The Stats of Spring

Seated quite comfortably on a bar stool at my favorite watering hole, I looked up at the television, and the vision was unmistakable. The green infield grass and the diamond it outlined – baseball is back and it felt like normalcy had finally returned to my life after slagging through the insufferable images of the sport where they kick things and constantly feign injury.

Yes indeed, Spring Training – everyone starts with the same number of wins and hope trumps reality. Optimism not only surrounds real-life clubs, but it also permeates us fantasy folk — and it’s almost a little impossible to try and eschew Spring results as we all look for information on who is going to help us claim our bragging rights in our respective leagues. Velocity, best shapers, worst shapers, all of this noise that we know probably doesn’t matter seeps into our consciousness despite efforts to the contrary.

Looking back at 2011, I can’t help but think I should have seen the writing on the wall. In the Spring, Mike Morse hit nine home runs and slugged .818. Asdrubal Cabrera hit .364/.400/.636. Alex Gordon hit .343/.459/.729 with six home runs and 23 RBI in just 70 at-bats. Ryan Roberts hit .509/.603/.660! On the flipside, Adam Dunn hit .224/.333/.448 with three home runs and 27 strikeouts over 67 at-bats. I should have seen it coming!

And yet, we all know that if we look at the landscape of Spring stats objectively, they’re hardly useful to those of us in fantasy baseball. For instance, Jake Fox led all batters in home runs with 10. He slugged almost .800 in 74 at-bats. Kila Ka’aihue did his usual Spring thing and tore the cover off the ball, posting a .397/.462/.845 line with seven home runs and 20 RBI in 58 at-bats.

Jeremy Reed, who owns a .361 career Spring batting average in 319 at-bats, added to his legend with a .400/.410/.533 line over 75 at-bats. Erick Almonte hit .416 with three home runs and six doubles. Chone Figgins hit .373, stole five bags and even swatted a home run! Raise your hand if you targeted Jeremy Reed in your draft.

Jose Bautista hit fewer home runs than Travis Buck. Alcides Escobar hit as many home runs as Matt Kemp. Luis Valbuena hit as many home runs as Troy Tulowitzki.

Jhonny Peralta hit .197/.232/.273 with no home runs over 66 at-bats. Robinson Cano hit .236/.276/.382 and generally looked lost.

On the pitching side, nobody was surprised when Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander made mincemeat out of Spring Training would-be hitters to the tune of four earned runs over 50 combined innings pitched.

And yet, Matt Garza gave up 25 earned runs over 21.2 IP. Yes, that’s an ERA over 10.

Cole Hamels had a 6.67 Spring ERA and tied for second in home runs allowed. Madison Bumgarner had a 5.93 ERA, Josh Beckett a 5.33 ERA, Ricky Romero a 7.91 ERA.

And then there’s Kyle McClellan who had a 0.78 ERA over five games started.

I recall what Randy Johnson once said after getting lit up in a Spring game — something to the effect of “minor league kids know how to hit a fastball, and right now, all I’m doing is trying to throw it over the plate.”

You’re going to read about pitchers struggling with control or reduced velocity. You’re going to hear about home runs of mythical proportions and hitters who generate a “special sound” off the bat and all that crap. But do whatever you can to simply enjoy that Spring Training is here and ignore the fog of the results.

The stats that count are coming soon enough.

Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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FWIW the only spring stats I care about are SLG % and K/BB. The only players I watch are those competing for a starting spot.