On Sunday, we put my preference for people who finish the year strong under the microscope. It didn’t go particularly well. In fact, it was pretty much a failure. But, not willing to admit defeat quite so easily, the decision was made to look at the matter in a different way. And let’s be honest right up front – what we’re about to see is not really a good way to approach the subject. But desperate times call for desperate measures. And as Archie Bunker once said when playing solitaire – you give the deck three chances and then you cheat.
Last time we looked at how players performed in the second half of the year. This time around, we’re only looking at how they did in September. Here we looked at players on the Mets from 2000-2018, with a minimum of 40 PA in the final month. That was done specifically to include Justin Turner in the results. Cheating, you know. And you had to have a minimum of an .800 OPS to qualify. Then the September OPS was compared to the full year’s OPS and the following season OPS. But a minimum of 400 PA was required in the following season.
Again, this is a form of cheating. It was designed to get rid of the guys who were scrubs who just squeaked into 40 PA but who didn’t have anything remotely like a full-time gig. It was also designed to not get bogged down with people who got hurt the following year. And while not designed for this – wink, wink – it also had the advantage of eliminating guys who were given a shot, stunk up the joint and then were kept by their manager from clearing 400 PA because they weren’t good.
The final thing to know is that guys who were traded the following year in mid-season were not included in the results, even if their combined PA were over 400. Unless they amassed 400 PA with the Mets before the deal. Then they were included, with only their Mets total. Wow, that was a lot of hoops to jump through.
In our 19-year sample, there were 73 people who had at least 40 PA in the final month and an .800 OPS. But once we threw in the 400 PA requirement in the following season, our sample shrunk to 39 people. My hope was to get at least 30 players and that was a success. The problem was that the 400 PA requirement in the following season eliminated Turner from consideration. The moral of this cheating story is – If you’re going to bend the rules to get a guy in, make sure he qualifies for all of the parameters before beginning your research. Here’s what we get:
The thing that jumped out at me the most was how good Piazza was in his final month with the Mets. A lot of fans were ready to move on at that point but it would have been nice if Piazza could have come back and been part of the 2006 team. And it would have meant that we wouldn’t have been subjected to Paul Lo Duca, who was one of my least favorite Mets of the era.
The other thing that made an impression was how often Wright showed up on this list, especially compared to Reyes. And Wright points why we put in an additional condition in the other look at this late-year performance on Sunday. Is it really instructive to include a guy who puts up an .847 OPS in September if he posted a full-season OPS of .856? So, let’s further cull our list of 39 players and only include those whose last-month OPS differed from their full-season OPS by at least 50 points.
That cut 10 people from our sample, so we’re down to 29. Of those 29, 27 of those saw their final-month OPS at least 50 points higher than their full-season OPS and two players who dropped 50 points of OPS in September.
Of those 27 players who saw their September OPS exceed their full-season OPS by at least 50 points, 17 of them put up a higher OPS the following year. And of the two whose September OPS was 50 points lower than their season total, one put up a worse year the following season and the other, the talented Mr. Wright, put up an OPS exactly equal to what he did the year before.
So, with all of our hoops and conditions, we finagled a sample where 18 of the 29 players were wins for the hypothesis. So, yay, success? Maybe – but with a giant asterisk.
It would be interesting to do a multi-year look of all MLB players who fit the above criteria. And it might even be useful to put an age limit on our list. After all, maybe it’s not so impressive if an established player like Beltran or Wright uses a big September as a springboard to a better follow-up season. But if – pulling numbers out of thin air – we look at 100 players 27 and younger who fit the criteria and 73 of them put up a better follow-up season, maybe that would be worthwhile.
But that’s a topic for another day.