Excerpt from Korsgaard's free weekly e-mail newsletter, November 29, 2001 (subscribe by supplying your e-mail address)
Last time you saw the domination of NL 2B by Joe Morgan. Next time there will be evidence of how totally Eddie Collins did the same in the AL in an earlier era.
It seems appropos to me to take a time out, especially due to some feedback I got from you on how highly you well-informed folks think of the value of Joe Morgan.
I wrote the following a few years ago:
PERHAPS THE WORST TRADE IN HISTORY
A universally acknowledged blunder was a trade by Houston that sent Joe Morgan over to the Reds.
Rose & Perez were already long term veterans, Davy Concepcion had been in place for three years. Johnny Bench was already a super star, so the trade created most of the up the middle defense that was every bit a part of the Big Red Machine as their superstar, nay, Hall of Fame bats. That trade also brought Cesar Geronimo, who was installed in RF. The next year he was moved to CF to complete the up the middle picture.
John Korsgaard has been a member of SABR since 1984. He is a "specialist" on franchise by franchise/position by position research.
Putting yourself back in the Cubs' shoes in 1964, not knowing what you know today, it is arguable that you might still consider the Brock for Broglio trade. Without going too deeply into that the main Cubbie blunder was not having discernd Brock's role or position.
This trade by Houston, we're serious now, you never make.
Joe Morgan was already a proven offensive force. If you get away from the stupid idea of considering batting average as the chief offensive indicator, you do not swap a Joe Morgan for a Tommy Helms at second base.
With all due respect to Helms' excellent glove, by age 24 in less than 2000 at bats, Joe Morgan had already walked more times, than Tommy Helms would walk in a 5000+ at bats career.
At the time of the trade, Morgan had never experienced an AOPS below 110, Helms had been above 85 just once. The retrospect is that among the 100 guys with terms of 5 or more consecutive seasons, Joe Morgan is #4, Helms is #94. That's about the same as trading Yogi Berra for Fred Kendall.
My contention is that this disparity would be indicated if researched at THE TIME OF THE TRADE even without modern computers and measuring formulas.
Wait, I hear you saying. The offense part of the trade wasn't Helms for Morgan, it was Lee May for Morgan. The Astros wanted Lee May, the home run hitter.
At the time, Did Lee May outhomer Joe Morgan? Yes
At the time, Did Lee May outproduce Joe Morgan? Barely
At the time, Did Lee May outperform Joe Morgan? No Sir.
Today, for at least the keener analysts, walk-strikeout ratio, walks to at bats and adjusted production are taken into account.
In walk-strikeout and walks to at bats, Joe Morgan was, hands down, the superior performer regardless of position played. In adjusted production, it was a toss up, probably the nod given to May because of home run numbers in his last three years at Cincy of 38-34-39
Of those three factors, the measurements for two were available. "AOPS" wasn't but on base average and slugging average were.
Another factor now calculated, measured and taken into consideration that wasn't available statistically back then is the "offense oppressing" or "offense enhancing" of the home park. It wasn't available statistically, but it could have been understood subjectively.
Sure enough, Morgan had tallied just 36 total homers in those same years that May was clobbering that many every year.
But big Lee only clubbed 29-28-24 for Houston while Joe increased to 16-26-22. A ratio of 5-4, not 3-1.
Like the walk-strikeout ratio and the on base percentage, this was information that could have been discerned. It is now commonly measured.
Besides looking back and using hindsight, is there yet more to the miscalculations involved in trades like these. My discoveries say YES.
For now, let me tantalize you with this. The AOPS numbers are comparisons against league average.
Can a reference be formulated which tells us that we should be getting a certain level of production from each playing field position?
[when I wrote this I had yet finished my ON DECK ratings research but I knew where they were going]
A few sentences ago I gave you a comparison of Morgan as one of the all time top five most productive second basemen (of duration) and Helms near the bottom ?
Would you trade an all time offensive second basemen for an only average offensive first baseman?
The Astros did. And could have known it.
Now, a preview comparison of Collins and Morgan.
18 seasons 139 ON DECK pts average 7.7 of a possible 8. Best in AL history!
Led 1909, 1911-20, 1922-26
2nd in 1910 to Lajoie by 46 AOPS, 2nd to Pratt in 1920 by 1 AOPS pt.
In the first 11 years he that led the AL, he led the Majors. Then, Hornsby came along. Eddie led the Al in 1922 but was behind Hornsby and Cotton Tierney. From 1923-25 Eddie led everybody but the Rajah and, in 1926, led everybody again. Of course, the cross-league comparisons of AOPS are dissimilar due to an AOPs being a rating against the league average.
18 seasons 131 ON DECK pts. average 7.3. Below Jackie Robinson's 7.8 in five years and Hornsby's 87.8 in ten. Joe led the NL from 1965-67, was not a regular in 1968, led from 1969-77 and 1981-82.
In the 14 years he led the NL, he led the Majors 6 times. The AL featured guys like Carew and Grich in the AL.
Also keep in mind that Little Joe was distancing a field of 11 and 23 to Eddie's 7/15.
Given an understanding of time/place/historical context and parity, the accomplishments are virtually equal.