Spring stats could be eye-opener for some

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spring training stats can be as deceiving as Tim Lincecum’s changeup and can throw you off like an Adam Wainwright curveball. But they still keep coming at you like Carl Crawford going from first to third.

It isn’t just the limited sample size, either. As the numbers add up, you still can’t be sure what they are worth. Even scouts can be fooled by what they see in spring. The other day, a scout told me that he once followed Brad Penny for an entire spring. For an entire month, Penny’s fastball maxed out right at 85 mph. But as soon as the games started to count, Penny was "91-93 and hitting his spots just like he always is."

Tigers ace Justin Verlander gave up homers to Ryan Howard and prospect Domonic Brown (who cleared the yard with his) in a 3 1/3-inning outing Tuesday and afterward said, "I was really pleased today. My changeup and breaking ball were a lot better and my fastball had more life."

He wasn’t just making excuses, either. Verlander explained Howard’s homer: "I’ve been having trouble getting fastballs in to lefties. I knew this was my last inning and I wanted to take the opportunity to work on getting in to lefties. So I threw a lot of fastballs in to him, and he made the adjustment. He realized what I was doing. He got his foot down and barreled one."

Of course, you know where this is heading: spring training numbers, good and bad. Despite their potential for deception, spring stats are still as good a barometer as any to evaluate performances in the spring. And any position player battling for a job would rather see crooked numbers instead of zeroes beside his name in the box score.

Slow starts

Kevin Millwood has lived up to his reputation as a lousy spring pitcher.
Kevin Millwood has lived up to his reputation as a lousy spring pitcher.

Ben Sheets, SP, A’s
So this is what $10 million gets you: 17 hits and 15 earned runs through 4 1/3 innings (three starts). Yes, Sheets’ health is what is important and he says he feels good. But even Sheets would like some results. After he failed to retire a hitter in his Monday start, he told reporters, "People have had bad springs before, but this is just taking it to a whole new level."

Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles
Baltimore’s new No. 1 starter is living up to his reputation as a lousy pitcher in spring training. After two starts: 16 hits, 11 runs in 3 1/2 innings. "I use this time to get ready," he said after his first start. "I try to get my pitches to a level where they’re ready for Game 1 (of the regular season). And if I go out and get beat around a little bit working on something, I don’t care. I’m just trying to get better."

To limit his exposure to AL rivals, the Orioles had Millwood pitch to some of their minor leaguers Tuesday. He fared better, throwing four scoreless innings before giving up three runs.

Chone Figgins, 3B/2B, Mariners
He was Seattle’s No. 1 target on the free agent market, and he has one hit in 16 at-bats thus far. He does, however, have eight walks — and his strong on-base percentage is why the Mariners coveted him.

Big beginnings

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins
A prospect often mentioned in the same sentence as Jason Heyward, Stanton wasn’t expected to make Florida’s 25-man roster. After hitting three homers in his first five games, however, the 20-year-old at least is forcing the Marlins’ brass to consider if he is ready.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
If you saw the outfield prospect Tuesday, you know why the Phillies held onto him through the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay trades. Brown knocked a full-count fastball from Verlander completely out of the Phillies’ spring training park, homered to center off Phil Coke (with the assist of a fan who caught the ball headed for the top of the wall), beat out an infield hit and walked, raising his batting average to .417 and his OBP to .464. His reward: He was sent to minor league camp after the game.

Tyler Colvin is tearing up the Cactus League.
Tyler Colvin is tearing up the Cactus League.

Tyler Colvin, OF Cubs
After beefing up in the offseason, the former first-round pick is gorging on spring training pitchers. Colvin, 24, is 16-for-30 in Cactus League play and is making a strong bid to break spring training as an extra outfielder.

Adam Rosales, IF, A’s
When it acquired him from the Reds, Oakland planned to make Rosales a utility player. But with a .450 batting average after nine games, he is pushing Cliff Pennington (4-for-14) for the starting shortstop spot. That is, of course, if you go by the numbers.

Spring training postscript

At 8 this morning, several dozen fans were lined up outside of the Phillies’ park in Clearwater. A couple of hundred tickets for the afternoon game against the Yankees went on sale at 9. This wasn’t just a Yankees thing, either. A security worker outside said it is like that every day this time of the month. And many of the fans arrived well before 8 for the 1:05 p.m. start.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Spring training stats can be as deceiving as Tim Lincecum’s changeup and can throw you off like an Adam Wainwright curveball. But they still keep coming at you like Carl Crawford going from first to third.

It isn’t just the limited sample size, either. As the numbers add up, you still can’t be sure what they are worth. Even scouts can be fooled by what they see in spring. The other day, a scout told me that he once followed Brad Penny for an entire spring. For an entire month, Penny’s fastball maxed out right at 85 mph. But as soon as the games started to count, Penny was "91-93 and hitting his spots just like he always is."

Tigers ace Justin Verlander gave up homers to Ryan Howard and prospect Domonic Brown (who cleared the yard with his) in a 3 1/3-inning outing Tuesday and afterward said, "I was really pleased today. My changeup and breaking ball were a lot better and my fastball had more life."

He wasn’t just making excuses, either. Verlander explained Howard’s homer: "I’ve been having trouble getting fastballs in to lefties. I knew this was my last inning and I wanted to take the opportunity to work on getting in to lefties. So I threw a lot of fastballs in to him, and he made the adjustment. He realized what I was doing. He got his foot down and barreled one."

Of course, you know where this is heading: spring training numbers, good and bad. Despite their potential for deception, spring stats are still as good a barometer as any to evaluate performances in the spring. And any position player battling for a job would rather see crooked numbers instead of zeroes beside his name in the box score.

Slow starts

Kevin Millwood has lived up to his reputation as a lousy spring pitcher.
Kevin Millwood has lived up to his reputation as a lousy spring pitcher.

Ben Sheets, SP, A’s
So this is what $10 million gets you: 17 hits and 15 earned runs through 4 1/3 innings (three starts). Yes, Sheets’ health is what is important and he says he feels good. But even Sheets would like some results. After he failed to retire a hitter in his Monday start, he told reporters, "People have had bad springs before, but this is just taking it to a whole new level."

Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles
Baltimore’s new No. 1 starter is living up to his reputation as a lousy pitcher in spring training. After two starts: 16 hits, 11 runs in 3 1/2 innings. "I use this time to get ready," he said after his first start. "I try to get my pitches to a level where they’re ready for Game 1 (of the regular season). And if I go out and get beat around a little bit working on something, I don’t care. I’m just trying to get better."

To limit his exposure to AL rivals, the Orioles had Millwood pitch to some of their minor leaguers Tuesday. He fared better, throwing four scoreless innings before giving up three runs.

Chone Figgins, 3B/2B, Mariners
He was Seattle’s No. 1 target on the free agent market, and he has one hit in 16 at-bats thus far. He does, however, have eight walks — and his strong on-base percentage is why the Mariners coveted him.

Big beginnings

Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins
A prospect often mentioned in the same sentence as Jason Heyward, Stanton wasn’t expected to make Florida’s 25-man roster. After hitting three homers in his first five games, however, the 20-year-old at least is forcing the Marlins’ brass to consider if he is ready.

Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies
If you saw the outfield prospect Tuesday, you know why the Phillies held onto him through the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay trades. Brown knocked a full-count fastball from Verlander completely out of the Phillies’ spring training park, homered to center off Phil Coke (with the assist of a fan who caught the ball headed for the top of the wall), beat out an infield hit and walked, raising his batting average to .417 and his OBP to .464. His reward: He was sent to minor league camp after the game.

Tyler Colvin is tearing up the Cactus League.
Tyler Colvin is tearing up the Cactus League.

Tyler Colvin, OF Cubs
After beefing up in the offseason, the former first-round pick is gorging on spring training pitchers. Colvin, 24, is 16-for-30 in Cactus League play and is making a strong bid to break spring training as an extra outfielder.

Adam Rosales, IF, A’s
When it acquired him from the Reds, Oakland planned to make Rosales a utility player. But with a .450 batting average after nine games, he is pushing Cliff Pennington (4-for-14) for the starting shortstop spot. That is, of course, if you go by the numbers.

Spring training postscript

At 8 this morning, several dozen fans were lined up outside of the Phillies’ park in Clearwater. A couple of hundred tickets for the afternoon game against the Yankees went on sale at 9. This wasn’t just a Yankees thing, either. A security worker outside said it is like that every day this time of the month. And many of the fans arrived well before 8 for the 1:05 p.m. start.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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