By: Kurt Snyder
Why is it that I could care less if the Tigers win a game in the spring, even though so many stats support the fact that a winning record generally bodes well for the regular season?
I’ve seen the stats. They have been supported right here on this site. But I have a hard time putting stock in them. And if it’s so important, why is it never a topic of discussion in Lakeland?
More often than not, headlines out of spring games highlight which player did well, which one did not, and then finally, they mention who won. With lineups mixed with players who have no chance but to head to the minor leagues in April, how can we possibly draw a conclusion from a win or a loss?
Split squad games are played in order to get through the schedule, making it even more difficult to glean importance when a large complement of Opening Day roster locks find themselves in different cities, playing in separate games.
All the focus is placed on individual achievements. Bryan Holaday has hit 3 home runs this spring including a grand slam. Should the Tigers start stitching his name on his Opening Day jersey? Is Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s back up job suddenly in jeopardy? Not by a long shot. Holaday is just improving his stock for other teams. In fact, I am not so sure the Tigers feel real good about him doing so well.
Over the last week we have heard about how well Verlander has pitched, and Zimmermann, and Pelfrey and Norris. Did the Tigers win all those games? No. Well why? Well mainly because, since it’s so early, all these guys are pitching only 2-3 innings. So again, it’s real hard to draw a conclusion from a win or a loss.
Relief pitchers are talking about how hard it is to adjust knowing that they will be pitching on that particular day. Shane Greene mentioned he would rather not know when he is going to pitch. These are unique factors that can affect performance and could affect the outcome of a game.
Pitchers experiment by maybe throwing one pitch more than they normally would. Hitters experiment by trying to hit the ball the other way. What a better time to try things than when the game results don’t matter?
How managers handle injuries is probably more precautionary in the spring than it is in the regular season. The games don’t matter, so let’s give a guy a couple extra days of rest just to be sure.
Maybe I have put too much thought into this. Maybe regardless of all these factors, when the winning percentage in the spring is good, it’s a good sign for the regular season, regardless of how we got there.
Even so, I will never look at spring camp as anything more than a time for the players to get in shape, get their timing down, develop a good rapport with new teammates and get ready for the grind.
If the Tigers emerge from spring training reasonably healthy, the starting rotation is set, the bullpen rotation is set, I will consider them ready. There have been many players in the past counted on for big roles, who have had poor springs, with poor stats contributing to a poor winning percentage. But when they head north everything changes. Those are the marks of true professionals.
So you can’t lose your mind and draw conclusions from say, Jordan Zimmermann for instance, emerging from the spring with an 0-2 record and 5.00 ERA. It’s the spring. If he declares himself ready, what else do we need?
When it’s all said and done, a healthy and prepared group of Tigers will get us more excited than winning the Spring Training World Championship.