One of the biggest topics of conversation during Spring Training is positional battles. Who’s going to get the start when the team breaks camp? Who’s going to be the last man in the rotation, or bullpen? How will the battle turn out?
Thankfully the Red Sox haven’t had a lot of these battles lately, because I’m not honestly sure how they work.
The closest thing the Red Sox have to a positional battle this Spring Training is the centerfielder. Will it be Bradley, Jr., or will Grady Sizemore somehow return to form and claim the spot.
My question is, how do you tell?
In this case, it might not be an actual competition. If Sizemore somehow plays well enough to earn the spot, the decision will probably be based on his assumed health as much as anything. Do you start him opening day and ride him until he falls apart? Or do you save him until you need him? Those are factors off the field of play.
But, what if it was an actual battle based on skill? Can you tell anything from who performs better in Spring Training? If Sizemore bats .300 and Bradley bats .275, does that tell us anything? Does it matter who the hits came off? Would we need to know more about who the hits come off?
Sizemore didn’t get any hits off a college kid. But, at least the college kid was probably trying. If Bradley gets a hit off Adam Wainwright, is that better? Or worse? Maybe Wainwright was just trying to establish his fastball that day. After all, he’s not worried about his spot in the rotation. So, maybe getting a hit off him is actually less impressive than getting a hit off a college kid who might actually try to mix in a curve.
So, how does a team decide who wins the spot?
Is it always just about stuff other than performance? Maybe it’s always based on service time? Or contract status? Is it just a gut feeling by the manager? Are true positional battles just creations of the media?
Wouldn’t be the first thing they’ve made up.