It's a great time of year to be a baseball fan; a full season stretches out in front of us, full of endless possibilities, that beautiful time of year where the Rockies sometimes even manage a winning record. And with this time comes the tendency to over-analyze (or, alternatively, be too dismissive of) every performance we see. It is Spring Training after all, and as everybody knows, Spring Training stats are meaningless.
However, this week ESPN's new step-child site, FiveThirtyEight, released a study that looks in to the usefulness of Spring Training Stats. The article can be read here, so I won't go into too much depth, but the basics are as follows. Using an all encompassing hitting stat called wOBA, Neil Payne used a linear regression model to determine that Spring Training stats are statistically relevant, especially when compared with wOBA from the year before.
He determined that every 17 point difference in wOBA (In between spring wOBA and the prior year's) leads to a one point change in wOBA of the coming year. With Spring Training wrapping up, I decided to try to see what that might mean for our Rockies. Due to the lack of players who had meaningful wOBA's last year, I decided to go one better and compare Spring Training wOBA to an average of the player's ZiPs and Steamer projections for 2014 (via Fangraphs).
I used BR's ST stats to calculate wOBA using the equation I found here and adjustments from here. If anyone has any further questions on what I did, please ask, I parsed the data down on this FP for viewability purposes. I also included BR's Opponent Quality index (Scale:1-10 1=Rookie Ball, 10=MLB), just to give perspective to see if the ST numbers were fluky.
The Data! (Sorted by biggest projected change):
The data itself is fairly self explanatory. It seems to suggest good things for Tim Wheeler, Ryan Casteel, Cargo and Paul Janish, though Wheeler has faced rather poor competition. More troubling however, is the credence it lends to the theories that aging corner players Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer are in for a decline, as both players have vastly underperformed projections. This is especially troublesome, as neither of these guys offer much outside of batting, (cue the leadership and magic jokes!). All in all, it seems that the Rockies may be in line to outperform expectations this year, which can only be a good thing.
It's worth noting that this study can only tell us marginal things at best. However, with all the thirst for analysis leading up to Opening Day (9 days!!!!), I thought a numerical representation of what the Spring Training results could mean might be nice. Enjoy!