A new "major league" appeared on the scene in 1882, with six teams operating mostly in the midwest. The AA would have a 10-year life, and be only tangentially connected to the minor league of the same name that operated afterwards. The AA opened in the cities of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. It is considered to have a brand of baseball inferior to the NL, and generally it did, being about 90-95% of the NL's quality roughly speaking. It was similar to the ratio between the Japanese majors and the American majors today. But it wasn't a very large difference, and a good AA team could hang a defeat on an NL team easily enough.
Cincinnati won the first AA pennant, with a team of some of the same people (notably pitcher Will White) who had been on the Cincinnati NL team in 1880, before the franchise dropped out of the league.
Pete Browning won the batting title at age 21 with a .378 mark. The league had just four .300 hitters: the others were Hick Carpenter (.342), Ed Swartwood (.329), and Jack O'Brien at .303. Swartwood led in runs scored with 86, followed by Joe Sommer with 82, Carpenter at 78 and Browning at 67. Swartwood and Mike Mansell led with 18 doubles, while Browning had 17. Carpenter led with 67 RBI in 80 games.
Will White led the league with 40 wins while Tony Mullane had 30. The twenty-game winners were Sam Weaver with 26, Jumbo McGinnis with 25, and Harry Salisbury with 20. Denny Driscoll led in ERA with a 1.21 mark. Guy Hecker followed at 1.30, Harry McCormick at 1.52, and White at 1.54. Mullane led in strikeouts with 170, Salisbury had 135 and McGinnis 134.
Win Shares leaders, beginning with the pitchers; Will White (Cincinnati) 54, Tony Mullane (Louisville) 36, Sam Weaver (Philadelphia) 33, Jumbo McGinnis (St. Louis) 26, Harry McCormick (Cincinnati) 20, Harry Salisbury (Pittsburgh) 19.
Position players; Pete Browning (Louisville) 20, Hick Carpenter (Cincinnati) 18, Guy Hecker (Louisville) 17, Joe Sommer (Cincinnati), Ed Swartwood (Pittsburgh) and Bill Gleason (St. Louis) 16 each, Jack O'Brien (Philadelphia) 14.
WARP3 scores: White 3.0 (his best year), Mullane 0.8 (his rookie year, five games the year before in the NL), Weaver 0.7, McGinnis -1.0 (apparently he was a horrible fielder), McCormick 0.1 (last major league year), Salisbury -2.6 (last major league year).
For the players, Browning 6.5 (rookie year), Carpenter 4.6, Hecker 0.9 (rookie year, also a pitcher, and in the future would pitch more), Sommer 2.6 (best year), Swartwood 2.6 (rookie), Gleason -1.2 (rookie), O'Brien 4.9 (rookie, best year). Also, Denny Driscoll of Pittsburgh posted a 4.1 mark, while Pop Snyder of Cincinnati was at 3.8.
WAR for pitchers, from Baseball-Reference dot com: White 12.2, Weaver 6.9, Mullane 6.4, Driscoll 5.1, McCormick 4.5, McGinnis 2.9, Salisbury 2.3.
WAR for position players from Fangraphs: Browning 4.1, Carpenter 3.0, Swartwood 2.6, Snyder 2.4, O'Brien and Sommer 2.3.
Best pitcher: Will White led the league in wins, complete games, shutouts, and innings, 4th in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. I'll take him.
#1 Will White, #2 Sam Weaver, #3 Tony Mullane.
Best player: Pete Browning. Led in all the percentage categories and on the leaderboards for the counting stats, even though he got a late start.
#1 Pete Browning, #2 Hick Carpenter, #3 Ed Swartwood, $4 Pop Snyder, #5 Joe Sommer.
Best rookie: Tony Mullane, league strikeout leader.
A word about Pete Browning, the original Louisville Slugger, before I go. Pete played in the AA 1882-89, for most of its existence. He was the best hitter the league would ever see, but he was not a great player. He will rank low some years simply because his defense was generally so atrocious. The gag about him was that Louisville could replace him in the outfield with a cigar store Indian, and at least an occasional ball might ricochet off the Indian back to the infield. Browning's defense was even below replacement level as a general rule, but the man could definitely hit a baseball.