Hot spring doesn’t always result in a quick start

April 8, 2010

By James Bailey

So what do spring training stats mean and how much should we make of them? Does a great spring foretell a great season? Does it have any carryover effect?

Not necessarily. While it never hurts to put up big numbers in Florida and Arizona, the main benefit players reap is making the roster or earning a more prominent role. Both of those accomplishments can be undone in time, however, if they don’t perform when it matters.

So before you get too excited about Sean Rodriguez (.460, 6 HR, 17 RBI in 63 spring AB) becoming the next big star in Tampa Bay, keep in mind that he struck out 62 times in 192 big league at-bats in 2008-09 while hitting just .203.

Here are your 2010 spring batting leaders, minimum 40 at-bats:

Player TM AVG AB 2010
Brian McCann ATL .500 42 2-5
Mike Sweeney SEA .500 40 0-0
Gregg Zaun MIL .477 44 0-8
Mitch Maier KC .475 59 0-0
Mike Aviles KC .471 51 0-0
Tyler Colvin CHC .468 77 0-1
Sean Rodriguez TB .460 63 1-4
Jeremy Hermida BOS .450 40 0-0
Alberto Callaspo KC .440 50 1-5
Jose Bautista TOR .439 57 0-7

That last column is what they’ve done this week. It’s way, way, way too early to draw meaningful conclusions from the numbers since Opening Day, so take the collective 4-for-30 with a grain of salt, but it’s still 4-for-30 from a group of guys who hit .467 this spring.

How about home runs? Thirty-nine players hit four or more home runs this spring, led by Chris Johnson of Houston, who hit eight. He looks to play primarily against lefthanders this year and got the start on Tuesday against Barry Zito. In four at-bats he’s yet to collect a hit.

Here are your spring home run leaders:

Player TM HR AB 2010
Chris Johnson HOU 8 62 0
John Bowker SF 6 77 1
Aaron Hill TOR 6 48 0
Mike Napoli LAA 6 50 0
Sean Rodriguez TB 6 63 0
Justin Upton ARI 6 57 1
Delwyn Young PIT 6 53 0
Ryan Zimmerman WAS 6 56 0

Your top eight spring sluggers have collectively managed two homers since Opening Day. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells and Garrett Jones have both hit three homers this week to lead the majors. Wells had only one in 50 spring at-bats, while Jones had four in 62-at-bats.

So do great spring numbers equal a quick start? No, but neither does a quick start equal a great season. Anyone remember Tuffy Rhodes connecting for three home runs off Doc Gooden on Opening Day in 1994? That cost me a lunch. I bet Jim Callis that Rhodes would hit at least 20 on the year. Seemed too easy with only 17 left to get. He finished with eight, which even in a lockout-shortened year was a poor followup to his season debut.