Yesterday, Bill James wrote (subscriber-only) about Manny Machado's chances of breaking the all-time, single-season double record. Here's the meat, or rather the top and bottom buns; I snipped out most of the mathematical meat:
Manny Machado has hit 31 doubles through the Orioles’ first 71 games. At that pace he would hit 73 doubles this season, which would break the major league record for doubles in a season, which is 67 (Earl Webb, 1931). What is the chance that he will break that record?
As best I can estimate it, it’s about 3%.
Combining those into one number, then, the chance would be 4% ... (.30 times .085, plus .10 times .064, etc.)
So that method says four percent, but that method is perhaps a little unrealistically optimistic. It assumes that his propensity to hit doubles is the equal of Ted Williams and greater than any other player (and greater than Williams if you measure it per plate appearance, rather than per at bat), and it assumes that he has a 30% chance of getting 697 at bats this season, which would be the 8th highest total of all time. So… .4% seems high; let’s say 3%.
Funny, I was gonna say 3.5 percent. Whatever.
Seriously, there's nothing wrong with getting excited about Machado's shot at the record (not to mention his tremendous talent, generally). But as I wrote a few weeks ago, we've been here many times before. So wake me in August if Machado's still got the shot.