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Josh Hamilton’s triple crown chances: pretty darn good, all things considered

May 15, 2012, 12:31 PM EDT

Josh Hamilton Reuters Reuters

It’s ESPN Insider, but Dan Szymborski has a column up today assessing Josh Hamilton’s triple crown chances. While normally that’s pie in the sky stuff, as Dan notes, Hamilton winning the triple crown is more like pie on a moderately high shelf territory.

He ran 100,000 simulations of the remainder of the season, taking Hamilton’s historic norms and projections for this season going forward, and …

After all the numbers are crunched, Hamilton remains essentially a coin-flip to lead the league in each of the Triple Crown categories … In the 100,000 seasons played, Hamilton won the Triple Crown 16.1 percent of the time, terrific odds for such a difficult feat.

Hamilton’s historically shaky health is the key, but Dan bakes that into the projections. Indeed, some time on the DL would actually help his odds of winning the batting title. What he really needs to avoid is an extended stay which would put him in a hole in the counting stats.

I wouldn’t bet on it, but people do bet on things often bet on stuff with worse odds.

  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    Worse than the DL for his chances would be the sort of nagging injury that allows him to play but saps performance, like a ribcage/oblique/lat deal that has him swinging a little more tentatively.

    Also, it has been an awesome 6 weeks, but that is all it has been. Lots of guys have 6 awesome weeks, but in the beginning of the season it looks particularly awesome.

    • thekcubrats - May 15, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      Huh. Pretend that the first six weeks isn’t part of this season, inflate his career rates a bit over the rest of this year to project what he’ll do from here on out, then add back in this ungodly godlike first six weeks of production… What was it that Mark Twain said?

      I wonder what would happen to those 100,000 simulations, if you took even his best year, MVP 2010 year, and subtracted out his best six-week stretch from that year, and used the remaining numbers to project a likely outcome for the rest of this year, rather than (inflated) career norms…

      Sophistry by numbers.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 15, 2012 at 1:51 PM

        Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the guy CAN’T do it. I would say he has a better shot than most. And the past 6 weeks have given him a nice head start. He’s not quite Chris Shelton.

        But the same small-sample-size caveats apply. I think it is easy to fall in love with a player who does well at the beginning of the season, and not really notice when the rest of his season does not match. Everyone was sure that Bautista would be the MVP last June; then he fell of a cliff. Eventually guys like Cabrera, Pujols, Teixeira, A-Rod, Bautista etc will turn it on, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them outpace Hamilton when the season is over. But they will do it without the fanfare since it will be a steady climb from their early season hole.

        Again, Hamilton is great and I hope he does it, because hey, triple crown! Dan Szymborski seems like a smart guy. Perhaps he could use his powers for something greater than running 100,000 projections based on 6 weeks of baseball. It’s just too early for this to mean too much, especially for a guy with as many variables as Hamilton.

  2. uyf1950 - May 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM

    I think the very big fly in the ointment for Hamilton winning the triple crown is his health. In order to qualify for the batting title he will have to play in just about 140 games. Over his 5 years in the major leagues he has played in over 133 games only once (2008) and in fact over a 100 games one other year (2011). If he stays healthy I think the odds are with him. But that is a mighty big IF. Perhaps a bigger if then the 100,000 simulations would seem to indicate.

  3. heyblueyoustink - May 15, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    Which would be way cooler than the Charlie Sheen triple crown: a playmate, public intoxication, and a night in jail.

    Seriously though, he’s been a beast in that lineup, a modern day true murderer’s row.

  4. djpostl - May 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    What a wasted study lol. Everyone who follows baseball knows Hamilton has the talent to do it “if he could only stay healthy all year”.

    The hardest part about the crown is the RBI count, usually because the guys who have a combined high average with a ton of HRs are patient hitters who don’t expand the zone & are willing to take a walk.

    The fact Hamilton is so aggressive & so willing to go out of the zone chasing hits makes him uniquely qualified to get those RBIs some triple crown candidates never would.

    Add in the fact that he’s on a team with a ton of guys getting on base in front of him, one that turns the lineup over more than most teams (getting him more ABs) and he becomes even more likely a candidate.

    BUT in the end it always hinges on health with this guy. And that is a bet you’ll probably (and sadly) lose because he ravaged his body with some hardcore stuff over the years & now his immune system and ability to heal has been shot to utter shit at an early age.

    • drewsylvania - May 15, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      It’s nice to see it backed up by statistical analysis–which your post lacked.

      • djpostl - May 15, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        Rofl, my “statistical analysis” is “has happened one time since 1967”.

        Oh yeah, and the ENTIRE part where I mentioned he can’t stay healthy and rattled off his complete inability to do so by listing how infrequently he plays more than 100 games.

        Reedin kompreehenshun iz gud.

      • drewsylvania - May 15, 2012 at 2:10 PM

        I don’t think you know what “statistical analysis” means.

    • danandcasey - May 15, 2012 at 1:52 PM

      History suggests that the hardest part of the triple crown is batting average. Many players have taken the HR and RBI crowns in the same year, but missed the BA crown. Of the 14 players in the live ball era (since 1920) who have led the league in both BA and HRs, only 3 did not win the Triple Crown (Mize in ’39, Williams in ’41, and Ruth in ’24).

  5. florida76 - May 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Baseball has too many projectionists who dabble in numbers, but fail to understand the game. Another ESPN insider recently proclaimed Tony Romo a top five QB, which is idiotic.

    Talking about anyone having a realistic chance at the Triple Crown this early in the season is moronic, especially with a guy with injury problems. Can we please just enjoy Hamilton’s play here in May and let things play out? If he’s still a Triple Crown contender in August we can revisit this issue.

    • Jeremy Fox - May 15, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      Um, just because you don’t enjoy projections (which is fine), or don’t think this projection properly accounts for Hamilton’s injury history (which is also fine, though note that the projection does try to account for that) doesn’t make the projection “idiotic” or “moronic”. Personally, I find it quite interesting to learn that, even just 6 weeks into the season, Hamilton’s been so good that he now has a reasonable chance of winning the Triple Crown if he (and his competitors) all play up to roughly their usual levels from here on out. I wouldn’t have thought his chances would be anywhere near 16%, which is cool. It makes you think.

      As for “Can we please just enjoy Hamilton’s play here in May?”, what do you think I’m doing? Knowing that Hamilton’s chances could be around 16% doesn’t reduce my enjoyment of Hamilton’s play at all. If anything it increases it, because now I feel like I’m already watching a Triple Crown chase, and that’s fun. Why would knowing anything about his odds of winning the Triple Crown get in the way of enjoying his play?

      And the fact that some other person used some other data to make some other projection about some other player in some other sport is relevant how, exactly? That’s like saying “TV has too many weathermen who dabble in numbers, but fail to understand the weather. Another guy I saw on TV recently proclaimed that I should invest in Greek bank stocks, which is idiotic.”

      Since you “understand the game”, don’t suppose you’d be willing to demonstrate your understanding by making some predictions so we can see how they play out?

    • drewsylvania - May 15, 2012 at 1:33 PM

      What’s wrong with enjoying it and analyzing it? Some people enjoy that. Just because you don’t doesn’t mean it’s stupid.

  6. darthicarus - May 15, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Is Chris Shelton still on pace for 111 HR?

    • Jeremy Fox - May 15, 2012 at 1:32 PM

      Um, the projection assumes that Hamilton will play from here on out about like he’s played in the past, not that he’ll keep playing like he has for the last 6 weeks. Projecting Hamilton to keep up his current pace is silly. Projecting him to have semi-decent odds of winning the Triple Crown is not.

  7. drunkenhooliganism - May 15, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    If he were to play to his career averages for the rest of the year and only play 135-140 games, he would end the year with something close to a .335 avg, 41 homers and 122 RBI.

    That’s having him miss something like 20 more games this year.

  8. Ari Collins - May 15, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    A lot of the people criticizing Szymborski’s approach do not understand statistics whatsoever. He’s not projecting out from 6 weeks of play. But those 6 weeks happened, and while they only change the projection for the rest of the year marginally, they are stats in the bank, which makes a big difference. The rest is just a reasonable projection for how Hamilton will do for the rest of the season.

    ZIPS has him ending the season with a line of .330/42/124 in 133 games, which sounds reasonable to me, having banked what he has so far. That would give him a reasonable chance to make it. And that’s with WORSE than his career numbers going forward, plus only playing 75% of the remaining games.

    • ptfu - May 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM

      It helps that Kinsler’s having a Kinsler year and Andrus is off to a good start. If Hamilton doesn’t win the RBI crown, it won’t be due to his teammates.

  9. psuravens19 - May 15, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    Who has a better chance at the triple crown:

    Thumbs up for Hamilton.
    Thumbs down for I’ll Have Another.

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