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On the Astros: Why spring training stats don't matter, in one big example

It's all about Jason Smith. Who? You'll see.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Analytical takes on baseball can infuriate people. Sometimes, the numbers indicate something that's counterintuitive to the "eye test" or "baseball wisdom" or "when I played."

One of those infuriating things is something I've written about no less than five times in the past two years: Spring training stats don't matter. I wrote about it here and here and here and here and here, then did it again this morning.

While it may not have been intended to be infuriating, it is almost assuredly annoying.

But I will take one more moment to illustrate why spring stats don't matter. It's not showing how great Jeff Bagwell used to hit in Kissimmee before stinking in the first month of the season.

It's about Jason Smith.

For those of you who tuned out on the Astros between the World Series and last year (what those in the know call the "Wilderness Years"), you may not recognize the name. Certainly, he'll go down as one of the least famous Astros ever, except he's got a record not many will care to ever top.

In 2009, Jason Smith began the season 0-for-25. In 21 games and 27 plate appearances, he scored one run, drove in one run and had a sac hit and a sac fly. That's it.

After getting justifiably jettisoned from the roster, he also never played in the majors again.

That happened a lot back in the 2008-09-10 era. Look at a player's BBRef page from then and many of them just hit a cliff after a token appearance with the Astros. Tells you something about those teams.

From this information, you may assume that Smith was a lock to make the 2009 roster heading into the spring, that he signed a deal in the offseason that paid him big money to be a backup infielder.

He did not.

He was a guy on a minor league deal who made the roster at the very end of spring training over Edwin Maysonet. Here's what Alyson Footer said about him making the team at the time.

"Smith, a veteran of eight big league seasons in addition to a host of Minor League tours over the past 12 years, had a slightly better offensive spring showing than Maysonet, although both hit well -- Maysonet, .333; Smith, .373.

Smith has more versatility, having played everywhere in the infield, whereas Maysonet is primarily a shortstop. Also, Maysonet missed some time with nagging minor injuries, which allowed for Smith to pull away in the competition. One observer called Smith's selection a "slam dunk."

The Astros decided to keep Jason Smith based on his spring performance and then threw him away after 21 games. Bad teams make decisions like this. Teams that don't know their roster or are not certain of talent levels make bad decision based on small sample sizes.

Jason Smith is why spring stats shouldn't matter. They are not predictive (mostly). There is too big a disparity in talent levels in games. Guys often aren't even throwing like they will in the season.

So, when you get excited because Andrew Aplin is hitting .400 this spring, be excited. Aplin's awesome. I love that guy. Just don't expect that his performance this spring will win him a spot on the Opening Day roster.