2,000 Years of Willie Mays
1955. Ah, to have been young and a champion


'twas an article that Bill James wrote, back in the early days, like 1985 I think it was.  He ran a billion computer sims of old-timey HOF'ers.  His interest was, "What are the outer bounds of what could be possible, given random chance?"  So he'd run a season's worth of Mays performance, and run another one .... you know, in season #247 there would be a 7-hit game.  In season #512 there would be a 201-RBI performance.  Or whatever.

It would be a long, long time -- a lot of seasons -- in between truly shocking computer performances.  But when they occurred they would be completely ridiculous.  As I recall, George Brett ... scratch that, no, it was Wade Boggs ... hit like .445 in one of James' simulated baseball seasons.  Meaning, somebody COULD hit .445 in real life.  It's possible.  I bet you Ichiro WOULD have hit .400 in some season or other, if he'd played twenty years in Fenway Park.  Maybe he'd have had a .425 season and established the record.  Hey, everybody thought Ruth's 60 homers were safe.

Those "outlier" seasons sounded crazy at the time.  A few years later, real players had 70-homer seasons.  On the actual green grass of National League parks.

There was a punch line to the whole thing:  One of his virtual players ran 2,000 seasons, and then the guy's batting average turned out to be a fairly long distance below what he had programmed it to be.  Bill finished wryly, "They say that the breaks even out.  But even in two thousand years, they might not.  Ain't that somethin'?"


Jack Zduriencik said, as was noted on the site earlier, 

"The first game in San Francisco (on Monday) he hit five balls on the nose – he had two hits. He had five line drives. We do our metrics – Robinson Cano is hitting the baseball harder than he did a year ago. The velocity of the ball coming off the bat has increased from what it was a year ago, when he was pretty good. Some of it unfortunately is bad luck. Some of it is Robinson Cano maybe at times expanding the strike zone, trying to do too much.

"Eventually he'll get back to who he is ... He's going through a stretch right now which he doesn't want to be in and we don't want him in, but you've gotta play through it."

"It's disappointing. I'd be foolish to say it isn't," Zduriencik said of the Mariners' performance up to this point. "I think all the expectations and our level of performance should be better … It's a little mystifying – I mean, that's a good word to use. On paper we're a better club than what we are, what we're playing, and we should be better than this."


In this specific case, Dr. D has nothing to add.  Zduriencik is in the role of community-college teacher here, and Dr. D is in the role of an adult student who has a sudden need to take a genetics class.  I think in this case, you've just got to put a lot of Cano's (and the Mariners') bad season down to bad luck.

If you ran 2,000 years of Robinson Cano, in one of those seasons he would hit .212.  Just by bad luck.

There is optimism embedded in that idea, reasonable optimism.  The fact that the dice just landed box cars three straight times, that doesn't increase their chances of doing it next time.  I think that on SSI, we have talked too little about bad luck.  Us being sabermetricians, you would think we'd be more cool-headed about luck factors.  

;- )





But there are real mechanical issues too, with Cano.  They're working on tweaking his front foot at the plate because it's slowing him down getting to high and inside pitches just enough to cause him to pop them up or hit deep fly outs instead of homers and doubles.  Still...there's no way Cano deserves to hit .245.  There's a reason I keep asking in the shout box "why does the Lord hate this team so much, to put them in the luck hole every single flippin' year it seems?"  Of course, you know and I know that I don't think God has a grudge against the Mariners, but that is how it feels this year in particular.


I'd always wondered about velocity off the bat when watching Edgar hit.  It never *seemed* to me like he was hitting the ball HARDER than the other cleanup hitters -- if anything, the opposite seemed true.  His home runs were *never* 500 foot jobs, and he *never* ripped screaming rockets into the seats that failed to get higher than ~30 feet in the air like Giambi, Bonds, Thome, Thomas, Man-Ram used to do.

All of Edgar's shots were artistic, though, in ways I never saw replicated.  There was no brutality to his approach; he was a surgeon slicing shots neatly at the gaps or flicking them over the right field wall with ten or twenty feet to spare.  I know it sounds stupid, and is probably disprovable somehow, but I *always* felt that Edgar was using FAR more finesse and precision than his contemporaries, who relied more on brute strength (McGwire, Thomas, Giambi, Bagwell) or butter-smooth mechanics and incomparable batspeed (Griffey, A-Rod, Palmeiro, Pujols).

The only guy I saw whose approach looked like it might have been in the same blueprint was Bonds, but Bonds' results were wildly different.  Whereas Edgar (seemingly) hit to the situation, lifting deep fly balls for sac flies far more often than other hitters seemed capable of doing, or poking ground balls to the right side when a single base was all we needed, Bonds' eye was so ridiculously good that he could pounce on ALL pullable pitches with ruthless efficiency -- and then he *looked* like a brute because everything was a 450 foot shot down the right field line (you know what I mean...).

So the idea that Robbie's batspeed/velo is fine doesn't do a *lot* to improve my outlook on his season; it seems to me that it's a good start, but if it was possible (as Edgar seemed to demonstrate that it was) I'd prefer my hitters slice the situation and opponent apart with a scalpel than they try bludgeoning their way through every brick wall with a sledgehammer.

Still, it's cool to see JackZ give a public endorsement of the most struggling player on the squad.

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