Early Impressions

22 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

There are a lot of clichés surrounding spring training. Some say statistics don’t matter at all. I would fully agree with that as it relates to the players with sure roster spots. The Twins have 21 or 22 spots on their roster that are already determined. The statistics of those players are essentially meaningless. There is little, if any, correlation between spring statistics (good or bad) and regular season success.

Spring stats matter to those who are fighting for a roster spot. As I wrote yesterday, this probably indicates that spring performance matters to Dusty Hughes, Jim Hoey, Kyle Waldrop, Jeff Manship, Matt Tolbert, Luke Hughes and Jeff Bailey.

Another adage that many baseball people say frequently is that spring numbers and performance do not matter until the final two weeks of spring leading up to Opening Day. At that point, many players have been sent to minor league camp. Hitters are getting three or four at bats most games and they are against pitchers who are likely to be on a big league roster at some point in 2011.

If that is true, and we have one more week of spring training, then the stats from the past week matter a little bit, right? The Twins had an off day last Tuesday, so below are the stats for many of the Twins players over the last week, starting with the hitters:

  • Denard Span has a hit in all five games he has played in this past week.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka has also played in five games and gone 6-15 (.400).
  • Delmon Young has played in six games and gone 6-18 (.333).
  • Danny Valencia is 1-13 in his last four games.
  • Luke Hughes, the guy everyone seems to think should be given the Twins utility infield spot, has played in six games and is 2-21 (.095), including going 0-13 in his past four games.
  • Matt Tolbert has started twice in the last week and gone 5-8 in those two games, including a home run.
  • Jeff Bailey is 4-11 in his past three games. He is the one player who has played in all seven games.

Here are the numbers over the past week for a few of the Twins pitchers:

  • Jim Hoey, who was hit hard early in camp and walked quite a few, pitched three times in the last week. In three innings, he has not given up a run. He has given up just one hit, walked none and struck out four.
  • Glen Perkins has pitched twice. In his two innings, he has not allowed a run.
  • Carlos Gutierrez has got three innings and not allowed a run despite four hits and three walks.
  • Dusty Hughes, who many (including me) are calling a given at this point, pitched in three games in the past week. He has thrown four scoreless innings, but he has given up four hits and walked five batters. Those are the types of numbers that Scott Diamond put up in his first two outings that got him called “disappointing” by Twins brass.

What does all this mean? Maybe nothing. Maybe it will matter as the final roster spots are chosen. I think looking at stats from the entire spring, Luke Hughes and Dusty Hughes would be favorites for roster spots with the Twins. However, if stats from the past week are to mean more, then maybe we need to take a second look at guys like Jim Hoey, Matt Tolbert and Jeff Bailey.

You all know how I feel about small sample sizes, good or bad. We all acknowledge that we don’t see what happens outside of box scores. We all understand that there are intangibles that go beyond those box scores as well.

If you like, please feel free to comment.


8 Responses to “Early Impressions”

  1. Jack Steal March 23, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    Nice post!! I totally agree with what your are selling to the readers..It really only matters what the GM and coaching staff think is important. The Twins have a long history of making the right moves. David Ortiz, Craig Breslow, and the terrible Johan Santana trade do not happen very often. One thing is for sure the bullpen that heads north with team will not be the same at the end of the season. Go Twins!!

  2. TT March 23, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    Seth –

    Good post. Spring training stats in their entirety are too small a sample to tell much, even without considering the uneven competition. Did any of Luke Hughes home runs come off pitchers who will be on an opening day roster? I have no idea, but fans shouldn’t make much of them unless they do. That said, Gardy seemed to think Hughes can hit major league pitching and a mini-slump isn’t going to change that. I think Tolbert is the utility guy, but I think that was true regardless of how he or Hughes hit the last week of the season.

    I say Gardy “seemed” to think because I think Gardy’s public statements often do not include “full disclosure”. He knows players read blogs and watch TV. Ansd

    • Seth March 23, 2011 at 8:14 am #

      TT – all five of his HR have come against guys who will be on Opening Day rosters.

      1 – Tim Wakefield, 2 – Joel Hanrahan, 3 – Jake Arrieta, 4 – One of two Marlins RP who will be with the big club, 5 – Brad Penny.

      Hughes has proven in the past that he can hit and he can have some power, so I agree that it should not be based on 5 HR in spring.

  3. Kopy March 23, 2011 at 7:52 am #

    It’s tough to say whether or not Luke Hughes can hit major league pitching, but I think he’s earned the opportunity to find out. If you like really small sample sizes, he’s a lifetime 2-7 in MLB. Of course, everyone remembers him getting a dinger in Detroit in his first career plate appearance. That matched Tolbert’s 2009 HR total in 100 plate appearances.

    • Seth March 23, 2011 at 8:15 am #

      But HR is not one of the first few categories to measure the value of a utility infielder by.

  4. adyacent March 23, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Spring training stats don’t matter as predictor of full season success, but do matter as the impression they generate, like in any other job. A guy can be the best at his job, but he makes a screw up in his/her first week and he/she is doomed, and vice-versa. Regarding to the Tolbert/Hughes decision, everybody knows what kind of players they are: the decision is to go with a guy that can really hit, but that is not so good defensively, or a guy that play acceptable defense in all infield positions, but it is not a good hitter. Bill Smith and company know that and I don’t think at this point they are going to be swayed one way or the other by a hit or a play during the next week. Maybe I am wrong.

  5. gobbledy March 23, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    we know what tolbert is, a utility guy. hughes seems like he has some up side over tolbert and giving him a chance at this stage of his career would make sense. tolbert has an option if hughes stinks bring up tolbert and then you know that it’s time to move on with hughes. hughes will be 27 this summer and has spent 8 yrs in the minors don’t you need to find out if he’s a player or not at some point?

  6. Jim H March 23, 2011 at 9:47 am #

    I suspect that Tolbert will likely be the backup infielder. I am also not so sure about the idea that he is much worse than Punto defensively. Clearly he makes more errors, but range and arm strength are very comparable. His best position is 2b, just like Punto, but clearly he can play ss and 3b more than adequately. Too many people look UZR numbers and actually believe they mean something.

    I am interested in the fact that Dumatrait and James are still around. That could be part of the agreement when they were signed this winter, or they may be mostly pertection to make sure nobody is overworked in a spring game. Still, while I doubt if either will make the team this spring, it seems they are being groomed as relievers even though both have been mostly starters in their careers. They maybe on the short list if somebody is injured or ineffective after the season starts.

    I will also be surprised if the Twins make a trade before the season starts. After a month or so maybe a trade will happen but more likely any trade would happen closer to the trade deadline. TT’s speculation on trading Kubel, yesterday, doesn’t seem very likely to me. While I expect that at least one of Cuddyer, Kubel or Young won’t be with the Twins next year, I think they need all 3 right now.

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