Spring Training Stats Worth Little

Yankees pitcher Luis Severino had a rough Grapefruit League debut Wednesday afternoon, allowing five runs in the second inning, thus ending his day with a 33.75 ERA.

Big deal!

Utility infielder Dustin Ackley had a pair of RBIs in the Yankees’ 10-9 win over a split-squad of Detroit Tigers.

So what!

Though some fans live and die with performances such as Severino and Ackley had Wednesday afternoon, they mean nothing. As much as Dane Iorg in the 1977 Phillies camp. Iorg hit the cover off the ball that spring, back when we were on the Pittsburgh Pirates beat, earning the Phils’ first-base job.

Iorg, who had a solid, 10-year big-league career, batting a career .276, mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals, was 5-for-30 (.167) in 12 games as the Phillies starting first-sacker. That June, the up-and-coming Phillies at the time, becoming a powerhouse, traded Iorg, pitcher Tom Underwood and outfielder Rick Bosetti to St. Louis for outfielder Bake McBride and pitcher Steve Waterbury.

Iorg had both the game-winning hit in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series and proved to a then-young baseball writer how little Spring Training stats mean.

A player can force has way onto a team if there is a need, as Yangervis Solarte did with the Yankees in 2014, and he seems to have found a home in San Diego. But he slumped after a hot start, lost his job to journeyman Zelous Wheeler and was involved in the mid-season trade for Chase Headley

Defensively, there is more value. The play made by Starlin Castro on the shortstop side of second base showed his skill, as did outfielder Ben Gamel‘s assist throwing outt Detroit’s Miguel Gonzales. The same with Rob Refsnyder‘s six errors on 44 chances in Florida in 2015, which led to Stephen Drew coming back as a starter and the trade for Castro.

Offensively, Grapefruit League stats are Fool’s Gold, just like September batting averages. Pitchers do not have their best stuff. They are working to build to build endurance. If they happen to get a few guys out, as former Met Mike Pelfrey did Wednesday for Detroit, it’s an addition.

Spring Training serves two purposes. The first is to allow veterans to get into game shape, get their timing down, get loose and comfortable in the field and at bat. The second, especially early, is to give prospects like outfielders Dustin Fowler, who will possibly open at Double-A Trenton, and Aaron Judge, who will open at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a chance to play with the major leaguers and give the big-league staff something to remember.

Then there are the retreads like infielders Chris Parmelee and Donovan Solano, outfielder Chris Denorfia and several pitchers with big-league experience hoping for a major-league spot. They all face the ever-present question of are any “better than what we have in-house already.”

Usually not, especially on better teams.

Last year, Dellin Betances was ineffective in Spring Training. Did he lose it? Was he a flash-in-the-pan? Of course not. It just took a bit of time for a big guy like him to regain his command. That is what the Rites of Spring are for.

So enjoy listening to or watching baseball in the Florida sun, but the stats, especially the offensive side, mean nothing.