It's a rite of passage every March: Player X puts up great numbers in the Cactus League, and they're discounted because it's spring training. Player Y puts up terrible numbers in the Grapefruit league, and they're discounted because it's spring training.
Most of the time, those dismissals are valid. Brian Anderson was an excellent hitter in March, but it never carried over to the regular season -- and that's why he's trying his hand at pitching. Similarly, Freddy Garcia was generally a pretty bad spring training pitcher, but when Opening Day rolled around his varying assortment of slop wound up being fairly effective.
Just a quick glance at Chris Kamka's 10 spring training facts reveals how random and generally unimportant spring training statistics are. There are exceptions to the rule, though, and this year, Adam Dunn is one of them.
Before spring training started, I wrote about the importance for Dunn to build a base of success given the miserable results he saw in 2011 after his appendix was removed. Dunn has gone above and beyond that base of success in the last month, hitting five home runs with 13 walks and nine strikeouts in 19 games.
Those home runs haven't been spring training cheapies, either. One came on a two-strike offering from Rangers flamethrower Neftali Feliz. But, more importantly, three have come against lefties. No matter the quality of the pitcher, Dunn couldn't hit southpaws last year, registering just six hits in 115 trips to the plate.
As Chuck Garfien pointed out, Dunn has six hits against left-handers this spring. His strikeouts are down, telling us he's no longer overmatched. Had Dunn not endured the 2011 season, his spring training numbers would probably be business as usual.
Dunn wants 2011 to go away. It's not a subject he's wanted to talk about with the media -- and who can blame him -- instead opting to center his discussions around 2012. But the specter of 2011 will continue to hover over his 2012 season whether he likes it or not. There are plenty of reasons to think Dunn will carry this success over into the regular season, but it's understandable if White Sox fans can't get fully behind a Dunn resurgence just yet.
Spring training has been an outstanding step in the right direction for Dunn. But ultimately, he still has to prove he can hit in a White Sox uniform in the regular season.
Luckily, we'll begin to find out if that'll be the case this week.