A new league, although with most of the same teams and the same players. Things were pretty much as they were before, except for the organization. Things were much more business- and profit-oriented, and the league much more stable...but not necessarily as much fun. Boston was without ace pitcher Albert Spalding and second baseman Ross Barnes, who moved to Chicago, and the pennant moved to Chicago as well. New York and Philadelphia, faced with monetary losses, did not make their last western trip of the year, and were suspended from the league for 1877.
Win Shares start with this season, so we will begin using those to help "light the path." WS are heavily weighted to pitchers of this era, since they tended to work nearly every day. We will also use WARP3 to help us achieve balance, and throw in the newer Wins Against Replacement as well. I will be using the Fangraphs version of WAR for position players, and the Baseball Reference dot com version for pitchers. The Fangraphs version of WAR does not yet have pitching WAR back this far.
Ross Barnes hit .429, leading the league by a good margin. George Hall hit .366, Cap Anson .356, and John Peters .351. Barnes scored 126 runs, far ahead of everyone, with George Wright second at 72. Al Spalding had 47 wins, George Bradley 45, Tommy Bond 31 and Jim Devlin 30. Bradley had a 1.23 ERA, Devlin 1.56, Candy Cummings 1.67.
Win Shares leaders, pitchers: Al Spalding of Chicago and George Bradley of St. Louis each recorded 57 WS. Jim Devlin of Louisville had 53, Tommy Bond of Hartford 47. In fifth was Candy Cummings, also of Hartford, with 22.
For position players: Ross Barnes of Chicago 20, Lip Pike (St. Louis), Orator Jim O'Rourke and George Wright (both Boston) 17 each. Cal McVey (Chicago) had 16, Joe Battin (St. Louis) 15, Cap Anson (Chicago) and John Clapp (St. Louis) 14 each. George Hall and Levi Meyerle of Philadelphia were among the OPS+ leaders, but had only 10 and 7 WS, respectively.
Pitchers' WARP3 scores: Spalding 5.6 in his last year as a regular pitcher, Bradley 6.7, Devlin 11.2, Bond 6.4, Cummings -0.6.
WARP3 for the hitters, Barnes 10.5 (best year), Pike 8.5, O'Rourke 5.1, Wright 4.5, McVey 4.3, Battin 7.8 (career year), Anson 8.7, Clapp 6.6. Hall had a 2.5 score and Meyerle 0.5.
WAR for position players: Barnes 6.7, Anson 4.1, Deacon White 3.7, John Peters of Chicago and Joe Battin 3.5, George Wright 3.1.
WAR for pitchers: Devlin 12.4, Spalding 12.2, Bradley 9.9, Bond 8.9.
Top player: Ross Barnes, for the final time. Before the 1877 season, they changed the fair-foul rule, so Barnes' greatest weapon was made useless. He couldn't adjust, and with injuries was never as successful again. Lip Pike at #2, Cap Anson at #3, with Deacon White #4 and George Wright #5.
Top pitcher: Tommy Bond. Strong ERA, and he was holding up his team. Spalding had more help, and Devlin had other motives. Bond, Bradley #2, Spalding #3, Devlin #4, Cummings #5.
Top manager: Spalding. He took some top-notch talent with him to Chicago to form his own team, and won the pennant.
Top rookie: John Morrill, in the sense of giving it to someone. In one sense, everyone was an NL rookie, as it was a new league, but Morrill was the best player making his debut in the "Bigs." And he wasn't that good, batting .263 in 66 games for Boston.