Spring Training Stats are WORTHLESS!

This will serve as the 3/14 Daily Dose

It seems that no matter how often it’s said (even if it’s every year), fantasy baseball owners still want to put stock into Spring Training stats.  I understand the enticement of them.  You spent a long, cold winter desperate for Hot Stove news, poring over the previous year’s stats and preparing a bit for the upcoming season.  Finally in late February you have some actual boxscores and with the real season just a month or so away, you get caught up in a frenzy and start to give meaning to the numbers before you.

Let me assure you that they are almost 100% meaningless.  In fact, the numbers themselves are 100% meaningless and the only instance where they have some significance is when someone is competing for a job.  If a marginal player or up & coming rookie believed not to be ready has a blistering spring to win a job, the gaudy stats aren’t a precursor of things to come during the season, rather they are merely a ticket to entry.  You should use previous career track to that point for a projection going forward, not the spring numbers.

Still articles and podcasts all over the internet are littered with lines about how well established player X is hitting so far or how poorly established pitcher B has been doing thus far.  Often people will then use confirmation bias in May or June for the few instances of players who continue to perform (for better or worse) as they did in spring, all the while ignoring the 100s of examples going against them.

For every Jose Bautista (.439, 5 HR, 11 RBI) there are four or five Shaun Marcums (8.10 ERA in 10 IP returning from TJS).  Bautista’s September should have been your indicator if you were looking for a sign of breakout, not Spring Training.  He hit 10 bombs with 21 RBIs in 125 plate appearances in games that mattered.

Pitching is especially deceptive.  Guys are just working on various things during their spring stints whether it’s building velocity, spinning a new pitch, refining their worst pitch, gaining stamina, developing their command, etc…  They don’t really care about the ERA and WHIP accumulated, nor should you.

Even strikeout-to-walk ratios can be misleading.  You will hear some back that as the most reliable spring stat for a pitcher, but it is just as prone to failure as the rest of them.  Rodrigo Lopez had a 4.3 K/BB in 19 innings with a 1.90 ERA.  He then posted a 5.00 ERA with 2.1 K/BB in 200 innings for the Diamondbacks.

Or what about last year’s breakout star, Ubaldo Jimenez?  If you kept yourself from getting too giddy about the 2.89 ERA and instead just trusted the strikeout-to-walk ration, you wouldn’t have been too heartened by his 1.3 K/BB mark (14 K, 11 BB in 19 IP).

Teammmates Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are couple of other interesting cases.  Nolasco had a ridiculous spring where he threw 25 brilliant innings striking out 21 and walking just one en route to a 1.78 ERA.  His skills were still solid throughout 2010 (4.5 K/BB), but he had a 4.51 ERA because of his 1.4 HR/9.  Sanchez meanwhile was trash throwing 18 ugly innings with a 7.00 ERA striking out a healthy 17 but also walking 11.  He then had the first full season of his career notching 32 starts posting a 3.55 ERA in 195 innings.  He had a 7.2 K/9 and 2.2 K/BB.

These examples are all admittedly cherry-picked as I peruse the 2010 Spring Training stats, but I could put together a 3,000-word piece further proving the point.  I stand firmly behind the notion that spring stats don’t mean anything.  What about last year’s spring HR leaders?

1. Chris Johnson – 8
2. John Bowker – 6
3. Aaron Hill – 6
4. Mike Napoli – 6
5. Sean Rodriguez – 6
6. Justin Upton – 6
7. Delwyn Young – 6
8. Ryan Zimmerman – 6
9. Jose Bautista – 5
10. Nelson Cruz – 5

You’ve got six established studs already known for their power, a guy whose spring made him a massively overrated commodity in fantasy drafts (Rodriguez) and three trashbags who were trashbags before their spring and then throughout the 2010 season (Johnson, Bowker and Young).

And like I said, I could easily keep going.  Don’t let quality spring numbers validate someone you’re high on or worse, dissuade from someone whose skills you love and expect a breakout from in 2011.  They are a non-factor and you really would be better off ignoring them completely if you can do it.

If you can’t contain yourself and must peruse them, use them as a tool against your opponents.  Talk up another nice spring from Delwyn Young (fewer HR, but .333 AVG in 2nd-most AB [42]) or mention how Mark Trumbo has had a great spring and will be ready to take over if Kendrys Morales isn’t 100% by Opening Day (hopefully wasting money on Trumbo and driving Morales’ cost down).

Or loudly discuss how Carlos Zambrano has continued his hot second half (which was a complete and utter worthless fluke) posting a 1.38 ERA in 13 innings so far (make no mention of his pathetic 6-to-4 K/BB).  And lastly, point out how Joe Blanton might have to replace Cole Hamels in that famed Fantastic Four for Philly because Hamels has been getting rocked with a 4.61 ERA.  Then promptly buy Hamels and enjoy a Cy Young season.

Trust skills, especially for established stars.

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3 Comments to “Spring Training Stats are WORTHLESS!”

  1. You did NOT just go there on Zambrano.

  2. Carlos Zambrano was positively instrumental to me winning my league last year. and for that, until he screws up, he will forever have a place on my team.

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