Often in observing Spring Training stats–besides the desire to just absorb all of it at face value–there’s an inclination to disregard the negative, but take some cautious joy in the positive occurrences. None of it is supposed to predictive of regular season performance, so your favorite player going 0-for-Spring Training can be waived off (thankfully), but do we really have to disregard completely another player going on a tear? It can’t be a bad thing, right?
Probably the most extreme example is Adam Dunn. Dunn offered no indication of being a viable major leaguer at any point during the 2011 season–nor did he have a good Spring–so something hinting to the contrary would be extremely welcome. He did that, then added some signs that he still some bat speed left, then added signs that he was viable against left-handed pitchers, and now after three weeks we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum with him.
After hitting 2 HRs off of Kansas City lefty Bruce Chen (including a super-fun grand slam), Dunn has a Buñuelian triple slash line of .333/.515/.875 for the Spring. He’s struck out once in 33 plate appearances. Adam Dunn’s Spring would be setting unrealistic expectations for his performance even if he were still in the thick of his prime.
Perhaps his improvement needs to be that outsized for anything to register as having a shred of truth to it. Dunn’s high-flies couldn’t reach the wall in 2011, so now he has to hit bombs out to the opposite field. He struck out at titanic rates last season, so now he has to not strike out at all. He looked like a dying fern in the rare moments he got at 1st base last year, so now he needs to turn unassisted double plays.
Spring is a tiny sample size, but this hot stretch already matches anything he put together in 2011, and allows for dreaming on how much of a Godsend the middle ground between this, and the Dunn we know would be. Hell, if became 2005 Carl Everett from here one out, it’d be a reason for relief.
Considering the extremes; while it certainly would have been nice to see Dayan Viciedo hit the ground running in Spring, given that he’s still relatively unproven. But it didn’t become necessary to see something from Viciedo until he tumbled to the depths of hitting .133 with two walks, no power, while striking out 1 in every 3 times up to the plate.
Without that there might be some absurdity in the concept of Viciedo waltzing around different minor league fields, taking at-bats in different games, and finishing the day having accumulated 3 HRs on the day after all was said and done. Instead, getting his groove back–provided Dayan wasn’t just getting away with lunging, off-balance swings–against lower competition seems like a fine use of his time. Better now than later, surely.
Dayan also had a tooth pulled on Wednesday. Maybe that will help. Maybe that tooth was causing tremendous pain, a pain that surged with its greatest force whenever he tried to concentrate. Perhaps the combination of stepping to the plate, the hot sun, the pressure to perform, and trying to pick up the sight of the pale white ball against bright blue sky transformed his tooth pain into a searing hot drill in his head, scattering his thoughts, pulsing out nightmarish visions of dead, mangled animals staggering across the infield grass, his bat melting and burning the skin off his hands, as he heard twisted and distorted versions of Gavin Rossdale’s most recent solo work ringing in his ears. And perhaps these symptoms made it difficult for him to hit.
Probably not though, because firstly, that’s insane, and because even though there’s a language gap, Viciedo would be likely to mention something like that to his interpreter. Getting rid of the tooth doesn’t seem like it hurt him, though.
Also among the fireworks on Thursday, Pierzynski hit his first HR of an otherwise fairly horrid Spring, Brent Lillbridge is hitting for average (.333) despite really still striking out quite a lot, Rios knocked runners on multiple occasions despite his swing overhaul progress seeming to be minimal, and Eduardo Escobar went 2-for-3 to raise his Spring average to .480. The one time Escobar didn’t record a hit was when he drag-bunted, reached on an error and advanced to 3rd. Eduardo Escobar is having absolutely as good of a Spring Training as could ever be fathomed.
I’m beginning to think Bruce Chen didn’t have his best stuff on Wednesday.
We could further pour cold water on this by pointing out that Jordan Danks and Dallas McPherson both have OPS’ over 1.000 right now, because baseball is a crazy sport where a AAA-player can hit .350 for a week even if he’s striking out all the time, provided the balls fall in the right part of the ground.
But that’s known, and with all the rationalizing of failure that’s been needed for this Spring, it’s pretty fun that the White Sox have just scored an insane truckload of runs the past two days.
They might need to keep it up, since the Sox will be hiding their starting pitchers a lot more for the rest of Spring Training to keep opponents from getting a read on them. How effectual that will be with guys that have been in the division for years is up for debate, but Peavy is on board!
“We know those guys. They know me. Hopefully they haven’t seen me like I could be, but there’s no sense in giving them three looks.
“I’d rather go down to the minor leagues and work on everything and not try to show my cards here in six or seven innings.”
Fair enough, maybe facing re-built mutant-Peavy, or simply Not-Badly-Hurt-Peavy will be a different experience worth keeping under wraps. Matt Thornton confirmed that this is a thing.
“I’m not going to do what I’m going to do against them during the regular season,” Thornton said. “I’m going to work on things I need to work on right now and maybe give them a different look to put something in their mind if I face guys who are going to be in their everyday lineup.
But if pitchers are just screwing around and hiding their true arsenals, then all of the recent offensive accomplishments could be called into question, and maybe the earlier games look even worse, but other guys like Chris Sale have been working the whole time, and aw dammit I can’t wait till this is all over.