As a side piece to today’s MLB Monday entry, we want to examine the 1919 World Series for what it is—not what the mythology has made it. The Chicago White Sox are known to have “thrown” the Fall Classic, of course, but why were they favored to begin with? Were the Cincinnati Reds actually a better team than the Black Sox? We want to examine some of these issues here briefly, in the moment.

First, why was Chicago favored to win the Series? The Reds won 96 games, while the White Sox won just 88 games. Sure, they were playing in different leagues, but a sabermetric look at the two teams reveals the following: Cincinnati was the better team on paper, by almost a 30-percent margin. If modern analysis had been available, the Reds would have favored.

Also consider this: Chicago was going to be without one of its top starters, Red Faber, for this Series. While we gave our 1919 AL Cy Young to White Sox starter Eddie Cicotte, we would give it to Faber in 1921 and 1922, and even though he was 30 years old in 1919, Faber was still a key cog in the Chicago rotation during the year (11-9 in 20 starts while injured).

Yes, youngster Dickie Kerr did just fine during the year and in the Series, winning two games in Faber’s place, but that’s not the point: No one knew Kerr would do that well, including Chicago Manager Kid Gleason. Faber’s absence meant more pressure on Cicotte and Lefty Williams—two key figures in the Black Sox scandal. Perhaps they felt the gig was up without Faber and sold out for the heck of it?

So, the fact Chicago was favored had more to do with press hype, we figure, with the Chicago media pimping the topically perceived greatness of the Sox and overwhelming any perception of the superior Reds with their smaller-market media machine. Which leads us to the next question: Was Cincinnati a better team? We sort of answered that already, with a resounding yes, but let’s breakdown why.

On offense, the White Sox were slightly better, scoring 0.7 runs more per game than the AL average, while the Reds merely scored 0.5 more runs per game than the NL average. Without context, Chicago scored 0.7 more runs per game than the Reds did, but the comparative marks show that the White Sox, for all their press, weren’t that much better at the plate than Cincinnati.

However, pitching tells a different story: The Reds gave up 0.8 runs less per game on average than other teams in the NL, while Chicago only managed to be 0.3 runs per game on average better than the rest of the AL squads. So, overall, we’re looking at a Cincy team that was plus-0.3 runs better per game than the White Sox. The surface offensive numbers probably also contributed to the media mythos issue above.

What about fielding? It’s a harder thing to measure for the era, of course, but the White Sox committed 24 more errors than the Reds did during the regular season. That amounted to a .974-.969 fielding percentage edge for Cincinnati. Both teams ended up committing 12 errors each in the World Series, so the Reds actually played worse on defense than the White Sox did during the 8-game matchup.

We could do more in-depth analysis here, but the facts remain that the Reds should have been favored to win this Series, anyway, so the mythology that the White Sox were some unstoppable force until the players threw the games is not entirely accurate: Without really doing serious research, it’s possible that the Chicago players in on the fix knew they were true underdogs and wanted any cash they could get.