Pedro Alvarez' hot hitting in day games this year has recently sparked discussions (some tongue-in-cheek, some not) about whether his ability to hit during the day -- but not, apparently, at night -- somehow represents a skill.â†µ
I'm tempted to just write, "It doesn't," and hit publish. But that seems glib. Alvarez has 15 home runs, of which 12 have come in 74 daytime at-bats. That's an amazing number, but there's just about no chance it means anything. What might explain the discrepancy between his daytime and nighttime performances? Perhaps his dinners tend to be too big? Maybe he likes the heat? Maybe the opposing pitchers he faces are all vampires? None of these explanations come close to accounting for such a massive difference, and when there's no obvious explanation to be found, I tend to dismiss the phenomenon as small sample size.
A few months ago, there was a bunch of debate among Pirates fans about Kevin Correia's home-road splits in 2011. Correia posted a 7.71 ERA at home and a 2.64 ERA on the road. Again, those are wacky numbers, but when you root for a team, you'll have dozens of splits at your disposal, and even over the course of a year, it's likely that a couple of those will be wacky. In 2012, Correia has a 3.50 ERA at home ... and a 5.10 ERA on the road. His splits, while not as extreme, are reversed.â†µ
At least in Pedro's case, there's not much fans can suggest to take advantage of the trends. In the case of Correia, there was some discussion of moving Correia into a home-road platoon with James McDonald. Given McDonald's breakout season so far this year, that would have been a terrible waste. And for no reason at all. If you can't identify a compelling reason something is happening, and small sample size is a possibility, follow Occam's Razor and take the simplest explanation. It's a fluke.â†µ
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