The 1925 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records
As of the end of 2014, Retrosheet has released at least partial play-by-play data for every season since 1930. In addition, Retrosheet has released partial play-by-play data for both the American and National Leagues for four earlier seasons: 1922, 1925, 1927, and 1931. This article looks at the one of these seasons most recently released by Retrosheet: the 1925 season.
The Best of 1925
I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.
The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
So far, Retrosheet has released play-by-play data for a rather remarkable 999 of the 1,228 major-league games played in 1925 (82.4%). The missing games are not distributed evenly, however. We have complete play-by-play data for the Brooklyn Dodgers (then called the Robins, after their manager, Hall-of-Famer Wilbert Robinson) and Pittsburgh Pirates and are missing 20 or fewer games for six other teams: both Chicago teams, Cincinnati, Cleveland, the New York Giants, and the Philadelphia A's. The Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators, on the other hand, are missing data for 68 and 71 games, respectively.
To attempt to control for this, the next two tables mirror the previous two tables except that Player won-lost records have been scaled up for players based on their actual number of games played. This scaling is done at the level of the individual player.
For example, Rogers Hornsby, who won the National League Triple Crown in 1925, played in 138 games for the St. Louis Cardinals that year. So far, Player won-lost records have been calculated for 110 of these games. Hence, Rogers Hornsby's Player won-lost records are multiplied by 1.25 (138/110).
The top 10 players in normalized pWOPA, pWORL, eWOPA, and eWORL in 1925 are shown in the next four tables.
The top 10 players in normalized eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The Pennant-Winning Washington Senators and a Cautionary Tale
Players' performance in missing games may not be exactly the same as their performance in games for which play-by-play data exist. So, the results in these last two tables should be taken with a grain of salt.
For example, three of the top five players in the two pWins tables above are Hall-of-Famers who played for the 1925 American League pennant winning Washington Senators: Goose Goslin, Stan Coveleski, and Walter Johnson. I am missing play-by-play data for more games played by the Senators (71 of 152) than by any other team in 1925. Moreover, the Senators had a much better winning percentage in the games for which I do have play-by-play data - and, hence, the games from which the above data are calculated - 0.663 (81-53-1), than in the games which are missing - 0.606 (43-28-0). Hence, the records for all of Goslin, Coveleski, and Johnson may be overstated in the above table (but, of course, they may not be; it's hard to be sure).
Still, Goslin, Coveleski, and Johnson were almost certainly the three best players on the 1925 Senators - as you'd expect from three Hall-of-Famers still in their prime (although Coveleski and Johnson were 35 and 37 years old that year). Goslin batted .334/.394/.547 with extra-base hit totals of 34-20-18 D-T-HR, 116 runs scored, and 113 RBI, along with 27 stolen bases (in 35 attempts). Coveleski had a traditional won-lost record of 20-5 with a league-leading 2.84 ERA in 241 innings pitched, while Johnson went 20-7, 3.07 in 229 IP. Goslin, Coveleski, and Johnson were outstanding in 1925 and played key roles in leading the Washington Senators to their second consecutive American League pennant. But they may not have been three of the top five players in major-league baseball that year (although they might have been).
In 1925, Rogers Hornsby won the Triple Crown. Not only did he lead the National League in all three Triple Crown categories, but he led the Major Leagues in all three: batting .403 with 39 home runs and 143 RBI. And for those who think that batting average is overrated - first, he hit .403! - he also led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.489) and slugging percentage (.756). It is no surprise, therefore, to see Rogers Hornsby's name appear in all four of the above tables and at the top of two of them.
The next table shows the top 10 seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records ranked by (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over positional average earned as a second baseman. The records below have been extrapolated to incorporate missing player games within the seasons under consideration.
Top Pitchers of 1925
The 1920's were something of an odd time for pitching. Twice as many pitchers walked 100 or more batters (8) as struck out at least 100 batters (4). The major-league leader in strikeouts, Dazzy Vance of the Brooklyn Robins had almost as many strikeouts (221) as the top two strikeout pitchers in the American League, Lefty Grove (116) and Walter Johnson (108). Dolf Luque of the Cincinnati Reds was the other pitcher with at least 100 K's with 140.
The top 10 players in 1925, ranked by (adjusted) pWins over replacement level (pWORL), who were primarily pitchers, are presented in the next table.
The pitchers in this table are an interesting mix of Hall-of-Famers (Johnson, Vance, et al) and guys that I had not heard of (Pete Donohue, Jack Scott). Interestingly, for me, only one player falls between those two extremes, Dolf Luque of the Cincinnati Reds, although maybe that says more about me than about how well-remembered Slim Harriss and Lee Meadows are.
The 1925 World Series represented perhaps the peak in major-league baseball in Washington, D.C., with the Washington Senators making their second straight World Series appearance. The Senators played 7-game World Series in both 1924 and 1925. But, unlike in 1924, the 1925 Senators lost a tough Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, blowing a 7-6 lead with two out in the 8th inning, losing by a final score of 9-7.
The top performances of the 1925 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost records, are presented in the next table.
The top players of the 1925 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost records, were Pirates starting pitcher Vic Aldridge, who pitched complete-game wins in Games 2 and 5, and Hall-of-Fame centerfielder Max Carey, who batted .458/.552/.625 for the World Series, scoring 3 runs in the climactic Game 7.
The top performance by a Washington player in the 1925 World Series was by legendary Hall-of-Fame pitcher Walter Johnson, who, like Aldridge, pitched two complete-game victories (in Games 1 and 4), but also lost Game 7 (although only 5 of the Pirates' 9 runs were earned).
Best of 1925 by Factor and Position
Next, let's look at the top players in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over Positional Average in various aspects of the game. The numbers in this section have all been normalized to extrapolate player games for which I am missing play-by-play data. As above, this adjustment is based on individual player games for which I have play-by-play data.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 1925 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Best by Position
Next, we look at 1925 Major-League leaders in eWOPA by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position, and include no contextual adjustments (expected or actual).
For relief pitchers, context-neutral records may not be the best measure of how good they are, as context can matter a great deal, depending on how a pitcher is used. Here are the top relief pitchers of 1925 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.
Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.
Noteworthy Players of 1925
Building a Dynasty: The Philadelphia Athletics
Three players made their major-league debuts in 1925 who would go on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame (which did not yet exist in 1925). These three players shared one other thing in common: Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, and Jimmie Foxx all made their major-league debut in 1925 with the Philadelphia A's.
The 1925 A's finished in second place in the American League with a record of 88-64. This was the A's first winning season since their 1914 pennant winners. It was the first of nine consecutive winning seasons for the A's, which culminated in three consecutive American League pennants (and two World Series victories) from 1929 - 1931. As I write this, Retrosheet has only released play-by-play data for three of these nine seasons: 1925, 1927, and 1931, with the last of these being the only Philadelphia A's pennant-winner for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.
The career records, for the seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records, of Grove, Cochrane, and Foxx, are compared in the next table. Their records have been extrapolated to adjust for missing games within seasons for which I have partial play-by-play data. Seasons for which I have not calculated any Player won-lost records are excluded entirely, however. Seasons in bold indicate that Grove, Cochrane, and Foxx were teammates on the A's.
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Last Great Season for a Legend
Walter Johnson is still considered by some to be the greatest pitcher in major-league history. In his 21-year career, he amassed 417 traditional pitcher wins, second most all-time, threw a still-record 110 shutouts, and struck out 3,509, a major-league record that was not broken until 56 years after he retired. In his career, Johnson won 20 or more games 12 times. The 1925 season was the last of these 12.
Walter Johnson pitched the equivalent of about 20 full seasons (he pitched a combined 218 IP in his first and last season, pitching essentially 19 full seasons between them). Dividing his career totals by 20, then, a typical Walter Johnson season saw him amass a traditional W-L record of 21-14 in 295.2 IP with 175 K and 6 shutouts, while posting an ERA+ (which controls for ballpark and context) of 147 (6th-best alltime, according to Baseball-Reference).
Johnson's 1925 season was somewhat below his career averages - not terribly surprising, given that he was 37 years old that season - but was still quite good: 20-7, 229 IP, 108 K, 6 ShO, ERA+ of 138.
It is essentially impossible to compare Walter Johnson to more recent pitchers based on Player won-lost records, because I have so few records for Johnson: only 3 seasons (1922, 1925, and 1927), all of which were late in his career and generally below his career averages (which were boosted enormously by seasons such as his 1913 season, when he went 36-7 with 11 shutouts, 243 K, and a 1.14 ERA in 346 IP; and his 1912 season, when he went 33-12, 303 K, 1.39 ERA in 369 IP).
The next table presents Walter Johnson's Player won-lost record in 1925, extrapolated to include missing games (I am missing play-by-play data for 13 of 36 games for Johnson this season).
Taking a simple average of Johnson's pWins and eWins and multiplying by 20 would suggest career totals of perhaps 60.4 wins over positional average (WOPA) and 84.7 wins over replacement level (WORL).
To put that in context, the next table shows the career records of the top four pitchers in career WOPA and WORL for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records for (essentially) their entire careers.
All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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