1891 – Bob’s notes on Tommy Bond and some upcoming sleepers

I don’t have a problem with (Tommy) Bond; if we ranked 11 instead of ten, he’d be on my list. But still, that would be a lot lower than everyone else has him. It’s just that every single little adjustment I make seems to be a negative for Bond. It really isn’t one thing; it’s just a bunch of little things. I’ll try and list a few of them:

1. He probably was the best pitcher in 1878. But a lot of that was quantity more so than quality. It was more similar to Lolich in 1971 and Wilber Wood in 1972. The two pitchers that I have rated above him, McBride and Pratt, had more equally dominant years. Two other pitchers who are getting some love, Cummings and Brainard, were clearly not as dominant.
2. Boston was the top fielding team of the time.
3. South End Grounds in Boston was a pitcher’s park.
4. His 1877 season looks more dominant only because Devlin threw away the Pitcher of the Year award.
5. I take fame into account more than anyone else. He probably wasn’t considered the premier pitcher, other than after the 1878 season. Spalding obviously was the guy before him and Ward was the guy after 1879.
6. And remember, I also discount 50-35-15 hitting-pitching-fielding of this era for the pitchers to something closer to 45-25-30 for the period he played in.
7.Three consecutive 40-win seasons seems impressive. But it was done 14 times between 1873 and 1880. Winning 40 is not exactly comparable to winning 20, but there are a few guys who’ve won 20 three or more straight years and not make it to the Hall. McNally and Cuellar are two that came quickly to mind.

I get why everyone rates him so much higher than I do. Looking at his stats from 2012, he seems pretty special, dominant and worthy. I’m trying to look at it from an 1891 perspective, and I just don’t think that the writers of that time were as impressed as we are now. Bond was a fine, fine pitcher – I just don’t think he was a great one.

In response to “Diamondback,” who asked some addition questions about Bond’s candidacy:

You made some excellent points, Snakes. Let me address some.

1. First, understand that I am not knocking Bond; he was a very good pitcher.
2. I have my own methodology in determining Ball Park Factors, and I have Bond’s Boston Park as being ever so slightly a pitcher’s park. I didn’t look up bb-ref’s BPF, but Linear Weights has it as being almost exactly a neutral 100; I have it being about a 98 during Bond’s peak seasons. So it is not a significant factor/difference is Bond’s analysis.
3. Your second paragraph is the one that is Bond’s best argument for enshrinement. Bond was the most dominant pitcher from 1876-1880. And this point is making me take a second, third and fourth look at him. But ultimately I see him as (a more dominant) Jack Morris. Morris claim to fame, in one sense, is that he was the winningest pitcher of the ’80s. But if you compare pitchers from 1970 to 2000, a thirty year window, he likely isn’t in the Top Ten of that era. And it’s sort of the same for Bond. Just looking at 1876-1880, he looks really good; but if you compare him to a 15-year window, 1869-1883, there are a number of pitchers who surpass him. (And yes, Morris is not a great example, in that Bond was a much more dominant pitcher than Morris; actually, Gooden might have been a better comp).
4. Why was Bond the dominant pitcher for those 5 years? I don’t do a lot of speculating, but there are a few pitchers that warrant mentioning. Spalding retired to become an entrepreneur; Devlin was kicked out; Mathews spent a number of years injured and battling management; Will White got a late start. I don’t consider this a big negative in evaluating Bond, but it is a factor I look at.
5. You are absolutely correct, that baseball in 1879 was better than in 1865. Significantly better, in fact. But not exponentially better. If one takes the best players of 1866, most of them were still around as some of the best players in 1871. If you take the best players of 1871, most of them were still around as some of the best players in 1876. And if you take the best players of 1876, most of them were still around as some of the best players in 1881. It’s the average players who changed. An average player in 1866 was not around in 1871; an average player in 1871 was not around in 1876; an average player in 1876 was not around in 1881. This is where the huge timeline adjustment comes from. Think of it as the replacement level players improving.
6. Let me talk a little about why I have McBride so far above Bond. Bond’s prime was 1874-1880, during which time he went 221-145. McBride had a 7-year run from 1869-1875 where he went 190-88 (I only included his record in ’69- and ’70 against other professional teams). Their ERA+ for those years are pretty close, 120 for Bond, 116 for the 5 NA years. But you have to remember that Bond was playing in a time when schedules were getting longer. If you prorate McBride’s ’69-’72 schedules to 55 games, his record would be 248-146. With a modest timeline adjustment, there is a slight difference between pitching in 1872 and 1879, I can see where one could say McBride and Bond were about even. But then you have to remember that 1869 to 1875 was NOT McBride’s prime; 1865-1868 was. He was the best pitcher in 1866 and 1867; he was probably the best in 1868, he or Zettlein (I’d go with McBride, but Zettlein’s close); and possibly the best in 1865, he or Pratt (I’d go with Pratt, but it’s close). Bond was the 3rd or 4th best pitcher in 1876. Bond was the best pitcher in 1877, but only because Devlin tanked it. Bond was clearly the best in 1878. He was 3rd or fourth best in 1879.
7. And I put a lot of stock in “fame” and what people thought at the time. I truly believe that if I asked voters in 1891 “Who was better, McBride or Bond?” they would look at me like I was nuts.

Just to give you guys a heads up on how I will be voting over the next 20 or so elections, I’m going to give you a list of players not currently in the real Hall who I think are truly deserving. And a list of players who I think just miss the cut. l would have to assume that my voting in the GOR will reflect this significantly.

There are 12 who I think should be put in similarly to what the Hall did with Negro Leaguers in 2006. They are, in alphabetical order:
Ross Barnes
Pete Browning
Jim Creighton
Jack Glasscock
Paul Hines
Bobby Mathews
Dick McBride
Tony Mullane
Dickie Pearce
Joe Start
Harry Stovey
Deacon White

If I could get 15 in, I’d add
Joe Leggett
Charley Smith
Ed Williamson

And if I could somehow manage to get 20 in, I’d include
Bob Caruthers
George Gore
Cal McVey
Jimmy Ryan
George Van Haltren

And I’d include Jim Mutrie, Doc Adams and Bob Ferguson as well, as contributors/managers.

There are two additional people I’d put in. Bill Dahlen is deserving, but I consider him a Dirty Ball Era player, not a 19th century one. My 19th century researching buddies disagree with me. Not about his worthiness, but they consider him a 19th century guy. And I think we are all allowed one silly candidate. Mine is Abner Doubleday. By virtue of the Hall being in Cooperstown, I have to consider him a Contributor of some amount of merit, whether fact or fiction. But I pretty much am a lone voice on that one (and probably rightly so, in all honesty).

Edit note: After posting and re-reading, I realized that one could (almost) make a team out of my 12; I’d have to move one of the shortstops over to third:
C- Deacon White
1B Joe Start
2B Ross Barnes
SS Jack Glasscock
3B Dickie Pearce
OF Browning, Hines and Stovey

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