We’re off to a 3 – 1 start, and no doubt you M’s fans are as excited as me. It’s easy to get excited about hot starts from Ichiro and Chone Figgins in their new lineup positions, or about Michael Saunders with a dinger last night and a .308 average. Conversely, it’s easy to get down on Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero (oh, happy Easter by the way!) for sub par performances.
I think intuitively we all know it’s early, and stats like batting average, homeruns, and even OBP aren’t the most reliable stats for predicting what players are going to do the rest of the season. It’s that whole small sample size thing. It turns out, based on some research in that article I linked to, for many common statistics it takes at least half a season before we can start taking them seriously.
So over the course of year, I will be checking in on some of the stats that stabilize quickly…the ones that we can trust more in small sample sizes. For instance, instead of looking at Figgy’s batting average as a sign of resurrection, I will focus on things like his pitches seen per plate appearance and his swing rate at balls outside the strike zone. According to Pitch f/x, since arriving in Seattle, Figgins has been swinging at more pitches outside the zone than he did his last few seasons in Anaheim (LA? BS.). If he shows better discipline AND maintains a higher batting average, then Figgins will have risen again…or whatever.
It’s still early, but after a few more weeks of games we should have some telling numbers to look at!