Bill: Carlos Baerga always comes to mind when I think of players falling off a cliff early in their careers. Not sure how he computes in terms of Win Shares, but at least according to WAR, it looks as if 100% of his career value comes by the time he’s 26; he did go on to have three more mediocre seasons before turning 30. I can’t remember if there were any explanations offered at the time.
Well. . .not saying that Carlos was a steroid guy, but. . .one of the chief effects of steroids was to PROLONG player’s careers. Outfielders and first basemen who used steroids effectively continued to IMPROVE after the age at which they would ordinarily be in decline.
But among middle infielders of that era, the opposite pattern is apparent. There are a number “slugging middle infielders” of that era whose careers tailed off very suddenly.
Another guy whose career fell off the cliff after a promising start was Jim Ray Hart. I was reading up on him and I saw this quote about him: “While his relatively short career has been often attributed to an accumulation of injuries, another factor probably played a much larger role. I found an article from Baseball Digest, June 1991 where Jim Ray talked about what might have been had he not had an addiction to alcohol. He admitted that in later years, he was much more interested in collecting his paycheck for drinking money than in playing the game, and often came to the park hung over or drunk.” http://whenthegiantscometotown.blogspot.com/2010/01/blast-from-past-jim-ray-hart.html
Dick Allen used to tell a funny story about Hart drinking him under the table when they were battling for a minor league batting title, as I recall. Dick drank a fair amount, as well.