Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby isn’t remembered as having the cheeriest of personalities, but his Kierkegaardian demeanor has always channeled the wintertime ennui of the baseball fan. Hornsby’s most-repeated quote went, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
Spring won’t be officially sprung for a few more weeks, but in baseball, we get a jump start on it when teams head south in February to prepare for the approaching season. The time for staring has ended, Rogers. Baseball is back. Well, mostly.
Of course, this year, the game has arrived in the outposts of Florida and Arizona with a bit more baggage than usual. While each day seems to offer up a fresh log to throw on the fire engulfing the Houston Astros, teams are nonetheless getting ready to play actual games on the field. There is no telling when the baseball world will be ready to collectively move on from the scandals and disputes swirling around the majors. But games will be played. At least that much should give us solace.
The first “official” exhibition game is scheduled for Friday, when the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers square off at their shared facility in Surprise, Arizona. The stakes are nil, yet that first spring training game, between two teams in actual big league uniforms, will be a time to rejoice. That’s especially true this year, more than usual. If and when the game heals itself, as it has always done, that’s where it happens. On the field.
Eventually, we’ll be able to refocus on how teams are shaping up for the coming season. Which rookies look ready to hit the ground running? Who will win that third-base battle? Does that aging slugger having anything left? Does that lefty look fully recovered from his arm trouble? These are the type of questions that we prefer to dwell on, at least when those mortals who populate the game allow us to. Don’t we?
That’s where our focus is in the latest Stock Watch — on the field. We’ll be zeroing in on one key issue to watch for in each team’s training camp. The clubs are ordered by their current power rating, per my projection and tracking system. The rating simply represents the baseline forecasts for each team. Those forecasts are then run through a Monte Carlo-style simulator of the 2020 schedule 10,000 times to yield the win predictions for each team.