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  1. Harper stole 73 bags the year before he hit the 31 HR’s, also a career high by alot. He also played every position but SS and C during his career, very odd for a speed guy.

    Comment by Hurtlockertwo — January 9, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

  2. Butt.

    Comment by Jason — January 9, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

  3. I’ve been hoping someone would write an article with this subject matter. I’d been doing a bit of scouring to try and find ‘histories greatest outliers’. I’m surprised Brett Boone didn’t make this list

    Comment by J6takish — January 9, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

  4. I apologize for having nothing else to say about the well written article, but this was my favorite part.

    Comment by Jason — January 9, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

  5. 1965 Zoilo Versalles. 7.9 WAR. 2 other 4 WAR years, maxed out at 4.2. Harper had this 7.2 year and the 2 4s, including a 4.2, right?

    But Harper’s seems more an outlier maybe. Versalles seems a lot to have been fielding driven.

    Comment by wobatus — January 9, 2013 @ 5:34 pm

  6. Love fluke seasons. Don’t know why but I’ve always been fascinated by them. as another article I read pointed out, half the 1970 All-Star rosters were career fluke seasons – Billy Grabarkiewitz, Jim Hickman, Dick Dietz, Cito Gaston.

    J6takish – article here on fluke seasons: http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/of-spikes-and-flukes-and-grabarkewitz/

    Comment by Anon — January 9, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

  7. When Tommy Harper was stealing 54 bases for the sox in 73, I was 9 years old and living on the North Shore. That team had Yaz, and atill, Harper was the greatest player I had ever seen. I remember him taking a five step lead from first base – five steps! -and Ken Coleman talking about him daring the pitcher to throw the ball to the plate. He was electric, and I adored him.

    Later, Harper would battle the Sox on the racism of their association with various Winter Haven businesses, and he was exiled from the organization. In my mind, his heroism grew. Later, he wound up coaching for several franchises before the Sox brought him back home, and eventually honored him with his own day. And that’s a team for which he played only two years.

    Tommy Harper may have had one year that was significantly better than his others in terms of his numbers, but a random career year? Tommy Harper has lived a better life than most of us, and a 100 and 400 should not be used to show how much lesser he was than others. He hit 100 home runs and stole 400 bases! Who cares who else did it? That’s quite an accomplishment, and he was one hell of a player.

    Comment by Circus Catch — January 9, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

  8. I was waiting to find Brady Anderson’s 50 HR campaign on this list but it was bookended w/ very respectable 3.3 and 3.5 WAR campaigns

    Comment by Scott — January 9, 2013 @ 8:52 pm

  9. Boone didn’t make it because he had two seven-win seasons – ’01 and ’03. But good instincts on that!

    Comment by Paul Swydan — January 9, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

  10. Yes, Zoilo didn’t make the list because his 4.2 was the year prior to his 7.9. But he was one of the 115 guys with just one seven-win season.

    Comment by Paul Swydan — January 9, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

  11. Very well said. Thank you for the comment. And the word “random” wasn’t meant to belittle the season. Perhaps “unexpected” would have been better, I don’t know.

    Comment by Paul Swydan — January 9, 2013 @ 9:09 pm

  12. Davey Johnson’s 1973 season with 43 homers always made me do a doubletake but another Tommy, Davis, had an anomaly of a season in 1962.

    Comment by psychump — January 9, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

  13. He was Gary Redus before Gary Redus was cool.

    Comment by shthar — January 9, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

  14. Yeah, Davey Johnson is the one who always comes to my mind when unexpectedly good seasons come up.
    Now Tommy Harper will, too.

    Comment by Baltar — January 10, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

  15. Love this stuff. Thanks! Personal favourite Cito Gaston darn near makes the list.

    Have you considered Jim Gentile? That leads to another question: do an abnormally high proportion of those ‘random career years’ occur in expansion seasons, or the year after expansion seasons? Gentile and the 1961 season made me wonder, since there were so many career years that season (Maris, Cash, Gentile, Bubba Phillips, etc.). It’s sort of consistent with Harper’s career year.

    Is there something that you can do regarding the most unproductive productive seasons in MLB history? I think Dante Bichette could be a good poster boy and perhaps we could sneak Delmon Young in there, too. :)

    Comment by chief00 — January 10, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  16. Thanks. As luck would have it, I’ve already written about Bichette’s magical 1999 season! http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/dante-bichettes-unbelievable-1999-season/

    Comment by Paul Swydan — January 10, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  17. As for Delmon, I’d like to think that he still has time to sink even lower, haha. Just kidding…sort of.

    Comment by Paul Swydan — January 10, 2013 @ 5:43 pm

  18. Amen, and thanks for the link. Do you know of any other Bichette/Delmon types of players? You know, the kinds of players that play-by-play guys drool over because of their Triple Crown stats during that one/two/three season(s) stretch playing in Wrigley or the Polo Grounds or Fenway or Some Other Bandbox?

    I suspect that the 1920s/1930s would be filled with them. The 1930 Phillies are reason to chuckle–they may have been a whole team of Dantes/Delmons. For instance, Pinky Whitney, Fresco Thompson and Tommy Thevenow were outstandingly bad in spite of ‘good’ counting stats. I looked at Babe Herman (wasn’t he the guy that caught the ball dropped out of an airplane?), but he was a little too productive for the illustrious group I have in mind.

    Does Pete Reiser makes the group examined in your article? He enjoyed one 7.7 WAR season, three 4+ WAR seasons, then bupkus.

    Comment by chief00 — January 10, 2013 @ 6:08 pm

  19. I loved Tommy Harper. I remember as a 12 year old watching him at old Sicks Seattle Stadium. 73 stolen bases that year – he only it .235 but he was constantly on base because he drew 95 walks. We were pulling for him to break Ty Cobb’s record for a while. And that first year as a Brewer was amazing – where did that power come from?

    Tommy Harper is the one ballplayer I would most like to meet, if only to tell him how much fun it was to watch him that one Pilot season as our one real star. And boy, do I wish we’d have had at least one more season to enjoy that 1970 career year in our little bandbox stadium.

    Comment by rick — January 10, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

  20. Oh, and one other thing. I was so excited to watch him in the All Star game in 1970. But even though he was the top offensive player in the AL at that time that season (among the leaders in home runs and batting average), all he got to do was pinch run in the 3rd inning. Pisses me off to this day. He didn’t even get to bat. The guy got jobbed, and if Weaver keeps him in and plays him, I’ll bet the AL wins in 9 innings and Ray Fosse’s career isn’t ruined.

    Comment by rick — January 10, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

  21. Ack, scratch Gentile and Reiser, since both players had a 3+ WAR season either before or after their ‘big’ campaign. Maybe I should read a little more carefully. Still, great article!

    Comment by chief00 — January 10, 2013 @ 7:05 pm

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