What is the 4×100 season? I’m talking about seasons with triple-digit totals for runs, RBI, walks and strikeouts. There were no such seasons in 2012, and only four seasons by three players in the past 5 years, which is quite a departure from the recent past.

  • 2008-2012: 4 seasons by 3 players
  • 2003-2007: 16 seasons by 10 players
  • 1998-2002: 22 seasons by 11 players

After the jump, a bit more on another sign of the changing face of the game.

The recent decline in 4×100 seasons dovetails with the change in the MLB offensive environment over that period. To wit:

  • Offense in 2011 was down by more than 0.5 R/G from 2006 (for 2007 to 2012, the decline was 0.48 R/G), following a similar 0.5 R/G decline from the 2000 peak (the highest R/G since 1936) to 2005.
  • Excluding the one-year aberration of 1987 (offense rose that year by more than 0.3 R/G, then immediately fell by almost 0.6 R/G the next season), the last time offense declined by more than 0.5 R/G in a 5-year period was from 1963 to the offensive nadir of 1968.
  • R/G for the 2008-2012 period was the lowest for any 5-year period since 1989-1993.

Here are the players with 4×100 seasons for the past 20 years. Actually, makes an illustrative little bar chart.

Year ▴ Count Players
1993 0
1994 0
1995 0
1996 3 Jeff Bagwell / Mark McGwire / Jim Thome
1997 3 Jeff Bagwell / Jay Buhner / Jim Thome
1998 1 Mark McGwire
1999 4 Jeff Bagwell / Jason Giambi / Mark McGwire / Jim Thome
2000 6 Jeff Bagwell / Carlos Delgado / Jim Edmonds / Troy Glaus / Alex Rodriguez / Jim Thome
2001 6 Bobby Abreu / Jeff Bagwell / Carlos Delgado / Troy Glaus / Sammy Sosa / Jim Thome
2002 5 Lance Berkman / Carlos Delgado / Jason Giambi / Sammy Sosa / Jim Thome
2003 2 Carlos Delgado / Jim Thome
2004 4 Bobby Abreu / Lance Berkman / Adam Dunn / Jim Edmonds
2005 3 Bobby Abreu / Adam Dunn / David Ortiz
2006 5 Jason Bay / Travis Hafner / Ryan Howard / David Ortiz / Jim Thome
2007 2 Adam Dunn / David Ortiz
2008 0
2009 1 Prince Fielder
2010 1 Jose Bautista
2011 2 Jose Bautista / Joey Votto
2012 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/14/2012.

Looking at the players in the list above, while most are still active or are not yet HOF-eligible, my take is that currently only Thome and Rodriguez are good HOF bets and, of the others, only Bagwell (and Delgado, to a lesser degree) have been shafted. That is in contrast with the first 10 players to have 4×100 seasons, 7 of whom are in Cooperstown.

Rk Yrs From ▴ To Age
1 Jimmie Foxx 1 1936 1936 28-28 Ind. Seasons
2 Hank Greenberg 1 1937 1937 26-26 Ind. Seasons
3 Dolph Camilli 2 1938 1939 31-32 Ind. Seasons
4 Mickey Mantle 2 1954 1961 22-29 Ind. Seasons
5 Eddie Mathews 1 1960 1960 28-28 Ind. Seasons
6 Harmon Killebrew 1 1967 1967 31-31 Ind. Seasons
7 Reggie Jackson 1 1969 1969 23-23 Ind. Seasons
8 Darrell Evans 1 1973 1973 26-26 Ind. Seasons
9 Jim Wynn 1 1974 1974 32-32 Ind. Seasons
10 Mike Schmidt 5 1974 1983 24-33 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/14/2012.

Note that, up to 1961, only 5 players had done this a total of 7 times. Four of those 5 were or would become HOFers, while the other (Camilli) did this in consecutive seasons, a unique achievement until Mike Schmidt duplicated it in 1976-77.

How valuable is a 4×100 season? Of the 67 such seasons, ALL of them have garnered an OPS+ over 125, with a median OPS+ of 158. By WAR, only 3 seasons are below 3 WAR (the two lowest belong to Adam Dunn), with a median of 6.1 WAR.

Here are the top 10 and ties by OPS+.

Rk Player OPS+ R RBI BB SO Year Age Tm H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Mark McGwire 216 130 147 162 155 1998 34 STL 152 21 0 70 .299 .470 .752 1.222 *3
2 Mickey Mantle 206 131 128 126 112 1961 29 NYY 163 16 6 54 .317 .448 .687 1.135 *8
3 Sammy Sosa 203 146 160 116 153 2001 32 CHC 189 34 5 64 .328 .437 .737 1.174 *9
4 Jim Thome 197 101 118 122 139 2002 31 CLE 146 19 2 52 .304 .445 .677 1.122 *3D
5 Mark McGwire 196 104 113 116 112 1996 32 OAK 132 21 0 52 .312 .467 .730 1.198 *3D
6 Reggie Jackson 189 123 118 114 142 1969 23 OAK 151 36 3 47 .275 .410 .608 1.018 *98
7 Jose Bautista 182 105 103 132 111 2011 30 TOR 155 24 2 43 .302 .447 .608 1.056 *95/D
8 Travis Hafner 181 100 117 100 111 2006 29 CLE 140 31 1 42 .308 .439 .659 1.097 *D/3
9 Carlos Delgado 181 115 137 123 104 2000 28 TOR 196 57 1 41 .344 .470 .664 1.134 *3
10 Frank Thomas 180 104 109 138 112 1991 23 CHW 178 31 2 32 .318 .453 .553 1.006 *D3
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/14/2012.

And, by WAR.

Rk Player WAR/pos R RBI BB SO Year Age Tm H 2B 3B HR BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Mickey Mantle 10.2 131 128 126 112 1961 29 NYY 163 16 6 54 .317 .448 .687 1.135 *8
2 Sammy Sosa 10.1 146 160 116 153 2001 32 CHC 189 34 5 64 .328 .437 .737 1.174 *9
3 Alex Rodriguez 10.1 134 132 100 121 2000 24 SEA 175 34 2 41 .316 .420 .606 1.026 *6
4 Mike Schmidt 9.5 108 116 106 138 1974 24 PHI 160 28 7 36 .282 .395 .546 .941 *5
5 Darrell Evans 8.9 114 104 124 104 1973 26 ATL 167 25 8 41 .281 .403 .556 .959 *53
6 Reggie Jackson 8.8 123 118 114 142 1969 23 OAK 151 36 3 47 .275 .410 .608 1.018 *98
7 Mike Schmidt 8.7 114 101 104 122 1977 27 PHI 149 27 11 38 .274 .393 .574 .967 *5/64
8 Mike Schmidt 7.9 112 107 100 149 1976 26 PHI 153 31 4 38 .262 .376 .524 .900 *5
9 Jose Bautista 7.7 105 103 132 111 2011 30 TOR 155 24 2 43 .302 .447 .608 1.056 *95/D
10 Mike Schmidt 7.6 109 114 120 115 1979 29 PHI 137 25 4 45 .253 .386 .564 .950 *5/6
11 Jim Wynn 7.6 104 108 108 104 1974 32 LAD 145 17 4 32 .271 .387 .497 .884 *8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/14/2012.

Rather surprising that only four seasons (Mantle, Sosa, Jackson, Bautista) make both lists.

Who will be the next 4×100 player? Clearly, this type of player has not departed the scene entirely. Any of the last 3 players to do this could easily repeat, athough Fielder demonstrated a newly discovered plate discipline in 2012, his first qualifying season below 100 strikeouts. Votto and Bautista were both injured for a good chunk of 2012, but Bautista’s numbers, projected over 156+ games, would have yielded him a third consecutive 4×100 season.

 

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