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Good Spring Gone

Hunkered down in a cold, snowy start to the season, I thought it might be a good time to quickly revisit a hot March, or even several hot Marches.

The week before the season started, I looked at a handful of players who had spring stats curiously far above their career norms. Has their luck, er, solid playing continued into the season?

First of all, I mentioned Spring Training's total base leader (as of March 28), Derrek Lee, as being no surprise. While his spring line of .494/.508/.797 wasn't going to continue into the year, it was indicative of the capabilities Lee possesses. So far, eight games and 36 plate appearances into it all, Lee's still hitting the ball quite well, .424/.472/.515. What those numbers and the small sample size hide is a lack of extra base hits; three doubles out of 14 total hits account for all of Lee's XBH. Looking at the hit charts, most of his hits have landed midway between the infield and wall between center and left field. His three 2Bs all came in Milwaukee, all three landing near the same spot at the wall in left center. One thing I notice in the batted ball data at the Hardball Times, is a line drive percentage of 26.9%, well above his totals from the previous three years (20.3% in 2006, 20% in 2005, and 18.7% in 2004). More line drives to that middle distance of the OF partially explain the lack of HRs (he had 3 at the same point last season). The weather probably factors in to it all as well. I remain confident his extra base hits will come, probably all against my Cardinals when the two teams meet up later this month.

Terrmel Sledge has been the featured member of an OF platoon with Jose Cruz Jr. Through five games and 16 Pas, he's hitting .308/.438/.538 with 4 hits, 1 HR, 2 BB, and 2 K. His regular season isn't too far off his spring hitting line of .322/.375/.644. His BABIP is just .300. He's got an 86.4% contact rate and a 12.5% walk rate, so his .300+ batting average feels legit. It's an auspicious start to be sure, and Padres fans are hoping he continues to be an effective part of the platoon, even if he finds himself regressing to the mean just a bit. His PECOTA prediction for 2007 is .269/.353/.463.

Seattle hasn't played much this season after the snow out in Cleveland, and Willie Bloomquist has seen just two PAs, as an 8th inning sub for Ichiro in a 9-0 loss to Oakland and replacing Beltre at 3B in Tuesday's disaster against the Red Sox. Willie's spring line of .448/.508/.552 wasn't enough to fool the Mariners into considering him anything more than a bench guy.

Hitting .167/.200/.292 through 6 games and 25 PAs speaks for itself, in any language, regardless of hard you exaggerate your inability to understand English. A spring strike out rate of 19% has inched back toward expectations, now sitting at 24%. He has one walk. Things will likely improve, but consider me shocked if his OBP crosses the .330 mark this season. I still don't see the logic behind signing Sosa.

Russ Ortiz got touched up for 3 earned runs against the Dodgers in his only start so far this season. Pitching five innings, he allowed 7 hits, 3 BB and 4 K. Having just 5 innings of work to look at doesn't make it worth our while to figure out BB/9 and K/9; you can see both ratios would be pretty high. His spring BB/9 rate of 2.50 raised eyebrows, because it was so far below his career ratio of 4.66. Small sample size caveat, it looks like he remembered how to hand out the free passes since Arizona.

We're still a long way from summer's long grind, where some will start looking back fondly on the spring and wondering just what happened.