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Furcal, the other Greene and why March doesn’t matter

Over the years, I have had to remind myself – sometimes painfully – not to get too high or too low over stats accrued during the month of March. In this challenge, I am hardly alone.

After prospect Matt Adams homered in his second spring training game last month, some fans were ready for the big first baseman to shove Lance Berkman aside right then and there.

Speaking of Berkman, just 12 months ago, I was among those ready to write off the former Houston Astro as a faded Fat Elvis. I was dead wrong. Instead of the player who wasn’t getting around on balls in spring training, when he batted .182 with two extra-base hits, Big Puma became the National League Comeback Player of the Year for the eventual World Champions.

Like Berkman, shortstop Rafael Furcal has endured his share of injuries in the past and is approaching the twilight of a very good career. But was that twilight occurring here in early 2012?

Furcal struggled through camp with a .192 average amid similar whispers as were uttered about Berkman last year. In fact, his manager Mike Matheny dropped Furcal to the bottom of the batting order, noting late in camp that his shortstop was “not right.”

On Opening Night in Miami, when the bell rang, Furcal reminded us all that he is not done yet. Matheny put the 34-year-old back in the leadoff spot and he delivered.

Our friend and researcher Tom Orf, back for another season, notes that Furcal is just the 11th leadoff hitter in Cardinals history to collect three hits on Opening Day. Curt Flood holds the team record, with four in 1965. Further, in a nod to Matheny’s new Running Redbirds, Furcal is the only one of the 11 that also had a stolen base. (see photo)

In other words, after just 10 hits in Florida during the entire month of March, Furcal logged three in his first game of the regular season.

St. Louis Cardinals, leadoff hitters with three or more hits on Opening Day

Player Date Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO SB CS Pos
Rafael Furcal 4/4/2012 MIA W 4-1 5 5 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 SS
David Eckstein 4/1/2007 NYM L 1-6 4 4 0 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 SS
Fernando Vina 4/3/2000 CHC W 7-1 5 5 1 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2B
Ray Lankford 4/3/1994 CIN W 6-4 5 5 2 3 1 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 CF
Curt Flood 4/12/1965 CHC T 10-10 7 6 2 4 2 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 CF
Don Blasingame 4/10/1959 SFG L 5-6 5 4 2 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 2B
Terry Moore 4/14/1936 CHC L 7-12 5 5 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 CF
Sparky Adams 4/12/1932 PIT W 10-2 5 5 2 3 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 3B
Max Flack 4/15/1924 CHC W 6-5 5 4 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 RF
Burt Shotton 4/14/1920 PIT L 4-5 5 5 1 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 LF
Red Smyth 4/16/1918 CHC W 4-2 4 4 1 3 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 RF

As if we needed another reminder where to file spring stats, consider this closing thought. In 2009, the Cardinals’ starting shortstop batted .408 in spring camp and was rewarded with the cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols in the opening day batting order.

Several months later, Khalil Greene’s major league career was over.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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39 Responses to “Furcal, the other Greene and why March doesn’t matter”

  1. crdswmn says:

    I was looking at the box score for Wednesday’s game, and I need somebody to explain something to me. Why was the earned run given to Lohse, when the batter who scored the run (Infante) was put on base by Salas?

    • Brian Walton says:

      The initial runner, Morrison, reached via a single against Lohse. Infante replaced Morrison at first after a force out. Salas did not allow an additional baserunner. In facing the one batter, he secured one out. Even though the runner’s identity changed, he remained Lohse’s responsibility.

      • crdswmn says:

        So basically, Infante was like a pinch runner for Morrison and thus was Lohse’s guy?

        MLB scoring is very weird.

        • Brian Walton says:

          Don’t seem weird to me. Lohse put a runner on and Salas didn’t. Why should the responsibility for the run change depending on which base they secured the out?

          • crdswmn says:

            Don’t know, just seems rather convoluted to me.

            I guess it’s just a reaction to the fact that some MLB rules just don’t seem right to me. Like a pitcher getting a win after he allows runs to tie a game and his team then comes back and scores the winning run in the next inning with no help from him. It’s the rules, but the rules don’t seem fair.

            • friendmouse says:

              Not that it matters, but let me maybe add a little extra explanation to why Lohse got charged for the run and not Salas. It is just like Brian explained, except look at Infante as being on base only because they chose to take the out at 2nd base on baserunner Morrison, who Lohse surrendered a hit to. In other words, “Fielder’s Choice.” Salas got the out… they just “chose” to make it the lead runner (Lohse’s Morrison) instead of the trailing runner, (Salas’s Infante). Of course, replay shows they were BOTH out, but ump decides…not replay. Soooo…since the runner scored, Lohse eats it! 🙂

  2. CariocaCardinal says:

    Not sure which is the worse sin – over value Spring training results or overvalue opening day results.

  3. Kansasbirdman says:

    Cards just had 3 homers in this inning. That projects to 4,374 over nine innings and 162 games! 🙂

  4. Kansasbirdman says:

    Donde estan todos personas?

  5. T8Ball says:

    Matt Carpenter had a good spring……and a nice AB today

  6. CariocaCardinal says:

    Cards open the season by pummeling two #1 starters. That’ impressive. Albert who?

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    Good opinion piece today by Brian about the ambiguity of spring training stats.
    The guys who care about their ST stats and try hard are 1) minor leaguers trying to make the squad; or 2) guys like Khalil who are trying to re-establish themselves. The game is so much more intense after the regular season starts, good ST stats may not hold up.
    Furcal has been a great offensive SS for many years. His hitting prowess has to have subsided a bit, owing to age, but he knows what to do. With Berkman and Furcal, you do not care how they do in spring training, because they are terrific pros. For them, spring training is just to work on their batting eye and get limbered up.

  8. T8Ball says:

    DP for Albert.

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