The Recent History of Dodgers Spring Pitching

Today I learned that when you search creative commons for "Monasterios", you get pictures of monasteries. (via)

When you search Creative Commons for “Monasterios”, this is the only picture that isn’t of a monastery. Also, it’s good to see that he’s pitching again. (via)

Putting together the spring training batting statistics run-down was fun, so I’ve prepared a companion post for pitching statistics. The goal of the batting history post was to illustrate that you shouldn’t trust spring statistics, but that point was already made pretty clear. At this point, it’s more interesting to take a look back and remember the fun story-lines of previous springs and the consequences of any roster decisions that were based on them. The leaderboards below are sorted by spring ERA, using a minimum of 10 innings pitched.

2013

Spring Training Regular Season
IP ERA K/9 BB/9 IP ERA K/9 BB/9
Kevin Gregg 11.0 0.82 4.09 0.00 62.0 3.48 8.13 4.65
Paco Rodriguez 11.2 3.09 10.03 2.31 54.1 2.32 10.44 3.15
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27.2 3.29 8.89 2.63 192.0 3.00 7.22 2.30

Last season, the leader in spring training ERA didn’t even make the Dodgers’ roster. Kevin Gregg only allowed one run in March, but he didn’t miss very many bats. After the Dodgers released him, he spent the season in Chicago picking up saves while being mediocre. The Dodgers let Gregg go because the man behind him, Paco Rodriguez, was so impressive. The selection of Rodriguez over Gregg was a bit surprising, as Paco had options, but it was the correct choice to make. Rodriguez had a great regular season, even if you count the way it ended. Hyun-Jin Ryu did fairly well for himself during spring training, despite the initial complaints about his fitness. He couldn’t maintain the strikeout rate he showed against lesser competition, but he lowered his walk rate and ERA during the regular season.

It’s worth noting that both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke had poor spring showings last year, at least by ERA. Kershaw’s ERA was 4.18, though his peripherals were similar to his regular season levels. After being sidelined for most of the spring with elbow problems, Greinke posted a 5.54 ERA in 13 innings. Both pitchers went on to have excellent regular seasons. That’s a bit comforting after Kershaw’s start yesterday.

2012

Spring Training Regular Season
IP ERA K/9 BB/9 IP ERA K/9 BB/9
 Clayton Kershaw 22.0 2.45 6.54 3.27 227.2 2.53 9.05 2.49
 Aaron Harang 24.0 2.63 5.25 1.88 179.2 3.61 6.56 4.26
 Chris Capuano 19.2 2.75 10.07 2.29 198.1 4.26 6.90 2.04

Unlike last year, Kershaw had a great spring in 2012, though it came without his normal strikeout numbers. Behind him were both of Ned Colletti’s new toys, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. While both pitchers were decent in 2012, they didn’t live up to their spring training numbers. Harang’s walk rate more than doubled, and Capuano’s strikeout rate fell dramatically.

2011

Spring Training Regular Season
IP ERA K/9 BB/9 IP ERA K/9 BB/9
Mike MacDougal 10.0 0.00 4.50 6.30 57.0 2.05 6.47 4.58
Rubby De La Rosa 19.2 2.29 7.32 1.37 60.2 3.71 8.90 4.60
Clayton Kershaw 25.1 2.49 7.11 2.13 233.1 2.28 9.57 2.08

I don’t think anything could make the point of “don’t trust spring statistics” better than Mike MacDougal with a 0.00 ERA and a K/BB ratio below 1. The Dodgers kept him after spring training, and he was actually pretty good by run prevention during the regular season. However, ERA for relievers is notoriously unreliable and his regular season FIP was nearly 4. Rubby De La Rosa had an exciting run during spring training. He couldn’t maintain his spring walk rate, but he was still fun to watch before he was sidelined with Tommy John surgery. Kershaw was third in ERA during spring training, and we know how his 2011 season turned out.

2010

Spring Training Regular Season
IP ERA K/9 BB/9 IP ERA K/9 BB/9
Ramon Ortiz 18.2 0.96 10.61 1.93 30.0 6.30 6.30 4.80
Carlos Monasterios 16.0 1.69 5.63 3.94 88.1 4.38 5.30 2.95
Hiroki Kuroda 18.1 1.96 6.87 2.46 196.1 3.39 7.29 2.20

Ramon Ortiz was at the top of the 2010 spring ERA leaderboard. His regular season ERA was 6.5 times higher than it was during spring training. After Ortiz was the rule 5 draft pick Carlos Monasterios. Monasterios pitched his way onto the roster during spring training, but was mediocre during the regular season, costing the team nearly a full win. In his second-to-last season with the Dodgers, Hiroki Kuroda had a decent spring followed by a very standard Hiroki Kuroda season.

2009

Spring Training Regular Season
IP ERA K/9 BB/9 IP ERA K/9 BB/9
Josh Lindblom 13.0 1.38 6.92 2.08 - - - -
Hiroki Kuroda 20.2 2.61 6.53 1.74 117.1 3.76 6.67 1.84
Guillermo Mota 12.0 3.75 12.00 3.75 65.1 3.44 5.37 3.31

The top of the 2009 list is pretty fun, too. Before this impressive spring campaign, Josh Lindblom had only pitched 5 innings in AA. The front office kept him in AA to start the 2009 season, which was the right choice. Kuroda had another good spring in 2009, though he missed a couple of months in the beginning of the season due to a strained oblique. Guillermo Mota made a surprise appearance at the end of the list, though his 3.75 ERA was actually higher than what he managed during the regular season. It’s hard to say his inclusion on the roster was based on his spring ERA, and he was merely a replacement-level pitcher that season.

While there weren’t any Juan Castro equivalents on these lists, there were still some surprise spring standouts during the recent past. Since Dodgers pitchers as a whole will be throwing fewer innings during spring this season, it’s even more likely that a surprising name will be on top of the 2014 leaderboard.

The Recent History of Dodgers Spring Hitting

"Yeah, well I had the Dodgers' second-best Spring Training OPS in 2010" (via)

Really, I had to use this picture. (via)

With spring training games fast approaching, we’ll undoubtedly start seeing some interesting stat lines among the Dodgers’ hitters. While everybody remembers Yasiel Puig‘s amazing spring training performance from last season, who else has stuck out in the last few years? The following leaderboards are the top three spring training OPSs among Dodger position players with at least 30 plate appearances. I’ve also included each player’s major league batting line, so we can see how their spring training lines compared to their regular season performance.

2013

Spring training Regular season
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Yasiel Puig 58 .517 .500 .828 432 .319 .391 .534
Brian Barden 32 .517 .576 .621 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Andre Ethier 60 .302 .387 .585 553 .272 .360 .423

Everybody remembers Puig’s amazing spring training performance last year. Nobody remembers that Brian Barden nearly matched it. After that spring performance, Barden hit .277/.350/.381 in Albuquerque, which isn’t great after adjusting for the inflated run environment there. Ethier had the third-highest OPS, which isn’t too surprising.

2012

Spring training Regular season
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Andre Ethier 55 .385 .431 .846 618 .284 .351 .460
Juan Rivera 65 .349 .382 .619 339 .244 .286 .375
Dee Gordon 73 .379 .446 .485 330 .228 .280 .281

Ethier makes another appearance, this time at the top of a list. He had a decent regular season, but he wasn’t able to match the power that he displayed during spring training. The names after Ethier combined for -2.3 WAR during the regular season. Juan Rivera was the typical terrible veteran and Dee Gordon had a complete disaster of a season which derailed his career.

2011

Spring training Regular season
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Jerry Sands 37 .313 .405 .594 227 .253 .338 .389
Juan Castro 36 .375 .444 .531  15 .286 .333 .286
Trent Oeltjen 31 .357 .419 .536  91 .197 .322 .324

This list is an indicator of how depressing the 2011 season was more than anything else. The top three spring training OPSs barely made an impact at the major league level during the regular season. Juan Castro retired after the Dodgers DFAd him, and this was the last time Trent Oeltjen saw major league playing time. Jerry Sands didn’t live up to his promise during the 2011 season. He hasn’t managed to much since he was traded to Boston in 2012.

The list continues to be both funny and sad below the third spot. Matt Kemp was fourth, but Hector Gimenez and Aaron Miles were right behind him.

2010

Spring training Regular season
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Blake DeWitt 74 .349 .461 .556 496 .261 .336 .373
Jamey Carroll 38 .382 .436 .471 414 .291 .379 .339
Andre Ethier 69 .292 .329 .569 585 .292 .364 .493

Blake Dewitt’s spring training line brought us hope that he was going to finally live up to the potential that he displayed as a prospect. However, his batting line during the regular season was below league average, and he was traded to the Cubs for Ted Lilly during the regular season. Jamey Carroll  was able to maintain an above-average hitting line during the regular season, though without the power he displayed during the spring. In third, Ethier shows up on yet another list. 2010 was one of Ethier’s best hitting seasons, so no surprise there.

2009

Spring training Regular season
PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Manny Ramirez 35 .458 .639 .625 431 .290 .418 .531
Russell Martin 47 .326 .383 .698 588 .250 .352 .329
Juan Castro 62 .383 .397 .617 121 .277 .311 .339

Remember how fun Manny Ramirez was? And look at that OBP from spring training. That hitting line was especially nice because it came almost immediately after the difficult process of re-signing him. Despite being suspended for nearly 1/3 of the 2009 season, Manny still managed to add significant value to the Dodgers’ offense. Russell Martin had great power during spring training, but he wasn’t able to carry it through to the regular season, which was the worst offensive season of his career. In third is Juan Castro. Again.

Really, it should be obvious. Hitters are going to have highly variable statistics in spring training’s tiny samples. While there are plenty of hitters who had great seasons on these lists, they’re matched by plenty who were awful. If Chone Figgins hits .450/.550/.600 during spring training, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dodgers should put him on the roster over Justin Turner.

If anything, this post doubled as a fun reminder of the team’s past and helps us to look forward to the start of the games this week.