The $64,000 Q on "Sample Size" for INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS

Where is this guy going to end up? Will 100 more feet tell you?


I've never understood why people referred to Doug Fister's July 2010 as a "sample" of any kind.  How could Fister's performances in July 2010 relate in any way to the pitcher he was going to be in 2012?  ... yet Fangraphs insists on casting a player's MONTH as a type of 2% REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE of his career.

If Nick Franklin comes up and takes 100 AB's for the Mariners, that's not going to be a "sample" of ANYTHING, except a very small sample of Franklin's skill level AT THE MOMENT.

It really is like watching a motorcycle zoom around through mountain passes, and you "sample" him going around one curve, and project his overall direction from that.  Is it not?


Here's where we run into Gaffney's "moving target" problem.  He was careful to specify that he was most dubious about pop sabermetrics as they apply to roster construction issues.

James (and I) couldn't agree more.  You won't see Bill James casting much of an opinion on whether Nick Franklin should be called up or not.

Industry trends?  Sure, you can conclude that pitchers with 8K per game are better bets than pitchers with 4K per game.  Industrywide tendencies, those you can capture.  Roster construction?  Different animal, scientifically.

This isn't a quibble.  Sabermetricians' job seems to be to "sample" that motorcycle going around one corner, and then to forecast where he'll be in 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  Can we agree that another 15 seconds' worth of "sample" is useless?


Sure, PECOTA will tell you that the last 10 motorcycles taking this turn ended up "averaging" a NW direction.  

You want to know that.  The problem comes when Rany Jazayerli insists you "correctly value" the path as NW'erly.


... how were you supposed to use "sampling" to project Kyle Seager, one day before his ML callup?  His career arc took an unexpected direction when he collided with MLB pitching.

How would "wider sampling" have helped you project Raul Ibanez when he was 26, or Jason Varitek when he was 24, or Jesus Montero when he's 23?  Rauuulllll's career arc took an unpredictable turn in his late 20's.  No amount of high-speed photography, of his mountain turns, at age 25, would have helped you.

But we see pop sabermetricians, all the time, see a ballplayer called up for one month, and then start gravely discussing his future based on their "sample."

We don' have a sample of Jesus Montero's career, gennlemen.  His 2012-13 is not providing a certain fraction of data as to his 2016 outcomes.

Matt, I'd like your comment on this, if you're so inclined.

Klat Categories: 


M's Watcher's picture

M's Watcher

What I am confident about in projecting Franklin, should he get 100 MLB-TM at bats, is that if he does well, his trade value will increase. It still may not predict his future performance, though it may more likely be with another team. Until he's promoted, he'll be just another AAA prospect, a top one, but untested in the bigs. He's worth more with MLB success. If he fails, he's just not ready yet, but it shouldn't hurt his value. It's not like a cup of coffee compares to Smoak's 1500 PAs.


Suffice to say, the Yankees face enough media scrutiny that if you are an employee and you're saying anything that could be construed as a comment on a player of "interest"...on the industry trends, or especially on the Yankees...the media here in NYC will quickly pounce on it as a comment from an unidentified team source.

The unethical conduct of the media has gotten so bad now that the Yankees have a hard rule against blogging, tweeting, or public commenting to the press. It also suffices to say that I can't really do that and still enjoy being a Mariner fan. I am looking for alternative (less public) means of conversing with my friends in the Seattle blogosphere. I'm pretty miserable with this particular rule. So if anyone wants to talk baseball over Skype or another chat service...or through email if you lack the patience for that sort of thing...I would greatly appreciate the chance to stay in touch and talk Mariners and baseball philosophy. Doc...I don't want to post my email address have my email address that I used to register with...can you pass it along to anyone asking for it?

I am sorry about this, all. Trust me...I'm not happy with it at all.


If you're interested in an old guy's views, get my e-mail from Doc and we can skype during key games - I have premium, which allows conference skype, so we could get more guys involved (up to 5, I think, but my bandwidth allows ~4).


I don't have a good address to reach you and I am hoping you can be a go-between here while I try to establish some connections during the games. Sorry to bug you...don't have another good way.


Maybe you can set up an incognito name at MC or something.  That totally BUMS me OUT, dude.  Grrrrrr...

At least we have confirmed what we always suspected about "unknown org sources" ... not that any bloggers around here would do that .....


You'll always be a part of the Mariners community. Hope the Yankees gig takes you where you want to go, though. Just make sure if we ever meet in the playoffs you drop some bad sushi on the pre-game buffet table. That'll make up for the umpiring we'll get.


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mojicianAccording to the NFL CBA, if a player is AWOL for more than 5 pre-season practices, he forfeits 15 percent of his salary plus 1 percent for every day missed thereafter until 25 percent has accrued. It will be interesting to see whether Beast Mode extends his strike to six games and risks losing out on some big money.16 min 13 sec ago
mojicianInteresting. Thanks, Ice for the Field Gulls stuff. After looking at the hold out, it seems like the football contracts are a lot different than baseball. In baseball, hold outs are unheard of, or they are only done by guys close to retirement anyway. The last one I know of was Miguel Olivo refusing to play for the Marlins because he was being iced on the bench. Before that, Griffey quit midseason after nap gate. There might have been others, but baseball hold outs are only done by minor players near the end of their careers. You can do whatever you want on your last day. It seems like these football hold outs are routine and done by big time players like Lynch. Weird.1 hour 33 min ago
rick82Three weeks. That's about a half mil. saved at least, right? Someone gets a bonus for cost savings!1 hour 43 min ago
IcebreakerXRegarding the Morales trade... Just because it took three weeks doesn't necessarily mean it took all that time for Z/Twinkies to decide on Pryor. I would bet The Committee is what ate the lion's share of that time.1 hour 58 min ago
IcebreakerXMojican: Field Gulls had a good article on Lynch... Basically says that after six days he'll start losing some of his signing bonus and a few other things, making a total holdout kinda costly.2 hours 6 min ago
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rick82We'll see if we dodged a three year headache with Morales. But watching Cruz practically reach the left center warning track last night with a broken bat - that's Smoaking it, gangsta style!4 hours 5 min ago
SABR Mattaaaaaand that's a good reason to gamble on one-year old guys rather than signing 31 y/o players unless they're superstars. :)4 hours 32 min ago
rick82Last two weeks: Swisher: .214/.233/.286 .518 OPS Hart: .261/.370/.348 .718 OPS Season so far, .624 vs. 627 respectively. I had thought Swisher was coming out of it but apparently not. I'm glad we don't have that contract to deal with.4 hours 45 min ago
SABR MattThe Mariners really, truly hate Montero.5 hours 29 min ago
SABR MattWe do, after all, have his countryman Kendrys on the roster...and his fellow Roc Nation Sports client (Cano) is our team leader. Eyes sideways.5 hours 30 min ago
MtGrizzlyMontero will be back in AAA today, Moe. He was evidently packing up after last nights game.5 hours 30 min ago
SABR MattIndeed moj...but sometimes you ahve to take a gamble (see: Abreu, Jose). If I were a scout on this case, I know how much pressure would be on me (I'd probably have a three-month-long migraine preparing for the scouting workout) but I would still, in the end, recommend the Mariners drop $60 mil over 6 years for Castillo.5 hours 31 min ago
mojicianIts advisable to taste the wine before you splurge on a fancy bottle.5 hours 45 min ago
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bsrCastillo repped by Roc Nation Sports. I wonder if we built any goodwill over there, with our recent $240M contribution to the cause? :)5 hours 49 min ago
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mojicianLately Cuban sensations have been panning out.6 hours 11 min ago
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