Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Only April...

Hello all those out there in Reds country. This is my first attempt at a blog, so by all means feel free to rip me apart the way you've been ripping Willie Harris apart.

Last week drove me nuts listening to Reds fans. Enduring the past few weeks of baseball out of our beloved Redlegs was no doubt difficult, for me included, but the phenomenon known as small sample sizes will save us all from oblivion come October. Its been said all over the blogosphere that we're only 10% into the season. I hear some say "It doesn't matter how early it is, the games all count the same." So which is it? Is it too early to make any definitive claims, or is it justified to be worried, because the games all count the same? Well its a bit of both. A 7-9 stretch (or more accurately, the 5-8 stretch prior to the Cubs series) has never won or lost a championship. Think of it this way: would you freak out if the Reds were chugging along in first place and had a 7-9 stretch prior to the All-Star Break? After reading Reds message boards and tweets all week, the answer is probably still yes, but the point is that it doesn't seem as bad when you have no other stretch to measure it against. So why shouldn't you freak out? Here's why:

  • Small sample sizes, offense: FanGraphs has a great article that breaks down how many plate appearances are required before the sample size is large enough to actually take seriously. Here's the breakdown
      • 50 PA: Swing%
      • 100 PA: Contact Rate
      • 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
      • 200 PA: Walk Rate, Ground Ball Rate, GB/FB
      • 250 PA: Fly Ball Rate
      • 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
      • 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
      • 550 PA: ISO
    • So the Red with the most plate appearances so far is Joey Votto with 72. The rest of the lineup ranges anywhere from 27 PA on up. Two of the offensive metrics that are taken most seriously by serious baseball minds are On Base Percentage (OBP) and Slugging Percentage (SLG). Notice we're still more than 400 PAs away from having an accurate snapshot of what these players can do. That's more than a lot of these part time players will even get this year. It's an eye-opening fact, but it really preaches for us to be patient and not look too much into numbers at this point in the year.
  • BABIP: an acronym you need to know! You remember during the first 10 games or so, you felt like whenever the Reds got a bat on a ball, they hit it directly at somebody? Did you know that there's an actual stat to describe this phenomenon? And it was abnormally low before the Cubs series.
    • BABIP stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play. The statistic ignores any result that does not end with a ball in the field of play. So basically taking out home runs and strikeouts, and counts what percentage of balls that are in play end up being hits.
    • BABIP has a normal range, usually falling somewhere between .290 and .310. Up until the Cubs series, the Reds' team BABIP was hovering around .240, which is abnormally low. That meant that more than likely what seemed like bad luck, may have been just that. Lo and behold, during the Cubs series, balls started falling where they hadn't before, and the Reds have raised their team BABIP to .269, a sign that things should still continue to get better.
    • Big League Stew over at Yahoo! Sports has a great breakdown of BABIP that you can read here.
    • If you want to track the Reds' BABIP from game to game, check out this page on FanGraphs.
  • A few extras for you:
    • Justin over at Redsfacts has a couple cool desktop themes that track the Reds records and results. There's also a bunch of funny memes and facts (some even being written by yours truly) that should make you ROTFL or whatever you young kids are saying these days.
    • Be sure to follow me on Twitter @joeyvottosbat
    • Also, if you'd like to leave a comment with compliments, complaints, or suggestions please do so. This was just a dry run at a blog, and I hope to continue blogging throughout the season. Knowing people like what I write would certainly keep me motivated. See you all at the ballpark tomorrow night!

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