Surprise, AZ, USA; A general view of a game between the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
It turns out that a team's spring-training wins and losses aren't very predictive of its regular-season wins and losses. Who knew!
Like everybody else I've been reading or speaking with, I've come down with a nasty case of Blue Jays fever. Even though they lost on Friday, the Blue Jays lead both the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League with a 22-5 record. They've outscored their opponents by 76 runs, and they've generally looked fantastic. And that's without Brett Lawrie having hit a single home run! Brandon Morrow isn't walking people. Kyle Drabek isn't walking all people. Aaron Laffey looks like prime Ben Sheets. With their spring performance, the Blue Jays are opening eyes.
Okay, so the truth is that I don't have Blue Jays fever, and neither do you. Even if you're a Blue Jays fan. Or a Blue Jays player. As much as certain leading baseball journalists like to share notable spring-training numbers and say "make of these what you will", we all know better. The whole month barely means anything. Which makes the following graphic a real waste of all of our time.
I got curious, so I combined the spring-training records and regular-season records for every team in baseball from 2003-2011. I went back to 2003 because that's as far into the past as ESPN would allow me to go. I don't know exactly what I was looking for, but here's the ultimate result:
Surprise! You can throw spring-training records out the window! Just be careful that there's nobody outside of the window, because then they'd have crap all over their clothes. It's not like there's zero relationship here, but there isn't enough of a relationship to care about.
Combining the seasons was weird. I should've looked at the nine seasons individually. But this way we get certain fun facts. For example, between 2003-2011, the Kansas City Royals won nearly 56 percent of their spring-training games. Over that span, that was the third-highest winning percentage in baseball, behind the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels. They subsequently won just over 42 percent of their regular-season games. That was the lowest winning percentage out of everybody. Between 2003-2011, the Royals were baseball's worst team, but they were only baseball's worst team after getting everyone's hopes up.
On the other side of the coin, we have the Philadelphia Phillies. Their sample spring-training winning percentage was about 45 percent - fourth-worst. Their sample regular-season winning percentage was 56 percent - third-best. Additionally, there are the Chicago White Sox, at 42 percent (worst) and over 51 percent (eighth-best), respectively.
We'll close with my favorite fun fact. The Angels have long confounded statistical analysts by out-performing their run differentials. Between 2003-2011, the Angels won 811 games, but their Pythagorean win total was 784. The difference between their regular-season winning percentage and regular-season Pythagorean winning percentage was the greatest in baseball. It turns out that the difference between their spring-training winning percentage and spring-training Pythagorean winning percentage was even bigger. The Angels were clutch when there wasn't even any such thing as clutch.
Thus concludes this feature about spring-training standings. I don't think any of us learned anything of real value, but at least you were reading. Better than watching that damn idiot box.