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March vs. April: A Study of Pitching Stats

on 03/24/2006


The snow's melting and the days are getting longer; baseball's just around the corner. It's not only spring training for the players, it's also spring training for the critics As the hot stove season is completed, the focus turns onto the analysis of spring training. For those of us who aren't fortunate to spend all spring in Maryvale, we're relegated to listening to internet audio broadcast and scouring spring training statistics to try to formulate ideas on what will happen when Miller Park opens its doors for the season.

Trying to analyze spring training stats and draw conclusions from them is a tricky proposition. Not only do you have players at varying stages of readiness, the level of competition varies wildly, park dimensions are different, and the density of the air is different. When you add in the fact that sample sizes for many players are extremely small, it's no wonder that many people will throw out the blanket statement that "spring training stats are meaningless".

In this article, I'm focusing on comparing pitching statistics between spring training and the regular season month of April between 2003 and 2005 for the Milwaukee Brewers. This is a sample size of 633.4 spring training innings and 709 regular season April innings. While a larger sample size would yield better results, historical spring training data is not that easy to come by. To qualify for inclusion in this sample, a player must have both 10 innings of pre-season work and must have pitched in April.


PlayerSpring Training April Comparison
Wise13.210.66 1110.82 0.16 H
Capuano2531.08 28.2154.76 3.68XH
Obermueller1931.42 13.253.29 1.87XH
Glover1831.5 22.2135.16 3.66XH
Davis14.174.4 26.2165.4 1XH
Turnbow1054.5 11.121.59 -2.91XL
De La Rosa16.194.96 1154.09 -0.87 L
Adams10.265.07 7.233.52 -1.55XL
Phelps12.196.56 855.63 -0.93 L
Santos20.1156.64 27.2103 -3.64XL
Bottalico1098.1 1143.27 -4.83XL
Team167.8703.75 176.3794.03 0.28 5 / 6


PlayerSpring Training April Comparison
Santos1210.75 449 8.25XH
Vizcaino10.221.69 9.243.72 2.03XH
B Ford1642.25 12139.75 7.5XH
Davis2362.35 28175.46 3.11XH
Capuano1763.18 1353.46 0.28 H
A Hernandez1563.6 11.21310.03 6.43XH
Obermueller18115.5 20.1156.64 1.14XH
Kieschnick12.196.57 1021.8 -4.77XL
Sheets18.1167.86 36133.25 -4.61XL
Kinney19178.05 23228.61 0.56 H
Team160.4784.38 166.51085.84 1.46 8 / 2


PlayerSpring Training April Comparison
Dejean1121.64 11.110.79 -0.85 L
Nance14.231.84 7.278.22 6.38XH
Sheets20.273.05 42245.14 2.09XH
Foster12.153.65 1065.4 1.75XH
Franklin21114.71 29.2206.07 1.36XH
Kinney25.1186.39 2982.48 -3.91XL
Rusch1296.75 32.1277.52 0.77 H
Leskanic11.296.95 1132.45 -4.5XL
Ritchie18157.5 28.1165.08 -2.42XL
Team144.8794.91 199.71125.05 0.14 5 / 4


The most obvious and important conclusion here, is that over the past 3 years, no more than 27% of players spring training ERAs were within 1 whole point of their April actual ERAs. 2005 had 27% of pitchers reaching their Spring numbers, 2004 had 20%, and 2003 had 22%. 56% of pitchers' ERAs differed by at least 2 points, 40% different by at least 3 points, and 23% differed by at least 4 points.

Another interesting trend we can see in this limited example is that ERAs of starters tended to be lower in spring training than in the regular season. Conversely, ERAs of relievers tended to be higher in spring training than in April.


I can tentatively conclude from this article that other than the concept that relievers and starters might handle their conversions into the regular season differently, no distinct correlation seems to exist between a pitcher's complete spring training numbers and their regular season April numbers. Until we're able to accurately map which pitchers are actively trying to get batters out instead of working on mechanics and new pitches, it is hard to come to any kind of definitive conclusion. Another study that would need to be done is how pitchers' ERAs progress over the course of spring training as the season draws closer.

I will revisit this topic as the spring training season ends, focusing on hitters, as well as following up on both sets of players after the first month of the regular season.


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