If you believe the fact that Angels, Reds, and Dodgers have the three worst win-loss marks in baseball this spring means something, or that Kansas City, Baltimore, and Seattle’s preeminent records are prophetic in any way, be my guest.
It just doesn’t matter.
We’d be well advised to tap the brakes just a little on Mitch Moreland’s gaudy .386/.453/.702 line in camp, and to ignore the Cactus League’s .321 batting average against Matt Harrison, but on the other hand, what if Jeff Baker had hit .194/.324/.419 and Mike Olt had hit .418/.458/.545, rather than the opposite? What if Joe Ortiz (11-6-1-1-1-11) and Neal Cotts (6.1-15-5-5-1-8) had flipped pitching lines?
Are spring training statistics dispositive?
Are they persuasive?
They shouldn’t be.
Are they relevant?
For some players, you bet.
You don’t draw any conclusions from Yu Darvish’s 42 strikes out of 52 deliveries last night, especially against what amounts to a minor league team with commercials on their uniforms, but it’s a lot more reassuring to see the righthander that sharp with all his pitches in his final practice run before they count.
And while the decision on whether Josh Lindblom or Cory Burns gets the final roster spot – unless it goes to Julio Borbon (.333/.400/.456, more walks than strikeouts) until fifth starter Nick Tepesch is needed in Game Eight – won’t be based on how the two righties (both of whom have options) fared Thursday night against Leonardo Heras and Sergio Gastelum, the fact that both pounded the zone and carved the Diablos up (Lindblom: three pop-ups; Burns: three groundouts) serves each of them well.
As is Leury – lay-OOH-ree – Garcia’s .241/.343/.414 line in what was an abbreviated camp due to his time with the Dominican Republic squad in the World Baseball Classic. If he’d put up the .067/.176/.200 numbers that Engel Beltre did, you can be sure that Ryan Theriot or Ronny Cedeno or someone like that would be lining up on the chalk Sunday night in Houston.
But for a player like Garcia, who had to win certain people over to earn the job he’s earned, it was probably just as much about the impressions he made outside the box score, like the 20-minute one-on-one sessions with Gary Pettis on the back fields bunting diamonds, or the moments like this:
It’s fun (and probably a job requirement) for the papers to roll season predictions out around now, and I do read with interest when Gerry Fraley forecasts 101 Ranger wins (and 35 Moreland bombs), Evan Grant speculates that Texas will trade for Giancarlo Stanton in July, and Emily Jones believes Texas and Baltimore will once again meet as Wild Cards – only this time Jones has the Rangers getting through the Orioles and the rest of the AL and returning to the World Series – but there are so many variables.
Who will get hurt?
Will Colby Lewis, Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz, and Martin Perez all get well, and contribute?
And will Kyle McClellan fit in that sentence?
Will Lance Berkman hold up?
Will Josh Hamilton?
Will Ian Kinsler and Derek Holland step back up like they need to?
Will the Marlins actually listen on Stanton?
Are the Orioles more likely to make a repeat playoff appearance, or to finish last in the East?
Will Leonys Martin (.350/.397/.483) and Craig Gentry (.345/.419/.618) carry this month of awesomeness over into the season, and if so, will we see a significant number of games in which one of them starts in center and the other (probably Gentry) starts on a corner (both have the arm to do it) to give David Murphy or Nelson Cruz a rest, rather than having to rely on Baker or Garcia to do that too often?
And what if Cruz is told he can’t play for a third of the season?
Jon Daniels on Martin: “He’s showing that he’s a big league player. I feel very, very good about our evaluators in this organization. Our guys have made some good calls, and our ownership backs us and spent $15 million on a guy that very few people in the organization had seen. I think that says what we think about the guys who made that call, and it appears that he may very well be worth that money.”
Ron Washington on Gentry: “I didn’t think he could be an everyday guy. He’s worked hard. He’s learned how to get through the baseball. He’s always been patient at the plate. We know he can play defense. He won’t back down. . . . He’s figured out just how good he can be and he’s just letting it go. He’s showing me a total game.”
The work of those two, especially given the loss of the team’s most important outfielder, has been the quiet story of this camp.
Martin stands to get the Opening Night assignment against righthander Bud Norris, but the Rangers draw five righties in their first six games, and Gentry is going to start against more than just Angels lefthander Jason Vargas over that first week of baseball. (Neither Martin nor Gentry has more than two career at-bats – in either the majors or minors – against Astros righthanders Lucas Harrell or Philip Humber, but Gentry will surely draw the start against one of them.)
The spring work of Borbon, on the other hand, has probably punched his ticket out of Texas. Out of options, he’s not going to clear waivers after his solid camp, and so we can expect a trade, this weekend or at least at some point before Tepesch is needed on April 8. The return of Rule 5 pick Coty Woods to Colorado (despite reported efforts to work out a trade) and the outright of lefthander Brad Mills to Round Rock clear roster spots for Baker and Derek Lowe. Tepesch isn’t on the 40-man roster himself, and when Borbon moves on, that will open up a spot for the young righthander.
The Rangers have until Sunday at 2:00 to finalize their Opening Day roster. Borbon tells Barry Horn (Dallas Morning News) that he thinks the Astros, Mets, Cubs, and Rays have expressed interest in him. The Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Yankees have also been mentioned at times this spring. Houston has waiver priority and thus would only feel compelled to trade for Borbon if it feared some other club has a deal on the table Texas would take.
When Texas signed Ortiz in August 2006, and Garcia in December 2007, and Tepesch in August 2010 (with the over-slot cash that Daniels insisted on two weeks earlier in the trade of Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Boston, giving added life to the Teixeira Trade), the idea that all three would start their 2013 seasons in Texas couldn’t have been any more than a pipe dream. But here we are.
With two games in San Antonio (and a “280” painted on the 16-foot-high right field fence), updates on Scott Lucas’s unparalleled organizational depth chart, and a couple new farm system rankings out (Baseball Prospectus: Rangers 2, Mariners 5, Astros 9, A’s 25, Angels 30; Baseball America: Mariners 2, Rangers 3, Astros 9, A’s 25, Angels 30) to get us from now until Sunday’s opener, we can all sit here and crystal-ball a win-loss record, or we can instead consider these two quotes from club officials about the Rangers’ new utility infielder:
Daniels: “How many guys switch-hit, 8-arm, 8-run, can play SS, 2B, CF? There’s one guy that can do it: Leury Garcia.”
Washington: “We’re going to have to make sure he gets his work. We’re going to have to love him a lot.”
Having lived through the last third of 2012, I’m sure you agree that the second quote is as invigorating as the first.
That’s a comment that I’m planning to rely on, and for me is more interesting than how many extra-base hits Ian Kinsler had in camp, or how many baserunners Alexi Ogando allowed, or whether a national baseball writer has Texas pegged for 86 wins, or 96.
Some of it’s relevant, to a degree, but there are only so many things that can be controlled, like whether you forgo $20,000 and instead take what’s being offered for an outfielder out of options and out of the plans, who plays center field and when, and a manager’s stated commitment to use his bench and keep his veterans fresh, so that the Rangers are as relevant toward the back end of the 162 that follow, and hopefully beyond that, as they appear to be right now.