epic outlier seasons

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we all know about brady anderson's epic 1996, to cite the most well-known outlier season ever. here are a couple of more (mind you the first is from a guy who had a totally respectable and even epically underrated career...)


Tudor's highlight was a spectacular 1985 season for the St. Louis Cardinals. Oddly enough, Tudor started that year with a 1-7 record and a 3.74 earned run average through May. He then went on a tear that has rarely been seen since by going 20-1 with a 1.37 ERA the rest of the season and lowering his overall ERA to 1.93. His wins in 11 straight games were not matched by a Cardinal again until Jason Marquis strung together a 11-game winning streak in 2004. Only the best season of Dwight Gooden's career stopped Tudor from winning the National League Cy Young Award and leading the league in ERA, wins and complete games. He was sixth in strikeouts for the year.

Moreover, Tudor's ten complete game shutouts in 1985 made him the only pitcher since Jim Palmer in 1975 to reach double-digits in that category. (Bob Gibson holds the Cardinal record with 13 in 1968). To make the achievement more impressive, his ten shutouts were all in the last four months of 1985. To date, Tudor is the last Major League player to record 10 or more shutouts in a season.


His best season was in 2000 with the Colorado Rockies, when he batted .335, 20 home runs, 106 RBI, 14 SB, in only 454 at bats in 2000, earning a spot on the 2000 National League all-star team.

Before the 2001 season, Hammonds signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, though injuries prevented him from approaching his All-Star form with Rockies.


He led the National League in wins in 1988 with 23 and, with 18-game winner Tom Browning, combined for the best pitching tandem in baseball that season. Jackson's great 1988 season went largely unnoticed because of the outstanding season turned in by the Dodgers' Orel Hershiser.


('_') (omar little), Friday, 6 August 2010 05:58 (eleven years ago) link

bernard gilkey 1996

davey johnson 1973

buzza, Friday, 6 August 2010 06:18 (eleven years ago) link

wrt: Hammonds'

best season was in 2000 with the Colorado Rockies, when he batted .335, 20 home runs, 106 RBI, 14 SB, in only 454 at bats in 2000

Home .399/.465/.651/1.116
Away .275/.325/.415/.740

_▂▅▇█▓▒░◕‿‿◕░▒▓█▇▅▂_ (Steve Shasta), Friday, 6 August 2010 07:02 (eleven years ago) link

I was tempted to put Maris down but he had 2 good seasons so that doesn't count.

_▂▅▇█▓▒░◕‿‿◕░▒▓█▇▅▂_ (Steve Shasta), Friday, 6 August 2010 07:05 (eleven years ago) link

there could be a separate thread of pre-humidor coors stats

righteous lecoq (J0rdan S.), Friday, 6 August 2010 07:38 (eleven years ago) link

I saw Tudor throw a 10-inning shutout vs Mets in '85

kind of shrill and very self-righteous (Dr Morbius), Friday, 6 August 2010 11:55 (eleven years ago) link

I never really thought of Tudor's 1985 as an epic outlier season, he was a good pitcher during the entire 1980's. And maybe he should belong on the "why did they retire thread" ... in his last season he was 12-4, 2.40 ERA for the Cards. Did he get hurt?

Jose Bautista this year is looking like a good candidate.

There's also Norm Cash in 1961, which was overshadowed by Mantle/Maris that year:


NoTimeBeforeTime, Friday, 6 August 2010 14:06 (eleven years ago) link

I used to be fascinated by outlier seasons. I'd have to check, but a couple of long-ago ones that come to mind are Jim Hickman's 1970 and Sixto Lezcano's '79 (?--maybe it was '78.) Before Jose Bautista, the Jays had Tony Batista playing third, and one year he looked like he was going to be the first third baseman to hit 50 HR--ended up in the low '40s, I think.

clemenza, Friday, 6 August 2010 19:11 (eleven years ago) link

Forget Batista--besides his 41 HR year with the Jays, he also had three seasons of 30+, three of 20+, and 221 for his career. (Shows you how closely I paid attention to him before and after his couple of years here.) But I looked at Hickman's and Lezcano's lines, and I think they qualify on the milder end of the spectrum.

clemenza, Friday, 6 August 2010 19:24 (eleven years ago) link

the first person i thought of was Gary Matthews - looking at his career numbers, his last year in Texas was heads and shoulders above every season before and after, but i guess it wasn't exactly epic.

oreo speed wiggum (The Cursed Return of the Dastardly Thermo Thinwall), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:43 (eleven years ago) link

"I never really thought of Tudor's 1985 as an epic outlier season, he was a good pitcher during the entire 1980's."

He was a good pitcher esp. for the Cardinals, but that season was still ridiculous.

Fig On A Plate Cart (Alex in SF), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:44 (eleven years ago) link

Forget Batista--besides his 41 HR year with the Jays, he also had three seasons of 30+, three of 20+, and 221 for his career. (Shows you how closely I paid attention to him before and after his couple of years here.) But I looked at Hickman's and Lezcano's lines, and I think they qualify on the milder end of the spectrum.

Huh? His previous best in MLB was 16, and he has 92 MLB home runs.

no gut busting joke can change history (polyphonic), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:44 (eleven years ago) link

Oh, Tony Batista. I see.

no gut busting joke can change history (polyphonic), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:47 (eleven years ago) link


After signing with the Chicago White Sox as a free agent, Loaiza enjoyed a career season in 2003, leading American League pitchers in strikeouts (207), and was second in wins (21) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.23); third in ERA (2.90), and sixth in innings pitched (226.3). Considered for the Cy Young Award, Loaiza finished second behind Roy Halladay, ahead of Pedro Martínez and Tim Hudson.

('_') (omar little), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:47 (eleven years ago) link

2nd lowest era of his career: 3.77

('_') (omar little), Friday, 6 August 2010 19:48 (eleven years ago) link

tommy davis in 1962

follow-up year was pretty decent but then a big dropoff

buzza, Friday, 6 August 2010 20:05 (eleven years ago) link

I don't know if Jim Gentile's '61 is a true outlier--it sits in the middle of five pretty good years--but it definitely jumps out at you: 46 HR (a quarter of his career total), 141 RBI (never more than 100 otherwise), only time he batted .300, and a slugging pct. of .646 (+.160 over his career mark). I was reminded of him this morning because of this.

clemenza, Sunday, 8 August 2010 15:32 (eleven years ago) link

There are quite a few in the roids era that are head scratchers.

Luis Gonzales whole time in Arizona is freakish, especially the year he hit 57 home runs. The guy was an ok to decent outfielder and then all of the sudden at 31 the guy turns into hitting machine.

Darin Erstad hitting .355 in 2000 is a definite outiler season. He was decent in other years, but never hit over .300 any other season.

The batting title years for Freddie Sanchez and Bill Mueller are pretty epic for those guys. Paul O'Neill was pretty good for a long time, but it was totally out of the blue when he hit .359 and won a batting title for Reds fans.

earlnash, Sunday, 8 August 2010 16:54 (eleven years ago) link

I know what you mean about Gonazalez's 2001, but I might be more inclined to count his entire 1999-2003 run as an outlying block of seasons. For five years in the middle of an otherwise unspectacular career, he's suddenly a comparable hitter (.314/.405/.564) to Stan Musial (.331/.417/.559).

clemenza, Sunday, 8 August 2010 17:22 (eleven years ago) link

You've got "Gonzales," I've got "Gonazalez"...we'll get it right yet.

clemenza, Sunday, 8 August 2010 17:30 (eleven years ago) link

Would Randy Winn's first half-season with the Giants (in 2005) count? .359/.391/.680, 14 HRs in 58 games, which is the most he hit in any other year in his whole career.

Daleks in NYC (Leee), Sunday, 8 August 2010 19:26 (eleven years ago) link

darin erstad parlayed that epic season into a hefty contract iirc. the rest of his career he kept getting big league gigs based on the fact that he dove for balls occasionally and was addicted to tobacco dip and had facial stubble aka "grit"

('_') (omar little), Monday, 9 August 2010 16:39 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

Using WAR, someone has tried to measure this systematically, coming to the conclusion that truly fluky seasons are quite rare:


His criterion: a season of 6.0+ WAR, no other season over 3.0. So something like Jim Hickman's 1970, a season I think of as a real outlier, doesn't qualify (4.7 WAR--bit hitter's year, Wrigley Field).

clemenza, Wednesday, 22 August 2012 18:50 (nine years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Epic outlier game:


Nobody ever talks about this game for some reason.

NoTimeBeforeTime, Wednesday, 12 September 2012 19:59 (nine years ago) link

i guess it doesn't count as an outlier since the previous season he actually led the NL in era, but bill swift's 1993 was pretty impressive. maybe combine those two seasons as outliers.


omar little, Wednesday, 12 September 2012 20:03 (nine years ago) link

three months pass...

Not epic, but Rich Aurilia's 2001 was a noticeable fluke. Here's what he did, followed by his next-best season:

206 hits (157)
37 HR (23)
37 doubles (25)
.324 BA (hit exactly .300 one other time in a full season)
.572 SA (.518--no other full season over .444, which, weirdly enough, he reached three times)
114 runs (76)
97 RBI (80)
364 total bases (248)
6.5 WAR (2.2)
12th in MVP voting, probably should have been higher (never drew a single vote otherwise)

Couldn't even begin to guess what got into him.

clemenza, Sunday, 30 December 2012 16:51 (eight years ago) link

one year passes...

Check out this dude's 1958 season:


4.9 WAR, 12th in the MVP voting as a relief pitcher for the Senators.

timellison, Tuesday, 21 October 2014 04:15 (six years ago) link

1.3 the rest of his career--79% of his career value in one year. (Or, looked at another way, a 3.8-1 ratio.) Someone must have compiled a list along those lines.

Never heard of him. Probably suffered childhood trauma because of his name.

clemenza, Tuesday, 21 October 2014 14:29 (six years ago) link

Adam Dunn's 2011. Hit .159/.292/.277 over almost 500 plate appearances, combined with below average defense, making him a -3 WAR player. I can't imagine we'll see a player fall so quickly down a cliff and yet remain an everday player like this again. And then to rebound with a +1.8 WAR season right after. Look at his HR numbers from 2004 on - 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38, 11, 41, 34, 22.

Maggie killed Quagmire (collest baby ever) (frogbs), Tuesday, 21 October 2014 14:40 (six years ago) link

For epic outliers in the other direction, George Scott's 1968 season came up on James's site a couple of months ago:


Even accounting for the fact that it was a historical pitcher's year, that's still one hideous season in the midst of a pretty solid 12-year block.

clemenza, Tuesday, 21 October 2014 14:47 (six years ago) link

three weeks pass...

Also 1958 - Bob Cerv


Played for six weeks that year with his jaw wired shut and on a liquid diet after he broke it in a home plate collision.

Hadn't had much of a chance to play when he was on the Yankees.

timellison, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 19:50 (six years ago) link

i can't believe i forgot this guy:


that 1993 was such a great season for him. so many late '80s/early '90s cubs players had such promising starts and such sputtering finishes.

LIKE If you are against racism (omar little), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 20:12 (six years ago) link

Another catcher--less drastic outlier, but still impressive: Dick Dietz in 1970.


clemenza, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 20:19 (six years ago) link

Brady Andersons 96 is really fucking amazing - .297/.396/.637 vs his career .256/.362/.425

Not a bad career OBP, however..

Then again after 1995 his average for being HBP went up from about 10 per season to double that the next 4 years..



panettone for the painfully alone (mayor jingleberries), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:15 (six years ago) link

speaking of both catchers and 1996, terry steinbach really must have 'lifted weights' in the offseason with his 'trainer':


LIKE If you are against racism (omar little), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:19 (six years ago) link

brady anderson always reminds me a bit of steve finley but i just realized finley actually had four 30 HR seasons and three more 20 HR seasons, so he never had any real outlier years.

LIKE If you are against racism (omar little), Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:22 (six years ago) link

Matt Nokes, 1987:


Like Dietz, the milder end of the outlier spectrum. Both had about a third of their career WAR in the one season--maybe that's about where outliers begin. (Another similarity: 1970 and 1987 were the two most prominent fluke hitter years in my lifetime. Hitters dominated, but both years are surrounded by neutral or pitcher-dominated years.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:42 (six years ago) link

(By way of contrast, almost half of Wilkins' career WAR comes in '93; that's a truer outlier than Dietz or Nokes.)

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:44 (six years ago) link

Aren't there a lot rookies who have good-great first years and then bupkis. Ben Grieve springs to mind.

One bad call from barely losing to (Alex in SF), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:16 (six years ago) link

You can't just use percentage-of-career-WAR as a qualifier, or at least not set the bar at 33%; if you do, Brady Anderson's '96 doesn't qualify as an outlier, even if you limit WAR to offense only. (He's just under 20% of his career offensive WAR in '96.) I think you'd need a combination: percentage of career WAR, and also a ratio of the outlier year compared to second-best year. Anderson doesn't qualify because he had a bunch of pretty good years, and one other season better than that. You'd need a combination of the two that somehow lets Brady Anderson's '96 in.

clemenza, Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:18 (six years ago) link

(xpost) I think that's true, but Grieve might not fit--his first three years are all pretty close (with adjustments, his first was a bit better). Never did much after that, though.

clemenza, Wednesday, 12 November 2014 00:25 (six years ago) link

Steve Finley magically transformed from an 8-HR-a-year guy to a slugger at age 31.

things lose meaning over time (Dr Morbius), Wednesday, 12 November 2014 13:00 (six years ago) link

four months pass...

Bobby Shantz's MVP year in 1952.


timellison, Friday, 3 April 2015 16:51 (six years ago) link

three months pass...

Never realized the 1950 Whiz Kid Phillies included a relief pitcher MVP in Jim Konstanty.


timellison, Tuesday, 7 July 2015 23:34 (six years ago) link

He gets a chapter in the first baseball book I read as a kid, so I learned about him before three-quarters of the people in the HOF.


He wasn't the worst choice ever, but, just among Phillies pitchers that year, Robin Roberts would have obviously been much better.

clemenza, Wednesday, 8 July 2015 01:18 (six years ago) link

two years pass...

Always thought Cito Gaston had more good years, but maybe not so much. 5.1 bWAR in 1970, but ended up with a negative for his career.


timellison, Monday, 18 June 2018 20:27 (three years ago) link

As I've posted before (but seemingly not on this thread), 1970 is the mother of all outlier seasons.

clemenza, Monday, 18 June 2018 22:37 (three years ago) link

four months pass...

Jim Gentile 1961. 141 RBI tied for lead league the year Maris broke the record.


timellison, Saturday, 10 November 2018 23:28 (two years ago) link

two months pass...

Brady Anderson turns 55 today. With that in mind - when you think of one player in any sport having one season where they are mind-blowingly better than in any other year of their career - who do you think of and what year

— Nick Shepkowski (@Shep670) January 18, 2019

mookieproof, Friday, 18 January 2019 17:08 (two years ago) link

three months pass...

Another 1970 one, Tommy Harper:


timellison, Thursday, 2 May 2019 01:38 (two years ago) link

three months pass...

It's not epic, and it's not a season, but this seems as appropriate a place as anywhere--Brian Harper's few years catching for the Twins in the late-'80s/early-'90s. (His picture popped up today in that little photo gallery to the left of the Baseball Reference page.) From '79 to '87, he plays for five teams, plays all over the diamond, and basically does nothing. Then he has five-and-a-half really solid seasons with the Twins, hitting .294-.325 every year, with OBPs around .350 and slugging averages in the low-mid .400s (except for his last year there, very much a pitcher's era), and has a fantastic Series when the Twins win everything in '91. Then he leaves in '94, gets 300 more AB elsewhere the next two years, then he retires.

clemenza, Monday, 12 August 2019 23:43 (two years ago) link

Dug up this:


clemenza, Monday, 12 August 2019 23:49 (two years ago) link

Jesus Aguilar is looking like a potential inner circle outlier season guy

omar little, Tuesday, 13 August 2019 00:01 (two years ago) link

see also his former teammate, gio urshela

mookieproof, Tuesday, 13 August 2019 02:12 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

rick porcello's 2016

mookieproof, Thursday, 19 September 2019 17:41 (two years ago) link

a whole bunch of guys you forgot about the moment they retired

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omar little, Thursday, 19 September 2019 17:44 (two years ago) link

four months pass...

Epic outlier in reverse: Wade Boggs, 1992 (his last season in Boston). No recollection--what happened? The Margo Adams thing was a couple of years earlier.

clemenza, Monday, 10 February 2020 14:15 (one year ago) link

mike marshall, 1974

But guess what? Nobody gives a toot!😂 (Karl Malone), Tuesday, 11 February 2020 06:16 (one year ago) link

Only in the freakish 100+ games, though--he was arguably better in '73, and definitely better in '72.

clemenza, Tuesday, 11 February 2020 14:43 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

he was good for the couple years around it, but: jake arrieta's 2015. tbf it would be an epic outlier for almost anyone -- he was all but unhittable

up-thread mention rick porcello is apparently out of baseball at age 32? has to be one of the crappier pitchers to win 150 games

mookieproof, Wednesday, 7 July 2021 04:55 (three months ago) link

On a similar note, R.A. Dickey's Cy year.

clemenza, Thursday, 8 July 2021 23:31 (three months ago) link

Arietta was in the ESPN body issue, that was awesome

frogbs, Thursday, 8 July 2021 23:53 (three months ago) link

I recall sam miller calling arietta “built” on EW

Its big ball chunky time (Jimmy The Mod Awaits The Return Of His Beloved), Sunday, 11 July 2021 04:25 (three months ago) link

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