This article is part of our The Z Files series.
Perhaps the biggest challenge this season is deciding when to adjust expectations based on a player's early numbers. Normally, the prudent approach for starting pitchers is relying on more than two or three early starts. However, there isn't time for patience in this abbreviated and condensed campaign.
Complicating matters is the data clearly points to pitchers being ahead of batters, even moreso than normal. That said, there are indications hitting is catching up, as run-scoring has picked up significantly this week.
Furthermore, early studies demonstrate the air resistance on the baseball is at the 2018 level, well down from the fun ball of last season. Not to mention, word leaked out this week that the Red Sox, Mets and Mariners had a humidor installed at their venues, which will skew their own and opponents' numbers.
My initial expectation for starting pitching is particularly important since it helps drive the Weekly Pitching Rankings. To briefly review, I generate a rest-of season expectation based on initial projections, then massage it based on what has happened in-season. The rest-of-season projection still fuels the pitching rankings.
Twenty innings isn't enough to really move the needle formulaically, so it's necessary to give the initial projections a hard, unbiased review. Years of tracking early results and delineating what's real from noise has taught me to trust the system. However, every year there are some big misses, so it's also obligatory to study those and strive to minimize their number.
All this is the set up