Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
More often than not, spring training statistics are meaningless. Or at least obvious, and thus not really significant to our preseason planning.
However, there are select players each season who hit the ground running in March and continue right into April when the teams move north and the games start counting.
There are also those whose mighty spring struggles are indicative of a larger issue, or of a horrific season to follow.
During spring training, there's really no way to tell which stats will matter and which are merely products of a small sample size.
However, for those players who have enjoyed continued success or struggled with extended failure from March until now, the information available may allow us to be prescient of who will make an impact through the rest of April and into May.
Here are six hitters and six pitchers whose spring results have carried over into the start of the season:
Chris Young, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks - Young has jumped out of the gate for Arizona, hitting four home runs and knocking in 11 runs with two steals in nine games. In 65 spring training at-bats, Young hit .400 with five homers and 10 RBIs. Young also walked 10 times while striking out just 10.
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers - Ethier had a down year in 2011, hitting just 11 homers with 62 RBIs in 135 games. It was the second straight year both his HRs and RBIs decreased. However, Ethier crushed the ball in the spring, going 20-for-52 (.385) with three HRs and 16 RBIs. Ethier has carried that into the start of 2012, batting .289 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 10 games.
Melky Cabrera, OF, San Francisco Giants - Cabrera had a career year in 2011 with Kansas City, and then was acquired by San Francisco in the offseason. In 70 spring ABs, Cabrera had 24 hits, four homers, 12 RBIs and 15 runs. The Melk man has delivered time and time again early this season, batting .414 with a homer, five RBIs, eight runs and a stolen base in the first six games. While an 0-for-8 streak has dropped his average to .324, Cabrera is a good bet to repeat his 2011 season, when he hit .305 with 18 HRs, 87 RBIs and 20 steals.
Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals - Unlike teammate Eric Hosmer, Moustakas' rookie year was anything but spectacular. The third baseman hit .263 with five homers and 30 RBIs and a .676 OPS in 89 games last year, then batted .240 with a .665 OPS in 75 spring at-bats, striking out 21 times and walking just three. Moustakas hasn't heated up as the calendar has turned to April, as he has batted .258 with no walks and seven strikeouts through eight games.
Matt Joyce, OF, Tampa Bay Rays - Joyce made the American League All-Star team in 2011, batting .277 with 19 HRs and 75 RBIs. However, he slumped in 64 spring at-bats, collecting just 10 hits, striking out 20 times and hitting .156. Joyce hasn't posted quality numbers in the first nine games of 2012 either, batting .250 (7-for-28) with 11 Ks.
Alexei Ramirez, SS, Chicago White Sox - Ramirez has been a solid shortstop option for several years, hitting 15-plus home runs, knocking in 68 or more RBIs and averaging almost 12 steals a season. But Ramirez had a weak spring, batting .234 with just one extra base hit in 64 at-bats. Ramirez has hovered around the Mendoza line early in 2012, finally getting his first extra base hit in 2012 (including the spring) when he socked a home run on Saturday. The White Sox shortstop is a notorious slow starter, posting a .574 OPS in 87 career April games.
Kyle Lohse, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals - With Chris Carpenter out, Kyle Lohse was called upon to start on Opening Day at Miami. Lohse had a bounce-back season in 2011, going 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, and then posted a 2.81 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 25 2/3 spring innings. In his first two starts in 2012, Lohse has as many wins as earned runs (two).
C.J. Wilson, LHP, Los Angeles Angels - Wilson had a brilliant spring after signing a big money contract with Los Angeles in the offseason, giving up just three runs in 24 1/3 innings while posting a 0.95 WHIP. Like Lohse, Wilson has two wins while allowing only two runs in his first two starts for the Angels.
Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers - Coming off one of the greatest seasons by a starting pitcher in the past 15 years, Verlander showed he was ready for a repeat with his performance in the spring. In 26 2/3 innings, Verlander struck out 25 batters, allowed just six runs and had a 0.94 WHIP. Verlander shut out opponents in his first 16 innings of 2012 before allowing four runs in the ninth inning against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. Despite that hiccup, Verlander has a microscopic 0.55 WHIP this season, allowing only six hits.
Tim Lincecum, RHP, San Francisco Giants - Lincecum has been shellacked in each of his first two starts this year, giving up 11 runs on 14 hits in 7 2/3 innings. Lincecum's struggles began in the exhibition session, when he surrendered 31 hits and 16 runs in 23 2/3 innings.
Max Scherzer, RHP, Detroit Tigers - Unlike his teammate Verlander, Scherzer's spring was something he'd like to forget. He gave up 38 hits and 21 runs in 29 2/3 innings. Then, in his first start of 2012, Scherzer was rocked by Boston. In 2 2/3 innings, the righty was bombarded for eight hits and seven runs. In his second start, Scherzer struck out 11 in six innings, but he also gave up three earned runs, leaving his season ERA above 10.
Jair Jurrjens, RHP, Atlanta Braves - Jurrjens had an excellent 2.96 ERA in 23 starts last season, but he was knocked around in spring training for 33 hits and 18 runs in 26 1/3 innings. He also had 12 walks and a 1.71 WHIP. In his first two starts of 2012, Jurrjens has continued to pack the bases with a 2.04 WHIP in 9 1/3 innings. His ERA currently sits at 7.71.
So what does this mean? Well, obviously, it's still an extremely small sample size and all of these players can reverse course at a moment's notice.
However, adding these players spring stats to their early regular season numbers helps to show these players are on longer hot or cold streaks than we realize at first glance.
If you own Young, Ethier or Cabrera, start them with confidence for the rest of April and hope their extended hot streaks are really harbingers for breakout 2012 seasons.
However, you might want to hold off on starting Lincecum, Scherzer or Jurrjens until they can string a few good starts together.
And while you're at it, find temporary replacements for Moustakas, Joyce and Ramirez while they try to bang out the doldrums that began in early March.