There’s a difference between a sample and a trend. While we don’t want to tread too deeply into the world of small samples, looking at a team’s recent performance can be another one of those small nudges in one direction (or another) when lining up your daily squad.
FanGraphs has a split filter that you can use to examine how a team has fared in the past seven, 14, or 30 days, and I like to occasionally use this as a judgement on a team’s overall offensive production, especially when choosing an opposing starting pitcher. Then, when examining these splits, I tend to look at things like slugging numbers, or simply wOBA / wRC+ to see if a team has been on a good offensive run or a bad one, especially compared to the team’s overall season numbers.
If something looks out-of-phase with the team’s seasonal stats, I can examine why, but usually then I have a tendency to not take those recent numbers as seriously. After all, if there’s something dramatic that’s changed over recent days, that’s one thing — but true talent levels usually arise in seasonal stats, not in the short term. I’d much rather put my confidence in longer-running stats than short ones. If there’s not a huge delta between the recent sample and the seasonal sample, though, I’m more inclined to assume that there’s something moving in the short term that’s a recent trend — and I can use that to (slightly) influence my judgement.
Once I know how the overall wOBA or slugging numbers are bearing out over that sample, I can go ahead and look at causes. Is it because the team lost a key player to injury during that time? Have they faced an especially rough patch of elite starters? Have they been stuck playing in hitter-unfriendly parks? Then, armed with that info, I can see if it’s worth adjusting my personal valuation of that particular pitcher against that particular team. I’d much rather use this than something like previous history against that squad, especially given how few starts a pitcher might get against an entire team during the season (or even their entire career).
The trick, as with most things, is moderation. We can’t allow the past 14 or 30 days to completely cloud our judgement. What we can do is use it as a late-game filter for our decision-making — something that’s even less important than weather or handedness. It’s just another tool in the toolbox to shape your daily lineup, though this one’s more of a scalpel than a saw.
The Daily Five
Jon Niese – $12,180
Times change. Empires rise and empires fall. But make no mistake, the Phillies are still awful against left-handed pitchers. With an 84 wRC+ against southpaws, we can feel okay going to Niese. The Mets’ new (old) ace has just ripped off two very strong starts, striking out nine in both games, and should be a safe(ish) pick against Philadelphia. In addition, Philly has the second-worst wRC+ over the last 30 days and the last 14 days, and even in the last seven, they’ve been below league-average.
Ross Ohlendorf – $8,268
When in doubt, bet against the Marlins. While Ohlendorf’s return from the DL wasn’t the world’s most triumphant engagement, the Marlins are weak. Ohlendorf is a decent chance to rack up a win, as well as a couple of strikeouts, despite it being unlikely that he’ll go deep into the game.
Jason Castro – $6,728
Jose Quintana‘s been good recently, and Castro gives up the platoon advantage against the lefty … but there’s two issues of certainty here. One, Castro has a day off on Sunday, only pinch-hitting, so he’s likely to spend the day behind the dish today. Two, Castro’s cost being below $7k gives you plenty of space to invest at other positions. With a hot last few games, Castro seems like a good investment, even against Quintana.
Ike Davis – $6,639
Ike’s made a remarkable turnaround since his dismal start to the season, but he’s still vulnerable to solid off-speed stuff. According to PITCHf/x, Kyle Kendrick doesn’t really have solid off-speed stuff. Again, a deep discount on Ike’s services against a righty with questionable offerings and a propensity to give up longballs makes this the right move for me today.
Justin Maxwell – $6,700
Maxwell has been pretty solid against same-handed pitchers this year, albeit in a smaller sample. Kevin Correia is not a very good pitcher. If Maxwell gets the start today, I wouldn’t hesitate to add him to my lineup, and hope that he hits a homer or runs on the Minnesota defense.
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