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Geoff Blum and the uselessness of spring stats

Mar 16, 2010, 1:47 PM EDT

Lance Berkman is questionable to be ready for Opening Day following knee surgery last week and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros are leaning toward veteran utility man Geoff Blum as his replacement at first base.

In his absence, Geoff Blum started in the No. 5 spot in the lineup Sunday, giving protection to Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who batted third and fourth, respectively. …

Evaluating Blum by his spring numbers, however dangerous that is to do, he has looked like a middle-of-the-order hitter. He’s hitting 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles in six games this spring. “If he continues to swing the bat well, I think everyone could see why I’d want him in that fifth spot,” [manager Brad] Mills said.

I believe the word I’m looking for is hogwash.
Geoff Blum is 36 years old and has played 11 seasons in the major leagues, hitting .250 with a measly .310 on-base percentage and punchless .387 slugging percentage in 4,088 total plate appearances spread over 1,256 games. And yet we’re supposed to believe that his going 9-for-20 in spring training has any kind of meaning whatsoever?
Spring training stats are pretty close to meaningless. Spring training stats consisting of 20 at-bats are exactly meaningless. And spring training stats consisting of 20 at-bats for a player with over 1,200 games on his big-league resume stretch beyond “meaningless” into “misleading.” As in, Blum is a bad hitter and focusing on 20 random at-bats in exhibition games may cause someone to think otherwise.
Blum has had plenty of very good 20-at-bat stretches in 11 seasons, but at the end of the day he has a .250 batting average with a .697 OPS for his career and hasn’t hit above .262 or posted an OPS above .705 since way back in 2002. Regardless of how long Berkman is out, for the sake of their sanity Astros fans better hope that quote from first-year manager Brad Mills is little more than lip service.

  1. JasonC23 - Mar 16, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    “Geoff Blum started in the No. 5 spot in the lineup Sunday, giving protection to Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee…”
    You keep using this word, “protection.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

  2. jwb - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Have no fear. The Astros have signed Matt Kata!

  3. Largebill - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Each year a few hitters have a deceptively good spring (bloops that fall in and some wind blown homers) and then get overvalued in auction drafts by folks who ignore the player’s history. I used to make that mistake. Now, I hardly care at all about spring stats. Only usefulness is for guessing increased playing time as some managers can be fooled by the small sample size as well.
    Pitching is a little different. A pitcher’s spring performance may provide warning signs. Right now I’d shy away from Ben Sheets.

  4. kbl - Mar 16, 2010 at 2:23 PM

    Feliz should hit 5th. Shelton should play 1B and hit 6th if Berkman is not ready.

  5. joeiscool12 - Mar 16, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    He didn’t use the word “protection.” The article he quoted did.

  6. adam - Mar 16, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    i believe the phrase you are all overlooking is If he continues to swing the bat well, I think everyone could see why I’d want him in that fifth spot,”. i don’t think anyone here would disagree that if you have someone hitting like blum is now you’d want him hitting fifth. of course, he’s very, very, very, very unlikely to do so. but while berkman’s out you may as well ride the hot hand.

  7. JasonC23 - Mar 16, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    Yes, I know that, thanks.
    (ReCaptcha: natural Cleaver)

  8. Dan in Katonah - Mar 16, 2010 at 4:43 PM

    On behalf of Astros management I am authorized to state that you make some cogent and reasonable points based upon quantifiable … ooh look, something shiny.

  9. Trevor - Mar 17, 2010 at 4:34 PM

    There are few things that perplex me more than the fact Geoff Blum has accumulated more than 4,000 major league plate appearances.

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