Bill Phillips vs. Justin Morneau

Bill Phillips vs Justin Morneau

When consulting the numerous All-Time Canadian team lists on the internet and in printed works, many will claim that Bill Phillips, an 1800’s ballplayer is the greatest Canadian born first baseman of all-time. When modern day players with gaudy stats are mentioned against players of an earlier era, many will reply that overall batting statistics were far lower during this era. Is this true? Definitely. When this is the case than we need to delve further into the individual players statistics. For this example we will do this by comparing Bill Phillips and Justin Morneau’s statistics against their peers, along with their career Win Shares.

Bill Phillips Adjusted Averages

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  PA  Outs  RC  RC/27         BA *lgBA   OBP *lgOBP  SLG *lgSLG  OPS *lgOPS*OPS+ psOPS  SB%
+————–+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—-+—–+—-+
 1879 22 CLV NL  367  266   34  3.45      | .271  .259| .275  .274| .334  .335| .609  .609| 100         Â
 1880 23 CLV NL  340  249   33  3.58      | .254  .244| .268  .267| .365  .322| .633  .589| 114         Â
 1881 24 CLV NL  362  260   39  4.05      | .272  .259| .282  .289| .387  .339| .668  .628| 111         Â
 1882 25 CLV NL  342  248   36  3.92      | .260  .250| .275  .278| .388  .341| .663  .619| 113         Â
 1883 26 CLV NL  390  288   38  3.56      | .246  .267| .262  .294| .380  .368| .641  .662|  92         Â
 1884 27 CLV NL  482  336   56  4.50      | .276  .254| .303  .294| .401  .351| .704  .646| 117         Â
 1885 28 BRO AA  429  273   57  5.64      | .302  .252| .364  .298| .422  .339| .786  .637| 146         Â
 1886 29 BRO AA  619  425   67  4.26      | .274  .247| .313  .310| .369  .329| .683  .639| 113         Â
 1887 30 BRO AA  584  391   66  4.56      | .266  .281| .330  .345| .383  .379| .713  .725|  97         Â
 1888 31 KCC AA  543  389   45  3.12      | .236  .251| .284  .309| .320  .331| .604  .641|  88         Â
+————–+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—-+—–+—-+
 10 Seasons     4458 3125  471  4.07      | .266  .257| .299  .300| .374  .344| .673  .644| 108         Â

* indicates the value is park adjusted

Note that these career stats are adjusted for park values against league average. For his career, Phillips BA was .09 higher, his OBP about even, his SLG .30 higher. and his OPS .29 higher. While this proves that Phillips was an above average player for his time, he was hardly a breakout superstar.

Justin Moreanu Adjusted Averages

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  PA  Outs  RC  RC/27         BA *lgBA   OBP *lgOBP  SLG *lgSLG  OPS *lgOPS*OPS+ psOPS  SB%
+————–+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—-+—–+—-+
 2003 22 MIN AL  115   86   11  3.45      | .226  .270| .287  .337| .377  .432| .664  .769|  73         0%
 2004 23 MIN AL  312  210   51  6.56      | .271  .273| .340  .341| .536  .438| .875  .779| 122         0%
 2005 24 MIN AL  543  392   65  4.48      | .239  .269| .304  .332| .437  .427| .741  .759|  94         0%
+————–+—-+—-+—-+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—–+—-+—–+—-+
3 Seasons       970  688  127  4.98      | .248  .271| .313  .336| .461  .431| .775  .767| 100         0%

 In 2003 Morneau had only had 106 AB, so it is difficult to ascertain much from this small sample. In 2004 Morneau played about a half season, and he complied an OPS of nearly .100 greater than league average. Most will agree that the 2005 season was a huge disappointment for Morneau, but even with this fact Morneau ended up only .18 behind the league average in OPS. This season Morneau is hitting .318/.370/.592 for an OPS of .962. (As of August 18th). The American League average OPS is .780 as of August 18th, according to the hardball times. Morneau’s OPS has yet to be park adjusted, but his OPS should be around .150 higher than the league average. I think that it safe to say that, barring injury Morneau should remain around an OPS of at least .850 for the next 7 – 10 years, which should put him well above the league average.

Win Shares

Bill Phillips Career Win Shares

Year
Win Share
1879
7
1880
10
1881
8
1882
10
1883
7
1884
8
1885
17
1886
18
1887
12
1888
9
Total
106

To be fair, the win shares system is drastically skewed towards pitching in the 1800’s, with the top ranked pitcher accumulating around 50 win shares per season on average. In today’s baseball climate of pitch counts and bullpen specialization the top pitcher usually ends up with about 25 win shares. Note that Phillip’s top season was in 1886, with 18 win shares. Also note that outside of 1885 & 1886 that Phillips was essentially a 10 WS per season type player.

Justin Morneau Career Win Shares

Year
Win Share
2003
1
2004
10
2005
8
2006 (As of Aug18th)
19

If Morneau maintains his current pace he should have at least 25 WS by the end of this season, which would give him 44 WS for his career. At a current age of 25 it is safe to say that Morneau should surpass Phillips in WS by the time he’s 30.

Both statistical analyses’ clearly point out that Justin Morneau is currently an equal to Bill Phillips, in terms of his production vs. the league average, and that he is a superior player when using the Win Share system. Even if Morneau retired tomorrow he should be regarded as the greatest Canadian first baseman of all-time.

Update, Sept 13/06: With Morneau’s continued success this season, there is mounting MVP talk. Here’s an AP story on his rise to MVP candidate;

Justin Morneau AP MVP Story

Justin Morneau

Written By

  • cal@mopupduty.com

    I appreciate the fact that it is possible to compare a player against his peers at the time and that it is useful. But it could be argued that Bill Phillips’ peers were of a far weaker stock than Morneau’s.

    I don’t believe in 1882 the quality of player was anywhere near the level it is today (being a pro ball player had an undesirable stigma attached to it, wages were low, people worked jobs on the side so didn’t have a chance to hone their craft, training and development was at a substantially lower level as the game was infancy) Too bad there are no stats to sort that out.

  • cal@mopupduty.com

    Also, back then there was no surgeries for UCL’s, torn labrums, torn rotator cuffs and pitchers pitched through it (like Brad Radke is doing today – stud). Pitchers went the full 9 with no regard to pitch countswhereas MOrneau is seeing fresh arms and closers from the bullpen almost every game.

  • Early

    They also used one ball or two balls for the whole game in 1880s. B-Phil was seeing the same ball in the first inning that he saw in the 9th coming apart, scuffed, spat on, etc. Morenau is seeing a brand new ball every at-bat. These types of changes in the game tend to even out. Larger playing fields in the 19th century is evened out by immacutley groomed infields today. Playing two double headers every weekend is offset by the travel and day games after a night game etc. Comparing players to thier league and peers and understanding why some firm numbers are astronomically large or small and paying them passing attention are best for comparison.

  • That’s why the vs. the league average stat is good for comparision, as everybody went through the same things. That’s why I didn’t
    say something like “Morneau is hitting .318 this season, Phillips usually hit .260”. That would be a stupid assertion, and it wouldn’t
    take the conditions into account.

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