Friday, January 13, 2012

Brandon Belt and the Annual Spring Training Overreaction


It is a slow news time of year before we start seeing the arbitration players start signing and we are still over a month away from pitchers and catcher reporting.

However Chris Haft who writes for MLB.com has a new mail bag out today really sums up a line of thinking that just drives me mad, the magnification of Spring Training stats.

Here is the question and answer that I want to look deeper at:
Where is the outfield situation headed? With Brandon Belt, Melky Cabrera and Nate Schierholtz already pretty much in place, I don't see the need for Angel Pagan. Is it possible the team trades Aubrey Huff to put Belt at first base? What can the Giants get for Huff right now? I find it hard to imagine Pagan as the fourth outfielder. -- Eric Y., San Jose

Little is certain regarding San Francisco's outfield, which explains why manager Bruce Bochy refused to name a starting threesome during last month's Winter Meetings. In fact, making definitive statements about any of the top five candidates is challenging:

Cabrera almost surely will begin the season in the lineup. But at what position?

Since the Giants gave the Mets two Major Leaguers (Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez) for Pagan, he also appears likely to start. So why didn't Bochy commit to him?

Does Schierholtz really have right field locked up? If so, it would be the first time.

Huff is virtually impossible to trade, given his $10 million salary and dismal 2011 performance. The Giants hierarchy would prefer to see him at first base rather than at one of the outfield corners.

Coming off a .225 rookie season, Belt must excel in Cactus League exhibitions just to have a chance to start either in left field or at first base. But I believe that he's capable of sustaining the kind of effort that would earn him a job. [emphasis mine]
Every time I see something like this, I don't want to believe that the front office of the team that I spend too many hours following puts faith in a few hundred at bats against uneven competition for decisions such as who should be the starting out fielder and who should be in the minor leagues. I just don't want to believe it even if it is true.

So please Giants management don't use Spring Training as a reason for why you are making important decisions. Funky things can happen in these small samples and they are not very good at predicting what will actually happen in the coming season. One last reminder:

Didn't Aubrey Huff tear up the Cactus League last year? Didn't he lead the Cactus League in home runs? So how did that work out for the season?

Yeah take spring numbers with a grain of salt and don't make important decisions based on those numbers. That is all.

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