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By the numbers: Dissecting what spring training stats mean

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By the numbers: Dissecting what spring training stats mean

Spring training can be one flirtatious game for baseball fans. For a month-and-a-half, players lace up their spikes before games truly matter for the standings as a prelude to 30 teams chasing rings.

The latter part of February and the whole month of March is mostly an audition for young players and a tune up for the veterans.

But, do stats truly matter during spring training? The answer is more complex than just yes or no.

[PAVLOVIC: Additions may help Jake Peavy]

Looking back at spring stats for the Giants and A's, some players produced numbers that had truth and carried over into the season. Others, not so much.

Here's how it played out:

Giants 2015 spring training hitting leaders (At least 10 games played)

  • Batting average: Matt Duffy (.361)
  • On-base percentage: Brandon Belt (.458)
  • Slugging percentage: Mac Williamson (.696)
  • Hits: Belt/Justin Maxwell (25)
  • HR: Belt (4)
  • RBI: Duffy/Maxwell (15)

The regular season offensively belonged to Buster Posey for the Giants, to nobody's surprise. Posey led the Giants in every offensive category except for home runs and slugging percentage, which he finished a close second. 

But another offensive star for San Francisco was a rookie whose spring stats carried over. Matt Duffy was the team's offensive MVP in the spring and ended up as their biggest regular-season shocker, despite the big preseason numbers. Duffy filled in for Casey McGehee as the team's everyday third baseman shortly into the season, forcing the Giants to release McGehee on July 8. 

[PAVLOVIC: Panik, Duffy have new friendly competition for 2016]

Duffy finished the regular season hitting .295/.334/.428 with 12 home runs in 149 games while playing superb defense. He finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting. 

And then, there's the curious case of Justin Maxwell who was a stud in the spring, batting .345. Here's how Maxwell's slash line looked by month last season: March/April (.255/.333/.510), May (.226/.269/.258), June (.150/.190/.317), July (.250/.308/.444), August (.175/.298/.200). Maxwell finished the season hitting .209/.275/.341 with seven home runs and was DFA'd by the Giants on Sept. 1. 

Giants 2015 spring training pitching leaders (At least five appearances)

  • Wins: Ryan Vogelsong (2)
  • ERA: Sergio Romo (2.16)
  • Innings pitched: Vogelsong (22.1)
  • Strikeouts: Tim Lincecum (19)
  • WHIP: Chris Heston (0.73)

Madison Bumgarner's 2015 spring training line: 6 GS, 0-3, 4.91 ERA. The Giants' ace only went on to win 18 games with a 2.93 ERA while finishing sixth in NL Cy Young award voting.

Bumgarner's spring stats are a book full of fiction as the farthest indication of the truth.

Chris Heston, however, carried plenty of truth over to the regular season from the spring. Heston went 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in five appearances -- starting two games -- and led the team with a 0.73 WHIP. He was then forced into the rotation due to a Matt Cain injury and was one of San Francisco's most reliable arms.

[PAVLOVIC: Cain confident he'll be ready]

Heston finished his rookie season 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA and tossed a no-hitter against the Mets in New York on June 9.

A's 2015 spring training batting leaders (At least 10 games played)

  • Batting average: Billy Burns (.373)
  • On-base percentage: Max Muncy (.463)
  • Slugging percentage: Muncy (.697)
  • Hits: Burns (31)
  • Home runs: Mark Canha (6)
  • RBI: Billy Butler/Ben Zobrist (15)

Speedster Billy Burns was the man everybody talked about during A's spring training last year, and for good reasons. Known for his wheels, Burns turned into a real offensive threat and his spring stats became a reality in the regular season. 

As a rookie, Burns played in 125 games and hit .294/.334/.392 with 153 hits and stole 26 bases. He finished fifth in American League Rookie of the Year voting.

[STIGLICH: A's prospect Matt Olson reunites with Addison Russell]

Another spring star was Max Muncy. This, however, may have been another Arizona desert illusion. After hitting the cover off the ball in spring training, Muncy didn't exactly do the same in his time with Oakland as a rookie. In 45 games played, Muncy only hit .206/.268/.392 with three home runs.

The A's All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt had a mediocre spring at best. Suiting up in 15 games, Vogt only hit .250/.319/.425 with two home runs and had seven strikeouts compared to five walks.

Right fielder Josh Reddick led the A's last season in home runs with 20 and RBI with 77, but only played in one spring training game. For his career though, the spring has been kind to Reddick as he owns a .326/.368/.580 slash line with 14 home runs.

A's 2015 spring training pitching leaders (At least five appearances)

  • Wins: Jesse Chavez/Kendall Graveman (3)
  • ERA: Graveman (0.36)
  • Innings pitched: Graveman (25.1)
  • Strikeouts: Drew Pomeranz (28)
  • WHIP: Graveman (0.75)

Like the Giants, the A's ace had a mirage of a spring training line. Here's Sonny Gray's spring stats: 4 GS, 1-0, 7.53 ERA. Gray was second in earned runs and home runs given up. Doesn't exactly sound like a Cy Young candidate, right? Wrong. 

Gray finished third in AL Cy Young award voting in his first All-Star season after going 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA. In four spring trainings in big league camp, Gray owns a 2-1 record with a 5.28 ERA. 

[STIGLICH: Role of franchise star doesn’t come naturally for Gray]

The young arm who shined brightest in camp for the A's last spring was Kendall Graveman. Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the Josh Donaldson trade, Graveman showed he belonged in the majors. 

In the regular season, Graveman was a tale of two halves. Graveman went 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA in the first half of his rookie year, but an injury-riddled second half derailed his season. The righty finished 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA after going 0-4 with a 5.73 ERA in the second half and landed on the DL with a strained oblique on Aug. 24.

Conclusion

Spring training stats are a mixed bag of results with such a large group of players getting their fair share of time. It's clear when looking at some players' stats you may as well look away. But, when youngsters like Duffy and Burns keep producing, watching what they do next is a must. And then there's the mysteries like Maxwell and Muncy.

When looking at the box score during spring training, don't look too deep, but prospects deserve more attention as they are fighting to prove themselves while veterans are just adjusting their craft.

MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

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MLB rumors: Why Giants should trade for Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray

The Sonny Gray era in New York appears to be coming to an end, and the Giants should pounce at the chance to add the former Cy Young candidate. 

According to Fancred's Jon Heyman, the Yankees are pushing hard to complete a Gray trade soon. He also lists the Giants as one of seven teams that have been involved as possible partners, and perhaps recent favorites.

Why would the Giants want to trade for someone that had a 4.90 ERA in only 130 innings and a whopping 1.50 WHIP last season? The numbers aren't that simple. 

It all starts with Yankee Stadium, or "The Sandbox in the Bronx." Gray had a brutal 6.98 ERA in 15 games in his home park in 2018, but a great 3.17 ERA in 15 games away from it. His WHIP went from 1.91 in New York to 1.16 at all other ballparks. 

The Yankees are known as the Bronx Bombers for a reason. They turn games into Home Run Derby in their own backyard. Now imagine being on the other side of the ball, the one who throws the pitches and sees a pop-up turn into a jog around the bases. 

When looking at Park Factors, which compares the rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road, Yankee Stadium was the sixth-best home run park in the league. It's no coincidence Gray allowed 11 home runs there and only three on the road. 

By comparison, AT&T Park Oracle Park was the second-worst ballpark for home runs last season by Park Factors. 

It's well known that the Giants play in one of the most pitcher-friendly places in all of baseball. Gray has never had the luxury of pitching in San Francisco -- he's also never pitched at Petco Park (Padres) or Coors Field (Rockies) -- but he's only allowed two earned runs in 15.1 innings combined at Chase Field (Diamondbacks) and Dodger Stadium. 

Gray, 29, could thrive in a new environment like San Francisco -- especially by working with his old pitching coach Curt Young again. Young was Gray's pitching coach on the A's, when Gray had his most success (including a third-place finish for the Cy Young Award in 2015).

As Gray is a free agent after 2019 season, he could either help the Giants contend this season or become a valuable trade chip if San Francisco is out of the playoff hunt by the July 31 trade deadline. 

In an offseason where bringing back Derek Holland has been the biggest move, it's time to take a chance and make it Sonny in the Bay again.

Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

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USATSI

Giants Mailbag: Is there an ideal fit still out there on the market?

SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, we will be one month from the first full-squad workout at Scottsdale Stadium.

If the Giants gathered today, they would look eerily similar to the team that finished far out of contention last season. 

That should change, of course. Team officials expect to make multiple additions over the next three weeks, taking advantage as prices continue to fall for the dozens of quality free agents still on the market. Trade talks have remained steady, too. 

But right now, we’re still in the midst of an extremely quiet offseason. On Wednesday, Ahmed Fareed joined me for a lengthy podcast that went over the slow pace, the Harper-Machado markets, the issues with the CBA, young players vying for jobs and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

Thank you to everyone who sent questions along. There were so many that it’s time to add a mailbag to the podcast … 

Sign Marwin Gonzalez as a super utility, seems like a Zaidi kinda guy, provided he’s not too expensive. Then look to trade him at the deadline to a team in the hunt. - @brayden_cleland

Longtime listeners of the podcast know that Gonzalez has been my target throughout this offseason. He could be the opening day left fielder and provide depth throughout the infield, and he would add some pop. He has been connected to some contenders — primarily the Braves, lately — but for the most part, he has been out of the headlines.

It’s possible Gonzalez is waiting to see where Harper and Machado end up, knowing that the teams that miss out will have plenty of money left to spend. 

The second part of this question is interesting to me because we don’t quite know what Zaidi thinks of no-trade clauses. Bobby Evans handed them out to just about everyone, and the Giants are paying for that. You can bet Zaidi would like to avoid doing the same. But it’s possible that veterans — like Gonzalez — will make that a prerequisite of signing with a team that’s not looking like a contender. It’ll be interesting to see how Zaidi handles the no-trade issue. 

Will Watson and Smith both be traded this year? What teams do you think are the best trade partners? - @Dc_cargo

I would be surprised if they’re both on the Opening Day roster. Ahmed made a good point on the podcast, predicting that the Giants will actually make their trade during spring training. There will be a team that loses a valuable reliever to injury during spring training, and perhaps that’s when Zaidi will pounce. 

Before then, I still think there’s a strong chance that Smith gets dealt. Team officials were awfully shy about naming him the closer when they gathered in Las Vegas last month, and they’ve made no secret of the fact that they get calls on Smith. Andrew Baggarly mentioned the Angels as a team that’s been hot on Giants relievers.

This is just my speculation, but if the Red Sox aren’t able to bring Kimbrel back, Smith could make a ton of sense for them. With Adam Ottavino and Zach Britton in New York, the Red Sox certainly have some work to do to keep up with their rival. 

How does the Giants brass feel about possibly sharing Oracle Park with the Raiders next season? - @SportsAnthony

I’m sure there are mixed feelings throughout the organization. Some people I’ve talked to were shocked that this was an option, but at the same time, it could bring some serious cash into the organization, and this remains a business.

The Giants looked seriously into having an XFL team play at AT&T Park when that league reboots, so they’re prepared to continue hosting occasional football games. I checked on this about a week ago and was told it’s still possible that the Giants and Raiders strike a deal. 

Is Zaidi going to keep the infield and try to trade bullpen pieces for a veteran outfielder? Also, how does the rotation stack up for you? Bum, D Rod, Holland, Suarez, Stratton? Will they trade Samardzija? Will Pablo and Longoria platoon at third? Better athlete...Ahmed or Alex. - @Hardeepd2

A lot to unpack here. If the Giants do trade a Smith or Watson, they won’t be aiming to get veterans back. The goal in any deal right now is to get young cost-controlled contributors who have options remaining. Think of it as trying to get another team’s Andrew Suarez or Steven Duggar. Zaidi wants flexibility. 

It’s just about impossible to trade a guy with a shoulder injury, so the best the Giants can do with Samardzija is hope he’s healthy — his throwing program is said to be going well — and run him out there as part of the rotation, either for their own benefit or to rebuild his trade value before July 31. Right now, it’s Bumgarner, Rodriguez, Holland, Samardzija, and Suarez in some order. 

RELATED: [What Zaidi learned from Muncy, Taylor discovery]

They won’t put Longoria in a straight platoon, although I think all the veterans will lose some time when the matchups are right. Longoria doesn’t have huge splits but I still think they’ll give him more rest. 

As for the final question, this is certainly something we should have settled when the Giants were losing every day in September and we were trying to figure out what to talk about on the pre-game show … 

Any thoughts on Adam Jones? - @jakewilcken420

On a cheap, one-year deal that puts him in an outfield corner? Sure. There’s no harm in that, and the roster certainly needs a veteran right-handed bat in the outfield. But I think there’s a fine line with some of the remaining veterans. You look over the outfield list and at some point, you reach a point where you might as well throw Williamson, Slater, Shaw, Gerber, and Ferguson out there and let them sink or swim.

A big part of the 2019 season is figuring out who can be part of a more potent team in 2020, and the Giants won’t do that if they give too many at-bats to 33-year-olds.