Monday, June 22, 2009

The Importance Of Sample Sizes

Now that the MLB season is nearly 40% complete, I thought it might be fun to go back to an April post by Jim to see how things are shaking out for the Royals now that the sample set is large enough to judge the team’s pitching. The timing of this post also comes immediately after the Royals were just swept by the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend and gave up 29 runs in 3 games.

Remember, when the April post was submitted the season was less than 8% complete. Here is the section of the post about the pitching:

“The Royals pitching staff is off to an incredible start. They have the league's second best ERA, and if not for Kyle (The Arsonist) Farnsworth, they would likely be on top. The most encouraging stat, however, is the team's number of strikeouts. Royals pitchers are currently striking out more batters than any other team in baseball.

This is important because strikeouts reduce the number of things that can go wrong when a ball is put in play. It is also big news because from 2000-2007, the Royals were in the bottom five in strikeouts every year (twice finishing dead last). Last year, they moved up to a below average but more respectable 17th place. Now they are #1. That may not last, but it is hard to imagine them dropping out of the top 10.

So now, on June 22nd, the Royals staff ERA ranks 19th in the league. They also rank 17th in the league in strikeouts (exactly where they ended the year in 2008), and are 10 games under .500.

Am I piling on the Royals right now? Maybe. But more importantly, I think there should be a rule that Flag Day has to come and go before we start drawing conclusions about how a baseball team will fare for the season (or at least wait longer than April 21st).

Baseball, above any other sport, is dominated by stats and usually those stats don’t lie. You just have to wait long enough for there to be enough stats there to sort through.

1 comment:

Jim said...

He's evil, but in this case he's right. I got carried away. I get carried away at the beginning of every baseball season.

I'm not sure why, because I tend to be much more skeptical in other areas. But when it comes to the Royals, I am the eternal optimist. That would be find if it didn't end in disappointment every single year.


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