Now I read that Toronto benched Frank Thomas today, and their manager has informed him that his playing time will likely be reduced from here on out. Of course, this didn't sit too well with Thomas who said the following in an ESPN.com story:
"Sixty at bats isn't enough to make that decision. I'm angry, I know I can help this team. My career isn't going to end like this."But is Thomas right? Is it not fair to judge a player after 60 at bats? Well, Pizza Cutter @ Statistically Speaking has crunched some numbers regarding what can (and can't) be generally known about a hitter's expected performance going forward after X amount of plate appearances.
Pizza Cutter's findings showed that after just 50 plate appearances, you can judge what percentage of pitches a player will swing at (i.e., is this hitter a free swinger or not). After 100 plate appearances, you can judge the player's contact rate (i.e., if they swing do they make contact or not). After 150 plate appearances, you can judge their strikeout rate, line drive rate, and pitches taken per plate appearance. However, it isn't until after 500 plate appearances that a fair determination can be made about on-base percentage, slugging percentage, singles rate, and popup rate.
Granted, Pizza Cutter's analysis is probably more useful for judging young prospects as they break into the big leagues (such as Evan Longoria or Justin Upton), but it might also be applicable when a hitter at the end of his career starts to regress.
I don't blame the Big Hurt for being upset with being benched, especially since he could miss out on a $10 million option if he doesn't get 376 plate appearances this year. However, I gotta believe that if Frank Thomas were running a fantasy baseball team he'd drop himself in favor of Carlos Quentin too.
HT Brock For Broglio