clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fun with small samples and the Cleveland Indians’ hot start

New, comments

Early season stats are weird. These sample sizes are doing weird things to Indians players.

MLB: Spring Training-Chicago Cubs at Cleveland Indians Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to do any real analysis this early in the season. Nobody really knows anything. Right now the Minnesota Twins are 3-0, JT Realmuto leads the world in WAR, and Sandy Leon (two catchers? Curious.) is an MVP candidate. Technically, everyone is an MVP candidate every year, it's not like you have to register or anything. Last year at this point Mike Trout was replicating David Eckstein. Early season baseball is a fun journey of absurd extrapolation. The Cleveland Indians are right on the forefront of that.

(Note: All these stats are from before Friday night’s game, because these mad men decided to play at 10 pm. Quite rude of them for those of us with deadlines and bedtimes.)

First off, they're averaging seven runs a game. Over the course of a full season that's 1134 runs, which would be the most ever scored by a team by a large margin. The current champ is the 1934 New York Yankees at 1067. If the Indians keep this up, it would be like having nine Barry Bondses circa 1997 in their lineup every day, give or take a few runs. Or 1993. Or 1996. But not 2001 Bonds — that time he was too good.

Francisco Lindor has been amazing so far, but we knew that without even looking at the numbers. With two homers already this year, he's on pace for what, 108 home runs? He's also logging a 262 wRC+ thus far. Basically, he's been 18ish percent better than Barry Bonds was in his best season, which was only 143 games that year. So Lindor's rate might be a little unsustainable, but if one possibly human man could almost do it, why can't another? I just don't want him to miss 19 games, is all. He's fun to watch, so it’s a pretty tough trade off.

Then there's Abe Almonte. First of all, it's truly amazing he's already walked three times this season. He walked eight times last season, so he's definitely improved in some way. There are three things that are super fun about Almonte's stat line right now. First, his .444 on-base percentage is right around where you'd like it to be. He keeps this up, he'd exactly replicate Barry Bonds' career on-base rate.

Another fun thing about Almonte, despite the Bonds-ian OBP at the moment, due to only having one hit, a single, his OPS is a mere .611. That's what former Indian Chris Johnson logged in 264 plate appearances last year. It also shows the supremacy of OBP over slugging, since despite having a 90 OPS+, Almonte's wRC+ is 117. I like to use OPS+ a lot because generally, it's close enough to wRC+ for it not to matter and also Baseball Reference has it easily accessible. And I am at times admittedly a bit lazy. The math behind wRC+ (or more accurately, wOBA) more properly weights OBP over slugging percentage, whereas OPS and OPS+ treat them as equals. But even with his not hitting the ball hard enough in the right direction, Almonte is creating value and creating runs. This cannot hold, simply because he is not that good at walking. He's not a good enough hitter for pitchers to keep avoiding the strike zone. Then again, they're the professionals, they watch all the tape.

Maybe they know something we don't. Maybe he's more menacing in person when he's in the batter's box than on TV, and pitchers are scared of him. He is built like a linebacker after all. That winning smile and neat Amish beard might be a bit more unnerving when it’s 60 feet away.

On the pitching side, Cody Allen currently has a NEGATIVE 3.00 Fielding Independent Pitching. He also has a 0.00 ERA, but due to the equation to get FIP — ((13*HR+3*BB-2*K)/IP)+3.2 — Allen's striking everyone out and not walking anyone or giving up home runs means probably the best pitcher ever in history. If this continues the only real worry anyone should have is Allen's cracking a hole in space-time with this dividing by zero sort of tomfoolery, or else we're all driven insane. It’s one of those fun quirks of advanced statistics that allow for this minor mind twisting, and Allen, despite allowing a pair of hits, has been just that good.

Okay, not exactly “removes runs from the board” good, but as shutdown as they come. Imagine if you actually had a pitcher so good he made the other team demand their runs were pulled from the board. It would be like some sort of combination of Loek van Mil, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Vincente Padilla. A literal giant with unending stamina who literally wants to hit you in the head first, and strike you out second. Who is left-handed. That’s about the type of pitcher Allen is being at the moment.

What will hold up? Maybe all of these. Maybe none. Probably none. The Almonte walking thing would be funny though. He'd be a walking version of a classic hypothetical question all baseball fans wonder at one time or another, whether a man who walks a ton and only hits a little bit would be truly valuable. According to baseball math, he would be. But if we know one thing from all this, it’s that Barry Bonds was simply incredible.