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Reds Strike Out Pirates 17 Times ... Let's Talk About Something Else

The Pirates struck out 17 times, and no one had a particularly good game, except perhaps for Pedro Alvarez, and that's if you want to call 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout a good game. (Which I think would be perfectly defensible to do, incidentally, because the biggest issue with Alvarez going forward is likely to be his command of the strike zone.) The Pirates loaded the bases with one out in the first, giving them a great chance to have a big inning, but Casey McGehee lined out (on a nice diving catch by Reds third baseman Todd Frazier) and Neil Walker struck out to end the threat. The Bucs played some erratic defense, too ...

Actually, let's not talk about this. Let's talk about this comment from Slick1.

What’s interesting to me, and probably worthy of its own post, is that I am sensing that the same blogosphere that was so instrumental in increasing awareness of the evils of Dave Littlefield and McClatchy is growing increasingly impatient with Huntington. The fact that so many of these articles are coming out so early in the season is evidence. I mean these are statistically aware guys that know all about sample size issues so these articles coming out so early indicate to me that a lot of the pro-Huntington writers are at a cross-roads. Again this wasn’t written about Charlie because he pretty much came out and said as much but I’m talking about guys like Whygav’s, Dtodd, RTR etc. Even some of the familiars here like WTM, Vlad, MID, etc. Again, not really a point here so much as an observation I think is interesting.

I want to specifically focus on the "small sample size" argument here. Has any Pirates blogger even wrung his or her hands over Andrew McCutchen for his un-$51-million-like .739 OPS so far? I haven't seen anyone do it. The reason I haven't is because the .739 OPS is at odds with McCutchen's past performance, and there's no reason to think there's anything wrong with him (besides, presumably, his spending a lot of the last few days hunched over the toilet). So I'm not worried about it.

It's May, and it's early in the baseball season. I write about the Pirates every day, and I'm sure that, because of that, I'm guilty of making sample-size-related errors from time to time. But it doesn't follow that every concern someone might have about the Pirates' players so far is the result of a small sample size.

Part of Slick1's comment referenced my note about Alex Presley from yesterday, where I pointed out that he was off to a poor start this season. Let's leave aside the fact that my comment was pretty much inarguably true and that I didn't draw any wild conclusions beyond that. If someone would like to now claim that Presley is probably a fourth outfielder at this point, that's certainly debatable, but there's evidence for it that extends back beyond this year -- that's what most of baseball considered him to be. Pedro Alvarez struggled all of last season and had a Spring Training in which he was, at least theoretically, fighting for a job, so raising concerns about his play in mid-April was not a small sample size issue. And my post about the performance in the minor leagues being underwhelming so far this year was entirely consistent with what I was writing about the farm system last year, and I specifically noted that in the post. If you think my conclusions are wrong, that's fine, but sample size is not the problem there.

I notice that a lot of people who will trot out the small sample size argument whenever someone writes something critical will happily cheer when Alvarez draws a walk, or Gerrit Cole has a good start. I'm not saying we shouldn't cheer for those things, obviously, but I am calling for a more nuanced view of what "small sample size" means. If the small sample size involved in a 2012 performance also happened last season, it's probably not a small sample size.

None of this is intended as a shot against Slick1, whose thoughtful and circumspect comments are of great value to Bucs Dugout. His comment inspired me to write this, but I could have picked many others, many of which I think are a lot more objectionable than what he wrote.