Michael young batting cage

Michael Young: statistical visionary

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Michael Young hasn’t hit well lately, but he does not believe he’s in a slump, per se:

“I’ve never really bought into the idea of slumps,” Young said. “There are going to be times you just don’t get the results that you want in this game. It’s just the nature of the big leagues. But what you’ve done in the past has nothing to do with what you’re going to do the next game. You’re allowed to wipe the slate clean and get back to work the next game.”

Given how much fun we’ve had picking on Michael Young around here, your first impression may be that I offer this to mock him for being in denial.  Not so!  I think he’s actually making a comment about people’s inability to properly understand randomness and random events which, inevitably, leads to things like the “hot hand fallacy.”

Yes, players have what we call “slumps.” And we use that term because it is useful. It describes events which did, in fact, occur.  When someone goes 0 for 32, he did suffer a slump.

But it’s wrong to stretch the concept into something predictive. To say that, because someone went 0 for 32, that at bat number 33 is doomed. Or, as it comes up more often, to make strident predictions about what the slump means as it relates to the player’s value and future prospects.  Fact is: players with any kind of track record are, in a significant enough sample size, going to perform pretty close to that track record and within norms for someone of their talent level, with a usual mild downward slope as they age and get more fragile and stuff.

I know that this has little to do with Young or even with what he’s talking about, but any chance we have to stamp out things like “the hot hand” or the related gambler’s fallacy (“he’s due for a hit!”) verbiage from the discourse, we should take it.

This stuff isn’t magic. There is no whammy. Stuff just evens out over time. Unless you think Michael Young was really a .400 hitter, that’s all that’s going on with him here, even if you want to call it a slump and he doesn’t.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.