Albert Pujols says he's not worried about his homerless streak because "home runs come in bunches." But is there any truth to the cliche?
If you’ve paid any attention to the 2012 season, you know that Albert Pujols has yet to hit a home run. The three-time MVP, fresh off the first homerless month of his career, is hitting just .208/.252/.287 with career-worst walk and strikeout rates. Jered Weaver’s no-hitter last night temporarily deflected some attention away from Albert’s struggles. But while Weaver mowed down Minnesota, Pujols’ homerless streak was extended to 107 plate appearances, ensuring that scrutiny of his every swing will only intensify once the no-hitter hubbub dies down.
Pujols averaged 39 home runs for the Cardinals over the past five seasons. After factoring in some age-related decline and the difficulty of hitting home runs from the right side in Angel Stadium, PECOTA projected him to hit 33 in 2012. The probability that a 33-home-run hitter would go homerless over 107 plate appearances by chance alone is just .3 percent. Either Pujols has been extremely unlucky, he’s declined more quickly than PECOTA expected, or he’s pressing at the plate.
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Can a player's performance one week have any predictive power on how he will perform during the next week?
Full disclosure: I have never really played fantasy baseball, at least in a serious or semi-serious capacity, prior to this season. My lack of participation had nothing to do with ulterior motives like taking a stance against W-L and batting average. I just never got into it. Well, things have changed and, in deciding to try my hand at the massively popular game, I am finding that certain tendencies have awoken that I believed were trained out of my baseball vernacular long ago. For instance, it is becoming increasingly tempting to drop a player after a poor week in exchange for a player in the midst of a hot streak. I mean, I knowJeff Francoeur isn’t going to hit .438/.583/.839, but my goodness, if I had that production or even some semblance of it instead of the .250/.345/.333 from Andrew McCutchen, I might have won both of my matchups so far.
Putting a big chill on the hot-hand theory of player performance at the plate.
Flash forward to July, 2010, as Prince Fielder is being interviewed after a Brewers win. Fielder has just gone 4-for-5 with two home runs, and the announcers tell Fielder that he’s gone 9-for-his-last-12 over the past few days. Fielder says, "Yeah, I’ve been feeling great and seeing the ball really clearly the past few days. Some days, you just see the ball better than others."
Ryan Zimmerman's recent flurry of safeties leads to a question over what other recent streaks we might have overlooked.
Back in 2007, fans of the Seattle Mariners were given free rides aboard the Wild and Wacky Weaver Wagon. On any given night, they had no idea whether the Jeff Weaver toeing the rubber would resemble the Mr. Hyde who had been victimized by 50 hits and a 14.32 RA in his first 22 innings of work, or the good Dr. Jekyll with the 3.10 RA and 1.26 WHIP over his next nine outings. As Weaver aptly demonstrated throughout that roller-coaster campaign, baseball is a game of streaks, with players fusing together stretches both hot and cold before arriving at their statistical bottom lines. Scan the game logs for any player in any season and you are bound to find spurts in which a Pujols hits like a Theriot, and vice-versa. In spite of their prominence, though, streaks can be very detrimental by distracting fans from actual production levels, and a little annoying as they tend to go unnoticed when not bookending a season.