Sunday, September 21, 2008

Historic Rewind: 40/40 Seasons

40/40 seasons are fairly well documented. The first 40/40 season was accomplished by Jose Canseco in 1988, Barry Bonds followed in 1996, Alex Rodriguez in 1998, and Alfonso Soriano in 2006. Following is a comparison of each of these seasons, and a list of those who just missed the feat.
Canseco: 42 HR, 40 SB, 120 R, 187 H, 34 2B, 0 3B, 124 RBI, 78 BB, .307/.391/.569, MVP, AL Ch
Bonds: 42 HR, 40 SB, 122 R, 159 H, 27 2B, 3 3B, 129 RBI, 151 BB, .308/.461/.615
Rodriguez: 42 HR, 46 SB, 123 R, 213 H, 35 2B, 5 3B, 124 RBI, 45 BB, .310/.360/.560
Soriano: 46 HR, 41 SB, 119 R, 179 H, 41 2B, 2 3B, 95 RBI, 67 BB, .277/.351/.560

Here are some near misses that still rank among the most extraordinary seasons of all-time:

Bobby Bonds (1973): 39 HR, 43 SB, 131 R, 182 H, 34 2B, 4 3B, 96 RBI, 87 BB, .283/.370/.530
Alfonso Soriano (2002): 39 HR, 41 SB, 128 R, 209 H, 51 2B, 2 3B, 102 RBI, 23 BB, .300/.332/.547
Vladimir Guerrero (2002): 39 HR, 40 SB, 106 R, 206 H, 37 2B, 2 3B, 111 RBI, 84 BB, .336/.417/.593
Carlos Beltran (2004): 38 HR, 42 SB, 121 R, 160 H, 36 2B, 9 3B, 104 RBI, 92 BB, .267/.367/.548

As you can see, these four near misses rank among the elite individual seasons of all-time as well. Remarkably, among the eight seasons listed, only Jose Canseco garnered an MVP award. Barry Bonds season stands out as the greatest all-around feat with a breath-taking 1.076 OPS. Both of Soriano's seasons include remarkable amounts of doubles along with the home run counts, picking up 41 doubles in his 40/40 season and 51 (!) doubles in his near miss. Some oddities among these seasons include Rodriguez and Soriano's low walk totals. In 1998 A-Rod only walked 45 times, and in 2002, in his near miss season, Soriano walked a meager 23 times.
In the three playoff appearances among these seasons, Jose Canseco performed extremely well in the ALCS, but struggled in the Fall Classic. Canseco put up 3 homers in 4 games against the Red Sox, batting .313/.353/.938 with 1 steal in 2 attempts. In the World Series he hit only 1 home run, completed his only steal attempt and batted .053/.182/.211. Alfonso Soriano in his near miss season, didn't have many games to utilize his skills. He hit 1 home run and converted his only steal attempt in 4 games against the Angels, while batting .118/.211/.353. Carlos Beltran had an extra round of playoffs to work with and took full advantage. Beltran hit 4 homers in 5 games against the Braves, converted both of his steal attempts, and batted .455/.500/1.091. In the NLCS, Beltran's bat was still hot. He hit 4 home runs in 7 games against the Cardinals, converted all 4 of his steal attempts, and batted .417/.563/.958.

Historic Rewind: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, and Hack Wilson

Through the steroids' era and the modern era of band boxes, many of the all-time great statistical seasons have fallen, dwarfed by cartoonish numbers. But a few of the truly outstanding historic seasons still stand out as unattainable, even by steroids' era measurements.

Only three players in the history of baseball have reached 100+ runs scored, 200+ hits, 50+ HRs, and 100+ BBs. The first to accomplish the feat was Babe Ruth in 1921 with 177 runs, 204 hits, 59 homers, and 145 walks. Quite possibly the greatest offensive season in the history of the game. The others to accomplish the feat were Hack Wilson in his record breaking 1930 season and Jimmie Foxx in 1932. Wilson accumulated 146 runs, 208 hits, 56 home runs, and 105 walks. Foxx put up 151 runs, 213 hits, 58 homers, and 116 bases on balls. While those of the steroids' era tracked down many of the great records, these seasons still stand alone as unique and astounding feats.

Historic Rewind: David Wright

A lot of attention was given to the season that David Wright had in 2007, and rightly so. The Mets' September collapse cost Wright the MVP award and tarnished one of the truly great seasons in baseball history.

Only four players in the history of Major League Baseball have had the combination of numbers that Wright accumulated in 2007: 40+ 2Bs, 30+ HRs, 30+ SBs, .300+ BA, .400+ OBP. The first to accomplish the feat was Ellis Burks in 1996 playing in the thin air of Colorado. Burks put together 45 doubles, 40 homers, 32 steals, a .344 average, and .408 OBP. The very next season a fellow Rocky took advantage of the rare air, with Larry Walker racking up 46 doubles, 49 homers, 33 steals, a .366 batting average, and a .452 on-base percentage. In 2004, Bobby Abreu cashed in on the limited dimensions of Citizens Bank Park totaling 47 doubles, 30 homers, 40 steals, a .301 average, and a .428 OBP.
Wright became the first player to accomplish the feat while playing his home games in a pitcher's park. Wright put together 42 doubles, 30 home runs, 34 steals, a .325 average, and a .416 OBP.
Wright stands as the only player of these four to continue to play and put up similar numbers. It remains to be seen if Wright can become the only player to ever accomplish the feat twice in his career, when the Mets move to Citi Park in 2009.

Historic Rewind: Jose Reyes

Quietly, Jose Reyes is having a spectacular season. At no time in the history of major league baseball has a player had a season in which he accumulated at least 100 runs scored, 200 hits, 35 doubles, 15 triples, 15 home runs, and 50 stolen bases; but Reyes is about to do just that. At the time that this article is being written Reyes has: 104 runs, 195 hits, 35 doubles, 18 triples, 16 home runs, and 52 stolen bases. Reyes only needs 5 more hits in the Mets' final 9+ games to become the first player to have such a dynamic combination of statistics in a single season.
Furthermore, if we remove the restriction on doubles and triples; Reyes will become only the fourth player (along with Lou Brock, 1967; Craig Biggio, 1998; and Hanley Ramirez, 2007) to have 100 runs, 200 hits, 15 home runs, and 50 stolen bases in a season. If you consider players with 100 runs scored, 15 triples, 15 homers, and 50 homers; Reyes becomes the first player to accomplish this feat twice (2006), while only two others have ever produced similar seasons (Harry Stovey, 1891; and Juan Samuel, 1984). While Reyes may not win the MVP award, due to writers' fascination with RBI, he is certainly worthy of serious consideration; and may very well be more valuable than the ultimate winner of the award.