Spring Update from Peoria

With the regular season less than two weeks away, it’s worth looking at a few available statistics from Spring Training with the fastest stabilization rates: walks and strikeouts.* Here’s a list of the Mariners likely to get the most playing time in 2013, with each player’s 2012 spring, 2012 regular season, and 2013 spring stats:

Spring Training BB-K Chart - 2013

Despite the fast stabilization rates on walk and strikeout rates, we’re still only talking about 40-50 plate appearances for most of these players. That said, it’s definitely not a bad thing to see guys like Kyle Seager, Franklin Gutierrez and Eric Thames with higher walk rates than in the past. I’m not willing to argue definitively that Seager’s walk rate has improved based on 53 plate appearances, but I’m comfortable saying his walk-skills have not regressed, and have perhaps improved. That’s about the best you can get out of spring training batting stats, but that’s still good news.

Quick bat, quick bat, quick bat…

On the flip side, Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak haven’t shown any improvement in their plate discipline numbers this spring. Again the sample sizes are too small to say definitively that they’ve gotten worse, but jeez, Smoak’s numbers look pathetic this year compared to what he did last March. Maybe he’s continuing to work on that swing, and he’s been instructed to swing a lot. I have no idea, but I hope that’s true. Of course, it could just be a randomness. Let’s hope so, because otherwise it’s going to be another yucky year for our first baseman. The M’s need both these guys to have good seasons if they want to sneak into a wildcard slot. This does not seem like a good start.

I’ll conclude with some significantly good news. No more of this wishy-washy, small-sample size bullshit. I wrote a few weeks ago about Felix Hernandez’s first spring start, and how his velocity looked right about where it should have been. Well, here’s a comparison between his two spring starts in 2012 and his three spring starts so far in 2013:


2012 Freq.

2013 Freq.

2012 Vel.

2013 Vel.

Fourseam (FA)





Sinker (SI)





Cutter (FC)





Slider (SL)





Curveball (CU)





Changeup (CH)





Felix’s velocity is humming early this season! His two fastballs are up more than a full mile per hour, and with such low variation in pitch velocity, I can say beyond all reasonable doubt that he is throwing harder this spring than the last. So long as the King is not overexerting himself, this bodes well for the M’s in 2013.

It’s interesting that he hasn’t thrown a cutter yet this spring, but he still may. In his first start, we saw Felix throw changeups a majority of the time, so it’s possible he just likes working on a few things at once. Or maybe he’ll just stop throwing whatever PitchFX thinks was a cutter. Regardless, it’s good to see our long-term ace throwing the ball hard.

*If I could find swing rates, I would use those, but no dice.

  • http://twitter.com/MGVernon M G Vernon

    I get it’s just spring training but given Smoak’s 1.230 OPS so far and the past September production he had and I’m personally quite happy with what he’s accomplishing despite changes in walks and strike outs. I think he’s figured it out and we are finally going to see the Lee trade pay off big time.

    • Matthias_Kullowatz

      That’s a good point, and it’s worth mentioning that Spring Training slugging percentages do show some significant–though not terribly strong–correlation to regular season slugging. A lot of that slugging is driven by a .408 average, which in turn is lifted by a .485 BABIP.

      I’m not actively trying to ignore his 4 homeruns and .388 ISO power, but I’m not just not as ready to put faith into them yet. If he has traded some strikeouts for power, then that could definitely be a good thing. We’ll just have to wait and see.