March 25, 2019

The National Pastime Almanac and the Joy of Numbers

March 13, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

This time of year is my favorite for obvious reasons: Spring Training is in full swing, newsstands are peppered with baseball preview magazines, and the weather starts to warm up, allowing me to hang out in my back yard with a good book or magazine, an adult beverage, a strong cigar, and, eventually, a Red Sox game being piped to me through my computer speakers and out the window into my own private Garden of Eden.

A less obvious reason is that my buddy Ron Gudykunst e-mails me with news that his fabulous National Pastime Almanac has been updated, something he’s done every March since 2005.  I finally had a chance to launch it and play around with it and all I can say is if the Almanac were a ballplayer, it would be subject to a urinalysis at least once a week; that’s how powerful it is.

Upon launching the Almanac, you’ll discover the usual suspects included in all other baseball databases—click on “Individual Lifetime Batting Stats” and choose a player, and his stats, awards, and career highlights are shown in all their glory—but it’s the extras that make the Almanac so much fun to tinker with.

Luther "Dummy" Taylor

Luther "Dummy" Taylor

I seriously doubt you’ve ever wondered what pitcher accounted for the highest percentage of his team’s losses in a year in which said team won 100 games, but that’s the sort of question you can answer with the Almanac (it’s Dummy Taylor, by the way, who went 21-15 for a 1904 New York Giants team that went 106-47, and accounted for 31.9% of the Giants’ losses).

Speaking of pitching and percentages, most seamheads know that when Steve Carlton won 27 games for a 1972 Philadelphia Phillies team that won only 59, he became the all-time leader in that most impressive category: Pitchers Who Accounted For the Highest Percentage of His Team’s Wins.  Carlton’s win total accounted for 45.8% of the Phillies’ total, breaking the record of “Big Ed” Walsh, who won 45.5% of the White Sox’s games in 1908.

But the first pitcher to win more than 40% of his team’s games in the “lively ball” era was another White Sox hurler, spitballer Red Faber.  Faber was part of a quartet of pitchers who won 20 games each in 1920—Faber (23-13), Lefty Williams (22-14), Dickie Kerr (21-9), and Eddie Cicotte (21-10)—before winning 25 in 1921 as part of a team decimated by the Black Sox scandal.  One year after eight members of the White Sox were banned by Commissioner Landis for participating in the fixing of the 1919 World Series, the White Sox had only one hurler who was worth a damn, and that was Faber, who won 25 games for a team that won only 62 all year (40.3%).  In fact, the team’s other three starting pitchers won only 25 between them, with Kerr carrying most of that load with 19.

Of course, you can also create custom lists with batters and fielders as well.  For example, I learned that no modern era batter has ever accounted for at least 20% of his team’s runs scored.  The closest anyone has come is Burt Shotton, who in 1913 scored 105 of the St. Louis Browns’ 528 runs for a percentage of 19.9.  If you’ve never heard of Shotton, perhaps you’re familiar with the second and third place batters, Tim Raines and Rickey Henderson, who scored 19.6% and 19.4% of their team’s runs in 1983 and 1981, respectively.  And no modern era hitter has ever accounted for 25% of his team’s RBIs, although San Diego Padres first baseman Nate Colbert came close when he accounted for 24.6% of the Padres’ RBIs in 1972.

The Almanac’s sort feature can be customized even further by selecting handedness, age, individual teams, position played, regular or post season, and any range of years between 1876-2009.  A quick search of the Almanac found that Frankie Frisch accounted for the highest percentage of his team’s assists among second basemen with 32.8% in 1927.  It’s also interesting to note that there are only six second basemen in the modern era who have accounted for more than 30%, and Yankees second sacker Robinson Cano did it twice, in 2007 and 2008.

Nick Altrock was one of 406 lefties who accounted for 528 pitching seasons for the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins franchise

The Almanac can also be sorted by team, so if you’ve ever wondered which franchise has had the most pitching seasons by a southpaw who tossed at least one inning, you’d find that it was the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins with 528.  Or that the St. Louis Cardinals have gotten the most modern era batting seasons from switch hitters at 327.  Or that the only team in the modern era to boast 10 batters who hit .300 in at least 75 games was the 1930 Cardinals, who batted .314 as a unit, and whose starting eight batted .323.

The section on managers includes a nice feature that compiles an all-time team for each manager during his entire career, career with one team, or during a range of years.  So a guy like Connie Mack would boast a lineup of Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker, Chief Bender, and Eddie Plank in the dead ball era, then Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Lefty Grove later on.  And a quick check of Walter Alston shows that Duke Snider led all Dodgers in homers during Alston’s tenure with 238; Tommy Davis hit .304; Don Drysdale won 209 games; and Sandy Koufax posted a 2.76 ERA.

Then there’s the miscellaneous section which includes Hall of Fame voting, awards and award shares, no-hitters, vital statistics, All-Star game starters and rosters, and a section on teammates that allows you to sort lists based on playing time with other players.  Running a search on Red Sox Hall of Fame left fielder Carl Yastrzemski finds that Yaz played next to 22 different center fielders, Fred Lynn and Reggie Smith being the best among them, and Roman Mejias being the worst (minimum 100 games played).

Dutch Leonard

Red Sox southpaw Dutch Leonard was the first pitcher to hurl a no-hitter on a Monday

There were only seven no-hitters tossed on a Monday—Left-handed Red Sox spitballer Dutch Leonard was the first to toss a modern day no-no on a Monday (June 3, 1918 against the Tigers), and Red Sox lefty Jon Lester was the last (2008 against the Royals)—but 25 thrown on a Sunday, with the oldest slabman being 35-year-old David Wells, who tossed a perfect game at the Minnesota Twins on May 17, 1998 while, according to his own admission, being half-drunk.

In 2008 when Ryan Ludwick made the National League All-Star team and eventually appeared in the game, he became the first right-handed hitting, left-handed throwing right fielder to play in an All-Star game (he played left field in the game, but was a right fielder during the season).

The lightest player on record (other than 65-pound Eddie Gaedel) was utility man Yale Murphy, who played for, ironically enough, the New York Giants from 1894-1895 and again in 1897.  Murphy, known as “Tot” and “Midget” stood 5’3″ and weighed only 125 pounds.  He batted .240 in 131 career games.  The heaviest player on record, although this is subject to debate, was pitcher Walter “Jumbo” Brown, who tipped the scales at a hefty 295 pounds.  But CC Sabathia is only a Big Mac or two from passing old Jumbo, if he hasn’t passed him already.  Brown spent 12 years in the majors, mostly with the Giants (how fitting), and led the National League in saves in 1940 and 1941 with seven and eight, respectively.

These are just some of the infinite number of things you can learn with Ron’s powerful Almanac.  And best of all, it’s free.  According to Ron’s website, “The National Pastime Almanac is completely free, and always has been. It’s solely intended to hopefully make people’s lives just a little bit better.”

It’s made my life better and it’ll make yours a little bit better as well.  So go download it now and start answering those lingering questions that often wake you up in the middle of the night.

Mike Lynch is the author of Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League and It Ain’t So: A Might-Have-Been History of the White Sox in 1919 and Beyond, and the founder of Seamheads.com.

Comments

5 Responses to “The National Pastime Almanac and the Joy of Numbers”
  1. Jeff Polman says:

    Thanks Mike, just got me some free almanac. Very cool stuff. And it’s nice to know Jumbo Brown was really jumbo. Sometimes players get nicknames because they’re the exact opposite (e.g., Fats Jenkins from the Negro leagues was fast.)

  2. Geoff Young says:

    Best. Thing. Ever. Thanks so much for letting us know about this!

  3. Ron says:

    Fun program, I could spend some time on this.

  4. Cliff Blau says:

    The record for highest percentage of a team’s wins by one pitcher is 100%, held by many.

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