Don't put too much stock in April stats

INSIDE PITCH

April 18, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

This is the most deceiving part of the baseball season. Fluctuation is the name of the game, as the weak often appear strong and the potent are temporarily invisible.

The big numbers are at their biggest and the small numbers at their smallest -- and without a tally sheet, you don't know which individuals, or teams, match up with which set of statistics.

Are the Oakland Athletics really the best-hitting team in the American League, as the latest weekly totals tell us? Or does it have some

thing to do with the fact that they've played the Minnesota Twins in seven of their first 12 games?

Are the Pittsburgh Pirates underrated on the basis of the six-game winning streak they compiled after losing their first four games? Or do the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers deserve at least half of the credit? And what about the Atlanta Braves? Everybody knows they're good, maybe the best team in baseball, but are they 12-1 good? Or have the Padres, Dodgers (there they are again) and the Chicago Cubs contributed?

Is the ball juiced? Has the sophomore jinx claimed Mike Piazza? Has it taken two years for expansion to take its toll?

Theories, theories. Everybody has theories. Especially in April. This is the time of year when a Billy Smith (remember him?) can lead the league in hitting. And a Juan Gonzalez can be just another big guy with a big swing who hasn't made many connections.

Most likely it would be a gross miscalculation to dismiss Carlos Delgado as a legitimate home run threat. But it also might be a tad early to consider the California Angels a threat to win a division title.

The first month of the baseball season always fosters undue expectations. It also often produces more negativism than even Spiro Agnew could handle.

In these early weeks, the astronomical -- and minuscule -- numbers are the ones that elicit all the attention. The guys with the .250 batting averages and 4.50 ERAs don't even cause a blink of the eye.

It's the big numbers and the small ones that dominate this time of the season. And it happens every spring, like a fantasy in bloom.

If you're looking for an early read on the baseball season, check back in about six weeks. That's about the time that talent starts to reach its true level.

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