Why You Need to Ignore Early Spring Training Results

Spring Training is an exciting time for everyone in baseball. The players, the coaching staffs, the front offices, the scouts, and of course, the fans.

With all that excitement comes expectations based on a small sample size of statistics early in camp. Please ignore the stats right now. Later in camp, you will get to see pitchers throwing their regular arsenal and hitters facing pitchers throwing full speed and with intent.

Right now that is not the case. Most pitchers are still working on individuals pitches and command and hitters are just starting to get their timing down. Most starters have had 2 appearances and have not thrown 100 pitches total in a game situation.

Here is a perfect example of what I am talking about

One of the most interesting things that a scout and knowledgeable fans do at games is chart pitches. This week I sat with some old friends at Padres/Mariners complex in Peoria and charted pitches.

One pitcher that I was particularly intrigued by what I charted was Bryan Mitchell of the San Diego Padres. Mitchell is a guy that relies on 3 different fastballs for more than 75% of his pitches. A 4 seamer, a sinker, and an improving cutter. 

In his last outing in spring training, his 4 seam fastball ranged from 95-98, his sinker from 94-96, and his cutter from 91-93. That is right in line with his numbers from his last 4 starts of the regular season in 2018.

So what was so intriguing about Mitchell’s last outing?

Here is a recap of each his outing by inning.

4th inning
5 FB – 2 four seam FB, 2 sinkers, 1 cutter6 Offspeed – 4 curveballs, 2 changeups

5th inning
13 FB – 4 four seam FB, 6 sinkers, 3 cutters14 – Offspeed – 9 curveballs, 6 changeups
Both hits, HR and Single, on hanging curveballs

6th inning
7 FB – 3 four seam, 2 sinkers, 2 cutters7 Offspeed – 4 curveballs, 3 changeups

Mitchell was taken out of the game at 52 pitches. He had been scheduled to go 50. He had given up 2 runs to that point and left 2 men on base. 

Game Totals
25 FB – 9 four seam FB, 10 sinkers, 6 cutters27 Offspeed – 17 curveballs and 10 changeups

Last season just over 75% of Mitchell’s pitches were fastballs
52.6% 4 seam FB, 6.3% sinkers, 16.3% cutters. Only 24.3% were off-speed pitches. 18.1% curveballs and 6.2% changeups.

In spring training so far he has thrown over 50% off-speed pitches. That is intriguing to me and it’s exactly why fans should ignore a pitcher’s results early in spring training. You never know what they are working on.

What we find out by charting pitches is what exactly they are working on

Mitchell is being asked to work on his curveball. He threw the curve in 17 of 52 pitches. 33% of the time. Nearly double the rate in the 2018 regular season.

His results have been less than stellar in spring training so far, but the Padres have instructed him to throw his least effective pitch the most often of any of his pitches. 

So when you are watching the games in spring training, especially these early games, pay closer attention to the velocity of pitches and what kind of pitches are being thrown than what the results are.

That is my take. What do you think?


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