If a team has a really great spring training, it’s not like they can carry some of those wins over to the regular season.  Ultimately, spring records don’t matter – players are rusty and getting in shape and pitchers may be trying some new pitches.  Teams will occasionally come from behind to win at the end of games, when minor leaguers not expected to be on the 25-man roster are on the field.  Is there ever any correlation between your record during spring training, and how you perform during the regular season?  I figured I’d take a look at the Indians during the past 10 seasons when it comes to spring vs. the regular season, as well as teams that made the playoffs over the past 10 seasons.  This is sort of heavy on tables, so if you don’t want to pour through all of the numbers you can skip to my summaries.  If you’re interested in reading about individual player performances, check out this great piece by Bill Baer over at the Sweet Spot.

This table shows all of the Indians’ spring and regular season records over the past 10 seasons, including their finish in the AL Central:

Year Indians spring training record Indians regular season record Finish in AL Central
2012 7-22(worst in Cactus) 68-94 Fourth
2011 15-14 80-82 Second
2010 19-9 69-93 Fourth
2009 12-20 65-97 Tied last
2008 15-14 81-81 Third
2007 16-14 96-66 First
2006 20-12 78-84 Fourth
2005 16-13 93-69 Second
2004 18-14 80-81 Third
2003 19-11(best in Grapefruit) 68-94 Fourth

The Indians had the best record in the Grapefruit League in 2003, even though they were terrible during the season.  However, if you look at the three years they finished in first or second, they were at least .500 or better in the spring.

2012

Best record, Cactus League: Athletics, 15-7 (94-68, first in AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Blue Jays, 24-7 (73-89, fourth in AL East)

 

Playoff Teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 18-12 95-67 Lost ALCS
Orioles 11-13 93-69 Lost ALDS
Tigers 20-8 88-74 Lost World Series
Athletics 15-7(best in Cactus) 94-68 Lost ALDS
Rangers 12-17(2nd to last in Cactus) 93-69 Lost Wild Card
Nationals 12-17 98-64 Lost NLDS
Braves 10-8 94-68 Lost Wild Card
Reds 15-17 97-65 Lost NLDS
Cardinals 16-9 88-74 Lost NLCS
Giants 18-5 94-68 Won World Series

Oakland was the surprise team in the American League last year.  It seemed as if their good spring was a fluke, but they went on to win the AL West, while their Grapefruit League counterpart, the Blue Jays, did not transfer their performance to the regular season.  Out of the 10 playoff teams last year (with the addition of two new wild cards), six of them had spring records of .500 or better.

2011

Best record, Cactus League: Giants, 23-12 (86-76, second in NL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Twins, 20-12 (63-99, last in AL Central)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 13-15 97-65 Lost ALDS
Rays 15-14 91-71 Lost ALDS
Tigers 20-14 95-67 Lost ALCS
Rangers 13-16 96-66 Lost World Series
Phillies 21-14 102-60 Lost NLDS
Brewers 19-11 96-66 Lost NLCS
Cardinals 14-16 90-72 Won World Series
Diamondbacks 12-25(last in Cactus) 94-68 Lost NLDS

Of the eight teams to make the postseason in 2011, four of them had spring records of .500 or better.  Neither of the best record holders in the spring made the playoffs, but the Giants did finish second in the NL West.

2010

Best record, Cactus League: Giants, 23-12 (92-70, World Series champs)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Rays, 20-8 (96-66, first in AL East)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring Record Regular season record Postseason
Rays 20-8(best in Grapefruit) 96-66 Lost ALDS
Yankees 13-15 95-67 Lost ALCS
Twins 16-14 94-68 Lost ALDS
Rangers 10-19(last in Cactus) 90-72 Lost World Series
Phillies 15-12 97-65 Lost NLCS
Braves 17-12 91-71 Lost NLDS
Reds 12-16 91-71 Lost NLDS
Giants 23-12(best in Cactus) 92-70 Won World Series

This season, both of the “best records” in the spring went on to make the playoffs; the Giants even went on to win the World Series.  Five of the eight playoff teams had spring records of .500 or better.

2009

Best record, Cactus League: Angels, 26-8 (97-65, first in AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Yankees, 24-10 (103-59, World Series champs)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 24-10(best in Grapefruit) 103-59 Won World Series
Red Sox 20-14 95-67 Lost ALDS
Twins 19-13 87-76 Lost ALDS
Angels 26-8(best in Cactus) 97-65 Lost ALCS
Phillies 13-19 93-69 Lost World Series
Cardinals 19-12 91-71 Lost NLDS
Dodgers 15-22 95-67 Lost NLCS
Rockies 17-17 92-70 Lost NLDS

2009 happened to be another season where the spring “best records” fared well in the regular season as both made the playoffs and the Yankees won the World Series.  Six of the eight postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better.

2008

Best record, Cactus League: Athletics, 18-8 (75-86, third in AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Rays, 18-8 (97-65, first in AL East)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Rays 18-8(best in Grapefruit) 97-65 Lost World Series
Red Sox 8-13 95-67 Lost ALCS
White Sox 11-19 89-73 Lost ALDS
Angels 19-10 100-62 Lost ALDS
Phillies 12-18 92-70 Won World Series
Cubs 15-15 97-64 Lost NLDS
Brewers 18-11 90-72 Lost NLDS
Dodgers 11-18 84-78 Lost NLCS

This season, four of the eight playoff teams had spring records of .500 or better.

2007

Best record, Cactus League: Diamondbacks, 20-12 (90-72, first in NL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Tigers, 21-10 (88-74, second in AL Central)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Red Sox 15-12 96-66 Won World Series
Yankees 14-13 94-68 Lost ALDS
Indians 16-14 96-66 Lost ALCS
Angels 19-14 94-68 Lost ALDS
Phillies 11-18 89-73 Lost NLDS
Cubs 17-13 85-77 Lost NLDS
Diamondbacks 20-12(best in Cactus) 90-72 Lost NLCS
Rockies 13-12 90-73 Lost World Series

Seven of the eight postseason teams in 2007 had a .500 or better record in the spring.  Both of the spring “champs” had good seasons as the Diamondbacks went to the playoffs and the Tigers missed the postseason, but still won almost 90 games.

2006

Best record, Cactus League: Angels, 20-11 (89-73, second in AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Reds, 22-11 (80-82, third in the NL Central)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 15-16 97-65 Lost ALDS
Twins 20-12 96-66 Lost ALDS
Tigers 18-15 95-67 Lost World Series
Athletics 15-17 93-69 Lost ALCS
Mets 16-14 97-65 Lost ALCS
Cardinals 15-14 83-78 Won World Series
Padres 18-10 88-74 Lost NLDS
Dodgers 15-14 88-74 Lost NLDS

Six of the eight postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better.  Neither of the “best records” made the post season, but they did have respectable seasons.

2005

Best record, Cactus League: Angels, 21-11 (95-67, first in AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Blue Jays, 16-10 (80-82, third in AL East)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 14-15 95-67 Lost ALDS
Red Sox 15-15 95-67 Lost ALDS
White Sox 14-18 99-63 Won World Series
Angels 21-11(best in Cactus) 95-67 Lost ALCS
Braves 13-15 90-72 Lost NLDS
Cardinals 17-11 100-62 Lost NLCS
Astros 14-14 89-73 Lost World Series
Padres 19-15 82-80 Lost NLDS

Five of the eight postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better.

2004

Best record, Cactus League: Mariners, 18-11 (63-99, last in the AL West)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Twins, 20-10 (91-70, first in AL Central)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 13-9 101-61 Lost ALCS
Red Sox 17-11 98-64 Won World Series
Twins 20-10(best in Grapefruit) 91-70 Lost ALDS
Angels 19-13 92-70 Lost ALDS
Braves 13-17 96-66 Lost NLDS
Cardinals 17-12 105-57 Lost World Series
Astros 13-13 92-70 Lost NLCS
Dodgers 12-21 93-69 Lost NLDS

Even though the Mariners had a great spring, they really bombed when it came to the regular season (much like the 2003 Indians).  Six of the eight postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better and the AL Central champion Twins had the best record in the Grapefruit League.

2003

Best record, Cactus League: Royals, 19-8 (83-80, third in AL Central)

Best record, Grapefruit League: Indians, 19-11 (68-94, fourth in AL Central)

 

Playoff teams:

Team Spring record Regular season record Postseason
Yankees 16-13 101-61 Lost World Series
Red Sox 15-14 95-67 Lost ALCS
Twins 19-13 90-72 Lost ALDS
Athletics 16-13 96-66 Lost ALDS
Braves 17-12 101-61 Lost NLDS
Marlins 15-16 91-71 Won World Series
Cubs 17-11 88-74 Lost NLCS
Giants 15-16 100-61 Lost NLDS

AL Central teams dominated spring training, even though they did not do that well in the regular season (although the Royals had one of their best seasons in years).  Six of the eight postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better.

When it comes down to it, spring training is spring training and these games don’t count.  You can have a terrible spring and still have a great season, or you can have an awesome spring and bomb when it comes to the regular season.  There are a few things to take away from all of these charts and statistics – each season out of the past 10, at least half of all playoff teams had a spring record of .500 or better.  When you calculate all of the postseason teams together for that span, 55 of the 82 postseason teams had spring records of .500 or better (67%).  Only two of those 82 teams – the 2011 Diamondbacks and the 2010 Rangers – finished last in their respective spring training leagues.  Nine of 20 spring training “champs” went on to make the playoffs during the regular season (45%), so that means that more than half did not.  Two teams that had the best record in spring training went on to win the World Series – the 2009 Yankees and the 2010 Giants.

The Indians won just seven games last spring; they have already won six so far this spring, and there’s nearly a month of spring training remaining.  Granted, spring training is much longer this year, but it basically took them about a week to match their win total from 2012.

I guess what I’ve learned from this is that you probably want to cross your fingers and hope your team doesn’t look absolutely abysmal during spring training.  When you look at all of the playoff teams from the past 10 years, 2/3 of them finished the spring at .500 or better.  Only 0.02% of the playoff teams finished with the worst records in their respective leagues and still made the playoffs.

 

5 Comments

  • Chris Burnham says:

    Wake me on April 2. ;-)

  • joey says:

    was just on the dodgers website…it said their gonna show the game online…does that mean we can get it/see it for free?

  • Stephanie Liscio says:

    Try it, but you may need that MLB TV and it’s like $100. During the season they broadcast 1 free game per day, but I’m not sure if it’s the case during the day.

    If you have the MLB Network on your cable/satellite, it may be on there. So few Cactus League games have been broadcast, plus I think they’d want to show the Dodgers.

  • no1ever says:

    Awesome post. I really enjoyed looking at the different spring training records compared to full seasons. A couple things stand out – the disparity of different teams’ games played (2012 A’s and Reds); this led me to think of Split Squad games. If that’s the case, it makes this a difficult exercise because of the expansiveness of the roster. I had the idea of examining the % of IP by probable starters vs. NRI; Hargrove said you try and get 25-29 innings of work for your first 5, which leaves a lot of innings for )~150) for minor league pitchers or try outs. I wondered if there would a correlation between the % of spring training innings pitched by active major leaguers for that season as compared to records. I guess I could compile that data, but right now I’m biding my time until new Sim City comes out.

    • Stephanie Liscio says:

      HA! That would be an interesting analysis though. I was also curious about years with the World Baseball Classic, since there would be a certain amount of players missing from each team. At a quick glance, nothing seemed dramatically different in 2006 and 2009, so maybe it’s a situation where everyone is impacted slightly and it all evens out.

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  • [...] Baseball stats in the spring, what could be bad? “If a team has a really great spring training, it’s not like they can carry some of those wins over to the regular season. Ultimately, spring records don’t matter – players are rusty and getting in shape and pitchers may be trying some new pitches. Teams will occasionally come from behind to win at the end of games, when minor leaguers not expected to be on the 25-man roster are on the field. Is there ever any correlation between your record during spring training, and how you perform during the regular season? I figured I’d take a look at the Indians during the past 10 seasons when it comes to spring vs. the regular season, as well as teams that made the playoffs over the past 10 seasons.” [Stephanie Liscio/It's Pronounced "Lajaway"] [...]