Spring training results are pointless and mean nothing. Anyone can hit like a young Ted Williams or pitch like 1999 Pedro Martinez during practice. But practice, much like Allen Iverson reminded us (while wearing a dope Red Sox hat might I add), is not the real game. Every statistic that is being compiled during spring training will be wiped away in a few weeks and jettisoned off to Rob Manfred’s basement.
But I like statistics, perhaps too much, and after a winter without their sweet, sweet nectar, spring training stats are enough to satiate me until April. So let’s take a look at some interesting statistical trends from the first 11 spring training games and what they could (but probably won’t) mean for the season.
Sam Travis is going to help solve the power crisis
You thought J.D. Martinez was here to hit dingers? Well Sam Travis is as well. I wrote about my hopes for the first base prospect last season, and I’m still firmly in the driver’s seat of the bandwagon. So you can imagine just how much excitement has engulfed the Neuffer household this spring. In 25 at-bats, Travis has an OPS of .921 and six extra-base hits, including two home runs. While there is a logjam at first/DH with Martinez, Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland in the mix, perhaps Travis is ready to make that situation even murkier.
The catching depth goes beyond Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon
If you don’t already know, Blake Swihart is the king of Fort Myers. He has slashed .417/.481/.792 in 24 at-bats and leads the team in hits (10), doubles (six) and RBI (eight). If he is even half the player he has been in spring, then the Red Sox will have some tough decisions to make at backstop.
But it goes deeper than that. Even though he has only played in five games, Oscar Hernandez has been pretty good, with a .571/.571/.857 line in an admittedly wicked small sample size. But Hernandez was a former top 25 prospect in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization and is still just 24-years-old. I’m not saying he’s going to challenge for the 25-man roster, but as a non-roster invite, he has upside.
Tzu-Wein Lin is as patient as ever
Tzu-Wei Lin came up last season to provide infield depth and succeeded for the most part at the MLB level. He slashed .268/.369/.339, and showed a real talent for taking a walk. With a walk percentage of 13.6, he got on base at a very healthy clip. Once again an infield depth option, Lin has walked six times in nine games already this spring training, giving him an OBP of .435. We already knew he had patience at the plate, but continuing to exhibit such a mature approach will only help his stock.
Joe Kelly strikes batters out now
There is no doubt that Kelly is going to be a key part of the Red Sox’s bullpen this season. He threw 58 innings last season and posted an ERA of 2.79 as well as an ERA+ of 164. But for a hurler who came in for short bursts, he didn’t strike out as many batters as you might think (8.1 per nine innings). The previous season he punched out 10.8 per nine and so far in spring training he has seven Ks in four innings. That’s a rate of 15.8 per nine innings. Is that sustainable? No. But is it a positive sign. Sure.
Obviously the fact that all of these numbers have come in small sample sizes means they shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but there is a chance that some (or all) of these trends will carry over into the regular season.
Every sport has a mental aspect as well as a physical one. Rick Porcello is focused on improving the former in 2018. (Michael Silverman; Boston Herald)
J.D. Martinez didn’t exactly help that cause by launching a home run off the right-hander in a scrimmage. The newest member of the team is going to play in an actual spring training game today as well. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Alex Cora is certainly a believer. (Peter Abraham; Boston Globe)
Drew Pomeranz is progressing nicely since he was injured this spring. With “no pain,” he is on track to be ready to go early this season, if not opening day, although we all know that is also Sale Day. (Michael Silverman; Boston Herald)