At the start of the year, everyone starts with zeros.
For one day, Juan Pierre has as many home runs as Albert Pujols.
And of course, David Ortiz has as many stolen bases as Willy Taveras.
But two weeks into the season, some players break the taboos and show an unexpected surge in their game. Now this surge won't last all year, but for two weeks, everyone has the impression they can hit the long ball.
And as we know, chicks dig that.
But who is for real, and who's just having that surge in their numbers at the start of the year?
Brandon Inge is someone who's always gone on streaks in which he cannot be stopped. Aside from a really odd year in which he hit 27 home runs, Inge averages about 16 home runs a year.
But those 16 come in bunches.
2009 is the first year he's hit home runs in three consecutive games, but back in 2007 Inge had the following spans:
Seven Games: Three HR (Twice)
Six Games: Three HR
Three Games: Two HR
He didn't have an entire full season last year, but he still hit home runs in consecutive games once and also had a three-game span with two home runs.
The point is this; guys like Brandon Inge have hot streaks swinging the bat. Sometimes these streaks come early in the year, sometimes they come later.
So how do you tell who's going to keep the power and who isn't?
First let's find out who we are dealing with.
The following are a list of players who you might be surprised to see on a list for leaders in home runs or slugging percentage. I consider doubles a bit of a power stat, so I listed that with home runs, slugging percentage, and RBI to see run production.
* All players needed at least 20 at-bats and slugging percentage above .500 to be considered.
** All Statistics are going into Monday's games.
American League - HR - 2B - RBI - SLG%
1. Nick Swisher - 4 - 6 - 11 - .810
2. Ben Zobrist - 3 - 2 - 9 - .731
3. Adam Jones - 2 - 6 - 12 - .698
4. Jason Bartlett - 2 - 3 - 4 - .643
5. Brandon Inge - 4 - 2 - 11 - .619
6. Aaron Hill - 4 - 3 - 14 - .603
7. Adam Lind - 3 -4 - 12 - .593
8. Marco Scutaro - 4 - 2 - 10 - .585
National League - HR - 2B - RBI - SLG%
1. Brian Barden - 3 - 1 - 4 - .864
2. Kosuke Fukudome - 3 - 6 - 10 - .750
3. Chris Duncan - 2 - 6 - 11 - .714
4. Mike Cameron - 4 - 3 - 6 - .711
5. Orlando Hudson - 2 - 3 - 8 - .635
6. Jeremy Hermida - 3 - 1 - 8 - .600
7. Felipe Lopez - 2 - 5 - 4 - .571
8. Cody Ross - 3 - 2 - 11 - .512
After I established these 16 players, I went ahead and took it a step further.
I'm not a sabermetrician, and I didn't set out to create any new revolutionary statistic or anything.
But I did want to see how these guys measured up in all these combined categories. For that I only need some basic math.
So I added up the first three statistics, multiplied that number by the slugging percentage, and divided by at-bats.
(HR + 2B + RBI) X SLG% / At-Bats
What does this actually do?
Nothing really. In fact, it's kind of pointless. But it gives me a way to rank these people.
I’m not going to pretend I know what I’m doing here. I’m an opinion guy. Statistics sometimes make me want to dribble my head like a basketball, but it serves a purpose here.
Here is the final number for each player.
1. Nick Swisher - .405
2. Ben Zobrist - .393
3. Kosuke Fukudome - .356
4. Adam Jones -.324
5. Chris Duncan - .323
6. Brian Barden - .314
7. Brandon Inge - .250
8. Mike Cameron - .243
9. Adam Lind - .208
10. Aaron Hill - .201
11. Cody Ross - .191
12. Jeremy Hermida - .180
13. Marco Scutaro - .176
14. Orlando Hudson - .158
15. Jason Bartlett - .137
16. Felipe Lopez - .128
Sort of looks like a batting average, right? Don't think of it that way, or else you won't understand what I'm saying here.
Notice all the hitters toward the bottom are guys that usually hit near the top of the order, hitters who get a lot of at-bats?
In fact, of the bottom four, all but Bartlett have at least 49 at-bats, and Bartlett is just a weird exception because he's had games in which he's only had one or two official at-bats. He's recently been a top of the order hitter.
How do you explain Cody Ross and Jeremy Hermida?
Simple. They are just weird like Bartlett. Slugging percentage holds a part in this, and both Ross and Hermida are suffering in that department.
Remember, slugging takes into account triples and hits as well as the doubles and home runs. Ross has just 11 hits, so his number gets skewed; same with Hermida and his 12 hits.
Now notice the top few guys: Nick Swisher, Ben Zobrist, and Kosuke Fukudome.
Nick Swisher is just ungodly right now. His number is so high it suggests that it won't be like that forever.
It's like Christian Guzman hitting .500 right now. It won't happen all year. He'll still do it, but he won't do it like that all year.
It will come down.
Ben Zobrist's is a result of a small number of at-bats. Zobrist has made the most of his few chances, with five of his eight hits being for extra bases, and his slugging skyrockets considering he only has 26 at-bats.
Add in my addition of RBI and his number is higher, which suggests once he gets more at-bats, he'll come down to earth.
Fukudome is in the same realm as Nick Swisher. I'll cover him more later.
The middle grouping is more of the area of players who are a little more accurate, but a little inaccurate as well.
What do I mean by that? Let me break them down case by case.
Who's for Real?
Jones is the one rare case that I can argue will stay right at that number all year, but why?
For one reason, he doesn't have more home runs than doubles. Anyone who has more home runs than doubles at this point in the season will begin to fall in the home run category. They'll either not go over the fence or bounce for a double.
Jones' abilities are real, though, and they are growing as he gets older. His numbers from last year really aren't a good measuring stick because he's only going to get better.
He's cut out for better things than 21 doubles and nine home runs. Now, if I do my math correctly, he could be on pace for about 27 home runs. That isn't out of the question for him at some point, but I don't know if he'll do it in his second year.
But are 20 or so out of the question? No, not at all.
Verdict: For Real
I like Chris Duncan because he's one guy who's always displayed the power, so I can definitively say what he's doing is for real.
In 2007, Duncan hit 20 home runs and 20 doubles a year after hitting 20 home runs. Like I said, we know he can hit for power. Last year Duncan struggled to stay on the Major League roster.
This year he's back as a starter, and he's on a bit of a tear. Like Jones, I think Duncan's case may be real because he isn't out-homering his doubles category like other people are.
In fact, half of his hits are for two or four bases right down the middle. The other eight are all singles and one triple. That's a good balance that is very consistent.
His number is where it's at because his average and on-base stats are actually a little high. Duncan will strike out a lot by evidence of his 2007 season, and while he won't walk a ton, there will be a nice healthy gap between those numbers.
Right now it's two, and he's doing a much better job with his plate discipline, at least according to the numbers.
I think his power will continue, but I'd expect his average to come down a little.
Verdict: For Real
Ah, Chris Duncan's teammate, the young Brian Barden. He's a special case because he has a small sample size, but he just made the cut.
I said Cody Ross was goofy, but that was before I introduced you to Barden's numbers.
He has just 22 at-bats and three home runs. Which is fine, until you get down to the fact that he's only knocked in four runs. That, of course, is masked by the fact that his slugging number is higher than anyone on this list.
So Barden's numbers are kind of hard to read. This ultimately tells me we have a very small margin to judge him by and puts him in a league with Ben Zobrist.
There just isn't enough to tell what he's going to do. Barden may have the talent, but he can't possibly have an extra-base hit every 5.5 at-bats. That would have him getting a double or home run in every game, which just doesn't happen.
Verdict: Not For Real, For Now
I think I've explained Brandon Inge enough in my opening example. Inge is a nifty player, but he goes on these little power surges throughout the year. This one just happens to be a little more powerful and a little earlier.
He may be getting this label, but that isn't a bad thing. Inge will end up right where he always does.
Verdict: Not For Real, But Right On Track
Mike Cameron is right on track where he needs to be.
I put him on this list as an example. He's a legit 20-30 guy.
In fact, since 1999, Cameron has hit at least 20 home runs and 20 doubles seven times in 10 years. The times he didn't, he either only played in 70-some games or was one or two home runs short.
He's a model of consistency in terms of this type of production.
However, I brought up Cameron not just as an example, but an oddity.
Cameron has knocked in six runs despite hitting four dingers. Three of those RBI and two of those home runs, half of each stat accumulated, came in one game.
Like Inge though, Cameron probably won't end up hitting 30-something home runs. But his power is consistent, and you will get something along the lines of 20-20 from him.
Verdict: What You See Is What You Get
Adam Lind and Aaron Hill
It's so odd that they are so similar in their final number and even somewhat close in their other numbers.
Hill has been fantastic this year. After missing most of last season with a concussion, he's making up for lost time.
Hill's home run power isn't totally real.
He can hit the double, and really that's his game. In 2007 he did hit 47 doubles, along with the career-high 17 home runs, so his game is hit for a higher average and a doubles hitter.
Expect his numbers to even out, but don't be surprised if his doubles number starts rising.
Lind, on the other hand, is a young hitter coming into his own. In just 89 games in the past two years, Lind has hit a total of 20 home runs and 30 doubles.
Now that he is getting regular playing time, Lind should continue to display power, but definitely not at this pace. It does help he's getting the RBI opportunities as well.
Hill Verdict: Partially For Real
Lind Verdict: For Real
For the record, everyone that wasn't covered in the above section is basically "Not For Real"...to an extent.
I think it's rather obvious that Nick Swisher isn't going to continue hitting four home runs and six doubles every two weeks. That would put him at an insane rate of extra-base hits.
Kosuke Fukudome is an interesting case seeing as last year he got off to a hot start. He only hit one home run in the month of April (technically the last day of March), but he did hit seven doubles.
Even with the hot start though, Fukudome has already gotten nine extra base hits in the first two weeks—one more than what he did in the entire month of April last year.
Surely that won't continue, even if he doesn't drop into the struggle he did last year.
It's quite obvious that guys like Orlando Hudson gain their doubles via their speed.
Felipe Lopez's home runs both came in the first game; he's only had two more RBI since, and they both came in one game. He's a top of the order hitter that scores runs; he won't be knocking them in or hitting many more home runs.
Oh, and Jason Bartlett has a career high of five home runs, and he's never slugged above .400.
In the end, we've got some cases that are right on par with what they are going to do. No one's "power surge" lasts all year; they are either a consistent threat or they get their numbers in other ways.
Take for example, Carlos Pena, one of the better "sluggers" both this year and last year. Pena is hitting his home runs at a normal pace. His "number," if you will, is .312, which puts him in that range of the other guys who were right on pace.
Last year, his total number was .190.
Why so low?
Like I said, that was just a made-up statistic, but remember that the guys at the bottom were not abnormally high, but right where they needed to be as far as their numbers. Pena's numbers at the end of the year were right where they were supposed to be.
So really the statistic isn't totally made up.
If .190 is a good indicator of where you end up and this is all about pace, you can see that guys like Nick Swisher and Kosuke Fukudome are abnormal.
Then the Marco Scutaros of the world—it just exposes them for what they really are, top of the order or bottom of the order hitters that actually aren't even on any pace.
Jason Bartlett is going to hit five home runs a year at most. He just decided to hit two of them early this year.