Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1927 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records



I have recently updated Player won-lost records to include more recent play-by-play data that was released by Retrosheet this summer. This includes play-by-play data for the majority of games played in three seasons prior to 1940. The earliest such season is the 1927 season.

The 1927 season is perhaps most famous for its best team, the New York Yankees, who won a then-American League record 110 regular season games and swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. And the 1927 Yankees are, of course, most famous for their most famous player, Babe Ruth, who hit a major-league record 60 home runs.

So how do Babe Ruth, the New York Yankees, and the rest of 1927 major-league baseball look like through the prism of Player won-lost records?

The Best of 1927

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.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Babe Ruth30.715.36.9
8.8
1Babe Ruth30.715.36.9
8.8
2Lou Gehrig25.612.55.7
7.3
2Lou Gehrig25.612.55.7
7.3
3Rogers Hornsby22.414.73.7
5.3
3Rogers Hornsby22.414.73.7
5.3
4Wilcy Moore14.58.83.1
4.4
4Tony Lazzeri22.316.33.1
4.7
5Tony Lazzeri22.316.33.1
4.7
5Wilcy Moore14.58.83.1
4.4
6Red Lucas15.810.53.1
4.3
6Paul Waner25.618.82.5
4.4
7Waite Hoyt16.210.83.0
4.2
7Red Lucas15.810.53.1
4.3
8Jesse Haines18.113.22.8
4.1
8Waite Hoyt16.210.83.0
4.2
9Lefty Grove18.413.92.5
4.1
9Lefty Grove18.413.92.5
4.1
10Bill Terry17.511.22.5
3.7
10Jesse Haines18.113.22.8
4.1


The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Babe Ruth28.715.55.8
7.6
1Babe Ruth28.715.55.8
7.6
2Lou Gehrig23.613.44.3
5.8
2Lou Gehrig23.613.44.3
5.8
3Rogers Hornsby20.514.82.8
4.3
3Rogers Hornsby20.514.82.8
4.3
4Frankie Frisch21.416.52.4
4.0
4Frankie Frisch21.416.52.4
4.0
5Waite Hoyt15.611.62.3
3.5
5Paul Waner25.119.71.8
3.7
6Tony Lazzeri21.217.32.0
3.6
6Tony Lazzeri21.217.32.0
3.6
7Red Lucas14.811.81.9
3.1
7Waite Hoyt15.611.62.3
3.5
8Ted Lyons16.513.41.9
3.2
8Riggs Stephenson20.315.81.8
3.3
9Paul Waner25.119.71.8
3.7
9Hack Wilson20.816.61.6
3.2
10Riggs Stephenson20.315.81.8
3.3
10Ted Lyons16.513.41.9
3.2


As of August, 2013, Retrosheet has released play-by-play data for nearly three-quarters of all major-league games played in 1927. This is truly a remarkable feat. Unfortunately, the missing games are not distributed evenly. We have complete play-by-play data for the New York Yankees and are missing only two games apiece for the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Detroit Tigers and Washington Senators, on the other hand, are missing data for over 70 games apiece. Hence, comparing players on the Yankees to players on the Tigers based on Player won-lost records may be misleading. Not misleading enough to suggest that Babe Ruth wasn't the very best player in major-league baseball in 1927, mind you; but perhaps a little bit misleading.

To attempt to control for this, the next two tables mirror the previous two tables except that Player won-lost records have been scaled to a consistent 154-game season. This scaling is done at the level of the team, so, for example the Player won-lost records of all of the members of the Detroit Tigers are adjusted up based on the 77 games for which I have play-by-play data (i.e., the numbers for all Tigers players are simply multiplied by two: 154/77 = 2); adjustments are not based on the number of games played by individual players (e.g., Charlie Gehringer played in 133 games for the 1927 Tigers; I have play-by-play data for 65 of these games. For this adjustment, I simply double Gehringer's totals, rather than multiplying by 2.046 (133/65)).

The top 10 players in normalized pWOPA, pWORL, eWOPA, and eWORL in 1927 are shown in the next four tables.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Babe Ruth30.515.26.8
8.7
1Babe Ruth30.515.26.8
8.7
2Lou Gehrig25.512.45.7
7.3
2Lou Gehrig25.512.45.7
7.3
3Rogers Hornsby27.117.94.5
6.4
3Rogers Hornsby27.117.94.5
6.4
4Red Lucas17.511.63.4
4.7
4Jesse Haines21.115.43.2
4.8
5Jesse Haines21.115.43.2
4.8
5Red Lucas17.511.63.4
4.7
6Wilcy Moore14.48.83.1
4.4
6Tony Lazzeri22.216.23.1
4.7
7Bill Terry21.313.63.1
4.5
7Bill Terry21.313.63.1
4.5
8Tony Lazzeri22.216.23.1
4.7
8Pete Alexander19.414.32.9
4.4
9Waite Hoyt16.110.83.0
4.1
9Lefty Grove19.614.82.7
4.4
10Ted Lyons19.414.42.9
4.4
10Ted Lyons19.414.42.9
4.4

note: the 1927 New York Yankees actually played 155 games. Hence, the adjustment to a consistent 154-game schedule here actually reduces the numbers for Yankees players very, very slightly.

The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Babe Ruth28.515.45.7
7.6
1Babe Ruth28.515.45.7
7.6
2Lou Gehrig23.513.34.2
5.8
2Lou Gehrig23.513.34.2
5.8
3Rogers Hornsby24.917.93.4
5.2
3Rogers Hornsby24.917.93.4
5.2
4Frankie Frisch25.019.22.8
4.6
4Frankie Frisch25.019.22.8
4.6
5Waite Hoyt15.511.52.3
3.5
5Riggs Stephenson24.018.82.1
3.9
6Ted Lyons19.215.62.2
3.7
6Hack Wilson24.619.72.0
3.8
7Red Lucas16.413.12.1
3.5
7Ted Lyons19.215.62.2
3.7
8Riggs Stephenson24.018.82.1
3.9
8Paul Waner24.919.61.8
3.7
9Tony Lazzeri21.117.22.0
3.6
9Tony Lazzeri21.117.22.0
3.6
10Hack Wilson24.619.72.0
3.8
10Waite Hoyt15.511.52.3
3.5


Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth's 1927 season was legendary: 60 home runs (more than every other major-league team except the Chicago Cubs and New York Giants), 158 runs scored, 164 runs batted in, a batting line of .356/.486/.772.

Before I extended my Player won-lost records back before 1947, the most pWins in a single season for any player for whom I had calculated Player wins was Willie Mays with 29.6. In 1962, Mays's Giants played 165 games with Mays playing 162 of them. Babe Ruth's 1927 season is the first season I have calculated in which a player amassed 30 pWins and he did so while playing only 151 games.

Ruth's 1927 season also ranks as the top season in pWOPA, pWORL, eWOPA, and eWORL among all seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.

Lou Gehrig
Babe Ruth wasn't the only player who had an all-time great season in 1927. In fact, he wasn't even the only Yankee who had an all-time great season in 1927. Gehrig batted .373/.474/.765 with a major-league leading 175 RBIs. His 1927 season ranks among the top 10 seasons in pWOPA and pWORL for all seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.
Rogers Hornsby
Meanwhile, over in the National League, the best player merely had a typical MVP-level sort of season. Actually, adjusting Hornsby's 1927 season up to 154 games (I have play-by-play data for 127 of Hornsby's 155 actual games played in 1927), his pWORL would slip into the top 20 seasons for which I've calculated Player won-lost records (of course, Hornsby isn't the only player for whom I'm missing some games in an otherwise excellent season).

Best Pitchers of 1927: Lefty Grove and Jesse Haines
The two best pitchers in the major leagues in 1927 - measured by (normalized) pWins over either positional average or replacement level - are both in the Hall of Fame. Among Hall-of-Fame pitchers, though, it might be hard tofind two pitchers viewed more differently.

Lefty Grove, the best pitcher in the American League in 1927, tends to make the short list of pitchers for whom a case can be made as the greatest pitcher in major-league history. The 1927 season was far from Grove's best. It was his first season with 20 pitcher wins and he led the American League in strikeouts (for the 3rd of 7 consecutive times). But after going 20-13 with a 3.19 ERA and 174 strikeouts in 1927, Grove, over the next five seasons (1928 - 1932) put up an average record of 26-7, 2.56, 185 K, leading the league in ERA and WHIP four consecutive times from 1929 - 1932. For Lefty Grove, this was a mere appetizer: a delicious appetizer, but an appetizer nonetheless.

Jesse "Pop" Haines, on the other hand, is on nobody's short list of greatest pitchers ever. He is, however, frequently cited as an underserving Hall-of-Famer. Looking only at his 1927 season, it's hard to see what's so bad about Haines' election to the Hall of Fame. He led the National League in complete games and shutouts, was 2nd in innings pitched, 4th in ERA, and, as shown above, (probably) led National League pitchers in pWOPA and pWORL. The 1927 season was also Haines'1s best season - by quite a bit. From 1929 - 1932, while Lefty Grove was leading the AL in ERA and WHIP four consecutive years, "Pop" Haines compiled a 4.54 ERA (ERA+ of 101) and a WHIP of 1.52. But he still had a fine 1927 season.

1927 Postseason

The 1927 World Series was fairly lopsided, as the New York Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates. While two of the four games ended up as one-run victories, the latest into any of the four games in which the Pirates actually had a lead was one batter into the top of the third inning of Game 3.

The top player of the 1927 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost records, was Earle Combs, who scored the World Series-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Four on Johnny Miljus's second wild pitch of the inning.

1927 World Series: Top Player Performances
pWins pLosses pWORL
Earle CombsNYA1.10.40.4
Herb PennockNYA0.70.10.4
Mark KoenigNYA0.80.30.3
Lou GehrigNYA0.80.30.3
George PipgrasNYA0.70.30.3
Wilcy MooreNYA0.80.50.3
Tony LazzeriNYA0.80.40.2


Best of 1927 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 154-game seasons. As above, this adjustment is based on team games for which I have play-by-play data, not individual player games.
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 1927 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Babe Ruth19.99.35.1

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Shockingly, when one player hits more home runs than 13 of the other 15 teams, it's a pretty safe bet that he was the best batter in the majors that season.

Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bucky Harris1.81.00.4

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Waite Hoyt12.59.13.4
Wilcy Moore10.67.23.4
Jesse Petty13.510.52.9
Red Lucas11.99.12.7
Ted Lyons15.112.42.7
Dazzy Vance12.910.42.5
Pete Alexander13.811.42.4


Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jesse Haines0.90.30.6


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Steve O'Neill1.30.80.4
Muddy Ruel2.01.60.4
Gabby Hartnett1.81.40.4
Wally Schang1.61.20.4
Bob O'Farrell1.10.70.4


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jimmie Dykes1.61.20.3
Bill Terry2.82.50.3
Charlie Grimm2.42.10.3
Jim Ralph Poole0.60.30.3


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Frankie Frisch7.56.11.4


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Chuck Dressen4.84.00.9


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Travis Jackson6.15.30.7


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Bibb Falk8.46.42.0


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ira Flagstead7.05.61.4


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Harry Rice4.43.70.8


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1927 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).



Catcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Wally Schang8.36.01.3


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Lou Gehrig23.213.73.9


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Rogers Hornsby24.618.42.9


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Freddie Lindstrom12.610.21.2
Pie Traynor17.915.71.2


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Travis Jackson17.015.41.3


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Riggs Stephenson23.518.22.1


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Hack Wilson24.619.91.8


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Babe Ruth17.69.83.3


That's right. Babe Ruth was so dominant in 1927 that he was both the best left fielder and the best right fielder in the major leagues that season.

Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Waite Hoyt12.59.21.7
Ted Lyons15.512.41.5
Pete Alexander13.910.81.5


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Wilcy Moore6.64.41.1


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 1927 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1927, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Wilcy Moore14.48.80.6203.14.4
Firpo Marberry10.18.90.5320.81.9
Garland Braxton8.06.60.5490.91.8
George Mogridge3.92.90.5730.61.0
Watty Clark3.32.70.5550.40.8


I tend to think of 1927 as the era when "real" starting pitchers finished what they started and the bullpen was filled with failed starters. And it's true that starting pitchers completed almost half of their games in 1927 (1,197 out of 2,472).

But Wilcy Moore had a heckuva season in 1927. Although, not all of it was out of the bullpen: Moore started 12 games for the Yankees (and completed half of them). But still, in 38 games in relief, Moore picked up 13 pitcher wins and would have earned 13 saves if the stat had been invented.

Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.

Pitcher Offense
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Red Lucas2.52.00.6
Sloppy Thurston2.32.00.6


Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bubber Jonnard0.50.20.2
Jack Smith (1915)1.00.80.2


At 40 years old, 21 years after his major-league debut, Jack Smith (1915) still had a little bit left in the tank in 1927.

Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Earl McNeely0.20.00.1


Noteworthy Players of 1927

The 1927 season was something of a golden era for active Hall-of-Famers. Overall, 52 players who were eventually elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame played in 1927, which works out to more than 3 Hall-of-Famers per team.

Some of the reason for the large number of Hall-of-Famers active in 1927 is because of the large number of somewhat questionable Veterans' Committee selections, mostly in the early 1970s. But many of these players were very deserving Hall-of-Famers. A total of 32 players who played in 1927 have been elected to both the Hall of Fame and the Hall of Merit, which is still two players per team.

The 1927 season ends up being something of a transition period. Several Deadball Era stars were still around - Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, et al. - while future stars of the 1930s and 1940s were just breaking onto the scene - 18-year-old Mel Ott, 19-year-old Jimmie Foxx, et al.

To some extent it's always true, in retrospect, that seasons see a mix of old superstars past their prime and young up-and-comers not yet in their prime. Maybe it's just because it's so long ago that it gives a better sense of what came before and what came after, but the chronological spread of Hall-of-Fame caliber talent seems especially striking to me in 1927.

Ty Cobb played in the 1907 and 1908 World Series for the Detroit Tigers (the last - and only - two World Series won by the Chicago Cubs). Charlie Gehringer played in the 1940 World Series for the Tigers. And their careers overlapped in 1927 (although not as teammates: Ty Cobb was actually a Philadelphia Athletic in 1927).

The table below presents (normalized) Player won-lost records for the 1927 season for players who have been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The players are sorted here by (normalized) pWORL. Players who have also been elected to the Hall of Merit are shown in bold.

Hall of Fame Players Active in 1927
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
Babe Ruth30.515.26.8
8.7
28.515.45.77.6
Lou Gehrig25.512.45.7
7.3
23.513.34.25.8
Rogers Hornsby27.117.94.5
6.4
24.917.93.45.2
Jesse Haines21.115.43.2
4.8
19.116.51.73.3
Tony Lazzeri22.216.23.1
4.7
21.117.22.03.6
Bill Terry21.313.63.1
4.5
19.114.21.73.1
Pete Alexander19.414.32.9
4.4
17.014.11.83.2
Lefty Grove19.614.82.7
4.4
15.413.71.12.5
Ted Lyons19.414.42.9
4.4
19.215.62.23.7
Paul Waner25.418.72.5
4.3
24.919.61.83.7
Waite Hoyt16.110.83.0
4.1
15.511.52.33.5
Hack Wilson24.418.82.3
4.1
24.619.72.03.8
Earle Combs22.817.22.3
4.0
22.018.31.33.0
Frankie Frisch23.719.52.0
3.8
25.019.22.84.6
Mickey Cochrane15.210.82.5
3.6
13.311.51.22.2
Pie Traynor19.916.02.1
3.6
18.816.21.42.8
Freddie Lindstrom19.515.31.9
3.4
18.916.31.22.7
Dazzy Vance18.215.01.9
3.3
15.612.91.62.9
Ty Cobb20.015.31.8
3.3
19.116.50.72.2
Travis Jackson17.214.81.6
3.0
17.615.71.42.8
Charlie Gehringer17.113.71.6
2.9
17.414.81.22.6
Lloyd Waner20.516.91.3
2.9
20.919.40.21.9
Herb Pennock13.810.91.7
2.8
12.510.81.12.2
Burleigh Grimes16.013.71.5
2.8
15.216.2-0.11.3
Harry Heilmann20.617.01.1
2.7
20.116.81.02.5
Al Simmons16.412.91.4
2.6
16.112.81.32.5
Jim Bottomley19.615.81.1
2.6
18.315.00.92.3
Eppa Rixey13.511.41.3
2.4
13.011.51.02.1
Chick Hafey14.411.41.2
2.3
15.211.81.32.4
Gabby Hartnett12.811.11.1
2.1
13.211.51.22.2
Joe Sewell19.720.80.0
1.7
19.819.90.52.2
Eddie Collins Sr.8.87.00.9
1.6
8.67.40.61.3
Tris Speaker18.718.3-0.2
1.3
17.417.3-0.41.1
Edd Roush17.517.0-0.2
1.3
18.118.6-0.70.8
Kiki Cuyler10.49.10.4
1.2
11.29.70.51.4
Heinie Manush19.119.3-0.5
1.1
20.520.8-0.61.1
Red Faber6.46.10.2
0.8
6.46.70.00.6
Mel Ott5.54.90.2
0.7
5.05.3-0.20.3
Zack Wheat8.07.8-0.1
0.6
7.97.7-0.10.6
Goose Goslin20.021.5-1.3
0.5
20.319.5-0.11.6
Max Carey18.820.3-1.4
0.2
18.218.3-0.70.9
Walter Johnson5.36.1-0.3
0.2
6.05.90.20.7
Jimmie Foxx3.53.6-0.1
0.2
3.73.30.10.4
George Kelly6.56.9-0.4
0.2
5.96.1-0.30.2
Sam Rice16.317.6-1.3
0.1
16.217.7-1.4-0.0
Joe Cronin0.40.6-0.1
-0.0
0.50.6-0.1-0.0
Rabbit Maranville0.81.1-0.1
-0.1
0.70.8-0.00.0
Ray Schalk0.60.9-0.1
-0.1
0.80.9-0.10.0
Dave Bancroft11.514.6-1.2
-0.1
12.813.7-0.11.0
Stan Coveleski0.10.6-0.2
-0.2
0.20.4-0.1-0.1
Red Ruffing8.712.3-1.6
-0.6
10.010.9-0.20.7
George Sisler14.417.6-2.3
-1.0
16.116.7-1.00.4




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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