Just under a year ago, we recorded a podcast for the site that came to be known as the "lost podcast," as technical difficulties took a podcast that was around 80 minutes and turned it into a 20-something-minute bit.
One of the biggest topics of conversation, and one that I still think about all the time when forming opinions, came during our recap of our midseason starting pitcher rankings. At the time of our recording in 2013, Matt Cain had pitched to a 4.57 ERA. Despite that, I ranked him highly in the midseason rankings, because it was Matt Cain, and I trusted our better-part-of-a-decade of data on him over the few short months. The rest of the way last year, Cain pitched to a 2.58 ERA.
I tell that story not to make myself look like a genius (well, not entirely; I am clearly a genius and should be worshipped), but to point out something that I think too often gets overlooked in baseball analysis: Variance.
We all know "small sample size." No one here saw J.P. Arencibia go 4-for-4 Tuesday night with two homers and two doubles and bumped him to the top of the catcher rankings. But I think we lose sight of what exactly constitutes a small sample size. To wit: Injuries aside, I'm unlike to drastically change my opinion on any single player based on the first half of a season. Heck, in most cases, a full season won't do it.
Stuff happens, you know? As I noted in a B.J. Upton piece last year, Reggie Jackson hit .194 over 397 at bats in 1983. Roy Campanella hit .207 over the same number of at bats in 1954, then hit .318 a year later and won the MVP.
What I'm saying is, if you wanted Danny Salazar in March, there's no reason you shouldn't want him now.
Salazar, Sonny Gray, Gerrit Cole, and Michael Wacha, were the "it" youngsters in the preseason. People loved them. I wrote in March that one of the four would spend time in the minors due to performance - I didn't know which, but stuff happens. As it stands, only Gray has lived up to the hype. And Salazar was sent down, sure. I nailed that. But at no point was I claiming to give up on these kids.
The point is, you probably did your share of research in the preseason. At the very least, you depended upon the opinions of those who did a lot of research. People watched tape, scouted, pored over stats, read histories, weighed options, and decided Salazar was worthy of ownership. He was our 49th-ranked starting pitcher in the preseason. And it took eight rough starts in the preseason to undo all of that? Heck, it wasn't even that, as he pitched to a 3.63 ERA in his last four starts. Really, people dropped Salazar because he gave up 16 earned runs in 18.1 innings in four starts to kick the season off.
That's silly. Salazar has dropped to 50-percent ownership in Yahoo! leagues based on what is, ultimately, a small-sample blip. I'm not saying he's great; I'm saying that if you thought he'd be great, you still should.