Absurd Early-Season Leaderboards Update Now! by Matthew Kory April 20, 2016 I love early-season baseball. Early-season baseball is the only time when players hit .415. Players don’t hit .415 for a full season anymore so pulling up the leaderboards and seeing .415 is like a huge neon sign blinking EARLY-SEASON BASEBALL. It’s fun to follow the MVP races later in the year, but to me now is the best time to check the leaderboards we keep here at FanGraphs because now is when things are absurd. Little is more absurd than early-season leaderboards. So let’s look at some! I’ll give you the category, last season’s leader for some context, and the on-pace-to-finish-with figure of the current leader. Then I’ll comment! Seems a handy dandy format, wouldn’t you say? We’ll start with hitters, unless you decide not to read this, in which case I’ll just start with hitters all by myself. Numbers are current as of yesterday afternoon. Rankings marked with a t denote that the corresponding players are tied. Let’s start with… Double Plays Hit Into Current Leaderboard t1. David Freese, 5 t1. Andrelton Simmons, 5 t3. Five Players, 4 Last Year’s Leader: Trevor Plouffe, 28 2016 Leader’s Pace: 62 Comments For some reason I find this category fascinating. You can’t score two points on yourself in basketball when you miss a shot, but in baseball players can create two outs with one hit. It’s magical. So it’s fitting that the seventh video on David Freese’s MLB.com player page features Freese grounding into a double play. They’re on to you, David. Though this does make sense as 63.9% of Freese’s balls in play have been ground balls this season. That’s a lot of grounders. Add that to the Pirates current high on-base percentage of .432, eighth-best in baseball, and you have a batter hitting lots of grounders with runners on base. This is going smoothly! Let’s get on to… Stolen Bases Current Leaderboard 1. Jose Altuve, 6 2. Rajai Davis, 5 t3. Jacoby Ellsbury, 4 t3. Dee Gordon, 4 t3. Starling Marte, 4 Last Year’s Leader: Dee Gordon, 58 2016 Leader’s Pace: 75 Comments The last player to steal over 70 bases in a season was Jose Reyes in 2007. Before that it was Tony Womack in 1999. Stealing over 70 bases isn’t really done much anymore. If anyone is going to do it though, Jose Altuve would seem to be a prime candidate. He has speed, as evidenced both by his 56 steals two seasons ago and by actually watching him run with eyes. He hits tons of singles and, maybe most importantly, has seen a spike in his walk rate this season. Considering his career rate is 5.1% and last season he was at 4.8%, he may not end the season over 10%, but even reaching 7% or 8% could give him the extra opportunities on base needed to reach the big seven zero. I’m already getting bored with this format. Let’s shake it up! Next category up ends with a discussion question! Home Runs Current Leaderboard 1. Trevor Story 8 t2. Nolan Arenado 6 t2. Bryce Harper 6 t4. Four players, 5 Last Year’s Leader: Chris Davis, 47 2016 Leader’s Pace: 100 Discussion Question! How many home runs will Trevor Story end up with this season? Discussion Answer! Exciting! Steamer had him for 15, though in only 98 games played, so presumably he’s on track to play more games now. If he played the full slate, that projects to 21 homers. ZiPS also had him for 21. Personally — and keep in mind this is only my opinion so if you are a Rockies fan, a Story fan, a story fan, are Story’s mom, his grade-school teacher, or he walked your dog for you 15 years ago, please don’t bombard my house with flaming bags of dog poo in protest — I think 100 homers seems a tad high. Especially with a 39% K rate. But again, that’s just me. On-Base Percentage Current Leaderboard 1. Christian Yelich, .510 t2. Dexter Fowler, .500 t2. Daniel Murphy, .500 t4. Francisco Cervelli, .458 t4. Jose Bautista, .458 Last Year’s Leader: Bryce Harper, .460 2016 Leader’s Pace: N/A Discussion Question! Will anyone beat the 50% threshold? Discussion Answer! The last to do it was Barry Bonds in 2004 when he not only beat 50%, but 60%, too. Bonds posted a .609 on-base percentage that year, an insane number by an insane player. Nobody is going to come close to that for a while, and certainly not this season. The top of this season’s leaderboards are deliciously early-seasony, with Yelich, Fowler, and Murphy. Yelich has solid plate discipline, but it’s unlikely he’s going to continue walking in 20% of his plate appearances. Murphy is walking more than he typically does as well, but his inclusion here is driven more by his .469 BABIP than a 14% walk rate. Fowler is in the same camp as Murphy, call it Camp Murphy!, as he’s walking more but mostly he’s seeing everything off his bat find solid ground, rather than the comforting thud of a fielder’s mitt. ARG! How many discussion questions can a guy reasonably answer? Hit by Pitch Current Leaderboard t1. Six players (including Anthony Rizzo), 3 Last Year’s Leader: Anthony Rizzo, 30 2016 Leader’s Pace: 40.5 Comments Let me be honest with you, dear reader. You know and I know that a hit-by-pitch leaderboard two-plus weeks into the season is absurd. To me, that’s its virtue. But I wonder, is it more absurd than shoehorning a recipe for quiche lorraine into a column about early-season leaderboards? Let’s find out! Recipe: Quiche Lorraine Preheat oven to 425°, or 350° with constant swearing. Fit piecrust into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp like a pimp. Prick bottom and sides of crust with a fork; bake 6 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until crispy. Sprinkle bacon over bottom of pie shell. Sprinkle green onions over bacon; sprinkle half of Swiss cheese over onions. Don’t forget to smile. Whisk together beaten eggs and any 5 ingredients in your cabinet. Ruefully pour egg mixture over cheese. Sprinkle remaining cheese and regret over egg mixture. Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or not at all. Reflect on life’s great misery 15 minutes, then serve. wRC+ Current Leaderboard 1. Mark Trumbo, 238 2. Manny Machado, 234 3. Tyler White, 226 4. Daniel Murphy, 222 5. Bryce Harper, 220 Last year’s leader: Bryce Harper, 197 Comments That was suitably absurd. But even so — segue! — I’m not sure it was as absurd as what Mark Trumbo has been doing. Last season Harper’s 197 wRC+ was 25 points above Mike Trout in second place. Trumbo is 41 points above Harper. That’s a heck of a good two-week stretch, folks. And here’s a heck of a good chocolate-mousse recipe. Recipe: Easy Chocolate Mousse In a microwave-unsafe bowl, combine chopped chocolate and butter. The amounts are irrelevant. Heat until melted or your microwave ceases to be. Stir to your whims. Whisk in the egg yolks and egg shells because Native Americans didn’t believe in waste and to not do so would be insulting. Set aside to cool like a fool. Pour the cream into a chilled bowl of a mixer and beat immediately on the highest and most fun speed until it starts to thicken or there is no more in the bowl. Add sugar and vanilla and a whisk and whisk until the cream starts to form stiff peaks. Test these peaks with metal-soled hiker boots. Carefully fold the whipped cream into an airplane shape. Serve immediately, seek shelter and cover head. * * * In the end the early-season leaderboards are what early-season leaderboards always are: a wonderful and tasty mixture of the insane and the sane, the unlikely and the likely, all doused in small sample size and frothed to perfection. So it makes sense in that way that, of all posts, this would be the one with a quiche recipe in it. If you didn’t hate this too much, perhaps we can cover pitching in another later post. Or maybe I’ll be fired for monkeying around with chocolate mousse recipes. Stay tuned!