Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Name for the Foul Poles


With the recent election of Andre Dawson into the Hall of Fame (and the subsequent Cubs' offer to retire his number, if enshrined as a Cub), I began to think about a certain Cub -- my favorite Cub -- whom I feel deserves a flag next to Mr. Maddux's and Mr. Santo's:


Mordecai Peter Centennial Brown

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, who's right hand (the astute reader will note) graces the top of this blog, was severely injured as a youth, getting his hand caught in a feed chopper and then crushed shortly thereafter. The misshapen hand eventually resulted in Mordecai's uncanny ability to throw some serious twirlies.

Follow through the jump to find out why he deserves that flag.

For the traditionalist (i.e. the non-sabermetrician), Mordecai Brown is significant to us for:

1.) pitching in 6 World Series games, winning 4 of them.
2.) culling together 8 consecutive 15+ win seasons, and 6 consecutive 20+ win seasons.
3.) pitching 55 career shutouts (what?!).
4.) winning the 1911 MVP (and another one in 1913 with the Reds).
5.) having the 56th most wins in MLB history with 239 (that's more than Sandy Koufax, Rick Reuschel, and John Smoltz -- who has been a closer part of his career).
6.) being elected into the Hall of Fame.

All of this, he accomplished, in a career shortened by a late entry into the majors (he wasn't signed in the minors until 1901, at the age of 25, and broke into the majors by 1903). For an excellent read on his amazing story, Bleed Cubbie Blue has a great (though undocumented) history.

Now, for the sabermetrician:

How do we examine the true value of a Dead-Ball Era pitcher? In this period, even I could have won a dozen games (and lost 30). Well, since we don't have any super-fun stuff like line drive or WAR data, we will have to use FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, which is calculated using already-available statistics). To avoid the problem of comparing a Dead-Ball Era FIP to more normalized eras, we will examine Brown's percent difference from the league average (let's call it wFIP) and then compare that to the two other starting pitchers on foul poles right now, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins:



This allows us to see not only how excellent these players were in their careers (Career wFIP), but also during their tenure with the Cubs (Cubs wFIP).

Without the need of introduction, Greg Maddux was/is good. I mean, really good. However, with the Cubs, Mordecai was better. Over the course of his whole career, even, Mordecai was better the Jenkins (as compared to their peers).

Does this mean Mordecai should get a flag waving over Wrigley? I think, unequivocally, yes. More than just a flag, I really think Brown deserves a Disney movie or two!

And here's the real beauty of it all: the Cubs didn't add numbers to their jerseys until the 1930s, so we could sling a Mordecai flag up there and still wear the same numbers as before!

C'mon, Ricketts. Do it.

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