October 21, 2014

Adjusting for Military Service

May 6, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

Many fans have wondered over the years about those players who lost playing time to military service – and how that may have impacted their total careers.

One interesting aspect of win shares and the CAWS Career Gauge is that it is fairly easy to reasonably adjust a player’s career numbers to reflect this lost time.  Let’s take Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as two examples.

Joe DiMaggio’s career numbers are ranked #25 among position players of the 20th century by the CAWS Gauge.  Here are some players ranked just above and below him.  CWS = career win shares, CV = core value (win shares for his ten best seasons) and CAWS = career score = CV + .25(CWS – CV).

CWS

CV

CAWS

21 Eddie Mathews 3B

450

333

362

22 Alex Rodriguez SS

457

329

361

23 Albert Pujols 1B

373

347

354

24 Jimmie Foxx 1B

435

325

353

25 Joe DiMaggio CF

387

325

341

26 Sam Crawford RF

446

303

339

27 Carl Yastrzemski LF

488

286

337

As most fans know, Joe D had a relatively short career of only thirteen seasons and this is a major reason why his career numbers do not rank him higher.  He lost seasons to military service and to early retirement due to a foot problem.

DiMaggio lost three playing seasons (1943-45) in the prime of his career to military service in World War II.  And many fans have speculated as to what his career might have looked like if he did not lose those years.  Of course, the same question would apply to some other great player as well such as Ted Williams, Stan Musial and Willie Mays – to name just a few.

For the two years prior to his military service, Joe DiMaggio earned the following win shares:  1941 = 41 and 1942 = 32.  On his return from the military, he earned the following in the next two years:  1946 = 24 and 1947 = 30.  If we average these four seasons, we get 31.75 or 32 win shares.  Therefore, it is reasonable to project that he would have averaged 32 win shares for the three years that he was in the military.  And so his new CAWS line would look like this.

CWS

CV

CAWS

Joe DiMaggio CF

483

337

374

This adjustment would move the Yankee Clipper from #25 to #17 on the CAWS list.

14 Joe Morgan 2B 512 341 384
15 Mel Ott RF 528 335 383
16 Nap Lajoie 2B 496 334 375
17 Joe DiMaggio CF 483 337 374
18 Mike Schmidt 3B 467 338 370
19 Frank Robinson RF 519 316 367

The military adjustment is even more dramatic for Ted Williams since he essentially lost five seasons to military service – three during World War II (1943-1945) and two during the Korean War (1952-1953).  As most fans know, Ted was a fighter pilot in those conflicts.

For the two years prior to his first military stint, Ted earned the following win shares: 1941 = 42 and 1942 = 46.   On his return, he earned the following: 1946 = 49 and 1947 = 44.  The average is 45.25.  So, we award him 45 win shares for each of the three years during WW II.  Similarly, for his time in the Korean War, 1950 = 19 and 1951 = 34 while 1954 = 29 and 1955 = 23.  So, we award him 26 win shares for each of the two seasons he lost there.  Therefore, Ted’s new CAWS line looks like this.

   

CWS

CV

CAWS

Ted Williams LF

732

433

508

This adjustment becomes VERY SIGNIFICANT.  It moves the Splendid Splinter up from the #9 position on the CAWS list to #2 – just behind the Babe.  And I think it is fair to say that many fans would tend to agree with this conclusion.

1 Babe Ruth RF

756

460

534

2 Ted Williams LF

732

433

508

3 Barry Bonds LF

707

427

497

4 Ty Cobb LF

722

419

495

5 Honus Wagner SS

655

422

480

6 Willie Mays CF

642

389

452

7 Tris Speaker CF

630

388

449

8 Mickey Mantle CF

565

399

441

9 Stan Musial LF

604

378

435

10 Hank Aaron RF

643

356

428

Of course, if we adjust for the military time for Mays and Musial, they would also move up a bit – but not to the extent Williams does.

Thanks for your time.

Mike Hoban,

Professor Emeritus – City U of NY

Author of  DEFINING GREATNESS: A Hall of Fame Handbook

http://booklocker.com/books/6117.html

Comments

4 Responses to “Adjusting for Military Service”
  1. ghostofwadelefler says:

    Sort of expected to see an analysis of the player often considered the poster child for a career lost to military service – Cecil Travis.

  2. MIKE HOBAN says:

    Of course, my short article was just meant to illustrate how effectively the CAWS Career Gauge could help us adjust for military service. That is why I chose just two players to illustrate the idea. I have not done this for all of the players who lost seasons to military service – but I am thinking about doing so.

    Cecil Travis did lose almost four seasons to military service. But didn’t Hank Greenberg lose even more time than that?

    Mike

  3. Al Featherston says:

    Mike,

    Agree that Williams and DiMaggio are good posterboys for the impact of military service, although what your study can’t do is illustrate the impact time away from the game had on players after they returned. Oviously Williams handled it well, but DiMaggio showed significant decline after his service (even though he was not in combat) … 1946 was in many ways the worst year of his career (at least before his foot problems began to impact him.

    But I wish you would extend your study. There are three Hall of Famers I’d like to see re-evaluaed:

    (1) Bob Feller. We already recognize Rapid Robert as one of the best arms in baseball history, but he was the one superstar who volunteered to serve on Dec. 8, 1941. He was the best pitcher in baseball when he enlisted in the Navy and he was still the best pitcher in basball when he returned in 1946 and 1947. Where does he rank in pitching annals if we give him back those five years (minus a few games late in 1945) that he missed for service?

    (2) Hank Greenberg. The first superstar to go — he was drafted before the 1941 season and missed all of 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and most of 1945 in service. He was the best slugger in baseball when he was drafted and he returned to help Detroit win the pennant in 1945. How much does he climb the list with his missed time restored?

    (3) Phil Rizzuto. Not in a class with the other two, but I’ve always wondered — he’s a marginal Hall of Fame choice based on his recorded career, but he was an all-star quality shortstop when he enlisted after the 1942 season and he had his greatest years (1949-51) after the war. Give him those three years and does it make him a solid HOF choice?

  4. Steve Young says:

    Mike,

    I wrote to you in April of ’09 regarding my research into properly evaluating the players whose careers were reduced by military service or racial segregation. Since that time, I have made some refinements. Here are the adusted numbers for the players mentioned in your article and the comments that followed.

    J. DiMaggio CWS 485, CV 338, CAWS 375
    T. Williams 728 429 504
    W. Mays 688 389 464
    S. Musial 634 379 443
    C. Travis 258 223 232
    H. Greenberg 376 299 318
    B. Feller 407 295 323
    P. Rizzuto 298 240 255

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