Carlos Gonzalez is lucky and good

Rockies outfielder got some good bounces, but that doesn't mean his 2010 was a fluke

Updated: March 28, 2011, 12:44 PM ET
By Jonah Keri | FanGraphs
AP Photo/Matt McClainCarlos Gonzalez's 34 homers helped keep the Rockies in the playoff hunt well into September.

Carlos Gonzalez's gigantic breakout was one of the great stories of the 2010 season. Few players in major league history have exploded onto the scene quite the way he did -- leading the circuit in hits, total bases and batting average, and finishing third in NL MVP voting.

So impressive was CarGo's effort that he might have won more fantasy leagues for his owners than perhaps any player other than Jose Bautista, and he also earned a seven-year, $80 million contract. Not bad for a player in his first full big league season.

But in a year of amazing numbers, one stat soared so high that it makes you wonder whether Gonzalez can do it again. Major league hitters batted .297 on balls hit in play last season; Gonzalez hit .384.

To understand what .384 means -- and to find out whether this amazing performance is repeatable -- we need to examine how baseball research has influenced the way we've come to evaluate pitchers and how hitters are subject to many of the same variables, although to a lesser extent.

Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) is a staff writer for Grantland. His book, The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team From Worst to First, is a national best seller. His new book Up, Up, and Away, on the history of the Montreal Expos, is now available for preorder.