The Other Fifteen

Eighty-five percent of the f---in' world is working. The other fifteen come out here.


The Sermon on the Mound

Okay, it's church-going time. Strictly nondenominational, so long as you are willing to worship at the Church of Baseball.

Now, when you come to worship at the Church of Baseball, there are a few things that you need to know. If you know nothing else, then you must at least know this. Study it. Repeat it to yourself. Say it after every inning. Make it a part of yourself. Ready? Okay, here goes the Sabermetrician's Creed:

I cannot learn anything meaningful about a batter in less than 50 plate appearances.

I cannot learn anything meaningful about a pitcher in less than 20 innings pitched.

I cannot learn anything meaningful about a team in less than 500 plate appearances.

This is not negotiable - this isn't something that you can argue over or find exceptions to. You absolutely cannot draw conclusions about a player or team's performance in ten games or less; you can not.

This is not to say that you can draw conclusions about a team's performance in twenty games - you probably can't do that, either. But there is absolutely no way you can do it in less than ten.

Again: this is not a matter of opinion. Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying to you, and that's the truth.

[I will add one caveat - doctors are an exception to this rule. So you can learn that Pedro Martinez has a bum hamstring. I'm sure that really surprised you.]

Right now, we see amazing things all around us: the Orioles are first in the AL East! The Tigers have the worst record in baseball! Jason Kendall leads the NL in batting average! Kyle Lohse leads the NL in ERA!

And people are nearly desperate to ascribe meaning to all of those things. But they don't matter. They're meaningless. The literally have no meaning, none, whatsoever.

But no team has ever gone 0-7 and made the playoffs!

I don't care.

Jason Kendall had eye surgery!

I don't care.

Dave Duncan is the greatest pitching coach ever!

I don't care.

Do you know why I don't care?

Because you absolutely cannot draw conclusions about a player's or team's performance in ten games or less; you can not.

Now go forth, and sin no more. Grace be with those who understand and appreciate the great importance of sample size in all things; amen.

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4 Responses to “The Sermon on the Mound”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Sure you can draw conclusions. They may end up being wrong, but you can draw them.

    Between you and maddog lately, I'd almost rather read Yellon.

    So that I don't fall prey to the pitfalls and dangers of attaching meaning to baseball games too early in the season, please post something at some point that will let me know when it's okay.

    I wouldn't want to get it wrong.  

  2. # Blogger Gavin

    The point is that you shouldn't attach additional significance to an x-game span just because it takes place at the start of the season. Take Zambrano's horrid April start last year; we all knew that, whatever the cause (luck, mentality, whatever), it wasn't representative of the kind of pitcher Zambrano was. This goes for position players, pitchers, or teams.

    The guy that's getting hammered on the nets and in the media right now is Soriano, who's in a pretty bad slump. Guess what? He's streaky. Going 1-for-20 or whatever it was to start the season doesn't mean anything significant past the fact that it probably helped lose a couple games.  

  3. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I've always had a question about something relating to this. How much credence should we give to specific hitter vs. pitcher at at bats? Because everyone always cites them and even managers use them to decide if they want to start a bench player. But the sample size is usually like 15-40 at bats. So how helpful are those stats really?  

  4. # Anonymous Maddog

    They're not helpful at all. 15-40 at-bats isn't a large enough sample to know whether or not a certain kind of performance is likely to continue, which is what the manager, when he does things like this, is trying to get.  

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