Tuesday, April 10, 2012

On Pace For 432 RBIs, and Other Dreams Of the Early Season

There's something wonderfully goofy about early season baseball stats. It's the land of the small sample size, where outlandish projections are king, and you get things like ERAs of 108.00 (that's what happens when you give up 4 earned runs while recording one out) or "Omar Infante is on track to hit 81 Home Runs!" And you get these in baseball way more than you do in other sports for a couple of reasons.
One is that in any given game, you're liable to get a couple of outlier performances - even a 2-4 day extrapolates to something big. String a couple of those together and you've got a hot streak. String a couple of those together at the start of the season, when the hot streak is all there is, and suddenly it's "EVAN LONGORIA IS ON PACE TO HIT .600 THIS YEAR" and "BARRY ZITO HAS AN ERA OF 0.00!" and "HOLY CRAP, JAMES LONEY IS ON PACE TO GET NO HITS THIS SEASON" and completely ridiculous yet utterly enjoyable stuff like that.
And then there's the fact that in baseball, unlike every other sport, everyone gets a time up at bat. In football, the scrubs and second stringers don't get the chance to rack up the big numbers, especially not in the first week when everyone's presumably healthy. They don't see the field enough. But the no-hit, good-glove middle infielder (or as we like to call him around here, "Freddy Galvis"), when it's his turn in the lineup, it's his turn in the lineup. He gets his hacks, the same as the superstars do. And if one of those guys puts together a hot streak, well, Longoria may be on pace to hit .600, but the immortal Zack Cozart (You may pause to ask "who?" at this juncture) is on pace to hit .500. Perennial All-Star Miguel Cabrera may be on pace for 432 RBIs this year - yes, you read that right - and Omar Infante is on pace for 97 home runs - 90 more than he hit last year when he was on my fantasy team, not that I'm bitter - and Detroit reliever Duane Below, a guy with roughly a dozen career appearances before this year, is temporarily on track for 108 wins - a lucky 13 more than the Tigers got last year as a team.
Finally, there's the fact that the season is 162 games. That allows for a lot of extrapolating. Someone has a good performance week 1 of the NFL season, you get to multiply by 16 to come up with your ridiculous number, and thus the upper ceiling on ridiculousness is limited. Oh, and with baseball the parameters of what people "should" be doing are pretty well carved in stone. We know projecting a guy for 97 homers is insane, but how many touchdowns would be the equivalent? 70? 80? 90? It's hard to find the number that's both within the realm of possibility to project, and instantly psychically "wrong". And then there's...well, I think the point is that only baseball has the combination of factors that produces this sort of gloriously insane weirdness, and as a fan, I revel in it.
I know Miggy's not going to have 432 RBIs this year. Hell, it's going to be a good year if he gets a quarter of that. But now, for a few days, the impossible is sitting right in front of us, and that's just fine.
Post a Comment
There was an error in this gadget