Does Spring Training Matter?

14 03 2008

This is a question that we are faced with every year: Does a player’s performance in Spring Training predict anything about the regular season?  Common sense says no.  It is too short of a time frame, and players are simply trying to get prepared for the season and just working the kinks out.

That can’t be all there is though.  There has to be something to Spring Training.  Manny Parra‘s lights out pitching, along with Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart‘s respective struggles have to mean something.  Dave Pinto for the Sporting News takes a statistical look at it, while Seamheads.com takes a more logical angle at the question.

Dave Pinto’s analysis shows that there is a positive correlation.  It is very small, only at .177, but it is positive.  Let me repeat that.  There is a positive correlation that says Spring Training results predict success during the regular season.

Players can write-off bad performances as just practice, or perhaps the pitchers really are “trying to work on their fastball.”  Experts say there is no reason to worry about Jeff Suppan‘ struggles because it’s just Spring Training.  I’m sorry.  I am just not buying it.  Having success in Spring Training means that you’re doing something right.  Struggling in Spring Training means that you must be doing something wrong.  Suppan must not be throwing his fastball very well then, is he?

There IS a cause for concern with Rickie, Corey, and Jeff.  There IS a reason to get excited about the fine play by Manny Parra, Luis Pena, and Alcides Escobar.  I understand that it is a long season and things will change throughout.  That is fine.  The fact still remains that if Suppan and Weeks are playing like they currently are in a couple weeks, Brewers fans will be out for their head.  The “Spring Training doesn’t matter” myth needs to be broken.  It may not be an absolute predictor, but it does indicate that certain players are doing things well and some are just flat-out struggling.  If Corey Hart goes 0-4 with three strikeouts tonight, and Ned Yost tries to say, “It’s just Spring Training.”  I will scream.  If Corey is striking out three times against a pitcher that is “just working on his fastball,” there is something severely wrong.

On the bright side, if the Brewers finish Spring Training over .500, there is a good statistical chance that they will finish the regular season over .500.  It’s not absolute by any means, but it sure tells us that Spring Training is anything but unimportant.

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4 responses

14 03 2008
Matt

I completely agree. It’s stupid to say a bad month in April is a bad sign, but not in March. Weeks and Hart are having problems, no doubt about that. Nedly needs to get them going in a hurry.

15 03 2008
Nate

I’m 0-21, my name is Corey Hart.
I’m also 0-21, my name is Rickie Weeks.
But I too go 0-21, my name Ichiro.

It doesn’t matter. Worry in May.

15 03 2008
brewersnation

Absolutely a fair point, but Ichiro did not say he was trying to work on things. He admitted he was struggling at the plate. My point is that whether you are in March or April, a player struggling is a player struggling. I agree there are no ramifications right now because it is not the regular season, but it does not mean that Hart or Weeks are not struggling. I does not mean they will not turn it around.

15 03 2008
Nate

lol Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, I just love that Ichiro didn’t get a hit for 2 weeks. And yes I know they are struggling but we are also winning. Yeah its spring so the games don’t count. But sometimes it takes a while for them to get their feet wet, I mean they haven’t played in 5 months, and it’s only been 2 weeks. If they don’t start something by the end of next week that may be a concern. But ALL players slump during the season, if they slump in March/April is that as big a deal as slumping in September?

…what a weird word, “slump”

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