Negro League Stats to Be Integrated Into MLB Database

Wingack

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Some players that wound up playing in MLB are now having these stats to their totals:

"Mays now has 3,293 career hits from playing in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons, which could increase once his numbers are verified from his time playing in the Negro Leagues in 1949 and 1950.

Robinson now has 49 more hits after playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945, giving him a total of 1,567 hits.

Minoso’s 150 hits with the New York Cubans puts him over the 2,000-hit threshold with a total of 2,113."
 

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Some players that wound up playing in MLB are now having these stats to their totals:

"Mays now has 3,293 career hits from playing in 1948 with the Birmingham Black Barons, which could increase once his numbers are verified from his time playing in the Negro Leagues in 1949 and 1950.

Robinson now has 49 more hits after playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945, giving him a total of 1,567 hits.

Minoso’s 150 hits with the New York Cubans puts him over the 2,000-hit threshold with a total of 2,113."
Does Aaron go up to 760 homers now?
 

Homar

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Kudos to all the historians who have worked so hard to reconstruct these numbers. Lots of research was required, and has reached the status of being quite reliable.

We can never repair the damage done, but this is an essential step. It was Ted Williams' HOF induction speech that started this ball rolling, I believe, or at least that gave it the necessary impetus to think about the quality and the equality of the performances of white and black players. Sixty years later, here we are. it's a great day.

And the replacement of Cobb by Gibson atop the BA list is, well, delightful.
 

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Does Aaron go up to 760 homers now?
No. He played after 1948, which is the last year that the stats are accepted as Major League level.

I don't actually like this. You can't throw the old Negro League stats in the same bucket as AL and NL stats from the same era. The schedules were wildly different. More than half of the games that a NAL or NNL team would play were exhibitions against anyone they could to make money. Those aren't included in the stats, but it was physically draining and impacted what they were able to do in the games that counted. It's better than ignoring them entirely, but showing them separately preserves their context in a way that combining doesn't.
 

Mantush

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No. He played after 1948, which is the last year that the stats are accepted as Major League level.

I don't actually like this. You can't throw the old Negro League stats in the same bucket as AL and NL stats from the same era. The schedules were wildly different. More than half of the games that a NAL or NNL team would play were exhibitions against anyone they could to make money. Those aren't included in the stats, but it was physically draining and impacted what they were able to do in the games that counted. It's better than ignoring them entirely, but showing them separately preserves their context in a way that combining doesn't.
This is where I'm at. The color barrier is an unfortunate fact of history. MLB's records are just that: MLB records. It makes far more sense to honor Negro League accomplishments separately because they happened in a completely different league than the MLB.
 

scottyno

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No. He played after 1948, which is the last year that the stats are accepted as Major League level.

I don't actually like this. You can't throw the old Negro League stats in the same bucket as AL and NL stats from the same era. The schedules were wildly different. More than half of the games that a NAL or NNL team would play were exhibitions against anyone they could to make money. Those aren't included in the stats, but it was physically draining and impacted what they were able to do in the games that counted. It's better than ignoring them entirely, but showing them separately preserves their context in a way that combining doesn't.
It looks pretty silly when you look at the single season era+ leaderboard and 2000 Pedro got passed by a bunch of guys that played 30 innings in a "season"
 

Philip Jeff Frye

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Totally agree. I feel like this effort, while well-meaning, has the ultimate impact of downplaying the racism of that era. "See, baseball didn't deny Josh Gibson the chance to perform on the biggest stage, he's now the all time leader in X, Y and Z!".
 

zenax

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Are they going to include players' stats from minor, foreign leagues? When the American Basketball League and the National Basketball League merged in 1949, did they combine lifetime stats for the players? In 1976 did the NBA and ABA combine their stats for players when they merged.

I'm not trying to diminish or downgrade Black players but there were enough differences between leagues for me to think the stats should be kept separate. Josh Gibson's HOF plaque says he hit almost 800 home runs in his 17-year career but the Seamheads Negro League database says he hit 239 and Baseball References says 166 in 14 years.
 

jbupstate

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Passing Cobb is all the more poignant. Wow
And the replacement of Cobb by Gibson atop the BA list is, well, delightful.
I think it’s fantastic the Negro League stats will be incorporated. As a young kid I was a card collector and read anything on baseball I could find. I read the books on the greats like Ted, Ruth and Cobb. But it’s very important to update your knowledge when the opportunity presents….

That said, a few articles have come out over the years that Cobb was absolutely not the total racist he has bee portrayed as. None better than this article.

View: https://bleacherreport.com/articles/43506-ty-cobb-was-not-a-racist
 

SumnerH

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And the replacement of Cobb by Gibson atop the BA list is, well, delightful.
We had a whole thread on Cobb a while back. It's over here if anyone's interested in the gory details. Actually, we had two.

Summary:
He wasn't perfect on race, but he was better than average for MLBers of the time and probably wouldn't be remembered otherwise if it weren't for the hatchet job biography Al Stump wrote about him which was amplified by later adaptations (e.g. the movie Cobb).

Cobb was a fan of Gibson's, though it was Willie Mays who was his favorite player (he called Mays the only player worth paying to see).

He was friends with many of the Detroit Stars (the Negro League team in Detroit) players going back to his playing days in the 1920s. Most notable was Bobby Robinson (no relation to Jackie) who said “there wasn’t a hint of prejudice in Cobb’s attitude”. Cobb was asked by the Stars to throw out the first pitch when they opened Hamtramck Stadium in 1930, and felt strongly enough to take a train up from Georgia specifically to do so (being 2 years retired and no longer living in the Detroit area).

In his 40s, Cobb spoke out in favor of integration, and when he died in 1961, the leading black newspaper in Los Angeles—the Sentinel—led with the headline “Ty Cobb Backed Negroes” in an obituary praising him for advocating for racial freedom in baseball.

He was also an asshole who got into numerous fights: He certainly went into the stands after a fan at least once—so did Cy Young, Babe Ruth, and many others, but Cobb went after a disabled fan (though he probably didn't know the fan was disabled when he went into the stands). He pulled a revolver during an argument at a butcher shop. He fought with umpires and random strangers, sometimes injuring them. Some of those incidents you can make excuses for, but taken together they paint a picture of a short-fused ass who's likely responsible for escalating many of them.

https://nypost.com/2015/05/31/how-ty-cobb-was-framed-as-a-racist/
 

Wingack

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Pretty huge news.

View: https://twitter.com/Russ_Dorsey1/status/1795562463343079666


This will make Josh Gibson "MLB’s new all-time career leader in batting average (.372, moving ahead of Ty Cobb), slugging percentage (.718, moving ahead of Ruth), OPS (1.177, ahead of Ruth), and holds the all-time single season records in each of those categories."
Gibson hit .466 in 1943. But that was only in 69 games.

That feels like not enough to qualify for the batting title record. Cobb hit .419 over 146 games.
 

scottyno

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Gibson hit .466 in 1943. But that was only in 69 games.

That feels like not enough to qualify for the batting title record. Cobb hit .419 over 146 games.
The batting average record holder hit .471 in 30 games and the era record holder had a 0.64 era in 28 innings (while starting 3 games).
 

Mantush

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So the best way to honor the accomplishments is 'separate, but equal?' Yikes.
Yes? Because they aren't equal. They happened in a completely different context against a different set of players, under different conditions, in different ballparks, etc. Should the MLB include KBO or NPB stats in their official records?
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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The batting average record holder hit .471 in 30 games and the era record holder had a 0.64 era in 28 innings (while starting 3 games).
Yeah this makes no sense. How are they comparing this to full MLB seasons and saying they’re equivalent enough that these new “records” are now the official record?
 

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Yes? Because they aren't equal. They happened in a completely different context against a different set of players, under different conditions, in different ballparks, etc. Should the MLB include KBO or NPB stats in their official records?
It seems that records already include stats from leagues other than the National and American leagues:

A special committee on baseball records decided in 1969 to recognize six major leagues dating to 1876: the National (which launched in 1876), the American (1901), the American Association (1882-1891), Union Association (1884), Players' League (1890) and Federal League (1914-1915). It excluded the National Association (1871-75), citing an "erratic schedule and procedures.
https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/40236327/mlb-incorporates-negro-league-statistics-shakes-record-books

And, really, you can say stats from any particular era or league "aren't equal" and "happened in a completely different context against a different set of players, under different conditions, in different ballparks, etc."
 

Spelunker

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It seems that records already include stats from leagues other than the National and American leagues:



https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/40236327/mlb-incorporates-negro-league-statistics-shakes-record-books

And, really, you can say stats from any particular era or league "aren't equal" and "happened in a completely different context against a different set of players, under different conditions, in different ballparks, etc."
Certainly MLB pre-integration was a pretty different context.
 

Mantush

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It seems that records already include stats from leagues other than the National and American leagues:



https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/40236327/mlb-incorporates-negro-league-statistics-shakes-record-books

And, really, you can say stats from any particular era or league "aren't equal" and "happened in a completely different context against a different set of players, under different conditions, in different ballparks, etc."
But in the same league. That’s my point there.

I didn’t know MLB already included stats from other professional leagues in its database. I should have done more research into that. In that light, I’m fine with them including the Negro Leagues though I disagree entirely with the inclusion of any professional league other than MLB itself.
 

Toe Nash

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Totally agree. I feel like this effort, while well-meaning, has the ultimate impact of downplaying the racism of that era. "See, baseball didn't deny Josh Gibson the chance to perform on the biggest stage, he's now the all time leader in X, Y and Z!".
I think the exact opposite. Nerdy kids like I was will look at the b-ref leaderboards, see Gibson's stats and then wonder why he only had 302 plate appearances or whatever. They still have Jackie Robinson Day; I don't think anyone is going to forget what happened.
 

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Passing Cobb is all the more poignant. Wow
Yes, Cobb was a lifelong advocate for racial tolerance and treating everyone equally, as was his father, so he would probably appreciate the recognition being given to them. (edit: I see Sumner covered it, and his link is to the same article that I'd have offered, which I found most helpful in rounding out my understanding of Cobb from this perspective - I'll just link to my summary of it, in case that's still useful).

---

That said, while it's true that white MLB players of the pre-integration era weren't facing all of the best ballplayers in the land, it's also true (probably more true) of Negro League ballplayers. I'm finding it hard to regard the achievements as being the same, from a competitive perspective. A full season for Josh Gibson, outside of war years, ran between 39 and 69 games per year. His .373 career batting average was put up over 602 games / 2500 PAs, or a little less than 4 full 154-game MLB seasons; Cobb had over 13,000 PAs, 5x the amount of work, and that particular B-Ref leaderboard even sets a minimum threshold of 3000 PAs. That's not to say I want to maintain some sort of "separate but equal" status for the recordbooks - I agree that if we're going to regard the Negro Leagues as being Major Leagues, as MLB announced in 2020, then this decision is a natural consequence that flows from that. But the stat person in me thinks this ends up with a somewhat silly result. Even though I can also see that the decision clearly does more good (in terms of dignity) than it could possibly cause any sort of harm, in terms of clouding the degree-of-difficulty that these leaderboards represent. I guess count me a tepid and conflicted supporter of the decision.

I don't actually like this. You can't throw the old Negro League stats in the same bucket as AL and NL stats from the same era. The schedules were wildly different. More than half of the games that a NAL or NNL team would play were exhibitions against anyone they could to make money. Those aren't included in the stats, but it was physically draining and impacted what they were able to do in the games that counted. It's better than ignoring them entirely, but showing them separately preserves their context in a way that combining doesn't.
I'm not sure that's a weighty objection to their inclusion. The hitters were just as tired as the pitchers. Even if you doubled the amount of games they participated in per year, it still amounted to less than a full MLB calendar (but then, also consider the extent of difference in terms of how draining travel were, how nice the accommodations were for players, and other stresses). There are probably decent arguments for not merging the stat leaderboards, but I'm not sure this is one of them.
 
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staz

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Despite the salient points made in here, I don't have a problem with MLB including these statistics. It's 100% on-brand. The league has never embraced rigidity, has constantly evolved, and welcomes debate and discussion with open arms (See: Fame, Baseball Hall of)
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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The current major league statistics are skewed anyway: the leagues never played each other until the World Series. Babe Ruth never faced the Cincinnati Reds, etc.

They're using the stats they can find from the Negro League games played in league, not the barnstorming games most Negro League teams played throughout the year.
 

Gdiguy

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Seems like it makes sense to use them for counting stats, but not rate stats
I think this is where I am as well; career stats I'm fine with, but something like batting average or ERA makes a huge difference if you're taking about a half or a quarter the season length

Bigger-picture, I do hope this doesn't diminish efforts to recognize the Negro Leagues as a separate entity - I found the museum in KC to be much more impactful than the actual baseball HoF, and I do think there's some larger societal value to actually force us to remember that they were treated separately, and that we should think about that as we move forward (and not turn this into another 'see we're including their stats, we're past racism now' thing)
 

LoLsapien

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Seems like you could do some really interesting league rate stat adjustments, in a similar way we have park adjustments, etc. Ie. if OPS is higher or lower overall in MLB or Negro league, you can create a league-year adjustment and filter using a min. number of innings or at-bats to get your "true leader" boards. It will be interesting to see how Fangraphs handles things.
 

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I like that things are liquid because what is baseball history if it can't be debated.

My interest in this would be more into the thought processes of how certain leagues and not others got include. I noticed that Satchel Paige's win stats didn't bump up a whole lot, and I presumed (I've thought about it maybe 30 seconds in my life) he would have passed Cy Young if anyone ever took a close look. Or if there is some sort of loose definition of how the barnstorming games were handles/identified. Would that also include barnstormed games by folks like the Babe?

I'm not looking for a perfect answer - there never will be a perfect answer . I'd love to see a flowchart. I'd love to see how they sourced and verified this - not because I can about the veracity but because it would be cool as fuck to pour through old newspaper reels looking for miniscule negro league stats.
 

shaggydog2000

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All stats come with the caveat of context. Pitchers in the 2010s won't have the starts or wins of a player in the 1910s. And we can talk about why, but there is no conversion, they just are what they are. Counting the Negro leagues as majors is fine by me, as long as we note what the context of their stats were. And I think people are smart enough to do that.
 

AlNipper49

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All stats come with the caveat of context. Pitchers in the 2010s won't have the starts or wins of a player in the 1910s. And we can talk about why, but there is no conversion, they just are what they are. Counting the Negro leagues as majors is fine by me, as long as we note what the context of their stats were. And I think people are smart enough to do that.
It’s more fun that way. There is nothing stopping anyone from starting to just count stats of the modern era versus forever. Count both, or count some. Who cares? It doesn’t impact anything material.
 

scottyno

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I like that things are liquid because what is baseball history if it can't be debated.

My interest in this would be more into the thought processes of how certain leagues and not others got include. I noticed that Satchel Paige's win stats didn't bump up a whole lot, and I presumed (I've thought about it maybe 30 seconds in my life) he would have passed Cy Young if anyone ever took a close look. Or if there is some sort of loose definition of how the barnstorming games were handles/identified. Would that also include barnstormed games by folks like the Babe?

I'm not looking for a perfect answer - there never will be a perfect answer . I'd love to see a flowchart. I'd love to see how they sourced and verified this - not because I can about the veracity but because it would be cool as fuck to pour through old newspaper reels looking for miniscule negro league stats.
They aren't counting any of the barnstorming games, just official league games. Part of the problem with this for single seasons is that they don't even have full seasons worth of stats for the seasons they're counting. I asked baseball reference about this a few years ago and they basically said for rate stats they just prorate what they have to a full seasons worth. That's how you get this guy as the all time single season era+ leader for his 1944 season, even though they know the team played many more games stats only exist for on average 20 games a team, so that makes a guy with 28 innings pitched qualify.

https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/keyesro01.shtml
 

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They aren't counting any of the barnstorming games, just official league games.
Right, and with Satch specifically, he could make a whole lot more money as the star of a barnstorming game than any league game. He's skip out on his team all the time to make more money somewhere else, so his counting stats are even lower than his contemporaries.
 

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Right, and with Satch specifically, he could make a whole lot more money as the star of a barnstorming game than any league game. He's skip out on his team all the time to make more money somewhere else, so his counting stats are even lower than his contemporaries.
All of the legendary stories we hear about Satch and Josh Gibson seem to come from barnstorming or exhibition games too. Gibson coming 2 feet away from hitting the ball out of old Griffith Stadium in CF, for example.

The legends will remain even as the stats are added and refined.
 

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Stats are always skewed to the environment in which they are accomplished, so this doesn’t bother me whatsoever. Pedro had the best season ever for a pitcher because offenses that season were better than any time in history. Sosa an McGuire (and later Binds( got massive numbers thanks to PEDs. Everything could have an asterisk.
 

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How do they "count" rate stats? If a guy throws 1 shutout inning, then blows his arm out and never plays again, is he the leader? Is there a minimum? I am all on board with inluding them, but maybe with the caveat that the "best BA season of all-time"...they had to have enough AB to qualify for the MLB title. It is not perfect and I will probably convince myself to change my mind 4 times.
 

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How do they "count" rate stats? If a guy throws 1 shutout inning, then blows his arm out and never plays again, is he the leader? Is there a minimum? I am all on board with inluding them, but maybe with the caveat that the "best BA season of all-time"...they had to have enough AB to qualify for the MLB title. It is not perfect and I will probably convince myself to change my mind 4 times.
There’s a lot of good info at MLB’s FAQ page. Basically, as you might imagine, they were thoughtful about how to do this and established the minimums for season leaders as 3.1 ABs and 1 inning per scheduled game as they do now. Main difference is that they only used league games, not barnstorming games and so that usually worked out to ~60 games per season. For some seasons, they used a standard of the average number of games for all teams because the total number varied between teams. For career leaderboards, they used 600 innings and 1800 ABs, or the equivalent of 10 full seasons, similar to what they do now. Obviously, this means rate stat leaderboards tend to show Negro League players higher up given the much shorter seasons but counting stat leaderboards likely won’t.