Let’s play the always-entertaining game, "Confirmation Bias or Small Sample Size," where all my preseason predictions are correct, no matter what happened in the first week:
The Astros have 16 runs in the first six games, with a team OBP of .283 that’s spiked by a mere 12 walks. Leadoff hitter Craig Biggio has picked up where he left off in ’06, and is yet to draw a base on balls while posting a .231 OBP. To his credit, Phil Garner has landed on the right answer in the #2 slot, third baseman Morgan Ensberg, who despite a wretched week is a good bet to finish second on the team in OBP.
The Astros played all six games at home, and it’s not like they faced the league’s best starters: the Pirates and the non-Chris Carpenter Cardinals. The middle of the order is going to produce, but the three non-hitters in the lineup mean that it’s going to be a long year for Astros fans. It’s the hitting, not the pitching, that will be the team’s downfall. Confirmation Bias.
The Twins got out to a 4-1 start behind a 2.45 ERA week and matchups with first the Orioles and their thin roster, and then the White Sox in frigid weather. Thanks to first-week scheduling, Johan Santana and Joe Nathan have combined for 36% of the team’s innings to date. Ramon Ortiz and Carlos Silva both pitched well in their first starts, something that is unlikely to become a trend. Of greater concern is the 20 runs scored in five games, a figure no doubt held down by the weather in Chicago, but still reflective of an offense that lacks power outside of a couple of players. Small Sample Size.
The Nationals are really, really bad. They spent all week at home and allowed more than six runs a game, coming within a ninth-inning rally of a winless week. Second starts by John Patterson and Shawn Hill were better than their first starts, but this is still a team with more Triple-A pitchers on its roster than major leaguers. The offense is just as awful, even after the Opening Day losses of Cristian Guzman and Nook Logan forced a stronger lineup onto the field—they've scored a paltry 18 runs in seven games.
Just to recap: no Nationals pitcher has pitched with a lead, and no Nationals batter has come to the plate with one. The Nats have been played with the score tied in just four of their 63 innings; the one win they had was a walkoff in which they trailed from the second inning until they tied and then won the game in the ninth. I have, unfortunately, played on a team like that, and it is no fun at all. The Nats won’t keep playing .143 baseball, but honestly, I think the 57 wins I pegged them for might be generous. Confirmation Bias.
The Rangers opened their season 2-4 against two of the better rotations in the league, the Angels and the Red Sox. They got pretty good pitching, including a terrific seven-inning shutout from Robinson Tejeda, but they couldn’t score, putting up just 18 runs behind a .196 AVG and .302 SLG. The team approach seems solid: they drew 28 walks, but that same deep-count tendency led to a whopping 43 strikeouts. Those two numbers are going to be high, indicative of a team that will work counts while also having some trouble making contact in two-strike situations. The offense will be better than this. Small Sample Size.
The Mariners have had more games postponed (four) than they’ve played (three). With today’s makeup-of-a-makeup wiped out, the Mariners leave Cleveland having not played a game that counted in the standings since Wednesday in Seattle. Now, there’s considerable consternation about the scheduling of first-week games in cities like Cleveland, New York and Chicago, three places that saw games canceled due to weather this past week. The truth is, though, springtime weather in these places is essentially unpredictable, and there have been plenty of years when the home openers in these places have been played in sunshine and comfortable temperatures.
It’s not as simple as scheduling first-week games in warm-weather or domed parks. Teams would, all things considered, prefer to have home dates clustered in June through August, and sticking a segment of teams with a disproportionate number of early-season home games creates problems. Moreover, it’s a bad idea to create policies in reaction to a particular event. It’s unfortunate that this series became a bit of a circus, but there’s no solution to this issue that is going to be acceptable to enough people to enact. Well, you could start the season a week later and schedule six doubleheaders along the way, but good luck convincing MLB to go back to that.
What MLB could do is use this as a chance to examine the schedule as a whole, to perhaps reconsider the unbalanced-schedule/interleague-play combination that is the root of the problem. Addressing that, and not just focusing on one wild-weather weekend, is the way to bring a positive out of this negative. Small Sample Size.
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