Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1959 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records



Next in my continuing series of looking at individual seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records is the 1959 season.

The final season of the 1950's was only the second season of the 1950's that did not end with the New York Yankees playing in the World Series. Instead, the Chicago White Sox won their first American League pennant in 40 years.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, the Milwaukee Braves came agonizingly close to a third consecutive pennant, losing a two-game playoff to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who brought the World Series to the West Coast for the first time.

The Best of 1959

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
1Ernie Banks24.818.03.7
5.5
1Ernie Banks24.818.03.7
5.5
2Willie Mays24.916.33.7
5.4
2Willie Mays24.916.33.7
5.4
3Vern Law18.512.93.5
4.8
3Nellie Fox21.715.53.4
4.9
4Nellie Fox21.715.53.4
4.9
4Vern Law18.512.93.5
4.8
5Early Wynn20.615.73.2
4.7
5Early Wynn20.615.73.2
4.7
6Eddie Mathews22.815.43.1
4.6
6Eddie Mathews22.815.43.1
4.6
7Hank Aaron25.217.52.8
4.5
7Hank Aaron25.217.52.8
4.5
8Minnie Minoso23.416.92.7
4.3
8Minnie Minoso23.416.92.7
4.3
9Don Newcombe15.912.32.5
3.7
9Warren Spahn19.216.12.3
3.8
10Bob Shaw15.211.22.5
3.7
10Mickey Mantle20.514.82.3
3.7


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
1Ernie Banks24.016.83.9
5.5
1Ernie Banks24.016.83.9
5.5
2Camilo Pascual16.911.83.2
4.4
2Camilo Pascual16.911.83.2
4.4
3Warren Spahn19.415.52.7
4.2
3Warren Spahn19.415.52.7
4.2
4Don Newcombe16.712.82.6
3.9
4Eddie Mathews22.215.92.5
4.1
5Eddie Mathews22.215.92.5
4.1
5Don Newcombe16.712.82.6
3.9
6Willie Mays22.616.92.2
3.8
6Hank Aaron24.518.12.2
3.9
7Vern Law17.714.72.2
3.6
7Willie Mays22.616.92.2
3.8
8Hank Aaron24.518.12.2
3.9
8Vern Law17.714.72.2
3.6
9Ken Boyer20.315.22.0
3.5
9Ken Boyer20.315.22.0
3.5
10Eddie Yost20.715.72.0
3.4
10Eddie Yost20.715.72.0
3.4


Let's take a closer look at a few of the players above.

Ernie Banks
The best player in the major leagues in 1959, as measured by either pWins or eWins, over either positional average or replacement level, was Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks.

Ernie Banks actually had a fairly short period of time as an elite Hall-of-Fame caliber player - basically about seven seasons, from 1955 through 1961. But it was a heckuva peak.

The next table shows the top 10 players in career (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) wins over positional average at shortstop. This counts only Player decisions earned while playing shortstop and only includes players who played the bulk of their career since 1930.

Top 10 Shortstops
(Career eWOPA at Shortstop)
eWins eLosses eWinPct eWOPA
Cal Ripken301.3273.90.52425.4
Alex Rodriguez180.5144.80.55523.3
Alan Trammell262.1244.40.51720.0
Pee Wee Reese271.4240.30.53019.9
Barry Larkin274.1244.00.52919.9
Derek Jeter347.6328.00.51519.8
Ernie Banks158.5129.20.55118.2
Vern Stephens160.6135.80.54214.8
Lou Boudreau179.0155.80.53514.5
Arky Vaughan151.0127.70.54213.9


Banks has by far the fewest total decisions of any player in the above table. In fact, this table pretty much shows Banks in the best possible light: he moved to first base in 1962 (at age 31) just as he was starting to slip toward average, so this captures none of his decline phase, all of which he spent as a first baseman.

Camilo Pascual vs. Vern Law
In 1959, only one Cy Young Award was awarded for all of Major-League Baseball, which was won by Early Wynn. Wynn had a fine season in 1959, but not the best season for a pitcher measured either by pWins or eWins. Measured by pWins (over either positional average or replacement level), the best pitcher in 1959 was Pittsburgh Pirates starter Vern Law. Measured by eWins (again, over either positional average or replacement level), the best pitcher in 1959 was Washington Senator Camilo Pascual.

Comparing Law's and Pascual's 1959 seasons makes for an interesting contrast in the effect of context on player value.

The next table compares Pascual's and Law's 1959 season records in and out of context.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Camilo Pascual
32
16.713.40.5562.3
3.6
16.911.80.5903.24.4
Vern Law
38
18.512.90.5903.5
4.8
17.714.70.5462.23.6


Perhaps the best way to contrast how context affect the records of Pascual and Law is to compare how they pitched with the bases loaded. Both Pascual and Law had excellent seasons in 1959. Because of that, neither of them pitched in many bases-loaded situations: Pascual faced 10 such plate appearances and Law faced 11.

Of the 10 batters that Pascual faced with the bases loaded, he walked one, gave up 6 singles, and a double, a batting line of .667/.700/.778, with 13 runs scoring.

Of the 11 batters that Law faced with the bases loaded, he allowed one single, one sacrifice fly, a batting line of .100/.091/.100, and 3 runs scored.
Only 21 plate appearances, of course, but an interesting contrast.
Nellie Fox
The 1959 season is the only season (so far) in major-league history in which the Most Valuable Players from both leagues played in Chicago as Cubs shorstop Ernie Banks was joined by White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox.

Based on pWins (over either positional average or replacement level), the MVP voters got both awards right in 1959.

Nellie Fox's 1959 season looks quite a bit better in context than not. This is actually true of Nellie Fox's career in general. The next table compares Nellie Fox's 1959 season and career as measured by Player won-lost records, in and out of context.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1959
156
21.715.50.5833.4
4.9
20.317.40.5381.73.2
Career
2,367
283.5265.30.51714.8
37.3
270.9276.90.4952.825.2


In 1959, Nellie Fox had an overall batting line of .306/.380/.389, for an OPS of .770. With runners in scoring position, Fox batted .383/.497/.525 (1.022 OPS). His OPS by leverage broke down 1.135 in high-lev, .722 in medium-lev, .678 in low-lev situations.

For his career, the splits were not quite so dramatic, but still showed a definite flair for "clutch" hitting: .710 OPS overall, .754 with runners in scoring position, .774 in high-leverage (vs. .718 in medium-leverage, .689 in low-leverage). It's harder to pull out specific numbers to show it, but Fox was also something of a "clutch" baserunner and fielder over his career, with his baserunning and fielding numbers both looking better measured in pWins than in eWins.

In fact, here's an interesting comparison to show just how much context boosted the value of Nellie Fox's career: Nellie Fox vs. Ernie Banks in career Player won-lost records.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Nellie Fox
2,367
283.5265.30.51714.8
37.3
270.9276.90.4952.825.2
Ernie Banks
2,525
304.4270.80.52912.9
36.6
302.2255.90.54219.542.5


1959 Postseason

The 1959 World Series was the first played on the West Coast and the first World Series appearance by the Chicago White Sox since they threw one 40 years earlier.

The series started and ended with blowouts (11-0, 9-3) with the middle four games decided by a total of five runs (the Dodgers winning 3 of the 4 plus the latter blowout).

The top performers in the 1959 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost record, are shown in the table below. The top performance in the 1959 World Series was by Dodgers relief pitcher Larry Sherry, who recorded the pitching win in two of the Dodgers victories while picking up the save in the other two.

1959 World Series: Top Player Performances
pWins pLosses pWORL
Larry SherryLAN1.20.50.5
Charlie NealLAN1.20.70.3


Best of 1959 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.
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 1959 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Eddie Mathews16.810.92.6
Hank Aaron17.411.72.5

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Luis Aparicio2.61.50.5

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



The importance of baserunning was pretty much at an all-time major-league low in the 1950s. For example, in 1959, Bob Allison finished 5th in the American League in stolen bases in 1959 with 13. The Go-Go White Sox and Luis Aparicio were a notable exception. In 1959, Aparicio stole more bases (56) than all but one other team in the American League (Boston stole 68) and more than the average team total in the National League (55). And it wasn't just Aparicio: the White Sox would have finished second in the AL in stolen bases (57) removing Aparicio's total completely.

The next table shows the top ten baserunning seasons, as measured by baserunning wins over non-pitcher average, by an individual through the 1950s.

Top 10 Baserunning Seasons, 1950 - 1959
(Wins over non-Pitcher Average)
Player Season eWins eLosses eWOPA
Luis Aparicio19592.61.50.5
Mickey Mantle19581.90.80.5
Luis Aparicio19581.90.90.5
Luis Aparicio19571.91.10.4
Jim Rivera19521.60.90.4
Sam Jethroe19511.91.10.4
Jackie Robinson19522.11.30.4
Willie Mays19582.11.30.3
Don Blasingame19572.21.40.3
Harvey Kuenn19591.50.80.3


While the White Sox, as a team, were very aggressive baserunners, they were actually fairly average at it overall. The next table shows the top 10 baserunning seasons by teams in the 1950s, ranked by (context-neutral) baserunning wins.

Top 10 Baserunning Seasons, 1950 - 1959
(Total Baserunning Wins)
Player Season eWins eLosses eWOPA
Chicago White Sox195811.89.11.4
Chicago White Sox195711.79.51.1
Brooklyn Dodgers195111.711.00.3
Philadelphia Phillies195211.611.50.0
Chicago White Sox195911.311.10.1
New York Giants195111.310.20.5
St. Louis Cardinals195711.210.80.2
St. Louis Cardinals195411.110.70.2
Brooklyn Dodgers195211.19.60.8
New York Yankees195211.19.70.7


The nickname "Go-Go White Sox" is usually associated with the 1959 White Sox, because they're the White Sox team that won the pennant, but the White Sox were actually a better baserunning team the two previous seasons. By 1959, the White Sox were still an aggressive baserunning team, but not an especially good one.

Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Camilo Pascual13.19.73.5
Warren Spahn15.712.92.8


Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Whitey Ford0.60.20.3
Bud Daley0.50.20.3
Camilo Pascual0.50.20.3


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Hobie Landrith1.20.70.4
Ed Fitz Gerald0.90.50.4
Hal R. Smith1.51.10.4
Elston Howard0.70.40.4
Ed Bailey1.20.80.4


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Vic Power2.31.50.8


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Nellie Fox5.44.31.1


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jim Gilliam3.42.80.6
Jim Davenport2.92.30.6


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ernie Banks6.14.81.3


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Al E. Smith3.72.80.9
Minnie Minoso6.65.70.9


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Gary Geiger3.82.51.3


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Al Pilarcik3.32.41.0


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1959 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
Yogi Berra12.410.71.2


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Frank Robinson15.311.71.2


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Nellie Fox20.317.61.6
Charlie Neal20.317.61.6


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Eddie Mathews22.116.32.3


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ernie Banks23.817.33.6


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Minnie Minoso21.718.01.2


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Mays22.217.02.0


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Hank Aaron22.416.42.0


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Camilo Pascual13.39.71.9


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Gerry Staley6.85.00.8


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 1959 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1959, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Lindy McDaniel10.48.70.5440.92.1
Gerry Staley7.14.90.5921.11.9
Bill R. Henry7.76.00.5650.91.8
Roy Face7.05.10.5780.91.8
Turk Lown6.04.00.5971.01.6


Roy Face had a traditional won-lost record of 18-1 in 1959. His Player won-lost record was somewhat less impressive.

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
Don Newcombe2.11.70.8


Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Johnny Romano0.80.20.3
Gene Freese1.00.40.3


Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Felipe Alou0.070.010.04


Noteworthy Players of 1959

Finally, let's take a look at some players who had noteworthy 1959 seasons.

Notable Debuts
Three players made their major-league debut in 1959 who would go on to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey, and Billy Williams. Their careers, as measured by Player won-lost records, are compared in the next table.

Bob Gibson Willie McCovey Billy Williams
Season pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL pWins pLoss pWOPA pWORL
19595.14.90.2
0.7
7.34.51.2
1.7
0.51.0-0.3-0.2
19604.86.6-0.7
-0.2
9.26.80.8
1.5
1.31.4-0.2-0.0
196115.513.41.6
2.8
10.48.50.3
1.2
15.718.4-1.9-0.4
196217.713.82.7
4.1
9.36.51.0
1.6
20.819.9-0.51.0
196317.714.52.4
3.8
21.916.22.0
3.5
24.419.31.63.3
196420.316.52.7
4.6
13.411.60.3
1.4
22.819.80.42.2
196520.317.62.4
4.1
21.213.23.0
4.4
24.419.61.43.2
196620.015.52.9
4.5
19.912.13.0
4.3
19.320.8-1.7-0.1
196711.89.91.5
2.4
18.911.42.8
4.2
23.218.91.12.9
196822.314.54.8
6.2
21.714.52.5
4.0
26.119.22.34.2
196922.716.93.9
5.7
22.212.23.8
5.3
23.019.80.82.6
197022.113.95.1
6.5
21.613.33.0
4.5
25.518.92.14.0
197117.915.32.1
3.5
12.58.51.4
2.2
23.417.72.03.7
197220.214.53.7
5.2
6.57.4-1.0
-0.4
23.616.92.44.1
197311.311.10.6
1.6
14.710.61.4
2.5
20.519.3-0.31.4
197413.414.6-0.0
1.1
11.59.50.5
1.3
13.513.1-0.40.7
19755.88.7-1.3
-0.6
11.712.1-0.9
0.1
13.610.21.63.0
1976
 
6.37.0-0.7
-0.1
7.97.10.31.2
1977
 
13.812.7-0.1
1.0
1978
 
11.49.90.3
1.1
1979
 
9.29.5-0.6
0.2
1980
 
3.23.0-0.1
0.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS268.7222.334.5
56.0
297.8221.024.1
45.7
329.5281.510.736.8


Last Hurrahs
Finally, 1959 was the final season for two players who have subsequently been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame: Larry Doby and Enos Slaughter.

Doby's and Slaughter's career records are compared in the next table, for those games for which I have play-by-play data. This includes every game of Larry Doby's career, but only 2,058 of the 2,380 games in which Slaughter appeared over his 19-year career.

Larry Doby Enos Slaughter
Season Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
1938
 
729.09.70.481-0.50.3
1939
 
8412.310.30.5450.61.6
1940
 
7110.97.70.5871.32.1
1941
 
517.05.90.5410.30.9
1942
 
6610.77.80.5791.22.0
1943
 
1944
 
1945
 
1946
 
15625.718.70.5792.64.5
1947280.50.90.364-0.2
-0.1
14720.618.40.5290.31.9
194812016.213.80.5390.6
1.9
14623.618.60.5591.63.3
194914722.017.50.5571.7
3.3
15123.318.50.5581.33.0
195014221.714.50.5993.1
4.6
14818.918.80.501-0.41.2
195113419.115.10.5581.6
3.0
12314.413.60.5140.21.3
195214021.815.10.5913.0
4.5
14021.817.00.5621.93.5
195314921.916.00.5782.3
3.9
14318.616.30.5330.82.2
195415327.115.30.6405.0
6.7
694.03.40.5390.30.7
195513117.914.50.5521.1
2.4
1188.97.40.5470.61.3
195614018.816.50.5320.5
2.0
1159.810.40.486-0.60.3
195711916.214.10.5350.5
1.8
968.06.50.5500.41.1
1958889.28.00.5350.3
1.0
774.64.50.503-0.10.3
1959392.93.90.424-0.6
-0.3
853.54.70.428-0.7-0.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS1,530215.3165.30.56618.9
34.6
2,058255.8218.20.54011.131.3




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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