The 1998 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records
Next up in my series looking at various Major-League seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records: the 1998 season.
The 1998 season featured saw two new teams, a team switch leagues for the first time in the 20th century, and a team set the American League record (since broken) for regular-season wins as well as the major-league record (still held) for combined regular-season and postseason wins.
And, of course, 1998 was the season of the Great Home Run Chase that Saved Baseball, between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
The Best of 1998
I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.
The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.
In terms of individual player seasons, 1998 is, of course, best remembered for Mark McGwire's 70 home runs and Sammy Sosa's 66 home runs.
So, of course, the top 10 lists above are topped by two starting pitchers and two slap-hitting middle infielders.
Neither of the two MVP winners in 1998 appear on any of the lists above. Here's how Juan Gonzalez's and Sammy Sosa's 1998 seasons look in terms of Player won-lost records.
The 1998 postseason was dominated by the New York Yankees. Not surprisingly, then, Yankees players dominate the postseason leaderboards.
Top postseason players by round were as follows.
Best of 1998 by Factor and Position
Next, let's look at the top players in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over Positional Average in various aspects of the game.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 1998 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Mark McGwire's 1998 season is the most net batting wins in a season by any player other than Barry Bonds (for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records).
Positional Average excludes pitcher offense
Kevin Brown's 1998 season was truly outstanding, ranking among the top 10 pitching seasons (as measured by net wins) for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.
Andruw Jones's 1998 season ranks among the top 10 seasons for net fielding wins by a center fielder for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.
Best by Position
Next, we look at 1998 Major-League leaders in eWOPA by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position, and include no contextual adjustments (expected or actual).
For relief pitchers, context-neutral records may not be the best measure of how good they are, as context can matter a great deal, depending on how a pitcher is used. Here are the top relief pitchers of 1998 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.
The top player on all of the above position-leader tables is either already in the Hall of Merit or will be almost as soon as they become eligible. That's actually pretty rare for a season: no one-year wonders here.
Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.
Finally, the 1998 season was the final season for two Hall-of-Famers: Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley. Their career Player won-lost records are shown in the final table here.
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All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.
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