For the 1880 season, Syracuse dropped out, and Worcester joined. The trend to ever-smaller cities was becoming worrisome, and threatening the NL in its identity as a "major" league. Something would have to be done soon. Chicago, with Cap Anson now fully in charge, roared to the pennant with a powerhouse offense. Chicago would roll off three pennants in a row.
George Gore won the batting title with a .360 average. He was followed by Cap Anson at .337, Roger Connor at .332, and Abner Dalrymple at .330, as Chicago took three of the top four spots. Dalrymple was the leader in runs scored with 90, followed by Harry Stovey at 76. Anson led in RBI with 74 followed by King Kelly at 60. Gore's 183 OPS+ led the pack.
Jim McCormick posted 45 wins, Larry Corcoran 43, John M. Ward 39, Mickey Welch 34, and Lee Richmond 32. Tim Keefe, with just 12 starts, led the loop with a 0.86 ERA followed by George Bradley at 1.38, Ward at 1.74, Fred Goldsmith at 1.75, and McCormick at 1.85. Corcoran led with 268 strikeouts, McCormick 260, Richmond 243, Ward 230.
1880 Win Shares data: pitching; Jim McCormick (Cleveland) 54, Larry Corcoran (Chicago) 52, John M. Ward (Providence) 51, Mickey Welch (Troy) and Lee Richmond (Worcester) 42. Tommy Bond in Boston fell to 21 WS, behind Fred Goldsmith, who was Chicago's second pitcher and spare CF/1B. Goldsmith had 24 WS.
Position players; George Gore (Chicago) and George Bradley (Providence) 24, Abner Dalrymple (Chicago) 23, Adrian Anson (Chicago) 20, Paul Hines (Providence) 19, Jim O'Rourke (Boston), Fred Dunlap (Cleveland) and Roger Connor (Troy) at 17, King Kelly (Chicago) 16.
WARP3: McCormick 5.9, Corcoran 6.8 (his rookie year), Ward 7.8, Welch 5.8 (his rookie year as well), Richmond (rookie) 4.3, Bond -0.4 (his last full year, at age 24. Another pitching arm ruined by overwork, 19th century style), Goldsmith 1.2.
For the players, Gore 10.4, Bradley 6.4 (switching from P to 3B, and his last good year), Dalrymple 8.4, Anson 7.0, Hines 9.0, O'Rourke 6.2, Dunlap 8.4 (his rookie year), Connor 5.6 (also a rookie--good year for NL rookies), Kelly 4.1. In addition, John Clapp of Cincinnati posted a 7.9, and Orator Shaffer of Cleveland a 7.1.
WAR for position players: Anson 4.8, Gore 4.5, Hines 4.1, Dunlap 3.9, Arthur Irwin (Worcester) 3.4, Dalrymple 3.3, Connor 3.1, Clapp 3.0.
WAR for pitchers: McCormick 9.1, Corcoran 7.8, Richmond 7.2, Ward 6.7, Welch 3.8, Keefe 3.7, Goldsmith 3.6, Bradley 3.3.
Best pitcher: John M. Ward. He was about as valuable for his hitting and fielding as his pitching, but that counts too. Ward was third in wins and ERA, fourth in strikeouts, first in shutouts, second in innings. McCormick would be second on my ballot, followed by Larry Corcoran and Lee Richmond. Honorable mention to Tim Keefe, breaking in with Troy and terrific but in only 12 games.
Among players, George Gore was dominant in this season. He led the league in batting average, on base, slugging, and OPS+. He was surrounded by hitters of exceptional quality like Kelly, Anson and Dalrymple, who got some of the counting stats that way, but Gore was the best. My ballot would go #1 Gore, #2 Hines (the two-time defending MVP), #3 Dalrymple, #4 Anson, #5 Dunlap. No wonder Chicago won the pennant, with three of the four best players and the second-best pitcher. That was some outfield with Dalrymple, Gore and Kelly, all 22-23 years old.
For top rookie, Larry Corcoran. He pitched well in a pennant race. Connor second, followed by Dunlap, then Welch and Keefe. A great year for rookies.
Top manager: Cap Anson, a winner in his first full season.