After this week’s Schrodinger’s Bat dissected the biggest booms and busts of all time, several readers wanted to dig a little deeper and see where some of their favorites (or perhaps not so favorites) ranked. Keep in mind that these projections were done using park-adjusted and normalized OPS (NOPS/PF) and so 100 is league average.Without further ado in an effort to give the people what they want, here goes.
1996, Brady Anderson. Ah yes, the year that 50 homeruns became something akin to an everyday occurrence. Well, although Anderson in 1996 was projected to come to the plate more than 600 times, his NOPS/PF was projected to be just under league average at 98 given his advancing age. His 92 extra base hits and .637 slugging percentage made for an NOPS/PF of 131 besting his projection by 33.3% and contributing 41 more runs than expected. That puts him 45th on the all-time list. He would not better his projection in four of the final five seasons for which projections were created.
2004, Adrian Beltre. Coming in to his age 25 season and having been a regular already for five full years we pretty much thought we knew what Beltre was about. In fact, the bloom seemed to be off the rose after his excellent 2000 campaign followed by three mediocre seasons that saw his projections go down steadily in 2002, 2003, and 2004. But still, his projection for 2004 was a respectable 106. To the Mariners future misfortune Beltre then exploded with 48 homeruns and a .334/.388/.629 line and an NOPS/PF of 139, good for a 31% improvement over the projection. In real terms he contributed 34 more runs than would have been expected and his season ranks 75th on the list of 16,900 seasons nestled between Eddie Mathews’ 1953 sophomore season when, as a 21-year old, he put up an NOPS/PF of 143 and Dick Allen’s 138 NOPS/PF season of 1964.
2007, Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez had been on the comeback trail since his knee injury of 2004. Since he batted only 224 times that season no projection was made but the projections of 2005 (108) and 2006 (103) were both fairly close as he came in at 106 and 108 respectively. However, in 2007 he would of course win the batting title with his .363/.434/.595 performance which at age 33 was the best of his career. Since I didn’t run projections for 2007 I hand calculated one for Ordonez which came out to an even 100, indicating that he beat it by 35%. That would place his 2007 season 33rd on our list.
1994, Juan Gonzalez. On the other side of the coin “Juan Gone” at age 23 in 1993 had a spectacular year for the Texas Rangers. His .310/.368/.632 line, not to mention his 43-homer performance in 1992, inflated his projection to over 600 plate appearances and an NOPS/PF of 130. But in 1993 he came to the plate just 463 times and although still performing above league average at 103, he was 21% off the mark and 317th from the bottom of our list. Interestingly, Gonzalez was in the bottom 2% but still managed to beat the league average. That puts him in elite company as only Mark McGwire in 2001, Babe Ruth in 1925, and Rogers Hornsby in 1926 ranked lower and yet still recorded an NOPS/PF of greater than 100.
But while some may think that Gonzalez was a perennial disappointment because of the way he finished his career, in twelve seasons of over 300 plate appearances he bested his projection an impressive nine times. On the contrary Everett Scott, the shortstop for the Red Sox and Yankees from 1914 through 1925 and the owner of a 1,307 consecutive games played streak, missed his projection in each of the ten seasons for which projections were made. Overall, his performance managed to sink faster than his projections could keep pace. This gives him the distinction of being the only player with ten or more seasons projected who under-performed in each one.
The modern leader in this category is none other than current White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who missed his projection in ten of eleven seasons from 1986 through 1997 only beating it in 1993 when he hit .279/.312/.341 and recorded an NOPS/PF of 93 to beat his projection of 90.
Bill Bruton, the speedy centerfielder for the Milwaukee Braves and Tigers in the 1950s and early 1960s, only underperformed his projection in one (1961) of eleven seasons from 1954 through 1964 as shown in the graph below. Other players with similar track records include Walker Cooper, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett and in the modern era Moises Alou who outperformed his projection fourteen times in seventeen seasons.