Remington: The curious cases of baseball burnouts

From Alex Remington at The Hardball Times on August 13, 2015, with mention of SABR members Steve Treder and Jack Kavanagh:

In 1980, rookie Cleveland Indians left fielder Joe Charboneau took the Mistake on the Lake by storm, opening beer bottles with his eye sockets or his forearm, hitting 23 homers, inspiring a hit song, and winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award with 73 percent of the vote. By 1983, the player they called “Super Joe” was out of the league, undone by injuries, better known as a cautionary tale than as a ballplayer. Injuries did him in: after multiple back surgeries, he just couldn’t hit any more.

He may be the most famous flameout in baseball history — he played a total of 70 games after winning his award — but he is far from the only player to suffer the same star-struck fate.

For the purposes of this article, I’m looking at players who had a terrific rookie year and then really never did much of anything else. A decade ago, Steve Treder took a much broader look at players who “flopped,” who played at a very high value and then saw their production fall off all at once. In particular, I looked at players who enjoyed notable rookie seasons: Either they hit at least 25 home runs, or they collected at least 2.5 rWAR. (I used rWAR as a criterion because I was searching the baseball-reference Play Index. The WAR totals reported in the tables below are Fangraphs WAR.) Then I looked at all players who finished with career rWAR between 2 and 8, and I basically did a VLOOKUP on the two groups. This yielded a set of players who started strong but didn’t do much for the rest of their careers.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 13, 2015. Last Updated: August 13, 2015.