Mirage Of Spring Training

Beware of what is seen in the desert heat. It may not be real. Case in point is the Mariners belting five home runs Friday in their spring opener. They are not the Bronx Bombers, not Murderer’s Row.

The ball carries in the desert heat and Phoenix has the second highest elevation after Denver. The first home run came from the bat of Michael Saunders, who the boys on talk radio seem to think will open in center with Gutierrez out. Is somebody from the front office hinting, spoon-feeding? Why the talk about Saunders?

Michael Saunders

Image via Wikipedia

 

With Gutierrez hurt last season Saunders had his opportunity. In spring training he hit .286 with two home runs. In 58 regular season games he hit .149. Spring training is a mirage, a chimera, it is bizarro world.

In three years Saunders has played in 204 games with 12 home runs, driven in 45, with a career .196 batting average and a 31% strike out rate. Those numbers are more telling than the illusion of spring.

True he is only 25 and one can forgive the last three years as a learning experience. And he reportedly had a hitting coach this offseason to change his swing.

The mirage is reading too much into what a player does in spring by looking at his overall stats. Who is the player getting theirs hits off of in spring is more telling. Getting the majority of hits off minor leaguers and having a high rate of failure against major league pitching is a more accurate gauge then overall numbers.

Casper Wells may not play as well defensively in center, but is a far better hitter with more power. Wells got off to a great start before vertigo like symptoms saw his average drop, but he hit seven homers in 102 at bats. And playing him in center is not a big drop-off.

So as the spring unfolds beware of the heat waves creating shimmering mirages. Stay hydrated, look beyond the numbers. Hey, Carlos Peguero two homers in two games. Maybe . . .

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