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What's In A Cactus League Number?

I'm of the mindset not to give spring training stats more than a cursory glance. Sometimes, especially with players fighting for a roster spot, I'll look at some elements of "overall performance," such as Ryan Goleski's inability to make enough contact or Joe Kennedy's extreme inability to get anyone out at all ever not even occasionally (until after this post was written last night, anyway). These are among the few results I feel have some--though still not all that much--relevance. For those inclined to give much more credence to Cactus League numbers, here are some helpful reminders from the Cactus League, circa 2006:

* Dan Johnson hit .356, then proceded, in the regular season, to keep grounding both baseballs he saw to the second baseman. One limitation of spring training stats is that it tends to show how well you can hit AAAA pitching, not major league pitching, so Johnson's solid Cactus League stats don't really prove what he most needs to prove: that he is better than a AAAA hitter.

* Jason Kendall and Antonio Perez hit .308 and .232, but not respectively. It was Kendall who hit only .232, and Perez who nearly tripled his regular season average in spring training.

* Kiko Calero posted a 9.64 ERA, nearly matched by Chad Gaudin's 7.43 ERA. Both went on to have fine seasons. Joe Blanton won 16 regular season games following a spring in which his Cactus League ERA was 6.45. However, in spring training Blanton did accurately foreshadow that he was inclined to give out more hits than a crack dealer in the Tenderloin.

* Milton Bradley and Frank Thomas each batted .167, while Mark Ellis hit .347, yet it was Thomas and Ellis who got off to painfully slow starts.

So whether you want to use this information to chill out about Blanton and Kennedy or to worry that Piazza and Johnson will slump in April, sometimes it's just good to remember: We've been following the A's games with great interest for a month, and we actually don't know anything.