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Sunday, April 04, 2004

As Promised, The Five Flukiest Home Run Seasons Ever 

As a reminder to everyone, these rankings are based on Fluke Factor, which is defined as a player's career high single-season home run total divided by his second-highest single-season home run total.

And now, the man whose name is synonymous with Fluke Factor:

#5, Brady Anderson

When I came up with the idea to rank fluky home run years, two men immediately came to mind: Brady Anderson and former Mariner Dale Sveum. Sveum, sadly, did not post a thirty home run season to qualify for consideration for the list (his career high was 25, posted in 1987, a notoriously fluky home run year league-wide). Anderson, on the other hand, blew thirty out of the water with his 50 home run 1996 campaign. He only eclipsed twenty two other times, with 24 in 1999 and 21 in 1992.

Anderson will forever be remembered for the most unlikely 50 home run season ever, but we should be careful to note that he was a pretty good all-around ballplayer. Before 1996 is dismissed for the effects of lefty-friendly Camden yards, consider that in his historic 1996 season, he hit 31 homers ON THE ROAD, away from Camden Yards. Additionally, he holds the Major League record for stolen base percentage in a season (for players with at least 25 attempts), going 31 for 32 in 1994. A good fielder, Anderson made an art of robbing home runs over the short outfield fence in Baltimore. And, for what it's worth, he's 14th on the all-time hit by pitch list, with 154. He had always been a streaky hitter who could never quite put it all together for a full season. In Anderson's own words, "I always had the ability to hit home runs for two or three weeks at a time, but I never sustained it like this year. When you do, the homers really add up."
Career high: 50 HR. 2nd Best: 24 HR. FF: 2.08

#4, Willard Marshall

Willard Marshall is an interesting case. Although his numbers earn him the #4 spot on this list, it can be argued that the era in which he played, from 1942 to 1955, contributed more to his high Fluke Factor than Marshall's actual performance. Case in point: Marshall's 11 home runs in 1942 and 13 home runs in 1946 both placed tenth-best in the National League. In 1947, when Marshall hit 36 homers, only six totals combined from the 1942 and 1946 seasons would have cracked the top ten. So, his adjusted numbers are fairly consistent. Nonetheless, Fluke Factor in an unqualified number, and Marshall's 1947 season was good for fourth all-time.
Career high: 36 HR. 2nd best: 17 HR. FF: 2.12

#3: Rick Wilkins

I had no idea that Rick Wilkins had ever played for the Mariners until I saw the indisputable evidence on his page at Baseball Reference:
1998 31 SEA AL
Who knew? Wilkins appeared in 19 games for the M's, playing first base, catcher, and designated hitter. I vaguely remember him from the beginning of his career, when he played for the Cubs, although he played during the "dark ages" of my Cubs following. Between 1992 and 1996 the degree to which I watched the Cubs took a major hit, during which time I had left Ketchikan, Alaska (where WGN was the only regular baseball broadcast), but not yet moved to Chicago in 1996. So I don't know much about Rick Wilkins, nor does Baseball Library or Google. Sorry.
Career high: 30 HR. 2nd best: 14 HR. FF: 2.14

#2, Terry Steinbach

I could never stand Terry Steinbach growing up. Playing for Oakland during the Bash Brothers era certainly didn't help his cause. Steinbach, or "Steiny" as he liked to be called, was, against my wishes, still a productive Major League catcher. He was a three-time All-Star (1998, 1989, and 1993), taking home the All-Star Game MVP honor in 1988. Furthermore, he was an important part of Oakland's 1989 World Series championship team (and their 1990 team that got spanked by Lou Piniella's Reds, heh heh). It gives me great pleasure to see him at #2 on this list.
Career high: 35 HR. 2nd best: 16 HR. FF: 2.19

Drumroll, please:

#1: Davey Johnson

I remember Davey Johnson only as the manager of the 1986 Mets team that broke the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere. It turns out that Davey Johnson was a pretty good little infielder to boot. He was an All-Star in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973. He won the Gold Glove at second base in 1969, 1970, and 1971. And he shocked everyone by clubbing 43 homers in 1973 for the Atlanta Braves. Shockingly, Bret Boone (whose Baseball Reference page is sponsored by Just Another Mariners Blog, incidentally) is not in the top ten in similarity score to Johnson.
Career high: 43 HR. 2nd best: 18 HR. FF: 2.39

There you have it. The ten greatest power surges of all time. With home run totals getting more ridiculous by the year, expect to see a steady influx of new names into the list. If Ichiro manages a mere 24 home runs in 2004, for example, he'd take the #10 position. Here's hoping he does.

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