Finally, the baseball has come back to Florida! The millions (and millions) of baseball fans everywhere had to wait nearly four months for baseball to once again be played, and they’ll take anything they can get right now no matter how meaningless Spring Training games can be early on. Understand, there are 37 players in Rays camp right now that will not be making the trek up I-75 this time next month and it is like that with the other 29 organizations in baseball as well. That means for every inning a David Price or a Jon Lester pitches, someone wearing a #86 is coming in for the fifth inning facing someone wearing #73 when it is highly likely both guys will face each other in a few weeks in a minor league park somewhere in this country.
These early games are more about getting reps for the younger players, and getting back into the flow of the game for the veterans who are a near lock to make the club. The best that anyone can hope for this time of year is to avoid what Adam Wainwright and Chase Utley have gone through in recent days and to avoid the tag hanging in your locker after a day’s workout or game. It is important to temper your excitement with Spring Training stats because in the end run, they rarely mean anything. Consider:
- Jose Guillen, yes, Jose Guillen, owns the Rays’ franchise record for RBI in a single Grapefruit League season with 19 which he did in 2001. That season, he went on to collect 11 RBI for the entire regular season
- Reid Brignac led the club with 18 RBI in just 60 at bats last year while hitting .359. He went onto hit .256 last season with 45 RBI in 301 at bats.
- Sean Rodriguez hit six home runs in just 53 at bats last March; he went onto hit just nine home runs in 343 regular season at bats.
- Matt Garza gave up six home runs in 27.2 innings last March while James Shields only gave up three home runs in 21.1 innings.
- Elliot Johnson hit .469 in 32 at bats for the Rays in 2008 and went on to have 19 at bats with the Rays in 2008.
- Ray Sadler led the Rays with four home runs in 2009 and has never seen an at bat with the Rays at the major league level.
- In 2009, Scott Kazmir had the best ERA of all of the starting pitchers at 3.79 while James Shield was at 8.16. By season’s end, Kazmir was at 5.92 while Shields was at 4.14.
- In 2005, Josh Phelps paced the club with four homers and 12 RBI in 68 at bats; he went onto hit five home runs and drive in 26 runs in 158 regular season at bats.
Spring Training can create a lot of March legends, but the statistics rarely correlate to regular season success because of the ballparks, strong winds on the coastal parks, and veterans facing rookies, or even AAA guys facing AA and A pitchers late in games skew the statistics. Sure, Jose Bautista had a strong spring last season and had his monster regular season, but he also had a monster September of 2009 which was a stronger sign of things to come than what he did in Dunedin this time last season.
Enjoy the baseball, enjoy the sun, but ignore the numbers right now because their best purpose right now is giving us those lovely box scores to look at in the paper to quench our thirst until the regular season begins.