It's a couple of weeks later, so it's time to turn the tables and look at the top forty hitters (sorted by basic, unadjusted OPS) from September 1st of last year until last night (Friday the thirteenth of May 2011).
You are probably surprised to see two names--Albert Pujols and Jeff Francoeur--in such close proxmity. (That's what small sample sizes can do for you--or is that to you??)
You are probably not all that surprised to see Jose Bautista at the top of this list (though Keith Law might be...not that he'd ever admit it, of course). The full stat breakout here, courtesy of David Pinto's Day-by-Day Database, shows us that only four hitters (Bautista, Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki, and Curtis Granderson) have posted a .600+ SLG over the two month period.
That got us wondering about how well two-month stat samples reflect the performance distribution over a full season. Such a study would involve looking at a series of such samples, then comping them with seasonal data...which is a lengthier task that we have time for today.
So as a substitute for a study of that magnitude, we decided to take a look at the same summarized breakout as shown on the left for the time fame exactly one year earlier (that would be the data from September 1, 2009 until May 14, 2010, shown at right).
These lists are shown for OPS only. What we were looking for here was the distribution of OPS over the Top 40--how many over 1.000, .950, etc. all the way down to .800. That might tell us how different things have become in terms of the "hitting environment" over the last year.
When we look at that, we find that, yes, there are fewer guys at or above .900 (17 in 2010-11 as opposed to 25 in 2009-10).
And we can see how much variability can occur for players. Note Pujols at the left (9/10 until last night), mired in a virtual dead heat with Frenchy Francoeur; then crane your neck to the right and back up to the top of the 9/09-5/10 list, where you'll find him ensconced in the #2 slot behind Joey Votto (the only guy, by the way to be over 1.000 in each of list).
The other thing that's worth noting about this quick and dirty comparison is the number of repeaters--the guys who show up on each list. The total number of repeaters is 16--which means that 40% of the Top 40 are the same guys in each slice.
Now we'll have to go back and do this exercise a bunch more times to determine if such a figure (40%) actually tracks across time. But it would be so nice if it were true, because it has such a nice "ring" to it. "40% of the Top 40 is the same"--sounds like a lyric from some lost psych-pop song. Universal principles should always have a candy-coated surrealist quality to them, n'est-ce pas? (And what a band it was--"Prince Albert and the Morticians"...)
We'll noodle around with this some more and report back on the theoretical efficacy of this freaky little proto-formulation.