2011 MLB ROY Awards: Power Ranking the Biggest Sophomore Slumps of All-Time

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IINovember 15, 2011

2011 MLB ROY Awards: Power Ranking the Biggest Sophomore Slumps of All-Time

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    Since 1947, there have been 130 recipients of Major League Baseball's Rookie of the Year Award.  The first winner was arguably the best—Jackie Robinson—so good in fact that the award is now named in his honor.

    Winning the ROY Award, of course, is no guarantee of greatness.  In some instances, past recipients didn't even have very good years during their ROY seasons...more on that later.

    Regardless, this year's winners, Jeremy Hellickson of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves clearly deserved to be honored as the best rookies in their respective divisions.

    Hellickson, despite a lack of over-powering stuff, has the makings (and makeup) of a front of the rotation starter.  Kimbrel, with his blazing fastball that touches triple digits, and a knockout slider/curve, can easily become the premier closer in the National League for many seasons to come.

    When it comes to having a successful rookie season, though, there is certainly no guarantee that said player will have a career equaling their first-year accomplishments.

    And, of course, you've always got to look out for the dreaded "Sophomore Slump."  Here's a look at some of the most profound second-year drop offs in the history of the Rookie of the Year Award 

    Note: I've excluded players that missed a significant amount of time during their sophomore seasons due to injury.

No. 15: Walt Weiss

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    ROY: 1988—.250 BA 3 HR 39 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .233 3 HR 21 RBI

    Walt Weiss was the starting short stop for the Oakland A's during their late 80s and early 90s postseason runs.  From 1988-1990 the A's made it to the World Series three consecutive times, winning it all in 1989.

    Weiss would be higher on this list had it not been for the pedestrian numbers he put up to win the Rookie of the Year Award in 1988.  It was a very weak year for rookies in the American League.  Bryan Harvey came in second. Enough said. 

No. 14: Bobby Crosby

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    ROY: 2004—.239 BA 22 HR 64 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .276 9 HR 38 RBI

    Usually when it comes to young prospects, power numbers tend to take some time to develop.  That wasn't the case with Crosby, who knocked out 22 long balls and added 34 doubles during his rookie season.

    Sure, the .239 BA was cause for concern, and he actually improved it rather significantly during his sophomore season.  Problem was, his power production fell off dramatically.

    Granted, Crosby's plate appearances dipped in 2005, dropping from 623 to 371, but in his second full season he hit 25 doubles and added four triples.  It was just his touch for the home run that disappeared.

    Thus far, Crosby's power stroke is still MIA.  He's only managed 40 home runs since his 22 during his ROY campaign of 2004.

No. 13: Benito Santiago

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    ROY: 1987—.300 BA 18 HR 79 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .248 10 HR 46 RBI

    It seems common today to think of defense when you think of Benito Santiago's 19-year career. However, during his rookie season, Santiago was quite a terror at the plate.

    Santiago wasn't the type of batter to work the count and draw a walk.  He only walked 16 times in 572 plate appearances during his rookie season.

    He showed good pop though and drove in his fair share of runs, as he easily beat out Mike Dunne for rookie honors in 1987.  

    When looking back at his career, it does seem that the high batting average was more a product of a great season—and some luck—where everything tends to fall your way. 

    Santiago used an incredible 34-game hitting streak to drive up his average and propel him to his much deserved ROY Award.

    However, as is so often the case with breakout rookies, his sophomore season provided a closer glimpse at the type of hitter that Santiago would be for the rest of his career.

No. 12: Harry Byrd

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    ROY: 1952—15-15, 3.31 ERA 116 SOs, 98 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 11-20, 5.51 ERA 122 SOs, 115 BBs

    Harry Byrd had a fine rookie season.  His walks to strikeouts ratio, however, might have indicated a reason for concern.  But hey, it was 1952, your won/loss record and ERA were all that really mattered, right?


    Also, Byrd might have been aided slightly in his rookie campaign by relief appearances. Simply stated, his stints in relief didn't provide him as many opportunities to walk batters.  

    In 1953, he appeared in 40 games, starting 37, and he led the league in HBP (14), while watching his home run total nearly double—from 12 in '52 to 23.

    Basically, batters adjusted to Byrd, and took advantage of a pitcher that simply walks far too many hitters to be successful on a consistent basis.

No. 11: Angel Berroa

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    ROY: 2003—.287 BA 17 HR 73 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .262 8 HR 43 RBI

    Similar to Benito Santiago, Berroa's batting style isn't conducive to working the count.  He's a hacker, straight-up.  

    Berroa's average fell, and with it (or because of it) so did his slugging percentage—which fell from an okay .451 during his rookie season, to a ho-hum .385.

    His numbers aren't bad for a shortstop—in the 1970s.  And it'd be one thing if he was a slick-fielding defender, which he isn't; as he had more than 24 errors over a three year period with the Royals

No. 10: Ron Kittle

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    ROY: 1983—.254 BA 35 HR 100 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .215 32 HR 74 RBI

    Ron Kittle had a ton of natural, raw power.  He parlayed his physical gifts into a very solid rookie campaign.  

    His problem? To put it bluntly, the dude struck out way too much.

    No, not quite as often as Adam Dunn, but plenty.  He managed to whiff 150 times and walk just 39 times in 1983.

    Sure, he never struck out that many times again, but he also never hit for the same kind of power or drove in the same amount of runs.  Unfortunately for the gifted power hitter, he just couldn't stay on the field much due to injuries for the remainder of his career.  

    He retired in 1991, at the age of thirty-three.

No. 9: Bob Hamelin

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    ROY: 1994—.282 BA 24 HR 65 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .168 7 HR 25 RBI

    Bob Hamelin, aka "The Hammer," showed some serious power potential in 1994.  His 24 home runs came in just 312 at bats.  

    Hamelin had a big swing, and pitchers quickly figured it out. They found the holes, and filled them with off-speed pitches and he never adapted.

    His 114 point drop in batting average is ghastly.  The drop from his rookie year OBP of .388 to .278 tells an even more gruesome tale of woe.

No. 8: Bob Grim

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    ROY: 1954—20-6, 3.26 ERA 108 Ks 85 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 7-5, 4.19 ERA 63 Ks 42 BBs

    Winning 20 games is great achievement, no matter what era.  To do so during your rookie season is even more impressive.

    During his rookie year, Grim appeared in 37 games, and started 20 of them.  The results were pretty obvious, hey, he won 20 games.

    However, for whatever reason, Grim only started 11 games during his second season.  He pitched in 100 fewer innings, and his home run ratio more than doubled.  Clearly, that spells trouble for a pitcher who walks far too many men.

    Grim recovered nicely, though, and in 1957 he led the league in saves, with 19.  

No. 7: Don Schwall

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    ROY: 1961—15-7, 3.22 ERA 91 SOs 110 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 9-15, 4.94 ERA 89 SOs 121 BBs

    Don Schwall, you may just be the luckiest man alive.  Go ahead, take a good look at his slash line from 1961.  

    That's no typo.  He really did walk 19 more men than he struck out.  And, that clearly caught up with him during his second season.

    The secret to Schwall's success in his rookie season?  He led the league in HR/9 (home runs allowed per nine innings pitched) with 0.4.  

    Had it not been for his particular gift of inducing "Schwall Ball", his ERA would have been larger than our current national debt.  

No. 6: Pat Listach

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    ROY: 1992—.290 BA  47 RBI 54 SB

    Sophomore Slump: .244 BA 30 RBI 18 SB

    Pat Listach was a versatile defender who played shortstop, second base and centerfield during his rookie season with the Milwaukee Brewers

    Listach had some serious speed, as indicated by his 54 swiped bags in '92.  He tended to get picked off quite a bit, however, as he was caught stealing 18 times.

    Listach had the tools and skill-set to be a top of the order force, but pitchers figured him out after his first year, and he just couldn't get on base enough to use his speed.

    After all, you can't steal first base.

No. 5: Al Bumbry

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    ROY: 1973—.337 BA 11 3B .398 OBP

    Sophomore Slump: .233 3 3B .288 OBP

    Similar to the aforementioned Listach, Al Bumbry could flat-out fly.  The big thing with Bumbry was that he simply didn't walk enough, and consequently, he didn't see enough pitches.  

    The precipitous decline in his OBP from his ROY season to the next speaks volumes.  

No. 4: Stan Bahnsen

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    ROY: 1968—17-12, 2.05 ERA 162 Ks 68 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 9-16, 3.83 ERA 130 Ks 90 BBs

    First and foremost, Bahnsen had perhaps the best nickname of all time.  He was known as the "Bahnsen Burner."

    Bahnsen's pilot light flickered off after his nice rookie season, though, and the results were that American League batters lit him up.

    Okay, enough of that.  Bahnsen's sophomore slump was directly attributable to his sudden propensity for surrendering the long ball.  In 1968 he gave up just 14 over 267.1 IP.  He gave up 28 in '69 in 220.2 IP.  

    Bahnsen was a 21-game winner in 1972 while pitching with the Chicago White Sox.

No. 3: Walt Dropo

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    ROY: 1950—.322 BA 34 HR 144 RBI

    Sophomore Slump: .239 11 HR 57 RBI

    Walt Dropo, aka "Moose", had one of the finest freshmen seasons in Major League history.  Sadly, he would never come close to that type of production again over his career.  

    Undoubtedly, the big man from Moosup, Connecticut, was banged up in 1951, as he only played in 99 games.  His .239 batting average that year would be (almost) excusable had he produced some semblance of power.  

    He didn't, and he'd only hit more than 23 home runs just one more time in the final 10 seasons of his big league career.   

No. 2: Rick Sutcliffe

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    ROY: 1979—17-10, 3.46 ERA 117 Ks 97 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 3-9, 5.56 ERA 59 Ks 55 BBs

    Rick Sutcliffe would go on to have a fine Major League career.  He'd win the NL CY Young Award in 1984, the same year he won 20 games for his first (and last) time.

    He'd lead the league in wins with 18 in 1987, and appeared in three All-Star games.

    His sophomore slump season was clearly awful.  Perhaps it was just what Sutcliffe needed, though, as he clearly learned from the mistakes of that sub-par 1980 season.  

No. 1: Carl Morton

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    ROY: 1970—18-11, 3.60 ERA 154 Ks 125 BBs

    Sophomore Slump: 10-18, 4.80 ERA 84 Ks 83 BBs

    Carl Morton won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1970.  I had to write that out to try to make some sense of it.

    Morton led the league in one category during his rookie season—bases on balls.


    As we all know, a pitcher's job is to get outs.  For a pitcher to earn a major award and lead the league in bases on balls, it's like a teacher earning "instructor of the year" for having the most kids fail mathematics.

    Niether succeeded at their job on a very base level. 

    It's pretty obvious that in 1970, the voters looked only at his won/loss record and decided, what the heck, let's give him the ROY Award.  

    I'll give props to Morton though. How on earth did he put 125 men on base via the free pass and surrender 27 home runs...and still have a sub-four ERA?

    For that matter, how did Morton manage to maintain the same HR/9 ratio (0.9) during his sophomore season—and strikeout fewer, while coughing up 22 homers—and keep his ERA at sub-five?

    Carl Morton was a magic man, indeed.  

    Move over Mr. Schwall, there's a newest "luckiest man in town" and his name is Carl Morton.