Let’s play a game. I will give you numbers and you guess which one doesn’t fit.
- 125, 114, 44
- 153, 153, 72
- 121, 123, 91
- 111, 113, 206, 80
- 109, 128, 28
First, I’ll tell you that each number set represents a player.
- Yasiel Puig
- Joey Votto
- Jesse Winker
- Derek Dietrich
- Eugenio Suarez
Second, I’ll tell you that the first number in each set is that player’s career wRC+.
Third, I’ll tell you that for everyone except Dietrich, the numbers separate the beginnings or ends of slumps from the rest of the season. Puig’s date is May 1, Votto’s is May 24, Winker’s is May 15, Suarez’s is June 1. For Dietrich, the last three numbers are his wRC+ for March/April, May, and June.
Yes. I have chosen arbitrary endpoints. Also, all endpoints are arbitrary in baseball. There is nothing special or magical that happens to a player’s ability at the end of a season. We break numbers there because they are convenient for us. But we could just as easily use rolling 150 game averages. In fact, let’s do that.
Puig – 110 wRC+
Votto – 112 wRC+
Winker – 118 wRC+
Dietrich – 117 wRC+
Suarez – 109 wRC+
Only Joey Votto has really been different from his career averages during that period. That’s to be expected given his place on the aging curve and the career-worst slump that’s part of his 150 game sample.
My least favorite thing about writing about baseball is the part where people scream at me that this or that player is done or should be signed to a long term deal or whatever based off of a hot or cold month. Baseball doesn’t work that way. It’s never worked that way.
At the beginning of the season, a lot of people thought Matt Kemp had to play because “he was an all-star last year.” And he was. He had a very good first half last year. It was also the only extended period of good play he’d had since 2014.
The best predictor of what a player will do moving forward isn’t what he did during the last 30 or 45 or 60 days. It’s the trend his career has followed. It’s his career numbers, with some adjustment for where he sits on the aging curve. All endpoints are arbitrary and that includes the ones we use at the ends and beginnings of seasons.