Commentary

BP Daily: What do spring stats mean?

Careful application can help identify surprise breakouts

Originally Published: March 2, 2009
By Marc Normandin | Baseball Prospectus
Spring training is both a blessing and a curse for baseball fans. We love it because it's a sign that winter is ending, and we finally can stop all the guesswork about who will sign where and for how much and just concentrate on the games. Truth to tell, we also despise spring training. We just want the season to begin, and we want games and numbers that matter. As fans who have dealt with speculation and uncertainty all winter long, we want to read about our favorite players being in the best shape of their lives or hear that they're seeing the ball better than they ever have. Those are the stories that help us get through the preseason.

The reality of the situation, however, is that these occurrences rarely portend improved play. Just because we want our favorite scrub to be capable of continuing to slug .500 for more than these four weeks does not mean he will. On the other hand, it also doesn't mean that all of the numbers accumulated in the preseason are worthless.

John Dewan, formerly of STATS, Inc. and currently the owner of Baseball Info Solutions, said that if a player were to post a preseason slugging percentage 200 points better than his career rate, you could expect the player to improve during that season. There have been studies to show that, yes, Dewan is on to something here, but the return rate on these instances is low.