Spring Training, Day 5: Also yes.

*sigh* I promised I wouldn’t make any Archer jokes. Ah well.

Pretty entertaining game in Dunedin today, despite some early-spring follies on the bases and in the field. Some good plays to balance out the iffy ones, and some nice tools on display to boot (Moises Sierra’s arm, Anthony Gose’s speed, Chris Archer’s heat).

This was the first of three straight days seeing the Blue Jays for me, which I’m looking forward to. They are, of course, a fascinating team.

I don’t really have an anecdote today, so I wanted to talk (write) a little something about seeing things in Spring Training and sample sizes and all of that.

I have a deeply-held belief that bigger samples are better. If I have 1000 at-bats that say one thing and 20 at-bats that say another, give me the 1000. So in general, I’m highly, highly skeptical of Spring Training performances. Especially this early, when you’re talking about a week’s worth of games that don’t count. Occasionally someone really has taken a step forward. It happens. But it’s exceptionally rare, and if the month of spring games isn’t telling, the real season will be.

And yet, as I go through camps, I do form impressions. It happened last year, it’s already happening again this year. I don’t think this is contradictory, for me or other people who come to cover spring, and I want to explain why.

I’m not just watching games down here. I’m constantly thinking about baseball and the teams I’m watching. I’m talking to other national writers who have been to other camps, and talking to beat writers. These are long days, and it’s basically sleep-ballpark-dinner-sleep on many days, with the occasional drive thrown in.

So I’m thinking about these teams and players to a degree, and in a way, that I haven’t even as I was writing ball over the winter. I see the Rays three times in a week, and it’s not just that I’ve seen them play three games. I’ve thought about their lineup and their rotation and their bullpen, asked people about the team, etc.

The point is not to pat myself on the back or be all “I’m here so I KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.” It’s just to explain something that on its face may seem contradictory — on the one hand always warning not to make too much of spring stats, on the other telling you about impressions and opinions that I’m forming while watching spring games.

Or maybe I’m just a hypocrite.

Today’s game in a nutshell: The Jays committed three errors but hit a couple of homers, and hung runs on both of the pitchers that Tampa Bay acquired in the James Shields trade en route to a 5-4 win.

Quote of the day: “Cy Young. If I strike out 80 guys a year, is that going to [be enough]?” — Mark Buehrle, upon being asked by ESPN’s Jayson Stark what he has left to accomplish in his career.

Player of the day: Rays pitcher Chris Archer was bringing serious gas. 95-97 for strikes on his fastball, a nice slider, really impressive stuff. One hit, one strikeout, no walks in three innings. I said this on Twitter, but it was the most impressive pitching performance I’ve seen so far on the trip.

Miles driven: 22 today, 650 for the trip.

Miles run: 0 today, still on 9 for the trip

Starbucks trips: 0 today, 5 for the trip (powered by espresso over the final hour of the drive back from Port Charlotte last night)

Up next: Back here in Dunedin again tomorrow for the Jays against the Phillies. I’ll be on columnist duty again, but since I wrote Toronto today, I’ll almost certainly be doing something on the Phils tomorrow. Oh, and my parents will be there, so look for them on TV!

As an aside: BEAT PRINCETON

Ballpark music note of the day: They played the beginning of the Drive-By Truckers’ “Ronnie and Neil” when Adam Lind came up to bat for the first time. That was pretty great.

And, finally, the playlist:

So, I never did post my top albums of 2012. And it’s really too late to make it a separate post at this point. So I’m going to reveal them in playlist form over the next few days. I actually had a much different music year this year than in recent years. Due to Spotify, I heard a whole lot more albums a few times, but I didn’t hear as many albums a lot of times. If that makes sense. So the list reflects that. It’s longer, just because I came into contact with so much more music.

BTW, those of you who care about this know that my lovely bride Erin also always contributes a list. She has a much shorter list this year, so when we get to the top-10, her picks will be included. Anyway, one song each as we climb from No. 25 on up…

Red Collar, “American Me” (Welcome Home, No. 25)
Sleigh Bells, “True Shred Guitar” (Reign Of Terror, No. 24)
Killer Mike, “Anywhere But Here” (R.A.P. Music, No. 23)
Garbage, “Blood For Poppies” (Not Your Kind Of People, No. 22)
Metric, “Synthetica” (Synthetica, No. 21)

-M.

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