Sample Size and Early Season Baseball

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The baseball season is about 3 percent complete. Fans are still excited from opening day, and difficult losses aren’t shrugged off like they sometimes can be in July. Teams are trying to establish an identity, but is it really possible to have an identity after 6 games? Fast starting teams usually end up regressing to the mean. This is a product of small sample size. Some of the most entertaining examples of small sample size occur when a player gets off to a hot start and leads the league in a stat they wouldn’t normally lead. Omar Infante is an awesome example this season. He has had more than 9 home runs once in his 10 year career, and he leads the NL in home runs this year. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he only hit one more homer this season and finished with 4. Josh Willingham also is a surprise home run leader in the AL. He’s hit one home run in each of the last 3 games at notoriously pitcher friendly Target Field. The first weeks of the season always has a reliever leading the league in wins. Most starters have only pitched once, while relievers have pitched a few times and may have been the pitcher of record for some late inning wins. Jeff Gray for the Twins is a perfect example because he has pitched when the Twins came from behind in their only two wins. Small sample size, right? I have a feeling he won’t be the only Twins pitcher to win a game this year. And like we saw last year, a slow start by the Red Sox doesn’t count them out. But you wouldn’t know that from listening to sports writers in Boston. New York media was freaking out when the Yankees haden’t won a game and the Mets were undefeated. Three days later the Mets have lost two in a row and the Yankees swept the Orioles in 3 games. Basically, normalcy is generally going to be restored. If your team got off to a hot start, they will cool at some point. Same goes for players like Omar Infante; don’t count on him hitting more home runs than Matt Kemp or Jose Bautista. The season is incredibly early. The Mariners haven’t even had a home game yet. We’ll be there for opening day so be sure to look for us on TV.

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