1915 – Bob’s Keltners for Hugh Duffy, Joe Kelley and Mike Tiernan

Something I/we haven’t done in a little while. Let me see if it sheds any light on the discussion. I’m going to do Keltner Lists for Duffy, Kelley and Tiernan, altho I’m going to change the wording in the questions from HOF to GOR.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball?
A “No” answer for all three, not with Anson, Kelly, Brouthers, Clarkson in the late 1880s, Young, Nichols, Delahanty in the ’90s and Lajoie and Wagner in the late ’90s/early ’00s.

2. Was he the best player on his team?
All three played for mostly good teams, Duffy with Boston, Kelley with Baltimore/Brooklyn and Tiernan with New York. Rarely were any of them THE guy on their team, but they were more than just “parts” to championship teams. They were all integral to their teams’ successes. Boog Powell was an integral part of the Orioles success; Perez was for the Reds; Hunter was for the As; Bonilla for the Pirates. Duffy, Kelley and Tiernan were better than Powell, Perz, Hunter and Bonilla. So while the short answer is “No”, it’s only because they had superstar teammates.

3. Was he the best player at his position?
I’m sure that all three had their moments being the best.

4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
Huge “Yes” for all three.

So far, I don’t see anything that distinguishes between the three.

5. Was he good enough that he could continue to play after his prime?
Kelley “Yes”, Duffy and Tiernan “No”.

6. Is he the best player in history who is not in the GOR?
Duffy and Kelley are in the Hall, and Tiernan is not in the Top 10, and probably not Top 20, of those outside looking in. But this seems an irrelevant question for this discussion. That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

7.Are most of the players who have comparable career stats in the GOR?
Yes, to all three. Tiernan has the weakest numbers of the three, but so much of that is park effects.

8. Do the players’ numbers meet GOR standards?
Sure, easily, for all three.

9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his stats?
Duffy played in an extreme hitter’s park. Kelley’s was fairly neutral, but a little bit of a hitter’s park. Tiernan played in a modestly effected pitcher’s park.

10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the GOR but not in?
All three were predominantly corner outfielders, and the top three candidates for best player at his position.

11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have?
I’ll use Win Shares, just because it’s easy and Keltner List is a BJames method. Anything over 35 WS is a MVP season, 30-34 is a MVP candidate season and 25-29 is a potential MVP season. Duffy had 0 35+ seasons, 1 (1894) 30-34 season, and 6 25-29 seasons.
Kelley had 0 35+ season, 3 (’94, ’96 & 99) 30-34 seasons, and 2 25-29 seasons. Tiernan had no season above 30 and 5 seasons between 25-29. Based on this, it’s pretty clear that the order is Duffy, Kelley, Tiernan. It’s hard to know 100 years after the fact, but it’s likely that none of them would have won an MVP. Duffy might have won in 1894, but more likely would have won in 1893, as he was the best position player on a championship team. Kelley might have won in ’94, since he was the best position player on a “surprise” championship team. Tiernan might have won in ’89. Like Duffy and Kelley, he was the best position player on a championship team. There are things about the 19th century I struggle understanding, but it seems that being on a championship team held a lot of importance, even more than now. There was no season where any of the three were no-brainer MVPs. But they were on occasion in the running.

12. How many all-star type seasons did he have?
Using 20 WS as a guide, Duffy had 8, Kelley had 8 and Tiernan had 7.

13. If this player were the best on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
To alter James’ answer: “There is no question but what a team with either Duffy, Kelley or Tiernan as its star could win the pennant.”

14. What impact did the player have on history?
Duffy was known as one of the “Heavenly Twins”. He and McCarthy were famous for devising a number of things. I’m sure that Kelley left some mark, he seems the type. Tiernan, I can’t think of anything.

15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character?
Sure, as far as I know, at least by turn-of-the-century standards.

***************

Well, I can’t say that this was overly constructive. Or illuminating. These three are all good, viable candidates for the GOR. If one ranks them in any of the six possible ways, I’m not sure it wouldn’t be right. It all depends one what we voters deem important. I still have it as Kelley-Tiernan-Duffy, since I put a lot more weight on park effects, but…..

Added later in response to another poster:

I love me some Bill James, but his fielding metric isn’t something I put a lot of faith in. Especially when it comes to pre-1920 analysis. That being said, I think it is the best fielding metric out there. Fielding Linear Weights I think is akin to Chadwick’s Hits Per Game stat. It’s archaic and too simplistic. Defensive WAR I think is like Batting Average. Better, but still not truly useful in determining who is a better player, unless you truly think that Lloyd Waner’s .316 BA makes him a better hitter than Mike Schmidt’s .267. Bill’s Defensive Win Shares is Slugging Percentage on the stat evolutionary trail. Better still than Batting Average. But Dave Kingman’s .478 Slugging Percentage doesn’t prove he was a better hitter than Wade Boss’ .443.

OPS+ is a very flawed stat, but it’s much better than Bill’s DefWS. We’re light-years ahead in understanding offense compared to fielding. We’re struggling mightily, trying to understand today’s fielding. We are nowhere near close to understanding 19th century fielding stats. And honestly, I don’t think we will in my lifetime.

And sometimes Bill’s analysis comes up with what I think are lulus. George Sisler as a C-, Clemente as a B-, Brooks Robinson as a A-. One that I have always found curious is the Braves had an A+ second baseman in Glenn Hubbard and replaced him with an A+ fielder in Mark Lemke. I guess it’s possible, but I’ve always figured there was some sort of effect playing havoc with the numbers, whether it was the pitching staff or the park or scorekeeping.

But these three stats do give us a “feel” for who-is-better-than-who (Faber Points I only use for consensus building). If all three metrics say Duffy was a better fielder than Tiernan, I’d figure it’s a safe bet for me to say that Duffy was a better fielder as well. How much better? That is open to debate. According to defWS, Duffy had 5.6 per 162 games, Tiernan had 3.4. So per season, Duffy was 2.2 Wins better than Tiernan. That’s a lot, considering that the difference between Roberto Clemente, the best rightfielder I ever saw, and Greg Luzinski, the worst leftfielder I ever saw, was only 1.75.

Part of the problem IMO with dWS for outfielders is the “bonus” one gets for playing center. Let’s say that an average centerfielder makes 3.0 plays per game and average left- and rightfielders make 2.25 per game. An average outfielder would then make 2.5 okays per game, so that average centerfielder would be an above average outfielder because of that extra .5 play per game, and that average rightfielder would be below average. Now take a below average centerfielder who makes 2.75 plays per game and an above average rightfielder who makes 2.5. That centerfielder would still rank as a better outfielder than the rightfielder. A below average centerfielder is better than an above average rightfielder? I follow Bill’s logic, but I am not sure that it is actually true. And this methodology is what has Duffy so far ahead (in comparison to the other Great Stats) of Tiernan as a defensive player, Duffy playing quite a bit in center.

It looks like Duffy will make the GOR and it’s not likely that Tiernan will. And I am okay with that. Duffy got the championships, and the publicity that go along with that; Duffy got to play in a hitter’s park, so his numbers are gaudier; Duffy got the good teammates, Tiernan got Andrew Freedman. But I am not convinced that Duffy was the better player.

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