Occasionally I’ll get a text from a friend who looks up baseball stats as much as I do and it will say something like, “Look how many doubles [insert random player] hit in 1976, he only hit five in the next eight seasons.” There have been a rash of these texts back and forth recently so I figured I’d highlight some of my favorite crazy stats/seasons that players have had recently in case there’s someone out there who enjoys this as much as we do.
Brady Anderson – 1996 – When you talk about one season wonders, the discussion usually begins with Brady Anderson.
Prior to 1996, Anderson was an average player. He’d been in the Majors for 8 seasons and was known more for his speed than his power. In 945 games he had racked up a .250 average and 72 homers, but he had 187 steals. That’s an average of about 9 homers and 23 steals per year. When 1996 rolled around, Anderson hit two homers in the Orioles’ 8th game and never looked back. On the final day of the season he homered off that year’s Cy Young winner, Pet Hentgen, to join the 50 home run club.
Anderson would go on to hit .297 with 50 homers and 110 RBI. Those were career highs by a wide margin in every category. In 15 big league seasons, he hit 210 homers. That means 23.8% of them came in 1996.
He would go on to hit 24 homers with 81 RBIs in 1999, but that’s the closest he would ever come to his 1996 numbers. To my knowledge he is the only person in both the 20 homers-50 steals club and the 50 homers-20 steals club. And he had sweet sideburns.
Jay Bell – 1999 - You might remember Jay Bell for his awesome glasses, but he also had a crazy season in 1999.
Jay Bell debuted with the Cleveland Indians as a 20 year old and had a solid if unspectacular career that spanned 18 years with the Indians, Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks and Mets. Through his first 13 seasons, Bell had exactly one good year. That was 1993 when he .310 with 9 homers and 59 RBIs. He was an All-Star, Gold Glover and Silver Slugger for his efforts. He would not return to the All-Star Game again until 1999.
That year he turned 33 and like all players that age, started hitting home runs in bunches. He hit .289 with 38 homers and 112 RBIs. That bested his previous career high by 17 homers and RBIs by 20 (and his third best RBI total was 67).
Without looking it up, I’d definitely say the reason Bell’s home run tally rose so much was because he
met Luis Gonzalez went to hitter-friendly Bank One Ballpark in Arizona.
Luiz Gonalez – 2001 – Speaking of Luiz Gonzalez, his days in Arizona were pretty spectacular, too.
Gonzalez began his career in Houston in 1990 and was known more for his goofy batting stance than his actual hitting skill. He put up 10-15 homers his first 8 years in the Majors but it wasn’t until he turned 30 that his power numbers spiked. He hit a then-career high 23 homers in Detroit in 1998 before joining the Diamondbacks in 1999 (hey, what are the odds?) In 8 years in the Desert, Gonzalez hit over 15 home runs every year, over 20 six times, and over 30 twice. It’s that second season of 30+ that I’d like to talk about.
In 2001, Luiz Gonzalez hit 57 homers. That’s almost double his next closest season of 31. He also topped his career high in RBIs by 28 with 142. Of course, his season was overshadowed by another famous steroid user named Barry Bonds. Gonzalez would get the last laugh, however, as his walk-off bloop single off Mariano Rivera won the World Series for the DBacks.
Rich Aurilia – 2001. Also overshadowed by Bonds, Rich Aurilia had a suspiciously good 2001.
Rich Aurilia doesn’t get a picture.
Rich Aurilia had never hit above .281 in the Majors. He had never hit more than 22 homers in the Majors. He had never scored over 68 runs in the Majors.
Then in 2001, Aurilia had the privilege of hitting around Barry Bonds. Suddenly, Aurilia hit .324 with 37 homers and he scored 114 runs. I don’t know for sure if Rich Aurilia was on steroids, but since he had his best season with Bonds in 2001, he’s guilty by association.
Wade Boggs – 1987. Just so you don’t think we’re all about steroid users here.
Wade Boggs was one of the greatest hitters of a generation. He boasts a career average of .328, was a 12-time All-Star, five time batting champ and first ballot Hall of Famer. But one season stands out to me as a little odd.
Wade Boggs hit over 8 home runs twice in 18 season. He hit 11 in 1994. That pales in comparison to 1987 when he hit 24. I don’t know what the deal was in 1987 since I was only 2, but perhaps the biggest issue in all this is that Boggs finished 9th (!) in the MVP voting. He hit .363 with 24 bombs and 89 RBIs and could only finish 9th in the MVP voting. Jeff Reardon went 8-8 with a 4.48 ERA and 31 save and he finished 11th. Come on voters, you suck.
Another funny stat about Boggs is that he led the AL in intentional walks for six years in a row from 1987-1992. How many intentional walks did Boggs receive in those six seasons? 119. How many intentional walks did Barry Bonds receive in 2004? 120.
Here are a few more gems:
Joe DiMaggio hit .408 during the length of his 56 game streak. Ted Williams hit .414 over the same span.
Ron Hunt averaged 27 hit-by-pitches per per 162 games over the course of his 12-year career, including 50 HBPs in 1971.
2001 may have been the best class of rookies ever. Albert Pujols and Ichiro won their respective Rookie of the Year Awards. Others receiving votes? CC Sabathia, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn, Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt, David Eckstein and…..Bud Smith.