Saturday, June 13, 2009

What if the season started May 15?

The start of the season does a lot of funny things with statistics. Hits in April mean just as much as hits in June, but since the sample size for everything is so much smaller, everything gets exaggerated.

Remember Chris Shelton? The guy hit nine home runs in his first 13 games in 2006. He was on pace to obliterate the major-league home run record. He was the next great slugger.

By August, he was in the minor leagues.

Still, though, most diehard baseball fans -- particularly those who had him on their fantasy baseball teams -- remember Chris Shelton.

Most don't, however, remember Atlanta's Adam LaRoche, who had a summer about as good as Shelton's spring. LaRoche hit .358 with 14 home runs in July and August of that year, and he finished the season with a career-best 32 home runs before the Braves traded him to Pittsburgh. It just didn't get the same hype because it didn't happen in April.

Another way of making the same point: Raul Ibanez, as Joe Posnanski has pointed out, is on a hot streak much like several other hot streaks in his career. This one just happens to be more noticeable than the others because it started on Opening Day and not in the middle of June.

What might be fun, then, is to look at a few recent trends and treat it like the start of the season. In other words: What if the season started May 15?

* Dustin Pedroia would be hitting .245 and slugging .333.
* Kevin Youkilis would be hitting .289 (but still be slugging over .500).
* Jason Bay would be hitting just .240 (but still be slugging over .500).
* Tim Wakefield would have a 5.17 ERA in five starts.
* Jonathan Papelbon would have blown a save right out of the chute and would have a 3.27 ERA in 11 appearances.

On the other hand:
* David Ortiz would have four home runs in 21 games and be on pace for almost 30 home runs.
* Jacoby Ellsbury would be OBP'ing .359 and have almost as many walks (five) as strikeouts (six.)
* Josh Beckett would have a 4-0 record with a 0.76 ERA and would be considered a front-runner for the Cy Young Award. Jon Lester would have a 3-2 record with a 3.15 ERA, and opponents would be hitting .201 against him.
(Kansas City's Zack Greinke, for what it's worth, would have a 2-1 record with a 3.27 ERA.)
* Hideki Okajima would have a 0.93 ERA in 11 appearances.
* Takashi Saito would have two wins and a 0.00 ERA in nine appearances.

Most importantly, here's how the standings would look:
New York: 17-9
Boston: 16-9
Tampa Bay: 15-11
Toronto: 10-15
Baltimore: 10-15

Maybe it's a good thing the first six weeks count.

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