When I was younger, I used to comb through spring training reports for the stats, to see which players were having good springs. Now I know better. Spring training stats are meaningless. They have no predictive value. Even making them more complex doesn't help us glean useful information from them.
With age, I've come to appreciate that even the most-used ballplayer will get maybe 14 or 15 regular-season games worth of plate appearances over the entirety of spring training. For example, Kolten Wong leads the Cardinals in spring PAs entering play today with 51. If we assume an average of four PAs per game, that's a tad under 13 regular-season games worth of PAs.
It's the same thing with pitchers. The team leader in springtime innings is currently Adam Wainwright with 17 2/3. That's the equivalent of about three regular-season starts.
I wouldn't try to read anything into any given 13-game stretch of the regular season for a batter. And I would yawn at the notion of judging a starter on three consecutive starts. But old habits die hard.
I still check spring training stats on MLB.com after each and every game. Sure, it's more to see how many opportunities players are getting— both pitchers and batters. But I'd be lying if I didn't see how players were performing in the opportunities they were given. In doing so, I often find truly bizarre stats that could only be posted in a tiny sample size.
Aledmys Diaz and Joe Kelly: .600 BA, .600 OBP, .600 SLG, 1.200
If you're a ballplayer given just five spring-training PAs, you'd best make the most of them. Diaz and Kelly did just that with three singles each. Kelly spiced things up a bit, as he is wont to do, with a pair of ribbies thrown in. Take note, spring training 2014 will forever stand as the high-water mark of Diaz and Kelly's batting careers.
Lance Lynn: 14.9 K/9
I'm a K% guy when it comes to referencing strikeout rates for pitchers. But Lynn has notched 27 strikeouts in just 16 1/3 springtime exhibition innings. This makes for a pretty crazy stat made possible by the small sample of spring.
Daniel Descalso and Matt Holliday: .316 BA
Holliday has hit for a career .311 BA over 5,398 ABs. Descalso has managed a .243 BA over 1,062 career ABs. In fact, Descalso's cumulative career OBP of .310 is lower than Holliday's career BA. Yet, here they are in Jupiter, each with a .316 BA. Descalso, who eternally appears overmatched when attempting to hit a baseball with a bat, should drink in being Holliday's equal in BA while it lasts over the next day or two.
Carlos Martinez: 1.76 ERA; Joe Kelly, 6.28 ERA
It's a good thing spring-training stats are meaningless, otherwise I'd be angry that Mike Matheny named Kelly the winner of the No. 5 starter competition.
James Ramsey: .063 BA, .118 OBP, .063 SLG, .180 OPS
No offense to Ramsey, but sub-.100 BAs make me giggle. So does an OPS under .200.
Michael Wacha: 5.67 K/BB
In Wacha's 15 1/3 IP this spring, he's tallied 17 Ks to just three walks. This makes for an eye-popping K/BB ratio.
Kolten Wong: .674 SLG; Matt Adams: .596 SLG
Wong is listed at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. Adams comes in at 6'3", 285 pounds. Yet it's Wong who has out-slugged Adams. Wong has 18 hits in spring training that include five doubles, two dingers, and a triple. And so the short and fit Hawaiian is out-slugging Big Mayo.
Seth Maness: 10 2/3 IP, 20 Hits, and 11 ER
I always look for pitchers who have atrocious springs. There were multiple candidates this year, but Maness has the potential to accomplish two springtime feats that I particularly enjoy (while throwing a double-digit innings total, no less): (1) Allow twice as many hits as IP; and (2) Allow more earned runs than IP. #Manessing
Xavier Scruggs: .188 BA, .366 OBP, .375 SLG
This line is made possible by striking out eight times, walking eight times, notching six hits (two singles, three doubles, and a homer) over 41 PAs. It's glorious. My hope and prayer is that Scruggs ends spring training with an OBP and SLG that are both more than twice his BA.