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Scott Rolen's Team™ or Small Sample Size?

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When the Reds traded for Scott Rolen on July 31st, Walt Jocketty said he "felt that there are a lot of things that Scott will provide this club that we thought was lacking -- leadership on the field with a position player."

Since Scott Rolen came off of the disabled list on August 23rd after suffering a concussion, the Reds have gone 12-3 and it's looking like Jocketty was right about Rolen's influence on the roster.  Bronson Arroyo doesn't want to go anywhere else now that Rolen is around.  Brandon Phillips credits Rolen with helping him become a better player.  Heck, even the USA Today Crossword puzzle found him worthy of a clue.

It's hard to argue with the results, right?  I mean, check out this 15-game stretch by the offense:

PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS SO BB AVG OBP SLG
614 536 86 159 25 3 20 78 15 6 82 52 .297 .362 .466

Pretty impressive, isn't it?  And it wasn't all just the offense.  During that 15-game stretch, the pitching staff had a 3.68 ERA, striking out 110 and walking just 47 batters and allowing only 13 home runs.  It's arguably the best stretch the Reds have played all year.

And Scott Rolen had nothing to do with it.

The numbers above are from the 15 games that the Reds played from April 28th to May 13th when they went 10-5.

The fact is that 15 games isn't enough to tell us about the true quality of a team.  Sure it's information, but it's only a small slice.  The team that put up those numbers above is basically the same team that hit .234/.300/.375 over the 68 games that followed that 15-game stretch. 

Is Rolen an improvement to this team?  Yes.  Has he helped them win 80% of their last 15 games? Absolutely.  But as most historians will tell you, it's hard to assign meaning to events as they are happening, especially when those events are just a small subset of the bigger picture.  Let's not assign too much meaning to one player, lest we lose track of the issues that need to be addressed to actually make this team a contender.

After the jump, I'll post the team's numbers for the most recent 15 games for you to compare.  Also, I'll point  to a player who may actually deserve the credit for being the straw that stirs the offensive drink.

Reds offense from 8/23 to 9/7
PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS SO BB AVG OBP SLG
615 539 73 147 29 2 19 71 11 8 121 60 .273 .349 .440

The pitching staff has had a 3.23 ERA over the last 15 games, striking out 113 and walking 64 while surrendering 18 home runs.

I think it would be an interesting study, if someone can figure out a way to do it, to see if there is one player or one batting order spot that as he goes, so goes the offense.  If I was looking at batting order, my first guess would be the lead-off hitter.  It seems like if your first hitter is getting on base a lot, then your offense should be churning.  However, it could be the 4-hole hitter.  Look at Brandon Phillips' numbers for the two 15-game stretches we've looked at today:

Stretch PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS SO BB AVG OBP SLG
First 58 53 10 21 5 0 5 20 1 2 5 4 .396 .431 .774
Second 66 63 7 24 5 0 2 10 4 1 3 3 .381 .409 .556

By no means is this definitive, and I'm not completely sure that you can't find 2 or 3 other players that have done the same thing on the Reds during these stretches.  It is undeniable though that Phillips has torn the cover off of the ball and at the same time the offense was chugging along as good as it has all season.  The question is, which came first?