Largely Irresponsible Leaderboard: Spring Training Pitchers

Over each of the last two Mondays, the present author — who has written the majority of what follows beside a weird fountain in Arizona — has published a largely irresponsible leaderboard of regressed pitching leaders from spring training so far. This particular Monday, the author has produced another of those same kind of leaderboards — in this case, such as are current through Sunday, March 16th.

As noted last week, the existence of these leaderboards is predicated on three conditions, as follow:

(a) Spring-training stats don’t appear to be very predictive of regular-season stats; but

(b) The return of baseball is exciting, and invites consideration of some sort; and

(c) Research suggests that, of all spring-training stats, pitcher strikeouts and (to a lesser degree) walks are probably the closest thing to predictive.

Below is the current SCOUT leaderboard for all spring-training pitchers. SCOUT- combines regressed strikeout and walk rates in a kwERA-like equation to produce a number not unlike ERA-, where 100 is league average and below 100 is better than average. Note that xK% and xBB% stand for expected strikeout and walk rate, respectively.

Player Team G GS IP TBF K BB xK% xBB% SCOUT-
James Shields KC 4 4 14.2 50 18 0 31.0% 5.8% 59
Drew Hutchison TOR 3 3 9.2 36 16 1 31.9% 7.0% 61
Lance Lynn STL 3 2 7.1 32 14 1 30.1% 7.2% 66
Max Scherzer DET 4 4 14.1 52 16 1 27.6% 6.2% 70
Joaquin Benoit SD 5 0 5.0 19 10 0 27.8% 7.2% 72
Evan Reed DET 6 0 8.0 27 11 0 27.1% 6.9% 73
Brad Hand FLA 4 3 12.0 49 15 2 27.0% 7.0% 74
Aroldis Chapman CIN 5 0 10.0 40 13 1 26.5% 6.8% 75
Ivan Nova NYY 4 4 13.1 59 16 2 25.8% 6.5% 76
Hector Santiago LAA 3 3 11.0 44 14 3 26.9% 7.8% 76

Here’s a second leaderboard — in this case of the top-10 spring-training pitchers to have also recorded starts in at least half their appearances:

Player Team G GS IP TBF K BB xK% xBB% SCOUT-
James Shields KC 4 4 14.2 50 18 0 31.0% 5.8% 59
Drew Hutchison TOR 3 3 9.2 36 16 1 31.9% 7.0% 61
Lance Lynn STL 3 2 7.1 32 14 1 30.1% 7.2% 66
Max Scherzer DET 4 4 14.1 52 16 1 27.6% 6.2% 70
Brad Hand FLA 4 3 12.0 49 15 2 27.0% 7.0% 74
Ivan Nova NYY 4 4 13.1 59 16 2 25.8% 6.5% 76
Hector Santiago LAA 3 3 11.0 44 14 3 26.9% 7.8% 76
Taylor Jordan WSH 4 2 10.0 46 13 0 24.9% 5.9% 77
Michael Pineda NYY 2 1 4.2 18 9 1 26.7% 7.9% 77
Shelby Miller STL 2 2 5.0 21 9 0 25.9% 7.1% 77

Finally, here are some notes of various utility:

  • After appearing fifth overall on last week’s edition of this same leaderboard, Toronto’s Drew Hutchison produced another excellent start this past Friday, recording a 7:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio against just 17 batters in 4.2 innings (box). Hutchison was sitting at 95 mph in the fifth inning of this most recent start, according to MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm — a higher velocity, that, than the ca. 91 mph he averaged in 2012.

    Here’s footage of reasonable quality from Hutchison’s March 1st start of him striking out J.J. Hardy with probably a slider:

    Hutch Hardy 2

  • Among the pitchers above whose stuff might seem to least support their inclusion on such a leaderboard is Miami left-hander Brad Hand. Of note, however, is this: despite sitting at just about 90 mph in 2011 and -12, Hand averaged about 92.5 mph during his two starts last season — and a very similar figure during his five relief appearances, as well.
  • After appearing atop the leaderboard last week, Washington’s Taylor Jordan has fallen to just eighth among starters after recording only two strikeouts against 17 batters on Friday (box). The strikeout totals he’d produced over his first three appearances were unusual for a pitcher whose greatest strength has typically been his capacity for inducing ground balls.


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SFDave
Guest
SFDave
2 years 3 months ago

Pineda is striking guys out with a really nasty slider but he’s throwing 88-92. That’s got to be a concern, no? His command was good in 2011 but I don’t know that it’s good enough to be a soft tosser with only one other plus pitch.

AJO
Guest
AJO
2 years 3 months ago

I think it’s less of a concern than it seems. He’s still rebuilding arm strength from the offseason and from being injured for essentially two straight years. Even last year, when he wasn’t completely healthy, he was hitting 95 with consistency–and he’s 6’7″, 260–so he has the ability. It’s definitely a worry, but hopefully he can allay it as he continues improving and throwing more.

LHPSU
Guest
LHPSU
2 years 3 months ago

Plenty of pitchers have made it work with low-90s fastballs. It’s not like he’s throwing 80mph.

moosh
Member
moosh
2 years 3 months ago

I don’t think it’s “largely” irresponsible. If a pitcher learned a new pitch effectively, the Ks will be there.

Richie
Guest
Richie
2 years 3 months ago

Well, then we ought to have seen a carryover (at least some, overall) from increased spring K/9 rates into the regular season by now. I can only assume we long ago looked for and found no such critter?

Preston
Guest
Preston
2 years 3 months ago

A new pitch in spring will inevitably fool hitters who don’t do the same amount of pitcher specific preparation that they do in the regular season. It’s like when we say we need to see a guy go a second time through the league. We don’t know how effective that pitch actually is until hitters know that it might be coming.

Richie
Guest
Richie
2 years 3 months ago

Do we have enough historical data on pitch velocity to know if increases in spring training velocity actually carry over into the regular season? I’d hope somebody thunk o’ this one by now. Have there been such studies? Or have I already become so acclimated to this data that I forget we actually didn’t have it at this time last year?

Johnhavok
Guest
Johnhavok
2 years 3 months ago

I would think that would be difficult to get a read on since the minor league stadium guns are notoriously hot. Getting reliable info from scouts guns would be pretty difficult.

Richie
Guest
Richie
2 years 3 months ago

So we didn’t have this info last spring? If then, not back in ’12?

jim
Guest
jim
2 years 3 months ago

that pitch from hutchison tho

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