Gavin Floyd has had a great spring. In 21+ innings, he's posted a spectacular 2.08 ERA while allowing only 24 baserunners and striking out 15. Reports are that his curve ball is working great and his fast ball is improving.
But, does this have anything to do with what he'll do on the field in the regular season? As the Good Phight's phatj pointed out a couple of weeks ago, Floyd's performance so far in the minors and majors has not been very encouraging, especially for a first-rounder. Does this spring change that analysis?
No . . . except maybe it does.
Any intelligent baseball analyst will say that spring training stats mean nothing. The sample size is incredibly small, the usage patterns are always bizarre, and the opposing talent can range from last year's MVP to the other team's favorite country western singer. Spring training is best used to get players in baseball shape and up to baseball speed and to make sure they are healthy. Deciding position battles or roster spots based on spring training stats rarely pays off.
But, every now and then, spring training can mean something more. And this is particularly so when a player is at the point that the team needs to determine if he has taken the next step in his development path. Maybe this is what we are seeing with Gavin Floyd this year.
The Phillies have two great examples of this development leap in their recent history. In 2002, Vicente Padilla came into spring training as an oft-injured reliever the Phils were keeping around probably more because he was the product of the Curt Schilling trade than anything else. However, that spring, his electric stuff emerged. He pitched 13 innings to the tune of a 2.77 ERA. He struck out 10 and only allowed 12 base runners.
The Phils rewarded Padilla's spring with a spot in the rotation, and they were in turn rewarded with the best year of Padilla's career. He pitched over 200 innings and had a 3.28 ERA (116 ERA+). Promoting him to the rotation based on his spring training performance paid off very nicely.
In 2004, Ryan Madson came to Clearwater without much shot at a roster spot. He had been a starter in his minor league career, and the Phils had their starting five lined up already (Milton, Millwood, Myers, Wolf, Padilla). Madson was slated to go back to Reading when the spring ended. However, he had a decent spring (although not great), throwing 14+ innings with a 4.30 ERA.
The Phils were impressed by his performance, and brought him north on the team roster instead of sending him to AAA to wait for a rotation opening. Madson excelled in the bullpen that year, leading the team in ERA at 2.34 in 77 innings.
Gavin Floyd could be following in Padilla and Madson's footsteps this year. His past performance gave every indication that he'd be sent to AAA this April, but maybe this spring is showing, like Padilla's in 2002 and Madson's in 2004, that he's taken the next step in his development and is ready to help the big league club.
We know it's far from a guarantee because spring stats mean nothing . . . unless maybe this is one of those cases when they do.