The Mets’ 2014 season is a mere 11 games deep, and the team sits at five wins to their six losses. That’s hardly enough time to gauge where the team will end up at the end of the season, though topping out at 73 or 74 wins at their current pace is certainly within the realm of reason. The team could defy expectations and win 85 or more games or completely implode and win less than 70, though. We’re not sure what the team is right now. The point is that we’re not yet at a junction where conclusions can realistically be extrapolated from the sample that we have. This is what we call a small sample size, and we have to be cautious of it.
The same line of thinking goes for individual player statistics. Early performances could portend good things to come or disaster, but we really need to understand that they tend to level out with larger samples. Case in point: does anyone really think that Anthony Recker is going to lead the team in slugging by the end of the season? No, but this brings us to a couple of Mets players that we need to be cautious of judging on such a small sample.
Juan Lagares has generally been the Mets’ best offensive player this season. He’s hitting for a high average, getting on base at a good clip, and hitting with power (.302/.340/.465). No one doubts the value he brings to the team on defense, but the main question surrounding Lagares this off-season was his offensive ceiling. It’s possible that he’s turned a corner and this is simply a very good young player adjusting to the game at the highest level. The problem is that he’s walking at a below-average rate of 6.4% and striking out at an awful 27.7%. Add to those poor numbers the fact that he has a well above-average BABIP of .400, and you have pretty good indicators of eventual regression.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Mets’ big ticket off-season signing of Curtis Granderson. He’s not getting on base and hitting well below the Mendoza line with little authority (.147/.286/.317). These early-season struggles have left distraught Mets fans with visions of Jason Bay dancing in their heads. These struggles could simply be the result of Granderson’s age and decline. It’s unlikely that he’s actually fallen off of a cliff like Bay did, though, and some of his other statistics point to an inevitable improvement. While he’s also striking out at an alarming rate (26.5%), he’s walking an excellent 16.3% of the time. In contrast to Lagares, Granderson’s .185 BABIP is way below average and much lower than his own career average of .304.
It’s possible that Lagares really has made the necessary adjustments offensively to remain a viable starter on a winning team. It’s also possible we’re witnessing the drastic decline of Granderson. It’s more likely, however, that these players’ performances will end up somewhere between what was expected of them and what they’re currently producing. It’s important not to be too quick to judgment in either case.