Every year lots of people act like spring training numbers mean something and every year they don’t. I guess there’s really no way of avoiding it, since everyone is so excited to have any kind of baseball to watch again after a long winter that they latch onto some random 20-game sample against varying degrees of competition.
Anyway, no one has exhibited the lack of spring training significance more than Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas.
He was on fire all spring, hitting .429 with four homers, seven doubles, more walks (11) than strikeouts (8), and a 1.290 OPS in 24 games. And now that the games actually count, Moustakas has hit .111 with zero line drives (yes, zero line drives) in 10 games.
And here’s the thing: It was the exact same story last season. Moustakas hit .444 with 11 total extra-base hits in 22 spring training games … and then hit .195 in April and .171 in May on the way to a horrible season.
I posted this mostly just to say “hey, let’s stop paying attention spring training numbers” rather than to specifically mock Moustakas, although at age 25 and with more than 1,500 very underwhelming plate appearances as a major leaguer the one-time top prospect could be running out of time in Kansas City.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: