Geoff Blum and the uselessness of spring stats

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Lance Berkman is questionable to be ready for Opening Day following knee surgery last week and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Astros are leaning toward veteran utility man Geoff Blum as his replacement at first base.

In his absence, Geoff Blum started in the No. 5 spot in the lineup Sunday, giving protection to Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who batted third and fourth, respectively. …



Evaluating Blum by his spring numbers, however dangerous that is to do, he has looked like a middle-of-the-order hitter. He’s hitting 9-for-20 (.450) with three doubles in six games this spring. “If he continues to swing the bat well, I think everyone could see why I’d want him in that fifth spot,” [manager Brad] Mills said.

I believe the word I’m looking for is hogwash.
Geoff Blum is 36 years old and has played 11 seasons in the major leagues, hitting .250 with a measly .310 on-base percentage and punchless .387 slugging percentage in 4,088 total plate appearances spread over 1,256 games. And yet we’re supposed to believe that his going 9-for-20 in spring training has any kind of meaning whatsoever?
Spring training stats are pretty close to meaningless. Spring training stats consisting of 20 at-bats are exactly meaningless. And spring training stats consisting of 20 at-bats for a player with over 1,200 games on his big-league resume stretch beyond “meaningless” into “misleading.” As in, Blum is a bad hitter and focusing on 20 random at-bats in exhibition games may cause someone to think otherwise.
Blum has had plenty of very good 20-at-bat stretches in 11 seasons, but at the end of the day he has a .250 batting average with a .697 OPS for his career and hasn’t hit above .262 or posted an OPS above .705 since way back in 2002. Regardless of how long Berkman is out, for the sake of their sanity Astros fans better hope that quote from first-year manager Brad Mills is little more than lip service.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.