Alex Gordon's Unprecedented 2011 Breakout Season

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Alex Gordon #4 of the Kansas City Royals breaks his bat as he hits a RBI single in the fourth inning during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on September 17, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

Going into the 2011 season, not a lot was expect from Alex Gordon. Some crazy fans even suggested that the best course of action may be trading him to another team. We all know what happened. Alex Gordon put up one of the greatest seasons statistically ever as a Royal. The breakout was nearly unprecedented.

To find out how often players have this level of breakout, I wanted to collect players who were similar in age and production. To get the numbers, I used historic Marcel projections. While Marcels may not be the most robust projection system, they are available to back to 1901. Marcels only looks at offensive numbers, so no defensive numbers were involved. I selected players which were similar to Alex in Age, OPS and Reliability (how much of Alex's stats are regressed to league average - basically how may PAs of data are used for the projection). Here are Alex's 2008, 2009, 2010 stats and his projection for 2011:

Year Age PA BA OBP SLG OPS
2008 24 571 0.260 0.351 0.432 0.783
2009 25 189 0.232 0.324 0.378 0.703
2010 26 281 0.215 0.315 0.355 0.671
2011 Projection
359 0.243 0.331 0.396 0.727

While he had a decent 2008, his last two seasons, which are weighted more, were not as good.

Then I found all players since 1980 who had the same projected OPS (+/- 0.010), Age (+/- 1 year) and reliability (+/- 0.05). 140 players made the list. Alex had the forth highest OPS. He had the highest OPS for those players with over 600 ABs. Here is a list of the top 12 players with over 400 ABs:

First Name Last Name Age Year AB OPS
Mo Vaughn 26 1993 539 0.915
Alex Gordon 27 2011 611 0.879
Mark Ellis 28 2005 434 0.861
Joe Carter 26 1986 663 0.849
Michael Barrett 28 2004 456 0.826
Mike Cameron 26 1999 542 0.825
Randy Winn 28 2002 607 0.821
Chris Sabo 28 1990 567 0.820
Luis Gonzalez 26 1993 540 0.818
Terry Kennedy 26 1982 562 0.814
Von Hayes 26 1984 561 0.806
Bo Jackson 27 1989 515 0.805

The list is full of some decent players, but not many Hall of Famers or near Hall of Famers. Now here is a look at how the players performed in the season after the breakout season.

First Name Last Name Year OPS AB OPS Difference
Alex Gordon 2011 0.879 2012 ? ?
Mark Ellis 2005 0.861 2006 0.704 -0.157
Von Hayes 1984 0.806 1985 0.731 -0.075
Joe Carter 1986 0.849 1987 0.784 -0.065
Randy Winn 2002 0.821 2003 0.771 -0.050
Terry Kennedy 1982 0.814 1983 0.776 -0.038
Luis Gonzalez 1993 0.818 1994 0.782 -0.036
Mike Cameron 1999 0.825 2000 0.803 -0.022
Michael Barrett 2004 0.826 2005 0.824 -0.002
Chris Sabo 1990 0.820 1991 0.859 0.040
Bo Jackson 1989 0.805 1990 0.866 0.061
Mo Vaughn 1993 0.915 1994 0.984 0.069





AVG= -0.025

8 of the 11 players saw their production decrease with the average decrease being a 0.025. The historic drop is not that bad. I expected some level of regression in 2012 after Alex posted a 0.358 BABIP last season, but it may be horrible.

Alex Gordon had an unprecedented breakout season in 2011. While people should expect some level of regression in 2012, historically the drop in production has been limited.

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