Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at-bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – a gork… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.

– Crash Davis in Bull Durham

I’m not going to change any minds here, but I want to write about something we all need to be reminded of. It’s about how long the baseball season is and how little one or two or three weeks matter when we’re judging a player.

At the beginning of the season, I said, in multiple places, that it felt like Elly De La Cruz had made the adjustment. His numbers were bananas coming out of the gate, so it felt true. Many of those who like to leave comments felt just as strongly that various other hitters didn’t belong in the big leagues or should be benched or whatever because they were hitting so poorly. We should all have tempered our statements.

So much about the way our brains work makes us think that what we’re seeing right now is real and the truth and not just random statistical noise. But the fact of the matter, when it comes to baseball, is that the truth cannot generally be detected in a month of games. There’s too much room for error.

Say a player gets 100 at-bats s in a month. He gets 22 hits. That’s a .220 batting average. Boy, that sucks, right? Give him five more hits and he’s now hitting .270. That’s really solid! (Actually, in today’s environment, that’s quite good, but I digress.) How many games have we all watched where a player smokes the ball multiple times and has nothing to show for it or when weak contact puts a ball in no man’s land for a hit? These kinds of things can be the difference between what looks like a good month and what looks like a bad month.

Right now, the difference between the best batting average in the league (Luis Arraez) and the 100th best (Jeimer Candelario) is about 100 points. That’s two hits a week. Two.

The rate of success in baseball is so low that even here, approaching midseason, a few good days can take your slash line from making you look like a chump to looking like an all-star. Through June 2, De La Cruz was hitting .233/.329/.414. Through June 6 (I’m writing this before the game on June 7) he’s hitting .240/.332/.438. In short, he gained about 7 points of OPS a day for four days in a row. And it’s not as though he had any truly crazy games in that stretch. In the last two weeks, Candelario has taken himself from being a dismal failure with the bat (84 wRC+) to a very nice bat at third base (107 wRC+).

Right now, every single Cincinnati Red who is seeing regular playing time except for Jacob Hurtubise has an above average batting line (choose your fighter, but I like wRC+, OPS or OPS+ work also). And Hurtubise is only barely below average. A few weeks ago, the Reds were a miserable offensive team. Their lines were all awful. Now, they aren’t.

The extent to which we are all, at times, willing to make judgments based on 50 or 100 plate appearances (or a handful of innings pitched) is dumb. And we should all stop it.

It’s fine to acknowledge that someone has had a bad week or two. And if something is visibly happening, of course we can acknowledge that. But the idea that we can declare a player a “star” or a “washed up” with no more context than a small sample leads to pointless hyperbole. And we’re baseball fans. We SHOULD know better. We’ve been watching players slump and go on hot streaks our whole lives. And now, we live in a time with a wealth of information, let’s all engage in more critical thinking. Let’s all consider how many (metaphorical) hits we’re actually worked up about.

39 Responses

  1. Harry Stoner

    A serious conceptual problem here conflating averages with individual ab performance.
    So “two hits a week” suggests that somehow Candelario and Arraez are comparable players?
    That’s not critical thinking.
    That’s lazy, distracted thinking.
    The emphasis on statistics in current analysis overlooks what those two or five or how many hits might actually do during an in game situation.
    “Runners advanced”, “Runners left in scoring position” “Runs driven in” “Runs scored” might actually be a far more effective measurement of how effective a hitter is being irrespective of their ‘averages’.
    “Two hits a week” might be margin of victory for two games a week.
    Stats are interpreted or bent or distorted or ignored to fit whatever point of view a writer wants to make.
    That’s far from ‘critical thinking’, but more like ‘manipulation’ grounded in lame (and ineffectual) attempts at posturing superiority.

    Reply
    • Private Gripweed

      Maybe the first step in critical thinking is moving beyond a quote from a fictional character and realizing the piece is about sample size and not making wild conclusions based on a small amount of data.

      Reply
      • James K

        Crash Davis was not a fictional character. He was real. My brother-in-law knew him and worked with him at Burlington Industries after David retired from baseball. The quote attributed to him was fictional, but nevertheless accurate.

  2. Kevin Patrick

    Honestly…the reason I initially came to this forum many years ago now… I mean…I’ve been on here a long time… was because (the contributions of its members was more “statistical” based) its members loved talking to other numbers people. There was a kind of safety in knowing that if the discourse were confined to these terms, then the sense of community that made this forum special would retain its qualities that made readers want to return. When we deviate our discourse too much from this framework, our opinions can drift into areas that are more uncomfortable. I think folks tend to rub each other negatively when they bicker about the general foibles of what it means to be human. Personally, I come here in humility because I’m not particularly good with numbers. I DO have enough smarts to appreciate the statistical volleys that our participants use to make their points. That’s why I try to not say to much.

    Reply
  3. oklared

    Or maybe a line from my favorite baseball movie helps get insight into those numbers. All those numbers intertwine no Rbi’s fewer clutch hits with your 25 hits a month if no one is on. Baseball is greatly influenced by numbers but not run by them and we tend to overreact and magnify impact on not much difference between the best and worst i think is part of the point. Maybe we as a team just need to breathe through our eyelids.

    As a side note to balance your Red fandom you should consider following the University of Oklahoma Softball team they are a good counter balance.

    Reply
  4. Doc

    Doug,

    Appears you were right about two things:

    1. You presented pure statistical/mathematical information, without opinion, and your information is correct.

    2. As the first comment out of the box confirms, unlikely you will change any minds. Notice, the commenters so far have presented no data to support their assertions, which is typical in society today.

    The Reds were fifth in the division last week and the sky was falling, it was time to retool, the rebuild was a failure. Now just a week or so later they are second in the division, tied or within a game of a wild card spot, yet the naysayers are still saying nay. They could win the WS and DB would still be a bad manager who got lucky, the team could have won the title in fewer games if they had mortgaged the future for one more hitter or pitcher, ad nauseam.

    Reply
    • Mike Adams

      Jason, Doug all good articles. The author might like proper attribution however

      Reply
    • DHud

      (You should double check the author of this article….)

      Reply
  5. dimondfvr

    Doug, I just want to commend you for taking daily criticism from both sides of the aisle. You must have a thick skin, and feel like a punching bag some days.

    Reply
  6. wkuchad

    Just pointing out, Jason is the author of this article and not Doug.

    Reply
    • Dimondfvr

      Yes. Thanks for the heads up. I hope they both have thick skin! Lol

      Reply
  7. Votto4life

    I agree focusing on batting average for someone who has had 200 at bats is silly. But Jeimer Candelario has had nearly 3,000 career at bats and is a life time .243 hitter. To make matters worse, he is a defensive liability in a position that was an area of strength of this ball club. Yes, due to a strange twist of fate, the Reds needed another infielder, but that doesn’t mean it was a smart move this past winter. In fact, it was a terrible decision.

    When those here objected to the signing, we were shouted down by the ridiculous argument that Candelario’s doubles would somehow magically turn into home runs.

    The Reds basically invested a sizable chunk of their payroll into .243 hitting designated hitter. The opportunity cost of that transition will haunt the Reds for the next three years, which will be deep into their competitive window. That money could have been spent to bring in a quality starter or outfielder at the deadline. It could have brought in at least two very good relievers.

    So yes, 2 more hits a week makes a different. No, no should not judge a hitter on 200 at bats. But can you judge a hitter after 3,000 at bats? Why yes, yes you can.

    Reply
    • Optimist

      How does the Candelario signing prevent them from an OFer acquisition at the deadline?

      Reply
      • Votto4life

        I think the Red’s will be hesitant to take on another big contract. Maybe they will drop another $35 million on Robert or the like. But I think it’s unlikely. Regardless, the $45 million spent on Candelrio could have better spent.

        The Reds can be incredibly frustrating. After a years of austerity they turn around spent a big chuck of money on a player they didn’t need.

        I am not criticizing all their moves this past off-season. Overall, I think Krall did quite well, I still like the bullpen acquisitions. I know people don’t like Pagan but I think he can still be a big contributor. I think Montas was about as well they could have done with a free agent starting pitcher. But the Candelario move was/is just baffling.

      • Optimist

        I am thinking the get a rental OFer at the deadline, salary not an issue. Or, take on 1 1/2 year contract, even if high$, a short term. 4+ year deals scare them off, understandably, but I expect they’d pay most anything over 3-4 months.

    • Old-school

      The mlb average for OPS is .697
      Candelario OPS is .744. His OPS+ is 109

      Hes an above average hitter . Hes league avg for BA and OBP but his slugging( yes all those extra base hits) are his calling card.

      Hes on pace for 22 HR and 37 doubles and 64 base hits. Hes never going to be confused with mike schmidt but hes an asset on this team

      Reply
      • Votto4life

        @old-school. Thank you. I am not saying Candelario is without merit. I just don’t feel he is worth $45 Million over three years. That’s all.

    • LDS

      Folks here and the Reds themselves routinely judge a player on small sample size. Barrero, 415 ABs – gone. Aquino – 686 – gone. Siani – 24 ABs – gone. There are numerous such examples. Another factor that must be considered is age. For example, Martini only has 464 ABs but he is 33+. And Candelario has about 3000 ABs, is a career .242 hitter, and will be 34 in about 3 weeks. He isn’t going to turn into a perennial All Star. As for the Reds, they are following the last year’s June pattern so far: 2023 18-9, this year 6-1. Let’s see where they are in September or whether they once again crashed and burned in August. During Bell’s tenure the Reds have had a winning record in August only once – 2021 at 16-12. Same holds for September as well, a winning record only in 2020. So right now doesn’t mean a lot. It’s fun to win, but hyperbole to say the Reds have turned a corner.

      Reply
      • LDS

        Yes, but with 3000 ABs and a .242 average, he’s not going to suddenly going to become monster. He is what he is, simply a league average player that the Reds are overpaying.

      • BK

        Are they really overpaying? He’s about a 2.5 WAR player earning $15M/year when 1.0 WAR is often valued at $8.0M to $8.5M. It seems like his contract is in line with his expectations. All along, you have Strawmanned him as “not an all star.” Suppose he was just supposed to be a good fit, intended to provide veteran leadership and depth on a young roster.

        You also cherry pick his batting average and ignore all other components of his hitting. Of course, there’s your go to inclusion of a David Bell reference thrown in for good measure.

        And he’s well younger than you were thinking. Being off by four years is not something you can handwave credibly as expected performance/dropoff is very different for a player who will complete his contact at age 32 compared to one who would complete his contact at age 36.

      • Old-school

        I loved Nick Castellanos but theres an overpay after 30
        His OPS is .630 with an OPS+ of 80 in 2024

        Hes being paid $20 million this year and has $40 million more guaranteed in 2025/26

        Candy has his flaws but his power makes him an above average hitter. Hes better than Jorge Soler but not as good as Teoscar Hernandez or Rhys Hoskins so far but those are similar FA comps from last winter.Candy wont win any GG but Hoskins is terrible defensively. Reds did ok

  8. MBS

    I do agree that we have good hitters on our club, but they need to learn how to adjust to the league quicker once the league adjusts to them. This is another problem with rebuilds, the club loses all the guys with experience, and the kids have to figure things out on their own.

    Reply
  9. doofus

    I think candelario was signed knowing that Marte was going to get gigged for steroids.

    Reply
    • BK

      Workplace drug testing doesn’t work that way. Management gets the results, and action against the employee follows almost immediately. The drug testing process is agreed to in the CBA. The company that processes samples certifies process compliance when they notify management and the union of a positive test. The only way the Reds would have known is if they were complicit, something the union would have filed a grievance over an MLB would hammer them for—neither has happened.

      Candelario was signed to add a reliable veteran to a young roster and to bolster depth. His contract is in line with an everyday, non all star player.

      Reply
      • Optimist

        “His contract is in line with an everyday, non all star player.“

        This is the stat that a lot of us, myself included, have trouble understanding or accepting, but it is the nature of the business.

        It’s the extremes that are disorienting – the big salaried superstars are well justified, and the extended league minimum for young all-stars are the owners bargains. Makes the 6 year “pretty good” players look over priced.

      • doofus

        I have used this simple test for years to see if a player is a good hitter.

        I don’t need no stinking exit velocity or launch angle.

      • doofus

        Could Marte or his agent told the Reds he was using after the test? This is not a black and white world we live in.

      • BK

        You’re working awfully hard to prove a story for which you have zero evidence and lots of imagination.

    • Votto4life

      Perhaps, but if that’s the case why a three year contract.

      Also, Candelario was signed on December 11th. If that’s the case and the Reds signed Candelario after Marte tested positive, it really calls Marte 2023 season into question. I really hope that’s not the case.

      Reply
  10. doofus

    A regular in the lineup just needs to average 1 hit per game to be a good hitter.

    Reply
    • Jason Linden

      Only 27 players got at least 162 hits in 2023, so this is demonstrably incorrect.

      Reply
      • doofus

        If he played in 130 games and got 130 hits that is averaging 1 hit per game. This is mathematically correct.

  11. Brian

    That small difference has always existed and it’s always been fools gold over short periods of time.Good players get that tiny difference season after season. There’s speed, situational hitting, defensive alignments, clutch hitting ability, health and a ton of other factors to consider.

    Reply
  12. 2020ball

    “The extent to which we are all, at times, willing to make judgments based on 50 or 100 plate appearances (or a handful of innings pitched) is dumb. And we should all stop it.“

    Amen. Multiple comments around here where i saw people saying the Reds should shut it down and play for next year has been astounding and especially sad and disappointing since many of them claim to have been watching the game for years prior. Baffles my mind when i watch a loss, think ‘hey, at least its only May’, then come on here and people are scrambling like a coop full of headless chickens. Then a sentence later say how theyre right as rain and the Reds FO doesnt know anything. Simply baffling.

    Reply
    • doofus

      And yet you do not prevent your mind from being baffled because yet again you come back to inform us how smart you are.

      Reply
  13. JayTheRed

    This is just another example of the best writing and the most sensible writing on the site. Jason your articles are just quality every post. I honestly can’t remember a post that I thought was poor in the many years that I have been on this site.

    Thank you for your contributions and please keep up the great work.
    To the other posters here I enjoy the majority of your comments and love the deep dives many give. A baseball season is very full of highs and lows. The kind of posting that I will either skip over is the posts that people freak out over 1 or 2 days or outings worth of bad play. It’s 162 games there are going to be great moments. What all of us should look for is trends over several weeks.

    The example I give is sure let’s make a judgement on Diaz. The guy clearly has been struggling since late last season. It’s fair to make a judgement that perhaps he needs a different role or heck maybe even sent down for a bit to get his mechanics back in sync.

    Another example that lasted about a month. Spencer Steer struggling at the plate sure after a month even I was getting concerned that he wasn’t the player that I knew in the big leagues. I kept saying he will turn it around he is just too good and his minor league numbers before his big-league time showed he is a good player. Sure, enough he has begun to turn it around this month. There were people calling for him to possibly sent to the minors. I always thought that he would turn it around.

    So, what I am saying is basically similar to what Jason said in the article Be happy with successes and be down a bit about negative things happening on the team but realize that things are going to change and the swing from really high to really low and back and forth really just is part of the game.

    Take a deep breath be happy for the team success and realize that some failures will be dealt with in time. Sometimes it takes longer than you like but know something will change in the end.

    Reply

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