Offbeat

Offbeat

3/21/22 “SPRING IS SPRUNG” UPDATE

Much progress has been made in recent days as these RetroPlay.net pages have been updated, one here, one there. To this page, we’re adding a short “offbeat” look at how Babe Ruth might have fared in his MLB career if he had remained a pitcher, and had not been converted to a full-time outfielder and only occasional pitcher. That short “study” follows the city-level data, several paragraphs below. What else is going on: since the comprehensive directory data is now in place, we’re taking another look at all of the smaller component files, in order to determine if they need to be edited. On this page, the Surname Set and City-Level (“Urban League”) files will be reviewed, and changes might be made (but not without notice). Down the road, more not-so-categorical “curiosities” should show up here. At least, that’s the plan. Check back…

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The more “offbeat,” less-central RetroPlay project elements will be posted to this page as they become available. The first to come into view here is the “Surname Set,” where the 126 most-common surnames (last names) of MLB/NLB ballplayers appear as a file — along with all of the individual player’s other pertinent data similarly reflected in the macro-directories — in a sortable Excel-type (spreadsheet) file and as a PDF “book.” Generally speaking, whatever is uploaded to this page should be made available for your (free) downloading. That Surname Set (47 pgs.) is available here (Excel format first, then PDF below that):

OBL 1-5 SURNAME SET

Next up — since you caught me in an especially determined ambitious/productive mood for this session — are the results of recent painstaking research (assembling and culling): the City-Level “Urban League” directory of the 75 (or 76, if Brooklyn is separate from New York City) “Time-Travel” rosters. This directory (in continuous scroll form) pulls together listings representing every birthplace — at the big-city/urban center level — that produced 25 or more OBL-eligible ballplayers throughout all of the MLB/NLB eras from 1871 through 2020. From these exhaustive listings (in OBL terms), the “All-Time” teams — in other words — the best-born-in-“X” squads for any “Time Travel” league/playoffs/tournament — can easily be assembled. As usual, two versions of this 5,284-player, 118-page directory are available for download here (Excel top, PDF below):

Some helpful tips on these scrolling files:

  1. Most of the 2- to 4-letter abbreviations are fairly intuitive (BOS=Boston, PRO=Providence, NO=New Orleans, etc.);
  2. Further identification made possible by the REGional column (within which state/RetroPlay region the city can be found);
  3. Remember: the Regional Codes (RC column) usually run in the U.S. from the northeastern corner (Maine is RC 10), down the Atlantic seaboard, then generally from east to west, finally ending up in the southwestern corner (California, with San Diego at RC 182); this order is reflected in the directory;
  4. Included here also are eleven extra-national urban centers (located in nations outside of the United States): (La) Habana, Cuba=HAB; Rio Piedras (RDP) and Santurce (STC) — both associated with San Juan, Puerto Rico, really — are represented here; from the Dominican, we have San Pedro de Macoris (SPM), Santo Domingo (SDO, with SDC and SDE, included in that capital city as well), San Cristobal (SCB), and Santiago (SGO); four cities in Venezuela (VE) have also found representation here: Caracas (CRC), Maracay (MCY), Valencia (VAL), and MBO (Maracaibo);
  5. Since the Excel-type (.xls) directory has been left in continuous-scroll form, you should be able to manipulate the data as you see fit (edit down, cull subsets, compile teams that cover all of the positions for simulation scenarios, etc. — the same goes for any such files made available to you on this site).

A CURIOUS LITTLE APPLICATION OF “RETRO-SPECU-METRICS” RE:

BABE RUTH, THE CAREER-LONG PITCHER

Consider this a “thought experiment” or merely something to mentally chew on; have it your own way. But I’m hardly the first observer of MLB history who has noticed that Babe Ruth was well on his way to a place in the Hall of Fame as a pitcher before he became a full-time outfielder/occasional pitcher and changed the whole game of baseball. We are “legion” — you can bet there are thousands/millions of us who have looked at Ruth’s playing record and marveled at this: the guy could’ve made the Hall as a pitcher, had he continued on his established pace, never mind all of the game-changing slugging. And though I’m ill-equipped as a mathematician/sabermetrician to really get into the methodological nitty-gritty, I can at least present some fact-based, plausible projections. I’ll show my work here, all based on Ruth’s actual stats and WAR figures from 1914 through 1919, when he still appeared frequently as a pitcher (as well as post-’19 numbers, later on).

[Screenshots attribution: Baseball-Reference.com, Babe Ruth player page, March 21, 2022]

Step 1: Babe’s total WAR for these nearly six full seasons (5.87 seasons, per both batter AND pitcher formulas [per-162 games and per-68 (G + GS), respectively] was 39.7 (20.5 pitching + 19.2 batting);

Step 2: 39.7 (total/career WAR to that point) divided by 5.87 “full seasons” comes to 6.76 (6.8) WAR/162; (BTW, that would’ve given Ruth an RPR (RetroPlay Rating) of 269 — already, before his 7th MLB year — and all he’d have to do to qualify for my virtual HOF would be to pitch 410 more innings while maintaining a similar pace, and then, retire. However, that’s not what this is about, so we move on…)

Step 2b: Traditional stats, pre-sabermetrics? 89-46 W/L (.659); 2.19 ERA; 105 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts! Averages per-full-season = 20-10 W/L; 2.19 ERA; 24 CG and 4 shutouts (just look at those numbers; is anyone getting anywhere near them these days?)

Step 3: Conservative extrapolation, method 1: Let’s assume for this purpose that after Babe’s “hybrid” years of 1918 and ’19, when he split his time between pitching and playing in the outfield, the decision was made — for whatever reason, for better or worse — that from then on, he’d only take his turns on the mound; he’d be a pitcher “only” from 1920 through 1933 (when his last historical appearance as a pitcher occurred). After teasing out the actual WAR numbers of his pitching appearances from Babe’s 1914-1917 seasons and his post-conversion 1920-1933 seasons (throwing out the transitional years of ’18 and ’19), and averaging all that out, I find a reasonably-assumed average year as a pitcher — including those fewer appearances at the plate as a result — to land at 3.8-per-162 [per 68 G + GS, actually]. The rudimentary math: using his batting WAR in the 1914-1917 seasons, when he was mostly a pitcher, and coupling that with his pitching WAR for those same seasons (i.e., most stats as a pitcher, and fewest stats as a batter), we get a total WAR figure of 8.4 (2.9 + 5.5), and that was for 2.2 full seasons (again, using both full-season formulas); 8.4 WAR divided by 2.2 seasons is 3.8, so that’s our projected average-full-season WAR for Babe Ruth as a pitcher for 14 years into his future, 1920 through 1933.

Step 4: 14 seasons at 3.8 WAR-per-full-season = 53.2 Career War ADDED to what Babe had already run up through 1919, which was 39.7, so we arrive at a total projected CW of 92.9 for Babe Ruth, “Full-Time Pitcher” from 1920 onward. FYI, the only players with that kind of CW who are NOT in “residence” at Cooperstown are either scofflaws or are not-yet retired (think: Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, in that first group, and Pujols, who’s still active, as of 2021). Case closed, I’d say. It looks like the Babe would’ve ended up in the top 45 players of all-time even if he’d soldiered on for a total of about 20 years as primarily a pitcher (and note: his actual career lasted into his 22nd year).

Step 5: Conservative extrapolation #2: Using similar methodology, but assuming closer to a 15-year career, rather than a 20-year stretch, I still came up with a projection of 72.7 Career War (and RPR of 348, BTW) for Babe as a pitcher after 1919. Note: both Ruth’s estimated pitcher-only WAR through 1919 AND his projected numbers for a 15-year career are included in the Career WAR and RPR listings for the top 1000 pitchers, which you can find here: RetroPlay Rankings.

So that’s my take. I’ll leave it to the real number-crunchers to do deeper dives and speak with more credibility, but I’ve made my cursory case, FWIW. In the near future, and as time permits, I’ll try to post some more “offbeat” stuff on this page. For now, though, this is your 3/21/22 update.