Every couple of months, I like to write a post highlighting some data from the Past Calendar Year split on our leaderboards. It’s one of my favorite tools on FanGraphs, giving us a look at how a player has done over a rolling full-season window. It’s a better way to look at recent performance than just season to date, and gives us a larger sample while still focusing mostly on what a player has done in his last ~162 games or so.
So, here are some random statistical tidbits from data accumulated from August 6th, 2012 to August 5th, 2013, with the minimum number of plate appearances set to 400 to include some interesting guys who have missed time due to injuries, as well as expand the number of starting catchers in the pool.
Top 10 first baseman, by wRC+: Chris Davis (169), Joey Votto (160), Edwin Encarnacion (144), Paul Goldschmidt (137), Brandon Moss (136), Allen Craig (134), Prince Fielder (134), Justin Smoak (133), Brandon Belt (131), Freddie Freeman (128)
Brandon Moss is kind of the perfect example of why I like the past calendar year feature. If you just look at his seasonal lines, it’s easy to miss how good he’s been. Yeah, he was awesome last year, but that was just a couple hundred plate appearances, and he hasn’t been nearly as good this year, posting just +1.0 WAR over fairly regular playing time. But if you see the entire stretch as one full season, Moss has been a monster, putting up basically the same wRC+ in the past “year” as Goldschmidt, who is considered a potential NL MVP candidate this season.
Granted, we’re only covering 503 plate appearances with Moss, and his stats are being anchored by the oldest data in the sample, but even in 2013, he’s been better than you might realize. Brandon Moss’ success is one of the undercover reasons the A’s are on track to win their second straight division title. This is a guy who was basically considered a AAAA player 12 months ago, and since Oakland gave him an opportunity, he’s hit like an All-Star.
The other interesting name on the list has to be Justin Smoak. On this date a year ago, Smoak was struggling in Triple-A, having been shipped back to the PCL after playing his way off one of the worst offensive teams in the sport. He wasn’t even good in Tacoma, and looked like a classic busted prospect. Last summer, I noted that of all first baseman to get 1,000+ plate appearances before through their age-25 season in the last 30 years, Smoak was the very worst hitter of the entire bunch. It wasn’t a small sample. Smoak racked up several years worth of futility, and even his minor league track record didn’t offer that much hope.
But since he returned from the minors, Smoak has equaled the likes of Fielder and Craig in offensive output. Like with Moss, we’re dealing with a smaller sample of plate appearances, and he hasn’t been consistently great during that stretch — he was awful again in April — but he’s got nearly 500 plate appearances of high quality offensive performance. It doesn’t completely wash away the 1,300 lousy plate appearances that came before it, but Smoak is finally showing some of the production that made him a high first round pick in 2008.
A pair of third baseman have been almost exactly the same at the plate.
Even their UZRs match up almost identically. Wright has the advantage in baserunning, but in terms of hitting and fielding, their stats over the last 365 days are virtually identical.
Worst regular in baseball? Jason Kubel (-1.9 WAR)
The Royals rightfully got a lot of grief for playing Jeff Francoeur as much as they did, but Kubel has actually been even worse than Frenchy over the last year. An immobile DH who is being forced into the OF because he signed with an NL team, Kubel has hit .207/.281/.358, good for a 69 wRC+. The oddest part about this is how it has basically come out of nowhere.
After the D’Backs signed him last year, he was an offensive monster for the first four months of the 2012 season. At the end of last July, he had a 141 wRC+, making him one of the best hitters in the game at that point. Since then, his wRC+, by month: 52, 73, 164, 28, 102, 31, -30
A year ago, he looked like a huge steal for the Diamondbacks, providing left-handed power at a bargain price. Now, the D’Backs should probably pay the buyout on his 2014 option. When people accuse defensive metrics of being unreliable because of the year to year variance, they should remember things like Jason Kubel’s offensive performance over the last couple of years.
By RA9-WAR, Clayton Kershaw (+9.5) has been the second most valuable player in baseball.
His last 34 starts: 246 innings, 56 runs allowed. To put that in context, Justin Verlander has allowed 37 more runs while pitching 17 fewer innings over the same time period. Among qualified starters, only Mat Harvey and Bartolo Colon have allowed fewer total runs to score, and they’ve thrown 52 and 77 fewer innings respectively. For Harvey to match Kershaw’s total runs allowed over the same number of innings, he’d have to post a 1.21 RA — not ERA, just straight RA — over his next ~seven starts.
And this is obviously nothing against Harvey, who has been excellent himself. Kershaw’s just on another level right now. 2.04 runs allowed per start over 34 starts. Yeah, this guy is pretty good.
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