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Squeezing a little information out of spring training stats

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This juicer may be on its last legs, but we're gonna give it a shot anyway

This guy comes out pretty well in this analysis. The big question: WHO IS HE?
This guy comes out pretty well in this analysis. The big question: WHO IS HE?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

People think spring training stats are incredibly important and predictive, but it turns out, they're not! Really, spring training stats are basically nothing but statistical noise. Were you worried that Jean Segura was hitting better than .500 for the Diamondbacks? You shouldn't have been! By far the most likely scenario is that he will continue to be Jean Segura, which is good news for Giants fans, since Jean Segura is bad.

But there are stats that have some predictive value, even in spring, where you're dealing with small samples, low level competition, breaking balls that don't work, players who don't really care, and guys who might spend an outing throwing nothing but a fastball on a dare. These predictive stats are the rate stats, strikeout and walk percentages, and according to an Economist article from last year, if you factor those into Fangraphs's ZIPS projections, the projections get even better.

Now, I don't know how to factor those in, but I do know how to look at various percentages next to each other and then go "Hmm" or "That's unexpected" as if those are actual insights. It's pretty fun. Let's try it now:

Player ZIPS K% ST K% ZIPS BB% ST BB% ZIPS predicted ERA
Madison Bumgarner 25.50% 20.69% 5.10% 5.17% 2.70
Johnny Cueto 21.00% 19.23% 5.90% 3.85% 2.87
Jeff Samardzija 22.20% 15.09% 5.40% 3.77% 3.31
Jake Peavy 19.10% 14.91% 6.00% 6.14% 3.66
Clayton Blackburn 18.20% 13.56% 6.40% 6.78% 3.81
Chris Heston 17.30% 23.46% 8.30% 4.94% 4.00
Hunter Strickland 26.80% 27.91% 5.40% 2.33% 2.59
Sergio Romo 26.80% 28.00% 5.00% 4.00% 2.82
Santiago Casilla 20.00% 25.00% 8.10% 6.25% 2.86
George Kontos 19.40% 7.89% 6.00% 5.26% 3.39
Matt Cain 19.10% 11.11% 7.10% 11.11% 4.25
Josh Osich 21.80% 22.86% 9.30% 17.14% 3.43
Mike Broadway 25.00% 8.33% 6.80% 16.67% 3.19
Chase Johnson 17.40% 16.67% 10.40% 8.33% 4.30
Javier Lopez 17.20% 16.13% 9.70% 9.68% 3.45
Ray Black 30.40% 16.67% 16.40% 25.00% 3.77
Ty Blach 13.90% 8.93% 6.10% 1.79% 4.41
Vin Mazzaro 17.20% 21.43% 8.80% 7.14% 3.57
Cory Gearrin 21.60% 28.95% 8.90% 7.89% 3.68
Steven Okert 24.50% 17.39% 9.80% 13.04% 3.80
Chris Stratton 16.40% 16.67% 10.70% 11.90% 4.71
Ricky Romero 11.70% 17.39% 16.10% 13.04% 6.00


I took a look at all the pitchers on the roster and all the ones with realistic shots of being on the roster at some point this year (Jake Dunning, who had a phenomenal spring, did not get a ZIPS projection and therefore could not be included, so I looked at Vin Mazzaro and Ricky Romero instead, because I had heard of them before the Giants signed them. Chase Johnson is also included, because his name is a sexy sentence). Let's separate the results into a few categories:

Unequivocally good

  • Chris Heston
  • Hunter Strickland
  • Sergio Romo
  • Santiago Casilla
  • Vin Mazzaro
  • Cory Gearrin
  • Ricky Romero

Mixed bag/About where they should be

  • Johnny Cueto
  • Jeff Samardzija
  • Chase Johnson
  • Javier Lopez
  • Ty Blach
  • Chris Stratton

Uh-oh

  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Jake Peavy
  • Clayton Blackburn
  • Matt Cain
  • Josh Osich
  • Mike Broadway
  • Ray Black
  • Steven Okert
Keep in mind that these categories aren't predicting how well the players will do, but instead how well they will do compared to their ZIPS projections. So Bumgarner in the Uh-oh section is still a much better bet than Chris Stratton doing about what he's expected to be doing. But still, the Uh-oh section has a few names in it that we can't be thrilled to see. There's Bumgarner, of course, but there's also the back end of the rotation, Cain and Peavy, as well as Blackburn, who's one of the more important depth pieces for the Giants this year. None of this portends doom, of course, but it would have been nice to see some better performances.

Will the spring training numbers end up meaning anything? That's a question we'll really only be able to answer at the end of the year. But for now, they're just another fun thing to consider while we wait for the stupid, dumb, regular baseball season to start already.