September 27, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals designated hitter Billy Butler (16) receives congratulations from teammates after hitting a home run against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Royals And Spring Training Stats

It is very easy to get overly excited about Spring Training performances. Fans are so connected with their teams that when players do extremely well or poorly during the spring, fans get too excited, or too disappointed, too quickly. The secret is to remain even keeled about the statistics generated during spring games.

The Kansas City Royals have some extreme performances over the years during Spring Training.  Remember when Jeremy Affeldt was 21 years old and made the Royals think he was the next great left handed pitcher? More recently, Remember when Alcides Escobar was new to the blue, he hit, what 4 or 5, Arizona home runs and everyone thought he had reserves of suppressed power?  It is so, so easy to believe.  Fans, especially long suffering Royals’ fans, are so anxious for something positive to happen, they put too much stock into spring numbers.

There is so much going on during Spring Training that can skew statistics.  First, and foremost, the location and the facilities tend to inflate offensive numbers and make pitching stats appear worse than they really are.  By all accounts, the dry air and wind really make the balls carry in Arizona.  This will make hitters’ power number more impressive than they are.  Usually, the teams know this and try to downplay inflated power numbers.  Secondly, especially early on, some stats are accumulated by facing players who really aren’t close to the majors, both hitters and pitchers.  Batters can excel when facing young pitchers who are just getting a look in Spring Training, plus early on, pitchers are still building arm strength and sharpening their control.  Thirdly, there are a lot of instances where pitchers are only working a couple of innings and are trying to develop or sharpen a specific pitch, or they are working on location, technique, or the mechanics of a certain pitch.  Sometimes, pitchers will go out and just throw the same pitch in ST games over and over.  Well, major league hitters are going to tee off when that situation arises.  That’s what they are conditioned to do.

The best thing to do in spring training is to ignore the results.  That is a foreign a concept for a society that focuses on results, but it is prudent when it comes to Spring Training statistics.  Don’t get overly excited when you see that a formerly light hitting player knocks out three dingers over the course of 20 at bats.  Don’t blow a fuse when a pitcher the Royals are counting on allows 5 runs in an outing.  It is all right to get a bit excited or worried; we are fans after all.  Just try to temper those emotions by understanding the big picture of what is being accomplished.

The are some things to watch.  Keep an eye on pitchers’ velocity as the spring progresses, especially Ervin SantanaHe had some alarming trends in 2012.  Watch and see if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are showing improvement in their swings.  Watch Wade Davis to see if he is struggling to transition back into a starting pitcher, or if he looks comfortable with the change.  You can even watch Luke Hochevar to see if they really did see a flaw in his mechanics that caused him to fall apart whenever anyone reached base against him.  If established players like Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, James Shields, and Jeremy Guthrie struggle this spring, don’t panic.  These guys are proven commodities who are just working out kinks, or are knocking off rust.  Watch with interest to see if Johnny Giavotella can win the second base job outright, and keep an eye on Jeff Francoeur for an indication if we will get the 2011 version or that out of shape, slow hacker from 2012. Can Lorenzo Cain recover from his early spring hand injury and shake off his growing reputation as a player who can’t stay healthy?  These are all intriguing things on which we can focus our attentions.

Always keep in mind that for the first time in all long time, most of the Royals roster spots are filled with experienced big league players. Most are not trying to prove themselves or earn a job.  Other than just a few exceptions, the Royals roster is almost set.  That is a nice luxury.  The Royals won’t be expected to reward players who had surprising springs with roster spots they probably aren’t ready for yet. Spring Training games are not worthless but the results are.  These games offer players the opportunity to work on their game and to get them prepared for the long season.  The actual numbers these guys generate are not important, it’s all about the polish.  As fans, we need to temper our excitement, or disappointments, and just enjoy the baseball.  Soon enough, the results will matter.

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Tags: Kansas City Royals

4 Comments on Royals And Spring Training Stats

  1. Cris Coleman says:

    Well put. I think you nailed it.

    I think baseball fans are so desperate for baseball of any kind after a long winter that we put too much emphasis on Spring Training. I know I have in the past, but you straightened that out for me. I hadn’t really looked at it like that.

    The off-season is just too long to be without Royals baseball, or baseball of any kind, for that matter. The off-season seems even longer than the actual baseball season for me. And I only listen to it on the radio.

    Like all Royal fans, I’m looking forward to this year. I was not particularly tied in with Will Meyers, so I was not particularly upset with the trade. In fact, I was excited because, even more than the lack of run scoring, it was the pitching that was the most frustrating for me to listen to, especially Hoch, who, in my estimation, could be a Cy Young candidate, if he could just get his head straightened out.

    Personally, I think the entire team could benefit from a few sessions with Tony Robbins. If anyone could straighten out the mental kinks of this team, Tony Robbins could. The guy is a miracle worker.

    Will the Royals win 90 games, as the Kings of Kaufman Marcus Meade posited, I don’t know, but I’m always holding out for the best hope.

    I think most of the Royals problems are mental, even more than technical, and if they could get that straightened out (Tony Robbins, hint, hint), I think they could win that many and even more.

    I’m ever the optimist when it comes to the Royals, even when they suck. Of course, that just makes it more difficult when the consistently lose, buy, hey, that’s life for a Pollyannish baseball fan, right?

  2. Joel Wagler says:

    Thanks Chris. I too am an optimist. I am one of the few bloggers that supported the Shields trade. If I can’t be positive about the Royals, I just couldn’t take being a KC fan.

  3. jayhwk01 says:

    I have never dreaded a Royals season more. Sure we have Shields and Davis. But for all the hype and clamor I don’t see a KC team much better than the last 2-3 years. We have mgmt who can’t let bad players go, and worse pay them to stay. So .500 is success? That is a loser mentality and exactly why Royals fans get exactly what we get year after year. Honestly I hope as much as anybody for lightening in a bottle but lets be very honest….that is what it will have to be for the Royals to make any kind of notable run.

  4. Wally Fish says:

    @Jayhwk01 – I’m right there with you on many of your points. I will say that this team is much better than it has been in recent memory BUT what gets lost is that additional wins are going to be real tough to come by.

    In the AL Central alone the White Sox have basically tread water but the Tigers are better and are still the favorites (by a wide margin IMO). On top of that, the Indians and Twins look to be better as well. You look to the AL East and the worst team might end up being the Yankees with all the talent they’ve lost due to departures and injuries. There are only so many games on the schedule against the Astros and Mariners (non-Felix starts).

    There is a very real possibility that the Royals will get better pitching AND hitting and still might not pick up that many games in the win column over 2012. Improvement isn’t made in a vacuum as other teams are pushing to get better (aside from the travesty in Miami) and that gets lost all too often.

    Right now I see a team that, if healthy, winds up right around 80 wins. An 8 game improvement is NOT insignificant and it’s reason for optimism, but there is still a ton of work to be done.

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