I refuse to spend valuable time I could be devoting to poring through my new Baseball Prospectus 2007, which arrived in the mail yesterday, reading spring training box scores. I know full well that's there's nothing conclusive to be determined from a few weeks' worth of half-hearted competition against either major leaguers just trying not to get hurt or minor leaguers pressing to make an impression. Which is why it's silly that every year major league teams make big decisions about the games that count based on distorted spring samples. Sometimes this blind spot can work out for the best, getting a young player established as a major leaguer in a timely manner. Sometimes it can mean disastrous roster decisions. For example, what if a washed-up non-roster veteran pitcher strings together a couple of decent four-inning starts in split-squad games? Not only could you end up throwing away games in April and May trying to recapture that lightning in a bottle, you might lose someone really useful for good when you have to take them off the 40-man to make room for Mr. March. I love watching Spring Training games, but I hate that anybody takes them at all seriously, ever.
The most hilarious example of this is the Online Cubs Panic Empire, who in the course of one go-around of the team's starters' spring pitching schedule decided that Mark Prior was done and Kerry Wood was back, and then three days later maybe Prior wasn't done but Wood was. The way I see it, the team ought to cut both of those guys right now just to save their fans the suffering. What am I saying? This is the Cubs. Sometimes I lose perspective.
Unfounded faith in Spring Training stats looks like it will help rather than hurt the Rockies this year, as Dan O'Dowd and Clint Hurdle seem disinclined to make Jason Hirsh wait until midseason to crack the major league rotation. It makes sense, since even if Hirsh isn't quote-unquote "ready" he's still a very good bet to be better than the likes of Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim, who are the chief victims of Hirsh's good camp. When pitchers and catchers reported it looked like there might be a free-for-all among several candidates for the fourth and fifth starters' jobs, but things have fallen into place ahead of schedule. Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Rodrigo Lopez, and Hirsh are all in. Taylor Buchholz will relieve. That leaves Fogg, Kim, Denny Bautista, and Brian Lawrence to work it out amongst themselves who will get the fifth starter's spot. The Rockies, who know exactly what last year's starters Fogg and Kim can and can't do, I suspect are leaning towards one of the new faces. If he can prove he's healthy, Lawrence ought to be the guy. (He was born in Fort Collins, and the Monforts love local guys.) That is one thing -- the one thing -- that does matter in Spring Training. Proving you're healthy, especially for guys like Lawrence who are coming back from major surgery. Lawrence will start tomorrow against the White Sox, whom the Rockies have now played no fewer than six times this spring. Good thing they're in different leagues. Maybe it is time for the Rockies and D-Backs to throw in the towel and move along with the White Sox and Dodgers to the Phoenix area with everybody else.
Mike Hampton is hurt again (HA!), so the Rockies have offered Kim and/or Fogg to the Braves, who unsurpisingly said no thanks. Todd Helton apparently isn't going to play in any spring training games outside of Tucson this year, so tough luck if you're like me and love Helton but are really creeped out by that huge plane graveyard. Keeping in mind that we place no significance whatsoever on spring training stats, it's still fun to note how many Rockies are hitting above .300 as of this morning: Garrett Atkins, Helton, Matt Holliday, Kaz Matsui, Brad Hawpe, Yorvit Torrealba, Troy Tulowitzki. Even Willy Taveras! But Clint Barmes is hitting .167. Good thing I changed the name of this page last year, huh? Clint does have options left, so it looks like he has a SkySox uniform in his very near future.
The first five articles I read in this year's BP, in order: Rockies, Cubs, Braves, Devil Rays, Indians.