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Disappointments and Surprises Intro

October 22, 2018
                                                      Disappointments and Surprises


              I have a four-part article here.  As a reader, I hate four-part articles, and, as a writer, I always find that people stop responding as the series goes on.   Anyway, this is a natural four-part article, so I don’t know what else to do with it. 

              What we’re going to be talking about here is rookies who had great rookie seasons but disappointing careers, or (b) had nothing rookie seasons but went on to surprisingly good careers.   I’m writing about rookies, but not about rookies as rookies.  I’m writing about them as post-rookies. 

              There are four natural parts to this article:

1)       Explaining the method,

2)      The Most Disappointing Rookies of all time,

3)      The Most Surprising Players of all time, based on their rookie seasons, and

4)      What do this tell us about the 2018 rookies?

I have written the first three parts of this article and posted them to appear on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday beginning October 23; God knows whether they will or not, the software behind the scenes here is treacherous.   I have not yet written the fourth installment, and don’t know how much time I will have to put into it this week, so can’t say for sure whether it will run on Friday or will not.  


COMMENTS (15 Comments, most recent shown first)

Actually I love the multi-part articles. I grew up reading serials so its a welcome return.
10:36 AM Oct 23rd
No, Fletch! -- I think it's actually that Bill didn't know what to put in the articles and so he's looking for us to give him all the ideas.

(Oh -- better put one of these :-) to make sure nobody thinks........)
2:25 AM Oct 23rd
There are more comments here on what is basically a trailer announcing a series of articles than many actual articles get. Maybe this is why you don't normally announce upcoming articles, but just post them?
12:29 AM Oct 23rd
At first it looked to me like "I love four partners."
10:16 PM Oct 22nd
I love four parters. Though technically, with this piece, this is a five parter.
6:20 PM Oct 22nd
P.S. to Bill: I hope you aren't thinking we're trying to write the articles here ourselves. :-)
2:11 PM Oct 22nd
Adding to Hotstatrat's comment: "Some players...are held down longer than they would in some organizations due to economics or a mismatching of needs"....

Of course also sometimes it's been that the teams just misjudged the player or at least misjudged him in comparison to who they had.
I think this is less of a reason now than it used to be, not just because teams now are smarter about this but also because even if a team does grossly misjudge a very good young player, there'll be a lot of teams that won't, and who will make them offers they can't refuse, especially with the proliferation of deals for promising minor leaguers because of the prolferation of trade-deadline deals.


Also, adding to this from Hotstatrat: "I have long considered a player's rookie season sort of an arbitrary point on a player's career" -- Yes, and I also see an extra aspect when it's a 26 or 27 years old rookie who has a very good rookie year. It's not just that this very possibly is his peak; I tend to see it as probably being like Rocky Bridges' joke-answer about whether he thought he reached his full potential as a player: "I think I might have gone beyond it" -- because, notwithstanding what I said up there about teams making misjudgments, I think if a player isn't given a full shot till that age, it usually means he really just isn't that good a player, and that therefore the good rookie year is either (1) somewhat of a random fluke on the upside, or (2) that the opposing teams just haven't yet found the holes in his adaptability.
(I know that many might not make any distinction between those two.)
2:02 PM Oct 22nd
As a baseball fan since around 1971 when I was nine, I recall Carlton Fisk's great 1972 season, Fred Lynn's super 1975 season and Dwight Gooden's first two seasons, 1984 and 1985. The Mets had a winning season in 1984 and were on national tv a few times that year. In 1985 we got cable and WOR was a super station. We could see many Mets games. He was awesome. It was a joy to see him pitch. Then in 1986 he started snorting coke and his career was not the same. He did win 194 and lost 112 over 16 seasons. Fernando and Denny McLain both showed pitching mastery at an early age and then fell away some.

Thank you for your wonderful articles.

Take Care,
Tom Nahigian
1:25 PM Oct 22nd
Thinking about JD Martinez and MarisFan's comment, I have long considered a player's rookie season sort of an arbitrary point on a player's career. Some players are given a shot before they are "ready" due to their team's needs - or are held down longer than they would in some organizations due to economics or a mismatching of needs. If Bill could replicate himself in order to make more great studies, I would like to see the top 10 most disappointing and most surprising by baseball age.

And, I would have those lists split: five pitchers and five hitters. I fear the disappointing pitching youngsters will overwhelm the other players.
12:31 PM Oct 22nd
Off the top of my head, I was going to guess J.D. Martinez would be among the most surprising. Given where he was at age 26 (BA/OBA/Slg./OPS+ of .251/.300/.387/88 in 975 PA), he's had one of baseball history's most surprising careers, but he hit .274/.319/.423/.742 in 226 PA his rookie year which comes to 108 OPS+ at age 23/24. That's not shabby.

I think we tend to forget what happened in a player's rookie season unless it was something amazing. We do have a sense of who bloomed late or flared out early.

We can all probably think of many disappointing rookies. In my mind, Mark Fidrych is the most gleaming example. At least, Herb Score had a second great season.

In more recent years, Chris Coghlan won the Rookie of the Year award in 2009. He was 23/24 that season. Since then, he has averaged below replacement level. However, he couldn't have deserved the award. Given his dreadful defense that year, Baseball-Reference only gave him credit for 1.1 WAR - same as in 2010.

In 2018, he hit only .200/.299/.267, but I seem to recall a game winning hit this year (and this play:

12:24 PM Oct 22nd
Hey, MarisFan61:

I'd bet a dollar that Mr. James explains this in his article on his method (the fist article.)

You may want to take me up on that, I'm running a nasty bad streak.

Cheers, guy.
11:59 AM Oct 22nd
I too look forward to the articles. Bill's work on rookies has always been among the most interesting (to me at least). One of my favorite pieces ever was the opening section of one of the old Abstracts (maybe 1987) that was a large study of rookies. One of the things he found, which I just cited in a discussion on Reader Posts, was that second base is (I'm paraphrasing) a hazardous position; interestingly, second basemen as a group tended not to develop as well as comparable rookie hitters of other positions except catcher, nor to have as long careers. Another finding of that piece, which to me was even a more striking one but maybe a tough one to keep looking at, was that there was some correlation between race and future career, with blacks coming out best and Latinos in between. I don't expect to see anything about that in the upcoming articles, but assuming there isn't, it's a thing I'll be reading between the lines for.
11:58 AM Oct 22nd
Here's a quibble before even seeing the material. :-)

Not a quibble, just put it that way to be provocative.
More like, wondering how you'll be take age into account. I imagine you will, because the things I'm saying here are things I got from you in the first place.

If a rookie had a real good rookie year and then pretty much stunk, but had been 26 in his rookie year, should we consider that a "disappointment"?
I guess sort of, but it isn't really a noteworthy disappointment, because..... I think everyone here knows why, although perhaps at the time, if it was long ago, maybe few if any thought of it that way.

Similarly, if a player came up at age 19 or 20 and played enough for it to be considered his rookie year, hit something like .230 with 4 HR's in 300 at-bats, then went on to a very good career, should we consider that a "surprise"? I wouldn't. If anything I'd expect a very good career from a 19 or 20 year old who had been put into a regular or semi-regular role at that age, and did so credibly.
11:30 AM Oct 22nd
If this article were a season, I would scout it short and promising, but with a lack of self-confidence.​
11:03 AM Oct 22nd
Those seem like pretty good parts, so it’s looking like I’m in for all four. Thanks for the heads-up.​
10:28 AM Oct 22nd
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