Understanding "sample sizes" is one of the first principles that any baseball fan should follow. As a young lad, I can recall many times where I'd see a player do well for a month, a week, maybe even one game, and think "Oh this guy is it!"
I'd call up my cousin Marvin Berry and be like "Look at this" and then he'd call up his cousin Chuck and that's how fantasy leagues were born.
What has transpired over the first week and a half of baseball matters because at the end of the season, they'll add up all those little moments and it'll become "the 2014 season." So just because Mark Trumbo won't finish the season with 81 home runs, it doesn't mean that his current amount of dingers doesn't matter. It all matters.
However, sample size also matters. The beginning of a season is always interesting because it magnifies how many weird and wacky things can happen if you just look at an eight-game sample. A lot of odd stuff can transpire over 10 days in baseball, and a lot of random names can pop up as interesting if all you see is "he's hitting .450!"
At some point in September, some guy's going to hit .450 over the course of a week, but few will notice because his overall batting average is .256. But right now, we see everything.
Here's a little bit of the odd and the interesting after just a handful of games.
- Mark Trumbo and Brandon Belt both have five home runs.
Belt had seven home runs in 145 games in 2012. Trumbo's power is of no surprise, he's averaged over 30 home runs per year over the last three seasons. However it is interesting to note that a little more than a week into his season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has as many home runs as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, and Mike Trout combined.
- Melky Cabrera has four home runs.
In 88 games with the Blue Jays last season, Cabrera had three home runs.
- Salvador Perez has walked in 25% of his plate appearances.
Perez was never seen as much of a "prospect" in his minor league days, but the 23-year-old Royals catcher enjoyed a breakout season in 2013 and is the very-early-season leader in fWAR at 0.8. He crushed the ball in spring training (.370/.410/.667) but the real surprise here is the walks. Perez already has seven free passes in 28 plate appearances.
Last season he drew 21 walks in 526 plate appearances.
It's important to note that the rate will almost certainly take a big dip, but perhaps pitchers will be a little bit more careful pitching to Perez now that he's an "All-Star."
- A guy named Yangervis Solarte has 27 plate appearances with the New York Yankees... and six doubles.
Man, how the Yankees have changed over these last two years.
Solarte, 26, had never played in a major league game before this year. He was signed to a minor league deal in the offseason with a spring training invite, after six unsuccessful seasons in the Twins minor league system, and two more on the Rangers farm.
Also, he's hitting .458/.519/.708 and is the early-season leader in doubles.
It's hard to imagine that Solarte will keep this up, but given that right now he's basically a complete unknown, we can't rule out that there's something there. We've seen weirder.
- Emilio Bonaficio is hitting .515.
Bonaficio hit .258 in 2012 and .243 in 2013, and if you added both of those numbers together it would still only be .501. He also leads the majors in stolen bases, with five. Bonaficio was added by the Chicago Cubs in the offseason for the price of... nothing, really. He was released by the Kansas City Royals and picked up on a cheapo deal.
Oh, he won't keep this up at all, but it is interesting to note that Bonaficio had 30 stolen bases for the Marlins in 2012 despite playing in only 64 games. He's got speed, but if he could hit even a little bit he'd be a solid regular.
- Zack Cosart is 1-for-26 with no walks.
Cosart plays good defense but how much longer can the Reds put up with his offense? Listed as Baseball America's 75th-best prospect in 2012, Cosart has a career OBP of .282 and struck out 226 times in 1,283 plate appearances.
He's squeezed by in each of the last two years, even posting 2+ WAR each season, but how much longer can this go on? It wouldn't be surprising to see him reach a new low this year and not recover.
- The Kansas City Royals don't have a home run.
Even the Marlins and Twins have three homers each.
Moustakas has had a very unfortunate major league career at the plate, and his performance thus far has mirrored Cosart's in many ways.
- Johnny Peralta has two hits, both home runs.
Starting his first season with the Cardinals, Peralta has gone just 2-for-27 and is hitting .074. Both of those hits have gone over the fence for homers.
- Colby Rasmus has struck out 12 times.
Move over, Adam Dunn?
Rasmus has struck out in 40-percent of his plate appearances this season. Last year, Rasmus broke out for a 4.8-WAR season, but with a career-high 29.5% k-rate. That's something you can live with when other things are going right, but how lucky is Rasmus going to be this year? In both of his successful seasons, he had a BABIP north of .350.
In every other season, he's had a BABIP under .290.
He'll be a serious liability if he strikes out 35% of the time without great power and defense.
- The Dodgers have struck out 82 times in nine games.
By comparison, the Diamondbacks have struck out 69 times in 10 games.
Juan Uribe has k'd eleven times and hasn't walked yet. Matt Kemp has struck out five times in 16 trips to the plate. Tim Federowicz has struck out in three of his four plate appearances. Meanwhile, Chone Figgins hasn't struck out at all, and walked in three of his five plate appearances.
- The Seattle Mariners are second in the AL in OPS+
Robby! Miller! Seven other guys that don't entirely suck!
Last year the M's improved to a 98 OPS+, good for 10th in the AL.
In 2012, they had an 88 OPS+, last in the AL. In 2011, it was 84, tied with the Twins for last. In 2010, it was 79, which I'm sure you can guess was dead-last.
Seattle's OPS+ through seven games is 114. They are averaging 5.57 runs per game. In 2010, they averaged 3.16 runs per game. They have hit 10 home runs as a team. In 2010, 10 HR from one player would've tied for third-most on the roster behind Russell Branyan (15) and Franklin Gutierrez (12).
Small sample sizes be damned, the Mariners haven't looked close to being this watchable since 2003.
- The top six leaders in the NL in total bases are on three teams.
The Diamondbacks have Mark Trumbo and Paul Goldschmidt.
- The Red Sox have grounded into 15 double plays in only eight games.
Only two other teams have 10+ GIDPs this year. But only Boston can say they're the reigning champs, so there's that.
- Jose Fernandez has stranded every runner against him so far.
The 21-year-old has pitched 12.2 innings, 17 Ks (league-leader), two walks, and eight hits allowed. One of those hits was a solo home run, and it's the only run that Fernandez has allowed. Every other player to reach base against him this season has been left on base.
- Ubaldo Jimenez isn't getting many groundballs.
Jimenez didn't sign a contract until February 19th. Will the Orioles regret signing him to four years guaranteed? Through two starts, Jimenez has allowed eight runs (10.2 innings), and a major-league leading eight walks. Only 18.8% of the contact against him is staying on the ground thus far.
Only three other pitchers in the majors are positing a GB% under 30.
- Scott Feldman: Probably still not good.
Though Feldman has an ERA of 0.66 through two starts for the Astros, he's facing a BABIP against of only .122. Only Matt Garza has been luckier (.056) so far. Feldman's FIP is 4.17 and his xFIP is 5.53, based mostly on a K/9 of just 2.63.
- The Giants are posting a K/BB ratio over 5.00.
As a team, San Francisco has struck out 62 and walked only 12, for a K/BB ratio of 5.17. The Red Sox (4.06) are the next closest.
- Ricky Nolasco looks terrible.
What if this isn't a fluke? The Twins signed Nolasco through 2017 with an option for 2018. Through 10 innings, he's allowed 10 ER, 17 hits, three home runs, six walks, and only five strikeouts. Two starts isn't much, but Nolasco has always seemed "better than the numbers indicate."
What if he's not?
I guess we'll find out.