Kyle Lohse pitched 7.1 innings of 2-hit, 1-run ball on Wednesday in Miami
Opening Day has come and gone, with the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals opening up the new ballpark in Miami against the Marlins. The Cardinals spoiled the grand opening of Marlins Park, defeating Miami, 4-1, behind a surprisingly strong Kyle Lohse. Lohse didn't allow a hit until the seventh inning, finishing the night giving up only one run on two hits with three strikeouts.
So, it's easy to compute some "projected statistics" based on the outcomes of the first few games, but for the most part, those projections would be drastically exaggerated and outlandish. Projecting season-long stats based off of a couple of games never works. A few weeks, maybe even a month, is the amount of data necessary to formulate logical and realistic projections.
Just look at Kyle Lohse, for example. Do any of us really expect him to be the pitcher that he was Wednesday night on a consistent basis? Absolutely not. In fact, a friend and I were joking on Thursday about how no one in our fantasy league had even bothered to add Lohse to their roster.
However, it's still fun to draw up these ridiculous projections, so why don't we? Here are the nine season-long statistical calculations—all based off of a game or two—that would only happen in a baseball player's wildest daydreams.
Last year's batting champion, Jose Reyes
Batting average is essentially meaningless for the first few weeks of the season. Players will be hitting in the .400s, .500s, .800s and .100s. After the first game for each team, everyone on the team will either be batting .000, .250, .333, .500, .667, .750 or 1.000; that's essentially a guarantee.
So, if a player goes 2-for-4 on Opening Day, statistical analysis would project that player to hit .500 on the season, while also shattering Ichiro Suzuki's single-season hits record. Is it realistic to expect a player to post multi-hit games every day? Absolutely not; otherwise, Joe DiMaggio's hit streak record would have been broken a long time ago.
Still, we all love to see that one of our favorite players is hitting a perfect 1.000, even if it is only for a day or so.
Curtis Granderson crossed home plate more than anyone else in 2011
Runs are an often-overlooked statistic, as they are usually dependent on the rest of a team's lineup. After all, apart from stealing bases and hitting home runs, players have absolutely no control over moving themselves along the basepaths. Most of the players atop the league leaders in runs are also among the league leaders in home runs or stolen bases, further proving my point.
Curtis Granderson last year scored a major league-leading 119 runs last season, and he can attribute that to his high stolen base and home run totals, coupled with the relentless Yankees offense.
So, how many runs would a player who scores just one time on Opening Day be projected to score over the course of an entire season? One-hundred-and-sixty-two, one per game and exactly 42 more than last year's leader.
If someone was to score twice? Well, let's just say I don't think it would be in a player's best interest to round the bases 324 times in one season, no matter how much it might help his team.
Verlander won 24 games in 2011, the most since 1990
Every game on Opening Day will have a winning pitcher; that's just the way the sport works. There are no ties in baseball, so every game credits one pitcher with the win and saddles another with the loss. So what can we expect from the staff ace that goes six or seven innings and earns the win on Opening Day?
Well, as far as statistical projections go, he is now projected to go 34-0 and throw between 206-238 innings. I don't care what the ERA is; if you go 34-0, you win the Cy Young and the MVP, which we can now refer to as "pulling a Verlander."
What are the odds of a pitcher going 34-0, winning every one of their starts? Just about nonexistent, seeing as no one has ever done it in major league history. And we haven't even touched upon the relief pitcher that goes one inning and earns the win. How many wins does he project to post in 2012, 50?
Matt Kemp led baseball with 126 RBI in 2011
RBI is another statistic that is heavily impacted by a player's team. Based on how good a hitter is, his position in a lineup will also play a large role in his production numbers, mainly his RBI totals. So for a player like, say, Robinson Cano of the Yankees, 100 RBI is expected, while 130 is not outside the realm of possibilities in 2011. Batting third, in front of A-Rod and behind Curtis Granderson, Cano will have more than his fair share of run-producing opportunities.
However, on Opening Day, anyone can drive in one of those first few runs, whether they bat leadoff, cleanup or ninth. So if the No. 9 hitter drives in two on the first game of the season, does that mean they are going to drive in 324 over the course of the season (two per game)? Absolutely not; no one in the history of baseball has even come close to that mark. A stereotypical nine-hole hitter usually only drives in between 30 and 50 runs, as they usually record the fewest number of at-bats and get the least amount of opportunities to produce.
Just another reason that you can't project stats based on early-season performances.
Drew Stubbs struck out 205 times in 2011, the most in the bigs
Now this isn't a statistic that anyone wants to lead the league in. In fact, if someone could avoid recording even one strikeout over the course of the year, it would be a season to remember. So if Mark Reynolds strikes out once on Opening Day, does that mean he's going to strike out 162 times this year? No, he'll probably strike out north of 200 times...maybe that was a bad example.
Let me try to word it a little more positively. If a player doesn't strike out on Opening Day, theoretically, he's on pace for zero whiffs in 2012, but we all know that's just plain unrealistic. Everyone strikes out, no one's perfect; that's baseball.
Justin Verlander led MLB with 250 punch-outs in 2011
Unlike the previous slide, every pitcher wants to lead the league in this category. Strikeouts are obviously the best way to record an out, as it puts everything into the pitcher's hands, literally leaving no room for errors. Strikeout totals are usually viewed as the main factor when determining how dominant a pitcher is. If you can't even put the ball in play when facing the guy, he's obviously overpowering you.
So, what if a pitcher strikes out 10 batters in an Opening Day gem? Does that mean he's going to strike out 10 per start en route to 330-340 K's? Probably not; not unless he's the next coming of Nolan Ryan or Randy Johnson.
Same point applies for a pitcher that fails to punch out a batter in his first start of the year. It's unlikely that he won't record any strikeouts on the year, seeing as sometimes, the batters tend to strike themselves out with an all-or-nothing approach.
Michael Bourn has led the NL in stolen bases three years in a row, and led all of baseball in steals in 2011
As with the other stats on this list, stealing one base on Opening Day would put that player in line to steal one per game played, or 162. However, not even "the greatest of all-time" himself, the one and only Rickey Henderson, ever stole that many bases, peaking at the single-season record on 130.
It's fairly unlikely that anyone in baseball today will steal many more than 70 bases in 2012, not unless Michael Bourn or Brett Gardner can finally bump their batting average up past .300 or their OBP past .400. Other than Jacoby Ellsbury, who has decided to instead pursue a career in power hitting, those are the only two active players I can even imagine stealing more than 100 bases, and that would still be far fewer than any of those exaggerated Opening Day projections.
Clayton Kershaw posted the lowest ERA in baseball last year with a 2.28 mark
Earned run average is the golden standard by which the ability of any pitcher is judged. An ERA in the 4.00 range is average, one in the 3.00 range is pretty good, anything below is elite and anything 5.00 and above is not something to be proud of. The funny thing about Opening Day, though, is that a pitcher could finish the day with an ERA of 0.00 or with an ERA of infinity (giving up at least one run without recording an out).
It's extremely unlikely that anyone ends their season with the same ERA that they end their Opening Day with. There are just too many odd variables involved, such as the number of innings pitched and the number of runs allowed. So when a pitcher fires seven shutout innings on Opening Day, we have to all be realistic and understand that they aren't going to do that every time they take the mound. Different teams, weather, injuries, personal issues and about a hundred other factors play into how well a pitcher performs on any given day; there's no exact science.
Jose Bautista has led baseball in home runs the last two years
Jose Bautista has established himself as one of the most surprising home run hitters of all-time in just two short years. However, not even he could find a way to live up to the lofty projections that would be calculated were he to hit a home run on Opening Day. As with most of the other statistics discussed in this article, hitting one home run in game one of the 2012 season would lead to a projected 162 home runs on the year.
Not even the biggest juicers in baseball history came halfway to that number, with Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds only managing 70 and 73 home runs, respectively. So in a steroid-free era, you can bet your life that no one is going to be breaking the single-season home run record anytime soon, much less shattering it. If anyone was actually able to hit a home run per game, it would take them less than FIVE seasons to break the all-time home run record, and that would be just plain ridiculous.