Spring Training Stats Lie

I ran this article last season, but it seems that every spring there are fans that forget the message: spring training stats lie. They’re no good. Not real indicators of anything. Get it?

So despite the fact that it’s not exactly timely, I’m reprinting the article in its entirety:

New York Yankees pitcher Kei Igawa has gotten off to a hot start this spring (ed. note: this story was written March 11, 2009), and it has gotten the attention of a few fans—some of which are even thinking he might contribute to the club this season.

After all, he’s pitched eight dominant innings this spring while surrendering zero runs, just 3 hits, and no walks. He’s also a lefty, appears comfortable on the mound, and he cost the Yankees $46 million that they would like to see put to good use after years.

He’s gotten both River Ave Blues and Chad Jennings at least considering him as an option for the bullpen.

The problem is, and it’s easy to forget, that spring training stats don’t amount to shit.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some of the numbers we’ve seen in recent years:

  • LaTroy Hawkins had a 0.00 ERA in the spring of 2008.
  • In 2007, Darrell Rasner had a 1.50 ERA in four appearances.
  • Then there was Jaret Wright, who 0.86 ERA in 21 innings in 2005.
  • In the spring of 2004, Kevin Brown impressed everyone with a 1.86 ERA, only to be out done by Javier Vazquez who put up a 0.82 ERA.
  • Lastly, Jeff Weaver in 2003 looked like a Cy Young contender early, as he put up a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings.

It’s also important not to get too excited by Brett Gardners hot spring. Hitters can also deceive.

  • Robinson Cano, who had his worst season of his career in 2008, got off to a hot start in spring 2008 as he hit .447.
  • Melky Cabrera gave us false hope when he hit .375 last March (spring 2008).
  • Eric Duncan gave hope to people who thought he was a prospect by hitting .414 in 2006.
  • Tony Womack hit .410 in 2005, ncluding an amazing 10 extra base hits. He probably didn’t even get 10 XBH’s in all of the 2005 season.
  • Bubba Crosby was also a great spring performer. He hit .357 in 2004, and then hit .320 in 2005. He also had a Gardner-like six doubles, one triple, and two home runs.

Essentially, anybody can hit during the spring. It’s a small sample size against pitchers and hitters who might not ever make the major leagues in some cases, or just veterans who haven’t gotten enough work yet or just don’t take spring training seriously.

This offseason you also can throw the WBC (obviously there is no WBC in 2010, but that doesn’t make spring stats any more reliable) into the mix as a reason why spring stats don’t matter.

So let’s try not to get too excited over nothing.

And Igawa still sucks.

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4 Responses to Spring Training Stats Lie

  1. jimshitz says:

    Hmmm, would you rather your favorite player bomb in spring training or do well, statistically?

    Yeah I hear you, though.

    There is some evidence that team play and W/L % can portend what kind of season a team will have, done by the Elias people in the 1980's.

    I believe the formula is roughly something such as: if a team plays .100% -/+ inr spring training over last year's regular season then they will be much worse/better that year than the last season.

    • Rob Abruzzese says:

      Jim, my honest answer is that I don't care if all of my favorite players hit about .150 in spring. I know it doesn't matter and I'm comfortable even when they do terribly. I am really doubtful that winning percentage could have any effect on the season. I mean, how can it when all the starters are out of the game by the 4th or 5th inning. A teams starters aren't even nearly ready until the end of March. I believe it was Sabathia that said he doesn't even throw anything but fastballs and changeups for the first couple of weeks.

  2. The 2000 Yankees were 13-20. In 1999 they were 14-19. I mean, today's game counted in the standings and I think by the 4th or 5th inning it was like watching the Scranton Yankees. Colin Curtis is not going to have a big effect on the 2010 Yankees. I don't buy that the records make any difference at all.