Authored by Christopher Reina - 17th December, 2008 - 8:08 pm
Baseball is far more cyclical than basketball or football. Players inexplicably have years way beyond or below their typical talent level all the time.
They are sometimes indicative of a trend becoming a reality, but it is more frequently a case of the normal ebb and flow of baseball and what makes it so compelling and most similar to life itself.
Regardless, it is fascinating to examine which players who statistically deviated from their numbers of 2007 and had either a significantly better or worse season in 2008.
In order to create the below list, I subtracted each player's Field Impact Counter per game for 2007 from their number for 2008. The FIC is a statistic that I created to objectively measure production.
Pitchers in both leagues won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2008, Cliff Lee in the American League and Brad Lidge in the National League, not surprisingly they are both on the list below.
Also on the list is the 2007 AL Comeback Player of the Year (Carlos Pena), the 2008 AL MVP and runner-up, plenty of 2007 Cy Young finalists and even both 2007 Cy Young winners, though on opposite ends.
Players like Rafael Furcal, Manny Ramirez and Jason Giambi had upswings just before hitting the open market, while Aaron Rowand, Andruw Jones, Dontrelle Willis and Carlos Silva took steps backwards following a fresh contract. Mariano Rivera responded to his new contract by improving significantly from his 2007 season.
- Quentin hit .214/.298/.349 in 228 at bats in 2007 and he exploded to have an OPS of .965 with the White Sox. He hit a homer for every 13.3 at bats in 2008, which is a substantial improvement over one for every 45.8 at bats in the season before.
- Furcal was limited to just 36 games, but when he was on the field he was one of the most dynamic players in the game. He hit for an OPS of 1.012, up from .688 in 2007 and a previous career high of .814 in 2006.
- McLouth's OPS jumped up from .853 from .810, but he was largely aided by becoming a regular nine inning player in 2008, so his increase is less significant than may of the other players on this list.
- Bay's OPS increased 150 points, climbing to .895. His home run and K/BB rates improved dramatically though he was still shy of his 2005 season.
- Ludwick, like McLouth, became a full time player, but his OBP improved by 36 points and slugging improved by 112 points. He homered in every 14.5 at bats in 2008, which was an uptick from 21.6.
- Ethier's OPS fell to .802 in 2007 after a rookie mark of .842 in 2006 and it rose back up in 2008 to .885. With 20 homers, 38 doubles and five triples, his slugging percentage hit .510.
- Pujols is one of maybe two or three players in the MLB who can have a jump this big after hitting for an OPS of .997 in 2007 (one of the others number eight on the next list). His OBP rose 33 points, while his slugging percentage hit .653 from .568.
- Jones followed up his 2007 in which his OPS was 104 points below his career low by dropping that mark another 219 points to .505. This was truly one of the worst seasons in baseball history, especially considering he once finished second in MVP voting and was once on track to become a Hall of Famer.
- Sheffield is 40-years-old and unless you become bionic like his old buddy B.B., then a drop is inevitable. He bounced back from a poor 2006 when he was injured for most of the season after the Shea Hillenbrand collision to hit .840 in 2007, but it dropped 124 points to .726.
- Hafner is, or hopefully for him, a temporary injury case. After an excellent stretch between 2004 and 2006, his OPS has decreased to .836 and .628. He hit one homer for every 10.8 at bats in 2006 and one for ever 39.6 at bats this season.
- Greene's OPS dropped below .600 to .599 in 2008, with his OBP at a horrid .260.
- Ordonez essentially had a typical Maggs season in 2008, hitting for an OPS of .870, just shy of his career average. A drop was to be expected following his 2007 in which he was an A-Rod season away from winning the AL MVP.
- Byrnes had an injury plagued season and he's definitely more 2007 (.813 OPS) than 2008 (.641). He doesn't really have a spot in the Arizona outfield any longer, but he should bounce back at least a little bit though he's clearly now on the backside of his career.
- Rowand had a down year to be fair, but comparing his 2007 home numbers in Philly (.319/.380/.557) to 2008 in San Francisco (.256/.328/.386) and it becomes clear just how much of a product he was of those friendly confines of Citizen's Bank Park. He is not a $12M per season kind of players regardless of where he plays.
- Rodriguez's OPS dropped 102 points to .965 and his HR rate dropped from 10.8 to 14.6. It was still his third best out of his five seasons in New York.
- Pena had exactly 490 at bats in 2007 and 2008, but he hit 15 fewer homers and scored 23 fewer runs while striking out 24 more times. His 1.038 OPS in 2007 was truly outstanding, so despite the drop, I think the Rays will take his .871 mark and a trip to the World Series.
- Like A-Rod and Ordonez, Fielder makes this list because of how excellent he was in 2007 more than any kind of struggle in 2008. His OPS dropped to .879 from 1.013 and he hit 16 fewer homers. Fielder won't turn 25 until May.
* Relievers are in italics and their changes are more statistically significant
- If there has been a pitcher other than Cliff Lee who has dropped his ERA from 6.29 to 2.54 in one season, I would love to meet him. He had an excellent K/BB rate and was incredibly consistent in each start.
- Ervin Santana had a 3.49 ERA, which was a drop from 5.76. He struck out 214 batters in 219 innings this season, whereas he struck out 126 in 160 innings.
- Floyd became a full time starter in 2008, going 17-8 in 33 starts. He dropped his ERA to 3.84 after posting a 5.27 mark in 2007.
- Unable to transfer his strikeout abilities from the minors the the bigs, Pelfrey finally figured out how to successfully pitch to contact in his third go-round. His home/away splits clearly favored Shea, but the Mets will happily take his 3.72 ERA.
- Unlike A-Rod and Ordonez, Sabathia was one of the best players in 2007 and was even better in 2008. He lowered his ERA from 3.21 to 2.70 while also striking out 39 more batters and pitching 10 complete games (five of them shutouts).
- Rivera's jump of +.97 is extremely significant for a relief pitcher. He lowered his ERA from a flukish 3.15 in 2007 to the more typical latter career Sandman of 1.40.
- The D-Train was an unmitigated disaster in 2008, throwing just 24 innings of 9.38 ERA ball before being demoted. Righties hit for an OPS of 1.005 against him, so essentially he was turning every righty he faced into Manny Ramirez (career 1.004 hitter).
- Penny was third in Cy Young voting in 2007 with a 3.03 ERA, but that always troublesome WHIP caught up with him in 2008. His ERA more than doubled and he gave up an OPS of 1.088 with runners in scoring position.
- Carmona was fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2007 and his 2.06 ERA ballooned to a mark of 5.44. He went 8-7 in 22 starts.
- Harang, like Carmona, was fourth in Cy Young voting a year ago and though his jump from 3.73 to 4.78 wasn't as pronounced as his fellow Ohioan, he had a 6-17 record.
- With 221 strikeouts in 182 innings, a 3.16 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP, few pitchers in 2007 were as dominant as Bedard. But in Seattle his WHIP elevated sharply and his strikeout rate dropped.
- Peavy's ERA remained below 3.00, but his K/9 rate dropped almost as sharply as his homer rate increased.