Numbers seldom tell the whole story, but spring training numbers can be less informative than most. Here are several factors that can change the way you look at spring training numbers:
Date: As Bob Dutton has already pointed out, in early spring training outings, pitchers may be throwing nothing but fastballs. As they get closer to Opening Day, pitchers will start throwing everything they have. Early on, pitchers may not be pitching to the batters weakness: they know the batter is set up for a slider, but go ahead and throw a fastball anyway. Pitchers might be working on somethingsay locating that fastballand arent that concerned with getting hitters out.
Status: A guy who knows hes made the team is in a different position than a guy fighting for a spot. James Shields is on the roster unless he gets hit by a bushe can take his time getting ready and prepare at his own pace. Other guys may feel like they have to play as well as they possibly can right nowtheres no time to waste.
Opponent: If a pitcher is facing a divisional opponent, he may hold something back or just work on a particular pitch. Why give the opposition a look at what theyre going to see during the season? If a pitcher is facing a team he wont see that summer, maybe he throws the real deal.
Inning: They call it five and dive: starters play five innings, then head for the golf course. Members of the media have to leave the press box and head to the clubhouse if they want to talk to a starter who has left a gamethey aint sticking around. If the numbers were put up early in a game, they were probably put up against big-league competition. Some of the numbers put up in the later innings are being put up against minor leaguers. As the team gets closer to the end of spring training, starters may play longer.
Dont get me wrong; theres not a hitter alive who doesnt want to get hits when he goes to the plate or a pitcher who doesnt want to record outs. Players want to do well every time they step on the field. But they may have bigger fish to fry than putting up numbers in March.
Theyre spring training numbers.
If we dont know you or like you, all you get are clichés.
That was former Boston Red Sox bench coach Tim Bogar talking about how players treat the media. When a member of the media walks into the clubhouse, new players and coaches have no idea who you are. They have no idea if youre a good guy or a jerk and theyll generally keep you at arms length until they decide. If another player has had a good experience with you, he might tell a new player that youre OK. If a player has had a bad experience with you, he might tell a new player not to trust you.
When players see a new member of the media come around, theyll ask: Who is that? Then the next question is some version of: Is he going to be around? What they want to know is this: does this guy matter? Do they need to know his name? Is this someone theyll have to deal with or can they just drop a few clichés and move on?
You have to be around a while before players start telling you whats really happening out there on the field. Its important for the players to see you put in the time necessary to understand whats going on. For the most part, players want to speak openly, but they also want to know they can trust you to use the information in the right wayand that trust doesnt develop overnight. The beat writers, the guys who are there every day and travel with the team, get much better information than the information given to a guy who shows up once a month. But just when you get Mitch Maier talking to youbanghes gone. Just when Matt Treanor starts telling you what he was saying to the umpire just before getting ejected from a game, Matt vanishes in a puff of smoke. Ive talked to Dayton Moore about this: if he really wants to make my life easier, I need him to keep the guys I already know.
Dayton does not see this my way.
He went out and got a bunch of new guys. So now Ive got to go around the clubhouse, introduce myself to the new guys and start from scratch. I hope to have something interesting for you by the All-Star break.
I said hi to outfield coach Rusty Kuntz and we talked about continuing to review ballparks the Royals will visit during the 2013 season. Where you play can change the game, and knowing a ballparks quirks can make a game more interesting. The Royals open in Chicago and then go to Philadelphia, so I asked Rusty if he was familiar with the Phillies ballpark, and that led to a discussion on interleague play.
With expanded interleague play, pitchers have to be ready to hit by the second series and stay ready to hit throughout the season. Unfortunately, a good at-bat by a pitcher isas Kevin Seitzer said last yearone in which the pitcher does not get hurt. Even if a pitcher gets a hit, then you have to worry about all the things that can go wrong when he runs the basesincluding get whacked around in the next half-inning because hes gassed.
If its not a bunt situation, dont be surprised if you see a pitcher keep the bat on his shoulder and watch three go byit might be the lesser of two evils.