COG Round 49 Results: A Mays in “Greats”/How Sweet The Sound

Since the Circle of Greats was first proposed, with its birth-year based voting, followers of the process have been watching for the 1931 voting, with its extraordinary collection of birth-year talent. Sure enough, the 1931 voting has now graced the COG with two of the true all-time finest performers in the sport: Mickey Mantle from last week’s vote and Willie Mays from this week’s. More on Willie and the voting, after the jump.

Left-handed hitters have a bit of an advantage over right-handed batters in baseball, because they have the platoon advantage more often: there are more right-handers on the pitching mound, as there are in the population as a whole.  (Although it’s also true that lefties are closer to first base, that advantage is probably negated by the fact that lefties also tend to hit the ball toward the first base side of the field, where the defensive play-making is quicker).  The two most valuable everyday players in major league history have probably been Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds, both lefties. Who was the most valuable position player of all-time to play without the platoon advantage that lefties enjoy?

Most Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version), Right-Handed Hitters, Major League History:
1. Willie Mays 156.1
2. Hank Aaron 142.4
3. Honus Wagner 130.6
4. Rogers Hornsby 127.0
5. Alex Rodriguez 115.7

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Hitting, fielding and base-running are very different skills, demanding different sorts of physical talents and disciplines.  Willie Mays was one of the great masters in the history of baseball at not just one, not just two, but at all three tasks.  Baseball-reference’s Wins Above Replacement breakdown places Mays with the 10th most batting runs above average (Rbat) ever, the 7th-most fielding runs above average (Rfield) ever and the 15th-most base-running runs above average (Rbaser) ever.  One way to put this in perspective: WAR suggests that Mays was a more valuable hitter over his career than designated hitter and newly elected Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, was essentially just as valuable a base-runner over his career as base-running specialist Vince Coleman, and was a more valuable player over his career on defense then an acclaimed defensive outfielder such as Paul Blair.

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Mays led the National League in season Wins Above Replacement (including WAR for both everyday players and pitchers) nine times in the 12 years from 1954 through 1965.  Yet he won only two Most Valuable Player awards over that period, in the first year of that stretch, 1954, and then the last year, 1965.  In seven of those nine years leading the NL in WAR, his WAR also led the majors as a whole.

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Most Consecutive Seasons, WAR of 10.0 or higher:
4 Willie Mays (1962-1965)
3 Ted Williams (1941-1942 and 1946; was in the military 1943-45) and Babe Ruth (1926-1928)
2 Babe Ruth (1920-21, 1923-24 and 1930-31), Barry Bonds (2001-02), Carl Yastrzemski (1967-68), Mickey Mantle (1956-57), Rogers Hornsby (1921-22, 1924-25), Ty Cobb (1910-1911)

Most Consecutive Seasons, WAR of 10.5 or higher:
4 Willie Mays (1962-1965)
3 Ted Williams (1941-1942 and 1946; was in the military 1943-45)
2 Babe Ruth (1920-21, 1923-24, 1927-28), Barry Bonds (2001-02), Mickey Mantle (1956-57), Ty Cobb (1910-1911)

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— Mays appeared on 58 ballots, one more than Mantle did in the previous round.

— Ballot newcomer Ernie Banks received significant support and is guaranteed eligibility for the next two rounds, but his fellow ballot newbie, Ken Boyer, fell short of the 7 votes needed to remain on the ballot.  Jim Bunning, a holdover from last week’s round, fell one vote short of remaining on the ballot.  You’ll have a chance shortly to try to bring either or both of these guys back in the redemption round that will run simultaneously with the 1929 vote.

— All the longer term holdovers will be back next round.  The only two long-term holdovers who appeared on fewer than 10% of the ballot were two guys who still have a stash of eligibility remaining, John Smoltz and Lou Whitaker.  But Smoltz’s once-large  stash is now just about gone.  In the next round he’ll be down to only two guaranteed rounds of eligibility.

The full spreadsheet showing this round’s vote tally is here: COG 1931 Part 2 Vote Tally.

The vote summary for recent Circle of Greats voting rounds is here: COG Vote Summary 2 .  An archive with fuller details of the 1968 through 1939 rounds is here: COG 1968-1939 Vote Summary .  In both cases, raw vote totals for each past round appears on Sheet 1 and the percentage totals for each past round appears on Sheet 2.

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A spreadsheet listing the full membership to date of the Circle of Greats is here: Circle of Greats Inducted Players . You can also now find that same link any time by clicking on “Circle of Greats” at the top of the High Heats Stats home page.

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44 Comments on "COG Round 49 Results: A Mays in “Greats”/How Sweet The Sound"

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bells
Guest

Alright, since we were deprived of the direct vote due to the split-round birth year…

Mickey vs. Willie. Who was better and why? You can pretend like we’re in NYC in the 50s and throw out a few anecdotes about Duke Snider too if you really wanna get into it. But I’m interested what folks have to say.

David Horwich
Guest
If I had to pick one of them for my team I’d go with Mays: for his superior durability (13 seasons of 150+ games played vs 4 for Mantle, almost 2600 more plate appearances lifetime) and superior all-around game. Mantle was the more productive hitter, true, and his being a switch-hitter was an asset, but…in Mantle’s best consecutive 10-year stretch he posted 82.8 WAR, which is pretty darn amazing. Mays’ best 10-year stretch credits him with 96.7 WAR. Almost 10 WAR a year for a decade! Leaving aside the numbers for a moment, nobody doubts that Mays was one of… Read more »
bells
Guest
Yeah, looking at it in the career sense, it’s hard to look past Mays’ incredible productivity and durability, and the 1000lb white elephant in the room for Mantle is always the wish that he could have been healthy for his whole career so we could see how close he could be to the potential that he had. It’s a classic Bill James ‘peak-vs-career’ discussion (I seem to remember in the Historical Abstract that he uses these two players to introduce that discussion), because in hindsight obviously Mays had the more productive career (counting stats, including advanced ones, support this), but… Read more »
David Horwich
Guest

Thing about peak vs career is that Mantle’s peak isn’t really any better than Mays’, at least according to the current metrics. Mantle’s best two seasons come in at 11.3 WAR each, while Mays’ are 11.2 and 11.1 – and a tenth or two of WAR is effectively no difference, in my book. And then if you look at 3rd best season, 4th best, etc., or look at best 3-year stretch, best 4-year stretch, Mays comes out ahead.

So at their best, in their prime, I’d call it a dead heat.

no statistician but
Guest
If the question is just New York in the Fifties: Mantle was the better player by a little. 1951 Mays gets the edge. 1952—Mantle had a great sophomore year, while Willie struggled early before entering the military, and my guess is he wouldn’t have caught up. 1954, Willie’s great return year. 1955, hard to believe, but Mantle trumps Mays in WAR 9.5 to 9,0, in spite of Willie’s 51 HRs. 1956-7, two of Mickey’s three great seasons, two of Willie’s lesser seasons. After the Giants left for Frisco, Mays led the Mick every year except 1961 and 1967—sort of—when Mantle’s… Read more »
David Horwich
Guest

Was this that comic book?:

http://www.mccoveychronicles.com/2014/2/6/5387652/willie-mays-1950-comic-book

(It’s obviously not from 1950 despite what the URL says.)

no statistician but
Guest

That is it.

I surely am getting old. In the fall it will be sixty years since I saw it as a boy.

John Autin
Editor
Two things about that Mays comic book: (1) Cool! (2) Glad to see that our media-saturated era doesn’t have a monopoly on projecting young players for all-time greatness. The comic’s intro says, “Willie Mays has yet to win a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame, but few doubt that some day he’ll stand with such immortals….” Mays was then 23 and had played 2 full years in the majors. The HOF projection was really based on the ’54 season. And I’m not quibbling; I know that those who saw him then, knew what they were seeing. Just as we do… Read more »
mosc
Guest
1951-1961 Mantle: 63.8 WAA Mays: 54.4 WAA It’s not really fair, but I think this is where the perception comes from. Mantle was 700 PA’s ahead mostly due to May’s military service but the perception of both stars after their age 30 seasons was that Mantle was the better player. The fact that May’s best 5-year stretch hadn’t even STARTED yet didn’t change the perception because the Yankees were baseball, they were the AL, and they were winning. Mays didn’t win the 1962 MVP for example while Mantle lost some votes to his teammate Richardson for some reason but was… Read more »
bells
Guest
nsb, I definitely appreciate the first-hand accounts and recollections of how they were perceived while playing. It’s interesting – I was born in 1980, and Mickey Mantle was kind of a hero to me even when I was a kid, in the way that legendary sports figures can be to young boys who are obsessed with sports and sports history. My subjective experience, before looking at any of their stats (other than biographical mentions of how many home runs they hit or something), was that Mays was a great player who was mentioned as being one of the greats of… Read more »
Artie Z.
Guest

Incredible durability … Mays is one of only two players to play 150+ games in 13 consecutive seasons. If you can name the other one without looking it up that’s pretty impressive – because it isn’t anyone I would have thunk it was.

As an aside, there are only 10 players in history with 13+ seasons of 150+ games played. Heck, there are only 39 players that have 10+ seasons of 150+ games (and that includes guys like Carlos Lee and Tim Wallach – neither of whom are the answer to the above question).

David Horwich
Guest

Indeed, I never would have guessed the other player with 13 consecutive seasons of 150+ games. I too will be impressed if anyone manages to guess this off the top of their head.

Pete Rose would’ve had a streak of 16 seasons, except he missed by 2 games in 1967 and 1 in 1968. Ripken might have had 17 but for the ’94 strike.

paget
Guest

Does anyone know why the Yankees only played 149 games in 1935? Because, but for that, Lou Gehrig obviously would have had a streak of 13 years with 150 games. Weirdly, the Yanks finished only three games behind the pennant-winning Tigers–very odd indeed that they gave up on the ’35 campaign with five games left on the table.

Mike L
Guest

Paget-if I had to take a guess (just a guess) I would say it might have had something to do with rainouts. The schedule in that era called for 22 games against seven teams. The Yankees played 21 against Boston, 20 against Philly, and 20 against Chicago. Travel was by rail in those days.
BTW, in 1935 Philly (AL) also played 149 games. In 1934, the Philles played in 149, and in 1932 the Red Sox played in 149.

Richard Chester
Guest

I have a copy of a Yankee record book which shows a yearly game-by-game summary, including rainouts. In 1935 there were 28 games which were rained out or postponed due to wet grounds. There were long home stands and road trips then which made it a bit difficult to reschedule those games. In September alone there were 4 rainouts in the Yankees last series against a particular team. They played 28 double-headers that year, not unusual for the era.

Richard Chester
Guest

Back then games were not made up after the last scheduled day of the season, regardless of whether or not they affected who finished first.
The Tigers final record was 93-58 and the Yankees were 89-60. If all of the missing games were made up the Yankees could have finished 94-60 and the Tigers could have been 93-61.

John Autin
Editor
Richard @16 — If you’re right about the 1935 schedule, then they must have reverted to the old rule during the Depression. Because by 1909, both leagues had adopted the requirement that all games bearing on the pennant be made up, even if it meant going beyond the last scheduled date. The NL adopted that rule before 1908, thus the Giants & Cubs had to make up the Merkle game as a regular-season game, the day after the scheduled end of the NL season. (Absent the new rule, they would have been tied and had a 3-game playoff.) The AL… Read more »
Richard Chester
Guest

@18, @20
A similar situation existed in 1938. The first place Cubs finished at 89-63 vs. the second place Pirates at 86-64.

Richard Chester
Guest

@18, @20, @22
By googling I stumbled upon a web-site called Baseball Fever and a question was posed asking why the missing games in 1938 were not made up. This was their answer:
“Probably because of the Depression. The teams involved (and baseball management) probably didn’t figure that it would be worth it financially to play these games or delay the World Series. The AL race finished in a similar manner in 1935”.

Artie Z.
Guest

And the 1981 strike also likely cost Rose another 3 years as he played in all 107 games the Phillies played in 1981, then followed that up with 162 games in 1982 and 151 in 1983.

RJ
Guest

I thought maybe Lou Brock (I was looking at his page only the other day), but he maxes out at 11 in a row, with 148 and 136 game seasons either side of the streak.

I then thought I had it with Billy Williams, but he maxed out at 12 in a row, with a 146 game season to start the streak!

David Horwich
Guest

Heh. I checked both of those guys, too; I figured players with the meaty part of their careers in the ’60s/’70s were the likeliest bets, since they had 162 game schedules and no major work stoppages.

I was wrong, though; the mystery player is of more recent vintage.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Palmeiro might have had 17 in a row if not for 94-95.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

83rd all-time in plate appearances, yet
51st all-time in times-on base.

Always considered him an under-rated player.
Even though WAR says he was just a tick above league-average for the 2nd half of his career, I thought his consistency and durability made him a plus-player.

Artie Z.
Guest

It’s been a little while … the answer to the question: Who is the only player other than Willie Mays to appear in 150+ games for 13 consecutive seasons?

Bobby Abreu, 1998-2010

Not the first that comes to mind.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@19/DH,

Ironmen Cal Ripken and Steve Garvey probably would have surpassed (17 yrs) and equaled Mays (13 yrs), if not for playing in strike years.

My first thought was Eddie Murray being the one who would’ve done this if not for strike years, but he had only 137 G in 1986.

John Autin
Editor

Leaders in games for player’s first N seasons:

1 — Hideki Matsui, 163
2 — Matsui, 325
3 — Matsui, 487
4 — Eddie Murray, 638
5 — Ichiro, 796
6 — Ichiro, 957
7 — Ichiro, 1,118
8 — Ichiro, 1,280
9 — Ichiro, 1,426
10 – Ichiro, 1,588
11 – Ichrio, 1,749
12 – Ichiro, 1,911
13 – Ichiro, 2,061
14 through whatever – Pete Rose

RJ
Guest

What does that list look like without the Japanese imports? Is it just Murray and Rose?

John Autin
Editor
RJ — Here are the top 4 in games for a player’s first N years. There are healthy doses of Albert, Hank, Yaz, and others. Rose doesn’t even crack the top 10 until year 7. BTW, Ripken is #5 for a lot of the later years. And Del Prett’s first 5 years are impressive, given the 154-game schedule — he played 12 more than the “max.” (In reality, he missed 6 games; the Browns had a lot of ties.) Years … Player …….. Games … From – To … Age Yr 1 … Hideki Matsui … 163 … 2003-2003 …… Read more »
RJ
Guest

Thanks John. I hadn’t heard of Jake Wood before, although a little research tells me he was the first black player to come through the Tigers farm system and play in the majors.

Richard Chester
Guest

Leaders in games for player’s first N seasons, 1901-1960:

1….Ray Joblonski, 157
2….Ray Jablonski and Dale Alexander, 309
3….Del Pratt, 465
4….Del Pratt, 624
5….Del Pratt, 782
6….Del Pratt and Ralph Kiner, 905
7….Ralph Kiner, 1054
8….Ralph Kiner, 1212
9….Ralph Kiner, 1359
10…Paul Waner, 1490
11…Richie Ashburn, 1641
12…Richie Ashburn, 1794
13…Richie Ashburn, 1945
14…Paul Waner, 2066
15…Paul Waner, 2155
16…Stan Musial, 2278
17…Stan Musial, 2413
18…Stan Musial, 2528
19…Stan Musial, 2644
20…Mel Ott, 2695
21…Tris Speaker, 2728
22…Ty Cobb, 2806
23…Ty Cobb, 2939
24…Ty Cobb, 3034

mosc
Guest
Our 25 man roster has had some recent additions to be sure. The outfield is now historically absurd and has yet to receive it’s two greatest bats (Ruth and Williams). My process looks at career averages (which leans a little towards peak performance vs longevity), platoon, position, and flexibility. Against RHP 1) Boggs 3B 2) Bonds LF 3) Mantle 1B 4) Griffey DH 5) Mays CF 6) Morgan 2B 7) Aaron RF 8) Carter C 9) Ripken SS Against LHP 1) Mays CF 2) Mantle 1B 3) Thomas DH 4) Aaron RF 5) Bonds LF 6) Schmitt 3B 7) Molitor… Read more »
mosc
Guest

It might make sense when we get to the final 9 rounds to remove the year limit, open the start of time. We’ll probably still have a couple guys from our current ballot hanging around and we can’t have a round with fewer than 8 carryovers anyway so at that point the sequencing may be more trouble than it’s worth? Just a thought. It’s also a way to get some earlier players in too if we want.

David Horwich
Guest
mosc @ 21 – “A couple of the pitchers are going to get displaced as we go back in time. I think Clemens, Seaver, Randy Johnson, Niekro, Ryan, Schilling, and Rivera will make the all time list. The other 4 I’ll take Walter Johnson, Alexander, Grove, and Smoltz.” Smoltz over Mathewson, eh? It’s tough to compare them directly, they pitched in such different eras. My understanding is that Lajoie and Wagner will be eligible – if I recall correctly, the criterion is “half or more of his career in the 20th c”; so Cy Young will also be eligible, but,… Read more »
mosc
Guest
ok, my analysis was in error then. I didn’t include Kichols, Young, Lajoie, and Wagner. Wagner clearly displaces Ripken, I don’t think Lajoie makes it. I don’t believe old time pitchers could get modern hitters out. I basically toss my hands up and admit defeat trying to analyze pitching pre-Walter Johnson. I think if you grabbed one of those guys with a time machine and made em face a modern power hitter instead of guys trying to bunt they’d look like outfielders coming in for emergency pitching duty. The spit doesn’t concern me much, pitchers always put something on the… Read more »
Lawrence Azrin
Guest
@34/mosc, I think that both Walter Johnson and Pete Alexander would still be truly great pitchers in the modern era, since both of them did adapt successfully to the live-ball era, and had several great seasons (though of course not quite as good as in the DBE). Young and Mathewson, OTOH, it’s harder to project, being entirely DBE. It’s pure conjecture, but since both of them threw really hard, were considered quite intelligent, and had a strong work ethic, I think they’d both be outstanding in modern times. I think that you are applying too steep a discount on the… Read more »
oneblankspace
Guest

Steve Carlton as a LOOGY. Maybe we’ll let him pitch the whole inning.

paget
Guest

Did anyone comment on how awesome the title for this post is? Your best one yet, birtelcom.

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