Best Final Season

BaseballJones

ivanvamp
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Oct 1, 2015
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Looking at Big Papi's career (inspired by comments made in another thread), I'm amazed at his final season numbers at age 40.

.315/.401/.620/1.021, 164 ops+, 48 2b, 38 hr, 127 rbi

Pretty amazing finish to his career. Got me thinking...what are some other phenomenal final seasons in MLB history? First category: final season of their career, regardless of what team it was for, and second category: final season retiring with the Red Sox. I'm not interested in a final season for Boston before signing or being traded somewhere else. Papi fits both categories.

Ted Williams (1960): .316/.451/.645/1.096, 190 ops+, 29 hr, 72 rbi - he fits in both categories

Barry Bonds (2007): .276/.480/.565/1.045, 169 ops+, 28 hr, 66 rbi - he fits the first category

Sandy Koufax (1966): 27-9, 1.73 era, 317 k, 0.99 whip, 8.8 k/9 - he fits the first category

Who else comes to mind?
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Career tragically cut short category:

Roberto Clemente (1972): .312/.356/.479/.835, 138 OPS+, 10 HR, 60 RBI in 102 games. Won Gold Glove.

Kirby Puckett (1995): .314/.379/.515/.894, 130 OPS+, 39 2B, 23 HR, 99 RBI

Jose Fernandez (2016): 16-8, 2.86 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 12.5 K/9, 1.12 WHIP
 

Mooch

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Mo Rivera's final season was pretty good at age 43:

6-2, 2.11 era, 1.05 whip, 44 saves. 7.6 k/9, 6.0 k/bb
 

Mooch

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Shoeless Joe in 1920:

.382/.444/.589, 172 OPS+, 42 doubles, 20 triples (led league), 105 runs, 121 RBI.
 

HurstSoGood

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Tony Gwynn didn't have the power numbers, but he was still a great hitter right thru his last season. Batted over .320 into his 40's on his way to Cooperstown.
 

Humphrey

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Aug 3, 2010
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Looking at Big Papi's career (inspired by comments made in another thread), I'm amazed at his final season numbers at age 40.

.315/.401/.620/1.021, 164 ops+, 48 2b, 38 hr, 127 rbi

Pretty amazing finish to his career. Got me thinking...what are some other phenomenal final seasons in MLB history? First category: final season of their career, regardless of what team it was for, and second category: final season retiring with the Red Sox. I'm not interested in a final season for Boston before signing or being traded somewhere else. Papi fits both categories.

Ted Williams (1960): .316/.451/.645/1.096, 190 ops+, 29 hr, 72 rbi - he fits in both categories

Barry Bonds (2007): .276/.480/.565/1.045, 169 ops+, 28 hr, 66 rbi - he fits the first category

Sandy Koufax (1966): 27-9, 1.73 era, 317 k, 0.99 whip, 8.8 k/9 - he fits the first category

Who else comes to mind?
Gotta go with Koufax- the Dodgers were 8th in runs scored out of 10 teams and finished first by a game and a half. They don't do that without Koufax, even though they had Drysdale and the rest of their staff was pretty solid.

No disrespect to Ted or Bonds, but neither had any pressure on them in terms of how their team was doing (contention and Red Sox were mutually exclusive from around when Ted got back from Korea and 1967; the 2007 Giants finished last).
 

mwonow

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Those Koufax numbers are mind blowing.

And Ted in LF, just ahead of Bonds, last year and career, both.
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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Not as good as Shoeless Joe, but Happy Felsch had really developed into a star during his final season before the Black Sox were banned: .338/.384/.540 with 300 total bases and 115 rbi, playing most of the season at age 28.

19th Century:
Dave Orr was a .342 lifetime hitter who enjoyed the excesses of life. His weight yo-yo'd throughout his career between 250-265 lbs. His final season came in the 1890 Players League, so his .371/.414/.534 line with 123 rbi deserves somewhat of a skeptical eye (to put it in context, that was *only* a 146 OPS+), but he had been a star hitter throughout his career. He suffered a stroke with partial paralysis shortly after the season ended which forced his retirement at age 30.

Charlie Ferguson pitched to a record of 22-10 and a 3.00 ERA (141 ERA+) in his final year of 1887 with the NL Philadelphia Quakers. He was a workhorse who had piled up 99 career victories and hadn't yet turned 25. He died of typhoid fever the following spring.
 

Sam Ray Not

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I checked out Bob Gibson for fun ... only to learn/remember that he pitched as late as 1975 and was basically the anti-Koufax that season: 101 innings, 3-10, 5.04 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, with more walks (62) than strikeouts (60). Woof! Father Time is a mofo.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

Red-headed Skrub child
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Career tragically cut short category:

Roberto Clemente (1972): .312/.356/.479/.835, 138 OPS+, 10 HR, 60 RBI in 102 games. Won Gold Glove.

Kirby Puckett (1995): .314/.379/.515/.894, 130 OPS+, 39 2B, 23 HR, 99 RBI

Jose Fernandez (2016): 16-8, 2.86 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 12.5 K/9, 1.12 WHIP
Ray Chapman was hitting .303/.380/.803 and played great defense at shortstop when he was hit by a gray ball thrown by Carl Mays hit him the head during a game. He died 12 hours later.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Chapman#Death
I'll add J.R. Richard into this club. 1.90 ERA, ERA + 174, 1.94 FIP and 9.4 K/9 in 1980, the year he had his stroke. His last full year he had 2.71 ERA+ of 130, 2.21 FIP and 9.9 K/9 (with 313 Ks).
 

Brand Name

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Christopher Lipitt’s Mills
I see all your Shoeless Joe Jackson’s and I raise you a different player banned for gambling against his team: Jim Devlin.

In 1887, to end his career: 61 starts, 61 complete games which was all of the starts for the Louisville Grays, going 35-25 with an offense that averaged 5.6 runs a game, 4th (of 7) in the NL. The one game difference is a 1-1 tie Devlin also pitched against the Hartfords of Brooklyn on August 23rd. Nobody has pitched all the innings for one team before or since.

Infamous for his drop (sinker) pitch, he recorded a FIP of 2.65, with a league leading 146 ERA+. While a 2.27 K/9 might not sound like much of regular pitchers of the era, I think only wonderkid Tommy Bond was better. WAR in all its forms is immensely flawed but if that’s your jam, he had the highest of anyone by bWAR in their final season at 13.2. While not as prodigious as his 1875, he certainly wasn’t a terrible hitter either, even hit a home run in 1877, slashing .269/.287/.325, good for an 81 OPS+. The OPS+ mark was second among pitchers that season, to Terry Larkin’s 83.

So what’s the story behind his ban? Well, his Grays were up four games going into August 14th that year. They had an awful go of it on a road trip, marked by awful pitching, ‘boneheaded’ plays, with a 0-9-1 stretch, after being 27-13 to begin the year.

Eventually, despite a 6-1 finish to the season, they finished behind the Boston Red Caps, where Boston won 20 of 21 to end the season. Many Grays players were seen with items of luxury—jewelry and pricey restaurants. You add that to the number of telegrams Al Nichols got, so much so that confirmed his work with gamblers? You’ve got a case where there was in fact fire to that smoke.

It’s not like Devlin was innocent, should be said. According to The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals (Ginsberg, 2004) Devlin got up to $100 a day from collaboration with his gamblers. According to Lee Allen’s 1950 text 100 Years of Baseball: The Intimate and Dramatic Story of Modern Baseball from the Game's Beginnings Up to the Present Day (page 46), Devlin made $2,000 in the 1877 season, so it’s not unreasonable to believe he likely got at least a 50% bonus in salary from throwing games.

The legend truly goes deeper for Devlin’s soul though, and his burning passion to play the game: Supposedly he begged on his knees, both metaphorically and literally to National League president William Hulbert.

In response, Hulbert gave Devlin a $50 bill (~$1,250 adjusted for inflation) and told him:

"This (bill) is what I think of you personally, Jim. But, damn you, you have thrown a game, you are dishonest, and this National League will not stand for it!"

And thus the Grays franchise folded after that season too. Devlin supposedly applied (and subsequently denied) for reinstatement every year for the rest of his life. It wouldn’t be a long one, as he died in 1883 as a poor man from tuberculosis, following a brief career as a Philadelphia based police officer.
 

ledsox

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I checked out Bob Gibson for fun ... only to learn/remember that he pitched as late as 1975 and was basically the anti-Koufax that season: 101 innings, 3-10, 5.04 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, with more walks (62) than strikeouts (60). Woof! Father Time is a mofo.
To cap off that last season, Gibson pitched 1 inning in relief in his final game and gave up 5 runs including a grand slam. That’s a tough exit.
 

Was (Not Wasdin)

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Career tragically cut short category:

Roberto Clemente (1972): .312/.356/.479/.835, 138 OPS+, 10 HR, 60 RBI in 102 games. Won Gold Glove.

Kirby Puckett (1995): .314/.379/.515/.894, 130 OPS+, 39 2B, 23 HR, 99 RBI

Jose Fernandez (2016): 16-8, 2.86 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 12.5 K/9, 1.12 WHIP
Clemente also recorded his 3000th career hit in his final regular season at bat.