Smells Like Pujols is an ongoing feature that will run throughout the MLB season. In it, I compare the stats of this year’s crop of rookie hitting phenoms against those of Albert Pujols’ ROY season in 2001. I am using (technically mis-using) Bill James’ Similarity Scores concept to keep track of the progress of our hopefuls. The leader board on the right side of the page will show the current scores of each participant throughout the week. Cooper Brannan is a minor-league pitcher with the Padres, who has bested Albert Pujols in only one category: he earned 300 citizenship points for being wounded in Iraq, while Mr. P. earned a mere 100 points on his written exam. If you want to see pitchers ranked in a serious manner, check out GoodEnough for Me, Mr. Thursday’s companion piece to SLP.
I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but I am not good with numbers. Wise-ass feature titles? I’m your guy. But when I choose to back my jokes up with calculations, I am on shaky ground. I have mightily bastardized Bill James’ Similarity Scores concept for this piece, and the numbers at right in the SLP leader board show just how wrong it can be.
Obviously, Jeff Baker of the Rockies is not currently twice the man that Albert Pujols was in 2001. His score is skewed to ridiculous levels by the tiny sample of his work that is currently available to us. Having knocked the ball into play and reached base safely on each of his three pinch-hitting trips to the plate, he owns a gaudy 1.000 batting average. Having smacked a double and a home run in those trips, he shows a preposterous 2.333 slugging number. Now, if we could reasonably predict that Mr. Baker would continue his current offensive efficiency, he would, in fact, be a double-Pujols. But it is much more likely that his current stats will decline to merely human, even rookie-like levels, and he will fall into line.
The most surprising number so far is the score of Alex Gordon. The Royals’ third baseman languishes below the completely arbitrary patriotic number awarded to former Marine corporal Cooper Brannan, who survived the loss of two fingers in combat and is currently learning to pitch in the Padres minor-league system. Mr. Gordon is expected to do much better, but his current failure to get on base, period, has cost him mightily in the standings. Take a walk, Mr. Gordon! Bunt! Give us a reason to believe!
I say in the intro that I am mis-using Mr. James’ formula. This is true. It was never meant to be a measurement of relative ability, but rather a measure of similarity. As such, a full season’s stats should technically be used, and neither player should be used as a stationary control stat. Still, I believe that by the end of the season, we will see which of the rookies is most similar to Phat Albert. But in the meantime, we will enjoy temporarily inflated scores that will amuse us. Or at least me, and that’s what blogging is all about, after all.
We’ll look at these numbers in full next week sometime, when more realistic numbers begin to take hold.