It’s just the second week of spring training after a long winter in which the Yankees were largely inactive until the very end. It makes it easy to get overly excited by what goes on especially early on. It’s best to remember though that its only spring training and what goes on here doesn’t necessary mean anything at all.
It all started about a week ago when Michael Pineda took the mound which was the first time we had seen him in a Yankees uniform. He pitched well and used his changeup effectively. It was a good day. People were excited, but in a good way. Until the next day when there were some quotes about his velocity not being where it should be.
It continued to the next day as Phil Hughes took the mound. He didn’t pitch especially well, giving up a run in 1.1 innings, but he did hit 93 so people were excited. The next day though Hiroki Kuroda started and gave up three runs in two innings and all of a sudden things made a turn for the worse and people immediately started talking like he would never adjust to the AL East.
Finally there was Ivan Nova yesterday. Nova didn’t have good command of his fastball and suddenly his rotation spot which once seemed all but guaranteed was in jeopardy (if you believe reactionary fans).
Sure it’s good to see Hughes hit 93 or Pineda mixing in his changeups and we’d rather not see Kuroda and Nova get lit up. However, it’s nonsense. All of it is nonsense.
Not only is it very early in spring training, but almost nothing in spring training can be trusted. We as fans shouldn’t be getting too excited by Pineda’s changeup just like we shouldn’t get getting worked up because he wasn’t sitting at 96.
This is spring training. It means that guys are rusty, they might be out of shape, or their timing could be totally off. Guys are working on stuff trying to get it up to par, trying new things altogether, and meanwhile there are a ton of players who are never going to sniff the major leagues running around providing a lot of noise that will no doubt make some players look better than they are and other look worse.
So Pineda’s changeup could look great as he strikes out Shane Victorino, except maybe Victorino’s timing is way off and he might look bad swinging at fat pitches right over the middle of the plate. Nova might have looked like he regressed a little from last season, but if his fastball location isn’t there he might be sticking with the pitch longer than usual hoping to correct it, but in the meantime he looks bad giving up a few runs.
The same principal applies to everyone. Cesar Cabral is fighting for a spot in the bullpen. Over the next couple of weeks he might look good or he might look bad. Either way it’s hard to trust the results he might put up because he’s pitching primarily late in games against minor leaguers and non-roster invitees. At the same time it might take him a full 15 innings before he settles in and really pitches the way he’s capable of.
This isn’t just about pitchers either. Everything I’ve said goes for hitters as well. Just think back to Jon Weber, a lifelong minor leaguer who was given a spring training invite to camp in 2010. Weber absolutely crushed the ball that spring and even got Bill Madden of the NY Daily News to claim he deserved a spot on the big league roster (HA!). Weber not only went on to put up a pathetic .666 OPS in Triple-A that year, but he also tested positive for steroids calling into question everything he did that year. That year even a Hall of Fame writer was tricked.
On top of all of that there is a problem where there just aren’t enough at bats or innings to properly judge someone. MVP’s and Rookie of the Year awards aren’t given out on May 1st and for a good reason. Even a full month of baseball is not nearly enough to judge somebody so even after Hughes has made seven spring training starts it could be that he just started out slumping a bit and turns it up in April once the season gets started.
This is why I pick and choose what I cover in spring training. I try to stick with stuff that has long term effects on the team. Pineda’s changeup was one of these things. That is going to be a story line we follow all season long so it is important to discuss it all while keeping in mind everything I’ve said above. One game, good or bad, doesn’t amount to much so unless it is something we’re going to be discussing all year, it probably is best to ignore it so early on.
Because of all of this it is important to realize that wins and losses in spring training don’t matter. Some people have expressed concern because the Yankees don’t have a perfect spring record and that’s kind of sad. The Yankees could lose every spring training game and it amounts to nothing and says nothing about how they will do during the season. Even if they did manage to make George Steinbrenner’s ghost happy by winning every spring game, that also says nothing about what they are capable of during the year.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, spring training stats lie. Don’t trust them and don’t get excited by them, good or bad.