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breaking records

the brewers’ firing of ned yost is a desperate move, but i think it’s also a rational one. that team clearly needed to change the dynamic. they were flat-out noncompetitive vs the phillies last weekend, getting outscored 26-10; they were nearly as bad against the mets, getting outscored 19-9 in a three-game sweep at the start of this month, and worse against the cubs at the end of july, getting outscored 31-11 in a four-game sweep at home. so they’re 0-11 record in their most recent matchups against teams they’re will have to go through to reach the world series --- or, in the case of the cubs (whom they will play 6 times in the next couple weeks), to reach the postseason. they’ve scored more than 4 runs only once this month, and yielded fewer than 5 only 4 times. i don’t know how much of this is yost’s fault, but they obviously needed to act with urgency. in two weeks their two best players, sabathia and sheets, will be gone.

as i gazed at the brewers’ stat page, jeff suppan’s line caught my eye. was it a mistake not to re-sign him? his line the last two years, compared to braden looper’s:

supps 4.72 22-21 377.1 437 134 197 45 1.513
loops 4.48 24-24 354 377 93 178 46 1.328

the brewers have paid $20m for that production so far, and still owe suppan another $20m. did they spend wisely? were the cardinals cheap to let him walk (as many people wailed at the time) or just smart?

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here’s a tidbit about our own team. albert pujols has 42 doubles this season, his first season of 40 or more since 2004. in his first four seasons pujols was a doubles machine, averaging 47 a year; in the ensuing four years (including this one) he has averaged about 38, with a low of 33 a couple years ago. his career total is now 340; the all-time career record is 792, held by tris speaker. the national league record is held by pete rose, with 746 doubles; the franchise leader is stan musial, with 725. what are albert’s chances of breaking any of these records?


let’s begin with this fact: only one player in history has hit more doubles through age 28 than albert --- joe medwick, who had 383 doubles after his age 28 season. musial had 302 doubles at this point in his career; speaker had 282, and rose had only 218, more than 100 fewer than albert. but rose hit an astounding 528 doubles after age 28, and speaker had 510. pujols will need to pile up about 450 doubles after his age 28 season to catch speaker, and about 400 to catch rose; how likely is that? well, only 4 players in history have hit more than 450 doubles after the age of 28: speaker, rose, craig biggio, and sam rice. none of these guys hit as many as 300 doubles before age 28, so if albert pulls it off he’ll be the first. roughly 20 players have hit more than 400 after age 28 --- the exact number isn’t clear, because B-R’s list cuts off after 10 guys.

according to the bill james projection toy, albert has about a 13 percent chance, or 1 in 8, of setting a new all-time record in doubles. that estimate is based on the assumption that albert will finish this year with 45 doubles (nice round number). based on the same assumption, the toy gauges his chances of setting a new national league record at 20 percent, and his chances of setting a new franchise record at 24 percent.

and what about the home-run record? his odds have dimmed greatly ever since pitchers stopped throwing him strikes. after 4 consecutive seasons of 40+ homers, albert hasn’t made a serious run at the figure the last couple of years. his career total stands at 315 as of this morning; let’s assume he hits another 2 dingers between now and the end of the schedule, winding up the season with 35 and a career total of 317. he’d then need almost 450 homers after age 28 to top bonds’s mark, and somewhat more than that to top whatever number alex rodriguez ends up with. only three players have hit 450 homers after age 28: bonds, aaron, and ruth. six players have hit 400 or more homers after age 28, but half of them (bonds, sosa and palmeiro) were steroid cheats; the other three were ruth, aaron, and mays. according to the toy (and assuming a 2008 total of 35 homers), he only has a 7 percent chance of catching bonds (1 in 12). if he were to break out with 45 dingers next year, he’d double his odds (per the toy) to 15 percent . . . . his chance of reaching 800 homers is down to 3 percent.

the toy assesses his chances of breaking the franchise record for homers (musial’s 475) at 97 percent --- assuming, of course, that he remains with the cardinals beyond 2011. he has about a 39 percent chance of reaching 3000 hits and a 9 percent chance of breaking the career RBI record held by hank aaron.