We all know by now that stats in spring training are a poor indicator of what the future season might hold. I used to spend some amount of time analyzing who a given batter may have faced in the spring in attempt to separate the at-bats against true major league competition from that of the minor league guys filling in the late innings. Even that method was hardly foolproof as you were never sure when/if a pitcher or hitter was ‘working on something’ and hence not playing in the same manner as he would in a game that matters.
In the past, we saw Zack Greinke have a horrible statistical spring and go on to win the Cy Young. Angel Berroa was a notorious killer in the spring before notoriously hideous regular seasons. It is all very simple, frankly: a guy with his roster spot secure is probably not going to lay out for a line drive down the line the second week in March and a pitcher who just has his slider working and nothing else is still going to throw fastballs and changeups in the Cactus League. All sorts of things like that make the art of analyzing spring performances in a statistical manner virtually impossible.
Still, there are some numbers that are interesting if not particular meaningful:
- Mitch Maier is hitting .571/.625/.643 with four steals. Last year, there was some buzz that there were a number of teams that would jump on the out of options Maier if the Royals did not keep him on their twenty-five man roster coming out of spring training. Fast forward to this spring, where Mitch is off to another hot start and on the borderline of making the Royals. Would there be a market for Maier? Certainly not a big one and not one that would yield a huge return, but would someone like the Phillies trade for him to fill in for the injured Dominic Brown? Doubtful, but marginally plausible, I suppose.
- Melky Cabrera is hitting .462/.500/.538. Lorenzo Cain is hitting .462/.533/.615. Cain has already made two defensive plays that have drawn raves and Melky has already lost a ball in the ‘Arizona sun’. I’m tired of hearing about the Arizona freaking sun and sky. I get it, it is a tough place to catch high fly balls. Half of your job description is to ‘catch fly balls’ – do it. Anyway, spring training stats don’t matter, but somehow I feel that Cain’s .462 average and good defense is going to generate a ‘he needs more seasoning’ line pretty soon. Melky’s .462? Well, my guess is the Royals will be happy to tell you that those spring training stats DO matter.
- The up and coming Big Four of Mike Montgomery, Danny Duffy, John Lamb and Chris Dwyer have combined to pitch 9.2 innings this spring and walked 11 batters. That is not unexpected for young pitchers and tells us nothing about their future, but is interesting nonetheless.
- Chris Getz is zero for eight with three walks. Alex Gordon is one for thirteen with six walks. Can we pick and choose which spring training stats are valid indicators? Please?!!
- Everett Teaford has been tagged for 10 runs in just over two innings of work. There is no real way to spin those numbers into anything but Omaha.
A lot of the above is a little tongue in cheek…okay, a lot of it is. To be honest, the Royals have won six of eight games to start the spring and seen a lot of good things happen. Eric Hosmer has looked the part, Kila Ka’aihue has been solid and Clint Robinson just keeps hitting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to get some positive vibes from winning exhibition games: especially for a young team like the Royals.
Inevitably, there will start to be talk of the 2003 Royals, who parlayed a Cactus League title into a 16-3 start and staying in contention until the final month of the regular season. Let’s be careful there in that the 2003 Royals had Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, Raul Ibanez and a then rookie of the year caliber player in Angel Berroa. Offensively, that was not a young team (Joe Randa, Michael Tucker, Desi Relaford, Brent Mayne – were all veteran players with decent major league resumes) and probably more poised to make a cinderella run than the 2011 Royals are.
For now, we’ll just enjoy the spring and periodically remind ourselves that the numbers probably tell us very little. That won’t keep us from monitoring them closer than might be considered healthy, however.