Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Matt Kemp And His Amazing Increase In WAR

I knew that Matt Kemp's 2011 season was a breakout one. Until I read this piece by David Schoenfield, however, I didn't realize it was the best year-to-year jumps ever:

Mark Simon and I teased this on the Baseball Today podcast, so here it is. Tom from Melbourne, Fla., writes in:

I have a slew of answers for Friday's ridiculous question regarding greatest difference in WAR in consecutive years. For the analysis, I wrote a program to search player profiles and career stats on Baseball-Reference.com for every major league player in history. Here are the results.

Largest one-year increase in WAR for batters (min 350 PA in each year): A total of 30 players have had increases in WAR of greater than 6.0 in a year. The largest one-year increase was by Rickey Henderson from his rookie season in 1979 (-1.0 WAR) to his sophomore season in 1980 (8.7 WAR), a difference of +9.7 WAR. The top-10 list includes several Hall of Famers (Henderson, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Mike Schmidt), two active players (Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton), a guy called "Nails" (Lenny Dykstra, of course), and two guys who had a standout season (Bret Boone, Tommy Harper). Boone went from a WAR of 0.0 in 2000 to an MVP-esque WAR of 8.5 in 2001.

OK, this is Dave again. I'll run Tom's lists with some of my own commentary.

Rickey Henderson
1979 to 1980
-1.0 to 8.7
+9.7 WAR
Matt Kemp
2010 to 2011
-1.4 to 7.8
+9.2 WAR
Lenny Dykstra
1989 to 1990
-0.3 to 8.8
+9.1 WAR
Bret Boone
2000 to 2001
0.0 to 8.5
+8.5 WAR
Eddie Collins
1908 to 1909
1.2 to 9.4
+8.2 WAR
Josh Hamilton
2009 to 2010
0.4 to 8.4
+8.0 WAR
Babe Ruth
1925 to 1926
3.2 to 11.1
+7.9 WAR
Mike Schmidt
1973 to 1974
1.7 to 9.5
+7.8 WAR
Babe Ruth
1922 to 1923
6.0 to 13.7
+7.7 WAR
Tommy Harper
1969 to 1970
-0.1 to 7.2
+7.3 WAR

Pretty frickin' awesome breakout year for Kemp; in fact, the second-best of all time, from a WAR differential perspective.