10 Decades, 10 Cubs Legends: 1910s—Hippo Vaughn
The following appears in the July issue of Vine Line.
The 100 Years of Wrigley Field celebration is in full swing on the North Side. Every time fans venture into the Friendly Confines this season, they’re not only treated to Cubs baseball, but they also come away with a bit of a history lesson.
In 2014, Wrigley-goers have gotten to see throwback uniforms, retro toys and a guest list that has included people with ties to the baseball cathedral’s storied past. All of this is part of the Cubs’ 10 Decades, 10 Homestands promotion, which celebrates a different decade at each of 10 home series.
For Vine Line‘s annual All-Star issue, we decided to piggyback on the decade-by-decade concept to create a Cubs All-Star team for the ages. Our goal was to find the most valuable player from each 10-year span in the stadium’s history. There are hundreds of ways to go about this, so we simplified things by using the baseball statistics website Fangraphs to find the player with the best Wins Above Replacement total for each decade.
Wins Above Replacement, better known as WAR, takes all of a player’s statistics—both offensive and defensive—and quantifies them into a single number designed to summarize that player’s total contributions to his team (though for pitchers, we used only their mound efforts and excluded offensive stats). According to Fangraphs, WAR basically asks the question, “If a player got injured and his team had to replace him with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would they be losing?” The final number is expressed as a win total, so if Ryne Sandberg earned a 7.4 WAR in 1992, that means he was worth 7.4 wins to the Cubs.
For our purposes, a player received credit only for the numbers he posted in each individual decade and only for the years he was a member of the Cubs.
Some players who made the cut didn’t receive a ton of recognition for their efforts in Cubbie blue, while a few Hall of Famers are noticeably absent. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out the decade leaders one by one.
We start off the 10-part series with a right-hander who dominated for the North Side squad in the 1910s.
1910s – Hippo Vaughn, 32.0 WAR
Games-Games Started: 248-218
It takes just a glance at Hippo Vaughn’s numbers to see how thoroughly he dominated his era. From 1914-19, he won 21, 20, 17, 23, 22 and 21 games. Of course, wins aren’t the end-all, be-all of pitching stats, but 124 victories over six seasons is still rather impressive. The 1918 season was probably his best, as he led the league in wins, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP. Vaughn’s most famous start was actually a game he lost in 1917, when he and Reds pitcher Fred Toney both had no-hitters going through nine innings. Over the course of the decade, the southpaw’s overall WAR total is second among all NL pitchers. Never one to surrender the long ball, Vaughn’s .09 home runs per nine innings is the decade’s lowest total for a pitcher who threw more than 700 innings.