#Hot Corner

Meet the Babe Ruth of Japan

Chung Sung-Jun

Okay, so I'll admit it ... the headline sucked me in, but good:

Is Wladimir Balentien Having The Most Dominant Baseball Season Ever?

Intriguing, isn't it? Alas, I'm afraid the answer is essentially, "Not even close, according to the information we checked, and frankly we didn't check a great deal of information." From the introduction to the accompanying infographic:

Balentien isn't just the best hitter in Japanese baseball, though, he's an outlandish statistical outlier with a slugging percentage that's 4.6 standard deviations over the league average. To visualize how crazy this is, let's compare Wladimir's year to the 11 most dominant slugging seasons in MLB history.

Here's the article if you want to see the graphs for yourself; they're kinda fun. By this measure alone, Balentien's having the fourth-most dominant season ever. Again, by this single measure: standard deviations of slugging percentage. He's fourth, behind two Babe Ruth seasons and one Barry Bonds season. Of course, what's missing from this methodology is (among other things) the rest of Japanese baseball history, and for that matter the whole of minor-league baseball history. That headline says baseball; it doesn't say American and/or Japanese major-league history.

Anyway, Balentien's having one hell of a season. He's hit 52 homers, just three shy of the all-time Japan record, with plenty of games left. The author of the piece, Reuben Fischer-Baum, wonders about Balentien's future: "Can Balentien, who's only 29 but under contract with the Swallows for two more years, get another shot at the majors? Who knows, but if he does, he's probably going to kill some damn baseballs."

Probably. But probably not a lot of them. He would be 32 upon his return to the majors. Well, at least 32. I always thought Balentien was good enough to hold down a job in the majors, and 559 mostly crappy plate appearances in the majors wasn't enough to convince me I was wrong. But if he couldn't win a job when he was 27, he's unlikely to do it when he's 32.

Which doesn't mean we won't be pulling for him if somebody gives him a shot.

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