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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The failure of the Bryce Harper Era

So, how much of this explanation as for the Nationals’ problems do we agree with, and what other explanations are that aren’t mentioned in this article?

Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner wrote an open letter to fans Tuesday and, like the Nationals’ season, it didn’t make much sense. In it, Lerner tried to rationalize trading Daniel Murphy to the Chicago Cubs for a fringe prospect and allowing the St. Louis Cardinals to claim Matt Adams via waivers Tuesday as some sort of an indication that because this incarnation of the Nationals was an unadulterated disappointment, shipping off two free agents-to-be represented a pivot toward the future.

The truth, according to a source familiar with the transactions that will save the Nationals a bit more than $5 million: “It was a money dump. Plain and simple.”

Between talking about how “the actions we are taking now will strengthen the franchise and keep us in the position of being a perennial contender” and shouting out general manager Mike Rizzo while not bothering to mention manager Dave Martinez by name, Lerner saw the abnormality of the Nationals’ 2018 season and happily raised it. Every day, it seems, brings a new twist to a team that entered the season with championship aspirations and finally brandished the white flag Tuesday, with 125 games of sub-.500 baseball under their belts.

 

QLE Posted: August 22, 2018 at 08:01 AM | 85 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dave martinez, mike rizzo, nationals

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   1. The Duke Posted: August 22, 2018 at 09:39 AM (#5731501)
What’s the difference between the failure of the Mike Trout era and the failure of the Bruce Harper era?
   2. BDC Posted: August 22, 2018 at 09:45 AM (#5731506)
Is Bryce Harper's career unique, so far? What I mean by that is, has any (position) player ever had such a great season as Harper did in his MVP year, and surrounded it with several mediocre ones in a ~5-year span?

I am having a hard time thinking of anybody comparable. Reggie Jackson was great in 1969 and mediocre in 1970, but looking back, '70 was an outlier of an off-year, and that can happen. Adrian Beltre had 2004, where he was way better than the years before and since, but he was consistently a pretty decent player; 2004 was an outlier of a career year.

This has probably been talked over quite a bit, but it's unusual to say the least. Even Harper's path to mediocrity is peculiar. This season he has 30 home runs already and is leading the league in walks … and because his batting average is weak and his defense apparently terrible, he's at -0.5 WAA.
   3. filihok Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5731518)
What’s the difference between the failure of the Mike Trout era and the failure of the Bruce Harper era?

The Angels failed to surround Trout with legitimate talent (for the most part)

The Nationals had stacked teams and failed to win
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:04 AM (#5731522)
I don't know if you indict the whole organization for this. Sometimes teams just never gel, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts.
With Harper, Murphy, Eaton, Turner, Taylor, and Gonzalez all having poor/injured seasons, it really shouldn't surprise us that they're bad.

But, they still have plenty of talent to move forward with. As TFA notes, they have Soto, Robles, and Eaton in the OF, which significantly softens the blow of losing Harper. They still have Rendon, Turner, Scherzer, Strasbourg, and Roark.

No reason they can't win the division next year.
   5. dlf Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:08 AM (#5731529)
What I mean by that is, has any (position) player ever had such a great season as Harper did in his MVP year, and surrounded it with several mediocre ones in a ~5-year span?


Zolio Versalles? League average for three years prior to his MVP, sub average the year after, and sub replacement after that.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:09 AM (#5731532)
What’s the difference between the failure of the Mike Trout era and the failure of the Bruce Harper era?
Trout himself contributed a lot less to it? As BDC notes, Harper's reputation way outpaces his actual play to date, in total.
   7. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:13 AM (#5731538)
Trout himself contributed a lot less to it? As BDC notes, Harper's reputation way outpaces his actual play to date, in total.

Right. Which I think makes the Angels organization look much worse than the Nats. The Angels have failed to assemble enough talent. The Nationals assembled a ton of talent, but half of it sucked this year, including Harper.

   8. phredbird Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:15 AM (#5731542)

I don't know if you indict the whole organization for this. Sometimes teams just never gel, and the whole is less than the sum of the parts.


a long time ago bill james wrote an essay about the milwaukee braves of the late 50s and early 60s and suggested that they had the makings of a dynasty but basically frittered it away after winning a WS in 57 and a pennant in 58. i know you're saying it isn't necessarily the organization's fault, but the nationals just feel like that kind of team.
   9. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:16 AM (#5731544)
What’s the difference between the failure of the Mike Trout era and the failure of the Bruce Harper era?

Trout himself contributed a lot less to it? As BDC notes, Harper's reputation way outpaces his actual play to date, in total.

Trout's WAR, 2012-2018: 62.0

Harper's WAR, 2012-2018: 27.3
   10. Nasty Nate Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:21 AM (#5731550)
It's worth remembering that the Nationals won lots and lots of games during this era. They were more successful than other talented-but-not-champion teams like the 2001-2005 Phillies or the 1995-2000 Red Sox.
   11. Ithaca2323 Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:23 AM (#5731555)
Has any (position) player ever had such a great season as Harper did in his MVP year, and surrounded it with several mediocre ones in a ~5-year span?


I think that's a bit unfair to Harper.

Yes, health is a skill, and it looks like with Harper, the injuries might be a feature and not a bug. But it's worth pointing out that a Harper who plays 150 games a season would have seasons of 6.3, 5.6, 4.7 in addition to his MVP season. That's one all time season and three other very good ones in a 6-year stretch from ages 19-24. Yes, he's also had three pretty bad ones, but still. That 10 WAR season is going to look like an outlier, regardless, but I feel like, after the initial overreaction to his 10 WAR season being near his talent level, the perception has swung a bit too far in the other direction and he's looked at as a one-year wonder who has been otherwise mediocre
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:24 AM (#5731557)
That 10 WAR season is going to look like an outlier, regardless, but I feel like, after the initial overreaction to his 10 WAR season being near his talent level, the perception has swung a bit too far in the other direction and he's looked at as a one-year wonder who has been otherwise mediocre

That's definitely true, 10 WAR seasons are crazy outliers unless you're Ruth, Hornsby, Cobb, or Trout.
   13. Lonnie Smith for president Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:26 AM (#5731559)
Most every baseball player that ever lived suffers in comparison to Trout.

As for Harper, they are not perfect peers but Fred Lynn, maybe? MVP-caliber when healthy and something less than that when not. Of course, fitness doesn't solve the mystery of Harper's 2018. I don't suspect Harper will stay in the outfield much longer, either -- Lynn was the superior glove by far -- so Lynn is leaning more imperfect-er with each passing month. Peerage is hard.
   14. Batman Posted: August 22, 2018 at 10:46 AM (#5731573)
Harper's second highest WAR was a 5.2 in his rookie year. As far as I can tell, only three players- Norm Cash, Terry Turner, and Rico Petrocelli- had a 9-WAR year without having another 6-WAR year. Turner's big season was 112 years ago and he got a lot of defensive credit for his play at shortstop. Petrocelli was a SS too, but most of his value was on offense. Cash had the one big year, but he was usually around 3-5 WAR a year for a decade. All three of them were a few years older than Harper was in their big years.

Of course, Harper has a lot of time to get himself off that list.
   15. Sunday silence Posted: August 22, 2018 at 11:07 AM (#5731585)
The media seems to have completely lost their mind on what happened yesterday. The morning guy on AM 980 was going on and on about several points: a) its a pure money dump b) Murphy is hot, .340 since ASB; c) Matt Adams one of their best trade chips; d) bunch of other crap....

To start w/ the day before someone on that station that since Murphy has lost a lot of defense its probably only an AL team that would claim him on waivers. Well that didnt happen like that, but the pt. is Murphy gives back a lot with shoddy defense. this years output he's about 0 WAR on bat. and -0.8 on defense, so he's mostly negative WAR. He has been hot lately..But so what? Adams is of course a nothing burger, he has power and no ability to field, this year he's 1 WAR on off, and -0.5 on def so he's not much. he's never been much....

But there's a larger point to be made. how in hell can anyone complain about the Lerner's saving money? The last 5 or 6 years this team has probably been more competitive than any team in MLB. Even this years roster is probably only behind BOS and LAD in terms of talent on paper.

My team is PIT, geezus, stop effin complaining about your owner saving money. this is ridiculous. if this is what the Lerner's need to do to reload HAVE AT IT..
   16. Mefisto Posted: August 22, 2018 at 11:18 AM (#5731593)
Al Rosen is another one who had just the one great season. One big difference is that he was 29 when he put up 10.1 WAR.
   17. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: August 22, 2018 at 11:27 AM (#5731601)
I know you said position player, but Esteban Loaiza always sticks out. He had one season with a second-place Cy Young (7.2 WAR), and never had above a 111 ERA+ in any other full season. He wasn't bad (14-year career), but was always a #4 or #5 starter, except for that magical 2003.

Rich Aurilia is another. He could hit okay for a shortstop, and then in one sillyball season he led the league in hits and popped 37 homers.

It should be noted that Harper's baseline is way higher than most of these guys. Even if you throw out his MVP season (and I don't know why you would), he has an OPS+ of around 125.

   18. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 22, 2018 at 11:40 AM (#5731612)
Bret Boone had the one year in Seattle, but he was 31. The 8.8 WAR in that year represents 38% of his career WAR.
   19. Brian White Posted: August 22, 2018 at 11:49 AM (#5731616)
Calling Harper 'mediocre' is waaayyy overstating things. He's got an OPS+ of 133 since his career year. He's a very good outfielder who is a bit injury-prone, and whose 2018 bWAR is suffering because BRef thinks that he is by far the worst fielder in the majors. He's not Mike Trout, and he's not the generational talent that some people thought he would be when he broke into the majors. Still a fine player.

Also, Nats fans: has he really been bad on defense this year? Or is this just one of those random one-year defensive metric anomalies that we see from time to time?
   20. dlf Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:01 PM (#5731632)
I know you said position player, but Esteban Loaiza always sticks out.


Sometimes he sticks out in less favorable ways: Oops

Loaiza acknowledged that he possessed about 20 kilograms, or 44 pounds, of cocaine with intent to distribute. He faces a minimum of 10 years in a prison and maximum of life when he is sentenced Nov. 2.
   21. crict Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:07 PM (#5731634)
The franchise is doomed. Maybe comparable to early 80s uber-talented Expos, who only got one playoff appearance (in the 81 strike-shortened season), although part of the failure was fueled by cocaine. Gary Carter took a big chunk of the blame for his personality, but trading him away didn't solve anything.
   22. BDC Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:08 PM (#5731637)
I may be using a too-formal definition of "mediocre," true. I mean it as ordinary (somewhere around league average, and I think when Harper has hit ~.245 he's been down around there). An ordinary major-leaguer is a very good baseball player in absolute terms, and useful to a ballclub; they just don't name eras after them :)

Harper's year-to-year swings are very unusual. Injury has certainly been a factor, and I guess he's had an unusual injury history as well as everything else: maybe more like a pitcher in that respect.
   23. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:16 PM (#5731646)
Great-year-out-of-nowhere guys seemed to abound when I first started really following baseball around '71 ... Cito Gaston comes to mind immediately. Ditto for Bob Bailey & Bill Robinson, though they later put together a few more successful campaigns
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:18 PM (#5731648)
The franchise is doomed. Maybe comparable to early 80s uber-talented Expos, who only got one playoff appearance (in the 81 strike-shortened season), although part of the failure was fueled by cocaine. Gary Carter took a big chunk of the blame for his personality, but trading him away didn't solve anything.

Doomed? They've still got two ace starters, and some of the best young talent in the game (Soto, Turner, Robles), plus Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Ryan Zimmerman. Plus a big payroll.

There are about 25 teams that would love to be doomed like Washington. Hell, they could win the WS next year.
   25. crict Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:23 PM (#5731652)
Doomed?


That was tongue-in-cheek to link to the miserable history of the Expos.
   26. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:50 PM (#5731674)

People are being a bit crazy here. I have always thought Harper was overhyped by people who put him in the same bucket as Trout, but the guy is 25 and already has 27 WAR and an MVP award. He had a lousy first half but he's hitting .352/.434/.648 so far since the All Star break, and he's up to a 132 OPS+ on the season. I'd be curious to hear what people who see him play the field every day think, but I am pretty skeptical of the -17 number on BB-Ref.

As for the Nats of "the Bryce Harper era", the Nats have seasons of 98, 97, 96, 95, 86, and 83 wins over the last 6 years (Harper's MVP season was actually the worst one for the team). They basically got unlucky in the playoffs, and Harper bears some blame for that, but a lot of fans would love that level of "failure".

I don't blame Nats fans who are upset that they traded Murphy and Adams. The team is 63-63 but has a Pythagorean W-L of 70-56. They are 6 games out of the WC and 7.5 out in the division, but with 12 games left against the Mets and Marlins (and the remainder against other teams that are in the divisonal/wild card mix), they could make up ground pretty quickly. And as I mentioned, Harper is actually hitting now. Neither Adams nor Murphy is that valuable, but the optics of trading them to teams you are still theoretically chasing in the WC race is bad.
   27. stig-tossled, hornswoggled gef the typing mongoose Posted: August 22, 2018 at 12:54 PM (#5731681)
They are 6 games out of the WC and 7.5 out in the division


Twice the margin the White Sox were behind when the infamous "White Flag" trade occurred 21 years ago.
   28. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2018 at 01:01 PM (#5731690)
Also, Nats fans: has he really been bad on defense this year? Or is this just one of those random one-year defensive metric anomalies that we see from time to time?

Harper has been playing quite a bit of centerfield this season due to injuries to others, and that's probably not his best position even if it's the team's best option. I mostly watch the Nationals when the Yankees aren't on, but he looks OK in RF to me. It's been reported that Harper has worked out some at 1st base lately, but that seems like just an emergency contingency plan for this year, although it might intrigue some teams considering Harper via free agency.

Harper has had some injuries, and his team has disappointed, but you really have to stretch the definition of mediocre to include him. Most teams would be happy to have such a player as long as they didn't have to pay fair market value.
   29. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 01:20 PM (#5731698)
It's been reported that Harper has worked out some at 1st base lately, but that seems like just an emergency contingency plan for this year, although it might intrigue some teams considering Harper via free agency.

Particularly the Yankees. With Stanton and Judge, they can't really fit another corner OF, and, as you say, Harper in CF is a bad idea.

But, if Harper's OK playing 1B, swapping him for Greg Bird is a huge upgrade. Might also help him stay healthy.
   30. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 22, 2018 at 01:45 PM (#5731710)
As for the Nats of "the Bryce Harper era", the Nats have seasons of 98, 97, 96, 95, 86, and 83 wins over the last 6 years (Harper's MVP season was actually the worst one for the team). They basically got unlucky in the playoffs, and Harper bears some blame for that, but a lot of fans would love that level of "failure".
Came here to write exactly this. They lost their three NLDS elimination games by 2, 1, and 1 run. One fewer meltdown by the bullpen, and who knows what happens?

Harper may be overpraised, but I would pay a lot of money for a 26-year-old with his history of performance.
   31. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: August 22, 2018 at 01:52 PM (#5731716)
Thankfully Stephen Strasburg will be well rested for the inevitable run of championship glory in Washington.
   32. JL72 Posted: August 22, 2018 at 02:09 PM (#5731729)
I don't blame Nats fans who are upset that they traded Murphy and Adams.


I think the real frustration is when they made these trades.

At the trade deadline, the Nats did nothing. They did not shed Murphy and Adams to get prospects, but they also did not add anyone to make a run. Many fans I have talked to wanted the Nats to make a choice - in or out - then proceed. This treading water really frustrated folks.
   33. Rally Posted: August 22, 2018 at 02:33 PM (#5731750)
Harper surrounding his 10 WAR season with WAR of 1.1 and 1.5 is unique.

Some of the guys mentioned for having that one outlier great season surrounded it with seasons like:

Rico P 3.9/4.8
Norm C 2.9/3.7
Rosen 6.0/4.6

Ted Williams followed his 10.6 1942 season with 0 baseball WAR (but plenty of real war). And he had a decent year in 1941 by some accounts. Mike Trout's 2012 season followed a 0.5 WAR 2011 - but he didn't even have enough playing time to lose his rookie status, and he did all right following that up in 2013.

Cal Ripken's 1991 MVP season was surrounded by years of 7.5 and 4.1. On offense alone he looks comparable to Harper since his 1990/1992 sum out to league average offense. But he was still able to rack up the WAR by playing gold glove D at short and playing every day.
   34. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2018 at 02:49 PM (#5731763)
Ted Williams followed his 10.6 1942 season with 0 baseball WAR (but plenty of real war).

Not to step on the pithy point, but Williams didn't leave the States during WWII, he was a flight instructor. His combat service was during the Korean War. He did his bit by any measure, but we ought to keep the details straight.
   35. BDC Posted: August 22, 2018 at 02:52 PM (#5731768)
Thanks, Rally, that's really all I was after in describing Harper's lesser seasons (certainly not Harper as a baseball talent) as being uniquely mediocre, vis-à-vis his great season. It really is unprecedented.
   36. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: August 22, 2018 at 03:09 PM (#5731782)
Harper surrounding his 10 WAR season with WAR of 1.1 and 1.5 is unique.


I know pitchers are a bit different, and, his surrounding seasons aren't as low, however, Zack Greinke has had 2 great seasons, with surrounding seasons of:

5.3
10.4
3.5

and

4.4
9.1
2.3

edit: note, these figures are b-ref pitching war. didn't add in the offense for the 2nd set.
   37. Rally Posted: August 22, 2018 at 04:07 PM (#5731817)
Harper's 2 surrounding seasons add up to slightly more WAR than the worst of Greinke's 4 surrounding seasons.
   38. Rally Posted: August 22, 2018 at 04:12 PM (#5731822)
Steve Carlton:

1971 4.1
1972 12.1
1973 2.3

Pitching only, he adds 0.1 to 0.4 for batting in those years.
   39. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: August 22, 2018 at 04:29 PM (#5731833)
Came here to write exactly this. They lost their three NLDS elimination games by 2, 1, and 1 run. One fewer meltdown by the bullpen, and who knows what happens?


So, they're the 90's Braves without any WS appearances, much less the banner from '95? Faint praise.

Also, how did it take 31 comments to get to that Strasburg is rested joke?
   40. The Interdimensional Council of Rickey!'s Posted: August 22, 2018 at 04:32 PM (#5731834)
No. That so drastically undersells those Braves I recant the idea. They won a TON of playoff series.
   41. DavidFoss Posted: August 22, 2018 at 04:50 PM (#5731848)
I tried to do a search for these. There's a bunch of ways that you can rank them. Here they are ranked by WAR2 - Max(WAR1, WAR3):

name_common        ages   max(1,3)  top   WAR_diff
Bryce Harper       21
-23  1.51    10.01   8.5
Jacoby Ellsbury    26
-28  0.93     8.34   7.41
Tommy Harper       28
-30  0.89     7.39   6.5
Gary Sheffield     22
-24  0.0      6.18   6.18
Anthony Rendon     23
-25  0.43     6.56   6.13
Adrian Beltre      24
-26  3.58     9.55   5.97
Ellis Burks        30
-32  1.96     7.92   5.96
Troy Tulowitzki    21
-23  0.79     6.75   5.96
Lenny Dykstra      26
-28  3.09     8.91   5.82
Pedro Guerrero     28
-30  2.22     7.96   5.74
Aubrey Huff        32
-34  0.0      5.68   5.68
Billy Grabarkewitz 23
-25  0.83     6.49   5.66
Willie Davis       23
-25  2.71     8.34   5.63
Felipe Alou        32
-34  0.94     6.49   5.55
Norm Cash          25
-27  3.67     9.16   5.49
Bernard Gilkey     28
-30  2.62     8.06   5.44
Darin Erstad       25
-27  2.94     8.33   5.39
Sixto Lezcano      27
-29  0.55     5.91   5.36 


I suppose a lot of these are due to injuries, but I don't have time to get clever with a PA cutoff.
   42. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2018 at 09:24 PM (#5731985)
Harper's ears must be burning over some of the comments here. 3-for-3, with a RBI, 2 runs & a SB through 5 innings.
   43. Sunday silence Posted: August 22, 2018 at 09:36 PM (#5731992)
A few others that come to mind; I havent run the numbers or looked them up but just going from memory

Rico Carty; he got TB the next year and I dont think he ever got back to his high pt.
Alex Johnson, he had some bad psychological issues that Im unclear on.
Hal Trosky from the old days, he's the one who got burned by the whirlpool I think.
Joe Charbonneau of CLE.
Don Buford of BAL I think he'd didnt get untracked until over 30
Tommy Agee, he had a great 1966 in CHiSox and a great 69 the rest of it was not as good.
Cleon Jones also of the Mets I think he led the league in ba in 1971
Hack Wilson you'd have to look it up but I think he had some down years.
Ron Kittle,I think...

There's probably a ton more guys. It doesnt seem like the pre WW II era is well represented here. maybe because they regress more of the defensive metrics? or 154 game seasons?
   44. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 12:24 AM (#5732084)
So, they're the 90's Braves without any WS appearances, much less the banner from '95? Faint praise.


Well, as others have noted, they’re not done yet. There’s no reason they can’t win the division for the next few seasons. (And still an outside chance they could make the playoffs this year.)
   45. Athletic Supporter is USDA certified lean Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:15 AM (#5732111)
This is dumb.

29 out of 30 teams fail to win the Series every year. Baseball has a very random postseason, because it's a conglomeration of 16 or so equally impactful players, which leads to a lot more parity than in sports where a single player can control more like a third of the plays.

Them's the breaks. Winning championships is unlikely and needs good luck in any given year. Not winning championships is the norm, it doesn't require a curse or anything.
   46. QLE Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:24 AM (#5732114)
Rico Carty; he got TB the next year and I dont think he ever got back to his high pt.


Actually, his best year by WAR and OPS+ (1970) came after the TB (1968)- he had a knee injury that off-season, though, and that was something he never recovered from.

Alex Johnson, he had some bad psychological issues that Im unclear on.


Peaked at 3.7 WAR- but, when he crashed, he crashed hard, as his bat and his ability to field went simultaneously in 1971.

Hal Trosky from the old days, he's the one who got burned by the whirlpool I think.


Migraines, actually- and, in his case, other than a bad year in 1935, his WAR variants weren't that extreme (between 3.2 and 5.5) until his health really went downhill in 1941.

Joe Charbonneau of CLE.


Only had 2.4 WAR his rookie year- in his case, the issue was more that he injured himself after his rookie year and quickly dropped out of both MLB and Organized Baseball more generally.

Don Buford of BAL I think he'd didnt get untracked until over 30


It all fell apart rapidly for him at 35- but, before then, he had four straight years of between 4.5 and 5.1 WAR, and even his WAR peak in 1965 (which in good part seems based on a fielding fluke) was followed by a respectable 1966, so nowhere near as extreme as the folks in #41.

Tommy Agee, he had a great 1966 in CHiSox and a great 69 the rest of it was not as good.


His 1967 was respectable, if a step down from his 1966, and his 1970 was almost identical to his 1969- his 1968, on the other hand....

Cleon Jones also of the Mets I think he led the league in ba in 1971


He did not (Joe Torre did), and his 1968 and 1971 were in the same range as his 1969 by OPS+- the difference is fielding and (to a lesser extent) baserunning and avoiding double plays.

Hack Wilson you'd have to look it up but I think he had some down years.


He fit more in the pattern of Chuck Klein, or many other players over the years- a few years where he was a great player (in his case, 1926 to 1930), but average at best for the rest of his career.

Ron Kittle,I think...


Peaked at 1.9 WAR in his rookie year- essentially, the one skill he had was isolated power, and that isn't enough when you don't hit for average, don't draw walks, and play a low position on the defensive spectrum poorly.

Overall, none of these folk are really comparable to the folk in #41- they either weren't as poor in both years around their best year, didn't have that high a peak, or both.
   47. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: August 23, 2018 at 07:48 AM (#5732127)
Harper's ears must be burning over some of the comments here. 3-for-3, with a RBI, 2 runs & a SB through 5 innings.

And the Nats even won!

Posnanski posted some interesting Harper/Nats splits for 2018:

March 30-April 16: Harper hit .315/.487/.778; Nats went 8-9

April 17-July 6: .189/.332/.402; 36-33

July 7-Aug. 21: .328/.420/.604; 17-20
   48. DavidFoss Posted: August 23, 2018 at 08:58 AM (#5732146)
I got some time to look at the pitching equivalent of #41. Unsurprisingly, the top of the list is dominated by 19th century guys, so just the top of the list:

name_common        ages   max(1,3)  top   WAR_diff
Tim Keefe         25
-27    7.61   19.83   12.22
Pud Galvin        26
-28   11.01   20.48    9.47
Jouett Meekin     26
-28    2.04   11.22    9.18
Charlie Buffinton 22
-24    6.0    14.94    8.94 


Jouett Meekin is a new one for me.

Adding a 1901+ filter:

name_common        ages   max(1 3)  top   WAR_diff
Dick Ellsworth     22
-24   1.59   10.26     8.67
Vida Blue          20
-22   0.84    8.97     8.13
Eddie Cicotte      32
-34   3.47   11.47     8.0
Steve Carlton      26
-28   4.11   12.1      7.99
Bill James         21
-23   0.36    8.14     7.78
Dolf Luque         31
-33   2.99   10.62     7.63
Esteban Loaiza     30
-32   0.07    7.19     7.12
Dwight Gooden      19
-21   5.47   12.19     6.72
Juan Guzman        28
-30   0.11    6.76     6.65
Wayne Twitchell    24
-26   0.0     6.65     6.65
Bobby Shantz       25
-27   2.48    8.99     6.51
George McQuillan   22
-24   3.07    9.53     6.46
Dean Chance        22
-24   3.16    9.39     6.23
Jim Scott          24
-26   1.32    7.54     6.22
Warren Spahn       25
-27   3.31    9.46     6.15
Scott Perry        26
-28   2.27    8.41     6.14
Jack Coombs        26
-28   3.34    9.47     6.13
Roberto Hernandez  25
-27   0.15    6.22     6.07
Rube Vickers       28
-30   0.0     6.05     6.05
Mike Mussina       22
-24   2.21    8.24     6.03
Bert Blyleven      37
-39   0.0     6.0      6.0
Bret Saberhagen    24
-26   3.8     9.68     5.88 

   49. DavidFoss Posted: August 23, 2018 at 09:07 AM (#5732149)
Hmm... I think there is a bug in my script where 'max(1,3)' gets set to zero in cases where it should be negative. I'll probably fix it locally but won't pollute the thread with re-posts as it only affects a few players. When you see '0.0' in that column, the guy is probably a little bit higher on the list. The exact ranks don't really matter anyways, its just fun to find the names and then look up the stories behind each one.
   50. DavidFoss Posted: August 23, 2018 at 09:23 AM (#5732156)
Hmm... I think there is a bug in my script where 'max(1,3)' gets set to zero in cases where it should be negative. I'll probably fix it locally but won't pollute the thread with re-posts as it only affects a few players.

Fixes for #41:
Gary Sheffield (22-24): 6.29
Carlos Quentin (24-26): 5.92 (NEW!)
Aubrey Huff (32-34): 5.91

Fixes for #48:
Joe Kennedy (24-26): 6.95 (NEW!)
Wayne Twitchell (24-26): 6.67
Rube Vickers (28-30): 6.32
Oliver Perez (21-23): 6.29 (NEW!)
Bert Blyleven (37-39): 6.15
Mike Parrott (23-25): 6.15 (NEW!)


   51. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 23, 2018 at 09:29 AM (#5732160)
Good work, DavidFoss!

I forgot about a lot of those fluke seasons. Carlos Quentin, that was certainly due to injuries. Ellis Burks, nice to be reminded of him. Didn't need to be reminded of Aubrey Huff.
   52. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 09:36 AM (#5732166)
Rube Vickers

That's just a tremendous baseball name.

If he had pitched another 5 years or so, he could have picked up the "Machine Gun" nickname his surname cries out for.
   53. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2018 at 10:21 AM (#5732193)
Winning championships is unlikely and needs good luck in any given year. Not winning championships is the norm, it doesn't require a curse or anything.

This is my (apparently unpopular) view. The championship season is 162 games long and is the true test of a team. The Nats failed that test this year due to a combination of inopportune injuries to key players, poor depth in anticipation of those injuries, shaky bullpen losing games late, and a rookie manager who at times appeared to be in over his head (not optimizing his players' abilities and opportunities).

But, boy howdy did they ever put up some exciting seasons in the "Bryce Harper era"! The a$$holes who claimed that D.C. is not a baseball town are chowing down on an extra large helping of crow.

Taking a page from the thread about Mets pitching being unable to overcome lousy defense, even with the likes of Harper, Scherzer, injury-free Strasburg, Rendon, Trea Turner, Juan Soto, the Nats still couldn't get out of their own way. They just never seemed to be firing on all cylinders.

But, we will never be rid of the claim from some that "they lost", which simply translates to "they didn't win the World Series". I wonder what they did before there was a World's Series??
   54. spycake Posted: August 23, 2018 at 10:31 AM (#5732199)
Right. Which I think makes the Angels organization look much worse than the Nats. The Angels have failed to assemble enough talent. The Nationals assembled a ton of talent, but half of it sucked this year, including Harper.


In the Angels defense, they already replaced their GM a couple years ago partly in response to these concerns, and seem to have changed their strategies a bit too. Hasn't been enough so far, of course, but they do have 2 more years with Trout to give it a go.
   55. Sunday silence Posted: August 23, 2018 at 11:17 AM (#5732241)
Dale Alexander is the one who got burned by the primitive diathermy machine.
   56. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 11:58 AM (#5732276)
I'd be curious to hear what people who see him play the field every day think, but I am pretty skeptical of the -17 number on BB-Ref.


I don't know if BBREF did a large adjustment or if this is a one-day mess up with park factors, but his Rfield is now at -8.
   57. Stormy JE Posted: August 23, 2018 at 01:10 PM (#5732325)
I think the real frustration is when they made these trades.

At the trade deadline, the Nats did nothing. They did not shed Murphy and Adams to get prospects, but they also did not add anyone to make a run. Many fans I have talked to wanted the Nats to make a choice - in or out - then proceed. This treading water really frustrated folks.
Not only did the Nats not make any trades in between the ASG and deadline (Herrera had arrived in June), they got rid of two important bullpen contributors: Kelley and Kintzler.
   58. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2018 at 01:26 PM (#5732339)
Bryce Harper is more or less a slugger first, a defender second. He has made a few great plays in RF, but he more often takes some questionable routes to fly balls and too often seems a tad bit lackadaisical about getting over to a ball rolling to the wall. Maybe he calculates that the additional exertion won't change the base-out situation so why expend the extra energy, but it comes off looking like he doesn't give a crap sometimes.

I have no idea what numerical value he should be assigned, but if knowledgable folks here are questioning -17 then that's probably too harsh. I've seen some legitimately crappy defensive play from the Phillies outfielders just this week that make Harper look like a Gold Glover, so there you go. Remember, he was a catcher before the Nats converted him to an outfielder.

When (and who) does that "rate your players" web survey come out? Isn't it usually this time of year? That can tell you quite a bit right there.
   59. Rally Posted: August 23, 2018 at 01:29 PM (#5732343)
I don't know if BBREF did a large adjustment or if this is a one-day mess up with park factors, but his Rfield is now at -8.


I looked this morning and the Phillies' team DRS was only -15, down from more than -100 a few days ago. I assume this is some kind of hitch in the update process instead of a major methodology change. That made a huge difference to Aaron Nola's WAR.

Looks like it's been resolved re: Phillies defense and Aaron Nola's WAR. And Harper is back to -17.
   60. Jay Z Posted: August 23, 2018 at 01:42 PM (#5732358)
This is my (apparently unpopular) view. The championship season is 162 games long and is the true test of a team.


10 out of 30 teams make the playoffs every single year. It's better than average to make the playoffs, but a good talent core should have several chances. Playoffs matter.
   61. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5732379)

Looks like it's been resolved re: Phillies defense and Aaron Nola's WAR. And Harper is back to -17.


Yep. And more importantly, Mookie is back up to 8.5 WAR (he was at 7.3 when I checked earlier today).

That's definitely true, 10 WAR seasons are crazy outliers unless you're Ruth, Hornsby, Cobb, or Trout.


I think we can safely amend Snapper's list to include Williams, Bonds, Mays, and Betts.
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:06 PM (#5732382)
I think we can safely amend Snapper's list to include Williams, Bonds, Mays, and Betts.

Slow down on that last one. He doesn't have one yet.
   63. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:08 PM (#5732383)
Not only did the Nats not make any trades in between the ASG and deadline (Herrera had arrived in June), they got rid of two important bullpen contributors: Kelley and Kintzler.


Those were supposed to IMPROVE the team because Kintzler was ruining the clubhouse by talking to the media and Kelley was ruining the clubhouse by getting mad at the manager about something during the 25-4 win over the Mets. That didn't work?!?
   64. SoSH U at work Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5732389)
10 out of 30 teams make the playoffs every single year. It's better than average to make the playoffs, but a good talent core should have several chances. Playoffs matter.


They won 95 or more games four times in the Harper years, twice posting the league's best record and twice finishing second. They got profoundly unlucky in the postseason (losing three of four series in the maximum number of games, and only once getting outscored in any of those series - the Strasburg-free first one).

   65. Stormy JE Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5732390)
Those were supposed to IMPROVE the team because Kintzler was ruining the clubhouse by talking to the media and Kelley was ruining the clubhouse by getting mad at the manager about something during the 25-4 win over the Mets. That didn't work?!?
SHOCK. :)

And of course, what I meant to say is that the club didn't make any trades in between to IMPROVE the chances of securing a postseason berth.
   66. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:24 PM (#5732393)
Playoffs matter.

To you.
   67. DavidFoss Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:43 PM (#5732409)
I assume this is some kind of hitch in the update process instead of a major methodology change.

bb-ref has an WAR archive page. I don't want to post a link (in case they don't want to bots triggered or something) but you can just remove the filename from the link to the daily csv file and you get a directory page with links to all the old dailies. Anyhow, the zip-file with today's date on it is 6 hours later than usual. I wonder if we can check there on days where there appears to be a hiccup to see if the 'final' numbers have been delayed.
   68. Bote Man Posted: August 23, 2018 at 02:46 PM (#5732415)
With such a wide variance in such a short period of time, which figures are to be trusted??
   69. Stormy JE Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:24 PM (#5732443)
Playoffs matter..
To you.


October is a very difficult month to handle professionally whenever I get seriously invested in the postseason. As a Mets fan, however, this challenge manifests itself all too infrequently. :-/
   70. Rally Posted: August 23, 2018 at 03:59 PM (#5732459)
They won 95 or more games four times in the Harper years, twice posting the league's best record and twice finishing second. They got profoundly unlucky in the postseason (losing three of four series in the maximum number of games, and only once getting outscored in any of those series - the Strasburg-free first one).


If they had won a few playoff series but never reached the WS, is that failure? How about if they make the WS once or twice, but lose there?

That's definitely true, 10 WAR seasons are crazy outliers unless you're Ruth, Hornsby, Cobb, or Trout.


I think we can safely amend Snapper's list to include Williams, Bonds, Mays, and Betts.


I'd leave it at Ruth (9), Hornsby (6), and Mays (6). For Ruth it was expected as long as he wasn't primarily a pitcher, suffering from eating too many hot dogs, or old. For Mays and Hornsby, it's just what they did when they had a good year by their standards.

Bonds, Cobb, Mantle, and Ted had 3 such seasons. Trout has 2 so far. These are outlier seasons, but not crazy outlier since their normal performance is not far off.

For anyone else, its a crazy outlier season.
   71. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:31 PM (#5732484)

Bonds, Cobb, Mantle, and Ted had 3 such seasons. Trout has 2 so far. These are outlier seasons, but not crazy outlier since their normal performance is not far off.


Trout has 2 in 7 years, something happening 28% of the time is not what I would call an outlier, especially with the (2) 9 WAR seasons. Williams I'd add to your list, considering he had (2) 10WAR seasons going into WWII and one coming out of it. War credit plus two more just below 9.7 & 9.9 are good enough for me.

Betts is obviously wishcasting, but assuming he gets there this year (he's on pace for 10.6) that's a 9.7 and 10+ in 4 full years.
   72. Famous Original Joe C Posted: August 23, 2018 at 04:42 PM (#5732493)
The only players with two 9+ WAR seasons who aren't in the hall of fame:

Shoeless Joe
Clemens
Bonds
A-Rod
Pujols
Trout
And with 0.5 more WAR this year, Mookie Betts.
   73. RMc Has Bizarre Ideas to Fix Baseball Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:07 PM (#5732504)
Mark Fidrych had a 9.6 WAR in '76, and would've been around 7-8 had he pitched a full season in '77. Only Dwight Gooden did that well in his first two seasons. (Fidrych is still 6th all-time with 12.1 WAR in his first two years.)
   74. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 05:29 PM (#5732513)
Mark Fidrych had a 9.6 WAR in '76, and would've been around 7-8 had he pitched a full season in '77. Only Dwight Gooden did that well in his first two seasons. (Fidrych is still 6th all-time with 12.1 WAR in his first two years.)

I just looked up who had the most WAR for a position player in his first 2 years--it surprised me
(hint--he's active, and not named Trout)
   75. Morty Causa Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:21 PM (#5732533)
Mark Fidrych had a 9.6 WAR in '76, and would've been around 7-8 had he pitched a full season in '77. Only Dwight Gooden did that well in his first two seasons. (Fidrych is still 6th all-time with 12.1 WAR in his first two years.)

That Fidrych was and is still seen as just an oddity, a hippie freak even, rather than a great pitcher in the making shortcircuited is a grievous slight. Almost an insult really. His memory deserves better than what it's gotten.
   76. Greg Pope Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:24 PM (#5732535)
I just looked up who had the most WAR for a position player in his first 2 years--it surprised me

I'd guess Pujols, but I don't think that would be a surprise. He clearly hit the ground running.
   77. cardsfanboy Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:26 PM (#5732537)
I'd guess Pujols, but I don't think that would be a surprise. He clearly hit the ground running.


Nope, and it was definitely a surprise to me. Dude is only in his fourth season in the majors.
   78. cardsfanboy Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:30 PM (#5732540)
Of course there is a guy in baseball that was drafted in the same round/year as the guy from post 74 that if you go by his rookie year and second full year of mlb, would have a higher war than the guy in 74--but he played in 27 games the year before so doesn't make this list.
   79. Greg Pope Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:34 PM (#5732542)
I'd guess you're counting the actual first 2 years then, so Trout really isn't that high due to his one month callup.

Um, Kris Bryant? If that's the answer then I'll have to turn in my Cubs fan card for trying a Cardinal before a Cub.
   80. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:43 PM (#5732549)
yeah it's Bryant--and I meant 1st 2 years EARregardless of playing time
   81. Toby Posted: August 23, 2018 at 06:52 PM (#5732561)
Harper’s output reminds me of Josh Hamilton.
   82. TVerik, who wonders what the hell is "Ansky" Posted: August 24, 2018 at 04:47 AM (#5732760)
Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs in 1996, and his second-best HR season is less than half of that total.
   83. Morty Causa Posted: August 24, 2018 at 05:08 AM (#5732762)
74

Why doesn't Shoeless Joe Jackson's '11 and'12 seasons count? Those were his first two real seasons.
   84. DavidFoss Posted: August 24, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5732781)
Why doesn't Shoeless Joe Jackson's '11 and'12 seasons count? Those were his first two real seasons.

It's just a quirk of the rules of the search. The 'first N' search penalizes players who had cups of coffee. (Cups of coffee do count as one of the 10 years required for HOF eligibility though.) I prefer 'by age N' for this reason but this benefits a handful of players who were called up super young (Ott, Trout, etc). I suppose you could start the clock with the year a player exceeds rookie eligibility but then there is the question of what to do with 'pre-rookie' seasons. Ignore them or add them as a bonus?

Anyhow, there is probably a search for this, but for kicks here are the batters with 10 WAR in their first two seasons.

name_common      WAR     age2
Kris Bryant      13.49   24
Frank Robinson   13.42   21
Ted Williams     13.0    21
Joe DiMaggio     12.82   22
Paul Waner       12.21   24
Albert Pujols    12.1    22
Johnny Pesky     12.07   27
Evan Longoria    11.86   23
Wade Boggs       11.71   25
Johnny Mize      11.41   24
Ichiro Suzuki    11.21   28
Ralph Kiner      11.07   24
Mike Trout       11.01   20
Arky Vaughan     10.8    21
Eddie Mathews    10.65   21
Francisco Lindor 10.5    22
Carlos Correa    10.36   21
Phil Rizzuto     10.15   24
Charlie Keller   10.01   23 


There was a three year gap between Pesky's two seasons due to WWII.
   85. DavidFoss Posted: August 24, 2018 at 09:01 AM (#5732796)
As expected the pitcher list is filled with 19th century guys. Here is the top of the list and then the >10 WAR guys post-1901.

name_common       WAR     age2
Kid Nichols       22.81   21
Ed Morris         22.0    22
Dwight Gooden     17.66   20
Matt Kilroy       17.33   21
Jim Devlin        17.03   27
Candy Cummings    16.27   24 


----

name_common       WAR     age2
Dwight Gooden     17.66   20
Vean Gregg        16.26   27
Curt Davis        15.64   31
Pete Alexander    14.39   25
Dutch Leonard     13.61   22
Irv Young         13.02   28
Ed Reulbach       12.89   23
Herb Score        12.88   23
Tom Seaver        12.76   23
Teddy Higuera     12.55   28
Mark Fidrych      12.05   22
Dave Davenport    11.79   25
George McQuillan  11.7    23
Tommy Thomas      11.69   27
Roy Oswalt        11.64   24
Jake Weimer       11.45   30
Eddie Rommel      11.39   23
Dick Radatz       11.19   26
Russ Ford         11.17   27
Eddie Plank       11.03   26
Mike Mussina      10.45   23
Mark Prior        10.44   22
Jeff Tesreau      10.39   25
Paul Dean         10.38   22
Tim Lincecum      10.11   24 


Daffy makes the list, but Dizzy had a cup of coffee. Davis was a long-time PCL star with the Seals. Higuera played several years in the Mexican Leagues.

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