in the ninth and both teams scoring three in the 17th before the Red Sox win 12-11. Of particular note in this game is eleven ground rule doubles! A posted attendance of 36,000 would fill Fenway Park today. In 1927 before the grandstand had a second deck I am guessing an overflow crowd stood in the outfield. Game two started at 6:20 and they got five innings in 55 minutes before I presume darkness called the game. No ground-rule doubles, guess the fans had enough excitement in game one.
 

HarleyQuinn

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More amazing is the Yankees go from a 4% win chance (Top 9th, 2 Outs) all the way to 95% win chance (Top 17th, RBI Single by Gehrig makes it 11-8) only for the Red Sox to storm back and win.

Then the Top 18th, Lazzeri gets thrown out trying to steal 2nd with 1 out and the Sox win thanks to back to back ground rule doubles in the Bottom of the 18th.
 

alkeiper

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sfaJack said:
Time of game is 4:20 and Red Ruffing throws 15 innings. Old time baseball is awesome.
Twelve strikeouts, eleven walks. Ruffing went 39-96 with the Red Sox. The Red Sox usually finished last in runs scored and their defense must have been awful. Ruffing was traded to the Yankees and finished 100 games over .500 the rest of his career. A remarkable turnaround. He also hit 36 HRs in his career.

Another note I spotted. One of the umpires for this game was Bill Dinneen, best known for winning three games in the 1903 World Series.
 

HarleyQuinn

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Looking at the past NFL Combine results and TE Shannon Sharpe was a freak at 221 pounds: 4.67 40, 34" Vertical Jump, 122" Broad Jump, and a 4.55 Shuttle (solid time for a guy who probably never did that drill in his life before).
 

HarleyQuinn

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Sean Payton was a QB in the AFL in 1987 and Jimbo Fisher was a QB in the AFL in 1988, both for the Chicago Bruisers franchise.
 

HarleyQuinn

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Was looking at random 1980s/1990s players...

Chili Davis (1988-1992 with CAL/MIN 91/92): 2936 PA, 698 Hits, 96 HR, 400 RBI, 346 BB vs 509 K, .274/.357/.444/.802 and 124 OPS+
Chili Davis (1993-1997 with CAL/KC in '97): 2825 PA, 684 Hits, 131 HR, 467 RBI, 400 BB vs 493 K, .285/.385/.499/.884 and 129 OPS+

Most interesting is the latter was done when Davis was 33 to 37 years old. Chili was always a capable 25-30 HR guy going back to his San Francisco days but from roughly 1991-1997 he was virtually a lock for 20+ HR and 85+ RBI a year.

I'm always fascinated by players like this because it makes me wonder how much of an effect "plate discipline"/selective hitting actually has on the production of a hitter. In theory, it's obvious. Work counts, hammer the pitches you can handle, and it should work itself out over a long run.
 

HarleyQuinn

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1942 what a snub of Williams. He also got beaten out in 1941 by Joe DiMaggio (although that was somewhat legitimate) and 1947, which most argue is the biggest snub as he again lost to DiMaggio. Fun Fact: He finished behind DiMaggio again in 1948 (3rd Place) and finished in 13th place in 1951.

1942
J. Gordon: 8.2 WAR - 88 R - 18 HR - 103 RBI - 79 BB - 0.322/0.409/0.491 - 154 OPS+ - 2.5 dWAR
Williams: 10.6 WAR - 141 R - 36 HR - 137 RBI - 145 BB - 0.356/0.499/0.648 - 216 OPS+ - -0.2 dWAR
 

alkeiper

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Some weird MVP results in those years. Marty Marion winning the 1944 NL MVP stands out. Voters in that era values defense and didn’t quite know how to measure it. And frankly even today with our advanced stats I’m not sure we have it right. I think those MVP voters absolutely would’ve chosen Trout over Cabrera in 2012.
 

HarleyQuinn

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alkeiper said:
Some weird MVP results in those years. Marty Marion winning the 1944 NL MVP stands out. Voters in that era values defense and didn’t quite know how to measure it. And frankly even today with our advanced stats I’m not sure we have it right. I think those MVP voters absolutely would’ve chosen Trout over Cabrera in 2012.

I like WAR but I do tend to have quibbles in how it rates defense. There are times I feel it weighs infielders (particularly 2B and SS) too highly and doesn't adequately rate 1B or 3B. 1B in particular it seems to just hate in part because it's hard to have the "range" that a 2B gets because as a 1B you do need to, in essence, be tied to the bag.

Fun Fact: B-Ref has Greg Maddux as 0.1 dWAR.

Frank Thomas: -22.5 dWAR and -68 Total Zone
Mark McGwire: -12.2 dWAR and -25 Total Zone
Cecil Fielder: -12.1 dWAR and -27 Total Zone
Rafael Palmeiro: -10.6 dWAR and +68 Total Zone
Will Clark: -10.1 dWAR and +1 Total Zone
Don Mattingly: -6.2 dWAR and +33 Total Zone
Mark Grace: -5.0 dWAR and +71 Total Zone
 

alkeiper

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Question that crossed my mind a few weeks ago.

Who was the worst player ever to play in a World Series?

You search the internet and you see lists populated with guys who weren't good who had the fortune to play on a World Series winner. But many of them did not play in their teams' World Series. I'm looking for players who actually played in a World Series. The players who actively played in baseball's elite event. It's a work in progress, but I thought I would share some of the names I came across.

When looking for bad players it's tempting to look at WAR. That's useful, but the players who played a paltry amount of games are probably worse than players who had full careers with a negative WAR. I looked for players with a low number of MLB games to see what I could come up with.

Jack Sheehan (1920 World Series): Sheehan had played three major league games going into the World Series with the Brooklyn Robins. When third baseman Jimmy Johnston got hurt, Sheehan started the last three games. The Robins scored one run in those three games and lost to the Cleveland Indians. Sheehan played in five more games in his pro career. Despite his short MLB tenure, Sheehan enjoyed a long career of over 2,500 games in the minors.

Harry Lunte (1920 World Series): When your shortstop is killed by a pitched ball, you're forced to scramble. Lunte was the fill-in after Ray Chapman's death until the Indians found a permanent solution in Joe Sewell. Lunte game into game two as a defensive replacement. In the regular season, Lunte amassed an embarrassing 19 OPS+ in 159 plate appearances.

Paddy O'Connor (1909 World Series): Backup catcher for the Pirates, O'Connor got most of his MLB playing time in the Federal League. He only saw 53 career plate appearances in the bigger two leagues.

Cy Block (1945 World Series): Block played well in nine games in 1942, but since he missed 1943 and '44 I assume his absence was World War II related. He came back in time for two games at the end of the season, and made a pinch running appearance in the Series. Block played just six more games the next season before finishing his career in the minors.

Howard Battle (1999 World Series): Battle was a pinch hitter in three seasons for the Blue Jays, Phillies and Braves. His pinch hitting appearance in the 1999 World Series was spectacularly brief. Inserted to hit against Mike Stanton, Yankees manager Joe Torre removed Stanton for Mariano Rivera and the Braves countered by hitting Keith Lockhart for Battle.
 

HarleyQuinn

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Another notable contender

SS Jack Barry (1914 World Series) for the Philadelphia Athletics. Went a whopping 1/14 with just 1 BB in that World Series after putting up a .592 OPS and 81 OPS+ over 555 PA in the regular season.

He had a few decent years hitting wise but was a subpar fielder in general and had some really atrocious years OPS+ wise even for a position that wasn't focused for the hitting.
 

alkeiper

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Harley Quinn said:
Another notable contender

SS Jack Barry (1914 World Series) for the Philadelphia Athletics. Went a whopping 1/14 with just 1 BB in that World Series after putting up a .592 OPS and 81 OPS+ over 555 PA in the regular season.

He had a few decent years hitting wise but was a subpar fielder in general and had some really atrocious years OPS+ wise even for a position that wasn't focused for the hitting.
Besides that Barry was consistently a 4 win player in his best years, the Red Sox paid $10,000 for Barry in the middle of the 1915 season. You could argue him below average, but certainly not bad.
 
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