Collette Calls: One Last Look Back at Spring Training

Collette Calls: One Last Look Back at Spring Training

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

Just over one year to the day, I wrote this same piece recapping some data points from the 2021 spring training stats. In that article, we got a final reminder that:

  • Josh Bell was hitting the ball rather hard, on his way to a rebound season at the plate and last season with Bell posting the second-highest wRC+ of his career at the plate.
  • Bobby Dalbec was struggling in the spring to make contact, which carried on throughout the early part of the season until he began to turn things around midseason.
  • Tim Anderson was making more contact during spring training. His seasonal rate was right in line with what he had done the previous two seasons, which was a contributing factor in him hitting over .300 for a third consecutive season. 
  • Seattle was active on the basepaths with 42 steal attempts. That effort led all teams in spring training, but that did not translate to the regular season as the Mariners finished 18th in steals last year with 88 attempts in the regular season.
  • Sandy Alcantara dominated in camp with a 1.33 ERA while striking out a third of the hitters he faced, teasing what would be a resurgent season for him after the abbreviated 2020 season.
  • Logan Webb was ready to roar as he struck out 44% of the hitters he faced in camp with his retooled approach to pitching, precluding his breakout 2021 season.

Though camps have wrapped up in Arizona and Florida and the regular season

Just over one year to the day, I wrote this same piece recapping some data points from the 2021 spring training stats. In that article, we got a final reminder that:

  • Josh Bell was hitting the ball rather hard, on his way to a rebound season at the plate and last season with Bell posting the second-highest wRC+ of his career at the plate.
  • Bobby Dalbec was struggling in the spring to make contact, which carried on throughout the early part of the season until he began to turn things around midseason.
  • Tim Anderson was making more contact during spring training. His seasonal rate was right in line with what he had done the previous two seasons, which was a contributing factor in him hitting over .300 for a third consecutive season. 
  • Seattle was active on the basepaths with 42 steal attempts. That effort led all teams in spring training, but that did not translate to the regular season as the Mariners finished 18th in steals last year with 88 attempts in the regular season.
  • Sandy Alcantara dominated in camp with a 1.33 ERA while striking out a third of the hitters he faced, teasing what would be a resurgent season for him after the abbreviated 2020 season.
  • Logan Webb was ready to roar as he struck out 44% of the hitters he faced in camp with his retooled approach to pitching, precluding his breakout 2021 season.

Though camps have wrapped up in Arizona and Florida and the regular season is underway, I wanted to see if there were some statistical observations that one could make that could clue us in to what to expect now that games count.

Steals

I have had a theme this winter of Speedworld where steals will become as precious as water in Waterworld. The Kansas City Royals led all clubs in 2021 with 157 attempted steals while the Arizona Diamondbacks brought up the rear of the train with 59 attempts all season. This spring, some teams that are normally go-go-go on the bases were rather stationary while some normally patient teams followed what Seattle did last spring. The table below shows the final 2021 order of teams by stolen base attempts and that team's ranking in that same category this spring:

Team

2021 Attempts

ST Rank

KCR

157

9th

SDP

149

14th

MIA

135

22nd

TEX

135

12th

TBR

130

23rd

CLE

126

13th

CHC

123

1st

DET

113

19th

STL

111

29th

OAK

108

11th

LAA

105

2nd

MIL

103

4th

TOR

101

7th

COL

99

15th

PHI

96

27th

PIT

90

8th

SEA

88

10th

WSN

82

28th

LAD

82

30th

NYY

81

6th

SFG

80

3rd

NYM

80

26th

ATL

78

20th

CHW

77

17th

BAL

77

25th

HOU

69

21st

MIN

69

24th

BOS

61

16th

CIN

60

5th

ARI

59

18th

San Francisco was 21st in attempts in the 2021 regular season but was the most active team in steals this spring. Cincinnati was the second-worst team in 2021 by stolen base attempts and was fifth-best in spring training at the time of this writing. Miami and Tampa Bay, both of which finished in the top six overall in 2021, were 22nd and 23rd in stolen base attempts as each team misses the likes of Starling Marte and Kevin Kiermaier in camp. St Louis, the 11th best team in 2021 by attempts, was 29th this spring, "bested" only by the Dodgers.

This could all be noise as teams may have been trying to prevent injuries in camp, but it was encouraging to see Cincy being aggressive with steals if you invested in the likes of Jake Fraley and potentially discouraging if you were hoping for another level coming from Tommy Edman, Tyler O'Neill, Harrison Bader, or even a repeat season of double-digit steals from Paul Goldschmidt as rookie manager Oliver Marmol is either playing coy with us, or lacks the desire to run as much as his predecessor did.

Are We In For More Offense?

The table below compares numbers from the 2021 and 2022 spring training seasons. 2021 spring training was not influenced in any way by rule changes to the way pitchers handled baseballs and we were still dealing with uncertainty as to which baseballs were being produced and sent to parks. This season, we have more conformity in both arenas, so it will be interesting to see what spring trends carry over into the regular season:

SEASON

AB/HR

AVG

K%

BB%

R/G

2021 Spring Training

27.7

.250

24.8%

9.9%

4.7

2022 Spring Training

24.6

.259

23.9%

8.7%

5.2

There is not any one reason for the difference in the numbers, rather a confluence of contributing factors. Players had 72 hours to get to their respective camps and schedules were accelerated while tee times on local golf courses were reduced. There is (allegedly) a more consistent baseball in play and we have seen umpires checking pitchers' hands as they leave the field rather than just the belt and glove. The latter is happening because late-season spin rates showed the pitchers around the league had clearly figured out a way around the existing checks. The weather this spring has not been any different than springs past and it is unlikely humidors are being used in spring camps, so we can eliminate that factor in the offense. 

We have seen in recent seasons that it does not take long for us to see what type of season it will be for power. When I wrote that article early last season, the league was on a projected pace of 6200 homers yet finished with 5944 last season. I have not been able to locate the annual spring training data for anything but the past two seasons, but here is how that HR/Contact (HR/(AB-K) table looks with the two most recent spring training seasons added to it:

Season

HR/Contact

2006

3.97%

2007

3.66%

2008

3.64%

2009

3.81%

2010

3.52%

2011

3.47%

2012

3.83%

2013

3.60%

2014

3.27%

2015

3.83%

2016

4.43%

2017

4.87%

2018

4.50%

2019

5.47%

2020

5.30%

2021

4.96%

2021 ST

5.03%

2022 ST

4.77%

Just once in the past 10 seasons has the Grapefruit and Cactus League HR/Contact exceeded what was done during the regular season. This spring has seen a dip in the HR/Contact to a rate we haven't seen in the past three seasons. 

We saw more offense this spring, but it did not come from homers. This trend bears watching the first 7-10 games of the season so we can see what type of season we will have with homers in 2022. 

Pitching

The collective ERA of the 30 teams this spring was 4.95 heading into the final day of camp, up from the 4.68 ERA from 2021 spring training and the 4.58 ERA from the 2020 spring training. Strikeout rates were down, walks were up and the camp-wide batting average was up nine points year over year. Maybe everyone paying up for starting pitching this draft season was onto something if the league is going to return to more scoring even with fewer homers.

Individual Standouts

Here are some interesting names that had notable numbers this spring:

  • Greg Allen: .294/.538/.765 with four steals. He hurt his hamstring near the end of camp and begins the season on the IL, but he did look excellent before going down. 
  • Jake Fraley: .296/.412/.407 with four steals. 
  • Andres Gimenez: .360/.500/.600 with four steals as he locked down an everyday job at shortstop.
  • Tyler Wade: .387/.472/.452 with four steals. Joe Maddon will let Wade run and he has the speed to produce an empty 20-plus steals season.
  • Kyle Higashioka: .423/.464/1.231 with seven homers in 26 at-bats. He may not hit seven homers in his next 260 at-bats, but that was fun.
  • Diego Castillo: .371/.395/.886 with six homers in 35 at-bats. Pittsburgh is an open audition and Castillo played his way onto the Opening Day roster.
  • Steven Kwan: .469/.500/.531 - zero strikeouts in 32 at-bats.
  • Bradley Zimmer: .156/.229/.219 with one walk and 16 strikeouts in 32 at-bats. He is running out of time. 
  • Nick Pivetta: 22 strikeouts in 15.2 innings, but also five homers and six walks. That is Pivetta in a nutshell.
  • Tarik Skubal: 21 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. I'm ready to be hurt again.
  • Aaron Nola: 20 strikeouts in 14.1 innings along with five homers. Some things never change.
  • Nick Martinez: .178 AVG against with 14 strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings.
  • Ryan Yarbrough: .189 AVG against with nine strikeouts in 11.1 innings and new velocity too.

Finally, we've made it. Opening weekend is here. Enjoy it. Try not to overreact to what you see happen and avoid making roster moves you will quickly regret the following week. 

Want to Read More?
Subscribe to RotoWire to see the full article.

We reserve some of our best content for our paid subscribers. Plus, if you choose to subscribe you can discuss this article with the author and the rest of the RotoWire community.

Get Instant Access To This Article Get Access To This Article
RotoWire Community
Join Our Subscriber-Only MLB Chat
Chat with our writers and other RotoWire MLB fans for all the pre-game info and in-game banter.
Join The Discussion
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls.
Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0
Rookie Pitcher Tiers 1.0
Todd's Takes: Putting a Bow on the Moves
Todd's Takes: Putting a Bow on the Moves
Collette Calls: 2023 NL East Bold Predictions
Collette Calls: 2023 NL East Bold Predictions
Boston Red Sox Odds To Win The American League In 2023
Boston Red Sox Odds To Win The American League In 2023