Szymborski’s 2021 Bust Candidates: Hitters

Last week, we looked at my favorite breakout candidates for the 2021 season. Today, we shift to the players I’m more bearish about, and I’m not talking about pilfering picnic baskets. Whether it’s players who I don’t believe will match their 2020 performance, meet their 2021 projections, or who have some aspect of their game that worries me, each of these eight hitters is one who I would place firmly in the “sell” column. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be awful or bad, but it does mean I don’t think the best is yet to come.

José Abreu, Chicago White Sox

Busts are a relative notion, and a player can make this list and still be a contributor. Abreu was terrific in 2020 and is one of the few players in baseball you could inarguably call a leader, but the fact remains that it was by far his best performance in years. Sure, he pasted the ball to the tune of the 10th-highest average exit velocity in the league, but he destroyed baseballs in 2018 and ’19 as well and was far less valuable in those full seasons. Abreu’s far more likely to be an average player than he is to contend for the MVP again, and when you have a guy whose WAR projection for an entire season comes in under his 60-game WAR from last year’s short season, who you have to admit he has some bust potential. That’s doubly true when he’s in his mid-30s; sluggers aging like Nelson Cruz are the exception, not the rule.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – José Abreu
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .295 .351 .580 562 85 166 40 3 38 134 40 116 3 148 4.2
80% .287 .339 .536 565 81 162 38 2 33 127 37 123 2 134 3.2
70% .283 .334 .518 566 80 160 36 2 31 121 36 128 2 128 2.7
60% .278 .328 .505 568 78 158 35 2 30 118 34 132 1 123 2.3
50% .276 .326 .491 568 76 157 34 2 28 114 34 136 1 119 2.0
40% .274 .323 .478 569 75 156 33 1 27 112 33 141 1 115 1.7
30% .272 .320 .463 570 74 155 32 1 25 108 32 146 1 110 1.4
20% .270 .317 .454 571 73 154 31 1 24 105 31 152 1 107 1.1
10% .265 .310 .429 573 70 152 29 1 21 102 29 160 0 99 0.6

Jackie Bradley Jr., Milwaukee Brewers

The popular conception of JBJ is that he had something of a comeback season in 2020, and that’s true on the surface, as his wRC+ of 120 was 30 points above anything he’s done in recent years. The only problem with that part of the tale is that in this case, his .343 BABIP, 45 points above his career average, was the driver of his flashy line. Remove that and his season looked a lot like 2019, when one of the questions entering the offseason was whether the Red Sox would even tender him a contract for 2020. From the specific hit data, ZiPS thinks that he played like a player with a .306 BABIP rather than one in the .340s. He’s still a solid defensive player, but his speed numbers are starting to slip, which tends to be a leading indicator of defensive decline for an outfielder. The relatively small outfield in Milwaukee isn’t the best park to take advantage of JBJ’s talents; his defensive performance would have been more welcome in places like San Francisco or Kansas City. All that said, I should note that ZiPS disagrees with me on this one.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Jackie Bradley Jr.
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .243 .336 .476 456 72 111 25 3 25 63 56 118 16 111 2.9
80% .240 .328 .444 459 70 110 24 2 22 59 53 125 13 102 2.3
70% .239 .324 .427 461 69 110 23 2 20 57 51 131 11 97 1.9
60% .236 .321 .422 462 68 109 22 2 20 55 50 134 11 94 1.8
50% .233 .317 .413 463 67 108 22 2 19 54 49 138 10 91 1.5
40% .232 .313 .402 465 66 108 21 2 18 53 47 143 10 87 1.4
30% .230 .309 .393 466 66 107 21 2 17 52 46 147 9 84 1.1
20% .229 .305 .378 468 65 107 20 1 16 50 44 154 8 80 0.8
10% .227 .300 .357 471 63 107 20 1 13 48 41 163 6 73 0.4

Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels

It’s looking like the Angels are finally going take some at-bats away from Albert Pujols, approximately six years later than his performance warranted. That leaves Justin Upton as the team’s biggest long-term problem in the lineup. Two homers on Tuesday will no doubt fuel the “Upton is Back!” whispers, especially when combined with his solid run at the end of 2020, but he also hit .134 the last two seasons against anything that wasn’t thrown hard, and with mediocre plate discipline, he’s a hitter who pitchers can pitch around when he’s hot and exploit when he’s not. Upton had a lower barrel percentage in 2020 than players like Lewis Brinson. In the field, he has about the same range as an electric car hooked up to a potato battery.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Justin Upton
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .237 .325 .491 405 64 96 19 0 28 87 48 122 8 119 1.5
80% .231 .317 .467 407 62 94 18 0 26 82 46 130 5 110 1.1
70% .225 .310 .453 408 61 92 18 0 25 79 45 133 5 105 0.8
60% .225 .308 .443 409 60 92 17 0 24 77 44 136 5 102 0.6
50% .222 .304 .432 410 59 91 17 0 23 75 43 139 4 98 0.4
40% .219 .300 .421 411 58 90 17 0 22 74 42 141 4 94 0.2
30% .218 .297 .410 412 58 90 16 0 21 72 41 145 4 91 0.0
20% .215 .293 .407 413 57 89 16 0 21 71 40 149 4 88 -0.1
10% .213 .289 .394 414 57 88 15 0 20 69 39 158 3 84 -0.3

Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners

Kyle Lewis had an excellent rookie season, but based on his statistics, there are still reasons to be concerned about his future. He’s a wild swinger, with his 64.9% contact rate in the bottom 10 over 2019 and ’20. Just to put that number in context, it’s a worse contact rate than the one pitchers put up as batters in 2019 (65.3%). He dropped to a .545 OPS over the second half of 2020, and as his willingness to swing at bad pitches went up, his contact rate fell further, along with his wOBA:

There have been plenty of solid players who made poor contact, but he’s a below-average player in terms of power, and while Luis Robert, Lewis’ main competition for AL Rookie of the Year, has his own contact issues, he’s at least shown signs of being an elite defensive talent.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Kyle Lewis
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .247 .327 .439 485 67 120 21 0 24 70 57 150 10 110 2.0
80% .244 .319 .420 488 66 119 20 0 22 66 54 160 7 103 1.6
70% .241 .316 .411 489 65 118 20 0 21 64 53 165 7 100 1.4
60% .239 .312 .400 490 64 117 19 0 20 63 52 171 6 96 1.1
50% .238 .310 .393 491 64 117 19 0 19 62 51 175 6 94 1.0
40% .235 .305 .387 493 63 116 18 0 19 61 49 179 6 91 0.8
30% .234 .301 .380 495 62 116 18 0 18 59 47 185 5 88 0.5
20% .234 .299 .365 496 61 116 17 0 16 57 46 191 5 83 0.2
10% .230 .292 .355 499 59 115 17 0 15 55 43 203 4 79 -0.1

Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

Everyone at Coors has a higher slugging percentage than you’d expect from their Statcast data and Blackmon’s no exception, with a .462 xSLG since 2015 compared to his actual .530 slugging percentage. Blackmon’s always had rather unimpressive velocity data for someone who has hit around 30 homers a year, but in 2020, those numbers fell into the basement, and he finished in or near the bottom quintile for every velocity stat you can think of. Before I’d even looked at his 2020 home/road stats, I theorized that even Coors couldn’t save him now, and sure enough, he barely had any split in 2020. Now that last bit is in a tiny sample, but I think at this point, Blackmon’s done as a legitimate major league starter and that 2020 was no blip.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Charlie Blackmon
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .310 .378 .584 536 100 166 35 8 32 93 55 93 8 135 3.1
80% .304 .368 .544 540 97 164 32 7 28 86 51 99 7 123 2.3
70% .297 .360 .513 542 95 161 30 6 25 81 49 105 6 114 1.7
60% .294 .355 .496 544 93 160 29 6 23 78 47 109 6 109 1.3
50% .292 .352 .488 545 93 159 29 6 22 76 46 112 5 106 1.1
40% .289 .348 .469 546 91 158 28 5 20 74 45 117 4 101 0.8
30% .287 .345 .459 547 90 157 27 5 19 73 44 123 4 98 0.5
20% .284 .340 .454 549 89 156 26 5 19 70 42 128 3 95 0.4
10% .280 .335 .433 550 88 154 25 4 17 69 41 137 2 89 -0.1

Robbie Grossman, Detroit Tigers

Grossman usually gets on-base a good amount, which I don’t expect to change in 2021. However, I do think that the new-found power that propelled him to a .482 slugging percentage is a stone-cold fluke and will return to more typical levels; ZiPS saw his 2020 SLG as a 90 point over-performance, while Statcast was at 85 points. It doesn’t seem that many in baseball disagreed with this notion, as he only landed a two-year, $10 million contract, a perfectly reasonable deal in-line with the player he was before 2020. Still, when his decline is coming from his career-best WAR, put up in less than half a season, it’s hard not to put him in the bust category.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Robbie Grossman
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .261 .365 .467 394 59 103 27 3 16 55 62 73 13 121 2.1
80% .260 .361 .439 396 58 103 26 3 13 50 60 79 11 114 1.6
70% .256 .352 .424 399 57 102 25 3 12 49 57 82 10 107 1.3
60% .253 .348 .413 400 56 101 25 3 11 48 56 84 9 103 1.0
50% .249 .343 .406 401 56 100 24 3 11 47 55 87 9 101 0.9
40% .249 .341 .391 402 55 100 23 2 10 46 54 91 8 96 0.7
30% .248 .339 .390 403 55 100 23 2 10 45 53 93 8 95 0.6
20% .247 .335 .378 405 55 100 22 2 9 45 51 98 7 91 0.3
10% .245 .328 .365 408 54 100 21 2 8 44 48 108 5 86 0.1

Josh Bell, Washington Nationals

When Josh Bell was acquired by the Nationals this offseason, I was shocked by how many in mainstream media heralded his arrival as a big bat being added to the Nats’ lineup. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Bell’s run as a feared slugger essentially consists of two amazing months in 2019 and little else. He only has a single one-win season in the majors, and no, he wasn’t on pace to eclipse that mark in the 2016 or ’20 season-fragments. He’s likely better than the .226/.305/.364 line from last year, something he’s attributed to the lack of video access and training time going into the season, but I think he’s an average offensive first baseman who can’t really field the position, not the team’s savior.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Josh Bell
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .276 .369 .551 497 81 137 30 4 33 117 74 107 1 135 3.3
80% .267 .357 .515 501 80 134 28 3 30 109 70 116 1 123 2.5
70% .264 .352 .503 503 78 133 27 3 29 107 68 121 1 119 2.3
60% .263 .348 .493 505 77 133 26 3 28 104 66 127 1 116 2.0
50% .260 .343 .481 507 76 132 25 3 27 102 64 131 1 112 1.7
40% .259 .340 .464 509 76 132 25 2 25 100 62 136 0 107 1.4
30% .257 .336 .459 510 75 131 24 2 25 98 61 141 0 104 1.2
20% .256 .333 .443 512 74 131 23 2 23 94 59 147 0 100 0.9
10% .254 .328 .435 515 73 131 23 2 22 92 56 154 0 96 0.6

Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Everybody seems to expect Votto to have one last comeback in him, but at this point, I’m not so sure. His extremely disciplined approach at the plate has kept him coming back after some pretty horrid slumps in the past, including one last season that saw him briefly benched before roaring back to a .258/.385/.557 triple-slash after returning. But the fact remains that he turns 38 before the season ends, and both his contact rate and the spread between his in-zone and out-of-zone swing percentage have declined since his 2015-’17 second peak. He’ll retire much-beloved in Cincinnati in a few years and has a legit Hall of Fame argument, but I think Votto will continue to fade in 2021 and beyond.

ZiPS Projection Percentiles – Joey Votto
Percentile BA OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OPS+ WAR
90% .254 .374 .444 426 65 108 25 1 18 51 81 84 6 114 2.0
80% .248 .362 .420 431 65 107 23 0 17 48 76 91 4 105 1.4
70% .247 .356 .401 434 64 107 22 0 15 47 73 96 4 99 1.0
60% .244 .352 .395 435 63 106 21 0 15 46 72 99 4 96 0.9
50% .240 .346 .384 437 62 105 21 0 14 45 70 103 2 92 0.6
40% .240 .344 .381 438 62 105 20 0 14 44 69 106 2 91 0.5
30% .237 .341 .369 439 61 104 19 0 13 43 68 109 2 87 0.2
20% .234 .335 .365 441 60 103 19 0 13 43 66 114 2 84 0.1
10% .233 .333 .355 442 60 103 18 0 12 42 65 122 2 81 -0.1





Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for ESPN.com from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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BenZobrist4MVP
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BenZobrist4MVP

Has ZiPS ever projected the reigning MVP for under 2 WAR the next season?

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

It’s happened at least once in real life, without an injury. George Bell followed up his 1987 MVP season with a 0.8 WAR season.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

This could be an article all by itself.

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

Jeff Burroughs is another one. 0.4 WAR the year after. Someone like Stargell (mentioned below) is easy to understand given his age (1.0 WAR the year after). But Bell and Burroughs were both well under 30 years old. Course neither would win an MVP nowadays based on the seasons they had.

CC AFC
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CC AFC

Also someone named Jim Konstanty won in 1950 and then was basically useless the following year and for the remainder of his career. Looks like that was a total fluke year for him as he wasn’t good before or after (or arguably even the year he won it, where his fWAR and bWAR diverged significantly). But that’s pushing well into the era when people didn’t understand baseball like we did now, of course. It probably happened a bunch more if I went way far back, but I don’t feel like it.

carter
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carter

16-7 with 22 saves in 152 ip with 3.3 K per 9? That could be an article in and of itself.

bosoxforlife
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bosoxforlife

Know what your talking about before making a fool of yourself. If
teams understand baseball that much better now then they wouldn’t still be trying to find any way whatsoever to keep pitchers arms from falling off, but they cant. Jim Konstanty’s 1950 season was an outstanding feat in which he carried the Whiz Kids to their only pennant between 1915 and 1980. 74 games and 152 innings is not quite Mike Marshallesque but is pretty impressive. He appeared in both ends of a double-header no less than 6 times. In late August he entered a game in the 7th and threw 9 then came back 2 days later for 3 more , then 3 more the next day! He was THE story of the season. He also started Game 1 of the WS, after not starting a single game all season, and lost 1-0. He went 8 and fanned zero. There is a stark similarity between Konstanty’s 1950 and Keith Foulke’s 2004. Foulke left it all on the field for the Red Sox in the post-season, appearing in all but 3 of the games, and never being much after that. You are being a little tough on a decent pitcher. He did appear in games over 11 years and had a 3.46 lifetime ERA along with 11 WAR.

gettwobrute79
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gettwobrute79

Konstanty’s season, while a solid one and impressive, was certainly…fluky. He wasn’t nearly as good before or after 1950, and maybe that is because of the workload. Who knows, 70 years later.
Despite his feats of endurance, I think Roberts was a far more worthy selection for MVP. And I’d say that with guys like Roberts, Ennis, Seminick, Ashburn, Jones, etc., he had plenty of help in Philly winning the flag. So I’ll see your Jim Konstanty and raise you a Wilcy Moore.

montreal
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montreal

First off, teams absolutely understand the game more now. I’m an old time guy but let’s be real. I do think pitchers are babied too much but the reason for all the arm injuries is they throw so much harder. Different era.

Nasty Nate
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Nasty Nate

ZiPS with a time machine might (accurately) project less than 2 WAR for Stargell or Eck.

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

Speaking of 1979 MVPs, Don Baylor followed up his with -1.0 WAR in 1980. Yep, negative WAR the year after winning the MVP. He did miss 72 games that year but not sure that’s much of an excuse.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

When you’re putting up negative value, missing time is absolutely not an excuse!

Jason B
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Jason B

If he had been healthy those 72 games, he may have reached…well, -2.0 WAR!

Anon
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Anon

People seem to be missing the part about a “projection” under 2 WAR. Excluding relief pitchers (I suspect their projections were all under 2 WAR), it’s probably not many. Just eyeballing the list I could see projections under 2 WAR for the following:

Justin Morneau- next season: 2.2 WAR – I could see this one. He had done squat the year before nor in the 2 short seasons before that. He is a 1B so he has a bad positional adjustment. OTOH he was only 25 when he won so his projection would probably still have him improving at that point

Ryan Howard?- next season: 3.1 WAR – probably not but again, 1B with a poor glove and a brutal positional adjustment

Juan Gonzalez- next season: 2.2 and 3.6 WAR (won 2 MVPs) – gave so much back with no BB and poor defense, but I don’t know. He won both of those in the prime of his career and even with the mediocre OBP and cruddy defense, he was probably still projected over 2 WAR (I note he had 2.2 and 3.6 in the 2 years after he won)

Terry Pendleton- next season: 5.1 WAR – at first glance I would have said no way, but I had forgotten that he really was not much of a hitter before his MVP season (83 wRC+ to that point in his career and not that it matters to a projection for 1992 but after a good season with the bat in 1992, he wasn’t much of a hitter after 1992 either). He gained a lot with his excellent glove so I’m guessing he is over 2 WAR

Willie McGee – – next season: 1.3 WAR – I’m guessing the projection would have had him over 2 given he had gone 2.1 and 3.6 in the 2 years before his MVP and 7.1 in his MVP season in 1985. Worth noting though that he didn’t top 2.0 WAR again until 1990 and only twice more in his career which lasted until 1999. Funny how you remember guys – I would have said he was a pretty good ballplayer but he totaled 27.6 WAR in an 18 year career of 8,188 PA.

Don Baylor – next season: -1.0 WAR – another guy I would have said was pretty good but like McGee, he had 29.4 WAR in an 18 year career of 9,401 PA. He was one of the 1st guys to really become a full-time DH so he was getting hit pretty hard with the positional adjustment. The year he won his MVP in 1979 was the last year he played more than half his games in the field but ZiPS wouldn’t know that so it probably wouldn’t hit him as hard with the positional adjustment.

Willie Stargell – next season: 1.0 WAR – no question he would have been projected under 2 WAR but this one is a special case given that was his age 39 season and he only totaled 2.7 WAR the year he actually won (interesting note – Stargell didn’t qualify for the batting title that year with only 480 PA. IN fact he hadn’t since 1975. Has any player ever won the MVP despite not qualifying for the batting title?)

Jeff Burroughs – next season: 0.4 WAR – he was only 23 when he won in 1974. He gave back so, so, so much with the glove but he had been an excellent hitter the year before as well. I’m guessing he’s over 2 WAR given his age and 2 very good years with the bat.

Steve Garvey – next season: 4.8 WAR – also 1974 but he was 25. Low BB%, very mediocre power, brutal positional adjustment. That said, I’m guessing he is over 2 based on his age and his progression (wRC+ had improved 5 straight years)

Zoilo Versailles – next season: 1.7 WAR – MVP was in 1965, age 25. Actually the 1st name I thought of when I started this so I’ll end it here since I’ve spent way too much time on this. He had been pretty meh with the bat for 4 years before his MVP season but had shown improvement. I suspect the projections for the bat weren’t all that great but his good glove and the favorable positional adjustment keeps him over 2

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

I don’t think anyone’s missing anything. I just pivoted to a slightly different question since we don’t know the answer to the actual question.

Anyway, I think for this to happen, you basically need to have an older player who didn’t have a lot of WAR the season that he won the MVP. Stargell is the only one that I think clearly meets that criteria.

Going way back, I see three other possibilities.

Hank Sauer won the 1952 WAR with 5.5 WAR in his age 35 season. But his WAR the two years prior to that was only 2.4 and 2.5. Combined with his age, it’s possible he would have been projected for under 2.0 WAR though that’s a pretty big falloff from 5.5.

Bob O’Farrell won the 1926 MVP with 3,6 WAR. He was only 29 so age wasn’t a huge issue but he had only 0.8 and 1.1 WAR the two years before his MVP.

Roger Peckinpaugh won the 1925 MVP at age 34 with only 2,4 WAR. But he has 4.3 WAR the year before his MVP so that might have been enough to keep his projection above 2.0 WAR.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Alternately, it could be someone who won the MVP and who didn’t have a particularly strong MVP year or a strong recent track record before that. In 1996, Juan Gonzalez won the MVP award with a whopping 3.5 fWAR. His prior two seasons together added up to 2.2 fWAR. So you could totally see ZiPs projecting him to return to his sub-2-win ways.

You could also go with the time Dennis Eckersley won the MVP as a reliever. Eckersley was actually very good but he absolutely torched the league. But predicting any reliever to get more than 2 wins is tough because of the number of innings. Rollie Fingers is another one.

Don Baylor actually could fit both sides of it. Baylor won an MVP in 1979 with only 3.6 wins without a particularly stellar career before it, and then was actually below replacement in 1980.

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

Yeah, I think you’re right about Baylor likely being projected for under 2.0 WAR.

As for Juan Gone, I think you overlooked the fact that the two prior seasons were impacted by the 94/95 strike. Which is one of the reasons that his WAR was so low those two seasons. Plus, if you go back to 93, he had a 5.7 WAR season. And he was still well under age 30. Put that all together and it’s highly unlikely that he would be projected for under 2.0 WAR.

I intentionally haven’t mentioned any relievers since them winning an MVP is basically a complete fluke. And they generally don’t have a lot of WAR to begin with. But if we’re going to include them then Willie Hernandez is the other obvious candidate.

Anyway, what I find interesting is that an MVP having less than 2.0 WAR clearly happens more often than what ZIPS would have projected. I suppose that’s similar to the team wins, where (for example) teams are rarely projected for more than 95 wins. But in the real world it happens all the time.

gettwobrute79
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gettwobrute79

Voters were enamored with RBI for many years. And so many of the guys who put up those numbers were big lumbering sluggers who played left or first because they sucked defensively. So many questionable choices for MVP fit into that category. Even for a HOF player like Stargell, who absolutely could have won an MVP earlier in his career, his one MVP win was kind of like this.

mikejunt
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mikejunt

TBH re: Willie McGee, 25-30 career WAR is entirely a pretty good ballplayer. I mean it’s not a HOFer or close, but it’s absolutely the career of a guy who was good for a lot of years which is why he was able to hang around for so many even in his decline.

Anon
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Anon

That’s fair and I didn’t mean to imply he was bad. You can certainly find plenty of guys with similar PA and WAR totals (or worse – Bill BUckner had 18.8 WAR in 10,037 PA). But it’s hard to call a guy who averaged 1.5 WAR per year pretty good. That’s a lot of average to above average in the middle surrounded by early and decline years. He had 11 seasons of 500+ PA and scored 100 R once and only cleared 76 R one other time. Somehow he drove in 105 R one year (with a 94 wRC+ which I’m guessing may be one of the worst 100 RBI seasons ever) but never cleared 82 in any other season and more than 50 only 4 times in his career. He batted .295 for his career (which is 99% the reason he got so much playing time) but barely walked and hit for no power and his glove was nothing special by statistical assessments (though he did win 3 GG). He topped a 104 wRC+ only 3 times and finished with a career 101 and had more than 2 WAR in only 5 of his 18 seasons.

I would say it’s more a subjective thing – he was a 4-time AS and 3 time GG winner in addition to the MVP. Before I looked at his FG page I would have said he would have a much higher WAR total than that (& maybe that’s the way I should have phrased it).

isntthisrich
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isntthisrich

Joe Carter had 100+ rbi seasons with OPS+ of 85, 95, and 77, and he didn’t provide the base running or defensive value of McGee, so I don’t think McGee’s season can compete for worst 100 rbi season. Probably a number of other one dimensional sluggers had similar seasons of 100 rbi with poor OBP and little additional value, but Carter, who was known for “always” putting up 100 rbi seasons was the first one I checked.

carter
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carter

Talking about the those guys always makes me wonder a little bit. A lot of these guys were just doing what they were taught, what they thought was good. We know now that there was other ways of doing it, but we do not necessarily know that Joe Carter for example couldn’t of walked more had he known it was “good to walk”. People forget that at that time they were told to be knocking guys in and not walking. Walking was literally frowned upon from middle of the order hitters.

Anon
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Anon

A thought I’ve had many times. Joe Carter is one example but I remember thinking this when there was all the debate over Jim Rice’s MVP election and I agree with what you said: how do we know guys like Carter or Rice wouldn’t have adjusted their games for the modern game?

carter
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carter

Personally I would say 1.5 WAR per year is a good player if it is done over that many years. Maybe it isn’t the 2 war threshold for being worth a roster spot, but the fact that you are able to maintain it over that many years is a talent by itself. Not many people can do that. And while some years he might not of been worth a roster spot, the fact that he kept doing it for all those years while other players come and go to me is impressive. Not sure I worded it correctly, but mainly players pop up from time to time and are better, but they aren’t able to sustain it over all those years, which is why the other guys have jobs.

rosen380
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“Maybe it isn’t the 2 war threshold for being worth a roster spot”

2 wins is roughly average for a starting player — “worth a roster spot” would be way lower on an average team.

The 1998 Braves have one of the highest combined batting+pitching team fWARs (64.6 fWAR) and even they “only” had 12 players at 2.0 fWAR or greater.

dan
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dan

I’d love to know how often it happens with Rookies of the year. I bet a lot.