Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Luke Easter

Luke Easter as Seen Through Player Won-Lost Records

Luke Easter was perhps one of the greatest "what-ifs" in Major-League history.

Luke Easter's SABR Biography opens with a quote from Del Baker:

"I've seen a lot of powerful hitters in my time but for sheer ability to knock a ball great distances, I've never seen anybody better than Easter--and I'm not excepting Babe Ruth."
The first table below presents Luke Easter's career as measured by Player won-lost records.

Luke Easter
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1949CLE33
21
1.01.10.466-0.1
-0.0
1.31.50.458-0.2-0.0
1950CLE34
141
17.813.40.5711.4
2.7
15.813.90.5320.21.4
1951CLE35
128
16.513.10.5581.4
2.5
13.411.90.5290.41.4
1952CLE36
127
16.011.30.5861.7
2.8
13.810.40.5701.12.1
1953CLE37
68
5.75.40.5150.0
0.5
5.95.10.5350.30.7
1954CLE38
6
0.10.20.178-0.1
-0.1
0.10.20.265-0.1-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
491
57.144.60.5624.3
8.4
50.243.10.5381.85.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
0
0.00.0 0.00.00.0 0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
491
57.144.60.562
8.4
50.243.10.538 5.5


Luke Easter was born in 1915, which was probably 20 years too soon for an African-American baseball player. The MLB color barrier wasn't broken until Easter was 31 years old and even though Easter was able to make the major leagues, he ended up spending more time in the integrated minor leagues than in MLB because of a combination of bad luck, injuries, and lingering quotas on the number of blacks that teams were willing to carry.

In spite of all of that, Easter certainly showed glimpses of what he could do. For his three full major-league seasons, 1950, 1951, and 1952, Easter had 162-game averages of 36 home runs, 126 RBI, and 92 runs scored, while putting up a batting line of .271/.349/.493. He did that at the ages of 34, 35, and 36 (he turned 37 in August of 1952).

Before his major-league career, Easter bounced around for several Negro teams (and, as with most men around his age, he spent a year in the Army and several years working in war plants, during World War II). After his major-league career, Easter played - very well - in the minor leagues until 1964 (the year he turned 49).

What if Easter had been signed by a major-league team out of high school and played in the major leagues for as long as he was able? There's no way to know for sure, of course.

I have developed a system to identify players most similar to each other, as measured by Player won-lost records. The next table, then, shows the 10 players most similar to Luke Easter at ages 34 - 37 (Easter's 1950 - 53 seasons) among all players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records.

Most Similar Players to Luke Easter in Value
Ages 34 through 37 (seasons normalized to 162 games) (missing player games extrapolated)
Wins over Baseline
Player Games pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL Batting Baserunning Pitching Fielding
Luke Easter
464
56.143.24.5
8.5
3.3-0.10.00.0
Carlos Delgado
468
53.143.92.2
5.7
2.9-0.10.0-0.1
Dolph Camilli
394
52.234.86.2
9.7
5.0-0.30.0-0.0
Lance Berkman
372
40.633.22.5
5.6
2.9-0.20.0-0.1
Alex Rodriguez
402
48.240.53.9
7.5
2.20.10.00.7
Hank Greenberg
345
46.834.64.0
7.3
5.2-0.10.00.1
Frank E. Thomas
409
39.430.83.4
7.7
4.5-0.20.0-0.0
Don Baylor
580
54.845.33.7
9.5
3.9-0.20.0-0.1
Jeff Bagwell
513
57.948.21.9
6.1
3.90.20.00.1
Harold Baines
481
41.336.51.3
6.2
3.0-0.20.00.0
Jorge Posada
449
43.537.24.7
7.8
3.0-0.50.00.3


That's an intriguing, but frankly, very odd, list. It contains two Hall-of-Famers (Berra and DiMaggio) and two more recent players with strong Hall-of-Fame resumes (A-Rod and Bagwell) - none of whom really seem anything like the 6'4", 240 lb. (per BB-Ref), slugging first baseman that Luke Easter was.

The next table, then, compares Luke Easter to Hall-of-Fame first basemen who debuted since 1936. I chose 1936 to pick up Johnny Mize. The table includes all Hall-of-Famers for whom at least one-third of their eWins were earned as a first baseman. I chose one-third to get Willie Stargell onto the table.

The numbers below are for these players at ages 34 - 37, the four seasons in which Luke Easter was basically a full-time major league (his missed time in 1953 was due to injury - a not-uncommon occurrence for a 37-year-old slugger). Players are sorted by pWins over replacement level (pWORL) for their age 34 - 37 seasons.

Hall-of-Fame First Basemen
(age 34 - 37)
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
Johnny Mize62.145.76.7
11.0
58.641.87.011.0
Luke Easter56.143.24.5
8.5
48.941.42.05.6
Frank E. Thomas39.430.83.4
7.7
37.528.53.77.8
Harmon Killebrew62.550.93.0
7.7
58.648.32.57.0
Jeff Bagwell57.948.21.9
6.1
56.146.22.16.1
Eddie Murray73.465.50.2
5.5
67.560.7-0.14.8
Tony Perez61.154.00.8
5.3
59.652.60.85.2
Rod Carew51.748.10.7
4.8
53.348.41.45.5
Ernie Banks64.860.2-1.3
3.7
61.956.4-0.64.1
Willie McCovey44.140.3-0.4
3.0
45.537.02.05.3
Orlando Cepeda19.018.10.3
2.5
17.118.1-0.71.5


Now, sorting by pWORL puts Luke Easter in a much better light than sorting by eWORL. And, of course, the great unanswered question is the extent to which Luke Easter's career could have followed a "normal" aging curve - or was he just a late bloomer who would have peaked in his mid-30's even if he had been drafted into the major leagues straight out of high school?

But damn if that's not a compelling result.

Could Luke Easter have been a Hall-of-Famer if not for racial segregation? I suspect the answer is yes.



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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