Seattle Mariners: Will Hot Start in Spring Training Influence Regular Season?

Todd Pheifer@tpheiferAnalyst IIIMarch 4, 2013

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 04:  Raul Ibanez #28 of the Seattle Mariners hits a solo home run against the Colorado Rockies during the third inning of the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 4, 2013 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners are scoring runs, winning games and looking like a winner. Through March 4, the Mariners lead the league with 83 runs in 11 games. Granted, this is still spring training.

Enthusiasm must be curtailed until the team gets a bit closer to the start of the regular season.

Buster Olney of ESPN did tweet this:

For those of you pointing out it's spring training re Mariners: Yes, it is; you are correct; nice work.

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 4, 2013

Still, the Mariners have roared out to a 10-1 start in spring training, and they are getting it done at the plate. Will the hitting continue? Or is this simply about feasting on minor league pitching prospects and playing against teams that are more worried about evaluating players than winning games?

In 2012, the Mariners compiled a 16-9 record in spring training on their way to a 75-87 record in the regular season. Not exactly a case of one thing leading to another. The Oakland A’s went 15-7 in spring training and then won the division with a 94-68 record. Is there a correlation?

The Texas Rangers just missed winning the division as they finished 93-69 in 2012. What was their record in spring training? 12-17. That does not exactly strengthen an argument for there being a causal relationship between spring training and eventual success in the regular season.

When you look at some of the individual performances thus far, there are some notable numbers. Justin Smoak is seeing the ball extremely well this spring, as he is hitting .500 through 11 games. Granted, Smoak hit .378 in spring training last year, and then hit .217 during the regular season.

Grain of salt, anyone?

Jason Bay is also having a hot spring thus far (.500), as the seasoned veteran is just hoping to get a job. Bay hit .196 last spring and then put together a very uninspiring .165 average with the New York Mets in the regular season. In that case, the spring was arguably a precursor to what lay ahead for Bay during the regular campaign.

Of course, spring training numbers can be extremely deceiving. Arguably, two of the hottest hitters in spring training last year were Trayvon Robinson (.529) and Munenori Kawasaki (.455). Robinson hit .221 during the regular season and has since been traded. Kawasaki hit .192 in 2012 and is no longer with the team.

If you have watched a spring training game, you know that winning is not necessarily the primary goal. Certainly a team wants to win, but spring training is about evaluation. There is a reason that certain starters will play a few innings, pack their bags and leave the field.

In the later innings, the lineup is typically filled with players that have high jersey numbers. You can also identify the prospects because the person running the video board does not have a stock photo when the player comes to the plate. Fan gets to enjoy a silhouette of a head or the team logo where the face should be.

We will see if Smoak can hit during the regular season and be a big part of this offense. Truthfully, a team average of .250 in 2013 would be a sign of progress. Certainly that would not be the only indicator of a successful baseball team, and there are many other measurables. However, one could argue that Seattle has nowhere to go but up.

Buster Olney also had this to say on Twitter:

You can't stop the Mariners, you can only hope to contain them:… They're 10-1 and beating the heck out of everybody.

— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 4, 2013

Could the Mariners start 10-1 in the regular season? How strange would that be?