Mar
03

Do not put stock in spring training stats

By

It has been a long four months, but today we will finally get some live Yankees baseball. Though we won’t see much, it’s still exciting to see the players back in uniform, facing competition. In addition to the regulars, who will play only a few innings, we’ll see some of the up and comers, plus a few of the random non-roster invitees. For those of us who want to watch baseball for the sake of watching baseball, it is heaven.

I encourage everyone to watch spring training baseball for the pure enjoyment of the game. I do not, however, encourage anyone to draw insights from what they see in these games. The pitchers and hitters are still working back into their grooves. A.J. Burnett, for example, will not throw his curveball in his first few spring starts. I’m sure the hitters will all be focusing on what they’ve worked on with Kevin Long and figuring out what works. How can we judge these players if they’re not playing the same way they will when the season starts?

Even if the players were in full shape and approached the games in the same manner as they did during the regular season, we still fall into the small sample trap. Last year Cody Ransom led the Yankees with 82 PA in spring training. An everyday player will get more PA than that in April alone. So not only are we working with a flawed sample here, but it’s also minuscule. There are no reasons to draw any conclusions whatsoever from the spring numbers.

Last spring, Mark Teixeira came to bat 67 times and hit .433. In his first 67 PA of 2009 he hit .235. Melky struck out only three times in 69 PA. Brett Gardner hit three home runs in his 74 PA, which equalled the number he hit in 248 regular season PA. Robinson Cano slugged .667, and Jorge Posada slugged just .404. Even worse, Swisher slugged .352. Johnny Damon was 2 for 5 in steal attempts, but perfect in the regular season. Finally, my personal favorite, Angel Berroa hit .371 and slugged .597 — and still didn’t make the team.

Let today bring us enjoyment. Let the rest of the spring remind us of the greatness of baseball, and what we can look forward to for the next seven months. Live Yankees games are back, but let’s not read much into them yet.

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/AP

Categories : Spring Training

99 Comments»

  1. Do not put stock in spring training stats

    Also, Toyota.

    • I don’t know what the hell the big deal is. Toyota pulled the data off the onboard computerized data recorders, and it said there was no problem whatsoever. If the digital data readout says there was no computer error, that means there was no error. Case closed.

      Sincerely,
      Deibold

    • You guys know all of Spring Training is going to contain observations from couch statisticians and scouts bemoaning how badly Granderson is doing and how it’s merely a sign of a long season. Hoffman is going to hit a Fibonacci sequence, run like Bolt and catch like Mays. People will be calling for an outfield alignment of Royce Ring, Hoffmann and Gardner. Swish, Winn and Granderson will be mere trade fodder for hopeless trademantics like mryankee. People will absolutely go all Mets (read: crazy) when CC struggles in a few meaningless, stupid games.

      In short, it will be fun.

      Unrelated side note:

      Not for stock but if you want to get a new car, now is exactly the time to get one. Went with Mom (left the basement. It was good to get some sunlight) to the Toyota dealer on Rt. 17. Brand new Highlander for significantly less than the MSRP with every feature known to man. It was almost absurd.

    • Rose says:

      It’s kind of scary that something this big would get through testing, etc.

      What’s next? Delta! Planes are going to start falling out of the sky!

      (overreacts and cowers in corner of room for all of eternity)

  2. It has been a long four months, but today we will finally get some live Yankees baseball. Though we won’t see much, it’s still exciting to see the players back in uniform, facing competition. In addition to the regulars, who will play only a few innings, we’ll see some of the up and comers, plus a few of the random non-roster invitees. For those of us who want to watch baseball for the sake of watching baseball, it is heaven.

    I’m as hard as a diamond in an ice storm right now.

    /RickyBobby’d

  3. Isn’t this also analogous to teams deciding that Spring Training would be a great time for pitchers to fight it out? Somehow, spring performance against a bunch of minor leaguers and some Major Leaguers just getting their hacks in is indicative of who should break camp with the club. I feel like teams have mostly determined their paths by now and just look for either (1) that breakout candidate or (2) something terribly wrong with the 25 guys they have picked.

    • thurdonpaul says:

      I will 2nd that.

    • Agreed. Which is why virtually all of these “open competitions” are probably actually 10% open competition and 90% already decided. They all already know who’s doing what; just making sure nobody does anything amazingly awful to foul up the works.

      The only real “battles” for the Yankees that have yet to be decided and are actually based on spring results, IMHO:

      1.) What to do with Sergio Mitre? Can he pitch well enough to A) generate trade value, thus opening a valuable roster spot in exchange for minor-league talent and allowing both Aceves and Hughes to head north in the big league pen? Will he pitch poorly enough to be DFA’d outright and written off as a sunk cost? Or will he pitch somewhere in the middle and make the roster decision tough, possibly bumping either Phil or Ace to the Scranton rotation temporarily?

      2.) Does Marcus Thames still have life in his bat? If he does, he probably bounces Jamie Hoffmann back to the Dodgers. If not, sayonara.

      Everything else (Joba v. Hughes, who hits in the #2 hole, Gardner v. Winn v. Hoffmann/Thames, who plays LF and who plays CF, how leverage innings are distributed in the bullpen, etc) is already written in pencil and being transcribed into stone as we speak.

      • I was going to write all this, but I see it’s been written in e-stone, and far more eloquently than I’d have written.

        So…+28

      • Rose says:

        This being said, along with what we’ve heard from guys like Eiland, etc. – Do you think they may have already made their minds up about Joba being in the pen and Hughes in the rotation regardless of what we believe is right and wrong common sense?

      • Jake says:

        I think Thames is a risk worth taking. If he doesn’t have it anymore, they’ll release him.
        He does one thing really well: homer.

        I’m hoping that Randy Winn just had a really off year, and that he can rebound.
        Maybe the short porch can help him find his swing.

        I think having a pinch runner late in the game like Gardy gave us an asset that we have not seen since Homer Bush in 98.

        • I think Thames is a risk worth taking. If he doesn’t have it anymore, they’ll release him.
          He does one thing really well: homer.

          I agree, but keeping him means losing Jaime Hoffmann, so Thames does have to actually show that he’s worth more than Hoffmann. That’s not a given.

          I’m hoping that Randy Winn just had a really off year, and that he can rebound.
          Maybe the short porch can help him find his swing.

          Also agreed. He’s still Gardner’s backup until proven otherwise, though. Gardner’s the presumptive starter. Incumbency counts.

          I think having a pinch runner late in the game like Gardy gave us an asset that we have not seen since Homer Bush in 98.

          Sure. If Gardner’s starting, though, he obviously wouldn’t be said pinchrunner.

          • Jake says:

            If Jorge walks, and Swisher is up, who comes into run for him?
            Winn is still in shape, but Gardy gives us a flat out advantage off the bench.

            • I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying that Girardi isn’t going to choose who starts between Winn and Gardner using the rationale of “Which one of these guys helps me out more as a pinch runner off the bench?”

              If starting Gardner over Winn because Gardner deserves to start over Winn weakens the flexibility of the bench by eliminating a late-inning pinchrunner, so be it. Strengthening the starting lineup is more important than weakening the bench.

              • Jake says:

                The team won the World Series.

                How much should they change? I don’t think Gardy is good enough to start. The only thing he did better than Melky last year was run.

                I think Winn’s history says he’s a good player that had a bad year. Just like Granderson, but on a smaller scale.

                My prediction is that Winn will start in LF, and bat 9th.

                • The team won the World Series. How much should they change?

                  Well, Melky was the starting outfielder, and he’s gone. So either Winn or Gardner is “change”.

                  Gardner’s the incumbent, though, and Winn is not.

                  I agree that Winn is a solid player who will bounce back, but it seems the Yankee brass feels Gardner has potential to be a legit starter and they intend to find out by giving him a realistic stab at the everyday job.

                  My prediction is that Winn plays himself into the starting lineup eventually, but Gardner wins the job out of the spring by default.

                • Jake says:

                  I think you’re right.

                  Gardy is a great spring training player.
                  He’s going to need to show significant improvement
                  to get the starting job-and keep it.

                  Who knows? Maybe Hoffmann or Thames will surprise.
                  Hoffmann was the victim of a talented, and crowded outfield.

        • Bo says:

          Tough to rebound when your on the wrong side of 35 and joining the tougher league.

  4. Bill Style says:

    “Finally, my personal favorite, Angel Berroa hit 371 and slugged .597 — and still didn’t make the team.”

    I really miss Pete Abe’s rips on Berrora last year before he shipped up to Boston

  5. Big Juan says:

    Gotta love this time of year.

  6. A.D. says:

    Agreed, inevitably someone will suck it up in the spring, and come out hot, and someone will rake in the spring, and be very cold when the season starts.

    Players are working on things, and more likely to mess around, I remember Sheff trying to remove the hitch swing, and IPK grooving a fastball to a former HS friend.

  7. Manimal says:

    But Melky had a single today and Mike Dunn threw a scoreless inning of relief, clearly the Vasquez trade already isn’t worth it.

  8. ROBTEN says:

    It might be a good idea to (try to) ward off some of the ridiculous statements that will be made during the season by putting forward a few gentle reminders. Like spring training stats, these things will happen and should not be used to draw absolute conclusions:

    1. The Yankees will lose some games this year. Some losses will be close, some will be blowouts, but the team will not go 162-0. Not every loss is an instant referendum on the team, or Girardi’s or any other coach’s job. Be patient, it is a long season.

    1A. Some of these losses might be against Boston. We might not like when this happens more than we do not like other losses, but it also does not mean firing/trading everyone immediately. Again, be patient.

    2. Even the best hitters do not always get hits or hit with runners in scoring position. Sometimes they even strike out with a man on third. It happens. It does not mean that the hitter “stinks,” should be immediately traded or DFA’d, or is “not-clutch.” Patience is a virtue.

    3. Similarly, even the best pitchers do not retire every batter that they face. Sometimes they give up hits and sometimes those hits lead to runs. Sometimes they may even give up a lead. A bad inning or start does not mean that a pitcher “stinks,” should be immediately traded or DFA’d, or is “not-clutch.” Ditto on the patience.

    • Said it a million times:

      If patience and perspective are character traits you generally lack as a person, baseball is not the sport for you. Find something else to become emotionally invested in, for everyone’s benefit.

    • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

      Just as long as the parts about being unclutch in #2 and #3 don’t apply to 1A.

    • bexarama says:

      Yeah, I was trying to come up with a list of things that will happen that everyone will freak out about.

      1. Someone will come up to bat with a runner on third and less than two outs and not get the runner home. This will probably happen at multiple points during the season.

      2. Mariano will probably blow one save in April.

      3. Yankee pitchers will, at some point, walk the #9 hitter in an opposing team’s lineup.

      • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

        How could you possibly leave this out?

        4. Joba Chamberlain will have a start that lasts 2 or so innings where he gives up 5 or so ER.

        • Dirty Pena: The Triple Entendre says:

          Ohh, you said “freak out,” I thought I read “summon the four horsemen of the apocalypse”

        • ROBTEN says:

          If we’re being specific about “crisis” moments:

          5. Even OBP-Jesus Nick Johnson does not get on base every single time; it does not mean that Damon/Matsui would have hit a home-run in the same situation.

          6. Javy will lose a game. It does not mean that it is 2004 and that we’d be better off with Melky.

          7. ARod will strike out. Possibly even with RISP. It does not mean that he is “back to his old tricks.”

          8. Jeter will hit into a double-play. He should still be offered a new contract.

          9. Granderson will fail to get on-base against a left-hander. He is not worse than Johnny Damon.

          10. Another team will make a trade. It does not mean that Cashman “sucks.”

          • bexarama says:

            I was just coming back to post #6, except something along the lines of “Javy will give up a home run. This does not mean it is 2004.”

            11. Teixeira will probably suck in April. This does not mean that he’s “not earning his money” or “we won the World Series despite him, not because of him.”

            12. Jorge Posada will probably allow quite a few passed balls and will also make tremendously dumb moves on the basepaths every so often. This does not mean we would be better off with Cervelli and/or the departed Molina catching every game.

            13. Cano will probably make an error at some point, or swing at a bad pitch. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.

            • ROBTEN says:

              I think you’re right. #6 should be modified to “Javy will give up a home run. This does not mean it is 2004.” It is more accurate in terms of what will drive some people out onto the ledge this season.

            • Jake says:

              At some point this year, the Yankees are going to entertain the idea of letting Jorge DH more than he has on the past. It will depend on his health. More than anything, we need his experienced bat in the line up.

              I think over the last several years, he’s become a better hitter.
              Maybe he’ll eye a longer career, and consider it at some point.

              A lot of catchers DH some of the time. No one faults VMart for doing it.

          • Jake says:

            No, Cash Man sucks because he gave 40 million dollars to a retarded Japanese pitcher that he never even saw.

            If he was the GM of the Blue Jays, or any other team without an unlimited budget, he’d be considered one of the worst GMs in the game.

            He’s lucky, we’re rich, and the money was there to buy a new pitching staff, and a HOF 1B.

    • Salty Buggah says:

      Good points. Unfortunately, the people who need to understand that won’t.

  9. Bo says:

    Spring stats absolutely don’t matter for established stars.

    But they certainly matter to guys fighting for spots and jobs. And they matter for the minor leaguer with no shot to make the roster but looking to impress scouts and front offices.

    • A.D. says:

      They matter to those people short term, particularly to those battling for a spot but still aren’t a good indicator of what that person is going to do in the upcoming season.

      • Steve H says:

        but still aren’t a good indicator of what that person is going to do in the upcoming season.

        Repeated for emphasis. I would think Bo, who clearly doesn’t like Brett Gardner would get that part of it.

    • Spring stats absolutely don’t matter for established stars. But they certainly matter to guys fighting for spots and jobs.

      Agreed, but the point of the post (which I agree with by and large) is that the number of guys actually fighting for spots is often smaller than we are lead to believe. Meaning that not only for “established stars” but also for simple everyday players slotted for certain team roles, a particularly hot or cold spring isn’t per se enough information to remove them from that role.

      That while the team tells the press, for example, “There’s an open competition for the fifth spot” which would lead you to believe that Joba, Phil, Aceves, and Gaudin spring stats matter (since they’d be the information used to judge the winner of that “competition”), in actuality, those stats don’t matter either, because the team already knows who’s going where (Joba to the 5th spot, Hughes/Ace/Gaudin to the bullpen) and only a monumental statistical outlier would change that.

      Sound right?

      (humbly taking the spirit of last night’s Open Thread (which Bo may or may not have read) as incentive and encouragement to turn over a new leaf with Bo and create a new peace and harmony (for the umpteenth time))

  10. [...] happens when rusty pitchers face rusty hitters? It’s tough to say, which is why I don’t put stock in the results. That doesn’t mean that these performances go unnoticed. After all, if jobs are actually won [...]

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