All things are possible in spring training. Perennial losing teams look like winners; career minor leaguers suddenly blossom; borderline prospects look like definite contributors; superstars are on to even larger accomplishments.
Players feel confident of success because they have: lost weight; gained weight; changed their stance; altered their delivery; played winter ball, didn’t play winter ball.
No team is a loser, no player a failure in spring training
Although the blog is strongly opposed to government intervention in sports, it might not be a bad idea for one of those alphabet agencies in Washington to demand an official notice accompany all spring training box scores.
Warning: This information might be hazardous to your mental health.
Some baseball fans never learn the gospel preached here every February or March. Repeat after me: Spring training performance is virtually meaningless.
So if you are among those excited about the contributions thus far of Darren Ford -- batting .800 with three RBIs after two games, both of which were wins -- this column is for you.
There is perhaps no greatest illustration of the meaninglessness of spring training statistics than the example that took place just last year with the Pirates.
In 55 spring training at bats, Matt Hague hit seven home runs. It was enough to earn him a position on the Pirates Opening Day roster and send spasms of excitement through some fans. Once the games began to count, Hague had 437 at bats, 367 of which were in the minors, and four home runs.
That’s a home run every eight at bats when it didn't count; a home run ever 109 when it did.
There's nothing wrong with being excited about spring training. It’s that time of year. But if you find yourself getting overly excited, believing that, say, Ford will make the team as a fifth outfielder or that James McDonald’s two scoreless innings yesterday is an indicator he will return to his early 2012 form, remember Matt Hague. And remember there is zero (0) correlation between spring-training performance and regular-season performance.
This is not to suggest a good spring might not be the forerunner of a good season. That can happen. But if it does, the spring training performance will not be the reason. Same for a bad spring. It could lead to a bad season. Or a good season. Or a mediocre season.
Some recent exhibition-season statistics that will cure all but the hopeless of Spring Training Fever:
* The two players who tied for the Pirates lead in spring training home runs in 2011 were Lyle Overbay and John Bowker. The RBI leader was Overbay.
* The 2011 spring training ERA of Joel Hanrahan was 8.10.
* The 2010 Pirates spring training home run and RBI leader (six and 18) was Delwyn Young.
* The 2009 spring training home run and co-RBI leader (seven and 15) was Craig Monroe. The other RBI leader was Jeff Salazar.
* In 2008, the team’s home run and co-RBI leader (four and 10) was Steve Pearce.
* In 2007, the home-run leader was Brad Eldred with six. The RBI leader was Ronny Paulino with 15.
* In 2007, Tom Gorzelanny was 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA in 20 innings. In the regular season, he was 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA.