The mantra of FanGraphs is “Do not put too much faith into small sample sizes.” We all have it tattood on our chests, just below a picture of the site’s founder, Dave Appleman.
In the world of fantasy baseball that mantra can be twisted a bit, as we will gladly ride a player on a hot streak as far as he will take us. That doesn’t mean we believe in the statistics the player is putting up – more often than not he’s dumped when the hot hitting ends. A lot of fluky things can happen over the course of ~100PA. It’s up to you to decide what is legitimate and what isn’t. Take Chris Coghlan for example.
Coghlan is best known for winning the 2009 Rookie of the Year award with the Marlins. He’s also known for practically ending Akinori Iwamura‘s career by breaking his leg with a hard slide into second that season, but that’s just me being a bitter Rays fan. Coghlan’s 2009 season was better in real life than fantasy, his .321 average being the only category in which he helped owners in most leagues. But he got on base at an extraordinary .390 clip and posted a respectable, but not great, .139 ISO for a second basemen. Usually a good sign of things to come. Well, his 2010 didn’t live up to his freshmen campaign even though his BABIP was still a very high .336 (compared to .365 in 2009). He hit just .268 with a .335 OBP and an ISO that dipped to .115. He was limited to just 400 PA due to injuring his knee while delivering a shaving cream pie to a teammate’s face.
Flash forward to 2011. Coghlan is hitting .299/.354 (AVG/OBP) thus far in 99 PA. That’s about what we’d expect from him. Nothing strange there. Take a glance at his home run total, however, and there might be something interesting going on. He has four home runs so far. He had five in 400 PA last season, and just nine in 565 PA as a rookie. This is where things get tricky. Over his first two seasons his FB%’s have been 29.9% and 24.7%, with HR/FB percentages of 7.1% and 7.5%. This season his FB% is 34.3% while the HR/FB is 17.4%(!). To give you perspective, in 2010 the MLB average HB/FB was 10.6% and Rickie Weeks finished at 17.3%.
Is Coghlan going to pull a Rickie Weeks and hit 29 home runs? No, probably not. It’s unlikely that his HR/FB percentage will remain that high as well. As I said in the opening, a lot can happen in ~100 plate appearances. He could be working out a new swing, we don’t know. We’ve seen light hitting infielders come into power seemingly over night the last few years, namely Ben Zobrist and Jose Bautista. I’m not lumping Coghlan in with those two, but considering he’s owned in less than half of all legaues, I do think that his increased power thus far is worth keeping an eye on.