The 5 Most Shocking Statistical Flip-Flops of the 2013 Season
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When you look at statistics long enough, you’re bound to find trends. Sometimes these trends help project a player or team’s production over the next several seasons, but others just uncover mind-boggling anomalies and flip-flops.
Between the deterioration of the once one-run dominant Baltimore Orioles to the uncharacteristically impatient Carlos Beltran, the 2013 season has seen its fair share of the above.
Below are the five most shocking statistical flip-flops of the 2013 season.
Carlos Gonzalez's Improved Away Split
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Before being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained joint of the right middle finger, Carlos Gonzalez had been enjoying an excellent season. The 27-year-old posted a park-adjusted 145 OPS+ with 26 home runs and 21 stolen bases over 436 plate appearances.
But perhaps the most impressive note of CarGo’s 2013 season has been his vastly improved production on the road. Despite owning a career park-adjusted 107 wRC+ away from home, Gonzalez has posted a 174 wRC+ in 2013. In fact, the left-handed hitter has performed better on the road than he has at home (124 wRC+).
This development should silence all the naysayers claiming Carlos Gonzalez is merely a product of the hitter-friendly Coors Field.
Baltimore Orioles' Fall from Grace in One-Run Games
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In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. This was in part due to their incredible ability to win one-run ballgames, boasting a 29-9 record.
According to ESPN’s Stats & Information department, only two other teams in baseball history have bested the Orioles: the Brooklyn Bridegrooms in 1890 and Cleveland Blues in 1883.
But so far in 2013, the Orioles haven’t quite rekindled their 2012 magic. The Birds have owned a comparatively mediocre 14-18 record in one-run games this season. Granted, the Orioles have posted a solid 65-52 overall record—and are still a playoff contender—but their drop off from 2012 is still disappointing.
R.A. Dickey’s Home Run Per Nine Innings Spike
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At age 37, R.A. Dickey took home the National League Cy Young Award last season. Dickey pitched to the tune of a 2.73 ERA (versus park-adjusted 139 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP and 4.26 K/BB. The rebuilding New York Mets prudently dealt the veteran to the Toronto Blue Jays for a package of top prospects.
So far in 2013, Dickey has been rather pedestrian. While his 4.46 ERA (versus 4.82 FIP) might stick out like a sore thumb, it’s really been his home runs per nine innings ratio that has been the most drastic statistical flip-flop.
Dickey has witnessed his home runs per nine innings balloon from 0.92 in 2012 to 1.45 in 2013. Interestingly enough, the knuckleballer’s home run per flyball ratio isn’t particularly different (from 11.3 percent to 12.9 percent), which means opposing hitters are simply hitting longer flyballs against him. This could have something to do with Dickey’s average knuckleball dropping 2.1 MPH in velocity too.
Carlos Beltran’s Incredibly Low Walk Rate
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Throughout Carlos Beltran’s long and successful career, the switch-hitter has always been a walk machine. In fact, Beltran owned a 10.7 percent walk rate from 1998 to 2012.
So considering the 36-year-old has only drawn walks at a 5.1 percent clip in 2013, it raises a bit of a red flag. Even though Beltran has swung at 11.1 percent more pitches outside the zone in 2013 (33.1 percent) as compared to his career rate (22.0 percent), his O-Swing%* is only 1.7 percent higher than his 2012 metric.
Walks aside, Beltran’s park-adjusted 136 OPS+ and 20 home runs are hard to hate on.
* = a FanGraphs.com statistic measuring how many pitches outside the strikezone a hitter swings at.
The Minnesota Twins’ Dominant Bullpen
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At 16.5 games out of first place in the American League Central, little is going right for the Minnesota Twins. That is, except for their bullpen. The Twins’ pen ranks second in FIP (3.28), tied for fourth in home runs per nine innings (0.69), second in walks per nine innings (2.77) and seventh in BABIP (.277).
But in 2012, however, more or less the same crew of relief pitchers comprised one of the league’s worst bullpens.
The 2012 Twins’ bullpen ranked 25th in FIP (4.09) and 16th in home runs per nine innings (0.92). There were of course other relievers responsible for the difference, but considering six main relievers returned in 2013, the incredible turnaround is still noteworthy.