Should We Award Jobs Based on Spring Training?

At one point or another, everyone has been exposed to the concept of the spring training position battle. Whether it comes down to the fifth rotation slot or the final bench spot, these competitions are always made out to be the stories of the spring. Undoubtedly spring training has lead to some dismissals and promotions over the time, but should it?

Most agree that spring training stats are irrelevant which means the exhibition season is more about process than results. If Gabe Kapler hits .100/.200/.100 – which he basically did last year – it’s not the end of the world as long as he appears in shape and isn’t swinging at everything (or nothing). Pitchers often work on new grips or arm slots – amongst other things that become overhyped as reasons for a potential breakout season – so that 6.50 ERA from the staff ace isn’t concerning. The most common scenarios in which the idea of an open spring competition is used includes:

– Young players looking to crack the roster
– Two players of near equal value
– Non-roster players with a history of success

In each case we have some idea of expectations. Even with younger players we can assume league average performance for some of the top young talents and less from more fringe prospects. The second scenario seems to be the most likely where spring performance can be used while minimizing risk and accounts for the majority of middle reliever battles. Meanwhile, in the final tier, you have guys like Eric Hinske in 2008 coming off a down season. He shows health and no reason to believe the previous season was because of decaying skills and in exchange finds a spot on the 25 man.

I suppose we rely heavily on the past in any situation while weighing the newest information, but not being complete slaves to it. That seems like the way it should be. So maybe teams don’t really make decisions based on 20 games in the springtime, but rather 20 games in the springtime and the x before it.



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JH
Guest
JH
6 years 6 months ago

This reminds me of this piece by Dave Cameron, where he discussed the difference between spring training statistics (meaningless) and spring training performance (potentially meaningful).

http://ussmariner.com/2005/03/24/dereks-newest-p-i-piece/

Basil Ganglia
Guest
Basil Ganglia
6 years 6 months ago

I expect that at the onset of spring training most clubs have most of the roster set. For those few spots that are in “competition” the club is assessing candidates based on something specific the player must show in spring training. For example, a player recovering from an injury must demonstrate the extent of recovery, a pitcher who needed to improve a secondary pitch must demonstrate command of the pitch, a hitter who has difficulty hitting a breaking ball must demonstrate the skill.

For those players spring training is simply the stage for the player to show what is needed.

For other players, a startling spring performance is mostly about creating an impression. Perhaps a minor leaguer might establish himself as someone whose performance needs to be tracked more closely; in extreme cases a player might be placed a level higher than he was otherwise ticketed for. Maybe a guy gets sent to AAA ball with the notion that if he can continue to demonstrate what he showed in spring training, he might be a candidate for a mid-season call-up.

****

But in all but Pujolsian circumstances, teams don’t give MLB roster positions to players who weren’t already identified candidates before camp opened.

B
Guest
B
6 years 6 months ago

I take it you aren’t a Giants fan…

alskor
Guest
alskor
6 years 6 months ago

Clearly too much of it was made in the past, but there is something to be said for it.

Especially among relievers, who vary so wildly from year to year. Extra credence needs to be given to apparent changes made by young players as well. There is also the positive team effects of rewarding hard workers and guys who hustle with bench jobs. Overall, I wouldnt let it affect anything long term at all or among my regulars (other than obvious outliers like a guy showing up 30 lbs heavier, etc…). Among regulars, I would likely treat a poor spring the same as a midseason slump and make sure I dont overreact.

vivaelpujols
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

I’m not sure if you read my comment on DRay’s Bay about this RJ, but I disagree with you somewhat here.

Spring training stats are worthless. Spring training scouting is potentially very valuable. The problem is that we have no idea about the level of significance regarding scouting issues. If a player’s process is truly bad for 20 games, then he might have actually lost something in the offseason. My recent research for THT suggests that performance and results are very divorced from eachother – not even that anyone can play poorly in a small sample size, at least for pitchers. So it could be that bad processes are actually very indicative even in small sample sizes.

NYRoyal
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

I agree with just about everyone that the stats are meaningless. But I think the tools and skills a player shows can be meaningful, as long as this short-term tools-based evaluation isn’t overdone. I think such analysis is particularly useful when you are evaluating young player to see how much he has improved (or not) or an older player to see how much he has deteriorated (or not). But I wouldn’t put too much weight in the tools-based analysis of a player in his prime.

Richie Jobs
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

More power to you.i have actually bookmarked it to show some of my friends

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 6 months ago

The other category of players for whom spring training performance (though not necessarily stats) matter a great deal is players coming off injuries. Not everybody comes back the same player after an injury — some guys need more time to rehab, some pitchers who have recovered from TJ actually are better than they were before, and some may no longer be major league players at all. That means their old stats may need to be discounted more than usual, and the eyeballs of the scouts matter a lot more; Spring Training may be the only performances we can really use to judge these players’ new value.

pounded clown
Member
pounded clown
6 years 6 months ago

One possible scenario:
Pitcher X vs. Pitcher Y
Y feels a twinge in elbow but can still pitch thru pain
Y wants to be on Team ABC’s rotation real bad so says nothing about twingy elbow
Y wins the spot but twinges continue
Y says nothing doesn’t want to lose spot
In Team ABC’s 5th game Y’s forearm falls off

David MVP Eckstein
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Didn’t Pudge hit more HR in spring training a few yrs ago than he did all season?

David MVP Eckstein
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Actually he did, decided to look it up myself. 8 Spring Training HR and 7 in-season HR in 2008

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