Rand: Nishioka and 'sample size'

  • Updated: August 14, 2012 - 7:17 AM

The second baseman's not as bad -- or good -- as his numbers indicate.

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Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka lost a pop fly in the sun hit by the Indians' Shelley Duncan in the sixth inning Wednesday.

Photo: Tony Dejak, Associated Press

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The phrase "small sample size" is tossed around quite often by those who analyze statistics. Since we are primarily concerned with sports statistics, we hear it a lot in discussions about baseball and the "dangers" -- ooh, spooky! -- of relying too heavily on small sample sizes.

For instance, it is foolish to think that Darin Mastroianni is the greatest combination of plate discipline and batting prowess the Twins organization has ever seen. But if you looked at his sample size from June 27 through Sunday, when he compiled a .972 OPS -- better than the career mark for Harmon Killebrew, Justin Morneau, Kirby Puckett or any other Twins slugger you could name -- that might be your conclusion about Mastroianni.

But while small sample sizes are "dangerous" when it comes to our statistical findings, they can also be quite amusing as long as we don't take them too seriously.

Take Tsuyoshi Nishioka, for instance. The Twins announced Monday they have sent Nishioka back down to Class AAA Rochester to make room for Trevor Plouffe. So for now -- and maybe forever -- Nishioka's sample size with the Twins this season is six games in the big leagues (three starts, three sits). Nishioka bashing is an old fad. But a lighthearted look at his numbers reveals all sorts of small sample size hilarity.

• Winning enthusiasts -- those who look at no other stats aside from wins and losses when judging performance -- should note that sending out Nishioka might be a huge mistake. The Twins were 2-1 with Nishioka in the lineup and 0-3 without him in the lineup during his six games here. That's a full-season pace for a 108-54 record with Nishioka and a 0-162 record without him.

• On the down side, he was 0-for-12 at the plate in his three starts. Over a full season, that projects to 0-for-648, which would certainly be a record. On the bright side, he had a sacrifice fly, which would put him on pace over a full year for an MLB-record 54 sacrifice flies if he played every game.

• Also, negatively, Nishioka made three errors in three games. That's a pace for 162 over a 162-game season. But he was part of six double plays in those three games, a pace for 324 over a full year. Records galore, good and bad.

Again, these numbers are only to be used for entertainment purposes. Adjust your "danger" level accordingly for any other usage.

MICHAEL RAND

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