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.
|1996||3||Jeff Bagwell / Mark McGwire / Jim Thome|
|1997||3||Jeff Bagwell / Jay Buhner / Jim Thome|
|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|
|2011||2||Jose Bautista / Joey Votto|
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.
|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|
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+.
And, by WAR.
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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