Are Spring Training Games Meaningless?
By Scott Andes
Well Dodger fans, we have made it through the off-season . On Tuesday pitchers and catchers report for the first time to Camelback Ranch, Glendale Arizona. The Dodgers will begin their fourth season in the cactus league at the Camelback Ranch Complex. As the birds begin to sing, the sun starts to come out, and stay out a little longer, and we hear our favorite words….pitchers and catchers report. The Dodgers open spring training camp Tuesday, but this makes me think, about how important spring training games really are. Are spring training games truly meaningless?
We have finally survived the winter, and we are now beginning to see the first signs of spring. The equipment trucks roll through, the Dodgers caravan makes it’s final stop, and we see our first glimpses of spring. The beginning of spring training we see the payers working out, and conditioning, as everyone begins to prepare for the start of the season. The Dodgers will play 34 exhibition games this spring. This makes me think about the first couple of weeks of exhibition games. There always so hectic. We will see a slew of players were not familiar with. Generally the minor leaguers will play with the big club until it is time for them to be cut, and join their respective minor league spring camps.
The first spring games that are televised show us our first looks at our teams for the new season. We see unfamiliar players wearing numbers like 89, and rookie pitchers we have never seen. However we will still see yearly spring appearances from the Chris Withrows, the Allen Websters, and the Russ Mitchells. The question is just how important are Spring stats? Many teams must use spring training to evaluate players to determine roster spots, and positioning.
Sure most teams at least have one or two spots, that are up for grabs, and must be decided during spring training, but this year the majority of the Dodgers roster has been almost set in stone. For example there is now way the Dodgers are going to pay Jerry Hairston Jr. six million dollars to be cut from the team. Not to say there won’t be the typical injuries, and the Dodgers might have to shuffle their roster. It seems there is always one or two surprises, or reclamation projects that sneak onto the roster.
Spring training stats are truly meaningless though. I think they should never be used to determine anything. What the managers, coaches, and scouts do look at during spring are the performances. How a player is playing. For pitchers they look at mechanics, and arm angles, and developing secondary pitches. While with hitters they look at bat speed, or if there opening their hips, or not, or if they pull the ball, or go the other way, etc, etc, etc. This is what spring is all about. Preparing for the regular season. Fine tuning a player’s skills. Practice, Practice , Practice.
I was taking a look at the Dodgers past spring records. I tried to see if there was any kind of pattern, or connection between winning spring records, and winning regular season records. What I came up with is that there was absolutely no discernible pattern that I could find. Spring games are what they are. There just for practice. Lets take a look at the Dodgers spring records during their last six playoff teams since the 88 world series.
Year record win%
As you can see, it is all meaningless. The 1988 Dodgers had the best spring record in the National League, and wound up winning the world series. The 1996 Dodgers also had the best spring record in the league, but lost in the playoffs. Look at the 2004 Dodgers. They had one of the worst records that spring, and won 93 games en route to a division title. Then over the last few years, the Dodgers have played poorly during the spring. During their back to back NLCS years from 2008-2009, they had winning percentages in the spring of .379, and .405, and it meant nothing. I also have included the Dodgers spring record from last season.
Normally it only takes the position players a couple of weeks of exhibition games to be regular season ready. It is the pitchers that are the ones that need the full six weeks of spring to be ready for opening day. So if the Dodgers don’t play well this spring, don’t worry to much. I mean don’t get me wrong I want the Dodgers to win every game, even the exhibition games. However be aware, and I should tell myself this so I don’t get to upset when they lose a few spring games, spring training games don’t count. Games don’t start counting until April 5th. Ah yes, Spring is here!
The first spring game televised is March 6th, and we will have our first game-recap of the season. We will bring to you complete coverage of the Dodgers spring training all spring long. Keep it here for more Dodgers Spring training news, as we begin the new season. The first day pitchers and catchers must report is February 22nd, and the first day for the position players to report is February 27th. The Dodgers play their first spring game on March 5th. It wont be long until we hear those five beautiful words we long to hear all winter. ITS TIME FOR DODGER BASEBALL!