epic outlier seasons

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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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (eight 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 (five 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 (five 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 (five 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 (two 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 (two 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 (one year 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 (one year ago) link

Dug up this:


clemenza, Monday, 12 August 2019 23:49 (one year ago) link

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

omar little, Tuesday, 13 August 2019 00:01 (one year ago) link

see also his former teammate, gio urshela

mookieproof, Tuesday, 13 August 2019 02:12 (one year ago) link

one month passes...

rick porcello's 2016

mookieproof, Thursday, 19 September 2019 17:41 (one year 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 (one year 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 (eleven months ago) link

mike marshall, 1974

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

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