We’ve added data from the 1942 Mexican League, a season of 84-88 games that finished with three teams within two games of first place. Union Laguna de Torreon posted the best record (48-40) thanks to Martin Dihigo, who proved why he’s one of the greatest players in baseball history.
The 37-year-old Dihigo not only led the team in hitting with a 144 OPS+, but he pitched in a career-high 35 games, went 22-7 with a 2.53 ERA, and was the best pitcher in the league. Not surprisingly, another all-time great–Monte Irvin –was the league’s best hitter and enjoyed a season that would have made Ted Williams envious. In 63 games, the young shortstop slashed .397/.502/.772 with 20 homers, 79 RBIs, 74 runs, and 11 stolen bases. Add in his time with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League and his numbers become even more impressive–.412/.508/.792 with 21 homers, 90 RBIs, and 81 runs in 67 games.
We also see Quincy Trouppe having a very strong season in his prime, perhaps solidifying himself as one of the top 5 Negro League catchers all-time.
In addition we added new box scores and new data for 1938, two box scores for 1928, three for 1933, and as always, additional biographical data uncovered by Seamheads Lead Researcher Gary Ashwill.
Later this year, we plan on adding fielding and various secondary statistics (pitchers’ HRs allowed, HBP for batters, etc.) to Negro League seasons where they are not complete, plus many Latin American seasons (Mexico 1943-1954, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela), as well as the California Winter League, Negro leagues vs. minor league games, the ManDak League, the Negro leagues after 1948, perhaps the Provincial League, and a lot more.
Most baseball fans are familiar with the concept of ‘normalizing’ statistics. For MLB statistics, the most basic adjustment is to normalize for park effects. The simplest park normalization calculation takes the impact of a team’s park on runs scored then divides that number, either positive or negative, in half, and then that calculation is applied to a player’s OPS, ERA, wRC, etc. to get a normalized performance (usually indicated as OPS+, ERA+, wRC+). If you want to compare players from different leagues or seasons, add an adjustment for the individual league scoring rates and, viola, you have a normalized statistic.
However, the reason simple park calculations ‘work’ for normalization is that there is an underlying assumption that, except for home parks, players within a league all face almost identical conditions under which their teams perform. Those conditions include:
1. Playing the same number of games as all other teams.
2. Playing schedules with close to the same difficulty.
3. Playing an equal number of home and away games (and not
playing any neutral site games).
4. Playing most or all home games in the same park.
Teams, and within teams, the individual players, do not EXACTLY all meet these conditions. Some teams play more difficult schedules than others. Some batters may, by schedule or just bad luck, face better pitchers on average than other batters, and vice versa for pitchers. Some players may play more or fewer home games. But those are exceptions, and unless there’s a need to make really fine distinctions between very similar players, adjustments are typically not made for strength of competition, or for the fact that players play better at home than on the road, etc.
For the Negro Leagues, those assumed conditions all fall apart. Not just for the ‘pre-league’ 1900-1919 era, but even after formal leagues formed, the following conditions still prevailed in the Negro Leagues:
1. Teams played varying numbers of total games.
2. Teams played differing numbers of games against other
3. Teams played an unbalanced number of home and away games.
4. Teams played in multiple ‘neutral’ parks.
As a result, the simple park calculation won’t work for the Negro Leagues. To do a good enough job of normalization, we need to adjust for frequency of home field advantage, the strength of the opponent’s batters and pitchers, and finally the combination of parks played in, both at home and on the road.
The steps used to normalize Negro League stats on seamheads.com are:
1. Estimate the Negro Leagues home field advantage in runs per
2. Calculate each team’s Simple Rating System (SRS) number in
runs per game. SRS uses the run difference in each game
between teams plus an adjustment from #1 above based on the
game being home/away/neutral to come up with a Strength of
Schedule which feeds back into the final SRS rating.
Baseball-reference.com calculates SRS for MLB teams (in 2011
the Yankees led MLB with a 1.4 RPG SRS while Houston had a
-1.2 SRS). For more details on the calculation see the
football example at: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=37
3. Estimate based on Runs Scored/Allowed the SRS broken down
into offense and defense/pitching for each team. Using 2011
MLB as an example, perhaps the Yankees 1.4 SRS would be 1.3
for Offense and 0.1 for defense/pitching. So if our
team is playing the Yankees, our pitchers are going to get a
lot more ‘credit’ for having faced the Yankee batters than
our batters will for having to face the Yankee
4. Calculate a park factor adjustment for every park played in. We do this by calculating a ‘lifetime’ park factor for each Negro League park played in, including neutral sites, then we ‘resize’ to each league/season so that all the parks in a league/season average to 1.00.
5. For each game, apply a run adjustment based on the opponent
SRS (again with batters and pitchers getting separate
adjustments), adjust for whether the game was at home, away
or on a neutral site, apply the specific park adjustment,
then add those all together for final batter and pitcher
difficulty runs adjustments for that game. Finally, all of
the team’s individual game adjustments are then summed and
averaged for the normalizing factor for batters and pitchers
for that team.
In time for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Negro National League next month, we’re happy to announce that we have achieved full coverage of all the traditional major Negro leagues from 1920 through 1948.
The latest addition to the DB is the 1932 Negro Southern League, the only year that circuit was considered “major league,” as well as games between NSL teams and other Negro league teams—most notably the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Kansas City Monarchs. The 1932 NSL statistics are based on the work of Larry Lester, Wayne Stivers, and the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group, with some additions and auditing by us. It joins the work we’ve already done on the 1932 East-West League.
The ’32 NSL was considered a major league because Rube Foster’s original NNL had fallen apart, and that league’s flagship team—the Chicago American Giants—along with the Indianapolis ABCs and the Louisville Black Caps, opted to join the NSL. The NSL also welcomed in the champions of the previous year’s Texas-Oklahoma League, the Monroe (Louisiana) Monarchs. Along with the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons, former members of the NNL themselves, these additions made the Southern League the obvious successor to Foster’s league.
Amidst the depths of the depression, black professional baseball hit its lowest point in 1932, with teams and leagues folding, players constantly on the move, pennants disputed, and fans often bewildered. The chaotic nature of the ’32 NSL poses many difficulties for historians. It’s hard even to know what teams were really in the league. We’ve chosen to use the standings published in the Chicago Defender as the standard, although different contemporary sources name several other teams as league members. It’s quite possible (even likely) that further research will result in changes and additions in the future.
The NSL’s first-half championship was disputed between the American Giants and the Monroe Monarchs, with the league eventually awarding the title to Chicago. Dave Malarcher’s team, led by Willie Foster (10-5, 2.01), Turkey Stearnes (.315/.390/.500), Melvin Powell (8-3, 2.49), and Steel Arm Davis (.301/.353/.497), went on to defeat the second-half champion Nashville Elite Giants 4 games to 3 in the league championship series.
The Monarchs, featuring Leroy Morney (.378/427/.522), Roy Parnell (.350/.387/.556 and 5-1, 0.83), Dick Matthews (11-2, 2.17), Elbert Williams (9-6, 1.91), and Barney Morris (10-4, 3.06), made the most of their one year in the big time, and felt understandably aggrieved about their exclusion from the NSL’s official postseason. (See Thomas Aiello’s The Kings of Casino Park and Bill Plott’s The Negro Southern League for more about this.) Monroe played, and won, a “Dixie Series” against the Austin Black Senators, pennant winners of the Texas Negro League, and then played what was billed as a world championship series against the independent Pittsburgh Crawfords (won by the Crawfords).
Although we now have coverage of every traditional major Negro league, that does NOT mean the DB is “finished” in any sense. We still have fielding and various secondary statistics (pitchers’ HRs allowed, HBP for batters, etc.) to add to leagues/seasons that were based on NLRAG work, as well as new games and final audits for these seasons (and many others). There are also many Latin American seasons in the pipeline (Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela), as well as the California Winter League, Negro leagues vs. minor league games, the ManDak League, the Negro leagues after 1948, and a lot more. And biographical research continues. There is still a long, long way to go before the records of segregation-era black ballplayers could be considered anywhere near complete.