August 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
File under “dog bites man”.
For the second consecutive game, Fredi Gonzalez has opted to play Jose Constanza over Jason Heyward. Jose Constanza is a 27-year-old career minor-league scrub who was sporting a robust .712 OPS at AAA before being called up. Heyward’s OPS in the *major leagues* this year is .720.
In a completely unsurprising development, Fredi’s justification for doing so is incredibly dumb: “going with the hot hand”. Not that I would expect anything different from the man who willingly uses Scott Proctor before Craig Kimbrel in an elimination inning of a tie game, but the stupidity continues to amaze–while failing to surprise.
A summary of the findings on the hot hand fallacy from The Book, chapter 2 (When You’re Hot, You’re Hot):
Knowing that a hitter has been in or is in the midst of a hot or cold streak has little predictive value. Always assume that a player will hit at his projected norm (adjusted for the park, weather, and the pitcher he is facing), regardless of how well he has performed in the very recent past.
Here’s the thing about being “hot”: as far as human beings can tell it is always past-tense. A player isn’t hot, he *was* hot. You and I and Fredi have no idea whether or not he still is. Treating him as such is a sign of utter incompetence.
Another thing, though. Jose Constanza was not hot. He is incredibly lucky that he hasn’t been a complete drain thus far. Most players who have been “hot” were partially lucky, but Jose Constanza’s production thus far has been almost entirely a product of good luck. I could cite his batting average on balls in play or BACON, but I figured since we’re dealing with a player whose played 10 big league games, it would be better to just watch the games and summarize my findings.
Jose Constanza has 13 singles and 3 extra-base hits through his first 10 games. The 13 singles are:
1) Ground-ball single barely past Omar Infante. 2) Solid ground-ball single the other way in the 5.5 hole. 3) Pathetic ground-ball down the 3B line. Infield single. 4) Solid ground-ball single in the 3.5 hole. 5) Straight up Baltimore chop over Livan Hernandez's head. Infield single. 6) We have a line-drive, ladies and gentlemen! Through the 5.5 hole. 7) Bloop single that fell right behind the infield dirt at third. 8) Line-drive through the 3.5 hole. 9) Pathetic ground-ball that the pitcher failed to field. Infield single. 10) Bloop, weak fly ball to left that Jason Bay probably should have caught. 11) Pathetic ground-ball that the pitcher failed to field. Infield single. 12) Bloop fly ball to left field that he DROPPED THE BAT WHILE HITTING. 13) Bloop fly ball to left field.
So there it is. 13 singles, 8 of them either bloop hits or infield singles. You don’t need me to tell you that’s not sustainable, nor is it indicative of playing well. Getting fielders to screw up fielding grounders or getting weak fly balls to drop in no man’s land is not a skill, it’s luck, and there’s no reason for us to expect that luck to continue past yesterday.
Now that we’ve established that Jose Constanza was not actually “hot”, just lucky, a few reasons why Fredi might think he is:
- He’s just looking at the stats sheet and observing results, rather than actual performance. The average fan can do that.
- Confirmation bias of a speedy player achieving good results. We know Fredi irrationally loves speed, to the point that he’s willing to sacrifice other, more important qualities to get it in the line-up. Jordan Schafer was the team’s leadoff hitter for a third of the season even though he can’t hit, for example.
- Confirmation bias of a career minor-leaguer with clearly limited physical tools achieving good results. Baseball fans love to root for the overachiever.
At any rate, succumbing to any of the above is doing his team a disservice. Yes, Jason Heyward hasn’t played particularly well this year, primarily due to injuries. He’s still performed better than anyone can reasonably expect Jose Constanza to. 8 lucky singles in 10 games doesn’t change that. I do appreciate and applaud what Constanza has done as a fill-in–I really do–but expecting him to continue to be a regular-quality player is something clueless people do. Fredi Gonzalez should know this and play the better player. But he doesn’t, because as I’ve said so many times:
Fredi. Gonzalez. Does. Not. Get. It.