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Some projects are a labor of love, and working on the latest Baseball Prospectus Fantasy product - Scoresheet Draft Aid - was that for me. A look behind the scenes at how this unfolded involves resident Scoresheet expert Ben Murphy discussing various possibilities with Scoresheet Baseball's crack programmer Dave Barton. With my inattention to this project - something about books and former Royals utility infielders kept me from thinking much about it - Mr. Barton wrote on January 26, "I don't know about aiming for opening day this year." Well, I wasn't going to have any of that, and starting in the second week of February, I pitched a tent in the (virtual) Prospectus office and worked to get this out in time not only for Opening Day, but even in time for most Scoresheet drafts.
Albert Pujols and Joey Votto both have a chance at the first Triple Crown since 1967, if Omar Infante doesn't get in the way.
At the end of last week I wrote about the idea that a Triple Crown is not a far-fetched feat this season. Miguel Cabrera is very unlikely to supplant Josh Hamilton atop the American League batting leaderboard, but in the National League, sluggers Joey Votto and Albert Pujols find themselves ranked first or second in all three categories. To make matters more interesting, each is within striking distance of one another in the categories as well, meaning that over the next month we might bear witness to a race almost as noteworthy as that which centers on qualifying for post-season play. The main reason I argued that a Triple Crown could be achieved this year is that the number of specialists had declined; that is, there didn’t seem to be anyone running away with the batting title who didn’t hit home runs or knock runners in, and Ryan Howard was not going to mash 45-plus homers this season.
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So, how unlikely is unlikely as far as that bid for the Triple Crown goes, anyway?
While scoping out the season of the one and only Albert Pujolsa couple of weeks ago, I attempted to quantify his chances of attaining the Triple Crown. At the time, Pujols led his league in dingers, stood deadlocked in the RBI race with Prince Fielder, and trailed Hanley Ramirez in batting average by a rather large margin. The methodology implemented in that piece was back-of-the-envelope at best, as the dependency of the inherent variables should have precluded the multiplication of separate probabilities. Since home runs automatically correlate to runs batted in as well as batting average, and because a higher batting average would, in theory, lead to more steaks, the three legs of the race are not independent of one another and therefore cannot be multiplied together to determine the Triple Crown likelihood. Though a more accurate process is unlikely to yield drastically different results than the 0.74 percent I found initially, the perfectionist in me felt it necessary to re-run the numbers through a more complex and accurate simulation in order to determine Pujols' chances.
Things are getting interesting, so let's talk about the odds.
Chipper Jones is not a .400 hitter. However, that doesn’t mean that he won’t hit .400. What we have on our hands is a classic case of the irresistible force against the immovable object. On the one hand, it’s exceptionally unlikely that a player who has hit .310 over a 15-year major league career suddenly woke up one morning at 35 years old and became a .400 hitter. Jones is seeing the ball exceptionally well, and apart from frequent problems with injury, he has aged relatively gracefully. He’s also undoubtedly squeezed a few lucky hits in between the shortstop and the second baseman, and had a few Texas Leaguers drop in.
It was not the kind of earth-shattering, life-changing moment that would
forever alter the world in which we live, like the moment I heard about the
Challenger disaster, or watching the horrors unfold six weeks ago. But like
the first time I saw my future wife, it was a day that would change the
course of my life.