Nationals Baseball: Annual Spring Training Reminder

Friday, March 15, 2019

Annual Spring Training Reminder

I don't want to do this.

I don't feel I should have to do this.

However, once again it appears that people need reminding that Spring Training stats are basically meaningless.

This was not spurred on by any of you guys but former Nats beat James Wagner putting out a "Sure it's Spring but..." tweet. I thought we were better than that! We are all better than that!

So to whit - the best hitter on the Nats last Spring with any type of ABs? Chris Dominguez.  Who? A career AAA guy (since 2013!) who went on to hit .243 / .293 / .406 in Syracuse in a typical year. Third best? Moises Sierra. Doolittle had a 0.00 ERA - did that foreshadow his great year? Maybe. But then again Travis Gott had a 1.54 ERA and Sammy Solis a 1.80.  Solis had 15 Ks to 1 BB! Strag had a middling 4.70 ERA. Scherzer 4.15.


Again what may matter - someone hitting a whole bunch, like a whole bunch, of homers who you are hoping develops power. But whole bunch. Like last year four guys hit 7 and they didn't amount to anything. So it's kind of a very very weak correlation thing. Someone hitting like .000 who you are worried may fall off a cliff, be injured, or is coming back from injury, you might look at.  But it has to be that extreme. Hitting .150? Nothing. 6 homers in Spring. Nothing.

And that's hitting. Hitting, you generally can assume guys are trying to get hits. Granted they may be working on things, which is why even the situations above call for cautious incorporation into your opinions, but hitting is something more you just get back into the swing of, pun intended. Pitching gets you nothing. They really do work on things. Maybe they'll try a new pitch, or throw their curve 50% of the time, or spend all Spring working only on hitting the outer corner over the first 5 pitches. Meanwhile they are all facing DHs. There's nothing to find here other than shattered dreams and Jeanne Dixon-like "This time it came true so I'm going to ignore the other 20 times it didn't and keep looking at Spring Training stats" foolings of yourself.


So is there anything extreme in hitting or extreme in pitching tied to injury?

Hitting - how much do you care about Jose Marmelejos? A lot? I have bad news for you he's 0-17.  I suppose if Carter Kieboom hits another 5 homers you can get excited but no one has gone off yet. Pitching - yes, but you know about it. Glover pitched an inning got one out, walked three, walked off the mound and never came back.

There's your takeaways so far. Glover is hurt, which you knew. Jose Marmelejos is likely not a major leaguer, which I hope you knew.


JWLumley said...

An interesting bit from Dan Szymborski about the Nats, "The team’s bullpen isn’t anywhere near as bad as advertised..."

Also, spring stats don't matter, but Kieboom looks good. Irrespective of stats.

SM said...

Jeane Dixon?

Her last prediction before she died in 1997 was that someone, somewhere, sometime, might misspell her first name.

She was right!

Harper said...

JWLumley - I think he was overestimating how bad we thought it'd be. It's the team weakness but the Nats are a strong team. The bullpen is probably fine, but a little shallow, and relying most on an perennial injury risk in Doolittle and an injury returnee in Rosenthal. Kimbrel wasn't to make the bullpen good. Kimbrel was to make sure the bullpen was good.

SM - Oh. you thought I meant that Jeane Dixon? No, I was talking about somebody else.

Anonymous said...

I am still waiting for Harper's "goodbye thank you" to DC for the past 7 years of defending him and cheering for him when most of the league and punditry booed him.

I liked that WaPo article. I hope we boo this guy when he comes back to DC.

DezoPenguin said...

Really, the only things to be determined in spring training is who's healthy and in baseball shape, and who's taking an early trip to the IL.

And on that note, Michael Taylor hurt his knee yesterday. Hopefully not seriously, because he's considerably more useful than Andrew Stevenson as a fourth outfielder, but at least this should put paid to the whole "CF competition" nonsense. (Unless Rizzo was angling for a last-second trade for a reliever or something and was nudging the beat writers to puff him for that...)

W. Patterson said...

@Harper - Short, sweet, and you're right that you shouldn't have had to say it. A most excellent post.

@Anonymous 8:26 - I didn't think DC was a booing kind of town. I'd expect it in Philly, maybe. I'd expect DC to have more class than that and give the guy the kind of welcome that you'd expect to give your brother were he to return for a visit.

Ole PBN said...

@Anon - that will be Philly fans' job now. They booed him for years, they chanted "overrated" every game, and now they can bow to him on bended knee, as they sink or swim with him. Good luck.

Really like Carter Kieboom. Like him a lot. He seems very mature for his age and from hearing an interview he gave on his outlook for his development, he seems very humble, observant, and driven. Sort of reminds me of a Derek Jeter type. Really hope we don't give him up. Would love to see a Rendon, Trea, Kieboom, and [insert anyone else] at first in the future - thats a fun infield.

I'm excited about this year more so than in past seasons. Less than two weeks away!

SM said...

I wonder, Harper, if you can cite anyone who crushed it in Spring Training, made the 25-man roster, and had (or has) a respectable Big League career as a regular.

Kevin Rusch said...

Really interesting Spring Training data development - Baseball Reference has started posting "opposition quality" in addition to spring training stats. That way, you can see that Noll, while having an impressive spring, has done so against mostly minor leaguers, and so on. It still doesn't mean much, but I think you can draw a bit more meaning from spring stats this way.

BxJaycobb said...

@Harper. I will add a few small things that sometimes matter.
1. Velo. With a grain of salt. Although the radar guns are not super precise if a guy you are worried about is throwing considerably slower than usual (Stras? Maybe?) it’s a possible thing. Same if much harder. Sometimes a pitcher just does something—maybe it’s preparing to throw fewer innings or transition to pen, like Joe Ross might be—and you can see their stuff plays up, etc.

2. If somebody is trying to adjust to a position and having a bad time (Kieboom at 2nd), that’s not irrelevant really. Clearly it’s not as if there’s nothing for him to learn/get used to at 2B.

3. I do think if somebody who isn’t supposed to have much power is hitting a bunch of homers and extra base hits (Robles, right?) that—combined with the pop he showed at end of year last year—suggests he may have a bit more SLG than maybe we thought. Clearly he’s pretty strong for a shorter guy and maybe the McCutchen type ceiling forecast isn’t out of his reach if all goes great (meaning maybe he will hit 20-25 homers in peak years and have more pop than, say, Trea.)

Froggy said...

MAT down...

Josh Higham said...

SPAN, SPAN, THE (4th outfielder, probably hitting 7th) LEADOFF MAN! PAY LUXURY TAX!! SIGN KIMBREL!!!

Though in all seriousness, I really liked the idea of MAT the super sub. Soto flagged in August last year, Eaton's an injury risk, and Robles is a rookie, so realistically all those guys should be sitting out a few games a month, if not as much as one a week--that would be a lot of starts for the 4th guy, and I think there's an appreciable difference between MAT and Stevenson.

BxJaycobb said...

I don’t think they have a choice. They have to go get somebody. Even Dave Martinez admitted they had little depth in OF.

Kubla said...

I agree with BxJ that there are some things you can get out of this, but none are going to be reflected in the stats except maybe something like isoSLG.

We may not get to see Bryce in the first homestand. The Phils are claiming a contusion, but the HBP sounded ugly :( . If he does play and gets booed, I hope it just confirms his decision to get out of here.

cronus titan said...

Boo-ing does nothing. Start a chant of "So-to's bet-ter!!" Now THAT might get under his skin.

Repeat each inning with a different Nats' player.

BxJaycobb said...

I am happy to chant “So-to’s bet-ter!” But I won’t boo Bryce. He’s done nothing to me but bring me joy.

DezoPenguin said...

The party line from the Nats and the media about Taylor this spring keeps making me boggle. They've spent the last month aggressively talking him up to the point that there have been serious discussions here and other fan communities about the idea that they might keep Robles down, not two weeks a la Gurrero but two full months to stretch his service time. Robles is not only projected to be great, but in his limited MLB cup of coffee thus far he's played up to expectations. There was no reason in the world for a team competing for a division title to deploy Taylor as anything other than OF4--a good OF4, yes, but still an OF4, whose primary function is to improve the defense in late innings or to give the starters a day off to keep them fresh (especially Eaton, if there are any lingering injury questions, though I haven't actually seen any suggestion that there are other than "well, he got hurt the last two years").

Taylor getting hurt *is* a solid hit to the depth. He's a borderline starter--superb defender, superb baserunner, iffy-at-best hitter--and that's better than a lot of the junk some teams have as their OF4 (or heck, some of their starters--I'd rather run Michael Taylor out there for 150 games than Nick Markakis, and it's a coin flip whether he'd be any worse than the Phillies' CF options, and Broxton with the Mets is basically the same guy).

But the way Davey and the media are talking now that Taylor has been hurt, they sound like the Nationals have just lost a grade-A starting player, that we ought to be looking into trades and the like to fill this sudden yawning chasm in our lineup. I've seen serious discussion that the main problem with replacing Taylor with Stevenson is that Stevenson bats left-handed while Taylor bats righty (seriously, have these people talking about losing Taylor's righty bat ever actually looked at Taylor's batting statistics?) rather than the fact that Stevenson is basically Taylor 2.0 only a downgrade in all facets of the game. Similarly, there's been talk of doing things like signing Denard Span, overlooking the key factor that the main thing we need to replace in Taylor is his ability to play center field; without an actual center fielder as OF4 we're left with the backup option being either Turner out there, Difo trying to learn the position, or somebody stumbling around haplessly a la 2018 Bryce.

(I've seen Austin Jackson suggested, too, which sounded better, but then I looked at his stats and wow, he's been sub-replacement level two out of the last three years, and not in tiny sample sizes, either; there's a reason he's the only unsigned CF left of note.)

I don't get it. Where is all the panic coming from?

Ole PBN said...

Dezo, you'd rather have MAT out there than Markakis? Maybe to play CF I'd agree with you but maybe we're overvaluing defense again? (wink). In all seriousness, I'm more on your side than not because I too don't understand where all the panic is coming from with MAT sidelined. It is a hit to our depth, but I'm not sure why Soto and Robles can't be expected to play everyday, especially if they're playing well? Soto in particular. He is the cornerstone of our offense and the only hesitation to that expectation is that he's only one year in. It shouldn't have an impact on his playing time - as if he needs more time? Time for what? Bryce was expected to play everyday since he was 20 years old - let these young horses run.

In terms of who you bring up, Stevenson I suppose. But what about some other in-house guys? Hunter Jones? Chuck Taylor? Both have performed well at the plate in AA-AAA last year, but I can't speak to their defensive prowess. I think we're panicking a little about these backups. Having players like Kendrick (borderline starter) on your bench is a luxury - it's not something you NEED to have. Usually, if one of your starters goes down, the "next man up" mentality is a downgrade and expectations should be grounded in reality as well. You have to put together the most balanced/incredible roster to be able to absorb multiple hits to your starting lineup. Like people valuing the SP7 position - please. I'd like to operate as if our outfield is healthy and ready to go. If Eaton goes down, its unexpected. And we were prepared for before MAT got hurt. But so be it.

I'm fine with Stevenson or Jones or the "other Taylor." Just please don't get Austin Jackson or one of these other has-beens that is a known-quantity, stinks, will be a sunk cost, and will offer no depth or help in the way that we think we want it to be. Hoping our FO doesn't overreact here.

BxJaycobb said...

Ole PBN and Dezo. The reason it’s a big deal that MAT is hurt is (1) it looks like he’s HURT. Like...might not be back until AS Break hurt. (2) It’s not necessarily what the team is without just him. It’s that now we have no cushion. If Robles gets hurt, we’re in deep trouble. Then we’re in a world where a terrible defender AND hitter is playing every single day. There’s now no room for another injury, especially to Robles. (3) it’s also that Kendrick is hurt too. The fact is....Davey doesn’t want to play Eaton every day. He probably doesn’t want to play Eaton full games when it’s a blow out. Eaton is not going to be play 140 games this year....he’s not back to pre-injury Eaton. They want to really pace him. And yes, you can hope he doesn’t get hurt, but I would say the chances are he will get hurt. More likely than not. Then you have to be playing like Matt Adams in a corner. I guess the general point is: We’re now not *that* far from a scenario where Stevenson or Difo is starting in CF and Adams is in a corner. And frankly, even with no further injuries, Robles and soto need occasional days off too. PS preferring to have MAT over Markakis is just wrong. Unless you’re strictly talking about center field defense. He’s just not as valuable a player. Consistently.

DezoPenguin said...

You guys are talking about the same Nick Markakis that I am, right? The guy who hasn't put up plus baserunning numbers since 2009, plus defensive numbers (per Fangraphs) since 2008--and in a corner--and has been sub-league-average with the bat as often as not since before turning 30? Even last year, when he put up 2.6 fWAR for the season, that was entirely based on his first half, as he put up a Taylorian 88 wRC+ for the second half while doing nothing else well. Plus, he's 35 years old. I'd rather take a chance that Taylor has 2017 batting luck than Markakis hits like the front half of 2018 'cause I can genuinely expect Taylor to play excellent defense and run the bases.

Ric said...

Where did you read “... might not be back until AS Break hurt”?

BxJaycobb said...

@Ric. I’m reading tea leaves. When a team says “will miss a significant amount of time” and the person hurts not just one but two body parts.....that’s not good. That’s multiple months.

BxJaycobb said...

@Dezo. I think the issue is you think 88 wRC+ is “Taylorian.” It’s not. Aside from 2017, the highest wRC+ he’s ever had is 71. IOW not playable. Lifetime it’s 79. Aside from 2017, his highest WAR is 0.9. He’s more often a sub replacement player than he is above replacement level. Nick Markakis, even if you say last year was a fluke (by definition, it’s more relevant than Taylor’s 2017 due to recency), is always above replacement, and usually will get you 1-2 WAR. He’s just a better all around player, and has been roughly a league average bat with .350-ish OBPs over second half of career. This is a classic case of defense and baserunning simply not having as much weight as hitting. Markakis is a substantially better hitter than Taylor (it’s not like it’s that close) and is a perfectly fine outfielder and baserunner. I would rather have that than a guy who puts up sub .300 OBPs and strikes out 1/3 of his ABs. The only argument for Taylor is (1) if you believe he is the 2017 player for some reason or (2) if you only want a defensive replacement and person who can play CF. It’s a bit like asking whether you would rather have Difo (a guy who can not only play SS but do it quite well, but can’t hit) or a Kendrick type, a guy who can’t play SS, is a fine defender elsewhere on infield, and can hit in the .280/.350 arena. I would rather have Kendrick.

BxJaycobb said...

@Ric. Here’s Rizzo: ““We don’t think there’s anything structurally wrong. He’s just — he got beat up pretty good. I think he’s going to have to rest it and let it heal and then ramp his baseball activities up. We don’t have a distinct timeline yet, but we’re hoping it’s not a long-term situation.”

For me....I feel like whenever the Nats say “we HOPE it’s not a long term situation” it tends to be a long term situation. Sometimes it’s long term when they don’t even acknowledge it’s a bad injury. And they’re acknowledging it here. So if I had to guess. He will not play in at least April. Maybe not until deep into May at earliest.