Nationals Baseball: Annual Reminder

Monday, March 09, 2015

Annual Reminder

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. That man's name is Mr. Spring Training Stats.

Who was the best Nationals hitter last year during Spring?

Steven Souza (.355 / .429 / .806) : I know you love the guy but do you remember what he hit in his very brief major league stint?  .130.

"But it did show up in a better minor league year!" you say. Ok. Let me introduce you to the 2nd best Nats hitter during Spring, Matt Skole. He crashed in AA, hitting .241 with less pop. Next best was Zach Walters who yes did have a better AAA season in 2014. Great. Hang that International League banner! Note: he wasn't good in the majors.

Ok but what about the best major league player?  That would be Wilson Ramos who ended up the 2nd worst regular for the Nats. Worst regular during Spring? Jayson Werth. He had the best year at the plate for the Nats.

Have I proven my point yet? You know who had a GREAT Spring last year? Roger Bernadina. .413 / .518 / .739 in 46 at bats (which is a lot for spring). He was terrible and is on the verge of being out of baseball. You know who had a TERRIBLE Spring last year? Yasiel Puig. .167 / .173 / .229. He did ok.

You're talking about a very limited number of at bats during a time where the goals of the hitter and the pitcher may not be the "get him out" "get on base" goals that exist for real games. Nothing here really matters. There's some talk that power increases are of interest. Ok, glance at that. But ignore everything else. Please. Before you start carrying the Nats to 110 wins with an outfield of Michael Taylor and Tyler Moore. 


Aaron said...

The "spring training is meaningless" thing has been overdone by sabermetricians.


Obviously there'll be some crazy batting averages but we all know that's flawed. However meaningful changes in K rate and BB rate can suggest more to come.

Not that we should judge anything at all from 4 games, of course.

EmDash said...

In particular with Moore, he has the advantage of seeing live pitching much more recently than most other players because he spent two months playing in the Venezuelan winter league. So it stands to reason he'd be more ready to hit in early spring training. (Which makes you worry just a bit about Ramos, of course, but that's neither here nor there.)

Zimmerman11 said...

Well we will get to see if young Mr. Taylor will be able to make something of his strong spring start, now that Mr. Span is likely to start the season on the DL.

Potential opening day w/o Werth or Span in the OF? Yikes. Throw in a Ramos hangnail there for good measure and we're scraping runs together for sure.

Throw in significant injury histories for Zimm, Harp, and Rendon... and this could get away from us in a hurry :(

JWLumley said...

Why do you hate Souza? Yes he hit 130 in brief and sporratic AB's last year. I'm willing to bet I can find a similar stretch for Mike Trout and just about every other big leaguer last year given the SSS and all. Also, Skole was coming off injuries and a year away from baseball, so you didn't exactly pick two good example.

That being said I mostly agree, spring stats don't mean much, especially when they contradict what we've seen over a full season. So Tyler Moore still isn't good, Michael Taylor is still a free swinger, but who knows with Skole. He was very good before TJ surgery and missing 2013. If Dan Uggla hits, then maybe the Nats should believe it. If Espi his breaking balls from righties than that's awesome. But we can't simply dismiss all spring stats or performances for to false positives from other players.

JWLumley said...

@Z11 The sky is falling! Werth should only miss a few weeks and Span might miss a month. I think Taylor will be fine over a short stretch before everyone realizes they for need to throw him strikes. And the combination of Carp and Mclouth should be good enough given the Nats pitching. Also, Difo can play CF in a pinch and I think he'll but much better than Taylor. Put him in front of Harper and Rendon to cause some havoc on the basepaths and the Nats could score side runs.

EmDash said...

Wilmer Difo, in 4 years in the Nats' minor league system, ahs played 2nd, 3rd and shortstop. It is exceedingly unlikely that he would be brought up to play an outfield position and even more unlikely that he'd be better at it than the far more experienced Taylor.

Harper said...

Aaron - He's saying that you can add ST stats (finely calibrated - which almost certainly meant he picked and chose which ones seemed to matter during the time frame he was looking at) to projection models to improve projections. Sure. More data generally means less variability especially closer chronologically. But this tells us more about the crappiness of projections than the usefulness of Spring Training stats. It's also telling that he notes their usefulness for rookie players - basically guys where the projections are known to be worse to start.

They aren't meaningless sure but they are close to meaningless that use as anything but a tie-breaker between players for whom you don't have a lot of major league data is silly.

EmDash - a possible explanation. Another one - he's a HOFer!

Z11 - Yes. That's a scary OF. Scraping runs is a bit far. Desmond/Rendon/Zimm/Bryce is a good core. But it throws a monkey wrench into dominating and running away with it. Really it keeps the door open for the "likely worst case" which is slow start for Nats, fast start for MIA/NYM and a year long battle.

JW - I don't hate Souza. He might be good next year. I'm just saying a dominating Spring didn't lead to a dominating Summer and Fall. Not anywhere close. Skole - yeah coming off a year so that should be the thing you hang your hat on - not a good run in Srping.

The problem is not dismissing all as false positive is how to tell the false ones from the true ones. Really this becomes a "forget the stats, what do the scouts say" time. Does Taylor look better taking pitches / making contact? Does Danny look better from the right side vs righties. We can't trust our numbers with such small SS in a weird environment so we have to trust the eyes.

Froggy said...

The only stat that matters is if the price of draft beer stays below $10.00 this year!

I do hope we see better contact from both Uggla and Danny. Love to see a battle for 2b.

Alex L. said...

I'd say we have this and this to blame for fans' continued Tyler Moore obsession.

"But he hit 2 HRs!"
"But he won us a playoff game!"

Miniscule samples living on in perpetuity...

Harper said...

Alex L - He excels at short burst of great hitting when you are thinking most about him; His 2nd call-up when you are ready to give up on him given he stunk the first go round.

2012 2nd time up started with a 13 game stretch of .425 / .521 / .800 play

2013 2nd time up started with 9 games of .452 / .452 / .484

2014 2nd time up 8 games .286 / .318 / .429

2014 was more mellow. higher lows, lower highs. I think he's kind of found himself. .230-.240 hitter with pop. Could be useful if he did anything else well, but he doesn't. So you're carrying around a RH PH HR guy and that's it. That's limiting.

Karl Kolchack said...

I agree that having Moore as a starter for a month or so is hardly ideal. But if Taylor really is the CF'er of the future, he really ought to be able show that now. He's 24 (the same age Desmond was when he came up for good) this year and already has 2157 PAs in the minors.

Anonymous said...

I actually think Moore is about what projections would have, a 240/310/420 bench hitter who shouldn't play the of much.

Taylor still needs work on pitch recognition, but his glove will play as an 7/8 hitter right now, and the k's won't hurt so much.

JE34 said...

You speak the truth, Harper. From a fan perspective, Spring Training is for vacation purposes only.

Went to the Nats/NYY game in Tampa on Sunday. Nice facility. The game was a success, in that the only injury that happened was mine (elbow pain after 3 tries on the radar gun).

ENJOYED: heckling A-Rod; Taylor going yard on the first pitch; beer; Difo's defense; Fister looking good, like he wasn't working very hard; beer; camaraderie of Nats fans in the airport and stadium...

DID NOT ENJOY: Desmond's vigorous overswinging (and missing) at breaking balls. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- does he have a hitting coach?

BooyahSuckah! said...

Harper, someone with a bigger megaphone stole your idea:

Bjd1207 said...

As careful as we are with our wording of particular arguments and attention to nuance in stats, I can't believe we flatly proclaim Spring Training stats as "meaningless"

If that were the case, what the hell would the point be of non-roster ST invites? Clearly the managers/coaches are looking at SOMETHING during this stretch.

I will grant you the claim that ST stats are not meaningful predictors of regular season success. But player performance during spring training is meaningful, the starkest illustration are those players who are in position battles

John C. said...

But teams are looking at more than the simple stats - they are looking at mechanics, quality of at bats, quality of the contact being made, the stuff the pitchers are showing in terms of command, control, velocity and movement. This data is coming from every practice and every intra-squad game as well as the ST games themselves.

The one useful thing that sabermetric types have come up with for ST stats is that they can become part of the early season sample size. Thus they ARE data, and they count towards when the data can be considered to be meaningful. It's kind of a back door way to relevance, but it is some utility.

Bjd1207 said...

Yea I guess my counterpoint would be that we now have stats available that readily track all or most of that.

Pitchf/x gets us things like velocity and movement for pitchers, there's various stats to judge quality of at bats for hitters, or even the same kind of "physical stats" like bat speed or speed of the ball off the bat, fly ball distance, etc.

We should be wary of extrapolating ST RBI's to an RBI count for the regular season, but its been well established that these counting stats are outdated in almost any capacity.

Seems to me we should be looking at the same kind of stuff coaches/managers are looking at

John C. said...

Of course we are only getting the game stats, not the workout/intra-squad game data that the teams are working from.