Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bo Knew...

Some perspective on Yasiel Puig and his amazing first week, and the player whose best known for the potential we'll never know (and an attempt to reactivate this blog that I've neglected). 

There's no doubting Yasiel Puig's talent, and only the league can determine the adjustment after his 4-HRs off of 4 different pitchers first-week performance. This unto itself is unbelievable, but the comparison to Bo Jackson gave me pause, especially with regard to speed. A radio pundit actually made this hyperbolic comparison: Arm strength=Clemente, Bat Speed/Power=Mantle, Base running=Rickey Henderson and Phenom Status=Bo Jackson. Despite his description of baseball's "Second Coming" it was the Jackson thing that didn't sit right because there was something out of all of these skill sets that Bo could've laid claim to.

Knowing full-well that all of the characters are Hall of Fame'rs I thought about Bo, and his greatness unfulfilled. Maybe it's that the human body isn't supposed to perform at that level over any extended period of time? Maybe we saw the peak of our physical potential in Jackson's short career? Or maybe...well, that's what "maybe's" for...to leave room for conjecture.

Yasiel Puig's emergence undoubtedly invites these kind of comparisons. Coming from Cuba, he brings a mystique in the sense that he hasn't been through any US farm system and held up to the scrutiny of the Sabermetrics madness of Major League Baseball. His story is one of scouts demanding higher-ups to "take a look at this kid" after their circumvention of the blockade. It was a whisper campaign and the antithesis of Money Ball's high science. Or so it may seem... The A's, after all, signed Yoenis Cespedes, also from Cuba, which can only mean there are some scouts with the ability to travel freely throughout Latin America without the burden of US politics and track OBP's and strike out-to-walk ratios without impunity. I don't doubt that, but I digress...

Yasiel Puig's arrival in LA from relative obscurity is nothing short of unbelievable. He signed hardly a year ago, hits .450+ with a .950+ slugging percentage in his first seven days as a major leaguer. If he retired RIGHT NOW those are amazing numbers even with the small sample size. If they had compared him to Babe Ruth or even Roy "The Natural" Hobbs I wouldn't have blinked. But they didn't. They went and compared him to Bo...

Bo Jackson to us as youth in the late 80's / early 90's was nothing short of a super hero. "Neon" Deion Sanders may have been a two-sport athlete, but he was never a two-sport star that inspired an ad campaign that in turn inspired hip hop lyrics: "Bo knows this, and Bo knows that? But Bo don't know jack cuz Bo can't rap." This mention alone trumps Deion's "Must Be the Money," and then there's this:

And he was pretty good at baseball too...

I will say I wish Yasiel Puig all the success he can handle (even if he is a Dodger). He's an amazing talent, but against Bo...I did some digging. After a week in baseball there's not a lot to measure in terms of a comparison. I decided the only thing worth talking about 7 days into a career was speed. Speed, as they say, never slumps. Both Puig and Jackson are right-handed batters. That makes the home-to-first time a pretty good 0-60mph assessment. I learned that the league average these days is about 4.4 seconds, and as average implies you have to figure the 5+ guys against some 4.0 speedsters to even get to a 4.4 average, and Puig has been compared to Bo Jackson as one of the "curve wreckers". I went to an mlb.com blog that tracks these things, and found that with Puig's best jump out of the box he hit 4.2 seconds to first. That's a good time. It's two-tenths of a second below the league average which I think puts him in the 80th percentile speed-wise in the league. If it were football he'd have run 5.6 40 yard dash. So it's not that the league is slow; it's that Bo Jackson was fast--faster than any league by any standard.

In his prime Bo Jackson clocked in at 3.2 seconds from home to first, more than a full second above the current major league average, and a time that given 10 more yards, he could've beaten Puig's 4.2... I mean, if the bases were 40 yards apart. Bo ran a 4.13 at the NFL Combine. T hat's ridiculous.  So none of this is meant to diminish the accomplishments of Yasiel Puig. I've been just as astounded as anyone else this past week. I think I just wanted to remember Bo. Maybe my heroes needed some run tonight, and damn could Bo Jackson run.

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