Sunday, April 25, 2010
There's a reason baseball is so fun to watch. Well, there are 225,658 reasons baseball is so fun to watch, but one of my favorites is the way it can take so long for the true balance of talent to bear itself out. Albert Pujols is as good a hitter as you'll find, yet he makes outs in 53% of his plate appearances; despite that ridiculously good average, there were 15 games in 2009 in which he didn't reach base. Tim Lincecum yielded a .206 batting average to opposing hitters last year, but there were two games in which he gave up 10 hits.
The numbers of any one game or any handful of games is likely to tell you a big fat lie about how good any one player or team really is.
Some games are more accurate depictions of talent than others, but you don't really know which ones are telling you the truth until the season is over—and even then, most teams change composition over the course of the year, usually in an effort to get better, but often times due to injury, a player or team will get worse.
Statisticians can tell you the truth about any team, or at least a fair, objectively calculated, more-accurate-than-your-eyes judgment of a team's potential. But watching a game has a way of reinforcing your hopes or deepening your fears. The Cubs drop 3 of 4 to the Mets, they suck, and I knew it. The Cubs sweep the Brewers, and they are the offensive juggernaut to put an end to the juggernaut business. Their pitching is outstanding. Carlos Zambrano is in the bullpen because the Cubs have at least 8 Cy-Young-caliber pitchers.
I don't care about what's accurate. It's fun to watch the Cubs put a beating on the Brewers. It's a small sample size, but it's beautiful to behold. I might be furious, depressed, or elated when the sample reaches 162 games, but for this weekend I'm loving the lie.