National Association Annual Rickey Awards

I was reading the Old STATS Baseball Scorecards and they had a leadoff Triple Crown. It consisted of On Base Average, Runs and Stolen Bases. This is logical as On Base Average relates to batting average, Runs relates to RBIs and stolen bases is like, but not as helpful to winning as home runs.

I wondered who would be the leaders every year, as non-leadoff hitters try to get on base and score runs. Some even try to steal bases. I developed a formula like Bill James did for the regular triple crown. As Bill did his study, he came up with 1,000 total points which is impossible to hit. I did the same:

On Base Average: Maximum 400 points. I award two points for every point above .300 and up to .500.

Runs. Maximum 300 points. I awarded 2 points for every run up to 150 runs.

Stolen Bases. I award 3 points for each stolen base up to 100.

I debated the number of points for stolen bases, but decided I wanted an advantage for actual lead off men. Also, there haven’t been many years someone exceeded 100 stolen bases.

After reading a few of these listings, a Bill James online a reader came up with the name Rickey awards after Rickey Henderson, the man many of us consider the greatest leadoff man in baseball history. So, I will periodically call these the Rickey Awards.

For those who don’t know, the National Association was the first major league and took place from 1871-1875. The National League was formed in 1876. The first year of the National Association wasn’t the most organized league, but not bad for a first year league in the 1800s. Teams played from 19 to 33 games. The Philadelphia Athletics led the league on runs scored per game with an average of 13.4 runs per game. A lot of errors were made. Because of fewer games I increased the amount of points per run and stolen base to make it more comparable to on base average. I will evaluate this year by year in the 19th century. For 1871 I multiplied the runs scored by 4 instead of 2. There were less games, but more runs scored per game. This made leader Ross Barnes total of 66 runs scored more like 132 in a regular season. For stolen bases I multiplied the stolen bases by 6 instead of 3. I debated to do more as the leader Mike McGeary only had 20 stolen bases, but I didn’t think stolen bases would be that valuable in that era with so many players advancing on errors.

Here are the top 10 for 1871:

1. Ross Barnes Bos 624
2. Levi Meyerle Phil 604
3. Jimmy Wood Chi 538
4. Cal McVey Bos 478
5. Steve King Troy 398
6. Lip Pike Troy 390
7. Fred Waterman Wash 364
8. Rynie Wolters NYU 362
9. Fergie Malone Phil 356
10. Al Reach Phil 338

What I Learned:

Levi Meyerle had an on base average of .500 and looked like he would win easily but Ross Barnes caught up and passed him in runs and on base percentage.

Ross Barnes scored 66 runs; Dave Birdsall score 51. Then there were 13 players who scored from 43 to 47 runs.

Steve King and Lip Pike were real close in all three categories.

Rynie Walters went 16-16 as a pitcher. Al Spalding was in a 6-way tie for 10th in runs scored with a total of 43.

1872 NA

To make runs and stolen bases even with on base percentage I multiplied runs by 2.5 instead of 2 and stolen bases by 6 instead of 3. I did stolen bases the same as I did last year.

Here are the top 10 for 1872:

1. Ross Barnes Bos 578.5
2. Cap Anson Phil 496
3. Davy Force Troy-Bal 460.5
4. Dave Eggler NYU 447
5. Ned Cuthbert Phil 397.5
6. George Wright Bos 391.5
7. Mike McGeary Phil 380
8. John Hatfield NYU 348
9. Denny Mack Phil 344
10. George Hall Bal 308.5

What I Learned:

I would never would have guessed Ross Barnes would win the first two years.

Boston easily won the league had only two players in the top 10. This is in part because they weren’t the best offensive team in the league and in part because they played less games than the New York Unions and the Baltimore Canaries. The number of games played by teams ranged from 9 to 54. There must have been teams who dropped out and other teams added to the league.

Al Spalding was obviously the MVP of the league. He went 39 and 8 for Boston, which was their record. Not only that he was seventh in the league in on base percentage. He also scored 60 runs and it took 68 to make the top 10. Boston only played 47 games while the two teams mentioned about played 54. With an additional 7 games Spalding would have scored 8 to 10 more runs.

Baseball Reference lists the teams by number of wins not winning percentage, I wonder if that is what the league did at the time. Boston still led the league in wins despite playing 7 less games than second place Baltimore and third place New York.

The top 5 teams in the league played .600 or better ball and the bottom 6 teams in the league all played under .300 ball. Not a balanced league. League champion Boston was the only team above .500 against teams that finished above .500 as they were 20-7 against teams over .500.

The Washington Nationals finished 0 and 11 but had a Pythagorean record of 2-9. Just hard luck guys. However, they average 7.3 runs a game and gave up 17.3 runs per game. They gave up the most runs per game in the league. I think the problem was when the teams got a big lead, they just got tired of scoring, so their real record is better reflection on how they played.

1873 NA

This time I made no changes to the formula as Ross Barnes had such a good season in his team’s 59 games, I used my normal formula.

1. Ross Barnes Bos 709
2. George Wright Bos 433
3. Deacon White Bos 399
4. Jim O’Rourke Bos 351
5. Davy Force Bal 333
6. Cap Anson PhilA 327
7. Andy Leonard Bos 293
8. Cal McVey Bal 284
9. Dave Eggler NYU 279
10. Al Spalding Bos 261


What I Learned:

Boston had 6 of the top 10 players including top 4 and their ace pitcher in 10th position. They did have quite an offense in winning their second league title in a row.

Ross Barnes scored 125 runs in 59 games. How about that.

I forgot to mention earlier he won the Rickey Triple Crown.

1874 NA

This time I multiplied runs scored by 2 like last year as I normally do. I went back to multiplying stolen bases by 6.

1. Levi Meyerle Chi 350
2. Cal McVey Bos 332
3. Ross Barnes Bos 312
4. Bill Craver Phil 308
5. John McMullen PhilA 278
6. Lip Pike Har 276
7. Jim O’Rourke Bos 274
8. Scott Hastings Har 250
9. George Wright Bos 244
10. Al Spalding Bos 240

What I Learned:

Offense went way down this year. Only one player, Levi Meyerle had an on base percentage of over .400. Stolen bases were down also. Ross Barnes totals went down significantly even though he still finished third. He missed 19 games.

Boston had 8 of the top 11 in runs scored including the top 6 players in the league. This is not completely because they were a dominate team winning the league. They played 70 games the most in the league. The New York Mutuals played 65 the second most in the league. No one else played over 60. Boston did dominate in runs scored. They averaged 10.4 runs per game. The Philadelphia Whites were second in the league averaging 8.2 runs per game. Boston had the least losses despite playing all those games.

Boston had only 5 of the top 10 for the Rickey Award this year. Again, their pitcher Al Spalding came in 10th.

1875 NA

This time I multiplied runs scored by 2 like last year as I normally do. I thought multiplying stolen bases by six would be too much, so I only multiplied them times 4. I tried 5, but that seemed to much when compared to runs.

1. Ross Barnes Bos 496
2. George Wright Bos 338
3. Lip Pike StL 326
4. Cal McVey Bos 318
5. Deacon White Bos 304
6. Jim O’Rourke Bos 288
7. Andy Leonard Bos 278
8. Erza Sutton PhilA 270
9. Tim Murnane PhilW 262
10. Cap Anson PhilA 246

What I Learned:

Boston just totally dominated the league. They were 71-8 including 37-0 at home. That made the home fans happy. They had one weakness; they weren’t as good on the road. They only went 34-8 on the road. They still won 80 percent of their games on the road. On offense they average 10.1 runs a game to lead the league. The Philadelphia Athletics were second in the league averaging 9.1 runs per game. No one else averaged 7 runs per game.

That is why Boston had 6 of the top 7 players in the Rickey Award. How Lip Pike finished third I will never know. Boston winning the league so easily is probably why it folded.

Ross Barnes was one stolen base from winning the Rickey Triple Crown.

NA All Time Rickey Leaders.

My method for decade leaders (this time just 5 years) is 12 points for first place, 10 for second, 8 for third and down a point for every position until 1 for 10th. Here ae the National Association decade leaders for the Rickey Leaders in the American League:

  1. Ross Barnes 56 Points
  2. Cal McVey 27 Points
  3. George Wright 27 Points
  4. Levi Meyerle 22 Points
  5. Lip Pike 18 Points
  6. Cap Anson 16 Points
  7. Davy Force 14 Points
  8. Deacon White 14 Points
  9. Jim O’Rourke 11 Points
  10. Dave Eggler 9 Points

What I Learned:

Before doing this top 10 project I heard of everybody but Dave Eggler. Some of the players I don’t remember why I knew them, but I remember hearing their name and knew they were a 19th Century Baseball player. Others I know enough to be dangerous since I am not a 19th Century Baseball expert.

Dave Eggler was a professional baseball player before the National Association started. They were actually “amateurs” when Eggler joint the team but became a recognized professional team before the start of the National Association. The reason I put amateurs in quotation marks is many players were paid at this time even though they called themselves amateurs. The teams would pay them in secret and or as it is sometimes called “under the table”. Dave Eggler was on the team when they joined the Association. He was just 22 in that 1871 season. He played 11 years and wasn’t a great player, but played in 576 games which is more than most people.

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