As camp nears, remember to beware of spring stats

As camp nears, remember to beware of spring stats
February 8, 2013, 11:30 am
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With pitchers and catchers reporting after the weekend and the Phillies just two short weeks away from their first exhibition game, it’s important to remember something that holds true every spring: Stats should be ignored.

When the games don’t count, process matters more than results. And spring is the time when players work on adjustments and try out pitch grips. Stats matter for guys like Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf, who are fighting for jobs in the Phillies’ crowded outfield, and for players fighting for a final roster spot in the bullpen, but not much for anyone else.

That’s because spring training stats are rarely indicative of regular-season success. Last spring, for example, Shane Victorino hit .311 with a .849 OPS, then didn’t come within 70 points of that OPS in any month during the season.

Placido Polanco hit .429, then had his worst year as a pro.

Roy Halladay had a 5.73 ERA in six starts, then had a 1.93 ERA in five starts in April.

Vance Worley walked just two batters in 20 innings, then struggled with control all season.

Michael Young hit .423 with a .993 OPS, and then had his worst year in a decade.

There are plenty more examples across the league:

Pirates first baseman Matt Hague led all major-leaguers with seven home runs in spring training, then hit none in 74 plate appearances during the regular season.

Angel Pagan hit .171 with a .203 OBP in the spring, then hit .288 over the next six months.

Adrian Beltre, Justin Upton, Mark Teixeira, Rickie Weeks and Neil Walker combined for zero home runs in full springs, then hit 51 before the All-Star break.  

So if Ben Revere hits .211, Cole Hamels goes 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA or Yuniesky Betancourt puts up a .850 OPS, remember that you’re looking at a very small sample that probably won’t have an effect on their seasons.

More important are individual things players need to work on. Brown driving the ball rather than rolling over to second base with regularity. Ruf tracking down fly balls. Ben Revere displaying patience at the plate. Both Youngs -- Michael and Delmon -- displaying patience at the plate. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley moving OK on the bases. Halladay throwing 90-92 and not 87-88. Phillippe Aumont commanding the strike zone.

Observing those things will tell you more about where players are headed than their OPS or ERA when Grapefruit League play ends. Spring is the season when numbers lie.