SSI on the Value of Spring Training Performance
Sorry. It ain't zero.

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Q.  Can you make any sense of spring training statistics?

A.  Different stats have different levels of "noise" in them.  Ichiro's career batting average has noise in it, but it's about 2%, not counting park context.  Ichiro's career range factor has noise in it, too, but the noise is something more like (?) 30%.

Baseball sabermetricians are really cruddy at estimating the AMOUNT OF noise in a particular statistic.  A sense of proportion is almost completely lacking in the industry.  Sabermigos are great at math; they're not so great at common sense.

We mean it in a good way.

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Q.  How much noise is in there in spring training stats?

A.  Oh ... what would it be?  60%?  Something like that.  

One of the few sabermigos who does have a sense of proportion:  Jeff Sullivan.  Read this article by him.  He points out various [huge] sources of noise in ST stats.

It is very, very challenging to make sense of a phenomenon when your metrics are diluted with 60% noise.  When you've got 60%, 70% noise, and you run a "study" (sic!) asking about the value of the stats, your study is going to suggest NO value to the metric unless you know how to design it.  

But I'll guarantee you that there is some "study" that will show the phenomenon being reflected at some level of consistency.  Give me all of the home run leaders in Arizona, past twenty years -- even first-week leaders -- and I'll guarantee that their presence is reflected in MLB regular-season slugging leaderboards, at some level of confidence.  It might be only a .20 correlation, but there will be a correlation.  Which is the same thing as saying that ST stats are not worth zero.

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Q.  SSI thinks that spring performance is worth something?  How much?

A.  Not much, usually.  In a few cases it becomes critical.  

Kendrys Morales might be just tinkering.  Felix' results are unimportant, unless he walks a guy per inning.

Jason Bay vs Casper Wells is going to be important; both guys are playing for a job and both guys are out there competing.  Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman are going to be competing.

.........

The 2nd-worst thing you can do with such metrics is to assume that the noise is small - and to treat the metrics as though they are reliable with no further thought.  Many casual fans do this.  

I doubt any SSI or LL or USSM readers do this, and I hate to see the kind of condescension that assumes a web-literate fan to be unaware of the noise in ST stats.

...........

The VERY worst thing you can do is to assume that since you don't like a metric, and you don't know how to edit out the noise, and you don't know how to design a study in which correlations are found --- > then the metric must be worth ZERO.

ST stats aren't worth MUCH, in BULK.  But to imagine that every player's ST performance is irrelevant is incredibly naive.  If Jeremy Bonderman walks more guys than he strikes out, he's going home.  If he fans 20 guys and walks 2, then with the time off and re-boot, that means that he's probably going to have a good year by his own standards.

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Q.  When are MLB teams going to wake up and ...

A.  Hold on right there, Turbo.  Just. Stop.

Consider this statement, from an author who higher on the very same web page had strictly forbidden any and all "appeals to authority":

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Or, you know, you could use a projection based on more than just the last season’s data point. Which is what every good organization in baseball does.

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I'll tell you something else every good organization in baseball every organization in baseball does.  Consider. Spring. Training. Performance.

We might slow down, draw a breath, and ask a simple question.

Why does every MLB organization watch ST performance carefully?  Why do all "good" MLB organizations (at least occasionally) make roster decisions based on spring results?

Org's don't just watch tools and skills.  They also watch performance and results.  All of them do. They understand about noise, understand with 100% crystal clarity.  They're out there watching, aware that ST very often misleads you, and still factoring ST performance as one variable in the equation.

Why would that be?

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NEXT

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Chat: 9/1/15 5:22am
Interests: Baseball Football Soccer History Beer (215957)
    Shouts update every 10 seconds.       
2015-09-04 21:04

Earlier in the season being behind 5-1 would have seemed a sure loss. Now it seems to mean another guy is going to step up.

2015-09-04 20:09

Welcome to the majors moment.. grand salami....yikess

2015-09-04 18:19

Besides Olmos control issues, he had ok outing last time out.. plus all the sudden the team is on fire at thebplate. If Cano was doing this earlier in the year we'd be in the big dance. Even with Cruz slumping a bit..all the sudden the team putting up digits

2015-09-04 15:13

This is an interesting subject. People think the M's are dysfunctional for being run like a residual trust by a bunch of lawyers and accountants who always take a conservative approach to things. This may all be true, but the city has not dealt with a bona fide delusional, overbearing, arbitrary tantrum throwing #Baseball billionaire before. What if we had one of the tyrants of legend? The George Steinbrenner, Marge Schott, Jeffrey Loria types. The #Seattle GM job may seem extremely desirable, because there is a board rather than an individual billionaire to work for.

2015-09-04 13:08

Most #Boston fans think the problems there are connected to ownership, not the GM

2015-09-04 12:46

Cherington had nothing whatsoever to do with most of what you just mentioned. That was cleaning up Epstein's mess.

2015-09-04 10:55

Among young analytic types, DiPoto seems like a clean win over Ben Cherington, Cherington has presided over some world class dysfunction in #Boston the last umpteen years. There was the Carl Crawford, A-Gone controversy, the Lackey chickengate controversy, and now Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval controversies. Cherington and his managers do not command the respect of their veterans. Not that he he would automatically turn Felix, Kuma, Cano and Cruz into lazy chicken eating instagramming #Beer drinking shlubs, But still, if Z was fired for lack of leadership, Cherington shouldn't be hired with that track record.

2015-09-04 09:06

I'm on the DiPoto train. Out of the candidates with GM experience he seems like a clear win over the likes of Williams, O'Dowd, Jennings, etc. Younger guy, which I love, #History of SABR, etc. I think it could be great, ignoring our prior #History with Angels GMs.

2015-09-04 06:31

DiPoto has moved into the lead for my top draft position for the new GM from the pile of realistic candidates...really hope Mather picks well here.

2015-09-03 23:08

More DiPoto stuff: He signed Mike Trout to an extension so club friendly that Trout got in trouble with the union. Also, his teams won a lot with Jared Weaver as their best pitcher.

2015-09-03 21:32

Angels fans are afraid they will never get another good GM because Sciosca and Moreno now have a malignant rep and Sciosca is entrenched.

2015-09-03 21:28

Angels fans view DiPoto's strengths to be that he is good at running a farm system and he is a good sabe.

2015-09-03 21:05

Further, Angels fans universally loved DiPoto. Further, he wasn't fired. His team is fun to follow because he changes his scrubs from week to week. He doesn't hold with floundering rookies working out their kinks on TV.

2015-09-03 20:56

Jerry DiPoto to interview. DiPoto can deal with some nonsense. His boss, Moreno, signs or fires players, like Josh #Hamilton, on his own. His underling, Sciosca, refuses to deploy the shift. Sciosca apparently doesn't believe in it.

2015-09-03 20:09

So things appear to be working as designed now. Thanks, admins.

2015-09-03 19:52

Everything I've said, I stand by - but I also wanted to take time out to thank KLAT for their hard work on our behalf. There's no such thing as a free lunch, but you guys have given us almost that very thing, and that's rare. Our experience of Mariner #Baseball fandom would have been far emptier without your willingness to work with Jeff and put up with us whining when stuff doesn't work. :)

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/4/15 6:12pm
Well put
2015-09-03 18:40

Hey #Seattle Sports Insiders - We all hope that you enjoy the new #SeattleSportsInsider.com interface! We are working hard to improve your experience - and thanks for your patience with our launch. We look forward to your comments and hope that we are providing you a fun and informative site for your enjoyment - that's the goal of our project! - Richard

2015-09-03 18:34

I originally saw the sub categories at top when first loaded on #Mobile, but then they disappeared.. am I missing something?

Reply - Richard - 9/3/15 6:43pm
We're working on mobile menus now - and will work on improving links to relevant content shortly.Thanks for your help.
Reply - Browns8625 - 9/3/15 7:41pm
Thanks much, definately appreciate the site and work you guys do.. I certainly could not.
2015-09-03 18:11

normal article functionality is back - must have been related to their efforts to subcategorize the site. Which, BTW, I actually very much like. I want there to be room here for #Football and #Soccer discussions and I don't want it to distract the group that's just wanting to talk #Baseball, so this change is very positive. Doc - I see and understand your point regarding how lucky we've been with KLAT. I am not trying to be ungrateful...please understand that. I think it is not a good policy to discourage folks from letting the KLAT team know when we are dissatisfied with features they're implementing, though. I believe you when you say they're super nice guys...that's a great thing to know. I've never accused them of being mean or anything. :) I just feel that it is very important to let the site admins know how things are impacting the users here. They don't owe us anything at all...I get that. But it really would help if we understood their long term goals...just a little...it would make us all feel a little better about the project, I think.

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/3/15 6:32pm
Agreed.. this has definately been a baseball driven site Originally I thought it was just due to summer and regular season baseball play, until someone straightened me out lol
2015-09-03 16:37

Seems to work pretty decent on mine... what issues have you been having?

2015-09-03 16:36

Admins, yes, but the point is it does not work like it's supposed to. RIght now if I click on an article no matter what tab is activated it doesn't bring up the article. It just reloads the main page. That's what people are trying to tell you. Whether it's platform related, I have no idea.

edited to add, I take that back, now the first article loads when accessed with the Baseball tab activated, but not with the All tab activated.

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/3/15 4:38pm
Ohbokay, yes I was having that issue just starting today
Reply - admin - 9/3/15 4:48pm
ok. I now see that problem... I'm working on it... Thanks.
2015-09-03 16:09

For a social media focused platform you would think it would work better on a #Mobile.

2015-09-03 15:56

Re: click sport then pick article, you're right Ice, that works now. It didn't before. Clearly they are making ongoing tweaks today using the "live" site rather than tweaking a non-production version and only deploying it when they are satisfied that it works correctly. This practice does differ from what we're mostly used to, but to use a common phrase that my wife increasingly employs these days, "It is what it is." Klat is primarily a social media site that works according to it's own priorities and practices, and living with it is part and parcel of enjoying Doc's graciously provided site.

Reply - admin - 9/3/15 4:04pm
Just to clarify... All articles should appear on the 'All' selection. Then only baseball articles/chats appear on the baseball subdomain. Only football articles/chats appear on the football subdomain, etc.... The new menu changes the subdomain.
Reply - admin - 9/3/15 4:06pm
For writers of articles: If an article is created in the baseball subdomain, it appears in 'All' and 'Baseball'. Same for the other sports subdomains...
2015-09-03 15:07

Right now, it looks like you have to click the sport then pick the article.

Kind of absurd that you guys edit the production site while people are relying on it :-/

2015-09-03 14:34

Yup. Site is fully screwed at the moment

2015-09-03 13:06

I recall a similar line of reasoning earlier in the season when there were questions about why he wasnt called up then. Disappointing that he has not been able to fix it.

2015-09-03 11:41

Admins, FYI, now ALL articles when clicked on simply reload the main page.

2015-09-03 10:16

Re: "Tommy Gun" post, interesting that it only happens with that one article. Also, when I click on the "Active Threads" tab to see recent article comments, all the articles disappear. I provide this detail for the benefit of the admins.

Re: Divish and Montero, this certainly provides a rationale for a demotion allowing him to work on his swing, although you won't know if it's fixed until he's back up in a league where good fastballs are routine. Hopefully he can solve all this during the offseason, because when he's right he's productive with the bat. Also, hopefully, the M's staff are correct in their assessments.

2015-09-03 09:26

Divish with a note on the club's concern with Montero's swing:

"...there is some concern about the fundamentals of Montero’s swing, particularly the large dip of the head of the bat as he initiates his swing. That unnecessary movement slows down everything and leaves him behind on pitchers with quality fastballs. By instinct, Montero has to “cheat” on the fastball, starting the swing early. Pitchers recognize it and counter by throwing breaking stuff away when they are ahead. Why didn’t it affect him at Class AAA, where he hit .346 with 17 doubles, 6 triples, 16 home runs and 75 RBI with a .938 OPS? There is a lack of outstanding fastballs in the Pacific Coast League."

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/3/15 4:41pm
Also not as much intel in the minors. That's why they call it the bigs.. will be a tough adjustment
2015-09-03 08:43

Yup, same here

2015-09-03 05:10

The most recent post about the Mariner offense won't display for me...when I click on it, I get sent to a blank screen with the post selection slider again.

2015-09-03 05:06

Can't get Doc's latest article (Tommy Gun) to open on iPhone.

2015-09-03 04:25

Can't get Doc's latest article (Tommy Gun) to open on iPhone.

2015-09-02 22:55

I see more shouts disappeared.

2015-09-02 21:02

Too late to go on a run? :-)

2015-09-02 15:19

Montero's been slumping badly...so...not sure I blame the Mariners for not starting him.

2015-09-02 15:06

Apparently it wasn't Z who hated Montero...

2015-09-02 12:00

Sorry for the cut and paste tweets but the reactions from people that cover the team are interesting. One can feel their confusion. Witness: @CurtoWorld: Mariners option Jesus Montero to Tacoma. I believe this is first time they've sent a player down after Sept 1 in at least 17 years- not sure.

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/3/15 4:43pm
Not just them though, just odd timing for anyone to do. I also do not know if I have ever seen one team send as many guys down as the mariners have here the last cpl months
2015-09-02 11:44

@StoneLarry: When you send a guy down AFTER rosters expand, I'd say it doesn't bode well for his future in the organization.

2015-09-02 11:25

@RyanDivish: Hearing that the Mariners have optioned Jesus Montero back to Class AAA Tacoma for the last five games of Rainiers' season. The Mariners face a fair amount of right-handers till then.

2015-09-02 10:07

RH swing looks like it has a slow launch to me. batspeed OK, but not full of life or anything...this swing would make Choi a .260 hitter with a decent eye and no power from the right side. Maybe.

2015-09-02 08:52

YouTube video from a game where they talk about it and show two RH at bats. Silly M's - the guy wants to switch hit when he signs and they say no. He gets to AAA and THEN the org gives its blessing. I wish I was surprised by that.

Not the most dynamic RH swing I've seen but we've seen worse RH swings from guys in Mariner uniform this year. It's just bizarre. Given how rabid M's fans are about the minors, I'm surprised this hasn't received more commentary.

https://m.youtube.co...

2015-09-02 08:38

I read something from Curto on Choi and IIRC, it was Choi's idea. He wanted to try it in ST and they gave him their blessing...then came the suspension. It's curious that he's doing it...successfully thus far. I mean, small sample size, but he's been a terror since he came back switch hitting. 957 OPS with more pop (500 SLG).

2015-09-02 07:44

If the Mariners were the ones that told Choi to switch hit, it confirms their stupidity. If Choi decided to do that on his own, the Mariners need to order him to knock it off.

2015-09-02 05:40

Choi doesn't have significant splits against same handed pitching, so he doesn't need to switch hit. Either it's a practical joke , or someone hates me.

2015-09-01 20:15

With you on Kivlehan

2015-09-01 17:54

How odd is it that Choi came back from his suspension and all of a sudden, he's a switch hitter? I mean, I don't think I've ever heard of someone that started switch hitting at 24, let alone at the AAA level.

2015-09-01 17:35

I'd like to see Choi get called up. Boy could we have used an Olerud-lite bat this year. Get Kivlehan up here too... he seems to need some time to learn/adapt to a new level (though he learns fast). Might as well have him start the process this year.

2015-09-01 17:21

Zych has a gun... but I fear it is pretty close to straight arrow.

2015-09-01 16:42

I like Zych, actually...great AAA numbers based on an interesting pitch mix...possible sleeper?

2015-09-01 13:46

Thanks Griz. I highly approve of Romero and O'Malley getting shots. I love the versatility of O'Malley: Plays everywhere and brings a vL bat that is .330-.387-.450 this year and .340-.398-.489 last year. He can play on my team any day. A Bloomquist (versatility) with a decent bat.

2015-09-01 12:55

I still get excited for Elias starts.. am I alone? Really love his repetoire of pitches. When he is on he is on. Hopefully a better game in store from that last one. Think it was good for him overall coming back from Tacoma getting his feet wet. Hope he has a good game/ and can contribute in future

Reply - mickiholley - 9/1/15 1:19pm
Elias is fun to watch...when he is on his game. I think he will be steady.
2015-09-01 12:29

@shannondrayer: First wave of callups are here. Romero, O'Malley, Jose Ramirez and Tony Zych all in #Houston.

2015-09-01 10:46

Blash and yesterday's huge opposite field dinger: http://www.milb.com/...

Kivlehan is quick and simple to the ball: http://www.milb.com/...

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/1/15 12:39pm
Love that opposite field power
2015-09-01 10:35

That's where I am, Matt. He is significantly improved this year in terms of BA. He's hit a heck of a lot of homers in not very many AB's. He K's like Gorman Thomas in the majors, but Thomas only K'ed on 20% of his AAA AB's....not 33%! Thomas was .225-.324-.448 over his MLB years. OPS+ of 114. He hit .241 at AA but .291 in AAA (#Sacramento). Hit below .200 his 1st two significant years in the bigs. Then Thomas figured it out a bit. He was 27 before he was very successful. And that was after another full year stint in the PCL (after two years in the bigs). Blash doesn't have that kind of MiLB pedigree....but this year indicates some sort of plateau leap. Well, maybe. He's a bit of a long shot, But if he can hit .240 he's will be a finie player. Thomas has 4 seasons above .240 (.246, .244, .259, .245) in those seasons his OPS+ was 142, 138, 146 & 137. Thomas didn't really walk more in the minors that Blash has. At .240 Blash is a player, regardless of the K's. But .240 will be tough for him to hit, based on his large AAA K rate which is still above 30% even in this "plateau" year. He may not make contact often enough. Kingman was a productive player when he was north of .235, even early in his career. He was above .260 4 times and in those seasons he was a tremendous hitter. But he Ked in only about 25% of his AAA AB's. The TTO guy can be productive. Trumbo never has walked enough to be a true TTO (55 pts in AA/AAA & 50 pts in MLB) but he is a "similar" guy. When he's in the .240 range he's decently productive. However he only K'ed in about 24% of his AAA AB's. Blash is over the line, K-wise, but way over the line, in a good way, BB-wise. As such, he's a guy that will get a chance.

2015-09-01 09:05

K rate dooms almost everyone when north of 25% in the minors. I said ALMOST everyone. Decent walk rate says something a bit different...he merits a real look.

Reply - Browns8625 - 9/1/15 12:56pm
K rates food teams more than given credit for
2015-09-01 07:05

That's PA's....not (A's

2015-09-01 07:02

BTW (again): Down on the farm, Zunino is 7-12 in 3 games w/3 HR's. He likes AAA pitching! Blash has hit 32 HR's in 403 AA/AAA AB's this year. He's also walked 61 times (100 pts worth!!). But he's struck out 122 times in those 403 AB's. 22 of those HR's have come in his 194 AAA AB's. Wow!! He's a TTO guy. In 225 AAA (A's this year, he's HR-BB-K'ed 112 times....50%) He'll get a #Seattle look-see this year. The whiff rate will be scary (33% over his AAA career = what in the bigs?) but he can certainly ride the ball. Were he a .240-.320 guy with 30+ HR's he would be quite interesting. But, oh my, the K's!

2015-09-01 06:46

Endy Chavez's career vL OPS is .638. He hasn't been a MLB starter in decades, it seems. If you had a ++ bat at SS, like Tulo or classic Jeter (especially if they were a RHB), you could run Miller out there vL. But without some Miller improvement in that category it is unlikely that you use him without a platoon partner. We were using him with a partner at SS, remember. BTW: Marte is 1-17 over the last 4 games. Has anybody noticed if he is being pitched to differently? Has the league adjusted? No BB's in 3 of those games.

2015-09-01 06:25

More depth for LA to make a push. Rugg can play anywhere in outfield. I know Puig has been battling hammy issues.

2015-09-01 05:22

Mariners sell off Ruggiano for cash...

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