No. 262 Edd Roush (Number 25 Center Fielder) and No. 265 Earl Averill (Number 26 Center Fielder)

I have often mixed these two up even though Edd Roush played mainly in the dead ball era and Averill mainly in the live ball the best hitting era in baseball history, except maybe the steroid era.

The two players are often rated close to each other. I took a poll in Bill James Online and the two tied. Only six people voted, but still. Bill James in his last his last historical abstract listed Earl Averill 14th and Edd Roush 15th in center field.

Edd Roush played mainly for Cincinnati in his prime. He played very shortly for the White Sox to start his career and then spent two years in the Federal League. Then he played three years towards the end of his career in New York. Then he went back to Cincinnati two years later to finish his career. Averill played his career mainly in Cleveland, but played almost two years in Detroit, before ending his career with the Boston Braves.

Roush came up as a 20-year-old and played in only 9 games. Then had the advantage of playing in the Federal League as he matured. Averill didn’t come up until age 27. He didn’t start in organized ball until 1926 when he was 24 baseball age. Then he played in the Pacific Coast League which was as close to a major league as a minor league could get. He was sold to the Indians for $50,000. He was a mature player at that point and showed it with all 10 of his full seasons with Cleveland.

Roush had some power but was mainly a slash hitter. He did win a slugging title (due to a high number of doubles and triples) along with two batting titles. In 1918 he led the league in slugging and OPS. His power stats don’t look that good, but it was a shortened season due to World War One. Even in the 1920s he never hit 10 homers in a season. Averill hit 30 homeruns or more three times and 20 homers or more two more times. He was not really a homerun hitter hitting a lot of doubles and triples also. Averill’s only black ink was in 1936 when he led in triples and hits. He was closer to Edd Roush as a hitter than to Ted Williams. Not only in performance, but the type of hitter he was.

Averill is shown as a better baserunner, but I take that with a grain of salt. Roush is shown as best an average and slightly below average for his career. Averill is shown to have some above average years and was slightly above average in his career. However, Roush played in a runners era, and everybody ran when he was in his prime. Teams were more aggressive and took great risks. More runners were caught taking extra bases. Some of that was continued in the 1920s and Roush was caught up in that. I think Roush was closer to Averill than the stats show.

Roush was shown as a better defensive player above average when he was in his prime and average overall. Averill was a little below average as a fielder. I think Roush gets another edge here as I believe managers wanted more defense in the lineup in the 1910s, so Roush might have had more competition.

With the last two paragraphs it looks like I favor Roush and I did before writing this article. However, I found out that Averill played three years in the Pacific Coast League and Averill spent two years in the Federal League. I believe the first deflates Averill as I believe he was good enough to play in the majors those three seasons. I believe that the Pacific League was stronger than the Federal League. Yet, I give Roush credit for his Federal League years and don’t give Averill credit for his. Well one thing is that the Federal League is recognized as a major league and acted as a major league. I don’t think the Pacific League ever asked for that designation, but they were different from any major league. My problem with Averill was if I did it for him I would have to do it for all the Pacific League players. I don’t think we should recognize the Pacific League as a major League now 100 years after the fact. The Federal League did claim to be a major league at the time and was recognized as a major league, so they do count.

The Negro Leagues are a different story. While white newspapers didn’t recognize them as major leagues, black newspapers certainly did. So did a lot of respected men in the white major leagues. I’m glad MLB finally go on the ball and recognized the Negro Leagues as a major league.

Neither player was helped by their post season career. Roush played with Cincinnati in the 1919 World Series. He was easily one of the best players on the team that season but didn’t have a good World Series. This is a disappointment. As the White Sox were throwing the series and their two best starters weren’t trying. Roush did drive in 6 runs and drive in 7 in 6 games. He was also the hitting hero in game 8, but baseball historians are about 100 percent sure Lefty Williams threw the game that day because of a threat to his wife and family. Averill finally made the World Series in 1940 with Detroit near the end of his career. He went 0 for 3 as a pinch hitter as Detroit went down to defeat. He didn’t have a good year, in fact WAR said he was below replacement level. When I found that out I wondered if Averill helped win any games as Detroit won the pennant by 1 game. I found that Averill was helpful in winning three games. My theory is not everybody can hit major league pitching at all. Averill was one of the few who had that talent. The fact he helped a team win three games and the team won the pennant by one game is significant and Averill should get some credit for that. It is one reason I like win shares more than WAR.


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