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Small Sample Size Theater

I live in Queens, in one of those rare neighborhoods where Mets fans enjoy a quorum majority over Yankee fans and the baseball apathetic. That means there's no shortage of random folks with whom I can discuss the team's comings and goings. This weekend, helping a neighbor move some furniture into his house quickly devolved into a discussion of the Mets'.

"I think the pitching will be good this year," my neighbor said, matter-of-factly. "Chris Young used to be good, Capuano used to be good. Santana comes back, who knows?"

I've been extremely measured in my expectations for the upcoming season, expressing neither optimism nor pessimism. But all it took was this one neighbor to say the Mets' pitching will be good, and I began to think, enthusiastically, Yeah, he's right! There are two reasons for this: 1) I am easily swayed, and 2) I've been starved for baseball for far too long.

This kind of thinking can only happen during spring training, when the prospects of even the best teams are uncertain. Prior results are no guarantee of future success, so even the Albert Pujolses of the world could fall off a cliff. Conversely, who says Oliver Perez can't figure out? I know in my heart of hearts that Albert Pujols will continue to be a beast and Oliver Perez will continue to suck, But until I see it happen, I can delude myself into thinking otherwise.

But also, at this extremely early stage of spring training, I have so little evidence to go on, I immediately leap to conclusions. The Mets have played a grand total of 4 games (5 if you count the split-squad contest last Friday). At this point, I'm so baseball deprived that I'll take any shred of proof about a player's future performance one way or the other.

For instance, a curious amount of offense from Scott Hairston in the first few games immediately prompted speculation that this former afterthought would get a bench role when the team went north--even though this thinking was influenced by two homers in the aforementioned doesn't-count split-squad game. On the other side of the coin, Luis Castillo looked decent enough in the first spring game, but a woeful, error-filled performance on Monday brought more calls for his release. And when Mike Pelfrey gave up a barrage of singles in his first spring training start, my first thought was, "Oh god, he's regressing..."

The same goes for any bit of news. My thoughts on Carlos Beltran have rollercoastered just over the weekend. The fact that he would DH for the foreseeable future was worrisome. Then Beltran officially decided to move to right field, thus nipping a contentious debate in the bud. While that made me feel good about Beltran as a team player, I also worried that his days as an effective player are numbered, if not over. Immediately thereafter, several beat writers tweeted that Beltran was raking from both sides of the plate in batting practice. Naturally, this made me imagine an MVP-caliber season for him.

Obviously, this is extremely dumb and just a byproduct of wanting baseball after being denied it for so long. But I'm almost positive I'm not the only person who does this, Met fan or otherwise. So I wanted to ask the AA-reading public: Do you find yourself making judgments like these at this extremely early stage of spring training? If so, which players have impressed you so far in spring training action? And which ones have completely disgusted you? I think it will be interesting to gather up these responses and examine them again in a few months, to see what prevailed and what did not.

This should be done with the understanding that this exercise is more cathartic than helpful. And much like we did with the Mets Killers posts, this is a total Dumb Gut question, so no consulting PECOTA to see who will really have an awesome year.

Ready? Go!