Something I don’t talk about often is that I don’t really care for writing about baseball during the season. We all have such a tendency to overweight what most recently happened that we forget it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I prefer the offseason for writing. It’s a better time to reflect.
One of the things we all have to be wary of during the offseason is the power of sample size. Many of us – myself included – were worried about Joey Votto recently. But he’s spent the last couple of weeks being Joey Votto again and it seems reports of his demise have been somewhat exaggerated. So it goes.
We aren’t to the halfway mark in the season yet. Votto raised his OPS 71 points in 47 plate appearances. If I take away what seems – eyeballing it – to be his worst week of the season, he’s hitting .262 with a .372 on-base percentage (I don’t have the energy just now to figure his slugging percentage).
But you can’t DO that, you say! You can’t pretend that bad week didn’t happen. And you are correct. I’m not trying to. I’m just pointing out between that and his hot streak how big of a difference a little bit of being good or bad can make at this point in the season.
There are a ton of statistics out there and almost all of them are still in small sample size territory. I hear a lot about ground ball rates and fly ball rates, but those aren’t especially stable from season to season. Never mind month to month. We look at launch angle and exit velocity (which has only just now crossed the 50% threshold – you can account for half of the change you’ve seen in actual change in performance) and we assume they tell us something useful. And maybe they do. But we don’t KNOW, yet. We need years of data that we need to look at all the different ups and downs of a player’s career. We need to learn what’s normal variation and what’s not. We can see changes, but right now, we don’t know how significant these changes are.
I write these columns with a theoretical outlook on how the Reds are doing in terms of becoming a contender. But most of the time, the answer is I don’t know. I’d take Jose Peraza over Derek Dietrich, not because I haven’t loved watching Dietrich hit – he’s so much fun and one of my favorite recent finds – but because history tells me to bet on a 25-year-old coming out of a slump and not a 29-year-old who’s had the best two months of his life by a lot. That might be the wrong call. I don’t know. None of us do. We can guess. We can use the information at hand to make educated guesses but certainty only comes with time.
I think, right now, this is a pretty good baseball team. I think Joey Votto and Yasiel Puig will finish the year with solid numbers for them. I think the pitching staff is for real. I think Eugenio Suarez is gonna get real MVP votes eventually. I think Luis Castillo is gonna get real Cy Young votes this year.
But I don’t know.