Monday, February 20, 2012

The Best Time of Year

Baseball season is back.  After a long offseason where there were no walk-off hits or near no-hitters (unless you count Vlad's Free Agency hopes) it's finally time for players to report to spring training.  O's pitchers have been in Sarasota for a few days, and the position players begin to slowly arrive and warm up for the regular season.  Following the slowest time of the year baseball season, and baseball reporting is in full swing.

This however leaves the fans with a huge problem.  What do we take out of spring training?

Do spring training stats really matter?  Any O's fan should know the answer to this, at least from experience last season.  Jake Fox hit 7 HRs last spring, good for the major league lead.  This however did not guarantee him a spot on the team, though he did make the cut.  He did not end the season with the O's though after hitting just .246/.313/.443 and putting up a negative WAR (-0.1).  This piece by Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs gives even more statistical anecdotes to prove that statistics this time of year don't matter a whole heck of a lot.

Position battles are a crucial part of spring training though, right?  Yes and no.  Some players are definitely fighting for a spot on the 25 man roster.  Others, not so much.  Guys like Adam Jones know their role and wouldn't get benched unless he showed up 50 pounds overweight (which he didn't).  Jai Miller and Endy Chavez on the other hand are fighting for the 4th OF spot, and could maybe fight for a starting spot with Nolan Reimold, though it's highly unlikely.  These battles come down more to intangible factors though, rather than stats for aforementioned reasons.

Now that the season is officially on the horizon, baseball reporting has become seemingly omnipresent.  Some of the reports add value to the discussion and keep fans in the loop.  Others not so much.  Fans should take care to not read too far into the reports coming out of spring training while still getting their information.
Dylan Bundy meeting Scott McGregor

The three best functions of spring training, in my estimation, are this:

1. Getting players ready for the regular season and/or their minor league assignments.

2. Giving coaches, FO staff, etc. the opportunity to evaluate, critique and provide instruction to players.

3. Giving young players the experience of working with the major league squad and getting acclimated to the pro game.

This is the time of year we've all been waiting for.  Spring training schedule for the O's can be found here.

Enjoy the return of baseball everyone.

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