Life is Sport Games

This is regarding baseball. Playing a team from 1880 against one from 2014 is problematic as most of you know. The key issues are teams from the 1880's scored like 5.7 runs per game, while teams from 2014 scored 4.0.  The biggest difference is errors made.  Compare 2014 with 1883. In 2014, 0.59 errors were committed per team/per game. In 1883, 4.78 errors were committed per team/per game. That is 8 times more errors committed back then. No doubt due in part to the gloves they used back then and not having a groomed infield or 'perfect' grass. Case in point. In 1883, the Philadelphia  Quakers made 639 errors in 99 games. That is 6.45 errors committed per game. Of the 4565 runs scored by all teams in 1883, only 2,423 were earned while 2,142 were unearned. The average pitcher ERA was 3.13 back then, compared to 3.74 in 2014. The big difference? Unearned runs in 2014 accounted for 8% of total runs while in 1883 they accounted for 47%. It is mind boggling.


Just how do folks deal with this? If you put the actual error chance on the batter's card, the team from 1883 will 'force' the 2014 team to make 8 times more errors than then actually would. The only thing I can think of is to give an across the board defensive bonus to players from 2014 and a negative bonus to players from 1883. Of course the bonus/penalty would vary from decade to decade.

When I rate players, what the average defensive rating is depends on what the league average was for that particular year. So pitting an average defense from 2014 vs one from 1883 is a huge wrench in the works.

Then there is the matter of stolen bases. No records of SB's were kept in the 1880's. When they were 1st kept in 1900, they counted a runner going from 1st to 3rd on a single as a stolen base. So there is no way of knowing actual stolen bases. Even then, caught stealing were not tracked yet either. I'd like to hear ideas on this.

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Written by James Formo — January 07, 2015

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