A couple of years ago, Mike Morse hit .492 during Spring Training, hitting one extra-base-hit after another. Mariners manager Mike Hargrove, thoroughly impressed with Morse’s results, rewarded him with a starting spot in right field as part of a righty-lefty platoon with the rapidly decaying Brad Wilkerson. Seemingly primed for a breakout season, Morse proceeded to…get injured during the season’s first week and end up hitting to the tune of .222/.364/.333. Over 9 at-bats. And his defense remained abysmal.
That same spring, Erik Bédard entered his last ST start with 8 home runs allowed in 18 innings, as well as only 7 strikeouts. His Earned Run Average (I would reference FIP, but FIP is not calculated for Spring Training statistics, and for good reason) was 9.50 at that point, and some Mariners fans were starting to get antsy.
With Spring Training around the corner, I beseech you: Please, please, please, do not put any stock into a player’s performance in Spring Training. There are three basic reasons why:
1) Small sample size. Thirty regular at-bats won’t give you a picture truly indicative of a position player’s worth. So why would thirty pre-season ABs be any better? Same goes for pitchers.
2) Spring Training isn’t real baseball. The point of ST is to stretch out pitchers, get hitters back in the “swing” of things, and pretty much whip the majority of Major League players who didn’t stay in shape over the off-season back into shape. Spring Training is a nice, gradual segue into a long, hard 162-game season, and a way to evaluate the group of players on the bubble of making the team. Pitchers mess around with their deliveries and their location, and hitters try to add new pieces to their swings. It’s not about success; it’s about working towards achieving a higher degree of success during the regular season.
3) Roy Halladay pitches poorly in the pre-season. Enough said.
People caring about Spring Training stats is a pet peeve of mine, and I hope the general baseball community will finally learn that when Felix allows 9 runs in 16 ST innings, it doesn’t matter.