10 Ridiculous MLB Stat Projections After the Season's First Week
If baseball were a video game that you could set to the easiest of skill levels, unbelievable statistics would become commonplace.
Seemingly unbreakable single-season records, like Hack Wilson's 191 RBI in 1930 or Nolan Ryan's modern-day record of 383 strikeouts in 1973, would quickly slide down the leaderboards of baseball history.
Looking at the pace that a player is on after the first few games of the season is a lot like a video game: It's tons of fun, but pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
That doesn't mean that we should stop playing video games (though some of us should cut back and get outside more often), and it doesn't mean that we should stop having fun with numbers.
Here's a look at the ridiculous numbers that some players are on pace for in 2013.
*Statistics, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
The formula that we'll use to project a player's season-ending numbers, were they able to maintain the same pace for the entire season, is fairly simple.
We take a full regular season schedule of 162 games, the most that a batter can play in, and divide that by the number of games that a player has already played. Then, take that number and multiply the statistic that you want to project.
Take, for example, Washington's Bryce Harper, who clubbed a pair of home runs on Opening Day. Divide 162 by one, you get 162. Multiply that by two, the number of bombs Harper deposited in the stands, and the reigning NL Rookie of the Year was on pace for 324 home runs after one game.
For pitchers, since they have no chance of appearing in 162 games, I substitute 30, going on the premise that your average major league starter will make 30 starts over the course of a season.
Keep in mind, this formula was only applied to a player's "on-pace" numbers. The projections provided at the end of each slide are not based on any mathematical formula, but on a player's history and what I believe to be realistic expectations.
John Buck, C, New York Mets
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 9 H
On Pace For: 69 HR, 277 RBI, 208 H
Career Highs: 20 HR, 66 RBI, 115 H
In the trade that sent the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, R.A. Dickey, to the Toronto Blue Jays, John Buck was largely an afterthought in the package that the New York Mets received. He was overshadowed by catcher of the future Travis d'Arnaud.
As ESPN New York's Adam Rubin notes, Buck has done his part to emerge from the shadows:
John Buck's 12 RBIs are the most by a #Mets player in the team's first seven games in franchise history.— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) April 9, 2013
There are a couple of things working against Buck here.
He's a catcher, and that means that he's not going to be on the field everyday. Not only that, but with the pounding that the position inflicts on the body, Buck is far more likely to have various aches, pains and bruises than if he played another position.
Those various ailments will slow him down.
While he's quickly become a fan favorite in Flushing, it's only a matter of time before he begins to cool off. When that happens—especially if d'Arnaud is raking at Triple-A as many expect him to—the calls for the team's top prospect to be promoted to the bigs will begin to grow louder.
Even if the Mets decide to keep d'Arnaud in the minors for the bulk of the season, asking a veteran catcher to have a breakout year in his age-33 season is simply asking too much—and it's sure to leave everyone disappointed when the season comes to an end.
Realistic Projections: 15 HR, 75 RBI, 125 H
Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 4 HR, 17 RBI
On Pace For: 92 HR, 393 RBI
Career Highs: 33 HR, 85 RBI
Four years after breaking onto the scene with the Texas Rangers as a 22-year-old with 17 home runs and 55 RBI in 80 games, Chris Davis finally had his breakout season in 2012 with the Baltimore Orioles. He finished the year with 33 home runs and 85 RBI.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports made a great comparison: Chris Davis is the new Richie Sexson. Though to Davis' credit, he has cut down his strikeouts dramatically thus far in 2013, whiffing just over 11 percent of the time (via FanGraphs), well below his career average of 30.7 percent.
Not even Sexson, notorious for posting big strikeout totals, swung and missed as often in his career. He fanned on 23.5 percent of his at-bats over his career (via FanGraphs).
But Davis' newfound patience at the plate has less to do with him being more selective and everything to do with the fact that he's simply locked in at the moment.
Could Davis make a run at Brady Anderson's team record of 50 home runs (set in 1997) or Ken Williams 155 RBI (set in 1922)?
Sure, but he'll need plenty of things to go his way, including a down season from Adam Jones, hitting ahead of him in the cleanup spot. Jones is going to pick up his fair share of RBI—taking those run-scoring opportunities away from Davis.
Baltimore's first baseman will set new career highs in both home runs and RBI in 2013—but Davis will fall short of rewriting the Orioles' record books.
Realistic Projections: 40 HR, 110 RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, Boston Red Sox
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 7 RBI, 4 SB
On Pace For: 162 RBI, 92 SB
Career Highs: 105 RBI, 70 SB
To believe that Jacoby Ellsbury can shatter his previous career highs in RBI and stolen bases, you have to believe that the 29-year-old center fielder can stay on the field.
While the injuries have been the freak of nature variety, the fact of the matter is that Ellsbury played in only 250 of a possible 486 games from 2010-12. By no fault of his own, Ellsbury has become prone to injury.
I just can't buy into the premise that Ellsbury will manage to stay healthy—and because of that, there's no way that he'll approach his career high of 70 stolen bases, set in 2009.
As for the RBI pace, Ellsbury not only needs to stay healthy, but he needs a pair of rookies, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jose Iglesias, to continue getting on base at the bottom of Boston's lineup.
There are simply too many things out of Ellsbury's control for his remarkable start to last for 162 games.
Realistic Projections: 85 RBI, 45 SB
Todd Frazier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 12 H
On Pace For: 69 HR, 231 RBI, 277 H
Career Highs: 19 HR, 67 RBI, 115 H
Wondering how Todd Frazier has gotten off to such a hot start to the 2013 season?
He's got the answer for you:
How bout dem #redlegs what a ninth inning. Its that old sayin "hitting is contagious". Everybody on a mission.We are having some fun.— Todd Frazier (@FlavaFraz21) April 9, 2013
He's right, of course—hitting is contagious, and playing baseball is certainly more fun when your team is winning.
Hitting sixth in one of baseball's most dangerous lineups, the 27-year-old third baseman can't help but be productive. With players like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce hitting ahead of him, Frazier is likely to step to the plate with runners on base.
Then again, each of the aforementioned Reds are capable of clearing the bases with one swing, as is Frazier.
There's no disputing that he is one of the best up-and-coming third basemen in baseball. But the talent level around him is going to limit the numbers he's able to put up. It's only a matter of time before those RBI opportunities begin to disappear.
Realistic Projections: 25 HR, 85 RBI, 165 H
Houston Astros Batters
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 82 K
On Pace For: 1,897 K
MLB Record: 1,387 K (2012 Oakland Athletics)
Take a quick look at the American League leaderboards for strikeouts by individual batters, and you'll see one common thread between many of the names—they play for the Houston Astros.
Chris Carter and Brett Wallace are tied for the lead in MLB with 13 strikeouts thus far, while Rick Ankiel is one behind with 12. Carlos Pena isn't far behind with eight. The Astros simply aren't very good, with a lineup full of players who have a penchant for striking out.
Playing in the American League for the first time—with Pena as the team's designated hitter—it's only a matter of time before they break their own team record for strikeouts, set last year with 1,365. They were the second highest in all of baseball.
Even if the team decides to shed its veteran players at the trade deadline and roll with prospects for the last few months of the season, that won't do anything to limit the number of strikeouts Astros batters rack up.
Houston's going to set a record in 2013—for all the wrong reasons.
Realistic Projections: 1,600 strikeouts
Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 8 RBI, 10 R, 15 H, 4 2B
On Pace For: 185 RBI, 231 R, 347 H, 92 2B
Career Highs: 82 RBI, 103 R, 186 H, 39 2B
After what seemed like years of patiently waiting for the on-field results to catch up to the tools he possessed, Adam Jones broke out in a big way for Baltimore in 2012. He finished sixth in the AL MVP voting and establishing himself as one of the best center fielders in the game.
But don't be fooled by his opening-week numbers: Jones is a notorious hot starter.
Through the first two months of the 2012 season (51 games), Jones had 16 HR, 34 RBI and 64 hits. He'd finish the season with 32 HR, 82 RBI and 186 hits.
Over his career, April and May have always been his most productive months—they are the only two months in which he's posted an OPS above .800 for his career—so it's only a matter of time before Jones' production starts to wane.
That's not to say that the 27-year-old center fielder won't finish the season with outstanding numbers, because he will—and another top-10 finish in the AL MVP voting is in his future.
But we know better than to believe that Jones can maintain this level of play throughout the entire season.
Realistic Projections: 100 RBI, 110 R, 200 H, 45 2B
Michael Morse, OF, Seattle Mariners
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 5 HR, 8 RBI, 11 K
On Pace For: 115 HR, 185 RBI, 231 K
Career Highs: 31 HR, 95 RBI, 126 K
Only four games into the season, Michael Morse gained entry into a very exclusive club:
Michael Morse now has 4 HR in 4 games. Only other Mariner to hit 4 HR in team's first 4 games was Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 5, 2013
Morse has done his part in transforming a moribund Seattle offense into one that can put runs on the board in a hurry.
As impressive as Morse has been, he's not going to eclipse Junior's single-season team records for home runs (56) or RBI (147), both set in 1997 when Griffey Jr. won the AL MVP award.
Yet Morse, who is striking out more than 32 percent of the time (via FanGraphs), has a real chance to break Mike Cameron's single-season team record for strikeouts (176) set back in 2002.
Realistic Projections: 35 HR, 105 RBI, 185 K
Jeff Samardzija, SP, Chicago Cubs
Notable 2013 Stats: 2 GS, 22 K
On Pace For: 330 K
Career Highs: 180 K
Heading into the season, most viewed Jeff Samardzija as a solid, middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Nobody figured he'd be channeling his inner Steve Carlton.
Samardzija has been excellent for the Chicago Cubs in his first two starts, allowing four earned runs and six hits over 13.2 innings of work while striking out 22 batters, a ridiculous mark of 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings of work.
There's no denying that the 28-year-old right-hander is a strikeout artist—he proved as much last season, his first as a starter, when he averaged more than a strikeout per inning. He fanned 180 batters over 174.2 innings pitched.
With Samardzija on track to crack the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career, an increase in strikeouts is inevitable. That said, he isn't going to become the first Cubs pitcher since Kerry Wood in 2003 to crack the 250-strikeout mark.
Realistic Projections: 225 K
Justin Upton, LF, Atlanta Braves
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 6 HR, 8 RBI, 9 R, 11 H, 11 K
On Pace For: 138 HR, 185 RBI, 208 R, 254 H, 254 K
Career Highs: 31 HR, 88 RBI, 107 R, 171 H, 152 K
Nearly anyone who follows baseball believed that Justin Upton would be revitalized by joining his brother, B.J., in Atlanta's outfield, but not even the most ardent Justin Upton supporter saw this start coming:
It's never been a question of talent with Justin Upton, more concentration—it was only two years ago that Upton finished fourth in the National League MVP voting, hitting .289 with 33 HR and 88 RBI. He put the Arizona Diamondbacks on his back and carried the team to the NL West crown.
Yet with his track record of inconsistency, it's fair to wonder whether Upton can stay dialed in for the entire season to give himself a chance to break Andruw Jones' single-season team record of 51 home runs, set back in 2005.
Now in his age-26 season, Upton is just beginning to hit the prime years of his career. As naturally gifted as any player in the game, the sky is the limit as to where his season totals wind up—but they will most assuredly find him in the thick of the NL MVP race once again.
Realistic Projections: 42 HR, 115 RBI, 120 R, 185 H, 135 K
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds
Notable 2013 Stats: 7 G, 10 BB, 8 K
On Pace For: 231 BB, 185 K
Career Highs: 110 BB, 129 K
It comes as no surprise to anyone to find Joey Votto leading baseball with 10 walks on the season—Votto has led baseball in the category in each of the past two years.
Having led baseball in on-base percentage for three consecutive seasons, it's also no surprise to see this statistic from ESPN's Buster Olney:
Joey Votto has reached base in 15 of 32 plate appearances this year. espn.go.com/mlb/player/sta…— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) April 8, 2013
Getting on-base is what Votto does best.
That said, Votto is not going to push 200 walks or strikeouts this season. He's simply too talented a hitter to swing and miss as often as he has, and pitchers cannot afford to give Votto a free pass to first base with the Reds having one of baseball's most dangerous lineups around him.
Realistic Projections: 125 BB, 135 K