Two spring training stats worth watching

We’re getting closer to some real action in Glendale, as Scott Reifert delivered the lineup for Tuesday’s B-game against the Los Angeles Dodgers:

  1. Jared Mitchell, LF
  2. Jordan Danks, CF
  3. Tyler Flowers, C
  4. Dayan Viciedo, 1B
  5. Josh Kroeger, DH
  6. Jayson Nix, 2B
  7. Brent Lillibridge, SS
  8. Brent Morel, 3B
  9. Alejandro De Aza, RF

Wow, it just felt good to type numbers in that order. Gavin Floyd, Carlos Torres, Daniel Hudson and Daniel Cabrera are scheduled to pitch.
Anyway, the start of the spring training schedule also marks the start of friendly reminders about how the numbers don’t count. All of them are completely true.
If you need evidence of how spring training stats can mislead, look no further than two players who stood out in Glendale last season:

  • Wilson Betemit, who led the White Sox in spring homers (six) and RBI (18) last year.
  • Josh Fields, who led the Sox in OBP (.455) and slugging percentage (.638).

One could wring some meaning out of their performances, because they had great Aprils before crashing in May, but one good month doesn’t help much.  Jermaine Dye kills this theory, too, because he failed to slug .300 in Arizona, and then he ripped the ball when the regular season rolled around.
But don’t write off every single number you see, because there are two numbers that help.
Walks and strikeouts.  At least for hitters lacking a track record.
Brent Lillibridge and Dewayne Wise combined to draw two who walks over 154 plate appearances, while striking out a bunch.  That obviously followed them into the season.
Chris Getz, conversely, showed a pretty good balance between the two in the spring.  While real major-league pitching made it a bit tougher on both ends, strike zone judgment wasn’t a weakness for him.  Gordon Beckham put the bat on the ball in his first spring, and he continued to make contact while being rushed through three levels afterward.
Also, while it’s dealing with two incredibly small sample sizes, Tyler Flowers struck out every other at-bat in both spring training and his major-league call-up.  Dayan Viciedo was also hack-happy during his brief spring career, walking once and striking out seven times.
If you’re curious, I put together a chart comparing spring walk/strikeout numbers with regular-season ones below the jump.  
(Spring to the left, real to the right)

Lillibridge 0.04 1.2 30.4 0.54 12.5 27.4
Quentin 0.67 6.7 11.4 0.60 7.8 14.8
Konerko 0.67 4.8 7.8 0.65 9.3 16.3
Getz 0.86 7.3 9.3 0.56 7.2 14.4
Dye 0.55 7.6 15.3 0.59 11.1 21.5
Ramirez 0.33 4.0 12.5 0.74 8.1 12.2
Wise 0.07 1.4 21.4 0.11 2.0 19.0
Anderson 0.64 11.3 20.3 0.41 9.5 26.5
Fields 0.44 10.3 26.1 0.33 9.3 31.8
Betemit 0.38 7.2 20.3 0.38 10.0 28.9
Owens 1.57 15.1 11.5 1.00 20.0 25.0
Pierzynski 0.00 3.3 0.46 4.5 10.3
Thome 1.00 16.7 20.8 0.59 16.5 33.6
Beckham 0.40 5.0 13.5 0.63 9.5 17.2
Viciedo 0.14 3.6 26.9
Flowers 0.00 50.0 0.38 15.0 50.0

There isn’t a positive correlation of 1 or anything, but you don’t see the whacked-out variation like you do with triple-slash lines or power output that crowns guys like Brian Anderson as the Kings of Spring.  Walks decrease and strikeouts increase as pitchers start throwing for real, but not beyond reason.  Most of the differences are explainable.   Paul Konerko is a known work-getter-inner during the spring, and Jermaine Dye’s regular-season walk rate escalated during his collapse. Pitchers needed three weeks to adjust to Lillibridge’s Little League zone, then overwhelmed him with strikes.
Alexei Ramirez is the only confusing one, since he doubled not only his spring walk rate, but his 2008 one as well.  Even then, his strikeout rate remained true.
Keep these two numbers in mind for most of the guys in the lineup above.  Danks, Mitchell and Morel may not enough PAs in their first spring, but if guys like Lillibridge, Flowers and Viciedo have similarly ugly walk-strikeout ratios, it tells you a little bit about how much work they have left.  At least as much as a small sample size can.
Another number to pay attention to — Bobby Jenks’ radar gun readings, because reading into this Don Cooper explanation of why Jenks is “behind schedule” isn’t advisable:

”Because Bobby worked so hard on his conditioning, plus Bobby had another child, plus the weather in Chicago is bad,” Cooper said. ”And he told me he had a little difficulty getting somebody to catch him. So he was just playing more catch than actually pitching off a mound.”

There’s no reason to really doubt Cooper when he says Jenks will be ready come April.  Mark Buehrle is always some form of behind, and a sluggish Bartolo Colon was actually as ready as he was going to be.  But it’s going to be interesting to see what a slimmed-down Jenks throws when he’s finally up to speed.
Mark Teahen will likely lead the team in good-natured anecdotes:

Then out walked the newest player to try to fill the void at third base since Joe Crede left, a plastic cup of urine in hand.
Slightly awkward? Not for Mark Teahen, who strutted up to a few of his new teammates and offered up the cup as though it was filled with a vintage wine.

Everybody’s buying into Teahen breaking out.  Here’s hoping.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Gordon Beckham’s second baseman career begins this week, and Omar Vizquel will be giving him some pointers.
*Jake Peavy wants Adrian Gonzalez, who became a hot topic when a report said the Sox would consider giving up Beckham for his services. Joe Cowley said “that’s not really an option.”
*Jermaine Dye is still struggling to find work.  At least for a team that will give him everyday at-bats, has a good shot at winning it all and won’t flip him at the deadline. I can hear Sarah McLachlan now

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Today in Seriously?:
1. Bobby couldn’t find anyone to catch him? Seriously? I can think of 20 idiots off the top of my head that would be more than happy to injure themselves for a chance to work out with an actual MLB player, let alone the hundreds of semi-qualified college and high school kids wasting away in a Midwestern winter haze that could actually competently receive the ball.
2. Get your pee out of my face, dude. Seriously?


The bobby jenks stuff is crap. Couldnt he go to the bulls/sox training academy in Lisle where plenty of former sox players have rehabbed and trained before. And like drlingerie says any shmo off the street would love to catch bobby let alone hundreds if not thousands of college and semi pro players who could easily handle it.
AGon for Beckham, its tempting but not happening. 6 years of a stud middle infielder is worth more then 2 years of a mashing first basemen. AGON is the exact guy we need but not at that expense, plus to resign him I would imagine 5 and 100 to 7 and 140 to be about the ballpark. Thats redsox money not whitesox money at this point. Hudson, Flowers, Danks, Morel might get the foot in the door on trade talks though….
I havent moved on my stance from this, “mark” me down as thinking Teahan is going to be an epic failure, and im still in shock they bought out 2 arb years and 1 free agent year for no damn reason.


Agree with you on Bobby. Disagree on Teahan, he should work out to be average. If he provides some pop then its a decent deal.
Also cannot wait till Spring/Summer sets in. Rockford is actually pretty tolerable during the warmer months.


Haha 815sox, Rockford is never tolerable. 14th most miserable city in the US? But if ever there were a time for Rockford to be tolerable i guess it is the Summer. Once I finish college I am getting the hell out of there! It is literally a crime ridden economic hellhole. However, being that you live there you know this as well as I do.
Anyway..I for one am tired of Jenks absurd excuses. This one is so embarrassing for not only him but the organization that this information should never have been released. If Bobby needed a catcher the Sox should have driven one to his home as soon as he informed them. Unacceptable. He had a child, he gave up drinking blah blah blah. Bobby, you are making 7mil(?) to throw baseballs and you cant even take the time to find a catcher?


Where do you go to school? I graduated from Rockford College myself, after bouncing around the area for a few years.
Anyways I’m planning on going to Law School next semester so I am finally getting the hell out myself. I work in the foster care system right now and you can imagine what that is like in Rockford.
I’m frankly sick of Jenks, he has been talking about how he stopped drinking. Think its possible that he went on a bit of a drinking binge and then finally realized that the shit may be interfering with his career???


you just proved my point, why guarantee three years and big dollars to a guy who “might” be average (despite three declining offensive years, and every defensive matrix saying he is at best average at third base).


Because he pees vintage wine?


Sure would be nice if we had a big lefty firstbaseman prospect we could flip back SD’s way. But that’s the price we have to pay for a fifth reliever…


I don’t want to be mistaken as a Rockford apologist, but have you guys actually traveled? You can do a lot worse than Rockford in almost every aspect. Central Falls, RI comes to mind. I don’t plan on living here any longer than I have to, but I’ve seen hell, and Rockford ain’t it. More like a purgatory of sorts.
I’m tired of the Jenks non-story. As long as he looks more like 2007 than 2009, I’m happy. He might not be around for very long, but I’ll worry about that when it comes.


Yeah I have traveled alot and lived in quite a few different cities, Rockford isn’t the worst. I’d rather grow up here then a rural area or some of the third world countries I have been. However worst place I have ever seen was the Crow Tribe Reservation in Montana. So fucking sad.
I’ve been to every trailer park and project in Rockford, and while it is terrible it could get worse.


Hell, I’ll take your Rockford and raise you. I live in Cleveland. At least in Rockford you don’t have to listen to the whole population rooting against the Sox. On the other hand, I do get to see the Sox for several road trips each year.