Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares exemplify small sample sizes

Granderson LagaresThe 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.

11 comments for “Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares exemplify small sample sizes

  1. George
    April 13, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Bottom line, be happy C Young will be back soon. More talent is never a bad thing. plent of ABs for four guys. don’t be afraid to sit Granderson some and don’t force the issue with E Young. If he has trouble getting on base more ABs for CYoung and Lagares.

  2. Name
    April 13, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Curtis Granderson’s approach has been going down the drain ever since he sniffed that right field porch in Yankee stadium. Out of his 6 hits so far this season, 2 of them were hit softly against the shift in which he turned into doubles. His first “single” came yesterday which was a dribbler that Freeze couldn’t (but should have) handled. So he really only has 3 solid hits this year in nearly 2 weeks.

    • April 13, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      It’s pretty disappointing to see. His approach outside of Yankee stadium was obviously a major concern after he signed. I don’t think he’ll be this awful all year, though. At least I hope not…

  3. Jerry Grote
    April 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    BABIP … tell me, is the high BABIP average for Lagares in any way unusual for him over the last few years? No, it isn’t.

    You are seeing an evolution of a ball player, and drawing a comparison between a guy with an established major league track record and one that is growing up is, at its core, an unreasonable argument.

    • April 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm

      Lagares had a .310 BABIP last year, his first year in the majors, more in line with league average. In the minors he had multiple stops with high BABIP in his last few years there, but they were sporadic (as BABIP tends to be). It could be that he hits for an above average BABIP throughout his career, but expecting him to have it anywhere near .400 (especially on a consistent basis) is unrealistic.

      There is no comparing of the players against each other in the article. These are simply two players on opposite ends of the small sample size spectrum.

    • DED
      April 13, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      Thank you!

      Exactly the same line was used to describe Lagares’ 2011 season: his BABIP was too high, unsustainable. Well, he more or less kept hitting. Lagares’ batting average in his first five seasons in the minors was .254; his last two-plus seasons in the minors he hit .317.

      Let’s not assume Lagares is a weak hitter, any more than we should assume that he is the reincarnation of Tommy Agee or somebody. I think he has earned the chance to show the world what he can do.

  4. Chris F
    April 13, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    Any value we have for every player in the mlb is based on a small sample size, that’s the nature of starting over each season. No one can be overly faulted for being poor (Wright, Grandy), or overly heralded if they are killing it (Lagares). No personal or team stats at this point in the season have deep bigger meaning.

  5. April 14, 2014 at 7:23 am

    Rob you need Lagares to be an offensive threat. Leave the walking machine to the top of the order. His job is to supplement the offense by driving in whatever base runners Granderson and Wright leave behind. I guess you would prefer for him to take the walk and leave the RBI’S to TA OR Tejada.

  6. Eraff
    April 14, 2014 at 7:49 am

    I’m looking for Granderson to “do his baseball card”, or reasonably close.

    Lagares– the Stats do demonstrate “good fortune” as a part of his results. I would add that the ab’s have been better, with or without some of the luck that has played in his statistical favor. He’s been very competitive in most ab’s, “a tough out”. He’s also flashed a good deal of shear talent with the bat covering outside pitches and driving some tough inside pitches with power.

    The approach, according to my eyes. is an improvement…… and he doesn’t need to be at an.800 plus OPS, whether it’s “lucky” or not. At .680/700 or so he is a viable player—especially if you make the assumption that is becomes a “Young Baseline” for him to grow.

    Similar performance with “normal luckiness” would land him around/above those baseline numbers. It’s a very short sample size for stats and eyes—- both provide a glimpse of a guy who may be growing up to the role of a Starting CF’er

    • Patrick Albanesius
      April 14, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      I agree. Lagares has looked much better at the plate; going with pitches to right, and being able to pull them to the left. He will regress, but he also might just be becoming an excellent ball player. I hope we see more of the latter.

  7. Eraff
    April 14, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Shear instead of Sheer…. didn’t mean to comment on his skills as a Barber!

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