If there’s a good thing about getting smacked around in Spring Training, it’s that expectations are set at a healthy level for the game of baseball. The sport is a marathon and even the best seasons leave you tired, bored, frustrated, and angry at some point during the six month journey. There’s a certain beauty to experiencing those emotions in spring before things matter.
Remember when the A’s acquired Kendall Graveman in a trade where there were definitely no other players of note were involved? We were sad due to the player not of note departing, and a lot of loyal fans questioned their fanhood. And then Kendall Graveman went out and put up a spring performance for the record books, good enough to make you believe a team with this freaking roster could compete!
Then, probably due to nerves, Kendall Graveman got off to just a bit of a rocky start and the only thing sinking for the sinkerballer was his team. That’s fine! Rookies take a bit to acclimate and even the best organizations have down years, even those who didn’t just make a really bad trade. What just sucked so badly was that our expectations were so high. We thought boy, we really have something cause of this spring performance and the high of three straight playoff berths. Then we crashed back to reality.
All that’s to say that while spring is rarely predictive, it can be helpful for expectations. So at least as of now we are reminded that the season might be a long slog of three inning starts in four hour losses.
How have the A’s done in recent springs?
The A’s in Spring
|Year||Spring Result||Season result|
|Year||Spring Result||Season result|
You can make out some sort of pattern from the past five years, but don’t get too excited. Spring outcomes are often hilarious. The terrible Rays won Spring Training in 2014, the Ben Zobrist A’s won in 2015, and the Los Angeles Angels of Albert Pujols won in 2016. Spring record doesn’t indicate regular season success.
The pitching staff
Things get a little more worrisome when you look through a magnifying glass. There’s no question the A’s rotation is the team’s biggest question mark this year. Other parts of the roster will struggle, but the starters are an area where the ceiling is maybe league average. A miracle playoff run hinges on a miracle rotation. The downside of the rotation is...my god. Like three months of whatever version of Chris Smith the A’s can find.
It’s easy to look at the A’s spring struggles and think of course the rotation is struggling, just look at it. It’s probably a bad sign not only that the A’s Opening Day starter isn’t making it out of the second inning, but that he, nor most anyone else is getting swings and misses at a high clip.
Yet let’s remember an all time great Oakland Athletic, Rich Hill. In 2016 Rich Hill walked 15 dudes in 12 spring innings! It was hilarious and just hard to watch and then it worked out great when he went out and spun that curveball over and over on his way to being one of the better starters in baseball during the regular season. Maybe the A’s staff is terrible, maybe it will be terrible into the regular season or maybe there are just 10 smart dudes doing their best Rich Hill impression.
The team’s pitching so far is certainly not a good sign, but it’s nothing definitive. Things can switch the moment the games start to matter.
Let’s remember some Spring Training performances
-Kendall Graveman had an ERA of .36 in 2015
-The A’s as a whole had the second best offense in spring 2015 only to send Billy Butler to the plate 600 times during the regular season.
-Sam Fuld hit infinity times as many dingers during spring than the regular season of 2016 (1 vs. 0)
Baseball season is too long and too frustrating to worry when the games really don’t matter. There’s no way of telling if the results from these games or from individual performers mean anything. Don’t overthink it, remember whatever correlation there is is limited, and enjoy the runway to the regular season. Spring training is for sneakily watching baseball at your desk at work, trying to figure out who the hell is number 74, mid afternoon beer, and hope. Leave the worrying to the regular season.