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August 25, 2004
Can Of Corn
The Way We Were
Barry Bonds soldiers on at demigod level. Adrian Beltre is on pace to crack 51 homers. There's the blanket party that is the Cardinals' heart of the order. Todd Helton continues to rack up numbers that defy the "Coors Discount." Carlos Guillen becomes the best-hitting shortstop in the game. I could go on.
This season, we're seeing some remarkable statistical bestowals from hitters around baseball. To put a finer point on it, if paces hold, we'll have five hitters eclipse the 90.0 Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) mark (VORP projections determined by multiplying VORP-per-plate appearance times projected number of end-of-season plate appearances):
Hitter Projected VORP Current Rate Stats B. Bonds 145.8 .371/.612/.822 A. Pujols 98.0 .321/.405/.642 T. Helton 95.9 .333/.458/.622 S. Rolen 92.4 .329/.414/.623 A. Beltre 91.3 .333/.380/.643
There's a little less than six weeks to go in the regular season, which means the following guys, with even modest productivity gains, could join the above litany of 90-plussers:
Hitter Projected VORP Current Rate Stats J. Edmonds 88.9 .304/.421/.630 M. Loretta 88.5 .344/.395/.518 M. Mora 87.0 .348/.425/.594
That's potentially eight hitters with at least a reasonable shot at making the 90.0 VORP cutoff. Impressive, no?
Yes, but it's not a record. Most fans, when reflecting upon the seasons in recent history that provided us with a lion's share of staggering individual performances, will think of 1998, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire hawked down Roger Maris' single-season home run record. Or maybe they'll think of 2001, when Bonds re-wrote the record books with the revisionist vigor of a Texas schoolbook committee.
However, in terms of hitters reaching or surpassing a 90.0 VORP, 1996 and 2000, with a total of 11 hitters in each season, are tops. Here are the numbers:
2000 Hitter VORP Rate Stats C. Delgado 114.3 .344/.470/.664 A. Rodriguez 111.1 .316/.420/.606 J. Giambi 106.2 .333/.476/.647 N. Garciaparra 104.2 .372/.434/.599 J. Kent 102.4 .334/.424/.596 T. Helton 97.8 .372/.463/.698 F. Thomas 94.1 .328/.436/.625 B. Bonds 93.8 .306/.440/.688 S. Sosa 93.1 .320/.406/.634 V. Guerrero 92.2 .345/.410/.664 M. Ramirez 90.4 .351/.457/.697
Some observations on the 2000 season:
On to '96:
1996 Hitter VORP Rate Stats A. Rodriguez 119.9 .358/.411/.631 C. Knoblauch 108.0 .341/.448/.517 F. Thomas 103.3 .349/.459/.626 M. McGwire 101.1 .312/.467/.730 B. Bonds 98.1 .308/.461/.615 B. Anderson 95.3 .297/.393/.637 G. Sheffield 94.6 .314/.465/.624 R. Alomar 93.1 .328/.406/.527 A. Belle 93.0 .311/.410/.623 J. Thome 92.5 .311/.450/.612 J. Bagwell 91.3 .315/.451/.570
Data ruminations forthwith...
We're seeing some incredible feats this year, including the best individual offensive performance in baseball history (Bonds, ibid). But as the season winds down, we remember that the statistical upper class as a whole has seen better days.