Quiz – Heavy Hitters

Below are a list of similar hitters. Except for maybe one, that first guy. All but Pepi have had seasons of 40 HRs, over 100 RBI, or over 100 Ks.

So what is it that only this group of hitters has accomplished in a full season (502 PA) since 1901?

Congratulations to Paul E. He correctly identified these players as the only hitters since 1901 having a season (502 PA) with home runs comprising more than 55% of runs scored. Here’s the list.


Quiz – Heavy Hitters — 63 Comments

        • Call it the Superstation effect. Those Braves got a lot of exposure. Pendleton’s teammate Ron Gant, with his lofty 1.6 WAR, still placed 6th with 110 voting points, while Gwynn, Larkin and Sandberg, all over 5 WAR, came away with 8 points total.

          Barry Bonds, just 15 points behind Pendleton, may have lost that year’s MVP because of vote splitting with his teammate Bobby Bonilla who came 3rd and attracted one first place vote.


          • The ’91 Braves went from last to first. Pendleton went from .230 to the batting title (he also led in total bases). He was their best position player, by far. The pull of that storyline was irresistible — I feel myself getting sucked in even from this distance.

            The two best positional candidates for the ’91 MVP (Bonds & Sandberg) had already won one, plus both had slightly worse years than the year before. Larkin missed almost 40 games, plus he and Ryno played for losing teams. All in all, Pendleton’s selection seems quite predictable, given what we know about voting patterns.

          • I was mainly kidding, JA, but it’s always good to relive that wonderful time in Braves history. I was just pointing out that even a Braves fan at the time thought Barry Lamar deserved the trophy.

            Bonds led the league in OBP, OPS, OPS+, WAR, stole 43 bags, played superb defense in left, and had more HR/BB/RBI/R than Pendleton. I understand the narrative surrounding Pendleton was strong, but I still don’t agree with it.

          • Among position players Pendleton finished in the top four in WAR, and the difference among those four as batters wasn’t really all all that great. Further, looking at Atlanta as a team, the next highest WAR after Pendleton’s 5.8 overall is Otis Nixon’s at 1.9. As for Bonds on the other division champion, he had 3 teammates with 3.3 WAR or better, 5 with 2.2 or better.

            I don’t know whether Pendleton deserved the award—I sort of remember thinking it odd at the time—but it seems to me that he was probably more valuable to the Braves than Bonds was to the Pirates. As for Larkin or Sandberg as alternatives, Larkin, as JA points out, missed too many games, and as I’ll point out, having followed the Cubs fairly closely during his career, Ryno, except in 1984, was not an impact batter, no matter what his HR totals in the early 1990s suggest. He tended to disappear late in the game on the offensive side—his BA in innings 7-9 in the year in question is .234 with just 3 HR.

            The more I look at it, the more I think Pendleton wasn’t a bad choice at all.

          • The real Braves MVP that year was Tom Glavine. Counting his hitting exploits, Glavine amassed 9.0 WAR in ’91, 55% more than Terry Pendleton.

          • I think the ’91 Braves are a great example of why people still don’t trust the WAR defense numbers. Here’s a team which came out of nowhere to win the pennant, largely based on the strength of their pitching. And yet, according to the defensive numbers, those pitchers were backed by an atrocious defense. WAR shows the defense costing the Braves 98 runs (nearly 10 wins). Prime contributors were Ron Gant (-27), Jeff Blauser (-18), Dave Justice (-14), Jeff Treadway (-9), Lonnie Smith (-9), and Deion Sanders (-8). Most of these guys, btw, have positive numbers for their career (Blauser being the exception).

            Perhaps the fielding numbers are correct but it strikes me as implausible that a team could have an ERA+ of 112 while being backed by an entire defense that has no idea how to field or catch the ball.

          • Thanks Mosc! It’s actually worse than I originally suspected.

            In 1990, the Braves were awful at both pitching (4.58 ERA, 12th in the NL) and fielding (-58 fielding runs). Somehow in 1991, their pitching dramatically improved (3.49 ERA, 3rd in the NL) while simultaneously their defense deteriorated (-98 fielding runs). And are you ready for this? Their worst fielder in 1990 was 3rd baseman Jim Presley (-21 fielding runs); they replaced him in 1991 with Terry Pendleton who was their best fielder that year (+7 fielding runs). Now please explain to me how all those parts work together. Replacing your worst defensive player with your best defensive player while your defense implodes and your pitching drastically improves.

          • Ed, are you aware that traditional metrics also called the 1991 Braves a bad defensive team? They committed the third-most errors, were 10th out of 12 in fielding percentage, and were 9th in double plays.

            I understand that finding numbers that don’t seem to agree with the eye test or whatever are an easy target to those who question newer defensive metrics, but if the traditional ones AND the eye test both agree that this Braves team was bad defensively, I don’t get the argument.

            Treadwell was awful, Blauser was overrated, Olson behind the plate was below average, David Justice was young and possibly still learning his craft, Gant was in his second full year as an outfielder(he was a second baseman before that), Sid Bream was past his prime, etc. I don’t know about Lonnie Smith. I can see the argument there. Maybe he slipped on too many imaginary banana peels in 1991. Baby giraffes have better balance than poor ol’ Skates did.

            You’re right about the final numbers being even historically bad. RA9def, which tries to answer the question of how many runs a defense was costing a team, suggests the Braves D was costing their pitchers 0.60 runs a game in ’91. That’s really big. The biggest number I’ve yet to encounter is Atlanta’s 1977 squad, at 0.77 runs per game. Perhaps the new numbers are a bit extreme, but I don’t think the statement that the Braves were a subpar defensive team in ’91 is an untrue one.

          • Fair points Bstar. However, consider the following years team. The ’92 Braves were +39 in fielding runs, a dramatic 137 run improvement over the prior year’s team. This occurred while using essentially the same team as the year before. Meanwhile their traditional fielding metrics didn’t change much. They went from 10th to 4th in fielding percentage but they only improved from .978 to .982 which probably means there were several teams bunched closely together one or both years. They did commit 29 fewer errors but obviously that’s not nearly enough to account for a 137 run defensive improvement. And they turned 5 fewer double plays in ’92, going from 9th to 11th in the league.

            Again, it certainly could be that the ’91 Braves were a poor defensive team. But then how can you account for their dramatic improvement in runs allowed from ’90 to ’91? (given that much of pitching is actually defense). They struck out fewer batters in ’91 so that’s not it. They did walk about 100 fewer batters so that’s part of the answer but that’s not enough to account for a 177 run improvement (particularly when the advanced fielding metrics show that the defense was 40 runs worse). So color me confused….

          • I should note that the Braves also gave up 10 fewer home runs so that accounts for part of their improvement but not much.

          • Hmm, for one thing I think you’re giving defense more credit for pitching success than I ever would. I’m convinced the number of batted balls where who the defender is actually matters is a lot lower than people realize.

            What explains the difference between ’90 and ’91? Well, Tom Glavine morphed into the best pitcher in the league, for one. Steve Avery improved his ERA over 200 points. If half of your top 4 shows dramatic improvement, why can’t a team’s pitching improve despite bad defense? Also, the Braves hired Leo Mazzone in June of 1990. Maybe you start to see the effects of his teachings in 1991. I for one think Mazzone is fantastically underrated, not for what he did with his trio of Hall of Famers, but for the list of pitchers who saw a sudden improvement upon joining the Braves. But that’s for another post. Again, I’m not sure what this really has to do with defense.

            As for ’92, why isn’t is plausible that Deion Sanders, David Justice, and Ron Gant all improved that year defensively? Gant turned himself into a good OFer, but it didn’t happen right away. Same with Justice. Why are you calling into question the possible improvements of third-year young OFers? Also, Otis Nixon saw a lot more action in ’92 than ’91. And Mark Lemke replaced Jeff Treadway at 2B. Seems downright reasonable here that the Braves were just a lot better than the prior year in the field. And, judging by the fewer errors, isn’t it possible they just had a shitty year in ’91?

            At the end of the day, perhaps all we’ve uncovered is why the Braves finished second instead of first in ERA+ in 1991: crap-ass defensive play. That doesn’t seem like a good reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater as far as the newer D metrics go.

          • I have a feeling we’re going to need to agree to disagree on this. Nevertheless, here are my responses:

            “I’m convinced the number of batted balls where who the defender is actually matters is a lot lower than people realize.”

            Gramatically speaking, I don’t understand this sentence.

            “Well, Tom Glavine morphed into the best pitcher in the league, for one. Steve Avery improved his ERA over 200 points.”

            I’m not really sure what it means to “morph” into one of the best pitchers in the league. Anyway, if we look at FIP, Glavine’s FIP improved by .74 which leaves .99 of his ERA improvement unexplained. Avery, on the other hand, actually had a worse FIP in ’91 than he did in ’90, despite his dramatic improvement in ERA.

            “As for ’92, why isn’t is plausible that Deion Sanders, David Justice, and Ron Gant all improved that year defensively? Why are you calling into question the possible improvements of third-year young OFers?”

            Only Gant was a 3rd year out fielder. Justice had over 500 games of OF in the minors, plus he probably played OF in college and high school. Sanders was also an outfielder in college and the minors. As for Gant, what explains his dramatic falloff from ’90 to ’91, going from -6 to -27? And Justice’s one year improvement from -14 to +22??? Seriously, a 36 run improvement in one year???

            “Also, Otis Nixon saw a lot more action in ’92 than ’91”

            Nixon went from 872.1 innings played to 962.0. I would call that a little more.

            “And Mark Lemke replaced Jeff Treadway at 2B.”

            Lemke and Treadway were a combined -12 in ’91; they were a combined -2 in ’92. So that’s 10 runs of the 137. Not very many (Lemke, btw, was negative both years).

            “And, judging by the fewer errors, isn’t it possible they just had a shitty year in ’91?”

            Perhaps, except that they committed 20 fewer errors in ’91 than they did in ’90. So by their standards ’91 wasn’t a shitty year.

          • I think bstar’s point about the number of balls in play where it really makes a difference who the defenders are is just this:
            – all major league fielders will make routine plays with almost the same efficiency
            – difference between fielders then is mostly at the margins – a good fielder will turn a tough chance into an out, and the poor fielder won’t
            – if your pitching is better, then the % of BIP that are hit hard should drop; ergo, there should be more routine plays that even a poor defense can handle
            – thus, the answer may simply be the pitching improved even with poor defense because the pitchers pitched better

          • Haha, Ed @61 I agree the grammar on that sentence was awkward. I did spend a minute trying to say it better and decided it would have to do. Still, the point is pretty clear, as Doug stated it. I’ll leave it at that. As Doug’s conclusion states, I don’t know what else to say about how a team’s pitching can improve while they have a bad year defensively. That doesn’t seem unexplainable in the least.

            Then you raise an objection to my use of the word “morph”. Do I really have to explain this? That’s a very clear statement. And here’s the reality behind it:

            Tom Glavine in 1991 was coming off a 94 ERA+ season, his third straight below-average full year. At this point, Glavs had the following career numbers:

            2.8 career WAR in about 650 IP
            4.29 ERA, 89 ERA+

            So we’ve got a below average pitcher not producing much value through his first 3+ years.

            Then comes 1991.

            -he leads the league in ERA+ at 153, 64 points above his career average.

            -he wins 20 games for the first of five times in his career despite a poor defense behind him. His previous high was 14.

            -he collects 19 of 24 first-place votes and wins the NL Cy Young going away.

            -he amasses 9.0 WAR in 1991, besting every single player in the National League.

            If a guy goes from a below average pitcher to very arguably the best player in the league, I don’t think I need to argue further that this constitutes anyone’s definition of the word “morph”.

            You make an attempt to discredit Tom Glavine’s Cy Young by talking about his ERA-FIP discrepancy. Tom Glavine outperformed his FIP virtually every year his entire career. Why is this one so different? What are you suggesting here, that Tom Glavine was the same pitcher in ’91 as in 1990? That’s not even arguable. And why are you attempting to discredit the Braves pitching when you yourself say @46, “Here’s a team which came out of nowhere to win the pennant, largely based on the strength of their pitching.”

            Here you’re calling the Braves pitching strong, and now you’re attempting to argue that it wasn’t? I don’t understand where you’re trying to go with this one.

            You plucked your FIP numbers from Fangraphs. Are you aware they now have new metrics to attempt to not only explain but also QUANTIFY what might be causing ERA-FIP discrepancies? There’s a sequencing/LOB metric and a BABIP one, all conveniently reduced to a WAR number. Collectively they’re called Fielding Dependent Pitching, and I think they’re fantastic. This is basically the missing link between pitching rWAR and fWAR. I do wish Fangraphs would go ahead and include them in their fWAR, because without them clearly fWAR continues to undersell Tom Glavine. But again, why are you attempting to discredit Glavine’s contribution to the Braves pitching? If they didn’t get it from Glavine and Steve Avery, then other players get credit for it. Who cares? You agree the Braves pitching was strong.

            With all due respect, I thought we’d kind of been through this whole ’91 defense thing that you still find so unacceptable. Again, if the new metrics, the old metrics, and the eye test all suggest the Braves were bad defensively, why are we still talking about it? I’ve talked at length about how explainable the majority of it is, and I don’t really think it’s necessary to rehash all that again.

            But if we must and if you insist on raising objections to year-to-year fluctuations in fielding runs, I’m wondering why you’re not also raising objections about an increase in batting runs also.

            I mean, where is your furious objection to the fact that Terry Pendleton raised his batting average 89 points, from .230 to a league-leading .319? Pendleton also increased his HR from 6 to 22 in ’91. If you can accept these as non-logic-defying by not commenting on them, why are you objecting to a similar decrease in fielding runs? Neither HR, BA, or Rfield stabilize after one year anyway, so why are the fluctuations in offense OK but defensive ones aren’t?

  1. Good going, Paul (and Josh, and Mike).

    These are indeed the only players having a season with home runs comprising more than 55% of runs scored. McGwire has two of them,

    • I was thinking it was wrong since I did a quick look at Bonds’ record and I didn’t see a 55% season. Have to go back and look again.

      BTW Pepitone only scoring 49 runs in a season where he drove himself in 27 times in more than 502 PAs? That has to be one of the lowest of all time, which makes me wonder who actually holds that “record?”

      • …and it was the obvious year when he his 73, but the runs scored was still very high at 129 that I must have skipped right by it.

      • RE: “That has to be one of the lowest of all time, which makes me wonder who actually holds that “record?” ”

        Leo Cardenas scored 25 runs in 602 PA’s (!!) for the ’72 Angels. But, he only hit 6 homers. Not quite sure what “record” you’re speaking of? Perhaps fewest runs scored in a season with 25+ homers? It’s got to be Pepitone…BTW, that hairpiece had to be pretty tough on a hot day in St. Louis :-(

      • Leo Cardenas has the lowest total for runs scored in a season of 502 PAs, with 25 runs in 1972. His 19 times driven in (i.e. R – HR) that season is tied with Bengie Molina (2007) for the lowest mark.

    • Kingman is one of just 4 players with a career mark (min. 3000 PA) of over 48% of their runs via the HR. Balboni is the highest, the only player above 50%.

      Rk Player HR R PA From To Age Tm
      1 Mark McGwire 583 1167 7660 1986 2001 22-37 OAK-TOT-STL
      2 Dave Kingman 442 901 7429 1971 1986 22-37 SFG-NYM-TOT-CHC-OAK
      3 Steve Balboni 181 351 3440 1981 1993 24-36 NYY-KCR-TOT-TEX
      4 Ron Kittle 176 356 3013 1982 1991 24-33 CHW-TOT-NYY-CLE
      Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
      Generated 11/19/2012.
      • Interesting. I thought of McGwire but then I assumed he’d had maybe 1300 runs. In fact, I see now he was on base “only” 3018 times when if asked I would have said 3500 anyway. Check out Boggs, maybe he’s at the other end (?), 4445 TOB and “only” 1513 runs, which is 34%.

        • Actually, I went off track there trying to do 3 things at once, I see though McGwire scored almost 39% of his TOB, which I guess factors in all the home runs…

      • Right. That’s just amazing. The Pepiton number is still crazy, but McGwire’s was done during a high-offensive period. It was a split season between the A’s and the Cardinals, but it was the A’s time that was off the charts. He hit 34 HRs, but only scored 48 times in 105 games. Had an OBP of .383, and added in another 24 doubles, but somehow only scored 12 times when he didn’t drive himself in. That had to be one bad offensive team. (I say this without looking it up.)

    • The most amazing thing about McGwire holding the all-time record here is how far ahead of second place he finished.

      No other player had 60% of his runs scored due to his own HR. Next highest qualifying season is Matt Williams in ’94, the year he might have made a run at Roger Maris’ HR record. Williams hit 43 HR but scored only 74 runs that year (58.1%). Williams (483 PA) slipped through Doug’s qualifications (502 PA) because of the strike in ’94 but he did qualify for the batting title that year.

    • I am always more drawn to the big bonds years because Barry was on base at nearly a 50% clip and still rarely scored a run not off his own bat. I guess by total rate McGuire was worse. McGuire hit fewer singles. McGuire’s singles clip in 1997 was measurably closer to his HR rate than his walk rate. He, like bonds, in his 70HR season would have more HR than singles. Adam Dunn came close this year (50 singles and 41 HR) though so give him some love. Still, Dunn broke the 50% barrier in 2008 with 40 HR and only 79 runs!

      The next year McGuire was a few balls short of having >50% of his hits be HR that year (70/152 = 46%) for a qualifying batter. On what planet did we think that was at all reasonable? I guess bond’s 73 out of 156 (close to 47%) is technically the record. Still, nuts. Closest I could find otherwise was Ruth’s ridiculous 1932: 60/158 = 38.0%.

      • Here are the top ten HR/H ratios.

        Player …………Year,Ratio
        Barry Bonds……2001,.468
        Mark McGwire…..1998,.461
        Mark McGwire…..1999,.448
        Mark McGwire…..1996,.394
        Mark McGwire…..1997,.392
        Roger Maris……1961,.384
        Adam Dunn………..2012,.373
        Jose Bautista….2010,.365
        Carlos Pena……..2009,.364
        Matt Williams….1994,.361

        mosc: Your numbers for Ruth are somewhat fouled up.

  2. Most PA in a season with R = HR belongs to Aurelio Rodriguez who had 92 PA in 1983 with 1 HR and 1 R. Tied for second with 89 PA, 2 HR and 2 R are Smoky Burgess (1965) and Bob Nieman (1961).

  3. As long as we seem to have a lull in comments see if you can solve this quiz. What seasonal feat has Edgar Martinez achieved that no one else has?

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