Sign of the times – the decline of the 4×100 season

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.

 

13 thoughts on “Sign of the times – the decline of the 4×100 season

  1. 1
    mosc says:

    Seems like what you’re getting at is the relative difference between RBI hitters and run scorers. Both are very situational stats dependent on team performance… except HR’s give you both and the only way to ensure you get either without help from a teammate.

    I would write it more simply as power hitters are not staying healthy and when they do, they no longer run the bases well enough to typically get 100 runs.

    • 2
      Doug says:

      I wouldn’t draw that particular conclusion, necessarily.

      When I say sign of the times, I mean the offensive environment has declined notably in the past 5 seasons (R/G down more than 0.5 runs; last 5 year period with lower R/G was 1989-93), and here is an example of that fact.

      When the offensive environment was hot (the rest of the past 20 years), there were a lot more seasons like this. While both factors feed on each other, I would view the 4×100 season as an effect of a hot offensive environment more than a cause of it.

    • 8

      I’d be interested to see if there’s really any correlation between running the bases well and scoring 100 runs. Because traditional lineup construction dictates that the leadoff hitter should be fast, you’d probably find a bunch of fast guys that score a lot of runs, but it seems to me that OBP, lineup order, and solid production from the next hitters lineup dictate a hitter’s ability to score runs far more than baserunning ability.

      This won’t prove much, but here are some players who led their teams in runs scored in 2012:
      Edwin Encarnacion
      Miguel Cabrera
      Billy Butler
      Josh Willingham
      Matt Holliday
      Buster Posey
      Andre Ethier

      These guys are the best hitters on their teams, not the best baserunners.

      • 10
        mosc says:

        HR = run+RBI. What you’re getting at Bryan is the correlation between guys getting runs with guys that hit a lot of home runs. I’d be curious how many guys lead their team in home runs and are not either at the top or close to the run and RBI team lead.

        Like I said above, you just listed a bunch of guys with good power who had healthy seasons. The way for an individual to succeed at a team related stat like RBI, run, etc is to hit home runs and play a lot of games.

        I think the general reduction in 100run+100RBI+100 walk seasons is saying that power hitters aren’t hitting as many home runs and aren’t staying healthy as much. The strikeouts don’t change much, not sure why they’re linked in here. Guys strike out a lot, not too many are going to have 600 at bats and <100 strikeouts. Those who do are not going to be power guys anyway (ichiro, etc).

        I mean, the year Ichiro got his hit record he hit .372 over 161 games and only managed 101 runs. It ain't getting on base and speed, it's HR and longevity. Ichiro didn't have many runs in '04 because he hit 8HR, only 39 XBH (223 singles!). His run peak of 127 not surprisingly came in a season where he hit a career high 50 XBH despite 24 fewer plate appearances and a .033 lower OBP than in the record '04 year. To my point, he also set a career high in RBI's that year as well. 69 (50 XBH his not going to produce).

        • 11
          Doug says:

          Good thoughts, mosc. Some ideas there for a future post.

          Part of the reason for adding strikeouts to the mix is to distinguish from the players not selected (e.g. Gehrig, Ruth, Williams, Bonds, Musial, Kiner, Ott, Pujols). None of those eight have a 4×100 season, but they combine for 56 of the 116 seasons of 100+ R,RBI,BB and <100 K. The other point was to distinguish by era – 63 of those 116 seasons were up to 1960, versus 6 of the 67 seasons of 4×100. To me, this 4×100 hitter is a different type of hitter than the 3×100 hitter, a type primarily of recent invention.

  2. 3
    Jimbo says:

    Adam Dunn was relatively close. 105 walks, 222 k’s, and 96 rbi’s but only 87 runs.

  3. 4
    nightfly says:

    I propose the term “relay season” to refer to this set of statistical achievement.

  4. 5
    Thomas Court says:

    Not to take anything away from the past week’s worth of posts… But where are the posts related to the yearly awards?

    No posts regarding the Gold Glove winners?
    No posts regarding the Cy Young winners?

    The article regarding transparency in the voting, and how it related to the Rookie of the Year Awards was fascinating I’ll admit – but on the old BR-Blog you could count on lengthy discussions taking place in their own blogs. Gold Glove discussions there used to be a real interesting read… this year they played to an empty stadium here.

    • 7

      As the guy who wrote the piece on transparency, I’ll weigh in here. I made a vow a few years ago to never draw attention to the Gold Gloves by criticizing them. There are people doing better work on fielding awards (http://www.fieldingbible.com/, for instance). I’d like to think that if we ignore the Gold Gloves, they’ll go away.

      If I wrote about Price winning the Cy Young or Cabrera inevitably winning the MVP, it would just be 3,000 words of whining about the flat-earth voters without making many arguments you haven’t seen before (I’m not promising I won’t do that, of course). Most of the other writers here are more mature than I am and will probably stay away from that mudslinging. Unfortunately, there’s not much to say, other than “Verlander and Trout were better, but voters are looking at the wrong numbers”.

    • 9
      Doug says:

      Thomas,

      Those CYA discussions are going on right now over on Bryan’s post about awards voting.

  5. 6
    Tmckelv says:

    As we all know, Mike Schmidt could play some solid 3B. He has 4 of the top 10 seasons on the WAR list with 0 on the OPS+ list.

  6. 12
    Steve Sailer says:

    How many of these guys weren’t juicing?

    • 13
      Paul E says:

      Sails,
      My thoughts exactly. it’s great to see the return of the pitcher and the more reasonable less-than-three-hour game. The ‘roiding had every pitcher from 1994 – 2008 living in abject fear of the fly ball…..

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