I’ve said this before, but not this year, so here goes… Spring training statistics are nearly worthless. First, the sample sizes are so small — the Melky leads the Braves with 34 AB, Hudson with 14 innings — that the whole of spring training is maybe the equivalent of two weeks’ worth of regular season play. Big whoop. I saw Jeff Francoeur walk five times in two weeks once.
Second, the quality of competition is extremely variable, even within a game — you start out facing basically the two-time pennant-winning Phillies, and wind up facing basically the 2009 Lehigh Valley IronPigs. If Brooks Conrad gets two plate appearances against Roy Halladay and Joe Thurston gets two against David Herndon and Antonio Bastardo, who do you think has the advantage?
Don’t speak too soon… it doesn’t seem to be happening as much this year, but another problem is that established pitchers are mostly trying to get into shape, and therefore throwing mostly fastballs, which are easier to control and more likely to be strikes. Spring training stats tend to disappear after the season (another sign that they’re meaningless) but I once saw Chipper’s, and his career ST isolated on-base (OBP – AVG) was less than half his career regular season number. A result of this is that some players who can’t hit breaking balls often hit a lot better in spring training than they really should. Travis Wilson almost made the team one year before cooler heads prevailed, and he was a former softball player who could no more hit a slider than he could fly to the moon, with the caveat that it’s possible that one day New Zealand will get a space program.
So anyway, I think it’s possible that scouts can get something from spring training, but there’s no real value to me, a person who when he tried looking at minor leaguers decided that Odalis Perez would be a superstar, and so concentrates on stats. There’s just not a lot there.
More importantly, it’s dumb to let spring training “performance” decide who will make the team. The good news is that for the Braves it’s mostly around the fringes that this is happening — basically the last two or three spots in the bullpen, and the last spot on the bench. And it really doesn’t matter if Conrad or Thurston makes the team, because they’re practically the same player. But there are times when it does matter.