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.

Gio González exits NLCS Game 4 start after twisting ankle

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Brewers starter Gio González was forced to exit his NLCS Game 4 start against the Dodgers in the second inning after twisting his left ankle attempting to field a comebacker hit by Yasiel Puig. González leaped, deflected the ball and twisted his ankle landing, then went after the ball but Puig reached base easily.

The Brewers’ trainer and manager Craig Counsell came out to the mound to observe González throwing some practice pitches. He was clearly in pain but was allowed to stay in. He threw one pitch to Austin Barnes and very visibly grimaced after completing his wind-up. Counsell came back out to the mound and took a visibly upset González out of the game. Freddy Peralta came in relief to finish out the at-bat. González probably shouldn’t have been allowed to stay in the game in the first place, but sometimes a player’s competitiveness is enough to convince a manager and a trainer.

Upon entering, Peralta issued a walk to Austin Barnes, then got the first out when Rich Hill laid down a mediocre bunt, allowing Peralta to get the lead runner at third base. Peralta struck out Chris Taylor and walked Justin Turner to load the bases with two outs. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to pinch-hit for David Freese with Max Muncy, who struck out looking. Peralta was somehow able to slither out of the jam.

Gonzalez pitched two innings in NLCS Game 1 on Friday. He was quite good after joining the Brewers in a late-August trade with the Nationals, compiling a 2.13 regular season ERA in five starts with his new club. The Brewers will likely provide an update on his status after Tuesday night’s game.