Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard prove that spring training is a liar

By Sean O'Brien
Philadelphia Phillies Cole Hamels
Steve Mitchell – USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies‘ front office and coaching staff had to like what Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard did through late March. But, after the first week of the season, both players have proven the old adage that spring training is a liar.

In this over-saturated sports world, plenty of digital fodder is available regarding the Phillies’ number 1 starter not performing well during his initial starts in past seasons and his apparent preference to pitch after the sun goes down. The most avid sabermetric aficionados can surely provide additional quips about how well number 35 throws on odd days of even months when the moon is visible and it’s dollar dog night. That last statement contains abstract baseball points for the truly committed.

How dare anyone deride the self-appointed descendants of Bill James and all that they have brought to the modern game?

My take on Hamels is that he pitched poorly because he couldn’t find his location during this first two starts. As soon as he does, he’ll be set to run in the Cy Young race again. No numbers were harmed in that one sentence analysis, as the reader duly noted.

Let’s move on to Howard, who is the second-best home run hitter in Phillies’ history.

During the Grapefruit League season “The Big Piece” channeled his inner “Schmidty”, circa the mid-70s onward. In other words, no mound man was smiling when they saw him walking to the plate.

Six games into the 2013 season, number 6 has apparently dropped his spring bat. How would overanalyzing any number that’s connected to this first handful of games help any fan to realize anything more than that?

All seasoned baseball loyalists, regardless of their stadium seating preference (somewhere in the infield, with a clear view of the scoreboard), game day apparel option (player jersey, preferably retro) or french fry choice (double cheese please), know that spring training statistics and early season efforts are never pure predictors.

Hamels is a precise pitcher. Howard is a power hitter.

Both men were fine as of two weeks ago. Because of good health, they’re statistically likely to perform to their projected potential as the next 156 games play out.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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