Spring Training Game #7 and relying on ST stats

Relying on Spring Training stats they say holds a trap in statistical reliance. Process is more important than the stats. Was the wind blowing out-or-in? Was the pitcher working on mechanics and a certain pitch? Let’s face it, Forrest Wall is killing it, and so is James Wood of the Washington Nationals. Wall is 28 years old, and Wood is just 21. They are tied for the MLB lead in Spring Training homers at three each. That is more home runs than five teams have hit this Spring, and three of those teams play in Palm Beach County. The wind has been blowing in which makes the Nats home run production more impressive.

The Cardinals have zero home runs in Spring Training, the Astros have one, and the Marlins have two. That is total team production, but then you look at the teams that play on the Gulf Coast of Florida — and the ball is flying there. That will also skew the pitching stats too. We saw Brady House lose a home run to the wind pushing it back, and it didn’t help Dylan Crews going oppo on a ball that just got caught on the warning track. More important is the exit velo, and the Nats’ top prospects are excelling on that stat also.

At some point, you have to analyze the skill and luck factor and concentrate more on the process because Wall’s success rate might not be what it looks like on paper. Wood, on the other hand, is receiving national attention from MLB Network to ESPN. That gets the fans calling for Wood to make the Nats’ Opening Day roster. That becomes the annual debate on doing right for the fans, the player, and for the team. First off, the sample size, as impressive as it is, stands at 17 plate appearances for Wood. In the regular season, that is four full games of a sample size. That is known as a hot streak. Joey Meneses has done that, and Lane Thomas did it in one game in 2022.

There is time for Robert Hassell III, Wood, Crews, and House to show us what they got. When Dusty Baker was managing the Washington Nationals in 2016, general manager Mike Rizzo called up Trea Turner on June 3rd of that year and sent back three days later with just three at-bats. Baker was asked why he didn’t play Turner. The same thing was happening at Turner’s next callup a month later.

“Right now, Trea has to fit in where he get in. Right now, there’s no real place for Trea to take. This isn’t a try-out camp. This is try to play the best team overall to win the game and win the pennant. Hopefully, Trea will be a part of that while he’s here.”

— Baker said in 2016

What would Baker do with Wood or Crews or House or Hassell? We saw what he did with Lucas Giolito. Some managers are always in “win now” mode and not there to nurture player development. That is what the Minor Leagues are there for. But Wood might be better than Joey Gallo. Shouldn’t the best 26 go north? That is going to be Rizzo’s decision.

The  Nats pitching continues to be impressive, and most of the NRI pitchers have stepped up in their limited opportunities. Yesterday it was Derek Law with an impressive first inning of work. On the MLB roster, Robert Garcia and Jose Ferrer were lights out. But it was Patrick Corbin‘s new cutter that was turning heads…of the Cardinals hitters. He K’d three of them for four in total, and Paul Goldschmidt twice.

“I’m pleased with [the cutter] so far. I think the movement and location is pretty good. I think as we continue to go, hopefully, the velo goes up a little bit (it averaged 85.5 mph today). But I think overall pretty sharp, and I’ve been locating that pitch up to this point, so I’m happy with it.”

— Corbin on his new cutter

Same thing with Corbin in small sample sizes, will this be a game-changer for him and the Washington Nationals? If so, you have to ask, why did it take him so long? After disastrous seasons in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023, he finally added a new pitch. This is just too commonsense for a pitcher who was throwing the same 4-seam fastball/slider combination that wasn’t working consistently. He needed something more than just introducing a sinker. While that helped improve him over 1.1 runs per game last year from his 6.31 ERA in 2022, he has needed more vertical and horizontal movement in his repertoire for years. As you know, he is in the final year of his contract.

This game against the LHP Framber Valdez and the Houston Astros is not televised, however it is on Nats’ radio with a 1:05 pm first pitch. MacKenzie Gore gets his second start of Spring Training. The lefty prospects won’t start today.

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