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Byung-ho Park's enormous error bars

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The Korean arrival to Minnesota could be the league's best power hitter. He could get benched. If you think you know exactly what to expect, you're wrong.

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When I took physics, I could get numbers. Results. Where I struggled was error bars. See, the sciences aren't like math, where there's a right answer, everything fits together like Legos, that's that. In science, there are assumptions. Guessing. Rounding. So in lab papers and such, graphs couldn't be precise. You had to include the error bars.

Basically, the final result was a number, but to get the right right answer, I had to include all the possible numbers it could have been if my measurements were a little bit off. I hated it with an ever-loving passion.

But that was science. In baseball, error bars are much more helpful things. We can look at the projections of any given player on Fangraphs, Baseball-Reference, whatever, and get an idea of what to expect out of them. But every player has some level of error bars. For the most consistent guys out there, like Mike Trout, whose OPS+ has never been below 168 or above 179, the error bars are small; barring injury, he's going to be who he is, and you can count on things. But then you have a guy like Chris Davis, whose OPS+ has ranged 72 points over the last four years. His error bars have to be larger.

And then there's Byung-ho Park.

Park signed with the Twins in the offseason, coming off almost 3,300 plate appearances in the Korean Baseball Organization. Over his last three seasons (ages 26-28), Park had 142 home runs in 1,749 plate appearances. His on-base percentage stayed between .433 and .437, and his slugging percentage kept climbing, maxing out with a .714 in 2015. At least in the KBO, dude could hit.

Of course, the KBO isn't MLB. There isn't an exact conversion rate, but the generally accepted level is that it's about our AA. But that's an approximation; we have 16 Korean major leaguers in the last 20 years, and that includes Rob Refsnyder, who was adopted by an American couple at five months and doesn't count in any real way. There are the success stories like Shin-Soo Choo and Jung-Ho Kang, and guys who I had to look up like Cho Jin-ho and Lim Chang-Yong. Among position players, it's just Choo, Kang, Refsnyder and Hee-seop Choi. Kang and Choo did well. Choi did ... well, he did fine, but you'd have to label him a disappointment. (We do have evidence of non-Koreans going to and from the KBO and MLB, and those are data points as well, but still, this is imprecise.)

Park? Heck, no idea. He'll likely be the Minnesota DH most, if not all, of the season. He could, without too much surprise and amazement, hit his requisite billionty-seven homers. He could go the other way and hit five home runs, struggle much of the year, find himself benched in favor of letting Miguel Sano put his glove on the shelf.

I've seen a projection for Park that has him with a .273/.339/.475 slash line, 26 homers, 84 RBI. Just Monday night on Twitter, Fake Teams godfather Ray Guilfoyle offered a similar projection. That seems like a reasonable baseline.

But remember the error bars. Trout's are small. Davis' are moderate-to-big. Park's? No player in the game has bigger error bars than Byung-ho Park in Minnesota. And as a first baseman, that makes him risky. The position is so relatively stacked that the negative end of Park's error bars have to weigh really heavily. Go into the season with him as your only first baseman and things could turn out ... well, poorly. But the good side means you can't let Park go without a cursory pick.

Me? I'm a scaredy-cat. I don't mind some error bars (see my all-in on Davis just last year), but someone like Park? I wouldn't let him go undrafted, but I almost guarantee someone will pounce on him before me. I prefer to know what I'm getting, and with Park, I just don't. How lucky do you feel?