Beware the Speciousness of Spring Training

On Saturday the Cardinals played the first game of Spring Training that was available on television. If you had an MLB.TV subscription (or you get MASN) it was available live.  If you had access to MLB Network it was available on replay on Saturday evening.   This was the first opportunity for Cardinals fans to get a visual glimpse of their Cardinals playing a live game for the season.

It’s easy to get excited about watching Cardinals baseball after the long off season drought.  What’s also easy, as well as unfortunate, is the understandable tendency to read too much into the performance of our Cardinals players.  Spring Training games don’t count, of course, but they also don’t showcase the players in their regular season form.  For pitchers, you will likely see less velocity on their pitches, and less mixing up of pitches, as pitchers tend to spend more time on those pitches they feel they need more work on (this changes in the last week of spring training, where pitchers are getting closer to their regular season form).  As for position players, they are more concerned with conditioning, and fine tuning their hitting mechanics, than they are about the results of their plate appearances.

As a result, the performances of the players can be misleading.  A pitcher’s or hitter’s results may not seem in line with their past regular season performance or their expected performance.  If a pitcher gives up a lot of runs or walks a lot of hitters, or a hitter doesn’t hit or strikes out a lot, it is not a reflection of how they will perform in the regular season.  As an example, in Spring Training 2014, Jon Jay hit .188 and struck out 1o times in 48 ABs.

Players can overachieve in Spring Training as well.  Where you will see this happening more often is with the fringe players, those players who don’t have an assured spot on the 25 man regular season roster and are trying to get one.  Notable past Spring Training overachievers are Shane Robinson and Daniel Descalso.  If you see one of these fringe players hit like a Hall of Famer in Spring Training, beware.  It would be best to temper your excitement over one of these performances, lest you suffer disappointment when that player either doesn’t make the roster, or makes it but doesn’t meet your expectations in the regular season.

Keep in mind also that the caliber of pitching hitters are seeing in Spring Training is not close to what they will encounter in the regular season at the major league level.  Even good pitchers are not pitching at their regular season levels, especially in the early weeks.  A good hitter may seem bad because he is tinkering with his swing or his approach,  and a mediocre hitter may seem good because he is getting a lot more hittable pitches.  Bottom line—don’t believe what you see.

Spring Training results mean absolutely nothing.  Don’t be fooled.  Enjoy seeing baseball again and seeing your favorite players perform, but keep your head on straight.  You will be much happier when the regular season comes around.



Thank you for reading.

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