Fun With Small Sample Sizes
I love the beginning of the season. Perhaps it is all that pent up baseball anticipation, perhaps it is that these games always tend to be sort of strange and sudden “stars” emerge if only because as Dustin Ackley put it after the opener in which he had the game’s lone home run,
“The first thing I thought of when I got back to the dugout was that I was leading the Major Leagues in home runs.”
Ichiro Suzuki can finish one game hitting .800 and then watch his batting average drop 356 points following an 0-for-4 night the next night. These are the fun quirky things about the beginning of spring. So let’s look at some fun numbers.
Brandon McCarthy and Felix Hernandez dueled in the first game of the season both looked great. While, McCarthy finished the game with a 1.29 ERA and 2.36 FIP – and the odds are slim he keeps it up – for the game he was worth nada: 0.0 WAR. Hernandez meanwhile finished the game with a 1.13 ERA, 0.64 FIP and earned 0.4 WAR. If Hernandez gets 35 starts he presently is on pace to finish the season worth 14.0 WAR.
Yoenis Cespedes on the other hand exceeds Felix’ domination. With a .333/.429/1.000 slash line and an astronomical .546 wOBA and 485 wRC+ he has been worth 0.3 WAR in his two games. If he plays in 150 contests and keeps up this pace this year Cespedes should be a lock for AL Rookie of the Year as he’ll have a mere 24.3 WAR season. If he retires from baseball tomorrow (let’s hope not!) he will finish his season with as many WAR as Hideki Matsui had for the A’s in 2011 in 139 fewer games.
New setup guy Ryan Cook is another player off to a fast start. His -0.64 FIP leads Athletics pitchers care of his one inning of one strikeout, no walk, no home run baseball. That isn’t even good enough for the lead league which belongs to Brandon League at -2.64 FIP.
One walk and League’s league lead could be gone. One 0-for-3 day and suddenly Cespedes will be off his 24.3 WAR pace. These are the joys of April baseball. And given Ackley’s comments players seem to feel the same way too. So let’s enjoy this while we are tied for the league’s lead in wins, let’s enjoy players still being on pace to hit 81 home runs as three of our players are today, because come May our stats will all normalize and while we’ll gain a lot more insight, we’ll have a lot less kooky fun.
Yesterday I posted a piece very similar to this at Athletics Nation as my regular Sunday column moved up one day to Saturday. I encourage all my readers, as I always do, to go there and check it out and comment with a great group of A’s fans.