What to make of spring training stats?

So now we get to the next phase of spring training. The games begin.

They don’t count, but for the fans not heading to Sarasota, it gives them some stats, pitching lines, home runs, and wins and losses to track.


Mike Hargrove used to say something about September and March being like fool’s gold. A player’s performance at the end of the year after the callups, or in spring training can be quite deceiving.

Every year, someone hits a ton in March then can’t buy a hit the first week of the season. Every year, a pitcher looks unhittable in Florida and then can’t get anyone out when the clubs head north.

But, hey, it’s all we have to go on now and that’s something at least.

I suppose not all spring training performances are created equal. For instance, players like Derrek Lee and Brian Roberts probably approach the games differently than Nolan Reimold or Jake Fox might.

The latter pair are looking to make the team and are out to make every solid impression they can on this coaching staff. They are not just there to prepare for a season, they are trying to earn a roster spot.

I looked up some Orioles spring stats from last year and it reminded me that in March 2010 some minor league players like Jonathan Tucker and Miguel Abreu made strong impressions.

Tucker then began the year at Triple-A Norfolk and, after starting 1-for-22, was sent to Double-A Bowie. Abreu hit just .198 in 33 Double-A contests.

I remember Kam Mickolio impressing everyone with his 1.93 spring ERA last year and then having a tough season. I remember Chris Tillman pitching to a spring ERA of 3.86 in 2010 and not making the opening day roster while Jason Berken, with a 5.40 ERA, did.

On the other hand, some players who need to post good stats do and it carries over into the season. Lefty Will Ohman signed a minor league deal with the O’s last winter and then pitched to a 1.04 spring ERA over 11 games and made the roster when it came time to head north.

He had a very solid year in the O’s pen, didn’t give up an earned run until May 30 and pitched well until his July trade to Florida.

There’s a pretty good chance that many of us will put way too much stock into some of the stats and performances over the next several weeks. In some cases, it will be important but not in others.

I remember a story Will Clark told me about his approach to spring training with the Orioles one year. I interviewed him after about 10 exhibition games and he told me he had spent the last few games looking to hit only curveballs. It was something he wanted to work on. If he got a fastball he took it, even if it was a fat one right down the middle.

To each his own, and the last thing Clark was going to worry about at that stage of his career was his spring training statistics.

Maybe the moral of the story is take your spring stats with a grain of salt. But right now, we’re just happy to have any stats to discuss.

What is your take on spring training games and stats? Are you excited about them? How much importance should be placed on them? Which players are you watching closely in these first few spring games and throughout this month?

One week from tonight: We will convene at Hightopps Backstage Grille in Timonium for another O’s chat with fans. I’ll be there to talk with fans and take questions about the coming season along with MASNsports.com’s Jen Royle and Pete Kerzel.

We’ll talk with fans from 6-7 p.m. and then all settle in to watch the first MASN spring training telecast as the Orioles take on the Yankees. There will also be prizes and trivia, so join us next Monday, March 7 at Hightopps located at 2306 York Road, just north of the Timonium Fairgrounds.

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