My favorite Marvel movie is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
There have been ten movies released by Marvel Studios since The Winter Solder came out. Those include two of my favorite comic book characters — Spider-Man and The Black Panther — getting intro movies, plus two great ensemble movies (Civil War and Infinity War, obviously, because Age of Ultron was a bit of a letdown) and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
It would be easy for me to say that any one of those movies is better than The Winter Soldier. When pressed, I might even pick one of those above over The Winter Soldier. Actually, I’d probably just created a tiered ranking system and put several movies in Tier 1, but you already know that if you’ve seen my prospect rankings.
I like The Winter Soldier because of expectations. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Captain America movie, so I went into the second one with expectations lowered. It was arguably one of the best Marvel solo movies to date at the time, but the quality of the movie combined with the lowered expectations made it my favorite.
Expectations can be a funny thing. They really are worthless in terms of evaluations. If a movie is good, it really doesn’t matter if you went into it with high hopes or some skepticism. The expectations don’t change the quality of the movie.
This is true with baseball players as well. If a guy comes up and puts up around an .800 OPS, he’ll have some sort of value attached to his results. If another guy comes up and has the same results, then there should be no difference between the players.
But that’s where expectations can be a tricky thing.
Gregory Polanco came into the majors with the loftiest of expectations. It’s easy to say that he hasn’t lived up to those expectations. At his best, he’s been a 2.3 fWAR player, which is around league average production. He shows flashes of being capable of more, but injuries and inconsistent performances prevent him from the overall breakout that would lead to him reaching his expectations.
Every time I write about the future of the outfield, I know I’m going to get some sort of comment about how Polanco shouldn’t be guaranteed a job. He’s too inconsistent. He’s not good enough. He’s frustrating to watch. And so on.
Then there’s the flip side of expectations. This site might have the biggest Jose Osuna fans that I’ve ever seen. That started long ago for some, when John Dreker first featured him in 2010. It has since picked up steam over the years.
Osuna wasn’t a top prospect at any stage, and wasn’t in the Pirates’ plans as a starter. The expectations for him have been lower as a result of this. But this has also led to people elevating him above where he should be.
I’m not trying to compare Polanco and Osuna and say that this is a decision the Pirates have to make. I do want to compare them because the reactions to their situations are interesting.
Polanco has a .797 OPS this year. He’s got a 115 wRC+ and a .338 wOBA. His numbers in the month of may are higher, with an .888 OPS, a 144 wRC+, and a .380 wOBA. And yet people are down on him and want him replaced.
Part of this might be due to the first impressions of the season, when he had a .747 OPS in April — not bad, but not great. Part of it might be the outdated look at batting average as a good indicator of value. He still has a .224 average, and had a .198 average in April. He does have a .273 average in May, but the other stats are far more valuable.
Then there’s Osuna. He’s got an .805 OPS, a 117 wRC+, and a .341 wOBA. Those numbers are about the same as Polanco, and they come in a smaller sample size. Osuna came up and had a big game in April, then went back down. That big game is enough to distort his other stats, with a .641 OPS, a 73 wRC+, and a .276 wOBA during the month of May.
The reaction to Osuna is that he needs to be in the majors, and he should be given a bigger role in the majors. And it’s not just this year. He had a .697 OPS in a brief time last year, along with a .293 wOBA and a 78 wRC+ — numbers that were considered horrible for Polanco in the same season — and fans wanted him in the majors entering this season, and getting a bigger role.
It makes you wonder what the reaction would be if Polanco came in with lower expectations.
Of course, these things can change. I’ve seen Adam Frazier go from the low expectations approach where people want to see him as a starter, all the way to where he’s a starter and people want to see him in Triple-A, with no one ever really settling on him being just a bench player.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand the reactions to different players, especially how some players get locked into a narrative regardless of performance. I have a feeling that expectations play a huge role in how we perceive a player’s performance, or in some cases, how we can overlook the performances for better or worse.
In Gregory Polanco’s case, I think the lofty expectations have created a situation where the only thing he can do to avoid criticism for his performance — even when it’s as good as it has been in May — would be to live up to those lofty expectations.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.