Spring training can be one flirtatious game for baseball fans. For a month-and-a-half, players lace up their spikes before games truly matter for the standings as a prelude to 30 teams chasing rings.
The latter part of February and the whole month of March is mostly an audition for young players and a tune up for the veterans.
But, do stats truly matter during spring training? The answer is more complex than just yes or no.
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Looking back at spring stats for the Giants and A's, some players produced numbers that had truth and carried over into the season. Others, not so much.
Here's how it played out:
Giants 2015 spring training hitting leaders (At least 10 games played)
- Batting average: Matt Duffy (.361)
- On-base percentage: Brandon Belt (.458)
- Slugging percentage: Mac Williamson (.696)
- Hits: Belt/Justin Maxwell (25)
- HR: Belt (4)
- RBI: Duffy/Maxwell (15)
The regular season offensively belonged to Buster Posey for the Giants, to nobody's surprise. Posey led the Giants in every offensive category except for home runs and slugging percentage, which he finished a close second.
But another offensive star for San Francisco was a rookie whose spring stats carried over. Matt Duffy was the team's offensive MVP in the spring and ended up as their biggest regular-season shocker, despite the big preseason numbers. Duffy filled in for Casey McGehee as the team's everyday third baseman shortly into the season, forcing the Giants to release McGehee on July 8.
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Duffy finished the regular season hitting .295/.334/.428 with 12 home runs in 149 games while playing superb defense. He finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting.
And then, there's the curious case of Justin Maxwell who was a stud in the spring, batting .345. Here's how Maxwell's slash line looked by month last season: March/April (.255/.333/.510), May (.226/.269/.258), June (.150/.190/.317), July (.250/.308/.444), August (.175/.298/.200). Maxwell finished the season hitting .209/.275/.341 with seven home runs and was DFA'd by the Giants on Sept. 1.
Giants 2015 spring training pitching leaders (At least five appearances)
- Wins: Ryan Vogelsong (2)
- ERA: Sergio Romo (2.16)
- Innings pitched: Vogelsong (22.1)
- Strikeouts: Tim Lincecum (19)
- WHIP: Chris Heston (0.73)
Madison Bumgarner's 2015 spring training line: 6 GS, 0-3, 4.91 ERA. The Giants' ace only went on to win 18 games with a 2.93 ERA while finishing sixth in NL Cy Young award voting.
Bumgarner's spring stats are a book full of fiction as the farthest indication of the truth.
Chris Heston, however, carried plenty of truth over to the regular season from the spring. Heston went 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five appearances -- starting two games -- and led the team with a 0.73 WHIP. He was then forced into the rotation due to a Matt Cain injury and was one of San Francisco's most reliable arms.
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Heston finished his rookie season 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA and tossed a no-hitter against the Mets in New York on June 9.
A's 2015 spring training batting leaders (At least 10 games played)
- Batting average: Billy Burns (.373)
- On-base percentage: Max Muncy (.463)
- Slugging percentage: Muncy (.697)
- Hits: Burns (31)
- Home runs: Mark Canha (6)
- RBI: Billy Butler/Ben Zobrist (15)
Speedster Billy Burns was the man everybody talked about during A's spring training last year, and for good reasons. Known for his wheels, Burns turned into a real offensive threat and his spring stats became a reality in the regular season.
As a rookie, Burns played in 125 games and hit .294/.334/.392 with 153 hits and stole 26 bases. He finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
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Another spring star was Max Muncy. This, however, may have been another Arizona desert illusion. After hitting the cover off the ball in spring training, Muncy didn't exactly do the same in his time with Oakland as a rookie. In 45 games played, Muncy only hit .206/.268/.392 with three home runs.
The A's All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt had a mediocre spring at best. Suiting up in 15 games, Vogt only hit .250/.319/.425 with two home runs and had seven strikeouts compared to five walks.
Right fielder Josh Reddick led the A's last season in home runs with 20 and RBI with 77, but only played in one spring training game. For his career though, the spring has been kind to Reddick as he owns a .326/.368/.580 slash line with 14 home runs.
A's 2015 spring training pitching leaders (At least five appearances)
- Wins: Jesse Chavez/Kendall Graveman (3)
- ERA: Graveman (0.36)
- Innings pitched: Graveman (25.1)
- Strikeouts: Drew Pomeranz (28)
- WHIP: Graveman (0.75)
Like the Giants, the A's ace had a mirage of a spring training line. Here's Sonny Gray's spring stats: 4 GS, 1-0, 7.53 ERA. Gray was second in earned runs and home runs given up. Doesn't exactly sound like a Cy Young candidate, right? Wrong.
Gray finished third in AL Cy Young award voting in his first All-Star season after going 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA. In four spring trainings in big league camp, Gray owns a 2-1 record with a 5.28 ERA.
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The young arm who shined brightest in camp for the A's last spring was Kendall Graveman. Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the Josh Donaldson trade, Graveman showed he belonged in the majors.
In the regular season, Graveman was a tale of two halves. Graveman went 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA in the first half of his rookie year, but an injury-riddled second half derailed his season. The righty finished 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA after going 0-4 with a 5.73 ERA in the second half and landed on the DL with a strained oblique on Aug. 24.
Spring training stats are a mixed bag of results with such a large group of players getting their fair share of time. It's clear when looking at some players' stats you may as well look away. But, when youngsters like Duffy and Burns keep producing, watching what they do next is a must. And then there's the mysteries like Maxwell and Muncy.
When looking at the box score during spring training, don't look too deep, but prospects deserve more attention as they are fighting to prove themselves while veterans are just adjusting their craft.