FRIDAY, MAY 7, 2021
Statistics don't look like this: We've spent the last chunk of time weeping about Petuka Dvorak's attempt to discuss the gender wage gap in today's Washington Post. With a Mother's Day hook!
Simply put, Our Town is unable to conduct any real discussion. It's been this way for a good long time, and it just keeps getting worse.
We'll discuss that cultural problem tomorrow. For today, let's consider the oddness of a set of statistics which are currently being featured in the world of sports.
Albert Pujols is a presumptive future MLB Hall of Famer. He was released by the Angels this week at age 41.
His lifetime statistics feature two statistical oddities. For starters, consider his first nine seasons in the majors, all spent with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols broke in with the Cardinals in 2001, at the age of 21. Weirdly, these were his batting averages in six of his first nine seasons:
Those are very good averages, especially for a power hitter. What makes them so unusual is their stone-cold invariance.
By the normal workings of statistics, a baseball player shouldn't have the exact same batting average year after year after year. Our planet isn't like that.
Pujols didn't quite manage to do that, but he came weirdly close.
In two of his first nine years, he exceeded his normal very high standard, hitting .359 in 2003 and .357 in 2008. Even there, he virtually matched his first extremely high batting average the second time around.
Pujols averaged 41 homers per year during those first nine years. They may have been the best nine years any MLB player ever had at the start of his career.
He played two more years for the Cardinals. By 2011, his batting average had dropped to .299. Then came ten years with the Angels, producing the second statistical oddity in his unusual, great career:
Batting average with the Cardinals (11 years): .328
Batting average with the Angels (10 years): .256
Even accounting for advanced (athletic) age in the past few years, that large decline represents an unusual turn of the wheel.
Pujols joined the Angels at age 32, an age when most players are still in their prime. He hit only .285 that year, and he never hit higher than .272 in any future season.
People speak very highly of Pujols as a person. Statistically, he had a plainly great but highly unusual career.
You've heard of people who could hit in their sleep? Albert Pujols could hit .330, and barely a point more or less!