The Baltimore Orioles will begin spring training games at the end of next month. Yeah, I just wrote that! But as we start looking to Grapefruit League play, how important are wins and losses once games start? Is there or should there be more of an emphasis on that?
It’s tough to say. First off, keep in mind that wins and losses are tough to gauge in road games in spring. Most teams only bring a handful of regular players on their travel rosters, and the lineups are thus not really what one would expect to see in a regular season game. And even in the home games, sometimes we see lineup changes and tinkerings here and there.
So any discussion about wins and losses in spring should be prefaced with that. If a guy who’s basically earmarked for triple-A makes two errors and strikes out three times in a spring game, that will probably have no bearing on how the team will finish the regular season.
However I do think that perhaps there could be more of an urgency this year. With Wieters presumably gone and Castillo behind the dish, these spring games are going to be key in building rapport with the pitching staff. Does that mean that winning games is a must? Not necessarily per se. However it helps.
Make no mistake about the fact that similar to what I said above about the guy earmarked for triple-A, if the starters come out of a game in which they have the lead and the reserves blow it, that’s meaningless. At the beginning of camp the starters will get two or three at-bats in games, and then turn things over to some of the minor leaguers. Furhermore, the pitchers’ appearances are all going to be choreographed.
That’s how spring games work – they’re almost planned out! Starters are earmarked to only pitch two innings in their first outing, maybe three in their second, and so forth. And the same with the position players; after two or three at-bats, they’re rotated out of the lineup.
My point is that it’s tough to judge by wins and losses in spring. First off the games don’t count, so it’s pointless. But when you go into a game knowing that your time is limited and in essence you know how long you’re going to be playing, it’s also tough to judge. Wins and losses are important, even in spring. Especially with a new starting catcher. But how the spring develops in terms of quality at-bats and outings is more important.