I wrote up a piece about position battles on FanGraphs – specifically that there’s almost no such thing as a position battle. The thing is, by the time a player gets to the point where he is considered for a starting role on a team, he’s been up through the minor leagues, where has accrued hundreds of plate appearances worth of data. He’s played in front of coaches that have formed opinions, and scouts have seen him do his thing. All of those opinions and plate appearances should be on the big side of the ledger – and the 50 or so plate appearances, and three weeks’ worth of work in spring training should be on the small side of the ledger. Makes sense right? Why take a player that is mediocre but has had two great weeks over a player that has been better over his career?
There are, of course some mitigating circumstances. A new player from another organization, or a player new to a position. But I think that there are fewer real position battles than are reported in the media. And even the ‘real’ ones are heavily weighted in one direction before spring training begins.