Spring Training Monsters

As a result of Lawrence Butler's ludicrous spring break out, I thought I would take a look at how it ranks amongst other A's players who have had similarly otherworldly Springs over the last couple of years. Butler has hit .550/.625/1.000 with a 1.635 OPS, 20 total bases and 24 plate appearances, incredible numbers.

In order to be considered, players had to at least match Butler's 24 PAs. Unless otherwise specified, all records go back to and including the 2015 season when the A's moved into Hohokam Stadium.

Since the start of 2015 Spring Training, no A's player has hit for a better BA over a single Spring than Butler, with the rest of the top 5 including Franklin Barreto (2017), Sean Murphy (2022), Sam Fuld (2016) and Slade Heathcott (2018). I can't imagine another situation that would bring together this peculiar group of players. I checked what Slade Heathcott was doing these days, he's an airline pilot, and he managed to retire with a .400/.429/.720 career MLB slash line. Impressive stuff. Sam Fuld is the current Phillies GM, so it all worked out for him, despite not appearing again for the A's after he hit .407 in Spring 2016. Hopefully, Butler pans out to be more of a Murphy or a Barreto. Side note: Franklin Barreto's spring training stats are ridiculous over his career if you fancy taking a look. Brent Rooker's 2023 spring currently sits in 6th on this list (as of Monday 20th March), as he is hitting .393, something to watch out for, I guess. His career profile so far is very similar to the other names on this list - with the exception of Murphy of course.

If we consider all the Spring Training stats I could find (running back to 2006), Todd Linden has the highest all-time batting average for a single A's spring. In 2008, when the A's spring base was Phoenix Muni, Linden hit .586/.647/.897 in 34 PAs. He never appeared for the A's in a Major League game and was released in May 2008. Linden then went on to have a decent 3-year NPB career, where he clearly maintained his penchant for ridiculous offensive stretches. In 2010, he hit .500/.580/.510 in 50 PAs for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles' Minor League affiliate. He could clearly get on a hot streak.

In terms of Home Runs, we also have a curious top 3 (there were far too many ties to make a top 5 worth doing):

1. Matt Olson (2021), Matt Chapman (2016), Mark Canha (2015) with 6

2. Sheldon Neuse (2018), Ryon Healy (2017), Danny Valencia (2016), Billy Butler (2015) 2nd with 5

3. Sheldon Neuse (2022), Mark Canha (2018), Jake Smolinski (2018), Yonder Alonso (2017), Brett Lawrie (2015) with 4

Yonder Alonso, who checks in at tied 3rd on the list, truly had an insane 2017 Spring Training, and along with hitting for average (.389) and power, he also had an OBP of .500 which is ranks tied 2nd amongst A's players since then. His 2017 Spring Training proved to be prophetic, as he went on to achieve his only All-Star Game appearance later that year. Similar predictive qualities can be seen in Matt Olson's 2021 spring, as he of course went on to hit a further 39 bombs and also become a first-time All-star. The current 2023 Spring Training A's Home Run leaders are Kevin Cron, Conner Capel, Shea Langeliers, Jace Peterson and Kevin Smith, wouldn't it be lovely if one of them could have a 39 HR season? Baseball Reference projects that Shea and Jace will hit 9, clearly way off. In Sheldon Neuse's 101 PAs across 2018 and 2022 Spring Training, he hit 9 Home Runs, in his Major League career he has hit 7 Home Runs in 420 PAs which just serves to illustrate the somewhat incomparable nature of Spring Training and Major League play.

*Notices that I have just said that this post is obsolete. Never mind, it's fun. *

6 Home Runs is the most that any A's player has hit in Spring Training since 2006 with Eric Chavez and Yoenis Cespedes having done it since then. This seems like a pretty reasonable number, given that in any Spring Training, very few players are going to get 60 ABs, and hitting much more than Mark McGwire's career MLB record of 10.61 AB/HR, is a pretty mean feat.

A selection of other weirdness:

A 37-year-old Hideki Matsui set the record for double plays grounded into with 6 in 2011. 2023 leaders Pablo Reyes and Esteury Ruiz (both with 3) are going to have to really step it up if they want to challenge for this prestigious record.

In 2014, Billy Burns stole 10 bases in Spring Training. Despite the new pick-off rules, this year no one A's player has more than 4.

Heretofore concludes my round-up of A's Spring Training ‘Monsters', a category that Lawrence Butler has well and truly thrust himself upon this Spring. Here's hoping he is one of the few that can replicate it at the Major League level.

All the stats are from thebaseballcube, Baseball Reference and Fangraphs