No, spring records really don't matter
Is there a correlation between spring success or failure and regular-season success or failure? Not even close. Take a look.
It's easy to be excitable during spring training. We waited months through mostly slow news days -- with the Hall of Fame banter and occasional free agency signing or a trade serving as the big news of the day, usually. Naturally, once actual games are being played by actual players, it's a sight to behold.
The crack of the bat, the crushed brick, the lush green playing surface that most of us (Indiana resident here!) haven't seen in months ... it's therapeutic.
That doesn't mean, however, that we should get caught up in results, specifically when it comes to the records of individual ballclubs.
Just for fun -- well, really because I've been asked about this several times of late -- let's illustrate this point by looking at the best five and worst five spring records of the past three springs. I could go back further and the results would be similar, but this should suffice.
2013 Best Five
Royals: They went 25-7 during a hot-red spring and would spin it forward for their best season in years. Of course, they missed the playoffs with an 86-76 record.
Orioles: After a 19-9 spring record, they followed up their 2012 playoff run with an 85-77 record, missing the playoffs.
Mariners: A 22-11 spring translated to a 71-91 regular season.
Tigers: They were 19-14 in the spring and took home the AL Central title with a 93-69 record.
Braves: A 20-15 record was parlayed into a 96-66 record and NL East crown.
2013 Worst Five
Angels: They were 10-20 in the spring and 79-83 during a disappointing regular season.
Dodgers: After a 13-20 spring, they went 92-70 and came within two wins of the World Series.
Reds: A 13-20 spring record didn't stop them from winning 90 games and making the wild-card game.
Brewers: From a 13-18 spring to a 74-88 performance.
Pirates: They went 13-18 in the spring before posting their best record in over 20 years, going 94-68 and coming within a game of the NLCS.
2012 Best Five
Blue Jays: How did a 24-7 spring record translate to the regular season? A 73-89 campaign, good for fourth place.
Tigers: They were 20-8 before winning the AL Central by three games at 88-74. They would make the World Series.
Athletics: The A's went 15-7 in the spring before becoming one of the best stories of the 2012 season, winning the AL West with a historic comeback.
Mariners: From 16-9 to 75-87. Maybe they just love the spring?
Cardinals: The defending champs went 16-9 in the spring and qualified for the second wild-card spot at 88-74. They came within a game of the World Series.
2012 Worst Five
Indians: It was ugly from the start: 7-22 in the spring and 68-94 in the regular season -- though they were in the race until a pathetic post-ASG performance.
Pirates: 9-20 in the spring before going 79-83 in the regular season -- one of their best records in recent memory at the time.
Mets: They were also 9-20 in the spring and finished 74-88 in the regular season.
Braves: A 10-18 spring wasn't much cause for concern, as they went 94-68 when it counted.
Rays: They went 10-16 in the spring and then missed the playoffs, though they did win 90 games.
2011 Best Five
Royals: After going 20-10 in the Cactus League, the Royals were 71-91 in 2011.
Giants: The defending champs were a stellar 23-12 in the spring. The regular season wasn't quite as kind, as they went 86-76 and missed the playoffs.
Rockies: A 20-11 Cactus League record was only good enough for a 73-89 mark.
Brewers: The success translated here, as the Brewers went 19-11 in Arizona and then 96-66, taking the NL Central title.
Twins: It didn't here. A 20-12 record topped the Grapefruit League, but the Twinkies were the worst team in the AL when it mattered, going 63-99.
2011 Worst Five
Astros: Well, this was a predictor. They went 11-24 and then 56-106.
Diamondbacks: This ... was not. After a 12-25 spring, the D-Backs shocked almost everyone by winning 94 games and taking the NL West.
White Sox: 11-20 in Cactus League action, 79-83 in the regular season.
A's: They were 12-21 and then 74-88.
Pirates: They were also 12-21 before going 72-90.
Futher, look at 2010 and find that the World Champion Giants had the third-best record in the spring, but their foe in the Fall Classic, the Rangers, had the worst record in the Cactus League. The 2009 Champion Yankees were a sparkling 24-10. The 2009 NL champion Phillies were 13-19 in spring action.
How about the 2008 World Champion Phillies? 12-18. Their World Series opponent? The Rays were 18-8. The A's shared the best spring record with the Rays, but went 75-86 in the regular season.
We could keep going, but the point has been made.
Some teams are great in the spring and carry it over. Some are great in the spring and suck in the regular season. Some are medicore in both, some terrible in both. Some teams are among the worst in the spring and make the playoffs. And everywhere in between. There is literally zero connection between the spring records and how those translate.
Now, we could go on a case-by-case basis and find an inspiring story of a group building confidence and coming together -- but the problem is we could just as easily find stories about a group that thought it built a ton of confidence in the spring and then went out and was awful when the games mattered. Anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything.
The only real evidence we have is that spring records shouldn't be used when looking forward to the regular season.
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