Does a bad spring spell doom for Angels pitchers?

Here are some numbers for you to consider without much context: 3.46, 4.71, 7.11, 8.25, 10.13

Those numbers, as some of you might've guessed, are the spring ERAs of the projected starting rotation for the Angels. With the exception of the first number, those ERAs are pretty ugly. Unfortunately, that one non-ugly ERA belongs to Joe Blanton, the least well-thought of member of the staff. Fortunately, these are still spring training numbers and spring training numbers don't matter…

…except for when they do matter and they might matter now. Maybe.

This is where confirmation bias comes into play. Going into the season, everyone feared that a sub-par rotation would be the Angels' undoing. So, when spring started and the Halo starters performed poorly, that was all the evidence needed to say, "see, I told you so!" Nevermind that the five pitchers in question had thrown between 8 and 21 innings, which is the epitome of small sample size. A few bad starts clearly means that Weaver's reduced velocity has crippled his career and that Tommy Hanson is forever ruined and that C.J. Wilson isn't going to pitch better because he got his elbow fixed and Jason Vargas is useless outside of Safeco. There are no mitigating circumstances. They stink. Let's start planning for 2014.

Now, I realize that is something of a strawman argument as I can't imagine any rational fan believes the Halos are in straights quite so dire as that, but you can see the slippery slope of logic that comes with reading too much into spring training performance.

To provide a little perspective, consider this second set of numbers: 1.69, 6.23, 7.27, 7.80, 9.00

Those are the spring ERAs of the projected Opening Day rotation of the Toronto Blue Jays. This is a rotation that is considered to be very good and more than talented enough to make the Jays a real World Series contender. More importantly this is a rotation that most people have a lot of faith in, which is probably why there is noticeably less hand-wringing over how they will perform once the real games start. In other words, it is the flip side of the aforementioned confirmation bias.

None of this is to say that the Angels, or the Blue Jays for that matter, shouldn't be worried. Rather, it is to suggest that maybe Halo fans shouldn't worry quite so much, at least not yet. As I alluded to earlier, there are mitigating circumstances to consider. For example, Jered Weaver hasn't been good, but he was also pitching with his annual bout of dead arm. He has since thrown a very strong intrasquad game, which doesn't get recorded in the official spring stats. And we all know spring is when guys mess around with developing new pitches or spend an entire start focusing on throwing a certain pitch far more often than they normally would. And then there are just guys who don't pitch well in spring ever. Like Jason Vargas who had an ERA over 12.00 last season and went on to have one of his best seasons.

If you want to be worried about the rotation, go right on ahead. There are plenty of reasons, but the least of those reasons should be how these guys have pitched during meaningless exhibition games.

Garrett Wilson

About Garrett Wilson

Garrett Wilson is the founder and Supreme Overlord of and editor at The Outside Corner. He's an Ivy League graduate, but not from one of the impressive ones. You shouldn't make him angry. You wouldn't like him when he is angry.