Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

Follow Randball on Twitter

Mid-day talker: When is a small sample size no longer a small sample size?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Target Field, Twins fans Updated: June 11, 2014 - 2:05 PM

Through seven innings in Wednesday afternoon's game against the Blue Jays, Joe Mauer was 2-for-3 with a walk. That's a .750 on-base percentage for the slumping Mauer, and if he could keep that up for the rest of the season he would be the MVP.

But most of us understand those numbers are what we call a "small sample size" -- a sometimes relevant set of data, but numbers that nonetheless can't be extrapolated to inform us of a trend.

In the larger context, Mauer is having a poor season. But his diminished output only represents about 5 percent of his career at-bats. Are these two-plus months of Mauer still a small sample size?

We asked the honest question on Twitter: when does a small sample size for a hitter magically become an adequate sample size? Because while most of us like to toss around the "small sample size" phrase these days, very few of us are actually well-versed in what it means.

Here is the ENTIRE SAMPLE SIZE of the responses to our second tweet:

 

 

The most consistent response to that and a previous tweet pointed us to Fangraphs, which has attempted to tackle this very question. A study suggests the following benchmarks "when certain statistics stabilize for individual hitters":

 50 PA: Swing % 100 PA: Contact Rate 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA 200 PA: Walk Rate, Groundball Rate, GB/FB 250 PA: Flyball Rate 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate 550 PA: ISO

In essence, the size of a relative sample is relative to what you're measuring. With someone like Josmil Pinto, with limited career at-bats, this is fairly cut and dried. With Mauer, though, it's still complicated. Do we choose to believe the greater sample -- more than 5,000 career plate appearances, which suggest Mauer is a very good hitter -- or the smaller but still relevant sample size from this season?

That's the crux of the Mauer debate.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 3 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Pittsburgh 4 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Miami 7 FINAL
Washington 11
Detroit 4 FINAL
Philadelphia 4
Minnesota 6 FINAL
Baltimore 5
NY Yankees 7 FINAL
Houston 0
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Boston 3
Baltimore 4 FINAL
Toronto 2
Cincinnati 8 FINAL
LA Angels 6
Chicago Cubs 7 FINAL
Kansas City 0
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
San Francisco 11
Chicago WSox 4 FINAL
Cleveland 1
Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Oakland 7
Seattle 5 FINAL
San Diego 8
Texas 5 FINAL
Los Angeles 10
Colorado 11 FINAL
Arizona 10
Arizona 1 FINAL
Colorado 2
Houston 99 FINAL
Washington 91
LA Lakers 99 FINAL
Brooklyn 107
Minnesota 88 FINAL
New Orleans 110
Philadelphia 86 FINAL
Cleveland 87
Detroit 102 FINAL
Miami 109
LA Clippers 119 FINAL
Boston 106
Dallas 99 FINAL
Indiana 104
Memphis 89 FINAL
San Antonio 103
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Phoenix 97
Washington 5 FINAL
NY Rangers 2
Calgary 5 FINAL
Nashville 2
Boston 2 FINAL(OT)
Carolina 1
Detroit 4 FINAL
NY Islanders 5
Florida 4 FINAL
Ottawa 2
Anaheim 2 FINAL
New Jersey 1
Chicago 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 3
San Jose 2 FINAL(SO)
Pittsburgh 3
Michigan State 76 FINAL
Louisville 70
Gonzaga 52 FINAL
Duke 66
Philadelphia 0 FINAL
Chicago 1
Toronto FC 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 2
(7) Florida State 74 FINAL
(3) South Carolina 80
Villanova 70 FINAL
West Virginia 75
Michigan 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 60
Temple 69 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 57
Siena 50 FINAL
Louisiana 52
St Marys-CA 66 FINAL
UCLA 82
(5) Baylor 68 FINAL
(2) Notre Dame 77
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What are you following most closely right now?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT