Bonifacio falling to Earth

Every year you see some unlikely guy break out to a fast start on the power of pitchers’ relative indifference and a lot of lucky guesses. Guys who anyone who watches this game even a little bit can tell you are going to crash to Earth, or at the very least return to being pedestrian, fairly soon. Just thinking about the Braves I remember Willie Harris fitting this description in 2007 and Michael Tucker doing it in 1997. Heck, I’d argue that Jeff Francoeur has been doing this in long form for four years.

But whoever they are, guys like that put up a couple of good weeks, even a couple of good months, and then slowly descend to their natural level, all the while getting penciled into the lineup a little more often than they probably should and becoming the subject of more media coverage than they probably deserve. In the course of that cycle, you can always count on their being one story like this one, written about Emilio Bonifacio, another player going through the same dynamic:

When he stepped to the plate in the ninth inning Sunday, Emilio Bonifacio had not reached base in his previous 19 plate appearances, watching his batting average plummet to .321 from .583 in eight days . . .

. . . Bonifacio said he has tried to remain upbeat despite his recent slump, in which he has only three hits in his past 25 at-bats. ”I don’t put my head down,” he said. “And we’ve been winning. If we weren’t, I’d start thinking about it more.”

It’s nice to see someone play above their heads for a while, and I truly am happy for them when they do, but just once I’d like to see an article about one of these guys headlined with something like “Ride fun while it lasted, Bonifacio says.” I just think it would make the whole exercise far less depressing if it were acknowledged that they player in question had experienced some good fortune rather than characterize harmless regression to the mean as a slump.

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Comments

  1. Mark Schick said...

    I’d be careful with my statistics if I were you, Craig. Just because Bonifacio started the season hitting .500 in 7 games (or whatever it was) doesn’t mean that he was “due” for a slump, which is how you make it sound when you say “regression to the mean.” What you would logically expect is for him to proceed to hit at his career norm, which of course is a lot lower than .500, but better than 0/19. That’s the real “regression to the mean.”

    Of course, if you weren’t implying this at all I will shut the hell up.

  2. Andy L said...

    Willie Harris gets a bad rap because he’s little and his name is “Willie,” so people confuse him with Taveras and Bloomquist, who suck.  But last year, Wee Willie Harris hit .251/.344/.417 in 424 PAs while playing 2B, 3B, SS, LF, and CF for Washington.  That’s not great or anything, but it’s a solid player, and a damn sight better than Emilio Bonifacio.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Mark—I wasn’t really trying to make a statistical argument. Just wanted to note that Bonifacio wasn’t a .500 hitter and that maybe people shouldn’t be terribly surprised when he hits poorly.

    Andy—no doubt, but it’s the same general phenomenon of small samples of unusually good play fooling people into thinking that a player is someone he isn’t.  Harris is a useful guy to have around, but he was utilized as a .300 hitting starting left fielder by Bobby Cox a lot longer than he should have been in 2007.

  4. Andy L said...

    You’re right there.  A solid little #8 hitter, but just the type of player (like Taveras, Bloomquist, and Bonifacio) who somehow trick managers into batting them leadoff and sacrificing runs.

    Not a Braves fan, so I didn’t see it at the time.  I can totally believe it’s true, as it happens all the time.

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