Tuesday, April 17, 2007

What Do Ya Know?

After two weeks of the baseball season, not much. Or at least nothing more than you did before the season started. Heck, you don't really know much more than you did way back before spring training started. If you think you do, then you've fallen victim to that dreaded disease: Small Sample-Sizephyllia.

The fact that you--and I, and everyone else--know no more today than three months ago is not some side effect of a factor unique to this season, be it frequent game cancellations or anything else. No, all this amounts to is a statement that a couple weeks of baseball, even a month plus of spring training, doesn't amount to a hill of beans (and what does, really? I mean, I've never seen an actual hill of beans) when compared to hundreds of at-bats, or batters faced, over the course of a career.

Which is why I find Lou Pinella's roster shuffling so amusing, as well as Cubs fans' embracing of his wild panic approach. I'm not saying the changes are bad. I don't care enough about the Cubs to analyze in too much detail, but some of them make sense on their face. For example, if yesterday's outfield flip flop indicates that Matt Murton will play everyday while Jacques Jones and Cliff Floyd form up (AND I'LL FORM THE HEAD!) into a relatively useful Jaff Joyd, then that's great. But if that is the right alignment for the Cubbies outfield corners, then why in the hell was it not the right alignment two months ago?!? We knew every bit as much about what these gentlemen could do in February as we do now. I keep hearing Cub fans lauding the fact that Pinella will "tinker" with his line-up. What they should be doing is lamenting the fact that he was suffering from dumb up until now.

Of more concern, the moves reflect that Pinella is more than ready to panic, or otherwise make decisions, on the basis of a very small sample size. Ryan Theriot is hot, and if he continues to put up numbers like those amassed in his first 21 at-bats, then he'd be a decent option at the top of the line-up, be it in the one or two hole. But we're talking about 21 at-bats. This decision was based on 21 at-bats in which a guy out paced his 90th percentile PECOTA projection by 120 points in the on-base department. Yes, he even had a really good 160 at-bats with the Cubs last year. But even that is a tiny sample size in the face of more than 1000 minor league at-bats that say this guy won't crack .330 in on-base percentage. Theriot makes a great utility infielder, who might even deserve an everyday gig for a year or two somewhere on an infield. He's Esteban German. He's not the lead off hitter in a high powered major league line up.

Or maybe I'm wrong. But at least I'm not basing my judgment on a whopping 21 at-bats. Which is more than can be said for the guy the Cubs are paying millions to finally guide them to the promised land. And Cub fans are happy about this!!! Of course, the new line-up produced 12 runs and a victory last night. So, undoubtedly, the Cubs will now cruise to a World Series championship behind the most high powered line-up in baseball history.


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