Guy Hecker had an incredible 1884 season. The 28-year old righty started an American Association-leading 73 games for the Louisville Eclipse (completing 72 of them and making 75 appearances overall). He also led the league with 52 wins (against just 20 losses for a .722 winning percentage), a 1.80 ERA, 171 ERA+, 0.868 WHIP, and 385 strikeouts.
At the plate, he made 328 appearances and hit .297/.323/.430 for a 149 OPS+. His WAR was 16.6 as a pitcher and 2.0 as a hitter. His combined total of 18.6 led the league by a full seven wins (over Tony Mullane).
Hecker’s name has come up quite a bit in my research, but it recently popped up again as I was calculating Wins Above Expectancy for managers. Wins Above Expectancy simply calculates how many wins a team should have won and assigns the difference to the manager. Obviously the manager is not the sole reason a team performs over or under expectation. Wins Above Expectancy is just a junk stat I’ve been playing with since we don’t have a good way to calculate WAR for managers.
Hecker’s name came up because he was a player/manager in the final year of his career. Hecker also pitched and played first base for the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys in the National League. The team was awful—they went just 23–113, setting a new loss record that would stand until 1899.
I calculate Wins Above Expectancy in two ways. The first uses Pythagorean record, which is the record the team was expected to finish with, given their runs scored and runs allowed. The Alleghenys scored 597 runs and allowed 1235, giving them a pathetic Pythagorean record of 28-108. So, by their runs scored and runs allowed, they should have won five more games than they actually did.
The second approach I used was to add up the combined WAR of all players on the team and calculate what the expected win-loss record would be. It is by this measure that the Alleghenys are the worst team ever.
The team’s hitters were worth –119 runs at the plate and –99 in the field, a horrible combination that adds up to a total of –4.9 WAR.
And the hitters were amazing compared to the pitchers.
22 pitchers took the hill in Pittsburgh that year. 21 were below replacement level. Only 25-year old Phenomenal Smith was able to produce 0.6 WAR (in 44 innings). Hecker himself was 2.4 wins below replacement. A pitcher named Fred Osborne managed to finish 4.3 wins below replacement in just 58 innings. The total of the pitching staff was –37.5 WAR.
The combined –42.4 WAR is simply incredible. Based on that total, the Alleghenys were expected to win just 1.8 games. As in 2–136, if you round up.