Sunday, January 24, 2010

How Would Integration Have Affected Ruth and Cobb?

A friend sent this link to me yesterday: Interesting.

I had already addressed this issue anecdotally before reading the above article: FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2009 Babe Ruth never batted against Satchel Paige. Neither did Jackie Robinson.

I just ran a query: Spanning Multiple Seasons or entire Careers, From 1947 to 2009, (requiring At least 1000 Innings Pitched), sorted by greatest Adjusted ERA+ I got 660 hits. The author, Cyril Morong, went through all of them and classified them by race? Of the top 25, There are these dark skinned pitchers: 1. Rivera 1,090 IP 2. Martinez 6. Santana 18. Lee Smith 1,289 IP 20. Roberto Hernandez 1,021 IP 24. Bob Gibson Two American born blacks, only one starter. It is unclear whether Morong weighted ERA+ by innings or simply made an average per pitcher. Morong ignores IPHR and bounced HR:

Even if Morong's numbers are correct the real question is whether Cobb and Ruth would still be on top. Obviously, they would unless a black batter did better and that is really difficult to prove.

Glance through CY winners and look for American born blacks. Sabathia, Gooden,, Gibson (2), Blue, Newcombe: six. Without the seven Hispanics in recent years there's not much impact: Martinez (3), Colon, Santana, Hernandez, Valenzuela. Plus, Canadian Jenkins: eight. Of 98 winners (one from 1956-1966, then one in each league plus an AL tie), that's about 7% for each group, a total of about 14.2%. What was the American born percent of the population that was black? Probably about 12.5%.

How about MVP? Let's start in 1949 when Jackie Robinson became the first black to win the MVP. Elston Howard was the first black to be AL MVP (1963). From 1949 through 2009 there have been 61 MVP winners in each league plus an NL tie in 1979: total 123. I broke it down by league because the AL integrated more slowly. AL black 61 12 19.7% AL Hispanic 61 10 16.4% NL black 62 33 53.2% NL Hispanic 62 6 9.7% Plus, there was one Asian winner: Ichiro Suzuki. American born MVP who were not black: 123 60 48.8% These numbers include pitchers who were MVP. Let's look at them separately. AL had 7 MVP pitchers since 1949, including one black, one Hispanic. NL 4: including two blacks. Of the 11 MVP pitchers, 63.6% were American born players who were not black. Sixty of 123 MVP awards were won by American born players who were not black. That's 48.8% For non pitchers: 112 53 47.3%.

Clearly there is a big difference between the impact of pitchers and non-pitchers among dark skinned star players who probably would have been banned. Dark skinned stars who were non-pitchers have had far more impact. Why? I still don't know. Finally, how many foreign born Hispanics would have played 100 years ago? If you include them, then what do you make of fact that 28% of MLB players in 2009 were foreign born? How many MLB players in the Cobb and Ruth years would have played in the NFL and NBA, which started in 1947, if those leagues had been viable options? Or gone into pro golf, tennis, track and field, ...? After a point it becomes silly.

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