Don’t Call It A Comeback

Last night, Eric Hinske launched his sixth home run of the young season, matching his 2007 season total before we even get to May of 2008. With a .292/.407/.639 line, Hinske is solidifying a line-up spot for himself in Tampa, at least until he cools off, as Tampa looks to strike gold for the second year in a row. But while his hot start has been one of the main reasons the Rays are racking up wins, don’t anoint him as the next Carlos Pena just yet.

Hinske has done this before. In June of 2002, on his way to the rookie of the year award, he hit .338/.442/.675 with 14 extra base hits and a 15/17 BB/K rate in 95 plate appearances. He followed up that monster performance by hitting .245/.324/.415. In fact, from July 1st through the end of the 2008 season, Hinske hit .267/.348/.427, a fairly pedestrian mark for a guy whose value comes strictly from his performance at the plate. His huge June in 2002 wasn’t indicative of a coming superstar, and odds are that neither is this April.

I don’t say this to downplay the value that Hinske has provided the Rays so far, and as a guy who was picked up for nothing, he’s already more than justified the investment they’ve given him. He’s a classic example of freely available talent that good organizations extract value from in order to allocate more of their resources to their core group of talent. However, we’ve written a lot about interesting 2008 performances in the last few weeks here on fangraphs, and I feel like it was time that we remind everyone that these are still very small samples, and April performances shouldn’t be taken as a harbinger of what the rest of the season holds.

In a small sample size, anything can happen. Even Eric Hinske hitting like an MVP candidate.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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