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What can Spring Training tell us about the Reds’ new pitchers?

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MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Report Day The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODA

At this time next week, Red Reporters the world over will be rising from foggy slumber and synchronously plunking alka-seltzers into coffee mugs of tepid water drawn from the bathroom sink. We will be hazy from our having drunk deeply from the cup of baseball the day previous after months of abstention. It’s gonna fucking rule.

Real actual live baseball is under a week away, which means weeks of fake not-actual kind-of baseball are behind us. Spring Training is riven with a certain kind of tension: it isn’t exactly baseball, so it doesn’t quite pay off. But it is kind of baseball, so I can’t look away. This holds true when you talk about Spring Training statistics, too: David Bell said yesterday that he isn’t worried at all about how poorly Jesse Winker has hit this spring. Which, I mean, yeah. He is probably right not to be. But just because we shouldn’t worry about poor spring performance doesn’t exactly mean that Spring Training statistics are worthless.

To wit - this bit from The Economist slid into my twitter timeline yesterday. The old adage that Spring Training stats are worthless actually holds up pretty well - but not for the reasons you think. ST stats are worthless mostly because most of the stats we look at in baseball (like batting average and RBIs and pitcher wins) are worthless. There are a few bits of information we can dig out of Spring Training that can be quite useful.

In particular, strikeouts and walks translate relatively well to the regular season. I don’t know if you heard about this or not, but this winter the Reds Got The Pitching. Specifically, they traded for Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark. So I wanted to take a look at how they have been throwing this spring to hopefully get a sense of whether or not this is the pitching we were all looking for.

I suppose the headliner is Sonny Gray. He (arguably) has the best track record of the three, and he signed a very handsome contract extension so I guess he is more of a Red than the other two (don’t question it). So what has he done this spring? Well, he has faced a total of 17 hitters in official Cactus League play. He developed a bit of an elbow thing early on and has been restricted to side sessions and B games. He is all set to start Game 2 in front of ya boyzzz (JAM!!!) so the elbow thing isn’t much of a thing. But even for the small samples we get in Spring Training 17 batters faced isn’t really much to go on. But he struck out four and didn’t walk a one and only surrendered two hits, so what little there is is really good.

Alex Wood, well, shit. He threw an inning in his Cactus League debut this year and left with a sore back. He will begin the season on the IL (the disabled list has been changed to the injured list, which will now and forever weird me out FEAR CHANGE).

Tanner “Bananner” Roark is the only one of the trio to have a full Spring Training and hooo doggies it is snackzzz as hell. He has faced 75 batters with 24 strikeouts, four walks, 13 hits, and just five runs. For those of you snacking along at home, that’s a beefy double bacon Whopper of a 32% strikeout rate paired with a lil chicken nugget 5% walk rate. As noted above, those numbers tend to carry over relatively well to the regular season. That, as we say in my Sonic Youth paramilitary group, is a Kool Thing.

So what is the point of this whole thing here? I dunno, man, I haven’t really done this in a while and I’m still getting used to working legit under this nom de plume. Basically, I guess what I’m saying is David Bell is right in that he shouldn’t really worry himself with Spring Training statistics. He is the manager and he has to make decisions and shit. But I’m a dumb nerd bloghole weirdo and I don’t have to make those decisions. I get to instead write Friday filler material that takes an hour to say “Tanner Roark might be good.”