Fortunately, it’s that time of year again: Opening Day is less than a week away! Unfortunately, it’s also that time of year when some baseball analysts forget that they are rational human beings, ignore previous years’ stats, and quote spring training statistics in order to fill air time without putting anything into context and stating the fact that most spring training statistics tell nothing about a player or a team. For example, in spring of 2011, former Cubs bust Jake Fox led the major leagues in home runs with 10 and extra base hits with 17, only to be designated for assignment later that year on June 1.
Now, with the popularity of Twitter, I don’t even get to wait until Opening Day to break out my face palm response to this ridiculous practice. Today, one of the people I follow on Twitter retweeted the stat “Only two teams (Mariners and Braves) hit more home runs than the Astros (46) this spring.” So, what does this mean? Does this mean that the Astros will hit for power and surprise the AL West? No one would think that. I feel that most of the people quoting spring training statistics know that almost all of them are meaningless, but they are trying to generate discussion. If you want to generate discussion, do it in an intelligent way.
There are a few spring training stats that I feel have some value. Most of them concern pitching and most of them are more alarming than encouraging. I pay attention to velocity, or, in Roy Halladay’s case, lack of velocity. Walks tell a lot about how a pitcher is hitting his spots during spring training. My most valuable spring training statistic, however, is games played. Currently, the New York Yankees will start the season with Phil Hughes, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson all on the disabled list. This looks to be too much for them to overcome and result in them missing the playoffs.
On a recent Cubs television broadcast, the Cubs’ spring training record was discussed. Len Casper is a very smart baseball guy. I feel like, if he is being force to fill time with substance, I would just rather have the substance be of an educated variety. Len did a great job last year during Sunday broadcasts, discussing a new statistic and educating an old fashioned Bob Brenly. Why not try to educate your audience as well throughout the year? It would be much nicer than discussing statistics that have shown to have no meaning. In the end, a more educated audience is better for baseball and better for Cubs fans when looking at what moves the Cubs are making.