Spring Training Seldom a Predictor

MLB: Mets vs Brewers SEP 3

Even though the Milwaukee Brewers don’t officially open Spring Training for another week or so, plenty of players are starting to show up.  Among the early attendees are Dave Bush, Manny Parra, and Mat Gamel, who all have something to prove this spring.  Bush and Parra will be fighting for rotation spots following disappointing 2009 seasons, while Gamel is trying to get back in the good graces of Ken Macha.

Needless to say, we’re all about ready to get started, and the Brewers’ late start (compared to other teams, anyway) doesn’t help our collective baseball fever.  Once they start playing games, it’ll be easy to fall into the trap of believing too much in what we see.

It’s important to realize that most of what we’ll see in the next month doesn’t mean anything.  Pitchers work on new pitches or entirely new approaches — with a new pitching coach, it’s entirely possible our pitchers don’t look very good in Arizona as they get accustomed to new routines.  Batters get the benefit of the thin Arizona air and opposing pitchers making mistakes with pitches they’re not used to throwing.

Want some proof?  Take a look at some of the numbers the Brewers put up in Maryvale last year:

- J.J. Hardy hit .403/.488/.761(!!) in 25 games, hitting 4 home runs, 6 doubles, and 3 triples.  In the regular season, he hit .229/.302/.357, lost his starting job to a guy whose bat may not be Major League ready, and was ultimately traded.

- Brad Nelson (.354/.421/.631) and Chris Duffy (.311/.363/.527) both won bench jobs with their performances at the plate in Arizona last year.  Nelson’s last game with the Brewers was May 12th, going 0-for-21 before getting let go.  Duffy’s last game was just two days later, and he was just 4-for-32.  Both very small sample sizes, for sure, but both are examples why I’m not a huge fan of deciding your bench spots based on spring numbers.

- Bill Hall hit .308/.333/.423 in 52 AB’s, which is by no means great, but I think we would have been thrilled with that production in the regular season considering what we got.  Like Hardy, he struggled to hit .200 for the Brewers.  He was DFA’d and ultimately traded to the Mariners for a Single-A reliever.  The Brewers will be paying him to play for the Boston Red Sox in 2010.

- Corey Hart hit .351/.383/.757(!!) last spring, which got everyone thinking he was returning to All-Star form.  While he did become more patient at the plate in the regular season, his power took a nosedive, he had to undergo an appendectomy in August, and seemed to limp to the season’s finish line.  You can’t blame him for medical problems that were out of control, but it just goes to show that you never know what you’re going to get from a guy who plays well in the spring.

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