John Korsgaard / The Players
A DELIBERATE STRATEGY?
by John Korsgaard
Some History--Average Walks per Game
Until the first rabbit ball walks per game were around 2 and a half with a high of 2.7. In 1910 it popped to 3 and 1911 registered a 3.25 which was not to be surpassed until 1929.
From 1929 to 1936 it leveled at around 3 and a third. The biggest influence was the Yankees. Actually, they weren't an influence, they were the reason. The AL climbed to 3.7 in 1937 (after Ruth) while the NL was still around 3 1/3rd.
Until 1941, the Yankees were the only team to have over 700 walks drawn in a season. They did it eight times 1931-34, 1936-39.
Now this says something very clearly. Very clearly.
First, I need to give you the years the Cubs led the NL in walks drawn.
1912-1913-1922---1929-1930-1931---1935-1937-1960-1984 and only once since.
So, the Cubs have won the walk crown 10 times in 97 years. About average. But, the crowns came in all three Joe McCarthy years and in two subsequent years when McCarthy-trained players still loaded the roster.
McCarthy leads the league 3 years running, goes to the Yankees, and sees what he has in a team that set the new record of 748 in 1931. His Yankees then lead the league with totals nobody else had ever gotten for eight of the next nine years. He is interrupted by the pennant winning Tigers in 1935 and his streak is ended by the pennant winning Tigers in 1940.
Then, along came the 1941 Browns. Ted Williams is producing the 4th greatest all time (to that point) walks in a season for the Red Sox. But, the Browns walk 775 times, the first team ever over 5 per game. Harlond Clift has 113, and Roy Cullenbine enters the top 25 all time seasons with 121. The new Major League high of 3.65 per game is achieved.
After the war (a slight drop off) 1946 is back up to 3.6.
1947 3.75 breaks the previous record.
1948 3.95 does it again. Boston doing the same for a team at 823. The A's (Ferris Fain, Ed Joost) have the 6th greatest all time team total and, yet, finish 97 behind the Red Sox.
Finally in 1949, the American league hits 4.6 and the NL 4.1. The Red Sox @ 835, threaten the 5.5 mark. Four other AL teams break the 700 figure, which only a decade ago was the private penthouse of the Yankees.
And then it reversed. It had been climbing throughout Major League history, now it would go the other way. The Major Leagues did not again exceed 4. It dipped back to 3.5 by 1953 and under that to stay by 1957.
By 1959, only the Red Sox broke 600, not 700--600.
A revised stirke zone in 1963 dropped it back below THE 3.3.
THE 3.3? What 3.3?
The pre-McCarthy 3.3. Who was managing the Red Sox in 1948 and 1949 when they broke the 800 plateau? Who retired mid-way through the 1950 season, just as things were mysteriously reverting? Same guy. Joe McCarthy.
What does all this chronology tell you?
I'll tell you what it tells me.
The most successful winning percentage manager in the history of modern baseball had, as a deliberate ingredient of his victory formula, a strategy that nobody else had before, and few carried on after.
He coached, he instructed, he probably threatened his hitters to be selective at the plate. He did that like nobody else has ever done AND he won like nobody else has ever done.
Certainly it was only one ingredient of his approach. It's too bad there is no way to calculate what being selective at the plate does for your batting average as well. There is no stat compiled called swinging at lousy pitches instead of making solid contact.
But the above material does not represent coincidence.....