One of my least favorite things about watching the Major League Baseball playoffs is all the small sample size analysis that is thrown around. Each postseason someone is labeled as “Mr. October” while others get tagged as “unclutch” based on a maximum of 19 games played.
San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Cody Ross is a decent player. There is no reason to put a downer on what he has done over the past 10 days; however, is his recent hot streak “October magic” or simply a major league player having a good week? Conversely, has Mark Teixeira collasped under the playoff pressure or just merely slumping? Sure, these types of stories are great to paint a romantic picture of larger than life heroes coming alive (or dying) on baseball’s biggest stage, but they do not offer us much else.
With that said, here is some small sample size and semi-results based analysis for you.
Against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Divisonal Series, Texas Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton hit .111/.200/.111 with zero extra-base hits, one RBI, two walks, and six strikeouts in 20 at-bats.
Versus the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, Hamilton is hitting .333/.500/1.200 with four home runs, a double, seven RBI, three steals, five walks, and just three strikeouts in 20 at-bats.
Now, this could just be random variance. Josh Hamilton was arguably the best player in the major leagues this season. Meanwhile, even the best players are allowed to have an off-week at the plate. The reason they are the best is when they rebound, they do it in a big way. Also keep in mind, he came into the playoffs having missed a large chunk of September. Maybe seeing live pitching in the ALDS made him more prepared for the ALCS.
On the other hand, the Rays approached Hamilton in a much different way than the Yankees have. Remember, last week we told you the Rays attacked Hamilton with soft stuff to favorable results.
Of the 75 pitches he saw in the ALDS, 52% were curveballs or change-ups. Only 41% were fastballs (including two-seam, four-seam, cutters, and sinkers). In the ALCS, he has seen 74 pitches. Of those, 60% have been of the fastball variety while just 21% have been curveballs or change-ups.
To the Yankees credit, they have tried to neutralize Hamilton with lefty-on-lefty matchups, yet he has still mashed in this series.
Admittedly, this is results-based and small sample analysis on the surface, but there is an interesting process behind those results. With their season hanging in the balance, and Hamilton sitting dead-red in the heart of the Texas batting order, the Yankees may want to try the Rays’ softer approach – at least one last time.