Saturday, March 6, 2010

Come Down Off that Ledge

OK all you nervous nellies out there, repeat after me. Spring training doesn't matter. Really. The Nationals' poor performance in these early spring training games means nothing. Really.

Now, the Nationals might have the worst pitching staff in baseball this year. After all they improve by 0.35 runs per game and still be the worst. When you've been falling flat on your face for so long, just learning to break your fall with your hands is progress.

But if they're terrible again, it won't be because they gave up 10 runs a game in the first week of March. If you felt good at the start of the week, there's zero chance you should feel different now.

Some people say that spring training numbers aren't totally pointless. For instance, John Dewan has said that if a player posts a pre-season slugging percentage 200 points above their career rate, then that player can be expected the player to improve during that season. But first off, 200 points is a huuuuuuge improvement in slugging percentage--and that's to get any predictive value at all. Second, a lot of people think Dewan is smoking doobie on this one anyway.

So if you're feeling blue, just remember how much fun you had watching the Great Brad Eldred win his MVP trophy last summer.


Positively Half St. said...


It is times like these that your contrarian nature is comforting. No, don't recoil- I am not calling you nurturing.

Regardless of how little it matters for the season, it would be soothing to have a victory. More importantly, it would be good if some of our no-doubters on the roster would start better than this. I don't care if Batista and Estes blow; I really didn't want them around, anyway. Don't give me Tyler Walker and Brian Bruney in slapstick comedy roles, though.

I will console myself with Ian Desmond, Willie Harris and Roger Bernadina. They are starting strong, and they all need to. Willie may be guaranteed a spot, but he has not been getting his due respect.

Steven J. Berke said...

Half Street could also take consolation from Garrett Mock, JD Martin, Aaron Thompson and Tyler Clippard. Of course, at this point, a good first outing isn't any more definitive than an bad one.

CoverageisLacking said...

Steven, I can't help but remember your post last spring about how you thought Nick Johnson was "red hot" based on his Spring Training stats and because he had walked a lot, even when Nick was saying he did not feel comfortable at the plate.

Steven said...

I can't help remember that Nick Johnson had a .426 OBP last year. I'll take that kind of uncomfortable 100 times out of 100.

CoverageisLacking said...

That's not the point, and you know it. Do ST stats mean anything in your opinion, or not? Last Spring, you apparently did think they were meaningful when talking about Nick. And now you say they are not.

Steven said...

Congratulations, you have apparently caught me contradicting myself. You're very smart.

Though as I remember the point of my comments about Nick last spring weren't about whether spring training stats matter, but that I thought he would have a good season while a lot of Nationals fans were writing him off as useless broken goods.

Anyway, if you're interested in the topic, as opposed to a stupid game of blogger gotcha, I would say that from the perspective of statistical analysis spring training stats--certainly three or four games worth--have about as much value as a ouija board.

I do think that when you're looking at a player coming back from injury that you can get a sense of how well they're doing health-wise.

I think that focusing on skill sets and tools (as opposed to outcomes), you can learn something by watching players play.

CoverageisLacking said...

"I think that focusing on skill sets and tools (as opposed to outcomes), you can learn something by watching players play."

To the extent you are suggesting that you can actually learn something from watching the game and the players play, as opposed to solely focusing on stats, I'm glad to see you acknowledge this novel idea. I agree that ST stats are meaningless. Which is why your post on Nick was so ridiculous. Nick really slugged the hell out of the ball once the season actually started, didn't he?