All-Time Philadelphia Phillies Baseball by Decade: 1883-1889

1888 Philadelphia Baseball Phillies

With the demise of the Worcester Ruby Legs following the 1882 season, Philadelphia was granted an expansion franchise to join the National League. Led by baseball pioneer Al Reach and attorney John Rogers, the franchise then known as the Quakers opened play in Philadelphia with a 4-3 loss to the Providence Grays at Recreation Park on May 1, 1883.

The five months that followed were disastrous for the rookie franchise as the club would go on to win just 17 of 98 games during their inaugural campaign. The .173 winning percentage remains a franchise low, and the team is routinely considered one of the worst in baseball history.

Philadelphia Phillies Baseball first ever box score, 5/1/1883 - from Philadelphia Inquirer
Things slowly improved over the next 24 months and the club, thanks in part to winning five of their final six contests in 1885, wrapped up its first winning season with a 56-54 record. Right-handers Charlie Ferguson and Ed Daily provided a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation, finishing a combined 52-43 on the year with a 2.22 ERA (126 ERA+).

In 1887 the Quakers pieced together a 17-game unbeaten streak to end the season just 3 1/2 games behind the pennant-winning Detroit Wolverines. Ferguson put up 7.0 fWAR on the year, leading the club offensively with 85 RBIs and a 140 OPS+, while also excelling on the mound with a 141 ERA+ over 297 1/3 innings.

The Quakers finished the decade with a combined 132-125 record over the next two seasons (.514).

Manager of the Decade: Harry Wright
Though Wright found some success in Philadelphia, he often clashed with Reach and Rogers and disagreed with how they handled financial matters surrounding the club. Wright contended ownership was cheap and not keen on paying top dollar for talent. Adding to the contentiousness, he and Rogers often had public disagreements about how to manage the team. Given the resources and newness of the franchise, it's a credit to Wright that he finished the decade with a record over .500.

Best Offensive Output: Jim Fogarty
An outstanding outfielder with incredible speed, Fogarty hit .293 in 1886 and put up a 143 OPS+. He swiped 102 bases in 1887 and 99 in 1889. Admittedly he isn't regarded as an all-time great, but his average bat coupled with smarts on the basepaths made him the greatest Quakers' threat in the 1880s.

Best Defensive Player: Charlie Bastian
Bastian hit just .196 over four seasons with the Quakers during the 1880s and finished his eight-year career with a 55 OPS+. His speed, and particularly his glove at shortstop and second base, is what kept him around the game and afloat in Philadelphia.

Best Pitcher: Charlie Ferguson
Ferguson was an outstanding hurler, winning 20 games in each of his four seasons in Philadelphia. He tossed the franchise's first no-hitter on 8/29/1885 at Recreation Park and had a 120 ERA+ over his brief career. His 1.98 ERA in 1886 was the second best mark in the National League and his bWAR of 11.7 was tops in baseball. Unfortunately, he contracted typhoid fever and subsequently died in Philadelphia prior to the 1888 season.

All-Decade 1880s Lineup & Pitchers
To qualify for an All-Decade team a player must reach their respective qualifying limits for leader board inclusion. Overall fWAR was used as the determining metric for selection.

All-Decade Phillies offense 1880s

All-Decade Philadelphia Phillies pitchers 1880s

Commentary: Compared to their contemporaries, this club is extremely weak offensively. Every member of the lineup earned their spot by being the lone player that had the qualifying at-bats at their respective position to warrant selection. The lone player excluded that met the threshold for inclusion was Jack Manning (fWAR 4.4), but that's only because he was the fourth ranked outfielder in fWAR behind Fogarty, Wood, and Andrews. 

As for pitching, Ferguson had the makings of putting together an outstanding career until illness struck. Buffinton was solid too, putting up a 133 ERA+ over three seasons with the Quakers at the end of the decade. The two men never overlapped in Philadelphia, but in hindsight they provided one of the best franchise pitching combinations in all of baseball during the 1880s. 

Top Pitching Seasons of the 1880s
Buffinton was one of the better pitchers in all of baseball during the 1880s. Following three seasons in Boston he came to Philadelphia and went on to piece together three consecutive 20-win seasons. His 1888 season included a 154 ERA+ and 7.1 fWAR. He filled in the rotation void left by Ferguson's unfortunate death prior to the 1888 season.

Top Offensive Seasons of the 1880s
Fogarty was far from a beast at the plate, but what he lacked in power he made up for with speed. His offensive numbers never came near those of Sam Thompson or George Wood, but in 1887 he stole 102 bases and finished ninth in the National League in fWAR with 5.3.

Player of the Decade: Charlie Ferguson
Charlie Ferguson was a Philadelphia baseball star
A native of Virginia, Reach came across Ferguson as he was playing for an independent club in Richmond. The two came to an agreement that Ferguson could finish the 1883 season with Richmond and he'd open the 1884 season in Philadelphia with the Quakers. He won his debut (13-2 over Detroit), surrendering two runs on six hits while helping himself offensively with a pair of singles and a triple while hitting in the clean-up spot.

Following a so-so rookie campaign, Ferguson became a star in Philadelphia. He excelled on the mound, but also was the club's best hitter. When not pitching, he showcased an above average glove in the outfield and at second base.

Ferguson proved to be the franchise's first true star, though his career was tragically cut short.


Professor Alphonse Dattolo said…