Baseball, despite how much we analyze and study the game, will always surprise fans. For every star who has a poor season, castoffs, veterans and young players emerge to exceed expectations. In 2013, six players did just that on the way to stardom.
In 2014, don't expect the same results. Over the course of time, more innings, at-bats and exposure, true stars emerge from the pack. One or two big seasons won't make a star. Instead, years of success are needed to be exempt from a list like this.
The following is a look into six players who had star-level campaigns last season, but are bound to fade away in 2014. Few, if any, will be released or sent away to the minor leagues, but don't expect All-Star Game appearances on their ledger for 2014.
Without further ado, six stars who will quickly fade away in 2014.
*All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs, unless otherwise noted.
How unlikely was Chris Johnson's star-level 2013? The Braves third baseman entered last season with a career batting line of .276/.315/.430 and an OPS+ of 102. Over the course of more than 1,300 career plate appearances, Johnson was barely an average hitter.
Then, in the span of six months, Johnson became much more.
By hitting .321, with a robust 121 OPS+, he put forth one of the best offensive performances in the National League.
Due to an extreme bout of luck (MLB-leading .394 BABIP), Johnson likely won't come close to that output in 2014. He might never come close to it for the rest of his career.
BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, usually hovers around .300. Some players, like Mike Trout and Austin Jackson, have abnormally high BABIP's over multiple years. For his career, Johnson's mark is at .361. Very high, but also unlikely to sustain a level close to .400.
Johnson was good last year. He won't be that good again during the 2014 campaign.
Over the last two years, A's starter Jarrod Parker has been one of the best run-suppressing starting pitchers in the American League. Among starters with at least 375 innings pitched over that time frame, Parker's ERA of 3.73 ranks 10th, ahead of more heralded stars like CC Sabathia and Jon Lester.
As we've come to learn over the years, ERA is a good indicator of what has happened, but not a predictor of future success.
In 2013, Parker's FIP (fielding independent pitching) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) were 4.40 and 4.41, respectively. When looking at Parker's career K/9 rate (6.4) and SO/BB rate (2.17), the 25-year-old Athletics righty profiles more as a starter who would sport an earned run average over four rather than the midrotation success story he's been in Oakland.
It's possible that Parker improves, becoming a pitcher with peripheral stats to match his production. Until he does, doubt will persist.
In 2012, Marlon Byrd was one of the least valuable baseball players on the planet. During a forgettable 47-game stint in Chicago and Boston, Byrd was worth -0.5 bWAR. In other words, a replacement-level player would have been more valuable to those teams.
Then, magically, Byrd emerged last summer as a star-level contributor for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Only 17 National League position players were worth five-plus WAR last season. Byrd was one of them. Carlos Gonzalez, Jayson Werth and Shin-Soo Choo weren't.
After an outstanding age-35 season, the Philadelphia Phillies are banking on more production from the veteran outfielder.
As Byrd heads into his age-36 season, don't count on it. The perfect storm of opportunity in New York, big stage during Pittsburgh's postseason run and lack of midtier outfielders on the free-agent market made Byrd look like a better bet than he truly profiles as for the future.
Across 1,209 minor-league at-bats, Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias posted a .622 OPS. With a dazzling glove, his calling card in the majors wasn't supposed to be an impact bat. Yet, during an incredible rookie season in 2013, Iglesias hit .303 with a .735 OPS.
Don't expect more of the same in 2014.
As per the norm with young, flawed hitters, the league adjusted to the now 24-year-old shortstop. Over the course of 215 at-bats in Boston prior to a midseason trade landing him in Detroit, Iglesias hit .330, while displaying extraordinary range.
After arriving in Detroit, that batting average dipped to .259 in 135 at-bats. During Detroit's postseason run, the young shortstop hit just .235 across 11 October games.
Expect great, game-changing defense, but limited offense from Detroit's shortstop in 2014.
When Mets fans talk about the future of their young, talented rotation, it's easy to understand why Dillon Gee's name is included with Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Noah Syndergaard.
Starting with a 12-strikeout domination of the New York Yankees in the Bronx on May 30, Gee was one of the best pitchers in the National League this past season. Over his final 22 starts, the Mets right-hander pitched to a 2.71 ERA. That mark was better than the season output for all but four NL starters.
Yet, for as good as Gee was down the stretch of 2013, he's not a top-level arm moving forward.
Gee's FIP (4.00) and xFIP (4.07) were closer to what an average pitcher would produce, especially with the expansive Citi Field dimensions available during half his starts. Furthermore, Gee's K/9 mark of 6.4 suggests that he pitches to contact, failing to miss bats at a high enough rate.
If the Mets can continue to develop arms with better strikeout ability, Gee should be trade bait before the rest of the league realizes he's closer to a No. 5 starter than a No. 3.
Although it's fun to point out the mistakes of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, retroactively placing Jarred Cosart atop the 2014 Phillies rotation alongside Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels is a gigantic stretch.
The 23-year-old righty burst on the scene (10 GS, 1.95 ERA) for Houston last summer. In fact, Cosart's first start including eight scoreless innings and a flirtation with a no-hitter. He's a good bet to become an entrenched member of the rebuilding Astros in 2014.
Cosart is good, but he's not close to great yet. Expect major lumps to accompany his first full season in the big leagues.
It's hard to find a pitcher in recent memory with more on-field success in the face of poor peripheral statistics. Across Cosart's 60 innings pitched, he walked 35, struck out 33 and pitched to a xFIP of 4.68. Not only was he far from the type of pitcher that is capable of posting consecutive seasons with an ERA under 2.00, Cosart barely had serviceable SO/BB numbers.
There's talent in his arm, but Cosart is a long, long way from true stardom.
Agree? Disagree? Which players are headed for a tough year in 2014?
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