The 2016 St. Louis Cardinals are off to a rough start, during which the offense scored just seven runs in 29 innings over three games and struck out a collective 37 times while being swept three straight in Pittsburgh.
One of the narratives emerging – as fans struggle for something or someone to blame – is criticism that the team’s spring training was too soft, not adequately preparing the hitters for the regular season.
Wondering how I might try to assess that, I came up with a very simple measurement. I looked at how many spring training game at-bats core members of the Cardinals received in 2016 compared to 2015.
While game at-bats are not a perfect measure, they do have a direct correlation to playing time received and the full-speed repetitions represent a key part of regular season preparation.
Of the six key returning Cardinals players I measured, only one, Matt Adams, had more at-bats in 2015 than he received this spring – and in his case, the difference was just three.
Even though it is not quite apples and apples, I then included two who were not with the team a year ago, Brandon Moss and Jedd Gyorko. The former had one more Cardinals at-bat this spring than with his former team last year and the latter had five fewer.
From this quick look, I am struggling to rationalize how a perceived cut in spring workload could be a viable explanation for the poor start by the offense.
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