Tigers spring training numbers: One more time with meaning

The Detroit Tigers' big bats are making some noise during spring training. (Elizabeth Conley/Detroit News)


That’s the Detroit Tigers record going into Sunday’s preseason game. Throw in a few ties – three, to be exact – and you’ve got yourself quite a spring.

I know what you’re going to say: It doesn’t count. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t mean a thing. And I would agree with that … except I don’t.

Last night on Twitter, Buster Olney shared a few stats prefaced with, “Spring training # don’t mean anything but they’re sure fun to look at.” And, while I agree they are some fun numbers (“Tigers’ 3-4-5 hitters batting .393, .345, .519”), I don’t happen to believe they’re completely meaningless.

Obviously, they don’t mean what they mean in the regular season. That’s not what I’m saying. But here’s the thing. If Prince Fielder or Miguel Cabrera were batting .115 down in Florida, that would mean something, right? If Delmon Young went 0-28. If the team were 0-12.

So, in a way, the numbers do mean something – they mean we’re getting what we expected. As long as the numbers fall in line with our expectations – good or bad – they count. Like Justin Verlander’s 13 strikeouts through 9.2 innings pitched, Brandon Inge’s .240 batting average and Austin Jackson’s 10 strikeouts.

Of course, anything above and beyond those expectations is meaningless. Young’s 1.533 OPS? We’ll just count the first .850, okay? Fielder’s and Cabrera’s slightly elevated stats? Nope. Ryan Raburn’s MLB-leading five home runs and 15 RBIs? Uh-uh. (Just a side note here – I actually think Raburn’s numbers this spring are meaningful – which is why I think we should bench him until opening day. And heat Comerica Park.)

There are the numbers that might mean something.

  • 10 IP … 1.80 ERA … 1.30 WHIP. Is this Rick Porcello’s year?
  • 9 IP … 0.00 ERA … 6 Ks … 0.56 WHIP. Will Andy Oliver be the fifth starter?
  • .238 AVG … 9 SOs … 0 3Bs. What’s up with Alex Avila? (The answer here, panicking people, is, “Nothing. Relax. Everything is going to be just fine.”)

And then there are the other numbers. The ones that are excruciatingly meaningful. The ones that fall short. The ones that postpone dreams. And the ones that end them.

So, yes, spring training numbers do have meaning.

Prince and Miguel and Delmon batting a combined .417 means everybody is exactly where they’re supposed to be. Raburn’s numbers mean we might have options. And Inge’s numbers mean we might need them.

And, okay, yes, the meaning – or lack thereof – can be completely arbitrary. (See “Alex Avila.”)

But for all of the spring numbers tossed around and argued all over the Internet, my favorite isn’t open for debate. It changes daily. And it’s a sure thing.


It’s not a stat.

It’s the number of days until opening day.

Only 18 days until we’re eating hotdogs, drinking beer and watching Verlander pitch at Comerica Park …

… 18 days until all is right with the world …

… 18 days until we find out what all of these other numbers really mean.

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