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Most homers in final season

Posted by Andy on September 26, 2011

Loyal reader Andy P. writes in to ask which players hit the most homers in their final season in the majors. He noticed that Jermaine Dye hit 27 bombs in his final season and guessed that perhaps Dave Kingman had the most in 1986 with 35.

He's right:

Rk Player HR Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Dave Kingman 35 1986 37 OAK 144 604 561 70 118 19 0 94 33 126 .210 .255 .431 .686 *D/3
2 Mark McGwire 29 2001 37 STL 97 364 299 48 56 4 0 64 56 118 .187 .316 .492 .808 *3
3 Ted Williams 29 1960 41 BOS 113 390 310 56 98 15 0 72 75 41 .316 .451 .645 1.096 *7
4 Barry Bonds 28 2007 42 SFG 126 477 340 75 94 14 0 66 132 54 .276 .480 .565 1.045 *7/D
5 Jermaine Dye 27 2009 35 CHW 141 574 503 78 126 19 1 81 64 108 .250 .340 .453 .793 *9/D
6 Hank Greenberg 25 1947 36 PIT 125 510 402 71 100 13 2 74 104 73 .249 .408 .478 .885 *3
7 Jack Graham 24 1949 32 SLB 137 573 500 71 119 22 1 79 61 62 .238 .326 .430 .756 *3
8 Roy Cullenbine 24 1947 33 DET 142 607 464 82 104 18 1 78 137 51 .224 .401 .422 .823 *3
9 Albert Belle 23 2000 33 BAL 141 622 559 71 157 37 1 103 52 68 .281 .342 .474 .817 *9D
10 Kirby Puckett 23 1995 35 MIN 137 602 538 83 169 39 0 99 56 89 .314 .379 .515 .894 *9D/8645
11 Phil Nevin 22 2006 35 TOT 129 450 397 54 95 13 0 68 48 106 .239 .323 .438 .761 D3/792
12 Sammy Sosa 21 2007 38 TEX 114 454 412 53 104 24 1 92 34 112 .252 .311 .468 .779 *D9
13 Paul O'Neill 21 2001 38 NYY 137 563 510 77 136 33 1 70 48 59 .267 .330 .459 .789 *9/D
14 Will Clark 21 2000 36 TOT 130 507 427 78 136 30 2 70 69 69 .319 .418 .546 .964 *3/D
15 Dave Nilsson 21 1999 29 MIL 115 404 343 56 106 19 1 62 53 64 .309 .400 .554 .954 *2/D
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/25/2011.

Two seasons really stick out here--Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. They both played at a very high level. A few other guys here retired early for one reason or another.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011 at 7:36 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

118 Responses to “Most homers in final season”

  1. I've always wondered how long Ted Williams could have played for if the DH had been around back then.

  2. Will Clark seems like a close third to Ted and Barry. Has anyone had more than Albert's 103 RBI in their final season?

  3. Dave Kingman's 1986 season is tasty on so many levels.

    Easy to forget, from a 2011 perspective, that 35 homeruns was a lot in 1986.

    Kingman's total was 2nd in the American League (behind Barfield's 40) and 3rd in all of baseball (behind Schmidt's 37) om 1986.

    This from a guy who hit .210 with a .255 on-base percentage, and a .686 OPS. A .686 OPS from the third ranking homerun hitter in Major League Baseball?!?!??!?!?!

    It is no wonder that the following season, Kingman couldn't find any takers despite his "amazing" 1986 season, which is a shame because offense in Major League Baseball had a crazy spike in 1987, and he might have lifted 30-40 more bombs out of the park and retired with somewhere in the range of 470-480 homeruns. Maybe he could have even stuck around and gotten to 500.

    It has long been my opinion, though, that Dave Kingman's most significant contribution may have been on the impact on the youngsters around him.

    Is it a coincidence that Kingman's successor as Major League Baseball's ranking all-power-no-defense-clubhouse-psychopath was none other than Jose Canseco, whose first season in the A's clubhouse was Kingman's last?

    I think not.

  4. I've always wondered how long Barry Bonds would have played if he didn't get blacklisted.

  5. Most RBI in final season:

    Rk Player RBI Year Age Tm G PA
    1 Shoeless Joe Jackson 121 1920 32 CHW 146 649
    2 Happy Felsch 115 1920 28 CHW 142 613
    3 Albert Belle 103 2000 33 BAL 141 622
    4 Kirby Puckett 99 1995 35 MIN 137 602
    5 Dave Kingman 94 1986 37 OAK 144 604
    6 Sammy Sosa 92 2007 38 TEX 114 454
    7 Smoky Joe Wood 92 1922 32 CLE 142 583
    8 Ed Konetchy 82 1921 35 TOT 127 519
    9 Rebel Oakes 82 1915 31 PBS 153 646
    10 Jermaine Dye 81 2009 35 CHW 141 574
    11 Jack Graham 79 1949 32 SLB 137 573
    12 Ed Morgan 79 1934 30 BOS 138 617
    13 Tony Boeckel 79 1923 30 BSN 148 633
    14 Chili Davis 78 1999 39 NYY 146 554
    15 Roy Cullenbine 78 1947 33 DET 142 607
    16 George Puccinelli 78 1936 29 PHA 135 524
    17 Doc Gessler 78 1911 30 WSH 128 553
    18 Jose Guillen 77 2010 34 TOT 148 576
    19 Earl Sheely 77 1931 38 BSN 147 586
    20 Del Pratt 77 1924 36 DET 121 488
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 9/26/2011.
  6. I'm guessing, without looking, that Shoeless Joe's .382 is the highest batting average for a playing in his final season (among those who qualified for the batting title.)

  7. OK I looked it up anyway:

    Rk Player BA Year Age Tm Lg G PA
    1 Shoeless Joe Jackson .382 1920 32 CHW AL 146 649
    2 Happy Felsch .338 1920 28 CHW AL 142 613
    3 Buck Weaver .331 1920 29 CHW AL 151 690
    4 Chicken Hawks .322 1925 29 PHI NL 105 366
    5 Bill Keister .320 1903 31 PHI NL 100 429
    6 Sam Dungan .320 1901 34 WSH AL 138 610
    7 Will Clark .319 2000 36 TOT ML 130 507
    8 Kirby Puckett .314 1995 35 MIN AL 137 602
    9 Buzz Arlett .313 1931 32 PHI NL 121 469
    10 Tex Vache .313 1925 35 BOS AL 110 283
    11 Johnny Hodapp .312 1933 27 BOS AL 115 452
    12 Irv Waldron .311 1901 29 TOT AL 141 651
    13 Jack Tobin .310 1927 35 BOS AL 111 419
    14 Vin Campbell .310 1915 27 NEW FL 127 566
    15 George Sisler .309 1930 37 BSN NL 116 470
    16 Tony Cuccinello .308 1945 37 CHW AL 118 450
    17 Steve Evans .308 1915 30 TOT FL 151 638
    18 Curt Walker .307 1930 33 CIN NL 134 547
    19 Del Pratt .303 1924 36 DET AL 121 488
    20 Ray Chapman .303 1920 29 CLE AL 111 530
    21 Johnny Dickshot .302 1945 35 CHW AL 130 542
    22 Erve Beck .301 1902 23 TOT ML 89 362
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 9/26/2011.

    and OMG Johnny Dickshot shows up for something other than a suggestive name.

  8. In Jermaine Dye's case, it was greed. IIRC, he was offered a contract for the 2010 season that his agent said was a joke of an offer, advising Dye to hold out for a bigger offer, which never came. Feel bad because from what I've read, Dye was one of the good guys in the game.

  9. Barry, I remember something along those lines as well, plus I think there was an issue of major-league or minor-league contract. I think Dye said that he didn't really want to have to go play in the minors, and if he couldn't land a guaranteed major-league job then he wouldn't come back at all. I also seem to recall that he did talk to some teams the following summer around the trade deadline but didn't end up signing then either.

  10. Of all the silly names on the batting average list, Wagon Tongue Keister is my favorite.

  11. Fun stuff! Roy Cullenbine's 1947 season has been one of my favorites for many years. Think they valued BA over OBP? (Would you have thought that BB did not hold the record for most BB's in his final season?)

  12. Chicken Hawks? I wonder how that conversation went. "Hi, my name is Nelson Hawks."

    Ruth: "OK if we call you Chicken?"

    "Well, I prefer Nelson, thanks."

    Ruth: "OK, Chicken!"

    :::shrug:::

  13. I had never heard of Jack Graham. I thought Nilsson was a drinking buddy of John Lennon's.

  14. I never understood why Albert Belle wasn't given more serious consideration for the HOF. I don't recall him ever being tied to PEDs. Was it because he had an objectionable personality? His numbers, in my opinion, speak for themselves.

  15. Richard Chester Says:

    @7

    #16 on the list, Tony Cuccinello, lost the 1945 AL batting championship to George Stirnweiss on the last day of the season. Going into that day Cooch had a .308 to .306 lead. His team's game was rained out and Stirnweiss got 3 hits, including one that was originally ruled an error and then later changed to a hit by the official scorer, bringing his BA to .309. He was the only batting champ to lead the league in BA only on the last day of the season.

  16. I wonder how Cooch would hit in modern times off Furbush.

  17. Dave Nilsson was a pretty good player, actually. He had the misfortune of being on some bad Brewers teams for pretty much all of his career and then ran back to Australia after his last year, and spent a lot of years there before failing to make a comeback in the MLB. Interesting guy.

  18. Nillson was indeed good, especially considering that he was a catcher. I always wondered why he chose to leave--although simply desiring to go back to Australia would be good enough reason for me. It's got to be difficult to play so very far away from home.

  19. AlvaroEspinoza Says:

    I remember hearing that O'neill's final season was the only time a player had gone 20-20 for the first time in their final season. Can't substantiate that though.

  20. Sure thing. Here are the only players to finish with at least 10 HR and 10 SB in their final season, and indeed O'Neill is the only one over 20 in each category:

    Rk Player Year HR SB Age Tm Lg G PA
    1 Shawn Green 2007 10 11 34 NYM NL 130 490
    2 Devon White 2001 14 18 38 MIL NL 126 432
    3 Paul O'Neill 2001 21 22 38 NYY AL 137 563
    4 Tony Phillips 1999 15 11 40 OAK AL 106 484
    5 Willie Upshaw 1988 11 12 31 CLE AL 149 564
    6 Jackie Robinson 1956 10 12 37 BRO NL 117 431
    7 Butch Nieman 1945 14 11 27 BSN NL 97 291
    8 Beals Becker 1915 11 12 28 PHI NL 112 376
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 9/26/2011.
  21. Oh that reminds me Andy, I saw Moneyball. It was ok.

    The Cinematography credit is a gentleman named
    Wally Pfister.

  22. From the SABR Bio of Ed Konetchy, #8 on the list of most RBI in a final season (Andy's post no. 5):

    "During Koney's first four years in St. Louis, the Cardinals never won more than 63 games. Finally, in 1911, they got off to a good start. [Manager Roger] Bresnahan had the Cards only three games out of first place in early July when the team was involved in a train wreck on its way from Philadelphia to Boston. A dozen passengers were killed and 47 others injured. Due to a pre-trip change in the location of their car to the rear of the train, none of the Cardinals were seriously injured. Konetchy and Bresnahan led the rescue effort, carrying many passengers to safety. The Cardinals never recovered from the incident, finishing a distant fifth despite posting their first winning season since 1901, but Konetchy led the NL with 38 doubles and his own team with six home runs and 88 RBIs. In February 1912 he met with Bresnahan in a St. Louis hotel bar to talk contract. The negotiation turned into a drinking contest that lasted from the time the bar opened that morning until late in the afternoon. Amidst a table of empty beer bottles, Konetchy finally agreed to terms. That year he batted .314, the highest average of his career."

    That is good stuff. Ninety-one years after the fact, I'm happy for Konetchy that he finally made it to the World Series with the 1920 Dodgers.

  23. I wonder if Kingman was one of the victims of the owners' collusion after the 1986 season. After all, the 1986-87 off season was the one in which reigning NL batting champ Tim Raines didn't get any offers as a free agent, missed Spring Training and April, and ended up having to re-sign with the Expos.

  24. Ted Williams' career still astonishes me. The guy was just insanely good. I also just love his story - came from tough circumstances, worked his way to the top of the nation's pastime, gave up almost five years of his prime to be a marine pilot, and then topped it off by becoming one of the greatest fisherman ever. More John Wayne than John Wayne! Imperfect guy, of course, but there's still so much to admire.

    Not least of all those INSANE slash stats!

  25. I think Kong was a victim of his own declining skill set.

  26. @24: If you read Williams' autobiography, you realize that his fishing, his hitting and his career as a pilot were products of the exact same combination of characteristics: a complete lack of intellectual curiosity, a complete disregard for what other people thought, and a single-mindedly dogged determination to get a difficult thing exactly right.

    I would not have wanted him to marry my daughter, and I would not have cared for his company at dinner, but there is no one I would rather have in my boat, in my plane, or at the plate for my team.

  27. Wow! Mark McGwire. More than half of his hits were home runs. And only 4 doubles. Did anyone else have more home runs than base hits with more the 300 PA before?

  28. Is there a Barry Sanders of baseball?

    In 1998, at the age of 30, Sanders ran for 1491 yards and 4 TDs, adding another 289 yards through the air. Though a "down" year by his own standards, he still ranked 4th in the league in rushing and was one year removed from an MVP and the 3rd most rushing yards in league history. Yet he retired, walking away and never returning. There is a lot of mystery and speculation as to why and a 30-year-old running back is generally considered to be on the downside of his career, but he was far from washed up and left of his own volition. Does baseball have a similar guy? Who walked away after a strong season and with likely many more in front of him?

  29. @19,20

    I'm sure that he is also the only one on that list who was
    pinch hit for
    in his final plate appearance
    in game seven of the world series
    by an Aggie
    who couldn't throw the ball 45 feet without having a panic attack,
    this act offending the baseball Gods
    and ending a dynasty.

  30. During Kingman's last season, he sent a dead rat to a female reporter who covered the team. That probably had a lot to do with him not being picked back up.

  31. Kingman was not well-liked and was going to be 36 in 1987. The only team that would have picked him up would be one that needed an extra bat in the short term. If those few teams were all set otherwise, it would make sense that no team would want him.

  32. Wow, after looking at the RBI stats, it sparked my interest in Albert Belle. How the hell did Mo Vaughn win the MVP over Belle in the '95 season. Belle led him in just about every statistical category. Did Belle have more protection in the lineup or something or did Mo Vaughn just have more hype from at the time? I was only 6 at the time, and all I remember about Belle was that he absolutely killed my favorite team, the Yankees, seemingly (looking at his career splits seems to confirm this, at least from a HR perspective) every time he faced him. I remember he hit an absolute monster shot against them in one of the first games my Dad brought me to, in a game the Yankees got trounced in.

  33. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Does baseball have a similar guy? Who walked away after a strong season and with likely many more in front of him?

    Not on Barry's level, but Jackie Jensen retired at 32 because he didn't like to fly. He had just led the league in RBI two consecutive seasons, and won an MVP.

    Kid Nichols retired at 32 to manage a minor league team he owned.

    Of course, Jim Brown was the original Barry Sanders.

  34. I'm curious as to why Ted Williams doesn't show up on the list for highest batting averages in his final season. I thought at first it might be because he didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title but there are guys on the list with more than 100 fewer than he.

  35. @18, Dave Nilsson was a good player and great hitting catcher (110 career OPS+). I remember watching him strike out in the 1999 AS game.

    He left the majors because he wanted to be able to play for Australia in the 2000 Olympics (Held in his home nation in Sydney), which was held in September and would have interfered with the MLB schedule.

    Trivia question, who threw a shutout to win the Gold Medal game for the US in the 2000 Olympics?

  36. @7.

    Looking at most triples in a final season, 25 players hve reached double-figures, led by Shoeless Joe with 20.

    Only 2 of those 25 players are from the live-ball era, including .... Johnny Dickshot again with 10 triples in 1945. The other was Curt Walker with 11 triples for the Reds in 1930.

    The highest figure for a recent player? Inexplicably, it was Darren Daulton with 8 (his career high, and one of only 5 seasons with more than one triple) for the Phillies and Marlins in 1997. That was quite a final year for Darren - get traded just before the deadline and win the World Series, playing every WS game and putting up a 1.121 OPS. Nice way to go out.

  37. Ben Sheets!

  38. @34

    The rules changed over the years.
    Those old timers just needed to appear in 100 games.
    In 1960 Williams would have needed 477 Plate Appearances (154 x 3.1).

  39. @34
    They've changed the rules for rate-stat qualifications over the years.

  40. @37, correct, future Brewer Ben Sheets

  41. @33, JT.

    Re: leaving after a good final year.

    Buzz Arlett is an interesting case. He actually had only one major league season, at age 32, as the Phillies everyday right-fielder until about mid-August, after which he was used mostly to pinch-hit.

    Arlett put up .313 / .387 / .538, good for a 138 OPS+ and 2.4 WAR. Unfortunately, that included -0.4 dWAR, as Buzz had 10 errors and only a .955 fielding percentage in right. But, he had 14 outfield assists in only 94 games !!!

    After this one season, Arlett toiled 6 more years in the minors. Too bad there wasn't a DH.

  42. Most HRs allowed in a final season: 39, by Braden Looper, 2009 ... unless Arroyo decides to hang up the spikes.

    I wonder if there's any way to measure the oddity of the following: In his first 9 seasons, Looper never started a game -- 572 games, all in relief. In his last 3 years, he started 30 games each time.

  43. @28/33 -- No telling how much longer Koufax might have lasted, but he certainly went out on top.

  44. Richard Chester Says:

    @42

    In 1984 SABR voted Arlett as the outstanding player in minor league history.

  45. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Re my #33, I should note that both Jensen and Nichols later tried coming back.

  46. One other note on Kingman- not sure exactly why no one wanted him, but given the "juiced ball" of 1987, I always wondered what would have happened if Boston (career 20 games, 13 HR in Fenway, 5.84 HR/AB) or Seattle (career 19 games, 12 HR at Kingdome, 6.58 HR/AB) He was a perfect fit for Fenway since he was a three possible outcome player- home run, strikeout, or high, high pop fly to left.

  47. Chris Hoiles left at age 33, with no obvious decline in his recent performance level.
    - Final season: .262 / .358 / .476
    - Career: .262 / .366 / .467

  48. Smokey Joe Wood, after converting himself to an outfielder, left baseball for family reasons at age 32.

    His final season in 1922 was .297 / .367 / .442 with 92 RBI in 583 PA.

  49. I don't recall why Will Clark retired after he was 36--he had an outstanding final season.

    I think Baseball doesn't have a real Barry Sanders type because it would seem to me that baseball doesn't have anything equivalent to a running back position where the player spends three hours a week getting smashed by 300 pound hulks running at 20 or 30 mph.

    Football had more than just Sanders. James Brown. Ricky Williams made the same attempt to retire, but came back. There were probably others.

  50. Bobby Doerr was having his typical fine year when he hurt his back in August 1951. It kept him out the rest of the year.

    According to the SABR Bio, it wasn't something serious (didn't require surgery) but Doerr elected to retire anyway, to avoid risking further injury.

  51. @ 14
    I've always felt the same about Albert Belle. Great numbers, short career, but so were Koufax's and Puckett's, to name a couple. Injuries made him retire at an early age. No link to PED, just a bad temper, and for what I've read, he was unfriendly to the media. Maybe that's the reason he is not in Cooperstown.

    In the late 80's (perhaps '89) "Joey" Belle played Winter ball in Mexicali, Mexico, and man, could he hit. 12 home runs in 15 games was all he did for our team. In my book, he is a HoFer (not that anyone cares) :)

  52. Re: Dave Kingman,

    There also were wide spread rumors back in the 80's that Kingman was essentially blackballed post '86 by MLB for fear that he would get to the 500 HR milestone. 400 HR was basically a sure ticket to the HOF around the mid 80's and 500 HR was considered automatic ticket. MLB was fearful that Kingman would reach the 500 milestone and present a very difficult & embarrassing situation in terms of the HOF. Also Kingman had a reputation as an SOB so he wasn't well-liked either.

  53. Dave Kingman was signed to a minor league deal by the Giants before the 1987 season, but hit .203 at Triple-A before being released.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=kingma001dav

    It is not like he disappeared from the face after 1986.

    As to being black-balled, Kingman was one of the players who was the subject of collusion allegations, and he received a hefty settlement.

    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-816852.html

    Some moron at BaseballEvolution.com is absolutely obsessed with Kingman, and created an award dedicated to Dave Kingman:

    http://baseballevolution.com/asher/00072.html

  54. Boy, Asher, that guy IS a moron, and he's ugly too!

  55. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I think the 400/500 HR thresholds have only become considered such after the fact. The guys who got inducted didn't make it because they had hit 400+ HR, it was because they were widely acknowledged as among the best players ever. Almost everyone who had hit 400 HR by 1980 (and therefore was HOF eligible by the mid-80s) is considered a no-brainer HOFer. It's possible Billy Williams, if he had retired rather than playing two final lackluster seasons with Oakland, doesn't get inducted with only 392 HR. I'm not sure.

    At one point, everyone with over 300 HR was in the HOF. As power increased, the standards change. Frank Howard had hit 382 HR, the most of any non-HOFer until Kingman flew past him to hit 442. The voters make mistakes but they're not complete imbeciles. Kingman didn't get a sniff for the HOF, because he was obviously not close to that quality. I don't think topping 450 would have changed that. I don't think topping 500 would have changed that.

  56. The Original Jimbo Says:

    @36

    Steve Finley hit 12 triples at age 41 in what basically was and should've been his last season, in 2006.

    For some reason Colorado signed him at age 42, and his stats in 102 pa's show he clearly had nothing left in the tank.

  57. It's clear there are players who went out in similar fashion to Barry Sanders.

    So, my next questions are... who had the best last season ever? Who had the best last two or three seasons ever? Who had the greatest percentage of his career WAR (with a certain minimum threshold for total career WAR) in his last season? Last two or three seasons?

    These last two questions will likely get at the guys most similar to Sanders departure.

  58. Well here are guys with at least 2.5 WAR in their final season. Clemente is another guy whose career ended when he still could definitely play.

    Rk Player WAR/pos Year Age Tm G PA
    1 Shoeless Joe Jackson 7.4 1920 32 CHW 146 649
    2 Happy Felsch 4.9 1920 28 CHW 142 613
    3 Jackie Robinson 4.6 1956 37 BRO 117 431
    4 Roberto Clemente 4.4 1972 37 PIT 102 413
    5 Roy Cullenbine 4.2 1947 33 DET 142 607
    6 Will Clark 4.1 2000 36 TOT 130 507
    7 Ray Chapman 4.0 1920 29 CLE 111 530
    8 Mickey Mantle 3.6 1968 36 NYY 144 547
    9 Jim Doyle 3.5 1911 29 CHC 130 533
    10 Billy Lush 3.4 1904 30 CLE 138 577
    11 Barry Bonds 3.3 2007 42 SFG 126 477
    12 Tony Cuccinello 3.2 1945 37 CHW 118 450
    13 Larry Doyle 3.2 1920 33 NYG 137 530
    14 Frank Huelsman 3.2 1905 31 WSH 121 465
    15 Hank Greenberg 3.1 1947 36 PIT 125 510
    16 Tillie Shafer 3.1 1913 24 NYG 138 584
    17 John Briggs 3.0 1975 31 TOT 115 421
    18 Johnny Dickshot 3.0 1945 35 CHW 130 542
    19 Larry Walker 2.9 2005 38 STL 100 367
    20 Stan Javier 2.9 2001 37 SEA 89 323
    21 Ted Williams 2.9 1960 41 BOS 113 390
    22 Joe DiMaggio 2.9 1951 36 NYY 116 482
    23 Buck Weaver 2.9 1920 29 CHW 151 690
    24 Chick Stahl 2.9 1906 33 BOS 155 667
    25 Jesse Burkett 2.9 1905 36 BOS 148 654
    26 Reggie Smith 2.8 1982 37 SFG 106 398
    27 Lyman Bostock 2.8 1978 27 CAL 147 637
    28 Doug Rader 2.8 1977 32 TOT 148 568
    29 Cass Michaels 2.8 1954 28 CHW 101 344
    30 Grover Gilmore 2.8 1915 26 KCP 119 469
    31 Dave Nilsson 2.7 1999 29 MIL 115 404
    32 Gil McDougald 2.7 1960 32 NYY 119 387
    33 Benny McCoy 2.7 1941 25 PHA 141 620
    34 Jimmy Esmond 2.7 1915 25 NEW 155 663
    35 Robin Yount 2.6 1993 37 MIL 127 514
    36 Bob Johnson 2.6 1945 39 BOS 143 593
    37 Charlie Irwin 2.6 1902 33 BRO 131 520
    38 Billy Hamilton 2.6 1901 35 BSN 102 425
    39 Kirby Puckett 2.5 1995 35 MIN 137 602
    40 Brian Downing 2.5 1992 41 TEX 107 391
    41 Carney Lansford 2.5 1992 35 OAK 135 561
    42 Thurman Munson 2.5 1979 32 NYY 97 419
    43 Al Rosen 2.5 1956 32 CLE 121 481
    44 Milt Byrnes 2.5 1945 28 SLB 133 540
    45 George Perring 2.5 1915 30 KCP 153 628
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 9/26/2011.
  59. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Skimming through the above list, there isn't anyone like Sanders. Jackie Jensen might be the closest comp (5.0 WAR in '59) if he hadn't made an aborted comeback. The top guys on that list were either banned, died, or were older and, though still productive, not nearly the players they had been. There's no one who was still at or near their peak, quit, and never returned.

    Andy's list doesn't include pitchers. JA mentioned Koufax, but he of course had serious arm problems and who knows what he could have done if he came back. But maybe he's still the best comparison.

  60. Marc Robinson Says:

    Koufax wins easily for greatest last season or last two seasons. He had the sixth greatest WAR for ptichers in 1966 (post-1900). His last two seasons - 19.0 pitching WAR - were 20% of his career total and also one of the great two year totals. Leaving at the top was a major reason he was elected to the HOF on the first ballot.

  61. @ 54

    Asher, thanks for reminding me that Kingman was signed by the Giants in 1987 and did play for their AAA team, I had recently discovered that and then forgot about it again.

    The link you posted for the WSJ story about collusion also mentioned Rod Carew getting a settlement, as he was not offered a contract after the 1985 season. I wonder how many more hits Rod had left in the tank? As a Twins fan, I wish the Twins would have re-signed him to finish his career in Minnesota.

    Andy, maybe the mid-80's collusion could be a topic someday? A sort of "what might have been" for those players who otherwise might have played longer.

  62. If we were to take one hitter and one pitcher, circumstances notwithstanding, it would have to be Shoeless Joe and Koufax.

  63. wow, the 1920 White Sox were really good,

  64. Don Mattingly hit 23 homeruns in 1989, his last season. In 1990, the real Donnie Baseball was replaced by an inferior clone, who played out the rest of his career.

  65. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Which one is managing the Dodgers?

    Was Mattingly inspired by Paul McCartney?

  66. It's hard for me to consider Gehrig's final "season" to be 1939, when he played a total of eight games. If you don't consider that to be a season, in my opinion, he had the best final two years of any batter.

  67. @32 It's not that Vaughan had more hype. If Belle was less notorious, he would have won. He had so many incidents that even many of those who usually go by stats figured that Belle really was a bad influence.

  68. @59,

    That list is only batters, yes?
    Koufax - 10.8 WAR

  69. @68:

    "He had so many incidents that even many of those who usually go by stats figured that Belle really was a bad influence."

    That is an interesting way of saying it, as though voters voted against him because his net value was worse than Vaughn's because of his clubhouse demeanor.

    I say hogwash, and I say that the voters voted against him because they did not like him personally. And he gave them no reason to like him because he was such a horse's ass.

    It is a political process, and Belle was no politician.

  70. @28, 33...I'm more impressed w/Robert Smith's retirement than either that of Brown or Sanders. Both of them had already established themselves as hall of famers. Smith, on the other hand, retired after rushing for over 1,500 yards, his fourth straight season of 1,000 or more. He was only 28 so he could have played a few more years and perhaps become a hall of famer himself. Instead he quit to pursue a medical career.

  71. Thanks to everyone for indulging my little query. If I searched properly, I haven't found anyone who won an MVP in either of their final seasons, as Sanders did. Again, football is very different than baseball, and the age/performance curve is very, very different for an RB compared to a major league ballplayer.

    But, yea, it doesn't seem like there is anyone in MLB quite like Sanders in terms of how their career ended. As JT pointed out, most of the top guys died, were banned, retired due to injuries, or were older and had one last hurrah. You could maybe compare Sanders to Jordan's first and second retirement, though he obviously kept coming back.

    Another footballer might be the best comp to Sanders: Robert Smith of the Minnesota Vikings. After running for 1521 yards and 7 TDs (by far his best season and his 4th consecutive 1000 yard season) at the age of 28, he walked away from the game to pursue a career in medicine. Smith was a bit of an odd duck anyway, as he had clashed with Ohio State during his time there because they wouldn't let him go pre-med.

  72. Howard! You beat me to it! I was typing my post as you sent yours in.

  73. I recall quite a few folks maintaining that Belle was not the MVP in 1995 because his team won their division by so many games they would have won w/o him anyway.

  74. Howard! You beat me to it! I was typing my post as you sent yours in.
    _____________________________________________________

    WOO HOO!!!! : )

  75. No talk of football players going out on top would be complete without Tiki Barber, as unlikeable as he was. 1600 yards rushing and 2100 total yards.

  76. @59....It looks like that list does not include the 19th century when good players were apt to retire early simply because they could make more money elsewhere. At least one early superstar apparently retired for love. Bill Lange posted a 4.1 WAR in 1899 but retired to marry a woman whose father did not want her to marry a ballplayer.

  77. Asher, 35 HRs is a lot, near the very top of the majors, today. Though less impressive during the steroid era, it still was good-but of course Kong was not very good overall.

    Williams was very curious about the things he was interested in, wrote a famous book "The Science of Hitting", loved to study & expound upon hitting & fishing. He was cantankerous, but as something like his interviews showed, he could be very engaging, colorful, larger than life-I would love to have dinner with him.

    The best sprinters ever approach about 30 MPH-for a few, maybe 10 meters.

  78. Johnny Twisto Says:

    My argument against Belle was not exactly that Cleveland won by so much, but that he piled up most of his numbers after the race was essentially over. His numbers for August and September are sick, but CLE already had about a 20-game lead by then.

    Which is not to say that Vaughn deserved it, as he certainly didn't. Maybe Tim Salmon? Though the Angels had a big collapse, and he didn't play well vs SEA.

    I've never known what to make of John Valentin's defensive numbers, as I remember him as stocky guy with a knee brace at 3B. It's hard for me to reconcile that with his being a slick-fielding SS.

  79. Hey, the mention of Joe Jackson made me go back and look at the 1919 season--and I noticed it was a short season. About 137 games I think. I did a google and could not find a reason why.

    Anyone know why 1919 was only 137 games?

  80. 1918 was shortened, as well, by World War I.

    The War ended in November of 1918, but maybe there was some sort of lingering impact.

  81. Yes, I thought that for 1918. I don't know that it spilled over to 1919, but it makes sense, I suppose. Given that the fighting came to an end late in 1918 and the treaty of Versailles was not signed until the next spring.

    Okay, I'll accept that answer. Thanks.

  82. If you do not give it to Mo Vaughn or Albert Belle, don't you have to give it to Edgar Martinez?

  83. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Maybe. I've never been comfortable with how to compare the defensive value of a DH (zero, obviously) to position players. I don't think B-R WAR applies a big enough DH penalty. Martinez was a fabulous hitter that year, and destroyed Angels pitching. He's obviously right up there.

  84. Richard Chester Says:

    @80

    According to Baseball Library the owners anticipated a poor season at the gate so they shortened the season to 140 games.

  85. Asher-

    Great point on Tiki. He was 31 going on 32, which is "old" for a running back, though he got a late start as a full-time back. Of course, he tried to come back this year, though has not found any suitors that I've heard of.

  86. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Did Barber even get a try-out? If not, why not? He's been gone for a while but he was an unbelievable back when he retired.

  87. OT but Drew Stubbs became the 2nd member of the 200+ K club,joining Mark Reynolds(who wont be reaching that mark this year,probably).

  88. Sparky Anderson played the 50th most games ever in a first season, and the 11th most ever in a last season. They were the same season.

  89. @87 - According to an article from CBS news, Barber was only worked out by the Dolphins. He is also a 36 year old running back who hasn't played in 5 years and has the 22nd most rushing yards and 27th most rushing attempts, plus the 12th most yards from scrimmage. Toss in 1600 or so kick/punt return yards as well.

    My non-professional assessment of why he didn't get much of a chance: He is old (for a football player, especially a RB) and has a lot of wear and tear on his body (as evidenced by all the yardage he accumulated). I would guess that he wanted a decent salary also (though I am not certain) which certainly wouldn't help his cause (tying it back to Jermaine Dye).

  90. JT-

    I think a few factors "conspired" against Tiki...
    A) He's 36 years old.
    B) The limited off-season as a result of the lockout meant less time for Barber to get up to game speed and less time to incorporate him into an offensive game plan.
    C) Barber's post-playing broadcast career called into question his locker room standing.
    D) Barber was a smaller back who relied on speed and quickness, qualities that are harder to maintain as a back ages and/or misses time.

    I'm a bit surprised he didn't even get a look. There is no harm bringing the guy left and kicking his tires. I could have seen my team (the Eagles) taking a look, but he was probably too similar to their starting RB. The Patriots, champions of the reclamation project, have a pair of young RBs and don't run the ball much anyway. His former team, the Giants, never would have considered him.

  91. Johnny Twisto Says:

    There is no harm bringing the guy left and kicking his tires.

    Exactly. I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't play well, or didn't make a team. I just thought someone would take a look. So, I guess the Dolphins did. I don't know how seriously they considered him.

    The shortened training camp is a fair point.

    I doubt the potential locker room issues would have mattered to anyone but the Giants.

  92. JT-

    Another possible issue has to do with the secretive nature of team practices and strategies. I don't know if there is anything revealed in a typical tryout, but it is a common practice to sign a guy off an opponent's practice squad in hopes of picking up some inside tips. If tryouts reveal anything about strategies or game planning, I could see teams limiting their exposure by limiting their tryouts. Not sure this theory holds water (despite my letter writing campaign, I am yet to be invited to an NFL tryout), but might be something to consider.

    In the end, year, I'm surprised no one but the Dolphins did anything. Unless there was some other way teams had of assessing Barber's fitness, not sure why you wouldn't consider it.

  93. Thanks for the discussion on Belle guys. I was just looking at some of the stats and was naturally curious, especially since I had seen him play as a youngster. Baseball reference has the most informative comments of any website I frequent.

  94. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Rob, I guess no one really touched on why Vaughn *did* win, as opposed to why Belle did not. I think there was more focus on triple crown stats at the time, and Vaughn looked very good there. He was definitely seen as the leader of the team; I recall him being considered a good clubhouse presence, a community-oriented guy. And he probably got a lot of credit for it being his breakout season (again, mostly from a Triple Crown perspective) while the Sox improved greatly over the prior season.

    If there were more specific storylines which carried him to victory, they are lost in the depths of memory.

  95. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Btw, BSK, how did you become a m-f- Eagles fan? You root for the Red Sox, right?

    I'm a Giants fan, though I can barely call myself a football fan at all these days. Have just kind of lost interest, but I have great memories of Tiki.

  96. I believe the 1919 season was shortened because of the Spanish Influenza pandemic.

  97. @97
    Tom Ruane's research at retrosheet says the owners originally wanted the shorter season to be permanent to avoid April weather problems and too many double-headers later in the year. By mid-summer they regretted it because fewer games meant less revenue. They almost extended the season into October but decided to wait until the next year to restore the longer schedule.

    http://www.retrosheet.org/Research/RuaneT/rev1910_art.htm

  98. JT-

    Not only am I a Sox fan and an Eagles fan, but I grew up and live right outside NYC!

    In reality, I became a Sox fan because my dad was one, though I originally rooted for the Mets (back in the HoJo days). Been following the Sox since I was 10.

    As for the Eagles, I remember watching football as a kid and thinking that Randall Cunningham was pretty cool, and a hell of a lot smarter than all those QBs who just stood there and took hits.

    I didn't realize you were supposed to root for the local teams. Or that I picked probably the two most hated teams for my region. Oh well...

  99. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Randall Cunningham was pretty cool, and a hell of a lot smarter than all those QBs who just stood there and took hits.

    Didn't he get sacked more than any QB in history for a single season? (Always thought that was surprising, but it seems like a lot of scrambling QBs somehow get sacked a lot. Maybe that's why they scramble so much....)

    I didn't realize you were supposed to root for the local teams. </i?

    Hey, if you came by your allegiances naturally, I can't question your fandom.

    Wait, yes I can. You root for the most disgusting MLB and NFL franchises imaginable. Our B-R Blog relationship is over! OVER, I say!

  100. The Eagles had a horrid offensive line, which is how he learned to scramble and why he got sacked so many times until he learned to run better.

  101. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The Eagles had a horrid offensive line, which is how he learned to scramble and why he got sacked so many times until he learned to run better.

    He led the league in sacks five of the seven (relatively) full seasons he played for Philly. He was 2nd and 3rd in the others. When was it he learned to scramble? I think he always could. I'll allow that his line probably sucked, but he probably also invited some sacks by rolling out against plan and causing the protection to break down.

    Actually, looking closer, '86 wasn't even a full season. He played 15 games but only started 5. Ron Jaworski was still the #1 guy most of the season. Cunningham only attempted 209 passes and yet got sacked 72 times! That was the record season (since surpassed by David Carr '02). Jaworski was (as best I remember) pretty immobile by that time, and got sacked 22 times in 245 past attempts. I assume they mostly played behind the same line.

    There you go, BSK, time to pick a new team. You rooted for Cunningham because he wouldn't take a beating, when in fact he got beat on more than anyone, even though he had the tools to avoid it. Your entire fandom is based on a lie.

  102. Were is the nightly recap? The biggest night of the season so far!!!

  103. @103 I meant "where" of course!

  104. Hey-

    I was like 6-years-old. And I suffered through the Bobby Hoying era, two different Detmer eras, and the short-lived idea that Doug Pederson was somehow a stop-gap (he wasn't even that!). I DESERVE THIS!

    (And by "this" I mean another couple decades of heartbreak.)

    Ironically, all of the QBs who've enjoyed any success with the Eagles since my childhood have been mobile African-American QBs, even when that was not the intent (see: Vick). I think that's sort of cool, even if the long-term success of such an approach (scramblers, not AAs) is still in question. I like that the Eagles think outside the box and don't fall victim to "conventional wisdom". They just fall victim to Andy Reid's game mismanagement and an apparent inability/unwillingness to remember that you usually need at least two linebackers on the field.

  105. So JT and BSK are Brefren no more?

    Incidentally I too was a fan of those Cunningham Eagles team. Makes me feel quite old that their buffoon coach's son is now a buffoon coach himself.

  106. I'm happy to look past mine and JT's differences. Sounds like he, like most non-Sox/Eagle hybrid fans, is not. :-p

  107. WHOOPS! Did I somehow log into http://www.football-reference.com?!?!???

  108. Belle was an awesome hitter...he may have not been warm and fuzzy off the field but neither was Cobb, Speaker, or Hornsby all who were alleged
    Klansmen.. funny thing about Belle, he was an Eagle Scout,,,,,
    Williams at age 42 hitting .316 with 29 homers and only 41 strikeouts...
    They guy came back from two wars, the second at age 34 and he hit .388 at age 38.. great fisherman and his friends in Boston were theater ushers and cops and you would'nt want to have a meal with him and pick his brain... the Boston Media killed him especially a guy named Dave Egan, who wrote when Braves manager Casey Stengel got hit by a cab that the guy deserved a key to the city.... those moron writers cost him at least three
    MVP's and Williams never bitched...

  109. I was watching a Pirates game back in the early 90's when they did the nightly "Trivia Question": "Who hit the most home runs in their final year in Major League Baseball"? I was immediately dialing on the phone to try to get in to let them know it was Dave Kingman. I could not get through and went back to watching the game. Next half inning they announced the winner and the correct answer: Ted Williams.

    Must have been in '93. Things kinda went downhill around there, you know...

  110. @1

    Ted stated in his book that he was offered $100,000 for 1961 and that he could just pinch hit if he chose to. But he was ready to retire. He said in retrospect that if he had known Carl Yastrzemski would come along in 1961, he might have hung on for another year.

  111. @102

    If I remember that season correctly, Cunningham was used only on 3rd and Long, for the dual threat of being able to pass or run for a first down. Credit Buddy Ryan with that genius of a game plan. So in Cunningham's defense teams knew it was a pass play, and were coming for him.

    As a young fan, it was quite exciting to have him come in the game (similar to the excitement of seeing today's teams line-up in a "wildcat"). But as a more sophisticated fan, I see that it was a pretty dumb thing to do.

  112. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @24/ Zachary Says: Ted Williams' career still astonishes me. The guy was just insanely good. I also just love his story - came from tough circumstances, worked his way to the top of the nation's pastime, gave up almost five years of his prime to be a marine pilot, and then topped it off by becoming one of the greatest fisherman ever..."

    Zachary - I am surprised that no one has mentioned this yet, but the one purely phsical attribute that:
    - hitting well at a MLB level
    - fly fishing
    - flying as a marine pilot

    all have in common, is extraordinary eye-hand coordination. Plus, all are some what solitary accomplishments. Ted Williams took his physical gifts and developed them to the highest level possible.

    1995 AL MVP: Belle vs.Vaughn -
    Belle and Vaughn were tied for the AL lead with 121 RBI, plus their other mainstream stats were close enough that the writers could attribute enough of the "intangibles" to Vaughn. Plus, there was the fact that Belle piled up a lot of his numbers when the Indians already had a big lead.

    It wasn't so much that the writers liked Vaughn (though he was legitimately well-liked throughout baseball), but that Albert Belle was absolutely _DESPISED_ by the writers. There is also no legitimate reason that he was dropped from the HOF voting as quickly as he was (two years).

  113. "I think Kong was a victim of his own declining skill set."

    Does one skill count as a set? Whether it does or not, at the end of his career, his one skill, hitting home runs, was still very much in working order. During his career, if a team wanted Kong, it was because they wanted a guy to hit 30 home runs a season and pretty much nothing else. Any hope of Kingman being anything more than the most one-dimensional player in the game had dissipated by the mid-70's. I guess in 1987, none of the powers that be wanted a player of Kingman's all too specific talents.

  114. Yikes, how bad with the press do you have to be if you can't get the MVP with that season but Jeff Kent can!

  115. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @115/ If you're merely (among) the best hitters in the league, as was Belle, the writers can rationalize not giving him awards. If you are historically great, as was Barry Bonds, it's impossible for the writers to ignore you.

  116. Just for fun:

    Vaughn
    G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS
    68 312 52 76 7 2 24 60 39 .290/.391/.607/.998
    72 324 46 89 21 1 15 66 29 .309/.386/.545/.931

    BOS: 39-29 (+3.0) Pre-AS; 47-29 (+7.0) Post-AS

    Belle
    G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS
    67 294 52 81 27 1 14 51 31 .312/.384/.585/.969
    76 337 69 92 25 0 36 75 42 .322/.415/.787/1.202

    CLE: 46-21 (+12.0) Pre-AS; 54-23 (+30.0) Post-AS

  117. Most home runs by a pitcher in his final season:

    5, Jim Tobin, Bos (N)-Det, 1945

    3, Tommy Byrne, NY (A), 1957
    3, Ernie Wingard, St.L. (A), 1927