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Chris Lubanski and Alternate History

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Chris Lubanski's Alternate History

Wargamers and history buffs enjoy speculating about the "what ifs" of history, "counterfactuals," if you will. What would have happened if Hitler had postponed invading the USSR, and rather spent 1941 tearing down the position of the British Empire in the Mediterranean instead? How badly would a seizure of Gibralter, Malta, and Suez (all likely if the attack on the Soviets is delayed a year) have crippled the British war effort? What if Pickett's Charge had worked and the Confederates had won at Gettysburg? More esoterically, what would have happened had Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein died of measles at the age of 10?

Questions like this are unanswerable, of course, but they do help us draw out the various threads of history, particularly the interplay between important individuals and the larger trends of economics and social development in which historical personages act. No serious historian can argue that individuals DON'T matter. It is hard to imagine the Bolshevik Revolution taking the course that it did without Lenin at the helm. Yet the "Great Man" approach to history is just as flawed unless one understands the underlying social and economic structures. People like Hitler or Stalin would have just been minor ideological cranks, not world-historical mass-murdering tyrants, without the social conditions being ripe for their rise to power.

Anyhow, while driving to Des Moines the other day, I was listening to a radio talk show were someone was complaining about Royals prospect Chris Lubanski, their first pick in the 2003 draft, being a "failure" due to his struggles this year at High Desert. It occurred to me that, while Lubanski has certainly not lived up to expectations, it is far too early to say he is a failure. If he had accepted his baseball scholarship to Florida State, rather than sign with the Royals, this would just be his sophomore season.

Somewhere in an alternate quantum state reality, Chris Lubanski is a Florida State Seminole, not a High Desert Maverick. Here is Chris Lubanksi's actual Universe Terra-1 statistics for '04 and '05.

Chris Lubanski In Reality
2004 Burlington 128 games, 487 AB, 64 H, 26 2B, 7 3B, 9 HR, 43 BB, 106 K, 16 steals in 27 attempts, .273 BA, .334 OBP, .411 SLG.
2005 High Desert 63 games, 257 AB, 65 H, 15 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 19 BB, 74 K, 6 steals in 6 attempts, .253 BA, .305 OBP, .514 SLG.

I've applied a statistical adjustment to try and put these numbers within the context of Florida State University baseball. DO NOT TAKE THESE NUMBERS PARTICULARLY SERIOUSLY. I went back and looked at how some Florida State guys transitioned to pro ball to help make these adjustments, but the sample size was small and this is more educated guesswork than anything else.

Chris Lubanski as a Florida State Seminole

2004 Freshman 64 games, 244 AB, 75 H, 16 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 23 BB, 49 K, 9 steals in 12 attempts, .307 BA, .367 OBP, .512 SLG
2005 Sophomore 63 games, 257 AB, 72 H, 18 2B, 3 3B, 15 HR, 22 BB, 67 K, 9 steals in 9 attempts, .283 BA, .310 OBP, .549 SLG

The point is this: to say that Chris Lubanski, or any other struggling high school player drafted just two years ago, is a "failure" is ridiculous. It's not like he's hitting .190 in rookie ball. If Lubanski had attended college, his 2005 sophomore season, if it looked something like the translation above, would be regarded as mildly disappointing compared to his freshman campaign, but it would still be enough to put him in the draft spotlight for 2006.

Now, the point is not to make you optimistic about Lubanski. On the contrary, his plate discipline has been quite weak this year, and I AM worried about how he is developing. He has a lot of work to do. But the point of this "alternate history" exercise is to put things in perspective. Lubanski is the equivalent of a college sophomore right now, and labeling him a failure just doesn't work. Other high school kids from the 2003 draft (Ryan Harvey, Matt Moses, Brandon Wood, Ian Stewart, Eric Duncan, Daric Barton) are also the equivalent of college sophomores. Try doing some "alternate histories" for those guys. It helps keeps things in perspective.