With Spring Training rapidly approaching, it’s a good time to take remember some things that maybe people forgot over the winter.
Statistics do not matter
This is the most important thing to remember about Spring Training. The statistics are meaningless. The level of competition isn’t level, there aren’t enough games to judge how good a player is against Major League talent, some pitchers aren’t throwing all of their pitches while others are. Remember Jackie Bradley jr.? In 2013 Spring Training Bradley jr. hit .419/.507/.619 and broke camp north with the Red Sox when indications before the season were that he would start in AAA. The rest, as they say, is history, with Bradley jr.’s bat tanking in the bigs and a demotion back to Pawtucket. He doesn’t really have a place in the Boston outfield now. You know who led the Grapefruit League in hitting last year? I don’t, and a pretty cursory google search revealed that it’s possible those stats aren’t even online anymore. So don’t worry about it if Starling Marte hits .125/.220/.250 or Pedro Alvarez doesn’t hit a home run. If Jung Ho Kang hits .400/.500/.600, that doesn’t mean he should be the starting shortstop over Jordy Mercer. It just means he had a really, really good spring. Although the same could be said if he discovers tacos for the first time. That’s a really good spring.
Jung Ho Kang’s debut
Speaking of Kang, the public knows virtually nothing about how the 28 year old Korean will translate to Major League Baseball. Spring Training is earliest chance to see not only how the Pirates use Kang, whether he plays predominantly shortstop, second base, or elsewhere, but how he performs at each of those positions. If it seems like he has the defense to play a passable shortstop, it lowers the bar for what his offense must produce in order to provide positive value on what is an already minimally risky contract. As previously mentioned, Kang’s statistics offensively won’t mean a whole lot. So enjoy the chance to scout Kang on TV during those four televised games, because the best part about Spring Training is the opportunity for every person to pretend that they’re scouts.
Watch out for injuries
The Brewers just announced that Jonathan Lucroy is out 4-6 weeks with a hamstring strain. The Tigers announced that Victor Martinez’s surgery went well and he should be ready for opening day. Josh Hamilton’s hurt again. None of these injuries happened in Spring Training, but they’ll affect how these players prepare for the season. Once people start playing baseball there are going to be injuries, and that’s fine. That happens. You just have to hope that your team is lucky and doesn’t suffer any injuries that severely impact the team’s chances of success. If you’re a nice person you could hope that no player suffers any kind of injury that could hurt his career. That’s a good thing to hope for too. Particular Pirates with injury histories to keep an eye on: Francisco Cervelli, Corey Hart, and that’s pretty much it. The Pirates are a mostly healthy team.
Just listen to baseball on the radio, watch it when you can, and read about it. Go outside and enjoy nature, because Spring Training means that the weather’s warming up. And do not pay attention to statistics.