They Did What? Searching for the Typical 90s 1B Season by Kenneth Morgan

We wanted to figure out just how well the typical first baseman hit in the 90s so we asked our resident statistician Kenneth Morgan to help us do that. He came up with the typical 90s 1B season, and then he figured out which individual player seasons of the decade were most closely aligned with that one. (Later this week, we’ll reveal which player, using an original formula developed just for P&P, is the most typical 1B of the 90s.)

Close to 200 different men could say that they played first base in the 1990s. These men ranged from greenhorns like Stephen Larkin and Terry Francona, to mainstays like Mark Grace and Rafael Palmeiro. In an attempt to determine which player had a seasonal statistical line that epitomized a 1990s first baseman, we will have to dive head first into the depths of the record books.

After much deliberation, and with the assistance from Eric and Ted, ten categories were determined to be the most relevant in characterizing a 1990s first baseman. These categories are listed in the chart below. Additional thoughts behind the selections, as well as the various weightings I used, will be revealed in part two of this exploration later this week.

To narrow our pool to only the steadiest of 90s first basemen, I decided on using 3000 plate appearances as the minimum for eligibility. To determine a typical statistical line for a single season from the group, I took averages from the 10 relevant categories — assuming that a full season consisted of 600 plate appearances and 150 games. The row marked “Typical”, highlighted in dark blue, shows this average statistical line.

Next, I wanted to find who, from our group, had a year in the 1990s that most closely mirrored the average “Typical” line you see near the top. I sifted through the player pages from a group of 17 first basemen and found the yearly lines that were close to our benchmark in at least 4-5 categories. These seasons were then compared to the “Typical” season and ranked based on overall deviation percentage from the mean.

Here are your award winners:

Gold Medal = Mo Vaughn, 1993
Silver Medal = Andres Galarraga, 1995
Bronze Medal = Jeff Bagwell, 1995

I was pretty shocked to see three sluggers at the top of this list. Part of the reason for this was that 1995 was a strike shortened year, constricting the amount of at-bats each of them had that season. Before I started I assumed that this exercise would spit out the likes of a Wally Joyner season, or perhaps a Mark Grace campaign.

What did we learn from this fun experiment?

If you could only watch one year’s worth of games to taste the flavor of a 1990′s first baseman, you’d better choose Mo Vaughn’s 1993 season.

In part two, we will we will find out who the most 1990’s first baseman was for the entire decade!

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