What does the essence of average look like?

To be fair to Garrett Atkins he was well below-average when this picture was taken - J. Meric

We often reflect on the best seasons in baseball history, but what about the most average?

When it comes to baseball, there are many ways to excel. As the famous, but surprisingly macabre, saying goes "there's more than one way to skin a cat", and in the same vein there is more than one way to make an impact in this game. Absolute mashers who are unable to field their position, like Chris Davis, can be superstars and less flashy hitters who excel in the field, like Manny Machado, can be similarly valuable in an entirely different fashion.

The great Mike Trout-Miguel Cabrera debate has really brought this idea into focus as sabermetrically-inclined individuals have attempted to prove that Trout's all-around game is more valuable than Cabrera's pure slugging. The bottom line is that value is all that really matters, so it doesn't really matter how you get it. Andrelton Simmons is a borderline superstar on the strength of his glove alone regardless of the fact that he wields an unremarkable bat.

With this idea in mind I thought I would look at what kind of diverse ways there are to not be the best, since being the best is boring and played out at this point, but being the most average.

When we first learn about WAR - ideally at a young age if we have good parents - we are told that a WAR total of two is indicative of a league-average starter. As a result it stands to reason that the most average seasons are those where players with full time at-bats produce exactly 2.0 WAR. Looking at the last 10 years I found 26 such seasons and decided to present them to you in the form of a gargantuan chart. Said chart looks like this:

Player Year AVG OBP SLG wRC+ UZR DRS BsR
Carlos Beltran 2013 .296 .339 .491 132 -15.3 -6 0.8
Michael Bourn 2013 .263 .316 .360 91 -0.5 3 3.9
Paul Konerko 2012 .298 .371 .486 132 -4.9 -11 -6.2
Jamey Carroll 2012 .268 .343 .317 87 8.6 14 -2.1
Marco Scutaro 2012 .306 .348 .405 99 -5.0 -10 0.3
James Loney 2011 .288 .339 .416 110 4.0 11 0.1
Coco Crisp 2011 .264 .314 .379 92 -4.9 1 8.7
Kurt Suzuki 2011 .237 .301 .385 90 N/A -1 -2.7
Cody Ross 2010 .269 .322 .413 96 4.1 5 1.7
Elvis Andrus 2010 .265 .342 .301 75 1.5 -7 8.0
Adam LaRoche 2009 .277 .355 .488 119 -1.2 -2 -2.9
Alberto Callaspo 2009 .300 .356 .457 111 -4.1 -14 -1.5
Stephen Drew 2009 .261 .320 .428 87 2.6 9 1.6
Nick Markakis 2009 .293 .347 .453 107 -6.0 -3 3.0
Scott Podsednik 2009 .304 .353 .412 99 0.0 1 4.7
Bengie Molina 2008 .292 .322 .445 96 NA 3 -7.0
Garrett Atkins 2007 .301 .367 .486 112 -13.6 -26 -1.3
Jose Guillen 2007 .290 .353 .460 117 -6.0 -3 -3.5
Alex Gordon 2007 .247 .314 .411 87 8.3 6 1.0
Lyle Overbay 2006 .312 .372 .508 124 -5.7 4 -3.7
A.J. Pierzynski 2006 .295 .333 .436 93 NA -3 -0.8
Nick Swisher 2005 .236 .322 .446 105 6.2 4 -0.7
Gregg Zaun 2005 .251 .355 .373 96 NA 13 -0.9
Raul Ibanez 2005 .280 .355 .436 115 0.1 6 -1.2
Garrett Atkins 2005 .287 .347 .426 94 5.4 7 -1.4
Paul Konerko 2004 .277 .359 .535 127 -7.0 -7 -4.6
Average 2004-2013 .279 .341 .429 104 -1.4 -0.3 -2.6

There is a lot to process there so I'm going to give you a minute...

Good?

Good. So looking at the most average seasons of the last ten years what is there to learn? The key here is to pay attention to the average average season.

It is apparent that more often than not the 2.0 WAR season comes from players who can hit a little bit, but aren't great fielders or don't play premium positions. Ten of the 26 seasons listed include wRC+ numbers of 110 or above, yet only five are below 90. There are a few glove wizards listed, who couldn't hit much, but they are few and far between. The average average player is also pretty slow, as evident by the -2.6 BsR, but Paul Konerko's presence on the list twice is enough to skew that a bit.

An interesting side note is the appearance of Garrett Atkins twice on this list in a three year span. In 2005 Atkins has strong fielding numbers and sub-par production with the bat, but in 2007 he puts up a 112 wRC+ and is an absolutely terrible fielder. Baseball can be a funny game sometimes.

Defensive numbers can also be a bit wonky from time to time as well, so perhaps it's unfair to credit the sport itself for this delightful and whimsical quirk when it might be nothing more than a statistical glitch. Who says that sabermetrics takes the fun out of baseball?

Ultimately, there isn't anything ground-breaking here and the sample is too small to make really bold claims. The most average seasons of the past ten years have been a little bit more bat than glove heavy, but not by a significant degree. This article is destined to fall under the category of "cool sortable chart sandwiched by replacement-level words" but sometimes that's just the way it goes.

If you were expecting a piece about the average of the average seasons by a collection of fairly average players to be anything more or less than average, clearly your expectations were unreasonable.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.

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