Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring Training Hype

   The start of spring training is quite possibly the best moment of the new year. It's an indication that spring weather is right around the corner, the costly holiday seasons have ended, and that baseball is finally on the way. Added along with spring training is an over-abundance of hype. Each year there are a few players that either come out of nowhere with amazing debuts, or play well over their head in terms of statistical accolades. As a baseball fan, it is hard to not be excited when a non-star hits .380 in 50 spring training at bats with 5+ HR. But it is important to remember this is only spring training, and that statistics are essentially meaningless. Take a look at the amazing spring training numbers these players put up for the Orioles the past few seasons:

Jake Fox: 2011 Spring Training: .297/.325/.797 batting line with 10 HR in 74 AB
Lou Montanez: 2010 Spring Training: .319/.360/.426 batting line in 47 AB
Scott Moore: 2009 Spring Training:  .333/.373/.587 batting line with 3 HR in 63 AB
Jolbert Cabrera: 2009 Spring Training: .457/.469/.609 batting line in 46 AB

   Obviously, these four players had little-to-zero impact in the majors at any point for the Orioles. Jake Fox was probably the best player out of this bunch, and he was designated for assignment. I'm not even sure most people even remember Jolbert Cabrera (I had to do a double-take on that one myself). The point is, spring training statistics are largely overblown by the media and fans. But it's totally understandable in some aspects. Why would you not get excited? Baseball is starting, you cheer for the underdogs, and they are on your respective team. Take a look at the non-star leaders  from 2009-2011 league-wide:

Eric Almonte: 2011 Spring Training: .416/.438/.636 batting line with 3 HR in 77 AB
John Bowker: 2010 Spring Training: .312/.386/.623 batting line with 6 HR in 77 AB
Mitch Maier: 2010 Spring Training: .475/.530/.814 batting line with 3 HR in 59 AB
Mike Wilson: 2009 Spring Training: .261/.316/.681 batting line with 8 HR in 69 AB
Matthew Brown: 2009 Spring Training: .468/.527/.787 batting line with 3 HR in 47 AB

   The only one of those players with extensive playing time over the past few years is Mitch Maier. He has been a solid 4th OF for the Royals. You might have heard of the other guys before, but they are nothing more than AAAA guys at this point. John Bowker got 326 AB in 2008, but phased out rather quickly after that season.

   In conclusion, spring training is an amazing time of the year. It's a time for celebration, joy, and excitement. However, it is important to keep a level head when a guy puts on a show. There is a player from every team, every year, that hits the cover off the ball. As you can see from above, it doesn't necessarily mean that much.

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