Daily Notes: Some Almost Not Meaningless Spring Numbers

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Some Almost Not Meaningless Spring Numbers
2. Mostly Unhelpful Video: Tom Layne, Striking Out Sides

Some Almost Not Meaningless Spring Numbers
The bespectacled reader is likely aware that spring training baseball has begun. As Jeff Sullivan pointed out earlier this month, there are a number of variables present in spring games which necessarily distort the stats that are produced there. As Mike Podhorzer demonstrated last March, however, there’s some significance to certain spring stats — especially among those which become reliable in smaller samples.

Even less than a week into spring, there are some numbers that are worthy of consideration — more for purposes of monitoring, perhaps, if not to regard as gospel.

League-wide numbers, for example, are likely to stabilize rather quickly — barring any considerable shifts in weather, at least — owing to the large total number of plate appearances that are accrued by all 30 teams in a relatively short period of time.

Here are the league averages for all of spring so far; in Florida and Arizona, specifically; and as compared to the 2012 major-league season:

Spring Total 5222 .278 .349 .442 .316 2.5% 9.1% 16.9% 5.5
Florida 2458 .272 .341 .431 .308 2.5% 8.5% 16.7% 4.9
Arizona 2764 .283 .357 .453 .323 2.6% 9.6% 17.0% 6.0
MLB 2012 184179 .255 .319 .405 .290 2.7% 8.0% 19.8% 4.3

There are some unsurprising results here. Teams this spring, for example, are producing more than a run per game relative to the 2012 regular season — and most of that increase is coming from Phoenix, where we might expect park factors to be higher due to heat, lack of humidity, and elevation (to say nothing of park dimensions).

Notably, the rate of home runs hit in Arizona is actually lower so far than during last year’s major-league season. In fact, the increase in run environment is due to higher contact rates, higher walk rates, and a considerably higher BABIP.

As for explanations regarding the inflated batted-ball figures in Phoenix, there are at least three possible causes of that — either (a) park factors (as noted) or (b) lower quality defense or (c) more hittable pitching (which would seem to be supported by the poorer strikeout and walk rates).

In terms of player-specific stats, no easily available metric both (a) becomes reliable in a smaller sample and (b) is more relevant to overall performance than strikeout rate for pitchers.

Below are the five pitchers who’ve posted the most impressive strikeout records thus far. xK% is expected (or regressed) strikeout rate. xK+ is xK% relative to league average.

Player Team IP TBF* K K% xK% xK+
Donnie Joseph KC 2.0 6 6 100.0% 19.9% 118
Vidal Nuno NYY 2.0 8 5 62.5% 19.0% 113
Tom Layne SD 2.0 11 5 45.5% 18.7% 111
Michael Olmsted MIL 2.2 11 5 45.4% 18.7% 111
Eury De La Rosa ARI 2.0 6 4 66.7% 18.6% 110

*Estimated based on innings-pitched and walk/hit-by-pitch data.

The lack of star names on this list isn’t particularly surprising: owing to the early start to spring training this year, a number of teams are protecting their most handsomely compensated pitchers. Still, all of these pitchers have posted strikeout rates above 20% in the minor leagues — and Layne, in fact, recorded a 25:3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.2 innings for the Padres last year.

Mostly Unhelpful Video: Tom Layne, Striking Out Sides
Here’s a pair of videos from 2012 of San Diego left-hander Tom Layne (mentioned above) striking out the side.

First, during his major-league debut against Atlanta on August 14th:

And then against the Dodgers on September 4th:

We hoped you liked reading Daily Notes: Some Almost Not Meaningless Spring Numbers by Carson Cistulli!

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Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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You don’t need to estimate total batters faced. MLB.com’s spring training stats has a column for that statistic. It’s on the second page of pitchers’ statistics. I didn’t double-check all of your estimates, but Vidal Nuno has faced nine batters, not eight.