From The Sporting News, January 18, 1902
Why do I find this not so strange?
Injustice to Howard Earl
His Correct Fielding Average for Last Season Was .980
Ilion, N. Y., Jan. 7— Special Correspondence:— Numerous complaints are being heard from players in the [New York] State League in reference to the official averages. In looking over the figures as given out by President Farrell, one very palpable error is noticed which does a prominent player a great injustice.
Howard J. Earl is placed at the bottom of the first basemen as regards rank, and the figures given as official do not bear out that position. Earl is credited with 1,054 put outs and 32 assists and is charged with 22 errors. His percentage is given as .907. The above are a copy of the official figures published, and Earl is place at the bottom of the list, when it should be noticed by adding the putouts and assists and dividing by the total chances, his percentage is .980….
Division has always been the bane of early league statisticians. But I have found that even addition is beyond some of them. The early Coast League had seasons where the stats were very good, and other years where you wouldn’t believe how poorly they were put together.
Correct statistics were the least important part of baseball for many years, and one wonders how bad they really were. The Coast League is infamous for its bad stats— up until the time Bill Weiss took over the job as league statistician, and raised the level of competency in compiling minor league stats that it has today (save for the experiment with another outfit a couple of years back). Anybody who has read Willie Runquist’s PCL Almanacs just shakes their head at the differences. I found one where the official stats were off by over 100 Innings pitched, and so used Willie’s stats rather than the official ones.
In the Texas League, long-time league statistician didn’t know how to correctly calculate ERAs, and so all his ERAs for all those years were wrong! It took a couple of young guy inputting into a spreadsheet to stumble upon it about ten years ago!