My Small Sample Size Plea

This will not be a lengthy or detailed post discussing what sample sizes are or why they carry importance, but rather a personal plea for fans and readers, especially of this site, to avoid overestimating talent based on a few good games in April. While we can deny ever falling prey to this issue, it is human nature to try and glean information from any and all angles, for whatever reason, be it an edge in a fantasy league or an article claiming why Player A should get more playing time/get a contract extension/get a date with Alyssa Milano.

Last night, Jordan Schafer kickstarted his major league career with a home run in his first at-bat. He followed it up with a single to centerfield. On the night, the 22-yr old rookie went 2-3, with an intentional walk. Seeing as the Braves/Phillies matchup was the first of the season, on national television, I would not be surprised in the least if fantasy players flocked to free agent pools to put in a claim for Schafer’s services. Now, Schafer may very well be a fine major league player but situations like this arise all too often, and they are particularly annoying. A player starts his season off on the right foot, fantasy players get all gooey-eyed, and then call the player a fluke upon dropping him in June on the heels of a .230/.310/.360 slash line.

Schafer could defy his projections and post excellent numbers this season but that is not the point. The point is that decisions should not be based on small sample sizes and we need to admit this is a problem before ever moving past it. It is one thing to discuss how a player has performed in a certain 10-game span, like during Lance Berkman’s ridiculous stretch last season but it is a completely different animal to use such discussions or small samples as the basis for definitive performance claims. On a teamwide level, going crazy over Schafer right now would be equivalent to trying to decipher what is wrong with the Phillies. One measly game has been played. Let’s not go crazy over players until we at least know a little bit about them.

In fact, as Dave mentioned this afternoon, the Nationals decided to forego placing Elijah Dukes, their best player, in the starting lineup because he had a poor spring training. I honestly don’t even know how to respond to that decision. But anyways, there you have it, my plea to avoid overestimating value based on small sample sizes. Waiting until the 50 game mark might be too much to ask, but at least get past 20 games before you claim having advanced knowledge about the causes of a player’s performance this season.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
14 years ago

Dude, he was worth $1.5 million last night.