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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Baseball’s Most Surprising Seasons, Good And Bad

PLAYER YEAR AGE PROJ. WOBA ACTUAL WOBA PERCENTILE
Travis Hafner 2008 31 .387 .270 0.0
Andruw Jones 2008 31 .350 .238 0.0

Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 18, 2014 at 11:49 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nate silver

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   1. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: March 18, 2014 at 10:37 PM (#4673686)
Yup, I certainly remember that Andruw Jones season.
   2. stevegamer Posted: March 19, 2014 at 02:29 AM (#4673731)
Nice to see Jose Bautista on the first list for back to back seasons.
   3. Russ Posted: March 19, 2014 at 06:42 AM (#4673742)
The problem with this kind of a list is that *someone* has to have a surprising season. What you want to see is some measure of *excess* outlier-ness, i.e. outlier-ness beyond what one would expect. These are not necessarily the most surprising seasons, just the ones that are most extreme.
   4. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: March 19, 2014 at 07:58 AM (#4673749)
I know this is about individual players and sabermetrics, but I can't imagine anything in baseball that was more surprising than the 1989 Orioles.
   5. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 19, 2014 at 08:02 AM (#4673752)
I think they forgot to add the "since 2006" in the headline.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4673808)
It's kind of unfortunate that they used a cutoff of 200 plate appearances, which is way too low. Hanley Ramirez leads the list of surprising good seasons for a year in which he had 336 PAs. Certainly, if he had had 536 PAs, his numbers would have come back down to earth a little.
   7. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:25 AM (#4673815)
Also, it's cute to see Tyler Colvin on the list of worst seasons. Here are Tyler Colvin's seasonal OPS+ marks (small sample size warning):

12, 113, 38, 114, 21.
   8. GuyM Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:35 AM (#4673874)
It's kind of unfortunate that they used a cutoff of 200 plate appearances, which is way too low. Hanley Ramirez leads the list of surprising good seasons for a year in which he had 336 PAs. Certainly, if he had had 536 PAs, his numbers would have come back down to earth a little.

Agreed. He needed a cutoff of 500 PA to make this interesting. That's especially true for the underachievers, many of whom were simply hurt. Presumably that's why there are many more players at the .005 percentile than at the .995 percentile. Would be even better if he also excluded players who went on the DL.

It's not even clear if the reported percentiles take account of the varying sample sizes in the "surprise" year, which they should.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4673972)
I think they forgot to add the "since 2006" in the headline.

Yes, I am disappoint.

I was hoping for some fun baseball lore. Instead I got two boring charts.
   10. The District Attorney Posted: March 19, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4674100)
FWIW, Bill James' list of "12 true fluke" (good) seasons in Win Shares (obviously a few years old now):

Cy Seymour (1905), Les Bell (1926), Johnny Hodapp (1930), Norm Cash (1961), Joe Christopher (1964), Wes Parker (1970), Jim Hickman (1970), Dave W. Roberts (1973), Rick Cerone (1980), Miguel Dilone (1980), Willie McGee (1985), Ken Caminiti (1996)
   11. Baldrick Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:01 PM (#4674167)
Yes, I am disappoint.

I was hoping for some fun baseball lore. Instead I got two boring charts.

That's pretty my experience of the whole 538 launch so far. Hope it improves.
   12. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:05 PM (#4674168)
   13. tfbg9 Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:08 PM (#4674172)
Americo Peter "Rico Hit The F*cking Screen!" Petrocelli, 1969, 10.0 bWAR. Next best year? 5.0 bWAR. In 1969, he actually OPS'd .923
away from Fenway. Lifetime he was .843/.677 all of the home PA's with Boston.

He scorched the ball to a .559 OPS in Yankee Stadium. Pull hitter ya' know.
   14. Publius Publicola Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:20 PM (#4674177)
Ken Caminiti (1996)

Barry Bonds (2001)
   15. A Fatty Cow That Need Two Seats Posted: March 19, 2014 at 05:41 PM (#4674184)
please go away
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 08:21 PM (#4674231)
Barry Bonds (2001)


Not seeing how that season was a fluke. A fluke season is a uncharacteristic "great" season in which nothing in the career suggested that performance before or after.

Bonds posted a 11.9 war in 2001, he had already posted (2) 9.7 and a couple of 8 war in his career and followed 2001 with another 11 war season. Nothing fluky about that. It wasn't the first time he led the league in homeruns, walks, obp, slg, ops, ops+ and he still didn't lead the league in total bases or rbi like he did in 1993.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 08:42 PM (#4674234)
Fluky would be Rico Petrocelli 1969, Derek Lowe's 2002, Bill Lee's 1973 those type of years, basically average players having an mvp type of season.
   18. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 19, 2014 at 08:48 PM (#4674236)
Fluky would be Rico Petrocelli 1969, Derek Lowe's 2002, Bill Lee's 1973 those type of years, basically average players having an mvp type of season.

everyone forgets Dean Chance in 64
   19. Baldrick Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:02 PM (#4674240)
Derek Lowe's 2002

That wasn't that flukey. He had been an excellent reliever for the previous several years - and not in the LaRussa mode either. In 1999/2000 he threw 200 innings at basically the same ERA he put up in 2002. That he was able to reproduce that quality as a starter in one year was certainly surprising. And obviously he never managed that again. But he was an excellent starting pitcher for about six more years after 2002.

Now, Estaban Loaiza's 2003 is genuinely baffling. He never came CLOSE to that performance in any other season - and was pretty terrible in the two immediately surrounding years.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:40 PM (#4674255)
That wasn't that flukey. He had been an excellent reliever for the previous several years


Don't really see it. Being able to pitch one or two inning well is not remotely on the same level as a good starter. I'm firmly in the boat, that if Mariano Rivera had become a starter at age 27, he wouldn't have been any better than Jeff Suppan. The reality is that Lowe posted a 177 era+ (7.2war) in 2002 as a starter and was pretty much an average pitcher for the next 3 years. Had to go to the "lesser" league, and Dodger stadium to post his 4.0 war years.

everyone forgets Dean Chance in 64


Didn't help my "motiff" which was Red Sox (since I'm pretty sure Kevin is a Red Sox fan) (Plus Chance was pretty good in a couple of other seasons, just not quite as great....personally I see a bigger gap between a consistent 2.0-3.00 war guy putting up a 5.0 war than I do for a 5.0-6.0 war guy putting up a 10 war.
   21. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4674264)
Plus Chance was pretty good in a couple of other seasons, just not quite as great....personally I see a bigger gap between a consistent 2.0-3.00 war guy putting up a 5.0 war than I do for a 5.0-6.0 war guy putting up a 10 war.


Dick Ellsworth is you man from that era then. Top 5 WAR:

10.2
3.7
2.2
2,2
2.0
   22. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:00 PM (#4674267)
Dick Ellsworth is you man from that era then. Top 5 WAR:

10.2
3.7
2.2
2,2
2.0


That was definitely a flukey year...how did Bill James Win Shares miss that one? 167 era+, second best was a 108. (or 2.11 era vs 3.03--which was in the year of the pitcher)
   23. Publius Publicola Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:22 PM (#4674272)
Kind of a transparent troll attempt in #17, cfb. Really fluky would be Bob Gibson in 1968 or KenBoyer in 1964 or Ozzie Smith in 1982.
   24. Matt Welch Posted: March 19, 2014 at 10:24 PM (#4674273)
Bret Boone's 2001, Mark Loretta's 2003-04, and Randy Ready's 1987 all jump out in the 2B list.
   25. cardsfanboy Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:31 PM (#4674290)
Kind of a transparent troll attempt in #17, cfb. Really fluky would be Bob Gibson in 1968 or KenBoyer in 1964 or Ozzie Smith in 1982.


Using the same requirements... I would say Bob Gibson no, 11.2 war in 1968, 10.4 war in 1969, 8.9 in 1970.... not really fluky.

Ken Boyer's 1964 was his 5th best season.... Same with Ozzie Smith, his 1982 was his 9th best season... not seeing the flukes there. You want Cardinal Flukey seasons you go with John Tudor 1985, (already mentioned Willie McGees 1985) Tim McCarver 1967, Pepper Martin 1933, Tewksbury 1992...etc.

Also, it was very transparent as I admitted that in post 20.
   26. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 19, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4674293)
Jack Armstrong, 1990.

And going the other way:

Paul Konerko, 2003
   27. Booey Posted: March 20, 2014 at 12:01 AM (#4674296)
Rick Wilkins 1993
Brady Anderson 1996
Richard Hidalgo 2000
   28. DavidFoss Posted: March 20, 2014 at 12:03 AM (#4674297)
One could search for greatest difference between best & second-best WAR seasons. Ellsworth above is at 6.5. Can anyone beat that? What does the top ten look like?
   29. Baldrick Posted: March 20, 2014 at 12:10 AM (#4674299)
Don't really see it. Being able to pitch one or two inning well is not remotely on the same level as a good starter. I'm firmly in the boat, that if Mariano Rivera had become a starter at age 27, he wouldn't have been any better than Jeff Suppan. The reality is that Lowe posted a 177 era+ (7.2war) in 2002 as a starter and was pretty much an average pitcher for the next 3 years. Had to go to the "lesser" league, and Dodger stadium to post his 4.0 war years.

111 ERA+ over 1200 innings in the 6 years after his 'fluke.' Obviously that's not 177, but it's a very valuable pitcher. And it's just not that shocking for a very valuable pitcher to occasionally spike to the 170s. John Tudor, Clay Buchholz, Jason Schmidt, Johnny Antonelli, Juan Guzman, Al Leiter. In most of these cases their peripherals aren't all that different in the spike season, which suggests there's a fair amount of luck involved. I don't really see (in retrospect) Lowe as being much different from any of those guys. That he was a reliever prior to 2002 might have made it a bit more surprising at the time, sure. But it's quite clear looking back that his skill as a reliever was quite readily transferable to starting. It's not like he was ever really overpowering people. His sinker was tough to hit for one inning or for seven. Of course his K rate dropped when he moved to the rotation, but everything else held pretty constant.

What's much rarer is the Loaiza situation, where a below-average pitcher turns in a Cy Young season (and it's reflected in a radical change in SO/BB/HR rates) for one year then goes back to being below average. Juan Guzman might count in this category, I suppose, since his spike year was the only year of his career he managed to keep his walk rate under control. But he was always pretty good and his spike was preceded by some other pretty solid years at the beginning of his career.
   30. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 20, 2014 at 12:35 AM (#4674305)
One could search for greatest difference between best & second-best WAR seasons. Ellsworth above is at 6.5. Can anyone beat that? What does the top ten look like?


Doc Gooden beats him with a 6.6 difference between best (12.1 in 1985) and second-best (5.5 in 1984).

Mark Fidrych actually eclipses that at 6.8, but since he only had one full season and four partials, I think he'd qualify as an entirely different Bird.

   31. valuearbitrageur Posted: March 20, 2014 at 02:50 AM (#4674310)
Don't really see it. Being able to pitch one or two inning well is not remotely on the same level as a good starter. I'm firmly in the boat, that if Mariano Rivera had become a starter at age 27, he wouldn't have been any better than Jeff Suppan. The reality is that Lowe posted a 177 era+ (7.2war) in 2002 as a starter and was pretty much an average pitcher for the next 3 years. Had to go to the "lesser" league, and Dodger stadium to post his 4.0 war years.


I think the only person who was surprised by his breakout year was the idiot who made him a reliever. The 3 years preceding he averaged a 169 ERA+ with arguably better peripherals, HR and walk rates slightly worse, K rate far better. Like almost all relievers his K rate dropped as a starter, but he didn't starting walking way more batters or giving up way more home runs.

His year was fluky because he was probably a 120ish ERA+ starter all that time and just had a career year, a .232 BABIP is testimony to that. Why the Sox kept a plus starter as a reliever for four years who knows. But if you want to use him as an example of what Mariano Rivera would have been as a starter, it says Mo would have been at least a 130 ERA+ type starter.

No way Mo is a worse starter than Lowe.
   32. Baldrick Posted: March 20, 2014 at 03:34 AM (#4674311)
One could search for greatest difference between best & second-best WAR seasons. Ellsworth above is at 6.5. Can anyone beat that? What does the top ten look like?

It's not really in the spirit of the game, but I doubt you'll find anyone to beat Tim Keefe (20.0 vs. 9.5) or Pud Galvin (18.4 vs. 9.1).
   33. Misirlou was a Buddhist prodigy Posted: March 20, 2014 at 12:11 PM (#4674453)
Cito Gaston had a 5.1 in 1970. For the rest of his career, he was -5.9. His second best season was +0.4.
   34. The District Attorney Posted: March 20, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4674499)
how did Bill James Win Shares miss that one?
Whoops... I should have specified that list is only fluke seasons by position players. (James says that when he first tried to define "fluke" statistically, "70 or 80% of them were pitchers... So I gave up on pitchers, took them off the list.")
   35. greenback calls it soccer Posted: March 20, 2014 at 01:22 PM (#4674505)
The article suffers from a lousy presentation, but the underlying engine is problematic. For example:
Pete Kozma 2013 25 .350 .239 0.2

Nobody in his right mind expected a .350 wOBA from Kozma last year. Kozma was a rookie in 2013 with terrible minor league numbers. This is only surprising to the extent that you trust small sample size major league numbers.

Also, #### Pete Kozma.

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