Here's a fun little exercise. Everybody knows it's early...but it's not that early. Lots of guys are doing a lot better, or a lot worse, than anybody expected. What if we were (well, specifically in this case, PECOTA was) right about those guys all along...starting now? That is, from today forward, the hitter performs exactly as we expected. What does that end up looking like?
We're going to start with the guy they used to call the Greek God of Walks.
Kevin Youkilis' entry in Baseball Prospectus 2009 lauds Youk's sudden transformation "from an above-average, patient hitter into a legitimate power threat," but then hints pretty forcefully that it's all a mirage. The book notes that a number of his homers just barely cleared the wall, and that he put up an awfully high .347 BABIP that we can expect to come back down. Faced with his impressive .312/.390/.569, 29 HR, 91 R, 116 RBI from 2008, PECOTA saw this line from him in '09, which must've been awfully disappointing to The Nation:
To date, though (through Sunday, actually), Youkilis has put up this line, leading the league in average, OBP and SLG and in the top ten in just about everything else:
If we start with that line and then give him another 491 PA/441 AB (PECOTA's projected PA minus the ones he's already had) at exactly the rates that PECOTA projected for him above, then (so, he hits .275/.366/.475 the rest of the way), we get this final combined line:
The runs and RBI still look a little low, and honestly, it's hard to see anybody hitting in the middle of that Red Sox lineup and not ending up with 100 of both. Otherwise, though, that line is a pretty gigantic jump from what PECOTA had him pegged at. If PECOTA was exactly right about his true talent and he performs exactly to that talent the rest of the way, his hot start nonetheless lets him coast to near-superstar-level numbers. On the other hand, if, as is at least equally likely, PECOTA was wrong and 2008 was a lot closer to his true talent, this start could propel him to a runaway MVP season. Amazing what one little month can do.