Pitchers and catchers report to their team’s camps in Arizona and Florida today, kicking off the beginning of spring training and the 2010 baseball season. It’s a good day.
However, with spring training starting off, it’s time for the annual reminder to not pay any attention to numbers for the next six weeks. We like our stats here, obviously, but spring training numbers just don’t mean a thing. At all. Anything. Need proof?
Last year, 7 NL players hit .400 or better in spring training. Included in that list of guys who tore it up in March were Jeremy Reed, David Eckstein, Khalil Greene, and J.J. Hardy. Reed played badly enough that he was non-tendered, and is now a non-roster invite with the Blue Jays. Greene did even worse than Reed, and is also now trying to fight his way back into Major League Baseball after losing his job with St. Louis. Hardy had the worst year of his career, then got shipped to the Twins over the winter. Eckstein posted the lowest wOBA of his career, and that’s saying something.
Okay, you say, batting average is flukey, but power, that’s legit. After all, Ryan Howard hit 10 bombs to lead all NL players in spring training a year ago, and he’s a monster. Sure, I’ll give you that.
But Craig Monroe finished second with 8 spring home runs, followed closely by Travis Ishikawa with seven. It’s even better when you look at the AL leaderboard – the immortal Mike Wilson out-homered all of the junior circuit competition, then forgot how to hit minor league pitching once the season started. Not too far behind Wilson are the immortal trio of Mike Jacobs, Mark Teahen, and Wilson Betemit. Yeah.
The games don’t count, and the players know this. They’re working on things. They’re facing minor league players or guys trying to come back from injury. Half the teams play in a desert atmosphere that helps the ball travel like its Colorado. I know its easy to get sucked in by the story of a new swing, a new pitch, a winter full of hard work, and I’m sure some of that is true. But you won’t find those guys by looking at the stats. Ignore the numbers coming from the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. They don’t mean a thing.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.