Posted tagged ‘Eddie Collins’

The Drop Off to Second Best


This morning Buster Olney of ESPN tweeted, “Because of the difference between Rivera and others at his position, for me, he should be part of NYY’ Rushmore, with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio.” I find this an interesting claim in a lot of ways. First note the 4 players: Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Rivera. I would without a second thought shove Mantle ahead of both DiMaggio and Rivera. Second, I take his claim to be that the dropoff from Rivera to others refers to all other relievers, not just all other Yankee relievers. That follows an earlier tweet which said, “The difference between Rivera and any other player at his position in history is the greatest of any position.” That is a more interesting question. To get a quick and dirty look at the drop from the best to the second-best at various positions, I’m going to do a bit of fiddling with WAR, as measured on Baseball Reference. I will also summarily exclude 19th-Century Players. (This means I excluded both Cy Young and George Davis.) The method is simple: Take the WAR of player 2, divide it by player 1, and multiply by 100. This gives the second player’s production as a percentage of the first player. So, is the dropoff from Rivera the biggest? Let’s turn to the stats.


Player 1 WAR 1 Player 2 WAR 2 Percentage Total Drop
Gehrig 118.4 Foxx 95.2 80.41 23.2
Hornsby 127.8 Collins 126.7 99.14 1.1
Wagner 134.5 Ripken 89.9 66.84 44.6
Schmidt 108.3 Rodriguez 105 96.95 3.3
Ruth 190 Aaron 141.6 74.53 48.4
Cobb 159.5 Mays 154.7 96.99 4.8
Bonds 171.8 Musial 127.8 74.39 44
Bench 71.3 Fisk 67.3 94.39 4
W. Johnson 139.8 Clemens 128.8 92.13 11
Rivera 55.8 Gossage 39.5 70.79 16.3
Eckersley 58.3 Rivera 55.8 95.71 2.5
Rivera 55.8 Hoffman 30.4 54.48 25.4

First, these are full career WAR stats, so Ruth has a serious bump from being a pitcher, and Walter Johnson gets a nice little bump from his hitting. Second, I calculated relievers three different ways. First, I ran Rivera against Gossage, the two highest pitchers who accumulated almost all their WAR in relief. Next I did Rivera against Eckersley, because Eck had the highest WAR of any pitcher who is in the Hall of Fame as a reliever. Nonetheless, his WAR is so high because he gets a giant boost from all of his years as a starter. Finally I compared Rivera to the next highest modern closer, that is the highest WAR from a reliever since the advent of the modern closer circa 1980. That would be Trevor Hoffman. So where does this get us?

First, the drop at shortstop is gigantic. Even adding George Davis back in doesn’t help much. That is the lowest percentage drop among position players. Next, the drop from Ruth to Aaron is impressive. It is the largest raw WAR drop, and the third lowest percentage. Quite a drop considering this is Hank Aaron we are talking about. Finally, relievers are tricky. First, if Eckersley is included, Rivera isn’t the best ever. Next, if you include higher inning relievers from the 1970’s, the percentage is not the lowest, but it is second. Finally, if you limit Rivera to his most comparable group, other closers, you see Buster Olney’s point in big numbers. Rivera is nearly twice the pitcher of any other closer, when measured by WAR. I find that fact astonishing.


The Forgotten Alexander Mogilny


This article is primarily of local interest, but I find it interesting in a larger sense how great players are sometimes forgotten. What distinguishes those who are remembered from those who are lost? I can’t say. Nonetheless, I want to highlight one example from the world of hockey, Alexander Mogilny. Given that all of my readers have just gone, who?, consider my point made.

Alexander Mogilny is first of all important historically. He was one of the earliest young Russian players to come to the NHL, defecting in 1989 and joining the Buffalo Sabres. Before that, he had been a critical part of dominant Russian Juniors teams and the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist, with linemates Sergei Federov and Pavel Bure. From there, he would become the first European to lead the NHL is scoring. The game as we know it today follows in Mogilny’s footsteps.

Second, Mogilny is the greatest pure scorer ever to play for the Buffalo Sabres. In the 1992-93 season, Mogilny put up 76 goals in 77 games, primarily because he cooled off after scoring 50 in his first 46 games. This is the fifth highest single season total in NHL history. The next highest total in Sabres history? 56. Yet when the local sports radio station unveiled their “Buffalo Brackets” to honor, among other things, the greatest players in Sabres history, Mogilny couldn’t crack the top 16. Why? What happened to the memory of Alexander Mogilny?

Third, Mogilny was painfully inconsistent. This, I think, became his great legacy. Mogilny put up 76 goals in a season but never again scored more than 55. He had only one great playoff run, when he put up 7 goals in 7 games after the 1992-93 season. He won a single Stanley Cup, with the 2000 New Jersey Devils, yet he finished tied for 10th on the team in playoff scoring on a Cup won on the back of Martin Brodeur. Despite that inconsistency, he still has the 49th most goals in NHL history, surrounded by players like Federov, his former Sabres teammate Pat Lafontaine, and Doug Gilmour. He is the one already forgotten. He ranks 36th all-time in goals per game and 65th in career points, yet he is lost to the sands of times a mere four seasons after his last game.

What happened? Mogilny was always a bit of a disappointment. His ridiculous 76-goal season set the bar for his future impossibly high. The baseball comparison I think of is Eddie Mathews. In his first four seasons, Matthews hit 153 home runs with an OPS+ of 157. He never again approached such lofty heights, which proves that he was not Babe Ruth. He remained an outstanding player, and he should be in the argument for best to ever play third base. Yet Mathews is largely forgotten. Similarly, Mogilny was not Wayne Gretzky. Oh well. He was a remarkable scorer anyway. Why has he disappeared from the collective imagination? I don’t know.

Who are other great players that are surprisingly forgotten? I don’t mean old players. It is no surprise that few people remember Eddie Collins, since he retired 80 years ago. It is surprising how quickly Eddie Murray (just to give a series of Eddie’s) has been forgotten in less than 20. Who has struck you as tragically forgotten?