Jason has an excellent post over at Rotowire, called Monitoring the Small Sample, that makes the obvious but excellent point that:
“All change has a starting point. If a pitcher’s strikeout rate needs 150 batters faced to become meaningful, it does not mean we ignore plate appearances 1 to 149. Rather, it means we watch the player’s process during that span to see if something has changed or if the improved numbers are another example of statistical randomness. Last season, Fernando Rodney faced just 42 batters in April but had seven saves and a 0.87 ERA.”
And what fantasy player wasn’t buying Rodney as soon as they possibly could, despite the universal belief that he would self destruct at any moment? Every fantasy player was buying. Not always happily but out of necessity.
But if we know certain things about a player’s or team’s approach, maybe that helps identify one of those starting points. Jason says:
April served as a starting point for the changes Rodney made in his delivery and his position on the rubber that led to better short-term results that eventually became better long-term results. Discussing, tweeting, or writing about such changes to deliveries, positioning of hands and feet, or swings is not confirmation bias of statistical recency as much as it is looking for starting points for change.
The bottom line for fantasy players in deep leagues is that we don’t have time for confirmation. If there is a whisper of hope to improve we jump on it, not always prudentially. But in shallower leagues the questions are different. Knowing that small sample success might be fueled by a change in approach or situation might get you out ahead of the crowd.
Note: Rotowire is a pay service and if you’re not a subscriber I don’t know what the link will get you. I pay for Rotowire and wholeheartedly recommend it.